Tag Archives: technology


almond blossoms at the top of the little hill where I live in Jerusalem

When I came into this world, it was hell on earth. My earliest memories are of nightmare qualities. My parents, who were orthodox Jews, were married by ‘arrangement’. and complemented each other in a strange and unexpected manner. My father didn’t really want to bring any children into this world, but my mother wouldn’t hear of such a plan. It was either marriage with children or no marriage and he agreed. In an attempt to offer me some consolation, he suggested that I read history, and this I did. It gave me a wider perspective of human affairs. My mother, on the other hand, told me of the good in the world. She tried to share with me what she loved about life. She was an incurable optimist.

Nechama my cat does not believe in religion or any ideology. she looks at life from the ground up. she has an exaggerated faith in me. but when we’re taking a walk together and she sees a dog in the area, she hides behind a bush or up in the tree. she doesn’t rely on me to save her.

As a young man I started my learning with the study of religion, and from there I continued to mechanics, science and engineering. This was simply because Jewish people could not feel safe in any country. They had been driven out of one country after another and been forced to adjust to endless changes in language and cultures. The study of engineering or mechanics would allow me to feed myself and my family regardless of where I might have to go to find shelter. But after securing a professional base, I found myself drawn to philosophy. As I would read the thoughts of different philosophers, I was convinced almost every time, identifying with the thinker, and adopting his point of view until I came across the next which I would adopt too. I was naive and trusting when reading these volumes by intelligent rational people… well, some of them were rational. Eventually, I came to existentialism, and this was more or less where that search ended. I tried to live the present. Not to reach out in hope and prayer for the future… not to entertain fantasies about what could happen, and what I wanted to happen. And not to look back… because in my case, I couldn’t even take a peek without inadvertently seeing images of a blood drenched inferno, being beaten up, and tortured by fear.

she’s an old one eyed cat, but she hasn’t run to fat. she watches the birds on the hill without disclosing her opinions

For most of my life, I continued on this path. And as I’ve mentioned many times in this journal, my life became better and better. To the point where after sixty some years, dying quietly on the floor of my college office after a heart attack, I argued with an ambulance paramedic who wanted to take me to the hospital, saying that I had a good life, and just wanted to be taken home, which was a good place in which to say good bye to the world. Circumstances outwitted me, and I was eventually taken to the hospital where I was saved, but that is a story for another time.

this is wild mustard that grows freely in the fields at this season, and can be included in a sandwich without industrial additives

What I wanted to say, though, was that for most of my life I preferred to focus on the present. But as I grew old, I realized that in many cases that which was most precious to me, was not the contemporary favorite. It was not just that I’d grown old and was no longer able to keep up, and so waxed nostalgic about what had been popular when I was younger. In my youth I had enjoyed Vivaldi and Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. I had read philosophical speculations that were sometimes two and three thousand years old, and back again up till the present day. In the pursuit of happiness I had the advantage of checking out anything and everything that had been studied before me. And then… sometime after my retirement, I became entranced by the desire to keep ‘up to date’… and was disappointed.

more almond blossoms at the same place

technology is a straight line; the arts, philosophy, and music are part of a timeless blossoming of the human spirit. there is no before and after in art.


As we all know, there is nobility in ‘art for art’s sake, or studying for the sake of knowledge. One discerns music by taste. The reason to play is for the sake of enjoyment…of the player or the listener; either or both. But in the case of technology, there is constant forward motion and progress is judged by practicality. Technology started before recorded history, before the invention of the wheel, before the invention of scissors and pliers or the discover of the uses of fire. And we moved a step forward every time we encountered a practical way to get results that were even better than what we were getting before. There was a long period of time when man was learning how to harness the power of water moving in a river to perform jobs that people had previously been doing by hand. And then there was the steam engine, and then the internal combustion engine. And while these major industrial miracles were being celebrated, there were hundreds and thousands ‘little’ miracles that added to man’s ability to impose his will on nature.

the same corner where we looked at post modern sculptures on that rainy day

The industrial revolution was perhaps the first time that major customs and conventions were replaced and changed in order to placate the demands of technological progress. After that came the electrical era, and we are now at the very start of the digital age. It is hard to guess just exactly where we’ll go. But I keep in mind that the god of technology is efficiency, whereas the god of art, music and philosophy is reflected in the infinite variations of human sensitivity, empathy, emotions, and the questioning of our own existence.


blind faith

after we’d finally arrived

Call me old fashioned, but a telephone for me, is still a miracle, even when I’m only using it to talk to one of my friends who lives two blocks away. But the rest of the world has gone on to bigger and greater things. Not so long ago, my grand daughter was visiting. She had just come out of the shower, and lifted the receiver off my rotary dial phone in the kitchen, and asked me how to adjust it to a medium warm blow. She’d never seen a phone like that, and thought it was a hair dryer.

Rivka and Chana in the kitchen

And so, last week, when Rivka and I were over at Chana’s house, preparing dinner, I proudly told them of my success at sending a letter by way of telephone. They immediately began to encourage me. I was told of the wonders of using Waze. One could just jot down the destination in the program, and Waze would know the best and fastest way to get there. Rivka told me of a recent incident that happened on her way home from her Yoga class. She had her Waze on, and was taking the route she knew well. The fellow on the phone told her to take a right down some side street, but she ignored him, thinking she knew which way was fastest. But then a couple of blocks later, she got stuck in a terrible traffic jam. There’d been an accident. Cars were packed in for about a kilometer, as one by one, individual vehicles managed to pass the standing police cars and ambulance at the site. If only she had listened to the Waze, she said.

Noga and Michael

Well, it was on Monday of this week, that Noga and I had arranged to visit my friend Michael, who lives in the little village of Vineyard, at the edge of Jerusalem. He lives on Yemenite Immigrants Street; I forget the number. It was raining, when we set out in the afternoon, and the entire city was one big parking lot, as it often is at the beginning of the rainy season. Cars were crawling along… moving a meter forward, and then having to wait a few minutes until the next opportunity to move again. Though I’ve driven to Vineyard so often, I could probably do it in my sleep, it did seem like these were just the circumstances in which to try out the wonderful new invention. I typed Yemenite Immigrants and Vineyard into the Waze program, and settled into the driver’s seat, happy in anticipation of finding the shortest route through the traffic, on our way to my friend’s house.

telling our adventure to Michael – photo by Noga

Since I hadn’t yet hooked up my phone to the car, and didn’t know that blue tooth was anything but a tooth that had died and discolored, I asked Noga to hold the phone and just pass on the instructions to me. From the very beginning, I could appreciate the advantages of the program. Instead of the usual situation in which a friend suddenly yells ‘take a right now’ or ‘turn left’, forcing me to cross a lane in the last moment to execute the maneuver, this program gave me warning 800 meters before I had to make the turn. It even advised me ahead of time to switch from one lane to another. I was happy to have joined the world of the enlightened.


Strangely enough, though, I was getting instructions that I would never have thought possible. With a surety that only a robot could muster, the GPS program had me go left when I thought right, and into a neighborhood I thought totally illogical. But I remembered what Rivka had told me. How clever, the program was helping me to avoid an accident scene. We were going to get there much faster than we would have, had we gone the old route.


And then amazingly, we were out of the traffic jam, and down an old road I didn’t even recognize. It was a little narrow, and when a car came the other way, we had to pass one another carefully, with one car or the other going slightly off the road, it was so narrow. But I was ecstatic. Wasn’t it great that Waze had found the way to avoid all the traffic?! The phone told us to go left when we reached the fork in the road. It got dark. The rain kept coming down. Then there was a turn to the right which put us on a road that was even worse. There were no street lights here. We were driving through the Jerusalem forest, And when we left the forest, the pavement gave out. It had been supplanted by gravel. ‘Maybe we should go back’, said Noga, a bit aghast at our surroundings. But I insisted. What? You want to get back into the traffic jam in town?

photo by Noga

After the next right, I could tell by the limited light of my headlamps, that we were now on a dirt road with large rocks here and there, and holes where you didn’t expect them. From the speed of a horse’s pace I slowed down to what might best be called a walk. Fortunately, we were no longer encountering any cars coming the opposite way. But finally, after hopping over the rocks and trying to avoid the holes, we encountered a large sign. It was so dark I couldn’t see what it said. But I got out my flashlight, and put its light on the sign. It said, ‘graveyard’. A couple of letters were weather worn, but it was still readable. The Waze was no longer speaking to us. Noga thought we might have gotten to an area where there was no cell phone reception. So we kept going straight. But soon we were facing another fork in the road. Except that this time, it looked as if both choices in front of us were foot paths. I turned the car around, and that’s when the right rear tire blew. Luckily, I had a spare.


I was ready to go back by then. But the problem was that I didn’t know where in the hell I was. As we slowly made our way back, we checked any signs we could find. It was then that we discovered the intersection of Vineyard street and the Yemenite Immigration. And it turned out that we were in the backwoods town of Olive Tree. I would never have guessed that. But fortunately, the town of Vineyard was only an hour away. Hope you enjoy the pictures of Michael’s home. On our way back to Jerusalem, we decided to go without the help of artificial intelligence.

the upraised flag

a tractor resting in the shade

My dear friends, one of the hardest things in life is to see ourselves as we really are. How often does it happen, that a person looks at the image of himself in a photograph, and says, ‘that doesn’t look like me’. And similarly when a person first hears his own recorded voice. Don’t we all ask, ‘is that what I sound like?’ The same is true of society as a whole. We’re all part of a greater organism. But each of us focuses on what matters most to himself or herself. It is so hard to see ourselves from the outside, or how we fit into the greater picture.


And though there are a lot of cheaters and tricksters in this world… who are just after our money… there are some institutions and teachers who can help us along the path, and share with us the wisdom of generations as well as some very practical steps to make life easier. Yes, there are some bad teachers out there. And some very boring classes in school. But there are good teachers too. I believe, more good teachers than bad ones. And plenty of fellow students who are happy to share the knowledge they’ve gained. You can see that, if you just visit a forum on the internet. So many people are willing to volunteer their time to help others.


Last week I shared with you the terrible story of the kidnapping of the three teenage boys, not far from Jerusalem. What happened caused great pain to the families and the community. The boys have still not been heard from. Their disappearance is an open wound. But in hard times as well as in good times, it is essential for us to keep the whole picture in perspective. Long ago, our prophets filled that role as teachers and moral leaders.


In ancient times, when Israel was a great country, and truly an example among the nations… we got carried away by riches, and intoxicated by pride… our prophets warned us that we were losing sight of the essence. When we were insensitive to the poor and the handicapped, they warned us that even the strong among us would one day be weak, and the proud would eventually be humbled. When those among us were tempted by corruption, we were warned that if we were piggish we would lose all we had. We would suffer terribly for the abandonment of our ideals and principles.


And when the armies of other nations came to beat us, to break down our walls and to defeat us, to subjugate and enslave us, even to scatter us among the peoples of the world so that we would never again be the proud nation that we once were, our prophets consoled us with visions of repair and rebirth. They promised us that the day would come when the Jews would come home from the four corners of the earth, and our national home would be rebuilt. And that we would be a light to other nations of the world… sharing our knowledge and understanding.


Our prophet Isaiah promised us that one day the flag would be raised in the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and the ram’s horn would be sounded… and we would know beyond all doubt that we had returned to our ancestral home. In Hebrew, the word for flag is the same word as miracle. For a miracle is like a flag in that it reminds us of what is beyond our personal interests; what is greater than the individual’s concerns.


And so, this week, I set out with Chana to visit the little community of ‘the raised flag’ on the hills outside of Jerusalem. It was an opportunity to gain a wider perspective. For centuries, we have been the wandering Jews, persecuted and black listed… invited to contribute to a society, and then thrown out on our ears. We have been housed in ghettos, and forbidden to farm the ground. Lauded for our wisdom and our crafts, and then persecuted in pogroms and reforms… libeled and murdered and exiled from one country to the next.


But in the last century, the Jews have come home. In 1867 Mark Twain described the situation here in Israel; how the land was infertile and abandoned and abused. You can read his view of the holy land in his book, ‘The Innocents Abroad’. One hundred years later, in 1967, Israel was threatened and attacked by 4 belligerent enemy states supported by eight other Arab countries. The personnel and the weapons were overwhelmingly greater on the side of the Arabs. But Israel vanquished its enemies. Since the beginning of the 20th century, more and more Jews have returned to our ancient home, building institutions of learning, and improving methods of farming, industry, healthcare, and technology. Today Israel is the second largest innovator of digital technology after the USA despite the fact that we are infinitesimal compared with that great nation.

bus stop

I take comfort in knowing that lives have been saved around the world by the medical inventions produced in Israel, and that we have taught people to produce better food, and to turn salt water into sweet water in far away places, including Africa, Australia, and even China. We are still hated by some. But we have come back to our own place in the world, and that is my consolation. There are still those who would like to push us into the sea, as they threatened to in ’67, but I believe they will eventually learn to live with us in peace.


I believe that when Isaiah spoke of the wolf and the lamb, and the tiger and the goat, and the cow and the bear, he was speaking of the personalities of people and nations, who will overcome their individual characteristics, and learn to co-exist in peace. We are getting closer to that prophesy all the time.


It’s summer time. School has let out. The sky is blue, and the days are getting warmer. The pictures here are from our excursion to Nes Harim, named after the upraised flag in Isaiah’s prophesy. I’ve included a photo of an interesting sculpture I found there between the houses, and concluded with a picture of a female humming bird who came to drink from a bird feeder on Chana’s balcony after we returned. That’s my tip of the hat to my dear friend Janet, who paints the most beautiful hummingbirds.

binary alphabet

In Israel, where I live, it is common to represent the date in the following order: day, month, and then the last two digits of the year. And so today, the date is recorded: 01/11/11. Which reminded me of the binary code, and its importance in our modern lives.

circuit board

As exciting as it is, to use the computer as an instrument for ‘word processing’ or for editing our photography… or even as a terminal for receiving information from the internet, which may include music and motion pictures as well as mail, newspapers and blogs, I think it’s important that we remember from time to time, that at the very basis of this technology which has changed our day to day world completely, is a different language than that we grew up with. It is the most minimalistic language we may encounter, based on an alphabet that has only two letters, 0 and 1. It is called the binary code.

a house of love and prayer

In computing and telecommunication, binary codes are used in numerous ways to encode data. A sentence, a paragraph, or a page can be converted into strings of those two numbers, which eventually will be translated back by the computer into text or pictures that will appear on our computer screen. Instructions relating to the text, or to the behavior of the computer, are also represented by these strings, often called ‘bit strings’. The method by which the information is transcribed may use fixed-width or variable-width bit strings. These bit strings would look like words were they to appear as a line on a page. As in the example I put here, which is a binary representation of my name:
01010011 01101000 01101001 01101101 01101111 01101110

a grape harvester

In a fixed-width binary code, each letter, digit, or other character, is represented by a bit string of the same length. There are many character sets and many character encodings for them. A bit string, interpreted as a binary number, can be translated into a decimal number. For example, the lowercase “a” is represented by the bit string 01100001, and can also be represented as the decimal number 97.

Jinjit watches the children’s feet

The earliest use of binary numbers is said to have occurred at around 100 BC. The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz used a binary code in the 17th century in an attempt to translate logic into mathematics. After his ideas were ignored, he came across a classic Chinese text called ‘I Ching’ or ‘Book of Changes’, which used a type of binary code. this book strengthened his theory that the understanding of life could be reduced to a series of straightforward propositions. He created a system consisting of rows of zeros and ones. At the time, though, Leibiniz had not yet found a use for this system.

Jinjit’s own children, my grandchildren’s kittens

The first person to suggest the application of binary code in electrical machinery was one Claude Shannon, at MIT, who noticed that the Boolean algebra he learned was similar to an electric circuit. Shannon wrote his thesis in 1937, which implemented his findings. Shannon’s thesis became a starting point for the use of the binary code in practical applications such as computers and electric circuits. A binary system in general is any system that allows only two choices such as a switch in an electronic system or circuit.

car for sale

Braille is a type of binary code that is widely used by blind people to read and write. This system consist of 6 dot positions, three in each column. Each dot has two states, raised or not raised.