Six for Thursday

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caserea - April 2016

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caesarea – April 2016

Because tonight is yomtov, I am unable to give the regular set of links on Friday. Here’s six for Thursday by way of compensation.


And a bonus, especially suitable for the chag and the times we live in:

From freedom to enslavement

Chag Sameach! Shabbat Shalom!

Five For Friday

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv - February 2010

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv – February 2010

I have spent most of this week trying not to think about Pesach. I failed. Every year, the festival looms like an ominous threat, because it’s always hard work (especially for Susan) and the change in diet is challenging on many levels. But, as someone reminded me earlier in the week, it’s good to be alive and able to complain. This observation is somewhat heightened by last night’s news of the death of Rabbi Daniel Beller, the rabbi of Shivtei Yisrael in Ra’anana, a thoroughly nice man, well respected, loved, and sure to be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we hope they will be spared sorrow for many, many years to come.

After that, the sad truth is that life goes on, with every moment as precious as ever, no matter how we fill it. And so it is that I offer the regular weekly selection of links. I cannot promise you will find answers to the philosophical challenges of our time, or the meaning of life and death. But there are occasions when other less weighty topics are the best medicine for the challenges we all face.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chag Sameach!

Back to the Cold War

On the table, BAOR, one of SPI’s Central Front Series.

The dangers of advance after combat

The dangers of advance after combat

I always liked the system used in these games. It essentially combines the friction of combat with the friction of doing anything in wartime, so that units accumulate Friction Points (FP) from both activities. Get too many, and the unit dies. The cool additional feature is that you can activate units multiple times in the same game turn. So, you can push your forces hard, and deciding just how hard is one of the challenges the game gives you.

I recently twice played out the short scenario in this game, which tasks the invading Soviets with the mission of crossing the Weser, or taking Kessel. The defenders are mostly British and West German, with a few Belgian speed bumps for company.

The first time, I screwed up some key rules, and did not give the Soviets the proper benefit of the resources available to them (chemicals, air superiority). Partly this was because I remembered the system as being easier than it actually is. It’s not super complex, but there are some subtle tweaks that can make a big difference. That first effort ended with the Soviet threat being well and truly blunted.

Second time around, the Soviets were significantly more potent, and unsurprisingly more successful.  I’m not sure how easy it would be for the Soviets to win the longer scenario, given the run down in their forces and the growing ranks of the defenders.

It was good to take a trip back to the 1980s with this game. This is from the series that SPI changed horses half way through. It was announced as an ambitious ten game set covering a hypothetical 1980’s Cold War turning hot. The first three games (Hof Gap, Fifth Corps and BAOR) used the same system, even benefiting from a cleaned up second edition rule book. North German Plain and Donau Front belatedly appeared, and were new games almost completely; only the map scale was consistent. The series was never completed with either system. I didn’t take to the latter two games, though much of this may have been driven by my disappointment in the abandonment of the original system. One day, I’ll get them out and give them another try. All I have to do, is find them…


Replacing lawyers?

Globes has some financial news about an Israeli startup that caught my eye:

Israeli online contract review platform LawGeex announced today $2.5 million in funding from Lool Ventures and LionBird and angel investors Eilon Tirosh and Rami Lipman. The startup has also launched its online contract review solution free of charge for consumers. Using machine learning, the Israeli startup sets out to “out-lawyer” the lawyers.

And how do you “out-lawyer” lawyers, according to the report?

LawGeex allows consumers to upload any type of contract to its platform and receive, within 24 hours, an in-depth report of what’s good, bad and even missing from their contract. Currently reviewing over 20 types of contracts, the free solution begins with employment agreements, with more contract types to be offered for free in the near future.

Here’s more by way of context:

LawGeex cofounder and CEO Noory Bechor said, “The driving force behind LawGeex is the belief that no one should sign a contract that they don’t fully understand. An astounding 33% of Americans need a lawyer every year but do not hire one, either because they can’t afford to or did not know where to turn. This ultimately leads to one-sided negotiations and unfair results. LawGeex has already earned the trust of thousands of users while ensuring quality and transparency, leveling the playing field when it comes to contract negotiations. Our machine learning platform has already reviewed over tens of thousands of contracts, many of which are employment contracts from some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. We make sure all employees get a fair deal.”

An interesting concept. So, you get a contract, and you give it to LawGeex to review. LawGeex tells you what is wrong with the contract.

(I have assumed the system is somehow able to tailor its advice taking into account jurisdictional issues. For example, just sticking to employment contracts, there are differences between USA and UK law about what is required, what is the normal standard, and what is legal and illegal.)

That’s very helpful. But what then? How do you fix the contract? It doesn’t appear if LawGeex is going to give you the contract wording required to address whatever issues arise. And, knowing what needs to be added to a contract, and actually adding it – making sure all the angles are covered – is no trivial task. To do it properly, you need to have some experience or training. You know, like being a lawyer…

I’m poking fun at the concept while recognizing that they do not promote it as a complete legal solution. But that’s not exactly an up front message. So, I question how useful LawGeex might be without proper legal skills to back it up. I have not seen anything to suggest LawGeex will provide the missing text, nor am I aware of any technological solution. For sure, there are online contract providers, but they are all offering templates, and not individually tailored contract revision advice. For that, at least for now, you need a human being. (A bit of a stretch when it comes to some members of my former profession, I know, but let’s live with it for now.)

It will be interesting to see how LawGeex does. Perhaps it will be a fit for someone else active in this field. But for now, I’m skeptical it will be successful, long term.

The Globes report is available, here.

Lou Reed and the Wise Child

With Pesach on its way, here’s some alternative reading about one of the themes of the chag. It’s from a 2014 essay by Steven Lee Beeber, on the Fathom site:

When I was writing my book about the Jewish origins of punk, The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s, I referred to Lou Reed as both the Alter Kocker (old fart) Indie Rocker and the Zayde (grandfather) of the movement. I still believe these titles fit the man, but in the wake of his recent death, I have come to see that he is deserving of a third. Like the figure in the Passover Seder that he played annually in public, Reed was the Wise Child. Unlike his brothers, the Wicked Child, the Simple Child, and the One Unable to Ask, he saw both the tragedy and triumph of Jewish history.

It wasn’t always that way.

Read it all, here.  Lou Reed’s Jewish strand is the subject of this 2013 post of mine.

Earthquake about to hit Tel Aviv

Not a real one, of course. But this has the potential to be devastating:

Bicyclists to be fined for riding on Tel Aviv sidewalks

Cyclists will be fined up to NIS 1,000 for more severe violations starting May 1.

The Tel Aviv municipality today [17 April 2016] announced that starting on May 1, Israel Police will begin enforcing the law banning bicycle riding on sidewalks.

Tel Aviv is swarming with bikes – electric and standard. And while there is some bike path infrastructure, most bikes are ridden on the pavement. Unfortunately, many bikes – especially electric bikes – are ridden in a manner that is dangerous to pedestrians, as well as the riders. It is a plague. This action is long overdue.

As Globes’ report continues:

Before enforcement begins, the Tel Aviv municipality, the police, and the National Road Safety Authority will conduct a major public relations campaign, to begin this Sunday. The campaign will include billboards, a video clip, and green graffiti on sidewalks. During campaigns, explanations will be given by policemen, municipal inspector, and stewards, who will distribute information sheets about proper riding and enforcement measures to bicycle riders and pedestrians.

When enforcement begins after the Passover holiday, policemen will begin enforcing the law against riders of bicycles and electric bicycles riding on sidewalks instead of on marked bicycle paths. Enforcement measures will also be taken against severe violations, for which the fine will vary from NIS 100 to NIS 1,000, including going through a red light, riding in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone while riding, and disturbing pedestrians in crosswalks.

Punitive measures will include fines, taking the air out of bicycle tires, and confiscation of batteries (for children under 16 illegally riding electric bicycles).

I just wish they would do the same in Ra’anana. The plague of electric bikes is terrible. And Pesach seems like a good time to sort out a plague!

Parking Masterclass Returns

It’s a while since we have had one of these. This one is a real beauty:

"Should I stay, or should I go now?"

“Should I stay, or should I go now?”

The picture was taken in HaMlachah Street in Ra’anana, behind the Ra’ananim shopping mall. This selfish bastard was parked right on top of a pedestrian (zebra) crossing. If you look, you can see the partly faded white bands on the road. There was space in front and behind, so there was zero need to block the crossing. OK, admittedly tagged red and white to signify ‘no parking,’ but that illegal parking would have been preferable to me and other pedestrians.

In his world, pedestrians don’t matter.

Since most Israeli pedestrian casualties occur at crossings, this behavior was not only selfish, it was downright dangerous, and inexcusable. Continuing proof that we badly need some good old fashioned traffic wardens here.

Gaming catchup

Just a short post to record the last couple of (non wargame) game sessions. I have an ASL scenario to write up.

Peleg, Sheer and I managed to try out Ortus Regni for the first time. I’m not sure a three player encounter was the best introduction to the game, and for sure we only scratched the surface of the possibilities, but it was overall a positive experience. I want to try it out in an extensive two player session, to better get to grips with it.

We followed that up with San Juan. Sheer got off to a flying start, and neither Peleg nor I could catch up.

Also, Peleg and I got together for some 7 Wonders: Duel. It was Peleg’s first attempt, but he picked up the idea pretty quickly and his blue card victory point strategy just failed to get him the win. I continue to be impressed by how this game hits so many sweet spots: it is fast, nicely balances luck and skill, and has many routes to victory. One of my favorite two player games at the moment.