6.30.2006

Supersizing sodas

Funny. And true. I don't drink too much soda, though, so this doesn't really affect me.

See what The Onion had to say on the topic almost ten years ago. The comments on Defective Yeti's post are also somewhat interesting if you to know all the reasons you shouldn't drink soda either. At least if you're looking for ways to procastinate doing your work they are.

Have a peaceful Sabbath! I have been busy with work and will continue to be busy for at least another week, so posts may be sparser than usual.

6.23.2006

Eclectic links roundup

You all deserve a break after reading Rant 1 and Rant 2. So here are some links that were sitting around as individual draft posts, but don't merit that much attention (except maybe the aspartame one and the one revealing the identity of the "woman of valor" from Proverbs):
  1. Wedding Registry Advice (NYT, June 7, 2006). If you're at that stage of life this might be helpful.
  2. JewishEncyclopedia.com (via MOWoman--also see the comments on her post). The list of patrons of the original encyclopedia is interesting. They are referred to as "American public-spirited gentlemen," and include, among them, names of a lot of wealthy New York Jews from early in the last century.
  3. Aspartame causes cancer. I try to avoid fake sugar if at all possible (that is, unless I really, really want it, which only really happens with Fresca when it's around and I want that sweet grapefruity bubbly sensation). I prefer the taste of real sugar, and I prefer to ingest fewer manipulated food substances rather than more. Anyway, it seems that the "aspartame causes cancer" thing reared its ugly head again in February, and I was none the wiser.
  4. Comic relief after that downer. Israeli National Geographic describes the "arse." Via Sharvul at Nafka Mina. Check out his post about this video. He complains about the arse but one of his commenters points out some nice aspects of the arse.
  5. Another secret to living the good life, here, from Defective Yeti.
  6. Wikipedia entry for high heels. Who would've thought that would have an entry? Reading it made me understand, more fully, just why high heels are so damn uncomfortable and why I can't walk quickly in them.
  7. Hechsher and knaidel made it into a spelling bee! Via Ruby K.
  8. Nice! Sharvul over at Nafka Mina posts a theory that the Eishet Chayil is none other than Ruth. The Eishet Chayil, or woman of valor, is the subject of this bit of Proverbs (actually only verses 10-31, not the whole thing).
  9. One final link courtesy of Sharvul of Nafka Mina. The difference between men and women according to Saudi television. The clip is titled "Stupid women," but it's not actually calling women stupid, just impetuous. I have seen and heard much worse portrayals of women in Western culture.
More substantive posts to resume sometime in the near-ish future.

6.21.2006

First day of summer!

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the first day of summer!

Sandals, frappucinos, air conditioning, picnics in the park, long days of glorious sunshine, sticky necks, and all!

I prefer the spring and fall weather, but summer seems the most different to me, and is therefore special. Probably because of all of those years of summer vacation.

On the other hand, people ask me what I'm doing "this summer" or what my "summer plans" are and I say, "Working." What else? I'm a grown-up now, people! Summer is like the rest of the year, except hotter.

* * * * *

Go here and read Jo at Leery Polyp's memories of summer.

* * * * *

What do you remember about summer? If you've always meant to leave me a comment and haven't, here's your chance!

I remember the following, mostly from the summers until I was thirteen or fourteen. (After that, it was different because I no longer spent the summer at my grandparents' house in California although I still went out for a few weeks each summer until I started college.)
  • packing a little suitcase with markers and coloring books and whatever other possessions were dearest to me that summer (My mother: "You can only take what you can fit in that suitcase.")
  • arriving at my grandparents' home and seeing that everything looked and smelled exactly as it had the year before, even though I had grown
  • going to "Camp Enjoy It" (oh, the irony!) and realizing with each year that I hated it more and more--mostly I hated the games on the grass. The silly songs were okay and the art projects were great. But, my God, how much I hated Red Rover and whatever else we had to play. (See "Embracing the Nerd Within" if that doesn't make sense to you.) I remember that one girl said that she was allergic to grass and couldn't play. I think she also didn't like the games, but I never said I was allergic to grass. No sirree! I had morals even then.
  • making necklaces out of Fruit Loops at camp before Fruit Loops were kosher, and not eating them. (Or maybe we made necklaces out of some other cereal or candy if Fruit Loops were always kosher? Not sure. That part didn't bother me as much as the forced athletics, though.)
  • Pringles and tuna salad for dinner
  • going to Bergmann's Department Store and buying googley eyes (from the craft department), water guns, and sparkly rings
  • going to Midtown Pharmacy and buying Fireballs and having contests to see who could keep them in their mouths longest
  • taking art and science classes at the Junior Museum
  • picnics in Mitchell Park
  • rolling down the grassy hill at Mitchell Park
  • going to Midtown Pharmacy and furtively buying makeup that I wasn't allowed to wear (or didn't think I was allowed to wear). I specifically remember purchasing sparkly peach-scented lip gloss. That smell always reminds me of being twelve or fourteen or however old I was.
  • hash browns for breakfast
  • pancakes for breakfast
  • stacking up old shingles to take camping (for firewood)
  • fishing in Foothills Park, both before and after they ruined it (that won't mean anything to you unless you went fishing there in the early 1980s)
  • seeing deer as we drove out of Foothills Park
  • picking blackberries by the creek, trying to avoid "stickers" and burrs and going home and eating the blackberries, still warm from the sun...mmmmmm!
  • barbecuing out back
  • driving down to LA (6 hour car ride), and smelling the garlic as we drove through Gilroy
  • taking short trips from LA to San Diego (Sea World! the zoo!), Las Vegas, and Bryce and Zion National Parks
  • roasting marshmallows out back
  • grill cheese for lunch (the real way, in a frying pan, not in the toaster oven like we made it at home)
  • watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy
  • drinking large quantities of pop (as my Midwestern-native grandparents called it)
  • trying not to throw up in the car on the way to Santa Cruz
  • trying not to throw up on the "Hurricane" in Santa Cruz after MLG paid me a dollar to ride with her so she wouldn't have to ride alone
  • throwing up in the car on the way back from Santa Cruz, thus incurring my grandfather's wrath
  • buying YM ("Young Miss," then, before it became "Young and Modern") at Safeway and sneaking it into the house because I was sure my mother wouldn't want me reading such trash (again, not sure if my mother would have cared, but I was sure she would so I would go to great lengths to sneak the magazines in)
  • having to go to bed when it was still light out
  • hearing crickets at night
  • riding bikes at Allen Court (a cul-de-saq near my grandparents' house)
  • sticking cloves of garlic into the raw brisket
  • the smell of gasoline around my grandfather's old cars (beautiful old cars, but old cars nonetheless)
That's all I remember for now. Reading over all of that, it doesn't seem so magical, but it was or at least I want to remember it that way.

Part of that may be that I was in a different place than I was all year and the rules of the house were very different. There was less questioning of authority (my grandparents being of the "children should be seen and not heard" generation) and more eating of ice cream and candy and soda.

What are your summer memories?

6.19.2006

Word of the Day: Nostomania

nostomania: An overwhelming desire to return home or to go back to familiar places.

I love that the Greek word "nostos" means "a return home." (Like "nostalgia." Are there other English words with this root?) I wonder what it says about a culture or a civilization that they can say that with one word. Does it mean that they cherish home more or that they leave home more? Does it mean that they return home less or more? Perhaps "home" is more clearly identifiable as a single location for them than it currently is for me, since my parents no longer live in the town where I grew up and I don't feel settled enough in life to call my lovely apartment "home" in that sense of the word.

Of a Revolution (thanks to Josh for introducing me to them) has a song that I absolutely adore called "I Feel Home." It's about returning home, what home is, and where home is located when the people who used to be there are no longer.

You should click on the link above to read all of the lyrics, but favorite lines of mine from that song include:
  • "your people are the people at home"

  • "i feel home when i see the faces that remember my own"

  • "but when i look at you i see someone that i know and loved
    and with the crack of your smile, we'd always stay awhile
    we know from home there ain't nothing above"

  • "i'm finally at home
    even though you're gone
    but in their hearts you will always, always live on
    and all your friends
    they live in your smile"

  • "and in my heart
    i'm always at home
    and in my soul
    i feel my home"
How true! I especially love the ending.

I haven't written much on this blog about music, but maybe I will someday.

6.15.2006

Moderately self-righteous rant, Part 2

[Part 1 here.]

Note: This post, which is sort of a continuation of the previous one, has also been sitting around in draft form for awhile. And I hereby warn you that this, too, might be moderately ranty.

---------------------------------------------------

Not the Gadol Hador, a blogger who gets a lot of attention in certain Orthodox blogging circles, recently posted a different detailed response to the Atlanta Jewish Life Magazine article ("Meet the Metrodox," referenced in my previous post), based on his experiences living on the Upper West Side. To me, his most interesting comment was:
I donÂ’t think the UWS makes it harder to get married, rather I think a lot of the people who end up there are only there because they have some isssues. Hence my famous phrase, "YouÂ’re either there for 6 months or 6 years." In other words, if you are a normal, well balanced individual, you will find someone pretty quick and get hitched. Otherwise you will be there a long while. Almost everyone I knew there was there for 6 years or simiar.
I would qualify that by adding that "if you are a normal, well-balanced individual WHO WANTS TO AND IS EMOTIONALLY READY TO GET MARRIED, you will find someone pretty quick and get hitched." I think that some people move to the Upper West Side thinking that they want to find someone to marry ASAP (perhaps because that's what everyone else wants, or because that's what everyone expects them to want), but they actually don't.1

That non-readiness/desire for marriage is their main "issue," unless you count the other ridiculous things that I mentioned in Part 1, which I guess you should. I moved to the Upper West Side knowing that I did not want to marry ASAP, and I have not, and I don't consider my 2+ years here to be a failure in any sense of the word.2 If you think that your life is a total waste of time absent a spouse (not just that it might be nicer to get married), maybe you should find something worthwhile to do with your life. Suggestions include getting a job that you enjoy and/or that makes a difference in the world, making time to volunteer, getting in shape, or writing the great American novel.3 (I am fully aware that I might have a different opinion on this matter if I was 36 instead of 26. But since I am currently 26, I can only write from that perspective.)

Not the Godol Hador then wrote another post on the topic, after his first apparently caused some minor uproar among some bloggers. As I explained in Part 1, I disagree with this idea that Upper West Siders who remain single are single because they're "too picky." I just think that they're picky about, or looking for, the wrong things. I also disagree with Godol Hador that there's no such thing as "Mr. Perfect-for-us." Of course there is, as long as you understand "perfect for us" to mean someone with the good match of personality, temperament, values, etc., to yours. That doesn't mean that everything about that person is "perfect" (however you define perfect), or that they're identical to you in any way, just that their deep-seated, inner qualities work well with yours. (Again, I am in no real position to give advice on these matters. This is just my feeling.)

Attention Frumster Shoppers then responded to Not the Gadol Hador with a very nice post. His theory about the problem of the Upper West Side Orthodox singles scene being that there's just too much choice is not a bad one.

Not a New Yorker (of Upper West Side Story) chafes at the suggestion that anyone who is lives in/on the Upper West Side longer for six months has "issues," but her post supports that very point!

The dating experiences that she describes don't surprise me at all, especially (quoted from her blog):
  • Met some of the most neurotic people in the world. Men who date because they know they're supposed to, but they don't really want to, for whatever reason. These men say they're waiting for the perfect woman, but really I don't think they want to give up their independence and their responsibility-free life.
  • Met some men who think that their wife will be somehow be their mother.
I suddenly feel thirrepressiblele urge to comment on the second bullet point.

This goes against my blogging policy, but I will reveal that I once went on a first date with someone who, at 26, lived at home with his mother and had never lived anywhere else. When I asked if he had ever considered moving out, his answer was that moving out would require cooking and cleaning for himself and ensuring a bug-free environment, and the added independence that he would gain just "wasn't worth it" (his exact words!).

That was the biggest deal-breaker in the history of first dates I've been on, since anyone who, on principle, won't take care of his own basic needs4 at the age of 26 is not a fully-formed human being and needs to become one before he can effectively date. In short, dear reader, he was looking to marry his mother.5

I don't know her, but I feel like Not the New Yorker is meeting the wrong people (by going to the wrong places), is looking for the wrong things (superficial frumkeit issues), or has just had a run of bad luck. Easier said than fixed, I know. Maybe it's unfair of me to say that, as I am no more married than she and am certainly in no place to be giving dating advice. But at least I'm less miserable in the meantime, which I manage largely by avoiding the "sceney" places unless I have a specific reason to be there, because they sometimes make me feel like crap and I don't need that in my life. I don't like being automatically judged in the way that I have observed people in the "scene" judge other people.

That is not to say that I don't automatically judge people far too harshly, because if you catch me in the right mood, I will admit that I do. But I try to judge them on the things that come out of their mouths, not what goes into them or what they're wearing.6 And I'm working on not judging people that quickly about anything. I know from my own experience struggling with shmirat halashon (literally "the guarding of the tongue," but it means controlling what comes out of your mouth) that controlling one's speech is not easy, and I have failed more times that I wish to admit. However, I have confidence that someone who takes care of that aspect of him/herself probably has many other good qualities, where I have not seen the same correlation between what people wear, what they eat, or where they daven (pray) and the inner qualities that I look for.

Done with all moderate and non-moderate self-righteous ranting for the time being. Back to regularly-scheduled procrastinatory activities.

----------------------------------
1. I honestly think that's just ducky unless this non-desire to wed is constantly screwing with other people's emotional states--that is, if you're pretending that you want to get married and people date you with that assumption but you really don't.
I see no reason to wed at 21 or 23 or even, horrors!, 25 if you aren't ready. Maybe you should consider therapy if you think you
ought to be ready and aren't, or want to be ready and aren't, but otherwise, I think it's fine. I guess there's some point at which you have to get serious about getting married if you want to have biological children (men's fertility also decreases with age), but that point isn't 22 or 23. In my opinion.

2. When I tell people, as I sometimes do, that one of the reasons that I wanted to live on the Upper West Side was so I could spend more time with my grandma who lives in the neighborhood--which is God's honest truth--they think that I am covering for some more sinister and typical reason, like snagging some young hot eligible Orthodox man.

3. I have done none of these things, but you'll notice that I am also not complaining that life absent a spouse is a waste of time or worthless. I spend a lot of time with friends, both locally and "out of town," I spend time with my family when I can, I have a job that I really like, I blog, I take long walks in Central Park... Life is good. Baruch Hashem (in the non-cynical sense of the phrase).

4. Far be it from me to judge anyone for not cooking, since I rarely cook. However, you should at least be able to feed yourself, do your own laundry, and keep your habitation in a healthy state of cleanliness. (I don't mean uncluttered, again, since I am not one to comment on that. I mean not disgustingly gross, I mean so you would notice if your produce was rotting in your fridge or if your pantry was crawling with bugs or if the trash bag was leaking into the pail.)

5. This is not an economic issue for me or even an issue of the inherent dweeb factor of living at home with one's mother in our independence-valuing American culture. If he said that he lived at home because he was a student and couldn't afford to pay rent, and further inquiries revealed that he helped out at home by doing the grocery shopping, the dishes, or some of the cooking, my feelings would have been entirely different. Likewise if he had been 22 and not 26.

6. I said that I try, but I don't always succeed. Some questions that run through my head at times, which indicate that I am probably too judgmental about insignificant externalities: How can you wear uncomfortably high heels just to try to snag a man? Why is your hair shellacked that way? How can you go through life eating white bread and white rice when whole wheat and brown rice are so much tastier? How can you eat so much red meat? What do you mean, "Tofu is gross"? Tofu is great! Why do you cook witmayonnaisese? Why do you cook with margarine? And why, for the love of God, does your dessert not contain any chocolate?

6.09.2006

Moderately self-righteous rant, Part 1

Prologue:

I'm feel a moderately self-righteous rant coming on. This may be harsh and unfair, as self-righteous rants often are. Please bear with me. If you have not seen me in this mode before, please know that this, too, shall pass. I will return to my normal, subdued self momentarily.

Also know that any events, real or fictional, that may have inspired this post are long past, as it has been sitting around in draft form for some time now. So if you see yourself in this post, please take a moment to reflect on that unfortunate fact, and don't get mad at me. Okay? (If you don't see yourself in this post and think that I am totally off base about the Upper West Side Orthodox singles scene, let's become friends!)


Part 1 (Part 2 will be in a later, separate post):

"Meet the Metrodox," an article from the most recent January/February 2006 edition of the Atlanta Jewish Life Magazine, describes the community that I live near, but not in. I use these locational terms in the non-geographical sense, since I actually live just north of the epicenter geographically.

The sad/pathetic/ridiculous state of the Orthodox singles scene on the Upper West Side is one reason why none of my close friends are Upper West Side "scenesters." They are either non-Orthodox Upper West Siders or people who lives elsewhere entirely, many even out of town. (This is a context in which the phrase "out of town" actually makes sense.) That's why I say that I am not "in" the community described in the aforementioned article, despite my zip code.

Really, would you want to hang out with a bunch of whiney people (details have been changed to protect the unsuspecting) who complain that there is no one to date, while disparaging where a person happens to live ("He lives in Teaneck!") or his social skills ("I hear he's a little shy...")? For the love of God, wouldn't you be a little bit shy if you knew that 10 people were discussing your social skills at the Shabbos table a few hours before you had a blind date? I wish these superficial women the happiest lives possible, but I'm not very sympathetic to their plight and I honestly don't blame any man who doesn't want to marry them. Likewise, I am not sympathetic to the plight of men who don't want smart wives or men who require their potential wives to excel only at cooking, cleaning, and hosting large social gatherings. That is entirely unacceptable in today's world (or in any world, but I will cut some slack to people who grew up before the 1960s/70s). I hear that there exist men who only want super skinny women who wear a lot of makeup and spike heels, but I haven't experienced that or heard it first- or even second-hand, so I won't go there.

I don't think it's a one-sided thing, that women are too picky or men are too picky. It's not a matter of picky--that's the wrong word. It's a matter of one's tastes having developed from Sex and the City rather than the reality of being a human being: a bit of abdominal fat, sometimes shy at first meeting, balding pates, conversational lulls, frizzy hair, an inappropriate joke or two, occasional acne, non-opposable thumbs (alright, I'll admit it, that's my tragic flaw), and all. Why does anyone expect anyone to be otherwise? And if you expect your potential mate to be "perfect," are you willing for him to want you to be "perfect"?

I put "perfect" in quotes because, really, what kind of perfection is 1200 calorie a day, size 2, perfectly coiffed hair, expertly applied makeup, and a lilting and appropriately-timed laugh? What kind of "perfect" is whatever the equivalent is for men (I don't know what that might be, since I honestly don't know any women who look for those things first)? It's the kind of perfect that raises nutty children and cracks from the stress at age 50. Good luck footing the therapy bills, man! Seeking any kind of perfection, even a nobler sort of moral or intellectual perfection, seems like a bad idea from the get-go, because nobody's perfect and anyone who presents themselves as such is more deeply flawed than you want to know. (Plus, your imperfections would be magnified in comparison!)

For the love of God and all that is good and holy in this world, wouldn't you rather date and one day marry someone who loves children and old people and dogs, books and music and dappled sunshine in the park? I'm not saying you should ever date anyone whom you do not find physically attractive.1 I'm just suggesting that maybe that shouldn't be the very first thing you look for, the thing without which you will not consider a second date or maybe even a first one. Sometimes those child-old-people-dog-book-music-lovers have sparkly green eyes, or stellar smiles, or auburn hair with a hint of a wave, or the most melodious voices, or the best laughs, or shockingly attractive legs. But if you look for those things first, God only knows what you'll find inside.

Moderately self-righteous rant over (for now). Stay tuned for Part 2.

Update: Lest you think that the right-wing, "yeshivish" world has it any better, read this, which is some combination of absurd and tragic.
_____________________________________________
1. Give some thought, for a moment, to how the right qualities can make a totally ordinary-looking person drop-dead gorgeous. (And how superficially beautiful people can turn ugly in the blink of an eye when they turn out to be self-absorbed, unkind, or very rude.)

6.08.2006

Word of the Day: Asyndeton

Asyndeton is a great word! It won't come up much in conversation, but if it does, boy, will it be useful!

Wikipedia:
Asyndeton is a stylistic scheme in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a series of related clauses. Examples are veni, vidi, vici and its English translation "I came, I saw, I conquered." Its use can have the effect of speeding up the rhythm of a passage and making a single idea more memorable. More generally, in grammar, an asyndetic coordination is a type of coordination in which no coordinating conjunction is present between the conjoins.

Encyclopedia Britannica
:
Asyndeton: the omission of the conjunctions that ordinarily join coordinate words or clauses, as in the phrase “I came, I saw, I conquered” or in Matthew Arnold's poem The Scholar Gipsy:

Thou hast not lived, why should'st thou perish, so?
Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire;
Else wert thou long since numbered with the dead!


I came across "asyndeton" several times while reading articles by Moshe Greenberg over Shavuot, from Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1995). (The best words of the day are those that you find while reading, like abecedary or asyndeton.) The most interesting article that I read was "The Stabilization of the Text of the Hebrew Bible: Reviewed in the Light of the Biblical Materials from the Judean Desert," even though it was old, I think from 1956. I also started reading "The Decalogue Tradition Critically Examined" (1989), and if I had had more time, I probably would have enjoyed finishing it.

6.07.2006

Darfur Update

Thanks to MJG for the update.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Jill Savitt, Human Rights First"
To: MJG
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2006 18:31:59 GMT
Subject: Violence Continues in Darfur - Update

Human Rights FirstHOPE for Darfur


Dear MJG,

This week marks one month since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed - and sadly the rape and murder in Darfur continue and the violence is now spilling over into neighboring Chad.

Our colleague, Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, the Chair of a Sudanese human rights group, visited Darfur last week. He called us from a satellite phone. At one point during the call he asked us: "Can you hear the bullets?" The Janjaweed were just 1.5 kilometers away from the village Dr. Mudawi was visiting.

Dr. Mudawi managed to return safely to Khartoum, but he reports of growing chaos in Darfur, and worries that the world has moved on - even though just one month ago Darfur was the subject of rallies, news stories and celebrity attention.

Last week, we sent a letter to Secretary-General Annan, urging him to immediately appoint a UN Special Envoy for Peace in Darfur - someone who can lead an effort to secure peace - making Darfur a daily priority until the violence stops and peace takes root.

We aren't asking you to take any action today, but we wanted to keep you posted on our efforts. You can read more about our call for a UN peace envoy in an article I wrote in yesterday's Miami Herald.

Thanks again for your interest and help to ensure peace is restored to Darfur. We will get back to you in the coming days with new ways you can help.

Best,

Jill Savitt
Campaign Director, HOPE for Darfur
Human Rights First


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6.06.2006

E-mail from Senator Clinton

From: Senator_Clinton@clinton.senate.gov
To: abacaximamao
Date: Jun 5, 2006 12:55 PM
Subject: A message from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Dear Abacaxi Mamao:

Thank you for writing to share with me your concerns regarding internet neutrality. As you may know, I support net neutrality. The open architecture of the Internet has been the critical element that has made it the most revolutionary communications medium since the advent of the television.

Each day on the Internet, views are discussed and debated in an open forum without fear of censorship or reprisal. The Internet as we know it does not discriminate among its users. It does not decide who can enter its marketplace and it does not pick which views can be heard and which ones silenced. It is the embodiment of the fundamental democratic principles upon which our nation has thrived for hundreds of years.

I have always, and will continue to, strongly and unequivocally support these principles. As I have worked throughout my Senate career to make broadband access readily available throughout New York State and our nation, I believe that maintaining an open Internet coupled with more broadband access is necessary if we are to meet the promise and the potential of the Internet to disseminate ideas and information, enhance learning, education and business opportunities for all Americans and improve and uplift our citizenry.

We must embrace an open and non-discriminatory framework for the Internet of the 21 st century. Therefore, it is my intention to be an original cosponsor of the net neutrality legislation proposed by Senators Dorgan and Snowe to ensure that open, unimpaired and unencumbered Internet access for both its users and content providers is preserved as Congress debates the overhaul of our nation's telecommunications laws.

Thank you again for writing about this issue that is important to me and to so many of my constituents. Please be assured that I will fight any efforts that would fundamentally alter the inherently democratic structure of the Internet. Updates on this and many other important issues being discussed before the United States Senate, can be found on my website http://clinton.senate.gov.

Sincerely yours,
Hillary Rodham Clinton