The boring rants of a lazy nerd

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Life - A hug

An only child raised in a family with a practical approach to showing affection (we sacrifice a lot to pay for you, you know we love you), after the age of, say, twelve, I shied away from being hugged. I can't seem to remember why. For this and other reasons I presently know nothing about proper hugs. I know I'm too analytical and socially inexperienced, and I believe my concerns for propriety are misplaced, but nevertheless…

Recently I've met a trainee (our equivalent to freshman chicks). She, well, seems interested in me, or is a very friendly person, because she seeks me out in crowds like the dining hall. The other day she hugged me on the main square, as a greeting, when she saw me. That startled me so much my thoughts keep getting back to it. I was pretty uncomfortable with people around and suddenly forced to decide whether I'm interested or not, because till now, we've only been casually friendly, and here is an invitation to hug her back. Do I take it? A coward like me — of course not. And she does seem to be rather squishy…

Do I have a point? I don't think so.

Movies - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

After reading R.'s book, I'm going to see the movie tomtoday.

A week later: There is an observation I can't remember, I think made by Emperor Hirohito, about the distance between plans and execution. Well, maybe today.

Two weeks after that: I've seen it the previous weekend (half empty theater, mostly kids). I think it's the first movie I've seen where there's more detail in the movie than in the book. The movie is faithful to the source, though expectedly over dramatized, too pretty, and tries to look like LoTR.

The beaver family, as comic relief for the adults, was a bit much. Nobody laughed.

Why does the older girl (Susan) have to be pretty? Isn't the story about average kids? Like movie!Hermione, I think it's OOC.

They say LoTR is very Christian, but it never bothered me. This story does. I think it's because it's a bit more pushy with the evangelism. It's too short, too simplistic, too black-and-white, and the loss of the narrator in the movie hurts: I don't think Peter's development as a character really gets through the silver screen. I've been spoiled by more complicated plots, grayer characters, and less obvious than Sunday-school preaching of morals.

C.S. Lewis < J.K. Rowling < Lois McMaster Bujold

Life/Work - Cobol

This week I've accidentally bumped into G.D. on a bus. Actually, I woke him up when I got too loud at some point in my chat with P.D. on the way back to work. You know how those quiet introverts totally geek out when they talk about their interests? Like that. :-)

I've quizzed him about his new job at BigBankCorp. They are in the process of rewriting their entire IT infrastructure on IBM MF. They've recently switched from Unisys MF, and this costly move was explained as an opportunity to replace their unmaintainable mess of spaghetti COBOL with... brand spanking new unmaintainable mess of spaghetti COBOL. Apparently they don't like Java because they don't like the OO overhead.
Progress in VM and JIT compiler design over the last decade? Never heard of it.
COBOL workforce are getting old, scarce and expensive? No problem!

Apparently, there's a company that signs up comp.sci. grads with no experience (or friends, apparently), gives them three months of training in MF use / applications programming, and then whores them out to banks for two years for very little pay. The people sign up because it's the only way to get MF experience, if you've missed the opportunity to slave for the government during your military service. Thus, my friend is the second most experienced coder on his team, with two whole years in the air force behind him.

So basically, not only are there new installations of IBM z-series, they actually use the legacy environment (none of that Linux stuff for us!), and develop in COBOL (despite thirty five years of progress in software engineering disciplines, Dijkstra and Wirth be damned), but they ruin perfectly good young people along the way. My heart goes out to every one of those misguided souls!
This is not really sarcasm. I love computers, and I pity the people who get into the industry, in these days, to work on that, instead of on something that is, you know, less than 45 years old.

The node on E2 has lots of info (including Dijkstra's excellent quote), but the best is this piece by John Cowan. *shudder*

Friday, December 16, 2005

HP fandom - GoF

The movie opened on Thursday, December 8th. I was beat, and was only able to watch it after the Sabbath. The cinema is located near/in an area with many observant people, so they have to adhere or lose much of their clientele, but I'd really like to be able to go the movies on the weekend. First time I feel that way, as far as I can remember.

The cinema was packed full of kids. I forgot how skewed my thinking of the fandom demographics is. Also, junior-high aged girls wear too much makeup and look disturbingly attractive.

The decorations were good, most of the characters were the way I pictured them. Dombledore was OOC, and Flitwick was made into a sort of mascot or something. The kids' acting wasn't top notch. I enjoyed it through and through, but that is because my expectations were intentionally set very low. It was too dang short and I've missed all the detail from the book. I've read and heard people say the movie was too long and they needed more restroom breaks. Well, don't drink so much overpriced sugar-water!

Voldemort and Moody were good. I need to see it again to say anything more.

Computers - Compiler & Architecture Seminar 2005

Here I'll post about my attendance there, when I stop being lazy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Computers - Mom

My technophobic mother asked me today how come her work email has two different addresses that both get delivered to the same inbox. She wanted the real answer, not the usual "just some computer stuff, trust me it works" crap. So I've explained about IP and DNS, and explained i-nodes and hardlinking for comparison (including the benefits for caching scenarios). Without using a single technical term, I was able to make it all make sense. Mom rocks.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Life - Three years of my life

Three years ago I was conscripted into service, for a period of three years. Today I was supposed to be discharged. But of course, since I became a code monkey, I have signed a contract obligating me to work for the government for a period of up to two and a half years more. Starting from tomorrow, I'm an NCO. Nothing at all has changed, but now I'll be getting paid (about minimum wage, I've been told).

It should have been a happy day, but it has been completely ruined by the most horrid display of bureaucracy I have seen in my life. I'll be on leave tomorrow to try and salvage what's left of this unique opportunity to celebrate. The clerks cut their day short because of their commander's absence, so I was unable to finish some paperwork, and I was threatened with a court marshal if I don't come to work tomorrow to finish it. I said that if that's the best use of my time the system can imagine, I'll oblige, when I'm back on the day after tomorrow.

I was a very patriotic young man three years ago. Very eager to serve. I was discouraged by the drafting and sorting process, but still believed in the system to volunteer for the training and extra service. Three years of service have led me to the conclusion that the public sector sucks, and every non-combat position in the armed forces should be cut back and privatized. Men and women in service should be paid volunteers, who can be replaced.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Art - Roses in December

Tim Bray frequently plugs University of British Columbia's botanical gardens' Photo of the Day. This time, a beautiful scan of a rose. Notice it's a scan, not a photo.

The fic's not too shabby either, and it even has a quote to attribute the name to Peter Pan's creator. Wasn't the author once a member of a certain thankfully long dead HP community many of my readers are familiar with? I think that penname rings a bell.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Life - Work

This week, this happened. It wasn't that bad. Three hours on buses for a one minute interview and a signature on a piece of paper. But I've seen girls from Shevah-Mofet* on the bus trip back, which mitigates the enormous waste of time, at least a little bit. I figure in a few years, such a statement would label me a pedophile, but I like to watch highschoolers and see if there's any hope of some of them becoming decent adults. By the time I meet them on guard duty, it appears it's usually too late for them to change.

At work, I'm simultaneously being treated like a misbehaving child (I don't like military discipline for the sake of military discipline, and my new project lead takes offence) and pushed into a position of responsibility without too much support. This whole "we can't treat you any differently than any other soldier, but we can demand ten times the output because we've seen you perform" is making me crazy. I've donated three years of my life, now I'm expected to take on more work for the privilege of minimum wage, while the people I'm supposed to train and delegate work to (with no authority whatsoever) are basically laughing at me for being a pushover.

In other new, I've finished "Paladin of Souls". Bujold is very good, but I just don't like romance novels. 4/5

* - supposedly a good high school in Tel Aviv, formed by immigrant Soviet prep school teachers, frustrated of Israeli public education and unable to penetrate the elite to get access to private schools. In Russia, Jews were pressured to excel because of surrounding anti-Semitism, and the state-enforced ethnic quotas on admittance to good higher education. In Israel, where there is no pressure, the liberal/populist "let the kids be" crap has won and education is as bad as in the US.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Life/Writing - Attractive Adjectives

Let me theorize for a second, as I often wont to do. What people usually find attractive in the opposite sex (I don't understand same-sex attraction, therefore I'll refrain from commenting about it) are the distinguishing features of that sex. Meaning attractive women are womanly and attractive men are manly. Thus men are attracted to breasts because they don't have any (that's my theory anyway), and round buttocks, and despite recurring fashion for men to wear their hair long, long flowing hair. Generally, curvier and rounder features, and a non-intimidating size (or maybe that's just me). Women are (supposedly) attracted to tall, broad-shouldered, muscled men with more squarish features (and possibly more body hair). And of course, kind eyes, or a giant throbbing erection (just for her!), whatever the case may be.

That's all pretty simple and generally well understood, at least by people who are weird like me and like to overanylize life instead of just living it. What I don't understand is the use of "calloused hands" as an attractive attribute of men. I don't think the feeling would be pleasing, and unless the guy is in Oxford crew, it would almost certainly mean working-class. Why is that attractive? Or does it simply mean unprofessional, not thought-out, copy-paste writing? I do speak of fan fiction, after all.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Life - A year since I've lost a friend

Today was one year since Genya died. I was unable to attend because of the army, but my parents went. They are both very traumatized by that, much more than I am. They say I appear in some of the pictures (his Bar-Mitzvah, etc.) His parents aged a lot in one year.

Don't drink and drive, people.

Books - Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson - The Butlerian Jihad (Legends of Dune, Book 1)

My excuse or touching this: I was on guard duty and it was the only dead tree book I had available (on loan). A PDA sounds very tempting now, if only to avoid being stuck with that again.

I have read about 150 pages out of the ~700 total. I do not intend to wade through the rest to find out how it ends. It had a feeling of being either written by a sophisticated multithreaded Markov-esque machine regurgitating unrelated sci-fi cliche stories each targeted at a specific target market sector in a round-robin manner, or of something taken off FFN and miraculously proofread. It just didn't sound like professional (I won't bother with "best-selling") writing. And it appears I am not alone in this thinking: the hardcover edition is being sold on Amazon for less than the mass market paperback!

Some reviews say it would've been a good enough book had it not the pressure of the original Dune to drive it into the ground (sand?). I maintain that I see no reason to read junk, unless you specifically enjoy reading/MST-ing junk. And there is definitely no reason to endorse it by paying for it, even then.

Frank should have put a codicil in his will saying his son would lose the rights to the name should he use it for publishing crap.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Personal - Ill

I have the flu. Almost a week now, and although I think I'm recovering, it's very slow. Symptoms are mostly headache and fever (upto and including 38.5°C), when I'm not all drugged up. Got a single day of sick leave (yay). I'm self-medicating the top rated quotes from Recommended to persons not offended by swear words.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Life - Updates

  • Our new guy is a CS major from TAU. He has graduated together with two of my buddies from school. He's also dated a girl from my class in school.
  • A guy who has enlisted (got drafted, whatever) on the same day with me and has been with me through half the training and then flunked and served one floor below as a tech got quietly discharged more than a full month before his due date. I barely had the time to say goodbye. Lucky SOB.
  • Found out I was being ripped off by the national telco and ISP for a year. Phoned them and got six times more bandwidth for half the price. My advice: follow the price changes, and demand to be on the better programs, since they obviously won't upgrade you by themselves.
  • I've noticed how my work as a coder is slowly spoiling my love for hacking. Doing it under time pressure, with arbitrary constraints, in a room with people I don't like, with a tight-ass PHB running around and sputtering nonsense really takes the fun out of this thing I enjoy doing. So much so, that I've found I haven't been inclined to pursue this at home for a while. Makes me really pity adult movie actors. T.S. has recommended to just say "screw with this" and hack for fun to get the feeling back. I have vowed to never work in an outfit that will give me this feeling — the army is one thing, but on the free market, I'm willing to sacrifice some pay so I won't have to dread mornings/Sundays.
  • My department was moved out of our nice offices and into a shack. We've pained it and we've got new furniture for it and a new gigabit switch and they keep saying it'll be fine, but it won't be the same. I need some posters for decoration.
  • Stupid, criminally incompetent, should've been shot, lazy-ass @#$%&^*!s in [censored] have [censored] our [censored] [censored] right during [censored] and of course the [censored] is not [censored] so our [censored] are [censored]. I'm glad I'm not the one there right now [censored] it, but I can't help with feeling useless because I can't do anything about it. But that's probably like "secret" or something…
  • I'm seriously considering buying a computer, because my mom wants my old one. It would be a 3000+ (Venice) on AN8 Ultra (NF4U) with 1G Geil PC3200 CL2.5 and a 6600 (or I might shell out for a 6600GT). It's cheap and sounds great, but the cooling must be seriously considered.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Books - Lois McMaster Bujold - The Curse of Chalion

A spoiler-free review of Lois McMaster Bujold's first good Fantasy novel!

So, as everyone who reads my blog knows already, it's so totally awesome. Thank you very much R. for making me read it.

  • A world where prayer is actually answered, and every lay man is entitled to at least one miracle, is either really cool or just as the same as ours, depending on one's POV, I guess.
  • I liked how theologians are the wizards of this world, though for the men who are not god-touched, it could be plain medieval Europe. A very light use of fantastic elements, all considered.
  • I loved the language, and how it served its purpose instead of being the purpose.
  • Umegat trying to debauch a dedicat by making her read Boccaccio aloud was funny.
  • The hero appears to be designed to be fallen in love with by the reader, but I can't bring myself to dislike him none-the-less. Bujold is good like that.
  • The book does start slow, but it picks up its pace and gets to the point where you can't put it down midway through. The ending was a surprise for me.

If you were a dedicat of one of the Chalion gods, which god would you choose? There's no shame in choosing by color, mind, but a theological reason is preferred.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Life - A day and a year older

Another house point (pray tell, which house?) to the first person to correctly identify which book I'm reading for my birthday:

[snip] did smile at him—that was true, he did not delude himself. And she was kind. But she smiled at and was kind to her horse, too. Her honest friendly courtesy was hardly ground enough to build a dream mansion upon, let alone bring bed and linens and try to move in. Still… she did smile at him.

Is it a bad sign, that I find a love-struck protagonist… charming?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Life - Cameraphone

Procrastination is when it takes one two months since getting a new mobile phone to buy it a data transfer cable.
My excuse: the Motorola C650 has a USB "Mini-B" receptacle, which should match a USB "Mini-B" plug at the end of a USB cable (on the other end of which is a USB "A" plug that goes to the host system, usually a computer). I say, what's the use of the USB standard when a bleeping Engineering Change Notice invents a new bleeping connector and forces me to go and buy a new bleeping cable? I dare you to shop for a "Mini-A to A" USB cable! No retailer carries those. Motorola's own accessories shop is currently out-of-stock!* They're supposed to come with the device, because they're as rare as a proprietary connector! Just as costly too. I guess with the service providers giving away the phones for next to nothing, the aftermarket business is where the money's at.

So, after checking online and in two photo-accessories and one cellphone-accessories shops, I've finally found it, all nicely packaged in a little black bag, in a computer-enthusiasts shop in downtown. Between case-modding and watercooling equipment and a GeForce 7800 SLI kit. 27 New Israeli Shekels (under $6 US).

You may wish to check my fotki page for new stuff, or I might just move over to flickr.

* - Never you mind that actually using the cable requires one to buy proprietary third party software which Motorola doesn't support. Moto4Lin is free, simple, takes 58k, is available in portage, and works. Thank you, Dima from Ukraine.

Found on The Web - Visions of Science Photographic Awards

via /.; a bunch of beautiful (and educational!) shots can be found on this site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Movie - Serenity

Tickets to the only screening in Israel were sold out three days in advance. Lucky I had the sense to get the tickets in time, though unfortunately I didn't manage to arrange for more than one friend to come along. Screening it at 23:45 wasn't very smart of the ICon management.

Great movie, and the Firefly marathon afterwards was fun. Getting back home at 05:45 wasn't, but that's what holidays are for.

The audience was full of Firefly fans. Lots of cheers and clapping, lots of laughter at all the right places, even the jokes from the beginning that were spoiled by the trailers. The whole film was very funny, not just Kaylee's "batteries" and "I'm gonna live" lines (which were great). I think in the dialogue between Mal and Book ( - Mal: "You'll have to tell me about that someday." [meaning Book's history] - Book: "No, I don't.") Mal represents the fans.

It being a Whedon production, lot's of chicks: Zoë, Inara, Kaylee and River are all hot (and dangerous). If Kaylee discovers she's a lesbian in a later episode/movie, I won't be surprised at all. And those "this one time at band camp…" lines? Please, once in five years is enough.

I've met only two people I know at ICon, besides <lj user="grayswander"/> who went with me. Where were all the geeks I know, huh?

People, if you haven't seen Serenity, you owe it to yourselves to go see it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Life - "School" Trip

My entire outfit went on a trip to improve intra-departmental integration and boost morale. More than six months after the merger (a hostile takeover, more like) the logistics and personnel people are still not really integrated, since they still mostly don't actually work with each other (yet).

It was two days in the north including:

  1. Playing treasure hunt in Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens
  2. Kayaking in Kfar Blum
  3. Partying in some club in Qiryat Shemona
  4. Wading through the balls-freezing waters of Nahal Snir (Hatzbani) trying not to break our necks on the dangerous rocks.
    Highly recommended, provided you have sturdy shoes that won't come off in water and medics at the ready.
  5. More partying on the Gai Beach in Tiberias

Fun was had by all, considering the twenty-ish average age and high number of females (for an IT outfit, anyway), even the unlucky female developer who (while inebriated) had landed badly on the dance floor and fractured something in her foot.

I've met a youngish Buffy-fan chick who sang songs from "Once More, with Feeling" and can't wait for The Rocky Horror Picture Show (both at ICon*).

Is it just me, or did anyone else notice a similarity between Willow Rosenberg and Luna Lovegood?

*—House points to the first person to find me in the pictures and post a comment.

Humor - Secretaries

Today's Dilbert shows Carol the Secretary telling Dilbert she'd date him for four trillion dollars, despite being happily married. My department's secretary is single, but somehow I think it would be about the same, if only she knew about numbers that big. I'd rather go for one of the female developers, them being as a rule smarter and hotter, but currently the point is moot. I think it's time to update my geek code.

Friday, October 07, 2005

TV - Lost, Season 2, Episode 3

Just watched the episode.

I understand the main metaphor about believeing whether pressing the button means saving the world as the same rift as described by Pirsig between the classic and romantic understanding. And it all sounds like psychobable, unless someone like RJA would like to explain what they mean.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

Work - New Year's

For the third time in my department, the smart, dependable, funny, pretty girl is too good for us and leaves for officer's training. It is very sad to lose E.C, and I hope she'll get a decent assignment.

I got First Sergeant two weeks early, for the Jewish new year. Considering the 16 hours long work days and working on the weekend, it really is the least they could've done.

Hurt my finger on the Uzi's magazine holding thingy. Still scored 100% day/night and 12 dead (simulated) Arabshostiles. Yeah, in the IDF, even the software developers are tough! ;-)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Work/Life - Down again

It's true that it's the little things that affect one's mood.

During my night shift I've left a poor impression on an interesting female colleague. I feel like I have no influence on my room. My boss and I disagree about schedules and the exact nature of my job. A friend whom I've met in training is getting discharged because his outfit can't afford him and for the next two years he'll be earning roughly three times more than I'll be earning comes December.

Is aimlessly reading about Prosody a waste of my time?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Life - Moving

Tomorrow I'll be moving about a kilometer north-west, and consequently won't have internet access for a few days. Here's hoping the move will be as painless as possible!

Edit: Well, I had internet the next morning, hurray for the national telco provider. Everything is more or less alright.

Oh, and now that the money is back in the bank where it belongs, I can say I've seen close to a hundred thousand US dollars in cash. Looked like a drug deal right out of a Hollywood movie. Wacko Russians!

Hardware Shopping - Dual Core!

Dual core is all the rage now, and with AMD's entry-level dual core processor killing the competition, one can buy one heck of a machine for quite a reasonable price, when you think about it.

partmake & modelUS priceUS price in ILSIL price in ILSmarkup
cpuAMD Athlon 64 X2 (939) 3800+ 2x512KB3651678.21225034.07%
moboMSI nForce4 Ultra (939) K8N Neo4 Platinum125574.7384046.16%
ramOCZ/Corsair/Kingston 2x512MB PC3200 CL2.590413.8178088.49%
videoXFX GeForce 6600GT 128MB150689.68105052.25%
hddWestern Digital SATA 160GB 7200RPM 8MB Caviar SE85390.8247020.26%
exchange rateUSD to ILS14.59784

Prices in US are rounded up and include shipping & handling, and don't use rebates (20$ and 25$ mail-in rebates are available). Prices in Israel include 17% VAT.

I chose AMD over Intel because of price/performance, but if Intel's hardware virtualization technology lives up to its hype (together with the rest of the cool new stuff that comes in the designed-in-Israel due-in 2006 next-gen Intel chips), I might reconsider.

Personally, I'd want to get a motherboard with integrated graphics (a GeForce 6150 + nForce 430 based solution sounds promising) because those 1000NIS on a a video card I'm not going to use are bugging me.

Compared to last time I did this, I've upgraded to CL2.5 RAM and swapped a WD for the Seagate hard drive because of availability issues.

We are still being ripped off on RAM.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Work - @#$%^&!

I don't want to name names, but yesterday I've had a surreal experience that exemplifies how badly IT projects are run and why I think it's a disgrace and a waste of money and why a project my outfit working on is going to fail. Again.

As part of my training I've interviewed a development team from a neighboring project. The team lead was a female coder promoted to officer to hide the fact she's a bad developer. Naturally, she became an even worse team lead. The team members themselves are all very inexperienced and have very naive notions about how stuff works in real life, especially concerning QA (especially unit, integration, system and acceptance testing), SCM, performance benchmarking, verifying scalability, deployment, user training, support, debugging in a production environment, maintenance, etc (basically everything other than churning out bad code). They all live in this dream where they release a version 1 in December, when what they had to show me looks nowhere near anything I'd show a client as "ready for release". To find out how bad it really is, I've turned to the systems people: I've managed to interview G.B., who is a team lead of a dedicated group of DBAs who support the project. We've shared war stories like one DBA to another, and man, she has revived my faith in females in IT. The place is full of great people, if only the fucked up institution could inspire them all to work!

Every time I think I'm too much of a "Rosh Gadol" for my job description and how big the gap between what I'm supposed to be responsible for and what I feel responsible for, I get the feeling I was wrong to decline officer training and yet I still believe I'm not the right person to be a great officer (INTJs are simply not leaders. I'd want to strangle people who are slacking, and that's not allowed). Problem is, it might've been better for me and my outfit if I were one. I'll see, maybe I'll change, maybe the environment will change.

God, how I hate "Rosh Katan" people who don't care about their craft!

On a completely unrelated note: E.P. has invited me to his birthday, day after tomorrow. I can't believe how excited I am! Don't have a clue about a present, though.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Books - Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

So, I've read it a while ago and never reviewed. But first of all, let's establish my bias: Not only am I a depressed overly talkative introvert, I'm a fascist as well. I've known it for a while, I get it from me mom. I don't like people who like to avoid work (and especially people who boast about it, a very trendy thing to do in modern day Israel) and I don't like stupid people. I'm working on the latter, as I realize why I'm wrong to do that.

Personally, I have zero experience with autistic kids. Any modern book about the subject must stress they are no worse than any other kid: they can grow to become productive members of society, all they need is love and patience, like any other child. That's all great, and the lesson "if you try hard enough, you can be anything" is important in encouraging children to apply themselves in school etc., but I disagree with the conclusion about the kid himself, as I understand it from the book.

The kid fantasizes about all normal people dying and he having the world to himself, never again being forced to interact with human beings. He carries a knife and pulls it on people seemingly at any available opportunity. He has no respect for police officers or authority of any kind, if he feels he is in the right. He has no compassion for human beings, as creatures who possess a soul and the right to live, but rather treats them like computers that walk. He taught himself A-level math.

I don't know how his arrested social development is connected to normal hormonal changes during puberty (if any), but he's supposed to be fifteen and has shown no interest in girls (or boys, for that matter). I don't know if he'll grasp the intricacies of courting, but I foresee problems on that front, as no one can explain for him in detail what constitutes "sexual harassment" these days - it can be anything, depending on the other person's feelings, a concept he doesn't quite grasp.

I guess that years of kind and firm treatment with a psychologist can help him improve his social skills, and he probably can do well in some scientific endeavor (though mathematicians working alone is a rare thing indeed these days, Andrew Wiles being the exception that proves the norm), but I think he's a disaster just waiting to happen. I can't help but feel sorry for his parents, adulterous as they may be, for at least they qualify for "human". Am I heartless?

Another thing is that I noticed I share some of my nerdier qualities with the main character. For example, he disaproves of euphemisms for the same reason I do. I think it is a warning to us nerds: behave, or people will treat you like they treat autists. And no, simulating asperger-syndrome is not cool, and does not make you a hacker.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Work - More ranting

So, free training. Two years after initial training all coders get an upgrade where they learn about architecture. Actually, the idea is to try and make the coders think outside their projects, technologies and environments and learn broadly about modern IT. Among other activities there are introductory lectures on topics like n-tier, UML, interpersonal communication, database tuning, datawarehousing, design patterns, networks, QA, SOA, dotNET vs. Java, ERP, storage with backup & recovery, security and lots of others. Three weeks total, by the best consultants available. A bloody dream come true for anyone wishing to get any sort of clue about the industry.

The first lecture was given by Eyal Rubin (I think that's the name; anyway, he's a big boss there or something) from 2Train4. Right at the start he got so many blank stares the level very quickly dropped to kindergarten. He had to review OOP, TCP/IP, RDBMS… very, very basic stuff. Someone asked what's a proxy. People didn't know about the existence of stored procedures. He used euphemisms for HTTP, XML, SOAP, SOA to avoid using the terminology after he had to explain "port 80". It took him a while to explain "application server" and how come scalability is not always linear. I was so ashamed I took off my pin.

I know about the five different worlds, and I realize that hadn't I been a huge computer geek, I wouldn't have known about EJB's either, but some of that stuff was covered in the initial training! A bloody TCP socket, for crying out loud, and SELECT statements! Gah.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Work - Need to vent

Our new resource turned out to be a big fat "no hire" with no skill set, a big head and an attitude problem. The guy has never seen any OOD in his life, has no respect for coding standards, no experience in team work, no understanding of PC hardware, doesn't know what "K&R" or "Stroustrup" are. Basically, he lacks all skills the company paid for.

But my main problem is that his motivation for getting the job was completely different from the rest of us: You see, he is fit for combat duty. So, nearing the end of his senior year of high school (when he was already a full year older than his peers, for reason unknown), he had several choices:

  1. Enlist, serve three years in infantry, armor or artillery.
  2. Go to college, get a degree, serve six years as an engineer (three years paid).
  3. Stay in school for an extra year, get an associate degree, serve four to five years (a year or two paid).

He probably decided real military service is for suckers and college is hard, so what kind of associate degree to get? Mechanics, electronics, software. "Computers" sounds like "money", so a year later here he is.

Now, his goal successfully met, he has no motivation to work hard or learn anything.

And his fucking Israeli attitude! @#$%^&*!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Personal - Being late

I have noticed that every time I meet R.Y. while commuting I am… shall we say "not at my best"? I wondered why is that. So I figure: we only meet on a bus at a time that means I'm very late, so it usually means I've tumbled out of bed and into my uniform in under ten minutes.
It's interesting though that my poor state doesn't bother me otherwise. Maybe I should readjust my answers on that meme to get "dork" instead of "geek".

Friday, August 26, 2005

Books - Edward E. "Doc" Smith - Galactic Patrol (Lensman Series Book #3)

So, I've read somewhere that it was among the first, defining works of the Space Opera genre. I got curious. All I've go to say after reading it is thank God it's not 1937. I have never read a fanfic, not on FFN, not even intentionally bad fanfic, that was this horrible. I can hardly call it a proper novel. The very outdated technology and nomenclature was bad enough ("ray guns", "ether"? WTF!), but the over-the-top depiction of absolutely everything, the non-existent characterization, and Gary Stu hero, a notable lack of morals and disregard for human life really made it hard to believe it was a published work (a bestseller?), not something scribbled in a bored 4th grader's note book. The worst parts were the blatant racism and sexism: worship of classical idealized Arian God-like build and features (a seven foot tall blue-eyed blonde male whose body is described by a male narrator, in a male leading character's words, speaking to an obviously intended male reader, as "beautiful") and the stated as truism belief of the narrator that women are inherently feeble minded and are only good for treating the wounded, recreation and procreation. I've wanted to stop reading so many times, but I've kept on to try and see if it got any worse. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that it had, indeed, got worse.

Of purely historical interest nowadays. Avoid if possible, read with caution.

Books - Terry Pratchett - Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, Book 6)

So, the promised review. I've read the Hebrew translation (that's what I had with me), without reading the original before or after (I might yet). I've managed to reverse translate some of the jokes, but still I didn't laugh nearly as much as I remember laughing while reading The Colour of Magic. Partly it's because a peculiarity of mine: while reading or especially watching comedic situations, I often feel embarrassed for the "fool" instead of laughing at him. Thus I didn't laugh too much at Magrat's naïvete or Granny Weatherwax's imposing personality. Reading the reviews I've noticed I've missed some (most?) of the Shakespearian jokes. Gytha Ogg is brilliant ("Three marriages and an adventurous girlhood had left Nanny Ogg with thigh muscles that could crack coconuts"). That's it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Life - A weekend on base

Last Thursday, fifteen minutes before end of the work week, a guy who is in charge of arranging the duty shifts / rotation calls and says I must stay for the weekend because they really need me and they're very sorry It's on such a short notice and they'll compensate me later. The notice was indeed short — I was already "late for duty" by hours and needed many more to get home and take things for the weekend and get back. So they decided the need was grave and I won't go home. Instead my parents can bring me items I might need1.

Ridiculous, but an order is an order and thus, I've spent the weekend with some old and new friends. Everything but the weather was great - the guys (people brought laptops and guitars!), the CO ("I don't like to do the paperwork, can we pretend I didn't catch you asleep and you'll stay awake for two more hours?"), the girls (I took guesses at their data, will check Monday how I did), even the notorious cooking (compensated by local take-out joints being open 24/7). We eventually got so tired from the heat and humidity I beat a guy at chess who in usual circumstances would wipe the board with me.

A girl, all of one month in the service behind her (one day out of bootcamp), didn't handle third watch too well (Why go to sleep while there are friends around to talk to? Because you don't share a watch with those friends meaning your sleep cycles aren't in sync, but of course you have to stop being a teenager for a moment to get this) and whined to the CO about being too sleepy on the third night. He took pity and so I got to fill in for her.

She realized she has done something not nice and to appease her conscience (her own words) brought me vending machine coffee and snack bars at around 4AM, claiming insomnia. We end up sitting there talking until dawn and the end of the shift. What's interesting is that instead of the oversized dirty field uniform she wore short, tight, black somethings with more lacy under-somethings in sight. Also she was playing with her hair and rocking back and forth, showing decent amount of cleavage.

I kept my distance, playing the perfect listener and gentleman, letting her tell me a condensed account of her life ages ten to eighteen, and pretending not to notice anything, thinking she didn't need me to be a guy, but two hours later, with first light, the magic gone and we departing in different directions, I realized that maybe she was hitting on me and I was a giant prat for not even taking a phone number2, especially since I had the perfect legit reason — to read her her own file off the computer at the office3.

1 - Z.L. has immediately lent me two books he had with him. Book review posts to follow.

2 - or ICQ UIN? What is it that I'm supposed to ask for these days?

3 - For reasons unknown (Well… I can guess, but that would be a really long digression), the military don't tell people how well they tested, and thus everyone feels obligated to get this otherwise completely uninteresting information through black market channels and longish chains of friends-of-friends).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Life - Updates

I've found out (thanks to T.S.) that the military has accepted a plea we (mostly D.Z. and N.K.) filed two years ago about our signing for extra six months of enlisted service being illegal (though they never bothered to tell us). It means I'll be discharged in January '08 instead of July '08, and more importantly I'll get my first real paycheck in January '06. It will be minimum wage I think, but that's ten times more than what I get now!

I got tired of my trusty old Nokia 5120 and replaced it with a Motorola C650. I like Nokia better, but this one had a camera. I'm still learning to use it. It's so bloody children-oriented and the interface is so flashy. It looks unprofessional!
I don't believe I'm typing this, what am I, forty?

I've downloaded episodes of West Wing. It's not bad at all.

My boss' boss' boss and her boss were replaced today/tomorrow (scheduled, not sudden). We'll see how we like the new people.

Today, very suddenly, a new guy was added to my team. He's fresh out of training and we don't know yet how good is he or whether he likes computers/software.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

HP Fandom - Wahlee's "This Moment" H/G fluff

I consider Emily a friend, and I loved her previous writing and completely agreed with her in all those shipping wars I didn't really participate in, and I find nothing wrong with the story (except the typography, which I'm sure is not her fault and will be promptly fixed). But after HBP I just want to say Ginny-Sue is, if not strictly OOC, plain dull. Jo didn't tell us, even through the eyes the worst narrator ever, what Ginny is like, except that she appears to be Fred and George's female third twin and is probably good at snogging. We don't really know if her feelings for Harry are any deeper than her celebrity crush from years past. We don't know what she and Harry talk about during their lake-side excursions (if at all). We don't know she loves him and anticipates his idiotic behavior, or why she does something so atypical and quietly accepts it. All we know is that Harry was physically attracted to her and appreciated her unsophisticated sense of humor, and later was happy dating her. So what? Maybe Harry, being depraved of human touch the way he is (thanks to his loving family), needed the kind of relationship Ron had with Lavender, got exactly that from Ginny, and unlike Ron, was deliriously happy about it? Maybe they just talk Quidditch all the time. Maybe the first thing he did was checking whether she's a real redhead. Maybe I'm being stupid and need to go to sleep.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Overanalyzing - How it all began

Or, at least, my best guess is Walt Disney cartoons are partly to blame. When I was six, I used to watch the Sunday morning cartoons with my parents on our new (well… new to us, it being bought from friends who have emigrated to the US) color TV and I remember my favorite show for a while had been Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and my favorite character was (of course) Gadget Hackwrench.

For those who don't remember: link #1, link #2.

The rest, as they say, is history.


In accordance with Ariel Sharon's plan to leave settlements in Gaza and the West Bank (what a stupid name! But I guess "Judea and Samariya" reveal it to be Jewish land and that's an inconvenient truth these days), the armed forces are in "emergency mode". Thus, some IT systems have been deemed "critical" and cannot go down, ever.
There's an underground war-room-style damage control center with walls covered by big screen maps of communication networks and traffic-light colored status boards. The room is manned around the clock by nervous, sleepy officers (some running on pure caffeine, some are in their third trimester) who are in charge of making sure nothing breaks or fix it before any one notices it broke and then make sure it never breaks again.

In a dimly lighted corner of the room, very important to the story but completely disregarded by everyone else, slacks a well camouflaged software developer turned cheap yet unreliable phone answering machine sitting a twelve hour shift, unmoving, waiting for a phone call that will never come, announcing something important broke and several room-fulls of monitoring equipment never noticed. Blended into his environment, his presence goes completely unnoticed by the war-room's proper inhabitants who forget to act like responsible officers completely on top of the situation and revert to the developers and techs they were a decade ago, not-quite-adults with baby sitters to arrange and chicken-and-egg logistical problems to solve.

Here's a good example of crisis in IT-land: Person A must have item B to be able to leave place C, which he must do to be effective. Item B is located in Place D, some four hours drive from place C and cannot be taken out until it is properly signed off by said Person A, who cannot reach it because he needs it to be able to leave place C. Something must give for the situation to be resolved, namely a set of orders or policy, but that becomes a point of pride for the brass issuing those orders, for if your orders can be waived in favor of someone else's orders, you are obviously less important.

As I watched wise old men with many years of experience in the field (meaning they know shit about current systems) mediate and judge deeply technical issues guided by very little factual knowledge, uncertain advice, caution gained by experience and rules of thumb gleaned from mistranslations of the US military and IT press, I've thought how much I don't want to get promoted to a position where I won't have time to get into the technical details and have to rely on video-conferences with "a boy"* to get a guesstimate on time to reboot a network appliance or help with pivoting some data from SQL Server using Excel. Instead I wished I could be that boy - the one they know is reliable and knows his stuff.

* - they mean "kid", but Semitic languages are chauvinistic. The proper word, "G.I" or "rating", is treated as derogatory.

I have for two years been contemplating a filk tentatively titled "I am the very model of a modern Project Manager", but alas, my rhymes leave much to be desired. I hoped this latest experience would provide inspiration, but my hopes have been shattered to bits upon my active vocabulary's rocky shore.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Life - My God! Genius! Interest improves quality!

I have been talking to anyone who would listen, trying to phrase my ideas about how the world is so fucked up because people don't do what they like. That because people are unmotivated by what they do for money they do it badly. I see it all the time and it looks like the cause of so much grief, and I'm not the only one because all the smart people I talk to agree with me (and not just to get me to shut up), and it's not just in the military or just in Israel, it's everywhere. It's nothing new, Pirsig talks about it, but just catching up on Paul Graham's latest essay I cried out "you've read my mind!". The question is: How can I make a difference? And I'm not ready to start a startup now, nor will I able to for the next three years. Damn.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Found on The Web - Bad Writing

It's so bad, it's good. Better than reading FFN! The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, 2005 Results.

Pop Culture - Serenity

Ooh, I've seen the trailer for Serenity (a.k.a "Firefly - The Movie"). I wanna go see it!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Coding - Topological Sort and Depth-First Search

So, I've actually stumbled into some code at work where I need to implement a topological sort for dependencies. And I've read about DFS and stuff, googled a bit and even opened a real comp-sci textbook we have at the office. While all I really needed was Wikipedia! And I'm prototyping in JavaScript like some microsoftie instead of in Python like real l33t h4x0rz! Oh, the shame!

Anyway, this is what I've come up so far:

Array.prototype.shuffle = function(p_nTimes) {
    if (isNaN(p_nTimes) || (p_nTimes <= 0) || (this.length < 2)) return;
    while (p_nTimes--) {
        var i = Math.floor(Math.random() * this.length);
        var j = Math.floor(Math.random() * this.length);
        var t = this[i];
        this[i] = this[j];
        this[j] = t;

function item(p_strName, p_arrDeps) {
    this.Name = p_strName;
    this.arrDeps = p_arrDeps;
    this.bIsInStack = false;
    this.bHasBeenVisited = false;

function create_deps(p, k) {
    var deps = {};
    for (var i = 0; i < p; i++) {
        var curr = new item(i, []);
        for (var j = 0; j < i; j++)
            if (Math.floor(Math.random() * 100) % k == 0)
        deps[curr.Name] = curr;
    return deps;

function print_deps(deps) {
    for (var i in deps) {
        document.write(deps[i].Name + ': ');
        for (var j = 0; j < deps[i].arrDeps.length; j++)
            document.write(deps[i].arrDeps[j] + ', ');

function topo_sort_dfs_short_circuit_on_cycle(o) {
    var list = [];
    var cycle = null;

    for (var i in o) {
        (function(p) {
            if (p.bIsInStack) cycle = p.Name;
            if (cycle != null) return;
            p.bIsInStack = true;
            if (!p.bHasBeenVisited) {
                p.bHasBeenVisited = true;
                for (var idxDep = 0; idxDep < p.arrDeps.length; idxDep++)
            p.bIsInStack = false;
        if (cycle != null) break;

    return [cycle, list];

Next step is trying to see whether a non-recursive implementation is faster (yes, I benchmark JavaScript) and then STL. C# I'll do on company time (haven't installed mono yet).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

HP Fandom - HBP

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Obviously.

So. Canon. At last. Again. It was kind of a disappointment, how "in character" everything was. Dumbledore is a secretive, overbearing, scheming old fool. Snape, no matter what his true motives are, is a right bastard with a flare for hating incompetence. Hermione is big-headed, Ron is a five year-old, Ginny is a smaller, though by no means less dangerous, version of Gred & Forge, and Harry is Conan The Barbarian in training. Oh, and Voldemort is Koschei the Immortal (if Jo hasn't read some Slavic mythology or folk tales, I'll eat my hat).

Compared to the good fic I've read, it was positively dull. Harry getting together with Ginny? Boring. Harry wants to split with Ginny? Boring. New Minister for Magic is a politician? Boring. The tiny magical community is unashamedly nepotistic? Boring. Most teenage girls, like most teenage boys, are stupid? Boring.
The only marginally interesting character in the whole bunch was Draco Malfoy, and seeing him only through Harry's twisted perception of the universe we don't know anything (good for fanfic, I guess). I'm willing to buy RJA's theory, but in any case I've lost my sympathies for the main characters.
Oh, self appointed Champions-Of-JKR: Tonks r0x, Lupin r0x, and together they snog, not fall asleep! BTW, I still wish for Honks as it makes for more interesting stories.

ETA: Seeing as this is the only negative review I've read, I feel I must say I don't think the book was bad, just that the anticipation was better than the thing itself, which is a known effect. Also, I probably wasn't in the best mood when reading it (on guard duty), so I'll re-read it and see how I feel then. I can only remember two times I've laughed (though not why, in either case), does it seem right?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Personal - Reading

Here I'll write what I thought about "A Mote In God's Eye".

Thanks to wikipedia I've found out I'm a straight-edge (the abstinence, not the music) slacker. Isn't being an over-educated underachieving web surfer fun?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Personal - Beat [adj. informal]

I've had a difficult few days (and nights) at work (my fault, but still) and friday I had a checkup with my orthodontist. Anyway, while reading a book I had this "I'm too tired to follow what's going on" feeling, turned off the PC and went to sleep. I don't usually turn off the PC, but sometimes when it's not doing anything I want silence at nights. I woke up at 15:02, looked at the watch and thought "No wonder I was so tired, I probably stayed up till morning…" and then "No way! The light was still up in the living room!" so this is from /var/log/messages:

Jul 15 23:56:50 tux syslog-ng[8579]: syslog-ng version 1.6.8 going down
Jul 16 15:09:56 tux syslog-ng[8820]: syslog-ng version 1.6.8 starting

Friday, July 15, 2005

Personal - On and Off line

Items dispatched on 15 Jul 2005:
Delivery estimate: 22 Jul 2005

    * 1 of: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter 6) [Children's Edition]

It's going to be a busy week at work, so I might just survive being offline and spoiler-free. I wasn't really nervous about the book at all, up until today. Now I can't wait. Brushing up on classic SF instead.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Personal/Tech - Developer vs. Secretary mode

The first thing I do when I sit in front of (or connect remotely to) a Windows box with intention to accomplish some work, I:

  1. Disable intrusive themes, sounds, animated mouse cursors, heavy wallpapers.
  2. Enable showing folder path in title and statusbar, showing file extensions, showing hidden and system files, and managing html files and associated folders independently of each other.
  3. Set file name and folder name completion key to tab (9) in command processor settings in the registry, so I can use the command line interface.
  4. Disable all shortcut keys to accessibility options.

Only then can I get to getting things done. If I happen to be logged as someone else, I usually take care to make sure the person knows what I've done and can reverse it (if they so choose). But sometimes, I just say I refuse to work for free on such a hideously misconfigured computer.
For some reason, people who've observed me doing it (and heard what I had to say about the machine's users while I was doing it) think I'm not just condescending but weird.

Why do I call a cutesy configured computer, optimized for avoiding work "secretary mode"? To explain that, I'll have to go into the realities of universal conscription. That will wait for a later date, but be sure I'm not a chauvinist - it's just life's harsh realities.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Personal - General Update

  • Got a very much overdue haircut at the new local barber (he couldn't believe I was in the military, my hair got so long). I gather the haircutting business is very competitive here and now because he treats his customers very well, looking to score recommendations. Very reasonably priced, too. This should get my chain of command off my back for a couple of months. BTW, don't worry - I won't be blogging about shopping for underwear.

  • Have been reading John Cowan's blog (recommended by Tim Bray). I envy his linguistics skills (I know more people who are gifted like that, namely Eli Bar-Yahalom). The entire xml-dev crowd seems fascinating, from where I stand.

    I have added some of his signatures to the sig DB I use at work. It's some Outlook VBA code that appends a random sig from an Access file upon sending an email. I've found it's a great conversation starter to draw the attention of geeks, because the people who can understand and comment my sigs are the ones I want to talk to. Also, I feel the need to show off.

  • I haven't yet blogged about attending Adi Gigi's graduation ceremony on June 23d. We were, for a few months, together in programming training when she passed the "gibush" for naval officer training and was forced to choose (it's not cost-effective to let people do two costly voluntary training programs when they'll only serve in one post). She wisely chose the harder one and now, two years later, she's an officer on a Israel Navy ship.

    BTW, Israeli naval ranks are exactly the same as for the land services, so although it's called second lieutenant, actually she's an ensign.

    Letting women into the elite combat officer training programs is quite new - she's like the 10th (give or take) female to successfully complete the training, the first with her specialty, the only in her class (and with no females in the recent flight school batch at all, situation is not that good for women in combat).

    I have to mention the enlisted and commissioned crowd at the ceremony (Dani himself arrived to give them their insignia and ranks) was from a very different IDF than the one I serve in. The people I know from "the army" are IT types: analysts, application designers and coders, DBAs, systems people, tech support of various types, comms techs, etc. while the people there were boat crews, harbor defense, infantry, search and rescue, field intelligence, etc. Very little in common, except for the age and uniform (and not even that, with the navy). I felt like the geek that I am.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

World News - London Bombings

I, my family, and I'm sure most of Israel's thoughts are with the victims' families and other Londoners and tourists. My country knows this pain. I hope this will not scare the British people off of the fight against terror caused by radical Islam, like it did in Spain (they have forgotten how they fought off the Moors…).

Context: Wikinews article "Four bombs rock London".

Friday, July 01, 2005

Book Review - David Weber - Honor Harrington series

So, a friend recommended this sci-fi series. He said it was good space opera and technology and tactics were not only self-consistent but even ground in actual physics (read: pretentiously "hard" military sci-fi). He also said the first two (out of at least ten) books are fully and freely available from the publisher's website. The following is what I have to say about "On Basilisk Station" & "The Honor of the Queen".

It's not given away for free because it's so addicting you'll immediately go and buy the rest of the books from Amazon. It's given away for free because of fierce competition from FFN. Seriously.

The only criticism I had for Lois McMaster Bujold's excellent Vorkosigan Saga was that it was too soft to be read by the hard core sci-fi audience (read: boys). That's how I explain it being so unknown among the sci-fi readers I talk to — it's treated like romance fiction, sometimes legitimately and justifiably so. Lois only mentions how spaceships, weapons, propulsion systems, communications, etc. work when necessary. And now I'm sure she's doing the right thing, too: Weber spews (besides too many characters' names and titles) accelerations, orbits, vectors, relative velocities, ranges and all kind of numbers and units all the time, but I'm not going to sit down with Mathematica and my high school physics textbook to run his numbers. It's dull, and it's the only thing he has working for him. The rest of the stuff that make up a good book, like: plot, characters, dialogue, subtlety, style - he has none of those.

The books have a girl-power feeling to them, which is forced and thus counter-productive. The heroine is not Cordelia Naismith by a long shot. In fact, and I ask to forgive my slight here, I think the future Admiral Lady Dame Duchess Honor Harrington is a butch. Also, she enjoys eating the cake and having it too a bit too often: She has forty-five years of experience, but she looks like a college student. She is from a high-gravity planet making her very strong, but she's also tall and graceful. She is self-consciously not pretty, but she possesses a unique beauty that makes her attractive to interesting men. She's bad at math, but is a gifted 3D tactician who can plot intricate trajectories by instinct.

The author's excuse for Regency-era social and political structure in a well-into-the-future galactic empire (which has never had a Time Of Isolation) is as plausible as any other, and the introduction of a six-legged empathic killer cat of plot-device a reasonably original twist (though she appears to love her kitty more than people), but I don't even know what to think of the heroine's naval career closely resembling Admiral Nelson's (I noticed that by myself).

Had it been published as a fanfic, I'd have said "nice try" and "props for having it proofread", but really, it feels like the bad Hollywood-movie version of some good books I've read. Don't waste your time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

HP Fandom - Elsha's D* Theo/Anne series

I don't know if there's an epilogue, but this is the last chapter. Good for Elsha, finishing it before HBP. It is a story about the girl next door and the Death Eater's son, but though this description makes it sound very kitschy, it's actually very good.

ETA: That wasn't the last chapter. That only closed the plot for Harry & Co. The next chapter is closure for the fic's main characters, and an epilogue is promised. Also, she's fixed the character encoding problem.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Personal - "School" Trip

The people at my workplace have a tradition to go on a trip together. It's good for building teams etc. Anyway, since the Golan Heights is a beautiful place and we're never sure whether it will still be in Israel next year (Assad being who he is, it looks like it will, but you never know…) we chose it again. This time we've covered Brehat HaMeshushim and Nahal El-Al. Pics will be added when available.

It was a nice two day trip, sleeping on the beach of the Sea of Galilee (21°C at night, no tent/sleeping bag needed). It was a bit too hot (35°C in the shade, with no shade during most of the ~4 hour hike) and the planning committee have miscalculated the logistics somewhat (too much meat), but everyone has enjoyed it (or so it seems). Seeing one's team lead (or, if you prefer, commanding officer) pissed drunk hitting on girls is a positive experience.

I've come to realize someday soon I'm going to be very angry at myself for completely missing the opportunity while being practically surrounded by reasonably clever very good looking teen girls, the same way I'm angry at myself for basically missing the whole high school experience. It seems a motif in my life, discovering late how I've missed out on something or other. Reminds me of this great quote:

"You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle aged woman: Stuff you pay good money for in later life." — Emo Philips

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hacking - Java

Now, I don't know Java. I have zero work experience with it and have never read a book about it (that's not what I'll write in my c.v. of course). I have seen some J2EE code in my life and were able to deduce how it supposedly works, but I really should reserve judgment till I know more. I do work with C# on a regular basis, and though I haven't actually learned it "properly" (i.e. methodically) either I can usually fake it.

Reading smart people's blogs about programming language design (they're usually quite academic types, buy Python is real) I keep feeling their derision of Java coming through very strongly, as the COBOL of our times. Comparing it to readable dynamic languages (meaning those which are not Perl) I tend to agree.

One of my email sigs at work is a quote I can't locate now that (completely paraphrased) says "When in the first example I saw cout left-shifted "Hello World" times, I despaired of learning C++". Another is Marx's "History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce". Well, I ask, how come the situation described in Tim Bray's recent rant on Java 1.5 is better than C++? And I hear C# 2.0 will be like that too…

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Personal - This week

I've attended DBA3 (free training provided by the employer) with my future team lead M. He didn't know I'm in his future team till the last day when I told him over launch. Was a bit funny - I told him a bit about the project, the organizational chart, the team members etc. Of course he'll get proper introduction (and a lots of links to stuff he has to read) by my boss' boss when it gets closer to his transfer. He seems okay, considering I kind of demanded a geek for my next boss (since I've been completely spoilt by my current boss). No, I'm not one of those superstar people who interview their own boss, I'm just (unfortunately) the most seasoned programmer on staff who hasn't been pushed into a management role (yet, anyway) and the boss' boss decided to tell me who they chose.

Another funny thing that happened is my mom asking what was the strange new belt I have and then showing me the weapon strap when I looked puzzled. I usually keep it in the backpack so she just didn't recognize it or something. And it looks kind of like a belt (except for the fastenings) and is an unmarked olive green model that doesn't scream "guns! death!". Strange, my service is.

Oh well, off to study pirated OCP 1Z0-033 exam kits for the test next week. I'm thinking of actually spending the money on certification when I'm discharged, although I don't really want to be a full-time DBA…

ETA: today I've found out I got 94% on that test. For some inexplicable reason, I feel more confident with my SQL skills since I've done it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

TV - Alias Season 4 Finale

Wah. This guy is right. Such a waste of bandwidth. I might try Lost now, but it will probably be ruined too after a season or two, like every other thing that got popular and didn't have an ending already written (like Babylon 5 and Harry Potter). Is 24 any good?

In other news, a girl talked to me today, of her own free will and for free I might add. Yes, this is a joke.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

TV - Alias 4x04 Ice

I sure hope the episodes improve in this season, but I just had to say I love Kelly Macdonald's accent (or was it only Kiera MacLaine/Meghan Keene's accent? I can't really tell how much of it was real).

ETA: 4x13 has a spork!!!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Web Tech - Markup

Blogger doesn't feature any built-in privacy. You can't mark posts as being private or "friends-only". The FAQ apologetically suggests you publish to your own server via FTP and manage security there (why would you use Blogger if you pay for hosting I have no idea. It's not like the wysiwyg editor or the template system are that good…).

LiveJournal is much more of a social software than Blogger's "push-button publishing for the people". Userpics, f-lists, communities, privacy, FOAF etc. make it very clear. Heck, the Harry Potter Fandom practically lives on LJ!

Personally, I can live without that, but I must be in control of my posts, at the lowest technical level. I want to be able to submit pre-arranged xhtml pieces to post. I want to be able to include any tags I wish (even scripts!) and know my markup won't be tampered with by the editor or the spell checker. And I must be able to just type up some stuff and let it generate sane markup for it, not force me to write my own <p>'s when I don't want to! Why in the name of Marshall McLuhan is the "convert line breaks" setting global???

ETA: So yeah, the point was that now I'll have to add markup to some of my posts and that would make them appear to be updated, although I won't change anything. Sorry for the inconvenience (It should only affect syndication users, though).

Work/Personal - Developers' Attitude, Inspiration, Competence

A recent thread on JOS forums is so apropos it's scary.

I'm a very "Person B" type of guy, having issues with time management and juggling more than a few tasks. I'm also frequently under-motivated because my superiors are unable to control my work environment enough to help me be more productive or even reward me properly. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with some aspects of working slaving for the government and feel like a pat on the back is not enough for me to work like I'd do in a startup. The classic "the reward for good work is more work" approach might work (for me) when one's work saves lives. Mine can only save money, money I see wasted all around me while I wait literally years for upgrades to my workstation I need to be able to do my job.

We've all read Peopleware, and we all know the issues, but it seems like the constraints of obligatory military service are too hard to mitigate. Like in Communism, you are expected to do your best but everyone with the same job description gets essentially the same treatment (and don't get me started on the secretaries). You can play on people's pride and ambition, but I guess I'm just a whiny quitter who calls everyone fake and doesn't want to play their games.

I care deeply about my country, and I care personally for my clients' work, for which my products are crucial, and I take pride in my craft, but next month it'll be two years in this position and I feel disillusioned.

A big head and a low self esteem are a really nasty combination.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

This Blog - Bookmarks

A significant part of my Firefox bookmarks has been added to the sidebar in a hopefully manageable way. It should be noted the bookmarks are a mess. Please report problems with navigation, validation, dead links, uselessness, etc. here.

The hefty (30k) thing was not compressed so it would be accessible from non-typical UAs such as lynx (verified!).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Various - Update

  • Yesterday on the bus ride home I've seen two girls from Oketz (they are very distinctive by their male uniform, lack of shoulder unit insignia and a Colt Commando). It made me even prouder in my uniform, thinking of the training these girls went through to get into an elite combat unit and how nice they still look and sound. Oketz appear to choose well from Nahal's girl battalion "Karakal".
  • I've listened to some Bond (Born, Shine and Classified). It's too world-music and has too much electronic and other interference so you can barely hear the string quartet itself. Few tracks are interesting beyond the first in every album. If I compile a list I'll post it. Also, undressed publicity photos (as well as dance/hip-hop/whatever remixes) cheapen the classical act so it cuts down on the people who came to listen to four classically trained performers while doesn't gain too much of the Britney Spears audience since they don't cut it as pop icons.
  • A friend suggested going playing war games* for his birthday. It was very cool (not cheap though), but now I hurt all over: bruises on both thighs, an arm, a shoulder, palm and a bit on the back (only torso and head are well protected during games, so arms and legs get hit a bit). Also, I got splashes of paint in the face some of which is in my hair. Some of those bruises look like they'll stay for a week or so. But hey, it's as close to military action a non-combatant like me is ever likely to get. Was lots of fun.
    Personnel are Russian speakers and were a bit miffed we had two non-Russian speakers in a group of eight so they had to give the instructions in Hebrew. A common problem in modern Israel are those weird people who live here for more than twenty years and still didn't learn Russian…
    * - English site is all "under construction", but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Personal - Social Circle Meme

A variation of the thing from Rebecca:

Why are you on my referrer logs?
Comment and tell me. Then post this in your blog/journal.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Music - Sampling

No, this is not about the process of digitizing an analog signal (though it is well worth your while to find out what "digital" actually means, even of you're not a technophile like me, at least so you know when advertisers clearly lie).

"Sampling" as in tasting a little bit of everything in a buffet or listening to a bit of various unfamiliar musical styles/performers to find out if you're missing out on something good. Like radio is supposed to be. Unfortunately, since all I get at work is commercial (remember payola?) brainwashing courtesy of local recording companies / RIAA franchises, I steal music from the net to find out what I like (Schoolgirl will be glad to hear I don't listen to much Yanni any more...).

So, if, perhaps by accident, you've discovered a large file with a "rar" extension and perhaps the words "ape" or "cue" in its name on your computer and decided you're not afraid of communism and would like to give it a try, here's some advice.

First of all, congrats on choosing the cd image instead of the mp3s. It means you value the quality of your music, and won't let some ripper's poor choice of encoding software to alter your perception and possible appreciation of the artist's work. Having an actual CD image, possibly compressed by some lossless compression method, enables you to recreate a bit-identical copy of the audio CD, so you'll know what you get when you buy it (well, that and the inlay, but that too is often provided as high resolution scans).

What you need to do then is extract the archive using unrar (free from

$unrar x foo.rar

Now you can either play it, if your player supports cuesheets and decodes Monkey's Audio (plugins are available for popular media players), burn it to CD (again, plugins are available for popular burning software), or convert it to mp3s (for use in portable players or some such). For that, you need the proper decoder (in this case, mac), cuetools, shntool and of course lame (all free software). When you have the latest versions installed, just:

$cuebreakpoints CDImage.cue | shnsplit -n "band-album-" -o cust ext=mp3 { lame --preset standard - %f } CDImage.ape

and (after a while) - voila!

I have yet to find a way to specify certain tracks to split so you'd be able to do less work to get a single track or even fork off multiple instances to use that SMP machine you might have properly. But at least you don't need to create temporary files.

Shell out for albums you like - the artists do get a little of that money!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Personal - Book meme

I was named by Lou, so now that I have time I shall do her bidding.
  1. Total number of books I've owned: I've counted 50 on the shelves. I have no idea how many more are still packed in boxes (no shelf space in the rented place). I don't count the pirated eBooks, or my parents' library.
  2. The last book I bought: a preorder of HBP, actually.
  3. The last book I read: see last post.
  4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
    1. The Potter books, obviously. For all I've lost and gained in Fandom.
    2. Dune
    3. LMB's Vorkosigan books
    4. A book in Hebrew I received as a gift in 4th grade about a Jewish boy who survives alone in a ghetto in Poland during WWII. Being a children's book, it had a happy ending.
    5. I loved Robinson Crusoe as a child. And consequently had a rather mad wish to build a tree house for the longest time.
    It's interesting to note that what I liked most about those books is how the hero manages on his own. The rest are… supporting characters. Damn, that's sad.
  5. Tag five people and have them fill this out:
    1. Teri
    2. Emily
    3. Rebecca
    4. Leslie
    5. acemyth

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Books - Shadow Of The Giant

So I've just finished the book. It took me three evenings (I'm a very slow reader). Yesterday I thought Orson Scott Card was just publishing more stuff to make money, the way I feel about what has been done to Dune, but today I've changed my mind.

No, it doesn't say anything new, per se, and it was kind of tying up loose ends, exactly as he promised two years ago (he left just a small bit for developing into plots of future books, if he ever needs the money, but then, the afterword in the acknowledgments section feels like it's the last book of the series...). The psychology was a bit simplistic, though it might be just realistic, but the geo-politics sounds about right (again, I don't know what I'm talking about). The last chapter was very touching. Actually, most of his ending are very good (contrast with Neal Stephenson for example). It really is a good book. I don't know about the non-preaching moralism, and how all that stuff gets along with the author's personal beliefs, and when (if at all) are characters speaking for him, but the whole settle-down-and-have-kids as the proper goal for sane people's ambition resonates very well with me.

BTW, the whole marrying the best female of the generation who is not your sister reminded me of themes in HP fandom. I think I read too much fanfic. (go Capt. Obvious!)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Fandom - Congrats Melissa!

I remember in her first few posts on the now happily defunct HP message board, she was in the process of graduating from college... Anyway, hard work does pay off, and you've earned it! Now, anymore Firelox fic? ;-)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Found on The Web - Gangsta CS

I've known for a while there are some hard-core comp-sci geeks on LJ, not just liberal arts and poli-sci _______, but somehow I've never read anything of Brad's before. Anyway, he has a lot of cool stuff, among which I've found the funniest link 3v4r: So Much Drama in the PhD, by Monzi.

ETA: Apparently, there is a genre for this stuff.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Private - Musical taste

I recently loaned a friend a bunch of CDs I had lying around the office for a weekend. He said the music is depressive but it does appear to be conductive to a programmer's productivity. My music, depressive? It's not like I listen to Air's Virgin Suicides soundtrack on repeat or something! (A decent one if that's what you like, though I'd advise a visit to a therapist).

Here's the list. What do you think?

Private - This week

The 5th was the Israeli Day of The Holocaust, the 9th was 60 years since the end of The Great Patriotic War (my grandparents are veterans), today is the Israeli Memorial Day and tomorrow Israel will celebrate its 57th birthday. Personally I think it's too close together. It's symbolic of course, but you have to separate the days a bit more to let it sink in.

This time it was a bit more personal for me, a bit less abstract. I wish future years won't add more specific faces to the image I have in my mind's eye during the minute of silence.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Tech - QEMU

So, as I said earlier, I've installed the latest release of windows for home users in qemu (also latest release, 0.7.0) to test my dhtml (not ajax) in m$ie. It works, but:

  • official documentation is sparse and unofficial is not up to date and user-friendliness is of the sort that gives open source its bad reputation.
  • Performance is nowhere near "good" (even with kqemu), but can be made tolerable by keeping tabs on the swapping (or having lots of RAM). I had to decrease memory allocation for the guest in order for it to be responsive while I have Firefox open on the host. Also I switched from KDE to Fluxbox, applied a patch enabling dma on the winnt guest and switched to raw rather than sparse disk image file format.
  • Installing and configuring Samba for file-exchange between guest and host isn't terribly user-friendly as well, BTW.

I've browsed the developers' mailing list archives and they do have many good ideas, so I believe the future is bright for emulation (running OS X on an Athlon 64 is in the roadmap, and that is close to the holy grail for me). Basically, computer-savvy users only for now, unless you wan to pay for Virtual PC or VMWare (and that can't run an architecture different from the host's).

It turned out my blog's CSS editing doesn't work in m$ie. Have not debugged it yet, but it being deployed for a while now and nobody saying anything is kind of depressing (since I know for a fact not all of my hits are made with Firefox).

Obligatory pic.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Personal - Hmmm

I went with my parents to a family friend's 50th birthday party. Despite being a classic civil engineer (exasperatingly pedantic) working for the national telco he's a good guy. I was prepared for a rather dull evening, but party games for tispy 45 to 55 y/o ex-Soviet engineers and their wives turned out to be funnier to observe than I'd imagined (and I didn't even know anyone present!).

I got cornered by the birthday-boy's elderly uncle (who I later found out was a physics professor or something) with the "I've been told you're good with computers, could you please help me out with this small problem I have" line I know so well (I briefly regretted not wearing this shirt). He introduced himself as a total dummy, but as he was explaining his problem in bits and pieces, it turned out he wasn't clueless at all - he was editing his registry and he'd switched to Firefox etc. I honestly believe he was proving himself or something by "testing" me. Way more cool than my grandparents, anyway.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Web Tech - JavaScript/DOM performance

I've done some extremely unscientific and informal comparison of Firefox 1.0.3, Opera 8.0 and Konqueror 3.4 running my dynamic table script on 100K of data and I have to say I'm very impressed with Opera. It feels like the code is JIT-compiled while KHTML feels like it's running in an emulator (I'm talking about being 50 times(!) slower while crawling DOM etc.). There are things where Konq. actually does better than dear old Gecko, though compatibility is definitely not one of them (I had to code around many KHTML issues). Opera's choice of when to actually reflow the DOM changes is a bit weird, but it might be doing the right thing performance-wise.

I'm working on getting the browser from Redmond to work in QEMU, will update here when I have more info.

ETA: It's working, but I can't really do any performance comparisons.

ETA #2: KHTML 3.4.1 bugfixes should allow me to remove a few lines of code. It's my policy to only support the (near) latest version of each browser engine. There's no good reason to still use IE 5.5, pre-1.0 Mozilla (or even pre-1.0 Firefox, which is Mozilla 1.7), Opera 6, etc. I expect the UA to either have full support of the W3C DOM and CSS DOM and things like Array.push (so no IE 5.0) or be treated like Lynx, but I won't use Mozilla 1.8b2's proprietary Array.ForEach (although it's brilliant!). For the people stuck with the version of KDE/Mozilla they have on their binary distro: too bad, you probably don't use Konq as your primary web browser anyway. :-)

HP Fandom - update

Since there is no FFDB (yet), I'll keep posting updates.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Web Tech - marketing gimmick of the year?

After the SpreadFirefox counters (never had one of those buttons myself, but I did tell everyone I know to use it ever since I switched to Phoenix 0.4) and other Firefox publicity, and the imminent release of IE 7 looming overhead, the Opera people probably decided to have a splash of their own. Literally. I think it's a bit much, but drastic measures are probably the answer if you want to continue to compete (successfully!) with both Microsoft and the Free/Open community.

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