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Chanukah is upon us…

…and with it parents are getting homework from school to build and make various festive items.

My son came home with an assignment to make a Dreidel or Sevivon (Chanukah spinning top) with his parents; thank you school for giving me homework too.

The instructions told us it could be made of any material and needed to represent heroism, one of the main themes of the festival.

What Is A Dreidel / Sevivon?

Dreidel Chanukah

Here is a classic representation. With this in mind the Little Guy and I embarked upon a planning session where we discussed various materials for our Chanukah task and given the timeframe we decided on a cardboard cutout with printed images of daily heroism: a policeman, fireman, paramedic and soldier.

Luckily we hadn’t disposed of the weekly paper and card recycling so we had raw materials to choose from. To make it easy to cut I suggested we use a cornflakes box.

We cut one open and then the Little Guy asked how to make the shape; a Dreidel is essentially a cube with a pyramid (four sided triangular solid stuck underneath) and a handle: one holds the handle to spin and the point of the pyramid allows the Dreidel to spin.

I gave the Little Guy the ruler and asked him to measure how big the cardboard was, then I sketched out what a deconstructed Dreidel would look like after we agreed that:

We could cut 20 – 22 cm along the length of the box

Therefore: 4 sides of the cube would be 5 cm but how would we work out the correct size of the triangles making the pyramidal base?

The image below shows each triangle was dissected along the middle creating a right angle triangle. At this point I explained some basic geometry to my son and we did the math together to work out the length of the sides of the triangle.

We needed to add a flap of 0.5 cm to stick the cube together. We did the pencil and ruler work together and ended up with this.

Dreidel - Chanukah 1 - template

Followed by some dazzling scissor work with a pair of safety scissors.

Dreidel - Chanukah 2 template

Next we threw a glue stick and some invisible tape into the mix.

Dreidel - Chanukah 3 template

After selecting the images for our heroic theme and printing them (thanks Office 2013 online images) we cut and stuck them on the Dreidel, colored the ends and used an Ikea pencil as the Dreidel’s handle.

Dreidel - Chanukah 4 template

All in all the Little Guy had a good time doing the work with me and learning some practical applications of geometry and Pythagoras.

Mission Accomplished – Happy Chanukah.

Last week a story broke how the State of Israel had “banned” the iPad. I did a quick search and  found the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and read the article.

First I’m not going to get into the story other than to say that the headline is one of the most viral headlines I have seen in months. Also it (the headline) is one of the most misrepresentative in my humble opinion.

Haaretz can be fairly described as Left Wing, to the point that they are currently embroiled in a National Security scandal involving over 2000 stolen IDF secret documents and one of their reporters who fled to the UK with the documents and pled for asylum. Apparently the UK doesn’t consider Israeli National Security important as they let him stay. I hear cries of nyah, nyah our Official Secrets Act is important, yours isn’t. This only weeks after a British MoD official “lost” a laptop containing top-secret plans from inside their headquarters?!?? (Story from the fascinating so maybe the Brits just don’t respect “Top Secret” the way James Bond portrays it.

Anyhow, questioning Haaretz newspaper’s sensationalism and motives aside, I called up the Israeli Ministry of Communications and spoke to their Spokesperson and the Test Engineer responsible for the iPad testing. In a nutshell they sounded competent and committed to ensuring the Israeli consumer is provided with a communications device that works to the standards set down in Israeli law. They assured me that testing had begun but did not wish to commit to any completion date for obvious reasons. They did state that on approval the device would be legal to import like any other if it passed.


The hysterical level of blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and so on regarding this leaves me convinced that Steve Jobs sure knows how to create a feeding frenzy. Perhaps President Obama should ask him to pitch to Israel his plans for the Middle East?

People seem really shocked by one of the following: –

  1. Israel has standards for this sort of thing.
  2. We don’t just blindly trot along after the United States and let it in on the FCC’s say so.
  3. OMG but it’s an iPad! AN IPAD!! Why isn’t Israel just waiving the law for it?


I just read several blogs saying how this is typical governmental bureaucracy or hints of dark government conspiracies (where are Mulder, Scully and Smoking Guy these days anyway?) and then the best of them was this is damaging our ability to develop competitive applications. Israeli hi-tech should be getting these right now to ensure we maintain our competitive edge.

To the folks out there deriding the testing team at the Ministry of Communications as bureaucrats let me ask you this:

  • Have you ever worked with any public sector employees in Israel? I have and I was in the main impressed by their professionalism, commitment and willingness to work hard for not the greatest salaries in the world.
  • Did you make any effort to contact this department and at least talk to these folks? I’m not hearing anything other than silence here.

Now to Israeli hi-tech; I’m a veteran of over 10 years and I can honestly say that I am always impressed with the creative and smart solutions to problems like this that Israelis come up with.

Back in the day, I worked briefly as a QA Team Leader for a company before they were bought and the R&D moved out of Israel. This company was in the business of Locational Applications and optimized web and we even tested on platforms such as Qualcomm’s marvelous BREW. This was not supported at the time in Israel. Did we manage to test?

Yes devices were in our US office and we connected to them via the BREW SDK and PC Anywhere, also we had emulators and a functional but non-connected BREW phone.

Was it easy? Was it economical? Not always. We had a recurring random disconnect bug that drove us crazy until we discovered that someone was without noticing rolling back and forth over the cable connecting the phone to the PC in the US and this was affecting connectivity. Some of the time we even had one of the QA Team over in the States to work on devices that were already supported there.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that all I am reading is whining and complaints. I am not seeing that bright spark of creativity, innovation and occasionally improvisation to get the job done.


Can you connect to the iPad by remote? If so perhaps someone in the US might want to purchase a bunch of these devices and setup a Remote Lab in the US and rent out testing and R&D time.

Is there an emulator for the iPad? Apparently the Apple SDK will as with previous product SDK’s incorporate an emulator.

In a nutshell, until the MoC finishes there work and until Apple actually starts importing the things here let’s get back to being a little creative in our solutions and make some money.

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Morphy Richards 47970

This is my Espresso machine, the Morphy Richards 47970 a kind gift from my folks last summer when they were visiting and decided that me having an in-house caffeine solution was a good idea.

At first I couldn’t find a photo or the model number so thanks to Zap Consumer Site (Hebrew for Israel guys, sorry) for having the model and photo there.

Now firstly, title aside I love this Espresso machine. It makes great espresso and according to my sister-in-law a pretty good Cappuccino too.

Now of course it helps to have great coffee to work with and here in Modiin there is certainly no shortage of choices: –

Map picture

My two favorite places to purchase ground beans are Sarah’lehs Bakery/ Coffee-shop a Pillsbury franchise (this is a really nice family store) they have one brand of Italian coffee beans that is strong and tasty.

The other is Cafe Joe / Cup O Joe  a chain across Israel, they have two coffee shops in Modiin, one in the Azrieli Mall and the second at the Yishpro Center just outside of Modiin. Cafe Joe has a variety of coffee beans to choose from and an amazing machine that automates the grinding process based on bean selection, quantity and coffee machine type.

My preferred purchase with Cafe Joe is 200grams of their Kenya AA bean. If you are anywhere near one of their coffee stores in Israel and you haven’t tried their excellent coffee, great food and fantastic service then I recommend you do so, strongly.

Okay that’s the background on my Espresso machine and the coffee I use in it. Of course there is one more element, the water. I use tap water in my Espresso machine and Modiin like much of Israel has hard water the underlying geology of much of the region is limestone. You can see this in much of the local construction but also on the inside of our kettles. The limescale buildup is rapid and nefarious in how it affects untreated appliances however I’m not in the position to install a water softener so tap water it is.

This means that once a month I descale and run a maintenance regime on my Espresso machine or see it stop working.

This involves me performing some basic disassembly and then taking all the removable parts and cleaning them. All the cleaning of the parts is done using Vinegar and Baking Soda. I place everything into a bowl and leave it to soak as the mixture fizzes away. Following this everything gets rinsed off several times in piping hot water.

Meanwhile I have filled the water tank with vinegar and switched on the machine and run hot vinegar thru the system followed by several cycles of clean water.

On reassembly the system produces a noticeably better espresso. However before you run off and try this yourself check what your machine’s manufacturer recommends for your machine.

The one part though on my machine that needs more than a monthly cleaning is the cup that holds the ground beans thru which the pressurised, boiling water flows to create the espresso. This gets the same soaking and rinsing at least once every two weeks.

Still it’s all worthwhile for that wonderful home espresso experience don’t you think?

This morning I was at our Kuppat Cholim which literally translates from Hebrew as Pool of Sick People but is the nearest thing to an HMO or Healthcare Provider in Israel.


The Missus had asked me to pop over and fill a prescription for her and I was trying to remember how many antihistamine I had left. Any time I need a repeat prescription for my allergy meds (and pollen season is pretty much here)I’m lucky enough to be able to phone my Doctor and simply request it. A day later I can pick up the prescription. Of course the more you use these meds the less they seem to work.


Anyway the best thing I find for me is Caffeine. Preferably a good, strong double espresso. I discovered several years ago that in a pinch if I’m a little wheezy it can even help with that.

Now pay attention, I’m not advocating any of you smart folks stop taking meds or start mainlining caffeine. This works for me as long as I drink my coffee in moderation. (DISCLAIMER)

I mentioned this to several Doctors over the years who all looked sceptically at me.  However this information has been around since the mid-1800’s as Coffee contains a chemical compound Theophylline


This compound was used as an early treatment for breathing disorders. Anyhow it occurred to me that Coffee is ostensibly a homeopathic treatment (yes, I know it has side effects) so how come my health fund doesn’t give me prescriptions for Coffee?

Take two espressos and call in the morning? Why not? The Dead Sea is known for its therapeutic benefits for many skin disorders and one of the Health funds in Israel does actually fund trips to the Dead Sea for sufferers of these disorders. So perhaps it’s time I ran for political office on the therapeutic caffeine platform.

Please note that the author was not entirely serious when writing this piece (LOL)

Comment: Does that mean you weren’t entirely unserious either when you wrote it: From anonymous

Israel has long been famous for its hi-tech know-how. Many companies have flourished here and most have raced for the rapid exit.
This seems to fit a profile along with the persona that Israeli hi-tech personnel are known for .. super assertive, strong willed and not afraid to state their case. There are corporations who purchase Israeli companies who then add to their corporate websites articles to employees explaining the cultural background to this to ensure that employees from other countries aren’t too shocked by all this.
However, it is the rapid exit part that concerns me. Every private company, its founders and investors are in business to make money and who can criticize that but, as a country surely we also need hi-tech companies that grow long term and flourish here in Israel.
I read this week that our govenrment and obviously (in this case) PM Netanyahu amongst them wants to offer incentives for just this.
As a country we can ill afford to allow all this know-how and technology to migrate so rapidly to the US particularly given the attitudes of the current adminstration to Israel and the increasing talk of offshore R&D being bad for US employment (this being a misrepresentation at best and ignorant naivete at worst).
For our country to flourish and progress, to offer greater employment opportunities and open satellite offices or parterships abroad we need to find the best ways possible to show that the rapid exit is not always best.

Originally, I am a Manchester boy. Many people tell me here in Israel that my time living here coupled with marrying a New Yorker have softened my accent considerably. Before I moved to Israel I was a tea-drinker; not in the classical English sense of tea with milk in china but strong black tea with nothing in it; preferably leaf tea and Kenyan if I could get it or Earl Gray.

I came to Israel and during my time in the army I discovered coffee. Now mind you, none of this instant, granulated stuff but what they call Turkish Coffee. Strong, thick, black and sweet this coffee is coarse ground and brewed in a small tin open pot over a naked flame. My first taste of it was in the middle of an Armored Infantry exercise in the IDF Southern Training Center in the Negev. We were finishing up a morning of various exercises in APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers) when ours stopped and the driver fished out his coffee kit (pakal kaffee as they call it). After brewing up using the APC as a wind-shade he handed me a shot-glass of coffee. One hit and I was hooked. Not just on the caffeine hit which for a coffee newcomer was considerable but also the rich flavor.

Since then I have discovered the wonders and differences of French Press coffee and Espresso. Each time I travel anywhere it fascinates me to see their idea of what constitutes good coffee.

Now if you aren’t a true coffee drinker you may not understand what on earth I am going on about here but the fact is in hi-tech particularly or if you are a night-owl like me in general, then coffee can really help your alertness and at least for me, productivity.

On days when my allergies may be bad or I simply didn’t sleep well the night before nothing helps like a strong cup of coffee. The caffeine from a double espresso seems to clear the thinking processes and it certainly stops the incessant sneezes of hay-fever on bad days.

However, I have a couple of rules for myself when it comes to coffee: –

  • No more than two cups of double espresso a day.
  • Never drink coffee after 8pm
  • Only, only, only drink the good stuff

Nothing is worse than drinking espresso made in a poorly maintained machine or bad coffee. So with this in mind I try to stick to drinking only really, really good coffee. Luckily, Israel has no shortage of excellent coffee houses who invest a lot of time in finding excellent coffee beans.

For those of you who get the chance to visit Israel and love your coffee these are my personal favorites: –

Cup O’ Joe / Cafe Joe: across Israel in various large towns

Arcaffe: as above

Sarahleh’s Bakery: in Modiin. They have excellent coffee and the baked goods a great too.

Well, now I have had my cup of coffee … back to work 🙂



Postings have been sparse lately as I was off doing my annual Reserve duty or “Miluim”.

I completed my 13th year in my Infantry Regiment as Company Medic and was inevitably anxious on the first day to see just what had changed in the Army’s attitudes since last year’s war.

Equipment – improvements are showing already only a year later. On the most fundamental level every soldier’s most important piece of equipment is his or her weapon. Following receipt of our weapons and training on the firing range most of us felt these were the best weapons we had ever received. Gone are the old long M16’s with rattling parts and cracked plastic fore-grips. Each soldier received a newer short M16/ M4 carbine except for the M203 Grenadiers and A2 Sharpshooters.

Many opened their kitbags to find the new style IDF uniforms. Personally, I find these to be heavier and in weather over 30 Degrees Centigrade the fabric seems to increase sweating and associated problems such as heatstroke, sweat-rash and even dehydration. I was really happy I kept hold of my old uniforms.

Training – the pace and seriousness of the training was unlike anything I have seen in 13 years of Miluim except in 2002 when we served in the Hebron region following Operation Defensive Shield. However the doctrine and philosophy has changed at a fundamental level; the slow pace and sitting around are gone. Every minute feels valuable in terms of training and whilst the young instructors have always been good at their job they are finally using clear terms such as “engage the enemy”. Someone remembered that a soldier’s job is to protect the citizenry and defeat the enemy.

In terms of new technology this was somewhat limited but then not much has changed vis a vis Infantry tech since WWII if you discount GPS and or Night Vision equipment.

We were introduced to a replacement for the tired old (sometimes from the 1950’s and passed their use-by-date) Personal Field Dressing although most of us did not receive it. The new bandage is bulkier, elasticated and with a clip that theoretically allows the user to place the bandage one-handed on themself if needed. The old bandage had ribbons in each corner and closing it over an open wound to ensure closure usually required applying it in what the IDF calls the “English Flag” as once the ribbons are tied over the edges and crisscrossed over the center it begins to resemble the Union Jack.

In short, it seems that lessons have been learnt and change is occurring for the better. Perhaps the 7 lean years are over. Here’s hoping we never need to use all this.