Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Social Theory

Recently I've incidentally discovered the meaning of social anxiety. Someone I know wrote she suffers from it and I looked it up. My next logical step was to categorize it to file it in my mind. Hence my social theory about coping with uncertainty. If I understand correctly, person suffering from social anxiety abstains from communicating rather than facing the other party's anticipated negative attitude. They avoid uncertainty (the other party's reaction), because they presume it to be judgmental and basically negative in nature.

However, there are many types of uncertainty and many reasons to avoid them. Uncertainty avoidance is one of Hofstede's five dimensions for assessing culture. He defined uncertainty avoidance of societies as preference for explicit rules (e.g. about religion and food) and formally structured activities vs. preference for implicit or flexible rules or guidelines and informal activities. We all want to avoid uncertainty to a certain degree, which may be below or above the norm and the national or international average. Israel's uncertainty avoidance index is quite high (meaning Israelis prefer to avoid uncertainty), which somehow contradicts our general feeling of existential uncertainty. We thrive in uncertainty; we like to stretch the limits (even our borders are still not defined) and we are referred to as the start-up nation. This paradox is yet to be explained.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky define our behavior and decision making in financial uncertainty in their Nobel Prize winning prospect theory.

After mentioning all these great names, I feel awkward presenting my own little theory. The action we choose for coping with uncertain situations depends on our own uncertainty tolerance and the level of predictability of the situation (uncertainty magnitude). People suffering from social anxiety have low uncertainty tolerance, they don't cope well with uncertainty, and so they either avoid uncertainty (yellow square) or, if possible, reduce it by preparing in advance (green square). Others either just act normally (blue square), or, when faced with a low predictability situation either consider the worst possible outcome (and from there they can only be pleasantly surprised), or just face the big unknown with no expectations at all to avoid disappointment (red square).
Critiques welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


In my childhood food was something you eat when your parents put it on the table. Heavy, greasy, tasty. All households had cookbooks, but the real treasures were hundreds, if not thousands of recipes diligently collected by mothers along the years. They came in all shapes and sizes, handwritten, typed, on small pieces of paper, on napkins, newspaper clips, many untitled. My mother had a sweet tooth (see the chestnut incident in a previous post), so she collected mostly cake recipes.

Our old family cookbook (written by Szmuk Iren) is now barely in one piece, its yellow pages crumbling away with every touch and turn. I still consult it many times when I want to prepare something with a childhood taste. During the past years, I also bought some new trendy cookbooks I consult on occasion, but I find myself more and more searching for recipes on the net. My technique is synthesizing a few recipes of the same dish and making my own combination. I also watch the Food channel on satellite and get ideas from there.

Recently, my husband started organizing some old stuff in our storage and surfaced my mom's collection of recipes I kept after she died 20 years ago, and his mom's. One one hand I really don't feel like investing a lot of time in understanding, sorting and digitizing age old recipes. On the other hand, there is a slim chance I might discover a few true gems. In the mean time I keep procrastinating and crying out for sound advice.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


The essential elements of my daily survival are hair cream, dental floss and optalgin (pain killer for my headaches). And my glasses, of course. Without them the world is a moving collection of colored patches. A hairbrush and water spray are welcome too. My Fa deodorant, creams for various body parts, and my perfume, Happy, complete the list. Oh, and also soaps (3 types), shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and paste, scissors, tweezers, razor, nail file, physical exercise, medical checkups, hairdresser and occasional beautician appointments, dental checkups and treatments, hygienist appointments, food (preferably healthy), drink, toilet, shower, bath, whirlpool, bath foam, towels, sheets, clothes, shoes, shelter, clean and hygienic conditions, sex and air to breathe. These are all for body. Those who eat and dress for their soul have large bodies and bank accounts, respectively.

For soul: vacations, nature, movies, theater (OK, the last play I saw, 'Uncle Vanya', left me unhappier than all the characters in the play so I'm not sure that counts), music, dance (starting ballroom dancing course soon), literature, radio, television, newspapers, writing (including this blog), spending time with family and friends, status, art appreciation, aesthetic surroundings, achievements (personal and of meaningful others), stress free environment, shrink, relationships, pet, holidays, festivals and celebrations, love.

Isn't life complicated?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Only in Israel

Seven o'clock in the morning. Dan in his officer uniform and me lock the door and enter the elevator on the 6th floor. The elevator stops on the second floor and a neighbor (50-ish woman wearing heavy makeup) gets in. On the ground floor Dan gets out to throw the garbage.
Neighbor: "It's always so touching to see soldiers."
Me: "I have two."
Neighbor: "May they return in peace."
Basement. We get out, say goodbye and get into our cars to head for a day's work. I pick Dan up at the parking exit, next to the garbage room, drive him to his base and then drive to the office.