Monday, October 31, 2005

First day at the University

Monday I went to the university for the first time.

It was... Different. I was late. I got lost in a maze of buildings. When I got to my building, I didn't know where my class was (I forgot my schedule in the office).

Okay, so it wasn't different as I was late - I'm always late - But it was different in concept. I had to sit with another 150 people in an auditorium. The professor spoke. People listened. Since most of the class were women, I could notice that everyone Wrote Something. I couldn't find anything to write. Especially since they said the presentations they used would be available online and they didn't say much around what was shown in the presentations.

I mentioned the majority of women: It's surprising to me because I never considered Biology to be a subject studied by mostly women. It's not like it's Literature. But there I was, with a lot of women in the class - And I know some of the people reading this would say "Damn this is Kitch" and "Smootchie Moochies" (You, OMER), but all I was thinking was "How I wished Joah was here, to sit next to me". I kept SMSing her, too - I think Orange made a nice profit on me today.

Now, a step back: I started studying Biology this Sunday. I only came to the first class Monday, and met some people (even though I was late). I didn't use the laptop yet - Not much to write, and the auditorium wasn't very comfortable for laptop-use anyway. I did see 4 people out of the 150 using a laptop though so I guess it's possible.

Today we had two classes, two hours each: Ecology, in which we had a preview about the course which would explain to us about what is Biodiversity, and the Kingdom Animalia introduction course, which would talk about several groups of animals and how they live, inside and out.

They seemed to be interesting courses. The Ecology course is video taped so I can watch it online later, and not show up to classes. The KA intro is not, but there is a video recording of the course from two years ago, given by the same guy, viewable online. He suggested we view that one, as well. Since I can't appear on both classes almost at all, I need to really rely on these videos.

I was surprised at the university's order in everything. Everything was online - Schedules, tests, videos, even the course's books are online and available as PDFs. An amazing system, really. At first impression, TAU doesn't seem as bad as I thought it is. I know it's much better than other universities my friends go to, like Bar Ilan, in theri services, and that's a good thing. I just can't compare it to places like the Technion, and since I can't even study there if I wanted to, it's not relevant.

I hope the rest of the year would go smoothly. This is the first week and it should be quiet - Only Monday and the rest is off. I'll need to watch course videos on Wednesday, though.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

WebObjects and Documentation

I've been working for a while with WebObjects and I must say I enjoy this well thought-of framework. I particulary enjoy the fact that almost everything I could ask for was already tried and done, so that most google searches get what I want to do without any code to implement.

So, when I wanted to send an automated email when a specific event occurs, I wasn't surpirsed to find WOMailDelivery. I was, however, surprised to find this in the documentation:

protected Object mailSession: Intentionally undocumented.

Now, it's not a first when implementations don't want to talk about their internals. But why put it in the docs as intentioanlly undocumented? They could have made it "private", but they probably wanted to use it in their own subclasses. So why not tag it as "undocumented" in javadoc?

Sometimes I just can't understand programmers. And I am one!

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Customer Service: Village Idiot Style

I have experienced the absolute nadir of British customer service.

By trying to do three simple things with three different companies, I exposed myself to customer service so poor I can only think that all three organisations hired the biggest and best village idiots to devise their customer service departments.

Simple Thing No. 1: Cancelling My Phone Contract With Hutchison 3G (

I have been unfortunate enough to have a phone contract with Three for a little over a year now. During this time, I have frequently been unable to make or receive actual phone calls but have been bombarded with video text message advertisements and a mountain of junk mail and many marketing telephone calls asking me to purchase the latest Britney Spears video or ringtone.

Because I am moving to Israel I do not wish to have another year long contract with Three so I telephoned them by dialling "333" on my keypad.

It took FORTY MINUTES to get through to a customer services representative in their call centre in Mumbai. During this FORTY MINUTES I had to endure Three's horrific attempts to sell me more things - instead of hold music they had advertisements. The advertisement consisted of an overenthusiastic woman yelling, over the hideous sounds of Charlotte Church's latest single, about how I could win a copy of Charlotte's new album, "Tissues and Issues". The woman had adopted a sort of "street speke" semi-literate accent, clearly aimed at Three's majority customers, who are obviously aged about 12 and are criminally insane. "Gerron yer mobile and yer can win a wickid date wiv Charlotte and a copy of 'er new singul for jus' a twenny pee fone call! Don' miss vis excitin new offer frum Free! Dial Free on yer keypad now for the latest ringtunes!!"

Just when I thought I could take no more, I got through to an enthuiastically polite gentleman in the Mumbai customer service centre, who I could barely hear because Three must have been using the cheapest VOIP line to India. It took TEN MINUTES for him to spell my name, and then he tried to sell me another contract, and only when I said that I was actually weeping did he transfer me to another operative, which meant I had FIVE MORE MINUTES on hold listening to Charlotte Church.

Simple Thing No. 2: Purchasing a Pay As You Go SIM Card From Orange

As I am cancelling my contract with Three, I wished to buy a pay as you go SIM card so that I may make and receive telephone calls. I decided to buy such a SIM card from Orange's online store. A day later I received an effusive HTML email from a Customer Services representative named Chris, with a photograph of a wonderful orange sunset. Chris was delighted that I had chosen Orange and wanted to welcome me. He wanted to let me know that I would receive my SIM card in just two days.

Seven days later I tried to telephone Chris to ask him where my SIM card was. Chris had no telephone number, so I dialled the number on the Orange Shop website. This time the hold music was Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. I felt a deep sense of sympathy for Vivaldi, who had no idea when composing his masterpiece that it would be used as background music whilst people waited on hold for Customer Services representatives.

Orange had no idea where my SIM card was but reassured me that it was 'probably on it's way, innit'.

Three days later I phoned Orange again. They had no idea where my SIM card was but have assured me that they have posted another one which I will get 'probably sometime next week, yeah?'

Simple Thing No. 3: Buying Books from Amazon

I bought some books from Amazon. I was told they had been despatched. Today I noticed a piece of paper on the floor outside my block of flats which I assumed was litter so picked up. Before throwing it away I read it and saw it was a note from DHL saying they had tried to deliver something at 10 am, when I am obviously at work, but had taken it to a depot in Enfield because no-one was home, where I may collect it during working hours, which is helpful because during working hours I am at work. Nowhere near Enfield (thankfully).

I called DHL. There was no hold music as I got cut off. Eventually, I got through to a computer which reassured me that my call was important to it.

Finally, after 10 minutes of 'Every Breath You Take', followed by 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You), I got through to a human who told me that they could deliver the package to my work address, probably sometime next week assuming Keith gets in and sees my email.

I can't express how happy I am to be emigrating.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mac Development Center?

For a long time it has bothered me that Mac Developers seem unrightfully deprived of the Mac hype - Even though you could find a lot of information on the ADC, it's not the same as what Apple has in their stores alone, such as The Studio Series.

Giving a pack of services for starting developers might draw more people into the Apple development world. Cocoa, WebObjects, and just general Unix development could benefit greatly from an Apple or Apple-related service for people who choose to develop their applications on the Apple platform. The documentation is great, but docs are not enough: What about some added-value?

For example, there are Grpahics, Video-Editing and Music "clubs" all over the world offering people first-hand experience with different software. Xcode has its quirks but it's a good product; WebObjects however, you couldn't find anyone to give you hosting for developmnent purposes only for less than 30$/month. For ASP.NET you would find for 2.5$/month, for J2EE you could find at around 4$/month.

And what about CVS hosting? And not only for OpenSource, where SoureForge are doing a great job keeping it alive. Even for closed service, low-budget, start-up ocmpanies/groups. These starting developers can't be expected to buy a full Mac OS X Server and a hardware to go along with it just because they wanted to stress test their application on WebObjects, to benchmark it against Hibername with Tapestry, for example. Neither can they be expected to pay 30$/month for it. Also, an opportunity for developers deploying their application to stress test it on a Mac to see how powerful it is might and should draw deployers to purchase Mac hardware for their deployment and hosting needs.

I will try to see how I can implement this type of "Digital Times" for developers. A set of services given for developers to try out, to use and to benchmark, all Mac-style.

Wish me luck!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Staying in Touch - With Captain Connected!

A few days ago my phone died, and since Joah couldn't reach me, she decided to teach me about the importance of being available on the phone, or as she called it, "Staying Connected".

For that, she used her favorite super-hero, "Captain Connected". This was a keynote presentation but since I can't really upload it here, we will have to make do with exported images.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Geekim Store - First orders

In a really weird sequence of events, the store had two orders for the BSOD shirt. Now, the site is still in building progress - We just put on ads to test how it would go (and paid for them more than we thought we would) and got a lot of visitors, most of them weren't buying.

But, as said, we had two orders, one guy also joined the "members club" Dima had set up there (in it's temporary form) and evengot new shirt ideas.

Can't say I was expecting this, but I'm not displeased.





Monday, October 24, 2005

Things about stuff

This made me laugh. It might be because I used to know someone irritating who used this as what he described as his 'signature font'.

Here's the source , which has some great fake adverts.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

You've got a funny name

I get really sick of people telling me I have a 'funny name'. Pretty much every day I have to go through an interaction like this one:

PERSON: Could I take your name please?

ME: Yes, it's [long Polish name with lots of z's]

PERSON: That's a funny name!

ME: Yes, it's hilarious. Cracks me up every time.

PERSON: Is it Hungarian?

ME: Polish.

PERSON: I met someone from Poland once.

ME: Oh.

PERSON: You speak good English!

Imagine that, or something similar, EVERY TIME you spell your name, EVERY DAY.

And what's funny about a Polish name anyway, for Heaven's sake? To show you what a really funny name would look like I have researched extensively (searched on the internet for 2 minutes) and would like to share some research scientists' funny names with you:

Fabricius K, De'ath G, McCook L, Turak E, Williams DM.
Changes in algal, coral and fish assemblages along water quality gradients on the inshore Great Barrier Reef.

Dangendorf V, Schuhmacher H, Titt U, Tittelmeier K.
Imaging of microscopic features of charged particle tracks in a low-pressure gas.

von Segesser LK, Poop J, Laske A, Niederhauser U, Schonbeck M, Vogt P, Turina M.
Surgical therapy in unstable angina pectoris

Field SJ, Thornton NP, Anderson LJ, Gates AJ, Reilly A, Jepson BJ, Richardson DJ, George SJ, Cheesman MR, Butt JN.
Reductive activation of nitrate reductases.

So leave me alone.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Charity hymn?

(You need sound for this one).

I've worked for a few charities now, and although I've been part of some odd stuff, like branding groups where you have to say what sort of dog, car, celebrity chef, or member of the Royal Family the charity reminded you of, I've never experienced a charity hymn before.

That's because I haven't worked for the Association of International Glaucoma Societies.

Here are the lyrics; Andrew Lloyd Webber, take note:

Glaucoma Hymn
Glaucoma, Glaucoma, Glaucoma
Constricting vision slowly
Halted by progress of science
Vision of a world united
Beyond all science knowing

(Also - apologies for cynicism, but vision of a world united?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

iTrip not so trippin'

A while ago I got an iTrip for my iPod. Placing it on my home radio worked, but moving it just an inch above it made it stopped working. Obviously in my car I couldn't place it directly on the radio, so in areas like Tel Aviv where there is a lot of pirate stations around I couldn't hear a thing.

It worked great, however, once you get far away from Herzelia towards the north.

Anyway, I just noticed this hack. I think I will try it - What have I got to lose? Practically speaking, I HAVE lost my money on the iTrip, as it works just barely.

(Hope I don't screw it up, though)


Monday, October 17, 2005

Blank Links

I have sent a rant mail to the Apple Developer Connection's (the ADC, which is Apple's MSDN) support team, and received a weird letter in response:

Hello Aviad,

Thank you for contacting the Apple Developer Connection regarding Java and WebObjects.

Information regarding Java and WebObjects can be found at the following web page:

Alternatively, you can obtain further support for various Apple technologies via our Developer Mailing Lists:

You may wish to submit an Enhancement Request to Apple regarding any improvements you feel would be helpful by using the ADC Bug Reporter. This will ensure that your request is dealt with by the appropriate Apple team.

Information regarding submitting bug reports through the Bug Reporter can be found on our web site at:

The Bug Reporter allows ADC members to submit bug reports or enhancement requests directly into our bug database. The Bug Reporter also allows ADC members to check limited status on bug reports, originated by the member.

We hope that this information is of assistance to you. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us.

And I ask - WHY? Why bother having an automated response tool, if it doesn't even give me correct links? I can see two sad things coming out of this:

1. I could send them a mail saying I got no links - But then their automated response system would come up again saying that I should submit it to the Bug Reporter and Again not specify a link!
2. I could go to the Bug Reporter and report a bug - But I don't have the link!

Luckily, Google was on my side once again, and I have found the Bug Reporter.

And Joah thought I was weird.

Quote of the Day

Today has been a weird day.

At work I received a sample of a teatowel in the post, with a letter explaining that teatowels and tea cosies can help me raise vital funds for my charity.

But this is the weirdest thing, from a certain wookie:

Avah: i don't have a graven image of steve jobs
Avah: i actually have Bill Gates' image in my mind. i can't get it out.

I worry. I really worry.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Just because they will make Avah smile.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


I really do try not to get all Eats, Shoots and Leaves too often, being picky about people's misuse of grammar and language.

But every so often I do have a Kingsley Amis moment and something really, really gets to me, like fingernails scraping down the blackboard of my soul.

Corporate newspeke is the thing that never fails to get to me. I want to stand up and yell, NO NO NO when people start to seriously talk of Blue Sky moments and Thinking Outside the Box and Upskilling and Taking a Helicopter View.

But the thing that really takes it all too far, way too far, is the recent obsession with employees talking of being 'passionate' about work-related things.

Passionate. Of, or relating to, passion.

Just yesterday I had to endure some woman in a suit jumping around describing her passion for spreadsheets. "I'm passionate! I'm passionate about spreadsheets!!!," she shrieked. Please note that the three exclamation marks I just used are an attempt to render her out-of-proportion excitement and not an indication of a wider misuse of punctuation.

Here's the definition of "passion":

Passion (n.)
  1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
    1. Ardent love.
    2. Strong sexual desire; lust.
    3. The object of such love or desire.
    1. Boundless enthusiasm: His skills as a player don't quite match his passion for the game.
    2. The object of such enthusiasm: Soccer is her passion.
  2. An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger: He's been known to fly into a passion without warning.
So, spreadsheet woman, what were you saying exactly? That you feel a strong sexual desire or lust for spreadsheets? That Excel gets you all hot and bothered?

Or that you feel a boundless enthusiasm for spreadsheets? You think about them all the time?

Or that you display abandoned emotion, particularly anger whenever Excel starts? Now, that's sort of plausible, because Excel does have a lot of bugs and Clippy can appear and that makes me irritated. But not really display abandoned emotion.

All I want is for you people to stop acting like you have a personality disorder or a serious lack of any other genuine interests. I feel definitions (1) and (2) for Aviad but I never felt them for spreadsheets. Or full cost recovery. Or our logo.

Thank you.

Friday, October 14, 2005

When I was your age

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a game programmer. I didn't know it was programmer at the time, though, until I was 10 or something. But I knew I wanted to make games. To think about them, to work in companies like this or this was (and is, I guess, after Joah) my dream.

I know this job offer is not the same, but it's just as great - And maybe even much more fun. I just hope my friend would apply... I seriously think that he is the best man for the job.

[World of Warcraft]

New iMac around

The new iMac is out, featuring an upgrade of hardware alongside two significant improvement to the home user, I think: Built-in iSight, and the Front Row application. These two two, along with the hardware improvement (Memory speed increase to the DDR2 bus, for example).

Front Row is something similar to Windows Media Center. It joins iPhoto, iTunes and your Movies library, and since iMac comes with a remote, you flip between them from the comfort of your living room sofa.

I can just imagine me and Joah sitting on a sofa (or a sofa pillow on the floor, anyway... No sofa soon) flipping through our photo album or watching a Buffy episode. Sigh... Can't wiat for her to come and live here.

Even though I know she'd never let me get an iMac. *wink*

Fun is in the Air(Port)

I have recently purchased an AirPort Express to make my house wireless. I found it as a not-that-expensive solution that gives a lot for its price, but I am not here to talk about the AirPort itself.

Opening my house to wireless communication made a few changes, both in concept of connection and in the physical appearance of the house. See, since my cables modem had to be on one side of the house, I couldn't place the computer on the other side (It would require tedious job with wiring the house - I've done that sort of thing in my previous home and it's not pretty). Now that the house is wireless, both my PowerMac and iBook have internet access and they can connect to each other without being near one another, not to mention the tedious work of wires and hubs and the likes. I just hate wires.

But now for the "next project": I have a simpleton PC sitting at home. It's a Pentium 4 2GHz, which can't really compete with the macs so it won't even try to by suggesting to me that I should boot it up. I haven't done so in almost a year now, and I can't see a reason why I should. Or at least, couldn't until recently.

You see, it's a simple math thing: 1 Crap Computer + 1 Wireless card + 2 BFHDs (Something like BFG but for Hard drives), wrap it up with some simple operating system that requires nothing special (even Knopix would do) and you've got yourself a complete set of wireless storage device, just hook it up to a power cord and viola!

Now I only need to find the ingridients... The hard drive on the pentium at the moment is both 80GB And barely working. And if we want to talk about good, reliable PCI cards that do Wireless... Sigh... Not the ones that could be found on Zap, anyway.

Anyway, let's hope this thing works!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fun is in the Air

I'm by now a frequent flier on Israir Airlines (company motto: Fun is in the Air), so I'm not impressed that they don't have a frequent flier program.

Israir flights are indeed fun, but perhaps not in the way that Israir intend them to be.

On my last one, from Tel Aviv to London, the pilot announced, in bad English that "Dear Passengers! We are just passing over Brazil".

As I and my confused fellow passengers looked at each other in bafflement, the pilot continued: "Please enjoy zis short film", and commenced a movie entitled "WELCOME TO ISRAEL".

Balagan. Sometimes there just isn't an appropriate word in English.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Crack Squirrels

Squirrels are dangerous beasts. I met someone at a party who was attacked by one in a park when it jumped on his head. I once saw a squirrel in Highland Park, New Jersey, carrying a complete McDonald's Happy Meal.

So it does not surprise me to find that here in London, squirrels have become crack addicts

I quote from the link for those too lazy to lift their left mouse button finger and click:

"An hour earlier I'd seen a squirrel wandering round the garden, digging in the flowerbeds.
It looked like it knew what it was looking for.
It was ill-looking and its eyes looked bloodshot but it kept on desperately digging.
It was almost as if it was trying to find hidden crack rocks."

A Tourist’s Walk through Central London

Starting at the Starbucks coffee shop, turn left and walk past the Gap clothing store. On your right you will notice a McDonald’s restaurant, and directly ahead of you there is a Starbucks coffee shop. Passing the Starbucks coffee shop, turn right onto the main road. Ahead of you on the right is a Starbucks coffee shop. Walk past this, and continue along the street, stopping to notice the Angus Steak House. You will see the American tourists inside, eating the overpriced burgers. On your left past the Angus Steak House is an Angus Steak House. Stroll on past this, taking in the sights and sounds of the Starbucks coffee shop on your left and the Starbucks coffee shop on your right. Crossing the road at the Angus Steak House, you notice there is a Café Nero directly in front of you, surrounded on all sides by Starbucks coffee shops. This café will itself be a Starbucks coffee shop soon. Pass by McDonald’s and you will notice an Angus Steak House on the corner. Turn left at this, and finish the walk at the Starbucks coffee shop directly ahead of you.

Monday, October 03, 2005

School disco

I finally managed to get through to Aviad at Stansted Airport, and confirmed his flight is taking off 6 hours later than expected. Shame.

The nightclub next door is having some sort of 80s remix revival night, which right now includes a weird mix of Madonna's La Isla Bonita. It reminds me of the London School Disco phenomenon , which is a funny night out if you only do it once, and get suitably drunk beforehand in a pub where your gang are the only people wearing sexed up school uniforms. And you're up for a giggling at people who take it too seriously. Like the people pictured on the website.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Lost in translation

I enjoy learning new languages. I learned Russian for my BA, and when I did my MA I learned some Polish and Ukrainian. I'm now learning (in a very lazy way) Hebrew, but I'm very proud of my advances in the more complex and obscure language of "Aviadish", which is spoken only by Aviad.

Here are some examples of translated sentences from Aviadish into English.
  • Food and Drink
"You look very hungry. Look, there's a pizza shop. I think we need to
go to the pizza shop now".

English equivalent:
"I'm hungry and need pizza now"

"What time is it?"

English equivalent:
"It's lunchtime, where's the nearest pizza shop?"

  • Entertainment
"Let play the Pirate game together!"

English equivalent:
"I'm going to play the Pirate game for 8 hours straight and you get to
watch! You may bring me food and drinks at regular intervals".

  • Technology
"I just know you're thinking about web objects right now"

English equivalent:
"I will now explain web objects to you. Do you have a pen
and paper handy, because diagrams are involved"

  • Everyday life
"I'm tired, and I think I will sit down on this computer chair"

"I will now take over your computer. Resistance is futile. You may bring me food and drink"