Sunday, April 30, 2006

unskilled labor

I've been talking up my idea of outsourcing envelope stuffing and other unskilled labor from the US. I even talked to someone in the Jewish Federation and convinced him that it was viable. An experienced friend burst my bubble a little bit. He said there is no way that it can be cost effective because of shipping costs. Shipping costs is one of the things that I was going to research, but I didn't think it would hit me that hard. The question is whether I can get a nice discount rate from one of the big carriers for doing something good for Israel. We'll soon find out how Zionistic the postman really is.

Then he said that I should focus on training people with unskilled labor instead of finding more unskilled labor for them to do.

I thought about that and I disagree. There will always be unskilled people looking for work. There will always be people who are in between jobs and need something to earn a couple pennies before they find their next opportunity. Outsourcing unskilled labor because it is cheaper will end up costing your country a lot more in the long run, because with each job that you send overseas you will increase the social programs in your own country, paid for by your taxes.

Not everyone is as motivated as you and I are. There are people who are happy going to work putting in their sweat and blood and coming home at the end of a hard day with 100 shekels. I think the key to the economy is having enough unskilled labor jobs available to keep people off of the social programs.

The solution has to be in inventing new needs for unskilled labor in your home country instead of trying to get it outsourced from overseas to you. Coming up with unskilled things for people to do, that will more then pay for itself is a difficult task. The main question is this: If I had 100 people in a room who were willing to do what I asked them to, how could I best capitalize on that? What kind of Israeli service can be provided to either Israelis or foreigners, without trying to steal jobs away from other countries.

100 people in a room. Different language skills, different physical and mental abilities, different backgrounds. They will be happy to work for a minimum wage. There must be some method of pulling out top performers and training them to be more then unskilled laborers if they are interested in that.

This is a tough one. Entrepeneurship at its best. Except backwards. Instead of coming up with an idea and figuring out how to best implement it, here we have an implementation and have to figure out an idea to utilize it.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

that green thing

All green and scrunched up, it doesn't have a chance
there's no way it can just get out there and dance
crippled that way for life an eternity of shame
There's no one but God who can take the blame

The darkness is calling the green thing starts rocking
While dragging and sliding it's ticking and tocking
Moving on quickly to that wrong side of the force
Where niceness is frowned on, its good to be coarse

Those who are watching - not so sure what to do
One arab stands up and he shows it his shoe
But the green thing ignores all the shouts and the mob
They want to accept me they're not like this snob

It struggles and struggles determined to prevail
Thinking the dark side is for it the holy grail
Needing to be accepted by anyone or anything
Conquering facts and fears he ignores the warning

When it gets there it sticks out its hand to say hi
The ones who first see hm all let out a cry
tis good that you've came, we're starving out here
they slapped it on the back and passed around beer

Then they lit up the bbq and said we'll have a meal
That green crippled thing looks much better then veal.
They threw him on the grill and tied him onto the keel
And they waited until he was more then just rare
Then they ate that wretched creature without even a care.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

holocaust day

I saw a headline on Arutz Sheva's website today that shocked me.
Katzav Asks World Not to Ignore Calls to Destroy Israel
If anything, you would expect to hear a line like that coming out of Iran, not from the President of Israel. There are those that will say that's not what he meant and that the translation is bad. But you never know.

I stood up quietly for 2 minutes today while the siren blared. A country in silence in memory of 6 million Jews who lost their lives only because they were Jewish. This is a secular day of remembrance that we are Jews. It is a day for the secular to remember that we are Jews and why we can't assimilate and that there is something special about the Jewish people.

The religious have many days for this, from Tisha B'av, on one end of the spectrum, which is the day of Jewish tragedy which includes the holocaust, to Purim, on the other end of the spectrum, which is the celebration of a time when the Jews were not destroyed for a change.

The main difference between the religious days of tragedy and the secular day of tragedy is the focus. On religious days of tragedy, we focus on the problem - on the cause of the tragedy (or in the case of Purim the cause of the salvation), we look inwards and say we brought it on ourselves. We promise to be better Jews and we look forward to religious salvation in the form of the mashiach. On the secular day of tragedy, people look outwards and try to assign blame on the nations of the world that participated in the bloodbath or that stood by silently and watched it happen. There is no introspection that maybe we were being punished as a nation. They say the State of Israel is the answer to the holocaust because next time we will fight back.

I see Holocaust day as a sad reminder that secular Jews of today do not take responsibility for their actions. It is not up to the rest of the world to remember and never forget, it is up to us to remember and never forget.

no politics

I'm trying not to write anything about politics because the coalition negotiations are just too disturbing.

As an example, AG Mazuz said Lieberman, head of Yisroel Baytaynu, cannot legally be minister of Internal Security because they are investigating him for accepting money from the same guy who Sharon was being investigated for taking money from. Mazuz had no problem with him being prime minister, who is over the minister of Internal Security. He also had no problem with HaNegbi, the current minister of Internal Security, who was also being investigated during the time he was in office.
This is the same AG who said he couldn't prove the chief rabbi did anything wrong so he should resign by himself instead of being given a chance to prove himself innocent.
It's obvious that Olmert is going to keep this guy as his new AG, he plays the right kind of ball.

Instead of politics, I have a funny story.

My driver this morning asked me if I fix computers. I told him that it depends on what's wrong with it. He said that nothing was wrong with it yet he just wanted to know if he could bring it to me if there was a problem. He had a computer and they took it to the repair shop to get fixed. For some reason he didn't call the repair shop back for a month. When he finally called back to find out if it was fixed yet, the guy told him that he already sold it.
Yes. He took the computer and instead of fixing it, or after fixing it, he sold it to someone else, probably as a new computer. He then offered my driver a new computer for the price of fixing the other one. I would bet that he takes a machine that is half as good, that he stole from someone else and gives that to him hoping that he doesn't know the difference.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

pesach vacation

Sometimes it is necessary to just leave for a little bit. Tasks get repetitive and you start feeling closed in. Pesach was a nice opportunity to take a step back. I spent a lot of time with the family, something we don't get a chance to do very often, and even though it is a bit much being with children all day every day, I did enjoy myself. (though my dear wife might tell you that I didn't)
I even took off an extra day and went on a final tiyul on Thursday. We missed the belly dancers at mimoona, but jumping into the pools at the upper zavyaton was well worth it. More on that later.

The only company we had for the seder was my sister, so we really did a kid-focused seder. As always the high point of the evening was the essig fleisht (In yiddish it means "eat meat" and is comprised of stringy meat with meatballs) with the 10 commandments coming in a close second. This year number 1 was Moshe, number 2 was God, number 3 got to throw some of the plagues and my wife was paroh. I was the uberlord and told god what to do. Number 4 just wanted to play with the dead cow (5th plague). 1 found the afikomen that 4 had hid, so it was a good thing my wife convinced me to get presents for not only number 4. Our minhag (which I started last year) was the child who finds the afikomen has to give everyone else presents. Since they don't have presents and I don't want them to cry I give them the presents to hand out. So everyone got an afikomen present. We finished eating the afikomen an hour and a half before chatzos, just to be extra machmir (pesach is all about the chumra) and completely finished the seder before 12.

Friday we started the tiyulim. We picked up my cousin and his girlfriend at the train station at 11 and headed to nachal yechiam, right next to yechiam castle and yechiam meat producing place. My wife turned around with number 4 after about 10 minutes and we continued down without them. When we got to the bottom, I pondered climbing the hill again and didn't like the thought of it. Luckily I had my trail map and decided it wasn't such a far distance to the road at the end. When we got there I called my wife and asked her to pick us up. She had a hard time finding us, because there weren't any good signs, but after some time she arrived. It was a good 3 hour hike.

Sunday morning we left at 5:30 AM to go camping by the dead sea. The plan was shachris at some yishuv on in the Jordan valley and then heading on down to ein gedi for nachal arugot, a 5 hour hike. We were in Nachal arugot when it started to rain. It doesn't rain by the dead sea ever and certainly not on pesach, but apparantly someone forgot to mention that to God and we got soaked. Meanwhile number 1's sandal completely ripped in the missle of the hike and she was just hopping along. We finally got out and by the time everyone made it out of there the rain had pretty much stopped. But the campground place said they were flooded so we decided to open up the grills and have a bbq by the dead sea while we figured out what to do. It started raining again in the middle of the bbq so I opened the trunk and moved the grill underneath, for protection from the rain. Some friends found us a place to stay in the Masada youth hostel and we had an enjoyable evening there.
Next day we did the masada sand dunes and the kids had a great time running up and down, but by the time we finished, I had one kid barefoot and another one crying for no reason so we decided to head on home. Lunch was in Qumran and we got back home around 6:30. We did manage to stop by the dried up section of the Dead Sea and pick up some salt.

On Thursday we headed out on what will forever be known as the sandal hike. For those of you new to this concept, here's how it works.
Wife says: There's a shoe store near katzrin that I want to go to, can we go on a hike in that area?
So we went to Yaar Yehudiya, and did the upper zavyatan. It was anice hike, but the water is too deep for kids. There wasn't any place that I could stand and the water was so cold that after swimming a bit it took me about 10 minutes to catch my breath.
Also the shoe store was nowhere near katzrin, it was next to kiryat shemona. But she did get a very good deal and the exact type of sandals she was looking for.

My advice: if you are going to go on a hike because there is a show store nearby, find out where the shoe store is first.

We then went to tzfat for dinner, we couldn't find the burger place I was looking for, so we ate pizza and headed off for home.

Friday we did some bike riding at the agam and had a quiet shabbos.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

seder questions

My wife told my eldest daughter that seder night was the night of questions, so she asked me if she could ask any question she wanted. I of course said sure, so she hit me with one out of left field. "Daddy, why did the prime minister fall asleep in the hospital for a very long time?" Talk about הוריני נא דרכך. My immediate response was because he was old and fat.
This morning I thought about a better response and I explained to her that we don't understand why hashem makes people sick.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a bit of chizuk

Normally I don't post on non work days, and today is a non work day. Today, as I watch my chametz burn and my children dance to the pesach music I thought that I would give a final pesach message to my readers.

Remember, Pesach is not only about us going out of Egypt and it's not only about God taking us out of Egypt.

It is about the combination of us and God meshing together to build perfection in the world which He created imperfectly to give us the chance to perfect it.

As the quote goes, "Your spouse is not the korbon pesach and your children are not chametz"

Try to focus on the big picture of who we are and why we are doing this and try to ignore any little things that bother you.

Happy Pesach.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

from slavery to freedom

I was thinking about Pesach this morning. We are supposed to look at
ourselves as if we are actually going from slavery to freedom right
now. That is very hard to visualize, as our lives are not physically
changing as they changed back when the Jews actually left Egypt.

This afternoon we are having a toast at the office in honor of the
holiday and I was wondering if there was any connection between the
holiday that I will be celebrating and the holiday that the other
employees (non-religious) will be celebrating.

An idea hit me that Pesach is also called the holiday of spring, which
signifies rebirth. What is the idea of slavery? Slavery is having no
control over events. You have do what you are told to do. There is a
foregone conclusion to actions. What is freedom? Freedom is the
ability to decide the outcome based on your actions. It is the ability
to be your own person and change what should/could happen by natural
events by doing something to "shake it up."

I think we can look at slavery as the past. You cannot change the
past, whatever happened already happened. It is locked in place
without any ability to improve. Hindsight is 20/20, but by that time
that game is already over.

On the other hand, you can look at freedom as the future. You can
change the future by your actions. You can wake up in the morning and
decide where you want to go today, what you want to do and what you
hope to accomplish.

Now it is a lot easier to understand going from slavery to freedom and
connect every Jew, whether religious or not, in the celebration of the
same holiday. Pesach is the holiday where you look forward to the
future, where you declare, the past already happened and there is
nothing I can do about it, but now we have the rebirth of spring, we
are going forwards towards freedom, towards the ability to choose how
we want our lives to turn out.
We are leaving slavery, the past that cannot be changed, and going to
freedom, where the world is wide open for us to make of it what we

Monday, April 10, 2006

מותר לך מותר לך מותר לך

One of the big dangers of pesach cleaning is that women tend to go a little bit overboard in their cleaning frenzy and say that a number of things that were actually permitted are forbidden. This doesn't seem like a big problem except that Judaism handles speech in a very severe manner. If someone says that something is forbidden to him then it becomes forbidden. For example if you say Bread is now forbidden to me then for you bread is treif as pork.

This can be a big problem with women running around assuring everything including the kitchen sink and that's why this is one time a year when men really have to use the power entrusted to them by God. One of the coolest things written in the Torah is that if a woman makes a vow and her husband (or father when she's younger) doesn't accept it, he just says מותר לך מותר לך מותר לך and it's as if the vow was never made.

This power vested in us should be used sparingly, as wives would take the frying pan to their husbands rather quickly if they revoked every word that came out of their mouths, but during this chag season it is especially important to have those words on your lips and as you are cleaning something that your wife just assured, remember to say מותר לך מותר לך מותר לך. It saves a lot of hassle and she will really appreciate it when she understands how you are saving her from herself.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

pesach hagaddah

I just wanted to share an email conversation that I had with my

Sister: I got R' Moti's Hagaddah :-)
I'll let you see it if you're really lucky.
Rock: He's the guy who spat at the dati leumi and said I won't join your political movement?
Sister: sorta
Sister: Oh...when you get to hell...request a seat in the non-Hitler section...i hear those are going fast...

Pizza popola

I got an email today stating that the regular restaurants we order
from will be closed for the holiday, so we will be ordering from pizza
popolo, who delivers anyways. Happy Holidays.

I think the email should have ended, " we will be serving matza and
cream cheese in the 4th floor conference room."

God did this so I would have felt incredibly guilty working on
chol hamoed.

I reckon nobody who is upset about this would eat there anyways, so a
call to boycott them would be preaching to the choir. Who can I report
this restaurant to for serving chametz on pesach? And if Lieberman
becomes the Interior Minister is that good for the Jews or bad for the

pesach is here

Well at least in our house it is. We switched over the kitchen Friday and ate out both meals shabbos. Our local caterer had meals in the shuls at a very reasonable price and the food was delicious.

I went out afikomen present shopping today and I decided that the boys will get the afikomen this year, because I didn't find any presents for the girls. I also think that the present I found for my older son is probably more appropriate for the little guy so in the end he gets 2 presents and everyone else gets none and now I just have to figure out how to make sure he gets it and nobody else does.

Pesach means vacation for us, and I am taking chol hamoed as vacation and we're going camping in the dead sea area with some friends. A bunch of families planned on going with us, and so far there is 1 family roughing it in the campgrounds with us and 2 other families who will be staying at a motel in the area and travelling with us during the day. (And I'll bet they're going to want to bbq with us as well.)

One family that we are going with was looking for an enclosed roof carrier for their car. They found it in America for $160 and in Israel for 6000 shekels. The same carrier, made by the same company and probably imported from the same country.

This is the problem with a non-competitive market. We brought everything with us when we made aliyah and Israelis look at some of the things we have that are pretty standard in America, like a swingset or a gas grill as extravagant because here they cost a minimum of triple the price from what we paid.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

the car saga

I don't think I posted the first part of the car saga, and the current episode won't make any sense without it so that post is on the bottom of this one. Those who already know the car story can skip the bottom section.

Yesterday was the first day my taxi was supposed to meet me at the train station. I told him I get oout of the building at exactly 7:20 and he said he would be there between 7:20 and 7:30 and I told him I needed him there at exactly 7:20 and he said that over the course of time we'll get it perfect. So yesterday he calls me as I am getting off the train and asks me where I am. I told him that I was at the train station and he said ok, the taxi will be there in 15-20 minutes. I told him no way and I was going to take the bus. He told me to go find another taxi and he would pay for it. I thought that was ridiculous because the bus is so much easier and it leaves right away. So I took the bus. I told him if he is not there right on time then it is more of a hassle then a benefit.

Today we missed the train, because our sherut didn't find people so it couldn't leave. So I took the next train 10 minutes later. I called my guy and he said the driver would be there right on time. I told him I would be 10 minutes late. So I get off the train and I'm standing right where I said I would and I'm waiting and waiting and waiting and it is time for the next bus to leave. The driver calls me and asks me where I am. He sent someone for me today and the guy couldn't find me. I told him I was exactly where I said I would be. The door closest to the bus station. The taxi rolls by a minute later. He said he was waiting by the other door because he thought that would be better for me. Only in Israel would a taxi driver decide that it is better for you to be in a different place then you told him you would be and then wait there.
We beat the bus by 1 minute.

The beginning of the story

One of the popular benefits you get working in the hi tech industry in Israel is a car. The car is taken care of by the company 100%. Including gas and maintenance. When I got hired I asked about the car benefit and I was told (and I don't remember the exact words) that they don't give a car for 2 years because they want to see how we work together first and make sure it is a good match.

At my first end of year meeting, my boss mentioned something about working more hours and I mentioned that if I had a car I would be more flexible with my hours and they said it was too early for a car and that my working hours are fine and they didn't mean that I should work more.

During the course of the past 2 years two other employees mentioned the 2 years clause to me in different contexts. Aside from that everyone, except for the girls on the third floor, in the comapny who was here longer then me has a company car. Except for one guy and he was fired and I don't know how long before me he was there.

At this end of year meeting I decided not to bring up the car because I figured I can wait another 4 months until my time is up and I didn't want to ask for any favors. So 3 weeks ago, about a month before my 2 years was up I asked my boss what the story with the car was. He said all benefits are decided at the end of year meeting and I would have to bring it up then. So then I checked with our policy person who said a car is not an automatic benefit, it is a negotiated benefit. So I explained the situation to my boss and he decided that the company would increase my travel compensation in the meantime and then we could discuss the car at the next end of year meeting.
He then decided that he would also send a taxi to pick me up from the train station every morning. That didn't make a lot of sense because the bus that I take leaves 5 minutes after I get off the train (or 10 minutes if I miss the first train), and it takes 15 minutes to get to my office. The taxi, if he is there exactly on time, would save me at the most 5 minutes. They are paying him 35 shek a day to pick me up and the bus costs less then 5. It is slightly more confortable
in the taxi but it is more stressful because I have to worry about being late and all that.

8 more months until the next meeting, I won't miss the opportunity again.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

trumah and maaser

In Israel there are certain laws that you have to follow that you don't have to follow outside of Israel. Some of these laws include taking off a portion of fruit and vegetables and leaving them aside for other purposes that aren't relevant today. However, you can't eat the food until this portion has been taken off. This is called Terumah and Maaser. Actually 2 out of every 7 years you are supposed to give the maaser to poor people, and we actually do that today by giving them the value of a tenth of the produce.

We have some fruit trees in our yard and it is a pain to take off each time you pluck a lemon, for example. So I asked a friend about it and he said that you can take off one time from all the ripe fruit that is still on the tree. So we took off some fruit and said everything that is currently ripe has now had trumah and maaser taken from it. Then we used the fruit without taking off terumah and maaser again.

Another friend of ours told us that we will burn in hell because you are not allowed to do that. He had an English book of the laws that said very specifically you can't do it and if you need to then ask a Rabbi. Which says to me that there are ways to do it, you just have to find out how.

I asked the rabbi and he said that you can't do it. So I went back to my friend who said I could and he said it is straight out in the rambam that you can. So I looked and there in black and white it said that you can take from a single group of trees and take off for the still attached fruit from the same group of trees if they are more then a third grown.

My friend is a Yemenite and they actually paskan by the Rambam, so that was good for him, but I needed to see it in the shulchan aruch, which is how we paskan. Usng pretty much the same words as the rambam, it says pretty clearly in yoridayah that you can do what we wanted to do. So I went back to the rabbi with the book and I said, it seems to say here that I can do what I wanted to do.

The rabbi and I disagreed on the point that the shulchan aruch was making. First it says you can not take off from what was not attached onto what is attached and then it says but you can if it is from the same group of trees. I thought the maiun difference was it is from the same group of trees and he thought that it was saying something else.

In any case, the rabbi is going to look it up in a sefer that is clearer on this subject. He thinks he remembers that the main problem is that if it grows an extra inch then I am still obligated to take off from that extra inch.

I'll keep you updated.