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Random Field Notes
Copyright 2004-2009
by Michael_Brochstein

(a work in progress)

Below are various random thoughts on various topics.

Some Words and Phrases That I’ve Used
In the Palouse: One Difference between Washington and Idaho?
Stealth Mosquitoes in Hawaii
Current Location of Parents
Postcards from Auschwitz
Driving on Poland's Main Highways

Feedback / Questions



Some words and phrases that I’ve used in recent years. While I think I may have been the first to use these, I am not claiming that I am sure whether I was indeed the first (although that may be).  In any case, I think they are useful and should enter mainstream usage where appropriate. (August 2008)

social carnivore – This refers to someone who generally only eats meat or poultry in a formal social setting where it is being served (i.e. at a formal gathering or when the person is a guest where it is being served) as they themselves do not generally make meals for themselves with it or typically order it when on their own in a restaurant.  A social carnivore may go a multiple of months between times that they eat meat or poultry or they might eat it more than once in a given week. In general their diet is (very) largely vegetarian.  I’ve been using this phrase for many years. 

tenure track relationship / romance / dating – a romantic relationship with someone that is conducted with the expectation that if things go well then it will lead to a permanent union (i.e. marriage or formal domestic partnership). 

pasook tossing / mining / harvesting – This one is a little more esoteric. A pasook (a Hebrew word pronounced pa-sook) is a sentence or verse from a biblical (or similar) religious source.  There is typically always at least one sentence or phrase in most core religious texts that one can be found to give credence to almost any point of view. One can typically also find pasookim (the plural of pasook in Hebrew, pronounced pa-sook-eem) from the same source that are can be used to prove diametrically opposed points of view.  The selective mining or harvesting of pasookim and the tossing of them at an audience can be done to prove almost anything.

shnorcation (alternatively shnor-cation) – a vacation where someone stays at another’s place without being charged a fee (also known as a houseguest) and ends up not paying for their room, possibly also not paying for any or all of their food and maybe also getting free access to a car and other amenities.  Can turn out to be less expensive than a staycation. The term is a combination of the Yiddish word schnorer ('beggars; spongers, moochers, parasites") and the English language word vacation.  (shnorcation added August 2009)

In the Palouse: One Difference between Washington and Idaho? - The Palouse is a region of southeastern Washington state and neighboring Idaho. It is primarily a rural farming area that grows wheat, barley and canola – lots and lots of it! It is also classic small town America in many very nice ways. As such, one can find plenty of signs and billboards around the area in support of the local high school sports teams. In a week in June 2007 traveling around the area I saw many of these signs. The ones in Washington state cheered on teams with names such as the “Cougars” and the “Wildcats”. On the one day I spent in Idaho, I only spotted signs for one team, the “Vandals”. Hmmm,… (August 2007)

Stealth Mosquitoes in Hawaii - Recently I was fortunate to spend a few days on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. It was the fourth island in Hawaii I was touring during this trip (I had already been on Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui).  In the first three islands I had noticed a distinct lack of mosquitoes. They may have been there but in the days I spent on these islands hiking and touring around I had not encountered any. The island of Kauai, while not at all infested with mosquitoes, definitely had some.  What was unique in my experience about these mosquitoes was the fact that they did not buzz and therefore I had no warning that they were near me until I felt the sting of their bites. Fortunately, the total number of mosquitoes and bites that I experienced was modest and the bites were no worse than typical mosquito bites. (January 2006)

Current Location of Parents - On an online matchmaking website (Saw You at Sinai) that specializes in matching up Jewish people everyone has a "profile" where, as on every online dating website, one posts answers to questions that the website requires you to answer.  Profile questions typically include general demographic information (i.e. age, education, and location) as well as many others. On this site there was a question that I had never seen before, "Current location of parents".  The site didn't ask if they were dead or alive, just where they were.  I answered (truthfully) "underground". (March 2005)

Postcards from Auschwitz - In August 2004 I visited the World War II concentration camps in Poland at Majdenak and Auschwitz/Birkenau.  In each of these camps there were souvenir stands which sold books, videos, and other items relating to the camps as well as postcards.  The postcards were straightforward and I studied them for a while. To whom does one send a postcard from these places?  What does one write on them? "Greetings from Poland", "Having a nice time" or "Wish you were here" didn't seem appropriate. There is nothing wrong with selling postcards at these places and serious thoughts can be appropriately conveyed using them. None occurred to me at the time and I decided to pass on them. (August 2004)

Driving on Poland's Main Highways - The main roads in Poland that connect the major cities are well maintained with good condition road surfaces, lane markings and decent directional signage (the Michelin map for Poland was very helpful in navigating them in August 2004). They also only have one marked lane in each direction and driving on them reminded me of a video game where one tracks a multiple of targets or enemies at once and has to respond to them, sometimes all at once. 

All traffic going in each direction must share the one marked lane (as well as a shoulder when it exists).  This includes everything from a farm cart drawn by a horse to a large truck. There is no lack of traffic on these roads.  The shoulders are used by bicyclists, pedestrians (no sidewalks), slow farm equipment and also horse drawn carts.  In many sections the average speed varies between 45 and 65 miles per hour, sometimes higher. 

When someone behind you wishes to pass they will expect you to move slightly over to the right into the shoulder area, while maintaining your speed so that they can squeeze by if the oncoming traffic doesn't allow them to pass otherwise. Since you can be following a large vehicle, your vision into the shoulder can be obscured and one can't see far ahead to be 100% sure that there are no obstructions (people, bicyclists, horse drawn carts,...) in the shoulder area ahead.  Similarly one can find an oncoming car in your lane coming at you.  The passing driver coming at you assumes that you will, at speed, move over to driving in the shoulder to accommodate their passing attempt. 

In short you must be paying careful attention to the cars behind you, cars ahead of you going in the same direction, cars coming at you (in your lane!), and what is in the shoulder area ahead of you (and whether the shoulder area ends shortly).  Driving on Poland's main highways is a full attention program, don't let your eyes or mind stray! (August 2004)


Feedback / Questions

Please feel free to email Michael Brochstein with any comments, suggestions and/or questions.

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