Archive for May, 2005

Why did the chicken cross the road?

May 31st, 2005

Doesn’t matter why it crossed the road. The law doesn’t concern itself with reasons. Just as long as the chicken will recieve a fine for crossing the road, all is well.

Luckily, after some delibration a judge threw away the fine.

Not because it’s bloody silly, mind you, but because the judge was convinced that this specific chicken was domesticated, and not just livestock. If it was livestock, the 54$ fine would have stood. At these rates, I think letting a chicken cross the road probably costs a whole of a lot more than a whole chicken.

Maybe a better answer to the Why did the chicken cross the road? question would be because it chose to exercise its legal road-crossing right

Via Letters of Marque.

Another reason for traffic jams

May 31st, 2005

There are several commonly acknowledged reason for traffic jams, which occur regularly. Simple congestion from having too many cars, on too few lanes, is of course the main one. Traffic accidents are another. Curious drivers are yet a third, which mainly just greatly aggravates the second kind.

There are of course the unique problems, since many things can block a road and slow traffic. But those are by definition unique and special cases, not a common reason.

This morning it finally hit me that there is another reason to traffic jams, which is very common, slows down traffic all the time, and one to which I did not assign any significance in the past. Traffic cops.

And I’m not just whining about the case where a police car stands on the side of a free flowing road, thereby causing all the people (who normally drive a little faster than the allowed maximum) to slow to a crawl.

There’s a worse problem. Very often, a short distance after some very crowded and jammed junctions, in the high-traffic hours, there is a police car. Invariably, when I pass nearby, there is a another car standing by that they pulled over for inspection, or for writing a ticket.

And this is after people are driving out of what was the “real” cause of the jam. So obviously they want to speed up a bit, and start driving. Obviously this is a good position for the traffic police for two reasons:

  1. If people speed up, they can serve them with a speeding ticket.
  2. If people still remain at crawling speed, it’s easier to spot other, (possibly fineable?) problems with the car.

The result of which is that on some days the large and annoying traffic jam ends at a certain junction, and on some days it goes on for a while further, wasting much more of everyone’s time. And always, when it doesn’t end where it should, it’s because there is a police car standing there with its lights flashing.

Giving up on that specific avenue of writing tickets would improve the road conditions for pretty much everyone. Instead, our otherwise generally hard working traffic cops, who do an important job, just make those already bad times worse, costing everyone time and money.

Non-sports injury

May 30th, 2005

On Saturday night I managed to perform the brilliant feat of kicking a big metal vacuum cleaner, while not wearing any shoes. I often don’t bother putting on shoes if I go to the bathroom at night, and I also don’t bother turning on the lights since I remember the way perfectly.

Unless, that is, some kind soul decides to stick a large vacuum cleaner in the middle of the hallway. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Anyway, Sunday morning (Weekends here are Fri-Sat, so Sunday is a work day) I called my boss to let him know that I won’t be coming to work. There was nothing urgent enough to justify going through the agony of putting my foot inside a shoe, not to mention driving with it.

After hearing the story, his response was something along the lines of “You know, if you had at least said it happened during a soccer game, or something like that, it would have been much better“. Presumably because, er, it’s much more impressive and sensible to get hurt when you actually do more dangerous stuff where people get hurt? Oh, well…

And to anyone concerned, I’m much better, nothing to worry about. No permanent damage was done, no more pain, and I’m sure that my little finger will get back to its normal colours in a matter of days. I thought the colours blue and red fit me, but I think it applies to clothing a lot more than to skin colour.

Zucchini surprise

May 27th, 2005

I’m quite partial to zucchinis (courgettes), the dark-green rinded ones. They have a nicer flavour than the regular light green squashes found around here, and their rind isn’t bitter and also usually much smoother and easy to clean. The only problem with them is that around here pretty much every vegetable store and supermarket has tons of the light green squashes, and very few of them has zucchinis on stock.

This week I saw on a store something very amusing. Zucchinis with a marketing twist. Instead of lying in a large pile like most other vegetables, they were packed in groups of three, and had an advertisement pamphlet in each pack declaring that they are an amazing and new brand of squashes that don’t require peeling. Plus some exclamation mark to emphasise how exciting it is. Technically it’s true that on many cases where squashes need peeling, zucchinis can go without, but you don’t have to always peel squashes as well. And zucchinis are far from being new on the market.

Worse, those wonders of zucchini packages only included three each because they held huge zucchinis. Some of the largest I ever saw. It looks impressive, and certainly gives the feeling that you’re getting your full money’s worth. Unless you happen to know something about them, in which case you know that the small ones are much better, with a far richer taste. But they looks small, so apparently someone decided won’t look good in this advertised campaign.

And the pamphlet also included some amazing recipes. Truly stuff that it is impossible to think about by yourself, and which supplies some amazing ideas on what can be done with them (Yes, I’m being sarcastic, thanks for noticing). Better than any fancy recipe book you could find. Like for example, one recipe consisted of telling you to put them in boiling water for ten minutes, take them out, and season to your taste. Helpful, isn’t it? Another recipe, for tomato sauce zucchini, told you to make a tomato sauce according to your taste, slice zucchinis into it, and let it boil for further five minutes. Yet another complex and detailed recipe suggested slicing them, frying the slices in a pan for a few minutes, and then add whatever sauce you like.

I was laughing so hard reading those “recipes”, it was really great fun. Clearly, anyone who has no clue at all about cooking won’t be able to season things to taste or combine with their other sauces. And anyone who has even a little tiny inkling of cooking, will certainly not need these absurdly basic recipe ideas. Very amusing.

Oh, it does serve a purpose of telling someone unfamiliar with them what are the approximate cooking time that they need. This is useful for people encountering a vegetable for the first time, and who don’t want to just experiment and see for themselves. But if that’s the information they wanted to pass, they should have put a tiny section on cooking instructions, and specified that. Not provide a bunch of short and totally meaningless “recipes”.

Anna plays tennis

May 27th, 2005

A person’s name have absolutely nothing to do with the abilities, and career choice, of that person (Barring of course those people with really unfortunate names, who get mad over being made fun of, and go postal). Which is why I found a short news reports I heard on the radio yesterday amusing.

This was about a recent tennis match, the women’s singles at the French Open. I’m not interested in tennis, so I know nothing about the competition, and nothing about the players.

Which doesn’t really matter, since the announcer only referred to a single match, which apparently went rather well for the Israeli Anna Smashnova. The other name the announcer mentioned was a German player, in that match, called Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

And as someone who isn’t into tennis, there is only a single additional name of a women tennis player that I ever heard of, this being Anna Kournikova. Who admittedly did not become that well known due to her tennis skills, but it doesn’t change the fact that I did come across the name.

So, in this personal and scientifically unsound research, I must come to the conclusion that there is a distinct positive correlation between being called Anna and playing pro tennis. Further research will need to be done (by someone else, thank you very much) on whether it means Annas are better at tennis, or are just more inclined to want to play tennis.

Uncivil protest over the disengagement and evacuation from Gush Katif

May 26th, 2005

As the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and the evacuation of Gush Katif, approaches, more and more protesters among the settlers are taking protest actions which are illegal. The stated intent is to show that they are strong, and can interrupt the lives of everyone else if the evacuation will go on. This isn’t about drawing attention to the problem, since public awareness is very high already. And the public discourse on the issue, whether one agrees to or not, has been going on for a long time, and is practically concluded.

That these people do not agree with the government decision is legitimate. Not everyone has to agree. This is why we have a democracy. As much as it is often not a very impressive one, and as badly as it may work, our democratic procedure do give people a way to express their opinions through voting. Elective government and all that. And the government has made the final decision to evacuate, and that’s pretty much that. There are proper channels for protest, by demonstrations, and by attempts to try and sway public opinion over the media. They did that, it didn’t work, the majority of the population is officially and overwhelmingly in favour, and this is what will happen. It happens all the time, on myriad subjects, and always some people agree more, and some less.

But they are not keeping a civil discourse, and accepting the final outcome. If people don’t agree with the decisions of the government, they can try to change the decision by voting on the next election (Which in this case may seem impossible since it’s not a reversible decision, but they had this option on the last election), they can grumble but live with it (which many people, myself included, do all the time with laws and decisions we don’t like. This is what democratic compromise means), or they can leave the country. Barring that, one can try and make a revolution to throw away the oppressive regime, but we’re not exactly living under an oppressive regime, and there is certainly not nearly enough unrest in the public to even come close. All to say, they should live with it.

Instead they go with force and scare tactics. A few hundreds of people went and blocked major roads and highways. Creating traffic jams, and generally pissing everyone off. Those that the police caught got arrested, but the police is dealing with it badly. Many teenagers were involved, and got arrested. Some of them where left there by their proud (no sarcasm here, unfortunately) parents who didn’t come to bail them out.

Some of them refuse to identify themselves, which is a point I don’t get. How can the police fail to identify them? Nowadays, with a wealth of available private information and personal records, they really should be able to. Maybe not immediately, but certainly after a couple of weeks. By the same logic and treatment, anyone who get arrested can refuse to provide their details, and the police will never be able to get them tried, or properly process them. There has to be a procedure for that, and in this case why isn’t it used?

And the way that the police, or government are handling this, is all wrong. They are giving them special treatment over any other criminals, and not just by providing a special lock-up.

Many of the arrested kids where at the time needing to take their Bagrut exams (state issued examination by the Department of Education, supposed to grade people after finishing high school, and is a requirement for university admission), for example, which of course could not be done without them identifying themselves. So after formal declarations that they will not be able to take the exams anonymously (how could they possibly?! Who will get the grade?! Why did this take a special announcement by the Education Minister?) some of the kids agreed to divulge their details so that they will be allowed to take the exams. And they were examined in the holding cells. This is another very special treatment, since a similar kid who for example would have burned a table at school and kicked a teacher, because he got a bad grade for example, would have also been arrested, but not allowed to take the exam in prison. This is practically unheard of, I think, to provide arrested criminals special opportunity to take the Bagrut exams. If they committed a crime, and have the misfortune of being in jail, they should take the next exam date, just like everyone else who misses it.

Instead, they are put in comfortable cells with a bunch of their friends, and are allowed to have fun. Some deterrent, is it? This works so great as a deterrent, that other protesters are doing other annoying and illegal stuff, not caring if they’ll get arrested. Worse, sometime they don’t. I was recently talking with a co-worker who said she passed next to the courthouse in Tel-Aviv, and a bunch of 15-20 girls where there making a lot of sound with loud whistles, giving headache to everyone around, and seriously disturbing the peace. And 10 cops stood there, just looking at them. Now, I know that there are laws against things like disturbing the peace at public places, so why did all that excessive police manpower just observed, and not arrest those girls?

According to that same co-worker of mine, this is because they are not afraid of getting arrested, they don’t see it as a punishment, and so there is nothing that can be done to them. So first, the arrest conditions may need to be slightly less cosy and fun. Second, this should not, and cannot, be a criteria. What if instead of whistling, or blocking roads, people will come with crowbars and start breaking store fronts in commercial districts, or private houses? Would they be politely ignored because they don’t mind getting arrested? To take it to an overly-large extreme, should you let a murdered go free if he’s a fanatic who likes spending time in jail?

They claim that blocking roads isn’t such a big crime. Certainly they will be (or pretend to be) appalled by the comparison to breaking houses and trashing stores. But the comparison isn’t off at all. If you block a large road, you cost a lot of money. Starting with the relatively minor extra gas and car wear of the people standing, which isn’t so minor on a big road. But also with the time lost. Time is money. People had things to do with that time, which most (all?) of them prefer to do, and need to do, more than standing in a traffic jam. So they didn’t do something, which was more productive to them, or more productive in general. Right there is a substantial economic damage to blocking roads. Sure, most individuals aren’t as badly hurt as a store owner coming to find he lost his entire stock to vandalism (unless maybe someone was held in an ambulance along the way? Rare, but happens sometime, and you can’t know in advance), but the overall damage is larger, since it effect a lot more people directly, and a lot more indirectly.

Taking this thought further, this is plain terrorism. Sure, they don’t try to explicitly kill anyone. But they do try to mess up people’s lives, and to cause property damage. Let’s say it’s like the nice terrorist who will actually call and tell everyone they need to evacuate the building, before triggering the explosives they planted. Heck, some of the leaders of these protesters explicitly said, on public media, that they do that so people will know there will be a price to pay if they are evacuated, that they could cause a lot more damage, and that they won’t hesitate to. It’s a textbook example of terrorism, and it’s criminal and illegal even if it wasn’t.

And today on the newspaper I saw that a rabbi said that blocking roads for the anti-disengagement cause is like saving lives, it has to be done, and people should do it. This is certain to make religious people who follow that rabbi seriously consider doing so. Which mean that the rabbi has explicitly told people to break the law. Yet I didn’t read that anyone tried to arrest him for that. If I went and told people to go to malls and break the stores’ windows, and people were listening to me, I’d get arrested, and rightfully so. Why isn’t he? If what he’s doing is legal (Not that I can see how, but I’m not the authority) it’s for the judge to decide at the trial, not the police. Special, and preferential, treatment again.

Overall, as you can probably guess by this rambling, I’m pissed off by these protesters, and by the treatment they’re getting. There was a decision, the issue is no longer open, it’s done, closed, finished. They fought with the tools they can use, and they lost. Happens to everyone in any democratic society all the time. They should live with it, and be done with it. Not start to break the law, and try to reign terror. They should grow up, and act like responsible people instead of little criminal kids.

And this isn’t a political view caused by me not agreeing with them. Suppose the decision was the reverse, and there was no evacuation. These people are not unlike potential protesters who would have decided that the evacuation is necessary, and they have to force people to do it. So they could have maybe blocked the roads into the settlements, reasoning that without any supply and trade they will have to abandon them. Maybe they would enter the settlements, and burn down houses of settlers there. After all once all the houses are burned, they’ll have to leave. Sounds far-fetched? Maybe, but it’s the exact same sort of the behaviour, with nearly the exact same reasons. And if that happened, I would object just as much about these people. I would object as much about anyone using these tactics and methods here, regardless of their cause and what I think about it. But the settlers who do these protests now? They think what they’re doing is right, but they’ll surely object the same tactics if used by those imaginary protesters in this imaginary case. Even if those imaginary protesters are trying in full earnest, like the real ones say they are, to save the country.

Tamblyn breaks self inconsistancy record

May 24th, 2005

What can I say? I find the whole What does Amber Tamblyn think about Joan of Arcadia issue very amusing, considering that she covered pretty much all possible angles. And in just the time span of half a season or so. The girl has her own well formed opinions, and is willing to stick to them for ever and ever. Or at least until the next headline, anyway.

Originally the show was doing great, so Amber was really bored and threatened to quit. Then they started to seriously consider the possibility of stopping the show, and Amber was incredibly interested in going on for another season, like she strongly believed the show deserved.

It may feel like she covered the whole range of opinions right there, but no. Now that the show is officially cancelled, she sings yet a different tune:

Amber Tamblyn is philosophical about the cancellation of her CBS series “Joan of Arcadia.” “I loved it for what it was and it’s gone and that’s sad, but that’s the way it goes,” said the 22-year-old actress, who portrayed a teen who performed godly chores for those revealing themselves as God.

Not to mention that:

Tamblyn said she was happy to do two seasons of “a really incredible show than like eight years on a mediocre, not-so-good show.”

So not bored with the show, considering that she loved it, and that the show was incredible. And not thinking that the show deserves another season, and wanting it bad enough she could taste it, considering that that’s the way it goes and if it had went on longer it would have likely turned mediocre and not-so-good.

Had I been a cynical person I might have assumed that this sweet and charming young women was saying, in chronological order, “I want more money”, “I want money for more time”, and “I don’t want to hurt chances of getting money elsewhere”… But I’m not, so I won’t.

Very important driving tip

May 19th, 2005

Way back, when I just got my driver’s license, my father gave me one driving advice that at the time seemed pointless, silly and greatly superfluous. He said that when driving you should treat all the other cars on the road as if they are driven by madmen who are intentionally trying to kill you.

And this is in fact an excellent piece of advice. If you follow it, then you won’t be surprised if, for example, a dark green minivan with the Israeli license plate number of 47-808-28, while driving in parallel to you, will suddenly decide that it wants to occupy your own lane, and instead of signalling and waiting for a free space will just move right into it like you’re not even there.

If you follow this advice, than instead of wasting time trying to figure out what the heck is the stupid bloody drunken incompetent idiot driver thinks he’s doing, you’ll know what he’s doing (trying to kill you), and so would be able to react fast enough, by pressing strongly on the breaks and turning the car to the side of the road, in order to prevent the jerk from colliding straight into you at high speed.

Trust me, I should know. Something exactly like that happened to me this very morning on the way to work…

And no, I don’t see a problem with writing the license plate number here. I often try to be circumspect on these sort of things, and not provide identifying details. But this generally good principal doesn’t appeal to me when it comes to people who are trying to kill me. I do hope the guy will crash into a fence sometime, not because I wish him ill, but because him crashing is inevitable and at least if he hits a wall then he won’t take anyone else with him.

Disorderly purchase

May 19th, 2005

A few weeks ago my parents purchased a new air conditioning unit for the living room at home. They browsed around a bit, consulted, and finally decided on the model they want to buy.

At the store, when concluding the order, the sales assistant notified them that purchasing this particular model grants them an extra gift of a phone (Cordless phone, according to the company something sold with a retail price of approximately 500ILS). They were a bit surprised, since they didn’t expect it. The sales assistant then showed them their catalogue, and this was indeed announced there. Personally I doubt that the decision of what AC unit to buy should be affected by something like a free phone, but this was the offer. Nice, and honest, of her to inform them even though they didn’t ask for it by themselves, and were in fact unaware.

They arranged for the delivery of the AC unit, and were told that the delivery crew will bring the gift phone as well.

The actual installation of the unit is not done together with the delivery, but by other companies who deal in installing ACs. It’s possible to buy, and install, separately, but in this case they went with the option of using the installers that the store usually works with. So there was one payment to the store, which covered both the purchase and the installation. This unit was reported as some new generation of devices, working on slightly different technology (whatever it may be, I wasn’t involved, and didn’t bother following), so the installation cost a bit more.

A few days later the delivery arrived, with the AC. They forgot to bring the phone, however. My parents called the store, and were told that it was a mistake, and they’ll send it the next day. This turned out to require a few more next days until they claimed that they’re out of stock, and it will only arrive in a couple of weeks, maybe.

In the meantime the installation crew arrived, and installed the unit. It turned out that this device was actually from the older generation, not using the new technology. This required the installation crew to go away, and come back again at a later date, since they were equipped to handle the wrong kind of unit. More delay, and nobody was particularly pleased.

A few days ago my parents received a registered mail notification. I went to the post office to take it for them, and found a check to their account for 200ILS, without any explanation. After a call to the store to find out what is that about, they explained it’s a refund for the installation price.

And a day later they let us know that they have the phone for us.

Everything sorted out alright in the end, but it was a badly organized affair through and through…

How to reduce violence at bars and clubs. Maybe.

May 17th, 2005

A special committee has recently served the Minister of the Interior with its recommendations on ways to prevent violence in bars and clubs. The committee members come from the Ministries of the Interior, Justice, Education, Welfare, and Transportation, from local authorities, and from the Police. I read the article on the highlights (The full article is in Hebrew. there’s a much shorter version in English, which sadly lacks almost all of the interesting bits) of their recommendations, and overall I’m not impressed.

Bars/pubs and clubs will not be allowed to sell alcoholic drinks after 3AM. This is in order to “dissipate the effect of alcohol on those late for the ball“. Whatever that may mean in this content. I don’t recall any study pointing that alcohol has a stronger effect if imbibed after 3AM. Maybe they know something I don’t. The way I see it, even if most of the violence cases occur later than that, people will just get the same amount of alcohol sooner. Worse, since there’s a deadline, they will get it at a higher concentration as it comes near, since they know they won’t be able to order another drink later.

Club owner will be forced to install CCTV systems, and put someone to monitor it. So it will be easier for them to notice if… something… was going on. So there will be a cost for the clubs to install the surveillance cameras, and to hire people to monitor them. And since most of these places aren’t very large, it will still not provide a much better observation than simply putting someone inside the club to watch using their own eyes. Like, here’s a new thought, having the bartenders pay a little attention and call security if they see a problem. This won’t do much to help, but will raise costs which will of course fall on the customers. Not to mention that people tend to feel a lot less comfortable when they know they’re being photographed, and maybe recorded on film. Having fun, and being self concious, don’t quite go together, so this will cost the clubs plenty of customers

Those same CCTV cameras are to be placed on the entrance to the toilets. Which is supposed to help, how? Is the person observing it supposed to memorize everyone who comes in, and get worried if they stay there too long? Do they really want to bust in every time someone is having number two? No. So it won’t help. Unless they want to put the cameras inside the bathroom, since the claim on the article is that some of the violence occurs there. And this is going to be such a huge success, once people find out that the bathroom is on tape. Right.

Separate bathrooms for men and women. I don’t quite get it, since many people already have those. Some places do have some sort of a single entry/waiting chamber leading to both, but the costs of rebuilding this, or rebuilding totally different facilities for the places which don’t have these, are prohibitive. And I assume the problem they think they have (Doesn’t sound like violence, per se, but more as using the opportunity for the sake of not having people make-out over there. Something which is outside their mandate) is caused by people of different genders willingly going in together. Having different bathrooms wouldn’t stop it in that case.

Forming a group of paid cops/detectives/security-guards who will patrol in the area of the clubs, paid for by a toll the municipality will charge from the clubs. So in addition to their own security, bar owners will need to pay to people who generally patrol the street and supposedly provide security for the entire area? That’s very nice for other business and private homes nearby, I think. Not so nice for the bar owners. Or for their customers who will have to pay for it. Mostly, the problem is that those who will pay will not have any control or guidance over the actions of these rent-a-cops, they just pay the bill, and someone else will give the orders. This is never good. Hey, if having more people patrolling the neighbourhood is a good thing that customers are willing to pay for, then make such decisions public, and let the business compete by publishing how seriously they take it. Let the customers decide if they want to pay for it. But don’t put another tax on these businesses without them having anything to say about it.

Modifying the law forbidding selection, to allow selectors to prevent entry to people who may “endanger the public safety”. It was deemed unfair, prejudicial, or whatever, to allow pubs to put employees outside who will decide that they don’t want some people as customers. I don’t really get it, since it’s their business, and being far from monopolies they should certainly have the right to refuse customers, but that’s the way it is. So now they want to allow this practice, but only for people that they think are dangerous. This is far worse than either having no selection, or having full selection. First, the costs issue again, since this is in fact just a job of another trained security guard, that the bar will need to pay, but who will not provide the value that a proper selector does. Second, people who will be denied entry will raise the exact same complaints they did before. Instead of being told that they don’t look cool enough (or whatever the criteria may be) they will be told that they’re dangerous. This will certainly raise again all the ethnic discrimination issues, just as before. But people will be even more offended, because instead of just being told they don’t fit in with the rest of the crowd, they will be told they’re dangerous. This is very insulting if you don’t see yourself as dangerous, and could actually encourage violence if you really are dangerous.

Classify laughing gas as a dangerous drug. Yes, they want to change the law defining dangerous drugs to also include laughing gas. Why? Because they discovered that sometime criminal elements tend to sell laughing gas outside clubs. And this is supposed to be relevant how exactly? Making something a controlled and legally dangerous substance, just because some criminals sometime sell it near areas where sometime there is violence, strikes me as an enormous overkill and out of all proportions. As well as totally outside the scope of what those drug laws are supposed to deal with. Not everything sold by criminals is a dangerous drugs, and being sold by criminals is certainly not a reason to do classify anything as such.

People with criminal history will not be allowed to own, or be partners in, a club or bar. On the surface, this could make sense, since these people may be more likely to allow criminal activity in the premise. Is this criminal activity directly related to the violence, though? Or just people being drunk and stupid? Because most of the article implies that it’s the latter (after all, this committee was formed to deal with violence, not a crime problem with a side-effect of violence). And so this is outside their mandate again. Not only that, but officially serving prison time is supposed to be the punishment, and people who are released are supposed to be given the option to reform. And this is an explicit discrimination against ex-cons.

I saw another version of the article, on a print paper, which also mentioned something about placing cops who will measure the breath alcohol levels of people leaving bars and pubs. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, since being drunk is legal. So unless someone parked right in front of the bar, and they stop them from entering the car (All of which is nice, but again totally outside their mandate on the violence issue), this doesn’t help. The exception being if they want to put a cop who will follow every single drunk person leaving the bar on foot, to make sure they don’t drive, or get involved in violent acts, until they sober up a bit. That’s totally unrealistic, and is also not legal, so that can’t be it as well. For now I just prefer to believe that this particular tidbit may have been a mistake of the paper I read, but given the other recommendations above I’m afraid I’m not so sure.

That same printed article also mentioned showing educational films about the dangers of violence in those clubs. The popularity of which is bound to skyrocket the amount of people who will actually go there to have fun.

Overall, like I said, I’m not impressed. Or rather, I am impressed, by how badly done this is. And they intend to turn everything into laws and regulations during the next three months…

Ice cream trucks

May 17th, 2005

Years ago, when I was still a small kid, I remember that ice cream trucks used to drive through our street on some morning. Those big blue vans, with drawings of ice cream cones on the sides, playing that repetitive and very distinct music. In retrospect, the selection of ice creams and popsicles that was offered from their freezers wasn’t very wide, or very impressive, but it was ice cream. For a kid whose parents usually didn’t keep stocks inside the house, it was an experience. I wasn’t exactly a regular customer, and many times they passed in front of our house undisturbed, but once in a while it was fun to go out, and get something. It was also a nice opportunity to meet with some other kids living nearby.

For years now I haven’t seen any ice cream trucks. I don’t think it’s simply because I stopped paying attention, since the tune they play was (and presumably still is) loud. It was possible to hear it from inside the house then, so it should be possible now. Sadly, the acoustic blocking properties of our walls didn’t spontaneously improve.

Of course I do know that as a concept these things are still alive and well. People do report sightings of ice cream trucks. But that’s elsewhere. I just always assumed that there wasn’t enough business for them in my part of the city, so nobody bothered to spend the time driving through.

A few days ago, when parking my car after getting back from work, I noticed that the large blue van parked in front of me along the street was in fact an ice cream truck. The right shape, the right size (smaller than I remembered, but that’s very probably due to me growing up quite a bit in the passing years), and the right drawings. Actually, given that there has been some time, I find it amazing that the design stayed the same, with so little change.

It was parked on the street, but I did remember that the parking space inside one of the nearby houses did occasionally show the back of a blue van of similar size. It was never possible to see more than the back of the car from the street, at least not without especially trying (which I never had reason to) so I wasn’t sure, but later observations confirmed that this is indeed it, and it’s quite possible that this has been the same ice cream truck for a long time. We have someone who drive and operates an ice cream truck living pretty close by.

Which again raises the question of why doesn’t it go by inside our street? Is the owner not willing to cover his own street, since it’s a bit too close to home? Or are they in some way franchised or organized (I never did check on the business practices of ice cream trucks, so I have no idea) and this is just not their turf?

A more surprising incident happened two days later, as I was entering my car in the morning to drive to work. I passed next to that house, and indeed the ice cream truck was parked right there in their parking space. While I was still there, another car entered into my street. An ice cream truck. Not working, since the music was off.

Now, my street is a circular/elliptical one, with the house of the truck being near the exit, so I had a view over the street entrance. But once the van drove a few meters more, it was impossible to see it from that angle. I waited for a bit, to see if it will go through the circle and arrive to the same house. But it stopped after getting out of sight. Which probably meant it parked somewhere in the street.

So we may have not one, but two, ice cream truck owners and operators living in the same little street as I do. And I never saw any of them until recently. I guess I’m just very observant. Ahem.

Sentenced to hard labour and happy about it

May 17th, 2005

A Petty Officer in the US Navy refused to ship to Iraq, was tried for missing his deployment, and was now convicted.

The prosecution asked for nine months in the brig. The sentence was:

…had his pay cut and was sentenced to confinement to his base and hard labor.

… reduced Paredes’ pay to the level of a basic recruit and ordered him to spend two months restricted to his Navy base with three months of hard labor.

Not a light punishment. I’m not sure what “hard labor” means exactly, but it’s hard labour, it can’t be that comfortable. Plus, having his pay cut means a reduction in rank, in this case all the way to basic recruit. From the starting position of a Petty Officer, it’s already a noticeable drop. It doesn’t look good on anyone’s record, and is a serious blow if he was ever considering a military career.

Which IMNSHO makes the following statement by his lawyer very odd:

“This is … a stunning blow to the prosecutors who asked for nine months in the brig,” he said. “It’s a huge affirmation of every sailor and military personnel’s rights to speak out and follow their consciences.”

Let me get this straight. His client was found guilty, lost his rank, lost his pay level, and has to serve several months of hard labour, and it’s the prosecutors who suffered a stunning blow? Hmm…

Yes, it could have been much worse. He could have been sentenced to a longer duration, jail time, and have been discharged. But just because he didn’t get the maximum penalties assigned in the law, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t punished, or that he was justified and vindicated. I’m pretty sure what he got was also not exactly the lightest punishment allowed under the UCMJ for the charge.

Attack of the Nazi spam bots

May 17th, 2005

All of a sudden, several hours ago, some of my email accounts (oh, alright, one of my email accounts, so far) started to get a large amount of odd spam messages, in German. Which made very little sense to me since, well, I don’t really speak (or read) German. So I had no idea what the heck did they want from me, and what could anyone possibly have expected to gain from it.

Some of the messages came with subject lines in English, but the content was either some long text with a link to articles in Spiegel magazine (Don’t ask me. I don’t read German, remember?), or just a long list of links to sites with one or two lines of text describing them.

All in German. I don’t read German, did I mention that already?

In any case, a little search indicates that this is indeed a recent phenomenon, where a network of zombie computers infected with the Sober virus is being used to send neo-Nazi messages related to some election next week…

I think this is the first time I’m getting spam messages which are politically, rather than commercially, oriented. Instead of trying to sell me Rolex watches, increase my whatever, and lower my mortgage, they’re now trying to get me to vote Nazi??

Good luck with that guys, you’ll certainly need it. I don’t live in Germany, so I can’t vote in your election. Not only that but, while I’m very much not religious, I’m a Jew. Which statistically speaking is a very strong indication I’m not going to be very sympathetic to the Nazi agenda. Seriously.

And to the masses of careless computer users out there: Secure your computers! Install security patches, use a firewall, run an anti-virus program, and don’t open email attachments you’re not explicitly waiting for. Because if you continue to let every worm and virus out there to get control of your computer, then the terrorists Nazis have won.

Blog software update

May 16th, 2005

Just updated from WordPress 1.5 to 1.5.1

Hopefully everything should work smoothly, but it’s possible things will break. I’m running some checks, and will try to fix anything that got broken, but if anyone who reads this notice something that doesn’t work properly, please do let me know.

[UPDATE:] From an initial review everything seems to work properly, so for now I declare the update as successful.

[UPDATE 2:] Changed to, fixing some extra minor errors.

Shipping and order cancellation

May 16th, 2005

My boss ordered a new computer screen for a system our company is about to ship. This was done through a website shop that acts as a sort of a reseller for various other stores.

After a little checking, it turned out that the actual supplier store, whose stock the screen is to go out of, is located physically close to us. So my boss decided it would be prudent to cancel the shipping, and come pick up the screen ourselves. He called the store, talked (twice actually) with a person there to confirm that it would be possible to come take the screen directly when they’ll have it ready. He then contacted the support department of the site, and told them to cancel the shipping since we’ll be collecting it directly.

Several days passed, and we didn’t hear anything from them. The actual store had it in stock, but waited for all the order details to be passed from the site shop. So today he called them again.

The order was cancelled. As the women on the phone there told my boss “you told us to cancel it!”. I guess they missed the shipping part, or the part where while cancelling the shipping he verified that it would indeed be possible to pick up the screen ourselves…

After some arguing they reissued the order, and everything should be sorted out by tomorrow.

The seller at the physical store, BTW, was perfectly willing to sell us the screen directly. At a higher price. He already has it in stock, and he knows he has a potential client, but it’s still noticeably cheaper to buy his screen through a middlemen than directly from him. Go figure.