יום ראשון, אפריל 30, 2006

Time to waste....

My Dad long ago commented that with all the information that is available in our world today the big challenge is not finding it but in sorting it and separating the wheat from the chaff. There are so many blogs, so many sources, so many radio stations, so many recipes....

Say I'm looking for a peanut butter cookie recipe. I can search for one and I'll come up with a mess of junk and 10,000 different recipes. How do I know which one I should use? That's is today's challenge. The world will belong to the man who can find what he wants.

Google is one good solution. Disambiguation pages on Wikipedia are another. Pandora is one. Blog carnivals are another good one. The four examples I just gave, two use people to sort the junk, two use algorithms. The trade is speed vs. quality.

MY problem right now is overload. I guess there are some people who get more stuff done in the same amount of time because they are more organized. They know where everything they need is.

No. That's not true. People who get lots of stuff done are just like you and me. They just waste less time. I can get much more stuff done in the same amount of time. I just need to focus more and waste less time. Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) said: "We are entertaining ourselves to death." Not me, I'm wasting myself to death. Or at least to inactivity. Not good. Not acceptable.

I will waste less time. The next time you see me wasting time please remind me that I have a lot of stuff to do and I can do if I just stop mucking around.


יום חמישי, אפריל 27, 2006

Optimism of the Kenyon

Our current security situation is no surprise to anyone. Whether you blame the Israeli politicians, the "settlers", the "terrorists", the US, the UN, the EU, or the H.A.M.A.S - none of us are shocked that there is still an issue of security in Israel.

With this reality as a backdrop it seems a little odd that security always looks like an afterthought. It always looks like we make a plan and then afterwards it occurs to someone "Oh, how should we handle security?" Case in point - The Kenyon.

Every Kenyon (shopping mall) is designed in the standard international shopping mall style. Multi-level & multiple entrances and exits on each floors. The mall is just about to be declared open and only then do we start thinking about security.

How do I know this? Just look at the security guards outside each supermarket, bus station, and mall - each one is sitting on a plastic chair, with the entrance cordoned off by plastic barriers, the metal detectors freestanding and a little plastic stool next to him for his coffee mug. If there had been even a little bit of forethought our loyal security guard would have an alcove, with the metal detector built in to the doorway, a proper table with a telephone, an ashtray, and a place for his coffee mug. The barrier would be built into the ground in the same style as the building and the malls would only have as many entrances as they could afford to staff. We wouldn't have stores with 15 doors and only 2 of them unlocked.

It's long been my opinion that the only explanation for this is our optimism. Even though we know the situation, we are all waiting for the day when we can unlock all the doors and throw out those damn plastic barricades.


יום שישי, אפריל 07, 2006

Real History

As much as there is the fun and exciting part of the history, a friend reminded me of another aspect of our history in Madrid.

On our way to the Royal Palace we walked through Plaza Mayor. It's big. Closed in on all four sides by two and three story buildings, it's large enough to play a game of football. Or two. Or to hold public ceremonies. Or to burn Jews.

In the 1500's Plaza Mayor, known then as Plaza del Arrabal, was among the places that the church used for public trials for "crimes" of a religious nature. Among the paintings we saw later that day at the Museo del Prado was Francisco Ricci's painting of an auto de fe.

Yes, it's not all castles and banners in the breeze. And I know I can't ignore that side of history. Luckily, it was not thrown in our faces this trip. I'm still thinking...

Thanks for the reminder.

יום רביעי, אפריל 05, 2006

Castillo de los Mendoza

Think Disney. Think knights and armor. Sword fighting and turrets. It was all real.

We went north of Madrid to Manzanares El Real on Wednesday. The backdrop was a mountain range and the town itself was all the cute little tiled roofs and orange brick you could want. In the town is Castillo de los Mendoza which was plucked right out of a Zorro film. Suits of armor, spiral staircases for sword fighting, and Spanish flags in the breeze. I was thrilled.

History is a collection of nice little stories. It so rare that we get to see that it was once a reality. One of my thoughts of late is that a Jew is a student of history. By definition. We are both a living part of it and draw our strength from it. Too much of our religion and ritual is history for us to ignore it. Every once in a while it´s nice to see that history was real. As goofy as that may sound, things we hear or read about have a very different flavor to them than things that we see and touch. Part of why Israel makes such a big deal about archeology is that it gives us something to touch. I saw a blurb in today's newspaper about Iran gloating over France because archaeologists found evidence of wine making that was 500 years older than what had been found in France. Everything needs a context and everyone wants a history.

The gift of a place like this is the reality it gives to the history books and the films. One of the wonderful things that Hollywood has done is to show us what life was like in long ago and far away. To a Jew,who is by definition a student of history this is invaluable. Sometimes it's nice to touch that reality.

יום שלישי, אפריל 04, 2006

Getting in. Again.

This time, out fearless reporter has brought a companion to help ease the monotony and do the dishes. The super-dooper-cooker (Mini-Trangia) saves the day providing a bounty of rice for all. Hostals in this part of the world are a bit pricier than expected. A room for 50€ a night. thinking back to Thailand... 50€... 60$... 2,400Baht... 4 nights of luxury... Oh well.
Here there be Torros Bravos!

In reality, I sit in a hotal in Madrid, Spain. Which hotal? Depends when. We made a reservation at Hotal A. We showed up and were shown a room. We took a nap and emerged a few hours later to pay only to find we were in a different hotal. The pad of paper from which she was about to issue us a recipt said Bermejho when it should have said Luis Velez. Not good.

This was all further complicated by the lady who spoke no ingles and couldn´t understand that if Hotal A still had our reservation and credit card number, they could make us pay for the same night we were not staying with them. More not good. Our phrase book did not have the word for mistake. Also not good. In the end we found out that Hotal B works with Hotal A and all was well.

What would it take to be a tourist in your own city? You could have someone drop you at the airport and spend a few days at a cheap backpackers place while seeing all the sights that everyone else sees and you never got to. Thoughts?