I saw a program on Fox News (a so-called “extra”) that was little more than an advert for an unconventional and ancient medical procedure called “cupping.”  This should have gone out completely with the development of scientific medicine, but apparently in our faddish and trendy times, some people will actually pay good money for this procedure.

The process involves heating the inside of a small glass cup with a flame and then upending it on the body, usually the back, where a small vacuum forms as the air inside cools, and the result is that a lump of tissue is pulled up into the cup.  The earnest proponent of this form of supposed therapy explained that the blood is drawn to the surface and the procedure “removes toxins” that accumulate in the blood.  Now how it removes them and what these toxins actually are was not explained, because first nothing is actually removed, the cupping only brings blood to the surface (probably some capillaries are broken) but nothing actually leaves the body, so nothing is “removed” and secondly, how is the process specific for “toxins”?   It is clearly only a process to bring some blood to the surface, but there is no way to select any supposed toxins from the rest of the blood.  It is so stupid that it is incredible that anyone today would submit themselves to this useless medieval quackery.  I am astonished that a so-called News organization like Fox would allow itself to be used for the propagation of such fakery.

This is not the first time I have heard that a procedure, usually one that is trendy rather than medically proven, is supposed to remove “toxins.”  Exactly what these toxins are and how they are removed is never explained, because in fact there is no rational explanation.   In this area I would include most of what is called “alternative medicine,”  which is a misnomer because it is really not medical.  Another example is use of low intensity laser treatment.  I had some friends who used to go regularly to Tel Aviv to pay a lot of money to have lasers passed across their muscles.  In fact, as I explained to them, all the laser is doing it heating the skin, it hardly penetrates below the skin for more than a millimeter, and you could have the same effect by using hot water, and it costs a lot less.  After swearing that it helped them (the placebo effect) they eventually admitted that the effect usually lasted only for a few hours.  This is not to say that lasers do not have valid medical uses, but that is usually high power lasers that are used to ablate tissue (such as tumors) or blood vessels.

I had a similar discussion/argument with some friends regarding the use of homeopathy, where lower doses are supposed to cause a greater medical effect, which it totally counter-intuitive.  Some years ago a major scientific study reported in a premier journal tested this hypothesis and found it to be unfounded, yet many people still swear by it.  My advice is don’t use any procedure or medicine that has not passed a double-blind study  (a study in which neither the patient nor the doctor knows what is being tested) and that has not been approved by the US FDA.  Some people argue that this approval is too costly and unnecessary, but that is not true, if a treatment is truly effective then it is worth proving it, since doctor’s cannot prescribe a procedure or medicine that has not been approved for human use.


Sliding Doors

Before we moved into our house in Beer Sheva we had a carpenter make a small walk-in  cupboard in the renovated bedroom.  It is a lovely cupboard, very nicely made.  But, one thing bothered me about it, namely the sliding doors.  They never closed together properly and often opened apart without any reason.

I decided they needed magnets to keep them closed, like those found on many kitchen and other closets.  But these doors are on runners, not on hinges.  To fix the magnets properly I thought it would need cutting out pieces of the aluminium door edges, something I didn’t want to tackle myself.  So I called the carpenter back and he came and looked at the problem (see “Door Perceptions,” IsBlog Jan 26, 2018) .

He removed the plastic inserts that were intended to stop the doors in the middle, but were also preventing them from closing together.  Then he attached the magnets by screwing pieces of wood on the inside of the doors, top and bottom, and then screwing the magnets onto them and with a metal flange on the other side to bind.  This worked, but there were two problems with this solution, first the metal flange was a right-angled connector that was about two inches on each side and it stuck out behind the doors, and not only looked ugly but was also potentially dangerous.  Second, the magnets were too strong and the doors held together and had to be prised apart each time.  I discussed this with the carpenter and he agreed that a long magnetic strip like that used in shower doors might work and he said he would look into getting some.  But, I never heard from him again and I didn’t want to call him again.

So I went to the hardware store and asked it they had something like this and they said no.  Then I realized I was asking at the wrong place, I needed to go to the plumbing/ shower section.  There I found what I wanted, it cost NIS 50, but the magnetic strip was encased in a plastic fitting intended to fit over the edge of a shower door.  I brought them home and then cut the magnetic strip away from the plastic using a box cutter (you know the kind they use to hold up airplanes).   I took the doors down from the cupboard, unscrewed the magnets and the flanges and the wood supports from the back.  Then I put airplane glue along the inner side of the aluminium door edges, and then attached the magnetic strips (making sure that the magnetic sides were on the outside).

After they dried I reinstalled the doors and lo and behold it worked.  The doors are held together by the magnetic strips (and the glue holds the strips in place), but they come apart more easily than with the magnets and there are no ugly pieces of wood or dangerous metal flanges sticking out inside.  Simple, elegant solution, problem solved.



Some time ago I bought two lights (made in Japan) that are led lights with a motion detector that automatically turns them on when someone enters the room or moves.  They stay on for 15 secs if there is no movement and they also won’t turn on if there is other light.  I installed them in both our toilets, in case my wife enters and forgets to switch the light on.

I noticed that one of them was not working and on inspection found that it had been switched to be permanently on.  That means I had turned it on and forgot to turn it back to auto.  But, because it was on all the time the batteries ran out.  I took it down and opened it to replace the batteries and found that one of them had gone bad, it was leaking acid.  I took it to the sink and washed the acid away.  Bad mistake, the water somehow got inside the sealed compartment and I could see droplets in there.  I left it for a few days to dry out, but it did not.

So I decided to take it apart and dry it.  I opened it up with care and wiped it with a tissue and then left it to dry.  Then I went to put it back together again. As I was doing so I noticed a wire sticking up with no connection.  By inspection I realized that this was a major connection to the battery compartment that had come loose.   I needed to re-solder it.  But, I had thrown my soldering iron away (I had brought it from the US and kept it for years, but of course when I needed it it did not work here, different voltage).  So I asked my son-in-law Jeff to borrow his soldering iron.

With trepidation I heated it and then soldered the thin wire back to the connector. It held, so elated I started to reassemble the device.  But, there was a large O ring seal inside the sealed compartment, that I had to manipulate around the circumference.  But, I could not get it to stay.  So I used a few tiny dabs of glue to hold it in place.  Then I reattached the top and  screwed it down, et voila.  But, not so fast.

As I was replacing the batteries, I discovered that the one that had leaked acid had corroded the spring that sits at the bottom and holds the battery in place and makes contact.  The new battery would not fit, it was loose.  As I was trying to release the spring it simply broke off, it was so corroded.  What to do?  I searched for a small spring among my collection of screws and trivia and in fact found one, but it was about 5 times too big.

At that point our Filippina carer Sahlee, who was watching me, casually remarked, “why not try foil.”  She said she had been advised to use this to make battery contacts when she worked in Taiwan.  So we took a strip of silver foil and folded it to fit the space between the battery and the contact and lo and behold it worked.  The light turned on, and when I tested the automatic switch it turned on in the dark with the motion detector and then turned off.  So once again human ingenuity had triumphed over the forces of evil and chaos.

Door Perceptions

Those who follow my blog know that I like elegant but simple solutions to difficult problems.  I also love to do things myself, I am a diy addict.  But I also know that my abilities are limited and I sometimes need to obtain help.

Case in point, I had a screen door installed in our new house some months ago.  The one that had been there before opened the wrong way (!), so I had to scrap that and have a new one fitted.  The person who installed the new one was an expert and did a good job, but charged a lot.  However, after he left I realized that he had not installed a spring to close the door automatically.  I called him to come back and do it but he wanted an extra NIS 100 for the job, and I thought it should be included in the price.  Anyway, for one reason or another he never came back.  So I had to find a solution myself.  My daughter has a long horizontal spring on her screen door, so I went to the hardware store and asked for such a spring.

The salesman there gave me an alternative solution, a vertical metal cylinder with a spring inside it (cost NIS 40).  You attach the cylinder to the door frame and then attach an arm to the central part of the cylinder that turns.  It must be turned against the spring, so that when released the spring pushes the arm against the door and closes it.  I figured out how to do it, but I could not drill the holes in the door frame because it is metal.   I asked my friendly carpenter Geraldo if he could drill these holes. He suggested using special screws that drill the holes themselves in metal with an electric drill.  This worked well and then all I had to do was turn the arm against the screw (adjustable) so that it would spring back and then it closed the door.  I added small soft patches to the door frame to avoid banging.  It works very well.

Actually Geraldo came to our house to fix the doors on the walk-in closet that he built for us.  We are very pleased with it, but the two doors never closed properly and then often sprang back and left a gap.  I called him because I bought two magnetic connectors that are supposed to close the doors, but I could not see how to fit them without drastic surgery on the doors.  He agreed there was a problem and removed the plastic pieces that prevented the doors from closing tight.  Then he attached the magnets to the doors and they worked.  But it is unsightly, not an elegant solution, because he inserted wooden strips on the inside of the doors to attach the magnets and also large metal clips to bind with the magnets.  He agreed it was not satisfactory and he will return with the kind of magnetic strips that you find on shower doors that hold them together.  To be continued.

Life without wifi

I have discovered that my life is totally dependent on the internet and e-mail, which means I am dependent on wifi.  When the wifi started to fail a few days ago, as evidenced by the lights going off on my modem, I found myself marooned, shipwrecked on an island, alone in a sea, with nothing to occupy my time, unable to communicate. Life came to a stand-still.  I realized that wifi is as important as a wife. or maybe more so.

When it became obvious that turning the modem off and on again would not accomplish anything, I decided I had to call the internet company HOT.  I always experience withdrawal symptoms when I face this because my Hebrew is not good enough, I can hardly understand the many options that they give on the automatic messages.  Finally I screwed up enough courage and called, and then navigated the plethora of indecipherable responses and more or less randomly pressed, 1, 2, 3 or more (the only language choices were Hebrew or Russian).  Finally I got to talk to someone in the technical department, but she spoke Hebrew quite incomprehensible to me (either with an Arab or Ethiopian accent), so I asked her to have someone call me back who spoke English.

I was surprised when someone did actually call back fairly soon, and then I explained the situation and he checked and said there was a problem with the cable and he would send a technician – except that he could not do that until I paid my debt!  What debt, my payments to HOT are made automatically by bank draft every month, and indeed I had seen that I had paid them in October.  But, he said I owed them about NIS 200 for the telephone which had not been paid.  In order to take care of this I would have to call customer service in the morning because they were already closed, then I would have to call back to the technical department after I paid and tell someone else the story again.

I spent the night worrying about how I would explain this situation to the customer service department.  I must not start out by saying I had a problem with the modem or the wifi, because then they would transfer me to the technical department.  So when I finally called and waited ca. 20 mins I had my story ready, I needed to pay my account to date so that I could get a technician sent to take care of a problem in my cable.  I gave her my credit card number and this worked and the girl said “hakol be’seder” (everything is OK) and then transferred me to the technical department.  I explained my problem again and told them the cable had been checked and I need a technician, and they said OK we’ll send one, but not until Sunday.

I prepared myself mentally to face a whole weekend without wifi.  What a hardship!  Then someone called back and said he would be here that afternoon, and I got a confirmatory SMS message. Then someone called at noon and said he was on the way.  When he came he did not go to see the modem but he checked the cable outside my house and then told me it was not working properly.  But, then he ran through the house replacing cable connectors and miraculously the wifi began to work again.    He said it would probably go again, but then they would have to do something more extensive to the cable.  Then as  soon as he came he was gone.

Now I am able to communicate with you through my ailing cable/wifi system.  If you don’t hear from me, you know why, my wife has probably left me.


Switched on

Because my son-in-law Jeff is religious, and did such an excellent job helping to prepare our new house in Beer-Sheva, I believe everything he tells me.  When he told me that the red switch with a light inside, that was outside the bathroom in our bedroom, was the power for the water heater I naturally believed him.  There was also a similar switch in the corridor, but this one had a fancy timer attached to it, and he did not know what that was for.  So when the skies started to be cloudy and the temperature started to fall and the solar heater would not work so well, I turned on the switch for the water heater when I got up early (say 6 am) and then turned it off an hour later.  Fortunately the water was always hot.  But, I was warned not to leave it on for too long, say 2 hrs max, since it could blow the boiler.

I had an electrician here doing some work for me, and I asked him what did he think the switch in the corridor with the timer was for, and he said that’s for the hot water heater.  So I asked him what was the other switch outside the bathroom inside our bedroom and he said that was for the bathroom heater (which he then set up).  So I felt foolish, here I was switching that switch on and off on the assumption that it was heating the water and actually it was doing nothing,

So now I decided to test the actual water heater switch. I turned it on and set the timer to the correct time, and set it to turn on for an hour 6-7 am.  The light was on in the switch but also a small light lit up on the side.  I showed the timer to our metapelet and she assured me that it was set up correctly.  But, just in case I took a photo of the set-up and sent it to Jeff, who I always believe.   Two hours later he called me back and said “do you know you’ve turned the water heater on,” I replied yes, but its on the timer.  “No” he said “its on all the time when the little light on the side is on.”  Oh I said, that means its been on for 2 hours.  He said you might want to turn it off now.  He explained that there was a switch in the timer (that I had seen but had no idea what it was for) that allowed you to turn it on all the time or off all the time, or if you set it to the tiny clock shown in the middle of the switch, that actuated the timer.

The first thing I did was turn the whole thing off.  Then I let the water run and it was scalding hot, obviously too hot.  I let it run to make sure that if it heated again the boiler would not burst.  Near catastrophe!  Then the next day when it had cooled down I reset the clock and put the little switch onto the timer setting and then turned it on.  I ran it thru 24 hrs by hand to check that it turned on and off (as indicated by the little light on the side) when it reached 6 and 7 am, and then satisfied, I set it to run continuously.

Now every morning we have hot water without the sunshine because the water is heated for one hour.  The moral of this story is don’t believe everything a religious person tells you.

Arnona Games

Arnona is the Hebrew for municipal or property taxes.  As an old retired couple (over 75) we are supposed to get a discount, and in fact we did get a discount in Netanya of 25% on our apartment.  But, that was due to Naomi’s condition, incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s Disease.  I could never get more, and they don’t allow any reduction on a second property (my studio, for which we paid more arnona than the apartment).

When we moved to Beersheva we asked about getting a reduction on our arnona here and we were told we must get a letter from Netanya City transferring the reduction here.  So Miriam wrote a nice letter (in Hebrew) to Netanya City Arnona Dept. asking for a form transferring the arnona reduction.  Since we received no reply we visited their offices in Netanya and eventually they did send the required transfer letter.

We made an appointment with the arnona city office here in Beersheva and were told what to bring with us.  When we arrived for the appointment they asked for my code number with Bituach Leumi (National Insurance).  I supposed this was to check that I was indeed registered with them.  But they had not asked us to bring this number and I did not have it with me nor did I remember it.  So we had to make another appointment to go back and bring that number.

When we went back for the second time to the arnona office, of course, they did not ask for my Bituach Leumi number.  But, after checking the files they came up with a  different problem.  Miriam is listed as a co-owner of my house, because Naomi cannot be as she is incompetent.  So they said I could only get half the usual reduction because of Miriam being normal.  I’ve learnt enough about these offices that will try to find any conceivable way not to give you what you are entitled to.  So I protested, I said “but Miriam does not live there and Naomi does, therefore we should get the full reduction.”

So they went back into the office of the supervisor and discussed it and then came out and said they had a solution, if Miriam would sign a statement that she does not live at our house but she does live at another address and pays arnona there, then they could give us the full reduction.  So Miriam wrote out and signed such a statement and they accepted it and we received – 70% reduction on our arnona.  Wow!  Finally the full reduction.  It shows that persistence pays off.