Thursday, October 27

time well wasted

Via Romenesko:

Ad Age reports that U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs. According to its analysis, about 35 million workers visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them [an average of 40 minutes per day].

As journo-blogger Romenesko notes, "That seems low."

And if we spend that much time reading blogs, how much more time we must be "wasting" -- [snort] -- in writing them.
Technorati, a blog search engine, now tracks 19.6 million blogs, a number that has doubled about every five months for the past three years. If that growth were to continue, all 6.7 billion people on the planet will have a blog by April 2009.

Imagine the work that won’t get done then.

Monday, October 24


Friday, October 21


I am really having trouble continuing to post to this blog while also maintaining any semblance of a life. And that despite the unusual number of days off we wage slaves have enjoyed this month -- seven so far, and another two this coming week.

Two weeks ago I visited our local 2nd-hand English book store and picked up The Corrections for 10 shekels (just over two bucks!) and Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina for another 10. I was very pleased, and rapidly devoured Emma Bovary over the next few days, including a couple of lunchtimes on the grass, eschewing all other social contact.

Reading fiction is like my addiction to jelly beans, which is probably why I haven't done it much in the past 20 years. When I get into a good book, I don't want to put it down for anything, not work, not sleep, not feeding the kid/husband and certainly not going to the gym. So I've really been neglecting everything lately, not just this blog.

Right after that, I dove into the [strangely familiar] world of the dysfunctional Lambert family that is Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. A couple of years ago, while working at a mega-bookstore where I could read anything I wanted, I'd read about 30 pages of this bestseller after reading about the Oprah kerfuffle (she'd chosen it for her book club, and author Franzen was apparently dismayed at the thought of his high literature being embraced by the hoi polloi and didn't have the good sense to keep his arrogance to himself, resulting in the great-and-powerful O backing off in understandable affront; this is my memory of the story, anyway). I guess I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to get into it at that time.

But this time I was, and it gave me such a falling-through-the-rabbit-hole sort of feeling. At certain angles, when I squinted, I felt that I was reading about my own oddball family, and about myself and what I'm doing in the world. It's a challenging read, but rewarding. As I approached the final pages of this 560-page tome, I dreaded its ending -- I always feel so eager, yet so sad to come to the end of a book-relationship -- and, though I'd felt little conscious emotion throughout the book, upon reading the last line, promptly burst into tears. It clearly hit a very precise point. Literary acupuncture. Well done.

In the midst of all this reading, and coinciding with last week's holiday, I had a three-day migraine. As I've noted before, my hormone level just prior to and during my period is clearly the source of this plague, and I've searched in vain so far for solutions that don't involve the big guns of BigPharma. I've now found a new possibility in 5-HTP, which I read about in the blog of someone who's using it instead of Prozac (it's a good natural anti-depressant, apparently, and who can't use more of that?) but it's not sold here, so I had to order it online from the States and will therefore have to pay a bundle extra in customs duty when it arrives. But if it works, who cares? It's unfortunate that when I'm most sensitive to the migraines is also the time when I'm most susceptible to junk food and sugar cravings, which certainly exacerbate the migraines. I didn't resist at all this time, and the results were like Katrina, Rita and Wilma combined: natural disaster cubed.

There are some things just seem out of my control.

Friday, October 14

post-days of awe

Okay. So we're through the dark days when it seems that it's more important than any other time to contemplate your sins. I really don't mean to be disrespectful, but I don't buy this narrow "Today in God" view of spirituality. Making a big to-do about searching your soul between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is just bogus. I guess from the religion developers' point of view, better 10 days a year than nothing. But how effective can one shot a year be?

Some people just love the rituals and find comfort in them; that's cool. It's all the calendar-focussed commentary that I object to.

So I'm making a new year's resolution to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

My position is that contemplation of one's sins, heshbon nefesh [taking account of one's soul], is something that is rightly done on a daily basis, not saved for some arbitrary few days once a year. It can be done while driving to work; on the treadmill; preparing food; even during the 2-1/2 minutes it takes to make microwave popcorn. I have no excuse for having no time to do it. If the artificial constraints of religion rub me the wrong way, that doesn't mean there's not a right way for me to do what all religions at their core originally were meant to accomplish: balance and harmony with a higher point of vibration/life/spirit/whatever word one chooses.

That may all sound very self-righteous, but I'm admitting that I'm NOT doing it.

Therefore, I'm going to make an effort to be more conscious of those things that take me off to that nasty place of mine, and face them more honestly, issues such as:

1. my irritation (sometimes bordering on homicidal) with other drivers
2. emotional reactions to button-pushing colleagues
3. ...ummm, other stuff I'm not ready to talk about, but will have to deal with eventually

I can already see this is going to be harder than I thought.

That's why it's good to practice all year.

Wednesday, October 12

yom kippur food frenzy

My Jewish education growing up was so sketchy that I literally was not aware that Jews fast on Yom Kippur. I only found out after nearly a year in Israel, when my first YK rolled around. When it dawned on me that this fasting thing was common knowledge to what seemed like everybody, no matter where they lived, I really wondered how I could have missed something so basic. That ignorance, more than anything, shows how little contact (or interest) I had with Jews in my childhood, making it all the more incomprehensible that I, of all people, ended up living here.

The obsession with food, and the annoyance people expresss regarding the need to fast -- as if anyone is actually forcing them to (the typical Israeli is compelled to go along with the crowd, even if they're completely irreligious otherwise; this year's poll in the Yediot newspaper reported that 70% of Israelis intend to fast, with the average rising to 89% in Jerusalem) -- has always seemed simple-minded if not hypocritical: either you are doing it because you want to, for your own personal reasons, in which case why would you complain? ...or you're in effect loudly acknowledging your need to follow the crowd, against you're will, in which case you're pathetic. This week, after I wished one of my colleagues a pleasant long weekend, saying the wonderful quiet of Yom Kippur made it my favorite holiday, she told me amiably that she always finds this particular day the most annoying, because of the need to fast, but presumably it would irritate her less if she could just spend the day in restful contemplation and not be also required to feed her four children. However, I don't see why people who choose to do it would also expect or wish for it to be easy -- seems to me the point is that it should be somewhat painful. Otherwise, you might as well eat. But so much is made of the one day a year concept, and then the next day everyone snaps back to self-centered normal. The hypocrisy of religion: one of my long-lived pet peeves.

I have fasted in my life, but never on Yom Kippur, davka. And the concept of a "good final signature" in the Book of Life which everyone has been wishing each other for the past week still strikes me as no more rational than spitting when you see a black cat. My very religious colleague (who has a great sense of humor, so we get along very well) has been going off to his usual mid-day prayers and telling me (only half-jokingly, I think) that he'll pray for me too. I receive this most graciously, always glad to have someone putting in a good word for me. While I have the utmost respect for the man, I still look at what he's doing as behavior based in primitive superstition. It's every bit as rational as Catholics taking communion -- which is to say, useful psychological support for anyone who believes in it. I challenge the Jewish theory all the time, and he discusses it with me good-naturedly, quite willing to educate me, but of course we'll always see things from different angles.

I have four days off work because erev-YK, and YK (today and tomorrow) landed very nicely at the end of our work week, so it's a luscious long weekend. So far, I've spent a lot of it in the kitchen, feeding my delighted 13-year-old who's thrilled not to have to defrost herself another soy cutlet for a change. Today I made both chicken soup with kneidlach (matza balls) and chicken shnitzels -- the home-made kind where you pound the breasts with a pointy mallet, then dredge them in egg and bread crumbs before frying them. We're kind of OD'ing on chicken, I guess, but it's all yummy. Still, most of the day I've been doing dishes, cooking, feeding, doing more dishes, then she's hungry again, more cooking, more dishes... when she asked for another dessert I drew the line.

So in typical squarepeg fashion, I do the opposite of what most people do, which is lots of cooking in preparation for every holiday except Yom Kippur. This time, the only aromas wafting through the neighborhood were mine.

Look up contrary. I think you'll find my picture.

Tuesday, October 4

generations making peace

The vet told us to keep them separated for a week and just let them smell each other from different rooms, but after about five days we got impatient and introduced them. Sunny has been sniffing disdainfully and walking away for the most part; Pinky moves into Sunny's space cautiously and mostly gets ignored. I'd say Sunny is either so old he's addled or he's gotta be the most tolerant animal alive.
Sunny the 16-year-old (m) Siamese tolerates Pinky the one-month-old (former) street kitten (f).

Sunday, October 2

having survived september

It's the New Year in the Hebrew calendar tomorrow, and we'll be experiencing a rare annular eclipse here in this hemisphere, supposedly referred to as a potentially cataclysmic event in Nostradamus's prophecies. We shall see [she intoned ominously].
[Update: the eclipse turned out to be pretty lame in these parts, unlike in Madrid. It got next to no press coverage and passed through completely unnoticed unless, like me, you had a pinhole projecting a circle with a bite out of it onto white paper. Interesting, but not quite riveting.]

September was a VERY LONG month. What with school starting again for my young teen and getting her used to the academic routine (the Ritalin is helping, at least) and the heat really being on at work with too many projects and too few bodies (the pregnant colleague doesn't help either), the past month has only been bearable in that I knew October was coming.

And now it's here.

One day of work today, the next three off, then one more. Next week: three on, then two off. After that, two weeks of one day on, two off, and two on.

Eat yer hearts out, diaspora!

Oh yeah -- Chag Sameach and Shana Tova! [happy holiday & happy new year]