Wednesday, December 28, 2005

108. Main Chanukah Question

Sour cream or applesauce?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

107. Alaska to lose the Northern Lights??

According to the newspaper, the northern magnetic pole is moving further north. That means that the northern lights are going to move with it. Scientists predict that this will happen over the next 50 years. The northern lights will move more over Siberia, and will rarely be seen in Alaska. This is because of shifts in the inside of the earth. (It has nothing to do with global warming.) It is not definite; the trend could stop, reverse itself, or go another way.

Here is a link to an article on the topic

Monday, December 26, 2005

106. Rambling Rantings, mostly about Christmas

The school has a “Christmas Program” every year. This year one of the teachers suggested that we call it a “Holiday Program” and add in a Chanukah song. I was against that. I don’t like Chanukah being treated as a part of the Christmas season, as in Christmas means snow, trees, ornaments, and Chanukah. (I especially hate Christmas trees with a little menorah under it among all the presents.) I don’t like the school programs that throw in Chanukah songs. It feels kind of patronizing to me, and many years they end up singing the song AFTER Chanukah ends. Besides, what am I supposed to do, teach a class “I Had a Little Dreidel”? No one should have to learn that song. No one should have to teach that song. No one should have to listen to that song. I hate that song. Basically, I hate the dumbed-down English songs. And I am NOT up to teaching anyone “Maoz Tsur”. OK, I do like “Light One Candle”. There is an English song that follows the meter and rhyme scheme of “Maoz Tzur” that goes through all of Jewish history (well, the song was written a while ago, so it only goes through Entebbe) that I like. (Does anyone out there have the words?) I also sort of like “Chanukah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer, whom no one in Deering has heard of. I said that I do not like the idea of calling it a “Holiday Program”, but they decided to call it that anyway.
The program began with the first graders singing two Christmas songs and reciting a Christmas poem. The lower grades did a play about how the angel became chosen for the top of the Christmas tree. (Santa and an elf are trying to decide what to use to top the Christmas tree. All these things come by to suggest themselves, including a flea, and apple, an alien, etc. Meanwhile, the angel keeps coming to try to get them to take a break and eat. One time the angel happens to come and stand by the tree and they realize the angel is perfect for the top of the tree. It is a great play for little kids because you can write in as many parts as you need for any size class.) The upper elementary school all told what they were thankful for, and then sung “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Eskimo style, which was kind of cute and interesting. (Presents included slices of liver, pair of mukluks which are fur lines boots, fishermen a-fishing, and five ivory rings.) The middle school did a play called “Ann’s Favorite Christmas, which is about the family all coming together for Christmas. (Does this sound like a “Holiday Program” or a “Christmas Program” to you?)
The high school students did presentations called “What I remember about 2005”, mostly slideshows, but a few movie clips that they shot. They were pretty interesting. Most of them referred to news stories in the past year. Some were about their families, a few about the school trip to San Francisco that some of them went on. The most common news events were Hurricane Katrina, Saddam Hussein’s trial, and the death of Eddie Guerrero (who was a wrestler, I didn’t know that either). Only one student mentioned the discovery of the probably-will-be-designated tenth planet.
There was a Christmas tree that people who came put presents under for people in the town. After the program they were given out.
I made the programs for it. I called it a “Christmas Program”, as did everyone else towards the end of the planning. (One person mentioned to me that the reason he/she preferred “holiday program” was that some people do not like Christmas because the Christians sent in missionaries to replace their native culture.) I do not appreciate the phrase “Holiday” used instead of “Christmas” to try to sound all-inclusive for what is obviously a Christmas whatever. What is a “Holiday tree”? It is a Christmas tree that someone is trying to make sound ecumenical. Come on, one thing no one has ever accused the Jews of is stupidity.
I also don’t see the need to change “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”. It does not bother me if someone wished me a “Merry Christmas”. I find that most of my friends agree with me. I think that most Jews with a good solid Jewish identity are not bothered, but it bothers those to whom “being Jewish” mainly means “does not celebrate Christmas”.
Parade Magazine had an article today by Maya Angelou about Christmas. It ended by talking about how everyone was getting ready for Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan. Although Chanukah comes late this year, I’m pretty sure they would have just as soon run this in a year where Chanukah ended by Dec 12. Whoever came up with Kwanzaa decided to put it on December 26, so if it gets mixed in with Christmas well it’s their own fault and was probably intended anyway. In 2001 Kwanzaa fell around Christmas and that was right after 9/11 when people said hey-we-have-to-be-sure-to-include-Moslems, and no one has bothered to notice that this year Ramadan ended two months ago.
The healthy-living teacher read the students a section about Chanukah. She explained to the class that it is important to know about other religions. Chanukah was the only Jewish holiday in this book called “Holidays Around the World”. Why? I think because it falls around Christmas, so everyone thinks of it as THE major holiday. Also, the book gave the Hebrew date Chanukah begins (25th of Kislev) and gave a date for the last day. That is incorrect. Since Kislev has 29 days some years and 30 days other years (so that Yom Kipper is never on a Friday or a Sunday) the date of the last day of Chanukah varies. Come on, get your facts straight.
Maybe I’ll rant some more another day.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

105. Lichtbenching

I started this blog wondering what to do about Shobbos this far north. (see entry 1) Since then I have spoken to a number of experts.
The first part I don’t understand is why Deering does not have any days where the sun does not rise; the shortest day was 2 hours and 58 minutes (see entry 103) but we do have days around the summer solstice where the sun does not set. When I mentioned this on the blog earlier, other people seemed surprised as well (see entry 2 and comments). I always thought it was symmetrical. We are about 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle. (Is there anyone out there who understands why it is not symmetrical? Could you post an explanation?) But when I checked websites that give sunrise and sunset time, that is what I got. Also, I found a few websites that will give you candle-lighting time for any place in the world. (You can choose from a long list of cities, in the US and Canada you can enter a zip code, or for anywhere in the world you can enter longitude, latitude and time zone.) When I entered Deering, they worked fine for most of the year, including December, but for June they all crashed and gave me a bunch of error messages.
I did find a rabbi (with Chabad of Ventura CA) who found out the times and e-mailed them to me. Here they are for 5765: (I have put them all in Standard time so the pattern is more obvious. For Daylight Savings Time, add an hour. Also, I used Friday’s date, regardless of which side of midnight it fell)
Oct 7 Fri 6:25 pm / Oct 14 Fri 5:58 pm / Oct 21 Fri 5:30 pm / Oct 28 Fri 5:03 pm / Nov 4 Fri 4:36 pm / Nov 11 Fri 4:09 pm / Nov 18 Fri 3:42 pm / Nov 25 Fri 3:16 pm / Dec 2 Fri 2:52 pm / Dec 9 Fri 2:30 pm / Dec 16 Fri 2:14 pm / Dec 23 Fri 2:13 pm / Dec 30 Fri 2:28 pm / Jan 6 Fri 2:55 pm / Jan 13 Fri 3:24 pm / Jan 20 Fri 3:53 pm / Jan 27 Fri 4:23 pm / Feb 3 Fri 4:52 pm / Feb 10 Fri 5:20 pm / Feb 17 Fri 5:47 pm / Feb 24 Fri 6:13 pm / Mar 3 Fri 7:02 pm / Mar 10 Fri 7:26 pm / Mar 17 Fri 7:26 pm / Mar 24 Fri 7:50 pm / Mar 31 Fri 8:14 pm / Apr 7 Fri 8:38 pm / Apr 14 Fri 9:03 pm / Apr 21 Fri 9:28 pm / Apr 28 Fri 9:55 pm / May 5 Fri 10:23 pm / May 12 Fri 10:53 pm / May 19 Fri 11:25 pm / May 26 Sat 12:02 am / Jun 2 Sat 12:57 am / Jun 9 no sunset / Jun 16 no sunset / Jun 23 no sunset / Jun 30 no sunset / Jul 7 no sunset / Jul 14 Sat 12:31 am / Jul 21 Fri 11:51 pm / Jul 28 Fri 11:18 pm / Aug 4 Fri 10:47 pm / Aug 11 Fri 10:17 pm / Aug 18 Fri 9:47 pm / Aug 25 Fri 9:18 pm / Sep 1 Fri 8:50 pm / Sep 8 Fri 8:21 pm / Sep 15 Fri 7:53 pm / Sep 22 Fri 7:25 pm
So, what is the halacha regarding days and places where there is no sunrise or sunset? Opinions vary. Some say that if you live in a place like this, year round you just begin and end Shobbos when they do in Jerusalem. Some say that year round you begin and end Shobbos when they do wherever you lived previously that had times (which would be Portland in my case), some say you follow the times of the nearest city with a Jewish community that has useable times (which would be Anchorage in my case). Another opinion says that you follow the times for your city, but any weeks that do not have a sunrise or sunset you use the time from the last week that did. Still others say that Shobbos should start as soon as the sun is lowest on the horizon (at least for days with no sunset).
Here is a link to an article on the topic
Another question that must be tackled is Shobbos in space. There is a joke about a bunch of clergymen who go on a rocket trip around the world to see awe-inspiring whatever. Most of the clergymen return amazed, but the rabbi is exhausted. “We had a sunrise and sunset every hour. Put on the teffilin, take off the tefillin, put on the tefillin, take off the tefillin…” Colonel Ilan Ramon (alav hashalom) asked some Rabbis about this before going into space, and it was decided he should follow Cape Canaveral time (which is where takeoff was, and where landing would have been).
Another question – What would a Moslem do if he was in Deering when Ramadan fell in June?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

104. Nyaahhh nyaahhh

Hey, NYers, How are you getting to work today? I have a 2 minute walk!!!

(I remember the subway strike of 1980. I was in HS. I went to Stuyvesant, a school that got students from all over the city. Only about 3 students showed up for each class. I made it to school by staying with a friend who lived in Greenwich Village. Our history teacher told us stories about his growing up during the depression, and was actually interesting for the only time that year. Imma, a confession: Eve and I cut classes one of the days and went to play pool. Our math teacher recommended the pool hall.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

103. Winter Solstice

Today (Dec 21) was the shortest day of the year. In Deering, it was 2 hrs, 58 minutes. Sunrise was 12:21 pm, sunset was 3:19 pm. The pictures (showing house, sky, and electrical wires) were taken halfway between them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

102. Mutual butt-sniffing

I am tired and rather than write much, I will give you some pictures of Max and Jack greeting each other.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

101. Follow up

Thank you for sending me the NYC subway maps, bus map, and bicycle trail map!
Because of your comments (and the phoned-in threat) my ex has agreed not to Max a haircut, except to get any mats removed.
I realized that the plane reservations had me getting in to Kotzebue on the 1st, but the small local airlines that fly from Kotzebue to Deering do not fly on New Year's day. So I gave in and got the more expensive tickets, getting me home the day before school starts, IY"H. It still does not give me enough time to see a doctor in Portland, the way I could have if I stayed two days longer.
Still have not received the satellite dish.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

44/.44 . I DID IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have finally managed to express all the integers 0 – 100 using only 4 4s (and no other numbers). I’ve sort of been playing with this off and on since 1976, when Mr. C., my math teacher, showed it to the class. I also managed to get ∞ and π

Can anyone get e?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

99. To my Kid

Happy birthday, Deborah! I love you!!
!!יום הולדת שמח, דבורה! אני אהבת אותך

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Is this "Red Crystal" crap as insulting as I think it is?

Monday, December 12, 2005

97. In a crappy mood

Our Christmas vacation is from Friday December 23rd through Tuesday, January 3rd. I am trying to schedule a trip to Portland to visit my daughter. (Deborah – I miss you). It is hard to fit in a trip in this short a time, when trying to deal with airlines’ schedules. To go out, I have it worked out. I can get a flight out of Deering right after class on Thursday, and transfer in Kotzebue for Anchorage that evening. I would get into Anchorage late that night. Chabad of Anchorage said I could stay with them for Shobbos (which begins at about 2:30 pm). On Sunday I could fly to Portland to visit my daughter. My problem is coming back. The airlines charge a LOT more to fly right around New Years. I could leave on the 2nd, and get in on the 3rd, but that costs about $1200. If I could take two days personal time and fly back the 4th to the 5th, I can save about $500. The school will not let me take the time. The other possibility would be to leave Portland a few days after I get there, and get the lower fare. (That doesn’t leave me time to see my doctor, though. I need to get a blood test and see her a few days later, once she has the results.)
The school wants me to take the “Praxis” exam in science. (This is a test for teaching certification.) I have already passed in advanced math (and also in English, though I forget why I took it in English.) I am currently only certified in math, although I have done student teaching in both math and science. If I pass the Praxis, the district would reimburse me for the cost of the exam itself, although not the cost of flying to some city where the exam is actually given, and the cost of a hotel, which I would need.
They also want m to take classes in “multicultural communication” and in Alaska history. I could try to do that through U.A.F. (University of Alaska, Fairbanks). Once I passed the classes, they would reimburse me for the cost of the tuition. That won’t be a problem, depending on how much I’d have to lay out.
My bathroom has not been working for a few days. Some dirty water is backing up my shower. I’m scared to wash my dishes.
No word yet on when I am getting my satellite dish. I would be bit less annoyed if they hadn’t already charged my credit card (on November 28th!).
I am having trouble with medical insurance. Before I took the job, I was assured we have prescription coverage. Well, now my daughter is trying to get a prescription filled at a pharmacy. It looks like we have coverage through mail order, but not through a pharmacy. My coworkers tell me that we do ha coverage, but I called the company a couple of times to check, and they tell me we do not. (Whoops- correction. The company assures me that we DO have coverage through a pharmacy, but with “100% co-pay”. Orwell would be proud.)
Good news - My magazine subscriptions are finally coming in!!!! A few at least. I have received Newsweek, Lilith, and New York. (I am pretty sure that I never subscribed to New York. Thank you whoever ordered it for me!!!!!). I have not yet received Moment, Ms., Games, Mental Floss, Weekly World News, Discover, More, Smithsonian, Ladies’ Home Journal, Reader’s Digest, and whatever else I can not remember.)
The other good news is that my faithful schnauzer is still adoring. (I heard a prayer somewhere – “G-d, help me to become the person my dog thinks I am”.
Well, good night. Maybe I’ll feel cheerier in the morning.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

96. SOS (Save our Schnauzer)

I am planning to leave Max with my ex in Anchorage for a few days while I go down to Portland to visit my daughter. Well, my ex plans to GET HIM A HAIRCUT! Max has a nice insuating coat, and Stephen wants to hae it cut off. PLEASE HELP ME PREVENT THIS!!!!!!!!! Max is a bush dog who needs his hair to stay warm. Let my ex know that we will not stand for this. G-d gave Max fur for a reason. The AKC believes schnauzers should have this really stupid haircut with the fur on the back really short while the fur on the tummy and legs is long. Max does not need a mullet! I can't understand why he cares; if Max does not have the "right" hair cut, arethe other schnauzers going to make fun of him? (Actually, there are no other schnauzers in Deering.) Max’s first concern is to stay arm and his second concern is to be cute for me. He can do both of these better with long hair!!!!
(picures - Standing on his hind legs, running in the snow, yawning)

Friday, December 09, 2005

95. Q & A II

Answers to questions I’ve been asked:

Q. Is Deering so far west it’s east?

A. No. To get east you have to go further west, like to the Aleutians.

Q. Are there bluffs? I looked up some stuff about Deering and saw something about bluffs.

A. Yes, there are bluffs to the west of town. See picture. I think people are buried there.

Q. What are you doing without television?

A. Desperately trying to get TV!!! I ordered a dish to be sent, so I can get satellite TV. The satellite people are out of dishes at the moment, however, so they can’t send me anything. (They did not let that fact stop them from charging my credit card, however.)

Q. What kosher meat is available in Deering?

A. None in Deering. The school staff gets together and puts in a bulk order from Anchorage ordered through some service that puts orders together. Through them I can get Sinai 48 polish sausages and Sinai 48 dinner franks. Those are those HUGE hotdogs I love!!

Q. Can I get a Deering School T-shirt?

A. No, there are no school shirts. Thee are Deering sweatshirts and t-shirts available, however. They say “Deering Alaska” on them and have a bear paw print. See picture.

Q. How is Max doing with the cold?

A. Max is doing fine. He loves going outside and running in the snow.

Q. When are they going to add you to the school website?

A. Good question. But the website includes people who don’t work there anymore, so it balances out.

Q. Are you closer to Russia or Canada?

A. I'm not sure.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

94. Harpooned Seal

A while back, a family harpooned a seal. They use the whole seal, or pretty close. (The seal is used for subsistence, not for a trophy.) The meat is eaten, the fat is eaten, the skin is made into clothes, the oil is burned for light. Here are some pictures from cutting up the seal. (I didn’t post these at the time because I misplaced the pictures.)

1. The seal insides, still on the skin. If you look, you can see the paws, still with the fur on it.

2. Cutting the layer of fat away from the skin

3. The birds feast on the bits of the seal that the people cannot use.

I did not post the picture of the blood covered seal head. Thank me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

93. Thanksgiving

…..Thanksgiving went very well. My brother, his wife, and their two kids came out. My brother was reluctant to come – he pictured everyone hovering around a small heater huddles together for warmth (I think he was thinking of those scenes in March of the Penguins). Some guy here gave them rides on his snowmobile, we all went for a walk out on the ocean, I showed them around the town, and we saw some northern light, but they are not good yet. We visited some people here.
…..One family we visited (Chip & Agnes and their 7 kids) had lots of interesting stuff like mammoth tusks and the skull of a musk ox. Blair said it was like visiting a museum where you are allowed to touch.
…..We got together with some other teachers from the school for Thanksgiving dinner. I brought a noodle kugel (see post 77) and chocolate cake. A few of the teachers brought turkeys, and others brought other stuff.
…..Marc and Blair also brought me some Ring Dings (why are Drakes Cakes not available in the West?) and some warm pants.
…..Max was happy to eat up whatever food the kids spilled.
…..They were well equipped for the cold. Blair believes “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”
…..Pictures are of my nephew playing on the Arctic Ocean.

92. Happy Birthday to me

Today is my birthday. (Yes, I know, it is Pearl Harbor Day. I was born on Dec. 7 to balance out the karma of the date.) I am 42, the answer to "life, the universe, and everything". Stephen ordered some chocolates to be flown from Kotzebue, but all flights were canceled due to an ice storm.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

91. Good news anyone?

The global studies teacher was making a list of headline events from 2005. I was helping him (or at least hanging over his shoulder while he was working). We realized that all he had were negative. I tried to find positive headline stories from 2005. All I found were:
* first face transplant
* civil war ends in Indonesian province of Aceh
*Sudan ended two-decade long civil war
*Nick & Jessica finally broke up so now the obsessive media speculation will end
Anyone have anything else we can add?

Friday, December 02, 2005

90. Let's NOT get run over

.......April brought in a bunch of reflector stickers to the school, and kids have been cutting them up and making reflectors for their clothing. It makes a lot of sense – there is very little sunlight during the winter, and the electricity goes out now and then, which included the streetlights. Warm winter jackets tend to be dark navy or black, and so are those warm leggings that go over pants. These reflectors should be easy to see by the headlights of a car/ATV/snowmobile.
.......Actually, some Chassidim should do the same thing. Brooklyn has sidewalks. Many Chabad families, however, live where there are not sidewalks. Since the men dress completely in black, they can be hard to see at night. Picture a Lubavich man walking home from shul on a Friday night on a road with no sidewalk and few streetlights. (This first occurred to me when I lived in Portland, Oregon and some guy came up to me at work and told me “I almost ran over one of your friends last weekend.”) I do realize that reflectors are not part of traditional garb, but it is a matter of safety. The Amish did not like the idea of orange reflectors on their buggies, but they put them on for safety reasons.

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