Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Duty to Enjoy

A colleague of mine was talking for a long time about joining the Pilates class at the gym. After she finally made it (to the one class I missed), I asked her how it was. "I'm not going again", she said. "I didn't enjoy". What a novel idea, I thought, enjoying an activity right from the beginning, before you get to a certain level.

In a TV interview about private high schools, a middle-class father explains: "my daughter didn't enjoy going to the [public] school, so I moved her here". I never thought about high school as an enjoyable experience. You go because you need education and because your parents expect it from you.

Our jobs are not merely a means to survive, we enjoy our challenging tasks and status at work. Life is short and we want to enjoy as much as we can right now, not later, after we finish our duties.

With this inflation in enjoyment, sometimes I wonder what happened to good(?) old sense of duty.

The ascetic blogger.

Monday, January 17, 2011

You Are Not Guilty

With all the Katsav festival going on in the media, there was one short sentence in a Yedioth article that grabbed my attention. It was an anonymous letter sent to the newspaper by a 45-year old religious woman about a rape attempt that happened to her when she was 18, while volunteering in a Tel Aviv hospital. She had a small injury and was treated by a doctor there. After the treatment, the doctor (40+) offered her a lift home. On the way, he made up some story about a female patient he had to visit in a hotel for treatment, to trick her into going into the hotel. While she was waiting in the hall, he asked her to bring his case and once in there, he assaulted her and tried to rape her. She fought him and managed to escape and run home, where her mother told her to keep the episode to herself as nobody would believe a teenager, but rather the well-known hospital doctor. This is the story in a nutshell, without many other details published in the article.

'Why didn't I see the signs?' was the woman's sentence that intrigued me. Because you couldn't. No unexperienced 18-year old has a chance against a 40+ criminal, who planned the rape in advance. What is it with us women that makes us feel guilty when we are sexually harassed? Why do we always ask ourselves whether we did something to provoke it or maybe didn't do enough to prevent it? Can a man understand this "logic"? How many such incidents (some 'successful') happen without anyone knowing about them or being punished? Why are we ashamed? (Actually I have a good guess for this one.)

In his own distorted view, Katsav doesn't understand what's wrong with showing affection (that's what he believes he did) to women, even though they say they are not interested. He belongs to a different place (Iran?) and time, not to our democratic reality, where women don't have to put up with this kind of behavior.

As for his sentence - I believe it should be more severe than that of an average person who has committed the same crimes. He not only hurt those women, but also, as a symbol of the state, embarrassed all the citizens (I feel personally ashamed) and caused Israel to get negative publicity. The punishment should be proportional to the damage he caused.

Global Food Crisis

Experts are threatening once again with Malthusian catastrophe. Malthus was wrong when he first predicted that population growth will outpace agricultural production meaning there won't be enough food for everybody, because he did not consider new agricultural technology. In many places agriculture is still rudimentary, so there is more room for improvement there and with genetically modified food, so he might be proven wrong once again.

The reasons for the global food crisis are well known, and so are some measures governments can take. China realized this potential problem many years ago and ruled the controversial one-child policy to save the nation from starvation. Population growth in Western world is declining naturally, while developing and poor countries are adding 100 million people every year to the world population. And these are the people to suffer the most from increased food prices.

Westerners could eat less meat and use grains for food rather than fuel, but why are people giving birth to children whom they cannot feed in the first place? Because of religion and because they want to outnumber the others at any cost. They figure that by expanding their problem, it will become everybody's problem.

There, I've said what many are afraid to admit.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


When I was younger, I used to drink either hot chocolate or coffee with milk. I thought tea is for old or sick people. Lately, I find myself drinking more and more tea, and since I'm not sick, it means I'm getting old. Logical, right?

We now posses a collection of all sorts of tea, some in their original package, some in tin boxes with improvised labels, crammed and stacked in the kitchen cupboard. No wonder it's hard to see what's on offer.

Although I'm a lousy shopper and never actually long to buy stuff, I decided we need a tea box, but not an ordinary one. I want a special, arty box. Actually, I saw some very nice wooden boxes with mother-of-pearl marquetry in the Old City bazaar of Jerusalem and I'm wondering whether these are suitable for tea and decently priced.

If I decided to buy something already, why not do it with style?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Satellite Woes

In a previous post I mentioned we bought a new TV. Last week we added to it a home entertainment system (also known as home cinema) and today we completed the unholy trinity with a new satellite set-top box that allows us to view HD channels, record and order VOD. For oldies like us, this is a big leap forward, as we still own (and sometimes use) an analog stereo system, including a tape recorder and a vinyl record player. Yes, we have audio cassettes and vinyl records, as unbelievable as it sounds.

The new TV is really smart, can even connect to a LAN, and the HD channels look superb. If everything is good, then why am I mad? Because this is not what I wanted.

I asked the satellite company to replace our 3 set-top boxes with simple HD ones (no recording, no VOD). The rep 'translated' this to one newest-model box and scheduled a technician for a couple of weeks later. The technician came today and that's when we realized the gap. This plan is more expensive than what I thought, we get features we'll probably never use (even with video tapes we never watched what we recorded, and we usually don't order VOD), the set-top box took up the last port on our wireless router we planned to connect the TV to, and HD is available on one TV only. I hate paying for stuff I don't need. 'There is lots of free stuff in the VOD library, and episodes of series that you might have missed when they were broadcast - all for free', the technician tried to convince us. 'I have one plain HD box in my car for ages as no customer wants these anymore', he continued. So we decided to try it for a month, and change the plan if we won't use the extras.

In the evening, I remembered I missed the last episode of a popular satirical show, so I decided to put the technician's words into practice and watch it. I plodded through the new menus with the new remote just to find out the episode was not free.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Alpha Trips

Unlike Jacob, the Israeli tour guide in the Simpsons' episode about Israel, licensed Israeli tour guides are highly professional. They study for almost 2 years and have to renew their license yearly after more compulsory vocational training. There is a lot of ground to cover, after all this country is packed with history, archeology, religion and culture.

Before 'real' university studies toward his ultimate goal of becoming an ambassador, Dan is studying to be a tour guide and enjoying every second. Since he is approaching a stage when he can get a temporary license, I advised him to practice on a group of friends, taking them on trips for gaining experience, and publicize these beta trips on Facebook. After several reminders and months, he finally decided to take my advice.(Look up the FB group he built).

Before each such trip, he organizes an alpha trip for a limited number of friends to rehearse the beta trip. I had the pleasure of joining several alpha trips and enjoyed immensely. The last one was in the City of David, in Jerusalem. The shape of the ancient Jebusite city reminded me of Manhattan, with the Kidron as the East River and the Central Valley as the Hudson. Although the landscape is different now than in Biblical times as valleys have filled up with remnants of past civilizations, The Valley street  (rechov ha-guy) in the Old City follows the trail of the ancient Central Valley. The 500m waterway we walked through is a 2700-year old engineering masterpiece, with water flowing through it today as it did then. In general, the site consists of 17 discreet excavations, with important archeological findings buried under private houses and gardens. Passing from site to site, visitors actually touch the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During his tours, Dan loves reading from the Bible and then pointing to the place where the Biblical story happened, enlivening it. His vivid explanations transform, in my [poor] imagination, any pile of rocks into the lively places they once were. And of course, I'm not biased.

Lately, a journalist approached him for an interview about his trips for the national GLBT website. 'Don't forget to tell him the trips were my idea', I remind him before the interview.  'Were they? I don't remember'.