Friday, September 29, 2006

The Easiest Mitzvah for Me

.... is Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick.

My coworker is in hospital and I saw her last night. It's hard for me to do most mitzvahs but for some reason, perhaps because when I was a child, I wasn't allowed in.

I remember going to visit my great-grandmother in a nursing home. They didn't allow children in there so she waved to me from a window. I never saw her other than that that I can remember. And of course when my mom gave birth to my brother and I was eight I couldn't go in and my dad showed my sister and I my mom's window and we waved to the window.

My dad was in the hospital when I was in high school and I visited him, of course. Then my friend Richard got a brain tumor and I visited him in hospital before he died. It's just an easy thing that seems to me like such a no-brainer. I mean, you get credit for just showing up. How hard is that? For me, it's easy, and I like it. I like the fact that by simply showing up I can make someone feel better. I like taking my daughter and teaching her this mitzvah. I can do it better, but I can do it. And for whatever reason, others can't-- it's too hard for them because they HATE hospitals. I like them, even though they are lonely places. But it's easy to make them happy and comfortable, all you need is visitors. Anyway. tons of mitzvahs I can't do, don't do, don't even know about. Visiting the Sick? I'm making good progress on this one. Especially that it's this week. I am not mature enough not to want to make G-d happy. Look! I'm doing a mitzvah!

Speaking of G-d, I feel like the couple in Ushpizin. Right when I was worrying about how I was going to come up with the money to pay for my daughter's 8th grade trip to DC and New York, lo and behold, I get a settlement on this class-action lawsuit I had with an old employer... many times more money than I need.

I remember a year or so ago I was in a gas station and this guy came in and started talking to another guy in line and basically started 'witnessing' not to proselytize but to share. He was just out of jail, newly clean and sober, trying to find a job, struggling, and was talking about the good things that had happened to him. He said something along the lines of "If He's taking care of me like this when I haven't even got all my shit together, can you imagine what my life's gonna be like when I'm really together and walking with Him?" It was the most sincere expression of gratitude to G-d I've ever heard and I think of that now. G-d is showering me with gifts and love and assistance and I'm so weak and wimpy in my attention to G-d and what G-d needs me to do in this world. Can you imagine what my life will be like when I really get going? (Don't tell me about the increased challenges that come along with increased practice and discipline... shhh).

So, anyway, when I got the check I immediately got out my prayerbook and called my girlfriend to have her say a blessing with me, and we said "Baruch ata Hashem, hatov v'hamaytiv" - Blessed is G-d who is Good and who Creates Good. And then she tells me that just when SHE was worrying about how she was going to pay her taxes and other expenses this month, today SHE got an unexpected check in the mail that more than covered things.

Now, on one level I think we are probably the weakest little baby souls because G-d has made our lives so easy, but I'm very glad to have such a doting Father to overlook our failings and help us and shower us with love and help.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Today I am a Data Entry Clerk Idiot

and I hate it and honestly, it's my own damn fault.

I had a spreadsheet with 10,000 lines of addresses. And for reasons too complicated to go into, I was supposed to have 800 rows interspersed throughout with UNKNOWN for street and city. And, well, I had them as UNKNOWN for street but the city wasn't UNKNOWN. If I had caught this when it was still in a spreadsheet, it would have been a minute to correct. But now it's on a mainframe database that's really, really archaic. And honestly, there's probably some really neat way I could program a subroutine in FOCUS to start at the bottommost row of data, count up x spaces and replace the existing text at position 70 with the string "UNKNOWN" and do it again and again until we get to row 1, but to learn how to do this in FOCUS would take longer than it will to just manually go through the dataset and hit CTL-V over and over once my cursor is over the appropriate place. And because our mainframe is so archaic it takes SO long to transfer from the mainframe to your PC, and to re-upload the data requires you to break it into smaller chunks... anyway. And let me tell you, I am at line 2669 of 10024, and boy, am I bored. I hate this junk. though having it done is pretty satisfying. I gotta get back to it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Smoooooooooooooooth Jazz

I'm in a hotel room in Phoenix, just got here. I got a container of Hershey's Kisses from the management (heck, yeah, that's going to make me stay here from now on)... and now I'm typing while the Kisses melt in my mouth and the radio plays the local "Smooth Jazz" format station, 95.5, The Coyote. Along with the a/c, it's helping me to stay as cool as possible. It was jarring getting outside and feeling how hot it was at 8:30pm... 90-something. That's normal Phoenix, I guess, but it's always an adjustment.

The new year is turning out so well. And I had a headache on the plane but I prayed a bunch for help with it and I just realized it's gone. Thanks, G-d. I have spent a couple days in the hospital-- visiting others and helping others, not as a patient... this old guy in his late, late 80s is having heart issues. He was holding court with all of us gathered around, wonderful cogent and clever, making jokes and smiling, and he told us about how a nurse had been rushed in the morning, telling him she couldn't help him, she had other patients to see. They got mad at each other, and after a while, he said he realized that it wasn't going to help either of them to be mad, so next time she came in, he said "Let's start over. I want us to be friends." And she was very touched and now they are indeed friends.

This was on Rosh Hashanah, by the way... I hope he's out of hospital well before Yom Kippur. Anyway. I gotta sleep.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Beautiful Portland, OR

Is so very pretty this evening, with low-clouds everywhere except at the horizon, where the sun is happily sliding rays of light through whatever holes in the clouds in can find. Very Pretty. And, of course, Portland's endless trees and green, and the gorgeously wet and river-y Willamette River are both so unlike Southern California and so like New Zealand, where I spent formative years of my childhood... although I lived in Auckland, which is on an isthmus and not near a river at all, but hey. Close enough.

Unfortunately, I have to leave tomorrow right after the meeting so I can fly back home early enough to make Rosh Hashanah dinner, or I'd stop by what should be Portland's #1 tourist destination -- Powell's Books.

Anyway. I'm off to dinner with my coworkers.

L'Shana Tovah etc etc etc

I'd have said the rest if I knew it and I don't feel like looking it up cuz that would be cheating. Happy New Year, may you be Inscribed for a wonderful 5767 with all sorts of good things.

For me, I am taking the advice of in an email they sent about not trying to do everything all at once. For the New Year, make one resolution that you can keep. They used the acryonym S.M.A.R.T. --


and it obviously involves not just making the right resolution for one area of your life that needs improvement but figuring out the WAY in which you phrase and keep the resolution to ensure that it's doable.

I know that I want to focus on scheduling and that's it for this year. Many of my personal and work issues are all related to ADD and scheduling/procrastinating/etc challenges. But as far as how to attack the issue for the coming year in a way that's specific, measurable, etc etc? No idea.

And of course I have a flight in a few hours and I have to leave for that. And any emphasis on scheduling highlights the importance of my Palm organizer and mine is a couple years old and having issues with the power connector -- the connection is loose so sometimes it doesn't charge. SO I need a new Palm... which I can't adfdford. ARGHH.

What problems to have! Our lives are so easy. :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dead Yucca

I saw this while hiking and knew it would make a good black-and-white photo. I may not have succeeded in making a good black-and-white photo but I hope you see the potential. :)

Friday, September 15, 2006


Messing around at night in the kitchen.
So anyway. The canisters are a deep psychological symbol of our varying personae and how they hold emotions and paradigms, and... oh, never mind. They are just pretty canisters.

It's almost Rosh Hashanah. Every year I am surprised. How can I be surprised by an event that's every year? Perhaps because I am never in tune with the Hebrew calendar and the High Holy Days move about? Nah. I'm just disorganized.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CNN and the Cruel and Lazy Failure of Professionalism and Decency.

CNN is rehashing the Eleventh of September, 2001 by showing reporting from five years ago minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow, thus proving that CNN has learned nothing from September 11th. This is Evil on many ways. Primary among them --


CNN doesn't have to do any sort of meaningful analysis of the events five years ago and really, really dig into the issues of security, freedom, and loss that are of vital importance, because they can just redo the footage from five years ago. Saves money on reporting, editing, etc. Cost-cutting laziness.


This is much different than CNN offering archived newsfootage to review online or the LA Times offering old issues in its archives. Because it's real time, its only possible effect is to place viewers in the exact same place they were five years ago, stunned and in shock. And to put people in the same place they were five years ago, for a supposedly major news organization, is a major abdication of professionalism. This is not what news organizations are supposed to do. Otherwise CNN can just show us footage of robberies and murders and car crashes all the time and call it news.


Is the most important thing about the attacks of the Eleventh of September the physical way in which they happened? Is this how we think of events that effect us? Do the families of people who have suffered assaults or rapes spend each anniversary going through each second of the assault, the cruelty, the pure evil inflicted upon them? I should hope fucking not. But this is what CNN is perpetrating. Let's re-traumatize everyone. Let's pretend that going into minute detail about the mechanics of the terrorist attacks somehow qualifies as news. Bastards.

The relatives who read the names of their loved ones every year are not doing it so we can remember the particular horrific way in which they died, surely. The legacy of the almost three-thousand people that lost their lives on September the Eleventh is not the way in which they died, and if we make it about the way in which they died, we may as well give up and hand out the burkas. If we are to have the strength as a country to survive and keep the ideals of America then the almost three-thousand souls who perished on September 11th have to be remembered not for the way in which they died but in the way in which they lived, their work and family life, their values. Spend all day each year with in-depth interviews of their widows and parents and orphans remembering their personalities, their characters, their foibles. Honor the people who died. Don't fetishize the way in which they died.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Camera Junk -- 50mm f 1:1.7 lens!

Got my dream lens for only $35 last weekend. It's a manual-focus 50mm lens with 1:1.7 aperture. So I can get really shallow DOF and nice bokeh and other junk that photographers talk about.

First, it can let it lots of light allowing me to get better shots in darker conditions.

But let me tell you, manual focusing can be a pain, especially when the aperture is wide open on the 1.7 side and I have the shallow DOF I crave. A tiny movement of the focusing ring or a tiny movement back by the camera and things go out of the tiny sliver that's in focus. But I'm getting used to it with practice, seeing through the viewfinder enough to sense that the desired area is in focus.

But I can also 'stop down' the lens and get down to F22, at which point the aperture is a tiny hole, a lot less light gets in the camera, and everything ends up in focus and sharp. So it's also good for landscape junk.

Anyway, I gotta go get a subway to a train to my car to the doc, so...