The Dutch Prime Minister’s Personal Transportation

The following anecdote, told by MK Ofir Akunis, appears in the protocol for the January 26th, 2010 session of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs committee (translation mine):

It reminds me of a story. In 1997, I was with Prime Minister Netanyahu in an official visit to the Netherlands. A tall man rode a bike to the Dutch Prime Minister’s office, to the front gate, and [the Israeli] security detail didn’t allow him in. When verifying his identity, it turned out he was the Dutch Prime Minister himself. Not wearing a helmet, as I recall. It’s a true story.

On Hubris

Every so often, I read an article or blog post where the author correctly asserts some problem (say, technical hiring,) is hard to solve, even harder to measure the correctness of the solution, and whats more, most are bad at either or both.
He then goes to show his perfect solution, which is just as faulty as ones he dismiss at the beginning of his post.

My thinking is that there are no trivial solution to problems which are known to be hard: having an open problem that is being tackled by many, yet remain unsolved, is probably a very good signal that there isn’t an obvious or simple solution for it. Especially not one that can be summarized in the narrow margins of a page, or a blog post.

(This post, of course, probably demonstrates the same deficiency)

A Change of Address

In a couple of weeks I’ll be leaving Tel-Aviv for Berkeley, California.

I’m too busy with the move to write anything remotely intelligent about it, yet feel compelled to post a notice of it.

Reading “Mein Kampf”

Apple could put the entire text of ‘Mein Kampf’ inside the iTunes User Agreement and you’d just click agree.
— John Oliver (source)

Hitler’s seven-hundred-page screed […] is so unreadable that, despite its ubiquity during the Third Reich—more than twelve million copies, often given as wedding presents, sometimes in gold-leaf editions, were sold—it is unlikely that most Germans actually cracked the book open.

— Sally McGrane, Diffusing ‘Mein Kampf’

The Perils of Unicode

Discussing some Unicode issues at work, I recalled something that happened to me in 2000:

I had just landed my first programming job, converting a software from storing bi-directional texts in visual order, to storing them in a mostly Unicode-compatible logical ordering.

To assist this immense task, my boss, who was big on printouts, made sure we had a printed version of the Unicode specifications. It was a behemoth of a hardcover, rivaling the Encyclopædia Britannica in size.

I ceremonially placed the specifications on some noisy server, and left it there, never to be opened.

One morning, I noticed the above mentioned server to be even noisier than usual, an issue I tried to solve by gently kicking it.

Off fell the Unicode tome, missing my leg by a centimeter. I then noticed it dented the server’s case, which made it touch the hard drive mounted inside.

Upon examination, that hard drive was found to be no longer functioning. It was also found we had no recent backups of it. Luckily, no one knew what that server was doing in the first place.

tl;dr: Unicode kills hard drives.