Category Archives: Taxi-and-other-stories

Michal Linial: Vive La Technology

     
    Nebi Samuel
     
    It was a long night after crossing the Atlantic. I got to the airport and indeed the big signs of ‘Welcome’ and “TAAM SHEL BAIT” (taste of home) had a special appeal. It was 3:30 in the morning when I took the Taxi. The driver was very talkative and wanted to know where I am coming from, are the stories that he had heard on America true. Specifically he wanted to know if I went to the Twins to see the city from the tallest buildings etc, etc.
    I replied shortly: “Yes, New York is as everybody said”. For the Twins, I replied: “No, there is no elevator there anymore”… I tried to be polite but at the same time to keep our touristy discussion to a minimum.  The Taxi driver turned out to be quite sensitive to my poor situation and told me very proudly: “Please tell me where, and I will take you, I have a new GPS, just tell me the address and the GPS will show me the way”. Indeed, I shared with him the importance of the GPS technology and even told him that I may soon buy one for my own car. My address is Nave Sha’anan 18, I told him, and 2 minutes later, I was asleep, this time very confident that in 45 min I am at home and to my bed. The next thing I know is Continue reading

1:0 to Italy: Michal Linial

Coming back from Hinxton, the most exciting genome center in the world and the most boring place after 5pm… At 5:30, a shuttle bus takes all the ‘workers’ to the big city – to Cambridge. The shuttle bus dropped us in the middle of town and without noticing, I remained alone. I quickly looked around; actually, there was no one on the street… OK I decided, the evening is not lost yet, I will go to London…
 
I waited 5 minutes and a Taxi stopped next to me. To the train station” I said. My taxi driver started the ride and then slowed down, stopped for a minute next to an open bar looked extremely worried and after 2 minutes speeded up again. We moved another 100 meters and again, he slows down and stop for 2 minutes next to a TV screen in the next open bar. He looks bothered and mumbled to himself, I hate him, Continue reading

Academic Degrees and Sex

“251 Mercer street” I said, “it is in the village,” “I know that” said the driver “are you going to NYU?” “Yes” I said. I was going to give a lecture at Ricky and Eli’s Tuesday evening’s Geometry Seminar and came earlier to have a chance to chat with the guys. “Let me tell you something” the driver said, “I did not finish elementary school, I left in the 6th grade and started working, and everyday I come home and have sex. My friends who finished elementary school have sex 2-3 times a week, tops. And , you know,” continued the driver “those who went on to finish high school, they have sex maybe once a week, no more.” “I see,” I said. Continue reading

The Simplified Pill Algorithm

 

Ok so I had to take one pill every day, and fortunately the pill package was marked, it contained 14 pills with labels Sunday, Monday and so on. It started with Sunday, which was the mark for the leftmost pill. The pharmacy gave me 30 pills every month, two packages and 2 separately, which meant that taking the pills would be out of synchronization. 

However, I had it all figured out: All I need is to remember a single number between -3 and 3 for the entire four weeks. Say the starting day is Tuesday. Then I had to remember the number -2. On Tuesday I take the leftmost pill for Sunday, on Wednesday I take the pill for Monday, on Thursday I take the pill for Tuesday,  and so on. If, for example, the starting date is Thursday, then I have to remember +3. The pill for Sunday I take on Thursday, and then the pill for Monday I take on Friday etc. Easy. (I tried to write this number of the package but this didn’t work.)

I can remember several 7 digit phone numbers so, in theory, I did not see any difficulty in remembering one small integer number for an entire month. The math itself was not too challenging.  

In practice it did not work so well. Sometimes I could not remember: either I already took the pill and the magic number is 2 or I did not and it is 3. Other times, I wondered if the magic number +2 or -2.

After several months Continue reading

Michal Linial – An Ambassador in Singapore

 

After the wonderful “being a cosmonaut” taxi-story, I am happy to present you:

 An Ambassador in Singapore

A story by Michal Linial

 

It was a long trip, 4 days in Singapore. I visited the tallest artificial waterfall in the world, and went on a night safari with artificial moon light. Well, time to go back home to reality. Before leaving my hotel, I made sure that I had enough money for a taxi ride to the airport. Due to last minute extra taxes, I found myself with only 15 Singaporean Dollars (~ 10 $ US). In the hotel, they promised me that it is more than enough. I entered the Taxi and immediately mentioned that I have 15$.

In the next 30 minutes my taxi driver explained that he actually does not want these 15$ at all. At the matter of fact, he is honored to take me to the airport as a treat of the Singaporean people to their distinguished guests. He said: ”I want your memories from Singapore to be enjoyable so you will tell everyone to visit us, and so you come back as well”. I was impressed. He continued: “my real satisfaction is to be the ambassador of my country”. He even went into some psychological arguments: “Can you remember the last time you were in Paris, can you tell me who took you to the airport?” I admitted that I did not remember, and then he continued: “Can you remember who took you to the airport from Jerusalem only 5 days ago ?” I had to admit that I did not remember any of this…and then he made his last point ”You will always remember me and you will want to come again to Singapore just because you met people like me”. Indeed, Continue reading

Cosmonaut: Michal Linial

  

Ladies and gentelmen, I am very happy to present to you:

Being a Cosmonaut

A story by Michal Linial

I am back from the airport… not in the best mood for a long discussion but quite open to hear refreshing political statements. 50 minutes taxi ride that is all what it takes… This time, the communication took its own turns… I start with my regular question: “What is new this week”. This time, my Russian Taxi driver ignored my question and asked back: “How many planets are there?” I told him that to the best of my knowledge there are 9 planets that orbit around the sun. Really, he shouted: “my wife tells me there are 8 and she tells me she is a cosmonaut” and he continues, she knows nothing! I said that there might be some debate, so 8 is a good number and probably I got confused. My Taxi driver got really mad now: “You are not a cosmonaut and you know better”.
Two minutes later, he asks me again “how old is the earth”. This time I was a bit less decisive and told my taxi driver that I am not sure, but the accepted number is 4-5 billion years. To make sure this time there will be no conflicts with his marriage, I immediately added, the universe is much older, also, many people believe that the earth is much younger. My taxi driver now is very excited and answers me without hesitation: “You see, I can not even ask my wife this question, she says she is a cosmonaut, but I am sure that if I ask her, she will not know”… Continue reading

Tel-Aviv’s “Jerusalem Beach”

 

Friday’s evening at the beach

Late Friday afternoon, and the “Jerusalem beach” in Tel Aviv is still quite crowded with young and old people, families and singles, tourists, foreign workers and Israelis. The sea is calm and beautiful and the Tel Aviv shore landscape of people and buildings is restless and captivating. A young Philippine man with a baby on his shoulders ends a long cell phone conversation spoken in a strange language, with the familiar Hebrew ending “yalla bye“. A  father of a Russian speaking family takes pictures of his family with his cell phone, as does the father of an Arabic speaking family on our other side; in fact people all over the place are taking  pictures of each other with their cell phone cameras. What do they do with all these pictures? Where do they store them?

On our other side, another groups of foreign workes, six young women and two men. Two try to play beach paddle ball (matkot), a national Israeli beach game. They also take cell phone pictures, and then one plays the guitar and they all sing, “Jesus is our savior”, and “Jesus is our Shephard”, and even one song in Hebrew.

The sunset is breathtaking. A long waiting and then when the time comes the big orange sun disappears in a matter of seconds. Many people take sunset pictures with their cell phones.

On the way back we see three nuns with black outfits and one priest. They have serious expressions. They are Greek Orthodox, I think. The priest spins his hat in the air and tries to catch the hat with his head.     

  

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Updates

I have uploaded to the archive a paper on noisy quantum computation, which is a revision and an extension of my paper from 2006. A paper of Ehud Friedgut, Noam Nisan and myself about manipulations in voting rules was accepted to FOCS08. This is my 4th FOCS/STOC paper. (Larry Stockmeyer was a coauthor in one of my papers.)  I am planning to blog on issues around these two papers sometime in the future. (Meanwhile, there is an interesting post and discussion on quantum computers skepticism on Scott Aaronson’s blog.) Remember A. Nilli? We danced in her wedding on Sunday! Congratulations Nilli and John! As this post is launched I am at a high-dimensional phenomena conference in Sevillia. I have updated (or will soon update) the post about Han’s formula and provided more details. I also added a link to an interesting discussion on “Secret Blogging Seminar” related to my post “Is mathematics a Science”.

Continue reading