Older blog entries for shlomif (starting at number 699)

Blog Entry for my 36th Birthday

Being born on 5 May 1977, I turn 36 (= thirty six) on 5 May 2013. 36 is a special number for me in part because it is the square of 6, but more importantly because it is two times of 18. The age of 18 is considered the start of maturity in Israel when Israeli boys and girls gain the right to vote, and are supposed to enroll into the Israeli military, and normally hit sexual maturity at that point. The time I was 18, 19, 20 in 1995-1997, was very influential for me, and now I feel that I have achieved a second maturity.

I feel I have finally reached peace of mind, am enjoying all the little things in life, and can honestly see reality as it is, and see through many lies. Part of my problem was that for a long time I was playing the “Invisible”, which is something I decided to avoid from now on and work on better publicity. A different issue was me thinking of myself as The Eternal Jew, i.e: a profile, or a “god” in the stock exchange of the gods, which was an unhealthy tendency that I finally put to rest in a scene of my screenplay, Selina Mandrake - The Slayer (thanks to the wonderful protagonist there). Finally, yet another problem was that I have not accepted who I am, which is also something that I decided to avoid from now.

If I were ever going to visit Fantastica, the land of imagination, I would need to be very careful from the wrath of the characters of my stories and screenplays, whom I have put to much suffering (but at least all of them, with an exception in The Enemy and How I Helped to Fight it, ended up alive at the end of the stories and happier than ever. However, all this suffering was secondary to my own which involved hypomanias, and even some Manias, which caused some deteriorated health, and unhappiness to my surrounding.

I have decided that from now on, I would like to socialise more. I was told and understood that the lack of socialisation was part of what is causing hypomanias, and the underlying reason behind Bipolar disorder. I have already attended one Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference in Tel Aviv, and it was a wonderful and colourful experience, and also proved a catalyst for coming up with the idea of a screenplay I have written. I want to do stuff like that more often which will hopefully mitigate my hypomanias problem.

On this occasion, I would like to thank the people who helped me and guided me throughout my journey to maturity: my psychotherapist (whom I won't mention by name, but who provided a lot of solid advice), and Dr. David Burns for his excellent book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy; my friends from the Technion, the Haifa Linux Club, and the Tel Aviv Open Source Club; my friends from the Internet, and my family members for being there when I needed them.

I would also like to thank my characters, who provided a window into my soul and my innermost desires:

  • The ex-Member of the Organisation from my first real novella The Enemy, who was full of mathematical logic and was practically inhuman.

  • The Friends in “The One with the Fountainhead” who were happy to play the characters from Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead while parodying and modernising it along the way. They signified what I was unhappy about the Fountainhead and also my growing interest in romantic relationships.

  • The Human Hacking Field Guide brings us Erisa→Eve, the sexy, mysterious, insurgent, and typical “bad girl” antagonist, who after becoming less of a rebel without a cause, and at the age of 18 felt like she can write her own replacement for In Search of Lost Time, and publish it, and it would be better than the original. Eve, I wish I knew I was reflecting on myself in this respect!

  • From Star Trek: “We, the Living Dead”, we find such characters as Q, my own Q2, Jadzia Dax, and my own Katie Jacobson, who face a mishmash of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Judaism, Julian Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind theory and other Near East history, open source hackerdom, and various Elders of Zion and Illuminati conspiracy theory, and survive to tell the tale, reflecting upon some of the farfetched stuff I thought to be true, during my “Great Mania”.

  • Finally, Selina from Selina Mandrake - The Slayer, handled the various vampires and demons she ran into in a graceful and natural way, and finally put my whole obsession with “The Eternal Jew”/“The Invisible”/“The Slayer”/ “The Dispeller”/“The Free”/etc. to rest. Selina, you are great - I love you!

During this period, I have also started writing Humanity - The Movie, which aims to be a parody of Humanity and modern life in particular, and which I originally imagined as being written and filmed by a Bajoran extraterrestrial who arrived at Earth, also during my “Great Mania”. I also began writing The Pope Died on Sunday, which tells the story of an atheist female graphic designer (and a software developer by training) in Milwaukee, during the summer of the year 2000, reflecting on an old mentality, and finally The Blue Rabbit Log, which is a Crazy Comedy parodying Role-Playing Games, and is based on an old idea of mine.


Anyway, right now, I feel like I have reached some greater and greater enlightenment and am more capable of handling life’s problems as I run into them. I have been realised more that the gods help them that help themselves, that I should be happy of what I am and proud of it, and that the people around me can often be dicks. I also realise now that my relentless policy for honesty and sincerity got me in a lot of trouble, because people don't want to face the Elephants in the room, but that I should still try to be more tactful in the future I also realised many people can often be jerks, and try to hurt you on purpose.

Cheers, and have a great 5 May day.

Syndicated 2013-05-05 11:15:36 from shlomif

New Story: The Earth Angel; Soviet reversal jokes; new text in The Pope and in Selina Mandrake; “Put

Here are the recent updates for Shlomi Fish’s Homepage.

  1. There is a new story titled The Earth Angel which I have started to write:

    Dr. Alan Stein (Attn.) had not seen that side of Samantha before. As they sat there in the Chinese restaurant, two days before Ari, their system administrator, left for a trip to Israel, Samantha was emitting a lot of profanity, and sharing her frustrations of her life and the world. Dr. Stein was beginning to regret the fact that he had agreed to comply with Ari’s wishes, and invite her to lunch with them.

    Samantha Rodriguez was the newest hire at Alan’s law firm - a brilliant attorney in her early thirties, who looked great, was always groomed, and got a lot of work done, despite the fact that she almost never stayed overtime, and also took many days off. One fly in the ointment was the fact that she was single, sexy, and kept asking her co-workers out on dates, or accepting their own invitations. As much as Dr. Stein agreed that she had been a good hire, he was desperately trying to avoid interacting with her.

    “Anyway, I ended up telling my friend, Jasmine, who can be a real bitch sometimes, to fuck off, and deal with her troubled life herself. I simply ran out of patience.” she said.

    “Bravo!” Ari said while clapping his hands. “By the way, Samantha, how did you become a lawyer?”

    “Oh, that's a long story.” she said while playing with her fork.

    “And we’ve got time to hear it, right Mr. Stein?”

    “Yes, I guess we do.” Dr. Stein answered.

    “Well, I studied Linguistics as my B.A.,” Samantha said “and by the time I graduated, my head was filled with vocabulary, and to a lesser extent - grammatical rules, my heart was broken from many heartbreaks, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. I ended up narrowing it to three options: 1. Find a paying job - as a programmer or whatever else I could land. 2. Stay in the academia, studying for a Masters and/or a Ph.D. and — 3. Go to law school. I figured out fucking Med School was never my thing.”

    “Anyway, after consulting it with my friends, I became even less capable of knowing what to do. So I did the logical thing - I rolled a die.”

    “A die?” Ari said.

    “Yes, a ten-sided die or a 1d10 in role-playing game parlence. That’s usually what I use. It landed on the law school option, so that’s what I decided to pursue.” Samantha said.

    “So, you placed your fate in the hand of chance?” Ari asked

    “Yes, I did. Nothing wrong with doing that, if you ask me.”

    “Well, everyone say you are an excellent attorney.” Ari noted.

    “So they do.” Samantha said, “Maybe they are right.”

  2. The translation of the already written part of my story, The Pope Died on Sunday is now complete:

    Rachel contemplated how to start the conversation.

    “So how did you become an infrastructures engineer?” Rachel asked.

    “Well, ever since I was young, I wanted to be a plumber.” Greg replied.

    “A plumber? Seriously?” Rachel said with astonishment.

    “Yes. Very strange, but what can I do — that is what I wanted to be.” Greg said, “I spent a large part of the summer vacations being an apprentice for plumbers and enjoyed every moment. Anyway, after I graduated from high school, I was planning to go through a plumbing training course and to get my qualification. But my father approached me and told me: ‘Greg, my son, I have, thank God, enough money so you study what you want in university. So why not exploit that? If you want, you can become a plumber who graduated from university.’”

    And he went on: “So I agreed with him, but decided to study the closest thing to plumbing: civil engineering with a specialisation in the engineering of water and sewerage infrastructures. And surprisingly I realised that a large part of it was quite interesting.”

    “So did you become a qualified plumber eventually?” Rachel queried.

    “Yes, I passed the course. But I still got a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and that’s what I prefer to do.”

    “Hmmm…” Rachel said “Finding a good plumber in this day and age, to say nothing of one who is a university graduate, is hard.”

    “Well, I cannot testify that I’m a good plumber. A person cannot testify for his own qualities.” Greg replied.

    “Well, even a bad plumber is good enough for certain needs.” said Rachel and witnessed Greg bursting into laughter.

  3. There are some new or extended scenes in Selina Mandrake - The Slayer:

    [ Selina is sitting next to her computer at home with Firefox browsing the Hebrew wikipedia. She keeps highlighting words and hovering over them to find translations using a Firefox extension.

    There is a signal, and the Pidgin icon in the status bar starts blinking. Selina clicks it. ]

    Mosheh Ben-Amram: [on IM] Hello, Selina! How are you doing, today?

    Selina: I’m fine. Trying to contribute to the Hebrew wikipedia. These Affixes are driving me crazy.

    Mosheh Ben-Amram: Heh, עברית קשה שפה, but there are worse.

    Mosheh Ben-Amram: האם את מדברת עברית? [= “Do you speak Hebrew?”]

    Selina: Qtsath, or as new speakers will say Qetsath. Heh.

    Mosheh Ben-Amram: Yes, one of the first words you have to learn to say, and it’s already a Shibboleth.

    Selina: Emeth. [= "True."]

    Selina: BTW, are you actually Mosheh Ben-Amram (= Moses) the Hebrew prophet?

    Mosheh Ben-Amram: I won’t deny that I am.

    Selina: Hah!

  4. I added a page of “In Soviet Russia” factoids:

    • In Soviet Russia, cats own you. No, wait! Cats own you everywhere.

    • In Soviet Russia, superstition believe in you. (Sawyer X)

    • In Soviet Russia, food tastes YOU! (Leuthihi)

  5. “Freecell Solver Enterprises™ Acquires Google Inc.” - a breaking news story published on 1 April 2013:

    1 April, 2013, Tel Aviv, Israel: Due to the spectacular commercial success of Freecell Solver Enterprises™’s Enterprise Edition and its Webscale™ edition, we have amassed quite a bit of cash in the bank, so we decided to make a small but important strategical acquisition. As a result, Freecell Solver Enterprises™ is proud to announce its upcoming acquisition of Google Inc., which will result in an exciting synergical merger.

    Some of the upcoming changes would be replacing Google’s tech support (which is notoriously bad) by Freecell Solver Enterprises™’s world-famous and superb tech support (as detailed in the essay “Seven steps to remarkable customer service” by Joel on Software), as well as integrating Google search into Freecell Solver™ for an enhanced experience in solving Freecell. We are also planning on creating a separate YouTube top-level category for card Solitaire-related videos (including screencasts and presentations).

    Another one is “Announcing New Israeli Usergroups”.

  6. There are some new sections in my essay “Putting all the Cards on the Table (2013)”:

    During the Middle Ages, the apprentices of craftsmen graduated to become masters, and started their own shops, at a much younger age than 18. Today, most people graduate from high school at that age, and are expected to remain disadvantaged until then. There isn’t a good reason why the youth of today should not be able to make useful contributions to arts, sciences, philosophy, and entertainment, despite their young age and inexperience.

    Here are some examples:

    1. Dmitri Gaskin is a core developer of both jQuery and Drupal and gave a talk about jQuery on Google Tech Talks, while being 12 years old.

    2. Maria Aragon was 10 years old when she was recorded performing a cover of Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way”, which has received over 50 million views on YouTube as of April 2013 (and which I like better than the original).

    3. Much previously, Samantha Smith changed the fate of the cold war, when being 10 years old, by the simple act of writing a letter.

    4. In the 18th century, Carl Friedrich Gauss started making important contributions to mathematics from a very early age.

    Our contemporary culture sort of expects kids (what Americans refer to as children, “pre-teens”, and “teenagers”) to remain “innocent”, naïve and inexperienced, and immature, and, as a result, most of them behave accordingly.

  7. The abstract to my yet unwritten novella “The Road to Heaven is Paved With Bad Attentions” is now partly translated to English.

  8. There are new quotes in the collection of Unix-like fortune cookies:

    An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, “Ah, you’re an engineer. You are in the wrong place.”

    So, the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After a while, they’ve got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy.

    One day, God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, “So, how’s it going down there in hell?”

    Satan replies, “Hey, things are going great. We’ve got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there’s no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next.”

    God replies, “What? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake. He should never have gotten down there; send him up here.”

    Satan says, “No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I’m keeping him.”

    God says, “Send him back up here or I’ll sue.”

    Satan laughs uproariously and answers, “Yeah, right. And just where are you going to get a lawyer?”

  9. Many meaningful <meta name="description" /> tags were added to the pages to help with the descriptions in search engine results.

  10. I added a set of links to all the pages referring to my online presence elsewhere on the web, such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Reddit.

Syndicated 2013-04-26 16:45:14 from shlomif

Recent Hacktivity Log

This is another recent hacktivity log of what I have been up to recently, as far as software development and writing is concerned.

“Every Publicity is Good Publicity…”

True to my belief that “The Gods help them that help themselves”, I have been working much more on publicity recently, utilising my Twitter account, my Reddit account, my Facebook account and other online resources. I am not exclusively promoting only my own works, and also share/retweet/etc. the posts of my friends. I had great success with this /r/xkcd subreddit post which so far received 150 upvotes (and 36 down votes) about my new screenplay Summerschool at the NSA which has a strong xkcd (= the web comics) theme, and also had some lesser success with posts to other subreddits. As usual, I also upvote and comment on other people's posts and comments.

It seems that the main problem with my site up to now has not been that it lacked good content, but that most people were not aware of the site.

I’ve also been experimenting with buying Project Wonderful web advertisements, but so far they did not yield too many clicks.

The Olamot Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conference

As I reported on the Hamakor mailing list, I attended the Olamot Science-Fiction/Fantasy/etc. conference that took place during Passover in Tel Aviv, Israel, and had a great time. I didn't bring a camera to the first day, so people on IRC did not believe me that I saw many highly attractive geeks there, which I remedied by bringing a camera and taking many photos during the second day.

The conference was colourful, zany, and inspiring and most of the people I saw agreed to be photographed. I spent most of the time there helping with the booth of the open source community and we were better organised and more prepared than a similar conference several years ago, where we only had a very huge and heavy Sun CRT screen that did not yield to our attempts to get it to display something on the computer.

Work on Selina Mandrake - The Slayer (a Buffy Parody)

I was able to mostly complete my work on the screenplay Selina Mandrake - The Slayer, which is marketed as a parody of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but which also crosses over many other elements, including from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Judaism, history of the Near East and Europe, and computer geekdom. It is in a usable condition now, but there are still some missing scenes, and the screenplay may also need some polishing.

Buffy and Clarissa Facts

In the name of girl power, and FOR GREAT JUSTICE, I have continued to collect factoids about females: Buffy Summers from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and and Clarissa Darling from Clarissa Explains It All (which I fear no one is familiar with or remember now, but still makes for some awesome factoids). Additions are welcome.

Summerschool at the NSA

I got the idea for the screenplay Summerschool at the NSA during the Olamot conference mentioned above, and I am thankful for such great conference for providing a lot of inspiration. I was able to complete the screenplay in less than two weeks and it is in a usable condition now (but likely still has many rough spots). Quoting from the abstract:

The Hollywood actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Buffy fame) and Summer Glau (of xkcd notability) conspire to kick the ass of the NSA (= the United States government’s National Security Agency), while using special warfare that is completely non-violent.

This screenplay crosses Judaism, the Mother Goose nursary rhymes, My Little Pony, substance/etc. addiction, xkcd, Buffy, the song “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, and some personal insights and memes, and despite all that is actually mostly realism for a change.

“All Truth is God’s Truth”

Some people, with whom I talked on the Freenode chat network, complained that I didn’t stay loyal to my Jewish roots, and instead crossed Judaism with other idea system, and some newer sources of influence. However I’d like to quote Larry Wall from his “Perl Culture” keynote:

I have a book on my bookshelf that I’ve never read, but that has a great title. It says, “All Truth is God’s Truth.” And I believe that. The most viable belief systems are those that can reach out and incorporate new ideas, new memes, new metaphors, new interfaces, new extensions, new ways of doing things. My goal this year is to try to get Perl to reach out and cooperate with Java. I know it may be difficult for some of you to swallow, but Java is not the enemy. Nor is Lisp, or Python, or Tcl. That is not to say that these languages don't have good and bad points. I am not a cultural relativist. Nor am I a linguistic relativist. In case you hadn't noticed. :-)

Furthermore, like Ayn Rand noted in her journal, a good work of fiction requires a solid philosophy, and so one can learn a lot from works of fiction. Furthermore, Peter Ustinov noted that “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”, so even humorous works of art convey a good philosophy.

I think the main difference between contemporary or old works of fiction, such as the Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, the works of Alexandre Dumas Pere, Star Trek, Buffy, etc. and “holy” works such as the Holy Bible or the Qur’an is that some people still take the latter too seriously, and consider them the final word on how to lead your life, rather than just another step in the road to enlightenment.

So I’m not going to let my personal philosophy stagnate by sticking only to traditional Judaism, which itself was never pure, and always incorporated many useful ideas from elsewhere, and still should.

XML-Grammar-Screenplay / XML-Grammar-Fiction

When working on the screenplays, I noticed that some of the error messages were quite unhelpful, so I implemented more informative error messages in XML-Grammar-Fiction / XML-Grammar-Screenplay. I noticed that the code was getting quite complicated, so I refactored it a little, but there is still a long way to go.

Freecell Solver

Someone reported problems understanding the solutions of the online (JS-based) port of Freecell Solver, and I decided to convert the card suit identifiers to their Unicode equivalents. So from:

Foundations: H-0 C-0 D-0 S-0
Freecells:
: 4C 2C 9C 8C QS 4S 2H
: 5H QH 3C AC 3H 4H QD
: QC 9S 6H 9H 3S KS 3D
: 5D 2S JC 5C JH 6D AS
: 2D KD TH TC TD 8D
: 7H JS KH TS KC 7C
: AH 5S 6S AD 8H JD
: 7S 6C 7D 4D 8S 9D

We get:

Foundations: ♥-0 ♣-0 ♦-0 ♠-0
Freecells:
: 4♣ 2♣ 9♣ 8♣ Q♠ 4♠ 2♥
: 5♥ Q♥ 3♣ A♣ 3♥ 4♥ Q♦
: Q♣ 9♠ 6♥ 9♥ 3♠ K♠ 3♦
: 5♦ 2♠ J♣ 5♣ J♥ 6♦ A♠
: 2♦ K♦ T♥ T♣ T♦ 8♦
: 7♥ J♠ K♥ T♠ K♣ 7♣
: A♥ 5♠ 6♠ A♦ 8♥ J♦
: 7♠ 6♣ 7♦ 4♦ 8♠ 9♦

Moreover, Shirl Hart informed me that he/she have uploaded a Java port of their Freecell Solver to GitHub, which runs much faster (70x reportedly) than the Perl version (but might still consume more RAM than an equivalent C port). All the power to Shirl!

DocBook EPUB generation

I ran into some problems with getting the EPUB (an Electronic book format) generation of the DocBook/5 XSLT stylesheet to work properly, but it was fixed in this commit thanks in part to help I got on the docbook-apps mailing list.

Wiki-ing

I have been desperately trying to find a usable photo (under a Creative Commons licence/etc.) of Christina Grimmie (= the singer and musician known for her YouTube videos) for her Wikipedia pages, without luck so far.

I also have been trying to protect the English Wikipedia page of Tiffany Alvord (another superb artist) from deletionism, and it’s ironic that the Spanish Wikipedia page about her is longer and more comprehensive, even though Alvord is American and almost always sings in English.

Furthermore, I have been using several pages in the Buffy Fan Fiction Wikia to organise my thoughts for the Selina Mandrake screenplay.

Thanks

Thanks to protist (Jonathan Avery) and Gabor Szabo for reviewing this post and commenting on it.



comment count unavailable comments

Syndicated 2013-04-14 12:21:26 from shlomif

New on Shlomi Fish’s Homepage: Summerschool at the NSA the screenplay + New Factoids

Here are the recent updates for Shlomi Fish’s Homepage. This time, the highlight is some interesting new content.

  1. Summerschool at the NSA, subtitled “As the sling shoots, grown-up men will sob”, is a screenplay, which I completed and is in a usable condition. The Hollywood actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Buffy fame) and Summer Glau (of xkcd notability) conspire to kick the ass of the NSA (= the United States government’s National Security Agency), while using special warfare that is completely non-violent:

    [ Black screen, SMG’s (= Sarah Michelle Gellar’s) voice, while emulating her daughter. ]

    SMG: Humpty dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty dumpty had a great fall. And all the King's horses, and all the King's men could not put Humpty together again.

    [ Screen showing SGlau (= Summer Glau) laughing. SMG and she are sitting at a diner together. ]

    SGlau: [Stops laughing.] Oh my God, Sarah, your daughter’s so smart.

    SMG: And… funny!

    SGlau: Yes. Well, what does she like aside from Mother Goose?

    SMG: Oh, she loves My Little Pony. She and I watch it almost every week together.

    SGlau: Wow, you're a pega-sister, too?

    SMG: I'm not addicted to My Little Pony. I swear! I can quit any time. Just let me watch one… more… episode. [giggles]

    SGlau: Hah, hah. For your information, my My Little Pony addicts’ support group meets every second and fourth Saturday of the month, and I am currently at step five of our twelve step program.

    SMG: Sounds like a plan. I'll consider joining.

  2. There are brand new factoids page of Clarissa Darling Facts (from the old Television show Clarissa Explains It All) as well as new Buffy facts and Chuck Norris facts in the factoids collection:

    • Tomorrow never dies, unless Chuck Norris volunteers to take it out of its misery.

    • The Chuck Norris of the Buffyverse, has been secretly training under Buffy’s supervision, and so far - lost every battle with her.

    • Clarissa Darling can start from “I think therefore I am” and prove that the grass is green, that there are about 365 days in a year, and that Isaac Newton formulated the Law of Gravitation back in 1687.

  3. I added a page about my nickname, “Rindolf” and its etymlogy, as well as about Rindolfism, which is my philosophy.

  4. There are some new quotes in the UNIX-like fortune cookies’ collections:

    I recall discussing Buffy with a Jewish American friend, who used to be secular, and now has become an observant Jew, and married a woman who properly converted to Orthodox Judaism, and they have some children. We discussed the fact that Sarah Michelle Gellar was Jewish, and yet that many men (and some Lesbian women) were more attracted to Alyson Hannigan’s character, Willow Rosenberg, who was a shy and sheepish, redhead, Jewess. Then when I mentioned that Hannigan was only a maternal Jew, he said she is “kosher” (because someone whose mother is Jewish and who did not convert to a different religion, is a bona-fide Jew). I found it amusing that you refer to women by the same word as you do to food, but I think the ancient Hebrew word "kasher" also means "approved", "appropriate", "legal", etc.

    In any case, both Hannigan and Gellar are now married, and so trying to separate between them and their husbands is not kosher. ;-)

  5. Finally, the main navigation menu sports a new and more usable CSS style thanks to the great work of Joe Crawford. Thanks, Joe!

Syndicated 2013-04-09 17:33:53 from shlomif

Freecell Solver Enterprises™ Acquires Google Inc.

1 April, 2013, Tel Aviv, Israel: Due to the spectacular commercial success of Freecell Solver Enterprises™’s Enterprise Edition and its Webscale™ edition, we have amassed quite a bit of cash in the bank, so we decided to make a small but important strategical acquisition. As a result, Freecell Solver Enterprises™ is proud to announce its upcoming acquisition of Google Inc., which will result in an exciting synergical merger.

Some of the upcoming changes would be replacing Google’s tech support (which is notoriously bad) by Freecell Solver Enterprises™’s world-famous and superb tech support (as detailed in the essay “Seven steps to remarkable customer service” by Joel on Software), as well as integrating Google search into Freecell Solver™ for an enhanced experience in solving Freecell. We are also planning on creating a separate YouTube top-level category for card Solitaire-related videos (including screencasts and presentations).

We are sure that the upcoming acquisition is going to allow Freecell Solver Enterprises™ to further its competitive edge, and allow us to have even more significant growth, which will in turn allow us to make even more significant acquisitions. As our CTO, Shlomi Fish, notes: “good times are coming.”.

Soon, people will say “Let’s Freecell Solver Enterprises™ Superheroic Web Search™ it!” instead of “Let’s Google it!”, for an exciting Web 3.141592™ experience.

Syndicated 2013-04-01 16:06:00 from shlomif

“Publish or Perish” = “Life or Death”

There is an old adage about the Academic life that reads: “Publish or Perish”. Wikipedia reads:

“Publish or perish” is a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia to rapidly and continuously publish academic work to sustain or further one's career.

Frequent publication is one of few methods at scholars’ disposal to demonstrate academic talent. Successful publications bring attention to scholars and their sponsoring institutions, which can facilitate continued funding and an individual's progress through their field.

Let’s go a little farther from the “frequent publishing” and just into publishing something in time, and it is evident that a man has two choices:

  1. To publish everything he or she knows and thinks in time, and be completely honest and sincere (without lying, keeping secrets, or even speaking in riddles, but while still keeping some privacy and using tact and wisdom.). ( = "Publish" ).

  2. To keep things to himself or herself, lie, or use other forms of deceit or camouflage, thus resulting in him isolating himself from society and becoming paranoid. (= "Perish" ).

If we look at history, we will see that the most enduring and surviving idea systems were the ones that consistently published: the Greek philosophers, the Jewish scholars, the Muslim scholars of medieval times, the post-Renaissance/post-Printing-press Europeans, the American mass-media / mass-publishing revolution of the 20th century, and the user-generated content Internet of today. Yes, there always was a lot of junk (see Sturgeon’s Law that says that “90% of everything is crap”), and that includes the content of the very Tanakh (= Jewish Bible) that many people still consider holy. However, there is always a minority of exceptionally good stuff. (For more insights about that, see Paul Graham’s essays “What Business Can Learn from Open Source” and “Web 2.0”).

It is extremely unlikely that a single man called Aesop told all of the fables that have been attributed to him, and even if (King) David existed, he has not taken all of the actions that he was told to have taken in the Bible, because many such tales were common in the ancient Near East. Instead, they were both ancient memes, and people had no qualms to gradually improve upon them and spice them up.

So you should definitely publish, because keeping your “secrets” or “core competency” for yourself is not only dishonest, but a superbly bad strategy, because you will have little motivation to improve what you did, and other people won’t be able to contribute to it, build upon it, or criticise it.


The biggest offender of the “Publish or Perish → Life or Death” principle I can think of and can relate to is the National Security Agency (NSA), and they now face two options: either publish everything they know promptly —­or alterantively perish.

How do I plan to make them realise that? See my page with NSA “facts” and its links, as well as my latest anti-NSA activism in the form of the informal screenplay Summerschool at the NSA. The latter stars the actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Buffy fame) and Summer Glau (famous for being featured in xkcd #406: “Venting”, and some subsequent xkcd strips) as themselves, and who conspire to slay/terminate/kick-the-ass-of the NSA for good, in a typical David vs. Goliath fashion.

For publishing and therefore life,

Shlomi Fish

Licence

This document is Copyright by Shlomi Fish, 2013, and is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License 3.0 Unported (or at your option any later version of that licence). In addition to that, the author gives an explicit exemption to use the article in sites with web advertising.

For securing additional rights, please contact Shlomi Fish and see the explicit requirements that are being spelt from abiding by that licence.

Syndicated 2013-04-01 00:08:34 from shlomif

New on Shlomi Fish’s Homepage: Selina Mandrake, NSA/Buffy/Chuck Norris facts, Yachar's Music

Here are the recent updates for Shlomi Fish’s Homepage. This time, the highlight is a lot of interesting new content.

  1. I have started writing a comprehensive essay titled “Putting all the Cards on the Table (2013)”, which is also syndicated as a blog post on my Unarmed but Still Dangerous blog. Here is the abstract for it:

    What is the problem with the Technion and why is it graver in M.I.T., and why you should watch the film Silver Linings Playbook to realise why it's not a problem? Why was the David who fought Goliath a hacker, and what is the difference between a tragic hero and an action hero? What was the second major battle that Chuck Norris lost? What are the machines that can give us questions (and lots of them)? Why not exerting a mental effort will make matters go from bad to worse? Who was the Jennifer Lawrence of Web 1.0? And what were my two greatest mistakes, which you should not duplicate?

    I got tired of truly intellectual people like me speaking in riddles all the time and kinda lying to themselves and to others in their artworks, and hiding a lot of what they know, so I decided to put all the cards I have now on the table in a big tour-de-force. It's not finished yet, but still usable, and there's more to come. Not a perfect essay, and not for everyone, but imperfect and sweet.

  2. There is an ongoing English translation of my old and incomplete story “The Pope Died on Sunday”.

  3. Much more text has been added to Selina Mandrake - The Slayer (a Buffy parody) and it is now in a usable condition:

    [ There are three young men dressed as Klingons who fight with Bat’leth in the park. Selina is passing by and shakes her head in disapproval. The three notice Selina, and quickly run to her. ]

    Warrior #1: Hail The Slayer, we are but your humble slaves!

    Selina: [Shocked] And who might you be?

    Warrior #1: We are The Three - three vampire brother warriors, who have been fighting since the dawn of time.

    Selina: And you are Klingons…

    Warrior #2: We can assume any form.

    Warrior #1: Yes, we can fight using any weapon, and we are masters of them all.

    Selina: so you can fight with something that’s not a Bat’leth?

    Warrior #1: Of course, for example, we could fight using the Huge Sword!

    Warrior #2 and Warrior #3: Yeah, the Huge Sword!

    The Three: [in unison] Huge Sword!

    [ Warrior #1 snaps his fingers, and some of these ridiculously large swords from World of Warcraft appear on the ground. ]

    Selina: Wow, can you fight using them?

    The Three: [non-dramatically] Eh, eh, we cannot lift them.

    Selina: Guess not. [Puts her palm on her eyes.] Maybe try something smaller and not as heavy.

  4. In addition, there are many enhancements to the section of the page, including a page about who I think should play the characters in the screenplay, and an Ebook available for purchase.

  5. There are two new pages with facts about people and things:

    1. NSA Facts - about the United States’ National Security Agency:

      • The NSA knows what you did last summer. But no one, in the NSA or outside it, knows why they should.

      • The more the NSA think, the less they want to be able to think. So they think less and less.

      • First the NSA ignores “silly” Internet memes, then they laugh at them, then they are unable to fight them, and then they lose.

    2. Facts about Buffy Summers from the Television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

      • Buffy will always find a wooden stake to slay vampires, even if it means she will have travelled 100 years back in time, to plant a tree nearby.

    Extra additions to these or other collections of facts would be welcome.

  6. There's a mirrored bit Freecell Solver™ Goes Webscale.

  7. I have placed Yachar’s old music from Jamendo.com on my homepage, because they appear to have been removed from Jamendo.

  8. There’s a new page with a partial list of some of my favourite online musicians.

  9. The Chuck Norris Facts page contains more facts and translations of some of the facts to Hebrew:

    • Chuck Norris helps the gods that help themselves.

    • Chuck Norris can make East and West meet.

  10. There's a section of reception on the front page of the essay The Eternal Jew with a combined captioned image/meme.

  11. I have placed the sources for the stories and screenplays in self-contained distributed version control repositories (DVCS) - mostly on my GitHub account, and they contain mostly self-contained build systems. You can find links to their repositories on their appropriate pages.

Syndicated 2013-03-23 19:28:58 from shlomif

About Female Action Heroes

(Note: this was originally written as a comment for a post on the excellent Action Flick Chick blog by Katrina Hill, but was eaten by the WordPress.org instance there, so I decided to publish it here, after a lot of editing and enhancements.)

Excellent feature! I greatly enjoyed it (just note that I'm a guy) - thanks for sharing and I hope the panel was nice. I hope to see and welcome many talented and resourceful female writers and authors of sci-fi and action, who will collaborate to create part of the next generation of female heroines who are intelligent, resourceful, competent, and talented, yet still sexy, and feminine. Naturally, as a male writer (see the stories and screenplays section of my homepage), I am not going to stand idle and let my peers, whether male or female, surpass me easily, but I suppose that there's always a place for more people competing for that.

Buffy Summers was an awesome character, and I was totally into her and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was the superb actress and martial artist, who played her, back in the wild wild Web 1.0 days and the first seasons of Buffy (before Buffy graduated from high school and when Faith was still around). That was shortly after I graduated from high school, had lots of raging hormones, and worked in several workplaces as a programmer, and was about to start my college degree. I think Buffy was the “perfection achieved” (or epitome or whatever it is called) version of the fighting lady, whom girls could relate to, look up to as a role model, and found it easy to feel empathy for, and that not only were guys not intimidated by her, but found her extremely attractive.

Anyway, Buffy and other shows I watched in this period such as Friends and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, provided a lot of inspiration and fodder for my stories and screenplays, and I have also created a world titled the Selinaverse that crosses many such influences (what can I say - bipolar disorder / manic-depresssive disorder can be fun sometimes… ;-)) along with other things. Even my most normal story yet - The Human Hacking Field Guide, which tells the story of several high school teenagers in 2005 Los Angeles, who deal extensively in working on open source software (and to a lesser extent free/open “content”), drew inspiration from the characters of Buffy and Faith for the protagonist (Jennifer Raymond) and the antagonist (Eve “Erisa” Siegel) respectively.

I think part of the problem with the realisation of female heroines and even female authors, was the traditional Judeo-Christian Ethics value system which limited the amount of activities women were able to do to exclude philosophy, most important artworks, writing, poetry and being a scholar, the performing arts, and naturally - fighting. Furthermore, the names of most of the most important action heroines in the Bible were deemed inauspicious in the Jewish tradition (the Halakhah), only to become popular among Jews after the Zionist revolution. An action hero or a “hacker” (see the essay titled The Word “Hacker” by Paul Graham) is someone who bends the rules, makes up his or her own rules, takes decisive actions, and controls his or her own destiny, even if they are completely not violent. See what I have written about the David who fought Goliath. This is while a tragic hero accepts his own fate, is bound by many invisible rules, and does not take decisive action - the exact opposite of an action hero. (That put aside, I feel that in art, action heroes and heroines often also initially have hubris (= excessive human pride) and undergo a sort of Catharsis (= a humbling process), although it is a more subtle than the one experienced by tragic heroes in tragedies.)

In any case, I think there's some bitter justice in the fact that there have been several important Jewesses who championed the break from the Judeo-Christian ethical system:

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar.

  • Alisa Rosenbaum → Ayn Rand, who despite her many faults in personality and in her philosophical work, and the fact that she often fell victim to the falsehoods and moral fashions of her time, greatly helped lay the ground for the move away from the traditional Judeo-Christian ethics (and not just the sexual/romantic ones).

    I was told that Ayn Rand’s philosophy was criticised for being not very “original”, but this kind of “originality” in copyright, having original ideas, patents, and even trade secrets (and what open source/open content/etc. like to call being “proprietary”), was a 20th century fad, and Rand still deserves credit for having a retro, but right-in-the-spotlight philosophy. I am well aware that Rand kinda professed to have supported this “originality/anti-open” philosophy in her works, but in her deeds, she was almost always “if you do not publish - you perish”, in the sense of making her opinions and thoughts known and given to the public consumption, even if she was criticised for them.

  • Marta Kauffman, who co-created the Television show Friends, which despite superficial appearances to the contrary, took a large part in championing an Aristotelian society, a positive sense-of-life, resourcefulness, passion for life, gender equality, and critical thought - including of many modernist and post-modern scientific beliefs.

P.S: you should watch the three episodes of the Parody: A Love Story (Twilight, Harry Potter, Karate Kid, and Buffy parody) video on YouTube, which sports a chubby girl, who seems unattractive at first, but ends up learning and doing some mean Karate in a typical Buffy-like hotness.

Anyway, thanks for the excellent write up and sorry for getting carried away.

Best regards,

— Mr. Shlomi Fish (a.k.a “Rindolf”) of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Syndicated 2013-03-18 20:45:46 from shlomif

About Female Action Heroes

(Note: this was originally written as a comment for a post on the excellent Action Flick Chick blog by Katrina Hill, but was eaten by the WordPress.org instance there, so I decided to publish it here, after a lot of editing and enhancements.)

Excellent feature! I greatly enjoyed it (just note that I'm a guy) - thanks for sharing and I hope the panel was nice. I hope to see and welcome many talented and resourceful female writers and authors of sci-fi and action, who will collaborate to create part of the next generation of female heroines who are intelligent, resourceful, competent, and talented, yet still sexy, and feminine. Naturally, as a male writer (see the stories and screenplays section of my homepage), I am not going to stand idle and let my peers, whether male or female, surpass me easily, but I suppose that there's always a place for more people competing for that.

Buffy Summers was an awesome character, and I was totally into her and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was the superb actress and martial artist, who played her, back in the wild wild Web 1.0 days and the first seasons of Buffy (before Buffy graduated from high school and when Faith was still around). That was shortly after I graduated from high school, had lots of raging hormones, and worked in several workplaces as a programmer, and was about to start my college degree. I think Buffy was the “perfection achieved” (or epitome or whatever it is called) version of the fighting lady, whom girls could relate to, look up to as a role model, and found it easy to feel empathy for, and that not only were guys not intimidated by her, but found her extremely attractive.

Anyway, Buffy and other shows I watched in this period such as Friends and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, provided a lot of inspiration and fodder for my stories and screenplays, and I have also created a world titled the Selinaverse that crosses many such influences (what can I say - bipolar disorder / manic-depresssive disorder can be fun sometimes… ;-)) along with other things. Even my most normal story yet - The Human Hacking Field Guide, which tells the story of several high school teenagers in 2005 Los Angeles, who deal extensively in working on open source software (and to a lesser extent free/open “content”), drew inspiration from the characters of Buffy and Faith for the protagonist (Jennifer Raymond) and the antagonist (Eve “Erisa” Siegel) respectively.

I think part of the problem with the realisation of female heroines and even female authors, was the traditional Judeo-Christian Ethics value system which limited the amount of activities women were able to do to exclude philosophy, most important artworks, writing, poetry and being a scholar, the performing arts, and naturally - fighting. Furthermore, the names of most of the most important action heroines in the Bible were deemed inauspicious in the Jewish tradition (the Halakhah), only to become popular among Jews after the Zionist revolution. An action hero or a “hacker” (see the essay titled The Word “Hacker” by Paul Graham) is someone who bends the rules, makes up his or her own rules, takes decisive actions, and controls his or her own destiny, even if they are completely not violent. See what I have written about the David who fought Goliath. This is while a tragic hero accepts his own fate, is bound by many invisible rules, and does not take decisive action - the exact opposite of an action hero. (That put aside, I feel that in art, action heroes and heroines often also initially have hubris (= excessive human pride) and undergo a sort of Catharsis (= a humbling process), although it is a more subtle than the one experienced by tragic heroes in tragedies.)

In any case, I think there's some bitter justice in the fact that there have been several important Jewesses who championed the break from the Judeo-Christian ethical system:

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar.

  • Alisa Rosenbaum → Ayn Rand, who despite her many faults in personality and in her philosophical work, and the fact that she often fell victim to the falsehoods and moral fashions of her time, greatly helped lay the ground for the move away from the traditional Judeo-Christian ethics (and not just the sexual/romantic ones).

    I was told that Ayn Rand’s philosophy was criticised for being not very “original”, but this kind of “originality” in copyright, having original ideas, patents, and even trade secrets (and what open source/open content/etc. like to call being “proprietary”), was a 20th century fad, and Rand still deserves credit for having a retro, but right-in-the-spotlight philosophy. I am well aware that Rand kinda professed to have supported this “originality/anti-open” philosophy in her works, but in her deeds, she was almost always “if you do not publish - you perish”, in the sense of making her opinions and thoughts known and given to the public consumption, even if she was criticised for them.

  • Marta Kauffman, who co-created the Television show Friends, which despite superficial appearances to the contrary, took a large part in championing an Aristotelian society, a positive sense-of-life, resourcefulness, passion for life, gender equality, and critical thought - including of many modernist and post-modern scientific beliefs.

P.S: you should watch the three episodes of the Parody: A Love Story (Twilight, Harry Potter, Karate Kid, and Buffy parody) video on YouTube, which sports a chubby girl, who seems unattractive at first, but ends up learning and doing some mean Karate in a typical Buffy-like hotness.

Anyway, thanks for the excellent write up and sorry for getting carried away.

Best regards,

— Mr. Shlomi Fish (a.k.a “Rindolf”) of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Meta

I had a great meta section, but it was too infinite in length to fit inside this limited length text area. Or more seriously - I have plenty to write about in it, but I'm too anxious to get this post out of the door. Publish early - publish often. Cheers anyway, and I'm mostly fine.

Syndicated 2013-03-18 14:39:18 from shlomif

Putting all the Cards on the Table (2013) - 2nd public draft

OK, I am really tired of having truly intellectual people like me “speak in riddles”, so I'll put all the cards I have now on the table. There will likely be more into the future.

My biggest mistake - playing the invisible

For a long time now, I wanted to achieve greatness: be extremely famous, have my stories be read, have my web-site be visited countless of times, and become a household name, and also earn a lot of money in the process (to allow me to travel, be able to afford going out, etc.). However, having read in several places that “The Invisible Hacker is the most powerful” (a hacker is a talented worker that bends the rules, and for what “hacker” means, see “How to become a hacker” and Paul Graham’s The word “Hacker”), I decided to play it the invisible. So I remained a relatively unknown Tel Aviv, Israel-based software developer, who studied Electrical Engineering in who was constantly looking for jobs, and who found a lot of joy in working on his personal web site, various pieces of open source software, and has been doing a lot of one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communications on the Internet. I was happy, but constantly had periods of hypomanias.

I gradually felt that I was controlling everything behind the scenes, and finding trends right before they became mainstream, and having slowly gain popularity by word of mouth, and influencing people, but I kinda hated it. Some people can be quiet and benevolent value producers doing ordinary things. But not me - I want to be very good, not play “The Invisible”. I am not a follower of trends - I set trends. And I want to be recognised for the truly great accomplishments that I have accomplished, am still accomplishing, and am planning on continuing to accomplish.

Note that this is not about being what Americans call “a winner” and win 1st place at some silly competition of who has the highest grade average or the highest television rating ever. I don't care about that too much, but I do care about being acknowledged. My stories are not perfect, but it is their imperfection and sometimes sloppiness that makes them perfect.

The Technion and the American concept of “Loser” and “Winner”

The Technion in Haifa, Israel, where I studied for my Bachelor of Science degree, is overall a fine institute to study in, but it has several problems. One problem is that it's "90% work / 10% play" instead of say "70% work / 30% play", because there's a strong discipline to study and only that. But an even graver problem is the fact that the staff prefers the scores of their tests to be an approximate normal distribution (or Gaussian) which makes many people who studied hard frustrated at their low grades. A better strategy would be to give a solid workload during the semester, and then to have a relatively easy test, so people who studied hard during the semester will easily pass with a high score, while the slackers will still fail.

It seems like there's a similar problem with M.I.T., but whereas in MIT they have a major problem with suicides of people who had straight A's in high school and became C average students in M.I.T., I have yet to hear of a Technion student who committed suicide because of low grades. Why? Because Israelis don't have the unhealthy obsession about not being a “loser” that Americans do. Technion students know best to realise that their low grades are not their own fault, but rather the fault of the institute's general policy.

I received some flak due to this. One Technion professor (who graduated from M.I.T.) once asked me why my grade average was relatively low. I told him I had better things to do with my time, and did not want to invest the much extra time in getting perfect scores, and that I never took a course or a test again if I got a passing grade (no matter how low). I spent many hours in my Technion studies working on my homepage and on open source software, interacting with my fellow students, browsing the web for information and knowledge, etc. and they later on provided fodder for my works of fiction, humour and philosophy. So I knew that I was right in trying to enhance my general skillset instead of just my grades.

Some Americans may think I’m a “loser” for finishing with an average grade of only 84.6% (which still made me a cum-laude student) and not being able to persist in the same job for a long time since. But I’m not competing like an Olympic athelete at some silly race on life. Life is meant to be enjoyed - it is not a silly race.

Silver Linings Playbook

A good friend recommended me to watch the film Silver Linings Playbook, and said it discussed a man who had Bipolar disorder (or “Mania-Depressia”), which is something I have been suffering from as well. I watched the film and found it imperfect: slow starting, irresponsible, and a little depressing at times. But it was a great film, with some great acting, many jokes and many awkward and funny situations, and many details I could relate to. So it was perfect simply because it was imperfect. Films that are too perfect are too boring.

Anyway, the theme of the film was that you can be happy and content even if it appears you are a “loser”. Despite the fact that I am still living with my parents at 35, that I've never been in a relationship with a girl (and I am a straight guy), that I had a hard time keeping a job as a programmer, and it's been a while since I've gone out of Israel, I am not a loser, and neither probably are you.

That put aside, I still want fame, recognition, money, and becoming a household name. It's just what I want and what I think I can do. That's part of who I am, and part of what I think I can do.

Jennifer Lawrence

And Silver Linings Playbook brings us to Ms. Jennifer Lawrence, who played a lead role there and won many awards including the Academy Award for best actress (a.k.a the Oscars) at the young (for an Academy Aware winner) age of twenty-two (22). I was quick to dismiss her due to previously playing in the dystopian The Hunger Games (I dislike dystopian stuff) but I loved her on Silver Linings Playbook. Although attractive, Ms. Lawrence is certainly not the most beautiful woman I met or saw, and I'm sure she has some personality quirks (like we all do), but thanks to playing her card rights, she is now a much coveted Alpha Female, who can have the rest of her life (and I wish her a very happy and long life) go in a direction she chooses.

The Importance of Human Networking

While being an Objectivist, I am going to make a surprise statement: Ayn Rand’s books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have a tragic ending. Yes, in The Fountainhead, unlike in my parody and modernisation of it which I called “The One With The Fountainhead”, World War II is not prevented, and the characters each end up unhappy. On the other hand, in my parody, Dominique Francon becomes the president of the United States, Roark is her husband and father of her children and decides to pursue a career in paleontology (having reached saturation as an architect), Toohey starts a new career as an excellent saxophone player, and Gail Wynand transforms his newspaper empire into something more benevolent.

Furthermore, it is clear from the Fountainhead that like Howard Roark, Ayn Rand expected fortune and success to come to her at the time without her doing anything about it. In Atlas Shrugged on the other hand, all the characters including the protagonist Dagny and the antagonist John Galt, are constantly travelling and networking. Like it should be. Today you can do the same using mostly (but certainly not exclusively) Internet means.

And that was also my problem, which I've decided to avoid now.

David and Goliath

The Israelites and the Philistines schedule a large battle. The philistines have far superior equipment with armors made out of cast iron, which the Israelites don't have. Eventually, Goliath, a tall Philistine giant, steps forward and asks for an Israelite man worthy enough to fight him and determine the fate of the battle (something quite common in the Near East). The Israelites seem like they will lose the battle.

Out of nowhere, a young Israelite boy whom hardly anyone knew about steps forward with a sling and a few pebbles. Goliath thinks this is ridiculous and ridicules him. However, the boy quickly puts a pebble in his sling, and after rotating the sling to achieve a very large velocity (not unusual with slings) hurls it with great accuracy (also not unusual, because shepherds in the Near East effectively used slings to kill lions and other predators to their flock) into Goliath's face, which was uncovered to allow him to see. Even if Goliath's shield bearer wanted, he could not have lifted the huge shield in time, and Goliath was completely not agile in his suit and armor. The sling's rock smashes Goliath brain, and he falls to the ground dead. The Israelites have won the battle.

The Boy's name was David.

Why do I think it's important here? Because David was a hacker (see Paul Graham’s “The Word ‘Hacker’”) - he knew the rules, and played by them, but knew how to bend them, in order to earn his victory. There were many other hackers since, and there are a lot of them today even if some of them think that “hackers” only mean no goodnick and malevolent computer intruders. Hackers come in all shapes and sizes - and many of them (including Ayn Rand and Jennifer Lawrence) were or are female.

Was David Jewish and Goliath a Philistine? Did the battle actually happen in its form? What really happened to David next? That is hard to know, because in a true open source fashion, the peoples of the Near East gladly borrowed legends and memes from other people and improved them, or adapted them to their whims. This is similar to how we now create fan fiction by the droves. (Only now it's in much greater speed and capacity.) Moreover, in a way, the tale of David and Goliath is obscured by the mentality of the times, and its context within the larger epos of the Bible.

The Machines That Can Give You Questions

Back when Pablo Picasso asked for commenting about computers, he said “But they are useless. They can only give you answers.” and in a sense he was right, because most computers at his time were used for one-off (and time-consuming) calculations and simulations. But there was another use of computers that was still in its infancy then and unknown: computer networking. But as technology improved, it became more and more powerful and pervasive.

The 1986 film Jumpin' Jack Flash Starring Whoopi Goldberg (which I highly enjoyed and can recommend) exemplified the power of early computer communications, though it was still in its infancy. The early popular Internet around the late 90s, with the so-called “Web 1.0” was a hodgepodge of static web sites (often at Geo Cities), lots of useless or incomplete information, search engines that were still not very good, and naturally, lots of fan pages of Buffy and Sarah Michelle Gellar (who was the Jennifer Lawrence of the time).

If you wanted an interactive many-to-many discussion, you had to use Usenet, or mailing lists, or Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or Slashdot, or whatever.

That has changed significantly, with the fact that JavaScript matured, wikis, web forums and blogs became popular, search engines (most notably Google) became better, and, later on, we've seen the rise of web-based social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, which provide a more integrated experience and a quicker and easier one.

That does not mean that all the old Internet mediums are dying - mailing lists , IRC, and even some Web 1.0 sites (including my own) are still alive and kicking, and people now are increasingly using Jabber/XMPP/GTalk/GChat.

Anyway, because computer networking allows humans to communicate with other humans, they can provide you with questions. Lots and lots of questions. So I think Pablo Picasso would have loved the Internet (and other means of online communications such as SMSes, phone calls, mobile phone calls, etc.) of 2013.

Chuck Norris

Which brings us to Chuck Norris, who reportedly lost only one fight - to Bruce Lee - from the time he became a professional fighter, until now when he is old, has a malfunctioning left leg, and can be beaten relatively easily by some of the most competent of his younger peers. However, I am sure this is not the only battle that Chuck Norris has lost, because we all had many disappointments in our lives, and things that didn't work like we wanted to, people we liked or even loved that hated us, moved out of our reach or died, and opinions we thought or proclaimed that turned out to be mistaken. Chuck Norris had those too. These lost battles are part of who we are as human beings and a natural part of life on Earth.

That put aside, Chuck Norris recently lost a much bigger battle than the one with Bruce Lee, because the seemingly silly and popular Internet meme, the Chuck Norris facts (and other memes that they span) have become a much bigger and better fighting machine than he has ever have been. Only it is not a physical war - it is a gentle and subversive (but equally as powerful) psychological war. And despite common beliefs, a good psychological war is not won by intimidation or "defeat", but by Saladin’s method of respecting your adversary, showing mercy towards him, even supporting him by what appear to be his mistakes, forgiving him and trying to reach a common ground.

Many people were easily indoctrinated into the Chuck Norris facts meme. I recall this conversation on Freenode’s #perl in June 2006, shortly after Randal L. Schwartz (a really great guy, whose relationship with me started on the left foot, but that we're now on good and even friendly terms with one another) told me about the Chuck Norris Facts Internet "meme" and I was quickly able to come out with my own fact. After collecting a few original facts like that, I set up a page for them on the humour section of my homepage having figured out that even if I had a silly quirk of writing such factoids about people and things, then people will still take me more seriously due to my longer stories and screenplays and my longer and more serious essays.

But the reason why Chuck Norris/etc. facts are so powerful is because they are so accessible and easy to create, not in spite of it. Chuck Norris facts like “Guns don’t kill people. Chuck Norris kills people.” or “There is no theory of evolution - only species of animals that Chuck Norris allow to live.” or my own “Chuck Norris read the entire English Wikipedia in 24 hours. Twice.” or “A is A and A is not not-A — Unless Chuck Norris says so.” highlight some major problems and assumptions about our existence, and makes us think. They give us questions. A lot of them.

We all have a master, and should be humble

A Jewish tale tells of a mighty emperor, supposedly a “king of kings” who conquered so many nations and people, that he believed and proclaimed that he was unstoppable and not even God (the real “King of the Kings of the Kings”) could stop him. God did not like him. So what did he do? He let a fly enter the emperor's head and keep buzzing. The emperor could not stand the fly buzzing in his head, and ended up being driven to insanity, and then committing suicide. So his Hubris (= excessive human pride) caused him to be killed by a creature as insignificant as a fly.

While this is a folk tale, it illustrates the fact that we as humans are still at the mercy of forces beyond us. As the old thought experiment goes, tomorrow Linus Torvalds, who created and still maintain the Linux kernel, and is the poster child of the open source movement (and a really smart hacker, and a father to three daughters) can get hit by a bus. I am almost certain the Linux kernel development and the open source world in general will survive this shock, but a wonderful and beautiful life will be lost forever. I can also get hit by an automobile, and so can Chuck Norris, who may now be old enough to have a heart attack or any other deteriorating health problems due to old age. We are all fragile, and must realise we should not succumb to Hubris, because even if God does not exist, then Hubris will make us do some really silly stuff, which will end up causing our downfall.

As surprising as it sounds, even God has a master: logic. Ever since Aristotle codified logic in his Organon (which back then was not so taken for granted - “A is A, and A is not not-A? Of course A can be not-A. What kind of drugs is he on?”), which mathematicians, scientists and engineers have used to construct greater and better technology - both physical and “concrete” (like the tall buildings in various cities around the world, land, air and space travel, and naturally - computer and computer networks) and mental (like the various philosophies, idea systems, and mythological systems, up to this very essay and very word), logicians have proved that some tasks are impossible to perform and true omnipotence is not possible. Perhaps the most famous is “Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift?”. However, a more recent and more important one is the Halting problem, which specifies that one cannot write a program which will finish within a finite time, that will determine if any other arbitrary program will terminate or alternatively run forever. While the formal proof is complex, there is a short and informal proof that most intelligent people can understand. So the King of the Kings of the Kings, as mighty and wonderful as he is, also has a master.

“Put your faith in Allah, but tie your camel”

The tale (a Hadith) tells that Muhammad saw a shepherd going to pray, while keeping his Camel untied. He asked the shepherd why he kept his camel untied and the shepherd told him: “I put my faith in Allah, that the Camel won’t escape”. So Muhammad told him (and I paraphrase) “Dude, it doesn't work that way. Camels can escape due to nature’s whims. So: put your faith in Allah, but, for the love of God - tie your Camel.” (I am an Israeli, agnostic, non-religious, Jew but I think I can borrow useful memes from Christianity, Islam, or whatever, if I think they have merit, right? See Ad-hominem).

As much as I admire God for his wonderful creation, I still have to help myself, and help him help me. I also am not sure whether I will continue to live after I die, so I'd rather not risk it. God's creation is wonderful, but there's always a risk I'm being toyed by some evil genius and that reality is not what it seems to be (see Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” thought experiment, and naturally The Matrix concept from first Matrix film, which I have yet to watch). Alternatively, it is possible that God does not exist, and reality is simply whimsical and random, but still enabled the creation of life, intelligence, and finally - human consciousness. So it may sound farfetched to you, but I don't want to die - not now, not in a thousand years - not ever. Maybe it's a scary thought, but I have accepted it now, and wish to enjoy youth rejuvenating biological immortality. And I don't want me or any of the living heroes I admire in the present, both those that I know and those that I have only heard about (including some people I have a feud with, but still know are mostly good people), to ever have to die due to old age, accidents, or misfortune.

Hackers Own The World

Hackers like David are the true holders of power in the world. In the Jewish Bible, the myth of David is muddled by him later becoming a tragic hero, and that his only true love, the sexy, and likely minded, female hacker Michal becoming barren and supposedly jealous, but there are plenty of other hackers, both living and fictional, in the world whose story had a happy ending. And here's the thing: this is what an Action Hero is all about - he defies the rules, bends the rules, and eventually wins. A tragic hero on the other hand is bounded by many invisible rules, and cannot win. So Action is the exact opposite of Tragedy. (And to truly see why this is true, you should watch and listen to the 1m43s-long trailer for Shakespeare’s Hamlet starring Arnold Schwarzenegger from the excellent film [the] Last Action Hero.) I also guarantee you that this very essay is not perfect, and that’s OK, because I’m a hacker and like to bend the rules, and while I care about quality, I also care about getting something - anything - out of the door quickly. With the help of editors, I can always fix the essay later, in case a prestigious magazine such as Time Magazine or Playboy would wish to publish it, but if I wait until it is letter perfect before I publish and announce it, then it will be a big waste of time.

I also realised that even though I placed my stories and screenplays under the /humour/ part of my homepage, they were also almost always stories of action. Many action films now contain a lot of humour, and humour films and even dramas are often action films in disguise (and that includes Silver Linings Playbook). Many people complained that each and every popular Hollywood film now contains a mixture of action, love and sex, humour, drama, and naturally - a happy ending. However, my stories also have all that, and during writing them, I wasn’t trying to make their “ratings” higher - just to write what was on my mind, and to make the story as fun as possible. And as surprisingly as it sounds, some of the most ancient myths (e.g: the stories in the Hebrew Bible, or those of the Greek mythology) also contained all that in their own old and now antiquated way.

Many people will think I'm being blasphemous by paraphrasing the story of David and Goliath, or the Hadith about Muhammad, and spicing them up a little, but the thing is - it makes these stories something alive and dynamic because our times are different. Shakespeare’s plays were narrated as they were during his times, but reading them now is boring. And that is because our times are different (and hopefully better).

Hackers Make the Best Warriors

I once read a feature in an Israeli adolescents' magazine about the Navy SEALs, who are the chief commando unit of the United States Navy, and they said there that while many very muscular young men (which they called “a Rambo and a half”) approached them about joining, they didn’t survive for too long in their training, and that those who did were those with a “high I.Q.” and a great character. The United States has an unnatural obsession with I.Q., which is not a good measurement for intelligence (for many reasons), but the point is that they are intelligent and competent.

And what is the recipe for such intelligence and competence? The answer is having a mostly happy childhood, being open-minded and knowledgeable about all sorts of small things, getting a lot of information, knowledge, understanding, and insights, and being a whole rounded person. The world’s greatest warriors such as Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee were not overly muscular, and Chuck Norris had a happy and supposedly uneventful childhood. He also was aware that he has to stand for himself, and take decisive action (“The Gods help them that help themselves”) instead of letting life lead him in its own way ("Go with the flow" or "Be a product of your environment"). So did most of the Navy SEALs.

A murderous villain can shoot to all directions and perform a lot of killing, but a good warrior requires precision, accuracy, intelligence and competence. This involves being a well-rounded, happy and benevolent person. Saladin was the greatest physical warrior of his time, and he was extremely noble, and spared and cared for the lives of the Knights Templar (who were really crazy people), to say nothing of that of innocent men, women and children who came in his way. Whenever I run into a moral dillema, I think to myself “What would Saladin do?” and then do exactly that.

A lot of people believe that the children of today are unusual because they don't have the patience to read anything longer than a twitter utterance ( see Noise to Signal’s “TL;DR” cartoon), but I recall that most of the youth of my generation (I am 1977-born), also did not read any books, or read most of the history and other textbooks of my class (like I did too), , and instead spent a lot of time playing with friends or watching television or whatever, and they turned out fine eventually. Nowadays, many kids are bound to do things that will make some of us as grown-ups think that “the generation is diminishing” but naturally, this is folly (see the Noise to Signal’s “Fire” cartoon and the comments about it), and is just indicative that you are growing more cynical.

As a matter of fact, newer generations can build on the work, knowledge, and wisdom of older generations (“Standing on the shoulders of giants”) and achieve dazzling new heights. During Helenistic times, many people believed that philosophy was a useless mind exercise, that philosophers were contaminating the youth, and that they were parasites who make problems where none exist. That was all well and nice, until the Romans had a lot of pain and casualties, conquering the island of Archimedes due to the many devices and inventions he came up and that were used to protect it.

And like I said, there are many other ways to wage war that do not involve bloodshed or even violence.

In my screenplay Selina Mandrake - The Slayer, Selina runs into three vampire warriors (“The Three”) dressed as Klingons, who tell her that “Every mighty Klingon warrior has watched Sesame Street” to which she exclaims: “Mighty Klingon vampire warriors who have watched Sesame Street… this decade royally sucks!!”, but most of the best American warriors of the relatively recent past (of all kinds) have watched Sesame Street, because they loved it as happy children (and later as adults).

The New Alexandrias

Alexandria used to be the “It city” of the Helenistic period. While some inland cities like Jerusalem and Damascus had a good strategical position and were important religious centres, almost all the great philosophers lived and operated in Alexandria. Why Alexandria? Because it was a port city and close to the sea. It is well known that many of the peoples of the Near East lived by and loved the sea: the Greek, the Phoenicians (which the Israelites referred to as Canaan), etc. The Israelites (who are now the Jews) started as a kind of sub-culture and fashion among the Canaanites (and Archaelogists witness a transition in Palestine and other parts of the Levant from the Canaanite period to the Israelite period) but they later on were heavily influenced by both the Phoenician and the Greek, by culture, ideals and even by blood. Even in the Bible, the tribe of Dan is described as “setting sail to ships”.

Today there are many Alexandrias: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, London, Barcelona, Rome, Rio-de-Janeiro, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai - even (and for us Israelis - especially) Tel Aviv. And even Alexandria, in its more modern form, after at least a single destruction, is the second largest city in Egypt, and probably more vibrant than Cairo, which is the inland capital.

Here's the thing about human life: it's not preserved automatically. It must be kept alive by effort. Often a lot of effort. You must fight death, irrationality and stagnation, from within and from without. Often it involves some pain, but usually fighting for your life is fun and rewarding, and gives you a lot of joy. It is well known that of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World only the Pyramids of Giza still stand. But while the other wonders were marvels of aesthetical beauty, the Pyramids were just giant, unaesthetic, graves, which no one would like to live in. Even the Mayan pyramids in Yucatan look more pleasing than them.

My second biggest mistake: not accepting who I am.

Throughout most of my adulthood, I have been criticised for various things I believed in or liked: the fact I was a pro-life, and non-cynical person (or Aristotlean), the fact that I liked ponies, Ewoks, and smurfs (so cute!), the fact that I hated being Mr. Macho in real life (and was instead a gentleman among females), the fact that I didn't have a relationship yet, the fact that I placed photos of scantily clad females on some of the wallpapers on my desktop at home (and people claimed I was treating females as sex objects), the fact that I got into hypomanias (literally "below-manias"), the fact that I didn't consume caffeinated or alcoholic beverages at all, the fact that I found porn disgusting instead of arousing, the fact that I chat a lot on IRC, the fact that I listen to mostly pop music, and so on and so forth.

However, I now realise that these are some of the things that make me who I am, and I shouldn't try to be someone else. Geeks and hackers come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no need to try to fit better among fellow computer hackers, just due to the portrait of J. Random Hacker in the Jargon file. I do not mind people who deviate from my preference in some or all respects, but no two people (including not two identical twins) are alike. You should accept who you are too.

Please all → Please none

Aesop (who was most likely an ancient Greek meme, similar to today’s Chuck Norris facts) tells the story of an old man, his grandson and a donkey who walk from one city to another and no matter how they utilise the donkey (without anyone on it; putting only the grandson on the donkey; putting only the grandfather on the donkey ; both riding the donkey; etc.), people criticise them for the situation. The conclusion was “Please all and you shall please none”.

How is it important? Some people, especially those that are jealous or envious of you are bound to complain. You smiled while performing a sad song? Someone will complain. You’re wearing prescription glasses? (Like I do.) Someone will label you as “half-blind”. You wrote some Star Trek fan fiction? Someone will tell you it’s lame. You wrote Chuck Norris facts or lolcats? Ditto.

You're thin? Fat? Chubby? Look too normal? Plump? Someone is bound to complain.

So just be happy with who you are. Naturally, if enough people complain, and/or you think their criticism has some merits, you can try to improve in some respects (without making a fuss about it). But be happy with what you have and who you are, despite all the haters.

Don’t Just Go with the Flow - Act Now!

I read somewhere, that while the survival mechanism of animals and plants operates automatically, the survival mechanism of humans operates by choice. We must choose to use our consciousness (which some people refer to as “sentience” to distinguish from awareness) and see what we do now. “Going with the flow” (like only dead fish do!) or claiming you are just “a product of your environment” is not a good idea: act now, move something, make decisions, because the worst possible mistake is to not do anything at all. Initiate stuff.

If I didn't take the time to work on my home site, it would have not grown to a tenth of the size it is today. And I started with some spartan pages written in very old HTML with some mathematical riddles, and a C.V. and stuff. Now my home site is positively huge and people can spend days on end reading everything I've placed there, and also adding more and more stuff there is easier for me out of practise. A lot of people have been jealous (i.e: wishing what I created was created by me) or envious (i.e: wishing to destroy what I did) but I knew better than to be permanently set back by them.

You too can have a wonderful home page, or become a good martial artist, or write great fiction, or learn how to cook very well, or simply lead a happy life full of wonder, love, and happiness. But it means you have to lead your life by choosing to think, making decisions and acting - not let nature take you in its random ways the way it sees fit.

Even if consciousness is just an illusion, and we don't truly have free will, we should play by this illusion, because not playing by it will make matters very much worse. Those that don't think enough, become terminally ill with mysticism (= mental laziness) and become lazy (despite appearing to constantly work intensively in sedantry work), incompetent, lying, needy, envious and unhappy people who expect everyone to feel sorry for them and obey their orders blindly (up to actual genocide or killing 100 million of their own citizens). Like Adolf Hitler, or Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

What should be done now?

As you may have guessed, superb hackers who have ascended into Qs and stuff, are the true “Kings of Kings”, and I am one of them, and not only that but the actual honest-to-God Messiah!. I am a bit disappointed by people not seeing beyond my words and understanding that they should become Messiahs too, and compete with me, but maybe that is the price I am paying for the fact that I had been playing the Invisible until now.

So what should be done now?

  1. The Iranian government is at the risk of getting an atomic bomb and dropping it on Israel or wherever. They must be stopped. Send unmanned planes to bomb the site where the bombs are prepared and make sure that no one leaves or enters it in one piece.

  2. Every Iranian soldier must proceed to: 1. Read my story The Enemy and How I Helped to Fight it or at least only its first chapter, or one of its translations (which should be worked on), and: 2. Proceed to put the Iranian adminstrative buildings under seige. Disobey your commanders if necessary by telling them “No! I can think on my own, thank you.”.

These are the pressing things. As you shall see below, there is much more. Orders from above! Orders from the mother fucking “David fighting Goliath” of Messiahs!

Honesty

People who are into the Internet world have probably ran into the recent trend about “openness” - open source software (such as the Firefox and the Google Chromium browsers, the VLC video player, various Peer-to-Peer programs, etc.), open and documented protocols and specifications, large-scale and small-scale open "content" collaborative projects (most notably the Wikipedias, many other wikimedia projects, and many other wikis), and lots of other stuff. Yet, openness is also mostly a synonym for such things as “honesty” and “sincerity”: not lying, being direct, and not hiding things. It also means not playing games with people and being happy for their happiness and success, rather than being consumed with jealousy or (God help me) envy (which means you wish to destroy these values, rather than coveting them for your own).

So why is it important? Because you should be honest in everything you do. Do you like a member-of-the-appropriate-sex (MOTAS) that already is in a relationship? Admit it to him or her, but be happy for them, and tell them you can be on the rebound or if they have any friends who are looking for a significant other. That put aside even the most noble gentlemen (and ladies) and those that are happily married and possibly even have children, are allowed to flirt with other MOTAS.

Did your friend, spouse, a celebrity of some sort, or a complete stranger you heard of, who seems nice, get a good opportunity? You can admit you are jealous, but try to keep it at bay, and be happy for them.

Here’s what I wrote when two of my best friends - a great male software developer (and a great hacker) called Omer, and a wonderful female software developer (and a great hacker) called Chen (a Hebrew first name meaning “grace” or “loveliness” which is common among both boys and girls) got married:

Hi Omer! Mazal Tov on Chen and yours marriage. It reminds me of a quote from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre:

“At this period she married, removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.”

Well, in your case I can say that both of you are almost worthy of each other. Congrats again!

As much as I was attracted to Chen (and she likes a lot of the stuff I created too), I didn’t try to break their relationship, and have her for myself, and wished them happiness. And I did it, because I knew there were plenty of wonderful female hackers (including those that are still not very good at computers, or even hate them) and I can eventually find a good one of my own. And I also knew that coming between Chen and Omer, will make both of them unhappy, and that's not what I want.

People may appear to not appreciate you being sincere with them, but believe me, that it will pay in spades later on, also because you'll feel better about yourself, and be happier, more peaceful, and more competent.

The same thing applies to jobs and work. You shouldn't lie on your job interview. Is the company developing in Java and you don't like Java a lot? Admit it. Say that you prefer not to work long hours because people are more productive working during sane hours. If you contribute to the wikipedia or to open source software, admit it, because workplaces that dislike such things about their employees, will likely not be places you'd like to work with. And yes, it means that you should be able to freely talk and admit everything about you (that you are an Israeli, a Jew, a Black person, a Catholic, a Muslim, straight, gay, anti-religious, homophobic, or whatever) instead of the silly laws that try to prevent discrimination and wish to “streamline” the interview while deliberately going against the liberty of speech.

Fact of the matter is, you are allowed to discriminate, even in accepting positions. I did not get many jobs despite feeling that I have done extremely well on the Interviews, yet I would not dream of suing the workplace for not accepting me. Whatever reasons they had they were OK. Furthermore, sometimes I was fired or laid off based on various reasons, and I also accepted my fate and moved on, because working for a certain workplace was not something I was entitled to - it was a privilege.

The Importance of Seizing Opportunities

A good hacker knows better than to create imaginary problems. If an opportunity comes into your way - seize it, and don't read into the minds of those who offer it, and their motivations. You were invited to give a talk? Go for it! It doesn't matter if you were invited because you are female/black/Indian/Japanese/young/old/whatever. Were you offered to write a guest post on a weblog? Go for it! Again - it doesn't matter why. A member of the appropriate sex asked you on a date and you like them and find them attractive? Go for it!

The end result of being cynical and not seizing opportunities and not allowing people to open doors for you is becoming something like the pitiful and tragic character of Captain Nemo in Jules Verne’s excllent novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” who roams the seas, causing a lot of destruction of lives - all in the name of his own incompetence. The end result of seizing opportunities as you run into them is being happy, and eventually standing on your own. Perhaps up to the point of becoming a superhero such as Saladin, Sir Isaac Newton, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, or Aristotle Onassis, who despite their many faults (which were often not uncommon in their times) were incredibly noble, led a happy life, and died as accomplished and highly-admired people. I hope the living heroes and heroines I admire today will not have to die, or if they do, that their reputation won’t be tarnished by many people who are jealous or envious of their success and competence.

Licence

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence version 3.0 (or any later version). See my interpretation of it.

Syndicated 2013-03-08 23:07:00 from shlomif

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