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Mon, Jul. 18th, 2005, 12:08 am

This blog is moving to a new address: http://elfsdh.blogspot.com.

Why did I move? While LiveJournal gave me a good start, I quickly outgrew the capabilities of the free accounts. Firstly, the inability to change the template was very annoying. Secondly, LiveJournal is very isolated from the rest of the blogosphere. It also tends to be approached by bloggers the way AOL is approached by everyone else on the Internet. While it has over 7 million registered users, they tend to only link to each other and be linked to through each other, and I wanted to have a wider audience. For my LJ friends, you may add this URL:
to your friends list at the bottom of the LiveJournal syndication page. Sorry, I don't have a paid/permanent account, so I can't make a new site feed via LJ.

UPDATE: Thanks to sarah (tobeginagain) there is now a livefeed for my new blog available at elfsdh2.

Please update all links/friend list entries.

Sun, Jul. 17th, 2005, 12:10 am

While I was looking at this site stats, I figured I'd look at the interests as well (and maybe by adding a few, I might increase readership? nah...). LJ also has a Popular interests page, and here are some broad conclusions from it as of today:

There are 7750001 LJ accounts.

Lots of LJ-ers have sold out to the entertainment industry: music (15%), movies (9%).

Only 6% of the authors of LiveJournals are interested in writing; only 1.3% are interested in the Internet, and only 0.4% in LiveJournal. Makes you wonder why we bother...
I am among the lucky 4% who are interested in computers.

While 6% of LJ-ers like reading, only 3% of them are into books. Books are still the most interesting medium, with DVD's (2%) a close second.

Sleeping and swimming are equally popular activities. (3%)

Boys (3.7%) are 117% more interesting than girls (1.7%), but women (1.4%) are more interesting than men (1.0%). Is it something that happens when we grow up?
Cats (2.2%) are 150% more interesting than dogs (1.4%).

Sex (2.8%) is barely more interesting than food (2.5%). At the same time, only 1.5% are interested in kissing first, and even fewer (1.1%) like cuddling. While Coldplay (0.9%) made it, foreplay isn't even interesting enough to make the list.
Love (3.7%) conquers all emotions. Speaking of which, the single most interesting Unicode character is ♥ (0.5%).
"My Chemical Romance" (1.0%) beats actual romance (0.8%).
Chocolate (1.9%) is the most interesting food product, followed closely by cheese (1.7%). Coffee (1.6%) is most interesting drink. And, while 2.5% are interested in food, only 1.5% are interested in cooking it.

Summer (1.3%) is the most interesting season... and rain (2%) is the most interesting weather.

Although they're both almost equally popular (1.3%) at least 289 more people like cars than like driving them.

History and drinking (1.1%) are equally popular -- coincidence? I think not.

Canada (0.4%) is the most interesting country. California (0.5%) is the most interesting state/place.

Life (1%) is more interesting than death (0.7%), but "Star Wars" is almost as interesting as "Death Cab for Cutie" (0.9%)

Dancing (4.5%) is by far the most interesting sport.

311 (0.4%) is the most interesting phone number. 911, 411 and 867-5309 didn't even make the list.

God (0.9%) is by far the most interesting named deity, unless people really are workhipping the stars (1.9%). Jesus (0.5%) comes in second, pretty close to religion (0.5%).
Harry Potter (2.2%) is the most interesting named "person."

Fri, Jul. 15th, 2005, 06:34 pm
Tags test

I'm in the process of implementing LJ tags and noticed that Technorati might be able to read them, if you manually ping them.

Technorati Profile
So, this post is a test of tags, and a link to my new Technorati profile (which was required me to associate the blog with my Technorati account).

UPDATE: I've verified that Technorati can grok LiveJournal tags. Now, if only there were some way to get the ping to work automatically.

In case you're interested, here are the statistics so far:
Journal start date: Nov 8, 2004
Total posts: 54
Posting average: 1.5 posts/week
Most popular topics covered(Percentage of total posts)
Computers: 13 (24%)
Judaism: 12 (22%)
Conservative: 5
Orthodox: 3
Post-Denominational: 3
Humor: 9 (16%)
Quiz: 6 (11%) [covers all blogthings, surveys, etc.]

Sat, Jul. 9th, 2005, 11:37 pm
Computer Interfaces II

(Second part of a series inspired by experiences in amateur tech support and the endless stream of articles yapping about how the time for desktop Linux is either never or next year. The first part is here. )

! $@#
+ $@#^
- @#^
~ #^@
+ #^@^
! ^#^@

Did you get that? No. Read it again. Still don't get it? Hmmmm... not sure why, it's plainly obvious.
Find out what it means...Collapse )

Thu, Jul. 7th, 2005, 11:05 pm
Terror in London

And, on 7/7/05, London joins the ranks of Western cities attacked by Al Qaida, or one of its affiliates. No expression of sadness will change that this form of coordinated terrorism has become an unfortunate fact of life in our society.

Begin cold analysis: If Al Qaida's goal is terror, that is, scaring the pants out of Westerners so that they'll cede to their demands, then the types of attacks they've accomplished so far work, but only for a short time. Soon afterwards, daily life returns to normal in New York, Madrid, and, eventually ... London. Then, the powers that be lower the "terror threat levels" (or equivalent) and begin preparing for the previous attack. A successful terrorist/terrorist organization wants ordinary people to be in fear at all times. And, the only way to do that is by sustained attacks, similar to what Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Popular Front, etc. do in Israel. They don't have to be large scale, but they do have to hit the daily lives of the general population (bus bombings, shooting attacks on roads). I think that the terrorists understand that too. And, so, the amount of planning and coordination that went into 9/11, 3/11 and 7/7 may betray a weakness in Al Qaida. There probably aren't enough terrorists to sustain attacks. If there were, I don't see why they wouldn't, What that means for us is that we may still have a small window of opportunity to keep the terrorists from gaining in the West. But, every day, that window is getting smaller. A glimmer of hope in the madness?

Mon, Jun. 27th, 2005, 11:39 pm
Computer Interfaces I

(First in a series inspired by experiences in amateur tech support and the endless stream of articles yapping about how the time for desktop Linux is either never or next year.)

I'm sure you've heard it. It might even have been you. "Computers are hard to use." By that, you (or someone you know) probably meant "I don't know how to use a computer." The next line goes something like...

Why can't my computer be as easy to use as my telephone?

And, to answer that question, we visit Conrad the Caveman. You see, Conrad hasn't been keeping up with the march of technology for quite a while. He's been living in a cave. But, lately, he heard about this miraculous communications device that would allow him to speak to and hear the voice of almost anyone else on the planet. This device sure beat the old, worn out drums, so, he figured he would get one. Conrad got all dressed up and went to his local electronics store, and came home with a brand spanking new telephone. Actually, it was the cheapest one he could find - the economy just isn't supporting cavemen the way it used to. He excitedly tore it out of its cardboard box. Then, he threw some funky foam insulation all over his cave. Then, he ripped through more layers of plastic wrap before finding the new, cheap, plastic phone that was ubiquitous in nearly everyone's home. It came in two big plastic parts, one of them had numbers on it, and the other one kind of looked like a misshapen banana. There was also this long wire that had two little plastic doohickies at the end, and a spiralled wire that had two smaller plastic doohickies.

What to do now? Aha! The telephone also came with this helpful piece of paper written in some variant of Korean syntax with English lettering, and barely legible diagrams. So, Conrad stares at the diagrams for a few moments, and tries to put the little plastic doohickie on the long wire into one of the holes, and it doesn't fit. There's another hole. He tentatively pushes it in, and hears a "snap." Now, it won't come out. Conrad gets a worried look on his face -- "Did I break it?" -- but, then, he realizes that the little plastic doohickie *is* a snap. With only 3 more little holes left, it looks like the spiral wire fits into one hole on the thing with the numbers, and one hole on the crescent shaped thing. *snap*...*snap*... then, the other wire goes... oh... into that thing that Ma Bell installed in the house back in the Dark Ages. The little diagram kind of looks like the crescent-shaped thing, called a "reciever," [sic] is supposed to rest on a set of bars on the part with the numbers. It works ... and, it also stops that awful noise the thing was making.

Conrad looks happily at his new telephone, eager to call the his friend Bill, who left the caves about 10 years ago for bigger and better things. The little white pamphelet doesn't say anything about how to do that. The next few pages are filled with warnings telling him not to use the telephone near water, during an electrical storm, during the wrong phase of the moon, etc. But, Conrad's a smart guy, and, he's adventurous. He picks the receiver off the "hook" and the thing starts making noise again. He vaguely remembers someone talking into the thing, and this is a talking device, after all, so, he faces the receiver towards his mouth, and, very clearly, very carefully, enunciates the word "Bill." The telephone continues to make that noise. Dejected, Conrad places the receiver back in its holder, and the noise stops.

Then, Bill notices something else. There are letters on top of those numbers. Maybe if he types in "BILL", he'll be able to speak to Bill. Logical, right? So, Conrad presses 2-4-5-5, making sure not to get a letter wrong. The noise stopped. He tries to talk. "Hello" -- Conrad learned that was the customary greeting when using the telephone. But, there was nobody on the other end. He waits a few seconds, then a new sound comes from the receiver. *ring* *ring* Then, a voice is speaking -- but it's not Bill. It's some deep voiced man he doesn't know... "Please hang up." Then, an even more annoying sound came on than he had ever heard before. He immediately, almost instictively crashed the receiver down on the hook to end the noise.

What is poor Conrad the Caveman to do? How will he every find out about dial tones, telephone numbers, telephone directories, etc. Maybe he'll just have to talk to Gideon the Geek down the street. They say he knows a lot about telephones.

Hey! Did you notice that Conrad didn't even have to order service from the phone company.

What does this all have to do with why computers are so hard to use? You see, Conrad isn't stupid. He's perfectly capable of both concrete and abstract thought. Telephones are not "intuitive." You, and Conrad, both use telephones every day without even realizing that the machine is operating on its own (or it's designers') terms... not yours. To be continued.

(Just in case you think everything Conrad went through is blatently obvious, check this out).

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005, 01:32 am
Not too bad...

Gacked from fleurdelis28.

Si... Silicon
You scored 40 Mass, 36 Electronegativity, 39 Metal, and 0 Radioactivity!

Interesting. Take a bunch of really common person-elements and throw
them together to get something truely exceptional... that's you. You
are probably someone that gave up on trying to understand society at
large a long time ago. You don't fear it, but you don't try to be one
with it either. You are more or less unperturbed by things... if a
problem comes up you might deal with it, or you might avoid it...
whatever. You don't take kindly to people pushing you around, and you
don't really push anyone else around. You're probably the only one that
can tame oxygen simply because you don't understand it's raging
neediness, but that doesn't mean that you'll really enjoy having a tame
oxygen hanging around all that much either. You can probably get along
with people like yourself really well, but you aren't your own
soulmate... if only they could make entire colonies of people like you
you'd be stoked. Just like you don't understand society, society
doesn't understand you... and yes that is my excuse for not knowing how
to describe you better.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 56% on Mass
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 65% on Electroneg
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 20% on Metal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Radioactivity
Link: The Which Chemical Element Am I Test written by effataigus on Ok Cupid

Wed, Jun. 15th, 2005, 12:22 am
Tikkun Leil Shavuot

The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is the traditional all-night learning session that takes place the first night of Shavuot. Every other year I'd been here, the Hillel had two tikkuns running concurrently -- one run by the Hillel community, and usually taught by members of both Conservative minyanim (the adults generally taught 10pm-1am sessions, and undergraduates taught 1am until Shacharit), and the other run and taught by the members of the Orthodox minyan.

With the undergraduate students gone, the activities at the Hillel were less than usual. As a temporary summer gabbai of the Hillel Conservative minyan usually mostly populated by undergraduates, I, along with DW, decided that we could not run our own tikkun. In the end, the Orthodox minyan cancelled their tikkun, and the other Conservative minyan ran one from 10pm-1am. We (along with two other minyanim) joined with the local shul (affiliated Conservative; runs both egalitarian and mechitza minyanim... it's a long story). It began at 8:50pm with Ma'ariv, followed by a light dinner that was prepared by volunteers(!). The dinner and first shiur had ~120-150 people present. They slowly filtered out, and the crowd was more manageable by the third shiur, although none of the teachers had enough copies of source sheets (which I guess is a good thing!). The sessions were on a diverse range of topics, and taught by members of all the contributing minyanim. At 5am, there were two minyanim, one egalitarian and one with a mechitza. The former had maybe 15-20 present (more-or-less) for all two hours, the latter barely held on to a minyan, and had a few women in addition.

This was the first year I've ever given a shiur, so it was a new experience for me. My topic was the fixed text of the prayer serivce, with a focus on the Amidah. I was originally scheduled for 40 minutes at 2:40AM, but, as tends to happen, I didn't teach until 4:00AM, and had only about 30 minutes (although I was supposed to try hard to keep it down to 20... yeah, right). If you're interested, you can download the source sheet (pdf) (LaTeX source/Makefile)*. At each source, I asked:
(1) Is the source permissive or restrictive?
(2) What conditions does it place on its restrictiveness or permissiveness? and,
(3) What new conditions does it contribute in the decision of whether the text is truly fixed?
I tried to show that even in cases where the order is fixed, personal additions may be encouraged. And... surprisingly, even in cases where *changes* are prohibited, the "needs of the community" can override the fixation. The text of prayer (or, rather, the Amidah) is thus a combination of a core of well respected, traditional texts and additions that are relevant to individuals or individual communities.

Given the time constraints, I couldn't present all the sources, and I probably sounded too dismissive of the discussion while I was trying to keep us on topic. There's always next year.

* Compiling the source requires the Nikud/culmus LaTeX package and the Culmus fonts. It also requires a program to convert from Unicode UTF-8 (which is easy to type in) to CP-1255 (which is used by LaTeX) encoding. One such program is GNU iconv.

Thu, May. 26th, 2005, 03:41 pm
Note I left on the lab's office refrigerator today

Dear Refrigerator Users,

If your milk is:
(1) expired,
(2) leaking,
(3) separated,
(4) green,
(5) or any combination of the above,

Please dispose of it.

Thank you.

Tue, May. 24th, 2005, 11:32 pm
Look what I bought...

Supermarket receipt: items include: SEASON CUT BABY and TWINING IRISH

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