Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29

...and that's not redundant.

NOTE: Scroll way down for the latest from SerandEz... including S.I.L.'s latest, hilarious post: Good Night Loon!

I would call this a Blog Roundup as I normally do, but there's just so much out there from the past couple of days. I'm going to seperate it into categories again... and this time, I'm going to seperate each category into its own post.

Here are the categories, with links to come as they are finished: And if I think of any others, those too. All posts, unless there are exceptions that I didn't notice, are from the last 3 days.
While these are all obviously posts I especially liked, bold posts are the best of the best IMHO, excluding my own of course. ;) Enjoy!
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Blogosphere Extravaganza: Israel

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Israel:
This is by far the hardest part to put together. There's so many bloggers with their opinions on Israel and its politics, I don't know where to start. And therefore, I give up.

Here's the bloggers who have had excellent posts on Israel or Israeli politics in the last few days, in no particular order.
Jameel
Ze'ev
SoccerDad
Batya
JoeSettler
Tel-Chai Nation
LGF
Nephtuli
Not that others have not: But the posts I was going to link to are among these guys and gals. Perhaps later I'll throw in which posts I was referring to, but we'll have to see. There's just so many...!
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Blogosphere Extravaganza: Politics

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Politics:
The boys at the Inter-Galactic Jester are coming up with 5 Republicans they actually like.

They also note the Church's split on homosexuality - which is becoming a political battle.

Nephtuli thinks Bush is a great friend of Israel's: By butting out. The comments have begun another discussion, worth checking out.

LGF notes that Al-Jazeera may not be a great news source.
In Ramallah, staff members of Al Jazeera TV chant, “Down with fascist America, and with the terrorist administration!” (Hat tip: MEMRI TV.)
Judeopundit sees that the US's Green Party has called for divestment from Israel.

LGF and the Corner (via Instapundit) make some interesting notes on the four recent hostages in Iraq.
In a statement, Christian Peacemaker Teams said it strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and blamed the kidnapping on coalition forces.
Well, that's pretty stupid.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE... [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
The peace group whose four were kidnapped declares on their website:
CPT does not advocate the use of violent force to save lives of its workers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation.
And that just stinks. Imagine if you're one of those hostages: You want to live, but if you are rescued, that would require making your organization and life's work look foolish. Your only hope is to be released by the terrorists nice people holding you hostage because of the American atrocities. Sucks, doesn't it? I should note that I hope they are rescued, and the terrorists caught or killed.
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Blogosphere Extravaganza: Halacha & Hashkafa

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

[Simple translations: Halacha = Jewish Law; Hashkafa = Jewish Thought]

Halacha & Hashkafa:
The Godol asks if God is your buddy. Excerpt:
So how do religious people cope?
  1. They are not really thinking about G-d very often .
  2. They are not really thinking about who G-d actually is, but see Him as some kind of divine buddy .
  3. They are thinking about this correctly (to whatever extent), and the elevated madreigah they get to as a result of that enables them to function normally.
The comment thread is amazing.

Responding2JBlogs wonders about a fulfilling lifestyle, and is still waiting for that Eureka moment to be convinced of a Jewish life.

The Gabbai has a nice debate on homosexuality and Judaism.

ADDeRabbi discusses the first FFB [frum from birth] at Maven Yavin.

S./Mississippi Fred discusses the Oral Law - and why to be Jewish one must follow it.

Gil discusses the Brooklyn Eruv. Or non-Eruv. Depends who you ask.

S. also discusses what "Ivri" means.
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E-Bay Song

(Hat tip: KickBoxer) [Taking a quick break from the Blogosphere Extravaganza]
This song is really funny.

I have not stopped laughing about this new hilarious song all about ebay!!!

Turn your speakers way up, sit back and listen and laugh to eBay's own song, sung to the tune of The BackStreet Boys "I Want It That Way".

The "eBay song"

A used ... pink bathrobe
A rare ... mint snowglobe
A Smurf ... TV tray
I bought on eBay
My house ... is filled with this crap
Shows up in bubble wrap
Most every day
What I bought on eBay

Check out the whole thing, and listen to it. It's Weird Al Yankovic, and it's hilarious.

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Blogosphere Extravaganza: Holidays & Misc. Posts

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Holidays & Misc. Posts
Gil doesn't like Christmas trees being called holiday trees. Neither do I. DovBear likes it, and doesn't understand why others find it disingenuous.

Krum, meanwhile, doesn't like when people wish him "Merry Christmas".

Hmph. This part was supposed to be longer, but I gave Dovie his own post!

Happy isn't so happy:
My faith in blogdom has been crushed.
The boys at the Inter-Galactic Jester find a funny.
A little too close to home for some?

Topeka Mayor Now Highest-Ranking Non-Indicted Republican Official
Jameel has the pictures that explain why most Congressmen never come to work. They don't want to end up looking like this.
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Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: DovBear

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Ugh. DovBear, in his usual fashion, has thrown so much controversial material onto his blog that to sum them up I had to give him his own wing of this Extravaganza.

Quick note on DovBear's style, so everything might become a bit clearer:
If all else fails you can try the Dovbear method. Say something pretty far out or very nasty that you don't really mean. Wait until you are demolished in the comments and take a tiny baby step back. Or quickly add another four posts.
Anyways, here's what he had to say the last couple of days: First, he made fun of Christians for being upset that a Christmas tree was renamed a "holiday tree" in Boston. Many disagreed.
There are 500 billion of them, and ten of us. If we Jews could remain Jewish in czarist Russia, they can remain Christian gathered under the holiday tree.
Then, the Bear noted that Teaneck is less heretical than Williamsburg. On this, he's right, though it's only by a slight margin. I'm waiting to see him measure Queens or the fabled "out of town" [to New Yorkers] a.k.a. "Thank God outside the tri-state area" [to the rest of us] vs. anything in it.

He then properly ripped into Congressman Cunningham, who admitted to taking bribes, though he started some arguments in the comments.

Dov then started another argument with what was originally a good post attacking a clearly anti-Semitic point by a writer.

After kissing up to Ted Koppel and pointing out a flawed WSJ economic piece, he had an incredibly dumb post absurdly asserting that Christians blame Jews for the secularization of Christmas, and tossed in that haredim bash modern Orthodox Jews and not the reverse, which is only partially correct.

He got rightfully shredded for misinterpreting an article regarding police tactics, though the comments by some of his readers were more intelligent.
I mean, what's next? People in long, flowing, raincoats walking up and down the streets sneering "Papers Please!"
As noted in the comments, the article specifically noted that they would not be asking people for identification.

Finally, he finished with an excellent post on prayer, in which he asked the old question of why God would need our prayers.
One answer: "The answer is that the change that takes place through tefillah is not in G-d, but in ourselves."
All in all, it has been a fun week, and it's good to see the Bear back to his old self. He'd been in a funk since the Godol Hador's (fake) retirement.

I hope that DovBear can continue to entertain us with his completely biased, off-color, illogical, and unkind rantings based on cherry-picked and slanted articles. They force those of us in our right minds to wonder with bewilderment how someone so ridiculous is still such a draw that we can't help but come back to read more of his drivel. It's just... entertaining.

Welcome back, DB.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: Culture

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Culture:
Busy Briton Miriam reviews a religious flim company's short movies, then tackles Ushpizin. Later, she heads to a Matisyahu concert and has an eerie experience with another blogger.

Chaim, who seems to have a good handle on Matisyahu lately, finds a number of reviews, and updates the HASC concert.

Mirty goes to Vegas, and keeps her soul and her money. Except $3.

Krum tries to be sensitive.

Gene recommends respecting soldiers, though he does diminish their service a bit. I liked this last bit, however:
(3) Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every day. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their arse.
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Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: Education

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Education:
Jameel loved Steve Jobs' speech to Stanford University a few months ago. So do I.
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
Read the whole speech, tell me if you liked it as much as Jameel and I did.

Wolf muses on the slippery slope Lakewood schools' bans are heading on. As if they haven't messed up enough already. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, though I'm leaning toward 'cry'. Excerpt:
General Chinuch Guidlines:

-- In compliance with the warnings of the gedolim about the dangers of the internet, it is prohibited to have internet in your home (even if you feel that you have safeguarded against access by children). In the event that internet access is a business necessity, the computer must have a password and be physically locked. Additionally, the Yeshiva must be told that you have internet in the home.
Forget crying: That kind of stupidity makes me angry.

Batya feels that some students are better served with special academic "sports" programs, and that the systems for testing students have gone awry.
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Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: Fun

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Fun:
S.I.L. writes her second post, linking to an article which reflects on the changes to the famous children's book, Good Night Moon. It's a hilarious parody. One commenter noted:
That was probably the funniest post I've ever read.
Shoshana takes a leap of faith.

SoccerDad shares some jokes.

Michelle Malkin points to a hilarious Beautiful Atrocities post about the Berkeley Public Library.
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Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: Life

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Life:
Jack, whom should rename his blog Mr. Prolific, reflects on life's journey, and what his sportsmanlike children will think after he's gone. Jack, do us all a favor: Slow. Down. How can we read everything?! 28 posts since Nov. 24th!! Geez...

Chaim's scars remind him of his own life.

JBlogmeister sees an old friend... and wants to set her up. Not enough people are thoughtful enough to do such a thing.

Mirty debates the important life issues: Mustard vs. Mayo. Her winner is... this one.

Shira gets her own key.

Wolf notes what some people are finding important.

Robbie reflects on friends long gone.
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Blogosphere Super-Extravaganza 11/29: Blogging

NOTE: This is just one of many parts of the SerandEz Blogosphere Extravaganza. For the main page, click here.

Blogging
:
Basil reminds us that the Weblog Awards are going on... Sadly, I completely forgot and never nominated the blogs I would have liked to. Some were anyway, but many were not. We'll see if those at least make the final roll. When the nominees come out, I'll post who I think should win, and whom I would have chosen.

I disagreed with Everyman Chronicles on NZBear's revamping of TTLB. Plus, I already know where readers come from.

So does Mirty, who's crying over her devolving status.

Batya wonders why Blogger's spellcheck doesn't include words like... blogging?

BlogHd hits 250,000! Congratulations.

S./Mississippi Fred wants more comments. Don't we all... Best suggestion, which we all think but some of us wouldn't say:
If all else fails you can try the Dovbear method. Say something pretty far out or very nasty that you don't really mean. Wait until you are demolished in the comments and take a tiny baby step back. Or quickly add another four posts.
As S. said... Heh.

My blogosphere article is finished, and soon to be published. Let me know what you think. I liked this part the best:
The blogosphere is a world where there are discussions about - if not the answers to - everything you're looking for; where subjectivity reigns, and lies are shredded. It is a world of hyperlinks, templates, and tags; of blogrolls, carnivals, and trackbacks. Most importantly, it is a world of storytellers, pundits, and soap-box speakers; of writers, commenters, and silent lurking readers.
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Evolution Limited: Good or Bad?

NOTE: I realize many people may not be familiar with TTLB. What you should know and do:
1) Join it! Requires a SiteMeter counter (like the one all the way down at the bottom of this page) and signing up. Takes 5 minutes, including #2.
2) Put up what you are in your sidebar.
3) To understand what any of that does for you, check out NZBear's explanation.
On second thought, let me try: Basically, TTLB ranks people by the number of links to them or their posts on other people's home pages. Blogs are categorized with a cute evolution-style status - from insignifcant microbes to flippery fish to higher beings. The more links, the higher you've evolved. As I wouldn't mind being a Large Mammal, if you would like to link to me you are more than welcome. Thanks! :)
A number of people have commented on NZBear's decision to revamp TTLB, including to exclude Open Trackbacks from being counted as links in the TTLB EcoSystem. The issue is what this will do to open trackbacks, which are an excellent way for newer bloggers to put their material out.

Basil, who puts together excellent roundups 2-3 times daily, in addition to hosting open trackbacks, points to a very good article by Everyman Chronicles.

EC feels this will have a negative effect on blogging:
Don Surber has the scoop. Apparently links gained by open trackback parties will be filtered out of TTLB ecosystem ranking which means that any upstart blog will truly have to climb up the hard way. Frankly, I'm disappointed in this as many good blogs would go otherwise unnoticed were it not for the generosity of middle-weight heavy hitting blogs like Stop the ACLU and Don Surber who routinely open their sites for these trackback parties. I'm still puzzled as to why Bear would do this but basically without an Instalanche on a pretty consistent basis, bloggers won't be able to move up with any amount of significance in the ecosystem. In my opinion it will diminish the quality of many blogs as we will have to rely on submitting to carnivals, joining linking communities, etc. which means less and less time actually blogging. Kind of takes the fun out of the experience. We'll see what happens.
As I thought about what he wrote, I disagreed:

I actually disagree... I moved up somewhat with open trackbacks, but the TTLB portion didn't matter. The open trackbacks will still exist - Basil, Political Teen, et al are still hosting them - and people can still be "found" through those, as many readers of mine are originally trackback or carnival readers. That TTLB doesn't count them makes sense: It ensures that those who take advantage of the trackbacks only to move up in links are not able to do so.

The main point is that Open Trackbacks still exist. Those that were doing them for links will stop; those that do so to get their name and ideas out will continue. I think that's a good thing all the way around.

I do hear both sides of the argument, but I think this is more good than limiting. What do you think?

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Armey Rips GOP : On The Money

Dick Armey, who to me is reminiscent of when Family Guy was hilarious without being perverted [Mr. Griffin Goes To Washington], blasts the GOP in general and President Bush in particular on their outrageous spending since they have got control of the government. His Wall Street Journal op-ed minces no words, and... he's absolutely right:
Across the nation, wherever I go to speak with them, their refrain is the same: "I can't tell a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats." Our base rightly expects Republicans to govern by the principles -- lower taxes, less government and more freedom -- that got them elected. Today, with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, there is a widening credibility gap between their political rhetoric and their public policies.
At the national level, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are presiding over the largest expansion of government since LBJ's Great Society, things are no better.
He gives some excellent examples as well:
Instead, we have embarrassing spectacles like the 2005 highway bill. Costing $295 billion, it is 35% larger than the last transportation bill, fueled by 6,371 earmarks doled out to favored political constituencies. By comparison, the 1987 highway bill was vetoed by Ronald Reagan for containing relatively few (152) earmarks [ed. i. e. It was vetoed for earmarks even though there were only 152]. Overall, even excluding defense and homeland security spending, the growth rate of discretionary spending adjusted for inflation is at a 40-year high.
And inflation itself is actually quite low, thanks to the tax cuts President Bush made in his first term. The economy is doing very well now - but it would be even better if the GOP-led House and the President would stop this ridiculous spending. A strong economy does not excuse large government expenditures.

All of our leaders are complicit in this spending spree. President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. The House leadership refuses to reign in appropriators, claiming, as one of them preposterously put it, that "there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

I have always believed that good policy is good politics for Republicans.
Conversely, when we let politics define our agenda, we get in trouble. The highway bill is one example, where the criterion of choice was politics. An even better example was 2003's expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs. This was an explicitly political effort to take health care "off the table" for the 2004 elections.
Armey points to a young, growing group of Congressmen who are finally (against the wishes of the GOP leadership) trying to stop the madness. There are some more excellent points at the end of the article, and it is extremely worthwhile to take the time to read it. Check it out.

One last line by Armey:
When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.
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Good Night Loon

There is something so soothing about Good Night Moon that I never even noticed the cigarette the author was holding. I do not advocate smoking and try to never expose my kids to cig. smoke... (Ezzie's nephew thinks it's steam...), but this satire I found via Michelle Malkin is very good.
Sleep Right!
And Don't Let Reality Bite

By Louis Bayard
Sunday, November 27, 2005; B02

"Goodnight Moon," the children's classic by Margaret Wise Brown, has gone smoke-free. In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand. . . .

"It is potentially a harmful message to very young kids," [Kate] Jackson [editor in chief of HarperCollins Children's Books] said, "and it doesn't need to be there."

-- News item,

the New York Times,

Nov. 17, 2005

In the great green room there was . . .

A cordless telephone

And a red balloon, non-helium and securely tethered out of toddler reach

And a picture of the cow jumping over the moon, with a warning label never to try this with cattle or indeed any animals without parental supervision

And there were three little bears, roaming freely in their native habitat, secure in their endangered-species status

And two little neutered kittens

And a pair of mittens, purchased from a Cambodian collective

And a little toyhouse with all potential choking hazards fastened in place by six-inch bolts

And a young and humanely captured mouse

Goodnight room, which is more than many Burkina Faso children have

Goodnight moon and all moon-related goddesses

A special shout-out to persons of color, the differently abled and victims of tobacco-company propaganda

Goodnight solar-powered clocks

And goodnight sustainably manufactured hemp socks

Goodnight synthetic tortoise shell comb and brush

Goodnight anybody who has ever been made to feel like a "nobody" by a rigidly patriarchal society

Goodnight organic whole-grain GMO-free oatmeal mush

And goodnight to the lady of mature years seeking an environment conducive to thought

Goodnight stars, which remind us that we are not alone in this cosmos and must henceforth redouble our stewardship efforts

Goodnight air, which we have done so much to pollute with our inhuman sport utility vehicles and our Weber grills

Goodnight all noises in the immediate vicinity . . .

. . . with the exception of the white-noise machine, the Haydn concerto loop, and the four-gallon cool-mist humidifier with the evaporative wick filter that was changed only last weekend

Goodnight to anybody whose feelings might have been injured by not being included above.

Author's e-mail: dratnip@aol.com

Lou Bayard, a Washington writer, carefully disinfects every book he reads to his children.

Joe Lieberman on Iraq

Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman has an excellent, insightful op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. Some excerpts:
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood -- unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.
Note the difference in viewpoints among those who have visited vs. those who have not. Best of the Web yesterday noted an interesting Pew poll which asked if Iraq will be a success. Journalists said "fail" 63%-33%. The military said "succeed" at a 64-32 rate.
Progress is visible and practical.
It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
His emphasis on 10,000 is interesting. Watching the news, one would easily be led to believe that the numbers are far higher; 10,000 seems like a very low number.
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

There's more... check it out. One interesting point he makes which is a knock on Bush & Cheney: Troops are not affected in the short-term by all the negative talk; they tend to ignore it. Long-term it may have an effect, as it changes American outlooks, but as of now it is meaningless.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Where Readers Come From

*note: If anyone thinks I should take this down, I'll consider it. I don't think that this gives away anything, as my SiteMeter is available to all, and this doesn't identify a soul. Readers may recall that I am outspoken in my distaste for "outers". But perhaps I am missing some technical thing that would allow others to identify people.*

I've always considered writing this type of post, but I never actually did. But it's always intrigued me: The people who read this blog are from a wide array of institutions and organizations, different fields and jobs, colleges and homes. Y'all know who you are, but I (usually) have no clue. Maybe I'll get a Frappr map, a la Jack...

Meanwhile, here are the places some of you are from, which makes me wonder if anyone actually works anymore: (notice that some cities are off; some companies/schools route their lines through other places... the differences in where Einstein shows up is a case in point, unless people are accessing their server from remote locations)
US State Department - Washington, DC
T. Rowe Price & Associates - Baltimore, MD
Commonwealth Medical - Plano, TX (we just had over a couple Plano girls...)
Raddison Edwardian Hotels - London, UK
Mississippi State University - MS
Maryland Hillel Foundation - Baltimore/College Park, MD
Univ. of Maryland at Baltimore - Baltimore, MD
Columbia University - New York, NY
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson - New York, NY
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston - Boston, MA
Jewish Chronicle Ltd. - UK
Prudential Securities - Irvington, NJ
Accutrade Inc. - New York, NY
BlueCross BlueShield of Michigan - Detroit, MI
Fairfax County Public Schools - Alexandria, VA
Einstein College of Medicine - North Bergen, NJ
Einstein College of Medicine - Sharon, MA
Info Sys of US House of Representatives - Oxon Hill, MD (near WashDC)
US Army Research Laboratory - Hyattsville, MD
And that doesn't include the majority, who show up as the ISP they're using, be it Comcast, Verizon, Adelphia, AOL, or something else.

Recent cities:
Tel Aviv & Jerusalem, Israel
Frankfurt, Germany
New York, Forest Hills, and Brooklyn, NY
Baltimore, Oxon Hill, Cockeysville, Hyattsville, and College Park, MD
Fairlawn, Englewood, Clifton, Passaic, North Bergen, Irvington, and Piscataway, NJ
Irving & Plano, TX (both Dallas)
Atlanta, GA
Detroit & Ann Arbor, MI
Washington DC
Asheville, NC
Monroe, LA
Colorado Springs, CO
Los Angeles, CA
Racine, WI (Milwaukee)
...
Most interesting: This is all just among my last 100 visitors, or basically since this morning. Isn't it amazing what the blogosphere can do?!

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Welcome to the (J-) Blogosphere [Final Version]

NOTE: This is the article that will appear in the upcoming Lander Chronicle. Thanks to all those who contributed their ideas and comments; for all those who are new here, check out the previous two posts on the subject. I'm sorry about the formatting - I had to format it in a way that it could be printed, which is far different than a blog post. Read, enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Welcome to the (J-) Blogosphere

When I was first asked to write this article, I was unsure how to go about writing it. After all, the blogosphere is a world unto its own: A world which is limited only by the information and creativity that resides in the heads and hearts of every being on this planet, supplemented by whatever has been heard, written, or seen in each of our vastly different experiences. Or, in other words, it is limited by nothing at all.

The most common metaphor used to describe the blogosphere is an excellent one - a coffee shop. As one commenter, Mirty, put it, “It's like a place you drop in on and numerous interesting conversations are going on. You know most of the people there -- or even if you don't know them, you are welcome to join in the discussions. You can go to one table and talk about politics; another one and have an earnest discussion about religion. At a third table, people are telling funny stories and laughing. It's much more interactive than television or radio, yet not quite as immediate as real life; an interesting midpoint between the two, perhaps.”

But it's not just any coffee shop. It's a huge coffee shop in which one can comfortably sit down with just about anyone and start a conversation. Or, as another Jewish (or J-) blogger – On The Fringesaid, “Where else can you find Orthodox Jews and tallit-and-tefillin-wearing egalitarian Jewish women actually having a serious and respectful conversation concerning the Akedah with one another?”

Another blogger, PsychoToddler, noted a special aspect of blogging. “A while back I described blogging as "targeted socializing." I can have conversations with people anywhere about topics that are actually of interest to both of us. I'm not confined to the nonsensical small talk of people I happen to come in contact with in the real world. And when the conversation becomes boring, I leave. In the real world, I'm often stuck staring at someone who really doesn't interest me.”

But DovBear felt that blogging was a lot less civil. “A good blog is more like a saloon, or a pub. You need yelling and screaming and occasionally a chair being busted upside someone's head to go along with all that conversation.”

This caused Mirty to remark, “I guess the "dark side" of blogging is that comments can get hurtful and hostile and just out of control. (I guess that's the bar/saloon aspect.) Some bloggers don't want a slugfest in their comments. Some don't mind.”

On The Fringe and Jack’s Shack noted that “one of the most interesting things about blogging is the chance to interact with the world and in particular the JBlog world gives Jews of all backgrounds a chance to peek inside the lives of others. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the life of a Satmar, MO, Reform, Conservative, BT, FFB Jew is like and this world gives us a chance to see what is on the other side of the curtain.” Instead, “I'm "meeting" Jews through the "Olam HaBlog" whom I'd never have the opportunity to get to know in real life. We tend to stay with our own kind in real life--be our "own kind" black-hat or apikorus/heretic. And we spend too much time looking down on one another. I may not always agree with some of the fine folks who comment on my blog, but it's a wonderful opportunity to learn from others, and to try to see Yahadut/Judaism through different eyes.”

Peeking, however, is only from the reader's perspective. It all begins with the blogs themselves. Shoshana noted that “an interesting aspect of the blogosphere is the fact that it seems to give so many the freedoms to express their "true colors" in a way that they seem reluctant to do in real life, because of the anonymity involved. This, in turn, gives the readers the opportunity to see someone noone else ever really would.” Others, like Muse, think it's something else. “I think that for many of us, blogging is like a fantasy writing career.”

Blogs (from the word weblogs) can be about anything. They can be someone's thoughts, experiences, or outlet. They run the gamut, from comic to depressing, sports to politics, love to hate. The blogosphere is a world of interconnection - credibility is earned through content; status by the number of people who link to and read you.

The most widely linked blog - Instapundit - is written by a law professor from Tennessee, Glenn Reynolds. Instapundit focuses primarily on news and politics, and interestingly comments very rarely. Reynolds primarily links to other bloggers' posts, and often will say only "Heh" or "Indeed". By choosing only interesting, innovative, or intelligent posts, Reynolds established himself as a premier editor of the blogosphere. A link from Instapundit can result in an "Instalanche", or Instapundit avalanche, to a blog - anywhere between 5 and 15 thousand hits over the next 24 hours. He often notes that one of the blogosphere's strengths is its ability to immediately discover and uncover facts, quotes, and stories and reshape people's views. The mainstream media, for example, has just one hour to cover every major story - which means they pick and choose facts and stories, sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. The blogosphere is an excellent check on this. One of the big booms in blog traffic occurred after Dan Rather aired a CBS story with memos that seemed to prove President Bush had skipped out on his National Guard service. Within 8 minutes of the airing, bloggers had proved the documents to be an obvious forgery created on Microsoft Word, and CBS was made to look like fools when it took them almost 2 weeks to retract the story. Reynolds said it best a few years ago, as another blogger, Shamalama noted: “What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot. That makes life tough for Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and the Reverends Falwell, Robertson, Jackson, & Sharpton, for reasons that transcend traditional partisanship and ideology.”

Hugh Hewitt, another notable blogger, put it in perspective: “The old information monopoly had an enormous ability to decide where and when news would be 'news.' That gatekeeping function is gone, and blogs have rushed in to decide for themselves what matters.”

The same is true in the J-blogosphere, as well. One of the most widely read Jewish blogs, Hirhurim, mostly discusses Halachic [Jewish law] or historical issues and brings sources to what he says. But not just typical halachos - learning on the subway, vomiting after kiddush, and cloning are discussed, as are the historical accuracies of Tuval-Kayin, the Mabul, and textualism in halacha. Another prominent J-blogger who just retired - and now seems to have unretired - from the blogosphere, the Godol Hador, would discuss the most controversial passages in the Torah and issues facing modern-day Judaism. His blog became a haven for believers, heretics, and everyone in between to battle out their facts and opinions, and gathered 240,000 hits in just 10 months. He used to trade barbs with DovBear, a liberal Orthodox Jew who blogs about just about everything, leaning toward cutting criticism of right-wing politicians and Jews of all stripes. Of course, there's also a Renegade Rebbetzin, whose byline, "I am Rebbetzin, hear me roar" speaks for itself, and Ba'al Tshuvas Anonymous [for discouraged and prospective BT's], who’s beginning this blogger contributed to.

It is interesting to note the familial feel that occurs among bloggers, despite everyone's differences. As a few bloggers said, including Responding2JBlogs, “GH's retirement showed that people can actually feel slightly emotional about pixels on their screen.” Shoshana said, “The people I have met through the blogging world have been incredible additions to my life and I think the relationships that are formed are done do because of the similar goals and focus in bloggers' lives which comes through in their blogs and bonds bloggers together.” She was agreeing with Ze’ev of Israel Perspectives, who wrote: “One of the most amazing things about the internet is that it has a way of bringing people together. I have found that since starting my blog (as well as through having some of my writings published in various on-line forums) that I have come into contact with some really amazing people whose paths I would have otherwise not likely crossed.”

From the Chief Editor of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal to a teenager who's amassed over 1 million hits, blogs are reshaping America. It is conservative bloggers who first criticized the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court, bloggers of all stripes who jumped on the PorkBusters bandwagon [designed to cut pork from the national budget; still going on], and a union of some of the most wide-read blogs on the left and right that has joined together against a proposal to limit bloggers' freedom of speech.

The same is true in the Jewish world. The J-Blogosphere has quickly risen to a world where all is discussed. The same discussions that might be hushed in some circles are shouted online; the difficulties and trials people used to suffer in solitude are now shared, if only to know that someone cares enough to listen. Then there's the humor, wittiness, relief, and exultations that are there, and the wonderful support from old bloggers to new. The J-Blogosphere has even created its own carnival, Haveil Havalim, which is “the carnival of Jewish blogs - a weekly collection of blog highlights, tidbits, and points of interest.”

The blogosphere is a world where there are discussions about - if not the answers to - everything you're looking for; where subjectivity reigns, and lies are shredded. It is a world of hyperlinks, templates, and tags; of blogrolls, carnivals, and trackbacks. Most importantly, it is a world of storytellers, pundits, and soap-box speakers; of writers, commenters, and silent lurking readers.

Welcome to the (J-) blogosphere.

Ezzie Goldish writes at SerandEz.blogspot.com, and his editorial, “Bullish on Bush”, was recently published in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Haveil Havalim #46 is up!!

Ze'ev over at Israel Perspectives has posted Haveil Havalim #46. Here's the older, academic explanation of HH:
“Haveil Havalim,” ”Vanity of Vanities” is the Jewish-Israeli blogging carnival consisting of posts from blogs all over the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havalim” is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and realized that it was nothing but norishkeit, “hevel” or in English “vanities.”
And here's the one Mirty used last week, which is a bit more to the point:
Haveil Havalim is the carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest.
Personally, I'm not sure which one I like better. Either way, check it out! It's another good one...

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11/27 Roundup

Just a few hits from the major blogs...
Instapundit has a very good post saying Iraq is a reverse Vietnam. An excerpt:
In Vietnam, the brass talked happy-talk, the press talked to grunts and reported that the war was going worse than we were told. But now it's Americans who are talking to the grunts, and, as StrategyPage noted last year, getting a different picture of how the war is going:

So you don’t have to wait for the official version of what’s going on, or for reporters on the scene to get their stories to the folks back home. The troops send email, or pick up the phone, sometimes a cell phone, and call. This has caused a lot of confusion, because the media reports of what’s happening are often at odds with what the troops are reporting. This has been particularly confusing in a year where there’s a presidential election race going on. The Democrats decided to attack the way the war on terror, and particularly the actions in Iraq, was being fought. Part of that approach involved making the situation at the front sound really, really bad. But the troops over there seemed to be reporting a different war. And when troops came home, they were amazed at what they saw in the newspapers and electronic media. Politics and reality don’t mix.

The Political Teen has video for part of Reynold's post; he also has pictures of Cindy Sheehan's book signing. As you can see, she had a nice crowd - of reporters.

LGF notes the new leadership in Fatah. As he says:
Oh yes, and the hopes for peace are much higher with a young “activist” who calls himself “Hitler.”
Check it out.

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NFL Update - Week 12

My picks are below... Glancing quickly, I think I will be better off if St. Louis and possibly Tampa Bay lose this week. As of 1:27, four games are going my way (if you include Houston over St. Louis and Chicago over Tampa Bay), one is not, and the other three are scoreless.

Carolina just scored, so make that 5-1-2. :) To be updated...

1:45 Browns are losing, but the other 7 games are all going the way I'd like. I realized that San Diego losing to Washington seems to be in my best interests as well. I should note that in a typical large pool such as mine, a person is better off losing a couple of games than having a perfect week. A perfect week would likely result in a tie, as someone else probably has the same teams to win. But the weights are different from one another, and that's where the differences come in. I have 3 points on St. Louis, but only a couple of guys picked Houston. Most have many more points on St. Louis - and it would be to my advantage if they don't get those points.

Only 3 people picked Washington over San Diego, and three more have less than the 7 I have on them. Tampa/Chicago is trickier: 13 people have Chicago, but not for that much. About the same have Tampa Bay, but many have large amounts of points. For now, I think a Chicago win is better for me, but that may change.

1:54 San Francisco and San Diego just pulled ahead; the Browns are still losing. The only two games with large leads are Houston over St. Louis (very good) and New England losing to Kansas City (very good). So far, not bad...

2:39 The three teams with large leads: Cincinnatti (my 16), Kansas City (my 15), and Houston (which I want to lose my St. Louis - 3). Very good. All the other games are within a touchdown.

3:14 Cincy is killing the Ravens, 34-0. Tennessee has walked all over San Francisco in the 3rd and are up 30-14. KC is up 26-10 on New England, Houston 24-10 on St. Louis. Washington is up 17-7 on San Diego; Chicago 13-3 on Tampa Bay. Those are all good. Buffalo leads Carolina 9-6, and the Browns are down 17-6 - not so good. But the Browns are at about midfield, so we'll wait and see...

3:45 The Browns have been terrible today, with 5 turnovers. They're on their way to a loss, trailing 24-6. Baltimore, meanwhile, has scored 3 straight touchdowns to cut Cincy's lead to 13. Carolina has pulled ahead 13-9. The Browns' loss will cost me...

3:58 Carolina, Kansas City, and Chicago win. Browns lose. SD/Wash are tied at 17.

4:33 St. Louis just won in overtime after an incredible comeback. Maybe. Officials conferring... touchdown! Wow. And San Diego won in OT as well. Cincy, Tennessee win too.

7:44 Oakland lost, but that actually is not bad for me. Jacksonville and Philly won; Giants/Seattle in OT. I've lost 29 points this week, which is around average.

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Holiday Weekend Roundup 11/27

I'm still looking for everyone's thoughts...

Meanwhile, here are some other people's thoughts that stuck out at me tonight:
Politics/Abortion: CWY starts off explaining how he sometimes disagrees with conservatives by stating that to say "abortion is murder" is wrong. Nephtuli notes only that Roe should be overturned if only because it is a terrible interpretation of law.

Judaism: BTA has letters to R' Sampson Raphael Hirsch; the letters and following discussion are both quite fascinating.

Shira asks if non-religious Judaism can be self-sustaining.

Society: DovBear saw Harry Potter - thumbs up mostly.

ADDeRabbi points to an incredible article about a pigeon and seminary girl.
There are a bunch on Israel I'd like to add, but I'll do those tomorrow. I'm falling on my face. Meanwhile, enjoy the added blogs! :) Check it out...!

UPDATE: Because Haveil Havalim is today, I'll skip the Israel posts. My guess is Ze'ev may use them...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SerandEz Roundup

I honestly am not sure what I want to write about at the moment... There are a lot of great posts in the blogosphere now, and I'll do an extended roundup later. My thoughts are a little discombobulated at the moment, and I'm not sure if I have the time to write a solid post.

Meanwhile, there are a few recent posts that I actually thought were a) different from my normal style yet b) still quite good. I'm actually curious what people think about Treasuring Moments and the positives of diverse - and mixed - crowds (in Thanksgiving Recap). The first post, when I re-read it, somehow reminds me of both Jack & Shoshana - two of the most soul-baring bloggers I read and enjoy, though with very different and distinct styles. It makes me wonder if my own style of writing has been affected by the styles of the other blogs I read, or perhaps each of us has our own style - and there will undoubtedly be bits that overlap with the traits of others. Likely, it's a combination of both.

Check them out, and please feel free to share your own opinions!

Quick note: I'm adding a couple more blogs to my blogroll, and I'm still looking to revamp my own... want to seperate into categories and place the "retired" blogs (the ones who are really retired, not the ones who keep blogging!) into their own.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Recap

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Considering we only decided that we were definitely having one earlier this week, it was incredible that so many people came - and it was not simple for any of them to get here. In the end, I believe 18 people showed up (plus Serach and I), and though we can't seat nearly that many, some came late enough that other people just moved to the couch.

It was also nice to see the diversity of the crowd: People from all different backgrounds and cities, going for different jobs or majors, with different tastes and ideals. As an example, people hailed from: Cleveland, OH (2), Monsey, NY (4), Richmond, VA (2), Woodmere, NY, Phoenix, AZ, Dallas, TX (2), Chicago, IL, Brooklyn, NY (2), Memphis, TN, Montreal, French-Canadia, Albany, NY, Milwaukee, WI and Passaic, NJ.

It was also an interesting array of talents: From people majoring in accounting to finance, computers to special ed, law to actuarial work. A guy who IBM is flying to Atlanta for an interview, a graphic designer for a major outreach organization, and a guy who designs all his own clothes - and wants to open up a designing business [he's that good, too]. A woman who's going for her PhD in psychology, and her husband who is an incredible Jewish singer [two CDs so far]. One with a Master's in Education & Special Education, another on the way. The list goes on and on.

The food came out delicious - almost everything was devoured. Surprisingly, Thanksgiving wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be. I think it came out to less than a typical Shabbos here, and though I'll grant Shabbos is 2 meals, we don't normally have 9 guests a meal. Well, not usually, anyway. Anyways, a great time was had by all (right?!), and it was well worth the price, as it always is.

Even though I have to go wash the pots now.

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Treasuring Moments & J-Turkey Roundup

This time it's for real... though I liked my point last time. Sometimes, you just have to stop trying to record or discuss life: You have to experience it, as well. Too often, we are so busy trying to plan the future, or trying to get that great picture of a momentous occasion, or talking on our phones to hear what's happening elsewhere, that we completely miss out on what's actually happening right in front of us.

The moments we treasure or remember the most are almost never captured by other means. They are strictly in our heads and hearts. Sitting in the back of a car on a trip with your family as a 6-year old, playing games with license plates and a Snoopy calculator. The stupid conversations with your best friend from when you were 9 that you still think back on with a smile. Being told your greatest weakness when you're 13: And realizing just how much it almost did, and one day may, come to haunt you. Understanding that it is often better to take blame for something you didn't do that will quickly be forgotten than to start an argument that won't. Doing favors for people that they will never know about or appreciate - and seeing the smile, relief, or success that results. And feeling good about it. The off-hand comment that made you understand yourself that much more. The moment at your wedding when you just know.

Sometimes, put down the video camera and join in the fun. Leave the cellphones at home. Stop worrying about the ride home and enjoy whatever you came for. Don't get stressed out trying to avoid stress later on.

Stop trying to capture the moment. Be a part of it, instead.

And now that my preaching is over, here's the turkey roundup!!
I made my picks, we cooked up a storm, I made a point, and we had an awesome time.

BlogHD notes that Israel could use a Thanksgiving, though Israelis would never go for it.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulke thinks he knows why more Jews don't celebrate Thanksgiving.

DovBear explains why we can celebrate; and tells people to get offline. He also questions why some schools have classes.

Jack thinks family can be tough, even if he's thankful for them.

Robbie's family fights for the prize.

Lamed-Zayin draws a cartoon.

Gene wishes everyone a happy holiday.

Chaim takes advantage.

Batya drank.

Orthomom learned something new.

PsychoToddler thinks nothing's new.

RenReb saw a funny video - it's an oldie but goodie.

Stacey misses our joint hometown of Cleveland, especially the snow.

Shoshana heads South.

The Wolf gives thanks.
Hope everyone enjoyed as much as we did. Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Roundup

You know what, I'll do this later. It's time to enjoy Thanksgiving. Go Cowboys!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

All right, let's try and write this again...

We're just about done making all the food for our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Our meal is going to be a bit later than most of you, many of whom are probably halfway through your meal. We're eating at about 6:30/7:00, primarily because the first person who made us decide to have this is flying in from Chicago on a flight that arrives at about 6:30. It looks like we're having a little over a dozen people, and if my brother and sister-in-law decide to bring their two kids that will be a few more.

The Menu (slightly different from what we thought it would be):
Yellow split pea soup. With lots of sweet potato. Smells good...

Stuffing. Which I've never had... looks good!

Salad bar, with a few different types of combinations available. Hard to explain... basically, there's the typical salads for the boring people and then the ones that are a bit different that most of our guests love. And they're large males between 19-23 years old, usually. And, before anyone asks, everything we serve is legally acquired at Wasserman's or the like... if you don't count their highway robbery prices as illegal.

Cranberry sauce. With oranges and pineapples, along with cinnamon. I couldn't find real raspberries.

Sweet potato/regular potato concoction. I'm not sure, Serach says to trust her. Apparently, this is a clause somewhere in our kesubah or something. I was just going to do baked sweet potato (and I still might... hehehe). But her recipe sounds good, too... and looks just fine.

Chocolate pecan pie. Yum.

Apple Struzel. Apples, cinnamon, sugar, and a flour/brown sugar top. Sweet.

One friend is bringing another dessert, while another may be bringing something else for the meal. One guy who works at Dougie's in Teaneck may bring over wings after his shift, too. We still might be making some other things, too.

HAHA - okay, I knew I left something out: TURKEY. Nice, big, fat, juicy turkey. I already cut it, so it can sit in its juices and all for a while. But I took a nice picture of the whole thing (I'll try and put it up later). Looks really yummy.
I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving!

May we all find much to be thankful for this year, and find it easy and enjoyable to be thankful to all those who help us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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