Retiring "YodaYid"

My number one rule about blogging is not to blog about the blog. But if you're at all interested in this blog as a whole, this is important enough to break that rule.

I have decided that I'm going to let go of the "YodaYid" handle, and continue to blog under my real name, Daniel Tsadok.

I made up YodaYid more than ten years ago. I thought it was quite clever at the time, and when I decided to start a (then anonymous) blog in 2004, that was the first handle I could come up with.

The main reason I'm letting go of YodaYid is that it doesn't really reflect the content of this blog. Anyone who sees the title of the blog expects Star Wars- and Jewish-related posts. I do occasionally write about those topics, but I feel the name has been something of a restriction, not on my writing, but on reader expectations.

The other reason is that it's a silly name. When I first started this blog, it was silly. That was the tone I was going for, and YodaYid reflected that. I still go for the silly posts occasionally, but not as much as I used to. It's impossible to take anything seriously with a Photoshopped Yoda in your face.

The last and biggest reason is that I'm just not that into Star Wars anymore. Part of the reason that I'm not so into Star Wars anymore is that after Episode 3 came out, I simply let go. The story is over, and it's time to move on. Episode 3 didn't really leave much room for anything interesting to happen between its ending and the beginning of Episode 4. Besides, there does come a point when you grow out of these sort of things :-)

The David Brin article that I wrote about a little while ago also had an impact on me, and I had promised in that post to talk more about the Brin article. I haven't done so partially because Star Wars is just not on people's minds right now, including, for the most part, mine. It's hard to get motivated to write a post when you think no one is going to care. So all I'm going to say is that the Brin article splashed a lot of cold water on what was left of my feelings for Star Wars. I spent too much time as a die-hard Star Wars fan for those feelings to be extinguished completely, but naming my blog after a Star Wars character no longer seems appropriate.

With that, I hope you continue to read my stuff at my shiny new location! WordPress lets me import all my old posts, so all the old YodaYid stuff will be there.

May the Force be with you ;-)



Charity - Good and Bad

I went to a fundraiser earlier today for a group dedicated to feeding the hungry in Israel. The organizers gave a brief speech and included some statistics about poverty there. Here are some from 2007 cited in Haaretz:
  • 1.6 million Israelis (almost 25%) live below the poverty line.

  • "The number of children living in poverty reached 804,000; or 35.9% of all Israeli children."

  • "40% of the families living under the poverty line are working."

  • With devastating numbers like these, there's clearly something fundamentally wrong. The key sentence is the first one in the Haaretz article: "Despite the improvement in all of Israel's economic indicators in 2007, a rise in the minimum wage, increased employment and higher real salaries; the country's poverty level remained almost unchanged in 2007." The Israeli economy is doing very well, so why are so many people so poor?

    The fundraiser I supported today seeks to address this issue by going to restaurants, caterers, and military bases, and bringing leftover food to people who don't have any. This is a wonderful idea, and I'm all for it, but it's a bandage on a much bigger problem. The poor people who don't have food need fundamental policy changes, not scraps from the tables of rich people. I'm happy to have helped via this organization, but I would be much happier if there was no need for this group (among many other private groups dedicated towards helping Israel's poor). Poverty in Israel should be on the extreme fringe, as it used to be.

    UPDATE: The charity is Table to Table. I didn't originally post the name of the group because I didn't want it to seem like I was singling them out (since the point of my post is that the people benefiting from T2T and similar organizations need reform much more than they need charity).



    Double-Clicking The Grey Lady

    A friend of mine showed me that if you double-click on a word on The New York Times' website, it will open up a dictionary definition of that word. I find that a bit pretentious, but it's also a smart idea, especially if it frees the Times writers to use bigger words!


    p.s. Yes, I enjoyed coming up with the title of this post...

    Punished For Pennies

    This story brought a smile to my face: twenty-nine middle school students in Readington, NJ were given detention for using pennies as lunch money, as part of a prank, CBS reports. Not a few pennies, of course - each student involved brought in 200 pennies, resulting in almost 6,000 pennies that the cashiers had to count. Students say that they were protesting the lunch period being too short.

    Punishing the kids was probably not necessary, especially since many of the students rolled their pennies up (where does one get 200 pennies anyway? This must have taken some planning). I understand the school's position, but the students came up with a creative and (admit it) funny way to express themselves. Instead of throwing them in detention, why not have an assembly and discuss why the lunch period is so short, and what the kids could have done to protest it?

    Anyway, the kids aren't done. They continued their protest the next day by bringing their lunch from home (always a sensible option anyway) and are wearing t-shirts that say "Got Pennies?".

    Hopefully the school will realize they've got some pretty smart kids there, and try to find a way to work with that instead of alienating and fighting them.

    Via Consumerist.



    Obama For President

    Now that John Edwards is out of the race, I am endorsing Barack Obama for president (I had been deciding between the two). While of course I don't agree with Obama on every issue, I like his candidacy, and the more I see, the more I like.

    The smear campaigns against Obama, which unfortunately seems to be working, are astonishing. One otherwise highly intelligent friend of mine told me that terrorists would want Obama to win. Nothing he has said or done makes me feel that he would be sympathetic to or supportive of terrorists.

    I recently had the privilege of hearing Alan Dershowitz speak, and he said that he had had Obama as a student, and "there isn't an anti-semitic bone in [Obama's] body", and also that pro-Israel candidates could vote for Obama with a clear conscience (Dershowitz himself supports Clinton).

    There's also the rest of the candidates to consider. While policy-wise, I could probably live with Clinton (her voting record is almost identical to Obama's), I feel like her campaign has been much more cynical and divisive, and that she, McCain, and Romney represent the American incumbency: the entrenched power structure that has allowed so many Americans to go voiceless and powerless (Huckabee does not, but he's nuts**). Obama really does seem to represent something new: his so-called "lack of experience" (my favorite line is that the person in Washington with the most experience is Dick Cheney) is an asset in my opinion. He will bring fresh ideas and perspective into a Washington that desperately needs it.


    * JFK himself came from a power family, his father being a Senator.
    ** Huckabee completely lost me when he said he wanted to rewrite the Constitution in God's image.

    p.s. I wrote earlier about how, of all the candidates, Obama is the most Kennedy-esque*. And if you'll indulge me to toot my own horn a bit, this was weeks before Obama actually received the Kennedy clan's endorsements. Ok, done bragging ;-)


    Giving Credit

    According to Hollywood Reporter (via Digital Artist Management), Rockstar Games (of Grand Theft Auto fame) left 55 or so developers out of the game Manhunt 2's credits.

    From the article:
    Imagine working on a blockbuster film for 2-1/2 years and then being left out of the movie's end credits. It's not likely to happen because union contracts dictate giving credit where credit is due.

    Now imagine working on a hit video game for 2-1/2 years and no one — not you, not anyone in your team of 55-plus developers — appears in the credits.

    The article points out that Hollywood is unionized, and therefore has regulations to protect its members from this sort of thing, while the game industry is not.

    Software developers should not find this surprising. Most software products give no recognition to its developers. Try finding the credits for any Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google product. At best, you'll find an easter egg that the developers snuck in themselves under the radar.

    In the open source world, the opposite is true. This is quite obvious since open source developers often work only for the credit. So credit becomes that much more important, and visible.

    If you're using Firefox, click on Help > About and you'll see a "Credits" button right there on the About page. Ruby on Rails has a link to a page listing its core developers on every page. Linux has a very Linux-like CREDITS file (although I couldn't find it in my Linux installation, and I had a surprisingly hard time finding Ubuntu's credits). Apache has easy-to-find credits on a project-by-project basis (including the famous web server).

    What's particularly disturbing about the Rockstar story is that the game industry is one of the few software sectors that has credited those who have worked on it. So this is really a step backwards from the status quo. Software companies should be moving in the direction of giving more credit to those who work on their products, not less.


    p.s. I hadn't even thought of developer credits for software until reading About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design, which questions the current practice of not crediting developers.


    New York Papers Vs. Rudy Giuliani

    Two of New York's most prestigious publications are ripping Rudy Giuliani a new one. I was going to blog about this one from The New Yorker Magazine when it came about two weeks ago, but I didn't get around to it. It's hard on the former mayor - The New Yorker takes Giuliani to task about everything from Kerik's corruption to the broken firefighters' radios (which had been a problem for months before 9/11). If one sentence sums up the article, it's this: "[M]any of those who are most knowledgeable about what happened on September 11th, or at least had the most at stake, are actively opposing Giuliani's bid".

    But now The New York Times is out with, if anything, a much more critical article. It's virtually impossible to muster up any sort of positive feelings for Giuliani after reading this thing, unless Giuliani himself pulled you out of a burning car. Which, based on this article, he probably did not do unless you did him a political favor. One quick example (of many, many such examples) - not only did he make sure no one who worked for David Dinkins, his opponent in the mayoral race and the previous mayor, was allowed to work for his administration, he would even have his lackies call private employers and pressure them not to hire former Dinkins people. Holy ****.

    Anyway, if Giuliani manages to climb out of the hole he's been in, and even more improbably, becomes the next President of the United States, watch as he retaliates against both of these publications. I myself will be watching from Canada.



    Let Kucinich Speak

    MSNBC, by refusing to let Senator Dennis Kucinich speak at their debate, is setting a very dangerous precedent. I'm not a Kucinich supporter, but like Ron Paul (who I also don't support), he is a dissenting voice in the elections. Virtually every candidate on both sides fits into a very narrow segment of the political spectrum. The fundamental political philosophies of Romney on the (relative) right and Clinton on the (relative) left are much more similar than either politician would care to admit. By censoring Kucinich, MSNBC is impoverishing the range of the debate (just like FOX has been doing with Paul). With so many problems facing the nation, perhaps some political diversity and fresh thinking is in order? Let's at least allow the edgier ideas to get out there.

    But that's not the real problem - this situation demonstrates the mixing of corporatism and politics at its worst. A private company should not be able to dictate the political discourse of a democracy. The FCC exists because the medium of television has such a profound effect on the culture - the FCC is supposed to make sure "that operation of [television stations] would be in the public interest" (source). The FCC doesn't regulate cable, for better and for worse, so MSNBC is not under their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the FCC's very existence highlights how powerful a voice television producers have, and how the government was cautious from the very beginning about limiting the power that the private owners of the medium have. Now that that power is so centralized, it's even more important to be cautious. And when networks like MSNBC presume to dictate the terms of American politics, they have more than overstepped their bounds.