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Friday, August 05, 2005

Reap what you sow

I apologize for the lack of Photo Friday... but after what happened yesterday I am simply not in the mood to publish something frivolous.  Maybe I'll post P.F. on Sunday... we'll see.

Yesterday evening  Natan Eden Zeda (his name and memory should be obliterated), an IDF soldier who was AWOL from his unit since June, murdered four Arabs on a bus and wounded many more before being killed by a (justifiably angry) mob.

In the past I have posted about the need for people to speak out loudly and denounce acts of Jewish extremism, but on a quick tour around the Internet and the blogosphere this morning I see precious little of this.

What this animal did was unthinkable.  Dressed in a uniform he no longer had the right to wear and using a weapon that he no longer had the right to carry, he slaughtered and maimed as many innocent people as he could.

Spokespeople from The Jewish Legion, a far right militant terrorist group based in the town to which Zada had recently moved, acted as official apologists for this horrible crime by echoing many of the same worn excuses used by people who excuse the acts of Arab terrorists.

There is no possible excuse for this criminal act and it does immeasurable harm to to Israel's standing in the eyes of the world... not to mention the cleanliness of our national soul.

I know that in the coming days the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum will make a few perfunctory statements and fall silent.  Their crime will be not seizing the opportunity to use this as an example of what can happen when unrestrained political and religious rhetoric are allowed to continue unchecked. 

The left wing will surely assume a posture of moral superiority in the wake of this event without once stopping to consider that they too are culpable.  The lack of even the smallest attempt at moderation and civility in Israeli political discourse is at least partly to blame. 

You cannot continually use language to dehumanize and vilify people without having the weak-minded among us begin to believe that some lives are less valuable than others... and then act accordingly.

If the people who are capable of nuanced thinking paint everyone who does not think like them as 'the enemy' (and much more disgusting and hateful titles), then they can't act surprised and shake their fingers accusingly when people who lack intellectual subtlety believe them.

Yesterday's events were a tragedy on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin to grieve.

I'm warning people now that I am not interested in a 'balanced discussion' of this matter and I will not tolerate justifications of any kind in my presence.   This animal acted in my name... and yours.  And the only thing that will begin to wash the blood from our hands is for EVERYONE to finally take ownership of the irresponsible, hateful, words with which we describe our political and religious opponents.

The 'enemy' are the terrorists and the armed factions that dispatch them on their terrible missions.  To imply that all Arab civilians are legitimate targets and that there are no such things as Arab non-combatants is to legitimize the rationale of the very people who send monsters to murder Israeli civilians.


Posted by David Bogner on August 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 04, 2005

'Sleeper Posts'

I appreciate that several of you saw fit to send me comments and emails expressing personal feelings about yesterday's post... ranging from disinterest to disgust.  :-)

That's fine... really!

I know that I can't make everyone laugh or cry with every journal entry I post here... in fact I don't even try.

But if you take a look at the archives here at treppenwitz, you'll see that the posts that regularly appear here can probably be herded into the following basic categories:

Funny... Something struck me as funny and I wanted to share.  More often than not I find out that what I consider to be funny is not universally perceived as such. 

Sad... This might be my thoughts on a personal disappointment, a national tragedy... or anything in between.

Weird... Anything worth mentioning that falls between 'funny' and 'sad' (sometimes with elements of both).

Doh!... This is a genre of posts that describe me doing, saying, or experiencing anything painful, embarrassing or humiliating due to my own unique ability to make a fool of myself.  This type of post is a favorite of many treppenwitz readers... as well as my children (hmmm... I wonder if there could be a connection?).

Family... Stuff going on with my immediate and extended family (can overlap with most of the other categories).

Israeliness... Stuff I experience / learn as I become acclimated to life in this wonderful, frustrating, beautiful, exasperating country.

Political Rants... These tirades are usually followed within 24-48 hours by an apology and/or partial retraction.  I've discovered that discussing politics in so public a forum is very good for one's humility (if it doesn't kill you first).

Sometimes it is important to remind everyone that when I sit down to write something here on treppenwitz, I have a broad range of personal agendas to address... and sometimes the subject matter doesn't fit perfectly into one of the categories above.  That's where this last category comes in:

Sleepers... These are difficult to describe.  Sleeper posts are usually written around a kernel of information that I found to be both useful and timeless.  I write the occasional sleeper post  knowing that it will be a big snooze for most of my regular readers.  My goal is not to bore you, but rather to get some useful tidbit of information out onto the Web so that people doing searches for specific information will have access to it.  Think about it... how many times have you done a web search for some obscure or arcane bit of information and found it, simply because someone took the time to post it on their site?

Yesterday's post was a pretty good example of a sleeper post... but the best example so far would be a journal entry I wrote a long time ago called 'Itching to tell someone'.   You can go read it if you have nothing better to do... but simply put, the 'Itching to tell someone' post was the result of a personal epiphany I experienced over a persistent itch that I'd had in the same spot on my back for most of my adult life.  This itch had been a constant nuisance and had stumped several very competent medical professionals. 

I knew it had to be a fairly common condition because nearly every vacation spot and resort seemed to sell back-scratchers in their gift shops.  Why would back-scratchers be so ubiquitous unless many, many people were also walking around with a chronic itch like mine?! 

I had done web searches for years looking for some hint at what this problem might be called, and what others were doing about it (besides buying Mickey Mouse and Goofy back-scratchers), and came up with bupkes.

It wasn't until I asked a fellow musician to scratch my back on the bandstand that he asked if I also suffered from Notalgia paraesthetica.  Apparently his doctor had been able to put a name to the problem... and it was only the through the coincidence of having asked a fellow sufferer for a back scratch that I found out about it!

Even after I knew the name of the problem I found precious little on the web about it (you can see that I had to resort to the New Zealand Dermatological Society web site to find a working definition of it!), so I decided to write a post in order to get some helpful information out onto the 'Net.

Since publishing that 'Sleeper Post', I have received thousands of hits from search engines with keyword strings like 'itchy shoulder blade', 'back itch', and 'persistent itchy back'.  I have also received dozens of emails from grateful people who have expressed profound relief, if not from their symptoms, then at least at finally knowing a bit about the cause of their problem.

After all this self-congratulatory carrying-on, I will add a caveat stating that one needs to be very careful about publishing 'Sleeper Posts'. 

If you post medical advice, you run the risk of misleading someone or (G-d forbid) giving someone with a life-threatening condition the mistaken idea that they have something fairly benign.  The same can be said about posting legal advice or even blogging about new and interesting uses for household products like flea & tick treatments.

I encourage any of you who keep a blog or journal to also consider creating an online record of interesting/useful information you acquire during the course of your lives. 

However, if you do decide to post a helpful marker along the Infobahn... please be aware that the Internet - like love and taxes - is forever!  Search engines will inevitably lead people to your doorstep who have far less common sense than web-surfing skills, so try to anticipate all the ways your words can be misinterpreted or taken out of context. 

What I'm really trying to say is that from time to time you may see a post here that seems particularly out of place among my typical fare. 

Now you'll know why. 


Posted by David Bogner on August 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

No... those aren't bees!

Disclaimer: The contents of this post are for informational purposes only.  This is not intended as an endorsement or encouragement to use any substance or product in a manner for which it was not originally intended. Anyone who uses a pesticide or poison in a manner other than that for which it was intended does so at his/her own risk!

This is the time of year when an important shift takes place between the relative strengths of two very different types of beneficial insect colonies; Honey Bees and Yellow Jackets. 

Honey bees are essential throughout the spring and summer to pollinate crops, fruit trees and flowers.  Bees are only interested in pollen and nectar and will forage only for these things when weather permits throughout the spring, summer and early fall.

Yellow jackets (actually a type of wasp that many people mistake for honey bees), on the other hand,  are helpful only during a very brief period of the early summer when they eat several species of destructive caterpillars and flies.  However, when these garden pests are no longer available for them to eat, the yellow jackets turn their omnivorous attention to anything and everything else in the environment... and that's when they become a pest/danger to both man and honey bee.

During these mid-to-late summer weeks honey bees deliberately reduce the amount of food they give to their queen which forces her to slow down her egg laying.  The result is that the colony strength begins to diminish and the remaining workers take this as a sign to begin making subtle preparations for the coming winter.  This marks the beginning of a vulnerable period for the honey bee colony.

At the same time yellow jackets are building up the strength of their colonies (they usually make their nests in the ground, hollow trees, or in cavities found in walls or roofs of houses), and without the flies and caterpillars, they are becoming more and more aggressive in their quest for new sources of food.  They will eat dead animals, fruit, fish, soda and nearly anything that would normally be found on a picnic table or garbage can.  The yellow jackets also get very interested in the carbohydrate and protein found in honey and bee larvae... making them a very real threat to honey bee colonies.

Beekeepers are aware of this shift in power and often take steps to make sure the yellow jacket population is dramatically reduced.  As I said, they do this because at this time the yellow jackets are no longer beneficial to the environment and pose a very real danger to the honey bee hives in their weakened state.

Anyone who has ever had to contend with yellow jackets at a late summer back yard picnic or in their sukkah will now understand why they show up in such large numbers.

To kill off as many yellow jackets as possible, beekeepers will often set out poisoned meat for them to take back to their nests.  This kills both the adult yellow jackets who absorb some of the poison as they chew up the meat... as well as the larvae to whom the adults feed the partly digested food. 

It is important to note that this will not prevent yellow jackets from coming back the following year because the mated yellow jacket queens that hatched during the spring and early summer have already left the nest to find a places to overwinter in preparation for starting their own colonies in the spring.

The way many beekeepers poison the yellow jacket colonies is as follows:

In a small plastic dish or bowl a thin layer of ground beef is laid out all over the bottom (separate the strands of meat as much as possible so that the insects can have easy access to it).  Then a commercially available flea & tic-control substance such as Frontline (available from vets or pet supply outlets) is dripped over all the meat. The meat is then set out in a place where it can be clearly observed and supervised.


Two solutions that reduce the risk of accidental poising of pets or children (but are not an alternative to full-time supervision of the process):

1.  The poisoned meat can be placed in a closed bird cage.  So long as the door is securely closed, only insects can go in and out. 

2.  The poisoned meat can be placed under an inverted laundry hamper (the kind that has big holes in it).  Again, so long as the hamper remains in place, nothing but insects can gain access to the meat.

The poisoned meat will only remain in place for a couple of hours.  It is not necessary for the yellow jackets to consume all of the meat.  Once yellow jackets have been observed feasting on the meat for an hour or two, it should be thrown away in a sealed receptacle where no animals or humans can gain access to it!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the time to act if one intends to reduce the yellow jacket population in their area during the late summer and early fall... whether to protect a beehive or simply to reduce the yellow jacket population for reasons of comfort.

Disclaimer: The contents of this post are for informational purposes only.  This is not intended as an endorsement or encouragement to use any substance or product in a manner for which it was not originally intended. Anyone who uses a pesticide or poison in a manner other than that for which it was specifically intended does so at his/her own risk!

Posted by David Bogner on August 3, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Forbidden Fruit

Each day as I drive to and from work I pass dozens of small roadside fruit & vegetable stands.  Each is owned and attended-to by local Arabs, and all of the produce is carried to the stands by donkey or tractor directly from local orchards, vineyards and fields.

This stuff is, without a doubt, the most beautiful, perfectly ripe produce I have ever laid eyes upon... and for sheer mouth-watering attractiveness I would match it against any gentrified 'gourmet farm market' in the world!

The problem is that this produce is both figuratively and literally, 'forbidden fruit'.

Many of my friends and neighbors who are long-time residents of Gush Etzion tell me of a time not so long ago when the Israeli and Arab economies and communities mixed relatively freely. 

This isn't to say that there was peace and love flowing freely in the streets... but Israelis rode the Arab bus lines if an 'Egged' bus wasn't scheduled conveniently... and Arabs were a common sight on the streets of our communities.

Arabs came and went freely in Israeli communities/settlements for work and to avail themselves of things like free health clinics and shopping... and Israelis went into the heart of Arab population centers in search of bargains on such things as glassware, rugs, and building supplies.

In short, though there has never been anything approaching love or even trust between the two populations, there was a certain symbiosis that was fostered for the improved quality of life it brought to both communities.

Then came something whose cause or goal I have yet to fully understand: The Intifada(s).

My town, which had always been one of the more liberal communities in terms of relations with neighboring Arab villages, was forced, in stages, to exclude Arabs. 

Where neighboring villages had once been invited to use our emergency medical center as a free walk-in clinic, they were now barred because one of the villagers had strolled up to the medical center with a bomb strapped to his body and blown himself up. 

Another man from a neighboring village who was a long-time employee of an Efrat resident, and who was on friendly terms with many people here in town, walked into one of the supermarkets wearing a bomb belt and attempted to blow himself up in the midst of a large crowd of shoppers.  Luckily his bomb failed to fully detonate and he was shot by a local resident before he could complete his mission.

Where once Efrat had been considered a safe and convenient bedroom community, just a short drive from Jerusalem... the almost daily stonings and shooting attacks against motorists immeasurably magnified the 15 minute journey into something both risky and foolhardy.   New residents were few and far between... and those who already lived in Efrat became weary of attending funerals of local men and women who had been killed for the simple crime of driving while Jewish.

One by one the economic ties between the Jews and Arabs of Gush Etzion were severed until contact between the two sides was almost non-existent. 

As the latest intifada has begun to lose steam, Arab workers have again been allowed into our town (so long as the people hiring them also hire armed guards), and some building supplies are surreptitiously being obtained through back channels from Palestinian sources.

However, our emergency medical center remains closed to Arab patients, and Arab buses and taxis travel the roads with no Jewish passengers.

And perhaps most painful for both sides... the beautiful fruits and vegetables at the countless roadside stands rot quietly in the mid-day heat... because Jews are afraid to stop and buy... and there are not nearly enough Arab consumers to justify the volume of produce that the surrounding fields have been cultivated to yield.

I often joke with one of my regular passengers when we pass a particularly attractive roadside display of produce, that "maybe we should we stop and buy something tasty to bring home to the wives?" 

But this joke is of the darkest variety... because we both know that stopping for this 'forbidden fruit'... no matter how delicious it may be... might very well mean not making it home at all.


Posted by David Bogner on August 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Monday, August 01, 2005

Merging onto the Infobahn

I rarely ask my readers for help.  I've even been mildly critical of bloggers who constantly shake their readers down for advice and/or technical assistance.

The truth is, I have gratefully accepted a few very helpful bits of timely advice/assistance from readers in the past... but I have been extremely reluctant to actively ask for help because it feels so much like cornering a doctor at a party for free medical advice.

In my experience, people who are very good at something, or extremely knowledgeable about a particular subject, have usually spent a significant amount of time and effort (not to mention money) acquiring that expertise. 

Why would anyone assume that it's OK to take the easy way out and pester them for answers they were too lazy (or cheap) to find for themselves?

Well, I now realize that sometimes the answers being sought are subjective... and the only way to gain enough information to make an informed decision is to ask people to share some of their own hard-won experience.

That's what I am going to do today.

Our big kids are now 9 (almost 10) and 11 (and-a-half).

Unlike most of their friends, our kids do not have their own computers, and do not even have unfettered access to one.  The reason for this is that Zahava and I are worried sick about the stuff to which kids can be exposed (by accident or design), on the Internet.

To provide a little background/perspective, our kids don't have unfettered access to the television either.  They know they are allowed to watch National Geographic or one of the other 'nature' type channels without our permission.  They also have a short list of shows they can watch without us in the room... and they can watch certain other programs so long as one of us is present. 

Even with all of these viewing rules in place, we still worry about some of the things to which they are being exposed (i.e. some of the racier images in commercials).

However, we also know we can't figuratively hold our hands over their eyes forever.  At a certain point the allure of forbidden fruit becomes stronger than any lessons we might have intended to teach them.

Their aunts, uncles and grandparents have been (rightfully) angry with us for not giving the kids an easy way to email and chat with their relatives overseas... and we worry that they are now at a disadvantage to their peers in terms of knowing their way around a computer.

So... now that I have a reliable new computer for myself, I am probably going to reformat my old 'puter and set it up in a place where the kids can use it to send/receive e-mail and surf the Web. 

But before we take this step, I need to do what I mentioned at the outset and ask for some help/advice from my readers:

I need recommendations for software (e.g. Netnanny), to make an unsupervised computer as kid-safe as possible.  I want something that will constantly update itself... but I'm not sure if I want or need something that will be totally invasive of the kid's privacy (e.g. allowing me to read all the kid's keystrokes and view all sites they've visited).   I honestly don't know haw much protection I (they) need... and how much is too much.

I'm flying blind here people.  I want the kids to have access to the wealth of information and fun that is out there in the Internet.  I want them to be able to email and chat with friends and relatives.  I can think of nothing more valuable than having both of them become more techno-Savvy than either of their parents.

But I don't want them to have to sacrifice their innocence to have all that!

I'm sure there is no perfect solution or magic bullet to keep them safe while using a computer... but I would deeply appreciate any advice you can offer that will allow Ari and Gili to merge safely onto the infobahn.


Posted by David Bogner on August 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack