Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday it is,

I am back at work, and there's more silliness:

Now then, we want you to name the THREE most idiotic things you’ve ever done to prove yourself against the forces of Mother Nature. This doesn’t have to be just weather, though, even though Sarah would probably like it that way, but can be any of the forces of Nature--gravity, weather, earthquakes, electromagnetism…

1) Not so much to prove myself, but I did ride my bike 4 miles home from school one day in a torrential downpour, and tried riding full speed. Guess what? No brakes. I nearly got hit by a car, and learned to slow down.

2) More recently, I attempted to shovel 18 inches of wet, heavy snow with a handheld electric snow broom. Had I kept it up, I imagine I would still be there now. I was smart enough to borrow the neighbor's gas powered blower, and the next year I went out & got one of my own. Corner properties and NY winters do not mix well, shoveling wise.

3) Indirectly, I would say among the sillier things I've done (not once, but twice) is have late December babies. We had to call the volunteer ambulance to get us to the hospital for oldest because a blizzard hit the day before and I couldn't get the car dug out. Should there be more kids, I vote we aim for August.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

If it's Sunday

it must mean there's yet another holiday coming up. Joy. Rapture unforseen.

Truth is, I'm kinda holiday-d out. It's two more days of running around to services, wondering what other uselessness is piling up in the old email box, and wishing for a normal week.

The kids both have colds, which they kindly gave to us, we've been (and will continue to be) running all over creation, and Mrs.' carefully measured new closet hardware doesn't fit because the bottom of the closet is wider than the top.

All in all, we're ready for a few normal weeks. Kids in school, me at work, and Mrs. doing her thing at home without all these weirdos underfoot.

So if I don't see you tomorrow, I'll probably be back in time for Thursday. Maybe next week I'll even show up on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Unless today is Friday and I've simply lost all command over the calendar.

:: SIGH ::

I need to get back to work so I can get some rest.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oops - I knew I forgot something

Happy Blogiversary to Me. It was yesterday, but you know men often forget these things.

And yes, Terry, it is all your fault.

As I pointed out

elsewhere, today is the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. There was a lengthy cover story on the topic in this week's US News, and it's an issue I read for a change.

The article's fine, if a little light on detail on the battle itself. This is the first link that comes up on Google, and seems pretty comprehensive, so you can get that elsewhere. One thing about the article I found a little odd was the end:

Was Britain's mastery of the seas, and the eventual demise of Napoleon, good for the world? That depends, of course, on whether one thinks the growing interconnectedness of the world--one certain consequence of the British Empire and the trade that moved throughout it--was a good thing. When Britain abandoned its restrictive Navigation Acts in the mid-19th century, it gave a strong boost to free trade among all nations across sea routes made somewhat more secure by the presence of British naval power--a further boost to globalization.

Did Nelson really matter in all this? That's the question the anniversary of his most famous battle invites us to ponder.

I thought answering those questions was the whole point of the article? Anyway, it's worth a read. I'm no expert, but I think the battle was important for the immediate impact on the Napoleonic wars. I'm not so sure about the greater impact on trade, etc. The battle, to me, simply proved what should have been obvious - nobody on sea could execute the precision, gunnery, and seamanship of the British navy. Nelson's boldness and skill are what made Trafalgar happen as it did, but I don't think the French could've competed with the Brits at sea.

Given that the first British troops didn't arrive on the continent until 1809, four years later, I don't know what was the impact of the sea victory on the overall defeat of the French beyond morale. British domination on the sea, I think, was going to happen regardless of the events at Trafalgar. Yes, I acknowledge that the fear of a Napoleonic invasion was real, but practically speaking I don't think the French would have been successful - I don't the French or Napoleon had the same skill at sea fighting as they did on land.

The other interesting point, historically, is the impact of Great Men and Great Deeds. Oh, I know modernist historians have tossed out that model, but they forget that these are the things that make history come alive. Nelson and my other favorite of the period, Wellington, are exactly the sorts of personalities that could make an impact on young people and teach them about history. Flawed men, both, but the kinds of men that turn the tide of history. Nobody had beaten Napoleon in Europe until Nelson succeeded at Trafalgar; no one defeated the French on land until Wellington succeeded in the Peninsula. Oh, I know about the attacks on Russia and the costs to the French, but the British beat the French head-to-head, and I think a lot of that was because of Wellington's generalship.

Anyway, I think too much has been disposed of in the rush to rewrite history. There's a certain value in knowing how regular folks lived, but let's face it - it's awfully dull to read about peasants when you can ride along with the big boys.

Before I forget

here's the Thursday Three, backwards version:

--Madeleine Albright

--A 16 ounce framing hammer


There you have it! Now then, go off and either make up a question that ties all three of those together in a HI-larious way, or just make up three questions that each thing is the answer to.

The best question I can come up with are "Name three things MacGyver would use to escape from a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan"

First, Mac would put Albright out there to force the holy wackos to cover their eyes rather than see the intense feminine beauty that is Ms. A. Any insufficiently holy unwashed lunatic would be bored senseless by her speech on the critical economics of the Kyoto Protocols.

Next, our intrepid Fixit Guy would use the hammer to bop Albright (in a gentle and nonviolent way) on the noggin to shut her up before he goes comatose.

Finally, MacGyver enjoys a well-earned snowcone on the ride home in the jerryrigged paraglider he built with empty videotape boxes, dental floss, and the pages of Ms. Albright's autobiography.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Once more, this time

with food. Continuing the cycle of interrupting my work week, we begin the holiday of Sukkos (Sukkot to those who speak proper hebrew) tonight. I forget how non-Hebrews refer to it - Tabernacle, I believe. Anyway, this is the booth holiday. Eat all you want, but do it inside a tent with leaves on top. Some people even sleep in theirs, but it's a little nippy for that as far as I'm concerned.

It's more complicated than that, really, but this simplifies life.

We commemorate the tents we lived in in the desert and God's protection of us as we wandered around looking for a 7-11 so we could get slurpees. I put off getting my sukkah up for a while. I was planning on it last Sunday, but it looked threatening and was kind of damp, so I figured I'd put it off for a little bit.

Then, of course, the heavens opened on us in the Northeast all last week, and I couldn't find my wetsuit & flippers to be able to get it together. So come heck or high water (which mercifully ended Saturday morning) I was getting that puppy up this weekend. Happily, I bought a prefab job two years ago - aluminum frame with canvas skin, and I went out Saturday night after Shabbos to get the frame up. With interruptions, I had the whole thing together in about 35 minutes, so I went ahead & put the skin on.

The roof is made of these mats of what I think are bamboo slats, and I figured Sunday would be the day for that. Except the wind kicked up a nor'easter (coulda been southwest, I have no idea) that whipped around like crazy yesterday, and I decided to hold off. It's gotta be on by sundown tonight, so one way or the other I'm getting it on this afternoon.

Lotsa cooking too, including Chana Masala and mango chutney, which I finally got to the consistency I wanted. We're having friends with us for the first days of the holiday, and she's making samosas, so we've got Indian night set. Turkey will go on the grill when I get home shortly - last year's holiday turkey from work - we're getting half a shelf back in the freezer for the first time since last December. It'll get refilled this December with this year's bird. Mashed spuds, cornbread muffins, cranberry sauce, and poof - Thanksgiving in October. Stuffed zucchini too, and lots of other stuff.

I'll bring leftovers on Thursday if there's anything left.

Good idea, Brother.

I'm in favor of this one - the excess is ridiculous, and it's nice to see a man of the cloth point out that a Catholic school should have higher standards. A caveat here - I went to a private all-boys yeshiva, and the concept of a prom never would have entered the administration's mind even if there were girls there. Which there weren't.

A couple of points, both about the last paragraph:

1) Most importantly, I'm not quite sure the kid quoted at the end gets it. "We're not losing everything" is not what I think the principal was after.

2) More insidiously, I object to the description put on the kid by the reporter.

"We go to all the parks with our friends," Laine said just before hopping into his jet-black Infiniti and driving off to meet friends for an after-school snack.

What would be wrong with simply quoting the kid without mentioning his car? My interpretation of this is either A) the reporter is a car buff, or B) more likely, he wants to show off the rich 17-year-old and his expensive toys. I assume he meant to undercut the kid and his comments somehow, and I think his snacktime and how he gets there is completely irrelevant to the story.

Look, this is an interesting question - what responsibilities do parents and schools have? What experiences should a child have? How much spending is too much? But if the kid's parents can afford the car, and they want to give it to him, what does it have to do with the story? There are rich people in the world, and people who buy their kids expensive things. I just don't think this kid's situation has anything to do with his quote, nor with the rest of the story.


Never mind that half the guys are probably ex-NBA players, or College players, for once the Tel Avivniks beat the NBA. I mean, maybe Toronto is a lousy team for all I know, but still, it's a victory.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yeah, right

This guy committed suicide. The same way Tony Soprano is a legitimate businessman. Like Hillary Clinton isn't running for president. As is, "the check's in the mail."

Look, I wouldn't believe Syria if they said the sky was blue. You really think this guy committed suicide? I have a real nice bridge I'd like to sell you. Very affordable.

A Day Without Food

means another fast day has arrived. This one is the granddaddy of them all, Yom Kippur. I mentioned earlier that I would talk more about the meaning of this time of year, so this will do as well as anywhere.

Unlike other folks, we spend our New Year's period focusing on prayer and repentance. It means a lot of time in synagogue, and a lot of prayers. We're supposed to go through this period examining our deeds and our performance over the last year. None of us are perfect, and some of us need more work than others. God examines our deeds and enters a judgement for us for the year ahead. As one of the prayers says, we're examined to see who will live and who will die, who will suffer and who will have joy, etc.

It's meant to be stark and frighten us into sincere repentance for our sins. We ask God to overlook our sins once we have committed ourselves to a better life. The prayer concludes that repentance, prayer, and charity will void an evil decree. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the ten days in between are designed for us to examine ourselves and correct our behavior.

For me personally, this is a contemplative time. I try like most people to examine my deeds, but sometimes the hustle & bustle of life, work, and children makes contemplation difficult. While I recognize I'm not what most people would call an evil person, there are more than enough failures in my personal, professional, and spiritual life to repent. The tough question is how to overcome character traits like impatience, limited attention span, and laziness to address those and my other failures. I believe God understands my difficulties and loves me enough to forgive them, but it's still incumbent on me to work harder to bring myself to repentance.

As I spend all day tomorrow in services, I'm going to be fighting tiredness, hunger, a wandering attention span, and other distractions as I attempt to earn a positive judgement for the year ahead. Like most people, I will pledge to do better and then fall off the wagon as the year goes on. It sometimes seems pointless, as both God and I know in advance that I won't be able to keep it up all year. But I'm convinced this is necessary, and when I pray tomorrow I fully intend to improve my behavior for the entire year ahead. The challenge is to stick to my resolution and live up to the standards the Torah has set for me.

In any event, tomorrow is a day when we don't eat, drink, and a number of other things. We're supposed to be as angels tomorrow - not needing earthly things, as we attempt to repair our relationship with God and our fellow man. With that in mind, we are supposed to apologize sincerely to our friends & relations for any harm we might have caused them. I am thus asking forgiveness from my few readers for any insults or distress I might have caused, and I pray that we are all granted a positive judgement for the year ahead.

Shana Tovah.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Frabjous Day! Caloo Calay!

[Hebrew dance of joy, followed by back pain]

Looks like I've finally made the JV over at the Axis of Weevil. They haven't had the induction ceremony or anything, but Terry moved me from my lonely spot above the line to the exalted ranks of those below the line.

See how little it takes to make me happy?

Now all I gotta do is write my acceptance speech to the Southern Barbershop Quartet and Macrame Collective, Northern Division.

Rosh Hashana Roundup

So, when last we left you anything useful (relatively speaking) oldest had chicken pox. Remember how I said things couldn't get worse? Remind me to shut up more often. We were all set to send her back to school the following Friday.

Except she couldn't put any weight on her leg. Trip #2 to the doctor. Guess what? She sprained her knee. All's done, right? Nope - sick last Monday too, trip #3 to the doc, and she had a virus. I prayed hard for no more illness.

Most of the first part of last week was a blur of cooking & cleaning as we prepared for Rosh Hashana. Stuffed cabbage, apple cake, chalah, blondies, sweet potatoes & carrots, and finally corned beef. And all this with us only hosting one meal. Even with most of it done by Sunday, we still rushed into the holiday.

The holiday itself was pretty good. Unlike other people's new year, we spend half of it in services. We started at 7:30 AM, and finished around 12:30 PM. It's a long day. I was tapped again to blow the shofar at one of the other synagogues in the neighborhood - it's a long story, but they needed me to blow for the second day of the holiday. Fortunately for them, they got the Certificate of Occupancy on their brand new building on the Friday right before the holiday. I had to walk a little further, but it is a nice building.

My performance was OK - not as smooth as I've been in the past, but I think everyone fulfilled their obligation. I have to say that particular synagogue is not for me on a regular basis. I like the people there fine, but they're lacking some in the decorum department. I recognize it's a long time in services, but you could take your conversations outside the sanctuary if you can't sit still and keep quiet.

The rest of the holiday was fine - we had lunch at some friends on the first day, with turkey and lamb and mashed potatoes and... other stuff I've forgotten. Our across the street neighbors were there too, and then both families plus another came to us on the second day. Fun was had by all, and nobody bothered eating much dinner either night.

That's the wrap-up. If I'm feeling inspired, I'll say something about the meaning of this time of year, but now I should get some work done.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday Three

Ahh, maybe later. Procrastination destination:

1. Do you usually need a clock to know what time it is or do you have that “time sense”?

I think I'm a clock guy. I can tell when it's daylight out and when it's night. Now if I can only get my kids to buy into the program.

2. Can you estimate the time tasks will take or are you always off?

Depends on the task. I can estimate cooking and driving pretty well. Other things are kind of hit & miss.

3. Will you do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

I'll let you know later.

I tend to procrastinate a bit. I go in planning to get stuff done, and then I get distracted. What were we talking about again?