Monday, July 30, 2007

Air crash investigation - The videos

After my previous post about air crashes, I did a search on Google video and found several complete episodes for your viewing pleasure:

  • The Tenerife disaster

  • Mid-air collision

  • Aloha Airlines 243 - near crash in a 30-minute flight

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Moving out

Mess in my roomThat's it! I have moved all my stuff out from my dorm room and office. My father helped pack and move all the stuff I have gathered in the past nine years into boxes and bring it all home to my parents' house, where it all stands (as you can see on the right) filling up the entire room.

After four hours of work packing and carrying, all my physical belongings are now in this one room. Moved items include lots of clothes, paper, and one computer and printer.

The next step is the hard one: unpack and sort all of this junk and pack only two suitcases for my new life in the United States.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My favorite TV show

Air Crash InvestigationWell, after telling you about my favorite TV show in the 80s, I'll talk about my favorite TV show at the present. That show is called Air Crash Investigation or Mayday. It is a documentary about air disasters. Each episode begins with a narrative of a flight that ends in some kind of disaster, and then begins to follow the investigators in their quest to determine the cause of the accident. Using interviews with eyewitnesses and dramatizations based on CVR transcripts the show recreates the drama of the crash.

What I find most interesting is the investigation, and the highly unlikely chain of events that is usually required for a crash to happen. Usually, crashed are caused by a combination of unforeseen weaknesses in design coupled with a series of serious mistakes (or malice) on behalf of the pilots, maintenance crews, or sometimes a third party.

For those of you who have read this far, here are some interesting facts you may have not known about air crashes:

  • The deadliest accident in aviation ever with 583 dead - the Tenerife Disaster - involved two 747s which crashed on the ground. The primary cause of the crash was a mistake on behalf of the KLM captain, who believed he was cleared to take off when in fact there was another aircraft on the runway at the time.

  • A system installed in order to prevent mid-air collisions (TCAS) has been deemed partially responsible for a mid-air collision that left 71 dead (most on board Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937. It turned out that the pilots were not instructed how to act when the TCAS system and the air traffic controller gave conflicting instructions.

  • The worst single-aircraft crash (JAL Flight 123) killing 520 people was caused due to a critical mistake during repair on the accident aircraft seven years prior to the accident. This was one of only three reported cases where all four redundant hydraulic systems have failed at once.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Things to do before I leave (part 3): Preparing for Stanford

Stanford logoIn the first two parts of this list, I've written the thing I need to do in order to leave Israel. Now comes a list of things to do in order to get acclaimed at Stanford.

  • Stanford

    • Send PhD completion certificate

    • Confirm payment for flight to germany in October

  • Temporary organization

    • Order hotel for first days

    • Buy temporary health insurance

    • Rent a car

  • Research car purchase and maybe order a car

  • Research cellular phone

  • Money

    • Research banks and accounts

    • Figure out if and how to transfer money

  • Pack (clothes and other items), buy stuff if needed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

80s Nostalgy post #1

My brother has recently posted a nostalgical post about 80s music from our time in the United States. This, together with news about Bush's attempt to shut down PBS remined me of the educational TV shows I enjoyed while in the US in the 80s, and especially Square One, a crazy show with math concepts (including quite advanced math) presented to children in an attractive form.

You can search YouTube for examples, but here are a few great clips, some of them still pop in to my memory even today:

  • Angle dance (... have some geometric fun)

  • Tesslations (ריצופים)

  • Apple rap "I think I see the problem/ I know what you mean...)

  • Graph of Love "Just glance at this graph my friend/ Romance shows an upward trend/ I'm singing the praises of/ a thing called the graph of love."

  • Ghost of a Chance

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We are the finalists!

My finalist medalToday I participated in the Israeli English Open Debating Championship at IDC in Herzliya. In a British Parliamentary Style debate four teams of two debaters represent two opposing opinions. The adjudicators then rank the teams according to how convincing they were and based on some rules.

In today's tournament, me and my partner Mark broke to the finals, which means we were one on the four top ranked teams out of 20. We won two of the three preliminary rounds, and came third in the other round. We were the highest-ranked team of the three Technion teams.

The final was between us, two teams from IDC, and a legendary team of two very experienced debaters. The motion for the final was "This house believes in immediate withdrawal from Iraq". We were first opposition. We did not win. However, all finalists got a medal, and so did I.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Handbag Only

KLM 737-800Last week I flew back home with no luggage, with only a handbag. This was due to the fact that I left my luggage at my brother's house in Saarbrücken. I will pick the luggage up when I return to Dagstuhl (and my brother) in October.

However, then I will be flying from the US and back, and thus will be able to carry the luggage left at my brother's house in addition to whatever luggage I fly with to the US.

So, how do you fly handbag only? I checked in for my flights the day before and printed out an electronic boarding pass. I then used this boarding pass to go directly to the gate and board the flight without even passing the checking counters. Even my Silver status was mentioned on the boarding pass, so I got to use priority boarding as well.

In the Amsterdam - Tel Aviv leg I was assigned a whole row, but shortly before departure the flight attendants had to move two children who sat near the emergency exit to my row.

Upon landing at Ben Gurion airport, I head directly outside and wait for a shared taxi that (after three hours) brought me home.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Things to do before I leave 2: Academic obligations

Academic capPart two of my to-do list include academic, teaching and research obligations. Not all of these stuff HAVE to be done before I leave, but optimally they should:

Stay tuned for part 3, which will include preparations for arrival at Stanford, and part 4 which will list the stuff that need to be done upon arrival.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things to do before I leave (part 1)

Todo iconOne of the things one can do to reduce the stress of an uncertain situation is to prepare, and the way to prepare is to make lists of things that need to be done. It's much easier to cope when you know what you need to do, and even easier when you have a plan on when to do what.

So, here's my todo list for my trip abroad. If you have any tips or comments about this list, feel free to comment or e-mail me.

Part 1 of the list is stuff related to leaving the country. Striked off items have already been done.

Today I striked off the first item on this list and went to see a doctor, and scheduled blood tests to ascertain my medical situation and to deal with some non-urgent problems.

Stay tuned part 2 of this list -- preperation for living abroad.

Monday, July 9, 2007


JAIRI'm happy to tell you all that my paper was accepted to the Journal of Artificial Intelligence research. This means I will soon have a journal publication from my PhD research in one of the most important journals in AI.

The acceptance was conditional on some revisions being made, or to quote the editor:
After some deliberation, I have concluded that the paper should be ACCEPTED, with the very clear proviso that the comments below MUST be addressed in the revised version of the paper. If any of the reviewers feel that no serious, wholehearted attempt has been made to address the issues, then the paper WILL be rejected, without any further possibility for resubmission/revision.

This gives me yet another thing to work on in the time being. This work is in addition to a paper I was asked to review and two other papers I'm in the process of writing, not to mention two additional journal papers that I should write.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A night at the opera*

Tonight I went to see my sister in law, Osnat Kaydar perform the lead female role in the cantata Camina Burana by Carl Orff. I am not a big classical music fan (to say the least), but I enjoyed the show very much.

It turns out that the opening and closing movement of the piece called "O Fortuna" is very well-known from movie trailers and many other uses in popular culture. Here it is for your listening enjoyment:

This piece is actually a 1936 adaptation of a medieval collection of poems by the same name. The text is almost entirely in Latin, which means I understood it just as well any other in the audience. The performance was amazing and I couldn't get the "O fortuna" out of my head for some time afterwards.

After the concert, we went to eat at a good steak restaurant in town, and then back to sleep. I have packed my luggage, which I will leave here until I return in October. Tomorrow I'm going to fly home with a handbag only.

* By the way, as I said, this was not an opera but a cantata, but I chose to bend the title a bit.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Mein Bruder in Saarbrücken

My brother -- Ronen Altman KaydarToday I have left Schloß Dagstuhl on my way to visit my brother, Ronen Altman Kaydar, who lives in Saarbrücken.

I arrived by taxi all the way from Dagstuhl. There were two other passengers in the taxi who were en route to Paris by the new TGV train. As we are all game theorists, we split the fare unevenly using the Nash Bargaining solution (yes, it's the same Nash), so I paid €9 while the two others split the remaining €48 bill evenly.

I'll now answer the question I was asked several times during the conference: What is my brother doing in this unknown corner of Germany? Well, the short answer is: translating English tour guides to Hebrew.

However, this has nothing to do with the reason for him being in Germany. He's there because his wife, Osnat Kaydar, is an Opera singer, and studies at an opera school here. Tomorrow I am going to attend one of her concerts, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Excursion to Völklinger Hütte

Today after lunch there was a break from conference sessions. Conference participants were encouraged to participate in an excursion to an old ironworks, where iron ore and coal is converted into pig iron, which is the basis for the manufacture of steel.

In the tour, which took place outdoors in the rain, we saw the various steps in the production of steel. Our guide took her work seriously, while we joked about how hard is it to work in the "industry".

It turns out that parts of the old ironworks were converted into exhibition halls. Today, there is an exhibition titled "Genius I" about the inventions of man from prehistory until today. It begins with an exhibit of prominent inventors and inventions. Some are reasonable such as the Wheel and Galileo Galilei, but some were more German-centric, such as Beer, and several German inventors.

The rest of the exhibition was very similar to any old science museum. I was not very impressed. As our time was limited, we had to leave quite early, so I didn't see much more of the exhibition.

Photos were shot at the ironworks tour, but I cannot publish those online. I will get them later in the conference.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dagstuhl day 1

Dagstuhl logoFirst day of the Dagstuhl seminar is now over. This is a good opportunity to tell you more about this unique place.

The idea of Dagstuhl seminars is to bring top computer scientists in a particular field from around the world and have them communicate with each other and do research. This communication is promoted by several means: First, all participants stay in the same building with hotel-style accommodations. Further, there is a coffee room, game rooms, a piano room and more informal activities to allow people to communicate. However, the most direct effort to promote communication is the random seating during lunch. The idea is to force people to talk with people outside their own narrow field of research.

Today I also gave my talk titled "An Axiomatic Approach to Personalized Ranking Systems". Several people gave me compliments about my talk and many asked questions both during and after the talk. Also, it turned out that we are not the only ones mining eBay for reputation data, which means we might be able to get the data from someone else instead of gathering it ourselves.

At dinner I was seated with several people I know, and one person from Stanford who I didn't know before. We had a nice conversation, and we have then retired to our rooms. There are no formal plans for the evening, so I plan to go online and maybe look around the premises here at Dagsuthl. All in all, I like it here.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Business Class

KLM Miniature HouseSpecial Update from Amsterdam Schipol Airport... I got upgraded to business class ("Europe Select") on my flight to Amsterdam because the flight was overbooked and Economy was full, so I got to feel KLM shorthaul business class service. The seats are standard Economy seats, but the service is improved. The food is served with real utensils and plates, and every passenger gets a personal video player with a selection of movies (I saw "300"), high quality earphones, and a kit with earplugs and eyeshades (among other stuff).

However, the two best things about "Europe Select" are the fact that the center seat is always free, and the fact that they clear trash and trays from your seat much faster than in Economy, several times during the flight. And the last useful perk is lounge access, which I am using right now to write this blog post.

Now I need to explain why there's a model house in this post. Well, that's another benefit of KLM Business class. You get one of these collectible model houses for free. Not very useful, but serves as an icon for this post...