Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas In Power

My thought about the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections - and maybe this is wishful thinking, but here goes:

Just as it seems to have been that right wing Israeli governments (Begin, Sharon) were better able to make peace with the Arabs than the Israeli left, so too, perhaps it will take the Palestinian "right wing" (in this case Hamas) to have the internal clout to make peace with Israel.

It's along the lines of thought that say that if Hamas leaders go to the Palestinian people and tell them that, for their good, some concessions are necessary, they may go along with it, whereas if the PLO were to try that, Hamas would have prevented it.


Mango Shortage Alert!

Last Friday, during my weekly Trader Joe's shopping run, I discovered they were out of frozen mango. My weekly household consumption, devoted entirely to mango smoothies,, is about four 24 oz bags, so I was mildly concerned. Fortunately, though, I had reserves in my freezer to tide me over the shortage. However, when this week's TJ run found no change in the mango situation, I realized that more extreme measures were needed.

After today's yoga class I walked across the street to the local Whole Foods. They had every conceivable type of frozen fruit, except for one empty compartment - the one labeled Mango. Apparently the TJ shortage had caused a run on Whole Foods' supply (or vice versa).

I had no choice but to stoop really low and go to Vons. They had four packs of frozen mango left (16 oz each). Now they have none.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cooking for Oneself

The classic old joke about the perils of married life goes something like this:

Why do married men gain weight while single men stay slim?

A single man gets home, opens the fridge, sees what's there, goes to bed.

A married man gets home, goes to bed, sees what's there, opens the fridge...

BTW, on a positive note, this is an equal opportunity joke, in the sense that it doesn't discriminate against Jewish women...

But the main point is that perhaps the joke is misleading. A couple of male friends recently pointed out to me that single men will cook for themselves, while single women generally will not.

That observation does apply to me. I like to cook, but will only cook if there's someone around - my kids or guests or the occasional boyfriend - to cook for. I'll almost never have the urge to cook for myself. I'm always intrigued when my bachelor friends regale me with stories of the feasts that they've whipped up for themselves. To take it a step further, bachelors that don't cook tend to go out almost every night for dinner. They won't satisfy themselves with stay-at-home scrambled eggs and yogurt.

My parent's story was that when they met, my father knew how to cook, and my mother didn't. So my father taught my mother how to cook, and then promptly forgot how to do it himself...

I can't explain it. I'm not even sure these anecdotal observations are statistically true, but I'd like to hear your opinion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I've finally started using Skype, and of course I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner. I highly recommend it, certainly for international calls, but also for domestic. The sound quality on a call to Israel is at least as good, and I think better, than a landline. Maybe for the reason that Intel bragged about at the Intel Developer's forum. Higher bandwidth than you get on voice circuits. Link here for reference.

Pluging In

A large part of my brain cycles seem to be devoted lately to the increasingly complex task of making sure that all my various electronic gadgets are properly charged and ready to go. My computer, my cell phone, my video camera (all three batteries) my digital camera, my iPod, ... Doing all of this efficiently, so that said gadgets will be available when I want them and where I want them gives me that sense of accomplishment that was once achieved only by more significant feats, like completing my income tax return...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Go Beverly Hills!

My son tells me that Jack Abramoff and Monica Lewinsky share the distinction of having gone to Beverly Hills High School. Not only that, they both went to the same elementary school, my daughter's alma mater, just two blocks from our house - Horace Mann. There, in 8th grade, Abramoff ran for student body president, but was disqualified when he broke the campaign spending limits by throwing a very lavish party for his constituents.

You can't make this stuff up...

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I knew I wouldn't like Munich. I've successfully avoided ever going to see Schindler's List, and I should have done the same here. But having seen the truly superb documentary, One Day in September, which demanded an epilogue, and thinking that I would at least enjoy the Mossad agent thriller part of Munich, I succumbed.

Big mistake. It was stunningly inane. In big ways and in small.

The biggest of the small: The actors playing Israelis speak among themselves in Hebrew-accented English. Give me a break. Either they speak Hebrew with subtitles, or they speak English. Having them speak among themselves in broken English made my skin crawl.

And then to the big things: Does anyone truly believe that the Mossad sends out such amateurs to lead this kind of mission? And most of all, does anyone seriously believe that Golda Meir or any of the top brass of the Israeli intelligence forces devoted even one minute to a discussion of the ethics of hunting down and killing PLO operatives? I can assure you that the only questions on the table were whether it was doable, perhaps whether it would be effective, and how the rest of the world would react. Whether it was justified or not never even crossed the debate, or their minds. Didn't cross my mind either.

And to add insult to injury, even the action sequences in the film, with the possible exception of the Israeli commando attack in Lebanon, were bad. I'm referring here to the first half of the film, after which I left. Since no one has seemed to think that the second half of the film was better than the first, I don't think staying longer would have changed my mind...

BTW, if you'd like to see a really good film about a Mossad agent, see Walk on Water.

So Brokeback

I have yet to come across a man that has seen Brokeback Mountain. My more open male friends say that they would watch it, but only in the privacy of their own homes. They wouldn't be caught dead walking into a movie theatre
to see it...

New slang of the week: instead of saying "that's so gay", you say "that's so Brokeback".

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Judging by Victoria's Secret's Swimsuit Issue

Freckles, halter top bikinis, and colorful oriental prints are in this summer. Works for me...

Iller and Iller

Does it seem to you that there are a lot of bugs (as in flu and cold) going around this year? Almost everyone I know has spent some time being ill this season. Which raises the question of whether things are better or worse in that regard compared to, say, 30 years ago...

I don't think they are. The big killers, heart disease, cancer, may be in some decline, but the miserable making little thingamajiggers (sic?), falling under the general category of "infectious diseases" seem to be on a sharp rise.

As I'm writing this I'm realizing that it all may be very old news to y'all. AIDS, SARS, Avian Flu,we've been inundated... But I'm thinking of the more benign 24 hour to seven day affairs. They seem to be on the rise as well.

Which is to say that modern medicine has done wonders, but not on this front. Is it globalization? Frequent air travel? Too much antibiotics? I don't know...

Brokeback Moutain

I almost didn't go see this movie after the tepid reports I seemed to get from everyone. Reports that epitomize my beloved phrase "damning with faint praise".

"It's slow" people would say, "but pretty good"... Not to mention some of my squeamish male friends who couldn't stand the thought of a movie about gay love.

Well, I'm pretty squeamish about gay love myself. I'm ok with it in principle, but those guys walking hand in hand down Santa Monica Blvd are still disconcerting to me.

But Brokeback Mountain didn't have that aspect to it. Maybe because the sex scenes were so discreet, and maybe because they looked more like the way a man (at least of the cowboy variety) would have sex with a woman if he weren't afraid of hurting her - something between kissing her and beating her up.

It was great. Very moving and emotionally authentic. The male-male relations, the male-female relations, the husband-wife relations, the son-parent relations - all spot on and very very good. I don't know why the reports I've heard haven't been more enthusiastic.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I'm succumbing to the common Israeli habit of playing armchair doctor when a public figure falls ill, and feel a need to pontificate - perhaps prematurely and completely incorrectly - about Ariel Sharon's situation.

My understanding is that a few weeks ago he had a minor stroke caused by a small blood clot. Then doctors ran a battery of tests and found that he had a 2mm hole between two chambers of his heart - a finding that, so I'm told, can be made in about 50% of the adult population. Then his doctors decided to operate to seal this hole. They scheduled the operation for today, and in the meantime gave him a hard time about being overweight, and put him on blood thinners.

And what is the most common adverse effect of blood thinners? Brain hemorrhages. And what happened? First, so aides say, he was extremely stressed out about the surgery. Second, he felt chest pains. Third, lo and behold, he had a hemorrhage. I give more than 50% that if the doctors would have just left him alone, he would have fared much better...

On another note, I remember where I was and what I was doing when Rabin was shot, and I'll probably always remember the same for Sharon's stroke. I was in my car driving to my daughter's soccer game when I heard on NPR that Rabin had been shot and was in the hospital. It was pretty clear that he wouldn't survive. Sometime during the game itself he died. In this case I was taking an afternoon nap (sweet!), and when I woke up I found a cell phone message from my friend telling me that Sharon had suffered a severe stroke. He's still alive, but for all intents and purposes, it's the end. Rabin's assassination brought about a change in political leadership in Israel (from Labor to Likud). We'll see what happens this time.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Just Relax

At yoga class today, in twisting triangle pose, the instructor said with one long yogi breath:

"The main thing is to relax, not to exert yourself too much, breath deeply, pull your right hip back, push down with your left foot, keep your left hip level with the floor, spiral your navel to the ceiling, rotate your left ribs down, pull your head to the south wall, think of a backbend in your upper back..."

If you meditate deeply enough on this (no exertion please!) I'm sure you too will find it quite amusing.


Medicinal Maggots (and Leeches) Oh My!

I would have thought it was a joke, but apparently leeches are making a comeback, and maggots are the new hot stuff. My favorite edition of the NYTimes magazine, their year-end "Year in Ideas" issue that purports the cover the 100 most significant new ideas/inventions of the year has, this year, an article about medical uses of maggots.

What's the medical use of maggots? Well, in brief, for wounds that don't heal, develop gangrene, do not respond to antibiotics, - put 8 to 10 maggots per square centimeter, cover with gauze for 48 to 72 hours, then remove. Apparently they eat up all the rotting flesh along with associated bacteria. Very cheap (compared to standard medical treatments), they cost about $100 per treatment. Doesn't hurt - I don't know why not. And they cure some things that nothing else will cure, which is apparently what enables potential patients to overcome the "yuck" factor and agree to such treatments.

Now what about leeches? For this I had to search the internet, and to use my powers of imagination to interpret the medical techno-speak. Here's my understanding. Occasionally, in plastic or reconstructive surgery, a certain area may become blood-logged, and the surgeon may seek to evacuate blood from that area. The ideal is to cause it to bleed slowly over a period of time. Apparently none of the standard anti-coagulants have quite that effect. But the secretions of the leech do. Attach a leech, and even after you've removed it, the area will continue to ooze blood for 10 hours of so. Quoting a supplier of leeches: "The goal then is to produce a minimally adequate venous outflow from the tissue by adjusting the number of bite wounds to suit the clinical situation."

BTW, since leeches feed on blood, they are referred to not as herbivorous, not as carnivorous, but as sanguivorous.

Also important to note: "Leeches are treated in the same way as blood products and are reused only on the same patient." I'm glad to hear it. I assume that means that after a leech is used, it is discarded in that trash can labeled "Biohazard" that we so commonly find in doctor's offices.

If you're so inclined, you may want to check out the site of Biopharm Leeches, Suppliers of Medicinal Leeches Since 1812. Their tagline - "The biting edge of science".

Another little factoid. Leeches are hermaphrodites. Remember what that means? I had forgotten, but an explanation quickly followed. They are both male and female. So when they copulate, each one fertilizes the other. Meaning, I think, that Leslie impregnates Terry at the same time that Terry is impregnating Leslie. Babies, cocoons and new full-size leeches soon follow...

Sunday, January 01, 2006


The NYTimes Magazine cover for New Year's Day 2006 is: Towards a New Cosmopolitanism.

How trendy are we?!

Meditation as Weight-Lifting for the Mind

Although I don't do it on a any regular basis, I'm a great believer in the benefits of meditation. I know several people that meditate regularly, and I find they have heightened alertness and powers of concentration both in conversation and in listening. All of which I consider very desirable. Second, I believe that any mind activity - like learning good writing skills or learning mathematics, not only teaches us the specific task at hand, but also develops our "brain muscles" to do better at similar tasks. For example, proving a few theorems in calculus makes us better able to prove other theorems, and even to understand new fields of math that we have not yet encountered. In that sense, such exercises are like weight-lifting for the mind.

So I was pleasantly surprised yesterday, when after a New Years's post-yoga-class treat - a short Vipassana meditation session - the teachee started to explain his view of what meditation does:

The mind has a tendency to wander. In meditation, whenever it wanders, we attempt to bring it back to the central point of concentration. Just as in physical exercise we lift against weights, in meditation, the weights are the effort required to bring the mind back. As we practice more, these weights seem lighter, and we bring the mind back with more ease, and ultimately, without even thinking about it. Good analogy. I buy that...