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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another snow day...

... but at least the power stayed on.

It has been a lazy day of sleeping late... doing a few work-related things from the computer... and watching movies with the kids.

So if you want your treppenwirz fix, you'll have to go over to 'A Simple Jew' and read my response to his question(s) about writing.  For the sake of argument, you'll have to start from the assumption that I have a clue what I'm talking about.  Otherwise it just sounds arrogant.  ;-)

See you later.

Posted by David Bogner on January 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A snow day at chez treppenwitz

The snow started falling late last night and hasn't stopped since.  To add insult to injury an icy cold wind has been blowing all night and all morning to boot.  I'm not exactly sure when during the night the power went out... but it stayed out until about 8:30 this morning and has been intermittent ever since.

By the way, we heat our house and water with electricity.  [shiver]

Needless to say, the kids are off from school and I didn't go into work. 

With the power going on and off all day the house hasn't really had a chance to warm up yet, so to heat up the main floor a bit Zahava has baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for the kids and a giant pan of macaroni & cheese is also in the works. 

For my contribution I whipped up a batch of hot chocolate.

We're all fine here, but if you really, really feel the need to send a little sympathy in someone's direction, Zahava suffers from a medical condition called...

Raynaud's disease (RAY-noz) which is a condition that affects blood flow to the extremities which include the fingers, toes, nose and ears when exposed to temperature changes or stress.

Hmmm, let's see now, no heat or hot water... a house full of antsy kids...  temperature changes... stress... I think we have a winner!!!

Posted by David Bogner on January 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Method to their madness

When we first moved to Israel I knew that if I ever needed a good laugh, all I had to do was watch a typical Israeli trying to pull an electrical plug out of a wall outlet. You see, without exception, if someone has lived here for any significant length of time, they will ALWAYS brace their thumb and forefinger against the wall outlet before pulling out the plug.

I used to ask myself what the heck they expected to happen... that the outlet would come away with the plug???

Well, yes... it turns out that's exactly what they expect to happen. And with good reason.

You see, unlike in the rest of the civilized world where electrical outlets and light fixtures are attached to studs, joists or other solid building members, here in Israel they can (and often are) attached only to the surrounding plasterboard (gevess in Hebrew). This wouldn't be so bad if Israeli gevess were as solid as its foreign equivalent. But it's not.

Israeli gevess is only slightly stronger than the paint that covers it... and a person can easily put a dent in it by simply rapping their knuckles against it sharply. This presents all kinds of challenges when hanging things like artwork on the walls because anything of significant weight hanging from a single nail will tear a trench in your wall and leave you to find a smashed picture frame when you come home from work one day.

When we first moved into our home, Zahava and I went to Ikea and bought all kinds of handy things to mount on our walls such as coat hooks, towel racks and shelf units. Needless to say not one of them lasted more than a day under the weight of a coat, towel or book. The incredible part is that good quality, American/European-quality plasterboard exists here. But because it is significantly more expensive, almost nobody uses it when building houses.

Last night when Zahava got home from some errands she came downstairs and mentioned conversationally that something in the living-room smelled like it was burning. You can imagine this got my attention, so I ran upstairs and, sure enough, one of the outlets into which a space heater was plugged (actually it was plugged into an outlet splitter... one of those things that makes a single outlet into two) was hot to the touch and visibly smoking.

My first instinct was to just pull out the plug, but when I checked more closely I realized that it was the outlet splitter that was hot and smoking, not the outlet itself. So being a typical foreigner I grabbed the whole thing, and without bracing my thumb and forefinger against the outlet, proceeded to yank splitter out of the wall.

Needless to say, the entire outlet began sliding out of the wall and I was rewarded with a loud 'POP' accompanied by a flash light and a trickle of acrid smoke from one of the outlet holes as the splitter finally came free.

When I reached our electrician at home (yes, I have his home and cell phone number!) he asked a few intelligent questions about how things stood and told me he'd come by in the morning to replace the outlet. He told me that if the outlet itself had continued to smoke or sizzle he would have instructed me to turn off the breaker and he would have come right over to deal with it... but I'd been lucky.

The lesson we learn from this, boys and girls, is never, NEVER make fun of Israelis when you see them bracing their thumbs and forefingers against wall outlets before removing electrical plugs. Trust me... there is method to their madness.

Posted by David Bogner on January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Monday, January 28, 2008

A pre-Winograd Haiku throwdown

Israeli Sondheim
one more day 'til Winograd
Send in home the Clowns

Go ahead... you know you want to!

Posted by David Bogner on January 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 27, 2008

There's "charmless"... and then there is just plain callous!

A blogger friend of mine once referred to Tzipi Livni as 'charmless'.  But the more I read about Livni, the more I've come to the conclusion that 'charmless' is about the nicest thing one can say about her.  After reading her most recent comments in preparation for the release this week of the Winograd findings, I think you'd have to agree that she's broken new ground in charmlessness.

According to several published reports, Livni appealed to families of soldiers who were killed in the Second Lebanon War not to allow their 'differences of opinion over the Winograd Report' to create further divisions between the government and the public.

Did you get that?

These poor families spend much of each day trying to simply look away from the gaping hole in their lives left by the death of thier husbands, fathers and sons... and Ms. Livni somehow got the idea that it would be OK to accuse them of selfishly driving a wedge between the government and the public with their inconvenient grief and perfectly justifiable calls for a new government.

If it had ended there I could probably have let her off the hook with just 'charmless'.  But IMHO, her most mind-bogglingly callous quote was this follow-up:

"We have a major problem with public trust and the worst thing we can do is create camps -- us on the one side and the bereaved families and soldiers on the other.... This is bad for the government and bad for Kadima."

This level of callous self-interest is almost too horrible to contemplate!

News flash for Ms. Livni (and her boss):

These families paid the ultimate price so that you and your fellow stooges could get free on the job training and a second-hand copy of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Running a Wartime Government'.  You and your fellow ass-clowns robbed these citizens of their loved ones with your bungling prosecution of the war... as well as your feckless negotiations for a toothless cease-fire... and therefore you've forfeited the right to ask them for anything else, much less malign them for political gain!

Even if any of these people were of a mind to care about your government's sagging approval rating, they have far more important things on their minds right now than what's good for Kadima... or for you.  Just concentrating on silly, frivolous things like getting through the day without dying of sorrow is about all most of them can manage.

Sorry if that puts a damper on your big plans to cling to power.

Posted by David Bogner on January 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A busy evening for our peace partners

Dear Prime Minister Olmert,

I know you've been busy, what with all that peace-making, but in case you hadn't heard... so far this evening terrorists, whoops I mean our peace partners have killed one Israeli and wounded at least four others in two separate attacks.

The first took place just north of Jerusalem near the Shuafat refugee camp where terrorists apparently opened fire on two Border Policemen (a man and a woman).  The man was killed and his female companion was wounded.

At almost the same time, two terrorists infiltrated a religious high school on Kibbutz Kfar Etzion (about five minutes from where I live) and began stabbing students... wounding three moderately.  Within minutes several of the dorm counselors converged on the scene and killed the terrorists.

But hey, don't let any of this distract you from your urgent negotiations with our peace partners. In fact, let me see if I remember the how the script goes at this point in the play:

The Palestinian apologist spokesperson will soon go on the news and condemn this heinous act and blame it on rogue factions who wish to derail the peace process.

You will then make a statement to the affect that this only underscores the need for Israel to forge ahead with the peace process. 

Give me strength!  I hold you personally responsible for these attacks.  Your 'peace partner's own terrorists - Fatah's Al Aksa Brigade - have taken credit for both acts.

When will someone have the courage to bring down your rotten government and allow the Israeli public to elect a new leadership that will listen to Israelis for a change, and not just Palestinians?  Labor?  Shas?  What are you waiting for?!

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Riding the high school application roller-coaster

Our daughter, Ariella, is in 8th grade this year.

For those of you living abroad this simple statement probably doesn't mean much.  But most of the Israelis reading along are probably already nodding their heads in kinship and empathy... because they know that 8th grade is the year of the high school application nightmare.

High school in Israel begins in 9th grade, and the application process and accompanying pressures are roughly triple what I remember from my days of applying to university.  Not only are kids not automatically guaranteed a spot in the local high school... but the nearest school may not have anything appropriate to offer a particular child.

There are specialty high schools that focus on just about any subject you can think of, ranging from engineering to theater arts.  There are high schools with higher academic standards... and those which are what one might euphemistically call 'safety schools'.

Unlike, say, in the U.S. where a university student with four more semesters before graduation might still not have decided on a major, most Israeli high school kids will not only have narrowed down their choice of potential high schools based on knowing 'what they want to do when they grow up', but they will likely carry a double, or even triple, major to increase the chances of getting a good 'package' (a firm written offer of a desirable and/or prestigious job/unit) in the army and of being a better candidate for university.

The pressure begins towards the beginning of the school year with the discussion of what schools are out there.  The students, teachers and parents begin building lists of schools to which applications will be submitted.  Some will be local... others might be in a nearby city or even at the other end of the country (requiring a dormitory stay).    Each student is encouraged to narrow their focus to four or five schools, with one or two being their 'top choices' and at least one being a 'safety school' in case nothing else works out.

Countless hours are spent on student-teacher and parent-teacher meetings where the student's strong and weak points are picked over with little tact or sentimentality.  There are endless 'parent's evenings' where each school gets an opportunity to explain their education philosophy, goals, curriculum and the kind of graduates they strive to produce... as well as why they only accept the best of the best.

Once the applications are filled out (with fees, of course), admission exams are administered, transcripts and recommendations are submitted, and the waiting and speculation begins in earnest. During this period of relative inactivity, parents and students spend countless hours discussing how many spots each school has open for incoming students in the coming year and how many kids applied to compete for those spots.

Those who pass the first stage of the selection process at a given school are invited in for face-to-face interviews.  Sometimes the interviews are conducted in a group format (meaning several perspective students being interviewed at once by a panel of school staff) and sometimes it is just the lone student facing the panel.

Ariella applied to four schools; three 'elite'  (meaning very competitive) schools and one safety school (a good, but relatively new school with somewhat more flexible admission standards).

So far she has gotten a rejection letter from one of the elite schools (which kicked off an evening of inconsolable tears and self-flagellation), and one acceptance letter from another elite school (resulting in euphoria, dancing and more tears... this time from happiness and sheer relief).

We haven't heard from the other elite school or the safety school yet.  This complicates things since the acceptance to the one school is contingent upon returning a letter of intent and a hefty deposit (by registered mail) by the beginning of next week.

What if we don't hear from the other elite school by then?  Will we regret making a hasty decision?  Do we hold out for the other elite school and risk having Ariella end up attending her safety school if the other elite school doesn't accept her???

I may not live through this process.

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm all about rules of thumb

I recently stumbled across an addictive site called 'Rules of Thumb' which has become a bit of an obsession over here at chez treppenwitz.

Simply put, if you can think of any basic rule you use for estimating something, making decisions or predicting results... it is probably there (or should be).  Not only that, but the site is organized into handy categories so you can find helpful (and occasionally not-so-helpful) rules relating to nearly any subject.

For example let's say my lovely wife Zahava, who is a graphic designer, wants to see what rules of thumb exist for her field of expertise.  She would scroll through the main rules collection and then click on 'Design'.  In the blink of an eye she would see a list of all the current rules of thumb related to the design world.

Since Zahava knows a thing or two about that realm, she can also rate any rule on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being 'total B.S.' and 10 being 'Torah from Sinai') so that future supplicants will have a better sense of how far to trust a given rule.  This is an important feature of the site since there is no guarantee that someone posting a rule has the slightest idea what they're talking about.  It is for this reason that newly posted rules don't get moved to the main collection if they score less than 5 out of 10 on the first 10 reviews.

Some of the rules are meant to be funny or tongue-in-cheek such as this one from the 'Parachuting' section:

"If your parachute doesn't open at the normal opening altitude (2,500 feet), you've got the rest of your life to solve the problem - all 15 seconds of it."

While others are genuinely informative (such as this one from the same section):

"On the average jump, figure on six or seven seconds of freefall time for every thousand feet of falling."

It's incredibly fun scrolling through all the topics... even the oddball ones like farming, mathematics and yes, parachuting... to find out neat factoids and rules.  New rules of thumb are always being posted and rated so be prepared to add this site to your regular surfing routine.

But don't take my word for it... check it out for yourself.

And as always, don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Hat tip: Book of Joe


Posted by David Bogner on January 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, January 21, 2008

Biting the hand that feeds you

There was never any question that from the moment Israel concluded it's headlong, disorganized retreat from Gaza, that the resulting power vacuum would result in a hostile terror base on our southern flank. Our leaders called predictions of missiles falling on Ashqelon "right wing scare-mongering" and pushed ahead with the flight from Gaza without even the most preliminary plan for how to sever our so-called responsibility to the Palestinians... much less how to provide for the resulting Israeli refugees.

Incredibly, even as Israeli citizens who were forced from their homes in Gaza continue, to this day, to live abandoned in poverty and squalor in temporary housing, the Israeli government has continued to supply Gaza's population with pretty much all of their day-to-day needs.

Yet, what nobody can deny is that today, as predicted, Israel has an hostile entity on our south-western border. No matter how distasteful we may find it, this entity is ruled by a legally elected party; Hamas, a pseudo-government that continues to order/facilitate the bombardment of Israel's civilian population centers with rockets and mortars (numbering in the thousands since the disengagement), and which makes daily calls for Israel's destruction.

I don't care where you think you are on the political spectrum... any rational person would have to admit that it is long past time to stop the madness of propping up our enemies. I'm not talking about bombing them into the stone age (something I've advocated in the past), or even targeting the Hamas leadership (something else I've called for).

No, I'm simply saying that enough is enough.

Gazastan cannot continue to be both an openly hostile entity, committed to Israel's destruction... and at the same time a fully dependant beggar-state that relies on Israel for all of its basic needs. This kind of dysfunctional relationship has never existed before in the world, and I dare say no other nation would tolerate such a parasitic situation to continue.

The Gazan border with Egypt is, for all intents and purposes, open. Weapons, money and people pour across from Egypt unchecked every single day. There is no reason why the world can't channel it's sympathy for the Gazan population into humanitarian aid supplied via Egypt. Except, of course, that this would remove the albatross from around Israel's neck... something that nobody really wants to do.

The world seems to enjoy the delicious irony of Israel being forced to keep the lights and heat on in the kassam workshops and explosive laboratories of Gaza, even as the lethal fruit of those laboratories rains down on the heads of Israeli civilians in the western Negev.

The EU and U.N. nod like proud parents as Hamas boasts publicly that it intends to bomb Israel into a cease fire... while ignoring the irony of the bombardment being the casus belli for Israel having had to resume military operations in and around Gaza in the first place.

Even the über-Dove Shimon Peres has gone on record as saying that all it will take for Israel to stop military operations against Gaza is for the rockets to stop falling on Sderot!

The Palestinians regularly accuse Israel of war crimes and breach of the Geneva conventions... yet they continue to defy all conventions of war by using civilian population centers to shield their combatants and by refusing to allow the International Red Cross to visit (or even get a sign of life from) their prisoner of war/hostage, Gilad Shalit.


Israel can no longer support a hostile entity that is openly bent on its destruction. Gaza has had ample opportunity since the summer of 2005 to make alternate arrangements for power, food, water, fuel and other basic needs. The world has also had ample opportunity to help them make these necessary arrangements via UNRWA, an organization created to do nothing else but provide for the needs of the poor Palestinians.

Whether or not we go to war with the Palestinians will continue to be a contentious partisan issue. But the decision to stop providing fuel, electricity, water and other basic needs to an armed entity that wants nothing more or less than our complete destruction should be a non-partisan no-brainer!

I can abide a beggar... even a serial beggar with no intention of ever becoming self-sufficient. But when the beggar holds a gun to my head and, in essence, bites the hand that has been feeding him, he ceases to be a beggar. He becomes an armed aggressor... and only a suicidal lunatic would feel any obligation to continue supporting such a sociopathic monster.

Posted by David Bogner on January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A tale of two phlebotomists

I used to do my civic duty by giving blood at least once every 6 months. OK, there's a smidge of self-interest in this ritual since a donation of blood gives the donor, his/her spouse, kids, parents and in-laws, blood insurance for a whole year here in Israel. But still... in order to receive blood insurance coverage you only have to give once every twelve months, and I gave at least twice as often!

However, the previous time I'd tried to donate I was told I'd have to wait at least a year from the date of my last visit to India due to the risk of tainting the public blood supply with Malaria.

No big deal... I figured Zahava would step up and give a pint in order to keep the family insured. But alas, my slender wife weighs [value deleted by order of the management] soaking wet and has a blood iron level that would need to go up a few notches to qualify as anemic.

So once Zahava was laughed out of the blood bank, the treppenwitz family was officially left without blood insurance for a few months. Thank G-d, we didn't have any family medical emergencies requiring a transfusion (tfu, tfu, tfu), but still, I'd be lying if I said that it didn't weigh on me just a tad.

Anyway, this past Thursday I noticed that my blood was officially out of quarantine so I ran out to make a donation.

It must have been a slow day for blood donations because I had the place pretty much to myself. First I filled out the standard questionnaire with the general medical history and then submitted to a short interview with a bored clerk who went through a detailed list of personal questions as casually as if she were commenting on the weather:

"Are you an intravenous drug user?"

"Do you sleep with prostitutes?""

"Have you ever eaten a steak in London?"

Once I'd convinced her that I wasn't some sort of sexual deviant with a crank habit and poor taste in cuisine, I was handed a stamped form and told to go to one of the waiting vampires phlebotomists.

Here's where I made a serious strategic error.

You see, one of the phlebotomists was a pretty girl who looked to be fresh out of the army and who smiled expectantly at me ... and the other was a dour, middle aged matron who sat thumbing aimlessly through a newspaper.

Guess which one I picked? Oh grow up... of course I picked the young pretty one. Heck, the other one looked too much like the school nurse from Jr. High!

Well, in case you were wondering, my karmic punishment wasn't long in arriving.

This pretty young thing spent several excruciating minutes cheerfully digging around in the crook of my elbow with the needle before I let out my first involuntary exclamation. She seemed completely unfazed by her lack of success, and no amount of cringing or yelping on my part seemed to deter her from her aimless poking.

You know, if I hadn't been ready to pass out from the pain I might have found the way her tongue peeked out of the corner of her mouth to be charming... sort of like a pretty child trying to think of just the right word on pop vocabulary quiz. But after actually hearing her say, "Hmmm, that's not supposed to happen!", I shakily suggested that maybe she'd like to let her colleague have a try.

I guess she took my suggestion as some sort of personal insult because she put on a petulant pout and marched my paperwork over to my old school nurse's doppelganger. I'll be honest, by then I didn't care if I'd insulted her. I was just so delighted that she's stopped stabbing me that all I could do was sweat with relief.

The other phlebotomist came over to take a look at her young colleague's handiwork and barely covered her surprise with a sharp intake of breath. All she could offer was an even, "Maybe we'll have better luck with the other arm, dear".

A few painless minutes later my blood was packed away in a small ice chest and I was sitting by the cookies and juice trying to feed myself without bending my heavily bandaged left arm (the right one had just a small cotton ball held in place by a casual strip of surgical tape).

A few other men - car mechanics, judging by their greasy uniforms - had come in after me and I watched as the first one completed his interview and made a bee-line for the smiling young phlebotomist. It was like watching one of those nature shows where the gazelle takes a delicate sip from the Serengeti watering hole seconds before the lioness springs from the bushes and rips his throat out.

Within seconds a staccato stream of obscenities began pouring from across the room, and from my vantage point by the snack table I noticed something I couldn't have seen while I was on the couch: The older phlebotomist, who was making a pretty good show of having returned to her newspaper, wore a small grin on her face and was slowly shaking her head from side to side at the predictable silliness of middle aged men.

Posted by David Bogner on January 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Friday, January 18, 2008

... but when they came for me it was too late.

Many Israeli bloggers put icons and posts up on their sites to protest the arrest/governmental harassment of a certain Egyptian blogger.  However, now that an Israeli blogger has been hauled in by the Shin Bet for questioning I'm wondering whether the reaction will be the same.

Considering that the lefty portion of the Israeli blogosphere has been notoriously silent when it is only the right being denied freedom of expression... I'm not exactly holding my breath.

But go on people, surprise me. I have no problem eating my words and serving up a dessert course of Mea  Culpa's. 

It may be right wing protesters and bloggers today.  But one day they'll come for you.

Posted by David Bogner on January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I think there's a lion in your bed

Last night around two in the morning I heard the familiar patter of little feet on the stairs and knew without having to come fully awake that our youngest was coming down for one of his not-infrequent nocturnal visits.

Sure enough, within moments I felt the soft tap on my shoulder and the whisper in my ear "Abba, can I snuggle you?".  This is Yonah's way of saying that he was uncomfortable in his own bed and wanted to spend the rest of the night spooned (well, actually forked would be more accurate) in next to me.

Without a word I moved over and lifted the down comforter to allow him to scurry under its warm embrace before allowing myself to drift back to sleep.

Sometime later (no idea what time it was) I woke up to Yonah lifting up one of my eyelids.  This is a horrifying trick that Gilad used to use to wake me up when he was this age.  I guess little boys require eye-contact to make sure they have your undivided attention.

Anyway, with my eyeball starting to tear up from being softly buffeted by his whispered words, I heard "Abba, I'm going back to my own bed now."

I asked him if everything was OK, since it was odd for him to go back upstairs after insinuating himself into our bed.

His breathy response from within millimeters of my face:  "I can't sleep here Abba.  I think there's a lion in your bed."

Hmmm, maybe Zahava's right about my snoring.

Posted by David Bogner on January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Monday, January 14, 2008

The value of time (part II)

I'd like to echo a few of yesterday's commenters in saying that Zahava and I were extremely touched to read so many wonderful stories - tributes, actually - about the pets you've loved... and lost.  The responsible stewardship each of you described is precisely the kind of balance we have been trying to strike in managing Jordan's needs during her current health crisis against our own needs and responsibilities.

That said, let me make a few things clear that were left deliberately ambiguous.

It may sound corny, but we love Jordan like we love our children, and dote on her every bit as much.  I deliberately avoided writing about our mushy-gushy experiences and family history with her in an attempt to keep the discussion of the decision-making criteria as clinical as possible.  But anyone who has ever had a pet knows that such decisions are rarely made exclusively according to dry clinical considerations. 

Granted, if an animal is hit by a car and is suffering terribly with little or no hope of recovery, the decision is simple: "Dr. Vet, please put my pet out of his/her agony right this very second!"  Some of the more rural readers might simply take the poor suffering animal out back and perform an 'Old Yeller' with a heavy heart and tears in their eyes. 

But when the pet is somewhere in that gray area between perfectly healthy and terminally ill, we tend to naturally think in terms of buying time. 

Let's face it, we were raised in an age of medical miracles.  Where once we had to accept that contracting a serious disease was like stepping off some desert cliff and vanishing into the landscape below like Wile E. Coyote... getting ill in the modern world is more like engaging in an extended tug-war, with death holding the other end of the rope. 

Intellectually we still understand that nobody has ever won (meaning we all die in the end), but with our ability to prolong the game far beyond what our healthiest ancestors used to call 'good long innings', we have become a bit smug about our opponent.

Veterinary medicine has benefited from most of the advances we've seen in the human sciences.  Aside from organ transplants and bypass surgery there is little available to humans that isn't also available (at a cost, of course) to their pets.  And this is why I began yesterday's post with the rhetorical question; "What would you pay for a few extra months, or even a year with a terminally ill loved one?"  You see, once you eliminate all the givens such as your love for a pet and science's ability to possibly heal it, all that remains to be negotiated is the cost.

I know, I know... I hear you out there saying "but what about quality of life?".  Obviously our responsibility to weigh our pet's quality of life is an essential part of loving and caring for them.  Let's face it, if the only thing we were concerned about was selfishly keeping a beloved cat or dog around for as long as possible, we'd be talking to a good taxidermist, not a vet. 

The problem is (as one commenter pointed out) many pets are rather stoic in the face of suffering... and we humans sometimes anthropomorphise our furry companions to the point that we mistake their stoicism for a human-like desperation to live... even in the face of excruciating pain, loss of mobility and incontinence. 

Having grown up with pets, I have come to understand that while they certainly demonstrate a startling capacity for devotion, affection and loyalty... the one thing that endears them to us beyond every other measure is the fact that they rely on us.  Even the most aloof cat looks to its owner for sustenance.  Even the most independent dog still seeks its master's approval and affection a dozen times a day.

But for some reason, when our pets get sick we look into their beseeching eyes and see the words 'help me' when what they are really saying is ' I'm relying on you to do what's best'.  Because above all other considerations, we are the 'alpha dogs'.  Our pets live entirely in the present and defer to us on everything.  If they feel hungry they come to us for food.  When they are cold they come to us for shelter.  When they are feeling insecure they come looking for affection. 

So why wouldn't they also expect us to be take away their pain when they get sick?

All these things (and more) went through our minds before and during our conversation with the vet.  While the financial considerations were weighed and accepted, I knew that so long as the treatment wasn't going to be as painful as the sickness, and that it had a decent chance of giving Jordan another year of quality life... that we would give it a try.

The vet assured us that the side affects wouldn't be anywhere near what human's experience during chemo.  She wouldn't lose her hair.  She shouldn't experience nausea or diarrhea.  She might have a few isolated incidents of incontinence (due to some of the drugs and the high fluid intake with the chemo)... but for the most part she should begin showing signs of improvement right away. 

So yes, we opted for chemo, and the vet's been right... so far (pftu, pftu,pftu).

Jordan is now in her fourth week of treatment.  The tumor has shrunk significantly and her energy level has improved dramatically.  She still sleeps more than she used to, but that seems age appropriate and not necessarily due to either the cancer or the treatment.  Bottom line, for the moment we seem to have a good grip on the rope and are holding our own in the tug-o-war.  But we also know that could change tomorrow... or the day after that. 

Which brings us to another piece of advice from our vet.

After watching the way our kids interact with Jordan and hearing stories of how our youngest (who has sensory issues) has bonded with her, he advised us not to wait until she is gone to think about getting another dog.  He said that after the loss of a beloved pet, no other animal can live up to the fond memories.  He said that even if the chemo does everything it is supposed to, now is the time to think about bringing another pet into the picture.

We have also been told that not only will a puppy give Jordan a new companion, but it will give her the opportunity to help mold a new dog's behavior... something we've watched her do when we've been dog-sitting for young dogs for friends.

Jordan was trained at an early age as a companion dog for an elderly woman.  She is very calm and only barks when she wants to be let in from the yard.  She spends a good part of every night going from room to room checking on each of the sleeping inhabitants and instinctively remains by the bedside of anyone in the house who is sick.  If ever there were a set of behaviors worth teaching a new dog, Jordan possesses them.

A couple of weeks ago Zahava and I drove to Hashmona'im on a Saturday night to the shiva house of a close friend who had just lost his brother.  After staying for an hour we walked over to the house of some other friends who had made aliyah this past summer.  In the course of chatting with them they mentioned that they had just bought a puppy.  She was still too young to bring home, but they gave us all the details. 

Apparently a very reputable kennel that specializes in breeding champion pedigrees had a little 'whoops' a few months back.  A beautiful yellow Labrador bitch had somehow spent a private moment with a very dark German Shepherd stud and... well, the rest, as they say, is history. 

The resulting litter consisted of two yellow males that looked like the mother and two jet black females that favored the father.  Our friends explained that the males were already spoken for, and that they had claimed one of the females a few days ago.  But as far as they knew the other female was still not spoken for.

Hearing the combination of Shepherd and Labrador (the predominant ingredients in Jordan's genetic stew) made us perk up our ears.  I asked for the phone number of the kennel and called immediately, fully expecting to leave a message on an answering machine.  One of the owners answered.  I explained that we were friends of the family who were adopting the female lab/shepherd mix and had heard there might still be another female available... 

I finished talking and held my breath, waiting for the bad news.

The woman on the other end of the phone avoided the inquiry at first and began asking questions of her own;  Had I ever owned a dog... did we have kids... how old are they... where did we live... how big a yard did we have... did we regularly walk our dog... what was the name of our vet?  At some point in the interrogation I felt the mood change and the woman allowed the conversation to drift back towards the puppy.

"Yes", she said, "the female puppy was still available".  I explained that I didn't work anywhere near their location and it might be as much as a week until we could come see the puppy.  Could she 'save' the puppy for us until then?  Without hesitating she said 'no problem... see you on Friday morning".

The week crept by like a snail.  We had a few whispered discussion in bed about the idea of the new puppy, but we were careful not to mention anything to the kids.  We didn't want to get their hopes up in case things didn't work out... and we also weren't 100% certain we were even doing the right thing.

Well, Friday morning finally arrived we told the kids we were going out to run some errands and drove the hour+ to the kennel.  It was in the middle of a small agricultural area and as we drove up the gravel road to the kennel a black Jeep coming the other way stopped alongside us.  The woman behind the wheel rolled down her window and introduced herself as the owner (with whom I'd spoken).  Beside her sat a stunning Black Lab who grinned at us as the woman explained that one of her employees was expecting us and would give us the tour.

As promised, someone was standing outside waiting for us and he immediately brought us inside to see the puppies.  There was the usual din of barking dogs that one encounters at a kennel, but there was a sense of cleanliness, order and competence... and not a hint of neglect.

The puppies were in a private room, and as the door was opened the mother bounded out to greet us.  She was a gorgeous animal with a happy face and gentle manner.  She acted as though we were her long-lost masters.  Far from being territorial or protective, she seemed delighted to have us handle her pups and dutifully groomed whichever pups we weren't holding at the moment.  As we'd imagined, the month-old puppies were exquisite!

We asked to see the father and sensed a moment's hesitation on the part of the employee.  Immediately we wondered what he might be hiding... but when I asked if there was a problem he explained that since the 'incident' where this litter had been conceived, they had put the male dogs in a far section of the kennel that required a bit of rearranging and herding various dogs from the middle holding areas.  But when he saw that we really wanted to meet the father he immediately set about shuttling dogs from place to place.

After a few minutes he waved us through a few rooms and passageways and took us out to a rear holding area.  We walked up to a chain link gate and he introduced us to a smiling German Shepherd with a predominantly black coat (with a little brindle underneath).  The dog didn't bark.  He simply stuck his face through the gap and give me a big wet kiss on the cheek.  While I stood scratching him behind the ears and under the chin, all I could think about was how similar his build was to our Jordan's.

After a few minutes with the friendly father we asked to go back and see the puppies again so we could take some pictures.  We also took some shots of the two female pups together since our friends hadn't managed to do so when they'd picked out their pup.  The only time I've seen that particular expression on Zahava's face has been when she's holding babies.  Seeing that maternal glow told me all I needed to know.


I turned to the young man who'd been showing us around and said "We'll take her".

It will be another 3 or 4 weeks until the pups are old enough to leave their mother, so all we were able to bring home with us were the digital pics and the smell of new puppies.  When we got home Zahava ran downstairs to download the images, and after lunch we called the kids down to the office with a vague "Come downstairs, we want to show you something".

When they saw the cute black puppy on the screen they nearly exploded with happiness.  It seems they too have seen how content Jordan is with a young dog under her charge... and for the rest of the day they were scritching Jordan under the chin and saying "Jordan... you're getting a new puppy!".

So for now, we continue to watch Jordan's progress closely and pray for continued success.  The only problem now seems to be how to make the time 'til we can bring home the puppy pass a bit faster.

Posted by David Bogner on January 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (49) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The value of time (Part I)

What would you pay for a few extra months, or even a year with a terminally ill loved one?  A silly question, I know, but...

A couple of years ago while my family was gathered on Cape Cod to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, my dad came down with high fever.  Even though my parents have always been in general good health (tfu tfu tfu), a high fever in someone in his 70s seemed a cause for concern, so my mom took him to the nearest hospital (30-40 minutes away).

After they'd left, the rest of us - children, spouses, etc. - sat around the kitchen of this big old house we were sharing for the week and quietly speculated on what could be ailing dad.  However, we didn't have long to speculate because in a short time my mom was back, looking frazzled and a bit pale... and without dad.

It's hard not to imagine the worst under such circumstances, and we immediately asked her in unison what had happened... where was dad?!   

Her casual answer knocked us all a bit off balance, "He's at the hospital.  It looked like he was going to be there awhile and I was getting cold and hungry... so I decided to come back here."

On its face, there is nothing wrong or improper about her decision to leave dad there and come back for dinner with the family.  But because we'd had a momentary scare, we started relieving the tension by poking fun. 

The hands-down winning line... one that had us on the kitchen floor with tears of laughter streaming down our faces... was delivered by my brother-in-law.  He said, "I'll bet she told the doctors that if it was going to be more than $250 dollars to just have him put down." 

In the end, it turned out that my dad had some sort of infection and he was given some wide spectrum antibiotics.  So feeling much relieved, a few hours later while we were checking my dad out of the hospital, I related the funny line to him.  He smiled through the haze of his remaining fever and quipped, "Hmmm, $250... Not bad.  I'm surprised she'd have gone that high!"

Now, most of you reading this don't know my parents, so you may not be able to fully appreciate how much they love one another.  Trust me, the 50+ years they've spent together is testament to far more than just patience.  Which is likely why we felt comfortable joking about my mother having given instructions to the hospital staff in terms more appropriate to a vet's office than a hospital ER.

However, that vet's office humor which helped break the tension that late summer evening in the kitchen of a rented house on the Cape recently came back to punch me in the gut. 

You see, the furriest member of our family - our 11-year-old black Lab mix, Jordan - was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Specifically, with Lymphoma.   Sadly, even when a pet is as much a member of the family as Jordan, the decision-making process of just how far to go in trying to extend an animal's life is never the same as with a human. 

First and foremost is the issue of money.  Even where the mind (and heart) dictate that no amount is too much to save a beloved pet's life, there are limits to what most of us can reasonably afford to spend on surgery, drugs, therapy, etc. for a pet. 

There is also the specter of euthanasia that lurks, unspoken, during a discussion of a serious pet illness that - my family's dark sense of humor not withstanding - is simply not part of any normal discussion of a human's illness. 

Our vet is a wonderful, dedicated practitioner who saved Jordan's life a couple of years ago when she somehow managed to ingest a lethal dose of strychnine.  He knows how attached we are to her, so when he delivered the bad news about her cancer he was as gentle and thorough as if (G-d forbid) it were a human member of the family under discussion.

But at the end of the lengthy diagnosis process, our vet told us firmly that a decision had to be made.  Without treatment Jordan would likely die in a few months at most.  He said that her only hope of survival lay in a course of chemotherapy over approximately 12 weeks.

This was the point at which our dark humor about my mother giving the docs in that Cape Cod hospital a financial limit on treatment for my dad came back to tear my heart out.

As I absorbed the vet's detailed explanation of the weekly chemotherapy sessions, a small, guilty part of my brain started gently asking unavoidable, terrible questions like 'how much was too much?'... and 'how long a life was long enough?'

As if reading my thoughts, the vet brought the uncomfortable subjects out into the light where we could see them.  He assured us that he didn't believe in expensive, heroic measures to extend an animal's life for only a few months.  He said that if that were the case with Jordan, he would recommend putting her to sleep as soon as she began to suffer real physical discomfort.  But at the same time he wanted us to understand that the most wildly optimistic prognosis chemotherapy could offer an 11-year-old animal with her condition was a year... maybe a year and a half at the outside. 

He then went over what the entire chemo-treatment would cost and explained that even if all went as planned/hoped and she tolerated the treatment, she would also have to come back every three months for extra chemo to make sure she remained in remission.

And there it was.  With the life of our beloved pet hanging in the balance, we were given a lot of 'ifs'... and a terrifying lack of promises.

While certainly nowhere near as costly as a round of treatment at Sloane Kettering, the commitment in time and money we were facing was serious enough to require a private discussion with Zahava.  There was no question that we could make the necessary time to bring Jordan into Jerusalem once a week for her chemo-treatments.  But the only way we could swing the financial end of things was to spread the payments out over a whole year... a scenario which could easily see us making substantial payments well after Jordan had gone on to doggy heaven.

I'll share our difficult decision with you tomorrow... but I'm interested to know what sort of criteria some of you may have used for making decisions under similar circumstances.

Posted by David Bogner on January 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Friday, January 11, 2008

A meaningful momento

Once again Book of Joe has featured something that has forced me to lock up my wallet in the safe.

If anyone is at a loss for what to buy me for my birthday this year, here's the perfect present (only 166 shopping days left, people!):

It is a wooden 'bowl' that is precision milled from multi-grained wood to match any contoured landscape on the planet.  Here's a brief description from 'Fluidforms', the creators of this unique piece of functional coffee-table art:

Each part of the earth is unique in the design of her heights and depths. Fluidforms enables customers to have a piece of this singularity on a table at home. The different contour lines of a chosen area define the shape of the bowl. An expedition into landscapes and cities only known from hiking. The earth becomes a sensory experience, that can be filled with the fruits of the earth.


Materials: Laminated Beach
Size: ~300x300x65mm, other sizes on request

The site allows you to enter the name of the town/city and then use Google Earth to zero in on exactly the area you want to use as the model for your wooden contour map.  For instance, I live at: North (31'40'37N- 35'10'20E) - South (31'38'22N-35'08'50E).  Once you have the area defined on their site, the folks at Fluidform then custom mill your bowl and hand sand it to perfection.

Given the spectacular topography of Israel (especially Gush Etzion), this thing is an incredible temptation for me.  Personally, I don't think I'd use the finished product as a bowl... but that's just me. 

Treppenwitz Tip: Those of you who live in Kansas and Oklahoma can save yourselves a heap of money by simply going out to the local lumber yard and buying a 1 ft2 block of your favorite wood.  No milling or sanding required!

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Hat Tip: Book of Joe

Posted by David Bogner on January 11, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Living in a fear society

Once again, we are hearing a deafening silence from the media and Israel's political left regarding the anti-democratic assaults on civil rights which have arisen since President Bush arrived in Israel yesterday.

This silence is apparently because the right of peaceful assembly/demonstration has only been suspended for those on the political right.

Protesters posting pictures depicting Bush, Peres and Olmert wearing Kafiyas (see below) have been arrested.  No charges have been brought (since no laws were broken... except perhaps some littering statute), but the 'suspects' were relieved of their posters and detained by the police long enough to neutralize their efforts. [sorry, the link I had to the article has been broken]


Other protesters (well know far-right activists) waving the above-mentioned posters outside the President's residence have also been arrested.  Again, no laws were broken, but since their ideas (and ideology) were considered objectionable to the occupant of the house, the police were given a blank check to arrest/detain these people... just long enough to neutralize them, of course.

A third peaceful protest yesterday against Olmert's plan to discuss core issues with the PA - this one on a hilltop near Hevron -  was also broken up by police.  Once again, there was nothing illegal about the protest itself, except that the protester's ideas/ideology were considered objectionable and embarrassing to the current government.

Lastly, a small group of protester demonstrating for the release of Jonathan Pollard (a topic that , IMHO, should not be a partisan issue) were dispersed by police in Jerusalem.  Again, no laws were broken... just a clear message sent and received that nobody is allowed to mention uncomfortable and/or embarrassing topics in public while Olmert is claiming to speak for all the people in front of his out-of-town guests.

PM Olmert has made public statements that Israelis are ready to make serious concessions in order to arrive at a final status agreement with the Palestinians.  Yet every poll conducted to date has indicated that the overwhelming majority of Israelis are against dividing Jerusalem, and that a more modest majority hold an unfavorable view of any discussion of territorial concessions before a full cessation of terror activities (e/g/ rocket, mortar, shooting, Molotov cocktail and stone attacks on Israelis) is enforced.

It is clear to me that the only way Olmert can claim to have a mandate borne of national consensus is to illegally quash all public debate that opposes his views.

I have long defended the rights of groups like 'Women in Black' to protest 'the occupation' and have been pleased to see that their weekly demonstrations are not disrupted by police.  So why is it that when anti-democratic, heavy-handed tactics are employed to stifle dissent from the Israeli right, the media and the Israeli left suddenly go deaf, blind and mute? 

Are we really going to see the media and the left give their tacit approval to near-dictatorial abuse just as they did during disengagement?  Didn't we learn anything from that dark period???  Doesn't anyone care the Israel doesn't come close to passing Natan Sharansky's famous 'Town Square Test'?


Update:  Here is a well written 1st hand account from a new immigrant who was detained by the police for passing out literature (a Young Israel-sponsored pamphlet) about Fatah's alleged standing as a 'moderate' body.  The author is the brother of a close friend (not a hot-head by any stretch of the imagination) and has been in the country exactly 2 weeks.  Welcome to Israel!

Posted by David Bogner on January 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Putting lipstick on a pig

I was having a political discussion with my parents this past weekend (hey, they're Israelis now, so what else would we be talking about?!), when I suddenly realized we were talking at cross-purposes.  Specifically, we were using different terminology to describe the same thing... but only I seemed to realize it.

My parents were using terms and phrases they'd read and heard in the media... and I was using more historically accurate terminology to describe the exact same thing they were. 

Yet we were arguing.  Strange.

They kept talking about the various plans being bandied about in the news for Israel to "return to the '67 borders" (with small modifications, of course), and I kept correcting them saying, "you mean the 1949 Armistice lines".

This went back and forth a few times before I had to call a time out and clear things up.

I patiently explained that using the phrase "the 67 borders", while not necessarily wrong, was misleading due to the fact that Israel had two different sets of borders during that year.  Our present borders (with the exception of Gaza, which we recently relinquished) are the "67 borders".  Specifically our current borders (except for Gaza) are those that existed on June 12h, 1967 after the Six Day War.

But when most people today say "the '67 borders" in relation to territorial compromise, they are talking about the borders that existed on June 5th, 1967... which were, in fact, the 1949 Armistice lines.... Israel's de facto borders at the end of the War of Independence.   

But since a return to the 1949 borders - even a modified version - would be tantamount to admitting that every war fought since (and every Israeli killed in 60 years of Arab aggression) was for naught, you will almost never hear that phrase used in the news.

It's really no surprise that the left-leaning media and the Olmert government are very careful to only talk about returning to "the '67 borders".  How else can one consider giving a do-over on not one, but three major wars (and six decades of Arab intransigence)... in return for nothing more than vague promises to recognize our right to exist.  Sort of.

"But what about the Palestinians?" I hear you asking.  "The Palestinians didn't attack Israel in the War of Independence, so why should they be punished?"  An excellent point, which calls into question the entire legitimacy of the oft-heard claim that Israel is occupying 'Palestinian Land'.  You see, the Palestinians had never been heard of in 1948, and were not a party to that conflict (except perhaps as stateless refugees).  Therefore, when you look at a map of the 1949 Armistice lines, you will see no mention of such a people/entity.

Here, let's have a look, shall we?  The Blue areas below are what Israel agreed to accept under the UN's Partition Plan in 1947.  The Arabs unanimously rejected the Partition Plan and instead went to war. And lost.  The result was that when the 1949 Armistice lines were drawn, Israel had added the peach colored areas and some of the gray area as well... and Egypt and Jordan had occupied the green, gray and purple areas. The 1949 Armistice lines remained Israel's borders until the end of the Six Day War in 1967 when we acquired the green and purple areas, as well as some areas in the Golan that aren't pictured here:



[Map Source Here]

Now, my parents happen to be two of the smartest, most well-informed people I know.  Yet they'd both assumed that I was arguing semantics (i.e. being difficult) when in fact I was trying to make a very important historical/geographic distinction.  As soon as my father understood what I was saying, all he could say was, "a return to Israel's 1949 borders would be madness!"

Funny how just changing the terms with which a topic is discussed can change one's entire perception.  Basically, when the product you are selling stinks, the best strategy is to make sure it is packaged nicely.  And let's face it... calling for a return to relatively modern borders sounds a heck of a lot nicer than a retreat to indefensible borders that existed at the end of our War of Independence!  Yet, without saying as much, it is the latter that everyone seems to be talking about today. 

Look, if you want to talk about the poor, suffering Palestinians.  Let's talk about them.  Really!  I'm not saying that there isn't something to talk about.  But let's also talk about who they are, and what legitimate, legal claims they may have.  Let's talk about what obligations they have to themselves and their neighbors (us)... and most importantly let's talk about what this sudden yearning for Palestinian self-determination has to do with the sovereign State of Israel. 

Then, if you want to talk about giving them some land to call their own, we can talk about that too... again, in the framework of what is best for everyone in the region (including us).  Maybe some of the land needs to come from other sovereign states in the region... states that were legally part of the League of Nation's Palestine Mandate and which were supposed to be carved up amicably between Jewish and Arab entities (instead of unilaterally at the whim of the British caretakers of the land). 

Heck you'll notice that during the 19 years that Jordan and Egypt were in possession of the land the Palestinians call 'occupied territory' (from '48 thru '67) nobody - not even the 'Palestinians - asked them to create a Palestinian state.  So I figure if somehow the pie didn't get properly divided to everyone's satisfaction back then, let's see if maybe we can rectify that.

But to make the creation of a Palestinian State entirely Israel's problem (and at Israel's territorial expense) is untenable.  And to promote this flawed agenda by arbitrarily tossing around terminology that is not only intentionally misleading, but which is actually describing borders and wars that were established/fought before anyone on the planet had ever heard of 'the Palestinians'... well, it sounds a lot like someone is selling a pig and thinks applying a little lipstick will make the swine a bit more marketable.

[this post was built around a comment I left yesterday over at Yourish.com]

Posted by David Bogner on January 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Monday, January 07, 2008

That's just silly!

I'm sure I can't be the first to have noticed this, so forgive me if you've seen this complaint elsewhere. 

Look at the new U.S. Postage stamp that was recently issued honoring film star Bette Davis and tell me what seems to be missing:


Give up?  Look at the odd way she's holding her hand.  How stupid do they think we are?  Did they really think nobody would notice that someone had Photoshopped out the cigarette?!

Look, I loathe everything about smoking.  I hate the smell, the mess... and don't get me started on the health issues associated with both active and passive smoking.  I am a champion of just about any legislation that limits smoker's ability to inflict the byproduct of their habit on those of us who don't wish to partake.


This business of the thought police trying to sanitize the past in such a way as to try to make it seem as though famous people didn't smoke way back when... well, that's just plain silly!  I mean, the next thing you know they'll be taking away Churchill's (or Groucho Marx's) cigar, for crying out loud!

I remember when they did something similar to the stamp honoring James Dean.  At the time I wondered why they'd bothered.  Anyone who had ever watched a James Dean film or seen a publicity shot of him knew that he smoked.  The same can be said of one of my favorite movie stars, Humphrey Bogart, who was rarely seen on or off screen without a cigarette in his mouth of hand.  It was part of his persona.

If you are going to honor someone like Bette Davis, either pick a picture of her without a cigarette (if such a thing exists) or simply leave the cigarette alone.  That was her... and that was then.  Full stop.

But that isn't to say I am against all tinkering with history when it comes to smoking. I have no problem with cleaning up historical fiction so we don't make old vices seem too attractive to modern consumers.

My wife (as strident an anti-smoker as I am) has recently started watching of a TV series about the Madison Avenue ad world of the 1950s called Mad Men.  I watched it once and immediately felt like I needed to take a shower and wash my clothes.  You see, everyone in the show smoked. EVERYONE! ALL THE TIME!!!  In meetings, on the street, during meals, in bed... there was literally no on-screen respite or refuge from the filthy habit.

Look, while the show may be historically accurate (I loved the Danish modern furniture and snappy clothes), these are fictitious characters who don't absolutely have to be smoking during every moment of the show!  Unless, of course, the goal is to completely desensitize the viewer to the whole smoking thing... in which case bravo, mission accomplished! 

I can't help but be bothered that such a show is offering a whole new generation of viewers (who weren't even born in the 50s) an attractive glimpse of well dressed, successful, beautiful people who seem to subsist on a steady diet of nothing but cigarettes. 

Looking back over this post I see I'm doing a bad job of expressing myself... maybe even contradicting myself.

On the one hand, I have no problem watching 'Casablanca' or 'All about Eve' with my kids and explaining to them that they were filmed at a time when people didn't fully understand the dangers of smoking.  I trust them to be able to see the cigarettes as an anachronistic prop of the era, and then look past them to enjoy the story.  But on the other hand, to build a modern television series almost entirely around the act of smoking among actors who are not otherwise known for promoting this habit... well, like airbrushing the cigarette out of Bette Davis' hand, I just found it silly.

Posted by David Bogner on January 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Plenty-o-nuthin' Vol. I

Some mornings I wake up, open up the laptop and proceed to write an enormous, steaming pile of crap.  Sure there are lots of words and sometimes even the kernel of an idea in there somewhere.  But the end result is a tangled mass of badness that, trust me, you should be thanking me for granting you the gift of the ten minutes you would have spent trying to decipher it.

On such mornings I sometimes go back to the drawing board and manage to write something passingly coherent... in which case you end up seeing something posted here.  And on other occasions I can't seem to get the stink off my typing hand and the second effort ends up being worse (if such a thing is possible) than the first.

Today was such a morning with not one, but two separate posts ending up in the electronic version of the air sickness bag.

I've been in a bit of a roll lately with posts going up almost every day, and I feel bad having you show up and find 'nuthin'.  So I'm going to try something new.

A few times a week friends from around the globe email me funny cartoons and photos... which I dutifully file away for no apparent reason.  Admittedly, most are just so-so, and some are a little too spicy and/or un-PC to share in a family-friendly site.  But I've noticed that over the past few years I've amassed a nice library of stuff that might serve nicely as consolation prizes for people who show up here expecting, well, something.

Therefore, today will be the first in an ongoing series called 'plenty-o-nothin' which will indicate that I had some sort of a writing accident that morning and nothing worthwhile could be salvaged from the effort.

So without further ado... a little something, er, nothin' that demonstrates that our enemies do have a lighter side:


Here's hoping the writing fairy visits tomorrow.

[Note:  Where possible, I will always try to determine the source/copyright owner of any images I post here.  However, most of the stuff that will be featured in this series came to me second or fifteenth hand, and I may have struck out in trying to track down the original source.  If you know who created an image I post here please let me know so I can give credit where it is due.]

Posted by David Bogner on January 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Friday, January 04, 2008

Oh yeah... the winner of the doll contest

Several people saw the title of my post from two days ago and thought I was finally going to announce the winner in the Feral Cheryl Mohamed doll contest.  Whoops.

The truth is there were many very qualified candidates and all of you brought excellent credentials to the table.  But in the end, one contestant had a small, though arguably unfair, edge over the competition;  He helped save the life of a close friend/neighbor.

The Feral Cheryl Mohamed doll was awarded at a formal ceremony this past week to the Sandman (also known as Quietus Leo), a blogging anesthesiologist here in Israel.  Sandman was on duty the day they brought in a young IDF officer named Elroi with a critical shrapnel wound to his head/neck. 

Long time readers will have read my frequent updates on his condition spanning the desperate early days when Elroi was not expected to live, much less wake up... to the small glimmer of hope when he was awake and starting to surprise the doctors with his determination to regain control of his paralyzed left side... to his reteaching himself to walk and rejoin the world as a normal, walking and talking everyday hero.

Sandman happened to stumble across my site and recognized my description of Elroi as a patient he had worked on.  He contacted me and told me that he was delighted to hear of Elroi's progress... especially as he rarely got to hear follow up information on the cases that came through the operating rooms where he worked.

Emails were exchanged... cups of coffee were promised... and lots of time passed.  Yet Sandman and I never managed to get together.  But when he threw his name in the hat for the doll contest I knew in my heart that he was going to be the winner.  As I said above... not fair, but here it is.

So, as Sandman blogs anonymously, I've asked Zahava to do a 'witness protection program' job on his face in this picture from the award ceremony. 

Ok, it wasn't exactly a formal ceremony... it was just my finally getting around to saying thank you by buying a hard-working doc a well-deserved cup of coffee.

Oh yeah, and if you aren't reading him... you should be.

Posted by David Bogner on January 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack