Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Note About Episode III: I totally called it! (No spoilers)

I finally caved and looked at the last few pages of the novelization of Star Wars Episode III. Then, today, I caved again and looked at a book called "The Making of Episode III." Yes, spoilers everywhere (except in this post). But the good news is that even after the spoilers, I'm still totally psyched. Word has it that this episode is much, much better than the first two. Let us hope that the Force is with us and that those rumors are correct. So far I'm very pleased with almost everything I've seen.

Anyhow, remember way back when Episode I came out, and everyone, including me, was totally totally disappointed by the concept of midichlorians? Because where is the romance in the Force if having it is genetic, and not some kind of sensitivity to the Universe that anyone, including Chayyei Sarah, could learn if only she knew how?

And remember how everyone, including me, thought it was horrible that Lucas had made it that Anakin has no father? Like, what kind of cheap Jesus allusion is that?

Well, from the beginning, I had a theory. It was a longshot, but knowing what I knew about Star Wars and about the way George Lucas thinks (because, having a high midichlorian count, I can feel Lucas' thoughts. Right now he is feeling content. He must have just had a really good salami on rye), I thought that perhaps, perhaps, Anakin having no father could be explained in a satisfactory way if it turns out that CENSORED BY SPOILER POLICE. No one believed me, but I knew in my bones it must be true. And today in the "making of" book, I discovered that in fact my theory is correctomundo! Sarah wins this spectacular prize of an all-expense paid trip to Naboo! Three days and two nights in the luxurious five-star Padme Panorama hotel in Theed, including a duck tour of the lush Naboo countryside and glowing underwater Gungan city! And, just for appearing, we'll include a brand new landspeeder and a $10,000 shopping spree in Amidala's favorite clothing boutiques! You'll also spend a day having your hair done by Natalie Portman's hair designers, and will star in your very own parade! Thanks for participating in "Sarah knows Star Wars."

[the crowd cheers and we cut to a commercial for Snuggles fabric softener]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Home Sweet Home

So, I love my parents' new house. If you want to know why, this will give you an idea. Remember how much more real estate costs in Boston than in Cleveland . . . And also that the Boston house is a nice-enough house . . . but the new one seems like a palace!

Old House: 3 small bedrooms
New House: 4 spacious bedrooms

Old House: 1 bathroom
New House: 2.5 bathrooms

Old House: Tiny kitchen
New House: Breakfast nook (and a garbage disposal! I love that!)

Old House: No "play area" for the nephews
New House: Family room

Old House: Covered carport; car ices over
New House: 2-car garage

Old House: Beautiful front and back yards, but no convenient place for a sukkah
New House: Sun room off the family room that can be converted to a sukkah for the holiday.

Old House: Hot as heck in the summer

(I hope I didn't just ruin my parents' chances of ever selling the old one . . . it's really all about real estate values. )

The downside: Leaving everything I know in Boston. :-(

The other downside: Utter lack of decent public transportation in Cleveland. There isn't even a way to get a taxi; you have to call the day before. What is up with that?

But all in all, I'm so happy for my parents, and for me as well. Especially since now there will be no more of the "Doda will sleep on the couch" nonsense when the whole family is together. And there is central air conditioning. Thank God.

Little note about my Pesach so far: I did not bring any winter clothes, and on Saturday and Sunday it snowed nonstop. At least a foot of snow in 2 days. So I was cooped up with my parents for 3 days . . . . I love my parents a lot, but, you know . . . .

. . . though I have to say, the food my mother made was amazing. If you are going to be cooped up, having a succulent roast beef, fluffy kneidlach, and her incredible Pesach rolls around is a good way to do it. YUM.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Note to friends: My VOIP line is now down. I'm not sure I'll be able to get it up at my parents' house, since as far as I know they function with a dial-up connection. We shall see.

Meanwhile, until further notice, you can reach me on the cell phone I'm borrowing from Craig the Awesome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The New Pope

I will leave it to other bloggers to write long, complicated, nuanced posts analyzing the history of the new Pope and his possible future impact on the world and particularly on the Jews and Israel.

For me, my first reaction upon hearing the news was: He is German? And he is how old? So in 1945 he was . . . let's see . . . hm, right, I see.

Then I open the newspaper and see the words "Hitler youth," and it's over for me.

Is this a nuanced approach? No. If I were writing about this for a paper I'd have a lot more things to say on issues like abortion, women's rights, Catholic relations with Muslims, poverty in Africa, etc etc. But this is my blog, and how I really feel is: Hitler youth. Nothing else to say.

No, I cannot just "get past it." Hitler killed my family.

A 78-year-old German is Pope. Great.

Lord, make it go away!


All right, all right, I was wrong. I stand corrected.


Thanks to all the people who fed me the delicious crow. :-)
Be My Star Wars Baby

Well, today is my last full day in California. My nephews have been so adorable. I'll miss them very much.

Last night, Ilan and I took the Return of the Jedi cards which my sister had given me, and the Return of the Jedi cards which He Who Must Not Be Named had given me, and put them all in order and merged them. For his efforts I promised to give Ilan any doubles we find. I'm happy to report, tentatively, that it seems we do indeed have one complete set of the cards (not of the stickers, alas. Time for ebay.) I feel complete, somehow, like my life has come full circle. (Yes, I'm scary.)

I'm so excited for the release of Episode III on May 19, I could positively die.

This morning, Ilan came into my room to wake me up, and we cuddled and I explained some of the Star Wars story to him. He has not seen all the episodes, so he had so much to catch up on. Doda, why did they freeze Han Solo? Why was he running from Jabba the Hut? Did Anakin and Padme get married in Episode II or III, Doda?

As I write this, Ilan and Nathan are in the backyard, having a duel with the lightsabers I bought for them yesterday. I'm so proud.

It's a good life when you have the Force.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Quick Update

Greetings from sunny California.

I'm having a great time. I've watched an hour of Star Wars: Clone Wars with Ilan; I highly recommend renting the DVD for any serious Star Wars fan. It fills in a lot of what happens between Episodes II and III. Yesterday we went to the "Happy Hollow Park and Zoo" and pet goats, fed a Llama, and watched a puppet show of Little Red Riding Hood. A fabulous time was had by all. My nephews are adorable and my sister and brother-in-law are super nice to me, so all is well.

Note to friends: My VOIP line is up and running. Please be mindful when calling of the time difference and the fact that my nephews go to sleep around 8 pm PST.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I know the way to San Jose

And from Jerusalem, it is very, very long. Thirty-one hours door-to-door, to be exact. By the time I arrived at my sister's house, I felt like something the cat had dragged in after it had been smushed by a truck. But I'm here, safe, and got a night of sleep and a shower since arriving, so am feeling better.

'Twas so nice to travel with Yael from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Paris to Dallas! She is one great travel companion.

No details right now, but I just want it on the record that De Gaulle airport sucks, many (though not all) of the people who work there are mean rude hateful people who suck, and being stuck there for five hours did nothing at all to make me any less inclined to make mercilessly tasteless jokes about the French. So there, you yucky De Gaulle airport! And no I will not spend $13.50 on a container of orange juice! And note to the obnoxious kid working in passport control: I am living my dream of being a freelance journalist, and Yael helps people stay healthy all day, and you, you yucky obnoxious kid, are stamping passports in De Gaulle airport. So who's got the power now, meathead?

Ahem. I'm fine.

Note to self: The next time American Airline puts you in the middle of a row, and you request a seat change, and the only other seat available is in the back row next to the window, keep the middle seat. I spent four hours from Dallas to San Jose with no view (engine), and a loud humming in my ear (engine). So not fun.

Note to friends: My VOIP phone is not yet plugged in. In my packing haste I neglected to pack 2 cords that I need; we're going to Fry's on Sunday to replace them. Will keep you updated.

Shabbat shalom from sunny California.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Turn of the Screw

By Henry James.

I am reading it, slowly.

I am getting annoyed with the narrator. It is so obvious that these ghosts are all in her head. She is making them up because she is a bored governess in pre-television East Nowheresville, England. Every single thing that happens she twists around in her head to turn into a "proof" that there are ghosts in the house and the children are in danger of being . . . what? possessed? turned to evil? You can tell that even the cook is starting to worry about her and is just humoring her.

The only screws in this book are in the narrator's head, and they are loose. I don't know if I have the patience to finish this "ghost" story that is really just a "the governess needs to get out more" story.

Of course, kudos to Henry James for making the story work on two levels. Still, I've made up my mind and the governess definitely needs a day off.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Little Gift

Sometimes Hashem gives you some small, unexpected pleasure that just makes your day.

I have been dreading my flight to California. When I flew to Boston just a few weeks ago I arrived so tired. Ever since, I have been anticipating that by the time I get to California, several hours further away, I will be ready to sleep for 30 thousand hours.

I am flying from Tel Aviv to Paris, where I will be stuck in (yucky, dirty, smelly) De Gaulle airport for 5 hours, just long enough to be bored but not long enough to leave the airport. Then I'm flying to Dallas, and from there to California.

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Dread, dread, dread.

About 3 days ago I was talking to my excellent friend Yael . . . you know, she with whom I have been close since we were 7 years old? She who made aliyah a few years before I did? She who decorated my apartment and stocked my fridge with food before I first arrived in Israel? She who continues to be an excellent friend? She with whom uncomfortable silences are not uncomfortable, because we're such old friends?

It turns out that Yael is going to L.A. next week, and we will be on the same flights to Paris and Dallas. How amazing is that? She's a great travel companion, I can tell. We already agreed that if one of us wants to sleep, we won't bother each other. Companionship when you want it, silence when you don't. It is clutch.

The worst thing is when there is someone annoying on your flight whom you know, and then you feel like you have to talk to them even though you don't want to. What a wonderful gift that if Hashem is going to put someone I know on the flight, it's a good friend with whom I feel comfortable just being quiet.
Baby Star Wars Fan

In a few days I am flying to California (note to burglars: I'm sub-leasing the apartment! HA!), there to see my nephews (and also my sister and brother-in-law, but, you know, mostly my nephews).

Dear Sister tells me that my oldest nephew, Ilan, who is seven, has recently discovered Star Wars. He peppers her with questions like "Eema, what does Darth Vader look like without his mask on? What do you mean he is Anakin Skywalker? When did he become Darth Vader? What do you mean they haven't released the middle of the story yet? What do you mean that the movies you saw when you were little were the end of the story? What do you mean they weren't exactly the same as the Special Edition on DVD?"

This is all terribly confusing for adults, so I don't blame Ilan for being confused. Dear Sister just tells him "Doda is coming soon. Ask Doda. She's coming."

I am pleased for several reasons. First, his attraction to Star Wars means, I hope, that he will not ask me to play with his Pokemon cards or Transformers, which bore me to tears. Second, now I have someone to take under my wing and guide in the ways of the Force. At last I can pass on what I have learned.

And third, my nephew is now old enough to have a working brain and a bit of an attitude, so I'm excited to be "working with" him. Dear Sister tells me that they went to a video store to rent Episode II, and discovered that the store owns only one copy, which was out. Ilan started saying, loud enough for everyone in the store to hear his seven-year-old high-pitched voice "what kind of video store IS this? How can a video store not have Star Wars Episode II, Eema?"

And you know, he's right.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My Trip Up North

was pretty neat! I hadn't realized how badly I needed to get out of Jerusalem for a change of scenery.

A few observations:

1) I love the train. I love the train. I love the train.

2) The Haifa Tower Hotel is clean and quiet, which is all I ask of a hotel. It is also very VERY well-priced ($50 per night for a single room) and the views are amazing. However, it has few, if any, amenities (only 2 channels on the TV, for example), and the lobby, hallways, and elevator banks are run-down. They also do not have any non-smoking rooms. For anyone traveling to Haifa on a budget, though, I recommend it, as the other hotels I looked into were much more expensive. Another factor to consider is that the Haifa Tower is in the center of town, in the middle of the shopping, whereas there are other (nicer) hotels closer to the water.

3) The Technion has a very pretty campus.

4) How fitting that Haifa and Boston are sister cities in the Partnership 2000 program! Both are coastal, mid-size cities situated north of bigger cities whose reputations overshadow them. And if the Technion campus didn't remind me of Brandeis, then I don't know what!

5) How refreshing, being in an Israeli city (Haifa) where there are a lot of different religions represented without the same kind of heavy stressful feeling we have in Jerusalem. In Haifa, I saw Arabs and Jews just hangin' out. Who have thunk it? And I saw women's clothing stores that had, in the same window, one mannequin in a modest skirt and long-sleeved shirt, and another mannequin in pants and a halter top. Stores catering openly to religious and non-religious women! Who would have thought of such a thing? Not so many people in Jerusalem, that's for sure.

6) The Bahai temple in Haifa is stunning. I have never seen anything so aesthetically pleasing (and man-made) since I got to Israel.

7) Have I mentioned that I love the train?

8) It is not an easy walk from the train station in Acco to the beach. The beach sure is refreshing, though. Ah, the clear water of the Mediterranean. I got to sit and stare at it for half an hour in between meetings. Gorgeous.

9) In Acco, any taxi ride you take cannot cost more than 10 shekels as long as you stay within the city. The poor taxi drivers! How do they earn a living?

10) Kids who live in Shlomi, Israel, go to a primary school with a gorgeous view of both the Mediterranean and a high mountain. The town is right next to the mountain. On the other side of the mountain is Lebanon. Pretty weird for me. I always think of Lebanon as being in black and white and full of the sounds of gunshots; probably the way other people think of Israel. This trip made me think that Lebanon must be very pretty. It's not like the topography changes just because the border does.

11) My taxi driver in Shlomi was saying that "someday there will be peace, and then we'll be able to go siteseeing in Beirut! We'll be able to drive all the way from Shlomi to Turkey!" It made me think that it must be very frustrating to live in a place where the only direction one can safely go is South. The mountain and everything beyond it beckons, but they cannot cross the border. Think how much the Lebanese tourism industry would benefit if that were not the case. Israelis itch to spend their money in other countries.

12) There is nothing to do in Shlomi, Israel except look at the view. It must be very hard to be a teenager there.

13) The Western Galilee College in Acco also has a nice campus, but the proximity of a farm or petting zoo or something that they've got there (part of a program they run for children with developmental disabilities) gives it a sort of farm-y smell. Reminds one that one is not in Manhattan anymore. Their science building happens to be amazing, though, with a stunning atrium.

14) The people up north are also very excited that the Jerusalem train is re-opening! I never thought of that . . . as badly as I want new ways to get out of Jerusalem for a change, they want easier ways to get INTO Jerusalem to visit family or for work. The whole country is relieved! Long live the glorious train!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I get to go on a business trip! I am the happening freelance writer! I have a client for whom I do marketing writing (yes, it is a sad thing for a reporter to have to do marketing writing, but one must pay the bills somehow - and no, I no longer write journalism stories about this client, since it would be a conflict of interests. At least it's a non-profit organization doing things that are nicey-nicey helpful-to-society things, so it's pleasant).

I'm writing about four things going on in the north of the country. So today I pack my bags and head for Haifa. Then I'll sleep at a hotel there, and tomorrow I'll go to Shlomi and Acco. No, I did not know where Shlomi was either until I looked at a map. Basically, if I were going any further north, I'd be in Lebanon. I kid you not.

Hence, the hotel stay. Luckily I'd arranged with this client to pay me waaaaay extra if I have to travel more than one hour away from Jerusalem, so it covers the costs of the travel. I'm coming out pretty well on this trip, actually.

Think this is glamorous? Yeah, mm hm. Remember, I do not have a car, nor an Israeli driver's license with which to rent one. So here is my itinerary:

Taxi to Central Bus Station
Bus to Tel Aviv
Train to Haifa
Site visit in Haifa
Find dinner somewhere, check into hotel

Train to Nahariya
Van service to Shlomi
Three site visits in Shlomi, probably walking around with all my stuff
Van to train
Train to Acco
Taxi to site
Site visit in Acco
Taxi to train
Train to Tel Aviv
Bus to Jerusalem
Taxi home

My sister's advice: Remember to pack dramamine. :-(

Someone please tell me when the train extension to Jerusalem is opening. I can't wait!!!

Basically, I'm really excited to be getting out of Jerusalem, but not so excited that this is all a last-minute adventure and involves so much shlepping. All things considered though, it's not a bad way to make money.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Me and the Kiddies

I am such a good friend. :-) One of my close gal pals is in America to be there for her mother who is sick, and left behind two children ages 2 and 3 with her husband. Last night the husband had to work late, so guess who babysat? Yep, Aunt Sarah. I shlepped in the pouring rain, with nothing but my Harry Potter umbrella and my laptop (praying to God that the computer-backpack that Craig-the-awesome gave me is waterproof), to pick up the kiddies from school, play with them, give them dinner, read them stories, and put them to bed. I changed diapers. I poured juice. I read "The Little Engine that Could." I refereed fights. I stuck a DVD in the DVD player. I danced with "The Wiggles."A good time was had by all. I was exhausted afterward.

Cute kiddie moment: Just as we were leaving the day-care center with the double stroller, it stopped raining. I was so relieved because I did not see a plastic sheet to put over the kids. I said, as I pushed them home, "isn't it nice of Hashem to make it stop raining just as we were walking home?"

Said three-year-old: "Hashem is a very nice man."

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Shabbos Report and Book Report and Presents and The Dentist and My Driving Test and Things My Shaliach Never Told Me

Not much new but, hey, it's a blog about my life, so when my life gets boring you have to expect that the blog won't be all "50-comment extravaganzas"!

I was sicky sicky on Friday. As in, gastrointestinally not doing well. Anyhow I had no Shabbos plans (no invitations! Sniff sniff! And didn't get my act together to invite other people over either.) Yael, who has to be one of the nicest and most generous friends in the world, brought over some stuff so I could have a proper "sick Shabbos" at home (she was going out of town). Just like I asked, she brought over some whole wheat challah rolls (I'm on a whole-grains, no white flour, sort-of no sugar kick at the moment), and stuff with which I could make a nice soup. She introduced me to kohlrabi, my new favorite all-purpose vegetable!

OK, let's stop and talk about kohlrabis. I had never seen one in America. This is a Thing My Shaliach Never Told Me. In Israel I see them all the time, even at my local makolet, but they looked weird so I never touched them. They are round like big tomatoes but have a thick light-green skin and pieces that look like green onions sticking out of them. Yael explained that you peel them and you can either eat the insides raw (it's white and sort of crispy inside), or use them like you would parsnips or potatos in a soup. They add substance to the soup and some taste without adding a starch like potatos do. I looked them up in the Weight Watchers book: a cup of cooked kohlrabi has only 1 point! And a cup of raw kohlrabi has 0 points! They are my new potato!

Anyway, Yael also brought me not only a bunch of teabags to make sure I had some on hand, but also put them in a Magic Tea Box, which she gave me as a gift! I've been wanting a Magic Tea Box for a long time, which she well knew. It made me very happy.

Another thing that cheered me up before Shabbos was that my Israeli neighbor, Nechama, brought over a delightful little flower plant for me that she bought at a local nursery and planted herself. When I get my act together I'll post a picture. So now I have two roommates: the cactus plant I got at my one-year Aliyah anniversary party, and Nechama's flower. It's a rollicking good time.

I spent Shabbos in bed. Friday night I just made kiddush and then was too tired and stomach-achy to eat so I just slept. For 14 hours. Today I spent all day eating soup (kept it on the blech the whole of Shabbos. It tasted really good. I used the turkey neck I'd cut off and frozen before Thanksgiving. Yum. Turkey and vegetable soup simmering on the blech. Yum) and I read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie cover to cover.

Let's talk about Peter Pan. I was inspired to read this book after seeing Finding Neverland. I thought it would be a happy happy adventure story, akin to The Hobbit. But no. Like Saturday Night Fever, it turned out to be much darker than I expected it to be. That book is a psychotherapist's dream novel. However, I feel much more cultured for having read it, and it put many scenes from the movie into perspective.

Also, it got me thinking about all the children's books that have language too hard for children. I mean, I'm sure that Peter Pan used to be suitable for bed-time reading to a 6-year-old, but what little kid these days understands words like "enigma" or "classical education"? Also the sentence structure is so convoluted by today's standards. Most of the humor would just be lost. What do parents do when the story is for children but the language is too complex? I want to hear from people here. Do you read the story the way it is, or change the language, or give it to them to read themselves when they are older?

Or maybe this is just me? When I read The Lord of the Rings as an adult, I couldn't believe that my roommate had read it when she was in elementary school. It seemed so advanced. Do kids read it and get it, or read it and miss a lot?

I also started reading, over Shabbat, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, which is also very dark but it's ADVERTISED as being dark. And it is, deliciously so. I only started it but am enjoying it immensely.

Feeling much better now, though I think I'll be sticking to simple foods tomorrow as well.

Alright, so I never updated you all on my Driving test. In short, I failed it. And not because of corruption either, but because I was nervous and made stupid mistakes. Imagine that, Chayyei Sarah making mistakes! Mashiach must be coming! No, seriously, I'm an experienced driver but this was bad, and the fact that it was all in Hebrew only made it worse. So after Pesach I'm going to take more lessons to get more comfortable with the roads (especially the highway, which I hadn't practiced in my lessons and so, when we headed onto one, I got super nervous, even though I have driven literally thousands of miles of highway in my life and usually love it). Then I'll take the test again, and I'd BETTER pass it this time. If I fail it the second time, I'll have to go back and take the written theory test AND 30 lessons before I can try a third time. That would suck. So now I'm under a leetle beet of pressure.

OK, the Dentist. First dentist appointment since my aliyah was last week. I made the appointment because I wanted to get my teeth cleaned. Who knew that here, making an appointment with the dentist is not the same as making an appointment with the hygenist? I could have made the appointments for the same morning but who knew? That's a real Thing My Shaliach Never Told Me. So I made an appointment with the hygenist for after Pesach, and the nice Israeli (but with fluent English) dentist examined my teeth, took x-rays, told me my teeth are structurally all fine, no cavities, and see you in a year. The cost for the visit? Zero shekels. The x-rays cost 40 shekels, the equivalent of about 9 dollars. I love socialized medicine. It is so clutch.

Friday, April 01, 2005

FYI Israel changed clocks last night

Last night Israel's clocks sprung forward one hour. So, if you are on the east coast of the USA, instead of being 7 hours ahead of you, Israel is now 8 hours ahead of you. If you are on the west coast, Israel is now 11 hours ahead of you instead of 10. This situation will remain until Sunday, when the US springs forward an hour as well.

Please schedule your telephone calls accordingly!

P.S. I am sick. Again. Fitful sleeping + stress + jetlag = depressed immune system. Blah.