Solely In Black and White: August 2011

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, 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…


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

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?


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...