This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for December, 2011

Chrysanthemum Tea

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 29, 2011



My officemate, Yinnon, brought some chrysanthemum tea to work. Isn’t it wild? (For more information, see the Wikipedia article on chrysanthemum tea.) I love watching the dried bud unfold and open up. Here’s a photo of the dried bud, before it has been steeped. Normally Yinnon makes it in the tea infuser that you see behind the bud, but this time he steeped it in a glass cup so that I could photograph it.

Chrysanthemum tea

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

New Camera!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 27, 2011


I bought a new camera body yesterday. Not exactly a Hanukkah gift to myself, since I had been thinking about buying it online for a few weeks. Anyway, a notice was posted on our company’s intranet that a local camera chain, Camera, was having a sale ostensibly for Har Hotzvim workers. I bought a DSLR body, Canon EOS 550D (aka T2, KISS4) for 2300 NIS ($609) and a point and shoot Canon Powershot A3300 for 569 NIS ($150). Sale continues until the end of December and they didn’t ask whether I was worked in Har Hotzvim. They’re also selling a Panasonic DMC-FZ100K for 1700 NIS, a Canon 1100D for 1750 NIS, and a little Fuji P&S for 200 NIS (I wouldn’t expect much from a camera that cheap). If you’re in the Har Hotzvim area, the branch is located in the Ofir building, near the parking garage entrance of the Park Center (now called Hotzvim Mall). The store is NOT in the mall. At the traffic circle by the gas station, walk to the far side of the circle, away from the traffic lights. Go past a parking barrier (one of those long-armed things that goes up and down) and turn left, through a non-descript door with bars. The store is in the hallway behind the door. There are signs on the building but they’re not very helpful, except to confirm that you found the right building.

The compact camera was a surprise for my husband, who hates his little Samsung. Funny thing — I’m not sure he would have noticed my new camera unless I recorded video with it. “This old black thing? I’ve had it for years!” 🙂

I wanted this particular camera for three reasons:

  • Video. I like shooting video and hate carrying two heavy cameras. (The Canon PowerShot S95 does reasonable HD video but its sound quality is not as good as the S5, which is a much heavier camera).
  • Higher ISO. Up to 6400. Last night I was able to photograph a guy lighting his Hanukkah lights on a balcony in the dark, from a moving minibus. The higher ISO will be very useful because if I have to photograph a speaker without blasting him or her with flash.
  • 18 MP. I don’t normally need such high res photos, but it’s useful if I need to crop tightly or turn a horizontal photo into a vertical format (the old 450D didn’t have quite enough pixels to do that satisfactorily).

Now comes the not-so-fun part: reading the manual. Taking photos is fun but reading manuals still has to be done, even if I already know most of the interface…

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Masha and Her New Red Toy

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 23, 2011

Masha and her new red toy

I was laughing so hard I could barely take this photo. Masha’s friends gave her a red handset for her iPhone as a birthday present.

Posted in uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

How to Buy Tickets for the Jerusalem Light Rail

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 23, 2011


Dec. 31 update. Very soon the downtown bus routes will be phased out. That means you will only be able to use the Light Rail to get through downtown Jerusalem. My husband, whose hobby is public transportation, says he doesn’t know of any transport system in the world that does this. Normally light rail routes supplement existing bus routes; they don’t replace them. If a bus breaks down, it can be towed away and the passengers can be picked up by another bus. If there is a terrorist attack and the area is blocked off by police, buses can take alternate routes. But if a train breaks down, it can’t be overtaken by another train. What is the Light Rail going to do? Hand out pedestrian maps to stranded passengers? 

Language support: The Citypass site has only Hebrew pages. Clicking the Arabic link gets you a 2-page PDF (which clearly does not have all the information in the Hebrew version). Clicking English gets you … nothing. The link is inactive.

Interface oddity: Cate (comments below) pointed out that red light/green light interface for the Rav Kav card is reversed. When you insert a valid card into a card reader on an Egged bus, it flashes green. When you use a valid card on the Light Rail, it flashes red. (I haven’t checked this out myself).

Dec. 26 update. As promised, I am updating this post based on comments. Updates appear in orange.

As of December 1, 2011, the Jerusalem Light Rail is no longer free. I bought tickets a couple nights ago (in the dark, with a couple impatient people waiting in line behind me) and it was a frustrating, confusing experience. I did everything wrong. On the train, I was set straight by a couple ticket inspectors who discovered that I hadn’t loaded the rides properly on my card. When I got off the train, I went through the same process again and took a photo of the machine. Now I’m writing the manual for the machine, because the instructions provided are in Hebrew, rather verbose, and impossible to read in the dark…  🙂

Important note: The ride codes for Egged buses and the Light Rail changed on December 1. If you have  rides from before Dec. 1 on your Rav Kav card (code 2 for Jerusalem, code 3 for Maale Adumim/Jerusalem), you cannot use them for the Light Rail (this includes transferring, i.e., cartis ma’avar). You have to buy new rides (code 62) from the Egged bus driver or from the machines at the Light Rail stations. The price is 6.40 NIS per ride, regardless of whether you are riding on a bus or train. If you have both old and new rides on your card and you want to transfer between buses but not the Light Rail, tell the driver to use the old code 2 or code 3 rides (only for Egged buses), so that he doesn’t use the new code 62 rides (for buses and the Light Rail).

Don’t try boarding the Light Rail if you haven’t bought new tickets. The ticket inspectors are checking diligently and you are likely to be fined if you have not purchased a code 62 ride.

Buying Tickets from the Machine

You can pay for tickets with cash (exact change) or credit card. (Note: Mark says the machines do give change, so perhaps I got a machine that had run out of change.)
Tickets can be purchased as cardboard one-ride tickets (useful if you’re not a frequent rider or you’ve got a family with you) or loaded onto your Rav Kav card.

The machine is not a touch-screen. There are four buttons on the left side and four on the right, and it’s not always clear which buttons belong to which commands. There is a Cancel button under the screen (lower left corner of photo). You can choose an English, Hebrew, or Arabic interface (lower left button) but at some point the interface seems to revert to Hebrew. I haven’t used the machines enough times to confirm this.

There are two slots, one for the Rav Kav card and one for the credit card. Do not confuse them because they are the same size and there is no warning if you insert your Rav Kav in the wrong slot.

1. If you are loading rides on a Rav Kav card, insert the card in the slot on the right side of the screen (middle of photo above, below a little picture of the Rav Kav). The card slips into an external holder; it doesn’t slide into the machine. Press one of the two upper right buttons.

If you are not loading a Rav Kav card, press one of the two lower right buttons.

2. A notice appears telling you that a single ride is 6.40. This can be confusing if you want to purchase multiple rides. It’s not a selection option — it’s telling you the price of the ride. Press the upper left button beside the notice to continue. Rav Kav cards are personalized (anonymous Rav Kav cards have just been introduced). Miri says that if you are entitled to a discount (for example, senior citizen, child), those prices will show up when you purchase tickets.

3. Several ride options appear (1 ride, 3 rides, 5, 10, etc.– I’m relying on my memory). You get a discount if you buy a package of ten rides but only for Rav Kav. If you buy single-ride tickets, remember that they are good only for that day. So use them if you’re traveling with your family, etc. Press the button for the number of rides you want to purchase.

4. If you are paying with cash, insert the coins (exact change) in the slot to the right of the credit card slot (not visible in this photo). A counter will appear on the screen telling you how much you’ve paid and when you’ve reached the total.

If you inserted a Rav Kav card in step 1, the screen will tell you that the rides have been loaded on your card. If you did not insert a Rav Kav card, the cardboard tickets and a receipt will drop into a window below and you can collect them.

5. If you are paying with a credit card, insert it with the magnetic stripe facing down, and on the left side, in the slot (upper right area of photo). You will receive a receipt. The screen will tell you when you can remove your credit card and Rav Kav card.

Paying on the Light Rail

This is also not simple! Sorry, I don’t have a photo of the card reader/stamper but it’s the thing mounted on a pole near the door when you get on the train.

1. If you are using a Rav Kav, touch the Rav Kav against the front panel of the machine (there is a stylized drawing of a Rav Kav on the panel). Don’t try to insert your Rav Kav card into the slot on top because it won’t fit and you will feel very foolish…. If a ticket inspector appears, he will check your card with a portable card-reader to make sure that you paid. If you need to transfer to a bus, insert the card into the bus’s card-reader as usual.

2. If you are using a single-ride ticket, insert it into the slot on top (in the center of a big yellow circle). The machine will stamp it with the date and time. Keep the ticket because a ticket inspector might ask to see it. If you are transferring to a bus, show it to the driver. You can transfer within 90 minutes of the time stamped on the ticket.

Good luck and nesi’ah tovah!!! If you notice that I’ve made an error, please let me know and I’ll update this posting.

Hanukkah sameach to everyone.

Posted in Israel, tutorial | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Moonset, Sunrise

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 11, 2011

Setting Moon

I missed last night’s lunar eclipse. I had no idea that it was going on until I saw some of my Flickr friends post their eclipse photos. 😦

I got up this morning at 6 a.m. and saw that the moon was close to setting, so I took a couple photos. I was surprised how well manual focus worked. I tend to use my right eye to look through the camera, which is odd because my left eye sees much more clearly. So I switched eyes and it was much easier to focus. I don’t think I could ever switch over completely to using my left eye but it’s good to know that it helps with focusing! The first photo was underexposed in order to show the details of the moon. It was actually quite light by this time, although the sun hadn’t yet cleared the horizon. I used a 55-250mm lens at 220mm, handheld.

Setting Moon

About half an hour after moonset, the sun rose. I took this photo with a point-and-shoot (Canon PowerShot S95) while on my morning run. I retouched it slightly to get ride of a plane that happened to be flying by. A point-and-shoot doesn’t allow very tight apertures. I was only able to stop it down to f/8, but it was sufficient to create a little sunflare between the buildings of Nofei Sele, Maale Adumim.


Posted in photography | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Video: Chanukah Jewish Rock of Ages

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 7, 2011

I don’t often post humourous videos, but Chanukah is only two weeks away and I thought this was cute. It’s a medley of pop song parodies, around the theme of Chanukah, created by the Aish haTorah Yeshiva. The credits are on the download page of their site. The production itself is quite impressive.

Posted in Judaism, videos | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Ancient Tombs on My Way to Work

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 4, 2011

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

I have no excuse for not posting more often. I just get lazy or caught up in other things, which is a pity because Jerusalem is one of the most interesting places in the world to photograph.

Yesterday my husband mentioned that he’d been trying new routes through the Ramat Eshkol neighbourhood on his way to work and found an ancient tomb that he hadn’t seen before, in the Doris Weiler park Meshulam Garden. The whole area was once a sprawling necropolis in the time of the Second Temple (roughly contemporaneous with the rise of Christianity). Since deserted parks aren’t the safest place for a woman alone, he offered to go with me. Afterwards I showed him the tomb in the Sanhedrin park near Golda Meir Blvd.

The photo above is part of the carved arch above the entrance. Below is the facade of the tomb. This is the well-known Eshkolot tomb, named after the grape clusters (eshkolot) on either side of the medallion in the gable. The tomb was discovered in the 1970s when the foundations of surrounding apartment buildings were being dug.

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

Interior of the tomb, shot with a flash. There are several inner chambers for ossuaries (long gone) and a crude line drawing of pillar capitals in the corner.

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

Carving on the entrance of the tomb:

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

Tomb, Doris Weiler Park

The tomb below is in the Sanhedrin park. It has a splendidly decorated facade with acanthus leaves, an urn, and architectonic elements. Since we were in a rush to get to work I only took this photograph.

Tomb, Sanhedrin Park

Both tombs would have belonged to wealthy Jewish families of the Second Temple period (530 BCE to 70 CE). Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to identify the original owners if the ossuaries have been removed because they are usually the only sources of inscriptions.

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »