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Friday, December 30, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. L) ['changing hillside' edition]

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the hillside opposite the one on which my house sits is undergoing a small transformation.  In the wadi (valley) between the two hills several dozen Palestinian farmers have laid claim to privately and government owned land for their vineyards.  This is a fairly standard practice as nearly every settlement is immediately surrounded by these cultivated fields and vineyards in order to limit the area on which the Jews can build. 

However, the opposite hillside has several large tracts of land that have not been under cultivation since at least Ottoman times and likely earlier.  It is on one of these plots that a group of teenagers have built a temporary structure and have been holding classes... hosting meals... and generally performing a non-violent form of protest to recent events.

Here's how the hillside looked Earlier in the year:

And here's how it looks now:

Here's a zoom of what's going on there:

Rather than meet violence with violence (as a minuscule minority of settlers have done), the settler movement's typical response to nearly every act of terrorism/murder has been to establish a new community on Jewish or state-owned land in memory of those who were killed.  Some of these efforts have grown into thriving communities while others have dwindled as nonviable groups of a few caravans (trailers) are up-rooted by the government.

Joe Settler wrote a nice post yesterday about what's going on across from my house.  Go read what he has to say.  I don't know him and haven't read enough of his stuff to know if we agree on all the important stuff, but I found his take on this particular event very thought provoking... mostly because he had the guts to admit some feelings of ambiguity about the direction in which this youthful enthusiasm is being channeled.

You may object to what these kids are doing, or even how they are doing it... but this is not a provocation.  This is not placing a stumbling block before the peace process.  Anyone who thinks so is (IMHO) guilty of the kind of double standard I mentioned yesterday. 

This gesture, no matter how seemingly futile, is simply a legitimate response to terror.  Asking a terrorized population to do nothing in the face of ongoing and relentless murder and mayhem is simply not reasonable request.  Condoning equal violence (i.e. vigilantism) is also not a reasonable response. 

Frankly, I would rather see our children learn to respond to destruction with construction (thanks to Joe Settler for that idea), rather than thirsting for revenge and a perpetuation of the 'so-called cycle of violence'.

I don't want to leave you today on such a troubling note, so here's a bonus picture I took at the Negev Mall in Beer Sheva on Thursday.  It is still technically the Fifth candle of Hanukkah (at least 'til sundown)!:


Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by David Bogner on December 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Most people who see this word today immediately think of a certain ubiquitous video/DVD rental chain.  But there is another definition for 'blockbuster' that has almost completely fallen out of use.

'Blockbusting' is the illegal practice of persuading white homeowners to sell quickly and usually at a loss by appealing to the fear that minority groups and especially Black people will move into their neighborhood, causing property values to decline. The property is then resold at inflated prices. [Source: Answer.com]

The main sense behind both the word and concept is that someone would profit by playing on the fears and prejudices that one group has for another group.  The legal/real estate ramifications aside, there are murky waters involved whenever one takes more than a passing look at the fears and prejudices which make such practices possible.

For example: An African American family attempting to purchase a house in Howard Beach (an Italian American neighborhood in Queens, New York that has historically been hostile towards minorities who want to move in), will garner two opposite reactions, depending on one's point of view:

Pro:  Anyone who has the money to buy a house can do so wherever and whenever it suits them.  The assumption that the buyer's ethnicity is a provocation is racist and perpetuates the idea that the presence of a particular race or class of person is somehow damaging to the peace, harmony and value of an area.  Anyone should be able to legally purchase a home and live wherever he/she wants without regard to race, religion, creed, etc.

Con:   Any black family that wants to buy in an all white neighborhood is just looking for trouble!  Why don't they just stay with their own?  By buying a house amidst people who don't want them there they are looking to be deliberately disruptive and it will kill the property values in the area.  This is just going to cause trouble and unhappiness for everyone so why do they bother?

Here in this part of the world we have even more complex issues with both race and religion being thrown into the mix for added volatility.

In such a situation, the real test of whether one is really prejudiced/racist is to reverse the equation or use new variables just to see if one's feelings remain the same.  I think most people who are honest with themselves will find that they are not as open-minded as they thought they were.

Two real examples:

Example one:  A small all-Jewish town in Israel is suddenly in the news because they want to enact local legislation that would prohibit non-Jews from buying houses/property in their community.  This has come to light because a Muslim family wants to buy a house there and is fighting the trend that restricts all access to potential properties for sale.  The town claims that this legislation is necessary to preserve the social, religious and cultural integrity of their community.  It is worth noting that here in Israel it is not uncommon for small communities to be formed based on shared political, religious and even ethnic (meaning country of origin) similarities.  Few people object when such communities are formed, but further down the road the obvious question arises of how such a status quo can be maintained without enacting potentially biased and illegal purchasing laws.

Example two:  In Jerusalem, Israel's Capital city, a Jewish family wants to purchase a house that is located in an Arab neighborhood.  There is even compelling evidence that the house was once owned by Jews but was confiscated during the Arab riots of 1929. The local Arab community immediately begins threatening legal action and some even threaten to kill the Arab seller if he completes the transaction with the Jews.  The leaders of the Arab community claim that it is an attempt to displace them and that Jews have no right to live in the Arab community. 

My questions are as follows:

1.  Why is it considered by many to be inflammatory when a Jew wants to legally purchase land or housing in a predominantly Arab area, and equally inflammatory when Jews want to exclude an Arab from doing the same thing in a predominantly Jewish area?

2.  Why are even the most tenuous Arab land claims that date back to Turkish Ottoman times considered legally binding, yet Jewish land/property claims (many dating back to the same period or at very least British mandatory period) are dismissed out of hand as irrelevant to the current reality.  In both cases a legally binding transaction took place.  Money changed hands.  A land/property owner sold something of concrete description and value to someone else... yet only the Arab claims seem to stand the test of time.

I pass many Arab villages along my morning commute where new land is constantly being cleared for agriculture and/or housing and it isn't newsworthy.  Nobody asks if they actually own the land or if they have legal permission for the expansion.  Yet when my municipality (Efrat) is granted legal permission from the Israeli government to build new housing within our municipal borders it is considered a provocation to our Arab neighbors and splashed all over the news!

Our municipal borders are also surrounded by non-contiguous plots of land that were purchased by Jews in the '20s, '30s and '40s.  Yet each time a Jew attempts to make use of this land 'peace activists' pressure the army and/or police to come and throw the Jews off the land so as not to offend the local Arabs' sensibilities.

As we speak there is a small plot of Jewish-owned land on the hillside opposite my house that is being built upon by some local teenagers.  So far they have put up a couple of small temporary structures and what looks to be an outhouse.  They have been there for about 36 hours and I'm wondering:

a) how long it will be before the police or army come and arrest them.

b) why their presence on a legally purchased plot of Jewish owned land is somehow an offense to anyone's sensibilities?

c) whether there isn't some connection to the original fear and prejudices associated with the term 'blockbusting' at work here?

Before you hit the 'submit comment' button, please look at your response and ask yourself if it would be worded the same way if the cases being discussed were reversed... or in a different country altogether.


Posted by David Bogner on December 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The [modern-day] Gift of the Magi

We all had to read the classic O. Henry short story about gift giving/receiving when we were in grade school.  It's a heartwarming tale about two people who love each other enough to sacrifice a prized possession and give each other the perfect gift.

Hair is cut... watches are sold.  Wackiness ensues. [Now that's how you post a spoiler!]

Anyway, this past week saw the consummation of a similarly heartwarming exchange of gifts between two people who, while not exactly in love, at least hold each other in fairly high esteem.

Some of you may remember that last year a certain prolific LA blogger and I laid an ill-conceived wager on whose baseball team would finish the regular season with the best record.   I stood to lose a kilo of Jerusalem's famous Marzipan Rugalach... and he was putting a similar measure of Los Angeles' famous Jeff's Kosher Gourmet Sausages at risk.

In the unlikely (unthinkable!) event that our teams ended the season in a statistical tie we agreed that we would both have to pay the bet.

Long story short, he picked the Angels and I chose the Red Sox... and these two teams went on to end the regular season in a statistical tie.

Remember for a moment that both sides of the 'Action' on this bet were fairly perishable foodstuffs... and the 'players' who now had to pay off the bet were half a world away from one another. 

This presented some rather impressive logistical challenges.

Enter 'the runner'... a mild-mannered, unassuming CPA (who also just happens to be a good friend and neighbor of mine).  He lives and works here in Israel, but for a few weeks each year he flies to California to do some work for an LA accounting firm. 

And he had a trip planned for December.

This presented a nice window of opportunity for two motivated omnivores dear friends to be able to finally consummate their wager.  That this dénouement would occur during the holiday season only serves to enhance the heartwarming aspect of our tale, no?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago our Super Hero CPA was met with a warm box of Rugalach as he was leaving for the airport.  He tucked the box in his carry-on with vague promises not to filch too many during the flight.  A day later I received word from the other side of the planet (via AL Gore's most impressive invention), that the chocolaty pastries had been received.

A couple of days ago our Super Hero CPA called to tell me he had just landed and was in possession of a nice parcel of Chicken Cilantro and Chicken Apple flavoured gourmet sausages.  [*drool*] We supplemented the ensuing grill-fest with some nice local lamb-kabobs and didn't stop until the plates were empty and every greasy finger had been carefully licked clean.

There now... wasn't that a nice holiday story

OK, so maybe my story doesn't really contain any of the heartwarming self-sacrifice stuff found in 'The Gift of the Magi'.  But it does have a couple of the O. Henry story's elements; seemingly insurmountable obstacles... the desire to give the perfect gift... oh who am I kidding?  It was a stupid sports bet between a couple of hack writers with a bad case of the munchies.

I know it's a reach, but I used to drink the occasional pint of ale in the very pub (Pete's Tavern) in NYC's Grammarcy Park where O. Henry actually wrote 'The Gift of the Magi'.  That's gotta count for something... right?


Posted by David Bogner on December 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I really need to check my stats more often

Anyone who has a blog/journal and claims he/she doesn't take an occasional peek to see who's visiting or where the traffic is coming from is a big fat 'liar, liar pants on fire'.   

We all do it, so let's just stop pretending, mmkay?

With that said, I really, honestly have been so busy lately with, well, life that I haven't paid much attention to who's visiting treppenwitz and how they got here.

Really... scout's honor!

Imagine my surprise then, when I looked at my referrer logs today and saw a small blogolanche of traffic.  I immediately assumed it was coming from the Jerusalem Post which has been serializing treppenwitz over on their site

But no... instead it was coming from the Pajamas Media site... specifically from their Best of the Blogs page!

[does really embarrassing wobbly-kneed touchdown dance around the office chair]

OK, I'm back now.

You'll have to forgive me, but I'm going to be insufferably full of myself for a couple of days.

Seriously though... go check out the Pajamas Media site.  It's a really neat mix of wide-ranging sources / topics in a clean, intuitive format.  The best part is that PM is run by some of the best and brightest slackers ever to throw a PowerPoint business plan in front of a venture capitalist.

I'm just glad they didn't realize that I would have gladly paid cash money for even a passing mention on their site!


Posted by David Bogner on December 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, December 26, 2005

You did a good thing last night!

[Sorry to anyone who tried to comment on this post today.  Typepad locked me out of my own tempate, and it locked all of you out of everything else.  Hopefully this is fixed... but if anyone has recommendations for new a host (not Moveable Type), I'm all ears.]

Imagine for a moment that you are a 19 or 20 year old boy or girl and you are standing on a cold, windswept hillside, fully exposed to a driving mix of rain and sleet.  Your army-issue four weather clothing lost whatever insulation value it had about 15 minutes after climbing out of the truck that dropped you and your fellow soldiers at this isolated check-point.

Even the non-regulation 'fleece' jacket you are wearing under your heavy ceramic body armor and ammunition harness is soaked from the steady stream of water that drips from your helmet straps down the side of your neck... and your fingers feel as stiff and cold as the M-16 they are holding.

Other roadblocks that are closer to Jewish settlements have a bit more traffic and garner the occasional friendly face and hello... but you are standing at a roadblock in the midst of 6 or 7 Arab villages and the traffic at this hour is almost nil.

As the occasional car pulls to a stop at your roadblock you lean forward to speak to the driver and inspect the vehicle's interior.  This small shift in your posture takes you by surprise each time as a small torrent of icy rainwater cascades off your helmet and down the back of your neck.  It seems like the stream makes it all the way to your soggy boots each time this happens because your socks squeeze an odd bubbly stream of water out between the sole and upper each time you shift your weight from one foot to the other.

The only thing that makes this watch remotely bearable is the promise that in exactly 23... no, make that 22 minutes you will be switching places with one of your friends who is huddled nearby in a makeshift 3-sided tent that keeps the worst of the wind and rain from extinguishing a small can of burning diesel fuel that was set alight for light and warmth.

With the sunset a few hours ago the holiday of Hanukkah has begun, but it won't be until after midnight when you get back to the base that you can even begin thinking about simple pleasures like self-pity over not being able to enjoy your mother's potato latkes... or your neighborhood bakery's heavenly sufganiyot.  Right now just keeping your teeth from chipping as they chatter together is more than enough to think about.

After another 15 minutes of staring off into the darkness a car's headlights emerge out of the driving rain and a late-model gray station wagon pulls to a stop next to the pond-sized mud puddle that is your roadblock.  Hours of mind-numbing experience at these check-points has allowed you to mentally label this car as 'safe'.  This profiling method isn't fool-proof of course, but the driver's Ashkenazi features, pressed shirt and the way the water is beading on the recently waxed car all send a subliminal message that this is someone that probably doesn't require a closer inspection. 

In your mind you've already dismissed this bearded settler and gone back to trying to mentally dodge raindrops when you notice that the car hasn't continued through the check-point and away into the darkness.  Instead the driver is handing out several big bakery boxes wrapped in large plastic shopping bags... and the unmistakable aroma of fresh sufganiot joins the preferred boxes as they pass through the open window.

Magically, a couple of your fellow soldiers emerge from the shelter of the flapping tarp and you watch in the flickering light of the diesel-fueled campfire as they quickly take charge of the unwieldy bakery boxes... and just as quickly disappear back into the tent to enjoy the sufganiyot. 

As the driver starts to roll up his window against the horizontal rain he says 'Hanukkah Sameach' (happy Hanukkah) and something else in American-accented Hebrew about reading the note inside the boxes.

The next 7 minutes pass impossibly slowly as all you can think about is getting out of the rain and biting into a warm sufganiyah.

When it is finally your turn to retreat 'inside' the meager protection of the flapping tent you are delighted to see that your friends have saved you three sufganiot in the bottom of the oil-stained cardboard box.  As you bite into the first one and the rich flavors of Ribat Halav (caramel) and oily dough mix in your mouth, you notice a note in the box and remember the driver's parting words.  The note, which the others have already read, says (in poorly constructed Hebrew):

"You may be cold... and you may be tired... but don't think for a moment that you are alone as you do this important work.  People from all over the world... Jews and Gentiles... right wing and left, who read a 'blog' called treppenwitz, appreciate what you are doing and wanted to do this small thing in order to wish you a Happy Hanukkah.  www.treppenwitz.com "

Since a shooting last week when a husband/father of 5 was murdered driving along this isolated stretch of road, several checkpoints have been put back in place.  Roads leading in and out of Palestinian villages that were recently opened in a humanitarian gesture to the local populations have been bulldozed closed again.  Because the terrorists continue do everything in their power to drive a wedge between the two populations, the Arabs living in these areas are once again forced to live under closure... and the IDF is forced to redeploy young men and women to stand exposed and vulnerable in these inhospitable spots.

I may have been privileged to be your messenger as I was coming home from work on the first night of Hanukkah... but you were the ones who made this wonderful gesture possible!

Because so many of you were nice enough to click-through and visit the advertisers on the lower right hand side of this site... and others made outright donations using the little orange & gray 'Spoil Soldiers' Paypal button... the first cold, rainy night of Hanukkah was made a bit more comfortable for soldiers at 4 different check points along my route.  I hope to continue this as long as the need exists.

Thank you one and all for making this gesture possible.  You did a very good thing!

[Note:  Since the Typepad server crash last week my template has been acting a bit strangely.  Some people have said that they no longer see the ads.  Please let me know if you experience this problem.221_16_5_111

Posted by David Bogner on December 26, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A white wet Hanukkah

In a relatively rare confluence of Hebrew and Gregorian calendars, Xmas (I've added the link to this nearly universally-know holiday to enlighten people who might take exception to the informal abbreviation), Hanukkah and Kwanzaa will bump up against one another, albeit for only a moment at midnight this evening.

Although an exhaustive search of scripture and text from all three religions has yielded no official requirement for snow (holiday songs excluded),  I think many of the people who observe these holidays unconsciously associate them with winter precipitation.

Here in our town, which is within easy walking distance of Bethlehem (if one were foolhardy enough to walk there), we are in the midst of a pretty serious winter storm.  The temperature has hovered around freezing for most of the night and snow flurries have been sighted here and there.  But for the most part the precipitation has been of the non-snow variety.

Israel has been experiencing a bit of a drought over the past couple of months so we're all pretty excited about just about any wetness that comes our way.  But if the Big Guy was already planning on slamming us with the cold and wet stuff anyway... would it have been so hard to just let it snow a little?

It looks like Zahava and I will be leaving our cross-country skis in the shed today! [sigh]

Happy [whatever-it-is-you-celebrate]!


Posted by David Bogner on December 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Friday, December 23, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XLIV) ['Moving Picture' edition]

I want to apologize again for last week's lack of Photo Friday.  Typepad (my hosting service) had a major server crash and all their clients were locked out of their blogs for most of Friday. 

In honor of my 2 year blogoversary, I wanted to post a picture that has been a part of my life since  I first saw it in an elementary school social studies book. 

Let me back up a bit to mention that I get about 4 or 5 emails a week asking whether the be-hatted guy on the stairs in the treppenwitz banner is me.  Whenever I get this question I refer the asker to an old post from when Zahava designed the banner for me.  But since new readers have arrived and continue to ask the same question I figured that the blogoversary would be a nice time to re-publish that original photo and post:

Everything looks better by candlelight

I think that most people would agree with that statement.

Some people might say that the only real difference between decent cafeteria food and restaurant fare is the presentation and lighting. I know from personal experience that my clumsy efforts in the kitchen are dramatically improved when served by candlelight.

The same can be said about the written word. A paragraph embossed in a leather-bound volume has considerably more gravitas than the same words printed in a spiral-bound notebook. One is classic literature…the other, homework.

Well, I finally got tired of looking at the tired old, generic-looking, page banner on my site. Not only did it mark me as a rank amateur (which I am), but it also bathed the writing beneath it in a pale, unappealing fluorescent light. The way I saw it, the writing wasn’t gonna get much better, so it was time to turn out the lights and bring out some fancy candles.

The snazzy new page banner you see here at treppenwitz, was inspired by a couple of unrelated things:

First, the banner obviously had to suggest the concept of treppenwitz…you know, the perfect retort that occurs to you only as you are leaving on the stairs. I didn’t know how to visually suggest this concept, other than to have someone stand on the stairs. That was the sum total of my big idea. Aren’t you glad you weren’t the artist given this assignment?

Another, more subtle influence entered, exited, and then re-entered, my life quite by chance. 

Years ago, long before I had even heard the word treppenwitz, I saw a picture in a social studies book, taken in1939 by Marion Post Wolcott entitled, "Negro Going in Colored Entrance of Movie House, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi."

              [click to see the full size photograph]

Something about this picture captivated my attention. Maybe it was the stoop-shouldered posture of the silhouetted man…or perhaps the battered fedora he wore…or maybe the insulting, matter-of-factness of the signage indicating who went where. In any event, I folded over that textbook page and found myself repeatedly drawn to that picture. Long after the social studies book had gone to that place where social studies books go, that image remained burned into my brain.

When I ‘discovered’ the word treppenwitz, I immediately thought of this picture because of the common element of stairs. 

Anyhoo…I wanted my talented, graphic designer, spouse to design me up a new page banner, so I downloaded a couple of ‘gigs’ worth of pictures of stairs, staircases, and people on stairs from the Internet. Lo and behold, don’t you know one of the first pictures I stumbled across was my old favorite!

Last night, after I handed over my hoard of stair-images to Zahava and gave her a sketch of what I had in mind, I left her to do her magic. I was a little disappointed since I figured there wasn’t much she could do with the picture I liked (the guy was walking up the stairs and not down), but I included it just the same.

Over the years Zahava and I have developed a finely tuned partnership when it comes to design projects: I give her a tremendous amount of detail, input and direction, (including colors, images, shading, etc)…and she promptly ignores all of it in favor of what I really needed in the first place. This project was no exception.

Not only did it come out better than I could have ever imagined, but she also (without my having even mentioned my long-standing attachment) included the central character from my beloved picture!

This, boys and girls, is why she is a sought-after graphic designer, and I’m…well, I’m not.

She whipped this little baby out in less than ten minutes while simultaneously cooking dinner, nursing the baby, checking her e-mail, helping the big kids with their homework and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle (sorry Beth…not in ink)!

I bow before her designerness.

And as an added bonus…perhaps my writing will look a little more appealing now that it is bathed in the film noir-like glow of this deep blue, candlelit banner.

Shabbat Shalom!


Posted by David Bogner on December 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Making it up as I go along

Two  years ago today I ended the otherwise unremarkable inaugural treppenwitz post with the words, "Well, here we go: "Tap, tap, tap...is this thing on?"

I don't know exactly what I was thinking back then, but I remember feeling a little self-conscious... as if I'd had a few-too-many drinks and was climbing up on stage to make a fool of myself on 'open mic' night at the improv.

I really had no idea when I started this journal how long I'd stay up here... or what I might actually have to say to all those empty seats.  But I liked the idea of making myself a bit vulnerable... and I enjoyed the way it made me feel to put my ideas and opinions out where people could see them.  And before too long... slowly but surely I noticed a few people trickling in and taking seats in the back.

I honestly wouldn't have believed it if someone had walked up to me in high school and told me that in the future all I'd have to do in order to explore just about any topic or idea was to type a few lines into a little text box, and within hours, or sometimes minutes, smart, interesting people from all over the world would step up and share their opinions, life experiences and expertise! 

We really don't say this nearly often enough: "Isn't the future fantastic?" 

OK, so maybe we don't have flying cars yet... or those nifty metalic unisex jumpsuits.  But most of the other neat stuff the 20th century sci-fi writers promised us have arrived right on schedule!  The incredible communication tool of the Internet is indeed one of the great inventions of our time, and we would be remiss if we didn't occasionally pause to acknowledge the tremendous debt we owe to Al Gore.

I want to thank all of you for allowing me a safe place to test-drive my ideas, and for offering constructive (and often humorous) feedback based on your collective life experiences.  I have never met most of you, and likely never will... but I'm a better person for having had the opportunity to listen to your good-natured heckles... as well as your sound, well-considered advice.

The incredible value of the 'audience participation' aspect of blogging/journaling is something I could never have anticipated when I was first starting out. Anyone who has ever started a blog or journal has, by definition, assumed that he/she had something terribly important to say.  But I wonder how many of us consider the possibility that there are also terribly important things yet to learn? 

Keeping this journal has been a helpful reminder that what I have to say on any given topic is almost never as important as what I have yet to learn.

I still don't know exactly what I'm doing up here... or when I might eventually put down the mic.  But here at the two-year 'blogoversary' of treppenwitz, I wanted to stop and tell you all how grateful I am for the incredible interactive forum you've given me... and for your frequent gifts of humor and wisdom.

Good night everyone!  I'll be here all week... don't forget to tip your waitresses (try the veal).


Posted by David Bogner on December 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to basics

I want to thank everyone who responded to the sufganiyah (jelly donut) snap poll.  Voting was closed after 36 hours and the results were as follows:

Raspberry Jelly  21 votes (20%)
Strawberry Jelly  14 votes (13%)
Ribat Halav (Caramel) votes  24 (23%)
Chocolate  11 votes (10%)
Pineapple  0 votes (0%)
Vanilla Cream  5 votes (4%)
Custard  9 votes (8%)
'Pina Colada'  0 votes (0%)
Other (use comments to explain)  2 votes (1%)
Don't like Sufganiot  1 vote (0%)
Never had a Sufganiyah  16 votes (15%)

Total votes: 103

Now that the difficult decision about jelly donut preference has been sorted out, I'd like to ask your advice on a much more serious topic; latkes (potato pancakes).

Over the past few years I have been using my dad's recipe for latkes for our annual fifth night celebration.  However I have not been having good results... meaning the batter tends to fall apart in the hot olive oil.

The problem stems from the fact that my dad's recipe is not clearly defined and uses a lot of 'eye-balling' in terms of having the right proportion of potatoes, eggs, matzoh meal, etc.  So if you have a good, idiot-proof recipe you'd like to share (especially one where some or all of the preparation can be done in advance), the comments board is open.

For those of you who fall more into the latke consumer category (as opposed to latke maker), here is another pressing question that needs answering:


Posted by David Bogner on December 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Musical Interlude

As some of you know, in a previous life I spent over 17 years as a professional trombonist with a society/club-date band in New York City.  I had a day job, but the gigs served as equal parts hobby and therapy... and had the added benefit of helping to pay off the extortion tuition for our kid's private school.

Since I've been riffing on a lot of political, cultural and 'local' topics lately, I decided that for a change of pace I'd share a story from my musical past that never fails to make me giggle whenever I think of it.

The setting was a fancy-shmancy wedding at one of New york City's more elegant hotel ballrooms.  The cream of New York Jewish society was there, and the band played a nice mix of secular and Jewish music throughout the evening.  In between the dance sets a string quartet performed soft classical selections while the rest of the band grabbed a drink and stretched their legs. 

However, the strings were only booked until 10:00PM, so during the last break of the evening one of the vocalists (I won't reveal what instrument he plays in order to protect his identity to those in the know), remained on the bandstand to do a couple of soft numbers while the guests enjoyed their dessert.

Now, in this situation a musician/soloist has a choice.  He can play something pleasant but un-intrusive that the guests will enjoy without really having to actively take note... or he can attempt to grab the spotlight and put on a mini-concert.   

In my experience as a bandleader, the right move in that situation would have been to go the 'pleasant/un-intrusive' route, using the music to add 'atmosphere' without forcing the guest's attention away from their table conversations and Crème Brûlée.

However, this musician/vocalist decided to go the other way and proceeded to belt out a short medley of Israeli songs that would have been more at home in a concert setting than during dessert in a hotel ballroom.

With each key change/segue the vocalist seemed to ratchet up the volume and 'charisma' in a transparent bid for the guest's attention.  But the moneyed New York crowd was simply not going to be distracted from their mingling and postprandial drinks.

The vocalist went into his big finale, hammering out the coda for good effect and finally finished with a professional flourish. 

There was a tiny smattering of polite applause (what I like to call 'golf claps') from here and there, but for the most part the guests had remained impervious to the musician's impassioned efforts.  As I watched from the side of the ballroom, the vocalist made a big show of rearranging his music so as not to acknowledge the 'crickets' with which his mini-concert had been met.

But just then a guest stood up from a table near the back of the room and strode purposefully across the dance floor towards the bandstand.  I watched as the guest said a pleasant hello to the vocalist and asked him for his business card.

For those of you who have never been in 'show biz', having a guest ask for a card after a set is some serious validation.  The guest may never book you... but at that moment in time, he/she thought enough of your performance to come up and find out who you are.

The 'dénouement' of the story came a moment later as I watched this guest walk away from the bandstand, across the large, empty dance floor...  using this newly acquired business card to pick a stubborn bit of dinner from between his teeth.



Posted by David Bogner on December 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Monday, December 19, 2005

'Tis the season

Not that season... Sufganiyah (jelly donut) season!

(c) tip.co.il

Every year the selection seems to be growing and everyone seems to have their favorite... but there are a few things we can all agree on:

1.  They have to be fresh.  Even an hour can make a difference.  If your skin doesn't start to break out from the airborne oil and your teeth don't ache from the anticipation of the thick dusting of powdered sugar... why bother?

2.  They have to be big!  There is no correlation between the size of a sufganiyah and the size of one's mouth.  A sufganiyah should be about the size of a regulation softball... or at least big enough to mess both cheeks with the first bite.

3.  They have to be in season.  Sufganiot made with the same recipe in July can't possibly taste as good as the ones made during the Hannukah season.  Don't argue.

Beyond that there is very little consensus on fillings, toppings and the finer points of consuming these diet-busters.

That's why I'd like to know:

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by David Bogner on December 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pardon Me *

The sun may have long since set upon the British Empire, but that last outpost of British culture known as the British Council still basks in the warm glow of a sun that remains steadfastly high in the sky.

While you lot were here checking to see if Photo Friday was up, I popped into Jerusalem and spent some time exploring the British Council Library across from the Malha Mall.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the British Council, they are an organization located in 110 countries around the world, whose purpose it is to promote British culture in the dark corners of the globe, secure the Queen's English as the preeminent international language and improve the lot of the unwashed heathen wherever they may be found.  OK, that may not be exactly the way their mission statement reads, but let's not quibble.  :-)

When I first heard about the British Council Library I pictured an old stone or brick edifice lined with thick Persian rugs... roaring fires in every grate...  and overstuffed chairs tucked into little nooks under the conspiratorial glow of oriental reading lamps.  I imagined retired British expats sitting around reading ironed copies of the latest newspapers from London while sober butlers hovered nearby ready to offer small glasses of sherry and port from polished silver trays.

As much as I would have enjoyed discovering such a Victorian-era club, I was pleasantly surprised by the modern reality of the British Council.

For roughly the equivalent of $80, ahem, I mean £45, members gain access to a very respectable collection of books and periodicals, as well as a nicely stocked library of music CDs and films and television shows on DVD.  There are also several complimentary Internet computers and a nearby machine dispensing free coffee (and of course, tea) to members. 

An added perk is that members are automatically granted free on-line access to a very robust suite of research tools including the the Oxford English Dictionary, a resource that has been beyond my meager means... until now!

The only catch is that the overwhelming majority of the available materials are either about British topics/history, or by British authors, artists and filmmakers.    I haven't checked, but I assume the cookbook section is probably pretty thin.  Not to worry though... I have a very nice recipe for Yorkshire Pudding I'd be happy to share if anyone is interested.

I'm sure the CD and DVD lending portion of the membership alone will quickly balance out the modest membership fee... and the OED access is a fabulous windfall on which I can't begin to put a price. 

However, it occurred to me that membership in the British Council would also be an excellent investment for anyone who does even a little bit of international traveling. 

Having access to an English-speaking haven in 110 countries around the world (and often more than one location in each country), with free Internet access and lending libraries seems like a very smart idea.  Think about what you spend at smoky Internet cafes and overpriced newsagents/bookstores each time you travel?  I think you'd agree that this is a much more civilized way to go.

There is also something comforting about knowing where to ask about a reliable local chemist (pharmacy) or physician in most of the world's major cities... and of course the location of a clean public convenience (toilet).

Since hearing about this wonderful resource from a friend and fellow traveler, I have been meaning to take out a membership in the British Council... and 'Bob's your uncle', now I have.


* You were wondering about the title to today's post?  Well apparently, unlike the US where 'pardon me' is used before or after causing any kind of disturbance or slight inconvenience... in the UK it is what one says after an unfortunate bout of flatulence.  Don't ask.


Posted by David Bogner on December 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hosting Trouble

I apologize to those of you who showed up here looking for 'Photo Friday' and spent a good portion of the day frantically clicking refresh like a crack rat in some kind of a sick Pavlovian web experiment [looks pointedly at Jack and Doctor Bean]. 

You see, my hosting service (Typepad), which has historically been quite reliable, had some server trouble and took down all their customer's pages from the last week. 

They haven't explained yet what happened, but this little bump in the road has revealed that they keep a week's worth of stuff on one server and all the older stuff on another (or perhaps several others). 

While it was frustrating that I couldn't log on to post anything or respond to comments... I'm glad that I didn't lose everything in a server crash the way a couple of blogger friends out in the Pacific North West did.  Thank G-d for small favors.

This little bump in the road did get me thinking about archiving, though. 

Do any of you who have your own sites do any kind of private back-up?  Can you recommend any third-party solutions where all one's archives can be backed up with a click of a mouse (or even automatically backed-up at pre-determined intervals?

Look, I know most of what I write here is crap, but it's my crap and it has sentimental value.  On top of that, there are some priceless comment threads and personal insights from many of you that I would be crushed to lose.  So there... you see, it's not just about me.   :-) 

Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.

Regular posting to (hopefully) resume on Sunday.

Posted by David Bogner on December 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Shifting Perspectives

Every morning as I drive to work through the south Hevron hills, I pass through and around a bunch of Arab villages.  When I moved here a couple of years ago I couldn't help but see each of these villages as malevolent snake pits and potential ambush sites.  And while I only had one relatively minor incident, I still saw the morning crowds not as individuals, but simply as an enemy mob.

As the months passed I still looked on the villages with a jaundiced eye, but I allowed myself to notice that the residents were doing pretty much what I was doing; getting on with their busy day. 

I still would never consider stopping in one of these villages, but I started to realize that these people didn't seem to take any notice of me as I passed within a few feet of their stores and houses.

I spoke with some friends in my town about my inability to see the villages (and villagers) I passed with anything but suspicion, and was surprised to hear even some of the more strident among my right wing friends tell me about a better, or at least different, time before the Intifadas.

Jews rode Arab buses... Arabs rode Jewish buses... everyone shopped in everyone else's stores... goods and services were eagerly bought, bartered and exchanged.  This isn't to say that there weren't still suspicious glances cast in both direction... but commerce and mutual-dependence had a strong influence on the high level of ongoing contact, if not outright cooperation.

I don't know if it is a good sign or not, but lately my perspective has begun to change. During my morning drive I have started to notice individuals... 'regulars' , if you will... along my route.  I can even tell if I am early or late by taking note of where these 'regulars' are in the midst of their morning routines when I pass. 

There are the Arab school children who walk in rag-tag, uniformed groups towards an unseen school. 

There are the regular day-laborers gathered next to the village taxi stand waiting to be picked up for work in one of the settlements. 

And there is a dignified 50-ish man in crisp slacks, tweed jacket and tie who I always pass as he walks from his home in one small village towards some unknown office in another.  So punctual is this gentleman that a regular passenger in my car and I remark to one another about being ahead or behind schedule based upon how far up a particular hill he is when we pass him.

Obviously my perspective hasn't shifted overly much because while I don't consider any of these increasingly familiar characters along my commute to be remotely threatening... I still see their communities as universally malevolent and unsafe.  And while (hopefully) none of these people seems to feel specifically threatened by me, I know that the majority probably see my community (meaning Jewish Israelis) as their enemy.

I realize now that this was one of the primary goals - perhaps the only goal - of the terrorists who planned and set the Intifadas into motion. 

Each terrorist attack forced me to see every Arab as a potential stone thrower, sniper or suicide bomber... turning me into an unapologetic racist and bigot.

Every response to these attacks (curfews, road blocks, check points etc.) forced the Arab villagers to view each Israeli as the architect of their horribly inconvenient lives... turning them into unapologetic racists and bigots.

So can two communities of unapologetic racists and bigots ever come to terms?

All I know is that a couple of years ago I couldn't look at individual Arabs any differently than I did their communities.  Over time this perspective has changed.  Perhaps the terrorists are losing their ability to drive their wedges quite so deeply.... or perhaps the racism and bigotry hasn't taken root as deeply as I'd originally suspected.

It might just be a small shift in perspective on my part... but if it's happening to me, who knows where else perspectives might be shifting?


Posted by David Bogner on December 14, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just one of many theories...

I should begin by saying that what follows is not intended to make light of a condition that afflicts many good and decent children and adults around the world.  I am writing about it because:

a)  I only recently became aware of it;


b) it would seem to be a likely culprit in some (but certainly not all) of the anti- and asocial behavior I've been noticing in the comment section of various blogs and journals I frequent.

Asperger's Syndrome... If you haven't heard of it (as I hadn't up until a few months ago), don't feel bad.  The name was coined only about 25 years ago, and it is only in the past decade or so that serious clinical research has taken place to better understand this condition.

I'd like to present a little basic information * here, and will use the color red to denote passages that seem to explain some of the bad behavior many of us have been experiencing from commenters:

Asperger syndrome (sometimes called Asperger's syndrome, AS, or the more common shorthand Asperger's), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of high-functioning autism. In very broad terms, individuals with Asperger's have normal or above average intellectual capacity, and atypical or less well developed social skills, often with emotional/social development or integration happening later than usual as a result.

The most common and important characteristics of Asperger syndrome can be divided into several broad categories: social impairments, narrow but intense interests, and speech and language peculiarities. Other features are commonly associated with this syndrome but not always held to be necessary for diagnosis.

Although there is no single feature that all people with Asperger syndrome share, difficulties with social behavior are nearly universal and are perhaps the most important criteria that define the condition. People with Asperger syndrome lack the natural ability to see the subtexts of social interaction and also lack the ability to broadcast their own emotional state.

Non-autistics are able to gather a whole host of information about other people's cognitive and emotional states based on clues gleaned from the environment and the other person's facial expression and body language, but people with Asperger syndrome have an impairment in this ability, sometimes called mind-blindness. To be mind-blind is to find it difficult or even impossible to figure out things a person implies but does not say directly (more colloquially, to "read between the lines"). This is not because they cannot imagine the answer but because they cannot choose between the possibilities; the mind-blind person cannot reliably gather enough information to do so or does not know how to interpret the information he or she does gather.

Along with this difficulty in reading the nonverbal communication of others, most people with Asperger's have difficulty expressing their own emotional state via body language, facial expression, and nuance as most people do. Such people have emotional responses as strong as, or perhaps stronger than, those of most people, although what generates an emotional response might not always be the same; the difficulty is in expressing these feelings, although it sometimes comes across as lacking them. For example, many people with Asperger syndrome have difficulty with eye contact. Some make very little eye contact because they find it overwhelming, whereas others have unmodulated, staring eye contact that can cause discomfort to other people. Similarly, the use of gestures may be almost nonexistent or may seem exaggerated and differ from what would normally be considered appropriate for a situation.

Asperger syndrome can involve an intense and obsessive level of focus on things of interest. For example, one person might be obsessed with 1950s professional wrestling, another with national anthems of African dictatorships, and another with building models out of matchsticks. Particularly common interests are means of transport (such as trains), computers, and dinosaurs. Sometimes these interests are lifelong; in other cases, they change at unpredictable intervals. In either case, there are normally one or two at any given time. In pursuit of these interests, the person with Asperger's often manifests extremely sophisticated reason, an almost obsessive focus, and eidetic [photographic] memory. Hans Asperger called his young patients "little professors" because he thought his thirteen-year-old patients had as comprehensive and nuanced an understanding of their field of interest as university professors.

People with Asperger syndrome often have little patience for things outside these areas of interest. During the school years, many are perceived as highly intelligent underachievers or overachievers, clearly capable of outperforming their peers in their field of interest yet persistently unmotivated to do regular homework assignments (sometimes even in their areas of interest). Others, in contrast, may be hypermotivated to outperform peers in school. This adds to the difficulties of diagnosing the syndrome. In more serious cases, the combination of social problems and intense interests can lead to unusual behavior, such as greeting a stranger by launching into a lengthy monologue about a special interest rather than introducing oneself in the socially-accepted way. However, in many cases adults can outgrow this impatience and lack of motivation and develop more tolerance to new activities and meeting new people.

So, does this sound like anyone you've encountered on-line lately?

In fairness, I have to admit that among the many (and often conflicting) symptoms presented in the source I've quoted, I noticed more than a few areas where I could comfortably be placed somewhere along the spectrum for Asperger's diagnosis (just ask my wife).  On the other hand, I may simply be suffering from what many doctors experience in med school when they self-diagnose symptoms of nearly every new disease they study.

* source - I have quoted large chunks of the text from the source site, but I would highly recommend that anyone with an interest in getting a fuller picture of Asperger's go and read the whole thing.  I will freely admit to selecting passages that support my theory about certain people's on-line behavior.

Posted by David Bogner on December 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Monday, December 12, 2005

Rules? In a knife fight??? *

Yes, every fight has rules... even a fight where the only rule is 'no rules'!  The object is that everyone be aware of the limitations, or the lack thereof.

In high school I once witnessed two brass players facing off for an after-hours fight in the band room.  Just before the fists started flying, both of the combatants addressed each other with the final provision, "Not the mouth"... and then went to town on each other.  When it was over, there were black eyes, torn shirts, swollen ears... but their precious lips were untouched.  Granted, this only works if both sides agree that the rules have practical value.  On the street a plea of "not the mouth" would probably direct an assailant's attention exclusively to that area.

Such is the case with the modern 'battlefield'.  One side says "not the civilians'"and the other says, "Hey, I don't have a big, well-equipped army like you, so guess what?  We're gonna make up for that imbalance by targeting your civilians!"

I bring up this issue of creating and following rules, even while fighting, because a blogger/journaler I admire very much is currently in the midst of a small kerfuffle over at her place. 

Even though her site is not political by definition... many of the personal stories and second-hand accounts she relates bump up against the political realities of life here in the middle east.  As a result, many of the discussions that take place in her comments section revolve around both large and small aspects of the current conflict... and sometimes things can get out of hand. 

Therein lies the dilemma.

The basic argument of whether a site owner has the right to moderate reader input or demand certain behavior of those who comment has been chewed over each time such a problem arises.  I happen to be of the opinion that a blog/journal, while residing in the public domain, is a private outlet for the owner... and he/she is the only one who is truly free to set the rules of what can and can't be said there.  Others might disagree.

Some site owners encourage a 'no holds barred' forum where anything goes... and others try to enforce 'dinner party-like' decorum.  But for better or worse, the tone and rules are set by the host... even if (as I pointed out at the beginning) the only rule is 'no rules'.

So what does a host do when someone refuses to abide by the rules?  This is a serious question I'm asking here! Terms like 'trolls' and 'tards' may be momentarily satisfying but they aren't really helpful in finding a solution.

I've come up with a short list of possible suggestions, but I'd encourage you to tell me if you think any of mine are off-base... or if you have other suggestions of your own:

1.  Moderate comments - While this can be time consuming for the site owner and stifles the real time flow of ideas among commenters, it is sometimes the last-best resort of frustrated site-owners.

2.  Require a real email address from all commenters - I didn't want to go the moderator route, so I asked that commenters on treppenwitz use a real email address.  In return I installed some code that shields commenter's privacy, making their email addresses invisible to everyone but me.  This way if I want to give a gentle suggestion or attempt to defuse a brewing flame war, I can do so behind the scenes where egos and principles are less likely to be bruised or compromised.  But if I try to contact someone and find out the address is a fake... bye-bye comment.

3.  Lay out a set of basic rules - I'm not suggestion that people provide a link to Robert's Rules of Order, but it might not be a bad idea for bloggers/journalers who frequently discuss potentially divisive topics to post a few guidelines that can be referenced when/if someone steps out of bounds.  This can be something as simple as my 'Fight Fair' post or as detailed as an ever-expanding rule book.  The nice thing about setting out the rules is that the site owner can point to them without making a commenter feel as though they are being singled out for censure.  Also, many of the basic rules of on-line debate such as Godwin's Law are actually quite obvious and funny when read outside the heat of an argument.

4.  Decide ahead of time about consequences - If you are already laying out the rules of conduct for your site, it makes sense to also lay out the consequences of not following those rules.  On one or two occasions I have been tempted to 'out' people with who I was having heated on-line arguments as a form of punishment.  I figured that if they were being (IMO) offensive from behind an anonymous screen name, the best way to punish them would be to remove their anonymity.  In retrospect I'm glad I resisted the temptation to 'out' anyone.  By allowing anonymous comments (meaning the use of screen names), I am entering a contract with commenters to respect that veil of anonymity... so clearly there has to be another way of dealing with bad actors.  Deleting offensive comments is a quick fix, but it won't solve a festering problem.  Banning a commenter is a longer-term solution, but it is based on a bad actor continuing to use the same IP address (an easy thing to change).  That brings us back to a combination of the things that work in RL society in the absence of law enforcement; communal pressure/shame.  Certainly, readers should take their lead from site owners.  But it is incumbent upon everyone in an on-line community to be somewhat self-policing.  This entails making gentle, well-reasoned suggestions... not responding with behavior as bad (or worse) than that being addressed.

I have a few more that I may add as the day wears on, but I imagine you lot have a few from your own experiences as both site owners and commenters.  All I ask is that you keep your examples and suggestions hypothetical... and make sure they would be as applicable to a discussion the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as to a discussion of late term abortions.

* The title quote is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Posted by David Bogner on December 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Flotsam and Jetsam

I don't want to overwhelm anyone on this sleepy Sunday (even those for whom it is the start of the work week), so here are a few benign odds and ends that have been on my list but which really don't warrant their own post:

1.  I may have mentioned this in previous posts, but I am still completely charmed by the way Israelis refer to the @ symbol when saying their email addresses aloud.  For example, instead of employing the common English practice of saying treppenwitz 'at' gmail dot com... Israelis instead would say treppenwitz 'strudel' gmail dot com.  True, the @ symbol was originally meant to convey the mathematical concept of a quantity of something 'at' a given price... but the symbol looks so much like the cross section of a sliced piece of strudel that I can't believe others haven't adopted it!

Perhaps if you're feeling a bit subversive you can try slipping in the word 'strudel' the next time you give out your email address.  I'm not saying it will catch on, but it should be good for a smile.

2.  A thoughtful reader (Daniel Skibinski) emailed a couple of logos related to current events.  The first is in response to the call by the President of Iran for Israel to be wiped off the map:


I would be interested to see if someone can come up with a logo dealing with his subsequent statement that since Germany and Austria are responsible for creating the 'Zionist problem' with the Holocaust... they should provide a solution by creating a Jewish state somewhere along the Danube.   I just hope nobody mentions this to some of the Israeli political establishment because they may just go for it!

The second logo he sent along relates to the International Red 'crystal' issue I mentioned on Thursday.  His depiction of the logos arrayed next to one another makes it clear that the intention is to minimize or even eliminate the Jewish aspect of our 'offensive'  medical symbol.


The truth is that these logos won't make a bit of difference in the perception of these issues by those with anti-Israel agendas... but one can't completely discount the 'feel good' value of preaching to the choir.

[feel free to lift, display and/or distribute either logo]

3.  I have been sitting on a bunch of pictures of Yonah for the past couple of weeks and am coming under fire from my wife and family for not posting them.  I plead overwork and forgetfulness to all parties.  So now they are up and you can go over to the 'All Yonah all the time' album and check him out (Val).  By the way... we gave him a nice haircut last night so he looks nothing like the pictures any more!  :-P

4.  Lastly (at least for now), Dave of IsraellyCool, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Post, will be starting the nomination process this week for the JIB (Jewish & Israeli Blog) Awards over on his site this week.  Once nominations are closed the final voting will take place on the Jerusalem Post site.  I will be posting my list of recommendations (along with reasons why they deserve your vote), later in the week.

By the way... anyone curious about my choice of title today can go here where it clearly states that in addition to the maritime usage, flotsam and jetsam have also "developed equivalent broad senses, meaning  'useless or unimportant items; odds and ends'".

I'd say that's pretty apt, no?


Posted by David Bogner on December 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Friday, December 09, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XLVIII) ['Lemon Tree' edition]

Countless groups have covered the song 'Lemon Tree', but I grew up listening to the Peter, Paul & Mary's version (The Kingston Trio's version being a close second).

As a kid I didn't really pay much attention to the lyrics because they spoke about things for which I had no frame of reference; impermanence, infidelity, bitterness, etc.  All I really heard was the catchy chorus:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet,
but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

So when I was casting about for likely fruit trees to plant in our garden, a lemon tree wasn't really in the running. 

Many of our neighbors have figs, apples, cherries and peaches... but when I was wandering around the nursery I kept coming back to a pretty little 4 year old lemon tree.  I figured that those other fruits were readily available from neighbors (everyone always swaps fruit here because they have way more produce from their trees than they can eat) and the local markets... but home grown lemons seemed like a decadent treat.

In this photo from this past summer you can see our lemon tree right after it was replanted in our yard with it's young fruit already starting to develop.

Well, here it is this morning with some of the most beautiful lemons, ready to be picked.

There is some meaningful religious stuff I have to take care of before we can use the fruit, but within the next day or two these lemons will disprove the song lyrics and find their way into a few very edible (and drinkable) recipes.

First up is Limoncello.  Since tasting it at Chez Weese I have been longing to make a batch of my own.  I'm pretty sure that Zahava will be able to come up with a recipe that calls for lemon zest/peel as well... and I may even try to candy or chocolate coat some lemon peels.

As to that musical fallacy that lemons represent impermanence, bitterness and infidelity... I was doing some reading after I planted the tree and found out that lemon trees flower and bear fruit several times a year.  Not only that, but the very act of planting a tree in our yard and seeing it develop and bear fruit has done more than anything else since we moved here to make us feel like we are here to stay.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on December 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Reflecting on the news

Occasionally, the Israeli government actually gets it right!

As of January 1st, 2006 it will become mandatory for all cars in Israel to have a reflective safety vest on-board and accessible to the driver.

For years now, emergency 'breakdown' kits sold for cars/drivers around the world have contained such helpful items as highway flares and reflective triangular lane markers for when car trouble strikes at night (does it ever strike at any other time?).

However, the issue that has been largely ignored is that while the flares and lane markers tell other drivers the location of a stranded car... they do nothing to protect the driver who may be walking around the car or attempting to make repairs.

Think about it, even if the car battery is dead and the hazard flashers won't work, the car still has dozens of reflective parts to catch the headlights of oncoming traffic.  But the driver, who is stumbling around in the dark trying to fix the flat tire or flag down a ride to the nearest service station, is virtually invisible!

These spiffy yellow vests with their highly reflective white stripes are being sold in almost all gas stations here for 15 - 20 shekels (about $4 or $5), and many companies (including mine) are offering them to their employees for even less.

I've picked one up already, but since my company is practically giving them away I may get a second one... y'know, just in case my wife needs me to get out of the car and hold the flashlight while she changes the flat tire.  :-)

In other vest-related news, after more than a half century of being snubbed by the international umbrella organization, it seems the Israel Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) is finally going to be grudgingly allowed to join, and be recognized by, the International Red Cross. 

One catch though... the emblem on Israeli EMT vests and ambulances will not be the offensive overtly denominational Red Star of David, but rather a new symbol called the 'Red Cyrstal':

[(c) Associated Press]

I'm still scratching my head over why the the Red Star of David has been banned for being a 'denominational symbol' yet the Red Cross and Red Crescent have always been acceptable.  But all's well that ends well, right?

I'm just waiting for the anti-Semites around the world to start circulating the rumor that the 'Red Crystal' is actually a not-so-subtle reference to the money-grubbing Jewish diamond merchants... or perhaps Passover matzoh made with gentile blood.

Update:  Many thanks to the helpful reader who emailed me her suspicion that this (below) is the emblem the world community really wanted Israel's MDA to adopt in place of the Star of David.  Unfortunately it turns out there are too many copyright issues to overcome with a popular chain of stores using the same logo:



Posted by David Bogner on December 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (42) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't get used to this...

No, I'm not going to make a habit of putting up a second post at lunchtime, but I had to share this with you:

Andrea, the author of Superhero Journal has a fantastic post up about an art project her husband and a few of his friends set up in in a metered parking spot in downtown San Fransisco.

The Artwork was called Park(ing).  According to Andrea...

"They began to consider that metered parking spaces were like short term leases. You pay the meter and the space is yours for the designated amount of time. Of course, normally people park their cars there and go off to work, but they wanted to explore the limits of what could happen in a parking place.

Because certain areas of downtown San Francisco are underserved by public green space, Rebar [the name of her husband's art collective] decided to do the city a favor and increase the amount of green space in the area for two hours on November 16th, 2005. They did this by building a park in a 20-foot metered parking space.

They laid fresh sod {nature}, brought in a tree {shade} and a park bench {a place to rest} and stepped back from the scene to see what would unfold. The result was a wonderfully playful and brilliant conceptual art piece entitled Park(ing)."

Go check out the pictures... they're truly brilliant. 

But be warned, Andrea's journal is seriously habit-forming.


Posted by David Bogner on December 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack