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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Do the Shekel Shuffle!

Step 1: Attempt to buy a few random things from the local Bodega Makolet. For argument's sake, let's say some instant coffee and a box of Waffle Crisp. And four bars of soap.

Step 2: Cashier: "We don't take Dollars" (pay with credit card).

Step 3: Follow signs to Bank (under big sign saying "Welcome to Nefesh beNefesh").

Step 4: Stand in line for a while.

Step 5: Teller: "I don't change Dollars for Shekels. Go over there and see Rivkah."

Step 6: Who?

Step 7: Teller: "That way!"

Step 8: Wait for only other woman in Bank to get off phone.

Step 9: Are you Rivka?

Step 10: Not Rivka: "NO."

Step 11: Where is Rivka?

Step 12: Not Rivka: "Rivka is not here today."

Step 13: Well, can you change money for us?

Step 14: Not Rivka: "No. Speak to Chaim." Pointing to cubicle to right.

Step 15: Cubicle to right is empty.

Step 16: Man in Cubicle to far right is on phone, behind sign that says "Not Working".

Step 17: Not Working: "What?"

Step 18: Can you change money for us?

Step 19: Not Working: "Yes, but you don't want to do that here. It's cheaper if you go to a money changer."


Friday, July 27, 2007

Small Kids at the Shabbos Table

A question and answer session with A Simple Jew.

On a related note:

Journey back, if you will, to the golden age of 1992....see if you can identify the blogger(s) with the Bronx accent....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jewish Rock!

...and Blues!

More available here. And also there's a ton of videos at the Youtube archive (plus some other stuff). Feel free to embed if something strikes your fancy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boycott the British Medical Journal

An email I received from Wanderer:

Dear colleagues,

Following in the footsteps of their "academic" brethren, the British Medical Journal is conducting a poll to consider whether the British Medical Association should participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The arguments presented for and against can be found here:


The poll itself is found here:


Voting is open to all.

May G-d Save The Queen


You don't have to be a doctor to give them a piece of your mind. Shame on them!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Yetzer Hora Poll

See the sidebar to vote in this poll:

Your office orders in lunch from the Kosher place. You are the only Jew. They send over a tray of delicious-smelling fried chicken for them, and, because it is the 9 Days, a piece of fish for you. The chicken looks A LOT better than the fish. What do you do?

1. Eat the fish.

2. Eat the chicken.

3. Eat the fish, then the chicken.

4. Try to explain to your office why you can't eat the chicken, even though they went out of their way to accomodate you.

5. Call the restaurant and complain.

Show results

PS if anyone knows how to move the poll into the post and off the sidebar, let me know.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Matchbox Memoriam

To mark the recent passing of Jack Odell, founder of Matchbox cars, I decided to break out a few of my more precious models and photograph them. Matchbox cars meant a lot to me as a kid. There are still times when I'll see a real classic car and think, "that doesn't look right; the Matchbox version seemed bigger." (Usually because in the world of Matchbox, a Mini was the same size as bus).

I inherited many of these from my cousin Victor, who was a meticulous collector.

Thanks for a wonderful childhood, Jack. Rest in peace.

No. 42 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire 1965

No. 53 Ford Zodiac Mk IV 1968

No. 5 Routemaster Bus 1965

No. 41 Ford GT 1965

No. 27 Mercedes 230 SL 1964

No. 33 Lamborghini Miura 1970

No. 75 Alfa Carabo 1970

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Quest for Normal

Daled Amos clued me into to an interesting downloadable shiur from YU regarding the restrictions of the Nine Days. This tied into my ongoing search for information regarding the source of the restrictions, and in particular, what exactly you can and cannot do during this time. It also touches upon an issue that I’ve addressed in the past here on this blog, namely the importance of matching the question with the authority.

For example, there’s no point in asking whether it’s OK to see a movie during the three weeks when the person you’re asking believes that it’s never OK to see a movie. The question itself loses all relevance, and equally so, the answer.

Too, MOChassid has a pair of posts about normality, or the definition thereof, that connect to this. In truth, I don’t know what normal is anymore. I used to think that I was normal, but after reading my blog I’m sure none of you will concur. But as with many things, I think context is of prime importance in the definition of normalcy. If many of the things that you consider to be normal behavior, e.g. watching movies, reading secular books, listening to rock music, are now considered by the community around you to be “assur”, are you normal? Or are you deviant?

And if you keep getting pounded over the head with messages that what you do is wrong, wrong, WRONG, how does that make you view yourself? And how will you feel about the community around you? And if this is primary exposure to Orthodox Judaism, how will you feel about Orthodoxy?

MO thinks both sides, the Chareidim (chumra of the week) and the Modern Orthodox (anything goes), are too far from the mean to be normal anymore. Is it possible, or even desirable to walk that middle line? Can the center hold? And wasn’t that what Modern Orthodoxy was supposed to be about?

By the way, the shiur was very interesting, but I still have no idea if it’s OK to go to a movie, or watch a DVD, or listen to a secular CD during the three weeks. Could it be that even YU is becoming too Charedi for me?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Zathras Can Never Have Anything Nice...

If you've been reading very carefully between the lines here or in any of my affiliated blogs you've probably deduced that I have finally replaced the old Geo. Not that Geo's gone anywhere. The kids have it and are making good use of it this summer. But through complex machinations I was able to arrange a work-lease on a new Japanese car (with all the options) that I really love.

However, in the two short months since it's been in my possession, it's already been hit by someone backing out of a driveway, the door no longer closes correctly (I don't get the ka-chunk sound, only kunk), and I found a screw in one tire, in such a place that it couldn't be plugged.

If I were the superstitious type, I'd say somebody was trying to tell me something. Good thing I don't come from a bunch of Polish Jews. D'oh!

So now, instead of my dream machine, I'm driving a rented Kia Rio which feels like it's powered by a lawn mower engine. But at least I don't have the rage to listen to my iPod in the car now, since there's no way to plug it in.

In unrelated news, guess who's the number one Google destination for the phrase, "Unaccustomed as I am to Public Speaking"? It wasn't even a good post.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Workout DVD #4: Babylon 5

I haven’t been very good about keeping this blog-series on Workout DVD’s going, but I have been pretty good about continuing my workouts. I don’t think I’ve lost much weight, but my pants keep falling down, so that’s a good sign, right? Either that, or I’ve got too many gadgets on my Bat-Utility Belt.

Anyway, the current series in my Workout queue is Babylon 5. Babylon 5 is notable for many things, including being the first American Sci-Fi series to be based on a multi-year story arc, something that had been for years a staple of British Sci-Fi. It also featured gorgeous computer generated special effects, a richly detailed universe, and colorful characters. But what is most notable for me is that it was one of the few TV shows that my wife and I could sit together and watch, and appreciate for completely different reasons.

For Mrs B, it was all about the characters. They just seemed so real, so well fleshed-out. Londo Molari, the Centauri Ambassador, (who for some reason really reminds me of my Aunt Boba), and his eternal feud with G’Kar, the Narn Ambassador, whose planet was occupied by the Centauri for many years. Jeffrey Sinclair, with his Kirk-like over-sincerity. And Susan Ivanova, as far as I can tell the first and only Jewish character in TV Science Fiction (certainly the first who was not a neurotic nerdy type). Actually, I’m pretty sure my wife has patterned her life after Ivanova ("Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations. Ivanova is god.." etc).

I was of course hooked the first time I saw a flight of Star Furys pursue a group of pirates to their base in an asteroid field. Week after week I’d set the VCR and we’d sit on the couch and catch the latest chapter in the saga. The first season was fairly standard Sci-Fi, but the story arc became more prominent in the following seasons. So engrossed were we in this show that we actually signed up for cable when it moved to TNT.

The show ran from 1994-1998, but watching the DVDs now, one could swear that they were dealing with today’s events. Producer J. Michael Straczynski (whom I once met at a convention and spoke with at length) created a universe filled with real ethnic diversity and real political history. These alien races have believable motivations for their interactions and behavior. Upon this detailed map, he laid down a story that touched on all major events of modern history:

Ethnic bias and hatred
Empires and the occupied
Fragile alliances
The moral cowardice of nations
The rise of totalitarianism and the failure of appeasement
The media as propaganda tools

The courage needed to stand up and do what’s right, not because it’s popular, not because it’s politically expedient, but because the future is at stake

All of these themes are explored using the characters that we come to know and love, or despise, throughout the early episodes, and unlike recent fare which has descended to the liberal spectre of moral relativism, the actions of our heroes and villains actually makes sense. From their point of view. He doesn’t trivialize ethnic rivalries. He recognizes that hundreds of years of history and bloodshed doesn’t go away with a handshake and good wishes. And he has the courage to say that, yes, some things are just BAD. And they need to be fought.

So I highly recommend this series for anyone who needs five seasons of TV to keep them on an exercise bike. And for everyone else, too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Early Minyan

The minyan is sagging. It’s limping along. Most days we’re lucky to get ten guys. More often than not, we’re only able to get 7 or 8, and then we have to drag someone in from the other room where they are learning, or move into that room altogether and “force” them into our minyan. One of our members compared it to an old, beloved but dying car. You really need it, and you’re constantly trying to keep it going just a little longer.

I don’t know if it’s the lackadaisical attitude that comes with summer, or just a general lack of interest. I’m as guilty as the next guy. Without the urgency of saying kaddish, I find it easier to rationalize skipping shul. No, I’m not sleeping in. I just have more patients in the hospital these days, and I need to get going earlier in the morning. I suppose that when I was in mourning I’d cut it a little closer, leave a little later and get in to work just a little later. But these days I can’t justify it.

It still bothers me that people are in the next room learning while we’re struggling to find ten guys to say kaddish or kedusha. It seems to me that if they can get up and be in shul by 5:45 or 6 am, they ought to be able to help us out and then learn afterwards. I realize I’m being selfish here. More likely, these guys would be in bed at that time, and have decided to get up early for the express purpose of learning a little before davening. Kol Hakovod. I just think that if there’s a group of people who need you, and you’re physically capable of helping out, that ought to be the priority.

I’ve developed a bit of a negative attitude to the whole thing, and I’ve been trying to purge myself of it. I actually sent out an email, and rather than complain about the people in the other room, I tried to spin it positively. A little pep talk to get people to show up for our minyan and help those of us who can’t possibly make any other minyan, and then have all the time in the world for learning afterwards. But apparently it fell on deaf ears.

So I guess this is one of those little tests that the Almighty has laid before me. Can I keep my commitment to davening in shul, even without the need to say kaddish? Without a guaranteed minyan? Can I keep a positive attitude towards the learning groups? Can I keep from kvetching about it on the internet?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

8 Things Meme

What's with all the memes? Is this a slow blog-cycle?

Jewish Blogmeister tagged me for the "8" meme. Because the meme demands that you name names--8 of them--this thing has spread across the blogosphere like a virus.

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I'm double jointed in my left thumb, and some of my kids are too, and some aren't.

2. I had minor surgery last year, and it was the first time I'd ever been put to sleep. Mrs B says I was pretty funny when I was coming out of it.

3. I used to draw comic books when I was a kid, and sent one in to Stan Lee and got feedback from him. If you came across someone who knew me in High School, they'd be surprised to find out that I went in to Music and not Art.

4. For years I had alopecia areata which formed a bald spot in my beard, and I had to do a "beard combover."

5. When I was in college I got into a five-car pile-up on the FDR drive (my car was unfortunately at the front of the line and the cause of the accident). It was after a late-night downtown recording session and I really had to use the bathroom, but I was stuck in the middle of the highway. I ended up dashing across the lanes into an abandoned factory on the edge of the East River to relieve myself. To this day, the words "Washburn Wire Products" will immediately cause me to seek out the nearest bathroom.

6. I once accidentally married a woman named Isabella Cortez.

7. I actually majored in engineering in college, but was so bored during a mechanical engineering class that I went out and dropped the major.

8. I auditioned for a reggae band at a studio in Hell's Kitchen , but I didn't get the gig because I wouldn't play on Shabbos.

I can't bring myself to tag anyone. Besides, I don't think there's anyone left.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shomer Shabbos Nursing

I'm looking for a few good Orthodox nurses, or physical therapists, or occupational therapists, or health unit coordinators. Anyone who is Orthodox and Shomer(et) Shabbos (Sabbath Observant) and who also works in a hospital setting. To contact me, either below or by email through my profile.

If you've worked in healthcare you know the issue. Caring for the sick is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week prospect. Someone needs to be there all the time, especially in a hospital. For doctors, the well known adage of pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbos, or the saving of a life supersedes the laws of the Sabbath, provides a little cover for those of us who need to take call on Saturdays.

But much of what I'll call "ancillary care," meaning the people who provide all the services, works in shifts. So you would think that it would be fairly easy for nurses and other shift workers to get Shabbos off.

However, that has not necessarily been the case, especially here in the Midwest. There seems to be some rigid thinking amongst those who manage nurses and make schedules. Part of the problem is that Shabbos falls on a weekend (which, if you think about it, makes sense, since Saturday became a "weekend" day in the US because it is the Jewish Sabbath*). Also, Friday night is now part of the "weekend" too. So technically, someone who wants to be Shomer Shabbos needs two out of every three weekend nights to be guaranteed off. Which is where managers have a problem, because this seems to be inherently unfair to the others.

Because, apparently, nobody wants to work weekends, and people need to be forced to do so by virtue of the schedule. And then if you say that someone will always have certain weekend days off, it starts to generate a lot of bad feelings amongst the staff, whether the management is behind it or not. Now, sometimes, you can placate them by reminding them that you will take every Sunday, but that doesn't always work.

And apparently, it has not worked well here in Milwaukee, since I've heard over an over from Shomeret Shabbos nurses about how hard it has been to find a job at a hospital here.

So I'm looking for insight from those of you around the country (or the world, or elsewhere) as to whether you've been able to work it out, and how well it has worked, and what specific tact you would use to introduce such a concept to a hospital administrator.

*pretty sure about this, but if anyone can provide a link it would be appreciated

Monday, July 02, 2007

Coming Soon...

Budding Cinematographer Rafiki is working on the Summerfest vids.

In the meantime (and probably until after Tisha B'Av), you can check out his other clips.