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Electronic record of my flu, for posterity

As if that last post wasn't bad enough! I am sharing this as a reminder to myself to get a flu shot next fall.

Tuesday, February 19 [the day after I returned from Atlanta]

Wednesday, February 20

Thursday, February 21

Friday, February 22

Saturday, February 23

Sunday, February 24

Monday, February 25

Tuesday, February 26

Wednesday, February 27

Thursday, February 28

And now, back to work. I am really too busy for words (tee hee!) now that I'm better. Don't worry, I am going to heed everyone's advice and take it easy for a bit, too.

Stay healthy!



The flu--stay far, far away from it, if you know what's good for you!

I write to you from Day 5 of what seems to be the flu. At least, that's what my aunt (a nurse) unofficially diagnosed me as having.

This has to be the most boring blog post in the history of the universe, but please, indulge me just this once. Or, skip it if you can't indulge me.

Symptoms started out as stuffy head, dizziness, severe exhaustion, and nausea (the nausea was only on the subway coming home from work, though, on Wednesday--I didn't feel so hot going into work on Wednesday morning, either, but who ever does?). I left work early on Wednesday, came home, and fell into bed, sleeping from 8:30 pm to 8:30 am. I still didn't feel great on Thursday--I was a little achy in addition to the other symptoms, and I thought that if I stayed home on Thursday, I might get better quicker, so I called in sick on Thursday. I thought it was just a bad cold, and felt sort of silly for calling in sick for a cold, but my throat was hurting, and my head, and I couldn't see going into work. I bought some over-the-counter decongestants on Thursday, as well as a thermometer. I did not have a fever (actually, my temp was 97.9 F, which I thought made sense because I thought I had a cold) and the decongestants helped with the stuffy head, while acetaminophen helped with the general achiness. I felt marginally better on Friday morning, so I went to work. Along the way, I stopped at the drugstore to get some cough drops, hoping they would help with the sore throat and hacking cough. I was so tired when I went into the drugstore that I considered asking someone if there was a place where I could sit down there, but I pulled it together and made it out of there on my own two feet. After two hours of surprisingly productive work, I was bone-tired, but I felt like I had come all that way and had already taken a sick day (and a half), I should really put in a few more hours, so I did.

I was still tired on Friday night, but I went to shul and then out to dinner and then to bed. I felt pretty good on Shabbat morning. I woke up (relatively) early, went to shul, and sat there, blowing my nose. When I tried to walk home, though, the exhaustion hit me and almost bowled me over. I thought about stopping to sit on a few stoops along the way, but figured it was better to just push through the exhaustion and go home, where I could sleep. I got home, ate lunch (I was hungry), and got into bed. I got out of bed to make havdalah at 7:30, and then went to the drugstore for more tissues (Puffs Plus, with lotion, which I normally abhor for their mildly greasy feel, but which are necessary when you're blowing your nose as many times an hour as I am) and more over-the-counter cold medicine. I was going to see how I felt after going to the drugstore (literally a block from my house), in the hopes that I would feel well enough to go to the supermarket (ten blocks from my house) to get some sorbet, but I only made it as far as the local convenience store, where I picked up a popsicle and went out into the icy cold to eat it. The freezing slushy mango goodness sliding down my throat felt heavenly. That outing really exhausted me, though. I got home and sat down on the couch, too tired to even get into bed. I sat there for a few hours, curled up under my long down coat, and finally got into bed at around 11.

I woke up a bunch of times in the middle of the night last night. Once, I woke up freezing cold, teeth literally chattering in a way that mine really never do. Funny, because when I went to sleep last night, I was sweating. I still thought I had a cold, though.

I woke up for good at 11:30 this morning, hoping I would feel better. I took a shower, which felt okay, but when I got out, I thought I was going to have to brush my teeth sitting down, that's how exhausted I was. The shower just wiped me out. After the shower, I realized that there was no way that I was going to be able to go out and buy ingredients for chicken soup, never mind stand to clean the chicken and wash and cut the vegetables. I also called to offer regrets about a goodbye party that I was going to have to miss. It was clear that I was not going to be leaving the house today.

I got back into bed and spent some time talking to people on the phone, accompanied by intermittent sweating spells. I tried reading, but my head hurt way too much. It felt--feels, actually--like someone tied a band around my head and is squeezing it tighter and tighter. There is also a sort of stabbing pain behind my eyes. My throat is still sore, my nose is still stuffy, and my ears hurt a little. I slept for maybe two hours this afternoon, but I'm not terribly sleepy, it's just that my body has no energy and I can't move. So I've been staring at the ceiling a lot.

My roommate bought me chicken soup ingredients today, as well as a more accurate thermometer, and it turns out that I'm a bit over 100 degrees F. That makes more sense, given the sweating and the chills, than previous readings. I hope I'll have energy to make chicken soup sometime soon, like tomorrow. That's really the only thing I'm seriously craving, but making it requires more energy than I currently have. (This is why God invented mothers. Too bad that mine is so far away. And thank you for taking care of me so well when I was sick as a kid!)

I never get a flu shot because I've never gotten the flu before. (Also, I am not among the population for whom it is recommended to get a flu shot. I'm 28 years old and do not have a compromised immune system or work with the elderly.) Now that I know what it is--this utter exhaustion that's keeping me tied to my bed except to get up to refill my water glass with watered-down apple juice and the coughing and the sharp, painful headache--maybe I will consider getting a flu shot in the future (even though it might not have helped with this particular flu).

I once told someone that I wasn't sure if I'd ever gotten the flu, and she said that if I had it, I would know it. Based on that, I was under the impression that if you had the flu, you'd know it wasn't just a cold. And here I was, thinking that it was a cold for first four days!

I am calling the doctor in the morning, just to check in, and then calling in sick to work, unless I feel miraculously better. I have jury duty in two days, on Tuesday, which worries me somewhat. I will have to Google around and see what you're supposed to do if you have jury duty and the flu. If I feel on Tuesday anything like I feel now, it will be impossible for me to get into the subway and go downtown, even just to wait and have them tell me that they don't need me. I guess I will see if I can reschedule.

I will leave off with a link to Shel Silverstein's poem, "Sick," about Little Peggy Ann McKay. I love this poem. Today, I am really feeling this part of it:
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more--that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke--
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My whole body hurts, and I am ready to be better!

Thank you all for indulging me, and I hope you don't catch it.



Wiki of obsolete technical skills

Here. [Via slashdot.]

I love these kinds of lists.

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Traveling woes

I was thinking, as I was waiting in line to get through security at ATL (aka Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport) yesterday, that there should be an airline travel competition. This competition could include, among other feats of brains and brawn:
Do you have any other events that you think should be included? Please leave them in the comments section!

My actual travel woes: I was picked up by a taxi at 2 pm yesterday; dropped off at the local MARTA station at 2:15 pm; arrived at the airport at 3 pm; made it through security at record speed by 3:30 pm; and hunkered down to wait for my 5:45 pm flight. (The last time I flew from ATL, it took about an hour to get through the security line, and I got to the gate four minutes before scheduled departure, too late to get onto the still-there plane. I allowed extra time this time, but didn't need it.) However, all of the Airtran flights to LaGuardia were delayed by three or more hours, because air traffic control wasn't letting anybody from Atlanta fly into LaGuardia. I don't know why. Airtran didn't, either. They originally thought my 5:45 flight would be delayed until 9:20, but then changed to 8:50. Blah. I walked around a lot, both to keep from going stir-crazy and to get some exercise. It was the tail end of a vacation during which I had read a lot, and I just didn't feel like reading either the Newsweek I had purchased on the way down, or any of the books I had in my backpack with me. I think that part of why this delay was so frustrating was because I purposely picked an earlier flight than last time in the hopes of getting home before midnight and I carefully left the house so early to make sure I made my flight.

In conclusion, air travel these days sucks. On the up side, flights cost less than ever before in dollars, despite the rising cost of fuel. (See this article for a few reasons why.) However, the price we pay in aggravation is over-stuffed airplanes (and other cost-cutting measures like no blankets) and ridiculous delays about which the airlines do absolutely nothing. (An Airtran customer service rep told me yesterday that they don't give out any money or credit for delays caused by the TSA, air traffic control, or weather, since they have no control over those things.) They can do absolutely nothing because they know you'll keep flying them for their cheap fares and because the other similarly-priced airlines undoubtedly have similar policies. Have I shared this article ("Air Travelers’ Woes Likely to Worsen This Year," NYT, Jan. 10, 2008) with you yet? Read it and weep, or just vow to stay home.

I won't stay home because I like getting out and about, but it's almost enough to make me take the train. Or maybe a boat. My three-year-old friend whom I visited in Atlanta informed me, on Sunday, that there were boats before there were trains. For some reason, I had to think about that for a minute before confirming.

* * * * *

I don't want to be accused of being a nativist, and I am actually quite pro-immigration, but I noticed both on my flight yesterday and on another flight I was on semi-recently that the flight attendant making the "how to buckle your seatbelt" and "in case of emergency" announcements at the beginning of the flight was not a native English-speaker. I could barely understand him because of his accent, and it worried me.

I don't think it is right to discriminate against people for having foreign accents. In most cases, a small barrier to immediate understanding is not really a problem. Discrimination, as it is used today, refers to favoring someone over someone else for a bad reason, such as preferring one color of skin over another. Favoring someone over someone else for a universally-agreed-upon good reason is, I think, acceptable. On an airplane where most of the passengers were English-speakers, I think that picking the the flight attendant with the clearest and most understandable speaking voice to make these announcements--and, much more importantly, actual "get out of the plane now, we're going down!" announcements--is both safer and non-discriminatory. I wonder if I would feel the same if I was not a native English-speaker.

As an aside, I have always found flight attendants on non-Anglo airlines to speak very crisp, clear English. Presumably, they are hired for their ability to make announcements in both the language of the airline and in English. Why are American flight attendants not hired on the same basis?



CDC releases first report about deaths from the "choking game"

Press report from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta here.

Here are the stats on the "choking game" from their February 15, 2008 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

This is the first time that the CDC has collected data on the choking game and I am really glad that they have. (In their own words, "This report describes the first attempt to assess the national incidence of deaths among youths resulting from the choking game.") I wish they had done so earlier, but I understand that data really wasn't available much earlier, and is only beginning to become available now.

It's such a small number--82 deaths from 1995-2007--that were ruled to be choking game deaths. Even a more generous estimate, based on the probable number of deaths that were mistakely labeled suicides, is far fewer than the number of deaths for children this age from, for example, car accidents. I don't know what kills 100 six to nineteen-year-olds a year in the United States, but surely the list is quite long. This just seems to preventable, though, so horribly preventable. It also seems like it's constantly surprising--it's the kids who don't try drugs or drinking who seem most likely to try this "game." It's kids on the cusp of greatness; kids who excel academically or at sports; kids who have friends and go to camp in the summer. And it's kids. Ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen-year-olds. I think the average age of death in this study was thirteen. It's like like the other crap that takes people's lives far too early (car accidents, cancer, heart attacks), but takes them somewhat indescriminately. This takes the lives of kids who don't even realize that they are risking their lives. They think they're playing a game...

Oh, but the reason that I am particularly interested in this topic and thus this report is here.

Warning signs are probably in the CDC material, but are also in this Time story. Parents, teacher, and anyone else who works with kids, please educate yourselves about this practice.

Reporting from Atlanta (where I am currently on vacation, not working for the CDC, although wouldn't that be a cool place to work?),

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More on separate web yeshivot

I am nothing if not fair, so after posting that last post, I sent a quick e-mail to Rav Yedidya Rausman, the director of WebYeshiva.org, sharing my blog post and asking him to clarify. This is what he said:
Thank you for your letter. In fact all classes that we currently offer are co-educational. If you would like to discuss this further, I would be glad to do so.
I also sent an e-mail off to Rav Shimon Felix, a faculty member of WebYeshiva and a former teacher of mine. This is what he said:
To tell you the truth, I really don't know anything about any policy - my shiur has one full-time woman attendee and one on-and-off attendee (she has kids), they both are on the screen, they talk, all the guys (only about 5 or 6 all together) know they are women, so I don't know about any other policy....
You could drop in if you like, it is at 6 AM NY time.
(Hah! At 6 am New York time I am sound asleep. But thank you for the invitation, anyway!)

This was really the best possible outcome for me, short of them telling me this and promising to clarify the matter on their website.

I do not feel that I need to retract my previous post or apologize, since I was only working off what they presented to the public, which, clearly, did not find favor in my eyes. (I will include a link to this update in that post, though. As I said, I am nothing if not fair.) That criticism still holds, even if the website is not true, as appears to be the case--if you're going to call something WebYeshiva, your website should really be up-to-date and accurate. However, that said, this situation is still preferable to to the website being accurate and the WebYeshiva being sex-segregated.

Now that that question is satisfied and my ire has died down, I went and got a little video tour of the yeshiva, checked out the schedule (not sure which time zone those times are in), and watched one "vlog" post about brachot rishonot and acharonot when drinking from a water bottle throughout the day. (For the uninitiated, a vlog is a video blog.) I know that this is possibly a superficial or silly thing to say, but Rav Brovender looks and sounds great--just like I remember him looking when he taught a shiur I attended at Midreshet Lindenbaum in 1997-1998. That's pretty incredible, considering all that's happened to him since.

I am still intrigued by the whole idea, since I have not yet found a new chavruta or any other way to study regularly, given my nutty work schedule. I will have to look into this some more.

Happy learning!

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Why are separate "web yeshivot" for men and women necessary?

That is my first question about this interesting and exciting new enterprise. I heartily yet respectfully disapprove of sex-segregated web yeshivot, and not because I am dead set against sex-segregated education as a rule,1 but rather because I don't see the need for it in this particular setting and circumstance. As far as I am aware at the moment, the main difference between the men's and women's programs it that women can only teach women, and not men. Men, on the other hand, can teach either women or men. (This is the roster of teachers. ) This is what I object to. I would have to know more about how separate the programs actually are, how different the shiurim are, and how the web-based learning works to know how incensed I should get, but on the face of it, I will give it a great, big yuck! Also, boo on them for not addressing this in their FAQ.

Oh, barf! Now I see the difference between the yeshiva and the midrasha. There is no Gemara for women beyond "Introduction to Torah She'Baal Peh" and then one, basic, introductory class, called "Aspects of Mesekhet Kiddushin" (which is actually "Introduction to Torah She'Baal Peh, part 2") and there is no hasidut or neviim for men. "Aspects of Masekhet Kiddushin" is like "chocolate-flavored" anything, or "fruit drink." It's reminiscent of Masekhet Kiddushin, but not quite the real thing. Do they use photocopies on the web, too? And do you need to certify your sex (or gender, but I think they probably only care about sex) before you sign up? What's to stop a Navi-loving man from sneaking into the midrasha?

First question done. [Update here.]

My first comment is, good for them for having a "beta midrash"! That would a waste of a nice play on words if they didn't--combining the Hebrew beit for "house of" with the Greek/computerese beta for "test version of." (A beit midrash is the usual way of saying "house of study.")

Also, it's a little bit interesting for the etymology-loving part of my brain. Beta (β), of course, is the second letter of the Greek alphabet, after alpha (α). Bet (ב) is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I vaguely recall that the letter bet is named thusly because it looks like a bayit, or house.2 By substituting beta for bet, you aren't really changing the meaning because bet/beta/bayit are all really the same word. Well done, WebYeshiva!

Back to the yeshiva itself. Having dispensed with my first question and first comment, I can turn to the yeshiva itself.

I have had the great privilege of learning from several of its teachers, including:
I have nothing but the highest regard for these educators, and if I didn't know about the separate yeshiva and midrasha aspect of this, I would give my wholehearted endorsement--or as much of a wholehearted endorsement as a person could give without a more thorough investigation. I was really very excited to find out about this project, before the gender issue smacked me upside the head with its idiocy.

I would love to hear a response from any of the above about the need for separate institutions when, as far as I can tell, all of the learning happens online. [Update: Responses here.]

I am also curious to know who, exactly, their target audience is.

Off to daven mincha...

Oh, one more quick thought before I go. I sometimes wonder whether it "pays" to get upset about this sort of thing. At some point, it may just make more sense for me to say (to myself, at least), "Look, this isn't my community, these people do not share my values, I should stop caring." I don't get all that upset about the narishkeit that goes on in the chareidi world unless I feel like severe damage is being done to people (physical, mental, emotional). Even then, I tend to distance myself. I'm not saying that this a good thing, just that it might be necessary for me to continue to feel ahavat Yisrael and like a welcome part of the Jewish people. "It" being a sort of intentional ignorance or feigned disinterest in what goes on in communities of which I am not a part. It's just hard for me to feel that in this particular instance, because these are people I've learned with, I've spent Shabbatot with, I've slept in the living rooms of. (Yeah, yeah, prepositions. I know.) Granted, most of that was 7+ years ago, but, still! Have I changed that much? Have they?

I don't think that, for women who do not desire to study gemara, they are really harming themselves. I feel the same way about men who are similarly kept from studying the Tanya or Nevi'im due to the sex segregation of this program. It could be fine for them. It's not fine for me, and I think it's silly and misguided, but I don't think great harm is befalling anyone because of this.

Other instances where this sort of thinking might apply are, say, when I go to a Shabbat meal (not yours!) and the people there busy themselves with talk of celebrities, movies, other people's dating lives, how many calories are in a particular piece of kugel, or how their husbands feel about them shaving their legs when they're six months pregnant and can't bend to reach. Is all of this displeasing to me? Am I at all interested in any of these topics? Not a bit. But is great harm befalling these people by the way they choose to spend their time? No, not great harm. So when I get mad about these things--and I do--I wonder if I really should. Is it better to just write these people off as "people who don't share my values and with whom I need not associate"? Even though we daven together and observe Shabbat in similar ways (except for Shabbos table conversation)?

What do you think? To get mad or to disassociate? Or is it time to just give up on Orthodoxy as a sociological reality altogether?

1. Sometimes I am for it, sometimes I am against it, and sometimes I think it's a toss-up.
2. I think that other letters were also named after the figures or images that they resemble, but I can't remember now. Maybe the letter gimmel (ג), from which the Greek gamma (Γ) is derived, looks/looked like a gamal, a camel? I don't know. The point is, though, that beta is called beta because it looks like a bayit. This way of naming letters is called acrophony. (Learn something new every day, eh?) Lots of readers of this blog--including my father--know way more about this stuff than I do, so I will let them chime in if I am totally off. I just thought it was cool.

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Online source for Biblical art

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my promise and/or intention to blog more about LimmudNY 2008. I've just been busy. (I also want to blog about my somewhat-less-than-perfect experience voting in the NY primary this morning, but it, too, shall have to wait.)

One of the more pleasurable aspects of my job involves looking for images, often ones that depict Biblical scenes. I just found this great online resource, called, of all things, Biblical Art on the WWW. ("WWW" is so...20th century, but I'll forgive them.) The site was created by a Norwegian theologian and schoolteacher and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway. It is non-commercial in nature and all of the images are hosted elsewhere.

You can search for art by artist, by Biblical subject, or, perhaps coolest of all, by Biblical verse.

One of my favorites is Gustave Doré. He is seriously Old School. He was French and he lived from 1832-83. Here is his Wikipedia entry. I like him because (a) his images are ubiquitous and pop up quickly with Google Image search and are thus vaguely recognizable to me and (b) because they look so...Biblical, I guess. They look classic (see, for example, Moses breaking the tablets of the law--here is a larger version). They look old. They look like the images I remember from the Bible Stories for Jewish Children book from my childhood. (Did anyone else grow up with this? Published by Ktav in 1973?)

If you like Dore's style, you might also enjoy work by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German, 1794-1872). For other classical Biblical images, check out what they have for Rembrandt. Prefer something a bit more modern? Here's Chagall.

Moving on to searching by Biblical verse, here is the art for the Book of Esther (one of my favorites), chapter 1. (Not my favorite chapter, but I was curious to see how people depicted Vashti.)

And by Biblical subject, we have images of Hannah, of Job's wife, and of Potiphar's wife. Also, of lots and lots and lots of Biblical men.

I wonder if part of why I find these images so fascinating is because, historically, Jews did not create this kind of representational art. There is something...illicit, or maybe just Christian, about it. Before I started discovering this stuff, the closest I had come to Biblical art were those dittos that we colored in in kindergarten and my Bible Stories for Jewish Children.

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Shocking! All chocolate is not created equal!

This does not come as a surprise. The more flavanols a piece of chocolate has, the better it is for you. Dark chocolate has a lot, unless they strip it of flavanols during processing. White chocolate has none.

Some of the comments are interesting, though, especially the ones from serious chocolate aficionados. Someone suggested eating cocoa nibs. I second that suggestion. Regardless of their health benefits, they are delicious. However, they are also pricey. If anyone wants to get me a nice gift for my birthday (July 3), I would adore some cocoa nibs, preferably hechshered and fair trade. (I'm not sure nibs require kosher certification. I think they might just be raw crushed cocoa beans.)

You can also get flavanols from red wine (yum!) and tea. I really only drink herbal tea, so that probably wouldn't work for me. Apples, onions, and broccoli are apparently high in flavanols, too.

More on eating and foods to come... I have many thoughts in that department.

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