Thursday, June 30, 2005
The 'G' Word
I have a request.
It may sound nit-picky and small-minded, and maybe even a tad stuck-up... but I have to ask anyway:
Would all the journalists, bloggers, pundits and other public/semi-public personages who didn't serve in the US military... specifically in the Marines or Navy (although I'll give you a pass if you served at all)... please stop referring to the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as 'Gitmo'.
I know, I know, it seems like such a small thing, and everyone seems to be doing it these days, but the truth is it simply makes you sound silly... and it makes me cringe. Hell, since I served in the Pacific fleet, I've never felt comfortable using the term 'Gitmo'!
Do you remember when 'NYPD Blue' was at the height of its popularity and people who weren't cops started peppering their conversations with police jargon and slang? Well, while I imagine that policemen/women around the country were grateful that they were finally being portrayed fairly realistically (as compared with pretty much every other cop show/movie that had ever been made), I'll bet they were privately cringing whenever a non-cop would ask them "So, how long you been 'on the job'?", or "So who do you 'like' for the stabbing last week in Washington Square Park?".
I know a few 60's and 70's era veterans who cringe every time they hear people who never came within 1000 miles of South East Asia talking about 'Nam', estimating distances in 'kliks' or referring to our opponents in that particular conflict as 'Charlie'.
Folks who live in the Bay area of central California are equally impatient (to put it mildly) with people from elsewhere who use expressions like 'Hella good' or 'Frisco' (I'm not sure if people from San Francisco ever actually said 'Frisco'!).
And don't don't even get me started on how the Rap community must cringe when people with no 'street cred' (like me) start talkin' 'smack' about someone's 'crib', yo. Word!
I know that 'U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba' is a mouthful to say, and a handful to type... but I can't help thinking that there must be another way of referring to the place without sounding like a total poseur / Marine wannabe.
Never let it be said that I simply criticize and don't offer solutions!
I'm pretty sure that if people said, "... the Muslim prisoners being held in Cuba", it would be instantly understood who and where we were talking about since, to my knowledge, Castro doesn't presently have too many Muslims in the hoosegow!
Please note that the term 'Cuba' has the same number of syllables as 'Gitmo', and is technically and geographically correct in nearly any context that the media (and those who discuss current events) are currently using the 'G' word.
So please... pretty please... if you find yourself discussing or writing about current events and/or security detainees, please try to just say 'Cuba'. Everyone will know what you mean, and you won't sound like you've watched 'A few good men' one too many times.
That is all.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Comparative Heroism 101
I'm feeling the need just now to do a bit of deflecting.
Some of the comments from yesterday, as well as a few over-enthusiastic entries from blog buddies, seem bent on making me out to be something that I am not.
Therefore, for the sake of a little perspective, I think a brief lesson in 'Comparative Heroism' might be in order.
Please find your seats and take out your notebooks:
Just as there are higher and lower levels of charity*, there are also higher and lower levels of heroism.
The events I described in my birthday post (and yesterday), while they might have been personally satisfying, fall well to the lower end of the heroism scale.
By this I mean that I didn't go looking for someone to save or learn a skill that would place me in a position to be of help in an emergency. These people literally came to me and asked to be saved! OK, maybe they figuratively asked to be saved, but the point is that I didn't go looking for them... rather, I waited for the opportunity to come to me before acting.
Clear so far? Good.
At the other end of the heroism spectrum are those who go looking for opportunities to prevent tragedies and for people in need of saving. These are people who have deliberately positioned themselves in life to maximize the possibility of doing good deeds. Medical professionals fall into this category... as do police, firefighters, crisis counselors and social workers (to give a hopelessly abbreviated list). They have all placed their lives on the path most likely to allow them to catch the falling bodies.
As luck would have it, I just happen to have the perfect illustration of this highest form of heroism to show the class today: I'd like to draw your attention to my friend Noa.
Noa woke up one day about half way through a fancy Law degree and realized that she wasn't headed where she wanted to end up. Despite staggering student loans and the inevitable pressure from family and friends, she dropped out of law school, packed her bags and moved to Israel.
Noa has just finished her first year of nursing school at Hadassah.
If I stopped right there, Noa would be comfortably ensconced at the higher end of the hero scale. Why? because she changed her life's trajectory and is now nicely positioned to intercept and reverse the tragedies as they occur.
But the lesson doesn't stop there.
In the process of rearranging her life, Noa gave the heave-ho to a relationship that wasn't going where she wanted it to go, and began dating a prince of a guy named Bryan. She found out just how closely Bryan shared her values when he nearly stood her up on one of their early dates when he was called away by the Israeli bone marrow registry as a likely match for someone in need.
Noa was familiar with this sort of heroism because her sister had already saved a woman's life by donating bone marrow. I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense that heroes would tend to gravitate towards one another.
As luck would have it these heroes, Noa and Bryan, are getting married in a couple of weeks.
It warms my heart that two such wonderful people have found each other and decided to place their lives on the same trajectory. But what is even more impressive to me is how they intend to begin their life together:
Noa and Bryan have decided to turn their wedding into a bone marrow drive.
Noa arranged for two of the best phlebotomists (a fancy word for the people who draw blood) at Hadassah Hospital to be on hand at the reception, and the bride herself will be the first to sit down and have her blood drawn. Zahava and I intend to be right behind Noa in line with our sleeves rolled up!
Ironically, in planning the wedding Noa decided to eschew red wine because she didn't want to risk staining her wedding gown. I guess this is an indication of her trust in the people with the needles. :-)
So class... to review: If one happens to be standing on a curb when someone absent-mindedly tries to walk in front of a speeding vehicle, and a reflexive grab allows a life to be saved, this could arguably be called heroism... albeit heroism of a lower order.
If one happens to be on a ship at sea when a bunch of people literally float past in need of being plucked from the water, this too could be called heroism, although to be honest, this is really akin to 'arm chair heroism' (i.e. let the victims come to you).
However, when two people charter a boat and set sail for a place where people in distress are known to have been sighted... that is heroism of a different order! How much more so when those two people invite their family and closest friends along on the ship to take part in the rescue?
May the good ship S.S Noa & Bryan be blessed with smooth seas, a following wind and a lifetime of teaching by example about the true meaning of heroism.
Any questions? Good... class dismissed.
* The lowest form of charity (according to Maimonides) is when one is asked to give and then gives grudgingly to someone right in front of him/her... and the highest is when one seeks out a worthy cause and gives both cheerfully and anonymously.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
The other 78
I was a bit surprised by the reactions I got to #23 on my birthday list. In response to several inquires in the comments section of that post I wrote a bit about four people who lived another day simply because I happened to be standing nearby with a free hand. Our paths crossed for less than a moment in time and then the moment was over... without drama... and without fanfare.
But on May 26th, 1982 I was given a slightly more prolonged encounter with 78 precious lives.
At the time I was stationed on board a frigate home-ported in Pearl Harbor, HI, and we were in the middle of a 6 month 'WestPac' cruise that took us throughout Asia, Africa and even down to Australia.
On May 26th we were in the South China Sea when our helicopter crew radioed back to the ship to report that they had spotted a small boat adrift miles from the shipping lanes, and apparently in distress.
When our ship reached the boat we confirmed that it was full of Vietnamese refugees and that their boat was severely overloaded and in danger of being swamped by even the gentle swells that broke over the gunwales. We immediately began organizing a rescue party. I was one of the people who volunteered to go over the side and help bring them aboard.
In all there were 78 people stuffed into that tiny wooden boat; 34 men, 26 women and 18 children. They had left Vietnam more than two weeks earlier with enough fuel and supplies for a week, but after their fuel had run out they had drifted out of the shipping lanes and into an area where they were not likely to be found. Many of the elderly were suffering from dehydration and heat stroke, and several of the parents were semi-conscious from malnutrition and dehydration because they had been giving their meager rations to their children.
Once everyone was aboard (along with their few belongings), we scuttled their boat (so it wouldn't be a hazard to navigation) and began taking care of the refugees.
Our two corpsmen (medics) took the most serious cases down to sick bay for infusions of fluid and antibiotics, and we took the rest down to an isolated area in the after portion of the ship. Each of our guests was given a shower, a new set of clothes (we all donated our civilian clothes until their clothing could be laundered), some bedding and a hot meal.
Those of us who had come into direct contact with the refugees were quarantined along with them because we had no way of knowing if they had any communicable diseases. Living in such close quarters we got to know these special people quite well (yes, that's a 21 year old me with a few new smiling friends).
Each of the refugees had paid the equivalent of between 2-3 thousand dollars for a place in the little wooden boat, and for many this was their 6th or 7th escape attempt. There were stories of torture and reeducation camps... and of the many friends and relatives who had drowned in storms, been killed by pirates during previous attempts (yes kids, piracy is still a big problem), or simply drifted out of the shipping channels and never been heard from again. Most of the adults were well educated, and the children were extremely well mannered and polite.
By the time we dropped our new friends off at a refugee processing center in Singapore, the United States government had sent guarantees through diplomatic channels that all 78 would be allowed to settle in the US.
For a while I used to get the occasional holiday card from some of the families. These notes had postmarks from places like Texas, California and Florida. I loved hearing that they had started new lives for themselves and that some were reunited with relatives who had escaped before or after them. But I always squirmed a little when the very formal notes drifted around to thanking me for saving their lives. I hadn't put my life in jeopardy to save these people any more than I had when fate or luck or whatever put me in the right place to have a hand in saving 4 other lives.
I can't explain exactly why, but I never answered any of the cards or letters. I do think of them often though... especially the little girl who is sitting on my lap in the picture above (she is also in the next picture in the middle row all the way on the left). She is probably in her late twenties by now and maybe married with a family of her own. When I played endless games of rock paper scissors with her she spoke only a few words of English. I'm sure she doesn't even have a trace of an accent when she speaks today.
I have no idea why I was given the opportunity to play a part in saving so many lives. I certainly didn't earn the privilege by going to medical school, or by becoming a nurse or EMT. But as I said in my birthday post, the thought of these 82 lives has been an emotional 'Get Out Of Jail' card for some of the darkest moments of my life. So in a sense, one might say that they saved me too.
[The photos are from my photo album and from my ship's 'cruisebook', a compilation of photos and memorabilia that many of the crew put together at the end of the 6 month voyage. Thanks to my sweetie for scanning them for me.]
Monday, June 27, 2005
David learns yet another lesson from his wife
(Also known as 'The redemption of a restaurant')
I apologize for being a bad journaler. I promised that I would provide the end of the #23 story from my birthday list either yesterday or today, and here it is today... and still nothing!
The post is actually written and ready to go, but I have some pictures that I forgot to ask my lovely wife (A.K.A. the keeper of all the cool graphic designer electronic toys) to scan for me.
I mean, who doesn't love pictures with a story, right?
Also, instead of reminding Zahava to scan the pictures for me yesterday I spent the day bad-assing (I'm pretty sure there really is such a word, although my spell checker is giving me the squiggly line of scorn), around the beautiful blue Mediterranean with the Israel Navy on one of their newest (and fastest) vessels. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at how unbelievably cool my job is!
So, instead of the illusive conclusion to #23, I will share a restaurant experience (two actually) for your dining and dancing pleasure. Seriously, who doesn't have ten great restaurant stories, right? They are almost as common as blind date stories! ;-)
A few months ago when my parents were visiting we all went out for a nice dinner in Jerusalem. Despite dire warnings from our friend Noa, we went to an upscale eatery called Limonim. It is located in Jerusalem's historic Khan theater complex, a 14th century structure which had originally been used as an inn for visiting pilgrims. With such an ancient reputation for hospitality how could we go wrong?
We made a 7:00 reservation, and uncharacteristically arrived exactly on time.
When we walked into the restaurant, the place was only about half full and we were quickly seated at a nearby table.
That was the last quick thing that happened.
We watched in growing frustration as people continued to arrive... be seated... be served food... all while we had yet to be asked for our orders.
After several futile efforts to get our waitress's attention I finally got up and intercepted her as she was bringing a first course to a couple that had arrived 10 minutes after us.
I told her that we would like to order and that we would at least like to have a pitcher of water while we waited. She nodded and set off for points unknown.
After another 10 minutes with no more progress towards ordering, I got up and again blocked her progress as she tried to sneak more food past our table. I said, "This is really not nice! We have been here for over 20 minutes... If you don't want to take our order we will have to go somewhere else."
Customer service is a relatively recent innovation here in the holy land, and in this case she reverted to instinct rather than training. Rather than apologize and say something like, "I'm sorry, it's very busy tonight (it wasn't)", or "I'll be right with you, I had no idea you had been waiting so long!" (she did), she fixed me with an icy stare and said, "Well, I'm here now!"
We ordered salads, soups, main course and a bottle of wine... and before she went away I reminded her again that we would really appreciate a pitcher of water since my parents were parched from the dry Jerusalem air.
She turned on her heel and didn't come within 20 feet of our table for another 10 or 15 minutes. No water. No bread. Bupkes!
I finally walked over to a man who seemed to be the Maitre d' /manager and explained what was going on. I pointed out our 7:00 reservation in his book and mentioned that it was now almost 7:40 and we had not had so much as a drink of water... and that we were leaving.
The truth is that we were all starving by this point, but on principal I didn't want to give them my hard-earned money. Besides, it really is foolhardy to get into a pissing match with someone who is going to have unfettered access to your food before you eat it. No, we were leaving.
In any normal restaurant in the world the manager would try to persuade the guest to stay... offer an apology and a complimentary bottle of wine... something! The gentleman just shrugged and said 'good night' (and not in a nice way).
Luckily we ended up having a really nice dinner at a nearby restaurant after only a short wait for a table to open up.
The next morning I woke up and wrote a scathing account of our experience at Limonim and scheduled it to publish on both treppenwitz and Isreality at noon. I also intended to submit a review to eLuna (a great resource for dining in Israel).
One of the reasons I don't publish any of my journal entries right after writing them is that a few hours often allows me to cool down... not to mention that it gives my wife's well-developed 'uh-oh' meter a chance to kick in and for her to talk me down from whatever tree I've climbed into.
In this case Zahava gently suggested that I not publish the reviews, and talked me into calling Limonim's owner to tell him about our experience.
When I spoke with the owner he was genuinely shocked at what I told him (I have a finely tuned BS detector), and spent several minutes asking detailed questions about what had happened (all the while making those little clucking/grunting sounds we all make while writing stuff down). He then apologized profusely and asked that I take his personal cell phone number and to please call him directly if we would like to give him an opportunity to make up for our shabby treatment.
I was mollified enough by the owner's apology that I decided to delete the hatchet jobs I had put on hold at Zahava's request. However, I really didn't want to go back, so I tossed the scrap of paper with his cell phone number into a desk drawer and forgot about it.
Last week Zahava wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday and asked if I would consider trying Limonim again. Enough time had passed that I figured, why not give them another chance?
Remarkably enough, I was actually able to lay my hands on the owner's cell phone number... and on the way home from work I called him up. It was immediately clear that he remembered me. He apologized that he was not in the restaurant at the moment, but assured me that if I would call and make a reservation he would see to it that we would be well taken care of.
The difference in our dining experience was like night and day. When we walked in we were greeted by name and escorted to a nicely situated table next to a window that overlooked the ancient courtyard of the inn. Between our very attentive waitress's frequent visits to our table, several other waiters casually stopped by to make sure we were enjoying everything and to see if we needed anything... anything at all.
Our meal was beyond delicious and every detail of the experience from soup to dessert was perfect. When I finished my espresso (tall, of course) I was in heaven!
When the check came the total had been crossed out and replaced with a number half as big next to the words "50% discount with our apologies". The only awkward part was that the gratuity was included in the bill and I felt terrible that a wonderful waitress was forced to take a 50% hit on her tip because of the bad service we had received from some (presumably) former employee. We resolved this by adding back in the other half of her tip (and then some).
The reason I wanted to share this long, rambling restaurant story is that dining out is often fraught with emotional undercurrents... especially among those of us for whom dining out is a relatively rare treat. We invest a lot of emotional energy in the anticipation and enjoyment of these occasions, and when things go badly, we can be very quick to scratch an eatery off of our 'list' and to tell our friends to black-list it as well.
But this experience has taught me that good restaurants sometimes have bad nights (and bad waitstaff), and if you give them the chance... they will sometimes bend over backwards to try to make things right.
I'm glad (once again) that I listened to my wife. Thanks again for the birthday dinner, honey!
Friday, June 24, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XX*XI) [shorn locks edition]
Before we plunge into the business at hand, I have two small bits of 'old business' to mention:
1. I want to thank one and all who extended birthday wishes in comments, emails and phone calls. I don't make a big deal out of birthdays other than to indulge in a bit too much introspection... but all of your kind words were better than any party. Thank you.
2. In my post this week called 'Connectedness' I neglected to mention another connection to the 'Mississippi Burning' story. For those of you who saw the film (or are familiar with the events on which it was based), you may remember that one of the secondary characters is a nebby, bespectacled attorney who spends much of the film assisting and advising the two FBI men (Hackman / Defoe). He is the one they tell to purchase the motel when the owner doesn't want them to use it as a barracks for the crowd of Federal agents who have come to Mississippi. Anyway, the man on whom that attorney character is based is named Kessler (I don't recall his first name), and he made aliyah many years ago to the Israeli town of Shiloh. His son lives near me here in Gush Etzion in a settlement called Tekoa.
Now, on with the show!
Ariella (our eldest) has long thick beautiful brown hair (with auburn highlights) that she likes to wear in long ponytails or braids. The problem (if you could call it that) is that when her hair gets very long it becomes very difficult to brush/comb... and is often a source of tears and conflict between Ari and her mother (feel free to share your pain if this sounds at all familiar).
The only thing that has kept any of us sane throughout the later stages of Ari's hair growing is that she has gotten into the habit of donating her hair every couple of years to an organization that makes free wigs for kids with cancer. Each time the tears have come over the difficulty of managing Ari's hair, the specter of altruism waiting just over the horizon has allowed cooler heads to prevail.
This past week we measured Ari's hair and were relieved to find that it is well in excess of the minimum length for donation... so we summoned the hairdresser to our home.
After the hairdresser finished with Ariella, Zahava had her hair done (as long as she was already here, right?) Zahava is a bit camera shy so I may need to get a court order to be allowed to photograph my beautiful wife with her fab new 'do'. I'll let you know.
One more thing before I let you go for the weekend.
On my way home from work I often take little detours in search of little known archaeological sites and areas of historical significance. Luckily, an academic from Ben Gurion University (he works in their nano-technology research facility), who frequently rides with me also enjoys these little jaunts.
On Wednesday we set off in search of some ruins that were supposed to be situated near the Yatir Forest, north of Beer Sheva. We followed the dirt track for miles (kilometers, actually) and saw several likely sets ancient stone ruins... but none of them were marked so we weren't sure what we were looking at.
Deep in the middle of nowhere we passed a stone monument with an inscription and stopped to read it. Israel is dotted with literally thousands of such monuments which designate for whom who a forest was named or what historical event took place nearby. It is a bit sad that so many of them, like this one, are situated in remote areas where they are seldom seen and appreciated.
I thought I'd rectify the lonely isolation of this one marker and share it with you this week. One of my readers in particular may find it particularly interesting (as always, click to enlarge the image):
Standing in a remote corner of the Judean Desert is an unlikely forest. I had the privilege of standing quietly and reading about a little known hero who had no personal stake in the fate of the Jews... yet sacrificed his position, his reputation and all he had spent his entire life trying to become, just to save as many as he could.
The inscription says: "Forest in memory of Dr. Aristides De Sousa Mendes, a righteous gentile. Portuguese Consul General in Bordeaux in 1940. Against the orders of his government he issued visas to 10,000 Jews, saving them from certain death. He was dismissed disgraced and died in poverty."
Somehow, a small stand of trees doesn't seem to be an adequate thank-you for such heroism, but maybe my little side trip wasn't meant to find the ruins of some ancient Jewish settlement, but rather to allow you the opportunity to say this man's name aloud and thank him for his sacrifice.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Today's title is a semi-private running joke that my wife and I share.
When she was doing her BFA at Wash. U., Zahava discovered that 'farty-far' is the way the locals in St. Louis pronounce the number '44'. I was similarly confused by the St. Louis accent on the many occasions that my band went to play gigs there.
In fact, just saying the number 44 out loud with a St. Louis accent is enough to make both of us crack up like a couple of adolescents.
Except today my personal odometer turned over to display this oh-so-funny number. Yes, I am farty-far years old (the perfect number for a dyslexic like me)... and suddenly the number packs only about half the humorous punch that it used to.
Last year I published a list of 43 pretty basic things about me on my birthday. Like any such list, it revealed considerably less than it concealed about who I really am. Let's face it, when the subject gets to pick and chose among random factoids collected during a life of experiences... the list ends up being 9 parts saint to 1 part sinner. If you are new to treppenwitz, you might want to read last year's list first.
A year ago you and I were still pretty much like strangers out on a blind date. This year I've come up with a list of farty, er, forty-four somewhat more intimate things... the kind of stuff one might discuss on a 4th or 5th date.
Here we go:
1. I don't need my parent's approval... but I still unconsciously seek it.
2. I almost never dream, but when I do they are almost always nightmares.
3. I have an atrocious memory for names.
4. My wife knows instantly if I can't remember your name and gracefully introduces herself before you realize I've forgotten it.
5. I can't understand people who don't take afternoon naps on the weekend.
6. An afternoon nap is improved beyond measure by the presence of a couple of sleeping kids and a wife (family schluf).
7. I don't remember anything that occurs if I am woken up in the middle of the night.
8. When she was pregnant, Zahava took horrible advantage of this by having me prepare omelets and milkshakes for her several nights a week.
9. I was exhausted for much of my wife's three pregnancies.
10. I love the taste of orange children's aspirin (St. Joseph's)
11. I'm not a regular vitamin taker, but when I get run down I love the 'zing' I get from a sub-lingual B-12 lozenge.
12. I am a total coffee snob (meaning I have no patience for anything less than fresh, high quality medium-dark roasted beans).
13. I am a total coffee junky (meaning I would rather eat day-old coffee grounds or chew a spoon full of discount-brand instant coffee than suffer through the horrors of caffeine withdrawal).
14. I have never smoked even a single cigarette (or cigar, for that matter).
15. I find smoking to be one of the least attractive habits, and I secretly long for a few of my friends to quit.
16. When I eat orange slices I eat the peel as well.
17. I may not remember your name, but I remember the theme songs to almost every TV show I watched in the 60s & 70s.
18. Wilma or Betty? Betty (Yeah, I watched way too much TV as a kid).
19. I have no patience with people who continually use their blogs to explain why they aren't blogging, or to constantly ask their readers for one sort of help or another. If you have nothing to say, don't say anything... and if you are constantly in need of help, call tech support or a good therapist.
20. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to eat bowl after bowl of Captain Crunch (I couldn't stop until the roof of my mouth was bruised and raw).
21. I once created an overdue invoice from an escort service and faxed it to a friend's office as a joke.
22. As revenge for his boss finding the invoice in the fax machine, my friend put my car up for sale in the NY Times classified section for a week at an impossibly low price... with the stipulation that interested parties should call only between 5 - 6 AM (he also billed the ad to me).
23. There are at least 82 people walking around alive today because I helped save their lives (I remind myself of this whenever I screw up badly).
24. I understand what an elipse (...) is meant to be used for, but I prefer to [mis]use it as a place-holder for readers to take a breath in one of my long, awkward sentences.
25. One of the few things that will turn me into a raving lunatic is intellectual laziness, sloppiness or dishonesty.
26. I donate blood every 3 or 4 months (this provides my entire family with 'blood insurance' for a whole year here in Israel).
27. Every month I read 'National Geographic', 'Popular Science' and 'The American Bee Journal' cover-to-cover. I'm thinking about adding 'The New Yorker' and/or 'Harpers' to that list.
28. Most of what I know about computers I secretly taught myself because I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone how clueless I was.
29. I can still remember the name of the beautiful blond girl who turned me down when I asked her to go steady in 4th grade (She is now a scientist working for NASA... and yes, Google is a scary-ass tool).
30. After almost two years of putting it off, I finally apologized to the one woman with whom I had broken up on bad terms less than 15 minutes before meeting my wife for the first time.
31. I have known how to crochet since I was 22.
32. I secretly wish I could be a professional writer (OK, I guess technically I am a professional writer since I get paid to write marketing copy, proposals and briefings all day... but that's not what I meant).
33. I miss taking my family sailing.
34. About 95% of the time I have no idea what I'm going to write about until I sit down at the computer in the morning.
35. I delete about 15 - 20% of the journal entries I write.
36. I absolutely hate when people forward rumors and urban legends without taking 30 seconds to check their veracity.
37. I firmly believe that there are some people whose decisions and actions are so far beyond the pale of civilized behavior that they are no longer entitled to the niceties of due process, humane treatment or protection under any international treaty/convention.
38. If this makes me a conservative, so be it.
39. I firmly believe that there are people who, through their own decisions and actions (or sometimes just bad luck) are unwilling or unable to look after their own needs, and it is therefore the responsibility of government and society to take care of them.
40. If this makes me a liberal, so be it.
41. In almost 14 years of marriage I have never told my wife who I voted for in any election.
42. I would rather re-read one of my favorite books (I go back to Steinbeck's oeuvre most frequently), than take a chance on being disappointed by a new book (I'm really trying to break out of this trend).
43. I will never force my children to eat anything I wouldn't willingly prepare for myself.
44. If I could choose to live during any time period in history, I would want my birthday to be June 23rd, 1961.
As I said last year... those of you who are mental health professionals may now begin your analysis. Please show your work.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I just got an email from an old musician friend named Arkady.
My connection to him goes back almost 20 years when we used to play together in some of the fanciest halls and hotels in NY, as well as some of the, um, least fancy ones.
I wasn't really in his league... he had been a big time classical star on clarinet in the Soviet Union, and had lived, eaten and breathed almost every other woodwind instrument and genre of music since coming to the US. But he and I got along just fine, and I learned a lot playing in the horn section with him.
Considering all the Broadway, recording, and TV work he has been doing lately, I found it odd that his email was all about an award he had won way back when he was a student at the Manhattan School of Music. The Award, which had been created by his clarinet teacher, Leon Russianoff, in memory of a former student, consisted of a simple certificate and $200 which was given to an outstanding clarinetist each year.
It turns out that when Arkady had been studying music at Manhattan, he was largely innocent of any detailed information about recent American history. He would later take a much greater interest in the story of his adopted homeland, but back then he was focused 24/7 on "playing perfectly, faster, louder, nice tone, ... ".
It wasn't until years later that someone explained to Arkady that the award he had hung on his wall next to his piano had been named in memory of a promising clarinetist who had been murdered during 'Freedom Summer' in the struggle over civil rights. This was an interesting piece of information, but he still didn't make any particular connection to the name.
Then Arkady saw 'Mississippi Burning' and suddenly the name on his wall was thrust into a context that was impossible to ignore. The award he had won was the Andrew Goodman Prize, and had been named in memory of one of the three civil rights activists (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner), who's murders and murderers were depicted so movingly in the film.
In the years since seeing that film my friend has become a voracious student of American history and a fiercely proud US citizen. I remember him telling me that the evening after he got his citizenship he proudly marched to the center of the Brooklyn Bridge with his saxophone and serenaded the passing motorists and pedestrians with a jazz rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!
It turns out that the reason Arkady emailed me was that an 80 year old former Ku Klux Klansman named Edger Ray Killen was finally convicted of manslaughter today in the deaths of Andrew Goodman and his two friends. The three were ambushed and killed on June 21st, 1964 (although it would be 44 days before their bodies were discovered by the FBI)... and 41 years later, to the day, a jury handed down a long-overdue verdict.
As my friend Arkady said so eloquently about this verdict, "[It] won't be talked about as much as Michael Jackson's... but, as I see life connecting the dots, for me at least, what remains in my mind today is more about a young man, who, like me, tried to play perfect scales, looked for a good reed for his clarinet, prepared his weekly clarinet etudes, concertos or whatever he was working on with Leon Russianoff... ".
With his email, my friend Arkady connected me to people and events that I had only experienced from books and movies. For some reason, knowing a personal detail about one of them... that before he started off on his one-way journey to Mississippi, he had been a musician... like Arkady; and like me, made him more real... and more tragic. I hope by reading about these things you will also take a bit of connectedness with you as you follow the predictably brief news coverage.
May the families of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner take some small comfort from this bit of belated justice.
Monday, June 20, 2005
I thought you should know...
... that yesterday morning a young man woke up from his dreams.
At 25 years old, Avi Karouchi's whole life of hopes and dreams stretched out in front of him as far as his imagination could see.
But yesterday he arose and set his dreams aside. He didn't put on slacks and a shirt in preparation for another day at work. Instead, he pulled on his army uniform for another day of his annual reserve duty in the IDF.
Probably as he got dressed his thoughts drifted to his fiance, a pretty young woman who would finally become his wife in two months time. He might have thought about his family... his father, his mother ... or his siblings.
Or maybe, being the responsible sort and a leader, he was focused on the long day ahead of him, and his responsibilities to his reserve unit.
Surprisingly, Avi Karouchi's day got progressively easier as the hours passed away.
As much as he probably longed to finish his reserve duty and return to his home city of Beer Sheva, I doubt that he considered the possibility that in a few short hours he would be drifting peacefully through the sky in an army helicopter towards a hospital within walking distance of his family and friends as they went about their busy day.
The scratchy uniform he had donned, and the weight of his equipment no longer bothered him. The heat of the desert sun miraculously did nothing to keep his young body from cooling, and all of the responsibilities flew away with the wind as the helicopter in which he floated made its way through the desert sky.
When he got dressed yesterday I doubt he imagined medics frantically cutting his blood-soaked uniform from his broken body. Who thinks about such things?
I'm certain that if he woke for a moment during the flight, he didn't realize that he had flown directly over my head as the pilots circled to land into the wind. After all, why would he think of me... I didn't even know his name until an hour or two after he had landed at the hospital up the street. I'm just a nameless face he might have passed once or twice on the street here in Beer Sheva.
While he was rolled on his stretcher into Soroka hospital, I doubt he was wondering how his loved one's would react at finding somber officers and social workers standing at attention on their doorsteps in a few hour's time. Nobody thinks about these things... until the door opens and there they are.
Being 25 years old, Avi Karouchi was probably not accustomed to going to bed early in the evening. And it had probably been years since he had been properly tucked into bed. So if he was somehow aware of being laid tenderly to rest at the childish hour of 8:00PM, he may have experienced a moment of confusion.
He had very likely seen this particular sun rise as he slipped into his uniform... how could he already be going to sleep before it set?
Through their grief, his parents probably didn't stop to consider the irony of all the times this skinny little boy in his soft pajamas had fought against the tyranny of bedtimes. How odd for him to go down so quietly this time... at 8:00PM!
He woke up yesterday and put on the uniform of a sovereign nation and patrolled that nation's borders (and patiently bore the scorn of the entire world for doing so). Inside those borders lay a system of roads and highways (such that they are), an economy (such that it is), an infrastructure of flowing electricity and water (such that it is), and a rich culture of education and scholarship (such that it is).
If anyone bothered to ask the terrorist groups who have been clamoring to take credit for snuffing out Avi Karouchi's dreams what their plans are for building roads and highways... creating power plants or desalinization stations... what monetary system they envision... what system of medical care they want for their people... or what style of education they most prefer... they would have no answer other than to say that 'all those things will magically appear once this cancer called the Zionist Entity is excised from the otherwise healthy entity called Palestine'.
These people don't have dreams of their own... they live only to destroy the dreams of others, and to celebrate each time they succeed.
Avi Karouchi was full of dreams and plans, but more importantly he was the receptacle of other people's dreams and plans. All that ended yesterday.
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Note: All images are the property of the sources listed. To view these and other images you may visit the website of my neighbor Jacob Richman. Not advisable for children.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I'm embarrassed to admit...
... that I've gotten hooked on new age music (mostly by Enya) because that's what's usually playing during my massages and other
treatments procedures at the spa back clinic.
... that if I hear one opinion from an American and another from a Brit (especially one with an 'upper crust'/ public school accent), I will almost always unconsciously give more weight to the Brit's point of view.
... that I would rather wear my favorite shirts and pants to tattered rags than actually go shopping for new stuff.
... that when dining out with friends and the check arrives, I find it almost impossible to figure out my share, so I usually wait quietly for someone to tell me how much to pay.
... that I keep a bottle or two of Single Malt Scotch in the house exclusively for other people. I really can't stand the stuff (Bourbon is another story, though).
... that I love the idea of cigars (especially the mystique and paraphernalia), but I hate the smell and have never been even remotely tempted to smoke one.
... that I have often considered keeping a pouch of good pipe tobacco around just for the sake of the aroma (if there is one smell from my childhood that I miss the most it would have to be my father's pipe... but I would never consider smoking one of those either).
... that I unconsciously consider an opinion expressed by someone holding a pipe to be instantly more compelling than anything expressed by someone without one (although anyone under the age of 50 who smokes a pipe just ends up looking like a hopeless poseur!).
... that already in 4th and 5th grade respectively, my older children have far surpassed me in their organized study of Jewish texts.
... that I find it almost impossible to take anyone seriously who has poor personal hygiene. This means that someone could demonstrate cold fusion right before my eyes, but if they had greasy hair, bad breath or yellow teeth, I would strongly question their results.
... that I'm a gadgetaholic. If I see some new gadget in popular science or in some electronic or camping catalog... I will jones for that gadget the way a junkie will hurt for a fix.
... that a television, even one with nothing but blue light or a test pattern on the screen, has a hypnotic effect on me... to the point that my other senses (especially hearing) stop working.
... that when people are speaking in Hebrew I understand almost every word. But the moment numbers enter the conversation a steel shutter crashes down in my head and I am powerless to make sense of what follows.
... that after nearly two years of really, really trying I still don't have even a rough mental sense of the length, weight or volume of any of the metric measurements.
... that when I have to look something up alphabetically, I still sing 'the ABC song' in my head. I also do this in Hebrew (Thanks to the Israeli version of Sesame Street - Rechov Sumsum).
... that when I witness an adult scolding a child in a public place, I almost always mentally side with the child.
... that if I ever witness someone leaving a bathroom without washing their hands, I will mentally place a permanent black mark on them (to the point that years later I may not even remember their name... but I will remember that they didn't wash their hands after peeing).
... that if you tell me your telephone number and use the wrong cadence (e.g. instead of 555-5555 you give it to me as 55-55-555) I cannot possibly remember it or even succeed in writing it down (think I'm nuts... try it with your own number!).
... that my older sister switched from one brand of women's anti-perspirant/deodorant to another, based solely on my recommendation.
I'm sure I could easily come up with many more examples of personal pettiness/failings if I were to think about this for any length of time... but this has been humbling enough for one morning.
Feel free to share your own.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XX*X) [Cherry Festival edition]
Yes folks... welcome to the 30th edition of Photo Friday! Sorry to have to thrown an asterisk into the roman numerals... but 3 upper case X's in a row is just too tempting a target for people using search engines to find pr0n.
This past week the big kids and I attended the annual Cherry Festival that is held on Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim (about 5 minutes from Efrat) here in Gush Etzion. Zahava took a pass and stayed home while Yonah took his early afternoon nap.
The weather was picture perfect and in the tradition of last year, I ate to the point of discomfort.
Once we had picked and eaten our fill, we wandered over to a big open grassy area where there were games for the kids... booths set up to sell crafts... and, uh, more food. Here is a shot in the direction of the obligatory kids bouncy toys:
I know this last shot is going to come off as a bit voyeuristic... but after almost two years of living here I still find it jarring to see pretty 18 and 19 year old girls walking around with assault rifles. This young lady is obviously home from the army for the weekend and wanted to check out the festival. She is allowed to change out of her uniform while at home... but she has to keep her m16 with her at all times!
Anyway, I hope everyone had a great week. I enjoyed your responses to the blind date post... the funny ones... the sad ones... and yes, even the tragic ones. The truth is, if you are still around to write about the experience, it could always have been worse.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Carnival of the blind dates
I had a meeting yesterday morning at work that got off to a late start. There were quite a few participants, but several of the key personnel drifted in nearly 15 minutes after the scheduled start. This is not particularly uncommon, but because everyone was still a bit sluggish from the 4 day weekend, we hadn't yet started with the business at hand.
As the last couple of people wandered in with their cups of coffee, one of them made the mistake of asking if he'd missed anything important. My wife can attest that this kind of question almost always elicits a wise-ass comment from me... and yesterday was no exception.
As soon as the late-comer had taken his seat and inquired about what he'd missed, I said with a straight face, "We actually just got finished going around the table and telling our worst blind date story... I guess it's your turn now."
It's worth pointing out that Israeli's don't have a very well developed sarcasm detector... because before anyone could stop him he had launched into a cringingly-bad story of unmet expectations and bad manners from his distant dating past.
Surprisingly, everyone seemed to forget that it had been a joke that prompted him to tell his story because one-by-one people started clamoring to tell their own war stories from their dating days... each one worse than the one before.
I just sat in wonder as the horror stories unfolded and realized that this is a genre of personal history that nearly everyone carries around with them. For those of us who are married, we look back and thank G-d that we survived the dating wars. For the singles among us, the stories are told with a bit more humility since there is still the looming specter of even more frogs to kiss before a prince/princess is located.
We eventually managed to steer the meeting back on track, but before I'd left the conference room I'd decided to broach the same topic here to see if any treppenwitz readers were in a sharing mood.
Here, I'll start you off:
I was never a big fan of blind dates. The few into which I'd allowed myself to be coerced had been fairly uneventful... but had proved beyond all doubt just how little my friends knew about me or what I might find desirable/important in a potential mate.
I had pretty much given up on the whole blind dating concept when a close friend's wife called to say that she had "the perfect girl for me". She went on to run down a long list of reasons why we would hit it off, and I couldn't find fault with any of her logic... so I made the mistake of saying yes.
When I called this young lady I was pleasantly surprised to find that she had a very nice phone manner, and that the conversation was both effortless and entertaining. We both eagerly agreed to a lunch date the following Sunday. All-in-all this was a promising start.
However, when I went to pick her up, things immediately started to go wrong. I had written her address and apartment number on a small slip of paper, but when I pulled up in front of her building I couldn't find the paper. However, I wasn't too concerned since I was 99% sure I remembered the apartment number.
I went up the elevator and knocked on the door to her apartment. When the door opened I had a moment of embarrassment as I realized I must have gotten the apartment number wrong after all. Standing in the doorway was a girl with bright pink hair, teased out stiffly in all directions like one of those troll dolls. She was wearing a micro-miniskirt so brief as to be easily mistaken for a belt. The rest of her ensemble consisted of a torn black Van Halen tour T-shirt and a pair of white cowboy boots. Her make-up and perfume were so over-the-top that a Times Square hooker would have taken her aside and suggested that she 'tone it down a bit'!
I was just about to apologize for knocking on the wrong door (I was actually fairly certain I'd inadvertently stumbled upon an escort service) when this vision of loveliness smiled brightly through her clown make-up and said, "Hi! You must be David".
I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. I wanted to say something - anything - to cover the firestorm going on inside my head... but all I could do was stare.
Either she didn't notice, didn't care or was secretly pleased with my reaction, because she cheerily grabbed a purse and led me down the hall towards the elevator (that's a 'lift' for you Brits).
When we got downstairs I unlocked the car and held the door open for her as she got in. When I went around to the driver's side I was mildly annoyed to find that she hadn't unlocked my door. In this day of remote car locks this may seem like a story from the distant past, but this small courtesy was once the first of several small tests that guys used in order to see if a girl was the attentive and courteous sort.
When I got in and started the car I found out with a shock what she had been doing instead of unlocking my door. She had taken a cassette tape of acid rock music from her purse, placed it in my car's stereo and turned the volume up to '11'. As the engine turned over the car literally exploded with sound.
I quickly turned off the music, willed a smile onto my face and started chattering frantically about the restaurant to which we were headed. She sat pouting at having her music turned off, but seemed to show mild interest in trying a new restaurant.
The dining experience was even worse that the events that preceded it.
This young lady cursed at the waitress for not giving us a place near the window, made snide comments to the people seated at the next table who had spent a bit too long taking in her outfit, and ... without too much exaggeration on my part... ate her food using her hands and feet.
Among the religious crowd there is a tradition of saying a soft blessing both before and after consuming food and drink. She openly mocked me when I mumbled the blessings, and made a big show of rolling her eyes while singing "Rubadub dub, thanks for the grub... yeeeeaaaah G-d!" loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear.
At this point I figured I'd fulfilled my responsibility to my friend's wife and gently suggested that since it was still early in the day I should take her home so we could both catch up on errands. Instead she pouted and said, "Oh no... it's such a beautiful day outside. Let's go for walk in Central Park".
I didn't want to be rude, so I just shrugged... paid the check and guided her outside to the car.
After driving only a few blocks towards the park, we found ourselves stopped at a red light when she suddenly pointed out the car window and started jabbering something about a new shop we had just passed, and how she had been meaning to go there and 'check them out'. Before I could pull over to the side of the street she had popped her tape out of the cassette deck, opened the door and was shouting a perfunctory "seeya later" over her shoulder as she picked her way through the angry beeps of oncoming traffic.
As I drove away I pinched myself to be sure it hadn't been a dream, and made a solemn promise to myself that I was done with blind dates for good.
It was years before anyone was able to coerce me into meeting a perfect stranger for romantic purposes again... and as luck would have it, that next 'blind date' turned out to be my wife.
So, as I said in yesterday's meeting... we were just going around and telling our worst blind date stories... I guess it's your turn!
[Note: My only request is that if you decide to share... please don't give details that could positively identify any of the lower life forms from your dating past]
Sunday, June 12, 2005
I know I put a link in my last post to a brief explanation of Shavuot... but reading through what is there this morning I realized that it is pretty dry, and doesn't really give the uninitiated any of the traditions associated with the holiday. And since it starts at sundown this evening... I figured I'd share a bit more.
One of the nice customs associated with Shavuot is the eating of yummy dairy treats; with blintzes and cheese cake being the favorites. This is because the Torah is compared to milk in The Song of Songs: “Sweetness drops/From your lips, O bride; Honey and milk / Are under your tongue.”... and also the numerical value of the Hebrew word for Milk is 40 - the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai (feel free to jump in with anything I may have missed).
I happen to work for one of the largest defense/aerospace companies in Israel. One would expect that such a place would be all work and no play (at least when it comes to traditional stuff). But before the we left for the long Shavuot holiday weekend, every single employee was presented with a gift basket containing a nice selection of dairy stuff for the Shavuot holiday. I unwrapped the cellophane so that you could see what was inside (as well as the note):
[From L to R: Cottage cheese, a feta-like goat cheese in salt brine, Goat milk yogurt, Bulgarian cheese (also from goat milk), which cheese (like a runny cream cheese), and in the middle, some sliced yellow cheese. I have the feeling most of the products were selected because of their blue and white packaging. But what really got me giggling was that whoever designed the note (which simply says happy Shavuot from management and the workers union) had no idea they had used a Xmas motif!]
I am off now to make my famous chocolate cheese cake with the crumbly chocolate crust and real whipped cream topping! In general Zahava is the baker of the house... but this is one of the things that IMHO I do well.
I'll see everyone in a day or two.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXIX) [roadside edition]
My commute to and from work is just under an hour. By Israeli standards this is a ridiculously long commute, but it is about half what I used to do in the states when I lived in Connecticut and worked in Manhattan. Israelis shake their head when I tell them where I live... and where I work (I'm never sure which they are really shocked by).
However, I know plenty of people who work in Tel Aviv and live in one of that city's sprawling suburbs who have a commute every bit as long (of not longer). They just don't see it as a long commute because they are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for most of the commute. They only consider the short distance they have to travel.
As long time readers of treppenwitz know, I've devoted many journal entries to the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) things I've seen and experienced during my commute. Each morning and evening I have the winding roads mostly to myself (and my hitchhikers), and I get to daydream... listen to music... sight-see... and basically soak up the ancient scenery. But I don't have the luxury of dawdling, so I still miss a lot.
Today is dedicated to post pictures of some of the stuff I had previously missed.
As we have been counting the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot, I started thinking about what this period is called. It is called counting the Omer. Most Jews don't give too much thought to where the name comes from... and those that do, rarely see what the Omer would have looked like.
Simply put, this period was when the barley offering for the Temple in Jerusalem was cut and counted. In the US I never thought about it because who harvests in early-to-mid spring? Nothing would have had time to grow yet, right? Well, here in Israel, Arabs and Jews still grow their winter wheat and barley... and it is harvested exactly when it is supposed to be harvested; during the Omer. Here is a field that is being harvested by hand, using hand scythes... and the sheaves are waiting to be stacked into larger piles:
Most of the Arab villages I pass along my route sustain themselves in part or whole from agriculture. It is easy to make the mistake of assuming that people who work the land and exist in such a pastoral setting must be gentle and simple. The truth is that there have been countless terrorist attacks along the road that I travel, and in many cases the people perpetrating the attacks have been these 'gentle, simple' people.
Last year I gave a semi-regular lift to a young woman who was studying in a girl's program in a community called Maon. After a few trips together she pointed out a small makeshift monument on the side of the road... just a few yards from the edge of a small Arab village. I had seen it out of the corner of my eye many times, but I had never stopped to see what it was. She explained that a few years ago she and most of her family had been driving past this spot on a Friday afternoon on their way to spend Shabbat in one of the communities in the South Hevron hills. As they came upon this spot, they saw a man waving to them from beside a stopped car... but they didn't have time to register what he might want. In a moment they drove into an ambush where their car suddenly came under machine gun fire. Her mother was killed instantly and her father and one of her younger brothers was wounded. Her father yelled for everyone to get down and not show themselves... but before he finished his warning the gunman had approached the car and shot him again at close range... killing him in front of his children. The terrorist then fled back into the nearby village.
This young woman later learned that the man waving at them from the roadside had been in another car that had been attacked, and was trying to warn them that a soldier in the car he was traveling in had already been shot and killed.
I don't know or care whether the 'gentle farmers' in the nearby Arab village gave shelter to the terrorist by choice, or under duress. I only know that this beautiful young woman and her surviving brothers and sisters are now orphans. That is a stain that will be on this village forever... even after (G-d willing), there is peace.
[Translation: On this spot were murdered Rabbi Yosef, Chani and Shuvel Dickstein, and First Sargeant Shamai Elazar Leibovitz.]
Thursday, June 09, 2005
What color ribbon does your bogeyman wear?
There is a well accepted practice among Jewish 'alte kockers' (old folks) of talking about death without, you know, talking about it. Many of us grew up hearing our older relatives lowering their voices mid-sentence to stage-whisper words like 'cancer', 'stroke' and 'heart attack'. One intuitively knows without being told that these sotto voce dips in the conversation are veiled references to the enemy... the bogeyman who waits in the dark to take friends and loved ones away.
The thing is, among my grandparent's generation there was no particular preference, or perhaps deference is the word I'm looking for, given to one bogeyman over another. Sick was sick, and dead was forever.
But today when I talk with friends and read the papers, I am finding that the bogeyman has been narrowed to a couple of prime candidates... and when diseases are talked about, they are no longer discussed in hushed tones.
For women the undisputed heavyweight champion bogeyman is breast cancer.
Of course there's a big world of other 'women's diseases' out there about which women can and should be worried. But breast cancer is the one that has the clout to be able to tag along with a group of eight women to a pleasant brunch and have each of them looking around the table wondering, "which one of us will it be?".
A couple of the female bloggers I read on a regular basis have wrestled with this bogeyman and come out on top. One or two others have heard him shuffle by their door and were relieved to find that he wasn't looking for a fight... at least this time.
But what about men? I've often wondered whether we have our own bogeyman.
Prostate cancer is obviously a likely candidate since it is fairly gender specific and statistically just as common as breast cancer. But somehow prostate cancer doesn't seem to strike terror into the male heart the same way it's mammary-based cousin terrifies women.
One reason for this could be that when prostate cancer culls the herd, it seems to take mostly the septuagenarians who have already had their good long innings.
The breast cancer bogeyman, by comparison, has far less patience, preferring to take women at the height of their vitality... and leaves those who survive to live in disfigured fear of his return.
No, prostate cancer is a bother and a worry (and yes, a potential killer)... but for those who submit to the tyranny of the rubber glove on a regular basis, it is no bogeyman... just something potentially unpleasant far in the future, like liver spots or a predilection for matching white belt/ shoe sets.
However, I think I caught a glimpse of the bogeyman this year. While there is no colored ribbon (that I know of) for heart attacks, I am starting to understand that the silent sledgehammer to the chest is the bogeyman that stalks men at the prime of their lives. I have friends and coworkers my age who have met this bogeyman. Some have lived to tell the tale... others are taking the long dirt nap.
"It's a proven international medical fact, that males who have heart attacks, minor, major or fatal, are aged between 42 and 58, weight, height and eye or hair colouring, educational qualifications, have no or little effect in altering the statistic."
Granted the person who wrote this was not a doctor or a researcher... and in fact had provided nothing in the way of documentation to back up his statement... but I looked at that age bracket and suddenly the thread wasn't so funny anymore. I had caught a glimpse of the bogeyman.
Just as a woman knows precisely when she enters her 'breast cancer years', I knew without having to look further than this statement that I'd officially entered my heart attack years.
This is the span of 15 - 20 years when gas pains feel suspiciously like the bogeyman tapping on your shoulder. I don't know about the accuracy of the information quoted above... but I have yet to see a pattern of fitness, age or ethnicity in those around me who have met the bogeyman face-to-face.
All I know is that these days when I get a little indigestion, or a gas pain that seems a little too high to be gas, I unconsciously rub my chest and idly wonder why men seldom talk about the bogeyman... and why our bogeyman has no colored ribbon.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Fun with bigots and thieves
I can abide a racist... and can even allow an anti-Semite his/her say. But I have zero tolerance for a thief!
I know... I know... what the heck is David ranting about now?
For the uninitiated, there are two ways that a site-owner can place images on his/her website.
1. The image is loaded onto the site-owner's host server and a line of code is placed on the page telling the web browser to call up that picture as it loads the page.
2. The site-owner can place a line of code on his/her page telling the web browser to go find the image on someone else's server whenever that particular page is loaded.
The problem with option #2 is that it steals something called bandwidth*. Every time a file is accessed from a remote server it uses up bandwidth. As a blogger/journaler, I pay for a certain amount of storage space on my host's server... as well as a very finite amount of bandwidth (which I have been exceeding for the past 6 months or so). If someone decides to steal my bandwidth by having my images load when their pages load... well, that's bandwidth theft. It is unethical and just plain wrong!
Add to the mix a bandwidth thief who is also an outspoken anti-Israel/anti-Semitic racist... and, well... you can imagine I was a little hot under the collar.
As luck would have it, a few months back I read with amusement about my blogfather, Chuck's way of dealing with people who pilfer bandwidth. He mentioned that this form of theft makes the thieves particularly vulnerable to a cute little bit of revenge. You see, if the owner of the image were to replace the picture the thief is calling up with another, more, um, interesting image bearing the same file name as the original... this new picture will load whenever their page is viewed.
Just imagine the possibilities!
A couple of days ago I noticed that a picture I had posted on one of last month's entries was being accessed by another site. This kind of thing happens sometimes, but is usually due to ignorance rather than criminal intent. But I was a bit shocked to find that the blog entry calling up this image was an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic rant by a
jackbooted Brown Shirt student at UC Santa Barbara.
I don't give people like that the benefit of the doubt.
The image I loaded to my server to replace the one he had glommed onto was essentially a warning label. This is what showed up on his blog for about an hour yesterday (only much, much bigger):
What, you were expecting pr0n? :-)
I'm sure my artistic wife could have designed me up something much more eye-grabbing, but she is not the vengeful sort... so I left her out of it.
If you were one of the lucky people who followed the link that was posted here for about an hour yesterday, you probably saw what a bone-head this guy is... and hopefully had yourselves a little chuckle. However, once this blogger saw the traffic spike and figured out what was going on he quickly pulled the image tag.
I'm sorry I gave him any traffic at all since by all appearances his readership seems to consist mostly of the dorm rooms on either side of his own.
Yes, I probably stooped to the level of this bigoted bandwidth thief by playing this prank. But theft is theft... and bigotry is bigotry.... and I decided to teach this eager young activist a lesson. If you want to rant and rave about how immoral and criminal Israel's behavior is, you had better be Mr. Rogers-worthy squeaky-clean yourself!
Anyhoo, I know none of my readers would intentionally do anything dishonest. But please be careful about using images... and above all, don't use OPB (Other People's Bandwidth). It's not nice.
*Bandwidth: How much information (text, images, video, sound) can be sent through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move approximately 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video requires about 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.
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Monday, June 06, 2005
Today is Jerusalem Day... the anniversary of the reunification of the city of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967.
Last night Zahava and I attended a Bar Mitzvah which was held in a beautiful setting on the promenade that overlooks the old city of Jerusalem. Besides being a lovely affair, we felt privileged to be able to look out over the entire city of Jerusalem at night. During the evening we drifted outside into the cool flower-scented air with a bunch of the celebrants to watch the fireworks bursting over the twinkling lights of our Capitol city... and to take in the golden glow of the old city's stone walls.
After the affair we walked back to our car and passed several hundred soldiers who had gathered for an impromptu celebration on the scenic spot. They were dancing in big circles and unabashedly singing songs about Jerusalem. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see Jewish soldiers - most of them non-religious - dancing hand-in-hand and singing 'B'Yerushalyim' (In Jerusalem) while looking out over the Temple Mount:
And the lost [Jews] of the land of Assyria arrived
as did the exiles of the land of Egypt
And they bowed in prayer to the Lord on the Holy Mountain
In Jerusalem, in Jerusalem **
Every year on this day, no matter where I am, I try to take a few minutes to listen to the crackly old radio broadcast of the recapture of the old city by Motti Gur's Paratroop forces. Yossi Ronen was the news broadcaster reporting the event. Rav Shlomo Goren, who was the Chief Rabbi of the IDF at the time (and also held the rank of General, having served as a soldier in the Haganah - Israel's pre-state army), joined the Paratroopers at the Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall) and led them in prayer. Colonel Motti Gur was the Military commander of the forces that recaptured the old city.
This a wonderful translation that was done by IsraCast*. I strongly recommend that those who understand Hebrew go to their site and click the yellow link in the upper left hand corner and listen to the recording.
To properly appreciate this you need to imagine being somewhere in Israel at the time and hearing this broadcast over your radio at home... or wherever your reserve unit was stationed at that moment. Go get the tissues before you start listening!
Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]
[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]
Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.
Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.
[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]
[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]
[More soldiers’ footsteps.]
The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.
We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.
Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!
All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.
Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.
[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]
Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.
Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.
Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance [but don't touch anything in the houses], especially the holy places.
[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]
Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?
Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.
Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]
Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]
[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]
Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:
El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!
[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]
[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]
Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *
We should never forget or take for granted the sacrifices that were made so that we could have our city back under Jewish Control after 2000 years!
* The historic radio broadcast of the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall was researched, transcribed and translated by Yitschak Horneman / Quality Translations, Jerusalem
© 2004 IsraCast. All rights reserved.
** Music by Shlomo Carlebach
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Manly yes... but I like it too!
I was always confused by the Irish Spring soap commercial from which I lifted today's title.
Granted, I was in Junior High School at the time, and not personally involved in the household toiletry-purchasing decisions. But still... who ever heard of a soap being so gender-specific that a woman would feel inclined to make a public admission about using the stuff?
Fast forward a couple of decades and I find myself sharing a bathroom sink and medicine cabinet with my brand-spanking-new wife. We were still at the innocent stage of the marriage where we pretended that the other person sprang out of bed each morning smelling fresh and sweet!
Since neither of us had yet to admit to the existence of morning breath or body odor, we each did our own shopping for personal hygiene products. Which basically meant that she shopped... and I generally forgot.
One morning the inevitable happened and I realized that I was out of the manly, sport-scented (whatever the heck that means) anti-perspirant/deodorant I'd been using. Since I wasn't quite ready to let on to my lovely bride that I actually, y'know, produced body odor, I rooted around in the medicine cabinet over the sink and found Zahava's choice in underarm protection; Lady Speedstick.
These little boundaries of personal ownership between newly minted spouses come tumbling down remarkably quickly when potentially offensive smells are involved. Without even a moment's hesitation I slapped some of that powder-fresh goodness on my pits and forged ahead with my morning ablutions.
A funny thing happened that day. I didn't sweat. At all!
It was an unusually warm late September day and I remember thinking to myself that I was sure to be drenched by the time I finished with the sauna-like subway rides to and from work. But when I got home that evening I was as dry as the Sahara.
I had always figured that the only difference between men's and women's underarm treatments was the scent. But here I was faced with empirical evidence that the girlie stuff was a whole lot stronger than the crap I'd been buying since getting that free sample back in 8th grade 'Health' class!
I don't know if I ever made a formal admission to Zahava about my switch to her product... but she must have eventually caught on since her stock of Lady Speed stick was being depleted at roughly twice the normal rate.
Over the years I've gotten a few snarky comments from Zahava and the big kids about my loyalty to a product designed for women. But it works... so why should I let a few snickers shame me into switching to a more gender-appropriate product, right?
So you can imagine my confusion when I ran out of Lady Speed Stick the other day and went to pilfer some from my wife's medicine cabinet (yes, she has one all to herself)... and she hands me her current underarm preparation; the guy-stuff I used to use!
Huh? Is there some sort of rule that at least one adult in the house has to smell like a man???
Friday, June 03, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXVIII) [sunshine edition]
I apologize in advance for giving you short shrift this week. I have to leave the house at 7:45AM (remember Friday is supposed to be the first day of our weekend here!) for an all day obligation. I have lots of pictures and themes to share, but nothing organized... yet.
So... You get a photo (yes, a single photo) of a scene that has been making me deliriously happy for weeks.
Every day I drive past an enormous field of sunflowers just north of Beer Sheva. I don't know about anyone else, but you have to be a pretty bitter person not to get a lift when you see a field of sunflowers!
As if the flowers weren't enough by itself, I noticed that a professional beekeeper had placed hives all around the periphery of the field so that his/her bees could pollinate the flowers.
Between the happy sunflowers, the beehives and the clear blue sky above... I ended up grinning like an idiot every time I drove past!
After a few days of driving by this scene, I remarked to one of my regular passengers that I really needed to stop and snap a picture. Luckily my passengers are used to unscheduled photo ops.
I can't describe how relaxing it was to stand next that endless field of summery flowers. If the people passing in their cars had any idea how therapeutic the close proximity was, the owner of the field would be able to charge admission!
As I stood there in the fresh morning sunshine, the big flowers made soft sighing sounds as they rustled against one another... the bees buzzed industriously in and out of their hives... crickets chirped somewhere amongst the stalks... and a few birds flew lazy circles overhead.
And me without a lawn chair! :-)
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Not for love or money
Israelis are, by nature, gamblers.
They love their Lotto games, and back during more peacful days they flocked to Jericho in incredible numbers to visit the casino there. One could even say that the very nature of this great Zionist experiment was a huge gamble... although one could also argue that there weren't too many other places for the Jews to place their chips at the time.
However, I've noticed over the past few months that the Jerusalem Post's web site has been advertising another gambling opportunity to it's readers; a chance to enter the US 'Green Card' lottery.
For those who don't know what this is, 'Green Card' is the slang term for a document issued by the US Government to resident aliens allowing them to legally seek work in that country. This is the first (and probably most important) rung on the ladder a foreigner must climb in order to move up from being a visitor (legal or otherwise) to being a permanent resident/citizen of the US.
In recent years the US has started issuing a certain percentage of its 'Green Cards' by lottery so as to avoid the appearance of favoritism (or G-d forbid racism) in who actually gets one.
I don't know about any of you, but the idea of advertising the 'Green Card' lottery on the Jpost site just makes me sad.
I had always assumed that the majority of The Post's online readers were either Anglos ('expats' from English-speaking countries) living in Israel... or English speaking (or at least English understanding) Jews living in the diaspora.
I turns out that I didn't take into account another, less obvious demographic; Israelis brushing up on their English in preparation for a move to the US.
Look, I can't judge anyone for making a personal decision about where they want to live. I was born in one country and made an adult decision to move somewhere else. It would be a bit hypocritical of me to suggest that an Israeli isn't entitled to the same freedom of choice.
However, there has always been a lot of emotional baggage associated with moving away from Israel (making 'yerida'). I touched on this subject briefly here and don't think it needs too much rehashing since most people reading this are at least minimally aware of the ideological/sociological issues at play.
Suffice it to say that years ago it was considered a mark of shame to move abroad (many emmigrants insisted for decades that they were only there temporarily). More recently the economic and security situation have made emmigration an acceptable, albeit sad option for Israel's war-weary and impoverished citizens.
I just wasn't aware that moving abroad had become such an acceptable mainstream option as to be openly advertised as some sort of a prize.
I much prefer to see banner ads on the Jerusalem Post web site advertising matchmaking services and business opportunities. At least those kinds of gambles - for love or money - I can understand.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Embarrassing Technology Malfunctions
Those of you who live outside of Israel may not be aware of the amazing technological advances we here in the holy land take for granted. One of the neatest among them is the Invisibility Cloak that has become so popular here.
What's that? You hadn't heard about it?
For some time now, there has been an invisibility cloak (identical to the one featured in Harry Potter) available to the general Israeli public.
Back in the US where this technology hasn't yet caught on, men (and even sometimes women) are forced to walk a considerable distance from the roadway to find some privacy when 'caught short' during a long drive. Even the old maxim 'If you're a man, the world is your bathroom' has it's limits defined by the rules of decorum.
But here in Israel, the introduction of the invisibility cloak has made those long marches to find the cover of trees or bushes completely unnecessary! All one has to do is stand on the shoulder of the highway wrapped securely in this wonderful device and nobody is the wiser!
However, I have to say that they don't seem to have worked out all the bugs in this new technology, because quite frequently I'll be driving down the highway and see a man standing on the side of the road urinating in plain site of all the passing motorists! I'm assuming that these unfortunate individuals were unaware that they were experiencing some sort of malfunction with their invisibility cloaks. I know I was much too embarrassed to tell them.
Being a relative newcomer, I haven't gotten around to picking up one of these nifty cloaks... so on the rare occasions that nature calls while I am driving, I'm still required to engage in the old-fashioned practice of seeking shelter in the bushes, or behind a well-placed tree.
I can't wait for them to work out these potentially-embarrassing technical glitches in the invisibility technology because it sure would be neat to be able to stand right next to my car at the height of rush hour and 'write my name in the sand!'