Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween

Yesterday many in the United States celebrated Halloween.

So did many others around the world. In recent years, the tradition of going door to door for candy handouts has gained popularity in other countries where Trick-or-Treating was unheard of just ten years ago.

I present for your reading enjoyment three tales of Halloween experiences yesterday, as relayed to me by family members:

Experience #1, Central California

In small towns, people often know their neighbors. People go out of their way to embrace social events like Halloween. Homeowners carve pumpkins and display fun and/or scary decorations. Kids walk the streets of their neighborhoods and show off their costumes while collecting enough candy to rot teeth and screw up blood sugar levels for weeks to come.

In particularly rural areas, neighborhoods are not built with sidewalks. This combined with longer distances between homes results in many children being driven around by their parents for the evening. Last evening, however, something different happened: children by the mini-van load were driven from their rural areas to the more sidewalk friendly subdivisions and dropped off. Last night 4 large variety bags of candy which usually is more than enough suddenly vanished in 55 minutes.

Everybody likes a good turnout, but is it fair that certain neighborhoods become magnets for outsiders? Is it reasonable that kids be driven to the best neighborhoods for trick-or-treat, or is part of the charm of the holiday that we encourage socialization on our own streets?


Experience #2, Central Mid-South

(Wikipedia: Mid-South is a colloquial name for the region centered on the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area. It includes portions of West Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northeastern Arkansas, as well as the Missouri Bootheel and extreme northwestern Alabama)

The difference between neighborhoods of the same large city can be noticeable. Some areas are filled with friendly neighbors while others are what I like to call "slam-click" neighborhoods. A slam-click neighborhood is one where people come home from work, slam their door closed, and click the lock.

This story takes place in a slam-click subdivision. A single large variety bag of candy was purchased. Unfortunately the doorbell rang only 4 times all night. Not one single trick-or-treater was in costume. Not one. A quick look around the neighborhood revealed that only about every 7th house was accepting trick-or-treaters. The night ended with most of the bag of candy untouched.

How sad is that?

Later, the news carried a story about groups of parents who gathered in local parking lots to do trunk trick or treating: kids walked from car to car, trunk to trunk, with their baskets to receive candy handouts.

How sad is that?


Experience #3, Central Europe

As many of you may know, the U.S. stations hundreds of thousands of military members around the world. In many locations there exist miniature cities-- complete with schools, stores, bowling allies, fast food restaurants, etc. Besides active duty personnel, civilian employees & spouses & children make up the population. While many live in government housing, many more live "on the economy".

Apparently last night there were many trick-or-treaters. Many were American kids living in neighboring apartments. Others were Polish kids whose fathers are stationed at the joint US/NATO base. Others were German and Turkish kids who have learned about Halloween from generations of Americans. And still more were Russian and other kids from eastern European countries that have moved into neighborhoods across the train tracks (both literally and figuratively) in recent years. The afternoon and evening began normally-- young children, some alone and some in groups or with parents, range the doorbell and received candy. After about 8:30 or so the visitors became noticeably rougher and more aggressive, demanding rather than asking.

The older German couple next door had just arrived home from holiday earlier that afternoon and were not answering their door. This is their right-- they were busy unpacking and had not purchased candy for the evening. Unfortunately, sometime during the night their front steps had been graffitied with the words "Fuck You". The words were in English, but let's be honest-- they could have been written by anyone. English vulgarity is fairly universal worldwide.

Trick-or-Treat. The name says it all-- give me a treat or else I will play a trick on you. But what is considered an acceptable treat these days? Should the trick include vandalism? Vulgarity? Inconvenience? What would be an acceptable trick in lieu of a treat? Making noise? Soap or oil on the doorknob? Toilet paper in the tree (think house instead of apartment)? At what point does the line get crossed between funny and unacceptable?

Here's a question for you: What "tricks" did you play on Halloween as a child (or other similar holiday if Halloween was not common where you grew up); and what would you consider to be an acceptable "trick" today?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I love food

Howdy.

I revealed in my first post (a mere week and a half ago) that I was not comfortable with writing to an anonymous audience. I like to talk... I like to talk a LOT... but I like to talk to a person or people I can see. I need the feedback, so I can guide the conversation in the appropriate direction.

Writing a blog requires writing with no feedback. Yes, yes, I know. I am getting feedback... in the form of comments left on the blog. Don't think that I don't appreciate the comments.. I do. In fact, I check a few times a day to see if anyone new has left me any comments.

The problem is... I don't know what to write about. I don't know you... I don't even know who "you" is. (Is? Are? What would be grammatically correct here? Without the quotation marks, obviously the correct syntax would be {I don't even know who you are}. But in this case, the "you" is a placeholder for an unknown name of the subject of the sentence... in other words the "you" could be substituted with "John". In this case the correct syntax would be {I don't even know who John is}.)

Anyway... enough of that tangent. Back to the topic at hand: not being able to interact with my audience. Maybe I should start a new policy here at this blog-- audience topic suggestions.

Ironically, this has ALL been a tangent of its own. My original topic was a discussion of food, but I have yet to mention food.

Food. There, I mentioned it.

I love food.

I know, I know. Almost everybody likes food, especially good food. Of course, there are a billion opinions on what constitutes good food, but it is almost universal that people like what they consider to be good food.

I like food more than most anybody I know. I love food. I love the experience of food. To me, food is very social. Food tastes better depending on who I am sharing it with, where I am enjoying it, what I am enjoying it with, etc.

Most people have very limited exposure to foods. Regions have native foods, and most people eat within the norms of their societies. Me? I like to explore. I like foods from all over the world. I like a lot of foods that my friends and neighbors think are weird or gross. No, no, I am not talking about eating bugs or anything. I am simply talking about eating foods that are not common (or even available) worldwide.

Why am I talking about all of this? (More importantly, does this blog post have ANY point at all???) This discussion is about a disappointment.

Among the food types that I enjoy is Arab foods. Last week, while shopping at an International "farmer's market", a container on the shelf caught my eye. Impulsively, I bought it to try later on. What was it? Extra Pistachio Halva, made by A.O.Ghanour Sons S.A.L., in Lebanon. What is Halva, you ask? It is a desert of sorts-- a confection. It is made with Tahini (Sesame Butter), sugar and flavorings, completely covered with shelled pistachio nuts. It can be sliced or chunked off like a brick of cheese. Pistachios are my favorite nuts, so the combination seemed especially tempting.

You know the feeling of expecting one thing but experiencing something completely different? The halva was horrible. It tasted stale. You know, that dry, dusty taste of something that should have been eaten long ago. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating more of it. Maybe other parts would taste better. That didn't work. The package didn't look old-- no signs of dust or fading of the colors on the label. The contents were still under vacuum seal when I opened it.

My original plan was to talk about how disappointed I was with the halva. In an attempt to have more to talk about (and hopefully something more interesting to talk about), I did a quick internet search for the import company.

Uh... yeah. That's when I learned a bit more than I wanted to know. Please note that while writing this blog post, I finished the halva-- all in the name of research, mind you. I wanted to see if the taste improved as I ate more. Just about the time I was finishing the last bite, I discovered this. It seems that all of the company's halva imports have been recalled due to possible contamination with salmonella.

Well... it has been a couple of hours and I still feel fine. I'll be fine, right? I mean, I have only written three blog posts... this can't be the end. Can it?

"Ohhh...this is the big one. You hear that Elizabeth? I'm comin' to join you honey!".

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Provacative Radio Advertisement

People send me funny stuff all the time. Usually I take a quick look (or listen), and delete the email. Every once in a while I forward the humor to others.

Today I decided to share the humor on here. Are you familiar with Budweiser Beer's advertising campaign titled "Bud Light's Real Men of Genius"? Apparently this radio commercial won the silver for the radio category of the 2005 Andy Awards.

While I could write an entire post on the inaccuracies of the content of the radio commercial, sometimes it is important to just ignore the errors and enjoy the humor. This is one of those times.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My First Blog Post

My first post. What to say? Ah... the pressure is on.

Why do people publish blogs? Beats the hell out of me. I haven't fully grasped the point of why someone else would care about anything I have to say. On the other hand, I have no problem talking to people for hours and hours. What do you suppose the difference is? My theory is that I can tailor a conversation to an individual-- I get feedback that steers the direction of the conversation-- whereas with a blind anonymous audience I get no feedback. At least not immediate feedback, the kind that can steer a conversation. At that point I feel like I am just babbling.

So, what is my motivation for starting this blog? Well, I kind of got pushed into it. A quarter dozen people encouraged me, and then worked together to actually set up the account, set up the formatting, etc. All I have to do is type. Ahh... one of my forte's in life. I have an ability to get others to assist me in doing the grunt work. I trade effort for results. According to my mother (I have conveniently forgotten), I used to procrastinate when I was told to perform a chore or task at home. When my friends would come over to get me to go out, I would tell them that I could not until I completed such and such a chore... but if they helped me then I would be able to go out sooner (I offered an incentive for them to assist me). Apparently my parents would soon walk in to find me standing with a glass in my hand, delegating and supervising my various friends performing my assigned chores.

Well... I am NOT saying that I manipulated my cohorts into doing all the grunt work for setting this blog up. But I am thankful and appreciative. Good job. I never would have done it had you not set it up for me.

Okay, so what is my first task supposed to be? Should I set up my site? Create some links? Should I provide credit and links to other bloggers who encouraged me and set up this site? Or maybe I should reveal some personal information about myself-- who I am and what I have done and what makes me me. Nah... all that stuff is so cliche.

I will say that I believe in privacy. I have seen some blog sites where people who want to comment are required to sign up. Not here. I don't want to know anything personal about you. Any information you want to provide is purely optional. And feel free to hide the truth with a cover. I guess I will make up the rest as I go along.

My first assignment-- the reason I was manipulated into starting this blog-- is to complete a Meme. What the hell is a Meme you ask? Yeah, I didn't know either. Here is the online definition that I found:
  • A meme, (rhymes with "dream" and comes from memetic and memory), is the term given to a unit of information that replicates from brains and inanimate stores of information, such as books and computers, to other brains or stores of information. The term meme was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his controversial bestselling book ''The Selfish Gene''. Inanimate sources of information have been termed 'retention systems'.In more specific terms, a meme is a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution, analogous to the gene (the unit of genetics). Memes can represent parts of ideas, languages, tunes, designs, skills, moral and aesthetic values and anything else that is commonly learned and passed on to others as a unit. The study of evolutionary models of information transfer is called memetics.In casual use, the term ''meme'' is sometimes used to mean any piece of information passed from one mind to another. This is much closer to the analogy of "language as a virus" than it is to Dawkins's analogy of memes as replicating behaviors. Memes on the internet tend to proliferate for periods of time then quietly die off, and many start as obscure running jokes within net cliques which gradually lose their original meaning or otherwise become detached. Some people consider absurdist humor to be a good source of memes.:"The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own."::-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


That doesn't tell me much. How about you? yeah, that's what I thought. So, I asked around for a better definition. I was told, "It's like a list of things about you." Okay. I guess that sounds as good as anything. Anyway, as far as this Meme is concerned-- I was "tagged" and I am now it. *sigh*.


Here it is:
~7 Things I Plan to do Before I Die
~7 Things I Can Do
~7 Things I Cannot Do
~7 Things That Attract Me to the Opposite Sex
~7 Things I Say Most Often
~7 People I want to do This


So... let's see what I can do with this:


~7 Things I Plan to do Before I Die

  1. Obtain as much higher education as I can. Perhaps a Ph.D. in Law. Maybe more. My brain isn't full yet.
  2. Visit as many of the countries of the world as I can. Could I be so lucky as to see them all? I would like to figure out a way to enter Cuba without legal consequences from the US Government.
  3. Obtain at least two more citizenships. Maybe 3 or 4.
  4. Become fluent in at least 5 more languages. I would like to be more than just conversational, but actually fluent in English, German, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. Latin, Greek, Portuguese, and a southeast Asian language would be nice, too.
  5. I want to build my own house. No, not have one built. Actually build it myself. With my hands (and some power tools).
  6. I would like to hold a political office where I could actually affect some positive changes.
  7. I want to raise my child/ children to be a good person/ people. A Mensch.
    Mensch is a German and Yiddish word originally meaning "human being". In English, mensch refers to somebody who is altruistic and idealistic, as opposed to somebody who is selfish and cynically rational. "Be a mensch!" is uttered several times in the film "The Apartment", director Billy Wilder suggesting that people retain their human values even in the cold, inhuman environment of modern city life. Mensch are people who are "worth the space they're taking up" or "air they're breathing"--as opposed to the slang phrases to the contrary.

~7 Things I Can Do

  1. I can carry on a conversation with almost anybody-- even people I have nothing in common with and people I have no respect for.
  2. I can be dropped into almost any place on earth and get around. Foreign places with different cultures and strange languages are not an obstacle. I can be mobile and comfortable pretty much everywhere. I thrive on the new and unfamiliar.
  3. I can bless the Jewish people-- birkat kohanim.
  4. I can comprehend basic and advanced math with relative ease.
  5. I can drive cars, fly airplanes, shoot guns, and operate other machinery.
  6. I can (usually) please my sexual partner, and even receive praise at times.
  7. I can find any number of ways to make my point, understand my opponent's viewpoint, and repeat my points in a varaiety of different ways and from different angles.

~7 Things I Cannot Do

  1. I do not believe there is anything that I CANNOT do. I was taught that if I wanted something badly enough, I would figure out a way to get it. I was brought up to believe that I was only limited by my own willingness and effort. Having said that, there are several things that I cannot easily do, do not wish to put in the effort to do, or have simply not been able to figure out how to do. Here are a few:
  2. I cannot relax enough to dance. I have no rhythm. I am too stiff.
  3. I cannot sing well enough that anybody would care to listen. "You couldn't carry a tune in a bucket," a former girlfriend once told me.
  4. I cannot get over the irrational fear that people stare at me and snicker if I make myself the focus of attention in public.
  5. I cannot seem to regularly attract the caliber of sexual partner that I would like to. I am not G-d's gift to women, as much as I would love to be. I only managed to attract the current love of my life because she was too young and naive to know that she could have done a lot better.
  6. I cannot grow plants flowers, etc., the way I would like to be able to.
  7. I cannot sleep in a coach/ economy class airplane seat because I cannot sleep comfortably on my back... and the seats are neither wide enough nor recline far enough to facilitate sleeping on my side.


~7 Things That Attract Me to the Opposite Sex

  1. Where to begin? I am very attracted to the opposite sex. Perhaps the number one thing is confidence and self assuredness (not to be confused with being stuck-up or arrogant).
  2. An innocent look. I don't go for the all made up, overly sexy, high maintenance look. I like the girl-next-door look.
  3. A sense of ambition. Someone who wants more out of life, and always strives to be better. Someone who wants to learn more, look better, be better skilled, be nicer & kinder, touch more lives.
  4. A willingness to make the effort to look attractive. Don't confuse this with #2 above-- I do NOT like a high maintenance girl. But I do appreciate a girl who knows how to be attractive and how to maintain an sense of desirability through stylish dress, etc., while still maintaining the innocent girl-next-door look.
  5. Athleticism and high energy. A girl who likes to do things and likes to stay active. The antithesis of a couch potato.
  6. Smooth, blemish free skin, dark eyes, dark hair, petite figure, smaller than average breasts, youthful look, long hair, nice legs, small butt, and a tiny waist.
  7. A girl who enjoys and embraces her sexuality. One whose sex drive rises to a level that competes with my own. Someone who is playful and experimental and enjoys trying new things and pushing (and sometimes exceeding) the limits and boundaries of societal norms and expectations.

~7 Things I Say Most Often

  1. Okay.
  2. Let me put it another way.
  3. In other words,
  4. Do you see what I mean?
  5. Etc.
  6. You know... (You know what drives me nuts? You know what? You know something, ...)
  7. Yeah, okay! (said sarcastically)

~7 People I want to do This

  • Beats me. The first people who come to mind are the people who told ME to do it. So, now I will think of people whose answers would interest me:
  1. The President of the United States
  2. Jenna Haze
  3. Moses
  4. Richard Branson
  5. Alexander the Great
  6. Bill Gates
  7. Eva Peron

Well... I suppose that about sums it up for my first post.

How did I do? Hello? HELLOOOOO? Is anybody out there? *sigh*