Sunday, December 31, 2006


This Shabbat, we had a Hillel group from Rio in the hotel with us, also on Taglit program. They had three girls who wanted to have a Bat Mitzvah (one each, not one for all three) and the staff only knew how to ask for help and wasn't really prepared to help plan the service or ceremony. So we helped them, and had some of our Shabbat scholars lead the service and read Torah. And each of the girls spoke after their aliyah. But the entire thing was in Portuguese. I'm sure they spoke beautifully, but I didn't understand one single word....

It's still pretty cold here in Jerusalem. I definitely didn't bring enough long sleeve shirts. That was a strategic packing error on my part. And at some point, I have to do laundry. But I've got a new fleece and a new sweatshirt, long underwear and heavy socks. And this year, I remembered to bring an umbrella.

Yesterday on the radio I heard them announce a song called "Shir Ha-Mitria" or the Umbrella Song. I couldn't imagine what it was going to be, but sure enough, it was all about rain, and definitely appropriate for the way the weather has been around here.

Yes, Israel needs the rain. But it would be nicer if it was a warm rain...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A new Saturday night program

Well, it's finally happened. A Saturday night in Israel that did not involve the Campus Club. I think we have a group there next week, but that's at least 7 days away, and at least for now, we can honestly say that we had a season without Campus. Instead, we were at the Israel Museum to view the mini-model of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea Scrolls, to hear Avraham (only the second time this trip for me), and to hear a band called Shine.

It should be noted that the lead singer in the band dresses badly. Not just strangely, but badly. And he only has 1/2 a mustache for reasons that are not readily apparent.

And now, it's way too late with an early morning to follow....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

implications of snow in jerusalem on students

Of the 40 students who flew in from Berkeley yesterday, most were wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip flops when they got off the bus in Jerusalem for their first time, where it had just stopped snowing, at least for a few minutes. Needless to say it was a really quick shehechiyanu ceremony.

One student got off the bus wearing a colorful Taglit scarf that was part of the swag from the first round of birthright. Being of suspicious nature, I approached her and said, "great scarf, where'd you get it?". My fear was that somehow she had also participated in the first round. She didn't look old enough, but you never know.... It turns out, she got it for $5 at at a thriftstore in San Francisco!

And of the 40 students from Central Florida who arrived yesterday, 10 of them did not bring coats with them. Why? Because they don't own them! Evidently it's never cold in Orlando, or wherever else they're from.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cold and rainy in the orange room

Well, I moved into my apartment. In the rain. And the cold. From a parking spot two blocks away. With an empty fridge. Well, the last part was taken care of at 11pm last night, but only because I was hungry then and knew that by breakfast time, if it was still cold and rainy, that I was going to be in trouble. The good news, I didn't get lost finding my way. Strange, very strange, but true. I basically just had to remember that once I found Efraim, I needed to just figure out where Menashe went wrong (see my last post for explanation).

I actually got the keys earlier yesterday, but didn't really get back until late last night. Why, because it was time once again to hear about Avraham Infeld's 5-legged table. They haven't changed, in case anyone was wondering.

Back to the apartment. The walls are very orange. And when I picked up the keys yesterday, Aviad (the landlord's son) was wearing an orange sweatshirt. I'm pretty sure it's not a political statement at this point, but you never know around here. The apartment is furnished in Ikea. Much of which is familiar from our house in DC, including the kitchen table and counter. And living room lamp. And chair. And probably some kitchen items I haven't explored yet.

But it's a nice space, and while it's much smaller than the apartment I was in this summer, it's plenty big for one person, and once I figure out how to keep the windows closed in the cold, blowing (did I mention cold?) rain, it should be perfect.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Efraim and Menashe

I learned something about the streets in Jerusalem last night. It turns out, that if you know Jewish history, then it's easier to find your way around. The twelve tribe streets are in Baka, and the sites given up in the War of Independence have streets named for them in Talpiyot.

My apartment is on Menashe street, so I figured he would be near Efrayim (his brother). He is, but around the corner. Maybe he was a little twisted? I don't know. I also found it once, parked, and then made my way to the coffeeshop (named, appropriately, Coffee Shop), and I'll be able to walk back, but I'm really not sure if I'll ever find it again driving. It's too many one way streets, many of which I think I drove down incorrectly to find it the first time.

It's cold here (and summer-like by Milwaukee standards) and it might even snow tomorrow. And me without a camera. It's already snowing on the Hermon - and they're expecting 4 or 5 feet!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dulles, the Haaj and Afula

I hate Dulles airport. It's far away, the lines are always long, and there just has to be a better way to start a trip, even erev Christmas eve, than their disorganization. I got the airport 2.5 hours before my flight. Which turned out to be good, because I waited in line for an hour just to check in. And then to drop your bags off to check, you had to weave in and out of all the other people checking in to get to the x-ray machine. And then there was security, and then the shuttle to the terminal, and then really, really long lines at all the places I wanted to stop and get a drink. oh well.

I got on the plane, found that might seat was thankfully much closer to the door than I expected, and sat down in my window seat. There was already someone in the aisle and no one yet in the middle seat. And by the time the plane took off, we realized we had the only empty seat on the plane, next to us. So we started talking. I was headed off to birthright, and he was heading to Jedda for the Haaj. We figured between my trip to Israel and his for the Haaj, someone either figured we needed the space between us, or deserved the space between us. And I got an invitation to his family's kabob restaurant in Faifax when I get back....

I changed planes in Frankfurt, and really, they just shouldn't tell you that you're going to be delayed while they de-ice the wings, you know!? So I said T'filat Haderech again figuring it couldn't hurt.

Landed in Israel, handed off a laptop and a big check to the person meeting me (I'm not sure I'm allowed to name her here, but for those that know her - she's the one that meets all of the Hillel groups), met my cousin Ayelet, picked up a car and drove to Afula.

It was nice to catch up with Steve, Galit, Or, Nadav and Ayelet now, because starting today, the craziness hits. Plus, they have a new cute puppy (who did not pee on my stuff).

Friday, December 22, 2006

back to birthright...

Well, I'm back to Israel tomorrow for another round of birthright. Thankfully, I'm not on a flight with students. The other good news - all the students are going to be in the desert Sunday night, so I'm not going to see anyone until Monday. It will at least give me a day to get over the jet lag and run up and see my cousins.

We've already got 12 buses on the ground and already, there are stories. The tamest - a cat bit one of our staff people. Who pets the cats in Israel?!

And Debbie - if you found this - stay tuned for more over the next month.

Monday, December 11, 2006

You've got mail!

What I didn't mention in earlier posts about the shiritaki noodles I ordered on-line, is that there was a serious delivery problem. As in, when I ordered them, they didn't get delivered. So they agreed to send more out. They said they would arrive in 3-5 days, and when I called 2 weeks later and asked for tracking information, they sent some a few days later. Strange, but then again, I'm ordering noodles made from a smelly flower, what should I expect?

So finally a box arrived and you know what happened with the "meatballs". Not good. And I've got 19 more bags of assorted shapes and sizes that I've been avoiding ever since.

But tonight, there was a box on the doorstep, and lo and behold, it's another box of 20 bags of assorted smelly noodles. So now I'm thinking, I didn't like the first kind, I'm wary of trying a second, and now there are another 20 bags that I'm going to have to ship back to them. But first, I figured I should try them again. I also figured I should try a shape that I'm more familiar with, like spaghetti.

So I tried it. With plain marinara and a lot of grated parmesan (I figured if they were bad, at least they'd be edible). Ki Tov. And it was good.

And now I have to write them again and pay for the second box. It's hard being so ethical.... But at least it's nutritious, too.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Forty is the new Seventy

Part 1: 40 = 70
It's 3:00pm. I get a phone call from someone who asks how things went today at Ronnie's doctor's appt. I answered that it took forever at the doctor and that we'd just gotten home.

When did I turn 70?

Part 2: Boing and Thud
I actually got to go to two doctors with Ronnie today. The first was the orthapaedist that made the spine surgeon recommendations and the guy that did my knee surgery. He used the rubber mallet to hit Ronnie in the shin and see how far his foot kicked up. The left knee popped up with a boing (yes, there really were sound effects). The second was a resounding thud, with no appreciable kick (or accompanying sound effect). Fascinating, actually.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wet Meatballs

Well, I tried the "meatballs". I made them like I'd make any veggie meatballs and figured that would give me a good comparison. Basically, after I rinsed them off, I let them soak while I cooked up a big sauce pan of onion, mushroom, pepper and tomato.

They look like scallops, which is weird, because I've really only seen scallops on television. But these are rounder (I think scallops are flat?).

Here's the thing, these noodles are sometimes called "wet noodles" because usually you want to dry them out before you put sauce on them or they just feel too wet. I don't know how to describe it. They look like wet scallops, only round.

I think I didn't dry them out enough, and they taste, well, like scallop-sized but rounder wet balls in the middle of pretty good tasting mushrooms, onions, peppers etc. I'm pretty sure there's no way that Ronnie's going to try this...

Oh well. I think I'll try the spaghetti next...

Big Box o' Shiritaki

Well, the box of shiritaki noodles I ordered nearly a month ago finally arrived yesterday. There are 20 bags, each of a different kind of noodle. But I think it's all going to taste the same. In addition to regular types of noodles, there are"shrimp", "meatballs" (do you put these with the spaghetti made out of the same stuff?!) and something called "hand knot" pasta.

I saw the white squirrel again today. I took more pictures, and I think I could tell that he has pink eyes and not blue. The other squirrels didn't seem to be shunning him at all, which is a good thing.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Elusive White Squirrel

I took pictures this morning of the white squirrel. It's a good thing it wasn't snowing though, because that thing is really white! At least we now know where he lives. And since this was the third sighting, I don't think we're in a Loch Ness situation where it won't be seen again for decades (plus, squirrels don't live that long, I don't think).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Walgreen's and Denny's

The streets were empty yesterday morning, which was a good thing, because I went driving with my father. First around a relatively empty parking lot, and then he drove us home. And we remembered to bring his driver's license, which it turns out we didn't really need since he didn't drive poorly enough to get pulled over.

But before that, I knew the streets were empty because I'd made a Walgreen's run. The reason that no one was on the road - they were all at Walgreen's. Seriously, you'd think that they were giving stuff away. They were the only place open that I saw, so I guess if you were just trying to get out of the house and wander somewhere at 8:45am, that was the only place to do it, but still...

And later in the afternoon, all those same people were at Denny's. Go figure.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Over the River and Through the Woods...

This song conjures up a long journey to family, them waiting at the door for your arrival, maybe even with a cup of hot chocolate for you at the ready.

We left our house at 3:30am EST on Wednesday morning to try and beat the Thanksgiving driving traffic on our trek to St. Louis. Considering that treks are generally arduous, maybe this wasn't a trek. We had snackage, bottles of water, books on CD, a borrowed CD player (key for the books on CD), sunglasses (to be used once it got light out), a blanket and pillow, and a generally positive attitude. Plus, the weather was good.

We made a few stops and got to my parents house at 5:30pm CST after 15 hours. We decided to surprise them by being a few hourse earlier than they had likely expected us. Likely, because Ronnie and I realized that neither of us had actually spoken with them about what time we might arrive. My parents know us well though, and so if they were thinking, they should have expected us this early.

Here's the thing. We drive up to the house and there's no one waiting for us at the door with hot chocolate. From what we can see, there's only one small light on somewhere in the back, and after much knocking and doorbell ringing, we figure out that no one is home.


Now we thought it was strange that we hadn't heard from them all day about when we thought we might arrive (so they could have the hot chocolate ready, of course), but we figured they were busy.

So we move their porch chairs onto the driveway where there's a bright motion-sensitive light, take out the blanket, some water and snacks, and the rest of the newspaper, and Ronnie sets up camp. I went up to Trader Joe's figuring they must have run out for some last minute things.

They aren't at Trader Joe's, and on the way back I trolled the parking lot at the big grocery store and figured out that they weren't there, either.

On my way back, I got a call from Ronnie that the driveway light had gone out. My recommendation to him - wave your arms around a lot until it goes back on.

About 15 minutes later, I knocked on the door of a neighbor two doors down who I haven't seen in 20 years at one of the few houses that still has people in it that I know. Turns out, he doesn't have a key to my parent's house.

About 30 minutes after that, I get in the car to try to find a key at another friend of my mother's who lives about 6 blocks away. As I'm driving down the street, Ronnie comfortably sitting on the patio chair with the blanket, water and snacks, I see a car pull into their driveway.

10 seconds later Ronnie calls, but I'm already headed around the block, having correctly assumed that my parents were now home.

My parents thought we were arriving today, not yesterday. Needless to say there was no hot chocolate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

White Squirrel

You've heard of White Russians, and you've heard of white Christmases, but this morning, I saw a white squirrel. I suppose it could have been albino, but I wasn't close enough to see if it had light blue eyes or not. And I don't think it was a ghost (think Casper the friendly squirrel), because it wasn't quite translucent enough.

I would suggest that tomorrow on our 14+ hour car ride that we play the famous car game: what white animal do you see now? but I'm afraid that would jinx us and we'd wind up seeing all sorts of animals covered in snow.

According to mapquest, it's only 842.10 miles to St. Louis, and 842.19 back to Silver Spring. I'm not sure why it's just a tad longer coming back, but I'm pretty sure that's just the psychological distance because it always feels longer on the way back.

For our in-ride listeing pleasure, we've got Great Speeches from History, Nickel and Dimed, Lost and Found Sound, Farenheit 451 and a lot of other books on tape and CD. Unfortunately this time around we did not check out the collected writings of Sigmund Freud.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Skid Row

You've probably seen on the national news lately that the city of Los Angeles is suing local hospitals for dumping indigent and homeless patients on Skid Row.
Last Sunday, after a full day of volunteering with 1000 students and staff, five of us loaded up a modified school bus (90% of the seats had been removed) full - really full - of food and water left over from the day and brought it to Skid Row in downtown LA. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of people living on the streets there - estimates range from 7,000 - 11,000. They're in boxes, and tents, and just under blankets and newspapers. Most are junkies, some are mentally ill, and a good percentage are both.

It was cold the night we were there and while I think that they appreciated the food, they kept asking for blankets. The streets there are more littered than any I've ever seen, save after a big parade or street fair. But we realized pretty quickly that it was because people like us bring food down in containers (in our case styrofoam and brown paper lunch bags) that get left in the street when the food has been eaten. We saw very, very few garbage cans available for trash, even if someone had wanted to use one.

Hit by a bus - or perhaps a small bakery truck

I woke up this morning, and yesterday too, feeling like I'd been hit by a bus. It's possible that it was more of a delivery truck (and I choose to believe that if it's a delivery truck that it would be delivering donuts rather than office supplies).

It's been way, way too much traveling. Last week was New York, back to DC for about 10 hours, and then off to Los Angeles. Once there, I went to Huntington Beach, back to LA, and then up to Simi Valley to the Brandeis Bardin Institute before heading back to DC on a red-eye.

In California, it was shocking how much of my driving time was actually spent in traffic. And I didn't see one movie star. Not one! Not on the highway, not in the Starbucks, not in the hotel and not on my flights. Evidently they don't fly Southwest or America West, or I'm sure someone recognizable would have been on my flights. Evidently the night I checked out of the hotel to go to BBI, the American Idol "Hollywood Week" began and there were all sorts of folks around.

My flights back were actually interesting. One of my friends (who generally requests anonymity) makes fun of me for talking to people on my flights, but on one flight I sat next to the CFO of ProActiv, and on the next one, I sat next to an ex-marine who now dismantles bombs for a living. In between we had a 2 hour layover in Vegas. There is a decided lack of neon in the airport and we didn't see one Elvis impersonator. Not one!

But I did see a bunch of cousins while I was out there, which was nice. The kids were fun and we went to the beach, which was a first for me on the Pacific side (and I think I've only been to any beach on the Atlantic once, so now they're even).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My train of thought...

It was pouring this morning as I walked from the parking garage to the metro. I was wearing leather shoes and my feet were getting wet. That bothers me. Leather should be waterproof. The animals don't seem to get particularly bloated when it rains, so therefore the rain must not be seeping into them like it's seeping onto my feet. And then I figured out why.

Cows don't have seams.

Yes, this really was how I thought my way through this question....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paneer and Pier 1

So after a yummy lunch of Indian food, a friend and I mosied across the parking lot to Pier 1. It's a fascinating store. First, they're totally ready for Christmas already. There are ornaments of every shape and size, and if you don't have a tree to put ornaments on, there are lots of different kinds of bowls and baskets. I picked up one bowl that seemed to be made of banana leaves, or something equally organic. It was actually very cool looking and the tag, while not letting us know what the material was, let us know that it was a "Havana Bowl". So I figured the banana leaf possibility might not be so far off, assuming they grow bananas in Cuba. Upon turning over the tag, we were compelled to ask ourselves another question. Do they grow bananas in Vietnam, where the bowl was actually made?

And then we saw the pyrite wreath. It was made of metal wires, and covered with little clear crystals and pieces of metal that someone probably thought looked like pyrite, but it really didn't. I would have to call that a post-denominational wreath...

Oh, and while walking across the short parking lot, we noticed a car whose license plate was sponsored by the National Association of Black Scuba Diver's. (see, I even looked up their website to make sure I got the name correct!) I don't scuba dive, but I watch tv, and it seems to me that whenever you see people scuba-diving, they've got a wetsuit, tank and mask on. Who can tell if you're black or white?! That said, I did look at the website now, and I'm still not 100% sure I get it, but they look like nice people...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is this weird?

Ronnie and I were on the phone with my parents tonight, and Ronnie mentioned that he'd hurt his toe. Is it weird that my mom asked "did you hurt it kicking your wife?" ?

I mean, I think it's weird that Ronnie made an appointment to see a podiatrist in Chicago and not somewhere a little more convenient to where we live, but in case there's any question (from someone other than my mother), it didn't happen from any violent interaction between me and Ronnie....

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I got back from Chicago on Monday morning, and then spent the last two days in Philadelphia. And I'm headed back to Chicago this weekend through next Wednesday. It's enough already!

Philly and the next Chicago trip (and the LA trip a week and a half) after that are all for staff training. And on the drive back from Philly today, I started reading all of the evaluations. Most of them were pretty good, and people actually took the time to write things out, so that's good in and of itself. I can't remember the whole exact phrase written by one participant, but the bottom line was "Andrea was rude and condescending." Whatever.

This was someone who came up to me after the first session of the day and said that she hadn't checked out of the hotel. Why? Because she hadn't looked at the schedule and didn't know that we weren't going back any time during the day. Her flight wasn't until 7:45pm, so she figured she could just leave everything there. She said most check-out times weren't until at least noon. I told her I had no idea what time check-out was and suggested that she go back and check out as soon as possible. So she thinks I'm rude and condescending? I'm ok with that.

Strangely enough, she also said good things about one of the sessions I led, so I give her credit for not letting her negative feelings toward me cloud her ability to learn from me. Maybe she can also learn to read the conference schedule next time....

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Chicago Marathon

I was not one of the 44,000 runners in this year's Chicago Marathon that took place yesterday in Chicago. I was traveling to and from Chicago with most of them though. In line, waiting for my flight, the conversation was about running - training runs, what to eat, breaking in new shoes, running 1/2 marathons, how to best recover, how to find a hotel close to the start of the race, how to get back to the hotel after the race, and how in your first marathon you really don't notice the first 13 miles because you're just so excited. So this conversation is taking place all around me and I felt like I was in an movie with the camera circling the conversation and going around and around and around.

And then I said, I'm not going for the marathon, but I've got to just ask you all a question. I asked, "So you're not late for anything, and no one is chasing you, but you're still running?" There was a very, long, extenuated pause while they looked at me like I was from another planet. They quietly said, "uh huh", moved a little farther away, and continued their conversation using their "inside voices" so the other non-runners (maybe two other people?) wouldn't interrupt.

And this morning on the way back to DC - once again, all the runners. But this time they didn't look so excited! There was a mass of humanity trying to get through security at Midway. And yet the people you saw running for their flights were the ones running for appropriate reasons - - because they were late for something! .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Terry Pratchett and the Scrambled Egg Taco

A few weeks ago I saw that Terry Pratchett, an author I like, was coming to speak at the local Borders tonight. The books are fairly creative and very funny, and I wanted to see what he was like in person. So I went and found out that in person, he is very creative and very funny. The audience appeared to be a mix of children and Star Trek fans (sans uniforms). And it was packed. I got there at 7:00 when it was supposed to start, and it was clear that some folks had been there for an hour already, jostling for prime seats and floor space. In the mean time, all these folks paid a lot of money for his new book (and his signature), and I've got it on hold waiting for me to pick up tomorrow at the library. Ok, it won't have his signature in it, but my guess is that the words are all in the same order.

I was pretty hungry when I got home. We had one tortilla left and I thought I would make scrambled eggs and make an egg burrito. I didn't pay attention to the fact that I'd bought small tortillas, and the last one in the bag was the runt of the litter. And I made too many scrambled eggs. I realize that there are many times in life where that is an oxymoron, but in this case, it was not. The tortilla didn't come close to closing, and I wound up with a sort of scrambled egg soft tortilla. I supposed I could have left some of the eggs out and had an egg tortilla with a side of eggs. But at the time, I just didn't think of that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My new bicycle!

Well, this is the new bike. A little retro, rides well (so far) and while you can't see it in the picture, it's got a loud bell, too. Thanks Stanley Abramowitz for helping me figure out what to get!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My name is...

I was out tonight, sat down with a book, looked up, and said, "Hi Christine." I'd never seen Christine before, and she'd never seen me, resulting in a puzzled look on her face when I greeted her. She politely replied "hello", but it was really more of a question. I then mentioned that she was still wearing a nametag. She was clearly at some conference or business meeting (it wasn't a sticky "Hello my name is..." tag) and in big printed letters her badge read "Christine".

She looked down, looked a little embarrassed and said, "I can't believe they let me walk out with that!". And then, she sat down and drank her coffee. And left her name tag on.

Friends came to join her, she got up to get more coffee, they chatted the night away, and everyone knew her name. I guess maybe she really was that friendly....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Ringing in My Ears

It's not just busy season at work, it's high busy season. So I have spent at least 7 hours a day for the past three days on the phone. And mainly I've been listening and not talking. It's easier to get email done that way. (I'm a good multi-tasker, but even I'm not that good.)

So when the phone rang tonight and it was a friend I hadn't spoken with in a while, I figured I should answer the phone. That was a mistake. Both ears need access to more air than they've been getting with a phone pressed up against them all the time and I'm afraid my neck will be permanently askew from holding the phone between my shoulder and my ear. You know, the same way we were told as kids that your face would stay pouty forever if you didn't stop pouting right away.

And I don't think a headset is the answer. Then the voice on the phone will have to compete with the ones in my head. You know, the ones that are telling me, "what you should really say to this bozo is...." It's a toss up which voice would win.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Black, White and Blue

Well, tonight was another painting class. We got to use black, white and one tone. I chose blue. We could mix the three any way we wanted. The teacher set up a still life and wanted us to paint it. Yeah right.

But first, she showed us some slides of some famous paintings. I couldn't tell you now who painted them, but she did talk about the fauvists and the surrealists. I asked if they ever teamed up against each other in a game of flag football, or three-on-three basketball.

She didn't get it. When I asked if it was more like rival gangs, she got it, but didn't think it was funny.

After the slides, she talked a little about color theory and the triads. I figured out that she wasn't talking about the street gangs in Tokyo (but maybe their called the Tong?) and one person (Cathy) was asking a lot of really basic questions. When she was finally done explaining it all, Cathy asked, "should we care about this?" It was a classic question. She was naming some of the colors in some of the triads, and she got to ochre and umber. Then it was my turn for a classic question. "What color is ochre"? Evidently is sort of like yellow.

Back to the still life...

The scene was set with two black boxes, a brown bowling pin, a small blue and white pitcher and a marbled bust of George Washington on one, and a "castle" made of cardboard on the other. There were two green wine bottles in front. It was all sitting on some of the ugliest striped fabric you've ever seen. It was good that we were only allowed to use one tone because had we had to more accurately reflect the colors, it would have been grounds for tuition reimbursement.

She said we should first draw the picture on our gessoed paper. Here's the thing. I can't really draw. And I didn't have a pencil. I still managed to do relatively good quick abstract sketch of the scene, which, if you were looking at the table and then glanced quickly at my sheet, you might be able to see a remote, passing resemblance. Like the boxes, the bowling pin and the bottles. I claimed presidential blindness and excluded George Washington from my painting.

Painting was a whole different story. I learned several things tonight.
1. If you need to fill in a lot of space with one color, you should mix enough at the beginning so you have enough for the whole space.
2. Black, white and blue mixed together looks different than white, blue, and black mixed together (see above)
3. It takes a lot of white to lighten up a mush of black and bruise (a color I like to call bruise).
4. I really glad I'm using acrylics and not oils.
5. If you focus on one thing and draw it really big on the page, you don't have to deal with the rest of the stuff on the table. It's sort of like being in high school and triple spacing papers with 2" margins on all sides.
6. Retarder doesn't just make the paint stay wet longer, it makes you paint more slowly.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Did I mention...?

That my little community college non-credit art class had homework? And that I figured out why the classes are reasonably priced?

Why are they affordable? Because they have to be in order for students to be able to pay for all of the materials! A few weeks ago, Ronnie went to pick up a materials list for me. And I went out and bought all manners of paints in colors whose names I can't pronounce, papers, gesso (why this can't be pronounced with a hard 'g' is beyond me), brushes, a plastic palette, a palette knife and a few other items on the list. And the first day at class, the teacher tells us that she has a new materials list, most of which is similar enough to the one nearly all of us picked up in advance, but not quite. But in addition to bigger paper, she wanted us to buy retarder. I just think there should be a different word for it.

And I haven't done my homework yet, which was to paint a color wheel and then tint and shade the colors. Maybe tomorrow.

But today, since there were coupons in the paper yesterday for Michael's (the craft store), I figured I'd start there to see if they had the additional supplies. I figured even if things were a little more expensive, my 40% off coupon should balance things out a bit.

But here's the thing about Michael's, you can get lost in there. This is where people with multiple personality disorders lose their time. Seriously. I knew exactly what I was looking for. And yet, an hour later, I walked out with one item, but realized I was now familiar with silk flower arranging, make-your-own candle supplies, and all matters of Halloween crafts. And yet all I bought was a $.69 2" paint brush to gesso (don't forget the soft 'g'!) the big paper I still had to go buy!

Real art stores are more intimidating than craft stores, but the staff are much friendlier. Or maybe it's my look of complete ignorance that send people my way before I mess things up too much....

Invited Guests

Pre-packaged temporary booths have sprung up in nearly all the flat driveways and backyard decks all over the neighborhood. Some have walls of blue tarp, and others are clearly older, with faded blue or yellow cloth. Like the pumpkin and Christmas tree sales that seem to pop in parking lots all over town a few weeks before their respective seasons, one would think that the same could happen in our neighborhood selling bamboo (or bamboo mats), lights, and other sundry decorations.

I've heard of more than just a few people who use Home Depot as their supply store rathe than the "Sukkah Store" in New York. A few PVC pipes, blue tarps, and some 5 gallon buckets of sand and you can have a beach party afterwards.

Last night I went to someone house for dinner. They have a new sukkah that had paneling. And a florescent shop light rigged up in addition to the Christmas lights. And their ushpizim (the "official" invited guests) were reprented by small stuffed muppets sitting precariously on the wall (well, technically sitting on an unused piece of wall that was leaning against the wall). I believe that last night's official guest was represented by the French Chef.

They had us introduce ourselves and in doing so, we had to name someone we would invite to the Sukkah from Jewish history. Those named covered a fairly wide range - Moses, Leah, Ruth, Ben Gurion, Shabtai Tzvi and Jesus. Someone named a musician (but I can't remember who it was), and there were a few random rabbis named who I've never heard of. The last person to introduce themselves is a legislative assistant and thought Senator George Allen would be a good person to invite since he's probably never celebrated Sukkot before. Someone invited their grandmother, which might have been part of her personal history, but the rest of us had never heard of her. I thought about inviting Ben Gurion's wife (even before he was invited) because I'm curious why she fed him food that he hated everyday. (Go to the museum in Sde Boker and read the story, or I'm sure it's google-able).

Among those not invited: Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfeld, Nachson, Rashi (although Toby thought about inviting him, but a miss is as good as a mile, in this case), and Columbus (because wouldn't be interesting to finally know for sure?).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Paint by numbers

I'm taking an intro to painting class at the local community college. This week, we were allowed to use only two colors. Black and white. We practiced tinting and shading. And we got a whole vocabulary list. We don't have to learn it all, but some of us now know the definition of tinting and shading. At somepoint in the end, a few of us rebelled and used a tone (i.e. not black or white). I chose blue. The other person in the class (other than me) who also knew nothing about painting chose red. What I learned, was that when you shade blue, it looks like a bruise. And it's easier to tint blue than it is to tint black. I'm not really sure how that is or why it is, and the teacher didn't try to explain it. Of course, unless she's a mind reader, she wouldn't have known that I was curious about that, since I didn't actually ask her.

She told us that next week we're going to be painting a one-tone (plus black and white) still life. And she says that it involves drawing before you paint. I can't draw. And she didn't laugh when I asked if that meant it would be ok if it was a more abstract rendering.

Did I mention that she gave us homework?!

Monday, October 02, 2006

No ransom needed!

Well, I spent the Day of Atonement at Chabad, and I'm pleased to say that this encounter with Chabad did not lead to a kidnapping. It may be because I didn't get into a car with the rabbi, but either way, I was pleased to move about on my own free will. (If this makes no sense to you, go back to early June entries.)

A few thoughts on the service. First, it was nice. They say every single word there is to be said in the machzor (prayerbook), but they only say it once, so it goes pretty quickly, except for Avinu Malkeinu, which they sing like everyone else does. And there were a few places, like the kaddish (all varieties) that I noticed extra words, usually about the coming of the Messiah (speedily and in our days, Amen). There was no choir, and there was no general flourishment in the singing. The mechitza (separation) was a sort of sheer curtain and a bunch of silk plants - not too horrible as far as these things go. The rabbi was pretty good and spoke well and I wouldn't be able to say that he gave a sermon per se, but it wasn't a d'var torah either.

Since I've been at Bet Mishpachah (the LGBT synagogue) for the last few years of holidays, there were definitely some big differences. First, the Torah reading in the afternoon was not something that was read at Bet Mish. It's the part of Leviticus that talks about "man shall not lie with another man..." And then, while we were singing Avinu Malkeinu, I realized that I've become accustomed to the next line being "Imeinu Shechinateinu", which I kind of like, but which was clearly absent here. Lastly, there's a whole litany of things (the "ashamnu" paragraph) of ways that we've sinned over the past year. At Bet Mish, in addition to this, they also sing a paragraph of good stuff (the "ahavnu" paragraph) to a tune that one of their members wrote. I'm not sure what the right mix of Chabad and Bet Mish could be....

Last night on the way home we were coming down the main street (not ours) only to be blocked by 4 firetrucks and the remnants of a burned out house. The house was still standing, but anything inside looked charred. We think the family left candles burning when they went to Kol Nidre, and came back to the fire, or the aftermath. There weren't any ambulances, so we think that (hopefully) no one was hurt. Of course, when we came home we could see through the front window that our candles were still burning. This morning, you could still smell the fire near their house.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blogging for the Big Book

On most of the other Jewish blogs I've seen, this week has been full of profound thoughts, apologies to neighbors, and reflections on the year. I can only assume that this is how they've spent their time outside of blogging as well.

Me, not so much on the reflection or deep thoughts. Or apologies to neighbors. Last night, with just a little too much time on my hands, I applied to be a staff person on a birthright trip (sorry, a Taglit-birthright israel trip) run by another organizer. I know them well, but I admit to being only a little frightened that someone I didn't know (and who didn't know me) might see the application before the people I do know.

I got a response already this morning. From the person I know. He said that my ideas on celebrating Shabbat in a pluralistic community were creative but that he didn't think they would be able to implement any of them this winter. For example, I suggested re-examining the notion that Shabbat must be celebrated beginning Friday night. I think that starting with a few hours on Tuesday, finding a bit of Torah reading on Thursday, and finishing up with some time on Saturday was a way of integrating the concept of Shabbat into daily life. Evidently that's just not what it's about.

He ended his response wishing me lots of luck in getting my name put in the big book. I told him I forgave him and hoped to see his name there as well. The way I see it, I should probably figure out where I'm going to services before I can expect to see my name anywhere!

Lest you think that just because I'm practicing a more active secular Judaism that I don't think about Jewish things, I did have a Jewish question just this morning. I was talking to a friend about Jonah (you know, the guy who got swallowed by the whale). Jonah is read in the afternoon service of Yom Kippur. Why is it that the only person who gets to eat on YK is the whale? This is how I'm going to spend my day tomorrow - trying to answer this question.

If you've got answers, let me know. If you're fasting, I hope it's an easy one. If you're not, I hope it's worth it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

10 days of sleepiness

Usually, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I try and stop drinking coffee in preparation for fasting and doing without 20 oz of caffeine each morning. There are a lot of us out there who do this, or so I've heard, and you would think that giving up coffee for a mere 10 days wouldn't be difficult.

And it's not, except that it's part of my daily routine, and it's the changing of the routine that's more difficult than giving up the actual coffee. I know, I could get decaf, but somehow I'm convinced that it won't taste as good.

This afternoon I decided to switch to Crystal Light Raspberry Ice. There is absolutely no danger of that becoming a routine. The water at work isn't really cold enough to make this taste anything better than something with just slightly more flavor than water (there's probably a good Navaho word for that).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Big Mexican Mess

This was my dinner tonight, not a reference to any border issues. Although it could easily refer to the severe water shortages faced by residents of Mexico City. But it doesn't. Really, I was just trying to get rid of some of the stuff in the cabinets. If that's the only criteria, I was fairly successful.

One box of instant black beans, one jar of diced tomatos, one can of green chilis, one can of fake meat from the Seventh Day Adventist store, an onion (not from the cabinet) and some cheese (also not from the cabinet). Layer it, leave it in the oven for a while. Eat. It was tastier than I expected, which is good, because there's a lot left.

I wonder how it would taste with a fried egg on top.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

sleep talking

Ronnie and I were in Chicago this past weekend, and at some point, Ronnie was exhausted and crawled into the back seat of our rental car and fell fast asleep. We couldn't get into the house where we were staying, so I just drove aimlessly around. And it was raining really, really hard -the kind of rain that is loud. Very, very loud.

So I'm driving along in the driving rain and at some point I hear Ronnie mumble something from the back seat. But the rain is loud, and he's got his face planted in the seat so I ask him to repeat himself. And I hear a bit more clearly "When did you realize I was a maverick?" But again, it's really, really loud, so I said, "What?" And he says, "When did you realize I was a maverick?" And at this point I realize he's talking in his sleep, and so I answer "tomorrow", because he's asleep, right?

10 minutes later, I hear a mumbling, and I ask, "what?" And Ronnie asks, "Who needs 24 hour guards?" But the rain is still loud, and his face is still planted in the seat so I ask again, "what?" And he replies "Who needs 24 hour guards?" And I reply, "like the president?", and he says, "yeah, like the president." and before I know it, he's snoring again.

I was laughing so hard I couldn't believe he didn't wake up. There were other musings of his that I caught about veal, and Russian rooms and I'm not even sure what else. Later, he claimed that when I answered "tomorrow", he thought it was a little obnoxious of me, but I'm not convinced that he even heard my answer....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lunch Pt. Deux

Every few days, I bring a bag of sundry food items to eat over the course of a week for lunch. Among the mix are often Boca Burgers, yogurts, and hard-boiled eggs. And of course, there are always the TastyBites. A new order just arrived this week, which is pretty exciting in and of itself. But it's not relevant to my story today.

Today, being Friday, I figured I should eat the hard-boiled eggs that I brought earlier so they didn't continue to sit in the fridge over the weekend and until I get back on Tuesday. They were in a CVS bag, and since the bag also contained other foods that I'd brought from home, I did not worry that I was eating someone else's lunch.

The eggs were in a ziplock bag, which I just always think is better than having the eggs start cracking with other food around and who knows what will get in them. Well, it turns out my foresight in this matter, although misplaced, was a good idea.

I took the baggie out of the fridge and lightly knocked it into a wall, figuring I'd begin the "cracking of the eggs" process before I got to my desk. Really just more for amusement than any other functionality. If you saw the floor around my desk, you'd be able to tell that I usually wait until I get to my desk and then don't do a very good job of getting all the peels into the garbage. I figure it's like urban composting.

But I digress. So the bag knocks lightly into the wall, and I see a larger crack in the egg than I expected. And I realize the yolk looks more yellow (is yellower a word) than I expected. And I see nothing that resembles an egg white that has been previously boiled. And I realize that they eggs are raw.

Yes, RAW!

So now you're probably thinking that I took them from the wrong carton in the fridge, rather than the one that is carfully marked "HB" with a little smiley face drawn into the picture of the egg. But you'd be thinking incorrectly. I took eggs that had been sitting next to the butter dish in the door of the fridge, exactly where one might think hard-boiled eggs would be put if there was no room in the carton. And because WHY WOULD RAW EGGS NOT BE IN A CARTON?!

Needless to say, Ronaldo has some 'splaining to do!

Christine and Ann thought the whole thing was pretty funny. What would have made it better, is if they'd been someone elses....

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Chicken Soup

There was too much laughter at work today. My face hurts.

Ann told Christine that she could eat the chicken soup she brought that was in a Safeway bag in the fridge. So Christine went to the fridge, got out the Safeway bag, put the container in the microwave and ate the soup. She rinsed out the container and gave it back to Ann. While I wasn't present at this particular moment, I'm guessing that she also thanked her for the soup.

As it turns out, the next thing that Ann said was, "That's not my container." A very, very funny exchange then occured as Ann tried to explain that while Christine may have taken a container of soup out of a Safeway bag from the fridge, it was the wrong bag and definitely the wrong soup. Plus, as it turns out, Christine was wondering why there were lentils but no chicken in the soup, but she was too polite to ask Ann.

After it was determined that Ann's soup was still safely contained in a Safeway bag in the refrigerator, the question became: Whose soup was consumed by Christine. The thing is, all the rest of us heard was Ann and Christine laughing, and when we went to see what was happening, all we could see was Ann crying because she was laughing so hard. Which caused us to laugh, even though we had no idea yet what was happening. We just saw tears, a Safeway bag, and a clean soup container.

There were no takers for the container. Not everyone was in the office today, so we figured maybe it wasn't quite the mystery we thought, even though we still had no answers.

Which meant it was time for me to enter the picture. I went up to the 7th floor and got Wayne (our new President) to come down and ask if anyone had seen his soup. It was missing from the fridge....

He's not the greatest actor in the world, so Christine immediately smelled a plot against her. But since no one ever suspects me (I have NO idea why not), she thought it must be Aryeh, my boss. Ann was just glad she wasn't blamed (as she usually is for my hijinx).

In the end, the container belonged to Mimi and had been there for two weeks. It's now several hours later and Christine is not yet doubled over in pain, so we think she'll be ok....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Do we think it's problematic that my new favorite thing to do at my desk is click the refresh button on my web browser? When I'm on the phone, waiting for whatever web search I'm doing to load or just avoiding things that I'd rather have on next week's to do list, I have become obsessive about clicking that damn button on our birthright stats page.

Really, it's classical conditioning gone mad, because either I am rewarded everytime by higher numbers (instant gratification), or I have to wait a few "refreshes" before I get a new, higher number (I don't exactly remember the official term for this, but basically, you click even more if you don't know if you're going to be rewarded or not). I feel like a lab rat.

And because I'm feeling ratty, I just ate a piece of cheese. We actually have a big hunk of swiss in the fridge (which somehow I think you always see at the end of the mazes), but I went for the handier mozzarella string cheese instead. Now if I could only find a maze.

Gotta go. I need to see if the numbers have gone up.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shiritaki - it's not just another noodle in Tokyo

Have I written about these yet? If so, they're worth more blog-time. These things are great - low calorie, low carb, lots of fiber, and, once you get rid of the smell and add sauce, really tasty. I realize that mentioning that they have a smell doesn't sound so good, but you rinse them off, boil them for 2-3 minutes, and you're good to go. You can get them at Trader Joe's (in the refrigerated section), and probably at Whole foods and places like that. You can also get them at the good Asian groceries, but they you just sort of have to guess that you're actually buying the right thing.

And, they're really filling (that would go with the lots of fiber part, probably). And if you rinse them while the water is boiling, it takes a total of about 6 minutes to make a really good dinner, assuming you don't bother with salad.

To Ayala Karsh

I think that you can rent houses/apartments on Kibbutz Usha these days, but I wouldn't know who to recommend that you speak with there. The kibbutz is changing, and I also don't know if they are continuing to accept new members....

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Faux Rosh Hashanah

The new television season has begun! Survivor began last Thursday, and The Amazing Race (TAR) began tonight. The new year, it's not just about a new moon, it's also about new tv. Aaron Sorkin is back (tomorrow night), and I have to wait until October for Lost, but I think it will be worth it....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Elul 23

I'm frustrated. I've known this for a while, but Elul 23, a date on the Hebrew calendar, this year falls on September 16th. This means, that in effect, I really have no Chol HaMoed birthday this year. My "solar" birthday was yesterday, and today is the "lunar". There's no time in between, and frankly, it's just not fair. Sometimes, there are three whole weeks in-between! Think of Sukkot - you don't have to work on the actually holidays (the first and last days), but in between, you have to work, but you still get to do a bit of the holiday in there too. Every 19 years the two dates fall on the same actual day, but I've got another few years before that happens again. Maybe I should put it in my calendar....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Double Whammy

Two things happened today.

The first - I wore real (long) pants for the first time since early May. It was a bit of a shock to the system after so much time. My calves were a bit confused to be out of the fresh air but I think they'll survive. I actually brought a pair of pants with me to Israel this summer, but put them on once, decided I was crazy, and immediately changed back into capris. That presented a different problem because I hate having packed something I wasn't going to wear. I also wore dark socks today, which I also haven't done in many, many months. I'm not ready for fall.

The other was that it became official that we've been here in DC for five years. It's really been five years and 2.5 months, but it was getting my driver's license renewed that made it hit home. You would have thought it was all the 9/11 anniversary stuff, but it wasn't. And there hasn't been much about the 5th anniversary of the anthrax problem the Hurricane that cut out our power for a week or the sniper. So it was the license that made things real.

A few observations: First, my new license has a picture of a crab on it. I realize that we're living in Maryland, but it's not right for a nice Jewish girl to have a crab on her primary state identification. Or maybe they were commenting on my personality? But I digress....

Thankfully, Ronnie stopped by the eye doctor's office yesterday and got her to sign a form of some sort that allowed me to avoid the eye test at the DMV (actually the MVA, but whatever). I barely pass those tests as it is (but I do), and the eye doctor specifically told me to have her sign the form since if I didn't pass, glasses weren't going to improve my driving.

So I didn't have to take the eye test, but I was sitting in front of the little machine. And there's a small pad of paper, maybe 1" x 2" in between the two lenses. It's actually where your forehead rests when you take the test, and presumably when you're done, you take your little piece of paper and it's ready for the next person to put their forehead against. But how do you know if the last person took their piece of paper? And really, if I had to take the eye test, I'd rather have something protecting my eyes from whatever is in other people's eyes than worry about getting someone else's makeup on my forehead - although that is really gross too.

I'm going through the information the DMV guy, yes, the address is correct, yes, I'm an organ donor, yes, I'm registered to vote. And then he asks if my height and weight are correct or if they need to be changed. So I asked if he could add 2 or 3 inches to my height. He was not as amused as he should have been. Really, did he expect me to change my height? Does anyone? Seriously - do you think that anyone over the age of 25 has ever walked in and changed their height on their driver's license? Ridiculous!

There was a woman in front of me in line who had long blond (peroxided, and not well) hair and was wearing a baby blue track suit. She had purple eye shadow and purple mascara. I'm pretty sure that the pictures are too small to pick any of that up, but I give her credit for trying....

Monday, September 11, 2006


At 9:59pm last night, I was feeling fine. At 10:00pm, I could tell I was about to get a cold. It's as if a switch went off somewhere in the universal substation that said, "it's now time for Andrea to be sick".

A co-worker today suggested that it could be divine retribution for my last blog entry.

The security guard at work strongly suggested that I not make my regular coffee run in the morning (note: my coffee run does not include actual "running") and instead he thought I should just get some tea. I just didn't tell him that I was already planning to do that and let him think that I was taking his advice. I also mentioned that I was going to get some oatmeal, and he thought I said opium. Is that what he thinks of me?! We both laughed, but then I started hacking....

It's just not pretty.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fall, 1978

Last weekend, I got a call from my mother (yes, mom, I know you're reading this). It went something like this:

"Andrea, you know how kids used to have separate kids parties for their bar/bat mitzvahs?"
"Yes, but they don't really do that anymore".
"Yes, I know, but I can't remember your party at all. Did you have one?"
"What kind of party did you have?"
"Ice skating."
"Where was it?"
"Probably at the Creve Coeur rink - that's where we used to go skating."
"Creve Coeur? Are you sure it wasn't at the Olivette Rink on Warson?"
"I'm pretty sure I've never been to the Olivette Rink."
"Well, do you remember what we served?"
"I don't know, probably pizza."
"The only time I remember having pizza for a party was at your sweet sixteen. Are you sure there was pizza?"
"Do you remember who was at the party?"
"Well, I remember Beth Ferrell because she was a ballet dancer and a pretty good skater."
"Do you remember anyone else?"
[unspoken -"I could list my sunday school class"]
[actually said] "No."
"Well, if you remember anything else, call me. I just can't remember anything about it".

At which point, I promptly decided that my mother can use all the gray matter she wants trying to remember this party, but I've got my brain scheduled for other tasks through 2010.

And later I received this email:
Andrea, Please give the subject of your Bat Mitzvah party for your friends a bit more thought. Your Dad doesn't remember ever having been inside the CC ice-skating rink and I don't remember your having a party there, sending invitations, buying refreshments, etc. This is DRIVING me CRAZY! (as only important things like this can....)

I'm pretty sure the party was the next weekend after your Bat Mitzvah. That's ALL - I keep drawing blanks - and even though you generally have an excellent memory - I 'think' it might be faulty here. If you come up with any other hints or clues, please let me know.

Thanks, Mom

I remember what kind of party I had, what kind of food (probably), where it was, and even an attendee but my mother thinks my memory may be faulty because she remembers only that it was probably the weekend after my Bat Mitzvah? What am I missing here?

But wait - the quest for details has not yet ended.

Nearly a week later, this Friday night, I was speaking with my parents when my mother says, "Andrea, have you given any more thought to your Bat Mitzvah party? I can't find the invitations, or pictures, or remember anything else. I found the invitations for your brother's party, but not yours." (Now at this point, I decided it was not appropriate to ask why she had saved the invitations from Benjamin's bar mitzvah but never got any of the pictures actually printed.)

Here's what I know, the details of these two conversations and the email are going to be seared on my memory far longer now than the fading images from my ice skating party at the Creve Coeur rink where we served pizza (maybe) and Beth Ferrell skated perfect pirouettes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's official!

I'm done traveling this month! I have no more planned trips until October, and then it gets crazy again. How do people do it who travel all the time? Like flight attendants? Or train conductors? Or air marshals?

I looked for the air marshals on my last few flights (like the three I took in 36 hours of Tuesday/Wednesday). It's like an adult version of Where's Waldo. I couldn't find them. And on my flight last night, there were probably only 15 people on the whole flight. You'd think that they'd be sitting somewhere up front, and on the aisle. I still didn't see anyone who looked awake enough to care.

Yesterday morning, some guy got on the plane with a cup of coffee. I didn't say anything, but I wish I'd been able to take my coffee on. So he walked by security, he walked by the person taking the boarding passes, and he walked by the flight attendants who say hello as you get on the plane. And he sat down in the row behind me. Right before we pushed back, a flight attendant said to him "you're not supposed to bring drinks on the plane". He said, "really?" She said, "Where have you been the last three weeks?"

It could be because I've been on 6 flights in the last two weeks, or just because I watch the news, but who didn't know you couldn't bring drinks on a plane?! And why did it take a fourth set of eyes to see it (not including mine)? I did bring toothpaste in my carry-on the other day and no one noticed.

The whole security thing is ridiculous. What can you hid in flip flops? And the floors walking through the metal detectors are gross. But yesterday morning I got to walk through one of the machines that puffs air at you to detect drug residue. I had been having such a good hair day before that....

And just for the record, the Southwest Airlines magazine is excellent. The USAir magazine, not so much. And I like the XM radio that ATA has. It means you don't have to talk to the people next to you unless you really, really want to, which is not so often.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Pretty much every day, I wear sandals. For the past year, up until about 2 weeks ago, I wore a pair of Naot that I'd purchased the year before. I think I wore them every single day unless it was snowing or the dead of winter and just cold. They haven't quite died, but it's clear that they're on their last legs, so to speak. In case you're wondering if I'm not going barefoot. I'm now enjoying the other pair, identical to the first pair, that was purchased at the same time (ok, a day later, but it's basically the same).

And in the winter, I wear my clogs. Even when it's snowy. Which is sometimes a problem.

But tomorrow I have to go to New York for meetings. Meetings in which my sandals, as new and shiny as they are, are not appropriate. And lo and behold, I find that I really have no other appropriate shoeing. I own a really nice pair of boots, some elf shoes (they're not green with pointy toes, but they're sort of low boots that make me think of elves, I'm not sure why), and a lot of clogs. None of which are wooden, in case you were wondering.

So tonight I made a mad dash to the mall. I learned two things. One, I don't really like wearing "real" shoes. Two, shoes that are really inexpensive (think Payless and Target) aren't so comfortable. Three, it just doesn't make sense for me to buy expensive shoes since I'm just going to go back to wearing sandals and clogs. Four, "why?" (or "why not") is not the natural response to item three.

And in the end, I discovered a really old pair of shoes in my closet that haven't been worn in years that fit, are comfortable, and will be fine for tomorrow, before they are put away and forgotten for another few years.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Modge Podge is magic

Take one old coffee table, replete with stains and bubbling veneer, two pieces of beautiful hand-made paper, two paint brushes and one jar of Modge Podge and what do you get? Magic. Total transformation. And I learned a new rule - always experiment one someone else's furniture. This adventure happened to turn out for the best, but it could have easily been a bust. The other success factor - two people working on the project (hence the need for 2 brushes), and one person making dinner. Just to be clear, it would have worked just as well with three of us on the project, if there had been a fourth making dinner....

Saturday, September 02, 2006

it's been a century...

This is my 100th post. I'm not sure that anyone's written a ceremony for this type of milestone, but I think my cousin Steven ( also noted his 100th post, so maybe a simple notation is the tradition.

There's only a little new, and even it isn't so new...

Way back, I think I mentioned that the tenant in our Milwaukee house had stopped paying rent. She's out of there now (as of Aug. 1), and we put the whole matter to small claims court (for rent and damages). We're not done with court yet, but in the meantime, she got a letter when she moved out saying that she would owe us a sizable sum of money. She called the house manager and offered to set up a payment plan. Seems like a good sign (except that this didn't work with rent collection), but her terms were a little unreasonable. Why? She wanted to pay $10 a month. At that rate, we figure it will take her nearly 500 years, if not more, without including interest, to pay us.

Other random sightings: I saw a woman yesterday so tightly shoved into a pair of jeans that she could barely put one leg in front of the other. Literally, it was as if she was turning her whole body to the side in order to propel a leg forward. And then the same on the other side. Needless to say, it wasn't a good look for her. (and neither were the big tatoos on either arm, but that's for a different day.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Long time, no writing

It's not that I've been at a loss for inspiration, I just haven't been inspired to write. Among the inspirational things:
  • sample(s) of chocolate covered carmel corn at Marvelous Market (break open a bag, steal one, beg them to give you a sample - this stuff is amazing, but too expensive to actually buy. That, and there's more sugar in one piece than a small nation should eat in a day)
  • grilled cheese soup at camp last week (really not so remarkable but for the fact that they were not also accompanied by fish sticks)
  • Julia Alvarez's most recent novel, Saving the World (excellent)
  • Dennis including a poem in the all-office email reminding us that the summer dress code is changing back to the winter dress code (this makes no difference to me whatsoever)
  • the dog that I see by the metro every so often that has spots meant for a Holstein cow
  • not being able to decide whether to get a cold fountain drink or hot coffee at the gas station/convenience store and deciding to get both (And then there was a question of whether to go with cubed ice or crushed....)

This is just a small sampling. It clearly doesn't take too much to inspire me. Actually writing is a different story.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Blogger Break

Camp Ramah (Darom) here I come. Little, if any cell phone reception, Unreliable internet and mosquitos the size of your head - what more could I ask for other than a week in Clayton, Georgia?

In case you were thinking that Clayton just a small town nearly three hours from the closest major city, you'd be correct. Which means, it's gonna be a long day!

And did I mention that I have 58 small alarm clocks in my luggage that we're giving to staff? TSA is going to have a field day.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shimba Hills

is a new coffee shop by our office attached to the Verizon Center (nee MCI Center). I'm not sure when they finally opened, but I decided that this morning would be a good time to finally see how their coffee is. It's good, but not something I would go to everyday (maybe just Fridays).

Here's what I don't get. They've got all sorts of coffee (including something called a "Red Eye" that's a shot of espresso in a regular cup of coffee), and some breakfast pastries, and... wait for it.... gelato. I could understand this if they were trying to create an ambiance of an Italian cafe (of course I have no idea whether Italian cafes also serve gelato, but I'm thinking they're both Italian, so maybe), but they're not. If they were, I would expect pictures of fountains on the walls, maybe an Italian chocolate bar being sold, or at least Torani flavorings for their drinks.

I see no problem with people eating gelato and drinking coffee, but I believe this is why Baskin-Robbins doesn't brew coffee - not many people drink coffee and eat ice cream at the same time. Or I just don't think it happens so often, and especially not at the Verizon Center. I can't see taking in a basketball game, and then having gelato. Or seeing a monster truck show, and then getting a latte.

I will be going back to try a Red Eye at some point though (but not with a side of gelato!)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Aaron Sorkin and my family

I am fairly certain that Aaron Sorkin learned his writing style by listening to conversations within my family. This thought occurred to me a few weeks ago in St. Louis, and then again yesterday in Wilmington. It was banter par excellence - all fast, all about random, non-essential topics, and mostly going nowhere. And then someone new would enter and the entire conversation would repeat itself. Plus, sometimes, there were two cross conversations happening in this same fashion, only at some point, the topics and participants would switch. It was all really fascinating, actually. And I think the hallmark of it all, is that afterwards, you can't remember a damn thing that was said.

My Uncle Jake wanted to know if I'd write about my visit. Here goes: he was a gracious host, offering us cashews and 15 month-old dark chocolate M & Ms. He didn't make too much fun of me for drinking a Diet Pepsi slurpy (not so easy to find, by the way) and he offered to make Rebecca an egg sandwich (even though she did it herself in the end). And he also took us out to dinner, which was very nice. (It took some convincing, but he finally let me take care of the tax on the bill.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I've spent the last week recovering from finally watching Lost and getting back to Television Without Pity. Mimi told me that the Dharma food is manufactured by Widemore Industries. And thank you to whoever told me it was Portuguese. And I also learned that Kelvin, the man that turned Sayid into a torturer, was also the guy in the hatch with Desmond. And....

I've heard, from several sources this past week, opinions which suggest I spend too much time blogging about bathrooms. And yet, you still read, and so I will continue to write about them, when appropriate.

Wedding Crashers - funny movie.

The Tent, by Margaret Atwood - a brilliant book. It's unbelievably short and yet I didn't finish it before it was due (and someone else had it on hold so I couldn't renew it - damn). And if you haven't read Oryx and Crake yet, you should.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lost and Found

I finally spent close to 90 total minutes watching the last two hours and 4 minutes of Lost. Finally. Assuming that there really are only 44 minutes per hour of television (the rest being commercials), the time passed way, way too quickly. We only had the last 4 minutes of the penultimate episode, but really, I'm not sure I could have taken more than that.

The four-toed foot. John Locke admitted he was wrong. The Others. Penelope Widemore. The pneumatic tube to nowhere. Mr. Eko. Charlie and Claire. Elizabeth/Libby. Hurley's not hungry. Walt. The Russians (but they weren't speaking Russian, so whoever they were). Dart guns (and really bad convulsions). And a Hanso commercial in the middle! It's all too much.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sardines and Avocados

I kid you not - I sat across from a man at breakfast who was eating sardines and avocados and drinking cinnamon coffee. There is really only one word that can even come close to adequately describing this experience - EWWWW.

We finally finished building the very last piece of IKEA furniture that's been sitting boxed in our house for so many months that it's embarrassing. In any case, it's done, and looks pretty good. I hope it's not a big problem that I had four screws and a wooden peg left over.... (and no, they weren't just extras in the bag).

And we cleaned up the basement last night and today. It's not quite done, but it's in a good place. In addition to having more drill bits and screw drivers than I'm sure we need, we also found a lot of dead crickets. At least they were dead....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Did I mention....

That in addition to Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis, that we spent last Thursday in Milwaukee? Perhaps I forgot because it was so traumatic.

We went to see how our house was doing. Our tenant had fallen short on her rent for the last two months and we'd been told that the house couldn't possible show well to future tenants given the state in which she was keeping it. Her mother died about 8 months ago and had really been the one holding things together. We are incredibly lucky that things didn't fall apart rent-wise in the middle of winter, when the prospects for new tenants would be less than nil.

So we pull up to our house. And out of the front door walks a teenager with his pants belted just below his crotch. I realize that Milwaukee is sometimes a little behind on the fashion trends, but a) this was a LOT of behind, and b) as far as I can tell, that trend has been over for even the U.P. to get the idea. And, he had no shirt on, which led us to surmise that he leads a lifestyle that includes a great deal of television, potato chips and twinkies. (Hmm, this could explain his not being able to pull his pants up farther.)

So our first reaction - ewww. We met our manager, Toni, and went into the house. And we met the tenant, who just seemed like the kind of person who would have a son who can't pull up his pants. The house was cleaned up more than the last time Toni had been there, but we were still pretty shocked. The whole place was just a mess. (Our second reaction - ewww.) It's going to take a good amount of work to make sure we can rent the place again. Pulling up carpeting, repainting pretty much everything, fixing windows and screens, filling the holes in the yard dug by their dog, tiling the bathroom floor and putting in a new vanity....

And we still need to find a new tenant (if you know anyone looking for a 4 bedroom house in Milwaukee....)

The redeeming part of the day - returning to our favorite restaurant from 5 years ago and realizing that it hasn't changed at all.

It's the heat AND the humidity

Well, we're fortunate, I suppose. The pilot told us it was only 99 degrees in Baltimore when we landed. That's a 2 degree improvement over the 101 we experienced in St. Louis, and our house is a cool 91 degrees, down from 93 when we arrived. That's practically balmy, but without the palm trees. Good thing there are pop-ices in the freezer.

Airports are fascinating places. To be more exact, the people in airports fascinate me. Some are dressed as if they're dressing up to travel. Others are clearly going somewhere for business. Others for vacation. And some are just dressed inappropriately no matter where they're going. You know who I'm talking about - the 70 year old women who are dressing like their granddaughters. And the 40 year old men who still think they're in highschool. Or the really tiny women wearing yards and yards of material or the really big women wearing far too little.

My suggestion, there should be mirrors, oracles, and changing rooms at the counter where you check your luggage. The mirror would give you an opportunity to reassess before the oracle spills the beans on what you really look like today. And you'd still have a chance before you send your luggage through to become at least a little more presentable. I would recommend the same set up for the TSA line for those not checking luggage. Expensive, yes. Priceless, definitely.

Monday, July 31, 2006

15 to 82 in 2 days or less

This week, I've effectively taken my life into my own hands, or more accurately, given it over to others twice, and both in driving incidents. First, I volunteered to drive with our niece, Shaina. She's got a permit, which should count for something, right? The truth is, she was pretty good, albeit a little fast. Driving around the neighborhood was fine - things were quiet and it was late enough that we really saw no other cars. And then the question "Do you need any socks? We could go over to Target."

Who needs socks at 10pm at night? But we drove to Target anyway, which involved big streets, other cars and several left hand turns. Then we went to an elementary school nearby where Shaina practiced parallel parking with imaginary cars. Not one dent, to any car, real or imaginary, was felt.

And then yesterday, Ronnie and I went driving with my father. He hasn't been behind the wheel of a car since April, the last time I went driving with him. Since we weren't out on the streets, there was less life-endangering happening but when we asked if he could stop suddenly if necessary, he showed us that he could. I will wear my seatbelt bruise like a Miss America sash...., althought I'm not sure what I've won (certainly not Miss Congeniality). All told, he did well too, and I think he could have driven home from the lot if he'd wanted to.

Chicago to St. Louis via Indianapolis

It would ordinarily seem counter-intuitive to go through Indianapolis to get to St. Louis from Chicago, and there's nothing about that process that could change that idea. But nevertheless, that's what we did to get to St. Louis. Our flight left Chicago a little late, and when we were only 30 miles outside of St. Louis, we were informed that the airport was closed due to weather and that we were being diverted to Indianapolis. So our 38 minute flight turned into more than 3 hours.

There were two cute Indian boys sitting in front of us who were probably 2 and 3 years old. Their father was sitting next to us, and they kept popping their heads up to see him. Ronnie suggested playing whack-a-mole. And then it turned out that the boys were actually little girls. Seriously, for a while, I actually thought that there were four kids sitting in front of us and we'd just not seen the other two for the first leg of the trip.

The one disappointment, we do not get additional credit for flying the Indianapolis-St. Louis leg.

Friday, July 28, 2006

And you thought blogging about bathrooms was only for Israel!

We're staying with one of Ronnie's brothers here in Chicago (read: way far northwest in Buffalo Grove). Their kids are away and so it's pretty quiet around here, and while it would be nice to see them, it's a bonus not to have to share a bathroom with two teenagers. But the toilet in that bathroom is broken. Good thing there's another one downstairs in the powder room. Right?

Um, yes, until that one begins exhibiting signs of indigestion. Um, yes, until that And the only plunger around is a little one not really suitable for the task. I, of course, was blissfully unaware of any of this until 4:30am when I wanted to go use said toilet.

[And now, without further adieu, here's Mr. Lentil Bowl to tell you the rest of the story: Its midnite, I'm the only one up, and there's not a plunger in site. All that my creative attempts at settling the toilet's tummy produce is even more water on the floor that is not likely to evaporate on its own. I'm tired, frustrated, and embarrassed, but, more importantly, I can't find any double-stuff Oreos. No, that's not it: more importantly, I'm concerned that Mrs. Lentil Bowl will not be a happy camper if perchance she ventures downstairs in the middle of the night. Me, I can do necessary things with the help of a plastic cup, but her unspeakable things might require venturing outside and risking arrest for disturbing the peas (or whatever flora she's hiding behind). Fortunately, my sister-in-law is an early riser and, armed with a manly plunger, I performed a most manly--and most excellent--plunging.

That's all, folks. Mr. Lentil Bowl has to go. . . . And when you gotta go, you gotta go. ]

We now return to our reglularly written blog entry:

Ronnie clued me in and described his efforts thus far, which included an exhaustive search for an appropriate plunger, staying awake to warn anyone who may venture down to use that toilet, and making sure that any double-stuffed oreos found wandering lonely around the house were helped to feel safe and sound and protected.

The thing is, when you have to "go" at 4:30 in the morning, you don't really feel like waiting a few hours until the homeowners wake up to either use their bathroom or ask where the real plungers are. (Ronnie's a skilled and experienced plungist, he just needed the correct implement.) And there aren't so many trees with privacy in their neighborhood, if you know
what I mean.

And now, I gotta go!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Time is NOT on my side

It's 10:30 and I'm nowhere close to being able to go to sleep. And did I mention that we have a 6:50am flight from BWI in the morning? Ronnie's doing laundry so I can't pack until that's done. And I think by the time we're done tonight, it will be less like going to bed and more like taking a nap.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The art of eating

I have often said that people who ask you to choose between pie or ice cream, or between cake and cookies is asking the wrong question. The question should be "why not both?" There's no reason that they have to be mutually exclusive, right?

Some things clearly should be choices - tuna fish or chocolate (no one should be looking up recipes now just to prove me wrong - they just don't go together), pickles or peanut butter etc.

And then the question becomes, what can you eat concurrently, and what can you eat consequetively? I would argue that the things that are not mutually exclusive can be eaten either way. And those that should be mutually exclusive, may be eaten, but only with a serious palate cleanser in between courses.

A question arose today about pop-ices - you know, the flavored icy things in a plastic tube that you freeze and are sort of like popcicles without the sticks, for which I do not have an answer. What can you eat pop-ices with? Not one bite of a pop-ice and another of something else. I mean simultaneously? What else can you be eating while you're eating a pop-ice?

All answers will be entertained (or entertaining).

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's a fakus, no fakin'

If you read far enough into this article, you see that my cousin Boaz has been quoted. He'd offered to take me on a tour of the shuk to search for these culinary oddities but it never happened (all my fault). And the picture that he sent me (think of a regular cucumber, a little lighter green and hairy) is a huge file and I can't upload it, so you'll have to use your imagination.

The stranger thing about all of this is that a friend sent me the article just because she thought I'd find it interesting. Not knowing Boaz (or that he was quoted), or having any idea that I would know what this strange vegetable is.

Take a minute

Stevie sent me this 1-minute movie.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Taste of Morocco

Ronnie and I decided to try a new restaurant tonight (read: it's been around for a while but we've never gone) called Taste of Morocco. It was pretty good and there was a belly dancer Ronnie seemed to enjoy watching. They served us "Moroccan Bread", which, given that Morocco is ostensibly part of the Middle East, you would have thought would be pita. But it wasn't. It was a bread about an inch high with a crust on the top and bottom and it was dry and a little sweet.

So of course we had to ask about this (read: Ronnie had to ask about this) and find out why there was no pita. And we heard an interesting story. Evidently, way back when, they did eat pita in Morocco. But legend has it that in the 1600's, a large pack of wolves who smelled the bread baking, began chasing women away from the pits over which they made their bread. In those days, (and today, in some places) they made pita - taking loaves of dough, pounding them flat, and cooking them quickly on the bottom of a big metal bowl inverted over hot coals.

The wolves were chasing away the women, but, in an ironic twist, they weren't able to eat the baking pita because to get close enough to pull it off the bowl meant their noses got burned on the hot metal. By the time the women were able to return to their breads, they had risen and gotten crustier than the pita they'd intended to make.

And thus was created Moroccan bread. And the story, Pita and the Wolves...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Air Conditioning Revisited

I'm not a fan of air conditioning. I'm not a fan of swelter either, but I'd rather be warm than freezing, and I'd rather breathe fresh air rather than air that's first gone through a machine. I'm also not a fan of air blowing on me, so I'm not prone to using fans, either they're aimed somewhere else just to get their air circulating. In today's Washington Post, there was a great article about some of the other members of the "we don't love airconditioning" club. I'm not alone in the world anymore....

Two things seen on the metro today.
1. As I was entering just past the entrance this morning, a man came rushing out. He was wearing a nice gray suit and a yellow tie that appeared to be tucked into his shirt, as if he had tried to keep it from getting in his scrambled eggs. But upon a closer glance, he was actually wearing a tie that ended mid chest. If you google "short tie" in images, the first picture you see is the tie he was wearing, except his was bright yellow.

2. Tonight, there was a man in his 60's with red hair that looked artificially colored. He was wearing white cuffed slacks and a lilac shirt with two front pockets with what I can only describe as tuxedo shirt pleats down the front in two wide stripes just slightly wider than the pockets. In case you're wondering, it was not a tuxedo shirt. He was wearing nice brown shoes and, wait for it, pastel yellow socks. If he weren't carrying a really beat up suitcase, I would think he had been trying for dapper, but got bad advice. The suit case is still throwing me off...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More shark...

Shark Week and Wordplay

I got a ride home this week with someone from the neighborhood. She often takes different routes home, but this time we went straight up Georgia Avenue through Silver spring all the way up to Wheaton. When we passed the Discovery Headquarters, we first noticed a big (like 8 stories big) sign for Shark Week, which begins, according to the 8 story sign, on July 30th. Then, we noticed a big, I mean really big, shark's tail sticking out of the building. We laughed and wondered if there was a big head coming out the other side, but since we weren't going that way, we were left at the wondering stage.

Tonight I got off the metro at the Silver Spring station and lo and behold, there was a HUGE shark's head staring at me from the other side of the Discovery building. And a fin on the side of the building between the head and the tail. Way, way too funny. For a better picture (and John Kelly's article about the shark) click here.

Last Saturday night, Toby and I went to see the movie "Wordplay". First, it was excellent. Anyone who thinks that there is no drama or suspense in the crossword playing world is just wrong. The theater was relatively small, and I figured it would be a pretty intelligent crowd, I mean, who goes to see documentaries about crossword puzzles, right? I figured this would also mean that there wouldn't be people talking during the movie. More than anything, I hate that. [well, not more than anything, but almost.] So what could be wrong, a movie about words and the people who like them, a smart audience, and a quiet theater. Plus, it turned out that not only were the previews before the movie excellent, but so were the commercials. That was definitely something I did not expect. The Coke commercial almost had me ready to switch to their side, as did *shock* the McDonald's empire. I'm still not a fan of ads at movies, but if we have to sit through them, I'd like them all to be this interesting.

But I digress. Here's what I learned - smart people talk during movies like this because they think they know all the answers! I also learned that I think I know all the answers too, so at least I was in good company (I was anyway, but you know what I mean.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It's still hot here. And because of the heat, the Metro folks have determined that the trains need to run more slowly on the tracks. I'm willing to make the giant leap of faith and believe them that there is in fact a relationship between the temperature and train speed. Why they are now running half as many trains in the system, I don't understand. You can slow down the system, but when you take away half of the trains, there are twice as many people - sweaty people - now on each train, and it's taking all of them longer to get where they're going. What am I missing here?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sweat and more sweat

Sweat 1: If you haven't been following the weather reports or been outside, it is an understatement of the worst kind to simply say that it is really, really hot here in DC. It's like an instant sauna outside - just add a human being.

Sweat 2: Something possessed me to go back to the gym tonight. I'm not sure what, and I'm just hoping it can be exorcised without much effort. Here's what I learned: wandering around Israel for the past two months does not prepare one (in this case, me) for walking on a treadmill at 3 miles per hour at a small incline. I won't even mention the elliptical machine....

The other thing I learned though, is that however hot you think you are in the gym after working out, it's nothing compared to the heat you find when you walk out the door to the parking lot.

(but if you open the windows and drive fast enough, you get a small, warm breeze that actually feels cool, since you're soaking wet!)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Separating the holy from the profane

Our students in Israel are fine. They were moved today from Tiberius to Tel Aviv but they were precariously close to the violence. It was definitely not a typical Shabbat experience for them. They spent time in the bomb shelters, and were then confined to the hotel lobby space. Because there are windows in hotel rooms (duh), they weren't allowed back in their rooms for a while. Once they were, they were given 10 minutes to pack and get the hell out. In between the lobby time and packing, they fit in a few bar/bat mitzvahs for which the students had been preparing. And while there wasn't candy to throw, the hotel did give them popcicles so they could have a little celebration.


Tonight I was walking around Dupont Circle with Toby. We decided that there are really only two circumstances underwhich anyone should be wearing flipflops. At the beach, or in a shower that isn't yours (camp, gym etc). I think it could also be possible, under the right circumstances, to allow them to be worn when going out to pick the paper up from the end of the driveway, but really, I'm not so sure about that one. They should not be worn on a date or with fancy clothes.

What we saw were many, many girls all dressed up and wearing flip flops. It just didn't work for them. The other part of that problem was that the boys they were with didn't seem to work for them either. They were wearing ripped, slouchy jeans and t-shirts. And whether they were on a date or just out as friends, they (again, a lot of them!) could not have looked more mismatched.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Many people have suggested that by returning from Israel earlier this week, I left "just in time". I know what they're trying to say, but I'm not sure what that means.

We still one bus of students in Israel, not to mention Hillel professionals studying at Pardes, and another staff group due to arrive next week to participate in a Livnot program. There are hundreds of groups in Israel right now - Ramah, USY, birthright, NFTY, B'nei Akiva, JCC etc. They're all modifying their itineraries as need be based on recommendations from the Ministry of Education's Situation Room. From what I've heard, the most stressful part of the situation for the staff are the parents who keep calling.

Ronnie reminded me that we were in Israel for 6 weeks when the war with Lebanon began in 1982. It was in the days before cell phones and email and CNN, but other than jets flying overhead, I don't think we were really aware of the situation at all. That said, it was as long time ago and things have changed.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

hablo espanol?

Near my metro stop, the Hispanic men wait around for day labor jobs at the 7-11 . When Ronnie dropped me off this morning, I suggested he stop by for some coffee on the way home. He said it was an interesting idea, and then added, "what you don't know, is that while you were gone, I spent some time waiting there for day jobs, learned some construction, gardening and painting, and how to speak basic Spanish".

I probably missed three trains in the time it took me to stop laughing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

more lentils in the bowl

Despite that fact that the only responses I have received so far have indicated that I should shut down the Lentil Bowl until my next trip, I think it's going to keep going. Why, because I see too many things that deserve some mention.

Today, it's people who wear white pants/shorts. It's hot here in DC and white seems to be a popular color. Which is fine, unless you're wearing blue or red or green or patterned underwear. And these are people who are working in government offices, not tourists who didn't think about what they were wearing for the day.

And then there are those (again in white pants) who aren't wearing colored undergarments, but are wearing pants that allow us to see that they are wearing underwear. They either need a better cut of underwear, looser pants a skirt. Really, I would just as soon not have to see their underwear at all.

On the flip side of that though, there are the people wearing tight pants or shorts who appear not to be wearing underwear at all. I'm not sure what the answer is for them, but it's just not a good look.

And lastly, there was a woman I saw dressed in white capris who, by the ID card hanging around her neck is clearly a government worker. She had a nice shirt on. And 4-inch stilletos that she could barely walk in. It was a ridiculous outfit, mainly because of the shoes and not the white capris, but a tenuous connection is enough for me.

The day after

It's not everyone who has the opportunity to be awake at 4am for no good reason. But 5 hours of sleep is about what I averaged in Israel on a good night, so I figure why mess with a good thing.

I'm back. Since I just dropped Ronnie off at the airport on Thursday night, in some ways, it feels like I've only been gone a long weekend. I'm sure that will change when I go into the office.

Things I miss: that the stop lights in Israel add a yellow light to the red when they're about to turn green, and that the green lights starts flashing when it's about to turn red.

Straw poll - should I keep the blog going? (Mom, you can only vote once!)

Sunday, July 09, 2006


In general, I'm an excellent packer. But at this point, I'm ready to start filling the suitcase, and it's just not working for me. It could be that I'd really rather pack the two framed watercolors I bought rather than carry them on. And it could be that I have frozen rugelach I need to pack at the bottom, and if I do that, I'd just as soon leave them in the freezer until I absolutely have to take them out. A friend of mine just called to say goodbye and see how packing was going. I used the call as another good excuse to put off packing for another 20 minutes. And in the end, I'm sure I'll just throw everything in the suitcase and be done with it in 10 minutes.

What's left? Tons of calls to say goodbye to people. Last minute cleaning. I have to drop off a mini-orange plant at E's so she can water it so it doesn't return to the brown, dry state I found it in. Making some snacks for the plane. Filling the gas tank one last time on the rental car. Packing....

My flight is at midnight, and my guess is that the flight will leave late so that the pilots can watch the end of the Mondial. I land at 4:40am and have a few hours to wait for my flight to DC. I'm not going in to work on Monday, which is not the typical behavior for may of my colleagues in the office. Call me crazy, but I'm just not going to do it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

the last...

night I had to spend in a hotel in Israel was last night, at least until December. I was back at the Caesar, which, for those keeping track, I found easily this time around, with only one legal u-turn required. I'd forgotten that the Caesar has really dark bathrooms. But this time I did remember to put the "do no disturb" sign on the door. It doesn't mean that students are any quieter during the wee hours of the morning, but it did mean that the maids didn't try and bring me clean towels at 8am either.

Of course, I was awake at 8am, waiting to get the first group of students out and on their way to the Kotel. Then, I stayed up for another hour listening to a conversation with one of our Hillel staff, two tour educators, a guard, and our hostess talk about Jewish identity, the birthright program, why everyone isn't living in Israel, and Zionism. It was actually pretty interesting given the constellation of characters participating, and I understood almost all of it (they were speaking in Hebrew). But after an hour, I went back to sleep.

When I woke up and went back to the lobby, the group had just returned from the Kotel. It occured to me that in my two months here, I haven't been to the Kotel once. I was at the Southern Excavations back in May, which is right there, but I wasn't actually at the wall. I also didn't go down to Kfar HaNokdim to sleep in a Bedouin tent at all this summer. I'm not sure it's fair to equate the two, but there you've got it.

The Friday night staff oneg nickname game was a bit of a let down this week. Read the names and see why. The given names: Hal, Harriet, Carmit, Gilad, Oren, and Naomi. The nicknames: OKZ, Nomers, Giladiator, Harriella, HalAppelbaum and Carmizzle. You don't really need too much imagination to figure any of them out. What was not a let down at the oneg - rugelach from Marzipan (both cinnamon and chocolate).

And tonight was the last time (until December) that I had to go to Campus (the club). And, as I have for the last 5 or 6 times that we were there, I spent the entire night across the street at the bakery with most of the rest of the staff. There were about 8 of us sitting on these tiny little stools around a table just slightly bigger than a quarter eating watermelon and cheese, pita with zatar, and borekas. Everytime we go to this place, they've changed something. This week, they'd added an espresso machine and a fresh juice squeezer (is there a more technical name for one of those?).