Thursday, December 13, 2007

The WII is not for MEE!!!

Today we had our office holiday party. (Hmmm, my holiday ended the day before...)

To try to make it interesting and boost morale (etc. etc.) they set up a mini golf course around the cubicles. Then as a tie breaker, the boss brought in his WII, and hooked it up to the office 42" plasma TV. Well, all productivity went straight down the drain! (and there wasn't even a tie!) :-)

Now, back in the days when I was growing up, I used a ColecoVision, an Atari 2600, and even the original, PONG!! So I figured I'd give this "WII" thing a try and see what modern technology is up to.

YIKES!!! Major overhaul. The picture is certainly much better, but instead of just pressing buttons and moving the joystick around, you really get into it. You swing your arms for baseball, bowling, tennis, etc. Over the day I played several. I did pretty good in bowling (194, better than I do in real life), and in tennis my team won! Whoo Hoo! Then we tried boxing. Ouch!! And golf, forget it, I was always several shots above par.

But man, after playing a few games (and this is spread out over the full day, not all at once) I've worked out a good sweat! My bowling arm is SORE!! I think I'll just stick with card games on my computer! :-)

Update: (14 Dec...) My dad emailed me with: "If you ever do get one be careful. The first Wii had no wrist strap on the contollers, many tv screens felt the result!!"

I completely forgot to mention this part. One of my co-workers, let's call him "Tom" (that's what we call him in the office ;-) ) was a very enthusiatic player. Especially in tennis. We had to keep telling him to move back because he kept jumping in front of the screen to make a shot (despite the fact that you don't have to walk around to play the game), blocking our view. Then on a backhand shot we learned that he didn't put the strap on. The controller shot out of his hand and WHAM, right into the ceiling! Then it shot back down to the floor, barely missing another co-worker's head. A piece of the ceiling tile fell to the floor too. After that, whenever Tom would play, even a nice game of golf, we'd make sure he had his wrist strap on... tightly.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sometimes I get whacked with a "Clue x 4"

Yesterday I had a decision I needed to make. After work, I could go home, finish up my Hebrew homework, and also prepare for our oral test; or I could meet up with Laya and the kids at the Chabad "Chanukkah Wonderland" where they were playing. I felt that I was really getting behind in my Hebrew, and needed to catch up, so decided to head home to do some studying. Just as I reached my car though, my left hearing aid stopped working! (Left ear is the one I get most of my understanding from, right ear is just for loud noises.) Completely, no sound!! I tried changing the hearing aid battery, just to see if it was the battery (although usually when it's the battery, it's a gradual decline, not a sudden stop). Nope, same thing with the new battery. Sigh.

Well, at least the hearing aid shop is only a few miles down the road. I'll have them take a look. In the car and off I go. However, exactly as I turned from the entrance ramp on to the main roadway that leads away from my home, and towards the hearing aid shop, I hear a "ZIP!" and the hearing aid starts working again. I checked the switches, the dial, etc., everything is working fine. Hmmmm... I also happen to be pointed straight to the Chanukkah Wonderland. Hmmmmm...

After making sure traffic was clear ahead of me, I took a look up to the sky and said "Okay, okay, I get the message!" Then proceeded to the Chanuakkah Wonderland to have some fun with the kids. And I didn't do too badly in the Hebrew class either.

Side note: I actaully have an appointment with the hearing aid shop today as I need new aids soon, so I'll have them check it out anyway.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Need to watch what/where I'm singing!

This past Shabbos, I was walking to shul with Tikvah. About halfway there, she asked if we could take a rest. The yard we stopped at had two large rocks we could sit on for a few moments. Tikvah asked me which rock I wanted to sit on. Suddenly I sang "I wanna ROCK, BAM!!!" Tikvah looked up in alarm, and asked me what that meant. I told her it was an old song that daddy used to listen to (by Twisted Sister), and since she had asked about the rocks, it just popped into my head and out of my mouth before I even thought about it.

We continued on to shul. Just as we arrived in the parking lot of the shul, Tikvah asked me why some people drive on Shabbos, and some (like us) do not. I explained how some people observed the mitzvah of keeping Shabbos more than others, just like some people keep kosher at home, but not outside the home, and some don't keep kosher at all, but we were still all Jews. And I said that in my earlier days, I used to drive to shul, but now I walked. Then again, the singing bug bit me, and I sang "Walk like a man, talk like a man..." (by the Four Seasons) Tikvah gave me another one of her looks. Oy. But more alarming, a shul member passed me on the ramp up to the shul. I could have sworn no one was around me before. How much of my singing did he hear?? Oh man, I need to muzzle myself before heading to shul again!!

That night I was curious; I went on YouTube and searched "I wanna Rock." Cool, they had the whole video on there. Tikvah climbed up in my lap and wanted to watch. Ahava either didn't like the music, or the video, and retreated to the kitchen. After watching that video, I also wanted to see "We're not gonna take it." Tikvah said the woman dressed very strangely. I had to tell her that Dee Snyder was a man, not a woman. She took it pretty well. But then at the dinner table I noticed that she kept singing "I'm not gonna take it..." Uh oh......

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Writing, but for another blog...

I've been a bit quiet here, sorry. My more recent writings have been for BeyondBT. I made a post recently about Thanksgiving, posted here. I just finished another post and sent it in a few minutes ago. They'll let me know when it's up. I think it's a really good one, so I'll post a link here when they do so.

Hopefully now I can focus a little more attention back here! I'm sure I'll have some material to write about soon. Blogger-in-law is coming to visit from Israel, along with my wife's sister, and my first and only niece! Since they are coming, my parents-in-law are coming, as well as my other brother-in-law. That's (counting fingers) 10 people in our little townhouse!!! I better put in my reservation for a shower now!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How to torment your mother...

I mentioned in this previous post that maybe I would post other ways I've tormented my poor mother. This one is my favorite! (which of course means it's probably pretty low on mom's list of wonderful life events...)

This happened about a year or so before my Bar Mitzvah, so I was 11 or 12 at the time. We were going to services one Friday night, for someone's Bar Mitzvah. We got about a mile down the road when my mother realized she forgot the Bar Mitzvah gift. As the president of the Sisterhood, she would present the Kiddish cup to the Bar Mitzvah boy. So dad turned the car around and home we went. Dad clicked on the garage door opener, and mom ran in the garage to the house. All the sudden we heard "Ahhh!" and saw my mom dance around a little bit. Trying to see what was going on, we looked more closely, and saw a snake slither out of the garage and into the grass. Mom composed herself, went into the house, and got the cup.

So now it's a little bit later, we are back on the road, heading to the synagogue. I look at my brother and give him the "shhhh" sign. I then slowly take off my leather belt. Then slowly, slowly, inch by inch, I push the belt up and over mom's sholder. Finally she glances down and... "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!" Oh, that's what a blood curling scream is!!! Fortunately dad was able to keep from driving the car into a ditch during all this, and I of course got yelled at. (I think I saw a smile on dad's lips though... hmmmmm). I guess I'm just fortunate that the belt wasn't use to wack my hide after that!

Even now, almost 30 years later, when we go to the zoo with my mother (taking the kids) she'll pass on the reptile house and happily wait outside in the sun while the kids gawk at the snakes and everything else. Poor mom...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Who knows one?

There was a recent post on BeyondBT from Azreila Jaffe. (Side note, Ms. Jaffe wrote the book, "Two Jews Can Still Be a Mixed Marriage," a book Laya and I used before we got married to discuss several issues that we could see were approaching us, and I think it really got us off on the right foot in our marriage) Anyway, in her post, she discussed how she felt when she struggles to keep up, whether with the observant community, or with her children know that mom can't help them with their Hebrew homework.

The timing of the article was astonishing. Just two days before, I experienced the same thing with Tikvah. I've recently started taking Hebrew, and am working on learning the numbers. So I was sitting at the kitchen table reciting them. aH-aht, shtah-yem, shah-losh, etc. Each time I started, Tikvah would joyfully start to recite after me, but then overtake me, and reach es-air (10) before me. That includes taking time out to correct my pronunciation if I get something wrong on the way. That's when it hit me. I can take all the classes I want, study as much Hebrew as I can. Heck, I could even move to Israel and immerse myself in Hebrew (no, blogger-in-law, don't start getting excited, I'm talking theory here). But no matter what I do, Tikvah, and soon Ahava are always going to be ahead of me. I might have a slight lead now, but I've seen how fast they learn, once they start really working on Hebrew, they are going to rocket past me in no time flat. While I'm swelling with pride in my kids, I'm also starting to feel a bit of a deflated ego... Guess they'll be tutoring me soon enough!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Where (not) to put your beads...

Okay, we've got the computer back, and we're now working on making sure we have a back up of EVERYTHING, then we'll start putting it in full use. But for now I want to get this story out, since it happened two weeks ago already.

So it's Shabbos afternoon, and I got up from a nice 1 hour nap. I went down to see how Laya and the girls were doing. Tikvah (4) ran over to give me a hug, and commented, "Daddy, I have a bead stuck in my nose." I answered, "That's nice sweetie... ... ... Ummmmmm, did you just say you have a bead in your nose???" Yes, that's what she said.

"Okay, so how did that happen?" She just put it in, and now it won't come out. Huh... Okay, sit up here, and let me take a look. I don't see any bead. Are you sure it didn't fall out. No? Let's look again... I press against the side of her nostril, the back of her nose, have her breathe out of her nose hard, etc. I don't feel any beads in there. So we figured it probably fell out and she didn't notice.

Fast forward...

Havdalah is done... get the kids in their pajamas, brush their teeth, read them a story, sing a song and now into bed. I see Tikvah put her finger in her nose. Just before I can tell her to take her finger out of her nose, she says "Daddy!! I feel the bead!" Oh, I forgot all about the bead. I went and grabbed a flashlight and shined it right up her nose. And what do you know... there's some plastic in there. Oh boy. Where are the tweezers? I'm searching all over the house, then I finally find them. When I approach Tikvah, she gets wide eyed. "No, no, don't worry sweetie, this isn't gong to hurt, I'm just going to try to get the bead out." But every time I get the tweezers in her nostrils, she starts moving around and I'm afraid I'm just going to push it further in. I took a break to talk with Laya about a new strategy, and wondering how long do we try this before we give up and take her to the emergency room. (yeah, like we'd be a high priority to see a doctor???) In the meanwhile, I reminded Tikvah to breathe hard out of her nose. Suddenly she shouts out "It came out!!!" And so it did. Whew. Below is a picture of the bead and my pointer finger. I don't have a ruler handy, but I'd guess my fingernail is about a half inch long.

After this, of course the main question was "Why did you put a bead up your nose???" And in an answer that Bill Cosby made immortal, she replied "I don't know!" Every now and then, after the events, I've asked her if she has thoughts of putting anything in her nose. So far she insists that nothing else will go up there except for her finger. Oy, we still need to work on this.....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Still down...

The home computer is still down. We are working off a laptop, but definitely not as much processing power there. Hopefully I'll hear back soon about the computer. Long story short, the main hard drive was doing a slow nose dive. Hopefully the repair tech I brought it to had enough time to back up all the data (pictures, stories, etc.) that was on the drive. I have some of it backed up, but not all. :-(

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Remember to back up your files!!

Just a public service reminder... remember to back up all those important files you have on your hard drive. Pictures, stories, webinfo, etc. Our computer konked out, it's now in the hands of someone more knowledgeable than I. I hope it is something simple, like the power supply, rather than something more damaging, like a hard drive crash. I had a post and picture that I was going to put up here about our adventures over the weekend, but things have been slightly postponed. I should still have the picture in my camera and will try to download it to my laptop so I can post from there. Let's just say it has to do with interesting places that kids decide to put different objects. :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Let's Dance!

Simchat Torah at my shul (a Chabad center) is always a rocking good time! When we dance with the Torah, we dance! This year in the days leading up to Simchat Torah, Tikvah was learning about it at school, and also Laya and I mentioned it several times (especially in the context of "If you want to have fun dancing at night, you are going to have to take a nap, otherwise you'll sleep right through it).

And she and Ahava did dance, mostly from on my shoulders, but they also joined in with some of the other young girls dancing around as well. But the "Kodak" moment for me (ummm, actually, can you have a Kodak moment on a Yom Tov/Shabbos when you can't actually use a camera?) was a little later on. They laid a Torah down on a table in the women's section, and the women formed a circle around it and were dancing around. Laya was sitting down with Ahava (one of both of them were probably worn out). Tikvah butted into the circle, took two of the women's hands apart and joined right in. It was all grown women, and Tikvah, and while she wasn't quite getting all the steps right, she was really getting into it with them.

Unfortunately soon after that, Ahava saw what was going on and ran up to join in. (She's a "Me-too" child, wants to do everything her big sister does). The problem is that Ahava ran up just as the women were shifting from one foot to the other which sort of resulted in a butt shift, and one woman accidentally sent her butt right into Ahava's face just as she was running up, causing her to bounce off and crash into the floor. I started a mental countdown, "5-4-3-2-1" "WWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" One of the other ladies scooped her up and I waved her over to me. A little TLC from daddy (and mom came up soon afterwards as well) and she was raring to go again.

The other fun thing this year was the mix of singing and dancing. Usually at our Chabad center there are a good mix of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Lubavitch Jews. This year there were also several Yemenite Jews as well. When some of the bids for certain verses got into nice high numbers, they let out a good "Yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi." Plus it was interesting to hear how they sang some of the verses. That's one fun thing about Chabad, you never know what type of person will come in next and what you'll learn from them. And in the end, it all blends in and we all have a meaningful and fun experience together.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dougies is coming to Baltimore!

And I thought Subway's was exciting news...

I received some great news just before Yom Kippur. By reading Presence (specifically this post) I learned that Dougies is coming to Baltimore, at least as a mobile restaurant. For those who aren't familiar with it, Dougies is a great kosher BBQ restaurant. My wife (at the time my girlfriend) took me to the Dougies in Manhattan for my birthday, since I had mentioned that I like BBQ beef ribs. The ribs there were incredible. After we got married, we ate at the Brooklyn Dougies a few times when visiting her family in Boro Park. And when we did the Ride to Remember, Salute to Israel Parade out of Teaneck, we hit the Teaneck Dougies with my parents. The BBQ beef sub was so stuffed with beef that even as delicious as it was, I couldn't finish it! Right around when we got married, Laya asked the (manager? owner?) of Dougies if he'd open up a shop in DC or Baltimore. He just said something like "we'll see, some day maybe."
I guess we'll have to make visits to Baltimore a full day event now, lunch at Subways, and dinner at Dougies (or at least take out and bring home with us)!

I e-mailed the contact person for Dougies, and he said that after they get their business going, they want to add a second truck to hit the Rockville / Silver Spring area, which is a good bit closer to me.

This news didn't make my fast any easier, but it's certainly worth it! :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A few lines to add to the Al Chet this year

I wrote this last year when a Jewish e-mail list I'm on got a little heated up (and it was right near Yom Kippur too) These also work for web boards, and some blogs too.

-For the Sin we have committed before you for thread hijacking,
-And for the Sin we have committed before you for off subject posting.

-For the Sin we have committed before you by forwarding a story without checking,
-And for the Sin we have committed before you by immediately forwarding an e-mail that says "FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK!!!"

-For the Sin we have committed bfore you by not usng the spll checkur,
-And 4 the Sin we have committed b4 u by using werd acronyms.

-For the Sin we have committed before you by being too quick to flame others,
-And for the Sin we have committed before you by turning a blind eye to a flame war.

-For the Sin we have committed before you by not changing the subject line of an e-mail when writting about something completely different,
-And for the Sin we have committed before you by not putting in a subject line at all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Nice that my co-workers think of me...

A few months ago, a co-worker brought in a bunch of donuts for us. She was baffled when I told her I couldn't take any. I explained that I keep kosher. She still seemed a bit confused, but accepted it. Today she sent out this e-mail...
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I brought in some Hebrew National Beef hotdogs, rolls, mustard, homemade chili, slaw, relish and potatoe salad and fruit. Plus the cherry cheesecake. All you would have do to is zap the hot dog and the chili in the microwave, if anyone is interested in lunch. I will be at a VTC in ... today, so it will sort of be self-serve. The containers are all in plastic bags in the refrig. Would anyone be able to set it out? I can put it up when I come down for ANOTHER meeting at 2:30.

Now, I can't say for sure that she was thinking of me, but she did specifically mention the Hebrew National hot dogs. (then, of course the cheesecake). Just checked, not a kosher cheesecake. Drat. :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing "What if" can sometime really cause headaches!!

I was recently talking to a friend about Goldwings. We are both thinking about getting one sometime in the near future. He said he never rode one and would like to do so, to make sure he liked the feel of the bike. I rode a friend's Wing, but only for about 10 miles or so, down to Walmart and back. But still enough to give me a big grin. :-) I suggested he look into EagleRider, which sometimes rents out Goldwings.

After that, I took a look myself. The local EagleRider does rent out Goldwings, at $150 a day. Yikes! I was looking around their site some more, and saw that they have some special prices on one way rentals, basically to move bikes into different locations in the country. Mostly from Orlando and Los Angeles to DC. Ho hum... Then I saw they also have some in Nashville, TN. Who knew they needed rentals down there? I looked down at the various time periods that they were offering, just out of curiosity. I saw they had one in late October. For some reason that rang a bell. Hmmm, a little more digging up and I found these posts from Kosherblog: Here and Here. A kosher BBQ contest being held in Memphis on Oct 21st. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. Hmmmm, wonder what flights to Nashville cost? Call up Yikes, unless I want 3 layovers, it's like $200. What's this? My fingers already typed up the Greyhound bus schedule... I could get an overnight bus there for $45. Let's see, if I left after work on Thursday, I could pick up the Goldwing in Nashville on Friday morning, ride around, then either crash at a cousin in Nashville, or ride over to Memphis. Either way, do the BBQ in Memphis on Sunday, and ride back Monday (maybe Tuesday too). Wow, this is great!

Then reality started sinking back in. That'd mean leaving my wife and kids alone for 5 days or so; during school too. Hmmm, a little bit selfish I guess, especially since they probably wouldn't be going on the Ride to Remember in Omaha next May. Sometimes it's nice to dream, and with internet research now, I can fill in the details on the dream so easily. Flight availability, costs, schedules, same with trains and buses, hotel reservations. I had even thrown up a few routes from Memphis back home on Google Maps. It makes the dream even more tempting. But the priorities (family!) come first.

And Laya, since I know you are reading this... it's NOT meant to try to nudge me into sending me off. I was just thinking about how even 10 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to pull together all this information, schedules, prices, availability, maps, etc., in a matter of just a few minutes, and that's what I'm mainly talking about. But hopefully you'll excuse me if I try to make BBQ Brisket that Sunday! :-)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bribery works...

Now that Tikvah is 4, the doctor wanted to do a blood screening, and since our home was built before 1978, that includes a check for lead. She was annoyed enough at the shots she got, I knew the blood draw wasn't going to be any fun. First off, there was no way Laya would do this. She has trypanophobia, an extreme and irrational fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. So if she were with Tikvah, she'd freak out, which wouldn't help Tikvah any. So I took her. Before we left home, I snuck something into my shirt pocket. I gave Tikvah a brief explaination of what was going to happen, but didn't go into a lot of detail that would only scare her more. I filled out the paperwork and when the time came, we went into the lab. Tikvah started to get nervous and paced the room a little bit. But then she saw the Cinderella stickers. "Oh, Cinderella!" The phlebotomist gave her a couple of stickers to help calm her down. She sat on my lap, and started to whimper a little bit. I kept reassuring her, and directed her to look somewhere else, not at her arm.

Of course, the moment the needle went in, she cried and cried. They didn't take a lot of blood, but it took about 15-20 seconds to get what they needed. As soon as she finished, the phlebotomist put a band-aid on Tikvah and said she was all set. But Tikvah kept on crying. I then reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out a strawberry lollipop. "Do you want a lollipop?" As soon as she saw it, she said "yes" and stopped crying immediately. Not even a whimper afterwards! The change was so sudden, the phlebotomist laughed. So I guess a little bribery is okay... :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Volume Control

You know, sometimes it's nice to wear hearing aids. Yes, most of the time it's a pain; while they do enable me to hear, it's not perfect. Especially in loud situations like a restaurant, or a meeting where several people are talking. But last night it came in handy. I was on my way to a Ride for Kids meeting (I'm on the Task Force helping to plan the event), and stopped in at the Ben Yehuda kosher pizza shop to grab some dinner. The meetings are in Maryland, so while it's a pain to schlep out there, at least I get to have a choice of a few kosher places. Anyway, it was someone's birthday, so there were about 20 kids (maybe in the 7-10 year old range) running around, screaming, etc. I just turned off my hearing aids and enjoyed my book and calzone.

Come to think of it, this came in handy earlier as well. I'd turn my hearing aids down when in the car with my parents, reading my book as we went various places. It was so bad that just before I turned 16, I realized I didn't know how to get ANYWHERE, so need to put the book down and watch where we were going. One time I also turned my hearing aids down (or off) when my mother was scolding me for something I did (I have no idea what it was now...). Once she realized what happened, oy, I got a double lecture! (and she made sure my hands didn't get anywhere near the aids) :-) Hmmm, maybe I should write about the other ways I tormented my poor mother...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Jury

I know I just sent a post in a few hours ago, but I just got this and wanted to post it, and comment too. I was raised with dogs, my family had (that I can remember) 2 Collies (Heidi and King), and 2 Bichon Frises, (Muffin and Marshmallow). My parents have another dog now, a mix breed, looks like mostly terrier, name Farfel. I don't currently have a dog, maybe when the kids get a little older, but I'm still a dog lover. Mickey, the Bichon who lives in the same courtyard as I do, knows that he can run over to me any time for a big petting session. :-)

Anyway, it's because of this that I'm always upset when I hear about people who engage in dogfighting. And when it's someone like a famous football player, that kids look up to, and want to be like, it makes the crime even worse.

Whitwell, TN

I know this is "old news" but DixieYid expressed interest, and wanted to see some pictures.

In 2006, the JMA's Ride to Remember went to Whitwell, TN. This is the home of the PaperClip project. You might have seen or heard about the movie. It's a small town in TN that has a 97% white population, and almost no ethnic diversity. The principal, Linda Hooper decided that the kids needed to be exposed to some type of cultural diversity training. They decided to learn about the Holocaust. However, the kids couldn't get their minds wrapped around the number "6 million." They knew what it was in theory, but couldn't "see" it. They decided to collect 6 million paperclips. A long story later, they received millions of paperclips, and also a rail car that was actually used in the Holocaust.

The members of the JMA contributed over $50,000 to the school, most of which went to pay for several Promethean boards (interactive boards that people can write on, but also connects to a computer, fancy stuff I never had when I was in school. ;-) ) Despite all that we gave to the school, I think they gave us so much more. Linda Hooper, the principal, said that when they build the new school in a few years, she wants us back. I know we'll be more than happy to go!

The starting point. We had about 150 bikes or so. (The number depends on who you ask :-) )

When we arrived, it was pretty dark and drizzly.

But the auditorium was full of excited middle school kids. They were cheering for about 15 minutes straight.

One of the things we gave them was a flag that we made up symbolizing our ride down. The Australian folks signed on to the ride a little late, so we didn't have their flag on here.

After the presentation (I didn't get any good shots), we were free to tour the school. The children made artwork as part of their studies. These were some that I thought were interesting to view.

This letter came from Germany. Someone had heard about the project, and gone through some old files he found in a warehouse. These files were used in some Nazi related affairs, so the paperclips that were holding some of the papers together were some that were used by Nazi's. He sent 6 paperclips. 3 stayed with the letter, and 3 are in the box car with the other clips.

This is the rail boxcar, it was actually used to transport people to the death camps. The school converted it to a museum, housing the paperclips. You see a film crew below. These are the folks who made the Paperclips movie. They are doing a "sequel." How the paperclips project has affected the school, the community, people who comes to visit (like a bunch of Jewish motorcyclists!) etc. The only problem was they kept telling us to ride our motorcycles quietly when we were leaving. Ummmm, granted, I don't go for the whole "LOUD PIPES" thing, but motorcycles do have a running engine which isn't hidden under a hood guys!

This is a display case from inside the boxcar. On either side are a display case carrying 5.5 million paperclips each, for a total of 11 million clips. The Nazis didn't limit their hatred to Jews. 5 million gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped people, political opponents, etc. were also murdered.

Outside of the box car is this memorial. It also holds 11 million paperclips (once the story went out, they received too many clips, so they were able to do this second memorial). This one is dedicated to the children who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wild and Wonderful West (by G-d) Virginia

Last week I stayed overnight at the Concours Owners Group (COG) rally in Davis, WV. To get there I had to cross the Eastern Continental Divide. Up, up, up, and then Down Down DOWN!!! Because 1) They were predicting thunderstorms, and 2) I planned to go back to work the next morning, I decided to take the van, rather than ride my bike there. Those mountain roads are sometimes nerve wracking on a bike. They didn't seem much better in the van!! Oy. In fact, by the time I got back into VA, I could feel and hear (if I turned off the radio) the brakes grinding. I just had them checked... Yep, once again, I have completely worn out the brake pads and was grinding the calipers directly onto the brake rotors. I need to carry hearing people in my van more often. (or teach Tikvah and Ahava when to alert us to various audio problems) The last time I did this was about 7 years ago in my old car. I went to a Midas near my old office in Arlington and they fixed it up for me. This time I went to the Midas near my new office (a town over from Arlington). Turns out the manager moved and was at this shop and remembered me!

But besides the brake issue, I had a great time seeing folks from COG at the rally. They had a BBQ banquet that night. It smelled delicious. No, really, I enjoyed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich very much! ;-) They also had doorprizes that night. Lots of good things, gift certificates, parts, clothing, and the grand prize, a Zumo 550 GPS. Me... nothing. Oh well, I still enjoyed it all anyway. Hopefully in a few years I'll be able to go again and spend more than one night. But still, in all honesty, I feel more connected with people at the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance's Ride to Remembers.

I don't remember if I mentioned it here or not, but next year's ride will be to Ohmaha Nebraska. "What the heck is in Ohmaha?" is what most people ask me. The National Holocaust Endowment Fund. Education and rememberance for folks out in Nebraska.

Monday, August 6, 2007

From my Blogger-in-law...

My wife's sister, with her whole family (her husband, and my soon to be 1 year old niece) made Aliyah this past December. We miss them terribly, but are happy that they made the plunge into something they wanted so much. Bro-in-law is a lawyer, and was nervous about finding a job once the move was complete so he could support the family. He found a job, and wrote about it at this blog site here: Maybe he'll start a blog of his own some day. :-) In the meanwhile, I'm proud of all of them.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Yes, we are proud of you, but...

Our youngest daughter, Ahava, is currently in the midst of being potty trained. She's now in the stage where she's using the potty, and wants credit for doing so. This usually involves "Look, I made in the potty" and mom or I (or even big sister) taking a look in, and giving her great praise and applause, and a star on the refrigerator calendar. Then cleaning it up. (To bro-in-law in Israel... you thought diapers were bad?? Good luck with this one... you have about a year or so, then YOU'LL be doing this! *evil grin*)

So anyway, last night when the kids were brushing their teeth, I laid down on my bed for a few minutes (didn't sleep well the night before). Ahava then said "Daddy, daddy, look!!" Before I knew it, she was walking in the bedroom, carrying her potty. I jumped out of bed and took it from her. "Oh, sweetie, very nice, but ummmm, next time, just leave it in the bathroom, don't bring it into the bedroom, okay??"

At least it was only a number 1... Kids...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kosher Subway Coming!

I got some great news from Presence, Baltimore will soon be having a kosher Subway restaurant. Before I began keeping kosher, I used to eat at Subway often. It helps that they were about 30 yards away from the front door of my office building. I enjoy many of their sandwiches. I wouldn't say that they are my FAVORITE restaurant, not even out of all the fast food places (that probably would be Wendy's), but I do miss meals from there since they tended to be healthier than most of the "McLunches" I would otherwise eat. And another plus, Subway started out in Connecticut, where I'm orginally from; in fact their headquarters is in Milford, CT, I used to spend a lot of time at the Post Mall in Milford.

I'm sure they'll be very crowded when they first open up, but I do plan to visit soon afterwards. I've eaten a kosher Whopper at a Burger King on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem, and a kosher Big Mac at the McDonalds in Ben Gurion Airport outside of Tel Aviv. Now I'm looking forward to a meatball sub and maybe a BMT. I'm guessing they didn't carry forward the Seafood and Crab sandwich (unless they use that fake crab stuff).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Finally Read it

I finally read a book that my brother-in-law recommended to me a while ago, The Da Vinci Code. Wow, what a thriller to read. If I didn't have the kids underfoot, I probably would have finished it in one day, instead it stretched over three days. Of course the major premise was leaked out a long time ago, so that wasn't a shock to me, but what I did enjoy was the way everything unfolded, and the depth of detail in the story telling, along with the constant cliff hangers as the story went along. The author sure knows how to keep everyone's interest. I was also surprised by the few Jewish themes that were thrown in as well, especially the Star of David / Magen David.

I did guess the identity of "The Teacher" pretty early in the story, but since I wasn't 100%, it was still interesting to follow the twists and clues given. By the time they were in England, I knew for sure, he gave it away when talking to the albino monk.

I'm still going through Wikipedia to search several of the concepts that were brought up in the book, the paintings, the places they visited, the secret organizations, etc. I realize the book is a fictional story, but it's amazing how much research must have been done to pull all of this together, especially all of the puzzles thrown in. I'm looking forward to renting the movie (it's at my local supermarket "Red Box" for $1 a night) and seeing Ron Howard's interpretation.

Now I just have to wait until Sept 18th, that's when they are releasing the full 7 volume set of Harry Potter. I didn't want to go book by book, waiting two years between each one... I don't have the patience for that! If the final result is leaked before I read that far, it still sounds like it's a great story anyway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ride to Work Day!

Reminder for those of you who ride... Wednesday July 18th is Ride to Work Day. Of course, if tradition holds, that means it'll be raining over here... (and the weather forcast is already calling for an increase chance of rain on Wed... sigh)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Buy rain gear for your local motor patrol!!

I'm sitting here in my office (yes, I know I should be working hard!) looking out in our parking lot. We have 4 level parking deck. Several of us who ride motorcycles park on the bottom (ground) level, near the entrance to the building where the building guards aren't very far off. I'm getting a good chuckle, because it's POURING out there. And in the parking lot, next to where we park our bikes, are two wet policemen, waiting out the rain. One of them even took out a rag and started wiping his bike down. Come on guys, you ride your bikes, you know you might get wet!

And for the record, no, I didn't ride in today. 1) There was a 60% chance of heavy showers, so I didn't even want to try; 2) I'm heading out for two meetings later today, and I don't take the bike on the beltway during rush hour. I just get cooked.

Ah, the rain finally let up, and it looks like they are heading out. Maybe I should have offered them my extra rain gear?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Playing with Scissors...

While I was out teaching people how to ride motorcycles yesterday, Laya got the kids some stuff to play with, draw with, or otherwise create with. One of the items they had was a pair of safety scissors. You know how kids are, you turn around for one minute, then look back... Laya saw Ahava cutting up some paper that wasn't meant for cutting up. The scissors were removed.

That night after getting home from class (long hot day... ugh) Laya and I were cleaning up the living / play room. Hmmm, what's this on the floor? Hair? Oy! It's curly, so it has to be from Ahava; Tikvah has straight hair. As we continued cleaning, we found more hair. Not a whole lot, just some strands here and there. Now we're wondering, who did the cutting, Tikvah, or Ahava?
I told Laya it could have been a lot worse. When my aunt was 2 or 3, and was supposed to be taking a nap, she decided she didn't like the curtains in the house. Snip, snip, snip... At least the hair will grow back... eventually.

Post thought: After just getting off the phone with my mother (to verify my aunt's age at the time of the crime) I found out that when she was young, she gave a haircut to the girl down the street, and vice versa. So Laya, at least the kids aren't both bald!! Now if they learn to cut their hair like I do... :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Laya's first ride

Soon after my wife and I began dating, I asked her if she'd be interested in going out for a ride on my motorcycle. She had never been on a bike before. She decided she'd give it a try. I told her I'd start out slowly and on local roads. If she didn't like it, we could quickly head back for the barn. I showed her how to put on a motorcycle helmet, and where the footpegs were. I also made sure she knew that the motorcycle turns by leaning. When I leaned to the left, she needed to lean with me. Some people get very nervous, and lean the other way. This can actually cause the motorcycle to go straight!!

She was doing just fine on the local roads, so I kicked it up a little bit, and headed west, towards the mountains. After about an hour, we stopped at a gas station to have a bite to eat and to stretch out. I took a look at my tailpipe... what was that on there? Melted rubber?? "Ummm, Laya, did your foot feel warm at all?" Yep, turns out she didn't realize her foot wasn't on the peg. Instead, it was on the tailpipe. So her brand new shoes then looked like this:

(She still uses these shoes today!)

After leaving the gas station, we continued on to the Shenandoah Mountains, going up Rt. 211 to Skyline Drive. This stretch of 211 is a biker's dream, heading up the mountain, very twisty, left, right, left, right... Wow!!! But as soon as we got onto Skyline Drive (located just before 211 started going downhill) I could feel Laya's head bobbling around a little bit. I pulled into the first rest area, which also was a picnic area. Oh wow, I guess the road got a little bit too twisty... Laya was dizzy. We stayed there for about 45 minutes or so, resting, letting Laya get her balance back, and eating some pre-packed sandwiches.

The speed limit on Skyline Drive is only 35 mph, so even though it was twisty, it wasn't enough to get Laya dizzy again. Plus I took my riding back down a notch. After exiting Skyline Drive, we continued heading back to my place. About half way before we got back, we pulled into another gas station, and got some ice cream and again sat down to relax and talk. (While I have done 1,000 mile days, this was Laya's first time on a bike, so I didn't want to push it by any means!)

While we were talking, I congratulated her on her first motorcycle ride, and had a gift for her to remember it by. I knew that she loves to collect key chains (I didn't know how much so until after we were married, and I helped to move buckets of them into our new home!) So I got her a keychain with Popeye and Olive Oyl riding on a motorcycle together. (all together now... aaawwwwwww...)

From there, we rode on to a gathering of motorcyclists in the DC area at a bar near my office (shooting pool, kicking tires, etc.) After all that was done, we arrived back at my place. It was a long ride, and she did a great job on it! Now, with the two kids underfoot, it's hard to get away for a ride together. Hopefully some day this summer will find a nice day where someone can take the kids for a few hours, and get out for another ride somewhere. Or actually, now that they are at camp some days, I might even take a morning off of work. The mountains keep calling...

Oh, and it only took about 2 hours to scrape off all of the dried up rubber from the tailpipe. :-) At least she never did that again!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Last weekend my wife's brother (Y-man) was in town, so we all went to Maryland to grab lunch before he left for home. First one funny story, then the main crust of this post. My wife ordered Moo Shu Chicken. While we were eating, Tikvah asked if she could have some of mommy's "mushy chicken." Oy, kids!

Later, during the meal, the manager came by and asked if everything was okay. We told him everything was very good. Tikvah then asked "Why do they always ask us if it's okay?" Good question my dear. I gave her the simple answer, "If something is wrong, they want to be able to fix it, so that we enjoy eating here." But after that Y-man and I were talking about it more. I told him about a kosher restaurant that opened in the area almost 2 years ago. The food there was pretty good, but the service was spotty, at best. One time we went there and I never got a soda that I had ordered. When the waiter asked if everything was okay, I told him about the soda. He said that he thought they were out of it, so I asked for a refill of my water. I never received it. Another time we were there, I ordered a side of fries. Not only did they never bring the fries out, but no one came up to the table to ask if everything was okay. They only came to the table when it was time to clear the dishes and present the bill.

Because we liked the food there, and there are so few kosher restaurants in the area (one had opened up the year before, but went out of business after about 9 months), I decided to send a letter detailing these issues to the owner of the restaurant. I explained that the purpose of the letter was not to beat them over the head or anything, but because I truly wanted the restaurant to succeed. My family went in a few months later. There was a new waitress working there, and service was excellent. When I went to pay the bill, I mentioned to her how impressed I was with her services, and how things have really changed. She said that she used to be a customer there as well, and thought the service needed improving. I then mentioned that I sent a letter in to the owner. Her eyes grew wide and she said "That was you??" I guess they got the letter... Afterwards (as we were getting our jackets on) the manager stopped by and asked if everything was satisfactory. I told him that the service was great, and I appreciated the changes. We have been back several times, and have never had a problem since. Sometimes the little things, like asking "Is everything okay" (and acting on it if the answer is negative) do make a difference!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Skyline Drive: Experienced on a motorcycle

Several years ago (winter of 1999-2000 to be exact) I took a course in travel writing. All of the articles that I wrote were motorcycle related (big shocker there, huh?). Below is one of my favorite articles, written about a ride I took on Skyline Drive the summer before. It's a trek to get out there, but once there, the scenery is so beautiful. In fact, the first time I took my wife (then girlfriend) for a ride on a motorcycle, I took her out there. I'll have to write about that another time, if she doesn't tell me not to. (a few interesting things happened on the ride)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the write-up.

"Sorry folks, it’s going to be another hazy, hot and humid day." I rolled my eyes, the weatherman may be sorry, but he didn’t know just how bad it would be. After a long, hot week at work, I was itching to get out and ride my motorcycle. It gets warm enough on the bike without the help of the heat wave toasting the East Coast. His sympathy wouldn’t help to cool me off. If only there were some place cool to ride. That’s when I decided on a day trip to Virginia’s Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park is always a great road to ride. I often feel sorry for the people whose only encounter with the road is from the seats in their car. To truly feel the full effects of Skyline Drive, they need to experience it from a different perspective, two wheels instead of four.

The Front Royal entrance of Skyline Drive is just 50 miles west of the D.C. Beltway on I-66. This was the only stretch of the trip where I envied the people in their air-conditioned cars. However, I kept my patience, I knew the fun would soon begin. Once I reached Front Royal, I quickly found my way to the northern entrance of Skyline Drive. After paying my entrance fee, the festivities began.

Skyline Drive travels through the Shenandoah Mountains, part of the Appalachians. (In fact the famous Appalachian Trail follows Skyline Drive through the park) Therefore, as I started this leg of my trip, the road had to go up. Up is where it’s cooler, approximately four degrees cooler, Fahrenheit, for every 1,000 feet higher in elevation. More importantly, to go up, the road starts to take a series of switchbacks, right, then left, then right again.

This is what separates a motorcycle from a car. As a car turns back and forth, the driver simply turns the wheel in one direction, then the other. At most, the occupants feel some centrifugal force, pushing them in the opposite direction of the turn. But a motorcycle only has two wheels. To turn, I have to press on the handgrips, press left, press right. This action causes the motorcycle and me to lean, and thus turn. Lean to the right, lean to the left. I’m not just passively feeling the turns; I am a part of the turns.

I soon reached the Range View Overlook, 2,810 ft above sea level. Every one of these overlooks is breathtaking. It is said that years ago, before the modern day pollutants got into the atmosphere, on a very clear day one could see the Washington Monument from Skyline Drive. Unfortunately, all I could see in the distance was the haze that I had come to escape. But below me, above me, and around me, were the trees of the forest and the grass of the meadows. Neither was experiencing the heat wave, instead they displayed their brightest green. I knew I would have to come back again during the fall to see the trees when they change into their multi-colored autumn coats.

As I rode through the trees on the bike, I was not separated from them by a four-sided steel cage with windows. Instead I was a part of the environment, out there, feeling the wind, the change of temperature when I rode out of a shady area into the sun, able to smell the fresh mountain air. I raised the visor of my helmet to let more of the cooler air in, to cool my head. At times, when passing a section of road where both sides sloped downhill, it felt as if I was actually flying over the mountainside.

If you look at a map of Skyline Drive, you will see that as it weaves its way through the Shenandoahs, there is almost no stretch of the road that is straight. The constant curves are a siren call for us motorcyclists. As I rode the curves, all the tension of the long week of work started draining out. Now it was just my bike and me, working together as a team, leaning to the left, leaning to the right. Sometimes tilting so far, I felt I could reach down and touch the road, but I wisely decided not to test this.

As I came around a right hand sweeper, I looked ahead to a breathtaking view. Three deer grazing by the edge of the road. The animals here have learned that the traffic on Skyline Drive is mostly harmless, the deer were content to stay where they were, and only one interrupted her meal to look over and admire my motorcycle. Having seen the deer munching their meal, I decided to make a quick stop at the visitor center in Big Meadows and have a meal myself. Checking the time, I noticed it was starting to get late, so rather than head further south, I turned around, and started back north, to the Thornton Gap exit.

As I exited Skyline Drive, I picked up Rt. 211, a perfect road to end the day with. As 211 worked its way down from the mountaintops, it was extremely twisty, with several hairpin turns keeping me at full attention. I felt so good I had to let out a “YEE-HA!” while curving through back-to-back switchbacks. As I got closer to sea level, I could feel the surrounding air get slightly warmer, but since it was late in the day, it didn’t reach an uncomfortable level. As I pointed the motorcycle home, I realized how lucky I was to have a naturally air-conditioned, twisty, yet scenic road within reach to help me keep my cool on those hazy, hot, and humid days that mother nature kept throwing at me.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pictures from the NYC's "Salute to Israel Parade"

As part of the Ride to Remember, the Jewish Motorcyclist Alliance rode in NYC's "Salute to Israel Parade." Here are some of the pictures. (All photos taken by my wonderful wife)

Lining up in NJ, waiting to go.

Crossing the Hudson, over the GW Bridge. They closed the top deck to all but us. A totally awesome view!

Ack!! We had to wait on the FDR... turns out the 5 Boro Bicycle tour was holding things up!

The police escort turned us around, and took us down the Hudson Parkway. We waited for a while near a home for the elderly, then went to line up for the parade.

Heading up the FDR, I believe that's the Empire State building in the distance.

Our last waiting point before turning into the parade.

Then into the parade itself!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Niddah Difference

Since most of you probably aren't familiar with Deaf culture, let me begin by explaining that the Deaf community is a very touchy (physically) community. I've heard various reasons for this. Part of it seems to be the loss of one sense, sound; so we make it up by using more of another sense, in this case touch. There are lots of hugs, pats, nudges, etc. Another reason for this is that we, of course, can't hear. Say you need to get by John Doe, but he's in your way. A simple "excuse me" won't do much good, it's noisy and his hearing aids are overwhelmed (or he can't hear anything at all). How do you get by? Sometimes it only takes a light tap on the shoulder, sometimes it's a little bit more of a moving of the other person's body (giving a slight push to the side, or putting hands on the shoulder and moving them over a little). Now, all this isn't to say that the Deaf are a community of people constantly groping at each other, not by a long shot. But I've seen that people who aren't comfortable with touching are often unnerved when around a lot of Deaf people. For Deaf folks though, this is the norm.

Now let's add in the Jewish concept of Niddah. Ah, now things become more complex! I see this often with one rabbi I know. He's a Baal Tushvia, a hearing, religious son of deaf, non-religious parents. But he's very active in the deaf community. I sometimes see that he makes a slight move, as if he is about to hug someone, then suddenly remembers and stops himself.

That's the general picture. Now it's on to my own experiences. Before we were married, my wife (modern orthodox her whole life, also deaf) and I really didn't get into a deep discussion on Niddah issues; and after the wedding, sort of fumbled a bit to figure it all out. During the times of Niddah, we still touched to alert each other to things, plus a quick hug hello and good bye, and after a, shall we say, heated discussion, to signal that we are okay again.

But as I began to become more religious myself, we started re-evaluating things, and decided to try and completely keep from touching during this time period. There were some small challenges. For example, I could no longer just tap on her shoulder if I wanted her attention and she didn't have her hearing aids on. Instead, I would now stomp on the floor (for the vibrations), or reach around and wave to her if I was close enough. Those were easily overcome.

No, the place where I noticed it took the most analyzing and adjusting, for me, was the "after heated discussion hug." I came to realize that I was using this as a crutch to calm my wife (and myself) down. Maybe even unfairly. It seemed that if I hugged her tight enough, or long enough, the tears would soon dry up and she'd be feeling better. But now there were times I couldn't give the hug. Now what to do??

I soon learned that when the occasional flare ups would occur (nothing MAJOR, just the usual issues here and there that all married couples with active kids face) that I would need to talk and discuss the issue completely in full length and depth until it was truly resolved for both of us, and we were both feeling better. While this approach takes much longer than the "hug-the-problem-away," I think the solution we come up with is better and longer lasting, not another temporary patch. Now even when it's not a period of Niddah, we do spend more time talking about the issues in detail until they really are resolved, and only then do we close things up with a hug. (After all, they are still nice!)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Relying on Modern Technology

I admit it, I love modern technology. For the past several years, I've been using a GPS, even though I usually know where I am going. I like the benefits though, such as knowing how far it is to a particular turn, where the next gas station is, etc. Plus the GPS I have also has XM Radio and an MP3 player in it, and it receives traffic information. If there is a traffic problem along the route, it can alter the route to avoid the problem. It also becomes very handy when going to places I don't know. For example, when visiting my wife's sister and her family in Ottawa, I let the GPS route us all the way up and back. I didn't even have a set of directions written down.

Then yesterday I loaded up some routes into the GPS, since we are all going to NY this weekend for a Jewish Deaf Shabbaton. This morning I hooked the GPS back into the car, and turned it on. Imagine my shock when I realized that the detailed map, all waypoints and routes were GONE!! Not good! I'm glad I caught it a day before the trip, so I can write up some directions, and see if I can possibly find a (paper based) map somewhere. I talked to the Garmin tech, and he thinks they can get everything up and running again this afternoon (I have to call when I have the GPS hooked up to my home computer and the internet). But even so, I realized that I've become complacent with technology. The first few years I always had a set of directions written down as a back up. About a year ago, I stopped. This time, while I knew the general route, I didn't have specific directions, especially to the actual hotel we'll be going to. A nice little jolt certainly took take care of that!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wearing my kippah full time.

This is a post that I wrote that was published on BeyondBT. I wanted to share it here as well.

I’ve been slowly ramping up my level of observance for the past several years. Really, in the past year it has been almost an exponential growth. Each time I added something new (starting to use Tefillin, starting to wear Tzitzits, etc.) I kept wondering what would be the next thing I would do. None of these were preplanned. I would get an inspiration, start reading up on it to understand it better, then pick a day to bite the bullet and start.

Now I have to admit, I just said that none of these were preplanned, but in the back of my mind, I always started to wonder when, if, I would start wearing a kippah all day every day. I figured that would be the ultimate “outting” of myself. Everything else that I had been doing was pretty much internal, where nobody else would know that I was doing anything different. (except the few times someone walked into my office when I was davening Minchah)

Turns out the inspiration hit me after the Holiday season (Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah). I think the reason it happened then was I finally went completely kosher outside the home as of Rosh Hashana. (I have been kosher in the home since getting married over 5 years ago) My conscience couldn’t justify me wearing a kippah when still eating non-kosher food. Still, this was the nerve-wracking change for me. This would be the one that shouts out to the world (or at least the people in my office) that hey, I’m Jewish, and I’m not quite as quiet about it as I used to be.

I calculated it carefully. I would begin to wear my kippah in the week between Christmas and New Years. Two reasons for this: 1) I would be in Brooklyn the week before this, and could find a kippah that doesn’t quite stand out, i.e. matches my hair color a little bit. 2) This is usually the time that the least amount of people would be around the office, most were on vacation. I could break this in slowly.

So after returning from Brooklyn, I started wearing my kippah 17/7. (I only get about 7 hrs of sleep a day, and roll around to much to keep one on while sleeping)

For the first two weeks, I was uncomfortable. (Understatement!!) It felt like I was wearing a 50 pound flashing neon arrow pointing directly at my head. I would wear a cap when I went to the cafe downstairs for my daily bottle of orange juice. When I took the cap off and moved around the office, it felt like everyone was staring at me behind my back, I could hear them commenting to each other on it. (For those who don’t know me well enough, I’m deaf/hard-of-hearing, and usually can’t hear people talking unless I’m right in front of them, looking at them; this shows how much my mind was playing with me) When I glanced back, everyone was doing their usual work, talking to each other about business, etc. No one was looking at me, or discussing the kippah at all, it was all in my head. I only received two questions about my kippah; my boss asked how I kept it from falling off (bobby pins or clips, plus now I’m letting my hair grow a little bit longer than I did before, no more buzz cuts), and someone I worked with in a previous project asked if it was called a yarmulke or something else, and was I becoming more religious. Errrr… yes, I guess I am!

I’ve noticed several immediate benefits. Now when I do Minchah in my office, I don’t forget to put a kippah on, nor do I feel guilty taking it off as soon as I’m done. It just stays on the whole time. Also, the other day I found my division head’s ID badge on the floor. That’s a “donut offense” meaning he has to bring in donuts for everyone. So he brought in a box of donuts from Dunkin Donuts. After he showed me the box, he took a closer look at me, and I could see the light bulb come on… He confirmed it when he said “Oh wait, you can’t have these, can you?” Next time I’ll print out a list of where to find kosher donuts in the area!

Really, the only problem I’ve run into with wearing my kippah full time occurred at home. Twice now I reached up when in the shower and realized I still had the kippah on. As Homer Simpson would put it… D’OH!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm still here, and sneek preview

It's been a while since I posted. I was away several days for the Jewish Motorcyclist Alliance's Ride to Remember, then when I got home, I was slammed with work (they actually wanted things done!), and busy at home as well. We moved Ahava into Tikva's room. My wife wanted to try having the girls share a room since when they were separated, there were various things that would set them off crying. Also, when they were with my parents during the Ride to Remember, they shared a room, and my parents thought they got along fine. Pretty soon I'll post some pictures and write ups from the ride itself, but I'll just quickly say here that it was great. We had over 100 Jews on Motorcycles crossing over the GW Bridge into Manhattan, they actually shut down the top deck, so we made the crossing by ourselves. It was a really cool feeling! Here's one photo of the crossing:

More of a write up and photos to come.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I scream, you scream....

As I mentioned I was going to do before, I brought my motorcycle to the shop to have the new footpeg bracket attached. When I went to pick it up, I got a nice grin. It was a hot day (mid to upper 80s), and the area the motorcycle shop I go to is full of car and motorcycle repair shops. Right in the middle of all of them was the neighborhood ice cream man! (same one who comes to my townhouse community, a few miles away). There was a line of mechanics getting ice cream. And I always thought the ice cream man just covered places where kids hang out!

By the way, the shop did a great job mounting the footpeg bracket, and only charged me $40 for it, that's about a half hour's labor. The manager said he believes that whoever installed the bolts last (another motorcycle shop I no longer use) probably installed them with an air gun.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Making progress...

Sorry for being so quiet lately. I've been preparing for JMA's upcoming Ride to Remember!

I finally got the trailer thing just about figured out. Here's a picture of the bike up and ready to be tied down. (I had practiced the tying down before)

Now I just have to get that footpeg replaced! The bolts are stubborn and do NOT want to come off!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Response from HODS

In a recent posting, I mentioned a comment about motorcyclists and organ donating. I sent the following e-mail to the contact person at HODS.

Cool, love to meet you, love to have you ride your motorcycle with us (with a helmet) it would be kind of funny cuz motorcycle guys without helmets are donors
I know you meant the above comment as a joke, but I just wanted to let you know of something, in case you are contacted by any other motorcyclists.

In the past few years there have been at least two states that had bills proposed that were basically to the effect of, if a rider without a helmet was killed in a motorcycle crash, he/she would be an organ donor regardless of whether or not he/she chose to be. In essence, it meant that riding without a helmet was automatic consent for donating organs. (New Mexico:

A lot of people in the motorcycle community were obviously outraged at this. In my mind, this is similar to requiring anyone driving without a seatbelt, riding horseback without a helmet, riding a bicycle without a helmet, smoking, or engaged in any type of activity that has some element of danger to become mandatory donors. Fortunately the two bills above were killed.

So as I said, I know you were joking with your comment, but given the past history associated with it, you might not want to make a similar comment to other riders. It's still a bit of a touchy issue in the community.

Thanks, and hope to see you in the parade!
I got a response almost immediately:

I had no idea.
I think the hardest part about sending this type of a message is to do it carefully so it doesn't sound like you are madly raging against the system, but at the same time, making sure to get the point across. It looks like this was successful. At least he is now aware of the issue and probably won't make a similar comment to other motorcyclists.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Over she goes!

The first big motorcycle ride of the year, and what do I do? Drop the motorcycle. First off, there were no injuries (well, not to a physical person, the bike did have some damage).

I was riding on Snickersville Turnpike, which is a nice country road in the rural western part of Northern Viriginia. The only part of the road that is tricky is an uphill, 180 degree hairpin turn (also known as a switchback) at one end. If you plan out your line, and keep the bike moving, it's possible to do. But I never enjoy doing it.

This time, I was behind another motorcycle. Just before we started up an incline, a pickup truck pulled out in front of us and took the lead. As we approached the hairpin turn, the truck slowed, then stopped, even though there was no one coming in the opposite direction. This completely threw off my line, and in trying to readjust my path, I wound up going too slow, and the bike didn't have enough momentum to continue. She started going over.

I ride a Kawasaki Concours. (affectionately called a Connie by its owners) It's a great bike. One reason why a lot of riders like it is because it has a 7.5 gallon fuel tank, which is pretty large for a stock tank. However, unlike some bikes like the Honday Goldwing, or ST1300, the tank is right up there, between my knees, and that means the full weight of the gas (which I had topped off that morning) was leaning over to the right. That's over 40 pounds. Most Connie owners know that if the bike starts going over, it's very very hard to keep it up. And down she went.

Another thing that many Concours owners know is that if the bike goes over, you might as well expect that the footpeg bracket will be broken, even before you take a look underneath. The other rider was off the road in the gravel, but was able to get his bike back on the road, then came over to help me right the bike. Yep, there's the footpeg laying down there on the asphalt. Groan

The other rider helped me to clean up some of the other stuff that was on the road (pieces of the bracket, and some screws that popped off an air deflector I had on the bike). After it was cleaned up, I mounted up and rode the bike straight home. No sense taking a risk by riding more without a footpeg to secure my foot. Most of the way I kept my foot on the passenger peg, until my leg started cramping up. I'm just glad it was the right side footpeg that broke (if either of them were to break). The brakes are on the right side of the bike. If the left side peg had broken, it would be really tricky to shift the bike on the ride back.

Anyway, a new bracket has already been ordered, as well as a replacement deflector. The bike should be fine for the Ride to Remember coming up soon. Once the adrenaline wore off, my arms and leg were sore from when I tried (unsucessfully) to hold the bike up, but that'll go away.

The one "silver cloud" here? When I described what happened to my wife, she asked about how the experience would be different if I were on a Goldwing (the bike I'm looking into getting someday). I told her that the fuel was stored down low (beneath the seat actually), so there was a lower center of gravity. Also the seat height was lower, so my feet would be more firmly planted on the asphalt. Also, there are bars on the bike that help prevent pieces from breaking off in the event that the bike goes down. After reviewing this, she said maybe I should look into getting a Wing now, rather than waiting a few years as we originally thought.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Looking forward to BBQ

Back in my non-kosher days, one thing I really enjoyed was BBQ food. Mostly wet, but sometimes dry as well. I attended several motorcycle rallies that were practically build around BBQs. (We'd go out and ride while the meat was cooking.) There are a few kosher BBQ restaurants, but they are mostly around the NYC area.

That's why I was glad to see there is a new BBQ Kosher restaurant, Smokey Joe's BBQ, opening up in Teaneck, NJ. While it's still not local to me, it's at least near the hotel we will be staying at during the upcoming Ride to Remember, the gathering of the various clubs in the Jewish Motorcycle Alliance.

My mouth is already watering...

Friday, April 20, 2007

So how do I interprete this comment... Organ donating and Motorcycling

This May, various groups in the Jewish Motorcyclist Alliance (JMA) will be riding together in NYC's Israeli Day Parade. I'm excited to be participating, along with my wife. Then a few days ago, I got an e-mail from the Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS). After reading about HODS in a Treppenwitz posting, I applied for a donor card (I still haven't received it, it takes a while), so they have my e-mail address. They e-mailed to inform people that the organization would be walking in the parade, trying to promote awareness, and were inviting us to join them. I thought this was great, and I responded to the point of contact (POC) that while I wouldn't be marching with them, I would see if I could stop by before the parade to schmooze a little. I also said I'd be riding my motorcycle with the rest of the JMA. In the reply back, the POC said:

Cool, love to meet you, love to have you ride your motorcycle with us (with a helmet) it would be kind of funny cuz motorcycle guys without helmets are donors

Ouch, I'm sure he meant it in jest, but this is a very sore topic for motorcyclists. I firmly believe in wearing helmets, and I also believe in donating organs (within Halachic parameters) to save another life. However, there have been serveral laws proposed in various states in the U.S. that basically say if you ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, and you are fatally injured in a crash, then local hospitals do not need to check if you are a registered organ donor, nor do they need permission from your family, you AUTOMATICALLY become an organ donor. I.e. Not wearing a helmet is in itself consent for organ donation.

Needless to say, this has created a huge outcry in the motorcycle community. This would be akin to saying anyone who drives without a seatbelt on becomes an automatic donor, or anyone who smokes becomes an automatic donor (although I'm not sure how good their organs would be).

So while I know the comment wasn't meant with malice, it still rubs me the wrong way. What I'm trying to figure out is whether or not I should let the POC know about these issues in case he is contacted in the future by other motorcyclists, or just let it roll off, figuring it was just an innocent remark, and he didn't know the deeper issues.

P.S. Don't get me wrong, I still fully support HODS and their mission!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Wave: For Motorcyclists, and Jews too

When motorcycles pass by each other, many times you'll notice that the riders wave to one another. No, we don't know each and every person out there on a bike, but it's part of the comradery we share.

Yesterday I had a wave of a different type. As I recently wrote about on BeyondBT (I'll post the story here soon as well), I've now been wearing my kippah round the clock for just about 4 months. Yesterday I met with several other deaf people who work at the same company I do, but at a location a few blocks away. We met at a local coffee place to discuss some problems we have recently been having with interpreters. In the coffee place, I just got a bottle of apple juice. But I noticed that at one of the tables sat a man wearing a kippah. This was my first out of shul meeting of anyone wearing one since I began. (this is not an area that has a large Jewish population) So in keeping with my motorcycle habit, I gave a small wave, and he smiled and waved back. After that I was occupied with the discussion on hand. I saw him again as we (all the deaf folks) were leaving, and again, we gave each other a wave.

I guess there is comradery in wearing a kippah too.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Viginia Tech Shootings

My thoughts go out to all those affected directly or indirectly by the shootings at Virginia Tech Monday morning. (one co-worker in particular has a relative at the college that she was still trying to locate when I left the office) While I never was at the college, I passed by it riding on my way home from last year's Ride to Remember in Tennessee. I remember it specifically because it had been raining heavily most of the way from Chattanooga, but just before I passed Blacksburg, the clouds finally broke up and I started getting some sunshine. I remember looking down from the highway and seeing the sleepy little college town. I wonder if they'll ever get that innocence back.

UPDATE: 4/17/07:
My co-worker (and I forgot to mention, also a friend from my college days) reports that her relative is safe. However, I have since learned of Prof Liviu Librescu's death. A Holocaust survivor, he blocked the door, holding back the shooter while his students were able to escape out the window. May his memory and heroic acts inspire us all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Recent articles on Jewish Motorcycle groups

Here are two recent articles on Jewish motorcycle groups that were published.

The Washington Jewish Week writes about The Tribe MC (Washington DC metro area). Article here.

The Jewish Ledger writes about the Chai Riders MC (NY/NJ/CT). Article here.

I've noticed that a lot of times when I meet Jewish riders, they never knew that there were Jewish Motorcycle clubs (there are currently19 that I know of, in the US, Canada, Israel, and Australia. Some new ones are expected in Europe in the next few months!) Maybe instead of focusing on trying to get write ups in the Jewish media, clubs should start focusing on trying to get write ups in mainstream motorcycle media. As much as I hate to say it, they'll probably find more Jewish motorcyclists that way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So why is it?

Why is it that during Shabbat and Yom Tovs, when I can't write anything down, that I get a bunch of great ideas for things to blog about? Seriously, I remember that during the Seder, I thought of something I wanted to write about. What it was is now a total blank. Same thing happened during the Shabbat Chol Hamoed. As my wife well knows, if I'm in the middle of saying something, or even thinking something, and I'm interrupted, the train of thought goes way out, and sometimes can never be found again. In fact, in American Sign Language, there is a great sign expression for this type of thing, called "Train-Gone-Sorry." Usually it is signed if you come in the middle or end of a conversation, and people aren't going to repeat the whole thing for you. But in my case it means the thought has left the station, no calling it back now.

It's so bad that if I'm in bed, or out somewhere, and think of something that I want to save, I usually pull out my trusty Treo 600 and shoot myself an e-mail. It reminds me of how one of my school teachers said that Socrates (I think??) thought that writing should be abolished, because it weakened people's memories.

Anyway, I hope I'll be able to remember the things I wanted to write about. If not, I'm sure some new inspirations will come.