Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
So I finished putting up a succah (temporary dwelling) last night for the upcoming festival of Succot (Tabernacles) which begins tonight. Correction: I finished putting up THE succah. THE succah that has been in my family for twenty-five years. THE succah that kindles fond memories of my family and extended family's (grandparents and first cousins) sharing meals and life together every fall season: Memories of making bird's egg decorations with my Bubby (OB"M) for the succah. Memories of my father (OB"M) whacking his head on a hanging bamboo chime every time he entered. Memories of all the kids oohing and ahh-ing when Aunt Perri brought out her annual Boston Cream Pie for dessert the second night (my father -her brother's- namesake ushpizin night.) Memories of cowering in fear of the inevitable lone bee that strayed inside and the associated memory of my Uncle Wes (OB"M) insisting that if we'd just be patient bees always rise to the top. (Sidebar: We always had a hard time telling fact from fiction with Uncle Wes.) Of course, there was the singing. My G-d, the singing. My sisters and cousins were so melodious we'd have requests shouted at us from succahs down the block. Mostly, I have memories of our close-knit extended family sharing each other's company and feeling secure that we would spend every Succot together the same way. Unfortunately but inevitably, those days came to an end. This year, though, I'm putting together the succah for the first time in my own home and for my own family. I'll be hosting my in-laws and -for different meals throughout the holiday- a great many family and friends. Life has a way of coming full circle and I look forward to the beginning of the holiday tonight with greater anticipation than I've felt in years.
When we bought THE succah, it was state-of-the art. Now, twenty-five years later, it's a pain by contemporary standards to erect, thus no one in my family really wants it. Whatever, it's mine now and I'm not giving it back. After putting the finishing touches on the succah, tightening all the rigging, nursing my rope-burned, bamboo splinter-scarred hands, dusting off and hanging the last of the old decorations, all I could think of was: "Wow, we had a lot of plastic fruit."
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
FASTEST MEME COMING AND GOING: "Don't get stuck on stupid!," General Russel Honore's classic line when admonishing reporters in the aftermath of Katrina/Rita was poised to become the next Mother of all internet catchphrases. Then it didn't. What happened?
Monday, October 10, 2005
A sweet little vignette from a cardiac surgeon on the operating table with an elderly Orthodox Jewish patient. (NYTimes, free registration req'd, may be restricted after a time)
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The Iraqi constitutional referendum is coming up and I have an opinion I'd like to share:
I think that the federal system the referendum espouses is fair and probably makes the most sense given the demography of the land. I can understand Sunni worries -despite constitutional guarantees of revenue sharing- that their central "statelet" gets shortchanged in a federal arrangement since the oil is in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. On the one hand, the disenfranchised Sunnis are reaping the fruits of their unfortunate decision to boycott the previous general election and their subsequent underrepresentation in the current government. On the other hand, they do seem to have gotten on board the election bandwagon now and the Sunnis (clearly) can act as spoilers in every arena if their concerns aren't addressed.
My synopsis is as follows:
If the referendum fails, the Sunnis will at least feel that they have been empowered by the new Iraqi democratic model and their resistance to the whole national agenda should suffer a blow. In such a scenario, the constitutional committee goes back to the drawing board and the result probably resembles the initial attempt, with some more unified precepts to tie the Sunni provinces closer to the rest of the country. (The Kurdish region has been pretty much autonomous for the better part of a decade.) The defacto eventual look of the country (barring a return to a more totalitarian regime) will resemble the federal model anyways.
IN OTHER, VERY COOL NEWS: The DARPA Grand Challenge, a goverment sponsored race to develop a vehicle that can autonomously navigate a 131 mile course has been won. Pending an official announcement, the team from Stanford University crossed the finish line in around eight hours. The eventual goal of this program is to have robotic vehicles deliver supplies for American troops in risky environments without exposing personnel to the hazards (roadside bombs, ambush) of the job.