Monday, February 11, 2013
New (to me) Hebrew slang
I'm always stumbling over new Hebrew words, slang and espressions in my day-to-day life. Not being a native speaker of the language, I suppose this is to be expected.
Most new (to me) words I can figure out from context. But occassionally I have to rely on one of my teenagers for enlightenment.
This past week I learned a new bit of slang from my daughter that is so perfectly elegant (and sounds Italian, to boot), that I had to share it:
Fluoroscenti (flʊəˈ rɛ sən ti)
adjective - slow on the uptake, dim-witted, perennially late to comprehend
Based on a fluorescent lamp's tendency to flicker for a few seconds before becoming fully illuminated, 'fluoroscenti' is used to describe a person who seems to always lag a few beats behind any conversational topic or joke.
There, now go forth and share this newfound knowledge.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)
Full Disclosure: In an ironic twist, it took me a moment from when my daughter explained the word to me before the light bulb went on over my head and I understood exactly what she was describing.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Nobody can say they weren't warned...
Although my country will likely maintain studied ambiguity over the next few days, or even weeks... there is little doubt what has happened.
Since the beginning of the current civil war in Syria, Israel made it very clear that at the first sign that Assad's regime was losing control of its weapons arsenals, or that they were facilitating weapons transfers to their Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, our armed forces would not hesitate to attack.
Over the past few weeks as the situation in Syria has started to circle the drain, the IDF home front command quietly moved several Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to the north of the country.
When the press picked up on the movement of the batteries, the government insisted that it was just a routine rotation of the systems... but anyone paying attention knew it was a pre-emptive measure in advance of a pre-emotive measure.
Something was about to happen.
This morning several international media outlets reported that Lebanon was claiming to have tracked Israeli Air Force jets overhead.
Yeah, that had to mean something.
Sure enough, now Syria is reporting that IAF jets have bombed a 'research facility' outside Damascus. More reliable sources are reporting that it was, in fact, a weapons convoy headed for Lebanon.
I'm sure there will be lots of hand-wringing at the UN over this breach of Syria's sovereignty.
Good. Let 'em scream and carry on all they want. Nobody can say they weren't warned.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Bogeyman Hiding in the Shower
Like many men, I've spent much of my adult life simultaneously fascinated by breasts, and relieved beyond measure that I don't have them.
Just hearing horror stories about routine mammograms, and thinking about the growing list of friends who have struggled, and sometimes lost the battle, with breast cancer, is enough to make me thank G-d every morning for making me a man.
Oh sure, on some level I know as well as anyone that there's a little footnote on breast cancer brochures and websites that mentions that men can get it too. But since the overwhelming majority of breast cancer cases you hear/read about are women... this particular scourge is largely thought of as a 'women's cancer', like its ovarian and uterine cousins.
Most men I know (myself included) support breast cancer fund raisers for one or more of the following reasons:
- Because someone they know has had breast cancer
- Because it is considered trendy/enlightened in most circles for a man to support such a 'women's issue'
- Because a spouse or girlfriend is actively supporting it (i.e. earning 'brownie points')
- Because not only is the little pink ribbon on your shirt a total chick magnet, but it also allows a guy to shamelessly slip the word breast into a conversation (often several times!), he is having with a new female conquest without getting slapped.
Well, I'm here to tell you that there is another reason for a man to support Breast Cancer research: To paraphrase an old saying, it's all fun and games until you feel a lump in the shower.
While taking a shower recently, I was soaping up my pits as I usually do... but because the bar of soap was getting a tad thin (and I was too lazy to get out of the nice warm shower to get a fresh one), I had to take a little extra care to get the whole area nice and sudsy.
That's when I noticed a lump about halfway between my armpit and 'pec'. On a woman this would be that lovely spot that swells just beyond the right border of a bikini top's fabric.
At first I thought the little scrap of soap I'd been trying to use must have doubled up on me, and that was what my fingers had felt. But a second pass put paid to that theory. There was something there, all right... and it was about the size of a cocktail olive.
Right there in the shower I suddenly understood the barely contained terror that informed women live with every day of their adult lives. Standing there with the water streaming unfelt over my numb body, I tried to muster a list of all the information I possessed about what might be dancing there under my fingers. And a short list it was.
Some of you may not know this, but it turns out I didn't go to medical school. So I got out of the shower, dried off, and then spent several hours surfing the health and medical web sites finding out just how little I really knew about what it might mean to find a cocktail olive in one's armpit.
After nearly three hours of sitting on my little secret and scaring myself spitless with what I was finding on the web, I called up a buddy of mine who actually did go to medical school (and who, from what I had heard, is a damn fine surgeon).
He listened intently to what I described, asked a few professional questions, and told me to be at his office at 10:30 the following morning... he'd squeeze me in. I was there at 10:00.
At 11:20 he finally waved me into his examination room.
Now, there are ups and downs to having a drinking buddy who is also one of your health professionals.
On the plus side, there is none of the professional intimidation one sometimes feels when under the care of a stranger there in the reflected glare of a half dozen framed diplomas, degrees and certifications.
But on the down side, when someone you've swilled wine and beer with is poking and prodding something that might turn out to be a death sentence, it's surprisingly hard to keep up your end of the friendly banter.
I might add that whether you know the doctor personally or not, it is devilishly difficult to decipher the taciturn grunts, 'hmmmms' and barely audible 'there' you might hear during the exam. Simply put; Whether you know the doc well or not, you're gonna have to wait for the end of the exam before you get the news.
The interim news was encouraging. He said that the odds of these things being cancerous in men is relatively low. Surprisingly, as someone who occasionally buys a lottery ticket, long odds did nothing to assuage my fears... and I told him as much.
He assured me that we wouldn't be leaving anything to chance and that he would be scheduling me for his next surgery day (a week hence) so he could remove it and have it biopsied.
The delay, he explained, was partly because he was already overbooked for that week's surgery, and partly because he wanted me on antibiotics for at least a few days before the surgery because he suspected that at least part of the swelling around the lump was some kind of infection..
Those next few days forever elevated the whole breast cancer thing from a theoretical cause I raise money for in order to show how evolved I am, to the kind of bogeyman that will always be lurking in the dark corners of my sleep, waiting to pounce.
After what seemed like roughly a decade, the day of the surgery finally rolled around and I presented myself for my day of reckoning.
My friend was very businesslike, and seemed genuinely puzzled by my anxiety. He assured me that the most painful part of the surgery would be the sting of the local anesthetic as it was injected (he wasn't kidding!).
When I tried to explain that I was okay with pain… but that the specter of what he might find when he started cutting had kept me from having a decent night's sleep since we had last spoken, he got an expression on his face similar to the way my dog looks at me when I try to explain my feelings to her; good natured, head tilting confusion.
Here's where the disconnect exists between medical professionals and laymen:
If we come to you with a symptom that WEBMD.com says might possibly be cancer, unless you emphatically state that there is absolutely zero chance that our symptom is cancer, everything else you say to us sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher (cue 'wawawa' trombone noises).
Once the surgery was completed and I was suitably sutured and bandaged, I became fairly sure I hadn't drawn a breath in 15 minutes… and was feeling decidedly light-headed from the lack of oxygen. So with the last wisp of CO2 in my lungs I managed to squeak out what I hoped was a casual-sounding, "So, what do you think?".
My buddy the surgeon looked at me blankly and said, "About what?"
As my consciousness circled the drain I managed to say, "Um, about whatever you took out of my armpit". Is it cancer?"
At that point I think my friend's face showed more annoyance than comprehension… but that could just be the glare from the bright white light I was seeing from the end of a long tunnel. He shook his head and said, "Oh, I thought we discussed this. Just as I suspected it was an infected sebaceous cyst. I'll send it out for biopsy, but I can already tell you that everything looks fine. There was never anything to worry about."
At that point I think I must have started breathing again because, well, I didn't die right there on his table (duh!). But I also knew with certainty that no shower would ever be the same for me. No matter the long odds and slightly foolish feeling that I'd made too big a deal of this incident… I knew that I would be living the rest of my life like a death row prisoner who has been given a last minute reprieve by the governor. In short; like every woman who performs her self exam each month and steps from the shower with another 30 days of life to live.
If you are still reading this (and I hope you are), please give generously to support breast cancer research.
And if you are a man, please kiss your wife / mother / daughter for no apparent reason for the incredible courage and personal fortitude they have to show throughout their lives in the face of this decimating disease.
Friday, January 25, 2013
A new family record!
This may suggest to some readers the paucity of material I've had to work with lately, but I'm proud to report to the remaining faithful readers that a new record has been set here at chez treppenwitz:
Thirteen single, unmatched socks in one load of the kids' clean laundry... and not one pair!
Forget about looking for an explanation. It will only lead to the kind of frustration that makes parents old before their time.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
What an awkwardly worded denial!
In the wake of securing the nomination for US Secretary of Defense, Hagel insisted that "there is not a shred of evidence that I am anti-Israel". [source]
If you think about it, that's an odd way of denying a charge. Not nearly as convincing as, say, an affirmative defense.
For instance, I doubt you'd feel comfortable leaving your kids in the care of a babysitter who insisted that "there is not a shred of evidence that I am a child molester".
I'm just saying...
Thursday, January 03, 2013
A Pet Peeve
There do no exist enough swear words in the English language to allow me to express my antipathy towards clothing manufacturers who only make men's pants with inseams measured in even numbered inches (which is pretty much all of them).
I have a 33" inseam and have basically three choices:
- Buy pants with a 34" inseam and have them hemmed.
- Buy pants with a 32" inseam and feel like a math nerd at a frat party.
- Buy really high end slacks with unfinished hems and have them tailored.
Just once I'd like to be able to walk into a store, buy a pair of pants off the rack, and walk out wearing them without looking like a homeless person or a geek!
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A familiar beginning
Those who make a big deal of the beginning of the new year tend to romanticize it with visions of the classic night clubs peopled with the cream of society, swilling champagne and kissing to the strains of Auld Lang Syne.
And I'm sure there are people whose new year experience closely approximates this.
But midnight Israel time found most of our household already asleep (after all, January 1st is a school/work day), and the few stragglers were doing dishes, finishing homework or reading.
At some point in the wee hours of the morning our nine year old shuffled down to our bedroom and announced his presence with the question, "Ima, I told you that you have to bake a cake for school tomorrow... Did you do it?".
To which my groggy wife muttered, "Oh crap", into her pillow.
Thanks to the seven hour difference, we watched the ball drop in Times Square while we ate our breakfast, and drank our coffee with the smell of freshly baked cake (destined for a combined third grade class birthday celebration) wafting from the oven.
For us, the new secular year arrived quietly and was 'celebrated' in a most familiar and pleasant way... like any other day.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Homemade Clotted Cream... Yummy!
Over the years whenever my lovely wife has made scones (she has a wide assortment of them in her recipe box), we've usually enjoyed them with butter and jam.
However, a few weeks ago a British friend clued me into the fact that a proper English Cream Tea must have, at a minimum, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. Butter, it seems, is strictly déclassé.
Since scones were already a staple in our home, and strawberry jam an easily obtainable commodity, I was left to ponder the not-so-yummy sounding 'clotted cream'.
Internet searches provided a little confusion since 'Clotted Cream' and 'Devon Cream' seem to be used both synonymously and as distinct product names.
I frequent an online forum that has a fairly large UK contingent, so I availed myself of their cultural familiarity to ask what I should be enjoying with my scones.
It turns out that a very un-scientific samplingof Brits agree that 'Clotted Cream' and 'Devon Cream' are essentially the same thing, but that, strictly speaking, Devon Cream should really come from Devon (or at least from cream provided by that region's hardy cows).
Once that was settled, I set about trying to find a local source for clotted cream. Yeah right!
It seems that the stuff is consumed in great quantities throughout the UK, but since it has a very short shelf life, it is hard to find abroad.
Any of you who have seen my annual homemade eggnog posts know where this is headed. Obviously, I had to find a recipe to make my own clotted cream at home.
I figured worst case scenario, I waste a couple of cups of cream... it doesn't clot, and I use whatever hasn't evaporated in my morning coffee. And the best case scenario meant I'd have clotted cream to put on my wife's yummy scones.
And yes, we have strawberry jam... to keep it old school.
It turns out, making clotted cream at home couldn't possibly be easier:
First, pick up a pint or two of unsweetened heavy whipping cream (38% fat content). The best is unpasteurized, but since that is almost impossible to find these days, the best you can do in most places is to buy pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized).
Pour the cream into a casserole dish, cover and place in the oven at 185 degrees F for 12 hours (many ovens shut off at 12 hours, so you can't really do much damage if you forget about it).
I put mine in the oven after dinner, and by the time I wake up, the oven has shut off and the cream has started to cool.
At this point you will notice a thick coating floating on top of the cream (kind of like the skin that forms on top of homemade puddings). That is the start of your clotted cream. Carefully place the covered dish containing the cream in the refrigerator and leave it for at least 6-8 hours.
At this point, uncover the dish and use a large spoon or spatula to carefuly remove the thick surface substance which is your clotted cream. Place in an empty condiment jar and keep refrigerated until ready for use.
The rest of the cream left in the dish which didn't clot can be poured into a container for you to enjoy with your coffee or tea (by this point it is probably no more than 10 - 15 %).
Here's how my first batch turned out:
If you can get past the name, clotted cream is really a treat. It is sweeter and creamier than butter, has complex caramel notes in the aftertaste, and when enjoyed on a fresh scone, with a dollop of strawberry jam on top... heaven!
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Will we answer silence with silence?
One of the things which begs explanation, if not outrage, is the near total silence from the so-called moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian 'street' in the face of Arab incitement and terror attacks.
I've often said that if anyone could point out a viable Palestinian 'Peace Camp' that was shown to be loudly and consistenatly condemning terror & incitement, and working to build bridges with Israel, I'd join the Israeli peace camp (of which there are several, actually) and work tirelessly to convince Israeli leaders to sit down and engage them.
Needless to say, nobody has been able to show me this mythical Palestinian 'Peace Camp', or any semblance of a strong, stable peace partner with whom we could safely negotiate peace.
But that doesn't mean that Israel can exempt itself from self-criticism and outrage at the behavior of extremists on our side of the fence.
So-called 'Price-Tag' attacks - acts of vandalism and terror allegedly carried out by Jewish settlers - have been a staple of the news here for the past few years. No doubt, there are Jewish extremists, and some have certainly been acting exactly as the media alleges. But so far, few if any have actually been caught red handed.
Additionally, many of the 'Price-Tag' attacks have been proven to be the work of Palestinians and their international supporters; designed to vilify Israel in general, and settlers in particular. Many videos have been captured of Palestinians and their supporters deliberately cutting down / uprooting their own olive trees in order to blame Jews, so I have to believe that with the easy availability of spray paint and gasoline, a portion of the vandalism and arson attributed to Jews is being carried out by others.
However, it is being reported today that three Israelis have been arrested for carrying out 'Price-Tag' attacks, and at least according to the news and police reports, the evidence seems quite compelling:
"The men – Aaron Sadigurky (21), Yehiel Lex (22) and Nathanael Kellerman (19) were arrested some two weeks ago for allegedly setting fire to a car in the village of Dhahiriya near Hebron and spraying graffiti on a mosque.
Not long after the wall of a mosque was desecrated, an IDF unit identified the perpetrators Subaru in a nearby village. The police then started trailing the vehicle, consequently linking it to the crime in Dhahiriya, where a cab was set on fire and a graffiti referencing to a rightwing activist – arrested for a different act of vandalism – was sprayed.
According to details revealed in the arraignment, Sadigurky, Lex and Kellerman were the subjects of a lengthy police investigation, as the car with which they were systematically vandalizing property was known to the police. The car, a red Subaru, had given the case the nickname "The Red Japanese," and is now key evidence in the case.
When intelligence information pertaining to the suspects' intention to harm Palestinians reached police forces in early December, a Central Control Unit force was sent after them and arrested them near Samua.
The force found flammable substances in the suspects' car, along with cans of spray-paint and fake weapons, apparently used for deterrence in case of need." [source]
Some of you may have read a news item last week about a 17 year old Palestinian being shot to death when he approached a Border Patrol post and brandished a weapon very similar to what was found in the car of the three suspects above. I consider that dead 17 year old Palestinian a terrorist and have no doubt that his own actions were to blame for his death.
By the same token, I consider these three Israelis to be terror suspects, and if proven guilty, I feel strongly that they should be sentenced as terrorists.
Incitement and terror carried out by extremists is a lopsided equation, to be sure, with Israel/Israelis being the victim in the vast majority of reported cases. But it is not a one-sided equation.
There are misguided, self-deluded people on the Jewish side, and it is up to everyone to show that, unlike the Palestinians, we Israelis are willing to shun, shame and condemn bad actors in our midst, and will not be silent in the face of something that threatens to extinguish any spark of hope for quiet... if not peace.
Monday, December 17, 2012
A note to a few high school friends
(You know who you are)
We went to school in Trumbull… twenty minutes from Newtown, Connecticut, during a more innocent time (although our parents might raise an eyebrow at that statement).
Fights were rare, and when they happened, they were fought with words, and sometimes fists. If any of us had touched a gun it was likely a BB gun or a .22 rifle for 'plinking' cans and bottles in the woods.
We used to drive up to Newtown in the summertime to swim, camp and occasionally water ski at Lake Lillinonah. We'd sometimes stop on the way up at a little shack called 'Ray's Liquor Locker' to get a cold sixpack or two… or we'd go to a quiet little towny bar near the town hall there where they didn't 'card' high school kids who wanted to share a pitcher of beer on a hot evening… so long as we minded our manners.
Now, my friends, we're all over 50, and have mostly forgotten about those summer trips up to Newtown.
At least until this past Friday, that is.
When I think back on Newtown of the late '70s, I think of quiet; of old trees and older houses… and a flagpole planted right in the middle of Main Street, letting all who visited know that patriotism is central to the town's self-identity.
Nearly every time I take my family back to the US for a visit, I make time to take a quiet ride by myself up to Newtown. I tell my wife (and myself) that it's to browse the consignment and antique shops (which, in part it is).
But I also like to drive alone through the leafy town and surrounding countryside because it is a rare chance to revisit an unspoiled setting of my youth that hasn't been paved over or developed into sprawling malls.
And it is a reminder of what small town New England is… or was.
It's funny, you know. We thought we understood everything back then; and that the grown-ups understood nothing.
It turns out we were right.
Because I'm a grown-up now… and I don't understand anything.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
A Work of Fiction
Despite what the opening sentence, below, may suggest, the following is a work of fiction... a fabrication... a flight of fancy... made up out of whole cloth. And the events described in this made-up story take place far in the past (i.e. 'Once upon a time...').
I offer this odd preamble to this post because, if this story were actually true, the events described in it would be actionable on several, not-so-pleasant levels. Clear enough? Good.
I killed a dog this morning.
No, I didn't hit it. But somebody sure did.
At around 6:15 I was riding my Vespa through an empty stretch of rolling desert landscape on my way to work when I came upon a big yellow dog writhing in agony near the center line of the road. As a life-long dog owner who was raised by a family of dog lovers, I guess I know a thing or two about dogs... and this one was in impossible agony.
The dog was either feral, or had been a stray for so long that it didn't have any sign of having ever been groomed or otherwise cared for. It was rail skinny, and had healed scars all over its nose and head.
But the real horror was its back end. Something big had run the dog over, crushing its hind quarters and dragging it a few yards... partially eviscerating the poor animal in the process. It had apparently happened during the night since the trail of blood that reached the shoulder was already starting to dry.
I couldn't imagine why this dog hadn't succumbed to its injuries or been finished off by another vehicle in the dark. There isn't much traffic at night, but even if nobody else had come along to issue a vehicular coup de grâce, there are enough predators and scavengers in the area (other feral dogs, jackals, foxes, etc.), that this animal should have been out of its misery hours ago.
Yet there was this horribly wounded dog... scrabbling on the pavement with its front paws and craning its head, and trying futilely to reach its mutilated hind quarters.
I parked my scooter on the shoulder and called the nearest big town's police department to ask about sending an animal control officer, but a recorded voice said nobody would be in until 8 AM. A call to the nearest army base put me in touch with a sympathetic female soldier, but she gently explained that this was completely outside the IDF's area of responsibility.
I made one last attempt by calling our vet in Jerusalem (I have his cell phone number for emergencies), and told him where I was and what I was looking at. He explained that nobody was going to take responsibility for an injured feral dog out in the middle of nowhere. He was clearly upset by my description, but said that even if he got in his car right away, chances are the dog would be dead before he arrived.
He suggested I put the dog down myself by running over its head. I explained that I wasn't in my car... I had taken my scooter to work.
About 15 seconds of silence passed on the phone line during which I'm sure he could clearly hear the dog's whining and occasional yelps. Finally, he said... do whatever you have to do. You have to stop its suffering. You know what to do.
And I did. I put the phone back in my pocket... looked in all directions to make sure nobody was coming...took out my pistol ... and put a single round into the dog's head. The silence after the loud report had died away was complete. The poor animal was finally out of its misery.
As I rode to work, I couldn't figure out why I was so upset. Was it because this kind of senseless suffering is apparently so commonplace in the world... or because I've lived my entire life blissfully unaware of it?
I was hoping that by writing this down I'd gain some clarity... but I still don't know.
Afterthought: Some of you reading this might be asking yourselves (in theory, of course... this is all fiction, right???!!!), why shooting the dog wasn't my first thought / course of action. The answer is simple. In my country (as in most, I'm sure), there are laws and ordinances restricting the discharging of firearms in all but an extremely narrow set of clearly defined circumstances.
In a well organized society, there are people and organizations such as police, vets, animal control officers, etc., who are authorized to deal with such problems (although woe to an animal that comes to grief in the gray areas between the jurisdictions of those people and organizations).
And in the civilized parts of our world, one doesn't simply take out a gun and put 'old yeller' down. In fact, feeling free to do so is about the surest way to tell if you are outside the boundaries of organized society.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
A Little Current Events Quiz
Don't worry… just one question (and 'multiple choice', to boot!).
Question: Which of the following was cause for the offending country's diplomats to be summoned and scolded in Capitals around the world:
A) Iran's continued work towards the development of nuclear weapons.
B) Syria's continued slaughter of its civilian population (20,000 by conservative estimates), and recent movement / preparation of its chemical weapons stores for use.
C) The Palestinian Authority's violation of the terms of the Oslo Accords in taking unilateral steps towards international recognition while refusing to negotiate with Israel.
D) Pakistan's tacit approval of murders carried out by Sunni extremists (more than 100 in the past year) against other Islamic sects' members, and the government's continued sheltering of terror organizations such as Al Qaeda.
E) Myanmar's violent crackdown on Buddhist monks and villagers protesting the expansion of Government copper mines.
F) North Korea's announced intentions to test launch yet another long range missile, even though it is currently being paid handsomely by members of the international community to abandon its offensive weapons programs.
G) Russia's announced intention to cancel a two decades old nuclear disarmament program.
H) The Colombian military's killing of 20 FARC rebels while peace talks were ongoing.
I) Israel's announcement of its intention to move ahead with construction of civilian housing units in areas under its control.
Please show your work.
I hope everyone knows where their gas masks are!
We're almost there.
The news over the last 24 hours has been full of reports that Syria has not only begin moving their stores of chemical weapons ingredients, but has actually begun combining chemicals in order to create weaponized Sarin (nerve) gas.
The US is wagging a stern finger, and has declared that the use of chemical weapons would 'cross a red line'. I'm sure that has shaken the resolve of the Syrian regime. [not!]
Me thinks that Israel's 'red line' trigger for initiating a pre-emptive strike to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles is considerably shorter. Like 'now' shorter.
I hope everyone knows where their gas masks are.
Sunday, December 02, 2012
Woo Hoo - It's Eggnog Season!
From Thanksgiving to Hannukah is "eggnog season" here at chez treppenwitz.
We've gotten off to a late start this year, but hopefully we'll make up for the tardiness in both quality and quantity!
For those don't have access to store-bought 'nog (or if you just want to take it to the next level), here's a foolproof recipe from a certified fool:
1 cup sugar (I'm using Splenda this year)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon (optional but highly recommended)
All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance.
Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Turn the mixer off and stir in the cold booze, whipping cream and milk.
Chill some more before serving (if you can wait... I never can). Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.
Makes a little over 2 quarts (after taking several 'samples' for quality control purposes)
What are you still doing here looking at the screen?! The kitchen is that way!
Note: If for some strange reason you end up with leftover eggnog (something that almost never happens here), you can add a splash to your morning coffee and/or make french toast with it.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Did I mention what Ari did during the war?
Yes, I know I did. I'm just being an insufferably proud parent.
Here is a picture of Ariella with one of her fellow volunteers during the conflict (Ari's the one without glasses).
She also sent me a bunch of photos of herself and the staff with the adorable kids she and her friends were looking after, but I suspect that many of the parents would not be so crazy about a stranger posting pictures of their children on the Internet without their permission. Sorry.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A Nagging Thought
Last week a friend left a comment on this blog that got into my head and wouldn't leave me alone.
It was a short comment, but it got so far under my skin that I quite literally have been losing sleep over it.
The relationship between Israel and the US is not what one could possibly call 'balanced'. Sadly, Israel needs the US far more than the US needs Israel. We are dependent upon the US not only for an unhealthy level of foreign aid, but also for its veto at the UN security council.
Although Israel certainly has some value to the US as an ally in the Middle East, and as a test bed and sometimes partner for the development of defense and aerospce technology / products. It is a rare thing indeed for my country to find itself in a situation where our American patron is figuratively 'over a barrel' and genuinely has no choice but to do something for us... or we simply won't budge.
We found ourselves in such a position last week.
The Obama administration, mere days after its election victory, was placed in a very awkward position by Israel's untimely decision that we'd (once again) had enough of the missiles from Gaza and launched a military operation against Hamas.
As much as every US administration in the past half century has wanted to be the one to bring peace to the middle east, the last three or four US presidents have really been in a diffiuclt position because not only can't they get Israel and the Palestinians to play nice together, they are excruciatingly aware that, for better or worse, the Arab world holds the US responsible for pretty much everything Israel does.
So you can imagine, having the stink of Israel beating the crap out of Hamas in Gaza hanging over every US diplomat for the next four years was certainly not how the Obama administration had envisioned kicking off its second term.
Within microseconds of the Israel Air Force introducing Ahmed Jabari to his 72 virgins, the US began trying to figure out how to broker a cease fire in such a way as to demonstrate that it had been the US that stayed Israel's hand.
Less than a week into the operation, Hillary Clinton flew over here and began meeting with Israeli officials... and magically within a few days our Prime Minister and his spokespeople were starting to talk publicly about the possibility of a cease fire. The message she conveyed to Israel's PM from President Obama was probably something along the lines of, "You backed the wrong horse in our elections and now we own you, bitch. Wrap this up or we start turning off the spigot on your jet fuel and F-16 spares."
Take note that it wouldn't be enough to have Israel simply declare that the goals of its operation had been met. No, it had to do so at an odd moment in the midst of one of the most intense days of Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel so as to prove that neither the decision nor timing were Israel's own.
During these few days of strong-arming, the US probably trotted out all manner of threats and enticements to bring Israel around. But until Israel actually said 'yes', the balance of power was momentarily shifted in Israel's favor, just enough that we had what the arbitrage crowd likes to call 'leverage'. We couldn't ask for just anything... but we could certainly ask for something!
So far as details of the cease fire terms trickle out, pretty much everything I'm seeing are concessions that Israel made to Hamas: Easing of border restrictions... Palestinian fishermen allowed to go further to sea... Palestinian farmers being able to go closer to the border fence, etc., and nothing in return.
Which brings us to the tantalizing comment that has gotten so far inside my soul and won't let me sleep:
"Israel should have demanded [Jonathan] Pollard's release as part of the deal."
And just like that I realize how badly we squandered this rare moment of leverage we had with the US.
How many hundreds of Arab terrorists has Israel been forced to set free as part of deals the US pressured Israel to accept? How many times have we squandered our meager political capital on empty promises and un-enforceable agreements?
And here, for the briefest of moments last week, we held the keys in our hands to free just one of our own... and we let the moment pass.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Another NY Times Blood Libel
Dead center at the top of the Home Page in the online edition of Today's NY Times is the following story:
1. Based on its prominent position/placement on their site, this is the most pressing story of the moment.
2. Somebody is using war as a convenient cover for the deliberate targeting of journalists.
3. The photo is of journalists in Israel.
4. Conclusion: Israel is targeting journalists.
No matter how much or little of the article has been read - even if it is just the picture and the caption - the Times has ensured that the voracious news perusing, page clicking, online information junkies can now click onward with this new 'fact' stored in their mental database... 'Israel targets journalists'.
It doesn't matter that more than 40,000 people have been slaughtered in the bloody Syrian crackdown right next door (including 435 foreign civilians!!!). You won't see that on the front page of the Times or hear about Hillary Clinton and other world leaders flying to Damascus to demand an immediate cessation of violence.
No, only Israel gets that treatment.
If one clicks over to the main article from the picture above, the central kernel around which the piece is constructed is following quote about an unfortunate incident during the recent Gaza operation:
... three employees of news organizations were killed in Gaza by Israeli missiles. Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.”
So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as “relevance to terror activity.”
I can think of scores of incidents over the past 50 years were journalists have been killed and wounded in war zones. But I don't ever recall anyone making the claim that the dead or wounded media personnel were deliberately targeted. Until now, that is. Because Israel is the country in the dock.
In recent conflicts, Israel has either attempted to exclude journalists from the war zones altogether (knowing full well that their presence will be exploited by the enemy and make the IDF's job more dangerous / risky), or has resigned itself to having to issue continuous warnings to journalists as to what places are about to be attacked; reports that are instantly transmitted to the enemy.
In last week's operation, journalists were allowed to go into Gaza and were given few restrictions on their movement other than strict warnings to avoid close contact with Hamas operatives since they were obviously being targeted:
Israeli officials have said Hamas was using journalists and their operations as “human shields,” and a press officer for the Israeli Defense Force warned in a Twitter postthat reporters should be wary of the company they keep: “Advice to reporters in #Gaza, just like any person in Gaza: For your own safety, stay away from #Hamas positions and operatives.”
Conducting a military operation of this scale in an area as small and densely populated as Gaza without causing harm to civilians is already a nearly impossible task (although Israel has gone to greater lengths to protect civilians than any other country in any other modern conflict). But the presence of a large number of journalists flitting around the battlefield, who are not reporting their presence to the officers directing the operation, complicates the task exponentially.
But for the New York Times, none of that is relevant. All that is important to them is that journalists were injured and killed, so Israel deliberately targeted them.
The active malevolence against Israel on the part of the New York Times is so unabashed and palpable that to deny it is laughable, and to try to defend against it is like responding to questions like, "Are you still beating your wife?".
The problem with such blood libels as are contained in today's NY Times piece, is that once they are whispered into receptive ears, they take on a life of their own and become accepted 'truths... part of 'the rocord'... 'facts'.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Well, that solves that!
About a month ago I started getting a trickle of SMS messages from various current and perspective Knesset members on the Likud list requesting my vote in the upcoming primaries (yes, I am currently a party member, but that could change).
As the days passed, the trickle turned into a torrent, and the SMS messages were joined by calls to my cell phone at all hours of the day and night, that when I answered, tried to force me to listen to recorded messages from the same current and perspective Knesset members in the Likud list requesting my vote.
As the recorded phone calls and SMSs started to hit every hour or so, I started keeping track of who was waging this harassment campaign (there is no other way to describe it), and vowed not to vote for anyone who employed this tactic.
I am pleased to announce that as of this morning, every single person that I would conceivably have voted for in the Likud primaries has been eliminated (most many, many times over) from possibly receiving my vote.
As a result, unless I get a personal phone call before the polls close today from live candidates actually apologizing to me for the phone and SMSM sh*tstorm, I am not going to be casting my vote for anyone.
Of course, if I happen to be passing a polling place today, I may just go in and vote for the unworthiest people on the Likud list (those that didn't harass me, that is), just to spite everyone else.
The issue of whether I remain in the Likud at all is very much in play at the moment. *
* Not due to the shameless electioneering, but rather due to the shameful (IMHO) way in which the most recent conflict was 'resolved'.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Lather, Rinse... Repeat
'I told you so' is neither satisfactory nor sufficient enough to sum up my deep disappointment this morning.
Everything went exactly according to the tried and true formula:
The Instigation: The media repeatedly referred to the fighting as having lasted for eight days, while studiously ignoring the years of continuous rocket fire on Israel's towns and cities that lead up to this all-to-brief response.
The 'War': Israel attacks exclusively military and terror targets in a campaign which is both costly and fraught with risk, while the enemy continues to target Israel's civilian population unhindered by any rules whatsoever.
The World's Response: Despite years of studiously ignoring the enemy's war crimes (by every definition) of targeting Israel's civilians and using their own population as human shields, the world leaders and bodies, aided and abetted by the media, suddenly stir to life and begin loudly declaring that an immediate cease fire is necessary to restore calm to the region.
The Pressure: The US, UN and other useful idiots send their representatives to the region and begin applying pressure to Israel to unilaterally de-escallate the violence (with no mention of the ongoing war crimes being committed by the other side).
The capitulation: Israel finally bends to outside pressure and agrees to cease fire terms.
The 'Cease fire': At whatever hour the cease fire is to go into effect Israel, and only Israel, stops all military activity. The enemy continues to fire un-answered volleys of missiles for the next few hours so as to demonstrate to their own people, and to Israel, exactly who is still standing at the end.
The victory lap: The enemy claims victory, receives congratulatory messages from all of the other despot leaders, and declares a holiday during which their population dances in the street, pass out sweets and trumpet to the world their triumph over the evil Zionists.
The Coda: The rest of the world (which forced the cease fire in the first place): pats itself on the back for having quieted the quarrelling children in the back seat of the family car and begins writing fat aid checks to the Israel's enemy to help them rebuild (or re-arm... whatever feels right). Israel, on the other hand, is left to lick its wounds and explain that 'giving peace a chance' is what mature, grown-up nations do when offered the opportunity.
Have I missed anything?
Think back to the main terms of the cease fire (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701) which ended the second Lebanon war:
1. Israel to withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon: CHECK
2. Disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon (implying Hezbollah): NOPE
3. No armed forces other than UNIFIL and Lebanese Army (implying Hezbollah will be disbanded): NOPE
4. Full control of Lebanon by the government of Lebanon: NOPE
Other than Israel retreating to a position where it couldn't enforce any of the other terms, none of the other terms were realized or adhered to. Today, Hezbollah is far stronger than it was before the Second Lebanon War, and is a loaded pistol held to Israel's head by its puppet master; Iran... all because we refused to keep pushing until the enemy was left with no choice but to surrender.
I can assure you that only Israel will adhere to the terms of this most recent cease fire, and that the most serious problem is that the main term to which Israel has agreed is to stop targeted killings of terrorists and armed response to the enemy's violations.
Instead of direct action against Hamas terrorists, we will now be required to file our protests over any breach of the cease fire terms to a third party. And this third party will essentially be a soccer referee who has a pocket full of yellow cards, but no red cards. Stern warnings and strongly written letters will fly like confetti, but Hamas will now be able to act with complete impunity because the third party to which Israel is now obligated to turn (whoever that is), will have no power whatsoever to do more than say, "You're being very naughty... please don't do that again".
In June of 1940, when the outcome of WWII was far from certain, Winston Churchill's presented his people with a message of inspiration and resolve:
"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour."
But instead of recognizing the need to finish the battle with even one of the greater enemy's proxy armies, Israel is once again forced to hear a variation of Neville Chamberlains laughable hallucination:
"This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ' ... We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.' ... My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds."
I, for one, will not sleep quietly or well, knowing that this is far from the end of the war, nor even a worthy point in the conflict to stop and praise our valient efforts to date. It is September of 1938 all over again, and misguided leaders at home and abroad have once again deluded themselves with pipe dreams of peace rather than recognize the looming violence on the rapidly approaching horizon.
I beg my children's forgiveness for the fact that they will certainly have to fight this war again, and perhaps die, because my generation was not wise or brave enough to finish the fight when we had the chance.As it says on the back of the shampoo bottle: "Lather, rinse... repeat".
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
1. If the deliberate targeting of civilians is defined as a war crime under international law, why hasn't the International Court of Justice indicted the leaders of Hamas (who are the legally elected representatives of the Palestinians) for doing so?
2. If the deliberate use of civilians as human shields is defined as a war crime under international law, why hasn't the International Court of Justice indicted the leaders of Hamas (who are the legally elected representatives of the Palestinians) for launching missiles from within residential neighborhoods, and for the use of mosques, schools and residential/commercial buildings as weapons storage facilities, military training centers and launch facilities (classic examples of using civilians as human shields)?
3. If the US and other world leaders truly support Israel's inherent right to defend its population (as they say), why are they pressuring Israel to unilaterally 'de-escallate' the conflict while its population is still under full attack?
4. If a country or diplomatic body refuses to define Hamas as a terrorist organization (or removes Hamas from their list of groups considered to be terrorists), why are they not holding Hamas to accepted standards of conduct under International Law as would be expected if Hamas was any governmental or semi-governmental body?
5. Why is only Israel expected to employ pin-point intelligence, precision weapons systems and surgical strikes in all military conflicts while its opponents incur no international censure or penalty for the deliberate use of un-aimed weapons that are designed to paralize and target the largest possible civilian population?
6. On what basis should Israel be expected to begin negotiating a cease-fire while Hamas continues to repeat the Casus Belli which sparked the conflict in the first place (e.g. launch missiles at Israel's civilians). Doesn't that seem a lot like surrendering?
7. If Gaza has no army and therefore no 'legitimate' military targets or soldiers (as defined by the Geneva Conventions), and all aggression against Israel is being carried out by non-uniformed civilians, shouldn't Israel be allowed to pursue satisfaction as a purely criminal or sovereignty matter without the interference from, or need to explain to, uninterested parties (i.e. the rest of the world)?
8. If the Geneva Conventions define "anyone who breaches the laws or customs of war" (whihch Hamas , Islamic Jihad, et al obviously have) as an 'unprivileged combatant' (i.e. not entitled to the protections outlined in the conventions), why are world leaders and the media requiring Israel to afford such 'unprivileged combatants' the same protections that a uniformed army or militia would be entitled to?
9. If Israel's response to the most recent attacks is expected (required!) to be proportional, why isn't Israel allowed to fire short-medium range missiles in the general direction of Gaza's civilian population? That would be exactly proportional.
10. Why is Egypt - a country whose leader has not only publicly come out in support of one side in the current conflict, but also condemned the other side as 'deserving of destruction' - being allowed to act as a mediator? Wouldn't a country that has not expressed public support for one of the sides be a more honest mediator acceptable to both sides?
* A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and without the expectation of a reply. If these questions related to any country other than Israel, they would be asked at the highest levels of international diplomacy... and answers would be demanded!
But because it is 'only' related Israel (or more likely, because it is 'only' related to a country which has attacked Israel), these questions remain in the realm of rhetoric and the answers are of no interest to anyone.