1998: I was working on the final project in the programming course. We were a team of seven people. Thanks to my famous Microsoft Word prowess i was in charge of writing the documents that were part of the project, but the other team members also had to update them and it was quite troublesome. So i told my friend El’ad an idea i had: “How nice would be it be if i could collaborate with my team members – if we could write the same document simultaneously. It would be a nice startup!” El’ad told me that it seemed rather useless to him.

Some time later El’ad told me about his own idea for a startup: “Let’s say that you have some files on your computer, for example music or images, and these files may be interesting to other people on the web that you don’t even know, and you want to share them and help people find them…”

To which i replied: “Who on Earth would want to do such a thing? That’s what websites and FTP are for.”

A few months later all the websites were buzzing about Napster’s fucking up the music business and El’ad told me that they implemented that idea of his.

2007: I went to Catalonia for a week and didn’t go online for all that time. When i came back, all the websites were buzzing about Radiohead’s fucking up the music business further with “In Rainbows”.

2009: I haven’t used the web since Thursday morning. Today i went online and every website was buzzing about Google Wave.

Google Wave is a combination of a word processor, an email program and an instant messaging program that is written in HTML. We’ll have to wait and see whether this will fuck up Microsoft’s business model, but the important parts for me are that it has a very cool spell checker, and more importantly – that it allows several people to edit the same document simultaneously.

Take a look at the video: Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O 2009. At 00:35 you’ll see exactly the thing i envisioned in 1998. It even has Hebrew there.

So, El’ad, you can say that you had your revenge on me. But i’m still quite proud – i envisioned an idea that took many more years to implement.



Kanye West wrote a book. That’s what he has to say about it:

“Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

I am a proud non-listener to hip-hop.

Hip-hop is not a crime. Hip-hop is not bad music. Occasionally i listen to a hip-hop song and enjoy it.

But i don’t get why some people talk about “innovative” hip-hop. Nothing changed in hip-hop in the last twenty years or so.

I heard a lot of talk about Kanye West lately. I haven’t heard any of his songs. So i tried a few on YouTube.

Fuck it. Kanye West is not innovative. M.I.A. is not innovative. Timbaland is not innovative. Eminem is not innovative. Dr. Dre is not innovative. Danger Mouse in not innovative. None of them have ever been innovative. Some of them are good artists, but none of them is innovative, never been.

And no, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in rock music for many years now. Interpol, Elbow, Decemberists, Shins, Libertines, Arctic Monkeys – none of them are innovative. Some of them are good artists, but none of them is innovative. That’s unfortunate, but at least nobody makes such a big deal out of it as it is with hip-hop.

Kas buvo tai nebus

In the last couple of years i fell in love with Israeli literature, especially poetry – from Y. L. Gordon, H. N. Bialik and S. Chernihovski, through N. Alterman and J. Amihay all the way to the present days’ M. Arad and D. Manor. Because of this – among some other things – i decided to study for a minor degree in Hebrew and not in Chinese.

In school i learned about Israel’s poetry like this: There was a literature teacher. We started to study Bialik. She said: “There are common meters – amphibrach, anapaest, iambus, dactyl, and so on, and according to the program you are supposed to study them now, but it is hard for you, and i am not in the mood, so we won’t do it.” She hardly even mentioned Chernihovsky, Shlonsky, Alterman and Avidan – they are, according to her, also “hard, and you can do fine without them”. And so i received the reasonable 75 grade in the matriculation exam in literature in an Israeli high school, but in fact hardly studied any Hebrew literature at all, and for nearly ten years after the school didn’t read a single Israeli book, and not much foreign ones, either.

So now i am replenishing this. At the university i was quickly taught the basics of poetic meters and devices, and suddenly realized what a terrible crime that teacher committed. Without understanding these mostly simple rules it is very hard to read poetry. And he who learns them a little, becomes more educated and opens for himself a new exciting world.

The complete collected works of David Avidan are being released these days. I saw the book in the shop and thought – to buy or not buy? Previously, Avidan seemed very hard for me. I looked through a few pages and understood – now i’ll be able to enjoy it. I looked at the table of contents and all of a sudden saw a title of a poem in Latin letters, and not in English – “Kas buvo tai nebus”. It seemed familiar, i thought that it was Latin, but no, obviously not Latin. And after a moment i realized that it was in Lithuanian: “What was, shall not be”. Here is an attempt in translation:

Two Lithuanians, remembering their mother tongue
Less than they remember
Their mother, meet in a cool evening
In an open coffee house and begin
Remembering. How does one say
The past in Lithuanian? Really, how does one say
The past in Lithuanian? Very awkward, indeed
Very uncomfortable. Maybe there is
Someone here in this nice environment, within a radius of a
Kilometer or two who will be able to fix
This depressing linguistic short circuit? But
The time is very late, and all
The Lithuanians, who arentdeadyet are already asleep.

How does one say sleep in Lithuanian?


(The poem may have been already translated into English, maybe even by Avidan himself. As for “arentdeadyet” – Avidan often stuck words together as a literary device.)

I don’t know what prompted Avidan to write such an unusual poem. Lithuanians, as far as i know, preserved their language much better than did most peoples of the USSR. But perhaps he spoke of the Lithuanians in America or in Israel.

But i bought the book, of course.

Eight Taking a Rest

I was reading Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people and then time.com asked me to fill out “a short online survey”.

I love filling out short online surveys. They usually have silly questions about the experience with the website – “Did you find the information you were looking for?”, “Was the information easy to find?”, “How often do you visit ourstupidsite.com?”, etc. The kind of questions that clueless marketing departments and web design studios live by. In the end i am usually presented with a field where i can add personal comments. I always add personal comments and get the warm fuzzy feeling that nobody will read them. I only received a reply to a personal comment once. Guess from which site (the answer is at the end of this post).

Well, i was wrong. This survey is not about time.com. It’s about the financial crisis:

  • Please write three brands of car brands, in particular luxury car brands. (I wrote Lexus, Lincoln and Mercedes. How do you know that this survey was written by an idiot? Any website style guide will tell you to use underlining only for links.)
  • Next time you are looking to lease or purchase a vehicle, how likely are you to consider each of the following luxury automotive brands? [ ] Infiniti [ ] BMW [ ] Mercedes Benz
  • Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about Infiniti:
    1. Makes vehicles with inspiring performance
    2. Makes vehicles people feel inspired by
    3. Makes vehicles with exhilarating performance
    4. Is inspired about the way they design and engineer their vehicles
    5. Is for people who enjoy doing their own thing
    6. Is a brand I aspire to own
    7. (Well, none of the above, but it inspired me to do my own thing and write this blog post, and i sure hope that it’s exhilarating!)
  • Which of the following websites have you visited in the last 4 weeks? Partial list: Amex.com, CNN.com, Food&Wine.com, MyRecipes.com, SI.com, SouthernAccents.com. (I totally had to visit SouthernAccents.com after i saw its URL, but was disappointed to find that it’s not a linguistics site. Plus, how do you know that this survey was written by an idiot, part II? Food&Wine.com cannot be a URL.)

And, damn it, they didn’t have a field in which i could put a personal comment in the end. This puts them at the bad end on the scale of websites that care about their visitors. On the good end there is scientology.com – the only website that ever sent me a reply to my personal comment at the end of a “short online survey”. What’s even stranger is that they didn’t offer me to take a personality test. They just said: “Thank you for your comments, they were very well-received!”. And i had a feeling that it was written by a human being. That was scary thought number 1.

Scary thought number 2: A degree in Sociology was probably required to get a job writing these surveys.

A friend of mine told me that he came from a small-town Yemenite family. “They didn’t teach us a lot in the school there,” he said, “the math teacher, for example, called the infinity symbol ‘Eight Taking a Rest'”.