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Archive for August, 2008

VPs

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Ari

When Obama picked Biden my dad asked me what I thought of the pick and I replied that I wasn’t surprised. After all, Biden provides Obama exactly what he’s missing – an old white guy with foreign policy experience and appeal to seniors. (In other words, someone like McCain). When asked who I thought McCain would pick I replied that while I didn’t know who, my guess is that like Obama picked someone very much like McCain, so McCain would pick someone very much like Obama. (Except since McCain is limited to Republicans he wouldn’t be able to find an African American since JC Watts scares people). He did the next best thing though – he took someone from an obvious minority (a woman), young enough to be his daughter, (or trophy wife), with a whopping two years of political experience in the most corrupt state in the union, and a former Ms. Alaska runner up. (As a side note, if you read the literature on the art of persuasion, you’ll find that physical looks actually go a long way towards convincing people to follow your argument. Something that will only help her in a match-up against Biden, much as it will help Obama when he debates McCain).

Now for the best part of this whole thing – the information was first leaked on wikipedia yesterday. This isn’t the first time it’s happened either, which of course gives me an idea….

Will Smith movie comes to life

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 by Ari

The International Space Station has been infected with a computer virus. Now all we need to do is find some ugly aliens hell-bent on killing us all who happen to have compatible operating systems.

modern art is crap

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by Ari

This is just plain awesome:

A giant inflatable dog turd created by the American artist Paul McCarthy was blown from its moorings at a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before landing in the grounds of a children’s home.

The exhibit, entitled Complex Shit, is the size of a house. It has a safety system that is supposed to deflate it in bad weather, but it did not work on this occasion.

The jokes practically write themselves:

  • The power lines weren’t worth shit.
  • The power company shit itself when this happened.
  • The safety system was shit.
  • Headline: American artist shits on Children’s home.
  • McCarthy must have shit for brains.

Maureen Dowd

Monday, August 25th, 2008 by Ari

I’ve never really been one to track individual columnists and choose instead to try and view every opinion piece I read without preconceived notions about the author. A few months ago a friend asked me what I thought of Maureen Dowd and I replied that I didn’t have much of an opinion at the time. Since then I’ve noticed when I’ve read an article by her, which is what led to my previous post trashing her positions on Obama and Clinton. By remembering her previous columns I’ve been able to see trends over time, and learned this: Maureen Dowd is the worst columnist I’ve ever seen in a mainstream newspaper. I could start a new website called www.maureendowdsucks.com and I would have enough material to fill two posts a week (since that’s as often as her drivel infests the pages of my beloved NY Times). Take for example, this recent piece:

 In the dead of night in a small hideaway office in the deserted Capitol, a clandestine meeting takes place between two senators with one goal.

[...]

“Don’t worry, John, I’ve put it behind me,” Hillary replies. “I’m looking toward the future now, a future that looks very bright, once we send Twig Legs back to the back bench.”

They chortle with delight.

I’ve heard plenty of people espouse the idea that Hillary is trying to torpedo Obama in order to ensure a republican presidency so she can run again in 2012, but I’ve never before seen anyone do it in such an offensive, incendiary, and self-defeating fashion. With her verbose descriptions of McCain and Clinton chortling away in their clandestine meeting while shooting “brutally cold Stolichnaya”, this article moves from “reasonable but unproven hypothesis” to “fiction”. Please Dowd, spare us your colorful adjectives and mood setting descriptions. I’m sorry your fiction career never took off, but this isn’t the place to start. There are plenty of real quotes, stories, and examples to choose from without having to make up absurd scenes of movie villain-style backstabbing to prove your point.

Aliza’s diet

Monday, August 25th, 2008 by Ari

Aliza plays with ethernet

Once, while living in Baltimore with some friends, my sister owned a cat that liked to chew on plastic. Since ethernet cables are coated in plastic, this meant frequent network outages and they had to make sure to run the cables where the cat couldn’t get to them (like on the ceiling). As a side note, cats stomach’s apparently cannot digest plastic, so the network outages could be spent cleaning up plastic shards off the floor. I now have a similar problem. Aliza simply loves to chew on cords and cables. Although she doesn’t have any teeth yet and therefore can’t hurt anything, I don’t think this bodes well for the long term. I’m currently trying to wean her from cord chewing by not letting her chew on power cords and limiting her to only communication wires (like ethernet). Rebecca thinks I should make Aliza go “cold turkey” by not letting her chew on any cords. Whichever approach we take this much is obvious: any child who lives with me and plans on surviving to adolescence had better learn power safety. fast.

Aliza's diet

Monday, August 25th, 2008 by Ari

Aliza plays with ethernet

Once, while living in Baltimore with some friends, my sister owned a cat that liked to chew on plastic. Since ethernet cables are coated in plastic, this meant frequent network outages and they had to make sure to run the cables where the cat couldn’t get to them (like on the ceiling). As a side note, cats stomach’s apparently cannot digest plastic, so the network outages could be spent cleaning up plastic shards off the floor. I now have a similar problem. Aliza simply loves to chew on cords and cables. Although she doesn’t have any teeth yet and therefore can’t hurt anything, I don’t think this bodes well for the long term. I’m currently trying to wean her from cord chewing by not letting her chew on power cords and limiting her to only communication wires (like ethernet). Rebecca thinks I should make Aliza go “cold turkey” by not letting her chew on any cords. Whichever approach we take this much is obvious: any child who lives with me and plans on surviving to adolescence had better learn power safety. fast.

Awesomest sport ever

Thursday, August 21st, 2008 by Ari

MSNBC was on in the gym just now, and they were showing the Norway-South Korea team handball match. (Now this is the kind of thing the Olympics is for – why don’t they show more of that occasionally on NBC?) It’s an awesome sport. It’s a mix of full contact basketball and hockey without ice. It’s very fast paced, has lots of contact, (but no outright tackling), and a decent amount of scoring (about 30 goals per game according to wikipedia). The game is played on a hard court with a small ball. The goals are on ground level and each team has a goalie. You can advance the ball by dribbling (like basketball), but all the defense is zone due to the large crease around the net that offensive players cannot penetrate. You can only hold the ball for three seconds and take 3 steps with it, and pivoting counts as a step. This successfully eliminates the 1-on-1 component that makes the NBA just a showcase for two people to play while 8 watch from up close. The only way you can go into the crease around the goal is if you do it in the air, which makes for a lot of jump shots and double pumping in the air. Pat Forde at ESPN even labeled it the most underrated sport in the Olympics:

Team handball (7). The Metric Dash has never understood why the sport isn’t more popular in the United States. It’s fast, creative, team-oriented and played with a ball — and nobody loves ball sports more than Americans. It has elements of basketball, hockey, lacrosse and water polo (see below). It’s a blast to play (yes, The Metric Dash has actually played it). Yet it’s such a nonentity in the U.S. that neither the American men nor the American women qualified for the Olympics. The sport’s power is concentrated in Europe.

It’s a very cool sport, and I really want to play. All I need to do is convince 13 more people….

listening

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 by Ari

I’ve determined that people must listen in the same fashion that firewalls and ACL’s do. They have a series of patterns, and as soon as the input (what someone else is saying) matches any of their patterns they simply ignore everything else. Two recent examples:

  • I’ve been calling a lot of potential vendors this week (I can’t tell you how much I hate salespeople right now). Usually one of the first pieces of information we exchange is our names and employers. With almost every single one when I have said “I work for the Navy Federal Credit Union” the response I get is along the lines of “let me transfer you to our government sales team”. They simply heard the word “Navy” and stopped listening to the rest.
  • I went to the DMV this morning to both transfer my driver’s license and register my car. I told that to each person I spoke to, however all they heard was “transfer my driver’s license…”. When I was done and asked about the car I was told that since I hadn’t done them both when I got to the window the first time (which I could have, but no one bothered to give me the form or ask for the car’s title), I had to start all over at the back of the line. After 30 minutes of waiting with only one person helped I walked out. (Yes, I know that means I’ll have to go back later, sigh).

Speaking of the DMV, I got there 5 minutes before it opened (8:15) expecting a small crowd of maybe 10 people. Instead the line was around the corner and had maybe 100 people in it. If I hadn’t known better I would have assumed it was the line for Bruce Springsteen tickets. When I go back I’ll have to try showing up around 7:30.

Herzfeld and Agriprocessors

Monday, August 18th, 2008 by Ari

Even in those neighborhoods made up predominantly of religious Jews, one can no longer talk of the “sanctity of Shabbat.” True, there are Jews in America who observe Shabbat… But it is not for Shabbat that my heart aches; it is for the forgotten “erev Shabbat” (eve of the Sabbath). There are Shabbat-observing Jews in America, but there are no “erev Shabbat” Jews who go out to greet Shabbat with beating hearts and pulsating souls. There are many who observe the precepts with their hands, with their feet, and/or with their mouths – but there are few indeed who truly know the meaning of the service of the heart!

- Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, On Repentance, pp. 97-98

 

On May 12 of this year, there was a raid by federal authorities on Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the US. The affidavit (parts 1, 2, and 3), contains a host of allegations, many of which are serious if true. Since I don’t know which ones will ultimately turn out to be factual, I will not delve into it in any depth, but rather focus on the response. There has been a varying level of outcry in different parts of the Jewish community, and a host of different responses from individuals and organizations. The one to gain the most attention was Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld when he published his Op-Ed Dark meat in the New York Times, and later appeared on NPR with Menachem Genack.

Herzfeld called for an independent commission to be set up to investigate Agriprocessors and make recommendations to “make sure the plant upholds basic standards of kashrut and worker and animal treatment — and that it is in full compliance with the laws of the United States.” While this sounds great (it would be nice if everyone in the world would uphold these sorts of standards), I don’t think his target is correct. I can’t see a bunch of rabbis launching a criminal investigation into whether or not employees were in fact illegal immigrants, getting testimony, evaluating ID cards for fakes, and figuring out what good processes are to put in place to ensure future compliance. There are entities which can do those things (for example, law enforcement can investigate, consulting firms can offer advice on proper business practices), but the RCA and the OU simply don’t have the expertise. (This is essentially what Genack said on NPR). After all, if the OU is supposed to be looking for immigration law violations, why not also look at OSHA regulations? Should they also audit the financial records to guard against Enron style bookkeeping? How about ensuring Sarbanes-Oxley compliance? In this case, the OU is doing the right thing by letting the experts do what they do best.

Now of course comes the flip side. As I indicated with my Soloveitchik quote at the top, we as Orthodox Jews are frequently mechanical in our performance of the commandments. Part of the reason can be attributed to the fact that we believe the Torah is the unaltered word of god and contains laws which cannot be ignored. I fulfill the religiously required laws with about the same spiritual enlightenment that I do when I follow American law by paying my taxes, registering for the draft, or obeying traffic lights. However, this can also be attributed to us focusing too much on the minute details of the law and forgetting our larger spiritual purpose. (Missing the forest for the trees if you will). We forget sometimes that while we’re measuring our walk-in closets to see if they’re larger than 36.9333 square feet (chazon ish’s shita) which would indicate we need to hang a piece of parchment with specific biblical passages on the doorways, is that we’re also supposed to uphold a higher moral and ethical imperative. When talking to people about  this issue, I’ve found both myself and others resorting back to the old line “regardless of the allegations, the food is kosher, that’s what’s important”. While it may be true that technically worker mistreatment does not make the food treif, that does not make worker abuse acceptable. (Rb. Herzfeld has actually done his own argument a disservice by confusing these two issues with his story about Yisroel Salanter). When we buy Agriprocessors food we may not be eating something trief, and we may not be violating the letter of any religious law, we are supporting a Jewish-owned and operated enterprise which has not shown itself to uphold high ethical standards.

Am I calling for a boycott of Agriprocessors? I don’t think so, if only because I know that if I did I’d probably also have to boycott 99% of the fresh produce in this country which is harvested by illegal immigrants. (Especially given what a lack of vegetables and fruit would do to my health). However, I know that we can’t ignore the ethical imperative by saying “well, the meat is kosher….”, and Rb Herzeld is, ironically, doing us all a favor by reminding us of our duty not just as exclusively-kosher-consumers, but as human beings and as Jews.

Seniors day at the olympics

Saturday, August 16th, 2008 by Ari

I just watched Constantina Tomescu win the women’s olympic marathon with a time of 2:26.44. For the record, that’s a time of 5 minutes and 36 seconds per mile, for 26 miles. I don’t think I can even do one mile that fast, let alone 26. Tomescu is also 38, making her one of the older Olympians to medal along with Dara Torres, the 41 year old American swimmer who just took a silver in the 50 freestyle to go with her silver from the relay last night. Torres has gained a lot of attention for her abs after posing for the SI swimsuit issue, but Tomescu is perhaps even more bizarre. Endurance athletes are notorious for not having any extra fat on their bodies, but Tomescu’s stomach is simply bizarre. The picture at the right is clearly not from this Olympics, but is the only one I could find online. On TV she looked almost grotesque. Right below her rib cage her stomach simply drops in to the point of being practically non-existent. If she had a lump on her kidney, her doctor could probably diagnose it from the outside. She claims to weight 105 pounds. I can’t help but wonder what she has to do to maintain that weight.

Olympics

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by Ari

I usually don’t care much about the summer olympics, but this year Rebecca has been watching so I’ve been unable to escape the clutches of NBC’s non-stop coverage of Michael Phelps. Although I can’t help but find myself rooting for Phelps and looking up his schedule online to make sure I don’t miss any of his races, watching this olympics has reminded me of why I don’t like the summer games. Since I don’t have anything other than the basic chanells, I’m stuck with NBC’s coverage, which as far as I can tell consist of:

  • Stupid human interest stories
  • Hype, speculation, innuendo, guess-work, more hype, predictions, analysis, interviews with everyone who has ever been within 10 feet of Michael Phelps, and more hype.
  • Swimming
  • Pre-adolescent girls writhing around on various device. (Seriously – am I the only one who feels like a pedophile if I even think about girls gymnastics?)
  • volleyball

There are way too many swimming events, and they’re all televised. There are hundreds of sports in the summer games, why is 80% of the actual sport coverage done from the water cube? Besides, let’s be honest, all the swimming races are really same same. Yes, I know, in some races they lie on their backs instead of their stomachs, or they move their arms outwards instead of around, and sometimes they go an extra lap, but it’s really all the same. Michael Phelps is not the “greatest olympian of all time”, he’s just lucky enough to be in a sport where they award 8 medals for winning instead of 1. If they gave out as many medals in tennis as they do in swimming Phelps wouldn’t even be in the top 10.

Colbert bump

Thursday, August 14th, 2008 by Ari

The Colbert bump is measurable. As any good engineer will tell you, that also means it’s real. (If it can’t be quantified, how do we know it really exists?)

His analysis finds that Democrats who appear on The Colbert Report enjoy a significant increase in the number and total amount of donations they receive over the next 30–40 days when compared to similar candidates who do not appear on the show. Specifically, Democrats who come on the program raise $8,247 more than colleagues who don’t do so on the 32nd day following their appearance—“a bump of roughly two-fifths over the normal rate of receipts.”

I wonder what Pelosi and Emanuel think now? (Probably the same thing they always did – admitting you were wrong is a sign of weakness in sports politics).