What Actor/Actress Would Play you in a Movie?

I am not sure who I would want to be me, I really have to think about it some more. But even more important to me is the question of whether I would want a movie made about me. Would I want to see someone pretend to live my life. Would it be gratifying or painful? It might be nice to relive some of the victories, but it could be painful to witness some of the more painful events.

Some stones are better left unturned, I wonder.............

So I Found Some Time

Kids are being put to bed for the rest of the night and I have already said my goodbyes for the evening so I am able to sneak in some time to write. It is quiet here, I have soft music playing in the background and I am just wandering through space and time. At least that is how it feels.

It is Shabbos and there are those fellow MOTs who would frown upon my blogging now, but to me it seems appropriate. I am creating my own moment in time to reflect upon the week, the things that I have seen and done and the places I have been to. And judging that another year is going to be rolling in it seems appropriate to consider my place in life.

I can see multiple paths in front of me, some of them beckon quite strongly, they urge me to follow them and see where they lead. Others are not quite so siren like, but still the curiosity of where they lead makes them interesting and others are not interesting to me in the slightest.

I have always had a fair amount of wanderlust so it is easy for me to feel like I need to get up and run. Sometimes I can see myself as the guy Springsteen wrote about in Hungry Heart. Ok, not really, I couldn't just walk out and I wouldn't, but there is a part of me that finds it somewhat romantic.

Every now and then I wonder if I sold everything I had, could I travel the world, just drift from place to place, odd job to odd job. Sometimes I think that I could do that, I could be that guy you see with the weathered face and untold stories of a million places and people.

Sometimes I wonder about whether I am anywhere close to being the man I could be, let alone the man I should be. Am I using myself to my full potential or just treading water. There are still so many things about myself to learn and here I am the father of two children. I don't know what the hell I am doing and here I am passing myself off as someone's father. It is kind of funny. I cannot imagine not being a father and I am confident that I am doing alright, but sometimes it is just crazy to me.

I sit and wonder if they made a movie about me and my life, who would I want to play me. Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson or Adam Sandler. Certainly not Ben Affleck or Matt Damon. It couldn't be Deniro, Pesce or Brando. Olivier is dead, but then again so is Brando.

Maybe Bill Murray, but then again that wouldn't be quite right. Tom Cruise couldn't come close, neither could John Malkovich. Maybe John Cusack or I don't know who.

Why does it matter, they are not going to be casting for this role for a long while. How about a new post about this.

Happy New Year and Good Shabbos

Just in case I run out of time to say it later, here is a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you.

HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR HAPPY NEW YEAR

O'Reilly's Smoke Machine is Still Churning

Today DovBear engaged in his own Fisking of Bill O'Reilly's current column called "War Party." Dated December 30th it is clear that old Bill was short on substance and long on straw men arguments. I already dinged him in this post and in this post.

We covered many if not all of the issues Bill writes about in the existing column, I agree with him on a few points regarding Iraq and the problems with UN. But beyond that Billy Boy and I just don't see eye to eye on the culture war he writes about.

Specifically we spelled out how Tocqueville's position on the Tyranny of the Majority which Bill apparently has never read. And we discussed the real questions and concerns people have about public displays of religion.

I timed myself and it has taken me about 7 minutes to type this out and I haven't bothered to try and edit it. In short I suspect that with this incredible ability and a desire to shout over those who disagree with me I could be a second rate talk show host because surely Bill didn't spend any longer than I have writing his column.

And I am certainly willing to bet that he didn't try and do it while assembling a lego village with one hand and entertaining an infant with the other. And in case you are wondering, I do have more than 2 hands, but that is a post for a later date.

Christian Science Monitor Divestment Poll

Folks it is another one of those ever so scientific polls regarding divestment from Israel as a tool to try and affect political change. In a separate post I may discuss the reasons why this is a bad idea, but I don't have time to do so now.

In the meantime I encourage you to vote no.

On the Outside Looking In

It is a good description of how I have spent large portions of my life. I have always felt like I am a little bit different from other people. I think very quickly and make a lot of comments about things, comments that I think are funny. Yet, moments after I express myself an awkward silence descends over the room accompanied by strained smiles.

Most of the time it doesnt bother me, I kind of enjoy being out in left field. I wear it like a badge of courage. When I play Hearts I shoot for the moon. I gamble and just kind of do my own thing.

I would be less than honest if I said that sometimes it can be a drag. Sometimes I grow tired of standing at the doorway looking at a party that I was not invited to. Nonetheless this feeling does not persist and I always shake it off. I enjoy being by myself, I am comfortable with it.

However it occurs to me that not everyone can do this and that some people need to be part of the group and their alienation is what sets them off on self-destructive paths. I do feel badly about this and wonder if there is anything I can do to help smooth the road for them. From time to time I have tried to help them see. I have tried to help them see the social cues that they miss so that they can be a part of the group. I have tried to help them understand when people are laughing at them versus laughing with them.

The problem is that to do this you have to be aware these things in relation to yourself and sometimes I feel like I am missing the clues too. It is a little frustrating for me because I usually feel like I have a good feeling for judging people's character, but maybe I don't.

On the other hand I have heard people say countless times that they are an excellent judge of character only to see them totally misunderstand who a person is.

So the lesson that I learned here is that I am like everyone else, I am human.


Today's Quotes

"Never go against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line"

"
It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."

"I do have a test today, that wasn't bullsh**. It's on European Socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So, who gives a crap if they're Socialists? They could be fascist anarchists, it still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car."

One More Thing

A short while ago I received another question about what this blog is supposed to be. The reader wanted to know if it was political, personal or something else. My response is that you should always read the title of whatever you are reading. Sometimes the title doesn't correlate with what you are reading, but in this case it does.

These posts are all random thoughts that I choose to share with you. Some may be political, some may be personal, but they are all random thoughts from my mind, in spite of the clutter it still works.

Some Thoughts About Anonymity and Blogging

My blog can be described as an open secret, I don't spend time advertising it to friends and family, but many know about it. I write about anything and everything and try not to censor myself. If the thoughts are in my head they are fair game for expression here.

Yet, there are some things that I do not discuss here. It would be fair to characterize me as someone with secrets. Yes, I can and do have a big mouth, but I know how to keep a secret and I do it well.

But typically the things that are not discussed here are of such a personal nature that they hurt me. I am not afraid to think about things/experiences/places/people that hurt me before or may even still hurt me, but I am not always comfortable nor able to share these experiences with all of you.

In large part because of the people that know I am. It may seem kind of strange that people I consider myself close to are unaware of these things, but I think that everyone needs to have a piece of themselves that belongs solely to themselves. One of my ex-girlfriends said that I carry a sadness about myself that she didn't understand.

I go back and forth on whether I agree with that, but I suspect that what she felt was that part of me that is closed off to the outside world. The more progressive men here will understand how that can make women crazy. If you are in a relationship and you shut part of yourself off or keep it tucked away you can expect a problem.

Returning to the topic of the post, I truly forget sometimes that there are people who know me. The anonymity of typing behind a keyboard makes it easy to pull out the wool from ears, to uncork the memory banks and spew out some words about my thoughts and feelings.

In short, I am just a big contradiction.

A Sequel to the Tears that Do not Fall

A short time ago I wrote about the problem I have with crying.
That post touched off a lot of comments both online and off. I am grateful for the support and the words of wisdom that people passed along. They mean a lot to me, they really do. I appreciated the general interest in my welfare.

One of the things that I find so interesting about blogging is how people can read a person's blog and begin to feel like they really know them well. From time to time I have heard actors complain that their fans think that in "real life" they are exactly like the character they portray on television.

I am honest, brutally honest in my posts, but I still wonder how many people think that they know me and how many really do. I wonder if the image that you have is close to reality. My own self-image is not quite reality.

When I think of myself I see the body that I used to have. I was very disciplined about working out, I had a stomach that was carved up and could curl 150 pounds and had a maximum bench press of more than 300 pounds. I can't lift that much weight in either category. I can still put up quite a bit, but nothing compared to what I used to.

Of course all I have to do is look in the mirror and I can see that I am not who I used to be. I look different, there are some creases in my forehead, a little more padding here and there and the hair on my head is taking a permanent vacation. So my mental image of myself is not accurate.

But I think that from a mental/emotional point of view my image of myself is accurate. So what does this have to do with being able to cry? In truth, I am not really sure, but it just feels like it is tied in.

If I had to make a guess I would say that there exists a certain amount of frustration with aging, with my lack of discipline about some things and certainly some frustration about a few things in life that I wish that I could change.

I suppose that if I could turn on the waterworks this frustration would still exist, but it's strenth would be diminished, like a storm that expended it's strength at sea my frustration would still be there, but the fury with which it attacks would be lessened.

What this all comes back to is a question of control. I don't want to cry because I am afraid of losing control, at least that is what I think is at the heart of this. I stopped crying because of how hard I cried and now I think that what lies beneath is the same fear I had, just buried.

Now if you want to know when I am sad you need to know me very well or be a mind reader. Ok, this post is not flowing so well so I think that I will start a new one.

Back From Legoland

I woke up at 5:45 AM so that I would have some time to do a few things prior to leaving for Legoland. We left at 9:45 and arrived there a little before noon. I looked for a lego bed, but they did not have one, so we had to leave the park. Unfortunately we did not leave Legoland until 8:30 P.M.

We drove straight through and managed to get home about 10:30 or so, it was a very long day. I am overtired and not quite able to sleep. It was a ton of fun. The hardest part was telling my son that he was too short to go on some of the rides, he was so disappointed.

But overall it was an excellent trip and we all had a very good time.

A Dreaming Soul





You Are a Dreaming Soul





Your vivid emotions and imagination takes you awy from this world
So much so that you tend to live in your head most of the time
You have great dreams and ambitions that could be the envy of all...
But for you, following through with your dreams is a bit difficult

You are charming, endearing, and people tend to love you.
Forgiving and tolerant, you see the world through rose colored glasses.
Underneath it all, you have a ton of passion that you hide from others.
Always hopeful, you tend to expect positive outcomes in your life.

Souls you are most compatible with: Newborn Soul, Prophet Soul, and Traveler Soul



Some of this is accurate, but like most of these quizzes it is a little hit and miss.

Scuba Diving Through Disaster

"(CNN) -- An American woman who was scuba diving with her husband in Thailand as one of Sunday's tsunamis roared overhead said she was oblivious to the disaster until after they surfaced, her mother told CNN on Tuesday."

It must have felt like they were in some type of science fiction movie. When you go down everything is fine and then you resurface to see all hell has broken loose.

Slow Blogging Today

Just a quick driveby as the family prepares for Legoland. I may try to post an audioblog or two from the road, who knows.

Jack The Matchmaker- My Own Dating Service

When I was a newlywed I had quite a number of friends who were still single, both male and female. I was 27 and still enjoyed nights out with the boys. There were a number of nights in which we closed down the establishments we were hanging out at.

The advantage to going out with the guys that way was that I had no interest in trying to meet anyone. There was no pressure of trying to find a way to introduce myself to a woman. I didn't have to worry about pickup lines being viewed as stupid, lame, awkward or silly. I didn't have to try and pretend to be anyone or anything other than simple old Jack.

The beauty of this was that when the boys would point out their interest in one of the ladies I could walk right up and say anything to her. And I do mean anything because there is almost nothing that I won't say. I can be downright fearless.

Often I would walk up to the woman and the two or three friends she was with and just start talking. Sometimes I would begin by telling her that my friend in the blue shirt thought that she was incredibly beautiful and that he was too shy to introduce himself. Normally she would thank me for the compliment and she would ask a few questions about him.

This led to numerous dates for my buddies. Had I not been married I could have done pretty well for myself because more often than not one of the other girls would strike up a conversation with me.

What surprised me about this was that some of them would look at my wedding band and practically throw themselves at me. It made me wonder if I looked more attractive because I was off limits or if there was something else going on. And every now and then one of them would try and lecture me about how it was wrong for me to talk to single women as a married man. I had a lot of responding to those comments. Give me an opening for some silly banter and I'll be happy to oblige you.

There are some good stories that I could share, but I think that some people might try to break my arms if I shared them, so I'll have to see what I can offer. In the meantime, here is a short story about a silly trick that the boys and I used when I was single.

There were times when we would approach a group of women and ask them if they would help us solve a bet, win a competition or some such variant. Usually it was presented as "my friends and I have a bet about which one of you is the best kisser and I wondered if I could kiss you and find out."

Cheesy, horrific, terrible line, but it worked like a charm. It was amazing how many times the girls would agree to this. But again, those stories are probably best left untold.

Legoland

Tomorrow we are taking my son to Legoland for his birthday. It is about 100 miles or so from my house, so I am preparing myself for an extended trip in the car.

Theoretically it shouldn't be a horrible commute, but you never know what can happen. There could be rain, traffic accidents, or other needs that require additional stops on the road.

I am kind of looking forward to it as it should be a lot of fun.

Tsunami Kills Few Animals in Sri Lanka

"YALA NATIONAL PARK, Sri Lanka - Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka expressed surprise Wednesday that they found no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the tsunamis — indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in an air force helicopter saw abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, deer, and not a single animal corpse.

Floodwaters from Sunday's tsunami swept into the park, uprooting trees and toppling cars onto their roofs — one red car even ended up on top of a huge tree — but the animals apparently were not harmed and may have sought out high ground, said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whose Jetwing Eco Holidays ran a hotel in the park."

Interesting stuff.

Palestinian and Israeli couples weather disaster together on roof of truck

Is peace possible, read the story below and consider.........

"The tsunamis that devastated parts of Southeast Asia brought an Israeli and a Palestinian couple together in the most trying of circumstances, the Israelis said Tuesday – on the roof of a truck, with flood waters swirling around them.

Yossi and Inbar Gross said they were spending their honeymoon in the Thai resort of Phuket when the area was overwhelmed by a wall of water.

"We and this Palestinian couple jumped on the roof of this Ford van," Yossi Gross told Army Radio. "Below us was a raging river, a sea that washed up into the city and dragged everything along with it. Everything was wrecked, everything was ruined."

Though Israel and the Palestinians are locked in a violent four-year conflict, the emergency pushed all that aside.

Gross said they stayed with the Palestinian couple on the van's roof for more than four hours before they were able to climb down. He did not give their names.

After they made their way to a makeshift shelter, the Palestinians gave the Grosses money and assistance that enabled them to get to Bangkok and board a flight for Israel, Gross said.
"I have to tell you, if there's someone I have to thank, quite simply they're the people who got us out of there," he said. "All of our money, our passports, they were left in the hotel... without them we couldn't have gotten out."

Inbar Gross said their debt to the Palestinians is incalculable.

"Maybe we owe them our lives," she said.

Her husband said he and the Palestinians exchanged phone numbers and intend to keep in close touch.

"Friends?" he said. "Of course we are. Absolutely."

Toys that Make Noise

This post is going to make me sound really old, but I have grown to hate toys that make noise. When I was a child we didn't have toys that relied on battery power, we were the batteries. We made the noises with our mouths, our hands and our feet.

It didn't beep, or sing or scream. The only shrieking you heard was your little brother/sister when you wouldn't let them play with it. The only bonk it made was the one that was created when you grew tired of your little brother/sister and dropped the toy on their head.

This was followed by the smack you felt from your mother because of the bonk you created when you hit your little brother/sister.

I am supposed to be on a short vacation now and the freaking toys my son is playing with is making me consider running to the office. I cannot take this anymore. Soon I will introduce him to firecrackers so that I can blow the toys up. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH.

Surfing the Tsunami- An Amazing Story

I read an amazing account of how one couple survived the tsunami in Sri Lanka. Here is a little tease for you to read below:

"We are ok physically. I am pretty traumatised though. When the tidal wave hit, we were having our last surf lesson and so were in the water when everything first happened. A lot happened, I've just written it all down today as a way of dealing with it because I am still very upset and scared. Basically we rode out the first huge wave on our boards and stayed above the water/wave while everyone else was being swept away and everything was being destroyed. Then the water pulled back out of the bay we were in and we barely managed to avoid being swept out to sea with the current. We landed on the beach after the first surge, but couldn't go ashore because another wave was coming, our surf instructor told us that it was a matter of life and death that we stay away from the shore so we started heading back towards the water before it surged back in. We really didn't know what to do. Unfortunately we had to cross some flood waters as they ran back from the inland to the sea - it was filled with mud, sand and debris. We were still attached to our surf boards and I was swept under the mud by my board in the middle of the river. I have to say that I did almost drown -"

All I can say is wow. Read the full account here.

Sri Lanka- Why Would They Refuse Aid

I am just amazed and astounded that at such a time as this the Sri Lankans would refuse any sort of offer of assistance.

If ever there is a time to set aside politics and just work on saving lives now is the time.

Shul is to be endured

This is going to be one of those posts that has the potential to go right over the head of many of the readers, but I suspect that there will be a sizeable number who can appreciate it regardless of their religious affiliation.

Within Judaism there are a number of different denominations and there is a mixture of rivalry and brotherhood between them. Dependent upon where you fall you may look at members of other denominations as being heathens or fanatics, at least that always seems to be the course of discussion.

I happen to be one of those people who is kind of stuck in the middle. I have friends who are as reform as you can be and others who are the frumiest of the frum. Ok, maybe not that frum, but they certainly are not limited to BTs, I can count a number of FFBs among them. On top of that in my neighborhood it is almost a requirement to have smicha. Which is actually pretty nice because I can do as much or as little learning as I want to.

It can feel a little bit like being a swing voter, everyone wants me to agree with them, or so it sometimes feels.

One of the conversations that I have with my more observant friends, those who might call themselves Torah True is that there are many members of the conservative and even reform groups who could become more observant and potentially find themselves on the derech. But I am always bothered a little by comments like the one I just made. If you are not at least MO some of these people think that it is appropriate to refer to you as trying to hit the derech, as if you couldn't possibly be on it already. It is snobbery and it is a problem.

It is horrible kiruv and certainly not inviting.

As it always does the conversation turns into specifics about what to do to improve things. I always have a standard answer which is, you have to change their attitudes so that they no longer view davening and attending shul as something that has to be endured.

If you can do that you can and will find that more people are interested in learning more and incorporating more components of Judaism into their lives.

It is really a sad statement. "Shul is something that has to be endured." I am guilty of thinking and saying it too. Until we find more ways to change this mentality we will find less interest from fellow MOTs and it will continue to be a challenge to bring in more BTs.

Just some more of my random thoughts.

Death, Tsunamis, Depression and More

I have spent the last few moments of time surfing the net, hopping from blog to blog, article to article, post to post. It feels a little bit like I have just crossed a raging river by leaping from wobbly stone to protruding stump to stone, to branch and then somehow find myself on the far side panting and exhausted.

Stories about the sea that ate entire families, devoured villages and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of untold thousands are swimming in my head. More than 55,000 dead, a number that will most assuredly grow as rescuers fail to reach some survivors in time and disease swallows others.

It seems like a short time ago I was shaking with anger as I read about the children who were murdered in Beslan and the decisions that some parents were forced to make.

And now I am trying to process mother nature's actions. Nature does not fight because of oil. Nature did not kill children because of a fight over land, but in some ways it is just as senseless and incomprehensible. How do you reconcile the deaths of so many. How do you maintain faith in G-d and especially if you lost someone important, someone special, someone dear, how do you accept this.

I don't have any profound insight or answers, but I have what I consider to be a lot of experience with death, especially the death of friends. The one thing that I have learned from all of this is that it is not hokey nor cliche to say that life is for living and that we need to live it now. Tonight I'll hug my children and whisper a silent prayer of thanks for what I have.

As I have recently blogged my son and I have been discussing death and his fears about his parent's mortality, his own and other loved ones. I think that some of the questions are rooted in concerns about who will take care of him if something happens to us. I have done my best to reassure him, but I am not so sure he is convinced.

In part I think that this is because of the recent events. In spite of our best efforts to minimize his exposure, there are pictures on the front page of the newspaper, radio/television news coverage and more. The most likely culprit is the one that I have the least control over, this is just the topic of conversation everywhere we go. I cannot stop people from talking about this and the little sponge absorbs everything around him.

So we'll keep speaking about this and I'll do my best to reassure him. It is a little frustrating because for now I would like him to continue to believe that abba is superman. He should have a little time in which he can have implicit faith that his parents will protect him from harm. Just time to be a kid, that is all I really want to see.

And for me, well as I mentioned before this puts my life in perspective. It is another message that my problems are relatively minor and that I can be thankful for what I have. I am not always great about remembering this, but I try.

U.S. Accuses Syria of Helping Insurgents

"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration accused Syria on Tuesday of helping insurgents in Iraq (news - web sites) by giving haven to elements of the deposed Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) regime.

"And it is a problem that we think Syria needs to act to stop," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is likely to discuss the U.S. complaint when he stops in Damascus on a trip that will take him also to Turkey and Jordan.

Details of Armitage's travels were withheld, except that he would leave Washington later in the week, go to the three countries and return sometime next week.

Syria has shrugged off U.S. complaints, saying it was being made a scapegoat for U.S. failure to stop the uprising in Iraq.

Reports circulated in Damascus, meanwhile, that key support for the insurgents in Iraq was coming from a half brother of Saddam Hussein and Baath Party leaders in the Syrian capital."

Bashar is playing a dangerous game.


Surfing in Secret

This is worth reading.

Powell Says that Insurgency in Iraq 'will not end'

"WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) said that the insurgency in Iraq (news - web sites) "will not end," as insurgents are determined to derail the country's democratic transition.

Powell reiterated that Iraq's January 30 elections will take place as scheduled and that the US and Iraqi forces are working to have security in place for the polls.

But, he told CBS television, "the insurgency will not end."

"These insurgents are determined to have no representative government. They want to go back to a tyranny," Powell said.

And so the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can," he added."

There are numerous questions here, we can all be armchair quarterbacks, but I sometimes wonder if we have been too soft. I expect that many of you will be alarmed at this comment and consider it to be barbaric, but war is barbaric.

One could argue that the way to bring peace is to bring the hammer down so hard that people submit so that the violence will end. There are some real challenges and pitfalls with this approach, but since this is a basic hit-and-run post I will not address them right now.

Campus club seeks right to exclude gays

"A legal confrontation is playing out here as a student organization seeks official recognition and money from a state-run university even though the students plan to exclude non-Christians and gays.

A group of Christian students at Arizona State University's law school formed a chapter of the Christian Legal Society, a national organization that unites Christian lawyers and law students for fellowship, mutual legal support, meetings and Bible readings.

After the university refused to recognize the group, the society's national headquarters in Washington, D.C., drafted a lawsuit challenging the university over its anti-discrimination policies, a move that echoes similar and sometimes successful efforts across the country.

In the lawsuit, the society argues that the members at Arizona State have a constitutionally protected right to organize and receive university recognition under the 1st and 14th Amendments."

As long as they do not receive public funding or support they can do what they want, even if we find it to be reprehensible, stupid and foolish.


Scientists in USA saw tsunami coming

"Minutes after a massive earthquake rocked the Indian Ocean on Sunday, international ocean monitors knew that a tsunami would likely follow. But they didn't know whom to tell."

How frustrating. When the final tally appears I'll wager that well over 50,000 people will have died as a result of this.

"
In fact, the detector buoys that monitor tsunami surges have been available for decades. They record water heights and send measurements throughout the Pacific network. False alarms are a concern, slowing the speed with which bulletins can be released. A 1986 false alarm in Hawaii cost more than $30 million in evacuation costs.

LaDouce notes that warnings are of little use without evacuation plans, given how quickly a tsunami can travel. Tsunami waves struck Sumatra minutes after the quake and hit Thailand within an hour.

"Even if you give the tourist resorts in Thailand a half-hour's notice, it is no easy matter to evacuate vast swaths of coastland," he says. "You have to plan and train people. And then do it all over again."

And there is the rub, the technology is available, but there are not endless resources that can be used to try and save lives. It is hard to balance this, but they need to come up with something. Generations have been wiped out.

Tip Jars- I don't like them

Tip Jars make me uncomfortable. I feel self-conscious around them and I don't like being showy with my tips or feeling like I have to tip. I am a big fan of tipping well and try to do so, but sometimes there are situations in which I do not feel a tip is necessary.

When I order takeout food I do not expect to tip because I haven't paid for any special service. No one has waited upon me, other than the two minutes it takes me to pay the person at the cash register. Maybe it is just me, but I often feel like there is this unspoken push, like they are trying to use the jedi-mind trick on me to encourage me to tip.

But the standard takeout meal is not really where this problem lies. It is more of a Starbucks/Ice Cream store issue. I order my overpriced Latte, pay almost four bucks for it and then am expected to leave something more.

I have friends who routinely leave the change, but I feel cheap and stupid leaving seventeen cents and since I have already paid a premium for the food item I don't like throwing in another dollar.

But a guilty conscience impacts me too as I consider that some of the employees of the establishment are relying upon tips as a way to help support their families and here I am engaging in this decadent behavior.

So I wrestle with my conscience and my hunger.

A funny email about anger management

This is a little off-color, but I thought that it was worth posting again. It just makes me laugh.

ANGER MANAGEMENT When you occasionally have a really bad day, and you just need to take it out on someone, don't take it out on someone you know, take it out on someone you don't know.
It all started one day when I was sitting at my desk and remembered a phone call I had forgotten to make. I found the number and dialed it.

A man answered, saying, "Hello." I politely said, "This is Chris. May I please speak with Robin Carter?"

Suddenly, the phone was slammed down on me. I couldn't believe that anyone could be so rude.

I tracked down Robin's correct number and called her. I had transposed the last two digits of her phone number. After hanging up with her, I decided to call the 'wrong' number again.

When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled, "You're an asshole!" and hung up. I wrote his number down with the word 'asshole' next to it, and put it in my desk drawer.

Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills or had a really bad day, I'd call him up and yell, "You're an asshole!" It always cheered me up.

When Caller ID came to our area, I thought my therapeutic 'asshole' calling would have to stop. So, I called his number and said: "Hi, this is John Smith from the Telephone Company. I'm just calling to see if you're interested in the Caller ID program?" He yelled "NO!" and slammed the phone down.

I quickly called him back and said, "That's because you're an asshole!"

One day I was at the store, getting ready to pull into a parking spot. Some guy in a black BMW cut me off and pulled into the spot I had patiently waited for. I hit the horn and yelled that I had been waiting for the spot. The idiot ignored me. I noticed a "For Sale" sign in his car window, so I wrote down his number.

A couple of days later, right after calling the first asshole (I had his number on speed dial), I thought I had better call the BMW asshole, too.

I said, "Is this the man with the black BMW for sale?"
"Yes, it is." "Can you tell me where I can see it?"
"Yes, I live at 1802 West 34th Street. It's a yellow house, and the car's parked right out in front."
"What's your name?" "My name is Don Burgemeyer," he said.

"When's a good time to catch you, Don?"

"I'm home every evening after five."

"Listen, Don, can I tell you something?"

"Yes?" "Don, you're an asshole."

Then I hung up, and added his number to my speed dial, too.

Now, when I had a problem, I had two assholes to call. But after several months of calling them, it wasn't as enjoyable as it used to be.

So, I came up with an idea. I called Asshole #1.

"Hello."
"You're an asshole!" (But I didn't hang up.)

"Are you still there?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Stop calling me," he screamed.

"Make me," I screamed back.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"My name is Don Burgemeyer."

"Yeah? Where do you live?"

"I live at 1802 West 34th Street, ASSHOLE!

It's a yellow house, with my black beemer parked in front."

He said, "I'm coming over there right now, Don. And you had better start saying your prayers."

I said, "Yeah, like I'm really scared, asshole."

Then I called Asshole #2.

"Hello?" he said. "Hello, asshole," I said...again, without hanging up.

He yelled, "If I ever find out who you are!"

"Yeah, you'll what?" I said. "I'll kick your ass," he exclaimed.

I answered, Well, asshole, here's your chance. I'm coming over right now."

Then I hung up and immediately called the police, saying that I lived at 1802 West 34th Street, and that I was on my way home to kill my gay lover.

Then I called Channel 9 News to let them know about the war going down on West 34th Street.

I quickly got into my car and headed over to 34th street.

There I saw two assholes beating the crap out of each other in front of six squad cars, a police helicopter, and a news crew.

NOW, I feel better.

Anger management really works!!!

A Wriggly Worm Wriggling in your Behind

" Scientists are developing a new way of carrying out internal examinations on patients - based on a wriggling worm.

In an endoscopy, a long flexible tube is fed into the body. It can be very uncomfortable.

But a team from the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, found the ragworm, which lives in seashores, could offer a model for a more comfortable test.

They say their device would be able to "pull" itself along, rather than having to be forced into the body.

The team have developed a prototype device, named the Bioloch Ist, which imitates the undulating motion of the ragworm, also known as the paddleworm."

This is interesting, but it still bothers me a little.

DovBear

Uber Blogger DovBear is racking up the blogroll links and quickly making the shack look woefully inadequate. Maybe I need to create my own alterego, AriLion. Ok, maybe not.

Earthquake, Tsunami- Children Pay the Price

According to this New York Times article one third of the people killed as a result of the earthquake/tsunamis were children. It is incomprehensible to me how so many people could be wiped out in a matter of moments, but it is so much worse to read about children.

Although I am not sure if it is any consolation, but how can you yell at the Earth. Nature is not given to acting maliciously because of a desire for oil, gems, or wealth of any sort. Nature acts and we are forced to deal with it.

As hard it must be, I would think that this is better than random acts of violence, but than again there is nothing that can really help explain the loss of a child.

Everyone Wants a Yasser

"GAZA (Reuters) - Fighters in the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) are proud to show off the latest addition to their arsenal of homemade rockets -- the "Yasser Arafat (news - web sites)."

Designed to fly farther and strike harder than other makeshift missiles, it is also a powerful symbol of an arms race that defies hopes that Arafat's death last month could be a catalyst for peace.

"Al-Yasser rockets show our love and admiration for our historical leader and symbol of our fight against occupation," said Abu Qusai, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades."

If they work as well as he did it will be just dumb luck if they kill anyone. What a sad legacy.


Perspective

As evidenced by my blog, I am amazed by the earthquake, tsunamis and the loss of life. It is not just one country, but many. The number of people/families/countries/places that are going to be impacted by this is incredibly vast.

And while I feel badly for them, I have to admit that my focus is elsewhere. My paternal grandfather turned 90 this past October. In a couple of hours he is going to be checked into the hospital because he is having some health issues. It is not entirely clear as to what is causing these problems, so he is going to be chowing down on hospital fare.

So my point about perspective is that while I feel badly for those other families, right now I am most concerned about my grandfather and his well-being.

What hits you closest to home is generally what impacts you the most. Nothing profound, just my thoughts on the matter.

New Year's Resolutions

"I don't like them, as a matter of fact I tend to seriously dislike them. The word hate comes to mind. They are representative of things that I am not doing well at and why would I want to be reminded of my failures," thus sayeth the dude in the elevator.

And it caused me to think and consider the words that were spoken by the dude in the elevator. I strove to come to the place he had arrived at and sojourned there for a fortnight. Verily I considered these words as being a testament to negativity and thus I came back with my own insight.

"A bird in the hand may be worth two in the bush, but a good cigar is a smoke." His face scrunched up as he pondered my words. He proclaimed me a master of non-sequiturs and I happily agreed. For no other reason than his negativity was stifling and I couldn't be around it.

I don't make resolutions for the same reasons I despise terms like the "holiday spirit" that suggest that there is only one time a year for introspection, personal growth and change. I work on an "as needed" basis. It is far more flexible and a much more reasonable way to live.


Tidal Wave Began Beneath Indian Ocean

"LONDON - The chain reaction that sent enormous, deadly tidal waves crashing into the coasts of Asia and Africa on Sunday started more than six miles beneath the ocean floor off the tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Geologic plates pressing against each other slipped violently, creating a bulge on the sea bottom that could be as high as 10 yards and hundreds of miles long, one scientist said.

"It's just like moving an enormous paddle at the bottom of the sea," said David Booth, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey. "A big column of water has moved, we're talking about billions of tons. This is an enormous disturbance."

Moving at about 500 mph, the waves took more than two hours to reach Sri Lanka, where the human toll has been horrific, and longer to spread to India and the east coast of Africa."

Fascinating, just amazing.

Osama bin Laden Endorses Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi

" CAIRO, Egypt - In an audiotape received by Al-Jazeera satellite television, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq (news - web sites) and called for a boycott of next month's elections there."

I am shocked and amazed that OBL is still engaging in chest thumping. For those who didn't catch the sarcasm, consider yourself advised. The man will be found, it is a matter of time.

Part of me would like to parade him around like a monkey in a cage, but that is not likely too happen, nor very smart.

Survivors give surreal accounts of lucky escapes

I found this to be very interesting.

Take a Deep Breath

One of the challenges that people face is remembering that for the majority of us life is not a constant crisis. It is not a series of incredible hurdles that must be overcome, even though it may feel that way.

For most of us life is a series of events, some serious, some less serious that require different amounts of attention. I mention this in light of recent events that are both personal and public in nature.

The devastation in life and property caused by the earthquake and tsunamis is a crisis. Nudity on television is not a crisis, it is a cultural issue.

The ranting and raving of lunatics who are unhinged at the dropping of sock is not in and of itself a crisis.

The point here is that we need to remember to take a deep breath and gain perspective. Consider whether you are dealing with something that is truly earthshattering or whether it is nothing more than an irritant.

If you view your problems as challenges to be overcome you will soon find yourself with fewer problems.

Tsunami Kills 22,000 in Nine Countries

"COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Rescuers piled up bodies along southern Asian coastlines devastated by tidal waves that obliterated seaside towns and killed more than 22,000 people in nine countries, and officials indicated Monday the death toll could climb far higher.

Hundreds of children were buried in mass graves in India, and morgues and hospitals struggled to cope with the catastrophe. Somalia, some 3,000 miles away, reported hundreds of deaths.

The death toll rose sharply a day after the magnitude 9 quake struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia. It was the most powerful earthquake in the world in four decades.

Government and aid officials suggested the death toll could increase significantly, citing unconfirmed reports of thousands more deaths on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on India's Andaman and Nikobar islands.

Walls of water sped away from the quake's epicenter at more than 500 mph before crashing into the region's shorelines, sweeping people and fishing villages out to sea. Millions were displaced from their homes and thousands remained missing Monday.

The governments of Indonesia and Thailand conceded that public warnings came too late or not at all. But officials insisted they could not know the seriousness of the threat because no tsunami warning system exists for the Indian Ocean."

Tragic, just tragic. What else can you say.

Professor objects to mountain sex

"A Victoria University professor wants randy mountaineers to stop having sex at Mount Everest's base camp."

How does he know who is or isn't doing it. Is he the peeping Tom of Everest.

I love Beef Jerky

It is an addiction, I can't get enough of the stuff.

Who Will Be For Me?

I came across a good post on Auterrific today entitled "Who Will Be For Me?"

It is a good reminder that we should continue to be vigilant and bear witness to the tragedies and horrors of the past. And if you consider just active the Jewish community has been in promoting Holocaust Awareness the tragedy that is taking place now in the Sudan even more horrifying.

The world cries about the situation in Iraq and ignores Africa. A sad testimony to the power of oil.

Football Notes

Former NFL star Reggie White died Sunday morning at his home near Huntersville, N.C., his wife said. White turned 43 on Dec. 19.

So young, I wonder what caused his death.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning tied Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record on Sunday when he threw his 48th TD pass of the season in the third quarter against San Diego.

Life keeps on moving, nothing, not even death can stop it's march.



Tidal Waves Sweep Away Holiday Cheer

"JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across southern and southeast Asia on Sunday, killing more than 7,000 people in six countries.

Tourists, fishermen, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water up to 20 feet high that swept across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake centered off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

In Sri Lanka, 1,000 miles west of the epicenter, more than 3,000 people were killed, the country's top police official said. At least 1,870 died in Indonesia, and 1,900 along the southern coasts of India. At least 198 were confirmed dead in Thailand, 42 in Malaysia and 2 in Bangladesh.

But officials expected the death toll to rise dramatically, with hundreds reported missing and all communications cut off to Sumatran towns closest to the epicenter. Hundreds of bodies were found on various beaches along India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, and more were expected to be washed in by the sea, officials said.

The rush of waves brought to sudden disaster to people carrying out their daily activities on the ocean's edge: Sunbathers on the beaches of the Thai resort of Phuket were washed away; a group of 32 Indians -- including 15 children -- were killed while taking a ritual Hindu bath to mark the full moon day; fishing boats, with their owners clinging to their sides, were picked up by the waves and tossed away.

"All the planet is vibrating" from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 8.9. Geophysicist Julie Martinez said it was the world's fifth-largest since 1900 and the largest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound Alaska in 1964.

On Sumatra, the quake destroyed dozens of buildings -- but as elsewhere, it was the wall of water that followed that caused the most deaths and devastation.

Tidal waves leveled towns in the province of Aceh on Sumatra's northern tip, the region closest to the epicenter. An Associated Press reporter saw bodies wedged in trees as the waters receded. More bodies littered the beaches.

Health ministry official Els Mangundap said 1,876 people had died across the region, including some 1,400 in the Aceh provincial capital, Banda Aceh. Communications to the town had been cut.

Relatives went through lines of bodies wrapped in blankets and sheets, searching for dead loved ones. Aceh province has long been the center of a violent insurgency against the government.

The worst known death toll so far was in Sri Lanka, where a million people were displaced from wrecked villages. Some 20,000 soldiers were deployed in relief and rescue and to help police maintain law and order. Police chief, Chandra Fernando said at least 3,000 people were dead in areas under government control.

"It is a huge tragedy," said Lalith Weerathunga, secretary to the Sri Lankan prime minister. "The death toll is going up all the time." He said the government did not know what was happening in areas of the northeast controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

An AP photographer saw two dozen bodies along a four-mile stretch of beach, some of children entangled in the wire mesh used to barricade seaside homes. Other bodies were brought up from the beach, wrapped in sarongs and laid on the road, while rows of men and women lined the roads asking if anyone had seen their relatives.

Around one million people were displaced from their homes, Weerathunga said.

In India, beaches were turned into virtual open-air mortuaries, with bodies of people caught in the tidal wave being washed ashore.

In Tamil Nadu state, just across the straits from Sri Lanka, 1,567 people were killed, said the state's top elected official, Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa.

Another 200 died in neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, 102 in Pondicherry and 28 others in Kerala and elsewhere, according to the governments in each state."

Another sign from mother nature that shows just how small we are. So many were killed and so many of those impacted by this have so little. Many of these people make the poor in the U.S. look wealthy.

Gifts

Now that the holidays are basically over I want to mention the topic of gifts. I am amazed and astounded by the number of gifts my children received from family and friends. During Chanukah our family and friends were incredibly generous to my children. They literally showered them with gifts.

And then today we went over to the homes of some Christian friends who totally surprised me and provided more gifts for my children, so many gifts it is a little overwhelming.

Actually the whole experience is overwhelming to me and I am the adult.

I am very grateful for this, it was very nice, but I am really concerned with just how many toys the kids received. I want them to have some appreciation for what they have and when they get this much it is tough to make that happen.

We can try and take some of the toys away and divvy them out over time, but my son is old enough to realize that things are missing and that will present a small battle. I am not afraid to set limits with him, but that is not really the point.

What makes this even crazier is that his birthday is December 29th, more gifts are coming.

This week we are going to make another donation of toys to one of the charities that help children who are not as fortunate as he is. He needs to understand that he is in a position of privilege.

And I need to come up with a plan for how to deal with this next year. I am very concerned that this will be an ongoing issue. This should be the worst of my problems, how to deal with the gifts my children receive.

A Few Thoughts About The Lakers

We just returned from a family gathering. What do Jews do on Christmas? We gather together and do our own little thing. It was a nice affair, nice to see my children play with their cousins and just nice to hang out and not worry about going back to work.

We took two separate cars over so that I could watch the Laker game today. It was the first time Shaq and Kobe played against each other since Shaq was traded and it was a big deal to me. Actually a much bigger deal than I would have guessed.

It may seem goofy, it probably seems strange, but I cannot help but really like Shaq. He is the player I always wanted to be, larger than life, powerful and incredibly agile. Many people wanted to be Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson and I can say that I would have been happy to have been either of them. But I would not be honest if I didn't say that Shaq is my number one guy.

I haven't anything close to his talent, not even in the same ballpark. He weighs more than 100 pounds more than I do and is almost two feet taller than I am. Aside from those few items and my being a 35 year-old white Jewish man we are incredibly similar. I am a rebounding fool, I have a voracious appetite for them and the men I play with would easily admit that I play a power game.

So it is easy to look at him and say that he is the player I would want to be. I accepted him with all of his flaws, poor free throw shooting, overly sensitive and his lack of willingness to come to training camp in shape. I accepted it because he is a major part of the three championships we won during the Phil Jackson era. When the playoffs came he always elevated his game and he seemed to be a mensch. I just liked him.

For a long time I liked Kobe. He appeared to be the consummate professional. He worked hard on his game, did not settle for anything less than the best. He was and is a clutch player. You want him to get the ball with the game on the line.

I could understand and appreciate his battle with Shaq to be the alpha male on the team. Part of me thought that it could be a good motivational tool, but I have come to believe that I was wrong.

The Lakers traded the wrong guy. They traded the heart, the motor that made the team run, the keystone and now we are stuck. We are stuck with a prima donna who is among the top 5 players in the world. A player who is the enfant terrible.

And it makes me a little sad. It makes me sad because I see so much wasted potential. The two of them could have and should have put their egos aside. They blew a historic opportunity and they likely will not realize just how big it was until they have retired. And to me, a guy who dreams of being able to play the way that they do it just sucks.

Today I watched the Lakers for the first time all season. I cannot remember the last time I intentionally missed games when I had time to watch them. I am angry with the Lakers, they should have banished Kobe before they got rid of Shaq.

In the end neither of these guys are going to lose any sleep worrying about whether old Jack is happy or not, but it would be nice if they would. End of my rant on this topic.

AP: Ghost Firms Hinder Oil-For-Food Probe

"GENEVA - The U.N.-ordered probe into oil-for-food corruption is being seriously hampered by an elaborate system of ghost firms set up around the world to cover the tracks of bribes to Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) as he cheated the $60 billion program, a top investigator said.

Some front companies in this global oil trading center and elsewhere that dealt with Saddam have been liquidated or have hidden ownership, complicating the search for evidence of financial improprieties, said Swiss criminal lawyer Mark Pieth. He's one of three commission members leading the probe headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve (news - web sites) chairman Paul Volcker.

Major oil trading companies and individuals — from American businessmen to French, Chinese and Russian politicians — are suspected of benefiting from lucrative Iraqi oil contracts that involved kickbacks, according to the independent panel's initial findings."

You have to love the UN, what a fine organization.

One from the mailbag

Dear Jack,

I have read a number of your posts and want to know what you have against Christmas?

Thank you,

Darren.

Dear Darren,

I can't say that I have anything against christmas beyond I hate fruitcake and I can't take a lot of the music. Beyond that it is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I don't need or expect everyone to believe in everything I believe.

Obviously I am Jewish and that means that I am not going to now nor ever consider Christianity to be something that I believe in. Just as I do not expect Christians to suddenly become Jewish.

I think that it is ok for there to be different beliefs and different faiths, it is all about how we handle things. If push comes to shove and you ask me to choose what I think is better I am going to say Judaism, just as I would expect you to select your own faith as being superior.

But I would rather see a good atheist than a bad Christian/Jew/Muslim and believe me they exist. Being a an adherent of a particular faith does not provide you with automatic status as a good person.

On a slightly different tack I think that it is wrong and disappointing for Jewish people to take Christian items and try and make them their own. There is no such thing as a Chanukah bush. I do not believe that Jews should do anything like that or stockings or really use any of the christmas symbols. It is not our deal and I wouldn't want to see the reverse.

I would also add that I enjoy going to my Christian friends homes and seeing how they decorated their trees and their homes. I can appreciate that and think that it is fine, but it is a different story when an MOT tries to incorporate it.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all of my gentile readers. I hope that you have a nice holiday and I hope that the coming year is good for all people regardless of race/religion or creed.

O'Neal scores as "Shaq-A-Claus"

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Shaquille O'Neal came to town to play Santa Claus to 250 kids, and it didn't matter that the grinning basketball star was no longer a member of the home team.
After eight years as a star with the Los Angeles Lakers, O'Neal will play Saturday against the Lakers as a member of the Miami Heat.

But Friday, he was "Shaq-A-Claus" as he pulled up to the Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Los Angeles in a truck filled with bicycles, Sony Playstations, karaoke machines, sneakers and other gifts.

"I'm glad to be back here. I miss everybody," O'Neal told reporters. "These kids are the future."

For several hours, O'Neal and teammate Damon Jones handed out gifts to the crowd. O'Neal bought many of the gifts himself during a Friday morning visit to a Toys-R-Us store.

"He gives back a lot to us," said 16-year-old Dwayne Gibbons, who received a video game console from O'Neal. "He went back to Miami, but he doesn't forget about us. That's why I love him."


Mr. Prelutsky Responds

Mr. Prelutsky responded to my email, very quickly I might add. Here is his response below and below that my response to him.

****(Dear Jack--I read your two pieces and some of the commentary. I could comment on your articlespoint by point, but because I have been responding to scores of e-mails over the past week since my articles appeared, I really feel myself drained. I would only be repeating things I have already written to your friend Dov Bear. Judging by the comments of your respondents, whatever I wrote would fall on deaf ears. Blind eyes? I am willing to let my articles speak for themselves. For the record, one Christian took me to task; of the 40 or 50 Jews who bothered to write, roughly a third were upset to some degree or other. In most cases, they didn't deny what I wrote, they merely thought it was unseemly that a Jew would attack other Jews.
I would only say that you are being ingenuous when you question the make-up of the ACLU and its legal staff. You can praise their activities all you like, but to suggest that it is not a predominantly Jewish organization is just silly.
And to go on insisting that "separatation of church and state" is part of the Constitution is a lie. And, when called on it, to claim that, thanks to Court interpretation, it might as well be engraved in stone is sheer malarkey. Congress has nothing to do with a municipality's putting up Christmas decorations or with high schools using the words Christmas vacation in their schedules. All of this is a far cry from Christians rolling over Jews in order to set up an American theocracy.
It is nice to be vigilant, Jack, but one does run the risk of being taken for the Boy Who Cried Wolf or, worse yet, Chicken Little.
Happy new year.
Burt Prelutsky

Dear Mr. Prelutsky,

My thanks for the quick reply, I really do appreciate it and as promised I will post it on my blog.

You do not have to comment on my article point by point for a dialogue to occur.

I want to make sure that you understand that I am not asking for a removal of Christmas or Christianity. I am not advocating anything different than I do for Judaism or any other religion.

I want neutrality from the government, it is very simple. It is better and smarter for everyone.

I understand and appreciate that many Jews wrote to you and that most didn't argue the points you addressed. That is not indicative of the fallacy of the arguments you posed. Some people do not have the education or ability to pull things apart.

I believe that you mentioned that most American Jews have at best a basic understanding of Judaism. That in itself could be reason for the lack of a more cogent reply than that you should not chastise other Jews.

I don't have a problem with conducting this dialogue in public. If someone is doing the wrong thing it should be addressed regardless of religious affiliation.

As for my comments about the ACLU, I'll take your response as an affirmation that you made a guess about the composition of the membership. And that is unfair and reasonable. If you are going to point fingers at a group you need to be able to verify what you say.

In regard to the Constition you are fooling yourself if you are trying to make the case that things that are not mentioned in it cannot be addressed by it. The Constitution was constructed as a living document that could be amended and or adjusted to suit the needs of a particular time and place.

It is easy to suggest that vigilance can lead to being called names such as 'Chicken Little' or the 'Boy who cried wolf.'

I am not clear if that was just a comment or if you were trying to marginalize my position, but I do want to respond.

Part of the reason 911 took place was because we were not vigilant and people in positions of authority did not allow themselves to consider that others could act in such a heinous fashion.

Many German Jews were completely assimilated and considered themselves Jews in name only, but they died along with everyone else.

Do you think that Japanese Americans could have ever expected that they would be rounded up and placed into camps.

There are a hundred other examples that I could cite, but what would the point be.

The bottom line is that you and I disagree here. I feel like you are acting a bit sycophantic here and unnecessarily so. We are just as much citizens as the next person and deserve the same rights.

I don't want anything special, just equality.

My Response to Burt Prelutsky

Burt Prelutsky wrote an essay about his feelings about Jews and Christmas. I strongly disagree with him and sent him an email, which I will share below.

Dear Mr. Prelutsky,

I read your article "Christmas in a Christian Nation: A Jewish Perspective" and found it to be very disappointing. It was flat, misguided and unreasonable.

I wrote about your article and another like it on my blog

A Lack of Common Sense- The Alleged War on Christmas


and

When A Fool Speaks


Maybe you'll read what I wrote and agree, or maybe you will disagree with it. I hope that you change your mind, but will not be upset if you do not.

But I felt like I should respond to your opinion piece because I do not think that it is representative of all Jews, let alone a majority. And I certainly do not agree with most of the points you make.

You write:

" It is the ACLU, which is overwhelmingly Jewish in terms of membership and funding, that is leading the attack against Christianity in America. It is they who have conned far too many people into believing that the phrase “separation of church and state” actually exists somewhere in the Constitution."

I have a couple of problems with this statement. It is not supported by facts. I cannot say that your allegation about the faith of ACLU membership is accurate or that it is incorrect. But If I were to have an op-ed piece published I would want to be certain that it was factual and that my facts had been verified.

In regard to the second half about a separation of church and state there are issues there as well. To begin with the law of any land are subject to interpretation. All democratic governments operate under a principle that allows them to make laws that are necessary and proper.

In our own Constitution we have the "Elastic Clause" which says Congress has the right "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

The Framers inserted that into the Constitution because they knew that they could not foresee the future and all of the potential scenarios that could be raised.

If you want additional support for why your comment about the separation of church and state not being in the Constitution is immaterial we could discuss why the Constitution has amendments to it. But I really do not think that is necessary.

I won't continue to belabor the points I already addressed, nor will I spend any more time picking apart your essay because I believe that two entries in my blog about the topic are sufficient.

I am however including this letter in my blog and invite you to respond there if you so choose. Thank you for your time, I appreciate it.

Regards,

Jack B.

The Ethical Traveler

"We've all heard the stories. Tourists who climb sacred sites to snap the spectacular view, or demand CNN in a remote mountain village, or shoot photos of shy locals even as they wave their hands in objection.

But what about the tourist who just wants a hot shower after a hard day's hike? In parts of Nepal, that request could also be thought unethical, as guesthouse proprietors there are apt to raze local forests to heat the water."

Six years ago I watched a guy write his name on Masada. I considered ways to educate him, including throwing him over the side, but opted for a severe tongue lashing instead.

Ramble Ramble Ramble

this is an audio post - click to play

Bedtime Approaches And Sleep Beckons

I have been listening to the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings, or should I say pieces of all three movies. It is beautiful and moving and I cannot help but get caught up in it. This computer will die long before I tire of praising the power of good music. Wow.

The last two weeks of the year are an odd time for me at the office. It is a mixture of twiddle my thumbs and look for something to do and last minute frantic requests for help.

I am looking forward to 2005, this has been far too eventful a year for me and now I hear that my grandfather is experiencing a few health issues. At 90+ it is to be expected, but it is still a little distressing. Moreso because the conversations with my son have had me thinking about death.

I am not afraid to die, but I am not looking forward to it either.

I actually watched two movies this week. I like movies a lot, but usually have too little time to see them. Saw the Last Samurai and The Bourne Supremacy. They were good, not amazing but good, Still working on pre-production components of the documentary of this blog.

Got caught staring at the same woman twice today. She think that I was staring at her chest, but I was really trying to figure out the fishnet top thing that she had on. It was a fashion faux pas. Got caught again later when I was staring at the tight leather pants she had on. I was trying to figure out what was in her pocket.

I have my own shortcomings, the hard body is not as hard and the clothes are not Beau Brummelish, but I have enough sense to dress appropriately for my age. Ladies, at some point you have to give up on the idea of dressing like a teenager, especially if age and gravity have had their way with you.

I need a haircut. My hair is thinner in places than it used to be and as a consequence it doesn't lie properly anymore. When I keep it short is easier to handle and much better looking. Eventually I will just shave my head and be done with it. It will be easier to get ready in the morning, but harder to keep my kipah (yarmulke) on my head. I may have to glue a velcro strip to my head and one on the kipah.

The only problem is that this might make the highly efficient TSA folks at the airport more suspicious. I understand that they are not patting down women's chests anymore so I figure that the best way for me to take my contraband on a plane is to wear a bra. My suit jacket is a 46, not sure if that translates well into bras, but I am figuring that whatever I get will be fairly large, big enough to substitute as a soup bowl.

Of course if you are caught drinking soup out of a bra people wonder about you. The question I ask is are they more upset at the idea of me wearing a bra or drinking out of it. Better yet, how did I get on to such a ridiculous topic. As long as I am talking about it allow me to share the other component of this exploration into the daft and dumb.

I get hungry on planes, so I figure that I'll need some snacks and since I am going to have to stuff my bra I might as well fill it with snacks. So I suppose that I need to make it a D or DD cup because the flight from here to there is longer than I like to wait to eat.

The other advantage to stuffing my bra is that if airport security gets too suspicious or too friendly I can reach into my top and whip out a Snickers or Three Musketeers bar. While they enjoy themselves I can waltz on over to the gate.

Ok, enough of the boob bit. It is time to hit the sack, I am spent. Lailah tov from Los Angeles, see you in the am.

A Lack of Common Sense- The Alleged War on Christmas

I am angry and frustrated by a number of things and I cannot help but shake my head. In an earlier post tonight I took a fellow M.O.T. (member of the tribe) to task for comments that were offensive, distasteful and just downright shameful.

And now I have read a couple more pieces that take the same stance as the piece of fluff I skewered earlier. The premise of these opinion pieces is that there is a war on Christmas and that it is Jews leading the charge. I haven't any problem looking at myself and considering my own actions, nor do I have a problem with pointing fingers at other Jews. We are people and like all people we are composed of good and bad. There are moral Jews and immoral Jews. There are Jews who beat their wives and Jews who are among the finest people humanity has to offer.

My problem with the aforementioned opinion pieces lies in a couple of places. The allegations that these writers make are not substantiated with any facts. There is nothing that we can measure or verify, but they are written as if they are. They are presented as expert opinion and they make no allowances for mistake, misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

I am Jewish and I am American. I am entitled to the same rights as every other American and there is no requirement, need or reason for me to sit in the back of the bus as these other men would have us do. I need not thank people for allowing me to be an American. My family has a long history in this country. I have relatives who fought in every war of the 20th Century. I have relatives who helped liberate the camps and fought all over Europe and the world not because they were trying to save Jews but because they were Americans fighting for America.

So why should I apologize for demanding the same rights as anyone else.

I understand and appreciate that I am not part of the majority religion. I haven't any problem with that. I understand that means that certain things are going to come with the package. It is more likely that retailers and their employees will wish me a merry Christmas. And I understand that the stores will be jammed full of Christmas decorations.

If I were Christian I would be offended by the commercialization of the holiday. As a Jew I find it to be a little distasteful, but I don't like seeing my own holidays commercialized either. I am not even asking for equal time for Chanukah or other holidays.

But I have no problem asking that we honor the First Amendment by not inserting religion into the public arena. Much of this will be subjective, so for my intents and purposes let me provide Jack's guidelines.

  1. Public buildings- I don't want to see crosses, Nativity scenes, or things of this nature. I am not interested in equal billing meaning that I am not interested in any religious symbols there including my own.
  2. Public School Events- It is inappropriate to pray in Jesus'/Buddha/Allah's name. If push comes to shove I can accept a moment of silence.
If I wanted to I could come up with a much more extensive list, but there is no reason to. This is not a war on Christians/Christians. It is not a war on religion. It is part of a cultural battle in which I can attest to there being many people of faith who agree that religion is something that should be kept out of the government. We want neutrality.

My adversaries can characterize it as being a battle to kill G-d and I'll be happy to call them some ridiculous over-the-top name too.

This is about equal rights based upon the law, not the law that we wish existed.

Just a couple more comments to share, especially for those of you who remain unconvinced. For all intents and purposes the Federal and State governments shut down on Christmas day. Thousands of businesses do too.

The most important holidays in the Jewish calendar do not receive this kind of attention. If I want time off to observe them it requires my taking a personal day, be it sick leave or vacation time.

I don't begrudge the majority time to celebrate your holiday, but it is hard for me to feel badly for you when I look at things like this.

In short, I won't lie. If no one wished me a Merry Christmas I wouldn't miss it or be bothered by it. I don't care if I ever hear any one sing about the little drummer boy or Rudolph. But I am not asking for that to be removed. I am not asking for anything close to that.

Go ahead and sing your songs, decorate your homes and wish the world a merry christmas, it really is cool with me.

All I ask is that you respect the First Amendment and that I am not given grief for using the same rights that you have.

Words On A Page

 Added a few words on a page, some well written, some less so but all with purpose in mind. Can't win the Pulitzer every time, for certa...