Thursday, April 19, 2007

On community and car repair

So the insurance folks sent along a new windshield, and a person to install it, since the Very Large Crack keeps expanding and I was beginning to worry that it would make it all the way across the windshield and join up with the Sizeable Chip and the whole thing would end up in my lap. Which would be bad. And this nice guy from the auto glass place wanders in to the library, confuses them all by asking for me by my first name (which of course no one recognizes), and finally gets sent back to me and we wander out to my poor battered car. The first thing he does when I unlock it is not say "what is this, a baby Ford?" He does not announce that he prefers American cars or ask how much it can tow 'cause it's kind of small. (And yes, all of these are standard reactions to a Subaru around here.) What does he do? He asks if I'm Jewish. Why? Because not only does he recognize the magen david on the little thingy on the dashboard, but he knows what the little thingy is. Yup, this poor guy has gotten sent to the middle of nowhere in the wilds of South Carolina, and the person he's meeting is...another Jew. Instant bonding.

Turns out his mother is going to Israel in the fall (I'm jealous). And although he has never seen a car mezuzah before he thinks it's pretty cool. Bet I know what his mom is getting for Mother's Day.

It fascinates me that Jews can meet, have never seen each other and have nothing in common, but the very fact that we're Jews makes us sort of friends without having to know anything else. We may even discover that we despise each others' politics or morals or child-rearing philosophies. We may be on completely opposite ends of the observance spectrum. But since we're both Jews we're still somehow allies, if not actually friends. Technically, I'm not actually Jewish yet. But since I will be eventually, I'm sort of loosely bundled into the "Jewishish" catagory and included under that "more friend than foe" heading.

David Plotz over at Slate has been blogging the Bible, or more accurately the Torah, for a while now. Sometimes I find what he's reading and what he has to say about it fascinating. Sometimes, of course, it bores me stiff. (Turns out I have no patience for Job, and that I think certain prophets need a good smack.) But today he was blogging about Ruth. He mentions the fact that people, especially women, have a "fierce loyalty" to the book of Ruth. They love the story. He thinks that for some it's because the story shows how observance of laws can bring good things, and for most because it's just a feel-good kind of story. I emailed him to point out that there's another reason. There are an awful lot of Jews who think that because I am a convert I will never be a real Jew. I will never be anything other than a ger, a stranger. I will never be good enough, always be less than part of their community, always be under suspicion. But when Ruth marries Boaz there isn't any howling about the fact that he's marrying a shiksa. Instead, the community welcomes her warmly and completely, delighted that an obviously respected leader has found a good woman. I may never get that kind of welcome from the community I am working to join. (I may never be half the Jew that Ruth was, either.) But I have chosen to take their people as my people, and their Gd as my Gd. And the kind of homecoming that the Jews in the book of Ruth provide is the kind that I, as a convert, would like mine to be.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hey, peeps!

I got an email from G this morning, with links to assorted (relatively) serious attempts to do research on the habits and physical characteristics of marshmallow peeps.

This one is the classic, of course:

Then there is the proof of what happens when librarians get sugar-high around this time of year:

And for the do-it-yourselfers in the crowd:

All of which begs the question. Who the heck came up with the idea of peeps, anyway? I mean, I love the things, but really. Would it have occurred to me to make little marshmallow blobs that look vaguely like chicks, cover them in scary neon sugar, and market them to the masses? Not hardly. So, being the proud possessor of bonafide whiz-bang research skills, I wandered over to the Just Born site, which is almost as alarmingly colored as the peeps themselves, in search of the answers. According to their company history, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company in 1953. And it was Rodda Co. that made marshmallow chicks first. No one, however, including those intrepid reporters over at Slate, has been able to figure out why the folks at Rodda started making peeps in the first place.

Yet another thing to contemplate while in one of those long and unproductive meetings.

(And, in vaguely related news, today's winner of the "there's a contradiction in there somewhere" award is Just Born's newest product, Hot Tamales Ice.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Talking Points

Over on the LOCI boards we've been having this discussion about voices. Got me thinking about how few people pay attention to the pitch of their voices - or anyone else's. Sure, people (most people) tend to worry about volume. Bellowing is generally considered rude in the library, for example. But it turns out, based on our conversation, that people have no idea how their pitch affects their voices. Now, anyone who has done a lot of performing will tell you that higher pitches carry further than lower ones. (Yet another reason why being a soprano is more fun.) But this holds true in normal conversation too, which people don't seem to realize. And then there is something that people who work with animals know - lower pitches tend to convey displeasure, and higher ones excitement or happiness.

So in light of all this, I have been roaming around the libraries listening to people talk. I find it fascinating that there are people out there who do high pitched shrieking when attempting to calm their children, or drop their pitch along with their volume and then wonder why no one can hear them. And I have also been having fun listening to accents and weird speech patterns. Because of course I don't have one, being from Connecticut - but everyone else does. (Do you know, someone actually told me a few days ago that he visited Connecticut once, and "no one up there has any accent at all!" He seemed very excited about this. I'm not sure where he went, though, because I can usually tell where in CT someone is from by how they say certain words.)