11.29.2005

AP story about new CPR guidelines

From my mother. (Thanks!)

The AP article said that it can be taught effectively in half an hour. Who knew?

You can find CPR classes in the US through the American Heart Association website, here. I learned CPR for infants and kids when I took a babysitting class when I was 12, but since they recommend taking a class every couple of years (and not, say, every fourteen years), and since I never learned CPR for adults, this seems like a worthwhile thing to do.

11.28.2005

Eretz Acheret

I've seen this journal on sale in Israel, but my Hebrew isn't good enough to read it without great angst and much dictionary-usage. So I was glad when Lisa translated an article from the May-June 2005 edition. Go here to read it. Wow. Like a breath of fresh air, in many ways. And if your Hebrew is any good, you can read more recent editions of Eretz Acheret here.

11.24.2005

Letter from George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport

The United States, the values upon which it was founded (well, most of the values), and the home it's been for my family for the past 100 years are just a few of the things that I'm thankful for today.

I thought this was appropriate for Thanksgiving.
Gentlemen:

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to New Port from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored (1), we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people (2).

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights (3), for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid (4).

May the Father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy (5).

G. Washington
August 1, 1790

(1) I think that having the "wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored" is the hardest thing in the world. Or one of them, at least. But it's so important! So why is it so hard?

(2) The mention of "a great and happy people" draws a smile. Are Americans a "happy people"? I'm not so sure. It's also interesting to remember that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," I think started out as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property" or "wealth" or something like that. Is the pursuit of happiness a value? What about just going for "contentedness" or "peacefulness" or "calm"? I think that making the best use of advantages is more important than seeking happiness, but mostly because I think that making the best use of advantages can lead to happiness. I think... Gotta' think about this one some more.

(3) "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights..." I wish this had been true in 1790. Alas, it was not. I wonder what things we believe are true now will be shown, in retrospect, to be painfully false in 2220?

(4) This messianic imagery is interesting. I believe that early colonial writings and early American writings are full of it. I can't remember any specific examples now. It would be interesting to study, and to compare messianic earmy American imagery with messianic early Israeli imagery. That's my second dissertation, after I write one about the history of the 2nd Avenue subway line...

(5) I just love this last paragraph. LOVE it. "Father of all mercies" seems to be a direct translation of "av harachamim," which appears in Jewish liturgy. I love the image of God scattering light upon our paths--isn't that what we all want, really? Some light along the way? And then the plea to be useful--I think that this is something else that we ultimately all want out of life--to make some kind of contribution to the world. (Let me know when you figure out what mine should be, okay? Because I'm still in the dark over here.) And then back to the happiness--which I'm not so sure is an ultimate goal of mine, but tempered with "in his own due time and way" is a pleasant thought. I guess what I have an issue with is not happiness, because I do truly want that, but this "happiness NOW" phenomenon that I see around me, that seems kind of short-sighted.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am off to a long-awaited, scrumptious meal with extended family!

11.23.2005

amateur etymology

On a bus the other day, I overheard the following statement from a young man who was talking to his girlfriend about her Thanksgiving plans. The context was a longer conversation about her family that has, in the past, celebrated Thanksgiving without her on Thursday, rather than wait until the folllowing weekend when people are more available. (Not sure the context is necessary, but there you have it. I side with her family, by the way--no moving holidays to make it convenient. Probably comes from years of observing all those Jewish holidays that fall at the most inconvenient times.)

"That's crazy. That's not what Thanksgiving is about. Just think about what it means. Thanks. Giving. Thanks for what we've been given."

Funny. I always thought Thanksgiving was about "giving thanks," not about thanks for what we've been given. What's the difference? Well, "giving thanks" implies giving thanks regardless of what we've been given, while "thanks for what we've been given" is very tied to what we actually have.

11.21.2005

2nd Avenue subway line and predictions from the past

Cool article in today's New York Times.

There is a particularly interesting graphic comparing the number of people who held and currently hold various jobs in New York. Some aren't surprising--there were 624 blacksmiths in NYC in 1955 and there are 0 today. (Where there still horses in NYC in 1955? I mean, besides the touristy/Central Park ones? I assume there were, even though that seems kind of weird to me.)

Another interesting thing is that they predicted a 2nd Avenue subway line, which we are, of course, still waiting for. (In 1973, this was published in a brief history of the 2nd Avenue Subway Line by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration:
By 1942, the Second Avenue Elevated which was badly deteriorated and obsolete was demolished. This led to severe overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Subway Line and the Third Avenue Elevated, and greatly increased the need for a new subway.
And it's still true today. I mean, the Lexington Avenue Subway Line is severely overcrowded.)

Has anyone written a dissertation on the history of the 2nd Avenue Subway Line? I feel like someone should. And anyone else interested in the history of the New York City subway system should take a look at this website with lots of old subway maps.

On Feeling Old

Okay, not really.

But I was recently reminded of the Sesame Street skit where a bunch of Muppets are singing in a rocking telephone booth, and when I went to look up the lyrics (God bless Google), I discovered (a) that it was called "Telephone Rock" and (b) just how much has changed since I watched Sesame Street (1982-1985, I think, and longer if you count watching it with younger siblings or while babysitting). Before I even get to deconstructing the lyrics, there are a few obvious differences:

(1) There are very few telephone boothes these days. Most people use cell phones.

(2) When there are phone boothes, they do not have accordion-fold doors. I thought this was to deter homeless people from sleeping in them, but someone else wisely pointed out that this is also an ADA issue. People in wheelchairs can't get into phone boothes with doors.

And now, on to the lyrics!
(lead singer picks up phone in phone booth)

Operator: Number please


I'm saying hey operator, please give us a hand
Ya gotta help us out 'cause we're the telephone band
We're calling all people that are sittin' at home
With some rocking and rolling on the telephone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah....
(3) There is no more picking up the phone and reaching an operator immediately. I don't think there was in 1980, either. I don't know what happens if you pick up the phone and press "0" now, but I doubt a person (i.e., "operator") answers. A computer probably answers.
Please operator, please give us a chance
The people are waiting so please dial us this dance
They want to hear our music yeah they want us to sing
So operator please make their telephone ring.
(4) There's no more dialing. This doesn't really count, though, since I think people still refer to "dialing" in connection with a telephone. Even though they mean "pressing little buttons."
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
Let's hear it one more time
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
You know it only costs a dime yeah
Rock rock rock
The telephone rock
(5) It does not only "cost a dime." It costs at least 50 cents, I think. Although, really, it's been years since I've made a call from a public payphone with actual coins. Before I had a cell phone I used a calling card, because it was cheaper. But still not ten cents for the whole call.

Note: Originally released on the album Signs (1977), Children's Television Workshop.

Signs!

Which raises the question--did operators "pick up the phone" and place calls for people in 1977?

On Being Young

Time: Yesterday.

Place: In the woods.


Him: So, when did you graduate college?

Me: January 2003.

Him: Oh, you're young!

Me [thinking, this guy doesn't look so old]: Why, how old are you?

Him: I'm 27.

Me: Well, I'm 26.

Him: Oh.

Me: When did you graduate college?

Him: 1998.

Life is neither a contest nor a race, but if it were, he would win.


P.S. He's a year older and graduated four and a half years before me. Being me, I had to figure out exactly how that was possible. It turns out that his birthday is in February and he was very young for his grade, so he graduated high school two years before me, went to Israel for a year, and then did college in two years.

11.17.2005

wheat, barley, vines, fig-trees, pomegranates, olive-trees, and [date] honey

Hi, everyone!

Do you have thoughts about wheat, barley, vines (or grapes), fig-trees, pomegranates, olive-trees (or olive oil or olives), and [date] honey (or dates--the fruit, not the other kind)? Any thoughts at all? Jewish thoughts? General thoughts? Literary thoughts? Musical thoughts? Quotes of any kind? Send them my way, at abacaximamao@gmail.com, or my regular e-mail address, should you be so lucky as to have it. This is critically important! The sooner the better! I am expecting an overflowing cornucopia (heh!) of response. Thanks!

If you could send this to all of your friends and associates, or, better yet, link to it/copy it onto your blog, all the better. Thanks!

These are some of thoughts that others have had about these items to get you started...

“R. Hanina ben Pazzi said: Thorns need not be hoed nor sown—they sprout on their own, rise straight up, and grow. But wheat—how much pain, how much labor is needed before it can be made to grow!”
–Genesis Rabbah 45:4

“When a man sees barley in a dream, it is a sign that his iniquities are removed, for it is said, ‘Thine iniquity is removed and thy sin is expiated.’ (Isaiah 6:7). R. Zera said: I did not decide to go up from Babylonia to the Land of Israel until I saw barley in a dream.”
–B. Berachot 57a

A man makes no noise over a good deed, but passes on to another as a vine to bear grapes again in season.”
–Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. v. 6.

No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
–Epictetus, Discourses. Chap. xv

“Why did you bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!"
–Numbers 20:4-6

“Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Levi said: ‘Why is Israel compared to an olive tree? Because just as the leaves of an olive tree do not fall off either in summer or winter. So too, the Jewish people shall not be cast off - neither in this world nor in the World to Come.’”
–Talmud, Menachot 53b

“The righteous will flourish like a [date] palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’”

–Psalms 92:2-5

(It's times like this that I wish I could just fire off an e-mail to Pfoho-Open... Alas, Harvard-NYC and the like just don't match the quick, multivaried, and brilliant responses of a bunch of undergrads with copious amounts of time on their hands.)

Goodnight Moon goes smokeless

See this article in today's New York Times.

I have had Goodnight Moon read to me, or I've read it to others, countless times in the past 2+ decades. I never, ever recall looking at the photo of the illustrator, Clement Hurd, that was apparently somewhere on the jacket. If I looked at the photo, I certainly never noticed that he was holding a cigarette. And had I noticed, I'm pretty sure that would not have increased the liklihood of my taking up cigarettes. I think you have to be a movie star for that kind of peer pressure to work. (Click here to see a not-very-good-webpage about the American Lung Association's "Hackademy Awards" for movies targeted towards kids and teens that glamorize smoking. I have a feeling that someone, somewhere, has shown that more kids start smoking when more movie stars smoke, either in the movies or in real life, but I haven't been able to find anything about it on the Web.)

In any case, I think that the altered photo is kind of ridiculous looking. This bookstore owner has a website where you can vote on whether you think Clement Hurd should keep his cigarette or hold nothing between his thumb and finger. I don't see why they didn't just find a different photo of him. He apparently stopped smoking sometime in the 1950s and didn't die until the 1980s.

11.10.2005

My blog is apparently worth $2,000+

Huh. This is interesting, although I don't really understand how it's computed. Any way that I can cash in?


My blog is worth $2,822.70.
How much is your blog worth?


11.09.2005

Word of the day: Abecedary

I was reading the New York Times this morning and I discovered a cool word that I'd never heard before: abecedary. The New York Times defines it as "the letters of the alphabet written out in their traditional sequence," and the article is about the 10th century BCE abecedary they just found in Tel Zayit, Israel. It's the oldest reliably-dated abecedary found to date, which is pretty cool in and of itself. But back to the word! I found these other definitions of abecedary online:
  1. Noun. (Rare): A primer; the first principle or rudiment of anything. (open-dictionary.com)
  2. n. book arranged in alphabetical order; elementary text-book. abecedarian, n. member of 16th-century German Anabaptist sect who refused to learn to read. a. alphabetically arranged. (Dictionary of Difficult Words)
  3. Main Entry: 1abe·ce·dar·i·an
    Pronunciation: "A-bE-(")sE-'der-E-&n
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English abecedary, from Medieval Latin abecedarium alphabet, from Late Latin, neuter of abecedarius of the alphabet, from the letters a + b + c + d: one learning the rudiments of something (as the alphabet) (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
  4. abecedary
    Abecedarian \A`be*ce*da"ri*an\, Abecedary \A`be*ce"da*ry\, a. Pertaining to, or formed by, the letters of the alphabet; alphabetic; hence, rudimentary.
    Abecedarian psalms
    , hymns, etc., compositions in which (like the 119th psalm in Hebrew) distinct portions or verses commence with successive letters of the alphabet. --Hook. (Dictionary.com)
I like the word because its origin is obvious (abecedary), once you know its meaning. And because it reminds me of Big Bird's Alphabet Song.

11.07.2005

Israel trip wrap-up

I'm home! I've actually been home for eight days now. More on that later.

Since I last wrote from Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, I:
  • met up with a friend who met a woman, dated her, and married her since my last trip to Israel fifteen months ago (she was delightful and it was terrific to see him so happy)
  • observed Sukkot with family and friends
  • met some distant cousins (who have a dairy farm in the Galil!)
  • went hiking in Nachal Amud
  • went to Tzfat
  • returned to Jerusalem
  • had a scrumptious breakfast with a former coworker in a sukkah at Cafe Atara
  • saw friends who had a baby five weeks previous (what timing!)
  • and saw a wonderful exhibit at the Israel Museum, called "From Rome to Jerusalem." (FYI: I don't think this last link will work once the exhibit closes.)
I think that's about it for Israel. It was nice. I can't say it was 100% relaxing and fun, but it was really nice to not be in New York and to not be working.

Anyway, so you know how I said that my life looked like this before I got to Israel?
Accepted new job, feverishly cleaned room for subletter, feverishly packed, had bittersweet last day at old job, took overnight flight to Athens, saw Jewish Museum, Acropolis, and National Archaeological Museum, took 2 am flight to Israel, crashed with family...
Well, my departure looked like this: Observed Shabbat, packed, showered, went out for a "toast" and chocolate milk with my sister, packed some more, wasted time, packed, slept one and a half hours, took taxi to airport, checked out new duty-free area while waiting for 6 am flight to plane (is "plane" the opposite of "deplane"? is "deplane" even a word? I see to recall hearing it from flight attendants. Took off. Arrived in Athens airport. Walked around for a few hours, sat and read, walked around some more. Bought Lindt chocolate. (Yum!) Got onto plane to New York. Sat between largish man and aisle. Across the aisle was a very talkative woman. I learned all about her life. Slept four hours. Audio on the TVs wasn't working, so watched and heard part of Hitch (entertaining enough for a ten hour plane trip), and then watched the whole thing again once the audio was back on. Ate the most nasty meals possible. (These "extra long life" meals from some godforsaken place in Europe--like mushy, freeze-dried, reconstituted, I don't know what. Turkey, tuna, cake in a nasty pudding thing.) Arrived in New York. Took Supershuttle home. Went to bed. Got up. Showered. Unpacked. Went to first day of work at new job!

Whew... Since then, I've been working almost nonstop on non-Shabbat days and I hosted a meal on Shabbat. The new job is good. Very good. More on that, perhaps, another time.

Thanks for tuning in to the non-stop exciting adventures of ALG!