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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Congratulations, it's a... Mac!

Last night it finally happened.  The blessed event we've been anticipating for many months now has come to pass:

We powered down the last remaining dinosaur Windows PC in the house, and in its place now sits a shiny new Mac Mini.

Here's a picture of the new arrival... along with the basic stats that the ladies always seem to hunger for:


Zahava still has her tricked-out Mac desktop to do all her design work... I have the nice wide-screen Macbook Pro (which doubles as Zahava's presentation 'puter when she's meeting with clients on their turf)... Ariella has her very sleek and functional Mac Mini... and as of last night, Gilad has joined the Mac crew with a Mini of his own.

Gilad's new Mac Mini, complete with built in wireless and bluetooth, was a very generous Bar Mitzvah gift from his Aunts and Uncle.  It took him all of 10 minutes to completely forget that Windows ever existed, and he now has his Mac system completely customized and configured to suit his every whim.

I had to send him an Instant Message around 10:15PM last night to tell him to turn off the computer and go to bed (school night and all that), but I could tell he was supremely pleased with his blindingly fast new 'puter and couldn't really fault him for pushing the bed-time envelope.

I'm thinking of turning the old Windows PC into a planter... or better yet, hauling it down to the shooting range for target practice.  I'll keep you posted.

Posted by David Bogner on December 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Friday, December 05, 2008

Memories and lessons from Mumbai

I was finally able to get my thoughts about Mumbai down on 'paper' this week.  The result was about twice the length of even my longest posts, and made me sound much closer to the Holtzbergs (HY"D) than I really was. 

Obviously their deaths affected me very deeply, but what I wrote felt like I was 'crying louder than the family at the funeral', (if you know what I mean).  I had to do a complete rewrite to try to express my sadness at their deaths without sounding insincere or (worse) like I was using this tragedy to promote myself.

Sadly, surrounding every high profile death there are always people trying for their 15 minutes of fame by clamoring to make sure everyone knew how close they were with the deceased.  I didn't want to be one of those people.

Anyway... hopefully the result will give you an honest glimpse of two special souls... as well as a couple of lessons I learned from their example.

My friend Lisa over at the Orthodox Union graciously asked me if I would allow her to post it in their 'Shabbat Shalom' section so it could have a wider distribution... so you can read it over at the OU site.

Posted by David Bogner on December 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 04, 2008

5 Years Old Today [tfu, tfu, tfu]

[A guest post by Zahava... with the full approval and endorsement of the management]

This morning, as I kissed Yonah on his keppi (Yiddish: head) and wished him a 'Happy Birthday!' , his usual morning scowl (this kid, like his Ima, is most definitely NOT a morning person) melted into the broadest grin his face could possibly contain, as he squealed, “Oooooh! Ima! I’m not four-and-a-half any more! I’m FIVE!”

As followers of this blog know, this exchange is not one which could be taken for granted... nor could it have even taken place a year ago. Yonah’s developmental progress since his surgery in May has been in overdrive as he instinctively strives to 'make up for lost time'.   

David and I are blown away by his progress, and are enjoying watching a sweet-natured, thoughtful, and often very funny boy emerge from his shell.


We are very grateful to HaShem for entrusting this precious neshama (soul) into our care. We are also so grateful to the professional staff at his gan for helping him (and us) understand Yonah’s world better.

Yonah, you keep us on our toes, kid... you really do (and we wouldn’t have it any other way!). Happy birthday! And many, many happy returns! [tfu, tfu, tfu]

Posted by David Bogner on December 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Maybe now they will finally understand...

If I had a [insert insignificant sum of local currency here] for every time I've read or heard those words following a terror attack, I'd truly never have to work again.

Here's the problem.  The human condition is predisposed to a kind of self-imposed amnesia following any serious trauma.  How many of us can honestly say we remember - really remember - the electric shock-like pain of a broken bone... the sickening violation of a deep wound... the searing insanity that is a third degree burn? 

For that matter, how many women can honestly say that they can conjure up - right this very minute - an honest and accurate memory of the tearing pain of the moment their child's head and shoulders passed through the birth canal?

Yes, we vaguely remember that there was pain.  Bad pain.  But we are incapable of recalling or reliving the reality of the pain to any useful extent. There is something about the way we're wired that allows us to remember - indistinctly - that pain occurred.  But once we get past childhood, even the memory of a bad burn won't keep us from a familiar intimacy with the stove or campfire.

After every terror attack - no matter where it might occur in the world - the editorial pages and coffee shops are full of sages and pundits who solemnly intone "Maybe now they will finally understand...", secure in the knowledge that this fresh atrocity will have finally passed the threshold for action... for a response... for at least a change of allegiance and sympathy;  That this time the pain will be indelibly burned into our collective memory.

And for a brief moment in time it appears that they are right.

Yet even the fresh vigilance that springs to life after each killing spree can't seem to sustain itself for any meaningful period of time.  A few of the safeguards may become canonized in the mindless rules one encounters at the airport security check ("I'm sorry sir, your bottle of hand sanitizer is a threat to the free world... please step behind this curtain and disrobe"), but within weeks... sometimes even days... the forgetting begins anew, and the families of the dead are left alone to mourn, and to wonder how nobody else seems to see the same patterns and trends anymore.

We in Israel have watched as our allies have endured ever greater attacks by our common enemies. And following each new conflagration we say to ourselves, "Maybe now they will finally understand what we have been going through".  The hijacked jetliners... the bombed busses and trains... the embassies in flames... New York, Washington, London, Madrid... Mumbai for G-d's sake!!!  Certainly now they all understand!!!

Yet, like a drunk whose hangover is just far enough in the past to allow him to imagine that the problem was somehow something other than the booze, the U.S., Europe and Asia have all demonstrated a staggering capacity for shaking off full frontal attacks, and then almost immediately sit down again with bespoke-suited terrorists to begin anew the contrite ritual of surrender negotiation.

So let's finally be honest... at least with ourselves.  They will never understand.  What am I saying?  Even an unsettlingly large number of us - the Israelis - still don't understand!   Look how many of us can quote chapter and verse of every act of murderous intransigence by our enemies, and then look each other in the eye and honestly declare that 'this time it will be different'... 'they've changed'... 'they really want peace'... 'we just need to give them a little bit more'

Never mind that the only periods of relative calm we've ever known have followed our unapologetic acts of brutality, merciless warfare and self-defense... while the worst periods of bloodshed and carnage have come directly on the heels of unilateral concessions, withdrawal and conciliatory behavior.

Anyone who claims the exclusive mantle of 'peace' for themselves is arrogant, delusional or both.  There isn't a single Israeli who, given a choice, would rather have his or her children live at war than at peace.  But it is childish to imagine that if only we wish hard enough for 'Peace Now' we will magically be able to unilaterally banish war by sheer force of will.

One by one the coalition of nations who sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight the 'war on terror' are striking their tents and going home in a somnambulant stupor.  And at some point soon, the US will also sleepwalk home... forgetting exactly who they were fighting, or why. 

Until the next U.S., European or Asian embassy, installation or city is attacked.  And then, for a brief moment, there will be a sense of consensus... of purpose... of genuine pain.  And once again the editorial pages and coffee shop pundits will say "Maybe now they will finally understand... ". 

But they never really do.

Posted by David Bogner on December 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A tale of two engineers

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with one of two engineers whose stay at the Mumbai Trident-Oberoi overlapped with my own.  I'm not saying they work for my company... but you could be forgiven for making that assumption.  Whatever... it's not cogent to the story.

Anyway, when the grenades started exploding and the sound of gunfire and breaking glass started echoing around the Trident Oberoi Hotel, both of these engineers found themselves by luck, chance or divine providence, up in their rooms... blissfully ignorant of the events unfolding somewhere below their feet.

In fact, even though at least one of them had felt a small tremor in the building and a 'booming' sound in the distance, the first they knew of the emergent nature of their situation came when their cell phones rang a few minutes apart (they were in separate rooms on different floors of the hotel).  The calls were from their company's security officer checking to see where they were and if they were okay.

Once it was ascertained that they were both in their rooms and - at least for the moment - safe, they were immediately given the following hurried instructions:

  1. Stay there.  Don't move from your rooms. Don't make a sound.
  2. Double lock the door and, as quietly as possible, push any movable piece of heavy furniture in front of the door.
  3. Stay away from the door... don't even look through the peep-hole.
  4. Don't open the door for any reason, and don't respond to knocks at the door or voices from the hallway... even if they are saying that everything is okay and that the emergency is over.
  5. Do not use the hotel phone for any reason since it might draw attention to the fact that the room is occupied.  The switchboard must be assumed to be in enemy hands.  Use cell phones only.
  6. Stay silently in the rooms until a security officer from the Israeli Consulate personally comes and identifies himself in Hebrew and tells you to open the door.

This plan worked like a charm, and after several days a security officer from the consulate did indeed show up to free them from their luxury prisons high above Mumbai.  They are now both safely back in Israel. 

However during, and after their period of captivity, something interesting occurred. 

One of the men is religiously observant, so he had a suitcase full of manot hamot (cup-o-soups), tuna, kabanos (sort of a kosher peperoni stix) and other such nonperishable kosher food. 

But the other engineer is a secular Jew and had not brought any food with him, having intended to eat the readily available (and by all reports, delicious) food at the restaurant of the 5-star hotel.  So his only course of action during his long wait to be rescued was to raid the hotel Mini-Bar in his room.

Once safely back in Israel, as is often the case, each of the engineers manifested the stresses of his brush with death in vastly different ways. 

The religiously observant engineer went to synagogue and 'Bentched Gomel' (recited the blessing for one who survives a dangerous situation).   He won't hear about quick acting consular security officers or Indian Commandos.  He has unwaveringly assigned full credit for his deliverance to G-d above and no one else... and nobody can tell him otherwise. 

The other engineer is equally grateful to be alive, and wants to get the names and addresses of the Consulate Security officers so he can thank them for acting so quickly and efficiently to ascertain and ensure his safety.  But as of yesterday, he is also reportedly sick with worry that he is going to be charged for the small fortune in candy bars, exotic nuts, soft drinks and wine from the Mini-Bar in his hotel room, that sustained him throughout the ordeal.

We all grasp at whatever is within reach when life tosses us unexpectedly into the icy water.  For the religious, G-d is often the nearest thing at hand... and for the secular, exerting attention towards tangible, more manageable things may be the way to mitigate the fear.

But if the events of last week show us anything, it is that none of us will ever know for sure (in this world, anyway) if our lives are really saved by G-d, man or a humble (but overpriced) bag of Macadamia nuts. 

I believe one thing and many of my friends believe quite another.  It doesn't really matter who is right... or if anyone is right.  All we can do is be grateful for the timely rescue, and try to be worthy of our continued enjoyment of this mortal coil.

[note:  This post makes no judgment on how either of the engineers reacted to their ordeal.  Take what you like from the story and feel free to comment, but keep in mind that until we are tested, none of us knows for sure how we'll act - and react - during, and after a crisis.]

Posted by David Bogner on December 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack