All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Hello Dear Friends

It's been a while since we had a little chinwag, so I thought I'd keep you abreast of what's going on in my oh so uninteresting little life.

Firstly, I managed to miss this blog's anniversary on 20th April. We were 4, which is something to celebrate in a naval-gazing sort of way. Congratualations to one and all.

So what's new? Dana flew off this morning to Israel to see her ailing grandmother. It is important that she's there right now, as the medical situation does look somewhat ropey. It has also been a while since I've been left in charge of the little ones. Good or bad thing? I'll tell you next week when the wife comes back.

School is very busy as ever. Pesach/Passover came and went and I'm glad to report that the house is starting to resemble it's old self. I'm sure I still can't find half of what I stashed away before the festival blasted it's way into our lives. Then again, when I need it, I'll probably have some sort of vision (here's hoping).

My diet took a bit of a hiatus over the holiday as I would have probably starved myself to near death had I not agreed to turn a blind eye. There is precious little to eat over Pesach (not that I'm complaining) without having to go down the masochistic "I'm on a diet" routine. That said, I hope that I haven't put on too much weight.

I've also come out in a rash over the last few weeks. I won't go into the gory details, but the doctor has diagnosed it as some sort of viral infection (non-contageous) that will hopefully disappear soon. That said, it's pretty itchy and it doesn't look too appealing.

That's about it for now. Please keep popping by, because I do update this site - honestly!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Non-Striking Teacher

It has definitely been a bizarre yet productive day at school. The Year 12's were in, but precious few teachers and even fewer kids showed up.

I'm one of the teachers whose union is not striking, so although I've had to come in, the day has afforded me the opportunity to catch up with some work and prepare my lessons for the next few days, granted that I won't be able to do so over the weekend, as it is Chag again (the second part of the Pesach festival) and to be honest, I don't feel like starting getting Monday's lessons sorted out after having re-arranged the house, post Pesach, on Sunday night.

One's work as a teacher is never complete and I believe that if I spent 24 hours doing school work, I still wouldn't get everything finished! So you go with the ebb and flow, making sure that you work smartly and keep your head above the waves. Sooner or later, all the work does get sorted out - although sometimes, you're up waaaaaaaaaay too late, making sure that you'll hit the deadline!

I can also add that, as bad as it can get, nothing compares with preparing for an Ofsted - and we've had ours (as you well know).

Tomorrow, it is business as usual - just in time for the re-emergence of Pesach and the obligatory re-classification of work (i.e. I won't think about school until late on Sunday night).

2008 Olympic Logo

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Cheating The Assassin's Bullets

I don't often reproduce other another writer's work, but I found this article fascinating. It is not often that one hears the thoughts of a political figure whose assassination went (thankfully) wrong.

How would-be assassin's bullets changed me (CNN)

By José Ramos-Horta
East Timor President

Editor's note: José Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor, survived an attempted assassination at his home on February 11, 2008. He is in Darwin, Australia, recovering from gunshot wounds.

José Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor, says he believes he has been given a second chance at life.

On February 11, a group of renegade soldiers invaded my home. As I walked toward my house, I was not aware that they had disarmed my guards and broken into the house, knocking down doors looking for me. But as I walked up the street -- ironically, Robert F. Kennedy Boulevard, named for one of my heroes -- I saw one of the renegades and knew that he was going to shoot me. As he aimed for my heart, I turned to run. Instead of the left side of my chest, he shot me twice in the right side of the back.

The shooter used "dum dum" bullets, illegal to manufacture and banned by the Geneva Convention because they expand and fragment inside the body, creating an explosion of shrapnel. One piece of shrapnel took a trajectory toward my spinal column. It stopped 2 mm short.

I was told later that between the moment that I was shot and the moment I arrived at the hospital, I lost 4 liters of blood -- 80 percent of the blood in my body. I was also later told that if I had arrived at the hospital five minutes later I would have, without question, been dead.

José Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for working "towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor."

Information on his anti-poverty initiatives is available at

Oddly, during that time, I was completely conscious. I remember speaking to my brother, who cared for me while we were waiting for an ambulance. I was not particularly concerned about myself. There were about 30 other people going through my mind -- soldiers, staff, some internally displaced Timorese, and relatives. I asked if anyone else in my compound had been wounded or killed. I was reassured that they had not.

I rode in a battered old ambulance from my home to the hospital. Hanging onto the seats of the ambulance because it had no seat belts, I was willing myself to stay alive. In these minutes, I felt that if I died, my country would explode into violence.

It was not until I was delivered into the hands of doctors that I lost consciousness. Even then, in that dream state between consciousness and unconsciousness, I had vivid images. I felt that I was surrounded by a group of people, people were trying to force the remaining life from me. I was trying to ask them why, what I had done to deserve this. "At least," I said, "tell me what I've done wrong."

A thundering voice interrupted them, saying: "Leave him alone. He's done nothing wrong." Suddenly the others left.

I am not one to try and explain such occurrences. But I believe that at that point, I returned to life. And I believe that, while the doctors in East Timor, and in Darwin, Australia, were unquestionably critical to saving my life, I was also blessed by God. It seems that I was given a second chance.

I have, at moments, been extremely saddened reflecting on the great men, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, who did not escape an assassin's bullet. I reflect on the terrible loss the world experienced at their deaths, and I cannot help wondering why I, a much more flawed person and a lesser man, have been spared when they were not.

Since childhood, I have always been disturbed by the injustices in our world, a world with tens of millions malnourished or starved, with no access to clean water, while others live in mansions and spend tens of thousands of dollars on cars and jewelry without even thinking. I have seen both clearly. I lived in exile in the West, including Manhattan for 24 years during the occupation of East Timor. And I have returned home to my Timorese people, among the poorest in the world.

I have been asked more than once how the assassination attempt has changed me. I would say that it has, primarily, reaffirmed my personal conviction and my ambition to lift people out of extreme poverty. Today, I have no other goal or ambition. The recent events have only served to reaffirm my lifelong commitment to helping the poor.

I have always kept a stock of packaged new and used clothes in my house. When I would travel around the countryside, I'd often load up the back of a car with these packages. When we would drive through a village, the children would come running. I would get out and give away the clothes and soccer balls.

Other times, I would leave my security and entourage behind and take a minibus back into town. Like other developing countries, our minibuses are usually packed with 20-30 people. They would be surprised and happy to see me board the bus and ride with them. Often I have had the bus stop at a street café and I would buy everyone a meal for $1 apiece. Perhaps for other politicians these are photo opportunities. For me, they have been one of the deep pleasures of being home after being away for so long.

I am saddened by the fact that these pleasures may be gone for me now. No longer will my security guards listen when I tell them to stay outside a restaurant. I expect that I will no longer be able to travel without a convoy, or walk away from my security to distribute clothing at a village on the road. We have lost something. But we will find a way to remain close.

Our country will need to get to the bottom of these events to heal from them. An investigation has been ongoing, and there is increasing evidence pointing a finger at external elements that were supporting the renegade Alfredo Reinado. These are elements interested in destabilizing East Timor, plunging it into an endless civil war so it could be declared a failed state.

In fact they have achieved the opposite. I have survived them, and we have survived them. Instead of plunging into chaos, my people have united as never before. Our political leaders stepped up in the sudden absence of their president, showing political maturity beyond their years of experience.

Since the attempted assassination, there hasn't been a single violent incident. Even the rival youth and gang groups have stopped fighting. Almost all elements involved in the attacks surrendered peacefully. I expect that those remaining will follow shortly. Many of those who were internally displaced by the violence of 2006, sensing the change, have begun to return to their homes.

I am returning home in the next days, to do all I can to realize my dreams for East Timor -- to continue lifting the Timorese people out of poverty, and to create a Zone of Peace where all forms of violence are abandoned.

© 2008 Cable News Network

Monday, 14 April 2008

Our Mortal Spotlight

For those who don't know, Mark Speight was a very popular kids' presenter on British TV. Spending time with young children, you inevitably end up watching some of their shows and you get to know the regulars who liven up their TV channels.

For all intent purposes, Mark (because I guess that's what he would have wanted me to call him) fitted the bill of a perfect childrens' entertainer. He messed around, mimicked characters and basically did everything that was expected of him. I also remember that he was a pretty dab hand in the art department too. The kids watched him eagerly, in the same way as they would any other TV presenter.

A few months ago, things turned nasty for Mark and the children's world in which he inhabited took on a very adult gloss. Firstly, his fiancee was found dead in the bath, having inbided a cocktail of alcohol and drugs (never a good idea if you want to guarantee seeing your grandchildren) and he was subsequently arrested for being complicit her suspected murder. This was a very far cry from the jolly image he portrayed on the multitude of programmes he fronted.

He was released without charges and her death was ruled as being a tragic misadventure. The latest news, this morning is that, after disappearing for a week, he's now been found dead in Paddington station, allegedly as a result of his own hand.

The whole episode is extraordinarily sad and not something any of us could have forseen a year or so ago.

But what do I tell my kids? How do I explain that this TV presenter, whom they laughed with and at, has taken his own life because he could not (understandably) cope with the death of his fiancee (and I shudder to think how I could explain her passing either)?

I know that the children's morbid fascination with the minutiae of the case will know no bounds, but notwithstanding this, what about their loss of innocence and trust in the people whom they bring into their lives, through sitting in front of that wretched contraption?

I'm probably worrying far too much about this. They will no doubt go to school, hear the entire sorry story from their friends and move on, because kids are like that. But in a way, that frightens me even more. Should they really become so insensitised - to the extent that this man's death will mean nothing to them?

I like to believe that the people I watched on TV as a kid, led impeccably decent lives. I know that I'm being naive, but it's one of the small shreds of innocence that is still enbedded in my psyche. It's not that I see these presenters as role models, because they are only human and doing a job they are paid to do, but still, they are part of the scenery that I looked upon as I was growing up.

In short, they are a little memory spark from my childhood.

Mark Speight and his fiancee (also a children's TV presenter) deserve to be remembered more for the memories they gave to little children, than the sordid and sadly unforgettable manner in which they exited our mortal spotlight.

That said, the world I live in now is not one that I would have wanted to grow up in. Maybe when I was a kid, TV presenters wouldn't have thought of dicing with death, or for that matter, "partying" - which was the word Mark used to describe the last night he spent with the woman he'd hoped would be his wife.

I'm definitely getting old.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A Message For Jimmy Carter

Hi Jimmy,

I hear that you intend to go to the Middle East next week and will be meeting with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas. Will that event take place before or after you visit the people who are being bombed on a daily basis by his terrorists' missiles?

My fervent hope is that you get a big fat Kassam up your anti-semitic arse.

Yours ever so sincerely,

The Scribbler.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Asking Your Boss For A Salary Increase

An employee sends a letter to his boss asking for an increase in his salary.

"Dear Bo$$

In thi$ life, we all need $ome thing$ mo$t de$perately. I think you $hould be under$tanding the need$ of u$. We are worker$ who have given $o much $upport, including $weat and $ervice to your company. I am $ure you will gue$$ what I mean and re$pond $oon .

Your$ $incerely,

$tan $kar$kowky"

The employee received this reply

"Dear Stan:

I kNOw you have been working very hard. NOw a days, NOthing much has changed.
You must have NOticed that our company is NOt doing NOticably well. NOw the newspapers are saying the world's leading ecoNOmists are NOt sure if the United States may go into aNOther recession. After the NOvember presidential elections things may turn bad.
I have NOthing more to add NOw.

You kNOw what I mean .

Your Boss

NOel kNOwles"

Relaxing In The Jacuzzi Before Pesach

And you thought you had it hard.....

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

British Maths Teaching Over the years

1. Teaching Maths In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.
What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or £80.
What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80.
Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.
Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2008
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and
inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the
preservation of our woodlands.
He does this so he can make a profit of £20.
What do you think of this way of making a living?
Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the
birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no
wrong answers. )

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Charlton Heston - A Non Fan's Perspective

Charlton Heston, who died last night was without a doubt a very fine actor. He was one of the few thespians who rarely gave a bad performance and his films are very watchable and mostly entertaining.

I say all of the above as someone who doesn't like the man. In fact, I would go so far as saying that I dislike him- which is rather unfair since we didn't meet and it looks like we won't either.

Does it really matter what I think about him? Nope. Not a damn jot ( please note the play on his famous Planet Of The Apes line). However, seeing that I'm choosing to write a blog about him, I suppose, I should share my antipathy for the man!

Charlton Heston, on screen and in every interview I saw of him over the years represented one of the traits that I like least in fellow human beings, that of arrogance.

I'm probably one of the few people around who think that he was miscast as Moses in The Ten Commandments. The Bible (and by extension, the Torah) categorically states that Moses was the humblest man who ever walked the planet, which is not a character trait that Heston imbued him with in the movie.

Yes, Chuck was noble and yes, he was statesmanlike, but humble? Methinks not. Then again, De Mille wasn't exactly a blushing violet either!

Charlton Heston always portrayed himself on screen and in real life (at least to plebs like me) as being better than anyone else around. Despite the attempts to divorce the man from his roles, I could never quite come to terms with this aspect of his personality. Saying that, I'll probably eat my words when I read oodles and oodles of idiosyncratic eulogies, revealing how Chuck was really this great human being whose loss to the world is immeasurable.

As an orthodox Jew, I'd rather like to believe that Moses was so much more a man than Charlton Heston could ever be. Maybe there is no one on earth who could portray him. However, if there had been, I wish it would have been the other guy.

My money would have been on Gregory Peck anyway - a mensch of a man if ever there was one.

So long Chuck.
I'd love to be a fly on the wall when you meet the real Moses.

April (Snow) Showers

I want to establish a few facts:

1. It is the 6th April.

2. It is also Rosh Chodesh Nisan - the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan.

3. It is therefore exactly two weeks until Pesach, Passover, also known as Chag Ha'aviv, the festival of Spring.

4. I am looking through the garden window and I am not seeing sunshine.

5. I am not seeing blossoming trees.

6. I am in fact looking at snow, tumbling from the heavens onto white grass that used to be green.

Here's the mathematical sum for all of the above

April 6th + Rosh Chodesh Nisan + Two weeks until Pesach = Snow.

Now I know why I was always lousy at maths. I could never understand the logical aspect of the subject.

The OFSTED Inspection Result

As it is now official, I'm very proud to report that our school received an "outstanding" grade from OFSTED. I know that my lesson did not play any part in the decision, but it is still very humbling to think that it didn't do any harm either!

The majority of people who know which school I am at, have a totally wrong impression of how great a place it really is. I hope that this result will finally bring it home to them that their pre-conceptions are totally wrong.

Last year, I was working in a failing school - this year, I'm at an outstanding one.
Now, how cool is that?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Sorceror's Mis-Apprentice

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the time when I would be in charge of my very own home. I would fix things when they broke, redecorate the house exactly in the style that I desired and be in total command of my life as well as lord and master of my very own home.

I didn't realise that when you get married and a wife moves in, she usually gets a say over what the house will look like. I also didn't expect to be as hopeless as I've turned out to be in the simple art of redecorating or mending. In fact, I'm not a very good housekeeper at all.

Enter the wife and her extraordinary (and hitherto unseen) powers to majestically transform one of our kids' bedrooms (the larger one that Dassi and Tali sleep in) from a squalid patch of a box into a offering that would not seem out of place in a four star hotel.

Not only has she repainted the walls, to the extent that one would think she's a proper decorator...she has now gone and (with a little help from her friends) built wall to wall cupboards for our wide eyed daughters.

Suffice to say that the kids are now sleeping in our room - which she is already eyeing up for Danafication.

OK, I made the last bit up, but I needn't have done. Dana has worked her magic and put me to shame. I guess, our childhood dreams may have been slightly different after all!

Still, at least I know how to cook a passable pasta.

Small, But Beautiful

A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay
containing the following elements.

1. Religion
2. Royalty
3. Sex
4. Mystery

The prize-winning essay read :

"My God" said the Queen, "I'm pregnant. I wonder who did it!"

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Teachers Unplugged

I've just come back from a wonderful evening at our school. Once a year, the drama and music departments put on a teacher's evening, where members of staff get up in front of a mic and do their thang - thankfully not in front of the kids, although a few were there.

I sang a number of songs on guitar, but apparently, it was my piano based Imagine that caused a few tears to flow, which I have to say that I'm quite chuffed about. I can't think of any time when my piano playing has caused such emotions (and no, it wasn't that bad!)

However, my hat goes off to the other performers, because they were simply stunning. As they say a splendid time was had by all and you can't ask for better than that. I've already started thinking about what I can play next year (if I'm asked back!)