« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I used to be smart once upon a time.

I had to give a Power-Point presentation the other day in front of a fairly large group of people.  Usually this is no problem as I give presentations all the time... in English, that is.  Most of my presenting is to foreigners, so I really haven't had much practice with professional Hebrew beyond the informal, conversational level.

Unfortunately, this presentation had to be given in Hebrew.

In principle the language thing shouldn't have been a problem since I knew my material cold and had the advantage of a fairly receptive audience.  But still, the prospect of forgetting how to conjugate a crucial word mid-sentence or getting most of the way through a complex thought only to realize that I didn't know the right word/phrase to land it, made my palms sweat just a little as I contemplated the looming lecture.

In the end I felt like things went pretty well.   Not a slam-dunk, mind you... but I got the information across without making a complete idiot out of myself.

I opened with a successful (albeit slightly racy) joke that got lots of laughs... even from a couple of religious members of the audience.  I went through my slides without having to do too much reading over my shoulder... and I even managed to ad-lib some transitional material that occurred to me on the fly.    Sure, there were one or two points during the presentation that I noticed a couple of people whispering to one another, but judging by the appreciative applause at the end it seemed to have gone swimmingly.

After I'd fielded a few follow-up questions I sat down and settled in to decompress while the next speaker pulled up his first slide.  As the next presenter began to hit his stride a colleague came up behind me, bent over my shoulder and whispered a compliment in my ear.  He assured me that the joke had been perfect (I guess he was right since several subsequent speakers made reference to it in their own presentations), and that I needn't have worried about the whole Hebrew thing.

That was nice of him.  He didn't have to do that, but I guess he knew I'd been nervous so he wanted to reassure me.  Really nice.  Now I was starting to really enjoy that nice post-presentation euphoria.

My colleague had already straightened up and seemed ready to slip back to his seat when I sensed him pause behind me... and then he was once again next to my ear.

"Oh yeah, one more thing..."  He began.  "At one point in your talk I think you wanted to say התלבטתי ['heetlabatati' def: I had my doubts]".

My heart sank.  "Oh no... that's not what I said?"

I could actually hear him grinning as he leaned in again and whispered, "You were really close... you said התאבדתי ['heetabadeti' def: I committed suicide]".

I slumped down in my seat and looked around the crowded room while frantically playing the tape back in my mind.  Nobody seemed to be pointing in my direction and laughing... but yeah, I guess that's what I'd said.


I used to be smart once upon a time.

Posted by David Bogner on February 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Totally over-thinking it

A friend sent me the following screen capture of an odd forum thread:


You can click to embiggen or... oh what the heck, here's what it says:

book rental Service?

was just thinking.  my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like $1000 a year just on books alone, most of them she reads once then never looks at again.  is there any like... video rental store but for books?  would make things alot cheaper, plus once one person has read one the next can get enjoyment from it etc.


So after reading this, (and after getting past my initial impression that Selekta has an even shakier command of spelling, grammar and syntax than I do), I was like, what an idiot... it's called a used book store... duh! 

I woke up about 2:00AM with a vague sense that something was out of sorts.  I tossed and turned for a little while and finally decided that if I was up I might as well open my laptop and check my email. 

The screencap picture above was still open, so I read it again.  Suddenly it hit me that I had been totally over-thinking it.

[slaps forehead]

A public library!!!

Slept like a baby after that.

Posted by David Bogner on February 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Every little boy's dream

A few years before we left the US, Zahava and I took Ariella and Gilad (Yonah was still a few years in the future) to Disney World. 

At the time Ariella was 4, the perfect age to experience Disney... but I have clear recollection that at 2 years old it was probably a year too early to have brought Gilad.  Everywhere we went in the park Gilad was confronted by these giant Disney characters... and nearly peed himself in terror every single time.  Every picture we have of the kids in close proximity to one of these jolly, roving characters shows Gilad...

a) ... in tears (i.e. screaming in terror)
b) ... trying to run away (and being restrained by his shirt collar)
c) ... trying to climb back into his mother's womb

Like most parents on their first family trip to Disney, we assumed that Gilad would eventually warm up to the jovial giants and blissfully made reservations for one of those 'theme breakfasts'... you know, the ones where you get to eat a so-so breakfast (cold cereal and hard boiled eggs for us kosher folks) with a bunch of rollicking Disney folk for roughly the price of a mortgage payment.

For the record:  Bad idea.  I think Gilad's screams may have even emotionally scarred the other children present.

Once we'd weathered that particular storm, Zahava and I resigned ourselves to taking the kids on rides and giving the characters a wide berth. 

While this strategy was fine in theory, it was terribly unfair to Ariella who was at the perfect age to accept everything she saw as magically real.  For example, one evening we were seated outside the castle waiting for the fireworks to begin when Ariella pointed excitedly up at the highest window of the castle's tower.  A small light had appeared there, and as a hush fell over the crowd, Tinkerbell 'flew' from the window and descended gracefully... right over our heads. 

The reverent silence was broken by Ariella yelling, "See, I told you she was real!"

This sort of convinced us that despite Gilad's terror of the characters, we'd have to find some way to let Ariella enjoy the Disney experience as much as possible.  The perfect opportunity finally presented itself the next afternoon in the form of a scheduled 'character photo op' with Princess Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White... three of the least threatening members of the Disney pantheon.

We arrived rather late and were among the last to be allowed into the crowded room before they closed and locked the doors.  We weren't in any particular hurry, but it was a tad disheartening to see the long lines leading up to the front of the hall where each of the characters was patiently posing for pictures with the eager children.  But having no choice, we took our place at the end of one of the lines and settled in for a good long wait.

It may be that Gilad was already getting in touch with his inner Israeli ('Line?  What line?'), or simply that the real-life female characters were less threatening than their macro-cephalic Disney cohorts ('the ones with people in their bellies'), but whatever the reason, Gilad suddenly broke away from us and took off towards the front of the room... making a beeline directly for Snow White.  To our horror he actually shoved a kid out of the way in order to stand directly in front of her.

Needless to say, we were mortified and ran up to reclaim our runaway 2 year old before an open revolt erupted among the other parents and kids.  But before we could reach him, Snow white took charge of the situation.  She drew herself up to her full height, placed her hands on her hips, and while fixing Gilad with a stern glare said, "You know, all these other children have been patiently waiting their turn!"

Gilad seemed momentarily taken aback at being gently scolded and stood there in shocked silence.  We were just about to pull the little law-breaker back to his place in line when he looked up into her brown eyes and exclaimed, "But 'no White... I wuv you!"

Immediately Snow White's frosty demeanor thawed and she smiled down at him.  Princess Aurora and Cinderella, having observed the whole exchange, also beamed at our little boy.. and everyone within earshot had a good chuckle.  We wanted to take advantage of the momentary good will to bring Gilad back to the end of the line but Snow White quietly told us simply to stand off to the side and wait for everyone else to finish.

Once all the other families had exited we were left alone with the three beautiful young women playing the Disney Characters.

As if by prearrangement, all three of them gathered around Gilad and began giving him kisses all over his smiling face.  By the time they'd finished he was blushing crimson and was covered from chin to hairline and from ear to ear with lipstick marks.

Lest anyone think that Ariella got short shrift, the characters also spent considerable time fussing over her and making her feel like a princess herself. 

But to this day, when I think about that trip to Disney, my most vivid memory (and probably Gilad's as well) is of Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White quite literally covering Gilad's face in warm kisses... every little boy's dream.


Posted by David Bogner on February 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Monday, February 04, 2008

And so it begins again...

It started as a small change in the tone of conversation in the office. 

I had my head down so I barely noticed the shift from boisterous, animated conversation to more subdued words of concern.  Several people were gathered near someone's desk looking over their shoulder at the computer screen.

A woman walks by and catches a whispered word; "Dimona?"

I take notice that she is now walking briskly back to her desk... dialing her cellphone as she walks... waiting... waiting... "Hello Ima, you're home?  Where's Abba??

A pause... then she allows herself to collapse into her chair with, "Thank G-d"

This is too familiar a routine, even though it hasn't played out in some time.  I turn to face my computer and surf over to one of the Israeli news sites.  Sure enough, the headlines:

At least three dead in Dimona suicide bombing attack
MDA treating casualties on the scene, say many wounded
by attack on Dimona commercial center; attacker assessed
to have crossed from Sinai...

I don't need to read more... I can probably write the rest of the coverage from memory.

More groups of people are gathering by computers... more people rush away suddenly while calls are hurriedly placed.  The relief... the guilt at feeling relief... the quiet tears...

And so it begins again.

Posted by David Bogner on February 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sorry if I annoyed you...

... but I'd be lying if I said it was entirely unintentional.

Clearly there are a lot of you out there who may not know me well enough, and a few who really should know me well enough by now... so let me state a few things for the record:

I am a Jew.

I am a Zionist.

I am religiously observant.

I am a settler... but then, so are those who live in Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva... and Tel Aviv.

I am a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to social welfare and civil rights.

I am unapologetically conservative on homeland security and foreign relations.

I believe there is no such thing as quasi-Zionism.  Either Jews have a right to live here or they don't.    Our right to live in Tel Aviv and Haifa is based on our claim to Jerusalem and Hevron.   If anything, our claim to the latter is much stronger than to the former.

I view an attack on any Israeli as an attack on all Israelis.  Once upon a time this was the cornerstone of our national defense policy.

I believe that there is no such thing as acceptable casualties inflicted by an enemy during peacetime.  If your knee-jerk response to that statement was to point out that we aren't at peace... then why aren't we at war?  And if we aren't at war, why are our 'peace partners' still shooting at us? 

I believe that a government that thinks that any attacks on its civilian population and upon it's national sovereignty can be considered 'acceptable' ... and which continues to talk peace with those who are attacking us... must be replaced.   Negotiating terms with someone who is still attacking you doesn't lead to peace.  It leads to surrender.

I believe that when any or all of the mainstream media in a country admits to engaging in deliberate collusion with the ruling government to push forward a pre-agreed upon agenda (including not reporting - or at least drastically underreporting - attacks on 'some' Israelis), they should be discredited and replaced from the ground up by a legitimate fourth estate whom we can trust to serve as a watchdog... not a lapdog.

I believe that any citizen of a country who sits quietly by while any other citizen is targeted by foreign military forces or by domestic governmental abuse, and rationalizes it because the victims are not part of the 'mainstream consensus', has confused mainstream consensus with oligarchy.

We've all heard the rumors about the silent majority of Arabs who want peace with Israel (or at least aren't actively in favor of annihilating us).  But what good do they do us if they remain silent?  I know it sounds trite, but if they aren't part of the solution they are part of the problem.  The same can be said of our side.  Even if the majority of Tel Avivis (and those who make up the geographic and gravitational center of the country) are personally enraged by the relentless attacks on Israel's periphery (a statistic I'm certainly not ready to concede), they are enabling the attacks to continue with their collective silence.   

Our government doesn't look to Sderot or Kiryat Shmonah or even Jerusalem when making national policy decisions  Like it or not, they look to where the majority of the people live; Gush Dan (Tel Aviv and her environs).  With that power comes added responsibility (and the occasional unfair generalization). 

When Gush Dan takes to the streets in sufficiently large numbers, the government listens.  When you stay in your cafes sipping lattes, they hear your silence too.  Loud and clear.

I'd like to end here, but since some of you took my post personally I suppose I should point out what should have been obvious:

If you were annoyed or offended by my generalization about those who sit drinking lattes on Shenkin while rockets fall on Sderot and bombs blow up near Efrat, you should ask yourselves whether I was really talking about you.

If you've gone to demonstrations against the government's (and media's) willingness to accept casualties along Israel's periphery while it continues to negotiate 'peace' with those inflicting the casualties... if you've written letters to the editor, lobbied any of your Knesset members, posted to your blog, commented on other people's blogs... anything at all to lend your voice to a real consensus against inaction and silence in the face of open attacks against Israeli citizens and Israeli sovereignty... well then, obviously I wasn't talking about you, and you have no reason in the world to be offended.  Well done.

But if you haven't done anything to let the government and media (and the world at large) know how you feel, yet you somehow found the time to put [electronic] pen to [virtual] paper in annoyance, protest or indignation when you saw some idiot in Gush Etzion taking a poke at the apathetic tsfonim drinking lattes on Shenkin... well, maybe it was you I was talking about after all.  Offense intended.

Posted by David Bogner on February 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Friday, February 01, 2008

oh yeah... keep telling me how they want peace

Sorry no post today.  I's been a busy morning for our peace partners over here in my neighborhood. But go ahead and enjoy your lattes over there on Shenkin.  Nothing to see here.

Posted by David Bogner on February 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack