Wednesday, December 22, 2010


No matter how hard we try to avoid them, there is no real escape. And since we watch them anyway, commercials should at least be fun and entertaining, regardless of their effectiveness (I leave that to the advertising experts).

I know what you,'re thinking: 'She is bored at home, watches tons of TV and then blogs about commercials'. But this is very far from the truth as I don't turn on the TV during the day, at all. I swear I haven't watched any soap, morning program, talk show or the like since I broke my ankle. I planned this post before my injury, believe it or not.

So now that we've made that clear, what makes a good commercial and what makes a lousy one? The Design Center commercial is definitely an annoying one, selling the false idea of buying all your new furniture in one place, including a new partner (pseudo-celeb Aki Avni in a ridiculous grandpa hat). Now what are they trying to imply here? That a partner is like a piece of furniture? That instead of bothering with dating sites, blind dates and the like, single women should simply go shopping in the Design Center for their Romeo (who comes in the form of an accessory to the expensive brands sold there)? Now here is the truth, girls: hunks are not design-center dwellers. All you'll find there are other desperate single women (dreaming about Aki-like boyfriends), some husbands dragged there by their wives and maybe some design-conscious gay men, along with plenty of opportunities to use your credit card. Talking about truth in advertising...

On the other hand, I find the HOT cable TV commercial absolutely charming. Despite being built on the concept of a series I haven't watched, the message is clear even without that background. In a few short seconds you find yourself in a traditional Georgian family atmosphere, cleverly built with elements such as the wallpaper in the bathroom, the nameplate on the front door and the enormous quantity of food. They talk about commitment (a nowadays archaic value) and give a brilliant punchline complete with charming syntax mistakes. The message is both clear and positive: real relationships are built on commitment, while a HOT cable TV agreement is commitment-free. Well done!

I'm not sure I'll replace my satellite TV (with commitment till 2014!) with cable, but I might consider it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How Much Can One Talk about a Fractured Ankle?

A lot.

X-Rays with a Story
When I showed up for the X-rays I mentioned in a previous post, the receptionist said I couldn't have them taken without a referral from my health fund doctor. No, the one from the hospital doctor is not good enough. In my naivety, I suggested she let me do the X-rays and deal with the paperwork later. "That is not possible because I wouldn't know what body part to shoot", said the technician. Well, since I came with a broken right ankle, I thought of taking X-rays of my left hand. I mean how complicated is figuring out what body part is broken when the patient walks in on crutches and has a bandaged right foot? Classical example of procedure-centered rather than client-centered approach. Assuming there is a valid reason they really need the referral (even though I cannot think of one), the minimum I expect from a fund official is to try to help me get such a referral on the spot, by making a few phone calls, for example. But she didn't even think of it, of course. We did. Called up my GP, told him what's on the hospital form and he faxed the referral on the spot.

What's the Complication?
I told everyone I'd be into work last Wednesday. Then I told them I wouldn't. "What complication do you have with the ankle?", asked my colleague logically assuming that was the reason I postponed my arrival. "Wishful thinking", I replied. I didn't want to believe I am not some kind of superwoman whose fracture heals in 2 weeks rather than 6. Now I do. The doctor (who saw my X-rays with the story) told me so. And just to be absolutely sure, I also googled it on the net and yep, that is the standard bone healing time and 3-4 months for complete healing.

Bonus of the Week
Saturday we decided spontaneously to go out in the evening, that is Dan couldn't find any friends to go out with and so we all went together. After 2 long weeks of prisonership (interrupted only by the 2 aforementioned medical appointments), I suddenly saw streets and people and lights and had a way too large Belgian waffle in a cafe.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fractured Ankle - Weekend and Start of Week II

Last week ended with some positive developments, as 2 people came to visit and there are more coming tomorrow, not to mention the first serious rain (and storm), which is a positive development for this dry and thirsty land of ours. The downside is that my foot hurt more (I guess because of the change in atmospheric pressure) and the whole apartment is covered in very thin yellowish dust.

My entire family was home on the weekend and they replaced me with my usual weekend tasks. Took 3 men to replace one woman! Actually, it was quite fun to instruct them on cooking, that is after I succeeded pursuing them to enter the kitchen in the first place. When Tom realized I want him to make soup, he thought of combining hot water with soup mix powder. 'So why do you think I asked you to buy all these ingredients, then?' "Dunno, you asked for them, so we brought them', came the intelligent answer. I had to give very precise instructions, including location of ingredients, pots, utensils and the process of combining of all of these together into something edible. At the end, the food was ready on time and tasty, too.

This week I decided to get out of bed and stop feeling sorry for myself. I did some work around the house at my own [slow] pace, from the wheeled office chair and by standing/hopping on one foot.

And now to the bonus of the week: a new 46" LED TV.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 2: Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I was really worried this morning about getting along until I figured out a way of moving around the house: sitting on a wheeled office chair and pushing myself back and forth. OK, it's not perfect, I can't get everywhere, the carpet is a problem and I can't reach stuff on upper shelves (nothing new for handicapped people in wheelchairs), but it's good enough for my current minimalist approach.

The discovery made me feel better in an instant and my first thought was that I should make 'kapros-túrós lángos' (Hungarian flat donut with cheese and dill filling) for dinner. My second thought was that I should fold the laundry. Well, turns out it's not so easy to operate this makeshift wheelchair, especially with the bruises on my right butt and a hurting ankle, so sadly (or not) I had to postpone the grandiose plans for a few more days. 

Instead, I concentrated on setting up my 'operations room' atop the bed: moved the laptop to the other side so I don't have to cross any cables and laid out newspapers, books, the TV remote, the land-line wireless handset and my mobile phone within easy reach. Crutches across the bed and the office chair nearby. With all set, I decided to spend most of the time on reducing my electronic backlog (reading and writing) and answering work mails.

Following some online messages I sent about my situation, friends wrote to me, some called (my cousin even made an international call) to ask how I feel and offer help, my employer sent flowers (especially thoughtful and appreciated). Nobody came. Venus came in a few times, pushed its plushy face against mine and purred.

Tomorrow the cleaning lady will come and make this place more pleasant and presentable. Face time with a human being between 6:30 AM and 7:30 PM (even between vacuum cleaning sessions) is not a negligible mercy these days.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hanukkah Bad Luck

I know Hanukkah is related to miracles, but this year Hanukkah brought the country and myself lots of bad luck. The Carmel went on fire and I broke my ankle. According to Rabbi Ovadia, these are caused by insufficient Shabbat observance. Maybe I should check my mezuzah at home.

Day 1
After fracturing my ankle I was in a lot of pain, could not step on my foot to make the trip from the underground parking to my apartment. My husband brought a wheeled office chair and pushed me with it into the elevator and the apartment. When my son came home, we used the same method to get into the car to go to hospital and back again.

After lots of X-rays, the doctor determined I fractured a small bone between the ankle and the foot that cannot be set in plaster. He told me not to step on my foot. Funny man, this doctor. I can't step on my foot, it hurts even when someone just breathes next to it. It's like those signs atop the Ayalon highway lanes amidst traffic jams, restricting speed to say 80 km/h when you can barely drive at 20 km/h.

While Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Inerior Yishai are competing over circumventing bureaucracy to ensure swift compensation for the Carmel fire victims, the medical bureaucacy is in full flower. Before going to hospital, I called my private medical insurance company, but could not get through. My friend Z, a medical doctor for my Sick Fund, advised me to call their emergency number. I needed their authorization to turn to the hospital trauma room. I also needed a Social Security form form work to be given to the Sick Fund, a liability form from the Sick Fund to the hospital and some other forms from the Sick Fund and hospital back to my employer.

In a week I have to see an orthopedic doctor with fresh X-rays. One would think this is an easy task as many people before me needed the same. But no, it is not possible to have X-rays taken and seeing a doctor right after, even though they are located in the same building. These will have to happen 2 days apart, as all the doctors are booked. Who cares I can barely walk a few steps with crutches and that someone will have to lose work to drive me to these appointments.

In the mean time, I joined the minimalist movement. I walk/jump the minimum steps when I get out of bed and combine several tasks into each such trip. I've never noticed how many redundant steps I take every day. I also do many projects: turning over in bed is a project, a trip to the bathroom is a project, not to mention taking a shower.

By tomorrow I have to figure out how to use crutches and hold my lunch plate at the same time as I will have to manage on my own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Towel Story

The same one-day business trip to Eilat I mentioned in a previous post gave me the taste for a fun weekend there. There is something special about the atmosphere in Eilat, it smells of holiday, relaxation and fun, the closest thing to 'abroad' without passports, borders and duty free. We flew, stayed at the Dan and dined in nice restaurants. The weather was superb, the Red Sea temperature coldish but pleasant, shop windows inviting, life's good.

At this point, I have to make yet another confession: I never bought towels. I don't know where our towels came from, but I certainly did not choose any of them. They were presents from various people/institutions for various occasions. None of them match and many of them are worn and torn. I know that good, hotel-quality towels are expensive, so I decided to do my homework: learn about the 'towel world' and survey the offering of some nearby shops, but who has time for such a grandiose project?

Elat is also a tax free zone, there is no VAT on products sold there. While strolling on the Northern beach, we came across an Arad Towels shop, well known for their quality products. Towels were the last thing I thought about buying in Eilat, but the opportunity presented itself and I decided to go with the flow. The shop was simple but elegant and the shopkeeper patiently explained the differences between the various products. I bought 8 of the most pampering towels in the shop for what seemed to me a small fortune, but still a better price than anywhere else.

By now, we finished washing them and, more importantly, disposing some old towels to make room for the new. I have yet to try the first one, but one thing I already know: plans and projects are good, but also keep your eyes open for opportunities.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Parenting in a Changing World

I'm thinking about the 'gain/lose time' paradigm shift for quite a while and a recent piece of news made me put my thoughts in writing. A 26-years old man stabbed his mother to death and his 38-year old brother to near death because 'they had been pressuring him to find a job'.

When I was only 5 years old, my parents filed a petition with the authorities to let me begin school before I was 6. In line with the contemporary thinking (socialist materialism), this would make me gain a year. Not sure what the repercussions of this move were. Throughout my school years I was always the smallest in class, always had older friends. Perhaps another year would have given me more mental strength to cope with the world, especially socially. With the subjects taught I had no problem, always being among the top pupils in my class.

In older times, youngsters staid with their parents until married. Then came the first shift: until 10-15 years ago, most youngsters were eager to leave their homes and start their own independent life. Nowadays, there is an opposite trend. Youngsters start their 'lives' much later, taking their time to travel, to decide what to do next, to study something they like, to study something practical, to find a real job, to marry and bring children into the world. By this time they are 30 something, almost 40. And where should they rush to? 30 years of commitment and mortgage payback? More work years? There is plenty of that until the new retirement age of 67. (I admire and envy the French protest against changing retirement age from 60 to 62, not to mention their short work week and long vacations.)

Except for a few basic truisms, life and perceptions have changed so much that it's pathetic to think that what worked for us 30 years ago is relevant advice for our children. Does a full time job for a large brick-and-mortar corporation make them happier than Internet-based freelancing? City life and traffic jams or country home and organic tomatoesGovernment and politics or high-tech? Life-long marriage with compromises or excitement hunting? And what's the right balance between volunteering and saving the world, and minding your own business?

Only they can define their own happiness.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Over-Simplistic Comparison

Going back to the Georgia-Armenia trip, as I have some unfinished business with my avid readers. (I don't have stats on my blog, but I suspect there must be at least 2). The many visits in churches, synagogues and a mosque led me to an over-simplistic comparison between these religions.

In a synagogue, the prayers face the Holy Ark housing Torah Scrolls. These contain lots of texts (no pictures) that Jews are expected to continuously learn and question and also keep the 613 commandments of the Pentateuch. Tiring.

In a church, the prayers face icons of Jesus and Mary (pictures, no text). No need to read, learn or question (or even understand the Latin prayer). Christians are expected to believe what they are told: the best cover story in history of a woman who committed adultery. (I'm expecting the Vatican death squads to be on their way...)

In a mosque, the prayers face the qiblah wall and thus face Mecca, the location of the Kaaba. In the qiblah wall, usually at its center, is the mihrab, an empty niche or depression indicating the direction of Mecca.  Basically, Muslims are being shown the way to Mecca to go there on pilgrimage and help the local trade.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bag Story

About 2 weeks ago, I flew to Eilat for one day, for business. Since it was a one-[long]day trip, I just took my black office case with me, an oldish leather bag bought by my husband in the US a few years ago. Maintenance not being one of my strong points, the bag became kind of shabby. When you see something (or someone!) every day, you get used to it and your brain processes what you actually see, by adjusting it to the way it looked in the beginning. Besides, the daily changes are tiny, easy to overlook. But my fineschmecker coworker and travel partner for the day did not fall into that trap and hinted that it's time to buy a new bag.

And so the bag quest began. This time I wanted something more feminine and bright, maybe red. Looked on the net, went to some shops, saw some interesting (mostly not) models and almost gave up - forgot to mention shopping is also one of my weak points, I lose interest fairy quickly and rarely buy stuff for myself.

And so, like in all good stories, in the last shop, just before giving up, I found a non-feminine, brown Hedgren bag (never heard about this firm before), with hidden back straps for when the bag gets too heavy to hand-carry or you need free hands. It also features a padded laptop compartment, place for cellphone, pen and such, hidden handles for hand-carrying, detachable and adjustable shoulder strap, smooth zippers, and water-resistant shell. Practical, but kind of ugly.

Did it happen to you that you went shopping for an item with a predefined list of features, then saw a real one that just clicked with you and decided to take it anyway, features or not? I bet it's the same with partners...You imagine a tall handsome smooth talker with blond curly hair and blue eyes, but end up with a short, shy, squint, bald man, who is actually a good, sincere person and a good match.

After a few days in use, I started having second thoughts. Why do I need the laptop compartment, it's not like  I sit in trendy cafes and blog while sipping cappuccinos. Not to mention that my laptop stopped connecting to any wireless device, so what's the point in carrying it around anyway? After trying (and failing) to fix it myself, I was planning to have a technician look at it, but decided to show it to someone at work first. I placed it in the padded compartment, together with some accessories, but could barely lift the bag. You guessed right what happened next: the shoulder straps absolutely saved me. And the person at work, too. After 2 minutes he realized that a button accidentally pressed shut down the wireless connection.

Here's to practical choices.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Change - Yet Again

You do everything to the best of your abilities, even have some nice plans for the future. Suddenly the other party (your boss/friend/partner/body) fundamentally breaches your unwritten agreement. He/she/it is not there for you anymore. The change is out of your control, yet you suffer the consequences. You blame yourself for not noticing the symptoms. Too late for that, the change would have come sooner or later. You are never really ready for it anyway. You remember that time heals almost everything, but until that happens, use these tips. They may (or may not) help.

  • Rationalize - the matter is out of your control, there is nothing you can do anyway, let the time pass.
  • You know the 'why me' type whining is not helpful, so don't.
  • Occupy your time with activities (time passes faster that way), but don't try to read a book. You can't concentrate anyway.
  • Even if you feel like being alone, resist the temptation. Have a good talk with a friend instead.
  • Do some physical exercise you enjoy (walk, swim, etc.).
  • Take a massage, bathe in a jacuzzi or indulge in some other body pampering that works for you.
  • Listen to/play music or sing.
  • Stay away from comfort food.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Write a blogpost about coping with negative changes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

This year we didn't feel like planning our vacation, so we decided to take an organized tour with everything being taken care of and us being served. We strongly dislike organized tours, but some places really do need a lot of preparation and if you don't have a common language with the locals and the infrastructure is poor, you can experience frustrating situations. Since we compromised on the organization, we decided to go for the best tour operator, the Geographic Society (an excellent decision, in retrospect). They did a wonderful job and I certainly recommend both the operator and our amazing guide Dr. Chezy Shaked. But the organization was not the only difference this year, as we also decided to visit a close (2.5h flight) but less known area, the Caucasus. Why? Because we couldn't afford the tour to the Galapagos Islands or Madagascar and also because the Caucasus is different than any place we have visited before. It is a troubled region between the Black and Caspian seas, home to more than 50 ethnic groups, many enclaves and a 'neighborhood bully'. 

It is very interesting to compare Georgia and Armenia, the two countries we visited. Both are Christian, Armenia being the first country that took on Christianity as state religion in 301 A.D. Both have their own alphabet (none of them use Cyrillic letters) and language, both were under Soviet occupation (and many others before) and gained their independence in 1992. Since then, they took different paths.

Georgia's goal is westernization. Its young and popular president, Saakashvili, prefers western-educated, young civil servants with computer skills. He has targeted corruption in his first year of office. To that end, he revamped the police force by firing all of the traffic police in his country in one day, cutting 30,000 police officers from the payroll. The new police station in Tbilisi is a beautiful, modern glass building symbolizing transparency. All other police stations being built around the country also feature glass walls. Georgia's foreign policy focuses on the USA ans NATO, but being a small country in a strategic geographical location for Russia, it is limited in the actions it can take. The Russians demonstrated how their slap felt on the Georgian wrist during the last war in 2008. The fear from Russians is very much a Georgian reality, as proved by a TV program that showed a fake newscast of a Russian invasion. The show, preceded by a disclaimer but with no disclaimer during the broadcast itself, caused panic, rushes on banks, stores and gas station and even a few heart attacks and other medical emergencies, and anger at the government for perpetrating the hoax.

Georgia's infrastructure is quite poor. Roads are full of holes, cows and other obstacles, and lack asphalt. Some remote locations are cut off for 6 months during winter. When returning from such a region after a rainy night, at one point all vehicles had to stop in a sea of mud and wait until a car was pulled out of mud by a tractor. Georgians are religious, hospitable, musical and overweight. National food staples include khachapuri (cheese-stuffed bread), khinkali (cooked, oversize dim-sum), lots of nuts, cilantro and wine. Although Georgia is the oldest wine-producing region in the world, traditional Georgian grape varieties are little known in the West. Georgian wines are classified as sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.

At the Georgian-Armenian border (a typically third world place), we had to switch buses and drivers. We left the small Georgian bus with narrow seats, and driver Misha and his belly, who expertly slalomed between holes and cows, while speeding and overtaking everything and hooting at the same time, and got a big, comfy Armenian bus with a fit driver in a button-down shirt and a necktie. Armenian roads are much better and Yerevan, planned by architect Alexander Tamanyan, is a surprisingly beautiful cityThe building facades are made of the local pink tuff stone, richly ornamented with intricate stone-work patterns. In the city center, young people with laptops sip cappuccinos in fashionable cafes among super-expensive shops selling Western brands. Unlike Georgia, Armenia has many flower shops, cats and accepts credit cards. People are better dressed, but we are not talking about Parisian chic here.

With its 3.2M population (descendants of the Urartu empire) and at least a twice as large diaspora (contributing to the economy), Armenia is under heavy Russian influence, with more than 70% of its products being exported to Russia. Depending on Russia is not such a bad idea when your eyes are on the Ararat mountain (literally) and lake Van (in today's Turkey), and lake Urmia (in today's Iran), you are a small Christian country surrounded by Muslim neighbors and suffer from frequent earthquakes.

Unlike Georgians who eat way too much (you never know if the course they served is the last one before dessert), Armenians eat 3-course meals, are musical (the Garni quintet we heard in the Garni pagan temple left me with my jaw dropped - literally) and arty (Sergei Parajanov's museum proves there are no borders to creativity). While the most famous Georgian is Stalin (I heard here pianist Alexander Korsantia and learned there about poet Shota Rustavelithe author of 12th century epic poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin"), the most famous Armenian is Charles Aznavour, along with Aram Khachaturian, Andre Agassi, Cher, Garry Kasparov, Emile Lahoud and many others. BTW, I saw Emil Lahoud's tree in the garden of the Armenian Genocide museum.

We visited many churches, some synagogues and even a mosque, but the most touching site was a small 12th century Jewish cemetery, with the Hebrew inscriptions readable and the language understandable after almost 1000 years.

Only time will tell which country will succeed on the long run, multi-challenged Georgia with its clearly defined goals, living in Russia's intimidating shadow or realpolitk-practicing tiny Armenia.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

In a previous post, I was outraged by the racist discrimination in a girls' school in the religious settlement of Emanuel. I am still outraged. The compromise achieved after the Supreme Court's ruling was that one of the communities will build its own private school, where it can [and will] decide who gets admitted to study. This means the segregation will continue and the problem was in fact swept under the carpet rather than solved.

A few days ago, ultra-religious deputy health minister Jacob Litzman suggested applying the Emanuel 'solution' to the theater actors' boycott of Ariel. Theaters that refuse to perform in Ariel will be denied state funding (private theaters can decide for themselves where to perform). The underlying principle, according to Litzman, is that the state may have a say only when it pays the bill – one of the stupidest statements I ever heard.

Never mind how the ultra-religious use and twist every wrong to make it beneficial to their cause, let's concentrate on the role of the State. The State (through legislators) defines what is right and wrong and changes the definition from time to time, as society mores evolve. A fundamental wrong is wrong regardless by whom it is committed, state-funded establishment, private person, or group. Racist discrimination is wrong, Mr. Litzman, even in private schools.

As for the Ariel boycott, it reminds me of the following joke: Two Jews are stranded on a desert island. They build three synagogues - one for the orthodox Jew, one for the reform Jew, and one that neither one of them will ever set foot in!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"You Are Not Romantic"

Just before our 30th anniversary (a few days ago), I learned through a friend that I'm not romantic. At first, it hit me, but then I realized he is right. What he meant is not that I don't watch [and cry at] romantic chick flicks or like candlelight dinners (can't remember when I had one), rather that my thinking doesn't follow the romantic theory.

As I wrote in a previous post, contrary to romantic Hollywood comedies, there is more than one person whom you can partner up with. Question is what do you do when you find a good candidate. Do you keep looking to find the perfect one or stay with what (whom) you've got? Finding another one is time and energy consuming (this is what triggered my friend's remark) and nobody assures you he/she will be perfect either. I say go for the good partner. Maybe this is not romantic thinking, but it is certainly practical. Don't be the lady (or gentleman) who continues looking for the perfect outfit for the party even after the party has already begun. The party of your life will not wait for you, so you better learn compromising - again, a practical skill rather than a romantic one.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stories We Like

Maos' Last Dancer presents a very American perspective on a true story of struggle and hard work with a happy ending. We like it because we can identify ourselves with the hero and it fulfills our basic need for justice.

Here is another true story. Mr. Y has 3 old and useless Shekel banknotes buried in an envelope in a drawer. On his way home from work he listens to a radio program. He is a big radio fan and radio programs helped him more than once in his life. From the program he learns about the extended period these banknotes can be exchanged. Once home, he looks it up on the net and prints out the relevant press release from the Bank of Israel. He goes over the last sentence with a marker. He fully expects he will need this. At his bank branch, he heads towards his usual banker, but gets transferred to another clerk, Haim. Haim listens to the request and is puzzled. He never heard about this. He calls someone in the Center. No answer. He tries a different number. He explains the problem and listens.
H: "Mr. Y, I'm sorry, but this can only be done at the Bank of Israel."
Mr. Y shows him the printout. Haim is now even more puzzled. He attempts to make another phone call to find out what to do, but Mr. Y stops him.
Y: "I'll leave you the banknotes, you find out the procedure in your own time, and then transfer the amount to my account. I really have to go."
H: "I have to give you a receipt for the banknotes, at least. I can't take money without a receipt. Could you give me your account number for the transfer and I'll see what I can do?"
Y: "Sure. 1276490/58".
H presses the keys on his keyboard and watches Mr. Y's financial status coming up on his screen. Haim watches the numbers and changes his attitude in an instant.
H: "Mr. Y, I certainly understand you are a busy person and I don't want to waste your time. I'll figure out how to handle this." Haim's attitude is metamorphosed completely by the time the last figures are displayed.  He walks over to a teller, takes out a few banknotes from the cash register without any receipt, and hands them to Mr. Y. "I know how precious your time is Mr. Y, please take the money and I'll deal with the paperwork later."

There are no surprises in the dancer's story and there are no surprises in this one. It's a known fact banks treat wealthier customers better than poor customers. So why do we still like the story?

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Don't Get It

I don't consider myself a bad person, occasionally I even consider myself a good person, but there is something I really don't get when it comes to the issue of deporting or not the children of foreign workers. I am not even at the stage of taking sides, I simply don't understand why is this an issue. Children are in their parents' custody and go wherever their parents go. If and when their parents leave, they should take their children with them. While the parents are allowed to stay, so are their children. While here, the children should get all the benefits Israeli kids do, such as free schooling. If an illegal worker with a child in school is caught and ordained for deportation, the authorities should delay the deportation until school year ends.

We should make the children's stay here as pleasant as possible. With good memories of Israel they may become Israel advocates.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Doers and Commentators

While some people are busy doing things, others make excuses for not doing them and explain what's wrong with what the others do, even if it takes more time or energy to complain than actually do the job. Doers and whiners. But not all non-doers are negative. There are positive talkers, who give ideas for others to implement. They don't implement their own ideas either because they [think they] can't, are afraid of failing, find it hard to make the first step or are plain lazy.

Some professional pairs have an inherent doer vs. commentator nature, like politicians and journalists, sportsmen and fans (OK, this is not a profession), or playwrights and theater critics. But not all is black and white. Some politicians don't do much themselves, but criticize the rival party. Some journalists write articles and books presenting their own ideas. Sportsmen may criticize their spouse's cooking while avoiding the kitchen, sports fans may be good at planning family trips, playwrights may be wine connoisseurs and theater critics may be good gardeners.

While in general we are either doers or commentators, in different cases we may act as either one or the other type. I'm not saying which one you should be, just advising to choose your side consciously.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Individual and National Happiness

We are hard wired on analyzing and improving our imperfections. It's enough to look at my close family members to realize it. Dan is dieting for 5 weeks now and lost 1 kg every week. Peter follows in his footsteps and also takes UltraShape treatment.

If a child brings a high and a low grade, we always focus on the low one. Now comes positive psychology and tells us to focus on the aspects that make us happy and content and implement them on weaker areas. This new branch of psychology is also called the science of happiness. Turns out that happiness is also measured at the national level and we are the 8th happiest country out of 155 surveyed, preceded only by North European countries, New Zealand and Costa Rica. Not bad.

I wonder if the survey took into account my weekend depression. All this dieting needs me to prepare and box food for every workday of the week, so I spent most of the weekend in the kitchen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Domestic Intelligence

I love to watch National Geographic Channel programs on nature, plants, animals, the Earth... Unfortunately I live in an apartment with not too much nature in it. We have Venus the cat reign the house and a few herbs in boxes and flowerpots on the balcony. One of them is mint. Initially, it grew very fast and developed beautifully. It absorbed lots of water and I was happily trimming it for tea, salads and cooking. Lately, however, it weakened, lost leaves, grew no new shoots and didn't absorb water. I also noticed some black "tears" around it. When I analyzed the poor plant more closely I saw five fat, disgusting caterpillars expertly hanging on the delicate branches and exercising those excellent camouflage skills I so admire on NG programs. Had to admit they look way cooler on TV than on my beloved private mint. I cut the branches together with the caterpillars, but was too disgusted to even sweep them away so I sought assistance from the only male awake at that time in the house, Dan. I made a serious face and told him 'we have NG animals on our balcony'. 'Lions, elephants, gnus?' he asked amused. He left his PC (a small miracle) and managed to place the branches into a nylon bag and into the garbage it went.

Just like in the caterpillar case, we also had a few fridge-related symptoms. Ice cream melted, some steaks got spoiled, milk and cream cheese turned sour. Everything happened boiling frog gradually, while we kept making excuses.  Friday afternoon, after we filled the fridge with a week's worth of products and was too late to call a technician, we finally realized the fridge has stopped cooling completely. Oh, and I've also invited people for coffee and cake on Saturday and made a delicious mango parfait...

We had the facts, but misinterpreted them and failed to see the big picture. Just like the Israeli Intelligence prior to the Yom Kippur war.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Four Wheels and an Engine

I know very little about cars. I'm not interested in their technical specifications, and if asked what car is so-and-so driving, I'll say 'green'. No idea what make or model. I've always said I don't care about car makes, any four wheels and engine that take me from point A to B is good enough. Until my leased Ford Focus went to the garage for a small reparation and I got a Chevrolet Optra as a substitute. It's much less comfy, has less features and it made me realize I want much more from a car than just four wheels and an engine.
It also made me think about the progress achieved since Henry Ford made his first assembly-line, famous Model T. Now, we are on the verge of a new era with Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi introducing electric cars. You can find many more videos of him explaining his idea by googling for his name + electric cars in the video category. Go Shai, we are proud of you!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Football World Cup

For me football is just 22 men chasing a ball. And when they reach the ball, they kick it! How logical! It is also a game, taken way too seriously by some. But most of all it's a huge business. For years I was outraged by the money some football players make, while they can't put 2 straight sentences together.

This year I changed my mind. I decided that professional football is, um... a profession. I just realized that stupidity and narrow mindedness can be found in many other professions, it's not a football exclusive. There are stupid waiters, carpenters, lawyers, actors, engineers, musicians and dentists and there are clever ones too. So the new way I'm going to look at football players is good old supply and demand. They have an ability in high demand, that's why they make the money they do. Suddenly, playing football looks like any other legitimate career.

Panem et circenses. There's nothing new under the sun.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Racist Segregation

I'm referring to the recent Supreme Court ruling following the on-going racist segregation in Emanuel. Reading about the differences between the two groups, instantly reminded me of the High Heels and Low Heels in Jonathan's Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Some people argue that we should not allow racist segregation in public schools, funded by tax payers' money. I say we should not allow it in private schools either.

But are we really that different than the 'lesser' others? Genetically, all humans belong to the homo sapiens sapiens species and there are no genetic differences between the 'races'. What makes us different is our cultural context. Different, not better. If one must be judgmental, then he/she should do so on in individual basis, not a collective one.

It's so easy to find differences. My mother and mother in law (God bless their memory) used to have this ritual conversation about a Hungarian dish called káposztás kocka (square-shaped pasta with cabbage). "Oh, you eat this with sugar, how interesting. We make it with salt and pepper". In this case, I can't even argue that pornography (or taste) is a matter of geography, as they lived in the same city, on different banks of the same river.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Multitasking: A Virtual Drug

A few weeks ago I attended a short lecture given by venture capitalist Michael Eisenberg. He spoke about key skills we should posses in order to be employable. One of them is the ability to multi-task. Being a high-tech worker bee,  I know too well what is he talking about.

In '7 Days' magazine of Yedioth Ahronoth, columnist Dana Spector defines multitasking as a person's lack of self-respect and lack of respect for her quality of life. Instead of enjoying something you do, you try doing two more things in parallel. She called her column 'multi-bullshit'.

Senior broadcaster Yitzhak Noy also spoke about multitasking in his Worldwide Sabbath program last Saturday. While reviewing international press, he mentioned an article in the International Herald Tribune that discusses the toll multitasking takes on us: it releases dopamine into our body and can be addictive. Furthermore, it diminishes our ability to concentrate on one thing, to analyse in-depth and reach the right conclusions. It can lead to severe brain damage. I, of course googled for the article and found it here.

A little multitasking makes us feel good, but avoid over-dosage like the plague.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Have a Dream

I am at Terminal 3 of Ben Gurion Airport waiting to board a special direct flight to Oradea, along with many other Jews from there. We land after about 3 hours, full of anticipation for the long weekend ahead of us. It's a beautiful spring afternoon in 2015. We get on the buses waiting to take us to our hotel in town. We all check in, meet some others in the lobby. They arrived from the US, Germany, Hungary and even Australia. I tour the facility just to make sure all is in place and running on schedule: the registration desk, the convention hall, the big banner outside the hotel and in the hall. I am so excited, I can't fall asleep and decide to walk along the Koros river.

Day One: Introduction
Next morning, right after breakfast, the name tags are all neatly arranged on the registration desk, waiting for the crowds. People start walking in, get their tags and convention program, hang around the coffee and morning pastries, chit-chat and finally enter the convention hall. The Master of Ceremony opens the event. The first speaker is Oradea's mayor. He welcomes us and speaks about the linkage between past and present, about the Jews' contribution to the city's cultural and economic life. Then, the representative of the local Jewish community speaks. He mentions preservation and cultural activities of the community. The MC hands the microphone to attendees to introduce themselves, tell us about their linkage to Oradea, their current city and whatever else they want us to know. We spend the morning getting to know each other. The afternoon siesta is followed by a welcome cocktail party with live music and great food, in a beautiful Art-Nouveau style ballroom.

Day Two: Yizkor 
The next morning, we gather again in the convention hall to listen to scholars presenting the history of the Jewish community of Oradea, followed by a Holocaust memorial service conducted by former Zion Temple cantor Yossi Adler, at the Holocaust monument.
Day Three: Fun
The third day is packed with fun. In the morning there is a guided tour, where our spouses and family members and even the hard-core Oradea-born attendees discover the city. We all learn something new, take pictures and recall old memories from school, neighborhood and community activities. The afternoon is dedicated to music. First, we listen to local talents (for example Kovari Kati, Alexandrina Chelu) and the community choir, then to piano concerts given by [ex-]Oradea pianists attending the event (Roth Andris, Vogel (Grunberger) Nadia and Hausmann Gyuri come to mind). Finally, we all have fun by singing along with current and old-time community choir members. We finish the evening by singing Hatikvah.

Day Four: Grand Finale
The fourth and last day morning we spend out of town, at the Felix thermal baths. The event ends with a  gala dinner, music, dancing and great atmosphere.

The entire event is documented and the resulting pictures and videos uploaded to the Oradea Reunion (Varadi Talalkozo) Facebook page.

Do you share my dream? Would you like it to come true? Then, let's speak about reality. In reality, behind such an event there is a lot of hard work. I know because I planned professional conventions in the past. I am not yet sure I'm prepared to do this. However, here are a few starter needs that came to my mind:

  • Energetic person who lives in Oradea, with excellent organizational skills and ties to city council and Jewish community
  • Contact with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania 
  • Contact with the Lempert Foundation (couldn't post a message)
  • Contact with the Avichai Foundation (didn't get back to me) to obtain their list of invitees to the 2005 event
  • Israeli travel agent to organize flight, accommodation and transportation
  • Media person to get the Israeli and local media interested in the event (press, TV, documentation, sponsorship)
  • Volunteers to maintain the contact list (I have a starting list of about 340 people and couples) 
  • Volunteer treasurer.
I'm sure this is a very partial list.

So what say you?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Simple Logic - Parent Perspective

I'm sick and tired to listen/watch/read any more commentary on the Gaza flotilla. Everybody seems to be convinced by their version of the truth, no matter the facts. I don't know the facts, nobody does. Even those who were physically there only saw/felt a small fraction of it.

So instead of facts, I'll just communicate my feelings as a parent of an IDF soldier. I fully expect a soldier to shoot a person attempting to lynch him or his comrades, even more so if the person is a supporter of my enemy, whose purpose is to kill me and my people. Can't be simpler than that.

And BTW, true peace activists/humanitarians don't attempt to lynch anyone.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Oradea Jewish Baby Boomers Reunion

A former colleague whom I appreciate for her social skills once told me that reunions are stupid. People you want to keep in touch with, you do anyways, and those you don't, it is probably for a reason. So what's the point? To see how everybody got old and fat? Nostalgia for a younger you? And what's the role of reunions in the age of Facebook and Twitter? With these questions unanswered and despite being way out of my age group, I went to the Oradea Jewish Baby Boomers reunion, held yesterday May 27, 2010 at the Metropolitan hotel in Tel Aviv. It is being organized once every few years, and attended by a different mix of people from many different countries.

As expected, I didn't know most attendees, saw some acquaintances, and had a blast with the usual comment I get at such occasions. Many people there knew my parents and me as a little girl. They look at my name tag (with my maiden name on it) just to make sure I am whom they think I am and say: "You haven't changed a bit since I last saw you, when you were five". I swear I get this comment every single time, and yesterday I  got it more than once. Some add "you have the same face, same curly hair". One sleazy guy went even further with "I was already in love with you when you were five, but didn't say a thing as they'd think I'm a pedophile". Answered the ubiquitous "where did you live in Oradea?" and "where do you live now?" ad nauseam, exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, had some photos taken, chatted with some women around the desserts, all in all a pleasantly spent 3 hours.  Even volunteered to start a Facebook group based on the list of emails I'll get from the organizers. (Today I discovered it's impossible to find friends on FB by hometown).

Towards the end, Dan came from a nearby event he attended, to join us on the way home. After amazing some people there with his Hungarian knowledge, he concluded the event: "everybody there is connected to everybody else in a way - like in a giant spaghetti". How true. If someone would map the relationship between the people there, it would really look like a giant graphical spaghetti showing your connections to people from the neighborhood, the Jewish community, school, the famous 'choir', through someone else...A very special bunch of people sharing the memory of our beautiful hometown and its post-WWII Jewish life, dispersed all over the world, speaking Hungarian, Romanian and at least one or two other languages.

There was this special feeling in the air that even though you don't know many of the attendees personally, you all share a common heritage, something an outsider would find difficult to understand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Less Is More

I was invited to a wedding reception - coffee and cake at 7:30 PM - an unusual combination of the time of the day and food served. Coffee and cake is perfect around 5 PM, but 7:30 is dinner time. After the Tiramisu (see my previous post) I had after lunch I could not even think of more food that day, let alone something sweet. All I had was a cup of coffee, so for me it was in fact perfect.

A usual wedding reception consists of a 4- or 5-course dinner and there is usually way too much food. Same is true for many other types of social gathering. It's time to start a trend of health food in moderate quantities at parties, receptions, etc. Although Israeli hotel breakfast buffets are well known for their abundance and eating frenzy, the breakfast at the Dead Sea hotel I last visited started to show signs of refinement. 

People also have too many cloths, bedding sets, towels, and stuff in general. It's immodest and I disapprove it. 

Less is more.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Other Stomach

Since Tom won't be at home for Shavuot, I decided to make a few dairy dishes this weekend. My favorite food blog (now also in English!) offered two items I decided to try: chickpea pancakes with honey and goat cheese (made this for breakfast) and Tiramisu in individual bowls (for dessert after lunch). I also plan some baked mangold-cheese croquettes. I recently had some in an interesting Jerusalem restaurant, where they call it Swiss chard pancakes, and decided to try my own. So far I had no luck finding good recipes of this dish on the net, so feel free to forward me your own.  Shameless promo: Stay tuned to find out what was I doing in Jerusalem and about my relationship with this city. Unfortunately (or not), this weekend Peter also decided to bake his excellent cocoa kuglehupf  - see the proof on the left. 

OK, so we weren't really hungry this weekend. Here we are sitting at the table after a BBQ lunch and me asking what I thought to be a hypotethical question: 'Dessert now (this is the hypothetical part) or later with coffee?'. 'Now', say both my soldiers, after some kebabs in pita, with hummus, pickled lemon tahini, green salad, and a steak. 'Where do you have room for dessert after all this?' 'In my dessert stomach', comes Dan's nonchalant answer.

No matter what we just had, in some miraculous way, there is always room for dessert. Maybe we all have another, dessert stomach?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Up and Down

We have just started to recover from the US sub-prime crisis, low dollar and decreasing stock values. The first quarter of 2010 looked so optimistic (too good to be true as the Polish would say). Now the Greek crisis and its impact on the Euro is the next hit. On the other hand, we are joining the OECD. We work hard to attain the good things (OECD), while we get the bad ones effortlessly. The world just throws them into the equation without consulting us first.

The comic moment: Lebanon broke Israel's Guinness world record for the largest hummus plate and then went for the falafel.

Boring it is not.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In and Out

As my blog tagline indicates, change and transformation fascinate me in general. The way the new replaces the old in nature, in our lives, in technology, medicine, art, all over, preoccupies me.

I think a lot about changes in life. Not those abrupt ones than happen suddenly (they really frighten me), but those smooth ones we don't notice happening until one day we realize they happened. Once important parts of our lives evaporate, as we take up new activities, meet new friends, move on.

We all had friendships triggered by circumstances (people we befriended while living in a neighborhood, at work, during army service, school, university, gym, art class, you name it), that ended with the changes in circumstances (moving to a different neighborhood, starting a new job, finishing studies). Circumstantial friendships are an important part of our social life, alongside our true, lifelong friendships, occasional encounters, superficial relationships, family. Their coming and going is part of the continuous change in our life.

People we were close to in previous periods move away from us as their lives and priorities change too. Maintenance needs more resources than we care to invest and the relationship empties out. We realize there's been months/years since we talked to/met such-and-such. And then one day we ask ourselves what exactly do we have in common with this person? And the usual answer is 'not much'.

So what affects who goes and who stays? The equation seems to be 'the stronger the initial bond, the more we are willing to invest in maintaining the relationship'.

Full disclosure: this post was inspired by my own friendship with M and by this post.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Democratic Thought

You know those criminals you sometimes hear about in the news and you wish the powers-to-be just take them away and punish them on the spot, no courts, no judges, no lawyers? Actually, you don't really want that to happen because you don't want to live in a country where such things happen. Believe me, I tried. Not fun.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thinking Old

Once, planning a vacation was part of the fun. Reading background material, planning the route, reserving flights, car rentals, lodging ... Now, you prefer an organized tour to sit back be served.

Once, your bruises healed in a day or two. Now, you go to physiotherapy, you have pain every time the weather changes and after many months you are wondering if your body will ever get back to its previous state.

Once, your body was that functioning thing you didn't worry about. Now, you devote time to maintenance and you can still feel pain in multiple places at once.

Once, it was easy to get rid of a few kilos, even though you ate unhealthy food. Now, it seems mission impossible, even though you only eat whole-wheat, whole-grain rice and brown sugar.

Once, you told friends what happens in your life. Now, you tell them what happens in your children's life.

Once, you wanted to visit distant, exotic islands. Now, you sadly acknowledge that your world of interests is shrinking.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Budapest in the Spring

Budapest in the spring is mostly cold. The city itself is a mixture of  Art Nouveau buildings, baths, stocking shops, excellent food, fine china and great shows.

We rented a studio apartment for a week (price is about the same as a 4-star hotel) and had a rich program every day: landmark visiting in the mornings and shows in the evenings. Public transportation is good, especially trams and metro. The buses are more run down. Prices, in general, are still lower than Western Europe (inevitable with a conversion rate of HUF 260 = 1 Euro), but much higher than, say, 5 years ago.

All the beautiful buildings were built around 1900, but not all of them are maintained properly. The combination of tarnished buildings and glitzy neon signs make a weird sight. The most famous bath, the Széchenyi, is an architectural masterpiece, but lacks some modern comfort. There are not enough signs inside (if you don't know the place, expect to get lost), no water way from the inside out and the entrance system is overly complicated (you need a special wristwatch, a card and a key to operate it) - no wonder they have workers there to explain how all this works together. The showers are scarce, with no privacy or space for your stuff and there is no comfy place for those important finishing touches before the exit. Haven't seen a kiosk or restaurant inside, either. 

The food is one of the major features in Budapest. You can lunch starting at around HUF 800, indulge yourself in one of the fine cafés or restaurants, or buy food in the market hall. Some must-order dishes are gulyásleves (goulash soup), halászlé (fish soup), paprikás or pörkölt (meat stew with lots of paprika), túrós csusza (pasta baked with cottage cheese and bacon), galuska or gombóc (filled dumplings), gesztenypüré (sweet chestnut puree with whipped cream), and Somlói galuska (sponge cake dumplings with chocolate sauce, rum and whipped cream). Of course, there are many, many others. Also worth trying are Pick salami, kolbász (sausage), hurka (fresh sausage), tepertős pogácsa (round puffed pastry with bacon), birsalma sajt (quince jelly) - for a start. Don't forget to stock up on paprika and pálinka (brandy). Hungarian cuisine includes an endless list of dishes and sweets. On our daily way to the closest tram station, we passed an excellent confectionery, where Peter had cake every time we passed by. I had some too - the scales in my bathroom still remind me the sweet sins.

Budapest has about 100 theaters and concert halls. We watched diverse shows, from grand operetta productions to fringe. There is an endless variety of just about every performing art form.

Shopping experience depends on your budget. Souvenirs abound all over the city, from cheap touristy items to Zsolnay or Herendi porcelain. I bought a small Kósa Klára pottery piece in a gallery in Szentendre.

A week in Budapest is a great battery recharger, there is a lot to see and experience.

Some of the pictures we took can be seen here.