Monday, February 28, 2011
The queen of neat
A few hours before landing at Idlewild airport on Friday, I learned a miraculous lesson from my seat mate on how to correctly eat an airline meal.
I've flown countless thousands of miles to nearly every corner of the globe, and have consumed airline fare of every description... from pretty good to downright inedible. But watching my seat mate, I realized that I somehow never figured out the whole concept of an airline meal.
My first airline meal (actually my first flight) was when I was in high school. I was on an Icelandic airline flight to Europe with a jazz band on the way to play at the Montreux Jazz festival. When the flight attendant showed up with the food trolley I assumed that you had to pay for food, so I asked her how much it cost. A few people around me chuckled at my faux pas as the stewardess assured me it was complimentary. I don't remember much about that meal except that embarrassment is a poor aperitif.
My second airline trip was a couple of years later during the summer before I went into the navy. I had decided to fly to California and hitch up and down the left coast for a few weeks until the date for reporting to basic training rolled around. Due to being a tad cash-poor, I'd decided to take a People's Express flight to LA. Those of you who flew 'People's Distress' back in the day know where this is going.
The flight attendant showed up with the food cart piled high with yummy looking snacks and sandwiches. So, being a seasoned traveler (with two whole flights under my belt), I asked for everything in sight - a few sandwiches, cookies, chips, fruit juice, soda, a couple of bananas - and was completely floored when she asked me for money.
I feverishly rummaged though my pockets to see if a miracle had occurred there since I'd left home. I knew I had travelers checks in my shoe, but my meager savings were carefully earmarked to sustain me over the next few weeks. I couldn't blow it all on a binge before I'd even started my trip.
I'd stepped out of my parent's car at the airport with less than five bucks in crumpled bills and change on my person. In the end I ended up sheepishly handing back everything but a soggy tuna sandwich and a can of coke.
But my problems with airline cuisine didn't end with my becoming a more experienced flyer. No... no matter how many in-flight meals I consumed over the years, I always managed to make a mess of my table, seat and self.
The big problem is the packaging. Even if you're eating a non-kosher meal that isn't wrapped in bulletproof acres of bulletproof plastic and foil, you are still faced with the problem of a postage stamp sized seat table vs enough paper, foil and plastic wrapping to choke a respectable landfill.
I used to try stuffing the litter in the seatback pocket.
Invariably the condensation from the lid of your Spanish omelet or Salzburg steak gets all over the book or magazine you were looking forward to reading during your trip. Or worse, your headphones (which you stuffed into the seatback pocket when the food trolley appeared), end up smeared with the remnants of the yogurt or fruit salad that came away with the cover... an unfortunate fact you don't discover until you go to put them on again.
I've tried folding the litter and putting it under the tray on which the meal was served. No dice. That just guarantees that your tray will be off balance and the moment you place a drink down on one of the little tray sections, the whole thing tips over and soaks you and your neighbor.
Then I watched my most recent seat mate deliver a virtuoso performance of tidy, well-rehearsed consumption.
First was the preparation.
As soon as the smell of omelets drifted out of the nearby galley, she put away her book, took out a little individually wrapped alcohol swab, and wiped down the tray table. I immediately sensed a kindred spirit and decided to watch her work.
Then came the drink service.
She made sure to ask for an unopened can of soda so she could stow it out of the way until after she'd excavated her meal packaging.
When the meal arrived, she took out a little emery board with a sharp tip. Using it, she made short work of the plastic covering of the meal, as well as the individual plastic sleeves of the eating utensils and side dishes.
As she slit and unwrapped each part of the meal, she took the garbage, folded it neatly and stowed it in the plastic bag which had contained her blanket. Once everything was unwrapped, she placed the bag of garbage under her seat and ate her meal as neatly and comfortably as if she were at her own kitchen table.
While the rest of us were still wrestling with breaching the plastic and foil barriers, she was sampling her airline fare with an air of someone who is entirely in control and completely at home.
By the time the coffee and tea service came around, she was finished eating and was actually able to place a cup of tea on an open spot in front of her without fear that it would topple into her lap.
Once she'd finished her tea, she packed everything into the plastic bag where she'd put the rest of her garbage, popped over to deposit it in the trash bag in the galley station, and even grabbed herself a bag of nuts and another drink before settling in to read a paperback.
Meanwhile, the rest of us waited hopefully for the flight attendants to finish their rounds so they could come back and dig us out from under our carefully balanced towers of junk.
I will forever think of this woman as 'the queen of neat'.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The day after
Yonah did just fine. He danced and sang and marched. And at the end of the evening he got his Siddur (prayer book).
When it was all over and the parents came down from the stands (it was held in a large sport facility), he was all smiles. As I hugged him, I whispered in his ear, "Were you nervous?". He said 'no', but then thought about it for a moment and then said, "oh yeah... maybe a little".
And so it is... and so it will probably always be. And that's probably a good thing.
He has a brand new book full of prayers, but my only prayer for him (today) is that his life should be filled with decisions and challenges that require careful thought, a little nervousness... followed by well-earned success.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Fear of Firsts
Our youngest child, Yonah, is in first grade (kitah aleph in the local parlance) and is positively thriving.
First grade is all about learning... but it is also very much about learning how to learn. The teachers spend a lot of time showing the kids how to organize their time... how to organize their notebooks and backpacks... how to interact with their peers.
In short, first grade is all about learning the rules. And Yonah is all about the rules. So long as he knows exactly what is expected of him, he is fine. Better than fine; he is smack dab in the middle of his comfort zone.
But when it comes time to do something for the first time - something new - Yonah becomes overwhelmed with fear and self-doubt.
I'll give you an example:
Yonah and I were at the barbershop waiting to get a hair cut a couple of months ago. From the chairs where we were waiting we could see the pastry shop next door, so Yonah asked if I would buy him a couple of chocolate 'rugalach'. I said sure, and handed him some money.
Yonah looked at me in horror. He'd never gone alone into a store, picked something out and paid for it. By handing him money and telling him to go next door by himself, I was asking him to do, not one, but three new things (four, if he had to ask someone for help!).
I really wanted him to learn how to do this, so I told him I'd walk him to the door and watch from there. If he had any questions he could come back and ask me, or I could even direct him from where I was standing.
Nuh uh... nothin' doing. He Velcro'd himself to my leg and began to cry, pleading softly, "Please abba... please don't make me go in there by myself".
While I was deciding what to do, one of the owners of the pastry shop noticed us and made a 'what's going on?' gesture with his hand. I waved him over to where we were standing and explained that, "Yonah really wants a couple of rugalach but isn't sure how to go about buying them... would you mind showing Yonah how it works?".
The owner immediately understood the problem and kneeled down so he could look Yonah in the eye. He asked, "Do you have money?"
Yonah looked down at his hand to make sure it was still there and then nodded 'yes'.
"Do you know where in the store the rugalach are?"
Yonah glanced over to make sure they hadn't rearranged the place since our last visit, and again nodded 'yes'.
"Great, then all we have to do is show you how to pick them out and how to pay for them. Can I show you that?"
Yonah was transformed. Even though I'd shown him a dozen times how to do each of these things, he couldn't make the leap from being with me and going into the store 'by himself'.
Now that he knew all the parameters of the problem, and had a 'shadow' to walk him through the procedure, he let go of me and walked straight into the store with the owner.
I watched proudly as he picked out his pastry... put them in a bag... carried the bag up to the cash register... handed over his money... and was given back his change. By the time he came back to me at the door he was grinning from ear to ear. He even held out his hand to show that he'd gotten the right change.
Since then, any time we're within a few blocks of this pastry shop, Yonah asks me if he can go buy himself something. Now that he knows the rules, he is perfectly secure and confident in his ability to function within them.
I mention this story because tonight is Yonah's Siddur Party at school. This is a big deal event where all the first graders are given their first prayer book.
Where once it may have been a little ceremony where the kid's name was called and they came up to get their book... it has now blossomed into a real production. There are speeches, recitations, choreography, lines to memorize... in short, a long list of uncharted 'firsts' for Yonah to be terrified about.
I'm not sure what role(s) Yonah will play in the Siddur ceremony this evening. But when I left for work this morning, he sat at the breakfast table with the hunted look of a cornered animal about him. Looking in his eyes, I could see that he wasn't so much concerned if tragedy would befall him... but rather when.
As a parent, I wish I could somehow magically transport him to the moment after he had conquered each of these 'firsts' that terrify him so. But I can't. I can only watch him run the gauntlet each time... and hope that he emerges relatively unscathed on the other side.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Sometimes you hear or read something that causes you to have one of those 'Ahah' moments. When this happens, it is a moment of perfect clarity, like 'The Emperor's New Clothes', 'Eureka', the apple falling on Sir Isaac Newton's head...all rolled into one!
Here are a few excerpts... but short of cutting and pasting the whole thing here, I am really doing his excellent article a sorry disservice:
"... something important about the Palestine issue. In recent years it has moved from the realm of Arab radicalism, where Egyptians and other peoples frequently demanded the creation of a Palestinian state, and has instead become almost the exclusive property of Western middle-class radicals."
"[Pro-Palestinian activism] is not driven by future-oriented demands for economic development in a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank or Gaza. Instead it is driven by a view of Palestinians as the ultimate victims, the hapless and pathetic children of the new world order, who need kindly, wizened Westerners to protect them from Big Bad Israel."
"This is the politics of pity rather than solidarity. Groups of Western middle-class youth have taken Palestinian pity holidays in the West Bank and Gaza. They turn up and marvel at the dignity of this beautiful besieged people, like those wives of old Victorian colonialists who discovered they rather liked the African tribes they had been sent to Christianise."
"One pity-tripper wrote in the New Statesman about her experience living "under siege" in Bethlehem;"I'm beginning to understand what it must be like to be a Palestinian," she said. That is the ultimate aim of these empathy tours, to have an experience that makes real the politics of victimhood that so many of these Western activists subscribe to."
"Palestinian pitiers have no time to think about the inconvenient fact that Hamas is an intolerant political entity that has no time for gay rights or women's equality. Instead, everything gets reduced to a Narnia-style story of wicked witches v happy fauns, because this is ultimately about providing vacuous-feeling Westerners with some much-needed momentum in their lives, not about untangling a messy political reality."
I've really quoted too much as it is,and haven't even scratched the surface of this piece's perfectly crystallized brilliance.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Another memo to Thomas Friedman
In case Tom didn't have the patience to wade through yesterday's post, I'll boil it down for him and hang my point on a news item from today:
The Egyptian student group that took a leading role in the protests that ended up toppling Mubarak... y'know, the cuddly peace-loving protesters Mr. Friedman says we should have been loudly supporting? Well, they've just announced that if their demands are not met, they will return to the streets.
Not incidentally, one of their demands is that Egypt immediately cut off all natural gas shipments to Israel.
Yessereebob, when Thomas Friedman gets it wrong, he doesn't fool around. He does the Full Monty.
Friedman felt that instead of staying safely out of an internal Egyptian matter, Israel should have gone in and started singing 'give peace a chance' with a bunch of people who want nothing more than to set aside the peace treaty between their country and ours.
Alex, one of yesterday's commenters, put it nicely when he said: "Friedmann has an unhealthy obsession with Israel ... In general I find it humorous that journalists feel that they have the right to tell foreign nations how to behave."
Another blogger called 'shrinkwrapped' put up an excellent post about Friedman's Op Ed in which he said, "The Tom Friedmans of the world are much more dangerous than the honest anti-Semites. I prefer an honest Jew hater to Tom Friedman's "more in sadness than anger" animus any day of the week".
I can say it even more succinctly: The man's a decent writer, but a hopeless, misguided asshat who is great at giving advice... so long as there's no chance he'll have to bear the consequences for the outcome.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Damned if we do... and damned if we don't
In an Op-Ed piece yesterday, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times lambasted Israel... both for having been too supportive of now-ex-Egyptian- President Mubarak, and for not being supportive enough of the protesters who ultimately got him to resign.
And today, Iran is just the latest voice in the Muslim world to blame Israel for having supported the protesters and engineering the overthrow of Mubarak.
What Israel actually did was exactly nothing.
PM Netanyahu ordered his government to remain publicly silent on the growing unrest in Egypt because he knew that, not only could we have no affect on the outcome... but we would inevitably be blamed for the outcome no matter what we said or did.
In Friedman's Op Ed, he starts off making sense when he says "Israel was not part of this story at all. This was about Egypt and about the longing of Egyptians for the most basic human rights...". But then he kicks off the rest of his anti-Israel screed with, "The children of Egypt were having their liberation moment and the children of Israel decided to side with Pharaoh".
Friedman contends that despite Israel's public silence, our government was lobbying behind the scenes in the US to try to get Obama to continue supporting Mubarak. I have no idea whether that is true or not. What is clear is that Obama didn't have a coherent policy during the crisis, and the last country he was likely to listen to on foreign policy issues is Israel.
But even Friedman acknowledged why Israel might choose the devil it knows over the one it doesn't"
"... everyone can or should understand Israel’s strategic concerns. They are totally valid. The peace treaty with Egypt has been the cornerstone of Israeli strategy and economic growth for 30 years. Israel has scrupulously abided by the treaty. Of course Israelis are worried about convulsion here. How could they not? But the way they are handling themselves, is not helping them." [emphasis mine]
Again, WTF? Either we have a right to be concerned about regime change by a mob made up of G-d knows who, or we do not. Which is it Tom?
And yet from Turkey to Tehran Israel has been lambasted for egging on and supporting the protesters. We simply can't win.
Personally, I think Everyone should just shut the hell up and leave us alone. Despite friedman's assertion that Israel was supporting Mubarak and "using the opportunity to score propaganda points: “Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy.’"’
I don't know what Thomas Friedman has been smoking, but Israel would love nothing more than to have a few other stable democracies in the region. But we are not in the business of effecting regime change in order to improve the neighborhood. That's not our job... and all of his wishful thinking isn't going to make it so.
We sign treaties with the few leaders who are willing to sit down with us, and where possible, we try to be a good and peaceful neighbor. If we had gotten involved on either side of the events in Cairo we would have gotten seriously burned.
It's like when your best friend comes to you for consolation after his girlfriend walks out on him. You can't make your buddy feel better by badmouthing the girlfriend and call her a low rent, two-timing whore (no matter how much you'd like to), because what happens when / if they make up? And get married? Where are you then?!
The point being, that lacking a crystal ball, Israel isn't going to get involved in any internal politics of a country with which we are at peace. Full stop. What if we had supported the protesters and the protests had fizzled. How does Netanyahu face Mubarak the morning after?
But based on what I'm reading in the press, it doesn't really matter that we Israelis sat on our hands during the crisis. We are still catching the blame from both sides for not doing enough.
Memo to everyone who is ignoring the events unfolding around region and (as usual)focusing only on us: Kindly Bite Me!
Monday, February 14, 2011
The silliest things pull my heart strings
A line from 'the film, The Shawshank Redemption' comes to mind:
"Get busy living... or get busy dying"
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Mitzvot for Mickey
I don't normally pass this sort of thing along, but something about the letter below from an old friend [slightly edited by me for clarity's sake] touched me in a way I can't fully describe or understand. I'm sure being a parent has a lot to do with it, but still...
"On January 28th, my cousin Michelle's youngest son Mickey never woke up. He was three years old. The day before he passed away, he had a fever and appeared lethargic. But after a check-up, he appeared to be generally ok. He never woke up the following morning, and we don't know the cause of his death. Our only answer being that it occurred min hashamayim (from Heaven).
He was a gorgeous, bright, engaging and hilarious little boy, and despite his short time here, he made an impression on many people.
We were supposed to have gone yesterday to visit [Mickey's family] for a few days, but instead ended up returning to my grandmother's house after spending most of the shiva in Cedarhurst with Michelle [Mickey's mom], her husband Yossi, and their 3 other sons.
Mickey was named in memory of my uncle (his grandfather) Myrone (aka Mickey), and his brit was around his first yarzeit.
Therefore, I would like to start a worthy project, in memory of Mickey.
As Mickey was here for such a short time, he was unable to perform many mitzvot (positive and negative deeds/acts proscribed in the Torah), but he engaged enthusiastically in the ones he was being taught, such as kippah (covering his head), tzizit (wearing ritual fringes), brachot (reciting blessings over food and drink), tzedaka (giving charity), etc.
What I am asking is that you think of a Mitzvah which you are lax in/generally don't do/forget to do/etc., and perform that miztvah, either as a one-time thing, or for as long as you can, in Mickey's zechut (honor/memory), and that you'll have in mind Meir Yechezkel ben Yosef Avraham Mordechai (Mickey's full Hebrew name) when you do it.
When you've decided what mitzvah/mitzvot you want to take on/improve, please go to this website - Mitzvot for Mickey - and add what you've decided to do (don't worry, it's all anonymous) to the end of the list you'll find there.
Mickey's family has access to this website, so they will be able to see all the extra mitzvot that Mickey is able to "do" through you. I know that this will be something that will help them, and give them some chizuk (strength).
Thank you for your participation, and please spread the word!!!
Thank you for this opportunity, Aliza. I've decided to try to pray with a minyan more frequently (and bring my children along) in hopes that it will go to the credit of Meir Yechezkel ben Yosef Avraham Mordechai (Mickey).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
In the south Hebron hills, at almost exactly at the midpoint of my route to work, sits an unremarkable Arab village called Dhahiriya. If you say the name of this village quietly to yourself, you'll notice that, although the spelling is completely different... the name itself sounds extremely similar to a human excretory process commonly associated with consuming tainted food or water.
I don't mention this in order to disparage the good people of this venerable village. I'm sure Dhahiriya has produced great Koranic scholars... virile men... virtuous women... art... mathematics. It is worth mentioning that Dhahiriya also produced some of the more blood-thirsty terrorists during the second Intifada, and is still considered a hotbed of 'the armed resistance'.
But when I drive near this place, none of that occurs to me. Not the art. Not the mathematics. Instead I am usually struck by the smell of raw sewage spewing forth from the village, and running down in a sluggish stream through the wadi (valley) from the South Hevron hills towards Beer Sheva. Why the Palestinian Authority hasn't used some of the ample financial aid they've received from their well-wishers to hook this village (and others like it) to a sewage treatment network is beyond me. But at a certain point I'm sure the ecologic damage will become too vast to ignore... and another Superfund site will be born..
But getting back to my original point... you can now understand why the local aroma might make the homonymous relationship between the village's name and 'the trots' a somewhat logical connection.
Last night I was on my way home from work, and had just rounded a sharp bend near this village at just the point where the odor of the sewage-filled stream wafts lazily across the road... when my cell phone rang.
Now, I should explain that I wear a nifty helmet with built in speakers, a microphone and a Bluetooth unit that links wirelessly to my cell phone. This allows me to automatically answer calls that come in while I'm riding my scooter, and it even has a radio and input for an iPod so I can listen to music or e-books while I ride.
So, when the phone rang inside my helmet at the exact instant the smell hit my nose... my inner ten-year-old couldn't resist cutting off my friend who had called so I could shout, "Hey guess what I'm doing right now? I'm passing Dhahiriya!"
Seriously, am I not the most childish person you know?
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
So far so 'good'
Well, pretty much everything I said would happen in Egypt has come to pass:
Newly minted 'Vice President' Omar Suleiman wasted no time in meeting with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in a clear sign that no matter who wins the struggle for Egypt... the hard core Islamists will be involved.
What I didn't see coming was Israel's opposition leader - Tzipi Livni - looking around at all the instability holding sway around us, and decide that this would be the correct moment to mount an organized effort to destabilize the current Israeli coalition government.
I have no words! This is the most blatant, shameless, un-patriotic, opportunistic, treasonous behavior imaginable under the circumstances, given the overiding need for at least one country in the region to have a modicum of stability right now!
In case you need a little context... when Livni and Olmert's coalition was in power and stability was required, Netenyahu absolutely and unquestioningly silenced the opposition, and allowed himself to be drafted as a de facto Foreign Spokesman for a government of which he wasn't even a member!
That's what statesmen do. What Livni is doing is not worthy of a high school popularity contest.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
a small gesture... a big effect
[a post directed at the two wheelers among us... but with a message that applies to all of us]
I am fortunate to enjoy mostly empty roads and good visibility during my commute, which gives me the freedom to lean way into the oncoming lane on curves... and occasionally hone my steering/handling technique by playing 'slalom' with the broken white line on long straight stretches of silky smooth blacktop.
But there are many twisty sections of my route with blind curves, and it has been my luck that my commute time has placed me on one of the most enjoyable twisty sections at the same time as a huge double trailer hauling ginormous limestone blocks from a nearby quarry to a stone mill somewhere further down the road.
The first couple of times I rounded a curve and had to pull up short behind this behemoth I was seriously annoyed. I ended up stuck behind him for five or ten minutes (an eternity in scooter time!), until I was able to glimpse enough 'daylight' to make a dash to pass him.
Once past him I was able to enjoy the open road again... but the time spent stuck behind him, breathing in diesel fumes and dodging bouncing pebbles, had me seriously considering finding another route... even if it added a few miles to my commute or placed me on a busier road.
I tried leaving a little earlier... and a little later, but somehow I almost always managed to hit the twistiest section of the road at just the same time as this big truck.
Then one day as I was making my dash to pass this over-sized truck, a funny thing happened:
As I pulled alongside him I noticed that a little extra space was opening up between the truck's huge tires and the road's center line. Sure enough, as I passed him and looked in my mirror, my suspicions were confirmed; two of his wheels were on the dirt shoulder. He'd intentionally moved over to give me more room to pass.
Instinctively I waved my left hand in the air to say 'thank you', and surged ahead to enjoy the rest of my ride.
The next time I encountered the truck in the curvy section of the road was a couple of days later. As soon as he spotted me hovering in his mirror, looking for enough daylight to pass, he immediately moved over a couple of feet, giving me enough room to squeeze by without having to risk crossing into the oncoming lane in the blind curve.
Again I offered the little hand waive... and this time it was answered with a short blast on his air horn.
Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking... that there's probably something illegal about two vehicles riding abreast in the same lane; especially on such a windy road. But out in the middle of nowhere I wasn't worried about getting a ticket. I was just pleased that I'd somehow won the willing cooperation of the vehicle which had, to that point, been the bane of my commute.
At least three times a week I encounter this truck... and more often than not I come upon him in the twisty section of the road. So long as there is even a sliver of shoulder he never fails to move over to give me safe passage.
Even more surprising; on more than a few occasions he's held an open hand out his window to hold me back. When this happens, invariably a moment later a car or truck will appear around the bend coming the other way. Somewhere over the course of a few months, this truck driver had gone from being a pain in the @ss, to using his forward position and incredibly high vantage point of his cab to warn me of vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
Yesterday morning a motorcyclist overtook me just as I caught sight of the big truck entering a curve up ahead. As I rounded the next turn I saw the motorcyclist doing what I usually did; hovering right behind the truck and waiting for a chance to pass. Sure enough, as soon as the truck driver spotted him, he lumbered over a little bit onto the shoulder to give some room. And upon seeing the daylight, the motorcyclist shot forward and was almost instantly out of sight.
But I noticed that the motorcyclist didn't acknowledge the courtesy. No wave. No flashed brake lights. No toot on the horn. Nothing.
After I'd passed the truck, and we'd exchanged our now-routine wave and honk, I spent the rest of my commute thinking. Did the motorcyclist do anything wrong? No. Could he have done anything differently? Yes.
We spend a lot of time complaining about the behavior of other drivers on the road... and in most cases our complaints are justified. But I wonder how often we acknowledge courteous / accommodating behavior in traffic. Yeah, I know we're sometimes too busy staying alive to worry about saying 'thank you' to the driver who just 'did us a solid'. Heck, in many cases we might justify our silence by thinking 'why should I thank him for simply acting civilized?'.
But the answer to that rhetorical question is that people like to be thanked. People like to be noticed doing the right thing. Everyone likes a smile or nod when they hold open a door or let someone into the flow of traffic... and people soon tire of being courteous if enough people fail to smile or nod.
I feel like we each bear some responsibility for the way we are perceived on the road. We can't control the reckless kids on crotch rockets or harried delivery boys. They will always give us a bad name... forget about them.
But if the rest of us made a concerted effort to wave a thank you, or even just nod to drivers who take notice of us and give us a little breathing room... they might just keep doing it.
Just my (long-winded) two cents.
Monday, February 07, 2011
The five most commonly used computer passwords are [drumroll please]:
Needless to say, those are the ones hackers try first when attempting to hijack your online life.
And since many people like to use the same password in as many places as possible (there's less to remember that way, right?), once a hacker has climbed aboard your yahoo or gmail account... they can use your password to go shopping on Amazon... access your paypal account... and even try all the major banks to see if you've been just that dumb!
Anyone want to take a moment and go change their password(s)? I thought so... we'll wait.
Okay, now that we're all back from circling our online wagons... just how safe are we?
According to the article, here is how long it takes a hacker's computer to randomly guess your password (based on how long it is and what it is made up of):
So, if you, like 'Seinfeld's' George Castanza, chose 'bosco' as the key to all you hold dear... a reasonably skilled hacker can begin cleaning you out in less than ten minutes.
Hmmm, I see a few of you have gone away again to update your passwords.
It's probably for the best. I'm tired of getting urgent messages from your hijacked email accounts telling me you were pick-pocketed in London and are now stranded in Heathrow in need of money to get home. Or that I should click on a funny link which takes me to some online pharmaceutical hell.
I know I've made a few small adjustments to my online security as a result of this information.
Consider this just another PSA from the management here at treppenwitz (oh, and from Book of Joe, of course).
Don't thank us... we're givers.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
I got pulled over this morning on my way to work
I was less then ten minutes from my office when a cop car that had been driving behind me for a while suddenly tweaked his siren a couple of times and announced over his loudspeaker "Vespa Adooma... Amode Batzad" ('Red Vespa, [pull over and] stand on the shoulder').
I must admit that I was completely stumped as to why I was being pulled over. I'd been alone on the road for most of the last hour, and maaaaay have been pushing the speed limit for some of that time [~ahem~]. But since entering the more heavily travelled outskirts of the largish city where I work, I had been keeping with the flow of traffic and riding like a good boy.
I put the scooter up on the stand and waited for the policeman, who I assumed would be getting out of his car and coming over. Apparently that's not how it's done here. He glared at me from inside his car and motioned impatiently for me to come over.
So I got out my license, registration and insurance info and walked back to where he had pulled over a few yards behind me.
I asked him what the problem was, and he responded "You know why I stopped you. You were driving recklessly." When I didn't respond, and simply stared at him in utter confusion, he took my documents from my hand and added contemptuously, "Wow, you're dangerous... you drive like a crazy person and don't even know it!".
He took my license and other stuff and began typing on the computer in his car.
While he was doing that, and pretty much ignoring me as I stood out in the cold, another cop pulled up... this one on a scooter. He parked and dismounted, and asked the cop inside the car what was going on. The cop inside the car jerked a thumb in my direction and said "This one couldn't ride in a straight line... I'm about to check if he's drunk".
The scooter cop looked me up and down. I was wearing an expensive armored jacket, gloves, clean pressed slacks, nice shoes... and holding a full face helmet.
He responded, "At 7:00 in the morning? I doubt it!". But just the same, he walked over, took off his own helmet, and stood extremely close to me before asking me where I was going. I told him I was on my way to my office, and mentioned the name of the well known defense company I work for... unzipping my jacket and flashing my ID badge by way of proof.
Having sniffed the air near my face while I was talking and taken a close look at my ID tag, he asked the cop inside the car if I had any moving violations in the system. The cop looked at his screen and answered 'no'. The scooter cop then asked when my license had been issued, and after a brief pause the answer from inside the car came back reluctantly; "1983".
With that, the scooter cop seemed to come completely over to my side. "Okay", he began... "if I understand this correctly, you 'caught' a citizen with no violations in almost 30 years of driving. What exactly did he do?".
From his tone of voice, as well as the fact that he seemed to be much older than the guy inside the car, it seemed to me that the scooter cop was the more senior man.
The cop inside the car answered, "He was swerving all over his lane like a drunk person and pumping his brakes... I thought he was going to run into someone or cause an accident". The scooter cop looked at me with a raised eyebrow, and when I nodded 'yes' and started to explain, he raised a gloved hand to cut me off.
He leaned into the car and asked "By any chance was he 'swerving all over his lane like a drunk person and pumping his brakes' right back there before the curve in the road?" The cop inside the car answered in the affirmative. So the scooter cop continued, "And did you notice that just before he started 'swerving all over his lane like a drunk person and pumping his brakes' that he'd gone through a deep pothole filled with water?".
The cop inside the car now seemed to sense a problem, and didn't answer.
"If you'd been driving behind me just now, you would have seen me 'swerving all over my lane like a drunk person and pumping my brakes' . You know why? Because that's how we dry off the sides of our tires and clean the water off our brakes!"
With that the scooter cop held out his hand to the other cop for my paperwork and license... gave them back to me without even looking up, and waved me back towards my scooter with a dismissive gesture.
As I was walking away I could hear the scooter cop now yelling into the open window;
"... bored in your nice warm car? Maybe you should take some lessons and get a motorcycle license before bothering citizens on their way to work!"
I smiled the rest of the way to the office.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
In which Yonah gets to ride in a 'weeyoo'
In Yonah slang, a 'weeyoo' is an ambulance. Don't worry, things are okay... now.
Zahava and I spent a long evening/night/morning escorting Yonah through the Israeli medical system.
A spiked late afternoon fever, purple cheeks and difficulty breathing prompted Zahava to take Yonah to our pediatrician who listened to Yonah's chest, and told us he was 99.99% sure he had full blown pneumonia.
The next step was to take Yonah to 'Terem' for a chest X-ray to confirm the doc's diagnosis.
At 'Terem', a doctor listened and nodded his head... it sounded like pneumonia to him too, but the fever had dropped to almost normal (99F) a couple of hours after giving him some children's fever reducer.
However the chest X-ray came up clean. The doctor was completely puzzled by the chest film since he'd clearly heard something entirely different from his stethoscope. However, when he checked Yonah's pulse oxygen saturation, he found evidence that something was wrong. He was getting 'pulse ox' numbers between 83 and 90, rather than the normal 95+.
After several nebulizer treatments with Ventolin (administered over the course of several hours), and a dose of oral steroids, Yonah's blood oxygen level still hadn't improved, so the doctor said he wanted us to go to the hospital. But since he wanted to have Yonah using an oxygen mask during the trip to the hospital, he decided to send him in an ambulance.
Yonah was delighted. Us... not so much.
I told Zahava to go with Yonah in the ambulance, and I drove our car over to meet them at the hospital.
When they arrived, Yonah was still coughing and struggling for breath. However he was grinning from ear to ear from the ambulance ride. Apparently, even though it wasn't really necessary, the nice ambulance driver had run the lights and siren for Yonah's benefit.
By this time it was the middle of the night. They checked his 'pulse ox' after taking off the oxygen mask and it hovered around 89 or 90. Yonah was put in an observation room and he and Zahava slept fitfully together in the room's only bed. I used my iPad to watch 'Goodfella's', surf the web and check my email for the rest of the night from the bedside chair.
By 9Am an ER doctor had had another look at Yonah's chart, listened to his lungs and poked and prodded him... and was stumped as to what was going on. The 'pulse ox' remained stubbornly at or below 90, and there was nothing else besides a low-grade fever to suggest anything else wrong.
They decided to send us home with a prescription for Ventolin and more steroids (despite the fact that neither had done a thing to improve the situation), and told us to see our pediatrician.
Yonah is still coughing, but he seems to be slightly improved in terms of his color and comfort. However, since we don't have a pulse-ox meter at home, we have no idea what is really going on. This morning Zahava will be taking him to the doctor again to see where things stand.
If I seem a little detached or hard to get a hold of... now you know why.
Doing the right thing (for a change)
It was announced early this morning that PM Natenyahu has decided to cancel the appointment of General Gallant as the incoming IDF Chief of Staff because of recently discovered improprieties in Gallant's land dealings near his home.
While I'm sure General Gallant has had a stellar military career, I am pleased to see that for once, an Israeli Prime Minister has sent a clear message that in order to serve in a position of high leadership, an appointee must be beyond reproach, and have nothing in his/her background that might suggest that high ranking officials are above the law.
Without going into too much detail (since there is no lack of information available in the media), the Israeli attorney General had determined that General Gallant had not only taken possession of a significant amount of public land adjacent to his home (using it to create a prive access road for his exclusive use), but that when confronted about it, the General had taken several years to finally relinquish. Most seriously, Gallant had lied about what he had done while under oath during questioning.
The top officer in the IDF cannot reasonably demand absolute integrity from the officers and soldiers under his command unless his own conduct is beyond reproach. If there is even the impression of a dual standard, the message that is sent and received is that his failure was in being caught, not in having acted improperly in the first place.
By comparison when former Justice Minister Haim Ramon (of the Kadima party) had been accused, and ultimately convicted of Indecent Assault, he was immediately appointed by Prime Minister Olmert to an even more senior position than the one he had held when he committed the offense.
Ramon was initially investigated for 'Sexual Assault' in connection with having forcibly kissed a subordinate in his office. However, in a back room agreement the charge was reduced to 'Indecent Assault' without moral turpitude, ensuring that if/when convicted, he would not be barred from serving in the government.
Immediately after Ramon's conviction, then Prime Minister Olmert (also of Kadima) appointed him to be his Deputy Prime Minister. In my opinion, that sent a clear message to everyone that once you reached a certain level of power, you were above the law and immune from the consequences of your actions.
It should be noted that the current opposition leader, Tzippi Livni - also a Kadima member and, at the time, the most senior Woman in the Israeli government - remained absolutely silent about Ramon's appointment to Deputy Prime Minister. This sent an equally damaging message to women throughout the country that political considerations trump concerns specific to the vulnerability of women in a predominantly male environment (government).
I, for one, am pleased that PM Netanyahu (Likud) and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak (formerly Labor party, now Independence party) were able to set aside politics and the 'that's how things have always been done' mentality, in order to send a clear message to the country that everyone is subject to the law, and nobody is above it.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
I also wish I lived in this universe
In case any of you would like to take on this tradition for yourselves... the wikipedia article entitled 'Common Misconceptions' can be found here.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.