Thursday, June 26, 2014

Decency And Humanity Alive And Well At The Ministry Of The Interior

The Ministry of Interior should be renamed Ministry Of Very Much Alright  – I am losing my fear of this place.

One of the tasks we needed to do yesterday was go to the Ministry of Interior to deal with documents.

I was dreading this, as nothing exposes my struggle with language more so than the bureaucratic forms and manner of this office. So we arrived with the support of the sister-in-law, who blithely dismissed my concerns that we would be trapped in an insufferable loop of documents and permissions.

Back in the day I used to wait hours here, only to be sent back in line for not having the right form by an irate clerk.

The young woman who helped us yesterday was pleasant and even cracked a few smiles. Problem? No problem!

Afterwards a celebration was in order so we went to a restaurant.

Before this moment I would have said that the possibility of change for the better for this embedded government function was as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar, yet progress has occurred.

Perhaps this example bodes well for a negotiated solution for peace with the Palestinians. One can hope

Tapu-gezer, orange and carrot juice, a suitable reward for getting something done.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jerusalem Of Gold And Bamboo

Another great day ends at the water.
We journeyed to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and experienced a beautiful and interactive sculpture called Big Bambu by artists Doug and Mike Starn


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life Is Good But Hard

To end the day at the Herzlia beach is to put a cherry on the sundae.

An excellent day spent experiencing the Land of Israel. As my people are already bored of hearing me say, one of my favorite things to do in Israel is to get small tasks done. I annoy, make people laugh, curse, whatever. I walk the land, trying to absorb the essence of Israel.

Israel has a special talent for developing complex systems of getting things done, as well as not doing things. This idea confronted me when I went shopping with my daughter at a local market. To get a shopping basket I needed a five Shekel coin to free the cart from the other carts – perhaps an anti-theft system, with the belief that a thief would not have a five Shekel coin.

I didn’t have the coin, so I went to the cashier and asked for change. She sent me to the customer service desk, which was unattended, and a sour-faced pensioner waited with a bag of items presumably to demand satisfaction from the management.

“We don’t need no stinkin’ cart,” I told the daughter. We then began to collect our items. A deli lady gave us a bag, which helped out immensely.

At the checkout line the man in front of us sent the cashier, a Russian woman in her sixties, to inquire for special brand of cigarettes. She came back after a bit and totaled the bill. “I forgot my money,” he said, slowly walking out the door. The cashier sighed and said we had to wait.

This gave us ample time to chat. “How long are you in the country?” she asked. “Two weeks,” I said, forgetting that this was a question about how long I had lived in Israel, as we were speaking Hebrew. The real question’s level of complication is similar to a word problem on the SAT. Somehow we moved beyond this.

We then had an Ulpan moment when she and the woman behind us in line all shared our views about life in Israel. “A special place,” I said. “Life here isn’t bad, but hard,” the woman said. Even the daughter got in on the fun, helping me out as I fumbled the words for olive brine.

Perhaps more/less fun was getting the passes to use the pool in the building where we are renting an apartment. I had to call Amiran and ask for the passes. He told me to go to the building’s office at a certain time.

I arrived at the office and found Moshe the superintendent and Amiran’s wife, who explained to me that that they shouldn’t have to issue pool cards every time someone rented the apartment. So I would pay 60 Shekels, and they would write the cards in the landlord’s name. Then I would be reimbursed when I returned the cards to the landlord at the end of my stay.

“You must give the cards to the gatekeeper. She will hold the cards while you swim and return them to you when you are done,” Moshe said.

Then came the issue of guests, assuming my relatives ever wanted to sit with us. As each resident in the building received only 15 guest passes each year, it would be unfair to issue any at all to us. A compromise was reached in that we would receive a handwritten note from the office should the issue of guests arise.

Finally the cards were written and laminated. But instead of swimming in the pool we went to the beach.

היום בירושלים

Monday, June 23, 2014

עזרה! אני לכוד בעברית

יש דברים שלא לתרגם. אני כבר סמוך ובטוח זו חנות גורמה.
Meatland אמור להיות חנות גדולה. אמונה היא מושג חשוב .קל לשכוח את זה.

אני חייב לכתוב בעברית בגל jetlag. רוב האתרים הגדרה באנגלית, אבל אני לא יכול למצוא אותו.

למען הפרוטוקול, אני לא קונה את כל בשר. אני לא יכול לקנות את זה כאן.

הנה החוכמה הגדולה, יש דברים שפשוט לא לתרגם.

ללא בושה שאנחנו הולכים

Sunday, June 22, 2014

הכיף מתחיל בארץ הפלאפל

למען אמת, הצונאמי של חומוס.
Bloggerנפתח בעברית, אז אמרתי, למה לא?

קרובי המשפחה שלנו שאלו אותנו מה אנחנו רוצים לאכול.

חומוס ופלאפל, כמובן!אנחנו תיירים אמריקאים חסרי בושה בישראל.ישראל היא שמדינה מוזרה עם פלאפל גדול.אני מבין את הטעות של החשיבה שלי.

עדיין, אנחנו צריכים לאכול.
פלאפל, המשפחה שלנו, העם היהודי, החיים הוא לא רע.
אני מכריז בהתרגשות שלי!
תודה על כל הברכות

Friday, June 20, 2014

School's Out For The Summer: Blogger Says Wheeeeee!

This is a colorful meal eaten by the son recently. Sometimes breakfast is the state of the union.
Going to take a break for a while to recharge the blogging batteries and get back to zen mind, beginner's mind. Also, need to return to Call of Duty: Black Ops -- the video game that best reflects my worldview, at least in regard to zombie Nazis.

Look to this space for future references to parenting issues in the soggy Northwest.

Stoke Sloth

Thursday, June 19, 2014

End Of School 3rd Grade Projects: Hampsters, NFL History, Beyoncé

Our third-grade guy did a history of video games: part 1 and part 2
What are third graders interested in? More like, what are they not interested in?

The teacher opened up the final project to whatever the hell the kids wanted to know more about. There were kiwi and manatee reports, Abraham Lincoln mixing it up with Michelle Obama, while the histories of the NFL and video games were on display.

Part of the excellence of this had to do with the straight-forward nature of third graders. Most of the kids presented their topics with the attitude that they had chosen the most interesting subject possible.

I learned something about the Italian sports car maker Bugoti, the Trois Vallee ski resort, as well as the Bald Eagle.

The kids had to write a report then create a visual presentation. This could be a poster, a movie, a slideshow, or anything else they wanted to make. Lots of iMovie trailers and video work with class iPads. The range of seriousness, complexity, and technical prowess was vast and exhilarating.

The third grade had been a rocky road for my guy, so I was happy he was so excited about his project.
This was the high note I had been hoping for in which to end this year on a good note.

End Of School Project: Video Games!

For the final project of the third grade the kid did a video on the history of video games.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Productivity Hack: Chairman Mao Statuette For Earbud Organizer

The Chairman was a great champion of the utilitarian, so I'm confident he would see having his arm draped in earbuds a high honor.
Problem: Every time you need to use your earbuds they are tangled in a drawer, mocking your frantic haste with knots and kinks.

Solution: Use the outstretched arm of The Great Helmsman to usher in an age of productivity and enjoyment of all that earbuds can offer.

You're welcome!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Windsurfing Is A True Reflection Of The Way Things Actually Are

This snap occurred at the "Hatchery" in the Columbia River Gorge, one of the finest windsurfing spots in the world.
I like to windsurf and have been attempting to do so for the better part of this past decade. The sport suits me, as there are some unbending traditions that appeal to my inner-idiot.

For instance, the main tradition, or rule, is that when one arrives at a windsurfing beach he/she is required to walk around to the others with gear on the ground or on their cars, asking, "What you gonna rig?" This refers to the size of sail.

Although you are already at the sailing spot when you ask this question, it still is a tricky one as gusts and lulls, clouds, bird activity, sun sports, last night's discussion about the kids' carbon footprint, and futon management all affect the sail size.

My kraziness in this regard is that I know what sail I want to use. I just want confirmation of my bad choice. So if I don't find someone who agrees with my thinking of sail size, I'll keep asking until my erroneous judgement is confirmed.

I've been around long enough, and been forced to watch enough Fox News, to know that this is the way of political discourse in the US. This is called confirmation bias and it feels great.

Perhaps this is why windsurfing is such an awesome sport. Stoke!


Friday, June 13, 2014

Heat And Smoke Equals Summer Even If It's Raining

Some like it hot: There are those who barbeque low and slow, but I am not one of them.
A good char on meat is what summer is all about, even if it's 50 degrees and raining.

I have a propane grill because I am a lazy bum. I turn on all the gas and let `er rip.

I've been told to moderate my views, my cooking, my life -- but I'm going to do it my way! (Unless, of course, a good suggestion, alternate viewpoint, valid suggestion finds its way into my consciousness).

Sure I'm disappointed the weekend looks rainy, but I'm facing it like a true parenting warrior, with blog posts and blithe humor. Whip out your phones and let the care-giving begin!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Kids Are Bored With Deconstructionist Brady Analysis

I was born in 1965 which makes me a prime demographic for growing up watching The Brady Bunch, which originally aired from 1969-74 (but that's irrelevant because it immediately went into syndication and has been lodged in our collective brains every since).

To talk about this show is to incite LSS and myself to go deep and share our emotions about what it meant to grow up in America and how the themes of that time profoundly affected us.

For me, the show was one of my main touchstones why I later became obsessed with Punk rock. The aesthetics of Punk reflect that we live in a garbage society full of hypocrisy and fascism  -- somehow acknowledging this leads to higher understanding if not ear damage.

Brady relates to this because as I matured I learned the actors' real lives gave way to a host of complications that highlighted the fictitious Bradys as even more of a pipe dream. The thought that the all-American family was a lie was supported by the show, even though I realized it was a cheesy sitcom with a laugh track never intended to represent anything but a cash flow of ad revenue.

I would listen to the music of the Dead Kennedys and be reminded that Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady, was a fine actor, merely interpreting a role that was alien to him. Also, Black Flag's  "TV Party" underscored how out of synch with our reality the media was at the time.

Now that one can consume a highly personalized media diet I wonder if the angst of growing up can be calmed or if it shifts to a new target.

Time will tell as the teenage years of the kids are fast approaching.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Easy Dessert Delicious But Provokes Thoughts Of Cannibalism

Berries and cookies what could be simpler or more delicious?
Summer is here and we're getting all sorts of great produce in the market. A bit of fresh fruit and some processed sugar and we're rocking like a Casbah circa 1981.

But, as we know, there is a always a flip side to such summer fun. The video below illustrates what dark forces chocolate cookies with cream filling can unleash in a child.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kid Develops Method For Sorting Mail

I came home from a short travel to find the mail sorted by the daughter. I absolutely love it when others pitch in to help my productivity. I dare say a nascent system was developed.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Virtual Skateboarding: Boom Or Bust?

The nine-year-old has been playing the video game Skate 3. In the game the player creates an avatar (above) and then skates a variety of urban landscapes.

The music is edgy and the scenery -- irrigation canals, skateboard parks, dams, gigantic ramps -- is tremendous. The game reminds me of idle thoughts when viewing diverse urban landscapes, when my mind imagines cruising down a roof or bridge on a skateboard.

The moves the player has the avatar execute are actual skateboard moves, but perhaps those that are done only by professionals a few feet off the ground. This game isn't inconveniently tied to reality.

The avatars don't wear helmets, which is distressing as a parent, and when they crash there is no repercussions besides an ugly sound effect.

This is the game that inspired my son to actually want to start skateboarding in the meatspace of Portland. For that I should be happy.

Yet I have this nagging fear that the frictionless ease in which his avatar cruises through a litany of expert moves on ramps hundreds of feet high will only lead him to lose his patience with actual skateboarding quicker.

Plus, should I be worried that the above image is his painstakingly crafted avatar? At least the avatar's hair is (permanently) out of his eyes.

So far I'm happy the kid has a new interest (skateboarding in reality) and if he wants a purple Mohawk I say yes, as long as it fits under his helmet.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Second Day Of Skateboarding Brings Demand For More Gear.

Day two also brings back-side turns.
Gravitating to the fashion of the sport, the kid asked that his next pair of shes be ones designed for skating.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kids Try Skateboarding -- Love At First Sight!

Daddies was the board shop of choice. They did not steer us wrong.
For the past week the kids have been bugging me for a skateboard. I have only waited 12 years for this! 

I've thought for a long time what a great thing it would be to grow up in a world with so many refined, and technologically developed, freestyle sports. Somehow the kids never wanted to try skateboarding, feeling it was too difficult or dangerous.

As today was no school, we went shopping, driving to Daddies in North Portland. A terrific young woman (Marissa?) helped us part together an awesome board. Furthering the excitement, a sponsored rider and employee entered the store with a broken board, nonchalantly explaining how one goes about breaking the industructable.

Without further ado we jumped back into the car and headed for a flat slab of concrete. A beautiful day for excellent adventure.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Dessert Walk" Finds Traction With New Generation (Of Course!)

No, this technically doesn't have anything to do with the "dessert walk." Still, we enjoyed this landscape by walking in it, and eating banana boats, which may be similar to a "dessert walk" in an alternate universe.
Today I was going to post a picture of myself with a T-shirt on my head, in the manner of simulated hair. This is a favorite with the kids. But instead I decided to post a video of a "dessert walk" our family took last Saturday.

The "dessert walk" is an evening walk when we end up having a nice dessert, usually ice cream. I remember as a boy the good times of visiting my grandparents in Florida and walking to a nearby Howard Johnson's.

I like walking after dinner, experiencing the twilight and weather. I'm glad to pass on this tradition to my weird and lovable offspring.