Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kadima to Hell

I was at the shuk last Friday morning with Yaacov. It's the morning where it feels like all of Jerusalem is at the shuk getting ready for Shabbat. While on our shopping adventure, I overheard a shop keeper and another man joking about politics. One said to the other, "Kadima?! Kadima le gehenom!" Translation: Forward/straight to hell!

Kadima is the name of the new political party Arik Sharon created just before his stroke. Many people think that it will have a majority in the elections today...but probably not among the shop keepers at the shuk. Read this funny article about Tzipi Livni's (Kadima's Vice Prime Minister candidate) visit to the shuk and the Jerusalem mall.

My friend Matt took this picture of a poster board on his way to school. The poster in the lower left-hand corner has an image of Olmert (the Kadima PM candidate and former Jerusalem mayor) with some other folks. It reads, "Kadima (forward) to jail." The sign on top-center in big blue letters says, "A strong Likud, Israel secure."

Monday, March 27, 2006

I Hate Filing Taxes

I know that paying taxes is a good thing. We pool our money to benefit us all....roads, services, wars in Iraq, good universal healthcare. This past year, I worked as a contractor for a couple of businesses. Now it's time for me to pay up. I don't mind paying the tax as much as I HATE the filing process. I use an online provider that helps me figure out how much tax I owe. But it's my ignorance of the tax laws/rules etc that get me. I am not confident that I've done the process correctly and each year I wait for a call from the feds to tell me I made a costly mistake. I know that they won't be calling to give me any money back. Grrr!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

To Combat Envy

After writing my post about envy and thinking about it for a while, I came to some conclusions. Envy doesn't make you feel good and it's a waste of time in our short lives. To combat envy there are two things that help. The first one is gratitude. Some people I know have made long gratitude lists at one time. Other people make lists of 10 things that they are grateful for each day. Either way, being thankful for what you've already got takes you out of the attitude of envy.

Another way to get out of envy is by helping others. There are endless was of helping others - donating time and money. Doing something for someone else also takes you "out of yourself".

Less envy = more happy.

Liza (drunk?) on Larry on Gratitude

Friday, March 24, 2006

I've Been Tagged!

A post will follow...eventually.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Green with Envy

Before I started this post, I did a little research to make sure that what I was feeling was indeed envy and not jealousy. So I looked up both terms on the internets (the source of truth) and here's what I came up with ... just to define the terms.

From www.deadlysins.com:
Envy: Envy is the desire for other's traits, status, abilities, or situation
From www.dictionary.com:
Jealous(y): 1. Fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position. 2a. Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: jealous of the success of others. 2b. Inclined to suspect rivalry. 3. Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness: jealous thoughts. 4. Vigilant in guarding something: We are jealous of our good name. 5. Intolerant of disloyalty of infidelity; autocratic: a jealous God.

I am talking about envy. I guess the 2a definition of "jealous" could fit too.

There is a family that lives up the street from me. The Green family lives on the ground floor of their apartment building. Some of the buildings in my neighborhood are built around/over/on top of older stone homes. When the property was first developed, a family would build a nice big house for themselves. Then over time, they realized that if they build a four or five story apartment building on top of their house then they could make TONS of money. That's what the Green family apparently did. Anyway, they have a super nice garden apartment.

Here's the thing, I have never met Mr. or Mrs. Green, but I know a lot about them. Even though their apartment is screened by the verdant greenery of their garden, at night you can get peaks of their lifestyle within. They have a nicely decorated apartment. The furniture looks elegant and the rooms are actually decorated. Even in the foyer (all glass) there is a big artsy coat stand and orchids on a side table. The kitchen has all new appliances...stainless steel everything but with hardwood cabinets and nice lighting.

If you're reading this from the comfort of your suburban home in the US, it might not sound all that fancy. But here in Israel there is a different/lower baseline of decorating (think college dorm room but more on that in another post). So when you see an apartment really "done up", you know that the occupants have a good deal of disposable income - and that really is unusual in Israel.

Mr. and Mrs. Green have their own matching big, silver Mercedes cars. They're recent models and have no dents and scratches. (Cars here get more bumps and bruises - 'cause Israelis drive like maniacs, they take more risks when driving, and there's less room on the road.) These big cars would probably go for around $50,000 in the US. I assume that the list price is about the same here. But you have to also factor in that there is close to 100% tax on new cars purchased in Israel. So, these folks have about $200,000 invested in their automobiles! Even though they live on the same street where I struggle to find parking, they always manage to find spots close to their home for their massive cars.

I have met the Green's gardener and their cleaning lady. They aren't full-time workers, but they're over there a lot. The garden looks like something out of a tropical Alice in Wonderland - green, beautiful, and blooming all year. Their home stays spotless (I imagine) through the hard work of their cleaning lady. I've seen her scrubbing the front stoop on her hands an knees.

I don't know if I have ever seen Mr. Green but I know that I have seen Mrs. Green. I have seen her emerge from her Mercedes after a day at work/shopping/luncheons/whatever looking coifed and perfect. She's probably late 50s early 60s and looks content...happy even.

The other day I was watching a re-run of Oprah and a pre-Oscar Reese Witherspoon was on talking about life as a celebrity. Reese, in all of her youthful wisdom (she's just a year and some months older than I am - her birthday was yesterday, btw), said something like, "Everybody has problems." Well, duh. I know that life as a Green or a Witherspoon probably isn't all roses. I know that in my head. But when I walk past those fancy cars, that fancy apartment, those fancy clothes...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm Not Dead Update

I guess I am having blog apathy. There are a lot of cool things going on, but I just don't feel like writing about them. I think that part of my problem is that I have been writing for a couple of other blogs (that shall remain nameless) and I am just tired of sitting in front of my machine.

I'll try to get out at least one post tomorrow of the few that I have in the hopper. I think that I might begin a series on the seven deadly sins...starting with envy.

Ok, gotta run. Survivor is on. (We're on "season" 12 here in Israel.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why I Don't Use My i-Pod

For Christmas I bought myself an i-pod mini. It's sleek, black, and super-cute. I bought a tough protective sleeve for it too after reading all of the whining about the screen getting scratched. I've found though that don't really use my i-pod. Right now it's at the bottom of my laptop bag with no charge.

Reasons why I don't use my i-pod:
1. Mixing: So, my pod doesn't have enough memory to hold all of my CDs. That means that I have to (gasp) CHOOSE which songs I want to listen to. It's hard to pick but more importantly it's time consuming! You can mix all kinds of playlists etc. It's a special kind of person that has the patience for that. There are too many choices and it takes too darn long to set it all up. I would almost pay someone to come and do this job for me.

2. Podcasts: For a while I really got into a couple of podcasts. If you don't know what a podcasts is, well, look it up. I have had a BIG cup of coffee this morning and have no patience to explain. Anyway, I am getting annoyed with some of my regulars and have stopped listening. Why? Some of them have begun to sound like one really L-O-N-G voice mail messages. You know the kind of messages that I am talking about - where the person leaving the message begins to have a conversation with you even though you're not really there. "Hi! This is John. OMG! You'll never believe who I just ran into! That's right! Bob! Gurrrl, he was lookin' so ragged! I mean, you know how he just broke up with Sally Sue. Well, he said that that slut tossed all of his junk right out into the street. You know, the Waiting to Exhale part of me says 'You GO girl!' but the rest of me knows that sweet Bob doesn't deserve to get his butt kicked.....yadda, yadda, yadda. Ok, well, call me!"

3. My ears hurt: After listening for a while, my ears begin to hurt where the earbuds fit in my ears. Need to buy different earphones.

One of the things I like about my i-pod (when I actually use it) is that it often makes my walks around Jerusalem more fun. Tyra Banks has nothing on my swish as I prance around town to my favorite tunes. Remember when Ally McBeal's therapist (LOVE Tracey Ullman!) suggested that she pick a theme song? Well, I've got a couple and they're actually loaded onto my pod. Maybe it wasn't a waste of money after all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Small Israeli Mammals

Last night Y and I went to his grandparent's for Purim dinner. It was tons of fun...lots of good Georgian food. I understood almost all of the Hebrew conversation and none of the Georgian.

Full of good home cooking, we were walking back to the apartment from where we parked the car when I saw what I thought was a brush on the sidewalk. It turned out to be this:

A cute hedgehog!

Turns out that Israel is home to 3 kinds of hedgehogs. The one pictured above (not my photo) is the Eastern European Hedgehog. The Long-eared Hedgehog and the Desert or Ethopian Hedgehog (appropriate!) also call Israel home. You can learn more about other small Israeli mammals here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Where Are You Going For Spring Break

This spring break, I am going to Georgia. No, not the state in the USA; the former Soviet republic! We'll be headed there in about a month and I am excited!

Click this link for some pictures of Georgia.

Click to learn about traveling to Georgia. (Their fancy site takes a while to load.)

For the most part, we'll be hanging out in Tbilisi. We'll probably take car trips to other parts of the country too.


Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Is Paula Cole talking about Jack or Ennis? I heard Where Have All the Cowboys Gone on the radio this morning and it made me giggle... esp the part about the blue dress.

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone

Oh you get me ready in your 56 Chevy
Why don't we go sit down in the shade
Take shelter on my front porch
The dandy lion sun scorch,
Would you like a glass of cold lemonade
I will do laundry if you pay all the bills


Where is my John Wayne
Where is my Prairie Song
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

Why don't you stay the evening
Kick back and watch the TV
And I'll fix a little something to eat
Oh I know your back hurts from working on the tractor
How do you take your coffee my sweet
I will raise the children if you pay all the bills


Where is my John Wayne
Where is my Prairie Son
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

I am wearing my new dress tonight
But you don't, but you don't even notice me
Say goodbyes
Say goodbyes
Say goodbyes

We finally sold the Chevy
When we had another baby
And you took the job in Tennessee
You made friends at the farm
And you joined them at the bar
Almost every single day of the week
I will wash the dishes while you go have a beer


Where is my John Wayne
Where is my Prairie Son
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

Where is my Marlboro man
Where is his shiny gun
Where is my lonely ranger
Where have all the cowboys gone
Where have all the cowboys gone
Where have all the cowboys gone
Yippee yo, yippee yeah

Monday, March 06, 2006

Another Reason to Learn Hebrew: To Read Your Diploma

Turns out that three big name univeristies have Hebrew as part of their official seals.

Here's Yale's seal:

And Columbia:

And Dartmouth (although this version of the seal no longer graces Dartmouth diplomas):

Read more about it here and here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Vigilante Terrorist (or is he?) Strikes in North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (AP) -- A recent University of North Carolina graduate was charged with nine counts of attempted murder Saturday, a day after authorities say he drove through a popular campus gathering spot in an attempt to avenge Muslim deaths.

Read more about it at CNN and the local paper the HeraldSun.

And to think that my folks were worried about me moving to Jerusalem!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tel Aviv Wildlife

One of the great things about Tel Aviv is that some of the main streets were actually planned. The whole city of Tel Aviv is less than 100 years old. The apartment where I am staying in Tel Aviv is off of Rothschild Blvd. It's a lovely city street - with the good and bad of city life - people, dogs, cafes, buses, cars, noise. There is a pedestrian walkway/bike path in the tree lined center of the boulevard.

Here's a picture of one end of Rothschild Blvd around 1920. Check out the boats in the ocean!

Here's a current picture facing the opposite direction from the previous shot.

You can see how lots of the old architecture has given way to modern buildings, but there still is a good mix of old and new on Rothschild. The tree lined center remains. Rothschild isn't the only street built this way - I think that there are 4 others like it in Tel Aviv.

At one end of Rothschild is a huge tree with interesting flowers. It's a Bombax ceiba and looks like this (This pic is of a tree in Brazil. I'm too lazy to go out and take a picture right now.):

The tree has big, cup-like blossoms in bloom now. It really looks similar to the one pictured here. Anyway, last night as we were walking home, there were dozens of bats flying around it in the glow of the street lights. It was amazing. Y and I just stood there for a while and watched it all. The bats were huge. Their wingspan was at least a foot. You could hear them chirp, chirp with their radar-like guidance system through the tree branches.

Here's an interesting article on bats in Israel and the story of their demise as the country was developed - and hope for their conservation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Out the Window

Here are some pictures taken from the apartment where I am staying in TA. Click on them and zoom around - check out some of the TA skyline.

I finally finished that darn book Money by Martin Amis. I don't think that I got it. I mean, some of the prose was pretty cool, but as a story - blah. Didn't do it for me. Basically, I think that the main character had a hard childhood, nothing was ever real for him, he was an alcoholic, yeah, and...

Was it an allegory of the modern man? Was it a "get real before it's too late" tale? Was it about not being able to change your destiny? I mean, there are lots of ways to investigate these ideas that could be entertaining.

I've already started on my next book. It's It Will Never Happen to Me! by Claudia Black. A little non-fiction for good measure.