Gefilte Fish Out of Water


Central Command, Double-Click Injury
June 27, 2009, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure, Struggles

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So, I have been hooked up with my desktop computer from America and internet service in my apartment for a few weeks already.  It’s great.

🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂

My monitor, computer, and external hard drive all have switches to handle 220 volts, which is how the juice comes out of outlets in Israel (Europe is also 220v, America is 110v).  My printer and speakers do not.  So my PC and monitor go right into the wall (or I mean, a power strip), while I put the speakers and printer into power transformer that converts the juice down from 220v to 110v.  Even though the power adaptor that came wtih my external hard drive also says it can handle 220v, I plugged it into a separate, smaller power transformer just in case.

Here’s a pic of that whole mess.  But at least it’s hidden out of sight behind my desk, and at least it works and nothing blew up!

בלגן

בלגן

Here’s how the whole setup looks:

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But before too long, I was experiencing pain by the right knuckle of pointer finger.  I also felt some numbness and tingling in my right forearm.  That arm was operated on in 2004 and 2005, for both carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome.  WTF – the surgeries were supposed to solve that issue.  Had it returned?  And what was up with this new pain in my finger?

I saw the doctor this week.  He thinks the arm tingling/numbness is nothing.  Every surgery leaves your body a little screwed up, even the most successful ones, he said.  He thinks the tingling is just a side effect from those surgeries 5 years ago and nothing to worry about.

He cut me off when I was describing the new finger pain.  I totally know what that is; you don’t even need to tell me anymore, he said.  He explained it was from double-clicking the mouse!  OMG, I had a double-clicking injury!  (Really, in just two weeks of use?)  Well, in New York, I always kept my mouse raised on top of a dictionary, which is better ergonomics for the wrist.  I didn’t bring the dictionary over to Tel Aviv, so my mouse had been flat on the desk.  I remedied that after this doc visit.

He also prescribed me a prescription strength powder form of a supplement combo I already take: glucosamine/condroitin/msm, and also an adhesive patch to replace every 12 hours and keep on my finger area ’round the clock for a week.  I dissolve the powder in a glass of water every morning and drink it.  I’m not sure what medicine goes from the patch into my body, but I do know the doctor wanted to try the most holistic approaches first, and he described a 2nd and 3rd level of treatment we could try next, leading up to the dreaded/blessed cortizone shot.  So, just like the glucosamine sulfate powder, the patch emits something my body naturally makes to bring down inflamation.  That’s a great approach, I think.  I really like my doctor.

You know what?  I think the patch/powder combo is already working.  The pain in my finger has lessened.  Yay.

Arthryl power on left, Dicloplast patches on right.

Arthryl power on left, Dicloplast patches on right.

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Quickie Update on Digs
June 27, 2009, 10:15 am
Filed under: Infrastructure

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Just some quick pics to show you how my crib is shaping up.

I love it.  It’s way nicer than the last place I had (in Harlem, NYC).  That was a nice place, too; but this one is just nicer: so white, stylish and clean, no?

The floor is a little yucky, though.  Thank God I have a Swiffer and the dry cloths from the U.S.  But I don’t yet have the Wet Jet, and “mopping technology” in Israel is medieval, so if Joan Crawford were to show up my place and closely examine my floors, she’d probably burst a few blood vessels.  But to the naked eye, it is looking fine.

Art is en route from U.S.  I’ll show you when I get it up on my walls.

So far I haven’t had to use my air conditioning.  It’s plenty hot outside, but my place gets Northern exposure, so when the day is hot in the afternoon, I’m not getting direct sunlight anymore, and this keeps it cool.  (Also, the buildings here have a lot of concrete, which insulates from the heat.)

These Plug-In Thingies I got for the mosquitos that were starting to bother me are working.  And no ants, though I did see my first (thankfully not full grown) roach waterbug this week.  But I had the Raid handy and he quickly became deader than dead.

I just got my bill for the building maintenance for the next 6 months.  600 Shekels, or about $150.  Not bad.

This was originally a larger apartment that’s been split into two, so my next door neighbor and I share an outside door to a little vestibule b/t our two apartments, and we split that fee, the electric bill, and a few other expenses.  (The $150 is my share).  She’s an uber Doll.

Few more pics:

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Talmidim Gone Wild
June 27, 2009, 7:02 am
Filed under: Friends

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It’s old news (for me) already, but on June 11 my friend David from ulpan had a party.  A lot of our class showed up.  It was really fun.

David lives in Jaffa (a.k.a. Yaffa, Yafo, Jafo – there are a million ways to spell this place), which is at the southern tip of Tel Aviv.  I live in practically the most northern part.  No problem, I have my bicycle, so I rode there.

And sweated completely through my sheer white cotton shirt, that the entire back of it was glued to me and see-through.  I looked like I came in 4th in a wet T-shirt contest.  I had to hang it up to dry when I got there and change into one of David’s T-shirts.

IMG_2126Anyway, David lives in a castle in the sky.  It is a gorgeous, gated community of high rises, and I want one.

David also has lightsabers.  Not Kids R Us shiz, real lightsabers, that were used on set during the filming of Star Wars.  Valuable collectors’ items that double as Toys for Scott.

I got to hang with some of my best friends from Ulpan and get to know IMG_2136others.

That’s kinda it, really.  It was a very fun evening.  Also, I shaved my face for the first time since probably October 2008.  My friend Anna talked with me earlier in the week and convinced me we should “dress up” for the party, since our classmates only ever see us in T-shirts and shorts and sweat, and bags under our eyes.  Normally, I can’t be bothered to shave anymore.  That shiz just grows back way too fast.  I use clippers once/week and shave only my neck in b/t.  But for the party, my face was like a baby’s bottom, and I don’t mean it smelled like ass.

Here’s some more pics:

Anna, me, Belinda

Anna, me, Belinda

Anna vamps for my camera.  (She left for the U.S. the next day to get hitched to Eric.  Mazel Tov, Anna!)

Anna vamps for my camera. (She left for the U.S. the next day to get hitched to Eric. Mazel Tov, Anna!)

The Cool Kids hang in the kitchen.

The Cool Kids hang in the kitchen.

Some cool landmark in Jaffa.

Some cool landmark in Jaffa.



Pure.
June 26, 2009, 9:19 am
Filed under: Infrastructure

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3 weeks ago I joined a gym.  It’s called Pure.  My friend Chris trains there and told me about it.

By NYC standards, it is small, but I’m guessing for Israel it’s pretty big.  AndIMG_2424 it’s very nice.  There are free wights and machines, cardio equipment (though they don’t have my favorite machine, the ARC trainer; you know, the one that reminds me of the human forklift that Ripley gets in to defeat the alien at the end of the film Aliens.) 

There are classes and studios (pilates, spinning, yoga).  There are also pickup, mini abs classes on the main workout floor every hour on the hour after 6pm.  These are great, b/c I lack discipline when doing abs, and even if nobody else wants the class, the trainer will still do it, giving you in effect a private lesson.

The eye candy is insane, it’s like a Hot Israeli Guy candy store.  But it is co-ed.  And most of the guys are probably straight.  After working out the last 3 years at Crunch in the Village and New York Sports Club in Chelsea, it’s my first time not at a gay church gym in a while.

Pure’s trainers design a custom program for you every 1.5 months, so I took advantage of that.  I told the guy designing my program we’d have to be very careful, b/c I’m just coming off of a February elbow surgery and rehab stint for it.  So far, I’m really liking my program, which takes about 50 minutes, and I do every other day.  I’ve only gone jogging in Hayarkon Park a handful of times since completing the Tel Aviv Marathon last April, and I’m not doing cardio at the gym either.  I figure I get enough cardio riding my bike to/from school, work, and the gym.  (Although the pint of ice cream I’ve been eating every night this week probably is not helping.)

Of course, this being Israel, signing up wasn’t easy.  Actually, it was and it wasn’t.  The young woman who signed me up, Michal, was a doll, and I was signed up in about 30 minutes.  The thing is: gyms in Israel think they are cellphone plans,  and they make you sign up for a really long time.  My plan is for two years.  (I have an option to leave after the first year if I pay a retroactive increase/rate for the year I completed.)  When Michal tried to swipe my bank card so I could pay for things, there was an issue.

Pay attention, North Americans: There are two types of bank cards in Israel.  One is called a direct card.  It’s the ATM/check card like we know it.  You can use it to take out cash or at a point of sale, and the money comes directly out of your checking account.  Then, there are also תשלומים (payments) cards that are almost like “layaway” cards; they allow you to purchase a big ticket item (like a gym membership, car, or room full of furniture) and deduct automatic payments from you every month.  Don’t ask me why they need a separate card for that and don’t just auto-deduct monthly paments using the “direct” card.  I didn’t invent Israel, I just live here.

Anyway, the gym gave me the 2-year rate, but only charged me for the first month (plus sign-up fee; did I mention this is Israel?), but told me I’d have to get a תשלומים card and bring it back the next week.  My job is based in America, and I am paid in dollars in the U.S. (so to an Israeli bank, it could look like I don’t have an income), but my bank approved me anyway, b/c I have charmed the pants off the three customer service reps I deal with.

But when I went back to Pure with the new card, Michael wasn’t there.  Snotty Julia was.  Snotty Julia called Isracard (the commercial bank that issues the card) and told me I was denied.  She said it may be because there was a credit limit on the card, and I would have to go back to my bank to investigate and get it increased.

I went back to my bank and found out I was given a 4,000 shekel limit to the card.  The full gym membership (over the 2 years) costs something like 5,400 shekels.  Another Michal (from the bank) said to have the gym take care of things from their end by calling Isracard again.

But when I went back to Pure another day, I got Snotty Julia again.  It was her last day, and she was at her eye rolling, couldn’t be bothered worst.  She called Isracard again, milked our awkard silence as we sat on hold together, spoke some Hebrew shiz to them, and then told me Something didn’t work, b/c you are still being denied.  You have to go back to your bank and get them to raise your credit limit.

So, I did just that.  Michal # 2 (Bank Michal) said, No, no, no.  Have them call Isracard and have Isracard call our bank branch and ask for me, and I will approve you for it.

So, I did that.  Fortunately, Michal # 1 (Pure Michal) was there.  I caught her up, and she got it that Snotty Julia was just not giving an eff and being Snotty.  She picked up the phone and called Isracard.

But we just missed my bank branch closing, and so Michal said she would call the next day and update me.

She did call the next day, but was a little confused about our plan, and I had to reexplain to her that she’d have to call Isracard and ask Isracard to call her counterpart Michal # 2 and have my credit limit raised.  It all came back to her, and she hung up to go do it….but she called back a few minutes later and told me we had missed the bank’s close again, and she would have to take care of it tomorrow.

[readers: Has this story taken so long that you need a pee break?  Go ahead and take one; I will wait until you come back.]

Feel better?  Good.  So, anyway, Michal # 2 called back the next day and told me I was approved.

There, that was easy!

You enter the gym off the street, through a cool, organic restaurant.  We get 10% off meals and shakes in the restaurant.

You enter the gym off the street, through a cool, organic restaurant. We get 10% off meals and shakes in the restaurant.



The Tree on My Street
June 26, 2009, 8:12 am
Filed under: Just Sayin'

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This is one of the first things I see as I set out from my apartment to ride my bike to school.  When all the time  Even if I am running late, I don’t pedal like a madman.  This beautiful tree sets the tone for me, and – not trying to be cheesy, here – never fails to fill me with some awe and wonder about the beauty of my new town, Tel Aviv.

I’m no dummy.  I take my time and enjoy the ride.



S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E-D
June 26, 2009, 7:50 am
Filed under: Feelings, School, Struggles, Work

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This is my first post from my desktop computer, which I had shipped to Israel from the U.S.

Erm, it’s also my first post of any kind in almost 3 weeks.

What happened???  you ask.  Did you sweat so much from the Israeli summer heat that you lost the water weight equivalent of a family of six and ended up in intensive care?  We’re you too devastated by the Trifecta Loss of Ed McMahon Farrah FawcettMichael Jackson?  Were you just glued to the TV watching Golden Girls reruns the whole time?

The answer is not any of those explanations.  It’s simply that if my plate was full before, it is bUrStiNg now.  School has gotten so hard the last couple of weeks.  I’m still enjoying it (very much), but the onslaught of new verbs, verb tenses (we’re about halfway through the categories of past tense), vocabulary and prepositions is crushing.

And the company I work for in Israel officially launched last week.  I wrote and distributed our launch press release to mainstream and LGBT media in North America and Europe – probably 5,000 contacts/outlets in all – and began doing what I love most about PR: getting on the phone to make follow-up calls, interacting with the media and setting up interviews with our spokesperson.  (The launch has gone quite successfully.  I would love to link here to our website – which I wrote and created – and some of our bigger media “hits,” but I was asked by my job when I arrived in Israel not to write about work on here, and I want to keep my job.  🙂 )

When I started this blog, I posted everyday.  Even when I started school, I tried to post at least every other day.  Then, posts slowed to once/week (Shabbat), but I would burn up the laptop at a cafe for 6 hours and write 6-7 posts a pop.

My Shabbats have now been replaced with intensive, all-day Hebrew studying.  My biggest problem is making the connection between a verb’s infinitive and how it looks in the present tense.  I’m pretty good with taking it from the present and conjugating into the past tense.  But most of the time, the infinitive looks nothing like the verb in its regular forms.  For me, it really requires sheer memorization.  Also, we’re learning so many new ones all the time, that I also need to work on just learning to recognize them and what they mean.

Cue the World's Smallest Violin playing the World's Saddest Song to Underscore Scott's hard, hard life...

Cue the World's Smallest Violin playing the World's Saddest Song to underscore Scott's hard, hard life...

My days boil down to this:  If I don’t oversleep, get up around 6:30am do read some spiritual literature and practice meditation.  (Or, get up around 7:30am and rush the hell out of the house).  Go to school to 1pm.  Then, rush around to do 1-2 errands, or head home to take a 20-minute Power Nap and pack some lunch and dinner for work.  Then, work until 9-10pm, or sometimes later.

At that point, I used to go home to watch some TV on my computer, blog some postsCC and go to sleep.  Howadays Nowadays, I struggle through 90 minutes of Hebrew homework a night and try and squeeze in a gym visit.  Then, I can’t resist sitting at Central Command and reading some news and pop culture news, watching Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, stealing downloading music off Limewire iTunes, etc.  Bedtime averages out at 1am.

You’d think I could just bang out a post or two at this time, but so far I just can’t.  My mind isn’t in a fresh enough state to be creative.  I just add making posts to the list of things I don’t do, like call and write my family and friends.

But all that is gonna change now, I promise



Back Hair & Butt Cleavage: Tel Aviv Gay Pride 2009
June 13, 2009, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Cool Things, Cultural Differences, Yum

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Yesterday was the Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv.  I had a tremendous time participating.

I had previously signed up to volunteer at the Tel Aviv LGBT Community Center, so I had to be there at 8:00 a.m. to help set up for the “Happening” before the parade.  This is not the first Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv; that was in 1999.  But as Dudu, the guy in charge of putting together the “Happening,” explained to us at a preparatory meeting on Thursday, this year is the first year that all 30 of Israel’s LGBT groups (e.g. P-FLAG, The Aguda, TLV Fest, Israeli Gay Youth organization) planned the event together.  At the “Happening,” each group would have a booth to promote their organization.  There was also going to be a stage with live music and other performances.

I carried stacks of chairs from the Center to the stage, and then I taped sticks to the back of signs for P-FLAG, so their members could hold up the signs during the parade.  The rest of the time was down-time to enjoy the “Happening.”  Lots of people enjoying themselves.  Not just hot guys, but families, older people, teens, lotsa lesbians, probably straight people, too.  Good vibes.  I bumped into Yoni & Yoni, a couple I met two weeks ago, and also my new friend Anthony, who is visiting from NYC.

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Then it was time for the Parade to start.  My job was to be part of a 2-person team to carry a 50-foot string of rainbow colored helium balloons.  Not so easy!  There was wind to deal with, low power lines to avoid, etc.  Any my partner was totally not paying attention, so I did the bulk of the work.  But halfway through the parade, even that much must have been too much for him, b/c he turned over the reins to Ronnie, a very capable partner, who was fun to work with, too.  I had a lot of fun!  I saw my friends Marisa and Jerami on the route.

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The parade ended at Gordon Beach.  I had a sensational time dancing and boy-watching.  The performance acts were so spectacular!

The parade throngs emptying out onto Gordon Beach.

The parade throngs emptying out onto Gordon Beach.

My favorite act was the guys on the left.  Sort of a Marilyn-Manson-but-very-gay thing.  The dancers were phenomenal.

I bumped into my friends from Ulpan, Lisa & Trevor in the dancing tent.  Later, I saw another Ulpan friend, Fabio, on the beach.  And after that, my Ulpan friends Caitin and Leonardo found me.  Plus, there was Valerie from Milan, who made a cameo in our Ulpan class for a day, and Vladi, whom I had a nice date with back in April.  It felt very nice to be connected here enough to bump into someone I knew every half hour or so.  Here’s Fabio, plus Marisa and Jerami from the parade.

L-to-R, Fabio, Marisa, Jerami

L-to-R, Fabio, Marisa, Jerami

There was this cute doggie with a woman dancing near me.  Suddenly her dog went on a mission – digging sand and more sand.  Everybody was cracking up; he was so into it!  I wanted to say to him, Doggie, give it up!  It’s a beach.  You’ll NEVER get to the bottom of all this sand.  But the joke was on me; this doggie had a specific goal in mind: to make himself a comfy bed!

A dog who knows what he wants.  (Have you EVER seen a happier pooch smile?)

A dog who knows what he wants. (Have you EVER seen a happier pooch smile?)

The butt cleavage thing?  Honestly, I have been meaning to do a post on this for a long time.  There is a crack epidemic in Israel.  Maybe it’s overreliance on low-riders, maybe it’s weight issues, I dunno – all I know is from grannies to toddlers, I’ve seen more ass crack since I got to this country than I know what to do with.  But on the beach yesterday, I noticed something different: gay guys who roll their shorts down, purposefully to expose the tops of their butt cheeks, putting them on display the same way a woman would wear something low cut to expose a nice rack.  Hey, more power to ’em, and c’mon – what gay guy wouldn’t like looking at that?  It’s just kinda funny, that’s all.  And that back hair thing?  Well, I’ll just say that’s one plus about living here: much less pressure to manscape.  It’s not that the community is a bunch of wolf-men roaming the streets.  But there certainly are a lot of furry necks and shoulders.

However, this is Israel.  There is no shortage of stunningly hot men.

Yum Yum Yum

Yum Yum Yum

There are many more pics I want to show you, but goddamn – all this custom sizing and image collage making is taking 4evah!  I totally don’t have time to do the post about our first Ulpan party at David’s apartment last Thursday, and probably more importantly, I did not do my Ulpan homework yet.  And I totally had plans for a “system upgrade” of my notes.  Oh well, next weekend!