wildernesscat: (maniac)
Stacker CraneWhen I was in the army, my job was to provide software support to several automated warehouses in the IAF. Being a frequent visitor to many of the warehouses, I heard my share of local horror stories. One of them I will briefly describe here.

For those unfamiliar with automated warehouses - the single mechanical component that does most of the work is the crane, a huge robotic arm that travels up and down the aisle, storing and retrieving trays on demand. The crane has some safety features installed, one of which is height control. The software on board the controller knows the maximum height of every tray in the system, and you cannot move a tray back to its rack if it's too high. How does it know whether the load is beyond limit? A special photoelectric "eye" looks above the tray as it travels into the aisle, and checks its height. If the tray is too high, an alarm sounds, and the tray is returned back to the workstation. The warehouse person is alerted to the problem, has to fix it, and tells the crane to store the tray again.

In that particular warehouse the soldiers encountered a very common problem related to height control: some trays had plastic bags in them, and the bags would often stick out of the tray, triggering the alarm. The tray would then slowly return back to the manned station, and work would be delayed until the warehouse person shoved the rebellious bag to the bottom of the bin. Sometimes the alarm got triggered several times in a row. Eventually they got tired of this "safety feature" and decided to glue the robotic eye shut. For a while everything went just fine. The tall trays passed under the eye undetected, got stored in the racks, and the plastic bags were neatly crumpled upon entry to their respective cells. No harm done.

Until one day, the soldier who operated the loading station made a little mistake. Instead of having a bag protrude over the tray, it was a pile of steel bolts... Again, the blindfolded crane passed the tray into the aisle, and then attempted to store it back to its place in the rack. At that point the inevitable happened - the bolts refused to crumple. A huge collision. Damage to the crane, damage to the engine, damage to the rack and tray. A short investigation revealed the glued "eyes". People were thrown in jail for a few weeks. Enlarged photos of the accident were hung on every wall in the warehouse.

Moral of the story? Keep it safe, people.

wildernesscat: (efes)

Now that the big fire on the Carmel mountain is out, here's a personal account of how firemen in Israel do their job. Some 20 years ago, when I was a soldier at an Air Force supply base, there was a fire brigade stationed at the base itself. Two huge fire engines, a 24-hour firemen watch, guys in skivvies playing backgammon at the front porch, the works. We also had a "shekkem" (Hebrew for "canteen") that served steaks and hamburgers to soldiers who didn't want to eat at the dining hall. One day the shekkem workers took a lunch break (leaving the fire in the stove burning), locked the place, and left for a while. Sure enough, the fire in the stove felt trapped, and tried to escape. Pretty soon the walls of the canteen were on fire. What do you do? Call the firemen of course. The guys started their engines, drove the 100 meters (!) to the shekkem, and ... realized they don't have any water in their tanks. A moment of confusion ensued, and then somebody smart called a civilian fire engine from the nearby town. However, when the guys in yellow arrived, there was nothing left for them to do. The shekkem had burnt down to the ground, surrounded by dozens of helpless soldiers who were afraid to tackle the burning inferno. Some heads rolled in the fire brigade, but that didn't bring back our canteen. Sounds familiar?

wildernesscat: (touristinfo)
And another story about language trouble, this time from Germany.

A couple of years ago we visited my family in Berlin. The missus and I had stayed with my relatives for a whole week, and I wanted to buy them a going-away present. They lived in a quiet residential neighborhood that had a mall in the middle. One evening I went into that mall, looking for something nice, and voilá – in one of the stores there was a pair of beautiful crystal candlesticks. Since I know no German whatsoever, I went into the store and asked the sales lady in English to please show me those candlesticks. She was a young girl (I would hardly give her 25) so I was quite surprised when she answered me in German. Well, it's not true that I don't know any German. I know a little bit of Yiddish, so I could guess what she meant by words like "geschenk" – "yes", I said, "please wrap it up for a present". I went on with this tedious guessing game, sweating and battling the strange words, for ten whole minutes (that seemed like forever), until ... it was the store's closing time. The girl clearly wanted to wrap things up. What did she do? She switched to the most beautiful school English you can imagine.

wildernesscat: (vanatoomas)
Shortly after Estonia became independent in 1991, I came back to visit Tallinn, for the first time as an adult. The experience of coming back to my hometown after so many years was very moving, but that's a whole different story. I want to focus on the issue of getting an Estonian citizenship. (Just a side note: My father has citizenship by birth, and he's fluent in both Russian and Estonian. My native language is Russian. I understand Estonian on the level of a dog - getting the general meaning of what's being said).

Anyway, I was entitled to citizenship through my father, and he had had all the necessary paperwork prepared in advance. All I was expected to do, was show up at the Citizenship and Migration Board, and sign some papers. On the appointed day, we came to this old little office on Pärnu mnt, and dad had a short conversation with the clerk. He said something to the effect of me living abroad, and wanting to renew my citizenship. Everything had been arranged already, so the clerk knew what needed to be done. She drew some papers, produced a pen, and asked me to sign "here, here, and here". Keep in mind that the entire conversation was held in Estonian. I understood enough to follow the instructions, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I hesitated. Dad wanted to help me, but was faced with a dilemma - what was the language that he should use? If it’s Estonian, then I wouldn't be any wiser. If it’s Russian, then what kind of a "poor lost Estonian from abroad" am I? What else was left? English? Ridiculous. He was stuck.

I had to interfere quickly. I brushed dad aside, and approached the clerk in English "do you want me to sign here?". "Yes, please", she blushed. Her English was far from perfect.

wildernesscat: (bwface)
Sasha sent me this joke:
Bill Gates decides to organize an enormous session of recruitment for a chairman for Microsoft Europe. The 5000 candidates are all assembled in a large room. One of the candidates is Maurice Cohen, a little Parisian Jewish Tunisian. Bill Gates thanks all the candidates for coming and asks that all those who do not know the program language JAVA rise and leave. 2000 people rise and leave the room. Maurice Cohen says to himself "I donot know this language but what have I got to lose if I stay? I'll give ita try". Bill Gates asks all the candidates that those who have never had experience of team management of more than 100 people rise and leave. 2000 people rise and leave the room. MauriceCohen says to himself "I have never managed anybody but myself but what have I got to lose if I stay? What can happen to me"? So he stays. Then Bill Gates asks all the candidates who do not have excellent management diplomas to rise and leave. 500 people rise and leave the room. Maurice Cohen says to himself "I left school at 15 but what have I got to lose if I stay? So he stays in the room. Lastly, Bill Gates asks all of the candidates who do not speak Serbo-Croat to rise and leave. 498 people rise and leave the room. Maurice Cohen says himself "I do not speak Serbo-Croat but what the hell !- have I got anything to lose?" So he stays in the room. He finds himself alone with one other candidate - everyone else has gone. Bill Gates joins them and says: "Apparently you are the only two candidates who speak Serbo-Croat, so I'd now like to hear you both have a little conversation in that language?" Calmly Maurice turns to theother candidate and says to him: "Baroukh ata Adonaï". The other candidate answers : "Elohénou melekh haolam..."
which reminds me of a less funny story )

wildernesscat: (bwface)
Okay, everybody wants to find juicy stuff in their past, so I'll offer my share.

Back then I was a young academic officer in the IAF, and part of my job was visiting IAF bases and taking part in work meetings with our "customers" there. On one such trip I came to a big IAF base in the center of Israel, accompanied by two other officers from my unit. We were about to meet the Chief Technical Logistics Officer of that base, a lieutenant colonel in his 40s. Let's call him Dori. Just a side note: Dori was a family man - wife, kids, dog and all. As we all sat around the table in Dori's big office, a young soldier girl came in. She was wearing civilian clothes and had a big bag on her shoulder. The girl waved to Dori from the doorstep, and said something about her being discharged that day. She said she had just completed all her paperwork and was making the rounds saying goodbye to everyone. Dori smiled and said "well, good luck, we'll all miss you", and stuff. The girl then approached Dori, french-kissed him and left the room. We all sat there startled, but Dori didn't even notice. "Let's get started with the meeting", he said.

wildernesscat: (Default)
Whenever I hear tales about liars, I remember this story, which simply tops them all.

It was in those early days, when I was still a young inexperienced computer officer in the IAF. I was in charge of maintaining the old bulky PDP-11 machines that kept inventory at the bases. One day I had to visit a small air force base in the north, and perform some irregular maintenance. The irregular part was erasing their entire hard disk and re-installing it again. This is something we didn't do quite often back then, so I made sure with the operator at the base that all their inventory data had been backed up on tape. In fact, I called her the day before, and asked her to create two backup tapes instead of one by running the backup procedure twice in a row. "No problems", the girl said, "you'll get your two tapes".

Read more... )

wildernesscat: (wildsip)
(Taken out from my comment elsewhere).

There was this time in the army, when I needed to get a military car from the unit's car pool. I approached the NCO responsible (10 meters away from my office), tried to talk to him about the mission, but in vain. The conversation got interrupted time and again by phone calls. He would say "excuse me", pick up the phone, and engage in lengthy conversations about his work. After 2 or 3 interruptions I got frustrated. I returned to my room, called the NCO's office, got a busy signal, put the phone on automatic redial and waited. In a few minutes, the phone gave its special ring, and I was finally able to talk to the man without being interrupted. The matter was settled and the keys were waiting for me on his desk.

wildernesscat: (wildcatdr)
When I was in Colorado last month, [livejournal.com profile] missmokie and I visited the Buffalo Bill museum on Lookout Mountain. This was an exciting opportunity for me to get to know a prominent part of American history (having watched all those westerns on METV and all). At the exit from the museum, they were giving away Buffalo Bill timeline leaflets in many languages. I looked through the list and to my dismay, didn't find Hebrew. It turned out that the timelines had been translated by visitors who had volunteered for the task. Not thinking twice, I decided to translate the timeline into the Holy Language. And so I did, mailing it to the museum a couple of weeks ago. This morning I received the following e-mail:

Mr. Dorfman, ... )

So this is how I made myself an inseparable part of the great Western heritage :)

wildernesscat: (wildcatdr)
Thank goodness, at last - instructions for tying a tie. I wear ties so rarely, that I have no idea how to handle them.

When we were at a friends' wedding in Holland, we had to dress up for the occasion. At the last moment I realized there's no way I can get the bloody thing tied properly. We were renting a room in a small country cottage in Monnickendam, and I had to ask the landlord to help me out. He could barely keep a straight face, but gave me a hand in making me more presentable. I wonder what he thought about "the youngsters these days"...

wildernesscat: (wildcatdr)
Friday evening at the dinner table someone brought up the topic of traveling abroad. This reminded me of my personal record in lucky timetables. One day I set out to my friend's parents' place in Jyväskylä, in the heart of Finland. I stepped out of my apartment in Lod at 6am, drove to the airport, took a plane to Vantaa, then a bus to Helsinki central train station, then a train to Jyväskylä, another bus to reach their house on the outskirts of town ... and was at their doorstep at 6pm (no time difference)!

What was your luckiest break in long distance traveling?

wildernesscat: (atfive)
I guess that back in university days, studying wasn't exactly my strongest suite. I had a double major - Math and Computer Sciences, and had real trouble understanding the former. The simple notion of proof by contradiction had puzzled me for semesters. I couldn't remember the complicated theorems of N-dimensional integration. Differential equations left me indifferent. All in all, I dragged my B.Sc. for 7 (!) years, instead of the allotted 3. After failing Calculus-3 three times, I took a private tutor, who hammered all the proofs into my tormented brain. I got a 72 in the final exam. Eventually I added up all the numbers, checked my course history against the curriculum (which had changed several times in the meantime) and came to the conclusion that I had it made. I called my faculty's head office and told them that I had completed all my academic duties, and wanted to come over to have it ascertained. They said "no problem, you can stop by any day between 11 and 12 and we'll sum it up". "And by the way", they added, "what's your name?". "Danny Dorfman", I said.

they said )
wildernesscat: (atfive)
This is a note written by my great-grandfather Jakob to my great-grandmother Liebe in the year 1923, when he was 33 years old. He affectionately called her Kissiu )

My knowledge of Yiddish is pretty basic, but I managed to decipher the following:

ליבע קיסיו מיַינע!

דער מענש (אין פֿולן זין פֿון וואָרט)
אנטוויקעלט זיך; ער ביַיט זיך אָבער
ניט דער ביַי;
ער איז ווי א שטראָם כל זמן ער לעבט
און אייב ער לעבט; ער נעמט אויף
ניַיע וואסערן - הערט אָבער ניט אויף
זיך צו שפיַיזן, צו צוהערן זיַין
יניקה פֿון זיַין אור קוואל -
קיַינער זעט עס ניט; דער שטראָם פֿילט
עס; און דער קוואל ביסטו - קיסיו.

צו דיַין געבורטס-טאָג
דעם 26טַן דעקאב. 1923

which was translated by my grandpa Misha as ... )
wildernesscat: (Default)
Yesterday at a family gathering, the topic of conversation shifted to matters of police, which reminded me the following story.

Several years ago, I had a couple of friends visiting me from Holland. They rented a car and drove all the way down to Eilat. Since they were not familliar with the local regulations, they went a bit faster than permitted by law. (You know, Arava road, not a soul for miles, it's hot, and you want to be there already). As it often happens, they were stopped by the police for speeding. The policeman was very polite and tried to explain what they did wrong. My friends didn't quite get what he was saying, but they got the idea "slow down", and received a ticket. When they got back from Eilat, they showed me the ticket and asked if they should pay it, or throw it in the trash. I advised that they do pay it, and in the meantime took a good look at the ticket. It was a standard speeding ticket, with a dry official description of their offense. The interesting part was down at the bottom of the page. In the paragraph titled "driver's own words during the incident" it simply said: ... )
wildernesscat: (Default)
Sometimes at job interviews they ask me, what I have to show for my professionalism. I invariably tell a story from my early army days.

The year was 1991, and I was among the last people in the country to have Digital's PDP-11 computers at production sites. The computers were great, way ahead of their time (they first came around in the 70's), but alas, they started to get old. I used to have a good working relationship with Digital, who were very sensitive to my needs - replacing busted disks at a day's notice, changing burnt communication cards at remote bases, etc. The only thing I knew I could not ask of Digital, is to provide me with software support. I'm sure they tried their best, but they came to a point where they had no PDP people in the software department. One day I received a system update from Digital (it came on a big blue tape reel), and decided to install it on a spare computer, just for the heck of it. The tape booted fine, but then presented some technical questions I wasn't sure how to answer. I called Digital's hotline.
M: Hi, I'm calling from the Air Force and I need some assistance with the RSX11M operating system.
D: Oh, you mean the PDP? Unfortunately, we have a little difficulty with PDP-related stuff right now. The man who deals with it is abroad.
M: I see. I'm stuck with some technical questions here...
D: Hey, listen, you're calling from the army, right?
M: Yeah...
D: You've got this dude, what's his name... Mr. Know-it-All ), who can help you!
M: I already asked him. He doesn't have a clue...
wildernesscat: (Default)
Today I lost my favorite tea box. It was a red tin box with chinese green tea in it. The cleaning lady probably threw it in the garbage. Well, what's done is done.
This reminded me of another lost object story, one with a happy end. Read more... )

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Danny Dorfman

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