🍏🍯🍎🍯 L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5779

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown Sunday night, September 9th (yarrr, Errrrev Rrrrrrosh Hashanah is Talk Like a Pirate Day). Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5779. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 18th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

Share

Thoughts of the Day – The Fool on the Hill

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” — Tom Lehrer

April Fools Day became meaningless when Trump was inaugurated, making every day more foolish than the other. Nowadays, one reads Twitter or watches TV Journalism, and what we might hope to be real is fake, and what we hope is fake is, far too often and alas, real.

I had thought about doing an April Fools joke about either deciding that Trump was right, and I was going to move to being a Trump supporter, when I realized that there are those who would not understand the joke. With Trump’s inauguration, our sense of humor has been lost as well. I then thought about doing an April Fools joke about ZJ day†, either along the lines of an Elvis sighting or conversion — but again, people wouldn’t get the humor.

I’d even thought about wishing that next year’s April Fools Day would seen a return of the humor, a return to normal Government in Washington — a wish that November begins the turnaround. But again, there are those who might see that as a joke as well.

Sigh. The fool is out golfing for the weekend, and we’re the bigger fools for electing him — whether you voted for him, or voted for “the other clown” (or didn’t vote at all) because you believed the rhetoric that the propaganda engines pumped out of the Book of Face, on behalf of the fool’s overlords.

†: ZJ = Zombie Jesus. After all, they say he returned from the dead. Many of his followers these days mindlessly follow the April Fool, only seeing brains as junk food, not food for thought. No insult intended for those that are more than just followers in name, for those followers remember the dictums of the religious observance I celebrate:

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourself been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
(Leviticus 19:33-34)

You shall rejoice before Adonai with your son and daughter… and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow in your midst. Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt.
(Deuteronomy 16:11-12)

You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

Share

Rolling Stock

Subaru UserpicThe user pics (those icons on posts at the top, to the right) have traced the evolution of how I have traveled since I joined LiveJournal back in 2004. From personal vehicles to vanpools, through Hondas, Toyotas, and now Subaru, they’ve shown how I’ve gotten from there to here:

 

From my wife’s 2002 Honda CRV, to my recent 2006 Toyota Matrix (which replaced a 1999 Honda Civic that got cow-tipped), and to the Matrix’s replacement, a 2016 Subaru Impreza; from all the various vanpool vehicles I’ve driven. All have been portrayed in userpic.

For the last few days, I’ve been teasing a different picture on my Facebook:

For those unfamiliar, this is a picture of a Outback towing an Outback, parked in the outback of an Outback. There was a reason: we were in the process of replacing my wife’s car. ALthough she picked out the car last Saturday, it took a week because the car dealer’s server was down. Mind you, this didn’t shut down just one dealership, but an entire family of dealerships, the week before Christmas. The server came back on Thursday. Friday we were out in Santa Clarita, and I posted another picture:

We are now a two-Subaru family, having added a 2018 Outback to the family for my wife. Guess it is time to make a new userpic…

Share

Me Think Thou Dost Overreact

My erstwhile employer has recently implemented an alert system from employees after a nearby police incident a few months ago highlights problems with the old system. This is all well and good. However, I do believe there are a few bugs to be worked on.

The first time was when there was a power-failure in a building…. that was resolved in 20 minutes. We received alerts via email to home and work, and calls to cell and work, about both the failure and the all clear.

The second time was during a lock down drill — the drill where there is supposedly an “active shooter”, and you are to remain quiet in your office. So, of course, everyone’s cell phone goes off during the drill with an alert notification about the drill… and then the office phones ring with the same notification.

Today we got another alert about a fire alarm activation in a building in our campus that I’m not in. It came via email to work and home (OK), and by phone to cell, work, … and my home number, for some bizarre reason (if I’m home, I’m already not in the building). This, I guess, is all well and good. But a few minutes later came the all-clear, with the following:

“The current emergency at Building XX has concluded and an all clear has been issued by the [Locality] Fire Department, alarm activation due to burnt toast. You may resume normal business activities. “

Burnt toast.

Somehow, I think they need to tweak and fine-tune the system and its use a bit more.

Share

What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie? (A Thanksgiving Tradition)

Today is the day when we are thankful for many thing. Home. Family. Loved ones. Stan Freberg.

Yup. Stan Freberg, who reminded us in his 1962 album “The United States of America” that this is national “Take an Indian to Lunch” week. I wonder if he would have to change the words these days, although the sentiment is equally true… [Luckily, today, Native Americans have moved past this stereotype and taken control of things.]

Take an Indian To Lunch

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we

Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share our Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch

Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate
Indians, Indians, rah; rah; rah

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it

Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower)
Take an Indian
(Not a wooden Indian)
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

Stan Freberg also reminded us about how the first Thanksgiving really went…

The Luncheon Under The Trees

Narrator: Needless to say, the luncheon there under the trees was a great success, and a good time was had by Puritan and Indian alike. Everything came off beautifully with the exception of one minor catastrophe.

Mayor: What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie?
Charlie: Well, I cooked the turkey, that’s all.
Mayor: You put our national bird in the oven. Is that correct?
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings.
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: You did a thing like that?
Charlie: Well, the two birds were lying there side by side.
Mayor: The *turkey* was for the centerpiece, Charlie, I mean …
Charlie: Well, they looked so much alike that I, uh …
Mayor: Well, we blew it now. They’re all sitting down at the tables out there.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah.
Mayor: … starting on their little nut cups already. Just have to switch the birds, that’s all.
Charlie: Yeah, well …
Mayor: Serve them turkey instead of eagle. But it’s kinda scrawny-lookin’, isn’t it?
Charlie: Yeah, well I thought I’d stuff some old bread in it and make it look a little fatter.
Mayor: You do that, OK?

May all my friends and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember the holiday for what it originally was: shopping later that evening at the Mall of Plymouth for those stylish belt buckles. Stay safe!

Share

Thirty Years

Today was our annual volunteer day at the Rail Festival, otherwise known as Day Out With Thomas at the Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB). It was an odd day: I only had one shift, and my wife got none; further, walking around the museum I saw fewer and fewer people that I knew. It wasn’t always that way, however….

Walking around the museum, I came to the realization that it had been 30 years since we had joined. 30 years since our first rail festival. In those thirty years we had gone from the youngsters to the old folks. And although I truly appreciate what our friends Thomas and Percy have brought us, I couldn’t help remember the days gone by, and what we had lost.

OERM 1987 RailfestBack in 1987 and into the 1990s and early 2000s, rail festivals were a very different beast. They were run completely by the members of the museum themselves; you would get a volunteer bid sheet and request your assignments — from Loader to Car Attendant to Car Barn Attendant to Street Guard (a very boring assignment). Over the years, you would get to know the members quite well. They would bring their kids as they got older, and they would grow into car attendants in their own right and regularly come to the museum. I remember Maurice and his kids Sondra and Jeff, and quite a few others. In this way, the museum became a family: you knew everyone and they knew you. If your kid ran off, even at a festival, they knew who to direct them back to.

We ran the tracks to capacity — you can see the schedule from 1987 on the right, including two pictures from back then (including DOT 12, which is now OERM 1956 (I think, could be OERM 1975), and my lovely wife after 2 years of marriage). We would trypically run a diesel on the main line, the Key System Unit (which hasn’t run in years) down to Barn 4, a steam engine pulled caboose train, and sometimes the big Red Cars (usually a blimp – such as 418-498) on the main line. We’d also run quite a few cars on the loop line, including the really old Kyoto car from Japan. Back in the early days, we only ran part of the way to downtown Perris — as far as we had electrified the track. I still remember the vines and gourds that grew out there. Later we finally got permission to run to the Perris Depot: we would have three trains alternating, and yet another train in Perris continuing to run North to Neuvo. The first year in Perris we were mobbed — I still remember Ray Ward and I figuring out how to put out the stanchions to control the crowd.

The museum itself was a lot of dirt roads — or perricrete (hard pack Perris dirt). Stanchions were made at the museum of yellow rope, poles, and rail wheels. It was a very informal family thing. We would all gather in Town Hall at the end of each day for Ed Vandeventer to give us the attendance numbers, and then most of us would adjourn to the Sizzler (later Tres Amigos) to get together for dinner.

Family is a good word to describe what the museum was in those days. Even if you got out to Perris infrenquently due to the drive — twice a year for Rail Fest — you knew most folks from the festivals. People were treated with respect.

But times change and things grow. In 2002 a little blue train came to Perris for the first time. It was back in 2003. Since then, it has been back every year, and is now back twice a year. The museum has added Thomas’ friend Percy the last three years, as well as adding the Peanut’s characters to our Pumpkin Patch event. This is all well and good, but has changed so many things.

First, the nature of membership has changed quite a bit. Back in the 80s and 90s, all members were volunteers interested in Rail history: in addition to rail fests, they would come out to work on train restoration, learn how to be operators, and take care of the museum. Since Thomas, membership has (at least to me) expanded to what I could call the parent brigade: parents who join museums for their kids for special admission prices and such. These folks don’t volunteer, they don’t become integrated into the family. It like being a member at the Zoo or the Art Museum. Such members are vital for a success of a museum, but they represent the move into the larger world, and the transition away from the small family. Casualty of growth.

Our little blue friend has also changed the physical plant. The blue friend brings in a green friend that isn’t Percy: one that can be spent on infrastructure improvements. Thomas has brought better signage, significantly more paving, better landscaping, and a whole host of big and little improvements from drainage to bathrooms. Members and donors have also met the challenge: new building such as Grizzley Flats (Barn 6), Four Tracks Out Back (Barn 7), and the Archives Building came from the members, as did more storage land that allowed all the old trains cluttering the interior of the museum to move moved away from visitors. Safer, cleaner, but less character. Infrastructure improvements are a good thing.

The growth of DOWT has changed the festival. The traditional railfest has gone by the wayside. There’s a member event still in the Spring, but it is nothing like what we did during the old railfest with just members as volunteers. In many ways, that’s because many of the older members have gone on to the big depot in the sky (and we miss them) or have moved away (and we miss them). Railfests are primarily DOWT these days, and the volunteers are provided by loads and loads of sharp and capable young men and women from groups like the Civil Air Patrol, Explorers, ROTC, nearby Military Schools — all earning service credit and doing good for the community. It is really wonderful to see these hard-working youngsters — you know there are good kids out there. But it is different than the family that we had.

The festival is now different in terms of events — largely because a festival of diesel, steam, and trolley cars just isn’t the draw it was 30 years ago. Now in addition to Thomas, there are kids areas and Thomas merchandise and photo-ops and food vendors — and it really is a well planned day. Here’s a mom’s eye view of DOWT that was shared this year. It really shows how the event is so so different. It is a celebration of Thomas, not the museum itself.

The museum has grown and added new events, such as the Steampunk Weekend. They’ve added things for the kids, like Daniel Tiger to the Trolley Car night. There has been increased thinking about the museum as a museum and its mission of preservation and interpretation as opposed to simple collecting. [To understand, contrast something like the Valley Relics Museum with the Museum of the San Fernando Valley]

I’m not trying to say that the museum has lost its way, or that Thomas is a cult leader like Sun Myung Moon or L. Ron Hubbard. Far far from that. I think that my buddies Thomas and Percy and their friends Charlie and Daniel has been great for the museum. Instead, I’m just noting the culmulation of incremental change that I’ve seen from 1987 to 2017. I miss the old days, the hard work, and most importantly, the people. But times change, and people pass and move away, and institutions grow and mature. OERM is still instilling a love of trains and travel history in our young, and bringing back memories to the old. But it is different, and festival feels oh so different.

But I still plan to be there next November.

Dining Notes: As we got out of the museum early (around 4pm), we meandered back home. Along the way, we found a great Salvadoran restaurant in Pomona, Hot Cazuelas (FB). We had a wonderful and inexpensive dinner, and talking with the owner later we discovered he used to own Salvadoran restaurants in our neck of the woods (North Hills) that we loved. One he sold and it has become something else, but the other (FB) has the cook from the one we loved and we still frequent them. We plan to go back. Hot Cazuelas is on Holt about 2 blocks W of Route 71, 1395 W. Holt Avenue. I had their Chicken with Grilled Onions and it was great, but their specialty is seafood.

Share

Nottingham 2017

Nottingham Festival 2017Southern California has two Renaissance Faires. There is the big one — the granddaddy of all Ren Faires — in Irwindale (nee Devore nee Agoura). There there is a newer faire — Nottingham Festival (FB) — that started 5 years ago by some of the original participants, with the goal of being truer to the original ideas of the Faire than the granddaddy had become. We supported the kickstarter of Nottingham 5 years ago, and have been attending ever since. Today was opening day, and we just got back. So what did we think of this year’s Faire.

First, be aware that Nottingham is much much smaller. My guess would be ⅓rd the size — which fits right for the running time, people, vendors, and such. They simply don’t have the variety of the granddaddy, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. We just get through faster.

The folks behind Nottingham run a second faire at the same location on the heels of Nottingham: Tumbleweed Township,  Tumbleweed — this will be its second year — is the old West (US) in the late 1800s. It is a time period that is a bit more accessible to many, and one that fits well with the Simi Valley location. Many of the vendors sell at Tumbleweed as well, changing their product mix as well. We went last year to Tumbleweed and enjoyed it quite a bit.

This year’s Faire was in the same site as the last three years, and the layout felt… comfortable. It was as if they had figured it out. There wasn’t too much walking. Stages were mostly accessible. It felt as if there were a few tweaks from last year, but it worked.

As for the other aspects of the Faire:

Vendors   There was a good mix of vendors, from some of our favorites, some of our friends, and some we hadn’t seen before. We liked the pottery vendor and picked up some pieces, as well as signing up for Farm Fresh delivery. There were a number of good clothing and jewelry vendors that had stuff we liked, but didn’t have a need to purchase. Prices were good.
Food  There were a small number of food vendors. Prices were reasonable, with ale/beer at $6. Selection was a bit of a different issue. I look for what I can eat (healthy, no grease), and what my wife can eat (gluten-free), and our options were relatively limited. So it was OK for a small Faire, but could have been a little better.
Music  Music was surprisingly light this year. There were some groups we liked (Merry Wives), but they weren’t there opening day. There were less wandering groups of musicians and dancers than usual. There were less musical groups at stages.
Entertainment  There were some groups we liked from last year, but in general we didn’t find the stage shows and they didn’t have the grab factor walking by. This could just have been the opening day mix, because I know some of the group are good.
Education  /  They had the Masters Pavilion again — which is one of the hallmarks of this Festival, but they didn’t clearly indicate who would be there and when.
Enthusiasm  The folks here are super friendly. We weren’t even wearing that much garb (I was in a mix of RenFaire and Tumbleweed, as I though it would be cooler and might rain), and we got loads of compliments.
Layout  They’ve gotten the layout down, eliminating the problems of the first year or two.
Bad Costumes  We really only saw one bad costume, someone dressed as a hell-boy.

 

Nottingham is doing a good job of growing at a slow place while not losing what makes it special. I look forward to next year and its further improvement.

Share

A Matter of Perspective

[Today is Illegal Immigration Day — the day that we celebrate when the inhabitants of Miami Beach discovered an illegal boat person on their shore, and made the gigantic mistake of offering him and the others on his boat asylum… and look at what happened. In Los Angeles, of course, they just renamed the day Indigenous People Day. Back in the 1950s, however, the day was called Columbus Day, when we celebrated a city in Ohio for reason no one really knows, other than we needed to give bankers a 3-day weekend in October, because we all know they need the respite.]

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Indians discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portrayal of the Native American would likely be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

As today is Columbus Day, let us remember that unfortunate day that the Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.”

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened:

Read More …

Share