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Ships with Frickin Laser Beams

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

LAWS

The Navy’s ship-deployed laser we talked about last month has been deployed on the USS Ponce — and tested, too. And it works:

The Navy announced that it had deployed and fired a laser weapon this fall aboard a warship in the Persian Gulf. During a series of test shots, the laser hit and destroyed targets mounted atop a small boat, blasted a six-foot drone from the sky, and destroyed other moving targets.

“This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything,” Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told reporters at the Pentagon. “A lot of people talk about it—we decided to go do it.”

It was built cheap, using lots of COTS parts — a rare instance of our procurement system working as advertised.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Why Did So Many People Fall for the UVA Gang Rape Story?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

Christina Hoff Sommers emails: “Latest episode of the Factual Feminist. Topic: The UVA gang-rape story–Why did so many otherwise sensible people take it seriously?”

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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34 Holiday Gifts for the Southern Culture Lover on Your List

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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This holiday season, I know you’ve been wondering: what can I give the Southern culture lover on my gift list? Well, worry no more, because I, your intrepid Southern culture expert, have decided to swoop in like a Christmas miracle and save the day!

Here’s a list of 34 awesome gift choices that cover just about every area of the culture below the Mason-Dixon line. The best part: nearly everything on this list is eligible for Amazon Prime, for all you procrastinators. Enjoy!

5. Explore The Literary South

One of the greatest traditions in the South is storytelling, and a classic Southern story makes a wonderful gift for the bookworm on your list. Here are just a few recommendations.

William Faulkner is one of the best known and most respected authors in the South or anywhere. I’ve always had a difficult time keeping my concentration reading his novels, but I love his short stories. I highly recommend The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (also available for Kindle) as a sort of greatest hits collection and The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner for deeper cuts (get it here for Kindle).

Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor also made a name for herself in literary circles, and her short stories are some of the best in American literature as a whole. Check out The Complete Stories (also on Kindle) to experience her true genius in all its glory, but I also recommend the slim volume A Prayer Journal (also on Kindle) for some of the most beautiful, lyrical Christian prayers I’ve ever read.

Of course, there are plenty of great Southern novels to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God delves into the lives of black people in rural Florida with a lyrical flair. In Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, a precocious orphan tells her own story. James Dickey’s Deliverance is the same harrowing story as the movie, but with greater depth. And Family Linen by Lee Smith is my all-time favorite novel — a twisty, darkly comic family tale.

You can’t go wrong with any of these choices for literature lovers.

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A Flute and Harp Concerto in C by Mozart

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, on twitter to @DaveSwindle, or via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Felix Mendelssohn

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Antonio Vivaldi

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Review: Alan Parsons’ Art & Science of Sound Recording: The Book

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Ed Driscoll

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With the exceptions of George Martin, Quincy Jones and Glyn Johns, arguably no other recording producer is as quite a household name as Alan Parsons. (And only Parsons has been namechecked by Austin Powers’ nemesis, Dr. Evil!) Starting at age 18, Parsons began working in EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studios in 1967 before going on to engineer the Beatles’ classic album of the same name and numerous other projects. His career as a staff engineer at EMI culminated in his engineering Pink Floyd’s epochal 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, which remained on the Billboard charts for an astonishing 741 weeks, a phenomenal achievement for what had been prior to its release a band that defined the phrase “cult hit.” In terms of its variety and musical craftsmanship, the album was arguably the high point of Pink Floyd, but its success was in no small part due to the crystalline three dimensional sound that Parsons’ engineering brought to the product.

Only in the 1970s could a recording engineer launch a successful career as a rock frontman, but give Parsons credit for perfect timing – he parleyed his industry connections and his key role in Dark Side of the Moon’s smash success into a lengthy record deal with Arista Records, fronting and producing his own Alan Parsons Project band. The Alan Parsons Project itself enjoyed several best-selling albums and arena tours. But Parsons never stopped producing other artists, working in the years since Dark Side with Al Stewart, The Hollies, and other artists.

In 2010 Parsons released his three-DVD box set titled The Art & Science of Sound Recording and narrated by actor-director-musician Billy Bob Thornton. Recently an accompanying book version of that DVD, co-authored by Parsons and Julian Colbeck (also an old hand in the music industry), was issued by veteran music publishing house Hal Leonard.

The How-To Guide for Recording a Complete Rock Band

For anyone interested in recording a rock or pop group, in conditions ranging from their garage or basement to a professional music studio, this is a must-read book, filled with useful tips on how to record all of the primary components of a popular group including the drum kit, bass, electric guitar, keyboard, and vocalists. In both group form playing all together, and then afterwards in the form of solo overdubs to bring a song closer to perfection.

While Parsons is the primary voice in the book, he’s joined by such veteran studio luminaries as drummer Simon Phillips, bassists Carole Kaye and Nathan East, and former Doobie Brothers vocalist Michael McDonald, and fellow producer Jack Douglas, who bring their own recording tips and anecdotes to the book. The book concludes with an excellent chapter on recovering from studio disasters, ranging from tape machines unspooling to a comparable 21st-century terror, hard drive crashes.

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The 7 Most Unnerving Unsolved Cases This Year

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Alex Shelby

Of the 16,000 homicides committed annually in this country, 38% of the perpetrators will get away with it. And the odds are far worse when it comes to robberies and burglaries. Bear in mind that the seven cases in this article represent around .1% (7 out of 6,000) of this year’s unsolved murders. And brace yourself, but only 50% of this year’s 400,000 robbers and a mere 10% of the 2 million burglars will actually be prosecuted. Perhaps, by this article’s conclusion, I can offer a silver lining to the reality that police officers know all too well.

7. Playground Psychopath

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On March 25, 2014, a 2-year-old child sustained minor injuries at the Millennium Park playground in East Moline, Illinois, because someone glued nearly a dozen razor blades to the playground equipment. The official charge would be aggravated battery of a child with a potential 6 – 30 year sentence.

Crime Stoppers tip line: 309-762-9500

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Can Superhero Movies Be Reduced to a Racial Numbers Game?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

With the huge success of Marvel Studios, superheroes have entered the public consciousness like never before. But the film producer’s success has become a double-edged sword: its entertainment value to millions of people worldwide has drawn to it the unwanted attention of racial bean counters who have called for different colored faces under the masks.

But how is that to be accomplished? In their call to diversify representation in movies along racial lines, promoters comb each new release, counting heads, and claim there are not enough faces of color in the casts. Something has to be done, they say, raising the specter of white privilege and subtle racist attitudes that only the most arcane of arithmetical equations can balance.

In an attempt to satisfy its critics, the film industry has taken steps to right the imbalance. Superhero movies and television shows have done their share but mostly by changing the skin color of existing characters rather than inventing new ones.

On TV, Iris West in the new Flash television show was switched from white to African-American, as was Deathlok on Agents of SHIELD and Pete Ross in Smallville.

pete ross

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Funny Video: Don’t Tell Your Mom When You’re Going to be on CSPAN!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Viral Videos

hat tip:

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Instagram Use Surpasses Twitter

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

It’s not Facebook big, or even (dare I say it?) VodkaPundit.com big — but it’s big:

Just nine months after hitting 200 million users, Instagram now says 300 million people use its photo app every month, with 70% of them coming from outside the US. That makes Instagram officially bigger than Twitter, which had 284 million active users as of six weeks ago.

Instagram’s been going strong for four years now, and despite fears that the acquisition by Facebook would screw it up, there’s now 70 million photos shared each day, and over 30 billion total. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom says “Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community.”

The story came my way via John Gruber, who adds:

Instagram is clearly run by people who get what it is that makes Instagram a cool thing. Twitter seems run by people who just don’t get Twitter.

Exactly. Most of the conventions which make Twitter wonderful — the @, the RT, the #FF — were created by its early users, and not by Twitter’s creators. In other words, Twitter began as an easy-to-use and easy-to-modify social platform. What Twitter has become is a confused and impossible-to-modify web app.

That’s a shame, too. I think of Twitter as a 24-7 cocktail party, where I can flit about, enjoy fun conversation, and occasionally rub elbows with people far higher up the media food chain. I go there when I want to, and unlike some other social media platforms I could name, Twitter never bugs me when I don’t want to be there. That part still works great.

But the company has squeezed almost all the life out of the market for Twitter apps and front ends, in a shortsighted effort to homogenize the Twitter experience. The Wild West days are over; the Progressive Era has begun.

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Crossposted from Vodkapundit

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When Is Bad Luck a Good Thing?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Does Brain Damage Make a Case for Ending Sports?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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When I was working in Africa I read a paper that proved that intravenous corticosteroids were of no benefit in cerebral malaria. Soon afterwards I had a patient with that foul disease whom I had treated according to the scientific evidence, but who failed to respond, at least as far as his mental condition was concerned  – which, after all, was quite important. To save the body without the mind is of doubtful value.

I gave the patient an injection of corticosteroid and he responded as if by miracle. What was I supposed to conclude? That, according to the evidence, it was mere coincidence? This I could not do: and I have retained a healthy (or is it unhealthy?) skepticism of large, controlled trials ever since. For in the large numbers of patients who take part in such trials there may be patients who react idiosyncratically, that is to say, differently from the rest.

A paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine brought back my experience with cerebral malaria. Animal experimentation had shown that progesterone, one of the class of steroids produced naturally by females, protected against the harmful effects of severe brain injury. The paper does not specify what exactly it was necessary to do to experimental animals to reach this conclusion, but it does say that it has been proven in several species. What is not said is often as eloquent as what is said.

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What Are Your Favorite Mozart Compositions?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, on twitter to @DaveSwindle, or via email: DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Felix Mendelssohn

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Antonio Vivaldi

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image illustration via shutterstock / 

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How’s This Song For An Evening Chill-Out Track?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Allston's Afternoon Rockout

From “10 Songs That Remind Me of Summer“:

3. Kool and the Gang – “Summer Madness”

Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer we launched the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter. Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:  

The New War Music Series

By Artist and Band

By Decade and Era

By Genre

By Instrument

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Why Politics and Music Are Like Oil and Water

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by David Solway

I’ve been writing on political subjects since 9/11—three polemical books and 400 articles worth. But I’ve done my utmost to keep my poetry free of political themes and pleading, generally the poet’s kiss of death. The classical world made room for politically oriented poetry (cf. the invectives of Archilochus and Alcaeus among the Greeks, Horace and Juvenal among the Romans) but this sprang from a completely different cultural context, and lapsed with time into obscurity. Samuel Butler’s 17th century book-length satiric extravaganza Hudibras dealt with both religious and political subjects—clever and funny, but hardly great poetry. The 18th century loved political/satirical squibs, though with apologies to Dryden, Pope and Swift (and even Peter Pindar), these are scarcely remembered today.

Of course, the political category can be stretched indefinitely—is Yevtushenko’s scathingly tender elegy Babi Yar, for example, “political” or not? I would maintain that it is more a bitter denunciation of human savagery and a memorial to the suffering Jewish people than a political statement. The war poems of Wilfred Owen have an acrid political edge to them, but Owen writes as a humanist under fire, not as a political observer or critic. Admittedly, from time to time some modern poets have managed to align political subjects and poetic excellence (e.g., William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden); however, a successful conflation of this nature is exceedingly rare and prudently to be avoided.

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Are You Too Selfish to Raise Children?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

From the Daily Mail, and don’t you just love those headlines?:

‘I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women, that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated,’ she said.

Denial: The actress was forced to deny she was pregnant after being pictured on the red carpet in August, appearing to show a bump

‘I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t mothering – dogs, friends, friends, children.’

Since her split with husband Brad Pitt in 2005 Anniston has been the focus of intense media scrutiny in the U.S.

Almost every month a celebrity magazine in the US speculates that she is pregnant, getting married or engaged in a row with Angelina Jolie who recently married her ex-husband and has six children.

In August she was forced to issue a denial that she was pregnant after photos of her on the red carpet appeared to show a slight bulge in her dress.

What do you think? Does a career as a celebrated actress equal the life of a parent? Can’t one do both?

Bonus question: what is your favorite Jennifer Aniston movie?

Vs.

Vs.

Vs.

Vs.

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Handcuffed or Spanked?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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The obvious answer is “neither.” Who wants their child, at any age, handcuffed by police – let alone at age 6? Sorry if I misled you with the title; you don’t have the option between spanking and handcuffs. Children are not being spanked in school and obviously not at home. That would be just wrong, right?

Handcuffed for bad behavior? Yeah, that’s happening today.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I have some very strong opinions about the role of the police. This, however, is an entirely different matter. A police officer in an elementary school is not the same as an officer on the street. This isn’t about police. It’s about developmental behavior, abdicating responsibility, and the natural consequences of cultural Marxism.

It’s a given that one or two instances doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s commonplace, although it is an issue that is occurring more often than most of us realize. I defy you to find one story of this happening even in the turbulent years of the ’60s and ’70s.

Believe me, it would have made the news. But back then we had segregated classrooms–average children were in one room, obnoxious kids in the hallway, and autism was one in 2000 students. Most schools never saw one autistic child.

There’s a lot of blame to go around here, so I’m going to narrow it down to a cultural issue that parents need to recognize embedded in how we view the family.

Before I explain that statement, let’s take a look at a couple cases at hand.

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A Big Advance in Solar

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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With a tip of the hat to Charlie Martin, a team of Australian scientists just blew away the previous record for solar conversion efficiency:

A team from the University of New South Wales, Australia, just set a new world record for solar energy efficiency by successfully converting 40.4% of available sunlight into electricity. And what’s even more remarkable is the fact that the record was achieved by using commercially available solar cells in a new way – which means, as the team explains, “these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry.”

The efficiency record was first set outdoors in Sydney, and was then independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Lab in the United States. The photovoltaic technology used by the UNSW team differs from conventional solar cell technology in one key way: it utilizes triple-junction solar cells. These cells, as Motherboard explains, “are basically a sandwich of differently tuned semiconductors with each one able to capture a different wavelength of sunlight.”

As the innerweb saying goes — faster, please.

Casa Verde has some excellent southern exposure, and my part of the state is famous for averaging 300 days of sunny skies each year. Melissa and I have looked just a little into adding enough solar panels to our electrical system to take the edge off those rising electricity prices.

If the Aussies really can deliver those efficiencies at affordable prices with COTS materials, then we might be able to make a decision sooner than we thought.

Or are we dreaming?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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This Is An Emotionally Moving Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Johann Sebastian Bach

Ludwig van Beethoven

Hector Berlioz

John Dowland

George Frideric Handel

Joseph Haydn

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Maurice Ravel

Richard Strauss

Franz Schubert

Antonio Vivaldi

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Heavy Metal Christmas Carols With Vocals By… Christopher Lee?

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

That’s right: Christopher Lee.

My holidays are officially happy.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Terrible Thing Did Ham Do to Drunken, Naked Noah?

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about some of the weird, perplexing things in the Bible, swapping quotes and links to try to make sense of a strange passage. I decided I’d throw it out there today and see what others thought.

Genesis 9:18-27 describes how after Noah lands the ark and makes a covenant with God he plants an orchard, invents wine, and gets drunk. Then his son Ham “saw the nakedness of his father” and told his brothers, who then covered their eyes so they didn’t see him, but went in and covered him. Afterwards Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan. What actually happened here? Why is this so important? Why does Canaan get cursed for something his father did? And why is it so bad to just see your Dad naked and laugh about it?

What is actually going on here?

There seem to be four popular interpretations:

1. The first is just a straight literalist interpretation — the crime really was just seeing his father in an uncompromising position and then laughing about it to his brothers.

The next three interpretations are a little more plausible and have been considered over the centuries:

2. Ham castrated his father.

3. Ham sexually molested or raped his father, shaming and dishonoring them both.

4. It was actually Ham’s son Canaan that did the crime.

These ideas see the curse being inflicted on Canaan for a few different reasons. First, if Noah was castrated then he couldn’t have more sons. Second, whatever the sexually dominating act was, it’s seen as a symbolic attempt to usurp Noah’s authority in the tribe.

The fifth idea, which we’ll explore on the next page, is much more of a leap from the literal but the one that ultimately makes the most sense when read against other usages of the language in the Torah and in the bigger context of the differing marital practices of Pagan tribes…

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The 5 Merriest Christmas Traditions from Ancient Greece

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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Well, it’s that time of the year: days getting shorter, nights getting colder, choirs singing and priests commemorating the virgin birth. I know what you’re thinking: it must be time for the rural Dionysia! Mmmm, chanting in ritualistic praise of the wine-god just gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling — like eggnog by the fire.

Okay for real though, obviously Christmas is the best holiday in the history of ever. But Christmas as it’s celebrated these days is a mash-up, a “greatest hits” of December festival practices from the ancient and modern world. A lot of our traditions go all the way back to ancient Greece. So to get in the spirit, here are five of my favorite yuletide rituals, along with their ancient Greek roots. They’ve been mathematically ranked and arranged in ascending order depending on how merry and/or bright they are. Happy ancient Greek Christmas, everyone! (And more importantly, happy real Christmas, too.)

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What to Expect When You Experience Israel Kibbutz-Style

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

When I was a guest at Kibbutz Sde Eliahu in the Beit Sh’ean Valley in Israel, I had to get up at four or five A.M. to get to the fields on a cart driven behind a tractor, with other young people, so that I could pick vegetables before breakfast. These where huge smorgasbord affairs with lots of oatmeal (because it was cheap, hot, and filling) and whatever was the most of the crop of the day. Of course, I wasn’t a paying guest, I was a worker volunteer, but not a paid one either.

Years later I became a guest again at another kibbutz, Rama Rachel, at that time a half hour ride from Jerusalem. I didn’t have to do any work at all, because this time I paid to be a guest. I still had the smorgasbord breakfast (which all kibbutzim with guest facilities offer), but this time it included a variety of cheeses, cereals, sweets, juices, and fish, among other things. Cappuccino was offered along with coffee and tea. I no longer had to work for my meals, and could enjoy all the recreational offerings of Rama Rachel which included a huge swimming facility, and even water slides. I recently revisited Rama Rachel and since Jerusalem has expanded so much, it is now on the edge of the city with a bus stop which offers buses constantly. It also has been the site of an archaeological excavation and offers an archaeological garden to tour.

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4 Ways the World Changed for Me When I Learned Hebrew

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

I decided to move to Israel (make aliyah) when I was 28, and came to live here with my family when I was 30. At the age of 28, I knew zero Hebrew; by the time we made aliyah I had learned just a little from a cassette-tape course. (Yes, there were things called cassette tapes back then.)

Our first residence in Israel was an absorption center in the town of Hadera on the coastal plain. There we had to take an intensive Hebrew course—meaning I immediately started learning this difficult language more seriously. And right away, even with only a few words and phrases at my disposal, I started to feel connected to my new environment in ways I couldn’t have if English had still been the only language residing in my brain.

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