Monday, January 28, 2013

West End? Should've Bought Broadway...

So I mentioned that we saw "Les Miserables" recently.  Keren is completely taken with the play.  It is in her alarm clock, which goes off twice a day.  She likes to go to sleep with it also.  Our house is all "Les Mis," all the time.

When she woke up the other day, I walked into her room at "Castle on a Cloud."  She did not see me walk in.  She was singing along.  I listened.  The kid is good.  She would do a great job playing the young Cosette.  If someone could please pass that along to central casting, I would appreciate it.

The disk we have is the London West End recording.

My daughter sings "Les Mis" with a British accent.

Just for the record.  She was born in the South.  She started speaking in New York.  She has lived most of her life in Canada.  I have pieces of a New York accent in my speech, and can easily do a southern drawl.  Jennifer probably sounds like she is from the Northeastern part of the United States, with a specific twinge of Boston on very rare occasions (odd enough...she is from New York).  No one in this family speaks English with a British accent.  I spent three days in London back in 1988.  Jennifer has passed through Heathrow twice.  That is simply not enough to make a difference.

Oh well...she sounds great.

Good night.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Communication among Federal Agencies

Top of the evening everyone.

United States Navy Chaplains serve with the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Merchant Marine, and with the Coast Guard.

For the next 11 months, I am with the Coast Guard.  This is exciting.  I have never been with the CG.  There is a steep learning curve.

While navigating the learning curve, I also have to do a fair amount of paperwork.  The reason is that the Navy is part of the Department of Defense (DoD).  The Coast Guard is Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

It would be a lovely thing if these groups would learn to communicate.

I have to get a new travel credit card.  My current card is DoD.  I need one from DHS.

I had to forward my DoD security clearance to the Coast Guard.  They can use the DoD clearance, but they do not have direct access to it.

While I am at it....

Thankfully, the Coast Guard issues uniforms.  One of the quirks of the US Military is that officers buy their own uniforms.  When one is a chaplain, able to serve with many services, that can get quite expensive.  If nothing else, I may have to build a new closet soon.

Some things I have to buy though.  I have to buy my sew-on collar insignia.  It is a special order.  The cost per insignia is $4.50.  I need two devices.  One should logically conclude that the net cost to me would be $9.00.  The company that makes them will not make less than 20.  I have the uniform distributors looking into it.  

The same problem holds for the shoulder boards.  The uniform distributors in theory should be able to get mine for about $32.  It is not an item they stock though.  For me to order directly from the manufacturer will cost me $57.  I do not know how this will turn out.

This is exciting though.  Apparently, there will be a requirement over the summer for two chaplains to ride a cutter up in the Arctic.  I naturally volunteered.  Hopefully, I will get picked.

Have a good night.


P.S.  UserDanD - thank you for your comments this morning.  I am glad you found me.  I did not know I was lost.  

Monday, January 21, 2013


Top of the evening everyone.

We went and saw "Les Miserables" 10 days ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I thought the filming and drama in the song "One Day More" was stunning.

It was a little bit upsetting that they cut out half of "Castle on a Cloud."  It is Keren's favourite song.  She sings it beautifully.  "Les Miserables" is coming to the Toronto stage this fall.  I hope Keren can get  a part in it.

Anyway, Keren has decided that she would like the CD in her radio to wake up every morning.  That is easy.

Segue to Gavi...Gavi loves the music to "Man of La Mancha."  I have seen that play twice.  The first time was at the Little Theater in Norfolk, VA.  It was a little theatre.*  The second time was in front row mezzanine seats on Broadway, with the massive, moving stage and set.  It was two different plays. Gavi reminds a little bit of Don Quixote.  He has decided that he would like the soundtrack to "Man of La Mancha" for his alarm clock in the morning.

Their rooms are next to each other.

Besides being remarkably different soundtracks musically, they do not work so well together.  I find it difficult to listen to "I Dreamed a Dream" and "The Impossible Dream" simultaneously.  It is downright schizophrenic.

Have a good night.


*Please note: I have deliberately switched spellings for theater/theatre.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Do Not Know How to Title This Entry...

Good evening all.

I thought about calling it "The Evil that Men Do" or "Quest for Redemption."  Nothing quite fit.

Several years back, people who conduct surveys conducted one on who the greatest athlete of all time happens to be.  The majority of votes went to Tiger Woods.  Whatever his personal failings are, and they are many, he is a gifted golfer.  That is clear.  Still, at the time, I did not think it was the right answer.  I thought that the right answer was Lance Armstrong.

At the time, my reasoning was quite sound.  He won the Tour de France seven years in a row.  It is the ultimate test of endurance.  No one questions that.  As well, we add in the improbable comeback story from cancer, and all that the organization he founded, Livestrong, has done for cancer research.  That was a true athlete.

We have watched that come apart over the last year or so, culminating with his interview this week on Oprah.

The good: he did come back from cancer.  For the vast majority of us, unless the performance enhancers involved a cape, even to think of riding in the Tour de France is at best a distant fantasy.  He came back from cancer to do that.  Even with illegal help, it is still quite a feat.  He started a foundation for cancer research.  He visited kids in hospitals.  His foundation's website is great for nutritional information.  He made cycling exciting in North America.

The bad: he did drugs.  He lied about it.  He torched people who dared to accuse him of it.  He both actively and inactively encouraged the members of his teams to do drugs.  He lied under oath.  He accepted other people's money while living a lie they helped to support.  That is stealing.  

He may now go to jail.  Whatever money he has earned will likely be taken from him in fines and lawsuits.

The question that I will ponder for a long time is this: does the good outweigh the bad?  If he helped save even one life, if he gave one person hope of life beyond a hospital bed, we cannot discount him.  On the other hand, to destroy people we cannot accept.

I know how to title this: "Fallen from Grace."

My friends, the most important thing in your house hangs in your washroom.  It is a mirror.  It cannot lie.  At the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, and several times in the middle, we must look in it.  We should be certain that we like what we see looking back.

Good night all.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Continuing Saga of the Human Vacuum

Top of the evening all.

Jesse is lactose intolerant also.  He is now starting to experiment with other snack foods.

It would appear that he likes blueberries.  He ate two pints of them today.

Thank God they are a healthy food.

Good night.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lunch with My Colleagues

Today was our monthly meeting of the local Rabbinical Assembly.  It was my turn to host it at our congregation.  We sent out the notice.  I got about 12 responses.

The host congregation supplies lunch.  Today, we had sushi (fish and vegetable rolls), soup, and a fruit platter.

Let us look at the challenges of feeding this bunch.  I cannot eat dairy.  Another colleague has celiac.  Another colleague is a fish-eating vegetarian.  Yet another colleague just decided to give up meat, eggs, and fish.

I am thinking about serving tree bark next time.

Go to sleep.



Top of the day to all...

Since the goings-on in Newtown, I have been giving a great deal of thought to the idea of gun control in the United States.  Several distinct groups have emerged with clashing views on the nature of the problems.

Every single one of those groups is right.

The NRA is right.  As a nation, we need to think about proper security in our schools.  There are plenty of people out there who will happily stake out and then attack a school.  A school is a soft target, filled with people who are prone to panic.  Furthermore, the shooter in Connecticut was in violation of several laws, including one of possession by someone under the age of 21.  Someone who will murder will likely not think highly of other laws.

Those pushing for tighter gun control laws are also right.  It defies logic that it is possible in many places to purchase a weapon at a gun show without any sort of background check.  I cannot even renew my license to drive without a look at unpaid tickets.  This is basic.

Others have pointed to the makers of movies and video games as part of the problem.  They too are right.  To have Quentin Tarantino sign a petition about gun control laws is laughable after his most recent motion picture endeavour.  The movie is a bloody mess.  Furthermore, I just saw a study that says that long-term exposure to pornography has a noticeable effect on the brain.  Watching people get shot too many times probably does also.

Last, we have properly heard concerns about mental health issues.  We will never know what motivates shooters to do this.  That is fine.  I think it should be beyond our comprehension.  Still, as we learn more about the individuals, we find more and more long-term problems.  The shooter in Connecticut never cried or felt pain.  That is a huge warning to anyone who has taken the most basic of psychology classes.

What all of the people who point fingers at others miss is that they also point the finger away from themselves.  Trying to figure out the source of the problem is laudable and necessary.  It should involve a look in the mirror to start.

If we only write stricter gun laws, if we only focus on the mental health issues, if we only focus on violence in movies and video games, we will not solve the problem at all.  Instead, we will open up our newspapers in the very near future to yet another headline with an eerily familiar story.  This is a multi-faceted issue that requires a multi-faceted response.

Good night all.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jennifer and I Are Home and the Kids Are in Virginia...

That gives us time to read!

I have read over the last two weeks "The Newlywed Guide to Physical Intimacy," "The Aleppo Codex," and am now in the middle of "Road to Valour."

The first book talks about newlyweds getting used to the idea of physical intimacy.  The novelty is that this book is geared towards the Orthodox community.  It is a necessary book in that community.  With the absolute gender separation prevalent in so many situations, it is impossible for men and women to develop a common language.  As such, he may not realize that a first time might hurt her.  She may not realize that the whole endeavour might last more than 20 seconds once they figure out what they are doing.  To have a book explain this in a way that is not remotely pornographic is wonderful.  To have a book say that it takes time to learn this part of marriage permits the couple to realize that there might be something enjoyable down the road despite initial frustrations.

"The Aleppo Codex" is about what the Rambam termed the most accurate manuscript of the Tanakh.  For centuries, it found its home in Aleppo, zealously guarded by the Syrian Jewish community.  After the UN vote for partition in 1947, the synagogue was burned.  Tradition is that about 40% of the codex burned in that fire.  Apparently, the Syrian Jewish community intelligently let that tradition exist, eliminating any Syrian governmental interest in it.  (Insert lots of international intrigue here.)  At least 60% of the codex was smuggled out and brought to Israel.  It is now becoming more and more evident that the other 40% still exists.  Many people are not saying anything beyond that.  The book contains the history of the codex, and reads like a detective novel.

By the way, my ritual director, Jesse, and I had a question about the proper reading of a word in the text.  We were able to check it against the Aleppo codex.  We really enjoyed doing that.

I am thoroughly enjoying "Road to Valour."  It is the true story of Gino Bartoli, an Italian cyclist.  He won the Tour de France twice.  He was also a devout Catholic and despised Mussolini.  His Cardinal asked him to run forged documents in order to help save Jews.  He smuggled fake identification papers in the frame of his bicycle.  He also hid a Jewish family in one of his homes.  I am displeased these days with the world of professional sports.  So many athletes get in so much serious trouble.  They forget the responsibility that goes with being famous.  Bartoli used his fame to save lives.  He risked his life to defy those who would commit murder.

My next book will be "The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea."  It is sitting on the night table.  Jesse thought it was amazing.  I let him read it first.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Oh...and just so you know, Jennifer and I are not just reading.  We are also going to sleep early.  This is the most rested we have been in months.

Good night everyone.