Monday, March 29, 2010


One of the themes we celebrate in the festival of Passover is liberty. The traditional story tells of liberation from slavery, but there are many lessons to be learned for everyone, even those who consider themselves free.

Liberty is the sort of concept that is extrinsic, meaning that it relies on something else. The person who is free is always free from something. In this respect, it is a less purely positive concept than something like fulfilment or achievement. 

Among the things we may still have to liberate ourselves from: our own fears, and other people's expectations. When we can do what we choose without holding ourselves back and without worrying about other people's reactions, we are truly free.

One of the most liberating experiences I have had was deciding to change my personality. I used to be shy and introverted. When I was asked to teach in a translation course, my first reaction was fear. But I decided to face and overcome that fear. I taught that class for 18 months, and gradually became less inhibited. I learned to think about what I wanted to get across rather than about my fears and the reactions of the listeners. This was ten years ago, and since then I have continued developing my public speaking skills. I learned the important lesson that I can decide what to be, and I am free to make choices, even about basic aspects of my own personality.

A good way to find things worth liberating yourself from is to listen to the reasons you give yourself not to do things. When you identify things that scare you, or hear yourself using other people's opinions as a reason to refrain, this is an opportunity to think further. Is this something you really want to do? Would it be worth changing yourself in order to achieve it? Do the opinions of others really matter so much?

I wish everyone fulfilling experiences of self-liberation!

Monday, March 22, 2010

John Scalzi - The Android's Dream

John Scalzi, The Android's Dream, Tor, 2006.

Spoiler warning.

This novel is not related to the author's Old Man's War series. It is a story about the misunderstandings that can arise in inter-species diplomacy.

Agreements with alien species can be strange. In this case, the aliens require a particular breed of sheep to be used in a ceremony. An agent is sent to find the sheep, and ends up protecting a woman with a bizarre and disturbing background, which she didn't know about, while politicians and factions among the humans and aliens struggle to control the fate of humanity.

This book manages to be both very funny and great fun, while also discussing culture clashes and the wide range of human deviancy. The characters are engaging, and the plot reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Haifa BNI chapters networking event

On March 7th, 2010, the four BNI chapters of the Haifa region held a networking event at the Mount Carmel Hotel. The four chapters are BNI Haifa (my chapter), BNI Haifa Pesagot HaCarmel, BNI Haifa Betenufa, and BNI Tsafon Asakim (from the nearby Krayot). There were over 80 participants, mainly BNI members, but also some visitors (though not really enough, in my opinion, to justify the name Visitors Day, as this event was originally intended to be).

The guest of honour was Shaul D'Angeli, of Haifa Municipality's Business Development Unit, who spoke optimistically about the types of businesses here in Haifa, the development of transport solutions in the city, and the recent increase in real estate prices in Haifa compared with the rest of the country.

The main presentation on networking was provided by Dr. Itai Plaut, BNI Regional Director for the North (pictured above). He explained the principles of networking and encouraged everyone to adopt them, whether or not they were BNI members. The speech was refreshingly not a hard-sell recruitment attempt, as Itai noted repeatedly that business people can network without belonging to an organization like BNI, though he did present figures that showed the success of BNI Israel in the past year.

We then had three rounds of speed networking at the tables, where participants presented themselves and got to know each other, and then arranged meetings for later. The aim was to have all the participants leave the event with four meetings in their diaries.

This was another successful event, though it would have been better with more visitors.

Update: Here is a report on this event (in Hebrew) with photographs, in a local news site. One correction: this event was not part of International Networking Week as they mentioned, since that was a month ago.