Solely In Black and White: 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Question(s) of the Week: Chanukah



The first question of the week, as it is Chanukah, why do fried foods taste so darn good? Just kidding. :-P Seriously though, how is it that the ultimate Chanukah food, the infamous Latke, is not even fried in olive oil?!  I’m starting to wonder if those jelly doughnuts are fried in non-olive oil based grease as well. (Supposedly olive oil is not the best or healthiest oil for frying purposes.) They taste great and all, but I’m kinda wondering why olive tapenade isn’t as popular a dish in the theme of Chanukah…

jelly

Anyway, the real question of this post is about Shabbos Chanukah. Has Shabbos Chanukah always been yom-tov like or is that a recent innovation?  Perhaps the fact that Shabbos Chanukah coincided with Christmas made it an opportune weekend to celebrate and visit family this year, but is it like that every year? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guess what….?




So in case you haven’t heard yet, the wife and I had a baby girl recently. :-) I now understand what people mean when they say newborns look funny. Aside from the cone-headedness attribute, most babies come out rather swollen. (I might be biased, but I think my little girl looked relatively cute at birth, but to be honest it took me a few hours to really get used to her “looks.”) As far as labor and delivery go, I’m really at a loss for words.  It’s one of those scary life-altering, complicated, magical moments.  I won’t forget how the doctor conciliatorily said; “now the only thing you have to worry about is shidduchim.” Great… :-/  

In any event, we are looking for suggestions for a creative name for the little one, for blogging purposes as she already has a real life name, at the moment. 

I’m guessing this little addition to our family means I can kiss sleeping goodbye. It’s a shame you can’t bank or invest in sleep. Any takers for midnight blogging/posting? :-P I think (hope) we’ll be (relatively) fine, at least in time (or so they say). Or as the saying goes "god watches over children and fools." Personally, I think I just need to figure out how to type and feed the baby at the same time and all will be well… ;-) 


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

60 Seconds of Food for Thought




Because you know how much I love paradoxes...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bathroom Fun



Because just going to the bathroom isn't exciting enough anymore... 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankgiving



Turkey
Gobble Gobble. Don't worry this turkey is safe. It's a turkey in the Whipsnade Zoo, London.
I don't think they celebrate Thanksgiving like we do... :-P

First off I should apologize for my lack of posts as of late. In case you haven’t heard, things have been rather busy. ;-) Anyways…

I have always been amused by Thanksgiving. While I personally, or more specifically my family and my-in-laws, do not celebrate Turkey day, I have partaken in the modern Jewish adaptation of Shabbos Thanksgiving. I don’t really understand the underlying premise of it either. Sorry, let me rephrase that. I find it comical that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the form of a holiday rather than any specific act of giving thanks.

To preempt the most obvious of questions, no, I am not a one of those anti-thanksgiving Jewish fanatics. Like most issues or topics, I generally follow the doctrine of live and let live. As for the Thanksgiving being a problem of chukas hagoyim, all I can say is “seriously?” Even if you can conjure up a reason that it would be a religious holiday, you still have to ascribe to the notion that the pilgrims fled England because of religious persecution, which would imply it’s still not a religious holiday. If not, that would be some heavy irony. Regardless, the issues I do wonder about with regards to “Thanksgiving” celebrations are ancillary ideals that people shoehorn into the day, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and patriotism. (Thanks Lincoln! By the way, what happened to Evacuation Day?) Perhaps, there may be a reason to be patriotic, but in that case why don’t we celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s day with the same gusto? Alternatively, if those were intended themes of Thanksgiving, then by default the way to celebrate Thanksgiving would not be to feast but rather to act as a model citizen.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously and wholeheartedly support the concept of thanksgiving. Furthermore, I am all for the creation of one day of thanksgiving to encapsulate and reflect on the things in our lives which we are (or should be) thankful for. We live in a world that is not lacking in suffering or pain. As many recent events have proven, you only appreciate something either when it’s gone or when it’s in jeopardy. So regardless of how you spend your thanksgiving (or how you don’t) appreciate everything you have even those minute little things you take for granted every single day…  I know I do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Alternative Shidduch Plan: 20


It has actually been a while since I posted about the topic of shidduchim, but I suppose the whole NASI shidduch "game changing" initiative deserves a response. While I suppose it would not be prudent to subject the proposed program to further degradation, criticism, and harsh scrutiny, I will add that the program seems counterproductive. Logically, creating a tiered system in which girls are charged more money as they age only furthers the societal misconception that the older a girl becomes the less desirable she is; thus, harder to marry off. Ironically, I thought the organizational goal of NASI was to encourage the closing of the age gap by promoting the marriageability of “older girls” and not pressuring girls to get married as soon as possible.  


Regardless, I would like to offer an alternative that perhaps might alleviate some of the ills that plague the current shidduch system, at least from the age gap perspective. 

First and foremost, you have to concede that G-d makes all shidduchim. That being said, any shidduch not being made is also a byproduct of G-d’s will. Alternatively any “shidduch crisis” is a voluntary act of G-d. Now, even if you are of the opinion that there is a divergence in numerical distribution, or simply put more girls than boys, you must concede that G-d has the capabilities of rectifying the situation without human intervention. So while we may theorize ways to “fix” the “shidduch crisis” just know that we are only mere mortals trying to do our best to ease the pain of others, but ultimately, perfect solutions are not within our grasp.  

That being said, the basic idea behind my proposal is a simple premise: Girls should not be allowed to date until they are 20. 

The reasoning, I think, is rather straightforward. While I cannot vouch for the accuracy of NASI’s numbers, I can say that their premise may be correct. From my informal fact gathering I was alerted to the notion that the birth rate is not an even 50/50 split, but rather, 51% of all births are girls while 49% of are boys . Parenthetically, even if the age gap were closed, approximately 3.92% of all girls on average would not be able to marry (within our community). Furthermore, the larger the age discrepancy, the larger that number grows to. Assuming a conservative compounded birth rate of 1.63%, the average birth rate for the entire Brooklyn as our benchmark, we can surmise that the bigger the age gap, the more girls will be left without boys to marry. Hypothetically, if the average age gap was one year of divergences, the amount of unmarriageable girls would be 5.46%, two years 6.98%, three year 8.47%, four 9.94%, and five years 11.38%. Clearly, diminishing the age gap, even by one year, would be a significant accomplishment. 

In the proposal at hand, the main goal of the idea is deterring girls from dating until they are 20. This change would diminish the age gap by at least one year and in many cases two. Granted, this is not a solution. Rather it is a step in the right direction. I will concede that there are many pros and cons to this proposal. Additionally, there are many practical considerations that need to be addressed, such as how such a program could be enforced. Furthermore, there are other ancillary individualistic and societal benefits that said proposal would promote that need to be elucidated. However, because I am currently lacking in time and this post is already longer than I intended, I will save my responses to those issues for another post. Regardless, I still believe that based solely on the facts presented above that the idea has merit. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anonymously Superior Reality



This post is in response to this bizarre anonymous post found on Yedid Nefesh's Blog.


Inevitability. It can said that In some ways there always is an inevitability. An action sets in motion a chain of causal and proximate event that are going to transpire. While we may not know or understand them, we know these eventualities to be nearly certain. Parenthetically, we all know that we are all eventually going to die, but that generally doesn’t alter our lives in any particular way. Granted, that’s not to say that said knowledge shouldn’t.

brain

As per the question whether the pavement in Canada will swallow one whole, I believe that to be a farce. Hello, it’s Canada?! It is in the best interest of it's socialistic doctrine to keep people safe in order to avoid providing unnecessary medical care! And clearly if the pavement were to swallow one up in Canada the victim would probably be best sent to glue factory anyway. Quicker service for the same result…


I do dissent in part with the sentiment that denying the inevitability of life will lead one astray. Ignorance is most definitely bliss. It becomes rather difficult in ascertaining who is happier; especially when considering that we neither objectify happiness nor read another’s mind. I suppose that is the philosophical sacrifice that must be made; with intelligence comes pain and with knowledge comes hardship.

BrainI find the story of barista peculiar. Personally, I have never heard brown in my life, except maybe with regards to diarrhea or a sound that precludes smelling a foul odor emanating from a baby’s diaper. Then again, I don’t make coffee for a living soperhaps I am missing out on something here.

Nonetheless, I don’t believe that the barista in his capacity was any happier than anyone else. He was happy with “his” reality however relative it may have been. It can be equally argued that others in comparable situations are not happy their relative realities. Some people will see the walls closing in on them as claustrophobia while other will find them to be cozy and snugly. Seeing and or feeling a higher reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

If you have read this diatribe thus far, you must have realized that what I am writing in my prose is rather argumentative and lacking in coherent substance. So let us take a holistic approach in our analysis.

Brains

First off, I don’t know what the author of this piece really intended but here is my take on it. It is known and well understood that we as humans block out emotions and stimuli. We have to. Our brains are inundated and bombarded with stimuli constantly. That doesn’t mean that all the information isn’t processed or decoded in some way. Alternatively, those who cannot perform said task are typically classified under an umbrella or spectrum disorder. Hence, why the human body is considered more of an art and less of a science; no one knows how or why, just some facts. That’s not to say that any given stimulus is not apparent in nature just because most people aren’t aware of it.

Here is another explanation along the same lines of reasoning. It said that people who are lacking in one of five senses have heighted sensitivity in at least one of the other four senses; such a blind person having a keen sense of hearing. Does that mean that blind fellow is crazy because he or she can detect stimuli that others can’t, most definitely not!

So what does all this mean to the average person? Basically, the idea is that as healthy normal humans we are “missing” a lot of stimuli, some good and some bad. Knowing that that these stimuli exist, or even that these stimuli can affect our inevitability, is something that we subconscious and unknowingly incorporate into our everyday lives. Practically speaking, these “things” do not make a difference in our day to day lives. However, think back to a time of personal extreme happiness or sadness. Try to remember the most minute detail or obscure stimuli. What do you find? You might recall a lot more details then you might have otherwise... 

To conclude, it’s the state of mind that determines one’s ability to attain a superior reality. How one choice to get there is a different story…

Sociology and the Internet

Via SMBC Comics

Well, at least the internet gave us some intellectual and aesthetic stimulation... 


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Too Much Yom Yov…


Rafi Skier

You know how it is professed that too much of a good thing is a bad thing? Well, I couldn’t agree more that said epithet applies to Yom Tov; especially those of the three-day variety that come in close succession.  Personally, I am of the cynical opinion that no one really "enjoys" Yom Tov, we merely tolerate it. 

Anyway, I am utterly exhausted from Yom Tov and now quite lacking in free time. I'm not sure why eating, sleeping, and going to shul (over and over again) is so exhausting, but it is. Well, to be fair it was simchas torah, so I suppose we can attribute some tiredness to that. It's still bizarre that I find myself tired from being on holiday. 

As per the purpose of this post, I just couldn’t resist posting that book cover, mainly for two reasons. First, I literally grew up on The Berenstain Bears. Second, I’ve been waiting forever for someone to finally make that cover! I am very tempted to write an accompany story to that cover, but unfortunately that task might have to wait a bit. Too much to do and not enough time, although the idea will probably make it to my post-to-do list so keep your eyes peeled.

In conclusion, I hope your Yom Tov was enjoyable. Nonetheless, I leave you with a sentiment through a quote from a family member, as to which I wholeheartedly agree,: “So excited for regular life to resume!” 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Random Question on Succos



I really have a ton of random questions I would love answered by you, the reader, but only one for now. Do you eat in the succah on shemini atzeres? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thoughts on Steve Jobs’ Demise and Yom Kippur


To some, the departure of Steve Jobs was jarring. A revolutionary iconic legend was taken from humanity. But one thing he was not, at least it is unknown as pointed out in the NYTimes, was a known philanthropist. There are many thoughts and opinions that have been written about Jobs. His work and ideas are undeniably innovative, but what can we learn from his passing? 

Being that is right before Yom Kippur the first thought that crossed my mind was that nothing is set in stone. Life, and by extension happiness, is dependent on so many factors; many of which we take for granted every single day and many of which aren’t within our control. We rely on the status quo and take a laissez-faire attitude towards almost every aspect of our lives. We know deep-down inside ourselves, however, that such beliefs are but a mere fallacy. Furthermore, this specific knowledge is the underlying mechanism of our greatest fears. The what-ifs that plague us all; yet, for some those what-ifs become their realities… 

The other thought I had was something along the lines of power. It is often believed or said that people of power: either through money, fame, intelligence, or influence can control their destiny. That being assumed, one would be able to classify Jobs as an individual of immense power. I suppose the same could be said (in another context) for the other “greats” amongst our own who were taken this year as well. Regardless, power or greatness is of little importance when it is decided who is to live and who is to die. Or more simply, one can’t outrun death. By deduction, if the most powerful amongst us can’t stave off death, nor does their power necessarily go with them onto the next world, what does that mean for us who aren’t? 

If there is any solace in this piece of dreary prose it is that the world is a somewhat brighter place than how I make it sound. G-d wants us to live and succeed; to be happy and content. 

It is often asked why Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, comes before Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement. Logically, one should be pure of sin and then judged as all inequity will be voided before judgment. While there is a myriad of answers to this classic question, the one which often cited and one which resonates with me, is that one can’t attain forgiveness from another if they do not have a relationship. Thus, the purpose of Rosh Hashanah, and by extension the days preceding and succeeding it, are for us to realize our relationship with G-d and to become closer to him. Similarly, the way we become closer to G-d is realizing how dependent we are on him and how much we need him, avenu malkenu, as our father and master. 

On a final note, it often said that attaining a complete teshuva is a very arduous task. That is undeniably true. However, doing a small yet meaningful act to show that one desires to become closer to G-d is a very valuable tool in getting a Gmar Din. 

May we all be zocha to have Gmar Chasima Tova!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happiness



We are told that someone who is rich is happy with his or her lot. But who is one who is truly happy? Alternatively, what is happy? While I suppose happiness isn't easily defined once you take into consideration the subjectivity of the matter, nonetheless, there are assumed characteristics of happiness. Regardless, I suppose how one defines happiness would be a byproduct of their perspective on life. Mainly, I surmise that a person’s disposition with regards to pessimism, optimism, or realism would alter their interpretation of happiness. Being that my wife, TAW, is an avid optimist, I couldn’t resist (and at her request) posting this picture which defines her understanding of happiness.



Anyway, even I, someone who is arguably not an optimist, would agree that the statements professed above contain some element of truth.... Just some food for thought... 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy New Year



Wishing everyone a kesivah vachasimah tovah and a sweet new year.  Yimalei Hakadosh Baruch Hu es kol mishalos libchem letovah! Try to enjoy the three day Yom Tov... ;-) Oh, and on that note, a reminder, don't forget to make an eruv tavshilin.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Coffee!


For all you coffee addicts out there... Have a wonderful coffee filled day! :-D

Monday, September 19, 2011

IKEA's New Innovation



The idea seems infantile yet brilliant. Instead of dragging husbands around shopping, create a place for men to "play" while their wives shop. I was going to ask an audacious question: if the men aren't shopping with their wives anyway, why should they come at all? Then I realized it's IKEA, there are a lots of boxes and stuff to help carry and fit (tetris style) into the car. I think that seems fair enough, although I wonder if they are serious about that 30 minute maximum rule. Anyway, I think we should persuade every retailer and mall to follow a similar plan of action! :-)





Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apple removes "Jew or Not a Jew?" from French App Store


In case you didn’t hear about this news item, allow me to inform you of a very peculiar recent news story. Recently, Apple was forced, under threat of legal action, to remove an App called “Jew or Not Jew” from its French App store on the grounds that the app violated France’s law barring the aggregation or compilation of personal details without proper consent. 

The action followed complaints from a French anti-racism group, which threatened to sue the iPhone maker… 

Under French penal code, stocking personal details including race, sexuality, political leanings or religious affiliation is punishable by five-year prison sentences and fines of up to $411,870. 

While I find the story be a bit sad, creepy, and comical, I really don’t see the legal issue. The app is not specifically germane to France, nor is the App or data in question of French origin. Additionally, one would have to prove the information to be factual under said statute. I suspect the app is basically just a reincarnation of the "Jew or Not Jew" website, which would question the compilation aspect of the allegation. While in theory a violation of the French statute stated above might be viewed as a very serious issue, it would seem that the intent of this website, and arguably this app, is not one of hate, but rather one of satire. Thus, I would surmise that this element is not  necessarily satisfied. However, I don’t really know what I am talking about. :-P  Also, one must further ask: does this mean the French do not know how to take a joke? Perhaps; but I will concede that it is nice that they are standing up for Jews, so no complaints here! On that note, I wonder if FrumSatire would make an app “Frummy or Not a Frummy? That might be entertaining.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Woof! Target puts Black Friday to Shame



In case you haven't heard about it, starting today one can find Missoni at Target. At first I thought people were joking, but after visiting a local Target store the rumors appear to be true. Nationwide people are ransacking Target stores in the hope of finding fashionably good deals. As a male this isn't all that exciting as most of the Missoni stuff is comprised of female attire. However, there are some interesting houseware and art items that are being offered as well, if you're lucky enough to find them. If you haven't made to Target yet or if you went and were unlucky or you just didn't find what you were looking for, fear not, for management claims they'll be receiving another shipment hopefully tonight. Furthermore, I don't know if the insanity is entirely logical (nationwide sellouts and a downed Target website?) as Target will be stocking Missoni until October 22 or until they run out of stock... Besides, doesn't the fact that Target is selling the same stock nationwide reduce the cool and exclusivity factors of Missoni? Regardless, I believe this event seriously puts Black Friday to shame! 

I Don't Know, That is a Good Question!

“Who first thought to milk a cow?”


Friday, September 9, 2011

A Question of Morals and Ethics...



There are many interpretation and arguments as to what is ethics and what is the origin of ethical reasoning.  One common line of reasoning as taught in many professional and theological capacities is “the golden rule” or the ethic of reciprocity. Basically, one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Another line of reasoning is known as the greater good; wherein the solution that benefits the most people is the most ethically sound. Those theories sound reasonable and rather agreeable. However, while those explanation should for the most part answer a significant portion of ethical dilemmas, there are many that do not fall within their domain or worse, some of these ethical conundrums question the validity of these premises. So here is one that I was always troubled by, a quintessential classic ethical dilemma.


Hypothetically, let us say one was standing in the middle of train-yard right next to a railway manual switch. Currently there is a runaway train fast approaching the juncture. (Such as in Runaway) In its current path there are three people on that segment of the track who will definitely be killed by this speeding train. However, if you flip the switch and send the train down the other track, those three people will live, but one person on that segment of the track will be killed because of your actions. The question is, do you flip the switch? Under the reasoning of the greater good, one would be obligated to flip the switch. However, under The Golden Rule things become a little murkier. Who's perspective are we supposed to protect? Personally, I always contended that I wouldn’t be able to flip the switch because I couldn’t in good conscience kill another human being in any capacity.


Coal Miners
Fair enough, but now I have a new dilemma that has piqued my interest. It's easier when its abstract, so lets try something a little more practical. Let us say a group of coal miners gets trapped underground, which isn't all that uncommon. The rescue team informers the miners via cellphone or some form of radio communication establish that they will not be able to rescue them for 3 weeks due to the depth of the mine and the complexity involved in the rescue operation.  It has been determined that they, the group stuck underground, does not have enough food to survive for this duration. Upon consideration and waiting till the last possible moment, the miners reach a consensus that they will make a lottery to determine who should die in order to become food for the others. Person B is chosen, killed, and eaten. 


Upon their rescue, the miners are hospitalized where they are treated for shock, malnourishment, dehydration, Rickets, and decompression sickness. After their recuperation, they are summoned to court and tried for the murder of Person B.  Do you believe they are culpable for murder? Did the surviving miners act ethically?  Most importantly, what would you have done? (feel free to answer this question in the poll on the upper right-hand portion of the sidebar) 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just Five More Minutes…


Astronomical Clock
Time for something complex ? Astronomical Clock Via Flickr
Well it is about time, sorta. :-P Is it just me, or do women have their own definition of time? I suppose that when a male says I’ll be ready in about five minutes, generally that timeline holds true to be about five minutes. However, when a female say the same thing, they are essentially reserving the right to be ready in anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Perhaps we can reconcile this difference by explaining that females run on the metric system while males run on the imperial system. In other words, arguably, there is not right or wrong, yet a proper conversion needs to be done in order to account for the difference. While one system may actually be superior to the other, the fact remains that both systems are currently in place and one needs not change the system but understand it. Besides, it’s really more about what system you are more comfortable with. Coincidentally, I wonder how people cook and bake in metric (specifically Celsius, might as well set the oven based on degrees Kelvin while you’re at it) but that is an aside. :-/


Initially, I was taught about this “miscommunication” by my father who tried to always tell my mother to be ready at a specific time, which unbeknownst to her was 15 minutes before he really wanted to leave. I believe this to be a brilliant idea that has seen much success over the years. Likewise, other philosophers and theologians have their differing and consenting opinions on how to rectify this situation, regardless, it is keen to understand that the conditional element exist. Furthermore, in the study of male and female interaction, it would be fortuitous to note that this the primary explanation why males are instructed to not show up to a date exactly on time, mainly to grant the females a few extra minutes to ready themselves.  


Interestingly, I actually did not come up with this as a post topic on my own. Most of the time I’m actually not waiting for my wife and on occasion, such as by last week’s kiddish, she was waiting for me! :-o I guess like everything else in marriage, you kind of figure out what works for you.  However, the inspiration for this post was a conversation that my wife had with her friend that implicated that all women understand this implicit time system and basically most women abide by it; yet, men are dumbfounded by it. Correct me if I am wrong, I believe such a proposition to be fascinating. In that case, perhaps I need a new wristwatch… ;-)  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Choices...?

Family Decals via XKCD
While perhaps not necessarily a choice in our religion per se, this comic does contain a nugget of truth, the more kids you have, the less disposable income you have... 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Google's Answer to the Shidduch Crisis



Sometimes the "perfect" male isn't so perfect... 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Disconnect from What?





While there has been a strong push for “disconnection” recently, that did make me wonder, why do we disconnect from others? Does anyone else question why we are disconnected to begin with? It can be argued that technology is by its nature constantly distracting. But perhaps further introspect on the subject is needed. Let’s take a recent Pew Study via USA Today as an example:


The Pew Internet and American Life Project says that 13 percent of adult mobile phone owners in the U.S. have used the old "I'm on the phone" tactic. Thirty percent among those aged 18 to 29 did that at least once in the previous 30 days.

I wonder what those numbers would look like if the study included texting and other web/data related activities. Personally, I am guilt of using my phone to ignore people on occasion. I’m not saying using a phone to ignore someone is proper, moral, or even right, but I think there is a time and place for everything. Sometimes people just don’t get social conventions or hints. In those cases, extraordinary measures are needed to deal with the situation. Granted, I am biased; my phone and I are rather close, if you catch my drift… ;-) so maybe I am not the right person to ask about this subject, but there is no way that I am the only one using this technique to avoid awkward social situations...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quick Question of the Week: Spoiled Food?


Bedtime

While we were (b”h) very lucky in having power throughout the hurricane this past week, some people were not as lucky. Ironically, when viewing our energy provider’s website our power flickered for long enough to shutoff the computer, which was quite bizarre. Anyway, while most of our perishables (which incidentally consisted of not all that much) were safe in our working fridge and freezer, I forgot that I had placed a stash of chicken soup, challah, and kugels in someone else’s house that didn’t have power. In retrospect, I should have moved all the items to our fridge and freezer at that point. Whoops. To add a complication to the matter, we do not know how long the freezer was without power or how many times it had been opened. All we know is that the power was off for at least 48 hours but not more than 72 hours, and the contents were then frozen immediately after the power was restored. So, being that we are not food safety experts, perhaps someone can help us out. Is this stuff still safe to eat?  


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Picture Perfect Vacation


Lazzy Feet on a Blue Ocean Beach vacation

To me, summer is somewhat synonymous with vacations. The memories of my summer’s are filled with recollections of family vacations. They weren’t a yearly occurrence, yet we went on enough. While I can’t say every single vacation was spectacular, the idea of vacationing always seemed nice to me. A break from normal life always sounds appealing. (Hey, memories of vacation beat memories of a hurricane and earthquake any day... :-/)


Granted, these trips never consumed a whole summer, but for the most part, they were nice little additions to our respective fun-filled summer activities. In retrospect, I am starting to consider that the memories of those vacations were more enjoyable than the actual vacations. This idea came to me on a recent vacation, wherein I realized that vacations are really good at making one appreciate home oh so much more.

Furthermore, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, quoted by NYTimes.com, found that the most enjoyable part of a vacation is the anticipation or planning aspect of the trip. Surprisingly, the euphoria from planning a trip can last up to 8 weeks while the happiness sustained from a good vacation can last a mere 2 weeks.  That being said, while vacations essentially do provide some level of happiness both before and after, however, the post-vacation difference between having an amazing vacation and a neutral one is arguably miniscule.

I can relate to the logic behind this. Before a trip you’re excited about the destination, culture, amenities, activities, sights, etc… The unknown aspect is exciting and alluring, while the planning and research aspect only makes it more interesting. I suspect there is a modicum of hope in there as well. When you’re planning a trip everything goes according to plan and rather smoothly. However, things don’t always go as planned; or put another way, rarely does everything go as planned. It all starts with a flight delay… Anyway, the article didn’t explicitly mention the fact that people who had stressful or un-relaxing vacations didn’t exhibit happiness upon their return at all (obviously?) but I think that idea shouldn’t be taken for granted. Going on a stressful vacation, just for the sake of going on vacation is in my opinion pointless.

However, I am still divided. Looking back at the pictures of my past vacations still make me happy and nostalgic, even if they weren’t all that great. Besides, every vacation I’ve been on has made me appreciate home in so many different ways. In that case, maybe the article and research is wrong. Quantifying and classifing vacations in terms of short-term happiness gains is only one aspect of a much larger picture. What about the long-term memories, experiences, and happiness that come out of vacations? What about any knowledge that was gained by the trip? What about that feeling of appreciation, belonging, and "home" that one feels upon returning? Are all those metrics for naught? So while perhaps one’s summer vacation wasn’t as good as it could have been, remember, nothing can be better than the memories and happiness it will provide for eternity! Just remember to take some picture for posterity though… :-P 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An East Coast Earthquake? No Way...


Earthquake damage - road


An earthquake on the east coast kind of gives one perspective… Life just isn’t as predictable as we may have thought it to be. What’s next, a blizzard on the west coast?  Okay, not likely, but still. I’m a bit disappointed; I was walking around outside at the time and didn’t even feel the earthquake. Then again, it seems I wasn’t alone. Most people I talked to didn’t even know there was an earthquake. It seemed panic only set in once people actually thought about the gravity of the situation. I can’t complain though, the earthquake really “helped clear my schedule” I suppose. ;-) So, did you feel it?   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pronunciation Please?



Quite often, a person will come across a word they don't know how to pronounce. Or perhaps a situation will arise where one needs a definitive answer as to what the correct pronunciation of a specific word is, such as "just for arguments sake..." :-P While back in the old days going to Merriam Webster's website would suffice, nowadays we need a YouTube channel, specifically Pronunciation Book, that provides the same functionality. Here is a typical, if not arguable, example:





However, not to be left behind, some viral media fan-boys launched a channel named PronunciationManual,just to mess with the general public or the Pronunciation Book folks. Or perhaps their modus operandi is to confuse helpless foreigners who really want to learn correct verbal annunciation. Regardless of their motives, being mean never sounded so funny. ;-) Here is a clip:


Saturday, August 20, 2011

By the Candle Light of Shabbos Night…


Candle

I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but I love Shabbos. Or more aptly, we love Shabbos. :-) Ma’ain olem habah! And one of the integral parts of Shabbos, at least Friday night, is the candle light (or burning oil) by the table. While it is the accepted practice for married women to light candles on Friday night, men and unmarried women are equally obligated to light as well. There are different ways around this technicality, such as being Mishtatif or buying a portion of the candels etc… but it seems to be an uncommon practice for anyone other than married women to light under normal circumstances. However, this past Shabbos we had the pleasure of spending Shabbos with a distant single female cousin of ours who lit her own candles before Shabbos. Additionally, on Motzei Shabbos she proceeded to light an additional two candles. Upon seeing her do the latter, my wife remembered that her mother and grandmothers had a minhag to do the same, so she proceeded to light two candles as well. Live and learn I guess. However, I was wondering: does anyone know off-hand what the source of these two minhagim are, unmarried women lightening candles and the lighting of candles on motzei Shabbos? Furthermore, is this a common practice?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vomit and Medical Secrets


NO VOMITING!
I feel sick. I think I must have a stomach virus or food poisoning. I suspect the origin of this aliment is most probably a food borne pathogen, although I cannot pinpoint the exact source. For the record I am somewhat better now, I suspect the fever broke and the nausea has subsided partially but my stomach is still feeling kind of funny and my head still aches. And no, by funny I don't mean like a clown. :-( While I can regale you with detailed tales of retching and what not, I’ll share with you a less vile snippet. Last night, while lying nauseously on the couch massaging my burning fever-ridden throbbing head, I called my mother for words of comfort. Although she was quite sympathetic and nurturing (and tried to send a kisses over the phone, which incidentally made me queasier) she did make a very interesting remark. “Now you know what I felt like when I was pregnant with you!” Great, lay on the guilt why don’t you! :-/

Anyways, I would prefer to end this post on a different thought. Ending a post with the topic of vomit just leaves a bad taste in my mouth… ;-) Incidentally, I waited 8 hours before telling my wife I was sick. I figured, why worry her for no reason? Conceivably, there was nothing she could have done at the time to make me feel better. However, upon telling her she disagreed entirely, saying that she would have preferred to know right away, just for the sake of knowing. So while there is arguably no right or wrong in this specific case, I suspect this is a common gender issue. Men are too prideful to admit what’s wrong and show weakness and women always want to know what’s doing with those they care about. However, the topic did give me pause. Additionally, I think there is some general truth to this idea. We as humans sometime hide things from and for those we care about, especially medically related issues, until it’s absolutely necessary to divulge such information… I guess knowledge can sometime be a blessing and sometimes it can be a curse…

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best Pizza in the World



Random Question: Where can one find the best kosher pizza in the world? No, seriously, not good, THE BEST! Thoughts?

Pizza

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Apps for the Soul


Did you ever consider gravity of a lie? The power it contains? I recall once watching a movie titled, “The Invention of Lying.” The premise being, what would the world be like if we weren’t able to lie? I suspect that shidduichim would be more of an umm... straight forward... ordeal. Granted, the movie does take it take a step forward by insinuating that people must verbalize everything that is on their mind, but that isn’t a drastic leap once you consider that that you aren’t able to lie. Also, I find the premise a bit more promising than; say an individualist approach to truth telling, such as Liar Liar. Regardless, aside from shidduchim, I would venture to say that people have this fictitious belief that other people care about what they have to say, bloggers most definitely included! ;-) :-P Luckily for us in the digital world, there is an app to solve this growing problem called Appathy and GetaGrip. Maybe one day someone will make an app for the real world... real life apathy! :-)  

Appathy the App: because sometimes the truth hurts...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodbye Beard


Beard Measuring Shirt



Finally someone created a wearable measuring stick for beards. And on that note, a happy shaving to all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life’s Lot: Who has it Easier?


Time Magazine Chore Wars August 8, 2011


I was recently pondering how the nine day must be easier for women than men. For one, I suspect that in general women enjoy dairy as much as men enjoy being carnivorous creatures. Secondly, while not being able to launder is a hassle, I supposed it must also be equally as liberating to not have to do that chore. With regards to hair-cutting I’d venture to guess that men have it harder since their faces became fuzzy and itchy. Then again, the women have to live and look at said creatures, the beard I mean, which I can assume doesn’t gladden them. So basically, I think men have it harder…


Regardless, the impetus for this topic is most likely the cover article of last weeks’ Time Magazine titled Chore Wars (excerpt link) written by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. In a nut shell, the article asserted that men and women nowadays work share the same sized workload, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Or as it said on the cover “let it go. Make Peace. Men and woman, it turns out work the same amount.” This conclusion seemed to shock most of the couples in who participated in the research, especially the women. Astonishingly, the article found that it was the man who thought they weren’t doing enough and felt guilty. In essence, that feeling isn’t based on actual workload, but rather is a byproduct of societal pressures and the new-aged inclination that men need to spend less time working and more time at home helping out with familial obligations. It would seem that old-time gender obligations have broken down, a man’s place isn’t always at work and a woman’s place isn’t always at home…


The article seemed reasonably accurate and was able to support its finding with pretty charts, quantity of time, and statistics. (Which obviously make it true!) However, the article wasn’t written based on the frum community’s dynamics. Our lives are slightly different than those of the general population, such as higher birth rates and other factors. I suppose the argument could further be dissected to incorporate all the factions within Judaism, but I doubt that should make a significant difference. Some might argue that the ultra-orthodox yeshivish woman works the hardest since she has to work fulltime to support a large family and a learning husband coupled with her obligation to feed her family and maintain a home. In that case I suppose even the author of the article would agree that there is a discrepancy in the division of familial obligations. Whatever the case is, aside from that specific example, I think the conclusion of the article is true for the Jewish community as a well, both men and women have it equally as hard…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why we Want Moshiach…


Kotel, Jerusalem


Have you ever considered why we want Moshiach to come? We know it's part of the Ramabam’s 13 principles of faith, a tenet of our religious observance, and a significant supplication in our prayers but what is the rationale behind this? Regardless of our limited humanly understandings and logic, ultimately, that doesn’t detract or add to our obligation to "believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach." 

The first time I was privy to this discussion was in high school. I recall we had a Vaad from our estemed Rosh Hayeshiva on this particular topic, probably because it was on his minds and met his fancy. The shiur was essentially on the topic of Moshiach in general and the portion in question was specifically on what the world will be like before and after his coming. I can’t remember all the details as it was a while ago, but some bits and pieces stayed with me. In addition, I recently saw a short and very partial compilation of the major meforshim who discuss this topic, which proved to be rather interesting and informative. Unfortunately I cannot locate that specific source reference at the moment, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it, or go ahead and find yourself some source material. :-P

As an aside to this discussion, it should be elucidated that no one really knows the answer to that question, “what will be of the world after Moshiach comes?”, since no one can predict the future with absolute certainty. Nonetheless, many meforshim go to great lengths to describe what they think will occur. Aside from the wars and deaths that will precede Moshiach’s coming, specifically Milchemes Gog Umagog, thereafter, the world will be a different place.

While there are always arguments over specifics, I seemed to recall that one thing was clear; our spirituality will not be the same per se. Some meforshim understand that there will be no bachira , free choice per se. Others support the idea with the explanation that because g-d will be so apparent to every individual, it will be impossible to sin. Others explain that because the evil inclination will be vanquished, it wouldn’t be possible to do anything other than g-d’s will. Regardless, most meforshim understand this to mean that our ability to "decide" and this grow in our observance of mitzvahs and become closer to g-d will no longer be possible. Our spiritual lives will essentially be stagnant. Our ability to attain spiritual growth as well as reward (schar) will no longer be possible as the reward-punishment (Schar V'Oinesh) dichotomy and dynamic will no longer be applicable. I recall there is a discussion about the applicability of Schar as there is reward for doing good, but most meforshim imply that the rewards will be significantly less than what it was because of the new circumstances.   Arguably, on a personal level that would also means that our individualistic appreciation of mitzvahs will also no longer be there. 

Of course this prompted the obvious question from the audience of perplexed students: If our goal in life is to fulfill g-d’s will by growing spiritually, and that isn’t possible with the coming of Moshiach, then why do we vehemently pray for it? What is going on here? The answer we were given was something to the extent of that the coming of Moshaich would restores g-d’s honor to the world, even if it is at our spiritual expense. I don’t completely understand that answer as it doesn't entirely answer the question, but perhaps that means that we as a society have reached the pinnacle of our spiritual quest? Our belief so strong, we no longer require true bachira? So in a nut shell: if I understood correctly, we want Moshiach for purely altruistic purposes; not for ourselves, but because g-d wants us to want it.

Granted this is only one interpretation of the subject, but it did make me wonder... 
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Did I Read that Correctly the First Time?


Book Chaos
Gobbling Yummy Books?

I was always fascinated by diehard fans. I don’t know why. I suspect I am in awe of their devotion to whatever they’re a fan of. I’ll admit that some diehard fans are essentially crazy, but perhaps we can chalk that up to their passion for whatever it is they do or follow. There is one genre or perhaps demographic of fans that have recently been pondering about: the voracious reader.  

For what it’s worth I know a few of these creatures. They devour books by the stack and radiate happiness in well stocked libraries and/or bookstores. While it may be true that I have an appreciation for the written word and attain some pleasure from well written prose, in my mind, I do not fit into that category. I suspect that the term voracious reader in general can be subjective and far from definitive. On the flipside, I was intrigued to find that there is a classification called “reading addicts,” although I am unsure if that is just a joke, a term of endearment created by bibliophiles, or a serious medical malady.Regardless, there is something I found strange about diehard fans (particularly those who are readers); they tend to reread their favorite books. If said book becomes a movie, they become very motivated to see it as well. In some cases I can understand that. I was curious to see the first Harry Potter movie since I wanted to see if they producers and directors envisioned J.K. Rowling’s world in the same way I did. Also, I can understand why someone would want to see a movie; the change in medium substitutes a character’s thoughts for visual cues, subtext, and acting. But that would only suffice for one movie. Would I go so far as to reread an entire series and watch all the subsequent movies? I think not.

Reel Neon
For Real... :-)
Perhaps you can make the argument that rereading a dramatic or romantic book or watching its film adaptation enables the reader/viewer to glean a deeper connection and understanding of the characters. But what then of the other genres? I think this argument is even more vexing for stories with twists. I personally enjoy a good twist, but if I know it’s coming and where it goes, then what’s the point? That’s not a twist, that’s a laid track that’s already been crossed. In conclusion, you don’t need to reread my blog, although I completely understand if you do. However, if I do make a movie, I expect you to watch it! ;-) :-P So on that note, do you reread books or movies that were made from books? If so, perhaps you can explain to me why... :-/ 



Monday, July 25, 2011

Cost of Living: Food Edition



Did you ever consider how much it costs to “live?” One of the jarring realizations of getting married is that life is expensive, or more aptly, life is freaking expensive?! Without even getting into the argument about materialism and vanity, living a “normal life” isn’t cheap. Sometime I really wonder how some people who are sitting in “Kollel” are able to pay their rent and afford to eat real food…  There are some other expenses that I truly wonder about as well, but I suspect that people choose their budgeting tactics based on their collective needs. For the record, I don’t have proof, but I suspect women consume more toilet paper than men. Between me and you, I think they’re eating it. Perhaps they do it to increase their daily fiber intake? Must be one of those female eating quirks. :-P (I suspect I’m going to get it over the head with toilet paper for this… :-/)

Vegan Food Guide
Old School Health Map
The purpose of the post, aside from writing a pointless rant, is to lament something that I believe is a significant issue nowadays: the monetary burden of eating healthy . This idea first donned upon me when I was single. A while back I swore off eating yeshiva food. You know that greasy, nasty, stuff they served us while we were doing hard time… I mean learning hard… :-)  (I suspect I really ought to blog about yeshiva food at some point, seconds anyone?)

Regardless, at some point I decided that I had had enough and replaced my daily food intake with more nutritious fare. Not everyone agreed with my approach. Some of my esteemed colleagues took a different route, the cereal diet. Basically, instead of a balanced diet of food, one eats cereal for all three meals and probably snacks too. The diet isn’t all that appealing to most people’s gastrointestinal framework or even sane within the context of couture gourmet, but it works, it’s healthier than eating yeshiva food, and it is extremely economical. Personally, I went with the more healthy approach of fruits and vegetables coupled with high fiber low calorie bread as my staples. I wasn’t surprised to find that not only was I healthier and had more energy, I also (think I) felt fuller longer. However, there was one downside to this plan, the cost.


Dollar for dollar it’s just more economical to eat unhealthy foods. That is before you even get into the whole dopamine effect of sugary food intake. Let’s take snacks as an example. A 16 oz package of Oreos will set you back about $3. The monetary equivalent of that would arguably be something like two apples, a banana, and an orange at best.  The fruit might provide enough snack time nourishment for a day or two, while the cookies should last a week or two! Personally, this is why I laugh at legislature that attempts to tax unhealthy food, because let’s face it, at best you can fix the socio-cultural aspect of food, but you won’t change the actual economics… I wonder if one day we’ll see that fast food chains like McDonads are actually killing the lower socio-economic classes of our society… I also wonder what sociologist will say about Kosher Delight, but that is more  out  of morbid curiosity. So what is the solution? How does one eat and maintain a healthy diet on the cheap?  In the meantime I think I’ll try some of that toilet paper… 

Toilet Paper Folding at the Riviera, Las Vegas, NV
Delicious? 

Update/Quantification: Recent study shows that eating healthy adds $380 a year to yearly grocery bill. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quote of the Day: Go Blog


Despair leads to boredom, electronic games,computer hacking, poetry, and other bad habits.
- Edward Abbey

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The College Paradox


2008-036
Typical Frum Female Attire- Photo via Flickr

Here is an interesting paradox to ponder, why is it that our society pressures girls to acquire college degrees yet at the same time pressures our boys not to?

Many people can attest to fact the one of the motivation for girls to attend college is to better their shidduch prospects. Just ask some of our Touro and Raizel Reit grads. ;-) (or see Bad4’s link from this past Friday)  Logically it makes sense; someone has to earn a living. Ergo, if one intends on acquiring a husband who intends on learning, at least for the interim said husband would require a wife who is capable of bringing home a paycheck. While a college degree isn’t a necessity, it does provide more income when one family is relying on one salary. (Arguably that would make older-singles more attractive as they have better earnings prospects than their younger counterparts as argued here.) Additionally, for the girls intent on marrying the college educated boy, logic would arguably dictate that said boy would want a college educated girl, for two reasons: intellectual compatibility and hashkofic compatibility. However, what seems to be the complication nowadays is: guys who “back in the day” would have chosen to go to college (or started working) are deferring from doing such activities purely because of shidduchim. Case in point, my friends who are in yeshiva get more dates than my friends who aren’t, even if they aren’t nearly as good of a catch…! 

So the question here is just as Double Trip asked:  What do these guys do instead? Could you please reveal the logic involved as well? They sit in yeshiva until they get married! The logic follows as a simple plan to manipulate this convoluted system. Basically, there are a lot of girls who are seeking guys who are in yeshiva. Additionally, there is another segment of girls who are seeking guys who will go to college or work eventually assuming the guy is currently in yeshiva. However, in the current system there is only small contingent of girls who are willing to go out with guys who aren’t in yeshiva anymore and are working or in college. This group pales in size by comparison. Besides, I would venture to say that a good majority of the girls currently on the market claim they want a learning guy, (a.k.a. they are more open-minded about the topic, or less rigid about the terms) even if they don’t really want that just so they can get access to a larger dating pool as well.

“Coincidentally,” when a boy defers going to college or work this boy just happens to become a more attractive candidate to both of the larger dating groups and thus allows himself to be set-up with a larger potential dating pool. Understandably, this logic is based on the erroneous societal principle that a guy who is still in yeshiva is a better catch (and will ostensibly make for a better husband) than one who is not, which is untrue, yet it remains a primary tenet of our shidduchim system.

Aside from this practice being one complete farce (not everyone who is in Yeshiva should still be there and not ever girl who claims she needs a learner is really looking for one) this leads to some other big problems. For one, this makes it harder to redt shidduchim in general as no one really knows what anyone really is looking for. Often people create lists of what they think the shadchan wants to hear without being honest. Additionally, some of the best guys on the market (i.e. the guys who would make for the best husbands) will be overlooked because they aren’t in yeshiva while some of the “best guys on market” really really aren’t…

**This post is written as a generalization and doesn’t fully address the age and demographics aspect of this discussion.