October 31, 2016

Vote for Hillary, advocate for electoral reform

Sorry for the folks who are not interested in the US election... Here are some thoughts that I felt compelled to put in writing.

A provocative headline aimed at the liberals read “You would vote for a liberal Donald Trump”. Would I? After reading the arguments of Scott Alexander's Slate Star Codex – which I urge you to read through – I wouldn’t: I would vote for a right-wing, neo-con, “crooked” Hillary Clinton who is experienced and predictable and respects the basic tenets of democracy if she faced a narcissistic, unstable con artist with no respect for democracy seeking self-aggrandizement - however liberal he claimed to be to get elected. Because partisan issues can be delayed by four years but damage done to democracy takes a generation to undo.


People say that the candidates are flawed, but it's the *election process* which is flawed. The easiest and most required reform in my opinion is some kind of ranked choice voting, like advocated by FairVote and, in the case of the presidential election, abolishing or reforming the Electoral College. I understand those who feel they have been given the choice between the least of two evils in this election. Look at the image below, wouldn’t the right-hand side feel like a dream in today’s context?
A farce Choose one: Hillary Clinton Donald Trump A fair democratic vote Rank any number of options in your order of preference: Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Jeb Bush John Kasich Marco Rubio Ted Cruz Donald Trump


The US needs many things. It needs universal health care, it needs improved infrastructure and quality of life, it needs a way to include unskilled workers in the economy of the 21st century, it needs to cope with global warming, and it needs spiritual healing. The partisan rift and constant feud is crippling government – even often shutting it down entirely. I don’t expect Hillary Clinton to bring spiritual healing if Barack Obama couldn’t make the situation any better despite his good intentions to reach out to Republicans and increase bipartisanship. I hope Hillary Clinton wins and tackles the other challenges with talent and I will contribute now to electoral reform advocacy.

April 23, 2014

A young father's manifesto

Daughter, darling, your mother and I commit, I always make every effort to:
- Put your needs above ours
- Respect your nature like a pristine landscape
- Equip you with the tools necessary for life: self-confidence, self-control, perseverance, fluid thinking, humor, joy, empathy, introspection, resilience
- Teach you to trust, to be independent but also to be reliant, love and be loved
- To give you knowledge and teach you how to teach yourself
- Listen to you and be attentive to you
- Encourage you in everything that you will endeavor, and in the paths you will choose, even we will not understand them,
- Respect your choices even if they will be about turning your back on us
- Love you with all our heart and all our soul
- To protect you and to teach you how to defend yourself
- Satisfy your needs without utilizing you to satisfy ours

The Messenger

It is hard for me to find words these days.

My wife and I have been blessed with a beautiful, delicate, adorable baby girl who, from the moment she joined us on January 26, 2014, irremediably changed our lives.

The significance of the fact that we are now a family and that we have given birth to a new human being, is hard to grasp and feel at the right level.

At the lowest level, of course, the daily care of the baby and the constraints on our schedule and movements do not let us forget, even for a minute, that we have to fulfill the role of parents. And we take very seriously the responsibility of providing our baby with the best care, as much attention and gentleness as needed, and all the stimulating activities that will help her develop.

When I try to describe our behavior, I want to say that we feel responsible for a precious soul. But the questions I ask myself are: "How did we get this sense of responsibility? Is it out of instinct? Out of innate love? And how do we come to see the baby as a soul?"

First of all where does the sense of responsibility come from? When we care for the baby, we are saying how we know that this baby has no other caretakers than us and how we believe that she deserves a bright future that only good, loving, care can provide - or at least that the lack thereof seriously jeopardizes. Therefore the sense of responsibility comes first from our sense of empathy: if we do not take care of her, this baby will suffer - now, for starters, but also later.

Grasping the baby's future as a soul and as someone who will grow to have a special bond to us is not easy - to me at least. The baby is indeed a precious soul in the making, and one who will be the closest soul to ours - at least for a while before adult madness may damage the bond. But hen the baby is in its first weeks, it seems a purely instinctive being - and one that compares poorly at that to other animals. It is satisfied when it has been fed, shows some variations in behavior that we may attribute to "character" but no real signs of the "soul" that is in the making. Progress in the first weeks is measured in the improvement of the instincts and the progressive birth of a capacity to observe - without reaction at first - which we are quick to interpret as "curiosity". Still, the virtual absence of reaction from the baby at that stage means that all our efforts seem vain - which strikes us in the most frustrating way when she cries of course.

I have heard several people saying that they simply hate the first few months of the life of the baby until the baby started communicating, or that they connected with their baby only after some three or six months. It is rare to hear such blunt statements but I respect those who speak of this frankly. I had and never heard of that and would never have believed I could ever feel like that until I became a father. Now, as I just wrote, I admit how difficult it is to connect to the "soul" within the baby until she starts reacting and communicating.

Prior to that, it is our intellect that teaches us that the baby is going to become a person, our child. It is probably during that stage that our social environment can be of great help to create the bond: resemblance and other family traits are brought up in conversations; parental behavior is praised and encouraged; the baby's facial expressions and behavior are interpreted ostensibly in terms of character, reactions and emotions.

Yesterday, I was blessed by the feeling that the day had come that my baby's conscience had emerged - I saw a smile in reaction to my face and babbling and I was moved to tears.

After writing all that, no need for many words to introduce the blessing of Joseph's sons by his father, Jacob, as it appears in The Book of Genesis illustrated by Robert Crumb:


The Messenger who has rescued me from all evil, may he bless little Tali. Amen.

February 26, 2014

Poème pour Tali

Allez ma petite Tali chérie,
Il faut téter !
Il faut téter,
Et il faut m'aimer.
Il faut téter,
Il fait m'aimer,
Il faut pépé Popi
Il faut papa Jojo
Il faut papy Bertie
Il faut maman Olélie,
Il faut mamie F et mamie Grecque.
Il faut dodo.
Surtout dodo !
Bonne nuit ma petite chérie

February 22, 2014

Manifeste d'un jeune père

(An English version follows here.)

Ma fille chérie, nous nous engageons, ta mère et moi, à faire toujours tout notre possible pour :
- Placer tes besoins avant les nôtres
- Respecter ta nature comme on respecte un paysage pristin
- T'équiper des outils nécessaires à la vie : confiance en toi, maîtrise de toi, persévérance, souplesse d'esprit, humour, joie de vivre, empathie, introspection, résilience
- T'enseigner à faire confiance, à être indépendante mais aussi à être dépendante, savoir aimer et savoir être aimée,
- Te donner des connaissances et t'apprendre à apprendre,
- T'écouter et être à ton écoute
- T'encourager dans ce que tu entreprendras, et dans les voies que tu choisiras, même lorsque nous ne les comprendrons pas,
- Respecter tes choix même s'il s'agira de nous tourner le dos,
- T'aimer de tout notre cœur et de toute notre âme,
- Te protéger et à t'apprendre à te défendre,
- Satisfaire tes besoins sans t'utiliser pour satisfaire les nôtres

August 24, 2013

Wind rose of Jerusalem

Where does the wind blow from in Jerusalem? I was wondering because I needed to know how to get fresh air in the evenings into our (future) apartment.

I couldn't find the information, so I pulled two years' worth of meteorological data (2011 & 2012) for Jerusalem from http://data.gov.il/ims and set about to create a graphic view of the wind direction, weighted by its speed, in Excel. Here's the result:

Unquestionably, the dominant direction is from the West (West-North-West to be accurate), and especially so in the summer!

There's more to it as one could not weight by wind speed (taking into account values only above a given threshold), or on the contrary weight by something more meaningful, e.g. wind energy - but I'm not interested in putting up a wind turbine at this stage! - but I'll post more on this later if prompted.

June 07, 2013

For old times' sake

About three weeks ago, my wife and I joined a group of French speakers on a "photographic tour" of the Nahalat Binyamin neighborhood in Tel Aviv. 

On Fridays, the Nahalat Binyamin street is crowded by stalls of artists and craftsmen and craftswomen and by jugglers and musicians - as well as the sheshbesh players, elderly dwellers of the neighborhood.

On this occasion, I pulled my M6 Leica from its shelf, my wife went out of her way to buy the Kodak BW400CN film I'm used to and I experienced anew the smell of the film, the meticulous activity of loading of the film, the thought invested in each picture, conscious of its cost and its potential value, the manual focus with the telemeter, the measuring of the light and after that the feeling and hope that there are - literally - latent images, potential masterpieces, in that undeveloped film. The pictures could be good, one or two could be excellent, some will be missed, most will be disappointingly mediocre. This experience was worth the effort. It took me back in time to Cambodia, to Paris, to my first years in Israel, when I would regularly walk with my film camera in search of the photographic experience that Patrice Moracchini ingrained in me.

What a smile!

 Nitzan Gilad, ceramic artist

 René Borda, probably the only Bolivian Indian living in Israel... 

Aliya from Dalyat al-Carmel, preparing a Druze pita 

 Oh weren't they angry at me for taking a picture of them while they played! But I didn't want to interrupt them...