Sunday, March 11, 2018

Just one wish

Sometimes I wonder what the greatest gift/blessing could be. At the same time, I also consider what the worst curse could ever be. I’m still unclear on the former but it is pretty obvious that the worst thing a magical being could ever say to me would be “I’ll grant you one wish.” Even just being asked would be horrible and having to turn down (for what?) that offer would be really sucky.

Many people might think of "one wish" as an incredible opportunity but I’ve thought it through and, trust me, it doesn’t end well. Fortunately, we have a spate of popular culture resources which can shed some light on the issue. I'll rabbit hunt it for the non-believers. What do I ask for? The snarky among you are leaning towards “ask for [more/unlimited] wishes.” But that’s just stupid. If one wish is a curse, then many more would, a fortiori, be an even greater calamity waiting to happen. The later wishes would be constantly used up trying to mitigate the disasters which occurred because of the earlier ones. Wishes are designed to subvert the natural order but that leads to consequences (think Jim Carey’s prequel to “Evan, Almighty”). The more the way things are supposed to happen gets shifted, the more problems ensue. The more responsibility for changing the world, the more one feels the weight of billions of voices, all crying and then suddenly silenced. Deal me out, thankyouverymuch.

Maybe I ask for immortality? No – Highlander (among others) proves that this is not only incredibly sad, watching everyone else age and die, but also extremely inconvenient, having to move around to avoid suspicion, and needing to create new identities. All that just so I can be around when the iPhone 23q is released? That’s not much of a trade off.

Should I ask for something more mundane? Everything has a price. Consider the movie “The Box” but replace it with a movie anyone has actually seen. I’ll wait. Now, think about the Monkey’s Paw. Money leads to death. Life leads to monsters. In the animated parody of that story, Homer Simpson asked for a turkey sandwich, and I now quote the sage: “I’ll make a wish that can’t backfire. I wish for a turkey sandwich, on rye bread, with lettuce and mustard and-and I don’t want any zombie turkeys, I don’t want to turn into a turkey myself, and I don’t want any other weird surprises. You got it? . . . Hey! Hmmm, mmm, not bad, nice hot mustard, good bread, the turkey’s a little dry . . . the turkey’s a little dry! Oh foul accursed thing! What demon from the depths of hell created thee?” Also, think about that whole “house elf” slave thing in the Harry Potter series. Food that magically appears on the table still has to be prepped by someone. That wish for a sleeve of never-ending Oreo cookies means someone is staying up nights, baking for me and the finite wheat harvests will not go to feeding the starving babies of Eritrea (it’s a place, I checked) but instead, to my gluttony. Wishing for something ex nihilo would throw off the balance of matter in the universe, and that is not a good way to start the morning, what with a universal imbalance and all, no siree.

Things never quite work out and the greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment when the turkey, after all that pre-thinking, still ends up not living up to what the dream was for it. Do I ask for health for a relative? Which one? Who deserves to (out)live his divinely ordained time? Who has earned this magic more than another? Should I ask for health for all? Do we have the resources on this planet to sustain a race of significantly larger size? What about the lives of all the doctors, undertakers and grave diggers which will be ruined by this. When Donne pointed out in Meditation 17 (one of my top 17 meditations) that no man is an island he wasn’t just pointing out that our deaths (should) impact each other, but that our lives and their choices do as well! Maybe I’ll get rid of war and violence – which would mean the end of human nature, free will and would cause (inevitably) an invasion by Kang and Kodos (same episode…look it up).

Superhero movies used to be this form of escapism – wouldn’t we all want to have powers like Superman or Spiderman? It took a deeper exploration for us to see that with great power comes the death of your uncle and then a series of miscast reboots. The horror. The most recent set of Superhero movies have done a much better job of showing that having gifts of speed, strength, intellect or anything that puts one so far from the norm in society is fraught with downside (now there’s a superpower…being able to see the downside to every situation. My God, I’m SPECIAL!) Go watch WarGames and see what happens when you get what you ask for, when you get access to what you aren't supposed to have access to. You end up with Dabney Coleman mussing your hair and that's something I would want to avoid. And, oh yeah, arrested by the FBI and almost causing the end of humanity. I want to avoid those things also.

I could wish that my dog could talk but that doesn’t mean he will have anything interesting to say (nor that he would understand me when I spoke back). Should I do something to empower other species or will that lead to an ape revolt? Look how that turned out (spoiler alert, “not good”). Do I just want to be loved? That would get a bit stalker-ish, no doubt. I love Willy Wonka, but his quote about the man who got everything he ever wanted is totally off base as is this guy who admires the quote. The guy who gets whatever he wants ends up with no ambition and probably other problems.

Maybe the fascination with the “one wish” scenario is an expression of our own dissatisfaction with our lives. We are afraid to confront the underlying wish, “what if everything was somehow different; could I be happy then?” To make that one wish is to have to accept that things can’t be any better than they are without there being consequences. Just ask George Bailey and every TV show that invoked that “never been born” trope. Now, sure, some people live in such abject conditions that the price is acceptable. A victim who just wants to not be victimized can probably formulate a wish that, while it might negatively impact the world, would certainly, and in a very local sense, make things a whole lot better. We do this when we pray -- we pray most often to thank God for our existence and to recognize that things really aren't so bad. Sometimes we ask Jim to use the normal laws of the universe but bend them a touch to let things play out in subtly different ways, but only if He thinks that it would be for the best. We don't pray for 2+2 to be 5 (well, I used to, after EVERY. MATH. TEST, but I digress). In fact, Jewish law teaches that we don't pray for the impossible. But for the average guy the hypotheticals, when explored, can be shown to have more disadvantages than advantages. Being forced to make a choice about a wish would make me responsible for the undoing of the universe and that’s a burden I don’t think I could handle, at least not before lunch.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Just some random thoughts on Education

So I read this line recently, “Student learning is the most meaningful measure of all instructional practices and must remain the litmus test, or gateway, to determining future teacher practice.” [ Dwayne Chism (Omaha Public Schools) via The Marshall Memo's write up of “Excavating the Artifacts of Student Learning” by Dwayne Chism in Educational Leadership, February 2018 (Vol. 75, #5),] It troubles me. It troubles me because it posits that the way we can assess teacher performance and success is by measuring something called “student learning” but that concept cannot be quantified, let alone measured, especially as a direct consequence of the particular teaching.

If our focus as teachers is not in imparting a set of concrete facts but giving students the skills to be lifelong learners then we can’t know if we have succeeded until we measure life long learning, many years down the line. At that point, it is also impossible to know if the end result is linked conclusively to any singular or specific teaching many years earlier.

All of our various methods (formative and summative assessments, standardized tests, exit portfolios…whatever) which supposedly measure learning simply don’t. They measure a whole lot of stuff but not “learning”. We have no baseline performance and cannot account for variables related to test taking skills or external pressures. We can’t include bad days, or antipathy towards a teacher or subject. We have a hard enough time differentiating between true understanding and positive performance and struggle trying to distinguish between the rewards for effort and native skill.

I don’t mean to throw my hands up in resignation, but we keep thinking that concepts such as learning and teaching can be charted and definitively measured so that we can improve them. I don’t have an answer but I know that if we start with false goals, we are never going to get anywhere.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Torah on the Table

The assembling of the various pieces required to furnish the mishkan is of central importance in Parshat T’rumah and each piece is said to import both its literal purpose and deeper, symbolic value. One of the objects discussed is a table for the “show bread”. What is amazing is that this parsha, in 25:23 is actually the first use of a word which is now commonplace, shulchan. In fact, the only instances of the word shulchan in the chamisha chumshei Torah, 2 as shulchan and 17 as hashulchan, occur in relation to this object. No one sits at a table, eats at a table, judges at a table or plays solitaire at a table. Admittedly, as far as my research shows, no one in the 5 books plays solitaire, but if someone did, I think precedent makes it clear that he or she would not do so at a table. A shulchan is a table in common use now but that doesn’t explain why this piece, with its staves and shelves (most unlike anything I have yet to see on sale at Ikea under “tables”) is called a shulchan.

This shulchan has an important role. It holds the 12 loaves of bread which stayed fresh all week (Menachos 96b) as a constant display of a public miracle. Its structure included a “zir” a rim or crown which represented, according to Rashi on Yoma 72b, the crown of kingship. The gemara there also includes the statement that each of the various crowns (zir) is such to one who merits it, but is a stranger (zer) to one who does not. So now, we have 12 loaves of a wonderous bread, a word whose meaning we have had to table and a rim, shot through with meaning and symbolism. All of this somehow is tied into the notion of Hashem’s providing food for all the people of the earth and sustaining them (as per the Rabbeinu Bachya on Sh’mot 25:23) which is seen as the role of the one who has true sovereignty and kingship.

Etymologically, the word might be connected to spreading out (as in an animal skin) though Ernest Klein’s A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English only provides his evidence as to why the conventionally suggested history is actually wrong. He does not provide any alternative. Matityahu Clark’s Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew: Based on the Commentaries of Samson Raphael Hirsch provides a possible connection when he discusses the use of the final letter nun as a suffix to a three letter root (page 298). In Hebrew, often an addition of a final nun to a three letter root indicates a relationship of a person/character to a trait, behavior or action. A slothful person is an atzlan, from the root a-tz-l, plus the final nun; a bayshan is someone embarrassed, from the root for shame plus that nun. Maybe it is possible to see shulchan as related to the sh-l-ch root associated with a person or people.

The word shalach is about spreading out, and is used textually to refer to being sent out. Moshe and Aharon repeatedly implored Par’oh to “shalach ami” (as in Sh’mot 8:16), and we have an entire parsha named after that “being sent out” in Parshat B’shalach. With this “shalach” in the recent memory of the people, calling this table a shulchan would have resonated. The people are the shulchan, those that were sent out. It had to symbolize that person or group that was sent, and as it held the 12 loaves, this would be a direct reflection of the 12 sh’vatim. Bnei Yisrael are the ones associated with being sent and they, who have been sent out, only can stay “fresh,” vibrant and alive as a miracle which comes as a direct result of the crown of Hashem’s sovereignty. Only by recognizing that kingship of Hashem and allowing the crown of kingship found on the shulchan to be in sway does that zir not become zer, stranger; that crown endows the people with the privilege of being recipients of Hashem’s blessing and continued sustenance – he fulfills a role as king over us only when we accept him as such.

We use that word shulchan so often today that we lose sight of its power. It symbolizes a relationship imbued with incredible power and uniqueness. We rest on it and rely on it (as the 12 loaves rests on the table and is supported by it) and it represents us, as those who were brought out of Egypt by the mighty and miraculous hand of Hashem. It teaches our responsibility to accept ol malchut shamayim and our potential as proper ovdei Hashem to be a constant and public symbol of his eternal presence in the world.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Are you a dad?

Are you a crazy dad?

1. Your flight is at 6PM, Thursday. The airport is 30 minutes away. When do you leave the house?
a. 5:30PM
b. 2PM
c. 11AM
d. The preceding Tuesday.

2. At what temperature should the thermostat be set?
a. 72 F
b. 70 F
c. 68 F
d. Trust me and just don’t touch it.

3. How much snow is too much before you don’t let your child drive?
a. 6 inches
b. 2 inches
c. A coating
d. Within the next 10 days.

4. How long does a clothes shopping trip take?
a. 25 minutes
b. 1 hour
c. 3 hours
d. Click. Done.

5. Your shopping list has 3 items on it. How many do you buy?
a. 3
b. 60
c. 8
d. 2. We don’t need to spend money on flour. We can make our own.

6. How long does a “5 minute errand” take?
a. 5 minutes
b. 15 minutes
c. Up to an hour
d. 4 minutes and 13 seconds and I WIN!

7. Do you need help with all those bags?
a. Sure, please take this one
b. No, I should be OK, but I’ll let you know
c. Don’t sweat it – I’ll take multiple trips
d. Don’t touch anything – I have them balanced just right. Just point me to the house and have the door open in exactly 7.2 seconds.

8. Right now my phone is at what percent?
A. 25
B. 50
C. 75
D. 100, plugged in and don’t touch my phone

9. Where do you go for gas for the car?
a. Wherever I happen to be
b. I like this place near home
c. The place I have the special credit card for
d. I will drive to Saudi Arabia to save 3 cents per gallon

10. Is your 17 year old daughter going out dressed like that?
a. You are NOT going out like that
b. We should talk about how you are dressed
c. You are old enough to make certain decisions – clearly you aren’t ready to make this one
d. I thought I locked you in your room more securely.

11. What do you want to talk about?
a. My day
b. Nothing, I’m good
c. Our summer plans
d. The following 6 items as listed on this printed agenda.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Let's talk Shiva

Along with my posts about what I want for my funeral, I realize that it is important for me to state my clear and governing wishes for my Shiva. In Jewish law, after someone passes away, close relatives observe a time of intense mourning which can be as long as 7 days. This is referred to as "sitting Shiva." I have gone to a couple of Shiva houses recently and decided that I need to lay out exactly what I want for my Shiva. Like my funeral, I won't really be able to check so this is all about the honor system, or any one person's fear of reprisals from beyond the grave, because this ghost will not give up anything. By the way, for the original Death Wishes post, go here and then ctrl-f to 'my death wishes'.

The mourners at the Shiva have to sit on low chairs. I can't do anything about this, but I'd like to request low recliners. Like La-Z-Babies or something. If these don't exist, I ask that someone invent them. I'm not expecting to need them imminently, but if it is worth doing, and it is, it is worth doing right now.

Food service -- yes, please. The mourners generally pick at food. The visitors sit around awkwardly not knowing what to do. So maybe a carving station or two would be good.

Not everyone who comes to comfort my relatives will know me well. True, that's their loss, but I have to account for it. So I've been thinking -- you know how at bar and bat mitzvahs, there is that 20 minute slide show/montage, with pictures synced up to a variety of songs? I think that I want that -- a video montage played at the top of every hour. But here's the thing -- I don't want it played in the main room where the mourners are sitting. Instead, people should be lined up outside, and let in at the top of the hour to a separate room where they have to watch the montage before they are admitted to the main room. Then, they sit in the main room and make the requisite uncomfortable small talk and leave. Meanwhile, the new group is lined up outside waiting to be admitted.

Inside the main room there should be a selection of my writing. A few VDT's can be set up with this blog site (AND NOTHING ELSE) so people can read what I said (no doubt, "again"...). All of my witticisms on Facebook should be printed and bound and made required reading (if possible, assigned as a pre-requisite, with a quiz administered once people show up...if they pass, they can leave. If not, they have to stay for the full time, and must take an exit assessment to be let out). My poetry should be collected, typed up nice and neat, and used to cover all the walls. And each morning must open his conversation with any of the mourners with a short paragraph (no fewer than 150 words) detailing his or her favorite piece of my writing, and explaining how it has changed his or her life.

I know that the tradition requires that the visitors wait before talking to the mourners, as the mourners have to open the conversation. This, though, is a terrible imposition on the mourners who then feel the need to play the host, and recognize each visitor and welcome him or her. Otherwise, the visitor just sits there in silence. So I'd like the mourners to record themselves saying a variety of welcoming phrases, like "Hey, what's up," "Thanks for coming," or "You can sit anywhere, just not on my La-Z-Baby" and have that recording playing as people enter, so each visitor has already been "welcomed" and can then speak without fear of committing a religious faux pas.

The conversation tends to get stilted, or even peter out some times. So, to forestall that eventuality, and taking a page from the Oscars practice of hiring chair fillers, I'd like the mourners to hire a few conversation fillers -- professionals who have been briefed on me and my life and who can interject interesting trivia or relevant memories so when the mourners flag, or the conversation dips, the pro can step in and step it up. Also, as people walk in, they should be given a sheet with appropriate questions to ask, and topics of conversation. If anyone asks about my not being allowed in the baseball hall of fame, that person should be escorted out.

There is a practice to light candles that will last for the 7 days. I want scented candles. Something manly, please.

I would like there to be an ongoing contest (maybe one of those jars filled with something relevant like unreturned student papers, and the whoever guesses the right number wins a coupon to an oil change place) or competition. What about musical chairs? That sounds reasonable. I will allow wailing, but discourage the gnashing of teeth. Go gnash on something else.

More updates as events warrant.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Saturday night's alright for flighting

Sorry if this seems more like a series of unconnected thoughts -- it was written over a period of either 14 or 21 hours. I can't be sure.
I was planning on taking the 9 pm bus from Jerusalem to the airport but when I went online to check in I was informed that I could not, and would have to do so at the airport. I thought it was a phone thing but the same thing happened when I tried to check in from an actual computer. Now in the best of cases I am a neurotic freak, always worrying about being late or messing something up. I had started packing right when Shabbat was over and by 7.15 I was pacing the apartment and watching Maddie pack for the army. I wasn't bored, just crazy. When I got a message that I couldn't pre-check in my lunacy went into overdrive. I suggested that I take the 8 pm bus so if there was any problem, yo I'll solve it and I wouldn't wear a path into Maddie's apartment floor or stand over her being useless and annoying. She agreed and we had a tearful goodbye on a city street. The 8 pm bus left at 8.11 and tried to make up time by flying to the airport. We hurtled down mountains pushing small cars out of the way. It was harrowing. It made me actually prefer being on an airplane. It was that scary. We stopped at the security area and the nice men with the big guns had us get out and identify our bags. Then back onto the bus which was too big to get through the roundabouts, but that didn't stop the driver. Or slow him down.

I disembarked and entered the terminal to see many large groups blocking the lines (memories of Newark as the Birthright groups clogged everything up). I was directed to another line so I moved towards the first security hurdle. I was asked the standard questions (whom were you visiting, what's your daughter's address, why did you lend your nephew your scarf, did you really waste time eating at Burger know -- basic El Al security stuff) and thought I passed whatever test this was so I moved to the next line. At that line, the woman took my passport and asked me to wait. Begin nervous shuffling. Apparently, I had been chosen to get extra screening. How exciting -- not quite winning the lottery but it explained why I couldn't check in online. Over the internet, no one can walk away with your passport. She came back a few minutes later and confirmed my seat selection, almost like it was an accusation ("You are in an aisle seat?" Um, yes. "Row 27?" Yeah, that a security issue?). That was pretty much it. I was a bit disappointed because I wanted a better story than that to tell. After this level of security I went to the next one. I recalled that you have to go through the side lines for more questions and only then back to the middle entrance but when I tried that I was told just to go through the middle. Seems that they have changed something somewhere. OK, whatever. Into the room where 2 lines become 20 lines and no one knows where to go. If you have every been in this room, you understand. People just sort of push through and split off to whatever line seems most vulnerable to being jumped.

Traffic was light so 2 lines only became 4. But when I got to the front I was pulled aside again. More extra screening. I was asked many questions about electronics and such and I answered everything honestly. I have very little to hide. Not nothing, you understand, but certainly, not a lot. I really wasn't wearing a belt (an intentional choice by me so that I can smooth out security, and free myself up to eat more, but the security people seem confused by the choice). The guy who dealt with pulled-aside people told me to put my foot up. I thought that the hokey pokey was an unnecessary escalation of security protocol, but he's the expert in the blazer. He then rubbed this magic electrical toothbrush thing all over my feet. Then all over my jackets and my bag and all the electronics and doo-dads that I had in my pockets. The wand went into a machine and eventually, the machine reassured him that I was harmless. Heck, I could have told him that. But I didn't mind. Not only did I leave a lot of extra time for just these possibilities, but I like being safe and respect the people who are doing the job of keeping me safe. So I say, triple screen me whenever, ask me whatever and make sure that everyone is as harmless as I am.

Passport control was uneventful (I didn't do the biometric because I feel it is hypocritical for me to rail against the metric system, and then exploit it at the airport) and then on to the food court! It is true: the airport has a food court and one of the stands sells pre-made sandwiches with kosher supervision. So I got a sandwich of tuna and egg and washed it down with a piece of Swidler fudge. I have time, I am relaxed and I have been swabbed.

At the gate I got a decaf espresso - there is a Camden Food stand which has supervised foods. I considered getting more to burn through the remaining Israeli cash but I chose not to because, honestly, the sandwiches just aren't that good. And I had more fudge and cookie to eat. And now we wait. I was there early (as is my wont) so the D7 area was lightly populated and quiet. Of course, as soon as I got up to throw out some garbage some woman took my seat. Seriously. There were hundreds of empty seats and she took mine.

The two gates on either side started loading at the exact same time to (one to JFK and the other to LA). The quiet corner of the airport turned into a chaotic center of activity as dueling announcements had people wandering all over. Instead of waiting for my group or aisle to be called, I just strolled up to the line and got on during the earliest stages. I was "that guy" and I don't care. Sure I would have to sit for a bit longer but I ensured myself overhead space and did not have to wait on line. 27c, aisle, and I'm not giving it up.

Flight notes -- 2 hours in: I took a benadryl and a chocolate chip cookie about an hour before take off but so far, no effect. Was that espresso not decaf? I wish I could sleep. Some people seem to have no problem contorting themselves and finding a position that allows them hours of uninterrupted sleep in these tiny and uncomfortable 787-9 seats. I just can't do it. The aisle is also narrower than other wide bodies so I keep getting jostled by everyone. Sometimes, I think, intentionally. I listened to a lot of Tom Petty, then some "ambient meditation" music and some classical music. I'm not sure how much I really slept and how much I just sat there, seething.

Fitful dozing. A jacket over my head and the least comfortable seats I can imagine. The guy next to me had to watch Vantage Point 3 times beginning to end before he stayed awake for all of it. I finally gave up and put on Monuments Men. A movie with a couple of bright spots and a whole lot of not so bright spots. Lights on and wet naps at 3:15am.

3.45 dry omelet for breakfast. I eschewed the tomatoes and olives, the roll and white cheese and the plain yogurt. I did get a cup of coffee, not just because I like coffee and have to be awake but because, as the flight nears a close, this is one if the last times that people will speak to me in Hebrew by default. My language skills are limited but there is something comforting about being spoken to in Hebrew. I will miss that as well.

We landed on time. Why do people knock El Al? No rude people, no delays. Fine food. Though the seats were uncomfortable, hundreds of albums to listen to, hundreds of movies and TV shows, amble food and drink, nice lighting. Though I'd love to be able to afford more spacious accommodations, the flight, from security to baggage claim, in each direction was fairly pleasant, assuming one can think of zooming at 480 knots 34,000 feet in the air "pleasant."

Random note- checking in neurotically early means my bag goes on first. It therefore seems to come of last which makes me worry that it is either lost or that I am in some sort of trouble. Whose comes off first? People who are late to things but they are also the last ones to come through passport control because they don't rush. Their bags go round and round before mine even shows up. So all my crazy planning and I still wait. So, Newark, passport control (I did rush through there because about 30 seconds after I got on line, 2 other flights streamed in and the lines grew to ridiculous lengths). Baggage claim, 2 more security stops and then, hey there Randy and thanks for the ride.

Home now. Papers to grade, laundry to do, doggoes to pet. It is nice to be here but I already miss Maddie, and Israel. Until next time, I will be praying for the arrival of the Moshiach so we can all be in Israel, Julie, Talia, my parents and everyone else, where we can speak Hebrew, visit the kotel and eat a whole mess of fried chicken. Signing off and thanks for listening.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Oh, hail? No!

Just a short post before Shabbat begins in Jerusalem. After a couple of false starts (a small child was missing so we spread out to find him...he had gotten on the elevator and ended up in the parking garage) we headed out towards the shuk to go shopping. The wind was still extremely gusty and there was intermittent rain, but neither a cab nor light rail made fiscal sense. I realized that, were I to be in the U.S. with weather like this, the need to shop would not be enough to drag me out. I have left the apartment more times during this trip than I intend to leave my house all next week. Something about Jerusalem makes me want to be out and about, walking everywhere. Weird. Anyway, off to the shuk, Once in there I started listing all the things I don't like about Jerusalem, or at least the shuk (maybe it is a defense mechanism so that I'm not so sad when I leave):

First, the shuk on a Friday is an absolute madhouse of a zoo. It isn't just shopping for the weekend -- it is tourists, it is people eating and drinking. And it is the families of 6 who brought 8 strollers and like to stop wherever and whenever so that a thousand people behind them have to stop. There is no space to "pull over" so if I want to buy vegetable, it will be tough for others to keep moving. This is a prime reason not to buy vegetables.

Second, even in stores, there is no room to move. If you walk into a little market hole in the wall, there is precious little space. Between whatever is being sold and displayed everywhere, the proprietor and three peanuts, the place is jammed. Students, soldiers and soccer moms all carrying backpacks that stretch out to everywhere and guns that are taller than most children block and knock everything.

Third, everything is loud. Partially that's because of the layout, but it is also because every restaurant wants to blast its music and everything echoes.

Fourth, there really only a few types of stores (meat/fish, bakery, cellular, souvenirs, fruits, spices/nuts, candy, groceries, vegetables, paper goods, home goods and bars/restaurant) but there are fifty of each. Some do something a little different (one has a juice machine, another sells popcorn) but there is a lot of duplication and it is easy to get lost.

Recently, they have upgraded the roof in the covered sections and it was welcome because, soon after we got in to the shuk and while we were saying Hello to the millions of people we all knew (between schools, hometowns, camps, army, the three of us knew a lot of people) the hail started and it was deafening, smack into (and occasionally through) the plastic roofing. Wind whipped, rain rained and suddenly it all stopped. The sun came out and people were lulled into a false sense of security. Then, just as suddenly, more hail. Bam!

Once laden with bags and stuff we considered food (I was not especially hungry and was fidgety, wanting to get back and begin cooking but the young people need their sustenance) so we ended up at a place called Bardak. This place is apparently a pizza place. I say "apparently" because when I envision pizza, I don't think of slivered almonds, Roquefort cheese or sweet potatoes and pesto. And that was just what was on the one the kids ordered. I demurred. Yes, I'm always hungry but if I am going to eat pizza, it is going to be pizza, not some weirdly named bizarre combination of goat cheese with eggplant and burning tires.

We continued our walk through the wind and rain and dropped things off at Elijah's apartment. I started slicing potatoes because that's just the kind of thing I do. Maddie worked on trimming the chicken and preparing the broccoli, and then Elijah set up the chicken to cook. Now it is time to wind down for Shabbat. Dinner at Nomi and David tonight, then lunch at Elijah's tomorrow.

And even though I prefer emptier spaces, quieter experiences and a simpler life, (and house living without having to turn the hot water heater on 20 minutes before I want to shower, and then off right after), this is still a really great place to be.