Thoughts to Consider

Rabbi Judah the Prince said: Which is the proper course that a man should choose for himself? That which is an honor to him and elicits honor from his fellow men. Be as scrupulous about a light precept as of a weighty one, for you do not know the reward allotted for each precept. Balance the loss incurred by the fulfillment of a precept against the gain and the accruing from a transgression against the loss it involves. Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you --a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your
deeds recorded in a book

Hillel said: Do not separate yourself from the community; and do not trust in yourself until the day of your death. Do not judge your fellow until you are in his place. Do not say something that cannot be understood but will be understood in the end. Say not: When I have time I will study because you may never have the time.

The Silly Fantasy World Continued

I am not sure what sent me down this path, maybe I have read too many books or watched too many movies about this kind of thing. But I have always kind of enjoyed the tales in which the protagonist was pitted against himself.

In all of them he/she faced a tough foe. Consider the implications of having to fight yourself. Someone who knows you intimately, knows how you think, what frightens you, is aware of all your weaknesses. It could be a real challenge.

Picking up close to where I left off in the prior post, I think that part of why I would win is that I have answers to the biggest questions that the 20 year-old could think of. And not only do I have those answers, I look at those questions as being somewhat silly and naive.

I guess where I am going with this post is to mental toughness. Life is about how you act and react to what happens around you. I have had success and I have had failure. The questions we face is how do we cope.

And sometimes success means learning how to cope just as failure does.

Mark Twain had a great quote:

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.
- Notebook, 1887

Anyway, as is my wont I have spent a lot of words saying very little. One of these days I'll learn how to say less in fewer words.

Just a few things

It is roughly a little more than a decade since I officially left my school days behind me and joined the workforce. In that time I have loved and lost, worked, played, slaved and engaged in all sorts of different activities.

I had a four year stretch in which I made a very good living, a very good living. It was more money than I had thought that I would ever make and once it started coming it was easy. It was like snapping my fingers and there it was.

I was in the right place at the right time and I was good at what I did. And then September 11th hit and the market totally changed and things began a downward spiral. The flood diminished and eventually turned into a trickle.

I went back to struggling to pay bills. It wasn't new to me, I had been there before, but now I had a taste of a life in which I didn't live paycheck to paycheck. I had more than enough. I couldn't retire, there was no question that I would have to keep working, but that was ok.

As the money dried up things around the office changed. The people I thought were caring showed themselves to be more caring about maintaining their place and position. I wasn't surprised, disappointed a little, but not surprised.

Now I find that where I used to have a solid savings, I no longer do. I am not worried about going homeless, it is just not going to happen. I am not worried about losing my home, that is not at risk either.

In truth there are people in situations far worse than mine. I am blessed and thankful for what I have. And I am going to climb back up the hill to get back to where I was.

I have a few goals. I want a house that feels like a castle to me. I want a library in which I can display all of my books, a place that I can sit and read in. A place in which I can lose myself in the stories I love.

I love music and movies, so I want a big screen television and a nice sound system.

I want to be able to travel and see more of the world. I have been to various spots in Europe and the Middle East, been around Canada and parts of Mexico, but there are more places to see.

And I want to do these things while I am young enough to enjoy them. Of course I plan on living to be 130 so I expect that I have some time. FWIW, I have three grandparents who are all a little older than 90, so don't go rolling your eyes at me.

I used to be able to curl 150 pounds. I could benchpress more than 300, and now I cannot come close to either mark. But I don't care all that much. It used to be so important to me and now it doesn't have the same meaning.

Here is my confession, part of me is ready and willing to resume the workouts. Part of me says that it is time to put the focus back on my body because time is slipping away. There is a fear that age will catch me and I won't be what I was.

But isn't that already true. At 35 can I recreate the 20 year-old. The manchild who physically would have dominated me. If I could pull him from the past what would he say? Would he laugh, would he be proud or embarrassed?

In a world of science-fiction and fantasy the 20 year-old I used to be would walk through the door and he and I would engage in an epic battle for supremacy. Physically he would be so far ahead of me, it is not funny. But in the 15 years since he walked the earth I have life experiences that have not only shaped me, but have made me mentally tougher.

More on this in a new post.

What is happiness worth to you?

I read a ton of blogs, some more frequently than others. One of the consistent themes across all of our blogs are the cries of pain and frustration about life. And of those there are many people who voice what sounds almost like despair at their situations.

Some are angry because they married the wrong man or woman. Some are upset because they are stuck in jobs that are unfulfilling or jobs that could be great but they don't pay enough. So I wonder to myself, what is happiness worth to you?

What are you willing to do? Every time I say that I hear Sean Connery's character in The Untouchables yell at Kevin Costner's character, "What are you willing to do?"

It is an excellent question. What are you willing to do to make yourself a happier person? What lengths will you travel to be happier and more fulfilled?

An even better question is do you know what makes you happy? If you don't know you cannot develop a plan to meet your objective. I am a person who hates making plans, but even I recognize that without a plan success is more difficult.

Be happy and you'll find that you consider yourself a success, no matter what your situation is. Or so it would seem to me.

Perhaps in a different post we can discuss the challenges of trying to achieve your own happiness when measured against how it can impact others.
this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

A Quote that Caught My Eye

Thomas Friedman said:

"We are losing a public relations war in the Muslim world to people sawing the heads off other Muslims."

Are we looking at this war through Western eyes, because you better believe that our opposition is not. Part of what bothers me about things is the feeling that I have. It is of unrest because so many of the descriptions I about the current state are in black and white terms.

They range from descriptions of Bush and Company as the biggest blundering fools we have seen to the polar opposite in which Bush and Company are geniuses.

So who is handling things, do we have the men of mensa or The Three Stooges.

Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies

"AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A hospital in the Netherlands — the first nation to permit euthanasia — recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives."

I am torn about this. I believe in euthanasia in adults, but there is something about infants. It is hard for me to think of children this way, it really breaks my heart.

"The Groningen Protocol, as the hospital's guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities.

The guideline says euthanasia is acceptable when the child's medical team and independent doctors agree the pain cannot be eased and there is no prospect for improvement, and when parents think it's best.

Examples include extremely premature births, where children suffer brain damage from bleeding and convulsions; and diseases where a child could only survive on life support for the rest of its life, such as severe cases of spina bifida and epidermosis bullosa, a rare blistering illness."

But when you really consider what these children are facing, it is hard not to consider it. It is a highly charged emotional issue. And so much of it comes down to what you consider quality of life. I think that part of what bothers me is the sense and feeling that these poor babies never really had a chance to experience life.

Here is what DovBear would call the money quote:

"However, experts acknowledge that doctors euthanize routinely in the United States and elsewhere, but that the practice is hidden.

"Measures that might marginally extend a child's life by minutes or hours or days or weeks are stopped. This happens routinely, namely, every day," said Lance Stell, professor of medical ethics at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and staff ethicist at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. "Everybody knows that it happens, but there's a lot of hypocrisy. Instead, people talk about things they're not going to do."

More than half of all deaths occur under medical supervision, so it's really about management and method of death, Stell said."

Iran and Nukes- A Bad Idea

In the coming weeks we are going to see more news and more opinions about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The most recent comments from the Iranians were full of the usual blather about them having peaceful intentions and their desire to demonstrate their cooperation.

"(CNN) -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator said his country's uranium-enrichment program will only be suspended long enough to complete negotiations with Europe, possibly only a few months -- though stressed Iran's intentions were peaceful.

"We decided to do this voluntarily to create trust," Hassan Rohani said on Tuesday.

"The period of suspension is only for the purpose of carrying out talks with Europe. This period of time should be logical and should not go on forever."

Call me crazy, but I am not convinced. I am not convinced that they are halting all work. I am not convinced that they have peaceful intentions and I am not convinced that anything is happening here other than an attempt by the mullahs to buy more time.

And time is something that is slipping away for the rest of us who wish to see the purveyors of terror stopped.

Safe, Secure Online Holiday Shopping

It is a pleasure to be able to avoid the crowded stores.

Late Night Thoughts

It was a rough day at the office, but they always are following a holiday. For a while I thought that my desk had a rash, then I realized that the black spots were the places that I had cleared out stacks of paper from.

Don't mess with my desk. It is organized, I know where papers are stacked and why they are stacked the way that they are. For that matter, be very careful if you mess with my stuff at home or anywhere else. I am territorial and protective of it, don't know why and don't really care.

A man wished me a merry christmas and I wished him a happy Chanukah. He said that he didn't know what I was talking about. I said that it was ok, I didn't know what he was talking about either. Want to bet that he told his wife about the crazy guy he met today.

Watched Bugs Bunny with my son today. He really liked it and so did I. But I wonder about something. Have you ever noticed that Elmer Fudd has an endless supply of ammunition. Here is something else that bothers me. Whenever Bugs shoves a carrot into Elmer's gun (ooh, cartoon porn, whoa) and it blows up Elmer's face turns black.

But in the very next moment his face is white again. What kind of soap does he use and how can I get some for myself.

Ran into more so called freethinkers today. They tried to explain to me that since I do not share their POV about the war and life in general I am brainwashed. Funny, they claim to be freethinkers but because I have a different POV I cannot be.

Have you ever noticed that many bars in small towns always seem to have exotic names. Welcome to the Tiki Tiki Hut in Balston, North Dakota, population 21.

Played ball this evening at the gym and managed to jam my middle finger again. It is a little swollen, but I figure that now I can use it more effectively to express my opinions.

Voices in my head, voices in my head, why do they keep yelling at me. Oops, forgot to turn off the portable CD player.

When I was a senior in high school one of the girls in my English class made a row of us boys squirm. She spent the entire class sucking on a lollipop, it must have fueled the same daydream in all of us. It was the longest 40 minutes I spent doing nothing. Ok, it was not the longest and I managed to get a few things done, but when I read my notes that night I couldn't make heads or tails of them.

Ran into some old acquaintances who have gone BT. I respect them for their convictions, but it is hard to imagine them in their new lifestyles. Good luck to them.

Smiling Frowned Upon in Visa Photographs

I guess that showing up in a rainbow colored wig or wearing Groucho Marx glasses would also be frowned upon.

Blogger Issues

Sometimes blogger makes me want to scream. I have been trying to add comments to a couple of blogs and it will not let me. I keep getting booted out and asked for my log-in and password information.

Yet when I enter it, I get booted out again. I have gotten thrown out of nicer places than this. Hmmph.

Harvard Sucks- This was pretty funny

A number of Yale students have pulled off one of the better pranks I have read about in several years.

"The students faked being members of the "Harvard Pep Squad," passing out pieces of paper to the
Harvard side of the stadium.

These Harvard fans were told that the pieces of paper would join together to spell "GO HARVARD." Little
did they know, when held up at just the right moment, the pieces actually spelled "WE SUCK."

Click here to see a photo of the prank.

Bin Laden aide vows to continue U.S. fight

"(CNN) -- In a videotape that aired Monday, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man pledged to continue fighting the United States until it changes its policies regarding Muslims.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, in tape broadcast by the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera television network, said there are two ways to deal with Muslims -- "either with respect, or as if our lives and property are available for you to invade."

How convenient it must be to pretend that you have no role in the conflict, just an innocent bystander. I am not surprised by any of this. I expect to see OBL and crew try and sow more dissension by attacking allies of the US.

Followed by the attack will be more offers of peace, provided that said allie agrees to AQ terms. It is a problem that we need to focus upon.

Health Insurance

Health Insurance is a necessity, it is just not something that you go without. It doesn't matter if you are baboon at the Cleveland Zoo, you need it. The problem is that the baboon at the Cleveland Zoo likely has a better plan than you and I.

During this past month my wife and I have been evaluating our current health plan versus the company plan. I have yet to take the company plan because it is not cost effective nor efficient, so I pay out of pocket. The problem is that I have been paying almost $600 a month for an HMO.

It irritates me to no end that we still haven't figured out how to provide better and more affordable coverage for our citizens. There is no reason that I can see that gives a real explanation for why this is so. And all I see are rising premiums. It is shameful.

Why 'He's Just Not That Into You

If I would have known there is a need for this I would have written it myself. How many excuses do you need to make. Geez.

It Is More than WMDs

I found a link to an interesting story about the current war in Iraq over at Crossing the Rubicon2.

It is titled WMDs camouflage real reasons behind Iraq invasion and it provides some good food for thought.

It is really about a book by George Friedman in which he discusses America's Secret War against AQ and answers some of the questions about why the US did not go after Saudi Arabia for their role in supporting AQ.

From this fortress headquarters, Friedman writes, al-Qa'ida ("the Base" in English) pressed its grand design for an Islamist world federation, a new Caliphate, which would ultimately match, if not dominate, other superpowers. Global terrorism would be the means. Al-Qa'ida's opening moves - attacks on American embassies and other establishments abroad - were aimed, in Friedman's opinion, less at damaging the US than provoking it to a reckless assault on Islam.

This, al-Qa'ida believed, would stir the "Islamic street" to a confrontational mood with the West and rebellion against non-fundamentalist Islamic regimes, establishing the foundations of the great federation. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the US, confident of its hegemony, had concluded that "war was now optional", that no power existed that could force it into war."

Read the whole piece, it is worth some time.

The Look and Layout of this blog

I am not completely happy with how this blog looks. There are a number of things that just rub me the wrong way. It is not like this is terrible, but it feels choppy and uneven. I suppose that is kind of a good description of me, I am choppy and uneven. But this is not about me.

I think that I'd like to have categories for my posts and I'd definitely like to clean up the look a little bit more. It would be nice if all of the posts used the same font, but some of that is to be expected with free software.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful to have this opportunity and think that overall this appears to be a pretty good product, but I know that there are some coding issues that are not as clean as they could be.

The bottom line is that I still write for me and for no one else. I find this to be so cathartic. But the rules of the blog ensure that I also admit that I really enjoy the interaction. I like knowing that there are people reading this everyday, even those of you who do not comment.

A very dear friend would say that I just like being stroked and to that I say, so what. Who doesn't enjoy being complimented. But the reality is that a large part of what I get from this blog comes from being able to engage in dialogue. Readers require honesty and that is important.

Without readers it is a little bit like clapping with one hand. Although, if I was stuck in that situation I would smack my chest. It wouldn't quite be a clap and it might make me look more simian like than I do now, but I don't give up easily.

Good night from Los Angeles, the Shack is closing early this evening.

Magnetism, Electricity May Treat Strokes

"They were wrong. Six years after that horrible day at the dock in 1996, Mickey Poduje (pronounced "poh-DOO-yay") entered a Boston laboratory and had a metal device the shape of a figure-8 pressed to her right temple. It sent magnetic pulses into her brain. And the result, published just this year, is that her speech did improve slightly.

It's one of a handful of recent experiments in stroke patients that sound like the fantastic promises of an old traveling medicine show. Improving speech by zapping the brain with magnetism? Making weakened limbs work better by putting coils on the head and releasing current so weak it could come from a battery?

Those ideas have spurred interest in a handful of laboratories in the United States and abroad. The few preliminary results produced so far are not cures. They are more intriguing than life-changing. But scientists hope that with further refinement, the techniques could provide new tools for treating strokes, which attack some 700,000 Americans a year."

Technology, you have got to love it. But at the same time you have to wonder if the cures for many of our ailments are already here, just undiscovered.

Religious Leaders Clash on 'Meet the Press'

This is a New York Times article. If you want to read the whole thing you need to register, otherwise here are a couple of sections and my thoughts.

Focusing on the intersection of faith and politics, four religious leaders illustrated in a television appearance today just how passionate and difficult dialogues on such topics can be.

The sometimes heated discussion, which focused on abortion and gay marriage, played out on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority; the Rev. Al Sharpton, the minister-politician who ran in the Democratic primaries; Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine; and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Commission.

The question of a moral divide has come more sharply into focus since the presidential election earlier this month. In an Election Day poll 22 percent of voters named "moral values" as the issues most important to them, and 80 percent of those people voted for President Bush. Critics, however, have argued that the phrase "moral values" is too ambiguous, covering everything from abortion to sexually explicit material on television."

I don't see any of these men as being representative of me and my religious beliefs. Since I am a firm advocated of a separation of church and state it doesn't totally bother me. But since moral values seem to be such a key component of the current public arena I do like knowing where they stand.

"God is not a Republican or a Democrat," Mr. Wallis said. "That should be obvious."

I love it and agree completely. Unfortunately I have a feeling that for a while we are going to face a period of time in which religion is going to be used as a political tool to a much larger extent than it has been in the past.

Some of this may be cyclical, but it is just as important now as it has ever been for us to be vigilant in watching out for the rights of all people, not just those who claim to have G-d on their side.

My life and My Posts

I write about anything and everything. That includes absolutely everything about my life and the people in it. On some topics I am cautious about how much I say, if it is warranted.

Items that warrant my care are posts that are about people who are easily identified and who might be hurt by what I share. Please note that this is subjective. I recognize that I have a fairly thick skin and that what I find to be hurtful and offensive may not be the same as someone else.

But it is my blog and my rules, so live with it. I'll do my best not to intentionally offend or hurt most people. That is right, most people. Those that fall outside of my ambiguous definition may find themselves to be targets and who knows what can happen. If you are worried about this I suggest that you stop reading this blog and then there will only be 17 readers a month who might know your secrets.

On a side note I was thinking about how many people I know that are divorced and it occurred to me that I could post about it as well. And I am sure that to far too many of you it might appear that my post is about your experience. Unless there are specific details you can assume that it is likely not about you and even if there are it may be an amalgamation of stories.

If you know me personally you know that I enjoy embellishing my tales.

What I find so sad about the comments about divorce is how prevalent it has become. It just makes me wonder about relationships. Have we lost something that other generations had, or have we found a freedom and truths that other generations did not have.

Out of the many people that I know that are divorced I cannot think of any that I thought of or think of now as having been thoughtless about marriage. Each and every one of them appeared to enter their initial marriage with a lot of thought and good intentions. But good intentions are often not enough.

One friend of mine said that he thinks it takes the first marriage to teach you how to be married. I don't totally buy that argument, but I can see some of what he is saying. There are some experiences that require actual exposure for understanding.

US Soldiers and Psychological Trauma

As an avid newshound I read multiple accounts of the war and wonder, how are our soldiers handling the mental and emotional damage that we know they are absorbing.

Just as their fathers/grandfathers/uncles/cousins had to deal with trauma they suffered in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam these troops are faced with some real challenges. Consider what they face in the field and then consider how they are supposed to reacclimate to life, normal life.

I wonder and worry about how effective our mental support teams are at identifying those who need help, as well as trying to ensure that those who need it receive it. And this is under the assumption that those who require aid will not refuse it.

The war does not always end when you leave the battlefield.

Visitors to the Blog

Now that John Ashcroft has resigned his position as Attorney Gen. I am pleased to announce that he has been hired to track the traffic to this blog. Twice a week he'll provide a detailed report to me about who is visiting the shack, what they did, who they did it with and how they did it.

Details, I need details and I expect that Johnny boy can provide them. So, if you are blogging with a partnet make sure that they are of the opposite sex and that you are both dressed appropriately.

I expect in no time at all I am going to learn who found my blog by using the following search terms:

Cheese eating surrender monkeys, cleveland school of etiquetter, marshmallow breast fondue, cheese doodle blender shake, Jewish American Jack of notoriety and macadamian anger management.

And those are just a few of the highlights.

FBI Finds Link Between 9/11, Madrid Bombs

"The FBI has told Spanish investigators that one of three men believed to have planned the Sept. 11 attacks from Spain in the summer of 2001 also gave the order to carry out the Madrid blasts, the newspaper ABC reported."

Just waiting for someone to make the usual justification for the actions of the terrorists. If only we were all nicer, if only this, if only that things would never have happened.

The Lion Versus the Elephant

The National Geographic channel is something that I enjoy watching. Most the shows they air are on topics that I find to be of interest. I especially enjoy the shows on animals. I recently watched a show called Be the Creature.

It star the Kratt Brothers who happen to be the hosts of a show that my son watches. It is also about animals but geared for young children.

The particular episode that I watched was about a pride of lions and the way in which they hunt elephants. I found this show fascinating.

It is hard not to be entranced by the elephant, a creature that size is just amazing to behold. One would think that outside of man there really wouldn't be any other creature that would take it on. In this episode I learned that to be a false assumption.

Time after time the 20 or so lions found ways to separate the smaller elephants from the herd and take them down. It was hard to watch the elephant lose, but amazing to see the process. Just fascinating.

Time to Rant, Rave, Resemble, Remark and Reminisce

Ok, it is another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody, nobody awake in the house that is. It makes me kind of happy, even if it is a little lonely. Not that I mind it, sometimes we all need a little solitude to use to gain some perspective about life.

At the moment things are not too bad, at least at the shack they are pretty good. I have a few complaints. I am really too tired to think clearly. I am not sure when it hit me, but at some point in the last hour I realized that I am too tired to express myself in the clear and concise fashion I am used to. Ok, it is not often that I am concise, I do have a proclivity to rant and rave at length, but I can be short.

Perhaps it is the contradiction of states that confuses friends and relatives who do not know me well. When I don't want to talk, I do not. If there is nothing to say, then I am silent, period.

Are you still moaning about the election?

Yes, I am talking to you, especially if you are part of the pathetic attempt to pacify the world with silly shots of your penned apology on some schmendrick's website. Call me a jerk, snob, asshole or Jack, I don't care, but I don't follow your need to mollycoddle a world that is populated by people who are incapable of controlling themselves.

Ok, that is a little harsh, so let me modify it. Too many people allow others to define them. That is they allow the perceptions of others to impact and influence them without regard for whether it is fair, balanced, accurate or truthful.

It is not fair or balanced to equate Bush with Hitler, Saddam or other dictators. The easiest example of this is to remind you that dictators do not allow for dissent. They do not allow the opposition to speak out. You have a website devoted to grovelling, as well as a multitude of other sources in which you can speak out and complain about his every action.

The reality is that the world is not fair, it never was and it never will be. So if you are really upset and you truly mean to do something you can get up and engage in activities that make a positive impact on your community.

I said this in an earlier post and it bears repeating. Get up and do something to help people. Tutor children, clean beaches, recycle, visit the sick and elderly, help feed the homeless and remember that words that are not supported with action are meaningless.

A night With My Son

Last night my son and I spent Shabbos at my parent's house. It was the first time that I had slept over there in years. He and I slept in my old room. It hardly resembles the room I grew up in. The paint is different, the posters are gone, the carpet is gone, the neighbors have moved and the furniture is almost completely different.

My dresser still lives there as does the sticker I placed there in 1974 that marked me as a member of The Six Million Dollar Man fan club.

As the two of us lay there I sat and listened to breathing, that of my son and my father. My parent's room is just a little off of my room and in the still of the night I could hear my father as he slept and magically my room suddenly contained too four-year-old boys on an overnight. Of course only one of us is almost six feet tall and over 200 pounds, not to mention that only one of us smiled as he remembered some of the companions who had shared a bed in that room. But keep that last remark to yourself, some secrets are better left unsaid.

Testing the template

As previously mentioned I am busy learning more about how to more effectively and efficiently engage in coding tricks for this blog. As I run through these I am Trying not to screw up.

I am not sure what will happen, but I am definitely of the school of learning through action. Be patient as I am sure that there will be some strange looking occurrences, but I do promise to try and minimize them.

Thank you Ric Knight

Special thanks to Ric Knight for the CSS tips. Go check out his blog at, you'll be glad you did.

On a side note, I am busy working on tweaking the blog so it may take some time for things to look "right" but they will get there.

Template Help

Since I switched to Firefox there have been a couple of weird glitches, one is for some reason it appears that the font size has shrunk. I am not sure why, but I am working on it.

If you are proficient at coding and want to offer your help it will be gratefully accepted. In the interim I need to eat breakfast.

Another Internet Quiz

I am the Nile!
Which Extremity of the World Are You?

At 4145 miles from your furthest extremity to the Mediterranean Sea, you outdo the Amazon to become the world's longest river. The piranhas hate you.

Beneath you lies an underground river with six times your volume. You kept this remarkably quiet for several thousand years. In fact, you're full of mystery; your source wasn't discovered until 1862. You're also full of water. And crocodiles. And nuclear pharaoh machines that run on light and can see through time.

Thoughts about a Jewish Education

This is a topic that has been addressed a thousand times and in a thousand different ways. What can we do to improve the education of Jewish children. I would change the focus to read more along the lines of what can we do to improve Jewish education.

One of the key problems is that there is a lack of understanding/consensus on what the ultimate goal of being Jewish is. It may sound foolish, it may seem silly, but I submit that this is a question that many cannot answer. Here are several things that need to be addressed.

Why be Jewish?
What is the goal of being Jewish?
What does it take and mean to be a good Jew?

There are more questions that can be raised, but this is a good start. I would argue that if you want committed Jews who are interested in a future and continuing Judaism you need to be able to answer these questions.

I would also add that there need not be one answer to these questions, there can be many. That does not mean that there are not some central core beliefs that must be adhered to be a Jew, obviously there are, but that is a discussion for a later date.

On a side note I should mention that posts like this are best started when I have more time to write and am not limited by repeated calls to dinner. In the interest of Shalom Bayit I must run for now.

Good Shabbos to all.

The Holiday Spirit

My son and I dared to challenge the hordes at the mall on this Black Friday. We went to a local stop in Sherman Oaks that I knew would be crowded, but not oppressive. I had a couple of items that I wanted to check on, but did not need to do any real shopping.

While I was waltzing through the mall we encountered numerous examples of what I dislike about the holiday season.

Frankly as a Jewish person I find the crush of Christmas music/decorations to be rather oppressive. The commercial aspect just drowns out any religious compoent, or so it seems to me. If that holiday was a part of my faith I would be offended at the influence of money upon the holiday.

And to that end I really dislike any attempt to equate Chanukah as being the Jewish version of Christmas. They are not equivalent and shouldn't be drawn that way.

I also have a problem with the push to be nicer and more charitable because it is part of the holiday spirit. What it says to me is that it is only important to act like this for about 45 days a year. In other words members of the disenfranchised groups only have a small window in which it is meaningful to demonstrate concern about their welfare.

It is the same perverse logic surrounding Valentine's day, which is in large part why I refuse to observe the day. You can expect commentary about that false holiday closer to mid-February.

The bottom line to me is that it is wrong and disingenuous to suggest that we should be better people for a short time each year. The ideals that we see people preach during this time of year are things that should be expressed with the same fervor all year long.

Serious Commentary will Return shortly

No really, it will resume. Been bored with some of it so I haven't done it recently.

Giant Grinch Replaces X-mas Exhibit

"MONTE SERENO, Calif. - For six years, Alan and Bonnie Aerts transformed their Silicon Valley home into a Christmas cornucopia — complete with surfing Santa, nativity scene, giant candy canes flanking the driveway and a carol-singing chorus of life-sized mannequins.

The popular display attracted thousands of visitors, coming from as far as San Francisco and Sacramento, to Monte Sereno, an upscale suburb just west of San Jose. After the exhibit was featured on NBC's "Weekend Today" last year, more than 1,500 cars prowled the cul-de-sac each night.

But this year, the merry menagerie — worth about $150,000 in custom-designed props — stayed indoors. Instead, on the manicured lawn outside the couple's Tudor mansion stood a single tiding: a 10-foot-tall Grinch with green fuzz, rotting teeth, and sickly, beet-red eyeballs.

The Aertses erected the smirking giant to protest the couple across the street — 16-year residents who complained that the annual display was turning the quiet cul-de-sac into a Disneyesque nightmare.

Alan Aerts, who makes sure the Grinch's spindly finger points directly to the offending neighbors' house, says their complaints to city bureaucrats killed the exhibit, which last year raised $10,000 in donations for Toys for Tots. It also violated the Christmas spirit, he said."

I would so easily be the guy who complained about this. The Grinch is my hero.

Thanksgiving by myself

The family just left for the first stop of the evening. Under normal circumstances I would be in the car driving, but today I am not quite there. My visit to the doc showed that I have a minor infection. It is not contagious and not real serious, but I am feeling a little worn out.

In a few minutes I will probably get dressed and head over the hill to make my appearance, but then again maybe I won't. I took a three hour nap and I am still tired. This is not typical and it is just irriatating.

At some point during the last five years my attitude about being sick changed and I don't know why. Aside from my digestive issues I rarely have problems, but now when I do I feel like it will never go away. I don't know why, it never used to be like that. I always felt like it would just go away.

It is not rational and it doesn't make me happy, but there is this sneaking suspicion that whatever I have plans on hanging out and making a home inside me. It is not like me, I am a positive person, but the feeling lingers a bit. Pretty strange.

Thanksgiving Day- Turkey Bowl

Jack is a fraternity boy, yes it is true. I joined a house my freshman year. I never thought that I would ever do so, but circumstances played into it. I was supposed to go to Israel for my freshman year of college and then my plans fell through. I was crushed, I had never thought that I would stay in Los Angeles, but things happen.

So I enrolled in my backup school and started to attend classes. I was starting over, but I was frustrated about it because the majority of my closest friends had gone elsewhere, Berkeley, Georgetown, Vassar, U.C.S.B, U.C.S.D., anywhere but LA. And there I was, 18, unexpectedly living at home and missing the party.

While I was walking around campus I ran into a guy from high school who suggested that I try going to fraternity rush with him. I was skeptical about it, but I did it and ended up joining a house. I loved it and never looked backwards. Some of my best friends in the world are people from the fraternity. I don't think that I would have made it through school without them.

One of my favorite fraternity function is our annual football game, called Turkeybowl. With the exception of 1990 I have played in every game since 1987. I would have played that year but I flew out to D.C. to spend the holiday with friends.

The game is tackle, no pads and it is a muddy mess. The night before the game the field is hosed down all night long, so by morning it is mud and water with a little grass mixed in. It is the actives versus the alumni.

And I love playing. I get off on it. I love the physical contact, the challenge of imposing my will upon someone else. I love matching up against these 18-20 year-olds and showing that they are sadly mistaken, I may not be who I was, but I am a far cry from being old and decrepit.

But this year I think that I am going to hang up my spikes. I have two children, a mortgage and so many responsibilities, I am concerned. And the trick to not getting hurt in this game is to go out and play without fear. And I do, I really play without worrying about what could happen.

However, given the current physical ailment and potential for problems I am wondering if I am being foolish considering playing. I am not exaggerating when I say that it hurts me to consider being out there without playing a little. But I know myself, if I enter the game I will play all out and I will not hold back.

I could play and not have any problems, or I could exacerbate the current issue. The frustration I feel from this is palpable, but they say that being mature means making the hard decisions. So I could continue to whine and cry, but I'll take a more positive attitude and say that I am grateful for the opportunity to be with some good friends. It will be nice to see the guys, and since I am not playing, I can actually talk to them.

Sometimes it sucks getting older. My children are more important to me than life itself, but it is times like this when I spend a few minutes thinking about the path not taken.

Coming to Grip With Aging

This past year has been rough for any number of reasons. I have faced many challenges, some serious, some not so serious. One of the challenges that has presented itself this year has been the aging process.

Now I am sure that some of you will look at me and say that at 35 I am just a baby, and compared to some I am sure that I am. But the issue is not so much that I feel like an old man, but that I am starting to notice little aches and pains. The ticky-tack stuff doesn't disappear as quickly as it used to.

I find bruises and wonder how they got there and then notice that days later they still linger on. Uninvited party crashers that just don't get the hint to leave. It is a collection of little things that make me notice that I am not 20 anymore, and frankly it is hard.

I play basketball a minimum of two days a week, sometimes three or more. If I play three consecutive days I notice that my feet hurt, my back is sore and my legs don't have the same spring in them. What is up with that. I feel like I was robbed. But I am not yet willing to concede my youth. I am trying some new exercises and watching my diet to see if I can't pull out more of the guy I used to be.

Continued in the next post

A Slow Day in Blog Land

It is a slow day in Blog Land. Traffic to the shack is minimal, but given the holiday I am not surprised. And given my current disposition I am not surprised to see that my own posting has slowed down.

You can file this next spot under the too much information category. I have to go and get my prostate checked out and the thought makes me want to prostrate myself on the floor. But I am beginning to feel less and comfortable so I might as well do it.

I hate the exam, makes me feel kind of loosey-goosey and not so manly. May need to go to Home Depot afterwards and buy a new set of power tools.

Scientist Who Created K Ration Diet Dies

"MINNEAPOLIS - Ancel Keys, the University of Minnesota scientist who invented the K ration diet used by soldiers in World War II and who linked high cholesterol and fatty diets to heart disease, has died at the age of 100."

I thought that this was an interesting story.

Wing Women- Use a woman to help you meet other women

I read about this the other day. It is a service that men can use to try and utilize the assistance of a beautiful woman to meet other women.

The idea is that a man hires a woman to serve as a bit of an escort to a social function. At the function the woman is supposed to help facilitate introductions to other women.

I haven't been single in close to a decade, but as I recall from my college days this is a fairly smart and sensible approach. I had a couple of friends who were very pretty and very outgoing. Any time we went out I ended up meeting other women.

I suspect that beyond making a man a little less threatening there is probably some kind of competition thing going on here. That is enough on this topic for now. Plenty of more important things to cover.

For Sale- A Piece of Matzoh

It has a picture of Shlomo Ben Shmuel, the coppersmith. He was the 1,236th person to cross Ha-Yam Suf during the Exodus from Egypt.

A Poor Bedside Manner

This afternoon I began to experience another physical issue. It was the second problem in a week and has me irked because I am not old enough to be breaking down like this, or so it seems it should be.

The short version is that I thought that I had a kidney stone and was in a bit of discomfort. I played it safe and visited the doctor only to find out that my blood and urine tests show no sign of a stone or infection.

My BIL the doctor thinks that I may have some kind of prostate infection. I am not old enough for this crap. Bleah.

The best part of this experience was when I asked the doc about my test results and he said that my kidney's were showing a small irregularity, but that we wouldn't know if it was kidney disease without more tests.

I considered punching him in the nose so that he could appreciate my telling him that without an X-ray we would not know if it was broken.


Goodbye Internet Explorer I am now using Firefox to surf the net.

Rather to Step Down From 'CBS Evening News'

"NEW YORK - Dan Rather, embattled anchor of the "CBS Evening News," announced Tuesday that he will step down in March, on the 24th anniversary of taking over the job from Walter Cronkite."

What is the frequency Kenneth? No suprises here. In a short time the evening news landscape will be brand new.

An Ambassador to Judaism

At the tender age of 35 I have been involved in Jewish groups for what feels like 150 years. My primary area of focus and interest has been with Jewish youth. I have worked with any number of settings, camp, school, afterschool and more. And I have done it with the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox branches or denominations. That is not nearly descriptive enough, but it will suffice for now.

Each time I have been involved we have had many activities in which we interacted with the general public. And each time we did we had a discussion about being an ambassador to Judaism. That is, we spoke as a staff and to our children about how many people had never met any Jews or had very little experience with Jewish people so it was important to take that into account in reference to personal conduct.

I always found these discussions to be a little troubling for me. In concept it all made perfect sense to me to try and portray a good image of who we are and what we represent. The flip side of this was that it irked me because we are all people and there are good Jews and bad Jews just like it would be true for Catholics/Protestants/Hindus/Buddhists/Muslims etc.

It seemed a little disingenuous to me to try and walk around on your best behavior because to me it seemed a little phony. Be who you are. It is like the honeymoon period of a relationship in which you strive to hide all bodily functions from your girlfriend/boyfriend until that one night when the chili backs up on you and you cannot hide your true flatulent self any longer. "Yes honey, I fart like every other human being. You probably knew this because in trying to hide it from you I became bloated and began to look like one of the floats at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

But I digress.

In addition to the aforementioned concern I was always disappointed that I didn't receive business cards, a hat and an office that identified me as an ambassador of Judaism. I didn't want to be an ambassador, I wanted to be the ambassador. You know me, why fit in when I can force myself out into the public eye.

Ok, I have a small problem here, I am just not sure how to end this. I compose on the computer and almost never create an outline, so I am at a loss. Let's do this and in the fashion of my people end this so that we may go eat. It is like every Jewish holiday.

They tried to kill us, they lost, let's eat. Batei Avon.


Just listened to clips from the new U2 album, it is hard to take 30 seconds of song and decide if I like it enough to buy it. It is late here in L.A. and this old man still hasn't found what he is looking for. So it is time to go to sleep so that tomorrow is a Beautiful Day.

I'll dream of a place Where the Streets Have No Name and My Desire is not filled because because the Rattle and Hum in my head makes me Pop.

I have this problem all the time

No really, it happens every couple of months. Wilt Chamberlain had nothing on me. ;)

Unlocked sliding door foils robbery attempt

The best part of this story is that 20 people got to watch these knuckleheads. Splendid work.

New York lags behind LA again

U2 played a show like this in Hollywood back in 1986 or 1987, I don't remember exactly when. Not a big deal, but worth mentioning.

Mengele- No Regrets for his actions

"SAO PAULO, Brazil– Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, who lived for years in hiding in Brazil, never regretted his crimes and died convinced of the superiority of the Aryan race, according to previously unreleased documents obtained by a local newspaper."

I am glad to see this because I would not want there to be any way for his crimes to be whitewashed. He was a stain on humanity. I can only hope that he watched his dreams die as we prospered and that this was troubled him greatly.

It really does not offer any solace, but....

New JFK video game called 'despicable'

"The company calls the game an educational "docu-game" that was designed to refute the theory that there a conspiracy was behind the assassination.
Traffic's managing director, Kirk Ewing, said it will also inspire a younger generation of players to take an interest "in this fascinating episode of American history."

My bullshit detector is going off like there is no tomorrow. Pathetic, just wrong.

All by myself

This weekend at camp was great. It was really refreshing and just a pleasure to to be in a special place with people who understood my experience, who understood what camp means because they experienced it too.

As I mentioned in the previous post I really wasn't gone that long, but it felt like it. Camp time is different, it feels longer and more intense. And it always has. I walked the hills and witnessed a million different stories and memories.

I love to read, biographies, fantasy, science-fiction, history and so much more. In one of my favorite series the author has created a separate world. In one particular place in this world you walk through hills that are supposed to be breathtakingly gorgeous, and at night your dead walk with you.

Yes, the dead walk the hills, but you only encounter those people who have some kind of connection with you. It is not necessarily a scary thing, but there is the usual disconnect between the dead and the living. No matter how much they tell you there are things that you do not understand completely.

At camp it felt a little bit like that. Saturday night in the twilight I walked for a brief time by myself and I could feel my dead walking with me. I have had the misfortune of having buried friends and some of them were at camp, I swear that I could feel them.

But it was really more like the memories of the past poked a hole in the present and I revisited things that I had forgotten. As I sat on the hill and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains I couldn't help but just let the memories rush across me. And at the same time I wondered what experiences my children will have.

Will it be a place of awe and majesty for them too? Will it be something that they treasure or will it be a burden that they endure to satisfy a parent.

I have trouble davening, it is hard for me to really get into it, to give the kavanah that I want, to have the energy and passion that I know exist within me. But camp is one of those places that I allow myself to open up and there are multiple places of beauty there. When I speak of awe and majesty, it is not hyperbole.

Camp is a place that has an energy that makes it simple to create moments in time. Moments when I step away from the challenges of everyday life and just allow myself to be without worrying about life.

I am a happy person, I have a very good life. But I spend hours feeling like I walk along a path by myself. It has always been this way, I am very comfortable with myself. These moments are the oasis on the path.

OOps, just noticed the time, way too late. Perhaps I'll return to this later, but probably not. Lailah tov and see you in the A.M.

NBA Brawl- When Athletes go Wild

"After the punches and counterpunches, after the apologizing and moralizing, it was time for the repercussions. And on a sad, sad night for professional sports, on a sobering night in suburban Detroit, an astonishing hammer was delivered.

It had to be done. After the ugliest brawl came the strongest message, the appropriate message. You hope everyone -- players, fans, the whole sports world -- heard it.

With stunning clarity, NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Indiana star Ron Artest for the rest of the season, the harshest penalty in league history for an on-court incident. Artest had precipitated the brawl at Friday night's Pistons-Pacers game, a disgusting altercation with ripples just starting to grow.

Three other Pacers -- Stephen Jackson (30 games), Jermaine O'Neal (25 games) and Anthony Johnson (five games) -- also were suspended, essentially gutting that team. Pistons center Ben Wallace, who shoved Artest after a hard foul, was suspended for six games. Three other Pistons -- Elden Campbell, Derrick Coleman and Chauncey Billups -- were suspended one game, as was Indiana's Reggie Miller. "

There has already been much said about this, but I still want to add my voice to the chorus. This cannot be allowed. It cannot be viewed as an an anomaly. I want to see more than a simple suspension.

Jack's Back

I survived another weekend at my home away from home. It was pretty cool to be wandering through Ojai again. It was even better to walk through camp and visit my favorite places there.

It was interesting to see what had changed and what was still the same. I went to the spot where I fell in love and the place where I had my heart broken.

I stared at the place where I had my first real kiss, lingered at the bench where I learned a dear friend was going to die and just absorbed the day.

And I played Shabbos basketball. Shabbos ball at camp is an age old tradition. I felt like I was 16 again as I couldn't wait to stop davening so that I could begin davening on the court. It was awesome.

It was surreal, and special and entertaining. And it was bittersweet. I missed people who should have been there and I missed knowing that I only had to wait for Summer to roll around again and I would be back. Camp is over for me and I am trying to figure out what my role with it should be.

Indian Summer never ends, does it.

What made you who you are?

My last post made me think. How did I get to be the person I am today? It is not the first time I have thought about it, but it is a question that I like to mull over.

Who am I? Do I like who I am? Am I the person that I want to be? It is like the classic quote from Pirkei Avot, paraphrased here:

"A man receives three names:
The name his parents give him at birth,
The name his friends call him by,
And the name he calls himself."

To me it is one of the most important and profound things I have ever heard. Character, integrity, are you a mentsch. Who are you and is your image of yourself in line with reality. That is, do people see you as you see yourself and how important is that.

To me it is a balance. You shouldn't listen to what everyone says about you. But at the same time you should have some people in your life who you can trust to be honest in their opinions about you. People who can tell you when you are acting like an ass.

So if I have to try and give an honest description of myself I would include these thoughts:

Determined, fiercely loyal, stubborn, very sensitive- perhaps too sensitive. I carry past hurts with me for longer than I should, at times I am a dreamer, I am cautious and guarded, I have a wild streak in me and am capable of doing things that just make your jaw drop. Some are good and some are not so good.

I push the envelope, test limits everywhere in people and places. It is not always a good things, sometimes I have trouble knowing when to stop. I love to laugh, just love humor.

When I feel things, I feel them with intensity and passion. I like to think of myself as being cerebral and thoughtful. I am always interested in learning more about life, people and myself.

I compose on the computer and rarely edit anything I write. I don't like going backwards and posts like this can make me very uncomfortable as I can be very self-conscious.

So if you are wondering why I engage in this kind of thought, it is for two reasons. I am always interested in growing as a person and I happen to think that introspection is good for that.

Beyond that I hope that I can find something in my experience that I can offer to my children, some kind of life lesson that helps them avoid some of my stupid mistakes.

I am a little nervous

Yes, it is true, I am a little nervous about the big weekend reunion. I'd be lying if I said that my ego wasn't involved. I don't look like I did, not really close. I don't look bad, but I am a little softer in the middle and the hair on my head has been shifting to other places on my body.

Does any of it really matter? Not that much, but enough that it bothers me a little, at least enough to notice.

My introduction to camp was back in the '70s as part of a Hebrew school weekend when I was around 10 or 11. I was supposed to attend in '81, but I was "waitlisted" and didn't actually start going for a full session until 1982. I was 13.

I remember much of that Summer. I wore a cowboy hat on the bus. It wasn't a hat that I normally wore and I can't say now why I did it, but I did. It was one of the first things that the other guys noticed about me. Someone asked if I was from Oklahoma.

Since I was the last guy to walk into the tent I got the last available bed, it was a single bed in the middle of the tent. As opposed to the others who had either a top or bottom bunk bed. Just one more thing that made me stand out from the others. Some of the guys took this and the hat as a sign that I might be worth teasing, and they did.

For a while I reacted to it and it continued, things escalated a little. They took my bed and stuck it in the rafters, poked at me with all sorts of remarks and did the junior high things that many of you remember. It was hard, I tried to ignore it, tried to block it out but at 13 I wasn't very good at it.

It was a four week session and I had been there for about a week and had mixed feelings. I was enjoying much of it, but the teasing was getting to me. It finally culminated in a night in which I woke up because I felt something rubbing against my face. One of the other boys was rubbing his penis against my face.

I jumped out of bed in a rage. He took one look at my face and ran out of the tent, naked. I was right behind him screaming obscenities and a promise that the broom I carried with me would not be used for sweeping.

He was saved by a couple of counselors who grabbed me and prevented me from beating him silly. But, I made it clear that night that the teasing would end. When we were taken back to the tent it wasn't more than 10 minutes before the giggling began. I jumped out of bed and pulled him out of his top bunk and dragged his face through the dirt.

A friend of his from home jumped on my back, but I was so angry that it didn't matter. I threw him off of me and resumed pummelling the jerk who had been the instigator. As you can imagine it wasn't long before "adult" intervention tried to insert itself. A 17 year-old counselor came and tried to restrain me, I smacked him in the mouth and nose before he got help from someone else.

Had it not been for the honesty of some of the other guys in that tent I might have been kicked out, but when they explained what had happened I was given a pass. And from that night on no one in that tent did anything to press my buttons.

It was a hard lesson, but that is when I really started to learn how to develop a thick skin. It wasn't liked I hadn't been picked on before that, I had. But I had never had an experience like that. I learned a lot from it.

Disabled dolphin jumping again with world's first artificial fin

"TOKYO (AFP) - Fuji, a mother dolphin that lost 75 percent of her tail due to a mysterious disease, is jumping once again with the help of what is believed to be the world's first artificial fin."


Ramblings of a disturbed mind

It is another Thursday and I just feel like I am baked. Not baked as in high, drunk, stoned or any sort of altered state of reality caused by any substance other than life. And that my friends is exactly what has my head pounding right now, life.

It is not particularly bad or good. It is not any one thing, it is just a lot of little things weighing upon me. It is the normal concerns any father has about his children, the normal worry about paying bills, the doubt about career and life path, the drain of spreadsheets and the drudgery of routine.

I am ready for the vacation I mentioned below. It is going to be exciting to be away, to be in a place that means so much to me. And it will be interesting to see what people look like and are doing now. One of the things I have noticed is that often when you run into people from the past they almost assume that whomever you were dating when they knew you is still with you.

It is not necessarily such a silly thing, but I do get a chuckle out of it. The people who look at me and say that they are so surprised to hear that things with the girlfriend I had during the Summer of 88, 89, 90, 91 and so on did not work out.

I am not that 19 year-old anymore, that dude has moved on. If I had to pick a time of life to relive the Summers of '85 and '88 are definitely high on my list. For that matter 24-26 was a damn fine time of life too. The question that this poses is what did those times have that I miss.What was it that made them special.

Here is the overly simplistic answer. I was a single man, albeit poor, who had a lot of independence, great friends and plenty of female companionship. There were some rough spots and hiccups, but all told it was a blast.

But I don't want to spend all my life looking back to say those were the best days of my life. I want to look forward to the best days of my life. And I have no reason not to think that this is happening. As I have said many times, I have done no finer thing than bring two beautiful children into this world.

My son and daughter are sweet, beautiful children and there are no real words for the love I feel for them. This love is why I am willing to bang my head against the wall so that I can provide for them. And it is why in just a moment I will resume working on a major project that was poorly conceived and constructed.

But we all have our challenges to deal with.

Live in the present, that is one of the most important things that you can do. Look too far ahead or behind and you miss out on life.

What character would you be?

No, this is not one of those quizzes you find online, if it was it would be something like:

What kind of chewing gum flavor are you?
What kind of car are you?
What kind of tool are you?
What flavor of ice cream are you?

Hey, maybe I should write one of those quizzes. Nah, back to the topic at hand.

If you could be a character from a book or movie who would you be?

Would you be Major Major from Catch-22?
Would you be Frodo from The Lord of the Rings?
How about Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye?

Who would you be?

My answers change, but for now I would have to be "The Cat in the Hat." He is one cool cat and he has so many tricks up his sleeve, might be kind of nice to try him on for size.

One in Four Californians Consider Moving

If it is not to Jerusalem I am not going anywhere. I love this state and I am willing to work hard to make it work.

Jack's going on Vacation

This weekend I am going to attend a reunion at a Summer camp I attended as both camper and a counselor. I am really excited about going back as camp is one of those places that never fails to move me.

It is a combination of the experiences I had there and the actual setting. It helped to provide the foundation for who I am on almost every level. So many things come to mind. Every time I walk the hills I really can hear the past and the present.

When I look at certain spots I remember sneaking away with my girlfriend for a quiet moment. I see intimate moments of joy and pain. I remember falling in love and having my heart broken.

It is where I developed many of my closest friendships. During the offseason I spent many hours hiking around the hills and forest it is located in. Truth be told I used that area as a test for some of my relationships. When I began to get serious with a woman I would take her hiking there and just let the area speak for itself.

If she didn't tell me how pretty it was or catch the vibe of what a special place it was to me I knew that the relationship was going to be brief.

When I return this weekend it is for the young alumni, ages 25-39. I took a look at an early list of the people who signed up and thus far I am by far one of the older people there. Most of the married people are not attending, or at least they were not. For that matter the list I saw made it look like a large percentage of the attendees are going to be my former campers.

So I suppose that it is a good thing that I am leaving the family at home because it could be kind of boring for them. And this will give me some time to reminisce and exchange stories on my time. It will be kind of nice having some quiet time to reflect. I am looking forward to taking my children to camp to show them around, but I can save that for a different time.

In the meantime it sure appears like I am going to get to play the role of the elder statesman. It should be nice.

While I am gone I will not have any access to the net, the blog will remain as a snapshot of life before the weekend. On Sunday I'll come home and update it with whatever stories I choose to share.

In the meantime I'll post away until I leave tomorrow afternoon.

Virgin Mary In my Grilled Cheese Sandwich

"BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Brace yourself. There may be a less-than-miraculous explanation for that image of the Virgin Mary a Florida woman says appeared in her grilled cheese sandwich.

Professional skeptic Joe Nickell says it's the same phenomenon that lets people see ships in the clouds, butterflies in ink blots and the man on the moon. "

I apologize if some people find this offensive, but c'mon. If I was eating macaroni and cheese and suddenly saw an image of Moses waving at me I would probably wave back at him.

Head Games on the Basketball court

I play ball several times a week. They are all pickup games and I usually try and match up against players that are better than me because it is how you improve your game.

Whenever I am playing I spend a large part of the game playing mind games with the guys on the other team. I have a number of little tricks that tend to work well. I am not going to share all of them, but here is one that I find to be particularly useful.

During the game I try hard to create turnovers. I have pretty fast hands, so I usually manage to interrupt passes and or a players dribble. Frequently the ball goes out of bounds because myself or another defender has managed to trip things up for the other guy.

When the ball bounces out of bounds most of the time there is a bit of a discussion as to which way the possession arrow is facing, that is, whose ball is it.

If possible I will frequently claim responsibility for having knocked the ball out of play because I want the other players to be worried about my ability as a defender. I want them to think twice about what I might be able to do. I want them to think of me as being a better player than I am.

And you know what, it works.

Yahoo! News - Chirac Decries Iraq War Before London Trip

Someone wake him up and let him know that it is the 21st century and that France hasn't been a real world power since the 19th century.

Humans Were Born to Run, Scientists Say

"LONDON (Reuters) - Humans were born to run and evolved from ape-like creatures into the way they look today probably because of the need to cover long distances and compete for food, scientists said on Wednesday. "

Pretty interesting stuff

"But the development of physical features that enabled humans to run entailed a trade-off -- the loss of traits that were useful for climbing trees."

That is ok with me, it is hard to get a recliner and a big screen TV into the tree.

"Among the features that set humans apart from apes to make them good runners are longer legs to take longer strides, shorter forearms to enable the upper body to counterbalance the lower half during running and larger disks which allow for better shock absorption.

Big buttocks are also important. "

Old Jack is especially pleased to see this as I have a butt that was built for boxing out my opponents in the key. Ask Charles Barkley about the advantages this offers.

Yahoo! News - Cleveland Anchor Appears Nude in TV Report

Scary stuff. - FCC's Powell disappointed in 'MNF' - Nov 17, 2004

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's chief media regulator expressed disappointment Wednesday over the steamy locker room opening to ABC's "Monday Night Football" broadcast.

"I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud," said Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co."

Doesn't this guy have better things to do than this. It is just so silly and such a waste of time. I am very concerned about the chilling effect that this has on our society.

Mom Breastfeeds Puppy to Protect Baby

This is a little out there, dontcha think.

Validation By Defeat

Will has some excellent points in this column.

MSNBC - Validation By Defeat: "Nov. 22 issue - A small but significant, because articulate, sliver of the Democratic Party seems to relish interpreting the party's defeat as validation. This preening faction reasons as follows: the re-election of George W. Bush proves that 51 percent of the electorate are homophobic, gun-obsessed, economically suicidal, antiscience, theocratic dunces. Therefore to be rejected by them is to have one's intellectual and moral superiority affirmed."

This behavior is just obnoxious and reprehensible.

"Belief in the infantilism of the American public has been an expanding facet of some "progressive" thinking for 50 years—since the explosive growth of advertising, especially on television, in the 1950s. Then it began to be argued (see, for example, John Kenneth Galbraith's 1958 book "The Affluent Society") that Americans are a bovine, manipulable herd—putty in the hands of advertisers who can manufacture demand for whatever products manufacturers want to produce.

This new theory—that the economy is powered not by the consumption of production but by the production of consumption—made a mockery of the idea of consumer sovereignty. Consumers, it was said, could no longer make up their minds because their minds were made up for them by irresistible forces beyond their control or even their cognizance."

Do we give people the benefit of the doubt, that is do we trust them to think for themselves or do we expect that since so many cannot we must do it for them.

"They are dismayed that political spending on the presidential race (including spending by the independent 527 groups) and on all House and Senate races totaled $3.9 billion—less than what Americans will spend on chips this year. One reason the money in politics is supposedly "too much" is that most of the money goes for advertising, and we know how powerfully it controls voters.

Actually, we don't know. For the record, John Kerry and groups supporting him spent more on advertising than Bush and groups supporting him did—nationally, and in Florida and Ohio.

It is passing strange. As the American public has become more educated, American intellectuals have become more disparaging of the public's intellectual incapacities and moral shortcomings. In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had only an eighth-grade education, or less. Now that 85 percent are high-school graduates, 53 percent have some college education and 27 percent are college graduates, it is an article of faith among the progressive intelligentsia that the public is becoming increasingly obtuse, bigoted and superstitious."

I am willing to bet that most people were unaware of this. There is a lot of food for thought here.

For the members of the Tribe and anyone else who is interested

This is a little off-color and obviously exaggerated, but kind of fun.
An Orthodox Jewish couple, preparing for a religious wedding meets with their rabbi for counseling. The rabbi asks if they have any lastquestions before they leave.
The young man asks, "Rabbi, we realize it's tradition for men to dance with men,and women to dance with women at the reception. But, we'd like your permission to dance together, like the rest of the world."
"Absolutely not,"says the rabbi. "It's immodest. Men and women always dance separately."
"So after the ceremony I can't even dance with my own wife?" "No," answered the rabbi."It's forbidden." "Well, okay," says the man.
"What about sex? Can we finally have sex?" "Of course!," replies the rabbi. "Sex is a *mitzvah - a good thing within marriage, to have children!"
"What about different positions?" asks the man. "No problem," says the rabbi. "It's a *mitzvah!"
"Woman on top?"the man asks. "Sure," says the rabbi. "Go for it! It's a *mitzvah!"
"Doggy style?""Sure! Another mitzvah!" "On the kitchen table?" "Yes, yes! A *mitzvah!"
"Can we do it on rubber sheets with a bottle of hot oil, a couple of vibrators, a leather harness, a bucket of honey and a porno video?" "You may indeed. It's all a *mitzvah!"
"Can we do it standing up?" "No." says the rabbi." "Why not?" asks the man.
"Could lead to dancing"

Arafat left mystery on PLO's holdings

No surprises in this story, let's spend a few minutes taking it apart.

" The Palestinian leader, who died last week, maintained tight control over a far-flung network of financial resources, and officials now fear that much of it is in danger of being lost or stolen.

Estimates of the amount vary wildly. One of his former PLO finance ministers recently put the figure at $3 billion to $5 billion. Israeli intelligence sources have claimed that about $700million has been hidden away in secret bank accounts.

Last year, Forbes magazine placed Arafat sixth on its list of the world's wealthiest "kings, queens and despots." The magazine calculated that he was worth about $300 million.

By all accounts, Arafat was a man of few material wants who lived a life of Spartan simplicity. But money is the lubricant of all political movements, and a virtual river of cash flowed through Arafat's pockets during his four decades as chairman of the PLO and later as president of the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites).

Arafat obsessively controlled every penny, but he shunned conventional accounting methods, aides said. The PLO's finances were highly compartmentalized, and only Arafat had the whole picture."

No surprises here.

"Ordinary Palestinians saw Arafat as a father figure--and for good reason. He was a soft touch when they needed cash to pay hospital bills or to send a child to college. Often Palestinians would put a classified ad in the local newspaper explaining their plight and beseeching Arafat for help. He rarely said no.

More substantial sums were needed to open embassies around the world, buy military equipment, pay PLO fighters and compensate their families when they got killed."

Fighters, shouldn't it be terrorists. When you blow yourself up in a grocery store or on a bus are you a fighter. Nope.

"Beginning in the 1960s, the main source of PLO funding was a 5 percent levy on the incomes of Palestinian exiles working mainly in the Arab gulf states. The money was collected by those states and transferred directly to Arafat. At its peak, it amounted to about $200million a year. But the flow of money dried up after Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

"The Arab governments stopped collecting those taxes and never started again," Abington said. "After that, Arafat was constantly hard-pressed for money."

Arafat received some help from Hussein, who gave him special export licenses to sell Iraqi oil. Those reportedly were worth $150 million."

Hard pressed for money, I don't buy it.

"It was not until Arafat signed the Oslo accords that the money began flowing again. About $6.5billion from international donors, most of it from the European Union (news - web sites), went to the newly created Palestinian Authority between 1994 and 2003.

The authority also received regular payments from the Israeli government, which acted as a tax-collecting agency for the Palestinians and charged a 3 percent fee for its services.

Under Arafat, accounting was lax, and corruption and mismanagement were rife.

An audit last year by the International Monetary Fund (news - web sites) revealed that nearly $900 million of the $6.5 billion given to the authority was diverted into an account controlled by Arafat. Arafat immediately was accused of misappropriating the money, but a further audit has accounted for virtually all of it."

This still stinks.

"But while Palestinian Authority accounting practices have improved, Palestinian officials acknowledge that this is not the whole picture. The PLO's funds remain shrouded in mystery and mythology."

Corruption is a problem.

"No one disputes that corruption remains rampant within the Palestinian Authority. Arafat used money to buy loyalty, but the usual way he did that was to grant monopoly concessions. Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, for example, controls the cement monopoly on the West Bank; Jibril Rajoub, Arafat's national security adviser, ran the oil and gas monopoly in the West Bank.

Even Arafat's wife, Suha, got a piece of the action. In 1994 she promoted the interests of a telecommunications company--and received a $2 million kickback for her services, according to a knowledgeable source.

Earlier this year, French prosecutors began investigating deposits of $15million into Suha Arafat's bank accounts. Palestinian officials believe the money comes from her various questionable business dealings.

Deeply resented by ordinary Palestinians for her expensive lifestyle in Paris, Suha Arafat received monthly payments of $100,000 from Arafat's office fund. The amount recently was cut in half at the insistence of senior Palestinian officials.

"We will not leave her and her daughter with financial problems, but she cannot make exaggerated demands," Mohammed Rashid, one of Arafat's key financial advisers over the last 10 years, told an Israeli newspaper."

I still have a number of problems with all of this. People point their finger at Israel as if Israel is responsible for all of the Pal woes.

Just imagine what the $100k a month Suha received could have done for the Palestinians.

Study Links Sleep Deprivation, Obesity

I eat when I am tired and I eat when I am not tired, I just like to eat. But I could stand to drop 20.

Video Appears to Show Killing of Iraq Aid Worker -UK

This is terrible, it is horribly tragic. What is even worse will be those people who blame her death upon the US and company.

Apologists for terrorists and dictators who suffer from a lack of moral clarity and lack the ability to place blame where it belongs.

I am a Handy Man- Sort of

Brian's post about a foray into computer repair made me think for a few moments about my own abilities to repair things and do work around the house and car.

I have great admiration for craftsman and people who are able to use their hands to create and repair things, be it carpentry, electrical, plumbing, whatever. There is something very cool about being able to take objects and create something new out of nothing, as well as being able to fix and maintain the items around your home.

If the toilet leaks, fence breaks, sink cracks, car coughs and you can handle the problem yourself it is just a very cool thing.

My father is very good with his hands. As a child I spent years assisting him on household projects and trying to learn how to do what he did. For a long time I had great difficulty doing so because grace and finesse do not come easily to me. I have a body that was built for demolition. If you want to knock down a wall, I am your guy. If you want to remove the stump in your backyard out, call me. But the more delicate tasks were hard, I would strip screws and break things because I had trouble adjusting to the task.

And I found it very frustrating because my father was good at it. Over time my frustration lessened because I began to learn to be patient and I understood that practice would enhance my ability to emulate him and mirror his work.

It has been many many years now since those issues were really hard on me and I have come to really enjoy working with my hands and have a real sense of satisfaction when I am the one who does the work to solve the problem.

One of the things that I have begun doing with my son is enlisting his assistance on simple projects. I love teaching him and watching him learn. We'll see if he takes after me in all ways, I suspect that I am going to have to work with him to teach him how to use his strength appropriately too, but it is going to be a lot of fun for both of us.

So many lessons, important life lessons are learned by doing the hard work yourself. Perhaps I'll add to this post or blog more about this later.

18ft Great White shark Attacks Woman

"The last confirmed, unprovoked fatal shark attack in South Africa was in 2003, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File, which has gathered such data worldwide for decades. "

What do you do to provoke a shark, aside from jumping into blood infested water. Wow, this animal is just immense. I cannot imagine the power that it must bring. I feel badly for the woman, but I would imagine that this would be quick.

And on a side note might I add that I being eaten alive is one of my irrational fears. It scares the hell out of me.

The Amazing Race

I am excited about watching the 6th installment. It is one of those reality shows that keeps my attention.

Saddam and the Corrupt Oil for Food Program

This is really worth digging into. Check out these nuggets and follow the story:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Saddam Hussein's regime made more than $21.3 billion in illegal revenue by subverting the U.N. oil-for-food program -- more than double previous estimates, according to congressional investigators."


"Saddam Hussein attempted to manipulate the typical oil allocation process in order to gain influence throughout the world," Mark L. Greenblatt, a counsel for the Senate panel's permanent subcommittee on investigations, said in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press.

"Rather than giving allocations to traditional oil purchasers, Hussein gave oil allocations to foreign officials, journalists, and even terrorist entities, who then sold their allocations to the traditional oil companies in return for a sizable commission."

The reference to terrorist groups referred to evidence that the regime had allocated oil to such organizations as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Mujahadeen Khalq, a group seeking to overturn the government of Iran, Greenblatt said."

I wonder what else we'll discover.

I am not a fan of self-immolation

"WASHINGTON - A man set himself afire Monday just outside a White House gate and repeatedly yelled "Allah Allah" as a Secret Service officer held him facedown on the sidewalk."

Mental illness is what comes to mind.

More fan mail

More fan mail:

Dear Mr. Shack,
I have noticed your posts around the blogs I visit and want to say that I commend you for your approach and semi-literate responses.
Dear reader,
Thanks for noticing. I am curious where you saw me and what you saw me doing. Strike that, don't answer I am not sure that I want to know.

You are one conflicted dude. Who are you trying to be?
Dear reader,
As I learned in college, "all we are is dust in the wind."

You really think that you are funny man. I don't think you are half as witty as I am. Please don't do this any longer.

Dear reader,
I like nothing more than to be insulted by a half-wit.

What do you think is going to happen during the next four years?

Dear reader,
Thank you for providing me with some latitude here. Since you did not specify what you would like me to comment on allow me to say that within the next four years I'd like :

"I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
That's the real thing."

Sorry, we had a momentary interlude by one of our sponsors. I expect that the world will continue as it has. Some people wil fall in love, others will fall out of love. Babies will be born and old people will die. The Red Sox will go into another 86 year drought, Cleveland will still look for a personality, Bush will still be blamed for the ills of the world, Arafat will still be dead, The Dodgers will return to the World Series, It will no longer take three licks to the get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, two will be the new measure and we will see all out war between a 50 year-old Madonna and a 30 year-old Britney who looks like a 50 year-old Madonna.

That is it for now, keep those emails coming and I'll keep sharing a select few with you.

Pallywood Posts

 I think a bunch of the posts about Pallywood that have been written and or linked here have to be updated. Probably a bunch of bad links, k...