Shlomi Fish’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List

This document is a list of questions and answers to common questions I have been asked or have found myself answering or telling about. I don’t mind being asked the same question more than once (even by the same person) because I still enjoy answering it. (See also what Wil Wheaton says about itat the beginning of his FAQ.)

But this document is here just in case, you have a question, or at least so I can link to it.

Table of Contents

About Shlomi Fish and this Site

Who are you?

I am Shlomi Fish, a professional Israeli software developer, and author of articles, essays, presentations, and funny stories, aphorisms and bits. I have a Bachelor of Sciences (B.Sc.) from the Technion in Electrical Engineering, but it would be a stretch to call me an Electrical Engineer, at least with my current level of expertise in the field. I’m actually more of a programmer and a specialised mathematician.

At the moment, I’m a computer geek (= person who is enthusiastic about computers), and a former nerd (= a person without a social life), because I recently started to increasingly socialise more. I’m interested in many other fields, including linguistics, history, writing, children and non-children literature, and T.V. and movies.

I should note that I am only oneperson, and in fact am unaware of any other “Shlomi Fish”’es of significance (at least not according to Internet searches).

Are you a Guy or a Girl?

I am very much a guy, despite what my first name’s suffix (the “i” of “Shlom i”) may imply to English speakers. I am also heterosexual, and while hating being a macho in real-life, and having some other somewhat feminine qualities, do not think I’m a woman born in a man’s body. (Or a lesbian born in a man’s body, for that matter.)

Many Israeli masculine names end with an “i”: Avi, Ari, Meni, Beni, Ori, Uri, Udi, Eli, etc. An “i” suffix means “of me” or “mine” in Hebrew, or “having the property-of” (like “-ful” in English). There are also many Israeli Hebrew feminine names that end with “i”. One reason I’m using “Shlomi” instead of “Shlomy” is because “Shlomy” might be pronounced to rhyme with the word “my”.

What can you say about your name?

Well, “Shlomi” or “שלומי” in Hebrew (see its wikipedia entry) means “my Shalom” in Hebrew, or perhaps “Shalom-ful” (= having the property of Shalom) or “the Shalom of Jehovah”. “Shalom”is an ancient Hebrew word, that is derived from proto-Semitic originsmeaning something like “well-being”, “welfare”, “peace”, “harmony”, etc. (it's an ambiguous noun as the nouns of some ancient Semitic languages were). See also what I wrote about it on my blog(and some of the comments I received).

The reason why it is “Shlomi” or “Shelomi” instead of “Shalomi” is due to a certain pronunciation transformation in Hebrew, where certain vowels are shortened into a Schwawhen they are distanced too much from the Stressof the word. Quite a few non-Hebrew speakers have issues with pronouncing Hebrew words that start with several Schwas in succession (as this scenefrom a screenplay I wrote indicates).

Now, most Israelis pronounce this name with the stress on the “lo”. I, however prefer it to be pronounced with the stress on the “mi”, albeit I also answer to people who pronounce it the other way around. My version is the correct Biblical pronunciation. You can hear me pronounce it in Hebrew( Ogg, mp3) and in English( Ogg, mp3).

Please spell the name as starting with “Sh”, similar to the common spelling in English — not with “Sch” (the German spelling).

My last name - Fish - naturally means the aquatic creaturesin English or (with a different spelling) in German. It was the last name of my late grandfather who was a Polish-born Jew, and I’m still carrying it.

“Fish” is an uncommon name in Israel, but there are also some variations such as “Fisher”, “Fishman”, “Fischer”, “Fishlov”, “Fishelson”, etc.

Note that the last name “Fish” is not meaningful in Hebrew and in fact in Ancient Hebrew the only possible pronunciation would be “Pish” (which means “pee” or “urine” in Modern Israeli Hebrew slang) because it uses the same letter - פfor both the "P" and "F" sound, and it would be "P" in the beginning of the word.

Is Shlomi Fish Your Real Name?

Despite what the name may imply to non-Israeli people, Shlomi Fish is my real, and legal, name. See the question abovefor more information about its etymology.

Where are you from? Where do you live currently?

Well, I was born in Israel in 5 May 1977, and lived in Tel Aviv for a year. Then, when I was 1 year old, my parents moved to Dallas, Texas, USAfor my father’s post-Doctorate and later on we moved to Rockville, Maryland, USAand stayed there until I was about 5. Then, we moved back to Tel Aviv and I lived in Ramat Aviv Gimmelever since.

What is your day job? What do you do for a living? What is your work about?

Currently (September 2014) I am happily unemployed, and trying to build esteem, success, recognition, fame, etc. as a writer/entertainer/philosopher. My ultimate goal for now is to become the next big author — the next J. K. Rowlingif you may. Even if I don’t achieve it that goal, it’s going to be a wonderful, exciting, and wonderous, journey, and I’m not going to give up. ( “Never Give Up!!”)

Why did you get the domain?

Well, I originally set up my home-site on, which is a free DNS service, but it had a lot of DNS problems. Thus, I set up I didn’t take because .il domains used to cost a lot of money, and also required co-ordination by a fax message (how low-tech) upon every change. I also didn’t want a .com domain because I feel I’m a private individual rather than a company. used to be a parked hostname of my DNS registrar, but now I redirected it to a different site, which just contains a link to the appropriate page on I’m not making it an alias so the links and page rank won’t be fragmented.

How should I refer to this site?

You can call it “Shlomi Fish’s Homepage”, “Shlomi Fish’s Homesite”, “Shlomi Fish’s personal web site”, “”. Some wrong ways to refer to it are:

  1. “Your blog”- it is not a blogand I have more than one blog and site.

  2. “shlomifish”or “ShlomiFish”- Shlomi Fish (with capital letters and a space) happens to be my name as written in Latin letters, and I’m a flesh-and-blood individual and more than just this site. It just happens that I picked the appropriate domain for that.

Why is this website in English? Why not Hebrew?

For several reasons:

  1. There are many more English speakers (either as their mother tongue or as a secondary language) than Hebrew speakers. So I’m reaching a bigger target audience by writing in English.
  2. Most native Hebrew speakers (i.e: Israelis) can read English well enough to understand my English writing. So most of the target audience for writing stuff in Hebrew will benefit from it very little.
  3. I find it more comfortable and faster to type in English and express myself in writing using English for most types of writing (some stories I’m writingbeing an exception).
  4. I often use a lot of tech jargon or slang, which is more difficult to translate to Hebrew.

That put aside, if you wish to translate a piece I wrote to any other language (including Hebrew), feel free to do so. I contributed some Hebrew translations to some English articles that other people originated, and also translated some things I wrote in Hebrew to English.

Note that I’m using Commonwealth Englishon this site. Partly because I think that’s what Israelis are supposed to use, partly because I have been somewhat British-oriented, and partly because it feels nicer to use an uncommon spelling. I am still using US English spelling for source code and for technical documents, though.

My thoughts are that both the British spelling and the American spelling (and their common subset), are inconsistent and confusing, but I have to make a choice of some sort.

How else are you known?

I’m also known as “shlomif” or on the IRC as “rindolf”.

What is the origin of your “rindolf” IRC nickname?

For more information about the name "rindolf", see the dedicated page about my Rindolf nickname.

Rindolf “Woman-hands” [Forgot the last name] was a Dwarven warrior I played on a series of AD&D 2nd editionsessions, and one of my favourite tabletop Role Playing Games characters of at all times. I probably picked up the name by analogy with such Germanic-originated names as Randolphor Rudolph. I'm not sure if "Rin" or "Rind" means anything in Germanic languages, but it has a nice ring.

The first IRC nickname I used was “dori” after one of the dwarves in Tolkien’s the Hobbit, and later on decided it was a common name, so I switched to “gloin”, the name of a different dwarf. Then I wanted something more original, so I picked up “rindolf” and the name stuck.

If I had been able to change it again, I would have picked “shlomif” for my IRC career, because it is my handle almost everywhere else, but now everyone on IRC know me as “rindolf” so I feel it's too late (not to mention that, in my impression, it is common and accepted to use a pseudonym on IRC, to show some creativity).

The running joke we have on IRC, is that Rindolf is the evil twin brother of Santa Claus’s goody-two-shoes reindeer, Rudolph and Randolph, who are among his arch-enemies. Rindolf is also one of the cornerstones of the Evil Reindeer Evil World Domination Evil Conspiracy, with the evil aim to the spread the Reindeer Evil all over the world. You can find some of the manifestations of this joke in the IRC conversations quoted on my fortune cookies.

How should I address you or refer to you?

When writing a letter to me you can start it with “Hi Shlomi!”, “Dear Shlomi,”, “Hello Shlomi,” etc. or with “Hi Mr. Fish”, “Dear Mr. Fish”, etc. Not “Hello Fish” please... I hate when people call me “Fish” to my face, albeit “Mr. Fish” is OK. You can also use my “Rindolf” nickname with or without a “Mr.” honorific.

Some letters begin with “Shlomi,” in a separate paragraph. I personally feel that the person is always trying to preach to me in this case, but I was told it is not considered bad form in English-speaking countries, so it may just be a culture gap.

If you wish to refer to me in third person, you should start with “Shlomi Fish” and continue with “Shlomi”, “Fish”, “Mr. Fish”, etc. Alternatively you can start with “Shlomif”, “shlomif”, or “Rindolf”, which are my common Internet handles which I use everywhere I can. I also seem to be virtually the only “shlomif” on the Internet.

On the IRC, I generally use the nickname “ rindolf.

How much time do you spend on this site?

A lot. I spent several hundreds of hours on the site, possibly several thousands. While the pages of this site were originally just a collection of hand-maintained HTML pages, they were then converted to use Website Meta Language, and converted to have a common look and feel, a style that’s hopefully semantic, converted to use valid XHTML markup(XHTML 1.1 for the while); some navigation aids were added, etc.

All of the source code for the site is available online in various places. I’ve prepared a top-to-bottom documenton how to compile the site from scratch). Some of the hand-crafted code was released as the Latemp Content Management Systemor various assisting CPAN modulesunder an open-source license.

I am still working on the site, both by adding new content and attractions, by revising or correcting existing ones, by making it more usable, or by trying to publicise new attractions in various online resources.

What can you tell me about this site’s history?

Well, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step and continues with many subsequent small steps.

My homesite started from a small number of static HTML pages kept on the server of my workplace back then (Smart Link - It had the address, now inactive, where shlomif was my username on back then (which ended up becoming my general unofficial ID). We hosted the server behind our Point-to-Point connection (not such a smart idea retrospectively) and we had to create the alias in IIS specifically for me to put stuff there.

I recall that I had the Humour collectionwith a few jokes I originated, as well as the report about the algorithmic solution to the Toggle Squares puzzleI sent to its originator (with whom I was corresponding at the time). And it also had a rudimentary pageful of links, and a bio.

When I became a student in the Technion, I moved my site to its undergraduate server at the address . There I added more and more resources to the site. Here is the site as of 1998. I had a limited quota there, and when I got an account on “vipe”, a server managed by the students, I hosted part of my home site there as well, as . The two parts of the site had cross-links to one another.

Eventually, I was about to graduate and so moved the part of my homesite, first to (a free hostname, which ended up causing too many DNS problems), and then to which is where it has been residing until now. In the process, I converted all of the main pages to use Website Meta Languageand what would eventually become Latemp. This has enabled the site to have a common look and feel, a nice CSS stylesheet, a navigation menu and other navigation aids and other nice features.

Eventually I realised that the vipe server has too much down time (due to problems at the Technion’s network) and moved all of its content over to the domain.

Throughout all this time, many resources were added to the homesite: software, essays, stories, artwork, presentations, puzzles, and more information about myself. I also now maintain a large number of blogsand sites for my projects, as well as sites I volunteered to maintain. I really like the way the web allows me to express myself, and to communicate using text, hypertext, and other types of media.

Even more recently, I've been writing more and more on social mediaoutlets. There’s a listof my accounts for many social media and user-generated-content sites on every page of my home site.

In case you’re interested in setting up a personal web site of your own, I wrote an article about it, which you can read.

What is your Religious Belief or Inclination?

First of all, I should note that one’s general classification of a religious inclination (e.g: Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Deist, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc.) is not always indicative of of a their idea system or philosophy. That put aside, I consider myself a self-sufficient, optimistic, idealistic and anti-cynical, pluralistic, anti-Fatalist, agnostic. Now let me explain what all those mean:

  • I’m agnosticbecause I’m not sure whether God — however he/she/they/it are manifested — exists or not. I suspect they do, but don’t take chances and don’t wish to risk dying- now or ever.

  • I’m self-sufficientbecause I believe that “The Gods Help Those That Help Themselves”, that “Reality to be Conquered Must Be Obeyed” and all that Jazz.

  • I am optimistic, idealistic and anti-cynicalbecause I believe that people are inherently good, can be trusted and that humanity is going forward instead of backward. I feel like my life is gradually improving and that almost every day is the best day of my lifeso far , and that 2014 (when these lines were written) is the best year I can remember (and I’m 1977-born).

  • I’m pluralistic, because I constantly have derived and will derive inspiration from many sourcesand also try not to dismiss an insight based on its source - see Ad-hominem, Reductio ad Hitlerumfor more information about why this is fallacious.

  • I am anti-Fatalisticbecause I believe that humans’ survival mechanism - reasonoperates by choice , and not automatically, and that we have free will. This is as opposed to the new age crop of neo-Deterministic materialistic atheists who believe that the laws of physics dictate exactly what a person will think and do.

What is your ethnicity? What is your lineage?

I am an ethnic Jewas far as the eye can see. That put aside, my mother was born in Baghdad, Iraqand lived there for some years as a child before her parents and her made aliyah(or immigrated) to Israel. My father, on the other hand, was born in Israel to a mother from Vilnius(a.k.a “The Jerusalem of Lithuania”) who immigrated to the British mandate of Palestine, along with most of her family during the 1930s, and to a father who was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, and who escaped from the Nazis during World War II through the USSR, and Persia/Iran.

As such, I look (see photo) like a kind of a Iraqi/Persian version of my father, who looks East European.

Did you serve in the Israeli Military (the IDF)?

No, I did not. I’m exempt from service, due to the various depressionsI got into during High School. Please don’t accuse me of being a “Mishtamet” (“משתמט”), who is a person who purposely avoided a military service, while being fully capable of it. That’s not the case for me, as back in the time, I wanted to join the army.

That put aside, I oppose the draftin Israel or wherever.

What kind of Music do you like to listen to?

I mostly listen to Rock and Pop, but have some favourite songs of many genres including Dance, Rap/Hip Hop, Soft Music, Classical Music (especially Crossover Classic, which I find very fun), Instrumental Music, Country, Rhythm and Blues and Soul, Ethnic Rock, etc.

My favourite Israeli artist is Yehuda Poliker, and my favourite International artist are the Beatles. My favourite Israeli song is “Shlal Sharav” (or “Heat Booty” in English); it is sang by Gidi Gov, but it was composed by Poliker with words written by Meir Ariel. My favourite song in English is “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree.

May I email you about X?

While the amount of emails that I receive is not overwhelming (yet), I still find that people are sending me a lot of annoying emails. Here are a few ground rules for when not tosend me emails:

  • If the email to which you are replying was sent by me to a mailing list, please reply to the list. I loath such emails sent in private to mailing list posts. They tend to be preachy, annoying, and worthless.

    One person, who sent me a lot of emails like that, and whom I talked to about it on IM and told him how I felt, claimed that he sent such emails when what he had to say was not well-thought enough. Well, my reply now is that if you want to send me a non-well-thought email - don’t. Please respect me enough to make sure it is a mature idea or else don’t send it at all.

    Feel free to criticise me in public, as long as you do it with decency, respect, and while avoiding common logical fallacies.

    If you do want to send me a private E-mail to a mailing list post, please explicitly say that the E-mail is sent in private, and detail the reason for it. Else, I am likely to throw away your E-mail.

  • Please don’t send me a “Can you teach me how to become a hacker?”emails. See my How Can I Start Contributing to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)essay instead. If you’re living in Tel Aviv and vicinity and are willing to pay for me giving you private lessons, then this is an option.

  • Please don’t send me emails, trying to interest me in contributing to an open-source project for free, a pro-bono commission, or anything else that doesn’t involve payment. I follow my own interests and don’t work for free.

    If you have an online or offline publication, and can pay me for the trouble of writing an article, then feel free to inform me about it. Other possible commissions such as book reviews are also appropriate.

  • Please don’t send me emails with technical questionsabout open source projects or other general knowledge-and-experience questions that other people may be able to answer. I maintain a document explaining how to get help on the Internetand you should refer to it for general enlightenment.

    An exception to this rule, may be questions about projects that I personally created or maintain.

What can you tell about your diet?

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, don’t consume caffeinated beverages, and have never smoked (e.g.: cigarettes), and have never “done” any of the currently illegal narcotics (e.g.: Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin). I find that this way I’m less tired, more energetic, and less moody. I don’t need such negative bio-physical aphrodisiacs to be happy, and neither do you.

Most of the people I talk with on the IRC who consume caffeine have become dependent on it and cannot function without their morning/mid-morning/midday/etc. coffee. On the other hand, I’m energetic from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. As for alcohol, it has negative short-term and long-term effects. And I also don’t want to become drunk because it will cause me to lose control of myself, and do silly things and say silly stuff.

I have never smoked or taken drugs, and never intend to do so. People with a drug dependency reduce their happiness and self-esteem like this, and damage their health.

All that put aside, I still believe all these substances should be legal, and should not be regulated in any way.

Regarding food, I eat an omnivorous diet that includes meat (chicken, beef, pork/bacon/ham/etc. and the occasional mutton) - sorry vegans/vegetarians but I feel like I need to eat meat. I used to avoid consuming sugary foods and beverages, but I now consume them again and am much happier.

Do you have any mental illnesses?

As a matter of fact, I do. I used to get into Clinical depressions, anxietiesand Hypomaniasand even a few Manias. The presence of the latter may indicate I have Bipolar Disorder(or “Mania-Depressia”).

I’m no longer getting into depressions or anxieties, which is good because when I’m in them, I feel that I am a bad person, think the whole world is bad and cannot concentrate on doing anything. I’m still getting some hypomanias, in which I feel quite elevated, while in fact knowing that I feel bad, and where I can still function, and still know that I’m a good person. Most of the time, I am OK.

Note that the opinions I express and what I say are not a consequence of my mental status, but rather of the many philosophical influences, I’ve been exposed to, which I feel made my thinking process straighter and more logical. Some people take many common “truisms” for granted, but I can often demonstrate they are wrong.

Here are a few jokes about it:

Shlomi Fish once defined himself as a “Programmer, Writer, Amateur Mathematician, Wannabe Philosopher, and someone who studied in the Technion in the vain hope of becoming an Electrical Engineer”. He does not consider himself a sane person, but is quite certain that only makes him more interesting.


  <tyler->  rindolf: you are seriously the craziest fucker I know
  <tyler->  and I know some crazy ass people
  <mofino>  haha
 <rindolf>  tyler-: I am crazy. And proud of it.
  <tyler->  rindolf: you should be
  <mofino>  haha
  <mofino>  Ahh man
 <rindolf>  tyler-: being crazy is hard work. I worked all my life to be
  <mofino>  Normal people aren’t fun.
 <rindolf>  tyler-: “Craziness is not an action. It’s a process.”
  <mofino>  heh
  <tyler->  rindolf: I see
 <rindolf>  You need to tend to your insanity.
 <rindolf>  tyler-: do you want to be crazy?
  <tyler->  rindolf: that’s why I feed my leprechaun at least once a
 <rindolf>  tyler-: I can teach you everything I know.

(and “Ask not what your insanity can do for you - ask what you can do for your insanity.”)

My opinions are subject to change - they have changed in the past, and it’s likely they will change again. Furthermore, reality is dynamic, and Ethics, philosophy and opinions change with time, as technology, culture and education progresses.

What is the origin of your IRC part message (“Yay! I’m a Llama again!”)?

It’s a quote from the Disney Animated film The Emperor’s New Groove , which is otherwise highly recommended. Here is the clip on YouTube.

Note: I now converted to using « ; It takes Summer Glau exactly a minute to write a rebuttal like in xkcd: “Venting”, and she would sign it as Chuck Norris. (», which is part of my activism to promote the Summerschool at the NSA screenplay and Ms. Glau.

Why don’t you obscure/hide your email address? People can spam you.

First of all, in this day and age, it’s unlikely that the spammers will not findmy email address. That’s because they also install a lot of malware on vulnerable computers to harvest email addresses from. Since I can’t refrain from sending email to Windows users, and would rather not, I can never prevent spam entirely.

I deal with spam by filtering it on the client side. I’m using SpamAssassinto filter my email and so far it’s doing a very good job. Some spam still arrives at my inbox, but otherwise very little. There are several other open-source spam filters(and some non-open-source solutions), which you may wish to look at. GMailand other webmail services also do a good job in filtering spam (regardless of their other faults).

All of that put aside, I think that having a convenient “mailto:” link is recommended because people don’t need to go through inconvenient hoops to send you an email. I love receiving (good) email about my site, and I’d rather not throw the baby along with the water, just because spammers may have an easier time harvesting my already public email address.

For more information, see my post to the “Joel on Software” forumabout “Email at the bottom of every page”.

Why are you using XHTML 1.1 for many pages on your site while serving them as “text/html”?

I feel that validating against an XHTML schema makes my code cleaner and less buggy, because I need to have closing tags, as well as use a trailing “/” for standalone tags, etc. I also find the additional XHTML 1.1 restrictions to be a good idea.

Therefore I decided to make XHTML 1.1 the default doctype for the pages on my site. The reason I’m serving them as text/htmlis because Microsoft Internet Explorerdoes not handle application/xml+xhtmlproperly, and I’d rather not needlessly discriminate against people who still use it (possibly against their will).

I realise that it stands against the XHTML standard, but I’m not a standards purist, and want to be a bit pragmatic in still supporting Explorer. Note that some pages in the Math-Ventures sectionend with the .xhtmlsuffix and are served as XHTML because they contain MathML.

What can you tell about the Fish Emblem on the top-left corner?

This is EvilPHishfrom the comics’ strip by Iliad. I was a big fan of when EvilPHish was featured there, and it was so me, so I decided to make it my emblem. After downloading the big version of the comic, and tampering with it a little with GIMP (= the GNU Image Manipulation Program), I was able to produce a transparent PNG file that I could use.

After a while, I realised that most people recognised this emblem and associated it with me (in part because my last name is “Fish”) and decided to standardise on it as a user-pic or “avatar” everywhere, and so I did. Note that the image is still copyrighted by Mr. Iliad, but I hope its use by me is acceptable.

As a child and a teenager, I’ve been a bit frustrated by my last name being Fish, and was often teased for it. But I feel OK about it now, and it’s good that people can associate my last name with something they are familiar with, and with a memorable emblem such as EvilPHish.

You can also find various versionsof the EvilPHish image for download and reuse.

What are your Computers’ Specifications?

My primary machine is a desktop machine with a:

  • An Intel Core i3 CPU (x86-64).
  • 8 GB of RAM.
  • Intel Corporation Sandy Bridge Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 09)
  • A 2 TB hard-disk.
  • A 21″ Wide LCD Screen by LG.
  • Intel Corporation Cougar Point High Definition Audio Controller.
  • Intel Corporation 82579V Gigabit Network Connection.

I’m running Mageia Linuxon it. This desktop computer replaced my older computer which was a:

  • Pentium 4, 2.4 GHz CPU.
  • 2.5 GB of RAM.
  • An ATI Radeon HD 2600 card.
  • One 160 GB Hard-disk and two smaller ones of 80 GB or so.
  • A 19″ LCD Screen by ViewSonic.
  • A standard built-in AC’97 sound-card.

I’m using mostly Free and Open Source Software(FOSS) on it, and try not to depend on non-FOSS software. I documented the reason why I no longer trust non-FOSS softwareon my technical weblog.

I also have an Acer Aspire 5738DZG laptop with the following specs:

  • Intel Pentium(R) Dual-Core CPU T4300 @ 2.10GHz. (x86-64).
  • ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4570 (r700)
  • 15.6″ 3D HD LCD Screen.
  • 3 GB Memory
  • 320 GB Hard Disk Drive.
  • “DVD Super Multi DL drive”
  • Acer Nplify™ 802.11b/g/n.

This dual-boots between Windows 7 Home something and Mageia Linux (which is what I’m using most of the time.).

Which Programming Language did you start with? Which programming languages do you know now?

When I was in the 4th grade (back around 1987), my father bought my family a PC XT machine, with 640 KB of memory, and a colour CGAscreen. Using this, my friends and I started learning how to program, first using the BASICinterpreter that was installed on the BIOS and was invoked if you didn’t put a diskette inside, and then using some of the BASIC variants that ran on DOS such as BASIC.COM, GWBASICand BASICA. So for better or for worse, BASIC was my first language.

I’ve neglected programming for a long while and just played games on the computer, and possibly did some work on it. However, I returned to programming when I was in the 9th grade, this time on a 386 SX with QBasicwhich came with some later versions of DOS, and later on with Borland Turbo C++3.0 (which sported a much more primitive variant of C++ compared to today’s flavours). Despite knowing C and C/C++, I still found QBasic of use, due to my ability to rapidly develop code in it (what Larry Wall later called “whipuptitude” in some of his talks.). I also may have dabbled with Excel’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)before I graduated from high school, and during my 10th grade, I learned some Pascal using Microsoft QuickPascal on DOS.

After I graduated from high school, I worked at three firms. In some of them I've done C or C++ development on Windows, but I also studied some SQL, and became familiar with some UNIXflavours and with Perl 5and the UNIX shells. UNIX has been an epiphany for me: until then I used DOS and Windows, and considered them bad, but did not know what a good system is. UNIX was the first genuinely good system that I have encountered. I also fell in love with Perl, and it became my favourite language.

By the time I started studying the Technion, I had a relatively early distribution of Linuxinstalled on my computer, and started playing with various languages available there.

You can find a list of languages that I currently know on my résumé.

Is a blog?

The short answer is that is a good, old-fashioned, Web 1.0-style home site - not a weblog/blog/online journal. Despite all that, my web site is fairly modern in its client-side technology and its look-and-feel should be usable and attractive enough. I have several blogsand am not opposed to the concept, but a classic web site has many advantages. For more information, see:

Why are you revealing incriminating details about yourself? This makes you look bad for potential employers.

A few people told me that I shouldn't mention the fact that I have been exempt from military service or that I used to get into clinical depressions and still get into hypomanias, because other people may think less of me. My response is that these are real and honestdetails about myself, that I would rather not keep to myself given the context, and the fact that I had to mention them many times.

While some employers may look down on me for mentioning that, I’d rather work for employers who appreciate honesty, sincerity, and openness, and eventually realise that keeping non personal details to yourself is a sure recipe to lose your mind.

For more information, see:

  1. “‘Publish or Perish’ → ‘Life or Death’”- blog post.

  2. “Honesty” section- from “Putting all the Cards on the Table (2013)”

I believe that honesty is the best policy, and trying to be who you are not, or keep important details about you not in the open will end up working against you, and cause you a lot of aggravations.

How did you learn English?

Well, I am Israeli-born, but my parents moved to the United States when I was one year old until I was five years old (first to Dallas, Texas, and then to Rockville, Maryland, where I spoke English with the fellow children. However, after I returned to Israel at the age of five, the children there ridiculed me for my English, and, as a result, I did not want to speak it, and so forgot most about it, and just spoke Hebrew (which is my mother language).

After that, I had to regain English much more painfully as I learned it at school, and from other sources such as computerised Adventure games, books, films, Television shows, and the Internet. Shortly after high school, I felt that my English has dramatically improved. Nonetheless, looking back at my English text from a few years back, I cringe at how bad it was, and am still being told that some of my writing is non-idiomatic by some native speakers.

How can I improve my English?

Some of the effective ways I found to better learn English are:

  1. Write. Write a lot. Start a blog. Write about interesting stories from your past. Ask your readers to point to the issues in your text (also your code). Maybe start specialised blogs for writing about a topic that interests you.

  2. Read. Read a lot. Especially fine literature, though not too archaic. I really like reading original and quality Children and Young Adult's Literature in English (e.g: The Hobbit, The Treasure Island, E. Nesbit, Roald Dahl, Mary Poppins, Sherlock Holmes, etc. - can't think of more right now.) There are many public domain and freely distributable fiction online in Project Gutenberg,

  3. Pay attention to what you write and how you phrase yourself. Don't write too hastily.

  4. Chat with English speakers on IRC - I like Freenode for that and they have an ##English channel, but other channels accept somewhat off-topicish discussion, especially some #not-channels or channels like #perlcafe , or #perl-cats (sorry, I'm an old school Perler bastard), which are intended solely for off-topic discussion.

  5. Watch/listen to some films to see how people use the English language in speech. There are many clips on YouTube and similar sites and you can learn a lot from them. There are some larger scale videos available online, offline and on torrents naturally.

  6. Most importantly - remember that improving your language is hard work, but it's also fun, because hard work is often fun, and rewarding and makes you happy. The opposite of fun and pleasure in general is not necessarily work. If people did not enjoy hard work for pleasure, then large scale operating systems that are completely free-and-open-source-software such as GNU/Linux or the *BSDs could not happen.

You can find some other recommended online resources for learning English and improving it in the “Awesome English” curated list of linkson GitHub.

Do you have Asperger syndrome (Asperger’s)?

Some people on the Internet told me that they believe I have Asperger syndromeor am otherwise on the Autistic spectrum, but my psychotherapist (who has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and with whom I met face to face many times), told me I most probably don’t have it, after I asked him whether I do.

Which text editors are you using? What is your favourite text editor?

Well, I'm usually using gvim (the Gtk+/GUI version of the Vimprogrammer’s editor) for coding and for writing purely-Latin texts. For bidirectional (mixed Hebrew+Latin / etc.) texts, I sometimes use Kateinstead, with a fallback on gedit. Sometimes, I use Vim (the console version) for quick edits or when I cannot or would prefer not to use a GUI editor.

The reason I am using gvim instead of vim, is because many terminal emulators on Linux (including Konsole which is my preferred one) mess up with the Hebrew/Latin bidirectionality too much (enough to confuse vim), because the syntax highlighting looks nicer there, because the mouse support is better, and because it does not start much slower than Vim. If the console-based Vim works for you, feel free to use it.

Regarding Emacs: from what I know, it should be a fine text editor, but I could never get used to it, so that’s not what I’m using. I was told about the Evil modewhich provides partial Vim compatibility, but I didn’t try it, in part because I’m now using quite a lot of Vim extensions written in vimscript and in Vim’s extension languages, which are not supported by Evil.

Why are you using your choice of an operating system (= Mageia Linux)?

The short answer is that Mageiais what I’m used to, what I like, and what I’m most comfortable with, and that I find the community of contributors and users friendly and helpful, so that is what I’m staying with for now.

My original motivation for trying out Mandrake Linux (which later was renamed as “Mandriva Linux” and was even later forked into Mageia), was that I bought a 40 GB hard-disk (which was a large capacity for its time) and sought a distribution to install on it, that supported ReiserFS which was a file system that had journaling, so I won't have to spend a lot of time in running “ext2.fsck”. Eventually, it turned out that ReiserFS caused my hard disk to become faulty (and had no way to gracefully handle bad blocks) but in the meanwhile I grew to like Mandriva and used it and later its Mageia fork since.

That put aside, I still willingly try to help people, who are using other Linux distributions, or even non-Linux operating systems, with their technical problems. Part of my motivation is this quotefrom “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”.

Is everything you say here true? Should I take it seriously?

The answer is that not everything that I wrote, quoted and/or placed on my homepage and on other kinds of Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) mediums is still something I agree with (i.e: I changed my mind since then), or should be taken too seriously (i.e: may be amusing or thought provoking but isn’t really something I agree with), or that should be taken as an unbreakable rule (i.e: because such works are usually guidelines rather than something that should be taken as gospel). So please take them with a grain of salt, and apply your judgement.

Naturally, it does not help that I often omit the dates of creation and last update from a resource, and that I sometimes neglect to add a “Recent Update” note at the top of the page when it becomes irrelevant. If you have the necessary technical skills, you can peruse the pages’ history in the version control repository.

How many visitors/hits/uniques/etc. does this site get per month?

Please don't ask me that, and that's not because I can't tell you that - it's because I don't think it matters too much. This is the same kind of penis envy(= “my $THINGY is bigger than yours”) and false machoflops/etc. competitions) and I care little for stuff like that. I'm now trying to work on creating more and more good content, enhancing the site usability better, and working on better publicity - both using Internet-based media and using real-world networking - and don't have the energy to spend time on silly statistics.

Why are you obsessed with ten-sided dice? (d10) What do you do with them?

I originally ran into Ten-sided dice (d10s)in tabletop role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, and I found it remarkable due to the fact that:

  1. It corresponds with our decimal system (Base-10) and with the SI / International System of Units / Metric system.

  2. It is the only role-playing-game-die that is not a platonic solidand instead is man-made.

As a result, it became a symbol of power of mine. Now what I do with them:

  1. My ten-sided-die “Schartz” ring/amulet of power After I donated my role-playing gear to a local role-playing club that my friends ran, I was given a plain brown 1d10 diethat my friends at the time (~1997ish) allowed me to take. I carried it in my pencil case, and it became my amulet of power and feel it brought me a lot of good luck and bad luck (which are often two sides of the same coin.

    Now, however, I decided to give it to Ms. Summer Glau(who is a Hollywood actress, but much more than that for me), and it is now her property, which I intend to officially pass it along to her and see what she will decide to do with it.

  2. I also buy d10s in large quantities (went up to 10 packs of 10 purple translucent d10 dice each from The Dice Shop) and offer to give them away to people I interact with in real life (IRL), such as vendors, clerks and sellers in shops. While not everyone accepts them, many people do.

Why isn’t this site hosted using HTTPS/SSL?

For several reasons:

  1. The site does not require registration, and nothing here can be modified using a web interface. As a result, HTTPS is unnecessary.

  2. HTTPS incurs some bandwidth and roundtrip overhead.

  3. HTTPS prevents pages from being cached.

  4. HTTPS requires a more capable hosting account than what I need or can afford to actively maintain.

  5. Keep it simple.

  6. You can mirror the site using wget --mirrorif you care about "privacy".

Can you please delete offensive/blasphemous/derogatory stuff that appears on your site?

The simple answer to that question is: no. I speak my mind and express myself using the words in the English language that I find appropriate and find that deliberately removing text and other content from web sites is the modern day equivalent to burning books, which as Heinrich Heine predicted eventually leads to burning people (which in modern times usually only amounts to blocking them from speaking on an Internet subforum). So I'm not going to do it unless absolutely necessary.

As noted elsewhere on this F.A.Q., I have a strong stance against political correctness fanaticism. Furthermore, as the old tale of “The miller, his son, and the donkey”demonstrates, trying to comply with everyone's whims regarding what they disapprove of in this site, is a slippery slope, that will lead to a lot of content removed.

For more information, see:

Note that I’m open to adding visible notes at the tops of individual pages with updates, corrections, or saying that I no longer approve of their content. But this is assuming I agree with them.

Many people whom I gave links to the various resources on my site, accused me of linking to them in order to drive in traffic for my site. First of all, I should note that it sounds like what I call a “conspiracy theory”where one tries to formulate an ulterior motiveexplanation instead of assuming purity of intents.

That put aside - what will driving traffic to my site, buy me exactly? I don't get paid for each visitor or "unique hit" or whatever, and the Project Wonderfulads on my site are not pay-per-click, but rather pay-per-time. While I admit I’d like my site to be as popular as possible, the real reason why I link to pages there is because they are relevant to the discussion at hand. If you’re too envious of me linking to my site, then please stop and get your own site which you can start populating with interesting content to your heart’s content.

Is the fact that you are/were an Objectivist (= an advocate of Ayn Rand’s philosophy) makes you selfish?

This quotefrom the Neo-Tech literature summarises the issues that led to this confusion:

Although the contents of her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, are precisely accurate and widely integrated, Ayn Rand committed an error by distorting the word "selfishness" in fashioning a dramatic statement. The word "selfishness" does have valuable, precise denotations of "an irrational, harmful disregard for others". Rand could have strengthened her work by selecting accurate wording such as rational self-growth. Instead, she unnecessarily bent and undermined the precise, valuable meaning of selfishness. …As with selflessness, selfishness is a form of immature, destructive, irrational behavior -- a form of stupid behavior.

While I’m no longer a Neo-Tech/Objectivism purist, I still agree with them that both selfish and selfless (= having an irrational disregard for one’s self) behaviours should be avoided as much as possible, and that one should strive for “Rational Self-Growth” and that often “selfish vs. selfless” is presented as a false dichotomy.

How is this site generated? Which CMS (Content Management System) are you using?

Most of the site is comprised of static HTML web pages, which are uploaded to the web-site as they are, afterbeing generated using templates, data, and programs. The site’s sourcesare public and kept in a public version control repository, which also contains some automated testsand makes use of a continuous integrationservice.

While I am not ashamed of the site’s sources, they have been through a long historyand legacy, and while I remain a big fan of static site generation, there are probably some better approaches out there for that, and often it is simpler to just write something of your own using a good preprocessor or a template system, a good build systemand some code glue. But for me converting to something else would be too time-consuming, and I've already found some faults in one existing popular static site generator that I tried.

About my works of fiction.

Why do you write mostly fan-fiction and crossovers?

Lawrence Lessig gives many good reasons for remixing in his book Remix:Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economywhich I have read and enjoyed. Writing fan-fiction and crossovers, whether in fiction or in non-fiction (see some of my crossover essays) is the writing equivalent of what he describes being primarily done with music and videos.

Our aversion towards fan fiction and an insistence on "originality" is mostly a 20th century fad, that is slowly (for some values of "slowly") diminishing.

Anyway, the various fiction franchises and idea systems that influenced me are a large part of me, and I cannot throw them away when writing my own works. I don’t have a lot of control of the ideas I come up with, but I know I must materialise them eventually.

What about your Real person fiction?

I feature or reference several celebrities in my stories (whether past or present) as a way of Real person fiction. According to the wikipedia page, such fiction is likely to be legal if it is done in mostly good taste, which I believe and hope is the case for me.

The general consensus is that a celebrity generally allows himself or herself to be a subject of reuse in literature, and that includes me, Shlomi Fish.

You feature sexy women and girls in your works. Are you a pervert?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel that a man who is attracted to women displaying sexiness, strength, competence, etc. - however interpreted - has a healthy libido (or “sex drive”)rather than is a pervert, whose sexual preferences prevent him from functioning.

Furthermore, just because I write about stuff like that, does not mean I do not have enough self-control, or that I have sex with, sexually assault, or sexually harass everything that moves.

It is also obvious from my stories, that I do not wish any harm on the heroes (or often even the villains) of my stories: in general, they do not get killed, or raped, or even become pregnant without intending to. While they have some hardships, they end up performing some amazing achievements of competence, and all that while not having any supernatural powers.

Now regarding their age: yes, I'm aware that some of them are underage, and only in high school. But it may seem farfetched, but I think that underage girls and boys can still be competent, both in their tangible endeavours, but also in their sexual/romantic orientation. Back at the time, Macaulay Culkin, who was the “alpha male” of a large part of the 1990s (despite his youth), raised a few eyebrows, when marrying at the age of 18 shortly after high school graduation. However, I recently heard of a Jewish couple of a guy and a girl who are 15 now, and as scary as it sounds, it didn’t seem too horrid of a thought. Some people learn faster than others.

Just another note about Culkin: some people also criticised him for possessing Marijuana and for its use, but many young and not-so-young people I talked with have had a history of Marijuana use, or even Marijuana addiction, so I do not hold it against him. See my “The Case for Drug Legalisation”for why Marijuana, and all other illegal narcotics, should be made legal globally.

About Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

How can I become an open-source contributor?

See what I wroteabout it on my homepage. I’m giving instructions there. You may also wish to read my “Advice for the Young”essay.

Can you help me intrude into/exploit (so-called “crack” or “hack”) someone’s server/instagram account/IRC account/Twitter/Facebook/etc.?

No, and that is because I am not a computer intruder or a “cracker”, and even if I were versed in that, I wouldn't try to get myself and other people in trouble by trying to exploit vulnerabilities on useful, ethical, services.

There are better ways to handle your online problems than to try to do cracking. For more insights, see:

  • “Master Foo and the Script Kiddie”- a modern UNIX koan by Eric Raymond.

  • Q: Would you help me to crack a system, or teach me how to crack?

    A: No. Anyone who can still ask such a question after reading this FAQ is too stupid to be educable even if I had the time for tutoring. Any emailed requests of this kind that I get will be ignored or answered with extreme rudeness.

    Q: How can I get the password for someone else's account?

    A: This is cracking. Go away, idiot.

    Q: How can I break into/read/monitor someone else's email?

    A: This is cracking. Get lost, moron.

    Q: How can I steal channel op privileges on IRC?

    A: This is cracking. Begone, cretin.

    From Eric Raymond’s “How to Become a Hacker”

You’re using Mercurial (on for some of your projects. How can I learn how to use it?

There are some links to tutorials on the Mercurial pageof the Better-SCM site. More can be found in a web search for “mercurial tutorial”. Mercurial is not too hard to learn.

When building some of your CMake-based projects, I am getting an error for a missing “Shlomif_Common.cmake” file

Yes, you can find it in this repository. Just put it in the source directory. Such a problem should not be encountered when building a source release.

Political Correctness (or Lack of it)

What is the Approximate Maturity Rating of this Site?

Most of it should be either U (Universal) or PG-Something (Parent Guidance). I’m not a blatantly pornographic person.

Why are you using the terms “girl”, “chick”, etc.?

I’m using the term “girl” for lack of a better term for “a female guy”. I was told that some feminazis consider it derogatory, but until a better word emerges, that’s what I’m going to use. (And I don’t find it particularly derogatory).

Why are you using the term “nazi” to refer to people who are “needlessly strict”?

Because it is an acceptable use for such a word. You can find the fallout from one of my uses of it on this page (in Hebrew)(“And what does it have to do with anything? Did Hitler use Linux?”). I didn’t stop using the word “nazi” afterwards, and also see the post “The Grammar Nazis Conspiracy”on my personal/philosophical blog.

Many people treat the Nazis/Hitler/Holocaust/World War II issue with too much “holiness”.

Another recent use of this in my works is in featuring Chuck Norris and Summer Glau on The Muppet Show as Grammar Nazis(with a capital “N”) who undergo a gradual Catharsisand become benevolent people.

Furthermore I should note that using "nazi" like that actually underlines the main reason which caused the deterioration of the Nazis in Nazi Germany due the fact that they were too insistent on being strict and avoid breaking or bending the rules, or voicing any antagonism towards Nazism there. This made them into tragic victims who accepted their fate of death and stagnation instead of being action heroes or “hackers” who constantly bend the rules, challenge norms, and don’t accept their fate:

  1. Reflectionon the David and Goliath myth and why David there was an action hero and a hacker (and — no! Samson was far from being the only action hero in the Jewish Bible).

Why do you mention Hitler, Nazis, etc. in some of Your Writings?

I found it suitable to use it for them, so I did. For the record, my grandfather lost most of his family during the Holocaust, and so I cannot be accused of misusing such facts. Steven Spielberg whose parents are Jewish Holocaust survivors, also featured the Nazis or Hitler in many films (notably the Indiana Jones trilogy), so if a fire has caught the Firs…

What do you think about Porn?

Every person has an inalienable right to expose his or her body in private, and to allow people to photograph it, paint it, describe it, etc. Sexual activity is also similarly acceptable. Claiming that porn should be illegal or illegitimate undermines both the right of free speech, and the right of a man or a woman to their body.

Furthermore, the artwork that a person decides to enjoy in his free time, is of no concern to the Peace and Justice in a Liberal country, and should not be enforced. Only when a person is influenced from such artwork in his everyday actions, then he may be prosecuted.

Nevertheless, I find most porn disgusting and disturbing, but still think one should be allowed to produce it, distribute it, and experience it. Some of the greatest artists in history produced pornographic or erotic artworks.

There may be some links to soft porn, etc. Or to individual pornographic pages that illustrate a certain point.