A little bit of this…

This isn’t the first blog entry I’ve written this week. It’s not even the second. Where are the others? That’s what I’d like to know. If someone ever invents a butterfly-net-like device that catches words before they are hurled out into cyberspace oblivion, I would like to be first on the list of buyers.

I am sitting on the cusp of two trips. Having just returned from China at the beginning of the month, I will be leaving for China in two days. This time we will be visiting new places and so my digital camera and video camera are both charged up and waiting. Once again, packing will be a challenge because we are taking supplies for the group.

This has been a good week for our family. My older daughter organized a family hike on a trail not too far from here. Except for Daniel who was playing baseball and for Leah who is great with child and for Yaakov who decided to stay home with his wife (Leah), the whole family was there. It was great to see all of the beautiful little (and big) faces. There are, thank G-d, so many of them! The little cousins don’t really see enough of each other, but for the couple of hours we were all walking and talking and having our picnic lunches, we all were able to enjoy each others’ company.

It has not been as good a week for our country. The Arabs in Gaza (I dislike when people try to blame it on one group when all of them agree that we need to be destroyed) continue to shoot rockets at Sderot. Now for people who don’t know, here’s a piece of information: Sderot is within the “green line.” Sderot has been absorbing attacks for years. In the last year there have been damages to property, serious injuries, and deaths as a result of these rockets. Yet no one seems to know or care. We have a city that is under attack. Adults and children are traumatized by the constant threat of death and nobody cares. How long would that go on in the US? If the Mexicans or Canadians were attacking with rockets a US city several times a day causing death and destruction, how long would it take for the US to respond with enough force to stop it? Wouldn’t Americans be out on the streets demanding government action? Wouldn’t most Americans say that whatever it takes to stop this unprovoked attack must be done? So why is it OK for our innocent people to remain under fire? Why is it that the only response we get from the world is to watch out that we not hurt any of their civilians? Excuse me. They TARGET our civilians. They target schools and shops and restaurants and gas stations and HOMES. And people are worried that we might harm innocent people if we try and put a stop to it? If innocent people on their side are harmed as a result of their attacking us, who is responsible? If I want my children to be safe, I do not go out and blithely attack my neighbor.

And one more thing… My hero for the week is Prof. Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas. He is a Nobel Laureate and you can read about him here.

Class

Class is something you can have whether you are rich or poor. It depends not on who you are, but on how you regard yourself.

Let me give you an example: Many years ago I attended the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Phoenix. At this conference, proponents of every major school of psychotherapy spoke and interacted with their colleagues in dialogues and case conferences. It was an amazing experience. In fact, a book, “The Lourdes of Psychotherapy” by Carlos Amantea, was published about it.

At the conference one afternoon, a panel of psychotherapists was considering a case that had been submitted by one of the participants. Each therapist was to analyze the case and suggest treatment using his/her own paradigm. On the panel were, of course, highly distinguished therapists. One of them was Jay Haley, a well-known, well-respected family therapist. After he presented his analysis, another therapist on the panel, Dr. *********, responded to it negatively and finished his response by referring to “Mr. Haley. Am I correct that it is MR. Haley?” Of course all of the others had PhD’s and MD’s, but Haley’s degree was an MA. The room grew silent. Haley looked over toward the other therapist and answered politely, “You are correct, DR. *********”

I don’t know if I imagined it or if there really was applause after his response, but all I could think was “what a gentleman!” Now that was class!

Class is when you don’t lower yourself to the level of another person even when he or she is trying to goad you, force you, or trick you into doing so. It is being who you are and what you stand for no matter what the challenge.

In Israel, there is not a very wide understanding of class. If someone yells at you and you don’t respond in kind, you are thought of as weak, afraid, intimidated. Yet, if you really have class, you know how to rectify most situations without resorting to insults and threats.

This concept, for me, extends to graciousness. One of the things I taught my children was this: if there is something that you have to do—something that a parent or a boss or someone else who has some power over you requires, do it with good grace- with a smile, and with kindness. After all, you have to do the job anyway. Why make it harder for yourself and create strife as a result? Tasks you do with a smile on your face are not nearly as difficult as those you do in anger. Anger creates muscle tension and wrinkles. Who needs it!

It doesn’t really take much except a sense of self and you too can be a class act!

Jung Chang

Sometimes there are events that happen in one’s life that are unexpected and delightful. Yesterday, I experienced one.

Several months ago, my son Ben lent me a book called “Wild Swans,” an account of a Chinese family that spans the years from the 1920s through the 1970s and their experiences through the Japanese occupation, the Chinese civil war, Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” the famine, and the “Cultural Revolution.” The book was so powerful and fascinating that I read it slowly, absorbing every word, and only a week or two ago, began to reread it. So imagine my delight in finding out that the author, Jung Chang, and her husband, Jon Halliday, who have recently published “Mao: The Unknown Story,” were going to be in Tel Aviv at an all day seminar talking about their new book.

The room in which the seminar was to take place was so overpacked that the entire seminar had to be moved to a much larger auditorium. The vice-president of the university quipped that the current students’ strike at least had one positive aspect: there was a vacant auditorium that could be used.

The participants were not disappointed. To say that the day was fascinating would be an egregious understatement. Jung Chang is a woman with such strength and grace and inner beauty. I loved the candor of her presentation. I loved that she introduced her relationship with Israel in terms of a certificate she received from a reader that indicated that the reader had planted trees here in memory of Jung Chang’s family members and that she, Jung Chang, was touched by the gesture and has the framed certificate hanging in her home.

She spoke openly about her feelings as a child and as a young woman and the process she went through in coming to terms with what was happening in China and why it was happening. It was gripping and poignant.

There is a special feeling that I have when I am in the presence of a person who has that kind of courage and strength and openness. In her case, she has openly challenged the Chinese narrative of the Mao years. In the other case, Natan Sharansky defied the Russians and prevailed. To be in the presence of such strength and courage is to feel a power that is almost superhuman.

I was delighted to exchange some words with Jung Chang and was really happy that a friend was present to take a picture of Aaron and me with her and her husband, Jon Halliday.

Jon Halliday & Jung Chang with Rona & Aaron Michelson

Jon Halliday & Jung Chang with Rona & Aaron Michelson

The Perils of Printers

No, I have not been sitting idle since I returned from China. I actually have been very busy dealing with a variety of things, one of which was getting a new printer and setting it up.

“Easy” you say! Well, you only say that because you have no clue as to how the universe conspires against me when it comes to new technology. You see, we needed to get a new printer because the HP5550 that we had that did a wonderful job decided to blow its power supply.

“Go buy another power supply!” you urge. Once again, you are clueless. HP purposely makes a different volt/amperage power supply for every printer it puts out. No one on the entire Jerusalem mailing list ( JANGLO ) nor on the Modi’in mailing list had an old one hanging around the house. After about 10,000 telephone calls, I located the supplier in Israel who was willing to sell one to me for only $40. Since that was about half the price of the printer which, by the way, was only a printer and didn’t have scanning or fax capabilities, we decided to buy another printer.

“Easy” you say. Once again you show your ignorance. Not easy. Easy if you have computers that run on an operating system that was produced after 1998. Try to find something that will run on Windows 98… and that is the desktop to which the printer was to be physically connected in order for us to use it on our home LAN. So we found a network printer that we could use directly and the two laptops would be able to print and documents and pictures from the desktop could be “shared” and printed from the laptops. Good? If you are nodding yes, you have once again fallen into a trap.

The man who sold us the printer (an HP Photosmart C6183) assured us that as long as we had someone who knew computers, we’d be fine. When I pointed out that that someone would have to be me, he averted his eyes. So we happily took home our new baby and I proceeded to do what I do with new gizmos… I read the instructions and went step by step through them doing exactly what they told me (in Hebrew, of course). I started at about 7 p.m.

Perhaps my next problem happened because I was not sufficiently Israeli. I should have brought some humous upstairs to make the installation disk feel at home. I should have offered to treat it to a felafel. I should have… but alas, I didn’t. And it got its revenge. I was proceeding through the download, answering the questions when suddenly…NO….NO…NONONO… all of the letters turned into question marks. So I kept hitting the “suggested” responses until I came to a screen where I had to make a choice among three items. I had no idea what any of them were since they were all question marks. I tried one. More question marks. I didn’t know how to get back. I pushed here and there and realized I was in question mark hell and there was no way out. I did what any almost sane person would do…. I called an expert.

The sweet son-in-law I called (not to be confused with the sweet son-in-law who is off in Germany giving a paper and certainly not to be confused with the sweet son who was in another part of Germany giving a seminar and of course not to be confused with the two over-worked sweet sons in Israel) suggested that I download the driver from the internet. His calm voice reassured me that I was on my way to escaping from question mark hell.

So I looked up the driver. Of course there is no 6183 driver. So, I downloaded the 6180. Or tried to. The first time I attempted to download it, I was told it would take 84 hours. I decided that moving the laptop to the area where the router was located, shutting off the desktop and praying might aid the download time. Sure enough, it only predicted a download of about 2.5 hours. I left the laptop downloading, went out, returned, and about 3 hours later, was present when it registered an error and stopped loading and suggested I try again. And try I did. Finally about another 3 hours later, the download was complete.

OK, I thought, now it’s JUST a matter of installing it. HAHAHAHAHA, I heard my computer say. The installation started, failed, had to be removed, started again, and finally was completed at about 2 a.m. I triumphantly printed a page!

But I was only half done. Now I had to do the same thing to my husband’s laptop. At a little after 2 I started downloading the driver and went to sleep. At 6, bleary-eyed, I stumbled into his office to find the download window reporting “99% , one second to go” and over it, an error message. We had to download the driver once again (another unknown amount of time in the 2-3 hour range.) Then we tried to install it. After about 15 minutes, we received an error message “cannot scan.” Then the installation halted. The helpful error report said, “No fix is currently available. Uninstall, reboot, and try again.” Which we did.

It wasn’t until the afternoon that the second laptop was able to print.

And my grandmother thought she had problems!

Back from China again!

Last night we returned from a trip with two wonderful groups of Israelis (one English-speaking, one Hebrew speaking) who traveled together. The people were delightful and China was, as always, a magical place. On the last night of the trip, I read them a poorly rhymed, poorly metered piece of doggerel with which I summarized the trip. Some asked for a copy, so here it is:

Shai Bar Ilan Trip to China, April 16 – May 1, 2007

We took off from Israel on a bright sunny morning,
Full of anticipation but up since the dawning.

At last in China we finally arrived,
Excited and happy and already sleep-deprived.

In Beijing saw Cixi’s Summer Palace,
A home more impressive than J.R.’s in Dallas.

The acrobatics show was thrilling
And we sat there all willing
And fervently hopin’
Our eyes would stay open!

And then in the blink of an eye,
There we all were in Shanghai,
From the Jin Mao we looked down
On the skyscrapered town
On the Bund we started to BUY!

(For the first time we heard the holler
“2 for, 3 for, 4 for ONE DOLLAR!”)

We ate at Chabad with the Jews,
On the Huangpu we took a night cruise,
And saw the bright lights
And all of the sights
And later were grateful to take off our shoes.

In the morning we went to the park
And the monument they put up to mark
The Jews who they saved
And the hardships they braved
Because life there was not such a lark.

At YuYuan Market things were hopping
And we occupied ourselves there by shopping.

The City Museum of Shanghai was one of our priorities,
And there we enjoyed costumes of ethnic minorities.

Our bus to Suzhou without much reconnoitering
Came to a factory where women were embroidering.

That evening all of us were entranced
As at Mater of the Nets people sang, played, and danced.

At the Silk Factory we felt only praise
For the jackets and scarves and duvets.

In the Lion Grove Garden we took stock,
Of each building, tree, pond, and rock.

On shabbat in Hangzhou we took a break
And enjoyed all the sights at West Lake.

The Song Dynasty show in the vernacular
Was nothing short of spectacular.

With waterfalls, lasers, acrobatics, and fire
And more action than your heart could desire.

From the pharmacy to the Dragon Well Tea,
We found cures for what ails you and me.

In Guilin we didn’t lie dormant
But went to the river to watch fishing by cormorant.

We enjoyed the vastness of the Reed Flute Cave,
And at the Pearl Factory temptation tried to brave.

We saw the Li River’s karst peaks.
We’ll be talking about them for weeks.

We walked through the village of FuLi
And saw what life there was like truly.

Yang Shuo we felt was a “winner”
As we sat down to a flag-festooned dinner.

And here’s the thing we felt best,
Tho’ we were at the end of the East, our hearts were in the West!

The show on the river provided us sights,
Waves of red, torches, and shimmering lights.

In Kunming the city of spring,
At the temple, Buddhist women did sing.

At the museum we saw an ancient pillar
And cases that looked good for a megill-er.

To see another example of karst,
We drove through hills and valleys to see the Stone Forest.

After seeing the Stone Forest re-gi-on,
We took a flight to Lijiang.

The mountains’ beauty and the fresh air
Made it a delight to be there.

Then we took a walk through the old city
That we couldn’t stay longer was such a pity
At Tiger Leaping Gorge,
I saw my old friend George,
(Not really, but the rhyme fit this ditty.)

We visited the small village of Axi
Which is home to people of the Naxi.

We returned that night to Kunming,
Rested, then for Xian took wing.

There Qin’s army awaited,
As a world class attraction it’s rated.

We’ll tell our friend, our son, and our dotta-
“What a lotta terracotta!”

For those of us who like jade,
Twas fun to see how the figures are made.

In Xian we saw the mosque they use
Modeled after the shul of the Jews.

The music, dancing, and acrobatics impressed us so
When we went to the Tang Dynasty Show.

With our adrenaline still raging,
We boarded a plane for Beijing.

The Temple of Heaven was simply Divine,
The pearl factory had jewelry quite fine.

At the show we saw about Kung Fu,
They did martial arts, acrobatics and sung too!

Before breakfast we wives saw our boys pray
Afterwards to the factory for Cloisonné.

Like Humpty Dumpty, climbed the Great Wall,
Then Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & THAT’S ALL!!!