Friday, December 28, 2007

Who Am I, Anyway?

I got a response to my last post that made me think I should clear some stuff up:

Tamara Eden wrote:

Hi there,

I'm updating my blogroll and can't figure out if you should go in my Teacher list or my Jewish list.

Which do you think your blog best fits?

Also, I'm so confused on your blog. Are you a public or a Jewish school teacher? Are you frum? Just curious. I'm sort of one of those lurkers who doesn't comment enough (blushing).

Hi Tamara!

As far as where my blog best fits, I think "Jewish" is probably better than "Teacher", although I do blog about both. Maybe there could be a Jewish Teacher category? Dunno. Do as you see fit.

Now, as for where the heck I teach: I teach at a public charter high school in Richmond, California. Last year I taught at a Catholic school in Oakland. The reason you're confused, I think, is because I assign all the students and staff I write about pseudonyms that are almost always Hebrew names. My students are primarily African American and/or Latino, and nearly all Christian or culturally Christian. (They would point out here that many of them are CATHOLIC, which they do not see as a Christian faith. Sigh.) In real life they have names that reflect their ethnicity and faith, and the names that were popular fifteen years ago.

I just refer to them as Yochanan, Merav, Chaim, Mushkie, Imma Shalom, Meir, etc., because I want to protect their identities, and I'm having fun. I used to call my students things like Kid X, and Nice Korean Kid #2, but last year I referred to a boy as Dovidl (an indirect play on the nice Arabic name his mother gave him), and then it seemed natural to call the girl he blamed for getting him in trouble Brachi, and the next thing I knew, they all had Hebrew names. I admit that this is more complicated than the RenReb's policy of simply calling everyone Phil, but it is sort of fun. The names are assigned haphazardly, on an as-needed basis, and sometimes change if I think of a better one. Mostly they allude to the sound or meaning of the original name.

Am I frum? No, or at least, adayin lo. My gentile husband thinks I'm a religious extremist. My Jewish friends know better. I buy kosher meat, eat veggie out, light for the holidays, daven once in a while, and dream of doing better. I was raised Reform, and am tending to drift back that way, after a time in the Conservative movement, simply because Reform is coming right-ward to meet me. I'm just serious about being Jewish, in my own eclectic way.

My father is Irish Catholic, and my husband is a non-practicing cultural Protestant, so my Yiddishkeit is, let's say, culturally complicated. And I'm from San Francisco, so everything about me, actually, is culturally complicated.

Hope this is helpful, although I can actually see how it might be even more confusing. Are you on winter break as well?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Nollaig Shona Dhuit

We had a super Christmas Eve at the Bluejeans-Fella residence. I made dinner--artichokes for me, ham for him, yams and corn for everyone--and we opened presents and watched some of his present (first season of NCIS), and I had champagne, and we stayed up late, well, late for me. Very nice. Today we meet my parents for an early dinner. I missed the Christmas pageant at my father's church, though, which is always adorable. (Small children in sheep masks. "And they went to Bethlehem, the city of King David. King David. KING DAVID!" (kid in crown is finally shoved forward by assertive altar girl.))

I wonder what it will be like in future years. I suppose I should admit this--I want to start a family in 2008. Just saying that terrifies me, and it will terrify the husband worse. (My father, however, will be awfully cheery.)Scares me to death. My work situation is better than in years past, but still wacked. I still don't know how to drive. The husband is a full-time college student. The house is messy.

We're still better off than an awful lot of first-time parents. I am slowly paying off my credit cards. Babies can ride in little backpacks. (They can even attend college classes with their fathers. I did.)

And every time I get to a holiday now, I think of what it will be like to share it with a little Bluejeans-Fella. I look at little kid menorahs. I imagine being one of the moms at shul. I listen to the parents I work with for clues as to how you handle homework and spats with friends.

Diagnosis: broody.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Vacation Is Good

I got up late, fixed coffee, and when the husband rolled out of bed, made him bacon, eggs, and toast.

I have a lot to do, but I have two weeks to do it in.

My parents got us a new microwave for Christmas--something we put on the wedding presents list, but didn't get. At some point, the old microwave will be hauled to Goodwill--there's still some use in it, maybe for a student apartment.

Last night I made it into SF for dinner with my parents for the first time in a couple weeks. We went to Tommy's, the best Guatamalan restaurant outside of Guatemala--even if you don't drink designer tequila--and they brought us flan.

Vacation even tastes good.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Have Myself a Merry Little Christmas

Well, I got all my OUT OF STATE Christmas shopping done this morning. Can I just comment that:

1. My husband should have done this a week or two ago, and is going to be gently kicked in the ankle.
2. My sister-in-law needs to put up some items on her Amazon wish list.
3. Next year I'm doing this in October.
4. My coworkers rock--I got two bottles of wine from coworkers yesterday.
5. Secret Santas are exhausting. Not so much the shopping, but the creeping around, and putting things on chairs.
6. The disdvantage to being a Jew in an intermarried family (daughter of and wife in), is that you end up making turkey, mailing packages, stressing out, and at the end of it all, you don't even have a Savior.
7. But to be fair, my in-laws sent me an adorable Chanukah music box, so we're all in this together...

But who cares? I'm on vacation! For two weeks!

And it's needed. This last week took the cake, the cake plate, the serving knife, and the tablecloth underneath it all.

One of my coworkers had not been happy with the school from the beginning. Like the gal who left five weeks into the year, she was having personality conflicts with the directors, and in general, I think, had a vision for the school that she could not get the rest of us signed on to, which she took badly. I missed most of the worst of the craziness, having no authority to help or harm, but it was apparently bad.

So she decided that at the end of the semester she would leave the school, which seemed reasonable enough. The end of the semester is around MLKs birthday--about three weeks after we get back from break.

Unfortunately, however, early this week she got into a fight with the directors about misinformation she was feeding the kids, and quit on the spot.

It's been an interesting week. The most lasting legacy she seems to have given us (which is a pity, she was a good teacher), is that she told all the kids that they were not earning enough credits at our school to transfer out, or graduate on time. This is not the heck true, but a lot of the kids were, justifiably, pretty worried.

Yochanan has FINALLY decided to change schools, and is just being poisonous right now. He and another kid are just convinced we have the worst school in all the world, and they are not mincing words. I try to be cool about this, but after a while it gets truly abrasive.

I need a vacation. Even though a lot of it is going to be spent getting ready for school again.

It's hard out here for a Yid

Over at Westbankmama, she's linking to a blog on a recent news story about some young Jewish guys who got jumped on a train in NYC after they yelled "Happy Hanukkah!" to some guys who were shouting "Merry Christmas".

West Bank Mama writes: "Any new immigrants to Israel having some second thoughts? Here is a reminder of at least one of the reasons you are here..."

Interesting, how Israelis blogging on this incident see it. Jameel is fascinated that the bystander who came to the Jews' aid was a Muslim.

As an American Jew, here's my take: As far as a a certain diverse and unpleasantly well-armed chunk of the world population is concerned, I got a target on my back. And as far as a certain diverse and unpleasantly self-righteous chunk of the world population is concerned, I should be understanding about this, and feel rachmones for people who want to kill me. In the wonderful, extremely graphic comic strip Hothead Paisan, a character named Sharquee, identifies herself as female, black, a lesbian and a prostitute, and comments, "I turn up dead all day long".

Is this a reason to make aliyah? Heck, no. The United States is not, relatively speaking, an unsafe place to be a Jew. (There are no absolutely safe places to be a Jew.) If you go from the States to Israel, go for a better reason (and there are lots) than that there are no drunk anti-Semites on the subway. (I don't know if there are even any subways. But the anti-Semites are often literally rather than figuratively explosive in the Middle East. Reality check. This isn't about physical safety.) And anti-Semites do not stop hating you just because you're living in Ramat Gan.

I'm not at all opposed to people making aliyah, I think it's wonderful, and would encourage anyone who wishes to do so to make it happen for themselves. Me, I just hope to visit one of these days, and maybe then I'll see why I need to live in Israel. But I have an odd knee-jerk reflex to some of the reasons offered me to make the move. It's hard to be a Jew. For all kinds of reasons. But I am not going to let a pack of morons on the subway become some kind of lasting stain on the glory that New York City has been for the Jewish people.

We rock. They do not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't Do Me Any Favors!

How's things at Moonbat? Glad you asked. Let's see:

Shirah was jumped by a bunch of gang-affiliated BLEEEEPs while she was minding her own business at a friend's house.

Elisheva can't go home for reasons that are not clear to me right now, and is living with her aunt.

Karmelit was banned from the computer by her father until her grades improve.

Meir's father has blown a fuse about his grades, and is making him do homework until nine o'clock each evening.

Lior did in fact leave. Don't know if Yochanan is coming back.

Shmueli is off his meds, and bouncing off the walls.

Ari's grandmother is annoyed with us.

New kid, who I shall call Yiskah, started today.

Anyway, I have been afflicted with support from the administration. I am trying not to feel overly annoyed by the support, but who am I fooling?

Basically, right now I am teaching three sections of English, one section of history, and a sort of floating section of ESL, plus an independent study in history, and a section of "Activity and Exercise Time". Following a history activity that went poorly, the ed director decided to get me some help. Said help consists of, for two weeks, a woman who does AMAZING things in history teaching from his old school.

Can she teach me how to teach tenth grade history in two hours a week? (I mean, I have two hours a week to teach the kids.) Not clear. But she has met with me to give me a refresher course in how to teach. (Consistency. Bellringer activities. Establishing classroom expectations.)

I wanted to scream and throw things, but I've had BAAAAD luck with questioning experts from outside in the past, so I smiled, and wrote **** down, and was polite while she explained how to ask them to take their Ipods out.

Why not ask for something different? Frankly, too scared. Bad history. So I sat there and felt ridiculous as she suggested vocabulary activities.

She's a totally nice woman. No one is trying to get me. But still, this is NOT what I need. Another person to answer to. And another person IN MY CLASSROOM, which makes me crazy.

Next time I'm asking for a pony.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Where to Spread the Gelt?

Check out Thanks to Jameel for this one.

Also, the addictive FreeRice, where you can show off your vocabulary skills and donate rice to the hungry. Simply delightful.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

World's Longest Week is Over

I lit for Chanike and Shabbos last night with a real sense of accomplishment. The week in which we had two nights of parent-teacher conferences, plus a board meeting, ie twelve hours work days, is over.

Some highlights:

Merav is gone from the school. Her mother pulled her out of Moonbat after a series of arguments with teachers, hurt feelings about student body politics, and apparently, repeated racial slurs from Yochanan. Which were never discussed with the teachers. Because, per Merav, we wouldn't have done anything. I think this is a lousy decision. First, we should have gotten Yochanan on all those slurs. Secondly, because of the way the semesters are set up, Merav is going to transfer out with no credits from this fall. This, frankly, strikes me as stupid.

Meanwhile, Yochanan was suspended, and may not be returning to the school, on account of those racial slurs, which were finally reported to a teacher by Orit, who apparently took some offense at being called what Don Imus called a well-known ladies' basketball team. Yochanan is mad at us because we searched his bag last week, and, well, generally not too happy with Moonbat. I don't know if he will come back. I like him personally, but would rather have Merav as a student.

Baruch is in big trouble with his mother for failing classes. When pressured to get his grades up by our principal, he claimed racial harassment. (His mother nearly screamed at this point. She is pretty fed up.) I commented, later, that we would be a greater and mightier nation if only racism had traditionally taken the form of trying to force young black men do their homework so they could get into a good college.

Chaim's father may be taking him out of the school to get him away from Mushka. The kids are in love, such love as no one over the age of eighteen has ever been in, and Chaim's father is not too happy about this for various reasons.

And apparently, Lior's mom is also taking him out, for no reason that I can fathom. And Ayelet's mom is moving out of the area and taking the kid with her. (This nearly led to a scene at the board meeting; I told Umm Ayelet that she could move to a safer neighborhood if she had to, but the kid was staying here, and could sleep on my couch if necessary. I will miss Ayelet.)

Meanwhile, I have been trying to explain to the kids that there is a very good reason to get off your duff and try to pass my class: if you do not pass, you will get no credits, and either have to take summer school, or, if this is not possible, you may have to take the entire class all over again. Next fall. With me. (I have no idea if I will really be returning, but in class there is no doubt.)

They don't quite believe it. Many of the kids at Moonbat are currently obsessed with the idea of escaping Moonbat for Gangbanger City High School, or Up-In-The-Hills Somewhere High School. At these establishments, they believe, their lack of credits because they failed everything this semester will not matter. They will get much less work. There will be better, nicer teachers who teach stuff right. They will not have to read the great classics in English class. THey will get to take 'real' classes. They will be allowed to talk in class and make out with their honeys on the playground, unhindered by teachers who are 'tryna do too much'. No one will call their parents. (This is true. They may call the police, though.)

Gangbanger City High = Great Rock Candy Mountain. I kind of want to go there myself. Except I've talked to people who've taught there, and apparently it's not so great as all that.

Anyway. I have good coffee, and am unwinding now.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

An Attitude of Gratitude

This has been a really amazingly bad week in some ways. The Byzantine politics at school are getting sillier and less funny. On Thursday a kid told me that he didn't care if he went to jail or not, as long as he lived to twenty.

And yesterday, Giora told Miryam that her mother should be more tsniudik in her choice of makeup because she was causing involuntary arousal in him, and putting him in danger of hotza'at zera levatala--except that, not being a yeshiva bocher, he didn't put it like that, he put it in terms so crude that his father had to call the school to find out what was said, because his son was too ashamed to repeat it to his father.

Anyway. I got paid, so I went grocery shopping on Thursday night, and I went berserk. I filled a cart at Trader Joe's, and then filled another one at Lucky. I bought meat and canned goods (and some canned goods for the canned food drive at school--my homeroom is SO winning, thanks to Savta Temimah, grandma of Ari, who cleared out her pantry of extras), and pasta and polenta and lots of frozen things, and basically got three weeks to a month's worth of food if I buy a little extra produce and milk and such here and there.

I got hit with gratitude. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to go into a grocery store with money in the bank and buy food like this. To live in a place where you can get good, clean food, plenty of it, on a teacher's salary. To be food-secure in America. I am so damn lucky.

(I am not totally sure that my husband, who got to help me drag the cans up the stairs was quite as grateful.)

Anyway. I'm putting my gratitude on the record, with the usual official rider to Her Who I'm Grateful To that I have unanswered concerns about why everyone doesn't get to have this...

My stand-up freezer is jam-packed. It's awesome.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Can't trust a politician in a pants suit

Over at Seraphic Secret, I find this.

Gonna ignore most of it, since I don't agree with hardly any of it, and it ain't all that new or shiny, but I do have to comment on:

Memo to Hillary: Don't you ever wear a simple trumpet dress, a nice silk blouse and wool pencil skirt? Something, um, lady like? You know why nobody trusts you?

Two words: pants suit.

One acronym back Mr. Avrech: WTF?

Holy bat-granola. Lessee:

1. This woman is currently leading for a major-party nomination for President of the United States, and you're worried about why she doesn't wear a nice skirt and blouse to the debate?

2. I'm pretty sure if she wore pretty dresses to events you'd accuse her of emphasizing her femininity to garner votes. I'm also pretty sure you'd be mocking her middle-aged butt's appearance in a pencil skirt. Just a guess.

3. Hillary looks nice in pants suits, and they're more comfortable than a pencil skirt. You don't want to debate while wondering if your hose are running. Just a guess.

4. I'm not entirely sure why the happy trend of dressing up Hillary never seems to pale. Back when Bill was running, we dressed her up in headbands and sweater sets, and posed her in a kitchen baking cookies. The best outfit I ever saw her in, though, was the fitted leather jacket at the first inauguration of the second Bush. "OK, say I'm a dyke," said the jacket. "It no longer matters, and I look HOT."

5. When Laura runs for President in 2011, I'm sure she will wear pretty prints. It's her style. She will, of course, face endless criticism for it.

6. Oh my God, just shut up. You wonder why feminists keep whining? It's because if we don't let off steam some way we'll explode and split the seams on our unladylike pantsuits.

7. WTF?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"I'm not going to get a reputation for being soft on turkeys, am I?"

My absolutely favorite West Wing episode of all time is "Shibboleth", in which, among other things, CJ has to choose the more photogenic of two turkeys to receive a presidential pardon.

(Apparently this year, Mr. Bush has already pardoned his turkey. Its name is May. The backup turkey was Flower. I think these are far more tasteful names than the ones a few years ago that got dubbed Yam and Marshmallow. There was a sweet picture of the president and assorted small children petting the turkey. We live in a great country. Where else is it a presidential duty to pardon a turkey?)

Yesterday I trekked to Oakland Kosher to get the turkey. We are going to friends, but they do not keep kosher (or indeed know much about it), so I volunteered to source a kosher turkey. And take it home on BART. Now I am simmering a pot of yams that will ultimately become a dish of slightly candied yams. Should have simmered the yams last night, but did not think of it then. I'm on vacation, and my brain is slightly softened by relaxation.

Tomorrow we go to my parents and eat turkey sandwiches.

A year ago, my father was just out of the hospital. Knowing what we have learned about how sick he really was at the time, I am incredibly thankful simply to have him here a year later, mostly recovered, and happily rattling pans in his own kitchen as he prepares to roast and mash away.

I am thinking a lot about my grandmother. Years ago, when she was in better health and my grandfather was still with us, they would drive up for Thanksgiving. I think that the only time my grandmother met my now-husband was at Thanksgiving at my parents old house on 26th Avenue. My grandpa would sit in the living room watching the game, and my grandmother would show up bringing her own potato peeler in her handbag.

I've decided to take two small measures to reduce my carbon footprint. (This seems Thankgivingy to me.) I'm slowly replacing all the bulbs in the house with CFL ones, and I'm going to stop using plastic and paper bags from stores this winter. We'll see how it goes. THe bag thing will require some organization and discipline, but shouldn't be too hard.

And the usual meanderings about how I'd like to make a me-sized spot in the organized Jewish community...aahhhh. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Zipper triumph

I have been having problems with the zippers on my jeans. I don't know exactly why, but the jeans I current have WILL NOT stay up. Kind of embarassing for a respectable lady such as myself.

God bless Google. I have learned the secret. You take a little ponytail elastic, one of the thin small kind. You poke it through the hole on the zipper pull. You then feed the two loops of the elastic through the buttonhole of the jeans, and when you put the button through, secure the loops by putting them over the button. Works like a charm.

I love things like this.

Wingnut Vacation Spots (in which the Balabusta is annoyed)

I need to stop reading Little Green Footballs. They have some interesting links there, but the comments threads tend to degenerate into absurdity, racism, and really weird stuff at the drop of a dime. And they get me aggravated, and since I don't post there, I post here, or irritate my friends over the phone.

Have you ever heard of Eger, Hungary? I sure as heck hadn't, and I sort of suspect that most people who aren't Hungarian probably haven't either. It was the scene of an siege by the Turks in the 1500s, which was heroically repelled by 2000 men, women and children, leading to a famous nineteenth-century novel called "Eclipse of the Crescent Moon". (The Turks came back forty years later, because Turks are like that, and took the town.) It has some pretty churches, a nice little castle, and a ridiculously tall, but cool-looking minaret. Its Baroque town center is apparently a popular tourist attraction.

I only heard of Eger because while I was reading the comment threads on Little Green Footballs, someone said something about 'the women of Eger', and I could tell you even before I Googled it that it was going to be some place in Central/Eastern Europe where they drove the Turks back.

It used to be that the only person I knew who used the expression 'turning back the Turks at the gates of Vienna' was my rabbi, who is eighty-something and German, and therefore entitled. But it's getting to be sort of a wingnutter's obsession online. Turks. Oh, yes, and "Roncesvalles".

Has anyone considered leading theme tours? Or, for sanity's sake, has anyone considered telling these people what European Christians did to one another in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries over land and fine points of theology? (Not when they're eating, though.)

Please don't start telling me about the ugly history of Islam, or discussing modern religio-politics--or do, but that's not the point. The point is that the nutter who brought up Eger knew that everyone would get the code--Turks in Europe, ie, Muslims against the West--and the code is silly. The Turks were expanding all over hell and gone at the time, and would have been whether they were Muslims or not. At the same time, sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe was a HORRIBLE place, with or without Turks. Judicial torture, witch trials, grotesque persecution of ethnic minorities, theocracy, war, war, war, let's talk about MADGEBURG, folks...this is a period in which Christians do some of the ugliest things to each other that you can imagine, but the nutters are happily burbling on about turning back the Turks. Let's fight our own battles in the present, people, and NOT GO THERE. Especially those of us (like many on LGF), who appear to reject the idea that Christianity can be held responsible for its murkier moments, in the same way that they insist Islam must be held accountable for its own.

No one wants to be a sixteenth century Hungarian. Even sixteenth century Hungarians didn't want to be sixteenth century Hungarians. NO ONE wants to be a sixteenth century Hungarian, except for some SCA friends of mine who freely admit they prefer to do it as a weekend recreational thing.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Schmuck found!

After twenty years, a woman finally has a get, after her son contacts the Israeli prison system's Chaplain in Chief and manages to track his father down in jail, where he graciously agrees to write the get he kind of forgot about earlier.

I guess if you're going to run off on your wife and kids and vanish without a trace to Israel where you take up a career in breaking and entering, you just don't think about things like making sure your wife can at least remarry.

Soon a simcha by her, that's all I can say.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Goewin, Oprah Winfrey and the Clash of Civilizations

In the great Welsh mythological cycle, the Mabinogi, there is an episode that begins when the nephew of the great wizard-king of North Wales falls in letch with his uncle's footholder, a pretty young girl named Goewin. The footholder has a position that involves holding the king's feet in her lap when he sits in court, and she must be a virgin.

The letchy nephew goes for help to his no-good brother, who arranges for their uncle to be away from court so that they can rape Goewin. When the king returns, what does the damsel do? Does she conceal her non-virginal status? Does she kill herself to escape shame? Does she go all to pieces and run off to a convent?

Hell no. Goewin lays into the king. He, she tells him, has been shamed. His no-good nephews raped her in his house, when she should have been under his protection. He owes her big time for pain, suffering, and loss of social status (since she cannot continue to be the footholder). The king's honor has been seriously damaged by his relatives' lousy behavior. What does he plan to do to make this up to her?

(He marries her, by the way, makes her his queen, and turns his rotten nephews into a variety of animals for the next several years. So it ends happily, kind of.)

Reading this in college with my friends, we were struck by how refreshing, and strange, it was to read a medieval version of an ancient story in which rape was seen as a crime which left its victim blameless of any shame. Goewin sees herself as someone who has been wronged, and in the Welsh legal tradition, is owed something in exchange for that. She confronts the king without embarassment--he's the one who should be embarassed! The king accepts this, and makes legal amends for what has happened on his watch.

So how do we get from this to Oprah?

Well, yesterday on the way home from my parents' house, I picked up a copy of the current issue of Time, in which Carla Power proceeded to tick me off big-time.

"Indecent Exposure", it's labelled. The head quote? "What is it? Westerners have no problem with bare flesh on billboards, but pray in private. Muslims keep quiet about sex, but pray in public five times a day. How the two codes clash."

In her attempt to sort all this out, Power makes some of the big dumb mistakes that often go with this kind of musing:

BDM #1: Identifying the West as one big chunk, thereby not being able to make much of a case. Power points out that the French are OK with bare breasts on billboards, but won't allow hijabs in public schools. However, in the U.S. bare breasts are big scandal, not allowed on billboards, hijabs are allowed in school, and megachurches thrive, while Time magazine itself rates presidential candidates on the God-O-Meter. So who here gets to be the "West"? At any rate, Power provides no evidence of Westerners feeling embarassed about prayer (as opposed to the French just hating Muslims), except for her apologizing once when she walked in on a Muslim coworker who was praying.

BDM #2: Identifying sexual abuse with sex, and assuming that people cover up sexual abuse for the same reason people make love in private and don't flash their bare butts on TV--modesty. Sexual abuse is not concealed for modesty's sake. Sexual abuse is concealed for power's sake. "Modesty" becomes an excuse, sure, but it has nothing to do with what is going on. Modest people do not sexually abuse others.

Power steps right into this, by giving as examples the child actor from the movie of The Kite Runner, whose character is raped by another young boy. His family is now fleeing for their lives, because they're afraid they will be targeted by relatives upset by the shame of the scene. The kids who starred in the movie are being evacuated to the UAE. Power also mentions the denunciations still aimed at Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani rape victim who took her attackers to court, and a little Egyptian girl who received death threats after being interviewed by CNN about her back-alley genital mutilation.

Modesty? This has nothing to do with modesty, and the West knows it, having only recently escaped from crap like this ourselves. But you wouldn't know it from Power. "When Oprah Winfrey spoke of her childhood sexual abuse", she explains, "she became a goddess is a society convinced that it's good to talk." Never mind that Oprah herself had a lot to do with convincing our society that it's good to tell the truth. The implication is that a more traditional, conservative culture would expect Oprah to keep her mouth shut. Which it did. Which she did for many years. But don't tell me that Muslim countries are coming from some special cultural place when they shut up and threaten their abuse victims. Oprah could tell you something about how we did and do it right here at home.

When you lie, you can convince yourself that you're a good person. You can silence your victims. But it ain't got nothing to do with decency or propriety. It's got to do with shame. Shame is only appropriate for people who actually do bad things.

Look, Americans pray without shame, and for the most part, keep our sex lives indoors. And we have finally mostly gotten to a place where Goewin, or Oprah, can say, "I was attacked. I was abused," and we blame the abuser, and not the victim. This is not the difference between, as Power puts it, 'the culture of exposure and the culture of propriety'. This is the difference between the culture of respect and the culture of opression. And we have ample evidence that both can thrive in all kinds of cultural settings.

Adventures in Kugel

OK, so I'm crazy. The vilde chayas at Moonbat were having a pre-Thanksgiving feast on Friday, and I was asked to bring something. So I said I'd bring a potato kugel.

There was sort of a multicultural theme going on. Anyway. Kugel.

First, no one knew what the heck a kugel was. Secondly, has the Balabusta ever made a potato kugel from scratch before? Heck no. Had the Balabusta even unpacked the wedding-present Cuisinart she intended to use in the making of this maiden kugel? Heck no. Does this stop her? Go on and guess.

Basically, it looked like a kugel when I took it out of the oven.

Anyway, I realized I might be in for some trouble when I noticed that the kugel had been neatly sliced into cubes and then put on plates with the pumpkin pie to await dessert time, because, as she realized while relocating it, they had mistaken it in the kitchen for an apple cake. OK, the French call potatos pommes de terre, so maybe not SO far off...

It was just too weird for most of the kids. Luckily, one of my coworkers really took to it, and made off with all the leftovers.

It actually wasn't the worst kugel I've ever had. It tasted, basically, like a potato kugel.

Next year, I think I'll bring gefilte fish, and see how that goes down.

Friday, November 09, 2007

And what are you doing for Sigd next year?

Noticed this in the JPost.

Sigd is an Ethiopian Jewish festival that happens on the 29th of Cheshvan (but was actually celebrated yesterday, rather than tomorrow, because apparently it can't share time with Shabbos--details unclear to me, ask a kes.) It celebrates and renews the brit made at Sinai--apparently in the Ethiopian minhag, Shavuos (as they don't pronounce it) is only a harvest and pilgrimage festival and doesn't take on the historical cycle stuff (that's a technical term, of course).

Anyway, now the Ethiopian community in Israel wants Sigd to be on the official religious calender in Israel. One girl interviewed made a parallel with Mimouna, which is celebrated, or at least noticed, more widely in Israel than just the Moroccan community now.

So, thinks the Balabusta, regardless of what the Israeli rabbinate decides to do--the Balabusta doesn't care too much about the Israeli rabbinate at the best of times--should the Balabusta be doing something for Sigd next year? Or Mimouna for that matter? (Mimouna, I got to tell you, I normally celebrate by eating large amounts of pizza, which I don't THINK is a Moroccan custom.)

First, the Balabusta has some strong opinions about preserving Ashkenazi customs. Actually, the Balabusta has some strong opinions about everyone preserving customs, it's just that the ones that she's inherited to preserve are Ashkenazi. I actually want to learn to daven and leyn in the old-fashioned Ashkenazes pronunciation--in a very short period of time, that will be gone at least from my own community unless a few of us young ones decide it's valuable. And I firmly resist the 'let's all eat kitniyot' movement. (You can do without rice for a week. I'm sorry. If God had meant for you to be an Abulafia, you would have been one. Cope. Or convert. ((Can you become Sephardi by choice? I've always wondered.)))

But I like the idea of doing something for Sigd. Why? Not because I feel the need religiously--in my mind, Shavuos has me covered--but because I want to feel the connection to the entire global Jewish community. For me, maybe, it's a time to learn and teach a little about the Ethiopian Jewish experience, to cook something different, and examine the Jewish world from a new angle. Same for Mimouna. A chance to say to the whole Jewish world that hey, we brought cool things back to each other from the far corners of exile, to hold them out to one another, and cherish them.

So anyway--what do you cook for Sigd?

Day Off

For some reason George C. Moonbat takes off the Friday, not the Monday, of the Veterans Day weekend. I don't know. Whatevah. I'm just glad to be at home for the time being.

We are having more drama, and I can't blog about it. I wish that things would just settle down so that I could teach lessons about sonnet structure and get some rest.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Difference Between Nancy Pelosi and a Moonbat

You wouldn't think this would be hard to work out, but an astonishing number of wingnutters believe that Nancy Pelosi is not an affluent Italian-American Catholic grandmother who has spent her life in mainstream politics, she is a freakazoid hippie moonbat who wants to destroy America. The wingnutters believe similar things about Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Democrats in general. They also believe that the fringy socialist/communist/anarchist/flag-burnin'/Palestinian supportin' loony-tunes crew is, in fact representative of the Democratic mainstream, and that they vote for Democrats.

It is really hard to convince them that, in fact, this is not the case. You'd think that photos would help:

THIS is Nancy Pelosi

THIS is a moonbat. You can tell, because she's wearing the moonbat outfit, and carrying a helpful sign to explain her political orientation.

But just in case this doesn't work, a message from Zombie.

Hopefully, this sequence of photos will clarify a few things about how the people who prevent me from joining peace marches feel about the Democratic Party.

Tehillim Request

If you say tehillim, or pray in an organized or disorganized way, or send white light, I don't care, send some the way of my boss, the ed director at the school I work at. It's an emotional health crisis, and while he is getting proper medical care, he can use all the prayers he can get right now.

Do I sound ambivalent? That's my problem, not his. (I, of course, am the one who walked in circles around the Safeway last night, praying aloud ((softly, but you could definately hear the argument with Herself going on as I passed)) so that other shoppers got out of my way. My bad.) He doesn't have a Hebrew name, and I don't know his mother's name, and I don't want to put his English name here, just in case, so just pray for a descendent of Sarah who is the Balabusta's boss, and I think they can send that to the right department of the Heavenly Administrative Staff. They're good, up there.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You're Damn Right I'm A Puritan

George C. Moonbat is attempting to have a Halloween dance. This would be going better, except that many of the kids are in a full-scale sulk because we posted a dance policy. This includes things like: No freak dancing. Dancers must keep at least a few inches between each other. Girl's skirts must reach mid-thigh. No alcohol.

Way too many rules, say the kids. No fair. No way. Who's gonna go to a bootsy stupid dance like that? No other high school has rules like that.

Are you wondering, maybe, what freak dancing is? So was I, when first asked by a student leader to express my opinion on it. She described it as 'spinning on your head and stuff'. Like break dancing, I thought. I suggested that it sounded dangerous in a crowded auditorium.

No. It's

As a lady I used to work with likes to say, "Heckfire and dangnation." Of course, she was also the teacher who at the Catholic middle school, would gently shove dancing couples away from each other, muttering "Room for the Holy Spirit. Leave room for the Holy Spirit."

One of my kids in homeroom was insisting that he used to be allowed to freak dance at his old Catholic school, and no one cared.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Goin' Another Round With The Yetzer of Clutter

My house is a mess. My house is now such a mess that I have realized that the mess is actively preventing me from doing mitzvot. To wit:

1. On Friday, I wanted to light for Shabbos, but I didn't, because there wasn't a clear surface it seemed safe to do so on.

2. On Saturday, I wanted to go to shul, but I got distracted by how bad the clutter was, and didn't go.

3. I know I have things in my house that could usefully be given to various charitable organizations, but I don't know where the heck they are.

4. I am not paying my debts on time because I lose bills.

5. I am not able to organize my finances so that I could donate to tzedaka in a useful way because I lose bills.

6. I am feeding myself and my husband junk because cooking is hard when the kitchen is such a dive.

The list keeps going.

So, OK. The Balabusta has gotta take a stand here. I believe that somewhere under the chaotic terrain of my house is a nice, tidy Jewish home, with gleaming candlesticks and the smell of homemade paprikash and noodles, and the laughter of small children--OK, that last one will take longer to get to, but you get the idea.

Today, I'm at work, dealing with the chaos here (taking advantage of the quiet and calm to do a level ton of grading). But I'm also trying to figure out how I'm going to make this happen.

Time. Energy. And love for the finished product as it slowly emerges.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sometimes a tichel is only a tichel

So, girls on campus in Toronto are doing the 'wear a hijab for a day' thing. And naturally, Little Green Footballs is going berserk.

Of course, the wingnutters at LGF are convinced to the core that all expressions of Muslim cultural pride, or even Muslim college-kid whininess, are the immediate forerunner to a jihadi takeover of the Western world, so I'm not surprised that they're going bonkersola. But this does raise for me the same questions that I always have when The Hijab Issue arises:

1. Religious Jewish and Christian women of various backgrounds cover their hair. Mennonites and frum Jews come to mind. Why did no one in college ever feel that it was a great idea to put us all in tichels or prayer caps for the day?

2. How does LGF feel about Mennonites and frum Jews? Are women allowed to 'oppress themselves' if LGFers don't think they're plotting to take over the world?

3. Why don't they ever have 'wear a Muslim head covering day' for men? Seriously. I have NEVER seen an appeal for dudes to cover their heads for one of these things.

Just askin'. I know the answer to the first one, I'm just being snarky. (After all, the entire Women's Studies department was in Fiddler on the Roof in high school, so they already got into the whole Jewish thing.) The second one I have more curiousity about. The third is just snarky frosting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It would be easier to schecht a cow myself

Of course, if I had to schecht the cow myself I wouldn't, which leads to all sorts of other ethical questions, but the point is, I need some stew beef. Gosh darn it.

Religious obligations are peculiar things. I was once in a class about teaching English language learners, where the teacher was talking about a class where she had a lot of Muslim students, I imagine Afghanis given the area. A lot of kids were out for some holiday--one of the Eids, I think--where you sacrifice a goat. The next day, a kid comes into class and, during journal write, starts talking to one of his friends. "Dude, you out of school yesterday?"

"No, my folks made me come."

"Well, did they kill a goat?"


"Dude! Why not?"

"Do you realize," the other boy says, "that you can't buy a live goat with food stamps in this country?"

"Dude." (With deep understanding. Both kids go back to work. Teacher has to go out in hall and suffocate hysterical laughter.)

Anyway, me, I just can't buy kosher stew beef for ready money. Trader Joe's does not carry it. And also, when I made my long journey to Oakland Kosher this weekend, they didn't have it either. Chicken sausages--check. Wissotsky tea--check. Kosher cup-o-noodles, check. But no stew beef. (If you were in the store, I was the woman in the blue jeans muttering about stew beef.)

New plan--go into San Francisco on Sunday. Have lunch with parents. Go down Clement to Israel's. Buy like ten pounds of stew beef in individually wrapped pound containers. Lug back to El Cerrito. Make stew. Wish briefly that we had transporter technology like in Star Trek, so I could go and grocery shop in Crown Heights. Mutter a lot.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Totally random anecdote

A couple weeks ago, I wander into the living room, and discover my husband in his armchair watching TV. As I enter, he looks up. "A Japanese reporter was shot by the Army at a protest in Miramar," he reports.

I stop dead in the center of the room. "WHAT?"

He repeats it.

I clutch my head, and try to work out exactly what on earth could have happened, envisioning weeks of nightmarish diplomatic maneuvering. "Is he dead?"

"Oh yeah."

OK. Take this slowly. "A Japanese reporter. Was shot dead. By the US Army. While covering a protest at MIRAMAR? Our Miramar? In California?"

The husband looks at me as though I am deranged. "BURMA," he clarifies.

Oh. Myanmar.

Well, not exactly good news, since the reporter is still dead, but I headed into the kitchen feeling a lot less hysterical.

Geography is a strange, strange thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Today's Goals

1. Finish coffee.

2. Go into Berkeley, to used book store. Buy about six copies of Of Mice and Men.

3. Go to school. Work for three or four hours.

4. Return home. Do laundry. Make food. Clean up. Prep workout clothes to start working out tomorrow morning.

5. Don't panic.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

And on the Seventh Day She Blogged

And also played computer games, bought underwear online, and made really good coffee, not the Nescafe she gets on weekday mornings.

The one thing I am absolutely refusing to do, though, is work stuff. I go in almost every Sunday, and I have determined that if I do not take Shabbos off, I will be a wreck.

I wonder if this is gradually going to lead me in a shomer-shabbosdik direction. We'll see.

Meanwhile, a kid in my class--not a jerk kid by any means--asked me if I didn't feel bad that my people killed Jesus--and actually did not believe me when I said my people WERE Jesus--or rather, that he was part of them. I suggested she consult her pastor on this one.


This is not the first time this has come up. It's not constant, by any means, but I have heard a handful of remarks since I started teaching. I wonder if there are any online resources for dealing with this kind of thing in your classroom.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


One of the teachers at the school I work at left recently, a month and change into the school year. It is a small start-up school, so losing a teacher out of our tiny staff was something of a blow.

The kids were distraught, and wailed that she was the best teacher, and now she was leaving. At the time I assumed they were just sad she was going, but now it's starting to seem slightly more worrisome than that.

At least twice, kids have said that "Ex-coworker was the only teacher who stood up for the students at meetings." Not at all true, but more importantly, how do they know that? Well, I am starting to be pretty sure that E.C. told them that.

She also told at least one of my students that if I wanted to I could make my English class 'more funner', which was thrown in my face today when I tried to explain that we can't just reread "The Outsiders" for the hundred and tenth time, they do have to read great literature that everyone else studies in the ninth grade, no matter how boring they are convinced it must be.

But whatever--it was today that I lost patience, when a truly lovely and caring woman on our staff tried to take over E.C.'s homeroom, so they would be able to stay together and not be farmed out to the rest of us. They almost reduced her to tears. They told her that E.C. let them do whatever they wanted, and refused to even listen to her. They threw a fit when she didn't have the art supplies they wanted (E.C. took 'em with her, but that was not her fault, obviously.) At one point a girl yelled that E.C. wouldn't let them be pushed around like this, and threatened to call her, because she'd said to call if they needed anything.

I am really annoyed. The kids are very entitled and whiny anyway--some of it is age, and some of it is other things--but this we did not need. Setting yourself up as the kids' real friend and protector, especially when you are planning to walk away from them, is just obnoxious.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Cheese-Eating Surrender Fallacy

OK, wanted to share.

First, I love "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". Like Harry Potter, it's teacher porn for me. (Teacher porn: media that enacts a teacher's teaching fantasies: what teaching would be like in an ideal world.) I watch, answer the questions, and imagine having a classroom full of those cute, smart little kids. Anyway.

Last show, there was a young woman (very young, just out of high school), competing on the show. Valedictorian, student of the year, Honor Society, etc. The question that was her downfall? Who did England fight in the Hundred Years War?

Now I am a history buff, especially Western Europe, especially the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, so I am not saying that everyone should have known that. (Well, I am, but whatever.)But what made me groan was her reasoning. She focused on Spain (not irrational, just wrong century), but discounted France, on the grounds that 'they're not very good at wars, and I don't think they would have lasted a hundred years'.

This is what all this mockery of the French has done for us. I mean, I can't say that I like the French much, but this hoopla fantasy that they're the biggest losers of military history is now making high school valedictorians flunk out on 'Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?'.

Freedom fries indeed.

Roller Coaster Friday

To quote the estimable Shel Silverstein:

Oh what a day, oh what a day,
My baby brother ran away,
And now my tuba will not play.
I'm eight years old, and turning gray,
Oh what a day, oh what a day.

In the illustration that accompanies the poem, the baby brother is hiding in the tuba. You may or may not need that information to appreciate the world-weariness expressed in the verse.

Anyway, yesterday. First, I had a vivid dream that I had discovered that Atara, one of the worst of the difficult kids, was actually my little sister by a previously undiscovered affair of Mr. Bluejeans Sr. In the dream, Atara, my parents and I were all at Denny's, having lunch together. Atara kept stealing my French fries, and poking me, and whispering mean things. My parents kept telling me that I had to be nice to her, and understanding, because she was littler than I, and new to the family. (I am thirty-four. Atara is fifteen. She looks nothing like me or my father. I think that I am getting too emotionally invested in this job.)

Then I arrived at school, and discovered that one of the teachers (we have four full-time) is leaving to spend more time with her family. This was her last day. Whammo.

Then we had a knock-down, drag-out emotional trainwreck in the staff lounge about the field trip, which ended with my leaving school with twenty-seven kids, plus parent drivers, plus Yehuda the Special Ed Teacher who, thank God, decided he'd come along for the ride and run interference for me.

Then we had a field trip, which went great, more or less. We were going to see another charter school, in business for the past decade, and on which we are slightly modeled. It was cool. My kids thought their kids were very white (they are), and also didn't have very nice manners, but they liked the cool equipment and technology they had, and some of my boys now want to start a grantwriting club to see if we can also have an electronic music lab and a greenroom. I managed to borrow some books from the English department. All cool.

Anyway, we are down to three full-time staff, and will probably not be hiring a full-time replacement for the departing co-worker. This job is about to get very, very intense. Our ed director is looking very tired.

There's a lot I'm leaving out of these posts about the school, in the interest of not creating a situation if anyone connected to the situation should read them. On the one hand, that seems totally unlikely. No one connected to the school is involved in the Jewish commmunity in any way that I know of. The odds of them reading this and recognizing the situation seem astronomically small. So I could probably say everything I'm not saying.

At the same time, I worry. Eh. Maybe I say too much.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm Tired, Not Frum

This is why I'm skipping Simchat Torah at Temple Sinai, and thinking I'll try to get to Netivot Shalom tomorrow night.

And now, that said, a prayer for the holiday: If I raise sons, may God, my parents, my friends and my husband all work with me to teach them never to confuse courage with combativeness, masculinity with vulgarity, or manhood with being six feet tall and able to pull 'bitches'. May I be able to raise boys who speak respectfully to women, elders, and girls their own age. May they be able to envision bright futures for themselves and achieve them. And may I be able to do a little in my professional life for boys who got none of this from their own upbringing--one in particular. Omeyn v'omeyn.

Last year at this time I was sick as a dog. My lungs had more or less given out. Knock wood, this is the fifth week of school, and I'm not yet sick. This is good news. My immune system may gradually be getting revved up to teaching.

It feels like fall in El Cerrito today. I bought some Little Debbie pumpkin cookies. And I'm in a good mood.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


One of the girls in my homeroom class, Imma Shalom, has a t-shirt that read "Handle Your Scandal". Good advice, although I pronounce it like the old Russian ladies in the home neighborhood did, scahn-dahhhllll. And nobody does it like teenagers.

We have an entire Tolstoy epic (except cruder), of love, passion, betrayal, and trash-talking going on here, and two kids have been suspended. I don't even dare give the details. For one thing, they are too stupid, and for another, God forbid anyone should recognize themselves, although I doubt anyone from George C. Moonbat reads the Judeoblogosphere.


Monday, October 01, 2007


My principal told me today that I had his permission to kick as many kids out of the class as needed until morale improved.

I've never had an administrator approve such a plan before.

We shall see.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Welcome to George C. Moonbat High

That's just my little name for the place. We are a small, intensely process-oriented charter high school, just opened this year, and oy va voy, is it...interesting.

I am teaching English, and a history section. Many of my students have been, let's say, badly let down by their previous education. These are fourteen and fifteen year olds. I am working on five-sentence paragraphs. Not with all of them, but enough.

Most of the kids are fine, lovely children, but we have a few with real problems. These frequently get kicked out of class, shouting things like "F--- you! I don't want to be in your stupid class anyway, you don't teach nothing!"

We're located, geographically, at a point where suburbia and ghetto run into each other. We have students from both sides of the divide, and all points in between.

It is very interesting indeed. Details to follow.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

This Year

You know what I want to do this year? I want to build a sukkah.

I have never done this, exactly. When I was a kid, we lived in an apartment building where there was a communal sukkah in the courtyard, and my family had dinner and then slept out in it at least one night. We moved from there when I started high school, and we never had a family sukkah. I've helped with a lot of shul sukkot, and the like, but I've never had one of my own.

This year, I have a big cement deck, which will hold a very small sukkah, and I am going to try to go for it, heeding the words of this gifted rhymester:

"The Laws of the Sukkah according to Dr. Seuss"

You can build it very small
You can build it very tall
You can build it very large
You can build it on a barge

You can build it on a ship
Or on a roof but please don't slip
You can build it in an alley
You shouldn't build it in a valley

You can build it on a wagon
You can build it on a dragon
You can make the skakh of wood
Would you, could you, yes you should

Make the Sukkah from leaves of tree
You shouldn't bend it at the knee
Build your Sukkah tall or short
No Sukkah is built in the Temple Court

You can build it somewhat soon
You cannot build it in the month of June
If your Sukkah is well made
You'll have the right amount of shade

You can build it very wide
You can not build it on its side
Build if your name is Jim
Or Bob or Sam or even Tim

Build it if your name is Sue
Do you build it, yes you do!
From the Sukkah you can roam
But you should treat it as your home

You can invite some special guests
Don't stay in it if there are pests
You can sleep upon some rugs
Don't you build it where there's bugs

In the Sukkah you should sit
And eat and drink but never ...
If in the Sukkah it should rain
To stay there would be such a pain

And if it should be very cold
Stay there only if you're bold
So build a Sukkah one and all
Make it large or make it small

Sukkah rules are short and snappy
Enjoy Sukkot, rejoice be happy.

I want foil apples and grapes. I want Sukkot schlock. Check back for more details.

The New Job

My new job is as the humanities teacher at a very small, new, Bay Area charter high school. We just finished the first week--and I have yet to teach a class in my content area. Monday.

We spent the week doing orientation--long, slow, orientation. We did a get-to-know-you anti-bullying all-day program to kick off on Tuesday, which was pretty good, but about which I have mixed feelings. (OK, here's a thing I disliked--the part where people were asked to pair up, lock arms back to back and then do the 'booty dance'. Have you ever been back-to-back with a teenage boy, young enough to be your son, and asked to 'shake your booty'? People get ARRESTED for things like this. My God. We also did the exercise where you cross the line if you're of a particular ethnicity, or have had a particular experience...for some reason, this always feels slightly canned to me, and I don't know quite why...I went up as a 'Middle Easterner', although what she meant was 'Muslim'--there's no other reason to include Pakistanis in a description of 'Middle Eastern'--then went up again as a Jew--then thought that for many Muslims and Jews, the extensive intergender touching demanded by the program would be totally impossible, and thought about cultural assumptions made by people who think they're educating others out of their cultural assumptions...)

The kids liked it well enough, although they had some issues too, mainly that I think many of them were unconvinced that this one emotion-filled day was enough to totally change the way teenagers act toward one another. Ah well, I suppose it's a good Elul activity.

The rest of the week, pretty good. The kids seem like very nice young people. They hang out together very happily, and we've had almost no real problems, and they are generally so far polite and willing to roll with the weirdness of our start-up days. They look like the neighborhood--African-American and Latino, a scattering of white kids. A lot of them have apparently struggled academically elsewhere, or been 'bad kids' at other schools, and I assume they haven't left all their problems behind, but they are mostly here because they have very supportive families, and I think that will help. They're incredibly interesting. I have one boy who raises reptiles, another who's into archery. Lots of them go to the same churches, and have relatives in common--this is something I noted at St. Colmcille, too.

I'm still struggling to learn names. Some of them look distinct, much younger than the others, or short, or very tall, zaftig or skinny, or with a particularly effusive personality, or in the case of one girl, with bright blue extensions in her braids, or another with blond and violet streaks in her hair, or our only redhead, and they are pretty easy to learn. There are others, though, that I'm going to have to learn quickly, who I've only sorted out into a general physical type--for example, there's a whole group of seven or eight girls who are African-American, about five-seven, slim, wearing jeans and printed tops, with straightened hair or braids worn long, and pretty faces. I need to stop addressing them all as 'honey'and thinking of them as 'kid with long hair' and learn names.

I'm struggling not let old failures and insecurities keep me from doing a good job. Right now, I'm a little freaked out, because there's a woman at our 'parent' school I'm supposed to be getting in touch with, and haven't, and our ed director is getting gently concerned. Will deal with.

I hope this works out. I hope. Oh, wow, how I hope.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Appreciating House

I love House. It's just one of those TV shows that keeps me entertained and happy. But I just realizewd, watching all of Season One, that one of the many things I appreciate about it is that house, to the extent that he has relationships with women at all, has them with women his own age.

Hugh Laurie is in his late forties. If Jerry Bruckheimer was producing this show, his ex-girlfriend would be about twenty-three, but the beautiful and inaccessibly married Stacy is played by stunning Sela Ward, who's fiftyish. His major ongoing flirtation on the show is with Dr. Cuddy, approximately forty. (Best House/Cuddy exchange ever: House: "One small feel for a man, one giant ass for mankind." Cuddy, in bathrobe, moving away from him: "Call the Make-A-Wish Foundation".)

Honestly, it's kind of weird, if you've been watching TV long enough, to see a man who's interested in women of his own generation. And for a mid-thirties Balabusta, it's decidedly nice to see grown-up women looking hot and running hospitals and stuff. You know, TV like real life. Well, real life except for the dramatic medical cases that get solved in an hour, the hilarious one-liners, and the fact that the medical team keeps breaking into people's houses.

NCIS has this too. Another point in its favor.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ayn Rand annoys me

I'm employed again. Don't think I mentioned that, since it was right before the wedding, and everything was crazy. High school, near the house, start-up.

Anyway, for work I've been reading some novels on themes of rebellion against social strictures and beliefs, and a website led me to Ayn Rand's Anthem.

It's not a bad book, overall, although Orwell did so many of these themes so so much better. Short novel set in a future collective agrarian society set up after the collapse of modern civilization as we know it. The word "I" has been removed from the vocabulary, as have first person nouns--everyone refers to themselves collectively. The hero eventually is cast out from/escapes from this community with his girlfriend (one isn't allowed romantic ties either). They head off and find a house from the before-times.

Here's where I started to get cranky. The last word of the book is EGO. (All caps.) The entire, pounded-home-with-a-hammer message is the importance of the individual and their right to self-determination. Now I don't believe that as strongly as Rand, but I do believe it. But nearly the last thing that happens in the book is that our hero abandons his community name and number and renames himself "Prometheus". (He's been doing some reading.) And he names his girlfriend "Gaea". (She's been spending a lot of time staring into the mirror.)

He. Names. His girlfriend. And she says "That will be my name."

Great. And then he goes off in a happy reverie about how his sons will be free men. His daughters, I guess, will be good mothers and wives.

(Additionally, I nearly choked over the part where he asks her, before they escape, how old she is, and nearly dies of relief when she says 'seventeen', which means she's a virgin, because she hasn't done the 'time of mating' thing yet. He's been twice, of course, and thought it was just awful, but forfend that SHE should have been contaminated. Then they make love in the forest, and despite the fact that neither of them knows a dang thing about romance, and his only exposure to sex was apparently pretty grotesque, it's perfect and dreamy. Groan.)

Sometimes you just want to hit someone with a wiffle bat, even if they are dead.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Wedding

The Wedding was perfect. It was eclectic, traditional, classic and funky. Much like the Balabusta. I loved it. The only thing that could have possibly made it any better would be if all of my grandparents had lived to attend. It was the best wedding ever. I became a sort of wedding superhero, the Kallah, able to deflect evil with her Bridal Glow (TM). It was awesome.

My comadres of honor, (Basya and Niamh for the purposes of the blog) got me dressed and did my makeup, and my hair, and pinned the veil in with seven bobby pins. (This, after two days of driving me around, helping me get the groom a suit, soothing my jitters, getting me a bra, taking me to the mikvah, and picking up my wedding cake.) My in-laws brought leis for everyone from Hawaii.The wedding party assembled, went downstairs, read the ketubah and signed it, and then headed off to process into the chapel.

Up to this point, everything had been going eerily smoothly, in part because I had not realized, in my daze, (and veil-induced haze) that my grandmother had not yet arrived. This became clear when my parents threw themselves in front of the assembling processional to demand another five minutes on the chance that she might yet show.

This was, by me, fine, because I was protected from nerves by my Bridal Glow, and I simply pottered around in the hall for the next ten minutes, meeting and greeting small children born to my friends in the time since I saw them last, and being radiant at everyone. The only small fallout from it was that the musicians played 'Erev Shel Shoshanim' for approximately fifteen minutes, got tired of it, and switched to something else by the time I was walking down the aisle. I didn't care. Also, my grandmother arrived during this time.

We had a perfect ceremony. Our friends stood around us, and the flower girl, Raizy, sat on the floor by the chuppah next to her mother and played with her flower petals. (She still had them all, since she had not really wanted to do the scattering thing.) There was one minor hold-up when the door to the chapel next to the bimah on which we were all standing opened, and some guy we haven't been able to identify tried to prop it open with a chair until the groom and the rabbi glared sufficiently to make him go away. "A wedding of surprises," said the rabbi faintly, but I was protected by my Bridal Glow, and felt that if the gentleman wanted to come in, we should welcome him. (I didn't mention this, I just stood there and glowed. I have no idea who this person was.) The groom, although he won't admit it, was glowing a little too, or maybe that was just my Bridal Vision. He looked--perfect.

(UPDATE: We have since discovered, through comparing notes with relatives, that the person who opened the door was my seven-year-old cousin, who was wandering the halls, heard voices, and decided to check it out. Since the groom reports seeing an adult male, I speculate that this was said cousin's father, trying to remove cousin from the scene.)

The reception was also perfect. I mention, as highlights:

The amazing wonderful toasts by my father and the best man.

The tear-inducing beautiful hula danced by my new mother-in-law in honor of the wedding.

The beautiful songs sung by my high school friend/bridesmaid Tehilah, including my high school prom theme...oy, nostalgia!

Taking pictures with my grandmother in the courtyard.

The fact that the groom, disatisfied with the stomping of the glass, (it sort of split down the middle, and part of it shot out of the envelope it was in) returned to the scene to crunch it a couple more time. It's in fragments. The people putting it in the Lucite cube are gonna have their work cut out for them.

Seeing Chava, who was widowed May before last, continuing to blossom and heal and be her wonderful self (and with a possible future husband accompanying her!)

Meeting all the babies my friends have had since I saw them last. (Shalvah has big blue eyes and is absolutely edible. Moshe, brother of Raizy and son of Gilah, nearly two, upon being led to the buffet, threw out his arms and shouted "BACON!". His mother told him that she was pretty sure that whatever there was to eat, it wasn't bacon. I think he was OK with the roast beef sandwiches and grilled veggies.)

Blessing my maids of honor in the courtyard of the synagogue I grew up in.

Hugging my parents before we headed off on a very short honeymoon.

Oh. And the fact that Basya and Niamh not only DELIVERED my clean clothes which had been forgotten to the honeymoon hotel, but then CAME BACK two days later, and collected not only us, but all our wedding presents, and drove us home--gratitude does not begin to describe it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Am Married

Details to follow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Anti-Semitic Mural Arts 202

Here we go again.

Back in 1994, San Francisco State unveiled a mural of Malcolm X on campus, which included magen Davids, dollar signs, skulls and bones, and the words "African Blood".

The artist insisted that it was not meant to offend Jews, but "represent(ed) Malcolm X's anti-Israel sentiments."

Robert Corrigan, SFSU President and tool of the Zionist Conspiracy, announced that it was coming down. All hell broke loose. After weeks of hysterical posturing, including a student table with a banner announcing that they were "Anti-Zionist, not Anti-Semitic", and including photographs of Robert Corrigan wearing a kippa at the Western Wall, compromise was reached, and a modified version of the mural remained up.

I had ample opportunity to check out the student group's literature, because that was the summer I was taking a handful of classes at SFSU to cover my science requirement at Mills. Can't tell you how super I felt to be on campus.

Some years later, in the spring of 2002, I sat around a table with some Jewish activists who, a couple of days before, had attended a pro-Israel, pro-peace rally at SFSU to speak about their experiences as Jews violently expelled from Arab countries. They didn't make much of the fact that the event turned into a near-riot due to "anti-Zionist" protestors yelling things like "Hitler did not finish the job" at Jewish students. They'd seen a lot worse--crowds yelling the same thing, and armed to the teeth. ("Leave me alone, or I'll call the police. What do you mean, you are the police?") I, on the other hand, was a little agitated when I realized how badly things had gone...

Not too long after that, I applied for a job at SF Hillel. During the interview, I commented that the situation must be tense for young Jews on the SFSU campus. This was shrugged off by the then director. It was fine, I was told. The whole thing had been because of a few bad apples who had since graduated. All was well.

Well, heeeeere we go again. The mural above, featuring the late Dr. Edward Said, the al-Aksa mosque, folk dancers, small children reading under an olive tree, and possibly a partridge in same tree, is going up at SFSU. What's not going up, after Robert Corrigan's steadfast refusal, is the bit on the right-hand side showing the cartoon figure Handala holding a key labelled, in Arabic, "The Return".

Honestly, I am just surprised that it took this long, and impressed that Corrigan is still going after all these years. What's deeply angering me, though, is the coverage of this in the j., successor to the Northern California Jewish Bulletin. They write:

More than two years of debate, hand-wringing and intense dissection of what exactly a cartoon character holding a key means has ended.

Robert Corrigan, president of San Francisco State University, approved a mural celebrating the late Palestinian activist professor Edward Said last month after an agreement was made to remove elements that campus Jewish groups claimed were symbols of violence and promoted the destruction of Israel.

“I think this is a victory for moderation. The mural as it stands now is a celebration of Palestinian culture and that’s not something we should be objecting to,” said Alon Shalev, the executive director of San Francisco Hillel.

I beg your pardon, Alon, but why the hell not, given the intensely anti-Semitic history of Palestinian student organizations on campus, and the obvious fact that any attempt to put up a 'celebration of Jewish culture' on these walls would lead to total insanity of an unprecedented nature even on the SFSU campus?

My kneejerk liberal reaction is that of course I can't justify saying that there shouldn't be a mural for Said, just because I wouldn't have voted one in myself, he's just another popular lefty scholar of the moment, and of course, Palestinian culture is very nice and all...but my kneejerk liberal reaction is wrong. This is different from the other murals up at State, even the Malcolm X one.

Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, praised Corrigan for “insisting that blatantly offensive symbols are not included” in the mural.
Representatives of SFSU’s General Union of Palestinian Students did not return calls or emails.

Wonder why.

The key — pun intended — of Jewish concern with the mural was the inclusion of the Palestinian cartoon character Handala. The illustrated child, which some claim is a symbol of violent resistance, was holding a key in his hand. Campus Jewish groups claim this was a veiled reference to Palestinians’ right of return to Israel and the destruction of the Jewish state.

Not all that veiled, given the inscription. BTW, the General Union of Palestinian Students' petition online claims that "the Palestinian key, in conjunction with the word ‘Al-Awda,’ represents how Palestinians have adapted to different cultures without forgetting where they came from. The Palestinian house key is the symbol that represents a collective memory, culture and identity of the Palestinian Diaspora whose families still carry keys to the only homes they knew."

The contested mural — and Corrigan’s blocking of it or any other mural gracing SFSU’s main quad in 2006 — had long been a sore point within the pro-Palestinian community.

At a vitriolic anti-Israel confab held on the SFSU campus last summer, speaker Eyad Kishawi said Corrigan had rejected the mural because of the influence exerted by “racist, chauvinist people.”

The Palestinian student union hopes to have the mural up on the Cesar Chavez Student Center by Nov. 2. Corrigan will review the artist’s final rendering prior to the mural’s installation.
Shalev hopes this accord is the first step in improved relations between Jewish and Palestinian campus groups.

Mr. Shalev is an optimistic man. Wish I was that optimistic.

“We are cautiously optimistic about that. We feel the moderates within the Palestinian movement are the ones who have won and that’s a good sign for us,” he said.
“The last couple of years, our Israel Coalition has been putting out feelers all the time, inviting them to all the concerts we’ve had on campus. And they’ve been coming, which they hadn’t in the past.”

Ummm...WHAT Palestinian moderates? From everything I've heard so far, Robert Corrigan is the only Palestinian moderate out there. And he's not even Palestinian. Glad they're going to concerts, though. Concerts of what?

Also, this has been going on for two years. I never heard about it before, and I'm fairly plugged in to the Bay Area Jewish Community. Why the hell were we not out there? Why the hell was Hillel not out there? Why are we taking this, again?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oriental Beef Skillet

In my neverending search for more recipes. (MORE recipes), I have been spending some time with a 1968 Better Homes and Gardens publication entitled "Casserole Cookbook". Some of the things they have are actually pretty good, and will be cooked by me. Some of them...

Well, take the Oriental Beef Skillet mentioned above. If I asked you to guess its ingredients, how long would you have had to guess before you came up with '10-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup'? Yeah, me too.

I have discovered the real reason you can't mix poultry and dairy. It's not to create a further fence around the law. It's to prevent Jews from eating the 'Chicken Pecan Waffles'. Or the 'Black Magic Luncheon'.

And did you know that tamales come from cans? I didn't know this.

Old recipe books are strange, strange things.


We're ten days out:

10. Still unemployed. Interviewed yesterday at a nice school which is .59 miles from my home--this would be nice! Have interview Monday at school which I would have to wake up at 5 each weekday morning to get to--less nice. Need to get driving. Turned down interviews at two schools in Antioch.

9. We still need to get the fella clothed for the wedding. He is currently thinking a black sport coat and black slacks. We need to go shopping. Alternatively, I could buy him a bekishe and a shtreimel.

8. I still have not read the last Harry Potter book. I am broke, that's part of it. I am also very tense, and not sure I can do it justice. Avoiding spoilers is getting difficult.

7. New housework tracking system appears useful. (I can detail it further if anyone is interested.)

6. Shout out mazels tovs for me at DovBear!

5. Caterer is nagging me for head count. One family has just RSVPed with eight members coming (no, not relatives of mine, this is Chava and Drora's family. I went to high school with Chava.) We're trying to figure out if baby Shalvah is included in the count.

4. I am making Groomra write the thank-yous for presents coming from relatives of his in Louisiana whom I have never met. This is making him cranky.

3. Just checked the wedding registry, and the best man and his wife got us the cute blueberry shaped casserole, which is, well, awful cute.

2. We finally got a florist on board. We don't need a ton of flowers, partly because my whole family is kind of uninterested in them, and partly because Groomra's moms are bringing leis from Hawaii for everyone. But we needed some arrangements for the table and such. And petals for the flower girl.

1. I'm marrying a man I love like crazy. Basically, that's the point of this whole exercise, right? Mazel tov and deep breaths to me.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sudanese Refugees Murdered By Egyptian Troops

Oh dear God. As if these people weren't running from enough horror, now this. (Hat tip to Meryl Yourish.)

IDF troops witnessed (and caught on tape), Egyptian soldiers firing on, and beating to death, Sudanese refugees making for the border.

I have a lot of bitter things I want to say about Egypt's military aid, and the criticism Israel has faced about non-homicidal treatment of Sudanese refugees, and the total silence about this that will follow from the American and European 'left'. (They don't deserve the title anymore.) But Meryl's said a lot of it,'s all been said a lot of times.

May God be good to those people who died out there--no one else managed to.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tsnius Tsuris

This was posted over at Jameel's. This was posted in some Jerusalem neighborhood, and as you can see, it's been modified by some sweet neshomeh with a marker, changing the message from "Please Do Not Pass Through Our Neighborhood in Immodest Clothes" to the much more welcoming "Please Do Pass Through Our Neighborhood In Modest Clothes".

Personally, I think this is a great improvement, and very cute. However, I am going to comment briefly on the nature of tsnius tsuris:

When issues of modesty are brought up in the Judeoblogosphere, it is not uncommon for folks to insist that the rising obsession with modesty in the haredi world is not oppressive to women, and is not aimed at women. Religious men, they point out, also wear head-to-toe clothes.

So they do. But the difference is here, where the warning to the immodest is to women and girls only, where modest clothes are defined as women's clothes. Men with tight pants and open collars are apparently being given a pass here. There are a lot of reasons for this--some halachic, some just plain sexist. But targeted at women, most certainly.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Hate Job-Hunting

OK, update on the job I am waiting to hear about: yesterday I called to check in with their process around one--I am not trying to be a nagging Ninotchka here, I just happened to recall from the interview that they wanted people to start TODAY, so it seemed prudent to check to see if I was being hired.

The very pleasant, distracted man who is the principal, told me that he was calling references for a number of candidates and I was one of them. He will call me, perhaps today (yesterday), or tomorrow. (Today).


In about fifteen minutes I need to start getting ready for ANOTHER job interview, this one in Berkeley.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I hate job hunting. I hate the weird questions. I hate finding new places while wearing pantyhose. I hate the hope, the calls, the sickening disappointment when you don't get a job that sounded nice.

I also hate financial stress.

And I am finding it very hard to focus on wedding details while also job hunting.


In other news, I just got another call from a local Jewish agency, who I called some months ago with a request for help finding a rabbi to officiate at the wedding. They gave me some references, and I went my way. Twice now, they have called back to tell me that they have a NEW message on their machine, from me, giving my number and asking for help finding a rabbi to perform the wedding. I feel vaguely guilty about this, but have no idea what's going on. Is it possible that the original message is somehow resending itself?


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taking to the Road

I am starting to think seriously about goals for the new year--yeah, after the wedding, and I get a job and all that other lighthearted stuff that's taking up my time right now. (Three weeks from today! OH GOOD LORD! I get married THREE WEEKS from TODAY!)

I've decided that one of my primary goals--one that should take a fair portion of available time and money, etc, is getting a driver's license and a car. I realize that this has been on my 'to-do' list for over five years now, (and I have gone so far as to take about five lessons), and a lot of my friends and family will be rolling their eyes and saying 'this again' (but to my defense, it has been a pretty busy five years)--but I think push has got to come to shove in the near future. Here are some reasons why:

1. Not having the ability to drive eats my time. Sunday mornings, I could go and do the shopping for the week quickly and efficiently. Instead, I wait for the fella to feel like going out, then I resent it if he wants to stay in the car instead of helping. My work commutes eat hours of each day. I can't take work home as easily (YOU carry twenty-five student notebooks in a Trader Joe's bag!) so I have to go in on the weekends--except it takes longer, without a car. Trips to the bank are hard. Trips to the doctor are hard. Everything just takes longer, and is more difficult.

2. Not being able to drive adversely affects my relationships. I rely on the fella, then resent him for not dropping everything when I need a lift. I don't see friends as often, because getting to their homes and back is hard. I have to take public transit to see my parents, and it can be exhausting.

3. I'm planning to reproduce. In the next twenty-four months or so. I cannot parent in my current life without a car. I will need to get the baby to daycare, and home. I will need to take Jezebel to school, dance lessons, the doctor's, her grandparents...and I'd rather not be a new driver and have a new baby simultaneously.

4. Not being able to drive is just dangerous. If the fella were ill late at night, if a friend had an emergency and needed a baby-sitter--endless possibilities here, most of them not good, but bad stuff does happen.

5. Not being able to drive closes off possibilities. My area that I can take jobs in is severely limited--I can't get to places I could easily drive to. Some things I would like to do for pleasure are nearly impossible--go to Ocean Beach on a weekend if I felt like it, drive to Point Reyes by myself and get cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, see Jewish Film Festival movies on the Peninsula, go by bob & bob and buy Chanike candles. Some are hard. Visiting relatives in Southern California, for example. I could have a much fuller life if I drove.

This is not going to be easy. For one thing, lessons and cars cost. For another, I have very little time. For a third, I am phobic as hell about driving. But it's got to happen. I'll keep you all posted.

See you In Damascus

Two things I've seen in the j-b-s got me thinking: this, at An Unsealed Room and this at Baka Diary. Both talk, in different ways, about wanting to be able to travel in the Middle East freely--someday, after peace.

Years ago, one of my college friends, whose grandparents were from Italy, went on a trip to her grandmother's home town. She met the cousins, saw processions for the Virgin, ate, spoke Italian with the family, and got taken to see the local sights. I heard the tales of how cool it was, and something occurred to me that I'd never articulated before--how totally impossible such a trip would be for most Jews. How gone most of 'the old country' is.

Imagine doing the Jewish roots trip just as I did the Irish. Utterly impossible. Imagine a trip to Vilna or Cracow, where instead of 'March of the Living', or a polite tour around what's left, you visited relatives, or stayed with homestay families, went to the same synagogues used for hundreds of years uninterrupted, heard Yiddish in the streets, went to the restaurants...hard to imagine, even without the war, somehow. My great-grandmother once commented that there were some good things in the Old Country, but I believe she was talking about a dessert recipe at the time.

Sure, there are people who visit Europe. There's even Jewish nostalgia tourism developing. But it's basically a trip to the cemetery. The week I once spent in Germany nearly exploded my head. A friend (Iraqi-Jewish) once told me that she bicycled across Europe once, and spit her way across Germany. The scene in the last paragraph just couldn't have happened, could it, even without the Shoah? But it's weirdly inviting, at least to me.

Imagine some of my friends doing the Jewish roots trip. Iraq. Syria. Morocco. Iran. Egypt. Think of the historic Jewish sites out there, the communities that in another world you could visit and see the changing life of.

In some ways, I think we've tried to address this by making Israel our everything. "Drive us out of every other place we've called home? We don't care! We got the original back!" But it's different, more emotionally complicated than that. Sure, we can see where David and Isaiah walked, but the towns our grandparents came from are largely gone, behind borders, burned out, lost. Our most ancient connections, even, go farther than our borders. I've always remembered a Shabbos morning in a Sephardi shul in San Francisco where the rabbi commented "Now, Lavan lived in Syria. Anyone here from Syria?" Hands went up here and there. Imagine being able to do the whole Genesis Roots Tour.

So we wonder. What would it be like to go to Damascus? What would it be like to be Jews in a friendly Middle East? What would it be like? It's tiring, all this war unending, it's exhausting to be the man in the joke whose travel agent can't send him anywhere because of what they did to the Jews. What kind of a world could it be if?

And Now, Something Hilarious

You may have to be a dog person for this one. And not terribly squeamish about the fact that dogs were not originally intended by the good Lord to eat lamb and rice kibble.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gonna Blow A Fuse

OK. This is rotten.

My darling chasan had already convinced me that I should stay with the dogs overnight by myself, because he was working, and can't sleep well with the dogs either hogging the bed or whining outside. OK. It's chutzpahdik (he was the one who agreed to take care of the critters). But OK.

So then, he develops some sort of horrible bug last night. And is off work today. But it's probably still just as well, because he apparently sweated and shook all last night, and the dogs would have driven him mad. OK.

Meanwhile, I was peacefully sharing a bed with two whippets, who were doing their level best to take up 95% of said bed. OK. They are warm and friendly, at least, I'm just afraid to shove them out of the way because they're so skinny and fragile-looking. They like to be under the covers, and make skin contact. (No body fat.)

So, this morning I make coffee, find that the additional callback for interview I got yesterday is two hours from my home, call my last outstanding job possibility (who, by the by, wants people to start Wednesday). He tells me to wait until Monday or Tuesday at the latest. We ain't cutting that one fine at all, eh? I can't tell if he's assuming I know I've got the job (and will take it), or iif they're planning to wait to turn me down until they're sure their first choice says yes, or if they're planning to just call people until they find eight of us who haven't found other work or WHAT. OK.

Now, I just have to make my way into San Francisco, by public transit, through an area I do not know, that has lousy bus service, go into the city, order a wedding cake, eat Shabbos dinner, and then coerce the fella into driving me to let the whippets out to pee.


On the other hand, the whippets are awfully sweet. This morning I sat up in bed with them, put a hand on each one and wished them 'a broche on their furry little heads'. They are nice little guys. The female is in heat, again, so they're sort of agitated about that. I realize she's not actually PMSing, but I can't help saying things like "Honey, should I get you some ice cream? Hot bath? Heating pad?"

I should let them run around the yard one more time before I lock up and hit the road. This really, really, sucks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Tonight, and for the next couple of evenings, I will be in a small city not far from here, sitting the two whippets, two cockatiels and two parakeets belonging to friends of ours.
The whippets are interesting critters. They were bred for speed. Brain power was sacrificed in the process. They are basically little bundles of nerve, muscle and instinct, created solely to run like lightning after anything that runs away from them. They have narrow little aerodynamic heads, and delicate skinny limbs that are actually translucent at points. In their peak physical condition they basically have no body fat at all, and get very cold, very easily. They have sweet personalities, but not very complicated ones. They are rather fun, but if I were getting a dog, I think a black lab, or a German shepherd, or something else slightly less neurotic, and able to play fetch even after the object you throw stops moving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


The job I thought I was going to get? The break? The half an hour from the house? Turned me down.

So much for that.

Now, I get my last paycheck in three and a half weeks, and I'm getting hysterical.

I have one school out there that I interviewed with, and I'm praying. And I don't even like them that much.

This sucks.

Tumbleweeds and temples

On Tisha b'Av I think about tumbleweeds. Cut off from their source of water, tumbleweeds dry, and take to the road, blowing for hundreds of miles across open plain and desert. They carry their seeds with them, an entire genetic blueprint for how to be a tumbleweed. When they come to rest, seeds are germinated in the rains, and a new cycle begins, often several states away from their starting point. The original tumbleweeds traveled to the Americas on the clothing and blankets of immigrants. The ones rolling through the Mojave at this moment are descended from ones that rolled through the Siberian steppes a few hundred years ago. They keep on rolling.

The destruction of the Temple was meant to destroy the Jewish people as a religious entity. It was supposed to yank out our spine, and take away our identity. We still mourn the loss of the Temple, the loss of life, the loss of land, but it's those who hate the Jews who should cry today. The attempt on our life as a people failed, when by any sane calculation it should have succeeded. Rabbinic Judaism did not just rise out of the loss of the Temple, it rocketed. Confident, steeped in tradition, the generations of the Talmud created a blueprint for Judaism for the road ahead.

Today, we remember, and we mourn. But we are able to mourn because we, and our people, are alive, and endlessly moving forward.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

And with this fluffernutter...

Today we chose a ring. But first, I managed to get the fella worked up by affectionately addressing him as 'my fluffernutter'. I like sweet nicknames. Even more than sweet nicknames I like the expression on the fella's face when I use them.

Apparently, before today the fella had never heard of a fluffernutter. So I filled him in--a fluffernutter, for those of you who similarly have not heard of such, is a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. The fella was curious. I ended up having to buy a jar of marshmallow fluff in order to demonstrate properly. Yes, there is kosher marshmallow fluff. God help us all.

Then we went to a jewelry store in Berkeley, and chose a simple, very lovely, ring. But you have to imagine it: we walk in together. I say we are looking for wedding rings, well, a ring, since it will be a single ring ceremony. "All right," the sweet proprietor says, "you'll need a kosher ring in that case, I guess."

"Oh, not necessarily," say I, whereupon she looks baffled.

Later, adding to the thickened plot, it occurs to me that the fella had his hat on the whole time we were in the he customarily does in public...anyway, we found a ring, which is the important part...

It's gorgeous.