An afternoon with a painting, an non-painter and Penn & Teller

We escaped. My buddy K.D. and I took a few hours off life on a Thursday afternoon and went to see ‘Tim’s Vermeer’. Our escape took us first to Montgomery Cinema, a small old fashioned movie theater in a strip-mall about 20 miles away from our town. The movie took us 350 years back in time and away to Texas, Holland and England. The movie, directed by Teller and featuring Penn Gillette, tells the story of “Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) manage to paint so photo-realistically — 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers.

Spanning eight years, Jenison’s adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.”  (from the Tim’s Vermeer website)

The movie is fun to watch, interesting and has a few funny moments.   Dinner at Sahara after the movie made it an almost perfect escape.

PrintOne more thing – at the very beginning, when we first meet Tim Jenison the inventor, we see Mr. Jenison with some his inventions, among them an electric moth. Shown for just a few seconds it attracted my attention.  I am hoping to find more information about the invented moth.



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Snow Day Cooking

It’s a soup kind of day. The world is white, cold and snow flakes keep falling down.


It’s a soup kind of day, and it has to be rich and colorful.  I am making my version of minestrone.

Chopped onion, celery, carrots and mushroom bathing in hot olive oil in a dutch oven (usually used for baking bread).


To this I added one can of tomato sauce, one can of diced tomatoes, two cloves of garlic (chopped), homemade frozen vegetable broth (about two cups), salt and paprika.  Boiled, lowered heat and added about one cup of cooked (and frozen a while ago) white beans. When the beans thawed and the soup boiled again i added pasta and continued cooking for another 10 minutes. Soup is ready. See the shape of the pasta? It was on sale after Hanukkah this year.


A good soup needs good bread to accompany it. It’s a great day to try a recipe from my favorite bread book. I am making Focaccia.

The dough is very wet and sticky… I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but I am following the recipe.  The smell of the fresh rosemary is all over. So happy to have a rosemary plant that I can bring in the house for the winter.



It was a long wait, but the Foccasia looks and smells wonderful.


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I did not eat breakfast today – read my story

My work day today started very early… I finished working in the lab and was on my way to a daylong workshop.  I was in need for coffee and breakfast.  I found myself at the College Ave Campus of Rutgers University. I entered the Au Bon Pain next to the student center, and looked around for a possible breakfast. Blueberry yogurt topped with granola never looked better. But being me… before deciding to purchase, I read the ingredients. Second on the list – High Fructose Corn Syrup. I don’t care what kind of sugar it is, i just don’t want more added sugar than fruit in my fruit yogurt. Down the list – preservatives and two kinds of food coloring (red and blue make purple – the color of blueberries!).

I had coffee only for breakfast.

From Au Bon Pain website:
INGREDIENTS: Blueberry Yogurt [Cultured Pasteurized Lowfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey Protein Concentrate, Blueberries, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Nonfat Milk Solids, Sugar, Whey, Natural Flavors, Carrageenan, Pectin, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate (To Maintain Freshness), Red 40 and Blue 1. Contains Active Yogurt Cultures], Granola (Rolled Oats, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Honey, Wheat Bran, Brown Sugar, Natural Flavor, Maple Syrup, Salt, Molasses), Blueberries.
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Holocaust Day Story

Holocaust Remembrance Day is not a day for telling jokes, but since in my family we all have a good  sense of humor, I think my relatives who were murdered by the Nazis would smile  too if they could hear this story.

It happened on a warm spring morning in the early seventies.   My parents, my brother and I left for work and school. Andy, like every day in the last week or so, was still sleeping on the living room couch in our tiny apartment in central Tel Aviv.  Andy was a young American visiting Israel for the first time.  I don’t know how he ended up sleeping on our couch, but it was typical for my parents to invite someone they never met before to stay with us just because he did not know anyone in town.

Andy was woken up by a loud sound of a siren.  His first thought was: I am in Israel, I hear a siren – war!. We lived on the ground floor and it rook Andy just seconds to run out to the street, wearing nothing but his underwear. During the short time it took him to run from bed to the street he thought – I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I should look and see which direction people are running and follow them.  But there was no one to follow. Everyone was standing still, looking down at a spot on the ground between their big toes.   Cars were stopped, doors open, drivers and passengers standing on the road looking down.  Andy was running along the street looking for someone to follow.  But everyone was standing, staring down. After what seemed like forever to Andy, the siren stopped.  People started walking. Drivers got back into their cars, closed the doors and drove away.  The sound of rush hour in the city replaced the siren.  People looked at Andy standing there wearing nothing on but his underwear. The best thing to do was to go back into the apartment.

Only hours later, when my mother returned home from work Andy got an explanation:  It was Holocaust Day. In Israel, twice a year, on Holocaust Day and on Memorial Day, a siren sounds everywhere in the country for two minutes. Everyone stop what they are doing and stand still in remembrance of those who are not with us anymore.   I don’t know how long Andy stayed in Israel after he left Tel Aviv, and if he stayed long enough to experience this again.  But I’m sure that, just like me, every year on Holocaust Day he remembers that time when he stayed with strangers in Tel Aviv.

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סרטים ישראלים לצפייה בבית

Image is an initiative of the Israel Film Center at The JCC in Manhattan, a leading resource for Israeli film, expanding Israel’s emerging film industry and promoting Israeli culture in America.
The center serves as an exhibitor, promoter, educator, funder, distributor, producer, network organizer, advisor, and festival producer, as well as includes a viewing library and on-line database of Israeli cinema (



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Bon Voyage! Traveling to the middle of the ocean.

This summer I will away on a 5 week oceanographic research cruise in the North Atlantic, between the Azores to Iceland.  We will study an ecologically important microscopic marine plant, or phytoplankton, Emiliania huxleyi. This species forms large blooms in the world oceans and we are studying what happens at the bloom demise, specifically when Emiliania cells are infected by a virus. No need to worry, this virus only infects this specific phytoplankton, and is harmless to other creatures …  We made a connection between cultures in the lab and natural populations a few years ago when I spent a few weeks in a marine lab in Bergen, Norway, studying growth and death of Emiliania in large bags located in the fjord, but this time we are going to where things really happen – the open ocean!

The Knorr, a 300 feet research vessel, will be my home for over a month this summer. The Knorr is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI for the ocean research community. It is best known as the ship that supported a team of WHOI and French researchers in 1985 as they discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic. There will be about 30 scientists on the ship, from different labs around the US and Israel, and about 20 crew members. Many of the scientists are good friends that I worked with before, some I only know through email, and some I don’t yet know.  So I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  We will be working in shifts, sampling twice a day at 6am and 6pm and running lab experiments in between. The ship has several well equipped labs, but no swimming pool, gym, casino, game room or bar…  The rooms have no windows. Every two room share a bathroom. So not exactly what you think when you hear the word ‘cruise’L. But I hear the food is pretty good, and I will have three meals a day without having to wash dishes…  There will also be a fancy espresso machine on board, and my Israeli friends assured me that they are bringing lots of fresh good Turkish coffee.  So I should be OK!

My cell phone will not work while in the middle of the ocean. A satellite phone will be available for $10/minute, so don’t expect phone calls. There is internet connection, but it is slow and limited. So don’t expect long emails, photos or Facebook updates… but if you are interested in how life is on the ship, what and how are we doing, here is how you can follow the cruise – Rose Eveleth , a free-lance journalist and videographer will join us and will document our activities.  She will be posting a daily blog through the Scientific American website with pictures and text detailing our research, progress, happenings, etc.  Also on the blog is a link to ask questions. So if you have any questions about the cruise, write to Rose.  Click here to link to the blog.

This is the swimming pool.

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For the birds

When the little green table was placed near the big living room window, kindergartener Sky and her younger brother Happy (not their real names) were able to look outside and watch the birds while eating breakfast. The two kids ate their cream-of-wheat, the big birds (among them blue jays, sparrows, nuthatches and cardinals) enjoyed sunflower and other seeds on the big feeder, and  the finches dined on the smaller nyjer seeds from our smaller homemade feeder.

However, you don’t need kids or commercially bought bird feeders to enjoy your own breakfast with the birds.  Our finch feeders are made of used plastic bottles they are easy to make and work well in attracting all kinds of birds; not just finches.  If you want to make one, or two, or more – here is how.

To make a bird feeder functional you need to think of a few things – the holes have to be the right size for the birds to be able to feed but not too big so the seeds don’t just fall out.  You have to provide a place for the birds to perch while they eat, and it has to be easy to add more seeds to the feeder.

Start with a small plastic bottle.  I find that ‘Vitamin Water’ bottles work well – they are thicker than water bottles and have a wide opening that makes it easy to refill.  You can drill holes or you can use a hot metal skewer to melt holes in the plastic.  If you chose to melt the plastic, make sure you work in a well ventilated area or if you use the stove to heat the skewer, turn on the range hood.  Make two sets of holes, small holes for the seeds and two sets of two bigger holes, opposite each other – to place long sticks that the birds can perch on while eating.  Make two holes in the lid and twist a large paper clip through them to create a loop [see picture]. Your bird feeder is almost ready.  Now you have to find two sticks to place through the large holes, fill your feeder with nyjer seeds (available at any pet store or department store that sells bird seeds).  Hang you feeder and wait for the birds to find it.  To refill with seeds, all you need to do is to twist the bottle to release the cap, add seeds and twist back on.  Please look at the pictures that show all the steps – a picture is worth a thousand words!

It’s not going to be long until the finches, and other small birds discover the new food source and come visit your feeder.  Have fun, and remember,  it is all “For the Birds”!

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