Category Archives: personal

Microsoft: Some serious design mistakes

Beautiful, elegant

A nice keyboard

Ever so often I stumble across another annoying feature Microsoft is putting into their products. It never ceases to amaze me how creative the folks at Microsoft are at mis-designing products. Their products are always sleek, elegant, easy to use, and contain some hidden monstrosity under the folds.

At work, we have Microsoft Keyboards – just the most unbelievably hideous trap ever to be inflicted upon the unsuspecting world. The keyboard look nice enough, and is OK to use. Look at the picture. Notice those three little flat keys just between the ENTER and the numpad? Above the upper-arrow and below the “delete” key lurks a monster. Yes, it is a SHUTDOWN KEY! In the middle of the keyboard!

Need I tell you the details? You type a document, send out your little finger to press “up” or “del”, and all of a sudden the computer is shutting itself off.

And today I encountered another trap, at home. Here I am working at my computer (sometimes I still use MS windows, you see). And out of the blue pops a message. “Do you want to save?”. Well, why would I, in the middle of a messy revision? I press ESC, and the computer shuts down. Got me: It had an automatic update that was so much more important than my work…

So, shut down your automatic updates on Windows, double check MS products before you buy them, etc. All these advice work, but in my experience, they don’t work very well. remember: MS will always  have the upper hand. There’s always another snark hidden beneath the table, ready to jump at you when you least expect it.

Use Linux.

Moses: A lesson in leadership

Happy Passover to all three readers of my Blog. Today, we shall read a sermon about great leadership at work, and of the relevance of ancient Judaism to our current political life.

These week we, Jews, celebrate the exodus – the miraculous escape of more than half a million Jews from slavery in Egypt. Their 40-years journey through the desert. Mount Sinai. The giving of the Torah. And the epitome of leadership: Moses.

Out of sheer sloth, I will assume that my readers are verse in the stories. For those who are not, take a look at wikipedia. What interests me is the great leadership shown by Moses (and his God). Through the first chapters of their tour of the Sinai desert, it becomes apparent that the people are not fit to be led by the great leader. They tire him by relentlessly asking to be fed, defended, and led. They show more interest in golden statues than in abstract deities. What Moses does in the story, reminds me of Berthold Brecht’s remark regarding the true followers of Moses – The governing party of the late German Democratic Republic:

The people had forfeited the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts.Wouldn’t it be easier to dissolve the people and elect another in their place?

Which is exactly what Moses does. The great leader takes his people on a 40 year travel, so as to rid himself of the bickering mob, and remould their children into a rough warrior-like tribe, capable of mass murder. The People is not fit – so he replaces it. A towering moral example if there ever was one.

Should I have dubbed this post  “a lesson in soviet-type leadership”?

Comfort Kills

My uncle is dying. In less than a month, he would probably be gone. The doctors say he’s dying from cancer. But, in truth, is he’s dying from fear and superstition.

It was almost two years ago that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. A low-danger tumor. He was invited to schedule an operation. A simple operation. But my uncle panicked. He contacted a Chinese herbalist, who promised him that, indeed, no operation would be necessary. Those western doctors, she assured him, know nothing. All he has to do is keep a healthy life style and take her herbs. A year went by. His pains grew stronger and more frequent. The herbalist did some psychic tests and “discovered” that his tumor is shrinking. These are shrinkage pains, she told him. And he believed her for a simple reason: he was afraid of going through an operation. “It is risky”, he kept saying to everyone who would listen. “One can die from complications. One can go through an anesthesias and never wake up”.

It took the tumor months to grow malignant. It enered his spine, most of his abdomen, and both legs. The pain is now so excruciating that my uncle can barely speak. He has been given morphine, because no other sedative is strong enough to deal with the pain. But his Chinese herbalist convinced him that morphine is bad for his health (remainder: the man is dying!), so he takes none of it. Even now, when his only hope is experimental hypothermia combined with chemotherapy, he still clings desperately to a strange “healer” who promised him imminent cure with crystals.

As much as I would like to strangle that Chinese herbalist with my bare hands, as much as I loath her, I do not think that she is the essence of the trouble. If it were not for her, it would have been another healer, a UFO, or even a fatalist priest. The trouble stems only from this fact: that my dear uncle kept looking for comfort, where he should have been looking for a cure. The “western” way, with hospitals, and doctors, and operations, demands that he grows up to become an adult, and that he faces inconvenient truths (his mortality, his sickness). He would have non of that. He demanded comfort. He got death.

Waste my blog

Both avid readers of my blog have surely noticed that I have been silent for a long time. I have been building a home, and have moved. You are most welcome to visit. And I need some net help.

When we built the house, we put the local soil (which we dug to build the house) nearby, in the thought of reusing it as garden soil. Unfortunately, it was all stolen by a contractor working nearby. So I had to pay for soil from the valleys. And guess what I got? Construction waste!

So here is my question: I have aluminum blocks (Itung), cement, and plastic sheets buried in the ground. Does anybody know what to do with soil rich in construction waste? What materials are toxic for plants and for trees? What materials can be left in the ground?

If I find any help, I promise to write an organized table here on this site.

The true, sad story of a data analysis expert

And then I was suddenly awake. It was the middle of the night, and something was wrong. Terribly wrong. I felt it in by bones. I felt it in the dark room closing around me. I was aware of a terrible inconsistency in the way I slept. It took me a few minutes to understand: the way I used to sleep was misguided. My configuration was terrible. All my inner organs were misplaced. My muscles were all strained. This was no way to sleep. I no longer knew the correct way to sleep. In fact, it dawned on me, I never did. It was always wrong. I didn’t know how to sleep. I never did.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a thought nagged: “Man”, it said, “you were just sleeping a minute ago. You slept well last night, and you have done so for every night for thirty years now. Surely, you do know how to do that”. But the thought did not linger. I could not sleep. I did not know how to do so.

For a long time I lay down in the dark, squirming around in vain, looking for the correct geometric configuration, squeezing my body into impossible shapes, and running algorithm after algorithm in my mind. To no avail. Sleep evaded me. It took me an hour to give up. I stood up, exhausted, and suddenly, I had a revelation:

I am no data series. I do not need to an efficient data compression algorithm to sleep.

Back from Hell, or the Wonders of Connectivity

The couple of avid readers I have (dear, dear people, what’s life worth without you?) might have noticed my month long silence. I wasn’t home. I was in Miluim. Military reserve duty.

I was in the Palestinian Occupied territories. It was hell, for all the wrong reasons. I should (and will) write about it soon. But for the time being, I only wish to remark upon the wonders of modern connectivity.

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