The Secret to Happiness, Voting, and Murder

I’ve discovered the secret to happiness. I mean, maybe it’s not a secret, and maybe it doesn’t work all of the time, but still.

Whenever you spend money, when you get back your change, instead of putting it back into your wallet, just shove the bills in your pocket, and forget about it. This way, later in the day, when you reach in your pockets for whatever reason, and you find the bills, you get this wave of euphoria. Free money! It works even better if you do this at the end of the day, and don’t notice the money again until the next day, or when you go through your clothes pockets before you do a wash (note: if you aren’t in the habit of checking your pockets before doing a wash, then this may not be the best idea for you.).

I just read an interesting article in Slate. One of the best things about Slate is the little box that appears at the bottom of every article with five related stories. This means I can read for hours, linking from one story to the next, finding old articles from months or even years ago. This one’s from September, 2004, before the elections, about the odds that your vote actually counts. He makes interesting points, one of which is that, statistically (I failed statistics, so I can’t really challenge this, just take him for his word.) in a state with six million voters, the probability that my vote will be the tie breaker election-deciding vote is approximately 1 in 3,100, the same (Again, according to him.) as the probability that I’ll be murdered by my own mother (Sorry Mom, I know you read this.).

Is there really a one in 3,100 chance of being murdered by your mother? That doesn’t seem right to me (Well, of course it doesn’t seem right. What I meant to say was that it doesn’t seem correct.)

I’m trying to keep updating the blog twice a week, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep that up. I might start updating less frequently, or start writing shorter stuff. Also, I think I need actual things to write about.

Purims past

We just had our seudah, and I still feel a little drunk. Or maybe it’s just tired from lack of sleep this week.

Every year my Purims are totally different. I don’t have a feel for what a “normal” Purim is yet; I find that this happens to me often with different chagim. For example, I haven’t been home for Rosh Hashanah in 11 years, since I was 12 years old, and I really don’t know what minhagim we have, if any. I assume we do the whole fish head, pomegranate, apple in honey thing, but I really have no idea.

On the other hand, Purim is the only chag that varies so exceptionally in its observance, from one extreme to the other. Some Purim memories I have:

12th grade, Ner Yisroel. I didn’t drink much, but the entire yeshiva lane got trashed (Trashed? Pissed? Wasted? High? I have trouble keeping track of what refers to drink and what refers to drugs; I think it keeps changing every year. As far as I knew (And I’m sure I’m wrong, but that’s besides the point.) there were no drugs in Ner Yisroel, so trashed means alcohol.). The gemarah says that when a person gets drunk, what you see is his true self, and I believe that’s true. It’s incredible how many yeshiva boys have crushes on their rebbe’s daughters, and equally incredible how many rebbe’s daughters don’t learn their lesson and stay away from their father’s seudahs.

2nd year, KBY. I went to Mike’s place with Asaf Weingarten and a few other Brits. Asaf gave me drink after drink of something he assures me “wasn’t very strong,” and soon I was throwing up on the street. It wasn’t entirely his fault, I guess, I was a bit of a Cadbury back in those days (Thank you Adina.). Moshe and Yitzchak (True friends.), rescued me and drove me to the Mir, where Dani Ungar (Another true friend.) got me a bed, where I spent the next twenty four hours. To this day I have no idea how they found me, or even how they knew Dani Ungar.

Last year, in the army. I have such a clear memory of one of the funniest kriyot hamegilla I have ever heard. Chabadnikim were roaming the city, looking for soldiers on guard duty so they could read the megilla for him and give him coke, hamentashim, krenbos (possibly the most disgusting food ever created by man.), and chabad paraphenilia (possibly the most disgusting…. I’m not going to get into that.). Two guys would go, emdah to emdah, one reading as fast as he can, the other just going nuts every time they say “Haman.” And I mean go nuts; this guy was out of control. I had already heard the megilla in the base beis (funny… I never called it that while I was in the army.), and was just hanging out talking to a friend of mine who was on shmira, when the chabadnikim came, and, without warning, proceeded to do their thing. What we didn’t tell them was that while only I had already heard the megilla, my friend wasn’t even Jewish; he was a Samaritan, which meant he only kept D’oraiytas. Of course, we didn’t tell them, we let them go on for a half an hour more, and then we ate their food.

I have a feeling I should look this post over and maybe wait until tomorrow to put it up, but I’m tired, so here it goes. Enjoy.

The rape of Tevya (and other stories…)

Tomorrow I am going to go to the misrad hapnim and the misrad haklita and take care of everything I have left to do to make aliya. I’d have done it today, but got caught up in a two-day-long Red Alert marathon with Shmuly and Ari. If only I was as good at real life as I am at computer games. I’m only kidding, of course, I actually still suck at computer games, despite a life-long obsession, so there isn’t much of a contrast between my computer life and my regular flesh-and-blood pizza-and-shwarma (pizza first, of course, then shwarma a few minutes later.) life (or lack of one.).

I was flipping through the channels yesterday, and noticed two things. Gwen Stephani made a bizarre decision to cover a fiddler on the roof song (“If I was a Rich Man”, now “If I was a Rich Girl”), accompanied by another odd decision to portray in the video a pirate ship filled with half dressed rappers, Gwen herself dancing on a ship’s anchor, and four Japanese girls smashing a toy boat against a fish tank. The end result is actually pretty interesting, and it makes for a catchy song (though not as good as back when she was with No Doubt), and a fun video, strange as though it may be. The thing is, though, and I don’t think I’m the only one out there that thinks this way, but Gwen Stephani has totally ruined the simplistic shtetl imagery that has always been associated with the song, which is a bit of a shame. She violated Tevya, and now he’ll never be the same again.

The other thing I noticed is that watching professional curling is quite quite boring (Though no more boring than actually playing the game, I think.). The announcer said something that made me laugh, though (In my head. I don’t laugh out loud when I’m watching television by myself. That would make me quite insane.). He was mentioning that one of the teams wanted to switch a player or something, but they couldn’t, because you’re only allowed to pull a man off the bench if one of your players has suffered an injury. I can think of no sport more impossible to suffer injury from than curling. It’s a frikkin’ rock (in official curling terminology; a “frikkin’ stone.”) and a couple of broomsticks, moving very very slowly. It’s the only sport (and I use this term extremely liberally, really in the same sense that golf and billiards are considered sports, and France and Canada are considered countries.) with players who could not possibly pass for “athletes.” Some of these people are just plain chubby. They’re not even on skates, they’re on these weird non-slippery shoes. The only way somebody could get injured playing curling (do you play curling? Or go curling, like fishing, maybe? Who cares? Not me.) is by growing old and dying. Only then would they be allowed to sweep his cold stiff corpse off the ice with their stupid little broomsticks and replace him.

Locked Doors and Gush Katif

I get no exercise at all here. The most I ever get is running up 4 flights of stairs to my apt, and even then I usually stop at the third floor and hang out at one of the girls’ apartments, and eat whatever they have out, thus negating any positive gain from the “workout.” Yesterday, however, I went bike riding with Adam, or tried to.

We agreed to meet by the Ramat Ilan snail (a large concrete sculpture of a snail next to the playground. It has no artistic value whatsoever, it’s just a snail. Everyone just seems to accept it, nobody asks any questions. Why is the snail there? Who put it there? Nobody cares.). When we got there, we both realized that we both had flats, so Adam ran to get his pump. My front tire was so flat that when I leaned on it a little, I could press it totally against the ground, and feel the metal frame pressing, through the tire, against the ground. I may as well have wrapped the spokes in rubber bands and rode off in that.

After Adam got back and we filled our tires, I ran back with the pump to put it back in Moshe’s apartment. To make a long story short, I accidentally went to the wrong apartment, put the key to Moshe’s apartment in that lock, and it wouldn’t come out. I knocked on the door and explained, embarrassingly, what had happened. The girls who lived there were surprisingly ok with a strange man getting a key stuck in their door, but were just on their way out to go to a birthday party. So me and Adam had to wait in their apartment (interesting how they trusted us) until the locksmith arrived (an hour later, and when he got there he just clamped down on the key with pliers and yanked it out in about half a second, and charged me 150 shek. That’s about a million shek an hour. I want to be a locksmith when I grow up.).

Shmuly arrived today at 5am. Seems like everybody in my apartment is (are?) surprisingly heavy sleepers. It appears that it’s possible for somebody to bang on the door and ring the doorbell for over an hour and nobody will wake up, though Ari did have a dream about somebody ringing the doorbell.

Today is a fast day for Gush Katif. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I told Rutgers that as a form of compromise, I’m not going to have any carbs, so I made an omelet this morning. First I put a bit of olive oil in the pan and put it on the fire. Then I started cracking eggs, and cutting up the tomatoes and onions. Shortly thereafter the pan started smoldering and spewing hot globlets of boiling oil in every direction, and the kitchen filled up with smoke. Hot globlets of oil hurt! So, I think I was supposed to do all the prep stuff before I put the pan on the fire. You’ve heard of terrible cooks who burn toast, and we’ve all made fun of people by saying they could burn water, but I actually managed to burn nothing. I’m that pathetic. And I ruined my no carbs pledge when I forgot that orange juice has carbs. Mmm… schut.

Downloading Free (or not so free) Stuff

I slept in today. I had a class at 10, and I woke up at 9, fell back asleep, and woke up again at 10:15. I probably should have gone anyways, but I just didn’t want to walk in late. Now, however, it’s 10:40, and I’m already regretting not going, but now it’s for sure too late. The annoying part is, I was up until 2:30 last night reading Paradise Lost for this class, all for nothing.

What are shoulder blades for? I think mine are double jointed.

I’ve got Led Zeppelin playing on winamp, but I can see there’s a bunch of Oasis songs next on my playlist. It’s too early in the morning for Oasis. It’s never too early for Led Zeppelin.

Back to English: I bought the wrong 250 shek book. That’s really annoying, but I’m going to hold on to it for two reasons. One, I’m going to need it next year. All I have to do is try not to lose it for 6 months. Two, they don’t accept returns if you’ve already broken the shrink-wrap seal, though Ari wants me to try saran wrapping it back together and burning the edges, like we used to shaptzer stuff in the army. Ari’s crazy.

Sarra talked about something I had also wanted to write about. She says a lot of good stuff, but her TV-commercial analogy is wrong. Paying for music or software is not the same as watching commercials in exchange for getting the show for free. TV shows don’t “cost” watching 5 minutes worth of commercials. They are broadcasted for free, with the understanding that 5% of the viewers (or however many) will be lazy enough to actually watch them (or in Ari’s case, not change the channel, but turn the volume way down). If this wasn’t so, then we’d be stealing every time we changed the channel during commercials, walked out of the room, or simply stopped paying attention.

But that’s beside the point. You can’t look at downloading software as something that’s wrong, evil, whatever, and then use the fact that “everybody does it” to do it yourself. It’s an evolution in media, and the networks, music industry, and the movie business are going to have to deal with it themselves. Consumers have already adapted, and the only reason there’s such mayhem out in the market today is that distributors haven’t similarly adjusted. They’re too busy with lawsuits. I’m assuming most of the people reading this are about my age, and we’re too young to remember the TV companies saying that VCRs were putting them out of business, or movie theatres and radio saying that TV was putting them out of business, or newspapers saying that radio was putting them out of business. Yet they all survived, because they adapted. And now, music and software companies are going to have to adapt to the internet. Until they do, they’re going to continue to lose money.

Adina and Adina: See? I do pay attention in Galili!

Professional Laziness

I finally got my phone fixed yesterday. I’ve been pushing it off for about a month now. Whenever I would call somebody, or pick up the phone when somebody called me, I would be able to hear them perfectly, but they wouldn’t be able to hear me. Which meant that, over the span of a month, I got to hear pretty much every single person I know go “Hello?? Hello?? Are you there?” (Interesting thing about Microsoft Word; (yes, I write these things in Word first, then transfer them over into the blog. A little trick I picked up at the Jerusalem Post (yes, I’m double (well, actually already triple and here it’s quadruple.) overlapping parenthesis.).) when I wrote “Hello??” I had written it with only one question mark, and it gave me the questionable-grammar green squiggly. I couldn’t figure out why, so I right clicked, and it “corrected” me by adding another question mark. That was interesting. What was even more interesting was that it still had a green squiggly, and when I clicked again, it added another question mark, and would continue adding question marks for as long as a kept right clicking and going to “suggestions.” Anybody have any idea why it does that? End of absurdly long parenthetical segue.) while I just kept shouting at them “Can you hear me? Just say what you want, I can hear you even if you can’t hear me!” The only one to actually catch on to the fact that I could hear her was British Adina, who would get into long windy conversations by herself, saying whatever she had to say. But I’m getting way off subject here. The point is, (And I do have a point.) I went to the Orange store in Givat Shaul to fix it, and after I gave it in, I had to wait around for a half an hour for them to fix it. So I figured I would go grab some lunch. First I went to a burekkas place. They had a big sign out front saying “Burekkas.” I go in, and ask for a burekka. All out of burekkas, they tell me. So I go right next door, to a place that has a big sign saying “Shwarma.” I order a shwarma, but of course, they don’t have any shwarma. What is it with Israeli fast food places? It was the middle of the afternoon! And they weren’t even closing up or anything, just sitting around doing nothing in a burekkas store with no burrekas or a shwarma stand with no shwarma. I once went to pizza panini (rechov aza, just after the moment café. Terrible pizza, never go there. I was starving.) at about 1 in the morning. This was back when I used to live in Jerusalem.

We walk in and look around. Empty except for a sleepy guy behind the counter. We asked the guy, “Are you still open?”

“Of course, we’re open every night until two!”

So we thought, Hey, pretty cool. Finally a pizza place that’s open late. Even if the pizza is terrible. We order a few slices. Then the guy said he’s sorry, but he’s all out of pizza. All he had was whatever sodas were in the fridge. Not even a calzone. When we asked him why he didn’t just close when he ran out of pizza, he just said again, proudly, “Because we’re open every night until two.” Idiot.

But I think that’s the difference between Americans and Israelis. Americans are lazy, while Israelis want so badly to be lazy that they try too hard. I think it’s because they want to show off that they can be lazy. An American (like me, for example) will wait a month before getting his phone fixed, inconveniencing everyone around him (except, of course, for British Adina) because of laziness, while an Israeli will sit around in an empty restaurant, not putting another pizza in the oven, just to show people he doesn’t have to. Yet he’s staying there another 2 hours doing nothing because “Of course, we’re open every night until 2.”


This is the first time I’m posting a blog (or is it blogging a post?) in the middle of the day, and not at 3 in the morning. Does that mean I have a life, or don’t? You decide. (This was written in the middle of the day. I didn’t end up putting this up until the middle of the night. I guess I have no life)

We watched Million Dollar Baby tonight. It was ok, I wouldn’t have voted it best picture, but I could see it was the kind of movie that wins in Hollywood. It was sort of a cross between Rocky, the Karate Kid, a League of Their Own, and 21 Grams. It had the guy who played Vic the Zeppelin fan from Almost Famous in an incredibly minor and pointless role.

Nobody liked my army post. Rutgers doesn’t like anything political that I say, and Sarit just wants me to write about oranges. She’ll like this one, because there’s going to be monkeys. Monkeys are always fun.

A few nights ago I was jamming with Ari, Feivel and Tsippi. For those of you who don’t know, I play the drums now, or at least I try to. I’ve been playing around with them for a couple of months now. I think, of all the instruments, the drums are the easiest to play. Because we all play drums; like when you bang on a table, or clap your hands in rhythm, (I think rhythm would make a great word to use when playing hangman. I’ll add it to my repertoire, along with repertoire, myrrh, and jellybean) you’re really just playing the drums. An actual drum set is all that separates you from an actual drummer. (And long hair, dark glasses, and an attitude. Unless, of course, you already have long hair, dark glasses, and an attitude)

So there I was, happily banging away at the drums, when I missed a beat. When a drummer misses a beat it’s not like when a guitarist misses a note, or a singer goes off key. It throws everybody off-tempo for a few seconds before he (the drummer, or, in this case, me) can recover. So Ari and Feivel both look at me, and look at each other and say to me “Maybe you should take a little break… sit the next few songs out.” So I leave, shamed and humiliated at my poor drumming.

That’s not the worst part, though. Seconds after I closed the door to the band room behind me, I hear a perfect drum beat. They had replaced me with a synthesizer. A machine took my job (now, why hadn’t they just done this from the beginning, instead of suffering along with my incompetence? I don’t know). I mentioned this to Deenie, and she said that they might as well have trained a small monkey to do my job (happy Sarit?). But when I thought about it, if you found a monkey that could hold down a decent beat, it could probably do my job even better than me. He could use both his hands and both his feet. And maybe even his tail, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Then when it came time to replacing the guitarists, I think larger apes would do the trick. A small monkey, while potentially proficient at the drums, wouldn’t be able to master the guitar like a real ape. We’d have to leave the singer human, so Tsippi could stay. We could call the band “Tsippi and the apes.” All they would need would be long hair, dark glasses, and an attitude.