Friday, June 29, 2007
I must have some nerve passing out advice about blogging considering the hap-hazard, slipshod way in which this site evolved into the unwieldy mess you see before you.
Looking back, I seem to have made pretty much every mistake possible... and would probably do most things differently if I ever had the chance to take a ride in Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine. But I don't have that chance... so I have just a couple of words of advice for all the new and would-be bloggers out there.
[Note: This isn't about content, publicity, linking or the frequency at which you post. I think I managed to beat those horses quite thoroughly to death over here. No, the scope of today's advice will be limited to titles, taglines and templates. Also, if you are a blogger and are doing everything that I advise against here, and still getting stellar results... good for you!]
OK, here we go...
First and foremost, try to select a somewhat original title for your blog. I'm going to start by picking on my good friend Jack for the title he selected:
Now, how many blogs do you think there are out there with that very same title? Trust me when I tell you that it is only Jack's fine writing and prolific output that keep his nose above the flood-waters of the other gazillion sites with the same title (or some variation thereof).
Next, humor is good... especially the self-deprecating kind... in a blog's title and/or tag line, but certainly isn't required. But when picking a title and/or tagline, please do try to make sure that one or both are at least somewhat memorable. For example, avoid words like 'musings', 'ramblings' and 'rantings' unless, like Jack, you are willing to invest Herculean effort into pulling yourself up out of the quicksand of other blogs who have chosen those same words to describe whatever it is they think they are doing.
Oh, I just thought of one more word to avoid; 'ruminations'. This may be just a silly prejudice of mine, but every single time I see a blog title or tag line that contains the word 'ruminations', I picture the author standing in the middle of a meadow staring at me with vacant bovine eyes and chewing his/her cud. Yes, 'ruminations' and 'ruminant' are linguistically related... and if I can't get past your banner without visualizing you midway through the messy half of a two-stage digestion process... I'm probably not going to visit your site very often.
Next, get thee out from under the tyrannical thumb of the standard template. Even if you only change the color scheme or add a picture or graphic to the 'about me' corner of your page... make the effort to distinguish yourself just a little bit from the billions and billions of other stars twinkling in the blogosphere sky.
One of the reasons I don't avail myself of the convenient blogreaders and feeds is that I have a terrible memory. I need the visual reference of seeing a blog's color scheme and graphics to remind myself who it is I'm reading. Trust me, if Shakespeare had used the standard blogger template and color scheme to publish his oeuvre, he would have died in obscurity.
In fact, I can honestly say that the point at which treppenwitz turned a corner in terms of traffic and regular visitors was after I added the nifty custom banner you see up there at the top of the page (thanks honey!). Of course, if the content sucks, no amount of lipstick is going to make the pig look more attractive.
And last but not least (for now), look at your site using different browsers to make sure it loads and displays properly in most, if not all, of the tools your readers might be using. If you encounter a problem with a particular browser, you may have to make a decision based on how many people are using that browser.
For instance, I know that treppenwitz loads well in most browsers but is a disaster on WEB TV. A little tinkering around made the WEB TV users happy but made my site unreadable for everyone using Firefox,Opera, Safari and IE. So since there were less than three people left in the world using WEB TV to surf the Net (two of whom were treppenwitz readers), it didn't make sense to mess up the way the site would load in the popular browsers.
If you want to do a quick and easy check of other browsers, go here and type in your blog's URL. It will give you a snapshot of the front page as it loads in most of the browsers out there. Be patient... it can take up to 30 minutes to get your results so bookmark the page and come back to check.
Anyhoo, that's about enough damage for one day. As always, don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Getting Pap Smeared (and not liking it even a little)
Sorry about the title, but I'm in a vile mood. Why? Well, glad you asked.
Between 5:45 AM and 6:15AM when I would have loved to have been writing a post and reading the news, I ended up having to delete several hundred spam comments, as well as having to add the spammer's IP ranges to my ban list.
I've mentally dubbed this particular attack 'The Pap Smear' because 99% of the bogus names on the spam comments started with 'Pap...' (e.g. Papskis3ud, Papxcs5s, Papzqu&dy, etc.).
This is the second time in as many weeks that treppenwitz has come under attack from this source and my hosting service's filters seem incapable of shielding me.
I honestly don't know what the goal of these spammers could possible be. I mean, if they're selling something, nobody is going to take out their credit card after taking a gander at the spam site's garbled syntax and random sentence structure.
If they're trying to jam up servers or deny service to the sites they are attacking, the volume is well below that threshold.
So what is it? What is their goal???
It obviously takes a certain level of technical sophistication to program the 'bots' that identify target sites and send out the comment and track-back spam. It also requires at least a minimal investment in equipment (despite the fact that they often hijack unsuspecting computers to do their bidding) to mount these attacks.
So, other than being disruptive and destructive, I just don't understand what the percentage is in being a spammer!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
In search of a banana monkey
[This post can be blamed almost entirely on the current heat wave we are experiencing here in Israel. Sanity will (hopefully) return when the weather breaks.]
Yesterday I put up a guest post over at The Muqata (Jameel is on an enforced break having been chased away from his 'puter by his wife) with a couple of my favorite cold beverage suggestions to beat the heat.
Almost as soon as I'd finished posting it I wandered over to Le Blog D'Elisson and noticed that he'd posted an enticing description of the tropical drinks he and his wife (SWMBO) had tippled while on vacation recently in Mexico (including a recipe for something called a Negroni Cocktail).
As most of you know, I'm no stranger to tropical drinks... especially those of the umbrella variety. But I have to admit that, in addition to being unfamiliar with the above-mentioned Negroni Cocktail... I'd never heard of one of the other drinks Elisson mentioned; A Banana Monkey.
The description immediately caught my eye: "[an] indulgent tropical drink made with bananas, chocolate syrup, and Kahlua. I would order mine with an additional shot or two of rum."
Oh sweet jeebus... a drink that contains all three major food groups?! How did I manage to miss this one in college?! I'm obviously not counting the 4th food group - meat products - here since that constitutes more of a snack catagory than an actual food group.
Anyway... I immediately set about scouring the Web for a reliable recipe and came up with a startling variety. Some of them even omitted [gasp] chocolate syrup!
Anyway, If you didn't catch it here way back when, you can wander over to The Muqata and pick up a nifty tip I offered on how to keep the ice from diluting your ice coffee. As a bonus, I even posted the official recipe for treppenwitz's Ersatz Kahlua.
As to the whole Banana Monkey thing... there are way too many variations out there to pick just one for inclusion here. But you can bet I'm gonna work my way through the most promising ones.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Filling a Syntactic Vacancy*
Growing up at the end of the golden age of comic books, I was accustomed to regularly encountering words that I didn't fully understand.
Think about the daunting challenge that faced the folks who created those comics. They had to write dialog and action descriptions that would be accessible to readers from an enormous range of age, socio-economic and educational backgrounds.
Add to that the wide dialectical range of regional slang and expressions to be found amongst just the American consumers of comic books and, well, let's just say it must have been incredibly difficult to write for them.
But looking back, comic books provided an incredible opportunity to improve my vocabulary because of all those unfamiliar words I had to figure out (i.e. guess at) based on their context. Sometimes I guessed right, and frequently I guessed wrong... but the mind is nothing if not tenacious, and tries valiantly to fill in the blanks when it encounters new and unfamiliar words... sometimes with humorous results. That's where the title of this post comes in.*
Although it was quite common to see comic book characters spewing streams of invective at one another (or into the air when an anvil was dropped on their toes), we young readers never got to see the actual dirty words. Instead we were shown either a bunch of random characters (e.g. #~*^#*&%@), or we would see the cryptic phrase, "Expletive Deleted".
I'll admit that for a couple of years I actually thought that 'expletive deleted' was, itself, a dirty expression. I used to use it surreptitiously in games of cops & robbers and cowboys & indians when I thought there were no grown-ups around ("You missed me you dirty rotten expletive deleted!") .
It wasn't until I was in 2nd or 3rd grade that my dad overheard me trying to be both daring and vulgar in front of my friends, and gently explained that the phrase I thought was so nasty was actually a sort of place holder for the words I wasn't allowed to use.
As I've watched my kids grow up in two different countries, I've been fascinated to see what sort of syntactic placeholders they use when they think they might be overheard. By far, my favorite is the uniquely Israeli exclamation; "oooof!"
'Oooof' is used to express profound disappointment and/or frustration... particularly among Israeli children who haven't yet mastered the ample collection of Arabic vulgarities available to the modern Hebrew speaker.
Yonah, in particular, uses 'oooof' when he is frustrated. For instance, he was trying unsuccessfully to put on his sandals the other day when the Velcro strap tore off. Without missing a beat he yelled, "Oooof, these are broken!"
I had to smile at the innocent charm of the expression. After all, I can't wait to hear the words he'll be using in a few years to express his frustration. :-)
Monday, June 25, 2007
I'm a bad husband
I sometimes get frustrated with my wife for holding long, detailed deliberations regarding important topics and decisions... entirely inside her head. I get frustrated because after 20 minutes of silence, during which I assumed she was reading or working on her computer, she will suddenly blurt out, "So, I think the best thing to do would be to have them both attend camps closer to home this sumer."
What I didn't realize was that during those 20 minutes of silence she had been vigorously debating various camp options for the big kids... weighing interests/requests, coordinating pick-up times and carpools with her own work schedule... budgeting fees... figuring out wardrobe/footwear options and the possible need for additional equipment... and a hundred other important factors.
So, when she blurted out her conclusion... it made perfect sense to her. But it made absolutely no sense to me since I wasn't privy to any of the internal discussion leading up to her pronouncement.
I'd have to say that these silent deliberations of hers are arguably the most common source of 'unkind words' that pass between us.
Then came yesterday.
I got a call from my mom in the early afternoon with the news that my brother was on his way to the hospital... more than likely for surgery due to what sounded like appendicitis.
My mom didn't really have much solid information other than to tell me that my little bro had been suffering for hours with severe abdominal pain and had gone to the hospital after having decided that he couldn't make it through the night.
The call from my mom had come as I was walking into a meeting... a meeting of which I have no recollection.
What I do remember was sitting and thinking that my baby brother (8 years my junior) doesn't belong in the hospital on an operating table. Forget that he is married with two kids and living/working in the SF Bay area. In my mind he is a carefree, tow-headed toddler who follows me around like a puppy dog. He idolizes me and will do literally anything to catch and hold my attention. He will run and fetch my shoes if I pretend to time him with my watch... and when he thinks I'm not looking, I catch him trying to imitate the way I stand... wear my baseball hat... drink from a glass.
I didn't get any more updates for the remainder of the afternoon and went about my business in a complete fog. At some point I must have done a bit of on-line research about appendicitis to see what risks are involved and to reassure myself that this is a no-sweat procedure... like removing a wisdom tooth or setting a bone after a fall. But all I found myself reading were horror stories about burst appendixes, septic abdomens and people ignoring the symptoms until it was, sadly, too late.
I don't remember much about my drive home. I'm sure I chatted with the people in the car as we drove along the seam between the Judean Desert and the Hevron hills, but my mind was sitting in the waiting room of a California hospital, trying to find out about my brother... asking nurses and clerks if they had any news... waiting for a doctor to come striding out from behind swinging doors to give me news about a little blond boy who hadn't existed for more than three-and-a-half decades.
Zahava and I had made plans to meet a blogger connection from the states for coffee in the German Colony at 8PM, so when I got home I tried to focus only on that. He is the fiance of a blogger I read and I wanted very much to be a good host.
The hour or so before we headed into Jerusalem was filled with oohing and aahing over Gilad's silver medal that he'd won in the national volleyball championship that afternoon... chasing Yonah around the livingroom... talking with Ariella about her day... going out to pick up pizza for the kids to have for dinner.
Yet all that time I was almost completely inside my own head,... wondering why I hadn't heard from someone in the states about how my brother was doing. I wanted to call, but a part of me didn't want to admit to anyone how
scared shitless nervous I was.
Make all the jokes you want about middle aged men becoming morbid... but this is the time of life when death makes that critical transition from being something that happens in history books and to other people, to something that happens to everyone... particularly those you love.
As Zahava and I drove into Jerusalem we might have talked about the kids' plans for the summer... and about weddings and bar mitzvahs we will be attending in the coming weeks. Who knows what the hell we talked about? Surely not me, because I was back in the hospital waiting room, breathing in the cloying smell of antiseptic and fear... watching other people brace themselves for the bad news that was waiting patiently to jump out from behind swinging doors and blow their worlds apart.
Every so often people would be called in beyond those swinging doors... never to be seen again. But the only news that ever came out was carried by weary surgeons in rumpled, sweaty scrubs and discarded masks that sagged uselessly around their necks. A few mumbled words... "extremely serious condition"... "did everything we could"... "sorry for your loss"... followed by the inevitable wail of disbelief.
While all this was playing out in my head, we had a perfectly lovely chat with our guest (and one of his relatives) over cappuccinos and iced teas. I think (hope) I held up my end of the conversation, but I'm really not sure.
Another blogger friend (who I hadn't even known was in the country) made an appearance out of the fog and sat down at a nearby table sipping an iced drink and eating an impossibly large piece of cake. We exchanged a few pleasantries (I hope) but I don't recall exactly what we said, or why he was here.
When my cell phone rang I wasn't even fully aware of having answered it until I heard my daughter's voice on the other end saying, "Hi Abba. Grandma just called to say that uncle Benjamin is out of surgery and everything went OK. What is she talking about?!"
I mumbled a promise to explain everything when I got home and hung up the phone. As I turned to Zahava to give her the news I realized that I hadn't been breathing for the last hour or four. Suddenly I was getting big, intoxicating lung-fulls of air and it was so unbeleivably refreshing that I didn't want to stop it long enough to talk.
Finally I leaned over towards Zahava and exhaled one long phrase directly into her ear, "Honey Benjamin's out of surgery everything's OK."
I figured she'd be as relieved as I was to hear the good news... so I momentarily confused by her knitted brow and the pointed question, "What do you mean he's out of surgery? Why was he in surgery!"
It was at that moment I realized that I hadn't mentioned anything to anyone since talking to my mother. Not to my assistant... not to my boss... not to my carpool mates... and [~smacks forehead~] not to my family! Nobody!!!
I hurriedly brought Zahava up to speed, and for her part she took it all in stride. But I could feel my cheeks burning at having done what I'd accused her of so many times. Instead of pouring her decaf cinnamon latte into my lap (as she rightly should have) she simply smiled and went back to our conversation with our guests. At that point I mostly rejoined the conversation as well... hoping against hope that nobody had noticed my previous absence.
We parted from our guests and walked back to the car through the cool evening air. It had been an extremely hot day so the soft breeze was a welcome change. I was also getting the hang of breathing again. In... out... in.
I waited during the ride home for Zahava to ask me what the hell I had been thinking, keeping Benjamin's condition to myself... but it never came.
When we got home I answered the big kids' questions about their uncle and did my best to make it sound like a wisdom tooth or a broken wrist... a silly thing that was all in the past. After all, why worry them? For them, death is still something that happens in history books, not in families. [tfu, tfu, tfu]
After we climbed into bed, I waited for the other shoe to drop with Zahava. Surely she wasn't going to let me off the hook so easily. After all the times I'd chastised her for keeping things to herself and having entire conversations in her head without me.... oy, did I have it coming.
But the shoe never dropped.
It seems that either Zahava is the world's most understanding wife... or she has grown accustomed to having a really, really bad husband.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
46 things about me (and stuff I think)
Yeah... It's that time again.
The birthday list.
Some people post '100 things about me' lists on their sites in lieu of an 'about Me' page. Me? Every year on my birthday (or reasonably close to it), I post a list of things about me corresponding to the number of trips I've taken around the sun. So here we go (previous lists are posted below for your convenience).
[As always, mental health professionals may feel free to analyze the following... but please show your work]
- I have more shirts than pants (by a factor of 3)
- I once seriously considered becoming a midwife after having witnessed a woman giving birth in an Australian Pharmacy (er, I mean Chemist).
- I have now visited more than 45 countries
- I speak just under two languages (how provincial is that?)
- I always cringe at the mention of my zodiac sign (Cancer)
- I always cringe when people I respect mention a genuine belief in astrology.
- After almost four years as an Israeli, I feel like I am developing cultural cataracts that prevent me from noticing uniquely Israeli phenomenon.
- I have mixed feelings about the previous.
- I honestly feel that the issue on which Israel will ultimately live or die has nothing to do with our Arab neighbors or residents. It is the basic issue of how to maintain a country with an undeniable Jewish character/identity without trampling on the right of individuals to choose how Jewish they want to be. All other decisions are really out of our hands.
- I look at the Hamas/Fatah civil war and can't help but worry about the looming Israeli civil war between the secular and religious.
- 'Fanatic' can also be used to modify the word 'secular'.
- [With no insult intended to my wife] I love that I'm the only one in the family with whom our 3-and-a-half-year-old Yonah will fall asleep.
- I suddenly realized that the gulf between teenagers and parents is not entirely the fault of the teenagers. We parents are simply furious with ourselves for wasting all those precious years when our kids actually listened to us, and then suddenly remembering all the important lessons we want to teach them when they are least capable of accepting our advice. [~bangs head against wall~]
- A couple of years ago I started writing little notes to myself in order to keep track of important tasks.
- I recently noticed that I'm getting a lot of my pants and shirts back from the wash with indecipherable balls of paper in the pockets.
- After having used both systems, I can honestly say that the Israeli filing system (of placing papers in flimsy nylon sleeves that fit in binders) instead of tossing all relevant paperwork into tabbed folders (as is done in the U.S.) is designed to minimize productivity while cluttering up miles (er, kilometers) of shelves with impressive binders.
- For a country that prides itself on challenging norms and rebelliously thinking 'outside the box', I seem to hear the phrase 'because that's how it's always been done' an awful lot here in Israel.
- I always hated the fact that my birthday fell out after the school year had ended.
- The gap between the fashions I like and the ones I can reasonably attempt at my age seems to widen with every passing year.
- Their politics aside*, I stopped wearing Levi jeans because my measurements are nobody's business but my own.
- Their politics aside, I would probably start wearing Levi jeans again if I could custom order the little leather tab on the back to display measurements of my choosing.
- No, I didn't go over to the dark side (Wrangler or Lee [~shudder~]). I wear Cinch Jeans.
- As the thatch on my roof has thinned and blown away, I have become much more conscious of the need to wear hats against the harmful rays of the sun. Sadly, I look like a complete dork in hats.
- Still, I'd rather look like a dork than get skin cancer.
- I love hand tools... especially ones that don't require power (think hand drills, awls and chisels).
- In fact, ever since seeing the barn raising scene in the movie 'Witness', I've harbored a secret fantasy of taking on a big woodworking project (and for the record... no, the shower scene with Kelly McGillis didn't give rise to any other fantasies)
- I recently made a commitment to build a pergola on our back porch. The lumberyard is delivering the wood this week and I'm terrified of failing.
- My wife and kids all took me out for a low-key birthday dinner at a Jerusalem grilled meat and chips joint ('Steakiat Bibi' in Talpiot). Over dinner the big topic of conversation was what I wanted for my birthday. Nobody picked up on the big goofy smile on my face indicating that I'd already gotten the best possible present.
- My wife rocks because she totally 'got' why I chose a low-key family dinner for my birthday over a fancy romantic outing with her.
- I have been working on my wife since we got married to let me buy a motorcycle. I think I'm making progress since she no longer throws things at me while telling me 'absolutely not'.
- Forget face lifts or liposuction... I would pay nearly any price to get rid of this old man curse called ear hair! [All together now: EEEEEWWWWWWWWW!]
- I first became aware of this affliction when, to my horror, I saw my barber going into my ears with his scissors. IMHO, this is the male equivalent of menopause.
- Speaking of barbers... I wrote a post awhile back about the masculine joys of the barbershop experience. An English Lit. professor contacted me for permission to include that post in an anthology that he is publishing. It is an anthology of stories related to the tonsorial arts as they relate to Jews. This is proof positive that for every possible topic there is a corresponding anthology.
- A blogger I read referred to an enthusiastic but 'unhelpful' participant at a political demonstration as a 'Borat'. I finally saw the movie and suddenly understood the reference completely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that nearly all political demonstrations (and counter-demonstrations) are doomed to failure due to the inevitable participation of well-meaning 'Borats' on one or both sides.
- There are many demonstrations I have wanted desperately to attend but was afraid that some 'Borat' would start shouting stuff through the megaphone that did not accurately represent my feelings or opinions.
- I can count on one finger the number of political demonstrations I have attended since making aliyah (and yes, our local Borat didn't disappoint). Apparently I lack the requisite combination of flexibility and pragmatism necessary to be an effective political activist.
- Without realizing I was doing it, I have picked out several people who don't share my current political views (but whom I respect) to be my 'reality check'. Oh... and with one exception, none of them know that I do this. Simply put, before I write or speak publicly about political topics, I silently ask myself how these people would probably respond. You may say that this shows that I'm not sure of myself... but Israel would be a far better place if more people were a little less sure of themselves.
- Having my parents make aliyah this past year and buy an apartment 20 minutes from where we live has made me believe in miracles. I'm defining a miracle here as having something come to pass that you would have previously bet all your money against it ever happening.
- My children will grow up to be better people because of this particular miracle.
- Just as experts have come to understand that rape is a crime of power and not of passion, so too I think people will one day understand that the struggle over public smoking is all about power and not so much about a smoker's passion for his/her addiction.
- When I was in the navy we used to get paid in cash when we were away from our home port. I used to sign my name above the Secretary of the Treasury's signature on all the $20 bills. In the 20+ years since then, I've come across several of those bills far from the countries where they were originally spent (let me know if you find one!).
- Back in the mid '80s the Israeli economy was in such a shambles that I used to use 50 shekel bills (the old ones) as a sort of business card. I would jot down my name and contact info on them knowing full well that nobody would bother spending these valueless bills. I just found a few of these bill stuffed in an old wallet (frame of reference: watermelon was selling for 1000 shekels a kilo at the time).
- More often than not, I actually have to stop and quickly do the math in my head when someone asks me how old I am. This is odd considering I used to know how old I was down to the fraction of a year.
- I'm finally learning to take risks when ordering food in new/unfamiliar restaurants. The results are surprisingly positive most of the time.
- I am not threatened in the least by new knowledge disproving long-held beliefs. What threatens me are people who point to the shattering of long-held beliefs as proof that there is nothing worth believing in.
- I honestly believe that 'the situation' here will get much worse before it gets any better. But it will get better.
That's the end of this year's post. If you have no interest in previous year's birthday lists, just skip to the end.
* There is an unfortunate (and illogical) linking of Levi Strauss' liberal agenda and gay rights in the comments section of the referenced post from which I wish to distance myself. My issue was with the Levi Strauss stores having dressed mannequins in keffiyas. Period.
2006: Another list for Midsummer's Eve
45 can be a lot of things.
It can be the caliber of a bullet, a malt liquor popular among uptown stoop-dwellers or it can be a 'single' record (or lacking a single, it is the speed at which 33 RPM long-playing records can be made to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks).
But 45 can’t possibly be my age... can it?
I guess it's that time again (at least it will be at midnight tonight, anyway)... time for yet another list of random stuff that may or may not help you understand your host:
- I was born during the Kennedy administration.
- Need a parallel frame of reference? David Ben Gurion was Prime Minster of Israel at the time of my birth.
- I am a consummate 'baby boomer' (for all the good and bad things associated with the term)
- I prefer to keep my life compartmentalized (think George Costanza), and I get very anxious when my various 'worlds collide'.
- My wife is the opposite, and seems genuinely delighted when such collisions occur (especially if she has precipitated one of these collisions).
- I would rather eat 'famunda' cheese (you know, the cheese famunda yer toes) than Brussel sprouts.
- My sympathies are easily manipulated by those nature programs where they show a vicious lioness mercilessly killing a wildebeest only to leave a poor baby wildebeest orphaned... followed by a shot of her cute little lion cubs suckling their mother's milk thanks to the nutrition provided by the wildebeest kill.
- I think most people who don't have a 'dog in any particular fight' are just as easily emotionally manipulated by the news media. It's really all about camera angles and what they showed you last.
- I am proud of the fact that Jews of nearly every stripe (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Re-constructionist, Crypto-, Convert, Kara'ites, Unaffiliated...) feel comfortable pulling up a chair and participating in the discussions here.
- I am equally proud to note that non-Jews of every stripe seem to feel equally at home tossing in their $ .02.
- I love watching ideas being exchanged by liberal and conservative commenters here... especially when they are offered and accepted politely and with minimal judgment.
- It makes me a little sad that we all seem to find it so hard to conduct ourselves this way in real life... especially among friends who could use a little gentle enlightenment.
- I will never again take for granted the ability to fall asleep instantly and sleep soundly through the night.
- Although hard on my aging body, my soul has been enriched beyond measure by my recent opportunities to wander our darkened house in the wee hours of the morning and watch my family sleep.
- Our dog seems to take equal pleasure in joining me on these nocturnal rounds. Who knows... maybe she's been doing this all along and is happy to finally have some company.
- My neighbor's front yard looks and smells like the garden of Eden. Mine looks and smells like the aftermath of Sodom (although this is the year I'm going to finally do something about that!).
- I frequently rail against the knee-jerk hatred I hear in the ridiculously one-dimensional, xenophobic statements secular Israelis make about their religious compatriots.
- I am embarrassed at how often I am silent in the face of equally ridiculous and venomous pronouncements made by religious friends and acquaintances against their secular countrymen/women.
- Every person I know thinks they are far too multi-faceted and complex to be defined by a single term.
- So why do we all feel so comfortable tossing around over-simplistic terminology to describe others... especially those with whom we disagree?
- I've had a beard for all but a few days of the last 26 years and have no earthly idea why.
- I think ponytails on young men are just silly... and on old men; sad.
- There are few things that compare with watching Bugs Bunny cartoons with my kids and hearing them belly laugh at the same stuff that cracked me up as a kid.
- My big kids are starting to notice my flaws and failings. This is both scary and a relief!
- I'm just now coming to the realization that my wife has always know about these flaws and failings of mine... and chose me anyway.
- My parents have seen and experienced the very worst of my flaws and failings, yet miraculously continue to love me unconditionally.
- I am much more conservative today than I was a year ago.
- I am much more liberal today than I was a year ago.
- I have learned enough about the world (and myself) this year to realize that only a very simplistic, narrow-minded person would feel that the previous statements are at odds with one another.
- There is a very Zen-like quality to the typical Israeli's blind faith that everything will eventually turn out OK (Y'hiyeh B'seder) which is at once infuriating and enticing.
- A bunch of my regular trempistim (hitchhikers/passengers) got together and gave me a thank-you gift (a nifty little camping coffee service including a little stove, canisters for coffee, sugar and tea, and a small Ibrik).
- They have no idea that the opportunity I've had to surreptitiously observe them as they talk about the army, school and life, and to learn about Israel through the simple osmosis of their physical proximity, is a far more precious gift than anything they could have bought me.
- I sense that both of our big kids are approaching the top of the roller coaster and are about to go roaring down the other side. I'm holding on tight.
- I act annoyed when our 2-and-a-half year old gets up and demands to snuggle in bed with me before he can go back into his own room. Even he knows it's all an act.
- With the exception of decent Bourbon, I'm completely over all the longings/cravings for American products.
- OK, maybe I also still miss the Sunday NY Times... but that's really it.
- It's strange that when I turned 40 I used the term 'mid-life crisis' sarcastically about myself knowing that it was probably an exaggeration. But at 45 I feel like the term 'mid-life' might actually now be cautiously optimistic.
- I am constantly amazed when I can magically speak effortlessly with Argentinians, Russians, Romanians, Ethiopians and other 'foreigners'. This common denominator called Hebrew makes it possible to miraculously communicate with people with whom most Americans would be reduced to awkward hand-signs and shouting over-enunciated pidgin.
- I want to explore Italy and Greece, not as an American tourist, oohing and aahing over the ancient pedigree of their respective history and culture... but as a member of an even more venerable culture that knew them when... and outlived them both.
- In the almost three years I've been keeping this journal I have permanently banned only three people from commenting. I gave each one of them ample opportunity for a 'do-over'... and in perfect Wyle E. Coyote fashion, each of them opted to run full speed over the same exact cliff.
- I didn't realize it as a kid, but the Road Runner cartoons were all about Darwinian natural selection, and that no matter how many chances they are given, some people are just going to select themselves out of the equation.
- Anyone who watched Road Runner as a kid and laughed at the impossibility of the Coyote's ability to order absolutely anything he wanted, hasn't really stopped to consider what is currently available on-line these days. Internet = Acme.
- I know my journal entries are long-winded and time-consuming to read... and that this has caused many readers to eventually drift away. But one of the things I've discovered from keeping treppenwitz is that while my mind is capable of brevity... my heart is not.
- Given a choice between revising/editing a post and living my life I will always chose the latter. This is my blanket excuse for the long-winded posts, spelling and grammar mistakes and the shameless mis/over-use of ellipses [...], you'll find here at treppenwitz,
- While waiting for my coffee order in a shop on Jerusalem's Emek Refa'im Street last month I overheard the word 'treppenwitz' and noticed two young women with a laptop open to my site discussing something I'd written that morning. It made me feel like a bit of a celebrity. And no, I didn't let on who I was (we celebrities are tricky that way).
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.
2004: 43 years and counting... So far so good (ptu...ptu...ptu!)
As the title of today's post suggests, I have attained yet another plateau in my continuing quest for immortality… so far so good.
In honor of this occasion I have finally decided to do that, oh-so-bloggy thing, and post an introspecive list of random ‘things’ about myself.
However, I wasn’t up to the customary ‘100 things’. That seemed so final. So instead I settled for a workable number... a number that corresponds to the sum of the years I've lived... but which also subtly suggests that I still have 'miles to go before I sleep.'
For those of you who enjoy the Harper’s Index - that venerable list where the reader is free (even encouraged), to draw inferences from the order and proximity of ostensibly unrelated factoids... this is nothing like that.
All of these ‘things’ are offered ‘as is’… ala carte… with no conscious rhyme or reason to the order or proximity. There has been no editing or rearranging (except to fix my horrendous spelling). I started with ‘1’ and stopped writing when I’d finished ‘43’. It took me just under 30 minutes. My brain (and ego) hurt when I was finished.
Those of you who are mental health professionals may now begin your analysis… Please show your work:
1. I was born on June 23rd, also known in parts of Scandinavia and Europe as Midsummer Eve.
2. I have an older sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother… and our parents have been married for almost 50 years.
3. Each of us went through periods where we thought that mom and dad loved one of the other kids more.
4. Each of us was wrong.
5. I’ve always secretly thought of myself as ‘special’... a main character in life's great novel.
6. I'm terrified that I may one day find out I was just a bit character in somebody else's story.
7. One of my most enduring early sensory memories is the smell of bubble gum on baseball cards.
8. I have always loved my first and middle names (David Lindsay)... Thanks Mom & Dad!
8. Things often come too easily for me… as a result I have ‘follow through’ issues.
9. Almost every limitation I have is of my own creation.
10. Ginger or Maryanne? Maryanne. Really!
11. I was always labeled an ‘under-achiever’ by my teachers.
12. If I were in school today, I would be instantly diagnosed with A.D.D.
13. I am an observant Jew (some would call me Orthodox)
14. I hate the term Orthodox… it sounds judgmental.
15. I am very judgmental, but not about any of the things people would expect.
16. I did not grow up in a religiously observant family.
17. I am neither ‘anti-abortion’ nor ‘pro-choice’. Judaism values the life of the mother over that of the fetus… so I am in favor of any law that makes it legally possible to save a pregnant woman’s life.
18. In Judaism, a (would be) murderer’s life is considered to have less value than the life of the person he/she would try to kill… so, I (very reluctantly) carry a gun.
19. I am a terrible speller (due to mild dyslexia)
20. I am nearly innumerate (also due to mild dyslexia).
21. I am not afraid of new things… but I nearly always order the same thing in restaurants.
22. I swallow my gum. Always (this drives my wife insane).
23. I love bourbon and wine in moderation (although not together, of course).
24. I pretend to like single malt scotch.
25. Most of the time when I tease my wife for crying during movies… I’ve been secretly crying too.
26. Most vivid spectator moment: Being close enough to the field at Fenway Park (13 rows behind the Red Sox dugout) to hear the first baseman yell, “There he goes” to the catcher when the base runner tried to steal second.
27. My family moved six times while I was growing up.
28. People think of me as steady and reliable.
29. My greatest fear: Letting people down and being unreliable.
30. I am a member of Mensa.
31. I almost didn’t graduate from high school.
32. Even with my university degree, I sometimes feel like a fraud.
33. I feel secretly ashamed and angry when people ignore my advice or don’t agree with me.
34. I can’t stop myself from picking up other people’s accents.
35. I overuse parenthetical asides (as if you didn’t already know that).
36. I served four years in the U.S. Navy.
37. I have never slept as well as I did aboard my ship at sea.
38. I played trombone professionally in New York City for 17 years.
39. During those 17 years, I created less than 24 hours of what I would consider ‘truly great music’.
40. Given the chance to relive my life with that knowledge, I would gladly spend another 17 years for the sake of those 24 hours.
41. My wife and I both secretly think we were the one who got the better end of the deal.
42. I’m right.
43. My kids think I am a much better father than I really am. No matter how smart and well educated they may become, I hope they never discover the error of this particular assumption.
By the way, about that immortality crack earlier; Just kidding!!! I don't want to give myself an 'Ayin Hara' (evil eye) or anything, but just between us... I feel pretty lucky to be able to look back on 43 years and say without a moment's hesitation, "So far so good, ptu...ptu...ptu!"
Whew!... anyone still here? [~crickets chirping~]
Friday, June 22, 2007
Little old provincial me
A quirky news report caught my eye yesterday... the kind of story one only sees on slow news days (and BTW, thank G-d for slow news days!!!) It was about a glacial lake in a remote section of Chile that simply disappeared. I love this kind of stuff, so it's no wonder I clicked over and started to read this bizarre story.
According to the article, the lake is gone and nobody has a clue where it went. No, seriously. The entire lake simply vanished. Some park rangers wandered by and noticed this huge crater in the ground where the lake had been... with huge chunks of glacial ice that should have been floating in the lake, lying on the bottom.
As soon as I read that part I wanted to find out how big a lake we were talking about, so I started scanning ahead, looking for details, measurements... some sort of hard dimensions to wrap my brain around. I mean, after all... if it was some dinky pond that dries up on a regular basis, why waste my time...
So I get to the part where it says the dry lake bed the rangers discovered was actually a hole 30 meters deep. OK... 30 meters. While I'm not fluent in metric by any stretch of the imagination, I could now picture a pretty big whole in the ground. But what I really needed was a sense of how much area the lake had covered.
And then I found it: Two Hectares.
Huh? [~scratches head~]
Throw me a bone here... give me a measurement in miles, yards, meters, even acres, and I can get a pretty good handle on the dimensions of the missing lake. But I have absolutely no frame of reference for hectares.
Growing up I couldn't tell you what an acre was (I still can't), but I knew that average houses sat on a quarter acre of land... wealthier folks had a half acre... and the really well-off people had estates of 3/4 acres and up. I can even muddle through with the local 'dunam' measures since a dunam is pretty much a quarter acre. See that? A frame of reference makes all the difference.
Just as I can't quantify what 75 degrees F means to me, I know it feels mighty fine. 24 degrees C is a complete mystery for lack of a frame of reference.
So of course I Googled 'Hectare'... and despite a very thorough explanation, I'm still every bit is clueless as I was before reading the definition.
I know, I know... I'm showing the sheltered American side of myself here, but is there anyone out there who has a handle on hectares and can give me a usable frame of reference?
Your Provincial Host, Trep.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Lest anyone think I've switched sides or lost my mind (same difference), the title of this post is actually a bit of graffiti that I pass nearly every morning on my way to work. It is spray-painted in big black letters across a cement bus shelter just outside the Jewish community of Shim'a (in the South Hevron Hills), and for some reason it catches my eye every time I drive past.
Now, if you're anything like me, your first knee-jerk reaction at seeing the words 'Free Palestine!' would not be outrage, frustration or indignation. No if you were raised in the Advertising Age and have any sense of humor at all, you probably mentally added a follow-up line or disclaimer.
The one that first came to me was:
'Free Palestine... with every purchase'
After passing this defaced bus shelter a few more times I started coming up with new follow-up lines:
'Free Palestine... collect the whole set!'
'Free Palestine... with 10 proof of purchase seals.'
'Free Palestine... with every tank of gas.'
'Free Palestine... Limit: One per customer.'
I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface of the potential follow-ups to this ridiculous phrase.
Feel free to share.
Disclaimer: When I say 'ridiculous phrase' in reference to 'Free Palestine', I am not suggesting that finding a way to end Israel's having to rule over a hostile Arab population is not an admirable goal.
However 'Free Palestine' has few (if any) helpful connotations. It might suggest that a sovereign country called Palestine exists and is being held captive. It might suggest that a land called Palestine is being kept from its legal owners. It might suggest that those in possession/control of this thing called Palestine (whatever that might be) are completely and totally in the wrong. I don't care who you are or what you think you know, but none of those things are true.
Some people want to give away some or all of the land captured in the Six Day War as a quick way to rid ourselves of the title 'occupiers'. Others favor a transfer of populations (whether forced or voluntary) to achieve that goal. I don't thank anyone is particularly happy with the status quo and wants things to remain as they are.
So when I see a deliberately pejorative (and yes, ridiculous) phrase such as 'Free Palestine', I have the choice of either ranting or making jokes. I choose to make jokes.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Movies that taste good
Sure, you can tell a lot about people by the books they read... but I find that a person's taste in movies is much more revealing. For instance, I can usually tell from the film references a person drops in casual conversation if the he/she is 'my kinda folks'.
The list you see below started as a result of my lovely wife asking me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday. I never know how to answer that question, but when she suggested I give her a list of movies I'd like to own on DVD... well... you know my problem with brevity.
Anyway, here are the hundred movies I'd like to own (those with a * after them we already have).
Now don't confuse these with the 100 best films ever made... no sireebob... that's a whole 'nother list. No, the movies you see below are the film equivalent of comfort food for me. I know them by heart, and if I stumbled across any of them while channel flipping late at night, I would gladly be a total wreck the next day at work for the simple pleasure of watching for the umteenth time all the way through 'til the final credits start to roll.
And don't worry honey... buy me even two or three of these puppies and I'll be a very happy birthday boy :
[* = We have the film on DVD]
12 Angry Men
2001: A space Odyssey*
A Clockwork Orange
A Fish Called Wanda*
A mighty wind
A Streetcar Named Desire
All that Jazz
Best in Show
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
Dances with wolves
Dead Poet's Society*
Driving Miss Daisy*
East of Eden
Ferris Bueller's Day off*
Fiddler on the Roof*
Fried Green Tomatoes
Gone With The Wind
Harry Potter Movies*
Indiana Jones & the last crusade
It's a mad mad mad mad world*
It's a wonderful Life
Life of Brian
Marx Brother's Anthology*
Monty Python & the Holy Grail
Murder on the Orient Express
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Cousin Vinnie
My Fair Lady*
North by northwest
Oh Brother Where Art Thou*
On the Waterfront
One flew over the cookoo's nest
Planet of the Apes
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Saving Private Ryan*
Scent of a Woman
Singin' in the Rain*
Stand by Me
Star Wars Movies*
That thing you do
The African Queen
The Big Chill
The Big Lebowski
The Dirty Dozen
The Godfather Trilogy
The Good the Bad and the Ugly*
The Grapes of Wrath
The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
The Meaning of Life
The Russians are coming*
The Shawshank Redemption*
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Wizard of Oz*
There's Something about Mary
This is Spinal Tap
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Sir with Love
West Side Story*
When Harry Met Sally
I wouldn't go so far as to call this a meme, but...
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Rewards are collective... so why not punishments?
I have to admit that as I've read the political commentary surrounding Israel's ongoing conflicts with its neighbors (and their unruly 'houseguests'), I am continually puzzled by one of the terms that crops up again and again: 'Collective Punishment'.
It isn't that I didn't understand the basic concept... but rather that I didn't fully understand how collective punishment has seemingly become the only criteria by which a country's war-time behavior is judged... not to mention why it is a standard to which non-national entities (such as Hezbollah, Hamas, et al) are not held at all!
As I've looked into the topic, I have come to the conclusion that the legal prohibition against 'collective punishment' is as outdated as the very international convention (the Fourth Geneva Convention) that defines and prohibits it.
Feel free to skip ahead if you are already conversant on this stuff, but for the rest of us, here is an outline of the legal definitions and prohibitions:
Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are considered a war crime. Article 33 makes two basic statements:
1. "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed"
2. "Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited"
"By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility." [Source]
Looking at these definitions, they seem to be designed to protect populations that are under occupation and at the mercy of the occupying power's military whims. To this end, the questions that remained for me were 'who is a protected person and how far does that protection extend'?
The pertinent passages are:
"1. [Article 2 states that] signatories are bound by the convention both in war, armed conflicts where war has not been declared and in an occupation of another country's territory.
2. [Article 3 states that] even where there is not a conflict of international character the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: noncombatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
What should bother even the most casual observer is that, because these rules were drafted in the wake of WWII to deal with conflicts exclusively between nation-states that bear no resemblance to current 4th generation warfare, they don't begin to address the problem of what to do when confronted by a belligerent, non-sovereign entity whose entire battle strategy is based on violating some or all of the convention's terms?
Think about this: Many of Israel's loudest critics have openly defended attacks ("resistance) against ANY Israeli target (including civilians) because Israelis are assumed to be collectively responsible for the country's policies and actions. I could almost accept this if the same logic were applied to our enemies' civilian populations.
So, given that Hezbollah acted with the full knowledge and tacit approval of the Lebanese population (of which they are a sub-set) why was international criticism directed at our prosecution of the second Lebanon war? Should Israel have reasonably been expected to refrain from shooting back while Hezbollah was merrily waging war from within densely populated civilian population centers who aided and abetted our enemy with their silence and tacit support?
This is exactly what many of Israel's critics around the world contend. They posit that since the Lebanese civilians who were caught in the crossfire hadn't been personally responsible for attacking Israel that they couldn't legally be punished for that offense.
This leaves us to ponder whether the Lebanese population had a collective 'personal responsibility' that would fit the conditions of the Geneva Convention. I contend that such a responsibility does, in fact, exist.
In a schoolyard children are expected to abide by the rules even when one bad actor in their midst refuses to do so. The assumed proximity of a higher authority dictates that a bully who physically abuses his peers or intimidates them into coughing up their lunch money on a daily basis is going to be reported to the teacher or principal. If the kids didn't reasonably believe that they could report the offenses of the bully, they would be justified in acting outside the rules.
Likewise, the contention that Lebanese civilians couldn't be held responsible for the heavily fortified rocket launchers and bunkers in their midst is complete nonsense. They always had the ability (via UNIFIL) to 'tell the teacher' about the local bully's activities.
There has been an international presence in Lebanon throughout the years when Hezbollah was building its infrastructure. At any point during that time, mechanisms could have been put in motion to raise the issue with the U.N. and bring international scrutiny (and presumably action) against Hezbollah. But that didn't happen.... and therein lies the personal collective responsibility of the Lebanese civilian population.
Ironically, it was probably fear of exactly the sort of retribution the Geneva Convention had in mind that compelled these Lebanese civilians to remain silent. But still, Israel stepped up to complain about Hezbollah's growing infrastructure many times... even as these civilians remained silent. That the teachers and principal decided to take a few days vacation without telling the students is not Israel's fault.
It is assumed that countries with healthy governments and safe societies have done something to earn the resulting collective reward. For example, Switzerland enjoys a reputation for cleanliness because its citizens are obsessed with the issue on an individual basis and won't abide a flagrant litterer in their midst. Germany also has a national reputation for orderliness / rules which allows events such as the purchase of train tickets to be organized on the 'honor system', with the individual shame of being caught by a 'spot check' being more than enough of a deterrent to force near total compliance.
To belabor the point just a tad further, I have seen countless unattended road-side stands in northern New England where jars of honey, baskets of berries and bushels of corn are set out with nothing more than a sign stating the price and an old cigar box for patrons to leave payment and make their own change. In other cultures such a system would result in both the produce and money box being immediately stolen. But because the local New England populations can assume that most will emulate their ethics, they are rewarded with a system that continues to function successfully.
The central pillar of this rambling post is that if a society is collectively rewarded for their behavior (and one can assume they continue behaving a certain way to continually reap that reward), then why isn't it safe to also assume that a society that is collectively punished for bad behavior will change their behavior and seek the path of reward?
Or, as I often point out, I could be completely full of sh*t.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Why do they think this would comfort me?
Yesterday afternoon a barrage of four ketyusha rockets was fired from Lebanon towards Israel. Depending on the news service to which you subscribe, anywhere between two and four rockets actually reached Israel, with at least two landing inside the Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona.
As the news reports started to relate the facts of the attack, two things became immediately evident: First and foremost was the palpable relief that no casualties (other than someone's car) had resulted. However, our leaders and the media seemed to go well beyond legitimate relief, and in fact seemed to be rushing to explain why this attack was 'no big deal' since it was not Hezbollah doing the shooting.
Excuse me if I take little comfort from this irrelevant fact. You see, rockets packed with high explosive and ball bearings falling on our cities are a cause for alarm. Full Stop.
It doesn't matter that it was 'just' a militant Palestinian group rather than Hezbollah that fired the rockets.
For one thing, I don't care how you slice and dice these scumbags (including down to the DNA level), they are all part of the same set of terrorists despite the fact that their agendas don't always perfectly align.
For another thing, if you or someone you love is killed by one of these rockets, does it really matter who fired it... or why? So long as the intent was belligerent and the result deadly, it was an attack!
And lastly, when did Israel become this egg-suck dog* that rolls over and shows its belly at the first sign of a threat??? Can anyone name a civilized country in the world that wouldn't be convening the UN Security Council right now if rockets had been deliberately fired over their border yesterday?
I honestly don't know why Israel is still abiding by the shameful UN resolution that ended last summer's war. Seriously, we seem to be the only party being held to the terms of the cease fire anyway, so what's the point?
Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, here are the main terms of UN Resolution # 1701:
- Israel to withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon in parallel with Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers deploying throughout the South - OK, we did our bit.
- The need to address urgently the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers - Let's see now... nope, nothing done on this front.
- Full cessation of hostilities - Hmmm, last time I checked placing bombs over the border and firing rockets are both considered hostile acts.
- Hezbollah to be disarmed - Ouch, now that's embarrassing. Someone forgot to disarm Hezbollah!
- Full control of Lebanon by the government of Lebanon - Pshyeah, what government?! This was Israel's real undoing since it was no secret last year that Lebanon was essentially a big ship with neither a captain nor a rudder.
- No paramilitary forces, including (and implying) Hezbollah, will be south of the Litani River - Tsk, tsk, the UN can't even pretend that the resolution was only talking about Hezbollah this time. There should have been no non-governmental armed groups in southern Lebanon, including the "Palestinian" group that fired these latest rockets.
So remind me again why we haven't given the 'Peace Keeping' forces 72 hours to evacuate all civilians from south of the Litani and then started dropping Fuel-Air Explosives to create a scorched earth buffer zone between our civilian population and a clear and present (not to mention growing) threat?
I mean seriously... based on Israel's open acquiescence to these ongoing attacks, can anyone really blame our enemies for pressing their advantage?
* While I can't find a source, my understanding of the descriptive phrase 'egg-suck dog' has been as follows: A dog on a farm that steals eggs from the hen house and sucks out the insides: a) is assumed to be bad; and b) acts guilty when confronted. Both of these descriptions of our current leadership are, IMHO, apt.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
A long-overdue follow-up
Sorry to leave you on the edge of your seats with the post about Ariella's amazing discovery last week. There is still a lot of information to be gathered, but here's what we know right now:
1. Dr. Nachum Bogner is very much alive (and should be well until 120, tfu, tfu tfu!). He is a well-respected military historian and has penned at least one book that a helpful treppenwitz reader was nice enough to bring to my attention. When Ariella called Dr. Bogner on the phone he was absolutely delighted to hear from her and they had a nice conversation about his family and what he knew about other 'Bogners' in Israel (some related to him and some not).
2. It isn't clear yet if we are related to Dr. Bogner or not. This is because he has no idea what became of his extended family in Poland... who they were... who managed to escape... where they ended up during/after the war, etc. Having left Europe as a small boy with only what he was wearing on his back, he doesn't know if perhaps a cousin or uncle went to the US and became the patriarch of what would become my family.
3. Dr. Bogner lives about 20 minutes from us and I hope that we will be able to go visit him once we have done a little more research about our side of the family. Then, we will hopefully be in a better position to compare notes with him about his branch of the family tree here in Israel.
4. I imagine that this sort of thing happens all the time here in Israel. However, my fear is that as this last generation of survivors disappears from our midst, that the holocaust will cease to be real for our children... and for the children of the world. The volumes of testimony that have been collected and catalogued can only go so far... and certainly can't compare to the sound of a friendly, helpful voice of a possible relative on the other end of the phone.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I have no words
The other side of a morning ritual
Nearly every morning during my drive to work my cell phone rings. My regulars look at their watches and if it's around 7:45, they know who will be on the other end of the call.
Yonah: Hi Abba... I'm waiting for my bus!
Me: Really? That's great. Are you happy to be going to school?
Yonah (with a little prompting from Zahava): Yeah, I'm going to school now.
Me: You're such a lucky boy. Have a good day. I love you!
Yonah: I love you too, Abba. Bye.
We rarely deviate from this script and neither of us really minds. Despite my nagging worry that he doesn't seem quite as enthusiastic about going to school as I'd hoped, this has become a well-loved ritual for both of us and I appreciate that Zahava is nice enough to arrange the call each morning.
I have to go into Tel Aviv today to run some errands so I got to sleep in a bit. While the kids were getting ready for school Zahava asked me if I wanted to walk Yonah to the bus stop and wait with him until his bus comes... and I jumped at the chance to see the ritual from the other side.
Apparently Yonah is a big celebrity at the bus stop. All the men walking home from morning prayers greet him by name and shake his hand as they pass... and the bus drivers of the 'big kid's buses' all wave to him as they drive past.
After a few minutes of watching my little man (all three=and-a-half years of him) hold court at the bus stop, I decided to interrupt Zahava's morning Pilates and dialed our home number on my cell phone. Without missing a beat Yonah dutifully informed her that he was at the bus stop and that he loved her very much. Seeing the big grin on his face as he spoke into the phone was a special treat for me and will add an extra dimension to our future morning calls.
When his bus arrived a few minutes later, his bus driver opened the door and gave Yonah a big hello. The Bat Shirut (an 18 year old girl doing her national service) came down the steps and beckoned to Yonah, and without looking back, he climbed the steep stairs into the bus and immediately began greeting his friends seated near the front.
I tried to catch his eye for one last wave good-bye but he was gone.
I have to say that as much as I enjoyed the extra time with him this morning and seeing him so happy and confident in his element... the whole business of the school bus swallowing up my little boy was a little, well, jarring.
He could have at least looked back and waved.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
A confluence of interests
As any long-time treppenwitz reader can attest, I am not in the habit of pandering to any of the advertisers who appear over there on the right hand margin of my page.
Don't get me wrong... while I'm fairly selective about the ads I accept, and certainly enjoy the revenue they generate... I usually draw the line at pointing at them and making a fuss. I figure you guys can read... otherwise you wouldn't be here... so if an ad catches your attention, you'll probably click on it.
However, occasionally the interests of an advertiser coincide with my own (and no, I'm not talking about my interest in making $), and I feel like I should step up and say a little something extra.
Such is the case with one of the ads currently in rotation over there on the top right. It is an ad for 'Bayit B'Yisrael' (home in Israel). It seems they are going to be running housing fairs next week in Brooklyn, New Jersey and the Five Towns in order to provide people with valuable information about building or buying a home in Israel.
For a few, this might mean acquiring an investment property as a way of strengthening a portfolio (and Israel at the same time). But for most, this kind of housing fair will be more about looking into buying either a vacation/retirement home in Israel or laying the groundwork for making aliyah at some future date.
I know from experience that getting people to want to move to Israel is not really a problem. I personally know plenty of people who would get on the next plane if it were only about wanting to be here. But some of the biggest obstacles to moving to Israel are financial, and most people simply don't have the tools to figure out if these obstacles are surmountable or not.
Let's face it... while most would agree that the 'intangibles' such as quality of life and education are certainly on the 'plus' side of the 'should I move my family to Israel?' equation... the 'tangibles' such as how the heck can I afford a house and car on an Israeli salary?!, are more than a little daunting to the average person.
One of the reasons one might want to attend this Bayit B'Yisrael fair is to remove some of the unknowns about buying a home in Israel. Just as an example, it makes a lot of sense to deal with things like the down-payment and initial mortgage payments on a home before you make aliyah (i.e. while still earning an American or European salary!).
Anyway, in addition to having experts on hand who can talk to you about Israeli construction and real estate norms (such as they are)... there will also be bankers and financial experts there who can help de-mystify the whole process.
Full disclosure: Unlike many of my wide-eyed oleh friends, I don't feel that aliyah is for everyone.
[short pause while all my Zionist friends throw things at me]
Moving to a new culture... adapting to a new language... tossing your kids into a new school environment... are but a few of the obstacles that might keep someone from seriously contemplating aliyah. But in fairness, they might also keep someone from moving to San Francisco! :-)
[short pause while all my Bay Area friends throw things at me]
But seriously, aside from the cultural stuff, there are also financial considerations. While making aliyah may allow a family to leave behind crushing day-school tuition bills and health insurance payments... it is psychologically very difficult to contemplate having your earning capacity reduced to a quarter, or even a fifth, of its current level.
And while we're being brutily honest with one another, I have seen more than a few families move to Israel in hopes that this wonderful place will provide a magical cure for all their problems, and that is a very dangerous assumption. In fact, the opposite is usually the case. Rather than magically making shaky marriages more solid and turning marginal students into Rhodes Scholars... the inevitable pressures of integrating into a totally new life in Israel usually puts marital, familial and educational problems under a microscope. I'm just saying...
[is anyone getting a sense yet why I don't sell cars?!]
Anyhoo... getting back to my original point, while aliyah probably isn't for everyone, it is often kept out of reach of people who genuinely belong here for no other reason than that they simply don't have the tools to make an informed decision/commitment. And that, IMHO is the real value of this kind of housing fair.
So if you or someone you know has ever considered having a second home in Israel or laying the groundwork for some future plans to move here... you really shouldn't miss out on this important event.
You can click on the ad over there on the right, or simply follow this link.
Oh, and for those of you who live outside the metro-NY area, you should definitely be in touch with this organization to find out about getting them to plan a similar event in your area.
And as Forrest Gump would say, that's all I have to say about that.
Cue the theme music from 'The Twilight Zone'
An 'only in Israel' story:
Yesterday our oldest - Ariella - took a class field trip to a kibbutz up north that had been founded by Holocaust survivors. One of the key components of the visit was a tour of a museum there on the kibbutz grounds dedicated to telling the stories of many of the child-survivors who were saved and brought to Israel.
I don't know at what age Israeli schoolchildren start making organized visits to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem), but my sense is that for younger kids they start with more 'manageable' holocaust-related visits to places like this kibbutz so as not to overwhelm them with the unimaginable enormity of the Nazi's genocide.
As they entered the museum, their teachers told them that they should pay special attention to the pictures and biographies of the children that were displayed on the walls and pick one on which to write a short report for the class. The object of this exercise was obviously to personalize/internalize a few of the stories for the students rather than allowing them to stand back and view these anonymous faces as some unfathomable 'whole'.
Anyway, kids being kids, most of the students gravitated to pictures of child-survivors that they found cute /attractive or with whom they shared particular physical attributes (e.g. hair/eye color, complexion, etc.). However Ariella was a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of these picture galleries and wandered from one group of friends to another, listening to her classmates discuss the child-survivors about whom they had chosen to write.
Suddenly, a picture from across the room caught Ariella's attention. It was a picture of a little boy and nobody was standing near his picture. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the picture or the little boy in it... but without knowing why, Ariella found herself inexplicably drawn to the picture and without even knowing it was happening, she started walking directly across the room to stand in front of it.
When she got there she was stunned by what she found. The little six-year-old boy in the picture was named Nachum Bogner. That in itself would have been enough to generate a chill, but in addition to being from Poland (where our tiny branch of the Bogner family hails from), his birthday was January 4th... the same as Ariella's!
It seems this little boy and his mother had jumped from one of the Nazi trains transporting Jews to Auschwitz and had managed to reunite with their father/husband. However, during the ensuing months spent hiding in a forest, first the mother and then the father were captured and killed by the Nazis as they were out foraging for food and firewood. The little boy survived in hiding and ended up being sent to Israel with other orphans.
According to the information posted under his picture at the museum, the boy had grown up in Israel and had made his home on a kibbutz 20 minutes from where we live. I know all this because of the breathless phone call I received from Ari minutes after her amazing discovery.
Yesterday evening we did a little research to see if Norman Bogner was still alive... and if so, how we might get in contact with him. There was, indeed, a phone listing for 'Bogner' on the kibbutz mentioned in the Museum information sheet... but it was a woman's name. I gently explained to Ariella that it was 2007, and it is very likely that the man is no longer alive. The woman listed in the phone directory is probably either his wife... or perhaps his daughter (or even granddaughter!).
It was too late in the evening to call the number we'd gotten from the operator... so this afternoon Ariella is going to make the call. I'll let you know what we find out.
Pretty cool, no?
Monday, June 11, 2007
The Best Tagline Ever!
Quite a few people I know have added taglines to their emails (below their signature) and to the banners of their blogs. Sometimes these taglines are inspirational passages or a bit of well-chosen poetry. More often than not they are something humorous. Truth be told... those are usually the ones I usually remember.
Don't get me wrong... I need inspiration from time to time, and I enjoy a nice bit of poetry as much as the next guy. But who doesn't love a really funny turn of phrase?
My blog tagline is simply a definition of the blog name. Not too funny. My email tagline, "Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961", seems to have been well received (I get frequent comments about it) but it isn't what I would call 'genius'.
No, genius is the following tagline I saw on a message board the other day:
"Stupid should hurt"
Now that's a tagline!
Another one I saw on a message board that had me giggling:
"Mohamed; The L. Ron Hubbard of the Seventh Century"
Still others I've seen and admired:
"Famous among dozens"
"Half zine. Half blog. Half not good with Fractions."
Defective Yeti (just a sampling):
"Liking The Cut Of Your Jib"
"The Buckhorn beer of weblogs"
"Will Thicken Upon Standing"
"Don't make me pull this Internet over!"
"Putting The "i" Into "Teaim""
"Haphazardly Spellchecked Since 2002"
"Funny Strange Meets Funny Ha-Ha"
"Sturgeon's Law Strictly Enforced"
Dooce (just a sampling):
"A Steaming Prozac Burp"
"The Cutting Edge of Mediocrity"
"Valedictorian of Bottom Feeders"
"Peddling a Trademarked Brand of Crazy"
"Neither Representing Nor Keeping It Real"
"Celebrating Five Years of Public Stupidity"
"Not Your Average Clenched-Cheek Sprint to the Bathroom"
"More Shabby Than Chic"
"because not just anybody can summarize the news."
"Dressed up all year round"
Seen any taglines worth sharing lately (please give credit if you share truly original stuff)?
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Public Service Announcements and Self-Promotion
Three topics to share with you this morning; some PSAs along with a little shameless self-promotion (for a good cause):
1. Over the past couple of days I've noticed a young woman at the bus stops in my town handing out informational brochures for the Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS) which reminded me that maybe it's time to mention it again here.
Organ donation is a touchy subject for most people as it is, understandably, a tad unsettling to consider someone else making use of body parts that we are, well, sort of attached to. However, because of a lack of information (and often a surplus of incorrect information) many people in the Jewish community are particularly unwilling to even consider becoming an organ donor.
While I've written about this organization in the past, I strongly encourage everyone to go to the HODS site and review the facts. Many leading community Rabbis and halachic authorities are strongly in favor of organ donation within the framework/guidelines created by this excellent organization. Find out the facts... send a donation if you can (money!... please don't mail in organs)... and most importantly, get registered in their database to become an organ donor. You'll even get a spiffy little card like this to carry around:
2. OK, next topic... it's almost summer again, and once again Magen David Adom in Israel (Red Star of David) is dangerously low on all types of blood. Every major Israeli city has designated places to make a quick and easy donation (i.e.hospitals and blood banks), as well as mobile blood collection vans that are typically parked near bus stations and busy pedestrian areas.
Israeli citizens who donate blood receive 'blood insurance' for their immediate family for an entire year, and tourists get... well, they get the satisfaction of having done an important good deed. So if you haven't donated blood here in the past 6 months or more, go do it!!!
3. I posted a great poster a couple of weeks ago that poked fun at the world's disproportionate scrutiny of the goings-on in Israel while they tend to ignore more emergent situations such as the genocide going on in Sudan (Darfur). As much as putting that poster on my site made me feel like I'd done my part, I had the nagging sense that I could (and should) be doing more.
Lo and behold, almost immediately my old friend Yonah called me up to tell me that he and a bunch of other
middle-aged white guys musicians were putting together a blues/soul/Motown/R&B band to play in an upcoming benefit concert for Darfur refugees in Israel... and asked if I wanted to dust off my trombone and join them. I shot back a quick email saying, "Sure... whatever...let me know when it is" and basically forgot about it.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I start getting emails with set lists and rehearsal schedules. Yikes... these guys really meant to do this thing!!! Now where did I leave that trombone?
Long story short... if you're free Monday evening (June 11th) and feel like enjoying the gorgeous weather we've been having, why not come to an outdoor concert in Jerusalem's trendy German Colony to benefit Sudanese refugees? While I can't make any promises about the polished excellence of the act, supporting such an important cause should certainly justify an evening out. Heck, it can't be any worse than giving blood, right?
And besides, if enough bloggers (and blog readers) show up to this thing, maybe the talking and catching up that always ensues at blog-meets will drown out whatever we're doing on stage. :-)
Here are the details (we're the first act; 'Settle Down', so be there by 8:00!:
Click to embiggen.
[Update: Several people have requested to know how they can make a donation since they won't be able to attend the concert, so here's the deal:
Send a check to:
Merkaz HaMagshimim Hadassah
Dor Dor V'Dorshav 7A
German Colony, 93117
(Specify in the check memo "For Sudanese Refugees")
Call 972 2 561 9165 Ext. 200 and tell Dina you want to donate to the Sudanese refugee fund. She will take your credit card # right over the phone. She's an English speaker so don't worry about a language barrier.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
This picture made me cry
I'm sure many of you have seen this in your email in-boxes, but I couldn't resist sharing it here.
If anyone knows who should be credited for this photo, please let me know.
Hat tip to Yonah.
[Update/Credit: The photographs are by David Rubinger but the first is now apparently in the public domain as he gave it to the military and press office for wide distribution. The two pictures appeared as part of an article in the was done as part of an article by Conal Urquhart of The Observer. Here is an article that give more background. Thanks to my old friend David S. for the detective work.]
Death, humiliation, resurrection and... death
Some of you may remember that a wrote a post awhile back about how I received a nifty little device for measuring how many steps I take every day as a gift from a treppenwitz reader who happens to be a Doc.
The simple fact of this tiny pedometer clipped to my waistband encouraged me to do so much more walking during my days than I thought possible... truly amazing! And now that nearly everyone in my family has one, the competitiveness every evening to see who has more steps is, well, a little cut-throat.
Anyway, what I didn't write in that post is the sad story of how I killed my free pedometer with an act of incredible stupidity... how it miraculously came back from the dead... and how I managed to kill it again!
You see, on one of my recent trips abroad I was confined to my hotel for almost a week due to, um, 'local security concerns' (code-speak for an ongoing war). The hotel itself was a five star Hilton Resort, so I wasn't really suffering, mind you, but still... you can only sit by the pool reading, and drinking free umbrella drinks for so long before you need to find something else to do. [cue violins and sympathy]
That something else turned out to be my discovery of the health club.
Whenever I travel on business, I always, always, always bring along gym/swim trunks and sneakers... because, y'know, I'm totally gonna spend all my spare time in the health club.
Needless to say, that never happens.
The funny thing is that the really cruel resorts mock people like me by putting the health club near the pool, so that as I sit drinking my free umbrella drinks and reading by the pool I can look through the windows and see all those type-A's doing step classes and running like hamsters on the treadmills.
But, believe it or not, on this particular trip I actually got bored enough of drinking and reading by the pool that I decided to work out! So, feeling all full of self-righteousness, I got into my never-used gym-wear and almost as an afterthought I clipped my pedometer to my trunks before setting off to the health club to get me some health. All I could think about was how I was going to call Zahava that evening and blow her away with how many steps I racked up on the treadmill. Take that, miss competitive!
After scanning the millions of exercise machines gleaming in the well-lit club, I set my sights on a nice treadmill near the window and hopped aboard. The club manager came over and explained how to use the machine and introduced me to the young woman who would be bringing me mineral water and periodically patting the sweat from my brow with a hand-towel (plush club!).
I don't recall if I've ever used a treadmill before, but this one was like some sort of video game! It had me walking up desert inclines, jogging through forests and trotting through hilly parks. After almost half an hour it had me cooling down near a stream (seriously plush club!).
By the end of my work-out I was feeling more than a little proud of myself and decided to show off my newly-perfect physique... so I took my bottle of mineral water, politely dismissed my brow-patter and headed out to dazzle the slackers by the pool.
Sadly, when I got out to the pool I found that I had the place mostly to myself. The few people milling about were hotel employees who practically fell over themselves trying to be the first to offer me a towel, a lounge chair or a free umbrella drink.
Once I had staked out my lounge chair, I stripped off my shirt... kicked off my sneakers and launched my Greek-god-perfectness into a breathtaking dive that sliced the surface of the clear, blue pool water.
As I did a few casual laps, all I could think of was 'this is probably how colonialism got started'.
As I walked up the steps and out of the water, I stood posing in the dazzling sunshine like Adonis and was met by a lovely young thing who handed me a towel that was roughly the size of a bedspread. As I reached for the towel I was feeling particularly chuffed by her appreciative gaze in the direction of my mid-section. In fact, I felt like I had health and physical-fitness just dripping off me like pool water!
It was at that point that this beautiful young woman gushed, "Oh sir, is that a pedometer you're wearing on your swimsuit? Wherever did you find a waterproof one?"
The sound of my deflation was almost audible.
In an instant I went from one of those chiseled guys you see on Harlequin Romance covers, to the pasty-white, slightly pudgy middle aged daddy that I am in real life. In the blink of an eye I had become George Costanza!
And best of all, I was standing there in front of this beautiful young woman with a waterlogged pedometer clipped to my swim trunks!
I don't remember what I mumbled as I declined the towel and hastily pulled on my tee-shirt and sneakers, but I do recall standing in the elevator with pool water dripping into my Nikes... wondering if I'd killed the free pedometer.
When I got to my room, I took off the pedometer and tried to see if by some miracle it would turn on. It wouldn't. I opened the battery compartment and was rewarded with a small waterfall of pool-water.
Yup, dead as a doornail!
I don't know what I was thinking, but instead of throwing the dead pedometer in the garbage right there and then, I tossed it into my suitcase and decided to see if it would work after drying out. I shamefacedly emailed my physician friend to tell him that I'd killed his gift and told him not to worry... that I'd spring for the next pedometer.
When I got back from my trip, I was unpacking my impressive assortment of bathroom swag (oh c'mon, you all take the shampoos, moisturizers and other free crap from the hotel bathrooms... so don't pretend otherwise), when I noticed the dead pedometer in amongst the shower caps and sewing kits. I was about to toss it into the trash but decided to press the on/off button to see if a miracle had happened in my suitcase. < ~BLINK~ > it turned on! All my previous steps had been wiped out, of course... but it worked!!!
I've continued to use the resurrected free pedometer every day as it was now doubly-effective in getting me to be more active. You see, not only was I intimately aware of how many steps I was taking... but each time I glanced at the little device I was reminded of my poolside humiliation. It turns out that shame is quite an effective motivator! Who knew?
Just as a footnote to the story... my trusty free pedometer finally died a second and more lasting death this week. The plastic clip that holds it to the belt/waistband broke off, rendering the it pretty much useless. I tried putting it in my pocket but it was registering only about a third of my steps.
Anyhoo... You'll be happy to know that I now I have a store-bought pedometer like Zahava and Ariella. And just so we're clear... I've promised never to wear the thing on the off chance that I ever set foot in another hotel health club.