Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Blog Loading Slowly?

Basil has put up an excellent post on how to speed up the order in which your blog loads - something I hope to utilize in the near future. As many of you know, this blog often loads slowly; this should help. If your blog is suffering from the same issues, you will probably like this post...

UPDATE: Woohoo! I think that the blog, while it still may occasionally take a while to completely load, will have at the least the main portions of the blog readable while the rest loads! Yay!

Blogger Mazel Tov

Chardal has a baby girl! Mazel Tov!

Jewish Film, Jewish History, and...Barbie?

(Hat tip: Holy Hyrax)

Wow. This is an interesting and very good film which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. It calls itself "an unorthodox, unauthorized history of the Jewish people and the Barbie doll." You have to see it for yourself.

I'm curious as to what everyone thinks of it, and what parts stuck out at you. Put it in the comments...

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Human Rights

This is a wonderful article on the UN Commission on Human Rights on FoxNews.com. Read the whole thing, but I especially found these parts excellent.

First, a straight listing of some members of the Commission:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a precious jewel, and that precious jewel is now under attack.

The attack is from within. It's no surprise. The current members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights include infamous human rights violators: Sudan, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Russia. Past members included Syria, Libya, and Vietnam. Do we need a reminder?

Sudan was elected to the Human Rights Commission by a majority vote of the General Council in 2004, in the middle of its ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region.
China is run with an iron fist by the Communist Party. Human Rights Watch has called it a “highly repressive state.”
Cuba’s prisons are still full of old and new political dissenters 45 years after Castro’s bloody rise to power.
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe is notorious for ordering racist anti-white violence, expelling foreign journalists, and rigging his own re-elections.
Saudi Arabia stamps out free speech, crushes political parties, permits wife-beating, and absolutely prohibits any expression of Christianity.
Venezuela is a budding dictatorship. President Hugo Chavez has a tight grip on all three branches of government. The guise of democracy makes his antics doubly dangerous.

Second, there was Kofi Annan's request that members give in suggestions - and the United States response - as to how to fix the United Nations.

A jaw-dropping list of scandals within the United Nations, featuring Iraqi oil-for-food corruption and widespread sexual abuse by U.N. peace workers, has Secretary-General Kofi Annan under fire. He has promised to restore credibility to the organization and he knows his legacy depends on it. At the heart of his plan is an overhaul of the discredited Commission on Human Rights. He requested proposals from the 191 member states, and he got a proposal from the United States that was clear and bold:

• Limit commission membership to 30. This would encourage the election of those states with the best human rights records.
Exclude the membership of any country under Security Council sanctions for human rights violations or terrorism.
• Change election rules to require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
• Establish regular commission meetings and a trigger mechanism to call for additional sessions as needed.

So, did Annan listen? No.

The president of the General Assemby unveiled last Thursday the final proposal — it was unclear and cowardly. In his plan:

Any country can be elected regardless of Security Council sanctions for human rights abuse.
• The vague suggestion that a state’s human rights record be “taken into account” is purposely left toothless.
• States must rotate off every two terms. The principal human rights watchdog, the United States, would be off the council at least three years of every nine.
• The balance of power is shifted away from Western regions toward Asia and Africa, where human rights abuses have historically been highest.
A minority of one-third of member states can call a special session. That’s a sure guarantee that the United States and Israel will continually be hauled into court on trumped-up charges. U.N. history is full of examples.
A vague clause was added to shield Muslim countries from critique.
Democratic governments will continue to be a membership minority.

The secretary-general recognized the proposal’s incongruence with his original plan, but strangely called for a hurried vote of approval (remember, his legacy depends on it). Read more. Said Annan, “The proposal isn't everything I asked for, but it is a credible basis to move ahead. There are enough new elements for us to be able to build on.”

Sad. There's a lot more in the article - read the rest.

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Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/28: Happy Birthday, DeepThroat!

Today is my friend DeepThroat's (featured in my Crazy Shabbos series to the left) birthday! Happy Birthday! His I remember: It's the 28th, which most people then respond to with, "Oh, so your birthday is every 4 years!?" "Umm, no. That's the 29th. I was born in 1983, which as an odd year, couldn't possibly be a leap year." Heh. Then again, Serach made the same mistake last night...

I want to do a full roundup later; I was exhausted last night for some reason, so I went to sleep early (like 1:30). I haven't had a chance to really catch up on most of the blogs I read lately, as we've been busy taking care of different things, such as setting up my independent study courses and other school issues; and some work stuff for Serach. We also hosted a date, which was a lot of fun. :) But that's all I'm allowed to say about that (and I'm just hoping I don't get killed for that one...!) Meanwhile, here's a few posts from blogs that [mostly] aren't on my blogroll (though when I next change it, they should be):
Crusin' Mom appreciates her husband. (Hey, I haven't done a roundup in a few days...)

Toronto Pearl wonders what to do when your favorite bloggers disappear for a bit.

Robert of Seraphic Press notes some hypocrisy when it comes to destruction of synagogues; Ze'ev had an excellent post on this as well, questioning where the Israeli government is on this - and answering.

Ezer K'negdo explains why it's important for a rebbetzin to remain anonymous.

E-Kvetcher says not to kvetch about your parents, and points to a very exciting piece of news from the Egel Nest. B'shaa Tova!!
Enjoy!

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Hillary Falls Off the Edge

In case there was any doubt before, Senator Hillary Clinton has fallen off the deep end. Until now, I really thought she was doing a decent job of straddling the line between the far-left - but strong - fringe of the Democratic Party, while keeping herself moderate enough to attract the mainstream Democrats. Today, though, she slipped into the throes of the left:
Reacting to a new book quoting Karl Rove as saying she will be the 2008 Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that President Bush's chief political strategist "spends a lot of time obsessing about me."
Say what?
Noting that Rove and his White House aides have met regularly with her possible opponents in the 2006 Senate race, Clinton said, "He spends more time thinking about my political future than I do."
Wow. That's pretty crazy. Obsessing? The President's chief advisor is "obsessed" with her? Well, let's see what brought this up. Apparently, this is the quote from Rove in a new book:
In a new book out Monday from Regnery Publishing, "Strategery" by veteran reporter Bill Sammon, Rove is quoted as saying: "She is the dominant player on their side of the slate. Anybody who thinks that she's not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves."
That's a pretty normal statement. I think most people assume that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic primary - despite the wishes of many Democrats that she lose, as discussed here earlier today, fearing her getting crushed in the general election. In fact, Rove himself touched on the idea which many Democrats recognize:
Rove also says he thinks Clinton could have difficulty in the general election, in part, because there is a "brittleness about her." That seems to mirror recent comments by Mehlman that Clinton "seems to have a lot of anger" and that Americans don't elect angry presidential candidates.
Well, Hillary certainly isn't helping her case with comments such as today's. Paranoia is destroying what's left of the Democratic Party.

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A New Level of Rude: Update

Continuing from this post...

I found out who the culprits were - and they've added to their long list of rude actions.

They called me again - on my cellphone. Who gave them the right to waste my Verizon minutes by calling my cellphone!? I don't recall giving them my number (I'm quite sure I did not) - and even if I did, it clearly wasn't my primary choice, and I never told them they could call me on it.

This time, I waited out their "hold", and within seconds, a lady came on:
Lady: "Hello? Who is this?"

Me: "Excuse me?! You called me!"

Lady: "Hold on please..."

Me: "No."

Click!*
* One thing cellphones lack - the slamming ability. Cordless phones lack the same. It's really sad...

Then they had the nerve to call me back again, this time back on my house phone. Again, I waited out the hold... then had the guy. ask. me. to. hold. again. Sickening! He, too, asked who I was, and then when I explained how rude it was to call someone and ask them to hold, he said, "Well, the name didn't show up on our computer right away." What?! The correct answer is, "I'm sorry, sir." I then explained that having a machine call someone and ask them to hold was even more rude, and he didn't bother to apologize for that, either.

At some point, he told me what company he's calling from - and only after I asked him. He then proceeded to inform me that I was past due on a payment - though I don't believe I've ever received a bill. Finally, he agreed to send the bill again. He never once apologized for the hold - whether by him or by the machine guy; and he wasn't polite at all during the conversation. Sickening.

I've lost all respect for... Target.

Don't Run, Hillary!

(Hat tip: Life of Rubin)

This is one of the best editorials I've read in a while. It seems to be from either a moderate Democrat or independent, and it is fabulous. It essentially says that which many Republicans and Democrats have been saying for a while - but in a far better fashion, a letter to Hillary Clinton. The letter asks her to not run in the 2008 Presidential elections - while she is assured of winning the Democratic nomination, she is almost as equally assured of losing the election. The destruction the Democratic Party will face is not good for them, nor Republicans. A terribly weak opposition party generally results in complacency among the incumbents. Read the whole thing.

Roaring '06

The National Association for Business Economics has come out with their forecast for 2006... and it's a good one. This may disappoint DovBear, who had an otherwise decent post about wiretapping, but tried to argue that the economy was in bad shape in the middle.

Some key aspects:
The economy ended 2005 like a lamb and is roaring back like a lion, a resounding rebound that economists say will lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the months ahead. The fresh forecast from the National Association for Business Economics has gross domestic product growing at a robust 4.5 percent annual rate from January through March.
What's very interesting is that the economy is expected to do well, despite an expected slowdown in the second half of the year:
For all of 2006, the forecasters expect the economy to grow by 3.3 percent. That would be a solid performance, but slightly below the 3.5 percent increase in GDP in 2005. Economic growth in the first half of this year is expected to be better than the second half.
Watch for Democrats running for office this November to argue that the economy is slowing down - ignoring that it is expected to do so and yet still perform very well. Depending on how short-sighted the voters are, this could work; but most Democrats will probably realize that this is not a smart tack to take. Overall, the economy has performed brilliantly since the Bush tax cuts were instituted, and unemployment has dropped tremendously - and should continue:
On the jobs front, solid economic growth should help lower the unemployment rate this year. The unemployment rate, which averaged 5.1 percent last year, should drop to 4.8 percent this year, the association said. The jobless rate should edge up to 4.9 percent in 2007, according to the forecast.
Even the deficit is shrinking, albeit very slowly because of terrible pork spending. What about inflation, which has been pretty low for a while, though it jumped after Katrina and the like?
The economists see inflation calming this year, with consumer prices expected to increase by 2.9 percent this year and 2.4 percent next year. That would be an improvement from last year's 3.4 percent jump, the biggest in five years.
There are very few issues with the economy - the current growth is sustainable, and strong. Unemployment is very low. Inflation is low. The deficit needs to be reduced - and cutting outrageous spending is one thing that needs to be done; the rest should be taken care of with solid growth and production. Then there's Social Security, which should be overhauled; but that's for another discussion. (I'm ignoring the problems with the current tax structure, which, while I'd love for it be overhauled, simply won't be happening anytime soon.)

What happens in the fall elections will be very interesting - but don't be surprised if the GOP holds about the same number of seats as they currently have, despite the normal off-year drop. A strong economy is always a big factor in what is essentially a domestic issues election.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Day of Frustration

Honestly, today was a pretty good, relaxing day. I actually accomplished a few things that needed to be taken care of, and though this week looks to be a busy week, it also looks like it may be productive. But sometimes, there are little aspects of the day that are quite annoying. Today, I was reminded of one of them.

I am, as it notes on the bottom of this page, a student at the Lander College for Men - in Queens. I live less than a block away - on purpose. I don't own a car, because I don't need one. As an accounting student, I am required to take certain courses in order to graduate. The last accounting course is a course called "Contemporary Accounting Problems", which essentially is a CPA Review type course. This course helps Touro, of which Lander is a branch, retain its extremely high national ranking when it comes to CPA passing rates: 1st in the country in business law, 2nd on the ARE, and 5th on the FARE - three of the four parts.

There's only one problem: This course is only given at Touro's Flatbush branch, in the heart of Brooklyn, for over 3 hours every Sunday night during each Spring semester. But I don't go to Brooklyn - I go to Lander, in Queens. Why should I, a Lander student, go to Brooklyn for a course? I didn't come to Lander so I can go to Brooklyn; if I had wanted to do so, I would have signed up as a Touro student. It would have cut out a nice chunk of courses: 2 Western Histories, 2 Jewish Histories, 2 English Literatures, a Biology course, and registering for Gemara for credit. So why am I forced to go to another branch to take a required course?

I don't own a car. There are no subways that go directly to Brooklyn: To travel by subway would require approximately 1-1/2 hours of travel time each way, including 10 minutes of walking just to get to the bus that would take me to the subway (and the reverse on the way back) as it is a Sunday. Thankfully, a couple of other Lander students are also taking the course, and one has a car - but he's not always in Lander on Sunday, especially when it is an off Shabbos. But does this mean the course is not given? Of course not - it's not a Lander course, so Lander having the weekend off doesn't preclude this Touro course from meeting. This means that I have no way of getting to class that is not horribly inconvenient.

Is this right? Why should I be forced to attend a class in Brooklyn? I mentioned this to a good friend of mine whom I learn with weekday mornings in the Lander Beis Medrash. He is basically finished with Yeshiva University, (finishing up one last course) and lives a couple of blocks away. He said very simply,
"I don't understand. Why don't they get you a shuttle? They should be obligated to supply you with a shuttle if they're forcing you to travel to another campus to take a required course."
I think he's absolutely correct. If they can't offer the course on our campus, that is not "okay", but it is something that must be dealt with. They do offer the course on another campus - therefore, they should supply us with the means of travelling to that other campus. Even if my friend were in Queens every Sunday, that should in no way require him to drive to Brooklyn for the course. Why must he spend extra money on gas and risk driving and parking his car in Brooklyn?

Lander should - nay, must - supply us with transportation to our class. Anything less is simply not right.

Haveil Havalim #59 is up!

Haveil Havalim #59 is up at Daled Amos - and there are a lot of blogs there I've never seen before. I like how SoccerDad switches up the hosts, each successive host being from a different "circle" of bloggers, so to speak - it creates more exposure, which is the point. A quick definition of HH:
Haveil Havalim is the carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havalim”, which means "Vanity of Vanities", is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon. Solomon 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 “hevel”, or in English, “vanities.”
Check it out!

Last week: Soccer Dad hosted #58.

Next week: Life of Rubin comes back to blog-life and hosts #60 - e-mail submissions to him at lifeofrubin at gmail dot com.

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A New Level of Rude

Okay - this is going to be a mild rant, so excuse me...

I just received a phone call from a number in Minnesota, a number I saw was on the caller ID a few times over the weekend: (612) 307-5811. I answer the phone, thinking someone must really want to reach me, and the following is the "conversation":
Me: Hello?

Automated Voice: Please HOLD for a VERY IMPORTANT message. This is NOT a sales solicitation. Please hold for a few minutes until a representative can come to the phone. Th-

Click.
Are you freaking kidding me!?!? Let's see how many portions of this phone call were rude:
  • Calling me
  • on a Sunday afternoon
  • after having called multiple times over the weekend
  • from a non-(800) number.
  • Having an automoton with a message -
  • a poor automoton at that -
  • with an annoying message
  • that wants me to hold on
  • for a few minutes
  • to speak to some representative
  • without saying the name of the company
  • nor what it's all about
  • in a really loud recording.
13 gaffes in about 8 seconds. Not bad. Bunch of ********. [/rant]

Changing the World: I Heart Bill Clinton

...or at least most of this speech he gave. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Former President Bill Clinton was in Australia recently speaking about a non-governmental organization (NGO) that he is running and, as I understand the article, trying to raise money and support for. I'm not sure how I feel about NGO's in general, considering their lack of success in the Palestinian territories; however, I'm not sure that that's their fault, and they have done some good there in a difficult situation. In other places, they seem to be quite successful.

Clinton's speech was discussing the three biggest changes in recent years that affect the power of individuals to help others: Democracy, internet, and non-governmental organizations. The last one is debateable, but on democracy, he had this to say:

Three things have happened since the end of the Cold War to give private citizens an unprecedented capacity to do public good.

One is the right of democracy.

More than half the people in the world live with governments they voted in. I think that's a good thing.

I think it's good to see the election of a president in Iran and in Bolivia and the election of a Hamas government in Palestine, because the democratic process gives us a chance for resolving problems in all these places - because these elections mean the people have more power.

And the people want the benefits of democratic society.

You can quibble about his exclusion of Iraq, and his calling it "Palestine", but his overall message is correct. Democracy is better, period: It allows the people to decide their future and who represents them. Even in the case of a Hamas, this is a positive - it shows who the Palestinians want to represent them. The next aspect he discussed was the internet:

An example of this is the power of the internet in the hands of people around the world. Remember a few years ago we had the SARS epidemic? Remember when it broke out in Hong Kong and Canada, and the Chinese government was in denial about it?

They turned on a dime, and all of a sudden began to co-operate with the world climate because of the internet. There was a citizen uprising on the internet. The young people didn't fill Tiananmen Square. They filled the Chinese government website.

They said: "Quit denying this. Tell the truth. Turn it around."

And what could have been a cataclysmic epidemic was turned around.

I can give you lots of other examples of that. When we had the tsunami - a terrible event in South Asia - the former president George Bush and I were asking for donations. It was a fascinating thing. We raised more than $US1 billion, and about a third of American households contributed. Half of them did so over the internet.

It was a stunning thing, if you think about the power it gives to ordinary people.

As Glenn Reynolds noted, this is pretty much what Reynolds' Army of Davids is about, which I'd love to read. (Anyone want to buy it for me?) It's simply much easier for people to be a little bit more activist today than it was in the past: It's hard to get people to come to a certain place at a certain time to rally for a cause. But it's not all that difficult to have a few thousand, if not million, people sign an online petition or go to a website.

Finally, he touched on NGO's, and he had quite an incredible message:
There will always be problems in the world.

There will always be things you're upset about.

There will always be things that you wish were different. But because of the rise of non-government organisations in a world that is more democratic, in a world where the internet gives people more access to information, we don't have the excuse that we can't do anything about the problems we care about because the people we voted for in the last election didn't win. So think about the things I've said today in the big picture.
The power of the individual in today's world is so much more than it ever has been in the past. We must use this new found power to do our best to improve the world, one person at a time. R' Israel Salanter said that to change the world, we must change ourselves as individuals. In today's world, this lesson is that much more important, as we as individuals are able to accomplish so much more than those who lived before us. Whether it's simply through exercising our democratic rights, whether it's using the internet, or whether it is through NGO's as Clinton suggests, it is clear that we are in a better position than ever to change the world. As Clinton finished:

We've got an independent world without integrated systems, political, social, legal systems, that allow people to mediate these big disputes and to deal with a lot of their cultural differences, as we saw with the Danish cartoons.

In other words, the lack of structure doesn't allow us to handle certain issues (at least not yet).
But we are moving in the right direction and I still believe that if we all do the right things, this will be an astonishingly productive, autonomous time.
I believe so as well. Let us not just hope he is correct, but actually strive to improve the world - one person at a time.

Let's change the world.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

How to Deal with DOPEs

(Hat tip: Mom)

This is one of the funniest articles I have ever read from the NY Times. I was going to excerpt parts, but it's so hilarious, I couldn't decide which parts to pick. Then I thought to copy the whole thing, but that may be illegal, so... just check it out.

Anyone who has ever had a DELL experience will love this. Old readers of this blog know I've had more than my share...

The Good, The Bad

I'm about to head back from my in-laws, where we spent a nice, easy Shabbos, to our apartment, but a few quick items of interest:

I added a comment to everyone who was nice enough to comment in my demographic post - thank you all for commenting, and if you haven't yet (or even if you have), feel free to add yourself!

Just before Shabbos I read this fascinating article. Good ol' Israeli genius. Quick sum-up: An Israeli invented a system of evacuating people quickly from skyscrapers and other tall buildings in the event of a major disaster or fire on lower stories. There are obviously issues, such as ensuring that people don't fight to get on these lifts, but the overall idea is genius. There's a video demonstration there as well which is impressive. Oh - of course, stupid NYC won't even try it yet.

Just after Shabbos, I read this disturbing piece of news. The US envoy to the Palestinians basically promised to get them aid, despite the Bush adminstration's claims that they would not (and their actual request of aid return). We'll see what happens, but this is a terrible sign. It currently seems as if it did not take long at all for the US to sell out their values (and Israel) for absolutely nothing. Pathetic.

Shavua Tov, everybody!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Demographics of SerandEz

NOTE: I'm going to leave this post at the top for a day or so, so please scroll down for the latest!

Gil did this a couple of days ago, and I thought it was interesting. Hitting 50,000 (thanks!) made me wonder, "How the heck did that happen? Who are these people?!" So... I'd love to know who y'all are.

Now, I understand that many (most?) people are not really interested in divulging any info, but perhaps you can be coaxed into telling some basics, such as: Age, where you're from, what you do... Basically, the same stuff you'd say in the first 30 seconds of a typical introduction to someone you've just met. Unlike Gil, I've always been under the impression that there are 2 groups of readers here: College/graduate school students in their 20's, and working folks in their late 30's/early 40's.* There are a few in between, and a few a bit older, but those are the biggest groups. Am I right?

And, while you're pondering those difficult questions, feel free to stick a pin in the SerandEz Frappr map (thanks Jack!). Don't be shy, say hi!

* Okay, so StatCounter helped. And I can probably guess what a lot of you do for a living from it, too: Apparently, blogging from your workplace pays well these days...

Conservatives For Abortion

The new management at Robbie's (me) posted why liberals must be anti-abortion. Check it out.

I've posted my views about abortion in the past (in the sidebar), and in general I am against it - unless there be a pressing reason. Rape and incest are two pressing reasons that I believe to be good ones to perform an abortion. Therefore, I was not too thrilled with today's decision in South Dakota:
State lawmakers voted Friday to ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota and sent the measure to the governor, who said he is inclined to sign it. Under the legislation, doctors in South Dakota would face up to five years in prison for performing an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman's life.
What's missing? The law doesn't include clauses in cases of rape or incest.
Opponents of the bill argued that abortion should at least be allowed in cases involving rape, incest and a threat to a women's health. If a woman who is raped becomes pregnant, the rapist would have the same rights to the child as
the mother, said Krista Heeren-Graber, executive director of the South Dakota
Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. "The idea the rapist
could be in the child's life ... makes the woman very, very fearful. Sometimes
they need to have choice," Heeren-Graber said.
Imagine the terror involved: A woman who was raped must now share the parenting duties of her child with the man who raped her?! Even if there were no way he could ever be involved in the child's life, he would still be the father, and the mother would always know that. Terrifying.

Accountants Who Stink

It doesn't get any more ironic than this:
CHICAGO — H&R Block Inc. (HRB), which provides tax advice to millions of Americans, made an embarrassing confession on Thursday. It goofed on its own taxes.
They're on a roll at H&R Block, having already messed up earlier in the year.

Ernst said software-related technology problems left the company unprepared for a surge in January filings by taxpayers expecting refunds and "created a hole out of which we're working to climb."

He said the problem "cost us 250,000 clients" that were "unable to be recovered."

Ouch. Any decent accountant will tell you that the most important aspect of running a successful accounting practice is having the proper technology to do so - even if that means shelling out bigger bucks. For a large company like H&R Block to blow something like that in a way that could drive away a quarter of a million customers is just atrocious. Messing up your own company's taxes as an accounting firm is mind-boggling, and is sure to drive away more customers: Why go to H&R Block - who can't even do their own taxes - when I can get TurboTax or some other program or find a trustworthy accountant myself?

One more thing that bothers me about H&R Block: Their lottery-style advertising. The focus of their advertising is on this scratch-off "double your refund" game, not on their ability to save you hundreds of dollars in taxes. In addition, most people aren't getting huge refunds to begin with that they could gain much by doubling it anyway. That a few people nationwide are getting a couple of thousand dollars off a game is very unimpressive; an accounting firm should be able to say how much money they're saving a normal customer, not a lucky customer, on their taxes.

I'm glad I know how to do my own taxes.

Basketball and a Girl...

I've always enjoyed this video. I never understood why the girl agreed to do this, but it's really cool... Enjoy!

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/24: Kindness Over Money

I don't watch very many TV shows, but I do enjoy watching American Idol, in particular from this point and on. The show is in the process of narrowing the field of a dozen guys and dozen girls down to a Final 12, and most of the talent is quite good. But it was something that happened tonight that really stuck out at me, and I was very impressed.

Every Thursday, they eliminate those who received the least votes that week for their performances. This week, that meant 2 guys and 2 girls were to be sent home from their dream. The elimination process is quite long and excruciating, meant to draw in as many viewers as possible - often taking a commercial break right before announcing who is to be eliminated. As it is a live show, this translates into a couple of contestants standing and waiting anxiously to find out if their dreams can continue.

Tonight, there was one contestant who seemed simply saddened. She had sung her heart out the night before, but she is a trained opera-style singer and had trouble trying a different genre. When she finished, the judges pointed this out clearly, and it seemed clear she would not get the votes across the country. As the host, Ryan Seacrest, was telling groups of contestants to remain sitting because they were safe, he finally called on this girl and another one to 'please walk to the middle of the stage' as is normally the case, where one is eventually told that their journey has ended. But Seacrest took one look at this sad girl, walking head down to the middle next to her friend, and said to the friend, "You know what, please sit down, you're safe." Rather than drag it out for television, he took the high road so as to shorten the pain she was sure to meet. I don't think he was supposed to do so, and it was an impressive display of derech eretz (proper conduct).

And now, on to the roundup:

In case you didn't know, I took the controls of Robbie's blog and wrote a post. Hehehehe... :)

*Post of the Day*
Irina recalls her childhood in doubt in the Soviet Union, dreaming of Israel.
*Quote of the Day*
Gotta read this one by IsraellyCool.
Friendship:
Shoshana has a beautiful post at BeyondTshuva about keeping in touch with old friends. Life in Israel goes to a wedding of a friend who's been through incredible hardship - incredibly uplifting. This, after his sister graduates with her new friends from a special part of the Israeli army.
Brilliant:
This post by Romach.
Blogging:
Gil, who hit 700,000, tells how to increase readership.
Public Service Announcement:
I seem to have one of these a day... AirTime gives advice on how to stop sexual abuse, particularly among children.
Parenting:
Orthomom has to deal with a poor one in her daughter's class, while Orthonomics demands better parenting. On the Fringe provides it.
Escape:
Shifra would love to escape to a fantasy island. Meryl's not looking to escape her fabulous new job. TelChaiNation points to a fantastic Muslim who is speaking out against its extremism after escaping their reach.
Israel:
ZionReport has a wonderful piece about Kadima digging their own hole.
Check it out!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blatant Idiocy

This is simply blatant idiocy on the part of the media. (via LGF)

Outrageous anti-Israel bias, still business as usual at Agence France Presse: Three more Palestinians shot dead in West Bank.

So what were these three more Palestinians doing when they were “shot dead?” They were Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists, shooting at Israeli troops from inside a house full of bombs.

The three Palestinians died inside a house that was surrounded by Israeli troops and inside which various explosions were heard, the sources said.

They all belonged to the radical Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a nebulous faction loosely affiliated to Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Medical sources named the dead men as 32-year-old Hamudeh Shtewi, Mohamad al-Surakji, 20, and Mohamad Abu Khamis.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP that troops identified “hitting” three gunmen inside a house in the Balata camp after Palestinians opened fire on soldiers conducting an arrest operation.

This is almost as bad as the one yesterday:

Insane anti-Israel bias—business as usual at Agence France Presse: Palestinians denounce roadblocks outside Jericho.

JERICHO, West Bank (AFP) - Palestinian officials denounced Israel for reimposing two roadblocks outside Jericho, saying the move violates a 2005 deal giving them security control over the West Bank city.

The Israeli army confirmed that the roadblocks, one on the route to Jerusalem and the other leading to Ramallah, had been reestablished because a number of wanted militants had been freed from jail in Jericho.

“As a result of the release of several dozen prisoners from the jail in Jericho, the (army) has decided to step up security checks around the city in order to ensure the safety of Israeli civilians,” the military said on Wednesday.

So why isn’t the headline, “Palestinians release terrorists from jail”?

I have nothing to add. This stuff speaks for itself.

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We'll Be Back After These Messages...

I have to take care of a number of things, but I have a number of posts up my sleeve. Meanwhile, enjoy the posts at Robbie's place, including this excellent post by the new management.

Stuff to See...

Charlie Hall has opened a blog!! And Robbie's is being taken over like a US port.

UPDATE: BIIMTAIWYD has been SOLD!

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/23: Happy J-Blogosphere

Today was a wonderful day in the J-Blogosphere. There is only one way to describe the mood: Happy. Almost every blog I visited had a good, fun, entertaining discussion or post on it. People generally seemed to be having a good time, even when disagreeing. I laughed more today reading different blogs than I had in a long time, and I almost always have a good time. Thank you everyone for making it an enjoyable day. Was it this post by SIL that did it? I never heard it until yesterday, though apparently many others have - and yet, they kindly linked to it anyway. Glad you all enjoyed!

One reason I pointed out the joy all around is that this was not all that evident the past few days. People were (and are) questioning the status of the J-blogosphere, from the latest fake flame war (still enjoyable) to other typical questions. I'll admit, I was one of them, until a comment Chana made reminded me what I enjoy - and then today was so much fun. So Mirty, Orthomom, Robbie, whomever... chins up. Maybe it's just hitting another stage. :)

Since I seem to have picked up a number of new readers lately (very flattering, thank you), I should remind everyone a bit about these roundups... Please, always feel free to e-mail me posts that you think should be included! This doesn't mean every post you write, but ones you think are particularly good or could use people's input. For examples, just read a typical roundup. They can be your own, someone else's... whatever. This doesn't mean it will get in, but it gives it a much better shot. I thoroughly enjoy reading good posts, and have no problem linking to them, so... why not?

Another point worth noting: I'm not sure how many posts I link to per roundup, but it probably is usually around 15 posts. Some are short, some are long, some are funny, some are important. Obviously, everybody has their own interests, which is why I usually make categories and write a short line about the post without 'giving it away', so to speak - without ruining the enjoyment involved in reading it. Now think: I read probably anywhere from 50 to 100 posts or so a day, and link to about 15. Take your time and read them! Heck, you can even comment. You may not be interested in all of them, but at least a few will likely be up your alley. The more people see that these roundups actually send them readers, the more likely they are to read the posts in them as well - which means your next linked post will get a lot more readers.

And now, on to the roundup, which will be a bit random (and longer, after my '15 post' shpiel) today - but it's a really fun one. It's late, so excuse the disorganization. Oh - one last note - I very rarely link to my own posts in the roundups, but I do write myself too! :) You're welcome to read those, too.

*Post of the Day*
Treppenwitz talks about an amazing teacher.
Humor:
Trep barely beat this: I've rarely seen humor utilized to make a point so brilliantly. Amazing, AbbaGav.

LamedZayin has another smashing cartoon.

Orthomom has a rap-off video between... a lesbian and a Chasid. Guess who won?

PsychoToddler doesn't want his apparently equally psycho wife with a gun. Meanwhile, he's making a siyum. Mazel Tov!!
Cruisin' Mom wonders about comments, and why she's sometimes the last to say something.

TorontoPearl (who has a cool new pic) says she sometimes doesn't know what to say - all she can do is pray.


Shira tells us how to act when someone has a seizure (God forbid). Thank you.

Gedolim:
GH discusses the visit to (Modern Orthodox) Teaneck by three distinguished Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis. S. has an ad for three MO Rabbis visiting Lakewood, too. Ha!
Social:
Elder of Ziyon is discussing the limits of free speech, as are the Jesters, who are also discussing whether anyone cares about the pain a murderer has when they get executed. Interestingly, more Jews seem to be less-than-thrilled with the ruling that a Holocaust denier go to jail than others from what I've seen online.
Pride:
Classmate is proudly Wearing his Yarmulke. Best line of the day.

GerTzadik says how to bother someone who's converting.
Irina is looking for some color in her house.

Yaakov Mencken is Cross at those who confuse smart business sense with pressure. He's right.

Aliyah:
Jameel notes who else is thinking about aliyah, while LifeInIsrael notes an 'only in Israel' defense that could be used in court there. Hilarious. Olah Chadasha is chilled but not laughing about what's changed for her, while IfYouWillIt is adjusting nicely.
LabRab is making some close encounters with other bloggers and their kin.

Romach updates the developing Dubai port story.

Enjoy!!

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Kosher Cooking Carnival #2!

The second Kosher Cooking Carnival is up at Me-Ander!! Great job, Batya - a lot of really good food in there, and not just because there's a certain family's pineapple chicken there. :)

Go work up an appetite, and check it out.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Random Ramblings

A whole bunch of small thoughts and things worth saying going through my head, many simply in response to questions people asked me about my demographics post. If you haven't commented yet, please do! I'm so curious...

Anyways... the timestamp on the demographics post says tomorrow. This is not due to time-travel, because if it were, I'd be able to pay bills, give people I like money, and buy lots of cool stuff with my new trillionaire status. (sigh) It's simply a matter of placing a later timestamp on a post, which you have the option to do on Blogger, in order to keep it in a certain place - in this case, on top.

My mother is the one who started me on the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" many years ago. It is still one of my favorite reads. I love how she took credit for my blogging, even though she never read any blogs (BOTW's writer, James Taranto, says it isn't really a blog) until I started this one. When I told her, "I love how you took credit for my blogging. Hmph.", she responded, "IT'S TRUE!!" She did get me started on the concept, though, so I guess that counts for something.

I had more to say, but I have to take care of some stuff. Adios!

Old Tapes & God

Two more stories from my nephew Ben are up at Our Kids Speak!

Cookin' Up A Storm of Pineapple

Batya of Me-Ander & Shiloh Musings has started the Kosher Cooking Carnival. Coming up this week is the second edition of the KCC, and though I didn't get a chance to join the first time, I'm taking full advantage this time around.

We have lots of guests at SerandEz, and since many are oft-returning ones, we ask what they want us to make - and sometimes, we even listen. Serach usually makes the challah, soup if we're having, and some side dishes, while I take care of the main courses, fish if we're having, and other side dishes. I prefer simple recipes most of the time, as they tend to taste better and they're far easier to make. My mother is an excellent cook, and a lot of the recipes are hers, though some come from my sister Vervel Yeya, my sister-in-law SIL, and my brother OD (who used to do catering on the side - now he doesn't do much of the cooking). My mother is a big fan of doing exactly what the recipe says - and so are all of us. That way, it comes out great every time.

The best part is, my mother doesn't even eat fleishigs (meat products) - or fish. She's a challah and Philadelphia cream cheese with lettuce person, with pasta products and occasionally pizza. She's not allergic - she just doesn't like it. Many shabbos meals include my mother on one end eating cream cheese while the rest of us would be eating potato kugel, chicken (the kind that used to walk!), and salad 'bar'. We could always say what was good or not without having to worry about insulting her - because she had no biases as to what it tasted like. She'd simply say "Okay" and adjust the recipe accordingly. Once it was good, it was written down - and that's it.

Of course, the following recipe is not even from her. It's from my sister, whose expertise is actually her pepper steak - but this was her first great recipe, and is always a big hit. It's very, very simple, and I hope y'all enjoy:

PINEAPPLE CHICKEN

1 chicken, cut up into 1/8ths
1 cup ketchup
1 can pineapple chunks or sliced pinapple
1 cup dark brown sugar

This is really tough. You put the pieces of chicken in a deep pan or pot or something that can hold a bit of liquid. We usually take off the skin, though you don't have to, as long as it's clean. You mix the ketchup, brown sugar, and the juice from the pineapple can in a bowl, then stir in the pineapple. You then pour the sauce over the chicken, cover it, and cook it at 375 degrees for an hour. Then uncover, baste, and cook for 20 minutes uncovered. (Or you could be lazy like me and just do it at 350 for an hour, covered.)

That's it. Prep time: 1-5 minutes. Cook time: 80-90 minutes. Serves: Should be 8 pieces - otherwise, watch your step. Eat time: Depends how many people you're having.

If you want to double the recipe, double the ingredients, but not the temperature or cooking time.

Enjoy!

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When Pigs Draw

This is a hilarious Cox & Forkum cartoon - thanks Yitzchok (who has another one) & LGF.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/22: M-Z

As I noted last night, I had to split my blogroll into two for the last couple's days posts. Hopefully tomorrow it will be back to normal.

New blog worth checking out, as mentioned earlier: Tzarich Iyun (translated approximately as "needs to be looked into further"), by Serach's cousin Ben - currently studying in Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel. Straight to the roundup:

*Post of the Day*
Shoshana's Goodbye to Yesterday, about moving on after people leave our lives.
UAE and the Ports:
I had my own take on why this story just doesn't make sense. Romach put it into perspective himself by explaining just what the problem is, while Meryl Yourish cheated and decided which side she's on based on a certain ex-President.
Random & Contemplative:
RenReb contemplates 24 and the terrible things happening in the world - and wonders what she's doing here.

Xvi sends in a secret to PostSecret - and feels a lot better.

Shira is rethinking what happened in shul.

Wolf is trying to find a school for his high-school bound son. Any ideas?
Different:
S. links to a fascinating article by Mortimer Zuckerman about his visit to Lakewood. Better than Harvard?! He also discusses in an incredibly well-written, clear fashion the different approaches to facing Bible criticism. Fascinating.
Israel:
ZionReport notes that the Danish companies' deals with Muslim countries include a boycott of Israel.

SoccerDad knows why the media is only telling half the story of Mariam Farhat.

Batya highlights the case against free speech in Israel.
Check it out!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush Threatens Veto

(via Malkin) Bloomberg News:
President George W. Bush said a Dubai company's bid to manage six major U.S. ports should go forward, threatening to veto legislation that blocks the transaction because of security concerns.
Say what? Did someone say veto? Does anyone recall President Bush vetoing a single item that has come to his desk in 6 years? A Malkin reader:

Reader Brian L.:

He says he'll veto any congressional effort to stop the deal. Now, he decides to veto something. Not Campaign Finance Reform. Not immense pork barrel spending.

I'd call his bluff if I were a leader in Congress.

Exactly. This whole story is a bit strange:
United States ports are being sold from a British company to a company that is from the United Arab Emirates - home of 2 of the 9/11 hijackers, and a country that allows terrorists to run transactions through it. President Bush makes a somewhat valid point when he says:
"After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward," Bush told reporters who had traveled with him on Air Force One to Washington. "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, `We'll treat you fairly.'"
His argument is that it is blatant discrimination. But I disagree. There is no reason to think a British company would allow anyone to slip by security, while the UAE has a longer history of allowing terrorists to act under their noses. I think it makes as much sense as profiling does: The UAE fits the profile of a country that cannot be trusted with US security; Great Britian does not.

A better question is why we allow the security of our ports to be controlled by any other country, period. Nobody ever anticipated the possibility that a sale such as this could occur? There are very few things the government should have full control over, but the security of our borders is one of them. This whole story is a disaster.

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Brekher

This has been around for a while, but every time I hear it, it still cracks me up...

Enjoy!

Partial-Birth Abortion Comes to the Supreme Court

I'm not yet sure what to make of this, as I can't claim to know enough yet about the contentious detail:
The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning partial-birth abortions, teeing up a contentious issue for a new court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.
I am against partial-birth abortion, and I do believe that most of this country is as well. In case you don't know what it is, here's a short explanation:
The federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prohibits a certain type of abortion, generally carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.
The contention of the people fighting against this law is that it leaves out a certain important detail:
Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother.
This is a very serious concern. The proponents of the law argue that such a thing never applies:
The federal law in the current case has no health exception, but defenders maintain that the procedure is never medically necessary to protect a woman's health.
But is this true?
The case that will be heard this fall comes to the Supreme Court from Nebraska, where the federal law was challenged on behalf of physicians. Doctors who perform the procedure contend that it is the safest method of abortion when the mother's health is threatened by heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer.
It seems to me that this case will likely be decided on whether the Court feels the procedure will or won't apply to cases in which the mother's life would be threatened. However, there is something I don't understand at all about this story: Why can't the law simply add in a clause protecting the mother's ability to have an abortion if it is threatening her health, and it can be determined that this is in fact the case? It seems difficult to think that people could somehow abuse this: I can't imagine people being able to successfully fake cancer or heart disease, and high blood pressure is something that can easily be tested.

To me, there are two ways in which this should play out:
1) The Court determines that the claim is correct, and that the specific partial-birth abortion technique in this law is never needed in cases where the mother's health is threatened. Partial-birth abortion: Banned.

2) The Court disagrees, and feels that there are certain cases in which the mother's safety would be at risk, and does not ban it. The government takes those specific examples, adds protections in those cases into the law, and try again. The end result should be simple. Partial-birth abortion: Banned.
Am I missing something?

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Two Good Sides

The United States has charged three Arabs living in Ohio for plotting to attack US targets in Iraq - but it's who tipped them off that is the bigger story.
Three naturalized U.S. citizens in Ohio were indicted Tuesday for their role in assisting terrorism on U.S. targets overseas, specifically American military personnel in Iraq. The indictment, which was unsealed Monday, said the men plotted to kill U.S. and coalition military personnel in Iraq and other countries. On at least two separate occasions, among other charges, at least one of the men verbally threatened to kill or inflict bodily harm on President Bush, the indictment says.
Before anyone thinks this is simply a couple of big talkers...
"These defendants have been living in the United States, where they have been engaging in weapons training and seeking help in order to kill people abroad, including our troops," Gonzales said.

The men named in the indictment are: Mohammad Zaki Amawi, who was a citizen of Jordan and the United States who lived in Toledo until August 2005; Marwan Othman El-Hindi, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Amman, Jordan who lives in Toledo; and Wassim Mazloum, a legal U.S. resident who operated a car business with his brother in Toledo after entering the United States from Lebanon.
But what is most interesting is how the US caught these three men:
The indictment also notes that a fourth person, referred to as "the trainer," was a U.S. citizen but was not named as a conspirator. One official told FOX News that law enforcement was tipped to the activities of these three men by this informant, who is an ex-U.S. military man who fought overseas and was living in Toledo. He is described as "a respected member of the Muslim community" who came forward and gave information to the authorities.

"The trainer" has a U.S. military background and in 2002 was solicited by El-Hindi to assist in providing security and bodyguard training, among other things.
This is a very good sign, albeit it a single instance. Though this is in America, and that makes it easier to do so, it is comforting to see that some Muslims are willing to do what is necessary to fight terrorists - even turning in members of their own community. Hopefully, this will be a growing trend.

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Tzarich Iyun

A new blog worth checking out and commenting on: Tzarich Iyun, by an American student currently learning in Hakotel in Jerusalem. He is an incredibly smart (perfect SAT score) and personable guy, with a lot of knowledge and idealism in his head. Full disclosure: He also happens to be Serach's first cousin.

There are only 2 posts so far, and they're both very interesting. Express your thoughts in the comments there - there's plenty to discuss.

Formatting

Something's screwy with my formatting on and off. Sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE: Seems ok now.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 2/21: Part I

Thanks to an ongoing discussion at Chana's, I clarified what it is about blogging that I really love. I've always had a bunch of basic likes and dislikes, and approaches to why I blog and what about it is so enjoyable, but there was always something more that I just couldn't express. You'll have to wait and see, I hope to write that post in the next week or so. Really, this time.

I'm splitting this one into 2 parts: A-L and M-Z, based on my blogroll. I'm also only including posts from Monday or Tuesday, I believe.

On to the roundup:

Blogging:
A bunch of folks are questioning different aspects of why they blog, and what about it really 'gets' them: MCAryeh wonders why, Jack questions if it's for ego or something else, and JewishBlogMeister is inspiring others to blog.
Names:
ADDeRabbi wonders who knows his name, while GerTzadik decides whether or not to keep his.
Pointing out the good stuff:
Yaakov Menken at Cross-Currents points to a great Jeff Jacoby article about honesty regarding fear of Muslims.

Elder of Ziyon points to a Jimmy Carter op-ed that is completely blind to the truth, and has an excellent analysis of how low Carter thinks of... the Arabs.

Daled Amos points out an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal with a perfect title.
Israel:
Ze'ev wonders who's a Jew; JoeSettler asks how accustomed we will be to the next wave of terror.
Finally, "Cleveland Rocks!" according to AirTime.

Check it out!

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Thanks Again!

Another milestone! 50,000 page views. Thanks again, everybody.

Yay!

Episode 9 of Season 5 of the best show on television - 24!! :) (Yes, it's been a slow blogging day.)

The Banned Google Video

Apparently, it is impossible to see this video in the United States. (Click on the title link to see...) I'm not sure why, though it seems to be the submitter who didn't want it to be, but I have a feeling that it might work if I embed the video into a post - so let's see!

UPDATE
: Well, it works. This is a detonation of a weapons cache in Iraq by coalition troops, using a few satchels of C4. Impressive display.

Need A Minyan?!

Now, you can find a minyan almost anywhere, anytime in the United States. A professor and a few students at Lander created MinyanMaps.com. Here's part of the original e-mail I received describing it:
Working together with national Jewish organizations we created
MinyanMaps so you can find minyanim for shuls across the country with a visual dynamic map. In addition you can access minyanim through text messaging and email.

Currently, we have 2000+ shuls in our database, througout the United States, plus we will soon be adding shuls in England. However, we only have minyan information for shuls in the Queens/Five Towns area, Manhattan and a select few other places. We are dependent on users of the site to update/add minyan information, as well as update/add shul information using the interface on our site.
So, they still need everyone's help. Please, go help and insert minyanim you know about that are not listed. The more minyanim listed, the easier it will be for people to find minyanim whenever, wherever - especially on trips, or when you need to catch a minyan other than the one you normally go to. Check it out, and add what you can. Thanks!

A Bad Day...

Today has not been fun. I woke up, looked around, and realized - I couldn't open my right eye. It felt a bit bigger than it normally does. I woke up Serach and asked her if my eye was swollen - the answer, yes. This is a new one for me: I am not allergic to anything, but I suffer from allergic reactions. Usually, it means some random body part or other (tongue, hand, whatever) will swell up, I take an Allegra, and after a while, it goes away. I've taken an Allegra today, and it's working, but I'm still basically doing everything with one eye shut. I only came to the computer a couple of minutes ago because of it; it's pretty annoying to read and type with just one eye.

Anyway, not sure why I just wrote all this... hope y'all are accomplishing more than I am today.

Sign Against Paradise Now

Please click on this link, and take out the 30 seconds to sign a petition asking The Academy to revoke the Oscar nomination of the movie "Paradise Now", which attempts to legitimize the actions of suicide bombers. Thank you.

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