“I can’t answer that yes or no, unless you give me time for a long speech on it” -Ayn Rand in her HUAC testimony

I have very nearly completed reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It was on our bookshelf while I was growing up, but I never paid much attention to it. My mother suggested I read it, which was probably why I didn’t touch it for so many years. When my super cutie-pie niece was born in March, my mom came to visit. Along with the baby gifts for my sister, she brought me some books. Deciding to be open minded for a change, and knowing that many of my friends had read the book and enjoyed it, I gave it a try.

At first I thought it was such an interesting story. I liked the characters and their relationships, and I didn’t mind the wordiness too much. But then the story didn’t end. It still hasn’t, eight months later. It just keeps getting worse. Now I hate the characters and I hope they all die tragically. (I’m not done yet so if that’s not what happens, don’t tell me!) It’s true that I believe most novels would be better off as short stories, but this book takes the cake in terms of being preachy and repetitive. We get it, Ayn Rand! You think government should stay out of business and personal affairs and also that people are stupid. The concept of writing philosophy in the form of a novel is so wonderful and it really could have been amazing, regardless of how I feel about her crazy, unrealistic, extremist philosophy.

But that is not what most upsets me about Ayn Rand (who was actually named Alisa Rosenbaum). Her books may be wordy and preachy, but at least she had conviction, right? Wrong. Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. She spent thousands of pages writing about Objectivism: “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” One who lives according to this philosophy should strongly object to any attempt to directly stifle another’s productivity.

Yet Ayn Rand was a member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the preservation of American Ideals, which stated: “…As members of the motion-picture industry…we refuse to permit the effort of …totalitarian-minded groups to pervert this powerful medium into an instrument for the dissemination of un-American ideas and beliefs. We pledge ourselves to fight…to divert the loyalty of the screen from the free America that give it birth.”

Really, Ayn? It’s ok to prevent someone who has different beliefs than you from “productive achievement” (ie publishing books or producing movies)? Rand was active in several anti-Communist groups aimed at stifling free speech. That’s all well and good if you believe that nobody else is entitled to have a different opinion than yours. But if you believe that everyone is entitled to “reason as (one’s) only absolute”, HOW DARE YOU try and stop someone from pursuing his “noblest activity” by participating in these groups and testifying in HUAC?!

Even Ayn Rand can’t live up to her own ridiculous extremist philosophy. I think Atlas Shrugged is best left as a long-winded novel, not a philosophy book. In an article recently sent to me, Atlas Shrugged was described as such: “Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.”

For those who know me, I have an intense dislike of poor customer service. As I live in a country in which customer service is near the bottom of the priority list of most companies, this is a challenge for me. While in an ordinary situation I might just get up and walk out when treated like garbage by someone who is taking my money, in Israel there is not really anywhere else to go.

One commonly experienced example of this is service in the grocery store. I’m sure you all have crazy stories of horrible grocery experiences, but we don’t have much a choice if we don’t have cars to go to a farther store. There are countless incidents shared which tell the stories of dealing with the services of our beloved cell-phone companies. I do not wish a trip to the cell-phone store on my worst enemy. I’ve heard of people threatening to switch, and in fact have threatened my service provider on several occasions. But it is an empty threat because I know I wouldn’t be better off elsewhere. It is also not uncommon to be yelled at by customer service representatives of various industries. Lately, I’ve been experiencing issues with customer service (or lack thereof) in the transportation realm.

As I live near Tel-Aviv and work in Jerusalem, I have quite a commute to the office. My husband, Ayal, recently started a job in Jerusalem as well. It has been really wonderful getting to take the long bus rides together. When I was taking the bus alone, I never really noticed how absurd some of the things the bus companies get away with are. But waiting for over an hour on a regular basis for a bus that should be coming every ten minutes is a bit ludicrous. Until today I had been content with the waiting because it was just reality and I didn’t really consider that there was an alternative. So what caused me to open my eyes? Last night we were waiting for the bus for about 45 minutes before concluding that even if the bus did finally come there were too many people waiting and we wouldn’t stand a chance to get a seat. We decided to go into the Central Bus Station, where we could get a bus with a slightly longer route that isn’t scheduled to come as often, run by a different bus company. We figured if we went at that moment, we’d arrive right on time for the bus. Boy were we wrong. Well, in theory we were right. The bus was supposed to come when we got there. But we, along with 30 other people waiting there, watched as the display board flashed that the bus was departing (twice) with no bus in sight.

Every night Ayal says he’s going to write a strongly worded letter to Egged, complaining about their terrible service. He would like to call them, but there is nobody to answer the phone in the evenings and even if someone was there it wouldn’t make a difference because we know they don’t care. Last night was the final straw for him. This afternoon, he actually called them. It went a little something like this:

Ayal: According to your website the bus is supposed to come every 10 minutes, but we wait for hours and if any bus does pass by, it is full.
Egged: The buses leave every ten minutes but if they are full they skip stops.
Ayal: Would you consider sending more buses, knowing that so many people are waiting to get on the bus at that time of day?
Egged: No, just take another bus line. You can get a Dan Line bus from inside the Central Bus Station.

Thank you, Egged. How productive. It’s not like the goal of your company is to provide transportation to people who need it. Oh wait… Yes it is. But the thing that really got me frustrated was that this morning, for the first time since I started my job in April, the bus actually came on time. It arrived at my stop on schedule, and missed all the terrible morning traffic at the Jerusalem city entrance. I was able to make my connecting bus, and got to work in an hour and fifteen minutes. Usually it takes me at best an hour and forty minutes, and at worst it’s taken up to two and a half or even three hours. Knowing that I can get there in less than an hour and a half but usually have to spend an extra hour because of their incompetence made me realize how terrible their service truly is. And then to hear their response: “Take another bus line” is just enraging. Why don’t you care about your customers? Because we have nowhere else to go. The bus that comes “every ten minutes” is my best option, and they know it.

A large number of Israeli citizens have moved into tents to protest the high cost of housing. They are upset because they cannot afford to live near where they work. I was very confused by this because I do not live near where I work, and I’m fine with that. But then when I understood today how terrible the public transportation truly is, I understand why they do not feel comfortable buying homes too distant from their workplaces. Purchasing a car is extraordinarily out of the question, given the 100% tax on the exorbitantly priced cars, and they are not willing to wait three hours for a bus that should come every ten minutes. Perhaps these things would be more productive issues to tackle than trying to get the government to subsidize living in expensive cities.

I like food in general, but ice cream is it’s own special category of wonderful. Once I even went on an “ice cream diet” with a friend. We ate ice-cream for lunch one day; a tub of Ben & Jerry’s each. Don’t judge. Who among us has never finished a carton of ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s containers aren’t that large, by the way.

This morning said friend shared an article announcing a new kind of ice cream in Israel. An investment group has decided to sponsor an Israeli ice cream brand to stimulate competition with imported ice creams. The low-fat ice cream recipe was invented by an Israeli chef from the Galilee working with a gastronomer, using local goat milk.

I look forward to tasting their new flavors, although punctuation in the article caused a bit of confusion in regard to what these flavors actually are. The article says there are “four pretty ordinary flavors: Chocolate, vanilla and coconut, coffee and melon”. Since these are only three flavors, and I assume coffee and melon flavored ice cream is not so ordinary, I postulate that what the author intended was “Chocolate, vanilla and coconut, coffee, and melon”. But I digress…

As excited as I am by the new ice cream and the “coffee and melon” flavor and the idea of an Israeli brand using local products, the concept of the brand weirds me out a bit. The brand has no name. Is not having a brand the new branding? What does that even mean? How can you market a brand with no name?

They are packaging their ice cream with a picture of a scoop of ice cream on the lid, in the hopes that they will become known as “the ice cream with the moon on the package” because the scoop looks kind of like a moon. It’s unclear why they think people will call it a moon instead of an ice cream scoop.

I’m no marketing expert, but as a consumer I’d probably call them “the brand that lacks any vision or creativity so they couldn’t come up with a name” or “tbtlavocstccuwan” for short. Their concept is to not have a concept. That just seems lazy to me. In addition to being an utterly (no pun intended) lame branding tactic, it also limits them from ever doing anything with their brand that doesn’t involve a picture of a lunar-esque ice cream scoop. If Ben and Jerry ever wanted to do something else, like produce sandwiches, for example, they would be able to use their brand name. Tbtlavocstccuwan, on the other hand, has limited themselves to tubs of ice cream. Perhaps they could expand to popsicles if they really wanted to spread their wings.

I am excited to try this brand-less ice cream, but I hope they do themselves a favor and come up with a name. My instinct tells me to go for chocolate since that’s generally the best flavor, but I’m also considering vanilla and coconut since I think those will combine nicely with the goat milk. What do you think?

Last week my dad mentioned that it’s been a while since I last posted on my blog and my readers at home were asking about me. It’s true I haven’t written in a while, and so much has happened in that time. I got a job, which I love even though it’s over an hour and a half commute each way. Then there was passover. Our small apartment was crammed full of guests, just as we like it. My mom came, which was an absolute pleasure. I have a new little baby niece. She’s a super cutey and I can’t stop making her headbands and looking at pictures my sister sends. These aren’t really excuses for not blogging, but I just wanted you to know that I didn’t forget about you, I’ve just been fantastically busy, fortunately only with good things.

I quickly adjusted to the workload at work, but the commute really takes a lot out of me. By the time I get home I’m drained of all energy and creativity. Last week I finally got a smart phone. I was perfectly content with my semi-intelligent phone, but with my daily phone calls throughout my lengthy commute my husband was becoming less content with our phone bill. Our service provider also noticed the change and called to offer us a better plan (that happened to come with a better phone).
I was never one of those people who must check her email every spare second. In fact, I’m the kind of person who often avoids checking email for up to a week, so I’m not really sure what to do with a smart phone. I got some advice from friends, but I’m still exploring all the features and options and apps my new, shiny, brilliant phone offers me. It didn’t take me long to discover the wordpress app. Now I can write while I’m on the bus to/from the office. So as I sit in the terrible traffic in Jerusalem I can share my thoughts with my family, friends and online community. This is still new and exciting and I’m still figuring it out, but hopefully I’ll be able to write more frequently (and play lots of Angry Birds).

It’s always important to have a positive attitude. It’s hard to find an upside to being laid off, but until its time to pay the bills it’s pretty easy to find a silver lining in being unemployed.

Despite being home all day, I have managed to find productive ways to spend my time that with activities that I would otherwise have a difficult time doing. For example, this blog. I have exercised nearly every day this week, eaten healthier and found time for writing. I’ve been able to enjoy coffee with friends before beginning my search for work. I’ve begun teaching myself and practicing skills that will hopefully help me with my next job.

The danger of this view, on the other hand, is that it’s easy to become complacent. While I enjoy the freedom of unemployment and have been taking advantage of it, I have to continue to strive to create and reach goals for myself each day. Hopefully with a bit of hard work and dilligence I’ll find a job that will allow me to do what I love.

I just read an interesting (and rather humorous) article about Angry Birds and SEO (Search English Optimization/making your website come up higher on Google). I have recently become interested in learning about SEO and the intricacies of online marketing (as you may have picked up from my earlier posts). Between job hunting and blogging (and a bit of freelance work which I am happy to get more of if you know of anything), I have been reading up on SEO. This article compares lessons learned from Angry Birds that can also apply to SEO. For example, “Different problems require different specialists”. Each type of bird has its own “specialty” such as exploding or flying extra fast. So too, SEO tactics must be varied depending on the challenge at hand.

For those of who you don’t know, Angry Birds is a game which involves slinging angry-looking birds in the general direction of pigs which are hiding under various obstacles. The aim is to get rid of the pigs by either hitting them directly or causing something to hit them. When my husband first got the game on his iphone, I thought it seemed ridiculous. Slinging birds to destroy pig? What is that? What really baffled me though was his addiction to the game. Everyone I’ve ever seen with the game on their phone can’t seem to stop playing. It didn’t take me long to figure it out once he let me play a level. I couldn’t put it down! The game is so simple, but some levels are deceptively difficult, and you feel like you can’t quit until you beat the whole game. It only takes a short time to complete a level, so time flies and you don’t realize how long it’s been since you last ate or slept or bathed. If I ever learn to program, I would model my game after Angry Birds. Everyone loves cartoon animals and a challenge they can master. Additionally, I would try and somehow work into the game lessons on how to use apostrophes, because misplaced apostrophes really irk me.

Aside from enjoying writing, I also like being right. (I would also like to demonstrate that I am, in fact, aware of the correct usages of the words rite, right, write and wright, despite the pun in the title of this blog.)

I love English. I didn’t appreciate the language, truly, until I moved to Israel. There are few things as gratifying as being able to communicate fluently. Growing up, I was always taught to vary my word choice and use synonyms to prevent repetitiveness. In Hebrew, my vocabulary is so limited that I was really unable to do that. When I was studying in Ulpan to improve my Hebrew language skills (and because it was required by University) I sat down with my teacher to go over a paper I had written. In each case I had attempted to use a synonym, she told me to change it to the original word. I did not understand. “I already used that word twice in the previous paragraph. Isn’t there another word I can use that means the same thing?” Apparently there isn’t. I love that English is such a flexible, diverse language. There are several words for nearly everything, each with its own, nuanced meaning.

In addition to being able to choose the right words for myself, I enjoy being able to do it for others. For this reason, I get pleasure out of editing other peoples’ work. I like correcting people and being right, and I also relish in knowing the best word to use to express the desired point.

In the title of this blog, I changed the word “right” (as in the direction) for the word “write” (meaning to represent language with text). Not that I feel judged by you, I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page…

When I was young I very much enjoyed reading Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy”. Harriet used to walk around with a notebook, spying on people and writing down her thoughts. (Spoiler alert!) She is eventually caught when her friends find her notebook and are offended by the things she wrote about them. Although they were her private thoughts, she was punished by her parents and social group.

Harriet taught me two lessons. The first was never to write anything down that you wouldn’t mind someone seeing. Nothing is sacred, not even notebooks or journals, and especially not diaries. I know that wasn’t the point of the book, it’s just something I very much feared. The second was that one should always carry a notebook and pen. Like Harriet, I used to write down my thoughts and impressions of people, but I was smart enough to never write about people I actually knew. I would see people on the street and make up their stories; who they were, what they were like, where they came from and where they were going. Mostly these stories were based on the clothing of the person and the location in which they were spotted. I still do that, but not in a notebook. Today I saw a grown-man with a Gryffindor backpack. Instead of writing in my notebook, I text-messaged a friend.

Today I have so many notebooks scattered around my apartment and at least one with me at all times, each with a purpose. These notebooks are used for everything. I keep recipes, to-do lists, information, plans and ideas. When I’m on my way to a job interview and an idea pops into my head for a blog post, for example, I write it down. Every morning I write down the things I want to get done throughout the day ahead, and it feels great to check them off as I accomplish my goals. My notebooks are a great way to stay organized and focused (and spy on people).

A friend recently introduced me to something called “spoken word poetry”. He recommended I check out a young woman named Sarah Kay. Spoken word poems are preformed as opposed to being just simply read. While Sarah Kay’s spoken poetry is really quite lovely and moving, I can’t imagine getting so into the genre.

I always had a difficult time with poetry. If you want to say something, just say it! Why bother with metaphors and similes? Why force the reader to read between the lines? That is, of course, the whole beauty of poetry. It means something different to the author and to each individual reader. Speaking the poetry takes away a lot of the subtleties of it. The challenge of poetry is to convey meaning and tone using words, but when reading it aloud this becomes the simplest aspect.

Written text is given no such opportunity to explain or defend itself with tone and clarifications. The author does not get to see the audiences’ reactions and improve with each performance. When a writer publishes text, that is the end. The writer must be perfectly clear in everything in order to convey the message intended, and the reader always has free reign to misinterpret as desired.

That is why, as delightful as spoken word poetry is, I will stick with the written word and the power of the pen.

I recently began trying to learn about Twitter. While social media networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn were fairly easy for me to pick up on, it took me a while to understand the purpose of Twitter.

My initial assumption was that Twitter was Facebook statuses only, used to update the world on the mundane activities of Joe Shmoe. No offense, Joe, but I am just not interested in a play-by-play of your boring life. After a bit of research, I learned that I was very much mistaken in my underestimation of the power of Tweeting.

The sharing of links has become an extremely popular method of spreading information, whether it is personal, news or business-related. When used properly, Twitter can be an amazing marketing and networking tool.

My favorite thing about Twitter is that it encourages brevity. As Shakespeare (and Mr. Kaufman, my high-school history teacher) said, “brevity is the soul of wit”. My absolute least favorite thing, on the other hand, is the obscene butchering of English grammar people use to stay within the character limit. I don’t think that’s what Shakespeare had in mind.

Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be able to follow me on Twitter in the near future…

May 2017
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