Monthly Archives: March 2007

Pesach Cleaning

Whew! It’s that time again, with the annual Pesach cleaning slog that has us turning our houses upside down and inside out. In two days, we get through almost everything, though I’ve decided that a few office storage areas will have to wait. The chance of any hametz lurking in with client files is rather remote. And while the work is tiring and boring, it is a good feeling to get things really clean, not to mention purging all the crud that accumulates over the year. The only one really upset by this process in Nadine, who screams at us and makes rude suggestions. I retaliating by giving two open packages of cat treats to a local stray.

Happy…! Oh, never mind: We have a late lunch at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant that we like in the village of Rami. As we walk in, we see that the place is packed, and everyone is staring at us expectantly. They look very excited, and then instantly disappointed. But following close on our heels is the much-surprised guest of honor, and everyone breaks into a rousing version of Happy Birthday. We are caught in the middle of the celebration, and it takes us a few moments to work our way out to the garden tables. Once safely ensconced, we feast on humus with beans, cauliflower in t’hina, and other treats.

Back to more cleaning…

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Cognitive Dissonance

It’s a day of weirdness: I shlepp down to Matam, the big high-tech industrial park in south Haifa, where many of my clients are located. It is the second session of training with another group of engineers at a Big Chip Company That Shall Remain Unnamed. Over the course of the day, I spot numerous things that make me go, “Huh?!”

  1. At the train station in Akko, a small black dog sporting a red collar trots onto the platform. One of the train security guys stops. “Nu?” he asks the dog sternly, “do you have a ticket?” Small Dog looks at him, looks up and down the platform, then slowly turns and plods back through the turnstile. Three large soldiers from a commando unit watch this and all say (in unison), “Ohhhhhhh!”
  2. On the train, I sit across from a conservatively-dressed religious woman who is calmly browsing an article about vibrators. Next to her, a young woman wearing very little at all and looking like the ultimate Barbie is rocking out to her MP3 player and reading a book on quantum physics.
  3. Walking from the train to my client’s building, I see two grounds-keepers talking. They are dressed in dirty overalls and pushing garbage bins. “But if you switch to cable from ADSL, that won’t affect your subnet mask,” says one to the other.
  4. Walking back towards the train, at the end of another fun day with some very smart developers, I see what appears to be a homeless guy clutching a briefcase. Then I notice the cellphone. Boy, I think, some of these Israeli engineers really dress like slobs. But as I pass the guy, I hear pure Texas. “We gonna wrap up this here meeting by tonight an’ I’ll head on back on that ol’ night flight.”
  5. Occupying a chair at one of the train station’s snack bar tables is an incredibly scruffy orange cat. He is big, butch, and battered. Both ears show the effects of multiple fights; his fur is streaked with motor oil; a scar zigzags across his haunch; the pink gash on his shoulder looks fresh. The woman at the snack bar calls him Vassa (short for Vassili) and says, “Oh, he is so pampered. He’s lived here for three years and he is spoiled rotten.”
  6. Back on the train, I sit across from a well-dress middle-aged couple. Their speech flags them as educated. They seem civilized. Then they start chewing gum. For the next half hour, I am forced to listen to wet, smacking noises as they chomp away, mouths open, like a pair of large ruminants.
  7. Heading out of the parking lot at Akko, I stop at a crosswalk and do a double-take at the soldier crossing in front of me. She is tiny—maybe 5’1″—and looks about 12 years old. And she is wearing the oxblood boots reserved for paratroopers.
  8. I get home to discover this urgent message from Northern LS, who wants to warn my readers about something that isn’t kosher for Pesach. Yet again another reason to follow Sephardi minchag, guys.

Ya gotta love this place.

Insurance, Insurance

My head hurts: We finish a two-hour meeting with our insurance agent. No, not the one responsible for giving us endless grief over the break-in, but the guy who handles my life insurance. While I’m not saying that all insurance agents are demon spawn, I can’t help but detect the slightest tang of sulfur in the air as we talk. (Then again, that may have been the tofu talking…)

Insurance and investment laws have undergone a massive change in the past few years, leaving us mere mortals confused and frustrated about an already-complex process. But by listening carefully and crunching a few numbers, I manage to establish the following:

  1. My retirement plan is: don’t retire. Ever. Alternately, Gill can win Lotto.
  2. No matter which medical policy carrier you go with, they will always find a way to exclude a claim. The fine print somehow proves that anything related to my body is a “pre-existing condition.”
  3. All assets look better in shekels.
  4. All deficits look better in dollars.
  5. Insurance salesmen eat their young.

At one point, The Dark One starts explaining options for in-home care. “For example, if you can’t dress yourself, can’t feed yourself, can’t move about on your own from room to room…” Hmmm, I think, pretty much like Nadine. Well, she can, but why should she bother when she has two idiot humans who are happy to shlepp her up and down the stairs and cater to her every whim? I snap back to attention in time to be regaled with further visions of impending doom.

A New Threat

They’re getting weirder and weirder: Check out our latest security threat.

Learn Hebrew

Yes, but how about English? This ad just came through via email. Ya gotta love the chutzpah!

I mean, really! We’re not talking oh-gee-we-missed-it typos, but massive conceptual problems in grammar and syntax. Weeeee!

There We Go

Say goodbye: Those of us on the outgoing Administrative Council of STC Israel (the Israeli chapter of Society of Technical Communication) end our terms and hand things over to the new board. (And no, that isn’t Prince Charles, but our outgoing treasurer, Meir Fishburn.)

Cleaning frenzy: It’s that time again. Pesach cleaning is upon us, with only a week to go before erev seder. I haven’t started yet. (What else is new?) To get you in the mood for purging chametz and finding your pesachdik dishes, try this cute link (sent in by my sister Tracy). Just to add a little spice, we share a cleaning lady with a few friends, and we are all jockeying for extra cleaning hours this week.

Small dogs on parade: It seems that everywhere I go now, I see cute little dogs. Pugs, Chihuahuas, and various other “purse dogs” (as a friend of mine calls them). At the travel agent, I see a client come in with a small dog. It is quiet and well-behaved, and sits on her lap during the transaction. A woman crosses the street in front of me, holding a tiny rat-like thing in her arms. A young man zips by on a bike, a furry snout poking from his backpack. How I want a small doggy! Nadine, however, refuses to negotiate. If you have any experience introducing a dog into a household with an older, anti-social cat, please advise.

The Battlin’ Blue and White

It’s a miracle: In a remarkably civilized game in which both English and Israeli fans behaved themselves admirably, the Israeli national team held off the English national team to a zero-all draw last night in the Ramat Gan stadium.

This is huge.

For those of you who don’t understand that football (what Americans call soccer) generates more passion than religion and politics combined, just think of the football hooligans and the violence that often erupts after international games.

The British police have become such experts that they actually sent a contingent of special officers here to check out stadium security and brief their Israeli counterparts. They also now automatically revoke passports of any British citizen involved in football violence, thus keeping them from being this kind of anti-ambassador throughout Europe.

In fact, such was the effort to keep things civilized that some of the British fans, and members of the English national team, visited Yad vaShem to better understand us and our history while paying their respects.

But the game. First, the frenzied media coverage kept the game at the top of every newscast for 48 hours before. Once the game started, even if a spacecraft had landed on the Knesset, I think the news readers would still have led off with an excited score update.

Consider that we aren’t great. No, really. In basketball, we are one of the strongest contenders in Europe. But in football, we are very weak. Of course, the irony is that this is a country where football is a thousand times more important than basketball. So here we are, facing the English national team, perhaps one of the strongest in Europe, and we held them off.

Did I say ‘we’? Let’s just say that Dudu Awat, our goalie, worked like a madman to keep the English team scoreless. Since they are so much better than us, they completely dominated the game, controlling the ball, keeping the action where they wanted, and taking more shots. (And did I mention that one of our key players was injured?)

So that is the situation this morning. Our hopes of progressing in the 2008 championships are still alive. Our national pride is intact. Our security people can heave a sigh of relief. Even those drunken English fans, wandering shirtless and painted through Tel Aviv, look quite colorful and entertaining.

Of course, the pregame traffic was so horrible that I arrived late to a training session in Tel Aviv; it was so bad that I actually hopped out of the car about a kilometer from the venue and trotted the rest of the way, leaving Gill to navigate the snarled streets. But no worries. The Blue & White is still alive!