Thursday, June 30, 2005

University

In February, not a long time after I first met Joah, the woman who changed my life, I gave my applications for the Tel Aviv University to study Biology. Why Biology, some would ask, especially when I'm so deep into Computer Science?

Because I happen to like these things. Recently I found out that Genetic Algorithms are used to optimise SQL statements which has a very large complexity such as joins. You can read about it on the PostgreSQL site.

So, today I got a call saying that I got in!!! Starting October, I'm a member of the TAU slave camp! Woohooo!

I wish I could get in touch with Joah so I could tell her..

Operating System as a psycho-analysis

A week or two ago my friend Omer (who also responds to rants on this blog from time to time*) and I had a talk on the phone, in which he mentioned that over the years, I switched from Windows to Linux, while he was still using Windows, then I switched from Linux to FreeBSD, and he stayed in Windows, then I switched to Solaris, and he stayed in Windows, then for a short time I returned to Linux, him still being a Windows guy, and now I am using a Mac, and him? Still in Windows.

"What could this mean?" he pondered loudly. "Could this mean that I have a problem with commitment", I said in grave fear, "And that you have a problem accepting change and trying new things?"

A few seconds later we disregarded it by being too silly, and started thinking of something completely different.

Now, I know Joah is going to jump at this "Can't commit" thing. Baby, they're just operating systems. Not people.

* And probably is one of the few actual readers of it.

The MoIN Saga Continues

Going to Salame 53 revealed that the place is actually a club called Adam's which could accomodate up to 299 people, according to the sign above it.

A closer inspection of the building revealed another interesting detail: The EO's department which is not a department office is located on the side of the building, without any direct or non-direct signs leading you there. I had to literally Guess.

Reaching the office it was locked with a guard on the inside. Stating my business the guard refered me ot a note on the door stating that the office is dealing with public requests on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday only. What does the office do on the rest of the week? Obvioulsy it's open today, probably on Sunday as well. What do they do there, if not taking care of public requests, while it's the reason there IS an employment office in the first place?

I will call them soon and get a new number for the Jerusalem office. I'll also try the phone information service. Obviously they have a better idea at where and how to reach each office in the givernment, much better than government offices themselves.

Hello, Haim's Butcher Shop Slash Ministry of Itern office!

As my quest continues to get Joah to live with me, I've encountered larger beasts and more furious devils than anyone has ever encountered, even in the Princess Mononoki starting scene. Let me try and recapture one of those chases after an official who could actually try and help us, apparently of his good will as the Ministry of Iternals aren't really dealing with Internals.

First, calling the MoIN lead me to hours of waiting on the phone until someone picks up to answer. I should be working in MoIN: Working only between 8:30 to 12:30, and not having to actually answer the phone and Work.

After finally reaching them, I was redirected to the Employment Office which, for obvious reasons, had no-one to answer the phone at. The time was 9:30 am. Luckily, the automatic message in the answering machine gave in the EO's direct number, so I could call them again and again without actually waiting on the MoIN again.

Getting a live voice from the EO, I was told that the EO does no longer take care of employment of foreign workers, hence I should get in touch wtih the office at Salame 53 in Tel Aviv. Now, this raises two questions, which I've asked. Answers as they were given are in brackets:

1. Does the Salame 53 in Tel Aviv office has a phone so I could call them instead of going? ("They should do. I don't know it though").
2. Should I actually Want to go to that office, on what times is it open? ("I think it's between 8am to 1pm, but don't take my word on it, as I'm not sure").

Now, I'm not blaming the poor chap who answered the phone: He was rather nice, unlike all the other MoIN employees I enountered in the last week. Especially the one from Salame 53, which answered only 2 hours after I started nagging that number (I got the number from the phone information service. It's silly, I thought that the MoIN and EO knew about that service).

[ Skipping the Hello/Hello parts ]
ME: Is this the employment office department for foreign workers?
HIM: No. [Explaining which office it is, which eventually means they handle foreign workers]
ME: I want to employ a foreign worker as a company.
HIM: For what task?
ME: International Secretary
HIM: You can't. She's not professional enough.
ME: What are you talking about? You haven't even heard what she can Do!
HIM: ...
ME: She has ten years of experience in her field of fundra..
HIM: Not professional enough. You will never get a permit. Waste of time to request it actually.
ME: [Sighing heavily] So you mean to tell me all the foreign workers who clean and do contruction work have PhDs in that field?
HIM: There are NO foreign workers doing cleaning or contruction work in Israel.


At this point I asked the guy what are the criterias for someone to be professional, and he directed me to the Jerusalem office. Calling the number he gave me lead me to Haim's Butcher shop, and calling back to the Salame 53 office yielded (surprisingly) no response.

Now, the question is raised: Why have a department for foreign workers if you would never accept anyone?

Save the Donkeys

Today, whilst doing some extensive research into the nature of philanthropy (aka messing around on Google) I came across some unusual cutting edge, issues driven British charities. Now, British people love animals, so it was no surprise to me that the Droitwich Ferret Welfare , which saves ferrets that get lost when rabbiting, is so popular.

But I thought that this one, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land , was taking things a little too far, what with its little poem and its flash intro and all. I mean, donkeys? In the Holy Land? What's the deal with that?

My colleague suggested that the reason this charity exists is actually to speed the coming of the Moshiach, who will obviously need to enter Jerusalem riding on one of these dumb beasts.

No donkeys in Israel = no transportation for Moshiach = well, no Moshiach. Right?

It does make sense. It's not as if Moshiach would be able to just fly to Israel and take a donkey with him. He would just never get past Israir's extensive security checks. You can imagine the scenario at Stansted Airport, as Moshiach tries to check in with his luggage and his beast of burden:

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?

MOSHIACH: I'm the Moshiach.

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: But why are you going to Israel? Why do you want to go to Israel? Of all places!

MOSHIACH: You know, to redeem the Jewish people and build the Third Temple. And bring about world peace. You know, lion, lamb, lying down, all that stuff.

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: Can you speak Hebrew?

MOSHIACH: Well, you know, I can read from the Siddur. Actually I was planning to go to an Ulpan in Holon.

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: Did you pack that donkey yourself?

MOSHIACH: Yes, I'm going to ride it into Jerusalem.

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: We're going to X-Ray it. And your sandals. And your suitcase. And your white robe.

MOSHIACH: Well, I...

CRAZY ISRAIR SECURITY GUARD: Are you Jewish?

I've been through lots of these checks myself so I can vouch for the verismilitude of the above artist's impression of Moshiach trying to check in with Israir.

Anyway, the point of this, because there is a point to this, and this is it, is that charity is important for world peace and Messianic redemption. So the next time you see a lost ferret or a miserable looking donkey, it's your job to stop and look after it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Salad Hell

There is a choice of 2 salads in the staff canteen today. Just to place this in a cultural context, salads here are pre-made, and then machine-sealed into a little plastic box, sometimes with a little plastic fork taped to the top. They consist of a bit of wilted lettuce, some cucumber, maybe a bit of tomato, and then some meat and/ or cheese. Salad bars are a relatively rare occurence in the Land of Pigs and Overpriced Juice (i.e. as opposed to the Land of Milk and Honey).

The salads were:

(a) Ham and Cheese Salad
(b) Prawn Salad in a Seafood Sauce

Now, if anyone can tell me what a seafood sauce is, I would be most interested to learn. All I can tell you is that it's pink.

I should also tell you that each salad costs the equivalent of 24 New Israeli Shekels.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Slaves to fashion

I work as a Fundraising Manager, so I am constantly bombarded with mail from companies trying to get me to jump on the charity wristband fashion craze. Last week, I received a particularly illiterate letter from a company urging me to 'Follow the latest hip fashion thats (sic) seen celebrities wearing wristbands supporting things from cancer to poverty'.

"Hmmm", I thought. "Is supporting poverty and cancer so very hip with celebrities these days?" And as it turns out, yes it is!

What's particularly ironic about this latest 'charity fashion' is that millions of the Make Poverty History wristbands do seem to have been supporting poverty, because it turns out that they've been made in third world sweatshops by miserable workers toiling in unimaginable conditions. Not only that, but some of the global fashion brands who've personally endorsed Make Poverty History bands with their logos also support poverty by employing workers in third world sweatshops.

Drug companies have also lost no time in trying to help make poverty history, by 'donating' lots of 'free' drugs to the third world. Sadly, things are not always what they seem. A Medecins Sans Frontieres aid worker reporting from war-torn Sudan was confused when village elders turned up to greet her with Tampax hanging from their ears, and she also wondered why all the local women had sanitary towels stuck to their chests. Yes, you've guessed it - these were an 'aid donation' from a pharmaceutical company, who also sent some diet supplement pills to the famine stricken area. Naturally the drug companies get a nice tax break to thank them for their hard work in supporting poverty.

Well, that's pretty much the end of my obligatory rant on charity wristbands. But perhaps the thing that made me laugh the most about the whole confused Make Poverty History saga was the lady who came up to me at my organisation's annual conference and asked if she could buy a Make History Poverty wristband. Because, when you think about how Western colonialism messed Africa up in the first place, and about here we are with our collagen filled celebrities and our pop stars and our multinational companies all wearing white wristbands and crocodile tears, the lady was right. We have Made History Poverty.

Tabbed Browsing

I heard many people talking about tabbed browsing using VS 2005's help browser - Even this guy hadn't skipped from mentioning it. I just wonder: Tabbed Browsing really has been around for a long time in other browsers... If people like this feature so much, why not switch a browser to a better one?

Maybe I'm missing something.

Orange Stripes

Finally, some sanity.. It's nice to see people like that, in a time where all you can see around are orange stripes been hung by people who might not even know what the fight is all about - They just heard it's wrong so for them, it's wrong. I think some percentage of them just wear the stripe because they think it's a new fashion, like the Nike Charity Band.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Kingdom of Pork



When I first noticed the Kingdom of Pork shop, I was speechless for almost 30 seconds and then Aviad had to endure me going on about it endlessly, including creating and singing a cute little jingle about it. Whenever we were about to go past it on the bus, he had to stop what he was saying and announce that Kingdom of Pork was approaching, so we could get a better look at it. This phenomenon - Israel's NUMBER ONE PORK SHOP - could not be left unrecorded so naturally I decided to go and take some photos of it.

When I got off the bus at the Pip Show, just outside Bingo Bango Internet Coffee, I was winked at by a shady looking gentleman, who beckoned to me. I was used to this by now, as I'd been winked at and beckoned to by lots of dodgy men, including a pelephone salesman and a crazy, singing, headphone-wearing guy. Winking at and beckoning to ladies seems to mean "Hey lady! Come and look at my pelephone/ trance music/ Internet Coffee!". Unless it's Aviad doing the winking and beckoning, in which case it means "Sit on my lap and I will now explain, using extensive diagrams, how Java works". This is why I love him.

What I hadn't realised about Kingdom of Pork was that, particularly given the heat, it would stink like, well, lots of dead pigs. The smell was really horrible, and reminded me of English supermarkets. I tried to look relatively inconspicuous whilst taking my photos but I gradually realised that I could hear loud screaming noises, and those noises were the Russian words for "Hey girl! What the beep are you doing?! Go the beep away!" and when I looked up, I saw a Kingdom of Pork proprietor surrounded by sausages and salami and nameless bits of pig, shouting at me and making murderous gestures. I remembered the tale of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber, where people were made into pork pies. So I hoofed it.

I then realised I had no idea where I was hoofing it to, so I called Aviad and told him I was on a street surrounded by sex shops, dodgy pelephone repair places and internet coffee bars, and a car with a huge sticker with the entire Shema on it. He informed me, very helpfully, that I must be in Tel Aviv.

Eventually, we managed to work out where I was and I found the bus stop, which was conveniently located outside a shop called "Sex Style: Gay Cabins".

So, I hope you are appreciating the full wonder and beauty of Kingdom of Pork.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Big Stink


Monet's London Smog
Originally uploaded by adochka.
London has been gasping in a heatwave for the past week, most of which I've missed because I've been languishing on a beach or risking life and limb taking photographs of the Kingdom of Pork shop (conveniently located near Bingo Bango Internet Coffee and the Pip Show (sic)). As I'm someone who hates the cold, you might well wonder how I can whinge about the heat, but the fact is that London has been issued with a smog warning and I work in right in the centre of pollutionville, Oxford Circus. That's right, folks. Smog. You know, like in the 19th century. So I spent most of today trying to continue breathing.

Londoners can't cope with the heat at all. They don't know what to do. They don't know what to wear. They don't know how to behave. Today, I was trying to breathe on the Tube (no, it's not air-conditioned and yes, it is horrific) when a half naked fat smelly bloke got on munching a massive, slobbery, grease-filled Egg & Bacon McMuffin. Now, normally, Tube etiquette demands that you don't talk to any of your co-passengers, so what happened next was a real phenomenon. The entire carriage turned against Egg & Bacon McMuffin Man and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he ought to take his disgusting, foul smelling food and jolly well get off the train. The McMuffin guy looked at the sea of sweating, angry faces, as bits of egg and tomato ketchup dribbled down his chin. Then he hoofed it.

I hope I can breathe tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Turning to Phase 2

This passing week, when Joah was in Israel, we went to see the Ministry of Internals and were given the information needed for getting a work permit. Joah finding a job here is Great, and makes us both very exciting!

So, in order to get a work permit one needs to have an employer, the employer needs to pay a tax for employing a foreign worker, give a good reason for employing such a worker and finally, get a reference from the Employment Office.

Now we need to see to it that the employer meets all these rules. Also, Joah and I are thinking about an option of her moving here before settling with a job from abroad, as it is very difficult to manage. An option is for her to move here and start seeking for a job, specifically with the English Schools.

Will post in when I have more news.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Potato Rights

It's no longer politically correct to use the term "couch potato", as this is insulting to, yes, you've guessed it, potatoes. Potato farmers are lobbying for the term to be removed from the dictionary and replaced by something gender, species, race, sexuality and disability neutral, like "couch slouch" on the grounds that the phrase "couch potato" makes people think that all potatoes are blubbery slobs who loaf* around on the sofa drinking beer, eating snack foods and watching re-runs of "Friends" all day.

Apparently the British Potato Council (an association that promotes potatoes and potato rights) is behind this campaign, which given its recent promotion of National Chip Week (during which 3.6 million extra people heard about and saw chips) seems to me to be rather hypocritical, as it can't support mass chip eating and also claim that spuds are a health food.

Well, now it's time for me to go and be a beach potato, or should that be a beach slouch? It's a damn hard life.

*I hope that use of the term "loaf" to mean "lounging around doing faff all" won't bring me any complaints from the Bread Rights people and the British Bread Council.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Typical

I hate the cold. It drops below 21 degrees C, I'm shivering and have to put on a couple of sweaters and run to a cafe for a hot chocolate. So how have I stood the British climate of rain, cold rain, extremely cold rain, just-about-to-rain, or just-finished-raining-but-looks-like-it-will-rain-again-really-soon so far? The answer: badly.

So you can imagine my disgust when I find out that during the week I am out of England, the place decides to celebrate my absence with a heatwave. (And don't you just love how the government actually issued a warning, urging 'vigilance'?)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Work Interviews

So, Joah is coming to Israel this week!

She's actually at the airport as we speak, cruising around shops and everything.

This week is very important. We're going to a few job interviews, one of them set up by my father. High chances on that one! If it all goes well, we'll go and try to get a work permit.

The thing is this: For reasons not to be explained here, Joah will only get Aliyah rights in March next year. We want to live together sooner than that, so we're trying to see if she can get a temporary work permit until she gets the permanent Aliyah ones.

If this works out, she can say goodbye to her current work, and we can start preparing the whole moving procedure, which we planned partially already.

Wish us luck!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Out of the office and out of the loop


dinosaurs
Originally uploaded by adochka.
Every day as I commute to work on the Tube I am forced to see hundreds of Microsoft advertisements for their latest Office 2003 campaign. The advertisements tell us that if you are running an earlier version of Microsoft office, it's a bit like you are in the Jurassic era, and you yourself are a bit like a Triceratops or a Diplodocus, i.e. SO VERY LAST YEAR. If you are smart enough to run Office 2003, you will never be out of the loop again, because you will be able to see your emails from anywhere!

I've been subjected to these hellishly irritating ads for weeks now, and I wanted to point out the obvious flaws in the campaign and in the product itself.

1. The theme of the campaign is "Evolve", don't be a dinosaur, be up to date with the latest and best Microsoft product ever! It's cutting edge! It's so up to the minute! It's here now! In 2005! Yes! It's the latest thing! So why is it called 2003? Even I can tell that 2003 was 2 years ago. Sack your creative team, Bill. They're pants.

2. Never be out of the loop with Office 2003, eh? My company recently upgraded to this wonder product, and the result? I can no longer access my emails from home because, well, it doesn't work. That's right - I am out of the office and out of the loop just like the Iguanadon in the advert. But I have Office 2003.

3. Having been unable to send an email because 2003 doesn't work, I was really upset when Microsoft added insult to injury by making Clippy pop up and tell me that there are lots of new features in 2003 and I should click him to find out more. Bill Gates, if you're reading (and I know you're a fan because you're constantly stalking me via Clippy), a great feature to include in your email program would be the ability to actually send and receive emails. Thanks.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Tube Blog

Some clever soul has created a network of London blogs searchable by area - organised by the London tube map.

Not only is this a pretty cool idea in and of itself, it's fascinating to read blogs by other people living in my area. These are people I might pass in the street every day.

The coolest thing I found via this site, though, is links to people's photos of this area via Flickr. It's just so weird to see other people's pictures, randomly found, of things that I see every day - the same feeling you get when you look on someone's bookshelves and see they have a copy of your favourite book - a realisation of self and otherness all at the same time. For example, I've been stared at by this guy countless times. Here's some Banksy Star Wars graffiti . And this was a protest against the horrors of clone-like supermarket chains in the local Tesco.

And, weirdest of all this is my street!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

It's just frightfully U, darling

Whilst relaxing with a large gin and tonic in an alternative drinking establishment in Camden Town (capital of the People's Republic of Camden, chief exports: Goths, platform shoes, and mushrooms), yesterday, I was introduced to this book about the English national character.

Now, whilst the book itself is rather tedious, it has some interesting things to say about how you can tell a person's place in the class system by their use of the English language. Depending on what social class you are, you will most probably use certain words rather than others. Some words are "U" (Upper middle class) and some are just "non-U" (lower middle or working class). The English are obsessed with social class and on where individuals fit into this system - here's a guide to how you can place people yourself:

Lunch vs. Dinner: Working class or lower middle class people will refer to the meal in the middle of the day as "dinner". Upper middles will refer to it as "lunch", although in my experience most people in the south of England say "lunch" these days. Irritating people who wear suits and work in offices will talk about "doing lunch" because they heard someone from Friends say that.

Dinner vs. Tea: Working class or lower middles refer to the evening meal as "tea" rather than "dinner". I'd probably refer to it as "dinner" or "supper". To clear this one up, "Tea" is a meal tourists are sold by overpriced cafes at four o'clock and involves the beverage tea and scones with jam and cream. Residents of England do not take tea at four o'clock, and no-one wears a bowler hat. Sorry.

Loo vs. Toilet: Don't say toilet. It's frightfully non-U. Say loo. Also, don't say toilet roll. It's loo paper. Or loo roll. Or lavatory paper. And don't have a toilet roll holder in your loo.

Napkin vs. serviette: Napkin is U. Don't say serviette, and don't tuck your napkin into your trousers. If you say "serviette" you'll probably use a napkin ring, which is just not U.

Pudding vs. desert: Working class/ lower middles will have desert, or sweet, as the final course of their tea, and will probably use a serviette to wipe their mouths afterwards. Just eat your pudding, and shut up.

All this sort of nonsense is why I hang out with the underclasses in the People's Democratic Republic of Camden. The class system is, after all, just a tool of The Man.

Please drive-by carefully in our village


banksy_drive_by
Originally uploaded by adochka.
There have been three drive-by shootings since April in the area just immediately south of my flat. This reminded me of this piece of deliberately local graffiti by ninja street artist Banksy

Friday, June 10, 2005

Trackback System - Activated

Alright, Trackback system is activated, via HaloScan's service. They actually have an automatic installer for Blogger.com, so it was even easy.

I hope it'll be enjoyable!

Skype and Adverts

As I added the new adverts for Skype (You can click the adverts for this one, guys!), I wanted to let you know what I think of this.

Now, I usually don't like banners, adverts and the like. I added two advert systems here: One of Skype, whcih I just added, and one of Google AdSense. I'll go briefly about AdSense and then I will go in length about what I think about Skype and it's services.

Google AdSense is remarkable in the way that it gives your site adverts that are in direct link to the contents of your site. No need for fancy coding on your part, no need to create specific keywords, no need to do anything but paste a small portion of code into your site, which scans your content and deliver you with targeted adverts. Now, this is very important especially to bloggers, I presume: Blogs change their contents daily, and having adverts that are connected to the Current content without having to jerk around with the blog's template code is a relaxing feature, most of all.

Now about Skype. Skype had served me and Joanna for almost all the time we know each other. It has provided us a way to communicate by voice (as we live in different countries still, sadly), and when she wasn't near the computer (at work, with friends etc) it had provided me with a cheap option (Check out their call rates on SkypeOut!) for calling her cellular phone or land line.

Also, it is now starting a SkypeIn service, which is not yet working in Israel. Now, as a guy who has no phone at home, Skype has replaced the calling-out procedure at times: I just call from Skype, as it's the same cost as a local call to a land line phone here, and cheaper than most cellular companies on a cellular call. SkypeIn replaces the receiving-calls procedure: After purchasing a number at SkypeIn's service, your friends, colleagues, family and wrong numbers can call your number as if it was a land line, and be charged as if it was a land line as well. More so, you can purchase a SkypeIn in another country (say, the United Kingdom), and your friends (say, woman of your life) could call there for a local call's rate from any phone.

Another great feature they added recently is the VoiceMail, which means that even if you're not there to get to the phone, you will still be able to hear messages left to you. This service comes free with purchasing the SkypeIn service, or can be purchased separately.

Now, WHY would anyone with a land line want this sort of thing? I will give you the status in Israel, but I am sure it's the same everywhere else: If you have purchased only Internet Connection from your Supplier (Specifically Cables connection, so you don't need a land line to call, as it is with ADSL), that costs here (Infrastructure + ISP) around 120 NIS a month. SkypeIn costs 30 Euro a year, so that's approximately 14 NIS a month. That's cheaper than anything you would find in the land line rivals.

Besides, when you have SkypeIn, you can go abroad, and just login to Skype from your lap top there (provided you get internet connection there) - And your family and friends can still call you for local rates, and you to them!

I just love Skype as a service. So I had to put on adverts. To tell you the truth, I don't think I'll see any money from it - But I think it's worth my while to share Skype with anyone who doesn't know about it yet, and it's new services to those of you who haven't heard about Those yet.

Explorer on Mac OS X

Okay, I wanted to join the Skype Affiliate Program, and the CJ site didn't work neither on Safari nor Camino.

Going to my Applications folder yielded no results: No Internet Explorer to rescue me from this site, which obviously does not support diversity and cross-platform(ity), was found on my hard drive. So, against every common sense, and risking the price of my soul, I moved on to download Internet Explorer 5.2.3 for Mac OS X.

To my surprise, I have found this in the installation manual:


Installation instructions


Before you install this download:

  • Quit any other programs that are running, including virus-protection programs, because they might interfere with installation.




  • Now, why would installing Internet Explorer interfere with OTHER applications? What is it doing, in it's installation phase? Also, is Microsoft (Justifiably) afraid that a virus-protection program would deny the Internet Explorer installation, claiming it to be the worst thing to install on your computer if you want a virus free enviroment, or worse, claiming the software to be the virus it is? I'm pretty scared now of this irreversable procedure done to my lovely Mac. Wish me luck.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    The joys of Russian Literature I: Socialist Realism

    Human civilisation has produced many great and wonderous things, like Google, Apple Macs, hummous and space travel, but one of Earth's most fabulous achievements has to be Russian literature. And I'm uniquely qualified to say that, having spent three years in this lunatic asylum.

    There are several things to remember about Russian literature, if you want to be a serious scholar of this art form:

    1. Russian literature has soul. That's because Russians have soul. If you're not Russian, you don't have soul. You don't understand. Dumb foreigners.

    2. It is mandatory for every work of Russian literature to contain a character called "Masha".

    3. It is customary for there to be random digressions within the work of literature on seemingly unrelated topics like (a) farming techniques; (b) peasant cuisine, (c) Napoleon, (d) mushrooms.

    4. Just watch Woody Allen's "Love and Death". Then you'll know all there is to know.

    One of the most endearing genres of Russian literature is Soviet science fiction. This art form combines the best of socialist realism with the best of sci-fi to create such classics as The Struggle in Space by Aleksandr Beliayev. The novel is set in a futuristic socialist paradise where everyone is young and can fly, and the women are really beautiful. Typically, Evil Americans try to destroy this idyll, and when the Soviets defeat them they run away to a rogue capitalist base near Antarctica. The Americans are really fat, so fat that they can't fly under their own power, but must use automatic chairs to reach their skyscraper homes. It's touch and go for a while but in the end the Soviets manage to beat the dastardly capitalists, liberate the workers, impress the local women, and make it back to Radiopolis before dark.

    The moral of this tale? Communism gives you wings. Also, Americans have bad taste in interior design.

    Apart from Socialist Realism Sci-Fi, the Soviets also managed to produce some inspirational Feminist literature, which keeps me going through my difficult days in my male-dominated office. This classic, Masha the Bolshevik is one that any girl should read:

    "Maria Grishagina was a big woman, tall and full-breasted. Her husband, Prokofi, also called "the Goat", was much shorter than her and had a very hot temper."

    The Goat is bad around the house, makes Masha cook and clean, and is bad in bed to boot. Eventually, Masha runs away to join the Bolsheviks and gets good at making political speeches. She tells The Goat where to stick it (hint: nowhere near Masha) and starts reading books. Masha ends up making eyes at the Commissar (a really important Bolshevik), and snogs him at a party. The Goat is defeated and Masha dumps him. Riding on the back of her success with the Commissar, Masha is elected to the Council of Peasants.

    The moral? Girls, you have nothing to lose but your goats. Read books - you might pull a Commissar and become Top Peasant.

    I learned a lot from Russian literature, and my studies led to the flourishing career in a trade union that I have today.

    Chavtastic!

    Students of English, take note. The latest edition of the Collins English dictionary officially included some new words , among which are: Chav ("a young working class person who dresses in casual sports clothing") and the associated Chavette (a female Chav), and Chavtastic ("designed or suitable for Chavs"). I don't know whether they included Chavling ("a small child who dresses in casual sports clothing") or Chavesque ("in the manner of, or having an atmosphere of, Chavness (qv)").

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Google is making Aliyah

    Haaretz reports that Google is opening an Israeli subsidiary. Amazingly, their existing Hebrew search stuff is run from London.

    I only hope that Google can name three Rabbis at its synagogue, and that it knows which Jewish holiday is next in the calendar.

    !ברוך הבא

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Kabbalah, Shmabbalah, Yabbalah!

    Now, not only does this site sells the foolish, oh-so-American Kaballah gizmos, it actually can't copy from its own drawings. If you please, check out this drawing of the Ten Sefirot. Then, compare it to the quote I have from their explanation of the drawing:



    The 10 Sefirot
    The Kabbalistic ten Sefirot correspond to qualities of G-d.
    They consist of, in descending order:

    Keter (the crown)
    Chokhmah (wisdom)
    Binah (intuition, understanding)
    Chessed (mercy) or
    Gedulah (greatness)
    Guevourah (strength)
    Tifereth (glory)
    Netzach (victory)
    Hod (majesty)
    Yessod (foundation)
    Malkhout (sovereignty).



    Honestly. So silly.

    Squirrel and chips, anyone?

    British food is bad. Some British food is very bad. In fact, it is claimed that the only reason the British had the British Empire was that they wanted to go East to get some spices to make the food taste better. There is a standing joke that when British soldiers handed out food packages to Iraqis, the Iraqis gave the food back.

    Not content with serving up meals made from pigs' trotters, this pub has started serving up meals made from squirrels. That's right, squirrels. Those furry menaces you get in parks are now haute cuisine in British country pubs. And no, they're definitely not kosher.

    Fame-o-Meter

    According to the best-selling British newspaper , the British public thinks that celebrity gossip = the most important world news. Thus, the antics of reality TV contestants, football players and Australian soap opera stars are far more important than, say, the EU Constitution. This is hardly surprising for a nation whose primary religious text is Heat magazine .

    My department has decided to encourage team-building and embrace this culture by creating a Celebrity Spotting Game. This morning, I noticed that a giant thermometer shaped poster had been stuck to the stationery cupboard: The FAME-O-METER. The game is simple - if you spot a celebrity, you stick a picture of them on the FAME-O-METER. The more famous the celebrity, the higher they go up the FAME-O-METER.

    Of the many celebrities stuck to the FAME-O-METER, I could only recognise Madonna. The others were reality TV contestants, Australian soap opera actors, and a celebrity chef. Hardly worth bothering about. I mean, if you've seen Bob Dylan or Emperor Palpatine or Kim Jung-II or the Linux Penguin, OK, that's worth mentioning. But honestly - David Schwimmer?

    Then I remembered that I'd seen Stephen Hawking at an exhibition last August. Stephen was commenting to his companion about some of the nudes. Now, Stephen Hawking is pretty cool, so I printed out a picture, and stuck it on the FAME-O-METER.

    Above Madonna. Why? Well, Madonna might have made a lot of records and stuff, but Stephen has made some important discoveries about the nature of space and time, and he wrote a best selling book about it too. Not as big a seller as The Da Vinci Code, and OK, it won't be made into a major Hollywood blockbuster starring Cate Blanchett, but still - Stephen knows about black holes and I think that's cool.

    Sadly, my colleagues felt that Madonna's achievements in popular music outweighed this, and I was forced to submit and put Stephen below Madge, or "Esther" as she's calling herself now she's discovered that you can make even more money simply by wearing a bit of red string tied around your wrist.

    Stephen, if you're reading, maybe you should consider going on Fame Academy .

    A googler for a day

    So, if you're looking for a job at Google, you might get across this.

    It reminds me of a joke of a man who was so just and good that when he died and reached The Pearly Gates, he was given the choice of whether to go to Heaven or Hell (Obviously this is a Christian joke). So, he floats to Heaven and takes a look and he see all the people being really happy, drinking their Tea, playing Cricket (he was British), and everything was made of gold and silver. He thought to himself "Well, that's nice!" and moved on to check out Hell. Now, when he got there, he could see people dancing, partying, drinking alcohol 'till they got so drunk they couldn't identify between a demon and a fallen angel. Now he thought "Wow, that's great!" and he went back to the Gates and told the guard that he wanted Hell. Granting his request, he fell from the sky into the eternal fires of Hell, and joins the party. Five minutes after his arrival, he hears a demon in the speaker screaming: "Okay fools, the 10 minutes break is over! Back to another 1000 years of slavery in horrible conditions!".

    Now, obviously I'm not saying that about Google, heaven forbid! I'm one of their biggest fans. I just don't like these kind of pictures as they remind me of this joke, which is derived from the always wise saying: "If they have a choice of what to show you, they're not even going to bother showing you the carpet they just put all the dirt under".

    Something like that.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Standing up to live

    Some phylosophical note, as I am really tired and these kind of things actually seem amusing to me at the moment. My Personalised Google Home has a Quote of the Day kind of service. So today it showed me "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." by Henry David Thoreau.

    I think that luckily, I'm living up some of my life.. So I can sit down to write these silly things in this blog from time to time. That's a nice thought about life, I guess.

    The Trip Home

    Home is a lonely, boring place without Joah. Incidently, it's also stinky, disgusting and filled with junk without her - As I forgot to clean out the trash before I left it, and I am sure she would have reminded me had she been here.

    About my trip home. As I said in the earlier post, the flight was delayed by 40 minutes for unknown reasons. I am grateful that the generous guy had only 15 minutes left in his account, as it later been realised that the flight was delayed only by 25 minutes, despite what the signs said so deliberately.

    I am starting to develop a hatred to Heathrow Terminal Two.

    Just to make a comment about that accoursed Terminal's signs: As I was looking for Gate 4, the gate I was [finally] assigned to, I saw a sign right next to the Dixons shop I was at saying:

    Gates 1-10
    Terminal 1

    With an arrow pointing forward. Any normal person (and even the un-normal, such as myself) would think that this means that the Gates 1-10 of Terminal One are at that direction. So, knowing I need Terminal Two (yet thinking in my head "But I AM at Terminal Two!") I started searching for a sign that would give out the location of Gate 4 at Terminal Two.

    Unfortunately, none was found and only after walking across the terminal I have got assistance from a shopkeeper who told me to go back to where I was, and that the lines were different lines even though not separated by any logical manner.

    Did I mention I am starting to develop a hatred to Heathrow Terminal Two?

    The flight in itself was not too bad - This time they actually gave me a cheese sandwich and not fed me to bloody meat. However, I was afraid all through the flight that I would miss my transfer to Israel, and thus be terribely late - Not to mention worrying my beloved Joah and family quite a lot. Finally, when we drew near Zurich, Switzerland, the transfer gates were announced and the Israel transfer passengers were told to head to the ground people for assistance. I could actually hear myself requesting a free flight for making me miss my flight and losing a work day.

    Eventually, I didn't miss the lfight. But I did get to be called for "urgently". For those who ever had the chance to wait in airports, you know what I'm talking about. "Mr. Ben Dov, please hurry up URGENTLY to Gate A64" was heard all over the airport, as I am truely hurrying up to it, cutting people on the escalators, whispering through my lips "I Bloody Know..".. I held a whole plane. If you were on that flight, I truely apologise. But it wasn't my fault, you see. Really. Honestly.

    The flight to Israel was quite good though. I finally remembered to order a vegeterian meal, which revealed itself as some good spiced asian food (tofu and vegetables in some really hot spices). Also, I had all 3 seats for myself in both flights, but I couldn't actually sleep as I saw some other guys who had the same situation do. I managed to fall asleep for 30 minutes just before we landed, though.

    When I got to Israel, I decided to take the train to save on money - I would take the train to Tel Aviv, then a taxi from Tel Aviv would cost less than half the price it would cost from the airport. That's what I did, but the train left 30 minutes after I got onboard. In Tel Aviv itself, I saw the unbeleivable - No taxis in the train station. Only 20 minutes later a taxi bothered to show up, and it's driver clearly chose the longest way to get to my place (in fact, after getting somewhere near my place, he said "So where do you want to go?" and when I repeated the street's name, he said "Ohh!! You should have said so earlier, I would've gone by a different route".. Horrible!).

    Now I'm home, and I need to clean up. I hate cleaning up. And I miss Joah.

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    Escher space

    Saying goodbye to Aviad is always the hardest thing in the world to do. It doesn't make any difference whether I am the one leaving or whether he is. It's always just painful.

    Quite apart from the whole saying-goodbye-awfulness, I can't bear airport departure lounges in general and Heathrow Terminal Two in particular.

    This is what Douglas Adams, in The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul , has to say about airports:

    "It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort."

    Heathrow Terminal Two seems to have been designed by someone who has a profound dislike, bordering on a pathological aversion, of his fellow human beings. Random signs point in random directions, horribly confused swarms of tourists wander about proudly sporting T shirts with Union Jacks and slogans like "Mind The Gap!" and "My Aunt/ Cousin/ Mommy went to London and All I Got Was This Lousy T Shirt", or (my personal favourite), "Good Girls Go To Heaven - Bad Girls Go To London", and (even worse) the place is rife with packs of chavs who have just returned from package holidays in Majorca or Minorca or Ibiza and are proudly wearing the most preposterous sombrero-style headgear, Hawaian shirts and bermuda shorts. There are shops selling horribly overpriced teapots in the shape of kittens and of various London landmarks, gift-boxed teaspoons, and sunglasses. This is a place that any sane human being wants to leave immediately, which is not so easy, as I discovered when I tried to find the Tube. I followed the sign saying "UNDERGROUND", or at least I tried to, because it appeared to be pointing towards the Frangi Tie Rack shop (a pointless outlet selling a range of hideously patterned neckwear that no-one, but no-one could possibly ever want to buy), and I ended up traversing the entire Departures Lounge, past the teapot shop and the Sunglass Hut, before somehow doubling back on myself and ending up, mysteriously, next to the same Frangi Tie Rack.

    Then I realised, Heathrow Terminal Two must have been created in some sort of weird Escher space, major themes of which are, according to Google, contrast, duality, transformation, infinity and spatial paradoxes. Whatever, it's definitely the product of a sick and twisted mind.

    Leaving England

    It's always sad to leave England. I always get very emotional, as it's leaving my love behind. I just can't wait for her to just move to Israel and we wouldn't need this stupidly expensive travel service.

    The most stupid thing about it is that I went through Departures a few minutes after boarding should have started, and the minute I went through security (few moments after saying goodbye and going through the gate of no-return, at least for this journy), the flight information changed from Go to Departures to Delayed.

    You wonder how I can write this? So no, I don't have a laptop and WiFi paid for, neither did I pay for internet. I was about to go to the Dixons shop here, as I wanted to check the prices on Digital Cameras (as the one I had bought with Joah was stolen from me) and they had a pay-for-internet computers here. As I was sitting down to toy around with one, the guy sitting next to me told me that I had to pay, but since he just finished using his, I can use his spare time. I actually got 15 minutes free (2 pounds) which is really nice of him.

    Sometimes the people in the world really encourage me into thinking humanity still has a chance to not destroy itself entirely.

    Okay, 3 minutes left. Next time I blog, it will be from Israel.. Unfortunately, without my beloved Joah. :-(

    RSS Visualizer

    I am at the Mac Shop and I just found out about one of the coolest things in the new Tiger edition of Mac OS X: RSS Visualizer!

    Clocky

    I want to get one of these for Aviad.

    Why do shower curtains billow inwards?

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked this question to Joah, and here! A scientist came up with an answer. Which just shows you, all you need to do is ask.

    Saturday, June 04, 2005

    Worthwhile to know Japanese

    The lady and myself went to eat out yesterday. Went to a nice Japanese place called Asakusa in Camden Town. Even though the place wasn't too expensive in itself (we've seen places which are Very expensive), we have reason to believe they had different prices if you knew Japanese.

    To be more specific: We were handed down menus. We actually could, as a couple, afford a nice meal of 2 sets (around 10 sushi and a bunch of tempura) and 2 starter meal (cooked aubergine and tofu steak) and of course green tea. However, there was a group next to us, a group of Japanese people - They kept ordering, and they got sets of sushi for a family! Like.. 40 or 50 sushis on this huge dish. At some point they got a whole fish at their table, and that's not counting the other sets of dishes they already had on their table when we got there, including a huge pot of soup, which they just took whenever they wanted some and some other goodies which I cannot recall at the moment. Now, I know it's not polite to look at someone else's dish.. But they really did have a lot of food.

    Back to the menus, though - Even though we were handed a set of menus, and even though the prices weren't really reaching for the skies, there was a different menu, and all sort of little "ads", sticked on all the walls, written strictly in Japanese. It's easy to believe that they were cheaper - Mostly because their prices on these pseudo menus didn't reach the prices we've seen on our menu. Next time I'm there, I'm going to speak Japanese. It's better economy.

    One thing to say about the restaurant though - Even though it was Packed, and I mean Really packed, they let us in really quick and the food didn't take too long to be served, and it was really good food. Also, they were really nice about just placing kosher fish in it ("No clabs?").

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    War of the Worlds

    Eating a lot of Humus does get your head boggled. But still, not boggled enough to notice that War of the Worlds, the new movie with Tom Cruise, is set out in New Jersey, while the original book was written in the scenery of England. The hero of the book was barely wed, yet the hero of the movie is married and fights to save his children as well.

    What will they bring us next? The struggle for survival of Kermit and Ms. Piggy against the evil Gonzo Tribe?

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    The War of the Macs

    My Mini Mac's life is shaken violently by the arrival of an Aviad intruder: A Geek who has come to destroy my access to my own Apple Mac. As it plows through my hard drive in a wave of mass expansionism and critique of my native tongue English, I must come to the defense of my own Mac, desk, computer chair and supply of kosher hummus. As poor Mini Mac must fend for itself against a new and very advanced enemy very definitely not of this world, I must save the UK's imported hummus supply from a far greater force that threatens to destroy it.

    PLEASE SEND REINFORCEMENTS.

    CoffeeRants now features: Joah!

    The new blog member will rant as well about - and drink even more coffee than - The blog's majestic founder, Aviad.

    Please welcome Joah into the blog!

    As a side note, I also added GoogleAds. I don't know why - Blogger.com just suggested it and I had to apply, by some strange force of marketism.

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    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    Picasa/Hello for the Mac!

    Google released some great time ago a software called Picasa, which is a very nice Free application to manage your computer's photos. It's very good, very flexible, and very easy to use.

    Some time ago, Google launched another application, a sub-application of Picasa, called Hello. This application enables you to share photos with friends, and also, using the Hello servers, to host photos for your blog.

    In this thread, people are asking Google to unleash the two onto other operating systems, more specifically the Mac. If you are a Mac user, please join the thread - Maybe it'll make some difference. :-)

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    Curry tracking

    I wonder if my department should do the same with Roladin cakes:
    The Eclipse teams in Ottawa are now tracking the number of takeout dinners ordered from Shaan Curry House during the 3.1 release cycle.
    And of course, a picture is worth a thousand words..

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    Atom Feed

    Just in case you were wondering, there IS an Atom feed. It can now be found on the navigation bar to the right.

    Atom feeds are just like RSS feeds, and most RSS syndication tools support both feed types. I know RSS is more common, and is more widely supported, but unfortunately Blogger.com only supports Atom.

    Kanji Cards

    Woohoo! Back to learning the Kanji! Look what I've got:


    "Kanji Cards Volume 1" (Alexander Kask)

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    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Java and DataSet

    If only Java had a bloody DataSet, everything would be easier. Especially if you could take a bunch of JavaBeans and just stuff them into a DataSet, created dynamically with some XML descriptor.

    I might have to code this thing myself; Could be a nice project to do, not to mention helpful when later on developing Java / .NET distributed applications - The well-known interop would actually be easier.

    My first rant yet, and more to come as I rant a lot - Aloud or deep inside.

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    First things first

    I guess I should start with something though.

    I said before I was bored: It is not entirely true. I am actually just waiting for some things to finish up before I leave for Camden Town, and I just finished reading "The Timewaster Letters" (Robin Cooper), which was very amusing while it lasted. I can recommend it safely to everyone who loves a good practical joke, especially when done on other people.

    Back to Camden Town. Yes, even though I am an Israeli Citizen (and a proud one at that), I am now in England, during a work week. The reason for this is simple: I came to live at the woman of my life's apartment for the coming week, before going back to working and missing her over seas.

    And this is where two pieces from the introduction come together: England and Aliyah - We are now working on doing Aliyah, or rather for Her to do Aliyah - Which means, to make it short, to take all the stuff and move to Israel.

    The process doesn't seem that simple and thus is painful for us both: But we are patient and do what we can in the meantime, hence us visiting each other frequently.

    I will say more about this as I have more to say about the subject. As for now, we've just found a way to get a work permit in Israel until the Aliyah process is complete and we're thinking about re-fixing the house in England so it could be rented out.

    With a lot of will and some luck, it would work out and soon we'll be living together in the country of milk and honey.

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    Introduction

    I am not a man of big introductions, so I will make this short.

    Hello! My name is Aviad Ben Dov. I am really opening a blog because I am bored. Not bored of life, of my work or at my leisure time, just bored at the moment.

    I will not go into details about all the things I do in life, as even if there aren't many of them, I don't want a long introduction. I will only present a few key words here, to stir up imagination:

    Israel.
    England.
    Mac.
    Java.
    DotNet.
    Karate.
    Aliyah.
    UML.

    That's it for now. Not that I do not do more than those specified, it's just that I can't really think of them right now.

    Hope this didn't take too much of your time, and hopefully I get bored again soon to write some more (I have a feeling I WILL get bored again really soon but.. Heck).

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