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Sixth light

Keep searching for the Meanie of Chanukah. I can't stand Rugrats, but I loved the Rugrats Chanukah special. Laughed the whole way through.

Menorah - Sixth light

Out of the mouths of babes...

Last night I was taking care of James and discovered a couple of things. One was that all of your best-laid plans get shot to hell when a ten-year-old boy gets sick. No hanging out at the mall for us last night; instead, home, bed, Pepto-Bismol and a heating pad for an upset stomach. After an hour or so, he felt better, so we were chatting. I was telling him about being a reporter and editor for my college paper, and he said he had two questions to ask me. The first was why do reporters ask questions of people coming out of courthouses when they know the people won't comment. I told them it was because that was their job. "To be annoying?" he asked.

It's even funnier because he meant it seriously. Being with James is such a kick.--MAY



Fifth light, virtual Menorah, should I write from right to left?

Menorah - Fifth Light

!hakunahC yppaH

Hm. Doesn't really work in English, and I have no program that will create Hebrew graphics, and my artistic skills are, well, practically nonexistent. Unless you count stick figures, which I'm a whiz at. So I'll just keep on doing it the normal way:

Happy Chanukah!

Disturbing search requests, continued

C'mon, people. "Chanukah taliban"? What kind of sick mind looks for THOSE two words together?

Two great reasons to subscribe to Salon Premium

The first: An interview with Kurt Vonnegut, one of America's premier writers.

The second: An excellent article by Norah Vincent about the why Israel engenders more western sympathy than do the Palestinians.

Clicking on the above links won't do any good unless you're a member. But I think I'm going to give out Salon Premium gift certificates for the holidays. They're only $20, $10 less than the regular subscription. I wonder if I can give myself a gift? Email me if you want to be added to my list.--MAY

Update to the above: Those two articles were Salon Premium. Now they're available to the general public--I think. Read 'em, they're great.



Fourth light

Menorah - Fourth lightYou know, I was looking through the drawer where I keep things like my checks and store credit cards and other important things, and realized I had two boxes of Chanukah candles there as well. So I took them out of the drawer and added them to the two other boxes of Chanukah candles, and discovered that I have two full boxes and two partial boxes, and they're four separate brands. The reason I have so many boxes is because I tend to inherit them from my mother, who seems to think I am unable to buy my own candles each year, I buy my own candles anyway, and then there are the years I forget to light candles each night, which explains the partial boxes.

But the real kicker of all this is that I like the Tel Aviv brand the best (that's the ones in the photo), because it has the sharpest colors and most attractive, albeit shortest-burning, candles. And I have no idea where I got them, nor where to get them again. Besides, I need to try to go through all the boxes before I buy any more, or I may never get out from under the backlog of Chanukah candles.

Then again, they came in pretty handy during the blackout on September 10th. I'll use some of them in a couple of weeks, as I intend to bring my Menorah with me to Virginia, because Sorena will be disappointed if I don't light candles. And maybe I'll use my extra Chanukah candles as a way of saving energy.

Um, never mind. Now we're talking crazy.--MAY

Hey, it's the WORLD WIDE web, after all

I was going to use my random act of greetness to say hello to Boca Raton, Florida, which keeps popping up in the web stats. But then today, I saw a new place in the stats that I can barely pronounce, let alone find in an atlas. So instead I'll say hello to Sao Tome and Principe, and if I weren't writing this so late on a work night, I'd do a little hunting around and find out exactly where Sao Tome and Principe are, and how you pronounce their names.

But alas, it may be a wasted effort. That citizen from Sao Tome and Principe may never return. But if s/he does, well, HELLO THERE. WELCOME TO MY WEBSITE. (This is how you have to talk to foreigners in the U.S. I think it's a law now, or if it isn't, just be patient and John Ashcroft will make it a law.)

I'd best be leaving now.--MAY

Update on my new pal's country

Okay, I did a Google search and came up with Sao Tome and Principe's home page (and yes, that really is the name of the country). They haven't updated it since August 15, 2000, citing "organisational problems".

But, since I am an always-inquisitive and stubborn fact-finder, I present for your enjoyment excerpts from the CIA factbook on ST&P. The italics are all mine, of course.

Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The first free elections were held in 1991. About friggin' time!

Country name: conventional long form: Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
Western Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon You know, if you look at the map, the islands are over 100 miles apart. What's with sticking them together into one nation, huh? Huh?
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May) So, like, we shouldn't visit 'cause it's hot and humid? Hey, that doesn't stop us from going to Disney World.
Terrain: volcanic, mountainous Cool!
Natural hazards: NA Is the CIA trying to tell us that there are no natural hazards, or that the ones that Sao Tome and Principe have are easily overcome?
Ethnic groups: mestico, angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), forros (descendants of freed slaves), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese) Hm. Why am I not surprised by all the descendants of slaves?
Languages: Portuguese (official)
Government type: republic Hooray!
Capital: Sao Tome So the capital is, uh, half the country. Wow. Imagine the capital of the U.S being the entire nation east of the MIssissippi River. Frightening thought. Of course, give it a few more decades and we'll proably have half the nation's population working for the Federal Govt.
Administrative divisions: 2 provinces; Principe, Sao Tome
note: Principe has had self-government since 29 April 1995 Does that sound condescending or what?
Independence: 12 July 1975 (from Portugal) They couldn't have done this eight days earlier?
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 July (1975) Duh
Legal system: based on Portuguese legal system and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction Don't make me look up ICJ jurisdiction, boys. Spell it out!
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal Woo-hoo!
Economy - overview: This small poor island economy has become increasingly dependent on cocoa since independence 25 years ago. However, cocoa production has substantially declined because of drought and mismanagement. The resulting shortage of cocoa for export has created a persistent balance-of-payments problem. Okay, now I feel bad. But at least one of their residents is online. Dude, become a programmer and make Sao Tome and Principe a high-tech worker export nation, like India or China!
Disputes - international: none Double woo-hoo!
Internet country code: .st
Internet Service Providers: 2 (2000)
Internet users: 500 (2000) 500 users, a zillion web pages, and yet, they found me. The mind reels.

And that's our geography lesson for today, boys and girls. Homework: A 200-word summary of Sao Tome and Principe. Include major industries, imports and exports, and population figures. Class dismissed.--MAY

...or your money back

Here's a conundrum or three. You know how every so often you get little annoyances in various products that you buy that are aggravating, but not necessarily annoying enough to try to get your money back? For instance, if you buy a package of After Eight Dinner Mints, inside you find a paper stating that if you're not perfectly satisfied, or if the product is unsatisfactory in any way, you can return it for a full refund. Well, every so often I buy a package of After Eight mints that has a few broken ones. And these are the creamy mints, so a broken one gets all over a bunch of others, and causes a bit of a mess. And yet, I haven't asked for my money back. I've just tsked-tsked and eaten the package anyway. Well, not all at once.

Last week I bought a carton of orange juice that specifically said "NO PULP" on the top. It lied. There was pulp. I hate pulp. But the problem is, what do you do? It's breakfast time, you're running late for work, and you've already opened the carton and you don't have another one in the fridge. So if you're like me, you just drink it anyway and glare at the part of the carton that proudly proclaims "NO PULP".

Mind you, there are some things you just don't mess with. I bought a package of kosher boneless chicken breasts at the A&P last week, got it home, opened it up to make dinner and immediately put the package back in the fridge, as it smelled to high heaven. It was a day before expiration date, but you just don't mess with chicken. That was one case where I got my money back.--MAY



Third light

Menorah - third light

It's that time paradox thing

I have a few essays that are bursting at the seams to be written. The problem? The fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, and I have to be at work through most of my waking hours. Holiday-related things and birthdays are taking up most of my weekends. And my temp job is winding to a close, so the deadline that is coming is also interfering with my writing essays at the moment.

So you'll just have to wait for my essay on why societies that refuse to utilize fifty percent of their human assets will never prosper, and why news reports that we'll never be able to dig Our Buddy Bin and his nest of terrorists out of their caves are just plain wrong, and oh, yeah--how the number of your declarative sentences grows less and less the older you get.

But I'll get them to you, I promise. They may have to wait until after the holidays, but they'll get done. Just like we'll get Osama--eventually.--MAY



Second light

Menorah - second light

On the second night of Chanukah, my true love gave to me: A picture of a Menorah.

Routine maintenance stuff

Did you notice that this morning you had a lean, mean, stripped-down version of That's because I spent yesterday afternoon doing all of the maintenance I'd been putting off. Weekly archives! First time in, well, weeks!

I've also put Iseema bin Laden's diary in the left menu on this page for the time being. I haven't quite figured out whether or not it becomes a regular feature. It depends on how many more pages get smuggled to me, and it might be pretty tough for Iseema to get anything at all out, what with the constant bombing our boys and girls are doing to that cave complex.

Funny, just a few months ago every pundit available was talking about how it would be impossible to get the Taliban out of their caves. And yet, that seems to be exactly what's happening now. Sometimes, Andrew Sullivan is dead-on.

My career as a professional kvetcher

Pick up today's New York Times, or click on this link. Hm, I'm on the editorial page. Can the Op-Ed page be far behind?

His idea, or his friends?

Check out this link. Some of my friends have a pretty sick sense of humor (this means you, Jay). But I laughed, so I guess I'm guilty, too.

Some things are just too grey

I've been trying to decide if John "Taliban" Walker, as Curtis Sliwa likes to call him, should be tried for treason. I think it would be a black-and-white case if the man were a little older. He apparently converted to Islam at 18 and headed overseas. An 18-year-old is easily swayed. Cults inhabit college campuses for a reason--they search out lonely freshmen and make friends with them in the hopes of finding new converts.

But regardless of how old he was or is, he fought against his country. And that's treason.

My guess: He's going to jail for life.

That's what I'd vote for, in any case. You don't get an amnesty when you raise arms against your native land.--MAY



The Festival of Lights

Happy Chanukah!

This year, I'm doing something new and different: I'll be sharing my Menorah with all of you each of the nights of Chanukah. My dad had his faults, but when I first moved in with him, I had no Menorah of my own and asked him would he please get me one for Chanukah. He came home one day with this:

Menorah - first light

It's a brass and turquoise Menorah, made in Israel, with the names and signs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel above and the Lion of Judah holding up the candles. It's a beautiful Menorah, and one of the things Dad did just right. The dreidel next to it came with a present of Godiva chocolates from Kim and Bob (thanks again!). It looks great, but it can't spin for beans.

A recent correspondent, who is Greek, asked me what he's supposed to believe about the meaning of Chanukah. So let's review the historical events.

At the time of our story, the Jews were living under Greek/Syrian rule, as Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian empire. The Greek kings, Antiochus III and IV, outlawed Jewish laws and traditions, put to the sword those that refused to worship the Greek pantheon, and slaughtered thousands of Jews. Then Mattathias and his five sons, who became known as the Maccabees, led a revolt of the Jews against the Greeks, and ultimately had the victory. They cleansed the temple and went to light the Menorah to celebrate, but found only oil enough for one day. The miracle of Chanukah is that the oil lasted eight days, long enough for them to consecrate more oil for the holy lamp. That's the religious aspect; if you don't believe in that part, the historical battles are still true.

And what a Greek should believe about this is simple: A nation threw off an occupying army from another nation, that had tried to force the Jews to renounce their religion and their beliefs. It hasn't got anything to do with the fact that the intruders were Greek. It has everything to do with freedom--the freedom to think and live the way one wants. The Jews did not follow the Greeks to their homeland and attempt to occupy their nation or get any kind of revenge. It was simply about throwing off the yoke of tyranny.

And so we celebrate the light of freedom beating back the darkness of forced obeisance to someone else's way of thinking. Is anybody else seeing parallels to the war against the Taliban?

There are some extremely good articles on Chanukah at Great poetry, as well. Definitely a good counterpoint to the lies available elsewhere on the web.

Happy Chanukah!--MAY



The Taliban conspiracy theories debunked

Great piece in Slate magazine regarding the Afghan oil conspiracy theory that's been making the rounds. Here's my favorite part of it:

"The beauty of conspiracy theories is that even the most contradictory evidence can be folded into a new conspiracy theory. For example, after the events of Sept. 11, the pipeline conspiracy theorists spun 180 degrees from

We're supporting the Taliban so we can build a pipeline while we pretend we don't care about their links to terrorism (and, to a lesser degree, their cruelty to women).


We're bombing the Taliban so we can build a pipeline while we pretend we care about their links to terrorism (and, to a lesser degree, their cruelty to women)."

And yet, people will still claim that oil is the reason we're over there. Ah, well, there's no accounting for stupidity.

Ohhhh. Now I get it.

Did you ever have one of those days when a question hits you, gets you thinking, and then gets answered all within the same hour?

I went to the grocery store on the way home from the bank this morning, and a man with the Salvation Army was in front of the doors, ringing his bell and waiting for donations. So as I walked inside I was wondering, what kind of people stand outside in the December weather for hours at a time, ringing a bell, looking for donations to the Salvation Army? Do they have jobs other than standing around ringing a bell? Are they just incredibly dedicated people or do they have nothing better to do than volunteer for this duty?

Now, I could easily do a bit of research on the Salvation Army, or even ask the bell-ringers themselves, but I've found that on certain subjects, it's far more fun to speculate than to truly know the answers. On my way out, as I usually do, I put a dollar in the donation pot. I was carrying a box of cat litter. The bell-ringer was now a woman, so the shift had changed, which answered one question (is it the same person all day long?). As I was putting my dollar in the slot, she asked me, "How many cats do you have?" and proceeded to try to engage me in a long conversation about the merits of cats. I got away after only a few minutes.

And with my question answered. At least, for her.--MAY

Random acts of greetness 2

Hello, San Francisco! And may I say, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. I've been there a few times and would willingly go again, if I can figure out how to stop that fear of heights thing that's hit me in the last few years. I'm thinking train. And this time, I'll know better than to try to walk up the streets no one else is walking on. There was a reason we should have gone through Chinatown a few blocks away, as my friends and I discovered after having traveled up a hill you really needed a ski lift to climb. But hey, it was fun, and we did make it all the way to the Wharf.