: Ponderous Ponderer and a Work in Progress


EncFS Hints

12/09/2014 02:36:00 PM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , No comments

EncFS Hints


  1. What is EncFS?
  2. Using EncFS and Cloud Storage
  3. Terms
  4. EncFS Commands
  5. EncFS Tools

1. What is EncFS?

EncFS is a "Virtual Filesystem" ... of sorts.  Encrypted files are placed individually within a folder, on top of an existing filesystem.

With special software, the folder containing the encrypted files is "Mounted"  as another drive letter, ( Z: drive), or as another mountpoint in a Linux/Unix system, (i.e. /mount/shdw).

2. EncFS Best Practices

  1. When mounting/decrypting encrypted files, mount in RAM/Memory, or decrypt to a secure partition.
  2. Encrypt your swap drive, (Linux/Unix).
  3. Use EncFS to encrypt home folders, auto-decrypting on login.
  4. Use EncFS to encrypt files synchronized to cloud storage or with BitTorrent Sync.
  5. Use a "shdw" prefix/folder root, for mounted secure folders, or even secure source repositorie, (i.e., /mnt/shdw/dropbox-encfs, /mnt/shdw/luks-drive/source/apache-source, etc).

3. Using EncFS and Cloud Storage

EncFS is ideal if you would like to use Cloud Storage, but don't want those files on the Internet to be readable if accessed by a third-party.

3. Terms

3.1. General Terms:

  1. Cipher Algorithm:
    1. The Encryption algorithm used to encrypt data, AES, Blowfish, etc.
  2. Block Size:
    1. The amount of data, (size in bytes), which is segmented and encrypted together.
    2. 1024 bytes, (1KB), is sufficient for most purposes.
  3. Initialization Vector:
    1. Randomized Data used to encode something.
  4. Chaining:
    1. Where an Initialization Vector is based off of another Initialization Vector.
    2. If the Source is changed, then the change is "Cascaded" down to all of the derived instances.
    3. Initialization Vectors can be "derived", (i.e., Chained), or come from another source, such as in the case where the Initialization Vector for File Data, is derived from the Parent Folder's Initialization Vector.

3.2. EncFS Options:

  1. Per-file Initialization Vector:
    1. Adds 8 Bytes per file--each file is encrypted with a random 8 byte initialization vector.
    2. Makes encryption more difficult to break.
  2. File Name Encoding:
    1. File names can be encoded.
    2. The two encoding mechanisms are "block" and "stream".
    3. Stream encoding allows for smaller file names.
  3. Block MAC Headers:
    1. Adds Checksum values to reinforce integrity.
    2. Can add random bytes to ensure that two sets of the same data have two different checksums.
  4. File Name Initialization Vector Chaining:
    1. Don't Use: if you want to change folder names.
    2. Causes the Initialization Vector used to encrypt the File Name to be derived from the Parent Folder's Initialization Vector.
    3. If a folder is renamed, the contents of that folder will need to be re-encrypted.
  5. File Name to Initialization Vector Header Chaining:
    1. Don't Use: if Renaming or Moving often.
    2. Encoding is influenced by the full path name. 
    3. Renaming or Moving Files will make the files unreadable without re-encoding.
  6. File Data External Initialization Vector Chaining:
    1. Don't Use: if moving or renaming files often.
    2. Causes the File's Data Initialization Vector to be derived from the File's Name Initialization Vector.
    3. The same data will be encrypted differently, given a different filename or directory.

4. EncFS Commands

Note: It is important to consider mounting the EncFS folder using Fuse Mount options under Linux.
In my case, I am using the BitTorrent Sync service in Linux, to sync this particular folder, but am writing to it using my local Linux User account.

So, I added the btsync, and my personal user account to a "Replication" group, and mount the encfs folder specifying my personal user account, and the Linux Replication group that has both users: btsync, and my account.

cmd:/>encfs /mnt/Secure-Drive/Sync/GoogleDrive/encfs /mnt/Secure-Drive/shdw/GoogleDrive -o allow_other,gid=1002,uid=1001,umask=007
cmd:/>fusermount -u /mnt/Secure-Drive/shdw/GoogleDrive

5. EncFS Tools

Under Windows: Safe


GPG Hints - GNU Privacy Guard

10/21/2014 12:53:00 PM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , , No comments

GPG Hints - GNU Privacy Guard

GPG is an Open Source set of tools that allow for symmetric and asymmetric encryption of data: emails, security keys, key-rings, even mountable secure virtual drives, (as loop-devices).

"Hints": Just some reminders, and resources for figuring things out!



  1. References
  2. GPG Symmetric Encryption with ASCII Armor
  3. GPG-ZIP Helper Tool
  4. Creating Public and Private Keys, and Revocation Certificates
  5. Publishing Public Keys
  6. Revoking / Cancelling Keys
  7. Backing up Keys and Revocation Certificates
  8. Recovering / Decrypting Keys and Revocation Certificates

1. References

  1. GPG Website: https://www.gnupg.org/
  2. GPG For Windows Users: http://www.gpg4win.org/
  3. Enigmail for Secure Email: https://www.enigmail.net/home/index.php

2. GPG Symmetric Encryption with ASCII Armor

ASCII Armor Encrypt the Secure Key, (a PGP Key, Bitlocker Recovery Key, etc), but use ASCII Armor if you want to email to yourself, or post in plain text.

Converting it from Binary to Base64 ASCII Armor, makes the encrypted key "Human Readable." However, doing so increases the output by about 33%, (or so)--which is not significant when encrypting keys. However, when encrypting folders, large files, etc, don't use ASCII Armor, or that 33% increase in size will be very noticeable.
cmd:/>gpg -c --cipher-algo=AES256 -a -o 20141018.bitlocker@computername.asc 20141018.bitlocker@computername.key

Decrypting the Key is fairly simple, and GPG will infer from the data in the file which encryption algorithm is being used, or if it is in ASCII Armor.
cmd:/>gpg -o output.txt -d 20141018.bitlocker@computername.asc

3. GPG-ZIP Helper Tool

Encrypts and compresses the folder name "MyFolder", and its subfolders into one file, "EncryptedZipFile.gz.gpg.

// Specify a cipher, such as AES: --cipher-algo=AES256, otherwise, will result in CAST5 by default.
cmd:/>gpg-zip --symmetric --gpg-args --cipher-algo=AES256 --output EncryptedZipFile.gz.gpg MyFolder
cmd:/>gpg-zip --decrypt EncryptedZipFile.gz.gpg

4. Creating Public and Private Keys, and Revocation Certificates

There are GUI Tools, like Kleopatra, available on Linux and Windows that will help: http://www.gpg4win.org/

When creating a PGP public/private key pair--always be certain you specify an expiration date. Otherwise, if your key is compromised, and if you don't have a revocation certificate, you may be encounter someone misusing your key for an indeterminate period of time.
cmd:/>gpg --gen-key
cmd:/>gpg --list-keys
cmd:/>gpg --export -a 66H049E4 > 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.pub.key

5. Publishing Public Keys

Publish the Keys to some key servers. Or, go to their websites, like MIT's to upload your PUBLIC key: https://pgp.mit.edu/
cmd:/>gpg --send-keys 66H049E4
cmd:/>gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --send-key 66H049E4
cmd:/>gpg --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --send-key 66H049E4

6. Revoking / Cancelling Keys

You can generate a Revocation Certificate in advance, and backup to some-place safe, in case you lose your Private Key, or someone else gets your Private Key, (if you are forgetful, lose keys and passwords, the dog eats your password, etc).

When you want to "cancel," (Revoke your certificate), public/upload the revocation certificate to the key servers, and they will synchronize, and tell everyone your key is no longer valid.
cmd:/>gpg --gen-revoke -a 66H049E4 > 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.asc

7. Backing up Keys and Revocation Certificates

It isn't necessary to encrypt your Public Key before backing it up, but be absolutely certain to encrypt your Private Key and Revocation Certificate before backing up.

Since these are small files, you can email them to yourself, or put on cloud storage, (encrypt them first!).

Be certain to encrypt the Private and Revocation certificates. Otherwise, your keys will be "importable" by PGP tools like Kleopatra, etc, and possibly subject to brute-force attacks, and compromised.

After you create encrypted files for your private key, and revocation certificate, don't delete the unencrypted keys "normally." Use "shred" utilities to delete those files securely.
  1. Export Key, or Genereate Revocation Certificate
  2. Alternatively, you could "pipe/redirect" the output to the GPG encrpytion pipeline.
  3. Shred Original Exported Private Key, and Revocation Key File.
cmd:/>gpg --export-secret-keys -a 66H049E4 > 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.asc
cmd:/>gpg --symmetric --cipher-algo=AES256 -a -o 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.gpg 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.asc
cmd:/>gpg --symmetric --cipher-algo=AES256 -a -o 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.gpg 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.asc
cmd:/>shred 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.asc
cmd:/>shred 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.asc

8. Recovering / Decrypting Keys and Revocation Certificates

To recover your keys from backup, decrypt using GPG, (Kleopatra, etc).
cmd:/>gpg -d -o 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.asc 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.prv.gpg
cmd:/>gpg -d -o 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.asc 20141022.PGP.66H049E4.rev.gpg


Android NDK Command Line Compilation

8/26/2014 02:33:00 PM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , , , No comments

Android NDK Command Line Compilation


Configuration and Compilation:

# > $ ndk-build // Build Targets, etc, but not necessary for Ant
> $ android update project --path . --subprojects --target 9

Ant Build:

# ant debug // for debug:
> $ ant release

Installing to the Device:

# List Attached Devices:

> $ adb devices
List of devices attached
emulator-5554 device
emulator-5555 device

# Install to Device:
# -s, (use to select one of multiple devices).
# -r, (use to reinstall)
# Native Activity is a C++ only, (no Java), Android Sample App.

> $ adb -s emulator-5554 install -r NativeActivity.apk


The Ages of Knowing

8/03/2014 06:05:00 PM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , , No comments
The Ages of Knowing
e.s. kohen

He stood up, toddling to his left, then to his right; the lake shimmered in the afternoon Sun, the water at rest, peace in its stillness.  He laughed and lunged  from the docks to explore what was below—but I reached out and called,  "You are so young and full of life; be careful of the depths."

As tall as me now, he bent down and gathered the scattered papers; he heaved the weight of his pack, the novels, notebooks, reference books, mountains of knowledge chiselled into sheaves of paper.  He turned and stepped away to reach for another book on the shelf—but I called: "There is so much for you to discover; don't forget what you already have."

A long table stretched out before him, encircled by scholars, eyes and minds open to give him the answers books had failed to give, generations of insight, forged wisdom, keen intellectuals.  Ready to question, he raised his hand and commanded their attention—but I called: "See both the truths and the deceptions;  guard your heart; do not be consumed by the fire."

Beside my bed, he inclined his head and grasped my hand; the night called to me through the open window, the clouds shrouding and then revealing the stars and the moon in their allure.  He wept and began to plead, calling with broken heart to the One who is the Highest—but I reached out and whispered: "What answer will bring you peace?  That I have always loved you?  It is—this—truth you must never forget, truth that I have always cherished: from the depth of who I am, to the most secret place of my heart–I have always known how you have loved me so."


Meta Security & Theosophy

7/04/2014 10:30:00 AM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , , 1 comment

Meta Security & Theosophy


  1. When Technical Debates Become Religious
  2. Equivocation in Technology: Meta Data
  3. Equivocation in Theology: Six Days of Creation
  4. The Value of Accepting Ideas, "As Is"
  5. Conclusion
e.s. kohen

1. Where Technical Debates Become Religious

How do you know when Meta Data become real Data?  The answer is the same as asking: How do you know when an Electron will change state?  By observing it.

Slashdot vs, the NSA and Meta Data has yet another community mash-up regarding Meta Data.  As always, "Tin Foil Hat" conspiracies abound--but in this case justifiably.

From a Philosophical point of view--namely Epistemology, (even Memetics), for that matter, the International Community has completely failed to "Grok" the idea that "Meta" is a completely relative term.

When any scientific debate is abruptly thrown into the context of the Politics or Theology, the entire planet seems to devolve into manipulative rhetoric.

What "Meta" means to one person is certainly not what "Meta" means to another.

People are using completely different "measures" of what "Meta" is, and as a result this debate is made absurd--full of Equivocation logical Fallacies.

This means most debates about countries stockpiling "Meta Data" becomes just as absurd as arguing about a literal, six day Creation--another debate which also exemplifies the Equivocation fallacy.

Just as theologians are are very successful manipulating doctrines by equivocating over the term, "Day," politicians and technologists are also successful using this same tactic, distorting the term "Meta."

As there are many definitions for "Meta," and "Day," people are tossed to and fro in the confusion ultimately making both arguments completely absurd and ultimately pointless, for the same exact reasons.

2. Equivocation in Technology: Meta Data

We have Equivocated in an absurdly religious way what "Meta Data" is, and is not.  Data about Data is still Data.  Information about Information is still Information.  "How often I called someone", "what time of day", and "for what reasons", is just as important to people as the content of those conversations.

When politicians and technologists claim that Meta Data is insignificant, but rush off in secret to collect that data, we have dispositive proof, quantifiable evidence, regarding the true value and significance of "Meta Data."

3. Equivocation in Theology: Six Days of Creation

Like defining "Meta," the Literal Six Day argument is absurd.  On one hand, there is the Hasty Generalization that all believers accept this doctrine.  On the other hand,  detractors unapologetically misrepresent fundamental beliefs, equivocating that the theological and ancient definition of the word "Day" meant a literal 24 hour period of the Earth's rotation in view of the Sun.

When taking into account that there was no such reckoning in the context of Genesis--or even the entire Bible, the Genesis account is obviously metaphorical--Prima Facie:
  1. The Genesis account states that the Sun and the Moon appeared in the story on or around the Fourth Day :
    Gen. 1:16: God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17.) God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18.) and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
  2. The Genesis account states that that the Earth was present--before--the Sun and the Moon were given as "lights".  
    Gen. 1:9: Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10.) God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. ... 13.) There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
The debate descends into absurdity when you ask: How were the first three days measured if the Sun and Moon only became present on the Fourth day?  Did God have a stop watch?  

Or rather, is it reasonable to apply the "Razor"--and accept the most reasonable conclusion--that the passage is obviously metaphorical and uses analogies?

4. The Value of Accepting Ideas, "As Is"

Often times, if we accept an idea in its "raw state," without equivocation, without philosophizing or theologizing over it, we can find inspiration for very practical solutions.  On the other hand, by distorting the debate, concealing a matter, we close avenues of discovery.

It is often fruitful to entertain Natural Patterns, philosophical and theological concepts, in the design of new things.  Often very abstract cosmological and metaphysical ideas manifest in very real and concrete ways.

For example, two different "Design Patterns" are represented in the Six Day debate, and appear in Enterprise Software designs for highly transactional and distributed global systems :

  1. Sun Before Earth Model: Strongly typed objects replicated between servers in a cluster.
  2. Earth Before Sun Model: "Instantiation" of objects at a remote location when the destination is unknown, as seen implemented in remote messaging and Deserialization.

In the same way, accepting the concept of "Meta Data," without equivocation, leads to a more accurate understanding of hierarchical data structures, ontologies, and that the core privacy concern is not the data itself--but the associations made between the data points.

Following this avenue of thought, a solution would be to allow for the data collecting, but not the storage of those associations--requiring human effort to associate that data to ensure Due Process, Privacy, and Equal Protection under the Law.

5. Conclusion

"Meta Data" is no longer Meta Data, once it is collected and aggregated.

A well-placed analogy is to equate the problem of "Meta Data" to the "Observer Effect" in physics: when the Meta Data is being "observed," or "gathered," the act of this observation alters the nature of that data so that it is no longer, "Meta"--it has now become very meaningful.



11/18/2013 10:38:00 PM Posted by kohen contacts No comments

e.s. kohen

If Wisdom was before all,
and through wisdom all things are ordered,
then Wisdom is the true verdict of morality in view of eternity.

For that which was before time, by nature, transcends all things temporal.

As that which is above,
Wisdom exposes what is below–
vapors that rise fleetingly before the Sun.


Dev Blog Initiation!

4/28/2013 02:01:00 PM Posted by kohen contacts , No comments
Not a diary, I promise!

The birth of a Dev Blog!  I am always working on many different projects, and am considering journaling some of the experiences and thoughts that I have, and have had, developing software!

So, to start off with, a very old project of mine, that I have recently made some progress in!


Mountain's Mist

2/16/2012 06:36:00 PM Posted by kohen contacts , No comments
Mountain's Mist
e.s. kohen
ed.2013.12.09.01 (Public Draft)

Fallen from the crumbling path
my feet are shackled by the mist;
every step is entombed within the fog of day.

Stumbling with my hands before me
My sight condemns me to darkness;
reflections of the Sun sear my eyes.

But what is this?
Night has fallen
and now I see!

My path revealed by the Moon
A transcendent host bears witness;
reverence inclines my head;

Wisdom unveiled in the night
Heaven and Earth are exposed;
darkness has given birth to truth.

Pyramid Peak, Olympic Peninsula - 2013.07.23

Written in the "Mystic" tradition of "The Dark Night of the Soul."

On July 23, 2011, I was on a mountain in the Olympic National Parkan embarrassingly small mountainIt ended up being a very difficult mountain for me to climb, and even more difficult to descend, because I ended up making a pretty simple mistake which left me two days without water.  This was despite a whole lot of water being "so close, but so far away," (long story ...).

I learned a lot of things up on that mountain, and still learning things from that experience when I think back.  Months after coming back, I finally ended up writing about this "contemplation" that "saturated" all my thoughts while I was trying to find water.



7/21/2009 04:38:00 PM Posted by e.s. kohen , , , No comments
e.s. kohen

ed.20140803.04 (Draft II)

Sunlight bent and twisted in the sweltering heat above the desert city street. A cadence of voices coursed through the Bedouin market, punctuated by buses, cars and mopeds. An American man stopped in front of a small falafel stand. He looked at the man behind the counter, and to the walls inside; scripts, numbers, and certificates filled the empty spaces. The American gestured, pointing incomprehensibly, his words fumbling as he looked through the short glass partitions. He kept one hand low in front of his waist, holding a single red rose.

“Lo, bakbouka.” The man behind the stand corrected. He may have been a Bedouin, Arab, or Jew; the American had no way of knowing for sure. The man hoped that the American had some idea of what he wanted to eat. The American mumbled something in English and then something in what may have been Hebrew. Holding a stainless steel spoon, the man shook his head again, and a bubbling stream of Hebrew followed.  After seeing the blank look on the American’s face, he tried Arabic–both languages sounding the same to the American.

“Shakshouka,” the girl behind him helped. Her voice rang in his heart, and he turned towards her, nervously hiding the rose so she couldn't see. The man with the spoon nodded understanding and turned to fill the order, relieved to be over with the frustration; he wondered if the American knew how to count shekels. Her dark hair fluttered across her face in the desert breeze, and she smiled—trying to see what was behind his back.

Her dark eyes were ageless; harsh sculpted cheekbones, her eyes–her lips–were in perfect harmony, an oasis of trial, sorrow, and a fullness of life. Her eyes shattered everything she noticed–searching; her beauty raged against the piercing wisdom held in her gaze, her soul ensnared within brambles of passion and loss. The American wanted to see everything–to know everything about her.

He had first seen her a month before, in another awkward moment; she helped him pick the right bus when he realized he had been going in circles. He had never spoken to her with any ease, and couldn't hope to. And so he had found what he knew she would understand; he offered her the rose, her lips reflecting the delicate silk held captive within its petals. Wide eyed hope–then a piercing fear–flashed in her eyes. She looked away from the American and to the man behind the stand—he had seen everything.

She turned and ran into the chaos of the Bedouin market, knowing he couldn't follow in the crowds; she ran past the grocer stands, the cacophony of little shops, through a small parking lot, and then she stopped--breathing heavily against a wall of an electronics shop.  A tear nearly fell from her eye before she caught it with the back of her hand.  She looked back into the market; her fingers tracing the crumbling stucco of the faded white wall.

Her home in Morocco was much like the homes there in Israel: light stuccoed walls, flat roofs, and painted in a sandy mud colored plaster.  The inside floor was concrete covered with shiny white, lightly patterned linoleum, making it easy to sweep out the dirt and sand that got tracked in. On Fridays, before Shabbat, she would follow her mother around the house with a blue mop bucket; she always laughed when she got to throw water onto the floor without getting into trouble. Her mother’s hair would be pulled back showing her face, her eyes, her laughter.  And when all of the cooking and cleaning were over, they would light the candles and sing her favorite song.

She didn't remember her baby sister or when she had died, only that her father stopped coming home for Shabbat dinner. Then her mother left.  For years, she had sung their song alone. Eventually, associates of her father paid her way to Israel—she was fourteen.

She looked back to the Bedouin market, and then to the voices coming down the street.  She wondered if her father had even asked for money, he certainly hadn't needed money; he could could have paid to have her passport returned whenever he wanted.  She wiped her eyes, and stood straight—a cactus whose limbs were full of life, protected by hardened and forbidding leaves. She started towards a group of men coming down the street; she smiled towards one of the girls walking with them.  She returned the smile, familiarly, holding onto the upper arm of one of the men—evidently the wealthier of the group. When the girls reached each other, they gave each other a long hug and kissed each other on the cheek.

The man handed the American his order, a pita filled with two poached eggs and tomato sauce, chips, a drink. To his surprise, the American correctly handed over twelve shekels without question. The American started walking towards the market, trying to stare through the clutter of shops, into the knots of clothing racks where the girl had disappeared.

The man set down his spoon and came out from behind the food stand to the American. He rubbed his fingers together; he wanted to sell something else. At first the American didn't understand. The man mentioned two numbers, the first the American understood—three hundred shekels. He took the rose from the American, threw it in the street, and then mentioned the number again and smiled—that lurid smile that leaves no room for interpretation. The man looked at the American, and considered again. He proposed a different number, but the American didn't understand; the man pulled a slip of paper from his pocket, and wrote a different number—twenty-five thousand shekels: the price for the girl’s passport, the American understood. Sure he was American, but he didn't have that kind of money–she wouldn't understand.

“Very good deal,” the man said in broken English, pointing to the rose. The American smiled politely, pointed to his wrist, at a watch that wasn't there, and walked away as though he hadn't understood.

Laughing with her friend, the girl chose the man who looked to be kinder than the rest. At first, he had wrapped his arm around her shoulders; she winced as he inadvertently pulled where she was bruised.  With a reassuring smile, she moved his hand down to the middle of her back.

As the two girls and the men turned off the busy road into a neighborhood, she saw the American again. She knew she couldn't try to leave with him; there was no telling what would happen to her friends left behind—he wouldn't be able to understand.



7/14/2009 12:00:00 AM Posted by kohen contacts , , No comments
e.s. kohen
ed.2013.12.03.02 (Public Draft)

Heavy tattered curtains smothered the living room window; a heavy gust slammed the screen door against the mountain cabin. Hiding from the lightning, a small boy huddled in the corner, wondering when the daylight would be taken by the storm. I'm not afraid of the lightning, he tried.  He closed his eyes at the thunder and then faded into nothingness as his page was thrown away. 

A black, cold iron wood stove stood isolated in its corner; a small ash bucket and a spilled wood cradle spotted the bare wooden floor. A young man watched from his stool, peering between the curtains with a rifle in his hand. What will run here from the storm, he wondered.  He slid a round into the rifle's chamber, turned, and then closed the bolt.  As he waited for what was to come, lightning tore through the mountain top, sundering soul from body—a page torn in half; the clouds crumpled, and then he was gone.

A few framed oil paintings, among a dozen unfinished, hung on the cabin's only interior wall which separated the bedroom from the kitchen. The doorway to the kitchen opened to small stacks of dishes—pots on plates, a few glass perched on top. An elderly man leaned over the stove and lifted the cast iron frying pan, for a moment surprised by its weight; grease spattered his forearm as lightning flashed through the kitchen window. He leaned over the sink and closed the curtains, shutting the storm away; the eggs slid into the bacon which had curled up along the side. It will pass, he told himself. He shook his breakfast to the middle of the pan and set it down again, wondering at a wine glass perched perilously on top of a breakfast bowl—inside of last night's bean pan.  He chose a coffee mug sitting on top of a chipped ceramic plate still covered with steak sauce and grease. Bacon popped, and eggs hardened under speckles of black pepper and salt. Lightening tore through the sky; thunder rolled over the mountain; dishes rattled in the wake.  The screen door slammed against the vacant home.

Outside of the cabin, his orange poncho contrasted glaringly against the grey weather. His hood pulled in the wind as he tried to look into the kitchen window; steam rose fogging the square fitted glass panes of the dull green mountain cabin. Black, freshly dropped shale stretched in a path around the cabin; the little rocks crunched and compressed beneath his bulky rubber boots. Two water pipes ran from the house, one pipe reached to a drain further downhill along the back of the cabin, the other along the shale path to the water pump. Electrical wiring had been laced and drooped from the water pump, to a tree, to a tall wooden post, to a small shed, and then to a collection of chained down batteries; several neatly wound chords were tacked to another post and drooped to the solar panels on the roof.  Bursts of wind slung ropes of rain from the cedars; sheets of water poured down on heavily mulched lines of mint. For a moment, he turned his head towards the wind, his short greying beard and wild hair collecting mist into small beads of water.

At the doorsteps, he raised his large thickened knuckles to knock on the metal frame of the screen door--but the screen door bounced out, slammed against the frame, and then bounced out in the wind. His hand caught the door, and he walked up three small steps. The smell of bacon and eggs turned him towards the kitchen where a cast iron pan popped softly; grease dotted around the pan as he took it off the burner. Whose place is this? He wondered out loud.  In a moment, his concern faded, and without any more hesitation, he began looking for a clean plate.

Lightning flashed through the windows. I wonder if there is a storm cellar, he thought absently as he braced for the thunder. He felt his form shift, his consciousness starting to dissolve. Wait! Don't I have a choice? To take shelter and endure this storm? Don't I have the right to live and overcome--even when your pleasure turns your eyes somewhere else? He asked the hand he could not see.

The woman moved a hand to her brow, blocking the sun glare reflecting from her desk; her left hand spun a pen between her fingers--a trick while she flipped the page corners of her journal. She sighed, tied the journal's clasp over the pages, and pushed her chair away. Her chair slid with a groan across the wooden floor. Sunlight from the beach poured through the tall white curtains blowing in the breeze.  She stepped out onto the balcony and winced for a moment, a cool breeze, a cloud punctuating the afternoon sun. Her bare feet slapped against the smooth wooden planks until she reached the wide wooden rail where she set her journal.  Supporting her weight with the palms of her hands, she pushed herself onto a well worn rail.  With her legs stretched out, she leaned back against a small white, round column. She tucked her felt tipped pen behind her ear, and ran her fingers through her tousled blond hair.  Blue ocean waves charged against beach front sand castles--fortified against the waves and the storm a short distance offshore.

Could you have a story, if I don't write it? She wondered.

Perhaps my story would naturally follow my desire--the peace and the power of the mountains.  He replied.

Then, it will be your cabin.

But this really isn't my story if you write it, he retorted. If I make this cabin my home, will it be because it is what you have written, or because it is something that I have taken? Whose will, will it be a part of?

Why is it so necessary that your will must be separate from mine?  She challenged.  How could you ever know that you truly wrote your own story?  Gazing at the storm, she considered his plea.  She bit her lip, and hopped of the rail, unwinding the clasp of her journal:

The man reached into the pile of dishes, and pulled out a white spotted, blue metal bowl with chunks of chili hardened along the bottom, perhaps the cleanest in the pile. He flung the bits into the trash with a large wooden spoon and scooped the eggs and bacon into his bowl—he kept the wooden stirring spoon.

He carried his breakfast to the front room, the screen door still banging every so often; he set the bowl on a dresser, tied the screen door shut, and locked the front door closed. He lifted his wet poncho over his head and onto the door hook.  Drops of water spilled onto the wooden floor from his hood; he took his breakfast and sat on the bed.  He picked up an entire fried egg with his spoon and bit it whole; hot orange egg yolk dripped onto his beard.  Whose story am I in now, and who is the author?

He reached over to the bed-side table, and took a small paper pad and a stubby charcoal pencil. With his spoon in one hand, and the pencil stub in the other, he slowly chewed another egg while he stared at the first blank page that he could find. And then, he began to write:

A frail, imprisoned, man listened from within his cell, under a barred and open window; outside, the fishermen quietly set their nets before the dawn, and the river rolled gently along its banks. Hurried hands slid sheaves of paper and a couple of pens under the cell's heavy wooden door.  The man turned at the noise and ran to the door, his trembling gnarled fingers grabbing in compulsion. With the new paper and pens in his hands, he sat with his back to the wall.  What provocation should I expose?  What will incite the people to rise and confront each other?  A rat ran across the stone floor of the candlelit cell, and the morning air coolly washed his fatigue away. In candlelight, in the coolness of the morning, he wrote--a story of wealth, of presumption, the comfort of a selfish ruler.

The sun had risen, and his his hand was aching from writing; he watched where the rat had ran under his cot. He tried to run his fingers through his long dark matted hair. He gazed at the pages on his lap and considered the images, the ocean, the storm, a woman of wealth.  He frowned, then tore the pages in half; two crumpled balls of paper danced off the cobbled floor and then into the darkness under his cot. In silence, he looked and considered a blank, new page.  With a well practiced flourish, he picked up his pen and began to write once more:

The storm clouds had fled; a man in an orange poncho left the cabin before the dawn; a well worn, now familiar path led him through the mountain woods. As he straightened some stray tangles in his beard, he gazed at the fading morning stars. Then, with a fish stringer hung from his waders, a fishing pole in his hand, and a few extra lures stuck to the brim of his cap, he turned and walked into a stream.


Be'er Sheva Burning

1/07/2009 12:00:00 AM Posted by kohen contacts , , No comments
Be'er Sheva Burning
e.s. kohen


No, a two room apartment does not mean a two bedroom apartment. What it really means is an itty-bitty living room—dining room—kitchen—bathroom crammed right up next to a small bedroom that has no door. It means incredibly hot autumn days and freezing cold nights. It means paper towels taped over a hole in the front window that had all of the insulation necessary to keep small rabid kittens from crawling in at night.

It couldn’t have been midnight as I laid on my bed, watching my laptop screen light up half of the city of Be’er Sheva, somewhere in the Negev desert in Israel. It would shut itself off eventually, but of course that magic moment of blissful darkness wouldn’t happen until I was half frustrated out of my mind.

The shutters covering my bedroom window were tightly shut for fear of things that go bump in the night. But don’t get me wrong, even if my neighbors didn't occasionally launch random rodent-wanna-be-cats at my apartment, I still would want that window closed; my upstairs neighbors were divinely inspired to throw their post-rotted delectables out their window into a three foot walkway between a short concrete wall and  my wonderful accommodations. So, considering the aroma of rotting hygiene products, the former contents of a very active garbage can, and the occasional kitten carcass strewn about, I decided to keep that particular window closed.

I should have known not to answer the door in the middle of the night.  However, when someone is hammering on your door, yelling in Hebrew, then Arabic, in the middle of the night, something might just be amiss enough to investigate.

No one was there when I opened the door. After examining a carving knife just thrown out one of the windows above me, I proceeded to the other bottom floor apartment to see how much of reality I had lost touch of. I tossed the knife at what I think was a cat, (or a rather large and crusty rat), and started trying to decipher the myriad of curses being kindly exchanged between downstairs and upstairs neighbors.

Only God really knows what would happen if there was peace in the Middle East; I can see everyone killing themselves instead, and it would probably involve teeth. The downstairs neighbors were Jewish, (though the “real" religious Jews resented them). They were Hebrew at any rate, secular college kids, and living together even though they weren’t married. The Arabs upstairs redefined domestic abuse for me in ways I never knew possible. I could never tell who was getting the worse end of it. I mean, she could really holler, but was a horrible aim when she threw knives. He was the strong silent type. So, to say this situation was a little explosive would be totally insufficient.

The house was on fire.

I don’t have a clue what it was oozing down the side of the house–grease, liquid cat carcass, sewage, I didn’t really care. Just the same old, same old—except it was dripping down onto some lights bolted onto the house. Arabs above me, Jews all around me. All I could really decipher in the chaos of Hebrew and Arabic was that they didn't think I should be using the water hose to put out an electrical fire.

That’s when I noticed it. Someone had stolen the really nice long water hose that I had just bought and put this cracked and crumbling tube of malevolent irony in its place. I sprayed everything–especially the thorn bush. I slammed my door, laid in bed, and softly recited the curses the firemen started shouting when they arrived.