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Jul 10, 2007
Say Goodnight, Gracie

Notice: I know some people are going to be too lazy to read this all the way through. Long story short: this site is no longer active. But fear not. It is being combined with my other site to form a new site in an effort to consolidate and prettify stuff. This post is cross-posted both at the other site and at the new site.

Life's a funny thing, they say.

I started blogging in 2003, as a sophomore in college. It was at the encouragement of a few friends who found my goofy sense of humor funny, and were willing (even eager) to read humorous pieces I had written. And boy, were they goofy. Some of the most creative (and dare I say inspired?) stuff I've written came out of that period, actually. And much to my surprise, people started reading. Not the 'public,' whoever they are, but people I knew - my siblings, and other friends and family - people who I wasn't even writing for originally. They actually found me genuinely funny. It was weird. My siblings, both older, never seemed to really admire me for anything, and now, it seemed, I was impressing them, and their friends. It was very cool, a real ego boost. And time went on, and I continued updating, with the occasional 3-month dry spell. I never got to the point of posting regularly or particularly frequently, likely due in a large part to my commitment to producing original work, rather than linking to other people's creations. Well, that and procrastination....

Allow me to digress here for a minute. I was something of an oddity in the blogging world. Most bloggers maintain readership by posting often. Typically, either these posts involve descriptions of their day-to-day lives, something which one never really runs out of material for, or they'd post links to other creative work, occasionally with added commentary. I was not prepared to broadcast the details of my life to the general public, and I didn't want to exist remora-like, living off the scraps left by the real producers of writing, images, music, and video. I wanted to be one of those producers, by writing relatively impersonal, humorous pieces. And that's pretty hard to do regularly, or it was for me, anyhow. But I kept at it, because even though my number of daily hits rarely crept above 10, it also didn't really sink down to zero. People were reading, so I continued writing, albeit sometimes infrequently. About a year and a half after starting blogging, it occurred to me that I had what to write that wasn't goofy and humorous. The material I had in mind was downright serious. And so I had a problem. I couldn't just post those pieces on the original blog, like nothing was different, because I didn't want to turn away readers who had come to expect humor. But I still wanted to share my thoughts on weightier matters than the odd contents of my fridge.

So I started a second blog.

This just compounded my problems. Ideally, I would have a regularly updated blog, with many readers and an active and lively comments section. By creating a second blog, for my 'serious' stuff, I was splitting my efforts and my readership, and ultimately hurting my progress in reaching my goals. But what could I do? I kept updating both blogs, and people (still very few) read both. I wanted to upgrade. But how? Well, for starters, if I was going to maintain two blogs, when one could probably suffice, I could at least make them both stand out. Thus began the big redesign. After a few false starts, I redesigned each blog in turn, from the bottom up. The functionality remained the same, but they got all dressed up in what I thought were nice makeovers. Still, while I wasn't getting at the main issue, I ran into others. Blogger wasn't giving me the flexibility and control I wanted to have with my site, nor did I have online storage to use. Plus, the web addresses were long and cumbersome - there were regular readers who sometimes forgot them. So I decided on a new non-solution, something I'd been planning on doing anyway. Enter the as-yet-unused I thought it was a neat little title which happened to be available - using a play on the word "bits" to connote digital writing, and a kind of meshing of the past and present, something I try to aim for in my writing. (Ok, so I guess that sounds a little pretentious. Mea culpa.) So then the question was "now what?" Well, I could (and did, actually) import the two blogs into one, hosted at bitsofink. But this wasn't a solution either - not yet, anyway. People would need to be redirected to the new site (actually, not such a difficult problem to solve), plus, what would become of the new designs? They centered around their banners, and the new combo-blog would be called something different. So if I wanted a new site, I'd need a new design. I got as far as designing the banner, which I just dropped into a (fairly boring) pre-made template. But I continued updating the two Blogger sites, and nothing really changed.

Finally, the final straw came. You see, as I continued writing in the 'serious' blog, I found that I was writing more and more personal material. And life has a way of not being easily placed into 'humorous' or 'serious' boxes. Life just is, and we just live it - lovely and crazy and giddy and depressing as it is. It's sometimes so terrifying you have to laugh, and sometimes so laughable you have to cry, and sometimes, it's just wabi-sabi. So I was coming up with posts that didn't belong in one of the two blogs, but somewhere in-between. So I decided I'd just have to bite the bullet and do it. So I worked on a redesign that I think is nice enough to justify the move and the abandonment of the old sites. I've imported all of the old posts and even marked them with which blog they originally came from (using fun little icons. I still have a few things to tweak, and I need to clean up the old imported posts so they look right and such, but things are more or less up and running. Now I can get back to posting in earnest, and maybe even persuade some of the other bloggers who read my stuff to throw a link or two my way (hint, hint) to help me finally get this operation off the ground. The old sites will remain up, and I'll put up a notice to that effect within a week, but all new updates will be at the new site.

Phew, who knew blogging could be such hard work?

Jul 2, 2007
Conversations, Part 2

So I seem to get weirder when I get more tired. I finally got my American (VOIP) phone line working at something like 1 or 2 in the morning, so I called some friends to let them know. After all, for $200 / 15 months, it's free to call anywhere in the U.S. (Nice, eh?) So I called my friend R, and we had this conversation:

[Phone rings.]

Me: Hey.

R: Who is this? Jesus?

Me: [Hesitating] Yes.

I have a mission for you. Go out and buy lots of flamingoes. Buy all the flamingoes. Form a flamingo army.

Tie them to your waist, and [dramatic pause] fly, fly, fly.

Fill the sky with pink.

R: What???

Me: I don't know. You said I was Jesus.

R: Yeah, but- what??

Me: Never mind.

Jun 18, 2007

I seem to have some of my more interesting conversations online. Take this one, from today. I was complaining about not getting enough sleep to my friend Eli:

Eli: may i suggest a method?
set an alarm for when u want to go to sleep...

me: And train a monkey with a tire iron to knock me out when he hears the alarm?

Eli: and treat it like the wake up alarm
yeah, that might work

me: Been there, buddy.

Eli: ah
i never knew u had a pet monkey, though
that's pretty cool

me: Well, I don't have one anymore!
The migraines were unbearable. And there was that incident with the guest.

May 24, 2007
Not Spam, Exactly....
An actual email I just got:
from Ski Safe <>
to Trevor Rans <>
date May 24, 2007 6:15 PM
subject Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Thank you for your interest in insuring your craft with Ski-Safe. We have assigned a password so that you can access your records later, either for this quote (if we have been able to provide it), or for another one that you might want. If your quote required approval, it will be accessible after we have reviewed it.

Your password is [removed] and you can change it any time. We also have representatives standing by to help you and are happy to take your call at 1-800-225-6560.

My actual response:
from Ilan <>
to Ski Safe <>
date May 25, 2007 12:10 AM PM
subject Re:Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Dear SkiSafe and SkiSafe affiliates/loved ones,

    I do not recall expressing an interest in insuring a craft with you, nor is my name Trevor. However, as I do not, to my knowledge, own a craft of any sort currently, I would be very interested to see the craft you speak of. I would even go by the name Trevor if you would prefer. What sort of craft is it? Does it have skis, as the name of your company would imply? If so, how does it navigate on non-slippery terrain (e.g. the road outside my friend Bobby's house, where there are several large, intimidating potholes)? Or perhaps it is a craft of an as-yet unspecified type. If so, can I choose? I believe I would choose a hovercraft (that, or a jetpack, but I hear that jetpacks tend to chafe). Yes, I think a hovercraft would be a fine choice. (They had one in that film, Back to the Future - I highly recommend it. It stars Michael J. Fox and an older fellow, whose name I cannot recall. He's the one with white poofy hair like Einstein.)

In sum, please let me know where and when I can pick up my hovercraft and how much the insurance you are offering will cost.

Thank You,

I will keep you updated with whether they write me back.

Update: They responded. Proof that some organizations have a sense of humor:

from Onlinequote <>
to Ilan <>
date May 25, 2007 12:31 AM
subject RE: Thank you for using SkiSafeWeb (2819240821)

Thank you for injecting some levity into what might have been an arduous day.

Had you requested a more ordinary yacht or jet ski we might have been able to accommodate you, but alas, none of our programs cover hovercrafts (or submarines) so we must regretfully decline.

However, I appreciate your lending credence to the statement of Galileo Galilei who said:

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Have a great weekend!

[name removed]

May 21, 2007
Who Was that Masked Infection?
So, short post. I was sick last week. All of it. I had all the wrong stuff coming out of all the wrong orifices at all of the wrong times. I went to the doctor twice and the immediate care place twice, and had needles put in, fluids taken out, other fluids put in, etc. And they still don't know what it is I am just now getting over. They checked for what they thought it was (Death-Causing Spiridium from Mars) and it came up negative, and...that's it, it seems. So, I decided to help them out by giving them a picture, featured here. If I had to guess, I'd say that they may have been thwarted in their identification attempts because it normally appears in the wild in a clever disguise.
May 8, 2007
Ping-Pong with the Army

I went to the lishkat hagiyus, the army recruitment office, last week. It was suprisingly organized and efficient. Until the end.

In the end, I went into the final office, where they tell you, bottom line, what's going to happen with you.

They told me that I didn't have a giyus (enlistment) date yet, but I would get one when I got a profile (i.e. the number that represents your fitness). So I wasn't done with them yet. Let's start the cameras rolling...

Me:Am I not allowed to leave the country until you give me a date [as previously had been indicated to me]?
Girl 1:Yes, you won't.
Me: When will I have a profile, then?
Girl 1: When you bring in the medical documents that you're missing.
- Begin quest for the missing documents. -
Girl 1: Go back up to the 2nd floor, and walk into an office and ask what documents you need to get a profile.

Scene: second floor office, several minutes later.
Me: I need to know how to get my profile.
Girl 2: Did you see the doctor here?
Me: Yes.
Girl 2:: (Checking computer) Ok, let's look at your profile.
Me: (Waits)
Girl 2: You don't have a profile yet.
Me: Yes, I know. How do I get one?
Girl 2:You need to bring the required medical documents.
Me: Right. Which ones?
Girl 2: Oh. (Passes me off to another girl.)
Girl 3: (Checking computer) You need some missing medical documents.
Me: (Through clenched teeth with a strained voice) Yes, I know. Which ones?
I get passed off to a 4th girl who says she'll be with me soon. I sit patiently until I don't feel like it any more, then go back into the office.
Me: I need to know which medical documents I need to get to get a profile.
Girl 5 (or maybe this was Girl 2 again): Isn't someone already helping you?
Me: Yes, but I don't know where she went.
Girl 5: She'll be with you soon. She hasn't forgotten about you. [She had.]
Girl 4 finally walks by, and I follow her into the office.
Me: Which medical documents do I need to get?
She turns to the other girls expectantly.
Other Girls: You need medical documents.
Me: (Head explodes.)
(Practically yelling) But which documents?
One of the girls (I am fairly certain either Girl 2 or Girl 3) checks the same computer they've been checking all along.
Girl 2/3: You need to come back for a psychological examination.
Me: (Really wondering 'what about the documents?' but certainly not curious enough to bring that up again) When?
Girl 2/3: We'll call you.
Me: (Not taking any chances) When will you call me?
Girl 2/3: Within two weeks.

And I'm spent.
May 7, 2007
Generation Gap?

An actual conversation between me and my parents. I'm honestly not sure if this is going to make me want to talk to them more in the future or less.

Mom: have u used your webcam? we also have one but haven't tried it yet
me: Not yet.
I feel that it's a bit too early in my career to start uploading compromising videos to the internet.
Mom: no no no compromising videos, just your face when we are talking. or else we'll upload those baby pix!!
me: Which ones?
There are lots more of Noam and Tali. I'm the 3rd child, remember?
Mom: how about the bathtub shots?
me: You don't have those of me.
Mom: want to bet?
me: Yes.

[long pause]

Dad: mommy is busy fruitlessly trying to find compromising pix of u
me: I know.
Dad: Mommy is more determined than ever
don't b surprised if a Noam picture is claimed to actually b u
me: I won't.
I think I can tell the difference. Not sure.
Dad: uh oh, u should never challenge your mother, she found some
me: No way!
In an album?
Dad: how about dressed up as a classic nerd 4 Purim
me: Not good enough. She said "naked."
Dad: Or being hugged and kissed by Judy E. at camp when you were a wee one
me: Or "bathtub" at least.
Dad: How about topless in the back yard?
me: Still not doing it for me...
Dad: The Purim nerd is pretty bad
Dad: But the mother is still on a quest, still looking for naked
Dad: Busted, found the bathtub
with a girl
me: No way!
That's Noam!
Which girl?
Dad: Tali
Since she's bigger than u in the pic, it has to be you
me: Is this a naked picture of Tali, where I just happen to be there and naked?
Dad: Just found 11 more
many at the beach in public
me: I am "b'shok."
That's Israeli for "in shock."
Dad: U and Tali are sharing a bathtub
There are also solo shots of u
me: ....
Dad: can we stop --- your mother doesn't give up and I'm hungry. This could go on all night now. I'm gonna waste away to nothingness, dying of starvation
all because you challenged your mother
u should know by now you can do that
especially if u think you'll ever win
me: I'm stubborn. You should know that by now.
Dad: BTW, it's a good humbling lesson for marriage as well
just something to keep in mind
me: ...and we're back to this.
Dad: how about the three of u naked in an outdoor shower
me: Ok, now you're just making stuff up. [Editor's note: otherwise, I should go back in time and turn them into Child Services]
Dad: U want compromising, we got plenty, now go out and find a girl so we can thoroughly embarrass u
me: ...I'll work on it. -sigh-
Dad: have a great night. I'm going to eat the woodwork (or other inedible stuff not nailed down, while your mother searches the archives.
Seriously, have a great night. Talk to u tomorrow.
me: Ok.
Dad: bye
I am speechless. For me, that's a big deal.

May 2, 2007
I Think I'm a Clone Now

A while ago, in January, while I was training in the U.S, Nefesh B'Nefesh called me to ask if needed any help with my aliyah. It went something like this:

GUY: Ilan, hi, this is [whatever his name was; we'll call him Stanley] with NBN. I was wondering how we can help you with your aliyah.
ILAN: I already made aliyah.
STANLEY: You did?
ILAN: Yes.
ILAN: August.
-awkward silence-
(Recall that he's calling my American cellphone)
ILAN: I'm in the U.S. now. [pause] But only for a short while.
-awkward silence-
STANLEY: Well, if you want, you can still apply for our services. Give us a call when you get back.
ILAN: Sure, thanks.
ILAN: Bye.

I'm not sure if he ever realized that not only did I make aliyah, I made it with NBN. In truth, NBN is a wonderful organization, which does amazing things for many people, myself very much included, so I shouldn't make fun of them. But it was funny. I think I downloaded their application twice or something, and I'm in their database twice, so that in their files, there's one Ilan who planned out the aliyah process, made aliyah, even got a generous cash grant from them; and one Ilan who never quite got off the ground.

Parallel universe much?

Apr 30, 2007
Kitten Leasing
So, on a scale of 1 to disturbing, should I be scared by the fact that the email indicated in this screenshot is not spam, but rather, sent by a close friend? My life is...different than other people's.
Apr 20, 2007
Question Thursday Extravaganza

So... I've moved into my apartment and things are starting to calm down (see the response to Lauren's question below for more info on that) and to make up for missing the last few Thursdays, I am going to answer every single question I've received to date. Granted, that's only eleven questions, but that's all I got. Hmmm...perhaps it would be more impressive if I said I'm going to answer every single question while submerged upside-down in a 200-gallon tank of water. You can't see me right now, so let's assume I'm bubbling away here, answering in my own damp fashion1. Ok, so here we go:

Eli: Why?
Answertron 3042: Because I said so. Kids? Kids? Stop fighting back there, or no porridge for a wee- Ow! That's it! Once more, and I will turn this blog around. No rollercoasters, no funnelcakes, no watching slaves getting fed to lions, do you hear me?

Eli: Why me?
Answertron 3042: According to one popular theory in modern physics, there are an infinite number of possible universes in existence. Hence, in a smaller, but still infinite number, there are an infinite number of Elis all asking "Why me?"2 If you got this infinite number of Elis in a room together (yes, it would be a big room) and gave them an infinite amount of time with an infinite number of typewriters, a lot of Elis would probably get pretty stained with all that ink. Other Elis would form a free-market economy, using the typewriters as a currency, while still others3 would use the typewriters as crude weapons, vying for brute-force dominance of the infinite Eliverse...
In other words, um, I dunno.

Stuart: What's the best place to store nuclear weapons around the house so the kids don't get into them?
Answertron 3042: Nebraska.

Stuart: Can white men sing the blues?
Answertron 3042: Yes, if you upset them enough. Try telling them that their pimped-out Escalade doesn't make them look 'ghetto.' Or drill a hole in one of their yachts. Or remind them that they are just cogs in a consumer-driven, laissez-faire free-market economy, where while nothing's truly free, value is placed on nothing, resulting in overindulgence in their drab and meaningless existences in a vain attempt to ignore the desperate ennui slowly sapping all life from their bones. Then kick them in the groin really hard. That should work.

Stuart: Can blue men sing the whites?
Answertron 3042: Only in Canada. You sicko.

Stuart: What is the circumference of Rosie O'Donnell?
Answertron 3042: Three Olsen twins.

Stuart: If a woodchuck would chuck as much as it could chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood, doesn't the woodchuck have a pretty boring existence?
Answertron 3042: Who are you to judge the woodchuck community? They have had many great contributions to society, including the invention of sporks, the concept of irony, and vocal intonations indicating the end of a thought. (Before woodchucks, people would poilitely wait for a few seconds of silence before replying in a conversation. Dramatic pauses were dreadfully difficult, and a episode of West Wing would take 3 hours, at which point the actors would all collapse from exhaustion from all that walking and talking.4)

Stuart: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie roll center of Tara Reid's brain?
Answertron 3042: Now you're just being plain mean. ::crosses robotic arms:: That's it. I refuse to answer. Now go to your room, Stuart, and think about what you've done.

Reb Chaim: Here's a question for you: The Torah says that during the Exodus the Jews did not have enough time for their bread to leaven, so they ate unleavened breads, which is why there is an obligation to eat Maztah on Pesach. However, let's say they had enough time for their bread to rise, they still would not have eaten leavened bread because it's Chametz and it was Pesach, so why do we need the reason that they had no time for the bread to rise, just say they didn't eat leavened bread because it was Pesach?
Answertron 3042: So the children would ask. No, seriously - both happened, and there are two different aspects to matzah, each part of a (somewhat ) separate holiday that starts on the 15th of Nissan.

Lauren: What is wrong with the Thursday question thing?
Answertron 3042: I am now in fully functioning order, ma'am, and I suggest you be more sensitive in the future. How would you feel if someone asked you what was wrong with you, then you went and told the teacher and the other kids heard and didn't let you play with the nice red ball and you got stuck with the stupid blue ball and you could only play with Harold, the kid with all the food allergies and the inhaler, but who needs those other kids anyway and no, I'm not crying. I just have a cold.

Lauren: And how serious are the Thursday questions allowed to be?
Answertron 3042: As serious as you want. Mind you, I won't necessarily answer serious questions seriously. I might even answer them ironically.

Lauren: Is it too late to submit a question?
Answertron 3042: Can't.... continue.... questions too.... meta.... ::Answertron 3042 explodes, leaving pieces all over cyberspace.::5

  1. We are going to deliver all answers using the new, high-tech Answertron 3042, to expedite the answering process, and because robots are freakin' awesome.
  2. Some of those Elis have tentacles.
  3. Probably including the tentacled Elis.
  4. Plus, William Shatner couldn't get a word in edgewise, but I'm not saying that was a bad thing.
  5. Lauren, you owe me a new question-answering robot. And chocolate. I want chocolate.
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