Archive | December 2013

Monday night

It is really nice when you get home after a 12 hour work day and are cold and wet to find your apartment in pretty decent shape when 19 cats have had the run of it all day. I only had to clean up two yak attacks and no out of the litterbox gifts. Saturday and yesterday I did a lot of cleaning and ‘let’s try to make some happy cat spots.’ It seems to have worked because usually I return to a disaster area on Monday nights. I’ve got one of my homemade frozen pizzas in the oven heating up and after I post this will go in and spend a bit of time with the two rescued baby cats that I have locked in Tovi’s big cage and spend some time with Tovi herself herself. I’m not sure why she seems unhappy to have these two visitors in her room — if I lived in a room by myself with only brief visits from my person each day to check my food, water and litterbox and dole out a few pets and scritches, I’d be just darn stir crazy and happy as a clam to have some company, especially company safely locked in a cage. Something new! Alas, Tovi seems to thrive on bland and boring daily life and could clearly do without her new kitten TV.

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makin’ (veggie) meatloaf but gravy distressed

I’m making up a really delicious vegetarian meatloaf made with lentils — one for me and one for my neighbours. I had Shabbat dinner with them last night and discovered that their stove had essentially gone beyond haywire — in fact, the wires were completely fried and took out the electricity in their kitchen with them. We had a nice cold ingredients meal and this morning I heated up the milk for the twins for them. I thought it would be nice to bring them a hot meal this evening.

My quandary is coming up with a tasty vegetarian-friendly gravy. In the past I’ve tried at least half a dozen recipes that I’ve found online but all of them were seriously lacking in being, well, gravy-like in taste and texture. Anybody got a nice tried and true version? I can always go the ‘serve with ketchup’ route but I’d like to have a good gravy recipe on hand for when I make mashed potatoes and so forth. And, I’m craving a good gravy!

Minx projection: Release of child-murdering terrorists to be accompanied by major new building starts (build baby, build)

On Sunday, Israel will release 26 terrorists as a ‘goodwill gesture’ as part of the ‘let’s play like the Palestinians really want to negotiate’ thing. We aren’t talking about people arrested for throwing rocks (which is not to be sniffed if you look at the trail of dead people from thrown rocks) but seriously bad dude terrorists who slaughtered innocent civilian men, women, and children wholesale. There is a significant degree of pissed-offedness here about the terrorists who are slated to be released.

In the past year, every time terrorists are released, their release is accompanied by the announcement of a couple thousand new building permits issued in Jerusalem and Israeli communities over the green line. Because many of the terrorists slated to be released this time are in the baddest of the bad category and are going to cause a major stir here, I’m projecting that the government will approve a larger than usual number of new building starts. Personally, anything less than 50,000 (which won’t happen) would be too few considering the child-murderers they are going to release. I’m betting it will be at least 5,000, however.

IMHO if they would approve 100,000 of the waiting permits the government would solve multiple problems facing folks here: Apartment prices across the country would come down so that an average middle class person could afford to buy one. We’d shore up the communities that will be on the front lines should any agreement actually be reached (none of the communities building permits are granted in are up for negotiation). Major jobs would be created not only for Israelis but also for Palestinians. There would be new entrepreneurship opened for both Israelis and Palestinians — every neighbourhood created needs grocery stores, vegetable stands, bodegas, hair salons, etc., etc.

Don’t look for a massive one-time announcement, it will happen in smaller chunks announced over the next couple of months and I think we’ll get to about 5,000, maybe more, this time around.

Baby Black and Baby Tiger Striped are safe

Well horrors. A little while ago I needed to run to the corner store. On my way back I noticed something laying in our front garden — clearly a kitten and I thought, until I approached it closer, that it was baby Tiger Striped. Same markings but this kitten was only about 12 weeks old and I knew from the moment I saw it laying there that it was either dead or severely injured. It was dead and its little paws were coated with the red of our front garden soil — you could see the markings in the soft, powdery soil of its final death scrabbles. There was no blood trail so whatever happened to it, happened right there: it was essentially disembowled. I don’t know whether a dog got it, a person did it, or if the stitches from having been spayed came undone. I’ve still got to get up the nerve to go down and take care of her body.

I literally ran up the stairs with my groceries, flung them on the counter and grabbed a cat carrier and some wet food. It took a little more than an hour of concerted trying but finally in went Baby Tiger Striped far enough that I could shut the door behind her. I ran up and put her in Tovi’s room. Then, back down with another carrier and another can of wet food and got Baby Black in immediately. They are both in carriers in Tovi’s room. I’m calling Ronen to see a) when I can bring them in to be spayed, vaccinated, and chipped and b) if he would be willing, instead, to come collect them plus Missy and Sparkle for a spaying party. Fluffy Baby Black and Skittish Baby Tiger Stripe’s days of running free in the garden are now over. Inside kitties. Safe kitties.

“The TSA couldn’t protect you from a 6 year old with a water balloon”

Rafi Sela, former head of airport security in Israel does a serious take-down of the U.S.’s safety measures.

“Ben Gurion [International Airport, near Tel Aviv] is probably the most threatened airport in the world. It has between 50 and 70 incidents every day. Nobody hears about those because we handle them.”

While the Israeli airport drills its screeners seven times a day, Sela said TSA agents are drilled only once or twice a year. With the high turnover rate in the agency, many operate without having been tested.

“Security can’t be treated like a fast food company. These people are tasked with finding bombs, not flipping burgers.”

As our Erin noted, he calls bullsh*t on the practice of having people stand in line with their shoes off, literally. “Instead of checking intent, they check luggage. And they don’t even do it well,” he said of the TSA. “I have orthopedic insoles in my shoes made from composite material. On the machines, that composite looks identical to plastic explosives. I put them on the belt every time, and no one — NO ONE — ever questions my shoes. Some security experts suspect that the TSA has never once caught a terrorist at a checkpoint.”

Of Israeli screeners, he explained, “We interview every single customer several times, but we don’t really care what you have to say. We’re paying attention to your behavior.”

“At Ben Gurion Airport, we get travelers from their car to their gate in 25 minutes. When was the last time that happened to you in an American airport? Probably never, because a dozen 747s worth of cranky travelers can’t take their shoes and coats off, pull their laptops out of their luggage, and queue up for pat downs without chaos,” he said.

“It’s different in Israel” where passengers are not required to take off their shoes. “You come in, we ask you questions, and we have well-trained people determine if you have any harmful plans. They look at your eyes and your body language, not your loafers. We have threats in the airport, but nothing deadly has happened to us, thank God, in the last 40 years.”

“The TSA conveniently packs hundreds of travelers together in cramped security lines. Terrorists love crowds because they can inflict the most harm that way … So what does American airport security do? It gathers folks together in long lines BEFORE they’ve been scanned at all.”

That’s also why he gets nervous waiting for his luggage at the baggage carousel: “[T]here’s no sort of scrutiny around who gets to walk in there. It’s like the TSA thinks the terrorists have some sort of death grudge against planes. So if we can keep them from getting on one, they won’t bother murdering a bunch of people clustered around baggage claim.”

He took issue with the copious amounts of glass used in the construction of U.S. airports, including Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the nation’s capital.

“Now all that glass is lovely, and it saves a bundle on lighting, but have you ever wondered if it’s all … y’know, explosion-proof? Because it totally isn’t. Which makes each of these lovely airports a build-your-own shrapnel bomb kit (just add gunpowder!),” Sela said. “In Israeli airports, the security checks are done in a small, blast-proof area with a few people in it at a time. So if there’s a bomb, we only have to evacuate one room. Not an entire terminal full of drunken businessmen and sleep-deprived families on vacation.”

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Edward Snowden’s Christmas Message

You can watch the full video address via Mediaite here. Below is the transcript:

Hi and Merry Christmas. I’m honored to have a chance to speak with you and your family this year. Recently we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide system of mass surveillance watching everything we do. Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information.

The types of collection in the book -– microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us –- are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.

A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.

For everyone out there listening, thank you and Merry Christmas.

Happy Christmas to my Christian friends!!

I’ve just gotten home from work and wanted to wish all those who celebrate Christmas an extremely happy and merry one!

With just two weeks before the end of classes (how did time fly this fast?!), I am pretty slammed with work. Today I sort of felt I was decked out in Christmas cheer. Last night, just after I got home from work, there was a knock at my door. It was my neighbour from just above and she had a really nice dress in her hands — she was sorting through her closet and found a never-worn winter dress she’d bought just before she discovered she was expecting three years ago and she thought that this was just my style. It is indeed and so much so that I wore it today! Very early this morning I discovered a bag containing the long sweater she’d bought to go with the dress hanging on my door with a note, when my neighbour from next door (with the adorable four little ones) rang to pass on a glass with a spicy guacamole side mix and a plate of food to go with it because they “knew that you’ll be home too late to fix a decent meal.”

I think the neatest thing is that this isn’t any sort of special holiday cheer/extra effort on behalf of my neighbours but rather just normal daily life.