Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Song

The Pilgrims they came over on a boat,
They came that way because the couldn't float.
After coming all that way they decided to stay,
and name the place they landed Plymouth Bay (ay, ay, ay)

I learned this song in elementary school 40 years ago. I recall there being other verses, but I can't remember them.

Happy Turkey day!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I hate Windows

I am a teaching assistant for a Masters-level Computer Science course. My current task is to grade 45 papers submitted digitally by the students.

To make my life easier, I opened all 45 papers on my laptop and then switched between them as I graded each question. My intention was to first get a sense of the level of the answers by grading all of the answers to the first question before going on to the second and third parts of the exercise.

My laptop is not new. Its a PIII 900Mhz with 512Mb ram. Initially opening these files took about 5 minutes. With modest delays, I was able to review the first answer on all 45 papers. Then I put the computer in sleep mode (since I was by then tired).

Today, I opened my laptop to try and start grading again. After 30 minutes, I still could not open Firefox, Explorer or my instant messenger programs. The screen was on, my mouse worked, but the machine was hung.

After many such experiences, I now know to first try and shutdown the computer cleanly. This of course did not work because there was too much going on for the machine to handle. So I powered it off and restarted from scratch.

Why oh why does this happen? The machine was responsive before I put it to sleep. Is Windows like a person now? It takes me at least half an hour to get up in the morning. Maybe computers need the same amount of time to shake off the lassitude of sleep.

Bar Mitzva Events

It amazes me how many different ways there are to celebrate a Bar-Mitzva. My third son had his Bar-Mitzva in October. As he is one of the older boys in his class, this means that the season has just begun. So far, we have been to at least five different Bar-Mitzva events in the past two months. Each one is different, and they span the gamut from simple to extravagent.

One boy this summer took the simple route. He read the torah, and had his extended family in town for Shabbat, but instead of a community event, he asked his parents to donate the money to charity. At the other end of the spectrum, we went to a Bar-Mitzva dinner at an upscale wedding hall, complete with a live band and shmorgashboard.

I have a large extended family, with over 80 people in the area who are happy to attend any family event. Housing these people for a weekend on our community would be painful, so we have choosen a different route. There is a chain of field schools in Israel. Their purpose is to provide inexpensive housing for school trips to learn about geography and nature. Each of these schools is in a beautiful part of the country with exotic scenery. We rent out the whole field school for the weekend and invite our family and close friends to come and share with us.

Our Bar-Mitzva's are low key. The focus is on being with family and friends. The food is basic with no pretensions. The rooms sleep six to eight on simple bunk-beds with foam mattresses. We believe that children are an important part of the family, and hence at least 50% of the people at our weekend are children. The result is a boisterous event where kids can play, parents can relax and we can all renew relationships.

This past weekend my wife and I attended a similar event at the other end of the scale. The Bar-Mitzva family invited 40 couples to the Dan Acadia hotel in Hertzilia for the weekend. The location is wonderful, right on the beach. The hotel catered all of the meals (five in all, dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner again, and a separate dessert spread for the live party after Shabbat was over).

What struck me was not the difference in venue. Yes, this event was nicer, the food was first class, there was a live band at the Melava Malka, and the hotel beds had real mattresses.
The real difference is that children were not invited. It was a quieter event. We spent some time with a few of our friends, and the meals were long with interesting conversations. But is was not about family, and I don't know that my attendence really contributed to the event. It is certainly the case, that my wife and I feel closer to the boys family. It's unusual for us to be invited away for a weekened.

My feeling is that the family was satisified and the Bar-Mitzva boy had a weekend to remember. That's the only way I can judge a Bar-Mitzva event. They are so different, that there is no other common ground for comparison. The most important thing is to take pleasure in event, and to help each boy remember this day positively.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Got to Start Somewhere

Welcome to the SixBoysJ blog. As you may note, we have six boys and life in our house is never quiet or boring. I'll be posting about our family, my work, studies and hobbies. Comments are welcome.