Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pricey Pills

On Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan’s blog had a strategically placed picture and link to a site titled “Buy Safe Drugs". Being a novice, it took me a few minutes to realize that Sullivan was not pushing his opinion, he had simply sold blog-ad space to PhRMA, the american pharmaceutical industry’s advocacy group.

Take a look at PhRMA's site. It’s simply a scare tactic to convince Americans that prescription drugs purchased overseas are unsafe. And what do they use as an example? Neupogen. An injectable drug used to boost white cell count in chemotherapy patients, and costing about $250 per injection (one a day, 10 per chemo round).

Ok, I’ll grant that buying Neupogen from an overseas mail order supplier is kinda dicey. But what’s the real issue? The real issue is the more run-of-the-mill drugs. Here’s my real life example: My birth control pills. This specific type, Tri-Levlen has been around for over 20 years. I got my first prescription in Israel, and they cost me about $3 a pack. Expensive for me at the time, but they were top of the line. I emigrated to the U.S., where I found that they had not yet been approved by the FDA, so I had to resort to an older type for a few years. Then they came onto the market, and I bought them for years. List price was about $30, and with my insurance, I only had to pay a mere $10…

Ok, but let’s say that I wanted to get two packs, just to have one in reserve in case I forgot to buy a new one. Well, then I had to pay full price, i.e., $30. Because my insurance wouldn’t cover two packs that weren’t purchased at least 21 days apart. So not only was I paying three times as much, I had to make a monthly trip to the pharmacy to pick it up, or else pay 10 times as much.

Or I could visit my family in Israel, and while at it, buy a full year’s supply for 12 X $3 = $36…

And then I found a third alternative. The internet! Check out this site and look for Triquilar.. Six packs for 39.31 euros. Check some more, and you’ll find that Tri-Levelen is equivalent to Triquilar. The only difference will probably be that the European variant will have much cooler packaging.

“Yes”, you’ll say, “but is it safe?”

Well, this medication has been around for 20 years. It probably costs about one penny a pill to make. It’s sold in Europe. I haven’t heard of an epidemic of surprise pregnancies in Europe, or other adverse effects. Contrary to what PhRMA is saying, yes, of course it’s safe. As safe as buying it at your friendly neighbourhood pharmacy. And SOOOO much cheaper and more convenient.

The pharmaceutical industry is about the biggest racket in the country, all perfectly legal. How do they manage to maintain these price differences? Primarily, through legislation, but now they’re trying scare tactics as well.

Don’t be afraid…

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Tuesday Jury Duty

On Monday evening, rushing back down to L.A. from Santa Rosa because my group had been called for jury duty on Tuesday, I called my favorite right wing friend, who shall remain unnamed.

“How do I get out of this thing” I asked?

He had had stellar success convincing the judge that he was not good jury material, simply by acting like himself. Under questioning, he explained to the judge that the American justice system is so f---ed up that if anyone does end up on trial, he must be guilty. The judge was, rightfully, convinced of my friend’s sincerity, and dismissed him. The question was whether I, as a non-believer could muster the arguments and the earnestness to convince the judge that I’m for real. I revved myself up to channel my friend. I would get released! In fact, they’d kick me out!

It ended up being a non-event. Along with about 200 other draftees, I spent most of the day in the juror holding area, waiting to be called to a court. While there, we had access to the many computers spread throughout the room for internet access, at a mere $6 an hour. Compare this to the $15 a day that L.A. County pays us for jury duty. Most of us, myself included, were not even called, and at 4pm were “released”, with a green slip we could show our employer, if we had one, indicating that we had indeed been on jury duty. They told us we didn't have to return.

We left the courthouse with the joy and excitement of school children that have been let out early.

I’m very relieved. Not so much because of the time I could have wasted on jury duty, but because if I were not able to wriggle myself out of it, it would have been a real blow to my self esteem.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Las Vegas is like Disneyland…

…compared to New Orleans. So said my yoga neighbour this morning.

That must be why I dislike both Las Vegas and Disneyland…

Sentenced to Marriage

My film editor friend and colleague was completely taken by this film, showing at the L.A. Film Festival, and insisted that I see it. I knew what I was getting myself into, but sometimes one has no choice. I couldn’t argue the content of this documentary if I hadn’t seen it, or so she implied. And what was the subject? Well, the venality of rabbinical divorce courts in Israel.

So I saw it, and here are the facts, aided by my prior knowledge. In fact, if I hadn’t had this prior knowledge, there would have been no way for me to really understand the issues raised in this film. Maybe this will be more information that you want (or as my daughter says, TMI – Too Much Information), but I know that the “evils” of Israel always make for good copy:

1. As the film indicates, there is no civil marriage in Israel. Only religious marriage. Be it Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. This is an relic of laws passed in the early 50’s, and the religious political establishment in Israel has, as a matter of self-preservation and job preservation, insisted on maintaining it.

2. There is an alternative for Israelis wishing to marry in a civil marriage. They can go abroad (a brief trip to Cyprus will suffice) and get married there. The state recognizes such marriages. Not ideal, but it’s the path that many of my secular Israeli friends have followed.

3. Contrary to the claim of this movie – there IS civil divorce in Israel, done through the family court system.

4. Why is the state requirement for Jewish marriage a problem? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is that it’s a form of religious coercion. The second, that it is a means of maintaining a taxpayer-funded religious establishment that has all the characteristics of a bureaucracy – lifelong employment, lack of accountability,… you know what I’m talking about. The third, that to get out of a Jewish marriage with no baggage, you need a Jewish divorce. More on this below.

5. There is a fundamental asymmetry in Jewish law. A man can divorce his wife. A wife cannot divorce her husband. She needs to get the divorce from him. This inequality is supposed to be mitigated by rabbinical courts in cases of the husband’s intransigence, by forcing the husband to give his wife a divorce. In fact, in Israel rabbinical courts can send a husband to jail indefinitely for refusing to divorce his wife. But that only happens at the discretion of the court, and only if there is a significant reason that can be given for the divorce. In essence, it requires showing that the husband is at fault. Not easy, and not always doable.

6. Why then would Jewish women in Israel want to get a Jewish divorce if a no-fault civil divorce is available? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One, somewhat subtle one for us secular Jews, is that by Jewish law she would be committing adultery if she had relations with another man, and in Jewish law this is a major infraction. The second, which is significant even to secular Jews like myself, is that any child she would have with a subsequent partner would be deemed a bastard, unable to marry within the Jewish community for 10 generations. For people like me, this is the crux of the matter.

As the film shows, dealing with the Israeli rabbinical courts can be a nightmare for women. The combination of a chauvinistic judge with a law that highly favors men can give appalling results. And the real issue is that unlike the American system, where rabbis are accountable to the congregations that pay their salaries, within the state-financed Israeli religious system, rabbis are often beholden to no one.

The combination of condescending, chauvinistic judges aided and abetted by a legal system that favors men, and orthodox women desperate for a Jewish divorce is the picture that this film shows. It includes recordings of rabbinical judges discussing with wives the appropriate sum with which to “buy off” their husband. It includes cases of judges refusing to force a divorce even though the husband is already living with another woman and has children with her.

I hate to try to apologize for the Israeli religious establishment. There really is no excuse. And for women caught in this trap, it’s a real tragedy. Ultimately, there is no excuse for state sanctioned religious marriage and divorce, or for a state-funded religious establishment. Such things should be outside the jurisdiction or the funding of the state.

As for the basic problem of Jewish women who cannot get a divorce from their husbands and cannot get a court to force it, well, the best remedy is prevention. As an orthodox rabbi in Israel once told me, Jews should stop marrying in Jewish weddings. The problem of bastards and of adultery would not exist if Jews stuck to civil weddings.

I personally didn’t follow his recommendation. I got married in a Jewish marriage, and I got a Jewish divorce. But if I had it to do all over again… well, I don’t know…

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On Resisting that Chocolate Cake...

Roger said: "I have plenty of willpower, I just don't have any won't power. "

Las Vegas Stories

As a snob that finds Las Vegas fascinating, but ultimately low class, I recognize that there is plenty about that town that would be edifying, if I’d only be willing to withhold judgment and take the time to figure it out.

As it stands, I go there only for trade shows, and even then I don’t take much time to really understand the city. This week’s lunch with a friend whose field is consumer marketing was about as close as I get to the underbelly of the beast.

The unresolved question, after a two hour discussion, was who are those “puffy” (as my friend calls them) beauties and studs that hang around the pool at the most expensive resorts. The old-news part of conversation was about the extraordinary girth of most of middle America.

The most interesting story was about the guy who started out his career in Vegas arranging events like weddings and conventions: In the past few years this chap has hit upon a more lucrative vocation. He arranges “personal events”.

An example. Say you’re going to Las Vegas and you’d like to get into a fist fight and beat someone up. Preferably in front of your girlfriend or your buddies. He’ll arrange for an altercation, say in a parking lot, or on the road (perhaps with a little car crash thrown in to start things up). Punches will be thrown, the other guy will look worse, and the police will not interfere (they will have been paid off…). Sure, people could get hurt. You, and all other participants will sign a waiver. But if this is your wet dream, and you have the bucks to pay for it, Las Vegas is the place to do it, and there is someone there to arrange it…

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


At last night’s Heeb Magazine Storytelling event, Aimee Bender gave a great skit about wedding preparations with her non-jewish fiancee (and current ex-husband). As a predictor of things to come, she talked about visiting his family and seeing a drum with a pink swastika drawn on it. It was, his family explained, an important American Indian symbol, and they wanted to revive it as such.

My swastika encounter came about 10 years ago. I did some consulting for a technolgy startup called XaqTi. What did the name mean, I asked. The founders, one Chinese, and the other Indian, explained that it was a word that had similar meanings in Indian and in Chinese. In Chinese, it meant strength, or power. In Indian, spelled Shakti, it meant the source of strength or virility.

A couple of months later I visited India for the first time. Shakti, I learned, was the consort of the Hindu god Shiva. It was amusing to think of the description I’d been given – “the source of strength or virility”. And the symbol for Shakti? A swastika. In fact, I found swastikas all over India. I found it unnerving. I loved India, but I really wanted them to find a Shakti alternative. This is a symbol that should be retired. Shakti as a company name? Bad idea in my opinion.

Sleep Aids

So here’s the latest news in psychology. Lack of sleep can cause depression. Eureka! Are any of my gentle readers surprised?

But here’s the real question. There are certainly more people suffering from insomnia than people suffering from depression. Isn’t that true? Well, then why is the U.S. market for sleeping pills about $1B per year, while the market for anti-depressants is well over $10B per year? Why is common wisdom on insomnia that you should just get over it, calm down, drink some hot milk…, while on depression it’s that medication is needed?

As someone who at age 18 used to wake up (I’m ashamed to say) at 6:30am, and who now wakes up at 3am, those little sleeping pills I discovered about 10 years ago have been a godsend. I nibble on a half or a quarter of a pill at 3am, and boom! I’m sleep till 7am and wake up feeling great. Instead of tossing and turning for four hours like I used to, and waking up feeling like s---.
My doctor still gives me a hard time whenever I ask him to renew my prescription.

“Are you sure you need so much sleep?” He asks me.

“Yes, I’m sure”

“Are you exercising?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You aren’t drinking caffeine are you?”

“Yes, I am, but I’ve tried to abstain and that didn’t help.” …

Would he be giving me such a hard time if I was asking him to renew a prescription for Prozac or Zoloft or Wellbutrin?

Sleep is just not my strong suit. I need a little help. And my mother’s little helper – in case you want to know the precise prescription - is half an Ambien (5mg) at 3am. It changed my life. Maybe it will change yours as well. If you can convince your doctor to loosen up a bit on this one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jdating in Northern California

In case you were wondering, yes, I've tried Jdate, and my experience has been abysmal. I read first person singles articles in Jewish newspapers telling of the hundreds of responses that women get to their nothing-to-write-home-about posts. But when I post… dead silence. Even worse: When I decide to move things along a bit by finding a few attractive male candidates and e-mailing them, the silence is even more deafening.

For those of you that don’t know me, you’ll have to trust me that I’m reasonably attractive. Most men who meet me seem to agree on this one. But somehow the L.A. Jdaters believe differently.

So I gave up on Jdate.

But with my new gig up in Northern Cal, spending Monday evenings alone in a hotel room in Santa Rosa got to be a bit much. So I had a flash of inspiration. I’d test the commonly held belief that L.A. men are somewhat emotionally deficient by asking some Northern California guys out. Would they answer my missives?

Well, I tried. I posted an ad. I did a little search. I identified four men living within 50 miles of Santa Rosa (yes, I had to search that far, I wanted to include San Francisco, and in any case there aren’t that many Jdates in Northern Cal), and I e-mailed them.

Unbelievable results. All four answered me. Three wanted to meet. The fourth wanted to IM with me. Do I have MSN messenger he asked. It’s a GREAT (his caps) way to communicate. No, I replied. And enlighten me, I asked. Why would I want to spend the time on MSN messenger if we could have a phone conversation? Well, he responded, I want to take it slowly if that’s ok with you…

Conclusion – 3 out of 4 were normal. Way ahead of L.A.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Medical Insurance Blues

Arriving at my Ob-Gyn’s office for my yearly checkup, I was confronted by a stressed out office manager. “I’m so sorry” she said. “We don’t take Healthnet (my insurance plan) any more”.

Ok, you say, that’s reasonable. They didn’t like the rates that Healthnet was willing to pay, so they said no. But, here’s the catch. They do take quite a few other carriers, one of which is Blue Shield. So here’s how it works. The doctor’s list price for an expanded office visit (a.k.a. annual exam) is $215. Blue Shield’s negotiated rate is $65. Of which the patient pays $20 if she’s met the deductible. Otherwise she pays the …$65. Not $215. Fair enough. But now that my doctor has decided that she won’t accept Heathnet, she won’t even accept from me the negotiated rates that she is accepting from other carriers. No. She wants me to pay the full $215 list price.

I came across this a few years ago when I had surgery. The surgeon’s fee for a one hour (albeit complicated) operation was $10,000. When the insurance explanation of benefits came in, the negotiated fee was $2,000. I paid 20%, which was $400. But, if I hadn’t had insurance, the surgeon would have charged me the full $10,000.

And that is the real cost of not having health insurance, or of going to a provider that isn’t part of your plan. You have to pay list price. And list can be 400% more then the true market price. Sometime even higher than that.

I told my doctor that I’d like to stay with her, but that I couldn’t and wouldn’t pay list price. Fairness dictates, in my opinion, that she accept from me the same negotiated rates that she accepts from insurance companies. Don’t you agree? She doesn’t. No big deal for me, I can change doctors, but it is a big deal when you think of people that are uninsured. Not only do they have to pay their own medical expenses, they have to pay list price. Something’s wrong with this picture.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Oral Sex – Yes or No?

Luke Ford’s post on the subject cracked me up. Apparently there was a Machloket (disagreement) between the Rambam (a 12th century Jewish sage, one of the greats), and the Raavad (another 12th century sage, I’d never heard of him…) on the subject of whether a man can give his wife oral sex. The Rambam said yes, the Raavad said no. Joseph Karo in the Shulhan Aruch (16th century text) agreed with the Raavad…

And I thought oral sex was a 20th century invention…

L.A. Yoga Teacher Directory

A few statements to set the scene.

As those of you who know me realize – I’m a bit of a yoga fanatic, and also somewhat of a yoga gourmet. I’m very picky about my yoga and about my yoga teachers. I feel lucky to live in L.A. because L.A. is the best yoga city in the world. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I’ve traveled a lot, and tried yoga in many places. There are occasional good teachers to be found all over the world, but the concentration of talent and the cross-fertilization that happen in L.A. are unequaled. There may be an exception to this statement in India, but I suspect that it's not because Indian yoga is so good. It's because doing yoga in India is like eating bruschetta in Tuscany. Even if the bruschetta is not the best, the feeling of authenticity makes it special.

L.A. yoga, like L.A. cuisine, tends to be a fusion of styles, and it draws on the best of these styles. The two major and very distinct styles are Ashtanga and Iyengar (or Hatha). Flow Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, or Hatha Flow, are primarily fusions of these two styles and the exact mix depends on the teacher.

Ashtanga, at one end of the spectrum, consists of a fixed sequence of very demanding poses and transitions, and there is a flow from one pose to another. The challenge is to do this sequence (that takes at least 90 minutes), and then to do it better… It can be done without an instructor. If there is an instructor, their role is to circulate through the class and help out students as they go through their sequence. But the students are not synchronized.

Iyengar, at the other end, is a follow-your-instructor practice, and each class is different, with a concentration on a certain set of poses, and generally with a gradual progression through one or two poses to more difficult and demanding versions. Accuracy and proper alignment are emphasized, and that alignment is ultimately also helpful in enhancing the quality of an Ashtanga practice.

Yoga can be done at a yoga studio, or at a gym. Generally speaking, yoga is much better at a yoga studio. Even if it’s the same teacher teaching at a studio and at a gym, the studio class will be better. There are a few reasons for this. One is that gym classes are usually a mix of serious and not so serious yogis, and the instructor needs to accommodate them all. Another is that gym classes have at least one wall of mirrors, which distracts and changes the feeling of yoga. Third, the temperature is often too low in a gym. So, if you’re starting out, I recommend starting at a yoga studio. You’ll get a better feel for how good it can really be.

L.A. has many good yoga studios, but lately there’s been a consolidation of studios. I won’t get into the details of this consolidation, because I'm wary of raising my blood pressure. Also, this is a subject in and of itself, and merits its own separate post. For the purposes of this post I’ll concentrate on Yogaworks (Santa Monica, Westwood), Sports Club (L.A., Beverly Hills), and Brian Kest’s studio in Santa Monica.

A disclaimer – even with this limited set of studios, there are many instructors that I’ve never tried. I’m listing my favorites among those that I know. Alphabetically…

Jenny Arthur – Very precise, very clearly spelled out flow classes. Some may find the classes slow, but Jenny is very good at getting you into poses accurately, and helping when you’re just not getting it.

Annie Carpenter – Annie is a former dancer, and there’s a lot in the way she conducts a class that reminds me (unpleasantly) of ballet classes. Like the way she says “Madame” when telling someone that they should do something differently. But she’s a fascinating teacher, she knows anatomy and can explain poses very well, I always find there’s something to be learned in her class.

Chad Hamrin – The most interesting of all the instructors I know. His classes tend towards an Iyengar style, but without the props. Extraordinarily original. Because his classes don’t have the full aerobic element of true flow classes, attendance is relatively sparse, but at least 50% of the students are instructors themselves. Which tells you something. When instructors are looking for new ideas for their classes, they come to Chad’s class. Always worthwhile.

Heath House – Heath is a former gymnast, and a truly fun and sweet guy. His yoga classes are very well sequenced, and they include more gymnastic elements that usual. That shouldn’t be a deterrent, on the contrary. Heath gives great pointers on how to make these impossible-looking poses actually happen. There’s something exhilarating about being able to do one of these poses, and if you can’t he also gives plenty of good alternatives. Great music selections too. Always a pleasure.

Brian Kest – An L.A. experience. Unlike other studios, that are quite pricey ($10-15 per class), Brian’s class is by donation. That draws a huge crowd, including of course aspiring actors, writers, filmmakers, etc… He recently moved into new studios, but the old one was a former ballet school, and classes of 120 people or more, with mats almost touching each other and fogged up windows, are the norm.

Vinnie Marino – The rockstar of L.A. yoga teachers. Vinnie teaches a very intense flow class, and his Brooklyn macho style and humor, coupled with great music selections, draw crowds. I can’t tolerate the sweating crowds any more, but there is something about the adrenaline high you get in his classes that is pretty compelling. For guys – this is the number one place to find beautiful girls. The waiting area looks like a casting call for Baywatch.

Jesse Schein – Very smart, Jesse teaches an intense class and knows the details of alignment to a T. Highly recommended both for beginner and for advanced classes

Lisa Walford – L.A. style Iyengar – Lisa is second only to Chad as one of the fascinating teachers in L.A. I say all this even though I now avoid her classes. Last time I went, she took me aside at the end and told me that I really should go to a more beginner class… How obnoxious.

More to come...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

In the Land of Small Breasts

Would it be true to say that American men fetishize breasts while Italian men fetishize… maybe shoes, or hair, or just women in general…? In ten days in Italy, the only woman I saw displaying cleavage was a nursing mother at the synagogue. I don’t think Italians have discovered boob jobs, or even push-up bras yet. My size B breasts fit right in. What a relief. If you can’t beat em, change countries…

A Risottino

Mariangela and I got back to the hotel close to midnight, and I would have skipped dinner and gone straight to bed, but Mariangela had been dreaming of white rice for her upset stomach since maybe 9pm. A lively conversation ensued with the owner of our beautiful Albergo. She was very concerned. What exactly would Mariangela like? Some Risotto with Grana (cheese)? Maybe some greens in the Risotto? A Risottino? (What’s the difference between a Risotto and a Risottino!??)

And me? What would I like? Maybe a little pasta? A nice bisteca? Maybe a little verdura? She could make me a Risotto with onions. Some Grana too. Perhaps some melon with Prociutto? And for Mariangela, yes, she’ll add just a little bit of grana, to make sure it won’t upset her stomach. And something to drink? Some wine? At least a chamomile tea…

These detailed selections of the precisely correct food for a specific state of digestive health, time of day, mood, location, are so so Italian. No wonder they never gain weight. They spend so much time deciding what to eat, that they can hardly fit the actual meal in. It does make every meal special. And the lunch I had the following day, just before we left the albergo, was to die for.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Roman Men

The first time I traveled on my own in Italy, I was 19. I had spent the summer in Holland as an exchange student, and at the end of my stay, I took an overnight train to Milan. I woke up in the early morning as the loadspeaker announced the train changes in the Swiss border crossing. I got up and went out to the train’s balcony, and in the early dawn, watched stunned as we passed by Lake Como. I had never seen any place so beautiful. As I was standing there, a truly older man – at least 40 – came out and saw me. In a heavy Italian accent he told me how beautiful I was. He was charming. I was in heaven. I felt like a queen. I decided I liked Italian men.

Over the next 10 days I traveled through Italy, gradually making my way south by train, stopping along the way. As I got further south, the men changed. The charming romance of the north gave way to aggressive pushiness. By the time I got to Rome, I’d had enough. I wanted to shake off the leeches.

A few years later I opened Lonely Planet, planning a trip to Italy, and found a list of the ten worst things in Italy. Top on their list – Roman men. Yes! I thought.

But now I’m in Rome, and the Roman men aren’t bothering me at all. Have they stopped hitting on women, or have they just stopped hitting on me? I’m assuming the former.

When in Rome

I’ve written about my training in upper class German table manners. But one item of table manners I’ve refrained from writing about was my pasta eating manners, or perhaps lack thereof.

In my naivete I had always assumed that my Italian father’s instruction, that spaghetti should be eaten with a fork and spoon – holding the spoon as a wall against which to roll the pasta – was the correct way. My father couldn’t be wrong about something as basic as that. Or could he?

Well, my faith in my father (or at least in my father’s class identity…) was severely shaken when my gourmet, italiophile friend, Peter, invited me to dinner. Over a wonderful pasta that he had prepared, I somehow mentioned that I assumed the correct way to eat it was with a fork and spoon. Definitely not, Peter told me. In fact, he told me, eating pasta with a fork and spoon was something no self respecting Italian would ever do. I should never let anyone know that I’d ever thought otherwise…

Well, fast forward to this evening. I’m in Rome with Peter’s list of restaurant recommendations, and off I go to his favorite Roman dining spot. Following his recommendation, I order Cacio Peppe – pasta with Cacio cheese and black pepper. The waiter brings me my plate of pasta, and with a fork and spoon, stirs in the cheese. He then places the fork and spoon next to my plate, wishes me bon appetito, and leaves. It takes me a few minutes to realize what has happened. I call him back. Am I supposed to eat the pasta with the spoon, I ask. Yes, he says. Wow.

Hey Peter, apparently eating pasta with a fork is not all that gauche, at least not at certain Roman environs…

By the way, the restaurant was great.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Kitbag Question

Timing of airline meals on transcontinental flights is always dicey. You’re going from one time zone to another, so when should they serve breakfast, when should they serve dinner, how many meals?… The new consensus, which I applaud, is to serve two meals, one at the start and one at the end, and to leave snacks and drinks in the galley between the meals. That way you can sleep undisturbed, and if you are disturbed by hunger, there’s a solution. Sometimes the snacks are great – Air Canada on its flight to Israel – and sometimes they’re not quite adequate, like on the Lufthansa flight I took this week. Little Mars bars. That was it.

Still, the moment I realized they had put them out, I sneaked into the galley, took one, opened it, and started munching. The stewardesses were the type that would tell me I needed to wait until the official snack hour – very teutonic - but I knew they wouldn’t try to wrestle a half eaten Mars bar out of my hands. Suddenly a young guy came in and looked at me intensely:

“Are we allowed to take these?”

“I didn’t ask” I said.

He took two, stuffed them in his pocket and fled…

I didn’t ask the stewardess because such a question would be, as we used to call it in the army – a kitbag question. Every soldier in the army has a kitbag with all his personal belongings, at least 60 pounds worth. In principal, you’re not supposed to let it out of your sight. In reality, you often do. Hoping, of course, that the commanding officer will overlook it. But somehow there’s always some bright freshman that pipes up and says – “Sir, do we need to take the kitbags with us?” That’s a kitbag question.

The rule of thumb in the airplane galley, in the army, and in business: It’s better to do and then apologize than to ask permission.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Jewish Professions

I’m off to Rome in search of my roots. I've been told I should seek them out around the Colosseum and the Vatican. Those faux gladiators standing around ready to pose with you in front of the ancient arches for a mere 10 or 15 Euro – they’re Roman Jews. Rosary salespeople near the Vatican? Definitely Jewish. My film editor tells me I need to get this on film. Great material….