Lonely Man of Cake

February 28, 2007

Reverse Logic

Filed under: Automotive,General,Israel,Reality — lonelymanofcake @ 9:50 am

A lot of things piss me off about Israeli drivers: aggression, road rage, not checking blind spots, the idea that a turn in either direction can be made from both the left and right lanes, failure to respect the driver with the right-of-way, honking as lights change, not signaling, etc. Those of you who have spent any time with me have already heard my rant about why I think this is so: I think that because Israelis have to pay double for their new cars (and significantly more for used cars as well), they drive with a smug sense of entitlement which basically says, “I paid $40,000 for this Honda Accord; I’ll drive in whichever way I choose.” If the anachronistic car tax was ever lifted (and being that it’s the number two source of revenue for the government behind income tax, it won’t be), we would be able to test the validity of my theory.

But I digress. Israelis are not only bad drivers. They are terrible parkers as well. I do think that parking spaces here are too small, but that’s really no excuse for taking two spaces or leaving three feet of the car jutting out into the driving lane. And there’s one thing about how Israelis park that’s plain astounding: in a “lot” type setup (i.e., not parallel parking), everyone backs in, as if it’s a frigging firehouse or car showroom. The whole world has to wait as Dudu throws the car into reverse and wedges his car between the neighboring Mazda 3s.

(More after the photo, which was taken this evening at a local supermarket.)

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Now some will say that spending a few more moments parking when you arrive at the store means that you will be able to leave that much faster. Fine. But let’s say you’re at the parking lot for a supermarket. Going to the supermarket usually means coming back to the car with a cartload of groceries. Dudu has backed in his leased Ford Focus/Mazda 3, knowing as he buys his hummus that he will save three seconds on the way out. But then Dudu gets to his car, and can’t get to the trunk. Why, you ask? Because he backed his car in, and the cars parked next to him are too close to pass the cart through to the trunk side. So Dudu curses, and has to walk all of the bags over to the trunk. Funny thing is that about 75% of cars parked at supermarkets here back in. Complete idiocy. Classic Israeli.

Why the rant? Because a survey of accidents among high-tech firms here has shown that over 30% of accidents involving company cars occur in parking lots, specifically because of Dudu’s inability to maneuver the car in reverse. And as usual, it looks like nothing is being done to change the trend.

UPDATE: Two more rants to add:

  1. Gas prices will be going up tonight by over 5% to 5.47 NIS per-liter ($4.92 per-gallon).
  2. The infamous Ayalon Freeway will apparently not be a “freeway” for long, as the CEO of the road (yes, there is such a thing) declared this morning in a radio interview that the Ayalon will become a toll road within the next 1.5 years. (Here’s the Ayalon Freeway Wikipedia page. I guess I’ll update it to include the toll news.)
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February 27, 2007

Tuesdays

Filed under: Academia,Culinary,Education,History,Israel,Religion,Toaff — lonelymanofcake @ 3:00 pm

Nothing really special to report. A few musings:

  1. The Israeli press has decided to lynch recently declared Minister of Tourism Esterina Tartman. I think that her appointment, considering that she is a freshman MK and number five on her party’s list (i.e., the three MKs between her and Avigdor Lieberman should have precedence for the ministry task), smacks of corruption. The “controversial” opinions voiced by Tartman are rooted in her party platform, and are not her own creation. I think that the Israeli press, and public, are just plain afraid of a “strong” telegenic woman who speaks her mind. Accusations aside, though I think Isaac Herzog was a wonderful Minister of Tourism, Tartman will do a fine job.  I think that I may have changed my mind.  Tartman has apparently lied about her undergraduate credentials as well, after her MA was discovered to be bogus.  I believe that in addition to knowingly deceiving the government and the populace, having declared two degrees would also have given Tartman a nice salary bump; money which Israel’s taxpayers never owed to her.  I just wish that the press would pursue the lies and distortions of every politician with the same vigor they used against Tartman.
  2. Prof. Ariel Toaff has not only pulled his book from publication, pledged to donate the proceeds to the ADL, and recanted his theory, but some MKs are looking for ways to punish Toaff under Israel law (story here).
  3. The university strike was called off, but there has to be something to protest… I was handed a flyer today which encouraged me to boycott the cafes and food establishments on campus because of a recent hike in prices. My understanding of the issue is that prices, at least for coffee, had not been raised in some 10 years, which led to the remarkable espresso for 4 NIS. We caught the tail end of those prices, which were no doubt considered high when instituted in the late 90s. Considering the high rent paid by the vendors, including a purported “internal” Arnona (municipal tax) imposed by the university, the quality of the food/drink, and the required security guards (even inside the campus), I, for one, am willing to shell out a bit more for my eats.

February 26, 2007

Some Automotive News

Filed under: Automotive,Conservation,Diesel,General,Israel,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 8:13 pm

In honor Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” I decided to dedicate a post to some recent news in environmental consciousness, specifically in the automotive sphere:

Israel has officially approved a set of standards for vehicles powered with natural gas. There are currently 6000 cars in Israel which run on natural gas; the necessary modifications cost 8000 NIS; estimated fuel savings of 50%.

Whereas celebrities once (and too many still) traveled in monstrous blacked out SUVs and limos, many have now turned to more green options. A growing number of A-listers now travel around in eco-friendly vehicles, even if it meant arriving at the red carpet in less ostentatious fashion thanks to the efforts of Global Green USA.

The above story led me to the Tesla Roadster, probably the most impressive eco-car ever built, both in terms of fuel consumption and performance. The Tesla is a plug-in fully electric car; it takes no fuel, has no gears, and has no tailpipe because it is zero-emission. It gets the equivalent of 125 MPG, and does 0-60 in 4 seconds! Is this the future of automotive technology?  I hope.

February 25, 2007

Strike Watch

Filed under: Academia,Education,Israel,Politics — lonelymanofcake @ 5:47 pm

I was almost positive last week–as were most of my fellow students–that there would be a strike of at least one day at the Israeli universities. The strike, which was supposed to have taken place today, was called off a few short hours after Shabbat as marathon negotiations between student leaders and Education Minister Yuli Tamir resumed from Friday afternoon. Crisis averted for the students. Tamir upset the religious MKs who protested that the Friday meeting carrying over into Shabbat. But the ultra-Orthodox community is up in arms over a little shtick pulled by El Al over the weekend.

The high school teacher’s strike will continue tomorrow in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

And the all-powerful National Workers Union will go on a general strike this week in protestation of unpaid salaries.  When the 700,000 members of the union commence a general strike, it usually entails the paralysis of much of Israel’s infrastructure.

What a country.

R. Mordechai Breuer (1921-2007)

Filed under: Academia,Education,Faith,Israel,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 10:40 am

I just found out that Rabbi Mordechai Breuer, a respected rabbi and academic, has passed away at the age of 85.  I had the chance to take a number of classes with R. Breuer during my post high school studies in Israel.  His classroom demeanor was always a big draw; I would say that 100-150 students attended each lecture.  I was coached beforehand and told specifically not to ask questions or participate.  The lone American fellow who dared speak up was called “Clinton” by R. Breuer (in honor of Bill, who was President back in 1999).

The uniqueness of R. Breuer can be distilled from his academic approach.  Orthodox Judaism never developed or adopted an approach to deal with the difficulties raised by Bible critics, who claim that the Bible was written by at least four different people (Moses not among them) and then woven together into an elaborate narrative (the Pentateuch) by a redactor.  R. Breuer didn’t settle for the usual “solutions”: that’s why faith is difficult, etc.  Instead, he embraced the source critical approach and put forth a theory which illustrated that some of the principles of Bible criticism are still compatible with Orthodoxy.

The apex of his approach is the “theory of perspectives.”  While your typical Bible critic will point to two obvious editorial strands in the first two chapters of Genesis, for example, R. Breuer did not see in the two strands the necessity to assert different authors.  Rather, he saw both strands as divine, but approaching the narrative from different perspectives based on the infinite attributes of God.  He first set out this approach in a 1960 article, “Faith and Scholarship in Biblical Exegesis” [in Hebrew], and developed it over the course of the next 40 years in various books and articles.

May his memory be blessed.

February 24, 2007

IDF Air-Taxi Service

Filed under: Army,Conservation,Israel,Politics,Security,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 10:29 pm

Israel’s Channel 2 has an excellent expose`/TV news-magazine program called ‘Fact‘ (עובדה/Uvda). This week featured a particularly unsettling segment on the frivolous use of Israeli Air Force helicopters by IDF generals and senior government officials for personal trips (including spouses) and distances easily traversed by car. IDF rules allow for the use of helicopters for officers from the rank of (Major)[1] General (swords and one falafel for those keeping track) and above for flights which would take longer than 20 minutes. But the coordinators who receive the orders for these flights and the pilots who carry them out felt that they needed to expose to the public the fact that their services are continuously exploited at the expense of Israel’s taxpayers and national security.

The video is in Hebrew only (some portions have Hebrew subtitles) and as with (too) many Israeli websites, can be viewed only in Internet Explorer.

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[1]I put “Major” in parentheses because this specific rank in Hebrew is called Aluf (אלוף = General), whereas one rank higher, the rank possessed only by the Chief of Staff is called Rav Aluf (רב אלוף = Major General). I’m not sure why the IDF’s English translation of these ranks is not faithful to the Hebrew.

February 23, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

Filed under: General — lonelymanofcake @ 2:57 pm

Too busy running around today to put together a proper post, although I have good stuff in the wings for next week.

If you’re in the US and A and have time to do some reading today, check out what’s brewing on Canonist regarding a ranting article published in a haredi newspaper (yes, there are such things) about modern-Orthodoxy’s most promising rabbinical seminary.  The specific post is here; check out all the linked stuff there.

Shabbat Shalom to all.

February 22, 2007

Interesting Stories

Filed under: Academia,America,Culinary,Education,Transportation — lonelymanofcake @ 2:14 pm

Strike Alert

Filed under: Education,Israel,Politics,Socialism — lonelymanofcake @ 8:24 am

Nothing says “Good Morning” in Israel like waking up to a good ‘ole fashion strike. Most strikes create major inconveniences: airport strikes delay/cancel flights and force folks to wait hours for their luggage; garbage strikes leave landfill size heaps of trash to putrefy on the street until a resolution is reached.  There are two academic strikes in the news:

  • And it looks like Israel’s universities and colleges will go on strike beginning on Sunday in protestation of a government committee which wishes to raise tuition by some 200% to 30,000 NIS per year (approx. $7200). While this appears to be a small sum compared to tuition at American universities, most students in Israel struggle to pay even the current 10,000 NIS. There is an online petition with more than 10,000 signatures against the proposed tuition hike. It can be found here, and may be signed by students, their parents, and otherwise any Israeli citizen.

February 21, 2007

Not Haredi? Shop Elsewhere.

Filed under: Faith,General,Israel,Orthodoxy,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 2:04 pm

The city of Bet Shemesh, with its fast growing ultra-Orthodox population, is seeing a tremendous amount of growth and development these days. A major housing project undertaken by the Resido Group specifically for the ultra-Orthodox will also have a shopping/commerical center complete with medical offices, stores, and a branch of the ever important National Insurance Institute (ביטוח לאומי).

What’s the catch? The ultra-Orthodox locals will not allow anyone “not their own” to benefit from the commercial center. The reason? They find the “secular mode of dress” offensive to their religious sensibilities. The legality? Ambiguous; probably illegal.  It is also unclear whether the neighboring, largely Anglo “National/Modern-Orthodox” community will be allowed access either.

This video (Hebrew only; sorry again) has interviews of the locals and their skewed claims.

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