This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for October, 2010

Star-Gazing in Maale Adumim

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 20, 2010


Actually, “moon- and Jupiter-gazing” would be more accurate. The observatory of the ORT technical high school and college in Maale Adumim has a small observatory, which is open to the public once a month. We signed up for the tour on Oct. 18. I assume that the day is determined by the phase of the moon, so it’s probably scheduled a few days before the full moon. The moon is large enough to see easily but not so bright that the details are washed out.

ORT schools in Israel are technical secondary schools and colleges run by ORT Israel, which broke away from World ORT, an international non-profit organization, in 2006. According to the ORT Israel site, the school in Maale Adumim prepares cadets for the Israeli Air Force:

ORT Ma’ale Adumim is a regional school that aims to prepare its 214 student cadets for the Israeli Air Force while maintaining a high academic level. The college offers tracks in Electronics, Scientific Engineering, Computers and Biotechnology. The school plans to extend its range of 10th-12th grades, offering a 13th and 14th grade level as well.

The tour costs 20 NIS and has to be booked in advance. If there is insufficient enrollment, they’ll call you the night before to let you know that it has been cancelled. Details (in Hebrew) are at their site. To register, call 02-590-0243/923, ext. 4, and ask for Viki. It’s rather difficult to reach her, so if you run into problems, call the school admin number and leave a message. There were 18 people the night we went.

The tour began with a fairly basic astronomy lecture and a demo of Stellarium. If you’re not familiar with Stellarium, it’s a free, open-source planetarium software program  (Wikipedia). We downloaded it as soon as we got home (download site, screenshot gallery, for Windows, Mac, and Linux). It’s a lot of fun!

After the presentation, we went out to the balcony to look at the moon and Jupiter. I could see the red stripe of Jupiter. Someone in the group managed to get a good photograph of the moon by holding his cellphone close to the eyepiece. I wish I’d thought of that but I’m not sure I could have manually focused a DSLR under those conditions. I still don’t have a medium zoom lens, so these photos were taken with a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens and a 10-22mm wide angle lens.



We didn’t get to use the big observatory telescope for a number of reasons — it takes time to set up and calibrate, it’s intended primarily for researchers, and using it does involve wear-and-tear on a fairly expensive machine. The kids were allowed to operate the controls to open the roof and rotate the telescope. The entire tour is an hour long and it’s fun if you’re looking for something close to home.



Gratuitous B/W arty shot of the stairs:


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Endless Baana Scarf Finished

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 18, 2010

Endless knitting project

This was the most tedious knitting project I’ve done in ages. I bought the pattern for $2 from KnitPicks because I didn’t know about it when it was free on Ravelry. (Honestly, I don’t know why I bought a pattern when I could have figured it out myself. I think I was seduced by the novelty of buying and downloading a pattern on-line — instant gratification!)

The triangular scarf (the pattern actually calls it a “shawlette”) starts at the back of the neck. You cast on a few stitches, increase at 4 points (two in the center and one at each outer edge) and knit linen stitch until you run out of yarn or patience. I ran out of patience long before I ran out of yarn but I forced myself to finish because the project was too heavy for me to keep carrying it around at the bottom of my backpack.

The things that I dislike about linen stitch are (a) it’s too fiddly to be mindless, (b) it’s too mindless to be interesting, and (c) it requires a rather large needle size (4.5mm) relative to the size of the yarn, which I find uncomfortable and awkward.  I knitted this rather small scarf with 2 x 50-gm skeins of cotton (about 80 m/50 gm). If I’d chosen a finer yarn, like sock yarn with more yardage, I probably wouldn’t have needed two skeins. OK, so the stitch itself was not a good fit with my knitting personality.

The increasing method (m1 from strand between stitches) is not easy to execute in linen stitch, where every other stitch is slipped. The two center increases were apt to leave holes, so I changed the center increases to k1 in front and back.

The eyelet row was easy to execute. The picot edge was rather fiddly and the instructions were not very clear. My advice is to grab a crochet hook and do your own picot edge. All that “cast on 2 sts/cast off 2 sts” gets very repetitious. At least the edge of the finished scarf isn’t very large. I wouldn’t have had the patience to do a knitted picot edge on a large shawl.

Back to the Orenburg shawl. It’s fiddly but interesting.

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Maale Adumim Residents Surprised to Learn Baths Closed on Christmas

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 15, 2010

Chrome translation and mikvehs

On a whim I ran an article from the local paper (on-line edition) through Chrome’s Google translator. I guess it was an unusually good choice of subject matter because I can’t stop laughing. It’s about how the local mikva’ot (ritual baths) are closed on the day before holidays for budgetary reasons. When the men of the city discovered that the mikvaot were closed, they all went to Rabbi Yitzhak’s private bath. Poor guy. Hope he had enough towels.  🙂

(This decision affects the immersion of men, which is optional, before a major holiday like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. It does not affect the immersion of married women.)

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Photo “Joiner”: Restaurant in the Shuk

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 15, 2010

Restaurant in the shuk

This collage isn’t my own idea. It’s based on David Hockney’s joiners and was an improvised solution to the problem of trying to photograph a restaurant on a narrow street in the shuk with a 50mm prime lens, without standing behind the counter of the spice store opposite. I took several photos separately, without trying to get any continuity in exposure or angle.

When I read about Hockney’s initial experiments, I realised that my motivation was the same, to capture a wide view without a wide-angle lens. If you want to see some of Hockney’s joiners, there is a good selection at For more information, see Time Magazine’s article, Time Recomposed of Shards (because this article is a commentary on an exhibit but has no images, you should have the 5 Magazine article open in an adjacent browser window for reference).

Well-known Hockney quote, from Cameraworks:

“Photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralysed Cyclops.”

Actually, that quote doesn’t make much sense in isolation. It comes from Lawrence Weschler’s introduction to Cameraworks:

My main argument was that a photograph couldn’t be looked at for a long time. Have you noticed that?” Hockney led me back into the studio and picked up a magazine, thumbing through randomly to an ad, a photograph of a happy family picknicking on a hillside green “See? You can’t look at most photos for more than, say, thirty seconds. It has nothing to do with the subject matter. I first noticed this with erotic photographs, trying to find them lively: you can’t. Life is precisely what they don’t have- or rather, time, lived time. All you can do with most ordinary photographs is stare at them- they stare back, blankly- and presently your concentration begins to fade. They stare you down. I mean, photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world form the point of view of a paralysed cyclops- for a split second. But that’s not what it’s like to live in the world, or to convey the experience of living in the world.

Hockney was trying to create a narrative with his joiners. I found that I was doing much the same, albeit unconsciously, when I put together the pieces with Picasa’s collage feature. I wanted to emphasize the ironwork above the door, the warm colours and lighting of the kitchen, and the fish monger next door who sprayed me with cold, fishy water while he was hosing down his stall. Ugh. I was eating at the time. I also wanted to show the restaurant’s sign, although it’s at an angle. If I were to do this again, I would change the angle of some of the shots so that they would convey their meaning more clearly. I put no real thought into taking the actual photos. I only noticed that one could play around with the relative importance/size of the components when I was putting together the puzzle. Interesting for a first experiment!


Detail of ironwork above. The plaque in the star says “1923. Meir Eliyahu Banai.” The shop originally belonged to Meir Eliyahu Banai,  a member of the Banai dynasty, an Israeli family that has produced a large number of singers and actors. A few years ago it was converted into a restaurant called Mitbach haBri’ut.

Mitbach haBri’ut is a kosher, organic, and vegetarian restaurant in the Mahane Yehuda market. The food is mainly lentils/tofu/salad, nicely spiced and well prepared. Menu is limited but portions are large and prices are reasonable. I would definitely go again, and sit indoors or upstairs (yes, there really is an upstairs in this tiny restaurant!) if it’s close to the time when the fishmonger is closing. The restaurant is located at 1 Banai or 4 Agas, just off Pri Etz Haim (the covered shuk). There are two tables outside. On the left of the restaurant is the fishmonger and on the right is the woman whom we used to call the Queen of Vegetables when I was a student. You’ll recognize her when you see her. She sits on a high stool above rows of perfect vegetables. Everything at her stall is orderly and calm, unlike the feeding frenzy that you’ll  see today if you stand in the middle of the shuk and yell, “Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Three shekels a kilo!!” (The recent heat wave drove up the price of tomatoes to 10-15 NIS/kg.)

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Prague Clock: Amazing Video Installation

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2010

Best viewed full screen.

This is marvelous. I would have loved to have seen it in person! It reminds me of the video installations I saw during the Jerusalem Light Exhibit.

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I Really Am a Dog Paparazza Now

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2010

I really am a dog paparazza...

This photo of mine appeared in this morning’s edition of our weekly rag, Zman Maale (Oct. 14, 2010). The articles describes the tricks that Linda can do and how she was photographed at Maale Adumim’s “Yom haKalev” (Dog Day). The article was submitted by the dog’s owner, a co-worker of mine.

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

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Turned Two Corners of Orenburg Shawl

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2010

Orenburg Shawl

Yay! I finally started the body of the shawl. The photo above shows the edging. I knitted 34 repeats of the edging pattern, turned the first corner with short rows (half a repeat), picked up 273 stitches along the edge, picked up the cast-on stitches, turned the second corner, and started the body of the shawl. The cable of my circular 2.25mm needle feels rough. I suspect that it may have tiny breaks in the plastic. It’s an old Inox needle and I’d hate to have it fall apart while this shawl is on the needles. Fortunately, I have another circular needle this size.

This is the ill-fated Square Medallion Shawl that I began in April, 2010, in a linen thread that didn’t work out. The linen thread would probably have worked for a center out design, but it wasn’t elastic enough for picking up stitches from the edging. The pattern is the Square Medallion Shawl from The Gossamer Webs Design Collection: Three Orenburg Shawls to Knit.

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Israel Museum Re-opened

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 13, 2010

Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum

After three years and $100 million, the Israel Museum has re-opened. My husband and I went last night and were very impressed. It’s obvious that some parts are still under construction and a number of exhibits have to be labeled, but the enlarged galleries and the bright lighting are a big improvement. We didn’t go into the Shrine of the Book (photo above), since it was open while the rest of the museum was closed for construction, but I took this photo from the path.

The museum doesn’t allow photography for copyright reasons, so if anyone asks how I took these photos … um, er, I was shooting from the hip with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, no tripod or flash.

Synagogue floor mosaic:


Second Temple Period ossuary:


Torah ark in reconstructed Venetian synagogue:

Venetian Torah ark

Terra cotta quails, Mamluk:


Yinka Shonibare, Artist’s Choices: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water (I love his textiles! Check out his site):

Yinka Shonibare

Spanier work, a rather rare form of metallic bobbin lace used for making the atarot (trim around the neckline) of tallitot (prayer shawls). This particular exhibit was accompanied by a video of a Belz hassid making the trim.

Spanier work


Gift shop window:


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My Brief Career as a Dog Paparazza

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 10, 2010

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

I can hear you all saying, “WHY?????” Why did I spend three hours crouching in the dark, beside a stage, photographing a community dog show? A couple friends brought their dogs to this show, it was cute and informal (a real dog show would probably not have allowed me to crawl through a crowd barrier and take photos, and because it was very good practice for shooting under difficult situations. Most of the show took place after dark, the main lights were bright yellow spotlights, the dogs and their owners move fairly quickly, and I wasn’t using a tripod or flash. I took these photos with a 50mm f/1.8 lens because it was the fastest lens I own. The advantage is illustrated by the photo above. The dog happened to turn towards me while he was on the stage and I managed to get a sharp, clear portrait with catchlights in the eyes. If I had used a flash, he would have had bright green eyes, that is, if he had been looking at the camera at all.

The disadvantage is show in the photo below. Because I was so close to the stage there was a lot less room for me to frame a shot, so this dog’s nose got cut off when I snapped the photo of her jumping through the hoop.

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

There were only two areas where I could get a good shot — on the runway and on the stage. The runway photos were shot in manual mode, 1/250 second because anything longer caused motion blur. For the stage shots, because the stage was much more brightly lit, I quickly flipped the dial to aperture priority (AV) mode so that the aperture would stop down instead of overexposing it at the settings I had for the runway. Maybe I should have tried both sets of shots in TV mode, at 1/250 seconds. I didn’t think of it at the time.

Here are a couple runway shots. The dogs and owners are only lit by the spotlight for the space of time it takes to walk two steps. Too early, and the dog is lit but the owner is in darkness. Too late, and the opposite occurs. So the timing was pretty tight and there were a lot of shots runway I didn’t get because of the timing required. The spotlight is actually pointed at the dog. In order to show the owners adequately I had to boost the midtone levels.

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

These photos were taken at high ISO settings (800 and 1600) and cleaned up with Canon DPP’s noise reduction. Actually, I noticed very little noise with this lens. I shot a few RAW files (for a friend whom I wanted to photograph) but most were JPG because I had only one card with me.

Autofocus: AI Servo, spot metering. I had to do a lot of colour correction afterwards because the lights were so yellow. If I do something like this again, I’m going to set a custom white balance early on. I love the challenge of low-light photography but this was more challenging than most!

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

This photo of my friend’s dog rehearsing her tricks was taken about half an hour before the show began, when it was still light.

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

The Shar Pei below won the top award. He didn’t seem too impressed with his trophy.

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

Maale Adumim Dog Show, 2010

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Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 5 – Ladder Foundation

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 4, 2010

The ladder foundation is easier for beginners and less fiddly than the foundation thread. It is suitable for square and rectangular motifs.

1. Using the circular thread foundation, make 3 stitches (or knots) on the thread. This is your first row (left-to-right).

Puncetto Valsesiano 4.1

2. Working from right to left, insert the needle in the first loop, wrap the thread around the needle, and make a stitch in each loop.

Puncetto Valsesiano 4.2

3. Work back and forth on these two loops until you have a ladder.

Puncetto Valsesiano 4.3

Puncetto Valsesiano 4.4

4. When the ladder has as many rows as you need stitches for the width of your motif, turn the ladder 90 degrees and work the next row of stitches on the side of the ladder.

Puncetto Valsesiano 4.5

Remember not to flip the work over. The front of the ladder is always facing you. The first row worked down the side is a left-to-right row.

  • Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 4 – Circular Foundation Thread
  • Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 6 – Squares and Bars
  • Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano, tutorial | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »