05 March 2014

Mardi Gras in Hartford

Fat Tuesday in New Orleans was cold (for New Orleans) and raining.  In Hartford, it was cold (starting the day at +3(F) and getting up to a balmy +28-30(F) by evening) and sunny until shortly before parade time.  But we stepped off and had our own, if smaller, carnival:

There are professional photos, of course (a nonprofessional has already posted a set if you want to see more, plus there's a commentary at the FB site which I believe is public); mine are from the start and end, because I was too busy participating in the middle.  I dressed warmly in layers that were either brightly coloured or in Mardi Gras shades of gold, purple, and green.  All the instruments, things to throw, and so on were distributed before I got there (had hoped to get out of work early, but of course not) so I just danced along, waving at people with my bright, woolly mittens, and wearing a glitter mask.  It was cool when a busload of people waved back.

My friend Lauren got there in time to be one of the walking skeletons:

I did get a couple bits of video with my new camera, so the resolution is better and you can even hear sound, although my camera work still leaves a LOT to be desired (and I have to remember not to dance whilst trying to record):
The second one shows something you definitely would not see at the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade!

Afterwords, off to String Thing and Origami at the Hartford Makerspace, which due to lack of people other than us turned into a bunch of trigonometry, testing of newly donated projection equipment, and playing a bit with something called SÅND.

I did struggle this year about my commitment for Lent.  A lot of people look on it as a time to give up something, and often I have done that, and didn't feel like giving up something I've given up in the past.  Others look on it as a time to commit to do something spiritual or giving back to the community, which I already do quite a lot.  I thought of committing to read a psalm a day, or a chapter in Exodus, but with rehearsals for a show I'm dubious about having the time.

So my official commitment, which came about serendipitously because I ran out of bread and tortillas on Tuesday, is to not eat breadly items or similar baked goods.  This should provide some interesting opportunities for creative cooking, not to mention whittling down my store of noodly things.

And I realized that for the second year in a row, I missed out on eating a paczki.

03 March 2014

February Resolution Report

Obviously my resolution to update the blog more often didn't get much traction in February, as I just hit the minimum requirement, but that is primarily because of my First Time Activity - I went to Israel!  Not only was I madly busy getting things done before I left (including a couple of business trips and co-hosting a MAJOR community event) but I was mostly offline whilst there.  Although Israel is a very wired country, the hotels had limited Internet capability unless you brought your own device, which I did not.  I rented an Israeli cellphone which was definitely not a smartphone, and I didn't take a laptop or tablet. I wanted to travel light and saw no need (since I had Communion of Dreams on MP3 and a book on actual paper) to bring anything electronic with me.

The trip was marvelous, fascinating, amazing - the last being the byword of the rabbi who led us and became one of the catchwords of the trip - and when I figure out how to get the photos off my new camera I'll write a few posts.  I did take a composition book with me and wrote pages every night, or some mornings, trying to record it all so I could have a reference for blog posts and future writing, and we had a semi-official blog running that my family used to see how I was doing on the trip.  One of the cool things is that we did not focus exclusively on religious locations and activities, but geopolitics, history from an Israeli viewpoint, archaeology, and so forth.
Us in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Us in the stands of the amphitheater at Caesarea.

A friend asked if there was one thing I expect to remember in five years.  How to predict?  But off the top of my head, these things stick in the front of my memory, and in no particular order:

  • Using the rooftops in Jerusalem's Old City to travel more quickly from one place to another.
  • Fresh dates!  Fresh persimmons!  And eating these almost every day if we wanted them.
  • The donkeys used as natural weed control in the date orchards at an organic farm on an Orthodox kibbutz.
  • Hearing the sounds of gunfire and shelling in Syria as we stood on the Golan Heights.
  • Buskers on Ben Yehudah Street.
  • Steam rising on the Jordan River as we went out for a very early morning walk, and the plaques in the walkway containing quotes from the Bible that mention the Jordan.
  • Architecture, from 1,000s of years ago to the early 20th Century.
  • A partially rebuilt building in Yafo, old stones beneath and stark glass walls above.
  • Learning how the Israelis have constructed many of the memorial and historic and museum sites to present a perspective or engage all the senses and emotions, not just as a static "this is here" location.
  • When "The Silver Platter" poem clicked home for me, as we walked down (in reverse of the usual order, due to persons in our group with mobility issues) from Mt. Herzl to Yad Vashem, and I saw this quote from Chaim Weizmann in 1947, not long after the UN’s decision to partition Palestine:  "No state is ever handed on a silver platter... The partition plan does not give the Jews but an opportunity."
Us at Herzl's tomb at the top of Mt. Herzl.

Our guide frequently used the phrase "It's complicated" to explain the history and how Israelis have grappled with the events that shaped the country - both in ancient history and even until today - and that seems to be spot-on for so much of what we saw and learned.

One thing I did take away is the absolute, unshakable belief of any Israeli that if they are invaded, they will repel the invaders.  They know there will be a cost, but as more than one said "when it is your family behind you, you aren't going to move."

View of Israel from a former Jordanian fort.

Our guide is a tank commander, so of course we went to Latrun.

More about the trip when I have time to compose the entries and include my own photos.  I appear in several of these photos because they are from the blog I mentioned above, and were taken by others.  I had some other almost-firsts in February, will talk more about the non-trip February in another post.