Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Excuses, anyone?

Someone I know had a job interview this morning in the city.
He got to the building's entrance a bit before time and asked the security guard for his contact, the way he was instructed to do.
The surprising part came when he was approached from behind by three people waiting at the same reception. They were people from his current company, and they were a bit curious to see him there wearing a suit and tie and all. This guy that I know really hates wearing uniforms of all sorts, especially the uncomfortable sort, and now he has another reason to hate it: being conspicuous.
Anyway, what do you think this guy that I know can use as an excuse?

Monday, 30 January 2006

MUC


We went to see Spielberg's latest, Munich, on Sunday. I liked it.

I liked the way in which it portrayed the Arab-Israeli conflict. It doesn't go deep down in its analysis and depth, but it manages to show the conflict's contradiction: Both sides are right and yet both sides are wrong, and most of the stuff each side is doing only causes things to grow even worse.
I liked its authenticity. Obviously, a lot of money has been poured in order to make things look and feel the way they did in the early seventies. Shot in Malta, they even made Tel Aviv's beach look the way I remember it to look from my early childhood, way before the current promenade was built. The airport, the prime mister's place - all look very authentic. Even Eric Bana's Israeli accent was good.
As I said before, I like Eric Bana. Local sources say he used to be famous for doing funny gigs at Melbourne's Footy Show (zero points for guessing what that show is about). Personally, I find in him most of the qualities I used to find in a certain Harrison Ford, even if his face reminds me of Shlomo Haguel. This time around he has center stage: The entire film revolves around him, and in accordance with Spielberg's simplicity policy, his is the only character that's developed in the film.
I liked the film's production values. The sound, the excellently recorded music, the film's grain-ness that makes it look like a seventies' newsreel. There is no doubt Spielberg is a master of film making and he seems to surround himself with the best people around.

The perfect film? No.
Just like me, Speilberg tends to stretch things out.
Often enough, he assumes this deductive role. Bana is almost caught looking at the cinema's audience and preaching Spielberg's thoughts. It's not as bad as most American films do it lately - it's not a dictation yet - but for a film that feels European this is definitely still an American film.
I mentioned production values already. As nice as they are, Spielberg often overdoes it: Every scene has the camera located in this spectacular angle; do it once or twice and it's ingenious, do it all the time and it draws attention to itself. Same goes for lighting, editing... I know the world is not as simple as we would like it to be, but Munich, in my mind, would have been a better film if Spielberg would have stopped trying to prove to the world that he knows how to make a film.

Overall, I very warmly recommend this story about a guy "coming of age" with the Arab-Israeli conflict. And as if to prove my point from my pre-blog days review of War of the Worlds, the film ends with a shot of the Twin Towers.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

Work - what is it good for?

Absolutely nothing? I disagree. We spend the best hours of the day at work for most of the week, and the rest of the day revolves around preparations and post production issues to do with work. And while it may seem like it would be nice to live without it, my five months of unemployment were amongst the most miserable months of my life, beaten only by experiences along the lines of boot camp. I do not think I would like to live without doing any work at all, it is just a pity that I cannot do whatever it is I want to do.
As I've already said on these very pages in the past, I have decided the best thing for me would be to move to another job. The main reasons for that are the lack of a career path in my current job, mind numbness from doing the same things for more than three years now, very bad management, and lately - rather immoral (in my book) work that my company does.
At this stage I am looking for work along the same lines of what I am doing now, which is business analysis. Indeed, the question of whether or not I should head down the same path or look for some alternative is an important one, and I have a lot to say about it; but let's leave it for another blog entry. For now I will say that staying in the same direction seems like the surest path to insure the same levels of income at the price of some lost dreams (for example, it is obvious I cannot depend on my writing skills to make a living: by now your exposure and clicks on the ads published in my blog have earned me a whole 9 cents - but hey, we're talking American cents!).
Between me looking for a job and Melbourne's temperatures over the last few weeks, I don't get to spend much "quality" time in front of my computer, hence the reduction in blog entry frequency. But I'm straying: the main point of this entry is to explain why I think it would be a long time before I get to actually start another job.

Coming over to Australia, almost four years ago, I was pretty sure that things were going to be nice and smooth. If I could find a job in Tel Aviv, a modern city of 1.5 million people, I am bound to find a good one in Melbourne between 2.5 million people; and it was sure to be an easy process, because who can deny someone as smart and skilled as I am? Australia must be waiting for me with open arms.
I find it hard to think of any dumber notion I could have ever had. Yes, I've had stupid expectations for a migrant, supported by my brother's success here, but you should look at yourselves in the mirror, too: Haim was the only one to consistently remind me I am an idiot. Where were you?
By now I am aware of so many hurdles on the path to a job that my natural pessimism makes me feel an optimist. Some of them are to do with me and some to do with the environment. Let us have a look...

The first thing I got to notice were the cultural differences, which I've started becoming aware of at the first interview I've had after getting the hell out of Amdocs. Following my brother's guidelines, I arrived to the interview wearing sport-casual clothing (the same shit I'd wear for an interview in Israel, pretty much). Wrong! A suit and a tie are mandatory accessories for professional interviews here. I hate them, I think they're stupid - why the fuck do I need to wrap myself in overly warm neck breaking apparel is beyond me - but if you want a job, wear them for your next interview.
That interview was at a recruiting agency, showing yet another job searching aspect I was unaware of. Yes, recruiting agencies exist in Israel, but the vast majority of jobs are handled directly by the company offering the job leaving recruiters to act mainly as vultures helping the less sophisticated job seekers find a job while they can't be bothered to look for one themselves - i.e., they help job seekers find a suitable company to work for, rather than the Australian way in which companies say something like "I can't be bothered handling my recruiting shit, I will let this recruiting company represent me and do it for me". The bottom line for me is that before I can get to a company I have to pass through its recruiter - an extra hurdle to cross. Most of the time you have no idea what company you're applying for or even what industry it is in - the recruiters just publish some vague job ad and you don't have much of a choice other than go through all their shit.
Before saying what I have to say about the recruiters themselves, I will say something about Australian companies. My logic with the 1.5 million -> 2.5 million -> easy job finding concept was that Melbourne, a modern city bigger than Tel Aviv, must have a modern hi-tech industry bigger than Tel Aviv's. Wrong! Fucking majorly big time wrong! While in Israel the hi-tech industry makes up for more than 20% of the country's GDP, hi-tech is a very minor and quite an irrelevant industry in Australia. As far as I can tell, Australia is mostly about big finance/insurance companies and companies that dig stuff from the ground, which - frankly - I find quite worrying since one day there will be nothing more to dig and the government does not seem to be bothered (if anything, my beloved Howard government has been quite consistent at cutting down R&D budgets). So while Israel has a living and heavily breathing hi-tech industry, sporting some major Israeli companies with worldwide presence - Amdocs, Comverse, Mercury - Australia's hi-tech industry revolves mainly around supporting non hi-tech companies in their IT needs, rather than "manufacturing" IT products on their own. Size wise, we're talking marginal.
One result of this rather limited job market is that every available position gets more than a hundred people's applications. Where did all those people come from, you ask? They are people who have been here, people who thought the IT industry is worth joining because of the late 90's boom, and fucking migrants like me (who were let in by a government policy which assumed that by flooding the market with skilled people the hi-tech industry would grow and become stronger).
And what do the companies looking for IT skilled people do in order to be able to handle this huge amount of applicants? They turn to recruiting company to handle all this hassle. And what do the recruiters do in order to handle all this hassle? Do they meet every candidate in order to assess him/her and be able to position him/her at the most suitable job? You're fucking joking. They just use software that runs through your CV looking for magical words that mean you're suitable for the specific position at hand; if you're flagged, they'll call you (and might even meet you for a short and totally redundant meeting in which they're supposedly meant to "assess" you), and if you sound like you're a decent person (for they are totally incapable of any worthwhile assessments) they will forward your details to the company looking for people to hire. In short, the recruiting companies help the actual companies narrow the list of candidates to interview, but it is the process in which they do this filtering that I suffer from:
By the time most people have beefed up their CVs, they all pretty much look the same. So how can the recruiter say which CVs are the ones to shortlist, especially for an analyst job where the skills are mostly generic rather than specific (as in C# or .Net skills for programmers)? Frankly, I have no idea how they do it, but I truly suspect that they don't really do it! Yes, they do something, but no - they don't do a professional something. Meet with a few recruiters for an interview and you will see that barring a very few exceptions they have no idea what they are handling or what is truly required from a pro in the hi-tech industry and from a business analyst in particular. We ended up with a process that forces you to write specific versions of your CV for each job you apply for if you want to maximize your chances, but you are still in the dark whatever you do.
So how do they filter the CVs for people applying to generic vacancies such as business analysis ones? Basically by industry and by your past experience. For example, if the hiring company is in the financial industry, they would look for people who have some finance related keywords in their CV. If the company is looking for consultants, they will look for people who have consulting industry.
The negative side of that, and I think it is the epitome of negativity, is that as a result you can only get work in something that you've already done before. The finance industry won't hire you if you don't have some experience in the finance industry and consulting companies won't hire you if you don't have consulting industry. You may very well ask: Well, how the fuck do can you get to the finance industry in the first place?
The first option is to go on a training course at your own private time (probably during work hours), and then apply for a junior position. Or maybe just apply to a junior position in the first place. The obvious downside, though, is that you will face a significant income reduction, which is ok when you're 20 but not ok when white hair is starting to pop-up all over the place and you face a huge mortgage.
There is another way around it, though: Companies can actually give you a chance. So far in my career that has always been my case: I've started working at 3Com despite having no experience whatsoever in SAP or in logistics, and I've started working at Tecnomatix despite having no idea about CRM. The assumption was that if you're a decent person with a brain at the top of your head you'd be able to get into the hang of things. Even at my current job, which I got through my brother knowing the right people, I started on a three month contract but quickly moved to permanent employment because I was able to take control of things. The basic assumption, again, is that a good man is a good man regardless of what he might face.
Most Australian companies will disagree with that assumption, though. They will not take the risk and they will only hire people who did exactly the same thing before, a recipe for bored and unimaginative employees if you ask me, or people exposed to the same "industry" if they can't manage to find such clones. Opportunities are very rarely given - the only exceptions I am aware of are through internal contacts, what is commonly referred to here as "networking" - or, in plain Hebrew, knowing the right people. Which is where I have another problem: I don't know enough people in Australia to be able to count on that, although I can say that the only job offer I got since I've started working at my current job three years ago was through networking.
To sum up: The Australian job recruitment policies are simply immature.

The list of hurdles doesn't end here. Foreigners and migrants have to combat another evil, xenophobia.
Australia is quite a nice place to live in and people are nice and all, but there's definitely a lot of racism in the air. I can feel it (I won't be rich if I got a cent for every time I was told to go back to wherever it is I came from upon criticizing the Howard government, but I do get it from time to time), people of Far Eastern origins will tell you horror stories about it, and even Greeks will tell you a story or two.
Statistically speaking, when Jo was looking for a job and sent her CV out, she got a hugely superior response rate from recruiters to mine. Ok, she's more experienced in things that matter here, and she's definitely better looking and smarter, but our CVs are not that different.
To be frank, I can definitely relate to this fear people have of hiring foreigners. Back in my Tecnomatix days I remember all too well how I dismissed the resumes of Russian immigrants. At the time my argument was that I would like to have people who would socially fit our team so that our gang of friends can maintain its core of friendship, all the while dismissing the applicants' educational pedigrees from the universities of Kreplakistan as bullshit degrees. What can I say other than repeat the fact that it was only Haim who kept on reminding me I was an idiot? Yes, I have learnt my lesson by now, and I can truly see how I can still be friends with people who are way more different to me than those Russian immigrants. Biblical justice aficionados amongst thee may say that I am getting what I paid for, but for this atheist what matters is that I have seen how things look from the other side and I can tell you they don't look good.
Gone are the days in which someone picks my CV, has a look at it and says "wow, an industrial engineer from the university of Tel Aviv, I must give him a job and lick his ass a bit"; in Australia the discipline of industrial engineering is virtually unknown to all but a few fellow migrants and people who had some exposure to American markets, while the Tel Aviv uni fares just as well as those elite Kreplakistani universities fared in my view just four years ago.
The effects of this foreigners avoidance attitudes can be felt even through people who are foreigners themselves and/or others who truly want to give you a chance. In numerous interviews I was asked to prove the qualities of my English, especially my written English (I assume the interview took care of the oral aspects). By now I have an email ready with links to some of my favorite letters in The Age as well as some of my Amazon book reviews. It's amazing how the recruiters fail to notice the entry in my CV that says I have been doing book reviews for Prentice Hall, this minor publishing house. Hell, one of my intentions with this blog was to add its URL to my CV so I can boast about with my writing skills (you may have noticed that initially my profile started with "a business analyst..."); however, quickly enough I have decided that the rather liberal use of the professional term "fuck" spread throughout this blog, plus some politically sensitive issues discussed in a not so politically correct fashion merit me not publishing the existence of this blog to the whole world.
Anyway, my point is that if people who want to hire me are still worried about my writing skills, what would people who have doubts about it going to do? I tell you what they're going to do: They are going to turn to the next CV out of the pile of 227 resumes lying on their desk or in their inbox.
Thus I will use that above mentioned professional term again to summarize my situation: Fuck!

In conclusion, all I can say is that there is no doubt what so ever that as far as my professional career goes, moving to Australia was a significant step backwards. A giant rear-wards leap, if anything, both financially - income wise - and professionally. I'm at an inferior position to where I was at El-Al, my first post graduation job! Even Jo, who seems to have landed on a good company, agrees with that. And our payslips definitely agree with that.
Work in particular and my career in general are the one last thing I still worry about with regards to living in Australia. And if the situation is shit like now, what will it be like when I'm in my fifties and age becomes a significant factor? Stay tuned to this blog and find out...

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Spare a thought for the spare wheel

Just in case you were thinking that car manufacturers should adapt BMW's policy of flat free tyres, here are two stories exemplifying the virtues of the good old fashioned way.
I assume you are aware of the fact that the Honda CR-V carries its spare on the back door. Weird, I know; quite inefficient, and overall a pain to use and maintain, too. And with that in mind, let's start with the harsher story of the two...

On Saturday noon, while the temperature was still below 30 (it got to 43 in the afternoon), we went out looking for a piece of foam that we can use in order to permanently install our mobile air-conditioner for this summer (Melbourne's hottest month, February, is not here yet but it's already a scorcher of a summer).
I slowly reversed out of the driveway as usual. I saw a blur in the right side mirror (driver's side), and before I was able to react heard a low level bumping noise and felt a bit of a thud.
Realizing that it could only be a pedestrian of some sorts and fearing that I just knocked a baby's trolley, I immediately put the Canyonero in park and jumped out to see this kid that was knocked of his bike.
Luckily, the ~10 year old wasn't hurt. He was dazed and confused, but he wasn't even scratched. I cannot stress how lucky that fact was: Was he to get injured we would have had to call the police and things would have been different; I don't want to even think about it.
Anyway, him and his brother kept apologizing despite our attempts to calm them down and see if they were ok. With a little help they soon pedalled along.
Lucky? Yes, but there's more to it than luck. Two factors helped here: First and foremost, the fact I was reversing really slowly. Second: That spare wheel, with it's soft plastic cover, was the point of impact; instead of getting the full grunt of the Canyonero, the boy got a padded blow.

The main problem is that this type of an accident is not preventable. Between the various fences hiding the coming pedestrian traffic and the fact the footpath is right at the edge of the driveway, bumping into someone while getting out of our driveway is a statistical certainty.
Not much can be done; reversing into the driveway so that I have a better view on my way out is a challenge on its own. All I can do is pretty much use the horn for a few warning shots (the Canyonero is an awfully silent car) and just drive carefully.
Now I know that I used to drive as madly as anyone, but I really do try to drive carefully now. I truly think that sports cars belong on the track and not in the street, where they're the equivalent of loaded guns for people that need to prove something to themselves or have something to compensate for (and yes, I was one of them).
While I am not so delicately telling you that I think I you we all should be driving carefully, note I am not saying “don’t go over the speed limit”. Sadly, Australia is similar to most other countries in that there is a significant lack of correlation between the speed limit and the actual speed people should be going. It’s not always on the slower side of things: There are plenty of roads here where the limit is 100km/h and you’d be crazy if you went faster than 40. It’s another case where politics got the better of things, and in the case of Victoria and many other places too it has a lot to do with money. With the way speeding is monitored in the state of Victoria you’d expect Stalin to send members of his secret police to learn how to do things right.
What I am trying to say here is that we should all take some significant safety margins when driving. Yes, it’s very entertaining to drive like a lunatic, and I did it for most of my driving career, but the price you pay in case something does happen is simply not worthwhile. It requires some rational thinking and some maturity to realize that, but I suspect this is something that one can handle as long as one is aware of it.

For the second spare wheel adventure I first have to explain the very Australian phenomenon of bull bars. Bull bars are those metallic contraptions people used to install at the front of their cars while driving at the outback so that when they happen to hit a kangaroo (far from improbable during dusk) or just a tree while off-roading their car wouldn’t be a total loss.
However, with your average wanker now getting himself a 4wd with no chance of it ever seeing a dusty road (present company included even if the CR-V is not really a 4wd), bull bars are no longer just for the crocodile hunters amongst us; they’re also for those trying to impress others and compensate for their short members. Everyone seems to have them. They’re everywhere. They’re a fashion statement. My theory is that they go along with the John Howard way of being an Australian: A fun and relaxed people until it comes to their own backyard where they’d happily drive a tank to “defend themselves” regardless of the consequences.
Talking consequences, I can think of a few. Yes, it would help your car in the case of a small rub (the rubberee will pay a hefty price, though). I do suspect that since it is bolted directly to the chassis it would also increase the chance of a warp if the rub is more than just a mere rub. Worst of all, I don’t want to think about what is going to happen to a pedestrian rammed by a bull barred car.
One of the things I am proud about the CR-V is that it was designed to be soft on pedestrians. Besides the fact it makes me feel so nice to be such a humanitarian towards the pedestrians I’m going to smash, I think that preventing serious injury to them gives me direct benefits – less court time, less worrying, and most importantly, less of a burden on my conscience.
Without further ado, on to the story itself. As you may remember, we were on our way to the rubber shop to get some rubber. For the air-conditioner. We parked, we had a look, and got ourselves a nice $9 piece of foam that fit exactly between our window and our mobile air-conditioner’s schnozzle.
The catch was when we came back to the car: we were locked between a Ford at the front and a bull barred Nissan 4wd tank at the back, both just a few centimetres away from our precious Canyonero. Now, for any place other than Australia, that is called standard parking; however, in here that is very rare. In fact, it’s the first time it happened to me in this continent. Anecdote wise, Australian law states that you need to leave a space at least a meter long between cars when parking, so what those guys did to me was illegal. More than that, it was senseless: There was virtually infinite parking just 10 meters ahead of us. We were obviously caught in that most famous of Australian habits, the “we have to park with 6 meters of our destination”. You see this often in this society that is not used to parking space shortages: Shopping malls’ parking lots have huge traffic jams near the entrances, but go 100m ahead and you have enough parking for an entire division (and their armoured vehicles).
Anyway, to conclude the story: Our lucky spare wheel jumped into action for the second time that day, padding our encounter with that idiot Nissan’s bull bar.

To conclude, here are Saturday’s scores:
Scratches on that kid – 0.
Scratches on the Canyonero – 0.
IQ in that Nissan owner’s head – 0.

Monday, 23 January 2006

Tuesday Night at the Football

Women's Singles - Qtr. Finals
Lindsay Davenport (USA)[1]
vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL)[8]

followed by
Men's Singles - Qtr. Finals
Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)[7]
vs. Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)

And the reason why it's going to be a football match is that the crowd is going to be divided between two big camps that hate one another: The Greek Australians vs. the Croations.
In other words: War.
We are going to see two of the top women, though; I just hope Davenport will be fit and doesn't forfeit.

The Futurological Congress

With temperatures on the wrong side of 40 throughout the weekend and with no relief at night we went to the cinema in order to enjoy their superior air-conditioning (we’re still using my mobile air-conditioner from Israel as there aren’t that many days when you need cooling; it’s mainly heating that is on the agenda here for more than six months a year) and to watch Spielberg’s latest film, Munich.
The film was ok and I really enjoyed the performances of Eric Bana (whom I quite like as an actor, regardless of the fact he’s from Australia) and Jodie Foster.
However, previous week at work took its toll and I just couldn’t help falling asleep. I missed some key scenes as well as the entire ending.
I woke up at home and I was quite annoyed. It’s not like I couldn’t come up with ways in which lessons learnt in the bible were incorporated into the film in order to please Uri in a review. It’s not like I could write any review in the first place, because the simple fact was that the film has just passed by me. I was anxious to go and see it again!
Jo wasn’t. Having just seen the film she enjoyed it, but not enough to merit a second go to the cinema. She suggested waiting for the DVD: renting is just a fraction of the cost of cinema tickets.
But I was really annoyed: I couldn’t believe I fell asleep during a film and I couldn’t believe I fell asleep while at the cinema. Worse, I was fully aware that some sort of a contradiction took place in here: The film only starts playing on January the 26th, a week into the future. And Jodie Foster – I just wasn’t able to remember her in any of the film’s promos, yet her performance certainly made an impression on me; or was my sleep evoking memories of Flightplan?
And then I woke up.

Friday, 20 January 2006

Fever Pitch

We’re heading for another scorcher of a weekend with temperatures ranging between 35 to 40 plus too much. As a result, I can’t be bothered to sit in front of the computer for too long and process the photos I took during our first expedition to this year’s Aussie Open, so you’ll just have to wait for another photo dedicated entry for those.
So for now, here are some boring observations:
Far too many seats were reserved for businesses looking to kiss up to their clients. A rough estimate of mine is just a bit less than half of the seats, and we’re talking about the better seats (the lower half ones, closer to the action). Even we were sitting on seats booked by Amex! At first we were wondering what the signs next to the sides of each row meant, but using my super sophisticated ultra zoomey telescopic lens I managed to see that they were all company names signifying that the seats were taken for some company shmock that is in an urgent need to lick a few butts.
What troubled me even more than the reservations on their own was that about a third of these company reserved seats were not taken – at a time in which tickets to your average run of the mill tennis fan were sold out a good few weeks ago. Sure, the organizers will still be happy because they sold their seats, but does this really benefit the sport?
I know I’m not being original with these arguments. Nick Hornby, in his classic book Fever Pitch discusses complaints about football clubs (in the book's particualr case, Arsenal) forgetting their true core fans in favour of the big buck companies. Now I don’t know if I am a big fan of these core fans – these are people that tend to regard supporters of other teams in rather subhuman terms – but it is quite obvious that without them things would not be the same: the passion involved with the sport will diminish, companies will lose interest, and eventually revenues would fall. Who will the clubs look up to then?
For me, the disillusionment that followed Arsenal’s major deal with The Emirates about a year and a half ago made me realize it’s no longer about the sporting spirit but rather about the money. As a result, I stopped supporting them. Ok, I’d still like them to win their games, but I couldn’t really care less; the passion’s gone. Luckily, I never cared for tennis as much as I did for Arsenal.
Other than those philosophical aspects, my main problem with our latest tennis adventure was the seats: legroom was so limited it felt as if we were on a flight; even Jo had a problem. Last year we had “aisle” seats so things didn’t seem that bad, but I think it’s not just that: throughout the matches we saw (from 19:30 till a bit after midnight) we had to sit with our legs folded. Luckily, by 23:30 some of our neighbours left and we were able to spread ourselves over a few seats.
Jo had another problem, though: her husband. Don’t ask me why, but a sport event is not a sport event if you don’t shout something from time to time. Knowing the crowd I wasn’t that loud and I also limited myself to rather polite statements, but you could still see Jo inching away whenever I opened my mouth. All I can say is that if it was Haim sitting next to me we would have probably been thrown out (assuming we were to continue our Hapoel Ramat Gan escapades).
Noise was another issue: The crowd was so quiet during the playing itself that my camera’s shutter noise was really obvious and you could see people looking at me whenever I took some shots. As a result I don’t have much in the way of action photos, but at least things became more relaxed as the crowd got drunk, and towards the end of the Roddick match I was able to more freely shout “I love you Andy” in a girlie voice and take some photos (especially of his serves).
The crowd was funny: The first game started with mild “Go Serena”, but when her opponent started showing signs of life the crowd quickly turned to support her in favour of a more thrilling match. The Roddick game, however, was dominated by girls showing their love and affection as well as issuing some invites to sexual stuff. Later in the game the tables have turned and it was the guys that started inviting Roddick to sexual activities (e.g., “sex on toast”), forcing Andy to stop a serve, laugh, and add a joke of his own.
I like Roddick: He seems like quite an idiot, but he is funny and he does give you an interactive show – talking to the crowd, joking. He’s human, not like others who seem to be offended by the presence of the crowd next to them.
I’ll conclude with the answer to the question everyone seems to ask me: Yes, Serena does have a huge butt.

P.S. This is my 50th blog posting. Woo hoo!

Thursday, 19 January 2006

No Religion, Too

I thought I should improve the visibility of the ongoing discussion I have with Uri (?), which started with my Narnia “review” and has now progressed to the more recent Losing my Religion blog entry. Why? For the benefit of whoever might be this blog’s second reader; and because I can.
I’ll start with my reply to Uri’s first comment to my Losing My Religion entry, continue with his reply to my reply, and finish with my reply to his reply on my reply to his comment on my blog entry…


Posted by Moshe Reuveni to Going Down at 1/18/2006 11:27:04 PM
Dear Mr (or Mrs) Anonymous,

As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from you. Feel free to remove your animosity cover, for by now I am curious to see who the one that actually reads my blogs is.
I have a few answers for you. Nothing that would make you think I’m a wise man or anything, and nothing that would even remotely convince you that I’m right (I don’t even think for a moment that any of us is right – I think it’s all a matter of opinion), just some further elaborations.

First, concerning the idea of LotR being the book I live by, or aspire to live by, or even remotely thinking for a nano second of living by: To put it simply and clearly, I find this idea totally ridiculous.
To date I cannot think of anything that is better than the civilian democracy most Western countries live by today, no matter how much I like LotR. Sure, we have our deficiencies: The USA is ruled not by its individuals but by big companies; Australia still has the queen as its all saying ruler, even though she doesn’t really use her powers; and as you yourself mentioned, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
If anything, there is this song you must have heard of which so far puts the ideals I am dreaming to paper best. Allow me to quote it –

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

I admit: I’m not sure how I would cope with “no possessions”, and I also think that the communist like society depicted in the song has already proved to be quite a failure because some people will always abuse the system, but as utopian visions go I still think this one is the best.
And another LotR related point I would like to make is that LotR is not my favourite book; the book that owns this title by a very wide margin is the first Amber fivology by Roger Zelazny. However, I am sure you’d be able to crucify my ideas with that book quite easily given that you’ve so far failed to understand that me liking LotR has nothing to do with me aspiring to live by its ideals.


Regarding your point about fights and violence taking place in a world devoid of religion, I have to agree. Conflicts have always taken place due to limited resources.
However, I do think that with religion around, the “us and them” factor is emphasized.
Would the medieval Europeans go out to conquer the land of Israel from the Muslims if it wasn’t for their religion? They would have probably settled for more relevant wars which would not have been as futile.
Would Al-Qaeda exist if it wasn’t for religion? Probably, but they would probably be a significantly less militant anti globalization movement.
It’s just that religion seems to be the icing on the cake with these conflicts. That little extra that gives it an extra, yet fully redundant, edge.


I also agree that I take a lot of things by faith. As far as I’m concerned, the world could be flat, and it could also be that I’ve lived my entire life in one small area and that whenever I took off for a flight I just spent some time in a box that put me down on the other side of the airport.
Or to put it another way, it’s hard to determine when to start believing and when to stop.
The borderline that I have decided on is, as I mentioned, similar to the one used by banks when you go and ask them for cash. And no bank will give you cash based on a 2000 year old story that was put into writing a long while after it was circulating around as a word of mouth thing (the way the old testament did).


As far as forcing myself on other people, I think you have twisted your arguments.
True, I do pollute, and quite a lot. Not only with the car, but also with the clothes I wear (that take lots of chemicals and water to make) and the things I buy.
Yes, I have a lot against our culture of consumerism (especially during its Xmess peak period), but I also cannot say that I have much in the way of alternatives. And I definitely think that in a few hundred years, when they look back at our period, they will regard us as the big polluters and abusers of the earth. Sometimes I tend to agree with JRRRRR that maybe the internal combustion engine was one of humanity’s worst disasters.
However, I do not think that I impose myself on others, or at least not to the point of offending others. Allow me to explain:
When I fart, I release toxics that are quite harmless compared to cigs and cars’ smoke. However, there is not a person around that would tell you he/she is not offended by the smell. As a result of me not wishing to impose myself on others, I do my best not to fart around people.
The same applies to cigs: Their smell is offensive enough for me not to want to be around it. But cars are different: By the time their exhaust fumes reach you, it’s diluted enough to the point you don’t feel it much (One reason why most Western countries ban two stroke engines is that this does not apply to them; have you tried mowing your lawn with a two stroke mower? It’s hell on earth!).
Another reason why your argument doesn’t apply is that absolutely everyone but a couple of weirdos in Nepal uses internal combustion to move about; yet only 40-50% of the population smoke and a significant portion of the others oppose it. When was the last time you saw someone complaining about “fuckers using internal combustion for transport”?

But yes, I am definitely bothered by what I and we do to our environment. We are wasting precious gifts the earth has given us in the shape of incredibly complex molecules of oil by simply burning it, this contaminating the environment and leaving hardly any of it to our children. The same applies to other resources: Think about uranium, the product of ancient supernovas, yet we just carelessly abuse it.

Anyway, it’s getting late and it is my wedding anniversary tonight. So I’ll conclude by saying that I just didn’t get the point of your feedback. If the purpose was to convince me that I’m wrong, it failed. If it was there to present an alternative view, I didn’t get it either. Please clarify…

Moshe


Posted by Anonymous to Going Down at 1/19/2006 08:20:22 AM
I was going for a layered approach, trying to respond on several levels at once. A necessary thing when replying to your 2351 work post.
Obviously I failed, so I’ll try to clarify.
1. LotR – I had two points here, and neither of them was that you think it’s a holy book:
a. I think you’d be more tolerant towards a person who lived his life by a non-Bible book.
b. The fact that a book contains anachronisms or things you don’t agree with does not make it necessarily wrong for people to want to pick good things out of it (to counter your Bible criticisms).
2. Pollution – I’m not really sure I want to go there. I was merely trying to point out that you accept things on faith. We all do. It’s just that you seem to think that you’re not. You’re bank criteria is interesting. Did you ever run into stupid thickheaded bureaucratic clerk who wouldn’t help you just because some silly thing was missing?
What would you consider a proof, BTW? If an angel came down from heaven, wings and halo included, and delivered the words of God, would that be sufficient? I assume that in that case you’d figure you were either losing it, or that somebody was trying to trick you. Can you think of a way you could be convinced?
For some people, the world itself is all the proof they need. Why is it easier for you to believe in a series of amazing coincidences that led to creation of life than it is to believe in a guiding hand? And can’t you accept that it’s just a belief either way? And that yours is no better than anyone elses?

And finally, I give you the words of Jesus Christ (from the book of John), Tolkien and Monty Python, and the best you can do is John Lennon?

Happy Anniversary!


And now for my latest reply on the reply for the reply:
Where shall I start?
I fully admit to being nasty in the past towards religious people, but I don’t think that is the case anymore. I do, however, allow myself to be sarcastic towards them, often to the point of annoying them, but that is mostly done because I’m an idiot that can’t take control of himself rather than because I truly want to offend them. I also do fully admit to being nasty towards religious people trying to impose myself upon me, but nowadays this usually comes down to me writing letters to the newspaper saying that Tony Abbott, the Health Minister, is an idiot.
But this is all what I consider to be missing the point. My point was that I know I’m nothing special amongst people and I know that the best thing I can do to minimise myself imposing on others would be to commit suicide here and now; but I’m not doing that because I’m a selfish meat devouring ass, for a start, and also because the fact I’m not bound by any religious interfaces means that I can do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like. That said, I think that overall, with the help of my self developed code of conduct, and barring the occasional traffic offence and some recent tax evasion adventures, I’m a fairly decent member of society who is fully able to mingle into a tolerant society. I think I can safely say I am a better member of the human race than other more famous members who acted by the rule of their god – Joshua, Hitler and Bin Laden.
Yes, I take a lot of things by faith, but I’m also not asking much either: I didn’t go around asking for proof that god exists; whether that entity exists or not, why should I care? What effect will it have on my life? If god had wanted me to act in a certain god loving way, he should have designed me accordingly; instead of slacking during QA, he should have made me a god fearing person. There are plenty of ways in which god can prove to me he exists, starting from informing me of tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, but I’m not asking for that.
Another question that always hides in the background is – what form does god take in the first place? You can what the bible says, but you can also come up with dozens of alternatives, from Shpinoza’s to eternity. My point is that it doesn’t matter. Why can Wabby the dog lead a happy life without going to church even once? (Sorry for side stepping there, I just thought it’s a funny question) Sure, life on earth is really amazing and if people think it’s proof enough for them to believe in god then good for them! Since I tend to believe in life on earth too, despite the quality of Australian commercial TV making me strongly suspect that, you could say I’m a believer too – and you won’t be too wrong; it’s just that I don’t see any reason for me to associate myself with a certain specific framework. It’s organized religion in its current manifestations that I have a personal problem with, not faith. As I said before, I find it redundant; do feel free, though, to believe in whatever works for you, and I truly wish you and everyone else for that matter all the best.

And finally, regarding your ranking of famous personas: Who are we to rank these people in the first place? I find it all a highly subjective exercise. As far as I’m concerned, the most important people on earth are my mother and my father, without which I wouldn’t have existed, period. But let’s have a look at the group we have here:
Jesus: Don’t know him that well, but he seems like a nice and peaceful chap, although rather naive. Between you and me, I would say he's just a jealous guy (pun intended). You can credit him as the most important person in history, and you wouldn’t be off the mark, but I would prefer to hand that credit over to certain Roman officials that were out to find a way to regain control of their empire. That said, he certainly doesn’t relate to me in my day to day life, and between him and the Dalai Lama I would tend to pick Tibet.
Tolkien: Isn’t he a bit of a weirdo? He wrote a damn good trilogy, yes, but his other books were quite boring. Still, books count a lot.
Monty Python: I like them a lot, and Jo is mad about them. So yes, they gave us the most accurate depiction of the history of Jesus’ era in Life of Brian, and between them and Jesus I fully agree with “blessed are the cheese makers” (for they enable us to eat pizza; mmm… pizza…), but let’s not get out of proportions here. For a start, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if it wasn’t for another favourite Beatle of mine, George Harrison (I like them all, but for some reason I tend to like Paul significantly less).
My point is that between these folk, I would tend to pick John Lennon any time, any day. But don’t exercise about it: As I said, it’s highly subjective and highly context related; for me, the Working Class Hero hits home more often.

Going back to my Narnia review, which was the cause of all these replies on replies love affair:
I have never dismissed Narnia because it had religious motifs ala Christianity. The main reasons why I was less than satisfied with it were:
1. The “everything is set for us in a big master plan” attitude it presented viewers with. This view contradicts my basic views, since I see no master plan around me but I do see how my actions and the actions of those around me affect what goes on. In fact, that is one major reason why Amber is my favourite book: It’s all one big argument for free will and action against fatalism. You can argue that what I’m saying in here is anti-religious, since if there is a god he/she/it/they have total control of what will happen to me, but my initial arguments did not reach that far.
2. It is quite obvious that the Narnia film is Disney’s attempt to earn some money our of the LotR phenomenon. It was designed and contrived to cash in on viewers’’ sentiments created by the trilogy’s film and further evidence for the over commercialization of our society. The film did not feel as if there was never a serious attempt at hand to make it a truly good, high quality film.

Talk to you soon… And thanks.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Alcatraz News Bulletin

It looks like Al Capone and I are not going to share cells for now due to our tax evasion plots (and not because he’s already dead).
Turned out that my big tax evasion plot was because I thought this interest payment I’ve received on the first day of the taxation year belongs to the new year and not the old year as I assumed (and I’ve assumed that because this pay was due to interest earned year before).
Don’t worry if you didn’t get what the issue was all about; it doesn’t matter at all. If anything, this story re-emphasizes the main lesson from the World War I history book I’m currently reading – The Guns of August – on how seemingly slight communication problems can make a world of a difference. Unlike the 1914 episode, mine was caused by a letter I have never received.
It’s amazing what can be achieved if people talk and listen to one another.

P.S. My coverage of the Australian Open will be delayed by our second wedding anniversary’s celebrations.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Almost Famous

The full report is still to come, but it appears that Jo and I are now famous TV personnas following our last night's adventure at the Aussie Open.
I've been asked at work about the hat I wore for the Australian Open (my Andy Roddick hat, of course, albeit last year's one).
A full tennis report will come soon, including photos (with the emphasis on the court being quiet I was only able to take 400 photos, with the vast majority not being action photos). In the mean time, go and watch last night's re-runs!

Monday, 16 January 2006

Me and Mr Capone

We got a thing going on:
My accountant told me today that the ATO (Australian Tax O-something (Othirity?)) has sent him a letter about this bank account I've had in the 2003/2004 taxation year and on which I didn't report the taxable income.
While I keep running my brain in search of elusive bank accounts (I came up with two theories, but both are thin: A term deposit I've had in 2002 and the immigration deposit my brother made for me before I moved to Australia), I can't help thinking about old habits. Given that in Israel you don't report bank accounts - you don't have to report anything, taxing is automated through the salary - there are certain things I would never imagine the need to report.
Anyway, they got me now. I wonder if they'll let me blog in jail.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Serena and Roddick

We're going to see the above playing people we've never heard of tomorrow!
With the absence of Safin, Roddick is my favorite. It's exciting! Almost like watching Arsenal lose in Wembley.
In typical Melbourne fashion the weather forecast for tomorrow says "possible thunderstorm and rain in the afternoon". Rod Lever Arena has this automated roof that can be closed, but the seats will still be wet (as well as the long walk from and to the car). Well, it could be quite an experience.

Saturday, 14 January 2006

Losing My Religion

Better late than ever... As promised, here is an overview of my views on religion.
Since this is an entry everyone will have something to bitch and moan about, I'll ask you to take it easy. While taking it easy please also bear in mind that this is something I just sat down and typed off the top of my head, and thus it is in no way supposed to fully represent what I really think. Which doesn't mean for a minute that I don't think religion is shit.

I'll start with a bit of history.
When I was a boy, everything was right. I was brought up in a family trying to think its secular but with religious views on things, and I was sent to a religious kindergarten. As a result I would have told you, at the time, that god is numero uno. [To those not familiar with me - this is the internet after all - I will mention that I was born to a Jewish family in Israel]
The first time I ever thought to contemplate whether that is true was at the age of 7. I was in second grade, and a neighbor of mine (Adi Paz) introduced me to another kid in his class (also called Adi) who "does not believe in god". I did what I had to do: I beat the guy up (I was a year older, and being tall and fat I was definitely in a position of power throughout primary school; and in case you're wondering about my violent nature, the last time I hit someone in anger was fifth grade, and the victim was Asher Tshuva).
One morale of the story is that if you multiply it by billions of people over thousands of years it shows you why what I now consider to be stupid religion is responsible for so much shit in the world, which is why I don't tend to regard religion that highly. At the time, though, the incident was important because it made me think for the first time "what if the guy's right?"
As time went by I've read books which made me doubt the concept of god as I knew it even more. But the pivotal point was the book Broca's Brain by Carl Sagan, which my uncle gave me back in February 1982 (I was eleventeen years old at the time, and I know the date because of the dedication he wrote on the cover - and yes, I still have the book with me). In the book the author describes as "a romancing of science", Sagan talks about space travel and how it causes new thoughts in man kind. For example: In Judaism, prayer times (as well as the rest of the calendar) is determined by the moon rising and setting. What, then, will a Jewish astronaut in an orbit around the earth/moon do as far as the scheduling of his prayers go? [I think the question was originally asked in male form] Would he do the entire day's cycle of prayers every 20 minutes because that's the time it takes him to complete his orbit? Now, before some of you laugh at Judaism and point that in your culture prayers are determined by the sun, think about what you would do when you're at an entirely different solar system or at a different galaxy altogether. What would you do? What would anyone do? If you're a Christian, for example, how would you know when it's Sunday church time? And my question now is - why should you care?
Carl Sagan's astronaut question has served two purposes. First, it made me think for the first time in a really critical way about religion; I did not take god for granted anymore, but rather asked questions. Second, I found this way of thinking - taking an example and developing it to build structures on top of it - as quite an illumination (although I doubt I saw things this way at the time).
By the time I was 13 and my Bar Mitsva was due I was telling everybody that I don't believe in god. Still, my parents have bribed me to go through the ceremony with the gifts I'd get, so I went ahead with it, which goes to show that I'm not perfect (and the gifts were shit; for the record, there are a rare few people in this world that can really please me with their gifts, and if your name doesn't happen to be Uri (Jo doesn't read my blog anyway) - don't bother).
Since my Bar Mitsva I only entered "operational" synagogues because someone else wanted me to as a part of a celebration or something similar; I no longer see those places, or any other places for that matter, as holy.
Today and for quite a long time I do not consider myself to be Jewish. I am an atheist; now, contrary to common belief this does not mean that I dismiss god altogether. It does mean, though, that before accepting the idea of god I want to see some credible evidence; no 5000 year old books, please, I want something of the level banks ask for when you come in and ask for cash. Or, to put it another way, I want something that does not exist and never did, for religion and god come down to faith and faith alone - and I simply do not have it anymore.
As far as I'm concerned, people are perfectly fine in believing whatever it is they want to believe - but, and a big but - as long as they don't bother anyone else while doing so.
Two comments before I go on: One of the main reasons I like Australia so much is that in here I can tell everybody that I am an atheist, and not a Jew, and no one even blinks; now, try that in Israel! The second thing is trying to get married in Israel: By Israeli law, I would have had to get married as a Jew - and by now you should realize I wouldn't want that to happen - and I could only get married to a Jew (and I don't think Jo would want to go through circumcision). So yes, I love Australia, but that said, it is predominantly a Christian society and I don't know much and don't give a shit about the religious aspects of stuff like Xmess and Easter, plus the fact certain people with power keep on trying to promote their religious agendas (and in typical fashion they mostly come from the ruling "Liberal" party that is as liberal as the Spanish Inquisition).

That's it for the personal history. Now, if you'll allow me, I'll move on to review my opinions on certain important concepts religious is trying to sell us. As you might suspect, I will use Carl Sagan's technique of making points by using examples because it's quite an effective technique when you don't really have the time for a master's thesis.

Let's start with the bible. First, a bit of a disclaimer: Given my background, I can only claim to be somewhat familiar with the old testament; I hardly know a thing about the new one. With that in mind, let's go.
When I buy a car, I look for the best car I can find, quality wise (with quality being a highly subjective thing). Recently, I chose to go with a Honda, and although I had some bad experience with its acquisition, the car itself is damn good.
When I go and pick a book to read, I also look for quality. But when I get a book written by god, such as the first five books of the bible, I expect nothing but pure perfection. So let's see what we have in there:
Slavery: God's perfect book does not renounce slavery; it does, however, offer some laws on regulating slaves, such as a law to free all slaves after 7 years. While quite progressive for its time, from a book written by god, and as someone guided by the strong principal that ALL people are equal, I cannot accept legislation that only legitamizes slavery.
Women: Why are they fucked so badly by the bible? Every time someone mentions the way women are handled by the bible some guy springs up and says "but look how much importance the bible gives to women". Well, I regard toilet paper as a very important thing I cannot do without, yet I do not even for a minute consider it an equal; yet, regardless of what the bible says, and since I am guided by the strong principle that says ALL people are equal, I consider women to be equal to men.
Chosen people: How come the Israelites get to freely kill other people around them in the name of god? Are these other people, be them Egyptians or the ancient people living in the land of Israel, all bad and evil?
I'm aware of the shallowness of my arguments, but it's their simplicity that I found to be decisive: I simply cannot accept the bible as a book that dictates the way I should live my life if the bible fails to accept that all people are equal, period. As a result of its failure I simply dismiss it; to its credit, though, I will definitely acknowledge the fact it is an important piece of history that was probably very innovative for its time. But now its time is past.

Ok, I've dismissed the bible. But what about religion in general, then? Allow me to dismiss that, too.
Free choice: In the book of Shmot (excuse me for sticking to the original Hebrew naming), Moshe (aka Moses) asks god something along the lines of "Listen, Mr, why should I do what you tell me to do? Who are you to boss me around?", and god gives him an philosophical evasive answer along the lines of "I'm the one pulling the strings here and determining what you do anyway, yet I have given you the free choice to do as I have planned". Well, this Moshe finds god's answer to be lesser than most of John Howard's answers. Since god has total control over us, where is our free choice? Because if there's no real choice and it's all pre-determined then it means that god is responsible for all the bad shit in this world; and if that is the case, and god has created some of us as bad people, then why should we pay the price of an eternal vacation in hell? If anything, god should be the one spending the time in hell for designing us badly.
Credibility: The stories which have helped institutionalize religion in the way we know it today are simple ridiculous. Jesus sounds to me like a very decent person, but if anyone came along today acting the way he did they would be put in an asylum straight away; why, then, should I accept several thousand years old stories if I would have never accepted them if they were to take place today?
Abuse: The name of god was abused by pretty much all religions. The Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi movement, Al-Qaida - they all see themselves as god's agents on earth. Well, who is wrong and who is right? I don't know, but I cannot accept a god that allows its agents to let millions of people in Africa die of AIDS by not allowing them to use condoms. The pope, who is responsible, is not god's representative on earth - he is a criminal.
Progress: Technological progress helps reveal religion's weaknesses. Sagan's astronaut question is a good example, but it's not the only one. Take human cloning, for example: At Jesus' time no one would have dreamt it up, but today it's something that would be technologically possible in the near future. If we do create a clone and then someone kills it, would that constitute a murder? While I, with my set of morale principles that are totally detached from religion will answer with a definite yes, because that clone will have feelings and memories - self awareness - just the way I do, most religions (and most countries' current laws, by the way) will say no. Catholics, for example, even object to artificial pregnancies in a world where many people conceived in such a way already walk about - for the simple fact they pose a scenario that is beyond the scope of their religion.

Enough is enough; I think by now you caught the drift of my thoughts no matter how badly I present them.
I will summarize by saying that as a secular atheist I find that I am able to live as a decent member of society just by following my own set of rules and using my own common sense while being guided by one major principal - we are all equal.
Not only are all men equal, but men is not superior in any way to other life forms around us. Wabby the dog, for example, is a self aware entity just like I am; he dreams in his sleep, and although not as clever as I am, he is not that different to me.
I can only conclude that religion is the epitomization of our wishful thinking: In a world where we do not have the answers for everything, and will never have them too, yet we have lots of questions to ask - starting from "why are good people fucked and bad people well off" and ending with "what are we here for" - inventing an entity (or multiples of it) that would answer all these questions in the blink of an eye is the easy way out.
Thanks, but no thanks; I choose the hard way out. I choose to ask the questions and look for the answers. In my world, religion means nothing; it's absolutely redundant.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

Aussie Open

It's the time of the year again when all you can hear of is tennis.
It's not going to be the same this year, though, with my boyfriend Safin out, but I'm sure we'll enjoy it.
Anyway, just in case you'll be watching it on TV: Jo and I are going to see the very first night (the upcoming Monday) and the first night of the quarter finals (next Tuesday). If you hear someone shouting "Yalla Beitar!" and they show someone holding a camera with a long lens, that would be me.
In general, each of those nights we'll be attending features one women's match followed by one men's match. As we're going to the "feature" game of the night, we should see at least one famous person in each of those matches (e.g., on the very first night we'll probably see a Federar or a Rodick type playing against someone you've never heard of before).
This year we even prepared our homework in time: I've booked the tickets before they went on general sale (Amex turned out to be useful for something after all), and as a result we have what can only be described as fucking good seats.
See you at Rod Lever Arena!

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Psycho Killer

You know those psycho tests they make you do when you apply for a job? Well, there's this website (www.linkme.com.au) that has a demo version which actually gives you some feedback for free (as opposed to the usual feedback I get, which is "fuck you, we don't want you", put in a more politically correct fashion).
Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here's the summary of the feedback that I got. Some of it makes sense to me, some of it reads to me like total bullshit; the thought that tests results such as this determine the future of my career definitly scares me.

Your Top 8 Values

People are at their best when their personal values are matched to their environment. Where the environment lacks those values, people will generally struggle to try and correct it.

It's important to find an organisation whose values match yours.

Our analysis of your Profile responses suggest that following are important values for you.

Being able to make a favourable impression, cautiousness, getting along with others, placidness, pleasantness, restraint, self-determination, vigilance.

Read the list as a whole. Some of the values will fit for you better than others. Pay greatest attention to the values that resonate and make most sense to you and try to match them in the work and personal environments you choose.


Your Top 3 Strategies
1. Oppositional

0% 100%
[ 100% of Peer Group score lower than you do]
Your strength is in opposition. Not one just to "go along with the herd", you prize your individuality and your ability to think differently. And you can take action independently too, not needing official sanction or approval to do so.
Enjoying working behind the scenes and bypassing established procedure, you prize your creativity and ability to "think outside the square".
Take care though, your style is easily misunderstood as rebellious and can even be regarded as underhanded. Others may not appreciate your challenging the status quo, even when events show that you were right.
Be alert for any tendency to be oppositional just for the sake of it… this will damage your credibility when more important issues are at stake.


2. Uncertain

0% 100%
[ 98% of Peer Group score lower than you do]
Never over-confident and with a strong sense of your own shortcomings, your tendency to be uncertain of yourself is a strong motivator to do the very best you can at all times. Others often recognise your capacities better than you do and you may find it hard to trust their judgment, even when you admire them greatly.
Sometimes negative self-talk and internal put-downs may add fuel to the fire. You may often be beset by feelings of inadequacy that run counter to your actual abilities.
Sadly, you're constantly and all-too-easily reminded of your flaws. And if circumstances fail to remind you, it's likely that you'll do it pretty well all by yourself!
You may be your most vocal and critical judge but the only thing that's really flawed is your opinion of yourself!
Take a look around… set aside the negative self-talk… what makes you so sure you're right anyway? You'll probably find that the external reality is very different and more positive than the view from inside your skin.

3. Considerate

0% 100%
[ 83% of Peer Group score lower than you do]
Taking care of the people around you is probably very important to you, as is being aware of others' needs. People like being around you because of your considerate nature and your enjoyment of responsibility, although you may over-burden yourself at times.
Most likely, you take on additional responsibilities, often because you feel no one else will. Others may comment that you do more than they ever expected and that you may be taken advantage of at times. It may be quite difficult for you to make tough calls, especially with people you're close to and you may quietly chastise yourself for being too lenient and accommodating. And, it's curious that some people may find your willingness to help and take on extra responsibility to be intrusive and resent it.
Finding a balance between self and others is never easy, especially when you care about them, but it's very necessary for your own wellbeing.

I Fought the Law


You read it here first!

Monday, 9 January 2006

Imperial Entanglements

Remember that letter to The Age a couple of blog entries ago?
Well, today a journalist from the paper called to ask some additional questions about the incident. You sort of get the feeling he was mostly worried about being caught in that specific speed trap, but he was typically nice; again, I made the point that the police were parked at an illegal (and potentially dangerous) spot and that the way they addressed me was less than professional.
After the overview he said that they would like to publish my letter (on the upcoming Wednesday’s Drive section) and ask for what the police has to say in its defence.
The worrying thing, however, was the way he asked me at the very end of the call whether I am sure I want my letter published. The answer seems dead obvious to me – there’s a reason why I wrote the letter in the first place – but it made me start thinking in a paranoid fashion about the comment I’ve received in this very blog (Uri, was that you?). Should I be looking over my back as of Wednesday?
The answer is probably not. As far as driving offences go, while I do make the occasional offence, the police are going to have a hard time catching me: With all the hidden traps all around Victoria, your driver’s license would not last long if you misbehaved. I stop on stop signs, I never speed (barring the very rare speeding for safety reasons or the more occasional being unaware of the current speed limit because those tend to change every 50 meters in Australia).
So I say let them come; if that’s the price of free speech, then so be it. There are a lot of people out there who think about the police and its handling of traffic the way I do, and if I manage to make a difference, I’m happy.

Sunday, 8 January 2006

If that's moving up then I'm moving out

It's not the world's best kept secret that I am not exactly happy with my current job.
An overview of what's going on that arena and in the general Australian workplace market is something that I should write on, eventually, but I just thought I will share with you the reason why I'm not losing my religion yet and the thing that "consumes" me most of the time lately.
Plainly put, I have decided that enough is enough and that I should find myself a new job, regardless of whether the long awaited promises for a raise materialize or not. The main reasons are the decay that I have been going through with the lack of anything new at work for the last two years and the lack of any hope for things improving and/or the lack of any future career path at my current company. Unless I move out or unless they'll fire me, I will pretty much continue doing the same thing I have been doing so far from here to eternity. Stupidly enough, one of the reasons for that is that I have been doing things well enough for the managers to think I became indispensable in my current project (for clarity's sake, I would have to say that I believe that in a good company there is not such thing as an indispensable person).
Another camel to break the straw's back arrived just this Friday, when my company announced the securing of this huge project with a tobacco company in which we're helping the company defend itself from litigation. I should probably consider myself lucky that Nazi Germany is not handing out projects too, otherwise my company would have been bound to win them as well.
Anyway, I've already started mobilization towards a new job following the dead period that is knows as Xmess, and I even got an interview already for what could be a very interesting job at a big bank (one of the better places to work for in Australia).
I do have to add a disclaimer, though: I have been on and off looking for another job for two years now and I am still with the same company, both for reasons to do with me and for reasons to do with the Australian job market; so don't expect to hear I'm moving out any time soon. However, I do believe that I have never been as resolute with the decision to leave now, and I also do think that I never needed leaving this job as badly as I do now.
For now I will conclude by stating that looking for a job is really hard work.

Saturday, 7 January 2006

Seize the Day

I know I promised to lose my religion, but that would have to wait until I have the time and the patience to write something relatively proper (as I will never have the time to write my anti religious manifest properly, and I doubt I have the skills to do so anyway).
What I do want to mention is the fact that yesterday was the fourth anniversary for the day Jo and I first met: It was at the Tecnomatix office back in Hertsliya; Jo claims that for some reason I had my sunglasses on when she waled into our office, while I remember us office guys saying that she looked old because of the suit she was wearing (no one wears suits in Israel unless he’s a politician or you’re a guy and you’re getting married in less than an hour).
Personally, I value this anniversary much more than I do our wedding day (the two years’ celebrations are less than two weeks away). Why? For two main reasons.
The first is that I don’t see any particular reason to cherish a date that was artificially selected: Jo and I did not get married on 18/1/04 because of any particular reason other than the fact that the date was roughly at the period in which getting married fitted our plans and the fact that the registry office had an opening for us in its tight schedule. Now, why the fuck should I celebrate the date they could fit us in?
The second reason is more controversial: I don’t think that highly of the marriage institute anyway. In this day and age where most people’s marriage don’t last until death does them apart, I regard the marriage institute to be an artificial institute cherished mainly by the religious people and those that do not have much confidence in their partners. I am not saying I don’t regard my commitment to Jo seriously and that I will dump her whenever I feel like because I think marriage is stupid; I’m saying that I don’t need a paper certificate telling me I’m married to Jo in order for me to be fully committed.
Still, we will definitely celebrate our wedding anniversary: Why shouldn’t we use the opportunity to enjoy ourselves?

Now, philosophical bullshit aside, today was what historians will remember as a perfect day in Melbourne: Sunny, 23 degrees, with just enough of a wind to keep you just cool enough.
So we went down to the Mornington Peninsula to see the Point Nepean National Park. We weren’t the only one thinking of visiting the area: By Australian standards, it was what the experts refer to as “fucking crowded”, and there was even some stop and go traffic on the way (for someone used to encountering that at least twice a week on the way back from work in Israel, its rarity here is worth mentioning). The GPS ended up taking us to a nearby national park but not the one we wanted, and when we got there it was closed because they have a “twilight run” event going on, so we went to a nearby beach where they didn’t charge you to enter and where the beach itself was very spectacular.
Because it was hidden with rocks, and because of the tides, you got these shallow pools of water secluded from the sea which got hot with sunlight. And for the first time in Victorian history, the water wasn’t fucking cold and I actually wanted to go in (but had to settle for knee high levels as I wasn’t properly attired). There were rock formations there and cliffs and lots of other attractions – we both really liked it, and the fact it was an unexpected surprise really added to us having fun.
A great way to celebrate our anniversary: Another day in paradise. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Today's Letter to "The Age"

Dear sir/madam,

For the last two mornings, a police car has been parked at the entrance to the Brighton Beach train station, partly blocking it. The purpose of their stay on the station’s entry lane was to use their laser equipment to track drivers speeding down Beach Road while remaining invisible.
I find this police behaviour troubling and a definite case of double standards. If I was to park my car the way the police did, or just stop my car the way the police did, I would have been immediately entitled for a fine – and rightly so: endangering other road users and crossing pedestrians, especially at a train station, should not be permissible.
So why it is, then, that the police are allowed to do so? When I pointed the danger out to one of the parked policeman, I was answered with a very mocking and demeaning “Oh, thank you very much”. I wonder what the answer would be and what insurance companies would have to say in case cars actually got to hit one another, or worse – in case someone actually got hurt in the process. The police could have easily solved the problem by standing elsewhere, with the only implication being that they would not remain inconspicuous anymore.
I cannot say this police behaviour and their not so courteous behaviour adds to the respect I have for Victoria’s police force. It seems as if they will stop at nothing, including putting people at risk, in their quest for traffic fines. If this is the way they think they serve me and the rest of us best, I think they are quite in the wrong.


Regards,
Moshe Reuveni

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

I never have books for lunch

This entry is my first entry size replies to Mr (or Ms) Anonymous, who has added some very interesting feedback to my Narnia entry. I have no idea who Mr (or Ms) Anonymous is - he might well be one of my close friends trying to play tricks on me - but I'm fine with whatever identity he/she may have, since the input was quite constructive, and indeed, worthy of some feedback.
I'll start with the easier part for me to address from his/her latest feedback, entered on 2/1/2006: the part about any potential romance I might have with obscure books or films. But as usual, I'll take the long way there.

I've started reading books at a small age. In retrospect, I remember books to be the thing that saved me from eternal boredom as a kid: Whenever I had nothing to do, or whenever I was dragged along to see an old boring aunt or something similar, I would take a book with me. As a result, I was hardly ever bored.
For lack of anything better to do, I have also spent the better parts of my school holidays reading books. Pathetic, I know, yet illuminating in retrospect. A game of football might have been more appropriate, but an Asimov book sure makes your brain work more.
As of 4th grade I fell in love with science fiction. In high school this trend developed into what I now refer to as cheap fantasy books (ala Dragon Lance): nice entertainment, a thrilling ride, but nothing of substance. I still read books like that even though I know it's a waste of time (e.g., Da Vinci Code).
In high school I also started reading magazines. At first they were car magazines, then motorcycle magazines. I've also started leaving science fiction behind in favor of thrillers such as Clive Cusslers and Tom Clancys, which I now totally disregard.
I've started leaving books behind in the army: At first because I didn't have time for them, then just because books were harder to digest; magazines were my life then, and I devoured every bike magazine on the planet: Cycle, Cycle World, Motorcyclist, and Moto.
The magazine trend continued through uni, only that the focus has moved to hi-fi: Stereophile became my first love. During uni I didn't have a life at all, and the only time I was able to read in between studying was while eating breakfast at home or at the toilet; as a result, I've started accumulating piles of unread magazines.
I did, however, fall in love with a brand new magazine that just started coming out at the time: Widescreen Review. By now I have a collection of most of its magazines, and I still regard it highly as the best authority on anything to do with home theater and hi fi on the planet. Its editor, Gary Reber, is someone I regard as a friend of mine even though I've never met him; it's his uncompromising philosophies and views that I admire.
I started reading books again at my first job after graduation, when Malka convinced me that I should give the Harry Potters a chance. Since then I've been reading books constantly yet very slowly. Language wise, what started as a trickle in 5th grade has become the vast majority, and now (barring a very few exceptions) everything I read is in English. Why do I bother mentioning that? Because according to my measurements I read English 5 times slower than Hebrew, and I was never a quick reader to begin with.
I can't really point at particular obscure books that I like; given that my book reading throughput is quite low, at about 10 a year, most of what I read is made of books everyone has heard of - Harry Potters, Da Vinci Code, Lord of the Rings, etc.
Science fiction is no longer the major component, genre wise; now I read everything from science fiction to science, from history to bullshit (e.g. again, Da Vinci Code). To give you an impression I'll just review the stuff I'm reading now...
Magazine wise we have Scientific American, where I've just started a new subscription and I already have a back log of articles I want to read but probably won't ever get to. I also have a back log of more casual old National Geographic magazines, where my subscription has expired by now but the articles never wear out. So far it seems like these magazines are relegated to breakfast reading.
Widescreen Review is still a major favorite - that's my reading material for lunch at work. Check out the letters section from issue #101, there's an interesting one in there!
Car and bike magazines are out; I'm over them, and I'm actually planning a blog entry discussing me being over them for the future.
Now to books:
Last week I finished the rare Hebrew read, Masa LeTodaat HaTeva (a journey to understanding nature?), a popular science book reviewing cosmology, quantum physics, human perception, and evolution. In each of those cases it reviews the most up to date theories. I cannot say it's an easy read, and I cannot say I understood it all - it feels like a book I'd learn again from if I read it again. I wouldn't say you should learn Hebrew just to be able to read it, but I highly recommend it.
I've started reading Heart of Darkness last week. I didn't buy the book: I've downloaded it from Planet PDF and printed it. Not the most comfortable affair, but it works. I like it; it's a hard read, being very rich (the opposite of Da Vinci), but it's rewarding. The reason I like it most is that it makes me realize just how good the film apocalypse Now really is; but films will be discussed elsewhere, since my unofficial profession over the last 15 years has been watching movies.
I've also started reading Barbara Touchman's "Guns of August", an historical review of the events that led to World War I and the first month of the fights. Written in a very flowing manner, it is quite a thrilling read; however, it's obvious that the book's length means I'll be reading it for a very long while now. Why bother? I was fascinated by the war and its futility, especially after reading the excellent All Quiet on the Western Front (pure and simple, a must!); I got to this book after hearing in a film that Kennedy really liked it and felt inspired by it during the Cuba "incident". All I can say is that I often think what I would have done had I been a soldier in that war: would I fight, knowing that it was a fools' war? And for that matter, is there any war or conflict out there that is not a fools' war?
If you just have to know which book I've enjoyed most lately, then my answer would be that of the books I've read during the last two years or so, "Life of Pi" was the one I keep thinking about.

Anyway, if there's a point to this entry, is to state that I truly think that the best thing a person can do to himself/herself is read a book. Nothing is as rewarding, and even though it's more of an effort than watching a film, it's also way more involving. And I'm saying that because experience has showed me how lacking I am when I don't read books; I simply feel short of something, or, bluntly put, dumb (or, as some of my friend would tell you, dumber than usual).

Mr (or Ms) Anonymous is angry at me for thinking that the Narnia books have been neglected and relegated as unfamiliar today. Well, if you ask me, I think that in today's corporate world where marketing people always try and make you spend your money on the latest thing, there are hardly any books out there which haven't been neglected; ask 90% of the kids (and I'm being conservative) and they'd tell you they don't read much.
The exceptions? The Harry Potters and the Da Vinci Code, with the latter being a pile of rubbish. Just like another exception, the Bible; but I'll continue with that in a separate entry, entitled "Losing My Religion".

Monday, 2 January 2006

Googlization II: The Best Things in Life Are Free

It's time for another short round of internet technology updates and how they affect (or not) day to day life.

Wireless: I've been contemplating wireless for quite a while. I've discussed here before my work laptop and its lack of wireless skills, knowing all very well that I can get a laptop's wireless extension card for less than $40 and a general USB wireless card for $40. But the main reason for wanting wireless is my PDA, which has built in wireless: the plan was for me to be able to surf the net for small stuff without turning the big desktop on, which would save time, make surfing easier and more available (the PDA is pretty much ready to surf the second you switch it on), and reduce the number of times Jo complains about me being stuck in front of the computer.
The camel to break the straw's back was being told at work that I can install a PDA version of Skype (on my PDA, naturally) and use it for talking. On paper, given that my PDA is also a phone, it should have worked nice and relieved us of the need to sit in front of the computer when talking to our relatives using Skype. Now, you know me, I'm fine with sitting in front of the computer; it was the better looking side of the family that complained (let's say that I was more interested in having the technology at hand than the relief aspects of it). Should have known better, anyway: My PDA is quite capable (and deserves a blog entry of its own), but let me just say this - as someone who recently converted from the Palm operating system to Microsoft's Pocket PC, I will tell you outright that I think Pocket PC is yet another Microsoft piece of shit product. One BIG piece of shit. Granted, it does a lot of things, more than the Palm; but it will not do anything well (and I do mean anything).
Anyway, back to the general wireless concept: I got a cheap and simple D-Link router for $75 and plugged it to my existing D-Link modem. Internet is now available everywhere, from the bedroom to the toilet (although I haven't tested it there - yet). The "Jo complaint" factor hasn't been solved, though, because it seems that now I'm actually on the internet even more than I was before. And with the way this blog has been going, I haven't exactly abandoned the desktop either (try typing that much on a PDA!).
So how does Skype on the PDA work? Like shit, in general. I used it to call my mother several times, and she complained of hearing quite a loud echo of herself at first. I think I addressed that with the settings, but in general she says she can't really hear me (I hear her fine, though). A part of the blame could rest on the PDA: For some reason, Skype forces the PDA to use its microphone when talking, instead of using it like a normal phone next to the ear; and my PDA's microphone is not the best one around. So: Shit, but with a big but, because Skype on the PDA may still be very useful if we're away in a place that has wireless and want to make a call at a very cheap rate (or even for free). We could have definitely used that on our round the world trip, and the fact that I had all the necessary hardware with me but lacked the knowledge that this feature is available is a definite "fail" score for me.
Let's go back to discuss wireless again. In general, wireless routers are sold as "plug and play" stuff. Let me tell you this: Plug and play my ass! I've had two very short nights' sleep because of this fucking plug and play router (and as a result, a couple of miserable days at work - or, to put in context, a couple of more miserable days than usual at work). The router's user manual is less useful than toilet paper - it's just as informative but will not clean your ass as well. Luckily, D-Link's trouble shooting guides on the web are good; the only problem is that the cure to my problems was on the D-Link Canada website, and I'm not exactly in Canada (luckily Google doesn't mind taking me there).
I cannot blame D-Link for all my problems: I will blame Microsoft for most of them. It turns out that most of my problems were due to previous attempts to create a Bluetooth network at home. If you're thinking about that, or if you're thinking about Bluetooth in even a remotely positive context - don't, because Bluetooth is a piece of shit that only works from 2cm away on a clear day. But those Bluetooth related problems show how Microsoft and its lovely Windows XP product can drive you crazy. It's obvious that my current Windows XP installation, which is more than a year old now, has past its half life already: Sooner rather than later I will need to reinstall Windows on my desktop because things will just stop working and the hassles involved with reinstalling will be lesser than the ongoing anguish of using it.
Anyway, if you didn't gather it by now, wireless works. And I've used 128 bit encryption plus Mac-address filtering to prevent my neighbors from enjoying it, too.

So what did I mean when I said that the best things in life are free? Allow me to elaborate in descending chronological order-
  1. A couple of nights ago we finally got to talk to Jo's parents with Skype (as in a Skype to Skype call rather than us Skyping their land number). Eventually we even got them to install the latest version that supports video, and although they don't have a webcam (or rather have one but have no idea where it is) they managed to see us. It was really funny, because of their kid like reaction; it was quite an entertaining experience, and I hope more will follow and more relatives and friends will follow, too. It also worked very well, and the bandwidth requirements are not bad at all (easily managed by a 256k connection; dial up will not support video). We had the occasional disconnection, but my guess is that it's because they have their wireless router at the office and they were talking to us from home. They should probably talk from the room nearest the office or get themselves a repeater type of a router that would allow them to use the office's connection all around their [big] place.
  2. A couple of weeks ago I Googled the name of an old university friend. I did it several times in the past, but this time I actually got a result - and a result that made it very clear that this time I was spot on, identification wise. The link gave me her company's name and location (Portland, but not the one we've vacationed in lately, but rather the one in the USA). So I guessed a few email addresses and fired away, and it worked! After 9 years of nothing I'm finally in touch with the one who gave me all the material I ever needed in uni, from the cheat shit for the 2nd year's accounting exam to the lab reports for the 4th year. Enough to make a huge difference - this is another friend I definitely owe a lot to. Thanks, Google!

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Cool (and the Gang)


At long last the weather has changed and a cool breeze has swept across the land.
Didn't do much today other than visit our friends Martin & Yvette, who are at hospital following the birth of their baby daughter on Friday. In typical Melbourne fashion the rain has started to pour down the minute we stepped out of the car bearing our gifts; in typical Moshe fashion we were parked on the wrong side of the hospital and had to make a run for it.
Lately we have been exposed to quite a lot of babies/kids (Georgia, Gal, Yoav, Lior, Eden - and so forth), so adding another one to the collection was pretty interesting. This time they even gave me instructions on how to hold the baby and I even held her for a few minutes - without dropping her even once!
The funny story has to do with the baby's name. On Friday we got an SMS from Martin saying that Anika Jade was born. Knowing Martin's affection for certain excellent trilogies followed by certain shit trilogies, my immediate assumption was that this was Martin's version on "Anakin the Jedi", hence my reply SMS in which I hoped the baby is strong with the force.
It turned out to be a typo: The name is actually Arnika Jade, with Arnika (according to sources within the family) apparently being a Scandinavian name.
You can read more about Arnika in Wain's world at http://wains.blogspot.com/

I'll conclude this entry with the announcement the hospital's elevator (also known as a "lift" in certain circles) made when we left: "Going Down!"
I wonder if Google will pay me for that.

Happy New Year!

For the second year in a row we were there in time together with our trusty Nikon to catch Melbourne New Year's fireworks display.
This time we were on the Brighton Bath's pier, which is a bit far from the center of the action but does give you a nice perspective on the entire show (which takes place in four different places). The distance is easily overcome with a zoom lens, and this year I even managed to play with some "special effects". This particular photo is a relatively short exposure; brightness was enhanced later at home to show you the background. I like it because it makes the fireworks look as if some kid painted them over the photo.
Anyway: To all of you, your families, your friends, planet earth, the milky way, and everyone I might have left out in a galaxy far far away - have a very happy new year! Posted by Picasa