Monthly Archives: October 2006

My Cushy Life

Such a cushy life: “Oh, Leah,” say some of my high tech veal farm friends, “you’re so lucky! You can work at home, and you can sit there in your pajamas with your cat on your lap.” Uh, yeah. That’s when I’m prepping a course, or catching up on business emails, or writing new training material. But what about when I’m actually doing the training?

So allow me to share a glimpse of my oh-so-cushy life with you, as I walk you through this Sunday:

5:15 Wake up. It is still dark, there is thunder and lightening, and the wind is cold and gusting. My head hurts. My throat, already sore the night before, is now making it hard for me to swallow. Groan. I hope that we remembered to program the dude (water heater).

6:30 Drive to Akko. The weather is insane, and all the other drivers on the road are going as fast as humanly possible, so that they can get out of the storm. Gee, I think, as an overloaded van with a broken taillight fishtails past at 110 kph, this is fun.

7:05 Try to find a parking spot. Naturally, several people have selfishly taken two spots, leaving the rest of the commuters to park in a muddy field. I join the long line of people dejectedly plodding towards the station.

7:10 Board the train. The heat has been cranked up so that we can enjoy a sauna as we travel south.

8:10 I should be in Binyamina by now. My connecting train is supposed to leave Binyamina in just a few minutes. What’s going on? I wipe condensation from the windows and see water pooling on the tracks.

8:35 We leave Binyamina over 20 minutes late. This train has the AC blasting. I am surrounded by hordes of sneezing, coughing germ carriers. I call my client to let her know that I’ll be arriving late.

9:00 I go out the wrong exit at the Netanya train station and then need a guard to open the turnstile for me to pass through again. It is pouring rain and everyone is huddled under the entrance, effectively blocking all movement in and out of the station. I use my elbows, get outside, and grab a cab. “Sapir?” He nods. Five minutes later, I realize that he thought I meant Sapir street, not the Sapir industrial zone.

9:35 I start the training session, now half an hour late. My client has contacted everyone, and they are cheerfully easy-going about it. After all, some of them were caught in the same traffic jams caused by the torrential rain. (Gill later tells me that his 60 minute trip took 150 minutes due to accidents.)

13:10 We finish the session, which was the last of a series for these engineers. They are happy, I am exhausted. That’s 3.5 hours of on-your-feet, frontal training, with enough energy and animation to keep them engaged and entertained. By the time I have thrown the last chocolate and collected the last evaluation, I’m ready to plotz. I grab a quick bite and then order a cab.

14:20 The cab drops me at the Beit Yehoshua station.

15:10 I’m in Tel Aviv. I find a relatively quiet corner upstairs at the mall, pull out my phone, and catch up on some business calls.

16:45 Start walking to my next meeting, just a kilometer or so away.

17:15 Others start trickling in. I pretend to be awake and type frantically, as I’m the official note-taker for the meeting. The meeting itself is (thankfully) efficient and lacking in drama, tantrums, or whining.

19:30 Meeting adjourns. Three of us get a lift back to the station, where we continue to discuss business until our trains arrive.

22:05 Train pulls in to Akko. My little car is sitting in puddle, looking quite sad.

22:35 Home. It has only been a 16-hour day involving three car journeys, four train rides, two taxis, and an urban foot trek. Off goes the suit, on go the baggy sweat pants and wooly socks. Gill puts the kettle on, and, with the wisdom of experience, offers up the remote control. Nadine sprawls across my lap and purrs. I know that I will be spending at least ten hours the next day finishing material for another seminar, so I won’t even be able to sleep in. But for the moment, I’m with my husband, nursing a hot toddy for my throat, patting my cat, and catching an episode of CSI. I’m content.

So yes, there are days when I can sleep in. There are days when I can wear my scruffiest clothes. But trust me, my “on” days are twice as brutal as the average office shift.

PS: Happy Halloween to all my readers in the US!

A Weekend Deluge

It’s raining, it’s pouring: A big storm rolls through. The heavy rains cause flooding and problems all around the country—power outages, downed trees, and some really nasty traffic accidents. In Karmiel, however, our area is so hilly that the biggest problems are leaky roofs (not ours!) and the creation of instant ponds at large intersections. Gill and I go for a walk Friday afternoon; I am exhausted and sleep-deprived, but the cool air and cloudy skies look tempting. We figure that the rain has stopped, and are enjoying the refeshingly brisk walk when the thunder starts again, the skies open up, and we are caught in a serious deluge. By the time we get home, we are soaked through like two drowned rats.Welcome to the 13th century: The weekend produced more examples of what we can expect from religious fanatics. Australian Mufti Sheikh Taj Din Al Hilaly basically says that any unveiled woman is asking to be raped, and Arshad Misbahi, the leading imam in Manchester, England, says that it is just fine and dandy to kill sexually active gay men. Meanwhile, those “youths” in Paris celebrate the anniversary of the 2005 riots by setting a few busses on fire. Youths. I love it. Not thugs, not terrorists, not Moslem fanatics, not nut jobs. Youths. The international press manages to reduce urban rioting to a few high-spirited, playful pranks. Every single one of those newspaper editors should personally appologize to the terrified bus drivers and passengers forced off at gunpoint.

A little cheesecake for a gloomy day: Miss Nadine poses on her sheepskin…

My Morning Loop

Earthquake: I wake up this morning to a seismic quake. Fourteen years of SoCal life has rendered me rather blasé about having the ground move, so I lie there for a moment, collecting my thoughts. It takes only a few seconds to realize that it is isn’t a tremor but Nadine giving herself a vigorous bath and shaking the bed in the process. Maybe I should put her on a diet.

But by now it is getting light and I know that I won’t fall asleep again. I slip out of bed quietly, find a pair of sweats, and lace up my old sturdy walking shoes. By 6:10, I’m out the door and wondering if I should have worn something warmer.
As much as I love an early morning run, there is a distinctly different delight that comes from long, brisk walks. (Plus my aging knees won’t tolerate daily runs.) At this hour, the other walkers are mostly accompanied by dogs tugging eagerly at leashes and sniffing everything they pass. (The dogs, not the owners…) There are a few hearty older people who take advantage of the cool morning temperature to march briskly through the neighborhood, and here and there I spy city workers getting a jump-start on the public area gardening. But for the most part, I have the neighborhood to myself.
A cow has strayed from its herd and munches thistles at the far edge of the neighborhood. She pauses and looks at me balefully as I pass. A skinny cat lies sprawled across the road like a discarded sweater; I fear that it has been run over, but no, it stretches and walks off. Annoying Guard Dog leaps up, barking, as I pass its fence, causing me to jump. Doesn’t matter how many times I have walked by or how many times that stupid dog has barked at me, I still jump.

Now it is time to buckle down and work on my seminar material. Hopefully, the circulatory benefits of my walk will help my brain function better. But maybe I ought to fire up the espresso machine, just in case…Barbie goes kosher: Yeah, cool, but why dafka blonde hair and blue eyes? (Thanks to Karmiel LS for the heads-up.)

Down for the Count

Ya ain’t so young no more, hon! Something catches up with me yesterday—perhaps my frantic schedule, or maybe something blew into my lentil soup—but whatever it is, I spend the day feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck. It is a day I can ill-afford to lose, as I still have tons of work to do, but fretting won’t make me get better faster. So Nadine and I curl up under a blanket and whimper pathetically when Gill gets home. (Actually, I whimper; Nadine meows.)

Another perspective: I’m not sure I entirely agree with Charles Jacobs’ article, because it still doesn’t explain the sheer virulence of the media attacks on Israel, but at least it’s a start to understanding where the double-standard comes from.

Lump alert! Nadine, already sporting a large lump on the inside of one meaty thigh, now has a new one. I want to rush her off to the vet immediately, but she and Gill gang up to veto that notion. I’ll keep a careful watch on her, the poor lumpy darling!

It’s raining! Thunderstorms move in during the night. By 16:00 this afternoon, the sky is already ominously dark. Everyone else grumbles about the rain, but I love it. In such a dry climate, every drop of moisture is precious.

Onward, onward…

Look out! It’s Eid-ul-Fitr!

Sharing the road with Grandpa Joad: As Ramadan ends last night, the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr kicks in, making my drive back from Netanya this afternoon particularly challenging. On Eid-ul-Fitr (and I quote from a generic Islam info site), “It is traditional to wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts, eat delicious dishes prepared for this occasion, and wait patiently for the next year.”

And visiting they are. Venerable gentlemen, more at home on a tractor than behind the wheel of a modern car, load their families into cars and creep cautiously along, tying up traffic for the rest of the commuters. It’s like watching an Amish buggy on the freeway—culturally interesting but scary as all hell. I get home in one piece (and hope that all the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrants get to their friends and families in one piece, too)…

Good there’s a sign! While in Netanya, I complete another day of training with My Very Cool Clients, catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in years, and see one of my fave warning signs. There’s something about that little guy’s hapless head-first plunge off the cliff that appeals to my warped imagination.

Can’t put a warning sign there! There are certain hazards of kayaking that make Gill’s mountain biking adventures seem quite tame. Good thing I didn’t see this before my mom’s recent kayak trip!

French imports (the good news): We’re already one of the world’s leading per-capita consumers of chocolate, so this is no surprise.

French imports (the bad news): I’d stick to the brie and pass on the flu shot, if I were you…

Back in the Mercaz

On the road again: Today I find myself up at 5:15 and out the door by 6:15. It is yet another training session with one of my favorite customers, a large high-tech company in the mercaz (center of the country). Their facilities are gorgeous, their engineers are smart and funny, and they treat me well, so it’s worth the long, grueling drive down there and back. Only problem?

  1. The session ends at lunchtime.
  2. The clients are located extremely close to IKEA.
  3. IKEA has a great cafeteria with fresh, inexpensive meals.
  4. Eating at IKEA very often costs hundreds of shekels, as I inevitably discover many “essentials” on my way to and from the cafeteria. Drat those IKEA fiends!

Today, Nadine is the big winner, as I come home with a small sheepskin rug for her (a belated bat mitzvah present). She adores it. She spends several minutes sniffing it, biting it, and rolling on it, before settling down like some 1940s Hollywood starlet at a cheesecake photo-shoot. When I check on her an hour later, she smells faintly like old shwarma.
All the news that’s weird to print: It’s time to catch up on the most important news items that you may have missed:

  1. Mercaz LS gets us started off with more ferocious stingrays.
  2. She also gives us yet another good reason why China is not on my list of hot vacation destinations.
  3. Finally, Karmiel LS brings us the work of a truly deranged man who has dedicated his life to making Lego versions of bible stories. Suddenly, blogging seems hopelessly normal.

Odds ‘n Ends

Reflections on bat-hood: Yesterday the water filter company sends a technician to replace all the under-sink filters and perform basic maintenance. The technician arrives on time and cheerfully sets about his work. He asks for coffee and we start chatting as I put the kettle on. Turns out that he made aliya the year before me and is just a few years younger than me, but the similarities end there. He and his wife left Kazakhstan, and while they briefly toyed with the idea of going to the States, his wife wanted his kids growing up here. He thinks I’m from Argentina, and I’m far from offended (an Argentinean accent is much preferable to an American). We talk about klitah (the process of integration into Israeli society), economics, and the moral fiber of our culture. Despite the vast differences in our backgrounds, we both share the fate of the bat—not really animal, not really bird. We are burdened with the culture of our birth countries like so much awkward carry-on baggage. The whole exchange is both surreal and reassuring.Semantics, shmantics: rave mode on “There is no such country as Palestine,” insist some. “The Palestinians are just Arabs, and they changed history to create a national identity.” So be it. But they are here, and denying their current identify is futile exercise in semantics. It reminds me of the idiots who proclaim that “no man has ever beaten a woman, because a real man doesn’t do that.” Yeah, so those were squirrels breaking ribs and fracturing jaws? Go ahead and say that good men don’t do that, but don’t make a faulty syllogism stemming from arrogance and stupidity. Yes, we can rant and rave and say that up until 1948, “Palestinian” meant the Jewish population here, but the name has been co-opted and it is now pointless to pout like a child and deny the fact that we have a nation living next to us with a strong identity. They aren’t going away. rave mode off

Oh, gee, that’s swell: Kofi Annan says that UNIFIL troops won’t fire on IAF planes. Probably. We can already sleep better at night.

Medical Research

New research findings: The Institute of Mediterranean Biomedical Studies has issued a new report confirming the research conducted at Ben Gurion University last year. The study, The Gravitational Pull of Ocular Musculature through Elevated Mammary Display, shows the effects of exposed cleavage on male visual targeting. Professor Itamar Ben Or, the team leader of the research project, discussed the significance of these findings in an interview yesterday:

“We hope that this information will help save millions of women from risking their lives with dangerous, costly cosmetic surgery. Why endure the pain and inherent danger of an eye lift, for example, when a good push-up bra costing less than $50 has the same effect? None of the male subjects tested even looked at the women’s eyes when the strong gravitational forces of revealed cleavage were in play.”

Ben Or admitted, however, that the same effect does not occur with female subjects.

And no, guys, this isn’t true. I made it all up. However, I’m open to receiving grants to conduct my own research in the area…

The Shadows of War

Just like athlete’s foot: Almost two months after the war ends, it’s still managing to elbow its way into our lives. My accountant has more forms for me to fill out; I bone up on war statistics for an upcoming presentation; a researcher from a California university interviews me. We still seem to chunk time into before, during, and after, and conversations return to it like a homing pigeon sensing its dovecote.It’s no wonder: GS from Karmiel brings the New Seven Wonders to my attention. This is a collaborative effort to identify a new set of wonders—things built in the past 2200 years. You can vote for your choices. If nothing else, it is fun to see how many of these amazing places you have already visited, and maybe add a few to your future plans.

Words fail me: If you haven’t seen the fainting goats, you must. They vaguely remind me of some of students when faced with a pop quiz…

More geriatric gyrations: Gill and I are back in our ballroom dance class after a week off due to the Karmiel Dance Festival. We cha-cha-cha until our energy and knee cartilage gives out. We actually do OK until Yaniv comes by to check on us, and then we immediately lose the rhythm, forget the steps, and start giggling. Don’t expect to see us on Dancing with the Stars at any time soon!

Thunder and Lightening

I’m still here: Killer deadlines are looming in all directions. I keep my nose to the grindstone for a few days and manage to get the work sent off with hours to spare.It’s starting to look like fall: Thunderstorms pelt most of the country since Sunday. My car spends most of yesterday at the equivalent of an auto spa, getting luxury treatments such as oil and filter changes. Smart staff, cool gadgets, nifty facilities. (I’ve seen restaurants dirtier than that garage!) Driving home, I notice how peppy it feels, and I have to hold it back to keep a sane speed on the wet roads. Naturally, no one else around me slows down, and I witness some of the most deranged driving I’ve seen in months.

It’s starting to look scary: No Halloween in Israel, but there are plenty of things to go “boo” at us. But few things scare me more than the state of Joe Shmoe American. An Aussie satire show takes to the streets in the US, asking some pretty basic questions and getting some truly frightening answers. If that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, try watching more.

It’s starting to look like a road trip: I’m getting ready for a four stop, cross-country business trip to the States, doing training for clients far and wide. (Mostly wide.) As I work my way through the massive amounts of seminar material required, I try not to get distracted thinking about the traveling itself, but it is hard to avoid. The travel fever increases when Karmiel LS turns me on to the Where the hell is Matt? site. (Make sure to watch the video.) Now that’s a guy who racks up the mileage!Keep dancing, everyone!