Archive for May, 2007

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Not Spam, Exactly….

An actual email I just got:

from Ski Safe <onlinequote@skisafe.com>
to Trevor Rans <_______@gmail.com>
date May 24, 2007 6:15 PM
subject Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Thank you for your interest in insuring your craft with Ski-Safe. We have assigned a password so that you can access your records later, either for this quote (if we have been able to provide it), or for another one that you might want. If your quote required approval, it will be accessible after we have reviewed it.

Your password is [removed] and you can change it any time.
We also have representatives standing by to help you and are happy to take your
call at 1-800-225-6560.

My actual response:

from Ilan <_______@gmail.com>
to Ski Safe <onlinequote@skisafe.com>
date May 25, 2007 12:10 AM PM
subject Re:Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Dear SkiSafe and SkiSafe affiliates/loved ones,

    I do not recall expressing an interest in insuring a craft with you, nor is my name Trevor. However, as I do not, to my knowledge, own a craft of any sort currently, I would be very interested to see the craft you speak of. I would even go by the name Trevor if you would prefer. What sort of craft is it? Does it have skis, as the name of your company would imply? If so, how does it navigate on non-slippery terrain (e.g. the road outside my friend Bobby’s house, where there are several large, intimidating potholes)? Or perhaps it is a craft of an as-yet unspecified type. If so, can I choose? I believe I would choose a hovercraft (that, or a jetpack, but I hear that jetpacks tend to chafe). Yes, I think a hovercraft would be a fine choice. (They had one in that film, Back to the Future – I highly recommend it. It stars Michael J. Fox and an older fellow, whose name I cannot recall. He’s the one with white poofy hair like Einstein.)

In sum, please let me know where and when I can pick up my hovercraft and how much the insurance you are offering will cost.

Thank You,

Ilan/Trevor

I will keep you updated with whether they write me back.

Update: They responded. Proof that some organizations have a sense of humor:

from Onlinequote <onlinequote@skisafe.com>
to Ilan <_______@gmail.com>
date May 25, 2007 12:31 AM
subject RE: Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Thank you for injecting some levity into what might have been an arduous day.

Had you requested a more ordinary yacht or jet ski we might have been able to accommodate you, but alas, none of our programs cover hovercrafts (or submarines) so we must regretfully decline.

However, I appreciate your lending credence to the statement of Galileo Galilei who said:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Have a great weekend!

[name removed]

Who Was that Masked Infection?

So, short post.
I was sick last week. All of it. I had all the wrong stuff coming out of all the wrong orifices at all of the wrong times. I went to the doctor twice and the immediate care place twice, and had needles put in, fluids taken out, other fluids put in, etc. And they still don’t know what it is I am just now getting over. They checked for what they thought it was (Death-Causing Spiridium from Mars) and it came up negative, and…that’s it, it seems. So, I decided to help them out by giving them a picture, featured here. If I had to guess, I’d say that they may have been thwarted in their identification attempts because it normally appears in the wild in a clever disguise.

Ping-Pong with the Army

I went to the lishkat hagiyus, the army recruitment office, last week. It was suprisingly organized and efficient. Until the end.

In the end, I went into the final office, where they tell you, bottom line, what’s going to happen with you.

They told me that I didn’t have a giyus (enlistment) date yet, but I would get one when I got a profile (i.e. the number that represents your fitness). So I wasn’t done with them yet. Let’s start the cameras rolling…

Me:Am I not allowed to leave the country until you give me a date [as previously had been indicated to me]?
Girl 1:Yes, you won’t.
Me: When will I have a profile, then?
Girl 1: When you bring in the medical documents that you’re missing.
– Begin quest for the missing documents. –
Girl 1: Go back up to the 2nd floor, and walk into an office and ask what documents you need to get a profile.

Scene: second floor office, several minutes later.
Me: I need to know how to get my profile.
Girl 2: Did you see the doctor here?
Me: Yes.
Girl 2:: (Checking computer) Ok, let’s look at your profile.
Me: (Waits)
Girl 2: You don’t have a profile yet.
Me: Yes, I know. How do I get one?
Girl 2:You need to bring the required medical documents.
Me: Right. Which ones?
Girl 2: Oh. (Passes me off to another girl.)
Girl 3: (Checking computer) You need some missing medical documents.
Me: (Through clenched teeth with a strained voice) Yes, I know. Which ones?
I get passed off to a 4th girl who says she’ll be with me soon. I sit patiently until I don’t feel like it any more, then go back into the office.
Me: I need to know which medical documents I need to get to get a profile.
Girl 5 (or maybe this was Girl 2 again): Isn’t someone already helping you?
Me: Yes, but I don’t know where she went.
Girl 5: She’ll be with you soon. She hasn’t forgotten about you. [She had.]
Girl 4 finally walks by, and I follow her into the office.
Me: Which medical documents do I need to get?
She turns to the other girls expectantly.
Other Girls: You need medical documents.
Me: (Head explodes.)
(Practically yelling) But which documents?
One of the girls (I am fairly certain either Girl 2 or Girl 3) checks the same computer they’ve been checking all along.
Girl 2/3: You need to come back for a psychological examination.
Me: (Really wondering ‘what about the documents?’ but certainly not curious enough to bring that up again) When?
Girl 2/3: We’ll call you.
Me: (Not taking any chances) When will you call me?
Girl 2/3: Within two weeks.

And I’m spent.

Dreaming for a Day

So I wrote about Yom HaZikaron and put off writing about Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day) for almost two weeks. But I really should write about this one. Here goes.

I was walking back home from Yom HaAtzma’ut festivities with a (new) friend at 3 in the morning. Like all Jewish holidays, it started in the evening and would continue until the next evening. I had spent all night in town and I was exhausted but elated. It had been a good night. She, who’d made aliyah several years ago, turned to me and asked, “So what do you think of your first Yom HaAtzma’ut as an oleh?”

I was too jumbled to answer properly. “Ask me again in a few days,” I replied.

But she pressed me. “Come on, what’s your first impression?”

“Ummm….” I hesitated for a moment and thought back on the evening’s events. I thought back to Yom HaZikaron, and how it worked as a lead-in. The siren sounded, and the country became one organism and that organism held its breath for a minute. And this? Well, in some ways, this was the opposite. Lots of noise – people singing, dancing, teenage hooligans crowding the streets and having shaving-cream fights. And the following day? I knew what was coming: barbecues, hikes, and family time. Religious Zionists said a special set of prayers, as the day has both religious and nationalist significance. And most Jews – religious or not – were joining in the festivities in one way or another. Myself, I prayed the evening prayers with Bnei Akiva, the Zionist youth organization that had some influence on my decision to move here. It was really nice. It was right and good and appropriate. Afterwards, they showed us a video, a typical “Israel is great, look at all of our accomplishments” presentation. I found it odd, and I got the sense that those around me just weren’t that interested in it either. Because this all seemed very after-the-fact, very much preaching to the choir. We were there already, living in the Land of Israel, contributing to the State of Israel in one way or another. We didn’t need to be told how great Israel is. And in any case, if we wanted to see something to be impressed by, we could just walk outside, and marvel at everything around us that wasn’t here 60 years ago, and how it’s connected to everything that was here 2000 years ago.

Normally, while watching these presentations, I kind of get a little uncomfortable. Because when you get right down to it, they’re propaganda. They do more than put Israel in a positive light. They don’t mention all the problems we have here and therefore (1) give people a distorted image of Israel (as distortion in the positive direction is still distortion) and (2) prevent people from grappling with the issues more with the aim of resolving them.

But amid everything I was feeling, that uneasiness wasn’t there this time. I thought maybe that we could lie to ourselves just a little bit, just that day. For a moment, I focused on the positives and only the positives. For a moment, the problems – and boy, do we have problems – faded into the background.

For a moment, Israel was perfect.

I think that that moment extended for the rest of the day. I saw a friend later who I had corresponding with about political issues. It was her turn to respond. When she saw me in person, she said, “I haven’t forgotten you. I’m still thinking of what to respond.”

“It’s ok. I don’t want to talk about politics tonight anyway,” I replied, and as I said it, I realized just how true that was.

Then I saw rikudei am. It means “folk dancing,” and the closest thing we have to it in the U.S. is square dancing. But in the areas I come from, at least, it’s unpracticed and obscure. But in Israel, it’s more a part of the fabric of life. And so I found myself in Kikar Safra (Safra square, a large plaza near a bunch of the government buildings in Jerusalem) watching hundreds of people dance in synch. Most people seemed to just know the steps – at least well enough to fake it. It was surreal, like I had just walked into the middle of a musical. But the Israelis didn’t find it the least bit odd. Yes, they realized it was campy and quaint, but no one was bothered by the campiness. Rather, they reveled in it. For a moment, I could see in that group of dancers the children and grandchildren of the chalutzim, the pioneers, who hold a legendary status in Israeli cultural memory, as the original kibbutznikim, who proudly worked the land by day, spoke of a glorious future at night, and joyously danced the hora somewhere in-between. Oh, they had problems themselves aplenty, and in our day, we see some of their legacy in that regard as well. But not the night of Yom HaAtzma’ut. That night, I just saw the legends. And somehow, that felt right.

I turned to my friend to answer, and these thoughts came pouring out much more articulately than I had formulated them in my head. It was something like this:

“I think it’s a day of escapism. Normally, escapism is bad. It prevents us from dealing with the reality as it is, and excuses us from responsibilities we should be facing. But for one day, it’s inspiring. For one day, we let each person see Israel as an ideal, whatever that may be for that individual. For one day, we let people believe that Israel is as it should be, to remind them what it could be.”

And for me, that’s as it should be.

Generation Gap?

An actual conversation between me and my parents. I’m honestly not sure if this is going to make me want to talk to them more in the future or less.

Mom: have u used your webcam? we also have one but haven’t tried it yet

me: Not yet.

I feel that it’s a bit too early in my career to start uploading compromising videos to the internet.

Mom: no no no compromising videos, just your face when we are talking. or else we’ll upload those baby pix!!

me: Which ones?

There are lots more of Noam and Tali. I’m the 3rd child, remember?

Mom: how about the bathtub shots?

me: You don’t have those of me.

Mom: want to bet?

me: Yes.

[long pause]

Dad: mommy is busy fruitlessly trying to find compromising pix of u

me: I know.

Dad: …now Mommy is more determined than ever

don’t b surprised if a Noam picture is claimed to actually b u

me: I won’t.

I think I can tell the difference. Not sure.

Dad: uh oh, u should never challenge your mother, she found some

me: No way!

In an album?

Dad: how about dressed up as a classic nerd 4 Purim

me: Not good enough. She said “naked.”

Dad: Or being hugged and kissed by Judy E. at camp when you were a wee one

me: Or “bathtub” at least.

So?

Dad: How about topless in the back yard?

me: Still not doing it for me…

Dad: The Purim nerd is pretty bad

Dad: But the mother is still on a quest, still looking for naked

Dad: Busted, found the bathtub

with a girl

me: No way!

That’s Noam!

Which girl?

Dad: Tali

Since she’s bigger than u in the pic, it has to be you

me: Is this a naked picture of Tali, where I just happen to be there and naked?

Dad: Just found 11 more

many at the beach in public

me: I am “b’shok.”

That’s Israeli for “in shock.”

Dad: U and Tali are sharing a bathtub

There are also solo shots of u

me: ….

Dad: can we stop — your mother doesn’t give up and I’m hungry. This could go on all night now. I’m gonna waste away to nothingness, dying of starvation

all because you challenged your mother

u should know by now you can do that

especially if u think you’ll ever win

me: I’m stubborn. You should know that by now.

Dad: BTW, it’s a good humbling lesson for marriage as well

just something to keep in mind

me: …and we’re back to this.

Dad: how about the three of u naked in an outdoor shower

me: Ok, now you’re just making stuff up. [Editor’s note: otherwise, I should go back in time and turn them into Child Services]

Dad: U want compromising, we got plenty, now go out and find a girl so we can thoroughly embarrass u

me: …I’ll work on it. -sigh-

Dad: have a great night. I’m going to eat the woodwork (or other inedible stuff not nailed down, while your mother searches the archives.

Seriously, have a great night. Talk to u tomorrow.

me: Ok.

Later.

Dad: bye

I am speechless. For me, that’s a big deal.

I Think I’m a Clone Now

A while ago, in January, while I was training in the U.S, Nefesh B’Nefesh called me to ask if needed any help with my aliyah. It went something like this:

GUY: Ilan, hi, this is [whatever his name was; we’ll call him Stanley] with NBN. I was wondering how we can help you with your aliyah.

ILAN: I already made aliyah.

STANLEY: You did?

ILAN: Yes.

STANLEY: When?

ILAN: August.

STANLEY: Oh.

-awkward silence-

(Recall that he’s calling my American cellphone)

ILAN: I’m in the U.S. now. [pause] But only for a short while.

STANLEY: Oh.

-awkward silence-

STANLEY: Well, if you want, you can still apply for our services. Give us a call when you get back.

ILAN: Sure, thanks.

STANLEY: Bye.

ILAN: Bye.

I’m not sure if he ever realized that not only did I make aliyah, I made it with NBN. In truth, NBN is a wonderful organization, which does amazing things for many people, myself very much included, so I shouldn’t make fun of them. But it was funny.
I think I downloaded their application twice or something, and I’m in their database twice, so that in their files, there’s one Ilan who planned out the aliyah process, made aliyah, even got a generous cash grant from them; and one Ilan who never quite got off the ground.

Parallel universe much?