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Cutting my teeth in this new trade...

This morning I woke up at 6 in the morning to go out to the Port of Tel Aviv, have coffee and a croissant with friends and get a quick interview with Jeff Pulver for Crictor.co.il before his Tel Aviv Social Breakfast. I don't do mornings. Even with the coffee and the sugar, I still don't do mornings. Even with the sea right there, which certainly helped make up for it a little, I really, really don't do mornings.

Maybe that's why this interview sucked so badly. It wasn't the language, because this interview was in English. Remarkably, I'd say that nearly all of my interviews in Hebrew have gone better than this one went. Why, oh why?

I went into this interview knowing that we were crunched for time, but wanting to hit three different points. I wanted to get a quick intro to who Jeff Pulver is, since he's not that well known in Israel. A lot of people know his name without actually knowing anything about him. Secondly, I wanted to know what it is that he looks for in investments today. Somewhere in there I'd planned to ask how Israel fits into that, but I didn't have to ask, since he volunteered it just fine. Finally, I wanted to know about what he sees in the future of IP Video, since a) I'm working on a series about that right now and b) I know that he's also interested/invested in that area.

We spent WAY too much time on the VOIP stuff and the past, without really getting a feel for what his influence in that area has been. I managed to get him onto the legal stuff and what his role in defining VOIP for the US congress was, but it wasn't easy to get there.

I know that what he had to say about companies worth investing in will be very encouraging to a lot of techies who want to launch a startup. His focus was on passion and personality. He didn't say anything at all about any specific technology. Quite the opposite actually.

At last, I got us onto the question of IP Video, and this is where I think I really fell down. No, actually, I fell down at the segue into IP Video. I had no idea what to say at the end of his answer to the "What excites you in technology today and what do you choose to invest in?" question, and I completely fell on my face there. My seque was something along the lines of, "Uhhhh... cool. That's really great..."

DOH! Someone smack me upside the head, puleez!

So, I did manage to get him to talk about video a bit, and then I closed the interview because I was painfully aware of the fact that there were tons of people milling around, wanting to see Jeff Pulver, and I was hogging him in front of the camera. But, before he got up, the producer, Yael, said from next to the cameraman, "Can I ask you just one more question?" and that one question turned into several questions, but she got WAY more interviewy goodness out of him than I had. Blah! Well, I'm glad she did ask the questions, because his answers were great.

On the plus side, I came away from the interview with a very different view of this guy than I'd had before. I was expecting him to be kind of full of himself, as a lot of people with his kind of "net fame" are. He was quite down to earth, and not in the least bragadocious. He seemed pleased that he'd been able to have influence on VOIP in a positive, disruptive way, but he also felt that his work had been rolled back in the last couple of years and that it needed to be pushed forward again. He also touched on the role of voice and video as a spectrum in the services available through the 'Net and how those should be more disruptive than they are now, but that the incumbent powers (telecoms and tv networks) have a stake in keeping the status quo as much as possible.

I really, really hate watching these videos. It's very uncomfortable to see myself on camera like that, but in this case I think it's especially important that I grit my teeth and watch it so that I can learn from my mistakes. I'm just a baby broadcaster, but I'm only going to get better at these skills if I get over my ego so that I can learn.
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Faith-Based Activism

There is something very compelling to me about faith-based activism. It is the polar opposite of dead, purposeless religion. It takes philosophy and theology and puts it to work. Faith-based activism, in its best form, says that there is hope for this world when we as individuals and as communities make a commitment to improve things.

The problem with faith-based activism is that there is a very thin line between working to improve the world and imposing your faith and world-view on others. Some would argue that any faith-based activism is, by definition, imposing your world-view on others, but this is not the case. Take for example organizations which feed the poor with no strings attached, like Mazon or like church-based food banks. More controversially, an anti-abortion organization can provide support and options for women with unplanned pregnancies without actually getting in the way of her making the ultimate choice regarding her pregnancy.

The fact that faith-based activists can cross the line into inappropriate behavior, coercion or worse is truly unfortunate because it means that people who do not understand the concept of faith, much less faith-based action, end up painting all such action and even faith itself with the same ugly brush.

There are millions of people in the world -- billions, perhaps -- who don't understand faith because they have never experienced it. They have never had a spiritual epiphany, have never felt that indescribable connection to somethingwhen they pray. The have never glimpsed the Universe while meditating. They have never seen their prayers answered miraculously, or discovered divine love even in the midst of tragedy. These people often imagine that all the noise about religion and faith is nothing more than weakness, psychological games, and population control.

When someone says that nothing good has ever come from religion or God, they are closing their eyes and their mind to the many obvious ways in which religion has played a part in pushing society towards better things. It is often pointed out that the Bible was used to justify slavery, but the fact that the abolitionists were a faith-based movement is nearly always ignored. Talking about how religion is used to keep women marginalized is easy, but it is harder to remember that some of the same religions which, in some streams, marginalize women today were the same religions that created more justice and opportunity for women in times past. The Jewish marriage contract of today is hopelessly outdated, but at one time it was groundbreaking in the fact that it goes so far to make sure that a woman is cared for when things went badly. The fact that some rabbis have twisted even the good parts of that contract to harm women even more today is a shame, but it doesn't mean that religion is bad. It means that those rabbis are wrong. The way to improve this situation isn't to reject religion outright, but rather to push harder for justice both in and outside of religious institutions.

In the end, that's what faith-based activism represents to me. It's action towards justice, as understood based on the framework provided by faith. That faith comes not from some blind leap, but from personal experiential evidence.
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Earthquakes in China

I haven't seen anything in the news about the continuing earthquakes in China, but I hear about them through Twitter. A 6.0 is not a huge quake, but neither is it a small tremor. It's big enough that you can feel it, generally, and you'll see lights swaying and maybe a picture frame will fall over. They're still having lots of those. Take a look at this map.
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mySQL query solution

I had been trying very hard to avoid having to do a nested query, but in the end, I really couldn't figure out a way around it. This is the query that gets the job done:


mysql> select tnid from fr_strings where sid NOT IN (SELECT sid from fr_tr_by_uid where uid = 1 and language = 'es');


If you have a non-nested solution for this problem, I'd still love to see it!
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mySQL query problem

I'm having a hellish time with a sql statement. I need to get nodes ("tnid" here) where a given user (uid = 1) has not translated a given language (language = "he", or rather, != as you'll see)

fr_strings has sid and tnid (those are the only ones important to us now, anyway)
fr_tr_by_uid has sid, uid and language

When someone translates a string, it pops in their user id, the string id and the language that they translated the string to. So, say, if I am translating into es or he (spanish or hebrew) I should no longer see the string pop up for translation in es if I've already done that translation, but the request for the string translation would still pop up when I'm working on the he translation. Get it? OK.

So, I want to select the tnid's where uid != 1 and language != 'he'. Something like that. Let's look at some queries and responses:


mysql> select distinct * from fr_strings as st natural left join fr_tr_by_uid as ui where sid > 279;
+-----+------+------+----------+
| sid | tnid | uid | language |
+-----+------+------+----------+
| 280 | 870 | 2 | es |
| 280 | 870 | 1 | es |
| 281 | 871 | 1 | es |
| 283 | 873 | NULL | NULL |
+-----+------+------+----------+


What I want out of this bunch here is tnid 283. That's all. That's the ONLY one I want. But if I try this:


mysql> select distinct tnid from fr_strings as st natural left join fr_tr_by_uid as ui where sid > 279 AND uid != 1;
+------+
| tnid |
+------+
| 870 |
+------+

That's clearly not what I wanted.

How about This:

mysql> select distinct tnid from fr_strings as st natural left join fr_tr_by_uid as ui where sid > 279 AND uid != 1 OR uid is null;
+------+
| tnid |
+------+
| 870 |
| 873 |
+------+


Still not there. As you can see, since the tnid shows up once in the table under a different uid, I still get that tnid back, even though one record with that tnid does have the uid=1.

I'm sure that this is something really stupid. (I'm always sure when I can't figure something out that the solution is something really stupid.) But, I can't shake the answer out of my head. Any of you know what I'm doing wrong?
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Machine Translation? Or Just An Idiot?

On one of the local bus company websites, there are some kind of funny translations in the English version. (http://dan.co.il/english)

The term "לא משנה" which could be translated "not applicable" in this context was translated as "never mind".

The term "ישוב" which should be translated as "settlement" or "village" in this case was translated as "sitting". (The word "yishuv" comes from the root to sit. You can imagine how they got there, but WOW you'd have to not speak English at all to think that was the correct translation!)

Oh, and for those of you on Firefox, don't bother with that website. This is Israel. Companies don't believe in customer service, and they don't believe that anyone uses anything other than Microsoft Internet Explorer, either.
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(: ˙unɟ ɥɔnɯ ooʇ sı sıɥʇ ˙˙˙ssǝupooƃ 'ɥo

(ǝsn ɟo ǝsɐǝ ɹoɟ ʇɥƃıɹdn ʇɟǝl s,lɹn)

¡¡ǝʌɐǝʍ ǝʍ qǝʍ pǝlƃuɐʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʍ 'ɥo

http://pne.livejournal.com/398399.html
:ǝɹǝɥ 'ɾl oʇ ʞɔɐq ǝɯ pǝl 'uɹnʇ uı 'ɥɔıɥʍ

http://www.revfad.com/flip.html
:ǝɹǝɥ oʇ noʎ spɐǝl ɥɔıɥʍ


http://twitter.com/TechCrunch/statuses/857929353
ɯoɹɟ sıɥʇ ɟo pǝuɹɐǝl ı
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Fiddler On The Roof

I've heard really great things about the current production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, and today eumelia posted this YouTube video from the June 8, 2008 performance. I thought that many of you would enjoy this as well.