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This and that

Die, dammit, die! I just sent in my 2005 roster to Lair's Dead Pool. It contains mostly people I'd like to see gone from the world next year, so it's really more a death-wish list, and yes, I'm a shameless, horrible human being for wanting, oh, Baby Assad to make his exit next year. If any of you are bloggers and want to enter, you've got a few more hours left until it's too late. If you're in it for the competition, well, you probably are too late, because a lot of people go to and pick the best of the rosters there. Me? I'm just in it for the Dollars for Dead Terrorists thing.

Vote early, vote often: Remember that poll the Christian Science Monitor was holding about whether or not churches should divest from Israel? It was once running 90% against, and is suddenly 61% in favor. Go vote. Often.

A look back:This is probably my last post of '04. I wonder how many words I wrote last year? I know my output is definitely in the millions as we head into the tail end of My Life As A Blogger, Year 4. I have to open a whole new section on my archives page, and we're working on the fifth consecutive year. Wow, I feel old. I wonder how long it would take me to read my pages from start to finish. I used to do that, way back when I first started writing these things. Now, I read old files and say, "Gee, I forgot I wrote that."

Garden State: I saw the DVD last night. My high school had a cameo role in it. Zach Braff was driving past, the camera panned, and I said, "Hey! That's Columbia!" Stopped the DVD, reversed it, and indeed, there it was in all its glorly, minus the great oak tree that they chopped down shortly after I graduated. As for the movie, Natalie Portman was her usual excellent self. But I wondered, why do independent filmmakers seem to think they have to have everyone drop f-bombs in order to make them seem "real"? even though there were a couple of rough spots near the end, I recommend it highly. I kept wondering why the actor who played Zach Braff's father looked so familiar. I'm wondering and wondering and wondering, and in the credits I see his name: Ian Holm. Oh.

Great film. Go rent it. And if the soundtrack is available, buy it.

It's done, now cross your fingers: The cover letter is finished, thanks to a lot of help from Larry and Sarah G. I watched the video this afternoon to make sure it's all there, and I'm even more impressed with Nathan's work. If you live in Virginia and need a videographer, email me; have I got the guy for you. I sent it second-day FedEx, because who knows if they're open on Monday or not. Tuesday is soon enough after the holidays. And so, the process begins. If I get this job, I'll be traveling around the country—mostly here on the east coast, if I can help it—with my laptop. I think I may need to get that Verizon Wireless card that Glenn keeps going on about. I may also need to find a catsitting service, for those weeks when I'm spending more than three days on the road.

The good news is that I'll still be blogging. Just not so much during the day, which, uh, is what's been happening lately, come to think of it. The better news is that I'll be climbing out of debt and contributing to American economic growth. It's a win-win all around.

And on that note, a happy and healthy new year to all, and may it be better than the last year. (Nothing against 2004 per se, I just always hope the new year will be better.)

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The Catholic World News Israel/Vatican/Sri Lanka story: Update

As I posted yesterday, CWN put a corrected news article online in place of the article that erroneously said the Vatican slammed Israel for refusing to aid Sri Lanka (it was, of course, the exact opposite). Here is the updated article:

Vatican, Dec. 30 ( - The following is a corrected version of a story that appeared on earlier this week, in which a crucial error in translation caused a serious misinterpretation of the news. CWNews apologizes for the error.

Vatican, Dec. 28 ( - The Vatican newspaper has denounced a decision by Sri Lanka to reject emergency aid offered by the Israeli government. Sri Lanka declined the Israeli aid because it would have been furnished by a military team.

Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano chastised the government of the stricken Asian nation for putting unnecessary restrictions on an Israeli offer to furnish medical help.

Compare that with the original article, now available only in Google's cache:

Vatican, Dec. 28 ( - The Vatican newspaper has denounced a decision by the Israeli army to deny emergency help to disaster victims in Sri Lanka.

Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano singled out Israeli military leaders for declining a request for emergency medical help.

I am at a loss to see how the translation could have gotten reversed. So is L’Osservatore Romano, who sent me this email:

We are quite surprised at the way a news given by L’Osservatore Romano has been misinterpreted and distorted. As a matter of fact, in an article published on the first page of the daily issue in Italian of Wednesday, December, 29th 2004, L’Osservatore Romano states: the Government of Sri Lanka has refused the aid of a medical team of the Israeli army, which was about to leave to bring relief to the tsunami victims.

The first page with the original text is available in the Internet at the following link:

Moreover you can visit the web site of Catholic World News, which explains how the error came about in the first place. The link is: .

Best regards,

Carlo De Lucia
Segretario di Redazione
L’Osservatore Romano

The Catholic World News site does not explain how the error came about, exactly. One would think that a site that regularly translates and reports the Vatican news would have better translators working for them.

And in their sidebar, under "related news," they still have the old headline that reads "L'Osservatore raps Israel for declining disaster relief." Somebody at CWN has dropped the ball, big-time.

In any case, I see that the false news story is spreading far beyond the original CWN site. I'm doing my part to correct the error and stop people from falsely blaming the Vatican for slamming Israel. Relations between Israel and Rome have been shaky enough over the years. We don't need to make them worse.

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Things I forgot

I know you are, but what am I? This post by Michele reminded me of my Virginia road rage story. A few weeks ago, I was driving home from The Job From Hell. I discovered that taking the highway with the extra dollar toll saved me about about ten minutes' worth of traffic per day, so I started going to and from that way. It has a high-speed EZPass lane, which makes it even nicer. So this day, I'm driving home, and you merge left twice—once when you first enter the road, and again when the road narrows into two lanes. The second time, I'm already merged into the proper lane, and some woman in a sedan is on my right, in the lane with the arrows pointing left and the big "MERGE" printed on the road. She starts trying to merge as she is parallel to me, and frankly, when I'm driving 65 mph and you're trying to get into my lane, I'm not about to tap my horn gently to let you know that I'm there. I laid on the horn, which is a nice, deep bass horn in a Jeep, because I thought she didn't see me. Apparently, this pissed her off. Big-time.

Heidi has told me for years that you're not supposed to beep your horn at Virginia drivers. That they get all bent out of shape and start following you angrily. I believed her. And now I know she's right. The woman sped up, beeped at me, and started playing the tailgating game on the highway. I decided to ignore her completely, because in another few seconds, the road was going to split into toll lanes and EZPass lanes, and, well, I have EZPass. I did not notice the telltale transmitter on her windshield, and suspected she did not. I was right.

I sped on at 60mph (the speed limit goes down by the tolls) while she had to stop, wait in line, get out her money, pay the toll-taker, and then get back on the highway. By the time she got going, I was a mile down the road. Better still, I looked steadfastly forward as she drew level with me before the lanes split, knowing full well she wanted the satisfaction of flipping me the bird or something.

Ah, this modern world. EZPass beats road rage. Gotta love it.

Oh, Aphid Tree, Oh, Aphid Tree: I have a picture of G. on Christmas morning, in front of the tree—vaccuuming. Because Heidi and G. and Sorena get their tree from one of those cut-your-own places, and the gentleman who runs it is getting older and older, and apparently a bit more forgetful. He seems to have forgotten to spray for bugs this year. So a few days after setting up their tree in the Great Room, Sorena was practicing her cello and looking at the tree and said, "Mom, you know that dust that keeps falling from the tree? I don't think it's dust. I think it's spiders."

To Heidi's horror, it wasn't spiders. It was aphids. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands of them. Perhaps millions of them. The presents were removed from under the tree. The dogs were prevented from knocking into the tree if at all possible (playtime was rough, what with Willow's ability to whip her tail like a bullwhip). And G. and Heidi vaccuumed aphids by the thousands, every day until December 26th. They were talking about "honeydew" after dinner, and Wind Rider seemed to think there was something wrong with me because I refused to touch a gift wrapping that was covered in it. What part, I wondered, of "I hate bugs" did he not understand?

Anyway, Heidi reports that the tree was out of the house the day after Christmas, and with any luck, most of the aphids died. She has indoor plants. Perhaps I should email my brother to capture some of the ladybugs that infest his house year-round and send them over to Heidi and G.

C'est incroyable! We saw The Incredibles yesterday. Wow, what a great movie. Wow, what a great movie. WOW, what a great movie. That one I am buying on DVD the second it's out.

Role reversal: G. gave me a small remote-controlled car for Chanukah. I figured Tig would love it and play with it, and Gracie would be scared to death of it. Turns out that Tig is freaked out and runs from it, while Gracie plays with it and whaps it with her paw and then can't understand why it stopped. You never can tell with cats. (And yes, Rahel, I will put up pictures of my cats, soon.)

No wonder Tim Burton sounded so good: While I was watching the Unfortunate Events movie with Sorena last week, I kept thinking to myself how great the musical score was, and how much I'd like to get it. For some reason, I thought Tim Burton had written it. I was astonished at how different it was from his usual style, and very impressed with it. When the credits rolled, I discovered that it was Thomas Newman, who has simply amazing film scoring credits.

Oh. No wonder the score was so good. It wasn't Burton at all. (I think I thought that because we saw a preview of the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which Burton will be scoring.)

Y'know, those Newmans are one talented musical family.

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The Vatican on Israeli aid: Who said what?

The Catholic World News apparently translated the Vatican newspaper's article incorrectly. Reader Jean sent me the following:

The article on the front page of yesterday’s L'Osservatore Romano clearly states that the “Government of Sri Lanka has refused the assistance of an Israeli team [of doctors] who would be due to leave in order to carry aid to the victims of the tsunami.” It does not say that Israel refused to send assistance.

It is the Catholic World News that made an error in translation—they have now removed the story from their website. You should be asking them for a correction, not L’Osservatore.

If you don’t speak Italian, but want to check this out for yourself, go to the website, copy the text and use a translation program like Google Language Tools or AltaVista Babel Fish to get an approximate translation.

I did find the reference to Israel and translated it. What I didn't find, possibly because my grasp of Italian is exactly nil, are the references to Israel that were also quoted on the CWN site, and were in the post below. I'd like to know how they mistranslated these quotes, which CWN said were from L'Osservatore:

Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano singled out Israeli military leaders for declining a request for emergency medical help. The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons."

That's far more than a simple mistranslated phrase. As far as I can tell, using Babel Fish and the alreadly-translated quotes above, CWN pulled quotes from the article and attributed them to the Vatican slamming Israel. I think perhaps the Vatican was chastising Sri Lanka for refusing aid. Or they were making a general statement about getting along during a tragedy of this magnitude.

Or perhaps the author of the CWN article has a bias that was showing, leaping to the conclusion that it was Israel at fault, and bolstering that error with quotes from Vatican officials.

What is lacking in all of this is any kind of indication from CWN that there is something wrong, except for the fact that they removed the article from their website. The mystery deepens, and the accountability is currently lacking.

Calling Chris Newman, who is fluent in Italian. Help!

I am leaving comments on this post open for now. If they become abusive, that commenter will be banned. There will be no second chances.

Update: In the comments, Lesley points out that there is now a correction at the CWN site. On that correction page, however, they have not removed the headline that reads "L'Osservatore raps Israel for declining disaster relief," though the link leads to their removed page. And as Lesley says, it is a rather odd mistranslation. A quick Google News search leads to numerous links chastising the Vatican. I think an explanation from CWN is in order.

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Tunnel rat-bastards, part two

The Seoul Times has an interview with a tunnel digger and operator.

'R' virtually inherited the tunneling business from his father, who was a 'pioneer' in this kind of business in 1982, where he dug tunnels between the Egyptian and Palestinian parts of Rafah city to smuggle contraband.

Due to the huge difference in prices and lifestyle between Egypt and Gaza Strip, tunnel smugglers brought in all kinds of goods bought cheap from Egypt and sold in Gaza for a hefty profit. "Whenever my father made a good sum of money, he would use it to start a new tunnel. By the end of 1994 with the arrival of the Palestinian Authority my father had dug almost 20 tunnels," 'R' said.

Known as the 'tunnel king,' R's father retired in 1996 when officials started cracking down of tunnel diggers in Rafah. Some PA officials forced those diggers to either shut down or allow them to go as partners with them. From the 20 tunnels R inherited, only seven remained by 1998, four of them monitored closely and privately by PA officials.

"We were making less profit due to the partnership of those people, but at least they kept competition down by shutting down the tunnels they don't own, and guarding the houses that harbor the entrances to their tunnels," R told The Seoul Times.

But the PA has nothing to do with the smuggling tunnels!

"By the beginning of 2001 the Intifada began taking a more militant approach, and weapon smuggling became the primary aim of digging tunnels, as militant groups started funding tunnel-diggers and hiring their services to dig weapon-smuggling tunnels," R maintained.

No. Really?

He confirms today that he has got but one tunnel and that he does not operate it constantly "due to the tight Israeli security and constant searching for tunnel entrances."

Good to know. Better if he had zero tunnels.

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Israeli tsunami aid

Drew W. sent me this press release from an Israeli friend:

Hundreds of Israeli Rescue Personnel On Their Way to South East Asia to Assist Earthquake Victims
Hundreds of Israeli governmental and non-governmental relief personnel are on their way to disaster sites in various countries around South East Asia to assist tens of thousands of victims affected by Sunday’s devastating earthquake and tsunamis.

Members of IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Aid, which consists of Israeli and Jewish aid groups have opened a special SOUTH EAST ASIA RELIEF FUND which will help deploy search and rescue and medical teams to India.

Jewish communities around the world are being called upon to actively participate in a global Israeli - Jewish humanitarian relief effort.

According to Israeli press, the Israel Defense Force will send to Sri Lanka over 140 search and rescue personnel to the region on December 28th, 2004. The teams include a delegation of over 50 doctors who will operate an Israeli Medical Camp to help treat thousands of locals. The Israeli Ministry of Health has already sent medical doctors to Thailand to work together with local partners.

Donations for the Israeli – Jewish effort can be forwarded directly to:

(c/o The National Council for Voluntarism in Israel)
Account Number xxxxx/xx
Branch 817
Bank Leumi Ha' Chashmonaim Tel Aviv

For more information contact IsraAID through Shachar Zahavi at [email protected]

And reader PDM put this in the comments here:

Dear Friends,

Following the earthquake and tsunami that have destroyed hundreds of seaside towns in Asia leaving thousands dead, relatives of those touring Thailand are eager to hear about their loved ones (Southeast Asia is a key destination for thousands of Israeli backpackers who go there to relax after completing reserve duty in the Israeli Army). Chabad of Thailand headed by Rabbi Yosef C. Kantor, has responded to the crisis by dispatching Rabbi Nehemya Wilhelm to the scene of the tragedy in Phuket and turning the three Chabad Centers in Thailand into crisis centers where survivors can come and place phone calls home, or try to find their friends as of yet unaccounted for.

As Chabad of Thailand is the only Jewish service agency in the country dealing with this catastrophe, Chabad's offices and staff in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ko Samui have put everything else aside, working 24/7 to assist those in need and comfort.

Chabad volunteers are standing by at the local hospitals to visit the injured and provide them with food and any other help needed. The Chabad Rabbi's and their wives are also counseling the survivors who are in a state of emotional trauma.

With the help of an Israeli telecommunications company there are free international phone calls being offered to those who wish to call home and inform their loved ones of their whereabouts. The free Internet service available at the Chabad centers is functioning as usual.

As the initial efforts of search and rescue wind down the grim work of identifying bodies and counseling bereaved families will keep the Chabad staff fully occupied in the immediate future.

To help us in our humanitarian mission in the aftermath of the Tsunami, please help today by donating your tax deductible contribution to:
American Friends of Chabad of Thailand
96 Thanon Rambuttri,
Bangkok Thailand 10200
OR donate online at:

There's also Michele & Company's extraordinary efforts at The Command Post.

And on the Israeli front: Zaka is in Thailand. El Al sent a cargo plane of aid. And Honest Reporting has more Israeli aid on its way, or already in, Thailand.

I haven't said much about the disaster. That's because I rarely post about issues that are as overwhelmingly heartbreaking as the tsunami, and they're generally well-covered by the rest of the blogosphere. I can't watch the videos much. All I can think of is the pain and heartache of the victims. As I'm pretty sure this isn't the only blog you all read, I figured you'd be able to find out more elsewhere.

Which is why I'll post on different topics in the middle of a disaster like this. Because life goes on, and I can't bear all sadness, all the time. And because sometimes, the topic is too much for me to bear.

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Tony Judt: The lies have it

Tony Judt is at it again. Via Kesher Talk, I started reading his latest declaration that anti-Semitism is either dead, exaggerated, or both. I stopped reading at this paragraph:

Measured by everything from graffiti to violent assaults, anti-Semitism has indeed been on the increase in some European countries in recent years; but then it has in America as well. The American Anti-Defamation League reported sixty anti-Semitic incidents on US college campuses alone in 1999, 106 in 2002 and sixty-eight in 2003. The ADL recorded 1,559 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2002 (1,557 in 2003), up from 906 in 1986. Even if anti-Semitic aggression in France, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe has been grievously underreported, there is no evidence to suggest that it is much more widespread in Europe than in the United States.

If American anti-Semitic incidents are on the increase, why does Judt have to reach all the way back to 1986 to report a rise in these crimes?

Because there is no sharp increase in American anti-Semitic incidents reported to the ADL.

In fact, incidents on college campuses have decreased, while overall incidents remained virtually unchanged between 2002 and 2003. Judt is starting with a false premise, which frankly undercuts his entire argument. Nobody is saying anti-Semitic attacks are increasing in America but Judt, and the facts he himself presents don't bear out his argument. Let's look at the numbers:

Year Number of incidents
on college campuses
Overall incidents
1999 60 1,547
2000 69 1,606
2001 85 1,432
2002 106 1,559
2003 68 1,557

Source: ADL website.

If you look at this graph supplied by the ADL, you'll see a decline in anti-Semitic incidents reported, with a slight rise in 2002—the year after 9/11 and also, if you may recall, the year that Israel went back into the West Bank and Gaza due to the horrific suicide bombing spree in the spring of that year. Campus protests against Israel also went up sharply around that time, if I remember correctly. If you were to add 2003 to the graph, it would still disprove Judt's argument.

No wonder Judt had to reach all the way back to 1986 to make it seem like there's a dramatic increase. Because, quite simply, there isn't. He's misrepresenting facts.

How, then, are we supposed to take anything else he says seriously, since he starts with blatant, and easily exposed, lies?

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Vatican slams Israel for something she didn't do

Update: The slam was mistranslated by the Catholic World News. See above.

So apparently, people who write for the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano have limited reading comprehension skills. They're claiming Israel refused to help Sri Lanka.

The Vatican newspaper has denounced a decision by the Israeli army to deny emergency help to disaster victims in Sri Lanka.

Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano singled out Israeli military leaders for declining a request for emergency medical help. The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons."

Here's the problem. That isn't what happened. Sri Lanka refused to allow the Israel delegation in.

Contrary to the Vatican report, an Israeli plane carrying 80 tons of food and medical supplies worth $100,000 was set to depart for Sri Lanka Wednesday morning. At the request of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, a team of some 150 Israeli medical and security personnel aborted their planned trip to the island nation Tuesday night.

The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons."

The fact that the devastation swept across different societies, cultures, and nations should help to reinforce the universal perspective, the paper suggested.

Ha'aretz has more:

A 150-member Israeli aid delegation canceled its mission to Sri Lanka on Tuesday, after the country - one of the hardest hit in the Asian tsunami disaster - apparently refused to accept the Israeli team, Israel Defense Forces officials said.

However, the Sri Lankan president's military secretary sent a notice to the country's foreign and defense ministries Tuesday expressing support for the arrival of a 50-member Israeli delegation.

"We are not opposed to a plane loaded with medical supplies, food and blankets that will be accompanied by a medical team comprised of 50 IDF people, as the Israeli Foreign Ministry requested in a letter," the military secretary said in the notice.

Hell, even the BBC got the story right:

Israel has cancelled plans to send a 150-person rescue mission to Sri Lanka after the devastated island objected to the military composition of the team.

One would have to say, WTF is wrong with the Vatican, using this to beat up on Israel?

Nice to know that the Vatican is interested in keeping those good relations with Israel going. Perhaps the Rabbi spoke too soon, hm, Tom?

Update: Mark weighs in. So does Rahel. Each of them raise some good points.

Update 2: Comments have been closed on this post. You may now take it to email, though not with me. I'm done.

Whew! Back to normal

Okay, I can post again: I can also go out and play tomorrow. Heidi said I couldn't play with her and Sorena until I finished my homework. We're going to see The Incredibles tomorrow.

Funny, funny, funny: Lair is hilarious today. This one's funny. This one's funnier. This one's funniest. Spit-monitor warning on the last.

Is there anybody out there? You know, I know you read this site. I get stats. But nobody's talking. I mean, I don't ask you to register for comments, and frankly, I'm not one of those people who requires a real email address (though I reserve the right to snark about it to abusive commenters), but, like, you never talk to me anymore. Hey, make up handles. Make up names. Don't be shy. I like comments, when they're not calling me names or insulting other readers or bashing Israel.

Faramir. Definitely Faramir. I've decided that he's hotter than Aragorn, and so, I have lost my crush on Aragorn. Legolas is too much of a pretty boy, and the hobbits are all too short. Boromir died, so, well... Eomer? Too much hair, and man, was he depressing or what? Mr. Gloom-and-doom himself. Then there was the "Helmet on! Helmet off! Helmet on! Helment off!" You know, maybe the helmet was what was causing the gloom and doom. Perhaps it was too tight for that head full of hair. Or perhaps he just kept getting tired of helmet-hair.

You know what else I always wonder? When they make someone wear a blonde wig, why don't they ever dye their eyebrows to match their hair color? Most real blondes don't have brown or black eyebrows. It always bugs me.

Oh, and I finally figured out why I never noticed Dominic Monaghan's cleft chin, which is very noticeable in LOTR, in Lost. Because he's got a beard in that show.

Oh, so that's what happened to Squishy-Faced Orc. If I were Eowyn, I'd have been pissed as hell at Aragorn for not letting me kill the ugly sucker. Hey, so she was near death—she was just about to get that sword and off S-F O. I sure hope they have some kind of background on who and what he was, because he sure as hell wasn't in the book. If you ask me, I want to see what the other guy looked like. He would have kicked Aragorn's scrawny little ass, I bet.

And yeah, Mouth of Sauron. We get it. Right. His name is Mouth of Sauron. And that's his mouth. Uh-huh. Yes. Mouth of Sauron. His mouth. Right. Mouth of Sauron, close-up on mouth. WE EFFING GET IT, JACKSON! KEE-RIST!!! WE GET IT!

Yes, I did watch the RoTK DVD yesterday. However did you guess? As for the entire trilogy again: Nah. It's going to have to wait for some kind of special occasion, or when I'm really, really, really bored. I mean, eleven hours of movie-watching? Been there, done that, want a much bigger TV screen if I'm going to do it again. And friends to kibitz with me. Sorena really liked the Captain Obvious label given to Legolas, and started yelling "Duh!" during The Two Towers every time Legolas said something, er, obvious.

Say, anyone in the Richmond, VA area have a large-screen TV? We can make a day of it during these cold winter months. I'll bring the DVDs and the Coke.

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Open Word; bang head against wall

This effing cover letter is one of the most important ones I've ever had to write. I've been frozen on it for two weeks now. I finally managed to get it started it this afternoon, and I have a total of one paragraph written.

There will be no blogging until it is done.

If any of my readers are HR reps, advice would not be refused. I need to really sell myself, because the job includes marketing.


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Other people's weblogs

Lair Simon is running a kitty calendar contest. I have entered Tig and Gracie. Vote if you like. Oh, and there's the latest CoTC, too.

Powerline is on the case about the misinformation of MSM again. So is Wretchard, following up his first AP post with another j'accuse! Will it get Dan Rather-like results? Wait and see.

The Command Post has the roundup of news about the Asian tsunami. Michele has the roundup of places to donate money and support.

Isreally cool: Uh-oh, another blogger contest. But this time, it's for Jewish and Israeli bloggers. Dave has the details.

Solly says: Speaking of Jewish bloggers, if Solomonia isn't on your regular-read list, you're missing out.

Speaking rhetorically: Omri's wit is biting so hard, people are missing the point. Go see.

Imshin, really—my first introduction to Rude-us Israeli-us was my high school Hebrew teacher (we had a very progressive high school and a lot of Jews in the community). I think I'll do fine, and I'm hoping to land in Jerusalem sometime next summer. Fingers crossed.

Da Bear doesn't love me anymore. He never links. Sniff.

Bad Example, to whom I owe much linkage (I keeps my promises, Precious, I does), had me wondering WTF? a lot while I was reading his blog, but then I saw this, and shouted (mentally) "BROTHER! KINDRED SPIRIT!"

That's right, Grease is quite possibly the world's worst play/movie musical. I hated it the first time I saw it (in high school, of course), because as far as I can tell, the message of Grease is: Conform completely, become a slut, and you will be popular in high school.

Hate that play. Hate, hate, hate it. Harvey, you are my kind of guy if you hate it, too, no matter the reason.

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Different singer, same old song

Mahmoud Abbas has opened his mouth, and he sounds just like Yasser Arafat:

"Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967. We must end the occupation," Abbas said to a cheering crowd of hundreds of supporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "We cannot compromise on Jerusalem."

[...] "We are choosing the path of peace and negotiation," Abbas said. "If there is no peace here, there will be no peace in the Middle East or the rest of the world."

[...] Abbas said peace with Israel was conditional on the release of all Palestinian prisoners, especially jailed uprising leader Marwan Barghouti.

[...] Listing his priorities, Abbas told supporters of the ruling Fatah party that he was determined to provide security to his people and continue the struggle against Israel's partially completed West Bank barrier.

[...] Abbas also pledged to resolve the problem of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Abbas, a refugee himself from what is today the northern Israeli city of Safed, called the refugee issue "very important and very dangerous."

Then we have this:

In his first official campaign speech, PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) said on Saturday that he would not employ force against any Palestinian group and called for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders as a prerequisite for achieving peace.

"I will not use weapons against any Palestinian," he stressed. "Israel calls them [the armed groups] murderers, but we call them strugglers. The Palestinians have political pluralism just like Israel."

Translation: Same old song, different singer. Nothing has changed. Silvan Shalom thinks so, too.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Monday slammed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, saying Israel could not ignore the "harsh statements" Abbas made at campaign kickoff speech at the weekend, and comparing his views to those of the late Yasser Arafat.

In a Ramallah campaign speech on Saturday, Abbas declared that peace will not come until Israel takes down all settlements, returns to the pre-1967 war borders, accepts a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, accepts the return of Palestinian refugees and releases all Palestinian prisoners including Marwan Barghouti.

"At a time when there is perhaps a great atmosphere of hope here in the region and in the world as a whole, harsh statements such as these are not encouraging," Shalom told Israel Radio. "This speech does not bode well."

According to Shalom, Israel could not write off Abbas's remarks as mere campaign rhetoric. "You cannot speak of 'continuing the struggle in all forms,' or to sell the illusion of the refugees, nor to speak of Jerusalem in that manner," Shalom said.

Shalom cited a speech that Arafat gave at the 1993 signing ceremony for the Oslo accords in Washington. "He gave a very extreme, very forceful speech, whereupon then-government spokesmen tried to say that this was Arafat's opening position.

"That opening position remained throughout, and perhaps became more extreme."

According to Shalom, past statements by Abbas had been more pragmatic and conciliatory. "Since he entered his post, he has spoken of preserving the legacy of Arafat, which for us is a legacy of terrorism."

On the other hand, I'm not sure what to make of this:

The foreign minister welcomed a Sunday statement by some 560 prominent Palestinians, including senior PLO officials, cabinet ministers, lawmakers, intellectuals and poets, urged an end to militant attacks and a push for democratic reform to advance the quest for a state.

"We reaffirm our legitimate right to confront occupation, but call for restoring the popular character of our intifada and ceasing actions that reduce the range of [international] support for our cause and harm the credibility of our struggle," they said in a front-page advertisement in Palestinian newspapers.

Then again, every time a palestinian tries to actually reform his society, he winds up dead, kidnapped, or wounded. And, uh, by the way—not one word of that statement by "intellectuals" says they should stop because, well, suicide bombing is wrong.

Like I said: Same old song, different singers.

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Weekend wrap-up

Was it good for you, too? I had a very pleasant weekend, except for it being 48°F (about 10°C) in the guest room. Don't even get me started on why that is. Heidi and G. have heat. They just refuse to use it because they also have a wood stove. And I know how cold it was in my room because Sorena's Chanukah present to me was a thermometer. Yesterday morning, as I came out of my room announcing the temperature for the third time (I believe I was sarcastically talking about the heat wave of 62 degrees), Heidi said, "I'm thinking a thermometer was the wrong present to give you." I'm thinking yes.

Have yourself a meaty little Christmas: Okay, here's the way the holiday goes in Heidi and G.'s house, which I've been part of these past eight years. They take turns hosting the dinner with their friends J.R. and Sheila, who seem to think that simply having a turkey for dinner isn't enough, and insist on, oh, bringing a rib roast along, like they did last year. This year, it was their turn to cook, so J.R. decided to make turducken. That's a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. And for some reason, G. decided that a turducken wasn't enough meat, so he decided he'd cook a Virginia ham. And because I could eat neither of those dishes, because J.R. was using pork sausage in the stuffing for the turducken, J.R. kindly decided to get a small rib roast and make it especially for me. Okay. Now you have the idea: Tons of meat. But we're not quite finished with the fun stuff.

Apparently, you have to soak a Virginia ham for at least 24-48 hours ahead of time to desalinate it. G. cooked one some years ago, when they first moved to Virginia, and was mistakenly told to soak it for a couple of hours. The ham, they told me, was inedible. This time, determined to make it right, G. soaked it for three days, changing the water twice a day, then cooked it Saturday afternoon. When the time came to add the glaze, he discovered that there was no corn meal in Heidi's cupboard. Never mind the fact that when I cook something new, the first thing I do is make sure to assemble all the ingredients. G. was starting to get upset and worried that the ham would come out all dry and no good, when I said, "Well, we have matzo meal." (Heidi keeps it in her cupboard because I make latkes over there, and, in fact, made them with dinner on Friday night for our belated Chanukah celebration.) So, having no other choice, G. used matzo meal for the glaze on the ham, a fact which gave me no end of amusement, and which also greatly amused my mother when I told her about it this afternoon.

In spite of the last-minute matzo meal substitution, the ham still turned out overly salty, they said. G. has decided to stop trying to cook Virginia hams.

But they said the turducken was good. And the roast was excellent. Cooked perfectly. Medium rare, pink all the way through. Yum. I even let Wind Rider have some. (It was made for me. There was more than enough turducken and ham to go 'round for him.)

What to do, what to do? Heidi and G. gave me the extended DVD of The Return of the King for Chanukah. I can't decide whether to watch it first, then watch the trilogy later in the week, or wait and watch them all at once. Decisions, decisions.

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Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary is also a good bet if you've never been here before.