Saturday, July 6, 2019

Apps for life

Most apps claim to take the stress out of [fill in the blanks], while they introduce the stress of conducting your life based on best practices and expert app advice. Apps tell you what to eat based on your gut bacteria, how many steps to walk, how to manage your finances, and how to navigate to your destination. And this is just the beginning.

Slowly but surely, we become dependent on apps and unable to make decisions or take actions without them. A person losing their smart phones feels lost until replacing it with a new one and installing their favorite apps and contacts, all backed up in the cloud.

Future archaeologists will form an understanding of how we lived our lives based on data mining, piecing our digital trails together to understand our daily routines (places and events we attended, questions we googled, websites we visited, posts we read and wrote, music we listened to, goods we ordered, pictures and videos we took, etc). From all these they will deduct our worries, dreams, creativity and mindset.

If you are not yet deep into the app world, start tracking your life. You can even track your happiness and view all your data at a glance on a dashboard. Just don't forget to live your life while you are busy tracking it and making the life a future archaeologist easier.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

What happened to modesty?

If you expect this post to be about modest clothing, you can stop reading right here. Religious women are expected to wear elbow and knee covering garments and cover their hair. Personally, I don't care what other people wear, as long as I can do my own thing, and I happily missed the head scarf "scandal" during Independence Day. I find some of the tall head scarfs worn these days quite ridiculous, but I'm not a fashionista, so that's that. Back to the original subject of modesty, as in personal conduct.

Modesty used to be a core value of Israeli society, especially in its first years. Showing off your wealth was perceived as tasteless. The country was poor, socialist, and people were expected to be aligned with the ruling party values. 

In its 71 of existence, Israel absorbed millions of immigrants, won wars, overcame boycotts, opened up, developed and became the start-up nation we almost take for granted today. Values changed as well, and trash culture reached our shores. We don't despise the rich, we like to make sure their money is kosher, and most of all we like to ridicule their immodest behavior (Hebrew).

But what about our leaders? We prefer them competent and possibly modest as well. Competency is a big factor, as leading this small but complex country leaves no room for errors. Leaders' mistakes can be fatal or at least very costly. In lives. We still live in fear of decimation, the Holocaust instilled that fear so deep, that it will stay with us for generations to come. We must stay strong and keep the gates open for any Jew who decides to come, no matter the reason.

So while many of us can't stomach Mr. Netanyahu's personal conduct, he was voted for his perceived competency. And that is my 2-cent explanation of the outcome of the last elections.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Time for a New Tagline

I wrote the tagline Constancy is the illusion created by the granularity of observing continuous change." 10 years ago when I started this blog.  It means that everything changes continuously, and what you see is a function of how often you look at it. For example, when you look at yourself in the mirror every day, you see pretty much the same thing, but when you look at a photo of yourself taken 10 years ago and compare it to what you see in the mirror, you notice the change.

So I have this new tagline on my mind, but before changing it, I came across Carol Tice's recent post about writing a good tagline for an income-generating blog. So I learned that my planned tagline is not good enough for that genre, but since my blog is therapeutic I decided to stick to it: "Different is neither positive nor negative". It attempts to combat prejudice.

When you say "these people are different than us", you subconsciously mean they are different in a negative way, that we should be careful when socializing with them, or avoid them. We have a natural tendency to be around people like us. It's easier, but then we miss the advantages of diversity. Think of diversity in terms like bio-diversity, large gene pool, different ideas, solutions, tastes, cultures. Don't go to the controversial diversity [mis]used by educational and business establishments to prefer people from certain backgrounds rather than merits. But 'different' doesn't apply only to people, but to things in general. 

Next time when you come across 'different', test yourself. Was your first thought negative, positive or neutral? 

Friday, July 20, 2018

When I Have a Cold

Since the humidity is high, we sleep with the A/C on all night. I felt my throat being cold and 2 days later, I woke up with a cactus in it. I barely finished the work day at the office with all the symptoms of a head cold: aching throat, ears, head and general weakness, and decided to listen to my body and stay home the next day to recuperate. Before going to bed, took two Acamol pills and shared the picture of the Acamol package with all my friends on Facebook, to let them know how miserable I feel.

After a mostly sleepless night, got up and got thinking. Since only my head is sick, I can do something useful with the rest of my body and not let this day be a complete waste. Decided to undertake a small project: cleaning our bedroom and on-suite bathroom. If you follow me on Facebook, you know my cleaning person went back to his country and we are now cleaning the house on our own, me being totally useless with such activities. I was lucky enough to have it done for me all my life and nobody ever taught me how to clean efficiently. I can do basic stuff, quite awkwardly though.

I remember my mom always complaining about me not helping around the house, but she didn't actually teach me, she expected me to take initiative and copy her, or maybe she tried teaching me and I wasn't interested, I really can't remember, it was very long ago. At least I'm a good cook, and even my mom said my cakes are tastier than hers. But that's because I use mixers, real ingredients and an electrical stove, none of which she ever had.

Cleaning is not one of my many talents, but how difficult can it be, right? Let's just say that a video shoot of me cleaning, would win the "clumsiest cleaner" comedy award. I started by taking out the vacuum cleaner and by the life of me, I couldn't piece it together, to use its attached tools. I was too embarrassed to admit I need to read the manual or watch a youtube video. Me? A manual? I just write them, who says I should also read them? Like in the old joke "why do cops always patrol in pairs? - because one of them can read and the other write" - I'm the one who writes.

I managed to connect the pieces in contrast to their idiot-proof design, I forgot to select the cleaning mode with the knob (I applied my "logic", without reading the small print next to the icons), but figured out (after a while!) where the on-off button was (it's foot operated!). I wondered at the many types of cleaning products we own, some with heavy, unpleasant smells. The glass shower refused to become  transparent even after many attempts, so I just gave up on that one, but the rest I was pretty happy with. With the utensils already out, I also cleaned the other toilet, vacuumed the big rug in the living room and mopped around.

By the time I finished and put everything back in place with a throbbing head, I concluded that in contrast with how effortless it looks in TV ads, cleaning is mostly an unpleasant, tiresome task and I need more practice to work out an efficient methodology. In our next episode: figuring out how to empty the vac's dust bin. Oh, and since you asked, yes, I have a robot, but it's useless for anything that is not a large area of floor or carpet.

Back to the kitchen.

Friday, July 13, 2018


Following the recent Barkan Winery Kosher certificate affair, some of my friends proposed to boycott the Badatz or the winery.

When individuals or organizations abroad boycott Israel, we are all up in arms, as we should be, trying to explain the underlying injustice, stupidity and antisemitism. So let me remind those quick to boycott friends the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated.

Also, when you boycott someone, there are always innocent "bystanders" who get hurt. If you boycott a manufacturer (by refraining to buy their produce) because of business practices that are against your principles, to teach them a lesson and show that you stand up for your values, the manufacturer will eventually go bankrupt and a lot of good people will join the ranks of the unemployed. Demanding the CEO to resign is IMHO a much better move as it will only punish the policy maker, not the hard working, decent people. "Business is business" is unacceptable, so do your business (pun intended) elsewhere, Mr. CEO.

When boycotting the Badatz (by not buying produce with their kosher certificate), a lot of manufacturers may get hurt. I understand the intention to make businesses refrain from applying for this certificate as it would hurt their business (Badatz consumers are only a small group of Israeli society). If no such certificate will exist, the ultra-orthodox will either find a way to eat food with regular certificates or manufacture their own food (not such a bad idea, as it would make them contribute to the Israeli economy). However, this can be a very long process. Until then, manufacturers will lose business, lay off people and we are back to the previous scenario, but on a larger scale.

The regular milk carton we bought today in the supermarket has no less than 4 certificates. And who do you think pays all these kashrut supervisors? The consumer. And in my case, the consumer doesn't need even one, but is willing to pay for one only as a tax for living in a Jewish country.
Boycotts are like war and hatred, they have a beginning, but often no end. You can reach a stage of everybody boycotting everybody else for one reason or another until standstill. Society will look like a busy Tel Aviv junction 2 minutes after the traffic light goes off.

Let's drink some wine to fighting for our universal values in the parliament, the courts, the streets, but not in the supermarkets. And if I may chose the wine, I'd go for Golan's 2T - my new favorite. Cheers!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Food Microstories

Last week, Tom came to my office and we lunched at a Japanese restaurant. During my childhood, I had no idea what Japanese food is, or any other food that was not cooked at home. I don't remember ever going to a restaurant with my parents. Different times, different place.

We used salt, pepper and paprika as condiments. Sometimes bay leaves. I remotely heard about allspice and ginger. In Israel, a culinary heaven with so many different cuisines and endless fusion possibilities, I have and use a few dozen spices, sauces and herbs. The weirdest is Moroccan pickled lemons. At first I didn't understand the concept. Pickling is actually souring, but why sour something that is already sour? I learned that this flavorful mixture is the key ingredient in many excellent dishes.

I love to experiment in the kitchen and try out new foods, even when having guests for meals. In fact, I cook new dishes every single week. I plan the menu by reading my favorite food blogs and deciding on dishes that fit well together. Then I send the shopping list with ingredients to hubby. Friday morning, 3 boxes with groceries greet me in the kitchen. We have breakfast, and let the magic (actually hard work) begin. The variety is great, but I end up with leftovers of exotic ingredients that have a minimal chance to be used before their expiration date.

I hate wasting food. In restaurants, you pay for the waste (and even then I hate it), but in home cooking, every edible leftover is used. All the famous chefs preach using those flavor-packed juices at the bottom of a pot. They are great for making couscous or rice, for example. I am always sorry to throw out food left on plates. Many years ago, in a guesthouse, I took a serving of something that looked delicious, but it turned out to be something else and totally not tasty. I left it on the plate. The host told me off in front of all the other guests for my wasteful behavior. I felt like a reprimanded child.

One of the traditional Passover foods of my childhood was beetroot soup. Because of its color, I mistakenly took my first bowl of beetroot soup for cherry soup. It tasted awful. Did not touch beetroot soup for years, until it occurred to me that the reason for the bad experience was my expectation for something else. Once I understood that, I started enjoying beetroot soup.

Expectation for taste or texture can also come from a dish's name. People with dietary restrictions or culinary preferences sometimes replace unhealthy ingredients with others, but keep calling the dish by the same name. The taste is usually disappointing. Why not call the dish by a different name or even better, why not create new dishes containing only healthy ingredients? Oh, did I mention I drink my coffee with almond "milk"? If "milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals", then what mammal produces soy milk or rice milk?

Unnatural food colors put me off. I would not eat blue food, for example. But oddly enough, I also dislike the idea of cute looking or too beautiful food. It's time consuming and wasteful, in short decadent.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Should You Go on a Cruise?

If you haven't been on a cruise yet, you should definitely go. Unless you are an extrovert who enjoys small talk and befriending new people at every possible occasion, I recommend going with friends.

I have just returned from an 11-day Caribbean cruise (Fort Lauderdale - St. John's, Antigua - Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe,  Bridgetown, Barbados - Fort-de-France, Martinique - Castries, St. Lucia - Basseterre, St. Kitts - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas - Fort Lauderdale), that I'm trying to summarize for my undecided readers. It was a new and definitely positive experience, without the slightest motion sickness I was a bit concerned about before leaving.

The best part for me was enjoying the view, especially approaching an island, observing the land getting closer and the behemoth ship maneuvered in reverse with millimetric precision to the pier and anchored.

The Caribbean beaches with their turquoise waters and white sand pictured in brochures don't tell the full story (excluding the Half Moon Cay private island). The part they usually miss is the poor conditions in which the local population lives. Add the hot and humid climate (with occasional hurricanes), perceived lack of personal security in a tumult of taxi drivers/guides and merchants invading your private space (a western notion) and the island visits can be quite unpleasant. BTW, taxi prices drop dramatically, the further you walk from the port. 

Some practical pre-cruise advice: make sure to arrive to the starting port a couple of days before embarkation to avoid any unforeseen flight cancellations or delays. These couple of days came in handy for us as our luggage was not on the first flight, due to a sudden airport luggage strike on the first leg. For any flight, not just pre-cruise, pack one day's essentials in your hand luggage - we didn't do this and needed to shop for underwear and toiletries right after arrival. Not that there is anything wrong with underwear shopping, but there might be more interesting sites to visit than a shopping mall.

And while we are at packing, I want to refute the common belief of needing lots of elegant attires on board. The cruising industry is undergoing a major change from old world classic elegance, decor and service, to a more modern concept that appeals to younger generations it is [successfully] attracting. The industry is expanding and will continue to do so according to various analysts. So, if you are not an evening gown/black tie person, just bring whatever clothes you feel comfortable wearing, and a few elegant outfits for formal dinners (that you can BTW avoid completely, although I recommend against).

A major aspect of any cruise experience is the food. It is tasty, diverse, tempting and always around you. You will definitely gain weight, even if you have the strongest will power to avoid temptations. However, you can work out in the well-equipped gym with a fabulous view, unless you prefer the treadmill monitors instead (don't). They offer various classes as well. In addition to the many food options included in the cruise price, you can also dine in high-class restaurants, or go to coffee shops and bars.

Entertainment on board was one of my most pleasant surprises. All the performing artists were really good, be it bar pianists, classical ensembles, singers, dancers or comedians. Turns out that entertainment jobs on cruise ships are very sought-after. The on-board productions were rich and well-choreographed, with advanced use of video technology blending in the theme. 

Cruises are well-oiled machines for extracting as much money as possible from guests, a captive crowd for expensive products offered on-board, such as jewelry, art (not to my liking), alcohol, perfumes and expensive clothing. Also some on-board lectures are sales-oriented. You can gamble in the casino, get body treatments or go on shore excursions. Alternatively, you can spend time around the pool and Jacuzzis, where you will probably consume cocktail, beer or coffee.

We took two group excursions: one to rum distilleries in Barbados (guess who wanted this one) and a dolphin encounter activity in St. Kitts (the preference of yours truly). Local shopping is either in tourist-only areas or in local markets and shops, where the offering is usually [made-in-China] souvenirs, foodstuff, clothing and costume jewelry. Makes you think that the beads given to the natives by the colonialists in exchange for gold are now sold back to them for dollars and euros.