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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Birthright Israel- Shorashim- Winter 2005-2006

The trip is over but the journey is just beginning. It's hard to believe that just a few hours ago we were saying goodbye. Even harder to believe that just a few days ago we were saying hello for the first time. After such an amazing trip, it is hard for me to find the words to describe it. I care about you all so much. So much so that it took me at least six tries to leave before I actually pulled together enough strength to turn my back and walk out the doors of the airport- without coming running back for one last hug. I couldn't help looking back one last time. Leaving the airport without you guys was so hard. The last time I had been there was the day we met. As my bus was pulling away from the airport I gazed out at terminal three. I had to fight back tears as the memories flooded back. I think one may have slipped through.

I knew this trip would be an amazing experience but I could never have hoped to meet such a wonderful group of people. Experiencing the country through your eyes, rediscovering the country was so "life changing" (I use that word with a few reservations) that I want to thank every one of you for contributing to it. I am forever grateful.

Seeing you experience the country for the first time has made me feel like I am seeing it for the first time. Whether it be watching you approach the Western Wall, and kiss the stones or the tear in your eye at Yad VaShem. The look of triumph and pride when we finally got back to the buses after climbing Har Shlomo. Or the hug we shared at Har Herzl, the military cemetery. The list of memories from this trip is unending. You have helped me learn so much about you, our country, our people and myself. You have reminded me why I am proud to be Jewish, proud to live in Israel and proud to serve my country. I only wish the same upon you.

I hope this trip has given you insight into the country that is every much yours as it is mine. Shown you the connection you have with the people who call Israel home- whether they live here or not. Proven to you that this country, and it's people, will always be here for you when ever you need us, if only you let us.

Remember the trip and the experience. Remember the people and the places. Remember that there is always a place for you here. Remember that this is your home, and come home soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Phones Are For Phools

I am the victim of technology failing me. I am a strong believer in technology. I think anything that can be done with computers should be. I think almost anything can be done with computers, and the tech way is usually easier than the old fashioned way.

Last night my precious tech failed me. I was sitting with Ren and Gross talking when I heard the sound my phone makes when it turns on. I took out my phone, because there was no reasons for this sound. A) My phone was already on and B) My phone was on silent. To my surprise my phone had reset itself completely. Everything was gone. No pictures. No SMSs. No phone numbers. Not only that, my phone also doesn't receive or make calls. So not only am I out of contact with the world, I no longer have any of my precious phone numbers, memos or pictures and doubt they are recoverable. I will only know tomorrow when the lab is open and they can fix my phone.

This same thing happened to me When I was in basic training and I was told this is a problem with the phone. This damn phone has given me nothing but problems. Tomorrow I am getting a new phone. End of story. I wish I hadn't changed service providers. Where is my precious Nokia phone. Why do I have crappy Samsung. I am distraught. I can't do anything because my phone is on my mind. The fact that I am blogging is a huge accomplishment.

I shall now go wallow in sorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Me, MDA and a Boy Called Harry

What a busy week! I started the week with a huge exercise/drill. That kept me up on Monday night until 4:45 which was not fun. I got home at 6:30 the next day after a very long, exhausting day and crashed for a few hours. Wednesday I was back on base guarding which led to another night of being awake for almost 24 hours as I got up at 2:40 to guard and went to bed last night ad 1:30. Last night I went out with Nadiv and Ren to "Coffee Tree" in Kfar Saba. It's a cool little cafe/bar that I went to a few weeks ago and really like now. Adam and Ilan H joined us a little later.

My really exciting news for the week was that I got accepted to a program called Taglit, which means "Discovery". It is the Hebrew name for the Birthright Trips. What this means is that I will be accompanying a groups of American youth on a 10 day trip around Israel. I think this will be really cool and exciting because I will offer a unique perspective. Plus, it's ten days off from the army staying in hotels and having fun. I think it will be really enlightening for me and for them. I expect to learn a lot both about the country and myself. My trip will specifically be the Shorashim (roots) trip so check out some of the links and expect some cool stories and pictures when I come back in a few weeks.

Last Saturday night, Katz, Ren and I saw the new Harry Potter movie. As a HP fan I enjoyed it. Even though it was a long movie (2.5 hrs) it went by really quickly- which I guess is a good sign. With that said I was a bit disappointed. I thought it felt rushed. Big events in the book were short and small events were ignored. I guess you have to make sacrifices when turning a long book into a movie, but I'm not sure someone who hadn't read the book would have been able to follow. I think, as with most cases, the books are much better.

Last but not least: A few months ago I ranted a bit about how MDA (Magen David Adom) wasn't part of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Well now that they have created a third symbol, the religiously neutral "crystal" (a glorified square on it's side), the ICRC may see a new member. From what I remember reading, MDA will be able to operate with their symbol (the red star of David) within Israel's borders and outside they will be able to operate with the crystal with the star of David inside. I think I remember ranting about how Israel shouldn't have to make compromises and use a neutral symbol when the other major religions have their own symbols. I think that the current agreement is acceptable and is the best we would ever get. Nothing is final yet but overall I think this is a good thing.

That's what's on my mind for now. Sabbath time baby! Must shower and get ready.

PS: Added a few things on the sidebar. Check out the Hall of Fame posts or some of my random pictures on flickr. If you have some recommendations of posts to add to the Hall of Fame, drop me a note. Don't be shy, I won't bite...Too hard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In Honor of My 100th Post-100 Interesting and Not-So-Interesting Facts About Me

This is my 100th post so in honor of that I thought I would post 100 facts about me. Some you may find interesting, others not. Some just plain weird, but here goes:

  1. My full name is Benjamin Samuel Ludman
  2. I was born at 5:12pm ET on April 1st 1986
  3. Yes, I have heard every possible April Fools Day joke so don't even go there.
  4. I have a friend from Australia who was born on April 2nd but is older than I am.
  5. I was born at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC
  6. In my life I have lived in three cities- NYC, NY, USA; Halifax, Nova Scotia,Canada and Ra'anana, Israel
  7. I have lived in 3 apartments and 2 houses
  8. I have one brother and one sister.
  9. They are both younger than me.
  10. My brother will someday be my boss.
  11. My sister will someday take over the world with her cuteness.
  12. In high school I majored in physics and French.
  13. I speak three languages fluently- English, French and Hebrew
  14. I haven't really spoken French in about 5 years and I'm not sure I still can.
  15. I still got a very high grade on my exams.
  16. I play guitar and used to play piano.
  17. I own three guitars.
  18. I almost exclusively play one of them- the electric one.
  19. I have written music but none of it is any good.
  20. I can program in C++ and Visual Basic as well as HTML+CSS and JavaScript
  21. I haven't touched C++ in about three years.
  22. I don't think I ever will again.
  23. I have built websites for several people.
  24. When I was younger I wanted to be a programmer.
  25. I have also wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer (what a good little Jewish boy) and an investment banker.
  26. I'm still not 100% sure what an investment banker does.
  27. My understanding of money and economy begins and ends with "Money=Good".
  28. Now I want to be an engineer.
  29. Someday I also want to own my own company.
  30. To do that, I should probably broaden my knowledge of economy.
  31. I would also like to own a penthouse in Manhattan. (but who wouldn't?!)
  32. New York is one of my favorite cities.
  33. I wouldn't want to live there permanently or for to long though.
  34. I plan on studying in New York when I finish the army.
  35. I am going to study engineering at Columbia University.
  36. I'm not sure which kind of engineering I want to study.
  37. My friend Katz is coming to study at Columbia the year after me.
  38. In the army I serve in the C4I unit attached to the Dan District of the Home Front Command.
  39. C4I stands for Command Control Communications Computers Intelligence.
  40. The Home Front Command is in charge of security of the citizens within Israel's borders.
  41. My job is network administrator for the Dan district.
  42. I am trained in a completely different job and was given this job because I finished top of my class at "signal school".
  43. That, and a whole lot of luck.
  44. I am much happier doing this than what I was supposed to do.
  45. I am trained as an "Operational Communications Operator"
  46. That basically means I set up radio networks and fix them when they're down, specifically for operational units (infantry, armored, etc.).
  47. I would also deal with hard-wired communications networks and combination networks.
  48. I never found it that interesting and it doesn't transfer well to "the real world" (read: "not the army").
  49. My current job is much more interesting and will be useful in the future.
  50. Half way there.
  51. I still have a life outside of the army.
  52. I like that a lot and even though I'm happy I serving in the army, I wouldn't give that up very easily.
  53. When I was younger I used to read and write a lot.
  54. I don't anymore.
  55. One of the reasons I started this blog was to get back into writing.
  56. It was also to improve my writing skills.
  57. I have always hated reading what I write and editing my work.
  58. So I don't.
  59. That leads to a lot of typos and some sentences that may not flow that well.
  60. I think that keeps the blog fresh.
  61. That's an excuse for my laziness.
  62. I like to make bull shit excuses that no one would believe.
  63. I'm not sure why. I guess I just like to bullshit.
  64. I can bullshit about almost anything as I often do with my rants.
  65. My laziness has lead to my friends referring to me as "Grandpa".
  66. They really call me grandpa because they think of my as the wise and mature one.
  67. There I go again with the BS.
  68. Despite my laziness, when I start something I'm very persistent and a bit of a perfectionist.
  69. As long as cleaning my room is not involved.
  70. My room is in a state of "organized Chaos" most of them time.
  71. At the moment I would put it more in the "Chaos" category and less in the "Organized" one.
  72. When I start something I usually start it very organized.
  73. It quickly becomes chaotic and I don't usually get it back to it's original state without drastic measures.
  74. Sometimes I like to be goofy. It's fun to remind myself that I'm still a kid.
  75. I can move my ears, eyebrows and flare my nostrils.
  76. Yes, without the aid of my hands.
  77. I'm a pretty talkative friendly person.
  78. When I get drunk, it is almost impossible to shut me up.
  79. Despite drinking a lot, I have never thrown up from drinking.
  80. I'm proud of that. See mom, I'm not an alcoholic!
  81. My favorite beers are Heineken and Guinness.
  82. Miller and Sam Adams are also pretty good but I prefer beers from this side of the world.
  83. But not Israeli beers.
  84. I'm also a fan of Amaretto sours and WooWoos.
  85. WooWoos are made of vodka, cranberry juice and peach schnapps.
  86. Most people add their own special ingredient such as Nana (mint).
  87. I have never seen WooWoos outside of Israel but supposedly they are a know drink.
  88. My friends make fun of me when I drink a WooWoo because of its pinkish read color.
  89. They made more fun of me once when I ordered a Sea breeze.
  90. It was very pink and didn't even taste good.
  91. At parties I have worked as the bartender before.
  92. I'm considering being a bartender during university.
  93. Being religious this may cause conflicts in my work schedule.
  94. I find it annoying when people pronounce it "sheh-dyule".
  95. I'm a big fan of Australian accents.
  96. I would like to travel to Australia and New Zealand some day.
  97. Unlike most people, I'm not planning a big trip to the Far East or South America after the army.
  98. I would like to drive from the east coast to the west coast of the US in an RV though.
  99. Some friends and I have discussed this many times but we all get out at different times so I'm doubtful if it will happen.
  100. I'm pretty easily distracted and thus many of these aren't really about me so much as they are things related to me or related to things that are related to me.
I can't believe I made it to 100. Once I got in the rhythm though, I could have gone on till 150. Well maybe not, but I can think of at least two more. Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Little R&R- Part II

So I have a bit more energy now so thought I would fill you in a bit about my trip and this past week.

Last Saturday night I went to see a movie in the theater with Nadiv and Gross. We saw "Lord of War". I really liked it. It had a perfect combination of violence, gore and plot. But it wasn't just an action/suspense movie. It made you think. It was shot from a cool perspective and overall I really enjoyed it. The opening scene, "The life of a bullet", as I call it was amazing and the computer animation was well done. The scene follows a bullet, from it's perspective from it's creation until being fired.

On Tuesday I saw another movie. Katz, Nadiv, Ren and I watched "Kingdom of Heaven". It was also pretty good. It was long at 2.5 hours long. The movie is about the crusades which is a subject that I don't really know that much about but I've always really liked that period of time. I think medieval weaponry is not only functional (perhaps not anymore) but art. They are amazing engineering feats and this movie had several good scenes displaying this.

Monday and Tuesday was my trip with my unit. We went up north. We first went to Zichron Yaakov and saw some of the historical sites including a cemetery. Quite boring. We then had half an hour to just hang out on the promenade there and browse some of the shops. We continued north, stopping for lunch at a park and then arriving at Rosh HaNikra. Took the cable car (which I still think is fun) down the cliff and walked around there a bit. Saw a movie about the place. The view there was really breathtaking. The movie was not. Ended the day at our hostel in Tiberias where we got settled in our rooms, showered etc. We then went to a small club where we had a BBQ and danced the night away (or something like that). They also got a magician for some reason. I'm a big fan of magic shows but this guy was horrible and had 0 showmanship. It was 20 minutes of my night I'm not getting back, but at least it was only 20 minutes.

Tuesday we went to a water plant nearby. They showed us a movie and talked to us about how water gets from the Kineret to other places in the country. I actually found it pretty interesting but the second the lights went out for the movie, my eyes were shut and my snoring was waking up others. We went to the country club in Katzrin where we ate lunch and hung out for a few hours. I swam in the pool and hung out in the hot tub. Then we got on the bus and headed home. Got off on the way to shorten my trip and ran into Limor who I haven't seen in a really long time. Talked with her on the bus ride home. It was good to catch up a bit.

That's all I have to report for now. The army is tiring me out lately and the next week is going to be pretty bad. The trip was a good way to break the routine I've gotten in and a little rest and relaxation is always needed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Little R&R

I've been away the past few days with my unit on a trip. I had a great time and will write about it and post pictures, but alas, it's has tired me out and I have a headache so I'm not going to do it now. This week is very busy for me and I need to get some sleep. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cooking for the Beginner-A Short Guide for the Bachelor, University Student or Anyone

One of the things I have had to deal with this past week and a half is cooking for myself. I'm used to coming home and having food on the table lovingly prepared by my mother. On Thursday when the family came home, for a change I made dinner. It is surprisingly easy to make something taste good when you get the hang of what combinations are good together and then just playing around with them. Here are some hints to get you started. If I can do this than anyone can.

A little Mexico or Italy
To give any type of food a Mexican taste try the following. Add black pepper, cumin and chili powder.
To give any type of food an Italian taste try adding oregano, olive oil and garlic.

What Simple Things Should I have?
Some basic spices are the place to start. Always have pepper and salt. Cumin, oregano and chili powder are my favorites. I also like Zaatar (a middle Eastern spice) and basil. Garlic and onion powder are also very handy (minced or chopped forms are also useful). I don't really cook with other spices too much (not that I cook that often anyway) but some thyme, paprika and rosemary won't really hurt. Spices can turn any regular meal into something different and is the key to varying an easy to make menu.

Your best mileage will come from buying combination spices and seasoning blends like "Mrs. Dash" Products and "chicken seasoning" or "Steak seasoning". These are great on vegetables or in sauces and are definitely not just for what they say they are. If you don't know what to put on something, these can help push you in the right direction or add a bit of flavor to something that is bland.

A good sharp knife, cutting board, some bowls in various sizes and plates are important. I big wooden spoon is handy too for making sauces (which I like to do for some reason). A hand blender is pretty cheap and a big help. Some pans (big and small) are a must as well as a small pot.

On to the Cooking
In the Mexican department try these:

Through some corn chips on a plate so the whole plate is covered. Cover with cheese and nuke for 40 seconds. In one minute flat you have a great tasting snack. If you want to put some effort in add chopped tomato and chopped onion and some spices. Pepper and chili powder are good especially cause I like spicy food. Chicken seasoning is good and fast too.

Take a tortilla and fill with the same stuff you put on the nachos. Fold in half or top with another one if you're hungry. Fry in a pan, toast in a toaster oven of nuke it. This one is best if you put in the extra effort of the veggies and spices. Cut in triangles.

Cover a tortilla with sauce* and sprinkle with cheese. Roll it. Make a few of these. Cover them in sauce and more cheese on a oven safe plate and cook in the toaster oven. Careful! That plate gets VERY hot. I learned the hard way.

*Regular sauce from a can or jar is fine. The little effort to make the sauce though is worth it in my opinion. I mixed some tomato paste water and a tomato together with the hand blender. Heated on the stove in a small pot and added a few teaspoons of olive oil, some onion soup mix and spices. Lots of cumin is essential, and should be added to and store bought sauce and sprinkled on the enchiladas too. Chili powder and pepper in good quantities is important to make it just spicy enough. Adding some chopped onion is also good as is some garlic and parsley.

For my family I made lemon and herb chicken and some veggies.

Lemon and Herb Chicken
Heated some water with some chicken soup mix and some onion soup mix. Added some salt and pepper, garlic,parsley and chili powder. Juice from one lemon and some orange juice. A bit of brown sugar and a bit of white sugar and some oregano and minced garlic. Poured this on grilled chicken breast from a package that just needs some heating.
For the veggies I fried thinly sliced potatoes and chopped red pepper in olive oil with some spices and minced garlic. A little salt and pepper and that was it.

There you go people. You no longer have an excuse not to cook. These are all very easy to make and pretty quick too. By playing around with just a few ingredients (different spices or different veggies) and the form (chopped chicken pieces / chicken breast or rolled tortillas/ flat out tortillas) you can change the meal completely.
Try different things until you figure out what goes with what. That's all I did.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Life as a Bachelor- Living Alone, and Loving It!

This past week I had another taste of independence. Living alone while my family was away wasn't always easy but I did love having the freedom to do what I want when I want, and seeing that I can be self sufficient. I'm now not to worried about living on my own in university in two years when I finish up with the army.

One thing I realized in the past week is how hard my Mom works. It's was pretty time consuming doing laundry, cooking etc. and that was only for one, not a whole family. People, don't take your Moms for granted, they work hard. Let them know this once in a while, but not too often. Don't let it get to their heads. After all, us kids still have to be pains in their asses!

This past week has been really busy. I've had about 5 hours sleep maximum each night as I was out every night this week (one of the perks of being alone in the house). Everything I did over the week was more rushed though. When I would get home, instead of food being ready for me, I would have ot prepare it myself. This can get time consuming and annoying after a long day's work but I actually enjoyed it a bit.

The next few weeks for me don't seem to really slow down. I've got a lot of army related work in the next few weeks and I hope to finally get to relax around Hanukkah/New Years time. This coming week I'm going on a trip with my unit which should be fun.

I now must go do a load of laundry, and clean my room (yeah right). Or at least eat something...I'm hungry.