Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.

 

Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").



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   favorite Passover yet
Monday, March 25 2013

location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

About an inch of wet snow had fallen last night, which is unusual at this time of year on the edge of the coastal plain of Maryland. The good thing about snow was that it would tend to keep people out of the park and thus make fewer opportunities for altercations when we walked our dogs. So we took an unusual route, walking northward in the park as far as Holy Cross Hospital (the place where I was born a little over 45 years ago; Dina was also born there). On the way back we came upon a single pedestrian who just happened to have phobia of dogs (perhaps she was in the park for the same reason we were). Naturally, Ramona wanted to jump up on her. She wasn't the only one in the park either; we actually saw someone sitting on a park bench in the damp chill. And there was a family with two young children in the play area rolling up filthy snowballs shaped like cinnamon rolls.

While Gretchen was off somewhere, I gave her father a more thorough Adobe Photoshop Tutorial. Though much of what I know about the program seems to reside in my hands and not in my brain, I actually know more about Photoshop than I thought I did. For example, usually I find the auto-layering of pasted clips a nuisance and perform a "Merge Visible [Layers]" at the earliest possible opportunity. For most Photoshop tasks, layers are an unnecessary complication, but today I found myself showing Gretchen's father how to use them to substitute in a new patch of sky or ocean in pictures where the ones photographed ended up less-than ideal. The resulting pictures were more collages than photographs, but Gretchen's father thought they told a better truth for some of his Burmese pictures than the bleached-out expanses of blankness he had captured.
Later my little nine-year old nephew organized most of us to play a game of Rummikub, a game involving numbered tiles where the goal is to shed as many tiles as possible by putting them down in either consecutive orders of one color or multiple-colored tiles all having the same number. Neither Gretchen nor I had ever played the game before, and we were impressed by how thoroughly it was understood not only by our nine year old nephew but also by our six year old niece, the latter of whom managed to intrepidly power through what seemed like a formidable impasse that came during her turn to play.
In the early evening we all went over to Dina's parents house, where a huge Passover seder was being hosted. Something like 35 people would be in attendance, necessitating a huge U-shaped assemblage of tables. The only other time I'd been at a seder here, I hadn't yet even become a vegetarian and so could eat Dina's mother's signature appetizer: fish balls. The only appetizer I could eat this time was almonds, though I mostly stayed out of the living room (where these were on offer) because of the presence of dozens of halved boiled eggs (which I find so foul that I cannot even look at them). Happily, though, the youngest generation is in the process of growing up and there are no longer any babies, whose tendency to paw through appetizers have traditionally made them anything but at family gatherings.
More important than food at such functions (at least initially) is wine, though alcohol can often be something of an afterthought when the people throwing the party are Jews (with WASPs, by contrast, the afterthought is food). Mind you, there was plenty of wine already set out on the table, though evidently nobody had considered the possibility that people might want to start drinking before the meal. When I saw a youngish couple grab a couple glasses from their pre-assigned places at the table, I knew they were thinking what I was thinking and so grabbed my own glass and followed them. And when they could find no wine in the kitchen other than an absentmindedly-placed bottle of white, I suggested maybe we should just take some wine from the table. "I'll do it if you do it," the female half of the couple agreed. That was how we all ended up being the only people drinking red wine before the seder began. As I poured our wine, the female half of the couple said to the male half, "I like this guy." Now that we had something in common, we got to talking, and the male half guessed that he and I were about the same age. But then it turned out he'd been born in 1976, and I counted his inability to correctly guess my age as another auspicious thing that happened just before the seder.
As for the seder itself, we blew through that Haggadah at record speed, and, since we were snacking on matzah and sipping wine for most of the time, I wasn't in any particular hurry for it to end. Dina had organized a number of ways for the kids to participate, and this involved masks representing each of the plagues, which were combined with plastic frogs and insects and styrofoam balls to fling about with abandon. There was also a symbolic parting of the red sea in which the water was represented by an oddly adhesive form of red confetti that immediately dispersed itself over every upholstered and carpeted surface. I suppose it could have been worse; as I observed later, at least Exodus never includes "glitter" amongst the plagues.
It was Dina's father's job to hide the afikomen, but he was cornered by the kids as he was trying to squirrel it away in the furniture, so he was forced to hand it off to me behind his back, and I managed to successfully hide it. But later there was a meltdown among the children when Alex (who has always been the oldest child of the youngest generation) found the afikomen yet again, and the other kids complained that it wasn't fair. Punches were thrown and things briefly got as ugly as they can get for people that age. Good times! Despite, nay, because of the absolute chaos and disorder, it ended up being my favorite Passover yet. [REDACTED] [REDACTED]
After the seder, back at Gretchen's parents house, my nephew showed me some programming projects he and his father have been doing on a website for a development environment known as Scratch. Scratch is a programming language where components are connected using interactive graphical tools. It's possible to use it to create animations and games. I got the feeling that my nephew doesn't get to use a computer very often, because once he'd glommed onto my netbook there was no prying him away from it, though it was well past his bedtime.


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