Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We Might Crash... But That's Okay!

Flashback, first: My niece, Shoshana, is a super-cutie. When she was a toddler, she learned to say things like "but that's okay!" when something 'bad' would happen. Something fell? "It fell, but that's okay!" Something broke? "But that's okay!" While we were visiting once, I believe, she was in the process of being toilet-trained. Unfortunately, she didn't make it, as she told us: "I just made on the floor... but that's okay!"

That's the same feeling I had this Monday listening to the pilot of the plane I was on. I'd fallen asleep - not having packed yet - the night before, and Serach couldn't wake me up. I woke up the next morning with almost no time, quickly got ready and packed (good thing I didn't need to pack much), and jumped into the cab at 8:15 in the morning. I got to the airport thinking I had a good 50-minute wait until my flight... and then found out that the flight was a half hour later than I thought, so I'd rushed for nothing. Ah well. My flight plans were to fly to Chicago's O'Hare airport on Continental, with a stopover in Cleveland of about half an hour. I get on the flight, see an old friend of my father's is in first class, and sit down in my seat reading about Peyton Manning. After a few minutes, the pilot gets on the speaker:
"Well, they just discovered that there's a nice dent in the hydra blah blah blah blah. That's the back wing that stabilizes the plane and keeps it level. We think it's probably not a big deal, and as soon as the mechanic can check it out, we'll be off on our way."
But that's okay! Ugh. After about another hour or so of waiting, I realized there was no chance I was going to make my connecting flight, so I went up and asked them about it. They had no problem switching me to another airline... and on a direct flight! I realize now I could have/should have asked about getting put on a plane to Milwaukee, but they probably can only put me to where they have me listed as going.

I get on the United flight, and... United sucks. Their seats are so cramped it's ridiculous. Continental is easily the best "big" airline out there, close to Southwest overall, with JetBlue and Midwest Express well ahead of them. United? Near the bottom. No wonder they were in bankruptcy a couple of years ago. Anyways... my friend picked me up from O'Hare, we stopped at "The Yeshiva" (is that like The Ohio State University? L'havdil!), and I saw Elianna's future father-in-law, who I don't think I've seen since before we were both married. [Sorry, everybody. This kid is that cute, and his dad called it as soon as Elianna was born.]

Then, of course, came the all-important Burger Buddy at Ken's Diner, where we saw the most amazing thing...
WARNING: Skip the rest of this post if you couldn't care less about poker. I'll continue writing about my trip in the next post. Thank you for your patience.
Quick setup: One guy has an 8-9 suited (diamonds); another guy has A-something, and a woman has Q-Q. The flop comes: 10d, Jd, Qc. The woman has a set (three of a kind) of Queens... but the guy has a straight already. He bets immediately, the other guy folds, and she calls (or raises and he calls, I don't remember). The turn comes: 10. She's just made a boat (full house). He bets, she raises, he hesitates. He probably thinks she's got a higher straight or something, and that a diamond will give it to him anyway; in reality, she's got a 98% chance of winning the hand. He calls.

The river comes: 7 of diamonds. There was only ONE card in the deck that could save him, and this was it. He now has a straight flush... and she probably thinks he only made his flush. She probably thinks that she can take a ton of chips from this guy, who thinks his flush is good, when she has a full house. He bets a lot - she goes all-in. (Assuming I'm remembering all of this correctly. He calls IMMEDIATELY. She flips over her queens, already realizing that he's got it. "I can't believe that 7 of diamonds fell", she mutters, and she takes a nice, long break from the table (she had more chips than he did, so she wasn't knocked out). The most amazing hand I've ever seen.

Bigger & Better

I'm planning on writing more about my trip to Chicago/Milwaukee later, but one important aspect to start: Hamburgers. I think that the next time I hear some dumb NYer (or even Serach) question, "What's the difference? A burger is a burger!", I'll probably deck them (unless it's Serach). [Sometimes it is said about pizza, too.] Let's explain - not all burgers are created equal.

When I go down the block to Kosher Deluxe, and order a burger, I get a 1/4 inch high (if that) slab of meat with a diameter of maybe 3.5 inches. This little piece of "meat" has been steamed or something of the sort for a few minutes, and really has little taste (and KD's burgers aren't even that bad). Meanwhile, when I was in Ken's Diner in Skokie yesterday, I ordered their famous Burger Buddy. This hunk of meat is closer to 5 inches across, 1/2 an inch thick (or more), and was grilled - and has TASTE. Many people (generally NYers, whose restaurants don't need quality food to keep themselves in business - speed is more important) don't seem to understand the difference between the two. Not only that, in New York, you have to overpay for your not-so-filling-or-enjoyable meal; in the Midwest in general, you get a whole lot of food for a really small amount of cash.

As with most comparisons of the Midwest and New York, the food you get in the Midwest is both bigger and better than what they're serving up here. It's high time we started expecting more value for our money in the tri-state area, don't you think?

Pobody ever needs to be Nerfect...

We're all perfectionists. I'm not talking about the kind whose sock drawer is color coded or who addresses envelopes using a ruler. No, it's deeper than that. We all want perfection out of our lives and out of ourselves. To live the dream life, without troubles or annoyances or whiny children or rainy days. Those of us who believe in a Creator and Sustainer reluctantly give up the notion of control over the circumstances life brings us. And sooner or later, hopefully, we find solace in knowing there is no such thing as happenstance.

It's the desire to reach self-perfection where we sometimes go wrong. I don't mean to say that striving to become the best we can be is always a bad thing. It means we are "B'nei Aliyah," or people who are always striving for improvement. It's the trademark of a Jew- he's never happy staying stagnant. We just need to make sure we don't so get caught up focusing on the goal that we forget how to get there.

The other day I had a discussion with someone about this. She said, "We're not aiming at perfection, we're aiming at progress."

How often do we feel like giving up simply because we haven't yet reached our goal? Do we really expect things to change overnight? Or, in our quest for complete perfection, are we unwilling to accept each small step as a milestone?
"My davening (prayer) was terrible today; I had barely any kavannah (concentration) during Shemona Esray, it’s almost as if I didn’t daven."

"I cheated on my diet yesterday. That's it, I may as well give up completely and indulge in the chocolate mousse left over from Shabbos. "

“Gosh, I’m such a bad teacher. My student pushed my buttons and I reacted improperly by lecturing her. I’ll never make an effective educator.”
Do any of these internal dialogues ring a bell? It doesn't have to be these - it can be about a struggling friendship, a tension with a spouse or coworker, or a difficulty dealing with a child or student. Maybe it's the frustration with a Middah (character trait) that needs fixing or a skill which is yet to be mastered. Whatever the specifics, one thing is similar: focusing on the setbacks will inhibit us from reaching success.

Nobody watches a baby taking his first halting steps and says, “Well, she wasn’t very smooth, and she fell after a few steps, so she may as well just stick to crawling forever.” That’s pure idiocy. With practice, and quite a few falls flat on her tush, (and a lot of kisses and encouragement from the overprotective parents), she’ll walk. Oh, she may be 12 months old, or 18 months, or may even be delayed until age 2, but she’ll make it.

Consider those mental conversations above. True, the final goal has not been reached. True, you may have fallen flat on your tush. But look back- did you take one shaky step, or even five or six? Look at the progress, not at the setback.
Yeah. Davening today was a tad on the pathetic side. But... I did show some emotion during the Bracha (blessing) for health, as I begged G-d to send a cure to a sick girl I know. That may not be perfection, but… it's progress!

Okay, I’m not in total self control when it comes to leftover chocolate mousse. But... last night at a vort (engagement party) I did turn down the delicious sweet table and chose to eat only from the fruit platters. I’m not walking gracefully yet, but I’m taking a tiny step.

I did make a pretty bad mistake today with my student. But… everyone makes mistakes, and through my errors I’m learning about my field. I gave a great lesson and my students really grasped the material. Nobody became an experienced teacher overnight. I’m working hard - I should give myself some credit.
Any situation- the struggling friendship or marriage; the difficult child or coworker; the underdeveloped skill, behavior, or personality trait- can all be made easier through changing our perspective. It takes work to re-teach yourself to choose positive thoughts. But it’s worth it in the long run. And when you get stuck, remember those words of wisdom, and aim for progress, not perfection. After all, Pobody's Nerfect.

Express? Not Really

SaraK is right - the express bus is only worth it if you're going when there's no traffic anyway... otherwise, it's not so express. I didn't feel like standing on a crowded bus or subway today, so I took the (more expensive) "express" bus this morning. It took me 20 minutes longer to get to work than the regular bus/subway combo. At least I got 15 minutes of sleep...

Guest Post from the Cubicle King II

Slogans That Really Annoy Me
I was walking through the office today and I saw a box from a certain Donut establishment that said "America Runs on Dunkin' ". In addition there is an athletic looking caricature of a runner that appears above this slogan.

I have a question for all you geniuses out there. When was the last time you saw anyone who frequents a donut shop run anywhere? I know Dunkin' Donuts sells coffee and perhaps that is what they are really referring to, but I think it is a little pretentious of a Donut shop to be saying that any country runs off its deepfried nourishment.

Then to add insult to injury they use a fitness caricature above this asinine slogan. Between you and me we know dunking donuts is responsible for a lot more people keeling over than running.

The geniuses who came up with this advertising are shameless. They must be related to the people at FOX who run commercials that say "The moment you have been waiting for all year..................Yes, American Idol is back" Like I have been standing in time square with wearable billboard that says I have been waiting all year for a crappy reality show with talent less tone deaf contestants.

I think it is time we took a stand against such advertising that insults our intelligence, or at least run away from it.

If you have any slogans that get under your skin, please post them here and provide an explanation why.

~ Cubicle King

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hulk Does Kosher

(Hat tip: Lauren) Personally, I think that this does a really nice job of explaining a few points about kashrus and other Orthodox practices. Hogan's family really went out of their way to be considerate to their neighbors, too.

Medical Ethics

Chana has R' Willig's speech on genetic screening. So good, even R' Gil linked to it. ;)

Starting a Rumor? Hmmmm

Has anyone noticed the blogs are kind of dead lately? Ezzie hasn't been posting much. And you know he's busy (or sick) if he is not posting at least three times a day about god-knows-what. GH was peaking with his battles with R' Maroof, and now, nothing. Shifra probably poped a disk in her back while laughing and still hasen't managed to get up to post anything and Jameel..., well, Jameel is Jameel. (Maybe everyone is just hiding from the big bad New Blogger boogie man). So what can we mortals do to get the blogs jumping up a bit? To put some life into it!

Ladies and gentlmen, I see only one solution to this dilema. Everyone knows that controversy is what gets the most hits, therefore, I suggest starting a good ol' fashion rumor. Yup, nothing gets the folks more riled up then innocent gossip. It doesn't have to be anything mean-spirited. Even something like Jameel painting his toenails would do just nicely. I leave it up to you to discuss this on the thread or to chastise me for this horrible idea.

EVIL

Blogger is evil, and has defeated me. This is just another step in Google's plan of world domination - I'm telling you.

I just got back from a quick trip to the land of cold, beer, and cheese(heads) via the Windy City, with a stopover in the most cursed sports city in the world on the way back... and I had an awesome time, but I think I may have the same stomach virus Serach does. More on all that later (except the virus, which y'all probably don't want to hear about).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Holding Out

I see Blogger is finally forcing people to upgrade to the "new" Blogger... I shall hold out at least another couple of days if I can! In the meantime, enjoy this excellent article by R' Yakov Horowitz that was just in Mishpacha. I think his analogy is perfect.

Reality Check

A very close friend of mine (GS) told me some terribly sad news last Saturday night, and I had no clue how to react. I didn't understand what he was telling me well enough to react, to be honest. I had called him to see about going together to a friend's engagement party, and he seriously thought about going, despite the bad news. [A testament to his incredible strength and care for others - I have a lot of amazing friends, thank God, and yet few can match GS in terms of having someone to count on when one really, really needs it.] In the end, he felt he shouldn't go, so I got a ride with another good friend of ours, Moshe. One of the first things Moshe asked me was if I had heard the news from the friend - I admitted that while I had, I didn't quite understand it all that well; as it is Moshe's area of expertise, he explained it to me as best as he could.

Last night, I spoke to my friend again. This time, I could be of somewhat greater help; I could listen and understand what he was saying, to some extent. What I didn't understand, I had Moshe explain to me just now. I can't really write more on the subject - anything else that needs to be said (that can be said in this forum) was already written by Moshe. Please read his post, and daven for our close friend Aliza Rachel bas Liba Yenta.

Excerpt:
However, later that same day one of my closest friends (GS) called me with some terrible news. His wife was diagnosed with a severe form of cancer. Because this particular cancer is my field of expertise and research, we spent some time discussing the dreadful situation. My friend told me how suddenly everything in his life was put in perspective. He didn’t care about the people who owed him money. His job meant nothing. All he cared about was his wife and her health.

Talking to GS was and is painful. He and his wife (Aliza Rachel bas Liba Yenta) are going through something nobody should ever have to endure. The physical and emotional pain is heart-wrenching. At the same time, GS is my inspiration. He is strong and optimistic. Talking to him makes me realize how precious life really is. It forces me to understand how fortunate I am to have so many things in life and how wrong it is for me to complain about the little things about which I am far too quick to whine.

Patriotic Terrorism

Heh. (Hat tip: Augusto)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stopping Terrorists

My father recently asked me if I wanted to receive e-mails that a medic he knows in Iraq sends out, so I figured why not. I can't say I read them all, but I skim them here and there, and often find interesting tidbits. It's definitely fascinating reading everything from a soldier's perspective - and very different. In one of the e-mails from this week was this piece and I thought it really said a lot:
Yesterdays bombings in Baghdad were nearly averted by our guys. We got intelligence telling us who and where the SVBED's (suicide car bombs) were going, but missed them by 5 minutes.

Today we had more intelligence and not only caught the bomber (before he could act,) but we caught one of the top terrorists in Iraq. High fives all around as we looked for the next target.
Now, obviously, this is just one pair of stories, but I thought it showed a couple of major developments:
  • 1) The soldiers are actually getting intelligence that could help them stop attacks.
  • 2) They're getting the intelligence with enough time to have a chance at stopping some of the attacks.
Obviously both of these aspects are huge, but I think they point to a lot of other successes. The US and Iraqi forces seem to finally be developing an intelligence net from within the terrorists' cells, which is a major key to stopping attacks. Not only that, but the intelligence is good - good enough to not only find out about imminent attacks, but to nab certain high-ranking terrorists and actually get warnings out [hopefully] without sacrificing the sources. It also seems to be becoming common, which is another huge plus. One of the major [and I think proper] knocks on the US invasion of Iraq was that they weren't prepared well enough for the aftermath in terms of terrorist attacks. This has two aspects: Firstly, they did not seem to have enough manpower to really keep the attacks to a minimum, which was reinforced by the second issue, lack of intelligence they had on - and within - the enemy they were to face.

I have always held the belief that no matter the outcome, the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. I believe that overall, much of it was actually handled properly: The invasion was incredibly successful, the development of the Iraqi government has gone incredibly well [a democratic government that is actually governing this quickly is astounding], and the infrastructure and economic development of Iraq are strong. Polls of Iraqis show a country that is far more optimistic about its future than the perceptions of Americans regarding Iraq from 6,000 miles away based on what they see and hear in the news. The flaws are the inability to stop the terrible attacks that continually threaten to break down the government there... but perhaps we're finally turning a corner with these intelligence sources and the extra manpower that President Bush plans on sending over.

People seem to forget that before all of this started, everyone was told very clearly "This is going to take a long time - years and years, possibly over a decade or more." We're not even at four years and people have been panicking for over two of them! Some things take a long time to develop - whether they be a new government, the ideas of freedom and democracy in a region that has never experienced them, intelligence sources, or a deeper understanding of what we're really facing. Some of these can even take years. It is high time we actually let things develop and stopped crying that not everything has gone perfectly - there were mistakes, and those need to be corrected. That doesn't mean the whole project was wrong or that it can't be successful in the future, it just means that we need to keep working hard at fixing the problem, not throw up our hands and walk away.

Changes take time. Big changes take even more time. We're finally hitting the point in time where we can see some important changes taking place... now how about letting some more time pass so we can see just how big these changes really are.

Helping

I've been pointing to this blog a lot recently, because I think it's important... and she just wrote a detailed post explaining (more about) herself and her blog. Read her post. Excerpt: [emphasis added]
8. What can we do to help?
  • Visit my blog. :)
  • Read.
  • Leave comments, preferably not anything judgmental or mean.
  • Share with others.
  • Practice sensitivity.
  • Encourage rabbis to be aware of congregants with "invisible pain."
  • Be willing to talk about emotional disorders within the Jewish community.
  • Be willing to reach out to people in your own community who might need it.
  • Brainstorm ways for your own community to keep people from falling through the cracks.
On an unrelated note, I really liked this post by Mrs. Balabusta.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't Worry

A Simple Jew has one of my favorite quotes. While it is obviously difficult for many, this is something that has helped me greatly the more I've been able to do it.

TGIF?

No, Chana, it is NOT Shabbos yet. :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jewish Economics

I'm a bit closer to actually getting back to this series, as my good friend Groovin' sent me the template he created to work with. I just need to fill it out, figure it out, etc...

Meanwhile, the expert on the subject has struck again. Check out Sephardi Lady's (Orthonomics) latest, Saving: What are your priorities? It's that good.

Stock Up On... Pennies?

Want to quintuple your money? Buy pennies... lots of them. If this happens, you'll be rich.
Sharply rising prices of metals such as copper and nickel have meant the face value of pennies and nickels are worth less than the material that they are made of, increasing the risk that speculators could melt the coins and sell them for a profit.

The best solution, Velde said, would be to "rebase" the penny by making it worth five cents rather than one cent. Doing so would increase the amount of five-cent coins in circulation and do away with the almost worthless one cent coin.

Why Firefox Rocks III

Why Firefox Rocks I & II

It's all about Sage, baby. For this, I have to thank an anonymous reader from long ago who mentioned it in a comment. I installed it, tried it out... and loved it.

So... what is it? It's a feed-reader. (Riiiight... what's a feed?) Well, you can probably do your own research and find out what an RSS feed is and all that, but you probably don't really care. The basic idea is that you can see easily whether a site you normally read has been updated, and what was written to various extents.

This is what it looks like on my screen:

Once you've installed it, you want to make it easily accessible. Since I have the All-in-one-Toolbar discussed previously, I put Sage (which the symbol for is the little green leaf on the left) on that toolbar under the bookmarks. Normally, I can see my bookmarks; with one click, the view switches from the bookmarks to Sage. Sage has 2 parts on the left - the top is a list of whatever blogs [or other sites] whose feeds you have; the bottom is a list of recent postings on whichever feed you are on.

The way to add a feed is relatively simple. Once you have Sage open on the left, you'll see a magnifying glass. Go to any blog or website, then click on the magnifying glass. You'll see a couple of feeds for that page come up; I usually use the RSS (2.0) feed, because that seems to be the most stable. Click OK, and you should see that blog come up on the top left. Click on that bold name, and it will open up a listing of the most recent posts on the bottom left, in addition to showing the posts in the main window.

I've used SoccerDad's blog as an example: On the top left, you can see some of the blogs I read (another advantage is you can create folders and put different types of blogs or sites into different categories). To refresh all your feeds to see who has updated click on the refresh button next to the magnifying glass. It'll take a couple minutes, depending on how many feeds you have and how many have updated, but the ones that have will all be in bold. In my case, BeyondBT was recently updated. On the bottom left, I see there are two new posts on SoccerDad which I haven't read yet. On the right are SoccerDad's posts in text form - but only the first paragraph or so. Some blogs show only titles or a couple lines; some show about a hundred words; some show the whole post. (Personally, I think it's best to show the first few sentences, though for some reason mine shows just the titles...)

To go to and read a post, you simply click on the title - either on the bottom left, or in the main window. To go to the blog, just click on the blog's title in the main window. On the bottom left, you can also check off that you've read a post or all the posts with one click. When you're done with Sage for now, you just click on the bookmarks to see them or click on the leaf and the Sage part disappears. When you want to come back, you click on the leaf.

Great, simple, easy to use.. and makes reading even a few blogs a whole lot faster and easier. You don't have to go to each blog to see if they've updated, you can just see all of the ones who have and click on them from there. (It also makes it easier to add blogs to your reading list, since it becomes much simpler to keep up with them.) Enjoy!

Note: They also have different styles... I use Mozilla two-column.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Guest Post by the Cubicle King

The Cubicle King out of Baltimore finally took me up on my offer of writing up a guest post... and who can turn down a post on football and middos, right? So here we are: The Cubicle King speaketh:
Tony Dungy – More than just a great Football coach, a real Mentsch
As an avid Baltimore Ravens fan, it is a little difficult for me to see the Indianapolis Colts play in the SuperBowl. However, it is not due to nostalgia that I will be rooting for the Colts on Sunday but because of their head coach Tony Dungy. In Yiddish the word "mentsch" is defined as "a person with integrity and concern for others". In my mind there is no coach or player in the NFL who embodies these characteristics more than Tony Dungy. While other coaches yell at the referees, abuse the press, swear at their players, Tony Dungy rises above this self deprecation and always remains stoic when marching the sidelines.

While other coaches appear arrogant, and full of themselves, Tony Dungy always makes sure that his press conferences and presentation are with poise and humility. In an era when the game has become more about fist pumping and self promotion he has been one of a few to coach with modesty and class. On February 4th lets not just celebrate the NFL's vast success and its long overdue integration of African-American head coaches. Let us celebrate the fact that the coach that might be holding the Lombardi trophy, is not only a fine human being, but a true mentsch.

- Cubicle King

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

W Care

At first glance, from an accounting standpoint, Bush's health care plans make a lot of sense. I'd need to read more about it, but the basic idea is to make it a standard deduction for anyone who has health care, while making the benefit itself taxable. For singles, that's an extra $2,350 a year; for married people, an extra $4,700 a year.

Note: On re-reading what I wrote, I realize I calculated improperly... that extra is a reduction to your income. If your tax rate is 25%, you'd save $1,175 in taxes for having insurance, minus the $550 below paid out for the benefit I receive. This makes a lot more sense: A savings of about $525 in taxes for a middle-class family [assuming 25% tax rate is middle-class] for having health insurance. For those on the lowest end of the scale, the savings is greater (%-wise): Let's say a combined income for a newly married couple of $25,300. Right now, they'd have a standard deduction of $10,300, and 2 exemptions for $6,600, leaving them with a taxable income of $8,400. Their tax would be $843. After this change, however, the deduction would make their taxable income $3,700, meaning their tax would be just $373 - a savings of $470. This will allow people to get at least very basic health insurance. Better yet, if they had perhaps a few hundred dollars to put into health insurance and can now add this savings in, they can get somewhat better health care. The initiative calls to help make health plans more affordable as well, and expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) which are excellent and provide even further savings to people.


Let's say your deductible is like mine, and comes out to about $2,200 a year. I now would save $4,700 while paying out an extra $550 or so a year - a net savings of $4,150 (I'm sure I'm missing something there). According to the memo I'm reading, 80% of employer-given policies would save money on taxes; the other 20% would lose a bit.

On second thought, they're probably taxing the % the employer pays, which is a LOT more - almost double what I'm getting from the deduction... but that doesn't make sense, because most plans are structured like mine, and it talks about getting lower premiums for the 20% getting hurt by this. Anyone have a clue as to how this would work? I'm thinking now that my first analysis was closer, which would be great for everyone, and make a LOT more sense than universal health care - which ties up a lot of money into beauracracy, among other issues that I'm not getting into here. It also seriously preempts Hillary's plans for 2008 by proxy - more Americans would benefit from this plan than hers, including helping most of all those on the poorer end of the scale.

The final paragraph on the subject is also huge:
There Are Many Other Ways That Congress Can Help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts, help small businesses through Association Health Plans, reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology, encourage price transparency, and protect good doctors from predatory lawsuits by passing medical liability reform.
Amen to all of those. More on the State of the Union when I have a chance to actually read some details...

Faith, Skepticism, & Reason

Two great posts that I particularly enjoyed on faith, reason, and all that good stuff...
Wolf's Pseudoskepticism & XGH's Faith IN Judaism. XGH's discusses part of R' Adlerstein's post at Cross-Currents, I Don't Know, which is excellent.
I particularly enjoyed these posts because they all touch on my own personal beliefs about a number of things, and this way I don't have to blog about them myself and therefore get attacked from all sides.* I don't write well enough to avoid having this problem, so this is much, much better than actually fulfilling my claim from over a year ago that I would write about it. I still might one day... but at least for now, I'm happy pointing to those who can present their thoughts fairly clearly.

* :)

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 1/23: Food for Thought

It's busy season, which means that while I still have had enough time to read lots of blogs (thanks to Sage - the next topic in Why Firefox Rocks - just ask Pobody's Nerfect & Shoshana! :P ), I don't have much time to write my own thoughts on them down. So... here are a bunch of good reads for today, a number of which I think are worthy of further discussion: (Count this towards J-Blog Awareness Month, as some of these are on blogs you probably aren't reading yet, even though you should be!)
  • Musings has a video of Oscar (in orange!) and Gordon (with an afro). He thinks only parents with toddlers can get excited over this stuff... ha!
  • Mother in Israel has some brit fashlas. Heh.
  • Treppenwitz notes that in many cultures, the women keep traditional dress while the men do not. He's currently blogging from India. I thought this was interesting for the same reason the first commenter did - in Judaism, this is usually the reverse.
  • R' Gil has a very interesting - and I think logical post on the "chumrah society". He basically notes that because people learn more, they understand the logic behind even minority opinions, and therefore decide to follow that logic (perhaps where they shouldn't be). There's a great essay on this subject by R' Hayim Soloveitchik that someone pointed out to me recently, but I can't find the link at the moment.
  • JBlogosphere has put up a post with some suggested categories for the JIBs... check them out, point out what's missing or what may be extra, and join in the conversation.
  • MiI has a post about schooling in Israel (worth reading for anyone considering aliyah, too), which makes an interesting point about how parents view schools:
    A very wise woman once told me: We all want our kids to go to exclusive schools. But then the day comes when such a school rejects our children. We rant and rave against the system, but we have only ourselves to blame for supporting it.
  • RenReb may be broke (join the club!), but at least there's always 24.
  • Rivka struggles with herself, and asks for help. If there is any blog we should all be reading as a community, I think hers is right up there.
Have a wonderful day, everybody!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sex Survey

Shoshana has a good post here about the survey I mentioned last week. Read it, and feel free to give your own thoughts on the subject.

A Wise Proposal

Want to make Super Bowl Sunday special, so you know you'll always be able to watch it? Copy this guy:
One Romeo is going all the way to the Super Bowl to prove just how much he loves his Juliet. A lovesick west coast man is preparing a $2.5 million dollar marriage proposal to show his girlfriend he means business. The ultra-romantic proposal will air in a commercial spot during Super Bowl Sunday.
The smart guy pulled it off by getting other people to pay for it, too:
The suitor, known only as J.P., decided he wanted to make his marriage proposal unforgettable, so he hatched the plan to make it happen during the Super Bowl.

He designed his own Web site, MySuperProposal.com, to raise money for the venture.

He calls his plan "the most public declaration of love in the history of mankind."

The Web site raised over $75,000 in donations, but the anonymous Romeo soon realized he would need more muscle to garner enough cash to buy a pricey Super Bowl spot. So, he hooked up with public relations and ad firms, who helped him find a sponsor to pay the bill.
It's an interesting story... read the whole thing.

This makes the How I Met Serach series, which will finish with the proposal, pale in comparison... but don't worry, I'll
finish it anyway. :)

Time for a New Computer?

My nephew's latest is up at Our Kids Speak.

R' Horowitz's latest is up, this time discussing blogs, comments, and other assorted issues. Excerpts:
In my professional life, one of the most fascinating developments of this past month was the fact that I opened my website and articles to instant posting, commonly referred to as “blogging.” ... Many of the posts were personally insulting, and in my (unbiased, of course) mind a bit ‘over the top’.

As soon as those negative comments appeared, I received more than a few emails from friends informing me that these comments were posted on my site and asking me to remove them from my site. (I was in middle of sheva brachos week for our daughter and did not have much time to check the site.)

After giving it some thought, I decided not remove any of the negative comments. ... Why? Because I felt that once I decided to open my website to unedited comments, I felt that the honorable thing to do was to leave the negative ones on the site as well as the complimentary ones. Additionally, I felt that once I chose to solicit funds using the site, it was fair, if not unpleasant, for people to question my motives.

I Missed It

That's right. I missed the Colts-Patriots game, as we were at the engagement party of two good friends of ours. I missed one of the best games in recent NFL history... and as protective the NFL is of their material, I don't know when I'll ever have a chance to see it. Ridiculous.

At least I got to see and play on a Nintendo Wii - I'll admit, it's pretty cool... and tennis and boxing are quite a workout. One friend has tennis elbow from playing it; others' arms are dead from the boxing game. Cool.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Eat Up

Need some good recipes? Elisheva has them in KCC #14 - check it out.

Haveil Havalim is up!

Haveil Havalim is up... and Life-of-Rubin referred to Jerusalem Board Games' version as the most creative one yet, so that's saying something. Check it out!

SuperBowl XLI

I'm picking Colts vs. Saints after this weekend... not only because that would obviously be an amazingly fun game to watch, but because I really think that's what is going to happen.

I wrote some of the reasons why over at Outside the Beltway.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dihydrogen Monoxide

Oh, that evil water! Penn & Teller have some great stuff sometimes, and this (short) clip is one of them.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Pre (or Post)-Shabbos Reads...

Have a great Shabbos everybody! SerandElianna are in Scranton for a simcha, while I'm (sniff) home alone for this one. It's a little weird, I must say... but I should have a great time eating at some of the people who read and write on this blog. :)

Some good reads:
  • SoccerDad is Jib.
  • Esther on "choosing to be single".
  • DAG imagines a speech on the JBlogs. Heh. :)
  • Irina has a plan of action about the JIBs at J-Blogosphere. Please go there and input your own suggestions as well... we'd like to take as many opinions into account as we can.
  • Amishav sees some red flags on his date. Scarily hilarious.
  • WestBankMama outs herself. Welcome to eponymity or whatever, WBM! :)
  • Shifra ROTFLs. For real! I didn't know people actually did that.
  • Orthomom learns that Consumer Reports retracted its scary article about car seats. Woah.
  • BeyondBT tells us about a trip for women - looks interesting. Check it out.
Have a great Shabbos, everybody!

Strange Comments

R' Gil points to a Jewish Press piece which contains this very odd quote:
The Novominsker Rebbe recalled that American Jewish history was replete with battles to protect Shabbos, kashrus, Taharas HaMishpachah, all of which are proudly adhered to in observant Jewish America today. However, the Rebbe stressed, the threat of the Internet is greater than all the previous perils combined...
Huh?! I don't get that at all. I agree with Gil's comment at the beginning of the post:
Fighting the internet is like fighting the telephone. You're never going to win. You'll have much more success teaching people how to use it responsibly.
Meanwhile, I was reading this post of Larry Gordon [the 5 Towns Jewish Times editor] (via Krum) and I'm appalled. I can't believe he said either of these:
  • Our buddy Krum-As-A-Bagel seemed tickled to see his name in lights or at least on dull newsprint paper culled from the Canadian forests. I guess if you cannot have your name in lights—and that’s what you crave—then this next best thing may be newsprint.
  • Ariella seems a little angry about something and seems bent on targeting this writer for merchanting in hypocrisy laced with contradictions.
Interestingly, he then hints at criticizing anonymous bloggers including Ariella, who actually is not anonymous (just doesn't broadcast her name). I don't think I even need to get into the details of why he's wrong about all of his opinions in this piece; you can read the post, read their posts, read the article he wrote, and decide for yourself. But these comments he made!? Wow - what a jerk.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

J-Blog Awareness Month

To best understand what this is about... check out Life-of-Rubin's posts on his own blog and at J-Blogosphere. Basic idea: The JIBs aren't happening until around May, giving us time to get them much better organized to serve the purpose they're meant to do, which is promote Jewish and Israeli blogs.

For J-blog awareness month, I think I'm going to do what I did last year for the JIBs to some extent, which is discuss blogs by category and type. But I'll start that another day, when I've had time to split them up - until then, enjoy a hilarious post by one of the funniest blogs out there, PsychoToddler. For kicks, check out his daughter Fudge's blog, too. The humor runs in the family. And if you're really in the mood for some serious laughs, there's always Kasamba.

Please, join in J-Blog Awareness Month, and take some time to point out your favorite blogs or blogs that perhaps people haven't heard of yet. There's so much out there we haven't seen...

CAIR vs. FOX over 24 & Niddah Issues

I was supposed to post this a couple of days ago, but please take this survey/study a pair of researchers are performing about niddah and other related issues to help the Jewish community. It takes less than 10 minutes.

Elsewhere, SIL found this post by LGF which prints FOX's response to CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) regarding how they portray Muslims on 24. I think it's a great, fair response, and I'm actually surprised CAIR tried to make a big deal out of this in the first place. Not only is it a fictional story, it's one that has balance on both sides. A mailing list I'm on which is made up of people across the board had a number of people complaining about the pro-Muslim or very left-wing skewing of views, which were then responded to with points that many of those actually turn out to favor right-wing viewpoints. Personally, I think FOX is striking a nice balance - I was upset about certain scenes (even as it's just a TV show) and how viewpoints were portrayed in some instances, and I'm sure others were upset the other way, though I'd guess that was less true (excluding CAIR).

Meanwhile... 24 is awesome. :)

Skin

One of our favorite songs and videos here at SerandEz... (Ez: heh - I actually posted about these over a year ago!)

To me, at least, I've always found the song both incredibly sad and inspiring simultaneously. While the song is beautiful, I think it has a much greater impact when you listen while you watch the video at the same time. Did you cry? We once had a few guys at our old apartment, and they watched this... all of them had tears in their eyes. Rascal Flatts is an amazing band, with a number of really great songs. This isn't even my favorite of theirs, either. That would probably have to be Bless the Broken Road:

Also, please try the puzzle below if you haven't already. So far, it's taken everyone between 5 and 15 minutes, so it's not all that tricky... Later today, I'm going to put up the answers and what's so interesting about it all. :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Suns, Cavs, & Mavs

My latest is up at Outside the Beltway. It's short and interesting if you like the NBA.

Pairs

A pair of good reads and videos out there...
  • "Sam Smith" is back at BeyondBT. His first post was the most resonating they've had - this one will likely resonate with most people as well.
    In any event, the brutal truth is that, especially now that I have older kids, I am simply overwhelmed by all the expenses, unable to carry all my accumulated debt, and even the partial tuitions I am paying have pushed me to and over the edge of financial ruin. There is no retirement plan in my life, no hidden stocks, no wealthy parents, in-laws or uncles ready to leave me their fortune and rescue me.

    After many years and many tuitions I simply didn’t make it financially, at least in contemporary, North American Orthodox-community terms. I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer or businessman. I didn’t marry into wealth.
  • Wolf reminds us just what some people are actually learning from our educational system (though I think this extreme is rare).
  • Meanwhile, Olah Chadasha points us to the incredible British expose of a number of supposed "moderate" mosques in the UK. It's a must-watch to understand what people are being taught.
  • Finally, our barbarian friend Ozy has Charlie Daniels' band playing The Devil Went Down To Georgia. Awesome.
  • Bonus: David Linn just sent me a link to this hilarious bit some people may have seen already... The Red Sox announcers and a guest comedian have a great time mocking Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism.
Check them all out.

Ezzie Exposed!

Ezzie pointed out yesterday that the sidebar and footer of his blog has been intermittently missing when viewed in Internet Explorer. This post resulted in the nudging by me about the real reason for his concern - his hit counts! But I just discovered that the treachery for the post goes much, much deeper.

He won't admit it, but Ezzie has been hired by Firefox to covertly (or not so covertly) switch innocent, complacent Internet Explorer users over to the questionably more slick Firefox. (Though without a ton of downloaded add-ins and plug-ins and whoseits and whatsits galore, what good is it?)

He started out fairly innocuously, giving us a couple posts about the supposed advantages of Firefox, trying to see if we would pay attention that way. Then he started harassing individuals about using it (okay, I don't know if it's anyone else, but he's been harassing me).

Now, he's taken things a step further and gone to the lengths of sabotaging his own blog in his zeal for Firefox domination of the Internet. Sure, sure, it sounds innocent enough that his sidebar isn't being viewed in Internet Explorer, but once he convinces you to view his blog in Firefox, the next will be his stealthy suggestions that other blogs look better in Firefox, and then Blogger itself, and before you know it, he will even suggest you write e-mail from Firefox. He's just a few steps from converting the masses, in cult-like fashion.

So, Ezzie, I ask you again - how much is Firefox paying you for this? It must be a larger amount than you get for your blogads, we know you love your blog too much to compromise it for a small amount. Come on, admit the truth!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Please Excuse the Mess

Apparently, the sidebar and footer of this blog are almost completely missing in Internet Explorer. (Yet another reason to switch to Firefox!) I'm trying to fix it, but I can't seem to find the problems. Thanks to all those who noted the problems, especially Shoshana...

I'm Not Addicted...

Please say I'm not the only one who relates so perfectly to this... (and that was before I saw my own name in it!)

Waterjugs? Gestalt!

We're going to do a fun little experiment today, and y'all are the test subjects. This is a test of the human psyche, so... enjoy!

I'm going to give you 10 short problems, each the same idea. You have 3 jugs of different sizes, and you want a certain amount of water in one jug only. You have to say what you'd do to get the desired amount.

Here are the rules for this experiment: You have to do all ten and you must do them in order; you can give up on any question if you can't figure it out, but take your time; and you need to identify how you did each one. Then, please put in the comments what the answer you got was, about how long the questions took you [individually or total, it doesn't matter], which question was the hardest, and which question was the easiest.

Here are the examples:
The first three numbers in each set are the jugs' capacities; the last number is the amount you want to get.
  • 1) 21, 127, 3 = 100
  • 2) 14, 163, 25 = 99
  • 3) 18, 43, 10 = 5
  • 4) 9, 42, 6 = 21
  • 5) 20, 59, 4 = 31
  • 6) 23, 49, 3 = 20
  • 7) 15, 39, 3 = 18
  • 8) 28, 76, 3 = 25
  • 9) 18, 48, 4 = 22
  • 10) 14, 36, 8 = 6
Good luck, and feel free to pass this along to your friends. I want to get as many people answering this as I can; I'll post the answers and some comments later on in the day when I have a chance and after a lot of people have answered. Try not to read other people's answers and comments until after you've answered all the questions...!

You'll find the results fascinating - I know I did, and the two people I just tested it out on did as well. What are you waiting for?! Start!

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 1/16/07: Jack Bauer

24 has started, as our J-blog Rebbetzins are noting, and I missed tonight's episodes. Argh. But, thanks to modern technology and some great friends, I did get to see the first two, and I'm sure I'll see the next two fairly soon. Some people have already seen the leaked 5 & 6, too. But, it's okay - at least there's some good stuff out there to read:
And remember: When bad things happen to good people, its probably fate. When bad things happen to bad people, it’s probably Jack Bauer. Once, someone tried to tell Jack Bauer a "knock knock" joke. Jack Bauer found out who was there, who they worked for, and where the goddamned bomb was. We're running out of time, so... beep. beep. beep. beep.

Depressing Post

So I've been kind of depressed lately. It started with the heavy debates going on XGH's site, and now, (yesterday), I got word that my uncle's wife father died. It was all quite sudden. He was not feeling well and took some x-rays. He was told that there was some clog in his arteries and that he would need open heart surgery. From what I heard, sometime either during the surgery or after, he got a stroke and never woke up from the anesthesia. He was like this for 2 weeks. Yesterday he passed away. This really got me thinking of how life is so short and how you never know when your time is up.

When I was a in my early teens. Maybe 11 or 12, I wasn't afraid of death (as most teens aren't). I had it in my head, that most likely, Mashiach will come and everything will be fine. After all, according to some opinions the world is only supposed to last 6000 years which is only in a about 233 years to go. And since most likely I would live to be 120 years old, I had a good 50/50 shot at him coming during my lifetime. It was just not something that I was worried about. Well, I don't think like that anymore. Every since I have become a father, deaths ugly fact has become a fact to me. Sometimes, its all i think about. This is one of the reason I just refuse to fly anymore. Death is a fact. It will get me. But I don't want it to get me now. Not now. So much I want to do, and learn. But who am I to have this request. Many people younger than me have died unexpectedly. There is no reason for me to think I have plenty of years to go before thinking about death. It can happen any day now.

I guess Judaim really thought this through with the Modeh Ani. Maybe I should start saying it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why Firefox Rocks II

Why Firefox Rocks I

All right. By now, you've downloaded Firefox, even if you have Internet Explorer 7. Right? RIGHT!? Good! And you've gotten used to the tabbing feature, too, I hope. Well, now it's time to add some good, practical extensions and add-ons which will make it even better. Basically, these are little things that you download and install and require very little skill to use.

We'll start with two practical ones first, then start getting some of the cooler ones and stuff: The All-in-One Sidebar and Tab Mix Plus. Click on those links (if you're good, you can right-click on them and open them in new tabs, I believe) and install them; then close Firefox, re-open it, and come back here.

You're back? Great. First, a quick explanation of the two. The AIOS is exactly what it says it is: It basically puts a lot more options on the sidebar, so you can have a lot more space elsewhere. More on that in detail later. The TabMixPlus
enhances Firefox's tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager with crash recovery that can save and restore combinations of opened tabs and windows.
Exactly. Basically, I use it for opening stuff I accidentally (or even purposely) close with a simple click of a button, or for opening up all the things I was looking at earlier if I have to step away from the computer for a while (or if the comp crashes). Both of these "extensions" are very useful, and because they save you a lot of space, they make it easier to look at whatever is on your computer and to navigate through it all.

Below is a snapshot of my screen from a few minutes ago; you can blow it up by clicking on it or opening it into a new tab. It shows what I see when I look at the computer; everyone will have their own personal preferences as to how they set their buttons up.
But to start, here are my suggestions, and monkey around until you're comfortable:
  • Start by getting rid of the "bookmarks toolbar" underneath the address bar. Right-click near the top where it says help, and make sure only the navigation and all-in-one sidebars are checked off.
  • You can 'slide' the sidebar in and out in different ways. Clicking on the bookmark icon (the open or closed book with the blue bookmark in it) makes the bookmarks slide in and out; clicking on the thin strip on the left makes the whole sidebar slide in and out. You can hit shift or control and click to have either the icons or the bookmarks showing; clicking on other icons will show different things.
  • Make the all-in-one sidebar on the left as thin as possible. You don't need it to be huge.
  • Right-click near the top again and hit customize. You can now move all the little icons all over, wherever you want - on the top toolbar or the sidebar.
  • I like using small icons - they take up much less space. Some people prefer large ones. I like my address bar on the left, the icons to its right; most people aren't used to that.
  • I have the bookmarks icon on the sidebar; underneath it is a green leaf that is for an extension called Sage, which we'll discuss another time. Above it is the "history" icon. The little puzzle piece is to see what extensions I've downloaded and whether they have updates I can install.
On the top right I have a number of buttons. Starting from the normal ones, I then have: [best ones in bold]
  • [printer] Print Screen
  • [tab with an IE symbol] Switch to IE tab - this allows you to click on it and open a tab as if it's in Internet Explorer, which is great for pages that only open in IE. Some banks are like this, among other things.
  • [tab with a plus] Open up a new tab - you can do this with Ctrl-T, so I never use it.
  • [window with a plus] Open up a new window
  • [looks to me like the liberty bell with a ribbon] Session Manager - this allows you to open up the last 'session' you had; let's say you had something open the last time you went online and want to open it up again - you click on this and it will open up your last 'session'.
  • [green recycle bin] Click it once to open up the last tab you closed, or scroll on it to open up any of the last 5 tabs you closed.
  • [looks like a medal] Shows what tabs you have opened. Useful if you have a lot open at once and want to scroll to it quickly.
  • [blue recycle bin] Same as the green, but for windows.
  • [arrow with 2 windows] Goes to full-screen.
There's more on the bottom, but those are all extensions for next time. Now, once you've hit customize, you can drag and drop any of these icons or other ones on or off the toolbar or sidebar in whatever order you want, and you can put separators in between wherever you'd like.

Have fun, monkey around, and be patient - these all take a bit of getting used to. But once you're used to them... they're great.

Hardened His Hearing

My nephew Ben's latest, over at Our Kids Speak.

Good for her!

via Judith:
(YNet) Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a senior Neturei Karta member, who passionately kissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will now be forced to look for a woman who will agree to kiss him, as his wife has decided to leave him following his participation in the Holocaust denial conference which took place in Tehran about a month ago. [...]

The 'Ultra-Orthodox Voice' service reported that when Friedman finally returned to Vienna he found out that his wife, following her parents' advice, had fled to the Satmar community in Williamsburg, New York City. There she approached rabbis and asked them to help her divorce her husband due to his misdeeds.

Busy Season Arrives

58 billable hours a week. Thrilling.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

There He Goes

It took about a quarter and a half, but Rex Grossman finally made that stupid, stupid mistake, fumbling the ball away, leading to a Seahawks touchdown. Nice.

Elsewhere, Haveil Havalim #102 is up at SoccerDad!

R' Horowitz discusses exit interviews:
I would think that the frightened parents in the community ought to shorten the hours that their children are in school, offer more extra-curricular activities, clamor for more tolerance, invest in the educators of their children, and boycott the schools that dismiss children for misdeeds. The community leaders would do well to meet with the mental-health professionals and those who deal with the ‘at-risk’ teen population, perhaps even with the troubled kids themselves, and listen – really listen – to their advice. I would love to tell you that this is happening. It pains me to report that this is usually not the case. Those of us who deal with at-risk kids are consulted in firefighter mode by desperate parents and educators – but little time and energy is being spent in fire prevention. They are asking us what to do with the at-risk kids, but not what we think should be done for all our children.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Instant Classic

New Orleans 27, Philadelphia 24. Wow - a game doesn't need to come down to a last-second field goal to be a classic, and this easily qualifies. Awesome.

Brains Over Brawn

The NFL Divisional Round is home-strong. The home teams wins an outstanding percentage of the time, going 51-13 when they have a bye. But those stats are about to get worse.

I think that both the Colts and Seahawks are going to upset their opponents this weekend - not just cover their spreads, actually win outright. I don't understand how people expect a QB who threw two interceptions for touchdowns against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL while completing just two passes to his own team to win a playoff game. The Cowboys couldn't beat the Seahawks with Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens; the Bears will with Rex Grossman throwing to a crop headed by Brian Berrian? And to those who say "It will be cold!" - um, what is it in Seattle, exactly? Hot? Seattle handles wetness better than any other team, too.

The Ravens defense is good, but Peyton is better. He won't throw for 4 touchdowns, but he can drive the ball down the field. Now that the defense has stepped up, he can actually win these playoff games - he's not "bad" in the playoffs, he's made to be mortal by the better playoff defenses. The reason they used to lose was not his fault, though - it was a lack of D. The teams that knocked them out in past years did so with offense (think Brady) as much as defense. The Ravens' offense doesn't measure up to those teams, and that's part of why it's 12-3 late in the third quarter.

New Orleans - Philadelphia may be the most exciting game in a long time... and the NFL doesn't lack for excitement. I think the Saints will win and cover in somewhat of a shootout (Yeah, bold prediction, right?), though it won't be crazy high-scoring; playoff games simply don't allow for games like the Chargers and Bengals had earlier this year.

I think Marty Schottenheimer will coach the Chargers to victory over Bill Belichik's Patriots. This may be because I grew up loving Marty and hating Belichik, but I still think it's true. The best outcome would be if LaDanian Tomlinson scores the go-ahead touchdown from the 4 with about 1:30 left in the game, hanging on while the Patriots try to strip the ball out, and then Brady can't pick apart the Chargers' defense trying to drive down the field to tie it up. And if you don't understand that, you didn't watch the AFC Championships in the 1980's. :)

Belichik is a great defensive-minded coach... but it's easier to come up with schemes to stop the pass than the run. When you have an offensive line that is as good as the Chargers, a running back as good as LT, and the quarterback is good enough to keep your rush defense honest (particularly when there's such a great TE for play-action passes as Antonio Gates is for San Diego), you're just too hard to beat. Schottenheimer gets criticized for his playoff record - yet any observer would notice that he was as in those games as a coach could be, but lost on crazy endings: The Drive, The Fumble... this is an incredible coach who lost to other great coaches on occasion. He also beat them, too - and he will again this week.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Please Pray For...

My grandfather called a few minutes ago and asked that I give a meshaberach for my uncle - Noach Natan ben Ita. He was taken to the hospital after complaining of pain on Wednesday, and has (I believe) pancreitis or something of the sort. If you could have him in mind or put his name in, that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much! Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Running from the Middle

I was speaking to Serach's uncle yesterday on the bus to Manhattan after the bris - he is one fascinating character with a wealth of information and (sometimes true!) stories at his fingertips. He related over a number of very interesting stories, half of which he specifically ordered me not to write about, and some very interesting insights.

One of the topics was the next Presidential election [there go half the readers...]. He discussed something that is very interesting, and something which I would be in great favor of - not because I'm a big fan of the guy per se, but because I like what his running will mean to the future of this country. If Barack Obama or someone as liberal as him wins the Democratic nomination, and Newt Gingrich or someone as conservative as him wins the Republican nomination, watch Mike Bloomberg run as an independent from the middle.

Think about it: He has all the money he needs to run such a campaign. Obama is far too left for most Americans; and most people are wary at this point of anyone from the conservative right. He's a social liberal, which puts him in touch with most of the country; he's an economic conservative, which puts him in touch with most of the country. While perhaps nobody will love him, there's something there for everyone to like... and he'll be perceived better than the alternatives. This country could sorely use a centrist third party - it's about time.

What do you think?

Been A While...

This is not about the community. This is about me. In the past I’ve written about what I think about the community and how much I think the Jewish community needs changing and all that. But lately I just haven’t been paying attention to the community. I haven’t been reading all the different blogs and keeping up on the news in Israel or the tri-state area. Frankly, I don’t care that much these days. I’ve been paying attention to myself. Call me narcissistic, but I realized I have to stop worrying about everybody else for a lil bit and start worrying about myself.

What’s my purpose? Why am I here? Like, “on this planet” here, not “sitting in front of a laptop at 4:30 in the morning” here. These seem like regular questions that everybody hopefully addresses at some point in their lives, right? And I thought I had already addressed them. Well, I really have. I know what my purpose is and I know why I’m here. My purpose as a Jew on planet Earth, in the United States of America on January 12, 2007 is to spread Kiddush Hashem and gain S’char for the next world by following the laws of the Torah that was given to my ancestors on Mt. Sinai. Simple. I mean, what else is there to it? But I decided that this was my purpose years ago while I was studying in Israel.

So why am I sitting here right now addressing this question if I already know the answer? Obviously, it can’t be that simple. I mean, the laws are hard to keep. There are study halls filled with books. There are Beis Medrishes around the world filled with thousands of people learning and studying the deepest most intricate areas of Jewish law and Halacha. I mean, it can’t be that easy to be a Yid if I haven’t finished Mishna Berurah and I don’t know all of Shas to be able to figure what to do in case something out of the ordinary comes up. So how can I go on being a Jew if I don’t even know all of Halacha?

So we try. We study what we can and we consult our Rebbeim whose lives are (hopefully) dedicated to answering the questions of common Jews like me who just won’t be able to know everything.

My purpose, which is to live like a Jew and spread Kiddush Hashem and gain S’char, depends on me living out my life and having a future that’s able to sustain such a life. Therefore, the greatest way for me to carry out my purpose would be to raise another generation of Torah loving Jews. My purpose is ultimately my future. Thus, I attend college now and attempt to work on myself in order to start a career and bring myself to a spiritual level that will enable me to support a family and sustain a future that will help me to reach my goal.

Yes, all well and good. Since Touro College is quite the joy and spiritual growth for a 22 year old male in New York who’s not in Yeshiva all day is just so easy, there must be a reason why I’m sitting here at this ridiculous hour making sure I know why I’m here.

Ok, so if I do remember why I’m here, then what’s my problem? Why am I still awake and why am I typing?

My problem is that whole future thing. That probably came out sounding really weird but I honestly just can’t really tell anymore at this point. So if I’m already losing you, feel free to just stop here.

Yeah, so how am I supposed to work on myself right now and how am I supposed to really care about doing well in school if the only reason I’m doing it is to some day be able to support a wife and kids and send them to yeshivos and pay my dues and live like a good Yid?

Ok, ok, I know what you’re all gonna say! “But you shouldn’t just do it for a girl; you should want to do it for yourself.”

The thing about that is that this is what I want. I really do want a good wife and good kids and I really do want to live like a good Yid. But why should I quit smoking now and why should I get all A’s now and why should I start saving money now. I don’t have a girlfriend and I just don’t really see my future right now. I honestly would not mind working in a bagel shop for the next five years just getting by and being able to pay off all my bills if you told me that I’m not going to meet my wife for another five years. So you can’t tell me I don’t want to do these things for myself. Of course I want to do well in school and of course I want to quit smoking and of course I want to start going to minyan more often, and as much as I know that if I do all these things now, it will be better for me now, I really just don’t see it. I know I have a future and I know my potential and those things don’t worry me. What worries me is how to live now while my future still seems too distant.

On Monday night my chavrusa got married and I was his shomer all day. As we drove around doing all his pre-wedding errands, we talked a lot and the theme we basically kept on coming back to was this idea that it’s so hard for me to be motivated about the future when it seems to be so far out of reach. His marriage is also just about as typical as it gets in the Chareidi community while I totally want to have nothing to do with the Shidduch world. So we’re two people with the same view on the future, but with completely different ideas on the path that leads to the future. As Chareidi as he is though, he totally understands my desire to have a girl friend and wanting to date a girl for a while before proposing. However, even though he sits in yeshiva and learns all day and dated a girl for a short period of time for the sole purpose of finding a wife, he still understood how I could find it hard to not feel motivated about the path to the future. We even discussed how some guys marry Mashgiachs and that whole joke. He realized that when I say I can’t be motivated until I find a girl, it’s not that I want to find a girl who’s going to be a Mashgiach, but that I just need to be able to see what I’m working for.

This is all aside from the fact that I obviously want to marry a girl who sees my potential and who sees what kind of life I really do want to live even if it’s so hard for me to act like that right now. But like I said, I feel like if I see what I’m working for I’ll be more motivated, so once I do find the girl I’ll be able to really work that much harder. But now I’m gonna go off on a complete tangent about how it’s a vicious cycle and how I’ll never meet the right girl if I continue acting the way I am now so then I’ll never be motivated enough to work on myself so I should just stop my moaning and just go work on myself, but this wasn’t even my point.

I don’t even think I can remember my point.

So then if I’m not working on myself right now and I don’t care that much about school these days, what am I doing? I’ve actually been doing things that make me happy. Some of those things are kosher, some not so kosher, some very not kosher, and some totally ossur. But the truth is, even after all this confusion that I’ve been going through lately, I have been smiling a lot. And this is what bothers me and I think this is what I originally wanted to write about, but writing at this hour can do that to you. See, if I’ve been doing all kinds of things lately that make me smile, but I haven’t really been working on myself, then I’m probably not growing, and all these things I’m doing probably aren’t the best things for me to be doing. Ok, I know this is all vague and completely pointless without any sort of examples or whatever, but try to bear with me for a just a sec.

For the longest time, I was always annoyed that I had no hobbies and I wasn’t really that good at anything. So lately I set out to spend some more time on things that I have an interest in, basically, things that make me happy. One thing I started doing is rock climbing. I’ve fallen in love with it. Every time I go rock climbing, no matter what kind of mood I’m in before I go, I always walk out smiling. That’s an activity, a hobby that I’ve picked up, that’s totally kosher that I really enjoy. I also started exploring my interest in art and I’ve always loved all types of interesting music. So I’ve been going to some random art events and I’ve really dug deep into my interests of certain types of art. One area of art that particularly interests me is street art, which can involve forms of vandalism. Now, besides immodest forms of art, street art can also come out not being so kosher. There are also other things that I enjoy that I know are ossur and I know I can go without them, so those I don’t worry about as much, even if they really do make me smile. But it’s mostly those grey area interests that bug me out.

So I’m a frum 22 year old guy, but I love going to hip-hop concerts and enjoy graffiti and these things make me smile. But I’m a FRUM 22 year old guy, living in New York, with the city just 30 minutes away and I reallllllllly enjoy these things, so what am I supposed to do? I mean, I don’t see my future just yet, but how can I associate with all types of people that are certainly not conducive to my growth as a Yid? Ok, so we already went over my purpose in life, and my purpose in life is NOT to smile and enjoy things and be happy, and believe me I’m not some crazy Chareidi yeshivish HS rebbi or something, and I’ll be the first to say that being happy and enjoying oneself in life are definitely things that are important to ones mental and physical wellbeing. But where am I in all these things that just don’t mesh 100% with frum ideals, and where do I fit my interests into minyan three times a day, and keeping kosher, and shabbos, and living and acting like a Yid?

Well, I finally realized where I fit in. I fit in where every other Jew in this world fits in to each and every one of their specific situations and stages in life. I struggle. I struggle like all Yiddin in this entire universe struggle. I fight my urges and desires like all Yiddin fight their urges and desires. So this is my struggle right now, but I am not alone. Because I am a Yid no better or worse than the next Yid that struggles with his or her Yetzer Horas. But what I need to remember is that when the Tzaddik and the Rasha both die, they both cry. The Tzaddik cries because when he sees his Yetzer Hora, he sees that it was as large as a mountain and he’s overcome at the thought that he was able to battle that mountain. The Rasha cries because when he sees his Yetzer Hora, he see that it was as small as an eyelash, and that he didn’t even have the drive and will power to overcome something as small as an eyelash. So I’ll struggle with the things that make me smile, but why will I cry?

Pachelbel Rant

Hilarious. (found through friend's Facebook page)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Quite the J-Blogging Day...

Wow. From almost no posts earlier in the week to an incredible amount today... the J-blogosphere is one sporadic place. Before y'all get overwhelmed, most of these posts are good, quick reads. The others are just really, really good - trust me, I have no attention span to read long posts unless they're really worthwhile (and even then I have trouble sometimes). So, sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the best of today's J-blogosphere:

New blogger Rivka has a great post on depression, her struggles with it, and what's not being done by the people who deal with it:
My answer so far has been to share my feelings with my husband and my counselor. And now, my blog. To the rest of the world, I'm intelligent and competent and respectful and considerate and empathetic and all those things that are moral and valued and not associated with depression. Were you to meet me in real life, you would probably never know the pain I hide.

Because sometimes it's just safer that way.
Canonist writes a good piece on the plagiarism issue:
Yeah, DovBear has only been shown to have stolen maybe a couple dozen times (of course a true analysis could reveal more), but that doesn’t make the act less reprehensible. And obviously DovBear’s accuser certainly seems to carry some truck for opposing political opinions, but that doesn’t change any of the facts. Excusing DovBear’s conduct is working to make that conduct acceptable, and if that conduct’s acceptable to someone, we all have good reason to think that the excuse-makers are willing to do the same as DovBear.
Via a comment on Harry Maryles' blog, watch this video about Crack Square.

Chana weighs truth and happiness. (Sigh... don't we all?) Her post on the subject, which focuses somewhat on religion, is excellent:
But suppose we all agree there is a basic modicum of factual information that must be provided to all. And suppose we agree that living behind walls, in ghettos, that sheltered communities, in other words, where people deliberately block this flow of information- well, this cannot be right. And in these cases, we feel justified in providing such information. We feel justified in giving these people the tools to choose, not merely to be candidates for a brainwashing process.

Okay. So very good. But let’s take it further.
Cross-Currents puts up back-to-back posts by Jonathan Rosenblum and R' Yitzchak Adlerstein that are simply top-notch. Rosenblum on shidduchim:

Already a half century ago, the Chazon Ish felt that the most important question was too often left out of shidduchim investigations. [...] “Did you ask if he would make a good husband? If that quality is lacking, it is not a good match, no matter how many other positive qualities he possesses.” [...]

Commitments made in the flush of youthful idealism may have little to do with subsequent reality. Not all those who undertook to support a husband in learning and raise a family at the same time find that they are capable of doing so ten years later, any more than every young man who expressed a desire to learn “forever” is able to keep learning with bren after a decade in kollel.
R' Adlerstein on the recent education edicts:

One hopes that the recent Bais Yaakov edicts will not have a spillover effect upon American shores, further eroding the legacy of Rav Yaakov that has come under increased attack. It is not a good bet, however. Like fashion trends moving from Paris to New York, there is a tendency in Torah matters (lehavdil) for Bene Brak to call the shots even when they do not intend to.

This is not the way it always was. Some people think that it is one of the most unhealthy developments in Torah life in our times. While Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov were both alive, American haredim turned primarily to them for leadership. People did not regard this as a slight to Torah luminaries in Israel. Rather, they recognized that not only did Torah leaders in America have a better grasp of local realities, but that HKBH Himself had different plans for, and different expectations of, communities in Israel and America. Forcing square pegs into round spiritual holes was not going to get people very far.

Elsewhere:
  • TownCrier and others find that GoogleEarth is... anti-Israel?
  • Daled Amos is one of many to note that 14 more people quit the Carter Center over ex-President Carter's anti-Israel book, along with a scathing letter.
  • Jake's Comedy Corner takes some fun digs at the charedi women/education issue.
  • Ariella and Krum both discuss the 5 Towns Jewish Times editorial about Orthomom, Krum, and other J-bloggers.
  • Krum also wonders - with good reason - why R' Weinreb seems to be getting pushed out of the OU.
  • Jameel notes that affirmative action has reared its ugly head in Israel... for a major ministry.
  • ElderofZiyon has a great expose by NBC about the US not doing what it should for its troops - which is to get Israeli technology.

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