Recently in Israel '04 - Part 3: Rehovot Category

WEIZAC

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WEIZAC gathering dust in the lobby of the Applied Math building at the Weizmann Institute. 2004:11:25 13:42:13

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this Jerusalem Post article on WEIZAC, the first computer in the Middle East. Seems that the thing's 50th anniversary arrived, for some definition thereof. (As best I can tell, it didn't actually begin operations until more like 1956.) Two things struck me in reading the article. One is that Einstein needed some convincing that a computer was a wise investment for Palestine. The other is that it is still here, gathering dust in a corner of the Comp. Sci. department.

So, time for a quick photojaunt.

[29 Jan 05 Update: In the comments, Estrin points out that, had I been able to get the full text of the '91 Annals article, I would have seen that WEIZAC actually did begin working in 1955. I stand corrected.]

Baking

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From right to left, baking soda, baking powder, and a gigantic brick of yeast, with some coins for scale.

To be perfectly honest, the kitchens in Beit Clore don't particularly inspire great feats of culinary artistry. In fact, with the exception of having a sink and full-sized refrigerator, they aren't really any better than the last time I lived in a dorm, when my room contained an electric burner, a toaster oven, and a hot-pot. Nevertheless, some basic baking supplies really are necessary, and for the life of me I wasn't able to locate them.

In fact, I'd looked right over them many times in the supermarket, and I've taken this picture as a reminder of just how invisible things can be when they're a completely different size than what you'd expect. What I'm ever going to do with a half-kilogram brick of yeast is utterly beyond me.

Frequently thanks to, and on occasion in spite of, the meager cooking facilities we're allotted, food plays a considerable role in the social life of the Clore House. So continue reading and meet the crew.

The Break

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Rehovot had its first rainfall last night. That's my assumption, anyway, since for the first time since I arrived, I awoke to the unique shushing of tires on wet pavement outside my window. Just a light shower, probably, since the streets were barely damp by the time I left the building.

They tell me it's a bit early for rain. December's the rainy season, evidently.

Clearly a good sign, at any rate. According to this morning's email, NASA has approved our group's proposal, so this contraption I'm helping design should actually get built. Now we can stop biting our nails and bask in the land of the funded.

Where by bask, I of course mean to evoke an arduous multi-year race against our grant's clock and our collegues' competing projects.

(Updated 18-11-2004)

Good Morning, America

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Here's hoping you all have a happy Dia de los Muertos! Now, if you're being traditional about the celebration, you should have set out your offrendas last night with the favorite foods of your dead relatives, and optional candy skulls. Being as best I can tell a few thousand miles from the nearest Latino community, I settled for cooking what might be described as a kosher approximation of my grandmother's fideo.

But if you really want to get on the good side of the spirits, I can think of a few tens of thousands of dead folks who'd probably like to see America fire the screw-ups who got them killed.

Incidentally, I was curious to know when was the last time a presidental election fell on All Souls' Day. Turns out to be that post-Vietnam, post-Watergate election that was a disaster for the Republican party, 1976. Take that however you will, but since I don't see another Regan coming down the GOP's pike anytime soon, I choose to be encouraged. And, while we're at this silly game, the time before that corresponds to Truman's 1948 suprise victory over Dewey, which proved early and conclusively that public opinion polling is, in fact, a black art.

To those who were concerned, incidentally: yesterday's suicide bombing was in Tel Aviv, and the only direct impact on Rehovot is that the place is crawling with soldiers now. Which affected me only insofar as I opted to skip being searched on my way into the Institute campus by cutting through my dorm. The consensus so far appears to be that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the event, despite the seemingly loaded timing.

And now, the western hemisphere is starting to wake up; time to jack in. This should be interesting.

Here we go...

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They tell me there's an election going on back home. That might explain why I haven't gotten any work done this week. Following the news, the polls, the legal battles, and so on and so forth -- seems to be sucking up a lot of time. Which would be okay if only it would end tomorrow. But I think we can all guess how likely that is.

Of course, given that every other blog on the planet has declared itself to be Election Central this week, there may have been some puzzlement at my decision, thus far, to essentially ignore it in this medium. It's not that I don't have opinions on the matter ... quite to the contrary, and we'll be trying to get it out of my system for the remainder of this post. But since I can count the regular readers of this site without resorting to too many of my toes, and since a healthy fraction of them are doing far more for the good guys than I would even know how to do from way over here, it would really have been preaching to the converted.

Thus I feel okay saying this just once: vote. And make sure everyone you know does too. But as I said, I know my audience, and I know that for many of you, that's been your mantra this fall anyway. Good for you.

But, if you care to know how I think this is going to turn out, read on.

Salinity

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From Minnesota to Texas to Israel, my absentee ballot has completed better than half of its rather substantial round trip. Now just as soon as I can establish who around here has "authority to administer oaths" I can get this thing back on its way. Of course then I need to figure out how to express the idea of "This should go quickly, and not via the Cargo Ship Express."

But that's the sort of thing department secretaries are good at. And we have those.

In fact, the inventory of things we have on campus is suprisingly long.

A Succession of Hopes

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Map linked from the BBC, as found in this story, of Israel and the Sinai region of Egypt

Those of you who regularly follow world events are likely aware of the recent bombings in two resort towns on the Sinai Red Sea coast. In fact, seeing as I am hundreds of kilometers from the site and do not have CNN, some of you quite likely know more than I do about the event. That's okay with me, actually; I have no great need to indulge in the pornography of rubble.

The Sinai, it should be pointed out, plays a very special role in this part of the world. After the 1979 peace accords between Egypt and Israel, the desert peninsula was demilitarized and a policy instituted whereby Israelis may more or less freely visit it. Sparsely populated save for the Bedouins and small towns along the coast, the Sinai desert is altogether remote, where distance and solitude can provide a comforting buffer against the world, and in particular the claustrophobic and violent land that is Israel. Or so went the story.

Absurdly Futuristic

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I'm living in a bizarre cross between a Jetson's office and Homer Simpson's nuclear reactor.

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I work in the side office off of this control room.

Now We're Getting Somewhere

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Okay, progress is being made. Having convinced my laptop to make like R2D2 and talk to the particle accelerator's computer network, watch this space for illustrated posts.

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A 15-second exposure in the direction of the Orion Giant Molecular Cloud. There are some recognizable stars visible. Not bad for a mid-range digital camera. 2004:10:07 18:43:33

Holding Pattern

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A number of necessary things have so far not been done, thanks to my timing. Wouldn't you know it, I've arrived in the midst of the week of Sukhot, which is apparently not altogether unlike that week between Christmas and New Year's back in the States when everyone is either on vacation or working in a restaurant feeding people on vacation.

Status

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Got into Israel yesterday afternoon, and now have lodging, an office, and some Israeli currency in my pocket, so things are coming together. Will put some effort tonight into assembling a more complete account of my journeys so far. Anyone who's expecting an email, updates should be going out shortly, now that I have a connection for which I am not paying by the half-hour.

Cheers.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Israel '04 - Part 3: Rehovot category.

Israel '04 - Part 2: Madrid is the previous category.

Israel '04 - Part 4: Beyond Rehovot is the next category.

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