Category Archives: randomness

New Beginnings

We are now more than a week into year 5773 in the Jewish calendar and a month into the fall semester and all that it brings – teaching, cooler weather, daycare…in short, a lot has been going on around here.  We’ll spare you the details of Neil and my professional lives and focus on what’s really important here: the Boy.

Alon is now into his 4th week at the Lamont daycare: Bright Horizons.  He spends his days with several buddies (only 2 gals in the infant room and one is only there two days a week, so the place is definitely boy-dominant) and with Chastity and Lauren, his two awesome childcare providers.  (Chastity was also a teacher in the infant room when Alon’s big sister was there ten years ago).  Anyway, Alon has taken to his new environment pretty well – we had some crying at drop-off the first few days, but every day that passes sees him more and more comfortable with his buddies and teachers and with the new (probably more exciting, actually) play space.  Of course, we knew all would be well when, 5 minutes into his first full day there, Alon dug his favorite book out of the book chest:

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

(sorry for the quality of the picture – I was trying to sneak one in as I snuck out of the room!)

Unfortunately daycare also means germ exposure – after only 2 weeks there, Alon came down with a cold and a fever.  He’s much better now, but the poor kid was definitely out of sorts for a while (and out of daycare for a few days).  Unfortunately, Neil got sick just as Alon was getting on the mend.  Still, even when sick I think the two of them are pretty cute:

Anyway, in the last month, aside from when he was sick, Alon has been getting ready to conquer the world.  First – sitting! After a week or so at Bright Horizons, we picked up Alon one evening, brought him home, sat him down, and…he sat! And sat and sat and sat.  Here’s proof (from a recent visit to Sabba and Savta’s house during Rosh Hashanah – thanks Sabba for the picture!):

Alon has also started pulling up to see and reach for things that are above eye level when he is in crawling/scampering position on the floor.  Next up, he’ll be walking – yikes! No matter what position he is in, though, Neil and I have been referring to Alon as “Tornado Boy” for the havoc that he wreaks around him whenever in the presence of his toys and books:

Oh, here’s an interesting fact: when Alon was sick last week, he stopped playing with his toys and only wanted to read books/have books read to him.  We even made a special trip to the library for more books (mostly so that I could get a break from reading the same ones over and over).  He’s back to playing with his toys now (see above picture).

Finally, let’s talk food.  This is the Boy who loves to eat, right? Well, not exactly.  He still eats, of course…but in addition: meet the Boy who loves to throw (food, that is).  Even food that he generally loves.  And speaking of which, what he loves to eat has definitely taken on narrower dimensions recently (as Neil put it, “he developed taste buds!”).  We even had a banana refusal (thankfully that only happened once…). And yesterday one of his teachers told me that he threw but would not eat his turkey meatballs (the one food I thought I could reliably count on him to eat).  Toddlerhood, here we come…

Anyway, there’s more going on than that, but I thought I would share the highlights.  More to come soon!


Alon is 9 months! – and recent adventures

Believe it or not, Alon has now been outside the womb longer than he was in.  It is kind of hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s the truth.  Pretty amazing…

Anyway, his 9th month was full of adventures, too numerous to recount here.  A couple of highlights: 2 weeks in Woods Hole with Sabba and Savta, runs with Ima in the used jogging stroller we recently bought, and lots of finger foods.  New on Alon’s list: eggplant, rice crackers, and turkey meatballs.  Actually, at this point he eats pretty much everything, with the exception of avocado.  He has gotten very good at feeding himself in the last few weeks.

Rather than regale you with tales of recent adventures, I am going to simply inundate you with pictures.  Without further ado, here is Alon over the past month:

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from one west coast to another

it feels like it was yesterday [and yet at the same time, a long time ago] that we were together on a beach in Israel [pix here].

today, just a bit over two weeks later, i found myself with another best friend on the west coast of the U.S. it is all a bit mind-boggling to me. air travel borders on magic to me. it is amazing how we can be one place with someone in a special place and then suddenly find yourself surrounded by a whole group of folks in another special place. stunning.

Morgan wanted to go see some oak woodlands outside of San Fran. i was game, of course. i really wanted to see individual trees of the magnificent blue oak. here is a decent picture and some info as to why these trees are so special….ah, here are some better pix and info.

but, being that it is December and i was in San Fran, the great Pacific Weather System had other plans: rain and fog, as is tradition and meteorology. so, we headed off toward’s Stinson’s Beach. it was a nice scramble among rocks and interacting with waves and forms of life that are very different than trees. it was not disappointing.

view of the Pacific

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on being Jewish – not that i would know

so, this is a post that i had written only in my mind for nearly a month now. it is a topic where i, the fool, fears to tread. but, i’ve had one experience after another that seems to be the universe calling for this post. so, here we go.

context: i come from a small town, <13,000 people, that was 97% white when i grew up. wiki indicates it has become more diverse. it is now 96.8% white. until leaving home, and even a few yrs after that, i lived in one  kind of culture where words and phrases were thrown around that would be considered offensive. my grandfather, who i spent much time with and had a great influence on me, used terms for other people that are not appropriate today and were not really appropriate towards the end of his life. but, i honestly believe he used these terms like we use American, Canadian, Russian, etc.

so, i stereotype. there, i admitted it. i generalize groups of people, though not an individual person. i hope i am Chapelleian in this way. you know, like white people can’t dance, Clayton Bigsby and I Know Black People – see pts 1 & 2.

therefore, i am clearly naive and have no idea of what it is like to be Jewish. however, being brought into an Israeli-Jewish family, being exposed to bouts of Hebrew and visiting Israel certainly opens one’s world, unless they are a zombie. for example, i was sitting in an internet cafe the other day and ‘happened’ to overhear two Israelis calling home. my ears were pulled in and i definitely knew more words in their conversation than what i would have expected. strands of Israeli’ness have seeped into my soul.

last night i was listening to a podcast of my favorite radio show. it was recorded on Sukkot, which i just learned a little about the other day. they were discussing how they would celebrate it and that there would be no Jews listening to the show after 6:37 pm. Sukkot and cheating Jews, listening to the show past 6:37 pm, ended up being a running gag for the entire show. [i will not link to that episode as the main topic is really over the line, even for them; i did laugh and laugh].

at one point, the funnyman sidekick said he wasn’t going to celebrate Sukkot with his young children because he hasn’t told them they were Jewish. when prompted, he said he was going to sit them down and tell them when they were at the appropriate age. somewhat related: he also said he tells his children that they do not celebrate “Lunch” in their house.

of course not telling your children that they are Jewish is a joke. of course. except when it is not.

in fact, this summer i learned that the family of one of my friends only learned a decade or so ago that they were Jewish. it seems that Grandma fled Europe just as Hitler was rising to power [40 other family members perish]. she told NO ONE that she was Jewish.

call me wickedly naive, but this is, um, un-American to me. this is something, when i was younger i guess, that i discussed often with people, especially when i left my home region and met people of all kinds of races. i was fascinated. but, this is a fairly common topic of discussion in America – heritage. so, i was stunned  to hear of this lack of disclosure. but, more and more these days, i understand it.

the first event that helped me understand this was the Forest of Martyrs:

of course i can identify with that. it is less abstract. and when you allow yourself to think about it, it is overwhelming.

next, while in Mongolia, i was reading “Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World”. when the Mongolian army first wreaked havoc in eastern Europe, Europeans were so ignorant of who these people were that they concluded this was the lost black tribe of Jews. they had left Europe (for good reason perhaps?), became evil and returned with a vengeance, as a good action movie voice-over would say. the Euros blamed the Jews.

later in that same book it was noted  that the Mongolians introduced, accidently?, black plague to Europe. it seems to have derived in marmot burrows; marmots are the favorite wild food of Mongolians and they were pretty tied to this animal. of course, as the plague started to sweep Europe, you know who they blamed, correct? they went to their homes and villages and started burning them. it was how to keep the plague at bay, according to their hypothesis.

we all know what Hitler did. we all generally know that the Jews have been persecuted for 2000 yrs or so. given these new details, my in-laws did not know of these specific events, it puts Hitler in a greater perspective. he did nothing new, really. he just did it on a larger scale and recorded it. i mean, recorded it for the mass media for all to see. to be preserved outside of the Jewish culture forever.

wow, i’m really starting to get it. if i were Jewish, i would be careful about being in Europe. i do not want to be a scapegoat for anything.


coming back to stereotypes: they are dangerous and offensive. but, they also contain a certain grain of truth for larger cultures. more and more evidence is suggesting that natural selection plays a role in the development of culture. if this holds true, then we might think of culture as something like blondes in Scandinavia or coarse-haired Italians – it is partly shaped by our DNA and there is a common pattern among people within a culture.

World’s largest squash?

Not much to say, just wanted to share with you all this picture I took of what I think must be the largest squash in the world, viewed at the open air market yesterday morning.  I am sure that they would win a prize at some State Fair, but here nobody even blinked an eye when walking past.  Except me 🙂

These are prize winners, don't you think? Seen at the Carmel Market...

So far from Kentucky and tortured

Organic apples? Really? Organic macoun? You’ve got to be kidding! Jet lag be damned. I’m there.

I find my way there eventually ending up on small, twisty roads. – a great sign! I pull into the parking lot and my enthusiasm begins to waver as I see parking lot attendants [yes, plural] and rows and rows and rows of cars [i eventually count 6 rows and estimate roughly 15 cars/row].

Dam! I am no longer in Kentucky. There is no denying it. It is understandable, though – a wonderful autumn day, fresh apples, organic orchard, tri-state region.  I get it. I accept it. I mean, I am here for the same reasons.

I put on my game face, head down and bolt for the store. Gotta make this a short visit.

And then it hits me, conditions that support my waning enthusiasm: a bouncy castle and face painting.

No. I’m sorry. Apple orchards in September are temples. They are holy sites; Mecca, if you will. It is a time and place where all the all the sacred elements of the Sun, great soil complex, rain, air and biology synergistically emerge in the shape, color, and taste of a crisp, sweet and tart apple. Heavenly perfection. Nirvana.

I did all I had to not go Jesus on these money changers.

I got bumped. I had to stand in line. I laughed (internally) at the orchard tourists, SLR digital cameras and camel packs, you know, so that they do not die of dehydration walking around the orchard picking apples. An oblivious mouth-breather jumps line  to buy two Boylan sodas. Does he not respect that this is the closest he’ll ever get to Kazakhstan, home of the domestic apple? Where is his reverence? To avoid gong postal, I start chanting (internally), “O.M….O.M. Organic Macoun…”

They take credit cards. I don’t have to sign as it is under $50. Great. In & out and nobody gets hurt.

I’m gone.

And then, it melts away. Less than 3 miles from the orchard and with 2/3rds of the first macoun melting into my system, I am transported to my Malus Temple; to Kazakhstan.

Fishill Farms, NY:

pros – organic, macoun, doughnuts;

cons – bouncy castle, face painting, plastic bags, 100 cars during peak times

Reed Valley Orchard, KY:

pros – 75+ varieties of apples*, Trudy**, homemade apple pies, 10 cars in the lot at peak;

cons – conventional apples, not one macoun tree left 😦

– it is a wash – both orchards sit atop my top 10 apple orchard list between KY , NY & VT. while Trudy is worth about two pros (see below), organic apples essentially count as two. if they were across the road from one another, which if that happend there would be a tear in the fabric of the universe, a black hole would form and it would collapse upon itself.

* – this diversity of varieties is nearly Inkan in its stability in production. the diversity buffers it from poor growing conditions. for example, in 2007 when central KY experienced an early, warm spring followed by a hard frost and minor drought, most orchards in the area lost much of their fruit. Reed Valley lost much fruit, too. however like farms of the Inkas, the variety of apples planted in the orchard essentially guaranteed continuous fruit despite poor weather or weather events. some of their usual varieties didn’t produce, but they brought out about 5-6 other varieties during that season they normally do not promote. as a biologist, i loves this. it is thrilling.

** – Trudy is almost worth two pros. She shares the equivalent of an apple as she gives you samples from the 5-8 variety of apples available for picking so you know exactly what you are purchasing. the funnest part of this is that Trudy eats right along with you, slice for slice. I’ve tried to calculate how many apples she eats a day during peak season. I’m guessing 5? 6?


post note:

I’ve studied apple orchards like I’ve studied soft-serve ice cream stands across the eastern US. And, like the angle of slanted windows on these stands and their positive correlation with ice cream quality (texture and creaminess; r = 0.67, p<0.01 – though this relation is non-linear at the margins of window angle), there a strong relationship between the carnival elements at an orchard and the quality of apple. In this case, however, the relationship is negative: the greater the number of carnival elements (face painting, bouncy castles games, etc), the lower the quality of apple (texture, crispness and genuine, intended flavor of each variety). Priests & priestesses of Malus need to focus solely on the product, not the tinsel. Please. I’ve studied this. Reed Valley has none of those things  on a day-to-day basis while the other two orchards in the Lexington area have these things. The other orchards produce inferior apples compared to Reed Valley. Another example of this issue at Fishkill are their plastic bags. If they truly cared about their apples, they would offer papers bags as Reed Valley does. Apples last longer in paper. It is no secret.

I have to say that while I enjoyed the 1st macoun, it was not the best I’ve ever had. But, this is only an N of 1. Time for more replication.

Pardon me.