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Archive for October, 2010

Eggs

I guess I was sheltered. I always thought raw eggs needed to be refrigerated unless they were used right away. I was really surprised the first (and second and third) time I entered a market and discovered this….

Look Mom, no electricity required!

Just to be clear, these are egg cartons, filled with real eggs from real hens.  The cartons are wrapped in plastic and stacked on the floor in the market.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that the boxes contain a picture of a happy, smiling egg walking around waving.  The picture does not contain a sickly egg groaning and dragging itself across the floor.  The picture is clearly a healthy egg and, in fact, these eggs are fine.

Hmm, maybe these eggs are okay because they are wrapped in plastic…

Wrong! Take a look at this….

Egg cartons on shelves with no plastic

More eggs stacked in cartons, but this time there is no plastic. If you look carefully, you’ll see that there is some sort of device above the eggs. I’m not sure what the heck that is. It didn’t look important, but maybe it is some sort of high-tech anti-bacterial disruption field generator that keeps the eggs fresh.

More eggs just sitting around in the hot room-temperature air

You can’t get more basic than this.  Here in Israel, eggs are placed in cartons and stacked at room-temperature for sale.

If you think about it, this even seems reasonable.  Eggs must have a built in mechanism to prevent bacterial contamination. After all, the hen lays the egg and then sits on it for three weeks before the chick hatches. I bet that’s not a clean environment and it certainly isn’t a cool environment. If bacteria could easily infect the eggs, the chicks would not survive.

Even so, it still seems bizarre to me.  Eggs should be in refrigerators, right? Apparently that’s not the case.

I had to do a bit of research to figure this out. I discovered that there is a thin film surrounding each egg that protects it from contamination.  In the United States, the eggs are washed (and perhaps bleached or colored) so that they look nice. The washing removes the film and, as a result, exposes the egg to contamination.  That’s why eggs need to be refrigerated in the States — so that they will look pretty. In the United States, unrefrigerated eggs look nice, but they can kill you.

I wonder how much energy is used to process the raw eggs and then refrigerate them in the trucks and in the warehouses and in the stores. I guess people in California need to fear electricity rationing on their expensive, high-definition, televisions so that the egg shells can look pretty.

It seems like Al Gore should be doing something about this. I can picture him trying to explain it:

We have a vicious cycle. Pretty eggs are causing climate change because of all the electricity needed for cooling. As the Earth becomes hotter, we need to use even more electricity to cool the pretty eggs. Break the cycle by purchasing carbon-free dirty eggs from my company that I don’t own. Keep in mind, I don’t directly receive any money from your purchase. This is about saving the Earth… one egg at a time.

Anyway, we buy the eggs at room temperature and promptly put them in the refrigerator at home. I am, after all, an American.

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Categories: Food, Israel Tags: , , ,

The Car Rental

We’ve been renting a car for the last couple of months and have been happy with the car and the rental company — no real problems…until yesterday.

In the afternoon, my wife didn’t leave to pick up my daughter from school. She didn’t leave because the car wouldn’t start.  The elementary school is only 10 minutes away by foot.  After trying to get the car started for 10 minutes, she finally left on foot.

We contacted the rental company and they tried to help us start the car over the phone. They asked the obvious questions, asked us to do this and to do that, and eventually came to the conclusion that the car really wouldn’t start.  They told us that a mechanic would be sent to resolve the problem.

About 30 or 40 minutes later, the mechanic arrived.  As you might expect, he didn’t speak English.  He fooled around with the car, poked here, fiddled there, and seemingly came to some conclusion. The nature of his conclusion remained a mystery for a while until he had the rather clever idea of calling someone at his company who could speak English. He explained the problem into his phone and then handed me the phone.

I was told that the problem must be with the LATECOT. LATECOT is a technical term that I’m pretty sure you don’t know. My confidence comes from the fact that I just made up the term since I don’t know what it is really called.  LATECOT is an acronym for the little anti-theft engine cut-off thingy.

To start the car, you first need to enter a 4-digit code into this little box (the LATECOT). If you enter the code properly, the LATECOT makes this “you win” sound and you’re allowed to start the engine.  If you don’t enter a code (or if you enter the wrong code), then the engine will start, run for a few seconds, and then shutdown.

I was told that someone from the LATECOT company would call us in about 10 minutes.  After 30 or 40 minutes, the call arrived.  The LATECOT technician asked me to reset (or perhaps disable) the box by following a sequence of timed steps with the ignition switch. When that failed, I was told that a mechanic would be sent to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the nearest mechanic could not come for 90 minutes.

I was annoyed and concerned at this point.  I was annoyed because our plans for the evening were now trashed. I was concerned because I was scheduled to take a trip the next morning to Jerusalem and I needed a functioning car! The local car rental company was already closed at this point, but the person at the LATECOT company gave me the contact information for someone named Hadar at the car rental company’s 24-hour facility.

I decided to call Hadar. I wanted to know what would happen if the LATECOT could not be fixed. Here’s the transcript of that conversation:

Hadar: שלימ (Hello)
Me: ? את מדברת אנגלית (Do you speak English?)
Hadar: לא (No)
Me: I need to talk with someone in English
Hadar: <click>

Great. The “I’m Concerned” light was now blinking red on my mental dashboard.

By the time the LATECOT mechanic arrived, it was already dark. He fiddled around for 15 minutes and finally got under the dashboard with some wire cutters.  After some targeted cutting, he demonstrated to me that the car could now be started. I noticed that he started the car without entering any codes. He then asked me if I could bring the car to his shop in the morning to have the problem fixed.

First of all, the answer was “no” because I needed to take a trip to Jerusalem in the morning. The answer was also “no” because I’m not accustomed to taking rental cars to the mechanic. He told me I should really get it fixed as soon as possible.

In addition to the blinking “I’m Concerned” light, there was now an alarm sounding in my head. I recently had a problem with the phone company. We had a disagreement about my mobile data plan. Somehow I didn’t have one and the bill for the first month was outrageous. They added the plan, but still expected me to pay the first bill. Since I was receiving SMS alerts from the phone company (in Hebrew) warning me about data usage, they figured I was properly warned. In the end, we decided to basically split the bill, but the experience taught me some lessons and I was now very concerned about not having a functioning LATECOT.

I called the LATECOT company again and they told me that if the car was stolen, I would probably be responsible for the loss since the LATECOT was broken. She also agreed to call the car rental company on my behalf and have an English-speaker contact me.

The car rental company did call me and they confirmed that a stolen car was now my responsibility since the LATECOT was not functioning. I was also told that I could have the car replaced. I could wait until the morning and bring it to a local shop or I could take it to their 24-hour facility at the airport.  The airport is about 30 minutes away.

That was a no-brainer: off to the airport.  Of course, there was traffic. My wife and I did manage to get the car replaced. As an added bonus, the new car is clean and free of sand.

We finally arrived home around 10:00 pm with the new rental car.

It only took 8 hours to get this problem resolved!

Categories: Israel Tags: ,

A Rough Couple of Weeks

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.  I guess the honeymoon is over.  I’m dealing with feelings of doubt and homesickness.  I had a huge emotional crash after Sukkot.   Thankfully, the last couple of days have been much better.

I’m told that this is “normal”.  It happens to everyone — especially Americans. Even though I was told to expect it, I didn’t really think it would happen to me. I guess I’m more normal than I realized.

It is a very pleasant 90 degrees with a nice breeze.  It is also the middle of October.  That makes me happy!

I started looking for work. Part of my doubts are financial.  Things are very expensive in Israel — including real estate. While real estate prices in the States have been tanking over the last few years, housing prices here in Israel have doubled.  The falling value of our US dollars just makes the problem worse.  Over the long term, I think the US dollar (and the Euro) are heading much further down. My outlook is very gloom and doom. I feel sad about what is happening to my homeland. The United States is the greatest country that has ever existed, but I really believe that her best days have already come and gone. I hope it will be a slow collapse, but I fear that it might be faster than people can imagine. Obama didn’t do it, he’s just the finisher — the closer — the destroyer. It is just a matter of time before Japan, Europe, and the US collapse under a mountain of fiat debt. I have a suspicion about who will get blamed. So, I’m glad to be here, but the doubts linger.

I had an interview last week. Actually, I didn’t have an interview last week. I thought I was having an interview, but I really wasn’t. This is all a good thing, because after the interview I thought I didn’t want the job, but now that I know it wasn’t an interview, I think I do want the job. Because Shabbot is approaching, I don’t have time to explain.  Stay tuned….

Categories: Israel Tags: , ,

Karnei Shomron

We visited the town of Karnei Shomron in Samaria last week during the holiday of Sukkot. Samaria is the northern part of the West Bank.

Karnei Shomron is one of those pesky Jewish settlements. These settlements cause all the trouble. If these West Bank settlements didn’t exist, Moslems would happily live side-by-side with Jews, world peace would sweep forth, and cotton candy would fall from the sky like rain. It would be wondrous, but you and your family cannot experience this because of Karnei Shomron.

Given all of this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did know, however, that to get to Karnei Shomron I would have to cross the Green Line into the West Bank and travel through two Arab towns. The first town was the “friendly” town. We were advised not to stop even though it probably was safe.

Here comes the "friendly" Arab town

Because I was driving, I missed the local action. I was surprised when several of the passengers shrieked. Apparently we drove by a butcher who was in the process of doing his job.  Clean up is a lot easier when you are near the road side.

Why are you shrieking? What butcher?

The settlement of Karnei Shomron is quite nice. It looks like a typical community in the south-western region of the United States. There is nothing temporary about these settlements. We had pizza at a local pizzeria and attended a barbecue with some friends. It was all very normal.

We also did some hiking which also seemed quite normal.  Finally, we visited a couple of Jewish outposts.  The outposts are not quite normal. They are temporary communities composed of a handful of families. The Jewish outposts are established to prevent Arabs from creating their own outposts. It is like a chess game to see these hilltops and the locations of Jewish and Arab settlements with outposts positioned to prevent the encroachment of the other.

An outpost guarding The Land

You often hear in the news about “illegal” Israeli outposts being dismantled. I found out something interesting about these “illegal” outposts. To set up an outpost, the settlers are supposed to present a plan to the Israeli government. After the plan is approved, construction can begin. Inspections are conducted as the construction reaches various milestones. Finally, when the construction is finished, the site is inspected again and there is a final approval by the Israeli government.

The construction is not “legal” until the final approval; therefore, it is “illegal” until that final approval. In other words, illegal outposts are not created by a few rogue troublemakers — they have an approved plan that (I guess for political reasons) is never given a final “legal” status.

The Jewish settlements and the Arabs villages are all built on hilltops — the better to see each other.

We visited one outpost located on the highest hilltop in the area. From this location, you can see both Tel-Aviv and Jordan. We also found a partially constructed building. It was going to be a synagogue for the community, but it could not be completed because of Obama’s wonderful construction freeze. Interestingly, the land is privately owned, but the building still could not be completed because of the freeze.

The construction freeze forces the halt of this shul on private property

Categories: Israel Tags: ,
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