Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No one could ever accuse a London Underground tube train of being too silent.

Thought I'd post a great video of some London Tubes arriving and departing from various stations as I was comparing the silent JLR trains to London Underground in a resent post. No one could ever accuse Tubes of being too silent could they!

While we are on the subject of the London Underground. There are some  great sites dedicated to London underground Ghost Stations.

These are all those stations that for one reason or another, London Transport management decided to close down. Most of these stations still exist, their posters unchanged, the Underground Tube wall map frozen in time at the date they were abandoned, forever waiting in vain for a train to once again stop at its platform.

An old map at Holborn Station's old Platform 5, abandoned 1994.

I remember, more than 20 years ago, when I used the Central Line everyday to commute to and from work, the train would rush through a Ghost Station on its way to Tottenham (prounced "Tot-nem" for all you Americans reading) Court Road station. You could just make out through the merky darkness, the platform and its Station Name on the London Underground logo as "British Museum". I understand that today, the platform has been totally removed and only the wall tiles remain. It was all very mysterious and eerie! The station was closed in 1933, Its above ground entrance long since built over.

Some of the Ghost Stations that were abandoned before the Second World War were reopened for the duration of the Blitz to be used as Bomb shelters. Others were used as Secret War department offices.

Anyway, those interested in London Ghost Stations can visit the following sites:



Send an Email Notification to your readers whenever you update your blog.

One major feature that Google's Blogger is missing is a way to notify your Blogger readers whenever you update your Blog. There is a "BlogSend Address" field in Blogger settings but it only allows a maximum of 10 emails. One would hope however that more than 10 people read your Blog!

The best way to solve this problem is to create a Google Group membership. Then everyone who is a member of this group will receive an update email.

The Google Group has its own unique email address which you enter into the BlogSend Address field. That's basically it. I've tested it and it works well.

Here's how to do it:

1. The first thing to do is to create a new Google Group.

Go to http://groups.google.com/ and click on the Create... button.

Follow the instructions on the page to create your group.

TIP: It is a good idea to use the name of your Blog somewhere in the title of your new group.

2. Next you need to send out an invitation to all those you know read your Blog.

In the Google Groups Home Page, click on Invite Members.

Insert the emails of all those you wish to receive the update alerts into the "Enter email addresses of people to invite" field.

TIP! The best way to do this is to log into your email account and Create/Compose a new email. (Don't forget to cancel it afterwards).

In the "To:" field bring up all your Contacts and click on every Contact you wish to send an invitation to. The email application will paste all these emails into the "To:" field.

Copy and paste the contents of the "To:" field into the "Enter email…to invite" field.

Enter a meaningful and personalized Invitation message and click on "Invite members"

3. Copy the email address of the Google Group.

You can find it on the Google Groups Home page after you log in or, in the email that was sent to you when you created the new Google Group.

4. Log into your Blogger Dashboard http://www.blogger.com/
and click on Settings and then the Email & Mobile TAB.

Paste the Google Group email address into the BlogSend Address field and click on the Save Settings button.

5. Now wait for people to accept your invitation.

**** UPDATE ****

I've just noticed a very annoying thing that I cannot seem to find a solution to.

It seems that the BlogSend Address option in the Blogger Dashboard, instead of simply notifying the email list, tries to send the whole Blog Post contents as an email and not very successfully I might add. Yahoo Mail shows the text only all jumbled up. Gmail shows the post but even clicking on "Display Images" fails to display the pictures. At least there is a link to my Blog at the bottom of the email.

All I wanted was for Blogger to send a simple notification. The email it sends is messy and very annoying. Why can't Google just give us Bloggers this simple option?

***** UPDATE on the UPDATE ****

The solution is not to use the email field but to place the Google Groups email address in the Comments page field. Now whenever anyone posts a comment, a notification email will be send to everyone in the group. So, after I've written and edited a new Blog post to my satisfaction, I simply create a new comment advertising the new post.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Jerusalem Light Railway. Just look at those ugly overhead cables!

Jerusalem "Chords" bridge. Built for the Light Railway

This week they started test runs for the new Jerusalem Light Railway outside my office building. I thought it would be interesting to take some photos now so that we could look back on them in a few years and see what the Jerusalem Bus Station area looked like whilst building was going on. Some of these photos I took back in March. Others this week.

Early Sunday morning I managed to snap a photo of two trains in the semi-built station. The sun was shining directly in towards me so the photo is a bit dim. However, when I returned later that morning the trains had disappeared so this is the only snap of them I have.

This sideways shot of the new trains was taken from the Wikipedia article.

The entrance to the "Chords" Bridge was full of building materials on the floor back in March. Now it's greatly tidied up. They've also completed the erection of the overhead powerline cables.

March 2010

October 2010. Now with the overhead powerline cables.

At the moment there is a make shift fence surrounding the building site with passing places every few meters.

I just love this Warning sign.

Click on the photo in order to read it.

I wonder why London Transport don't have similer warnings signs? Maybe they should announce it over the Tannoy?
"This is a London Transport announcement.
Please do not touch the powerlines. You'll get fried!
Passengers are reminded not jump in front of the approaching trains. It causes a terrible mess. The next train approaching in Hainault Via Newbury Park. Please mind the gap..."

UPDATE: Actually, the warning signs may well be justified after all - due to the fact that these trains are almost totally silent! (The same cannot be said for London's tubes). I just popped out 30 mins ago and saw two trains sitting there outside my office. They must have arrived from over the bridge within the last hour or so. I asked a friend who's window overlooks the main street and he said that he hadn't heard a thing despite his window being open. That silence and the fact that the trains are running across main roads and pavements makes me quite concerned now. How on earth are the hard of hearing and visually impaired going to cope with crossing the tracks? Moreover, I estimate that some 20% of pedestrians walk around with headphones in their ears the whole time.

Below are some shots of the new "Central Bus Station" train station which clearly show digital displays under each passenger shelter, presumably to notify us when the next train will be.

I think the trains look pretty cool but I am dismayed at the ugliness and potential dangers of the overhead powerline cables.

The above shot was taken with my back to the bridge, facing the Central Bus Station. Just look at all those overhead cables !!!

Is this really the best train technology there is in the 21st century? I am quite frankly shocked and aghast at the sight of all these cables. Nothing much has changed it seems since they removed the old trams from London's roads in the 1930s
On the right. A London tram, running on rails. On the left, the (what was then) "new" hi-tech Trolley bus. Free of tracks but still using overhead power cables

I'm sure that Londoners were very happy to see the removal of those cables from their streets when they replaced the trams with buses.

After the overhead powerline cables were removed from London's streets.

Surely there must be a modern Light Rail system that does not use these obtrusive and ugly cables? I know that in many cities around the world where underground rail systems such as those found in London or Paris are not appropriate, they have built space age looking monorail systems.
Apparently though, monorail systems are more expensive than light rail systems and less flexible. For instance, its easier creating new stations with a Light Rail system. I don't think there can be any argument though that a Monorail system is far more aesthetic with its high rised futuristic looking beams. Another thing. They are much safer! No one is going to accidentily get run over by a monorail train are they!
The Monorail in Las Vegas, USA

Kuala Lumpur, Malyasia

BTW, the first line is scheduled to open around April 2011.

Jerusalem Light Rail Line 1
Over the past 10 years or so, the Bezek phone company have invested considerable time and effort in removing most of the overhead telephone cables from our streets. Now it seems the Light Railway is putting all the cables back again! I simply don't understand what they were thinking when they approved this project to smother Yerushalayim with overhead powerline cables?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nigerian Scam, Frum Style!

Nigerian Scam, Frum Style!

Here is one of many standard Nigerian SCAMS whereby the criminal Internet gang get hold of the email contact list of their victim and send this letter out to all the victim's family, friends and other contacts. This email scam is a few years old already. However, recently it's been used by scammers who high jack someones Facebook account and proceed to use the account, pretending to be that person in order to chat with the friends and attempt to trick them into sending the gang money

I'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it's due to the situation of things right now.I'm stuck in London,United Kingdom with my family right now, we came down here for a short vacation then I was robbed, worse of it is that bags, cash and credit cards and my cell phone were stolen at GUN POINT, it's such a crazy experience for us but thank God we still have our lives and passports saved.We need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is we still have our passports and return tickets but currently having troubles paying off the hotel bills and also getting a cab to take us to the airport.

Please I need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as I'm back home, I promise.

Kindly Help me now

Now compare the above to an email which was sent to an American/Israeli friend of mine last week:

I'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it's because of the situation of things right now. I'm stuck in London, UK with family right now, we came here on vacation. We were robbed, the situation seems worse as our bags, cash, credit cards and cell phone were stolen at GUN POINT. It's such a crazy experience for us. We need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is that we still have our passports, although we don't have enough money to get our flight tickets back home. Please, I need you to loan me some money (1000 British Pounds) but I will appreciate any amount you can help with. Baruch Hashem I will reimburse you as soon as I am back home, I promise.



It's more or less the same letter with the English partially corrected and a "Baruch Hashem" added for authenticity. Fortunately, my friend noticed that it should have been "Be'ezrat Hashem" and immediately smelt a rat!

The Nigerians are obviously targeting the Frum community which I suppose is a kind of a backhanded compliment as they obviously have concluded that Torah Jews are more than willing to perform chesed.

Gamla Pinot Noir 2005 and Carmel Private Collection Chardonnay 2009

On Thursday I was in the mood to take some risks as far as my choice of wine was concerned for Shabbos.

On Thursday afternoon I was browsing the "Yesh" supermarket shelves in their wine section where I came across a special offer for Carmel Mizrachi's "Private Collection" Chardonnay, vintage 2009.

Carmel's "Private Collection" is supposed to be their basic quality range, a notch higher than their budget  (cheap and nasty) SelectD range of wines, I suppose equivalent to Golan Winery's Gamla range at least as far as prices are concerned. That is the NIS 60 to NIS 80 price range.

This Chardonnay was marked down from NIS 60 to NIS 32. Now the first thing to look for in a Chardonnay is that it has a golden yellow colour as opposed to say a Sauvignon Blank of Riesling which has a greenish colour. The colour looked promising and the price enticing so I decided to give it a try.

Later that evening when I went shopping with my dear wife, I again was browsing the shelves of our local supermarket where I came across a lone bottle of Golan winery Gamla Pinot Noir 2005 hiding at the back of the shelf. The bottle was covered in dust and the label looked slightly faded. To find a wine more than 4 years old in a regular supermarket is quite a rarity and as they were selling it for the price of their 2007/8 I was tempted to buy. I held off for a few minutes though, fearful of the thought that they may not have looked after it and the contents could very well be vinegar. My excitement of this rare find however was too much to resist so I bought it. Marked price was NIS 62.

We got back from shul on the Friday night and I immediately went to open the Pinot Noir in order to let it breath between Shalom Aleichem, Aishes Chayil and the kid's brachos. I first of all used the Golan winery cork screw that we received as a present from our winery tour. This type of cork screw is called a "Waiter's corkscrew". The device opens the bottle by pulling the cork from one side only.

Upon lifting the leaver, to my dismay, the top of the cork crumbled away. Not a good sign! The cork was dry, due no doubt to years of storing the wine standing upright instead of on its side. I began to fear the worse.

In desperation, I grabbed a regular "Ballerina" style cork screw which opens the bottle by applying pressure on all sides, trying as best I could not to cork the bottle, (leaving bits of dried cork swimming in the wine).

The cork came away smoothly this time. My optimism returned as examining the rest of the cork, I found it to still be in good condition.

After the brachos I poured out the Pinot Noir noting its earthy woody smell. Using my wife's glass (my one was filled to the top) I swirled it round a little noting the muddy dull black red colour, typical of a good Pinot Noir. I took a sniff in order to establish if I could say Kiddush over it. (Had it even smelt even slightly sour I would obviously have not used it). It smelt like grapes and berries lying in the field after a good rainfall. The mixture of wet fruit and soggy earth was very pleasant. It looked or rather I should say, smelt promising.

I said Kiddush very slowly with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. I knew that an enjoyable wine for Kiddush would be a great start to our Oneg Shabbos. On the other hand, the risk that one's first sip of Shabbos would be sour was almost too much to bare.

Kiddush completed, I drank the wine. Two swallows and then a third. My family looked expectantly for my reaction. I broke out into a broad grin. Distributing the wine as quickly as possible to give everybody else a chance to experience the wine, we all agreed that the risk had paid off. It was superb. It had a light to medium fresh earthy flavour that developed into a long lasting aftertaste of sweet soaked berries, oak and refreshing slightly muddy rain water. Truly delightful! What a find and what a price! I closed my eyes and let the wine sit in the mouth for a few seconds to really savour the depth and complexity of this trully elegant drink.

Shabbos morning we opened the Carmel Mizrachi Chardonnay 2009, straight from the fridge. The initial scent was not promising, smelling slightly acidic. However, swirling the glass around for few seconds brought out a more typical Chardonnay aroma of buttery fruit. I recited Kiddush and we drank the wine. The initial taste was good, showing that deep creamy fruity flavour. However, within a fraction of a second, my tongue was accosted by a very unpleasant fizziness that only amplified as the fruity taste dissipated in the mouth. Yuk!

Another disappointing Carmel Mizrachi and no wonder it was on half price. Someone messed up big time here. I know that this winery has recently won some international awards for its most exclusive ranges. That's all well and good but they really ought to take care that their basic quality range as sold in regular supermarkets is at least drinkable. (We threw the rest away as it wasn't even suitable for cooking with).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Windows 7 Style Gadgets for Windows XP UPDATE

In April 2010 I wrote a blog post on some Windows 7 style gadgets for Windows XP I had found and recommended.

Well, last week I found another gadget style tool that has genuinely impressed me. To demonstrate how much it has impressed me I'll just tell you that I have installed it on my workstations at work as well as my computers at home already.

It's called Sysmetrix and it’s a skinnable metering application that displays the time/date, CPU, memory, Disk status, Internet activity, weather, Media Player and many other things in  a single interface. My favourite skin (incarnation) is a clock interface but there are many other skins to choose from.

It effectively takes the place of the Clock and CPU Meter I wrote about previously in one beautiful and elegant gadget tool.

Another skin example called "EyeCandy"

Within each skin, there are hundreds of customizable options within the configuration windows. I modified the basic Clock Interface to display a dial for each of my hard disk drives, not just Drive C. The tool works by overlaying one image over another to build up a complex display. Its all very clever. If, like me, you like to have an analogue clock on the screen and need to know the real-time status of your CPU, Memory and Internet then this is the tool for you. Highly recommended!

Sysmetrix can be downloaded here:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gmail: Sorry your groups could not be loaded (error 6)

**** UPDATE ****

The below solution worked for a few days and then I received the Error 6 again and lost all my Contacts. However, when opening Gmail in Google Chrome, all the Contacts options work! It is something IE8 specific. Checking on the Google forums, the only thing they suggest is to open Gmail in Google Chrome. However I believe that Google has an obligation to make sure that Gmail works on Microsoft IE8 as well and that this is not a real solution. Besides, I am not the only one who complains that the text on Chrome is unclear. Switching on the Windows  "ClearType" does improve matters but the text is still not as clear as IE8.



The problem is the Gmail Notifier in your taskbar.

It's so simple.
1. Uninstall Gmail notifier from Add/Remove programs
2. Go into Gmail and check that Contacts now work.
3. Download latest version of Gmail Notifier and reinstall.

For two months now, I've been getting an error when trying to load my Gmail Contacts list. The page says that it cannot load my contacts and returns the error

"Sorry, your groups could not be loaded (error 6)"

When in Compose Mail mode, clicking on "To:" returns a popup window and a client error.

I did a Google on the error and indeed there are thousands of complaints about this. Apparently, Google "updated" their Gmail Contacts tool which has caused this problem with many existing users. Unfortunately, their only suggestion is to click a button at the bottom of the Gmail page entitled "Older Contacts Manager" in order to get their old Contacts list. This doesn't solve the Compose Mail "To:" button problem and is hardly an elegant solution.

I have been waiting for Google to sort this out but the forums have not been updated. They seem to have left us in the lurch.

So, I decided to try and find a solution myself and am glad to say that I've found one.


Note: You will need Microsoft Excel installed on your computer.

1. Click on "older contact manager"

2. Use the Export button on the top right hand side and choose Export option to write a CSV file for Outlook. Save the file to your My Documents folder.

VERY IMPORTANT! Open your "My Documents" and just check that the csv file exists.

3. Still in "older contact manager", select all your contacts and delete them all.

4.  Now delete all your your manually created Groups. (Note that Family, Friends and Coleagues cannot be deleted).

You should now be left with a totally empty Contacts list.

5. Exit Gmail (Very important to do this!)

6. Open the saved csv file in Excel and scroll across until you find the Groups column.

7. Click on the column header of the Groups column to select the whole column and right click and Delete the whole column.

8. Click on the Priority column to select the whole column and Delete this whole column as well.

9. Save the file as NewContacts.csv

10. Log into Gmail again and click on Contacts.

This time you should not get an error!

Click on "More Actions" and then "Import..."
Browse to your NewContacts.csv file (that you previously edited and saved) and open.

The contacts in the file should then be imported into your Gmail Contacts.

You now have a clean new Gmail Contacts list.
You'll have to reorder them into Gmail's groups or create new ones.

One strange thing that has occurred subsequently.

The new Contacts page occasionaly freezes. (Not all the time).

However, when I now try and click on More Actions and any of the options such as "Import", Internet Explorer 8 consistently freezes!

Doing a Google on this problem returns another Gmail Forum which says that teh problem is known and that they are working on it. The post was dated back in August!

BTW, all Gmail options works fine in Google Chrome Browser. Hmmmm....surprise surprise...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Speyside whisky tour Kashrus Issues with Whisky UPDATE

Over the Chagim period I was contacted by email by Rav Akiva Niehaus, a member of the Chicago Community Kollel, USA.

He told me that he had read my Blog post with interest and although he had enjoyed the descriptions of the distilleries, he wished to correct me regarding halacha and sherry casks. Rav Akiva Niehaus has written an article on Single Malt Whisky entitled "Sherry Casks - A Halachic Perspective"

You can download the PDF here:

He explained to me that the Ramba"m I quoted...

11:16 And it is permitted to put spirits or Muryas [fish fat in brine] immediately [into a barrel that had previously contained yayin stam], without any other (preparation) and it is permitted to put in wine after [putting in] muryas because the salt (in the fish fat mixture) burns it [the taste of the yayin stam] away.

...cannot apply to whisky as he says that everyone seems to agree that the flavour of the whisky which is poured into the sherry casks is affected by the yayin stam which was absorbed into the wood. Therefore, he concludes, that the entire volume of the cask should be considered as if it were all yayin stam and counted against any bitul calculation.

Taking this position, he explained to me that it really makes no difference from a halachic perspective, if there is actual yayin stam sloshing around the bottom of the cask or not as the entire cask halically is counted as yayin stam.

He further explained that there are only two ways in which the sherry cask can be considered free of the taste of the yayin stam.

1. If the cask had been left outside for 12 months or more.
2. If the cask had been charred by fire which would be equivalent to a "libun" process, effectively kashering the cask.

From my enquires, the sherry casks are not left outside for more than 3 months and according to Rav Niehaus's sources, the flame charring is only carried out if the cask does not smell nice. I wrote to my friend and whisky expert, Mike Drury and received the following reply:

There are several reasons for "Firing a Cask" . One is to purify the cask before the spirit is put in also Coopers prefer to burn casks where the heat tightens the staves against the rings. The burning may give colour to the whisky. Most important of all is the relationship between charcoal after burning and the "Sponging" or ability of the charcoal to draw the spirit into the wood, increasing efficiency in maturation or exchange of the properties of the oak into the spirit". In short this process was found to accelerate the maturation by one Elijah Craig an ex-Scot American in the early days of Bourbon whisky Production. It was also noted that fewer casks would go sour if the insides were burnt out forming perhaps a 3-10mm layer of charcoal on the interior.

Being that the process is not consistent even within the same distillery, I would think that one cannot assume that the cask has been charred.

I wrote back to Rav Niehaus and told him that in deed I understood what he is saying but nevertheless still find it difficult to swallow (unlike whisky, Ha Ha) that there is no difference between dry wood and actual yayin stam left in the cask.

Final Words

At least according to Malcolm, the warehouse manager at the Glen Moray distillery, if the whisky has a sherry flavour to it, it is because they added actual sherry or sherry flavour syrup. He did not agree that the sherry taste could come only from the wood itself. Nevertheless, Rav Akiva Niehaus concludes otherwise.

All those who are interested and would like to comment further, I strongly suggest that you read Rav Niehaus's article first.

For an alternative opinion, here's an online Kashrus site listing many but not all Single Malt Whiskies.

Kosher Whisky and Liquor List:

It splits the Malts up into three catogories:

1. Considered Kosher by some authorities
2. Considered Kosher by most authorities
3. Suitable for the Mehadren consumer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Left wing: Inspired by Arab Terrorism

Dr. Gabriel Avital. Victim

They are blinkered religious fanatical zealots who refuse to question what they have been taught despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

They ignore basic scientific methodologies in reaching their conclusions, blindly accepting the words of charismatic religious cult style gurus who sell them myths in the form of facts. They then impose their views on all Israeli children, punishing those who show dissent.

Anyone who questions any aspect of their beliefs will be hounded, persecuted, discredited and victimised. They will use all their power to remove those who do not agree with them from any positions of influence.

I am of course talking about the ultra liberal secular directors of Misrad HaChinuch, the Israel ministry of Education.

This morning, YNET announced that the Misrad HaChinuch has dismissed the much respected Israel Chief Scientist, Dr. Gabriel Avital, for questioning the Global Warming Theory and suggesting that Darwinism be scrutinised just like any other scientific theory and not just accepted as fact!

The Israel ministry is following all the PC hip and cool beautiful people such as those at the BBC who also wish to present Global Warming and Darwinist theories as facts.

Melanie Phillips has been campaigning against this in Britain for years.

Only yesterday Melanie highlighted a disgusting video produced by the Global Warming lobby which shows school children who question Global Warming in school being executed by their teacher who blows them up with explosives, splattering their body parts, blood and guts all over the other pupils in class as a warning against dissension. The produces of the advertising campaign call it humour.

The BBC quotes a spokes person for the organisation:

Lizze Gillett, Global Campaign Director for 10:10, told the BBC: "As you can see from various comments and social media sites some people thought it was funny and a good tool to get people talking about climate change but others strongly disliked the mini-movie. We decided to take it off our website to avoid upsetting people. "

In the official campaign statement, the group said: "At 10:10 we're all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn."

Any Israelis watching this video will not fail to associate it with near identical scenes taken from the aftermath of terrorist suicide bombs in Israeli cafes and on buses. It looks very much as if the producers got their inspiration from such scenes of carnage here in Israel.

Here is the complete video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhLw6py869c

In order to avoid watching the whole thing I have taken the liberty of making snapshots of the main parts to show you the storyline.

The Teacher talks about Global Warming

She asks for a show of hands, all those pupils who are willing to reduce their "carbon footprint"

One boy is sceptical 

A girl in class is unconvinced

The teacher deals with the problem... 

...by murdering both children. 

A subtle warning to the other pupils?

This is considered humour by the Global Warming Lobby.

What this horrendous video shows is that, in their heart of hearts, the ultra "Liberal" wants to exterminate all those who are against them or even question their beliefs. They have obviously been inspired by Arab terrorism.

Anyone, who did not fathom the close empathy and support of the Left wing for Fatach, Chamas and Chizbollah will I hope now comprehend the common ground which they share.