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March 27th, 2016

Dealing with dealers

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Started by wanting to buy an iMac and ended by wanting to choke somebodyCollapse )

Rant about credit cards, debit cards and the cheating liars called Collapse )

But the banks' Hutzpah is amazing. Fibbing about that fee is one thing. But also "I am not able to show you the bank's price list"? Sorry, am I supposed to sign for services without knowing how much they cost? She was actually saying "I remember it was something around 8NIS a month. It'll display it when I place the order." Imagine that in any other business offering a service.

So, two annoyances for one day.

December 27th, 2015

Christmas Cake!

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Christmas cake

Of course, we don't really celebrate Christmas here in Israel. But I happened to put together one of my Japanese-speaking meetings exactly on the 24th in the evening. So why not have a nice Japanese custom along the way?

Japan celebrates Christmas with huge decorations in the cities, usually in the shape of Christmas trees. People spend time with their families or SOs exchanging gifts and having "Christmas Cake", which they claim is strawberry shortcake. Only it's not shortcake but sponge cake. With lots of whipped cream and strawberries. Though there are much more elaborate Christmas cakes being sold in Japanese shops - with chocolate cream, marron (chestnut stuff), and whatnot.

But this is the basic version. Another customary food in Japan on Christmas eve is... KFC. I kid you not - they either buy the original or make their own home version of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Why do they eat those things and where did they get them? I have not the foggiest clue. For the cake, I have a theory that it's the (Coca-Cola) Christmas colors, combined with the authentic Japanese tradition of eating red and white stuff (and decorating things in red and white) on festive days and auspicious events.

The funny thing is that the Japanese are not at all inclined toward Christianity. Their Christmas does not include Jesus in any way shape or form. No nativity scenes (except, perhaps, where there are enclaves of actual Christians here and there). No TV sermons. Most Japanese have no clue that this holiday has anything to do with religion, and they associate Santa (in his Jolly, fat, American form) with it more than they do Jesus. It's the same with churches in Japan. If you run into a church - except in Nagasaki, maybe - it's most likely just a wedding establishment. And there's no requirement for the priest to be Christian - it's much more important that they look foreign. There are stories of good Israeli Jews who wanted to make a buck when they were in Japan and worked as wedding priests. :-)
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October 14th, 2015

Yay, she's still around

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Happy Birthday, saminz!

June 7th, 2015

Happy birthday, spiffikins!



Congrats for surviving a round number of years on Earth!

June 6th, 2015

Rockets again

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I dismissed the previous occurrence as a one-off. The excuse there was that one faction of the Islamic Jihad was not happy about the newly appointed regional commander, so they fired a rocket at Ashdod.

There have been several additional rockets over the weekend now. The first batch was claimed by ISIS. That is, the Gaza ISIS supporters. It's not entirely clear whether they really have a connection to the central organization. Anyway, it seems that rogue groups in Gaza found a trick: if they don't like something the Hamas does - in this case imprisoning their members - they fire rockets at Israel. Israel holds the Hamas responsible for everything going on in Gaza, so Israel retaliates against the Hamas. Mission accomplished.

This is the kind of game I wish we weren't playing in. Because basically, the victims are, again, the people dwelling around there. And sorry, but I do mean the people on our side, who have to run over to shelter within a few seconds of the sounding of the alarm.

I'm sure eventually we'll need to do something to prevent those "rogue groups" from taking this line of operation, and I'm pretty sure that that something is not going to be sending them flowers. Net cynics have already started passing memes around such as:

Heat? - check
Mosquitoes? - check
Gay pride month? - check
Rockets? - check
It's officially summer!
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May 26th, 2015

Here we go again.

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...and it's not even summer yet.

Rocket from Gaza lands in an open area in Gan Yavneh.
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October 14th, 2014

Haaaapy Birthdaaaaay!

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...to saminz




All the best!

(I'm sure your taste in books is better than the lady on the cake)

August 26th, 2014

Ceasefire.

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This time it's supposed to be a long term one. Well, long term in Middle East terms, which is one month.

The terms of the ceasefire are more or less a tie. The Hamas demands of a seaport and airport and Israel's demand of demilitarization of Gaza will both be discussed starting a month from now. The current terms are:
  1. Opening of the border passes. This includes the Rafah pass which has nothing to do with Israel. The Egyptians agreed to open it, provided that control on the other side is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and not Hamas. The border passes on the Israeli side were open anyway, with hundreds of trucks going through every day with humanitarian supplies. The agreement adds that building materials will also be allowed under strict Israeli supervision that makes sure they are not used for tunnels. But how this will be done is not clear.

  2. Extending the fishing zone to 6 nautical miles.

This agreement was not welcomed by the Israeli public, and the Hamas is trying to pass it as their own victory. However, it may be noted that a ceasefire with similar terms was offered last month, when there were merely 200 people dead in Gaza, Israel agreed and the Hamas refused. So in fact 2000 Palestinians were killed, thousands wounded, many houses demolished, and three top Hamas commanders were assassinated - complete waste. Can't count it as a victory on their part even if we can't count it as a victory on ours.

Must say that the militant factions other than the Hamas realized that earlier on and were trying to reach an agreement earlier. But the Hamas was stubborn.

But anyways, hopefully, a month's ceasefire will end up in at least two weeks of calm. :-S

The only small satisfaction is that the Americans were mostly pushed out of this negotiation. They went and tried to impose Turkey and Qatar as mediators, but both Israel and the PA insisted on Egypt, and that stupid idea was thrown to the trash, and there was no American representative involved in the talks or the declaration of the ceasefire. They seem to be rather sour about the whole thing. "OK, we hope all sides stick to the agreement" is their only response. Hah.
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August 24th, 2014

Escalation it is, then.

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Most of the residents of the Gaza Wrapper have evacuated their homes. We officially have refugees now. The Hamas realized that the one thing that Iron Dome doesn't protect against is mortars, and they are shooting a hundred a day at least. Life is no longer livable in those villages and Kibbutzes around the border fence. On Israel's side, aerial attacks continue at a high rate, taking out command posts, rocket launching teams, rocket launchers and caches, and any high-ranked Hamas member we can get our sights on.

And of course, the Hamas is still dishing out some long-range rockets. Today there was one in the direction of Jerusalem. One blew up in the central area but I didn't hear it. No siren for me today. Maybe later. :-)

The football season opening has been postponed, and for this weekend they are planning to shift teams to the north, although the North, too, is not peaceful. Yesterday there were several rockets launched by Hamas sympathizers from Lebanon and Syria, that landed around Acre, the Golan Heights and the Galilee.

But the school year is about to open, and many schools have no safe zones. Most old school buildings have an air-raid shelter or two, but it's usually in the yard and not accessible within the allotted time. Those shelters were built for air raids, in the old days, and people used to have about 20 minutes advance notice, which is ample time to get 1000 kids to the yard and into the shelter. But 90 seconds? 60 in Beer-Sheva?

The minister of education spoke bravely about opening the school year "as usual", but today it's clear that this will only be true for parts of Israel.

So, it continues.
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August 23rd, 2014

Short version: I'm still safe. An Israeli child was killed, so I believe there will be yet another escalation.

It was bound to happen eventually, with thousands of rockets launched at Israel, statistically speaking there would be direct hits. It started small, in a synagogue in Ashdod, with three minor injuries from a direct hit. Then a mortar shell hit a 4 years old boy in the Gaza Wrapper. The highest chances of casualties are there, because Iron Dome does not protect against mortars - they are too quick, around 20 seconds in the air, to detect, calculate and intercept. Then, a couple of soldiers on leave driving around Gan Yavneh had a rocket hit their car. One had a minor injury, the other critical (not sure whether his death was pronounced already or not - with soldiers, regardless of whether they were on leave or on duty at the time, there's a procedure making sure of the identity and informing the family, so you don't get official news reports immediately).

The authorities didn't say directly that the soldiers ignored the Home Front instructions, it's not nice to accuse the victims, but they did "emphasize again" how important it is to stop one's car, turn it off and lie down away from it if caught in a siren while driving.

Here in Tel-Aviv we had three separate launches, which is unusual for a single day (to think that one launch is "usual"... shudder). One siren here, renewing acquaintances at the shelter. In the morning, we had a residents meeting, which was then postponed because not enough people showed up. But one of the building committee guys - the very talkative one - apparently has a lot of information about shrapnel hitting this neighborhood. Apparently, when rockets bound for Petach-Tikva and the area are intercepted, the shrapnel falls on my neighborhood. The closest bit of rocket was found around 300 meters from here, on my usual shopping route. And he had lots of other scary spots to mention, including how they found a piece of rocket on the roof of a building nearby, and one other person whose roof was pierced by one of them. Not very nice to hear, since I live in the top floor. I'm not that concerned about myself (going to the shelter every time), but property and cats, yes.

Never mind what will happen if there is a direct hit rather than just shrapnel. So far none in this area (they shoot sparingly at the central area, so the statistics are still on our side).

One of the women who came to the shelter yesterday is not a regular neighbor. So my next-door neighbor curiously asked her who she was. Turned out she is a sort of refugee from the Gaza Wrapper. I mean, not refugee as in "not having a home to return to ever", but she just escaped the South with her children for a while, taking advantage of the downstairs neighbor's vacation abroad to house sit and live in relative calm. Now she has 90 seconds to go down to the shelter, it's a huge treat as far as she is concerned.
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