jeudi, septembre 29, 2005

be happy where you are and don't fret about saving time...?

First, shameless plug, I just met Natalie who works for sippurim by all means it is a really awesome site, please go check it out and utilize it if you have children.

I absolutely adored this book _Bagels from Benny_ --it is by far a super super duper book. I heard from mindy that I should read _What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street_ as well as the book about Dancing with Zaide, but I haven't had a chance to track those books down. (It's thundering outdoors. my oh my. I was going to go grocery shopping but I guess maybe not right now.)
the depth and not the surface...

I recently read _The Little Prince_ by Antoine de St. Exupery. I love this book. It is really wonderful. People forget it its lessons so often and that makes me sad. so many people have told me they like the book but they don't see the way the prince's relationship with the flower is like a relationship they had or are in. I can see how easy it is to be a grown-up... one just forgets all the things one learned about the world and it is easy to just close your eyes and pretend that nothing is there anymore, but what one sees on the surface... this world is so good at having us be blind to what really matters in life. I wish that this would not be the case. I really wish there was some way to tap into life and remind people of what is really and truly beautiful in the world... and what really really matters.

(It made me think of the dreamtime walkabouts. I thought of the dreamlines and the songs and stories that are told about life in the aboriginal world. Learning how an open love protects one from pain and from hate... lacking fear, because one walks with Hashem. I miss the dreamtime. I remmebered a lesson from a teacher once: it is not good to live in such a heavily civilized and populated area all the time, becuase you may come to forget the truth inn the world that what is really important is what is within and what really matters are the connections we make with other people. Those connections... that is wealth.)

I have heard so many people tell me that they are too busy to think of the world in such precious terms as .. this person may be my last time seeing him, or that one it may be my last time speaking to her, these guys tell me that they just can't live life that way, otherwise they would do nothing with their lives, but I do not believe this is true. I believe with my heart's core that people can live their lives, work and meet their responsibilities and still remember to love and to treat each other as if this may be their last time together. The crux is in how you treat another person and how you speak, not in where you are or whether you are spending all of your time with that person. Sure we might regret telling a friend I can't talk now, I have to go to work. Those things can't be allayed, but we can certainly remember if someone we love called and we were curt with a family member or loved one in annoyance or frustration.

(Incidentally, it seems to me that men learn what to cherish a bit more when they get married. It may be that they learn to follow what their wives tell them to do either because their wives make it so unpleasant for them if they don't or because they recognize her wisdom...there are many more options than these two, but... anyway we should also recognize that not all women are wise.)

To see beauty where it is anytime, to be cheered up by a rainbow or a sunset, is to know that life could change terribly the next day. Today, I could be a free man walking with my own plans and tomorrow I could be caged, enslaved, forced to do another man's bidding. So today, I will stop to smell this rose, to adore the sound of the rian, to love the majesty of the natural beauty all around me. Each day one can stop and admire the world around him and say "Today, I will recognize and honor Ribono Shel Olam, Haborei, the One who rules and creates all."

Beyond that, too, though, is an interesting commentary that de St. Exupery makes about people and moving in caravans... that if people would simplify their lives and live in one place, they would have made their lives easier. One creates the roots and the connections... one tends to those people and those connections with dedication and one's life is not so lonely, not so terrifying, and not so hard. If only we could all figure out how to live that way.
I like what he writes about the idea of being tamed... to create ties... the secret of the fox was that same secret that CSLewis identified, which is that painn is part of the package of love. Love is so incredibly great and beautiful it is a shame to miss out on it. Even if one must endure pain, one is so blessed to have touched another life, to have been touched by another life, and most of all... to have had a connection to another being. Love is that connection. Language brings us misunderstandings no doubt and can often bring more pain, but no matter it is also a vehicle for that love... which is ultimately according to Erich Maria Rilke the entire purpose of living.

One is made special through onne's connections to other people, one is made precious when one allows oneself to trust and to share... all the pieces of a person when shared with another person both people grow and gain... sure, all people develop rituals they do.. stupid things, like if I preface a comment with someone's name in a certain tone of voice.. the other person expects a lecture,... if I preface a comment with a certain sigh, the person listening expects to hear a certain type of comment. All the more so in other affairs... people have rites even for physical things, actual habits, ... but those things make that relationship unique. The rites are specific in peculiar ways to the people involved. Saying that you love your mother is different from saying that you love your father, but they're both parents, ... simply they are different people.

What I thought was interesting though is the discourse about thorns.. what do flowers have thorns for... to me that question can be reworded as: what do people push others away for when they yearn for connection and closeness?... I find the exchange between the little prince and the flower as he gets to know her so typical of human relationships as men and women et to know each other. I also find it odd that other people do not identify real life events with those patterns I see in the text, but alas alack, I suppose it is to be expected.
I wonder that people have forgotten if they look up at the sky on a starry night, that somewhere up there is a little prince wiht a flower he adores, and a sheep in a crate, with a muzzle that has no strap... and baobab trees he must fend off...

de St. Exupery shows us grown ups who are concerned with clothes, counting things, business -the desire to own things and to feel more iportant because one can own things... like stars, land, novel concepts, power/ruling, vanity/ego/self-aggrandizement, shame/drinking to forget the shame --those stuck in patterns of self-destruction, rote and ritual actions which are so unfulfilling and yet are adhered to so closely it is mind-boggling, and he shows us people who will do so much to save time, but for nothingness, and people who are nnever satisfied with where they are... he shows us how empty all of that is ... the lesson of the geographer that he is only concerned with those things which will endure forever... is so ironic inn that even those things which he records are ephemeral.. but most precious of all is that he teaches the boy the word ephemeral... you see no matter how much you think here and now is important... his fights & his hurts with the flower mean nothing at all whhen he realizes that she is not going to endure forever, that she is ephemeral, because this is the source of so many regrets... people in our lives come and go, this is the way of the world, but we must know to treasure them at the momnt we have them... to let go and to lose for nothing, but simple "serious" grown-up things like business, vanity, shame, power, ritual, etc. this hardly seems quite right in his world. Perhaps he misses soemthing and perhaps he doesn't, for you see.. I would ask, so many people are touched by this book.. why are they touched?

Meckleschnott, the Third, once told me that we cry and we love those stories that tell us who we want to be. I suspect he is right.

We *want* to be able to live as the little prince wishes he could teach us to live, but so many people don't know how to do so. They feel like these fellows I know do, that one simply cannot live like that and make it in the world today. I am not so sure that is true. If you are sad that we are destroying the world and that species are going extinct, are you not sad, too, that you are not living your life true to yourself and really in touch with what matters in your own life? If you are sad that you are still struggling with a paper you must write that you will not write for various excuses, do you not also see that you reuse to write it because internally you are unhappy or afraid? If you will not leave the man who continues to hurt you, even though friends of yours say that they love you and will help you, do you not see how you are betraying yourself? Few people seem to see how much what really matters in life begins within oneself. To be a good friend, to be a truly solid person, to be able to really love, to be a fine parent, one must first really learn to love oneself. Learn to love the person within, the heart, the mind, the soul, the thoughts within... and one learns to love, by really knowing and really being aware and present with ones feelings and thoughts. We are all so willing to do that to get to know another person, but so rarely will be grant ourselves that courtesy and that accord of love, honor, and respect.

Do we know what we love? so we know what we will fight to die for? In Judaism, we say there are a handful of things for which one must give up one's life rather than do... how many of us are ready and prepared to do that? I find it astounding that even my favorite black-hatters don't know the answer to this question.

de St. Exupery shows us too in the tale of the baobab of how one does as Voltaire says "il faut cultiver votre jardin" it is necessary to cultivate your own garden... aka it is important to grow and learn and teach oneself. Reach inwards and remake yourself... learn and always learn, grow and find the flaws and root them out, make sure that the baobabs-- those traits within- which could destroy/fracture your planet are rooted out.. Inspect oneself and one's own planet to guard against these things.. this is one's role as a parent to oneself. Baobabs start out very little and when they grow too big, they are a force to contend with...

It amazes me when we are touched by acts of heroism and when we are touched by other people's sacfrices... we see in humanity those things we admire and wish ourselves to be so giving, so heroic, so amazing, so altruistic, so pure and so innocently good... It also touches me that the little prince is Antoine's manner of relating his outlook on life and what life, heaven, death are about... that when one dies we can look into the stars still, and that as one lives, one must still look into the stars to remember what is important... these bonds we make they last beyond death. That love we forge & the relationships still mark us as special even when the other person is gone, ...

Sometimes it is eas to forget when a person does something for us.. the object itself is all the more precious because of the story that comes with the object... the water that the prince drinks at the end of the story is the discussions while walking, the walk, the time he spent carried in the pilot's arms, the finding of the well, the drawing of the water, with one's own effort, and finally this water is the product...

...and so it is that I think I may understand finally what Thich Nhat Hanh meant when he wrote "be present. A flower blooms beneath each of your steps."

"We walk, when we walk. we eat, when we eat, we breathe when we breathe."

Finally, in closing, a last bit from _The Little Prince_ to keep one remembering: " Good-bye," said the fox. Here is my secret. It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." ... "It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important. ... People have forgotten this truth, ... but you musn't forget it. You become responsible for what you've tamed.
The Master doesn't try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

mardi, septembre 27, 2005

The Dance and the Railroad by David Henry Hwang

Today, waking up late --a little bit just becuase I needed the sleep to compensate for tiredness and fatigue of the days prior and a little bit becuase yesterday was so phenomenally upsetting--I opened a book of plays that I had been wanting to read. Years ago I worked on the production of a play called F.O.B. which stands for "Fresh Of the Boat" a derogatory and insulting term referring to new immigrants. I had read the play _M.Butterfly_ for a class and immediately begun to be aware of how powerful and touching DHH's words were to me. I love to imagine and picture the plays in production as I read them. It's fine for a dramatic read-through to just be acquiainted with the text and to make mistakes. I'm saving a playbook to read each night of chag that I'm out during sukkot. I hope I can find someone to read the scripts with me out loud... though it might be difficult as few other Jews are aware of the Asian-American experience in the US.

Anyway, this morning I read _The Dance and the Railroad_ and I found myself marvelling again at Devid Henry Hwang's ability to capture human naivete and jadedness... I marvelled too at his ability to translate that strength that comes from disillusionment and inspiration.. the two chracters "switch places" so o speak.. one man who has long ago given up hope gains hope and the other one who is naively hopeful becomes despairing --it seems life is like this often, but that's not what captured my mind, it was actually how he portrays this marvelous piece of the human condition wherein one can recapture one's strength and face one's fear...

oops, the time, i hafta go, sorry not to end this properly

lundi, septembre 26, 2005

mitzvot as a discipline

One way to learn to love is to learn what discipline means. To love someone means learning to discipline them, too. Hence, why parenting is a school in itself about love. We must learn, too, to parent ourselves properly. All the things we didn't learn with our parents.. and believe me, no one learns everything at their parents's hands --if you were lacking a parent, because one died, or if you were lacking one, becuase one left or divorced, etc. really SERIOUSLY .. take it from someone who has seen, heard, and lived a lot... you are no worse off than anyone else-- we all bear the scars of errors our parents made.. that is how it should be. That is how we are made... we are made b'tzelem elokim, sure, but we are also made by two humans and by HKB"H. We are made with certain flaws and certain struggles ingrained into our paths... we can choose to embrace that and grow or to run and hide. We choose our way no doubt. We are also each of us given our own unique task, based on our parents and their flows and what we will encounter as we live and grow. So it is that I have come to begin my learning of the lesson that discipline is oft confused with punishment and that the two are different and that discipline is itself a form of love --a form of love with boundaries. Having boundaries doesn't mean love that is conditional. It means love that respects both the person loving and the person loved. Discipline means learning to love oneself as well as the other person.

The first idea is the idea from the gemara about what to do when two friends (reiyot) are in the desert with one sack of water. Hillel says "love thy neighbor as thyself" and so we reach the proposal that the men must share the bottle of water. It comes out though instead that the sack of water is enough for one man to make it out of the desert alive. this solution of splitting the water means both men die, which is not okay by the torah. the sugya goes on and on and in the end the conclusion as I understoond it years ago when i learned this chunk of text is that one must learn to love oneself. Loving oneself is inherent to loving another... and that Hillel's teaching of do not to another what you would not do to yourself, is really two commandments one to love oneself, and the other to love others. Learning to do that is indeed all the torah. Mitzvot are themselves a practice in discipline. They are training annd bring merit particularly if you struggle with them.

this is rather like the training of yoga or meditation... people are taught to bring their minds into focus. Yoga and meditation are more palatable to our sensibilities these days, inn a way that mitzvot are not. truthfully though, the torah way of life, the following of mitzvot is really also the same kind of meditation practice that all those New-Agey people are pursuing. when one is obedient to H" one feels good someplace deep down inside, because one fulfills an inner sense of following through, doing what is right, and living up to discipline and rules set down. the level of guilt people feel for not follwoing what H" sets out for us is amazing.. maybe even one reason there are so many jews in psych-related stuff. I think that a human's mind requires rules and living up to those rules, becuase inn a way doing so frees us and makes us aware of who we are in a very different and powerful way. We are aware when we follow the rules of who we are, what are place is, and how we choose to live. Living the mitzvot without thinking is in itself a difficult thing, too. Living the mitzvot and knowing what you choose is difficult too, for totally different reasons. In any event, the practice of holding oneself to a set of rules is important becuase it trains one to love and to learn oneself. By obeying H" you learn to love yourself. you learn to say, if i don't do X I will feel guilty and bad, I don't want to do that when I could feel happy about who I am and what I am doing. One learns after a fashion, how to hold oneself on course... and of course, one's lifetime?... it is merely the practice of such mindfulness and such focus and awareness... and the struggle to do what is right. Living a life dedicated to the mitzvot is hard. One struggles with it all the time. It is in and of itself, however, an incredble practice in love -- love of H" , love of oneself, love of life, love, too, of the world, and love of one's fellow man.

The other train of thought regarding discipline is this... discipline differs from punishment as follows... 1) one who is disciplined really learns to love himself... his intention is to pardon, to show mercy, love, and kindness, and to work so that the wrong doesn't happen again. 2) one who is punishing himself is exacting vengeance for something done wrong.

To investigate that thought let's put it this way: someone I love Plonit bat Fuzzy Wuzzy forgot my birthday. Plonit could be very upset, make up for it by buying me a gift, then fed-ex-ing it to me to make up for it. however,the birthday is missed, does it amtter if the gift comes in the regular mail or by next day delivery? not really, no. Plonit confesses that she did it because she wanted to make herself "pay" for the error, so she wouldn't do it again... a more compassionate response probably would be instead to be sorry she missed my birthday, send me a gift by regular post, and to enter my birthday into an automatic calendar program which will email her a reminder a few days in advance... this way she won't forget it again and is addressing the issue in a manner more likley to provide a real solution to the issue. Exacting payment from herself is punitive, vengeful, and not actually self-disciplining in any manner. Rather it is designed to hurt the self, either in a self-abuse/self-hate kind of manner... Plonit is hardly unusual.

consider another case: Ploni ben Fluffy Tuchus was supposed to be the spokesperson for a group event. The evening gala drew near and Ploni, in part nervous, in part just unaware and not taking good care of himself, didn't sleep much, didn't eat much, and as a result worked very poorly on the gala speech. The speech went quite badly. So much so that Ploni's team mates in the group were angry with him. Ploni came home bemoaning how much he felt he was a failure and a regular shmendrick and shlimazel. Ploni beat himself up over the event for days. This kind of beating oneself up for days thing is another kind of self-hate or self-abuse. We learn it easily as children from peers, parents, whomever... because it is so rampant in our society today... as one of my colleagues Roger says either we are fighting against guilt or we are flowing with the guilt... at any rate, the punitive option is to beat oneself up, and not to do things, to learn to be afraid and to hamper oneself... the discipline response is instead to apologize, accept what comes his way for the error, and to apply himself to learning how to take good care of himself properly.

truthfully, most people live like Plonit and less like Ploni, whose story (below) is more severe. in either case though we see a strong sense of punishment... abuse, hate, and frustration and dislike... this is the root of human loneliness. when we no longer hate ourselves, we can find contentment in our own company and peace within the borders of our own minds... and we can also find awareness and love within our own hearts...

It is so hard though for us to behave with discipline in our actions, meaning moderation, but also to behave with discipline for ourselves, meaning to discipline ourselves. We tend to want to punish and to exact vengeance... also tending to want to impose some standard upon ourselves which is disastrous for our self-esteem and personal growth. We must unlearn the painful lessons which taught us fear and taught us to hate ourselves in even the slightest and most subtle of manners. We must learn what discipline and self-love the mitzvot have to teach us. Obedience and focus in itself are virtues and part of love.

***** shana tovah to all, may you in these days preceding tishrei gain for yourselves a smidgen of self-love and discipline... and if you don't, I love you all nonetheless.*****

Last lines of the day: eat artichokes. they're good for you.

question of the day: if CHAZAL say that one would be best never to have lived and they also agree that pikuach nefesh is of tantamount importance, revealing that life is the primal Jewish value... how does one reconncile these two thoughts?
(I do realize that the other side to the comment is that they say "given that one is born and one lives, one must do his best to live well..." --but I find a contradiction therein which bothers me nonetheless...

all time worst chemist conversational lines

"talking to a particle is like talking to a 13-year old, but I like talking to you..."

"the key to maxwell's genius was his horse. where's that horse?"

"The oxygens are bouncing around with their coffee saying, 'hey, how ya doing?'"

"He was British, because you know, that happens."

"Say, that reaction was nice. was it good for you too?"

these were contributed by ari and his list of starzakisms

***** oh dear heavens, can you tell I'm up too late?
oh the other hand the upside is that I've now had a crembo from Israel and ooh, they really are as good as people say... and I totally get it now why they are "seasonal food" --heh, heh.

dude, I need sleep, and not to have to go to work tomorrow.

dimanche, septembre 25, 2005

I wrote this to someone else, but it is a good crystal of my thinking about a certain aspect of life...

In my own search for what makes me happy, I've found that the love of another person is tremendously powerful, though in the end it isn't everything. The everything is really the love a person learns to love himself or herself with. For me that is hard to do. I have learned that one's ability to be a good parent to him or herself... knowing when to be kind, nurturing, caring, disciplinary, etc. is actually a lot trickier than it seems, becuase we all overcompensate. We know our faults and aren't even sure we like who we are, so why should anyone else like us? When we see our faults even in the tiniest detail, we punish ourselves harder than we need to, because we know how bad we are. Sadly, the overcompensation obscures the truth from our view. That real parenting is compassion... and for a lot of us, we don't have compassion for ourselves. Sometimes we can have too little, too much, or just enough compasion for other people, but almost always we don't know how to be compassionate parents to ourselves.

There's a rule of thumb that people behave by unwittingly. In general, whatever love we lacked as children -discipline, nurturing, food, material things, etc.- we choose one, several, or all of those forms to exact back from those we are in relationships with... often demanding more than a hundred-fold what we lacked... as if we were accruing interest. Knowing that about ourselves and other people can sometimes be empowering. I can't vouch for anyone else, but for me, let me share with you a little bit from my own learning about life and the world.

For many people in relationships people, there is an emotional bank account where interactions are like deposits or withdrawals... even if it wasn't something you did specifically for that person it can be recorded in the emotional bank account one way or the other.

People rarely realize that everyone has their own "currency" of love. Learning to love someone as a friend, lover, parent, or child requires learning what the loved one's "currency" is -be it gifts, actions, words, follow-through, etc.- and it is a gift if someone can help you find out what his or her "currency" is, and is also a gift if the the one loving can learn to give love in the way that that person needs and wants. This is one of the most difficult aspects of relationships. It's even harder for people to learn to record it as a "deposit" when another person's means of loving, which doesn't fit his or her "currency" is provided nonetheless. for some generic "you", that is a hard task --to take in love in a manner which doesn't fit "your" "currency." That latter ability means giving people the ability to love "you" as they are able and as they can and know how to do so rather than trying to require them to go into uncharted areas where they aren't so comfortable giving and expressing love.

Anyway, that's how stuff works in my worldview... any comments?

vendredi, septembre 23, 2005

and I *thought* we lived in the 21st century...

Dear colleagues:
I am forwarding a copy of a letter that we sent as faculty in the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Studies program to the UM administration and Michigan Daily as an immediate response to the recent report of ethnic intimidation towards UM Asian American students.
I have included a link to the Michigan Daily where this story was reported on the front page so you may read about the heinous nature of this incident and will join us in expressing your outrage and disgust about this incident and challenge the UM administration to publicly decry this offense.
At this time, the faculty in APIA Studies and other Asian American faculty in other programs and departments are meeting with various student and faculty groups to discuss the next course of action to be taken. To date, President Mary Sue Colemen and other UM officials have not publicly expressed their outrage about this incident and we are troubled that such public silence may communicate that these types of ethnic intimidation or harassment are tolerated or condoned on this campus.
Please join us and make sure that others know about this incident and to challenge UM officials to take a public stance against such acts and to mobilize the necessary resources to address this issue on a campus-wide basis.
Phillip Akutsu
------------ Forwarded Message -----------


Subject: Faculty concern over racial incident
Mary Sue Coleman, President
Edward Gramlich, Interim Provost
Lester P. Monts, Senior Vice Provost
Royster Harper, Vice President for Student Affairs
John Matlock, Director, Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives;
Patricia Aqui, Director, Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs;
Patricia Gurin, Acting Director, Center for Institutional Diversity

An Open Letter
We, the core cluster of faculty in Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies,
work earnestly in our teaching and research to increase interracial
understanding and tolerance throughout the UM community. One of our responsibilities is to educate students and colleagues alike to the deep historical record of anti-Asian racism and violence throughout American history.

An incident like the one reported on the front page of Wednesday's Michigan Daily (Sept. 21), involving two male university students assaulting a couple of Asian heritage by shouting racial slurs, throwing eggs, and urinating on the couple, is unequivocally outrageous. The incivility of this assault is incomprehensible. We are also deeply troubled by the remarks of two leaders of Asian student organizations interviewed in the story. Both spoke openly about experiencing racially-motivated bias themselves, and admitted that this kind of incident was not surprising to them. It is profoundly disturbing that students of color continue to endure racial bias and harassment on this campus, and we underscore the likelihood that such racial bias and intimidation is significantly underreported. Incidents like the racially-motivated intimidation reported in today's Michigan Daily--also reported in the Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Free Press several days ago--cannot be tolerated or condoned by university officials or public authorities. Moreover, it is unfortunate that a public incident such as this has once again unmasked more pervasive ethnic and racial discrimination that remains underdocumented. We call on the university leadership to honor its commitment to valuing diversity, by taking a public stand against racially-motivated bias and attacks, and to marshall the necessary resources to ensure that the wider university community can collaborate collectively to end such race-based bias and intimidation. We further call on university officials and public authorities to apply the full extent of civil and university codes in sanctioning the students who perpetrated the acts.
Phillip D. Akutsu
Vicente M. Diazp
Scott Kurashige
Emily P. Lawsin
Susan Y. Najita
Damon Salesa
Sarita See
Amy K. Stillman, Director Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies within the Program in American Culture College of Literature, Science, and the Arts University of Michigan

Students may face charges for racially motivated felony

Police say there is a good chance victims will file a lawsuit
By Rachel Kruer, Daily Staff Reporter
September 21, 2005

The Ann Arbor Police Department has issued warrants for two University students for allegedly yelling obscenities and urinating on two students in a racially motivated act.

The incident began when one of the suspects, a 21-year-old, allegedly urinated from a second-floor balcony on two Asian students walking down the 600 block of South Forest Avenue Thursday night.

After the couple asked why they were being urinated on, the suspect and another student reportedly began to use racial slurs disparaging the couple’s Asian heritage.

The situation escalated, according to a police report, when at least one student began throwing items, which the couple suspected were eggs, at the couple.

One of the students was immediately taken into custody. The other student who urinated on the couple, barricaded himself in the apartment, which the police could not enter without a warrant.

However, the AAPD knows the identity of the student, who could face jail time if prosecuted.

AAPD Lt. Michael Logghe classified the crime as ethnic intimidation, or verbal or physical attack against a person of another race or gender. Logghe said ethnic intimidation is a felony and carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail. The suspects could also be charged with assault, and one of the suspects could face a charge of indecent exposure, which would require him to register as a sex offender.

Keith Elkin, director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, said he could not comment on whether OSCR was handling the case.

However, he said crimes involving ethnic intimidation do not only break city law, but also violate the University’s code of conduct.

“We protect student rights and have the responsibility to talk to students,” Elkin said. “Also, we have the ability to consider if the violation was motivated by bias, in which (case) we could consider sanctioning a student.”

If OSCR were asked to intervene, Elkin said there were a range of consequences a perpetrator of ethnic intimidation could face, from a formal reprimand to expulsion from the University.

Sgt. Angela Abrams of the AAPD said the victims will likely prosecute.

The police report also included a statement from an independent witness — an employee at a parking structure on South Forest — who said she saw the men assault the couple.

The incident has galvanized members of the Asian community — some of whom have also faced the humiliation of ethnic intimidation first-hand.

Cindy Chuang, LSA senior and president of the Taiwanese American Student Association, said she was appalled and shocked that a fellow University student could be demeaned in public.

But she herself said she has experienced racial bias from fellow students, who she said were drunk when the incident occurred.

While walking down South University Avenue, Chuang said a group of students yelled, “Wow, you speak really good English” and “You talk with a white accent.”

LSA senior and former Korean Student Association President Paul Yun said he was disgusted by the incident but not surprised that it happened.

Yun said that he has also faced discrimination in Ann Arbor.

While using a public restroom at Good Time Charley’s, Yun said he was referred to as “Bruce Lee” and “Ching Chong.”

He also said that many of his friends have experienced similar incidents.

Yun said that the issue needs to be addressed immediately. He said he expected the United Asian American Organizations — an umbrella group for the Asian student groups on campus — would be the first to respond to the matter.

At the very least, Yun said this incident will call attention to a problem on campus and could potentially empower the Asian community to improve the climate for minority students at the University.

jeudi, septembre 22, 2005


Some of us hide our insecurites better than others... some of us are so intimidated by what looks like other people who have it all together... but never suspect that the person we are so intimidated by is really as full of insecurities as we are... sigh.

Perhaps in a spark of afflatus or perhaps with some wacko degree of hubris, I'd like to continue...
I recently had it called to my attention that sometimes people argue out of a need to prove themselves. In a way, this shows itself particularly clearly in people who have low self-esteem, because they are reaching for something to add to that internal bin of self-worth and trying to establish something for themselves that feels good about themselves.

Case and point: a really lovely woman (Most of the cases I know of are women, though there are a decent number that are men.) who was in college at the time she met and fell in love with her husband dropped out of college (Most of these cases are not necessarily dropouts, but they are the best examples, because the dropping out sets the tenor for a terrible pattern that will repeat itself in their lives later on.), got pregnant and had children some time later. Her husband often had arguments with her that ended in "you don't have to go to work tomorrow, but I do, so that's the end of that." She became extremely argumentative in her family's bounds and always regretted not being able to do the things that she wanted to do before she was married. Being a mother of two children and doing parent-teacher stuff on the side, she really did have a longer work-day than her husband and she did have to go to work. (In fact, unlike her husband, who if he got fired wouldn't have to work, she could never be fired as a mother.) In so many ways, she was living a life of resentment. Albeit she loved her children and she loved her husband, but the pieces of herself that made up her self-respect were gone ... and really she spent the next 35 years on the road to recovery... and is still trying to recover from that blow. In many ways she is better but it's a tremendous hit, not to mention the deletrious impact that has on her children.

Another woman who quit a graduate program after she became pregnant also had a similar situation. She became a stay-at-home mother, who worked for her husband and his brother like free, unpaid, possibly one could say slave labor, and had it held over her head repeatedly that the men were the ones who "brought home the paycheck" ... understandably she was resentful and had built up a great deal of self-hate. This woman's mental trauma made her teach and believe that women are the suffering sex. They can have full and real lives up until they marry and have children. Her lessons took their toll on her children, of course, too. Her husband was hard-working and almost never at home.

The tales are many and most are along similar lines and themes. In all honesty, we will certainly visit this topic again and again as I try to analyse and sort out what patterns I see and what is going on for these women and for the children who grow up influenced by them. It is particularly important as children need to break away from their mothers and grow independently at some point... and many children ion these circumstances could not do so, because the mothers had nothing else to base their self-esteem on, but the successes of their children. (Contrary to a commonly held nothion, a mother's success is not dependent upon her child's performance in life.)

A few thoughts though... 1) these resentments have affected a generation of women. 2) these women found that their self-respect was linked to their intellectual capabilities and ability of self-sufficiency. 3) These women taught and felt they learned that being a woman was about being subservient, but felt or thought that they were better than that.

thoughts? It's an interesting thread to follow.

mercredi, septembre 21, 2005

a friend posted this one...

"Thermodynamics of Relationships:
Covalent bonds, which involve atoms sharing electrons, are more stable than ionic bonds, which involve the attraction of charged opposites.

But which, I ask, is more fulfilling?"

I say both are really great... useful and helpful. Maybe.. just maybe though, the stable relationships are worth more... just my thoughts. I've had one too many of those ionic types of relationships maybe.

mardi, septembre 20, 2005

what does a girl want?

so I asked a friend outright what kind of guys she wants...
at first she said, the usual, what everyone wants, someone smart, someone nice, someone who's going to make a decent living, etc...

then I pushed and asked for more details and it turns out that is is more the picture she wants:
someone who went to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Penn -okay, if not Ivy League educated then really well-educated from a good school- and also did a year at Gush, Sha'alvim, or HaKotel
someone who comes fromm a nice happy loving family
someone frum from birth, secure in himself and his Jewish observance
someone who has a stable, steady good job that pays well or really well, or has a family with money
someone who has a financial sense about saving money and making money
someone who is capable of connecting serious torah to serious secular studies
someone who learns and makes the time to learn often
someone who is also friendly, nice, smart, gets along with people easily, wants to be active in the community he lives in, generous, sensitive, has an understanding of derekh eretz...
and has a wide breadth of interests in science, literature, cultural things, and outdoors activities...

heh, I said, isn't that a tall order?
and she said, isn't that what every girl wants, but doesn't want to say out loud?

I said, I dunno... I mean I guess you could have added on more things to make that fairly unrealistic as far as finding such a person in real life.

dimanche, septembre 18, 2005

the journey

I find it weird when people say that they want children... This is not to say that someday, IY"H, I do not anticipate having a child or two. Rather, I think that I will be a parent, but I'm in no hurry to make the family thing go super fast or too soon. I have a career to build, parnassah to bulid up before I can afford all the things a child would need... i need to be really able to manage my own life and grow up the way I want to grow and be before I think I can have a child. ...not to mention the fact that I'm not even married yet. I figure thhere is a lot I have to learn about being a spouse before I can tackle the being ready to be a parent thing. I want to have marriage down before I try to juggle the marriage and ... so it puzzles me when people who aren't even married yet go on and on about how much they want a child or children already.

I figure one or two kids is more than a handful. I'll be happy with whatever Hashem gives me of course, but really, I just don't get the race to be done already.

I think of life along the lines of this great quote my Papa sent to me for my birthday:
"Sooner or later, we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is in the trip." -Robert J. Hastings

jeudi, septembre 15, 2005

second denver installment

I'm generally pretty good at packing things in bags, ziplocks, etc. so the mesh pocket in the Gregory pack was hardly a downside. On this trip weather protection was indeed desireable! incidentally, on my continuing pro-Gregory Iris pack rant... it is amde of an extremely lightweight silicone impregated fabrc . Iw as amazed at how strong the material was and how waterproof it was without compromising weight. G70 material is much to be admired.

The trip created a nifty neat discovery or two about wool. Discovery one, wash wool in a soap containing lanolin so it won't be scratchy. To restore already scratchy wool requires several treatments with lanolin. Dove liquid soap works nicely for that. Discovery number two, wool t-shirts don't smell when you wear them on long hiking trips. Something about the natural fiber causes this interesting effect. While one can wash one's clothes, one finds that one doesn't stink the way a capilene shirt would. I wonder why. One downside is that they don't dry as fast as capilene might.. or as fast as I recall capilene drying. The other downside is the shirts come in really odd colors and patterns.

I learned that one can tie hiking boots with a pulley system (pulley trick which moves the lock in between hooks: laces in two eyehooks on the same side, then loop the one in your left hand under the string that is between the two eyehooks of the right side and vice versa, so you have an x created in between where there would have been two originally) and with a sectioning habit (segment: simply tying a knot after lacing left and right, to keep that tightness localized over a certain part fo the foot), which causes each part of the boot to set in a separate manner so you can tighten certain parts , lock the foot into the boot a certain way, etc. Of course this isn't ideal for those who are going climbing on rocks as a fall or twisted ankle will want you to have easy pull laces to remove the boot from the foot quickly for treatment, but for those of us who own boots that are maladjusted to our weirdly-shaped feet... this is a great set of techniques to learn for less painful day hikes and camping. Between such techniques and the superfeet insoles which are now becoming every podiatrist's most recommended insole, one may nnever need to figure out how to use that moleskin pad... ;) would that I had never had to learn that lesson 6 years ago in Acadia National Park with my sister and those dratted Saloman boots! In retrospect it makes perfect sense that one can use pulley and segmenting tricks to fit a boot to one's foot's contours properly but heavens to Betsy! I never thought of it myself!

Romanian Kosher Meat Co. salamis were a must for this trip. Not only are they representative of Chicago and Chicago's best Jewish contribution to the kosher market, but they're perfect for travel. Of ocurse,.. not if you mind the smell of salami in your suitcase, though once again the ziplock bag habit came in handy and kept my things meat smell free.

Gratuitous plug for Zelda's Sweet Shoppe --which provided the scrumptious biscotti --pistachio and dried cherry-- for our trip. YUM! They were excellent hosting gifts and really tasty snacks for hiking, too. I highly recommend biscotti for hiking trips.

Okay, so our first adventure of this whole thing was the ah.. well,... so there's this weird thing orthodox Jews do... with their cookware and pots. It's a ritual immersion in water called toveling... but you see it has to be a certain kind of water. Naturally accumulated water. Check Leviticus if you don't believe me. Anyway, they call these containers thhat hold such water mikvahs...

I realized in the week before thhe trip that I needed to tovel the camping cookset. The earliest date I could do so was a Wednesday a week before we were to leave. We had quite a harried schedule up until then, so this was a must do it then or no other time kind of opportunity. Mir and I went to the WRP kelim mikvah (which is where Jews do this ritual immersion thing generally) only to find that it was closed for cleaning the water. In hindsight, this was probably a good sign as to how the rest of the trip would go, but silly me, I didn't think of that of course. I'm just a cat.

So we went to the ERP beach to immerse pot, pan, handle, and two metal plates in the Lake. I'm sure it was a sight to see.(Part of this immerrsion thing is that one lets go of the item one is submerging so it is surrounded entirely by the free flowing water. This can be a bit tricky in a lake with a lot of wind and sloshing rough waves. I wasn't there to LOSE the cookset. ;)

tears to my eyes twice today

I think it might be the lack of sleep, or maybe it is the fatigue setting in again and holding me up, but I've already cried twice today...

if you're interested in gush katif and ir emunah...
sent in by my old chavruta Gershon. Israel Dec 2006!

I cried over the picture of the imma in the yellow kerchief with her two sons helping them with their homework.

I'm nutty and sentimental that way. *****************************

and then there was this thing with the kids today... even though I'm not a parent myself, I end up in these roles... it spurred me to write the following passage.

Do you know what it is like to have a child you love so dearly and watch the child make mistakes and do things you think are wrong or bad...? Oh, it's painful. Even though I think of myself as growing up or grown up, I'm reminded how having the precious role of mentor, mom, parent, guide, advisor, etc. means that I am growing more. I'm learning to hold my tongue to let the people do what they will and if it turns out to be a mistake letting them live their lives as they want and should. Oh, it is so hard.

Perhaps in a way that is what the mitzvah about p'ru u'rvu is about. Maybe we are commanded thusly, so that we can be in touch with these lessons... of patience, of letting go, of inner peace, ... of real love. Perhaps the whole point of life is learning to love...

mardi, septembre 13, 2005

a very sweet note

On 2005-09-13, a person I do not know wrote to me:

i just want to say yiu are amazing
you deserve the lottery
kol tov
I'm really touched, but I have no idea what prompted that comment. I'd be grateful to win the lottery actually. It would be really awesome. I think I'd use the money to take a trip to Europe and visit Andorra. Anyway, What I was really coming online to write is that my mother encouraged me to get a book called _common Prayers_ by Harvey cox and I really am liking it quite a bit. I have some things that I'm sure I will write about it later on.. but just a heads up.. it's an interesting book about intermarriage between a Jewish woman and a Christian theologian. Word to those who are in the know... it doesn't end up the way CSLewis and Joy (nee Davidman) Gresham's marriage did on the Christian side of things. Rather, they choose to raise their child Jewish... and it's an interesting affair.

I know, it's a hiatus from finishing other books, but seriously, _The Storyteller_ is just not that fascinating. I really like British, French, and American authors so much more than Spanish authors.

Dinner is going to be brussel sprouts with freshly squeezed lemon juice, served with les crudites, followed by a dessert of a Chinese green mung bean and rice reduced congee.

reading about Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l

I find Auerbach’s determination to learn and his adherence to a strict schedule very admirable. Anyone who can hold to a strict schedule for learning is to be admired greatly in my opinion.

There is one very touching story so far in the book so far that I feel compelled to put down so I might review it later and perhaps remember it well. R’Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was consulted by parents regarding their retarded child. The parents presented to him their tow options for sending the child away. E asked them if they had consulted the child. They said no and the child would not understand. He was greatly upset by this. He demanded the child be brought to him. He told the child that he was a gadol hador and that he would like the little boy to represent him in the new special school and look after all of the religious matters in the new home. The rav continued to speak and told him that he will give him smicha which makes him a rabbi and that he wanted the child to use this honor wisely.. the rav stroked the child’s cheek and told him he now had a responsibility to his fellows. The story brought tears to my eyes. I care very much when people honor another person’s dignity and help to lift them up above themselves. It's one of the most beautiful things I know about the human condition.

Another story which really touches me very much is when a woman who had once been married before was becoming frum came to ask a sheilah about covering her hair at work. She felt that she had made so many changes to her life and for herself that she couldn’t bear to also cover her hair at work, because of the huge source of difficulty and embarrassment this would cause her. The rav shlomo zalman auerbach ruled that for this woman.. since her embarrassment would be so extreme he said to another rabbi who argued in favor of requiring her to wear a sheitel “You do not know, nor do you have any way of knowing, how this woman would feel with a wig –which she considers a source of embarrassment—on her head.” This sensitivity to the woman’s feelings is also impressive. I am so touched when a person shows sensitivity to another person’s feelings.

just another thing the cat pulled in off the newsline

Actually, it's a send-in from Su in Cambridge, but cats like conspiracy theory stuff as it reminds them of tangled balls of yarn to play games with******

U.S. Meteorologist Says Russian Inventors Caused Hurricane Katrina
Created: 08.09.2005 16:42 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 17:08 MSK

A meteorologist in Pocatello, Idaho, claims Japanese gangsters known as the Yakuza used KGB inventions to cause Hurricane Katrina, Wireless Flash reported Thursday.

Scott Stevens says after looking at NASA satellite photos of the hurricane, he’s is convinced it was caused by electromagnetic generators from ground-based microwave transmitters.

“There is absolutely zero chance that this is natural, zero,” Villagevoice quoted Stevens as saying after Katrina’s landfall, pointing out suspiciously rectilinear shapes in the satellite-photoed hurricane clouds

The generators emit a soundwave between three and 30 megahertz and Stevens claims the Russians invented the storm-creating technology back in 1976 and sold it to others in the late 1980s.

Stevens says the clouds formed by the generators are different from normal clouds and are able to appear out of nowhere and says Katrina had many rotation points that are unusual for hurricanes.

At least 10 nations and organizations possess the technology, but Stevens suspects the Japanese Yakuza created Katrina in order to make a fortune in the futures market and to get even with the U.S. for the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

this just in!

Those of you who like Ramen noodles and those of you who like spiritual mattters migh t get a kick out of a new ... uh, religion?

It was brought to my attention by Elisha. Thanks for this one.

heehee... who'da thunk?

lundi, septembre 12, 2005

Rashi on the Generation of Esav --Why does the Torah teach us the lineage? ah! They're all mamzerim!

Bereishit lamed vav: pasuk bet --Rashi's take on this apparent contradiction of a "bat anah bat tziv'on" is as follows " im bat ana lo bat tziv'on... melameid sheba tziv'on al kaltho, eishet ana, ...vhodiakha hkathuv shekulan bnei mamzeiruth hayu."

My cousin Avi is really my brother; his sister-in-law is really my aunt... so while there is nothing like mamzerut in our family we laughed about this a bit. The relationship is a bit more convoluted, but doesn't fit anything abnormal people might think up. Avi decided to share amidst the laughter the following poem, which I think reads a bit like a funny passage in a gemara -though I have forgotten which maseket. It's a passage which asks one of the possibilities for how amny averot one can committ at a time, if my memory serves me correctly. If anyone knows the aggada that I'm referring to and remembers, please send me the citation!

oy! ****************makes us laugh and think of this poem Avi found called "I'm my own grandpa" credit for author unknown and unclear****************************************

Many, many years ago
When I was twenty-three
I married a widow
As pretty as could be.

This widow had a grow-up daughter
with hair of flowing red.
My father fell in love with her,
And soon the two were wed.

This made my dad my son-in-law
And changed my very life.
Now my daughter was my mother, for
she was my father's wife.

To complicate the matters worse,
Although it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a
bouncing baby boy.

My little baby then became
A brother-in-law to dad, and
so became my uncle, though
it made me very sad: For

if he was my uncle,
Then that also made him brother to the
widow's grown-up daughter
Who, of course, was my step-mother.

Father's wife then had a son
Who kept them on the run.
And he became my grandson, for
he was my daughter's son.

My wife is now my mother's mother
And it makes me blue, because,
although she is my wife,
She's my grandma, too... If

my wife is my grandmother,
Then I am her grandchild.
And every time I think of it,
It simply drives me wild.

For now I have become the strangest
case you ever saw: As
As the husband of my grandmother, I'm
my own grandpa!

the balance matters to me

Ever marveled at how a baby learning to say the alphabet becomes a young teenagers in college and thought about how incredibly wacko life is? You weigh on one side the rat race world struggling to have a career, survive, etc. and on the other side you realize that every day is so precious and beautiful that everyone you meet has got a story... Life's full of these contradctions. Run fast, yet savor each step?!

I know too many people who say to me that one can't live one's life thinking that today might be one's last and one can't live one's life remembering that those one loves could be taken away at any moment. Is it really true that one can't live thinking that? If I remember that someone I love could be taken from me at any moment in time.. aren't I more likley to forgive them and treat them with love? why isn't is a good rule of thumb?

Then there's the woman who said she can't imagine thinking about what it is like when her children now very young will grow up. Truthfully? I've heard that so often from people I know. another mother I know was saying --oh, I wish I could freeze my children at this stage. I don't want them to grow up. Why not? Why can't we bear to think that the world will change... and that life will be different? People live and people die. The worst thing is to think that people will regret how they lived in my mind. When we are sad that people die... are we sad for them or for us? I disagree with people who tell me that the worst thing in the world is death. I think that the worst thing is to regret how we have lived our lives and to think that we are alone.

It seems to me that some balance between living cognizant of the perspective on life as a broad infinite tapestry always being woven and added onto and living focused on our jobs, tasks, errands, theories, etc. is really important for not regretting and not succumbing to the idea of loneliness.

dimanche, septembre 11, 2005

lyrics to "saw you standing there"

There were tears in my eyes,
as I looked out the window
watching you leave...
Hanna held me in her arms,
her tears in my fur as we cried...

why did you leave?
Was it the tuna that went bad?
Was it the soups that she burned?
Why did you go? when she loved you so...

Some mornings I wake with a meow,
she doesn't know that she misses you so much.
I hear the sighs and the cries in her sleep...
and I wonder as I settle myself back in the pillows

Why did you leave?
Was it the tuna that went bad?
Was it the soups that she burned?
Why did you go? when she loved you so...

So now the months have gone by.
She still has a couple of pictures in bottom of the drawer.
I chewed the rest of them up. A new guy takes your place,
but I think she still hopes for you.

Why did you leave?
Was it the tuna that went bad?
Was it the soups that she burned?
Why did you go? when she loved you so...

*************lyrics to a bad country music song***
we vote it almost as good as our all time favorite lyrics for country songs "if people were biscuits honey, you'd be homemade" .. three cheers to the HOBY leader who wrote that one.

mercredi, septembre 07, 2005

first denver installment

So the weeks before our trip to Denver, CO, USA and Estes Park.Rocky Mountain National Park, USA were hectic with both work and the necessary preparation for the trip. Hours each day were spent in researching the area, Jewish life necessities -synagogues (nothing Sephardi and nothing modern orthodox), kosher food, and even some of the history of the area (Denver's first Jews came with the mining boom), past inhabitants of the area, camping/hiking information, and fun things ilke new favorites for hiking gear... whew! It was a lot of stuff to find out! I found a lot of interesting tidbits out. Of great interest to me were the essentials needed for a mountain hiking first aid kit and directions on how to properly pack a backpack.. (something I hadn't done since my days in the Appalachians of Virginia back in 1995).. so as not to cause oneself back pain, shoulder pain, or other pack-carrying discomforts. (my '95 experiences were with external frame packs for camping and this trip was a light internal frame pack --a Gregory Iris, for those of you who are afficianados-- and day hiking rather than camping. The last serious day hiking I did was either Acadia National Park, Maine, USA or Indiana State Dunes, IN, USA. I even contacted Su (of Su and Yakov fame) and Mike (of Kipling fame to whom we now owe a significant mazal tov as he just got engaged) to get more information on the area. Both people were tremendously helpful. Su's assessment of Denver is not to be repeated, but let's say she recommended RMNP highly over the city of Denver.

We heard via Palo Alto and via Skokie that Denver's frum community might not be "comfortable." Who knows what that was supposed to mean?

I packed food as is my normal wont, bringing along an aluminium camping cookset -which proved to be quite valuable. I followed a Schiller tradition and packed away a salami too. I actually brought along and extra one for our shababt hosts. Since food is always a concern, I'd actually planned out a complete menu for the entire trip. That made shopping when we got there petty easy and straightforward, which I like. Having accumulated an all too long list of things to take along, I sorted out what was a nnecessity and what was not, erring on the side of more things to take in the case of emergency gear and erring on the side of less things to take by way of sefarim and the like. Considering my physical condition, I decided that there would be a limit to how much I could carry and I set the bar at 25 lbs.

I knew that I would carry medical supplies, which probably weighed in at 2lbs and added on approx. 3L or more of water with requisite toilet supplies, food, and the reguarl emergency mountain supplies of flashlight, compass, whistle, matches, raingear, mylar sleeping bag and mylar blanket, etc. The gregory Iris pack is excellently designed for such a trip and really I adored the pack... I'd recommend it to any small folk who is looking for a comforatble and lightweight daypack. All the engineering design work I've done led me to a real appreciation for this pack. The cloth is strong and really lightweight, the pack compression straps are great.. the only part that is annoying is the canted pouch on the right hand side,which really would have been best if it had been parallel like the pouch on the other side.. all in all though, i wouldn't complain too much about that.. as the pack withstood bad weather, too. Oh, though of course, I packed everything in ziplock bags, so there is another downside to the pack.. the little mesh pocket is well.. mesh.. so if you're not accustomed to packing in zip lock bags (I think I may single-handedly keep ziplock bag producers in business) then you won't be as satisfied as I was about how well the pack performs in snow and hail and rain.

lundi, septembre 05, 2005

Iberian flavor is just not quite me?


motz" sh
i made my first creme brulee with Batya .. we used Chana's blowtorch... all I can say is i want a blowtorch of my own! shew!

I have learned now from reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa that I do not like reading Spanish tomes in translation. Somehow the vibrance and the soul is lost on me. Maybe I just don't really get the Iberian flavor exactly... like it's a portion of my personality that just doesn't match or something. I'm not sure. I'm off to read more of the history of cod by Mark Kurlansky and to start the new bestseller that my mother sent me _The World i Flat_ by Thomas Friedman. I'm curious to know what those two will teach me..

I love the line in _Cod_ that discusses how the Basques were here long before any other peoples. I like the Basques. Maybe someday I will travel to their lands to see them and to explore their culture.. I'd like that a lot.

That and..well, I have a fascination with the country of Andorra...