Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Ants Come Marching Two By Two

They are literally coming out of the walls.

The problem, I think, is that the whole panel of cabinets and sink set into the outside wall of the building seems to be permeable by the ********** ants. They are coming in.

Yesterday they found the sugar. Today things seemed fairly calm until the moment the boyfriend pulled the trash away from the wall and, well, there was a HEAP of them. The boyfriend chose this critical moment to go to work. I ate dinner, and then got down to work. Again.

I have run out of Simple Green, my ant spray of choice. I am now wiping them away with Fabuloso, a vivid purple Mexican cleaning product that smells like industrial lavender, if you can imagine such a thing. Full strength. My hands smell like Fabuloso. The kitchen smells like Fabuloso. I suspect everything I cook for a month will have that slight lavender tinge to it.

Ants are on everything. Mostly in the kitchen, but the boyfriend has found them in the bed. They get on my hands while I'm killing them in batches and walk up my arms. Every time either I or the fella feel something on our skin, we twitch, sure it's an ant.

Tomorrow we go to OSH, and get sonar. And poison. And er...stuff.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ants Gone Wild

The ant situation is officially out of control. The ants are storming the kitchen. We've run out of paper towels. I've run out of any lingering amibvalence about killing them. The whole kitchen and living room smell like Simple Green.

They found a frying pan left in the sink overnight and went NUTS.

I just found an ant walking on my glasses. I was wearing them.

The frying pan is full of water and Simple Green and now looks like a tragic scene from an ant epic poem, with the bodies of many brave worker ants rolling in the poisoned surf.

I feel kind of ill.

The jasmine bushes I thought were so nice when we moved in? Maybe not such a good idea.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Strings Attached

I like the red string bracelets.

I don't like Pop Kabbalah. I don't like celebrities posing with their red strings. I think the guys at the Kabbalah Center should be--I don't know--is there a Jewish equivalent of getting pied? Maybe they could be smushed in the face with sufganiot. Or stoned with matzo balls. I have no patience with this stuff. It's exploitative, of real Jewish tradition, of Jewish experience, of the people who come to this nonsense trying to find something good for themselves.

Also, the news that Madonna's children are attending Kabbalah religious school freaked me out.

But I like the red string bracelets.

I have a friend who's actually very frightened these people are going to cause serious harm to themselves or others through working Kabbalistic magic without having the slightest clue what they're doing. My feeling is that this is like giving people who failed high school chemistry the directions to make a nuclear power plant. They won't do it. Don't worry. I think she feels it's more like letting those same people poke the buttons at the power plant randomly.

Did I mention I don't believe in this nonsense? Ignore anything above that implies differently.

Anyway, the red string bracelets are pretty, and there is a basic simplicity of symbolism about them that I find really appealing. I like the (original) association with Rachel. I like the fancy-schmancy additions with the silver chains and the little charms, like the one above.

I find that I sort of want one. But I absolutely won't wear one, since even with outfits like ChosenCouture carrying them, they are just SO Pop Kabbalah, unless you actually live in a stone-floored apartment in Safed.

I'm trying to think of some way to reclaim red strings, a way of announcing "This used to be MY culture, and it ain't New Age. Give it back!"

But maybe that's silly. Not like anyone in my neighborhood used to wear them anyway. The Jewish stuff I actually grew up with is STILL not chic.

Any ideas?

Food Update


Crock-Pot cooking, combined with NO tomato sauce appears to be the answer. I ended up with pinto beans that have a deep, slightly smoky flavor and no crunch to them at all. The boyfriend ate a spoonful, pronounced them 'mushy', and seemed pleased. My current plan is to flavor them with tomato and pepper sauce and serve them with cornbread.

THE BACON: (We took a little bacon, and we took a little beans...)

At this point I think I've reached a dead end. Allan Scott reports that Eli's Restaurant in Washington has 'beef pastrami bacon', but no turkey bacon.

Aaron's Gourmet has beef fry, and a bad moral reputation attached to its meat products.

I thank everyone involved (you too, Steg), for helping, and will continue my quest for kosher bacon. Onward!

Ketubahs Don't Count. Huh?

The Balabusta is in a mood. Apparently, the ketubah is not a legally binding document if it might inconvenience the man whose name appears on it.

That's about all I can figure out from this.

'Show-off' ketubot declared not binding
Jul. 26, 2005

Just before the huppa, in the heat of the moment when passion and commitment peak, the bridegroom may promise the heavens to his beloved, but he does not really mean it, according to what experts called a precedent-making decision by Dayan Shlomo Dichovsky.

Unfortunately, this guy put it in writing. But apparently that does not matter.

In a recent divorce case that came before the Great Rabbinical Court, Dichovsky ruled that a husband who promised to pay his wife NIS 500,000 in their ketuba – the Jewish marriage contract – was swept away by the moment.

He called the sum "exaggerated" and "intended to express the bridegroom's respect for the bride," but lacking any real legal validity. Instead, he set the amount the woman was entitled to receive at NIS 18,000 – after factoring in her right to half of major assets, such as the house, which are owned by the husband.

In other words, not the terms of the ketubah. I am trying to imagine a bais din declaring that the ketubah reflected the bride's respect for the groom but did not mean that she was actually married to him. I especially--and this is where my anger about this is coming from--cannot imagine this being said in a situation in which the wife was seeking a get her husband wanted to withhold. Wouldn't that be EASY?

Prof. Dov Frimer, an attorney and adjunct professor of family law at Hebrew University, said the halachic concept of asmachta was at the center of Dichovsky's reasoning. It describes a situation in which there is a lack of seriousness of intent, a crucial element in both Jewish and civil law needed to form a binding obligation between two parties.

This puts a ketubah on the level of a guy scrawling "I will give Doug my car if the Mets don't win" on the back of a receipt while drunk. This was a ketubah. It was witnessed. How on earth does this man propose to say he wasn't serious? He thought the chuppah was a beach cabana? He thought he was in a play?

Putting Dichovsky's decision in a historical perspective, Frimer pointed out that several decades ago former chief rabbi Shlomo Goren directed rabbis performing marriages not to allow a ketuba of more than NIS 1 million.

Many rabbinic authorities thought Goren had not gone far enough, he said, adding: "Rabbi Dichovsky's ruling takes a major step towards aligning popular custom with the dictates of Jewish contract law and restoring the serious legal character of the ketuba."

I can think of a way to restore the serious legal character! Treat the document as though it were a legal document, and its terms valid. Oh wait, they do. But only if a woman needs to get out of a marriage and her husband won't cough up a get.

It is a common practice, especially among Jews of the Mediterranean region, for the bridegroom and his family to offer exorbitant amounts of money to the bride in a showy expression of affection and esteem. The sum of money is written in the ketuba, which is read aloud under the huppa.

I like regional folk customs. But maybe we could change that one. Instead of writing huge amounts of cash into the ketubah, have the groom stand up in front of the guests and make promises about his behavior as a married man. "Osnat, I love you so much, I will do the dishes every night. You are an angel--I will always pick up my dirty underwear. You are a woman of valor--and so I will take the children to the park every Sunday while you get some rest. We will go to a resort for Pesach every year. My mother will only visit us once a month, and she will call in advance. My dove, my nightingale..." And it wouldn't go into a legal document! It would be the best part of the wedding, as yeshiva bochers struggle to outdo last week's groom in all the helpful things they can think of to do around the house. For the really hard-core, the groom could publicly display his love for the bride by symbolically vacuuming the rug under the chuppah.

In some cases, a rich bridegroom could conceivably be serious about his pledge. But often large sums are touted by young men who are just beginning their professional career.

Rabbi Ratzon Arussi, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate's wedding council, called the decision ground-breaking. But he added that just as Dichovsky protected the man from unreasonable financial demands that threatened to ruin him, so too should the woman be protected.

"If, at the time of marriage, the woman contributes significant sums of money for the purchase of a house, this should be recorded in the ketuba as a dowry," Arussi said.


Attorney Nurit Fish said Dichovsky's decision was a concession to egalitarianism.
"Basically what he was saying was that a women rightfully enjoys equality before the law in the distribution of assets after divorce," she said. "Therefore, less weight should be given to the ketuba."

Less WEIGHT? This is the part that makes me insane. As far as I can tell, the rationale is that a woman has equality before secular law, therefore financial promises given to her in the ketubah can be taken with a grain of salt. The problem here is that halachically a woman does NOT have equality. Husbands have repeatedly been able to withhold gittin, sometimes exacting financial concessions in exchange for giving up their essentially absolute power over the end of the marriage. On these occasions, rabbinic courts have held that there is nothing they can do--essentially because a ketubah is a legal document. Everyone is assumed to have meant what they said, and said what they meant.

But to save this guy's bacon, you should pardon the expression, we will treat the ketubah more as a kind of calligraphied love letter, and less of a binding document.

Look, I think the judge was reasonable enough, and I don't know all about the case. This guy dug himself a hole, and the law was interpreted so he could get out. But I'm going to remember this the next time there's a horrific agunah story, and some rabbi has thrown his hands up and declared himself helpless to help. Women should also be allowed to get out of holes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rabbi Voldemort?

So, apparently certain persons are trying to curse Ariel Sharon to death. (Thanks, FailedMessiah, for bringing that to my attention, I really need to keep up on Ynet.)

I initially wrote 'nutjobs', rather than 'persons', but I scrapped that. The question here is not whether I or they believe they can cause death by such means. The issue is that they're trying.

From what they're saying, I infer that they're trying this rather than conventional assassination methods because they believe their target to be too heavily guarded, however, they are taking (ethereal) credit for the assassination of Rabin, also a couple of Israeli public figures they didn't care for who are now dead.

This is obscene. Askkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger is quoted in the above article as saying "Such acts constitute a defilement of God’s name, and they drag the name of Jewish values through the mud." Couldn't have said it better. (Is that why he's the Chief Rabbi and I'm not?)

After all the talk about various Jewish and Christian groups not wanting children to read Harry Potter, because of the witchcraft, this is all I need: Rabbis trying to place an Avada Kedavra curse on Ariel Sharon.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Frijoles and Guilt

I came back to the house to find a nice note from my field project advisor.

Also came back to a house that smells like cooking pinto beans.

This is the saga of the beans:

Among the 388,392,485 items left in my possession by the machetenim was a giant 20 or 25 pound sack of dried pinto beans. The only thing I ever buy 20 pounds of at a time, normally, is rice, since the fella and I both grew up in strongly Asian influenced communities, and I tend to cook something that goes on rice at least two or three times a week. But the beans seemed like a nice possibility. I like beans. The fella regards thick bean soup or beans with cornbread as basically the only non-fleischig meal he considers a real dinner. I determined to cook some beans.

That was just after the chagim, in 2001. I am still trying.

I cannot seem to get the beans to a non-crunchy consistency. They start to fall apart, and turn to paste, and they still have a slight CRUNCH to them. I went online and looked for pinto bean recipes. They all start with "cook a pot of pinto beans. When your beans are done..."

I found folksy reminisces by folks who grew up poor in Texas, but Mama always had a pot of beans on the stove no matter what. Do they explain how Mama cooked them? NO.

I found a webpage by some nutcase woman explaining how dried beans are going to be your friend after the U.S. government collapses and we're all in bomb shelters living off the land. Does she explain what you do to cook the dried beans while fending off the federal shock troops and homeschooling your kids in Christian self-reliance? She does not. "Cook your beans, and then..."

These people are no help at all.

The best help I got was from Latina Magazine, my favorite fashion mag ever, except for the late lamented Mode. Latina occasionally runs articles advising working women not to run themselves down if they get their beans out of a can, instead of cooking from dried like your mother and grandmother did.

Finally got a tip from a coworker. Don't put in the tomato sauce at the beginning. Apparently it has some enzyme that retards the bean-cooking process.

So right now, I have a Crock-Pot full of beans going. They've been going since nine-fifteen this morning. I am hoping for the best. I'll let you know how it works out.

I don't know why I am so focused on this, but for some reason it drives me NUTS that I can't do this.

Frustration--and 43 Other Things

Right now I'm intensely frustrated. I have too many things to do, and so feel as though I'm doing none of them very well.

Basically, these are my goals for the summer:

Establish nice household routines so that we can live comfortably in this house
Get ready for teaching in the fall
Get a large chunk of work done on my MA field project
Learn to drive--this could be extended, but I want a license by the end of Christmas break
Finish the STUPID, STUPID teacher induction homework

It's too much. It's too many things. If, say, I were only unpacking and getting the house set up, and ALSO I was getting ready for fall, great. Or if I were unpacking and ALSO working on the MA, great. But it's a couple balls too many. And I feel kind of grrrr. This is the downside of the Balabusta dream. I imagine myself doing millions of things, perfectly and completely, without breaking a sweat, and I can't. Period.

I'm trying to pare down, and be smart.

The afternoon's plans:

Take a shower, get some clothes that aren't what I'm wearing on. --DONE
Go into Berkeley. Get some books. Make some photocopies--DONE
Come home --DONE
Make some cornbread
Do one more standard--two homeworks--for BTSA, and then mail off what I have. I may need to go back to the school site to finish the rest, and I want some positive feedback for what I've done before continuing to invest time.
Clean living room--pick up surfaces, and Swiffer


Create an outline--not all the materials, but an outline, of my first week of class this fall, which is going to focus on classroom procedures. If this doesn't happen today, it will happen tomorrow.

I think this is reasonable sized.

I've found a weird website called 43 Things. Essentially, you create an account where you can make a list of up to 43 things you're working on at any given time, and then network with other people who share these goals. I'm creating one, trying to include big long-term stuff--get my novel published, stop beating myself up about small failures--with small stuff--get the BTSA homework done!

In the interest of stopping beating myself up, here are some good things I've done:

1. On the very PLUS side, the situation with the dishwasher continues to be GREAT. We have had almost no dish build-up, and certainly not the kind of problems we had at the old house. I currently have a couple of glasses in the sink, and nothing else. It's terrific.

2. I wrote to my Field Project advisor, explained what I was doing, and asked for help with a technical problem.

3. I bought a plastic filing cube yesterday, and organized a whole lot of papers that were lying around loose. This also allowed me to throw away papers we didn't need, that had been in the stacks.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Buy Stock in Costco, Friends

Let's see. Check this out. They pay $17 bucks an hour on average. They sell cheap stuff everyone needs. (I'll deal with the conditions that's made under at some other time.) They have good benefits. And Wall Street is whiiiining, because if they can run a healthy business under these conditions, they're gonna make the folks who lock their illegal employees in overnight look even worse.


Quest For Turkey Bacon

Aaron's Gourmet wrote back, and they said:

Dear Balabusta,

We carry all types of kosher products, however, there is no bacon nor any pork products involved.

I've written back, trying to explain. I'm interested to see that they didn't exactly get the drift of my post. I wrote in part:

Hi--I'm trying to find out if there is a source out there for kosher turkey ham and/or bacon.

I think they may have read this as "kosher turkey, ham, and/or bacon", and not realized that 'turkey' is an adjective modifying 'bacon' in this case. I'm starting to realize that this may just be an untapped market. Why? Turkey bacon and ham are selling big these days, they're good quality products, and they would allow kosher cooks a lot of room to make meals that otherwise don't happen. If 'bacon' and 'ham' turns off the core market, how about 'turkey strips'? 'Hickory-cured turkey'?

Now if I had the slightest idea how to start a turkey bacon business, I would see this as a business opportunity.

Actually, there is a product I found in the lists at Aarons called 'beef fry', and based on other searches I suspect this might be some sort of beef bacon. I don't want beef bacon, though. It's really not that great, whereas the turkey is better for you, and has that nice salty crispness.

On an earlier theme, Aarons also writes (as part of a long letter introducing me to the company):

Aaron's Gourmet is also a producer of Kosher Turduckens. A Turducken is a fully boneless stuffed hen (stuffed with a choice of stuffing: vegetable challah or rice with vegetables), which is stuffed into a fully boneless duck and then both are stuffed into a fully boneless turkey, with the same stuffing. A Turducken looks like a plain stuffed turkey, but don't be fooled. This is no ordinary turkey. Just put one on a Simcha table and don't tell the guests what it is. Let them think it's just a plain turkey. When it's time to carve, you ask for everyone's attention and cut it all the way through. Don't be afraid. It's fully boneless. All you hear is: What? Oh! Ahh.

So there you have it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

New Maeve Binchy Book!

Maeve Binchy, for those who may not know, is a fabulous novelist. She writes big, complex, satisfying books, mostly set in Ireland. Lately she's been writing contemporary settings, but her first several books took place during the mid-forties-to-mid-sixties. She's also a gripping short story writer. Her first book, Light a Penny Candle is one of my all-time favorite novels.

Anyway, I thought she had stopped writing. I read somewhere that she had decided her last novel really would be her last novel. Apparently I was wrong, there's a new one out, Nights of Rain and Stars and it's been out long enough to be cheap on Amazon.

Happy summer reading!

I SAID I Wore Blue Jeans

It's late Shabbos afternoon--late, late Shabbos afternoon--right now. And not being shomeret, I am playing on the computer, reading this and that, and giving myself a day off from trying to unpack and do all the homework for my continuing education junk. Waiting for the fella to wake up, since he's working nights again and is unconscious.

So I write a little thing for the blog, and then a funny thing happens. I DON'T POST IT. NOT RIGHT AWAY. I store it as a draft, planning to post it after Shabbos is over.

What the dickens is going on here folks?

Well, basically, I'm attempting to conform, publicly, to the section of the Blogosphere in which I found myself. I'm reading a lot of blogs by frum folks, and on some level, I guess, I am trying to do the blogging equivalent of putting on long sleeves and a skirt to go to dinner with the Chassids up the block. (Which I have also done.)

Yeah, well, that's someone else's house. This is my blog. And I feel as though I should introduce myself. Er....

First name: Balabusta

Last Name: Blue Jeans

What was it in the old country?: The old countries in my father's family's case were Ireland and England. It did not used to be Bluejeansky.

Affiliations?: I attend Conservative synagogues, mostly, 'cause I like the Hebrew and the egalitarianism. Registered Democrat, of the generation that imprinted on Bill Clinton like baby ducks just out of the eggshell. San Franciscan for life. Equally annoying about being Jewish and being Irish.

Why "Balabusta in Blue Jeans"?: I wanted something that expressed the dynamic of being both traditional and modern, someone who wanted to take a positive feminine image and update it a trifle. Also, I wear blue jeans a lot.

Where are the jeans from?: These days, usually J.Jill. I really LIKE J.Jill. I'm training to become a preppy in my early thirties.

Family?: Mom and Dad live in San Francisco. I live in El Cerrito with the fella. Most of the rest of the family in Southern California or New York, you'll meet them sooner or later. No siblings. The fella's family is cloaked in deep privacy, except I've already mentioned the brother-in-law in Afghanistan, and the craftsy machetenim.

What are you reading?: Currently, a mystery novel by Laura Lippman, By A Spider's Thread. Jewish content, Irish/Jewish protagonist, not a bad read at all. I just finished the latest Harry Potter, also Molly Ivins' Who Let the Dogs In?, and a weird novel about a soccer mom who fights demons, titled Carpe Demon. In theory I was going to read Bill Clinton's autobiography this summer.

Why so tetchy about intermarriage issues?: Dad's Catholic, the fella is a nonpracticing cultural Protestant. Magical thinking about Jews marrying Jews annoys me, especially when I meet their children and they think I'm a religious fanatic.

Are you actually a religious fanatic?: Adain lo.

Favorite politicians: As I mentioned, I imprinted on Bill Clinton like a duckling. I also love Barbara Boxer, and locally, Gavin Newsom is way cool. Angela Alioto fan from way back. Make of all this what you will.

What do you do for a living?: Middle school teacher. Your prayers are gratefully accepted.

Favorite TV shows?: The fella controls the remote, but I like West Wing, Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, and, horrible though it is, House.

Anything else?: I really like the Hip-Hop Hoodios. And the Sobe LizzBlizz stuff.

Insecticide Chalk--AAAAAARRRGH

When we moved to the new place, we left a wastebasket that apparently had something edible stuck in it in the room that has the doors to the deck. The ants showed up. (Ants are an ongoing thing in my life.)

So I pulled out the one thing that worked back at the old place, the Miraculous Insecticide Chalk. This was left behind by the machetenim. It looks like blackboard chalk, and you draw a line around the ants' point of entrance with it. It really is amazing. They can't cross the line. I drew one line on the deck, and one on the hardwood floors inside. No more ants, except for a few stragglers already inside.

So we went to friends for sewing night, and they had ants, and I mentioned this stuff. I said I'd be glad to bring over a stick. Later that day, it occurred to me to see if maybe you can order it on line.

Googled "Miraculous Insecticide Chalk".

It's banned by the EPA, people. Apparently for very good reason. This stuff is EEEEEVIL.

Grrrrr. The infuriating thing is that it works. Deltamethrin, the active ingredient, "is one of the most toxic pesticides of its kind", per the EPA. Which is apparently why I have no more ants.

Did it have to be bad?

When In Doubt, Claim They Ain't Jewish

Great, I'm becoming an Arik booster. Well, not really, but:

Over at Hasidic Rebbele, I find this comment on Ariel Sharon:

I have also read that Arik Sharon's mother is not a Jew; therefore, he is not a Jew either. To me that is amazing. How can the Jews trust him?

That's the dangerous thing about blogging, you can always follow a link to someone who will cause your head to spin around.

Hmmm. Ariel Sharon, was, according to online bios, born in 1928 to Shmuel and Dvora/Vera Scheinerman in Kfar Malal. Shmuel and Vera had come from Russia a few years before. I suppose it's barely possible that Vera was not Jewish, married Shmuel Sheinerman, took a Hebrew name to fool posterity, and went off to struggle raising goats and tobacco in a swamp in British Palestine. The Balabusta has met a lot of other people with interesting family backgrounds. Her own father, a practicing Catholic, once took a Hebrew name, although that was just for a Hebrew class, but so far he has stayed out of swamps as much as possible.

However, since Googling this rumor a couple of ways hasn't produced anything except a page by a classic anti-Semitic nutjob who's fallen prey to the "Ashkenazim are Khazars and therefore not the people in the Bible" thing, I tend to suspect that Dvora Sheinerman was Jewish. I also tend to wonder where the Rebbele 'read' this little tidbit.

Next item: If true, would this be relevent? Ariel Sharon has given his entire life to the state of Israel, since joining the Haganah as a teenager. You can like him or not, applaud or despise what he has done with that life, but it's a simple fact. Israel is what the man DOES. And I used to hear much praise of him, at least from the right wing of the seder table, for this service and devotion. Suppose Sharon wasn't halachically Jewish? Suddenly this explains all his failings? Yick.

It annoys me as a Jew that we can't disagree without trying to figure out ways to force each other out of the Big Jewish Tent. And it really ticks me off, as a Jew with mixed family, that the worst thing Hasidic Rebbele can think of to say about a politician he hates is that his mama wasn't Jewish.

Let's get back to Vera Scheinerman. Per Sarah Honig of the JPost (from 2001, back when right wingers liked Arik):

He was an agronomist and she once a medical student. They made Ariel and his older sister Dita do their homework and take violin lessons (which Arik quickly quit). Their house was full of books but extremely poor. Dvora worked barefoot in the fields, citrus grove, tobacco patch, cow barn and goat shed. Instead of buying herself shoes, she saved for the children's education. Unlike most their neighbors, the Scheinermans insisted their kids attend high school.

Sounds like a nice lady and a good mother. Israel was built on the blood, sweat and tears of people like her. Could we leave her out of our theorizing about why her son turned out such an SOB?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Smells Like Freedom Lavender

Down to 6 BTSA homework assignments to do. Think I can manage to finish by Monday, ship all this junk off.

I've been cleaning. Need to get contact paper, since scrubbing the cabinets with Method's French Lavender wipes is not getting the surfaces clean enough.

Unpacking. Oy. Unpacking. Not as bad as packing, I will say that for it. But we have such a lot, still, of small junk, things that need to be filed, or thrown away, or found a box for. And I want it all to look beautiful and pulled together NOW.

Found, and Important:
my Shabbos candlesticks, (last week candles were lit in a pyrex meatloaf pan, which I think is within the letter of the law, but, er....)
the wok (thank God, life is tricky without it),
my big chunky painted glass saltshaker,
the Sriracha hot sauce (YESSSSS),
my other jeans (YESSSSSSS)
the cool willow basket I bought in Ireland
and lots of other stuff that is less exciting right now

Interesting, what you really need.

Still having to remind myself to declutter and sort as I pack. Don't just assume you want it because it is a T-shirt, LOOK AT IT. Make a decision. Just because I found a grimy scrub brush left behind by the old tenants doesn't mean I have to keep it. If I throw it out and discover I need one exactly like this, I will buy one at OSH.

I moved a lot of stuff around in the garage. I sort of obscured the deer path down the center of the garage, but it makes it possible for me to actually get to the washing machine without doing the limbo.

Declutter. Sort. Find out more about how to make a frittata. (Wrote to Aaron's Gourmet to ask about source of kosher turkey ham or bacon. Suppose I won't hear back until after Shabbos. Yes, this is connected to the frittata thought.)

A good Shabbos.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

By The Way, Didn't I Say...

Wasn't this blog going to be about the adventures of a Jewish homemaker in El Cerrito?

Well, it still is, political excursions to one side. We're goin' to Ikea this afternoon.

And Speaking of Iraq

Right on the heels of my last, I check Orthomom's blog out and note that the brand new Iraqi constitution seems to have a vested interest in making sure that Iraqi Jews don't take advantage of this new state of affairs to try to, you know, come back, or get involved in politics, or anything like that.

Like I said over there: not surprising, still exasperating.

The World in Shades of Blue and Orange

(Photo's from Mentalblog. Check 'em out.)

Don't know what it is about me and Ariel Sharon. No matter how I feel about him, the same people disagree with me.

Used to be I didn't like the man at all, and there were people aplenty to tell me that Arik was the Answer, and that I was a moron, a self-hating Jew, and an enabler of the enemies of Israel for not seeing that.

Then I got a little more rightish, and General Strangelove started doing some things I thought were unpleasant but smart (around the same time all my leftish friends decided he was actually Satan, but that is another story). I got more Arik-friendly.

At this point, all my rightish connections informed me that Arik was a sellout and a Giver Up Of Land, and a bad person all round, plus had I heard about his awful ethic violations, and the strings he pulled to evade prosecution?

It doesn't matter what I think about Arik. The same people go on disagreeing with me. And now, because my leftish friends still think he eats babies, EVERYONE disagrees with me, and they do it with that kind of horrified breathless stare. Thank goodness I mostly talk politics over e-mail and usually don't have to SEE the breathless stare.

I've been working on this for a couple days, and I still can't get over the feeling that posting anything about The Great Upcoming Unpleasantness of the Gaza disengagement will be a kind of bad idea. The usual disclaimers apply--I'm not Israeli, to paraphrase Ferris Bueller, I don't plan to be Israeli, and (blasphemy, coming from a self-identified Zionist), I've never been to Israel. So what gives me the right to have an opinion at all, here, especially one that might clash with that of a more qualified self-identified Zionist?

But it's not as simple as that, is it? Cause I'm a Jew, and this is Israel. So I go on popping up, yelling out my piece, even if I'm not sure anyone is listening or cares, even if I'm not sure I know what I'm talking about at a times.

The current situation may not have a lot of great answers, at least I have not heard any offered. Israel has a massive security problem, Israel will continue to have a massive security problem. I think that Sharon is hunkering down for a long, tough, haul, (about which he knows something), and that pulling the Gaza settlers inside harder borders is consistent with the things he's been doing to get set for that haul. I also think that a man who's been as consistently supportive of the settlement movement as Sharon has been did not decide to do this for the great PR it's going to bring him. (Slightly bitter grin here.)

So, basically, I think this is something we ought to do, with immense concern and consideration for the people whose lives are getting transplanted, and who in large number don't agree with why.

OTOH, this punches all my buttons about where Jews are allowed to live, and not, and by whose permission. Jon Carroll, a local columnist, wrote a piece that was extremely popular, about 'Unitarian Jihad'. It's funny. It's also kind of simplistic. And this pulled me up short:

Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

Lessee. We have four religions on the spot here in this paragraph. Two are committing acts of religiously motivated violence. One is advocating the imposition of their religion on all other Americans. And one thinks they can live anywhere they want to.

(Singing) "One of these things is not like the others..."

(Not gonna comment on the attempt to identify the Deity--okay, I am. Would it actually KILL all the well-meaning gentile commentators out there to find out how Jews actually refer to God? The persistent belief that we actually call God--you know--freaks me out. And they don't want to be corrected. Even the very PC ones don't want to be corrected. Especially the very PC ones don't want to be corrected. Done now.)

So that's the other part of this--why Israel can't just detach from Gaza and leave the settlers to decide if they want to move inside the hard borders or tough it out in Rocketland. Jews who think they can live anywhere they feel like are always mistaken if they think they can do it safely in an Arab jurisdiction. (Was reading an article yesterday about how Iraqi Christians are running to Syria to escape religiously motivated violence, and actually thought to myself that it was lucky we'd already had our community there thrown out.)

This hurts, on a lot of levels. I really want it to work out. (Work out, by me, means no one gets hurt and there's really some good advantage for Israel in going through this.)

Anyway, I still don't really like Arik, but I think he's almost tough enough for the present situation, and that doesn't describe too many people. Even in Israel.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Truly Great Bookstore Clerk

Yesterday was my father's birthday, so I went into the city and met him and my mother for dinner at Alfred's Steakhouse.

I wanted to get him something, but had no idea what he would like, so I went to Stacey's Books on Market. Hunted around for a while. Called my mother on my little cell phone, and asked if she had any ideas.

After a few ideas were batted around, she told me that she thought there was a newish book out about the Clinton administration, 'but not that awful one bashing Hillary'.

I agreed that this sounded good, and hung up. We did not know the title, the author, or the publisher of the book, but I found a woman in an apron shelving books, and I said:

"Ma'am, I'm trying to find a book for my father. All I know is that it's a fairly new book about the Clinton administration, but not the Hillary-bashing one."

She walked me straight to the politics section, pulled a book off the shelf and handed it to me.

For the record, the book is The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House, by John F. Harris. The awful Hillary-bashing one sounds funnier, though.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dogs Are Fabulous

Discovered this website, and thought it was awfully cool. Pups for Peace is a nonprofit that trains bomb-sniffing dogs in Israel. They do bus station patrols, among other things.

I especially like the pictures of the dogs, and the little bios that accompany them. Doc is 'a dog who qualifies by work ethic, not pedigree.' (Cute tan mutt, in other words.) Chaim is a 'mighty black labrador'. Leah Tamar is 'a beautiful and high-spirited dog with the right stuff'.

Okay, I'm mad about dogs anyway, and dogs who DO things fascinate me. I love getting my bags sniffed by the dogs at the airport. So this was a natural for me.

They also include some writing about dogs and Jewish tradition, including a dvar Torah given at the graduation of their first class. I wondered if they'd find anything positive in the tradition to say about dogs, but they do, in fact.

Check it out. You can donate to the program online.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Adventures in Meat

Today I found some books with information about Jewish medieval cooking online, and ordered 'em used on Amazon. This is part of my ongoing fascination with medieval Jewish cultures, mostly channeled through my SCA activities. Anyway, I happened to call an SCA friend about something else, and mention the books, and she pointed out that if my research got detailed, I should cook a feast 'or something'.

(I'm using every ounce of strength I have not to start explaining the SCA for non SCAniks, because it's my blog, and I assume everyone here is on my wavelength. If you want to know, ask.)

So it occurs to me, while I am thinking about feasts, to wonder if there is such a thing as a kosher goose available out there. I go onto Google and check.

The jury's still out. There's some fabulous kosher gourmet place in Rego Park, Aaron's Gourmet, and they apparently had goose at some time in the past, but the website doesn't currently mention it. They do have some stuff I want to try now, kosher chicken sausages in particular.

They also have turducken.

KOSHER turducken.

Not kidding. Yes, a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all kosher, and stuffed with challah stuffing.

Apparently (it gets better), you can get a kosher for Pesach turducken. With matzah stuffing.

Okay, folks, here's my question: WHO MAKES TURDUCKEN FOR PESACH? WHO? I'm trying to visualize this, and my brain is shutting down. Worse, I'm imagining a turducken version of Chad Gadya. "Then came a turkey and swallowed the duck..."

Anyway, if you want one, two hundred bucks will get you a boneless, glatt kosher, Pesadik turducken, shipped to your door.

Emboldened by this experiment, I started looking for kosher turkey bacon. No dice. I've done this before. I just can't believe there is no kosher turkey bacon out there. I see references to it in recipes. I just can't find the actual product.

Now I'm in phase three, thinking about how I should cut back on my meat consumption. I think I'm eating way too much of it, and mostly to keep the fella company. You know, if I stopped eating red meat, I could just make a lovely vegetarian dish for me, and grill a steak for the fella. He'd be thrilled, and I could stop thinking vaguely guilty thoughts.

A good week to all.

Friday, July 15, 2005

In Praise of the Local Ice Cream Truck

We have an ice-cream truck here, that drives around the neighborhood playing what I think is "Teddy Bears' Picnic', but how would I know? I finally spotted it the other day, after catching glimpses of it and hearing the song several times a day.

It's a scrunched little vehicle, pink, with 'Khalsa Ice Cream' handlettered on the side, and 'Caution, Children Crossing' on the hood. It's driven by two young men in black turbans, and stops every block or so. Kids come out with their parents and buy ice creams.

So far I haven't actually bought an ice cream. One of these days. In the meantime, I grin every time I hear the music wafting up the block.

More on the back of Dvorah's head...

I located this post over at Wolfish Musings.

I think this may be what's going on with the computer game and the face, and I do vaguely remember reading about this in the past. If this is the reason, it's NOT gender specific. Ah well, I guess the JPost isn't all-knowing.

Fridge moved!

The landlord came by, and asked one more time if I was SURE I wanted the fridge moved. I was, so he disconnected the icemaker line. Then he ran into some problems, so he went and got his uncle and the two of them lay on the floor for a while in my kitchen and discussed crescent wrenches.

Eventually, all was well, and they both condoled me several times on having to move, and warned me about putting too much down the garbage disposal. They declined ice water, even though I have a lot of ice, still. They left.

My blood pressure is slowly coming down.

While we were waiting for the landlord, the fella and I loaded up the van with our Goodwill stuff and drove to the Goodwill dropoff. It's at the El Cerrito Recycling Center, which is a big open fenced area right at the bottom of a steep hill at the edge of the paved part of town. The fella spotted a deer! Apparently just checking things out. There are bins and dumpsters for all kinds of scrap and stuff, but there's also a book exchange. You can drop off books, or take some, it's very casual. We gave them all the books in the Goodwill boxes, and I got a copy of Tough Jews and one of Nora Ephron's Heartburn.

The Back of the Prophetess' Head

The Jerusalem Post ran this review of a children's computer game about Deborah. It looks cute, but I don't know what to make of this:

"...this adventure, which stars Deborah, who appears only with her back to the player, apparently so as not to upset English-speaking haredi parents in the Diaspora and Israel with a female face."

I actually don't get this one. Is it really considered--what, immodest? for a female animation figure to have a face? But not a male one? What on earth is this about?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I am Afraid of Landlords. This should be everyone's biggest problem.

Fortunately, we're almost done with our last one. She called last night. At a quarter to ten. This is early. Usually it's 10:00 PM on the dot, leading me to panic mightily as I grab up the phone. "Oh my God! What's UP? Oh. It's you."

She's decided to keep our cleaning deposit to pay for the stained rugs and the trouble of cleaning up the backyard. I feel that after nearly a decade of landlordish neglect, this is vaguely inappropriate, but frankly, I don't care enough to argue with her. She is, however, sending us the last month's rent, which is what I really cared about. So, we're happy.

Unfortunately, today I HAD to call our new landlord to ask about moving the blasted refrigerator. He explained that he moved the refrigerator back to 'where it belonged' because the tenants had moved it, and they'd used the wrong kind of hookup for the icemaker. I explained that I did not CARE about the icemaker, I wanted the fridge moved.

He seems sort of confused about this, but genially agreed to come by today or tomorrow and see if he can cap off the line. So now he's coming by. And there are half-empty boxes all over everything, and OHHHHHHH, stress, stress, stress, the landlord wants to get into our house, AAAAACK, er, help. What if I've scuffed the floors? What if he sees that there are clothes on the floor in the bedroom? What if he...

Yes, really, I'm thirty two. I'm a professional. Really. Honest. But, ummm...I have trouble with landlords. OK. Look, we're moving in. I signed a lease that said I wouldn't set the place on fire or paint the walls aqua, not put everything in the house neatly away as soon as I moved in. But I am still stressed, stressed, stressed--but I need the fridge to move.

The fella thinks the landlord is convinced that the fridge belongs in this weird spot because there is an overhead cabinet there, and normally, you'd stash the fridge under in. That's possible. But DARN IT, I need the counter space.

Out in the world of People With Real Worries, a mortar hit the undisclosed location of the undisclosed brother-in-law of my undisclosed boyfriend, somewhere in Afghanistan. (It's not as secret as all that, this is for privacy, and also because I don't really know.) The Undisclosed Brother-In-Law was forced to make his way to a bunker wearing bedroom slippers and Vlassic Pickle boxer shorts, but is otherwise fine, thank God.

And now I'm down to 10 Teacher Induction Program past-due homework assignments to go this summer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I Love My Dishwasher

So we're getting everything set up, and the fella got a parking ticket for parking facing traffic. At 2:30 AM. I don't think the El Cerrito PD has enough to do.

Anyway, I love the dishwasher. I've never had a dishwasher before. It's very small, and has an alarming tendency to occasionally spit up things I didn't put in it--a half-inch long fragment of pottery painted green and yellow today. I can't match it to anything we own.

But it's fabulous anyway. You should understand that dishes have been a major hassle in my life for years now. I am the default dishwasher in my relationship. The fella will wash dishes. Occasionally. If he is feeling very loving, or very guilty, or there are actually no forks at all left. But mostly it has been my task, and I have resented the hell out of it.

I don't like dishwashing. It's endless, and thankless, and I am not good at it. I drip water down the front of my shirts trying to get in close to the dishes. I glare over my shoulder at the fella, who is settled happily in front of the TV. And, most importantly, I also go through long periods where the dishes get away from me, and I just can't handle it any more. Sometimes dishes have piled up for, literally days and weeks, while I'm going through a rough patch at work. Then I spend all weekend trying to catch up, and sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't.

Did I mention that the sink at the San Francisco house had a sloooooow drain?

So now I have the dishwasher, and WOW it is lovely. The first evening we were in the new house, I loaded it, and put in the soap, and turned it on to 'Normal Wash', and I went into the living room, sat down next to the fella, put up my feet, and picked up a book. I felt quite loving and contented. And life was very, very good.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I Think I Figured It Out

OK. When we moved in, we realized almost immediately that the new refrigerator, which had not been in the kitchen when we toured the new house, was in exactly the wrong place.

It's between the stove and one side of the counter/cabinet range, cutting off access to about half the cabinet and counter space of a fairly small kitchen.

I planned to shove it across the floor and into the obviously much better open space across the room. Then I discovered it was attached by a thin copper tubing to the wall, the tubing running into a hole in the wall and disappearing.

I asked my fella, and he thought it was for condensation or something. I shrugged, and determined to ask the landlord if there was any way it could be moved, once we were a little more settled.

I just went to get a glass of water on this hot East Bay day, and had a small revelation. I think the copper tubing is how the refrigerator gets water for the ice cubes it so cleverly automatically makes for us without being asked.

I don't know where I thought the ice was coming from. Spontaneous generation? Teleport from the North Pole?

I've decided that for another four feet of countertop and cabinets I can reach into, I will go on freezing my own ice cubes in trays, if there's any way to disconnect the ice maker without damaging the fridge. The suburbs and their gadgets!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Arrival, Part 2--The Movers, and the Aftermath

It became fairly clear to me by Friday that we were in trouble, and needed some professional assistance. We'd run a couple of van loads over to El Cerrito, and, uh, it was reminding me of the scene in _The Phantom Tollbooth_ where the boy is conned into trying to move a mountain of sand with a spoon.

We simply didn't have the time. Or the energy.

So I came to two realizations. One was that we needed professional assistance, and the other was that we needed another dumpster.

I called Starving Students, and begged for help.

I expected them to tell me to get lost, but they said they could send someone Tuesday afternoon. They did (Tuesday morning, actually, but that's another story). There were three of them, and they loaded just about everything into the moving truck (including some loose shoes of mine that were lying around unpacked).

The garage is now completely packed to the ceiling with brown boxes. Some of them, I'm finding, belonged to the fella's parents and were never unpacked. I just went through one that was nothing but books on flying saucers. They are going to Goodwill. I have found the nearest Goodwill dropoff point.

Then we had to get the last two vanloads of useless stuff out of there, and fill the dumpster, and clean up, and get out. And, somewhat amazingly, a week behind schedule, we did. The landlady has been sent her keys.

Now all we need to do is UNPACK.

And tomorrow I go to the local DMV at eight AM to take my third driving permit test. (I passed the last two times. I just let the permits expire.)

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I turned thirty-two. And bombs went off in Tube stations with all-too-familiar names. And I'm learning this new neighborhood. And I actually found some of the work I need to do this summer, and put it on my desk. And, of course, unpacked my computer.

Arrival, pt 1--U-Haul

We made it!

A brief time line:

On June 30 (Thursday), we rented a U-Haul. This did not work as well as hoped. U-Haul was having an extremely busy Fourth of July Weekend. We reserved the U-Haul on Tuesday. Wednesday they called back and said we could only have the U-Haul for six hours, and we would have to pick it up South of Market, not on Judah Street.


So we got the U-Haul, long story there already, and drove it home, loaded all our major furniture onto it (sweating, cursing, thank heavens the couch was already gone), and drove the thing to El Cerrito, unloaded (sweating, cursing), and then we had to return the U-Haul.

The kid who took it back from us glared at the furniture blankets and asked if we had folded them. "No," I said. "Would you MIND folding them?" he asked.

I folded the blankets.

Then we were in line waiting to pay, and realized that the kid had written that the odometer had gone up 4350 miles during the six hours we had the U-Haul. You get charged a buck an hour. The only thing keeping me from despair when I realized this was assuming that any sane person at the desk we were approaching would realize this wasn't possible--we would have had to go to Minnesota and back in six hours to rack up that kind of mileage, driving at a rate of speed reserved to experimental jets and the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.

But I was still a little uneasy, since the last friend of mine to rent a U-Haul was charged eight hundred unexpected dollars and only got her money back when she pointed out that she was demonstrably not the eight young men accused of returning the vehicle six days late, trashed. Still, all went well, the young woman at the counter apparently took the odometer report with a grain of salt.

We returned to base. We now had all our furniture out of the house, but EVERYTHING ELSE remained. My fella seemed confident that we could just move everything else in our overpacked three-bedroom San Francisco house in small loads in the van. I was dubious. But we drove back to our new house, where the bed was, and slept.

NOTE ON SUBURBIA: When we turned out the lights it was dark. Very dark. Not the dark of our normal bedroom with the lights out dark, but DAAAARK. We realized after a certain amount of shock that the problem was due to not having a streetlight in front of the house anymore. When you turn out the lights in Suburbuia, it is like camping in the bloody woods.

We slept with the bathroom light on.