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The diary of
Iseema bin Laden

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Fright night

You know, I think that having one nightmare in one night is more than anyone ought to have to take. Two, okay, I get it. Three or more? Now you're being just plain mean to that poor sleeper.

What makes it even more annoying is that not only did I have to deal with just plain fright, loss of a pet, and family trouble, but I also had to dream that horrible dream about being in school and not having your term paper ready by the deadline. Except in this nightmare, my mother was in class with me, and her term paper was done.

To whom do I complain? Because that one is over and above unfair, and I want my money back.



9/11 + 4

My cousin from California arrived in town yesterday, and today I took her and her husband to New York City to see Ground Zero, which was a pilgrimage she wanted to make.

It's different today than it was four months ago, when I was last there, and obviously different from six months ago, but some things are astonishingly the same. The feelings of loss, anger, and disbelief are no different now than they were in November, or in September. We look up at the hole in the sky where the Twin Towers had been, and I say to them, "You see that empty space? All that sky? That would have been filled by the towers." Her husband takes a video of the empty space as I'm talking. You can almost see the difference being there makes on their faces--sad, solemn.

The memorials are old and weathering, but some people bring new flowers to replace the dried-out bouquets that litter the sidewalk. The church that sheltered many that day has banners hanging from the iron fence surrounding its ancient graveyard, banners from Tennessee and Alaska and all around the country; banners from schoolchildren and policemen and firefighters.

There is a sign at one memorial threatening people who would take pictures that that is against the law and your cameras and equipment will be confiscated. The police officers are less vigilant about that; we don't see the sign, hidden in the midst of the memorial, until after the taping has commenced. Later, we discuss the emotions behind it, the absurdity of disallowing taking pictures on a public street. Many New York and Port Authority police officers are still resentful and angry at the tourists who take pictures. They can't seem to understand that it is not out of ghoulishness that people come to see, it is out of the need to comprehend what happened--to make it make some kind of sense to us, which it never will.

You can still see the blackened, broken buildings, some shielded now with sheets of netting, though much has been repaired. Windows are now boarded up. In November, they were row after row of broken squares, shattered points of glass still clinging to their frames. The smell is gone, thankfully.

New York City, and the nation, are very close to back to normal these days--if you discount the fact that there's a war on, and our men and women are risking their lives every day to track down and destroy those responsible for the death of thousands. In lower Manhattan, the World Trade Center is surrounded by a beehive of activity struggling to bring the financial district to a sense of normalcy. There are still many closed and boarded-up businesses on the streets nearby.

And at Ground Zero, six months later, the recovery efforts continue.



Call me Cleofornia, darlin'!

This just in: Miss Cleo's not Jamaican. (Real name: Youree Dell Harris. Pow! Another Googlebomb.) According to The Miami Herald, her birth certificate says she's from California.

I'm shocked, shocked, I say!

Next you'll try to tell me she's not psychic. Or that her Tarot reading is a fake.

Celebrity Boxing knocks out West Wing rerun

12.0/18 vs. 11.1/16. I know why it outscored the West Wing. I had a choice between watching a show I've already seen before, or watching Tonya Harding kick the crap out of Paula Jones, and Danny Bonaduce beat up Barry Williams. (Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges should have been ignored by more than just me.)

Guess which show I chose?

Actually, I surfed back and forth, and muted the volume for the fights. I missed most of the Harding/Jones fight, but caught the end, where I realized the two women so perfectly engender different regions of trailer-park trash--one from the Northwest, the other from the South, both deserving to live in a double-wide.

I felt compelled to watch. I couldn't stop. God help me, Fox has finally found a reality show I can enjoy--people I loathe beating the crap out of each other. Yup. Works for me.

New Cattales

And now for a comedy break

Found this hilarious article on BBspot: Best virus article since the AOL "hoax" from Joke-A-Day.

Also on BBspot: New Microsoft Security Czar (hint: It's a giant pink bunny).

Meryl wants to switch to the third person now, because she thinks it is fun to do from time to time. Meryl has discovered Internet radio. Actually, she knew it was there all along, but never listened to it before because, well, perhaps she's not as bright as she thinks she is. Besides, until her last trip to Richmond, she didn't have a reason to listen to a radio station on the radio, but Y101 rocks, d00ds! If this keeps up, Meryl may actually discover MP3.

Using that marvelous new Internet radio technology (and online playlists), Meryl has discovered distressing facts, like, she likes Puddle of Mudd. And Linkin Park. And Staind. She really likes Staind. (She liked these songs before but had no idea who was singing them, as most stations that play them never announce who we just heard.) Why the distress? It's not just the tattoos and the body piercings, these new groups have even more ridiculous names than, say, Led Zeppelin. Or the Who. Or the Beatles.

We now return to our regularly scheduled pronouns.

I received exactly four letters regarding my political leanings. Two of you sent me existential screeds on what is political direction, anyway, and two said I am center-left. I take this to mean that my readers are all insane, that you talk among yourselves because I only got four letters, as requested, and that it doesn't really matter which way I lean, as long as I don't fall over. When I think about it, I always lean to the right side of the issue. Maybe that's what Heidi was talking about. (Damn. Still regretting swearing off emoticons. An ASCII grin would go great right here.)

Those silly idiots are at it again!

MEMRI just posted a new translation from a column in the March 10 Saudi government daily, Al-Riyadh, by a Dr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University in Al-Dammam. It doesn't say what he's a doctor of, but I'm betting his degree didn't take a whole lot of research, intellectual effort, or critical thinking. The article is entitled "Special Ingredient For Jewish Holidays is Human Blood From Non-Jewish Youth".

MEMRI doesn't want me reprinting the whole article, but I'm sure fair use allows me to excerpt these gems:

"Unfortunately, this filling cannot be left out, or substituted with any alternative serving the same purpose. For this holiday, the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries. In other words, the practice cannot be carried out as required if human blood is not spilled!!"

"Before I go into the details, I would like to clarify that the Jews' spilling human blood to prepare pastry for their holidays is a well-established fact, historically and legally, all throughout history. This was one of the main reasons for the persecution and exile that were their lot in Europe and Asia at various times."

"This holiday [Purim] begins with a fast, on March 13, like the Jewess Esther who vowed to fast. The holiday continues on March 14; during the holiday, the Jews wear carnival-style masks and costumes and overindulge in drinking alcohol, prostitution, and adultery. This holiday has become known among Muslim historians as the "Holiday of Masks."

Hm. When I got my flyer in the mail, it forgot to notify me about the drinking, prostitution and adultery. Oh, and the blood. All this time I thought Purim was about eating and dispensing sweets, putting on costumes, and watching plays about Haman's attempted genocide of the Persian Jews. (Check out that link; there are recipes, and if you find one that requires human blood I'll convert to Islam.) Oh. And the idiot (there's that word again) couldn't even get the date of the holiday right. Purim was February 26-27 this year. I'm guessing the article is a standard that the Saudis dust off and print every year, because the Jewish holidays operate on a lunar calendar and shift from year to year. Or maybe it's wrong because there aren't any Jews in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis have to keep those blood libel myths going strong all year long!

Love the end paragraph: "The human race refuses even to look at the Jewish pastries, let alone prepare them or consume them!"

Notice how subtlely the author excludes Jews from the human race. Hey! That's what that silly idiot, Adolf Hitler, did!

I know. We'll just chuckle and dig our elbows into each others' sides, and say, "Aw, those silly Saudis are behaving like idiots again!" and wait for them to get over it. Yeah. That'll work.

This was in Al-Riyadh, folks. The Saudia Arabia government-sponsored daily newspaper. And these are the people floating the current Saudi [kaff!] Mideast Peace Plan? Not in my lifetime, bubelah.



Now that's service

I've been with Net Access ever since I got an ISP account--which was quite a while ago, come to think of it. A series of extremely annoying technical problems have been hitting the last few weeks, including two server outages, a screwup rerouting the DNS (which caused yesterday's problems), and recurring problems with the statistics. So today, when the stats were messed up once again, I ran out of patience and fired off a semi-angry email to the sales department and followed that up with a phone call to the tech line, where I got to leave a pissed-off voicemail message.

An hour later, one of the owners called me and asked how he could make me a satisfied customer again. We had a bit of a chat, and I'm sure things will be all better now.

Now that's service. I'll take a small business over a megacorp for all of my service-oriented needs, thank you very much. I doubt Earthlink or AT&T would have had the same reaction toward a customer complaint.

And the funniest coincidence of all: Turns out he used to call my BBS in the days before the Internet was the Internet. He remembered my name from back then. It's that small world thing. Comforting, I think.

How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways

I have just returned from getting my Jeep's 15,000-mile service. My dealer is a Five-Star Chrysler dealer, an achievement which can only be attained via customer satisfaction surveys. They can't buy it--they have to earn it. And they absolutely deserve it; an estimated three-hour maintenance took a little more than two. But what strikes me the most about my dealership is the utter respect with which they treat me. They call me Ms. Yourish. Let me repeat: Ms. Not Miss. Not honey, sweetie, or darling. Ms. Yourish.

I have been to many auto repair shops over the years, and have been talked down to and condescended to by mechanics on countless occasions. In fact, I ultimately made it my litmus test: Whenever I took my car to a new shop, the attitude of the mechanics toward a woman was what got me to stay or walk right back out the door. Two years ago, when I wanted to buy my Jeep at the local dealer in Montclair, I was ignored by no less than three salesmen. They lost my business forever.

A long time ago, I brought my car to my father's favorite tire shop for a set of new tires. As they were fastening the lug nuts with an air wrench, I asked them not to tighten them too much. One man stopped what he was doing, looked at me with disdain, and said, "You're supposed to loosen them before you jack up the car." I glared at him with equal disdain and said, "I know that. I'm not strong enough to loosen them if you put them on too tightly." I didn't add "asshole." It was implied.

There are many ways that men condescend to women. Codewords are the most disingenuous. When I am described as "the feisty Ms. Yourish," it raises my sexism radar. When is the last time you heard a man described as "feisty"? How about "spunky"? If you want to die a quick and painful death, come within reach of me and call me "spunky" and mean it.

On the other hand, I correspond regularly with an ex-Army, politically conservative businessman, and when he says "Clever girl" in an email, I take it as it is meant--as a compliment, with no condescension intended. Perception is nine-tenths of the law; you can tell when someone is being insulting, and whether or not it is deliberate. I can handle being teased, particularly by friends. And I'm also far more willing to let a familiar use terms that I'd not accept from an acquaintance. You're risking a lot by teasing a stranger, whether online or off, emoticons or no.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It's not too much to ask.

Iseema gets more attention than I do worked a deal with Iseema to get his diary. SOB didn't even give me a commission.

Which way do I lean?

I had the most distressing conversation with Heidi tonight. She says that I'm basically middle-of-the-road, leaning right. I insisted that I lean left. She thought it was hilarious that I was getting offended. Which I found offensive. Which she found even funnier.

Yeah, right--that's the last time I help her move.

Help me out here, folks. You've been reading my weblog long enough to get a good feel for my politics. Left or right? And this time, I truly would like at least three of you to send me email. Three. Got it? That's more than two. If there are four of you who want to send mail, that will be fine, too.

Jeez. I type my fingers to the bone, trying to interest you, maybe make you laugh, you don't call, you don't write, I just sit here in the dark....



The winds of change

Hm. I didn't know there was anything wrong, because the first thing I did this morning was upload the new index.html file. The second thing I did was boot up my browser, which I cannot ever type without typing "browswer", will someone please tell me how I can stop doing that? Damn. There goes that digression thing. Jonathon, you've got nothin' on me for digressing, sweetie.

Oh. So I boot up my browser and everything looks fine to me this morning. So the first I hear of it is an email hours later from a virtual pal: "Are you all right? Your website is down." Which actually brings several things to mind, one of which is the new way online communities can keep track of each other. "Hey, did you hear from Meryl lately? She hasn't posted yet today." Another thing it brings to mind is--hey, if I drop dead tomorrow, my website's never gonna get updated again. Bummer.

I find the thought of having my mental and physical state tied to whether or not my site is up vastly amusing--apparently, I am what I blog.

Anyway. My ISP did something hinky after a two-minute server outage, like, oh, backing up my site from a month-old tape--not that I mind something like that, no, my hardworking ISP boys are usually right on the money for things like, oh, answering the question: "HOWCOME YOU LOST A MONTH'S WORTH OF MY WORK?"

"Uh--can you hold on a minute while I look into that?" [Wait. Wait. Listen to an entire episode of "The Shadow" while on hold. Play game of solitaire. Wait some more.] "You're right, we did load a tape that's a month old."

Helpful to know.

Lucky for them, I didn't lose the last month's work. I just uploaded all of 2002's archive files, and anything else that I've possibly worked on in the past month. Which, uh, was a lot, actually.

Which brings me to the title of this post. (See, Jonathon? Give it up now and acknowledge me Queen of Digression.) Changes are coming. [Insert dramatic music here.] I'm not sure when, I think I know how, and so, they will arrive.

With any luck, we won't have a server outage on that day.

Altavista be mine

First we get the personal ad/poetry search. Now we have a headline: Barnum arisen, Sara alternates poor. Somehow, that mix of words brought a searcher here.

Altavista is fast becoming my favorite search engine again. It used to be THE search engine of choice, then this upstart named Google came along and blew it out of the water.

But I'm falling in love with a search engine that sends me poetry.

Hm. I think I need to get out more.

Let there be light ... pollution

So tonight, after dinner, James and Brenda (that would be James' mom) and I drove up to Eagle Rock Reservation to see the WTC light memorial. But we were sidetracked by a police car that wouldn't let us take the winding "snake road" back way into the reservation, so driving down the main drag, we pulled over and realized--we were wasting our time. Light pollution and a cloudy evening all but killed the chance to view the mile-high beams of light from 12 miles away.

I noticed the difference in light pollution last week, too, as I was in Virginia. Heidi lives in a suburb of Richmond, one without street lights, so when you walk outside and turn off the house lights, it's dark out there. You can see the stars far more clearly--more like you could when I was a child. I can barely see Orion here in Montclair; down there, I remember again how incredibly far his shield and club reach out.

Maybe tomorrow night it will be clear, and I'll try again. Or drive out to Jersey City or Hoboken. The pictures on television were stunning. It's truly a wonderful memorial.

But I wouldn't want to be living in the neighborhood and trying to get to sleep before eleven. Talk about your bright lights keeping you awake.

Current events and history lessons

Most of you can skip over this section. This is for people out there with no apparent grasp of current and past anti-Semitism.

Current events: Thomas Friedman's latest column. The Saudi [kaff!] peace plan and its reception at the Arab Summit. (Go here if you don't have membership in the NY Times.) Al-Ahram Weekly opinion. Oh, and check out the front page, where they have an article that says it appears the evidence does not warrant genocide charges against Slobodan Milosevic.

Read for yourself; here's a guide to Middle East media on Slate. Although the Yemen Observer has nothing bearing on this discussion, its article declaring positive human rights advances due to the decrease in kidnapping of foreigners by tribesmen is nothing short of hilarious.

Try, a source for translations of Arabic publications. Unfortunately, the site is framed and difficult to point to one article at a time. Click on the search and type in anti-Semitism. You'll find plenty.

The ancient blood libel myth lives again. And again. And again.

The French are at it again. The Arabs never stopped. The truth never bothers Arab conspiracy theorists.

Oh. Did I forget the history lessons? Go to Google and find some for yourself. This will narrow it down somewhat.

Talk to me after you've learned something, because I am wholly uninterested in anyone who takes a point of view from ignorance and tries to push it down my throat as fact.

Hey. The above is preferable to my telling you what I'm really thinking. Perhaps, if you've been reading this site long enough, you can fill in the blanks yourself.



Tech (sorta) links

First a plug for Phil Ringnalda, a man who can put enough funny words on his weblog to make you forget he's talking tech. Go visit. Even if you don't know what he's talking about, you can still get the jokes.

And while I was there, Phil pointed me to this piece by Cory Doctorow, who was Man of Honor at my friends Rob and Becky's wedding. Terry McGarry was Best Woman. The wedding video (which I shot) ends with bride and groom singing the theme from "Pinky and the Brain". This was not a typical wedding. But it was a lot of fun.

Oh, but the piece on metadata: I wish I'd read it before I bothered taking that XML course. But then, I got the employer to pay for it, so I suppose it works out in the end. And I know what people are talking about when they mention XML, so instead of nodding my head wisely and keeping my mouth shut to make them think I know something about the subject, I learned just enough to make an idiot of myself in any XML discussion.

That should be my new tagline: Happily making an idiot of myself in public for XX years.

9/11 on 3/11

Six months later, has our country really changed?

Yes, it has. A lasting legacy of that horrible day is the unity that is still felt throughout the nation. We still argue among ourselves, and the Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near the pals they were in the immediate aftermath, but the easiest gauge of how America pulled together is the fact that 49 states and one district immediately lost all of their animosity towards New York. When the chips are down, we are all Americans, and we know that.

That's the real foundation of America. We will not resort to the tribalism that so many other countries in the world suffer from. There were no mass murders of Muslims, or great destruction of property. There were isolated incidents, quickly put down. American women went shopping in head scarves in heavily Muslim areas both to protect Muslim immigrants and citizens, and also to make a statement that they, too, are Americans.

The rest of the world is too busy pointing out our flaws to seem to notice that here, in the United States, lie the answers to the problems tribalism, ethnic hatred, and religious intolerance bring to the rest of the world. Check your tribalism at the door if you want to be a citizen here. We are far from perfect, and yet--there were no mobs enforcing mob justice from innocent Arabs in our cities. There will be none, if we continue to pull together.

As for me, the sign that will tell me the war is truly over will be the letters to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch complaining about those rude New Yorkers again. I'm very much looking forward to them.



Yes, I am a Jew, Part 2

About a week and a half ago, I found a brief mention of my first essay on Metafilter, along with a question in the comments that needs answering. The question:

"I'm confused. I thought that the implication of his 'I am a Jew' statement was that it was something he was forced to say by way of giving the murders justification for killing him, claiming he was a Mossad spy or something."

And there was something else, something from Mike Golby's website, posted in response to my earlier essay. Here are the pertinent paragraphs, since Blogger seems to have damaged Mike's archives (the essay is from March 3; you need to scroll down to read it):

"However, neither article will do much to assuage Meryl's concern at the hatred others show towards her because of her faith. I firmly believe that, while others can support her, only she can do something to assuage the real anger she experiences at the thought of others hating her simply because she is Jewish. If it's of any value to the feisty Ms. Yourish, I've seen infinitely more people twisted, broken, or driven crazy by the hatred they carry within than I have people who've been crippled by any viciousness voiced.

Those who hate are victims of self-abuse. I'd ask Meryl to follow the path she and her Polish friend took in their childhood, that most sensible time of our lives. Wait until they stop behaving like idiots, because, most of the time, and if South Africa is anything to go by, they eventually do.

Perhaps not in our lifetimes, but eventually."

I can't really speak for the hatred in South Africa. I 'm no expert on South African history. And it is usually an exercise in futility to get into a comparison of whose misery goes deeper, but it must be pointed out that Jews have been subject to anti-Semitism for thousands of years, in, as far as I can tell, every nation in the world in which they have lived. Our history and South Africa's are vastly different; it's not a workable comparison.

Anti-Semitism doesn't seem to be showing any sign of going away, except in places like the United States--which is over and above more tolerant of every ethnicity and religion than any other country in the world. Many of my anti-Semitic experiences have been with students or immigrants--Iranian Muslim students or immigrants, in point of fact. The negative experiences of my friend's father and my mother--both native-born Americans--are the only ones that changed. The Iranian students weren't willing to so much as give me a chance to become friends with them. In fact, the only Iranian I ever became friends with was a student at my college who had come to America as a small child, and whose parents deeply opposed the Ayatollah's revolution. Nader was, in any case, completely Americanized by the time he met me--a critical factor in our friendship, I believe.

So here's the problem, Mike. You recommend to me that I don't fall victim to hatred. That I simply wait until the people who hate me because I am Jewish simply stop behaving like idiots.

I agree with you about not falling into hatred. It is extremely difficult not to, though, when I see Jews being gunned down at a Bar Mitzvah celebration, or while they are eating lunch at a cafe, or simply trying to study in their religious school. My anger overflows, but it is ultimately reined in and turns to sadness for the dead. I won't fall into hatred, because it's not in me to hate for no reason. And because when I do fall into anger and despair, I have friends--good friends--who can remind me that hate is the wrong path to follow.

But to "wait for them to stop behaving like idiots"? They're not behaving like idiots. They're behaving like murderers.

My mother and my friend's father were acting like idiots, but they weren't trying to kill us. Arab terrorists will kill me because I am Jewish. Danny Pearl is dead because he was Jewish. More people will die because they are Jewish, and this will keep happening for a very, very long time. I don't have the luxury of waiting for them to stop behaving like idiots. My life could be at stake.

Which brings me around to answering the question from Metafilter: The reason we use that phrase is because even knowing full well that Danny Pearl was forced to recite the words that became his last, they resonate in every Jewish person's soul: Yes, I am a Jew. Whether it is said voluntarily, or whether it is forced out in some pretense of justification by the executioners, it has the same resonance. I am a Jew, and I may die because of that. How many Christians ever think they may be killed for being a Christian?

The mob that surrounded and murdered Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights was chanting "Kill the Jew!" In Nazi Germany, Jews who had completely assimilated were put to death alongside those who were deeply religious. If only one of your grandparents was Jewish, you went to the camps alongside someone whose Jewish lineage went back hundreds of years. It isn't a question of faith. There is a distinction that gentiles make that cannot in actuality be made about Jews. If you take away my religion, I am still a Jew. Judaism is both religious and cultural. You cannot separate the two like you can, say, an Italian Catholic. Take away my sister-in-law's Catholicism, and she is still an Italian-American. Take away my religious Judaism, and I am still a Jew. All of us know this, consciously or subconsciously. Because even if we want to no longer be Jewish, the world rarely lets us let go of our Jewishness. Hitler certainly didn't. A lapsed Jew is still subject to the same hatred and bigotry that a religious Jew endures.

Therein lies the distinction that no other culture can claim. Therein lies our difference, our Otherness. Therein lies the reason for the continued attempts at our extinction. Therein lies my reason for taking the words forced upon Danny Pearl, and putting them out on a banner for all to see. Yes, I am a Jew. I was born a Jew, and I will die a Jew. I certainly hope I won't die because I'm a Jew.

Blowing wind

The winds are simply howling outside, and have been since yesterday. I was going to write a post about blaming the odd weather changes we've had lately on Osama bin Laden, but then, nothing is working really, and I think if I talked about the Twin Towers' effect on the wind around here, what with those enormous wind blocks no longer being on the end of Manhattan, people would just get mad at me for desecrating a memory or something like that.


Have you been reading the warbloggers lately? I caught up on a few of them. Is it my imagination, or do they all seem like really angry people? I can almost imagine a party at a warbloggers's house. "What do you mean by that?" "Who are you calling a liberal?" "Take it back, or I'll shove this carrot stick up your nose!" "If you don' t like the dip, then leave!"

It's sort of like the feeling I get when I watch a lot of the conservative commentators. They scare me. I'm pretty sure any of the women commentators can take me in a fight. That Ann Coulter. Yikes! No, wait--I think she's in Commentator Limbo since she was dumped by the National Review. Which, I'm sure, has made her even more angry.

Hm. They used to say about radical feminists that they were in great need of getting laid. Do you suppose it would be politically incorrect to say the same about Ann Coulter? Perhaps I'd better not say it, then.

Oh. That was another oops, wasn't it?

Not all of them are terrifying, though. Watching Tony Snow this morning, I was struck by a thought: Do his eyebrows ever move? The answer to the question: Not until the editorial at the end of the show. And only for words like TERRORISTS (you have to type them in all caps, because he eyebrows them in all caps).

Hm. Is there anyone else I can offend today? No? Give me a few more hours, I'm sure I'll think of someone. Er, something.

Last week's blogs are archived.