Scribe, ut possis cum voles dicere: dices cum velle debebis (Pl. Ep. 6.29)

Monday, July 31, 2006

No Nukes, part 4

Iran is given a deadline to respond to UN demands about its nuclear program.

This is not fair. I don't remember Israel responding to any UN demands about its nuclear program.

That's right: I know that Iran is a theocratic dictatorship that shows clear intentions to destroy my country and a maybe a bunch of others, like the USA. And Israel is a (perceived) responsible democracy, that too often shows idiotic compassion towards its worst enemies; Israel also says in some way or another that it is "not going to be the first country in the Middle East to use nuclear weapons". None of it matters. Someone - please - break this vicious circle - now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I guess we know the score

Miron scheduled a gig on Friday on a beach between Netanya and Hadera. Nasrallah said that his next bombing target is Netanya. We decided that the show must go on. I just hope that the crowd will come too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And on the flat-screen we kill and we're killed again

My parents left to a vacation in Karlovy Vary. It was planned before the war, so they are not "refugees". But before he left, my father said:

— "If they bomb our home in Nesher, call us. We'll fly to Moscow."

It was a joke, of course.

Still, i can't escape the thought that that's just what our enemy wants us to do - to go back to Moscow.

I was born in Moscow and lived there for eleven years. I love that city. I love the Russian language and the Russian culture. I have family and friends there. I can find a job there. But i just can't think of going to Moscow in terms of "going back", certainly not in the sense of "going back home". My home is here.

I had an email discussion about this war with Mira, my pen-pal from United Arab Emirates. She's a devout Muslim; she's also very intelligent, and quite modern and liberal and feminist too. She says that Arabs - including herself - support Nasrallah, because everything that he says becomes a fact, while the Israeli government lies all the time. While i can't accuse my governement of excessive honesty, i find it rather disappointing that there are people who openly support someone just because he's sincere about being a murderer of innocent civilians. The discussions with her put me back in proportion, though - i'm not talking about the numbers, the fact that we killed much more Lebanese than Hizballah killed Israelis, but the fact that something doesn't make sense in all this.

I mean, seriously - can't we end it in a few minutes? Don't we know where those Katyusha's are shot from? Can't we just destroy the launchers? Why do we bomb civilians so hardly? Did they really all have launchers in their backyards?

Trouble is, no-one will ever take responsibility. Even if a government commission will list every single failure and human rights violation in this war, the generals and the politicians will keep getting their fat salaries and they will have bodyguards that look like Armani models until the rest of their life. An international court won't help either - how can anyone trust them when they chase Serb criminals religiously, but don't dare to touch Saddam, the Assad family or Kim Jong Il?

Someone must be laughing at our naïveté here.

Monday, July 24, 2006


In a parallel universe i am an expat, a chemist and a father.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell what came first.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

No Nukes, part 3

In a bold marketing move Microsoft announced that it will release a portable digital music player called "Fucking".

That's right - the meaning of the word "Zune" (זיון) in Hebrew is "fucking". Imagine, if you will, this dialog:

— "Hello, i'd like to buy Microsoft Fucking for my grandson. How much is it?"

— "Let's see ... 689.95 NIS for the Fucking Device ... 59.95 NIS for a monthly subscription to Microsoft® Fucking Music Service™ - it's pretty good, you can listen to Weezer, Beck and David Byrne ... and you also need to sign an agreement stating that you know that if your grandson tries to crack Microsoft® Fucking Crap™, you will be automatically fucked - i mean, sued."

— "Fuck."

Oh (edit): Did anyone get the Weezer, Beck and David Byrne joke?

Haifa: 2 killed in rocket attacks - News from Israel, Ynetnews

A Katyusha rocket just hit a house one block away from my parents.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Amir E. Aharoni vs. Shalom Gad

He buys a seven hundred channels mixer,
Connects the microphones,
Connects left to left,
Connects right to right,
Connects to electricity,
Finds the red button
And presses

May the temple be built.

(from "Alcohol and Cigarettes" by Shalom Gad)

הוא קונה מיקסר שבע מאות ערוצים
מחבר מיקרופונים
מחבר לפט ללפט
מחבר רייט לרייט
מחבר לחשמל
מוצא את הכפתור האדום

ייבנה המקדש.

(מתוך "אלכוהול וסיגריות" מאת שלום גד)


This just in: Vodka goes very well with ice cream. Makes sense - it's like a five dollar milkshake.

I'm writing a paper about languages of three peoples that have a long historical argument about the very hard question, "Who invented vodka?" I'm talking about Russian, Belarusian and Lithuanian. I may throw Polish in at some stage, too.

Vegan Spam

Here you go:

X-Gmail-Received: af5da61812e6f0b5e7f7133d607317213a97b783
Received: by with SMTP id a15cs102679qbs;
        Mon, 17 Jul 2006 22:42:20 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by with SMTP id t18mr336896nfj;
        Mon, 17 Jul 2006 22:42:20 -0700 (PDT)
Return-Path: <?WORD??WORD?@?mail_domain?>
Received: from F246A7D4ECFC4A2 ([])
        by with ESMTP id r33si415786nfc.2006.;
        Mon, 17 Jul 2006 22:42:20 -0700 (PDT)
Received-SPF: fail
Message-ID: <36781866608732.A3D0FB1D07@5MVMO>
To: <>
Subject: {}NEW} {STOCK_2}
Date: {DATE}
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Mailer: Microsoft Office Outlook, Build 11.0.5510
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2800.1106
Thread-Index: {ALNUM[36-36]}
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit


It gives a peek into the spammers' inner systems. {}NEW} {STOCK_2}, {BODY}, {_WORD){WORD)@{MAIL_DOMAIN} are probably templates, placeholders for actual values and something went wrong in their processing. The actual message that i received was blank.

Also, it was sent by Microsoft Office Outlook. Is Outlook efficient enough to process spam? Or is it fake?

Made Me Cry - Bianca (UPDATED LINK)

Bianca Ryan

This is the cheesiest entry ever. You've been warned.

I hope that it's natural too.

Oh (edit): I suddenly realized that Bianca is the Italian word for "white". Coincidence?

Oh (edit) 2: The previous link died due to copyright restrictions. If you haven't seen it yet, see it now, before this one dies too.

R.I.P. Robert H. Brooks

World Wide Wing Commander
"Being female is reasonably necessary". Brooks

A lifelong fighter for women's rights, Robert H. Brooks died at a very good age.

I salute him, even though he sold meat (hey, i even bought some).

As a vegetarian, i should frown at his title "World Wide Wing Commander", but i suck.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


BBC finally noticed that Israeli civilians die in this war too.

My father works right there in the chemical factories at the Haifa Bay. I couldn't talk to him, but mama said that they are busy transporting dangerous chemicals to a safer place or something. Maybe she's making it up.

I wonder: Nasrallah must know that we can wipe him and most of his army off the face of the Earth minutes after our government decides about it. Well, i think we can. Anyway, he must also know that he can't destroy Israel with Katyusha's only. Then why does he do it? Does he feel that we'll be too nice and won't have the guts to destroy him?

My religious friends say that it's very simple - it's the war between good and evil that must go on because that's how the world works and the Torah says it.

Just yesterday i heard a Joan Baez bootleg that was recorded in Israel in the eighties. Joan is a well known pacifist and adherent of non-violence. At the recording she says just that - humanity doesn't have to accept the idea that bullets solve everything. I believe that it's true, it just has to happen.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hizballah Kills Israeli Civilians

This is the BBC News RSS feed. Can anyone try to find in this picture:

  1. Did the Hizballah kill anyone lately?
  2. Were any Israeli houses hit by rockets lately?
BBC-Israel kills Lebanese civilians


  1. Hizballah killed Israeli citizens - i counted at least five. It's less than the number of the Lebanese we killed, but they are people too. I couldn't find them mentioned anywhere at BBC news. Searching for Naharia yields very old results and Tzfat or Safed yield nothing. They are not mentioned in the timeline of the conflict either.
  2. Yes, but why should the BBC care.

It's the BBC, my friends, the beacon of unbiased truth.

There's a songbird who sings

I dreamt that a friend of mine took a piece of cake i was eating and threw it to the trash. I got unbelievably mad and tried to explain to him that let alone the robbery, i totally hate throwing food to the trash. He was quite indifferent and said that the cake was disgusting. I had to make a point, though, so i spilled a little water on his head. The funny thing is that a similar thing actually happened once - i spilled a little beer on a friend who was pissing me off (no, i didn't drink any beforehand).

When that didn't help, i turned to the Internet. The Internet always helps, doesn't it? I'll show you how bad it is to throw food away, i thought! So i started using a very old version of Netscape Navigator on a Mac. It was very annoying, not because the version was so old, but because it was configured in such a way that with every key i pressed, the computer played an annoying sound. I tried to turn it off, but couldn't find where. Then i found out that it's not even Netscape Navigator, but Konqueror. After a couple of minutes i started realizing that even when i don't press any keys the annoying sound goes on. It was a nasty fucking bird outside the window.


You probably know this lovely little poem:

I woke early one morning,
The earth lay cool and still
When suddenly a tiny bird
Perch on my window sill,

He sang a song so lovely
So carefree and so gay,
That slowly all my troubles
Began to slip away.

He sang of far off places
Of laughter and of fun,
It seemed his very trilling,
brought up the morning sun.

I stirred beneath the covers
Crept slowly out of bed,
And gently lowered the window
And crushed its fucking head.

I'm not a morning person.


Well, i tried to take a picture of it instead, but it flew away, so i took a picture of another one, who looks quite the same, but not as annoying. Exhausted, i lay on the grass and took a picture of my cat Hantouli, which is the last thing that this blog was really missing.

P.S.: Blogger's spell checker doesn't recognize the words "fucking" and "blog".

Friday, July 14, 2006

Eldad Regev

I wrote:
> > But don't expect any significant changes as long as Hamas and
> > Hizballah and PLO exist.

MeahevServi wrote:
> Are you saying the peace in Israel is in hands of Palestinian extremists
> who have to cease to exist in order to make place for those [Palestinians]
> who are ready for compromise?

I didn't say peace, i said "significant change".

> That sounds sound, to some extent, but how to achieve that?
> Because, if IDF tries to simply distroy them :
> a) they would have to do a lot of killing, which would seriously pissed
> of half of the world, especially the Arab world

We piss off the whole world with the fact the we exist. You'd be hard-pressed to find any other nation except the Jews that was hated by so much people for so much time. If we want to be independent, we should stop thinking who are we pissing off. USA bombed Belgrade and Kandahar and Baghdad, did they care who are they pissing off?

Now don't get me wrong - killing anyone is bad. Putting the lives of Israeli soldiers in danger is also bad. (I'm against capital punishment, too). But nobody even considered making peace with Hitler, for example. In the Second World War there was one goal - victory. And victory, in case of Arab terrorists, means total destruction. Arabs never give up. I strongly respect it, but when it's either them or me, i must fight and win.

> b) how much would be enough? I think that attempt would just make
> them stronger, resulting in more and more moderate Palestinians
> joining Hamas and other extremists groups. And thay can't just
> kill them all.

Yes, to some point, but it's not infinite. Killing more and more SS officers didn't make more and more Germans join the Nazi party. A day will come and the simple good people on the street of Gaza, Jenin and Beirut will understand that they must stop supporting this leadership.

> Wouldn't it be better to search for a way to put them in the position
> from which they just wouldn't be able to do a lot of harm to Israel,
> while, on the other side, try to make a deal with those Palestinians who
> are closer to recognition of Israel's right to exist?

That would be perfect, and it is easier than it seems, once we get over the psychological barrier of recognizing that the PLO/Fatah is just as bad as Hamas.

But even in that case i would oppose dismantling of Israeli settlements. The settlements are not the problem - the violence is the problem. I'm not saying "Arab violence" - Israel acts violently too. But once there's no more violence, it doesn't matter where do people live.

Of course it's all theoretical and over-optimistic, but that's the principle.

> one killed Nasralla or Ismail would be easily replaced with
> another Nasralla or whoever.

Not forever.

It took Hamas some time to recuperate after the killing of Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi. The PLO hasn't yet recuperated from the death of Arafat - Abu-Mazen is nowhere near him in terms of leadership. When you think of it, Arafat was really an outstanding leader that was extremely successful in making the world - that includes many Israelis - believing his amazing lies. Actually Arabs themselves always hated him, because they knew that he steals their money and does nothing to bring actual peace, but everyone agrees that he was a wonderful diplomat.

> But, if Israeli government could somehow show to other Palestinians
> that extremists don't do any good to Palestinian people...

Israeli governments doesn't need to show them. They know it very well. They made a stupid mistake in the last elections and voted for Hamas. It's really ironic, by the way - it was probably the most democratic and clean election ever in the Arab world. Well, we made a mistake too, by voting for Sharon (not me).

> > The Knesset passes a law to rebuild Gush-Katif.

> Heh....
> I understand you completely, I mean, I understand your feelings.

It's not so much my own feelings, i didn't live there. I admit that the thing that hurt me personally the most in that ridiculous Disengagement a year ago was the destruction of the homes with bulldozers - i hate seeing a nice thing going to waste. And those homes were nice.

But even though i didn't live there, my heart is with the deported settlers. They really are the best and the most misunderstood people in Israel. They didn't deserve this sad fate.

> I was forced to leave my house once, and that was the worst time of
> my life - the experience that changed me as a person.

Did the Serbian government drive you away from your home? Or did you just have to leave it because of war? There's a difference. In case of Gush-Katif Israeli government made its own citizens leave their homes, which were (arguably) built lawfully, for a purely political reason.

> But, I would like you now, my dear Israeli correspondent, to ask
> yourself two questions:

> 1. Can you think of anyone, and I mean - anyone - amongst the Jews
> in Israel, who actually benefit, make profit - earn money - from the
> conflict with the Palestinians, and who would lose money if that
> conflict is terminated?

That's a very clever and important question. I try to think about it all the time. The answer is hard. I'm not sure. The easy answer would be - IDF officers and arms dealers. And land dealers too.

> 2. If you find that there are such people in Israel, what do you
> think - what kind of profit is that about, a big money, or small bucks?
> And what is the real power and influence of such people in Israel's
> society, big or small?

The families of high-ranking IDF officers are all interconnected with families of politicians and millionaires - the "elites". But being a general doesn't make you very big bucks by itself. It does boost your manliness, though.

Arms dealers - that's huge bucks. But they can - and they do - sell arms to other countries. I'm quite ashamed of the fact that we sell guns to dictators in Africa, Turkmenistan and other unfortunate places. If it depended on me, i would stop all guns exports from Israel and convert the gun factories to ... i don't know ... something else that doesn't kill so much.

Land dealers - yes, there are shady land deals in the occupied territories, but there are even shadier deals in the middle of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and no-one seems to care.

> You see, Aharoni-man, I don't think the Arabs are real problem
> in Israel, at least not the major problem in achieving peace.
> Sure, most of them hate Jews. Some of them will never recognize Israel,
> and there always will be groups who will chose violence to obtain
> their goals.

> So, what should Israeli Jews do in such horrible situation?

United we stand, divided we fall.

> They'll NEVER get sense. And does the life under those conditions for
> a long period of time - thru generations - make sense? Is it healthy
> for Jewish nation?

> I don't think so.

> I think Israeli Jews shouldn't wait for Palestinians to make peace
> with them, together. I think they should make peace for themselves,
> by themselves alone. And they should use what ever it takes.

That's the "ideology" of Sharon-Olmert-Kadima. I always said that it's wrong and the last few days prove me right. That's because it's not an ideology, but a marketing ploy. Seriously - the whole Kadima platform was drafted not by experts in Middle Eastern diplomacy, but by experts in advertising. That's a shame, but the Israelis are brainwashed by the TV.

> Some people in Israel, I call them "the Masters of Israel", or
> "the Owners of Israel" - and their partners in the United States -
> don't want the peace - because they're outta business than. Out
> of business, out of money, out of power, out of ownership of Israel.
> And they wouldn't like that.

> Trust me, Aharoni-man, if the mid-East conflict would be bad
> for business of Israel's big bosses, they would unplug it. Because,
> NOTHING must step in the way of PROFIT, anywhere in the world.

All of it is makes perfect sense, but unfortunately i don't have much to say about it, because i get my information from the same media outlets as you do, and they are controlled by the same billionaires who stay in the shadows.

> I know you won't like this opinion. Jews responsible for not stopping
> the war... (Actually, I like to say - Arabs are quilty, but Jews
> are responsible.)

No, i like it, because you think for yourself, and because you make sense.

> But, that's just my opinion. I don't pretend to be an expert on the
> middle East crisis. I've just done some thinking about it.... That's all.

I'm not an expert too. You don't need to be. You describe the situation better than me and better than any of our experts. I'd make you our prime minister. We need someone neutral (someone neutral who likes us, that is).

Thursday, July 13, 2006


A rocket killed two people in Haifa. It's the first time. It could have been my parents.

Oh (edit): I swear that the article said that two people were killed when i posted it. Thank God that it's wrong.

Ehud Goldwasser

(This was supposed to be a comment reply, but as usual, it grew too long and even acquired a quote from the Vulgate that i saw on a painting in my doctor's office).

Dear N.,

First of all, thanks for teaching me the word tightfisted. I wholeheartedly appreciate it.

The "Dear N." part was directed at you, of course, the rest was mostly a response to my new crazy fan MeahevServi. At first i thought that he is one of my linguist-friends playing a joke at me, but he convinced me that he really is a Serbian guy who learns Hebrew and listens to Esther Ofarim, Zehava Ben and Sarit Hadad for the fun of it. Weird, but true.

I liked the SPITE/DAVKA thing. Identified the SPITE immediately as a Seinfeld reference. I used to write a "Seinfeld dictionary" once, with words such as spongeworthy, ribbonbully, doubledipper etc...

Anyway, about ninety years ago a bunch of pioneers ("halutzim") learned Hebrew for the fun of it and came to live in this crazy Land of Israel in the midst of Arab population. (Were your grandparents among them, by any chance?) For them SPITE was a very good reason. We still live here - hardly 6 million Jews in the midst of 600 million Arabs. In spite. Hæc dicit Dominus Deus: Iſta eſt Ieruſalem! In medio gentium poſui eam et in circuitu eius terras (Ezechielis V). I have a choice - i can go to the USA and be a VMS sysadmin there for a very good salary. But i don't. (It also proves that i am not tightfisted).

By the way, to the best of my knowledge, a significant part of E. Olmert's family made the other choice and lives abroad. I know that i sound like all those religious fanatics that call the radio to tell how they hate Olmert (Galey Tzahal - "Yesh im mi ledaber" etc.), but i just state a fact - there are a few differences between me and Olmert's children and this is one of those differences. I don't mind that his daughter is an outspoken lesbian radical left activist, but when a Prime Minister's sons live abroad, it's a bit too much. Which reminds me, that Y. Rabin's mamramnik son Yuval lives abroad too. And so does Y. Arafat's family. Hmmmm, i see a pattern here ...

Gush-Katif settlers were tightfisted? Too much taxes were spent on them? Maybe. But people who did buy land 20 km's to the north are now shelled with Kassams, so what's the difference? Should they move further to the North, to Tel Aviv? Or maybe back to Poland, Russia, France, Morocco, Argentina? That's what the terrorists want, and they are becoming better than ever at getting it.

Currently the most moral and reasonable and the least violent way to stop them and to make the world take us seriously is to rebuild Gush-Katif. The best argument that the supporters of the Disengagement kept repeating was that Israeli troops won't die in Gaza anymore. Then i would always respond - they won't die in Gaza, but they will die outside Gaza and then they will go back to Gaza too. I can't tell that i'm happy about it, but turns out that i was right. So why did we have to destroy 25 villages and deport 10000 people - our own people?

We can fix this damage by rebuilding Gush-Katif just as it was a year ago. Kfar Darom existed in the time of Mishna, and abandoned some time later; the land was bought from the Arabs in the first years of Zionism and resettled by Jews, until the Arabs drew them away by force in 1948; than it was rebuilt again in 1970 and destroyed in 2005. It can be rebuilt again.

Bring the boys back home? I feel very cruel to tell it, but the last time that we brought the boys back home by releasing hundreds of terrorists, everyone knew that it's a matter of time until Hizballah captures some more of our boys. Now they are rolling on the floor laughing at us. I'm terribly cynical here, but the way we're dealing with it now, there won't be a shortage of boys to bring back home any time soon.

I wish women ruled the world. Or at least more women than today. If i could, i would reserve 60 seats in the Knesset for women. Seriously. (But not Kipi Livni or Limor Livnat, please - they make me sick.) There's a nice song that goes:

Women of the world,
Take over,
'Cause if you don't, the world
Will come to an end,
It won't take long.

P.S. Did you read Allen Ginsberg's Howl? It's a little hard to understand at first, but when you just ignore the intentional grammar errors and let it flow, it's quite powerful. My favorite part:

we hug and kiss the United States under
     our bedsheets the United States that coughs all
     night and won't let us sleep

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit!

Haled Mashal!



Ehud Olmert!



Moloch whose mind is pure machinery!

Moloch whose blood is running money!

Moloch whose fingers are ten armies!

Now seriously:

If you know me, you know that i don't like to repeat other people's opinions and news commentary. That's why i didn't want to write anything about these current events in Gaza - no-one needs me when there are more than enough Gush-Katif deportees and their supporters to tell everyone how precise were their predictions about the consequences of the destruction of their homes. Well, they were precise, any way you put it. My dear N., we gave it a try. I still hope that you are disappointed. Just read the news - BBC, CNN and YNet look just the same in my browser. Better yet, read Allen Ginsberg's Howl. My only pledge is: When you are reading the news, or anything else, just think for yourself. Don't think according to the opinion that you are supposed to have, don't think according to what your parents, teachers or news presenters told you to think. Deporting people from their homes for political reasons never made sense and never will.

But, if you still insist, a few points to think about:

  1. When a Kassam rocket hits "A Kibbutz in the North-Western Negev" - why is it always called "A Kibbutz in North-Western Negev" and not by its name? There are a lot of kibbutzim there, and believe it or not - they all have names! Just take a look at the map.
  2. Why is Gush-Katif called "a settlement bloc in Gaza strip", and Sderot is called "a development town"? It's much closer to Gaza than Gush-Katif. Just take a look at the map.
  3. Why are news reports from Gaza, always, always, look as they were shot with a home video camera? The place is chock-full of professional news reporters from all over the world, and they have very expensive and professional equipment. The cameras in Gaza are just as good as the Cameras in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Palm Springs. What you say - that the cameramen are in a hurry, that they need to shield their cameras from stones and bullets and it hurts the picture? Gimme a break, they had many, many years of experience to improve their filming techniques, despite those hardships. Yes, i think that it is a conspiracy. Somebody set up us the bomb.
  4. Why is one Israeli corporal getting much more news coverage than hundreds of people that are killed, detained or tortured in Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Sudan?

If you think that any of the above is not in line with common sense - can i do anything to change it? Can You do anything to change it?

You can: Just start by thinking for yourself. Don't become an Israeli nationalist, don't support Israel, don't support the Arabs, don't change you political view: Just think for yourself. The gap between the words in the news and the things for which they stand is wider than you think.

Thanks for the attention.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rest in Peace, You Crazy Diamond

Syd Barrett passed away to other universes.

Just today i thought how cool it would be to see the the original four-piece perform the whole of Piper from start to finish.

Well, we're left with Rockfour now, they do Astronomy Domine and See Emily Play damn well.

Verbed! (UPDATED)

BBC verbed "fileshare".

It's not just someone - it's the BBC.

There are over 800,000 Google results for fileshare. I looked at 30 or so, and didn't find any that use it as a verb, but rather as a proper name or a technical term (often FileShare).

P.S.: The words verbed and fileshare are not recognized by the spellchecker.

P.S. II: The word spellchecker is recognized by Microsoft's spellchecker, but not by Blogger's spell checker.

Oh (edit): Here's a little song i wrote, influenced by these news and The Sex Pistols.

Is this the MPAA,
Or is this the RIAA,
Or is this the DMCA,
I though it was the UK.

Monday, July 10, 2006


There's a Canadian guy who traded a paperclip for a two-story house. It looks like a true story. All he needed was a blog and a crazy idea.

There's an Israeli law school graduate who writes a blog in Hebrew about law, free software and most of all leftist politics (he left Meretz, because Meretz wasn't left enough for him; pun intended). It's fine, but not much that you can't read in Haaretz or Guardian too. He rarely attempts to be funny, but when he does, he's not bad. He has many readers and is often quoted in Maariv.

There's an Israeli young lady who writes a blog about her life, her geek pride, software and music she likes. I keep seeing links to her blog everywhere.

There's an Israeli young man, who writes a blog about his life, his geek pride, software and music he likes and also about politics (a mix of Israeli nationalism, environmentalism and libertarianism) and linguistics. Sometimes he attempts to be funny and occasionally people tell him that he succeeds. And sometimes he has crazy ideas too. That's me and i have no more than ten readers. It's not whining and not jealousy; i must be doing something wrong.

Am i writing in the wrong language? Am i unfocused? Do i use the wrong blogging platform?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Applied Syntagmatics - Worth Nothing

Disclaimer: Unlike "People Speaking", "Applied Syntagmatics" entries are not supposed to be funny or enlightening in any way. They are supposed to be a deliberation on linguistics. If you don't care about linguistics, don't expect to find them interesting, but they may show a little of what scientific linguistics is about. It's not rocket science, it's the way we speak. But then, it may be even harder.

By the way - according to current count, this is the five hundredth entry of Aharoni in Unicode, ya mama.

פ': "מכונת הקפה הזו אצלנו בחדר-אוכל עולה ארבעים אלף שקל ולא שווה כלום."

א': "לא, היא שווה, אבל היא לא שווה ארבעים אלף שקל."

P.: "The coffee machine at our dining room costs forty thousand shekels and isn't worth anything."

A.: "No, it is worth(y), but it isn't worth forty thousand shekels."

Oh, the woes of poor Bible translators - they want to translate the holy scripture as closely as possible to the original and it's quite impossible. I really wanted to write about Hebrew without resorting to English translation, but the translation gave me some more ideas.

Now where do i start?

The English isn't worth anything is just not the same as the Hebrew לא שווה כלום. Worth vs. שווה deserves a separate discussion - see below, but the anything and כלום are quite different things. When i studied English as a child my Russian teachers had to explain many times that double negation in English is a no-no, and if there already is a no or a not in the sentence, then nothing is replaced by anything. (This whole last sentence was a big linguistic wordplay; i'm not sure that i would understand it myself had i not written it.) In Russian and Hebrew double negation is the norm. But we'll leave Russian for now.

After all that i wrote until now, it may seem ironic that by itself, the Hebrew word כלום actually means "anything" (according to Even-Shoshan's dictionary), but in practice it is used in this sense only in classical literature. According to the same dictionary, לא כלום and אין כלום mean "nothing". Nevertheless, modern Israelis consider the plain כלום to be the word for "nothing" and use it accordingly, often without לא; for example, כלום can be a one-word answer to the question "What did you do in your last miluim (reserve duty)" - "Nothing". Furthermore, the Hebrew לא שווה כלום is rather more nullifying than the neutral English isn't worth anything, although i say that as a fluent Hebrew speaker and not so much as an aspiring linguist, so i am careful not to claim that it is a consequence of my earlier statements.

Now, שווה. According to dictionaries, שווה is the Hebrew equivalent of the English preposition "worth". In modern usage, however, it is also the stand-alone adjective for "worthy"; a particular case of this last meaning is "sexy", and can be said about both males and females (pronounced shave and shava, spelled the same). But actually this last statement is wrong, because most probably it is not a particular case of the adjectival "worthy", but rather a euphemizing contraction of שווה זיון, "worth a fuck".

I am personally familiar with person P. and i know that he is particularly fond of the "sexy" meaning of שווה and often uses it in the more general and clean sense of "beautiful" about women (is that ... bidirectional euphemization?). And coffee-machine is female in Hebrew. But instead of making the research easier, these pieces of information actually become the point at which it becomes quite hard to decide which sense came first and which is derived, and by which way. But what is possible is to compare the syntactic structure of the utterances and to sort the usages. With such a small corpus it's rough and not too scientific, but it's an easy demonstration of the linguist's work.

Person P. said: "... costs (עולה‎) 40 kNIS and isn't worth (שווה) anything".

Person A. (alright, i) said: "... it is worth(y), but it isn't worth 40 kNIS".

"40 kNIS" is the complement of costs in P.'s sentence, and of worth in mine. P. used isn't worth anything in opposition to costs 40 kNIS; 40 kNIS parallels anything (actually nothing!). Furthermore: Is A.'s It is worth(y) not complemented by anything - or is "complemented" by a so-called zero element?

More stuff to think about - this list is not formulated very precisely and scientifically, but it is supposed to be thought-provoking:

  1. Try to describe the role of the repetition of "forty thousand shekels" as an element that creates opposition.
  2. Notice that the first sentence uses "and" to divide the opposing parts, and the second one uses "but".
  3. Notice the chiasmus - "forty thousand shekels" comes in the first part of P.'s sentence and in the second part of A.'s.
  4. Is worth really a preposition or a verb - in English and in Hebrew?
  5. שווה is used three times in the dialog - would it be proper to say that these are different usages of the same word, or are those different words altogether?

Actually none of these question has a decisive answer which is accepted by all linguists, especially the last one. In theory the science of Linguistics is supposed to be as precise as Mathematics, but in fact it is much harder. Furthermore, mathematics exists for thousands of years and it's really very hard to argue about the precision of 2 + 2 = 4, while modern linguistics exists in its present form for about hundred years, and the history of language study is so full of misconceptions, presuppositions and elitist bias (and violence, too) that even today the best scientists get tangled up in words that describe other words.

Well, that's enough. I hope that everyone understood at least something.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Soviet Antisemitism - a Joke

(I hope you get it.)

A Jew walks into the HR department of a factory in Soviet Union and asks:

— "Do you accept people whose last names have mann to the job?"

— "Ehh ... no."

— "And people whose last names have stein?"

— "No."

— "And people whose last names have fein?"

— "No."

— "And people whose last names have ko?"

— "Yes, why not."

— "Cohen! Come on in, I found you a job."