Sunday, May 29, 2005

A new reader

Who, like the rest of you, has no idea what he/she is in for, asked that I comment more on the issue of whether or not religion should be "easy" or accomodate itself to our needs & sensibilities. Given that the question was asked in the comments to my last post about Viagra making people blind, you can see why it might merit a new heading.

I believe the commenter was referring to this post, which started off as a Christmas discussion and morphed into a larger thought process on our expectations of faith. I had to reread the post myself - frankly, I forget most of what I write once it's committed to the shaky electrons that are blogger.

I can't say I've put a lot more thought into the question of how we view our various faiths. As I get older & even more set in my ways, the thoughts expressed in that post still capture what I think. From a believer's perspective, God has given us life and a set of instructions for living it - Torah, Bible, Koran, whatever. Life is a gift (though I suspect the Calvinists among us might disagree), and a gift beyond any ability humans have to repay. Thus it behooves us to follow the rules God has laid out for us to the best of our ability.

I grant you that even believers can differ about which rules to follow and what those rules mean. I still think there is a basic concept that we are required to subordinate our own desires to those rulebooks. At the very least we are expected by our faith to turn our desires towards what we are told to do.

This is a difficult thing to accept in modern America. The secularism that has invaded our nation (promoted largely by the French intellectuals, which is no surprise at all) has labeled anyone who believes to that degree a "fundamentalist." Now, I don't like fundamentalists, if that means the sort of people who at best condemn nonbelievers to hell verbally, and at worst blow babies to smithereens in the name of God. If, however, being a fundamentalist means believing that I must obey rules I don't always understand or can't intellectually explain, then hell yes, I'm a fundamentalist.

The poorly hidden subtext of the secularist, deconstructionist types is that nothing is true. Everything is relative to one's own perception, every approach is reasonable, no one interpretation is any better than any other. All well and good until one needs to make a judgement or take a stand. At those points, the secularists come back with nothing more useful than "can't we all get along?"

Truth is essential to Judaism; God Himself is truth; one song we sing says "Moses is True and his Torah is True." I believe truth is essential to Christianity as well. What it comes down to is my faith says there is a certain, known reality. It's not subject to the whims of babbling academics or the changing fads of people who think bagels & lox is a delicious snack this week. The Torah states that as a Jew I have an obligation to follow the path set for me by God. It says that path is the way for me to be successful and happy as a human - no self-defined self-actualization here, but reaching my potential through obedience to the will of God.

It's not an easy path to follow. I fall off more often than I care to remember, and God in His graciousness allows me the chance to correct my errors. Some people think my lifestyle is a burden - all these rules to follow, all these restrictions, no free will, etc. The truth is all of us are burdened by something. For some its the pursuit of wealth, power, fame, whatever. For some it's sex, for others its drugs or alcohol, food, you name it. What a person of faith does is enslave himself to God, and the argument is that slavery to God is the greatest freedom there is.

It's not freedom from thought, or freedom from responsibility as some have portrayed it. It's a matter of accepting your position in the grand scheme of the universe as subordinate to a higher power. Who will grant each of us our proper measure of success and failure, wealth and poverty, sickness and health by His own understanding of our needs. We in turn serve Him best by obeying his statutes as we are taught them, and living the life He wishes for us.

It's easy for the secularists to sit on the side and laugh at the crazy Jews or wacky evangelicals, because it makes them feel superior. But at the end of the day, who has something left to hold on to? The wacky ones, with a faith and a community that helps them weather the toughest storms, or the "smart" people who believe in nothing at all? When nothing means anything, all you're left with is words with no meaning. I don't care how smart the Noam Chomsky's of the world are, they've admitted outright that what they themselves are saying is meaningless. Why would I believe a person who tells me his word is of no value, when God tells me every letter of His word is pure truth?

I don't suggest my path is for everyone. I have no answer for the holocaust survivors who lost their faith in God - I can't say whether I would maintain my faith in the teeth of such suffering. But reward is best when it's earned. Those who want life to be easy have no understanding of how important it is that we work for our faith. We must maintain it, nurture it, question it, and affirm it constantly by regular practice. I'm not telling other people to live my way, but I do wish those who think I'm an idiot would try and do it my way and see if they have what it takes to be a God-Fearing Jew.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Fun with headlines

So the old stories are true? Too much and you'll go blind?

Next thing you know, your face actually will freeze like that.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This is interesting

for a variety of reasons (WARNING - PDF file linked; Possum and other creatures with PDF issues should probably not click on this link here.)

The short version is a group of Congresspeople wrote the US Trade Representative ("I'll give you two Mookie Wilsons and a Roger Clemens for a Nolan Ryan." What? Isn't that what the Trade Rep does?) suggested that it might be a bad idea for the US to support the Saudi attempts to join the World Trade Organization. I think they've made some very good points in their letter, and I think it's worth reading.

My own observation is far less useful. Oh, I think only terrible things should happen to the Saudis. I'd be delighted if the whole ruling class found itself hacked to bits. No, what concerns me is the signatures on the document.

Where did our elected officials learn to write? Most of them are fairly legible, but on the whole I think some handwriting analysis might be in order. I think I expected to see little hearts on top of some of the "i"s, and a few of them seem to have learned to write in crayon. The most egregious offender is NY's own Anthony Weiner (who, aside from his penmanship, is nothing but an empty suit who won't stop whining.) The guy puts what looks like an uncompleted infinity symbol on the line where his name is. Something like this ∞ only the left loop doesn't close, and the right one kind of trails off sadly before making the climb back to the top.

Look, I know you're busy & all, but please. Heck, I could forge the guy's John Hancock if I wanted to bother, and I have terrible handwriting.

This morning

went about as poorly as could be expected. Mrs. was under the weather (she's gotten the cold the rest of us had), so she asked if I could stay a bit later and help get the kids to school. So I get 'em breakfasted, into shoes & jacket to wait for oldest's carpool. The Fateful words?

"Sweetie, let me brush your hair."

BIG mistake. Shpritz the hair, start to brush, child says "I want pigtails." I tell her it's too late, the carpool's almost here, we'll do it tomorrow. Proceed to meltdown. I'm trying to keep her from bugging Mrs., she's crying hysterically, the other varmint is getting in the way, and the carpool shows up. Mrs. makes the pigtails anyway, I finally get her down, into the car, and BUCKLED in, and she goes ballistic.


I finally take her out of the car, apologize to the other mother, tell her to be on her way & I'll drive myself. Back in to mommy, screaming, crying, timeout, shoes off, shoes back on, bribery (snack in the car) finally get both children in. Youngest, who was going to be dropped off early, is now on time, so everybody is in the car. Snack is raisins (Daddy can be sneaky at times), so all is finally well. Oldest in to school, youngest off to school at her place across town (long story).

Get youngest in to her classroom, and she turns into a barnacle. "Stay with me" No, sweets, daddy has to get to work. Leave her looking sad and abandoned, head home, trade cars, buy breakfast instead of eating at work (it's now close to 9:30), and get to work exhausted and way late.

Can I go back to bed?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It's late to be

talking about the last weekend, but I will note that I made some very nice Indian chicken kabobs to go with the Chana Masala we had for dinner on Sunday. We invited some friends over & had a grand old time. Just thinking about it (the food, not the friends) is making me hungry.

Both the Chana recipe and the marinade for the kabobs came from Julie Sahni's "Introduction to Indian Cooking", which I reccommend highly. I will note that rice milk serves as a replacement for yogurt for those kosher consumers who want to marinate meat things but still use her recipe.

For various reasons

I have need to look for information on immigration. Lo & behold, here comes something for the Semi-occasional Archives of Interest post.

Which leads to today's offering, the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center. I am unaware of any specific reason why they would be the host of such a center, but there it is. I imagine there's a bit on the Nordic types who ended up in that part of the world, but probably also some stuff on those of my Eastern European forebears.

Anyway, enjoy it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Every Girl's Crazy

For the Thursday Three. They were my idea, so if this last triplet of the season leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you know who to blame.

1) What is, or was, your favorite style of dress, or a particular item of clothing you remember fondly from childhood?

Given all choices, I'd most like to spend my days in a t-shirt & a pair of jeans. I have to wear ties every day, and I detest wearing ties. One of the few saving graces of my last job was we were all business casual, all the time.

2) What style of dress do you remember being humiliated by as a kid, but your mother made you wear anyway?

For some reason I remember corduroys without much enthusiasm.

3) What dress style/clothing choice do you remember as being unbelievably cool at the time that now makes you cringe? Would you actually burn pictures of yourself in the outfit if you ran across them now?

The satin jacket I mentioned over at Terry's springs to mind, as well as my choice of yarmulka at various stages of childhood. They tended toward the huge, and I wore them WAAAAAAAAYYYYY at the back of my head, so I look a bit dorky. I wouldn't burn the pix, though - I like to see myself when I had hair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Frank Gorshin

died today. Looks like he had more to him than just the Riddler. I have to say I saw him on stage doing some Gilbert and Sullivan (I think it was Pirates, but I can't remember) and he was awful. He didn't seem to know his lines, and didn't have the panache of one of the regulars from this G & S outfit.

All the same, I'm sorry he's gone.

Just for yuks

I went to check out who's been landing on me and what they were looking for. Seems I'm the third hit (for reasons known only to google) on Britney Spears and how to be so skinny.

The answer clearly is to marry a skeevy looking guy and then do some hideous reality show. Britney, dear heart, there's a double-wide with your name on it.

Archives of Interest

Yet another in our occasional series on interesting archival collections on the web.

Today it's the Smithsonian's Museum of American History. In addition to the public exhibitions, there are research collections there as well.

Why? Why not?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

We also

have company, as the in-laws are in town on their way home from a longish trip to Spain. It's nice to see them, though I sometimes feel more like a hotel stop than a destination.

I did break out the grill last night and my folks came over for dinner too. Nice, but I was feeling a little put upon as I spent all the pre-time and part of dinner cooking. I kind of volunteered, so it's partly my own fault, but it might have been nice to have some company. For various reasons we cancelled our restaurant plans and simplified life for some people by eating at home, but I didn't get to firsts until most everyone else was ready for seconds.

Poor me.

The fajitas were very good, though, so it made up for a lot.

I will also note (again) that I once again mentally cursed out the contractor who built our house. I could really use a gas line from the house instead of having to refill the propane tank. I spent much of the pre-heat time hoping I'd have enough to get through dinner, which fortunately I did. It does mean I have to refill the tank again, though. Stupid contractor.

Finally have some time

to sit & chat. I don't know that I've been busy, exactly, but just not together enough to write.

Anyway, I was out of the office on Friday on a visit to the Big City. I'm in Manhattan less & less these days, and the truth is I don't miss it a whole lot. There's a rhythm to the City that's faster than the 'burbs, and I guess I'm slowing down with age.

Nonetheless, I trekked in to a meeting of other medical archivists - yes, there are subgroups to my obscure field. A lot of HIPAA talk, which is the bane of most of our existence. The biggest problem is the dopes who wrote the stupid thing can't tell you when & where it applies. Aside from its complexity for people going through the health care system, there's no provision for historical research.

So the end result is each of our archives is doing different things. One doesn't worry about it if the subjects are dead, one doesn't want people looking at anything, and most of the lawyers are unsure. The result for most of us is to fake it - save as we always have, do the reference, and let the gummint figure out what we're supposed to allow.

One other thing of note, which is the strange confluence of my "real" life with my online life. One of my colleagues reported being in Birmingham for some association meeting, and said something I took to be uncomplimentary. Now, I realize I differ politically with many of my colleagues, and that they tend to be a New York-centered bunch. All the same, I had a half a mind to defend you redneck unwashed flyover types, figuring if you can quote Monty Python you're probably OK.

In order to preserve collegiality (and my secret identity) I didn't say anything, but I find it interesting that I often feel more comfortable with my online crew than with people I have more in common with geographically and professionally.

Mind you, the conversation soon turned to Bush-bashing, so I really had to bite my tongue. They're perfectly nice people, but clearly we don't see eye-to-eye.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

T3, Non-possum flavored

The boy participates, but does not originate. Thanks to Jordana for hostessing the weekly shindig.

(1) Who was the most memorable (good or bad) graduation speaker at a ceremony you've attended -- not necessarily your own?

I vaguely remember the then-Chancellor of the City University of New York speaking at my college graduation. I heard nothing of the speech, but it was marked by the ritualized turning of the back on her Chancellorship. I stood up & turned my back too, but only because I was tired of sitting. I would guess my favorite grad speech was from high school, where a buddy of mine gave a short speech. He had come over to the US from what was then the current Soviet Union at the age of ten. I was proud of him for making it as far as he did, and I still am. He's one of the few people from high school I still talk to. Plus he's my accountant.

(2) Approximately how many graduation ceremonies have you been in as a graduate and how many others have you gone to?

3 as a grad (elementary, high school, and college), and two as a guest. One was for my girlfriend's high school graduation, the other for my brother's PhD. I might have gone to his college one too, but I can't recall.

(3) After finishing high school and/or college what did you do for the summer?

I think I took summer college classes the first summer out of high school. I bummed around for the entire year after college before I entered grad school, so I suspect the summer was spent as a lazy, shiftless layabout.

Bonus Question:

What was your favorite graduation gift?

Probably the Stutz-Bearcat I got for graduating from kindergarten. I have no idea - I have no memory of any specific gift.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

And, speaking of

The Corner, they were also "kind" enough to link to this. Granted I am wasting time from the paying gig by linking to this, but I couldn't possibly be wasting as much time as the guy behind this site.

I like Legos fine. I am a big supporter of the Bible. I can't really say, however, that the two were destined to go together.

I suppose it's a harmless enough hobby, but this guy's gotta be a bit weird.


sure has a wicked slapshot, eh?

Reminds me of a one-liner a friend of mine used to use way back when:

Jesus Saves...


Seriously, I know everyone's supposed to have a close relationship with their own personal savior, but are kitschy mass produced tchotchkes really the way believing Christians want to go?

And given what I know about hockey, do I really want to ask what penalties Jesus might get that would get him sent to the Sin Bin? Those flowing robes are certainly not regulation equipment.

Thanks, of sorts, to the Corner for the link.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Stuff like this

drives me insane. Why in the hell does everything have to revolve around race? Why do we need to make sure that White people are demonized? Why do companies hire experts and then not listen to them?

Most importantly, why do these morons have to get history wrong when the truth is an inch in front of their faces?

Here's how I see the production meeting going:

Suit #1: The history guy says it's about independence from Mexico. Is Texas near Mexico?

Suit #2: I don't care what the "historian" says - we have to get hot issues on TV - we're educational, remember? Slavery's a big deal, right? Put slavery in there!

Lowly intern gofer type: Umm, wasn't that the civil war? You know, with slaves & stuff?

Suits: Shut UP! you're fired!

UPDATE: I have been informed that slavery was a part of the concerns at the Alamo. I accept that correction meekly, but I stand by my opinion that the TV folks think they can provide all the context necessary in 50 seconds. I'd liken it to a flash card - all anyone walks away with is "Texas Independence=All about slavery." I'm with the historian they hired & ignored - it's a simplistic approach, and reduces everything to soundbites. Bah.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I, Too, am a Moron™

Moronitude is not restricted to projects only. One can indeed be a moron without defined purpose.

In my case, being a moron entails strapping them on despite having sacroiliar issues. So, in answer to Jim's question, I did indeed go play hockey last night. I recognize that perhaps this was not the wisest thing I could do, and yet I did it anyway.

I had visited my lovely neighbor the Physical Therapist, who was kind enough to stretch & bend my various parts in ways I didn't think they were designed to do. We discovered (not a surprise to me, actually) that I have hamstrings with the stretchiness of petrified wood. Other than being in pain, I am as flexible as a broom handle. I was feeling better, tried on the skates, and it seemed I was OK enough to play. So I did forgetting the whole getting over the boards thing, which was not fun. Mrs. had to put my shoes on again this AM.

More conclusive proof that I, too, am a Moron™

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Fun with Headlines

and the rest of the story too.

"Journalists discover mysterious element 'Ethics'. Plan 14 week investigation to discover roots of this fad."

If you dig deep into the story, you discover that

Journalists had an average score of 48.7 on a 100-point scale, meaning just about half the time, members of the profession make decisions based on the best quality ethical reasoning.

No offense, but less than half the time does not suddenly translate into a major outbreak of ethical thinking. It means (given that it's actually UNDER 50%) that more than half the time, something other than the ethical choice will take precedence.

The fact that other professions are lower on the scale is not comforting. We're being asked to trust these people to tell us the truth, and they can't be ethical more than half the time. Sorry, boys, but you gotta do better than that to make me trust you again.


I bent down to pick something up last night and ended up in agony. It may have happened during the furniture moving section of the evening. We've moved the kids up to the attic and converted their room into Mrs.' sewing area.

The move has taken about 6 weeks, as we've been testing it to see if they would sleep up there. Yesterday, Mrs. decided we were ready, so the dresser went upstairs and the sewing cabinet went downstairs. I felt a little pull in my back during the move, but it didn't seem too bad.

About two hours later I bent down to pick up something and I could barely straighten up. I spent the rest of the evening moving gingerly, then went to our neighbor the Physical Therapist for a consultation. She told me it was probably my sacroiliac joint, which is the connection between tushie bone and hip.

In any event, I had more than a little trouble getting my pants on this morning, and Mrs. had to put my shoes & socks on for me. We'll see whether or not I'm stupid enough to try & play hockey tonight. If I can't bend over to put my skates on, we'll never find out whether or not I can skate with this.

Thursday Three - Come see me in my office after the Blog

School's in:

1. What three teachers did you have in grade school or high school who had the greatest impact on you, either for good or bad?

Mr. S, 5th grade teacher, who helped me appreciate learning. I went to a school where religious subjects were given higher priority, and secular subjects were treated as a waste of time. Mr. S. helped us get around that attitude.

Mr. D., who taught Chemistry there for the one year I had him. Aside from being a friend of my grandfather's (who also taught chemistry), he's the reason I decided to go to an engineering school on the mistaken idea I could be an engineer. It's not his fault I couldn't handle calculus, but he did inspire me.

Mr. G., who taught algebra. The reason I remember any of it is because of him. He also showed me how a teacher handles difficult kids. We were acting up one day, and he simply said "you're responsible for this material, but I'm not teaching it. You want to misbehave, go ahead, but you're on your own as far as square roots are concerned." And he sat there and read for the entire class period, as we sat there quiet. Great work.

I had LEGIONS of teachers who were awful, too many to list.

2. Which teacher do you wish you could go back and apologize to for your terrible misbehavior?

There's only one in particular, and only for being an eager beaver; I sometimes wouldn't let him finish a sentence, but I learned from him. Other than that, some of the people I misbehaved for deserved every bit of it. I was mostly well behaved, so there's not a lot to apologize for.

3. What do you think is the best thing to happen to grade school since when you were there?

I don't have much association with grade school at the moment; I suspect the best thing to happen since I left is me leaving.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The thought

which occurred to me in the comments to the previous post will now officially be blogged.

I have finally gotten an answer to a question that's been bugging me for 10 years or more. Part of the seder is not just running through the official book (the Haggada, for the curious). Some people's seder works that way - read what you have to, no discussion, eat, go to bed. We've never done it that way in my family, and I think I'd feel a bit gypped if we didn't extrapolate a bit.

Anyway, there's a song called "Dayenu", meaning literally "it would have been enough for us." At least that's how it was always translated to me. It's a litany of things that happened to the Jews, followed by the refrain "Dayenu" - as follows: "If He had taken us out of Egypt, but not taken us through the Red Sea, it would have been enough." "If He had taken us through the Red Sea, but not shown us miracles, Dayenu" etc, etc.

The line that always bothered me was "If he had taken us to Mount Sinai, but not given us the Torah, it would have been enough." The Rabbinic sources make clear that Mount Sinai was not the largest or most impressive; quite the contrary, it was a smallish mountain, oxymoronic as that may be. So there's no real reason God would have taken the Jews there specifically. Presumably he wasn't interested in showing the Jews the scenery. So why are they there? One reason only - to receive the Torah, God's book of laws.

So why on earth would it have been enough for us to show up at Sinai? There's no point in being at that one spot if not to receive the word of God - why would we say Dayenu? I'm pleased to say I finally got what I consider a good answer to this one - like I say, it's been bugging me for a long time. David Klinghoffer (who I mentioned here in my personal review of his new book, which I recommend you read) sent out an article he wrote that finally resolve this one for me. I'll let David's words explain, rather than saying it less elegantly:

What? Didn’t I just say that freeing us from Egypt would have been pointless had God not then given us the Commandments?

The solution lies in seeing that Hebrew is not only compact but precise. Dayenu–“It would have been enough for us,” for us specifically, the “us” who were victims of Egyptian enslavement, escaped being chattel, who would have been happy simply to be out from under the burden of pharaoh’s subjugation.

But would it have been enough for God, or for humanity, if the Lord had merely brought us up from Egypt and left us, free, at the foot of Mt. Sinai without giving us the Torah? Human history was meant to be the history of our priesthood in service of mankind. The foundation, the constitution, of our priesthood is Torah. For mankind, a Jewish people freed from slavery but unacquainted with Torah would not have been enough.

It's the US part that I hadn't quite grasped. After all that slavery and murdered babies and suffering, we would have been happy with just a weekend off once in a while. So, God wants to take us to a mountain? A-OK, as long as there's no slave labor - Dayenu indeed. God, of course, has other plans for us, which is why we were brought to Sinai for a higher purpose.

It's nice to get an answer to a nagging problem.

In the middle

there were days off. I took the kids to the zoo on Tuesday while the Mrs. & hostess took a girl's day. We drove down to Richmond, VA to meet an online friend of the Mrs., where the ipod got a workout.

I LOVE this thing. Mrs. took a bag full of CDs down in the car, and I took twice as much music on something the size of a wallet. She bought it from a place that included speakers, a rubber case, and this FM transmitter. That thing is fabulous - you can use it to play the Ipod through the car speakers. Man, this thing is cool.

Thursday I got a morning to myself - Mrs. let me out very graciously, and I went down to the new Air & Space facility at Dulles Airport. Very cool - they have an SR-71 on display, a space shuttle, the Enola Gay, and a bunch of other things. Other than the CF card on my camera crapping out three times (so I lost all my photos, grrr) I had a grand old time.

I spent Friday changing light switches and electrical outlets for our hostess (I also put up a light fixture, replacing the one that was hanging down around my navel), and cooking. Then came the last days of the holiday, more food, visits with some other friends in the neighborhood, etc.

I should briefly mention our host's dog. I don't like animals as a rule (few Orthodox people in my hometown had pets), but this one is fabulous. He's a 3 year old Golden Retriever, and just as sweet as can be. He was great with the kids, and friendly to me, and we had a great time.

The last bit was getting home. We put the kids to bed at the normal time, and after the holiday ended at around 8:45, we packed like crazy in order to hit the road around 10PM. I didn't want to have to take another day off work, and if we had left DC at 4AM, we would have hit smack into NY rush hour traffic. Pizza was served (cooked all the way through, which is rare for post-Passover), we got the kids into the car, & hit the road at about 10:30.

Everybody else slept, I drove straight through, & got home at 3AM. As it is I would have been underslept yesterday, but then the kids woke up at 3:15 and refused to play alone or go back to sleep. So I slept from about 5AM to 8:30, dragged into work, and slept through most of the day. You can understand I was a little out of it yesterday. On the other hand, since we never passovered the kitchen, we didn't have to unpassover it either.

So, that's Passover, and now I gotta get to work.

The next night

we got to do it all over again. More rest during the day, promise to oldest she could stay up if she napped, which she did.

Sort of.

See, she fell asleep around six, which would have been fine. We didn't get started until after nine, so if she had taken a two hour nap, all would have been well. But she stayed asleep, and Mrs. told me to leave her, so I did. Youngest stayed up a little, said as much of the Ma Nishtana as she could (which was quite a bit considering she's only two), and she went to bed soon after. I would have loved to follow suit, but stayed up till the bitter end.

Let me stop for a moment and talk about Matzah, since it plays such a critical role in Passover and the Seder. Matzah has two ingredients - flour & water. Our forefathers didn't have time for the bread to rise, thus we follow their example. (There are philosophical issues too - removing all the puffery and leavening from ourselves as well as our houses, etc.) By rule, you must eat a certain amount of Matzah for the seder; any "bread" you have during the week must be Matzah, but you don't have to have any if you don't want it, except at the seder. Called "poor man's bread", which my mom always says is ridiculous, given how expensive it is, it's about as delicious as drywall. Sometimes worse.

Many non-Jews I know love it, but that's because they can stop & have a Twinkie if they want to. For me, given its negative effects on my digestive system, I eat as little as possible. It tastes fine, but later... Let's just say dried fruit & prune juice are valuable commodities to have around. Regular bread is much more desirable when all you have is matzah.

Anyway, we finish again around 2AM, and I fall into bed, exhausted. Only to be awoken at 4:15 by oldest, who announces that she's done with her nap, and wants to know when the seder starts. Oy. Exhausted daddy, disappointed child. I promise her a seder of her own later, give her breakfast, and try & get her to play while I doze fitfully on the couch. I made Mrs. get up around 7AM so I could get some actual sleep. I missed services that morning, as I awoke for good around 9:30.

Oldest & I did a private seder for dinner that night, hitting the highlights and playing with a second Plagues toy, this time a set of finger puppets provided by my mom. And thus ended the first days.

And then

we spent Shabbos as normal. Services, food, a little rest in advance of the Seder on Saturday evening. I even got oldest to rest, warning her that no sleep in the afternoon=no staying up late for the seder. So she napped, I rested a little, Mrs. slept, etc.

Youngest went to bed at the regular time, but oldest stayed up. The seder is one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar, and the purpose is to review the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. As the bible reports often, God refers to Himself as the One who took us from Egypt, so clearly this is the seminal event in the creation of the Jewish Nation. So you tell the story, you eat the matzah and bitter herbs, and you get to dinner at a truly unreasonable hour.

Oldest was terrific. She did the Four Questions (Ma Nishtana) as the youngest awake in the room, though technically the dog is younger in human years. She sat quietly as we read the story in the Haggadah, and we stopped to explain things periodically so she wasn't bored. Her school had laid a lot of the groundwork, so she was familiar with a bunch of the highlights. Plus our hostess had bought a package of toys to represent the 10 plagues, so we got to play with those at the appropriate time. Jumping frog, sticky hand with boils, sick cow with bulging goopy eyes, etc.

She gets through dinner, which ended around 12:15 AM. Past my bedtime, let alone hers. I told her to go search for the Afikomen, which is traditionally hidden for the kids to find & then beg for loot once they find it. (Originally the Afikomen was the Passover sacrifice, which served as dessert when we had a Temple. Now it's yet another piece of Matzah. Joy.) Her gift, a Belle (of Beauty & the Beast fame) doll, had been purchased long before, was in the car with them when they went down to DC, but the proprieties must be observed. So she finds it, we show her the doll, and she goes off to bed.

And comes out ten minutes later, crying sadly that she hadn't had dessert. I promised her dessert the next day, told her none of us had any (true), and she went to sleep. We finished up around 1:30 or 1:45, and went to bed exhausted.

Passover Recap

I have yet to decide how much of this to report, but I'll probably break this up into a few different posts.

Anyway, the reason I went on hiatus is that we were actually out of town. It may be paranoid, since I have not completely identified myself or where I live or who I work for, but I still have certain issues with saying too much. My lack of posting was due to being away from the normal computers I work on. Or blog from. Or whatever.

In any event, the SkinnyFamily spent Passover in what is technically Down South. I would say it's the Shallow South rather than the Deep South, being a suburb of the Nation's capital. Regardless, I believe it's officially below the Mason-Dixon line, so it counts as the South. Mrs. Skinny's best friend, her husband, and their new dog all live there, and they were insane enough to invite us to spend the whole week with them. Two extra adults is bad enough, but adding a 4 year old & a two year old is unbelievably brave, if a little insane.

As most of you probably do not know, the Passover holiday is one of the longer holidays on the Jewish calendar. Outside of Israel, the holiday is two days of full holiday (no cars, lights, phones, etc.) followed by four intermediate days (everything but the food is normal), followed by two more full holiday days. In Israel for various reasons, each full period is only one day. This year the first days were Sunday & Monday, which means you begin the holiday with a Saturday & all the normal restrictions.

What this all means is that regardless of anything else, you will be spending three days minimum locked in the house with whoever you are spending the holiday with. Imagine having your family for Christmas for three straight days. Subtract TV, computers, cars, and other distractions. You have to REALLY like the people you're with to make sure you don't kill each other by the end of it. Even family you love is irritating by the third day. So clearly we love these friends, as nobody was refusing to talk to each other by Monday afternoon.

The trip started off extra nice for me. Mrs. took the kids, the car, and all the luggage down on Thursday, leaving me at home. Alone. I love my family more than life itself, but there's something nice about coming home, picking something for dinner, not having to share, and not having to argue with kids about what we're eating. I got to play hockey, came home & stayed up really late fighting with my wife's computer to add music to the shiny Ipod my wife bought for me. More on that later.

Friday, I went to work where I vaguely got some things done for a few hours, then headed to Manhattan, where I bought kosher certified Krispy Kremes and took an Amtrak down to DC. Two small bags, no small children, and plenty of reading. I like travelling by train - I don't really need to concentrate on where we're going, I can read, I can eat, I can sleep, whatever. Got there, offered donuts to the family (outside - no leaven in the house to keep it passover-kosher), and got ready for the pre-Passover Shabbos.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I'm back

and for reasons that will become apparent when I can take some time to write about them, I am even less coherent today than usual.