Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Phone wars

Lately I've been thinking a lot about a new smart phone. I wrote this mainly to help get some of my thinking down on virtual paper as that sometimes helps me to consider issues. In my family, I know a lot of eyes will glaze over when reading this. That's okay, I won't be offended. ;-) And if anyone has experience, thoughts, etc., please chime in!

I've been using Palm handhelds for several years now. I can't remember exactly when I started, but since I started on the Palm m515, it couldn't have been earlier than 2002 (although I really thought it was a few years before then... maybe I'm forgetting one before that). I was even proficient in Graffiti, the Palm "writing" system since there was no keyboard. I organized my calendar, my contact list, notes, etc. It worked well for me, because before that I would scribble everything down in a weekly calendar that I carried around. The problem with the paper/ink calendar was 1) I couldn't read my writing at times, and if it was an event several months in the future, I'd forget what it was by the time I reached the date, and 2) I tended to misplace these after a while, or the notes I scribbled down on a post-it would fall out.

Somewhere towards the end of 2003, beginning of 2004 (again, I don't remember exactly when), I decided to get a Palm Treo 600. It seemed so logical. Matching up a PDA with a phone. Why in the heck not? Then in January of 2008 (this one I remember!!), my 600 finally kicked the bucket, and I got a Palm Centro. This has been working well to date.

However, there have been major shake up in the Smart Phone community. Of course there's the iPhone, which has been doing remarkably well. To answer it, Palm did a complete overhaul of their phone and operating system, and came up with the Pre, running the new WebOS. I've been following news on the Pre for about 4-6 months before its release. And I was pretty sure this would be the phone I'd buy as soon as my contract is up (Jan 2010).

However, then Apple came out with their newest iPhone, the 3GS. I figured I'd at least look at it. I can see why many people are using it. Besides being a decent smart-phone, there are a LOT of 3rd party software available. And this is one of the biggest things that I have used with all of my Palms to date. I summarize some of my more often used programs later in this post. Anyway, the Pre doesn't have very much in the way of programs written for it yet. The SDK (Software Development Kit) hasn't even been publicly released (supposed to be released towards the end of August). That's what allows vendors to more easily write programs for the device. So the Pre is already behind on that end.

While looking around, I also looked at Android phones. Android is another operating system for smart phones, which spread in popularity when Google gave it full backing and support. It hasn't been around as long as the iPhone, but because the OS is open source, it's been easier for people to create software for it. A new phone with Andriod on it is supposed to be coming out the end of 2009. (HTC Hero). I also looked at Blackberry, but it just doesn't seem to jive with me.

Below is a list of the most common programs I run on my Centro currently, and my thoughts about if they are available on other smart phones. (roughly in the order of use on the Centro)

ChatterEmail (SnapperEmail) - ChatterEmail is a great email client that works superbly with my email system. It was developed by Marc Blank, who was one of the creators of Zork, one of the first text adventure computer games that captured a lot of gaming interest (including my brother and I) in the early 80's. (It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.) It uses the IMAP4 interface, which means if I read some message on the Centro, but not others, or mark them in some way, that change can also be seen if I log on to my email through the web interface, or using Thunderbird at home. It helps to keep all my email coordinated. Chatter also pushes email to up to 7 of my folders. That means if a folder receives a new email message, I get instant notification, I don't have to wait for a periodic polling of my email like most other email clients. The push interface is somewhat draining on the battery though, so when I will be away from a charger for a while, I switch to SnapperEmail. It's another good email program on the Centro, but doesn't do push email. The iPhone and the Pre can connect via IMAP, but neither have the multi-folder push that I use so much on my Centro. Marc Blank stated he's developing ChatterEmail for the Android now, so that's a big plus in the Android direction. This program alone is probably about 50% of my Centro use.

DateBk6 - Most smart phones have a calendar. DateBook6 is a calendar on steroids! It adds a lot of functionality, many/most of which I probably never touch, but those I do are indispensable. The biggest is putting icons with events. Sounds like a minor thing? It's fantastic when I'm viewing in "Monthly" mode (which is most of the time). I have icons for work meetings, icons for things with each kid, icons for doctor or dentist appointments, icons for various Jewish holidays, etc. At a quick glance I can gather up a lot of information. Then I can delve deeper in weekly or daily views. The developer of DateBk6 is completely rewriting the system from scratch to be more portable (Java based, I believe). It sounds like Andriod will be early on the development list. The Pre may be possible depending on the SDK, which he hasn't seen yet. He's waiting on the iPhone because Apple doesn't allow 3rd party apps to touch internal things, such as the calendar. Their lost. I rely on this application a LOT.

SplashID - This is an application which securely encrypts and stores information such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc. There is no way I can remember all the passwords I need for various work and personal related things. There are several of these type of programs available, so I'm sure I'd find a comparable program on the Pre, Andriod, or iPhone (in fact I think SplashData already has SplashID on the iPhone and Android, and is working on a Pre version). The draw for me for this particular one is that you can also assign icons. If you remember from DateBk6, I like being able to assign an icon. :-)

Luach - Luach (the Hebrew word for calendar) is a wonderful program. Not only does it give you a Hebrew calendar, complete with all the Jewish holiday listings for the next who knows how many years (I went more than far enough in the future to look), but you can also put in birthdays, anniversaries, Yaritzites, etc., and it calculates those dates in future years. Then you can import everything (or pick and chose what to import) into your main calendar. This is something I check often, usually when trying to pick a date for something in the next 6 months, year, etc., and wanting to make sure it doesn't conflict with a holiday. There is a Luach program for the iPhone, but you can't import the dates (remember what I said before about Apple not letting you play with the internal calendar). One person I know puts all his Hebrew date information into his Google Calendar, and the iPhone apparently can read input in from a Google calendar, but that's a kludge workaround.

Sudoku - My favorite time killer game on the Centro. I'm sure there are implementations (multiple) for the various phones (The Pre might take a little while to get out though)

GooSync - Syncs up my calendar with Google Calendar. My wife can see and edit events on my calendar (family events only, not "business" events), then they would sync back to my Centro. I believe it works on the iPhone, not sure about Android.

Shadow - If DateBk6 is a calendar on steroids, ShadowPlan is a ToDo list on steroids. It's designed as an outliner, but I mainly use it for multiple To Do's, including nested To Do lists. (I have to check off X, Y, and Z before A can be checked off). I haven't even started looking to see if there are comparable applications in the other smart phones.

CacheMate - A database that keeps tracks of Geocaches. (a hunt and find type game, using GPS receivers, probably a subject for another post someday). This is implemented in Android, and Geocaching.com, the "main point" for Geocaching, has their own iPhone implementation.

EshSiddur - If I'm out somewhere and need a siddur and don't have one, EshSiddur is a full siddur (with vowels!!) on my Centro. There is a siddur program for the iPhone, I don't know of any for the Android.

So currently iPhone has a majority of the apps, but Android is catching up with potentially more useful apps. The Pre is just barely out of the gate. While there are a lot of good things about each phone itself, it needs software to really make it shine.

Of course another issue to take into consideration is what provider has the phone. The Pre is currently only on Sprint. The iPhone is only on AT&T. With Sprint, I'd have SMS included, AT&T, I'd have to pay extra (and I use SMS frequently). The Android phones are mostly on T-Mobile which doesn't have the amount of coverage as does Sprint or AT&T. Of course the boards are all speculating on when/if phones will be offered by other providers. The Pre is supposed to go to Verizon and maybe AT&T next year. The Hero (Android) may be offered on AT&T and Sprint, etc.

My current contract runs until Jan 2010. So there is still time... And of course by then there may be something else completely new out there to confuse me even more! :-)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eating in Israel

A little while back, Treppenwitz wrote this post: http://www.treppenwitz.com/2009/06/i-cant-believe-i-ate-almost-the-whole-thing.html describing a restaurant in Israel that loads you up on meat. It sounds similar to a Brazilian restaurant near my office where servers walk around with various meats to serve people. Because it's near my office, we frequently have "fare well" parties there. I can no longer attend the parties, because the aroma of the meats is so good, and it's most definitely not kosher.

So I commented to my sister-in-law and her husband, living in Israel, that when I next visited, I hoped I'd be able to eat at this restaurant. My sister-in-law then commented about a similar restaurant (South American) with a similar experience. Bro-in-law then chimed in about taking us to Burgers Bar. And of course I previously mentioned to my wife that I want to go to KFC, Pizza Hut (apparently at a mall in Jerusalem), and Burger King (Ben Yehuda Street).

The time spent in our next visit will be roughly divided up as:

50% - Visit family and friends
49% - Visit restaurants
1% - See the rest of Israel.

I might need to book an extra seat next to me for the flight home... ;-)

We do hope to make it over the pond in the next year or two, depending on when my job here transfers to a new location.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Baby JDMDad - Part 3 - in 3D!!!

JDMDad, Laya, and big sisters Tikvah and Ahava are proud to announce:

Baby JDMDad (Part 3) is here!

Baby was born on Monday, June 15, 2009, (23 Sivan 5769) at 11:59 am.

Weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz.

Length: 19.5 inches

Cuteness ratio (Scale 1-10): 25 (Caution, data may have some internal bias)

Finger Count: 10/10

Toe count: 10/10

_XX__ Has lots of hair
___ Has some hair
___ Has little hair
___ Bald

Crying Loudness (dB): Darn... broke the meter!!!

Mother & Baby are:

_X___ Doing fine
____ Both crying, loudly
____ Baby is trying to get back inside Mother
_X___ Both requesting some ice cream
____ Still enjoying the epidural
____ Trying to sneak out of the hospital
____ In total shock

Father is:

_X___ Extremely happy
_X___ Extremely stunned
____ Regaining consciousness
____ Trying to get feeling back in his hand after mother squeezed too hard during contractions
____ Thumbing through a dictionary, trying to understand all those exotic names that Mother called him this time
____ Wandering the halls, muttering to himself, "Three of them? Mom and I are outnumbered!! What did we do?! What were we thinking?!"
____ Fast asleep. ZZZZzzzzzzz


_X___ is very happy
____ is worried
____ is busy being spoiled by her great aunt.
_X___ is in school, missing all the fun
_X___ Doesn't even know the gender... yet.


____ is very happy
____ is very scared
____ has no idea what's going on with all the commotion
_X___ is busy being spoiled by her great aunt.
_X___ is trying to figure out where Mommy's big belly went
____ is wondering if next week Daddy's belly will shrink, and another baby will arrive
_X___ Doesn't even know the gender... yet.

The doctor said:

____ "I've been studying the Cosby Method. Ready? 'Push him out, Shove him out, WWWWWAAAAYYYY OUT!!!! '" [If you don't know vintage Bill Cosby, don't bother trying to understand this one. ;-) ]
____ "I remember you from last time. I'll be right back!" We are still looking for him.
_X___ "The baby looks fine!"
____ "Next time, I need EARPLUGS!!!!"
____ "Your husband is in the recovery room. The bump on his head from hitting the floor will go away in a few days."

And finally, the baby is a:



Brand new,


(Am I stalling?)


Did I say Cute?



Okay, okay, I give up...

____ Boy (JDMDad is no longer the only man of the house. And loves it!)
__X__ Girl (JDMDad is now outnumbered 4 - 1. And loves it!)

Name to be announced:

__X__ Next Torah reading JDMDad gets to
____ Bris

JDMDad, Laya, Tikvah, Ahava, and the new one. (need to come up with a name, and a blog name, such pressure! :-) )

P.S. June 15th is the 18th annual "Ride to Work" Day (http://www.ridetowork.org/) However, Laya preferred I take her to the hospital in the van rather than on the motorcycle. I should have gotten the sidecar when I had the chance!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Traveling to Savannah

I'll be on the road to Savannah, GA for the 2009 Ride to Remember. I don't leave until Wednesday morning, May 13th. But wanted to put up a map that should (if all works right) track me as I travel down and back. The map should keep updating until I return on Sunday (or Monday, depending on weather/traffic)

Stories and fun stuff when I return!

You'll probably have to refresh to see the latest map. Again, nothing will appear until Wednesday morning (EDT). Those who I know off the blog, I'll be sending you to a more detailed place to see more maps and information, I'll probably send that out late Tuesday afternoon. If you don't get the email, and want that info, shoot me an email.

This map is basically a Google Map, you can zoom in, pan around, etc.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Not forgotten...

No, I haven't forgotten this blog. I've just been crazy with various things going on.

At work, I'm taking training for the "Black Belt" level of Lean Six Sigma (no, not a strange form of Karate). Certification requires 3 weeks of classes (beyond the 1 for the green belt level), and doing two projects. The last of the classes ends this Friday. I'm about in the middle of my first project. If I can get input/data from the right people, I'll probably finish it within a month. But some are really dragging their feet. Plus I need to do my regular work as well. (and of course all the leave time used for Peasach)

On the home front I'm preparing for my trip down to Savannah for the 2009 Ride to Remember. This includes plotting out a route (I have a nice one planned, mostly following Rt. 17 down from Fredricksburg all the way to Savannah. Passes kosher restaurants in Virginia Beach, VA; Wilmington, NC; and Myrtle Beach, SC (where they are also having "Bike Week"). I've also been getting the bike ready. Got new grips put on, and a throttle lock as well. I also have a new fuseblock coming to hook up my auxiliary lights, GPS, and other electrical doo-dads. I also plan to borrow a "SPOT" unit so those who might be interested can follow my progress down and around the south.

More to come!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ever have one of those days... er... weeks???

Been a busy few months lately, sorry I haven't been able to write much. But after a crazy week, I just needed to share & unload!

Monday I had a tickle in my throat, which for me, is usually a bad sign. By night time, it was an effort to swallow. Oh great. As soon as the doctor's office opened on Tuesday, I called to make an appointment for a throat culture... I'm pretty sure it's strep. Have a 2:30 appointment.

An hour or two later on Tuesday, Laya calls, the furnace is getting very noisy. And if Laya can hear it, it must be really bad. *sigh* I called the plumbing/heating/AC company we have a service contract with, have them come over, and since I'm feeling even worse, I head home myself.

The heating guys come in, open up a panel, turn the furnace back on, and you can see everything bouncing like crazy in there. Not good. The furnace is the original, about 37 years old, no replacement parts available, etc. Time for a new furnace. They do some measuring, calling, etc. Came back with a price of $2,520. Not chump change, but less than I had feared. They said they'd be in first thing Wednesday morning.

Now off to the doctor. The nurse and doctor are both blown away by my enormous tonsils. They are normally big (that's why I don't eat popcorn... gets stuck in the tonsils), so when I'm sick, they really swell up. In fact, all I could get down for breakfast and lunch was applesauce and soup. Anyway, the culture quickly confirmed it was strep, I'm put on antibiotics, and told not to get the rest of the family sick. *sigh*

Back home, I set up portable heaters around the house as it's supposed to get cold that night. I include a heater downstairs by the sofa/bed. I'll sleep down there to keep from getting Laya sick.

Wednesday finally comes, and the new furnace is being installed. Just then, the washer/dryer pees on the floor, either a leak, or the suds overflowed. But it's been a chain of events, (washer doesn't wash well, have to "spin" 2-3 times, have to run the dryer at least twice to dry a load, etc.) Grrrr... fix it again, or get a new one? Discuss, agonize, and finally come to the conclusion that needs to go as well.

So I start looking up stacked W/D's on the net (we have a very small space). Basically there are only two available that fit the space, that I can fine. Sears/Kenmore, which is what we have, or a unit at Lowes. Also have to give major props out to my dad here... I called him to see if he had any thoughts on washer/dryers. He went out and checked several stores out. (There is a shopping center near him that has a lot of the major stores) I head out to Lowes to get more information. The key point when talking with the sales guy there is that it would take 8-10 days between ordering and getting the new unit. Guess I'm getting a new Kenmore then!

Thursday morning I ordered a new washer dryer, and requested an early Friday delivery. The delivery folks call, and they'll be delivering right when Laya will be taking the kids to school. Okay, a little more sick time then. The come right on time Friday morning, haul out the old one, and then.... the hose is stuck on the valve (the one that connects the water to the washer.). "If I turn any harder, I'll break it. You need a plumber." At this point I contemplate dropping to the ground and laughing out of sheer frustration. Nah. "Okay, I'll call them right away." They left the W/D, and gave me a number to call them back after the valves are replaced.

I called the plumbing company. The woman asks if they have ever been to my place before. "Yes, you just installed a new furnace 2 days ago... it's been a bad week!" :-) The plumber came at about 12 pm, so Laya was there, and saw the new valves installed. I called the W/D installers, and they said they'd be by about 3-4 pm. Okay, Shabbos doesn't start until 5:18, we are good.

I get home, and call at 4 pm to see what's up. "We're coming, it'll be a little bit." 4:30 I call again. "They are on their way, they'll call you soon." 5 pm, they call me. "We'll be there in 45 minutes." Oh boy. I said "The Jewish Sabbath begins at 5:15, you can come in, but I will NOT be able to sign anything." The guy said "Will you be home??" I said that I would, but repeated that I could not sign anything. "Okay, no problem."

5:18, we light the candles, and by 5:30, are eating Chicken Fajitas. They arrive right at 5:45. They quickly get everything hooked up, then come up and say "Just sign right here." I said "I explained on the phone, it's now the Jewish Sabbath, I can not sign anything." "Oh, no problem, your wife can sign then!" Oy... I explain that neither of us can sign. He starts getting a little agitated. "Someone needs to sign that we delivered and installed this unit!" I explained again, and reminded him that I told him on the phone we wouldn't be able to sign. Finally he calls his boss. "Yeah, this guy is telling me because of his religion, he can't sign this paper... what do I do?" The boss was on speaker phone, so I heard the answer... "Okay, just head on home then." They quickly left.

Oy, what a week. But since I'm in a class all this week, it's a good thing it all happened last week... although not happening at all would have been even better! ;-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Time to play the tooth fairy

Tikvah lost her first tooth about 2 months ago. However, she decided she wanted to keep this tooth rather than to leave it to the tooth fairy. I never got her full reasoning, but no sense in forcing her to do something she doesn't want to.

Then out of the blue, two days ago, she told me she changed her mind, and wanted to give it to the tooth fairy. I told her I'd have to email the fairy and let her know that Tikvah wanted to trade in her tooth. Meanwhile, I snuck out to the store, and got some glitter. I learned a trick from my "blog-father", David Bogner over at Treppenwitz (see Long in the Tooth), about leaving a glitter trail. I was able to find some at the dollar store. That night I left her $2 under her pillow, and a glitter trail. The next morning I had to remind her to check under her pillow. She was amazed. Then I showed her the gliltter "fairy dust" trail. She and Ahava were talking about it for a while, analyzing her exact path, and how she knew to go to Tikvah's bed and not Ahava's. Tikvah carried the $2 around for most of the morning. I did tell her that it probably was $2 for the first tooth, then $1 a tooth afterwards.

Then, while at a Chabad Hanukkah party last night, what happens? She loses another tooth! I told her the tooth fairy would think she's pulling her teeth out on purpose to get more money! :-) Tikvah said it was a good thing we didn't vacuum up the fairy dust yet, since there would probably be more. Smart kid. I almost forgot to leave her the dollar, but last night I watched "The Santa Clause 2" with Tim Allen. Towards the end, the guy who helped save the day was the tooth fairy. (yes, it was a male tooth fairy in the movie). That reminded me what I needed to do!

So 2 teeth down, 18 to go, plus Ahava still has her 20...

This did cause an interesting discussion between Laya and myself. Her parents never did the tooth fairy thing, and at first she told Tikvah I was just making it up. But when I explained letting the kids experience a little bit of magic and wonder in their lives, she changed her mind and went along with it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read the fine print...

My local radio station is having a contest where you have to find a graphic on their website each day, based on some clues. If you click on it, and log in, you are entered. They are giving away about $1,000 a day. I was reading some of their rules, and saw this (emphasis mine):

Prizes will be awarded in the form of checks written to the winners and will be sent to winners within 2 weeks of completion of contest. Prize cannot be transferred, assigned, redeemed for cash or substituted...

Errr... if the check is not redeemable for cash, then what else is it good for??

I thought of maybe emailing the radio station to point this out to them, but then maybe they'd toss out my entries? ;-)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Site/Motorcycle Logo?

I was telling my brother-in-law that I was thinking of getting some paint work done on my bike. Maybe some pin striping, maybe even a picture put on it. But I could not think of any picture to put on it. He suggested I do something with my "JDMDad - Jewish Deaf Motorcycling Dad" name, since it combines what I'm about. I thought about it for about 4 seconds, and came up with this little doodle (using MS Paint).

The thing on the left is a hearing aid, Laya wasn't sure... Also, in case it isn't obvious, I don't have much (if any) artistic talent. :-)

I think I'll think about this some more...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Posting on BeyondBT

In case you don't follow it, I did a writeup that was posted onto BeyondBT recently. You can view it here.

Other than that, I've been swamped with a meeting for my Jewish motorcycle club, adding lights to my bike, etc. I have some stuff I want to post soon, but want to make sure I spend the time to write it carefully, not a rush job like this one is. :-)

Oh, if there are any Jewish Motorcyclists out there who are interested, our annual Ride to Remember will be based in Savannah, GA, and will go to Charleston, SC. Details can be found here. (go to the registration brochure)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wow, ArtScroll really makes a difference!

This year for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I tried some new Machzors I got from ArtScroll during their last Hanukkah sale. These were the interlinear type, where the English words are printed below the Hebrew words, so you can follow the English with the Hebrew. (Sample page) May be a tad confusing at first, but I've been using some of their other interlinear products (especially their Mincha/Maariv set) so I was used to it.

Wow, what a difference. Usually during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services, I can either follow some of the Hebrew, when they do some things I'm familiar with, or read in the English. But if I do one, I miss out on the other. With this, I got to experience several things both ways at once. For example, the Ashamnu (We have been guilty...) I could say it in Hebrew with the rest of the congregation, or I could read it to myself and understand it in English, but before, I couldn't do it at the same time, now I could. Same with the "Who will live, and Who will die" and "We are your people, you are our G-d", etc.

These were all things I knew how to say, and enjoyed saying them, or enjoyed reading and understanding them in English, but the juxtaposition makes both possible at the same time. Ideally at some point, if I can learn Hebrew, then it wouldn't be an issue, but that's working out to be a lot more difficult than I had thought.

Of course Chabad has their own Machzor which doesn't follow ArtScroll, but between the two of them, with a lot of flipping around, I was able to get through the service and feel more fulfilled for having done it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why is it on Yom Kippur...

Why on Yom Kippur does conversation always seem to turn to food?

I was mentioning to one member of our shul, who rides, how my Jewish motorcycle group would be having a meeting next month at a kosher restaurant. Then we started talking about the kosher restaurant business (business is hard, when the economy turns bad, people stop eating out), then about specific restaurants here and in Baltimore, then about Dougies, Subway, etc. It was about 4:30 pm (Mussaf was over around 3:15 pm, Mincha was at 4:45, so it wasn't worthwhile to go home), so talking about food definitely wasn't helping my fast. I made it, but didn't need the reminder midday! :-)

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Laya's parents and her brother came down to stay with us for Rosh Hashana. Her brother had to be back at work Thursday morning, and her parents are leaving on a trip to Israel next week and needed to pack; so as soon as the Yom Tov was over, they had to leave.

We had already put Tikvah and Ahava to bed (they were yawning all through the evening), but once the door was open and Laya's brother started taking out the suitcases, Tikvah came down the stairs, soon followed by Ahava. Tikvah said "Daddy, I'm very sad that they are leaving." I reassured her that it was normal to be sad when people leave. Then she said "I almost feel like I'm going to cry!" (as she said that, her eyes got watery, and her lips started quivering. I gave her a hug, and reassured her, and pointed out that sometimes when our guests leave, mommy (Laya) does cry, so it's OK if you need to cry to let it out. Finally she said "Daddy, it hurts right here, it's hard to swallow" pointing to the lower part of her throat. Ahava, ever the echo of Tikvah, said it hurt her there too. This time Laya swooped in and said that it hurt her there too when people left and she was sad.

I then reminded Tikvah that it's nice when people visit, but at some point every does need to go home to get back to their lives. Otherwise, if we focus so much on how much it hurts when we leave, then no one will want to visit other people, because no one will want to leave. I also assured her that we would see them again.

After that, the kids felt a little better, and went off to bed without too much more of a protest. I went back downstairs. It always amazes me how well Tikvah is able to articulate her feelings. Even if she doesn't know the "adult" words, she can still describe how she's feeling, and even the physical aspects. I never thought about the tightness in the throat, but that happens to me as well. And as I told her, it's always sad when our guests leave, but better to experience that sadness than not have them at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why do I do what I do

For those who may not be aware, every year I help to plan and put on the Baltimore/Washington Ride for Kids. This ride, along with 36 other "Ride for Kids" held throughout the year in 37 locations around the US, sponsors the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. We are their main source of income for research, family support, information services, etc. Before the rides started 25 years ago, a child diagnosed with a brain tumor had about a 4% chance of survival. Today the survival rate is about 60%. An enormous increase, but NOWHERE NEAR the survival rate it should be! (I'm basing the numbers from memory of the training session I had a week ago, can't guaranty I'm remembering right)

I started attending the rides in 2001. I had seen several magazine columnists write about the events, so figured I'd give it a try. I had no idea of the emotional impact this event would have on me. Every ride has a number of sidecars and big bikes up front. These bikes hold the true "Stars" of the ride, children currently undergoing treatment for, or have survived brain tumors.

I attended the ride again in 2002, with my new bride. Laya also saw and felt the emotional impact. At that ride I spoke with some people I knew who volunteered for the ride. One of them suggested I attend a Task Force meeting and see if I'd be interested in joining the Task Force that plans the ride, or at least be a volunteer at a future ride. I attended the meeting, and really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the folks on the Task Force. I joined, and the next year, 2003 I assisted the parking lead. In 2004 and 2005 I led the parking team myself. Then in 2006, the ride was on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana. Also about this time I was becoming more observant, and part of the parking lead's job is to train parkers on Saturday, which I no longer wanted to do (required a long drive from home). So I trained a new person to become the parking lead, and that year I only helped to plan the ride, I didn't actually ride. After that year, the Task Force would check the calendar with me to make sure the ride wasn't on a Yom Tov.

Last year I helped to register clubs (the clubs that brought in the top amount of money got to ride directly behind the kids in the following year's ride), and I was supposed to do that again this year. However, I found out there was a conflict, and the parking lead was not able to attend. So I became the parking lead again (someone else agreed to do the training on Saturday for me). This year's event bust out the previous record, and we raised over $276,000 for the kids. Not only that, but my club raised the most money this year (with the help of some friends who credited their amounts to the club, and who just became honorary members!), so next year we get to ride up just behind the kids. I hope to ride, it'll be the first time since 2002 that I actually ride in the event.

But anyway, back to the heart of the matter... Why do I do this.

Take a look at this picture. These kids are all survivors. There were a total of 11 on stage, these are just some.

Paige, the beautiful little girl being interviewed, is 4 years old. That puts her smack in between Tikvah and Ahava. I thank G-d that my kids are healthy kids, (ptu, ptu, ptu) and feel like it is paying back (keeping up the good to help other kids who are not so fortunate). Plus, this type of activity gives a positive public view of motorcyclists. There are still many people out there who go by the old stereotypes of motorcyclists all being gang members, brawling, dealing drugs, etc.

And finally, I have to admit, it's also fun. At the end point this year, I was responsible for making sure 345 motorcycles were able to park without creaming each other. I'm happy to report I was successful! (see below.)

and no, I don't have big, beefy shoulders. There's a guy with a black leather jacket behind me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Transitioning to Shabbos

Jacob Da Jew recently wrote a post about how his brother-in-law recently joined the workforce, and now truly appreciates the "rest" you take on Shabbos.

For me, it was the opposite. I wasn't Shabbos observant until about 2-3 years ago (I never did mark down the exact day I started). Before that, I couldn't figure out how people could observe Shabbos. After working all week, I eagerly awaited the weekend to do all the other things that needed doing. Shopping, going out, having fun, taking rides, etc.

When I married my observant wife, she said she accepted me as I was, and would not change me to try to make me Shomer Shabbos, kosher, etc. And for the first year or so, that's what it was. In fact I used to teach motorcycle classes once a month over the whole weekend. But something happened. I began to miss the Friday night Shabbos dinner. Eventually I made arrangements so I could be home on Friday night, but still teach Saturday and Sunday. But then something else happened. Now I was missing going to Shul! Huh? Where did this come from? I used to only go to Friday night services a few times a year. Now I'm disappointed that I'm not at services on Shabbos? Hmmmmm. Okay, so now I don't teach on the weekends anymore. But still, gotta have my e-mail! I check it several times an hour when awake! Well, hmmm, I guess I really don't get all that much email on Saturday. Maybe I don't need to check that often. You know what, I don't need to check at all. Let's just turn the computer off before we light the candles. Give the hard drive a rest from its constant spinning.

Boy, this is really going to be boring. For over 24 hours, no TV, no computer, no driving around and shopping. What the heck will we do anyway? Well, Shabbos dinner on Friday night is nice. Good family time. Saturday morning I get the kids up and let my wife sleep in a little bit. Then when she's up (maybe with a little nudging from me) I go to shul (the wife and kids will join me later) and I really enjoy davening there. In the afternoon, I play with the kids, or they go to a neighbor's house and run around wild there, and I get to take something I haven't taken since Kindergarten... a nice nap. Some dinner, then if Shabbos ends early enough, Havdalah for the whole family, otherwise we put the kids to bed, and a little private time to talk with my wife before Shabbos ends.

You know what? I like this! I don't miss the Saturday hullabaloo I used to participate in. It's nice to get a rest in, take a break from the average week. I've turned 180 degrees, now instead of being annoyed with Shabbos "interfering" with my schedule, I actually look forward to it and the break it gives me every week.