Monthly Archives: May 2009

Build Your Own Linux Ubuntu Supercomputer For Under $350

While buying some new hardware — Intel X25-M SSD 80Gb SATA internal drive, Samsung external DVD and some DVD’s — I came across the following special offer from my favourite hardware vendor Newergg: Combo Deal 05/28/2009:

  • ECS BLACK SERIES GF8200A (V1.0) AM2+/AM3 NVIDIA GeForce 8200 HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail

    CPU Type Phenom II / Phenom / Athlon 64 X2 / Athlon 64 / Sempron
    (Note: This board supports CPU up to 95W TDP only)
    FSB 2600MHz Hyper Transport (5200 MT/s)
    Chipsets North Bridge NVIDIA GeForce 8200
    Number of Memory Slots 4×240pin Memory Standard; DDR2 1066; Maximum Memory Supported, 8GB ;
    Channel Supported Dual Channel
    Expansion Slots PCI Express 2.0 x16; 1 PCI Express x1; 2 PCI Slots 3
    Storage Devices PATA 1 x ATA100 2 Dev. Max; SATA 3Gb/s 5; SATA RAID 0/1/0+1/5
    Onboard Video Chipset NVIDIA GeForce 8200; Audio Chipset IDT 92HD206; Audio Channels 8; Onboard LAN; LAN Chipset, Realtek RTL8111; Max LAN Speed, 10/100/1000Mbps
    Rear Panel Ports, PS/2 2; Video Ports, D-SubHDMI 1 x HDMI; USB, 6 x USB 2.0; eSATA 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s; Audio Ports, 6; Onboard USB, 6 x USB 2.0
    Physical Spec Form Factor ATX; Dimensions, 12.0″ x 8.7″; Power Pin, 24;
    Package Contents GF8200A (V1.0; Driver Disk; User Manual; Rear I/O Panel Shield; IDE/PATA Cable;SATA Cable;

  • HITACHI 0A38016 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – OEM

    Model Brand , HITACHI; Model, 0A38016; Performance Interface SATA 3.0Gb/sl Capacitym 1TBl RPMm 7200 RPM; Cache, 16MB; Form Factor, 3.5″

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz Socket AM2+ 95W Dual-Core black edition Processor Model AD775ZWCGHBOX – Retail

    Name, Athlon 64 X2 7750; Operating Frequency, 2.7GHz; Hyper Transports, 3600MHz; L1 Cache, 128KB+128KB; L2 Cache , 2 x 512KB; L3 Cache, 2MB;
    Manufacturing Tech, 65 nm; 64 bit Support, Yes; Voltage, 1.05-1.325V; Thermal Power, 95W

  • EVGA 01G-P3-N959-TR GeForce 9500 GT 1GB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card – Retail

    Chipset Manufacturer, NVIDIA; GPU, GeForce 9500 GT; Core Clock, 550MHz; Stream Processors, 32;
    Memory Clock, 400Mhz (800Mhz Effective); Memory Size, 1GB; Memory Interface, 128-bit; Memory Type, GDDR2; 3D API, DirectX 10, OpenGL 2.1
    Ports: DVI, 2; TV-Out, HDTV / S-Video Out;
    General: RAMDAC 400 MHz; Max Resolution, 2560 x 1600; SLI Supported; Cooler With Fan;
    System Requirements Minimum of a 350 Watt power supply; (Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 18 Amp Amps.); Minimum 400 Watt for SLI mode system; (Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 22 Amp Amps.); ual-Link DVI Supported; HDCP Ready;

  • OCZ SLI-Ready Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ2N800SR4GK – Retail

  • HEC 6C28BBX585 Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 585W Power Supply – Retail
  • Pricing as follows:

    1. ECS GF8200A (V1.0): $79.99
    2. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies 0A38016: $79.99
    3. AMD AD775ZWCGHBOX: $59.99
    4. EVGA 01G-P3-N959-TR: $69.99
    5. OCZ Technology, Inc. OCZ2N800SR4GK: $45.99
    6. Compucase 6C28BBX585: $64.99
    7. Combo Discount: -$79.00
    8. Combo Price: $321.94
      $10.00 Mail-In Rebate
      $15.00 Mail-In Rebate
      $10.00 Mail-In Rebate


    To understand why this old-time says that, see On Programming: Moore’s Law and Software and look at the features of machines of 10, 30, and 50 years ago. These are machines I once used.

    What’s more interesting is that, on average, I would guess that most of these machines will never be used to 1/100 of one percent of their capacity. What a waste of power. See On Programming: Ecocode.

    Note that a copy of Vista would cost $100, over a quarter the cost of the hardware. Thank goodness we have Linux Ubuntu available at no cost.

    Note especially the CDC 6600, the world’s largest supercomputer from 1966 to the early 1970’s. It cost almost $10 million in 1970 dollars. You can now get a machine that is several orders of magnitudes bigger in memory , , with one terabyte of disk space, AND faster, for less than 1/30000th the price of the 6600.

    Or put the other way, the CDC 6600 would cost at least three hundred billion dollars today!!

    Just Astounding!

Search Terms for all days ending 2009-05-27 (Summarized) for this blog

In my previous post, TWWP Puzzler for May 27, 2009: which company once marketed operating sy? I listed the search strings that led people to view posts on this blog yesterday.

WordPress also keeps a running total of all the search terms used to date. You can find my list below, and I suggest it would be both fun and informative for other WordPress bloggers to publish their lists.

leigh anne tuohy 4,921
leigh ann tuohy 1,046
twiters 782
ubuntu computer 719
kyu chay 490
lotus symphony ubuntu 462
brief history of operating system 452
kenken solver 405
juploadr ubuntu 356
norman salsitz 335
fadwa hamdan 316
which company once marketed operating sy 297
ubuntu java version 281
symphony ubuntu 267
build your own linux computer 238
ubuntu compatible motherboards 231
“leigh anne tuohy” 229
me tube 216
ubuntu mount flash drive 209
ubuntu t60 193
ooxml specification 177
best browser for ubuntu 169
ubuntu lotus symphony 166
ubuntu intel 845 163
100 dollar computer 156
xo ubuntu 154
leigh anne tuohy picture 153
intel 845 ubuntu 151
ubuntu motherboards 150
annus terribilis 149
build ubuntu computer 149
intel 845g ubuntu 145
build linux computer 141
laptop xo 136
mount flash drive ubuntu 130
ubuntu motherboard 126
david shields 126
ubuntu compatible motherboard 125
ubuntu motherboard compatibility 125
building a linux computer 121
a brief history of operating system 120
ubuntu on xo 119
ubuntu access usb drive 119
ubuntu mount usb flash 118
build a linux computer 110
ken ken solver 109
ooxml spec 109
why do we need to communicate 107
ubuntu intel 845g 105
ubuntu kvm switch

Go, Leigh Ann!

Go MIchael Oher!

Go Rabbi Mike Shields!

Go Ravens!

Go Raven! (My youngest grandchild is named Raven, though not after the football team of the same name that now has the great good fortune to have Michael Oher on their roster. )

TWWP Puzzler for May 27, 2009: which company once marketed operating sy?

From time to time, say about every five minutes, I take a look at my WordPress “stats” page to see how I’m doing.

This morning I was astounded to learn that my note A Brief History of Operating Systems had drawn 236 views yesterday, and so far today it has drawn over 40. I am writing this early in the WordPress Day, so I expect many more views will also come today.

This blog drew almost five hundred views yesterday. The totals for the previous days were 184, 143, 144 and 317. I expect most of the 317 views, the day before yesterday, were also of this post.

Thing is, I don’t know what prompted people to come across this blog. I have no new incoming links. All I do have is the list of search strings that people used to reach my blog. The strings are truncated, as can be seen by the list of the ssearch trings people used yesterday:

which company once marketed operating sy 194
which company once marketed operating sy 26
leigh anne tuohy 6
kyu chay 4
ubuntu best browser 3
company once marketed operating systems 3
calcudoku solver 3
ubuntu compatible motherboards 2
jack schwartz eugenio 2
dr. barbara cooper 2
ubuntu compatible computer 2
the best browser for ubuntu 2
configuring video in ubuntu 2
how many people attended the 2009 indy 5 2
ubuntu install specific version 2
david shields blog 2
best browser ubuntu 2
technology 1900 1950 2
norman and amalie petranker salsitz bio 2
ny botanical gardens 2009 holiday train 2
asus terminator case how to open 2
company once marketed operating systems 2
trading places the movie + discriminatio 2
computer solves ken ken 2
best browser for ubuntu 2
remove java ubuntu 2
cathy chay 2
unicomp keyboard 2
kyu chay bronx science 1
staff sgt chay 1
6100sm-m beeps 1
les miserables 823 1
who runs ibm 1
different java version ubuntu 1
opera browser for ubuntu 1
can red hat survive 1
picture of a leaf falling from a tree 1
linux anitivirus 1
report assembly language 1
access usb drive ubuntu 1
glynmoody blogg 1
how to access a usb drive +ubuntu 1
how many people attend the indy 500 in 2 1
mount flash drives ubuntu 1
programming project plan 1
best web browser for ubuntu 8.10 1
sherlock holmes and dr.watson 1
a.j. liebling freedom of the pres 1
who put hieroglyphics in computers 1
market operating system who once called 1

By the way, I find the list of strings quite informative, as it’s one way of finding out which posts worked, and which didn’t. I’m also pleased by the variety of the strings, an indication of the broad range of the blog. For example, “A. J. Liebling,” “Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes,” “SSgt. Chay,” and “Leigh Ann Tuohy.” I am especially pleased by the large number of strings containing “ubuntu,” a sign of the growing interest in Ubuntu and also confirmation that I was wise to write so many posts about it.

Today’s Puzzler is to find the reason that so many people wanted to know “which company once marketed operating sy.”

Then again, did they want to know which company once marked a man named Sy?

I don’t know.

Do you?

The Dave Shields Abecederian

If you read some of my recent posts closely you will find such words as “eponymous,” “euphonious,” “nubbin,” and “sobriquet.”

These are not common words, and here is why I not only know them, but had made them part of my working vocabulary before I was twenty.

During my years in high school I worked twenty or more hours a week, and full-time in the summer, for a small company in my hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

They let me go in the middle of senior year. They had earlier gotten some funding from the publisher Grolier’s, and had spent most of it on a new building which had a swimming pool on the roof, a ridiculous thing to do in ABQ’s scorching temperature and blazing sun.

Now having lots of time on my hands, I decided to run an experiment to see how late I could stay up at night. Having read the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, from cover to cover twice a few years earlier, I decided to do something involving very structured reading.

I tried the works of Henry James, and soon learned that to read his dense prose after midnight is to consume the best sleeping potion yet devised. Three paragraphs and I was a goner. I later read James during my college summers in ABQ, when I had to go to sleep in a small apartment with no air conditioning save a failing “swamp cooler.”

swamp cooler a device for cooling the air in arid climates, consisting of a box containing a large fan surrounded by straw mats, over which water is slowly dripped.

So I decided to read the dictionary cover to cover, making a list of the words I might find useful later in life. I also wanted to improve my vocabulary, since my mother, even though she never attended college, had the largest working vocabulary I had yet seen, I excluded scientific names and terms, especially for biology.

I have yet to meet a person with a larger working vocabulary that my mother. She loved crossword puzzles, and was also very good at creating them, usually as a hand-made puzzle as a form of birthday card, with the answers being traits of the subject, or other miscellania. She subscribed to the Manchester Guardian for decades, both the get their famed puzzle each week, as well as Alistair Cooke’s wonderful “Letter from America.”

I then read a few pages each night, writing down the words I found interesting in a small black loose-leaf notebook.

Filling those pages represented an enormous investment of my time. I used the American College Dictionary.

The ACD runs to 1421 pages. There are about forty words to a page, for a total of 1.4e3 pages times 4e1 words/page, which yields 5.6e4, or almost 60,000 words.

As I have written in an earlier post, Jack Schwartz once lost part of the manuscript for the last volume of Dunford and Schwartz. He searched for it for weeks, and eventually found it.

I thought I had lost my small notebook. A few years back I came across it. I was pleased to learn I still had it in my possession, but I foolishly put it back where I had found it, and have been unable to locate it since.

So I have decided to re-create it, as time permits, knowing that as I reach the last page of the Z’s, it will finally turn up. If it does, it will be interesting to see how the two lists compare. If not, at least I will have an updated abecedarian.

I will also try to only include words that I didn’t know back then.

Here there are the first few words for my abecedarian, up to the word “abecedarian” itself:

aardwolf a striped, hyenalike African Mammal. I probably added since since it so close to aardvark, which I knew

Abaddon the place of destruction; the depth of hell (known these days as Redmond, Washington.)

abatis an obstacle of trees with bent or sharpened branches directed toward the enemy

abecedarian a pupil who is learning the letters of the alphabet; a beginner

I was delighted to come across this word so early in my journey, for it precisely described what I was trying to do.

“Abecedarian” was thus the first entry on my list of the favourite words that I learned during my experiment. Others that immediately come to mind include:

eleeomosynary of or pertaining to alms, charity, or charitable donations; charitable. I was struck by the initial “eleeo,” four vowels in five letters, and also the ending “synary.”

lagniappe something given with a purchase to a customer by way of compliment or for good measure. This would become #1, though I didn’t know that when I wrote it down.

philopena a friendly or playful practice by which when two ersons have by agreement shared a nut with two kernels, or the like, the person who fails subsequently to meet certain conditions is bound to pay the other a forfeit; the thing shared, the forfeit paid. As it turned out, it would be a tie for first place: “lagniappe” and “philopena.”

These words are examples of the pleasure that can come from reading a dictionary. Apart from names, the word definitions, each the work of a team of skilled linguists and writers, are exemplars of writing that is both terse and precise.

exemplar a model or pattern to be copied or imitated; an example; typical instance.

“Examplar” comes just a few words after another favourite:

exegesis critical explanation or interpretation, esp. of Scripture. [t. NL, t. Gk, explanation], where “t” stands for “taken from.”

A related word is “prooftext.” It is not in the ACD. I wanted to use it recently, but had forgotten the word. I sent a query via twitter to @jonstalling and he immediately gave me the word. John is a minister. I added him to my twitter list since his church includes the world “Lynwood,” my first name.

prooftext defined by Wikipedia as “Prooftexting is the practice of using decontextualised quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition. Critics of the technique note that often the document, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition.”

Note that Wikipedia’s defintion is much more verbose than it would be in the ACD had they included it. Wikipedia is good at gathering the essentials of a topic, but the writing leaves much to be desired. It’s a shame that more people skilled in editing don’t participate in the project.

Until the mid 1800’s it was assumed that any educated person had a detailed knowledge of the Bible, and so people could converse in prooftext. I recently wrote a post using prooftext from Ecclesiastes. The most common prooftext today is “John 3:16,” often seen on signs at sporting events.

The word origins define a world in themselves. For example, I had four years of Latin, and am also left-handed, so I noted with interest that “siniister” derives from the Latin “sinestre,” for “on the left.” “Dextrous” derives from “dexter,” for “on the right.”

These words are examples of discrimination enacted into our language. Others include “barbarian” and “yid, ” each an example of xenophobia:

xenophobia fear or hatred of strangers

I recall, though the ACD doesn’s say it, that “xenos” is Greek for stranger. This in itself is another reason to read a dictionry. “xeno” is a root. If you can learn the roots, most of which come from Latin or Greek, then it becomes much easier to guess the definition of a word you haven’t see before. For example, “phobia,” derives from the Greek “phobos,” or fear, as shown by “acrophobia,” fear of heights, “hydrophobia,” feat of water, and the well-known “agoraphobia,” fear of crowds. “Agoraphobia” is the joining of two roots: “agora” for “marketplace,” or open space, and “phobia.”

Jack Schwartz was a great student of language. Though he had a large vocabulary, it wasn’t as large as my mother’s. He told me about the world “lox” after he had read a dictionary of Indo-European roots. He had found that “lox”, for “fish” or “salmon,” was among the oldest words whose derivation had been determined.

By the way, there is one word that is used more than almost any other English word throughout the world, even by people who don’t speak English. It is “ok,” yet its origin remains an open topic. The ACD says of it, “O.K., origin much debated, but prob. def. “O.K. Club,” formed in 1840 by partisans of Martin van Burnen who alledgedly named their organization in allusion to “Old Kinderhook,” his birthplace being Kinderhook, N.Y..” This is another example an a very carefully drawn definition, one with not a single needless word.

I expect to find my lost abecedarian as I approach the end, perhaps even just after writing down “zucchetto,” the only I recall from the short journey through the letter “Z.”
It is the name of the small cap that looks like a yamulke which is worn by Catholic clerics. “Zucchetto” derives from the Italian “zucchetta,” a diminuitive of “zucca,” for gourd or head.

Some words, of which “zucchetto” is a good example, are of limited use in ordinary conversation. I doubt you have ever heard anyone say, “Did you see the Pope’s new zucchetto? He looks very handsome in it.”

I once heard a similar anecdote about someone who had studied French in college. They recalled only a single phrase, and spent their entire life trying, without success, to work into a conversation: “The innkeeper has just been struck by lightning. What should I do?”

Professor Ken Kennedy, a colleague from my student days at NYU, once remarked that one of the first phrases he learned in any language was, “Where is your bedroom?”

I wrote a post recently that used the word “nubbin.” I said it was a nelogism for I knew it was in the dictionary, but I didn’t recall if it had been on my list. I just looked it up and found:

nubbin a small lump or piece; a small or imperfect ear of maize; an undeveloped fruit.

I’m now certain it is on the list, for I do recall writing down a word derived from “maize,” the native American name for what we call corn.

Nubbins: Blogging is to Coding as Coding is to Mathematics

Redmonk’s Steve O’Grady writes occasional posts titled, for example, “Friday Grab Bag.” Each is short and consists of series of brief discussions of topics, each of which he could of course expand into a complete post, but he publishes them just as abbreviated drafts, since his busy schedule and the priorities of being a Redmonk partner require that he give attention where attention is due, especially in these difficult economic times.

I now face the same problem.

I need to make coding my main passion, not blogging.

I’m going to adopt a similar strategy, though I will use the word “nubbins” instead of the phrase “grab bag.”

“Nubbin” is not a neologism, but an actual word. It stands for a small ear or corn, or an undeveloped fruit. I first heard it used by Jack Schwartz, when he spoke of “nubbins of code” as part of a particular compiler/translation process, by which he meant the translator would emit small sequences of code in an orderly fashion.

I have faced this problem before. About September, 1969, knowing that I had to finally undertake the arduous course of study needed to pass an oral exam so I could continue on the path towards a doctorate, I realised that I had to abandon programming, my great passion. I could not do both, for turning to coding as a relief from studying advanced mathematics would be a fatal trap. I also knew the call to programming would be a siren’s song, for I then made my living by coding.

So I took a self-imposed sabbatical from coding and became a part-time New York CIty taxicab driver for several months.

Driving a cab is a simple job, though it is arduous in its own way. You leave the fleet garage, work for a few hours, go back to the garage, and then go home. It’s a hard way to make a buck, but you do leave the job behind.

I can testify under oath that I never lay awake in bed at night wondering if I could have made more money going up 10th Avenue instead of 8th, because I forgot the Knicks were playing the Celtics at home, and thus traffic had been a nightmare near 34th and 8th.

In those days, before the advent of the internet, you had to be at the computer center to code. On more weekends than I can count, I would leave Courant late on a Friday comfortable that all the immediate problems had been conquered.

Then, on the subway home, and in some cases on the way to the subway station, I would suddenly realise that I had left a bug behind back in my office, and I would then be consumed trying to find the fix, knowing that the weekend was in part shot, for I would be thinking about that damn bug for most of the weekend.

I also recall many a time when I returned to the office after I had set out for home, to make just a quick fix, only to find it was tougher than I had thought. My wife soon got used to the variability of our dinner schedule, and I remain in her debt. [1]

Even worse was figuring out the source of the problem before I arrived home, as then I knew I would have to wait until Monday to fix it, and so would be delayed in the finding of the next bug.

I did pass the exam, in May of 1970, but that had a sad side-effect.

As I left the exam room, I said to myself that I now knew more of a variety of fields of mathematics than I would know for the rest of my life. Though I knew I was a programmer at heart, I did love mathematics, and I could foresee that theorem after beautiful theorem would soon be falling from my memory, as do the leaves from the trees.

I miss them still. Though I do remember the names of the most of them, I don’t have the proofs, nor the time to bring them back now.

I first became aware of this loss of memory after Richard Feynman’s very first lecture on quantum mechancs.

It was his most memorable lecture. He started by saying, “We have these little things called atoms that jiggle,” and then proceeded to lay out the essence of quantum mechanics in less than an hour.

I left the lecture hall at noon just KNOWING quantum mechanics. But as I began the journey down the Olive Walk to my job as a waiter at the Caltech Faculty Club I felt the edifice — like the Tower of Babel — start to tumble.

First I couldn’t recall why A had implied B, though he had convinced me it was true. Then I forgot the precise definition of A.

By the time I put on my white waiter’s coat the whole structure — all of quantum mechanics — had been left behind in nubbins of information on the Olive Walk.

But at least — if only for a few minutes — I did understand quantum mechanics. I really did.

Then again, what’s a quantum?

I’ve forgotten.


1. Being in debt to your cutie-pie is not a problem if on occasion you use a ploy that I have found to be quite effective:

I have yet to meet a woman who complained after her husband gave her something he had bought at Tiffany’s.


I have just created a new blog at WordPress, SPITBOL,.

It is intended for the use of the SPITBOL community, and I hope that it willl evolve into a group blog, with most of the content coming from others.

I will continue publishing my writings on SPITBOL in this, my primary blog,

On Programming: SPITBOL is FUN

I just sent the following note to the SPITBOL group at Yahoo:

See my recent post, “On Programming: Moore’s Law and Software,”

It is based on the results from running a few simple programs comparing runtime performance of SPITBOL and Python, in which I learned that

# SPITBOL is five times faster than Python for integer arithmetic operations;
# SPITBOL is two times faster than Python performing floating point arithmetic;
# SPITBOL is 2.5 times faster than Python performing string operations;
# SPITBOL is seven times faster than Python calling procedures.

This suggests that the best way to improve the performance of Python code is to rewrite it in SPITBOL.

I expect this is also the case for programs written in other “scripting languages” such as Java, PHP, Perl and Ruby, for example.

SPITBOL is remarkable in that it is BOTH a high-level programming language and a high-level assembler language.

No other language can make this claim, or at least no other language has yet been so well implemented.

This comes as no surprise to those who, like myself and Gordon, have used SPITBOL.

No other language provides as much fun by the writing of programs in it than SPITBOL.

Every line is an adventure, an amusement, and a challenge.

On Travel: Innocents Abroad

I saw an incoming link on this blog from Lauren Cooney’s blog, so I went to investigate the reason. Lauren used to work at IBM and now works at Microsoft. I got her name from a mutual friend at IBM Research. Both on are on my Facebook friends list, and Lauren has made many interesting comments there.

The link came from a comment that someone had made on our of her posts. Written just over a year ago, the post relates her encounter with some policemen while in China on behalf of IBM. See My Adventures at the Chinese Police Station…

I noticed that the link came from a comment I had recently made, so as long as I was there I added a couple of new comments.

This, by the way, is perhaps the best way to thank someone for writing an interesting post. You should return the favour by posting a comment. Very few people do so. [1]

I always include a link back to my blog when I enter a comment, to the curious reader can click to reach my blog.

Here is my latest comments, followed by the ones I had made earlier. All are about what can happen when an innocent travels abroad.

I found this an Interesting post.

By way of background, see my post
from which you will learn that I was once a New York taxi driver. (I just founded a LinkedIN group for my fellow hackers), so I’m a hacker twice over: as a programmer and as a taxicab driver.

You make the excellent point that one needs to understand the local laws, and especially the culture, when visiting a foreign country. For example, back in the 70’s when I first visited Russia, you could be arrested for taking a picture of a railroad station, bridge, or airport. (I expect the Russki’s expected to German army to invade any day.)

I had a surprising, though not hostile, encounter with a border guard.
My wife and arrived in Moscow late one Saturday night, and left ten or so days later from the same airport, early in the morning.

The *same* man was there both times to check our passport!

At first I thought the Russki’s had sent him there just to make sure we had not had plastic surgery or somesuch, but that didn’t seem realistic. Then he noticed his name on his visa, and seemed as surprised as I at the coincidence, and then said, “Hmmm, I checked you in too.”

Martin Davis, the famed mathematician and logician, once had an encounter with a US Customs agent. While in Moscow he had bought a “matroshki” (?), the nested wooden dolls often found in tourist traps. The agent opened one, then the other, and then the other, each time with more excitement, expecting to find some drugs inside.

Martin, or it may have been someone else, had a similar encounter, though I think this one happened in Israel. Let’s call him Mr. Ignoto.

Mr. Ignoto went on a trip, not knowing that at the last minute his wife had slipped a small plastic bag full of detergent into one of his shoes.

When a customs agent later noticed the white power and asked Mr. Ignoto to explain the powder, Ignoto said he had never seen it before, and that someone must have put it in his show.

Since this is the usual excuse of a criminal, Ignoto was promptly taken aside, and it took several hours before the agents figure out it was just soap.

I was in St. Pete in June 2004 on IBM’s business. As I left the elevator the first morning I said to myself, “Dave, today you ARE SWG in St. Pete, and you have the city to yourself.” Then I saw a sign welcoming visitors to a Microsoft conference, and realized that Steve Mills and the rest of us in SWG had a tough row to hoe.

I’ve been to Russia four times, the last two (2004 in St. Pete on IBM’s dime).The first was in October 1973 just after the end of the Yom Kippur War. (My wife’s parents were both born in Russia, and I had two years of Russian in HS, as well as a semester at Caltech, and a brush-up course at Berlitz before our departure.

We entered and left at Shermeytevo Airport in Moscow. We left late on a Saturday night, and I noticed the same man was in the passport booth! I thought they had scheduled his tour just so he could check me out, but he was as surprised as I was.)

The sense of relief on the plane as the wheels lifted was palpable. We all cheered.

Das Vidanya,

Spasibo (thanks) ,dave


1. There is another lesson to be learned here. You can recycle one or more comments you have made about someone else’s post into a new post of your own.

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