November 2004 Archives

Thanksgiving

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Here's hoping everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving. It's just work as usual here, of course, although I'll be having dinner with a Czech-American-(something slavic) family this evening after my Hebrew class gets out.

Me, I'm thankful that nobody seems to have gotten hurt yet in the Ukrainian election crisis. Although I'd have been exceedingly tickled if anyone had managed to instigate a general strike to protest the American electoral shenanigans. Oh well.

In other news, it would seem that pumpkin pie just gets no love from some quarters. Personally, I like the stuff, although it's no match for a good slice of pecan pie. But I'm not really up on my pie scholarship.

Cheers.

Late update:

There seems to be some disagreement in Blogistan over the relative merits of pumpkin pie. But, since pumpkins are not to be found in this region of the world, perhaps I'll give Kabocha squash pie a whirl. Or yam pie. We've got those in spades.

Baking

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From right to left, baking soda, baking powder, and a gigantic brick of yeast, with some coins for scale.

To be perfectly honest, the kitchens in Beit Clore don't particularly inspire great feats of culinary artistry. In fact, with the exception of having a sink and full-sized refrigerator, they aren't really any better than the last time I lived in a dorm, when my room contained an electric burner, a toaster oven, and a hot-pot. Nevertheless, some basic baking supplies really are necessary, and for the life of me I wasn't able to locate them.

In fact, I'd looked right over them many times in the supermarket, and I've taken this picture as a reminder of just how invisible things can be when they're a completely different size than what you'd expect. What I'm ever going to do with a half-kilogram brick of yeast is utterly beyond me.

Frequently thanks to, and on occasion in spite of, the meager cooking facilities we're allotted, food plays a considerable role in the social life of the Clore House. So continue reading and meet the crew.

Phases

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Nearly full moon on a typically cloudy night this time of year. 2004:10:28 20:41:46

We've noted in the past that the Moon in the Mideast is said to rise and set at times in a "horns-up" orientation. My efforts to photographically document this arrangement have been foiled, thus far, by the fact that winter is fast approaching. This can be discerned by two observations: first, that long-sleeve shirts are starting to appear after dark; and second, that it is cloudy at night.

However, the good contributors to the APOD site have provided a nice illustration of the phenomenon.

The Break

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Rehovot had its first rainfall last night. That's my assumption, anyway, since for the first time since I arrived, I awoke to the unique shushing of tires on wet pavement outside my window. Just a light shower, probably, since the streets were barely damp by the time I left the building.

They tell me it's a bit early for rain. December's the rainy season, evidently.

Clearly a good sign, at any rate. According to this morning's email, NASA has approved our group's proposal, so this contraption I'm helping design should actually get built. Now we can stop biting our nails and bask in the land of the funded.

Where by bask, I of course mean to evoke an arduous multi-year race against our grant's clock and our collegues' competing projects.

(Updated 18-11-2004)

Denouement

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So he's dead. For real, this time.

Local coverage can be had in English at Ha'aretz or the Jerusalem Post.

The BBC's story is also useful, and the reactions noted in their reporters' log are interesting to track.

On days of great calamity, legends tend to report the sky blackening. The Palestinians have taken matters into their own hands on this front, and are burning tires all over Gaza and Ramallah. It is reported to be rather dark. Ick.

No need to worry that I'm going to wander off to the Territories to investigate. They've completely sealed them off. I'll post more when I have some idea of what's going on.

Anticipation

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Speculation about the future is running rampant. On the one hand, a leader has been retained; Bush was elected. On the other hand, Arafat is out of the country for the first time in years, and it is widely suspected that he will not recover.

The theme of the month is uncertainty. For instance, today's article on the Arafat situation is typical of the confusion regarding his condition and who's in charge in Palestine. The Israeli government is, for now, maintaining a low profile, although it's unclear what will happen if the Palestinians insist on burying Arafat in East Jerusalem, or if the succession struggle spins out of control. Or, for that matter, if it doesn't, and it begins to look like Hamas is going to come out on top.

Taken for himself, many Israelis were pleased that Bush will remain President in the US, as he is seen as relatively less likely to lean on Israel for concessions. In particular, he has been perfectly content to insist that "terror" end before Israel is obliged to do anything in particular, which is widely regarded as code for never. There has been some speculation that he would change his tune in a second term in an effort to regain favor with Europe, but the conventional wisdom was that Kerry would do the same, and probably more aggressively.

But then Arafat leaves center stage, potentially upsetting a delicate balance. On W's watch, Israel doesn't need to talk to the Palestinians in any official capacity, because Arafat has been declared not to be a "partner" in the peace process. If new leadership enters the picture, it becomes more difficult to maintain such a stance; Bush will have to either offend his Israeli supporters by insisting that the government give the new PA leadership a chance, or else reveal his position for what it is, a carte blanche for Likud to do as it pleases.

At the moment, the government seems to be working on the first theory. As best I can tell, there is some movement in Sharon's administration to make a show of working with whoever winds up in charge of the PA, to head off any intervention on Bush's part. I suspect they guess that, since the disengagement from Gaza buys them several more months during which they can claim to be too busy dealing with the settlers to worry about the Road Map, they have plenty of time to discredit the new Palestinian leadership, too. (For instance, see here in today's paper.)

Handy tip for the traveling astronomer: in Hebrew, the word for "telescope" is telescope.

Oh, Canada!

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November 4, 2004, cover of the UK Daily Mirror, a popular London tabloid.

Over the past 36 hours or so, any number of friends and acquaintances have made some crack or other about expatriating, generally to Canada. Seems like a nice place, after all. Their leaders are generally reputed to be intelligent, sane, and not ideological relatives of Sauron. Many of them did the same four years ago, when faced with a far less dire situation. We learned the words to "Oh, Canada!" and everything.

Naturally, they're (you're) all still in America. You don't just quit school or a job and start over in another country because you suspect that the newly elected administration is incompetent or evil. But what if the re-elected administration manages to be both incompetent and evil? And what if I find myself already in another country, at a good school with a decent job?

Good Morning, America

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Here's hoping you all have a happy Dia de los Muertos! Now, if you're being traditional about the celebration, you should have set out your offrendas last night with the favorite foods of your dead relatives, and optional candy skulls. Being as best I can tell a few thousand miles from the nearest Latino community, I settled for cooking what might be described as a kosher approximation of my grandmother's fideo.

But if you really want to get on the good side of the spirits, I can think of a few tens of thousands of dead folks who'd probably like to see America fire the screw-ups who got them killed.

Incidentally, I was curious to know when was the last time a presidental election fell on All Souls' Day. Turns out to be that post-Vietnam, post-Watergate election that was a disaster for the Republican party, 1976. Take that however you will, but since I don't see another Regan coming down the GOP's pike anytime soon, I choose to be encouraged. And, while we're at this silly game, the time before that corresponds to Truman's 1948 suprise victory over Dewey, which proved early and conclusively that public opinion polling is, in fact, a black art.

To those who were concerned, incidentally: yesterday's suicide bombing was in Tel Aviv, and the only direct impact on Rehovot is that the place is crawling with soldiers now. Which affected me only insofar as I opted to skip being searched on my way into the Institute campus by cutting through my dorm. The consensus so far appears to be that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the event, despite the seemingly loaded timing.

And now, the western hemisphere is starting to wake up; time to jack in. This should be interesting.

Here we go...

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They tell me there's an election going on back home. That might explain why I haven't gotten any work done this week. Following the news, the polls, the legal battles, and so on and so forth -- seems to be sucking up a lot of time. Which would be okay if only it would end tomorrow. But I think we can all guess how likely that is.

Of course, given that every other blog on the planet has declared itself to be Election Central this week, there may have been some puzzlement at my decision, thus far, to essentially ignore it in this medium. It's not that I don't have opinions on the matter ... quite to the contrary, and we'll be trying to get it out of my system for the remainder of this post. But since I can count the regular readers of this site without resorting to too many of my toes, and since a healthy fraction of them are doing far more for the good guys than I would even know how to do from way over here, it would really have been preaching to the converted.

Thus I feel okay saying this just once: vote. And make sure everyone you know does too. But as I said, I know my audience, and I know that for many of you, that's been your mantra this fall anyway. Good for you.

But, if you care to know how I think this is going to turn out, read on.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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