2012-10-24

Grapefruit Juice

My feet hurt, and my game left ankle is mighty sore, and a sweat rash is making my thighs sore. But I did get to Jerusalem, finally, and spent a fair amount of time wandering around the Old City.

And wandering it truly was. I had no map, no plan, and no clue. Oh, I did have the GPS on my Samsung, but the battery died (did I mention it was my Samsung?) and I was on my own. I spent the afternoon getting well and truly lost in the Old City. I never did find my way to the Kotel, and in fact I think I managed to visit every part of the Old City EXCEPT the Jewish Quarter. Let me tell you, wearing my "Srugim" T-shirt to Jerusalem didn't seem like such a clever idea after all.

But hey, it was an Experience, right?

Well, I'm closing in on 50 years old, and there are some "experiences" that I can do just fine without. Getting lost rarely adds anything worthwhile to my appreciation or understanding of a place.

But let me tell you about the grapefruit juice.

On my way in to the Old City, I stopped at a vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street and ordered their broccoli quiche. It was splendid, magnificent, delightful. About two-thirds of the way through my meal, a waitress walked by carrying a glass of what I took to be grapefruit juice, searching for the party who had ordered it. I cannot say with certainty that it was, in fact, grapefruit juice, but at that moment I was seized with an obsession with grapefruit juice. Foolishly, I left the vegetarian restaurant without ordering a glass, thinking the craving would pass. It did not.

I continued on to the Old City, and proceeded to get utterly lost. The whole time I was thinking: Where is the Kotel? Where is the Jewish Quarter? Where can I buy a map? And WHERE CAN I GET A GLASS OF GRAPEFRUIT JUICE?

I passed one stall that proffered various fresh juices, but grapefruit wasn't one of them. The vendor offered me bottled grapefruit juice, but I was having none of it. My heart was set on fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

At long last, after a tedious hour or more of blundering around the shops and stalls, I came upon an Arab selling fresh-squeezed juices. I soon learned that grapefruit juice was available on tap. My exultation was unbounded.

He was a friendly, balding guy in his fifties. He asked if I was from America; I said yes. He asked what state, I said California. He flashed a smile. Where in California? San Francisco, I said. Oh, the Bay Area! he said; it's beautiful there. It emerged that he had grown up in Riverside County in southern California. He missed the area and was hoping to go back soon.

For that brief moment, we were not a Jew and an Arab in the Middle East, but Americans talking about home.

He handed me the cup of the precious elixir and I asked him the price. Twenty shekels, he said. I produced the appropriate banknote from my wallet. "Ashroon," I said, "shukran." He smiled broadly. "Afwan," he replied.

That grapefruit juice tasted good. I continued my drunkard's walk around the Old City, drinking the pulpy, sour, delicious stuff until the straw made slurpy noises at the bottom of the cup.

Eventually, with the daylight fading, I somehow stumbled my way to one of the gates. I don't know which one it was, but it was on the eastern side, which for me is quite literally the Wrong Side Of Town. I found my way back to Jaffa Street, and followed the rails back to the Tachana Merkazit to catch the 405 back to Tel Aviv.

EAB Censored on CAIR

2012-10-23

Microsoft Gets Hard

Microsoft makes computers.
Microsoft's take is the same as it has always been: the tablet is a sort of PC, with all the flexibility, extensibility, and variety that that entails. This mindset is fundamental to understanding why Windows 8 is the way it is. It's also why Microsoft continues to sell its operating system to OEMs; it knows that there's too much variety in the market for one company to meet every need.

But Microsoft has a competing pressure. It wants to show off its software in the best light possible, and controlling the whole experience—software, hardware, and even retail—is how it plans to achieve that. ...

A black widescreen slab is what we have.

I think it's a good looking slab. The shape is squarer and more angular than many competing products, which I enjoy. It's slim, at 0.37 inches (9.4mm), and light, at 1.5 lb (681g). Its front face is dominated by the 10.6-inch, 16:9, 1366×768, Gorilla Glass 2-covered IPS screen. Above the screen are a 720p camera and a little light that illuminates to show that the camera is in use. Below that sits a Windows logo that serves as a Start button.

All hardware designed for Windows 8 will sport a Start button positioned centrally below the long edge of the screen (except for hybrid laptops, which are given more leeway in their positioning) and it is an irritating design flaw that Microsoft has mandated. Sinofsky has said that one of Surface's immutable design constraints was that it was intended for two-handed operation, held in landscape mode. Windows 8 and RT similarly are built for this mode with their convenient thumb keyboard. Problem is, when held this way the Start button is unreachable.

The front of the machine is covered edge-to-edge in Gorilla Glass. All other sides are metal. ...
Go to the link for the full review. This is exciting and I admit I'm kinda stoked. I'm a dual platform user and I don't have a strong brand loyalty or play favorites. So I'm excited to see what happens when Microsoft starts building computers.

47 percent of Americans

want to see Big Bird strapped to the roof of a car and attacked by women in binders with horses and bayonets.

There. You wanted debate coverage? That is my debate coverage.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

2012-10-22

Travel Update

I'm still in Tel Aviv, and will be here for about another week. Posting may be sporadic for a bit, but I will be posting pictures and narrative soon.

And no, I have not been following the Obama / Romney debates.

2012-10-16

Tel Aviv and Hebrew Ham

After my last trip to Israel, I promised myself that I wouldn't let more than a year go by before doing it again. That was last November, this is October, and here I am.

I'm staying at a decent, budget hotel on Allenby Street in southern Tel Aviv, and I'm upstairs from a bar and two pizza shops. I get a kick out of this area because it's so much the opposite from the pictures of Israel that you see in tourist guides. Anyway, I'm not far from the bus station, and I expect I'll catch the 405 to Jerusalem in the next couple of days.

I've been sleeping intermittently since about 6pm. They had some loud music downstairs around 1 or 2am, I think the cops made them turn it down.

Yesterday afternoon I came back from picking up some basic groceries at the AM:PM, and found the power in my room was out. The hot, muggy weather must have been making my air conditioner work overtime. I went down to the desk clerk and complained, "Ein li chashmal!" (Apparently I'm fated to suffer electrical problems in Israel.) She found the circuit breaker and got my lights back on. "Todah!" I called over my shoulder as I went inside.

I'm feeling a LOT more comfortable getting around in Hebrew, this time around. Ate breakfast at the nearby cafe, on the hotel's voucher, then went back there for dinner. The waitress handed me an all-Hebrew menu so I really felt like a native. It's not a kosher place and I'm pretty sure Heh-Aleph-Mem spells "ham" (which figured prominently on most of the items), so I ended up getting a green salad, and that was pretty good.

It's probably safe to say there's not much that goes on in this neighborhood that's kosher, but if I can find a place that's K, or vegetarian, it'll make my life easier. Burger Ranch isn't vegetarian but it is K, and I'm thinking of checking it out. I'm going into carnivore mode for this trip.

But, no ham. Even if the menu is in Hebrew.

2012-10-10

The Second Conversation

There's the kind of conversation I prefer to have; and then there's the kind of conversation we sometimes have to have.

If you're like me, you prefer to exchange ideas with reasonable people who generally share a similar worldview, even if you don't always agree on the details. You enjoy working through the questions of premises, logic, and values that make up a civilized debate.

But there's another kind of conversation going on. It's the conversation that's imposed on us by people who don't believe in the free exchange of ideas. If you're used to being able to speak and argue freely, you might be caught off guard, because free speech is something we can easily come to take for granted.

This is a conversation that calls for less subtlety and more nerve. It's a conversation where you have to be willing to tell people exactly the thing they don't want to hear. In this kind of conversation, success is measured not by how much approval you win from other people, but by your willingness to speak even when others disapprove.

*

This week some startling new advertising posters appeared on the sides of buses in San Francisco, where I live. They read:

IN ANY WAR BETWEEN THE CIVILIZED MAN AND THE SAVAGE,

SUPPORT THE CIVILIZED MAN.

SUPPORT ISRAEL.

DEFEAT JIHAD.

That's it. This is not a slur against any religion or nationality, nor it is a call to violence. But it is a response to those who have called for holy war, and it is a defense of a nation whose enemies do indeed behave as savages.

The ads are from the American Freedom Defense Initiative. AFDI is led by Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs. Pamela's style is not mine, and I have not always agreed with her in the past. But she understands something very important here. She understands the second conversation.

'I can’t imagine anyone (especially anyone whose mind is not already made up) reading this ad and concluding anything other than “some parts of the pro-Israel lobby seem like a bunch of d*cks.”' This is the most accurate sentence in Adam Chandler's piece in Tablet in which Chandler explains that "Pamela Geller's new ad is actually anti-Israel".

But here, Chandler is exactly right; in fact, that is the whole point of the campaign. Chandler cannot imagine living in a world where parties to a dispute do not sit down - like "civilized men" - and thoughtfully work out their differences.

Some of us know better. Some of us understand that there are always going to be people who don't like you, and it's a waste of time to try to win their friendship. Some of us are not losing any sleep if our enemies think we are "a bunch of d*cks." And that's why AFDI's in-your-face, no-bull ad campaign is brilliant, and is exactly what's needed in a place like San Francisco. These words are not an attempt to persuade the undecided; they are a statement of defiance to those who would suppress dissent. The words do not belong to the first kind of conversation, but to the second.

*

Andrew McCarthy is the former Federal prosecutor who put away Omar Abdel-Rahman, "the Blind Sheikh", for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On August 8, McCarthy gave a breifing to the National Press Club, introduced by Frank Gaffney. The immediate topic of his address was the concern around the background of State Department official Huma Abedin, who has family and personal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But more broadly, he touched on the relationship between violent jihad and apparently non-violent jihad.

Explaining the threat that jihad poses to our freedoms, McCarthy said: "The non-violent jihad is called dawa, the aggressive proselytism of Islam. Dawa is leveraged by the threat of violence. The atmosphere of intimidation is what makes non-violent jihad so effective. It is what allows Islamist organizations to exercise such outsize influence on our policymakers even though Muslims barely register one percent of our population."

The threat of violence to suppress offending speech has been used to further the cause of jihad around the world. Sometimes the violence is directed against the author of the offending speech, as with the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh and the ongoing threats against his colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In other cases, the violence is directed against more convenient targets.

In the months following the Mohammed cartoons published in the Danish newspaper Jyllends-Posten in 2005, Muslim riots across the Islamic world led to over 100 deaths. Is Flemming Rose, JP's editor, responsible for those deaths? Or Kurt Westergaard, who penned the iconic "bomb in turban" image of Mohammed? What about Terry Jones, the Florida preacher whose mere threat to burn Korans was followed by riots that claimed 20 lives?

Already at least one person has pre-emptively decided to blame the act of any violent fanatic on the San Francisco bus ads. In a comment to the San Francisco Examiner article, Steve P. declares, "'The insulting "ads", words, make San Francisco more dangerous. … Leaving those words on a MUNI bus, or any City & County property sanctions ANY LIFE LOST OVER THIS IN THIS CITY."

Like the abusive spouse who says "Look what you made me do!", such people shift the blame for violence away from those who commit it and advocate it.

*

Maybe you don't want to be associated with Pamela Geller because she's loud, and she's aggressive, and she's … well, Pamela Geller. But if you live in the Western world and you value free speech, you need to be ready to have that second conversation. And that's what the AFDI anti-jihad ads do.

I support the anti-jihad ads. If it was up to me, they'd run on every bus in San Francisco for a year. You don't like them? That's your business. But my freedom of speech isn't your license to commit acts of violence.

There has been too much mealy-mouthed delicacy around the militant Muslim holy war. It is time to name jihad for what it is.

Originally published August 19 in Media Tapper.

2012-10-03

BPE: Against Hate Crimes and "Hate Crimes"

Gates of Vienna:
Statement by B├╝rgerbewegung Pax Europa

OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
Working Session 14

Intolerance and Non-Discrimination II

Warsaw, October 3, 2012

“Hate Crimes”

BPE addresses the term “hate crime”, rejecting it. Hate is a very personal feeling, one that must not be criminalized One should be free to hate or love, as long as this hatred or love does not lead to violence, which in turn should be dealt with under common criminal law.

Bias is another feeling as well. One is biased daily, e.g. choosing to speak to one person and not another.

Not only do I reject being constantly accused of hatred, I am also wondering whether I personally fall under an OSCE “protected characteristic”. I am of the white race, Western ethnicity, I may or may not be a member of a religion, my languages are English and German, and my sexual orientation is none of anyone’s concern. However, I do feel threatened on a daily basis by gangs attacking “Western dressed” girls, both in my native country, Austria, and in the OSCE region. I fear for my daughter’s safety because of slurs hurled at girls like her like “you racist white bitch”, as is currently happening in many cities. ...
Read the rest at the link.