Samurai Samba

I like offbeat, kind of quirky people and articles. Here is a little snigget for you:

"TOKYO (AFP) - Forget about the courageous chivalry or serene mental concentration of the feudal-era samurai. Japan's coolest samurai today is clad in a dazzling golden kimono and shaking his hips to the rhythm of the samba.

Until 2003, Ken Matsudaira, fondly called by the nickname "Matsuken", was known in Japan as a solemn actor playing a heroic shogun in a television drama series that lasted for a quarter of a century.

But in a sign of a changing Japan, the feudal fighter is now swaying to a giddy beat from halfway across the globe.

He has caused a sensation among young and old alike with CDs of his latest song, the "Matsuken Samba II", complete with DVDs of his choreographer giving dancing tips, selling 500,000 copies. Other Matsuken goods on sale range from golden kimonos to top-knot wigs to postal stamps.

The audience goes wild with excitement as the one-time stoic hero, with snow-white make-up and glittering strands of hair dangling from the temples, appears on stage with a horde of gaudy female dancers.

"Hit the bongo, sound the samba!" Matsuken breaks into song, skipping about as the modern-day samurai invites young men and women to dance all night with him."

To hear a sample please
Click Here

Television's Impact On Children

We try to limit the amount of television our children watch and we are especially careful in just what it is they are allowed to see. I feel kind of silly saying they because my daughter is only 7.5 months, so it is premature to speak about her TV habits.

Here is my somewhat embellished recitation of one instance of the impact of television on my son.

Scooby Doo- My son loves Scooby Doo, just can't get enough of it. Asks for Scooby snacks and tells me about the ghosts and goblins that the gang encounters. When I tell him that I used to watch Scooby when I was his age his face get's kind of scrunched up, I think that sometimes it is hard for him to imagine me as a child.

There are two primary things that he has taken from Scooby and they are both phrases. If he is building a tower of blocks and it falls, or something silly happens he likes to say "Zoinks!"

But the thing that really makes me laugh is his use of the word "doomed." This past weekend we had dinner with my folks on Saturday night. As we were preparing to leave he engaged in his normal stall tactics, which I was too tired to deal with. So I looked at him and said that if he didn't hurry we would be late and miss dinner.

His response, "Oh no Daddy! We must hurry because if we miss dinner we will be doomed."

Improved Commenting?

I just reinstalled Haloscan to see if this solves the problems I have been having with commenting on my blog.

Most International Aid Wasted, Say Agencies

This is something that I feel strongly about. Too often people think that you can just throw money at a problem to make it go away.

"LONDON (Reuters) - Red tape, inefficiency and nepotism mean that only one fifth of international aid actually gets to the people who need it, aid agencies said Monday.

Not only that, but 40 percent of international aid is spent buying overpriced goods and services from the donors' own countries, Action Aid and Oxfam said in a joint report calling for urgent reform of a politically compromised system.

"First and foremost, they need to spend aid where it is needed -- on poverty reduction -- rather than channel it to their own consultancy and infrastructure industries and geopolitical allies," the report said."

Here is another example of an unnecessary problem.

"Donors tend to be more concerned about the success and visibility of their project or program than the success of a country's development plan," it said.

The report complained that donor nations often bypassed local delivery networks thereby undermining them and leaving countries less able to stand on their own feet.

All aid should be untied, technical expertise should be trained locally, goods and services should where possible be procured locally and the focus should be on directly helping the poor and building local skills.

"These are major challenges to the aid system since they imply a redistribution of power between recipients and donors and a far greater openness and accountability than currently exists," the report concluded."

Embarrassing Moments

Why I don't place videos of myself on the Net. Click here.

P.S. It is not a stretch for me to see myself in his shoes. Phew.

Fragments of Fiction- A New Installment

There is a new entry on the Fragments of Fiction blog. I am just kind of mumbling my way through this. Almost 8,000 words and all I have is this rough mockup of a story. It is kind of frustrating, I am not real happy with it.

That is not to say that I think that it is terrible. It has potential, but it feels flat to me, a little formulaic and in need of some color. Sometimes I wish that I could combine this with making a movie, that I could tell a story and show pictures and sound with it.

It would be so much easier to try and flesh things out, to make you see things the way I am really trying to describe them. Sometimes I feel like the words are doing the trick, like they are presenting you with the image I hold in my mind and sometimes it feels like I am banging my head against the wall and that is something that just tears me up.

A number of years ago I worked for a company that manufactured tools for construction purposes. We sold a couple of pieces of equipment to a company in Israel. And any time they needed assistance I would be the guy that they placed on the phone. At one point in time my command of Hebrew was excellent, now I can get by, get around but it is not real solid.

I remember one conversation with two of their crew. Between the two of them they spoke about 27 words of English and almost none of them were useful for our conversation. Even at the height of my prowess I would have had difficulty because I had never learned certain words, there was a vocabulary problem.

So the three of us yelled a little, cursed a little and worked hard to overcome the language gap. We got there, but it was incredibly frustrating for all of us. And that is kind of how I feel about this now, it almost reads the way I want it to, but it is still missing something.

G-d Speaks or Maybe it is Just Coincidence

Ok, allow me to be the latest to pile onto this story
but I have a different perspective than some of the others. It may just be that I am cranky and irritable, but I have a hard time with the idea that G-d keeps sending messages to people and if we only listened we would be happier.

I like the idea, love the thought that there is a reason for everything that happens but I cannot buy into it. Even as someone who believes in G-d I cannot accept this because it just doesn't make sense to me and I don't think that everything has to make sense.

There is no rational explanation for why the tsunami wiped out the equivalent of three football stadiums of people. There is no logic for why some people lived and others did not. At just short of 36 I know 5 people who died from brain cancer. I spent lots of time with some of them and aside from a dysfunctional digestive system I am fine.

There are some things in life that cannot be explained away as divine providence intervening, it is too easy, too pat and it just doesn't do it for me.

Anyway, that is as much as I want to say on this right now.

Canada's Posturing

A day after opting out of the U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin reiterated Friday that Washington must get permission from Ottawa before firing on any incoming missiles over Canada.

"This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation, and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.

He was responding to comments by outgoing U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci on Thursday in which Cellucci warned Canada that by not signing on to the continental missile shield, it was in effect giving up its sovereignty and would be "outside the room" when the United States made a decision on whether to use the system to shoot down an incoming missile."

Something tells me that we are not going to telephone you in advance for permission to defend ourselves.


Grow-your-own breast implants

"INSTEAD of silicone implants or tissue taken from elsewhere in the patient's body, plastic surgeons might soon be using tissue grown from patients' own stem cells.

So claims Jeremy Mao of the University of Illinois, who has tested the idea in mice. He seeded scaffolds with human bone-marrow-derived stem cells and inserted them into mice.

Four weeks later the implants still retained their size and shape. When tissue from a patient's body is used for reconstruction, the implants often deform after just a week, and can halve in volume over later years. "It seems promising and could soon be making an impact," Mao told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington DC last week."

I am sure that this sounds ridiculous to some people, but if they could do this why couldn't they develop some other applications, something that would help cure Parkinsons or Alzheimers disease.

Genocide in the Sudan

Frankly I didn't intend to provide a link to this post because I disagreed with some things that were said there in the past.

And then reality smacked me in the head and I realized that not only was that juvenile behavior, but there is a need to try and do something to help. And so I bring you to another reminder that even though the world is imbued with more consciousness about genocidal activities in places like the Sudan it is still reluctant to get involved.

The sad truth is that there many places throughout the world in which terrible tragedies are taking place. These are not natural disasters like the tsunami but man made and that is in large part what makes them so terrible.

Africa is a mess and the world pays little attention to it. It is better to have tried to affect change than to ignore things and pretend that nothing is going on.

Here is the link again. click on it and take advantage of the resources it links to and try and make a difference.

Another Installment of Fragments of Fiction

There is a new entry on the Fragments of Fiction blog. Some of this story is pretty rough. It feels rather formulaic to me, very child like. I find that to be a little frustrating. Sooner or later I have to go back in and start polishing and refining it.

If I disappeared Would You Notice

I have been meaning to write about this for a while now. Each week I play in a regular game of pickup basketball. After the games we retreat to the steam room where we engage in all sorts of macho nonsense. Or should I say there is a lot of storytelling going on and not all of it is believable or nice.

One of the guys that I play with is having problems with his teenage son. I don't know all the details and it is not really my business but if the man is who I think he is the problem is him. You can't be a friend to your childen until they grow up, try to be their buddy and you set yourself up for a problem.

Let's cut to the chase here. The man told his son that if he (son) disappeared he wouldn't notice. What a horrible thing to say. When I heard it I considered punching him in the mouth because it sickened me to hear it. I understand fighting between parents and siblings, my parents and I went through it. I expect to deal with it as a parent, but I promise that my child will never hear that out of my mouth.

To make a long story longer I asked him if he meant it and he said yes. And then I asked him what he thought people's reactions would be if he suddenly disappeared and he said that no one would care because the world doesn't care about people.

And I realized that he was in a tremendous amount of pain. And my anger softened a little. I still cannot accept saying anything like that to a child, but in context it made more sense. While I sat there schvitzing I wondered to myself what would happen if I suddenly disappeared. I made it an exercise of sorts, concentric circles of relationships.

First I considered what would happen if my blog suddenly disappeared. Would there be any sort of outcry, would people wonder or would they just shrug their shoulders and move on.

Then I thought about the people at the office. If I left for lunch and never returned would it make a difference

That followed with considering how my friends would react if I was suddenly removed from their lives.

And then finally I thought about my family and the impact it would make upon them.

The answer was and is that I am important to people. Not that it has ever been a problem for me. I don't have self esteem issues, but I think that it is healthy to consider these things and remind ourselves that we matter and that what we do impacts the people we love and care about.
It is a good feeling to know that you belong to someone and that you are loved.

It is too bad that so many people have problems feeling this way.

Struggling With Keeping Kosher/Shabbos

I recently heard from a friend of mine. She called to ask me some questions about a friend of hers who in her words is "growing to be very Jewish." My friend is not Jewish and had a number of questions. I was able to answer all of them, but I don't think that she was buying any of it.

The truth is that she doesn't have to accept anything I say, it is her friend's choice and that should be enough. But the conversation was similar to others that I have had with people who are Jewish.

I think that the primary thing that bothers this friend of mine is that she feels like there are now restrictions upon her friendship. She doesn't understand what keeping Kosher is about and Shabbos just overwhelms her. I am kind of curious to speak with the friend who is going BT because it sounds to me like she hit her with a ton of information aboout Shabbos, primarily the restrictions on what you can or cannot do.

I thought that was kind of sad, because Shabbos offers so much more than that. If you are going to explain to someone that you are not driving, writing or doing so many of the other non-Shabbos activities you need to provide a context for why.

My friend asked me why I still drive on Shabbos, why I am willing to do so many things that you are not supposed to do. She said that since I seemed to know the reasons why a Jewish person should not do these things it seemed strange to her. I told her that I would be willing to have an extended discussion about it if she was willing to do some learning on her own and that otherwise I meant to keep it short.

Not because I am afraid to discuss it, but I frankly I wasn't convinced that she was really interested and I didn't want to get involved in a personal discussion without that interest.

There are some proscriptions that I dobut that I will ever take on, but that is for a different entry. What we try to do in my home is emphasize that Shabbos is family time. It is a time for us to slow down and take stock of ourselves and our lives.

It is a time to speak with the children about values and things that we think are important and a time to consider for ourselves what is important to us, a time to reflect and consider. It is nice to stop running and just 'be.'

As for the issue of Kashrut I explained to my friend that I didn't think that it was fair for her to be so judgemental about her other friend's desire to keep Kosher. If she was a vegetarian she wouldn't say anything. If she had food allergies she wouldn't criticize her decision, but because of a religious belief that she doesn't share she is upset, it is just silly to me.

She didn't ask me to tell her why I do not keep Kosher. There are a number of reasons why, one of which is that there are certain meals that I love, that I have a hard time considering giving up. But that is not really what is holding me back.

I think that I could give those things up and move ahead. There are many Kosher restaurants in my neighborhood, so it is not unusual to find me there or to find me purchasing Kosher items at the market.

I think that the thing that has held me back from going all the way is this. I haven't bought into the reasons for keeping Kosher, up to now I haven't found anything compelling other than the guilt I feel for not doing it. And guilt is not enough for me to make the change right now.

The "Teasing Jingle"

this is an audio post - click to play

Tel Aviv Suicide Bombing Kills Up to Five

"Palestinian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah orchestrated the blast. They said they had tracked recent communications between Hezbollah militant Kais Obeid and an unidentified Palestinian who they believed was the attacker.

But a Hezbollah official in Beirut denied involvement. "As far as we are concerned, there is no need to respond to such lies that we have become used to it," the official said.

Hezbollah has emerged as the biggest threat to the fragile Israeli-Palestinian truce, with Lebanese guerrillas offering West Bank gunmen thousands of dollars to attack Israelis. The Iranian-funded Lebanese guerrillas, who have hundreds of West Bank gunmen on their payroll, have stepped up pressure recently."

Call me a cynic, but part of me wonders if there isn't some collusion between the groups, a good cop, bad cop kind of thing.

Watch The Dukes of Hazzard and Earn Big Money

You mean I could get paid to drive the General Lee and tell tales of Boss Hogg and Daisy Duke. Count me in. I have to admit, I wasn't aware of a "Dukefest." But I am sure that these guys could clue me in. Here is the story for your reading pleasure.

The job may seem onerous to some, however: watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" reruns five nights a week.

Viacom's Country Music Television channel is running help wanted ads for this position -- Vice President, CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute. That's right. That's what the ads say, noting the pay is $100,000 for the duration of a one-year contract.

The vice president will have to watch Dukes of Hazzard every weeknight on Country Music Television, know all the words to The Dukes of Hazzard theme song and write the Dukes of Hazzard on-line blog for CMT.com, Country Music Television's Web site.

The person selected will also have to be available for media interviews to "share his or her expertise and passion" for the TV program and make appearances at events such as Dukefest 2005 in Bristol, Tenn., in June, according to the ad.

A valid driver's license is required, the advertisement says, because the applicant may be required to drive the General Lee, an orange 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the fictional Bo and Luke Duke in the show, which originally ran from 1979 to 1985.

The "job application" does not ask about relevant work experience or educational background.

But it does ask, "If you, Bo, Luke and Daisy took off in the General Lee, what would happen next?" The character Daisy was Bo and Luke's cousin in the show.

Another question is "If Waylon Jennings wrote your theme song, what would the title chorus be?" Waylon Jennings sang the show's theme song.

Although information about the job can be found in the "Sweepstakes" section on the CMT.com Web site, the listing says the job requires an independent contractor agreement.

***Just found this. Who has time to think of these things.***

Intermittent Windshield Wipers

"DETROIT - Robert Kearns, the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, has died of cancer, according to family members. He was 77."

Another unsung hero moves on.

Part 7 of Rose's Story is now live

Click here to read it.

Fragments of Fiction- A New Entry

There is a new entry on the Fragments of Fiction blog called Georgie in the Mountains. I am still learning about the characters, I don't have an outline and I am not really sure where this is going. Everything you read is a first draft, which is really how I prefer to write

Eventually I plan on putting it together so that it reads more like a book, but for now this is what I have. Your thoughts and comments are welcome..

Jewish Philanthropy

This is a topic that I have found myself discussing quite a bit recently. In large part because there has a been a discussion within my shul about where and how we should best apply our philanthropic donations.

Miriam touched briefly upon this here:

"Allison links to an article I looked for yesterday while I was writing about the JNF, but couldn't find (thanks, Allison). "According to the annual report summarizing philanthropic activity in the U.S, six out of the 10 largest donors - with donations between $100 million $375 million - were Jews, and none of them made any significant donation to Jewish needs. Only 20 percent of the donations by Jews are directed to Jewish concerns, while 50 years ago that proportion was 50 percent. " Another reason -- if another was needed -- for Jewish organizations to clean up their act asap. While recent scandals have nothing to do with the stats above, tainted reputations and credibility issues aren't going to help matters."
There are a number of issues here that need to be addressed and like all organizational matters much of the problem revolves around politics and not altruism. To me the issue of credibility is actually secondary in nature because it is most easily solved. Develop and implement mechanisms and procedures that make it easy to see how and where the dollars are being spent.

Transparency will help restore credibility, but that is just a small part of the problem. The big issues in my book are related to the lack of connection that many Jews have for Israel and Judaism or the fear that some have that by giving to Israel/Jewish causes they have opened themselves up to questions about their patriotism.

There needs to be a focus on building a connection toJudasim, establishing lines of communication throughout the community and by that I mean interdenominationally and otherwise as well as the connection to Israel.

Too many Jews remain unafilliated and unattached because they lack the necessary education to understand fact versus fiction and where the lines of propaganda blur truth. And I mean that to cover all sides.

We can be a vibrant, active community that takes care of our own as well as one that interacts with the rest of the world and engages in Tikun Olam and social action programs that are not solely focused upon Jewish causes.

It is possible to have a balance, it needn't be an either/or decision.

Things My Four-Year-Old Has Done

*Hit his little sister in the head with a ball. Fairness dictates that he called her name and said catch prior to throwing the ball. Fairness also dictates that I asked him not to do this because she is only 7 months old and is not able to catch it yet.

I was about three feet away from her and was not able to get to her in time to prevent said ball from bonking her in the head.

*He tried to make an egg fly by throwing it. It didn't work, but he did, alongside of me as we cleaned up the mess.

*At the supermarket a man pushed his cart in front of ours. My little angel told him that if he didn't move he would punch him in the nose. Oy. He followed that remark up by telling the girl standing nearby that she was cute.

*He took the gift he gave his mother last year for Mother's Day and dumped it into a sink full of water for the simple reason of "I don't know."

*He told his baby sister that he loved her and that he would always take care of her.

*Told his daddy that when he is big like me he'll listen better because he'll have bigger ears and it will be easier to hear then.

*Told his grandfather that he could buy him ice cream for breakfast if he didn't tell daddy.

So many more fun things that could be shared. :)

Luxury Beneath the Sea- 50 Feet Below

MIAMI (AFP) - Anyone willing to dish out 1,500 dollars a night might soon get a chance to come face to face with sharks from the comfort of an undersea hotel room a Florida entrepreneur plans to build in the Bahamas.

"People who are interested in experiencing something they can't find anywhere else in the world will find it a real bargain," says Bruce Jones who heads the 40-million-dollar project.

To date, there is only one such underwater hotel, a small refitted marine lab located in somewhat murky waters just off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

But Jones says his Poseidon resort will be one of a kind, as guests will not need to don scuba gear to reach their luxury suites.

The hotel, located off the Bahamian island of Eleuthera at a depth of 15 meters (50 feet), will be connected to the mainland through two tunnels and an escalator, and pressure will be the same as at the surface.

The hotel will have its own restaurant, a bar and 20 large suites with transparent acrylic walls facing coral gardens that can be lit up at night.

Guests can expect to see a large variety of tropical fish, tuna and turtles, and with a bit of luck, sharks, from the comfort of their rooms, or even from their private jacuzzis, says Jones. "They will enjoy five-star luxury accommodation, all with stunning views of the underwater world."

I'd love to do this, it sounds very cool to me.

Lost

Lost is one of my favorite television shows. The writing is excellent and the story is intriguing.

The Impact of Parenting On Your Own Growth

I recently read a post in which my friend A Simple Jew considered the impact of children on your own intelligence. He said a couple of things that I wanted to respond to here as well as open the topic for further discussion because I think that it is interesting.

"Can intelligence get in the way of parenting? While occupied with children the parent has to turn off his mind to some to degree from his own intellectual pursuits.

On the weekend I wake up at 5:00 and go downstairs and learn until my wife and children wake up at 7:00. I cherish this time alone. I spend these two hours exercising my brain since I know that I will have to turn it off once the children are up. I have found that taking this time to myself helps me be more fully devoted to my family during the course of the day."
I don't think that your own intellectual capacity for learning has to be turned off during the time in which you are engaged in parenting activities, it is just redirected in a different direction. And I think that the ages of your children will impact it too.

That is, if you have very young children more of your time is taken in helping to teach them how to be good people and how to find their way in the world. So your own learning is going to be a little bit more limited because of the time they require and they probably are not going to be able to act as your chavrusa (study partner).

But you can still learn with them. It is a chance to reevaluate what you have been taught and really consider what you want them to learn and to make a part of themselves.

"There are plenty of very intelligent people with advanced degrees and small children at home. I wonder if it is more difficult for them to "put there brain aside" when dealing with their children. I wonder if intelligence to some degree can be a stumbling block.

Too much intelligence is not good. It makes one over think even the most trivial decisions and does not allow one to live in the moment. Too little intelligence can potentially be dangerous.

Exactly where is the line?"
Again I see it as a question of how to redirect that energy in a fashion that suits both you and your children. Small children may make it harder to deal with quantum mechanics, but not impossible.

I don't think that you can be too intelligent. Anyone can be paralyzed by indecisiveness as well as a tendency to overanalyze the world around them, intelligence does not have to play a role in this.

One of the key points you address is the need to remember to live in the present and not get caught by memories of past victories/failures or thoughts of the future. That is something that I work on every day.

This is an interesting topic that can go a lot of different directions, thanks.

The Shack Needs Your Help

****Updated*****

I have removed a couple of items to see if this helps alleviate any speed issues you might be witnessing. Let me know if you see a difference.

-J

Hi folks,


I wanted to follow up regarding the commenting issue of last week. Can you please let me know if you are still having trouble leaving comments. I am supposed to let the good people of blogger know and want to give an accurate answer.

Thanks,

Jack

Georgie- Fragments of Fiction

I decided to double post the entries for this story here and on the
Fragments of Fiction
blog. It will be interspersed with normal posts here.

The funny thing about my relationship with Georgie was the way we looked together. Georgie was only about 5’7 or 5’8 and he couldn’t have weighed more than 165 pounds or so.

On the other hand I was almost 6’4 and weighed a solid 230 pounds. If you looked at us you would have never guessed that for years I had been scared of Georgie, afraid in a very real and tangible sense. And he knew it, he could smell it in my sweat, or so he claimed.

I can’t explain what it was about him that frightened me so, I just know that he did. It might have had something to do with the time he beat David Jackman with a tire iron, or the time that he hopped over the counter at the mini-mart and beat the shopkeeper up for insulting him by asking for proof of his age. He was like a mini-volcano, ready to blow at any time and unpredictable.

In some ways my size had put me at a disadvantage. I had always been bigger than everyone else. In school the bullies had avoided me as had most of the other kids. No one wanted to risk having their head handed to them. The end result was that because I never had any fights I was afraid of what would happen, worried that I could get hurt and quite concerned about what a fist to the mouth would feel like.

Georgie never had those fears and I don’t know why. He came from a middle class home. His mother was a housewife and his father was chief mechanic. It was a blue collar job that paid enough to provide white collar lifestyle. Georgie’s father never hit him, never used any sort of physical threat to control him, so who knows why he turned out as he did.

Psychologists and social workers get paid a lot of money to improperly diagnose people like Georgie. I won’t waste my time trying to do their job, and who cares what made him the way he was. The more important question was how to stay on his good side because he was mean and proud of it.

Georgie bragged about the fights he got into, showed off his scars and told stories of the past hurts and battles like they had just happened. The chip on his shoulder was never very far from his present.

We must have been around 20 or so when Georgie decided to teach me his life lessons. At first I was shocked and confused. I couldn’t believe that he was hitting and kicking me and then I was too bloodied and bruised to do anything but curl up on the floor and try to protect myself.

If I had any sense he beat it out of me there because the smart thing would have been to just walk away and not speak with him again. Alternatively I could have fought back, hit him, the lack of resistance only encouraged him to continue to batter me longer and harder.

This went on for a couple of years, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. I was in a funny place then, so time really didn’t have much meaning to me. It would probably still be going on if not for the accident.

It was a Saturday morning. Georgie showed up at my apartment at around 9 am, sat there kicking and yelling at my door. When I answered it he told me to get dressed, we were going out.

I threw on a pair of jeans, some Timberland boots, flannel shirt and topped it off with a baseball cap turned backwards and followed him to his car. We were heading into the mountains to “see someone.”

That was bad news for someone. Any time Georgie said he wanted to “see someone” it meant that he wanted to see them bleeding, preferably because of him. I didn’t bother to ask who or why, it wouldn’t matter and it wouldn’t change anything. Georgie would do what he did just because and that was the fact of the matter.

More from the Mailbag

Dear Jack,

When I first began reading this blog it was funny, witty and exciting. Now it is filled with material that just bores me. Can you become that funny guy again.

Thank you,

Ted Broganski


Dear Ted,

So you are saying that my blog has jumped the shark. I feel so sad. Ok, I don't really feel sad, but I am funny. Ask my children and they'll tell you that among four-year-old boys and seven month old girls I am right there with Thomas, Kipper and even cooler than Captain Feathersword. Still working on Greg, Anthony, Murray and Jeff.

How sad would it have been if they would have said that Wags the Dog or Henry the Octopus were funnier than me, it would have crushed me.

Thanks,

Jack

Dear Jack,

I saw that some of your readers call you condescending. They forgot to call you pompous. Stop making fun of fat people.

You suck,

Dick

Dear Dick,

The last three words of your post made me laugh so hard I almost snorted my milk through my nose. Ok, that is an exaggeration, I am lactose intolerant so I avoid dairy, but if I was drinking milk it would have gone through my nose.

Thanks for the laugh,

Jack


Dear Jack,

Your fiction rocks! Please keep writing, I look forward to reading more.

-Dude


Dear Dude,

Surfs up and the doggies are hanging ten. Not sure what that means, but I like the sound of it.

Thanks,

Jack

Shame On America


Today's Hot Topic



There are a number of people who have taken up the mantle of trying to chastise the United States for its actions and place within the world. They attribute much of the unrest and ill activities in the world to the U.S. claiming that US policy is the reason for terror, torture and or turmoil.

They accuse the US of being greedy and demean contributions to disaster relief, be it comments about financial contributions, manpower or issues with treaties and agreements.

What bothers me about this is that these criticisms are often layed out by people who have a poor understanding of economics, a skewed look at the political aspect and an agenda that does not allow for any middle ground.

The point is not to say that the US is without blame and or perfect, but that there is a problem with much of the criticism and its applicability and balance. When pundits comment on the proportion of aid to tsunami victims relative to other countries they focus on what they think the US should do, as opposed to what may be required, as well as they sometimes miss the long term perspective.

In simple English that means that although you might be able to throw tons of cash at a problem, it is not always the most effective method of bringing a solution. There are literally tons of donations that are not being used because the affected areas haven't any ability to use them.

You need to understand that restoring an infrastructure that was wiped out takes more than a checkbook and that it requires time to rebuild and restore a framework that can make use of the assistance that is being offered.

In reference to treaties and agreements it is also important to take a harder look at them than to just say that majority wishes and rules should always be followed. Sometimes the majority is wrong, sometimes the majority interests are not in line with a minority and the refusal to go along with the majority is not always indicative of who holds the moral ground.

Women Who Look For Reactions

There are a number of fundamental differences between men and women, especially when it comes to communication. One of the things that I fail to understand and frankly do not have any interest in understanding are the comments our wives/girlfriends/lovers/significant others make for the sole purpose of aggravating us.

Some of them have this burning desire to create conflict where none exists for inexplicable reasons. I am not clear if they feel like they need attention, are looking for makeup sex or are just being ridiculous pains-in-the-ass when they say these things, but they definitely say them.

It is not just me, my male colleagues and friends have compared notes on this and there is a disturbing pattern of this behavior.To me it fits in the category of questions like "does this make me look fat?"

Don't ask me because I will tell you if it makes your butt look big enough to drive a bus through or if it makes you look fabulous. It is the honesty policy and it makes life much easier.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

An old funny video

I went to visit a new website and noticed that they have a link to a short video that made me laugh. It is called Shalom and it came out about four or five years ago as a parody of a beer commercial that was making the rounds.

If you want to see it you can click here and follow the instructions for viewing it.

Courtesy Continued

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Courtesy

this is an audio post - click to play

Manipulating The Numbers

Numbers are a useful tool for swaying opinions and making a point. They are supposed to represent neutral data that cannot be called into question for bias and as such serve a very important role in garnering support.

Not a week goes by in which we do not hear about the numerical result of a study or survey. Fifty-six percent of Americans think that column x is more important than column y and twenty-seven percent are ambivalent about the two and or are simply disinterested.

The problem is that very few people have the ability to really dig in and understand how the data was gathered, let alone provide a practical application for its use. To me it is a very serious issue and one that deserves further education and research.

I have a practical example to share with you about how numbers can be massaged and misleading.

In a past life I sold copiers for one of the major companies. It was a tough job for many reasons, not the least of which was that copiers were not an inexpensive piece of office equipment as well as the technological advances rendered them obsolete or out of date relatively quickly.

What this meant was that you really didn't want to purchase a copier, you wanted to lease it. The idea being that you would pay a lower monthly fee and at the end of the term you could turn it in for a credit on your next copier.

Here is a real example of how numbers were manipulated. On one of our lower end models we used to offer a 3 year (36 month lease) term that ran about $12,250.00 for the entire term. That included the copier, service and toner.

This unit went head-to-head with a unit that my biggest competitor promoted as being far less costly than our unit. For that matter they used to brag about their copier cost $300 a month and ours was $340 and change. So they would go into meetings with their prospects and draw up a little chart in which they showed the $40 a month they claimed they would save for a whopping total of $1,440 over the life of the lease.

But they had a couple of weak spots in their plan that I used to take advantage of. The first was that toner was not included as part of the lease. These copiers were being sold based upon a couple of things, one was obviously features and the other was related to the volume of copies the business anticipated they would need.

So I could use this estimated volume and reasonably predict that the business would require two toner cartridges per year. Since my competition had not built the cost of toner into the lease the business could expect to pay a total of $900 per year for toner. In other words, the business was going to be hit with an additional expense of $2,700 for the use of the copier.

Let's recap the costs for a moment:


My company:

36 month term at $340 per month

Total $12,240.00 (includes copier, service and toner)




Competitor:

36 month term at $300 per month

Total $10,800.00 (includes copier and service but no toner)

Estimated cost of toner during the lease $900 per year or $2,700

Actual cost of Copier $13,500



So in reality the copier I offered was less expensive than the competitor's model because of hidden costs. Most of the time all it took to convince the prospect not to use the other guy was to point out the real price and wait for the steam to stop blowing out of their ears.

But the real point of this example is that numbers are not always as meaningful or significant as people want them to be. It is important to take the time to understand what is being fed to you and how that data was gathered.

The Bus Station

I decided to double post the entries for this story here and on the
Fragments of Fiction
blog. It will be interspersed with normal posts here, but on the other blog it should be the only thing I post there, or so I anticipate. Who knows, the journey is what it is all about.

I still don't know the characters or where this is going, just kind of rambling along.

Years ago her mother had warned her that if she spent too much time with the guys she would never find the guy. At the time she had blown it off, attributed it to a woman who had never known a man besides her husband. Married at 19, pregnant by 20 and the mother of three children by 24 she couldn’t possibly understand why it was important to experience life and to live a little. So she wrote it off to motherly advice and went about her business.

She had always liked men and they had always liked her. She appreciated all the things that made them different from women, strong masculine hands, rough hewn features, broad backs, thick hair and more. There were so many little things about men that attracted her and so many different men to choose from.

So she set off to prove herself right and her mother wrong. She dated a lot, but was very selective in who she gave herself too. Not everyone made the cut. She wouldn’t talk herself into liking a man strictly to have a boyfriend, she’d rather be alone than settle. Besides, those relationships never worked, they were train wrecks waiting to happen.

Her thoughts were momentarily interrupted by the bright lights inside the bus station. With the exception of a man sleeping on a bench and the woman at the ticket counter it was empty. The fluorescent lights made the faded yellow paint look even more washed out than it was.

The checkerboard laminate floor was raised in places, sticky substances pulled at her shoes. In a different time and place she might have taken that as a sign that she was supposed to stay, but for now it was just gross. She choked back her thoughts of what made the floor so sticky and headed for the ticket counter.

It was 9:30, the next bus didn’t leave until almost midnight. Five hours after departure it would reach Durham. Then it would be a matter of finding transportation out to the lodge.

That gave her seven hours of downtime. Seven hours of being with herself. Some people had trouble being alone, they couldn’t take the silence, couldn’t handle the lack of contact with others. That had never been a problem for her. Her brother had locked her in a closet and left her there in the dark for hours. He thought that he was punishing her. She merely closed her eyes and went to sleep.

The harder part of the trip would be contending with the other passengers. She wasn’t unsocial, but she was not inclined to spend the rest of the night sharing recipes, stories of home or being mauled by some guy who thought that he had found an easy way to pass the time.

For a moment she considered turning around. She could walk back and step right into the life that she had left. It was almost comical to her. He had no idea that she was about to run off into the night, no clue that she had decided that their relationship was dead.

And for a moment she felt badly about it. Men were not real observant. He would not have noticed that they hadn’t had a real conversation for weeks, would not have noticed that she hadn’t initiated any sexual encounters and even if he had, he would certainly not have realized that she was no longer present.

He wasn’t a mind reader, she couldn’t expect him to fix something that he didn’t know was broken. It would be easy to come back like nothing was wrong and to just pick up where she left off, but it wasn’t honest and she couldn’t have that, couldn’t live with herself.

Requests Revisited

About two weeks ago I wrote about an email I had received in which one of the readers had asked if you could request that I write about a particular topic.

I received a number of requests for fiction, which is in a sense how the story I have been writing came about and I have been steady at pumping out bits and pieces. But I wanted to check in again to see if there were any other requests. I do have a few that I haven't followed up on yet, but it is always good to be thorough and check back in with you.

So, have at it folks, if there is something you want to see just let me know and we'll add it to the list. It can be anything at all, can't guarantee that I will write about it, but if you don't ask it might never happen. So ask away.

Quotes For The Evening

The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
Abraham Lincoln

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.

Thomas Edison

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this. You haven't.
Thomas Edison

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
Albert Einstein

If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
Gen. George S. Patton

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.
Wayne Gretzky

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.
Winston Churchill

Don't You Shower

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Consumers Should Read Before Clicking 'I Accept'

"This is an area of great importance, but something that many people do not pay enough attention to."

Click-through agreements may be hazardous to your rights of privacy Latest News about privacy and free speech.

Those are the sentiments expressed in a white paper released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation Latest News about Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as part of a campaign to raise consumer awareness of some of the dangerous terms found in End User Licensing Agreements (EULAs), commonly found on the Internet as "click-through agreements."

According to the author of the white paper, EFF policy analyst Annalee Newitz, overly broad EULAs in the high tech industry are one of the greatest threats to consumer rights.

She said that few people realize that simply visiting a Web site Get a Free E-Commerce Start-up Kit from Verisign or downloading a software update may constitute agreeing to a EULA that permits third parties to monitor their communications or allows a vendor to dictate what they can or cannot do with the product they've bought.

Some companies -- including Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft -- make the invasion of a user's privacy a condition of future upgrades of a product, she maintained.

"They ask the user to agree to allow the vendor to periodically look onto your computer and see if you have the appropriate software or you need an update," she told TechNewsWorld.

"The problem is," she continued, "the user is left in a situation where their computer is being accessed by a third party, and they don't know when, and they have no control over it. But in order to get valuable updates, they have to agree to that term in the EULA."

She also noted the terms in the EULAs used by some computer game Latest News about computer games makers.

"In their End User Licensing Agreement, you agree that the company can look at files on your hard drive and take screen shots of what's happening on your computer and send them back to the company, which is just ridiculous," she observed.

EULAs have been around for more than 20 years, Newitz noted, "but it's only in the last three or four years that we've seen so many terms coming into them which are such flagrant violations of privacy, and also asking people to sign away rights that they have under federal law."

"There has definitely been a trend toward making these agreements more and more ridiculous," she declared."


Airlines Spend $1.6B on Missing Baggage

GENEVA - World airlines spend as much as $1.6 billion a year on mishandled baggage, a company that provides computer-tracking technology to the industry said Tuesday.

The main factors causing a bag to fail to arrive with its owner at the intended destination are growing passenger numbers and tighter security, said SITA Inc., a Geneva-based company owned by the air transport industry.

"Keeping track of the billions of pieces of baggage transported around the world annually has become a major challenge," the company said.

SITA estimates that it costs the industry an average of $87.50 when a bag fails to show up on time. Even though the percentage of mishandled bags is only 0.7 percent, the total cost mounts quickly."

What would be interesting to know is how much is spent on purchasing airfare so that we could look at the cost of lost luggage relative to that. My gut instinct is irritation because it is safe to assume that they are passing the costs on to the consumer, but I am curious just how much that is, $1, $5, or $25, it makes a difference.

McCain Calls for Permanent Afghan Bases

"KABUL, Afghanistan - A senior American lawmaker called Tuesday for permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan (news - web sites) to safeguard American security interests in a region that includes Iran as well as nuclear-armed Pakistan and China.

Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), part of a five-strong U.S. Senate delegation which held talks with President Hamid Karzai, said he was committed to a "strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years.

"Not only for the good of the Afghan people, but also for the good of the American people because of the long-term security interests that we have in the region," McCain told reporters at the presidential palace in the Afghan capital.

Asked what such a partnership would entail, he said: "Economic assistance, technical assistance, military partnership including — and this is a personal view — joint military permanent bases and also cultural exchanges."

I am not surprised to see this at all.

The Burning Anger

I decided to double post the entries for this story here and on the
Fragments of Fiction
blog. It will be interspersed with normal posts here, but on the other blog it should be the only thing I post there, or so I anticipate. Who knows, the journey is what it is all about.

Georgie taught me about burning anger. It was he who trained me, rather molded me into someone who was angry all of the time. Prior to his entrance into my life I was just another Joe, nothing particularly noteworthy about me, but Georgie placed me on his forge and made me into something different. Not someone, something, his words, not mine.

Georgie's influence was profound in the worst way. He claims that he saw potential and did nothing more than tap into it. And in my darker moments I tend to believe him, but most of the time I think of it differently. Georgie made me mean the way you prepare a pit-bull to be a fighter. Stick glass in his food, kick him, beat him and do what you can to make him feel battered and bruised. Place the animal in a position that makes it feel like it is never safe and never secure.

But humans are not animals, maybe at our most basic level, but even so there is still something more there, a sentient being who can go one of many directions. Georgie once told me that the fact that I wasn't catatonic said a lot about me. He said it with the sick smile he used to wear when he thought that he knew a secret that no one else knew.

If it had been about something else, someone else, I would have felt differently, but this was about me and that made it worse. No one wants to think badly of themselves, even Charles Manson wants to believe that he is just a misunderstood soul. It was just another one of the wounds Georgie inflicted on me. It would have been better if he had hit me, I had grown accustomed to that, was familiar with the pain, but the mental torment never left me. I could drink or smoke the other pain away, but I couldn't find a bottle big enough to take the edge off that cut, it was too deep.

Hunter Thompson

I received a couple of notes from friends and colleagues asking for my thoughts on his suicide. I don't have much to say, I have read some of his stuff, an autobiography and in short never got into him.

He always came across as being half-baked and nuts to me. In short crazy men with guns don't excite me. It is too bad that he killed himself, but I cannot say that I was moved one way or another by his death as his life didn't impact my own.

I don't mean to be harsh, but I couldn't think of a nicer way to phrase it. One of the obituaries published about him caught my eye:

"Recently, Thompson was a columnist for Walt Disney’s espn.com. In a February 2003 interview with Salon, Thompson said America suffered a nationwide nervous breakdown after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks that resulted in disastrous restrictions of civil liberties."
Leading US writer kills himself


Two things strike me about that excerpt. First, I am confused about the restriction of civil liberties bit, I like specifics and not generalities. What are they talking about here.

Secondly, leading US writer, well maybe 35 years ago, but now I am not so sure. Not that my opinion matters.

Statcounter, Sitemeter, GoStats- Tracking It all

A blogger who shall remain nameless asked me about the three different stat counters I use. Said blogger is a smart fellow and had his own diagnosis for why, and as a true sci-fi buff was concerned with how I navigate the space time continuum. BTW, he is a good guy and if he wants to identify himself he is welcome to.

It is an excellent question, but before I answer that allow me to mention something that has been nagging at me. I really enjoy using Answers.com, just a ton of information there. I was playing around with providing you non-geeks with a definition of the space time continuum and it made me remember that I wanted to point out the utility of this service.

So check this out and be sure to read down the entire page, there is a lot there. You have to love the translations. With a little work I could start publishing in 13 different languages, imagine how many more people I could bore. ;)

I started using G0stats because I was curious to see how many people were coming to my blog. I found it to be helpful, but I still had more questions. Someone else suggested that I try Sitemeter, so I installed that and found it to be similar to Gostats, not all that pleasing.

And then I installed Statcounter and I have found that to be the most interesting and most comprehensive. I check in periodically to see if the numbers go up or down and to see what the most popular stuff is. I find it interesting, but I don't write more or less because of what it shows me.

I still blog for me, this is so cathartic. It is an easy, healthy method of blowing off steam. And it is still one of finest methods I have of getting to the meat of my thoughts and feelings on various topics.

The keyboard provides an easy method of transcribing my thoughts down. Sometimes it takes having the words in print for me to realize what my thoughts really are.

Anyway, one of the things I have noticed about the three different meters is that they are not uniform in their tracking of visitors to the blog. I don't know what metrics they use to define a visit, but since they are different there is a discrepancy among the totals.

Hope that helps answer the question a little.

Why, Why, Why- This has to Stop

"A woman in Anchorage, Alaska is charged with cutting off her boyfriend's penis and flushing it down toilet."

Jack's Shack is adamantly against violence against women, except in cases like this. The gloves come off. Ouch.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The circumference of your waist correlates more closely with several known risk factors for heart disease than does your body mass index (BMI) -- the measure of weight in relation to height -- according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (news - web sites).

The findings are based on an analysis of data from 10,969 subjects who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1998 to 1994.

Dr. Shankuan Zhu, from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and colleagues found that waist circumference was more strongly tied to cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels than was BMI.

Among men, the circumferences that were equivalent in terms of cardiovascular risk to being overweight or obese were highest for whites, lowest for blacks, and intermediate for Mexican Americans. By contrast, the waist measurement cutoffs among women varied little by ethnicity."


Bad Blogging- Also Known As This Stuff Sucks

I just finished reading Mochassid's latest commentary in which he says

I realized that I wrote some of my most compelling stuff (okay, other than themacaroon thread) in those early days when no one was watching. I have to admit that since then, most of my stuff has been drivel.


It is a common dilemma, something that many bloggers agree with. Mo further elucidates:

I find that this happens with most bloggers. They come out of the blocks with a head of steam and quickly peter out. Many stink from the beginning but others start with interesting takes but stop being interesting shortly after debuting. Ironically, since many bloggers are driven by their desire for hits but peak in hits only after having written everything interesting that they will ever write, most readers are drawn to them only after they descend to mediocrity.


The intrepid Baal Ha-Bayit of Treppenwitz has a solution he refers to as David's Room. Here is a description:

In a nutshell, the most frustrating aspect of a journal’s early life is that you can’t save your ‘good stuff’ for when you have a bigger readership… because, guess what? That readership is never going to show up unless you have the good stuff out there for them to read.

‘David’s Room’ posits that the first few months of a blog/journal’s life can be compared to someone reading their most intimate prose into an intercom… all the while hoping that someone – anyone - will eventually walk into the room on the other end and start listening (and maybe even talk back).



I am not sure that I agree with the gentleman. I think that initially you may find that you share many of your best stories early on, but it seems to me that any blogger worth their salt requires some time to find their sea legs.

That is, it takes time to find your voice and your place. Blogging is a skill, it is not something that most people can just sit down and do effectively. It requires time, patience and devotion to improvement. It is not merely a matter of having good stories to tell, but it requires a certain skill in effectively communicating your thoughts and feelings.

The blogs that capture me offer a combination of these elements.There are some bloggers who I read solely for their skills as wordsmiths. I think that their stories are junk, I can't relate to them or find them to be stupid. That is the truth, but I also know that I can always learn from others and I seek out writing that captures me, that grabs me by the balls and says read me.

To use an old cliche, when push comes to shove it seems to me that the blogs that last are going to be those that have authors that are intimately tied to their blogs. I have a love affair with my blog. She is my confidant and my best friend. Non-judgemental and forgiving she listens to my tales of happiness and destruction without question and without comment.

If you want my unsolicited advice, don't do this unless you are writing for yourself. It is the only way that you can truly be happy At least, at 12:36 am it makes sense to me. Maybe I'll feel differently during daylight hours.

Night all.

Following the Breakup- The Fiction Continues

I decided to double post the entries for this story here and on the
Fragments of Fiction
blog. It will be interspersed with normal posts here, but on the other blog it should be the only thing I post there, or so I anticipate. Who knows, the journey is what it is all about.

Some people don’t like the clickety-clatter of chaos and confusion caused by the end of a relationship. That had never been a problem for her. When it was done, it was done and she always knew. Some of the men had begged her to reconsider, professed their undying love and offered to change, but by that point it was too late.

It was dead and there was no second coming. She wasn’t like her friends, willing to ignore problems because of a fear of solitude. It wasn’t honest and she was honest, too honest. She knew it, but it wasn’t something that she worried about or focused upon. In her eyes there was a natural cycle for relationships, they began, developed and grew into something that would last a while, but were ephemeral in nature.

And so it was with the last relationship, at least that is what it had appeared to be. But like many things in life, appearances can be deceiving and she had learned that leaving this last guy behind was far more difficult than she could have ever imagined.

Initially she hadn’t thought twice about it. She just walked out and headed towards the bus station. She never shared her finances with her men. She was far too independent for that, insisting that she maintain her own checking account. It was part of how she maintained control and in part responsible for how she kept from getting too close to them. They could only get so far in her head before they reached the end of the line.

Inside her pocket she clutched a small purse. It contained a lipstick, a stick of gum, bank card, checkbook with a balance of $7,237.34 and the first and only credit card she had ever owned.

All of her clothes, books and music had been left behind in the apartment. She liked making a clean start and this was going to be just that, clean. She figured that she had enough money to start over wherever she ended up and just where that would be remained up in the air.

Once she got to the station she would purchase a ticket somewhere and during the ride she would consider her options. She might even go on a vacation, lounge around on a beach somewhere and enjoy herself. She was single and all things were possible.

A billboard advertising the “Simple Life of Country Living” led to one of her famous impulses and so it was she ended upon a mostly empty bus headed down South. Her father had a hunting lodge that he rarely used, it was quiet and comfortable and she knew where the caretaker left the spare key.

Naked Dining

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - The diners arrived at a nice Manhattan restaurant on a cold February night and stripped off coats, hats, gloves and scarves. They didn't stop there.

Skirts, shirts, pants, underwear and stockings all ended up stashed in plastic bags by the bar as the patrons got naked for the monthly "Clothing Optional Dinner."

"It's exciting to be in a restaurant nude," said George Keyes, 65, a retired junior high school English teacher."

Not all that exciting, think that I'll pass.

Rose's Story

I am still reading Rose's Story about Mark Skier's mother and how she survived the war. It is very compelling

A Journey With No Destination in Mind

I started this blog last May. It was a whim that I decided to entertain, I hadn't any sense of what it would become, didn't know why I was doing it, just did it. And that is how this journey began, I packed very little and figured that I'd find what I needed on the road.

In my mind I saw myself walking alongside railroad tracks. There was a forest, lots of green trees, blue skies and the mountains were not far ahead. I was alone and comfortable in my solitude. The weather was pleasant, just warm enough for me to feel the heat of the sun on my back but not so hot that I found it to be uncomfortable.

Along the way the journey became an adventure and like all good adventures I have dealt with challenges and adversity, met colorful characters and learned about myself and others. If this were an afterschool special or some other kind of story now is the time in which I would lay out what I have learned, but it is not and frankly it is too early to reveal all of the lessons. In truth there are many more to be learned.

But I can say that during the journey I have learned that I have fewer limitations than I thought, a much stronger will than I had thought and that losing some things are far scarier than I would have thought.

Life is like that. It doesn't always give you what you think it should, it places burdens upon people that are not fair. There are times in which it kicks you in the teeth and times in which you are suprised by the things that you are given. The trick is not to try and foresee every possible scenario, but to be prepared to just roll with the punches. If you can play the hand you are dealt and not complain about what should have happened you end up being much happier.

And that is a lesson that I am trying hard to pass on to my children. But there is more to it than that. It is not as simple as saying that you should just accept what you are given, you don't have to nor should you. But you need to learn to distinguish between what should be accepted and what should not be.

One of the challenges of this journey that I have tentatively accepted is trying to write a novel, or maybe it is just a short story. I have written very litttle, it is just fragments of a story that is floating in my mind, not really sure how the pieces fit together or what it is supposed to be. It is ok, I don't have a problem with that. I started an adjunct blog (http://fragmentsoffictionanovel.blogspot.com) which I am going to use to play around with this idea.

It may be a short lived experiment or it may turn into something larger. The goal is not to be published, although that would be nice, the goal is to just follow the tracks and enjoy the sights along the way. Life as a hobo is something that could be fun. Who knows what else is out there.

One other image to share with you. Towards the end of "Field of Dreams" James Earl Jones is preparing to walk into the cornfields with the other ballplayers. As he steps into the field, he pulls the stalks apart and then turns back into the camera accompanied by a soft giggle and smile. You don't know what lies out there, but you cannot help but be intrigued and excited about it. And that is how I feel right now.

Blogger Wrestling

I have spent hours trying to get Blogger to cooperate with me, I guess that you could say that I lost, so I am inserting the second half of the previous post here.

"Where is G-d? Wherever you let him in."

I don't like comments like that, they feel too pat, too packaged, but I'd be lying if I said that it didn't resonate with me. I have written numerous times about how I have trouble davening, I always feel better when I am davening outside. I have tremendous memories of davening on the top of a boat sailing to Catalina Island, in Big Sur, on the Russian River, Yosemite and so many other places.

Maybe it takes being outdoors for me to be open, I don't know. But I do know that I don't want to live in a world in which people do the right thing because they think that they will be rewarded for it and I don't want to live in a world in which you think that you can commit horrible acts throughout your life and be automatically forgiven just because you suddenly find G-d.

There needs to be a balance. And I think that there is.

The Case For G-d- Or Why Be Good

I should preface this by saying that I am still trying working on learning new code. I'd like to soup this place up without being silly.

There is an ongoing discussion within and without the blogosphere about the existence of a higher power. And within that discussion there are multiple thoughts and threads debating every point you can think of.

This has the potential to be a very long post, so I am going to try and be brief, which is a challenge for me. So here are a couple of points I feel strongly about.

I don't want to live in a society in which people do good deeds strictly because they fear being punished. I want it to happen because it is the right thing to do, because we understand our responsibility to each other.


I believe that there are multiple paths to G-d. It is more important to be a good person than to be Jewish, Catholic, Muslim etc.

But I don't place much stock in the opinions of others or I would probably not wear some of the ties people see me in. The goal should always be to strive for the higher level, the higher standard. Many of the values that I hold to be important are shared across the spectrum.

Some of my more cynical friends and acquaintances think that religion is a tool for controlling the masses. I can see where they are coming from and agree that some people require religion, without structure their lives have no meaning. And it would make sense that some people would use G-d to line their pockets.

So I would agree with them that you do not need to be religious to be a good person, which ties into my first quote and I would say that being a good person is more important than being a bad Muslim, Christian or Jew.

The title of this post would lead you to wonder if I was going to try and present proof of G-d's existence. And I think that I should speak about it somewhat.

I am a little tired now, so my brain is not firing on all cylinders. Someone said:

"Where is G-d? Wherever you let him in."


Hizbollah is Feeling a Little Pressure

In light of the outcry cause by the recent murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri there has been a lot of maneuvering and posturing within Syria and I suspect that to a lesser degree there is some in Iran.

The reason is that there has been a resumption of efforts to force Syria to relinquish its grip upon Lebanon. And as has been documented Hizbollah is supported by both Syria and Iran.

"Today we are responsible for a nation that came out of the civil war ... but we face acute problems, especially this year and in the past few months," the black-turbaned cleric said.

"As Lebanese, we have no choice for remedying our crises and problems except to discuss and meet, even if we are angry and tense," he said. "We must not repeat the mistakes of the past."

-Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah


And of course this has been mirrored by rhetoric by Syrian officials:

"We agree on how critical the situation is in Lebanon and that it must not be used to stir civil strife," Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said in Damascus.


Rats running from a sinking ship. We can hope that the momentum generated by this murder continues and that it leads to better things.

Blogger Issues- We are Working On it

Hi Folks,

I know that some of you are still having trouble with the comments. I checked with Blogger and found this message: dated Friday Feb. 18

In the past several days, we've seen some performance problems with Blogger. In general, the app has been slower and users have encountered an increased number of Internal Server Errors.

We are aggressively fixing the source of the errors and have pushed several fixes in the past few days to address the problem. There is additional work to do to return Blogger back to a more responsive state - and we're on it. If you find yourself seeing errors, please logout of Blogger and completely shutdown your browser. When you restart your browser and log back in, you will be on a new appserver which may be less loaded and thus performing better.


Special thanks to the folks at Mandarin Design for helping me play around with some new tricks on the blog.

With Reckless Abandon

The children are staying at my in-laws tonight. I am not real happy about this because I enjoy spending Shabbos with them. But there is a lady with a bad back in the house and she needs a day to herself to recover and it made more sense to take advantage of the resource.

My son was none too happy and fought to stay home. I came close to giving in as I thought about all of the different games and things that we could do together. But sometimes there are hard decisions to be made. In truth this was not that hard a decision, but I'll miss saying the brachas with him and watching him try to watch me without getting caught.

So I told him that this was very important (it is) and that I would really appreciate his help. And like all good 4 year-old boys he told me that I was wrong and that he was angry with me. So I picked him up and told him to hold still for his special blessing. He struggled momentarily and then lay his head against my shoulder, listening to the words of the blessing.

When I finished he smiled and kissed me on the cheek and all was good. I grabbed my daughter and blessed her too. And with that we loaded them into the car and off they went.

A short time later it began to thunder and lightning flashed across the sky. If I were more suspicious I would spend more time trying to figure out the meaning of the thunder and lightning. Was it approval or a sign that I had irritated someone. No matter, we make our decisions and then we live with them, sometimes adjusting as we go.

Throughout my life you could characterize a large number of my activities as having been entered into with reckless abandon. I threw myself into them, often without paying much attention to details, who needed to plan, I wanted to live. And it seemed to me that living, real living, passionate living demanded that I step into the water without regard for the temperature.

Sometimes I was burned by the heat and sometimes I did my version of George Costanza, screaming "there was shrinkage! there was shrinkage!" But often I found that the water wasn't as hot or as cold I had thought it to be, it just took a moment to adjust to the surroundings and then I was fine.

Life is often about whether you act or react to the things that happen around you.

Words On A Page

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