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Source of Lulavim

Does anyone else see the irony in this article? The ironic thing (I think, although I may misunderstand irony like most English-speakers do) is that Egypt is the main source of lulavim.

Sukkot [Tabernacles?] is mostly an agricultural, Land of Israel-based holiday, I think, unlike Pesach, for which I think the historic event of the Exodus is the main focus. But there are those historical, "camping in the dessert on the way out of Egypt" and "cloud of God over our heads in the dessert on the way out of Egypt" things for Sukkot, too. The Egypt connection is what I think is ironic about lulavim coming from Egypt now. At least a little. Plus the Israel-based agricultural stuff, too, I guess, but that, less so.

I feel like I'm slowly losing my grasp of the English language. Chaval.


"Why Girls are Bored with Math"

I thought that the idea presented in this article was interesting, although it's fairly short and doesn't contain enough (any?) supporting data. There is more and more evidence that girls are as good as boys at math, certainly through high school, but don't pursue careers in math/science as much as boys. The article, however, says nothing about whether that's because of societal pressure or hard wiring in the brain or what. I'm not convinced there's any way to figure out which of those it is, though. I mean, short of raising a generation of girls in isolation, free from gender-specific social pressures, I don't see how it could be done. Even if parents are sensitive to these issues, there's no telling what kids will pick up in school from teachers and peers.



"Attack of the Listless Lads"

Read. Discuss. It's kind of related to this post.

I don't have that much original to say about it, although I found it interesting. I disagree with some of the main points of the article, but think that some of what it says is very true. Also, I recognize that my disagreement may be born of the sub-culture that I live in (basically, 20- and 30-something Upper West Siders affiliated with Jewish prayer communities). (Sorry for ending with a preposition. It's been that kind of day.)

Here are some letters (published in Salon) generated by the article.

Other bloggers react:
Pandagon I
Pandagon II
Hugo Schwyzer



Is Church More Fun than Shul?

This article from the Atlanta Jewish Life Magazine tries to answer that.

I thought it was an interesting article. I especially liked this bit:
My interactions with God, while I often see them as formulaic, always have underlying themes of hope and redemption. The desire for true repentance, an integral part of our religion, motivates my prayers. It’s a personal experience.

And, truth be told, it’s not the house of worship but the worship itself that brings people closer to God. No matter how mesmerizing a minister (or dull in this case), his minions move towards a more religious life because of their own faith, their own inner dialogue with God, in whatever shape that takes.

I went to church once, mostly because I was curious and it was so convenient. I kind of liked it, although possibly only because it was different than shul. I really liked the singing. It was excellent. I also enjoyed the decorum of the congregation, and the church itself was very pretty and light inside. And I liked reading the plaques on the wall, especially the one that was related to the thesis that I was writing at the time.

Anyway, the article is interesting on several levels, although I thought it was a bit too long. Thanks to Esther for pointing it out.


Post-Shabbat update

So, the defenestrated pot was recovered. (I feel like defenestrate is a more active verb that would apply to the pot incident, but it's a word that I get to use so rarely that I couldn't resist. Even if the use was imperfect.) I asked the super about it on Friday morning (he speaks English), and he said that the only way to get it back was to have the construction crew go after it. Which they did! It was waiting by the door to my apartment when I got home from work on Friday afternoon. It was slightly dented and oval instead of circular, so the lid no longer fits, but it's okay for boiling things, for the time being. Or for making stir fry or something. I guess I'll have to replace it eventually. How irritating!

And the meal, in the end, was fine. The lasagne wasn't as sour as I had feared. I'm not sure why, but it came out okay. Not my finest effort yet, but passable. The company, however, was excellent!



What I Learned Today

So I attempted to cook a Shabbat meal tonight, for the first time in a long time. And what I learned is that (1) cooking is totally exhausting, especially after a full day of work and (2) tomato puree is a similar consistency to tomato sauce, but it's a lot more acidic. I can't figure out why. It seems like there's the same amount of tomato in it as tomato sauce--I mean, it's not thicker in any noticeable way. So why did it make the lasagna so sour? (And will any one of my eight guests notice? Should I apologize ahead of time? Not mention it? Will they think that the cheese was bad or something? It wasn't. It was brand new.)

Did you know that lasagna can also be spelled lasagne? For years I thought it was spelled lasagne and then whenever I checked, it seemed that lasagna was the correct spelling. So the third thing I learned tonight is that it can, indeed, be spelled lasagna or lasagne.

One other thing I learned tonight: If you put too much in the dish drainer, and the window is open, your good milchig pot will fly right out that window and down to the ground. And because of the side of the building you are on, it won't go all the way down to the basement level, where you could exit near the laundry room and retrieve it. No. It will go down to the upper level of the inner courtyard, and when you ask the doorman if he can help you retrieve it, and have difficulty communicating with him (how do you say "my pot fell out the window" in Spanish? all he understood was window and he came up to the apartment and shut the window in the steaming hot kitchen and the window fell of its track and he couldn't put it back), and not be able to get the pot back at all. It was a nice pot. May it rest in peace.

In the ridiculous lingo that I am sometimes, unfortunately, exposed to, "There were four learnings tonight." Three pretty negative ones and one neutral one (that would be the proper spelling of lasagne/lasagna).



A New Brand of Disaffected Youth

I just read this article from this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine, and some parts of it seemed familiar. Especially the first two paragraphs, reprinted below (links are my own):

"Among the Believers"
Published: September 11, 2005

Benjamin Kunkel's first novel, Indecision, published last month, concerns a young man living in Manhattan and trying, as the title suggests, to figure out what to do with his life. He has a B.A. in philosophy and an active, if confusing, romantic life; he gets by on a combination of office work and parental subsidy. In his author's affectionate estimation, offered over a beer on a recent evening at a Brooklyn bar, this young man, whose name is Dwight Wilmerding, is "kind of an idiot." Perhaps, but he may also be - the critical response to "Indecision" suggests as much - an especially representative kind of idiot. His plight, after all, is - for people of his age and background - a familiar one: an alienation from his own experience brought about by too much knowledge, too many easy, inconsequential choices, too much self-consciousness. Bred in a culture consecrated to the entitled primacy of the individual, he discovers that he lacks a self, a coherent identity, maybe a soul. He feels that he could be anyone. "It wasn't very unusual for me to lie awake at night," he confesses, "feeling like a scrap of sociology blown into its designated corner of the world. But knowing the cliches are cliches doesn't help you to escape them. You still have to go on experiencing your experience as if no one else has ever done it."

Of course, one aspect of that experience is the impulse to rebel against it - the desire to rescue thought, feeling and ambition from the quotation marks that seem perpetually affixed to them, to recover the possibility of earnest emotion, ethical commitment and serious thought. That desire can find any number of outlets, one of which might be - why not? - starting a literary journal, a small magazine.

No, no, I'm not starting a literary magazine or anything. But the article was interesting. People around my age who are over-educated and not sure what to do with their lives. Maybe it's wrong to use the term "over-educated." Maybe nobody can be over-educated, especially just with a measly BA. But it does seem, at 26, that life ought to have more overarching purpose or meaning than mine seems to. Not that I think that a BA gives life any kind of overarching purpose or meaning. Maybe, as some have suggested, it's just a matter of doing and seeing more, and then things will become clearer. Maybe it's too much to expect any kind of clarity at 26. But some people seem to have it...!



I have a fairly strict policy of not blogging about work, but I couldn't help sharing this quote, uttered by a venerable, somewhat-older-than-average coworker this afternoon: "She's the Man!" I thought that this was linguistically interesting for several reasons.

1.) For one, of course, the fact that a woman can be "the Man" might not be self-evident. But, of course, a woman can.

2.) Secondly, how would our understanding of this phrase change if it was, instead, "She's the Woman!" or, perhaps more interestingly, "He's the Woman!"? If you think that sexism is dead, consider this last question fairfully. Any and all answers are welcome, of course, from all three of my readers.

3.) Thirdly, I found it interesting that someone a bit older than average would use this expression. Now, this somewhat-older-than-average coworker is generally quite with-it, and I think that this is particularly true linguistically. (This, unlike some people, whose aquisition of slang seems to have stopped when they were in their 20s, whatever decade that was.) But I still found it interesting, and wondered when that expression became common. Anyone know? Or have access to a reliable idiomatic dictionary?

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Yankees Suck!

So, I went to the Red Sox-Yankees game today. It was fun, although, of course, the wrong team won. And, it was September 11, which can never again be a completely happy day. On the up side, it was a gorgeous day and I got to hang out with SNSM, who explained (several times, in some cases), just who was out on the field and what he was doing there (there were no "she"s on the field, as far as I could tell--are there any female umpires in MLB?).

Having had my second live baseball-viewing tutorial this year, I may begin to understand the game. Thank God. It's a good thing that I moved to NYC in August 2003, or I might never have discovered the fun of baseball at all! (I could not, in good conscience, be a Bostoner living in New York in 2003 or 2004 and not follow baseball, at least once the regular season ended.) (Apologies to AS, for all my scoffing in high school and after when he rhapsodied on and on about the wonder of baseball and I said it was boring and stupid. I was at least partly wrong.) Although I imagine it depends a lot on who you go to the game with. Like, I don't think it would be any fun to go with someone stupid or drunk, or with a Yankees fan. I'm sure there are lots of other people with whom it would not be fun to attend a baseball game.

Enough rambling for now. To all a good night! (The garbage truck pulls up under my window in a little over an hour, and I'd like to be fast asleep before it comes. Otherwise, it sometimes keeps me awake. Ah, the joys of New York! And--can you believe it--they were shouting "Boston sucks!" at the game! I never had my sleep stolen from me by garbage trucks in the Greater Boston area--I can't speak first-hand about Boston proper.)



What I Did Last Night

This. I have never successfully learned Gemara without a teacher, so we'll see how it goes.

In other news, I found my keys today. They had gone into hiding for several months, and I had, in the meantime, made copies from other people's keys, but it was still nice to find them. (I knew they were in my apartment, since the last time I used them was to let myself into the apartment.) The key-finding is part of a larger operation to clean my room and file lots and lots of papers. I think that I may be keeping too many papers, but I don't know what to throw out. Thoughts, anyone? Paid cell phone bills? Paid cable-modem bills? The same from last year? I feel like I must have paid bills going back several years, along with credit card statements, bank statements, receipts, etc. I can probably toss most of it. Or maybe I should toss the box of old New Yorkers that I never read. Or I can toss all of it! After the papers are more or less sorted out, I plan on finally going through all of the boxes of miscellaneous things that I haven't unpacked since I last moved. (Don't ask when that was. It was awhile ago.)

Also, today is the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, aka 1 Elul. I don't feel spiritually ready for Elul at all. I kind of wish we could skip it and Tishrei this year. What are the odds?



A Lament for New Orleans

Chayyei Sarah once again hits the nail on the head. And I quote, in its entirety:

A Lament for New Orleans*

Oh, how she sits in solitude.
The city that teemed with people has become like a widow.
She that was great among the nations, the princess among provinces, has become a tributary.
She weeps bitterly in the night, and her tear is on her cheek . . .

*with thanks to the prophet Jeremiah, who put it better than I ever could.


Before this happened, I don't think I could have comprehended what the destruction of an entire city meant. I can't believe that everything can be taken away from so many people, so quickly. (Of course, this is the voice of privilege, from my perch in middle class America. In many places in the world, everything is taken away quickly.) And, like Moxie, I don't understand why people are still without food and water. Why did it take four days for National Guard trucks to arrive with supplies? I am aghast. And sad.

Shabbat shalom...

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