RSS Feed
  1. don’t tase me, bro

    December 3, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    In 1992, when I was 17, I traveled with my father to the US for a few weeks. We had a family friend living in Huston, whom we wanted to visit. He was away and due back a day of so after we arrived so he gave my father the alarm access-code so we can help ourselves in. We arrived at the house late at night, something went wrong with entering the code, and the alarm went off. Almost instinctively my dad rushed me to the car and we drove off to check into a motel for the night. My dad explained that we were likely to end up in jail if the police got to the house, regardless of our explanation. Back then I thought it was a bit extreme; surely we can reason our way out of it, like we would be able to back in Israel. Looking back at it, it was probably a reasonable choice given the circumstances.

    Today, if we were caught, in addition to being arrested we would surely be additionally tased for bad measure. The near-daily news of people being tased for no good reason reminded me of my story above. Some taser cases and videos can be found on top hits from reddit on the topic; Andrew Meyer coined the “don’t tase me, bro” catch phrase while being tased after making a bit of a fuss asking John Kerry some questions; here’s the comic. Some people die after being tased, though the marketing says that the tool is supposed to be non-lethal. But when you give people a “non-lethal” alternative to verbally or physically dealing with other people, it is a natural outcome that it turns from an alternative to a norm. This is the situation today, with cops tasing without much thought and it seems as though the chances of being tased is largely random, mostly depending on how the cop feels at the moment. With the general sense of paranoia and justification that anything is permissible in the name of security and anti-terrorism, all you have to do is act out of the ordinary, like being slow to hand a cop your proof of insurance; Schneier calls this “The War on the Unexpected“.

    This arbitrary taser treatment given by trigger happy cops is scary, and certainly does not contribute to a general feeling of security it was meant to promote. The long term effect is the continuous erosion of trust in police and the “system” — not that it is in any good shape currently — which will be difficult to recover from even if tighter controls are placed on taser use. When this happens the unintended consequence would be that police lost the “touch” of actually dealing with people, and even worse, they would use their lethal weapons (guns) more casually than before. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear in the near future of a case where a cop claims that he/she reached for the taser, but instead shot the poor speeder in the chest with a lethal bullet.

  2. how to carry luggage with a bike

    September 15, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    Recently, I needed to carry a small suitcase with my bike. I always have a some bungee cords attached to my bike for when I do grocery shopping. So instead of walking with both suitcase and bike in each hand, I did the following:

    carry luggage with bike

    carry luggage with bike

    You’ll need the suitcase’s wheels to be robust, so I would expect that this only work with quality brands; I went quite fast with mine without a problem. Another issue to be aware of is that the cords should be a bit loose in order for the rigid handle poles not to break; this also helps while turning.

  3. ever tried buying NEW unwashed and untorn jeans?

    August 16, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    I guess I am un-cool, trying to purchase a pair of jeans that are NOT “pre-washed”, “pre-patterned”, and “pre-torn” (George Carlin comes to mind with all this excessive use of pre-whatever).

    I have just returned from a 10 day trip to Boston, where I attended a conference and presented a paper (which won “Best Student Paper“!) One of the items on my shopping list was a new pair of jeans, as my previous ones are torn, patterned, washed from real-life events. I wasn’t prepared to how difficult this would be.

    Essentially, most jeans today come “pre-cooled”, which means that they have patterns on them that emulate heavy use and have torn bits which are “pre-patched”. When I confront “sale associates” with this issue they are a bit dazzled but soon realize that indeed, I am in a bit of a “situation” as non of the jeans they have on offer answer to my unique requirements: jeans that look new! (Some “associates” said that that is the first time they ever thought of this.)

    I finally found a pair at Macy’s; it was not exactly the figure I was looking for, but I figured that if I want new jeans that looked new, my options are incredibly limited.

  4. good news first

    July 30, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    Good news: some nice days in Cambridge.

    saar drimer on the way to grantchester

    Bad news: I’m balding.

  5. Limits to Knowledge: Malthus, Club of Rome, and Peak Oil

    July 18, 2007 by philip

    (By guest blogger Philip)

    I was just reading F.A. Hayek’s speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974 and he mentioned a book called Limits to Growth as a current (to 1974) mistake in the application of seemingly scientific method to complex economic phenomena. It led me to read about this book on Wikipedia and then, via Google, to a paper by Matthew R. Simmons called Club of Rome Revisited in which he attempts to rehabilitate the Club of Rome (widely panned in the years since) by showing how misguided its critics were and how correct its predictions were. I started to be more interested when I then browsed to Matthew Simmons’ site and found that he is a big proponent of Peak Oil. In fact he wrote a book I had heard plenty of but whose author’s name never stuck: Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. It is referenced a lot by a certain type of paranoiac on the market bear boards I frequent (don’t ask what that says about me).
    It was crazy to read an intelligent man, Matthew Simmons, summarizing the gloom and doom predictions for the future and saying “jeez! they were right! look how good their math was!” When in fact, whether or not their predictions were right, what Hayek so eloquently debunked was their math. It was a bullet-proof debunking. They tried to apply simple math to complex social phenomena to get any sort of prediction. Can’t be done. Wait, I am wrong. It can and is done all the time. It can’t be done accurately or with any hope of scientific validity. Read Hayek’s paper if you want an eloquent explanation of why. What amazes me is that this man, Simmons, is not ignorant of Malthus. In the intro to his paper he strenuously distanced himself from the blindspots and errors of Malthus. He then did his best to channel Malthus. I’d say if his Peak Oil scam doesn’t work out he should set up a scam as a medium because I’d have been willing to believe he was communicating directly with the long-dead British doomsayer.
    I suppose it is mean to call it a scam since he is a victim of the scam before he is a perpetrator. Malthus is already serving an eternal sentence in the Halls of Shame for popularizing it. But just because the Club of Rome used an early supercomputer to distance themselves from the bad math doesn’t make their results any less shamefully unscientific and inaccurate. And just because Simmons noted that their predictions of the world population in 2000 were pretty accurate doesn’t get him off the hook for failing to note that everything else they predicted was way off. But more importantly, the accuracy of their predictions does not in anyway validate the methods used to generate them! If an accurate prediction is based on flawed analysis is the prediction still correct? Only in the most useless sense or to your balance with your bookie. The limit of what is knowable regarding the state of mind of the (accurately predicted) billions of individual actors in the world prevent math from being a tool to accurately predict the future of the world. As a phenomenon of organized complexity (see complex systems in Wikipedia) it is immune to this treatment. The complexity of human genius has allowed us to make a mockery of Malthus’ predictions of doom and exhaustion (though not his population numbers) and further to laugh at the well-intentioned but blinded-by-misapplied-science Club of Rome and now I suspect that Peak Oil is the third act in Malthus’ original play “Oh My God We’re DOOMED! or How I Misapplied Science to Scare the Children.” It continues to embarass the Keynesian central banks of the world and force senseless double speak from politicians and economists as they explain why their policies fail, their predictions are useless, and the unintended consequences of their actions dominate the intended ones. It just isn’t that kind of science. In closing, I hate you John Maynard Keynes =) =p

  6. well, gee, thanks!

    July 9, 2007 by Saar Drimer sells cheap airline tickets for students. They also have a neat little bonus they give for free to every student who signs up!

    For your protections we will not spam you

    That’s like me demanding a medal for my good social conduct because I don’t go around randomly punching people in the face.

    Well, thank you very much for protecting me from yourself and for practicing restraint with regards to your right to spam me and sell my information! It is also much appreciated that you are using my private information only for the purpose I am providing it for. (link to page imaged above).

  7. hamas has a sense of humor

    June 16, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    The Hamas has taken over Gaza and the Rafiah border control station between it and Egypt and took the time to stage one for a comic relief (or not):

    Hamas mocks TSA
    (Reuters, source)

  8. president shimon

    June 14, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    Yesterday, 84 year-old Shimon Peres was elected as the 9th president of Israel. He well deserves it (and so does Israel!), unlike his rapist predecessor, Moshe Katsav; a worthless imbecile who brought Israel only shame. Peres lost many of his political duels during his 65-year career as a politician, but he always kept on going, despite appearing pitiful; people commonly called him a “perpetual looser”. What’s better though, a person with an overly developed sense of pride, or someone who doesn’t give up fighting for what he believes?

    Peres was always undervalued in Israel because intellect is not exactly seen as a pre-requisite for politicians there (and in many other places). Yossi Verter tells a joke about Peres:

    So Shimon Peres comes out of a visit with the King of Thailand, according to the joke, and he goes to the local market and buys some elegant fabric. He takes it to a Thai tailor and asks him to make him a suit from it. The tailor looks at the fabric and says to him: I’m sorry – It’s only enough for a pair of pants, if that.

    The next day he flies to London. He takes the fabric from Thailand to a top tailor. It’s enough for a sleeve at most, the tailor tells him.

    That evening he’s in Paris and goes to see another tailor. Maybe I’ll be able to sew you a sock, the tailor says. Disappointed, Peres returns to Israel. On his way to party headquarters, he stops by his usual tailor on Lilienblum Street. Can you do something with this fabric, Peres asks. I’ll make you two suits, says the tailor. And an extra pair of pants.

    Stupefied, Peres asks: How is it that abroad the fabric is hardly enough for anything while here you can sew me half a wardrobe out of it? That’s easy, replies the tailor, laughing. Abroad, you’re a giant.

    So true.

  9. how to operate a fragmentation granade

    June 6, 2007 by Saar Drimer

    I remembered a story from my undergraduate days… one of those things you recall and can’t imagine doing again. I took a mandatory “technical writing” class in my junior year. I absolutely hated the professor (Tara M.), who seemed to hate anyone of my gender and was not afraid to show it by preferential treatment. The first words out of her mouth in the first day of class were “I am god, and you will do as I say.” “Yeah, that’s going to go well,” I remember thinking.

    Towards the end of the term we had to give a 5 minute presentation on any topic we chose. This is peace-lovin’, hippie, lovey-dovey Santa Cruz, remember. I decided to give a presentation on types of hand grenades, how to throw them, and what to do if a fragmentation kind comes flying your way. I’m sure she (and possibly others) didn’t like me any better after that, but I was satisfied ;) I got a ‘B’ for the class and some respect from gamers. But I think that I learned the most from writing a three page formal complaint to the head of the department about her skills as a teacher. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with her leaving UCSC a couple of years later; google doesn’t show her teaching elsewhere. I suppose that “god” retired from teaching.

    Some of the readers of this weblog can vouch for the accuracy of this story (some proof-read my letter ;) Now I am going to see if I still have it and the presentation somewhere.

  10. respect for Bruce

    May 21, 2007 by Saar Drimer


    For me, he just stepped out of the festering Hollywood swamp by saying something intelligent about his own, and fellow actors’, intelligence and cerebral capacity.

    BRUCE WILLIS is fed up with listening to outspoken actors – and believes their opinion shouldn’t mean “jack shit” to the general public. The Die Hard star understands some of his colleagues want to do good for various causes, but wishes others would keep their thoughts to themselves. He says, “I don’t think my opinion means jack shit, because I’m an actor. “Why do actors think their opinions mean more because you act? You just caught a break as an actor. There are hundreds – thousands – of actors who are just as good as I am, and probably better. “Have you heard anything useful come out of an actor’s mouth lately?” He adds, “Although I liked George Clooney’s documentary on Darfur.”

    (emphasis mine)

    I should add that acting is not exactly a prerequisite for, or the strong side of, the “actors” Willis is talking about; you just have to be good looking and know who to sleep with, and when… which, I suppose, requires some talent, I’ll give them that.

    Damn it, I love starting my day with a good rant! ;)