Thanksgiving: A Partial List (for real this time)

A list of things I’m thankful for (in no particular order):

  • A great partner (both life and business)
  • The Portland tech community
  • My tweeps
  • My health
  • A great family
  • The CubeSpace community
  • the continued growth of CubeSpace
  • The beauty of Portland
  • Great food
  • Wonderful coffee
  • The really low trade-in value of used husbands.
  • Artemis–my feline partner.
  • Friends who are there for each other.
  • Work that is meaningful–in several different careers. 
  • The coming of the Obama presidency.

And so much more, but this is what occurs to me in 10 minutes while sitting on my couch watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Name what you are thankful for in the comments:

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Thanksgiving Innovations that Should be Skipped

Here is a list of ideas that SHOULD NOT BE IMPLEMENTED to refresh the Thanksgiving Holiday:

  • Forget roasting a whole turkey…make a butter sculpture of a turkey the centerpiece of your thanksgiving dinner. Butter goes with everything: bread, vegetables, stuffing, corn, potatoes. What more could you ask for. Just carve slices off and serve them up.
  • Recreation of the first thanksgiving, complete with Pilgrims as Bioterrorist insurgents. 
  • Thanksgiving Carolling: A variety of new songs await composition: 
    • Gather Round the Ol’ Football Game
    • Thomas the Tottering Turkey
    • On Thanksgiving Day (We’ll Eat ’til We Barf)
    • The Family Gathers for Thanksgiving Day (and no blood was shed)
    • I’ll Be Home for Thanksgiving (Assuming I’m not stranded at O’Hare)
  • Ask each person at the table to name 1 reason they are thankful they are not the person to their left.
  • Asking teenagers to name 1 reason they are thankful.
  • Hiding thanksgiving eggs filled with stuffing around the house for the children to find.

This list is a starting point, but I’m pretty sure you all can help us avoid future disasters by suggesting your own additions in the comments.

Blogging as Sanity Restoration Technique

I’ve spent the last half hour wrangling with a computer. Not my primary computer (thankfully), but one that I was setting up to use as a local web development environment. I had the operating system up and running, the web server up and running, and had downloaded the content managment system (CMS) I wanted to play with, but there was one little barrier: at about 20 minute intervals the computer would spontaneously shut down. 

It’s a laptop, so at first my assumption was that the battery was inoperable, and every time the power cord jiggled loose or something, it was losing power. After the third time it happened, I tested that theory by unplugging the power cord. No dice…battery worked fine. So, for some reason, the computer was randomly choosing to shut down, as though it were losing power, every 20 minutes or so. Taking what is left of my sanity, I have beat a strategic retreat. 

Now, I like computers, and technology, and bashing my head against computers and technology as well as the next person (and looking to my right, a great deal more than the next person in this case). I like the challenge, I like the sense of working on a soluble puzzle. I like expanding what I can force these machines to do. However, I have my limits. My limit, it turns out, is working on a machine that won’t let me make enough progress between reboots to figure out if I’m getting anywhere. 

Laptops are the ultimate in black box technology. They are often literally, a black box, with limited indicators of what is going on inside. Sure there’s the data on the screen…but how much can you really tell from that. When things go wrong, they rarely tell you why…they just implode on you. And you can bring them in for repair, but repair people just aren’t that interested/capable in working on laptops. They are too miniaturized and specialized by manufacturer. So when they stop working, all too often, the right answer is to give up on them. 

Today, however, I am taking a slightly saner path. Instead of simply writing off that machine which was deliberately causing me to lose my mind and moving onto the next machine–which tends to stay on, but needs an external mouse and keyboard because, left to its own devices has decided that silent x is the most common letter in the English language–I am calling a time out and blogging instead. 

Ah WordPress (which, incidentally, was the app I was trying to install when everything went kaput), you work so reliably. I type, you give me the output I’ve typed. I may type the wrong thing, but at least it is an accurate representation of where my fingers went on the keyboard. 

This afternoon, this is what I need.  Simple, transparent technology I don’t have to think about. Thank you WordPress for restoring my confidence in computers. And thank you, my little laptop, for continuing to work while computers around die.

Weekend Rabbi

I spent an amazing weekend with Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend. It’s one of the few times when, as I rabbi, I did something that really made a difference that I can talk about. Most of the time, when I make a difference in my rabbinic work, it involves a person, and is their story to tell. When working with a group, I’m able to talk about it a little more.

central-oregon-1

The congregation is just starting out, having hosted spectacular high holiday services last month, is beginning to get around to thinking through what they do the rest of the year. They have about 30 families, which is amazing for a congregation that is only 6 months old and doesn’t really have much going on regularly yet. This weekend, I led services for them, taught some adult ed, and also taught a class for the kids. In addition, we talked a lot, and I did some organizational consulting.

The group of people in Bend is great, and are developing a really strong organization. However, this is a group that doesn’t have much experience starting a new congregation. In fact, the group doesn’t have a lot of experience with startups in general. In contrast, I’m immersed in startup-land, and have worked with a number of congregations in the early stages of development. As a result, I was able to give some advice that they were excited to recieve. How weird is that? I gave advice and it was valued!

Some of it came from knowing a thing or two about startups: you need a vision. You can’t build something unless you know what you are building. Some of it was based on congregational experience: get the religious school

central-oregon-3 online as early as possible, because that’s a big motivator for people to join. Some of it was based on marketing experience: it’s easier to sell a product that exists than vaporware.

The giving advice part of the weekend was fun, but maybe not the most exciting thing I did. This weekend, for my adult education session, I took a risk. I decided to try to teach mysticism.

Mysticism is really difficult to explain, but a fascinating philosophy of life. Mystical texts tend to be very technical, and hard to find a way into without a whole lot of context. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot. I taught Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook on love–and it worked! People understood both the text and mysticism by the end of an hour and a half. And I got to teach a text I really love.

I had a lot of fun this weekcentral-oregon-2end, and sense the congregation did too. I also got to drive into Central Oregon, which is beautiful high desert. I took a few photos on the way back…of the point and shoot variety, since I was driving at the time. But take enough shots, and some will turn out, even if you don’t look at what you’re photographing (and post-production helps a lot, too). So, for those who don’t know the beauty of Central Oregon, there are a few photos accompanying this post.

Life’s Busy, but Good

I’m running  hard at th moment, and therefore haven’t had a chance to post much recently, but figured I’d take a few minutes to do so now.

Last night was Ignite Portland 4, which was amazing. My presentation went fine, I think, but some of the others were truly amazing. Carolynn Duncan did an amazing run down on the Portland scene from an outsider’s viewpoint. Cami Kaos‘ take on bluffing your way through life was a tour de force of stage presence at its best, and needless to say, very entertaining. Betsy Richter presented on how to do project or child management, and why it’s the same thing, which was perhaps the most useful presentation of the evening. And Melissa Lion‘s talk about the use of narrative in online communication was truly brilliant, and I’d have been delighted to have listed to an hour on the subject rather than the 5 minutes (which hinted at a truly remarkable set of ideas, without having the time to flesh them out). Oh, and here’s my presentation on spirituality in non-religious community. There were many other great speakers, but these were some of my favorites (admittedly, also, some of my favorite people).

Right now, I’m theoretically already in the car heading towards Bend for a weekend with a congregation. I’m very excited about this, but do wish that this week had been a little less hectic. I’ll be doing some last minute preparation (read: thinking) as I drive east. But first, since I need to go over the mountains to get there, I need to go buy chains for the car (a legal requirement, and probably a good idea as well). It will be a packed weekend with a service tonight, adult ed and a class for children tomorrow morning, a social get together tomorrow night, followed by some discussion about how one creates a congregation on Sunday morning. It seems like a great group, and I’m really looking forward to my visit.

In the middle of all this, I’ve also been trying to help a friend who found herself in a scary legal situation and scarily short of resources.

It’s all going well, and it’s all good stuff (except for the friend needing help), but I’m running hard doing life and not finding much time for blogging it. Hopefully I’ll have more next week.

Anniversaries: You’re Doing it Wrong

Tomorrow is Eva and my wedding anniversary. In what is a remarkably common experience for us, we are spending it apart from one another. Eva’s already in Boston, and I’m getting on a plane tomorrow, not to arrive until 12:15 AM the following day.

If nothing else happens, this will go down as a “so-so” anniversary for us. Much better than some others.

On our first anniversary, we watch election returns and learned the concept of a “hanging chad.” We of course didn’t get the results of the 2000 election for many weeks, but eventually, it brought in George W. And it happened on our first anniversary.

During our second anniversary, Eva went to New York to spend time with a dying friend.

During our fifth anniversary, we went to New York together, went to see a great show, came back to the hotel, only to discover that the person staying with our cats had given one of them an entire syringe of topical narcotic pain killer rather than the tiny amount out of the syringe which she was supposed to. We then spent several hours wondering whether this was going to kill our already very  sick cat (it didn’t).

There was the anniversary that we spent apart because I was helping my grandparents move from their home of 54 years to an assisted living facility. That wasn’t such a bad day, but again, not together.

Eva and I have come to the conclusion that it’s okay that our anniversaries tend not be great. We also feel this way about valentines day. Our thought is that given that we tend to do really well the other 363, we can take a pass on those two.

I love you Eva.

A New Hope

I am overflowing this morning. I am filled with a sense of gratitude and wonder. I am filled by a sense of hope. I am filled by a sense of patriotism which I have not felt in a long time.

The election of Barrack Obama yesterday is not does not simply signify a move away from Republican policies and attitudes (though it does signify that as well), but marks a new era for America. Not because Barrack is an African-American, but because he, like another president, almost 50 years ago, represents a bright new face on the scene, a new attitude and a new vision. 

Barrack Obama truly seems to be coming from a less partisan place. He is not of the Democratic Party establishment as Hilary would have been. He has spent only 4 years in congress. He brings with him less baggage, more hope. 

I am filled this morning with the hope that our country will begin to heal from the vicious bifurcation we have suffered at the hands of our political leaders over the past decades. I am filled with a hope that we have elected president a person who will lead us past the petty differences that divide us, and help us to see the deep connections which bind us together as one country, one people.

I am filled with a new sense of possibility, that perhaps the age of American relevance is not quite at an end. I begin to hope that this economic downturn perhaps will not be seen as the beginning of the fall of the American Empire, but maybe even the start of a new golden age of peace and sustainability (note: I did not say “peace and prosperity”). I am filled this morning with the hope that we will be able to move forward as a country rather than endlessly running around in circles. 

This morning, I believe that a new age may be dawning for us. We will have a president who is a pleaure to listen to, whether or not we agree with his ideas. Once again, rhetoric, in the best possible sense, will be a part of public discourse. 

This morning feels like it belongs to a different world than did yesterday morning, and it feels like a better world.