Saturday, September 29, 2007
Pina Chama Update
Update: As of Saturday Night, the donations received here on the site now total
$3,006.50 almost $4000 USD (not counting checks that people have promised to send in). Keep up the good work people... we're about 1/3 of the way there!!!
I am just blown away by the wonderful response to this post about the Pina Chama being robbed. Thank you so much!
We have gotten a small flood of donations via the paypal buttons here on the site... and a promise of many checks to be sent to the address I provided. This is a fantastic start. But we're not there yet... not by a long shot.
If you haven't made a donation, please help. Even a couple of bucks is an incredible gift.
Some of you have written to say you've had problems with the donation button. If that doesn't work, there is also a little orange and gray button down on the right sidebar with the words 'Spoil Soldiers' printed on it. Click that and you should be able to make a donation.
Others have asked what email address should be put in the paypal 'send money to' field. That would be: treppenwitz-at-gmail-dot-com (obviously substitute the correct characters). Paypal should automatically fill this in, but if not... now you know what to do.
Many people have asked about the tax exempt status of the Pina Chama. Unfortunately the Pina Chama does not have the staffing to handle the blizzard of paperwork required annually to maintain this status at present. By rights it should... and in the near future it probably will. But for now, if making a tax exempt/deductible contribution is vitally important to you, please email me privately (treppenwitz-at-gmail-dot-com) and I will direct you to a larger charity that has agreed to process checks (earmarked for the Pina Chama) without taking off any fees.
A few of you zeroed in on my reference to the two men in whose memory the Pina Chama was founded. Allow me to share a bit about them as well as some background information about the place:
The Pina Chama was founded in May of 2001 in memory of Dr. Shmuel Gillis and Tzachi Sasson who were gunned down in separate incidents while driving home to their families. Both men were (reserve) officers in the IDF and were known to take a deep personal interest in the welfare of their soldiers. It seemed fitting that a safe, welcoming haven for soldiers would be an appropriate tribute to their memory.
Approximately 200 soldiers visit the Pina Chama every day for hot/cold drinks, home-baked cakes and cookies, hot soup (in winter) and cold watermelon (in summer). Within the safe confines of the Pina Chama, soldiers can unwind and enjoy music, play board games, read current newspapers and enjoy the warm attention of a staff of volunteer 'aunts and uncles'.
This free service is but a small attempt on the part of the local communities to say 'thank you' for the dangerous but essential work performed by these young soldiers.
Just as a point of reference, above and beyond the staffing and baking which is all done free of charge by volunteers, here are some typical ongoing operating costs:
1 week supply of:
coffee, sugar and juice: $175
paper goods: $75
Additional sponsorship opportunities include:
A weekly sponsorship of the Pina Chama is $450
Holiday care packages for soldiers can be sponsored for $18 each
Sponsorship of the annual BBQ for the soldiers is $1000
Anyone who would like to volunteer as an 'aunt/uncle' at the Pina Chama during an upcoming visit to our area is always welcome to lend a hand. Contact me and I'll hook you up.
Lastly, I have asked that, in addition to the emails I've been trying to send to everyone who has made a donation, that a representative of the Pina Chama write or email each of you to acknowledge your generosity. You have my word (as I have theirs) that your contact information WILL NOT be used for future solicitations or shared with any third party.
So here's your chance... take a few seconds and help set a bad thing right. Send your donations to:
The Pina Chama
8/2 Rechov Haziporen
Or click here:
The honor Roll so far (not including the anonymous donors):
Mark G Jorgensen
Johnny <3 :-)
Raz & Debra Haramati
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
What the heck is a Gadfly?
One of the truly great things we've gained from the Internet is nearly instantaneous access to a wealth of information Seriously, the ability to look up just about any word or phrase we don't fully understand... while we are still reading... is huge!
In the past, when perusing a book or periodical, if we stumbled upon an unfamiliar word we had two choices; try to understand it contextually... or simply gloss over it in hopes that it's meaning isn't crucial to what we're reading.
My daughter is in the habit of reading books with a small notebook at her side. When she is stumped by a word, she writes it down in her notebook and looks it up later in the dictionary. However, most of us aren't that diligent, and probably prefer to guess at a likely definition or pretend it's some obscure foreign expression... unimportant to the outcome of the story.
But since the advent of the Web, there are a host of free tools that allow the reader to look up words without even leaving the document where they are found. Personally, I like to Google unfamiliar words to get a nice selection of definitions.
For example, yesterday morning I was reading an article about the death of a former Palestinian negotiator named Haidar Abdel Shafi from stomach cancer. The article included the following:
"The charismatic, lanky gadfly to the late Yasser Arafat was most known internationally for leading the Palestinian team with Jordan to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 and to peace talks in Washington in the two years following." *
The word that popped out at me almost immediately was 'gadfly'. I'd heard/read the word many times before, but somehow had always had the idea it meant a playboy, socialite or something similar. But this didn't seem to fit the way it had been used in the article... so I decided to look it up.
Wikipedia delivered a nice working definition complete with historical citations:
"Gadfly is a term for people who upset the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or attempt to stimulate innovation by proving an irritant. The term "gadfly" was used by Plato to describe Socrates' relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. It was used earlier by the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 46 of his book. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators... It is important to note that in modern politics, gadfly is a demeaning term that is used to refer to folks who constantly complain about the political system just to hear themselves complain."
Huh?... boy did I have that one wrong! And boy are you guys going to be seeing a lot of that word in future posts! :-)
Chag Sameach to all and thanks again to everyone who has chipped in to help get the Pina Chama back on its feet. the total is now over $3600! Great work!!!
Monday, September 24, 2007
Make sure they're nodding when the music stops
I have to admit I've been addicted to Scott Adam's witty comic strip, 'Dilbert', since I first saw it almost ten years ago. However, until this morning I was unaware that he also kept a blog. One would think that this would be cause for celebration here at chez treppenwitz.
One would be wrong.
I found out about Mr. Adam's blog when a friend sent me a link to an entry Mr. Adams had written about Iranian President Ahmadinejad entitled; "A Feeling I'm Being Had".
The post is such a well written bit of irony / sarcasm, and so disarmingly charming (despite the gratuitous swearing) in its mock rage, that one doesn't immediately 'get' that his deadly serious intent is to criticize Israel and Jews.
Reading the piece through the first time was like being a lone American at a dinner party amidst a bunch of Brits... grinning along with the well-bred banter for ten or fifteen minutes before realizing with dawning horror that the 'colonial' they've been making jokes about all evening is you.
I had started out with the intention of quoting just a few passages of Mr. Adam's blog, but I realized that it would invite the temptation to abandon context... and that would serve neither his meaning nor mine.
So, without further ado, what follows is the 'fisking' of his post (his text appears indented in italics):
"I was happy to hear that NYC didn't allow Iranian President Ahmadinejad to place a wreath at the WTC site. And I was happy that Columbia University is rescinding the offer to let him speak. If you let a guy like that express his views, before long the entire world will want freedom of speech. "
Good start. If Ahmadinejad comes to the US, he is (in the opinion of most reasonable people) entitled to all the freedoms we boast about to the rest of the world. The Red Sox can't reasonably invite the Dodgers to Fenway Park and force the LA pitcher's to take a turn at bat while the Bosox trot out their DH! The house rules must prevail for all!
Freedom of speech is such a basic liberty that it rightly deserves to be the cornerstone of a piece that will test the reader's (many of them anyway) own tolerance for statements they find distasteful (to the extreme). To that end, Adams begins with a perfectly reasonable sentiment that I share completely. What happens afterward... not so much:
"I hate Ahmadinejad for all the same reasons you do. For one thing, he said he wants to "wipe Israel off the map." Scholars tell us the correct
translation is more along the lines of wanting a change in Israel's
government toward something more democratic, with less gerrymandering. What an ass-muncher! "
Here's where Scott starts to grind his ax (and make stuff up). He's got you nodding along with the whole freedom of speech thing and now ever-so-casually foists a complete falsehood on you.
Exactly which 'scholars' provided this translation is left conspicuously unsaid, but so far as I can tell, it is completely unique, having been reported nowhere else that I can find. I double-dog dare Scott Adams to provide one credible Farsi scholar who can support a direct translation of the 'wipe Israel off the map' remark having been simply a call for early Knesset elections and a more transparent Israeli government.
"Ahmadinejad also called the holocaust a "myth." Fuck him! A myth is
something a society uses to frame their understanding of their world, and act accordingly. It's not as if the world created a whole new country
because of holocaust guilt and gives it a free pass no matter what it
does. That's Iranian crazy talk. Ahmadinejad can blow me."
By this point in the piece, an intelligent reader must realize that what follows will be a recital of Scott Adam's beliefs, packaged in such a way that one might not immediately realize that he is no longer talking about Iran or it's leader. He takes a repugnant libel (that the Jews invented the Holocaust) and tries to make it more palatable by indicating what those greedy, undeserving Jews had/have to gain from the continued invocation of the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is beyond the pale... but attributing Israel's very existence and alleged moral 'free pass' to Holocaust guilt is apparently OK.
"Most insulting is the fact that "myth" implies the holocaust didn't happen. Fuck him for saying that! He also says he won't dispute the historical claims of European scientists. That is obviously the opposite of saying the holocaust didn't happen, which I assume is his way of confusing me. God-damned fucker. "
This pivotal paragraph is nothing less than verbal three-card Monty. We're meant to give up trying to follow the ace of spades at this point and allow ourselves to be led from here on in. Masterful work.
"Furthermore, why does an Iranian guy give a speech in his own language
except for using the English word "myth"? Aren't there any Iranian
words for saying a set of historical facts has achieved an unhealthy level
of influence on a specific set of decisions in the present? He's just
being an asshole. "
Notice, the Iranian leader isn't saying this... Scott Adams is. He has completely hijacked the talking points now, but we're supposed to feign conspiratorial ignorance of this fact.
"Ahmadinejad believes his role is to pave the way for the coming of the
Twelfth Imam. That's a primitive apocalyptic belief! I thank Jesus I do
not live in a country led by a man who believes in that sort of bullshit. Imagine how dangerous that would be, especially if that man had the
launch codes for nuclear weapons. "
Adams is talking about Israel here. Nuclear ambiguity aside, Israel is the only country in the region with such weapons that has a national religious identity - Judaism - which is at it's core, Messianic.
"The worst of the worst is that Ahmadinejad's country is helping the Iraqis kill American soldiers. If Iran ever invades Canada, I think we'd agree the best course of action for the United States is to be constructive and let things sort themselves out. Otherwise we'd be just as evil as the Iranians. Those fuckers"
This non-sequitur has me stumped. Clearly I'm not too bright, because I've reread it a few dozen times and can't find a constructive purpose for it's presence... other than to confuse.
"Those Iranians need to learn from the American example. In this country, if the clear majority of the public opposes the continuation of a war, our leaders will tell us we're terrorist-humping idiots and do whatever they damn well please. They might even increase our taxes to do it. That's called leadership."
This is another attempt to get the last few readers on-board his train of thought. By railing against the Bush administration's heavy handed dealings with the opposition and disregard for constitutional checks and balances, he is saying "If you are anti-Bush and against the war... you probably also share my other ideas". Not very subtle.
"If Ahmadinejad thinks he can be our friend by honoring our heroes and
opening a dialog, he underestimates our ability to misinterpret him.
Fucking idiot. I hate him."
Here at the end we've come full circle back to the issue of whether or not to allow Ahmadinejad to go to ground zero (the WTC site). As with his earlier statements about free speech and the right to protest the war without being labeled unpatriotic (or worse), he is essentially saying that if you love the basic principles upon which the US was founded, then you share his other - unrelated- sentiments about Jews and Israel. It's all about making sure the people are nodding when the music stops.
Judging by the positive comments at the end of his blog post, it seems to have worked quite well.
Update: In his follow-up post (insultingly titled "Sorry I confused you", Mr. Adams puts on his tap shoes and says a lot of nothing. In between riffs on "I didn't mean that", and "of course Israel has the right to exist" he un-does pretty much every conciliatory statement with a big fat "but...".
I'm sure I won't be missed among Scott Adam's mega-fan base. But I'm leaving just the same. Bye bye Dilbert.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The Pina Chama was robbed!
I can't put it more delicately than that.
I've written many times about the local Pina Chama (translation: warm corner) where volunteers serve free refreshments to IDF soldiers throughout the year. Many of you have taken the hint without being asked and have donated a few bucks to help supplement the donated goods and services.
Well, over Yom Kippur, the Pina Chama was broken into and everything - I mean EVERYTHING! - was stolen. The freezers, microwaves, slush machine, hot water machine, cold drink dispenser, popcorn machine and stereo (I'm sure I've left a bunch of things out) were all taken.
When some volunteers showed up after the fast in order to serve refreshments to the soldiers, all they found was an empty building. Literally everything had been cleaned out!
You have to know where the Pina Chama is located to understand how this happened.
The Pina Chama was set up at Tzomet HaGush (Gush Etzion Junction) during the height of the 2nd Intifada after two local residents were murdered by terrorists (in separate attacks) on the roads nearby.
The location was selected because it is a centrally located crossroads where literally hundreds of soldiers pass every day on their way to and from various bases, posts and patrol areas. Additionally, there is a large base nearby and an army checkpoint at the intersection itself.
Every day (except religious holidays and shabbat) the Pina Chama has been open and staffed by volunteers from early morning until late in the evening. All of the equipment is donated, and the cakes, cookies and other treats that are served throughout the year are all home-made by a small army of volunteers from the local towns and villages of Gush Etzion.
As usual, on Yom Kippur the Pina Chama was closed, but it was felt that the soldiers standing at the nearby checkpoint would be sufficient to discourage vandalism or theft inside the building over holidays. However, due to a high security alert and warnings of possible attacks over Yom Kippur, the local army commander pulled all his soldiers from the intersection and stationed them closer to the various communities.
Obviously someone took note of this and used the opportunity to bring a truck and cart off pretty much everything that wasn't nailed down.
I rarely do this, but I am openly
asking begging for donations to rebuild this valuable institution.
The men and women of the IDF who directly benefit from the Pina Chama come from every corner of the country and from every possible religious and political background. Pretty much the only things they share in common are a commitment to serving their country, and the fact that they find themselves far from their homes.
In the coming weeks the Pina Chama will be open for business... but will have to manage with ice chests, borrowed/rented equipment and the blind hope that more permanent resources will fall from the sky.
That's where you lot come in.
There is absolutely no donation too small. $1 - $5 would be fantastic. If you can do more... do what you can. But this is a rare cause that crosses all partisan boundaries/considerations and every penny directly benefits the soldiers.
You can send a check to:
The Pina Chama
8/2 Rechov Haziporen
Or, if you want to donate on-line, you can simply click here:
This is such an easy thing to do... please spread the word and give what you can. If all of the regular treppenwitz readers would just give what they normally spend on snacks/coffee in a typical day, we could put the Pina Chama back on its feet overnight! Think about that!!!
I'll be setting up an honor roll for those who donate. Obviously, let me know if you want to give anonymously.
In the mean time, here are some pictures I've taken over the years at the Pina Chama during the annual Yom Ha'atzmaut BBQ:
Why not start off the new year with a good deed? Give what you can.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
[translation: funny how my mind works]
The other evening Zahava and I celebrated 16 years of wedded bliss by sneaking out to Jerusalem to catch the late showing of the latest Harry Potter movie.
Yes, I know... we're hopeless romantics.
Anyway, as it was a school night and all, there were exactly six people in the theater; us, another religious couple and a secular couple.
After the movie we were walking through the darkened mall towards our car and I turned to Zahava... looked deeply into her eyes and swept her off her feet with the following observation:
"Y'know, only in Israel can you go to a movie and have two-thirds of the audience be Dati (religious Jews)."
Sometimes I just can't believe Zahava's good fortune. :-)
Not getting it... or willful ignorance? You tell me.
Considering the unprecedented access that just about everyone on the planet has to information about world events, and the extensive inside intelligence available to heads of state and diplomats, one has to wonder if the following statements indicate that the speakers truly don't understand the situation on the ground here... or if they are simply maintaining a state of willful ignorance in order to shore up their world-view.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:
"It would be illegal for Israel to cut the supply of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip.... Such action would be "contrary to" Israel's "obligation toward the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law". *
This unhelpful statement came in the wake of Israel's declaration yesterday that Gaza is now considered 'an enemy entity', a signal that most took to be a preamble to following through with a long-overdue promise to cut services to the strip.
What baffles me is Ban's willingness to toss around grown-up words like 'illegal' and 'international law' when it comes to Israel's potential actions, yet when discussing the uninterrupted rocket barrage from Gaza onto Israeli civilians (i.e. stuff that is already happening), he simply 'condemns' and 'deplores' these clear cut acts of war without feeling the need to fit them into the framework of International law (and the sanctions that usually accompany such violations).
If the Palestinians are to be infantalized to the point that they are considered juvenile offenders in the eyes of the world (and therefore not fully responsible for their actions), let the UN take custody of these unruly brats and assume full responsibility for their care and feeding. It is untenable that Israel should be expected to continue suppling food, water and electricity to an entity that is openly attacking her.
Former US President Dhimmy, er I mean Jimmy Carter:
"Iran is quite distant from Israel... I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel." **
First of all, I imagine that if 'only one or two' missiles were pointed at Dhimmy Carter's cracker ass down there in Georgia, he might be whistling dixie in a whole 'nother key. But his statement is especially suspect, coming as it does only two days after Iran announced that it has over 600 medium range missiles targeted on Israeli cities. Is it possible that the wind blew the newspaper off Jimmy's front porch that day?
Also, has Jimmy looked at a map lately? The distance from Iran to Israel would be no problem for any of Iran's medium range missiles (of which they have thousands). I know it's been a few decades since Iran took 66 US citizens (and by extension, Dhimmy himself) hostage for 444 days, but you'd think he'd have some recollection of the region's geography.
Again, this knee-jerk tendency to explain away and downplay Islamofascist threats against Israel seems intended to infantalize the Arab/Muslim world... as if to say, 'aw shucks, they didn't really mean it. It's a cultural thing that you have to make allowances for... boys will be boys'. The problem with this is that if/when it turns out that they're wrong... it is only Israel that will have paid the price.
Of course... as usual, I could be completely full of sh*t.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The 'other' eggs
[Warning: Do not read this post over breakfast. You've been warned.]
Yesterday's discussion of the perfect hard-boiled egg led to a comment from my friend Jaime about her discovery of 100 year old eggs (more commonly called Century Eggs) while on a trip to San Francisco's china town.
According to Wikipedia, Century Eggs are a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. The yolk of the egg is concentrically variegated in pale and dark green colors while the egg white is dark brown and transparent, like cola. The yolk is creamy with a strong aroma and an almost cheese-like flavor. The egg white has a gelatinous texture similar to cooked egg white, but has very little taste. *
That comment got me thinking. Had I ever shared my recollections of another egg-based 'treat' I discovered in the Philippines? A quick search of my archives revealed this glaring oversight which I intend to set right, here and now.
While serving in the US Navy, I visited the Philippines many times. In fact, the single most heavily trafficked/linked/tracked/commented-upon/republished/plagiarized post in the history of treppenwitz was based on one of my visits to what we fondly called PI (short for Philippine Islands).
In addition to some of the, ahem, more adult distractions available to the weary sailors on liberty there back in the late 70s/early 80s, the Philippines had many other memorable attractions... not the least of which was a lively street-vendor trade in every imaginable sort of food and drink.
You could get fresh fruit... cold drinks... shaved ice... roasted skewered meat (we called it 'monkey meat' but it could have been just about anything) and a delicacy (to some, I suppose) called Balut.
Wikipedia describes Balut as follows:
"A fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. They are considered delicacies of Asia and especially the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. They are often served with beer."
So you see, whereas the Century Egg is just a rotten egg that has been wrapped in a noxious combination of mud, chemicals & minerals and aged for a few months... Balut is a fertilized egg that has undergone a similar process. So instead of simply suggesting death and decay... Balut allows you crack open the shell and be confronted by death itself!
In all seriousness, Balut may be considered a delicacy in the Philippines, but to the sailors and marines wandering around Olongopo, it was something one ate on a drunken dare. Nothing more... nothing less.
The Wikipedia site clearly alludes to this in the last sentence I quoted above that points out that Balut is "often served with beer". Uh huh... copious amounts of beer.
The truth is, I only came across Balut a few times... usually after we'd been out hoisting a San Miguel beer or
two twelve to someone's birthday or similar celebratory occasion. After we had moved on from beer to Mojo... and from there to stupid bar bets**, someone would invariably say, "Hey... let's see who can eat the most Balut!" The literal translation of this drunken statement (usually expelled along with a liberal quantity of saliva sounding like "heylesseewhokeneetthumostbaloot") is:
"Gee fellows, an amusing idea just occurred to me. Why don't we find a Balut vendor... purchase a few of these plucky little treats... and see who can go the longest between actually consuming one and vomiting."
I have to admit that I played the kosher card shamelessly whenever one of these challenges was leveled.. and as a result, ended up serving as the officiating judge for the event rather than as a participant. And for the record, I never once saw anyone last longer than 45 seconds.
See, you never know where a comment thread will take us. The lesson we learn from this is 'Your host has had a long and colorful life and is not afraid to free-associate at 5:30 AM... so be careful what you write in the comments board'.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
* Source (including photos)
** The best bar bet I ever witnessed was when a shipmate of mine used to walk up to drunken strangers and say, "I'll bet you twenty bucks I have your name tattooed inside my lip". Eight out of ten times the drunk would slap a wrinkled twenty on the bar and look on in disbelief as my shipmate pulled down his lower lip to reveal the clearly tattooed words "YOUR NAME".
Monday, September 17, 2007
The devil is truly in the details
I've riffed in the past on my love of eggs and on our very good fortune to live in a place where we can get farm fresh eggs delivered to our door each week, still warm from the chicken's butt.
Well, for all of the many wonderful things I can do with an egg (poach, scramble, fry, coddle, etc.), no method of preparation is dearer to my heart (not to mention to my commuting habits) than the humble hard-boiled egg. Yet, for all its simple wonderfulness, I have managed to completely botch this culinary task for years.
I have breakfasted, picnicked and commuted with hard-boiled eggs since I can't remember when (with a little paper twist filled with salt, of course), but for some reason I always manage to either over- or under-cook them.
I've tried timing them and adjusting the cooking period... but in the end I either get soft-boiled eggs (a treat in its own right, but not recommended for one-handed eating in the car), or an egg with a yolk roughly the consistency of yellow tempera powder.
Then along came Jesse.
I'm sure I've mentioned on more than one occasion that my brother-in-law is a world renowned lexicographer. Giants of the written word seek him out for his sage advice on usage and slang... and he is a fixture on the TV and radio interview circuit whenever something to do with words becomes hot.
But what I should also point out is that Jesse is a chef. No... scratch that. He is a chef's chef. His dining-room is a cathedral to eating, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with cookbooks and tomes related to the preparation and consumption of food. His kitchen is a shrine of fine copper-bottomed cookware, heavy iron cooking surfaces, finely honed steel cutlery and every herb and spice known to man.
Having eaten many a memorable meal at his table (which, as an aside, was crafted from wood salvaged from an 18th century barn), I can assure you he's not one of those Sunday-afternoon-buy-everthing-in-sight-upstairs-at-Zabar's sorta cooks who is all hat and no cattle. Jesse has the tools AND knows how to use them.
Towards the end of our stay in America this summer, my sister and brother-in-law magnanimously invited us out to stay with them at their summer place on Fire Island for a few days. Much advance preparation was graciously done to accommodate our
crazy religious dietary requirements, and they assembled an admirable kosher menu for each of the meals we'd be sharing with them.
For all that, I'm embarrassed to say that despite the gourmet quality food served at every sitting, the one item that made me nearly weep with happiness was a simple, perfectly boiled egg that Jesse tossed off one morning.
The white was unscarred, soft and supple... bearing no sign that it had ever known a shell. The yolk oh my, I need a moment... they yolk was so perfectly jelled - just past the cusp dividing soft and hard-boiled - that it was like a translucent golden pearl, softly glowing on the half shell in the clear morning light. Each bite was a sonnet... every nibble, a delight to the senses.
After I'd finished my egg and re-composed myself, I mustered as much casualness as I could and asked Jesse how he managed to prepare such a perfect egg.
He looked at me as though I'd asked him how to pour cereal into a bowl.
To his credit, he didn't laugh out loud... he just explained that you need to time it carefully for ten minutes... no more and no less.
Something didn't add up. I'd timed my eggs in the past with dismal results, so I redirected my line of questioning a bit, determined to get to bottom of this mystery:
"Is that 'ten minutes' from when you place the pot of water on the stove or ten minutes from when it starts to boil?"
"Do you put the eggs in the cold water and heat them or add them only after the water is hot?"
"Do you let the eggs sit in the water after removing the pot from the heat or dump them out immediately?"
"Do you rinse them in warm or cold water after they are removed from the water?"
By the time I'd finished my interrogation, I could see Jesse looking for a polite way to extricate himself, but to his credit he managed to keep most of the derision off his face.
When we got back to Israel, Zahava and I reviewed our trip... mentioning the parts we'd enjoyed the most and those we'd be wise not to repeat. Oddly, among the high-points for both of us had been Jesse's perfect hard-boiled eggs that morning on Fire Island.
I made one feeble attempt to explain to Zahava how I understood Jesse's answers to my questions before she stopped me with a shake of her head. She smugly told me that I'd ignored one crucial word in Jesse's explanation: 'Simmer'.
It seems Zahava had also been paying attention while I humbled myself, and had caught this pivotal word that I had, apparently, repeatedly overlooked. She explained that the water should be just below the boiling point (with little bubbles forming) when the eggs were added... and care should be taken to keep the water at this 'simmer' level for the full ten minutes without allowing it to come to a rolling boil.
As if to show me how simple it was, she quickly whipped up a batch of perfectly boiled eggs, every bit as good as those that Jesse had made us. I guess this is why magicians rarely share their secrets. Once you know how it's done, it seems childishly simple.
Of course, If I'd tried to implement what I had gleaned from Jesse's tutorial without the benefit of Zahava's help, I would have boiled the eggs into unhappy oblivion. Good thing my lovely wife was taking notes.
I guess it's true what they say... the devil is in the details.
Speaking of which, I bet these would make wicked good deviled eggs!
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The household pet theory of holiday eating
Aside from their obvious anatomical differences, there is a clear demarcation between the eating habits of cats and dogs:
~ If you lock a typical cat in a room with an unlimited amount of food, it will eat until satisfied and then ignore the food until it is hungry again.
~ If you lock a typical dog in a room with an unlimited amount of food, it will continue eating until it drops dead.
About half way through last week's three day feeding frenzy I realized that I have a shockingly canine relationship with food.
Simply put, no matter how many times I swear that I will not eat a morsel at the next meal... no matter how I promise myself that I will simply take a small sip of wine and a small mouthful of challah... no matter how many disapproving glares I get from my wife... I will continue eating as long as food continues to be offered, or until I lose consciousness, whichever comes first.
If Judaism had such a thing as patron saints, whichever of our sages decreed that we should have a fast day on the day after Rosh Hashanah would be mine. As far as I'm concerned, he earned his place in the world to come for this one small act of kindness.
I seriously think that Hannibal Lecter had more impulse control than I do.
Some indigestive thoughts that passed through my head last night as I lay in bed cradling my distended belly:
"I can't believe I ate the whole thing"
"Now this is a Malox moment"
"Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is"
It's now 5:45 AM and I still feel as though I just got up from the table. Oy!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I'm a little miffed at typepad that this post didn't publish before the holiday.
Oh well... I just wanted to wish all my Jewish readers a happy new year, and the rest of you... well, a good mid-September.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Formulating an appropriate response
In the wee hours of this morning, a kassam rockets streaked out of the dark desert sky... crashing to earth amidst the clustered tents of sleeping soldiers on an IDF training base just north of the Gaza strip.
The shrapnel from the explosion ripped through the tent fabric and into the flesh of the male and female soldiers sleeping there, stunning scores with the force of its explosion. At last count some 69 soldiers were wounded - one critically - and have been evacuated to various hospitals based on the severity of their wounds.
Almost immediately the cell phones of defense and government officials sprang to life as the calls went out to meet in the dark hours before dawn to formulate an appropriate response.
In the inner sanctum - the 'holy of holies' - of the government and defense offices, the most senior communication and public relations personnel huddled over hastily-procured coffee and danishes to hammer out the proper language for the Prime Minister's morning remarks.
One might think that it is easy to craft just the right message... but the perfect balance has to be struck between sending too stern a warning to the 'bad' Palestinians and offering an overly-generous confidence building gesture to the 'good' Palestinians.
In the waiting rooms of hospitals throughout the country, parents of wounded soldiers clustered in small groups, nervously wondering out loud if the government spin doctors would be able to come up with language appropriate to the damage done to the tender flesh of their progeny.
"Certainly this time they'll use the words 'deplore' or 'deeply regret' when they call the news conference" said one distraught mother. "After all", she continued, "my daughter lost an eye and has shrapnel lodged in her neck. That has to be worth a 'deplore', right?"
Another parent sitting nearby shook his head firmly. "I'm not sure they should go quite that far. Sure, my son may not regain use of his arm, and he'll have to eat through a tube for a few months... but Olmert has come so far in his relationship with Abu Abbas. Can he really afford to jeopardize all that by using such rash language?"
"He's right", said another mother sitting in the corner with what seemed like a small army of weeping children gathered around her. "Our soldiers will eventually recover enough to live relatively productive lives, but the peace process is on life support. 'Deplore' would set the peace process back years. I'd be happy if Olmert would simple 'regret the unprovoked attack'.
"Unprovoked?", said the father who had spoken earlier. He was now standing next to a vending machine trying to figure out through tears of frustration how to get it to dispense a candy bar. "How can Olmert use the word 'unprovoked' without assigning blame. If he doesn't assume at least some of the responsibility for the attack it will look like we're only blaming our peace partners. No, I think he simply has to 'regret the attack' and leave it at that."
Similar discussions raged in other hospitals despite the fact that these parents would have no say in their government's official response. I suppose talking about a response is preferable to complete inaction... but still, the hours before the dawn seemed endless for the distraught families.
With the rising of the sun, the Prime Minister emerged from his residence in a crisp dark suit and was whisked to the Knesset in his waiting car. Without even pausing to acknowledge the press gathered outside, he immediately went in to consult with his communications team.
Less than a minute later the low murmur of the press corps was hushed as Prime Minister Olmert emerged to the podium to deliver his prepared remarks. He had taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves - a clearly understood symbol of hard work and aggressive determination - and had furrowed his brow in a studied approximation of fatherly concern.
As he stepped up to the waiting microphone the flash of cameras gave his movement a strobe-like effect, and added extra gravity to the moment.
"Thank you all for coming out so early this morning. It's been a long, difficult night and there is still much work to be done."
The flashes continued to pop from all directions and the press dutifully hung on his every word... politely ignoring the sealed envelope in the Prime Minister's hand that showed every sign of having just been handed to him.
While he paused in his off-the-cuff remarks for dramatic affect, Prime minister Olmert slowly broke the seal on his briefing package and scanned the single printed page contained therein. The silence that stretched out for a full 30 seconds while he read and reread the page was electric as everyone waited to see what would come next.
After clearing his throat and nodding resolutely, the Prime Minister began speaking... the weight of his office's responsibility clearly showing on his lined face.
"Last night the State of Israel was attacked with rockets, resulting in the wounding of almost 70 soldiers. We deplore and deeply regret this unprovoked attack and reserve the right to offer an appropriate response."
A gasp went through the room. "Did he really use 'deplore', 'unprovoked' and 'deeply regret'?" whispered one reporter to his neighbor. "My editor will kill me if I get this wrong. He used the trifecta, right?"
His neighbor - a seasoned journalist from Haaretz who was openly weeping at the shock of this strongly worded governmental response - simply nodded.
In the waiting room of Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, several family members of wounded soldiers clapped their hands and uttered words of relief such as "finally!" and "what took them so long?".
But the elation wasn't universal.
The father who had voiced concern over the fragile peace process simply shook his head, wondering if perhaps he could have done more to encourage his son to ask for an army deferment. After all, wasn't the very existence of so many soldiers an open provocation?
But before he could give voice to his thoughts, the Prime Minister continued from the snowy television perched on its wall bracket in the corner of the waiting room.
"Our response will be measured and just", he continued. "The anticipated release of prisoners in honor of Ramadan may... I repeat, MAY be delayed by as much as a week. We also may consider providing only USED weapons to the PA's elite security forces instead of new M-16s... and half the usual amount of ammunition. Lastly, I am heavily weighing the possibility of rescheduling this afternoon's meeting with the PA Chairman until sometime after the holidays. I don't think the climate is right at present for a fruitful meeting."
Now even the parents who had advocated strong language looked shaken.
"Do you really think he'll follow through with such dire threats?" asked one mother who had been calling for exactly such action since 4 AM. "I mean, there's no turning back from something like that!"
The father who had counseled restraint shook his head disgustedly, looked away and spat, "You wanted a harsh response? Well now you've gotten one".
Monday, September 10, 2007
They're gonna be just fine
The Scene: My parents, having just returned from their summer sojourn in the diaspora, need to take care of some logistical issues with their health fund general practitioner... resulting in the following phone call yesterday evening:
General Practioner: Hi, this is Dr. ________, I understand you left a message for me earlier today?
My Mother: Yes, thanks for calling back. We just got back from the U.S. last week. While we were there, my doctor put me on a new drug called __________ . However, he told me that I need to be monitored closely while I'm taking it. He said that when I landed in Israel I had to make an appointment right away with a very good rheumatologist... can you help me with that?
General Practioner: [~without missing a beat~] Oh darn, I'd wanted to set you up with a really bad rheumatologist.
My Mother: Um, I guess that was a silly thing for me to ask, wasn't it?
I must say, that aside from the obvious fact that my parent's GP seems to have a very nice sense of humor, I was pleased to see that mom & dad are having no trouble navigating the sometimes-frustrating socialized medical system here.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Oy... did it have to be discovered here?
I actually started this post with the intention of thanking all the people who were nice enough to send me links to news articles about the 3000 year old bee hives found near Beit Sha'an, as well as the near constant flow of links I've gotten to sources that discuss the ongoing disappearance of North American honeybees dubbed CCD for colony collapse disorder.
In almost four years of blogging I doubt I've written more than half a dozen posts about my bees... but it must have stuck in people's memories because anytime there is something in the news about bees I get an avalanche of emails pointing to the source.
As I was reading one such article about CCD over the weekend, I saw with growing discomfort that many scientists suspect the cause may be an obscure virus called 'Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV)'.
Oy... this is all we're missing! Israel is already to blame for most of the world's ills (according to Jimmy Carter's latest literary effort, anyway), so if it turns out that we're also the source of a virus that is potentially endangering the humble honeybee, the cornerstones of global agriculture... I can't even imagine the negative fallout.
After reading on a bit, It turns out that the virus got it's name because it was first identified by Israeli researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem... which makes sense. But still... couldn't they have passed up taking credit just this once?
I suppose I shouldn't be too worried about the negative associations. After all, I don't hold anybody from Holland personally responsible for Dutch Elm Disease. But still, 'Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus' sounds so, well... evil!
If we could just get Dhimmy Carter to visit the region and get bitten by a Palestinian Viper, it might help even things out.
Just a thought.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Sleepy boys... little and big
I really owe you some sort of detailed explanation for the video clip I've linked towards the end of this post... but I'm too tired to type.
Truth be told, anyone who has been reading this journal for any length of time has probably caught some subtle allusions to the fact that our youngest son has some sensory issues. That statement really deserves a post (or 3) all its own, but for the purposes of context, the video I've posted here was taken last night at Hadassah's sleep clinic where I took Yonah for a sleeping EEG (Electroencephalogram).
What we don't know about Yonah could fill volumes. We know he is a bright, lovable, delicious little boy... who didn't speak at three, and craved certain sensory input while loathing others. Basically, we don't know exactly what's up with Yonah.
We have heard doctors and clinicians use an alphabet of acronyms... only to back away a few months later and toss out a few more letters. PDD? Aspergers? Autistic? Who the heck knows?
Last year he was in a special gan where he received a dizzying array of therapies and assistance and has made huge leaps towards catching up with his peers. He is back in the gan this year and is truly thriving... but our pediatrician still wants to figure out what is going on with him.
So last night Yonah and I packed an overnight bag and went to a sleep clinic in Jerusalem and had our own little slumber party... under the supervision of a half dozen technicians. I originally brought the camera to document the occasion for Zahava since they only allowed one parent to attend. But it turned out to be useful as a distraction. I mean, think about trying to wire up a kid with sensory issues with a dozen electrodes, a thing under his nose and a blood oxygen meter on his finger... and then getting him to go to sleep.
I think the only reason he let us do this was that he was too busy hamming it up for the camera to notice. I was so proud of how he handled this scary adventure... and well, you can see for yourself (if you are at work you might want to turn down the speakers... or close the door).
As I said earlier, this is really a topic that deserves a post of its own... and I imagine Zahava or I will probably write it one of these days. I think one of the reasons we haven't so far is that we're a little afraid of the comments we might get. Our little boy isn't sick in the conventional sense so wishes of 'I hope he gets better' are not really called for. He isn't retarded... in fact the doctors all agree he is smart as a whip.
Yonah just experiences the world around him a little bit differently than most of us... which offers some challenges as to how he will get along in it.
Tests like the one he had last night will hopefully help the professionals know what is - and isn't - wrong, and give us all the tools to help him grow up to live a normal, happy life. One thing that is for sure, though: He is a bubbly, friendly little boy who charms everyone he meets... and is the apple of his very tired father's eye.
Here's another link to the video in case you missed it above: CLICK HERE
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
A frequency audible only to English speakers and dogs
A while back I was eating lunch at my desk and cruising a cool website for tchotchkes (gadgets and toys).
One of the items I found there, appropriately called 'The Annoyatron', was a complete waste of time and had absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever... except as a potential irritant and practical joke. So naturally I had to have it.
(Update: No Clouseau... it's the electronic-looking thingy. The shiny coin is just shown for scale!)
Simply put, this little wonder can be hidden just about anywhere (e.g. under the desk of they guy who has been stealing your coffee cream and munchies out of the office fridge for the past six months). It emits an incredibly irritating, high-pitched electronic chirp at random intervals of between 3 and 5 minutes.
The high frequency and relatively long interval between chirps make it virtually impossible to locate the Annoyatron... and it is pretty much guaranteed to drive the victim into a twitching, hair-pulling lather within an hour or two.
Or so I thought.
Apparently there is a cultural factor involved that I (and the inventors of this wicked device) hadn't considered.
When I tried it out at home, my wife and kids noticed it after the very first chirp, and immediately started looking around for a malfunctioning smoke detector or other electronic device.
Even our dog, Jordan, began slinking around and glancing into corners each time the thing let off a new chirp... knowing that something was amiss without being able to identify the exact source.
So annoying was this thing that within 10 minutes I had to disable it and fess up or face a full-scale insurrection from my household.
The obvious next step (to me, anyway) was to try it out on my carpool.
I waited until I was in the car of the British Academic with whom I've been carpooling for a few years, to give it a try. After the very first chirp he immediately reached over to start fiddling with the car radio and cell-phone holder to see if something was amiss there.
I smirked silently and continued to stare out my window at the passing scenery.
After the second chirp a few minutes later he asked me if I'd heard something... to which I naturally replied, "like what?".
By the third chirp he was rummaging around the dashboard and rechecking the hands-free unit to see if it was charging his cellphone properly. Finding nothing, he again asked if I'd heard some sort of electronic chirp.
I just looked at him with my best 'are you hearing voices again?' stare and then went back to watching the desert landscape.
By the fourth chirp I could tell he was ready to pull the car over, fetch his tool kit from the trunk and start taking the dashboard apart, so I let him in on the joke. Far from being angry, the first thing he wanted to know was if he could borrow it for his office.
Ah, a kindred spirit!
The next day I asked how the 'experiment' in his office had gone and he offered a surprising answer. Apparently, after hiding it in the work space he shared with several of his colleagues, none of them had given any indication of having heard it.
It was then that a theory started to form in my mind, and I decided to test it out the Israeli attorney who frequently takes a turn driving our carpool. Shortly after we were all settled in his car the next day, I set the little Annoyatron to chirping in my pocket. I watched expectantly as our carpool mate sat quietly at the wheel for nearly 25 minutes without giving any indication of having heard the jarring noise.
When we finally asked him about it (it was starting to grate on our nerves and we knew what it was!), he gave a rather surprising answer. It turns out he'd heard the noise from the start, but since it hadn't seemed to be bothering either of us, he'd simply ignored it.
After that I tried it out on several of my Israeli coworkers with the same result. Nobody took any notice of it... except one guy who was originally from Canada. He started looking around for the source after the very first chirp, and asked if I'd heard it after the second. The Israelis, on the other hand, displayed a complete lack of curiosity about the new sound in their environment.
I'm baffled. Is this perhaps a frequency that only annoys dogs and native English speakers? Inquiring minds want to know.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Baby steps... but it's a start
According to today's Jerusalem Post, the Israeli government is actually considering turning off the water and electricity to Gaza in response to the continued Kassam barrages.
Hellooooo... what took you guys so long?! What country in the history of the world continues propping up an enemy state that is waging open war against it??? What country continues to supply them with power, water, money (yes, Israel provides a significant portion of the PA's operating budget) and even guns/ammunition?!
I advocated turning off the water and electricity to Gaza back in March, but everyone yelled at me and said Israel couldn't do that... it would create a 'humanitarian disaster'.
Look how long it took our government to figure out that if the Gazastanians have to pay to create their own water and power infrastructure instead of getting these essential services from 'the Zionist entity', they will have less money to buy weapons and explosives.
I can't keep helping these guys out like this!
Source: Today's Jerusalem Post
Monday, September 03, 2007
Basic self-defense should not be a partisan issue
Throughout Israel's relatively short tenure among the family of nations, its citizens seem to have lived by the old axiom; 'that which doesn't kill me makes me stronger'. Through wars, terrorist campaigns and Intifadas, Israelis have somehow been able to adapt, persevere and even thrive in the face of unimaginable adversity.
Yet have these trials and tribulations truly made us stronger as a nation? As I scanned the news this morning about the latest kassam strikes inside Israel (Update:
6 7 have hit so far as of 11:30AM), one of which landed in the courtyard of a Sderot daycare center, prompting the evacuation of the babies enrolled there, I have to think that the answer to that question is a resounding 'no'.
It doesn't bother me so much anymore that the uninterrupted barrage of rockets that Israel has endured continues to go mostly unreported in the international media. After all, Israel would do well not to hold its collective breath waiting for the sympathy of the world.
But what has begun to shock me is the way so many in this tiny country take pride in their ability to thicken their skin and shrug off ever-more-horrifying attacks.
I'm not suggesting mass hysteria or endless hand-wringing. But sustained, directed outrage on the part of the citizenry - and more importantly, coherent action on the part of its leaders - is not only appropriate, but IMHO, long overdue.
Instead, as Ehud Olmert famously pointed out in a speech he delivered a few years ago to an American audience, we Israelis are tired. We are tired of fighting... we are tired of defending ourselves... we are tired feeling pain... we are tired of conflict.
If we heard these words from someone lying in a hospital bed, it would be fair to assume that the person had lost his/her will to live. Sadly, this is the very lesson our enemies take each time we broadcast these sentiments in both word and deed.
It is like the subtle signal that cancer cells receive when the body's last immunity finally gives way. Anyone who has ever cared for a loved one in a hospice situation knows what I'm talking about. When the will to fight is lost and the last defenses fall, the end usually comes with startling speed.
Just as I can understand the families of Israel's captive soldiers when they relentlessly lobby for concessions in order to redeem their loved-ones from captivity at any cost, I can also understand the average Israeli's wish to simply stare blindly into the distance after so many years of war. I can understand and forgive these urges because we Israelis have always been able to rely on the government to be strong when the nation is too emotionally invested or too weary to fight.
Without regard to how one felt/feels about the disengagement from Gaza, from that day until this, we have endured uninterrupted infiltration, terror attacks and rocket strikes from this horrible Gazan entity we helped create with our pragmatic generosity.
Yet somehow, outrage over this unending barrage has been allowed to become a partisan issue. Instead of the attacks themselves being the issue, the debate continues to be about whether disengagement is responsible for the attacks.
Whenever I've voiced my anger at the government's feckless response in the face of overt acts of war, I have been answered with such imbecilic logic as "Well, it was far worse when we occupied Gaza"... as if that triumphant statement would somehow shield us from the falling rockets.
What kind of crap is that?!!! What does that have to do with what we should be doing right this very minute???!!!!!!
It's like those idiot rabbis who, instead of responding to the collapse of a wedding hall with calls for national prayer and blood donations for the injured, chose to publicly place the blame for the tragedy on mixed dancing and immodest attire among the celebrants.
Even if it were true (irrelevant), it is so unhelpful as to be offensive in the face of such tragedy.
In the case of those who would invoke disengagement when confronted with current attacks, it doesn't speak to why we aren't responding in the face of what any other civilized nation would consider a clear casus belli.
The Israeli left has somehow turned inaction and pacifism into badges of patriotism... and the Israeli right, in its single-minded devotion to the retention of every square inch of territory, is equally guilty of answering every attack with 'I told you sos' and calls to retain Judea and Samaria.
Both sides refuse to think globally and simply advocate a response... any response. And most unbelievable in these troubling times, there are those on both political extremes who continue to encourage teenagers to dodge service and IDF soldiers to refuse orders... all while simultaneously vilifying those from the other end of the political spectrum who do so!
For its part, the government seems to have decided to not get involved. Being a left-leaning body, the current government has opted to forgo direct response to attacks, and instead has seen fit to issue calls for dismantling of settlements and withdrawal from territory after most attacks... as if this will somehow pacify our attackers.
In fairness, there has been a largely-unreported military response - albeit an ineffectual and rudderless one - which now finds a nearly constant flow of IDF forces in and out of Gaza. Add to this the occasional air-strike on an empty lot where a kassam crew has recently been, and you have the kind of vague, unfocused military campaign that was the hallmark of last summer's disastrous war in Lebanon.
The ministerial portfolios may have been shuffled, but the overriding ineptitude and indifference to the security of the country (rather than their power-base) remain the same.
Tragically, I fear it will require a direct hit/attack on a high-value target such as a school, daycare center or mall during peak occupancy before the nation will finally be outraged enough to put aside partisan bickering and demand that the government take decisive action.
What exactly the correct action should be is certainly worthy of lively debate.
I've made no secret of my wish that Israel would return to a policy of hugely disproportionate retaliation to all acts of aggression. When this policy held sway, Israel enjoyed not only a period of relative security, but actually received quiet assistance from enemy governments who grew tired of being clobbered each time their soil and/or resources were used by terrorists to stage attacks against the 'Zionist entity'. But I'm willing to admit that there are other, perhaps more subtle, responses to continued provocation and acts of war.
However, doing nothing is no longer a viable course of action. And anyone - right or left - who thinks self defense or inaction are defensible partisan platforms should be required to enroll their children in Sderot's schools and daycare centers for a few months.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Back to school
Like so many other Israeli homes, ours was abuzz this morning with the sound of last-minute preparations for the start of the new school year. Well, truth be told, pretty much all the buzz around here was the sound of me getting breakfast ready and putting up coffee. In between tasks I shouted up the stairs to try to get the kids moving.
Miraculously, the big kids required only two wake-up calls today (unlike the four or five that are standard during the school year) before I got an audible response... and our three-and-a-half year old, Yonah, actually came downstairs on his own (thus this truncated post).
As I type this, Yonah is sitting next to me in bed watching the magic letters appear on the computer screen. I asked him if he's ready to go back to school and he answered quite seriously that he was. He then proceeded to rat out Ari and Gili by telling me "they aren't going to school today... they're still in bed".
Hmmm... that can't be good. I'd better go up and have a look.