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Thursday, April 21, 2005

A man of few words...

Before signing off for Passover I'd like to say thank you.

Thank you to the bloggers / journalers who are part of my nutritious breakfastYou have educated and inspired me more than you will ever know.

Thank you to the readers for stopping by and humoring meA person who talks to himself appears to be a tiny bit less crazy when there are other people nearby

Thank you one and all.

Warm Regards,

David Bogner

"Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961"

Posted by David Bogner on April 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Is it good for the Jews?

Before posting anything about the election of the new Pope, I wanted to find out as much as possible about him.  Over the past week or two I have read as much as possible about the lead contenders for the Papacy... and have read additional coverage since the announcement of the selection of former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. 

You may be asking yourselves why a Jewish journaler living in Israel would take any interest whatsoever in what is essentially an internal matter for the Catholic Church. 

The answer can be found in an age old question:

"Is it good for the Jews?"

Those of you who are not Jewish may not know how central this half-joking question is to the essence of who we are and how we have always lived our lives. 

Before the establishment of the State of Israel, all Jews were dependent on the tolerance and good will of host countries for their continued well-being.  Throughout two millenia of exile among the nations of the world, the Jews have rarely enjoyed more than fleeting periods of such tolerance and good will.

Thus, whenever a government decision is made... or a new leader elected... or any of a thousand other events that could potentially impact the well-being of the Jews somewhere in the world, the question is whispered among my coreligionists:

"Is it good for the Jews?"

The coverage in the Jewish/Israeli media has danced around this question - asking it without really asking it. 

His membership in the Hitler (Y"S) Youth has been widely discussed, as has his service in the German army.  Some of the more enlightened journalists have taken a more subtle approach, delving into how a hard-line conservative Pope might relate to the modern State of Israel or the Catholic Church's relationship with the world's Jewish communities.  But the underlying question remains the same:

"Is it good for the Jews?"

Almost a year ago I posted about a troubling statement issued by the late Pope John Paul II which said that fewer witches and heretics had been killed at the hands of the Inquisition than had been previously thought.  If you aren't familiar with the Inquisition (beyond modern references in Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies), I suggest you read my little primer and bring yourself up to speed.  It's a real eye-opener.  This statement revealed a chilling lack of progress on the part of the Church towards acknowledging past sins.

I mention the Inquisition here because one of the most troubling things on the new Pope's CV is not getting much coverage in the Jewish Media; the fact that in 1981 he became the head of the 'Congergation for the Doctrine of the Faith', the new-and-improved name for the Inquisition. 

No joke. 

I found this little tidbit buried in the third-to-last paragraph of a Reuters article about the new Pope.

Most people think that the Inquisition was a nasty period in Church history during the late 15th / early 16th centuries.  The fact is that the Inquisition has been renamed and cleaned up a few times over the centuries... but it is still alive and well.

I'm curious as to why his position as Chief Inquisitor (my title, not the one he officially held as head of the 'Congergation for the Doctrine of the Faith'), hasn't garnered more attention.

In the grand scheme of things, this role seems to mark him as the sort of person who is not particularly enlightened when it comes to the rights and views of people who are not Catholics... or even of Catholics who do not share his orthodox interpretation of doctrine. 

I'm not suggesting that Jews will once again be skinned alive, burned at the stake or pulled limb-from-limb on the rack.  But the continued existence of The Inquisition, no matter what its new name, is evidence of arrogance and intolerance towards those who are not orthodox Catholics.  And the head of the modern Inquisition being elected as Pope sends a chilling message as to which way the winds are blowing in St. Peter's Square.

This is exactly the kind news that has historically been quite bad for the Jews.


Posted by David Bogner on April 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Have I got a doll for you?

Several years ago someone e-mailed me a link to a web site about an interesting doll.  This doll -, called Feral Cheryl - was nothing like any doll I had ever considered giving my daughter... and I'm pretty sure the person who sent the link meant it as a joke. 

However, after looking around the site (note that I don't claim to have read every word), I realized that there was quite a lot to recommend this doll.

For one thing, Feral Cheryl was designed around realistic body proportions.  If you increased this doll's scale to life-size... she wouldn't be 7 feet tall with a 22" waist!  She would look... well, normal!  The idea being that a pre-teen girl shouldn't look at a doll and think to herself, 'If I starved myself, got implants and took injections of Human Growth Hormone, I'd still never be able to look like that!'   

The doll on the website was dressed in colorful 'hippie-like' apparel... and instead of the requisite poker-straight blond hair found on most dolls, she had kinky brown hair tied back under a bandanna.   Another point in this doll's favor was the fact that it was not made in some Asian sweatshop, but rather is handmade in Australia by socially/environmentally responsible people.   All-in-all a nice, harmless doll.

Being a bit of an impulse shopper, I went ahead and ordered one for Ariella.

What I didn't notice (until the doll was delivered to my office), were a few important details:

1.  Feral Cheryl's hair isn't 'kinky'.  She has dreadlocks .
2.  Feral Cheryl has a pierced nose and a pierced belly button, with very visible rings in both.
3.  Feral Cheryl has a big tribal tattoo on her back.
4.  Feral Cheryl has a 'bindi' between her eyebrows.
5.  Feral Cheryl has way more skin exposed than I I had originally realized.
6.  Feral Cheryl has, um, realistic 'body hair' [no, I am not posting a picture!].

[All images I've used here are © Feral Cheryl 2002]

Now, none of these things by itself would be considered a deal-breaker.  Dreadlocks? No problem, Mon!  A tattoo and a couple of piercings?  A nice lesson in different cultural norms.  A bindi?  Why not?  One of my nieces has a drawer full of them and they look adorable on her!   

OK,  I have to say that when one of my colleagues at work (Hi Megan!) pointed out the, um, realistic body hair, I was a little freaked... but overall, there wasn't any one thing that kept me from giving the doll to Ariella.

Yet here we are, years later and I still haven't given her the doll.  It's worth noting that I haven't thrown it away either! 

Of course my wife would argue that I am incapable of throwing anything away... but that is only one of many reasons I'm posting this while she and the kids are in Eilat with my parents... without Internet access.

Here's the deal.  Ariella is now 11.  Granted she is much less 'worldly' than 11-year-olds  who've grown up watching a lot of TV and generally exposed to other aspects of modern/popular culture... but I honestly think there are more potentially good lessons to be learned from Feral Cheryl than bad ones. 

I would even go so far as to say that the few so-called 'bad lessons' (an admittedly subjective term I'm using here to describe anything that doesn't fit perfectly into our Orthodox Jewish worldview), are really good opportunities to broach the difficult discussion about 'different' not being synonymous with 'bad'.  This is a discussion that (IMHO) far too few parents have with their kids before they start pulling away towards teenage independence and rebellion. Perhaps if they did, fewer kids would feel the need to try and shock their parents by being 'different'.  I also suspect that the whole 'different' is not synonymous with 'bad' thing goes a long way towards teaching tolerance.

So what do you think?  Do I give Ariella the doll when she gets back from Eilat, or toss it out with the rest of the trash from the pre-Passover cleaning? 

Go check out the Feral Cheryl site and tell me what you would do in my place. 

Please show your work.


Posted by David Bogner on April 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Monday, April 18, 2005

Um... Yeah, I knew about that!

[Note: If you are not a blogger you will probably find today's post to be a complete waste of time.]

The blogging/journaling community is spread out along a continuum of technical sophistication. 

At one end are the neophytes and newbies who can barely manage the intricacies of word processing, and who frequently say cute things like, "My Internet isn't working right", or "Who is General Failure, and why is he trying to read my disk?" [not my joke]

At the other end of the spectrum are the techno-savvy uber-geeks who insist on crafting every line of code that goes into their sites.  Every color... every function... every nuance of their blogs is painstakingly created keystroke-by-excruciating-keystroke.  It isn't enough that they do the blogging equivalent of performing brain surgery every day.  Noooo, they have to make sure we all know about it as well!  They drop frequent indecipherable references to the new tweaks they've made to their templates... and the updated plug-ins they've added... and they throw around the term 'WYSIWYG' * as the worst kind of insult.

I fall somewhere in the middle... although today's entry will probably indicate to most that I am closer to the newbies than the geeks. 

I'm pretty good at figuring out how my blogging software (TypePad) works without having to resort to tech support very often, but I don't do much customizing of my template.  Let's just say that if my blog software offers a mysterious feature that I seem to be doing very nicely without, then I probably won't spend the 5 minutes reading up on what I'm missing.

Such was the case with the mysterious feature called 'Trackback Pings'.

When I was first setting up treppenwitz, I noticed several mentions of TrackBacks and TrackBack pings in the online user manual.  But since it wasn't keeping me from posting, I never bothered to find out what it was.

Every couple of weeks I would get an e-mail telling me a TrackBack ping had been received on a particular post, and say to myself, "Self... You should really find out what the hell that means!" 

I would then immediately continue journaling, blissfully ignorant of the fact that many considerate people have been using this helpful feature to say, "Hey!  We liked what you wrote so much that we've written about it and even placed a link to your blog!" 

Then this morning while I was playing around with the way the TypePad text editor is displayed, I came upon a little text entry box I'd never noticed that said, "Send a Trackback to these addresses".


Since Zahava and the kids are in Eilat with my parents for the week I didn't have to wake anyone up this morning or make anyone breakfast.  Instead I used this extra time to finally find out what the hell a TrackBack ping is.

Simply put, most blog software has a neat little feature that automatically creates a TrackBack address whenever a new entry is published.  This address is different from the specific URL of the entry.  Unless the blogger doesn't want this TrackBack address to be visible it is usually displayed at the end of the entry or at the top of the comments section.

For the sake of demonstration: Let's say I read a great blog post by someone.  Up until now, if I liked it enough to tell you about it I simply placed a link to that entry on my blog and said, "Hey, go read this!"  However, unless that person also reads my blog or pays special attention to their referral log, it is possible that he/she would never know I linked to them.  This is especially true if you are a new blogger and won't be sending much traffic their way.

This is where TrackBack pings come into play.  My blog program (and most others that are out there) allows me to go to the entry that I enjoyed so much... copy the TrackBack address listed at the end of the post... and paste it into that little text box in my blog's text editor. 

As soon as I post my entry saying "Hey, go read this", the person who wrote the entry I am raving about receives a TrackBack ping which essentially says, 'hey... someone linked to your post... go check them out'.  Yeah, it's an extra step beyond just including a link to the person's post... but it is a very considerate thing to do.

A few days ago I made you suffer through my advice to would-be bloggers.  This latest discovery definitely should have been included in the section about how to get noticed by other bloggers without sounding needy or acting like an ass.  One of the most flattering things you can do in the strange world of blogging is to link to something someone else has written (or at least give them credit for something you gank from them).  I don't do it nearly enough... and up until now I have never used this TrackBack feature to let anyone know I was doing it.

I hope that any of my readers who keep blogs of their own (who aren't already doing so) will make use of this considerate tool.

* An acronym for What You See Is What You Get. WYSIWYG is used to describe applications that let you see what documents will look like when finished while you're editing them.  [definition is from this useful page]


Posted by David Bogner on April 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Friday, April 15, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XXIII) [this & that edition]

I apologize in advance for not having a real theme this week.  My parents flew in for an extended visit and I have not been as focused (pun intended) on Photo Friday as I should have been.

What follows is a random collection of shots from our trip into Jerusalem this morning to run some errands... one from around the house... and as a bonus, a photo that a friend sent me this week.

First up is a mural on Agripas street that I love.  This is a couple of blocks from Mahane Yehuda.  It is an incredibly detailed painting... the entire side of the building is flat!  I didn't realize at first that the shop at gound level is not real... it's part of the mural!  Even the electrical cabinet at bottom center has been painted to look like a soda cooler:

Next is a picture of Ariella in her new PJ's & bathrobe from her Auntie.  I know one blogger who will appreciate the shtripes on the pajama bottoms!  :-)

One of the things we got accomplished while we were in Jerusalem was a  long overdue haircut for Gilad (and for me).  I love this little barber shop... old-fashioned and full of old world charm:

OK... as I mentioned, a friend sent me a picture this week that was priceless.  It doesn't need any explanation other than that it is from the top of a wedding cake. 

Please note the grooves from the grooms nails!

I know, I know... that last one had nothing to do with life in Israel, and wasn't even my photo.  I just felt the need to share.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on April 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


n.    (Schwa -nAbreve kPrime rSchwa_1 -nIbreve zLprime Schwa_2 m)

1. An artifact that belongs to another time*.

Back when I used to wear ties to work (is anyone still wondering why I wanted to move here), one of my favorites was a deep blue silk tie with a bright yellow object repeated as a pattern throughout.  The tie itself wasn't anything special to look at... but the reactions it inspired were priceless.

The yellow objects on the tie looked like this:


Now those of you older than thirty five or forty are nodding your heads and saying, "I know what that is!"  The rest of you are pretty much lost. 

Right so far?

I had purchased the tie at a shop in Grand Central Station because I liked the colors.  But when I got it home my wife gave me a new reason to love it.  She took one look at my new piece of neck-wear and asked, "Why did you buy a tie with the symbol for radioactivity on it?"

Right then and there it occurred to me that she and I were from opposite sides of a generational divide that could be defined by whether or not one could identify the inspiration for this silly tie. 

For the sake of accuracy, once I told her what it was, Zahava insisted that she recognized it all along... but that is something of which I'm still a bit, um, skeptical.

From that point on, whenever I wore the tie I would go out of my way to ask people if they could identity the object depicted on my tie.  Almost without exception people who were under 35 gave answers like 'a swastika', 'a radiation symbol' or my all-time favorite; 'the insignia that Star Fleet officers wore on Star Trek'.

Of course, those of us born before or during the Kennedy administration recognize this yellow object is the little plastic thing-a-ma-jig one used in order to play a 45rpm records on a home phonograph.  If you had a lot of 45s you likely had a big plastic thing a bit thicker than an iPod Mini that fit over the thin metal spindle at the center of the phonograph.  This allowed you to stack up a bunch of 45s and have them drop/play one after the other.  But nearly every household had at least a handful of these , um 'things'.

In fact, unless I'm mistaken, I think I once had a little gun that would shoot these things across a room!  I call them things because I still don't know if they ever had an official name.  I've heard them called 'spiders' and '45 adapters'... but if they had an official name it never caught on.

For those of you who have no meaningful memories before the Carter administration, the reason 45rpm records (also sometimes called 'singles') had a large hole in the center instead of a little one the size of a phonograph's spindle is that they were designed to fit on the big changer arm inside a juke box.

OK...  just stop it!  Your blank stares are just freaking me out!!!

Suffice it to say that this 'thing' is now a small badge of honor that we 'boomers' can wear with pride on our ties... or on our lapels... to remind us that many of the ubiquitous objects we once took for granted are fast becoming anachronisms. 

* one of several definitions for the word 'anachronism' found at WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University


Posted by David Bogner on April 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

To blog or not to blog...

You know what they say about free advice...  It's worth every cent!

Consider this a word of advice/caution to anyone who is toying with the idea of starting a blog.  If you are short on time I'll sum up everything that follows in one statement: 

Blogging isn't for everyone!

During the course of the year-and-a-half since I started keeping this journal I have been approached by a few would-be bloggers/journalers wanting to know how to start a successful blog.  This never ceases to amaze me since asking someone how to become a successful blogger really depends on one's definition of success.  Hearing this kind of a question also presupposes that treppenwitz is, in fact a successful blog... a fairly subjective supposition.

However, I noticed this morning that some time during the night treppenwitz received its 100,000th hit... a feat that can't be entirely attributed to crack rats frantically clicking 'refresh' as part of some cruel Internet-behavior experiment.  So perhaps this might be as good a time as any to look back and see if I've learned any lessons worth passing on to would-be bloggers/journalers.

You'll have a chance to toss in your two cents at the end if you're so inclined.

Success:  Define it before you go looking for it!
I should begin by saying that I already considered treppenwitz a success before I even published my first entry.  Some people measure success in numbers... of hits... of comments... or of visitors.  I measured my initial success by the tingly, mildly buzzed sensation I got when I was writing down something that was important to me.   I absolutely loved the feverish, almost possessed way the writing made me feel.  It's a good thing too, because even before I had any readers to speak of, I suddenly had a 'born on' date stamped on every entry... a date that created a constant demand (at least in my mind) for fresh material.

In other words... if you are going to set up a blog, you'd better like the subject matter... and you'd better enjoy the idea of feeding it, because it is always going to be hungry.  The huge number of abandoned blogs floating around the blogosphere with only a handful of half-hearted entries is a pretty good indication of how many people want to adopt a virtual puppy, kitten or bunny... but had no desire to own and care for a full grown virtual dog, cat or rabbit.

The Child That Never Grows Up
Keeping up a blog is like having a 'special needs' child. It is never going to be self-sufficient and it will make demands on your time and attention that you can't even begin to imagine.  This isn't to say that your efforts won't be richly rewarded... but the reward isn't always what you expected it would be. 

This goes back to the issue of care-and-feeding I mentioned earlier.  If you manage to attract a regular readership, you're bound to find that even the perception of reader demand takes a bit of the fun out of blogging.  Doing something when you feel like it is fun.  Doing something out of a sense obligation, or because someone else is waiting for you to do it, can sometimes feel suspiciously like a job.   

If you hate the idea of posting frequent blog entries that start with "Sorry I haven't had much to say lately"... imagine how much your readers will enjoy it!

Most of the 'successful' bloggers I have spoken to about this seem to have struck a balance between selfish indulgence and fulfilling reader's expectations. 

Value-Added Proposition
Remember back in the '90s when everybody thought that all you needed to do in order to become a gazillionaire was to set up a web site and wait for the venture capital firms to start throwing money at you?  OK, maybe that's a bad example since the first couple of years of the 'dot com' revolution were almost that simple.  My point is that the bubble eventually burst on that kind of thinking when people finally started to wake up to the fact that you had to have something of value to offer or nobody was going to visit your little plot of online real estate. 

Blogging is no different.

What you do on your blog has to be of value... at least to you.  The world is big and diverse enough that you are likely to find quite a few people who also find value in what you are publishing.  But first and foremost your blog has to mean something to you in order to have any chance of success or longevity.

Even Attention-Whores Should Consider Anonymity
This part of our little lesson deals with how much (if any) personal information to reveal... and why it could be hazardous to your job and home-life to to assume 'nobody will ever find out'.

I've mentioned before that if I had thought things through beforehand, I would probably have opted to remain anonymous here.  Even if one doesn't make a practice of blogging about, or from, work (an absolute no-no), there is a growing tendency for employers to consider all of your thoughts to be 'company property'.  Moreover, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will succumb to the temptation to say something unflattering about your workplace, your boss or one of your coworkers on your blog... and search engines are much too good these days to hope that a passing remark will go unnoticed. 

Similar issues come up with friends and family who you might want to roast when you're having a particularly bad day.  The only difference between writing about your work and home life is that if you blog about your friends and family you might end up losing a friend or even your spouse instead of just your job!

Play Nice!
I can't over-emphasize the importance of being nice to people online.  This sounds easy but it is sometimes quite difficult.  The online world is full of 'tards and trolls.  Most of them are trying to provoke confrontations that they wouldn't dare attempt in real life.  Be nice if you can... ignore them if you can't.

Being nice to other bloggers is a simple way to get your first few readers.  Not surprisingly, some of the most voracious readers of blogs are bloggers.  If you find a few blogs that interest you and occasionally leave a cogent comment, there is a a good chance that the blogger or some of his/her readers may wander over to your site to see who you are.

Shamelessly plugging your blog in someone else's comments section or begging other bloggers for reciprocal linking is not the way to endear yourself to anyone. You'll most likely just come off as sounding needy.  The same can be said for sending impersonal, cut & paste email requests for linkage to every blogger with a visible e-mail address.

You also probably don't want to go the route of leaving deliberately provocative / inflammatory comments around the blogosphere in hopes of drawing attention to yourself and your site.  This kind of 'Jerry Springer' approach to blogging will get you noticed... but will probably not get you the kind of attention or reputation your were hoping for.

Talking Back
Most bloggers I know place almost as much value on comments/feedback as they do on traffic in terms of measuring their 'success'.  Both traffic and number of comments can be helpful tools... but they are not always reliable indicators of success or failure.

For instance, you might post 20 straight entries about things that are deeply meaningful to you without garnering any significant traffic or comments... yet when you dash off a mindless post about something salacious or controversial you are suddenly flooded with both.  The combination of search engines surfers looking for specific terms and certain topics that will always garner an eager audience has tempted many a blogger to abandon their original format and pander to the basest interests of the mob. 

I would strongly discourage anyone from going down that road.

Just as the class clown and the class slut quickly discover the most expedient way to attract attention to themselves... I suspect that neither one ends up entirely pleased with the long-term quality of the attention they attract.

If you find that you have to frequently do the blogging equivalent of 'putting out' or taking a pie in the face to get your hit counter or comment indicator to budge... I doubt you'll be very anxious to sit down at the keyboard and write.

Being nice to people who comment on your blog (if you decide to allow comments) is also quite important.  If you habitually argue with people in your comments section or ignore them altogether... chances are they will go somewhere more welcoming. 

Burn Out or Fade Away?
Another personal choice that every blogger/journaler makes is how frequently to post.  Besides the issue of setting expectations (i.e. how often your readers will expect to see new material on your site), there is the issue of setting a pace that can be sustained for an indefinite period of time.

Sometimes the pace will be dictated by your subject matter.  For instance, if you want to set up a 'meteorological blog' (meaning you'll be writing about the weather conditions in your area), you aren't likely to develop much of a steady readership if you only update once a month.  By the same token, if you are a Civil War buff and you want to blog about your hobby, you will probably burn out rather quickly if you attempt to post fresh entries once or twice a day. 

Aside from which topic(s) you chose to write about, there is the more basic issue of how much time and energy you have to devote to your blog. 

I follow a few blogs that are updated several times a day.  I honestly wonder how these bloggers manage to maintain any sort of gainful employment or personal life with the kind of frenetic blogging pace they maintain.  There are other bloggers I read who update their sites only once or twice a month (if that).  I can't imagine how these bloggers stay engaged and sustain any kind of interest in their writing. 

However, with both of these examples, it doesn't matter whether I understand or approve of their pace... it is only important that they have found a pace that is comfortable and works for them.

And now you tell me how I'm dead wrong...
Well, maybe not in so many words, but one of the wonderful things about blogging is that everyone with a computer and an Internet account is a potential dissenting opinion!  I'm sure many of you have your own ideas and advice to offer on the subject... so feel free!


Posted by David Bogner on April 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 10, 2005

In which David's halo gets tarnished

This is a long, angry post. 

Not only is it long... but it paints me in a light that isn't entirely flattering.  You might want to skip it entirely.

I have promised on several occasions not to use treppenwitz in place of therapy... or to expect my reader's advice to stand in for the expertise of a competent 'shrink'.  That said, I have been steamed for a couple of weeks now over a a border dispute in West Turdistan... and I just need to vent.

While the dangers in venting online are many, the points which worry me most are:

1.  While I am certain that the people with whom I am angry do not read my blog... there is always the small possibility that the information could, by accident or design, be brought to their attention... spoiling a childish plan for revenge I have already set in motion.

2.  The waters have become somewhat murkier than necessary because of something called 'irrational fear'.  I can't dismiss irrational fear... but I can permit myself the freedom to be completely exasperated by it.

3.  I suspect that most of my readers think I am a really nice, level-headed guy.  By publishing this entry, I risk blowing that squeaky clean image out of the water and 'tarnishing my halo', so to speak.  I am a really nice guy... but every nice guy has his a dark side.  Prepare to meet mine.

In the months leading up to my installing a beehive behind our house, I spent quite a bit of time and energy reading up on the topic, talking to professional beekeepers and most important, speaking to my neighbors.  The result of this process lead me to believe that this was a hobby that could be conducted in my back yard without causing any inconvenience or danger to anyone. 

When I spoke with my neighbors, I spent a great deal of time educating them about honey bee behavior... and at the same time I tried to dispel many of the misconceptions and fears that people have about them.

I told them about hobbyist beekeepers who keep hives on their inner city balconies with no adverse impact on their neighbors.  I explained that the presence of a hive nearby would actually improve their lawns... their flower gardens... and the amount of fruit their trees would bear. 

I also promised to remove the hive at the first indication that it was, in fact becoming a danger to anyone.

The neighbors on both sides gave their enthusiastic blessing to a hive in my yard... and everything was good.

Then, the week after I installed the hive in its place, I got a call from one of my elderly neighbors who, to protect her anonymity, I will call Mrs. Irrational. 

Mrs. Irrational called to tell me that she had spoken with 'a friend' who had told her that it was very dangerous to have bees living nearby... and that she had been told that it was not uncommon for bees to come into people's houses when they were baking in order to attack them.

I assured her that this was not the case.  I explained that honey bees practice something called 'bloom loyalty', which basically means that while they are foraging on one kind of blossom, they will ignore all other sources of nectar until that source is completely exhausted.  This is how beekeepers can market honey from a particular source (e.g. orange blossom honey) with I high degree of certainty.  I told her that more opportunistic insects such as yellow jackets / hornets were another story altogether... but that I had no control over them.   I could tell she was still bothered so I offered to come over and answer any of the questions that had occurred to her since we had last spoken.

When I sat with her she told me that she has a medical condition where her left side has little or no immune protection, and that as a result she couldn't even receive vaccinations in her left arm.  She was frightened that being stung on her left side would be dangerous for her.

I asked her why she hadn't mentioned this during our first conversation and she just shrugged.  I told her that I was too new to beekeeping to know how to address her concerns and asked for a day to speak with a professional beekeeper who had been my primary source of information. 

She agreed.

My beekeeper friend assured me that having a single hive in proximity to her house (about 15-20 yards away) did not present an elevated risk to her, and offered to speak with her.  He pointed out that the fruit trees and flowers in her yard would attract bees whether I had a hive in my yard or not... and he offered to try to put her mind at ease.  He also pointed out that he had a children's visitor center in his apiary in close proximity to dozens of active hives... and in all the years he has been giving tours, not one person had ever been stung!

When I spoke with her the next day, I was able to answer with confidence that she would not have any increased risk of a sting because of my hive... and she accepted this.  I ask her a few questions of my own, though.  I asked why she didn't have screens on her windows if she were afraid of being stung? I pointed out that the plants and trees in her yard naturally attracted bees... didn't this worry her?   She just shrugged.  I also asked her if she took any other precautions about getting cuts on her left side (such as not opening cans) and she said that all she knew is that her doctor had told her not to get shots on her left side.

Fast forward a few more days and I get another call from Mrs. Irrational saying that she had spoken with a beekeeper who said that it was indeed very dangerous to have bees in an area where people lived.  I asked who this beekeeper was and she hedged by saying that she hadn't actually talked to a beekeeper, but that her friend (from whom she had previously gotten bad information) had spoken to a beekeeper. 

Now I was getting a little annoyed.  I asked her if she had called my friend to discuss her concerns and she said no.  When I asked why not, she answered that she didn't know him and therefore didn't trust what he had to say.  I asked her if in the time since I had put the hive in my yard she had seen any increase in bee activity near her yard.  She reluctantly admitted that she hadn't seen a single bee.

After a trying half hour of answering the same questions and restating things I had already told her, I got a grudging agreement from both Mrs irrational and her husband to spend a week or two paying attention to whether there were an increased number of bees in their yard.

A couple of days later I got a call from a representative of Israel's Ministry of agriculture who dealt with issues related to bees.  He said he had just had a complaint from my neighbor about my hive. 

I explained the sequence of events to him and he was surprised to hear that I had only one hive.  Apparently he had been led to believe I was running an unlicensed apiary in my back yard.  He was even more surprised to hear where I lived, since he was not sure if Israeli law was even applicable in my area (areas outside the green line are subject to a mixture of Jordanian and Ottoman law, and Israeli law is often not applicable).

He said that normally one needs permission from his office to operate an apiary.  But they routinely gave waivers to hobbyists with less than 5 hives.  Also, there was a rule (which he said was largely unenforced due to the number of Arab beekeepers in villges across the country) that said one could not have a beehive within 150 meters of a residence.  However, he pointed out that the whole issue of law was moot since I lived in 'the shtachim' (the west bank), because he didn't have to time or resources to find out if Israeli law even applied here. 

I also explained to him that I had been consulting with [name of well respected professional beekeeper], which further put his mind at ease that I was acting responsibly.  He suggested I try to reason with my neighbor again and wished me luck.

That evening I went over and asked my neighbors why they had contacted the Ministry of Agriculture and filed a complaint when we had agreed among ourselves to 'wait and see' whether they even noticed increased bee activity.  They both just shrugged.  When I pressed for an answer (and related my conversation with the person from the MOA) they said that they didn't care what he said, they believed only their friend who was telling them it was a serious danger to them (and everyone else in the neighborhood... despite the fact that they had still not seen a single bee). 

At this point I was trying (unsuccessfully) to hide my annoyance, and told them that I needed to see if there were any other suitable places for the hive in the area.  I also explained that moving a hive was something that had to be done in an organized fashion so that the bees wouldn't instinctively come back to the site where the hive had previously been situated.  They agreed to let have until the end of the week to do some investigating.

Within two hours the husband came over and demanded to know exactly when the hive would be removed.    I reminded him that we had agreed that I could have until the end of the week to come up with a plan.  He shook my hand and said that he would speak to me at the end of the week.

That evening I spoke with our community's security officer to ask him if he had any suggestions about places in Efrat that might be suitable for a hive... well away from residential areas.  He said there were several that came to mind and volunteered to drive me around on Thursday afternoon to select a spot.  He also put me in touch with the head of the orchards for a neighboring kibbutz who said he would be delighted to have me put my hive on his land if I so desired.

With a sigh of relief I went to bed confident that an amicable solution was in sight.

The next afternoon Zahava called me at work to tell me there was someone at the door asking her to sign for a letter.  He wouldn't identify himself and wouldn't say who the letter was from.  I advised her not to sign for the letter, and to tell the messenger to either leave it or take it away, as he saw fit.  He ended up leaving the letter.

The letter turned out to be from Mr. & Mrs. Irrational's son-in-law (who is an attorney) stating that the hive was against the law and demanding that I "remove it without delay or there would be serious legal consequences".

Right about here is where I lost my mind.

Every step of the way I had been civil and had reached agreements with these people as to what I would be doing.  I never once forced them to do or say anything, and every conversation ended with them smiling and shaking my hand on what the 'next steps' would/should be. 

In ever case they immediately turned around and did whatever the hell they wanted without regard to how it would impact me.

This lawyer's letter was the last straw.

I called them up and asked them why they had contacted an attorney when we had all agreed that I could have until the end of the week to sort things out.  The answer was a mish-mash of childish excuses about being scared, and their suspicion that I didn't intend to comply with their request.

I responded by telling them that now that they had gotten an attorney involved, their suspicions had turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy.  I said that I had approached them as a courtesy, and that every step of the way I had tried to be a good neighbor.  I told them that it would now likely cost us both a lot of time and money to sort out the legal issues, but that I felt confident that I would prevail. 

I didn't tell them about my success in finding a new spot for the hive.

Right now I am feeling a childish desire to really make them pay for the aggravation they have caused me.  I have already moved most of my equipment to a beautiful spot in a meadow filled with wild flowers that overlooks an orchard of fruit trees.  However, I have no intention of telling them about this.  You see, I am going to leave an empty/sealed beehive exactly where the old one stood... just to annoy them.  Let them spin their wheels... yes, let them even feel scared.  I am really about two exits past caring how they feel!

I'm secretly hoping they will pull out all the stops and invest an excessive amount of time and money trying to force me to remove the bees from my yard... only to have an empty wooden box revealed to them at the end.

Yes, I'm being just that childish.

I'm not very proud of myself for this childish subterfuge... but I'm not particularly anxious to give them the satisfaction of seeing me comply with their demands while seemingly 'under fire'.

I can also assure you that there was no communication problem that lead to a series of 'misunderstandings'.  Their English is very poor so I spoke to them in very simple, carefully constructed Hebrew.  Every step of the way they were crystal clear on what I wanted to do, and in each case they agreed that I could move ahead.

I have obviously condensed and simplified the sequence of events in order to avoid boring you to tears.  However, I have not omitted or changed anything in order to make myself look better... or them look worse. 

I guess my 'halo' looks a little tarnished to you right about now.

Oh well.


Posted by David Bogner on April 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Friday, April 08, 2005

Photo Friday (vol. XXII) [curtains edition]

Before we get started with today's subject matter, I feel like I may have given my readers short shrift last week with only one picture... So, to make amends here are a couple of bonus shots:

The first bonus shot is a really grainy picture of one of the storks I mentioned this past week.  I usually have my digital camera in the car... but it isn't always safe or convenient to stop and take pictures.  This shot was taken south of Hevron, miles (kilometers) from the nearest village.  Sorry about the quality... Remember, I use a point & shoot:

Next is a sight that I believe is a fairly new addition to the scenery... or perhaps I just never noticed it before.  This is located on the hill just outside of Jerusalem on Route 1 (this turn off would take you into Givat Shaul).  What you are seeing is a big analog clock and a digital readout telling drivers exactly what time Shabbat starts in Jerusalem.  Unfortunately I couldn't zoom in enough to be able to let you read the display. 

Although this is a really neat thing, I can't help thinking that it would really stress me out if I was stuck in traffic (this area is always a parking lot) and getting close to Shabbat  Somehow I'd almost rather not know exactly what time Shabbat starts in that scenario, since I'd be powerless to arrive any sooner!

OK... on to our subject of the day:  Curtains.

When you go to a new country, one of the things that adds to the feeling of 'strangeness' is the plethora of cars that didn't exist where you came from.  Eventually the eye becomes used to the 'strange vehicles', and one day all the cars seem perfectly ordinary.  That's when you know you are starting to feel at home.

However, since moving here, I have continued to be baffled by something I see every day in traffic.  Specifically, many of the cars here have curtains.  I have to say that this is every bit as strange to me today as it was the day I got off the plane.

Considering how many serious traffic accidents occur every day, it defies logic that this would be desirable or legal since it completely blocks the driver's view behind and alongside his/her car!

In fact, one of the main selling points car manufacturers use to tout their products is visibility.  'This car has better visibility than that'... 'Our car was designed to reduce the blind spot found in other vehicles'...etc.

By installing curtains, the driver is turning back the clock on auto design and safety 50 years or more (not to mention that it makes a car look butt-ugly). 

You think I'm kidding?  These pictures were taken within a 5 minute period (I promise I didn't spend more than that looking for examples) on route 40 near Kfar Bilu.  Most of the pictures were taken at a stop light... but the couple of 'moving shots' were taken without looking... so don't worry about mytraffic photography being more dangerous than the curtains!:

This is an 'unmarked' police car... you can tell by the red license plate.

This next one is a type of utility vehicle that is quite common here.  These seem to be especially prone to having curtains installed:

Another similar vehicle (different manufacturer).  Yes, this person seems to have three cell phones installed in his car!  He can't see you, but he can reach you on the phone without a problem!:

Lest you think that only cops and utility vehicles have curtains... here is a typical sedan:

Last but not least... the biggest proponents of the 'salon look' in vehicles seem to be taxis.  It's hard to see because he also has tinted windows... but he has the back curtain parted just a bit:

I apologize if any of my readers have curtains in their cars... perhaps one of you can explain this unique 'fashion decision' to me.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on April 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Stuff you've never asked yourself

Did you ever wonder what would happen if a journaler ate BBQed chicken wings much too close to bedtime, and as a result had really, really strange dreams? 

No?  Well then, let's just file this one under 'Stuff you've never asked yourself', because if you stick around, you're going to get so much more information on the subject than you ever thought possible.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Yes, I ate a big plate of hickory smoked wings much too close to bedtime.  Yes, I had horrible dreams.  I dreamt that Uncle Sam and Abraham Lincoln had me tied to the bed and were giving me endless lectures about the dangers of being disconnected from the current political debate.

I woke up with a start around 4:00AM and seriously expected to see a couple of dark shadows in stovepipe hats sitting on the edge of my bed wagging their fingers at me. 

By the time I was fully awake I started asking myself things like; why had these two images decided to tag-team me in my sleep?... how would I be able to tell them apart in the dark?...and, why do people resort to recreational drugs when they can have all the hallucinations they want for the modest price of chicken wings and hickory chips?

The more I sat awake thinking about it, the more I couldn't help thinking about the visual similarities between Uncle Sam and Abraham Lincoln.  How had I never noticed that before?  More importantly, what the hell was I doing thinking about this at 4:00AM???

Turning over and going back to sleep was not an option so I went into our home office (being sneaky quiet since it is right off the master bedroom and next to the nursery). 

The first thing I did was do an image search for Uncle Sam... downloading a bunch of typical depictions of this American icon.  Then I started looking for pictures of Lincoln wearing his trademark Stovepipe hat.  The weird thing is (as if doing a Google search for Uncle Sam and Lincoln at 4:00AM weren't weird enough), Lincoln was rarely photographed or painted wearing 'the hat'.   

Once I had an even dozen pictures downloaded, I started viewing them side-by-side to see if there were any similarities.  It wasn't a perfect match, but there was certainly more than a passing resemblance.  This led me to wonder if the similarity that my unconscious mind had noticed was intentional or just a coincidence (remember... it's now almost 4:20AM by this point!).   

Here's an example of what I found:
Lincoln_1 Unclesam 
180pxlincoln Lincoln2

I love the Internet.  One of the first sites that Google served up was a fairly scholarly article about the origin of male American iconography, and how Uncle Sam eventually came to resemble Lincoln. 


Here is the relevant excerpt:

"The term [Uncle Sam] originated during the War of 1812 and was associated with an actual man--Sam Wilson, a supplier and inspector of military rations. (38) ...   Uncle Sam soon became a generic representation of the government. During the Civil War Uncle Sam was once again associated with a specific individual--Abe Lincoln. As the image of Uncle Sam grew more and more to resemble that of Lincoln, so too was Lincoln often depicted in Sam's traditional clothing.

While our contemporary image of Uncle Sam may have aquired [sic] its features, beard, age, and height from Lincoln, the traditional stars and stripes attire harkens [sic] back to the earlier character... "

Of course, the problem with absorbing this new bit of trivia is that my limited mental storage will have to jettison another equally useless piece of information in order to make room.

Oh Crap!  Now I can't remember the words to the closing theme of Gilligan's Island!!!

It is now almost 5:00AM and I am fairly certain I will have nothing of value to share with you when my alarm goes off in 45 minutes... so this is all there is today.

Oh... there is one more thing.  I don't know how many of you follow 'Pearls before Swine', the comic strip drawn by Stephan Pastis, but today's made me horse-laugh so loud that the dog woke up and came in to see if I was OK.  Here it is (click to see it full size):
(I chose to post it here rather than simply link to the strip because his archives only remain visible for 90 days)

Posted by David Bogner on April 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Orange... it's the new yellow

Every so often I actually notice a trend.  Granted I usually notice it a month or two after it has become passe, but the point is that I do sometimes notice trends.

Several months ago I started noticing some of the teenagers wearing yellow bracelets made of a soft rubber that were imprinted with the word 'Livestrong'.   I was told that this bracelet was a fundraiser conceived by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise funds for cancer research.

Great idea... nice looking... wonderful message for kids to be wearing around.

Since then, I have spotted pink ones (breast cancer), blue ones (child abuse), and red (AIDS awareness)... and have heard of other colors being sold/distributed for various causes.  In short, these soft rubber bracelets seem to have replaced the ubiquitous colored ribbons for those who want to wear their causes quite literally on their sleeve.

Which brings me to the one my daughter came home wearing yesterday.  It was orange.


[translation: "Let the nation decide"]

Anyone who lives in Israel already knows where this is headed... since we all know which crowd has cornered the market on the use of the color orange.  For those of you outside the country, or who might not be as tuned-in to Israeli politics, the color orange has become the de facto flag of the movement which opposes the unilateral giving of Gaza (and a few isolated settlements in northern Samaria) to the Palestinians.

I've alluded to my feelings on the subject of disengagement in past posts, and those feelings are not really relevant to the discussion at hand.  What troubles me is how and when my 11-year-old daughter became politically active. 

When she proudly showed me her new orange bracelet I asked her where she'd gotten it and what it meant (I obviously knew the meaning... I was interested to find out what she thought it meant).

She answered that it was a sign of solidarity (I think she she actually used the word 'support') for Gush Katif, and that the money she had paid for the bracelet (from her own allowance) was going to support that cause.

It turns out that her Ezra chapter (one of the youth groups in Israel... the other main ones being Bnai Akiva and The Scouts) has adopted this cause and has been spending a lot of time on the topic.

I should probably be pleased that Israeli kids become politically aware at a much earlier age than their American counterparts (some would argue that most American kids never really come of age politically), but I'm still a little troubled that a youth program that is supposed to be about giving kids all kinds of lessons in camaraderie, religion and self-reliance has been spending an unusually large chunk of it's time on this one issue.

Besides the obvious issue that kids may be getting indoctrinated with ideas that run counter to their parent's thinking, there is the larger issue of whether, and how much, political content should be allowed in youth groups.

I honestly don't know the correct answer to that question.  I grew up not fully understanding the basic difference between the Democratic and Republican parties... so I can't really make a compelling argument for keeping kids in a political vacuum.

Israeli youth groups have always had political content.  However, as the Israeli population becomes more polarized over issues of religion and politics, it is sad to see the various youth groups mirroring that trend.

Maybe I'm imagining an idealized past that never existed in practice, but it seems that once upon a time Israeli youth group chapters (from within the same organization) from all over the country could meet at large events to celebrate shared values and ideology.  I fear that the overt politicization of the youth group agenda (on either side of the current hot-topic) sets the stage for the next generation of adults who not only won't talk to one another, but who find it too easy to vilify one another.

From my conversation with Ariella it is clear to me that there has not been any name calling or finger pointing... so far.  Most of the overtly political content has been to express sadness and surprise at Ariel Sharon's as-yet-unexplained co-opting of the Labor party's call for unilateral withdrawal. 

As an example, Ariella said "Abba, when Ariel Sharon was a Chayal (soldier), he helped capture Gaza... and he saw some of his friends die in that battle.  He has said on several occasions that Israel will never give up Gaza.  So why does he want to give it away now?"

I answered her by saying "I don't know precisely what is behind his thinking (I doubt even his closest advisers truly know ), but I can only assume he is still acting like a General."  "You see", I continued, "when a General is commanding troops at war, he sometimes realizes that some of his soldiers are too far forward, or in a position that is too difficult to defend... and then he has to order them to move back... or at least to move to an area where they have a stronger position."

I hated the way the words sounded coming out of my mouth.  It's not that the words were wrong... but I felt as though I were giving her the 'Cliff Notes' version of the situation as I saw it, rather than the reality of the chaos that is currently reigning unchecked.  I also have a kneejerk distaste for implying to my daughter that Israel's leadership is behaving like a military dicatorship (no, I won't argue that one here today).

I suppose that this is the devil's bargain we make for raising politically sophisticated Israelis.  Their youth groups and schools feed them bite-sized (meaning selective) portions of the facts... and the parents are expected to balance that by providing equally condensed commentary.

I should really be happy that she is eager to understand the political forces that will shape the world she will inherit, right?


Posted by David Bogner on April 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One order of 'sacred cow'... medium rare

I got an e-mail this morning from a fellow blogger giving me a 'heads up' about a hot-button topic she was discussing over on her site.  This was very thoughtful of her, since I don't get there every day.  Don't get me wrong, I think she is a very talented writer, but her topics don't consistently resonate with me... so hers is more of a once-a-week stop than an every day event.

The e-mail said, "I've just put up a flaming rant that I'm sure will get the ire up of all my readers and fellow bloggers." 

OK... I'm always ready for a little ire-upping.  Bring it on!

When I clicked over, I was confronted with a dilemma.  You see, she wasn't airing out one topic, but rather two.  More importantly, she didn't seem to care that she was serving up this blended menu of topics... which made it very difficult for her readers to address one issue without having to deal with a second, much more sensitive one.

The main target/object of her rant is a woman in her community who, based on her husband's expertise as a medical professional, frequently makes public pronouncements equating not getting ones children vaccinated with child abuse. 

Although the blogger never explicitly says that she hasn't had her children vaccinated, the reader is given the overwhelming impression that this is the case.  The cloak within which she wraps the decision to (presumably) not vaccinate her children is that well-worn American garment known as 'Freedom of Choice'.

The underlying subject of the rant is the blogger's history of being a victim of child abuse.  A good portion of her rant is spent addressing (correctly, in my opinion) the ease with which people tend to throw around the term 'child abuse' without thinking about what the gravity of the term.

Here's my problem: 

If you truly believe that your children should not be vaccinated, say so!  Clearly state your position and provide all of your reasons for making such a decision.  Once you have done so I will say exactly what I did in your comments section:

"Yes, the whole vaccination issue is a personal choice. But you neglect to point out that by choosing not to vaccinate, you are making a choice for others besides yourself and your family.

Unless you are willing to promise me that you and your children will not be interacting with the general population (i.e. shopping, going out to eat, attending schools, etc.) then you are in essence telling me that you have no regard for the very real possibility that you will be endangering the lives of the many people who are forced (they don't have a choice) to live with a suppressed immune system (the most obvious examples being cancer patients and others with compromised immune systems).

Yes, life is full of choices... but please don't pretend that your choices are not also taking away the choices (and potentially endangering the lives) of others."

However, it took me quite some time to get up the nerve to leave that comment, and I couldn't figure out why.  I usually have no problem sharing my thoughts with others... especially when I already have a clearly formed opinion on the subject. 

Then I realized that I had hesitated almost two hours before commenting because she had wrapped her subject matter (vaccination) inside a topic that one is loathe to attack (child abuse).  I found this very distasteful.

What finally tipped the scale in favor of leaving a comment (and ultimately writing about it here) is that I think it is extremely disingenuous for a blogger to bring up a serious issue that deserves public discussion, while making her position on the topic difficult to separate form a secondary  'untouchable' issue.

A completely made-up example:

Let's say I strike up a conversation with a whellchair-bound person on the train.  On top of this, the person in the wheelchair is a black woman who it turns out is blind.  During the course of the conversation we begin debating the level of accessibility that it is reasonable/practical for a government to mandate for the buildings under its jurisdiction. 

I opine that it is perfectly reasonable to require that all new buildings be constructed with full accessibility to the disabled... but that I don't think that it is feasible to retrofit every single building in the country to bring it up to code. 

The woman in the wheelchair responds loudly that she feels I am prejudiced because I obviously know that more black people and women are handicapped than white men, and because I probably also feel 'why make buildings suit the needs of blind people since they are incapable of living normal productive lives within society?'

Suddenly everyone on the train is staring at me, and I am now in the unenviable position of having to defend my fairly straightforward position regarding handicapped accessibility within the broader mine field of issues on which I have not taken a position.

True, this is not a perfect analogy since the target of this blogger's rant did blend the issues of immunization and child abuse.  But the blogger is no longer speaking to this woman.  She is speaking to a large audience that is confused as to what is actually making her angry. 

If the topic under discussion is vaccination, I'm sure the blogger could have easily mentioned that there is a woman in her community who frequently makes pronouncements about how wrong-headed any parent is that opts not to vaccinate their children.  I'm sure this would have generated a lively thread of discussion that would have aired most, if not all of the relevant positions.

The same can be said of child abuse.  If the intention was to trigger a discussion of people's insensitivity to the plight of victims of child abuse, then it would have been just as easy to have brought up the original context within which the offending remark was made, and then say something to the effect of "Without going in to my position on mandatory vaccination, I find it extremely troubling that this woman threw around the term 'child abuse' in such a thoughtless manner."

But by blending the two issues together, it became nearly impossible to express an opinion about mandatory vaccination without seeming to side with the woman who had misused the term 'child abuse'.

In short, don't invite me over for dinner and then serve up a a big slice of 'sacred cow' that I will feel guilty about eating.

If you would like to take part in the discussion where it originated, please go visit Aidel Maidel.  But I am also curious to know if anyone else is conflicted over the blending (deliberate or otherwise) of unrelated issues.


Posted by David Bogner on April 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Look... up in the sky!

Yes, it's a bird. 

For the past week or so I've been seeing lots of these really large white birds with black markings during my morning drive to work.  I've asked a few of my hitchhikers what kind they are, but the Hebrew answer hasn't helped me much. 

Go ahead and laugh... by a show of hands, how many of you out there know the names of more than a couple of wild birds in English?!  Not so smug any more, are we?

Anyway, while I sat in synagogue this past Shabbat and listened to the Torah reading, a word jumped out from the English translation, and a little light bulb went on.

They were storks (Hasida in Hebrew)!

I asked around after 'shul' and sure enough, this is the time of year when they migrate through Israel on their journey from Africa to Europe.

According to 'Storchennest.de', a German site about, well, Storks (Yes, there really is a web site for everything), there are only two migratory routes that white storks take from their winter habitat in Africa to reach their breeding grounds in Europe; via Gibraltar or via Israel. 

According to the neat map they have on the site, it would seem that the Storks that migrate through Gibraltar are destined for Spain, Portugal and southern France. While the Storks that come through Israel are headed for Germany and even points as far north as Denmark (where the Stork is the national bird!).

On a practical note, if you see any White Storks in Germany or Denmark this summer, you can bet they flew through Israel in early April. 

But in a 'gee wiz' sort of way, how cool is it that the Storks pick the very week they are mentioned in the Torah (parshat Shemini) to fly through Israel?

I'm just saying...

Cross posted on Israelity

Posted by David Bogner on April 3, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Journalers don't do memes!

The last time I did one of these memes was back in October (the picture in picture meme), and that morphed into Photo Friday.  So who knows where this will lead!  :-)

Anyway, I ganked this one from my Seattle buddies Lachlan and Bayou:

The ABC's of Treppenwitz

ccent: Depends on who I've spoken with most recently
ra size:  Um, is it me or is this meme a little sexist? 
hore I hate: Um, I'm trying to think of one I actually like!
Dad’s name: Delmar
Essential make-up: Sunscreen (SPF15 or above)
Favorite perfume:  Oh what the heck... Clinique Happy (for men)
Gold or Silver: Gold
Hometown: If home is where my parents live... Westport, CT.
Interesting fact: Animals and little kids instinctively like me. Weird!
Job title: International Marketing Manager
Kids:  Three; a girl and two boys (kenaynahara... tfu, tfu tfu)
Living arrangements: Three story townhouse, walk to shopping, schools and houses of worship
Mom’s Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Number of apples eaten in last week: None
Overnight hospital stays:  uh, can I have another sheet of paper please?
Phobia: Death
Question you ask yourself a lot: "What the heck did I come in here for?"
Religious affiliation: Jewish
Siblings: No thanks, I already have three; two sisters and a brother.
Time I wake up:  5:30 - 6:00AM on weekdays and around 8:00AM on Shabbat.
Unnatural hair color: Fleshtone!?
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Brussels Sprouts
Worst habit:  Whistling
X-rays: I should set off geiger counters with all the radiation I've absorbed
Yummy food I make: Any kind of meat... and pretty decent Fettuccine Alfredo
Zodiac sign: Feces


Posted by David Bogner on April 3, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, April 01, 2005

Photo Friday (vol. XXI) [four-eyes edition]

What can I say... It's been a long week (at least for those of us still on the green side of the grass).

Almost immediately after I posted my last entry saying I might take a few days off in order to regroup, I received an e-mail from someone telling me that a mutual friend had had a heart attack and was in the hospital.   You can imagine how rationally I digested that news!  Let's just say I had a few, um, interrogative moments alone with my maker.

So far the news on this latest victim seems to be cautiously optimistic, but just now it seems to me that the most pressing danger in the world is not radical Islam, the unchecked spread of disease in the third world or land mines.  No, the biggest danger seems to be counting me among one's friends.

Obviously I'm [mostly] joking about this... but it does seem that the common denominator for much of the recent tragedy in the world... is me.

Moving on...

Gilad and I now share something more than a collection of genetic material:  We now both wear glasses.

I have wanted glasses all my life.  I was always  incredibly jealous of the kids in school who had neat frames and cases and all the paraphernalia that comes with being a glasses-wearer.  On top of that, I always felt that people who wore glasses just looked, y'know... smarter.

Unfortunately (totally tongue-in-cheek here) I have always had perfect vision.

Gilad, on the other hand, has been complaining recently that he was getting headaches in class and while reading.  Zahava and I were pretty sure he had inherited my glasses-envy, but we didn't want to play around with something as important as vision... so we set up an appointment for him with the local ophthalmologist.

I figured, while we were there, I could also get an eye exam... just to make sure everything was 20/20 with me.  It had been a few years since my last exam, so this was really more about being sensible than my long-standing desire for glasses.  Really.

Well, the jury came back with a guilty verdict on both of us.   Gilad needed mild glasses for everyday classroom work and reading... and I have officially reached the age where I need a mild reading prescription for making out the fine print. 

It's crazy that books, magazines and even newspapers are all printed entirely in fine print these days!  When did that happen?

So, without further do... here is a picture (yes, only one picture today... I'll make it up to you next week) of father and son wearing our spectacular new specs.  His are from the eye-doctor... mine are from the 'senior rack' at CVS.

OK, I'll admit it...  now that I have them glasses are way less cool than I thought they'd be.  However, I can now do that neat trick that I've always wanted to try whenever I want to make a point:

I look earnestly at the person (or persons) with whom I'm speaking... remove my glasses in one quick motion... point one of the bows directly at the addressee(s)... and say. "What if...".

How cool is that?!

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on April 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack