Busy, busy

Dear Friends, you may have noticed some gaps in my usual daily blog postings.  A while back in March I went on vacation for 3 weeks.  Then recently I was binge-watching the Snooker World Championships at Sheffield, that is one of my passions {like tennis Grand Slams).  Sometimes I am simply busy, for example recently I was working on an article on Futurism and Human Bioengineering that I submitted for publication (more of that later).  I also do some work at BGU, for example editing scientific papers and in a few weeks I am giving a talk about the  English language to science students who must pass an English language test.  Apart from all this I have been taking an art class once a week and have been painting in my spare time (see my website: http://www.jackcohenart.com/Watercolor.html).

I have also been chosen to be the first volunteer to test the utility of an Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) that is a computer box with AI made by Google that is supposed to interact with old people, answering questions and helping them. This is a program at BGU that is being funded by the EU and will be evaluated by social workers and computer/robot experts.  The IPA uses wifi to access the internet and respond immediately to questions and requests (like, “what is the temperature today?” or “call my daughter”) as well as provide advice and assistance (more on this later).  Eventually they will also be mobile and possibly with working hands   

In two weeks time I am going on a fact-finding mission to Europe (including Warsaw, Budapest and Vienna) with an American group.  I will write about this interesting trip to inform my readers.

In addition, of course, I visit my wife Naomi every day in the Home where she is living due to her Alzheimer’s disease.  I am glad to say that her condition has not significantly deteriorated, she still talks a lot (although none of it makes much sense), but her walking has deteriorated due to her sitting a large part of the time as well as due to her condition.  So this has been a summary of my activities, to let you know that when you don’t receive a blog posting it’s not because I am simply resting (although I do that too).


Life on Planet Alz

I wrote Life on Planet Alz, in 2017 as an account of my experiences trying to cope with my wife Naomi’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  It has now been featured on the web-site of an organization named AlzAuthors, which consists of ca. 200 authors of books about AD.  (Miriam’s book “The Lost Kitchen” was also featured on this site a few months ago).   It can be found here (https://alzauthors.com) and I reproduce the summary here:

This Week’s Story:

Meet Jack Cohen, author of “Life On Planet Alz”

Meet Jack Cohen, author of “Life On Planet Alz”

By Jack Cohen, Life on Planet Alz is a true story about coping with my beloved wife’s devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the terrible scourge of our age. In general, people are living longer and diseases of the aged are becoming more prevalent. The…

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Much has happened since I wrote this story.  We moved down to Beer Sheva to be near our married daughter Miriam, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to cope with Naomi’s unpredictable outbursts.  Then after 8 months we were forced to institutionalize Naomi because I could no longer cope, even with a 24/7 carer.  We were very lucky to find a small and pleasant Home with a closed Alzheimer’s ward so close by, only 5 mins drive.
I visit her every day, usually I feed her lunch to make sure she eats.  It has now been a year since she has been in there and she has deteriorated somewhat, mostly in her ability to walk, she now tends to shuffle, which may be the result of sitting for so long as much as the disease.  They do get physiotherapy and activities and I think we have the best situation we could expect under the circumstances. She still recognizes me, but she is confused about who I am.  Such is life.

Pondering on Pesach

I am sorry that the Notre Dame Cathedral burnt down, but I feel quite detached from it, it’s not my problem.  We, the Jewish people have our own problems, and rising anti-Semitism is one of them.  During a recent visit to the US (West and East coasts) and the UK, I experienced no such attitudes.  But, the facts speak for themselves.

The thing I noticed most in the UK was the huge influx of immigrants.  The waiter at one restaurant was from Slovakia, the Uber driver was from Iraq.  Before the UK joined the EU this would have been very unlikely.  Now many people in the UK want to turn back the clock, and this is why they have Brexit.  Brexit is partly a nationalistic response to giving up British control to faceless foreign bureaucrats.  So in one respect the turn towards right-wing parties in some European countries doesn’t worry me so much, because as an Israeli I see it in much the same light.  Taking back their own control, very much as we Jews did when we established Israel and fought for it.  I would worry much more if these right-wing parties became stronger and followed the trend of Britain and opted out of the EU.  The break up of the EU would signal great troubles ahead for the world.

In the US, the main concern I experienced was that over the antics of the three congressional stooges, Omar, Rashid and Ocasio-Cortez.  Since they are hard-core anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian and socialist, they are pushing their agenda, and have many useful idiots who excuse them because they are women of color, so we should let them get away with outrageous statements?  It is also incredible that Bernie Sanders is a leading Democratic candidate for President, when he spouts primitive socialism (let’s give the people everything, after all they deserve it; who wouldn’t vote for that?) when he is in fact a multi-millionaire.  It’s a crazy world. 

From the heart of the sovereign Jewish State of Israel, I wish all my Jewish readers a happy healthy and peaceful Seder and Pesach,


My Trip Summary

I have just returned from a three week trip that took me to California, where I stayed with my son Simon and his wife Sharon in Livermore in the Bay area (14.5 hr direct flight).  It was a welcome relaxing time.  Then we drove down to Los Angeles and had a cruise with my two grand-daughters, Shoshana from CA and Liora from Israel, although she is currently working in Florida.  The 7-day cruise was to the Mexican coast and we visited Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo St. Lucas.  It was very nice and all you could eat, although I was careful.

In Puerto Vallarta I bought Indian artifacts made by the Huichol Indians, who have a mythology based on the Sun and the Moon cohabiting during eclipses, and producing humans.  Its as good a theory as any.  In Mazatlan we went to a Salsa project in a resort, and I enjoyed a swim (the weather was excellent, but the water in the pool on board was too cold).  In Cabo we toured around, but missed a swim with the dolphins.

In Washington DC, I was hosted by my friend Frank Portugal, who works at Catholic University of America as Head of Biotechnology.  He gave me a tour of his facility and we went on a tour of the huge magnificent Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  There are many chapels devoted to Mary with the baby Jesus, where they tell you about the many times peasant children saw images of Mary, incredible.  They also show you the shrine to St. Cuthbert the pederast, the founder of the Catholic child abuse section (Ok, that’s a joke).

In London, I was hosted by my friend Barry Garfield, who prefers to remain anonymous.  My son Simon was also able to be with us while on his way to work in France.  We had a great dinner with family and friends.  The next day we traipsed across southern England to visit my sister in Rayleigh, Essex.  This is where the Normans built their first castle when they conquered England after the invasion of 1066, but it no longer exists.  Finally, we visited my friend Neil Davis in his wonderful apartment overlooking the pond in Hampstead Heath, and had a great lunch in Hampstead village. Altogether a great trip, but I felt I had to return soon to relieve Miriam, who has been visiting my wife Naomi every day in my place. 




New Paintings

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  But, at the age of 80, after painting in oils all my life, I started an art course with the painter Uri Peretz in Beer Sheva, where I live. The course started with water colors and then acrylics, with an abstract approach.  The idea is not to have a preconception of what you are trying to do, but rather add paint to paper, board or canvas and let random actions produce something.  It can be purely abstract, or it can tend towards something real, like a person, a building or a scene in nature.

This is the opposite to my previous approach that required a close examination of a subject and then an attempt to reproduce a facsimile of that as an image with paint on canvas.  I found it hard to embrace the freedom of this approach and also difficult to make decisions to completely over-paint whatever had been painted to produce a different image.  However, I persevered, and although I think Uri did not approve of my tendency towards representational art, nevertheless I hope I succeeded somewhat.  I have now added some of the paintings that I produced in the period of this course, thanks to Uri’s tutelage, to my website, at http://jackcohenart.com/Watercolor.html . Please check it out.

I know that my old friend Rosie would be surprised to see me painting abstract works.  I always thought from a representational perspective that abstract art was easy and was what artist’s who could not actually produce good representations of reality were forced to do.  Now I know that to produce a truly excellent abstract work of art requires a great deal of focus, concentration and experience.   There are concerns of color relationships, balance, mass location and what the work evokes in the viewer.  Anyway, it has been a fun and learning experience.

Everybody’s doing 2018

Everybody everywhere is evaluating 2018.  What happened during the past year? Trump happened, very much.  He got along with Kim Jong-un, they liked each other.  The Islamic State was crushed.  Syria reached half a million dead, an Arab achievement. John McCain died, he was a good man. Britain got embroiled in Brexit, will it ever end. China flexed its economic muscle. A memorable year.

For me the really big personal happening was that this was the year I essentially lost my wife.  Well not really lost, but she has Alzheimer’s, so it was really just a matter of time, the inevitable deterioration of mind.  After a spirited struggle of 7 years it all came to the tipping point.  Basically I couldn’t take it anymore, the unpredictability was the worst, one day sweet and smiling another unmanageable, let me not bore you with the details.  But, with the support of our children, worth having after all, the decision was made, institutionalization.  Sounds terrible.  But, luckily we found a nice, small, friendly Home with a special Alzheimer’s ward that is only 5 mins drive away, and I can visit her every day. I need to do that.  She still recognizes me, but she isn’t really sure who I am.  She asked me today if we could get married?  I told her we were married 57 years ago, but she doesn’t understand. How could she, it’s the disease.  She really isn’t herself, yet she inhabits the same body.  I feel as if I have lost part of me.

Other less significant things happened, like a man going to the moon, Oh, no that was some years ago.  Great strides in technology, robots that will think for us.  The UN passed 21 anti-Israel resolutions, more than any previous year (Iran got 1).  Jews are being attacked on the streets of Paris and Berlin, again, sounds familiar.  Hamas fired 100,000 rockets at Israel in 2018, but Israel had a record 4 million tourists last year. Assad with Russian and Iranian support took back most of Syria, and the US abandoned the Kurds. Thousands were killed in tsunamis, earthquakes, eruptions, mud slides, fires, floods.  A normal year, let’s hope 2019 won’t be any worse.

Branched out

Can you imagine how horrified I was to sign on to one of my bank accounts and find that all the money had been transferred and the balance was zero. I have these two accounts, one for me and the other for my wife, although since I am her guardian I have sole responsibility for her account (they separated the two accounts when I was appointed her guardian).  It was her account that was zeroed, and this is the account I use for paying her monthly fee to the Home where she resides.

The problem was compounded by the fact that after I signed in I was bumped out with an error message and after that I could no longer enter.  The site told me to change my password, which I did, but then it would not accept it and told me to change it again, and as you can imagine I was very frustrated.  I called customer service for help with the web-site and they sent me a secret password to my cell phone.  But I failed to find it because unknown to me it did not come in as a message from the Bank but under their 4-digit telephone code number.  Then the helper gave me a number over the phone and this time I managed to get in again, but now I could not access her account.  I managed to send a message to my designated banker in Netanya, and received her reply, which when translated said “you must change the branch number.”  This was completely mysterious to me.

So the next day I went to the bank branch in Beer Sheva where I reside, while my accounts are still at the branch in Netanya. It turns out that I cannot transfer my accounts here and they cannot access the accounts from here.  Anyway I went to the Bank Manager and complained.  He called an assistant who came and helped me (he spoke English, although Miriam came with me to translate).  I explained the problem to him and showed him a print-out with the zero balance.

He called the Branch in Netanya, and then he explained the mystery.  They had changed the number of their Branch, and the number is required to identify the account, even though the account number itself was not changed.  Also, mysteriously they had kept my account unchanged, even though they changed the branch number, but for my wife’s account they actually set up a new account and transferred the balance to that.  He then asked the Netanya person to fax him the balances of the two accounts with the new branch number.  We sat and waited but it never arrived, so he called Netanya again, and this time by chance got someone who knows me, and we had a three-way conversation and everything was resolved.  It only took 1.5 hours in the Bank.

It turns out that they did send me an SMS message some time ago that they were changing the branch number, but since it was in Hebrew I over-looked it.  Also, when I signed on to the web-site again, now the accounts were listed with the new branch number, which they had not had the previous day.  So in the end, it was only a bureaucratic error.

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