Does this mean I have to like those stupid commercials?

Last week, I officially joined the 21st century.

After fighting for hours to get a decent mix on the antiquated MP3 player that I take with me to the gym, I gave up. I sold my soul to Apple. Yes. I bought an IPod. But in my spending frenzy, I didn't buy just any IPod. Nope. I bought the crem-de-la-crem of IPods, the 60 gigabyte black monster that I now refer to as my toy.

And, as you might expect, I had to tack on the service plan, the case/armband/clip, and now I'm itching for the car radio adapter.

How could this happen you ask? Well, after looking for an alternative to my crappy MP3 player for months, I decided that if so many people have IPods, there must be something good about them. And, hell, the 30 gigabyte model was only $100 less, so if you're going to buy, why not get as much storage as you can for that price?

Little did I realize that as far as digital music is concerned, 60 gigabytes is pretty much a bottomless pit.

Initially, I was concerned how much my 60 gigabytes was going to last. Like most people, I have a pretty thorough CD collection. At the risk of dating myself, I have a few tapes from the ol' days, but for the most part have CD's. So, I began loading CDs onto my IPod.

At first, I was a little wary. After all, I wanted to be sure I had the "good songs." So I pulled the two to four decent singles off of most CDs and ignored the rest of the crap.

However, after loading a plethora of CDs, I quickly realized that the songs were taking very little space. Needless to say, I became a bit less discriminatory at that point.

I also realized just how many songs I own that are crap.

Record company bastards.

Anyway, three three-hour sessions later, after loading my entire CD collection, I discovered the wonder that is podcasting. I subscribed to podcasts faster than the President can pass the buck. I loaded every podcast I could find on every subject I could find that I thought I might, someday, be interested in. I looked at the capacity, figuring, surely I had made a dent in this little bit of black covered goodness.

Nope. Not a dent. Less than 4 gigabytes used.

When they say 15,000 songs, they mean 15,000 songs.

No wonder Apple is killing the MP3 market.

Of course, I couldn't sell out completely. I still use my black earphone rather than the uncomfortable white ones that came with the lifelong jukebox.

For my next adventure, I think I'm going to test my new toy's video capabilities...


...who brought you forth from the House of Bondage.

Last night was the second night of Passover, which for Jews is the holiday that celebrates our exodus from slavery in Egypt. The holiday involves a lot of unique customs to make the night different from all other nights and to teach children the importance of remembering that we were once slaves, but now we are free.

We have a number of customs in my house, such as cups that we only use on Passover (which were gifts from family friends), we give our guests Matzah bags for use in their own houses, and have cute ways (including visual aids) to recite the ten plagues that G-d inflicted on the Egyptians to persuade the pharaoh to let the Israelites escape bondage and leave Egypt. If you don't want to read the story (which is in Exodus), you can watch The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt and you'll get the gist.

While I love the classic story from the holiday, as I've gotten older, what I think about the holiday has developed. And no theme is more significant on Passover than the affliction of slavery. Almost everything during the holiday is a symbol to remind us that we were once slaves and now we are free.

When I was younger, I was under the incorrect impression that slavery had been abolished. Certainly, I was aware that the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude and I wasn't aware of organized slavery anywhere else.

As I've gotten older, I've realized how naive this was.

The fact is that there are women and children every day who are sold into sexual slavery and sexually exploited throughout the world. This practice is rampant and has been referred to as human trafficking. One woman's story was recently featured on PBS's investigative show, Frontline.

Katia lived with her husband, Viorel, and her son in Moldova. Moldova is one of the poorest nations in the former Soviet bloc. In order to find work to make money for her family (work such as maid work or other unskilled labor), Katia went with an acquaintance, Vlad, to Odessa in Ukraine. There, unknowingly, Vlad sold her for $1000 US to a slave trader, Angela. Katia, obviously was not told that this was why she was placed on a ship with a number of other women or why her money and passport were given to the slave trader for "safekeeping."

Nevertheless, Katia was taken to Turkey, with these other women, each of whom were sold to a "pimp." Katia was sold to a pimp with a ruthless reputation, Apo. Apo's wife, Tanya, told Katia that she would work as a prostitute for Apo. Katia was given some water and in about 15 to 20 minutes started hallucinating. At that moment Tanya explained to her that they bought her to have sex with their clients. When Katia started to resist, Tanya told her, "You're not the first. We already had girls like you. Those girls that didn't want to do it at first, work and enjoy it now." Katia told her, "If you like to f*** Turkish men, then you f*** them." Tanya slapped Katia and left.

This was the beginning of Katia's attempts to resist, which led Apo to "break" her. Katia was incessantly beaten and raped until she would no longer offer resistance.

Katia was then locked away and forced to service at least two "clients" a day. Katia, like may of these women, was told that she would have to "work off" her "debt" to her pimp. However, for each client, the women are paid almost nothing, the vast lion's share going to their pimp. And if there are any problems, such as a complaint from a client, the woman's debt is "increased," or the woman is sold to another pimp and given a new "debt," placing these women in a unending cycle of exploitation.

Katia's husband, Viorel, persuaded Vlad to give him any leads that would help him find Katia. Viorel traveled to Turkey, followed leads, and attempted to gain the trust of Tanya and Apo in order to find Katia. Viorel's attempts to have the Turkish police aid him either led to a series of problems or went without a response.

Ultimately, because Viorel sought Katia so intently, Apo and Tanya were concerned that Katia was more trouble than she was worth and let Katia go. They gave her $20, dropped her off at the airport, and sent her back to Moldova. Katia walked to her home and showed up on her doorstep where Viorel found her.

Katia, however, was in the first trimester of a pregnancy when Vlad sold her into slavery. After her ordeal, Katia's pregnancy miscarried.

For selling Katia into slavery, Vlad received a suspended sentence and was placed on probation.

Sadly, Katia's story is as happy an ending as these stories get. According to the US State Department, 700,000 to 2 million people, the majority of them women and children, are trafficked each year across international borders. Thirty-five percent are under the age of 18. Most women and children who are sold are never heard from again. They are stolen from former Soviet republics, India, or other poor countries and spend their lives in Turkey, Japan, UAE, Israel, or any of a number of other countries doing nothing but servicing clients.

They are slaves, plain and simple.

And, for that reason, Passover must serve as a reminder not only that my people were delivered from slavery, but that too many people are not.

To learn more about Human Trafficking, go here or here or here.
To learn more about Katia's story, go to this Frontline website.


You can't get it from my keyboard, right?

I've been meaning to post for a while, but last Wednesday, at work, my eye really started to itch, so I began rubbing it. And rubbing it. And rubbing it.

I thought I might have something in my eye, so I went to the bathroom and began washing it out. Figuring that I just scratched my cornea, I was sure I'd be fine in a few hours. Those hours came and went, and I said to myself, surely, all I need to do is go to sleep and I'll be fine when I wake up. The cornea is one of the fastest parts of the body to heal, so all will be good.

When I woke up Thursday, my eye was as unpleasant as the day before and there was a white filmy substance in it. (For you, no detail is too small. Or gross. One of the two. Definitely.) I figured I'd see what happened over the next few hours and, then, if things weren't clearing up, I'd consider going to the doctor. I realize that most people would have taken this as a clue to go to the doctor, but I'm a guy. And if there's one way I fit the stereotype, it's that I avoid going to the doctor until absolutely necessary.

At around 11 a.m., while I was reviewing a deposition, I realized I couldn't actually read it. The time had come. I called and made an appointment with the doctor for later that afternoon.

To make a long story short...ok, shorter...I was diagnosed with Viral Conjunctivitis, also known as "pink eye." While more an annoyance than anything else, I'm pretty sure this is one of the more disgusting afflictions placed upon homo sapiens. The virus is highly contagious (which meant no work on Thursday or Friday) and is spread through contact with tears (which get on hands and then make there way to other people). Probably the cutest part of the virus is that it can spread from one to both eyes and seal them shut. Thankfully, I didn't have that experience.

One of the other "side effects" is reading becomes pretty much impossible. So, no posts. No work and no posts. I guess you've got to take the bad with the good.

Nonetheless, I've been home since Thursday, afraid to contaminate others with this rather nasty little bug.

Oh well, break's over. Work starts again tomorrow.

P.S. I'm hoping to put up a Passover post in the next few days. Unfortunately, the subject of the post has been preempted by the fine folks over at Jewlicious, but I'm going to post it anyway.