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Monday, October 30, 2006

Hits = Miles





I did hit 100,000 visits earlier today (page views are more like 190,000). It's amazing how many people still haven't figured out that there's nothing going on over here.

The winning visit was by a nice person from Carlstadt, New Jersey, who was searching on Yahoo for "Jewish Yamaka," which is how most of my random visitors find me. Welcome!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mazel Tov

What is the appropriate response to Mazel Tov? I've always wondered.

A. Mazel Tov

B. Thank You

C. G-d willing bei you

D. Yes

E. Right back at you!

Any ideas?

Well, in any event, Mazel Tov to Curly on putting on Tfillin today!






Friday, October 27, 2006

Aggravating Assault

Just what I needed.

I left my office about 4:40 last night, excited about some evening plans (the nature of which will be revealed in a future post) and ready to head to shul for mincha. However, what I saw when I approached my car led to several perplexing and even disappointing observations.

The first thing I noticed was that one of my windows was shattered.



Crap, I thought. Someone has broken into my beautiful car.

But as I got a little closer, I saw that someone was actually sitting in the passenger seat. This could have elicited many reactions. Like maybe I should yell, or run back in the building, or whip out my phone and call 911, or call Mama and Papa Bear.

But the thought that actually emerged was this:

Oh, this is not my beautiful car. That guy is just waiting for someone.

I know, I know. Disappointing is an understatement. I am apparently not the guy you want to have around when quick and decisive thinking is called for.

Of course, that assessment didn't last more than a fraction of a second as I realized, S***! That IS my car! And there's a guy in it!

By then, the guy apparently noticed me coming, and opened the door to get out. To which I said:

"HEY! What the frak are you doing in my car!!"

Intimidating, isn't it? I'm surprised the guy didn't pee his pants. What he did was get into his car and calmly drive away.

In retrospect, it has been pointed out to me that I had a cell-phone camera on my belt and there was plenty of time to snap a picture, but naturally that didn't occur to me as I stared intently at his license plate quickly receding from view.

So, I went back in and called the cops. They came, eventually, but while I waited I got more and more pissed off. First, because I realized that I was going to miss what would probably be the last weekday mincha I could make before the clocks change. Second, because I was now trapped at work at the mercy of the Milwaukee Police response time, which in my experience for this type of crime, has not been very good. And third, my plans for the night, which relied heavily on swapping cars with Mrs. B, were most likely ruined.

While I waited I served myself an additional dose of aggravation, as I discussed repairing the glass with an auto glass specialist, and with my insurance company, the net gist of which was that although it would be expensive to replace the window, it wouldn't be expensive enough for my insurance to pay for it. It would in fact be just a few dollars short of the deductible. Meanwhile rain was pouring into my car as I waited for Milwaukee's Finest to take my report.

Eventually a bright young officer showed up and took a statement from me. And to his credit, he showed significantly more interest that I would have expected.

I, of course, in my vast knowledge of police procedure and crime investigation, was putting a lot of stock in having the perpetrator's (that's what they call the criminal in Police parlance) license plate number. The officer, not so much. He called it in, and confirmed that it was registered to the owner of a '95 Geo. That, unfortunately, was not the car that drove off with the perp. How do you know, he asked me. Because I drive a '94 Geo and, to paraphrase the famous quote on pornography, I know one when I see one (as a side note, a '94 Geo Prizm was apparently stolen from the parking lot of the VA later that night).

So then he asked me to describe the guy. Were you ever in one of those classes where a guy randomly runs through the room, and then somebody comes in and asks you to describe him exactly? I have to confess I never did well in those situations. I would usually write something like Did somebody run throught the room? When?

Some details I had down, like his race, hair (skin head type), approximate size and age. It got fuzzy when he asked me to describe the clothes. Sweat suit...maybe? What color...? Uh...grey...maybe? Possibly some green in there...I mean blue...could have been yellow...hood...? I think...so...Shoes...? Ye....no. Sneakers. Maybe.

He took down the info. He promised he would investigate the stolen plates and file a report.

"So will you call me if you catch him," I asked. He smiled.

As Bill Cosby would say, "Riiiiiiigggghhhht."

Bill Cosby on the Parsha



Hat tip Yitzi

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fudge Strikes Again

I just want to say that it takes real talent to be able to reference Strong Bad, Monty Python, Peter Sellers, and Sesame Street all in one post and not have anybody catch on. Strong work!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Letter From the White House

Today I received a letter from the White House. I have to admit, I found this to be a bit of a head-scratcher. The letter started like this:

"Dear Mr. Toddler:

"Thank you for sharing your views on the crisis in Sudan. The President appreciates your taking the time to write about this important issue..."

It then goes on to outline the Administration's approach to the Darfur genocide (which, admittedly, doesn't amount to much).

After reading the letter, I stared at it for a while. And tried to remember exactly when it was that I wrote to the White House about Darfur. Because I don't write to the White House that often. In fact, I never send written letters at all. If anything, I may have emailed something. I recall reading on the J-Blogosphere about a Jewish response to Darfur, so maybe I filled out an online form letter somewhere? But no, that wouldn't be it, because the response from the White House came to my office, the address of which is in my email signature.

Not taking anything for granted (my memory just isn't what it used to be), I went to my "Sent Items" box and searched for "whitehouse." This is what I found:

"I want to thank the President for his steadfast support of Israel in its fight against Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists. Israel’s fight against Islamofascism is the US’s fight as well, and we need them to win this battle or we are next!"

Puzzling, to say the least.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sheitels--For Men!

And now! The latest product from Boro Park what every frumme yid will need!

Conspicuous in your Cap? Self-conscious about your Shtreimel? Bashful in your Black Hat?

Being an Orthodox Jew used to mean covering your hair with a Yarmulke or Cap or Fedora, but that made you stand out in a crowd! In the old days, when you didn't want anyone to know that you were frum, you had to take off your Yarmulke and go bareheaded! Or wear a hat to work, but let's face it, Gentlemen, the only people who wear hats are frummies! You might as well show up in a Turban for all the anonymity that would give you!

BUT NO MORE!

Now you can be Modest AND Modern! Stylish AND Tznius!

Introducing, the world's first Sheitel made exclusively for MEN!

The MEITEL!


The "Shaitner"


The "Koisel"

Don't let your wife tell you you don't need one! You deserve it!

Remember, Frum doesn't have to mean Frumpy!

payment plans available for all budgets

Update: I may have competition



hat tip Yonah

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Opener



Spoiler Alert: I don’t think there are any actual spoilers here, but if you haven’t seen the episode yet, come back and read this after you have.

I love Battlestar Galactica. It is the best-written Sci-Fi show ever made, possibly the best-written show on TV altogether. One of the reasons for this is that the producers and writers have decided not to rely on cheap Sci-Fi clich├ęs and technogimmicks, but rather to write believable characters, story and dialogue. Within its own universe, everything that goes on makes perfect sense. They don’t need to invent wormholes or alien space clouds or visit the planet of the week to create drama. They set events in motion and let them play out naturally.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they haven’t thrown in some unexpected twists. I myself was somewhat concerned about last season’s cliffhanging episode, in which the entire setting of the story was more or less flushed out an airlock, and the crew was land-locked on some dismal planet like a bunch of intergalactic trailer park trash. I had hoped that the end of the episode (or perhaps, the start of the new season) would prove this to be a dream sequence or some alternate reality. Well guess what. This ain’t Star Trek. It’s real. Maybe a little too real.

See, this is what disturbed me about the season opener: The producers seem intent to use the show to draw parallels to current events, in order to make us think about them in a different way, much as Star Trek did during the Sixties. But the parallels are imperfect, and the viewers need to be aware of that, lest they allow the show to draw them to false conclusions about what’s going on in the real world.

To wit, this appears to be what the current season is about:

There are insurgents, and then there are insurgents. There are the insurgents who rose up against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, who fought them in the forests of the Ukraine, who fought off 5 invading Arab armies in Israel. And there are the insurgents who blow up armored personnel carriers and mosques in Baghdad. Some are heroes and some are terrorists. What’s the difference?

There are collaborators, and then there are collaborators. There are collaborators who tell the Shin Bet when a terrorist strike will occur so it can be stopped, or who risk their lives to patrol the streets in Iraq. And there are the collaborators who welcomed the Nazis into France, or who saved their own skins in the Concentration camps by oppressing their fellow Jews. Some are heroes and some are traitors. What’s the difference?

The simple answer would be that it depends on what side you’re on. If the insurgents are blowing up an Arab armored column to prevent it from taking over a Jewish town (I’ve been watching “Cast a Giant Shadow”), then we call them brave heroes. If a Kapo is ratting out someone who gave an extra potato to an old woman, then she is the most evil of traitors. And on the surface, this appears to be what Battlestar Galactica is going for. It spent two seasons introducing us to these characters that we care a great deal about and sympathize with. And now it has suddenly placed them into new roles that, while they do make sense given the story, make us very uncomfortable. We don’t like to see our friends strapping bombs on and blowing up policemen. But in the context of the story, it makes perfect sense. How then can we feel so differently about Islamic suicide bombers who at least, on the surface, have similar motivations?

But this reasoning is flawed. Because saying that it’s just a matter of which side you choose to identify with raises the ugly specter of moral equivalence. Both causes are the same, both situations are the same, toss a coin and pick a side. And more disturbingly, it assumes that given the same situation, you would act no differently than the terrorist. But the causes are not the same, and the situations are not parallel.

The producers fill the screen with imagery and a dramatic set-up which is evocative of the Warsaw Ghetto at times, a Concentration camp at others, but then use terminology pulled directly from contemporary conflicts such as Iraq or Israel. The metaphors are most certainly mixed.

I think that it’s the context that makes the difference. What are the insurgents fighting for? Are they fighting for freedom for their people against an oppressing occupier? Or are they fighting to intimidate their people and force a rule of tyranny? What is the end result they are after? And will it justify the means to get there?

I wonder where BSG is going with this. Even one of the characters says that suicide bombing can never be justified, regardless of the cause. But of course, there is another character who says that there’s no difference between sending a soldier on a suicide mission in a Viper and strapping a bomb to him. I think the difference depends on the target. If your target is a bunch of strollers in a market, you’re no soldier.

It’ll be interesting to see how this ends up.

Your opinions?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sukkah Rorschach

OK, what does this thing remind you of? Special bonus points if you can link to a matching picture in your comment:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chabad Sukkah Gig

For those who are around Milwaukee, I'll be playing at the Chabad Sukkah next Monday, Oct. 9. Details to be found here and here.