Friday, April 08, 2011

Did America really not vote for Pia?

Let me take a break from blogging about my Sabbatical in Israel to comment about an equally important topic, American Idol.  In particular, electronic voting on American Idol. In past years, I've picked the top two or three (as did everyone else), when there were around ten contestants left, and it was pretty obvious that we were all correct. This year, I picked (as I assume did most people) Casey and Pia as the top two, or at least two of the top three (along with James).

Now, American Idol airs in Israel several days after the show happens, so I have not seen this week's episode. But I have been following the excitement online. I have to say that one of two things (or both) must be true. Either I am completely out of tune with the American Idol audience, or something is messed up in their voting system. Interestingly, I'm just saying, American Idol adopted a form of Internet voting this time around (for a terrific description of how it works, see Ben Adida's blog posting). Unlike voting in public elections, people are actually encouraged to vote multiple times, up to a limit, and votes are not private.

So, a few weeks ago, Casey (touted by Randy as the most talented contestant ever on the show) was voted off early to everyone's shock. The judges saved him. Now Pia, my personal prediction to win the whole thing, was reportedly voted off. The judges have no more saves, but would clearly have saved her if they could. Is something going on with the voting? Who knows, but when Internet voting systems produce unexpected results such as this, questions will be asked. Personally, I'm very sorry to see her go, and I can't believe people really voted this way. I will miss Pia, and I am starting to doubt the integrity of the voting on American Idol. Or, maybe I'm just out of tune with pop culture. Yeah, that's probably it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

We're staying!!

This Sabbatical year has been a transformative experience for me and my family. While we always enjoyed our lives in Baltimore, there was always a feeling that something was missing. I was never able to put my finger on it. Was it a great, supportive community? No, we had that. Was it inner peace? No, we achieved that. Not until we spent some time in the holy land did we realize that what we were really missing was not a single, individual object or feeling, but something intangible, something bigger than all of us. There is an expression that you don't know what you had until it is gone (I think Shimon Peres said that about the Sainai desert.). In our case, we did not know what we were missing, until we had it. Humus on every street corner. Falafel on every plate. Shawarma wherever you look. But it's not just the food, it's the whole package. Israel completes us. They had me at "Shalom!"

So, it is with a heavy heart and a full stomach that I'm letting you know that we have decided to stay in Israel, and that we will be moving to Tel Aviv permanently. The heart is heavy because we will miss our home and our friends in the States. I will miss Sunday morning soccer, the Baltimore Ravens, poker with my favorite donkeys, the JHU computer science department, and two day weekends. Ann will miss her regular mahjong group, tennis league, Hadassa Gila meetings and events, ladies night out, and English. I would say what Elana is missing, but I'm having trouble finding out because we're currently not on speaking terms, and I've stationed a guard at the house and one at the airport to make sure she stays in Israel. The twins don't remember what it was like in America, so there's no issue there.

Since we're going to be in Israel, we have also decided to complete a lifelong dream and to become observant Jews. It is much more convenient to be religious in Israel, and given the shifting demographics in this country, we have decided to chose the team that is growing fastest and most likely to win. I'm not too thrilled about the whole not driving on Saturday aspect of this, or the daily leather straps, but I see advantages as well. For example, I've noticed an increasingly growing bald spot on the back of my head, which I will now be able to hide under my yarmulkah. As part of our transformation, we have decided to adopt more religious names. Going forward, Ann will be known at Tsirl. Please call me Mendl, and our kids will be Yentl, Tentl, and Bentl. We are also going to adopt a dog and call him Bob.

We are so excited about celebrating all of the Jewish holidays in Israel from now on. The only real downer, and it's a big one, is that April Fools Day is not observed that much here in Israel. It's always been my favorite holiday. The time of year that I get to say, in a loud voice:  APRIL FOOLS!