Monday, October 31, 2005
Please note: the pie is not drawn to scale. In reality, it and my entire knowledge of Hebrew would fit inside a pie this big:
But as any Israeli economist will tell you -- at least an economist associated with the government -- it's not the size of the pie, but how you slice it, and how well you lick the knife clean after each slice.
On that note, here's my Hebrew pie.
Now let's carve up that pie a little and take a look at the various sources I've used to reach this level of what I like to call Hebrew fluency. Starting with the most helpful sources of day-to-day Hebrew in my life, and working down from there:
- A-15%: Hebrew subtitles of American movies (would work better if they would just slow them down a notch or three)
- B-13%: Taxi drivers (but since I only go to work and back I've only learned the same words over and over -- nevertheless, this just proves how critical repetition is to language acquision)
- C-11%: My kids' teachers (would be more if my kids weren't always unnecessarily translating for me even though I don't really need or ask for their help very much if at all)
- D-10%: Wrong numbers on my home phone (at least I think they were wrong numbers -- I don't know anyone named Meezeh)
- F- 8%: Wrong numbers on my work phone (at least I hope they were wrong numbers)
- E- 9%: Wrong numbers on my cell phone (well, actually my cell phone doesn't really work that well anymore so this one has really dropped off a lot lately)
- G- 7%: Dentists and Barbers (someone approaching your head with sharp metal instruments provides great incentive to learn a few key words and phrases like 'No' and 'Stop' and 'Is your shoe untied?')
- H- 6%: Security Guards at schools, grocery stores, malls and airports (that's where I learned 'tik' means backpack, very handy word around security guards)
- I- 5%: Non-Hebrew speaking tourists (words like Please, Thank You, and You're Welcome are an important part of any Hebrew speaker's linguistic arsenal, although some might debate this point)
- J- 4%: My neighbor's dog (barks only in Hebrew)
- K- 3.5%: Labels, tags and washing instructions on my clothing (although I've taken to washing everything in cold, just to be safe)
- L- 3%: Hebrew signs that say something like "do not enter: biohazard", "hazard: poison" and "armed security, do not cross line" (strictly speaking, I don't really read all these signs word for word; instead, I mostly just avoid all yellow and red signs)
- M- 2%: right half of the menu at the pizza restaurant (very important to learn how to keep mushrooms off the pizza)
- N- 1.5%: Hebrew speaking characters in some of my worst dreams (I'm not actually sure that the Hebrew is 100% correct but it's probably pretty close)
- O- 1%: Billboards (even though they usually go by so fast I only have time for the little fragments of English)
- P-0.93%: Public address speakers at airport and train stations (yeah, as if I could understand that even if it was in English!)
- Q-0.05%: My mortgage agreement (just kind of skimmed it, figured it would be ok)
- R-0.02%: My children (they don't like it when I "speak Hebrew")
Until next time, Shalom, Mazel Tov and Hasta La Vista from Israel.
Technorati Tags: blog, hebrew, language, acquisition
Friday, October 28, 2005
She's also published a new article in Azure magazine showing in detail how UNRWA merely perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solving it as the UNHCR does for every other refugee group in the world:
Arlene Kushner is the author of "Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO" (Pavilion, 2004), has written reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Research, and is the grandmother of three beautiful little girls who happen to live in my house. Great work, Savta!
UNRWA has failed the Palestinian refugees. This failure is the product of half a century of overwhelming politicization of a humanitarian effort. Fortunately, another UN agency exists to deal with the problem of refugees, one with a successful record of resolving their problems around the world. Those nations interested in finding a genuine, viable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem–a sine qua non for peace in the Middle East–should be encouraged to support the end of UNRWA’s regime and the application of the policies of the UNHCR to the Palestinian refugee issue.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Peace-Loving Gavriel's hopeful take: What an envigorating breath of fresh air in these depressing times! It is truly a hopeful sign that such a noted Palestinian spokesman would come out to publically repudiate the Iranian president's noxious call to wipe Israel from the map. Given such brave commitment to Israel's continued existence, this should help give some momentum to peace efforts, allowing Israel to offer more concessions in negotiations without fear those concessions are just kindling for a bonfire big enough to consume the Jewish state.
Palestinian Authority senior negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday condemned the Iranian President Majmoud Ahmadinejad call for Israel's destruction.
'This is unacceptable to us,' Erekat said. 'We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable.'
War-Mongering Gavriel's cynical take: What's the big surprise here? Erekat knows exactly how the Iranians plan to do their wiping, and is doubtless aware of blast radiusses and radiation yield projections. He's done nothing but politely and publically request that his ally not drop an atomic bomb on his head. Now if he were facing the other direction with these words, talking to his own people in Arabic, leading them in a cheer of "L'Haim" to the Jewish state's continued existence, and if we heard a groundswell of grassroots Palestinian condemnation of Iran's map-meddling plans, then maybe we might...
Commence breath holding.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
If it's any consolation the series of Jewish holidays that have recently been inconveniencing my blogging regimen will finally be over early next week. Even if it's no consolation, they still end early next week, so expect blogging to pick up once again whether it consoles you or not.
On the bright side I've been having an incredible number of stupid ideas during my time off and they're all neatly tucked away in my drafts section waiting for just the right moment. Something to look forward to.
Monday, October 17, 2005
If I were anywhere in the vicinity of Mr. Beilin and a microphone when a terrorist attack occurs, I would immediately seek shelter before being trampled. The ironic and Pavlovian jerk of Mr. Beilin's knee is as powerful as it is predictable:
Meretz-Yahad Chairman MK Yossi Beilin lambasted on Monday the government's reaction to the shooting attack in Gush Etzion that killed three and wounded another seven on Sunday, saying it was playing into the hands of the Palestinian terrorists.
'The government's reaction is the Pavlovian reaction, the much expected reaction which plays exactly to the tune of the Palestinian terror groups,' Beilin told Israel Radio.
It must be frustrating to stand in Mr. Beilin's shoes, seeing so clearly all that uncoddled terrorism yet unable to spoon-feed it anything but his own weak complaints.
Instead of tightening cooperation, Beilin said, "[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon cancels meeting with [PA Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas, [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz ends all defense cooperation with the Palestinians, we're bringing back the curfews and the roadblocks."
This in turn, Beilin said, increases hatred and will for revenge among Palestinians." The Hamas and Islamic Jihad are rubbing their hands with delight - this is exactly what they wanted to happen as a result of yesterday's attack."
"We are returning to 2002 2003 with eyes open wide before the mistake," he said, referring to the height of the second Palestinian intifada.
Mr. Beilin, should ask himself if Osama Bin Laden was merely enraged into a 9-11 frenzy by those few retaliatory, sand-thumping cruise missiles of the late 90's. Or whether he was instead more emboldened by the West's weak and ineffectual response. He might say it's just a difference in world-view, with the wise on one side and fools on the other; I wouldn't disagree. But he should notice there isn't a society in the world that prospers by rewarding violent and criminal behavior.
He might be confused by the political games he mistakes for the real world, where obstreperous and misbehaving parties torpedo each other's initiatives, only to be bribed into the opposing camp the next time. Terrorists aren't playing that game, so neither can we. At least not until they've been defeated at their deadly game.
Doubtless, Mr. Beilin could take the cheap way out by simply characterizing my criticism of his knee-jerk as further Pavlovianism. But I would of course reserve the right to respond in kind.
That said, one must keep in mind that even hypochondriacs can get sick. The important thing to remember in these cases is when to look beyond Google, to consider accepting some old-world, 20th century-style diagnostic support. While Google is great, still, technically speaking, it is not the same as going to medical school and operating on cadavers and all that.
I know, I know, I share your objection.
What if we show up at the Doctor's office with a thoroughly documented list of symptoms, but the doctor just didn't happen to read last Tuesday's easily googleable online-edition of "The Papua New Guinea Journal of Bacteriology" where a new and very rare tropical disease was discussed that has a strikingly similar profile? Well c'mon folks, that's what printers are for.
And yes, there will be that rare instance when the doctor furrows his brow, wondering what could be the reason for this visit so close on the heels of the last. And yes, two aspirin can't be the course of treatment for every rare tropical disease. But statistically speaking, I've found that so far it's worked out in about 99% or more of the cases I'm aware of.
So until Google gets the whole medical thing checked out and licensed to prescribe aspirin, I'll probably be keeping my bricks-and-mortar health professionals on the old speed-dial. Just in case.
Now if I could just figure out whether it's the medial collateral or anterior cruciate ligament that's going to need the surgery. I might be able to save an office visit.
* aside: do we capitalize google as a verb?
Then again, maybe this guy didn't want your help. After all, even though he got caught, he managed to do it without getting egg on his face.
In the meantime, I browsed around for a new site I haven't read before (Truth Laid Bear is helpful for exploring) and found a really well-stated opinion regarding Iraqi elections and reactions to them -- and well-stated here means more than just that I agreed with it, but agreement is always a good start.
Also check out Lou Minatti, who's definitely not straddling this fence.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
So technically speaking, does Ghazi get the virgins or not? I'm guessing not.
People all over the Arab world were shocked yesterday after hearing the news that Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, who headed his country's military intelligence in Lebanon for two decades, had committed suicide.
I'm sure this story merits much more serious analysis than pithy little one liners, but that analysis would probably best come from someone with nutrition coursing through their veins and brains. Maybe if my post-Yom Kippur mood improves later I'll add more. But don't hold your breath.
UPDATE: Here is some analysis from the same source as the original post. Wait and see I guess. But it seems really, really strange to me that someone would bother using a silencer when killing themselves.
Cue sinister background music and exit stage left.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Hmmm. That first part kind of makes sense, when Rabbi Cohen wards off Madonna's impurity by declaring Sage Isaac's "holy name" off-limits.
The 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' collection includes a song titled 'Isaac' -- in reference, entertainment media say, to Rabbi Isaac Luria, founder of the Kabbalah school of mysticism which counts Madonna, 47, as one of its devotees.
The custodians of Luria's tomb and seminary in the northern Israeli town of Safed accused her of breaking a taboo.
'There is a prohibition in Jewish law against using the holy name of our master, the Sage Isaac, for profit,' the seminary's director, Rabbi Rafael Cohen, told the Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday.
But then he throws in the words "for profit." I can only speculate what Madonna, having fought her way to the top of the media mountain, will make of those two little words. She might wonder what would happen if she were to, oh let's just say for instance, donate all of the "profit" to this or that appropriate charity -- one that lived up to Rabbi Cohen's expectations of holiness. Would her use of the Sage's "holy name" suddenly be sanctioned, since it would no longer be "for profit"?
Stranger things have happened in Madonna's world.
And would she bother paying her way to legitimacy? After all, I don't think the mega-rich, super-successful Ethereal Girl is recording a tribute song to her 16th-century Rebbe in order to make scads of extra cash. Even if she were, would she believe that securing Rabbi Cohen's blessing would have the slightest influence on her album-buying public?
But crass as it may sound, I suspect Madonna's intentions here are relatively pure, even if not totally grounded in a traditional Jewish view of Kaballah. So you never know, she might see some value in reassuring Rabbi Cohen she is not motivated here by profit -- assuming that really is the issue. She might consider a well-placed donation to be a virtuous act.
Then again, she might just answer the Rabbi in song:
Rabbi Don't Preach
Rabbi I know you’re going to be upset
’cause Ari was always your little world
But you should know by now
I don't have cooties
Don't try to teach me right from wrong
You need my help, Rabbi play along
I may be just a tart
But I know what I’m singing
The one you warn me all about
The name you said I should do without
We're gonna awesome bless, just ask Ashton and Demi - please
Rabbi don’t preach, I’m no troubled sheep
Rabbi don’t preach, I'm not losing sleep
But I made up my mind, I’m keeping my Rebbe, oh
I’m gonna keep my Rebbe, mmm...
You say that you're going to harry me
But profits come so very easily
Maybe a fee's all right
It’s no sacrifice
But your friends keep praying that I'll give it up
Saying I’m all tongue, I ought to zip it up
What we need right now is some tax advice, please
Rabbi, Rabbi if you could only see
Just how good is entreating me
You’d ask for my blessing right now
’cause red thread is enough, red thread is enough, so please
Rabbi don’t preach, I’m no troubled sheep
Rabbi don’t preach, I'm not losing sleep
Oh, I’m gonna keep my Rebbe, ooh
Don’t stop promoting me Rabbi
I know, I’m keeping my Rebbe
Monday, October 10, 2005
I don't expect this Nobel award to spur anything in Iran, except maybe to enhance the chances of the Chief Mullah for Nuclear Procrastination and Obfuscation Through Negotiation (CMNPOTN) of the Islamic Democratic Republic of Free Iranian Democratic Peoples (IDRFIDP) to win next year's award.
UN nuclear agency director and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has said the award will give him and his organisation a 'shot in the arm'.
Mr ElBaradei said the peace prize would act as a spur to tackle nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea.
In fact, given the recent history of the illustrious prize's list of recipients, I think I can hazard a pretty reasonable guess at what next year's short list of candidates might look like. Of course, you can't check my predictions for the better part of a century since the list of also-rans is sealed for about 50 years. Then again, I've never shied away from making unverifiable predictions before, so why start now?
Without further ado, my list of nominees for next year's Nobel Peace Prize:
- Ali Larijani, CMNPOTN of the IDRFIDP, for his firm stand against the language of force, for his unceasing and endless commitment to negotiations over his nation's compliance with the historic NPT, for his opposition to nuclear apartheid, and for his unyielding opposition to the use of military force by the United States.
- Jimmy Carter, because we bothered George Bush so much last time we thought we should do it again.
- Kim Jong Il, in honor of his many years of Juche striving against the horrors of starvation inflicted on his people. Wait, maybe that's Kim Il Sung. I can't remember which is the dead dad and which the incompetent son. Oh what the heck, let them split the prize.
- Jimmy Carter, for his dedicated work monitoring the Nobel Prize balloting process to ensure a fairly selected winner.
- That lady that stood outside George Bush's ranch, so bravely exposing the horrible hidden truth that war is bad and soldiers die, with only her courageous acceptance of foot massages and group hugs to make her point. Can somebody find out if her name is still available in some internet Google cache or something?
- Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, for his dedication to freedom-fighting and the liberation of his bands of foreign nationals from the possiblity of the tyrannical yoke of local Iraqi control.
- Osama Bin Laden, for not bombing anything really big lately, thus showing himself to be a statesman of the highest order, saving thousands of lives a year by not blowing people up. Or maybe it's just because he's dead and couldn't kill anyone if he wanted to, but that's a minor unprovable detail.
- Wile E. Coyote, Yosemite Sam, and all the other unfairly stigmatized characters of children's entertainment, for their persistence in the face of adversity, resilience in the face of grave bodily injury, and commitment to small local industry like Acme Inc. in this unfeeling and uncaring age of globalization.
- al-Gore, for his efforts to democratize TV, as reported by al-Reuters, including reports of the party scene in Iran among the first triumphs of his new network.
- Jimmy Carter, ... we don't really feel we need a reason so back off, all right? He's a nice guy! Have you even met him?
[NOTE: just to be clear, of course I'm not wishing the same fate on Jimmy Carter or al-Gore as on Osama Bin Laden or his buddy Zarqawi. Now Wile E. Coyote, maybe that's a more fair comparison...]
TrackBacks posted to some good blogs: Cafe Oregano, MacStansbury.org, My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Point Five, and Basil's Blog
Sunday, October 09, 2005
(Interestingly, in the sidebar to my upload of crotch_grab_1.jpg Flickr decided to place a targeted advertisement for the site www.fashionplumbing.com.)
Actually, on further inspection, it appears Abdullah may not have been practicing his gangsta moves, but was just worried about a loose catheter:
But at least Abdullah was grabbing his own crotch:
I think technically this doesn't count as sexual relations, but more of a cordial greeting, so it's not a Ramadan problem.
It's quite an accomplishment to be the favorite tool in the toolbox, more prized even than point-blank execution of families of young children, or blowing up kids at pizza restaurants. Hey, journalists, enjoy that most-favored-tool love while you can get it from these "militia members", but watch out for the work accidents. (hat tip: looperguy)
Friday, October 07, 2005
Someday I'm really gonna have to try one of Israellycool's podcast thingamabobs.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
They probably figure today's MTV attention span doesn't stand a chance of hanging in until the 13th paragraph for some minor details:
Calm returned to the Gaza Strip after deadly internecine clashes and police protests over dire insecurity problems, as Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian mother of five in the West Bank.
"Despite the calm..."
Despite the calm in Gaza, Israeli soldiers Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian mother of five at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank after she stabbed a female soldier in the face.
Ordinarily, when it's not calm in Gaza, it's perfectly understandable for a soldier to shoot someone who has stabbed her in the face. But on calm days in Gaza, AFP would prefer the soldier do nothing but call for a medic and pray her attacker gets tired of slashing at her face so she won't bleed to death -- thus delaying the checkpoint transit of other Palestinians on such a quiet day over in Gaza.
Hey, I understand the game perfectly well. It's just journalistic objectivity played out once again. They don't want to bias anyone against Palestinian mothers of five. Who use knives. To stab female sodiers. In the face.
Palestinian mothers of five who are then shot. To death. By soldiers. On a calm day in Gaza.
No bias at all.
They use such attacks, and equally important, these reports of such attacks. Because they aren't justifying the attacks to themselves. They are stabbing female soldiers in the face to justify their cause to you.
Palestinian militants repeatedly use such attacks to justify their own campaign of violence, which they say will only end when Israel withdraws from all occupied Palestinian land, not just the Gaza Strip.
And would the news agencies please quit parroting this all-occupied-lands refrain without any context. At least have the sense of self-preservation to add, totally without bias, that in addition to Gaza the entirety of the Jewish State, and even Spain, is considered occupied land.
Monday, October 03, 2005
In the meantime, we have to spend the rest of today getting ready for the two day celebration. One custom is to eat symbolically significant foods, a notable example being the fish head. For our fish head, we like to use the head of the very rare and exotic Gefilte fish. The Gefilte fish is so rare because it is so difficult to catch -- it tends to crumble when you get it on the hook. It is also quite hard to find in open water, generally preferring thick sludgy fluids only found in glass jars. So you can see it is quite a treat to have this delicacy for out Rosh HaShannah table.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
So the halls of journalism lean to the left and liberals lurk in every corner. Few right-thinking folks, myself included, would disagree with that these days. But what puzzles me is how this issue so commonly generates more complaint than call to action, especially given the Right's recognition that the Left's culture of complaint prefers wallowing in problems to solving them. I would rather hear about scholarship programs to encourage talented youngsters with diverse viewpoints to pursue journalism, or to read about endowments for new programs open to new ideas. Looking back just a few years ago, conservatives practically invented talk radio just to counter the uncritical support of the Left that was festering in the media. So why now all the griping instead of planning?
HH: Exactly. When I was at the Columbia School of Journalism last week, I quizzed a group of students, sixteen, how many owned a gun? None. How many had been to church in the last month? Three. How many voted for Kerry? All but three who were not American citizens. It is an intake valve that is permanently stuck on left of center. And as a result, that's what happens to the media.
Well actually, behind the complaints a solution is taking shape: the growth of the blogosphere. Just as talk radio created a new channel for voices outside the control of what was then mainstream broadcast journalism -- without necessarily replacing it -- so this new platform publishes ideas and writers not vetted by the CSJ establishment. Sure, the Left has bloggers too, but their blogging reflects the comfort of someone who owns the rest of the press and is really more outraged at the temerity of the upstarts than eagerly seeking yet another outlet for already exhausted opinions.
What I wonder is why there is still so much complaint even as the solution grows more apparent evey day. Hugh Hewitt, agree with him or not, is himself a huge part of the change. Perhaps there is some strategic purpose to the two-pronged attack of complaining into the microphone while revolutionizing with the keyboard. I just worry that the complaining part risks inculcating unhelpful habits in the listeners. I'd prefer we all stop trying to solve our disputes by seeing who can complain the loudest, or wear the mantle of biggest victim. As if the new rule is "Slight makes right."
Someday that might work for Israel's conflicts too, but I'm not yet ready to take a dose of my own medicine, so don't even bother asking me to. Besides, I've got a few more batches of Reuters Jihad-rally photos to ridicule first.