Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

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Context switching

It’s the start of a new year, and like everyone else I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.

For the past couple of weeks during my time off from work, I’ve been coding up a redesign of Hebcal.com based on the Bootstrap front-end framework. It’s great fun to learn something new and to do a little bit of coding, even it’s just HTML and JavaScript.

Hebcal been online since 1999, and the first major redesign was just 2 years ago. It’s rather amazing how much the web has changed just in the past 2 years — not just the advent of HTML5, but the increase in phones & tablets. 20% of the 2.7m visits to Hebcal.com in 2012 were from mobile + tablets! That’s up from about 6% of visits two years ago.

So now I’m back at work and I need to shift my attention away from coding and back to vision & strategy. I also need to make that transition from hanging out with my family (cooking, shopping, making handprints, playing soccer in the park or Gobblet on the carpet, reading) to being in the office.

Hella dope Slang Flashcards

Slang Flashcards Ariella and Avital gave me a set of Slang Flashcards last night.

Here’s the marketing pitch:

“Do you want to be able to communicate with America’s youth? Does your proper English make you feel stuffy? Then you’ll be thrilled to see this set of 60 double-sided laminated slang flashcards. Combining the staid style of student primers with contemporary slang, these flashcards reverse to a pronunciation guide, full definition and sample sentence. Study up and you’ll be talking slang like ‘I can assure you that the Tupperware party will be mad (quite) crunk (entertaining).'”

One of my favorites is “Yo, lil’ dawg, daddy’s got to bounce.”

Stickin’ it to da man

I voted early, but I didn’t use one of those creepy touchscreen voting machines. I got a paper ballot instead.

Yes, I know that California isn’t using the Diebold machines (my county is using AVC Edge). But I still think we need a better electronic voting system. I am biased towards David Chaum’s Votegrity system, probably because I think using blinded signatures is a slick technique for an e-voting system.

If you want to learn more about David Chaum’s scheme but don’t have a PhD in math, check out “Tilting at the Ballot Box” from the September issue of Business 2.0 (local mirror).

Until we get a real electronic voting system, I’m going to stick to the paper ballots.

Santa Clara County Voter’s Guide

There are a bunch of initiatives on the ballot for the upcoming California and Santa Clara County election. Here is my slate:

1A – yes

59 – yes

60 – no

60a – no

61 – yes

62 – no

63 – yes

64 – no

65 – no

66 – yes

67 – yes

68 – no

69 – no

70 – no

71 – yes

72 – yes

A – no

B – no

C – yes

I – yes

Whatever you do, be sure to vote no on Prop 62. It would screw over the smaller political parties.

Biking to work

I rode my bike to work today for the first time in 4 years. It felt pretty good. I really love that Italian steel frame.


After staring at the Santa Clara Valley Bikeways Map for several hours, I decided to take Middlefield Road for most of the way, and then hop on the VTA Light Rail for the last mile. Total trip time was just under one hour (versus about 20 minutes by car).

I had considered biking the whole distance, but Mathilda Ave isn’t very bike-friendly. Then again, the Light Rail wasn’t the most convenient option either. I probably could’ve made it here in 45 mins if I didn’t have to wait for a train. I’ll have to find a different route.

SB 1160: driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

california-seal.jpg Gov. Schwarzenegger is taking a phone poll to assess support for SB 1160, the new Calif. legislation that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented residents.

Please call 1-916-445-2841

Press #5 for “Hot Issues.”

Press #2 for Drivers License (for Undocumented) bill

Press #1 to support the Drivers License bill (SB 1160)

**Remember a lot of people are calling this number. If you get a busy signal please call back or try and call over the weekend. It is essential that your voice be heard. [via United Farm Workers]

Hybrid SUVs

ford_escape_hybrid_2005.jpg We’re thinking about buying a hybrid SUV.

Sometime this year we’re planning to replace our 1992 Ford Taurus with another vehicle. I’d like something that’s safe (ABS, front and side airbags) and a little bigger than our other car (a 1998 Toyota Camry). A compact SUV seems like the right thing for us, but the mileage is typically only about 22-24 mpg. Luckily, three car manufacturers have announced hybrid SUVs.

Our options seem to be to get the Ford Escape Hybrid which comes out this summer, or wait for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid or the Lexus RX 400h, both due out later this year or early next year.

We test drove a regular gas (non-Hybrid) 2005 Escape yesterday, and much to my chagrin we both really liked it. Even though Ford hasn’t been the most reliable car manufacturer historically, the Escape has good enough reliability so Consumer Reports actually recommends it (subscription required). Based on my past experience with the Taurus, I’m very hesitant to buy a Ford. But we both liked the Escape more than the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

My gut says to wait for the hybrid Higlander, since Toyota has been making hybrid cars for a few years now, Toyota is #1 overall for reliability, and the fact that we’ve been so satisfied with our Camry. But if the 9-month waitlist for the Prius is any indication, we might not be able to get our hands on a Highlander for quite some time. Do I really want to keep pumping money into the Taurus for another year?