Computer Science and Cooking a la Babushka: Recursive stuffed pepper

Very rarely I can combine two of the loved ones in my life – computer science and cooking. But getting some inspiration from watching modern Aussie food in Master Chef Australia (they did some flowered seafood strangely enough, but surely I can’t pick how my own brain works anyway) as well as my beloved partner making a Bolognese  sauce, I came with this recursive dish: A stuffed pepper with a stuffed pepper inside…

You need to pick up pepper that match in shape and allow you to cook such a recursive dish.

Essentially a stuffed pepper, with an inner stuffed pepper… Depending on your stack size (silly inside joke) you can try to put a smaller chilli pepper inside, and yet even a smaller birds eye pepper inside to make it even geekier.

Below recipe has two levels, and does not specify exact quantities as they pertain the count and size of pepper you are using.

Bon a petite!


  • Large peppers (e.g. bell pepper) – You can use other shaped ones (like the long ones)
  • Smaller Peppers – Match the shape to fit within the bigger ones
  • Optional: Even smaller peppers (I used diced birds eye)
  • External stuffing : rice, oil and water
  • Internal stuffing:  minced meat, onions, carrots,  tomatoes, celery, garlic, thyme, olive oil, red wine, bay leaf
  • Roasted pine nuts
  • Tomato
  • Salt and pepper


  • Make the inner pepper filling – I’ve done a Bolognese alike sauce, using the ingredients above – slightly sweating the onion in the pan in some oil, then adding the carrots, tomatoes and celery, and then adding the meat, wine and spices
  • Preheat oven to medium-high (~200 C)
  • Make the outer pepper filling – I’ve done plain white rice
  • Roast some pine nuts, walnuts or both on a pan for a short while – make them slightly coloured and smoky but not overdo it
  • Note: You can mix the fillings, or keep them separated – and can mix the nuts as well. You can also make any other baked fillings
  • Now for the stuffing – cut the inner pepper head (figuratively, it does not normally hurt but what do I know), clean the seeds and white thingies, clean the head – and fill it with the meaty sauce. I added also some diced birdseyes. You can put the head back.
  • Cut the outer pepper head, clean it and the head, add some rice and roasted nuts, then fit the smaller pepper inside, with more of the rice and nuts mixture.
  • Put a slice of tomato on the top then close with the head.
  • Bake for an hour or so.
  • Serve hot.

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Goulash on Fire

I’ve always cooked since I was very small. My expertise has been soups and stews. I’ve developed soft spot for other dishes, but remained faithful to my origins.

One particular favorite soup & stew was Goulash soup. As a carnivore, meat in my plate is always in demand. And hot spicy food became a passion after abandoning my adolescence rebellion against the hot Yemenis’ Schug my father ate with everything (and still does) adequately getting reputation of Eastern/Arabic Jew with his dark skin (from years on the sea) and his passion for that red green boiling hot substance. Refusing to adhere, as was my trademark, I avoided hot food for long. But Goulash was a love affair. Some swear my arms got bigger from no less than 25 turns of that Pepper Mill knob on every Salad I eat. Well, swearing is not polite anyhow.

My probably first consistent acquaintance with this Soup, was following Maccabbi Tel-Aviv basketballs games in Yad Eliyahu, stopping at Mifgash-Ayalon after their victory (at that time, every Maccabbi Tel-Aviv European Cup or otherwise game in Yad Eliyahu was a victory), and taking meaty Goulash Soup before my main (you guessed right: grilled meat skewers as well).

Then I learned to make my own Goulash Soup, keeping honest to the traditional recipe, making sure the Paprika is not burnt, but still adding my own signature (lately in UK it has become Parsnip – god forbid), I was imprisoned in my own vanity – truly believing I have The Goulash within my palms and taste buds.

As I had an Hungarian Ex for while, and had some chances to taste the real thing, even with those almost magical-to-whisper Nokedli Hungarian Soup Noodles companions, with shapes as diverse as one liners aimed at Tourist Girls on Tel Aviv beach, so I had some confidence in my own creation, doing the sin of comparison. And sins are there to be avenged.

So I guess HR all mighty decided to pay back today, in Hungarian Budapest, on the Buda castle side to be accurate, in a seemingly unassuming way. Quite late after a Conference day, on a rainy day, I found myself strolling to a nearby-to-hotel little place, with those pleasant white table cloth, and severe looking middle aged well eating waiters. Can’t go wrong. I had the invisible Paul Auster with me, introduced to me by the above Ex long ago. Very fitting, as like Goulash, he keeps a mysterious taste, but with a good old comfortable exactly-the-same feel. And Goulash Soup it was. In Rome, be a Romanian as they say in Asfur.

Blimey. As a Britton-to-be I must admit this was a Proper Goulash. First it was served in a traditional metal cauldron called Bogracs, Harry Potter style. It had all the needed ingredients, but not more. A hearty, rustic dish. As should be. With those alien lookalike Nokedli friends. Served with fresh from the oven chunky pieces of white bread. When on a rainy cold evening, your forehead seems to get just a glimpse of tiny little sweat spots of hot pleasure you know you have Heaven on Earth.

God bless all mighty.

But the main amazement was a little side pot with a condensed Peppery / Paprika Goulash extract on the side. This is innovation at the highest scale. After years of trickery methods and trials and errors, between my beloved spouse and myself how to make food that will be spicy for me, but still blend for her, and failing to find resolution – I found god in this little place: I could just add as much of this extract, meld it to the soup (and after all it was of similar disposition so blended easly) without distorting the Soup, and be able to control the Spice I like in my Girls. Genious.

We have tried all sorts before. Big pan / small pan sauce, where the main dish is basked in the big pot, and at the end spices are added to a small portion in the little pan. Works OK, but demands good guessing of quantities each of us would actually want to have. Not as easy as one would reckon, when you have a Morag as your spouse. Marking with a line of garnish (e.g. some peppers, or otherwise) when we share an Oven dish, Pizza, Pie, or toasts – making sure the marks are not lost in translation, making me feel I’m eating foodless food, and making Morag natural eye color turn to sun-setting colors of red / orange and purple, if we make a mistake and eat the wrong portions.

For that reason, I’m out. Sorry Dragons, I meant I’ve finished my Soup to its atomic bits and bobs. And as my young Tom emits after getting her M’n’M sweet post a successful potty training:  Another one tomorrow.


I can only add the aftermath picture. Mainly because I was too starving to take a picture at the beginning, but also to avoid any drooling from you on the PC screens in front of you. Small consideration on my part.

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Global Carrier PrePay

Some ideas are stupid. Mine have a strong tendency to fit into this category. However, from the darkness, sometimes beams a powerful beacon light. OK, I exaggerated a little bit. I meant a twinkly faded one. Anyhow, I’ll throw some of those meteoroids at the internet sky, and perhaps one will have a magnificent shooting star effect one day for some one. Sit belt on.

We are used to “prepaid” mobile phone accounts, where it’s easy to control costs. But this service is often offered by a particular carrier to meet the carrier own services.

A possible extension, is a global PrePay. This service can be tied to a user or even multiple users, rather than the user and it’s service provider. While still not a mobile payments or mWallet, it allows a user, family or a small business, to control costs and allocate monthly (or otherwise) money for various mobile communication expenses together, or even control each seperately (e.g. different pool for SMS, voice calls, internet, and roaming):

  • A registry is created for families phones across multiple carriers, or a small business phones, or even a single person using multiple phones from possibly multiple carriers.
  • A prepaid services is offered, where unlike the carrier provided one – it is “shared” across carriers.
  • In addition it may even be provisioned to be shared across multiple users, e.g. the business partners, family members, etc.
  • The prepaid amount may be further allocated to different applications  (e.g. pool for SMS, pool for voice, pool for app download – or globally shared)
  • When one of the eligible users deposit – all can benefit.
  • When one consumes, overall balance is reduced
  • Policies can further refine this to multiple needs, domains and solutions

Note:  Direct integration to carrier prepaid solution as well as OTT are both feasible.

Some trivial use cases are:

  • Setting mobile phone pre-pay allowance for a family.
  • Setting media consumptions for multiple family members (one may use for iTunes music, other for android apps)
  • Small business communication costs control

This is primarily a consumer service, but can be linked with service providers, or target Enterprises of a small scale.

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Educate or Decimate – 10 Lessons to Teach

Worry not – this post cannot harm you, as it is too late unless you are a teenager or less. If you are, I believe current curriculum as taught in most institutions is ill-prioritized and indeed is a waste of most of your time. I’ll shortly present my alternative.

I also appreciate  parents and family,  neighborhood, peer groups, social-demographics, and other factors play a vital role. But I want to focus on the subjects I believe should be taught at schools prior to college / university level.

Some of those are visited occasionally, but not deeply enough. Some are pretty trivial to implement. Some are better suited for tuition in a class environment, and some are less. Overall these are life skills – that everyone should have in the 21 century. I know some of the more lucky ones amongst us may seek private tuitions, and some may look at this as yet another paternalistic agenda setting; and that’s OK.

The aim is to cover subjects that (a) can be taught in schools (b) do not demand exaggerated resources, (c) but do demand some so they benefit those that study at school and may not otherwise have the opportunity, and (d) are beneficial to those that learn it.

What about the grades? WTF is my answer to that.

Here are my top 10 , aimed mainly at the 14-18 bracket, representing the things I would have liked to learn earlier, and would be glad if my kids learn it as well:

  1. Communication – Listening, being emphatic,  anger management,  rephrasing when not understood,  handling conflicts – situations and scenarios, as part of drama classes, as group sessions – I don’t care. To everyone, not only arty farty ones.
  2. Personal Finance – Credit card management, meaning of loans and interest, mortgage handling, value of saving, basic markets (currencies, stocks, bonds). I would go beyond that to advanced class in 17-18.
  3. Massage – And other ways to touch and physically pleasure others
  4. Computer and Internet Skills – Search, E-Mail, (Free) Office, Media Editing, even eBay – Especially to those deprived of home chances (and yes I know many know it but they do not represent all  equally)
  5. Blind Typewriting – Separate from above as it is virtually essential for any job nowadays
  6. Consumerism – Price comparison, understanding the intent of commercials, understanding what brands want to do to you to allow you to choose if you want to pay premium to “belong”, logical purchase (Nobel prize winner Kahneman showed people are willing to drive 15 min to buy a pen that cost 10$ elsewhere instead of 25$, but will rarely do the same when facing similar decision buying a suit costing 1000$ when there is 15 min alternative for 985$)
  7. Well-being and Ergonomics – I mean standing correctly, sitting, walking classes (can be merged to Sports) up to Ti-Chi and meditation
  8. Organisation – Time management, basic task and project management, prioritization, delegation, pros and cons
  9. Creativity – Yes to all, many studies shows it can be taught, and there are plenty of tools, games, exercises and techniques to teach and have fun
  10. Philosophy – A Must in my humble opinion, best tool to allow us to choose how to lead our lives.

Beyond this bracket, I would add:

  • Languages (two in addition to mother tongue, ages 6-12)  when the human brain is most susceptible to learning this
  • Love Making (college / university) – I know there are sex classes in schools, who are notorious in being useless. I aim for courtship, understanding the other gender / partner needs, various forms of the art of sexually pleasing your partner
  • Parenthood (in university level or separated) – For everyone: responsibilities, basic handling of a child and its needs, how 2 become 3 changes quite a lot.

Lastly, I would emphasize cooking, movie and music, theater, museums and exhibitions, culture, camping and hitchhiking – as mostly done (but reduced due to budget going to the places it shouldn’t go).

Feel free if you have more subjects, that you personally:

  • Happy if someone would teach that to you that, or
  • Want your children to learn it

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Dan Pink: Panther

I had a great opportunity to get one hour lecture from Dan Pink. I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture, and want to congratulate neustar for organizing  this, and all the other innovation series events. What an amazing motivational speak  on his latest book: Drive. He surely practices what he preaches and showed some passion.

Dan started with the Candle experiment, showing how monetary incentive may indeed narrow the focus and hence achieve better results for some simple missions but fails on tougher ones (such as avoiding functional fixingness of the box in the candles problem demanding some creativity and… in-to-the-box thinking). This was further explored in an MIT students series of tasks, where money helped on the physical or mechanical tasks but failed to deliver on any “rudimentary cognitive” tasks. Dan argues “if-then” rewards are ill suited for creative tasks.

Dan then referred to Israel childcare fees for parents that come late, and showed again how it fails to achieve the desire results: removing the guilt and making being late an economical transaction that some parents had bargained for, and even having some damaging long term effects by creating a new behavior patterns (those being late, maintained this behavior after shedding those guilt feelings).

Simply controlling humans with “button alike” incentives seems not to always work – even if traditional wisdom is that it should. Surely some parts of our drive are biological, and based on punishments and rewards. However Dan offered three additional layers he demonstrated as highly motivational – he called them intrinsic motivators (to replace the extrinsic ones):

  • Autonomy – In time, tasks given, technique and team selection
  • Mastery – We naturally want to get better at things
  • Purpose – We achieve much more when we have associated meaning to the results

Dan followed with some concrete evidence. Some of the samples are well known (Google 20% do-whatever-you-want-we-keep-IP) but some were illuminating (call center without call recording, timing and monitoring becoming one of the most efficient ones…). Very good challenge to management “wish to control” and “fear of losing it” while strangling innovation in the process.

10 years ago, a well funded and incentivized encyclopedia (Encarta by Microsoft), got professional experts and managers, and pays them to write an online expert entries. On the other side, wikipedia was done for fun, without any monetary rewards. No (sober) economist could predict which of those would prevail…

Dan addressed another interesting related point: wouldn’t we do nothing if not “managed” – depicting the lazy and inept devil within us? Well he argued we are active and engaged (like any 2 years would demonstrate) so adopting an autonomic environment, with clear purpose guidelines would nurture our habits to become better to work for ourselves (and that management).

Dan believed management in its “full control” manifestation is a legacy 18th century technology we invented to enforce others doing what we want, which is nowadays obsolete.

Dan also objected only monetary incentives – they may be useful as a form of recognition, but not as sole motivation tool.

I also liked his sports/arts analogy for feedbacks – where annual (or bi-annual) feedbacks for a professional seems ridiculous, and semi automatic text is often given instead of a reoccurring personal feedback  and personal.

PS #1

I have special interest in his views, as they seem to repeat findings we had previously forming an Innovation Program. It was based it on 4 pillars manifested in tools and procedures for – ideation and knowledge creation, idea collaboration and sharing, immediate feedbacks, and rewards and recognition. We have found similar things – people wanted more autonomy to deliver their ideas, and we did experience the challanges of losing control and faced some natural reluctancy to move forward even for a moderate 8% do-something-new (one short afternoon a week) for a subset of the groups.

PS #2

Dan immediately caught my ear when he argues that people want to contribute in something bigger than themselves, as I use the following in my CV for ages now: “I seek to share my technological leadership within a superb team, reaching broader realms than my own humble shoulders can carry, or the head upon them can dream of.”

See also:

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People or Poles?

In pursue of advertisement space, it seems that people are not overlooked. The human body is a perfectly ok “space” for banners, logos and brands. This is so common, that it is rarely challenged: why do we put up with this?

It starts with simple cases: people working for a corporate, getting a fancy T-shirts to spread their brand. If they are stunning blondes, and the logo is on one (or two sides) of the front upper shirt – no complaints are heard.

But there are a couple of things that interest me:

  • Why some of us pay much more to have a shirt with a certain sign? Not only they act as billboards, but they actually pay for it rather than being paid? Yes, I understand the “brand power”, the wish to belong, to express certain status symbols (which equal power or strength for some of us), but still can’t figure out why why people want to be wooden poles – Pinocchio should have teach them otherwise

  • Even more puzzling are supreme athletes, wearing virtually more logos than cloth space permits (so much that there are rules governing this in Tennis and other sports). A typical tennis player, golf pro or F1 driver (to name few individual sports were this seems ever so popular) is “worth” a lot of marketing value. Not only is he “famous” and “celeb”, copied and aspired by others – he also appears in various TV, newspapers and other media across the world. Surely brands pay those guys (unlike above). But what is bothering me is why a multi-millionaire sports guy, is so freely giving away his freedom of choice to select his cloth, and for no better thing that money he already has more than he needs?

    In some occasions, even in individual sports, the “sponsors” that invest heavily (e.g. a F1 back-end team and costs are huge) want a little bit of rewards to justify their investments. Those sports would not exist without massive amounts, and the athlete himself cannot back up the needed infrastructure. But in many cases, the athlete does not really need anything from those sponsors (free tennis balls and new rackets even after every 3 shots is still affordable to most Top-10 Tennis players).

    So I guess it must be my favourite world-go-round powers: greed, and inertia (e.g. doing tomorrow what you did yesterday automatically).

    While inertia is comforting as it sometimes gives impression of stability, I cannot say the same on the former. It seems to me greed is the most damaging disease of the 21 CN. I can only see it leading to more horrors (a-la Enron). In the name of “free market” people give up their basic rights: what to wear, which equipment to use (some creative in demand athletes have multiple contracts with multiple brands and in exchange they give some of their freedoms, garments, or equipment exclusively), and  what to do (those superstar athletes need to give away few days to “entertain” rich corporate executives sponsoring them instead of spending the little time they have with their families or what-have-you their hobbies are).

    I thought the all point of being super rich is to have more freedom? I wonder.Luckily for me, no one sponsors me, virtually all my shirts are clear, and no one is interested in me entraining him other than my family and friends. My grandma may have been born in Poland but I refuse to be a pole.

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    What am I doing while writing this post (or can I multitask?)

    In GTD (Getting Things Done) and other productivity programs there is a lot of criticism about the so called multitasking myth. It is claimed that very few people actually benefit from multitasking, due to something every computer scientist knows: context switching. It basically means that while we shift from one task to the other, gather our thoughts, and prepare for the new task while tiding up mentally the one we just moved away from, we are wasting energies for nothing.

    Furthermore, it seems we are more like iPhone 3 then iPhone 4:

    iPhone 4
    iPhone 4

    We can do some things in parallel if they are based on different input senses (e.g. listen to a friend, while looking at our child in the garden), but when the same sense is involved we cannot easily work simoultanouskly and actually work in sequence, involving lots of rapid context switches, wasting focus and resources.

    It seems that the current era pushes us to the limit with distractions (called tasks – most of them are pure noise) so I have found myself looking at a NY times article (thanks Mark P) of an overly-doing-it . It is interesting to see, as he nearly missed a 1.3M$ acquisition email of his company due to his other “tasks”.

    The fun part was experimenting with the research “games” done by Eyal Ophir and Clifford Nass, Stanford University.

    I tend to work with music on and ambience happening since I was a child, possibly matching a pattern where I need my “hearing” sense to be fully occupied by a controlled stream of low importance (e.g. background music) where I can easily filter it and focus on what I’m doing with my other senses (e.g. thinking, reading and writing) – with this technique I avoid the need to give attention to the audio stream (as I “control” it in low priority) and perhaps earn focus points on the task I’m doing. Hence I enjoyed the
    first test of handling distractions. I guess the reason I did best when confronted with full distractions is this habit.

    The second test was about rapid context switching. It seems I was between high and low multitaskers, where I over performed high multitaskers, but underperformed the low ones. A call for improvement I guess. The researchers have found that multitaskers seem to be more sensitive than non-multitaskers to incoming information.

    What does it all mean? I’ll guess I’ll just grab a bite of my sandwich, have a sift of coffee and remember not to talk while eating as multitasking is hazardous in this instance…

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