Folly.

Rarely do I post anything on politics and international misbehavior, which is always rampant, and therefore, hard for me to dissect. The recent Israeli entree into Lebanon again is grotesque. The hundreds of people who are dying there are dying in vain. Israel will not solve the persistence of its Arab neighbors’ hatred through bombing.
Then there’s the but(t). Israel is, was, and always has been stuck in an international milieu in which very wealthy Arab countries support tyrannical governments that prevent cultural, social and political developments from developing internally. People who live in Israel’s neighbor countries, including Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and further places like Iraq and Iran and Qatar and UAE live at the whims of their rulers. Israel, because of its birth amidst the destruction of European Jewry, is held to a Western standard that these other countries are not. And so, again and again, Israel is condemned, scorned, hated and villified because it needs to defend itself. The country, which is the size of the state of Delaware, is held together by raw history, American support, and sheer luck, not necessarily in that order. And the country does horrible things, no question, like every country has ever done. But, as Rex Murphy points out in his editorial in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, no other country is required to live among neighbors who constantly threaten to run it into the sea.
Would Pakistan, constantly threatened by Indian military prowess, allow India to lob missiles over its border and not take any action? Would Pakistan allow a militarized Hindu terrorist organization to sit on its border and not demand that India reign in the “revolutionaries”? Would Pakistan sit down and talk with Hindu revolutionaries if they refused to even acknowledge its very existence? Doubtful.
The point is that it’s all too human to criticize Israel for being a proxy, a stepchild of the United States, a progressive democracy amidst totalitarian Islamic states, or a Jewish religio-state. (No other country in the region has 20% of its population not belonging to the country’s dominant religion, by the way.) Israel and its actions are constantly headlined in every newspaper in every country not because its actions are that disproportionate or overwhelming or even interesting. Israel is simply held to a hypocritically higher standard of justice so that anti-Semtism can be psychologically, liminally or politically legitimated. In this way, countries can vilify Jews generally, condemn them to non-state status, relegate them to another historical dustbin, or otherwise hope for their demise. It’s a 5000 year old and excitingly baneful aspiration of world culture that drives the (admittedly sad headlines): Delete the Jews and the world will suffer less.
Rex Murphy says it better in his “A doctrine of cruelty and folly”:

Proportionality, as the word is currently understood, appears to me, anyway, to be a kind of code. The state of Israel is allowed now and then to respond to those who are unlawfully attacking it or abducting its soldiers, but it must on no account do so in a manner that might actually end the attacks and permanently stop the abductions. It must fight terrorists according to rules that do not, by definition, apply to terrorists.
To accept this understanding of proportionality is to accept that Israel is in a perpetual war of attrition, that it is always obliged to contain what force it has so that it is always balanced, even to ideal equivalence, with the force enjoyed by the rogues and terrorists who attack it.
I cannot think of any other state in the world that is asked and, by the truly high-minded, expected to live in a perpetual dynamic of attack and response — with the initiative always understood to be with its enemies.
Such is proportionality. It is a doctrine of cruelty and folly, but, more significant, it is a doctrine designed for the only state in the world that has to seriously worry about the fact of its own existence.
Lately, it has more reason to do so than has ever been the norm for that battered country. One of the other ruder messages coming out of this current crisis is the number of voices starting to remind us that maybe Israel was a mistake to begin with. In Western opinion, this thought is but a whisper, but how common a whisper it is becoming.
Matthew Parris of The Times, no less, gave the thought its most weary expression: “My opinion — held not passionately but with little personal doubt — is that there is no point in arguing about whether the state of Israel should have been established where and when it was because it has become a fact. To try to remove it now would be at least as great an injustice as the one originally done to the Palestinians.”
What an interesting thought: Clear away the clutter and the ennui and what it says is that Israel was a mistake, both where and when, and if it weren’t so much trouble, maybe we could fix it.
Well, there are others on this globe who don’t mind the trouble involved in fixing it, among them Hezbollah, al-Qaeda (which has jumped onside with Hezbollah) and the Iranian President, who speaks with such fervour of wiping Israel off the map. The latter is building a nuclear arsenal, and is likely not as dispassionate as the weary Mr. Parris.
That kind of whisper is the tuning of an orchestra we do not want to hear. Nor do we wish to view, even in our dreams, the horrid proportionality its strains would most likely evoke.

This is not to excuse Israel’s folly. It is to say that Israel cannot sit around hoping that other countries will play nice someday. Unfortunately for the world, Jews have had no historical experience of this.

The Club.

I want to join a club. An electronic club. A club filled with positive and negative electrons, where people share thoughts, ideas, resources, knowledge, and passions and provide personal assistance to those in need, support to the downfallen, and advice to the world weary. I want the club to be full of like-minded individuals who are committed to realistic yet simple rules and who share in the same concerns that I do. I want the club’s language to be one of tolerance, respect, thoughtfulness, and assurance. And I want the individual club members to generally always be available so that, when something is noted, someone picks up the thought and continues to run with it.
Further, the individuals need to very committed to not leaving the club. If I’m going to be part of a club, the last thing I want is for me to get used to people being part of the club and then having them leave. Because it’s all electronic, there’s no real way of knowing where they might have gone to, and I don’t want that. In addition, I want the club members to be nice.
I want the the club to be long-lasting. The very last thing I want is for me to join the club and then, about a week later, the club is gone. That would be the worst thing. After years and years of thinking and deliberating and researching clubs, I don’t want to join a club and then find out it’s shut down, perhaps because I joined it.
I want the club to be tolerant, as noted above, but also diverse. I don’t want everyone to agree with everyone and I don’t want people to “agree to disagree.” I hate when people agree to not agree. Moreover, I want the club to like me.
I also want the club to have good-looking people in it, even if I can’t really tell what they look like. It’s important that everyone looks good. And they should be good writers as well. Preferably, they should have gone to college and earned a degree in English but also be specialists in their various disciplines. They should be able to bring this education to the club in many manifest ways. There should be no misspellings and no bad grammar. And no cuss words at all.
This brings me to the last thing that I want. I want a club that will take the time to get to know me, who will ask generous questions of me and be generally supportive of me while I learn the ropes. I don’t have a lot of time to spend in this club because I’m very busy right now so members in the club will have to understand that.
Okay, if you have any suggestions, let me know. I’m looking forward to joining my new club!

It's All Temporary.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about those who are currently alive and sitting and breathing and those, among us, who will not, in short time. It could be a bomb, a grenade, a coronary, a clip, or a crash but these lives who inhabit tomorrow’s news live in the same world of wonder that wil never be fully known and never be fully lived.
There is a photo. It’s a piece of the universe. And in that piece there could be part of us.

What the Heat Does.

It’s hot. Just about everywhere on the map of North America, there are red zones. Bright red, even.
Californians are being asked to conserve energy, folks in Queens still don’t have their electricity back, and all over this area, there’s a drought. (In Europe, twenty-two people died in France today because of the heat.)
Here’s a list of things that the heat makes us do, unwittingly:

  • Talk about the heat, the weather, and global warming, more generally.
  • Expose our chest hair or cleavage.
  • Wonder about our 80% bodily water content.
  • Hope we don’t get stuck in an electrical outage during a subway or elevator ride.
  • Job search, in air conditioning, for positions that have more than 2 weeks vacation.
  • Sweat.

Feeling Boring.

Because I feel very boring today and, well, this past week what with the war in the Middle East and company over and a party and general workflows, I’m going to provide a series of links to interesting fare I’ve noted during this same, sworn time. (I’m writing up some pieces on Microsoft’s Entourage and that’s boring, too.):

  • The [Not So] Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.
  • One red paperclip guy
    buys a house in Saskatchewan
    , the next province over from here.
  • Clusty [not the clown] is a pretty interesting search engine, grouping links by relevant category.
  • OmniGroup is coming out with some project management tool called OmniPlan in 3 days, 2 hours and 32 minutes, which is nice of them.
  • I don’t play computer games but if I did, it would be this one, Call of Duty 2.
  • Unrelatedly, the ADL has a good list of FAQs regarding Israel’s hellish and partly unjustified war in Lebanon.
  • No one ever talks about the Vatican’s website, which looks like it was designed by the Da Vinci Code author.

And a Fourth Day.

Thursday: It was slow. The air had stopped moving entirely for the morning. Above the piles of magazines flew, outside, a humming bird, beating its wings and the halting to drink of the sugar water. The sky became the color of cement and the heat pressed down on us. Never repugnant but ever purposeful. Thankfully, there were fans. White fans with names on them like “windmere” and “Regal” that served the purposes of their masters, us. On beautiful occasions, time slowed to the point of stopping and then the sun would come out and odd wind blasts would announce themselves, abruptly. We saw a chipmunk. One of us got a bee sting on her foot; it was not me, but had it been, I would have complained for the next eight hours, laid up in bed and hoping for night to fall. The winds picked up and up and the lake, from a distance, looked like a small sea with white caps and all. The end of the vacation was nigh. In the morning, we pack and drive.
- Live, from Moose Lake, your fearless reporter, Andrew Boardman.

Three Days and a Lake.

Monday: It was cool. Low clouds hung over the green grass and grey water. Slight winds rustled our hair as we walked along the dirt paths, speaking in small tones to each another. There were bugs. But most of them twittered around rather than on and the sun shone barely through a series of constant cloud patterns. The clothesline swayed back and forth and, on our walks, you could hear the rustle of small animals. Birds and maybe rabbits. The sunset was golden and wrapped our three lives in warmth and the momentary awareness of earthly grace. I bathed in the bright, harsh sunset and watched our shadows become, at times, one. We hoped for sun.
Tuesday: It was grand. The sun, which we had hoped for, after all, came out and was strong. The day was spent amidst the wooden dock and its varied paraphanalia: the preservers, the lotions, the drinks, the towels and the chips. The sky was mostly a whitish blue and the greens were grand and gorgeous, everywhere. We looked out at the now bluish lake waters and there minnows in schools went left and right and then left. Larger fish darted in and out of the day and, for the most part, I avoided them. The green algae below felt weird beneath my feet but the smaller stones in the shallows were nice. The conversation was staggered around the good fortune of good weather. We hoped for continuity.
Wednesday: It was warm. The day passed slowly at first as we bathed in the North lakeside. The sands there were hard and stepped on but it was quiet and the trees seemed happy to tolerate our temporary hold on that beach. Slowly, as if half-hour increments, the sun grew hotter and hotter and the air, more still. Our shadows wouldn’t hold and the drinks flowed more deliberately. We were thirsty and the sun shone deeply. The clouds took on a white, thin appearance later in the afternoon and the lake became still, except for the occasional ripples caused by motor boats. Afraid of the fish, I did not swim. It was announced that it would probably rain later, perhaps during the late evening; the humidity was soaring and the temperatures along with it. The trees looked thin in the heat and nothing much moved except for the honeybees and their clover harvests.
-Reporting live from Moose Lake, Manitoba, near the Minnesota border, your intrepid reporter, Andrew Boardman.

Driving.

On the East Coast, driving is mostly a matter of minding one’s own business, keeping one’s eyes on the road ahead and listening to music or radio. You pass large signs along the way which advertise various nicities like BMWs or trips to London or Sesame Place. You drive, sometimes with one finger on the wheel. You have a coffee or a Coke. Sometimes you even smoke. And you talk on the phone, though in New York State, you must wear a headset of some kind, which seems only fair because if you’re going to talk while driving and listening to music and smoking and having a coffee all at the same time, you certainly don’t want to get in an accident. Some people, and especially those in Acuras, even watch where they are driving virtually through a GPS video monitoring system that details their exact location on the mapped landscape. Most of thes scenery is pretty sparse and unbeautiful and there are concrete barriers lining the road to the left and right. You can go 65 miles per hour and sometimes 95 on emptier roads but mostly you go about 65 or 75, or whatever is 10 miles an hour more than the posted speed limit. On many highways, one will find light posts every 100 yards to show you the way and there are little yellow reflective bumpy things in the middle of the lines to make sure you stay on the damn road when you’re not drinking coffee. It’s all rather easy. Even when you’re stuck in traffic in Staten Island or Connecticut, the biggest worry you have is that you will run out of gas, which is unlikely. You turn the radio or the air conditioner on or off and hope that the traffic starts moving again and then you make a phone call and you go back to being frustrated behind the wheel. Hopefully, you don’t have a screaming child or spouse in the car with you, or, if you do, maybe they’re screaming at each other. It’s not always fun but it is straightforward. Signs are generally kind of clear, except when you’re in New Jersey and the whole of driving is rather determined by a combination of private and public definitions, constraints, legalities and allowances.
On the West Coast, it’s somewhat similar except people have guns in their cars. Pretty uncomplicated.
Here in Manitoba, it’s plain old scary ass on the road. Roads are long and flat and signs are few and far between. The signs aren’t bad; in fact, they’re downright fine, telling drives whether they’re going North, South, East or West, which is all that really matters in a huge Canadian province among other huge provinces and American states. You drive, and unless you’re in small car like ours and the wind blows you backward and forward and left and right and you don’t know what kind of tires you got even though you know they’re new and supposedly stable and there aren’t any problems with the struts or shocks or wheel axles, you’re totally fine. But once outside of a city, you look around you and to the left and to the right are endless open spaces filled with gently looming green or yellow or purple crops. And the clouds hang low near you and the trees dot the occasional field and the road gets straighter and straighter and the remaining barriers in the road disappear and the next thing you know you’re driving down a highway in which the only thing separating you from other vehicles going in the other direction is a thin, worn yellow dashed line. If you really look around you you’ll probably see a truck in front of you and one heading towards you in the other direction and the sun could be bright enough to make oasis-like waves on the asphalt and the road gets a little hazy as you hope to dear G-d that the truck with dim lights on doesn’t smack your vehicle. Then there’s another truck behind you and because you’re going only 85 kilometers per hour at this point (although the signs say 100), he’s passing you at 110 and you hope to dear G-d that he doesn’t railroad you from behind as another truck comes full throttle in front of you. Or worse yet, if it’s in winter, and the temperature is minus 10 or minus 20 Celsius, you could be driving on black ice, which is ice on black asphalt and you have no idea when the wind is going to pick up and push your car 3 feet to the right, thus sending your steering wheel to the left and your back sheers to the far right and your car into a full-out circle. And if it’s dark out and it’s winter, then you have to hope that you’re staying on the road the whole time. Meanwhile, you probably don’t have the radio on at this point and your cellphone doesn’t work and it’s darker than you can imagine outside and even the interior of your car is hard to see except for the dimly lit dash. Or, even worse than that, you could be driving along in winter and nighttime and it’s snowing out and your visibility is about 3 feet in front of you and the only thing your headlights are doing is shining on the snow falling before your car and the air outside is whipping around your tires, making you feel like you are starting to lift off, defying gravity itself because of new laws written just for the prairies. All this time, your little heart is beating because you know there’s no one else around for a few miles and it’s cold enough outside to give you frostbite in a matter of minutes and death in about 45 minutes. Worse, if you stop your car because you’re totally freaked out, the likelihood of another vehicle smacking yours on the highway is about 97 percent and, if you’re anywhere near your vehicle at that point, you just have to hope. Well, I think my point is that with driving in Manitoba, you just have to hope anyway. People here laugh when I tell them I want to get me an F150 or a new Ford Five Hundred but I’m dead serious.

Application Simplification, or Entourage vs. Mail.app.

Having become slightly (or perhaps more than slightly) obsessed with tiny new applications offered up on websites like MacUpdate and described on blogs like Hawkwings, over the past week, I’ve installed and uninstalled applications with names like Rapidowrite, Quicksilver, y-type, Grammarian Pro and AutoCorrect. My objective is to try to improve upon Microsoft Entourage, my email client of choice over the past few years.
Why do I want to switch from Entourage to another application for email, namely Mail.app (described with the three letter extension most generally by its fanbase because otherwise, it’s just “Mail”)? Because I’ve had a few database errors and some odd behavior from Entourage over the past few weeks that, while it’s been resolved, made me think that there may be better applications out there to read, manage, and send emails. I’m in the process of trying Apple’s Mail.app instead of Entourage. So far, I’m slightly impressed but I won’t make a final decision about whether convert my life over from Entourage to Mail and its sister programs, Address Book and iCal. I’ve read just about every single (often very helpful) post about the similarities and differences between Entourage and Mail, I’ve tested both out thoroughly (mostly late at night), and I’ve trouble-shooted both via online forums and blog lookups. There should be a ton of user feedback about both applications and, surprisingly, there’s not. One would think that, because email is so critical to the functions of most people’s computing lives, a more thorough discovery could be found. Instead, what I found were strong opinions about Apple and about Microsoft and many well-informed thoughts on their respective email applications.
Results revealed soon. And right now, I honestly don’t know which application I’m going to pick. It’s 50/50. Right down the line. That’s not you holding your breath, is it?

Between Canada and Independence.

It’s the midpoint now between Canada Day and Independence Day. As a new permanent resident from the U.S. in Canada, it’s as strange a midway as one could have, given that this is the first Canada Day I celebrated in Canada. I have now celebrated one Canada Day and approximately 35 Independence Days.
Here are some (albeit superficial) differences between the two holidays:

  • Canada Day happens on July 1st whilst Independence Day happens on July 4.
  • Both holidays have fireworks celebrations. But I can’t figure out why Canada does; in the U.S., the works are seen as a celebration of war against the Brits.
  • Independence Day has a truly nationalist flavor to it. Flags are everywhere, the news is fully dedicated to the subjects of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You get the sense that America is truly great because it knows it is, and it does.
  • Canada Day is much more reflective than reflexive. It has a relaxed, very questioning feel about it. You see some patriotism in the media, but it seems mostly filled with mild surprise and amusement that Canada is even allowed to be a country. I think the country, on this day, breathes a collective sigh of relief that it’s not been devoured by the States and that its ways and means are based on reality rather than ideology.
  • Canada is, rightly, very proud of its current status in the world. It has no real deficits, universal healthcare, military missions that are focused on humanitarian aid, and very democratic political culture. The Globe and Mail had a very moving editorial today that was less self-congratulatory than taking stock. I’ll try to find a non-paying link to it later.
  • Independence Day is truly celebratory. It’s the one day during the year that Americans celebrate collectively national heritage. There is not a lot of history taught on this day but it can be moving to see veterans of World War II commemorate their work.
  • Both holidays, for some reason, celebrate by burning animal flesh outdoors on metal grills.
  • Nathan’s Hotdogs are not devoured voraciously in Canada.