February 2005 - A ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians was declared in Sharm El-Sheikh, not far from here (Eilat). Its fragile and the weeks and months ahead will be full of challenges for both sides, but for the first time Palestinians elected a leader who told them he would bring them a better life.
On the business side, we have a new site, Content & Ads, that showcases our sites to the business world. We're doing what we should be doing - quietly getting ready for the next cycle. Having been through a full cycle of an
economic boom, bubble and then recession, we've learned a lot and are proud to be doing the same thing for almost 10 years.
Even as a resort town mainly serving Israelis, Eilat has a lot of restaurants. Indian, Thai, Tex-Mex, and American are my favorites. I like not having to wait on lines as long for everything compared to what it was like in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I usually walk to wherever I'm going and when you want to go by wheels, every 4th car in Eilat seems to be a taxi! This past year is the first time since 12th grade that I'm living so far away from big cities. So far I love it - that's what's so good about having an Internet business that let's you work at home or wherever you and your cellphone are.
I watch every sunset from home or while walking around - I've never seen such colorful sunsets in my life.
There are 3 weekly magazines in this city of 50,000. As Eilat is so far away from the rest of Israel, it becomes even more important to keep up with
what's going on in this city and the surrounding parts. I have a lot to learn.
May 2005 - We're planning our wedding and honeymoon and its a lot of work and fun. The wedding will be more modest than what many do - a private wedding ceremony for the immediate family and two days later, a cocktail party for our friends and friends of the family. We'll spend a week in South Florida preparing for the wedding.
The day after we get married, we have tickets to see Paul McCartney in concert - opening night of his 2005 tour! Then the cocktail party. The day after that, we drive to Disney and spend 6 nights at a Disney Resort. The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT,
MGM Studios, Blizzard Beach and hopefully Animal Kingdom. From Disney to Islamorada in the Keys. We'll drive to Key West almost every day from Islamorada. I love Key West and haven't been there in years. Next comes a one week cruise to the Caribbean on the Caribbean Princess. We end our honeymoon with two nights in South Beach.
Its amazing how the Internet lets you plan a long trip - we're packing a lot in one month and I couldn't have planned this
months ahead of time (when prices are cheaper) without the Internet. From Yahoo Travel to Cruise Critic to small sites about Key West, I was able to get information and read reviews. Sure, you can't trust any one opinion. But you can get a good idea from the collective view of many. Being able to print out directions on 3 pages for where we plan on driving is incredible. A few books and advice from friends and family helped as well.
November 2005 - We're back from our wedding and honeymoon.
We've never had so much fun in our lives and its great to be home. Some photos and a few QuickTime VR's.
I love being in the US and love The Keys and the Caribbean more than ever - we'll be back on future vacations. We
went mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and spent lots of time walking (and shopping!) up and down wherever we were.
We saw Paul McCartney in concert in Miami, stand-up comedians and a comedian hypnotist while sailing through the Carribean,
and ate at the most unique restaurants that Disney, The Keys and the Caribbean Princess have to offer.
I have lots of new music to listen to while working -- steel drums, calypso, Paul McCartney and even some Blondie.
After taking it easy for a few weeks, I'm working on a few projects which keep me busy. I'm reading a
few books -- Brian Greene's sequel to The Elegant Universe, Sharansky's book on democracy and a Hebrew book
about the Negev.
Two weeks after returning, we went on a two day trip to the western
Negev. We spent one night at Kibbutz Ashalim in an artistic guesthouse and the second night at Sde Boker. The
purpose of the trip was to see the small settlements and towns in the area and get a taste of what it looks like there.
Its potentially a great place to build a home - 45 minutes from Beersheva but far enough away that you get a big
piece of land and have the chance to participate in building a community from scratch or from an early stage. We have lots to think and
talk about over the next few months!
June 2006 - Its summertime in Eilat and that means its hot out. By 11am you want to be done with your morning errands and indoors. You don't even think of going out until 6pm. It'll start to get better on September 1st. I have a/c and lots of cold drinks and snacks here to keep me cool throughout the summer. When I do go outside, I see lots of tourists. If they're having a good time, I'm having a good time. So I spend much of the summer working on fun things - which for me means listening to and collecting music and planning a long trip...
Roger Waters performed in Israel last night and I listened to the show on the radio. It sounded great, especially Dark Side Of The Moon. I collect Israel shows - the concerts of bands who performed in Israel. Who's played here? Paul Simon (1978), Dylan (5 shows in 1987 and 1993), Eric Clapton (1984 and 1989), Jethro Tull (played here too many times to list!), U2 (1997), Dire Straits (1985), Sting (1994 and 2006) and the list goes on. Its not hard to find the shows on filesharing sites. Its cool to hear the musicians speak with the crowd and to hear the DJ comment on the show if its an FM broadcast. I even have Frank Sinatra's 1975 show in Israel - he did a pleasant cover of The Beatles song Something. An obscure thing to collect! For a small country in a troubled neighborhood, its quite an achievement for our concert promoters to bring these entertainers here.
We're planning a long trip to South America and a shorter trip to the USA in 2007. God Bless The Internet! Thanks to this thing that blossomed in the mid-90's, I can work from anywhere. If I can get online once to twice a week for an hour, I can keep up with things. The Internet has changed travel beyond recognition. In the 90's, we didn't have websites and tools like we do in 2006. Travel sites are fun to check out as it is. Today they're as useful as they are cool.
I'm able to read about cruises and even see photos and videos of the ships and their destinations. There are websites like Cruise Critic with reviews of every cruise ship and destination as well as forums and lots more. When you pay your $500 deposit for a cruise, you know what you're getting into much more than in the 80's and 90's. Once you do, the cruise liner gives you a username and password so you can prepare for the trip. You use their website to pick when you eat, make reservations at the spa and can even speed up boarding by filling out a form that they'll have when you embark. You can buy excursions on the islands from them or shop yourself on the Internet. Every tour guide and attraction in the Caribbean has a website. On our 2005 Caribbean Princess cruise, we reserved a mountain bike excursion on St. Martin and a small bus tour of St. Thomas via the web months in advance and both were unforgettable experiences. You couldn't do this as easily in the late 90's!
The brochure websites of the 90's have become interactive brochures in 2006.
A road trip in the US has never been easier to plan. There are the obvious maps and directions sites and software to help you map it out. Being able to do this at home is a huge advantage! With Google Maps, I'm able to figure out what cities to plan on visiting based on where we'll be. If it seems too long a drive from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, its easy to see on the map that you can stop off in Reno for the night. Then you look up attractions and things to do in each city. The websites for theme parks have video clips for their best rides. Then you pick hotels and car rental and price it with the online brokers. Google and Yahoo aren't about web directories anymore. They're about being the most useful interactive websites for the average person.
And then there's backpacking! The good youth hostels all have websites and you can even make reservations online. Even if you don't want to plan every detail of your backpacking trip, you can take notes on a piece of paper and make a short list of good youth hostels where you'll be traveling. There're even a few youth hostel portals with tens of thousands of hostels listed by the site and rated by visitors. Even the Bolivian Youth Hostel Association has a website in English. Most youth hostels have Internet. Even if it costs a few pesos to use the Internet, it means keeping in touch with the world (and in my case, my Internet business) from your youth hostel. It used to be tough for travelers to preserve and not lose film while on the road. In 2006, you just upload your photos to a photo site or your personal site every week and burn a cd of the photos so you have a backup. Backpackers even 20 years ago couldn't imagine being able to sit down after a long day and chat with friends on a messenger while showing them photos (and videos) taken that day on a cheap digital camera.
All of the travel books in the world can't do what the Internet does! But I still bought three travel books and I wouldn't think of planning a long trip without Lonely Planet.
July 2006 - As you know, Israel is at war with Hamas and Hizbollah. A few weeks ago we thought we were heading into a relatively quiet summer. The government and Israel Defence Forces were very ready for this, but the public was surprised. Since 2000, Israel's north has been quiet. Every time Hizbollah broke the fragile quiet, Israeli leaders were hesitant to spoil the party. Now we're dealing with Hamas and Hizbollah head on. The battlefront moves fast and its intense. I've read that the Israel Air Force is doing 500 sorties (missions) a day.
You can read news and analysis of it elsewhere. Here's what it looks like from the ground in Israel.
Things are different when Israel goes to war. Even here in Eilat, everyone is glued to the TV. When I go to a local 24-7 grocery store down the street, the TV is on and when no one's around, the guy working there is watching the news. So is anyone who stops by. We all buy our favorite snacks for watching the war on TV. There are two major commercial TV channels and the government channel. Instead of finishing the nightly broadcasts at midnight to 1am, they all run stuff all night as many people - young and old - are wide awake during times like these. There are constant news updates. The Hebrew media on the Internet is working overtime thanks to the action.
Everywhere from Haifa and northward is quiet. The further north you get, the quieter it is. Past a certain point, nothing will be open at night. Pubs and discos will be open in Haifa but not in places much further north. Tonite's news showed how quiet a usually packed pub was last night. Tonite Nasrallah threatened all-out war with Israel and we're aware of what could be. Most of Israel's wars, when they get to this level, last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
As every Israeli seems to have a cellphone with a camera and video on it, some people are getting their clips on TV by rushing to the scenes of Katyusha landings and filming it. This afternoon, Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin found himself very close to a Katyusha landing and gave viewers an unforgettable first look at the scene of a Katyusha hitting a Nahariya neighborhood. As Tobin and his cameraman recorded the event, we saw how fast and calm the Israeli military, emergency services and police work as they arrive at the scene. We Israelis are just as proud of our emergency services as New Yorkers are of theirs.
August 2006 - Its August 8th and the war rages on. According to our real estate agent, there isn't a room to be found in Eilat. I notice when I walk around town - there are more people out and about. Its been hot for the past week! 100-106 degrees from 12pm till 5pm and then it slowly goes down. The war is taking place far from here, but you can feel it - every store with a TV has it tuned to the news and there isn't much going on since it started. Its the only thing people are talking about on the street.
I'm interested in what's going on and following it closely. But everyone needs a break from this reality sometimes. My music collection and video games are especially fun to delve into in times like these. I'm always working on planning our trip - found a few places in the Caribbean that we may visit.
The media coverage is still incredible. Fox News is covering the story all day while Israeli TV is back on a regular schedule with live updates on the hour. Israelis are watching Fox during the day, Israeli news at 8pm, and breaking news on all channels.
These times weigh heavy on all of us. Israel had about a year and a half of relative quiet - not peace or quiet by any means - since the last war, The Second
Intifada, ended. That was enough for me for a lifetime. I'm glad we're in a quiet place for this one. I hope we win and hope it ends fast. I'm glad Israel has
come together for this and am proud America is standing by Israel.
October 2006 - Almost magically, as the clock struck midnight on September 1st, a cool breeze welcomed
the end of summer. There were a few hot days in September, but nothing close to what went on in August! October is so much fun - after 5 months of hot weather,
its great to be able to walk around Eilat without the desert heat. A few days ago, we awoke to dark clouds and I was told it rained for a few minutes. It was
cool to see dark clouds for the first time since March.
We're off to South America in early January. I'm trying to get as much done as I can with School Sucks and my hobbies as we plan the trip. I want to get most
of this stuff done by the end of November so in December I'm focused on getting ready for the trip. We bought a few more travel guides thanks to a thoughtful
birthday gift from a friend. We're only making specific plans for the first few places we go to and that's because of the season.
Its during times like these when I most appreciate working at home. I'm able to work on both business and hobby things at the same time. I wake up without an
alarm clock every day - usually between 8am and 11am. Eilat is a great town to go for a late morning stroll and buy a few things. Then onto whatever projects
I'm working on that day. A chat window is always open so I can communicate privately with my partners and of course we speak with each other on the phone a few
times a week. Its productive and mellow.
Got some great new bootlegs lately - a dvd of The Who live in Houston from 1975 and the Dark Side Of The Moon part of a 1972 Pink Floyd show. I wish they'd
I added two panoramas and two QuickTime 3d movies of those panoramas on my Eilat page.
May 2007 - We flew from Israel in January and have done so much since then! We spent two weeks in Rio
De Janeiro, Brazil. Most beautiful vistas from above a city that I´ve ever seen. The mountains lead into the ocean and the city spreads out all around. We then
flew to Foz De Iguazu and visited the Brazilian side of the breathtaking waterfalls. Crossed the border and visited the Argentinian side of the waterfalls in
the city of Puerto Iguazu. Spent some time in Puerto Iguazu.
Then we took our first Argentinian bus. What an experience! I´ve never
flown first-class, but Argentinian buses offer first class service like I
never imagined existed. An 18 hour bus ride was actually fun. Lots of
room, movies to watch, coffee and tea at-your-service and meals better
than any airplane food I´ve ever had.
Buenos Aires! Wow! We planned on spending a week there and it turned into a month. Buenos Aires in 2007 is like Paris in the 1920´s or London is the 1960´s - a
city at a cultural peak like no other. We walked along Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world. Visited the markets and fairs every weekend in San
Telmo, Palermo, Recoleta and La Boca. And explored the coolest city I´ve ever seen in my life! The Buenos Aires Spanish sounds like Italian. I didn´t know
there was so much Italian influence in Argentina until we visited Buenos Aires. Our hostel, Hostel Sol, was the cherry on top. The perfect group of travellers.
They added so much to our experience and we miss them. A mix of travellers from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, USA, Europe, Ireland, Mexico, Israel and
everywhere else in between.
And the restaurants.. We counted 20 restaurants that we ate at! From cheap burger places to pizza (best pizza in the galaxy) to all-you-can-eat Chinese
restaurants that cost $3.50 per person to top quality Argentinian steak houses. And then there´s the wine! I hadn´t drank much alcohol in a few years, but the
wine there converted me to Argentinian wine. Cheap wine cost $1, good wine cost $2 and excellent wine starts at $4 a bottle.
My favorite part of it all? The Notorious Jazz Club. We went there four times! The two Bossa Nova shows we saw were heavenly. Sitting in a classy jazz club,
drinking a bottle of good wine with my beautiful wife and listening to the soft sounds of Bossa Nova.
Then we headed north to Tucuman, Cafayate - a mix of desert and mountains in the Andes - to Salta and headed to Bolivia. So far in Bolivia, we´ve been to
Tupiza, Oruro, Cochabamba, Villa Tunari and Santa Cruz.
We´re back in Israel in October and are having a great time! We´re uploading photos to The Amazing Journey - so you can follow our travels.
All the best from South America!
November 2007 - We're finally home after over 9 months on the road! What an amazing time we had!! Miami, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Washington DC and New York City. We spent six and a half months in South America, over two months in Jamaica and a week in the USA. Backpacking was so much fun. We met so many people along the way and tasted so much culture. And did a lot of walking! And then there's Hurricane Dean in Jamaica back in August..
I appreciate that we were able to go on such a long trip in our 30's. We're both slowly getting ourselves back into things here - we were so tired the first week home. It took two weeks catch up on sleep and let our leg muscles rest. We did 10 hour days in Washington DC and New York City - a lot of walking.
It'll take some time to put all of the photos online but here is a collection of QuickTime VR photos. Give that page some time to load - lots to see..
I missed being home. But I miss backpacking - being in a new place every few days to week, tasting new foods and especially drinking coconut water and eating the jelly every morning in Oracabessa, Jamaica!
October 2008 - We're back from South America and Jamaica a year now. It was a fun culture shock - back to our quiet world in an isolated tourist town. A lot easier to come back to after 10 months backpacking than a big city. We missed our friends more than anything and spent a lot of time with them - at home and restaurants. By new years 2008, we realized we needed a bigger place and wanted to be closer to the center of Israel without leaving the Negev. In the spring of 2008, we checked out Arad and moved in July.
It was a hot last summer in Eilat - even with air conditioning, I was in and out of the house all day. All those walks to town in 100-105 degree weather. The move went as smooth as can be - great movers and everyone involved was nice to us and easy to deal with. We took a taxi that rode ahead of the movers. We sat in the back, facing the opposite direction. We'll never forget leaving the Red Sea and Eilat on the way up the Arava Highway.
We're here in Arad since early July. It took a month to fully unpack and do what we needed to do to this house. Arad is a sleepy town of 27,000. There's a mall and a commercial center - more stores than I expected. We have much more space than we did in Eilat and its quieter on the streets than Eilat. Not many Israelis come to Arad to party. The population here is older. The view is spectacular - but so is Eilat's!
What have I done since then? We bought lots of music on our trip - we have a world music collection like no other in Israel. I'm as likely to be listening to Brazilian or Bolivian music as I am The Who. I started playing World of Warcraft. The best video game I've ever seen. I still have some older role-playing games like Baldur's Gate and you can see how they've taken the genre to a whole new level. The storytelling on those older games was more intriguing but Warcraft makes up for it by having so much to do in their fantasy world.
We went to Jordan this past summer. It was my first time there since 1994! We went to the newspaper that published an article I wrote and got a photocopy of it. We loved Amman (and yeah, bought lots of Arabic music - pop and instrumental) and hope to return soon. Petra was amazing and we finally got to see Aqaba from up close.
In September, we saw Blood, Sweat and Tears in Tel Aviv. And in October, we were luckily enough to have 5th row seats for The Harlem Globetrotters first show in Israel since 1990. You can read about both on my Culture in Israel page. So many entertainers are making their way to Israel lately!!
We have another trip planned for December - a little over a month from now. I want to put up a site with our backpacking trip stories and photos, but doing that will mean typing in my 100+ page journal. That'll happen after our next Caribbean cruise!
December 31, 2008 - What a fun and forward moving year for the two of us! We took it easy in Eilat and went on a trip to Jordan. Petra was stunning and Amman was fun to explore. In the summer, we moved to Arad. We're much closer to the center of the country and these Israeli desert towns have nice homes and townhouses for rent. We're east of Beersheva and its not a long ride down to the Dead Sea. A bus to Tel Aviv takes 2 hours as opposed to 5 hours for Eilat. Arad has everything we need - a mall, wide roads and sidewalks and unbelieveable desert vistas.
In December, the three of us went on a trip to the US. The three of us means my wife, her Mom and I. We spent two days each in Atlanta and Savannah. In Atlanta, we visited the Martin Luther King Museum, CNN and Centennial Park. Savannah impressed us - it really is the most beautiful city in The South. We did the Oglethorpe Trolley Tour and walked up and down the city. Then we drove to Orlando and spent a week in a condo. We went to both Universal parks and Sea World. Universal was great - we happily walked from one area to another. Each park - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure - are doable in a day with light crowds. Sea World surprised us. We didn't know what to expect and the 5 shows we saw were amazing. We were so busy seeing the shows that we needed another day to experience the rest of Sea World.
And then a week on the Carnival Glory. I love all sorts of travel and cruises are one of them. From the moment you board the ship, you're in another world. The rooms on Carnival *are* bigger as they say they are. We ate at the Red Sail Restaurant and the Platinum Dining Room. There was 24 hour pizza and ice cream, a barbeque for lunch, a generous buffet breakfast and even breakfast in bed. We spent time at the pools, jacuzzi, played ping ping and 9 holes of miniature golf. Indoors, there was The Atrium - a pianist or jazz band playing music in front of glass elevators and 3 floors of bars, shopping and photos.
We spent a day in Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya and Nassau. In Cozumel we walked to the market of San Miguel and ate lunch at a local restaurant. We wanted to get far from the cruise port and see the real city. It was worth it. After lunch, we headed to Paradise Beach and had a relaxing afternoon. In Belize, we drove to the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins. It was a good but easy walk. Altun Ha is perfect for cruisers - all of the ruins are around a field. Three quick climbs up stairs got you a view to remember.
Costa Maya was hit by Hurricane Dean in August 2007 (we were in Treasure Beach, Jamaica then). The town is still recovering. We got as far from the ship as we could (southern part of Costa Maya) and visited a few stores. Then an hour on the beach. A pretty beach it was! Nassau, Bahamas was always on my list of Caribbean cities to visit. Nassau is always showing up in movies and in culture. A block from the cruise port is the Parliament. We entered the building of the Lower House of Parliament and visited the library which is where the modest museum is located. We walked to Fort Fincastle and climbed down the Queen's Staircase. We walked through town and were impressed with the architecture. Colonial British buildings with Caribbean colors. Then to the most important part of our day in Nassau - to Arawak Fish Fry. The Fish Fry is a collection of restaurants a short walk (20 minutes) from the cruise port. We had conch fritters and conch salad.
After the cruise, we drove to Panama City Beach and spent three days in the prettiest condo we've been in. It had a lot of space and a perfect view of the beach. We drove up and down the sleepy beach resort (in its off-season), ate at Hungry Howie's Pizza and spent relaxing time in the family room and kitchen. Even in cold weather, the beach was eye candy. We walked up and down the beach until it was time to go. The next day we drove to Atlanta and were home two days later.
I love heading for somewhere new. I had directions from Google in my backpack and we found each place easily. I'd never been to Georgia or the Florida Panhandle. We got a good sense of the scenery and drives in Atlanta, Savannah, Orlando, Port Canaveral, Panama City Beach and back to Atlanta again.
I loved every part of the trip. Family vacations are a must - we become closer by exploring new places together.
We're home 6 days and I'm still tired. That's a common theme in 2007 and 2008 thanks to three trips - I'm Happily Tired. Happy New Year!
January 4, 2010 - The clock struck midnight and a new decade is upon us. In December 2009, I thought a lot about new years 1999. So many complex things happened to our world in the past decade that it will take a few more decades before we're able to properly analyse it. I'll let others do that.
I got into health, exercise and opened my mind to music in the past 10 years. I play tennis, workout, and walk a lot. I enjoy doing these things and when my body is tired, I take a few days off. My new years resolution in 2000 was to start drinking mineral water (I was only drinking Coca Cola and sugary juices) and eat better. I passed that test. I get sick thinking of my eating habits 10 years ago! Sure, I still love junk food - but its a few times a month at the most. Fruits, veggies and all things in moderation. I had no idea about this stuff 10 years ago and gradually learned.
Some people invest in the stock market and all sorts of things - everything but themselves. I learned how to invest in myself. We all have our own unique lifestyle that is good for us. Some of it is obvious ("don't eat cruise style breakfasts every morning!") and some of it is personal.
Speaking of personal, that's something that went out the door this past decade. The 2000's were the Reality Decade, the Voyeur Decade. It seems many of us have a sick hobby of watching others lives. There's so much out there that many can't discern between reality shows and reality. I change the channel - or turn off the tv - when it goes to Tiger Woods and his personal life.
I love music. I listen to all kinds - from classic rock to swing to world music. I'm not into the personal lives of the musicians I like. There is often a disconnect between the artist and their personal lives. If I judge Stan Getz, Pete Townshend and Carlos Jobim based on every good and bad thing they did in their personal lives, I would never enjoy their beautiful music.
Here's a quote from Timothy Leary that has never been more relevant - "George Orwell had it wrong. He wrote in 1984 that Big Brother would watch us from screens. The current horror is that Americans voluntarily stick their faces toward the screen!"
My new years resolution? To keep being who I am and ignore the crazy pop culture around me. Happy New Year!
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