Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Purim Shenanigans

So today we had our big Purim party at the Ulpan. I walked in this morning to see everybody wearing funny hats that our teacher had passed out. We had studied for a bit and she explained some stuff in the context of Purim. Then, as we approached our first break, a three-member klezmer band playing Purim songs interrupted our class. The entire school emptied out in to the courtyard to dance, and I made time to taste the assorted Homentaschen that had been laid out for us. I also made sure to make a few L’Chaims with some people from my class with perhaps the worst sweet kosher wine I’ve ever tasted. Being the idiot that I am, I left my camera at home so I’m linking to my classmate Martha’s flickr site where I noticed she posted some pics.

I’ve really been looking forward to Purim here because I’ve heard that it’s a real good time. At any rate I’m curious and that makes everything seem more interesting. So far the costumes people have been wearing seem to be outlandish combinations of wigs and hats and strange clothing. They don’t seem to be dressing up as anything specific, rather instead they just put together as many clashing colors and accessories as possible. I’m not sure if Israeli’s enjoy dressing up as political figures but if they do I’m sure I’d see a lot of Esterina Tartmans.

Tartman is a Yisrael Beiteinu MK who was recently appointed Tourism Minister. She has been featured all over the Israeli media recently and has been labeled a racist for comments she made about an Arab MK and for the fact that she is part of Yisrael Bietienu. YB is not highly regarded in Israel’s media and this hasn’t helped Tartman much. The fact the she apparently lied on her CV and invented both a BA and an MA from Bar-Ilan isn’t helping her much either.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On metrics, wieght loss and shawarma

So recently Tafat and I have been making a concerted effort to keep track of most measurements in their international forms, that is, using the metric and centigrade scales. I actually prepared myself for it before we left Los Angeles by switching the thermometer in my car over to centigrade. It took a while but now I feel fairly comfortable seeing the temperatures in centigrade. I still have to do a small calculation in my head, especially when using the oven, but I feel as though the hardest part is over.

We’ve also taken to measuring things in centimeters and meters simply because it doesn’t help to know that a room is twelve feet across if your trying to fit something that’s six meters wide. Everything here is in centimeters so its obviously sink or swim. Since we don’t drive, we haven’t really had to deal with kilometers.

Kilograms, however, are another story. The scale we have in our bathroom lists are weight in kilograms. All this tells me is whether my weight is moving up or down. Inevitably after seeing my weight I use my laptop to do the conversion to pounds.

What I do know is that I’ve lost weight. Seven kilo to be specific, I’ll let you figure that one out. Tafat and I were actually concerned about my weight loss when we realized how much I had lost.

The scary thing is that I haven’t really been trying. I have been doing an incredible amount of walking here, well at least incredible when compared to the negligible amount I did in Los Angeles, so I guess that explains most of it. But I haven’t really consciously changed my eating habits so it was surprising to see how much I’d gone down. I hadn’t wanted to lose a few pounds that were lingering around my midsection but I never really thought about this much.

Tafat and I were both concerned that I had lost some muscle as well as fat so I decided to try and stem the tide. I think this is the first time since high school that I’ve thought about what I’m eating in order to gain weight. I’m focusing on increasing my protein intake since that should hopefully help build muscle. The funny thing is that the first thing that crossed my mind was that I should eat more shawarma. It’s everywhere, its cheap, its kosher, its delicious. I never thought I would say this, but as part of my diet I’m actually trying to increase my shawarma intake.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I dont think we'll see this on the Disney Channel

I saw this on Jewlicious and I had to post it. The one thing I find interesting in this video is the total absence of the word "Jew" Hmmm....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Transplants and others

I recently interviewed Martha, who is in my class at Ulpan, for an article I wrote for the IJC. She posted our e-mail exchange on her blog and it's really interesting and worth checking out. I actually really dig her blog and I feel that she has a very fresh perspective on things here that isn't loaded with the usual emotional and political baggage.

Anyway, I've been a little sick lately but I think I'm almost over it. Hopefully I'll have a chance today since I skipped class to catch up on my homework, which I've been neglecting.

I've been thinking about what kind of commentary I could provide on the political situation here of late. Things have actually been pretty stagnant. Well, that's if you consider the steady stream of resignations of corruption allegations that compromises the current Israeli political reality stagnant. What does it mean that every week in class we get to practice the Hebrew word for "resign" because yet another leader has been forced to quit because of some scandal.

Things with the neighbors have been pretty stagnant as well. As I figured the Palestinian unity deal hasn't changed the situation one iota. There was supposedly a summit held here that was supposed to be a big deal. But apparently so little actually happened that they didn't even bother to have press conference afterwards.

But it's my opinion that there's always good news. And just to prove it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nasrallah's Web ...

I noticed this video on the Memri blog recently. It features Hassan Nasrallah proclaiming that Israel is weaker than a spiders web. If I were Israel I would thank Nasrallah for two reasons.

Spider-silk is one of the strongest materials on Earth, so being compared to a spider web actually is a compliment to Israel. Secondly, this gaff proves that Nasrallah is nothing more than a bumbling idiot, an idiot who pushed his people into a pointless war they didn't want or need.

From Wikipedia:
Spider silk is a fibre secreted by spiders. Spider silk is a remarkably strong material; the strongest naturally-occurring fiber known[citation needed]. Its tensile strength is comparable to that of high-grade steel — according to Nature (see reference below), spider silk has a tensile strength of roughly 1.3 GPa, while one source [1] lists a tensile strength for one form of steel at 1.65 GPa. However, spider silk is much less dense than steel; its ratio of tensile strength to density is perhaps 5 times better than steel — as strong as Aramid filaments, such as Twaron or Kevlar. In fact, a strand of spider silk long enough to circle the earth would weigh less than 16 ounces[citation needed] (less than 460 grams).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lazy Weekend

So I thought I might share what a typical weekend is like for us here in Israel. Of course the weekend here is Friday and Saturday, Sunday is the first day of the week and a regular weekday.

Usually Tafat and lay around a lot on Friday, until we finally roll out of bed and go do something. Often, we go down to the Shuk to some shopping, or go to the mall or something. But I always end up spending some time cooking Shabbat dinner.

The apron I'm wearing, which was a gift from Marsha, has an important message for Tafat.

Like I posted before, dinner turned out delicious (this time). Hopefully soon, I'll figure out how to make Bubbie's Chicken Poprikash. On Friday we also went to a nice Kabalat Shabbat service. It's a very modern service and there are a lot of young English speakers who attend so I feel like I have my bearings there.

On Saturday our big plan was to eat a light lunch and then go to Max Brenner for dessert. Max Brenner is this very odd dessert restaurant that presents a very unique image. I don't think people want to eat there because the food is so spectacular, but rather because it feels like your doing something important when you're there. Well, it's also hard to screw up chocolate if you ask me.

Afterwards Tafat and I just kind of wandered around the city burning off the fondue we had just consumed. I took a bunch of pictures that I'm going to use in a post later on. We ended up chilling out near the Suzanne Dallal Center, which is dance center and theater. It's really beautiful there and lots of people were relaxing enjoying the nice weather.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The more things change ...

As Shabbat goes out the noise of the city starts back up. Even though Tafat and I are well into are third month here in Israel, I'm still surprised by how quiet it gets here in Tel Aviv on Shabbat. Tel Aviv is very secular and yet even here it is impossible not to feel Shabbat.

With a new week beginning I look around and see that some interesting things have transpired. Over the weekend there were some clashes in Jerusalem concerning the construction that is going on near the Temple Mount. Stones being thrown, rubber bullets being fired, tear gas ... sounds about right.

Additionally the Palestinian unity talks held in Mecca concluded with an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. However, seeing as how Hamas continues to reject Israel and everything that it is required to do by the international community I don't really see how this makes a bit of difference.

In a bit of positive news I cooked a wonderful pot-roast for Shabbat dinner. It was tender and delicious. Here's a rundown of the ingredients.

Beef Shoulder - about a half kilo.
Tomato paste - about one can or small containers worth
Onion and garlic - goes without saying
Red wine - about as much as it took to give you a buzz when you were 14
general spice mix, a little paprika, cumin, pepper, tiny bit of cinnamon
and the last and most important ingredient - a peaceful Shabbat

Hope everybody has a good week

Monday, February 05, 2007

You know you want it

So I know I'm a little late on this one but I was sort of on a blog hiatus back there. Anyway as the whole world knows by now Apple has introduced the PADD, sorry iPhone to the world. If you haven't seen the keynote video you should really check it out.

I have mixed thoughts on this. I think the device is amazing, especially its web-surfing ability. But the price is problematic. I think that this is a great demonstration of what most people will be using in the near future, but for $499 and a two year contract this is not for everybody today. I'm excited by what Apple has shown they are capable of, and I know that the technology in the iPhone is going to trickle down to all sorts of other devices.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Holy Crap ... Where did the last month go?

So I realize that a month has gone by since the last real post on this blog. That makes for pretty boring reading for anyone who might have stopped by to see how we're doing, or for anyone who was directed here from some other mysterious corner of the internet. Well, what have we been up to? I'll let Tafat fill you in on all of the details of her dancing comeback but I guess I'll give everyone a brief synopsis of the last month.

1. Apartment Stuff

We have slowly but surely become adjusted to our qauint little home here in Tel Aviv. While it still isnt fully furnished, the necessary items are on the way. All of the little details though seem to be squared away. Oddly enough while Tafat and I had some expected problems setting up our internet and phone lines the process was much smoother than I thought is was going to be. I had been hearing nightmare stories about customer service here, but I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness, and the helpfullness of the tech support people from Bezeq(the phone company - and in English no less!).

2. Ulpan

Starting in early January, I have been a happy student at Ulpan Gordon. While the Ulpans were designed to help new Olim (immigrants) learn Hebrew and intergrate into the country they are also available for tourists and for people with other various status in the country. I study from 8:15 AM till 12:50. I sometimes feel as our teacher crams more Hebrew words into our heads that this must be what it feels like to undergo one of those training programs in the Matrix. My Hebrew is genuinly improving and it feels weird to be one of the "good" students in a launguage class.

3. The Parents

So Barnie and George, and our cousin Louise came to visit in the middle of January. They spent a lot of time touring around the country and it seemed like they had a wonderful time. Mom is already talking about coming back later this year. It was nice to have them here so they could see that we're doing well and to make us feel a little less far from home. We shlepped them across Tel Aviv and tried to show them as much as we could in the few days that they were in town. We also were able to meet up with Miri and Shlomo in Haifa, and Tafat's aunt Nadine in Jerusalem for two pleasant dinners.

4. Internship

Last week I started an internship at an Israeli newspaper in their English internet section. My first week was very busy but it feels good to have a full schedule again. Hopefully I'll be able to write something and have it posted on the website or maybe even printed in the paper.

I also wanted to post photos and videos of random stuff here in Tel Aviv. This first video is of our street on Friday afternoon. Every Friday when it's time for Shabbat music eminates from some mysterious source and announces the Sabbath. It's usually "Shalom Aleichem," but sometimes it's other stuff.

This next one is just a simple video taken in front of the "Shuk HaCarmel" also on a Friday afternoon.

And here are some photos:

Mom and Louise

Artist Section of the Shuk

Tel Aviv Bauhaus Building

Tel Aviv Beachfront