Monthly Archives: March 2007

Lost in Translation

So, that was your buddy in the wood chipper, eh? I rent Fargo last night on DVD. Northern LS, on her way to Fargo, had never seen the movie. While the two of us yuck it up at the plodding Minnesotans, Gill just looks confused. He simply doesn’t understand what is funny about the whole thing. To him, they are just speaking English; the scenes are just generically American. Some things just can’t be translated.

It reminds me of some of the more bizarre moments of movie screening in Israel. Seeing a Pedro Almadovar film (with only Hebrew subtitles) was an exercise in speed-reading that left me exhausted and nursing a headache (not to mention confused about major pieces of plot development that I had missed because of not being able to read fast enough). At least we don’t dub movies: nothing quite prepares you for sitting in a hotel room in Frankfurt, watching an old rerun of Hogan’s Heroes—dubbed in German.

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Of Blossoms and Bovines

Signs of spring: Driving back from Haifa, I zip past cows grazing in a small field near Tsomet Ahihud. A calf frisks up to an egret and tries to nudge it. All around, the fields are green, the flowers are in full bloom, and the air has that special softness that only happens for a few weeks out of the year. On our street, the flowering trees are slightly past the prime of their bloom. Their shed blossoms form shallow drifts of pink around the trunks.

Can I get some salsa with those chips? I’m back for another round of training at Yet Another High-tech Company That Makes Chips. It’s a different group of engineers, and I don’t know what they’ve heard about the course, but they all show up on time and giggle at my most shameless jokes. They also argue a lot and insist that English punctuation is illogical. I love engineers.

You know you’re not a movie buff when… I complain to a friend about a bad stomach ache. “Oh, maybe it’s an alien that is about to burst through your chest,” she jokes, “like in that movie Cocoon.” Uh-huh. Ron Howard, Ridley Scott—same diff.

It’s project time: Students scramble to turn in their final projects for the course. A few hand-deliver the goods, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive Miss Nadine. Nadine likes to “help” me correct projects by squatting on them. I’m not sure what she gets out of it, but perhaps she soaks up some useful information through osmosis.

A World of Weird

Read, set strike! New Histadrut head, Ofer Eini, flexes his muscles yesterday by calling a general strike that was supposed to go into effect at 6:00 this morning. The courts forced the Histadrut to wait until 9:00 and keep some basic services running. The reason for the strike? Over 3700 public workers haven’t been paid.

Name that tune: I’ve written several times about that incredibly sophmoric (and yet very funny) song that came out during the war, Y’allah Ya Nasralla, a series of juvenile taunts at Hezbullah. So check it out: I’m getting ready to get off the train yesterday, and a tinny version of the melody errupts from the cell phone of the guy standing next to me. He answers. In Arabic. Y’allah ya, indeed.

Passing the baton: Well, actually, it is two massive binders filled with correspondence and notes. My term as secretary for the Israel chapter of STC ends last night and I turn the goodies over to the incoming secretary. During the meeting, which is the big annual general assembly, an older man marches in, ignoring all of our attempts to ask him if he needs help, and plops himself down in the back. A few minutes later, a slightly embarrassed gentleman comes in to collect him. Turns out that the community center where we are holding the meeting is also the site of a big event for a group of developmentally disabled adults. Ironically, many of them seem to have the same social skills as many high tech engineers.

Weather or not: It is spring, which means that the weather can’t make up its mind about anything. We get drizzles, wind, sun, and a hazy overcast sky, all in a few hours. I travel back from the meeting with one colleague who stands shivering on the train platform in sandals. He zigged when the weather zagged.

It’s final project time: There is always a big dose of weird when I start working my way through student projects. I alternate between kvelling over (being proud of) the good ones, and groaning over the bad and the ugly. So far, they’ve been good. Keep it up, guys!

Bezeq Blues

Etymology: Years ago, on my first trip to Israel, I was exposed to the national phone system. I overheard a friend trying to make a phone call. Slamming the phone down in sheer frustration, he muttered “Bezeq!” with such venom that for the next month, I was convinced that bezeq was some unspeakable curse in either Hebrew or Arabic.

It is, in fact. It is our national phone carrier.

Bezeq, not being content to making us curse on (and about) the phone, spun off a separate company, Bezeq Int, as an ISP (Internet service provider). Those of you who waded through my connection ordeal of last month know that as soon as providers can point a finger at other any other company involved, the situation gets very bad, very quickly. So last night when I once again lose my connection and start getting some funky error messages, I heave a big sigh and pick up the phone to call tech support.

No answer. All I get is a frantic signal that indicates the lines are overloaded. Gill tries and grins, “It’s them, and so many people are calling to complain that they crashed the system!” An hour later, the connection is back.

Get that cat a therapist: There is a nation-wide emergency drill today, so we are all warned that the sirens will go off around this afternoon. I don’t know how to communicate that information to Nadine so that she doesn’t freak out and run for cover. She has just gotten over the war and I don’t want to deal with another setback.

Statistics: It is absolutely no comfort to know that while our teachers now rank lower than ever in international standards (right after Chechnya), our country soars to the number four place in the number of malls per capita. On the other hand, I get great satisfaction from seeing our local news report Naomi Cambell’s community service sentence. It isn’t that I particularly care—it’s just that when there is time to highlight this level of celebrity nonsense, it means that nothing has blown up recently.

Lump It or Leave It

Results are in: Our vet, the oh-so-serious Dr. Ofer, calls the other night with the results of Nadine’s lump biopsy. “It’s just fat,” he intones solemnly. We don’t need to do anything unless the lumps grow, he says, but the only way to control the situation is through diet. Bottom line: my cat is so grotesquely obese that her fat is bursting out into odd lumps. Can you say D I E T?

I never said that I could spell: Thanks to all of you eagle-eyed readers who pointed out that it is Finnish, not Finish (yet another example of the spell-checker only verifying that something is a word, but not necessarily the right word!). If you want to celebrate the joy of spelling, see The Dress Code. Great movie.

We’re In!

Tea Packs gets the green light: After some of the Finish officials throwing a hissy-fit over the lyrics of “Push the Button” (Kobi Oz’s anti-nuke song that Israel voted to send to Eurovision this year to represent the country), we’ve finally been cleared for take-off. The irony was that the very Finish Eurovision official who found the theme inappropriate for the pop song contest had clearly forgotten about Kojo, the band that represented Finland in 1982 with an anti-nuke song. Thanks to Northern LS for the morning update. Bet you can’t wait to see what our Palestinian neighbors send to represent themselves in 2008, the first year that they will be competing in the contest.

It only hurts when I laugh: What would we do without friends sending us the odd bit of humor? After another day of headaches and fevers, I am reminded by friend Kathy that this is just another salmon day (you spend the whole day fighting your way upstream, only to get screwed in the end). Part of the frustrating sense of futility comes from having a software application crap out for no reason. I spend three hours doing something that should have taken 20 minutes. Finally, I take a monkey bath (a bath so hot that when you lower yourself into the water, you say, “ooh, ooh, ah, ah!”). Outside, a spectacular spring storm rages, with thunder and lightenging and pounding rain. I stay in the bath and finish a book. OK, so I may be a salmon, but a delicately cooked one…

It’s been a few days since we’ve had a kitty picture: Nadine’s cousin Gingy is chowing down with her step-sibbling, Fuzzy.

I Feel for You

Misery loves company: What does your lowly Techno-geek have in common with the one and only Dave Barry? Read what Dave reports in his blog:

I have spent large chunks of the past few days trying to solve a computer problem that involves (cue ominous music) two different companies. I will call these companies by the code names “Fell Fomputer” and “Ferizon Fireless.” I believe I have talked to every employee at both companies at least twice. Each time I get to a new person, I explain my problem, and each time the person I’m talking to — who really, really wants to help me with my problem — decides, after much review and conferring while I remain on hold, that I need to talk to another person. This has become my life. I take my daughter to school, then I call my new friends at Fell and Ferizon.

Have pity on me.

If you’re not already hooked on Dave Barry’s blog, check it out.

Beauty pagent blues: Gill forces me to watch part of the Miss Israel 2007 Pagent last night. It starts with Tsvika Pick mangling the English in an Abba song, and then goes downhill from there. The only interesting political spin was that one of the 20 finalists, a young woman from a Druze village, pulled out of the competition because of pressure from her family. The remaining finalists were paraded around in some of the most hideous outfits we’ve ever seen, so perhaps her decision was a good one!

Mindless celebrity gossip: Leonardo Dicaprio is dating Israeli model Bar Rafaeli. His visit here has the media in a feeding frenzy when he visits the Western Wall and Yad Vashem.

UN releases report: On a more serious note, the UNESCO report confirms that we didn’t damage the Temple Mount. Naturally, after the initially flurry of the world press pointing fingers at us, this news will get buried.