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Showing posts from December, 2004

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 eas

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 b

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 sel

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

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

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 What Kind of Soul Are You? 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.

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 te

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 name

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.

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 b

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 an

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

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 quarterb

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 pub

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 sw

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

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 wrot

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

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.

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

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 regio

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

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, b

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

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

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 ex

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. "H

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.

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

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

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 b

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 measu