Mishe-nichnas Adar…

Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar I. Since Purim is right around the corner, this is supposed to be a very happy time, but something seems terribly off in the universe. Part of me really just wants to block out the rest of the world and just sing the song of the season:

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Mishe-nichnas Adar, marbim b’simcha

When Adar enters, our joy increases (Ta’anit 29a).

But it’s tinged with all sorts of sadness. Yesterday’s space shuttle tragedy stands out foremost in my mind, but I’m also reminded of the matzav in Israel. Every time I hear that song, I’m reminded of the wonderful time we had at ulpan in the spring of 2000, when peace seemed imminent. (Six months later everything went to hell.)

We visited our friend Julie in the hospital today. She’s recovering from some really serious surgery. Thank God she’s alive. But she’s got several months (if not years) of physical theraphy ahead of her as she learns how to use her body again. Can you imagine learning to walk again in your mid-twenties?

I’m also bouncing back and forth between apathy and anxiety over the inevitable war with Iraq. Part of me thinks it’s a pointless political move, part of me really wants vengeance, and most of me is downright scared about the possibility of soliders coming home in body bags. Our friends in Israel have their gas masks and drinking water ready.

As my friend Rachel said yesterday, Rosh Chodesh — the New Moon — is always the darkest time of the month. But as the moon returns, night by night, the brightness increases. God willing, the coming month will bring more brightness than darkness.

משנכנס אדר…

Favicon contest: win $5

My good friend Scott has been bugging me for about a week now to get a favicon for radwin.org.

I’m not the artist type (I still haven’t gotten past page 10 of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards), so I need some help.

Therefore, in good capitalist tradition, I’m going to contract out the work to someone else. I’m proposing a contest: if I select your favicon for the site, you’ll win $5.

Contest rules:

  1. Contest begins Friday, 31 January 2003 at 12:00pm PST and ends Monday, 10 February 2003 at 5:00pm PST.
  2. The favicon must be generic enough to work for the entire Radwin Family website, not just for my blog.
  3. Employees of Michael J. Radwin and their immediate families (parents, children, siblings, spouse) are not eligible.
  4. If a Canadian wins, he or she will be required to answer a skill-testing question such as “What is 613 in binary?”
  5. If the winner and I hang out in person with any regularity, they can get the $5 prize in cold, hard cash. If not, payment will be sent via PayPal.
  6. Only original designs will be accepted. You can’t go and submit http://www.raysun.com/favicon.ico and expect to win.
  7. Void where prohibited by law.

Good luck, and may the best favicon win!

MovableType-2.6 release

Contrary to my pessimism yesterday about upgrading software, here’s a release I’m actually interested in:

Version 2.6. Version 2.6 is right around the corner. Some new features and improvements included in this planned release [Movable Type News]

Most of it doesn’t interest me too much, but I’d probably use Sanitize. I’ve already got an RSD file. I doubt I’ll license these ramblings via Creative Commons, but I’m interested in seeing what they mean by “support”. Leave it to technology to push the IP envelope.

Maybe jzawodn will upgrade from 2.21 so he can finally get TrackBack auto-discovery working.

70% considered low voter turnout?

Israeli polls opened about half an hour ago (they’re voting for Prime Minister). There’s little doubt that incumbent Ariel Sharon will beat Amram Mitzna in the election. The cover of last week’s Los Angeles Jewish Journal put it bluntly: Sure, He’ll Win the Election. But Can He Make Peace?

Skimming Ha’aretz for some news on the matter, I saw this:

An unprecedented number of undecided voters in Monday’s final public opinion polls indicate a possible turnout as low as 70 percent. [Ha’aretz]

Seventy percent is low? In the USA, we’d consider that superb. I guess when your very survival is at stake, people really get out the vote.

Upgrade my servers? Yeah, right.

In software engineering, laziness is a positive attribute. If one can accomplish the same task in 3 lines of code instead of 30, a good engineer opts for the 3-line version. That’s why libraries of code are so popular.

Engineers are also risk-averse. Every change you make to the system can possibly de-stabilize it, so engineers like to leave a running system alone. Fred Brooks writes in The Mythical Man-Month that every change has about a 50% chance of introducing a new bug. Two steps forward, one step backwards.

But laziness and risk-aversion can be really negative attributes. How can you ever make any progress if you never touch the system? What if WordPerfect 5.1 was still the state of the art in 2003? We’d be missing out on a decade of improvements like WYSIWYG.

Consider the hypothetical case of the guy who’s trying to get the other 599 engineers at the company to upgrade their web servers to version N, when the vast majority of folks are still running version M.

If I’m happily running version M, what’s my incentive to upgrade? Sure, the guy who maintains the web server says it’s got some great new features, is faster, gives you some better management tools, and fixes a couple of bugs. But I don’t have time to skim the README to see if any of those features would be useful to me. Version M seems just fine to me, and something could go wrong if I go to version N.

Most importantly, senior management does not require that I pay any attention to the guy who maintains the web server. Even if I procmail all of the web server guy’s messages into /dev/null, I can still get a good review at the end of the year just for keeping my crappy property up and running.

The bummer for the guy who works on the web server is that he also happens to be one of the folks who spent the past 2 years trying to improve development process at the company. He helped build a software package-management tool that can tell you in near-realtime what versions of what software are installed on what servers. And when he checks the stats, he finds out that a lot of folks are running really old versions of the web server: versions J, K, and L. Getting people to upgrade to version N is going to be even more difficult.

Maybe this explains why most of his co-workers are still running Netscape 4.08.

Orna’s Sesame-Lemon Salad Dressing

I’m making Orna’s famous Sesame-Lemon Salad Dressing for tonight’s green salad. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • a couple of dashes of Tabasco
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

New cartoon from Brian Frisk

off-my-lawn.gif Brian Frisk, creator of the We Are Robots cartoon series, has just published another cartoon entitled Off My Lawn#2: The Terrorist.

“Flag-waving is a fun, colorful pastime that’s great exercise for your arms while helping to stick it to the terror organization of your choice. But sometimes it isn’t enough. Thank God for Clyde. He’s one of the heroic few working to make sure that in this brave new world, you’re always innocent until proven different-looking.”

I am still AngryBot.

big@boss.com virus update

If you search Google for big@boss.com, you’ll see that I’m #2 today. And the #1 site is in German.

It’s been a week and a half since I first wrote about the fact that I couldn’t find any information about the big@boss.com virus, and the blog comments keep streaming in. One of them even claims that big@boss.com is an MIT conspiracy!

Maybe if the anti-virus vendors stopped calling it the W32/Sobig@MM virus they’d move higher up in the Google search results.