Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Oh yes, I’m done

Filed under : Judaism
On November 30, 2010
At 8:00 pm
Comments : 9

I came home to this today. Which is lucky, because I thought Hannukah was Thursday and it’s actually tomorrow. It might have been a mistake to assume that Google Calendar knows what “Erev” means. What, they put Christmas Eve on there!

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that if your present isn’t in one of these boxes, you’re probably not getting one. Happy holidays!

The Jerky Boys – Special Delivery

(If you know me, wink wink wink to you on this track. You’ll know even by the 30 second snippet.)


A good match

Filed under : Judaism,Royalty
On November 17, 2010
At 8:00 pm
Comments : 5

My parents visited England in 1981 just before the wedding of Charles and Diana, and as much as they always loved London (and Paris and Amsterdam and Zurich… my father had a lot of frequent flyer miles working for IBM), they especially got a kick out of being there for all the pre-event hoopla. They brought back several typical Royal Wedding souvenirs partially for the kitsch factor but also to remember a lovely trip, The one I remember most was a box of matches emblazoned with the standard portrait of the couple in an oval plus banner with the date of the wedding. And what I remember about it is that it lasted for years and years, even though we used matches every week to light the sabbath candles. That was my job, to set up the candles. I’d put the two big candlesticks in the middle of the dining room table, fill each cavity with just a bit of water to keep the melted candles from dripping down onto the tablecloth, and place the two white candles in. Occasionally… well, lots of times, if my mother was running late preparing for the sabbath, I’d light the candles for her and then she’d just have to say the blessing.

An aside about that. It’s a conundrum, saying the blessing over the candles before sabbath. In all of Judaism, you always say the blessing before doing the thing. The blessing for bread, then bread. The blessing for the wine, then the wine. But lighting candles involves starting a fire and you’re not allowed to do that on the sabbath. Once you say the blessing on the candles, the sabbath has started, and so then how are you supposed to light a fire? It’s like an Escher painting, when you try to think about it. So what you do is, you light the candles, then you cover your eyes so you can’t see them, and then you say the blessing, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the sabbath.” Then you uncover your eyes and suddenly, they’re lit. It’s like a miracle!

Anyway, since you can’t actually light the candles after sunset, sometimes I’d have to do that while my mother ran around (like a chicken with its head cut off, to use her expression) finishing cooking and cleaning and dressing, and then, just a bit late, she’d cover her eyes and say the blessing. But we almost never used the Charles & Di matches, even though they were on the top shelf of the cupboard. You’d use the red and blue safety matches, because, well, those didn’t symbolize a happy time in a country where everyone was excited. I wish the people in England a happy year of excitement and I wish William & Kate a happy marriage. May it last as long as the box of matches and then some.

The Doors – Light My Fire


Judging a book by its cover

Filed under : Judaism
On November 15, 2010
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 6

I am not a big reader… of books. You wouldn’t know this from my apartment where an entire wall is made up of bookshelves with actual books on them, but really, I mostly read the Internet. Blogs, forums, newspapers and magazines on the web, etc. I was a voracious reader of books as a child and teen and it took me a long time to realize that I am still that reader, I just read different things. I do have a Kindle, which I bought at a giant discount from an upgrading friend, but it’s mostly for articles in pdf format which I read for school. Lately, though, I’m reading a riveting book of actual fiction on the ereader. I don’t really want to tell you what it is, though. My friend K. is in publishing and starts a book chat thread on our forum now and then. At first I was excited to finally have a real book to mention! And then I decided not to.

The reason I don’t want to tell people about it has something to do with Elizabeth Smart. Not the book, the book has nothing to do with her. At least I don’t think it does but I’m only 83% done (Kindles are good with that percentage thing) so I can’t really be sure. But I doubt it. I have been reading a lot lately about Elizabeth Smart because the trial of her kidnapper is going on and she testified all last week. Also, because I’m a true-crime junkie and the Petit trial ended the week before. When you read about Elizabeth Smart, her ordeal, and “the defendant” as she called him in court, you probably think one of two things: 1. Mormons have weird practices! That guy thought God told him to kidnap this girl and make her his second wife and that he was some kind of prophet! or 2. Mormons have strong faith! I would never have been able to get through that with my psyche intact and she is so composed and impressive on the stand.

This bothers me, even as I sort of do it myself. This guy was a nutjob having nothing to do with religion. If he’d been born in a Hindu community, he’d be a Hindu nutjob, period. On the flip side, maybe she’s just a really strong person who came from a loving family. Somehow, because we (outside Utah, probably) don’t know a lot of LDS people, these two become some sort of representatives of all the faith offers and is.

Recently, I read about the rapper Shyne becoming an Orthodox Jew of the strictest variety. He says it’s because he previously lived a life without boundaries and so he likes all the strict rules. I’ve always wondered why people convert, other than to marry someone. See, I think the things you grow up with are really hard to shake. I just feel when you are raised to see certain things as essential truths, it becomes very difficult to view it another way. But maybe that’s just me. I bring this up because Elizabeth Smart is currently on her mission in Paris and only took a break to come home and testify. I see LDS missionaries in New York all the time. They look very neat in their long skirts or suits and conservative haircuts. Once, after my shift proctoring at the big Orthodox Jewish University, I sat across from two of them on the subway. They looked very, very tired, but still tidy, and they had name tags on. One of them sat a couple of empty seats away from a Latino woman reading a book in Spanish. She started a conversation with the woman, seemingly about the book. I say seemingly because the entire conversation was in Spanish. The Latino woman did not look put out at all and they seemed to have a really nice, friendly, long conversation, which only ended when the woman got off the train.

And this is what I sometimes think: maybe, at first, it’s about the results and not the tenets of the faith. I mean, I would like to be as self-possessed and dignified as Elizabeth Smart and as wholesome and dedicated as the missionaries. And I think that reflects very well on them. I think this is what every person of a minority faith hopes to do, whether they are LDS or Muslim or Jewish: to keep your attention away from the small percentage of freaks or radicals and make you understand that the heart of the faith lies elsewhere. Somehow, though, it’s always the extremists and the fringe beliefs that grab people’s attention and set their opinions.

I write about a lot of great aspects of Judaism here. There are some not so great things about Judaism, as well. I just don’t choose to highlight them. It’s not because I’m perpetrating some great charade, it’s because, well, the world is already full of lots of bad press for Judaism. This is to correct myself and say that I have actually talked about the book I mentioned up top quite a lot. But to other Jews. They already know about our warts and won’t say, “wow! What nutbars those people are! I can’t believe that they do those things or such things go on.” Instead, they say, “it’s natural to do x, y, and z” or for certain things, “man, are those people doing it wrong.” But if you aren’t familiar with the actual rules, it’s hard to understand that.

Beyond what foibles we actually do have, people have these weird beliefs about Judaism and I know that because they search for outrageous things about it which reach this blog. Sometimes I roll my eyes and sometimes I despair. The only thing to do, really, is to highlight the good in a public space like this one and be the best representative of the positive in your faith and people as you can be. Also, to be pretty and blonde, if you can, but we don’t all succeed at that. Second choice is to make good pastry.

So, in conclusion, this was an excellent book and I’m glad I could tell you all about it.

BTW, I don’t even have a category here for Books! I would never have predicted that when I was a teenager. And not just because they didn’t have blogs then.
Simple Minds – Book of Brilliant Things


All fired up

Filed under : Student Life
On November 12, 2010
At 1:45 am
Comments : 4

Yes, I’ve been too tired to write for over a week and all I have is this Seinfeldesque line: what’s the deal with fire drills? I suck. See, I really would like to tell you the nicknames I have in my head for all the people at my placement school and the famous people who attended it and the tours that go through every hour while the kids go on with their lessons, not even noticing or how I am dealing with the small portions they give you in the cafeteria and who I should sit with or how I am busy whittling down the many routes and transfers I could take to get there to which is the quickest, but I’d hate to give anything away until I’m done. You see, I have fallen a bit in love with the place and its staff. Maybe later.

But, anyway, it can’t just be me because I’ve worked at five or six different companies and institutions over my career and they helpfully e-mailed you in advance to send out the fire drill schedule. The 4th floor will be at 11am… the fifth floor will be at 12pm, and so forth. At my new job it’s by building (and fortunately, my building was an hour I wasn’t scheduled to be there). I almost forgot that it wasn’t always this way, that in school, you’d be sitting in class wishing Calgon would take you away when suddenly that alarm would go off and everyone would jump. But now I’m back! Back in the theater of my childhood, the K-12 school. Twice in one week this has happened. The first time, I was meeting with a teacher in an empty classroom when a light somewhere in my periphery started to blink and suddenly the teacher jumped up and said, “fire drill! I have to go get my kids.” And she ran out of the room. About three seconds later, the alarm went off. I just followed the herd out to a nearby park and contemplated the re-emergence of the surprise fire drill.

I wasn’t any better clued in the second time, when I was observing a class, and behind the teacher’s head a light began to blink and… you can guess the rest. A kid yelled out joyfully, “fire drill!,” the teacher groaned, and off we went to the park. Along the way, I heard one of the little kids say that immortal standard of fire drills to another child, “do you think it’s a real fire?” Adults never seem to say that. And you don’t get to go to the park, either. At the Record Company, we met in a central hallway where they checked to make sure the “searchers” were still employed there. That’s always a risk in the music business.

But, well, now I have it down. I know all the escape routes to the park and how the blinking light is the first tell-tale sign. Because, let’s face it, if a fire breaks out at my “real” job’s workplace (you know, the one where they pay me), I’ll probably think, “but I didn’t get an e-mail!” Then I’ll e-mail someone and ask them if they think it’s a real fire. Somehow, I think the preparation with the element of surprise and the moving to the exits in an orderly fashion is probably a wee bit more conducive to your chances of survival. But what do I know? I can’t even figure out where to sit at lunch.

Interpol – All Fired Up


Cement mixer

Filed under : Gadgets,Meta/Blognews,Student Life
On November 2, 2010
At 12:15 am
Comments : 8

A few housekeeping items, both personally and bloggily. First, bittersweetly, I am putting my bake shop on hiatus for the moment. Although I can’t see opening it back up again, I also don’t want to take the site down and “closed” is such an ugly word, so let’s stick with hiatus. Right now, I can barely keep my head above water with a job, fieldwork, an off-site project, classes, three standardized exams, and the thesis. I remember eight hours of sleep fondly… those were good times! So there isn’t really room on the schedule to also be baking. It worked great last year when I had a ten hour a week job (mostly from home) and classes which began at 4pm. Now, unless I eliminate sleep entirely (really, it’s a possibility anyway), there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Still, if there is a particular need for rugelach and you give me enough notice, I may be able to work it in occasionally, just let me know. Hopefully, you’ll be able to anticipate your pastry needs several weeks in advance. Thanks to everyone for making it such a successful baking year! I kept a careful spreadsheet (duh) and I cleared quite a bit all in spare hours between readings, so it worked out beyond my greatest hopes. You all rock!

Secondly, about that whole thesis. Originally, when I was studying how we live on the Internet in general, it was a fabulous excuse to do an ethnographic study on an online forum of which I have been a longtime member. Now that I have switched up my program a bit to be more education-minded, it’s no longer a good fit for the work I’m doing. Instead, I am pondering (with the help of my advisor) a study of iPads in the classroom. Since I’ve been assigned to work on that project for and by my placement school anyway, and I love gadgets, that also seems an attractive option for me. But either way, it means I will not be doing the online community study. Don’t cry! I did complete a project for a class last year on that site and it was fairly extensive and turned out beautifully. In fact, I kid you not, people have stopped me in the hallway to say they saw it and loved it. I am considering getting it published somewhere but, well, we’ll see how that goes. The professor who originally suggested that to me is extremely busy and there’s only so much prodding I can do. So whether you will see it or not remains an open question. Still, I was able to get the desire to analyze this community out of my system and in a way, it’s a relief. Now I can just be a participant without worrying about tainting my data.

And, lastly, on the iPad tip, now that I have my loaner, I was able to test this site’s mobile theme on it and it works fine. It’s not exactly optimized for the device, but the plugin authors say they are working on that for the next version so hopefully it will have more bells and whistles, and maybe even more extensive excerpts of each post on the home page, which is my biggest complaint. Because seriously, my opening lines seem to have not much to do with the actual posts and it makes things appear kind of comical. Sort of like those songs which have titles seemingly plucked out of the ether. Bizarre Love Triangle? Does that song have anything to do with a bizarre love triangle? Sex Type Thing? What is that, even? Man, that should have been my opening line.

Anyway, my posts are like a journey, a journey to a faraway place… in the middle seat of coach. And like that journey, they start with confusion and boredom and end with exhaustion and nausea. But should you be bored waiting on that long, long line to vote today, grab your iPad and give it a whirl. I am at least as entertaining as the ass of the person in front of you.

Anyway, title comes from nowhere – that’s the joke! Oh, I slay me.

INXS – Not Enough Time