Gefilte Fish Out of Water

BB Dramz
March 13, 2010, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure, Struggles | Tags: ,

Not again! 

I’ve been mobile-golden for a while now, having put the last of the BlackBerry in Israel problems behind me last August.  But the Bold 9000 I bought used from another Oleh back in December has had trackball problems since I got it.  These were getting worse throughout February, to the point where it would refuse to roll in a certain direction, making it difficult or impossible to navigate to applications or within them.

I followed the advice I found in the forums on – like using a toothbrush on it or vigorously rubbing it upside down on a table, but these fixes only worked temporarily, leaving me with the same problem reoccurring. 

Finally, disaster struck.  I pulled the BB out of my pocket to use it, and pressing it no longer opened up applications!

Srsly, Girl.  The thing was instantly useless.  I couldn’t set my alarm to wake up in the morning, couldn’t look up your address, send you an SMS, use my camera, surf the internet, Tweet or nuthin’!

Knowing the next step  of using a micro-screwdriver to open the thing up and clean the ball from the inside was way beyond me, I did the next best thing: wedged a thumbtack underneath the ball and dug around.  When that didn’t work, I pried off the buttons around it, removed the ball and cleaned it myself.  But when I tried to apply pressure to the area that should have been activated by the pressed trackball, the BB wasn’t responding either.  It appeared the circuitry underneath the ball was fried, too.  (It actually probably wasn’t; it turns out it’s magnets – not pressure – that makes it work).  But if it wasn’t already broken, then I did the trick when I repeatedly pressed a screwdriver against the area attempting to make it work.


Crap – with impending moving expenses coming up and some bullshit housing tax (arnona) that had gone unpaid for months and needed to be taken care of (thanks to miscommunication by my suitemate and landlord), I did not have the budget to buy a whole new gadget.

Was this time to seize the moment and upgrade to the holiest of holy grails….

the iPhone?

Ugh, not now!  I know I’ll wind up with one of these or an as-good Android device sooner or later, but the timing was all wrong.  I’m such an addictive personality, that once I had this new toy EVERYTHING ELSE WOULD HAVE TO STOP.  I’d isolate for 4-5 days and just trick the thing out with a billion and one apps to make my life easier, possibly bankrupting myself in the process if I didn’t find what I needed in the free apps.  With a small business to get off the ground, there was no time for this.  Yet, knowing myself, it was something I was powerless to stop.  If I bought it, it would happen.

So, maybe I’d just buy a new BlackBerry, then feel buyer’s remorse for not joining the ranks of iPhone snobs.

Well, fortunately, neither of those things had to happen.  Bestie Anna suggested I try and repair it first.  (She reads a lot of books.)  I don’t know how this happened, but I managed to find the perfect shop in all of Tel Aviv to go.  See, since I purchased my BB used, I wasn’t entitled to tech support or service from my wireless carrier, although I could have still tried them and seen if they’d accept payment for support.  I wanted to try an indie shop first, but not one where I’d have some gum-popping adolescent not knowing what the eff to do and rolling their eyes.

By some miracle, I wound up at an indie shop staffed by techies and experts, who knew BBs inside out and knew how to repair this thing.  I worried it may have been fixable at first, but that I’d done so much damage to it after it broke, rendering it unfixable.  Fortunately, not.  These guys really were geniuses, and in only 24 hours (and a few false alarms, where I left the store w/ it “fixed” and had to go right back inside, b/c it wasn’t quite working perfectly yet), I was back in business.

300 shekels ($80) for this.  Def worth it !!!


Hamantaschen w/ Samadar & Jeremy
February 27, 2010, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends | Tags: ,


My friends Samadar & Jeremy invited people over on Thursday night for a pre-Purim get together.  It was totes fun, especially since I was in the middle of my hardest-working week ever and had just come from my friend Jean’s, helping her w/tech support as she gets used to using Excel, Outlook and webmail while taking Internship Coordinator duties from me for my main nonprofit client. 

Rebecca, Hayley & Ariel and the Becker-Barkins were all there.  S0, were the best damned hamantaschen I’ve ever tasted in my whole life!  Gotta hand it to the Israelis.  I’m a carbohydrate and high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats coinnoiseur, and I much prefer awesome fluffy white cake and buttercream icing like on Magnolia or Billy’s cupcakes to hamantaschen, which were just always too bland for me.  But these were sort of minis, and it was all about the center filling: huge mushy dates (w/anise for kick!), apple filling, chocolate chips in vanilla pudding.  Plus, the outside was nice and crumbly.  Just superb. 

Besides having a fantastic personality and being a stellar friend, Yoda Jeremy is also an undiscovered artist.  Just look at this huge canvas he painted for Samadar (they are engaged).  What I find really impressive, is it looks just like her – not b/c of what he did paint, but precisely b/c of the open spaces he carefully did nothing to.  I mean, that nose is herand it’s two dots !!   But it’s the exact right two dots.  To me, this is talent in the extreme. 

Does anyone feel like they're being watched?


Finally, gotta add that we played some PlayStation 3 off-road game, and it was just incredible.  Look, I’m a guy whose experience w/video games kinda died after Missile Command and Time Pilot left the scene.  I know all about how games like Guitar Hero, The Sims and tie-ins w/films like Avatar are huge business, but I just haven’t played any of them for myself. 

But suddenly this game was on Jeremy & Samadar’s High-Def TV, looking so gorgeous, and I had to ask to play.  It was awesome, a real highlight for me.  We all especially loved the schadenfreude of watching the guy fly off his motorcycle  and through the air after smashing into a big rock.  Bam! 

Happy, Eric?
February 20, 2010, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Friends | Tags:

Getting used to my new work schedule, with additional clients and such, has been a challenge.  I asked Anna if we could reschedule Thursday’s walk for Friday.  No prob, Bob she said in her sunny, usual way.  Is it OK if Eric joins us?  Friday in Israel is the start of the weekend, so Eric was off.  Sure, it was OK. 

It came up that Eric has commented to Anna he’s a bit jelly that her name in the tag cloud keeps blowing up the more I talk about her on G-Fish.  When I’m there, how come you don’t just call us the Becker-Barkins instead?

Eric, you fished your wish.

Also, there was this little dog who would not stop chasing a bigger dog around and humping him, right on the playground.  Was really funny.

Pants Crap
February 13, 2010, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff | Tags: ,

I came home from a morning walk this week and found this notice in my mailbox.  I knew it was from a government office, but could tell it wasn’t from the office of Bituach Leumi (health insurance + social security), nor was it from my insurance company.  I pay rent directly to my landlord, so I knew it wasn’t that.  I guess it could’ve been Pete’s dog license from the city (which I never received), but I didn’t think it was that either.  I could recognize the sign for New Israeli Shekel followed buy the numbers 3874, though, and….let’s just say I didn’t have a good feeling about this.

I had no option but to type letter-by-letter, phrases from the notice into Google Translate, which was very cumbersome.  I confirmed that the 3874 was a BIG-ASS fine, which the government was saying I had to pay immediately.  Say it with me now, people:

WTF !!!

I brought it with me to the dog park, hoping my friend Oren would be there and could read it.  He wasn’t, but I wound up asking this nice dog walker I had seen before.  She took a look at it and explained to me – It’s from the Israeli IRS.  They say if you don’t pay them 3874 shekels [$1047!!!] immediately, they can break into your home and take whatever they want.

[there’s no bigger font, people – or I would double the size]

F ! ! !

Welcome to Israel, she said apologetically, and left with her dogs.

Then, Oren did show up.  I showed him the notice and told him what the dog walker said about it.  Ha! he scoffed.  I’m sure it doesn’t say they can break into your place and take whatever they want. I handed it to him, and he looked it over.  Yeah, it pretty much says they can break into your place and take whatever they want, Scott.

[Um, this is the part where I crapped my pants.]  No, I didn’t – not literally or figuratively.  I had a hunch what had caused this.  I am a freelancer in Israel.  I have two employers.  Both are American firms.  That means I am exempt from paying a 17% tax on that income.  (If they were Israeli employers, I would have billed for and received a separate check with each paycheck for this 17% amount, which I would then give to the government.)  But because my employers are based in the U.S., I am exempt from this.

Although it appeared that the Israeli IRS had not gotten the message about my employers being American, and they thought I was delinquent.  Instead of crapping my pants, I did the next best thing – called my friend Anna.  She let me give her the whole story.  I was not panicking, b/c I was sure I didn’t owe this money – but I was disturbed by the whole “we can bust into your place and take whatever we want” aspect of the notice, and I was afraid we weren’t going to straighten it out soon enough, and I’d come home with my computer repossessed.

Anna calmly reminded me how slow and inept the beaurocracy is, and surely no one would be busting into my place for at least the next year.  It’s just paperwork, she assured me.  The system dictates that this is the form they have to send you, but trust me – no one has the intention of actually busting into your place and doing this.

I emailed my accountant right away, and the next morning went into the office and scanned & emailed a copy of the notice to him pronto.  He emailed back a short while later to say Oh, yeah, Nina from my office dealt with this last week.  You had never filled out paperwork documenting that your employers are American, so they didn’t know.  It’s all been taken care of now.  You can disregard the notice.

That’s what I pay him the big bucks for.  🙂  Yay.

The Playground
February 6, 2010, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Friends | Tags: , ,

Because, quite frankly, I am approaching lard-ass status, the time for drastic measures had come.  I’ve shared on here many times that I likes the candy bars and ice cream and cookies and cakes, but that since i work out a lot, it just wasn’t impacting my body negatively; wasn’t I lucky?


I have this former friend, Kfir, who owns a kiosk (translation, NY’ers: bodega; translation, everybody else: convenience store).  Last week I stopped by his store, and he doesn’t tap dance around nuthin’ – he’s like Eh, Scotty, you look a bit, eh, larger, no? [moment of truth]  Me: Um, whaddya mean? Kfir: Well, yeah – in your stomach and…..[wait for it]…..your ass. [desperately clinging to denial] Me: What? Maybe it’s this sweatshirt, which is kinda baggy. [remove sweatshirt, turn around for Kfir, modeling ass]  Kfir: No, sorry, Scotty, don’t, eh, hate me, but it’s only the truth: I have lost weight, and you have gained it in your stomach and…[no, not again, Kfir – please, not again]…your ass.”

Kfir also trashed my hair.  What is with your hair?  It looks like a mess!  Hey, diff’rnt strokes, Kfir – I’m growin’ it out.  But that’s another post.  Anyway, Kfir may be a typically direct and unsuble Israeli, and plenty of my friends chimed in on facebook when I made this my status update that he was a jerk – but, he was right.  And I’m glad he said it.  And he really did say it in a lovingly way.  Candy bars not affecting me – c’mon!  The ironic thing, I went in there to get some candy bars.


So, anyway, this was the ammunition I needed to begin cutting out the junk food, which I have succeeded in doing.  Before, I had no defense against the ‘call of the junk’, but now I just conjure up:

…and it works great.  I’m able to put it down.

Now, to the other part of the equation: burning fat.  The issue isn’t muscles.  I’ve got those.  I just need to do more cardio so they not buried under as much body fat.  And I’m a 12-time marathoner, so this shouldn’t be hard, right?  Actually, it’s harder than you think.  I have a chronic shin injury from years of running, so for me – even a casual little jog is kind of a huge production.  There’s the stretching before & after; then I have to ice down my shins for ten minutes (to prevent my compartment syndrome from giving me the pain similar to shin splints even when I just walk, 24/7 for the rest of my life).  This is annoying enough when jogging in the park, but in the gym, it makes it impossible for me to do intense cardio on the treadmill, unless I bring a little cooler of ice like I’m carrying around an organ transplant or something.  I can do the elliptical or stairmaster instead, but at my gym only the treadmills have individual TVs on them, and I cannot do lengthy amounts of cardio without the distraction of TV.

So, my friend Nir told me he lost 13 pounds 6 kilos in part by just doing intense walking (also, Weight Watchers, but I can’t afford that right now).  So, I asked my bestie Anna if she wanted in on crazy early morning speed walks in the park, and she said  Sure, Scotty!

So, we’ve done two of them so far.  And they are the totes funnest.  We don’t take it to the extreme power mall-walker level, where we look like spazzes with our legs all rigid and hips freakin out like a bizarre chicken-walk.  But – we do walk fast, while we gab like girlfriends.  And we’re suited up in unnecessary-but-fun super Sporty! sportswear.

Towards the end of our first walk, that’s when we saw it:  The Playground.  It’s really a nifty outdoor gym where all the weights machines are set up so that you lift your own body weight.  It’s really cool.  But for Anna and me, it totally feels like we’re at the playground, and we just get a good strength training workout in the middle of our cardio.  We’re both lovin’ it, and I bet you we see some real results from this.

Feast your eyes, bitches:

Me in a few years? NOT.

December 29, 2009, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Infrastructure | Tags: , ,

That’s not a close up of Adam Lambert’s skin you’re lookin at, it’s a shot from my bedroom ceiling.  About a month ago, seemingly overnight, I looked up and saw the enchanted forest growing there.

Mold.  (Ew.)

My friend Jeremy took one look and acted like an extra from The Amityville Horror.  Get outta the house! he practically screamed.  We stopped by ACE Hardware as we took our dogs out for a walk to Tel Aviv’s Old Port.  I bought a big roll of plastic tarp to lay across my bed, because I was planning to use my magav (giant Israeli squeegee) to wipe off the mold with bleach, which kills it.

Totes butch of me (though, I’m pretty sure real butch guys don’t use the word totes).  It was easy and it worked.  No more mold on ceiling.

Doesn’t mean the problem is gone.  There’s still probably enough green on the other side of the ceiling to slow climate change, but at least it’s not visible.  I was a little afraid that sleeping under it for three weeks was gonna – God forbid – give me cancer or something.  You know, doesn’t mold have, like, spores that can get into your lungs and shiz?  I saw an episode of CSI once where toxic mold killed killed a guy!

Relax, said my bestie Anna.  I’m from the Mold Capital of the World (Tampa, I think), and you are fine.  We lived with that shiz for years and would just wipe it off after a big rainstorm.  Eric lived with mold in his TLV apartment for two years, and he’s fine. Phew!  Thanks, Anna (and take that, Yoda)!

But there’s actually another apartment-related hurdle now, and I really might have to get the fuck out by April – unless I don’t mind having my kitchen removed and having to share Ilana’s.  (No, thanks.)  So, it looks like it’s Yad2 (the Israeli Craigslist; in Hebrew, greaaaaat), Homeless (more Hebrew, greaaaaat), Win-Win (say with me, Peeps: more Hebrew – greaaaaaaaaaaat), and Madas (rounding out my fuckedness: in Hebrew!) for me.  No prob, I’ll just use The Secret and envision myself getting another cheap, renovated, great place in my favorite neighborhood.  For real, I will do this.  I haven’t started looking yet, but I have started mentioning it in conversations with people at the dog park.


December 27, 2009, 1:06 am
Filed under: Friends, Pop Culture | Tags: ,

I saw Avatar in 3D with Anna, Eric and Yoda Jeremy last week.  OMG, you guys – you have to go see it.  I feel like I have no other experiences to compare it to; it was a completely NEW experience.  Really, like the evolution of movies; how they are going to be in the future.  Shalosh daled 3D holograms that you feel like you are in the middle of.

The only thing was when the alien race was speaking in their native language.  The subtitles continued to be in Hebrew, and I could not understand those parts.  Eh, that’s OK, I told myself – that way, it’s even more authentic to what the main (human) character was experiencing in the story; he couldn’t understand the Na’vi‘s language either.

On the other hand, my friends all look fetching in 3D glasses.

Let's go, Daddy-O!