//Comment This Out

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Difference Between Men and Boys is the Toys They Play With

Today we celebrated the kid's third birthday. That vegetable platter with the dip was great and, as usual, there was way too much cake left over. He is still at the stage where the birthday party is more for the adults (though we had several children there) than for the kids. Gives us a time to get together, shmooze, catch up on news, and eat from some good insert your favourite platter here and assorted chazer-rie. I have noticed that kids toys are different from when I was growing up (late 70s, early 80s). Back then, we were satisfied with your standard Hot Wheels vehicles, Tonka trucks, and the Fisher Price "dohickey board" to amuse babies. Nowadays, everything talks, plays music, and other assorted cool things. Talking about Fisher Price, it is generally acknowledged, at least by my friends who have kids, that their quality has gotten worse over the years. In some cases, their kids are using Fisher Price made 20 years ago, while the similar toy they got last year for their birthday is in the closet, all broken. This year's "cool toy"? Magnetic letters that stick to the fridge. These letters, however, can be taken off the fridge, inserted into a "device" which will then tell the kid all about the letter. You could also tell it was Canadian as it says the last letter of the alphabet is "Zed" (and the first letter was "eh"). The only annoying thing about the toy, and all toys that talk for that matter, is that kids will press the buttons over and over again. And over and over. And over and over. I also find it a bit disconcerting that a toy is telling my kids "I love you!". That should be our job.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Plane Diverts from Toronto

An El Al flight bound for Toronto and Los Angeles was diverted to Montreal and later to Hamilton (less than an hour away from Toronto). It was also diverted on the way back from LA. A well known rabbi was on that flight and spoke about it in shul (synagogue) today. He said that when the flight was grounded in Montreal, the plane was under heavy guard. There was also a helicopter circling above, which he joked was the army's only helicopter. Apparently, there was an unconfirmed threat that terrorists were planning on downing the aircraft with a surface-to-air missile. This has been attempted before in Africa on another Israeli airline. My only question is, wouldn't it be somewhat difficult to obtain a missile here in Canada? I can understand being able to procure such a weapon in Africa. But, I wonder how it would be possible to get such a thing here in Toronto? Perhaps the security officials were being overly cautious (better safe than sorry). I hope we'll find out more on this story soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A Pre-Review of The Matrix Revolutions

How am I supposed to review a movie that hasn't come out yet? No, I didn't get a sneak preview, instead I'm going to review The Matrix Reloaded since the next one is coming out. It's been a while since I saw it (been several months) so you'll have to excuse me if I'm a little fuzzy on the details. I thought the movie as a whole was very good, though not as good as the original. I felt that many things in the movie were not paced very well. Parts of the beginning moved a little too slowly. I also think I'm one of the few people who thought that the highway chase scene (15 minutes long) was actually too long. On the other hand, some parts of the movie felt rushed. Towards the end of the movie where they break into the high security facility (shortly before Neo meets the now famous Architect) I felt was rushed and needed more time. Also, Neo's conversation with the Architect was also quite brief, though some may argue that was the point (leaves people scratching their heads). As expected by everyone, the fight scenes were well done. Reviewers focused on the so called "Burly Brawl" when Neo fights 100 Agent Smiths. But that was not my favourite fight scene. My favourite is when Neo battles the henchmen of Merovingian, picking weapons off the wall as needed. It reminded me a lot of the fight scene in the dojo from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That is not surprising, since I have read that the fight choreographer was used for both movies. The movie opened up so many possibilities of interpretation, especially with the short scene with the Architect. As many have guessed, the conversation implies that the world outside the Matrix is also not real, but a simulation (since Zion had been destroyed and the Matrix reloaded six times already). This simulation I have dubbed the "Meta Matrix". If that is the case, then it leaves everyone guessing what is beyond that simulation. I had a hard time grasping at the role of Neo in all of this. If the Meta Matrix is a simulation, then that means that people who die in the Meta Matrix die in the world beyond that. Thus, the current population of Zion could be new individuals. But, the Architect mentioned Neo came to him six times already in the previous incarnations of the Matrix. But if Zion was destroyed, wasn't Neo destroyed also, meaning he died? But if Neo wasn't destroyed the first six times, then how come he doesn't remember? Of course, there could be other possibilities. It could be that the people of Zion are computer simulations themselves. But based on what we've seen, the evidence seems to imply that they were not. Maybe Neo himself is a computer program? That would explain his separate existence six times but the Architect clearly states he is human, and subject to choice. There is another interesting side issue. Mr. Smith has managed to occupy the body of someone outside the Matrix. Did he manage to do that the last six times? Maybe he did. Then again, he seems to be infected with the power of choice (which he attributes to Neo) leading to his unwillingness to be deleted. That could possibly lead to something totally unforeseen from the Architect's point of view. On another note, I liked the brief encounter with Seraph. For those that don't know, "seraph" is Hebrew for "fiery angel". The root of the word is the Hebrew, "to burn". When Neo sees him for the first time through his "Matrix perspective" (green characters of code), instead of the usual green he sees what literally looks like a fiery angelic figure. Nice touch. What is the Matrix? Indeed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

No Apologies Forthcoming

As I expected, Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister who made serious, but quite wacky, anti semetic comments last week, has not backpedaled, but instead used the uproar as a proof that we run the world. That's right, if we don't protest he gets away with it, but if we do protest that proves he was right? It's ridiculous. I actually heard some interesting side information about him over Yom Tov (Jewish holidays) but it will have to remain private. If we really ran the world, you'd think we'd allow people like him into power? Or, as I like to express it sometimes, "If we run the banks, where's my cut?" This gets me thinking about another incident that happened here in Canada not too long ago. A well known figure in the native peoples community, David Ahenakew, made some very surprising anti semetic comments out of the blue. As with Mahathir, there was a demand for an apology. He eventually gave an apology, though, if I recall correctly, not right away. But why the demand for an apology? He has already exposed what he really thinks. Do you think the apology means he is now reformed?

He's Hungarian and Happy

It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that I wasn't the only one from my former classmates who blogs. Dave the Rave, as he once stylized himself in his younger years, now goes by The Happy Hungarian. Sh'Koiach (Congrats) Dave.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Madonna and Kabbalah

If I hear once more, the word "kabbalah" mentioned with a certain 80s pop singer who thinks she's still relevant, I'm going to scream. Don't ask.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Eclipse Local History

At work, I use Eclipse for my IDE of choice. Eclipse, its purists will tell you, is not really an IDE, but a framework for everything and nothing in particular. It uses a modular plug in architecture that allows this "framework" to be turned into a Java IDE (which is how it comes "out of box"), so from my point of usuability, it is an IDE, and a very good one at that. There are tons of third party plug-ins available. In the past I have worked a bit with IBM's Visual Age for Java. Eclipse has many "Visual Age"-isms in it, which is not surprising, since it is a project created by IBM. In many respects, it is the IDE that Visual Age should have been. The best part, though, is the price. free, free, free., as in, it is an open source project. So, if you are looking for a Java IDE which you don't have to pay for, look no further than Eclipse. In any event, Eclipse has a feature called "local history". That is, it uses a local versioning system and will save a local copy of every version of your source code. This is in addition to using versioning (source control) systems such as CVS (which can be used via one of the default Eclipse plug-ins) or Visual SourceSafe (which I use at work using the VSSPlugin). Unfortunately, I noticed that if you delete your local copy of a file without checking it into a source control system first you are then lost, which is what happened to me today (silly me). Or are you? As it turns out, Eclipse still has the local history of the file saved. I was able to retrieve the file manually and save another copy of it. (Look for the following directory path /.metadata/.plugins/org.eclipse.core.resources/.history.) It would be nice if they included a restore feature that will undo the accidental delete automatically within Eclipse.

Warm Sukkos

This year the first few days of Sukkos were among the warmest in memory. To tell you the truth, I have had warmer Sukkos holidays before (one which the good weather lasted all seven days) but in all of those cases, Sukkos was relatively early that year. This is the first sukkos which was relatively late in the year (mid October) yet still the weather was fabulous. Unfortunately, it didn't last very long as we're now experiencing heavy rain and the forecast is predicting the usual cold blah weather that one expects to be standard fair for the next month. Of course, it could be one better. When I was in Israel, I experienced seven days of non stop great weather that has never been matched by Toronto.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

She's Pregnant!

My wife is going out to get herself a Froster. It is currently 5C (41F) out, definitely not "Slurpee clone" weather. So, why is she doing it? She's pregnant. I love that excuse, which can be used for so many things. Its a pity men cannot use it. G-d willing, our number three will be coming next month. Stay tuned.

Painting the Town Red

We just had our provincial elections and the Liberals won by a landslide, sweeping the Tories (who won the last two elections by a landslide) out of power and reducing them to a mere 24 seats. The NDP (New Democratic Party) lost big time. They are now reduced to 7 seats, which causes them to lose official party status as they have less than the minimum required seats (8). Last election they also lost seats and were going to lose official party status until the law was changed on their behalf. At the rate they're going, they may soon find themselves as popular as the Green party or the Freedom party (whoever they are). I say, good riddance. Here in my riding, it was a close race. A good percentage of the people who live here are Jewish and quite a few of those are Orthodox. The Orthodox (and a percentage of those who are Conservative and Reform) send their children to Jewish private day schools (what used to be referred to as parochial schools). To put it bluntly, we've been looking for a break on our tuition and want the government to kick in. The Tories had "promised" that they would do something about it (to be more accurate, some politicians gave the indication of a "maybe" they'll do something about it). The Liberals, on the other hand, said explicitly that they will not fund private schools. At the same time, they also promised to put more money into public education. So, you can guess who voted for whom if they had kids in a Jewish day school. Just for the record, my son has recently started preschool in a Jewish school. I can understand the reluctance of people regarding the handing over of public money to what is a private institution. However, they do seem to forget that we are taxpayers like anyone else. I have heard the various arguments over the issue. I'd like to add my own argument (which may or may not have been articulated by someone else). The government saves a lot of money due to private schools. Why? Because for every child enrolled in a private school is a child not enrolled in public school. And a child not enrolled in public school means the government will not have to fund that child which it would automatically do if that child was there. Consider this: Assume the government spends $3500 per year per child in public school (don't know the true statistics). Assume there are about 10,000 children in private school (also not a real statistic). That adds up to $35 million per year that the government does not have to pay. Imagine what would happen if all private school children went to public school? There would be grumbling, but the end result would be that they would pay it. I think it is reasonable for us to ask for a piece of the education funds. After all, the children are getting educated.