Monday, November 30, 2009

Interesting for What It's Worth

I was just looking at this chart, which shows the perceived level of corruption in different countries. The methodology for culling this data is described in a broad way, but I'm still not sure if it includes only the perceptions of those who live in the respective countries.

#1 for least perceived corruption is New Zealand. The United States comes in at #19, just ahead of Barabados and Belgium.

In any case, for what it's worth, I think it's interesting that the following countries are among the 148 on the list perceived as being MORE corrupt than Israel (which comes in at #32, tied with Spain):

pretty much every other country in the Middle East
most of Asia
most of Africa
good chunks of South America

So for those of us disappointed and frustrated by the corruption in our government -- and there is definitely much room for improvement -- just be glad we don't live in India. Or Ghana. Or Botswana. Or Venezuela. Or Russia. Or China. Or Portugal. Or Hungary. Or Jordan. Etc, etc, etc.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Sarah and Liza Recuperative Center (a Cat Blog)

My friend A. had a cat for 18 years. After it died, she decided she wanted to be free to, say, leave for vacation without worrying about a pet, and she got new roommates who do NOT want any cats.

But a beautiful, neutered male cat showed up in her neighborhood, apparently a pet who had been abandoned. She started leaving food for him outside twice a day. When he got into a bad fight recently and his eye was injured, she took him to the vet, where the cat stayed for a week.

Finally the vet said it's time for cat (by now known as Blinky) to leave his office. But Blinky needed to be indoors for a week so that his eye could heal fully without interference from dirt, rain, or other cats.

Enter the Sarah and Liza Kitty Rehab.

Blinky came on Friday, and so far he's so quiet, sleepy, and still that you could almost forget he's around. He pretty much sleeps all day, sometimes on the couch and sometimes on a shelf in Liza's closet. He greatly enjoys being petted. That's pretty much it. An extremely low-maintenance cat!

Artemis, of course, was beside herself when Blinky first showed up. The first day or two, Blinky was petrified of Artemis who, though half his size, clearly belongs here and is a fiesty little thing used to getting her own way. Artemis is a terrible hostess.

But now, Blinky has come into his own and realizes that he is, after all, twice her size. So when Artemis comes too close to him, he hisses, she goes away, and Blinky goes back to sleep. The other day I saw her carefully tiptoeing in slow motion around him. My feeling is that it's about time someone put Artemis in her place. She needs to learn some humility and manners.

Meanwhile, Blinky is up for adoption. It's quite obvious that he's meant to be a housecat; he has zero interest in going outside. He's all white and very, very soft, and very, very chill. We don't know how old he is - the vet says at least 3 years old. A. got him his vaccinations, just in case, in addition to the eye treatment. If he doesn't find a home by this weekend, we'll be bringing him back to A's neighborhood and releasing him on the street (where A. will continue to give him food outside).

If you might want to adopt Blinky, contact me at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Value of a Life

Here's a novel approach to the ongoing Palestinian demands that Israel release hundreds of prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit:

Israelis should be rallying in SUPPORT of this deal, with signs that blare "Yes! One Israeli is worth hundreds of Palestinians!" and "Fair is Fair! One Palestinian for each cell in an Israeli body!" and "They Know It, Now We All Know It!"

That'll confuse 'em.

What happened to the idea of Arab honor? If I were Palestinian, I'd be appalled by the implications this deal makes about the value of a Palestinian life.

Glad I'm not. (Not just because of this.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Post for the Top

I just couldn't stand to see that stupid poem at the top of my blog anymore!

Latest news:

1- The "world economic downturn" is hitting me hard, thusly:

a) two of my clients have closed completely in the last two years

b) another of my regular clients cut their freelancer budget, so I get fewer assignments

c) yet another of my regular clients lost a major advertiser and now pays about 75% of what it used to

d) the dollar has plummeted in relation to the shekel

e) many, many publications have closed or laid off their writers, which means there are now many, many more writers in the freelancing pool, competing for fewer slots

See, one of the great things about freelancing is that I'm never, technically, unemployed. I always have some project on my desk. But on the other hand, these days I'm not fully employed, either, and it's a problem.

I have been pitching, pitching, pitching, and last week I sent out about 20 resumes for various part-time and freelancing jobs. I hope something bears fruit soon.

2- I've been taking a Travel Writing class with I signed up (and paid) for this before I realized how much I really can't afford it. It's interesting and useful, and will lead to more pitches in the future, but I'm not quite getting out of it what I hoped to get. There's still one week left, so I hope the instructor will answer the questions I've been bugging him to answer.

3- The health care issue in America is really moving, eh? I've been paying attention with about 75% of an ear. I love, love, love the highly socialized medical system in Israel, and have been happy to tell Americans why when they ask me (which many have), but other than that I don't consider it much of my business, except insofar as I care about Americans and America and want what is best for the country. Oh, and I care about my tax dollars, which, yes, I still pay to America every year like a good citizen (who is taking a chance on Social Security still being there in 30 years).

I do have opinions though, and now I will share one: the most important difference between the House version and the Senate version is that the House's version makes insurance companies accountable under anti-trust laws.

The price fixing and other financial shenanigans that currently go on are absolutely one of the worst aspects of American healthcare. It is horrible for hospitals, and horrible for patients. This aspect of the House bill is very important and I hope that it goes through into law.

Another nice thing would be if the bill mandated that insurance companies would have to pay the full amounts owed under their contracts, and that they must do so within a certain amount of time after a claim. Perhaps this is already included, but I'm not familiar enough with anti-trust laws to know that. I'm guessing not. I hope that over the next few years this is something that will be tweaked.

4- I've become addicted to House, MD. I've watched every episode, in order, in seasons 1-4. I'll rent season 5 as soon as it's available; apparently everyone in the German Colony wants to rent it. If anyone can recommend a way to download these thing a) legally and b) in Israel, please let me know. Please, no recommendations from America saying "try X or Y." I want recommendations from people who have done the downloading from an Israeli ISP.

5- I'm angry at Delta. You remember that when I returned from New York to Israel in September, I had a 12 hour delay? At the airport they gave out $100 vouchers. Later I complained by mail and they gave me a second $100 voucher. OK, $200, that's not so bad. But the fine print says I can use the vouchers only if I buy my tickets on, where the prices are higher than at, say, Expedia. I've been researching tickets to see my parents for Passover, and here's what I found: For the same price, I can buy a Delta ticket or a flight on Swiss Air. Which would YOU pick? Duh! So, basically, the vouchers are useless and I'm not really getting any sort of compensation from Delta at all.

6- Been reading Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown, by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours. Fantastic book. I bought it after an interesting conversation with my roommate, which went something like this:

Sarah: . . . and when I was little my parents took us a couple of times to Provincetown on the Harbor Cruise.

Liza: Your parents took you to Provincetown?

Sarah: Yeah.

Liza: Your parents?

Sarah: Yeah, what's so strange about it?

Liza: It's just that Provincetown in a gay nightclub scene. A party town.

Sarah: No, it's not. It's a family magnet with kitchy tourist shops and ice cream.

Liza: No . . . it's a gay party scene. I've been there with friends.

Sarah: I'm telling you, we walked around in the summer air and bought chachkas and ate ice cream, and there were plenty of other families with kids so it definitely wasn't just us.

Liza: Wait a second. You were there during the day?

And this is how we discovered that I, having been to Provincetown only during daylight hours, had seen a completely different town from Liza, who had been there only at night.