Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet

Silence is often the best thing to say. Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

Disease enter by the mouth, misfortunes come from it. — Chinese proverb
 
Babi passed away a number of months ago. She was almost 100. She did not linger in the hospital; the final illness was quick. 

Quite frankly, in terms of how to go, it can't get much better than that. And yet, and yet, at the levaya and during shiva, I was flabbergasted at the insane amount of stupid comments that were given voice. 

What, I thought in terror, do people say when the situation is even more painful, when a loved one was taken too soon, too suddenly, too shockingly? What damage does an awkward mouth wreak? 

As I shared tales of idiotic utterances with those who have also mourned a loss, they eagerly commiserated, having been stunned by the blow of careless words. 

I would say, in this day and age, our greatest trial is shutting up. We huddle within our own minds, seeking only to balm our own agony, desperate to hear validation even from those who are consumed with their own suffering. 

I type this as a fellow transgressor. 

One day, while walking, I observed a squirrel attempting to cross the road. Animals, I have noticed to my amusement, never grasped the concept of simply glancing to their left or right before venturing forth; they take a few heartening breaths and lunge forward, focused only on getting to the other side, not realizing that they can get themselves or someone else killed—just look first! 
https://ksoanesresearch.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/said-no-animal-ever.jpg?w=584
I was struck then, as the squirrel frenziedly backed up after a failed attempt, eyes glued on the desirable curb so close, and yet so far, how often we and me behave just so. We don blinders, thinking of a goal, and ignoring all collateral damage.

Menacheim avel. Our stomachs squirm at the task, but we bravely march through the door into the hushed confines of a sad home. Even though the avel is supposed to speak first, rendering the visitor mute, mayhap the silence grates too much, the emotions frighten too much, too close, too threatening. 

We let our own desire to drive away the awkwardness override the task at hand, and we open our mouths. I need to feel better, never mind why I'm here in the first place. 

This goes beyond the shiva house. We meet others every day, and we repeatedly, hurtfully, mindlessly, inflict wounds. 
 http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/keep-calm-and-shut-your-mouth-21.png
Why did I say that? I reproach myself, merely at the times when I am aware of my flub; there are plenty of mistakes spoken that I did not recognize as such. 

THINK. We must THINK before we speak, over and over and over. Zeidy rarely spoke, because he wanted to avoid being an executioner. Very often the best choice is to be quiet, and regret nothing. 
http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/vsbattles/images/8/8f/Elmer_fudd-2.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140509023613     

Friday, August 28, 2015

TGIF

1) The viral video of teenage Jewish boys saving the world (or a planted Spongebob decoy). 




2) Voldemort gets funky. Click on the CC for the lyrics.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ivy League ≠ Success

He was a Brooklyn yeshiva boy, brighter than most. Following his marriage, he attended college at night. He eventually made it to Columbia Law. 

"You know," he said in surprise, "there are a lot of smart goyim out there." Feeling a little humble?
 http://i.ytimg.com/vi/xeD_5DrjmxA/hqdefault.jpg
Malcolm Gladwell, for all his success, did not attend an ivy league school. A child of a professor and therapist, he went to the University of Toronto. Not having been raised in the U.S., he finds the American fascination with higher echelon colleges to be perplexing—a needless expense and potentially damaging. Frank Bruni echoes the same sentiments in "How to Survive the College Admissions Madness." 

Consider the Law & Order episode, "Haven." The body of a well-known black community leader is discovered; he was bludgeoned to death. The trail eventually leads to his protégé, a black boy in a high-level college. 

This young man had graduated from his high school with high accolades. However, the standard of education in that institution was so low that he was completely unprepared for the ivy league, no matter how hard he tried to catch up. His self-esteem suffered tremendously, and he wanted to drop out. 

But his mentor refused to let him, insisting that he had become a role model, that the community had raised the funds for his textbooks; if he left school, he would be letting "everybody" down. 

While under cross in court, McCoy pushes him to snap: "I just wanted them off my back!" The pressure was too much; he had grabbed a baseball bat. 

That example goes a wee bit too far, but the point is this: Higher-tier colleges don't guarantee success. Peter Hart, cited in Bruni's article, had a glorious experience in the University of Arizona after being rejected by more prestigious colleges, and ended up in the same business position as his classmate who went to Yale. 

My Bais Yaakov had pretty much taught me what I needed to know to do well in college. I even knew more than many of my classmates, which was gratifying. I was where I felt academically comfortable.

My policy, when it came to education, was not to freak in elementary and high school. I had a classmate who was valedictorian, but after spending so many years cherishing her GPA she allowed it to choke in her meh college. Her self-made business never required a stellar college education. 

Rejection sucks, in all its forms. It's when we dust ourselves off and plod on that we find our self-worth, and where our own "success" thrives.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jooooooin Uuuuuus

She usually did her hair herself, so she had got the name of the establishment from Lucy, thinking she would know about such places; but perhaps that had been a mistake. Lucy had a face and shape that almost demanded the artificial: nail-polish and makeup and elaborate arrangements of hair blended into her, became part of her. Surely she would look peeled or amputated without them; whereas Marian had always thought that on her own body these things looked extra, stuck to her surface like patches or posters. —Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman

Poppycock.  

There are two types of makeup: Properly applied cosmetics, and Mimi Bobeck. 
Bad makeup vs. cute makeup, extreme makeover
Via stuffpoint.com, User Lexy_M
There is no such thing as "I don't have the sort of face that does well with makeup." It is impossible, improbable. Even Angelina Jolie has submitted to makeup artists. There may be "I don't feel comfortable with certain looks," however. That can be understood. 

I like paint, but there are certain times when I don't do my usual Face, like when I'm just running out to get my hair trimmed. With just mascara, concealer, tinted moisturizer, and blush, one looks miraculously fresh. 

 It's not all or nothing, us vs. them. Believe it or not, I was so adamant about being an honorary tomboy I didn't touch makeup until I was 20, and I was just refusing to powder my nose to spite the Face. 
http://chirkup.me/images/uploaded/00/00/98/9859_728x.jpg
Via chirkup.me
And have felt no need to look back.

Monday, August 24, 2015

"I'm. So. Scared."

Come every June, my neighborhood boasts an influx of returning daughters, fresh from seminary. They troop into shul bright-eyed, hair freshly cut and blown, nails groomed into a decorous French manicure, tripping in new unbroken heels, attired in crisp colorful outfits. Everything about them screams: "Finally! Now I can date!"

They dreamily plan their immediate futures: romance, marriage, baby carriage. 
http://brownkiss.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/love-marriage-baby-carriage-730x295-620x295.jpg
They sashay in, heads high with promise and expectation, and see a sight that makes them freeze in place, a mute scream rising in panicked throats. No! No! It can't be! 

The terrifying vision is, of course, me.

There is nothing about me, you see, that advertises any sort of possible insanity. There are single individuals, for instance, that one can "understand" why they are still single. Nothing about me, sadly, displays obvious reasons. 

Which catapults these young, eager lasses into a state of warranted horror: If she's still single, then, then, "it" could happen to anybody, even . . . me!?  

It's as though a Romulan ship uncloaked on the port bow. Red alert! Red alert! 
https://thiswastv.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/enterprise_romulan_warbirds1.png
I sometimes worry that by being single, I am doing a great disservice to these damsels. Does the very existence of moi urge them into precipitous betrothals? 

One of these eligible maidens was to redt to a chap belonging to a family we know well. Ma was called for information, and despite her discrete "Danger Will Robinson!" warning, the parents okay-ed him. 

Well, you can imagine the nerves in my house. I don't even bite my nails, and I was considering taking up the habit. The two dated on, off, etc., based on whether "anything better came along" for the gal. 

I had to consider: Is it me? To avoid my terrible fate, is she contemplating a lifetime with a lowly cad? I felt oddly guilty. The Eibishter is holding off, and I acknowledge that, a trifle impatiently. 

When she finally ended it, presumably for good this time, we all exhaled a collective sigh of relief. 

Don't make bad choices because of me, girls.   

Friday, August 21, 2015

Painless Dessert

I can be obsessive about new discoveries. Some experiments fail; a goodly number succeed. 

I posted about my surprising delight ("surprising" because I officially loathe coconut) in a homemade pareve ice cream recipe composed of coconut milk, dates, and vanilla extract. Cocoa powder could be added if one really digs chocolate, probably coffee as well. 

While web browsing, I realized that this concoction could be frozen in molds. I happened to have in the house a silicone petit-four mold that has never been utilized. 
A can of coconut milk + 8 dates + a splash of vanilla extract perfectly filled all 6 molds. 

I froze them overnight. It was incredibly easy to pop them out the next day. 

Gorgeous and tasty, with barely any work! Just put all the ingredients together to soak a little, blend, pour, and freeze. 

 
Isn't that pretty? 

And the obsession continues as I search through the myriad of silicone mold options. I have my eye on something in the flower family.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sticks and Stones

I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. —Psalm 57

Today, those words are less often spoken, more often typed. Texts, tweets, posts, updates, statuses, and so forth, can be a roiling, teeming hotbed of fury and shame. With the help of technology, a thoughtless comment can be elevated and escalated to the point where people's lives are ruined

"How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life" by Jon Ronson lists anecdotes of individuals who, without sufficient thought, spoke, tweeted, or posted a statement or photo that was more offensive than they realized. The backlash and consequences insanely exceeded the severity of the crime. 
 http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/02/15/magazine/15sacco1/15sacco1-master1050-v3.jpg
In some cases, the "muckrakers" that "outed" mindless words with the help of social media were attacked in turn, after these mild offensives were returned with firings and virulent online persecution. 

Public shaming is not a new concept. But it now extends beyond one's own small social circle to the entire freakin' world, who don't know the culprit and have no idea what they are talking about. Satire is often taken at face value; humor out of context.

Ronson's conclusion: 
When I first met her, [Justine Sacco] was desperate to tell the tens of thousands of people who tore her apart how they had wronged her and to repair what remained of her public persona. But perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see.
Why did Sacco tweet so stupidly in the first place? Probably the same reason why I used to constantly post statuses on FB—waiting for the "like" feedback, hoping someone would find me witty and worthy. 

Because Sacco tweeted under her real identity, the whiz-bang lash of ostracism was able to destroy her life. But anonymous commenters, subject to no such retribution, can write absolutely anything, snug in their invisibility: "The Epidemic of Facelessness" by Stephen Marche. 
When the police come to the doors of the young men and women who send notes telling strangers that they want to rape them, they and their parents are almost always shocked, genuinely surprised that anyone would take what they said seriously, that anyone would take anything said online seriously. There is a vast dissonance between virtual communication and an actual police officer at the door. It is a dissonance we are all running up against more and more, the dissonance between the world of faces and the world without faces. And the world without faces is coming to dominate.
I know, when I am distant to an issue, the "obvious" right and wrong side seems all too clear. It is when one comes closer that one sees that matters are not so simple. I try not to take whatever new "outrage" I see online seriously. 
 http://russia-insider.com/sites/insider/files/Unearthed-Trolls-1309-1-web.jpg
Especially since being faceless removes compassion. 
Inability to see a face is, in the most direct way, inability to recognize shared humanity with another. In a metastudy of antisocial populations, the inability to sense the emotions on other people’s faces was a key correlation. There is “a consistent, robust link between antisocial behavior and impaired recognition of fearful facial affect. Relative to comparison groups, antisocial populations showed significant impairments in recognizing fearful, sad and surprised expressions.”
. . . Without a face, the self can form only with the rejection of all otherness, with a generalized, all-purpose contempt — a contempt that is so vacuous because it is so vague, and so ferocious because it is so vacuous. A world stripped of faces is a world stripped, not merely of ethics, but of the biological and cultural foundations of ethics.
I find it interesting that those who spew horrible opinions while anonymous "of course" wouldn't say such things in the real world. Being unknown supposedly breeds "honesty." Does that mean that most of humanity, with their actual faces and true names, really don't qualify for that label?  

"What Your Online Comments Say About You" by Anna North reports on expert opinion saying that nasty comments don't necessarily come from a place of "truth"; the anonymous trolls could have simply had a "bad day." Nor do they realize that their petty frustrations can be seen by so many. 
And as they get more attention, some commenters might become more self-aware. When media outlets covered Dr. Brossard’s 2013 study, she took a look at the comments. One reader, she recalled, had indicated that “now I’m going to think twice because I realize that what I’m saying, the way I react, and my words potentially can affect other people.
One reader, she recalled, had indicated that “now I’m going to think twice because I realize that what I’m saying, the way I react, and my words potentially can affect other people.”
“There is research showing that people underestimate who’s going to see what they say” in comments sections, said Dr. Kiesler. “Unless they’ve been burned in the past, they are just not as aware that they’re being observed.”
But if research on comments continues, maybe that will change. Maybe commenters will become more conscious of each other and more bound by social norms — for better and, perhaps, for worse.
In short, think very, very hard before writing or posting pictures. And if in doubt . . . do without.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Food Scale

I initially purchased a food scale for accurate recipes (that's my story, and I'm sticking with it),  but upon its arrival I began to pathologically weigh nearly everything I pop into my mouth. 
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71ZUQ%2B-YquL._SY355_.jpg
It has been a mixed blessing. Did you know that 100 calories of grapes isn't that much? But on the other hand, a proper portion size of whole-wheat farfalle is actually quite a lot. 

I have been playing with my new toy to the eye-rolling exasperation of my parents, yet I have become addicted to accountability. If I weigh out nuts—walnuts can be so tricky when they're crushed at the bottom of the bag—then I don't mindlessly munch on them. I can actually figure out how many calories my breakfast is, as opposed to my fantasy-fueled under-calculations.

And, yeah, it is convenient for recipes, especially when some food items can't really be measured by the cup (try to figure out 1/2 cup of dates). The Europeans do things by the more accurate weighing method, and they are certainly on to something.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Friend Me Maybe

Friendship is just . . . so much work

I hate phone conversations. Half the time I have no idea what the other person said, but she's in middle of laughing at her joke and for me to chime in, "Sorry, didn't get that," would ruin the mood, so I simply start chuckling too for absolutely no reason. Plus I really need the bathroom, but would never say so.

http://www.highlinetimes.com/sites/robinsonpapers.com/files/imagecache/popup_image/images/wwwhighlinetimescom/2012/09/bltdeadmans.jpg

Ideally, we would "meet up" to "catch up," but when we finally manage to hammer out a mutually convenient time and rendezvous point, and I've made myself nervous plotting and planning the logistics, I'll get a last-minute (and I mean last-minute; I've almost left the house) text begging off and chirpily asking to reschedule. Bite me. 
 http://ciceron.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/email-marketing-stood-up-date.jpg

As for e-mail, while I love it, not everybody else does, so I merrily tap away all my thoughts, emotions, dreams, regrets, and so forth, but if the other side does not find the keyboard a pleasant medium, well, then I'm the narcissist in this relationship. 

Considering all the friend-related conundrums, I greatly enjoyed Iris Smyles' "What My Friends Mean to Me." Is it possible to have friends without any contact whatsoever? Because that would be great. 

Wait, we already have that: Facebook. Mischief managed!  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Heal Thyself

I told him that to endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe . . . The greatest palatinate earl and the lowest stipendiary serf share the same problem. You cannot hire a mentat or any other intellect to solve it for you. There's no writ of inquest or calling of witnesses to provide answers. No servant—no disciple—can dress the wound. You dress it yourself or continue bleeding for all to see. Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert

There are people that cross our paths that seemingly cry out for assistance. We are therefore moved to try. But in some cases, it soon becomes apparent that it is impossible to aid them. 
http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-nobody-will-persist-long-in-helping-those-who-will-not-help-themselves-samuel-johnson-370456.jpg
Because, in order to successfully move forward, they must first abandon a grimly gripped principle. No matter how much we gently admonish or exasperatingly bellow, they will not let go. We soon realize our help was no help at all, merely fuel that continued to propel them on a doomed course. With regret, we step back, defeated, acknowledging that in order for these misguided individuals to progress, they must first be willing to help themselves. 

It is at those times that the lyrics of Matisyahu's "Bal Shem Tov" chime through my head: 
Search heaven and the seven seas
The answer lies inside you
You know it won't come easy
You've got to find your own truth

It's your life to live
And I can't live it for you
It's your time to give
And I can't give it for you
It's your fear to lose
And I can't lose it for you
Death or life so choose
And I propose it for you

So find your word of truth
You got to find your word of truth

I know, in my own case, that dawning comprehension beats being clobbered with a verbal anvil. It is when my own sluggish thought processes finally go "ping!" that I fully fathom an idea or path that can so greatly change my perspective and action in life.

That is, I suppose, the point of free will. We are free to mire ourselves in the bog of our own making, and we are equally free to smooth out the road ahead, to some extent. 

As I choose, so will others choose . . . and I am unable alter their free will.   

Friday, August 14, 2015

TGIF

That's why I hate to lend pens.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Baaltashchis

When I was a child, the concept of baaltashchis did a number on me. Maybe because I already had a predilection to shun waste, but I became (and still remain) absolutely impossible. 

Just this week, I unearthed from the freezer a bag of cherries I froze two years ago when they, courtesy of a fruit of the month club gift, arrived on the doorstep prior to a trip, and made compote out of it. They did defrost to an unappetizing shade of brown, but with the assistance of two raspberry tea bags, a few mushy peaches, a touch of brown sugar,  and a squirt of lemon juice, the results are pretty (enough) and palatable. 

Throwing away food that was spoiled due to lack of foresight makes my stomach churn. Perhaps as a grandchild of survivors such mindless excess makes me wince, or it's merely my nature; it pains me. 
 https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/225/502155430_ca46611dde_z.jpg?zz=1
"Starve a Landfill" by Kim Severson sent my sensibilities into hyperdrive. 
Homemakers during World War II considered themselves soldiers of the kitchen, with conservation their battle cry. In the 1970s, ecology drove the urge to make good use of kitchen waste.
Somewhere along the line, the art of kitchen efficiency was lost amid grocery stores packed with pre-made pizza shells, bagged lettuce and fruit so perfect it needed no knife work. Dinner was almost as likely to come from the drive-through or the new corner bistro as from the stove.
Prior to the 1970s, kitchen efficiency was a given. In Europe, where food storage was tricky if downright impossible, Babi had to calculate how much dinner would be needed by her brood, down to the crumb, since leftovers could not be frozen or refrigerated. Nor were certain contemporary givens always available; for instance, fruits and vegetables that were only grew in summer were jammed and jarred for winter consumption.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-pO_ZHsNBFls/U50WrlqCHjI/AAAAAAAAQ7c/5EhNpI2Jpr8/s1600/dirt-cellar-canned-goods.jpg
Via houserevivals.blogspot.com
Ma, with such an upbringing, does impressive mathematics to prevent waste, even though she has the security of two freezers. Although, some dishes do not respond well to chilly temps, and it would be better to compute their use before they begin to decompose. 

Besides for mere sensibility, when Americans throw out food, they are also throwing out money. 
 http://wondergressive.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/money_food.jpg
I am surprised how many people I know claim to be on limited budgets yet shop without restraint in grocery stores. That's five pairs of shoes, ladies, going into the trash. 
Wasting less in the kitchen is just smart economics, said Dana Gunders, a project scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council whose book, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” comes out in May.
Eating better may cost more, she said, but an efficient cook can make up the difference. “We are so price sensitive in the store, and 10 cents will swing us one way or other,” she said. “But in the kitchen we throw out so much money without even thinking about price.”
Another culprit: Gimmicky recipes that require exotic ingredients, then the budding cook is stumped how to utilize them again. 
“So much home kitchen waste is from people shopping from a recipe,” [Brandi Henderson] said. “Someone will use that weird curry paste once and then won’t have the confidence to think: ‘Hey, this curry paste is really good. I’m going to make some fried rice with it or sauté some shrimp.’ ”
. . . She recommends “The Flavor Bible,” a book by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg that features no recipes but encourages intuitive cooking using lists of ingredients and complementary flavors and techniques.
“If we leave the recipe behind and get back to technique cooking,” she said, “kitchen waste will go away.”    
"Technique cooking"? Jacques! Oh, Jacques! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trigger Happy

It had not been a good day. 
http://blog.emptylemon.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Bye-guys.png
Despite the fact that my single state primarily involves, well, me, some supposedly "concerned" individuals concluded this "tragedy" is not only of epic proportions, it is also my fault. 

Shame on you. Blame on you. Your fault, your fault, your fault. 

You won't go out with that specific guy. You won't go to an uncertified "dating coach." You have this stupid belief that Hashem makes the matches. And while you have gone to 500 shadchanim, you didn't contact the 501st. 

See? Your fault. 

I was fine until they showed up. The ensuing agony was all the worse because I thought they were on my side, the ones who are supposed to give me unconditional emotional support. Instead, although they have never set me up, they decided to grimly mount their pedestal of righteousness and mete judgement upon me, then clamber down go about their day while I wallow in a pool of my own spilt blood, purpling with bruises. 

I needed comfort. As I have discovered, the best place to look is in Tehillim. In mine, there is a page which lists which psalms to say in certain situations. I was torn as to which situation I was in. Was I seeking peace? Hashem's guidance? Did I need to express gratitude? How about simply being in a bad place? I opted for the basic "finding one's spouse": 32, 38, 70, 71, 121, and 124.
http://selahvtoday.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834515c6669e2017c3522f150970b-800wi
I chose to read the English first, by the dim light of my Kosher Lamp. As I absorbed the words, I became puzzled. It didn't say anything in these p'rakim about finding a spouse. It was all about being pursued, how sinned upon I am, and how Hashem will redeem and save. 
http://www.myjustkids.com/uploads/1/0/5/3/10530993/732054_orig.jpg
Not the right perek, but I couldn't resist the girl archer.
I closed the Tehillim soothed, but confused. That had been my daily (weekly, monthly, yearly) experience, being judged and condemned, attackers snapping at my heels, and so I was pacified. Although, I don't wish these individuals harm; I just want them to leave me alone, if they opt not to help me. 

But why these specific psalms, for all those unmatched men and maidens? Nothing in there about how tough the singles scene is, or unfulfilled purposes, or even loneliness. Perhaps because nothing has changed, even since the ancient world: The God-given situation one has been placed often has the bystanders blaming the victim.

I know why they blame—basic Brené. They fear being caught in the same helpless web, and erroneously believe that by sneering and shunning they can avoid that trap. 

I can't expect someone who got married 1-2-3 at 21 to understand. I wouldn't. I only understand because I am here. 

For all those out there, who observe others and don't understand—take the finger off the trigger. 
https://jonathondsvendsen.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/leia.jpg
Me included.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the Moment

Following Brian Williams' gaff, there were a number of articles about memory (I linked one regarding false ones last week). 

Here's another: "Shutterbug Parents and Overexposed Lives" by Teddy Wayne. In short, ll this constant photo snapping plays games with our recollections because the brain decides that once a picture is being taken, it doesn't have to bother to remember the moment itself. 
 http://static01.nyt.com/images/2010/05/30/fashion/30facebookspan-1/Jp-Facebook-articleLarge.jpg
Frantically snapping multiple shots for supposed future reference is the opposite if "being in the moment." Then those photos aren't ever looked at again, so what was the point, really? 

I've been an aunt since the age of 12. I must admit, when the first ones rolled in, and this was prior to the cellphone, that camera was constantly clicking away. I have boxes and boxes of pictures that require sorting; last year, I attempted to, then chickened out. The task is just so daunting. Weeding out great from good from okay photos can be an impossible mission.

 http://conversation.which.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/takingpicture_shutterstock_28073992.jpg

There is one room in the house that displays lovingly selected pictures, the best of the best (and the ones that could not be rejected lest someone get offended). But my 5-year-old nephew commented just this Shabbos, "There isn't one of me here." 

"Oooh, look, I bought you Lego!" 

With the later crop of kinfauna, even with smartphones, it seems less important to whip out the recording devices. You want to sit with them, talk with them, and not ruin the tone by distractingly yelling at them to say "Cheese!" 
“Maybe taking photos is a way to compensate for not being present in the moment,” Dr. Henkel said. And yet the act of posing for and taking a photo is rarely a moment worth cataloging; it’s what was candidly happening beforehand that compels us to take a picture.
“Saying, ‘Here we are having fun, now everybody look and smile!’ can be a disruption of the experience,” she said, adding that the interruption of attention can also hinder our future retrospection. “We’re collecting trophies of our experiences rather than being engaged in the experiences.”
How many pictures does one need, really?    

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fave Recipes

1) 'Twas Thursday night, and an unexpected guest called for a Shabbos meal. Yet there was no cake in the house! What with the last-minute preparations needed, Ma's standard gigantic brownie, complete with complex parchment paper manipulations, was not an ideal choice. 

I tackled my sluggish internet, and after a 30 minutes of frustrated browsing, found these Whole Wheat Brownies. Smaller pan, less prep, plus interesting information: The biggest factor in brownie consistency is the mixing process. Mix them a little, they are low and fudgy; mix the batter more, more air is incorporated, the consistency is more cake-like. The baking time is also important: slightly raw brownie = ideal, as opposed to overdone.
 http://photo2.foodgawker.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/1832799.jpg
Ma muddled with the recipe a little—she happened to have a few sips of the morning coffee leftover, and she cut back a little on the oil and added unsweetened applesauce instead. 

Results? OMG. I am officially a brownie person. As for Ma's previous recipe . . . what recipe?

Since the bulk of the brownie is cocoa, consider the healthy-ness! Iron for the borderline anemic (such as myself), fiber (depending on the cocoa, it could run from 1 to 3 grams per tablespoon), magnesium, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, antidepressants, and yummy material for the good bacteria in the gut.   

We keep our cake in the freezer. That just makes it . . . oh so good. So good . . . 

2) Years ago, I saw an ice cream maker on sale and in naive expectation, snapped it up. That thing has only been a millstone around my neck. My plan was to never make it milchig, but to rather concoct pareve frozen delights. 
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Well, all my attempts fell flat. I experimented with it sporadically, but never had any success. 

One day a recipe popped up in my FB feed. I had a can of coconut milk in my pantry, and a package of my new-found sugar-crack bliss, dates. What the heck? I put the bowl of the ice cream machine in advance. Maybe I'll entertain the kinfauna on a Sunday with that.

Well, how we plan. I ended up on the floor with a bag of frozen edamame on my neck, my mauled finger clamped in bloody paper towel. I had been stupid with the immersion blender. My finger survived—thank God—but I was in no state to oversea the churning process, so just poured the mixture into the various popsicle molds I have about the house.    

Results? Shazam. As she says in the recipe, because of the dates (and the alcohol based vanilla extract helps too) the concoction doesn't freeze rock-hard; the results are soft and spoonable. I couldn't squeeze it out of the molds because the results were so malleable.
http://www.healingandeating.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/coconut-date-ice-cream.jpg
Via healingandeating.com, Coconut Date Ice Cream
There are a plethora of similar recipes available; this one doesn't call for an ice cream machine. Ironically, I tried the ice cream maker yesterday, and I think the consistency is a lot better than when it wasn't churned. 

I would leave the cocoa out, like I did with my first try, using only coconut milk, dates, and vanilla. While I HATE the taste of coconut, the flavor was diminished to the merest echo with the blended-in dates. 

3)  I have posted before about fish patties, but I upon reflection the method I shared was unnecessarily complicated. During the 9 Days, I threw together in five minutes a fish patty that actually elicited a "Wow!" from Ta while he was reading the paper. High praise indeed. 
http://aggieskitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Old-Bay-Salmon-Patties-recipe4.jpg
Via aggieskitchen.com
For binder, instead of oat bran or corn meal, I used ground flax seed, an idea I got from the paleos (I'm not paleo, but they sometimes provide a good recipe). To make flax seed even more palatable, I put mine through a spice grinder; the results are a fluffy, pretty powder, all the more so if using golden flax seed as opposed to the standard.  

6 oz.-ish canned salmon  (or tuna), drained
Dollop of mayo
A spoonful or two of ground flax seed
Squirt of mustard (I like Dijon)
Finely chopped scallion 
Garlic powder 

Mash altogether, should form a cohesive mush. Heat frying pan with a little oil. Form patties (a small can like I used results in three), and when the pan is hot, fry for a minute or so on each side. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Go or Stay

The first time I heard it on a date, I was a little rattled: "Let's get out of here." Delivered with a Brooklyn-ese sneer, it was perhaps meant to be funny, but sounded harsh to my ears. The phrase casts aspersions upon the "here," a pleasant restaurant or shuttering Starbucks. What did the "here" do to you that we must "get out of" it? After all, you brought me "here." 

Those are the situations I thought of while reading Virginia Heffernan's "Should We Stay, or Should We Go?" "Let's get out of here" is one of the most common phrases in American cinema. 


Why? 
But this high-minded passion for new vistas is rooted in something less noble: an aggressive, adolescent disgust with the familiar. “Let’s get out of here” is our bold spin on the innocuous “Let’s leave,” sending a signal to the nervous system that we’re slipping the knot, and we’re doing it together. The offhand contempt in the phrase is what makes it so satisfying: When we’re getting out of here, we’re not going to some idealized destination. Who knows where we’re going, really? Anywhere but here.
They were just taking me home. Not really "anywhere but." Hm. 

But Heffernan has noticed a perceptible shift in current movie jargon: Staying. "Getting out" can apply to a multitude of different situations; so can "staying."

Commitment. Discipline. Focus. Choosing the hard way, rather than the easy way.
This emphasis on staying suits our times: The people writing and watching these movies are all part of an introspective, if not isolationist, culture that’s still licking its wounds after plotless wars and a traumatic recession. Those who choose to stay express a steadfast commitment to a cause, a family or a discipline — or (when it goes wrong) to lethargy, inertia and abstinence from action. Where “Let’s get out of here” is all bravado and yang, stay is self-absorbed yin. In this context, the balance of cultural power seems to have shifted from the getting-outta-here rebels who used to tell the squares and schoolmarms to kiss off to the squares and schoolmarms themselves, who just wish everyone would hold on a second and think this thing through.
I'm a square, and pretty close to a schoolmarm! This is my kind of language.
“Let’s get out of here” addresses itself to the anxiety of an earlier age: that a would-be hero might never get off the starting block. He’d get stuck and never leave his hometown, his high-school girl or his “dead-end job,” as screenwriters once wrote. Today’s anxiety is something else. It’s that our heroes in training — ourselves or our children — won’t settle on a path at all. We’ll scatter their attention to the four winds, get lost in diversion and frivolity. More than malaise we fear distraction. More than tragedy we fear trivia. On highways we die not in high-speed chases but because we can’t stop texting. 
Maybe that's why I found the "Let's get out of here" utterance on a date so off-putting; it seemed to intimate that he would be going, rather than staying.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reluctant Yogi

It was in the dead of winter that I decided I needed some sort of exercise routine. The frozen weather had curbed my walking, and I was feeling as though my sedentary lifestyle was shrinking my muscles. 

But I knew my own requirements: No gym, no class. The bother of having to leave the house and be victim to a sadistic instructor—I think not. Secondly, nothing that was out to make me wheeze dangerously to the point I'm gasping on the floor. 

I decided on yoga. Ma had taken up yoga a few years previously, even though she shares my impatience for slow, deliberate movements. The first time she tried it, the main thought running through her head was "Never again." But she kept returning.
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I rolled out a yoga mat. I searched On Demand for a beginner's program, and there was one, about an hour long. The instructor began to soothingly intone. 

About a 15 minutes in, I was groaning. But I also felt exhilarated, blood flowing into forgotten extremities. 

"Don't do the full hour," Ma warned. "You'll just get nimess from it." I thankfully stopped the soothing intonations after thirty minutes.

While my body complained for the next few days as muscles I didn't know I had grumbled, I somehow found myself in front of the screen again, executing the horrible Warrior II pose. I felt that the next day. 

"How long did it take you to like yoga?" I despairingly asked Ma. 

"About five classes." 

It took me less. I did the full hour the second time I tried. I then played it again twice, at which point my three-pack DVD set arrived. That one made me ache all over again, but I officially love yoga. Using the AM-PM Yoga for Beginners disc, I was surprised by a delightful tingling and glow from my shoulders. It felt wonderful.
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Last winter Ma slipped on the ice and had a bad fall, so bad she instructed Ta to bensch goimel on her behalf. She insists that if she had not been taking yoga, the damage would have been much worse. 

I had done yoga just four times when I trotted out on a January morning to fetch the paper; the steps slid out from under my feet. Thank you, freezing rain. I managed to grab the banister, but felt a searing wrench in my back. I curled up at the bottom of the steps for a few minutes, gasping deeply before I felt brave enough to gingerly clamber back up. 

An hour later I felt no pain. I popped in another yoga DVD. 

My shoulders moaned the next day from the cobra poses, but my back was quiet.
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Giddy with possibility, I then scoured the internet for more options. I purchased The Biggest Loser: Weight Loss Yoga and Tara Lee Elements of Yoga. I would recommend my first purchase for an official introduction, as these other two don't really get into detail how to properly hold positions.  But Bob Harper is great when one feels like one needs to push oneself, and Tara Lee's routines are thorough while being a reasonable twenty minutes in length (the discs in hers work upwards in difficulty from Earth, Water, then Fire. Many moves in Fire are beyond me). 

I only do yoga, currently, twice a week. In short order, I began to experience pleasant side effects. I'm calmer. I sleep better (especially after one of the PM workouts). I'm stronger—who knew that I had a bicep? A bicep!  I can flex it like Popeye! 

I'm sturdier. I never used to have stamina to stand endlessly, but now I'm a serene, steady, solid pillar. I feel, at least physically, less of a pushover. 

Also, although my weight stubbornly remained two to three pounds above my best the whole winter, I was still able to easily fit into my clothing without anything needing to be tugged. Ah, therein lies the benefit of exercise; not weight loss, but muscle tone. 
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Namaste.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Brian and His Brain

It is way too often that I say: "I could have sworn that I _______." Locked the door. Turned off the a/c. Packed sunglasses. 

My memory sucks. Ma remembers what the weather was like on the day her first cousin's son (now 40) was born (drizzly). Yeah, I didn't get that gene. 
But false memories is apparently a prevalent occurrence. As Tara Parker-Pope reports ("Was Brian Williams a Victim of False Memory?"), and I have read in Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness, memories are not like video recordings. They are actually broken down into pieces, and the brain then draws on inferences to connect them, sometimes erroneously, if the need arises. 

As the article shows, researchers have found it to be so very, very easy to plant false memories into test subjects. I was quite surprised when, in my first psychology course, my mellow professor asked the class, "What was your first memory? It was being tall on your dad's shoulders, right?" 

Well, that messed up my recollections real good. I had some blurry ones before: Leaning too far over the side of my crib and then screaming on the floor. Trying to look out of my parents' bedroom window but my head didn't clear the ledge. There actually was one of seeing my shadow while on Ta's shoulders, but it was certainly further down on the roster until after she mentioned it. 

It's like in those sitcoms when two people are asked to recall an experience, usually to resolve a feud. It is fascinating how two people can remember one episode so very differently.

Okay, so I didn't get that camera-like recording system between my ears. So I better not make too many judgements based on it. Most of us have got lemons.   

Monday, August 3, 2015

NEAs (Newly Engaged Acquaintances)

Onlysimchas and Simchaspot have become, blush, quite an addiction for me, despite the fact that 99.9% of the people who post their simchas are complete strangers. Perhaps I find the unknown vastness of our little nation intriguing. 

But then, one day, I see an engagement, and—gosh—I know both of them. The girl and I shared a table by a wedding, once. The guy and I went out once a long, long time ago (in this galaxy; he was not a Star Wars Villain). 

I found myself absorbed in this announcement. I try to think of possible dates for the girls and guys that cross my path, and in a million years. . . nope, this was one combination that would have never, ever occurred to me. 

It comforts me to consider the many factors when crafting a shidduch. Singles aren't any more honest than shadchanim when it comes to saying what they are looking for and what they really need in a spouse. Additionally, who really knows what aspects of two individuals actually *click* and spark connection?
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And yet . . . it manages to work out.