Candles Always Cry

And Other Stories

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Economics and entrepreneurship and peace

Stanley Fischer, the U.S. citizen who is the governor of the Bank of Israel is stepping down in June. There are speculations that he will be offered Ben Bernanke’s job, as head of the federal reserve here in the U.S.

Fischer has been credited for Israel’s smooth deflection of the 2008-? recession. Israel’s economy contracted for only one quarter in 2008, and quickly recovered, while Europe and less so the U.S., are still languishing.

In 1994, Fisher wrote a book called, “Securing peace in the Middle East”, a road map for peace between Israel and Palestine, through economics. 1994 was almost 20 years ago, and the peace climate was very a lot more hopeful.  Still, of all the options, an economic route to peace still seems to me to be the most viable. Or at least worth exploring.

Maybe it’s cynical, or just realistic, that the only way for two parties to cooperate is if it’s for their mutual benefit. Economics is the best way to leverage that.

A quick Google, and Google Scholar search, shows that plenty of people have already explored this, and economics has always been a major part of the discussion on peace in the region.

Based on the lack of success until now, maybe the fault is not in the economics, but in the politics of it.

What if we could go around the politics, and through entrepreneurship, create economic partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians that will become more powerful than everything that divides them. (Clearly, it’s not impossible to be both cynical and idealistic within the same couple lines.)

I’m sure there’s plenty being done on that front too, and I intend to find out.


Some of the links I found on the topic, not yet curated:

The Economics of Middle East Peace, book, 1993

Economic Developments in the West Bank and Gaza Since Oslo , paper by Stanley Fischer, 2001

Israel/Palestine: how to end the war of 1948, paper, 2006

Mending the Wall: the economics of Israeli-Palestinian peace, paper, 2010

The Economics of Middle East East Peace, lecture, 2011




Maine employment agency gives felons a second chance

Maine employment agency gives felons a second chance

Another model of social capitalism, or social business – making a difference and making a profit simultaneously. 

Maine Works is a successful for-profit that employs felons as temporary workers. This keeps them out of jail, and contributing to the economy. 

On Depression

My mind has just been officially blown.

I just finished the 1079 pages of Infinite Jest and turned to the internet to try to make sense of it. The ending most urgently,  but really,  of the mammoth experience of reading two months worth of David Foster Wallace’s mind-blowing mind.

And then I found this as an introduction to an essay on Infinite Jest:

Depression, when it’s clinical, is not a metaphor. It runs in families, and it’s known to respond to medication and to counseling. However truly you believe there’s a sickness to existence that can never be cured, if you’re depressed you will sooner or later surrender and say: I just don’t want to feel bad anymore. The shift from depressive realism to tragic realism, from being immobilized by darkness to being sustained by it, thus strangely seems to require believing in the possibility of a cure….

– Jonathan Franzen

How is there anyone who can say something even more core-kicking than DFW?

Habits and Goals

I wish I were smart enough to be an expert on something. That’s what all the promoters and marketers and social media hacks say, “Become an expert in you field.” I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know that the best and probably the only way to build an audience if you’re not already famous is to stick relentlessly to one topic. Because that’s how people know you. And trust you. And worship you. And buy from you.

Well, I’m sorry but I’m not an expert. I don’t do any one thing all the time. I read a lot and I ask a lot of questions and I breathe a lot.

So I’m not going to teach you anything. I’m just going to try and discover the answer to something, mostly for the journey of it, and probably just to find the real question. Answers are boring and final and usually restricted to certain conditions that never apply in your particular case.

Today, my question is about habits, and goals.

First of all, habits and goals are different. A habit is about consistency, and a goal is about progress.

So let’s say you want to exercise more, is it better to say “I will exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time” or “By the end of this month I will be able to lift X pounds”?

Each requires a different kind of discipline, which requires its own kind of study.

Interestingly, often a goal is reached by building good habits, and habits, if tracked, can use count as goals. Such as counting mileage in running, or a streak of writing each day.

Both also require reinforcement and feedback – from friends, from visible progress, from tracking devices.

And it’s true for both that tools and techniques make them easier. The more you automate the process, or provide external motivation, or get it into routine, the less you have to work to get it done. So, a weekly class, working out with a partner, using a tracking device or app, can help make it easier to accomplish.

This brings me to a question that motivated this search. What about work? You have a paper to write, a client proposal to write up, research to do, and you’ve been procrastinating. Do you tell yourself “I will work for 3 hours” or do you tell yourself “I will finish the rough draft” “I will have a list of ten options for the client”?

Is this similar to habits vs. goals? Maybe.

I wonder if the difference is about being able to say, “I did what I had to do” and saying “It is done.”

If you want to win a race, it makes no difference if you can check off your practice schedule if your time isn’t getting better.

But then the question becomes “Is it done” or “Is it done well”?

And that has to do with whether or not it’s a quantifiable goal.

When you’re running. You either made the time or you didn’t.

When you’re writing a paper, there’s a finished A paper and a finished C paper. There’s an email that you believe has the best pitch you could have written, or it’s an email that you sent because you wanted it off your list?

In my life so far I’ve found that I’m more of a goal person than a consistency person. In fact, consistency kills me every time, and I get quickly depressed. This is especially true since on my motivated days I want to change everything in my life – do laundry on time, eat better, eat more, sleep more, write more blogposts, do spiritual stuff more often, volunteer, be kind, make time for others etc. etc.

Even with the best of intentions, it can get quite hard to habitize all those resolutions.

It works better for me to say “I will read 50 books this year” than “I will read one book a week.”

But one of my goals in life is to be less critical, and more optimistic, which is definitely unquantifiable. The best way (that I know) to accomplish a change like that is to write down one time each day that you actively banished an unkind thought about someone or something and replaced it with a positive one. (Writing it down is essential because it forces you to be conscious of what you’re thinking.)

This relies only on your consistency measure. You can only count on keeping track of the habit, not the progress, because how will if you’re actually a more positive person?

I think it boils down to this: any habit that you do has to be for some purpose. You don’t do push ups just to do push ups, you do them to be more fit. But then how do you know you’re more fit, just because you checked it off your list?

So there are two options:

Working towards a measurable goal by measuring progress, not consistency – so no habits, just build up to a goal.

Working towards a non-measurable goal by consistency because you don’t have another way to judge it.

When it comes to something like writing, or accomplishing creative work, habits can help you get better at what you do, but the final product doesn’t fall under this category. It’s not a defined destination (unlike a goal), but it does have to end somewhere (unlike a habit).

All this does not answer the question of how to get yourself to work – by time or by project – so that still has to be explored.

Some great stuff I found regarding habits:

  • Buster Benson. He’s created a bunch of tools around habit tracking and habit building. is for writers who want to write every day, HealthMonth is a social and gamified way to build habits, Peabrain will help you keep track of anything from your phone via SMS, and the Hipster Habbit App is a non-digital, printable, 30 day habit-tracking calendar to carry around in your wallet.
  • He’s shared his very practical and very motivational thoughts on habits in The Habit Manifesto.
  • Seinfeld’s ‘Don’t Break the Chain‘ tip seems to work for some though it didn’t work for me. I was so excited when I first read about it because it involves calendars and markers but I fizzled out pretty quickly. I’ll try it again some day.

The Case of the Missing Mrs. Clinton

Originally posted as a Facebook note on May 11, 2011

Di Tzeitung, a Hasidic newspaper, published an article last week with a picture of the White House situation room. 

They photoshopped Hilary Clinton out of it because of their policy not to publish any images of women. 

The story went viral when it was published first on blogs, then in the Jerusalem Post, and then acoss all major and minor media outlets in the US and internationally. The two major complaints: 1. Violateion of White House copyright (aka religious Jews don’t give a d* about this country) 2. Sexism (aka religious Jews are just like the Taliban).

Di Tzeitung put out a statement Monday. A longer, less formal, response can be read here in the original Yiddish

Synopsis: In response to 1. White House images are property of the nation and can be used and abused as desired (i.e. you will not be sued if you add horns and a mustache to any of those in the photo and publish it on your blog). 2. They are a religious newspaper and are free to follow the policies that adhere to their values.

An additional point they made was that they were not contacted by any of the myriad of blogs and internet sites that published the story before Monday. By that time the story had already been told and retold, accusations had been made, and conclusions had been reached. That says something about the state of today’s journalism.

As an orthodox Jewish woman this has forced me to ask a few questions: Do I agree with what Di Tzeitung did? Or do I believe that the cries of ‘sexist-mysogynist-taliban’ are an infringement of my religious freedom?

What it forces all of us to conclude is: not only have the ghetto walls been breached, they have turned to glass, at least from the outside in. What we do is no longer a private matter.

Bus Stop

The very old tiles still have color, but the sun on the corner is foreign today and doesn’t translate well.

It’s the nomenclature of the poor and the rich don’t speak it, they who own the hills, and weep at their bacchanal lifestyle.

They gorge themselves on the daily dose of opprobrium served on day-old paper. This we share.

The odor of humanity follows  by fiat after the day’s wanderings. To the dismay of anti-septics everywhere.

There is still the illusion of ephemera as comfort, but alas, it is not the case.

The bolded words are vocabulary I’ve found and learned in the last few weeks. If you’re a word nerd, here are the definitions, and where I found them.