This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for July, 2011

Return to Balabasta

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 27, 2011

Pirhana Iraqi band

OK, now that I’ve got your attention (that is, if you happen to like good-looking young men in tight clothing who can sing in Iraqi Arabic), this is the lead singer of Parhana (not sure how to transliterate the name of the group into English). Imagine about 100 people crammed into a tiny square to watch this band at Balabasta, the Mahane Yehuda cultural festival held on Mondays in July. Despite the heat, quite a few people were dancing. Or balancing beer bottles on their heads.

Parhana (Iraqi band)

Balancing Beer Bottle

They make such clever hearing aids these days…

Man with cherries on his ear

Violin and oud duo inside the shuk:

Oud and Fiddle Duo

When photographing performers I’m never sure whether to post group shots or portraits of individuals. Although group shots show the whole setting, I find that they look like snapshots (or at least the ones I take). Individual portraits have more impact.

We went back to Balabasta for the final night and I was pleasantly surprised to find almost no overlap in performers. We also went later and stayed later than we did last week, but the bands posted at the various stages was different. So if you’re wondering whether, next year, it’s worth going more than once, I would say that it is. Just remember that it’s very crowded, so you might not want to take young kids if they have a tendency to wander off.

Yo’ad Shoshani on bass guitar and Meir Asor on drums:

Meir Asor (drums) and Yo'ad Shoshani (bass)

Yo'ad Shoshani (bass guitar)

Meir Asor

A little boy having his face painted. I was struck by the juxtaposition of a little boy in a big velvet kippah having his face painted by a woman with tattoos and lots of piercings, in a cat costume. They were surrounded by a circle of parents. I had to kneel and take the photo very quickly when two people stepped apart briefly.



Edgo and Salomon playing traditional Ethiopian instruments:

Edgo and Salomon (Ethiopian musicians)

This is a krar, a 5-stringed lyre from Ethiopia and Eritrea, tuned to the pentatonic scale.

Ethiopian musician

This instrument is a masenko or masenqo, a single-stringed, bowed instrument.

Ethiopian musician

The chess tournament continues:

Young chess players

Band on the roof

Mahane Yehuda Street

And the winner of this year’s Miss Pungent Pageant….

Ms Garlic and Peppers

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Playing Engineer

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 26, 2011

Inside the Blade server

My day job is technical writing. They keep us chained to our keyboards and change the newspapers in our cages once a year (just kidding about that bit; you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway, after seeing the photos of our summer party). But technical writer do tend to be removed from the technical side of things. Adrian, one of our English colleagues, came to Israel to test a new IBM shared storage, so he had to set up a clean system. I asked whether I would be in the way if I watched the installation. He told me I would do the installation. I really thought he was kidding … until he told me to print a copy of the document and download the Blade firmware updates to my USB drive.

First we unpacked the servers. Adrian had me work with a new systems engineer who was hired a month ago. That’s Adrian on the left and Shimron on the right. Adrian showed us how to open the server (see photo above), take out and replace the hard drives, and slot the Blade into the BladeCenter H chassis.

Checking out the Blade

The first day Shimron and I struggled with the chassis firmware and managed to get halfway through the procedure until we ran into network problems, so Adrian dealt with that after I’d gone home. The next day I set up the disk mirroring and configured the controller cards, using Adrian’s laptop and working remotely. In the afternoon he set me up in the lab, told me to install the Blade firmware upgrades and operating system, and disappeared for two hours.

There’s nothing like using your own document. If the documentation is perfect and everything behaves as expected, a well-trained monkey could do the installation. However, in the real world you always run into things you don’t expect. In this case, the documentation was vague because IBM’s motto seems to be, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” In other words, it’s a moving target. I ran into a few glitches and screens I didn’t expect. I had to figure out how to reboot the server (as you can see from the photo below, it’s quite different from a PC!) and which installation files to use, based on the size of the drives (had to find that out on my own as well). But I got through the process without breaking any expensive equipment. 🙂

It was a cold, lonely two hours, like working inside an industrial walk-in refrigerator. Very noisy, cramped, and chilly. Although the temperature was 36C outside (96F) I needed a cup of hot soup when I got out. No, not contemplating a career change because HR has policies to prevent that kind of lateral movement but it was a nice change of pace. System engineering — it’s not all malt whiskey and fast bikes!

BladeCenter H chassis

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Balabasta 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 20, 2011

Balabasta 2011

For the second consecutive year, the Jerusalem municipality sponsored a cultural festival, Balabasta, in the Mahane Yehuda shuk. It takes place on Mondays in July, so if you plan to go, next Monday is your last chance! There are bands playing on the roof, performance artists, acrobats, people in costume, people dancing, and the place is packed. There is so much to see, so please forgive me if this post gets a little long.

We went fairly early (around 6:30) because the fast day of 17 Tammuz starts at sundown. Although the fast doesn’t begin until the following morning, my husband thought it would be inappropriate to stay after dark on that particular day. The name Balabasta is a pun on different levels. A “basta” is a market stall, so “balabasta” sounds like “ba’ le-basta” (“Come to the market stall”) and like “balabusta” (Yiddish for housewife, ba’alat ha-bayit).

The band on the roof was a religious band, Acharit haYammim (English site with videos and photos). The open road of the shuk was so crowded that they were very difficult to photograph, especially with the high parapet. These were taken with 135mm zoom lens:

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

It was very crowded below, with some dancing and others watching and taking pictures.

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

The guy in the wheelchair with the “Will you marry me” sign is a regular. My officemate saw him last week with a “Will you talk to me” sign. He seemed quite popular!

Balabasta 2011

This boy and his friend were totally absorbed by their phones. The parallelism of their positions caught my eye.

Balabasta 2011

Two women stood on facing balconies, dressed in flowers.

Balabasta 2011

Dancer in a tutu made of “Rami Levy” (discount supermarket) bags:

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

This woman was performing inside the covered shuk (Etz Chaim), in front of a boutique. My husband thought that maybe we should buy a knife at the kitchen store and set this poor girl free….

Balabasta 2011

Blues band in an alley (going downhill, near the Iraqi shuk):

Balabasta 2011

Chess tournament in the Iraqi shuk:

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

The break dancers were very difficult to photograph! They move so fast, but the sun was going down so I needed a longer exposure. I was also in a really bad position, stuck behind dancers who were getting ready to move onto the mat, so I didn’t have many clear shots.

Balabasta 2011

This guy with the toilet plungers was hamming it up for me!

Balabasta 2011

Juggler with music, props, and lots of balls.

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

Balabasta 2011

I wish I could have gotten a better angle of the refraction in the ball in the last shot but I was behind two young girls and the crowd of spectators was tightly packed.

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Liliyot Restaurant, Tel Aviv

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 19, 2011

Liliyot restaurant, Tel Aviv

I don’t often eat at upscale restaurants but it was my husband’s (belated) birthday dinner. He wanted to dine in Tel Aviv, as long as I chose the restaurant. I had recently received a token bonus (dinner for two) at work and this seemed like a good opportunity to use it. I chose Liliyot, a kosher meat restaurant located on Daphna and Weitzman street, in Beit Asia. Liliyot works with ELEM, an Israeli organization for youth at risk, training and employing fifteen youths every year for careers in the restaurant industry. The menu must change fairly often, because I did not see the dishes described by eLuna (Jan. 2011), Frommer’s (no date), Tel Aviv Guide (no date), Anthony Silverbrow (Jul. 2010), or Daniel Rogov (2009). I would say that the quality of the dishes is uneven but not bad if you order carefully.

The first thing I did at Liliyot was smash a wine glass. That gets you noticed every time. Seriously, it’s the first time I’ve ever broken anything in a restaurant. Look at the photo below. The ambiance is warm and informal. The wine glasses are over-sized, top-heavy, and perched at the edge of the tiny tables for two. I flipped over the menu and knocked my glass off the edge.

Liliyot restaurant, Tel Aviv

This isn’t a review because I didn’t sample enough food to draw general conclusions. I was very happy with what I ordered. The salmon sashimi starter, photographed above, was excellent — very fresh slices of raw salmon garnished with thickened soy sauce, a drop of herb sauce, and a salsa of diced cucumbers, green onions, canteloupe, and a few slices of red onion. The salad was refreshing and did not overpower the salmon. I ordered prime rib, medium rare, for the main course. It was seared on the outside and bloody at the center, a very good piece of meat accompanied by some mashed potatoes and zucchini/spinach. I guess prime rib is considered an unadventurous choice, but it was good! My husband began with a green salad, which turned out to be a handful of romaine lettuce drowning in balsamic vinegar. I don’t recommend it. (I tried to get him to order something else…) His main course was lamb shoulder garnished with strips of red pepper leather (like apricot leather, but made with red peppers) and wheat berries. I didn’t try enough of the lamb to form much of an opinion other than it was tender.

Liliyot restaurant, Tel Aviv

Liliyot also has a bakery (photo below). The statement on the wall is about the Liliyot/ELEM project.

Liliyot Bakery, Tel Aviv

The bakery has a cool ceiling….

Liliyot Bakery, Tel Aviv

Menu, in Hebrew. Not cheap. Liliyot is in the Asia Building, 4 Weizmann St. (corner of Weizmann and Daphna, across the street from the hospital), Tel Aviv, Israel. 03-609-1331

Liliyot menu (Hebrew)

Liliyot menu (Hebrew)

We were too full to order dessert but here’s the menu, in English. Sorry about the angle. I was tired.

Liliyot dessert menu (English)

Posted in Food, Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Summer Party at Work

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 11, 2011

Summer Party at Work

Five hours for a party at work? OK, that leaves two hours at the beginning of the day for real work and two hours at the end to sober up or sleep it off. A little controlled debauchery is good for morale around here. I photographed Masha, drinking beer and cooling off in the fountain, and only noticed later that her sunglasses were reflecting the beach balls in the water. So the photo has been cropped considerably.

Summer Party at Work

Summer Party at Work

Summer Party at Work

A friend has assured me that bouncing around in an air-filled beach ball in a pool is a lot less fun than it looks. You can’t keep your balance, so you’re constantly falling over, it’s hot as hell in there, and by the end of the experience you’re running out of oxygen. So I would rather photograph it than do it. The guy on the right, a manager in QA, wasn’t doing a shoulder stand intentionally. He just fell over in that position while I was photographing him.

Summer Party at Work

Masha again, rappelling down the side of the building from the sixth floor. She says, “Everyone should jump off the roof of their work building at least once. It’s very therapeutic.” Some of my braver coworkers were riding the “Omega Zip” from the sixth floor, sort of a slide down a cable to the ground level. I don’t recall how they landed but they survived the trip.

Summer Party at Work

My main complaint was that there weren’t enough manicurists. I managed to get a 3:20 p.m. appointment to have my nails done. I also had a massage and decorated a straw hat. I didn’t bother with the decorated flip-flops because I don’t usually wear them.

Summer Party at Work

Waffles made on the spot, with chocolate, syrup, various things to sprinkle on top. They also served fruit wedges, fruit drinks with liqueurs and rum, beer on tap, popcorn, corn on the cob, and soft ice cream. How are we supposed to have room left for lunch?

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Self-Portrait over Two Continents

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 7, 2011

Self-Portrait over Two Continents

I don’t get invited to many video conferences and have never been in this room before. The call was already in progress and I was the first to arrive. By chance, the door of the conference room in England has a window that reflects the  monitor back at the camera, so I took a photo of myself being beamed from Israel to England and back.

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Emek Refaim Farmer’s Market

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 3, 2011

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

The Farmer’s Market on Emek Refaim has been around for years but I only got to it for the first time last Friday. It’s located at 12 Emek Refaim (courtyard of the ICCC building, second Egged bus stop coming from the center of town). If you’re expecting Mahane Yehuda, this market is much less busy, a combination flea market, organic produce, crafts, baked goods, toys, and housewares, with a little live music and chair massages thrown in. (We were leaving just when a tenor sax and electric piano duo started performing.) Some of the food businesses I have kashrut certificates (like Yotav cheeses and Herby’s Bakeshop) and accept credit cards. The market is open every Friday from 9 to 3 p.m. (or maybe 4; I found both times on the Web). If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday morning, the market is worth a visit. Just try to avoid the buses going down Agrippas!

I’m not sure which bakery was selling these breads and giving free samples of spreads but they looked delicious.

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

Kosher, hand-made, organic goat cheeses, from Yotav (Hebrew site). They’re inside the building, in a cool temperature, right by a small cafe (kosher) where you can relax with a cup of espresso.

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

The basil smelled amazing.

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

Pottery, clothing, and bags for sale. I didn’t buy very much, just some silicone pot-holders (the kind that look like a pair of beaks — how did I manage without them before now?) and a cleverly designed set of measuring cups and spoons, now hanging from my spice rack.

Farmer's Market, Emek Refaim

Some areas were very difficult to photograph because of the blue awning. The bread looked really weird!

Emek Refaim Farmer's Market

Update: Food Blogger Sara Melamed (Food Bridge) has just started a new photo gallery called Exotic Markets. She posts photos of exotic markets around the world and invites submissions. The Plugged-In Tour of Vancouver’s Granville Island Market sounds great! He’d need a serious amplifier to be heard at Mahane Yehuda.


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First Quilt Project

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 1, 2011

Finished Mini Quilt

Can I call this my “first” quilt project? I completed a large pieced quilt when I was a student (started it as a teenager) and I made a couple small machine-quilted pieces about ten years ago. So maybe I can call it the first project of the third quilting cycle of my life. 🙂

It’s a cover for keeping pots warm on an electric warming platter over Shabbat. The “batting” is an old towel. The fabric is mostly cotton pieces that I bought at Bad Ratz.

I started with a bunch of blocks made from strips of random widths. I didn’t do a lot of planning. Mostly, I was looking for an excuse to play with my new rotary cutter. Maybe that’s why people become quilters — because the toys are so much fun….

Strip-Pieced Blocks

Here’s my first attempt at assembling the squares. It didn’t work. The stripes formed strange pinwheels. So much for spontaneity!

Patchwork, first attempt

So I ripped it apart and started over.

Sometimes things don't work out

I re-assembled the blocks to emphasize the random, length-wise strips. Machine quilting without a walker foot was quite a challenge. Originally I had thought a nice meandering pattern would be appropriate, but my first attempt created so many wrinkles that I gave up that idea. I ripped out the first line of stitching and stitched in the ditch along the vertical seams. Besides, it’s not as though I need to keep the batting from shifting, since it’s just an old towel. The backing is a heat-proof fabric (white) that I bought at Bad Ratz. I chose the green striped cotton for a binding and hand-stitched the edge to the back during my husband’s siyyum mishnah a couple nights ago (photo below).

Siyyum Mishnah

Posted in Crafts | Tagged: | 5 Comments »