Sunday, August 26, 2007

All the family

Simpsons FamilyThis weekend all my family was united. My parents have returned from their trip to China, my brother has also arrived from Germany, in what turned out to be the single busiest day in Ben-Gurion airport ever.

We had a surprise ready for our parents when they returned from abroad.  With the help and planning of the neighbor,  we have invited a gardener to make a new front lawn and garden.

The next day, the entire family (including my younger brother and the older brother that lives in Hertzeliya) have gathered for a family dinner.

On the organizational front, I'm also pushing forward. I have cleared up some of the mess in my room and have begun sorting all the paper. I have also booked my flight to Germany in October (18-28/10; 13,582 miles). Next step - sort and file all non-paper, and begin packing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

One month to go

That's it. The final countdown. I have less than a month left till I leave for Stanford. So, what am I doing these days? I'm sick and tired, that is, I'm ill and fatigued. Probably the common cold. It started mildly, but now I really can't do anything useful, like grade exercises or write papers.

There are still many things to be done in the upcoming month. My parents will return from China next week and will help with the non-academic organizational matters. Until then, I'll remain in bed until I feel better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Ph.D. CertificateYesterday I paid and got a letter confirming that I have completed all requirements of my degree and faxed that letter to Stanford.

I am not used to not having dorms nor an office, but having a car, so I didn't bring all that I needed. Specifically, I didn't bring my laptop. As I had an event that evening I had to burn most of the day. I decided to go to the pool (even though I forgot to bring my pool card) and swim a bit.

After the pool I went to the CS faculty hoping to meet some friends. Which I did. Then, I joined him to the games night (I forgot to bring my games with me, but there were lots of games there). I especially liked the game Dork Tower, with all the cute illustrations, 3D tower, and interesting gameplay. So, I played it twice (with two different groups). I didn't win, but it was fun anyway.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The wonders of Skype

Get Skype Credit To Your AccountFour countries... seven people.... one hour, and $4, and all the family is in one phone call.

My parents are currently in Ürümqi, China, while I am in Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey. So, they sent me a text message with their room number and I immediately called via skype. After talking for some minutes they wondered what my younger brother in Israel is up to. So, I suggested adding him to the call. A few clicks later, and he was on line. During the call I saw that one of my older brothers (also in Israel) is online on skype so I added him to the call as well. Then I also added the oldest brother who currently lives in Saarbrücken, Germany by calling his number again via skypeOut. So now, there were 6 people online (my parents, myself, and all my brothers).

My parents repeated their story about their trip to China and asked everyone to tell how they were doing. During the call, they wondered about my grandmother, so after all the brothers were off the phone I connected her cell phone. So, in total seven people were online in this one conference call made possible by skype. The most amazing thing, that even though the entire conference lasted more than an hour, the total cost was less than $4.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

EUDC07 after break

BambaAfter we failed the break, the next two days were much calmer. On Wednesday there were the quarter and semi finals. You can see the motions and winners on this site. I decided to skip the semifinals and sleep instead (I was very tired after the boat cruise -- it was too long and I was in no mood for it).

Last night there was a "Global Village" event.  In that event every country brought items that represent their culture and local cuisine, while the Turkish brought traditional food and atmosphere, including Hookahs and a belly dancer.

In the Israeli stand we had lots of Bamba (see picture), Bisli, and chocolate with popping candy. We also brought traditional apples in honey and Israeli wine. It was a great success, and we had supplies for the entire night.

The Scottish table had shortbread and fudge, while the Slovenians brought tasty meat. Croatia handed some nonperishable items and information, while Azerbaijan handed out money...

The night was a great success and ended with the Israelis and Irish trying to outsing each other with folk songs. We sang among other songs "אחד מי יודע" and  "יונתן הקטן". Our enthusiasm encouraged other nationals to sing their own songs. With this surge of nationalism we were afraid we'd renew the war between the former Yugoslavian nations, but luckily they were more determined to outsing us, especially when we joined forces with the Irish. When the night was about the end, we sang our national anthem "Hatikvah" and went back to our rooms.

Today was finals day. I decided to skip the ESL final after hearing the first two speeches, but did come to the black tie grand final in Hagia Irene church. The final was a very interesting and fun-to-hear debate. In conclusion, Cambridge B won the tournament. Note this is the same Cambridge B that we met in Round 2.

When the final results were announced, we also got the tab sheets. It turns out that the judge in the last round also gave us a fourth place, which I cannot understand. What I even less understand is that he gave first prop third place and the win to the worst team in the room -- 2nd opposition, even though they  added no substance to the debate at all. In the end, our team was ranked 130 out of 168 with 8 points, and 57 out of 92 in the ESL rank. My personal rank was 227 out of 336 with 485 speaker points (average of 69.3).

After the final I decided to skip the party (I don't really feel like partying) and go directly back to the university. The bus ride (in both directions) felt like it took forever. It was about 1.5 each direction in a city bus with no A/C, and in the way back I had no one to talk to as well. Now that I'm back I feel a little better.

Tomorrow we're having brunch on the Asian side of Istanbul, and during that brunch the EUDC council will vote on the location of the next Europeans. The vote is between Talin, Estonia and Hertzeliya, Israel. The Hertzeliya team have made great effort to ensure as many votes as possible for our bid, and we are hoping for the best. I asked them to invite me to run the tab and they will definitely consider it if they win.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

No break

Technion teams at EUDCToday was the second day of the preliminary rounds of the European Universities Debating Championships 2007. The first motion for the day was "This house will require a prescription for the morning-after pill". We were in second opposition. We tried to analyze why the proposition will overall make safe sex less safe, while not reducing the occurrence of unsafe sex, but I failed to provide the arguments coherently enough and Mark failed to give a coherent summation. We got third place for that debate.

In the last two rounds of the tournament we were not told what our positions were. We knew we had 8 points, and 12 should be enough to break to the next round, so we needed two second places (or one first and one third).

The motion for the next round was "This house will introduce a time limit on prosecutions for genocide". We were in second proposition. The first proposition gave an absurd definition with a time limit of only 5 years, without clearly defining when this time begins and when it ends. I tried to pull them into a coherent definition, but we got none from them. We decided on a time frame that was good for us and tried to prove that it is possible to conduct trials that fast, while showing that even if these trials fail, the situation is still positive. However, it turned out that the judges didn't like the fact that we defined the time frame differently from what might have been implied by first prop, so they gave us fourth place, even below the horrible first prop team.

In the last round we were second prop again on the motion "This house will prosecute parents who take their children to another legal jurisdiction in order to carry out an act which is illegal in their country", yes that long. First prop defined the motion well as applying to forced marriage and FGM. Their main problem was that they failed to cover the important jurisdictional aspects of the motion, while first opposition simply asserted a "territory principle" without proving why it exists and that it applies. We decided to take that clash and analyze the origins of jurisdiction and international law and prove that in this case the crime is committed in the context of the social contract of the original jurisdiction and thus should be tried and prosecuted there. We do not know how much points we got in that round, but we heard a rumor that we have not won this round. I assume we got second place, but I cannot be sure.

In the evening we had a boat tour in the Bosporus strait where the breaking teams were announced. It turned out that 11 points with high speaker points were sufficient for an ESL break, however we got at most 10. I was very disappointed as I thought we deserved at least second place in the last two rounds.

Tomorrow there will be the quarter finals and semi finals, where several Israeli teams will participate. More news will be posted then.

Monday, August 6, 2007

7 points

First four debate resultsToday was the first day of actual debating. There were four rounds, and the results are listed on the right (3 means first place, 0 means last). An average of two points per round ensures breaking to the quarterfinals, probably less.

In the first round we were assigned as first opposition on the motion that "This house will take lifestyle choices into account in the allocation of scarce medical resources." We were up against to EFL (English First Language) teams, one of them quite good, but we still got first place due to our brilliant analysis, and due to fundamental errors on the part of the second government team.

In the second round we were up against two outstanding EFL teams, that routinely break and participate in finals (Cambridge B and Middle Temple) and a very good ESL (English Second Language) team -- Berlin A. We were assigned the worst position in debating -- first proposition and the motion was "This house believes that the state should prohibit all items of clothing that cover the face". This case is clearly opposition-skewed, so we had a really tough job in front of us. Unsurprisingly, we came fourth, however the judge did comment that this was a very good debate and we have done our job very well. We got fourth simply because the other teams were even better.

In the next round we were again against more average teams, and we were assigned (again) to first opposition. The motion was "This house believes that democracy is a necessary condition for economic growth and stability". This was a new type of debate: An analysis debate. We should debate the question of whether or not the motion is true. Our main example was China and have shown that the Government have chosen the wrong criteria and that China does in fact have economic growth and stability. Furthermore, we have shown that economic growth and stability can in principle be attained in non-democratic regimes, even though the population might not be as happy. We won that debate as well, after a long adjudication.

At this point we had 6 points out of a possible 9 and were the best Israeli team in the competition. No other Israeli team had  6 or more points, including the EFL speakers from RRIS.  We knew the next debate was going to be tough. However, we were disappointed to learn that we were assigned (again) to first proposition (which means the tab sucks) and furthermore had to debate again against two EFL teams and one German team. To make matters worse, this time the motion required knowledge we don't really have, and was again opposition-skewed. The motion was "This house  believes that Turkey should invade Northern Iraq to fight Kurdish terrorist organizations". We thought we were about to lose again. Luckily Mark had little information about the subject matter and I managed to build the logic of the case in the sense of what we have to prove in order to make this point. Our actual substantive matter was very weak, but we did make the correct analysis of the issue. It turned out this was enough to bring us above the second government team from Germany and put us in third place.

Thus, after four debates we are now at seven points. If we get six points in the three debates tomorrow we will probably break to the quarterfinals. In any case, expect an update tomorrow night. Now, I'm off to either a "relax party" or the pre-council, where issues regarding this competition are being decided.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Flag of TurkeyI shall begin with explaining the title of this post. C* is the symbol on all Turkish currency and the Turkish flag. To me it looks like a name of a programing language,  something similar to C# or C++. People in the debating championship didn't find this joke funny.

Today I decided to join some friends and go the nearby town of Sariyer to the north of Istanbul. We ate some breakfast and walked by the beach, and then I returned to the university.

It rained the last two days, and this turns out to be the first rain here in three months. Like the organization committee  said, it seems like the British and the Irish have brought the rain with them.

At 17:00 the tournament formalities started with the debater briefing and then there was a good barbecue dinner, an opening ceremony, and a lame party (which is still ongoing). More updates on the actual tournament tomorrow.

Friday, August 3, 2007

There’s Linux in the Air

Linux on a plane!

Today I flew on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 to Istanbul in order to attend the 2007 European Debating Championship. On the way there, there was a very nice on-board entertainment system with personal screens, and the route display system ran on Linux. I know that because a Linux boot screen was visible on all personal screens for several minutes. Regrettably, I did not bring my digital camera over, so all I have for you here is the caricature above.

If you are reading these lines and wondering to yourself "what is this Linux he's talking about?", I'll have to first point you here and then explain that I am a Linux and Free Software enthusiast for many years now and use Linux exclusively for at least 8 years.

Anyway, after we landed at the airport, it took a long time to pass passport control, and then a much longer time to wait for all the Israelis to pass. Especially as one of our group needed to buy a visa while another lost her passport (she found it eventually).

After finally everyone was set, we were taken to the university and got our room. The four Technion males were allocated to one dorm room. I'm now very hungry so we're soon going to grab some food. My plan for the weekend: check projects and get some work done. The tournament will start on Sunday. Expect another update then.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


DoctorToday I have finally passed my PhD exam and the final submission of the thesis. By this, I have completed all requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Now I only have to wait till the degrees commitee confirms my degree.

I woke up early (9 am) today and drove to the Technion. I picked up two remaining documents (lack of debt to the graduate students orginizaton and a certificate that I don't owe books to the library), got some documents signed, and then went on to print three final copies of my thesis and eat some lunch.

At 12 noon the exam began. First, the examiners discussed my work among themselves with me outside the room. Then I gave a short introduction of my research, after which the examiners asked some questions regarding variations and extensions of my work. I got a chance to mention some of the issues we considered that didn't make it into the final thesis and several directions for future research.

After the exam, I brought the three copies of the thesis in for binding, and in the meanwhile cleared my office. When the bound copies were ready I picked them up and returned all my keys to the faculty. Then, I submitted two copies of thesis to the faculty library and faxed all the documents to the graduate school secretary, while sending a copy in internal mail as backup.

Now I need to pack my luggage for my flight to Istanbul, Turkey tomorrow for the European Debating Championship.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cleaning up

A mopYesterday I have passed the most difficult exam in all my PhD: The cleanliness test for my dorm room. And I did it all by myself.

I have always avoided doing cleaning work due to lack of know-how and experience. I usually opted for easier solutions, such as getting help from my parents or hiring a maid.

At start, this task was no different. My plan was to ask the maid that regularly cleans the dorm apartment on Wednesdays to clean my room as well. However, it turns out that she works every other Wednesday, not including this one. Moreover, it turns out that if I return the dorm room starting from August 1st (Wednesday) I need to pay for another half-month. To make matters worse, I discovered all this only on July 30th and could not find a maid in such a short notice.

My backup plan was to have the maid clean the room next Wednesday and pay the extra half-month fee. However, I decided I can try and avoid this expense. I tried to handle the task on my own. Using information I gathered from watching others do this task, and online how-to sources, I managed to clean the room enough to pass the cleanliness test required to return the room, and yesterday at noon it was all behind me.

This is the first time I have passed a cleaning test all by myself and I feel proud. Some people used to tell me "You don't need a PhD in order to clean your room". Well, now that I (almost) have a PhD I can tell you that I might not need a PhD to clean my room, but I probably need to be able to clean my room to get the PhD...

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