Friday, March 30, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you...Pini and Dudu!

Shabbat Shalom, chaverim! It's been an amazing week here in Nahariya, and things just got even better yesterday. But to go back a few days, Sunday was a very special day in that our Ulpan made a field trip to Yad Vashem and the Kotel (the Western, or "Wailing" Wall) in Jerusalem. I duly brought my camera with me, only to find out that as soon as I turned it on, the batteries died. I was unable to find any lithium batteries, and the AA batteries Elul bought at a rest stop along the way didn't do the trick. Naturally, I was kicking myself for not having backup batteries. On the other hand, when we bought the batteries LAST MONTH, we were assured by the salesman that these batteries would last for six months. As Israelis say, "oy va voy!"

However, not being able to take pictures actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to experience Yad Vashem completely as a first-time visitor, without having to divide my attention by looking for suitable photo opportunities at the same time. Yad Vashem is everything you've ever heard said about it. It's elegant, it's profound, it's extraordinary, it's deeply moving, and it's very powerful. We only had two hours, which wasn't long enough to see it all. At the same time, a two-hour visit was just about right, since the depths of emotion experienced can be exhausting. I felt sadness, anger, confusion, pride, resignation, and hope--one emotion rolling on to another emotion and then another, moving at a dizzying rate. We plan to go back again, just Elul and me, after Ulpan finishes.

After Yad Vashem, we went to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. We had some time to eat our sandwiches in a lovely square, and fortunately the weather was beautiful. Since we plan to be holding a religious service in our home in a couple of weeks, we also needed to buy a kiddush set that was more suitable for groups. After some looking around, we found a lovely one. We had a choice between choosing a set with scenes of Jerusalem on it, or one with just simple bunches of grapes, i.e. the "fruit of the vine." Since we love Jerusalem but make our home in Nahariya, we chose the grapes as a matter of civic pride. Judging by our gloating over Nahariya's basketball team's recent thrashing of Haifa, it appears we've already been thoroughly "municipalized."

We're very "grapeful" to be living in Nahariya.

Speaking of ingestibles (kiddush wine, not basketballs), I want to mention how happy I am that readers of this blog are so much better informed than I am. I got two email responses last week regarding my bafflement over the absence of food that, to my uneducated eye, had nothing to do with yeast, or leaven, or wheat, or anything like that. One reader, who by (her?) own choice shall remain anonymous, commented directly on this blog. (You can read her comment by going to last week's post and scrolling to the bottom of the page, where the comments start.) Another reader, who actually is a fellow congregant of our (former) temple in Las Vegas, gave me a full rundown on the machinations of stores trying to be "Kosher for Pesach." Here's a (very slightly edited) excerpt:

"I think I know the answer to your oatmeal question. "Kitniot," (which comes from the word "katan") or "little things," can be not-kashrut-for-Pesach too. Anything little and sold in bulk...beans, rice, oatmeal, etc. is often removed from shops because of possible cross -contamination. Say somebody was scooping out flour next to your oatmeal. Specks of wheat could theoretically fly up in the air and land in your oatmeal bin, technically making your oatmeal chametz too. So in order not to take that chance, the "kitniot," or "little things" in bulk are removed, too. Which means, kiss your bulk oatmeal goodbye until April 15.

"Snickers in the U.S. have corn syrup in them, so they're not kashrut-for-Pesach here. If Mars Incorporated made an all-sugar version for Passover, they'd be allowed, but if they don't change the recipe for Israel (and stick to the worldwide same-old same-old), then Snickers will get the boot until April 15, too.

"Like Coke here during Pesach at the kosher Smith's [a chain of grocery stores] in Summerlin [a Vegas neighborhood]. Year-round, it's sweetened with corn syrup. When Pesach rolls around, it gets a kosher for Passover cap, and they change the recipe slightly and sweeten it only with sugar, so Jews can continue to drink it. Corn syrup is a no-no, which sucks, because it's in everything here...salad dressings, sodas, syrups, jellies, candy bars. Ugh. You never realize how many things contain corn syrup until you start cleaning the house for Passover. It's everywhere."

So now I know, and you do, too. Thank you, reader! Getting back to our trip, after lunch we visited the Kotel. It is always a very moving experience, and this time was no exception. The first time I visited the Wall, I was so excited that I forgot to bring pen and paper to write out a prayer and leave it in one of the chinks in the wall. This time, I didn't forget. I put two requests of G-d on my piece of paper. The first request is a secret, but I'm happy to share what my second request was, which was "Two kittens, please!" And darned if we didn't get Pini and Dudu within 72 hours of me saying that prayer!

It turned out that one of the Ulpan chaperones for our trip was a lovely lady named Aviva, who actually manages four different Ulpans in the region. Our teacher Yael couldn't make it, so Aviva stepped in for her. Sitting outside Yad Vashem, while we were waiting for other students to return, I started talking about cats and how long we'd been looking for two kittens. Aviva replied, "oh, that's not a problem at all. My next-door neighbor runs a cat rescue organization and she has many, many kittens she needs to find homes for." We exchanged phone numbers, and the next day ran out and bought kitty supplies. On Wednesday afternoon we took a sherut (a kind of collective taxi that runs along fixed routes) to Kiryat Biyalik, where Aviva lived.

Kitting out the nursery. Babies on board!

Since we were so excited, we arrived early--about an hour before the lady with the cats was to return home from work. We spent a pleasant time with Aviva and her husband, who runs a thriving eBay business importing electronics. Aviva had just finished cleaning her house for Pesach, so she apologized for not having any cakes or cookies in the house. That wasn't a problem at all--on the way to her house I'd stopped into a little convenience store and picked up a couple of coveted Snickers bars. But eventually, it was time to go and get the cats. The exterior of the building was modest, but the apartment inside was full of love--and animals. There must have been a dozen cats, three dogs, a tankful of fish, and a parrot!

Lots of animals mean lots of cleanup--and laundry to go with it.

We were shown to the room that had the kittens...caged for their own protection, given the number of dogs, older cats, and the pitbull puppy in the apartment. And that's where we found Pini and Dudu.

Hey, warden! Where's my library book?

Pini (a boy, who is black and white) and Dudu (a girl, who is black with flecks of orange) are both weaned, but just barely. They can eat dry food if it's moistened, but prefer wet food. Dudu seems to be the runt of the her litter, as her legs are very spindly and her neck is pretty scrawny. We suspect she was probably competing for food--and not winning--most of the time.

Very good things can come in very small packages, like this little Dudu, tucked into Elul's arm.
We completed the very few formalities, and, using a cat carrier borrowed from Aviva, took the sherut back to Nahariya. The kittens were mostly quiet. However, they were also quite smelly to begin with, and one of them made the carrier (and thus the sherut) even smellier along the way. I'd deliberately brought one of my white t-shirts that I'd exercised in that morning, and put it in the carrier so they could get used to my smell on the way home. Let's just say I won't be wearing that t-shirt anymore!

After a long day, everyone was tired from over-excitement. We all got a good night's sleep, and the next morning, Elul shot Pini and Dudu's first screen test, complete with footage of them eating their first (vet-approved formula) breakfast. So here it is. And as usual, if you can't see the pictures I'm referring to, or the YouTube video clip below, please go directly to the website at

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you...Pini and Dudu!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kosher Clean-Up

Shalom, chaverim! I hope you all had (or are still having) a peaceful Shabbat. I'm posting this after sundown on Saturday, but it may still be Shabbat where you are, thanks to the time zone differences. It's been a lively week here in Nahariya, and it's about to get even more lively. Tomorrow we are off on another Ulpan field trip (our last, I believe). This time it will be to Jerusalem, where we will be visiting the Kotel (aka The Western Wall) and Yad Vashem, Israel's largest museum dedicated to the Holocaust. While Elul and I have visited the Kotel before, this will be our first trip to the museum. Everyone I've ever talked to says Yad Vashem is both fascinating and deeply moving, so I expect to react in the same way. The recent, dreadful murders in Toulouse, France, are a sharp reminder of the continual threat posed by anti-Semites and those opposed to the existence of Israel.

Hebrew lessons in Ulpan proceed apace. Honestly, I'm looking forward to the seventeen (!) day break for Pesach (Passover), which begins at the end of this week. I am so stuffed with Hebrew grammar and vocabulary that I now suffer from mental indigestion and verbal constipation. Still, there are plenty of funny moments in class, usually when some normal Hebrew word means something entirely different in English or Russian. Last week, gales of laughter erupted from the Russian contingent, when our teacher introduced the word for "post-dated check," in a discussion about banking and apartment leases. Phonetically, it came out as "check-dahooey." "Dahooey" is a funny-enough sounding word on its own for English speakers, but it also happens to be an extremely nasty word in Russian for an adult man's male organ!

Speaking of Pesach, we've noticed that the stores seem to be clearing away all sorts of things that aren't considered kosher for Pesach. On the one hand, it's a good time for us to stock up on all sorts of baking ingredients that are good for gluten-free cooking, like potato flour, corn starch, and so on. On the other hand, the store where we get our oatmeal in bulk isn't carrying any oatmeal until after Pesach.

Benny's Spice Store. Notice the obvious absence of oatmeal and Benny's (in green apron) stalwart refusal to stock it. The poor woman doesn't have a chance to get oatmeal and has turned her head away in despair, as a shop assistant attempts to calm her.
Furthermore, the candy shop where we get our Snickers bars won't have anymore bars until after Pesach, either. Oy, vey iz mir! Learned readers who are familiar with the intricacies of kashruth for Pesach, please comment and explain to me why poor old oatmeal and Snickers bars can't make the cut of being kosher for Passover.

Despite its festive and welcoming entrance, this candy shop has determinedly banned Snickers for Pesach.
Still, as man shall not live by Snickers alone, there are plenty of other options in Nahariya for dining choices. I was particularly attracted by the sign of my hairdresser, Eitan. Not only does he do hair, but his sign makes you think you'll be fed, too.

Hair. It's what's for supper.
 And then there are the signs that read like zen koans, i.e. "what is the sound of one hand clapping?"

The paradoxical nature of motion. Get your quantum mechanics and ciggies at one convenient location!
Finally, just in case you happened to forget about the strong Russian influence in Israel, here's a selection of vodkas to remind you.

Kremlin, Pravda, Nikita and Boom vodkas. One thing leads to another, capitalist lackeys! But first, let's raise a glass to our Israeli comrades in the spirit of international fellowship and cooperation.
Shabbat shalom, chaverim! And remember, if the images I'm talking about don't show up, go directly to my blog at .

P.S. Despite my promises to post pictures of the Purim party we attended (all alliteration aside), I must confess that when it actually came down to it, we had an acute attack of the middle-aged lame-o's. The party didn't start until 9 p.m., and that meant the party would be going on far too long past our bedtime. We declined at the last minute and have comforted ourselves by looking at Facebook pictures of the party, and by all reports, it was the best party the kibbutz had had in the last five years. To post pictures here, of a party we didn't even attend, would be even more lame. So I won't.

P.P.S. I've gotten a few responses to my "readers, please identify this strange animal" from last week's post. A man from New Mexico says it's one thing, a man from Nahariya says it's another, and a man from Las Vegas says it's something else entirely. Still, if you all email me your postal addresses, I will send you a postcard with a real Israeli stamp on it (!) to say thanks for trying to help. The mystery deepens!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sound the Trumpeldor!

Shalom, chaverim! All's well here in ever-increasingly sunny Nahariya. I even moved my long underwear into a not-so-easily accessible drawer, which says a great deal about my hope about the future. Who cares whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full, when you can really make a statement with a shift of your lingerie?

It's been a little hectic lately, what with Purim being a four-day national party and all.  And if giving new immigrants five months of free Hebrew language classes wasn't enough, last week Ulpan Nahariya also laid on a free field trip for us. Becoming a fully integrated Israeli citizen involves not only learning Hebrew, but also learning about Israeli history and culture.  As it happened, a couple of days before the Purim break was the yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of Joseph Trumpeldor, a national hero.

We started our journey in style. Only seventeen of us were on this very swish bus!

Our field trip took us to Tel Hai, way up high in the Upper Galilee, right next to the Lebanese border but much further north than Nahariya. Tel Hai is a kind of little place--not actually a town in and of itself, but rather a national monument very close to the Tel Hai Academic college. Its most prominent reason for being is that it marks the graves of "The Eight,"--eight Jews, including Trumpeldor, who died in 1920 in a skirmish with unfriendly neighbors. (You can read all about this brave, intelligent, handsome one-armed hero on this link to Wikipedia).Trumpeldor is considered a national hero by Israelis, not the least because his last words were "Never mind, it is good to die for our country."

The Hulah valley surrounding Tel Hai and part of the mountain range near Mt. Hermon. Views like this support Trumpeldor's thesis nicely.

Our journey to Tel Hai was beautiful, taking winding roads first east, then north. We passed Shlomit, the village from whence Elul and I procure our eggs from Rodika, a lady in our Ulpan. Gradually working our way up in altitude to "the finger of the Galilee", and close to our destination, we stopped for a break just outside Kiryat Shmona, the "City of the Eight." Kiryat Shmona is a lovely little town of about 23,000 people, and has light industry, agricultural production and tourism as its economic base. Elul and I immediately decided that once Ulpan is over, we will be back for a longer visit.

View from the rest stop parking lot. After what felt like months of rain, I took pictures of every bit of blue sky around.

I wasn't the only one on the trip taking pictures. Here's a shot of one of my classmates, a young man from Ethiopia, who was taking the same picture at the same time as me.

Bekkele carefully concentrates on his shot. I bet HE didn't have any fuzzy images!
Speaking of photography, I also got well and truly bitten by the camera bug. Until I started this blog, I never gave two hoots about cameras or photography, other than appreciating other photographers' work. (I named my last cat Man Ray, for example.) But that's all changed now, and for the first time, I found myself with a serious case of "camera envy." A Russian lady in my Ulpan had a very sharp-looking Canon camera, not only with a giant lens but also an eyepiece. These digital cameras are great for some things, but they're rubbish if you're trying to shoot something in bright sunlight and you can't even see what's on your screen because of the glare.

Fortunately, my birthday came along at just the right time, and Elul paid careful attention to my grousing. I won't have a camera quite as fancy as my classmate's camera, but I will soon be getting a very nice one. It's now winging its way to my mother's house, where she will pack it up and send it to me without the insane shipping charges merchants always seem to want to charge when Israel is involved. (Thanks, Mom!)

After coffees, snacks, toilet runs and stretching of legs, we clambered back onto the bus and proceeded to Tel Hai. We got to the seating area for the memorial ceremony while the players--mainly soldiers, students and politicians--were still milling around. Some were practicing laying the wreaths to honor each of the eight.

Practice makes perfect. Soldier and VIP do a test run of wreath-laying in front of impressive leonine grave marker.
It was a very beautiful ceremony. The mayor of Kiryat Shmona was there, and the master of ceremonies was someone who apparently is a major bigshot in the world of Hebrew linguistics. Our Ulpan teachers, Yael and Gallit, were thrilled to see him there. Gallit had already gone up to talk to him, but I insisted Yael go talk to him too, so she could have a picture of herself with him.

Ulpan teachers extraordinaire Yael and Gallit, with Mr. Big. Score!

There was another speaker who apparently was an even bigger shot, so to speak. So much so that he had his own security guards following him everywhere he went. I was going to post a picture of him with his guards, but thought better of it. I don't want those guys knocking on my door, asking questions about why I published photos of Israeli Secret Service-type guys on the internet!

Not a picture of Israeli honcho with Secret Service bodyguards.
As a newly-minted Israeli citizen, it was particularly gratifying to see a row of Israeli flags, flying against the backdrop of a clear blue sky.

Er..the clear blue sky is above the trees, anyway!

And of course, no Israeli event would be complete without some group singing accompanied by a "playback machine."

It was a tough crowd, but these kids really rocked that ceremony!
When all was said and done, there were a lot of flags, a lot of speeches, a lot of songs, and a lot of wreaths. It was very tasteful, and I was particularly impressed by an outstanding cantor who alternated singing with spoken poetry. Of course, my Hebrew is still complete crap, so I could only catch a few words here and there. But the sentiment was true and heartfelt, not mawkish or cloying.

Soldier holds candle with which to light the flame of remembrance.

Afterwards, we visited the nearby museum and learned about the history of the area in more detail, including its involvement in agriculture and animal husbandry. But there was still time for a few more photographs.

Beautiful animals that look like a cross between a deer and a goat, with long curly horns. I'll send a postcard to anyone who can tell me the name of this species...because I sure as heck don't know what they are myself!

My classmates from the former USSR look unnervingly at ease posing on heavy artillery.
And that was that. We had a safe and happy trip home, and the next day it was back to packing our brains full of vocabulary and verb forms. Sigh.

Shabbat shalom, chaverim, and remember, if you can't see any of the photographs I've referred to here, go to directly.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Catus Interruptus, Birdus Correctus

Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim), chaverim! We have been busy getting caught up in Purim festivities here in Israel, which to our happy surprise is a much bigger deal here than it was in America. We are attending a Purim party tonight at Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra, which is just north of us on the Lebanese border. Once we have attended the party (and perhaps nursed our hangovers the next day), I will be sure to tell you all about it.

But as for the goings-on here recently, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that our hoped-for adoption of kittens Pini and Dudu Galoshes has been terminated. After waiting another week for the kittens to be socialized, I called the veterinarian to ask if the little ones were ready for their "forever home." He replied tersely that "the attempts to socialize these kittens were not successful." His wife and daughter had been patiently and ceaselessly working with them for more than two weeks, but they just didn't want to become indoor cats, period. And that was that.

However, all is not lost. As a proudly nosy neighbor, spying on neighborhood wildlife (complete with binoculars, from the comfort of my armchair), I can definitively say that "spring has sprung and the grass has riz." There are cats all over the place going into heat, and they don't mind doing it en plein air, so to speak.

The vet knows this, too. Just as I was trying to get my head around the fact that no, I wasn't going to become the proud mama of fluffy, black and grey, Pini and Dudu (and just before Purim, too!), he said that because so many cats were in season right now, he was certain he'd be overrun with kittens about two months from now.

Can I hold on until May? Of course I can, I suppose--there's really no other choice, since we want to adopt kittens who come into the world as an "oops!" rather than as a deliberately manufactured product. But I do trust in the grand scheme of things, and believe that the right cats will come to us at just the right time, i.e. precisely when we're not ready! The particular kittens I'd hoped for this week clearly have a different path in life. I hope they will find a kind family to adopt them as outdoor, semi-feral, non-reproducing cats. Feral cats not only spread disease and have a severe impact on wildlife, but they themselves generally have a rotten, short, and painful life.

Please, if you are involved with cats at all, not only love them and take care of them, but spay or neuter them, too. As for feral cats, please call a local rescue society and let them know where you've seen them. Cat rescue and fostering is not for everyone, of course, but it doesn't take too much to pick up the phone and reach someone who is.

Moving swiftly on to happier things, some time ago I wrote of my exploits as an "Armchair Ornithologist." I was pretty sure I'd wrongly identified several birds in that post, and, as it turns out, I was right--I had misidentified them!

Here is a part of Israeli birder Yoav Perlman's email to me after I made that post, with the pictures he's referring to:

"Hummingbird is in fact Palestine Sunbird. (Oops!) Completely unrelated to the American hummers, they are small passerines (one of our smallest), while hummers are closely related to swifts. They share the same evolutionary adaptation to feed on nectar. Sunbirds are widespread in Africa and Asia, and this is the sole species we get in Israel. The male is iridescent blue, while the female is gray - brown.
"Your sparrows are House Sparrows. (Not Yoav's picture of this petronus, shown above.) You get them in the US too (though they are non-native in the US).
"Crow is Hooded Crow. We have a few more species of crow in Israel but this is the commonest and most urban species. (Hah! I knew this bird was fashion-forward!)
"Pigeon is Domestic Pigeon, the domestic form of Rock Dove." (Yep. And still boring!)
And that, chaverim, is what separates the pros from the posing, wannabe, not-even-trying ornithologists like me. Again, if you've never had the good fortune to read his fascinating blog, "Yoav Perlman's Birding in Israel," check it out at While I continue to moan about getting up at 6:30 a.m. for Ulpan, this man is halfway to lunch at 5:00 a.m. and even seems happy about it. I guess I just see the lazy birds...
Finally, if the pictures I'm referring to aren't showing up in your email, go directly to my blog at .

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pay Attention in Class!

Shalom, chaverim! It's been a relatively quiet week in Nahariya, but one thing certainly caught our attention Tuesday morning at Ulpan. The night before had been very noisy, as there were a lot of fighter jets flying around Nahariya, so I hadn't gotten much sleep. Nahariya is less than ten miles south of the border with Lebanon, so there are plenty of military stations in the area. Hearing jets fly by, even those that are so fast that they create literally bone-chilling, building-shaking sonic booms, was nothing new. But there had been so many jets, flying around for so many hours, that it was definitely noticeable and disruptive. Was there something afoot?

So, somewhat bleary-eyed, I stumbled into Ulpan on Tuesday morning. We were laboriously copying down a long list of high-frequency verbs in the imperative form, e.g."Bo!" "Zuz!", which reminded me for some reason of Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago." Still, it was a welcome relief after spending two days learning the parts of the body, and practicing how to complain to the doctor about what hurts where. I am getting to an age where the power of suggestion of illness strangely seems to have more and more power over me.*

All of a sudden, sirens began wailing. Our teacher Galit, who is always our substitute teacher on Tuesdays, seemed very surprised indeed. She told us to leave our things in the classroom and get to the basement bomb shelter immediately. In this case, it appeared to also normally serve as a martial arts studio, albeit one with an extremely heavy, bank vault-type door. We high-tailed it out of there and got downstairs, and looked at each other in astonishment. Fortunately, when we had been in the shelter for less than three minutes,  the sirens stopped and we were given the all-clear. Back to the classroom we went. Apparently, the siren blast had been simply part of a training exercise that the public (or at least the staff of the Ulpan) didn't know about. At the time, we weren't sure if it was meant to be a kind of "pop quiz" in emergency preparedness, or if someone was just testing the sirens, or what. We found out the next day that it had indeed been a planned test, but for some reason none of the staff at Ulpan Nahariya had gotten the memo about it.

Although I have made a deliberate choice to avoid discussing Israeli and Middle Eastern politics in this blog, it does not mean, of course, that I don't talk about them at home or amongst friends. We don't know how, when, or even if the discord between Israel and Iran will be resolved, much less in what manner. The diversity of opinions expressed in the media seems to make things more confusing, not less. Will Israel make a pre-emptive strike against Iran? Will the United States become involved, and if so, how? Will Iran attempt to attack Israel in some way? What is actually going on? Everyone has an opinion, but no one really seems to know. But hearing those sirens, and not being prepared for them, certainly brought home the fact that for all of Israel's modernity and European and North American influences, we are indeed still smack dab in the Middle East.

Our shelter wasn't nearly as sophisticated as this Tel Aviv one, but it seemed pretty sturdy all the same. (Thanks to the Times of India for this photo.)

Pini and Dudu Galoshes Update

Back to the life lived ordinarily. Friends have begun to ask me whether we have our new kittens, Pini and Dudu Galoshes, yet. We spent last weekend with baited breath, waiting by the phone for our veterinarian to call us to tell us to come collect them. After receiving no call from him, I couldn't wait any longer and called him on Sunday (Israel's equivalent of Monday) to see what was happening. In a nutshell, he needs about one more week with the kittens to socialize them better and get them used to being indoors.

The kittens and their mother were literally dumped at his front door about two months ago. The mother has stayed with her kittens and continues to be extremely protective of them. Thus, it was hard to catch them in order to help them get used to being handled by humans and being indoors. I asked if we could come to visit them, but he said they still weren't ready for that yet--they would just run and hide from us if we came. The vet doesn't yet know which ones are boys and which ones are girls. But he does know that they are "black and grey and fuzzy," which is good enough for me!

Wouldn't it be cool if Pini and Dudu Galoshes were both as cute as this kitten?

By the way, does anyone know of an Israeli distributor of "Sticky Paws," the double-sided tape you put on furniture (especially impossibly white, leather, landlord-owned furniture like ours) to prevent cats from scratching it to ribbons? I want our dear landlords, who are readers of this blog, to know we are taking extra precautions to protect their lovely things from tiny claws.

Shabbat shalom, chaverim! And of course, if for some reason you can't see the two pictures I posted here, go directly to my blog site at .

*I wrote this sentence four days ago. The next day, I came down with a screaming, streaming cold and have been out of commission for the past three days. Power of suggestion, indeed!