Fifty-Two Frames: Technology.

I love how the week’s theme tends to occupy my perspective between Sundays.

It started with a truck, fascinating Koala, Bebe and I down the block from our building. It was a one-armed truck pulling giant bags of sand over a fence.

It ended with me sweating under the summer sun, arranging a bouquet of gadgets in one of my favorite ferns.

Week 29: Technology

Technological growth.

We are more computers than people.

Fun stat: Israel has more computers per person than any other country, according to The Economist. Yes, I am surprised, despite knowing that Israelis are very into technology and hi tech is a major industry here. It may be a country of technology, but at times it feels five years behind. That said, they never asked what kinds of computers we own…

For a clean Israeli environment.

Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my society has done for the environment and what long term changes are being made as the world-at-large starts paying attention to the state of the Earth.

I know that on the whole, everything that anyone has done has been a drop in the green bucket. I’m not a green-nut myself, but I am a person who avoids wastefulness, values organization and enjoys a breath of fresh air… that doesn’t come from an a/c.

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve been exposed to/seen on the ground in Israel:

Solar energy

There are tons of companies in Israel that are working vigorously on solar energy developments and exporting their ideas and goods. You might recognize the name Solel, for one.

Solar panels for homes have been around for years; something like 80% of Israeli residents have these in their homes. Before I moved here, I had barely understood the concept; heard that out in California they used these. Here, it’s everything: electricity-saver, money-saver, power-saver. Called a dood-shemesh in Hebrew, it’s the type of thing you ask about before you rent a place. The sun automatically heats up the panel, and the heat absorbed is what makes your shower nice and comfy. Israel has won big marks for the popularity of the solar panels.

For more information regarding Israeli solar energy, here’s a detailed article. And here’s news on the latest developments in electricity versus solar billing.

Drinking water

I was passed this feature article in Haaretz about Israeli tap vs mineral water: Addicted to the bottle. Here’s a taste:

Families can spend as much as thousands of or tens of thousands of shekels a year on fancy water. Does their outlay pay?

One unbiased expert says, unequivocally, no. “The quality of tap water in Israel is among the best in the world, in terms of the Health Ministry’s standards,” says Prof. Avner Adin of the Faculty of Agriculture at Hebrew University. “My family and I drink tap water without a second thought.”

The article basically explains that many researchers claim Israeli tap water is not only safe and tasty, but preferable to mineral water, which is a waste of money and resources and not even as healthy as everyone thinks.

Of course, there’s also the little matter of the plastic bottles that the bottled water industry contributes… On Neviot’s website, they make a whole display of the different kinds of bottles you can carry around.

Plastic

The last time I was in New York, I noticed it was in vogue to carry around non-plastic bags in the supermarket and elsewhere. And, really, when I say in vogue, I mean fashionable to walk around with 100% all-natural fiber bags that say on them, “I’m not a plastic bag.”

Im  not ap lastic bag, either.

In Israel, for months, I’ve seen the non-plastic bags in the supermarket, sold for a few shekel, to be replacements for the plastic bags that Israelis – like everyone else – are so eager to use and recycle by reusing them as garbage bags. Are Israelis buying it? I don’t know. I don’t see them being walked around very often.

The government, however, is making an attempt by formulating a bill to ban the production, importing and distribution of plastic bags. in fact, a small charge will be implemented for each plastic bag used. Good thing too, since apparently Israel’s population of 7 million use about 430 million plastic bags a month in 2005

We personally have started to use those bags ourselves, with occasional picking up plastic bags to reuse as garbage bags at home.

And then, at my office a few months back, a couple of coworkers attempted a revolution in using ceramic mugs and bowls instead of the tons of wasteful plastic goods they order every week. I took up the cause myself and have been ok with it, at the very least.

Automobiles

I have read a lot about the work of Israeli researchers and advancements in hybrid cars, electric cars, water-power. Every so often I will read an article about the latest researcher or start up focusing on this. There is an Israeli start up dedicated start putting in ‘chargers’ for electric cars on city streets. Israel is one of the leading in the research for water-powered and vegetable-oil powered cars.

I have begun to consider what my next car would be and I definitely think out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new, because soon enough I won’t have a choice around here.

By the way:

Conclusion

I do think that Israelis get a bad rap from visiting Americans, who consider themselves green and eco-savvy to a fault. I do acknowledge that until recently, Israel was terrible in the eco arena. It’s hard to compare too because the United States is a bigger place with more people with more stores with more factories with more indulgences… with more bad habits. But these days, it’s unfair to judge Israelis harshly; its researchers are leading in areas of water desalination, electric and water-run cars, solar paneling, etc.

In fact, dare I say I am proud of what I’ve seen so far, as small as it may be. Of course, there is tons more to be done and what we have so far is so small, but it’s the national psychology that always has to be shifted before you can see real change. I can see that from the academic point of view as well in areas of the government, Israel is definitely moving its psychology in the eco-friendly direction.

You know you're an Anglo-Israeli working in hi-tech when…

I just received a tweet from a friend:

“just heard terrible news…reeling from the shock. baruch dayan ha-emet”

And I immediately went to check my favorite news services to find out what happened. First I thought Ariel Sharon, then I thought Gilad Shalit. I scoured the Israeli news sources and then spread out wider to my international news sources, like a ripple effect.

It’s that mentality that the news is always alive, always happening and at any moment, anything can happen here in Israel… Mixed with the immediacy of the way we hi-tech geeks communicate and share… Mixed with my own morbidity, I suppose.

In the end, it turned out to be a personal thing. But those few minutes before I knew that… Those are the moments when I remember where and in what age I live in…

Tel Aviv might be hi-tech, but Jerusalem is Online.

Last night I spent a lovely evening at a hi-tech geek party, otherwise known as MashBash. I love it when my hi-tech self and my Israel self combine into one crazy combustication of awesomeness.

There are so many reasons I love these gatherings:

  • They are parties with a premise, so the drinking is casual, the conversation is lively and everyone is just about on the same level of awesomegeek; there’s pretty much one wavelength.
  • It’s a chance to network for business but also to meet Israelis and other immigrants.
  • And usually, the drinks are free.

Of course, the center of hi-tech in Israel – or at least, hi-tech parties – is Tel Aviv. Jerusalem does have a fair effort (like my company, among others) and it’s blogosphere can stand on its own. Bloggers usually meet at each other at parties or events and it’s always fun to see the face behind the URL.

So last night I met the owner of Jerusalem Online, which is

“the first video news update from Israel in English sent directly to your e-mail on a daily basis. This short, to-the-point, balanced update is brought to you by Israel’s leading television news source, Channel 2 News.”

It’s a great way for Jerusalem bloggers to keep Israeli news on their sites and a convenient tool for people outside of Israel to get direct news in English. You can get the video code by pressing “Get this” under the video and embed straight into your blog.

Like so many others, I’ve fallen deeply in love with the Israeli hi-tech scene, whether Jerusalem or Tel Aviv style. Next time I’m at one of these events, I’ll raise a glass (of free alcohol) to hi-tech, to the Israeli brain and to the wealth of the new-age Middle Eastern oil machine.

ICQ Toothpaste: Because you never know.

The Israeli hi tech world is alive and…  brushing.

Gizmodo posted that the Israeli software company that created ICQ, the instant messenger we all lost our virginity to, teamed up with an Israeli pharmaceutical company and together have created this bad boy of a Frankenstein:

ICQ Toothpaste

That’s right, ICQ toothpaste. Why, you inevitably ask?

The Israeli software company that developed the suite before it was purchased by AOL has just partnered with a big Israeli pharmacy company called CTS to release this ICQ toothpaste, which our tipster claims will “help P2P communication (person to person) while reducing bad breath.” (Gizmodo)

Only in Israel.