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Monday, January 31, 2011

You dance with the one that brung ya

The title of this post is a folksy expression that is supposed to convey a message of reluctant loyalty... even in the face of a subsequent/better offer.

The protests in Egypt are finally getting around to the blame phase. It isn't enough that the country has been living under one occupier and/or dictator after another for the last few centuries. The Egyptian 'street' has suddenly decided that everything is the U.S. and Israel's fault for having propped up Mubarak's government.

I won't venture to speak for the Americans, but it is worth noting that Egypt is #2 after Israel in terms of receiving US foreign aid. So yes, there is something to the claim that the US has supported the soon-to-be-ended Mubarak regime.

But Israel hasn't exactly had much say in Egyptian politics.

We signed a peace agreement with Egypt under Anwar Sadat in 1979; an agreement for which he paid with his life, and for which Egypt was expelled from the Arab League.

The Israelis brought the entire Sinai Peninsula to the bargaining table. The Egyptians brought a pen. In the end Egypt took everything except Gaza. No matter how Menachem Begin begged Sadat to take control of Gaza (and their Palestinian brothers) as part of the deal, the Egyptians knew better than to assume control of that hornet's nest.

Surprisingly, a majority of Egyptians seemed to, at least tacitly, support the peace agreement with Israel. I guess they got tired of seeing Israeli tanks crossing the Suez Canal. Whatever the reason, after Sadat was terminally retired from office, Mubarak - another Dictator - took control, and it wasn't until 2003 that the stirrings of a pro-democracy movement began to be heard in Egypt.

During those 24 years, Israel couldn't very well be accused of propping up Mubarak, since no reasonable alternative had presented itself. Even if we had the ability to topple Mubarak at any point during his tenure... why would we have? If being a dictator was reason enough to justify Israeli adventurism and attempted regime change, we would have to go after most of the leaders in the region.

No, so long as all remained quiet on the western front, we were happy to let the Egyptians worry about Egypt. And so Israel and Egypt have enjoyed a frosty peace with mostly one-sided economic benefits (Israeli tourism to Egypt is quite common. Egyptian tourism to Israel is nearly unheard of). But I wouldn't call what Israel was doing 'propping up Mubarak'. We mostly kept our part of the peace agreement and provided lots of tourists, as well as markets for Sinai Bedouin smugglers' goods.

But now that Mubarak's government seems doomed to be toppled by the protests, the Egyptians need someone to blame for their having sat quietly in slavery for all those years... and the US and Israel are always handy targets.

Personally, I'm torn about what's going to happen. On the one hand, I think any oppressed society that shrugs off its shackles is a good thing. A great cartoon that is making the rounds pretty much says it all:


Granting the people free speech (or having them take it by force) is never a bad thing. As my friend in Louisiana correctly pointed out, "There is ONE reason and ONE reason only that a government would want the power to shut down the free and uncontrollably fast exchange of information that is the Internet, and that is to stifle the exchange of ideas."

But I can't help thinking about another government overthrow that began as a student uprising against a despot; The Iranian Revolution. It started in 1978 with widespread protests against the Shah, and climaxed in the beginning of 1979 with the Islamists taking charge. The students had thrown out a dictatorial leader, and for lack of backing or experience, had brought in a dictatorial system.

The situation in Egypt could easily go the same way. The Muslim Brotherhood has been trying to destabilize the Mubarak government for years, and they must be tickled pink at the current state of things. The question is, once the government falls, what will the transfer of power look like?

Is anyone or anything strong enough to assume control and restore order without resorting to the same kind of strong-arm tactics that triggered the protests in the first place? I don't think so. IMHO, an active blogosphere/twitterscape and a semi-independent press is not going to be enough to carry the day in a society that has no experience with democracy.

Opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei (the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who allowed the Iranians to build their nuclear program beyond the point of return or destruction), will need some powerful friends in order to assume control... and a bunch of enthusiastic students won't be enough. He will need the backing of the Islamists and the military (a horrifying combination, if you stop to think about it)... and he will inevitably make a deal with the devil to assume (and retain) power.

The scariest part (for Israel) is that the Muslim Brotherhood has been threatening to tear up the Israel/Egyptian peace agreement if they ever come to power. That might be the price of their support. If so, we'll have to do whatever is necessary to ensure our security.

But that will be a tragedy if it comes to pass. Egypt was the first Muslim country to break the ice and recognize Israel. That first baby step allowed for other official, and not-so-official, diplomatic contacts to be made between Israel and some of our other neighbors. The Egypt/Israel peace accord was the crucial first step in a cautious regional dance that may one day (please G-d) allow us to have relatively normal relations with most, or even all of our neighbors.

So, if by chance the new Egyptian leader (whoever it may turn out to be) doesn't set aside the peace agreement, Israel will make nice with whoever sits to our west... even if they turn out to be another brand of dictator. Because we don't get to pick our neighbors. We're here to stay, and in diplomacy, as with any social occasion, 'you dance with the one that brung ya'.

[Update: The Muslim Brotherhood has just announced that they want to form an opposition comittee to be headed by ElBaradei. Well, now it's official.]

Posted by David Bogner on January 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The 'wave threshold'

In the days before I switched to two wheeled commuting, driving a random silver-colored European station wagon to work made me relatively invisible to the people I passed along the way. I was just one more car riding along a relatively lightly travelled set of rural secondary roads.

But on a bright red Vespa, there's no such thing as going un-noticed. One of the main reasons I selected such a bright color was to make me more noticeable on the roads... from a safety standpoint, that is.

And I have to admit, looking at the bright red scooter in the showroom just made me happy.

What I didn't anticipate, though, was that others would not only take notice, but also experience some of the same 'feel good' thing along the way. Ever since starting to commute the approx. 75km to work (each way) on my Vespa, I've been noticing some interesting changes in the way people along the road relate to me.

Kids - at least those under 12 or 13 - who used to ignore me as I drove past in my station wagon - now smile and wave when they see me approaching on my red scooter.

Even young Muslim girls wearing traditional Hijab who (one would think) would be much more culturally circumspect about waving to a stranger (especially a man), frequently smile and offer a little wave.

Yet older teens and young adults only occasionally wave at the scooter... and grown-ups pretty much ignore me no matter what I'm driving. I guess there must be some sort of 'wave threshold' at work there.

I honestly don't believe there can possibly be a point beyond which people are unaffected by the charms of a bright red scooter. So maybe once they reach a certain age they're simply better able to curb their enthusiasm.


Posted by David Bogner on January 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hey, I just noticed...

... I have a few gmail invites if anyone needs.

Posted by David Bogner on January 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Am I the only one who is worried?

Maybe you can chalk it up to three days (and counting) in bed with a fever, but the unrest in some of our neighboring countries is starting to freak me out.

Lebanon's government is toppled by the whims of Hezbollah... only to have a new Prime Minister designate with obvious sympathies to Hezbollah, chosen to form the new government.

Then almost immediately after Lebanon's stability is brought into doubt, Egypt devolves into several days (and still going) of political chaos, bringing Mubarak's government's future into question... and possibly allowing the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to take control.

And at the same time, Al Jezeera - arguably the most influential media organ in the Muslim world - decides that this is the right moment to begin publishing the PA version of Wikileaks; a move designed to destabilize - and perhaps even topple - the Palestinian Authority. If that happened, the power vacuum would quickly be filled by Hamas; another Iranian proxy.

I know I'm not feeling my sharpest at the moment, but I can't help but look at the mental map of this region I carry around in my head, and see orchestrated instability on all sides of my tiny country, except one.

And that remaining country - Syria - is already firmly aligned with the one country that has both motive and means to have sowed the seeds of unrest and instability on all our other frontiers.

This is where you tell me how wrong I am. Really, I could use some reassurance right about now.

Posted by David Bogner on January 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 26, 2011



The 'J' and 'N' are right next to one another on the keyboard. But still...

Posted by David Bogner on January 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Clash

Thank you for your kind comments and emails. I am resting comfortably (but acting like a huge baby... ask Zahava).

First of all, let's have a big hand for Nyquil. It may not be capable of curing a damned thing, but it sure does a hell of a job managing the symptoms while you're sick.

Then there's soup.

Luckily Zahava hails from solid Russian stock, and has hardwired into her DNA the instinct to hoard gallons of soup in the freezer... y'know, in case the local Cossacks decide to throw a pogrom. Mmmmmm... plenty of chicken or tomato cabbage soup in my immediate future.

Add to that the big gun Tamiflu, and I'm just waiting for the storm to pass.

But bed rest, snake oil, soup and drugs aside, everyone knows that the real secret to getting better is appropriate sickbed attire.

Mine consists of a ratty old flannel LL Bean shirt in Royal Stewart tartan, and clashing flannel pajama bottoms in Black Watch tartan from Old Navy. Yes, the ensemble clashes dreadfully... but that's sort of the point. Sickbed attire is supposed to be made up of ratty eyesores that ones spouse has been unable to secretly throw into the trash.

Admit it, the moment you start to feel sick, you all have a go-to outfit that has served you well as a talisman against illness. And that outfit is as comfortable to wear as it is hideous to behold.

Posted by David Bogner on January 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, January 24, 2011

20/20 Hindsight - a Public Service Announcement

Every year when I see those Public Service Announcements telling people to get their flu shots, I tend to ignore them.

First of all, it's kind of a crap shoot, right? The mad scientists at the CDC in Atlanta who decide what strains of the flu will be prevalent around the world are no better than wall street analysts... or gamblers, for that matter. They don't really know!

So they may mix up a few hundred million doses of flu vaccine that will provide protection against strains A, B and C... while what actually washes up on our shores might be strains X, Y and Z. And nobody says boo. They're like weather reporters... but without the blue screen and good hair! What a racket!

Then there is the side issue that they guys in the lab coats mostly recommend the flu shots for little kids and old people. Oh sure, anyone can get one and theoretically get a modicum of protection from it... but the people who are most at risk for serious complications from a full blown case of Influenza are little ones and old folks.

Yet now that I'm sitting here at work all glassy-eyed with fever... shaking and aching... I'm wondering what all the rationalizing was about.

The shot is free. It hurts for an instant when you get it... and in a worst case scenario (relatively rare) you get some very minor flu-like symptoms. But that's it.

Think about it... there is nothing but upside to getting a flu shot. True, if a different strain of flu shows up at your door, you'll get it anyway, right? But at least you'd be protected against something!

So can someone tell me why I didn't get one?

[Update: Appointment with our family doc has been made. He'll take my temperature, poke and prod me, and tell me I should have gotten a flu shot. For that he had to go to medical school? What a racket!]

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Photo Nonsense

It isn't bad enough that the Associated Press regularly plays fast and loose with photo manipulation software to present images that help indict Israel in the court of public opinion.

But their selection of genuine, un-retouched photos to accompany AP news stories related to Israel is also designed to paint Israel in the least flattering light possible.

For the sake of discussion, how many file photos of Israeli soldiers do you think the AP has ready access to? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Presumably, at least a few of those photographs of IDF soldiers in their archives make the subjects look more, well, soldier-like and professional, than like Keystone Kops, right?


So you tell me... if not to make the IDF look like a keystone kops, why would the AP be distributing the following photograph today to accompany the report of IDF soldiers having shot and killed a Palestinian who reportedly opened fire on them with an AK-47 automatic assault rifle?:

IDF Soldiers

I mean OMG... what is that? I can't imagine finding a more awkward, ungainly, ridiculous image of IDF soldiers anywhere.

And what's worse is that the Jerusalem Post, with their own not insubstantial collection of Israeli Soldiers photos decided to run with this one provided by the Associated Press when covering the story:

Photo jpost

Seriously... I understand why the Associated Press would want to make IDF soldiers look like bumbling clowns... but why should the Jerusalem Post want to help them?

I'm open to theories.

Posted by David Bogner on January 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A little perspective is all I'm saying

To those of you following Israeli politics, it isn't exactly breaking news that Ehud Barak and a few of other (now former) Labor MKs have split off from their party and formed their own faction called 'Independence'.

I'll leave the analysis of why they split off, and whether this is, objectively, a good thing or a bad thing, to more knowledgeable commentators. For the time being let's just take it at face value that it has happened.

Along comes Tzipi Livni, who seems to see her primary role as head of the opposition as foaming at the mouth in Saeb Erikat-esque offense at anything that doesn't directly damage Netanyahu's government. This time she doesn't disappoint when offering her feelings on the split:

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak's split from the Labor Party is the dirtiest act in history"

I'm assuming she momentarily forgot about the Holocaust... Stalin's murderous excesses... the Armenian genocide... and I'm not even going back 100 years!

The laughable part is that Livni considers the idea of someone breaking from their party and forming a new faction to be tantamount to high treason. Has she forgotten that she and her fellow Kadima party cohorts did the exact same thing a few years ago? I guess what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander.

Another gem from Tzipi:

"For Barak to call whoever wants peace post-Zionist is unheard of"

Actually, what Barak said in his explanation of why he and his cohorts split from Labor was, "We noticed a shift [in Labor's political outlook] towards the Left and post-Zionism". Livni jumped to the conclusion that this statement needed a response because she honestly believes that 'left' and' pro-peace' are synonymous.

This actually speaks volumes about where on the political spectrum Livni sees herself (and her Kadima party)... and belies the 'centrist' mantle she consistently claims.

But she wasn't done foaming:

"I don't know how you can leave behind your ministers to serve in a right-wing, haredi government!"

Let's set aside the fact that they aren't 'Barak's ministers'... they are the Government's ministers, and they serve at the PM's pleasure. Livni's rhetorical question is a transparent bit of pandering to the left who consider the right wing and relgious communities to be equally distasteful... and the Haredim, to be the scariest boogeymen of the lot.

Personally, I think that Ehud Barak would join a coalition with Hezbollah and Hamas if they offered him a sufficiently influential portfolio and a Volvo. Barak looks out for Barak. Not his party... not the government... and certainly not the country. He may have once been a patriot... but IMHO, those days ended the moment he took off his uniform and went into politics.

But that's him.

Livni, on the other hand, sounds more and more like she's gone off her meds.

Posted by David Bogner on January 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Doing the right thing

The difference between them and us:


Name schools, streets and public squares after those who kill Jews... erect monuments to them, and list them as heroes and martyrs in their school textbooks.


Arrest and extradite those suspected of participating in the mass murder of Muslims.

Mind you, we will get no acknowledgement or credit for this act. Not from the UN. Not from the EU. Not from the Americans. Not from the hundreds of Human Rights organizations. And certainly not from the Palestinians... nor any of the Muslim countries in the Middle East (not even those with whom we have peace treaties).

But it's still the right thing to do.

Posted by David Bogner on January 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, January 17, 2011

Not feeling like much much of a pioneer anymore

Some of you may recall that a couple of winters ago I posted about a woman in our community who is coordinating a project in which volunteers from all over the world can knit warm hats for IDF soldiers.

Well, this woman was our host for lunch this past Shabbat... and one of the topics that came up over our delicious meal was how her project is doing.

Glad you asked. It's doing great (although she can always use more volunteer knitters!)!

Over lunch we got to talking about her project, and it turns out that one of her more interesting contributors is a woman who lives in a cabin in the remote wilderness of Northern Alaska with her husband and children.

Forget 'Northern Exposures'. These people live so far off the grid that the cozy scenes from the once-popular 'Northern Exposures' T.V. series seem like Beverly Hills by comparison.

Where they live, there are no roads, no stores... just them. A couple of times a year they charter a bush plane to bring in supplies from Anchorage. And in November when the lake beside which they live is not yet frozen enough for a plane to land on, a pilot known as 'The Turkey Bomber' flies over and drops their Thanksgiving turkey out of the plane window for them.

I'm not making this up. Don't believe me? You can go read her blog. Apparently they only have electricity when they run their gas generator... and only then can they access the Internet via satellite uplink.

In her own words:

"My husband and I are bringing up and homeschooling our boys on our remote homestead in the Alaskan bush. There are no roads to this part of the state. We charter a bush plane a couple of times a year for mail and supplies. We haul our water from a spring, cook on an antique woodburning cookstove, hunt, fish, grow a large garden, put up food, and gather wild plants for food and medicine. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Alaskan wilderness, then read on. It's remote. It's peaceful. Sometimes it's a hard life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

I mention this because even if you don't knit yourself, most of you know someone who does. Most of you also live within a 30 minute drive of a store that sells yarn and knitting supplies. And if not, then at least you can order yarn online and have FedEx drop it on your doorstep within a couple of days.

This lady (who isn't even Jewish!) understands what it means to be cold, and has to plan months in advance for everything she has to buy for her family's needs. Yet, she's made it a priority to knit hats for IDF soldiers to wear during the winter.

My point? Not only should you add this woman's excellent blog to your reading list... but if you knit (or know someone who does), why not follow her excellent example and knit a few hats for our young soldiers to wear under their helmets this winter?

You can download the pattern and can get more information about where to send the hats once you're done, here.

Posted by David Bogner on January 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Too funny not to share

I saw this a while ago on my friend Elisson's blog Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Based on my wife's reaction (or lack thereof), I'm guessing this ad is targeting men.

Posted by David Bogner on January 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Without The Foggiest Idea

I set out on my scooter towards work the other morning in a cold drizzle. Since the roadway was soaking wet, I was going pretty slowly to begin with. But as I crested a hill about half an hour into my commute, I saw that the valley in front of me was completely filled in with a thick fog bank.

I didn't have much choice (other than turning around and going home, of course), so I started slowly down the hill and soon found myself enveloped in fog so thick that I could barely see the road surface directly ahead of my front wheel!

I slowed down to a crawl, and hugged the right edge of the roadway as best I could... listening closely for the sound of traffic ahead and behind me.

A toyed with the idea of simply pulling over and waiting for the fog to burn off. But that could have been hours, and I had a few meetings scheduled at work (I know... pretty silly).

One of the few design flaws on my Vespa is that, like many scooters/motorcycles, there are no flashers/hazard lights. So, in order to increase my visibility in the pea soup fog, I was forced to constantly pump my brake levers (to make my front and rear brake lights flash on and off).

After maybe ten minutes of crawling along, the rear end of a late model SUV suddenly materialized out of the fog right in front of me. Inexplicably, it was stopped in the middle of the lane... with the engine and lights switched off. Not even the flashers were on!

It was only because I was moving so slowly, and because I was almost on the shoulder anyway, that I was able to avoid rear-ending the car. I jerked the scooter off the blacktop and barely avoided wiping out on the loose gravel shoulder.

When I stopped moving and had saved the scooter from falling over, I found myself next to a man who was apparently the owner of the car that I had almost run into. He seemed only mildly surprised to see a bright red Vespa skid/slide to a halt nearly touching his leg, and after looking me up and down for a moment, he continued talking in Arabic into his cell phone, periodically interrupting his discussion to take long drags on a cigarette and listen for a response from whoever was on the other end.

I don't speak Arabic, so I have no idea what he was talking about. But I've visited dozens of countries over the years, and can usually figure out a lot from the tone of an overheard conversation.

What I can tell you is that this guy was not in the least bit worried about his car standing in the middle of the road in a thick fog. There wasn't the smallest hint of concern in his voice. In fact, his conversation was punctuated by laughter, and had the sound of good-natured banter.

I put my scooter on its stand well away from the roadway, and went back over to have a word with the owner of the SUV.

In Hebrew I shouted, "Are you out of your mind? Why did you leave your car in the middle of the road? Someone is going to run into your car. Forget someone... I almost hit your car!"

He looked at me as though I was the one who was out of his mind, and went back to talking casually into his cell phone.

I decided to try a different tack:

Even though the car was parked pointing down a slope and couldn't possibly need a push, I said, "Listen, if there is something wrong with your car, maybe I can help you push it out of the roadway. Aren't you worried that someone will hit it?"

Nothing. Not even a shrug.

Finally, not sure if he was even understanding me, I yelled, "Fine... If you won't do anything, I'm calling the police!".

That elicited a heavily accented and laconic response: "Call them. Police won't drive in fog. They're afraid."

At that point I decided there was nothing to be gained from further attempts, so I walked back towards my scooter with the intention of getting as far from this lunatic as possible before the inevitable accident happened.

Sadly, I didn't leave soon enough.

Before I'd even gotten my helmet back on, I heard the sound of an approaching car engine coming from behind us. By the sound of it, the car was coming along at a pretty good clip.

Sure enough, within a few seconds there was the sound of tires skidding helplessly on wet pavement, followed almost instantly by the crunch of metal on metal. The fog swirled enough to reveal part of a light blue 1970's-era Peugeot station wagon slamming into the back of the SUV... and then both were again swallowed up by the cloud.

My first instinct was to run to see if the driver was injured. But before I could even move, the previously nonchalant owner of the SUV was running towards the roadway, yelling in Arabic. The driver of the other newly arrived car was apparently well enough to exit his crumpled vehicle, because within a few seconds the two of them were back on the shoulder yelling at each other in angry Arabic.

To my warped way of thinking, the two of them should really have been trying to figure out how to get their cars out of the roadway before someone else plowed into them, not wasting time yelling at each other... but what do I know?

I was done playing good citizen.

I strapped on my helmet and started up my scooter. But before pulling out onto the road again, I used the voice dialing feature on my helmet's bluetooth headset to call the police. Before the police operator even picked up, from behind me I heard the approaching sound of a truck roaring down the slope in low gear.

Just as the operator answered, there was the blast of a truck horn followed by another enormous crunching sound as the truck plowed into the two cars.

As I pulled away, I explained to the police operator where I was calling from and what had happened. She took the report and my contact information, and told me she'd send out police and an ambulance.

I wanted to tell her not to bother with the ambulance, since by now the two car drivers and the truck driver were probably standing on the side of the road screaming at one another. But as I climbed out of the fog on the other side of the valley, I figured, what the heck... by the time the ambulance actually shows up on the scene, there's no telling how many more vehicles will have been added to the pile-up.

I still don't have the foggiest idea what that original SUV driver was thinking of when he stopped his car in the middle of the road.

Posted by David Bogner on January 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heard recently...

I farted in an elevator today.

It was wrong on so many levels.

[Thank you... I'll be here all week]

Posted by David Bogner on January 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Monday, January 10, 2011

I really can't believe I'm about to do this

In seven years of keeping up this site and almost 2000 extremely wordy posts... I have written less than five posts in which private gun ownership was specifically mentioned... and only two posts (including this one) in which I discussed the topic at length.

The reason I have avoided this topic like the plague is that in the history of the world, nobody has ever changed their position on private gun ownership based on a persuasive argument. In my experience, people are more likely to convert religion, change political party or even renounce citizenship before they would consider changing how they feel about guns.

I don't know why this should be, but it is... so I have pretty much stayed away from the topic. On the few occasions when I've had to touch on the subject, I've simply said that I have a gun for reasons that make sense to me, and left it at that. I have never tried to expand my rationale to fit the needs and circumstances of others. And I'm not going to do that today.

But after seeing some of the comments on yesterday's post completely sidestep the excellent (if I may say so) points I made about the human condition, and focus exclusively on the gun issue... well, I knew there'd have to be a follow-up post.

I get that some of you look at a gun and see only the devil (or some other completely evil, malevolent entity)... a corrupter... a destroyer. When you see even a picture of a gun sitting on a table, you fully expect that it will suddenly begin spitting death in all directions. You want to get as far from it as possible. You don't want your loved one's to even see it. I get that. I really do.

I, on the other hand, look at a gun and see a tool. Yes, this tool is a potentially dangerous weapon, to be sure. But this weapon has no will of its own, and has the potential to do only what the person holding it wants it to do.

I can already hear the objections to my use of the word 'only' in the previous sentence. You are already reaching for your mouse and keyboard in order to scream, "But that's not true! It isn't guaranteed to do only what you want it to. You may intend to shoot an intruder or a terrorist... but you could accidentally kill a bystander or a member of your family instead!"

It may surprise you, but I agree with you. But I would remind you that everything is relative.

Let's say that I'm the victim of a home invasion and I manage not to accidentally shoot a family member or a bystander, and instead use this extremely dangerous tool as intended; and instead successfully kill the burglar who was trying to kill me. One still can't really call that a completely positive outcome, since the burglar's family probably wouldn't see the outcome in the same positive light that I would, right? Everything went as planned... yet someone ends up unhappy! How is that?

TV and movies have conditioned us to see things in absolutes of good and bad. Unfortunately, life isn't like that. It's messy, confusing and full of gray. Even good decisions often have dire consequences for someone.

I would add that when I use a hammer to bang in a nail, I may unintentionally hit my thumb in the process once in a while. Does this mean I should never use a hammer? Should I swear off hammer ownership and try to convince my friends and neighbors to do likewise? I know... I'm being snarky and unreasonable. Shoot me.

What I'm trying to say is that the potential for accidents exists with all tools. The more powerful the tool, the more terrible the potential results of an accident.

But what about someone who wakes up one morning and, for reasons unknown, decides to act out the lyrics to the excellent Beatle's song 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer', and starts bashing random people's brains in on his way to work? Even though a hammer is a rather inefficient weapon, if you were unlucky enough to be hit in the head by this ersatz 'Maxwell', you'd quickly find that what a hammer lacks in efficiency, it more than makes up for in effectiveness.

But in reality, because serious injuries from hammers are few and far between (likely due to its innate inefficiency as a weapon), few societies feel the need for hammer control laws.

Guns, as some of you correctly pointed out, are extremely efficient weapons. And even in relatively untrained hands, they can do a lot of damage in a relatively short period of time. I totally agree with you, in the light of this past weekends events, the efficiency of guns as weapons is truly horrifying.

But what if several armed terrorists were (G-d forbid) to break into my house, or accost me during my commute? I think you'd agree that an efficient weapon capable of inflicting a lot of damage in a very short period of time is exactly what you'd want me to have in my possession, right? [That assumes, of course, that you like me and are not rooting for the terrorists.]

As an aside... what if one of the victims or bystanders in Arizona had been armed with a personal weapon? Is there a tiny chance that fewer people would be dead today? I have no idea. Nobody does. But I throw it out there anyway for your consideration, because here in Israel, countless terror attacks have been successfully ended prematurely by armed bystanders.

Moving on to politics (smooth segue, no?), in my limited experience, there is a lot of overlap in how people view guns and how they view government.

Those who view the government as organizer, provider and protector all rolled into one, tend to be against guns. 'Why should we have guns?', they ask. We have police... and they have guns. In my mind, people who hold such views see themselves like renters in an apartment building. Why bother having tools in the house?, they ask themselves. I have a landlord and a super to turn to if something goes wrong.

On the other hand, those who view the government and it's agents as less omnipotent/omnipresent, tend to pay special attention to the limits of the government's protection. And some (certainly not all) may find it comforting to have a weapon in the house for when the police aren't actually patrolling their street when/if the burglar breaks in.

This type of person is (in my mind) more like a home owner than a renter. If a pipe bursts in the attic, the home owner may still have to call in outside help. But having the basic tools on hand to shut off the water before the plumber arrives will certainly mitigate the damage.

While this type of person also views the government as a protector; both globally (armed forces) and locally (police), he sees the realistic limits... especially of the local protection, and might want to keep a tool at home to deal with a potential emergency until more formal help arrives.

Personally, I consider the discussion of whether everyone needs a gun to be completely silly. I consider it silly because there are countless reasons why one might want to own one. I touched on this in the comments yesterday so I won't repeat myself. There are also countless reasons why it might be a bad idea for someone to have a gun. There is no end to that discussion and I won't be drawn into it. You're all smart enough to know the answers.

Instead I'd like to go off an a tangent in order to make a point:

It might surprise many people to know that religious American Jews vote overwhelmingly in favor of abortion rights, despite the fact that Jewish law allows abortion in only a very narrow/finite context (i.e. when the mother's life is in imminent danger).

They vote this way so that, in the event that (G-d forbid) a Jewish woman might find herself in the unenviable position of having her pregnancy endanger her life, she will have access to a safe, legal abortion.

Religious Jews don't generally allow themselves to be drawn into the endless chatter of how some irresponsible people use abortion as a form of birth control, or when life actually begins. All they know is that, given the terrible choice of whether to save the life of the mother or the life of the fetus, the majority of American citizens (meaning Christians) view the fetus' life as more more important than the mother's (the opposite of how Jewish law operates).

Women's rights and feminism aside, if abortion rights were not enshrined in US law, an American Jewish woman could one day find herself doomed because the society in which she lives doesn't view her fetus as a 'Rodef' (someone who is pursuing with intent to murder) as Jewish Law does. You may call her reasoning narrow and selfish. And you'd be right. But the result is that on this one issue, there is a confluence of interests between Orthodox religious Jews and liberal, secular society... proof again that politics makes strange bedfellows.

I've gone off on this tangent because this is how I view the second amendment to the US Constitution (which enshrines the right to keep and bear arms in law).

Just as I don't believe everyone should have guns (or abortions), I am 100% in favor of those who need them having unfettered access to them.

By the same token, there are people who annoy the hell out of me (and probably you too) who say and do some really offensive things in order to demonstrate their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in the constitution. But as Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said (misattributed to Voltaire), "I disapprove of what [they] say, but I will defend to the death [their] right to say it"

So go ahead... disapprove of 'gun nuts' and the people whom you think are playing out a cowboy fantasy, and who probably don't need a gun. I tend to sneer at them also. But when talking about rights - any rights - whether it is abortion or gun ownership or free speech; If one person who really needs it can't exercise it... it isn't a right anymore.

Just as you can argue all day long about all the people who (in your opinion) shouldn't have abortions, someone else thinks those abortions are just fine. Okay, they are probably bothered by them, but they view it as the cost of making sure that someone else has the legal option in case of 'real' need.

And it is precisely because you may not agree with me about what constitutes the 'need' to own a gun (or have an abortion) that I want those rights to be enshrined in law, where your opinion doesn't matter.

Now you tell me how I'm wrong.

Posted by David Bogner on January 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Looking for fixes (in all the wrong places)

In the children's movie 'Shark Tale' there is a telling exchange between two sibling sharks:

Lenny: Mom says it's not okay to hit!

Frankie [slapping Lennie on the back of the head]: Mom's not here!

In Jewish law there are two forms of stealing; G'neivah and G'zeilah. One is stealing secretly and the other is robbing openly. Interestingly, Judaism, which is marginally more concerned with judgement in the world to come, views the secretive theft as the more serious offense since it presumes the thief is more concerned with man's judgement than with G-d's.

There is something to that if you assume that fear of an all knowing G-d will keep people in line (and the lack of said fear will lead to chaos and anarchy).

But when trying to come up with a Utopian model for our society (i.e. one with the perfect balance between freedoms and protections), we immediately see that an individual who is unconcerned with how society views him/her is much scarier to contemplate than a crimnal who at least fears the scorn of his fellow man.

An extreme example would be suicide bombers, against whom there seems to be no effective protection.

But we don't have to go nearly that far for the sake of this discussion. The events of this weekend provide a perfect example: one or more gunmen going on a public rampage. How can a healthy, open society protect itself from someone (or several someones) who are willing to break the law with impunity?

Like most law abiding, peace-loving people, I was horrified to read the news about the shooting of over a dozen innocent individuals in Arizona.

I won't go into too much detail about the attack itself because, unless you are living under a rock, you have access to the same media sources that I do.

What I do want to talk about today is the natural, albeit disturbing, progression from rage to blame in the public discourse in the wake of these tragedies... and how our first (IMHO unhealthy) instinct when faced with these attacks, is to try to tinker with the delicately balanced organism that is our society.

As civilized beings it is perfectly natural to be outraged when anyone, or anything, rends the fabric of our safe, predictable existence. But we seem to think that the only thing that can offer us closure and future protection is properly assigned blame and a raft of new legislation.

No matter how senseless and/or horrible the event, it seems we must learn something from it... meaning; we must be able to assign blame to some force over which we can exercise a modicum of control. Otherwise the bogeyman remains at large... resulting in a complete breakdown of society in much the way that (I think it was) Jimmy Breslin once described New York City (in the '70s) as a huge prison where the criminals were locked on the outside and the citizens cowered behind the doors of their cells/apartments.

As a society, our worst case scenario is when the criminals don't care who sees them acting criminally. So since we can't eliminate all criminal behavior, our coping mechanism is to create a threshold below which we can comfortably ignore crimes that don't affect us personally. This would include criminal activity between criminals, and crimes against less, ahem, mainstream members of society (immigrants, minorities, people who have chosen to live in dangerous areas, etc.).

I really don't want to go into why the loss of some lives are more worthy of our outrage than others. Let's just agree that at some point a crime crosses that hard-to-define outrage threshold we all have, and triggers the kind of hand-wringing and calls for someone to 'do something!' we're seeing in the media today.

In the wake of any shooting that targets people of high enough stature, in high enough numbers, or in areas where we're supposed to feel safe (suburban schools, shopping malls, office buildings, etc.), one of the things that can be reliably counted upon is an immediate rush to interview the most strident gun control advocate.

The reasoning goes something like this: We can't effectively legislate or regulate anger, mental illness or hate, so let's re-explore why we aren't legislating/regulating the weapons that people typically reach for when they are angry, mentally unstable or feeling hateful.

But you see the flaw with that, don't you?

I don't have the statistics handy on how many murders (or attempted murders) are committed each year using knives. But given the easy availability of that extremely effective killing tool, I have to believe the numbers are fairly high. Yet we haven't seen a rush to ban Ginsu ads from late night cable TV, or to mandate a 'cooling off period' before someone can purchase a set of high carbon steak knives. And far more innocent people die each year from 'attack' by second hand smoke than guns and knives combined... yet nobody is making noise about outlawing the sale and posession of cigarettes.

True, a gun gives even a lone individual (or small group of people) the ability to kill a lot of their fellow citizens with little effort or training. But by that argument, we should be far more worried about fertilizer transactions than those involving guns, since a well placed barrel of ammonium nitrate can kill an entire building's worth of innocent people, instead of forcing the angry/unbalanced/hateful individuals to shoot their innocent victims one at a time!

While we're at it, perhaps we should consider banning people from giving their children middle names since by my accounting, the people responsible for the most mayhem tend to have multiple names (Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, John Wilkes Booth, Sara Jane Moore, Frank Eugene Corder, Francisco Martin Duran, et al). Or even simpler; looking at the current [alleged] gunman who is named Jared Lee Loughner, maybe we should simply outlaw the use of 'Lee' as a name for anyone not of Korean descent.

Obviously, these aren't very practical suggestions, for the simple reason that one can't establish any meaningful correlation between limiting name choices and a reduction in violent attacks.

By the same token, gun rights advocates remind anyone who will listen that 'if guns are outlawed... only outlaws will have guns'. Although this is an oversimplification, it doesn't mean it is unworthy of discussion, since illegal drugs are as outlawed and aggressively prosecuted as illegal firearms in most countries... yet both are easily available to anyone who really wants to purchase them illegally. And even the most draconian legislation/enforcement has not been proven effective against either... anywhere in the world.

So that leaves us to contemplate what to do about the people actually perpetrating the violent crimes.

In the reports that are cropping up today, it appears that the [alleged] gunman who opened fire in Arizona had been exhibiting signs of increasing alienation and anti-social behavior for months, or even years, before the attack. Surely it's only a matter of time before someone starts wondering out loud (and in print) why teachers, social services personnel, mental health professionals, or even the police hadn't identified this ticking time bomb before he blew up, and segregated him safely from the people he was (apparently) inevitably going to harm.

Talk about your slippery slope!

Without even making an organized list I can think of two or three dozen fellow travelers I've met on my life's journey (fellow students, co-workers, musicians, etc.) who I've considered unbalanced, anti-social and/or a potential danger to themselves and others.

Think about it... if each of us had the power to turn in our little lists of 'dangerous nut jobs' to 'the athorities', I'm sure we would banish many real threats from our society. But I'm equally sure there wouldn't be many of us left running around free at the end of the process due to the subjective application of who/what constitutes a threat to society.

Here in Israel, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, there was a call to make all forms of vitriolic speech - which many felt had created an environment ripe for violence - illegal. The only problem with that was/is that, just as security concerns have eroded our freedom from illegal searches and the protections of our overall privacy, legislating certain kinds of speech would, by definition, erode our right to free expression. Where would that end?

Add to that the problem of one side of the political spectrum wanting to use such limitation of free speech to muzzle only the 'hate speech' of the other side... and you can see that the likelihood of finding an equitable remedy via legislation is just about zero.

Yes, there are some forms of speech which everyone can agree are beyond the pale. Shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater is an excellent example of speech that most would agree should be regulated, since it would inevitably result in harm. But from there we are faced with yet another slippery slope towards the complete muzzling of free expression... a slope on which there are no graduation marks and few (if any) objective standards for application.

The problem is that, like pornography, everyone has a different idea of what constitutes dangerous speech. And when trying to enshrine such things in law, one can't very well allow those tasked with enforcement to use the old "I'll know it when I see or hear it" standard; Not unless you are willing to abandon the very personal protections you're striving to maintain in the first place.

In my humble opinion, there is nothing that can completely rid a truly open society of these occasional outbursts of senseless violence. Just about any of the well-intended measures floated so far have been proven ineffective, or impose unreasonable limitations on the very freedoms we wish to protect. Removing all tools of violence is impractical, if not impossible... and weeding the violent actors from our Utopian garden would require either a totalitarian regime or a crystal ball.

Getting back to the 'Shark Tales' quote I offered at the start of this rambling tome, we really need to think long and hard about the effectiveness of the laws we have ("Mom says it's not okay to hit..."), and then contemplate how much of our freedom we're willing to give up to mitigate the inevitable danger when 'Mom's not here'.

As usual, I'm simply thinking out loud here. Your mileage may differ.

Posted by David Bogner on January 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Button-Down Mode

There's an interesting read in the Times today about what becomes of our online lives once we log off this mortal coil.

It's an interesting topic and I recommend you read it if you have any sort of presence online. It talks about how our blog posts, tweets and Facebook stuff outlive us and, in some cases, may come to define us far beyond any of our more concrete contributions to the world, or earthly property we may leave behind.

The article got me thinking about a blogger acquaintance of mine who has been playing a game of cyber-chicken with fate for the past few years.

In a late night chat session about five years ago, this person revealed to me a deep-seated fear that death would arrive as a premature surprise (e.g. heart attack, stroke, car wreck), rather than an organized old-age deathbed event, surrounded by loved ones and complete with well considered last words to everyone.

As a result, this person had written a long blog post which begins with the words "If you are reading this, I am dead...", containing all the thoughts, hopes, wisdom and wishes he (or she) wanted to ensure were passed on to both real life, and cyber, next of kin.

The post contains things as mundane as when certain bills are due each month and where to find the list of bank passwords and life insurance polices... to things as complex as declarations of enduring love and confessions of occasional infidelity.

This person's 'last blog & testament post' (so to speak) has been updated and revised countless times over the years... but has been held in abeyance using a technique called 'button down mode', which is more often associated with terrorists and spies than with garden variety suburban bloggers.

The best way to describe 'butten-down mode' is to picture a hand-grenade whose pin has been pulled, held tightly in the hand of a terrorist who keeps it from exploding by maintaining pressure on the 'spoon/lever'. So long as the person holding the grenade is close enough to hostages that the exploding grenade would also kill them, he is fairly invulnerable to attack. No sniper can risk shooting him because the moment he expires, the now-dead hand will release the pressure on the 'spoon/lever'... resulting in all those around him being sprayed with deadly shrapnel from the exploding grenade.

[we'll ignore the wrinkle that there is a short delay once the fuse in a typical grenade is triggered which would allow most able bodied people who weren't actually handcuffed to such a terrorist, to seek cover before it exploded]

In the terror/intelligence context (which I am only familiar with via fiction), explosive information (rather than ordnance) is given to an unknown third party with instructions to release it to the media or an interested party if a certain signal is not received at a predetermined interval (which would indicate that something bad had happened to the spy/terrorist since they were unable to transmit the agreed-upon signal).

This is where that game of cyber-chicken I mentioned comes into play.

What this blogger friend of mine has done is to save this pre/post-mortem blog post within his/her online blogging application, with a 'publish on...' date of midnight on the first day of the following month.

Keep in mind, this person is as busy and distracted as any of us. Family, work, illness, travel, vacations, etc. all conspire to distract him/her from rescheduling the publication of this ever-looming post. And yet, for several years now, on or about the last day of each month, this person has managed to remember to go online and delay the publication date by four or five more weeks.

I asked the person, "What would happen if you were stuck in an airport somewhere at the end of a month with no access to the Internet? What if there was a regional electrical black-out... or you just plain forgot? Can you imagine the shock your family will get when they check your site and see a post beginning with "If you are reading this, I am dead..."?

I've asked this question of my blogger friend (who I have never met in person, BTW) no less than ten times over the past few years. And I always get the same response: "You're right... I know I'm taking a big risk. But if I leave a letter in a safe deposit box or with a lawyer, there is a bigger risk that something will go wrong, or that some of the people I want to read my dying thoughts will not be contacted".

I suppose some people trust nobody but themselves... which has probably resulted in a lot of secrets (good and bad) being taken to the grave. But at the start of each month when I check this person's blog... I cringe a little bit, wondering if the button has inadvertently been released prematurely.

Note to my wife and family: If you have any questions about my thoughts or feelings (or about bank passwords, life insurance policies or when the bills are due)... ask me now. Once I'm gone, the only thing you'll see here on my site is the previous morning's brain fart.

Posted by David Bogner on January 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Time flies...

I neglected to mention it a few weeks ago, but I've been keeping up this little endeavor called 'treppenwitz' for seven years now. In dog years that actually comes out to my age!!!

Time sure flies when you're mentally ill having fun.

A big thanks to those who, for some inexplicable reason, have maintained an interest in the crap that falls out of my head each morning.

As Lily Tomlin once said, "Wouldn't it be great if all those people who wander around New York talking to themselves could be paired up so they'd look like they were having a conversation".

That's how I feel about you lot. Having someone (at least in theory) out there listening to me think out loud makes this blog thing seem just a tad less crazy.


Posted by David Bogner on January 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

So yeah... the sleep study post (toned down a bit)

As some of you may remember, after receiving a diagnosis of possible sleep apnea, the next logical step was to schedule a sleep study.

Glad you asked. Simply put, a sleep study is a night passed restlessly in one of the most inhospitable, alien environments imaginable (e.g. a hospital), while wired up like the electrical grid in a Mumbai slum.

The basic science is sound; in order to find out how you're sleeping, they actually have to gather some empirical data... while you're sleeping. So far so good, at least in theory.

However, in practice, we humans are a fussy lot when it comes to where and when we sleep. I'm actually one of the less fussy specimens of the species in this respect and, thanks to my time in the Navy, I usually lose consciousness whenever an adequate combination of warmth, dryness and victual satiation is achieved.

One would think, therefore, that hospital sleep laboratories would be designed with the more finicky sleepers in mind.... that the rooms would be as soothing and comfortable as possible, and that someone would put some thought into how to make the data gathering equipment (i.e. wires and tubes, etc.) as unobtrusive and nonrestrictive as possible.

One would be wrong.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. When last we spoke about this topic, I mentioned that I had made an appointment at a hospital sleep lab in Jerusalem... and that they had faxed me a confirmation sheet with the date of my appointment, the time I was supposed to be there (10PM), what I should bring with me (pajamas, toiletry kit. etc.) and what time the study would be over (6AM).

So, on the appointed day, I packed a small overnight bag, strapped it to the back of my scooter and rode into Jerusalem... arriving at the hospital at 9:40PM. I locked up my scooter... walked inside and asked at the desk where the sleep laboratory was located. I received helpful directions to the correct floor and ward, and by 9:55 was standing at the door to the sleep laboratory. Which was locked.

I knocked a few times on the door, but got no response. Thinking that maybe there was more than one sleep laboratory in the hospital, I went back down to the reception desk and explained what had happened. The woman at the reception desk assured me that I had gone to the right place and after looking at the fax I'd received, confirmed that the date and time were correct. After several unsuccessful attempts by the receptionist to reach the sleep laboratory on the phone, she sent me back upstairs with an escort to make sure I'd gone to the right place.

The escort and I went back up to the locked door where I'd knocked before... and knocked some more (for this I needed an escort?).

After returning to the reception area, a supervisor was called in for consultations, and my faxed confirmation was again scrutinized and declared kosher. The only problem was that it was now almost 10:20PM and instead of being in my 'jammies getting ready for bed...I was standing in a cold lobby, seething mad, and nobody seemed to have a plan.

While they tried to sort out what to do with me, I went down the hall to the concession stand for a cup of herbal tea. While the young woman there was preparing the drink, I vented a little bit... telling her about the strange events of the evening so far. As luck would have it, the woman who was preparing my tea had a sister who actually worked in the sleep laboratory. Her sister wasn't scheduled to work that night (that would have been too much to ask), but she would certainly know how to reach the person in charge of the lab (something the reception staff had, thus far, not thought of).

A few phone calls later, I was speaking with the head of the sleep laboratory, who was also not working that night, but had the cell phone of the woman who was supposed to be on duty. She took my cell phone number and promised to call me back after speaking with the woman.

Sure enough, within 10 minutes my phone rang and I was told that I should go back up to the sleep lab and that they would open the door for me. (!) No explanation of why it was locked... but what the heck, at least things were moving in the right direction.

I grabbed my tea, thanked the young woman for her help, and went back upstairs to the sleep laboratory. When I got to the door a surly, middle-aged woman stood barring the now-open entrance, and greeted me with a two word salutation designed to put me completely at ease: "You're late!"

Thinking I must have misheard her I said, "Excuse me? I'm late?! I was here early and the door was locked!"

Without budging out of the doorway, the woman said, "You were supposed to be here by 9:00PM... we lock the door after 9:30".

I took out the faxed confirmation and shoved it in front of her scowling face. "Look", I hissed. "It says right here that my appointment is for 10PM. I was here at this door well before 10! Where were you?"

Without batting an eye, the woman responded, "The form always says 10, but you were told to be here by 9".

"Nobody told me any such thing", I snapped. "I got this appointment by fax, and as you can see it says to be here at 10PM. I faxed back my acceptance of the appointment, and haven't had any contact with this laboratory from that time to this. How was I supposed to know to be here an hour early?".

She stood there with her hands on her hips and said, "Someone called to tell you".

I stared at her for a few moments and said, "Does that make any sense to you? You send deliberately incorrect information to a patient using a reliable and verifiable channel such as a fax machine... and then provide the correct information afterwards using an unreliable, completely unverifiable channel such as a phone call? I'm asking... does that make any sense at all?!"

By now I was shouting.

She tried to shush me by saying "Sir, you'll have to keep your voice down, people are trying to sleep here!"

I wish I'd been hooked up to a blood pressure cuff at that moment... just for the sheer fun of shatteirng all previous hypertension records.

"I know" I screamed at her, "I'm supposed to be one of the people sleeping right now! I'll accept that you have an ass-backwards way of doing things here, and that it is someone's job to send out misleading faxes and then follow up with a phone call to pass along the correct information. I accept this because clearly everyone else received such a phone call and arrived by 9PM. But this completely insane system of yours broke down when it came to me, and the proof is that I'm standing here at 10:30 shouting at you in the hallway instead of being asleep inside your laboratory! Are you going to let me in, or do I have to get your supervisor back on the phone?!"

Playing the supervisor card shook things loose a bit. She didn't back down from her obstinacy or offer an apology (G-d forbid)... but she moved out of the doorway and let me into the sleep clinic.

I followed her down a short hallway and she indicated an unoccupied room where I was supposed to go. The room was about the size of a walk-in closet with a narrow bed and a night table. Next to the bed was a small trash can into which some thoughtful soul had put a used diaper.

As I looked at the tiny cubicle, all I could think of was 'I've never been in prison or a brothel... but one or both must be something like this'.

I went in, changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and then went out to look for little miss sunshine to see what the next steps might be. I found her sitting at a computer playing solitaire. When she saw me, she said, "Go back to your room, I'll be there in a few minutes".

I was tempted to make another scene, but I decided that the people who were already tucked into their beds didn't need to be disturbed because of the incompetence of one woman. So I went back to my cell room and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After awhile she must have finally won a game of solitaire, because she suddenly appeared in my doorway with a brisk, business-like air, carrying a box overflowing with wires.

With barked mono-syllabic commands she indicated what appendage she wanted access to: "Arm... other arm... leg... other leg... turn your head... other side... chin up... turn around... nose...". You get the idea. Most of the wire leads were attached to self-adhesive contacts that she slapped onto various points on my anatomy irrespective of hair or joints.

After I was all wired up, the woman left the room with the following parting shot over her shoulder: "Try not to move around too much because the wires will get tangled or become disconnected.".

I eventually fell asleep, and at exactly 6 AM I was awoken by a different woman who I'm assuming was the daughter of the master chief petty officer who shepherded me through basic training in the Navy. Let's just say that it was an abrupt wake-up call.. followed by a series of yelps as she ripped each of the wired leads from my body in rapid succession.

The results I've already shared, so there isn't much else to say... except that if any of you ever have the need to take a sleep study, be prepared for something somewhat less than a visit to Club Med.

Posted by David Bogner on January 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The last drop of eggnog for the year...

... has been consumed. At least in our home, anyway.

At chez treppenwitz, eggnog season runs from a day or two before Thanksgiving until new years day. That's it... it was a good run this year. Many batches were whipped up and consumed. Some straight up... some with a tot of bourbon or rum... some added to coffee.

Needless to say, there's no hard and fast rule that says you can't drink eggnog year 'round.

Unlike, say, wearing straw hats, seersucker suits or linen after labor day, nobody is going to ridicule you or drum you out of the country club for enjoying this creamy concoction out of season.

Of course, they won't have to. You'll be dead of a heart attack by Ground Hog day.

Seriously, put away the whipping cream and nutmeg shaker until the fall, people. Now comes the post-holiday season work-out pay-back.

This has been a public service announcement from the management.

Posted by David Bogner on January 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack