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Women and men on the Internet

This article from Red Herring is interesting. Findings from the study on which the article is based include:
Here is the 54-page report (PDF) on which the article is based. The report was released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.


It's a Wonderful Internet and other funny stuff

It really is, isn't it? This is a clever remake of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, which I finally saw a few years ago when I decided to become culturally literate (or start, anyway).

I also thought this, "Christmastime for the Jews," was kind of funny, especially the part about playing for the Lakers.



Shira, a"h

Shira's fifth yahrzeit is today, the 25th of Kislev. She was twenty when she died, five days after being struck by a car while crossing the street. I would so love to know what she would have done in the past five years, had she been granted them. I look at photos of her at 20 and I want to get to know the 25 year old Shira and the 35 year old Shira and the 45 year old Shira, and the fact that I never will hurts so damned much.

That old tired saying about not knowing what you have until you've lost it applied to Shira and my relationship to her. We were juniors in college when she died, but I had known her since freshman year. We didn't really travel in the exact same social circles, but I knew her from Hillel and some mutual friends and spoke with her when I saw her. We were assigned to the same dorm sophomore year, so we got to see more of each other that way. During our junior year, we were assigned to the same floor in the same dorm, so I saw even more of her. That fall, we had some interesting conversations about egalitarianism and Judaism. As anyone who knew her can attest, she was a staunch and fierce proponent of egalitarian Judaism, and I was a somewhat jaded Orthodox Jew. One morning on the shuttle between our far-flung dorm and the main campus, we spoke about selichot, and the difficulty of going to them in the mornings preceding Rosh Hashanah. We sometimes shared a meal in the dining hall and spoke about papers we were writing. She once performed a miraculous feat and edited a paper for me sometime between 2 am and 9 am. I sometimes ran into her in the computer lab, when we were both working feverishly. The last conversation I had with Shira was in the computer lab, a day or so before the accident, commiserating over work and the sloped dormer ceilings we both had--she had accidentally scraped her hand on the rough plaster. When she died, I was deep into the process of becoming friends with her. Loss of the past, present, and future of my growing friendship with Shira intermingled in my mind.

I don't know what to do, what to do with this old, tired pain, and with the anger, too. Grief. It's so damned unpredictable. One minute you're calmly reflecting on the life of someone you've lost, and the next minute, the cruel heartless unpredictability of her life hits you hard. Does the grief and anger ever go away? Why do 20 year olds die? Ever? Why are 20 year olds struck in the street by a driver who is not drunk, just briefly distracted?

The first year, the year of her death, was horrific, but numbing. It's all a mess in my head--the latke bash at Hillel, a rainy night, the news in the morning, disbelief, visiting her and holding her hand and telling her I loved her and willing wishing hoping life into her in the intensive care unit, seeing her grief-stricken strong loving crushed parents and sister, seeing my friends walking around shocked and empty, being utterly alone in the dorm at the beginning of winter break and seeing no one except the security guard and Shira's ever-present friends and relatives at the hospital, going to my grandmother in New York not knowing what was happening to Shira, hearing of her death the first day of Chanukah, going to the funeral, seeing hundreds and hundreds of people there, hearing people's memories of Shira before we had even really grasped the finality of her death, going to the grave, seeing dirt being put onto the coffin by Shira's grandmother and parents and thinking that no grandmother should ever have to bury her granddaughter, going to the shiva house, the long silent drive back from New Jersey to Cambridge, and the shock and disbelief and incredulity at the horror of the world in all of those 20 and 21-year-old faces.

It was Chanukah and I wanted to yell at God. I didn't want to sing God's praises in the form of Hallel for almost a week following her funeral. Such a thought was absurd. I love Hallel, but that Chanukah, Hallel seemed like one cosmic joke gone horribly awry. How do you sing the praises of One who let a 20 year old die?

The day after the funeral, I flew to California to spend the end of Chanukah with my other grandparents, because I had already made plans and the alternative was spending a week alone in the dorm where Shira and I had both lived. I was so sad and empty and lonely. Going back to school and try to finish up the fall semester with all of its attendant finals and papers was hell on multiple levels.

That was Shira's death to me. Everyone had their own experience of it.

Shira's first yahrzeit, we were all seniors in college, and it was the first anniversary of her death. It was the first time we were remembering her death--not experiencing it as bystanders. We were removed from her death by a year, and from her life by a year. There was a memorial service at Hillel, and we learned beautiful texts in her memory. It also signified the end of a very painful year. After this, it would no longer, in any way, be "the year Shira died." A year during which whenever I turned around on campus, I saw Shira standing there. I shook my head and she would be gone, replaced by some other petite, beautiful, smiling student. I had a very powerful dream about Shira during that first year after her death. We had an important conversation and it was as real to me as any conversation I've had with anyone in life, and it helped me move on in many ways.

What does one do with the memories of Shira, the memories of the pain of her death, and the residual grief? What do you do with grief? It sometimes seems, as the years go by, that the grief recedes. I would hope that there might come a time when I would be less angry and more accepting of all of the gifts that Shira bestowed upon us: smiles, happiness, music, dance...the list, of course, goes on... I sit here on the first night of Chanukah listening to the soundtrack from Guys & Dolls in Shira's memory, and it seems right and appropriate. But sometimes I worry that I am not sad enough, not grief-stricken enough. Or else I worry that I am too sad, too grief-stricken, and have not moved on or gained enough appreciation for all of the good things of Shira's life that live on through us, her friends. And I worry that I have not done enough to remember her.

What does it all mean, five years later?

I'm really not sure.

I miss you, Shira. I miss you so much.



I Like Christmas the Best

Of all of the holidays that I don't celebrate, I like Christmas the best. I really have a dislike of Halloween and Easter does absolutely nothing for me. I don't even really pay attention to Easter, and am always surprised to see so many people dressed up that Sunday.

But I kind of like all of the lights and kitsch of Christmas. First of all, I adore the smell of fresh pine trees that line the streets of New York. It reminds me of the holiday of Sukkot, back in the day, when people used evergreen boughs for schach instead of that roll-out bamboo stuff, and the smell would fill the yard. (At least in my neck of the woods--I imagine people in other parts of the world use whatever is native there. But that piney stuff sure smells nice, even if it does sometimes make those little green wormy things float on silken threads, dangling right over your hot soup. Anyone know what those are? Yech...) I like the cheerful, peppy music, and almost nothing beats the Gingerbread Latte and Peppermint Hot Chocolate drinks that Starbucks concocts every December. And, finally, I like it that everyone brightens up for just a little while in what sometimes feels like the dead of winter but is really just the beginning of a very long slog through the cold, short, heartless days of winter.

One more thing about Christmas--as much as I enjoy it from afar, I am very glad that I don't celebrate it. I am so glad that I don't feel all this pressure to buy stuff. I know that the buybuybuy mentality it not what Christmas really is, or should be, about for Christians, but it does overwhelm the holiday and the country at this time of year. And I am quite happy saving my money this time of year, and finding things on sale at other times of year (or right after Christmas). I don't have to brave the crowds or buy gifts for anyone. I tend not to be a big gift-giver (or gift receiver), including on Chanukah and birthdays, but I think most people feel that they have to give gifts to all of their friends and relatives on Christmas, and I don't. Which is quite nice. Plus, I never had to believe or not believe in Santa Claus. I always knew it was all a big lie. (Now the Tooth Fairy, that's another thing entirely!)

Please note that all of this is not to disparage Chanukah, which has nothing in common with Christmas except the time of year in which it occurs. Chanukah is one of my favorite holidays that I do celebrate! It's a nice one, and fairly low-key (in a good way), although it really hasn't been the same since I lost a dear friend on the first night of Chanukah. Tomorrow night, the first night of Chanukah, is her fifth yahrtzheit. I still miss her. Maybe that will be another post if I feel up to it.


Someone was listening...

As you all surely must know by now, the strike is over! And not a moment too soon!


Strike (day) three! I've had enough!

No more observations from the field. The novelty has worn off. Completely. The party's over. I am ready for this transit strike to be done. Okay? Do you hear me? It's messing with my weeknight plans, my weekend plans, and my Chanukah plans, not to mention my workday. I have a very long workday and I really didn't enjoy walking home at 8 pm last night in the cold and dark. I thought about walking through the park but was told by three or four people that that would be stupid and very dangerous (Cop on 5th Ave.: "I wouldn't let my mother or my sister walk through the park alone, even with a transit strike."), so I walked around, lengthening my 2 mile walk to 2.5 miles.

You hear? Good. Thanks for listening.

UPDATE: I heard a train running this morning! The B or C! Running uptown! (You can't hear the downtown trains from the street.) Then I read this in the New York Times: "Supervisors have been running empty trains over the rails to keep the rails polished and prevent rust." Oh, well. I'm glad they're keeping the rails polished and rust-free.



Strike (day) two! More observations from the field

(Image courtesy of the NYT.)

I walked to work again this morning. As I started out, I was thinking, "This was fun once, but doing this every day could get old mighty fast." It's two miles and it was 26 degrees outside this morning. Luckily, I managed to get a ride home from work last night, which was much appreciated. It's one thing to walk two miles in the morning, and quite another to walk them at night.

However, I really like sunshine and walking, both of which were in abundance this morning. Once I put on a little Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington and went on my merry way, I was happy as a clam. It felt so good to be outside in the fresh air, or what passes for fresh air in these parts. I gained a renewed appreciation for Central Park.

Along the way, I observed:
I want to bring a camera with me tomorrow morning, if the strike is still on.

Also, this graphic from today's New York Times, especially "The Worst Affected" graphic, supports my assertion that the worst affected by this strike are the people who live the farthest out and rely on the transit system the most.


Strike (day) two! American Jewish women and the history of the American labor movement

Of course this would interest me!

Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972) and all of that. The Jewish Labor Committee has a list of interesting readings on the American Jewish labor movement.

I can recommend this terrific book, called Common Sense and a Little Fire, if you're interested in the history of American Jewish women in the labor movement at the turn of the last century. It's about Rose Schneiderman, Pauline Newman, Clara Lemlich Shavelson, and Fannia Cohn, and I read it for a class my freshman year (I think). It was this class, taken as part of my history requirement in college, that convinced me that I needed to major in History and Women's Studies.

I kind of miss this stuff. This stuff being the the history of women in reform movements in the United States from the 1880s through the end of WW I and the granting of woman suffrage. It used to fascinate me, and in some ways, it still does. I think I am especially interested in the visual media from that period, and in the use of images, especially of women, to both sell and denounce ideas.

I don't miss it enough to do anything about it right now, because I'm too busy just living my life such as it is at the moment...

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Strike (day) one! Observations from the field

(Image courtesy of the NYT.)

Yeah, so the strike that didn't happen on Friday happened today. I walked to work this morning. Along the way, I observed a lot of irate people stuck in traffic, one very busy bicycle shop, and many, many more pedestrians than usual. It was kind of nice (except for the honking cars with irate drivers). The street that weren't full of angry people in cars were empty and quiet and lovely, because they were being saved as routes for emergency vehicles. People were jollier than usual (doesn't take much in New York!), and it was nice to see so many people out and about. There was a sort of pioneer spirit in the air--"I usually take the subway downtown, but dognabit, today I'm going to walk!" It felt like everyone was in the same boat, more or less.

Except, of course, wealthier people who lived and worked in Manhattan had an easier time than people who had to come in from outlying areas (I don't mean Westchester County or Greenwich, I mean Brooklyn or Queens or the Bronx). I heard one man on a bicycle saying that something sucked (I couldn't hear what) and that someone or other didn't care about the poor people. One of the reasons that I live where I live is because, in a pinch (or even not a pinch--on a day when I get up early enough), I can walk to work. I pay excessive rent for this privilege. I am lucky that way.


Public libraries and the Internet

It's no joke--I haven't been to a public library in six weeks, which is a very long dry stretch for me! (Except for a month or so before I move, when I don't set foot in a library for fear of losing a book in the move, I usually go to the library regularly.) It's just that lately, the library is never open when I have time to go. The local library is open from 10 am to 6 pm most days, and until 8 pm on Tuesdays. That's still too early for me to get there most weeks. It's not open on Sunday at all, and the Saturday hours don't help me much. I don't blame the library, though. They don't have enough money to stay open more. I blame the state and the city for not providing better funding. I would pay $5/month more in taxes if it meant that the library was (were?) open more.

That's it! I'm becoming an associate of the library! There, now I feel much better. At least I'm doing something...

So I don't go to the library much these days. I do most of my reading on the Internet. Even when I wrote a paper for my library science class, we were supposed to get all of our sources from various electronic databases--I didn't do any research in the physical library, although the resources were provided by the library. The New York Public Library is no different in terms of resources available online. In addition to their Digital Library, they have all of these electronic databases. You can even search their entire catalog in Hebrew, from your very own home! (I think that's mostly for searching for things from their Dorot Division.)

It's an interesting philosophical question--where is the library if so many of its resources are available online and if working people can't go because it's never open? Will the brick and mortar library be replaced by the library-on-the-Internet? It sometimes appears that way. Would that be a good thing? I think I would miss physical libraries if they disappeared. I once went into the NYPL to use one of their electronic resources and I sat in a room full of computers, with other people tip-tapping away next to me...and it was kind of sad. Not like the somber, stately reading rooms of yore. I'm no luddite by any means, but I sure do love paper books.



Why I have to leave this city before I get sucked into the vortex

Over the weekend, I heard three or four little boys, probably in the 8-10 year old range (although I find that the older I get, the harder it is for me to estimate these things), having an argument. They were talking about real estate. One said to the other, "Your father doesn't even own any real estate!" Then the landed gentry among them (not the poor fellow whose father didn't own any real estate) continued to argue over whose father owned more buildings.


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Chayyei Sarah's Appreciation Wednesdays

Chayyei Sarah started something she calls "Appreciation Wednesdays." So far, she's appreciated Jeff Finger and Zev Stub (the moderators of the Janglo group on Yahoo), her ability to see, Richard Simmons, and families who invite single people to Shabbat meals. I think it's a terrific idea. So terrific that I wanted to blog about it. I would even copy her if that wasn't blatantly stealing someone else's idea.

On this Wednesday, however, she wants to know what we appreciate. So, go tell her! And tell me! And tell the person, people, or creatures you appreciate! If it's an inaminate object, you can tell it, too, but people might look at you like you're crazy.


The nation's most literate cities, 2005

As someone who loves to read, this study interested me. The study was done by the president of Central Connecticut State University, and the results--the top ten most literate American cities, in order--are:

Seattle, WA
Minneapolis, MN
Washington, DC
Atlanta, GA
San Francisco, CA
Denver, CO
Boston, MA
Pittsburgh, PA
Cincinnati, OH
St. Paul, MN

I am actually not so surprised that Boston made it but New York did not. Of course, an anecdote does not make a fact, but during my working days in Boston, I noticed that almost everyone on the T* was reading (either a book or a newspaper). The same was not true on the buses, for various reasons. Fewer people read on the subway in New York City, even though there are still a fair number of people reading. I also noticed that six of the ten cities get really cold in the winter, although they are not the coldest cities in the US by any means. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

The ranking was slightly different in 2004, when the previous study on this subject was done.

If you go to the links on the left side of the page for the 2005 study, you'll also find out interesting things like the ten American cities with the most booksellers. I was very surprised that Boston did not make that list, or New York, for that matter. (Even though fewer people seem to read here, there are a lot of bookstores. Or so I thought. I guess if it's calculated per capita that probably works against New York.) On the same page, you'll find this associated "factoid":
The presence of retail book stores is positively associated with quality of libraries. So, it is not a question of whether people buy books or check them out: they do both or neither.
Anyway, I'll leave the rest for you to explore. Hint: All the fun factoids are gathered in one place here.

Hat tip to CNet News, a.k.a. news.com.com!

*When I first moved to New York City, I kept calling the subway the "T," much to the amusement of my native New York friends. I still sometimes do, when I'm tired enough.



Cutting down on junk mail

For my American readers, some helpful advice below.

This has gotten particularly bad for me. I mean, I like getting the Lands End catalog since they sometimes have good prices on things and that reminds me to go online and check their overstock website. Although even they are going overboard lately, what with three catalogs arriving in the past month. But I also get several charity solicitations a day (my fault--I give charity) and tons of credit card offers or those annoying "checks" from credit card companies. The latter two categories go right into the shredder for me, since I'm not keen on dealing with the aftermath of identity theft. But it's time-consuming and annoying as hell. Plus, it makes me into a bad roommate. I come home, see the stack of 10 envelopes from the day, and can't deal with separating out the one or two important ones from the rest, so I let them pile up on the shelf and they eventually become mountainous and messy. I try to clear them away once a week, by which time I almost have enough to fill a paper grocery sack. Or so it seems.

So this is what I did today, and as soon as I have the energy, I will call my credit card companies and see if they will stop sending me things besides my statements.

Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service: you can pay $5 and do it online or pay 37 cents and mail them a letter (guess which option I chose!)

Opt-Out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers with the three credit bureaus: You can choose to opt-in, opt-out for five years, or opt-out permanently. It takes two seconds.

I found these two options above here. These were the two easiest, quickest, online options. They should make a difference over the next 1-6 months. There are other options, but they seem to involve placing actual phone calls.

You can also try junkmailstopper.com, and this website, although I haven't really looked at them in any depth, though, so use their advice at your own risk.

Let me know if you have any other tips or thoughts. Thanks!


Several good reasons not to wear makeup

can be found here. It's a bit sensationalist/angry for my taste, but it makes good points, especially about that ridiculous business of plucking off eyebrows and drawing them back on.

Aside from all that, though, the main issues I have with makeup are the time it takes to put on (which could better be spent sleeping or reading or pretty much anything else), and the fact that it's sometimes really uncomfortable (like you feel like your face is caked with...something). And if you have anything near your eyes, and you rub them, you look ridiculous. And that if you get makeup that doesn't smear around your eyes then it takes a serious chemical wash to remove. But, hey, aside from that...!

P.S. I still find it fun to wear makeup sometimes. Why?


It's good to know what you don't like

I don't know if it's kosher to blog about one's relatives without their permission. Probably not. But I will share this one vignette, if you'll pardon me. If the aforementioned relatives object, I'll take down the post.

This particular young relative had wanted to be a fire fighter for a very long time, at least in "young people's time." (A year for me is like almost nothing now, it's scary. When I was little, an hour seemed like f o r e v e r...) She recently told her mother that she had decided that she didn't want to be a fire fighter. Her mother asked her why and she said, "Because I don't like smoke."

The End

It's good to know what you don't like. In college one semester I found the several-hundred-page course guide so overwhelming that I cut out all the pages from the departments that I knew I wasn't interested in (Physics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, East Asian Studies), so it wouldn't be so hard to choose from what was left.

I also went to a career fair there once and discovered a plethora of careers that I was emphatically not interested in. That was something of a relief--no need to go through the recruiting wringer, etc.



First Snow

New York City had its first snow on Sunday. At least, I assume it was on Sunday. I went outside at 3 pm on Sunday and was shocked to see snow on the ground, since I didn't notice it as it was coming down.

Funniest overheard comment, from a mother to her young child, on the streets of New York, "I never, ever want to see you putting snow in your mouth! Do you understand?"

I found this to be sad, since I used to eat snow as a kid. Of course, only from my yard, snow that hadn't been walked on, etc. Do city kids at least get to eat snow in Central Park? Not that it tastes that good, but it's so irresistible that I imagine any kid needs to try it at least once.

Funniest visual moment: Seeing a 4-ish-year-old girl carrying a chunk of snow in her mittened hands, all the way up Broadway, with her dad. I saw them at one point, and then saw them again about a mile further north, snow still gently cradled in mittened hands. So cute! And funny!

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Happy Monday Story: Colored Bubbles

Here you go.

This really makes a great story--it has intrigue, mishaps, dedicated scientists working 'round the clock, and a happy ending.

Three cheers for inventor Tim Kehoe!

It reminds me a bit of the original flubber movie, which I remember enjoying as a kid shortly after we got a VCR. Especially the part about accidentally discovering a bouncing bubble!



Do you love your Mac?

For your listening pleasure--"I Love My Mac."

Chodesh tov!

Chodesh Kislev tov, everyone. Woo hoo! 25 days until Chanukah! I have no deeper thoughts than that at the moment, but maybe I will if I get some sleep this weekend...? One can always hope.

Enjoy the directions for lighting Chanukah candles in American Sign Language, to the left here, couresy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (most commonly known as the "OU," the people who supervise food production and then put kosher symbols on packaged food).

Addendum: Why is a male child depicted on the card? I should think, even in 1981, that (at least Ashkenazi) Jewish girls were lighting Chanukah candles along with their brethren. (See Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 23a for a reason why. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 17:2 and 589:6 for why Sephardi women don't make brachot over time-bound mitzvot, even ones they are obligated in, if there is a man around to fulfill their obligation. See this for some elucidation on this esoteric topic.)

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Ha, ha! No, I can't relate at all!

to this. This (below) is the sidebar to the article, which is about Internet addiction.

December 1, 2005
Danger Signs for Too Much of a Good Thing

FIFTEEN signs of an addiction to using the Internet and computers, according to Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Wash., follow:

  1. Inability to predict the amount of time spent on computer.
  2. Failed attempts to control personal use for an extended period of time.
  3. Having a sense of euphoria while on the computer.
  4. Craving more computer time.
  5. Neglecting family and friends.
  6. Feeling restless, irritable and discontent when not on the computer.
  7. Lying to employers and family about computer activity.
  8. Problems with school or job performance as a result of time spent on the computer.
  9. Feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety or depression as a result of time spent on the computer.
  10. Changes in sleep patterns.
  11. Health problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, weight changes, backaches and chronic sleep deprivation.
  12. Denying, rationalizing and minimizing adverse consequences stemming from computer use.
  13. Withdrawal from real-life hobbies and social interactions.
  14. Obsessing about sexual acting out through the use of the Internet.
  15. Creation of enhanced personae to find cyberlove or cybersex.

I found the article itself to be interesting and somewhat amusing. To some extent, I think the time people now spend on computers used to be spent watching TV or reading books or something. I've certainly been accused of "burying myself in a book," as if that was unhealthy or anti-social or something, whereas nowadays, the anti-social activity that's most popular is going online. You could say that it's worse because it's possible that you think more while reading books or that books cause less eyestrain (except for certain people who think that reading with a 40 watt bulb is "reading in the dark"). Or you could say that it's better because being online and chatting, e-mailing, commenting on blogs, etc., is more social than reading a book alone. Up for debate, I would say.

In any case, there is no doubt in my mind that people are spending more and more time online, possibly to the detriment of other things, and that people who have other addiction issues to things that are readily available online (fill in the blank yourself) would have more of a problem with overuse of the Internet than other people. That's basically what the article said. There--now you don't have to read it yourself!

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