Archive for the ‘events’ Category

WARNING: Israel will need too long time to recover from the effects of a major earthquake

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I am publicizing the following as a cautionary tale for Israel, which is faced with earthquake threat any time now, as the last serious earthquake was at 1927 and such earthquakes repeat each 80-100 years.

A week ago, the government of Israel carried out a large scale exercise to simulate the effects of a big earthquake with a tsunami.  The exercise revealed several problems in preparations for the disaster.  The exercise was not intended to, and it did not address long-term disaster recovery needs.

Turns out that in New Zealand, they have a big problem recovering from the earthquakes which struck Christchurch at 4 September 2010 and later dates.  Some of the culprits are the various insurance organizations, which were paid premiums over the years in order to help people recover from such natural disasters.

It made me very worried because if even the developed and well-managed country of New Zealand does not do good work recovering from natural disasters, what hope do we have in Israel?  Especially as the various insurance bodies in Israel are as bad in settling claims as their New Zealand counterparts.

The following account was written by Bob.  He is from Christchurch, New Zealand.  The account was taken, with his permission, from an E-mail message which he sent to an international mailing list to which I am subscribed as well.

The account starts here:

It’s very slow Alan. The council had a zone system setup after the main shocks, in which buildings are red-stickered, white-stickered, green… etc.  Just a day ago - more than 2 years after the September 2010 quake - they
have finally decided what the last few houses are to be zoned as.

The council, as well as the EQC (earthquake commission) and CERA (Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority) have cooked up a grand recovery plan, with new buildings to be placed in  certain areas designated as the port zone, culture zone  etc.  Some of the areas contain perfectly fine buildings (one is brand new) and yet are to be pulled down to suit the plan.

The EQC is a govt agency, and if you have building insurance an extra charge is compulsorily added to your premium for disaster recovery insurance. Everyone has been paying this for years, but now we discover that the premium is way too low to pay for much of it. The Government was warned years ago about that, but the finance Minister (same one we’ve got now, Bill English) ignored the warnings.

After the major disaster, this tiny govt department (all they’ve done for years is collect our money and do a poor job of investing it) then had to recruit many new people, such as ex-cops from Australia or unemployed , to go around inspecting homes and buildings to decide what the damage was.  Most of these people are NOT builders and had no experience in building work, so they gave them a checklist and iPods, along with dopey assistants, and sent them off.

Our home, only lightly damaged, had to wait over a year for the first inspection, which was followed up by 2 more because the first was lost in the paperwork. One set of inspectors only walked around the outside - didn’t bother to check the inside at all.

A single commercial company, Fletchers, was appointed as the master repair company and they hired contractors to do the repairs. Some contractors have been fiddling the books, and I’ve heard more than a few crims were taken on (very little checking done) as ’specified repairers’ who had ulterior motives i.e. checking out homes for valuables so they can send burglars in later (armed with a handy floor-plan and details of where stuff was to be found).

The insurers are the worst bunch of crooks ever. Lots of people are still waiting for payouts for damage to their unlivable homes, while they still have to pay rates and mortgages on and cant sell up, while at the same time having to move into rental accommodation (increasingly in short supply) with rents going up and up so that landlords can grab their share of the money to be had.

For everyone who has house insurance, I suggest you check the fine print and see if there is a time limit by which claims have to be settled by the insurers.

AIG in particular is getting a lot of flack for not responding to claims. You insure your house, and expect to get paid out for repairs when it’s damaged - but what if the insurer takes your claim, then just ignores you - for months, years even?

It will be next year (3 years after the first quake) before the repairs start to ramp up.  We’ve had people from the UK come out to help (builders, tradesmen etc) then gone home again because there was nothing for them to do yet (if they wanted to get paid that is).

All in all, while the quakes made a real mess of the city, the ‘repair’ system is a major disaster in itself - no-one seems to know what’s happening. Roads are still a mess, it sometimes takes an hour to get across what is just a small city after all.

Its very depressing, and no wonder that loads of people have said ‘Enough’ and left the city for good.

Bob

Israel Zak 1927-2011

Friday, August 26th, 2011

ישראל זק תרפ”ז - תשע”א

לימדת אותי לכפול ולחלק כשהייתי בגן. אחר כך שכחתי איך מחלקים עד שלמדתי בבית הספר.

השגת לי צעצוע שמחירו היה מיליוני דולר - CDC6400 שהיה המחשב המרכזי של האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים.

בזכות השבתון שלך, הייתי בארה”ב וזכיתי לטייל שם בתקופה שבה ישראלים עדיין לא הרבו לטייל בחו”ל.

יום אחד הבאת הביתה מכשיר טלפון שבעזרתו הצד השני יכל לשלוח לי מסר על ידי קוד מורס. הנסיונות לא עלו יפה כי אני ואלה שניסו לשוחח איתי טלפונית לא היינו מיומנים בתקשורת מורס.

כשהייתי בתיכון, פתחת חברת ייעוץ גיאולוגי ועזרתי לך בתכנות. לאחר שנים, הנסיון שלך בצד העסקי של הייעוץ הקל עלי את המעבר מעובד שכיר לפרי-לאנסר עצמאי.

ליווית אותי בתקופה שבה התחלתי לנהוג ברכב, מה שהקל עלי את ההשתלבות בתרבות הכביש הישראלית.

כשכתבתי את עבודת המסטר שלי, קבלתי ממך עצה להוסיף לה רשימת שאלות להמשך המחקר.

אתה ואמא ניהלתם אורח חיים שלא הדגיש את החומרנות וצריכת הראווה. המותרות שלכם היו לטייל כמעט בכל חור נידח בעולם. לכן גדלתי בתחושה שכסף לא יהיה מה שימנע ממני להשיג מה שבאמת חשוב בחיים. היה פתרון תקציבי ללימודים בקולג’ גלאודט כך שיכלתי לבחור לא ללמוד שם לא בגלל שיקולים כספיים. עזרתם לי לרכוש דירה מיד כשידעתי איפה אגור. בחרתי לא לעבור ניתוח שתל שבלול אבל דאגתם למימון, כך שאם הייתי רוצה, הייתי יכול לעבור ניתוח זה - גם בתקופה שלפני שהניתוח נכלל בסל הבריאות.

פרויקט הטלכתבים, להנגשה לחרשים של רשת הטלפונים לפני יותר מ-25 שנה, נזקק גם לכל מיני קשרים עם כל מיני בעלי השפעה. פעלת רבות מאחורי הקלעים. אצלנו מקובל להתגאות כשלא נזקקים לקשרים בשביל להצליח. אבל זה היה פרויקט שבשבילו זו היתה מצווה לנצל כל קשר שאפשר ולהפעיל כל השפעה פוליטית שצריך.

לאחר שנים קראתי את ההיסטוריה של הטלכתבים בארץ שבה הכל התחיל - ארה”ב - והתחושה שלי היא שבסך הכל בישראל הכל הלך לנו יותר בקלות מאשר ליוזמי הטלכתבים בארה”ב.

בניגוד להרבה אנשים אחרים, לקחת על עצמך את האחריות לאפשר ולהקל על התקשורת איתי. אני לא זוכר שאי פעם תיקנת לי את הדיבור, ואני זוכר פעם שאמרת לי שכשאני מרגיש בנוח אני מדבר יותר ברור. השקעת את המאמץ בלימוד ואימונים בדיבור מרומז ותמיד היה לי קל להבינך כשדיברת אליי, פרט כמובן לשבועות האחרונים שבהם כבר היית עייף מדי בשביל זה.

אני זוכר שהיו נסיבות שונות בילדותי שבהן לא הבנתי מה הולך ומה רוצים ממני - עד שבאת והסברת לי בבהירות מה הולך שם.

מאז שהטלכתב נכנס לחיינו, היית שרות הממסר שלי, לתיווך ביני ובין אנשים אחרים שהייתי צריך להשיגם בטלפון. לשמחתי הצורך שלי בשרות הממסר הלך וירד עם השנים, עם שיפור הנגישות התקשורתית של הציבור הכללי, הודות למסרונים ולדואר אלקטרוני.

תודה לך, אבא.

Israel Zak 1927-2011
You teached me to multiply and divide when I was at kindergarten age. Later I forgot how to divide until I relearned it in school.
You obtained for me a toy which costed multimillion dollars - CDC6400, which was the central computer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Thanks to your Sabbatical leave, I was in USA and got to travel there at a time in which Israelis still didn’t travel abroad as much as they do today.
One day you brought home a telephone which had the means to let the other side pass a message to me by Morse code. The experiments were not successful because I and my conversation mates were not proficient in Morse communications.
When I was at high school, you opened a geological consulting company and I helped you in software development. Few years later, your experience with the business side of consulting eased my transition from employee to self-employed freelancer.
You escorted me when I started to drive a car, making it easier for me to integrate into the Israeli road culture.
When I wrote my M.Sc. thesis, you advised me to add a list of questions for further research.

You and mother had lifestyle, which did not emphasize materialism or conspicuous consumption. Your luxuries were to travel to almost every distant hole in the world. Therefore I grew up with the feeling that money will not be what’ll prevent me from achieving whatever is important in one’s life. There was a financing solution for my studies in Gallaudet College so I could choose not to study there not due to financial considrations. You helped me buy an apartment as soon as I knew where I’ll live. I chose not to undergo cochlear implantation but you secured financing for this, so that if I wanted, I’d be able to get this operation - even before the operation was included in the Health Basket.

The TDD Project, for making the telephone network accessible to the deaf more than 25 years ago, needed also all kinds of pull with all kinds of people with influence. You did a lot behind the curtains. It is our custom to be proud when pull is not needed in order to succeed. However it was a project for which it was mitzvah to exploit every exploitable connection and pull every available rope. Several years later I read the history of the TDDs where everything started - USA - and my feeling is that overall it was easier for us than for the TDD innovators in USA.

Unlike several other people, you accepted the responsibility to facilitate the communication with me. I do not remember any occasion in which you corrected my speech, and I remember that once you told me that when I feel relaxed, I speak more clearly. You invested the effort into learning and practicing cued speech and it was always easy for me to understand you when you addressed me, except of course for the last few weeks during which you were too tired for this.
I remember various circumstances during my childhood, in which I did not understand what was going on and what people want from me - until you arrived and explained clearly what is going on there.
Ever since the TDD entered our lives, you were my relay service, to relay messages between me and other people whom I needed to contact by telephone. Happily, my need for the relay service was lessened over the years, with improvement in telecommunications accessibility of the general population, thanks to SMS and E-mail.

Thank you, father.

40th anniversary of the 1971 San Fernando earthquake

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Today (February 9, 2011) is the 40th anniversary of the 1971 San
Fernando earthquake
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_San_Fernando_earthquake).

I was in Los Angeles at the time.

When the earthquake hit, I didn’t understand why my parents switched to waking me for school by shaking the bed - until my father told me that it was an earthquake.

I also remember my father the geologist trying to locate the approximate location of the epicenter, before anything was known, by noting the direction of oscillations of the chandeliers at our apartment.

After the main shock, there were sevearl aftershocks during the next few days.

היום (9 בפברואר 2011) הינו היובל ה-40 לרעידת האדמה שקרתה בעמק סן פרננדו (לוס אנג’לס, קליפורניה) בשנת 1971.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_San_Fernando_earthquake)

באותו הזמן הייתי בלוס אנג’לס.

כשרעידת האדמה הכתה בנו, לא הבנתי למה הורי עברו לשיטת ניעור המיטה כדי להעיר אותי לבית הספר - עד שאבי סיפר לי שזו היתה רעידת אדמה.

אני גם זוכר שאבי הגיאולוג ניסה לאתר את המיקום המשוער של מוקד רעידת האדמה, לפני שפורסם מידע כלשהו, על ידי תשומת לב לכיוון שבו הטלטלו הנברשות בדירתנו.

אחרי הזעזוע הראשי, היו רעידות משנה רבות בימים הבאים.

I (or rather my Facebook persona) was cloned!

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

אם הינך רשום בפייסבוק, אחת מהשיטות לגניבת המידע הפרטי שלך היא ליצור פרופיל מזויף של אחד מחבריך ולבקש ממך לאשר (מחדש) חברות איתו.  ברגע שהינך מאשר חברות, יש לו גישה למידע שאתה משתף בו את חבריך.

וזה מה שקרה לי היום.  גיליתי שמישהו יצר לי שיבוט לא חוקי בפייסבוק.  דיווחתי על כך לגורם המתאים וגם הודעתי לחברים שכבר אישרו חברות לשיבוט שלי.

הדרך להבדיל ביני לבין השיבוט שלי היא (נכון לעכשיו) שלשיבוט יש הרבה פחות מ-100 חברים ואילו לי יש יותר מ-200 חברים.

If you are registered in Facebook, one of the methods of stealing your private information is to create a fake profile of one of your friends and request you to (re)approve his friendship request.  Once you approve his friendship, he has access to information which you share with your friends.

And this is what happened to me today.  I found that someone illegally cloned me in Facebook.  I reported the clone to the appropriate authorities and also notified those friends who already confirmed friendship with my clone.

The way to tell me apart from my clone is that (as of now) my clone has much less than 100 friends while I have more than 200 friends.

An Accessible Popular Science Lecture - a treat!

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Today I was in Weizmann Institute of Science, to attend a popular science lecture.  The lecture’s topic was “The role of molecular traps in plant behavior”, and the reason I went to this particular lecture was because Mrs. Rina Tzoref arranged for it to be accessible.
Abner Hall - lecture made accessible thanks to a notetaker
The subject was put in the context of the Green Revolution, which freed humanity from hunger due to shortage of agricultural produces.  However, population growth continues and agriculture needs to be even more efficient.

Currently, out of the theoretical yield, only about 60% gets consumed by people.  The other 40% are lost to weeds, pathogens (fungi, bacteria, viruses), insects and other animals.  In addition, it is also necessary to defend plants against plagues.  For example, the pathogen involved in the 1845-1849 Irish Potato Famine has made a comeback.  There is also a new pathogen from Africa, which infects wheat plants, and against which there is no currently known cure.

Therefore, it is very interesting to know how do plants defend themselves against pathogens and insects.  Most of the lecture dealt with those defense mechanisms.

August Penguin 2010 sans IRC and lecture transcript streaming

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Other people blogged about the conference, so I’ll be very dry and technical.

I served as the accessibility coordinator of the conference.  In addition to myself, I arranged for accessibility for two more people with disabilities - blind woman and a deaf+parapelgic man.  I reached the trivial conclusion that it was much easier in previous years, when I needed to arrange for accessibility only for myself.

IRC

Before the conference, it was suggested that we’ll try to arrange for lecture transcript straming to the Internet, to benefit people who cannot attend the event in person.  I bought into the idea when I realized that it would make the lectures accessible to deaf-blind people, who bring with them laptops with a Braille display.

Originally, I thought that I’ll not have the time to figure out the technical details.  However, since I was laid off two weeks before the conference, I had ample time to deal with the challenge of lecture transcript streaming.

During those two weeks, I went through the whole process of evaluating and selecting a transcript streaming method, and settled on IRC.  Then, I evaluated few IRC clients, until xchat was chosen.  Finally, I figured out how to configure the IRC channel to meet our needs.

However, all those efforts came to naught because the wireless network at the conference blocked IRC and opening IRC had to be arranged ahead of time instead of at the last minute.  Alternatively, I could have used a wireless modem, but I was not prepared for this.

The chosen IRC client had the problem of wasting columns on uninformative nickname of the speaker on the channel being followed.  For the next August Penguin, a special-purpose client should be developed.  It will take care of all details of reserving a channel and it’ll allow text entry and display in an optimal way for the task (lecture transcribing and real-time streaming of the text).

During the process, I got help from several people.  A thank-you letter should be found in the archives of the discussions@hamakor.org.il mailing list.

Other Problems

In addition to the IRC problem, the laptop got stuck once, losing the transcript of the quick lecture about Free Software in Education.

The notetaker and the deafies sat near one of the lecture hall’s entrances, and it turned out to be a noisy place until the door was closed.  As a result, the notetaker missed parts of what was being spoken in the lectures.

As far as I am aware, everything else worked flawlessly.

Power Splitter

I brought with me a power splitter with three sockets.  I was amused to notice that people with laptops, who sat near us, needed the electrical power to recharge their laptops.  So all three sockets were in use.

Omer Zak and Peretz Zack - a medical examination confusion

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Today I was in Memograph in Petah Tikva, a medical diagnostics institute to which my health fund refers patients who need to have their ankles (and some other body members) X-rayed or subjected to ultrasound examination.  I needed to have my ankle X-rayed.

I arrived at the place to find a long and overdue queue.  The delay was about an hour and half.  I gave the X-ray requisition form and Form 17 to the receptionist and told her that I am deaf.

Then I waited.  The wait was made more bearable thanks to the coincidence that three other Deaf men came for their own tests, two of whom I already knew and the third was a new acquaintance for me.  It was nice to pass the time chatting with them.

About the time I was due to enter the X-ray room, the receptionist surprised me by trying to hand over to me a CD which purported to have already contained my X-ray photos.  I protested and explained that I was not examined at all.

After some investigation and head scratching, it turned out that the X-ray technician called out for a Zak.  The receptionist did not realize that my shoulder needs to be tapped.  So another Zak got in - Peretz Zack, who by coincidence needed to have his ankle X-rayed as well.  His ankle was X-rayed according to the instructions in my form and he left soon afterwards.

After the confusion was clarified, I was called in and had my ankle X-rayed.  Some time later I got the CD and analysis results - which I hope that they indeed correspond to my own ankle rather than to Peretz Zack’s.

As I walked back home, I analyzed the event.  The mistake was due to the following:

  1. The patients have their paperwork taken by the receptionist, who hands it to the X-ray technician.  When a patient enters the X-ray room, he is not positively identified by the X-ray technician as corresponding to the paperwork waiting for him inside the room.  A post-it paper with the patient’s name given to the patient in exchange for the paperwork would have solved the problem.
  2. The receptionist was not trained to warn the X-ray technician NOT to use the public address system to summon a deaf patient, but rather to have someone tap on his shoulder.  This is more tough one, given the relative rarity of deaf patients.  Today’s get together of 4 patients was probably once in a lifetime coincidence.

From now on I’ll probably have to be on the lookout for medical records really belonging to Peretz Zack, which got into my medical files because he, by mistake, somehow assumed my identity.  At least until the medications, which I take due to my heart attack, kill him.

First anniversary of my heart attack

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

More accurately, first anniversary of my catheterization.

A year ago I worked in a place whose management style was far from being the right one for me.  Communications with the boss were throttled down because of a disability which made it difficult for him to type to me for long time, I was not granted adequate autonomy to do my work in a way comfortable for me, various measures which I suggested to make it safer to upgrade software were not taken, microscheduling was rampant, I was in anxiety.  I stayed on because of the standard advice not to leave work before lining up other work in its place.

Eventually I could stand it no more and resigned.  However my contract called for me to stay one more week to transfer my know-how to my successor.  I stayed for one more week, and noticed that I don’t feel well each day in the morning.  I had some strange pain in my chest, pain of the kind which I never felt in the past.  Drinking hot tea eased the pain.  I attributed this ill-feeling to work related anxiety.

At last, the week was over, but I still did not feel well in the morning of July 2nd, 2009 even though my last day of work was the day before.  So I decided it’s time to visit my primary health care provider (Kupat Holim).  My ECG was taken and there was something was abnormal with it, but still ambiguous.  My family doctor asked me some questions and finally told me to go to hospital for more tests.  I was advised not to take the bus but drive there by my car.  I preferred to take taxi instead, as otherwise there’ll be a problem with my car’s parking if I have to stay longer in hospital.

In the Golda-Hasharon hospital’s emergency room, my ECG was taken again and my blood was drawn out for some tests. Some time later, a nurse came with a big (300mg) aspirin pill and oxygen bottle. I was told to chew the aspirin pill and leave the mess below my tongue.  I also was to breathe oxygen.  Finally I was informed that they suspect an heart attack.  The curious thing was that when I was in the hospital, I did not feel pain.  Few days later I got the documents with blood test results, which showed that my blood had troponin, a marker for destroyed heart muscular tissue i.e. heart attack.

I was then carted off to the cathlab.  While en route I was given the authorization forms to sign.  The warnings section had gems such as death, serious disability, heart attack, etc.  In the cathlab I noticed the label “Mennen Medical”, a company for which I worked years before, developing software for one of their products - a computer which is used for collecting and analyzing data in…cathlabs.  It reminded me of the sign in IAI (Israeli Aircraft Industries) asking the employees whether they would agree to fly on the screw they are manufacturing now.  However I do not think that my own software was actually used during the procedure done on me.  I was a relatively easy case.

The catheterization procedure was carried out while I was awake and I could follow the displays (but not fully understand what is going on).  I did get local anaesthesia in my crotch, where they inserted the catheter.

After catheterization, I was carted off to the cardiac intensive care unit, where I was to spend the next four days.  Eventually I was informed that I had one blocked coronary artery, and the blockage was easily opened using a balloon and a stent was placed there.

I did not realize at first my condition, so I naively asked whether and which of my plans for the night and the next few days need to be cancelled.  It emerged that I do have to cancel all plans, including a trip to England which I planned to have a week later.  My Nokia 9210i cellphone, even though not in good condition, proved to be real boon during the first several hours after catheterization.  I was able to send a FAX message to my travel agent to cancel my trip, to send SMS messages to several people with whom I planned to meet or chat during the next few days, to update my long distance girlfriend about my situation.  It did feel weird to be almost as active as I would be if I were working, so short time after catheterization.  However it didn’t require me to exert physical effort so it was OK.

During the first night of my stay in the intensive care unit, a symphony of pains played out throughout my body.  The hole in my crotch, where the catheter was inserted, was being closed by pushing a ball against it.  It is a challenge because the hole opens into a major artery and the blood partially lost its ability to clot due to medication - the conflicting requirements are that on one hand, clotting will form in the hole, but on the other hand - not in or around my heart.  Pain one.  Pain two was the pain of hunger, as I was not allowed to eat much during the first several hours after catheterization.  The third pain were the chest pains as arteries rearrange themselves to deal with the changed conditions as the blockage was opened and the stent was inserted.

Days passed and gradually the antibiotics infusion has ended, I got more or less regular meals, I was allowed to walk to the restroom.  One thing worried me.  I knew that I have essentially to enter a new culture, to learn its ways and habits, to learn what to eat and what not to eat, how about physical exercise, what medications to take.  So when the woman in charge of educating new cases came with booklets, I was glad about this.  She left me with several booklets and I spent the last two days in intensive care reading those booklets.  Meanwhile, a technician with portable ultrasound machine came and scanned my heart - turned out that my heart retained practically all its functionality - my heart attack was really minor.  In other words, I got out of it cheaply.

When I was due to be discharged from hospital, there was some concern that the hole in my crotch did not close properly.  However an ultrasound scan cleared this question and I was discharged.

When I was discharged from the hospital, a friend took me home where I took a shower (at last!) and checked my E-mail backlog.  Nothing urgent, but lots of spam.  Fortunately my E-mail inbox still had room for several E-mail messages when I checked it.

Then my friend took me to a pharmacy to obtain the medications prescribed to me and from there to the medical hotel where I was to stay during the next 5 days.  The hotel has a cardiologist and a nurse available all the time, and my ECG and blood pressure were taken each day, sometimes more often than that.  There were also lectures, and in two of them the lecturers made the effort to make the subject accessible to me.  One lecture was about the medications we are now obligated to take, and the other - about the kinds of foods we may eat and those that we should avoid.

Turned out that I need to avoid milk chocolate, one of my favorites.  :-(

I was also to walk each day and to exercise lightly.  The walk times began with 10 minutes, two times a day, gradually increasing during a month to an hour each day.

After my time in the medical hotel, I returned home.  At beginning I needed help buying food, because the supermarket was too far away for me to safely walk to it.  However, after a week at home I already could walk to the supermarket and fully take care of myself.

Near end of July, one morning I felt strong nausea.  Again to my primary health care provider and then to the hospital’s emergency care.  This time, my blood proved to be troponin-free.  My nausea also ended while I was in hospital.  It was a false alarm.  I got discharged after about three hours and went to have a lunch in a fast food Chinese restaurant.

I did not return to work until beginning of August, at which time I started working for another company.

At end of August I had argometric test, and at beginning September I started my visits to the heart rehabilitation institute, twice a week.  Heart rehabilitation consists of exercise, which gradually and slowly gets more and more strenuous. I was pleased to meet an old acquaintance, someone who was and is active in the Association of the Deaf in Israel, in my group.

I am left with the feeling of having gotten prompt and good service from the clinic, hospital and medical hotel.  Several months later I had a chat with someone who was having excruciating back pain.  She told me of all the waiting times she needed to wait before CAT scans, biopsies, etc.  I told her “next time, get a heart attack instead, and they’ll attend to you promptly”.  :-)

Nowadays I go with three 100mg aspirin pills and an up to date ECG together with my money, keys etc.  If I get another heart attack, the aspirin will weaken the clot and the ECG will make it faster and easier to diagnose my condition.

Legal outlet for one’s desires

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In the wake of the Rav Moti Alon scandal, I reach the conclusion that homosexual Jewish rabbis and Moslem religious leaders are in the same risk category as Catholic priests.  The common difficulty, which all of them encounter is the lack of a legal (from their religion’s perspective) means to satisfy their desires.

I secured a place in a biography of a prominent scientist or: The longest birthday party I ever attended

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The story starts at the late 1980’s, at which time I did my M.Sc. work under Prof. Jacob Klein.  It was a strike of luck for me, as I did not set out to look for a top notch advisor, but ended up having such an advisor.

Twenty years later, as one of his former M.Sc. students, I was invited to a workshop, which was dedicated to his 60th birthday, and which was held between 21-23 June this year.  I was happy to attend it, soak some science, and meet old acquaintances.

The workshop was relatively small and intimate.  There were few tens of participants, and several of them also lectured and presented posters.  Most of them were students, collaborators or colleagues of Prof. Klein.  At the workshop’s end, people remarked about the high quality of research described in the lectures.  Scientists were also not afraid to venture forth from their zones of comfort and discuss also subjects about which they did not have all the answers.  So one could notice that some post-lecture questions were answered by “I do not know”.

Rachel Yerushalmi-Rozen, one of the workshop organizers, arranged for me full coverage of notetakers so that I could follow all lectures.  They did good enough work so that I was not bored, even though fundamental cognitive and motor limits of humans prevented them from writing down everything that was being said during the lectures.  The notetakers had to be proficient with the terminology used in the lectures, so they were students of the workshop’s organizers.

The first part of the workshop was held in Schmidt Auditorium in Weizmann Institute of Science, and when it ended, a group photo of the participants was taken.  Such group photos often end up in biographies of scientists, who participated in them.  The caliber of the workshop’s participants was such that several of them are current or future prominent scientists.

In one of the evenings we were treated to a dinner and a rare night visit in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (see also in the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_Biblical_Zoo).  After the night tour, still in the zoo, Prof. Klein blew out candles on his birthday cake and we were treated to a presentation of photos of highlights of his life, so that the 3-day workshop would qualify also as a birthday party.