Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Quaint...

Top of the evening everyone...

The temperature here in Quantico today rose to 44 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was downright balmy.  It is supposed to drop to 16 tonight, and hang out around the freezing mark tomorrow.

On Tuesday, it snowed here.  The staff in the chaplain's office was talking about whether the command would decide to shut down the base.  I was chuckling.

The flakes were big and beautiful.  The trees had that wonderful look of fresh snow on bare branches.  On Wednesday, it was well above freezing.  Virtually all of the snow that fell on Tuesday is gone.

I suppose perspective is in order today.  Snow squalls caused a 96-car pileup on the southbound 400.  I have not seen the front lawn of my home since the ice storm back in December.  That is now over two months.

On another note, I so love honesty in signage.  At the post exchange (sort of a military department store), there are signs up for the different sections of the store, as one might expect to find at any department store.  This sign reads "Toys/Hardware."

Have a good evening.


Still a Disgrace to the Fleet...

Hi all...

You may remember that I wrote a blog entry a couple of years ago entitled "Disgrace to the Fleet."  It was about crushing defeats on the racquetball court.

It would appear that I am still a disgrace to the fleet.  At least this time, it was to a Marine.  It keeps it in the Department of the Navy family.



Public Service Announcement....

Top of the afternoon to all...

The following is a public service announcement.

Several folks who read my blog have asked about Rav Jen's.  The problem is that she does not remember who asked.  As such, here is the site for her blog:

Rav Jen's Blog

This has been a public service announcement.

Have a good day.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Never Again...

Good morning to all.

I am not often predisposed to publishing my sermons.  Several of my congregants said that this one should go up on this blog.  So done...

Have a good day everyone.


        I debated whether to speak about my chosen topic today.  The timing is appropriate, given the events in the news over the last week.  On the other hand, I wanted to wait until Yom HaShoah, as that is how the mess in North Korea is resonating with me.

        You have seen the news.  You have likely heard the none other than the UN Human Rights Council took the time to focus on some matter other than Israel.  The council came back with a graphic, damning report on the goings on in North Korea.  The details of the report were contained in findings of over 350 pages.  The report itself is 36 pages.

        The report speaks of concentration camps.  The report speaks of torture.  The report speaks of starvation.  The report speaks of summary executions.  The report speaks of people chained to walls in the most uncomfortable positions for hours, days, or even weeks on end.  The report speaks of inmates forced to run races along the ridges of cliffs.  The report speaks of rape and human trafficking, the modern form of slavery.  The list goes on and on.

        If this resonates for us as Jews, there is good reason.  While we were marked for extermination in a way that the people of North Korea have not been, the travail that the North Korean people are forced to endure is eerily, uncomfortably similar.

        We cannot ignore this.  The Torah specifically states that we are not to stand idly over the blood of our neighbours.  We ourselves have all said, more than once, the words 'never again.'  If those words only mean 'never again for us,' they are a mockery both of the North Korean people and of those of us who speak them.  If those words mean something, if our own suffering means something, we must find ways to give action to those words.

        I am still giving a great deal of thought to how we should do this.  There are few charities with focus on the North Korean people.  It is difficult to deal with a regime that is known as the hermit kingdom.  If you have ideas, let me know. 

        Our parashah starts off with the words vaykhel moshe et kol adat b'nai Yisrael...and Moshe gathered all of the community of Israel.  I remember being one of 250,000 people in Washington DC in 1987 when Mikhael Gorbachev was there.  I remember reading about protests for Soviet Jewry in front of embassies and consulates.  I have colleagues with arrest records from those days.  There was no Reform.  There was no Conservative.  There was no Orthodox.  We had a mission.  We acted, as a community.  I remember how well we were organized for our own.  It is time to do that again.  It is time to gather the community.  It is time to give action to the words "never again."


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hints of Fruit...

Top of the evening to all....

A couple of years ago, we had a group of folks at our evening minyan who liked to take a shot of scotch every evening after services.  I am not a teetotaller.  Still, I usually do not drink in the building, and certainly not during synagogue events.  My deep, dark inner self believes that synagogues should be dry.

Anyway, they had finished one bottle, and had started a duplicate.  The synagogue ritual director and I took the empty bottle and poured into it an equal amount of apple juice.  Then we switched the bottles.  They all took their sip, and then looked at each other with weird expressions.  Finally, some said: "is this apple juice?"  At this point, the ritual director and I burst out laughing.  It was a truly wonderful, funny, and entirely harmless prank.

I decided to repeat the prank.  A different crowd of people likes to go into the office on Shabbat morning and have a sip.  In the office, there were two empty bottles and another bottle that was about a third of the way full.  I took one of the empty bottles and put in an equal amount of apple juice, and then put it in front.  I put the real bottle in back of the other two so that it would not be taken.

One of the women filled the shot glasses with apple juice.  The men took their sips and had the same expression as the group from a couple of years prior.  The woman who had poured saw two bottles of the same scotch, both filled about a third of the way.  She decided to combine them.

It is 36 hours later.  I am still laughing.

Have a good evening everyone.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Lowering Standards...

Top of the evening everyone.

The streets are still not clear enough for me to be out on my bicycle.  It has been annoying, and has frankly slowed me down a great deal.

Today, I had to walk up to the bank from the office.  It is a distance of about 3/10 of a kilometre.  As I was walking, I thought it was comparatively warm out.  Apparently, it was a balmy -6 degrees centigrade (22 degrees Fahrenheit).  It was a nice, comfortable walk.  I suppose that when we consider that it has been far colder than that in recent memory, -6 is comfortable.  This is the first of our lowering standards.

Some months back, I wrote an entry about having outpaced a TTC bus on my bicycle.  Today, I took my walk to the bank at about 5:15 PM.  I was faster than the cars.  Admittedly, Bathurst Street from the office up to Steeles is bad at that time of day.  Still, that is just pathetic.

Have a good evening.


Saturday, February 8, 2014


Top of the evening everyone...

There was an article in today's National Post.  The article showed excerpts from interviews with 14 couples from across Canada on how they make their marriages work.  Some of them had been married for years.  One couple had been married for less than a week.

Here is the article: Marriage Article.

Two things struck me.  The first is that only one couple mentioned sex.  I think it is an absolutely essential ingredient to a successful marriage.  As I have mentioned in other places in this blog, it is the one entirely unique feature of marriage.  Everything else we have in our lives, we can share with other people.  Couples need to be on the same page on this matter.

The other thing that caught my eye is something I have said in my Rules of Marriage  This couple said it better.  "You can't have an exit strategy."  That is the raw meaning of commitment.  I would likely add that one should actively avoid causing one's spouse to look for an exit strategy.

Have a good night.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Party Pooper....

Top of the evening everyone...

Over the last week or so, several people have asked me different questions about Sunday's Super Bowl.  The truth is that I do not care.  My not caring started about nine years ago.

One of the joys of life in the State of New York is that there must be a district vote to approve the school budget.  Usually, it is nothing.  No one cares.  30 people vote.  The budget passes.  We move on to the next matter.

In the last year that we were in New York, there was some controversy.  When that happens, doorbells and phones start ringing.  Everyone is encouraged to vote one way or the other.

Someone asked me about it.  I gave what at the time was a tongue-in-cheek answer.  De-fund the high school football team.  It is remarkably elitist and eats an inordinate amount of money for a select group of people.  Someone will put up the money anyway.  No one took me seriously.

What has happened since then?  I realized that my tongue-in-cheek answer had some merit.  Then I thought further...

1.  I went to high school in a high school football region.  We had five high schools in Norfolk, Virginia.  There were another seven in Virginia Beach.  Through four years of high school and 12 schools, only one person made it to the pros.  He was permanently injured after a couple of years, and no longer plays.

The bottom line: it is not exactly a career starter.

2.  I was in band.  I have never heard of a career-ending injury from being in band.  As well, we let anyone in.

3.  The discipline that one learns on the football field - teamwork, only being as good as the weakest player - these things apply to music as well.  Trust me when I tell you that the degree of discipline necessary to put on a concert or to sit in a pit orchestra is astounding.

4.  More recently, as we learn way more than we ever wanted to know about head injuries, we are learning that these injuries last so much longer than the headache.  We have no business subjecting anyone to such injury for our own entertainment.

5.  I am 44.  I sadly admit that I have not picked up my trumpet consistently in the last several years.  But I can.  I can go downstairs right now and play all twelve of my scales in less than 90 seconds.  My lip strength would be back up to what it was in a month.  There are no football players who can pick up this craft at my age.

6.  The NFL has been woefully inept at policing its own.  In last year's off-season, 32 players got in trouble with the law.  That is an entire team.

My tongue-in-cheek suggestion still stands.  De-fund the football team.  Fund the band.  Fund the theatre program.

Have a good evening everyone.