: Ponderous Ponderer and a Work in Progress


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).



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

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


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
cmp.20140803 (Very Rough Private "My Friend Says, 'What?  That's Not a Poem!  Fix It!'" draft. Sigh.)
e.s. kohen

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

As tall as me now, he bent down and gathered the scattered papers, burdened by the weight of his pack, the novels, notebooks, references, mountains of knowledge chiseled into sheaves of paper.  He turned and stepped away to reach for another book from the shelf–but I called: "There is so much before you to know; don't neglect what is behind."

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 calling to me through the open window, the clouds shrouding and then revealing the stars and the moon in their allure.  He 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?  This truth you must always know, truth that I have always cherished: from the depth of who I am, to the most secret place of my heart–I know how you have loved me so."


TrueCrypt Hacked - Alternatives

7/19/2014 11:25:00 AM Posted by e.s. kohen No comments

TrueCrypt Hacked - Alternatives

ed.20140803.01 OMG Update, Section 2.2 ..
e.s. kohen


1. Introduction
2. Alternatives So Far
2.1. BitLocker
2.2. Luks/DM-Crypt/FreeOTFE

1. Introduction

To be clear, my definition of "hacked," is a little different than most people's.  So, when I say TrueCrypt has been "hacked," I have gotten several of my friends upset!  "Hack"  = "Copy/Paste".  It is the "old-school" form of "code reuse," where we hacked parts of code from one program/version, and pasted it into another.

"Hi-Jacking" software is pretty much the same thing, but where you take the ENTIRE code base, reuse it, add your own functionality, and redistribute it as the original.

It goes without saying that the encryption algorithms used by TrueCrypt in the past are "robust," "Enterprise", and even "Military" grade.  There were, though, questions regarding legacy code, dead code, etc, that hadn't been audited in a while.

TrueCrypt has become compromised because people are distributing unofficial "new" and "old" versions of TrueCrypt based off of previous source code branches.  The published SHA Hashes no longer match these new releases, (a SHA Hash is a kind of security token that was used to validate previous versions that were audited).

This is especially signficant, for me, in the instances of people using rooted Android operating systems on mobile phones and tablets with customized TrueCrypt support, (custom APK installation packages, including Cerberus, (which has not been affected to my knowledge)).

What this means:  people, (organizations and even governments), are able to modify the old code, inject whatever logic they want, and distribute it on "alternative" download sites since the originial source code is now unmaintained.

This lures users into a "false sense of security," believing that the version of TrueCrypt that they have is the "Latest and Greatest," even though these releases have the very high potential of having malware and spyware injected.

2. Alternatives So Far

What can I say?  TrueCrypt was awesome.  Its features including file containers, hidden volumes, portability, etc, are very hard to find in the market.

2.1 BitLocker

I have been experimenting with this for a couple of weeks.  It should go without saying that this appears to be an absurd alternative, prima facie, in view of portability, Android devices, Linux, etc, but I had to try to see if I could find a solution--especially given its integration with the TPM, (Trusted Platform Module).

So, BitLocker "out of the box," secures your drive--if it is removed from the host computer.  And, you have to use a boot pin, to help ensure it is secured even if there is access to the Host Computer.

All of that being said, there is a reliance on Windows, and Microsoft making sense--for once.

Which of course ...  So, I updated device drivers, on the System partition.  Now, Windows requires the full recovery key, not just the pin, to update these drivers, and System Startup.  Quite the hassle.  More-so, if these drivers are new security drivers, (and unsigned), like the encryption drivers used by DM-Crypt, (FreeOTFE), etc.

Ruled Out Because: Reliance on Windows O.S., Microsoft Design Decisions, No Support by third parties, (Linux/Android/OSX), and needlessly complex for users, (the process for enabling a Boot Pin, (which is a very common Use Case), requires all sorts of non-intuitive security policy hacks.

2.2. Luks / DM-Crypt / FreeOTFE

So ... This is getting further.  FreeOTFE, in and of itself seems to be a workable solution for compatibility with Linux .. Except the issue with the driver signing.

As a result, Free OTFE Explorer seems to be working, as it doesn't require driver signing/loading.

On the Linux side, I am using ZuluMount and ZuluCrypt as GUI front-ends, with DM-Crypt.

I have not been successful at integrating TPM support between machines for multiple platform access to portable drives, mobile devices, (SD Cards, etc).

Working So Far:

  1. Free OTFE Explorer is Working on Windows 8 to access Linux dm-crypted containers.  WOOT.
  2. Luks encrypted / mounted containers being synced between phones and machines using BitTorrent Sync.  (Synchronization of Mounted Containers while updates are being made have not been tested.

To Do: 

  1. Public Video Walkthrough
  2. Multi-Platform Hidden Volume Proof of Concept
  3. NTFS and EXT4 partition tests.
  4. Synchronization of Container with Cloud Storage, and BitTorrent Sync, while mounted and modified by the host OS, test.  Yeah, who thinks that is going to work??
  5. FreeOTFE Encryption of entire partition using Explorer.
  6. A means to install Free OTFE drivers without disabling Windows Driver Signing Security measures.


  1. Free OTFE Secure Drivers require a lot of hacks in Windows, specifically disabling security features that enforce driver signing.  It goes without saying that disabling security features to enable security allows one to be lured into a false sense of security, as the integrity of the secure features you want to use cannot be independently verified before use--in any seamless way.
  2. Free OTFE Explorer: Works on Windows 8.  Unfortunately, in its current state, it does not seem to have a lot of community support, and also quite susceptible to the project being hijacked.  Would love to see more wide spread adoption of this project, and distribution of the Source Code, to other sources.
  3. There are now a billion and a half, (mild exagerration), TrueCrypt Forks.  It goes without saying that this problem has now become epically convoluted.  So far, distrobutions, (Arch Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc,), have made no movements towards the adoption or recommendation of any multiplatform solution.
  4. Linux solutions that are already adopted, (dm-crypt, luks, etc), are notorious for excluding Windows user support, when in fact end users tend to be far more platform neutral, (and more reasonable than developers).  :)   
  5. BitTorrent and TPM cross platform compatibility with a Linux system using Luks and a different TPM, (and don't forget Android, right?), seems to be the holy grail for me--meaning: its not going to happen any time soon unless someone wants to help me do a KickStarter! :)
  6. Multi-Platform Hidden Volume Support doesn't seem to work yet.


Meta Security & Theosophy

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

Meta Security & Theosophy

e.s. kohen


1. When Technical Debates Become Religious
2. Absurdity Analogy: Arguing Against the Significance of Meta Data
3. Absurd Analogy: Arguing Against a Literal Six Day Creation
4. The Penalties of Self Deception
4.1. "6 Day" Distortions, and the Theological and Scientific Repercussions
4.2. Meta Data Distortions, and the Scientific and Civil Rights Repercussions
5. Conclusion

1. Where Technical Debates Become Religious

Slashdot vs, the NSA and Meta Data has yet another community mash-up regarding Meta Data, "Tin Foil Hat" conspiracies, and even worse--accusations of conspiracies that intend to keep the public "Stupid."

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 frivolous, Contentious 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 and Straw Man logical Fallacies.

This means that any and every debate over countries stockpiling "Meta Data" is just as absurd as arguing against the Hastily Generalized theological argument that the Earth was created in six "Days," (it is a Hasty Generalization for the simple fact that most believers contend that they agree with the Scriptural account, and not the post-Catholic Church era belief in a period of six 24 hour days).

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. Absurdity Analogy: Arguing Against the Significance of Meta Data

In the same way, 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 information about information is collected by Governments around the world, we have dispositive proof, quantifiable evidence, regarding the true value and significance of "Meta Data."

3. Absurd Analogy: Arguing Against a Literal Six Day Creation

The Six Day argument is absurd, because it generalizes theists, and unapologetically misrepresents fundamental beliefs, misrepresenting even the definition of the word "Day."  Specifically, most theists contend that the "Scriptural" record represents the "truth" far more accurately than "Tradition":
  1. "Book-of-Genesis Theists," believe that the Sun and the Moon were created on or around the Fourth Day;
  2. "Book-of-Genesis Theists" assert that Scripture only provides a literal definition of "Day" that is relative to the Sun, (Sun down, Sun up, etc);  
  3. "Book-of-Genesis Theists" assert that Scripture indicates that the Earth was present--before--the Sun and the Moon were given as "lights".
  4. So Ask, "How were the first three days measured, if the Sun and Moon only became present on the Fourth day?  Does Scripture say that God had a stop watch?  
  5. Or rather, is it reasonable to apply the "Razor", and that it is more than reasonable to conclude that the passage is obviously metaphorical and uses analogies?"
But, to be fair, many Theists have a difficult time distinguishing the different foundations of their beliefs.  Many are hard pressed to show if the substance of a doctrine, or conclusions, are based on explicit statements from Scripture, or if those beliefs are a result of personal/spiritual inferences, or if their beliefs are based on Tradition.

However, and exceptionally, there are those Theists who break the mold and are bold enough to assert, "Yes, the Bible says such and such, but I believe this, but other people believe that over there ..."

4. The Penalties of Self Deception

How many "intellectual and scientific doors" do we close by hardening our hearts, (our minds), and not at least opening ourselves up to cautious skepticism?

4.1. "6 Day" Distortions, and the Theological and Scientific Repercussions

As for--this--Theist, I am absolutely enamored by the theological and cosmological implications of the formation of the Earth before its orbit around the Sun, that the Earth was created before the orbit of the Moon was "prescribed."

Cosmologically, As a child, I had made the false assumption that planets are formed around a preexisting star, and I had ruled out, (incorrectly), the possibility of an extra-solar entity entering into a System, and then developing from this point on.

In this case, one of the "innovations" that I made through inference from the Book of Genesis is: it is very possible to transfer the most minimum set of data, and then expect that certain inferences be made at the destination to reconstruct the primary concept which was prescribed at the origin.  And in this way, the eventual result would be compatible with the destination, and compatible with the intentions prescribed at the origin.

These are very fun and cool thoughts, from a philosophical and software engineering points of view, (encryption too).

As an Enterprise Architect, (Software Development), I often utilize natural patterns for implementation in technology solutions.  Specifically, these two different "Design Patterns," have affected my own designs for highly transactional distributed global systems, (clusters).  To this day, these principles are observed in stateful objects replicated between servers, (Earth before Sun model), or alternatively, the "instantiation" of objects at the target location, from scratch, which "Mutate" and "Adapt" to fulfill a particular business needs as seen implemented in Artificial Neural Networks, (the Sun before Earth model).

These are really fun ideas, and really do provide great sources of inspiration for scientific innovation!

4.2. Meta Data Distortions, and the Scientific and Civil Rights Repercussions

It is okay to say before a political audience that Meta Data is not significant, and there shouldn't be worry about its collection because that politician's belief is a personal opinion, or even part of a political agenda--as a people, we can accept the integrity of those statements that concede there are personal convictions involved.

But what we cannot accept is the intentional "cloaking" of a personal belief, or political agenda, in a facade of "scientific explanation." This very problem is affecting the effectual discussion of climate change--there is just way too much conflict of interest.

It is clearly false when politicians falsely state: "When it comes down to it, Meta Data is just not at all that interesting or valuable to people from a privacy or technical point of view.  So, since it doesn't have value, nations around the world are okay spending trillions of dollars on collecting this data."

Statements leading to those conclusions are evidently absurd--on their face.

There is no such thing as "Meta Data."  It is a very real, and correct analogy, to equate the problem with what is "Meta Data" to the "Observer Effect," in physics:  when the Meta Data is being "observed," or "gathered," the act of observation then alters the nature of that data so that it is no longer, "Meta"--it has now become very meaningful.

From an object oriented design point of view, there are certain "aspects" of any object, such as: 1, the Reference; 2, its Associations; 3, its Structure, 4: its Accessibility; 5, its Behavior; and 6, its Information.

From a Data or Software Architecture point of view, if you accept these "aspects" of any given object, then it becomes readily apparent that each "Aspect" is "Meta" and "Relative" to each of the other aspects.  Specifically, all aspects are "Meta Data" aspects of "Reference"--including, and especially, "Information."

Class of Objects:  Phone Call
  1. Specific References: Call made last night at 12:00am
  2. Associations: My Number, Your Number
  3. Structure: Dialing Sequence, Transmission Packets, Greeting, Discussion, Pause, Ending
  4. Accessibility: Hard Line, not mobile, not smoke signals, handsets.
  5. Behavior: Dial, Transmit, Talk, Hold, Resume, End, Record, Delete, Play Back.
  6. Information: Conversation Audio, Dial Tone/Pulse, signal strength, duration, time zones
Then, what gets really obtuse, is when you realize that each one of these aspects are each objects in and of themselves, and therein a hierarchical pattern is evidently observed, clearly demonstrating that each aspect is "Meta Data" for others, and completely indistinguishable from "Real Data."

The Privacy Concerns are evident.  If all data can be argued to be "Meta Data," relative to some specific context, then all "Meta Data" is accessible under laws that permit it.

Quite frankly, the only way to ensure privacy, and at the same time enable collection of data, is to forbid the collection of "associations," and "references."  Sure, collect everything else.

In this way, discoveries made by "analyzing" voice data, that are worrisome, can be investigated ... Deductive inferences would have to be made to re-compose the data in its orginal forms.  As it stands now, inductive inferences can be leveraged to query data, "hunches," etc.  And if something just "coincidentally" and "circumstantially" fits the investigator's needs, very misleading consequences will inevitably occur.

By forcing Deductive Inferences for the recomposition of associations, inductive conclusions would be incredibly difficult to make, and thereby personal bias is largely removed from the process of forensic data investigation.

5. Conclusion

For the simple purpose of bold exploration, to search through any and every discipline, to glean the truths that we can, and if we accept the shield of cautious skepticism, we can, and should boldly embrace the "Rabbit Hole," and willingly take each "Red Pill" handed to us.

We have made so many discoveries putting our heads into the dark places and shadows of Human knowledge.  But, there is a risk of course, according to the old proverb: "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? (Prov. 6:27)."

Quite frankly, I believe it is this fear of being burned that we are apprehensive about opening our minds to search out truth--especially if we do so alone.  But, if we do, then maybe as a society we can make some very real, and very meaningful steps towards each other.



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.


Inferential Programing Languages

4/28/2013 02:02:00 PM Posted by kohen contacts , , , No comments

Developer's Blog: 2013.04.28

The Next, (Last?), Generation of Programming Languages.
ed: 2013.04.28.02

For the last 15 years, or so, I have been researching different syntactical patterns in ancient languages, as well as programming languages; modeling those patterns, and identifying where those patterns are utilized in order to create a proof of concept for a new generation of programming languages, or, at the very least, to inspire someone else to do so!  

The Research

1. Identification of the cognitive and computational processes, (both passive and active), undertaken to decrypt and interpret messages.
2. Identification of ontological/analytical views that would aid in the automated analysis and decryption of ancient and modern languages.


In industry jargon: 

The afore-mentioned research of crypto-linguistic analytics and processes was intended to enable the design of a system to translate and transform differing languages into others through the exclusive use of logical, deductive, inferences.

An Abstract Illustration of the Purpose

In the future, for an individual to communicate instantly with another who speaks a completely different language, those languages would have had to have evolved to such a point where a simple "publishing" of basic linguistic ideas, in a logical format, would hold the "key" for decrypting the entire language.

A Specific Problem

Modern computer science is plagued by "standards specifications", a singular, shared inefficiency, that crosses technical domains: software, networking, security, hardware, ...

Specifications are believed to be required--after all, how could compatibility exist without specifications?  This, so far is not specifically the problem.  The problem comes when specifications are "standardized." An organized body takes it upon themselves, or has been entrusted, to maintain a specific standard.

This organization then becomes the bottleneck for the maturation, and the communication of those specifications; organizing new standards bodies are naturally discouraged in order to ensure "interoperability" and "compatibility".

But What If?

What if there was a standard, that never needed updating?  What if there was a perfect standard?  By necessity, this standard would have already been completed, (how do you complete something already perfect), and by necessity, this standard would have to be universal, and timeless.  So, if there are advanced civilizations in the universe, they would, consequently, have access to the same "perfect standard" that we do.

So, does this standard exist?  Of course it does: Logical Inference.

The Outcome

So, what is the outcome of all of this analysis, modeling, and wall-staring-at? 

The outcome is the means to communicate all of the linguistic principals of a language in terms of logic. 

In this way, a logically valid programming language could be specified and transmitted in a purely logical format; the specification could be interpreted; a compiler for this language could be dynamically generated; and the program could be executed, (this would also enable the static analysis of a program before its ever ran and compiled locally).

Next Steps

Using the analytical patterns, syllogisms, and other meta-concepts uncovered during the analysis phase, (okay so 15 years is a bit long for an analysis phase; I'm a strategic developer!), it is necessary to create a compiler, (not that hard, right?), that interprets the logical representation of a programming language and either translates, or transforms that program and delegates its execution, or rather executes the intentions of that program, (should this translate into machine code, some variant of C, Java Byte Code, ILASM? Or, should this run as an interpreter at first?).


Need a code editor.  Evaluated several editors that have ways to define constructs, semantics, syntax, but none that meet the requirements, specifically: syllogism "form" validation.

Got to roll my own.  So, C++, C#, Java?  After a few proofs of concepts, C++ 11 can be used to create a cross platform editor. 

Having issues with compilers, (Microsoft's November 2012 C++ compiler implements some C++ 11 features, and the GNU C++ compiler is notoriously disingenuous in its "neutrality" when it comes to Microsoft platforms. 

Currently, I am compiling static libraries in C++ 11 using Code Blocks, MinGW, and using Visual Studio 2012 to implement a web front end.  MinGW's GCC compiler also has issues with cross-compiling x64.  There is a MinGW 64 bit release that I am trying to incorporate, and will take some more effort to incorporate into this process. 

Obviously, cross platform development feasibility is a very high priority to hopefully gain some assistance from the community, developing these toolsets.


Create some mobile app, using some of the APIs that I have created so far that can generate a little revenue to help cover some of the costs.  Perhaps an Android App utilize the Android C Native Development Kit. 

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.