Monday, December 11, 2017

Take Two of Batsheva's Blog Post....

Hello Dear Readers,
I am doing the heretofore never-done and republishing a blog post, since Batsheva's photos didn't make it in the first time (the tech support elves here have worked hard to fix the problem and would like to take full responsibility for the techno-goof.  And the photo of her first day at Microsoft--the mix of excitement and nervousness in her eyes--is just too good to miss).  --Ellen

Hi everyone! Batsheva here with a special Seattle edition of We Made Aliyah

As many of you know, I moved to Seattle just over 2 weeks ago to work at Microsoft as a program manager (aka technical product manager). I'm working on their developer documentation, docs.microsoft.com, which recently underwent a huge transformation to become an awesome modern open-source platform backed by Github . (If none of that made sense to you, just replace it with "everything is shiny and nice now".) I'm specifically working on the user experience and user interface of the site, which is really exciting because it gives me a chance to use my visual creativity and design skills. 

Me on the first day of work. Orientation started at 7:30 AM! 

I've had a really busy 2 weeks since starting. After a half day orientation, I had a little bit of time to start setting up before jumping into a 2.5 day team training on how to use customer interviews to build and refine products. Then this past week was quarterly planning, which meant that the part of the team based in Shanghai flew in for a solid week of meetings trying to figure out what we're going to do for the next 3 months. 

In between all the meetings I have had some time to do "real work". I've written 2 small specs so far (detailed documents that specify how a feature should be built) and am gearing up to start work on some really big and cool things soon. :) 

I'm also still adjusting to working at such a big company (my previous company was about 300 people [which already felt "too big" to me], Microsoft is 124,000!). The Redmond campus right outside Seattle where I work is 500 acres. 


This was parked outside my building one morning. I asked the driver about it and he said he'd always wanted one, so he went out and bought one. :) Never let it be said that Microsoft doesn't pay well.

There's a ton of amenities on campus, including a makerspace with all sorts of tools and machines, a shopping mall, shuttles between buildings and to the city, arcade machines, restaurants, sports fields, and more. The coolest thing of all though, is…a treehouse! (3 of them, to be exact.) My team went and visited one this past week as a fun activity after our meetings. 





Outside of work, I'm still looking for a place to live along with my friend and future roommate. We're investigating the Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill areas and will probably wind up in Capitol Hill, which is an area very much like where I was living in Chicago. Hopefully we will find somewhere next week! Despite what "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" led me to believe, living in a hotel isn't that much fun.

I've also been repeatedly blown away by how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. I had never visited before my interview in October, and the first thing I thought after landing at SeaTac was that I had never seen so many trees before. The city is on the small side, but there's plenty of cool things to see and do. And the rain isn't that bad. :) (It's actually been pretty sunny the last few days!)





So far, I really love my job and the Seattle area. I'm looking forward to getting settled here!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Guest Post by Batsheva ;)

Hi everyone! Batsheva here with a special Seattle edition of We Made Aliyah

As many of you know, I moved to Seattle just over 2 weeks ago to work at Microsoft as a program manager (aka technical product manager). I'm working on their developer documentation, docs.microsoft.com, which recently underwent a huge transformation to become an awesome modern open-source platform backed by Github . (If none of that made sense to you, just replace it with "everything is shiny and nice now".) I'm specifically working on the user experience and user interface of the site, which is really exciting because it gives me a chance to use my visual creativity and design skills. 

IMG_20171127_074321.jpgMe on the first day of work. Orientation started at 7:30 AM! 7:30 AM

I've had a really busy 2 weeks since starting. After a half day orientation, I had a little bit of time to start setting up before jumping into a 2.5 day team training on how to use customer interviews to build and refine products. Then this past week was quarterly planning, which meant that the part of the team based in Shanghai flew in for a solid week of meetings trying to figure out what we're going to do for the next 3 months. 

In between all the meetings I have had some time to do "real work". I've written 2 small specs so far (detailed documents that specify how a feature should be built) and am gearing up to start work on some really big and cool things soon. :) 

I'm also still adjusting to working at such a big company (my previous company was about 300 people [which already felt "too big" to me], Microsoft is 124,000!). The Redmond campus right outside Seattle where I work is 500 acres. 

IMG_20171204_081145.jpg
This was parked outside my building one morning. I asked the driver about it and he said he'd always wanted one, so he went out and bought one. :) Never let it be said that Microsoft doesn't pay well.

There's a ton of amenities on campus, including a makerspace with all sorts of tools and machines, a shopping mall, shuttles between buildings and to the city, arcade machines, restaurants, sports fields, and more. The coolest thing of all though, is…a treehouse! (3 of them, to be exact.) My team went and visited one this past week as a fun activity after our meetings. 



IMG_20171206_164316.jpg
IMG_20171206_163717.jpg

Outside of work, I'm still looking for a place to live along with my friend and future roommate. We're investigating the Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill areas and will probably wind up in Capitol Hill, which is an area very much like where I was living in Chicago. Hopefully we will find somewhere next week! Despite what "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" led me to believe, living in a hotel isn't that much fun.

I've also been repeatedly blown away by how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. I had never visited before my interview in October, and the first thing I thought after landing at SeaTac was that I had never seen so many trees before. The city is on the small side, but there's plenty of cool things to see and do. And the rain isn't that bad. :) (It's actually been pretty sunny the last few days!)

IMG_20171126_141235.jpg
IMG_20171130_213649.jpgIMG_20171130_220953.jpg

So far, I really love my job and the Seattle area. I'm looking forward to getting settled here!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What's Cooking? A post (loosely) related to baking

Well, we already celebrated "Franksgiving" a few weeks ago, when my publicity-shy sister and brother-in-law were here (I think I'm allowed to say it was a GREAT visit, as long as I don't post photos [apologies to cousin Gil, who always says that there are not enough photos in my blog....]).

I had an interesting morning yesterday, when I got up early to cook for the Lone Soldier's Thanksgiving Dinner.  1000 soldiers who are here without family (and able to get the afternoon off, which evidently disqualified another 6000 soldiers) will be joining together for the meal.  It's quite impressive to see the loooong Google doc get slowly filled in as the weeks go by and more and more people sign up to bring parts of the meal.  50 people signed up to bring cooked whole turkeys!  I, perhaps not unsurprisingly, was not one of them.  I did, however, make two of the 25 pans of rice (much more my speed) and brownies.  Thanks to having a car this year, I am helping out two neighbors and taking their cookies and sweet potatoes up.  Teamwork!

I also baked for neighbors who had had a death in the family.  Walking down the street, I saw this taped to the wall:
This is how deaths are announced here (additionally, sometimes a car with a loudspeaker on top drives slowly around town announcing funeral details, as funerals happen here usually on the same day and many people are not on the internet either at all, or as much as their US counterparts.  Of course, I have also seen funerals announced on Facebook and via the city list-serv).

I don't really know these neighbors at all, and they are sitting shiva in another city, so I sent a cake over.  While baking, I thought to share this photo, as I find it hard to believe that this is how baking ingredients are sold here:
I have never seen boxes of baking soda (the ad campaign to pour it down your sink has not yet arrived here), and both baking soda and baking powder are sold in tiny packets.  The middle product is powdered sugar.  You need something like 1000 of them to frost a cake (to her credit, Penina pulled it off recently, when she made a cake for a girl in her school [love the school's program--when it's a girl's birthday, someone else in class makes a cake for her, rather than *her* bringing in a cake to share)
Anyway, while a kilo of white sugar is certainly not a small amount of a dangerous substance, there is nothing bigger--no "let's buy a 5 lb bag of sugar so all that Thanksgiving baking will be easily accomplished".  I also need to say that the idea of sugar in paper bags (that often leak) in a warm country is, while great for the environment, probably nicer to the local ant population than it needs to be.

A final note regarding food issues: while at a routine appointment at Hadassah Hospital yesterday, I wandered into the new mini market that had just opened.  I was surprised to see something I truly cannot imagine seeing in a US hospital:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fill 'Er Up

This blog post has taken two years to write....

In the US, I took gassing up the car for granted; it was a simple little errand that I usually did at one of the 5 or 6 gas stations that were within a mile of our house.  Self-serve and keep on driving.  Then we moved across the world and I discovered that things are not always so easy when done in a new language and in a new culture.

To begin with, there are no gas stations in our neighborhood.  The nearest gas station is either about 7 minutes away in a direction I rarely need to go in, or about 12 minutes away in the main city that my neighborhood is part of.  Okaaaay.  At least I can usually figure out an errand or two to do in the main part of town, to make it worth driving almost half an hour round-trip.

Self-service is quite different here.  Don't know your car's license plate number?  Walk around and take a look because you'll need to input it to pay at the pump.  Once you've done that, put in your national identity number.  Don't know enough Hebrew to understand the words displaying on the pump?  Head on inside to (try to) pay at the cashier.  Don't know how to say "fill it" in Hebrew?  Yeah, you need one of those phrase books from the 80s.  You may never need to say, "my friend and I are making a small dinner party and were wondering if you'd like to attend?" (my favorite phrase), but you DO need something other than waving your hands around while looking panicked and finally saying, " umm, everything on (pump) number 4" and then saying "yes" when the cashier says some sort of questioning words that you take as confirmation that she's saying "fill it?".  Invariably, the cashier then asks if you'd like to buy headphones, an electric nose hair trimmer, or a small espresso maker from the display on the counter.  Since the cashier usually points while saying this, you are able to figure out what she's talking about and politely decline.  These experiences often leave one on the verge of tears (not that I'm, erm, speaking about myself here.  Oh noooo). 

What about full-serve?  That's actually a very nice experience here--they even clean your front- and back windshields, which I haven't seen in the US since I was a kid.  Except that even full-serve has incomprehensible questions, like "Do you want the number of your license plate printed on your receipt?"  ("What?  Can you repeat that?  Say it slower, please--I don't understand why anyone would want that?!".  A gas station employee who spoke English finally tipped me off that it's in case people want to use the receipt for reimbursement or tax purposes.  This in itself was a very inspiring-yet-humbling moment--the Russian guy who works at the gas station speaks English better than I speak Hebrew.  Sigh).  The next question is something like, "Would you like to buy a package of baby wipes or an espresso maker from the display outside?"  (Israelis drink a LOT of coffee and those espresso makers seem to be everywhere).

Anyway, yesterday I gassed up at the lovely new gas station that's *halfway* to the big city.  It felt so near (and yet, frankly, still rather far to go just to get gas)!  And I did self-serve and I understood all the questions and got them all correct!  Yay!  Give the lady a full tank of gas and get her back on the road!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Choir

Short post:

Penina and Ilana are in the choir for what I'm pretty sure is the biggest English-language play production in the country.  The Zir Chemed/Regal Productions musical happens in January and sells out the 600-seat Jerusalem Theater for each of its 6 shows.  This is also the biggest yearly fundraiser for Zir Chemed a non-profit that helps couples with fertility issues.  As such, each cast and choir member is required to fundraise a page of ads for the adbook. 

Thanks to my brother-in-law Stephen's cleverness, no one need pay $50/line to join with us in wishing the girls well on all their hard work (and it has been hard work--this week the choir will be meeting at 4 a.m. to catch sunrise for a video of one of their songs!), you can just email me with your message and the amount you'd like to donate.  Don't have my private email address?  Then please ignore this message--this post is only for friends and family ;)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Library Life

I don't think I've ever written about the library situation here, but as they are just reopening after being closed for the Holidays, library life has certainly been on my mind.

While I have heard that public libraries do exist in Israel, there are not any near us.  Therefore, we belong to three separate private libraries.  Each one has a yearly membership fee and also a limit on how many books may be checked out at a time.  The biggest library, for example, charges about $25 for a yearly membership that allows us to take out 5 books at a time.  We have two memberships :).  The big library reminds me a lot of the Winthrop Public Library children's room--very small, but with a nice feel to it.  Which makes it feel a little odd when I'm in there and turn the corner of a display shelf and come face-to-face with shelves in Amharic (the neighborhood has a large Ethiopian presence).  The whole library is about evenly divided between books in Hebrew, English and Amharic!

The smaller library, which is much closer to us, has books mostly in Hebrew and English.  It's open one morning a week for two hours, and then 3 afternoons a week for two hours.  Definitely not your average US public library!  The books there tend to be older and well-worn, and I have had many frustrated thoughts about all the boxes of books we gave away before making aliyah and how our donations could have truly made a difference to the library here (and we had extra space on our lift, too).....

The last library is right near our house and is housed in a synagogue.  Unlike the other two, this one only contains Jewish-themed books (lucky for us there is a thriving business publishing Jewish fiction) and is open only one morning and one evening a week.  This library has been closed since Rosh Hashanah and just opened again last night!

We also use Overdrive (which allows reading US library books online) to help supplement our reading.  Together, we manage to cobble together what to read, but it is a big change from the US, when we would go to the library Friday afternoon and return with 40 or more books.  May it be our biggest problem, right?!

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

High Holidays

Rosh Hashanah is the only two day yontif in Israel and, thus, can be the only one that goes into Shabbos and makes the rare Israeli three day yontif.  This year, was a three-day-er.  Thankfully (for I find the food prep for long holidays difficult, as I lack the suburban luxuries I had back in the Old Country--a second fridge, second freezer and counter space for a warmer so that I can leave the stove on and cook over the holiday), we were invited out for three of the seven meals, but we hosted our maximum of 12 people for the other meals--a nice mix of buddies and new olim.

Our shul davens neitz, so we had the additional challenge of waking up super early, since shul started at 5:45 a.m.  As an early riser, it worked fine for me, and I loved being out and about so early.  There are many plants that only bloom at night and the air smelled absolutely incredible and very different from how it smells two hours later, when we're usually leaving the house.

The air was also filled with the sounds of children blowing toy shofars.  One day on the phone, I told Chana to hold on because I was outside and our 4 year-old neighbor was tooting too loudly on her shofar for me to hear her. ;)

Most amusing moment of the "10 Days of Repentence" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: when Penina walked out of a routine appointment at Hadassah Medical Center and was accosted by a medical clown who immediately started doing kaparos over her head with a RUBBER CHICKEN! Sure beats live chickens, in our opinion ;).  (By the way, medical clowns are all the rage in Israel.  Penina even saw an ad on the back of a bus encouraging people to take courses to become medical clowns.  I see a future for Cousins Eli and Sela here!)

Chana came home from college in NY early the morning Yom Kippur started.  I got to discover that there is zero traffic between our house and the airport at 3 a.m. erev Yom Kippur.  Not that I was particularly worried about it.   By arriving at that time, she was able to spend her birthday with us!  Happy Birthday, Chana!!!!!


If it's possible to say that one had a great time on Yom Kippur, then I'd like to say that.  The davening was very meaningful and had lots of good singalong moments, we had great seats in our tiny shul (we were not near either the bathroom or the entrance door, which is hard to do in our very small and very crowded women's section), and it was so good to have Chana back.....

Preparations for Sukkot are supposed to start right after Yom Kippur, and, indeed, while we were still finishing our bagels, sounds of drills and hammers were drifting over from neighbors who eat quicker and also clearly have a lot of energy after fasting.

Two days ago, I saw a sign announcing "two bochurim available to build your sukkah".  As I read the sign, my eyes moved a few inches higher and saw a neighbor's "sleeping sukkah"  and the wheels started turning.  12 hours later, two creative 15 year olds (I was a little worried when I saw how young they were: "have you guys done this before???  Don't hurt yourselves!") had (with immense creativity because the way Shalom Shachne and they originally thought to build it didn't work, and he told them to just forget it.  But they kept at it!) helped make us the happy owners of a little sukkah on the balcony of our second floor.  Now the sukkah on the first floor will only be for eating and the upstairs one for sleeping.  The inevitable complaints of "but I liked getting to lie down and rest between meal courses" will hopefully resolve themselves ;)

The girls and I went out at 11 last night to check out the scene in the mercaz.  TONS of vendors selling lulav and etrog (there are pop-up stands everywhere around the city.  I was walking home from ulpan the other day and suddenly smelled this powerful citron smell.  Turns out that behind the small wall I was walking by a young man had set up a table to sell lulav and etrog). 
We got some exuberant decorations (I prefer not to use the words "slightly tacky") and even got some clothes shopping in because vendors of all kinds were open crazy late.

Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach and to our friends and family outside Israel who are about to have a three-day yontif both this week and next, my hat is off to you.  Good luck and may you really enjoy being "in the flow" of extended holiday time.