A Toast

Although the results of the US elections are not final yet, the direction seems clear. I allow myself to raise a toast for the Democratic party, and for the hope that the next 4 years will be better for this country.

This is not just a virtual toast. I am at home now, watching CNN and actually drinking a cup on wine (Pinot Grigio, in case you were wondering).

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Dirty Politics

Like many others, I have been following the US presidential race in the news. Since I am living in the US now, I find it even more interesting than before. In NYC it is quite obvious that the overwhelming majority of people are Democrats, so as far I am concerned, I am in good company. Not that it matters much – I can’t vote in these elections.

However, on a national level things are obviously different. In the past few weeks the race has been heating up, and a lot of filth, mud, false accusations and plain lies have been thrown into the air. While I am sure that the Democrats are not innocent of those acts, it appears to me, to put it mildly and in a polite way, that the Republicans are much more inclined to use those ugly tactics.

Perhaps politically it makes sense because polls are predicting a Republican demise, so they are backed into a corner and are shooting at all directions. However, I wonder how far down can these dirty politics drag our society. I feel that in the battle to win all moral guards are being ignored. “Our society”, in this case, means the American society, but unfortunately I see many parallels to Israeli politics, and it worries me because Israel is also facing elections in a few months.

What moral guards am I referring to? Obviously, the last 8 years with Bush were mediocre at best, and the trivial conclusion one should reach is that voting has very real-life consequences, as Bob Herbert explains in his column. Therefore, I think it is important for every voter to make a well-informed decision, or rather to have a well-informed opinion.

The democratic strategy today, I think, essentially asks voters to do just that. To have an informed opinion. The republicans, however, seem to want the opposite. They really want voters to make their decisions based on misinformation. Unfortunately, they are succeeding. For example, as Nicholas Kristof discusses in his column, almost one third of voters think that Obama is a Mulsim, a fact that is false but has been repeated over and over again by the Republicans – long enough until people believe it.

And this is just one example, there are many more. The primary problem is not that Republicans are lying to voters for the short-term gain. What scares me the most is that this problem is compounded by the Republicans’ belief (as represented politically today by the Bush-doctrine) that once power is granted to them, they can do whatever they please. They don’t believe in checks-and-balances.

In other word, they are trying to cheat their way into the white house. While this is not news, it seems to me that this kind of behavior always appears in its most aggressive, malignant, poisonous and destructing way on the right side of the political map, both in the US and in Israel.

I read today in this article that Ann Coulter, when referring to Obama’s alleged connections to the P.L.O, dared to compare Obama to Hilter. She said that Americans who will vote for Obama will later shake their heads in disbelief at their own choices just as Germans who voted for Hitler did after he hijacked the German democracy.

Not only that I find her words appalling, I find it ironic and sad that the opposite is actually true. If McCain does win, voters who will have voted for him will later shake their heads in disbelief when they find out that Obama is not really a muslim (or other false facts that they were scared into believing), but by then it will be too late. They will swear not to repeat the same mistake again … but we have heard all this four years ago, haven’t we? :(

As for Ann Coulter, what can I say?  I think she is an exemplar of a person that actively contributes an overall negative value to society. Unfortunately she makes a good deal of money from that, so she’ll continue to spread her poisonous venom around. Maybe if Obama wins she will be quiet for a while. I hope that she gets sued for libel or something like that.

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Today is Halloween. My nephews will go trick-or-treating tonight. I am somewhat too old for that, so instead Tally and I went to two Halloween parties last night – one was at the NYU Law School, and the other was a city-wide party at the Mansion for law students from all across the city.

The Devil

I dressed up as the devil, and Tally as an angel. The costumes themselves were very low badget, as you can see. We bought them in Toronto, where we also carved pumpkins for Halloween. This is the first time I ever carved a pumpkin, and it was a lot of fun (Thanks Yoav and Denise!). Tally wrote about it as well, and also posted pictures.

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First Words From New York

So now that I’ve been living in New York for almost 2 months, it’s time to get back on track and try to put up some updates. Manhattan offers lots to do and see. Last week was quite eventul – I went to see Mama Mia (courtesy of NYU, where Tally is doing her post-doc now) and to a Knicks game with a friend.

In the first month here I didn’t have an established routine and it felt strange – I didn’t have both feet on the ground, so to speak. I didn’t always know where to go, what to do and where to get stuff. I run across many bloopers, starting with getting lost in the subway to walking all across 5th and 6th avenue trying to find a wifi spot, to paying for over-priced food, clothes and various household items, to eating at crappy restaurants and attending lousy comedy shows.

The lesson from it all is that you need to be well informed about the choices of various vendors and activities (Dining out being the most obvious). I suppose that is true everywhere, but I feel it in a more profound way in Manhattan, where there is an overload of information and an abundance of choices.

I also had to get used to working remotely. The challenges are both technical and psychological. On the technical side, it is remote debugging that proved to be the most difficult. Thanks to skype, communicating with co-workers and with my manager is a breeze. On the psychological side, I have to cope with working from home. It requires decipline, and it is an on-going process.

We also try to get out of the city. Since our arrival, we have traveled to Boston three times to visit the Agams and the Levanons, and went for a hike at Bear Mountain. Next week we are travelling to Toronto.

Here are a couple pictures from Charles River in Boston (click the pictures for larger view).

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9 floors up

Today I helped Ben & Shiri move to a new place at Ramat Poleg. Their new apartment is nice and spacious, and has a great balcony with a fantastic view of the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, we ran into another “great” example of Israeli forward thinking at its best – the elevators in their new building were too small to fit a 3-persons sofa and a large futon base.

Yes, that’s right. There was no way to get standard furniture like a sofa into their apartment except for carrying it 9 floors up the stairs. We weren’t that desperate so we ended up shlepping it back to Shiri’s mom’s place. We did, however, carry the futon base up the stairs.

What I find astonishing about this is that the building is fairly new – it was built 9 years ago, so it should be pretty modern. I’d like to find the stupid architect who designed the building, merely 2 years before the millennium celebrations, and did not consider it important to facilitate the actual moving of stuff into the building. So if you know who is the architect of 22 Mordechai Gur, Ramat Poleg (I think that was the address), please let me know :)

What I’d like even more is to find the moron at Netanya’s city council that approved the building plans and kick his ass, or at least make him carry the sofa.

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The Story of Stuff

I think everybody should watch this great educational video over at http://www.storyofstuff.com/. It reminds me that I need to finish up on my writing of the Nature’s Capital series.

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The Jerusalem Zoo

Last week we went to the Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem (literally named “The Biblical Zoo” in Hebrew).

Here are a few photos. They link to their full-size versions on flickr.

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