The Golden Age Of The JBlogosphere

The Golden Age of the JBlogosphere. I can't speak for anyone else, but it is one of those terms that catches my eye. Maybe it is because I am sentimental and I like to look back and see where I have been. In any case, it seems like every six months or so someone writes an introspective post about what the JBlogosphere used to be like.

The first time I remember seeing one of these posts was at The Muqata. Old Jameel mused about what he thought was the watershed moment of the JBlogosphere as being some time during 2005.

Today Treppenwitz became the latest blogger to speak of the Golden Age of the JBlogosphere. His timeline is a bit different. He refers to the golden age as being somewhere between 2003-2004.

I suppose that you could say that what this shows is that a blogger's perspective is very much influenced by when they began blogging. I know, that wasn't very insightful nor all that profound, but it is interesting to me for a number of reasons.

When I look back at my time in various organizations I can always pick out moments in which others spoke longingly of a time in which things were different and in their eyes better than whatever the present situation was. Sometimes it was an accurate assessment and sometimes it was a limited perspective.

I was involved with Camp Ramah for more than 20 years. If you ask people of a certain age they usually will mention my name as having been a part of the core group. But like all things those days are past. These days to find anyone who knows me you have to go back more than a couple of years. The oldest campers weren't even born when I was roaming that place. So much time has passed that with the exception of some real old timers no one would even know my name.

It is really kind of humbling but it also offers some good lessons about life. It is a reminder that we need to live today. I don't want to ever become one of those people whose best days are past. That doesn't mean that I have to give up those amazing memories. I don't have to pretend that they didn't happen, I just have to maintain my perspective about who I am today and who I am going to be tomorrow.

Flipping back to blogging, I have to agree with David that there is a certain intimacy in the Jblogosphere that has faded. Eighteen months ago I asked people How Many Blogs Do You Read? because even in those days it was getting to be hard to try and keep up.

The JBlogosphere has exploded. Even if I had 10 hours a day to devote to blogging I couldn't keep up. There are only so many blogs to read and even though a number of my favorites have closed up shop there is always another to take their place.

I guess what I am really saying is that after three years of running The Shack I hope that my posts are better than what they were. I hope that there is growth and that it continues. I don't want to find myself in a place where I look back and say that the best I had has come and gone.

The day I come to that conclusion will truly be the time when I hang up my keyboard. Hopefully that day never comes.

The Only Way To Fly

...the privilege of hanging out in this 26-square-foot bedroom with sliding doors, but then you get to stretch out on a 7-foot bed, the longest commercial airline bed in the world.

Want to know more? Click here.

Smarter Than The Average Bear

LA Riots- 15 Years Later

One of these days I'll have to blog about this. I won't ever forget the riots. I drive through many of the areas that were affected on a regular basis. Some of the buildings still bear the scars of those days.

Wear Were You

Last week I reintroduced myself to an old friend. It is probably close to 15 years or so since I last saw this guy. Can't say that I recall how we lost touch or why. I just know that we did.

During the last few decades or so there have been a handful of times when we ran into each other. And each time was punctuated by a moment in which I thought that maybe we would restore our relationship. You know, we'd get a chance at renewing the bond, but it never quite happened.

After a while I must have just given up. Time passes and we forget how things used to be. The passion isn't quite so strong and memories fade. But there is such a thing as redemption.

I know. I have seen it happen before. Can't say that I thought about it happening to me, but I am glad that it did. I followed an impulse and chased Alice into the rabbit hole. One thing led to another and I find myself sharing this time not just with you, but with the dear old friend I mentioned above.

Want to see what he looks like? I have a photo. It is not perfect, but it will give you the general idea.

Click here.

Haveil Havalim #114

Go see the latest edition of Haveil Havalim.

Saturday Night Round Up

Things move fast and furiously around here. If you haven't been around here is a quick round up of recent posts:

Thoughts For a Saturday Night

Anti-Israel ads in Washington

My Future Home

The Name of My Blog

Is Your Life What You Expected It To Be?

Poop Patrol

Thoughts For a Saturday Night

I am listening to the theme for The Magnificent Seven. I love it. I have probably played it a million times. Every time it plays I can't help but visualize myself riding my horse Buck. Sometimes I am galloping and other times I am just wading through some stream on my way to the far side.

I need to write the follow up post to the Poop Patrol. If I remember I'll call it "The Phantom Pooper." One day I need to write about the time I had to go dumpster diving to save a whole heap of Tallitot and Tefillin.

I am getting killed in the JIBs. I have tried hard not to mention this. I don't blog to win awards and I won't change my style just to win, but I am competitive by nature. It is not easy to lose, so I console myself by saying that if I worked at driving traffic to the site I would probably be more competitive.

All that being said there are far more important things in the world. One of the guys I play basketball is going back to Iraq. He says that he can't wait and I believe him. His head is playing games with him so he wants to go back where nothing makes sense. His words not mine. I don't care what your position on the war is, it cannot be easy to see these things.

I have another friend who is in desperate need of help but not willing to accept it. I'd like to introduce him to a friend of Bill's but he is not ready. It is not easy to watch, but some people have got to hit rock bottom before they can get help.

My cousin's brain tumor treatment is continuing but the long term prognosis is not good. Tie in another friend who has a rare form of cancer and you have an awful trinity. It is not the father, the son and the holy ghost but something far darker and discouraging.

So when I sit here and think of my own challenges I have to admit that on the whole things look pretty good.

I have read a number of posts recently in which Reform and Orthodox Jews have engaged in some really nasty mud slinging. It irks me. I won't spend much time bitching about it as I am not in the mood. But let's get something straight, the people that hate Jews don't care if you are a Chassid or Mitnagid. They don't care if you eat shellfish or keep Glatt Kosher. They don't care if you say Kaparot or Kaparos. They don't care if your minhagim change with the wind or if you haven't a clue as to what minhagim are.

It is not hysteria nor hyperbole to say that they want to kill you all. Don't get me wrong, there has never been a better time to be Jewish. But look at Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Ilan Halimi and so many others. There are people who hate and act upon that hate.

Anyway, I don't want to end on a sour note. So here is a dirty joke. A boy fell in the mud.

Anti-Israel ads in Washington

Commuters travelling on Washington DC's subway will be inundated with posters placed by an anti-Israel organization, the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) reported .

The 'US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation' placed 20 poster ads showing "an imposing tank pointing its main firing turret at a child with a schoolbag walking along a dirt road," the CJN said.

"'Imagine if this were your child's path to school. Palestinians don't have to imagine,' the poster states, before continuing to call for an end to US aid for 'Israel's brutal military occupation… paid for by US taxpayers like you,'" the report added.

It said that "CBS Outdoor, the New York-based firm that places in-station advertising for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), at first refused to consider the poster, but eventually relented to pressure from WMATA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)."

Hasbara is never one of Israel's strong suits, but certainly this would be a good time to come up with a plan to counter this.

My Future Home

The Name of My Blog

I have noticed that there seems to be a little confusion regarding the name of my blog. Some people think of it as being Jack's Shack while others understand it to be Random Thoughts- Do They Have Meaning?

One of these days I'll have to do some work on more effectively branding this corner of cyberspace.

A Simple Solution

Psycho Toddler gets credit for making me think of this post. The clip below is one of my favorite scenes from any movie.

I see it as a case of "Don't mistake the tree for the forest." Sometimes you can let your problems intimidate and overwhelm you. If you keep your head you can often find a simple and effective solution to the challenges you face.

Is Your Life What You Expected It To Be?

I am a dreamer. I always have been. My mother says that my preschool teacher was certain that I would grow up to be some kind of writer because I was always coming up with stories. I may not work as a full time writer but I still lay claim to the title.

If I had a decent singing voice I might call myself a bard or jester. I wouldn't want to be a jester for a king. I do a good job of making people laugh, but I hate being told what to do. The first time the king pissed me off I'd stop juggling long enough to fling something heavy at his melon.

I have several evening rituals. On my way to bed I stop to check on my children. In the dark I tell them again how much I love them and then I take a moment to watch them sleep. I don't think that I sleep that way anymore. You know, that carefree deep sleep of a child.

As I stand there I cannot help but wonder what they are going to be like when they are grown up. What will they look like, what kind of work will they do etc. Mostly I pray that they are happy people of character and integrity.

And then sometimes I think about my own life. It is not that I am unhappy or unfulfilled. On both a superficial and deep level I am pretty close, but there are some gaps. I stop to think about some of the choices I have made. I look at the road not taken and wonder what else could be out there.

What if I had made aliyah. What if I had decided to go to law school or to have become a doctor. There are other thoughts there as well.

Sometimes I wonder about my choices. Sometimes I look at the challenges that I have undertaken and wonder if I have been fair to my kids. Starting new businesses involves a certain amount of risk. Is it fair to involve them? I could have taken a more stable path and perhaps made life better.

OTOH, if the risk pays off the rewards are great. Those could translate into some incredible benefits.

In a little more than two weeks I'll be 38. Is this who I am. Am I going to be this guy for the rest of my life. He is not a bad guy, but is this it. It is not a midlife crisis. My family is full of people who live into their late 90's and beyond.

Part of the reason I want to live to be a thousand years old is because there is so much that I want to do. So many skills to learn and master and so little time.

So much to see and so little time. Am I crazy for wanting more.

I Was Infected with A-Z Meme

Felt like reposting this:

That A-Z meme

Biur Chametz tagged me with this little ditty.

Not me. Born and raised in Los Angeles.

Scotch and Beer with the occasional Bourbon.

Chore I Hate:
Doing the Dishes.

I love dogs, but cats are different. Feh.

Essential Electronics:
The Internet, Stereo/iPod

Favorite Perfume/Cologne:
Essence of Monkeytown

Gold & Silver:
I like brass.

Los Angeles

Only when I can't sleep.

Job Title:
Bishop of Bullfrog

3 wives, 27 kids and six or seven girlfriends.

Living Arrangements:
Upright and breathing.

Most Admired Trait:
I don't know, you tell me.

Number of Sexual Partners:

Overnight Hospital Stays:
I prefer a hotel.


She is not much of a boxer but she sure can dance.



Time I Usually Wake Up:
When my eyes open.

Unusual Talent:
I can turn my skin inside out.

Vegetable I Refuse To Eat:
Brussel Sprouts

Worst Habit:
This is a family blog.

Are fun to play with.

Yummy Foods I Make:

Zodiac Sign:

I don't tag, I slap kick and bite. If you want to do this, be my guest.

Cleveland is Cursed

Want proof? Ask Ezzie.

Pirate Attacks Down Sharply

MSNBC reports that pirate attacks have dropped this year. If you are a fan of The Wiggles you know that Captain Feathersword is a friendly pirate..

But if you are like me you are quite disappointed. The sole reason I have participated in The JIBs is because it is part training to be a pirate.

I have a pirate name: Captain Jack- One-eared Dog the Damned.

Why else would I participate in Talk Like a Pirate Day than to be a pirate. I could be the latest in a long line of Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.

On the other hand fewer pirate attacks provide me with more opportunity, now don't they. I think that I shall have to mull this over for a while. Arrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh!

Dear Laker Management

Dear Laker Management,

It has become apparent that the Lakers are in dire need of the services of an almost 38 year-old Jewish guy who can't jump any more, doesn't shoot all that well and isn't particularly fast. The last time I wrote you was in the early '90s.

Back in those days I still didn't shoot all that well but I could still jump. Every now and then I managed to get a hand on the rim. Not only that but I had fast hands and good foot speed. A speedy point guard might have taken me off of the dribble but I always had a way to recover.

But that was then. Now I fill out my uniform in a slightly different way. If you photograph me from the chest up you won't notice that much of a difference.

Let me cut to the chase. The current team is lacking in many areas. I know that many of the players are banged up. I can see that they aren't quite 100 percent, but that doesn't excuse the lack of fire.

I can bring all that and more. I am a hustle player. I can provide that energy, that missing spark. For a paltry $500,000 I'll come off of the bench and give you everything I have got. I'll leave it all on the floor. I can still set a pick that will make your teeth rattle, I can box out and I can rebound.

I can't promise that signing me will bring a championship, but I can guarantee that no one will ever accuse my team of mailing it in.

Think about it. It is more than a great PR move. At $500,000 my services are a steal. I look forward to hearing back from you.


Jack B.

The JIBs- Best Post

More often than not any time you see the abbreviation JIBs on my blog it is tied into some sort of criticism. This is one of those occasions in which it is not. Instead it is the inspiration for this semi-introspective post.

There is a category in the JIBs called "Best Post" that caught my attention. In particular what I was curious about was trying to identify what I think the best post I have written is. The hard part is that choosing among my posts is a bit similar to asking me to pick a favorite child. I can't quite do it. I love all of my children...equally.

Ok, that is not entirely true. There are posts that are superior to others. There are posts that I am proud of and some that I probably should have nuked. That is probably not all that different from most bloggers.

Anyway, instead of making myself crazy trying to pick a favorite post I went to my default answer. Thanks to the magic of stats I am able to review the past three months and identify which posts have received the most attention. In order to really try and boil it down I eliminated videos, memes and the times I hosted Haveil Havalim from consideration and picked out the top ten most popular posts.

Here is what I came up with:
  1. What Are Your Favorite Song Lyrics?
  2. Today Is Link To Jack Day
  3. How to Make Hard Boiled Eggs
  4. Morality Without Religion- A Comment to The Self-Righteous
  5. Going Commando
  6. Why The Baal Teshuva World Irritates Me
  7. How Personal Should A Blog Be?
  8. The Day School Dilemma- Paying For Private School
  9. My Brother- A Lesson in Simple Physics
  10. What The Hell Happened to Courtesy
If you asked me if I would have picked any of these as being my best post I would say no, but I would also say that this is a decent sample set of the type of content you might find here. It is a mix of the absurd with a little serious and thought thrown in.

Does any of this really matter? Probably not.

The Last 80 Years of Sports in 6 Minutes

Poop Patrol

I live in an ordinary home in a ordinary neighborhood in an ordinary suburb. Most of my neighbors are pleasant people. They take pride in their homes and do a nice job of working together to maintain the neighborhood. This is not to say that we do not have our share of kooky neighbors. To the best of my knowledge we do not have any inhabitants who resemble those of 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

I am pleased to say that during the six years that I have lived here there have been a handful of times in which I have been upset about the behavior of the neighbors. The most recent problem has been with some teenagers who like to park their car across the street from the house so that they can spend some quality time together.

You try explaining to a six year-old why the boy is jumping up and down on the girl or why the car keeps shaking. But I digress.

A new issue has developed and this does have my attention. Someone has decided to let their dog use my front lawn as their canine commode. Three days in a row I have found the evidence of their time here. This is not something that I will tolerate. If you have a dog it is your obligation to clean the crap.

So as of 7:30 AM P.S.T. the house is on red alert. The poop patrol has been notified. I will catch them and I will see that they understand that this beastly behavior ceases immediately. If not I will take the appropriate steps to see that the situation is rectified.

Just as a dog marks his territory you can mark my words. This is war.


Folks I have tried hard not to remark on the JIBs but I just can't refrain any longer. The real point of the JIBs is to promote Jewish/Israeli blogs, to help provide greater exposure than currently exists.

The thing that I have always found distasteful about the JIBs is the campaigning that takes place. Some people are so concerned about winning all they lose their ability to blog about anything else.

But if winning means that much to you than I guess that is how it goes.

Hanging Out With Dolphins

I am always surprised by how smooth a dolphin's skin is.

Harry Potter Trailer

Miss America- More Than A Pretty Face

WAYNESBURG, KY. — Miss America 1944 has a talent that probably has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle's tires and stop an intruder.

Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.

Ramey said the man told her he would leave. "I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.
For the full story please click here.

Bills Our Parents Didn't Face

It is almost a week since the VA Tech massacre took place. It is scary to think that in such a short time such a heinous event has been relegated to history, but that is how it goes. Time never stops moving, people never stop living. It is a hard lesson but real.

A couple of days after the shooting I had a few of the guys I play basketball with split a pitcher of beer and chewed the fat about raising kids today. One of them told me that if he had to start over he wouldn't have kids. He said that he couldn't imagine having to "deal with what you deal with."

I smiled and shook my head at him. I wouldn't give up my children for anything. It is easy to look at the world and see the negative. It is easy to see the black and miss the light. I understand. I spend a lot time considering how to be as good a father as my father. I wonder how to live up to the standard set by my grandfathers.

They were all men who worked and worked and worked to provide for their families. Not that I do not work hard. I know that I do. I know that I am doing my best to give my children a life that is better than what I had and mine was good.

In my last post I blogged about paying the telephone bill. It is a rather mundane topic, but it ties into this. I have chosen to take on more bills than my parents had. When I was a child they didn't worry about paying for an internet connection, satellite television, cell phones or private school. Then again they had more children to deal with than I do.

I suppose that you could make the argument that in some ways life was simpler. No net meant not having instant access to information. What happened across the country or on a different side of the planet felt much farther away than it does today. But that didn't mean that they weren't conscious of the impact of the nightly news on my siblings and I.

I can still hear Walter Cronkite reporting on various tragedies. I can still remember asking my parents hard questions about Vietnam, about Patty Hearst and why some fathers hit their kids with a belt.

During the summer my friends and I would bike all over the valley. We'd leave in the morning and come back in the late afternoon. Sometimes we would get so caught up in what we were doing we wouldn't get back until the evening. No cell phones meant that unless someone had a dime there wasn't anyway to call home and say that we were ok and just running late. A simple phone call would have helped to mitigate some of the fears of our parents, but it still wouldn't have gotten us off of the hook.

Coming home after dark was a punishable offense and not recommended.

I can't imagine that our parents worried any less about us than we worry about our kids today. Maybe there were fewer news stories about pedophiles and rapists. Maybe there were fewer shows about child abuse, but that doesn't mean that our folks were footloose and fancy free.

Going back to my friend's comment I think that to a certain extent it comes down to how much energy you have. Life can wear you down. If you let it, life will kick your ass. After a while you don't always have the same stamina for the punches.

For me it comes back to attitude. You can look at life as a series of problems or challenges to overcome. Right now my biggest challenges are financial in nature. I wonder if my folks want to loan me a couple of bucks. See I have a few bills I have to pay....

The Telephone Bill

Sometimes I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with a clever title for my posts. It seems rather silly to spend more time coming up with the headline than I do on writing the posts but sometimes that is just how it goes.

I have always said that I write for myself but maybe I am lying. Maybe the time I spend trying to come up with a better headline is indicative of a latent desire to expand my readership. If you don't have a good headline no one bothers to read what you have written. On the other hand if you fail to provide good content you'll never retain the readers either. Go figure.

AT&T just reached into my pocket and took out another chunk of cash. That is not really a fair description. It is not like they didn't provide a service. They did. Dear old Ma Bell is there to see that I have both internet service and a land line to use but it is getting harder to justify paying her.

I use my cellphone far more than I use the land line. And I have noticed that as time goes on I use it less and less. Really the only reason that I have kept it is for emergency use. Every time I read about an emergency I hear that the cell phone lines are jammed so I figured that it couldn't hurt to have another option.

And with that I have another post to write.

Why Monks Do Not Have Children

One More Reason Why Soccer Is Inferior

Check out this halftime show.

Haveil Havalim #113- The Never Fail Edition

Soccer Dad has the story.

Million Dollar Homes

In the not so distant past a million dollar home was a real accomplishment. Here is a link to million dollar homes across the country.

I Am Alone

If you ask someone to describe what a large city sounds like you generally expect them to mention the sounds of public transportation and private cars- honking, squealing tires and screeching brakes. Depending on where they live they might mention street vendors or the hum of the lights.

But rarely do they mention the silence.

It probably sounds contradictory to mention the noise of the city followed by commenting on the lack of it. But I suppose that in part that is because the silence I am referring to isn't based upon your traditional auditory experience. It really refers to people who sit alone in their homes.

The impetus for the thought comes from personal experience. Following a short trip out of town I returned home ahead of the family. It was close to midnight when I pulled into my driveway. The neighborhood was quiet but then again it normally is. Tonight it seemed even more quiet than normal. Perhaps the broken streetlight contributed to this. The night seemed extra dark and extra quiet.

An overactive imagination made each creak inside my home seem a little ominous. The normal sounds of the house settling set me on edge. All sorts of crazy thoughts wandered through my mind. For a moment I was certain that there was someone else wandering through the house. I froze in place and listened for the tell-tale sign- did I hear breathing or footsteps?

It wasn't clear.

But what was clear was that I was nervous. The dark can still make me nervous. Inside the man lives the boy who was afraid of the dark. Purposefully I forced myself to inspect each room. I checked all of the windows and roamed around searching for any sign of forced entry, but didn't find anything to be amiss.

It took the edge off of my unease, but I'd be lying if I said that I was completely relieved.

Almost Three Year Blogiversary Housekeeping Note

In a very short time we are going to celebrate our three year blogiversary. In order to provide you with the best possible experience we are going to be away from the blog for a few days taking care of some very serious bidness.

Yes, that is right I am heading out to join Jameel on a secret mission. Europe will never be the same.

In case you are curious we'll be giving cleveland a wide berth. I haven't gotten vaccinated in a while and I don't want to get sick. Sorry Ezzie. ;)

See you around the blogosphere.

Aerosmith, Penn & Teller & Run DMC

I still enjoy these videos. This is a link to the Penn & Teller RUN DMC clip. The video below is self explanatory. I don't even want to think about how old these videos are. But they still make me smile.

What Brings You Joy?

Given the somber tone of some of my recent posts I wanted something light so I thought that I'd bring this back for some more time in the sun.

Ann receives credit for inspiring this post. If clicked on the link you'll see that she has a list of roughly 25 different things that bring her joy. I appreciate posts like that because I think that in the hustle and bustle of life we forget about what makes us happy.

I don't know if I can come up with a list of 25 things that bring me joy. I suspect that I am going to miss the mark by a little or exceed it by quite a bit. It seems a little extreme to phrase it like that. Why should it be an either/or situation. Why does it have to be so black and white.

The post about Mookie really hit me hard. It was a gut check that surprised me with how much it affected me. I can guarantee that part of this comes from being a parent. There is no greater fear than losing a child. I read the blogs of several people who have had this tragedy happen to them and I see what it has done. That is not a comment on their mental health or ability to function. Truthfully I don't know enough to answer those questions. We only see what they show and it is not my place to even hazard a guess. What I know is that these experiences have changed them forever and that I have profoundly been impacted by their experiencess.

Anyway, I think that it is critical for our mental health to consider what it is that makes me happy so I am going to jump in and start my own list of things that bring me joy. It is going to be a stream of consciousness exercise. I may forget to include things and the order is not based upon importance but when I thought of it.

One other thing. I can almost guarantee that if I read a list composed by someone else I will kick myself and think why didn't I say that. Why wasn't I more profound. Why is my list lacking substance.

  1. My children.
  2. My children's laughter.
  3. Laughing with my children.
  4. Laughing.
  5. Laughing with my friends/family/loved ones.
  6. Quiet moments.
  7. Quiet moments spent camping.
  8. Hiking.
  9. Blessing my children.
  10. Spending time with my loved ones.
  11. Knowing that I am loved deeply and truly.
  12. Playing with my parent's dog.
  13. Travelling.
  14. Meeting new people.
  15. Eating my favorite foods.
  16. Reading a good book.
  17. Five o'clock
  18. Midnight
  19. A good movie.
  20. A great book.
  21. Listening to music.
  22. Floating on a raft.
  23. Zuma Beach.
  24. Lion's Canyon
  25. Yosemite
  26. Jerusalem
  27. The Sierra Mountains.
  28. Memories of past joy, thoughts of the present and dreams of the future.
  29. Awareness of how far I have come and how much I have learned in this journey called life.
  30. Learning from blogging,
  31. Writing.
  32. Good Scotch shared with good friends.
  33. Driving on the 33 into Ojai.
  34. Watching the sunset over Jerusalem.
  35. Friday night at the Kotel.
  36. Catalina Island.
That is enough for now.

A Few Thoughts About VA Tech

During my commute I either listen to sports talk radio or play CDs. Every now and then I'll flip over to the news or your run of the mill talk radio. I do it because sometimes I need a break from the news. I spend hours connected to the net and manage to read most of the newspaper so I don't feel the need to drown myself any further in news.

But on special occasions I'll give up listening to Ray Charles or Laker Talk to hear your standard radio broadcast.

It didn't take long for pundit and person to begin trying to come up with reasons why this happened and ways to prevent it from reoccurring. That is not surprising and I am not issuing any sort of criticism or judgment.

In light of the tragedy it makes perfect sense that people would try to focus on things that they can control. But the problem here is that this goes beyond the scope of control. It is not a simple fix. There is no simple solution.

Apparently they have found that the gunman had been identified by university teachers and other students as being troubled. This information was enough to convince a few of the callers that the massacre could and should have been prevented. Their rationale was that someone should have alerted the authorities to his behavior.

If only things were that simple. People say a lot of things. People write a lot of things and quite often never follow through on any of it. Do we really want to live in a police state where your thoughts are enough to get you jailed.

Certainly it is true that free speech is not unlimited. You cannot yell fire in a theater, advocate for the violent overthrow of the government etc. Nonetheless the reality is that for the most part you can say some pretty outrageous things and have nothing happen to you. Personally that is how I want it to stay.

Mac Vs. PC

After ten years my parents have given up on the great PC experiment. Their home is not populated by several Apple computers and I must say that I am impressed.

I think that when I find some spare cash I just might have to do the same.

Gloria Gaynor- I Will Survive

Damn. I had this really witty remark to make and I can't remember it. And now I have got this goofy feeling. It is like coming up with a great retort to an argument, only you had the argument three days earlier.


VA Tech Massacre- A Hero Rises

I know that the title sounds overly dramatic, but what Professor Liviu Librescu did is admirable.

JERUSALEM: A 76-year-old lecturer shot to death trying to save his students from the Virginia Tech assailant was a Holocaust survivor who later escaped to Israel from Communist Romania, his son said Tuesday.

Relatives said Liviu Librescu, an internationally respected aeronautics engineer and a lecturer at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by barricading his classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday's massacre, which coincided with Israel's Holocaust remembrance day.

Librescu' students sent e-mails recounting the last moments of their teacher's life to his wife, Marlena, his son, Joe, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

For the full story click here.

Robbing Children of Their Innocence

My heart goes out to the loved ones of the victims of the VA Tech massacre. How many lives have been shattered. How many hearts have been broken because of this one person. It is a terrible tragedy. At some point I'll share my thoughts about an armed society versus unarmed, but not now.

What really grabs my heart is the terrible problem of trying to explain tragedies like this to children.

My own children are still quite young so until recently it was relatively easy to shield them from stories like this, but that is no longer the case. Out on the schoolyard my son is learning all sorts of new things.

A simple trip to the grocery store presents challenges. All around us there are conversations about the sick man who killed all those people. The questions are starting to come.

Why do people kill each other? Are they dead forever? Will they miss their mommy? Will they try to kill you? Will they try to kill me?

I always knew that the day would come when I would have to try and answer questions that have no answer. I always knew that these moments would pop up, but I guess that I always hoped that it would be a long time from now.

During a conversation with my son and eldest nephew I realized that the day is coming and perhaps it has already arrived. Forgive me if I sound melodramatic but I cannot help but mourn innocence lost.

What The Rolling Stones Will Look Like in 2078

Thinking Blogger Awards Irritate Me

One of the latest crazes to hit the blogosphere is the Thinking Blogger award. As I understand it bloggers are given the opportunity to offer an award to the authors of blogs who make them think.

For some reason this rubs me the wrong way. It feels cheesy, stilted and contrived. Maybe it is because the participants are supposed to link back to the original blog.

Or maybe it is just because I am jealous that I didn't come up with the idea.

A Less Conventional Way To Support The Troops

Watch this country music video and tell me what you think.

Hat Tip to Toner Mishap and Bitch P.H.D.

I Can't Remember Grandpa

It is close to a year since my grandfather died. I miss him terribly. There have been so many times when I started to call him or wished that I could ask his advice about something. I always knew that the day would come when those things would be impossible, but I never quite believed it would happen.

But it did.

And then today a comment my daughter made really hit me hard. We were over at my parent's house looking at old family photos when we came across one of my favorite pictures. It features four generations of the men in my family.

It is me, my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. My daughter couldn't quite grasp that the two year-old boy in the photo was her daddy. She kept pointing to the various people and asking their names, so I kept telling her.

Eventually she looked at me and said "Grandpa died, but I can't remember grandpa."

I won't lie. That one hurt. It is not her fault. She didn't mean to upset me. I cannot and do not blame her. It is not like he didn't know her. He did. There are plenty of pictures of the two of them, but that is not the point.

My grandfather and I were very close. It is hard to reconcile that my children won't have the benefit of learning from him the way that I did. He was a big part of my life and in many ways you could say that his influence upon me will affect them.

But it is not quite the same. I didn't live his life. I can tell the stories but they'll lack some of the conviction that he brought to them. I'll do my best to make sure that he is more than just a name, but that doesn't change the fact that he is gone.

My daughter doesn't remember grandpa, but I miss him every day.

The Challenge of Using a GPS

I recently purchased a portable GPS for my car. It is a purchase that has been a long time coming. I am good with maps and as a native Angeleno I am quite familiar with the city and its surrounding. However I spend so much time outside of my normal haunts I needed to find a way to increase my productivity.

The easiest way to do that was by grabbing the GPS. Now I don't have to pull over and plot a course. All I do is grab the address, plug it in and Jane tells me how to get there. Good old Jane has become a trusted friend. I listens to all my secrets and sometimes I think that she even laughs at my jokes.

Ok, she doesn't really laugh at my jokes. But if I fall off the derech she is quick to point it out...aggressively. We have this ongoing fight.

"Recalculating, recalculating... Please head towards the highlighted route."

"Thanks Jane, I appreciate your confidence, but I am not really lost."

At any moment I expect to hear her complain about men not asking for directions, or in her case maybe it is not taking direction.

On a more serious note it is nice to have her. There have been a number of occasions where she has made life easier. But I don't want to become too dependent upon Jane. I can see how it would be easy to ignore my surroundings and just let her guide me.

It is not quite as romantic as following the north star, but then again when is the last time a star spoke to you.

Jewish Mysteries- A Look Back

I was looking through the Archives and came across this and thought that I'd share it with you all. New stuff to come.
I am an independent in many ways including both politics and religion. Every now and then someone decides to take a swipe at me because they think that I pick and choose.

For example, I don't keep Kosher, but I would never drink a glass of milk with meat. There are other examples, but I don't want to make this post about me but about the mysteries of Judaism.

That is the term that I used when speaking with a friend about his kollel and their outreach program to unaffiliated Jews/Jews who are unhappy with their shul. But it really is most applicable to Jews who do not have a real strong Jewish education and their approach to Judaism.

What I mean by this is that Judaism is highly sophisticated and filled with layers and layers of ritual and for a lack of a better term obligations/responsibilities that we usually refer to as the 613 mitzvot.

Add to that the minhagim (customs) that have been acquired over the centuries and many people do not know whether the things that they do are based upon minhag or halacha and even if they do they often do not know why they are being asked to do them.

Consequently there are many mitzvot that are not followed because people do not feel/see the connection and or reason for them to do it. You cannot tell someone who does not know if they believe in G-d that this being/person/creature has commanded them to do anything and expect that they are just going to do it. And you especially cannot expect a thinking adult to engage without provding them with substance and reason for why they should do whatever it is you are asking them to do.

So what you end up with is a group of people who look at the mitzvot/commandments and see them as being optional. Earlier this week Mirty wrote about her feelings when she accidentally ate something that was treif. I thought that it was interesting because my heart tells me that I should be keeping Kosher but my brain says why.

My head wants to know what is the reason. What does it do? I already know that lightning will not come out of the sky and strike me down if I do not. I know that if I drive on Shabbos I am not going to be stoned. I know that if I commit an aveirah I am probably, more than likely going to be ok.

And what this means is that I have to search harder for a reason to stop my behavior and change. I need more than just because. I need something that speaks to me and thus far I haven't found it and I am someone who searches for answers.

Take me out of the equation and go back to the person who has little to no background. Now stick them in shul and watch how many of them squirm because they do not understand what is going on, why we bow at some times and not at others. They stumble through mechayei meytim without any idea about the hours of thought and discussion that those words created, they do not understand what they do but go because of guilt.

I watch and listen because even though I can say that I received a solid Jewish education it has some holes in it and there are places that are more like gaps. I watch because this time of year is a huge struggle for me. It makes me crazy, I go meshugah because I feel like my heart and head are in two different places. My heart says to just go with the feeling, follow the passion and daven because it will take me to where I need to be and my head scoffs at this.

My head laughs at superstition and takes a simple position of trying to be a good person. Be a good person, teach your children, give back to your community and do what you can to be a mensch and everything will work out.

I'll go to shul and I'll wrestle with being there. I'll think about the streets of Yerushalayim and the hike I took in Yosemite. I'll go to the bathroom and be distracted by beautiful women, by watching the young children look up in awe at their parents and by the sound of people davening. I'll sit down and consider the mysteries of Judaism and ask myself how much I really know and realize that my depth of knowledge is good, but never enough. I'll shake my head and feel like I'll never be satisfied and then I'll sigh.

And in between and throughout all of it I'll come here and write a post that started out with a serious nature and just became a stream of consciousness and wonder if I really said anything or made sense to anyone.

The New Year is coming and I feel unsettled.

Thank You Jackie Robinson

I have been mulling over how to honor Jackie Robinson because today is the 60 year anniversary of his breaking into the major leagues.

I am not old enough to have seen Jackie play but I wish that I could have. It must have been incredible to see him steal home.

However I am old enough to understand the significance of what he did and to appreciate the tremendous courage and strength he possessed. has a series called Remembering Jackie Robinson that I urge you to read.

Here is another link to a series of information about him.

Thank you Jackie.

Yom Hashoah 2007- Three Days In Israel

I'd like to say that this year I have come up with an incredibly moving and meaningful post for Yom Hashoah. I haven't come up with anything that really grabs me, but I do have a few comments.

If you look at my Yom Hashoah post from 2006 you will see that I mentioned Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the threat he presented. Sadly we see that not much has changed. Iran continues to present a very real threat to the west. It is only a short time ago that they took the British sailors hostage.. Though they were released the message Iran sent and continues to send is clear.

Sooner or later we must deal with Ahmadinejad. Any leader that continues to promote that the Holocaust was a myth is dangerous to all people, not just Jews. And sadly we see that the lessons of the past are quickly ignored and or forgotten.

The British educational system is teetering on the edge. Look at this story from the Telegraph headlined:
No lessons on the Holocaust

"Schools are dropping controversial subjects from history lessons - such as the Holocaust and the Crusades - because teachers do not want to cause offence, Government research has discovered.

The way the slave trade is taught can lead white children as well as black pupils to feel alienated, according to a study by the Historical Association.

A lack of knowledge among teachers, particularly in primary schools, is also leading to "shallow" lessons on emotive and difficult subjects.

Some teachers dropped the Holocaust completely from lessons because of fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-semitic reactions. One school avoided teaching the Crusades because its "balanced" handling of the topic would directly contradict what was taught in local mosques."
We cannot afford to ignore the past for fear of hurting feelings. We cannot pretend that bad things happened because it might ruffle some feathers. To ignore the past is a risk that we cannot and must not take. This risk is not limited to any one race, religion or creed. We remember the horror so that we can see that it never happens again.

In case you think otherwise I offer the following videos as proof that people are capable of evil.

Saudi Columnist On Right of Return & Refugees

Memri has a couple of interesting excerpts from a Saudi columnist. I'll borrow their introduction:
In two recent articles in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Saudi columnist Yousef Nasser Al-Sweidan argued that the Palestinian refugees' right of return is an idea that cannot be implemented, and that the only solution is for the refugees to be naturalized in the countries where they currently reside.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
The Right of Return - An Idea that Cannot Be Implemented

In the first article, published March 5, 2007 and titled "On the Impossible [Idea] of the Right of Return," Al-Sweidan wrote: "...The slogan 'right of return'... which is brandished by Palestinian organizations, is perceived as one of the greatest difficulties and as the main obstacle to renewing and advancing the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the Road Map and a two-state solution.

"It is patently obvious that uprooting the descendents of the refugees from their current homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other countries, and returning them to Israel, to the West Bank, and to Gaza is a utopian ideal and [a recipe for] anarchy. More than that - it is an idea that cannot be implemented,

The Inevitable Solution is to Naturalize the Refugees in the Host Countries

"As the Middle East peace process gains momentum, and as the regional and international forces remain committed to the need to resolve this [conflict]... there is a growing necessity for a realistic, unavoidable and bold decision that will provide a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees by naturalizing them in the host countries, such as Syria, Lebanon, and other countries.

"Even though this is a humanitarian [project], it requires intensive efforts on the legislative, economic, logistic, and administrative levels, in order to integrate the Palestinians organically into the social, economic and political fabric of the Arab societies...

I Miss My Afternoon Nap

I don't know about you but old Jack loves to settle in for a short nap. I try to get somewhere around fifteen or twenty minutes of afternoon shut eye each day.

Most of the time it serves as a relatively painless energy boost. Unfortunately today's shluff time was somehow lost and now I am feeling a little slow and very cranky,

I miss my afternoon nap.

Real Honesty

Shira has some good comments/questions in her last couple of posts.

Spider venom to replace Viagra?

"New study conducted at Haifa's Rambam hospital seeks to determine whether toxin found in spiders' venom can be used to treat erectile dysfunction, after researchers found men who had been bit by spiders suffered from unusually prolonged erections."
For the full report click here. Or you can always join me in singing
"Spiderman, Spiderman,
Does whatever a spider can.
Spins a web, any size,
Catches thieves just like flies.
Look out! Here comes the Spiderman.

Is he strong? Listen bud—
He's got radioactive blood.
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead.
Hey there! There goes the Spiderman.

In the chill of the night,
At the scene of the crime,
Like a streak of light,
He arrives just in time!

Spiderman, Spiderman,
Friendly neighborhood Spiderman.
Wealth and fame, he's ignored—
Action is his reward.
To him,
Life is a great big bang-up—
Wherever there's a hang-up,
You'll find the Spiderman!"

What Is The Hardest Thing About Blogging?

What aspect of blogging do you find to be the most challenging. Is it coming up with new content, responding to comments etc.

Let me know. I am interested in hearing what you have to say.

Gaming The Ecosystem Part II

Last January I wrote a post called Gaming The Ecosystem. It was a fluff piece in which I mentioned how one might move up the food chain faster.

Well it seems that old NZ Bear's ecosystem has fallen prey to Global Warming as the darn thing hasn't been updated in months. And just when I had figured out how to try and jump up the ladder to become a Playful primate.


The Most Popular Post of The Past Six Months

I haven't done this in a while. The seventeen longtime readers of this blog know that I do this around once a month or so. Apparently I missed March but I did catch January.
Today Is Link To Jack Day
What Are Your Favorite Song Lyrics?

How to Make Hard Boiled Eggs

Saddam Hussein Execution Video

Five Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

Going Commando
Why The Baal Teshuva World Irritates Me

Morality Without Religion- A Comment to The Self-Righteous
Saturday Night iTunes Playlist
How Personal Should A Blog Be?
and February.
Haveil Havalim #106- Terrible Twos Edition
What Are Your Favorite Song Lyrics?
The Paradox of Choice and the Secret to Happiness
The Day School Dilemma- Paying For Private School
Children of the '70s Raise Your Hands
yalla ya Nasrallah - song from Israel
Three Days in Israel- Graphic Images
The Ginsu Knife
Today is Link To Jack Day
Morality Without Religion- A Comment to The Self-Righteous
And if you are as much of a stat hound as I am you can click here to see what the most popular posts were last September.

Singing With My Kids

The kids and I have developed a little routine in which we sit down at the 'puter and do a little singing together. Sometimes we hit your traditional kids songs but for the most part we have been focused on music that has a slightly older demographic.

Lately they have been sitting on my lap and joining me in a rousing rendition of Mud on the Tires. I say rousing because we're pretty loud. They're too young to be self-conscious about it so we just let her rip and go with it.

The song starts out kind of slow.

"I've got some big news
The bank finally came through
And I'm holdin' the keys to a brand new Chevrolet
Have you been outside it sure is a nice night
How about a little test drive
Down by the lake

There's a place I know about where the dirt road runs out
And we can try out the four-wheel drive
Come on now what do you say
Girl, I can hardly wait to get a little mud on the tires
Gradually it speeds up

'Cause it's a good night
To be out there soakin' up the moonlight
Stake out a little piece of shoreline
I've got the perfect place in mind
It's in the middle of nowhere only way to get there
You got to get a little mud on the tires"

Country songs progress into various other tunes and all sorts of craziness. Sometimes we dance to The Killers, or The Chili Peppers or some other loud band.

Eventually it becomes time to crank it back a notch and try to restore some sanity. Lately my daughter and I have spent a few minutes dancing to various artists. She loves Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. It cracks me up to hear her sing Goldfinger and Thunderball.

If nothing else I can promise that I have passed along my love for music and reading to them.

Sorry for the choppy ending, just noticed the time.

Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy

Yippie Kai Yay

Why Did The Python Cross The Road

This 18ft python should be slithering through the jungle.

But yesterday on a country road in North Yorkshire it was going nowhere fast.

A man out walking his dog got the shock of his life when he stumbled upon its body.

Baffled police are trying to find out how the fully grown reptile wound up in the village of Cloughton near Scarborough, a million miles from its natural habitat.

Ann Tindall, who lives nearby and also spotted the snake, said: "It was a real surprise to see it. You just cannot believe that something like this could be found somewhere like Scarborough.

"We measured it and it came to about 17.7ft."

Police said the snake had started to decompose by the time it was discovered.
Click Here for the Full Story.

I Am A Gambler

Earlier today I saw a post in which someone remarked that they don't like blogs that are personal in nature. I found that to be kind of funny/interesting. I suppose that it is because my blog is so personal. It is my laughing place. It is my Tara, my place I come to think and express my thoughts.

It is not the only place that I call home. It is not my only refuge. I find my basketball games to be quite calming. I thrive on the competition. I love to rebound. I think that Charles Barkley said that rebounding is all about having a stronger desire to get the ball than the other guy. It doesn't matter who said it, all I know is that I love to do it.

It is my coliseum. It is my place to test my will against that of the other man. Younger, stronger, bigger, taller or otherwise. It makes no difference. Rebounding is about effort. It is about little details. You need to track the ball, anticipate where it is going to go and then plot the fastest way to get there. It is about determining how to best use your body to get in between the other players and the ball. It is about determining how much risk to take.

At one month short of 38 I can say that I am a gambler. If I am playing Hearts I love to shoot the moon. I love the thrill of testing the limit. I love to chase the dragon's tail. But then again there is a coward inside of me who hides from the sun. There is that guy that listens to the whisper of insecurity.

That guy lives right next to the boy who wants to be the hero. That guy lives next to the boy who sails the stars. He is always watching and forever waiting. When things don't go right he is there to chastise and berate me.

Most of the time I can shush him. Most of the time I can tell him to STFU and mean it. But sometimes I just can't gather up enough confidence to make it happen.

Over time I have learned how to handle those moments. I have learned how to open that dark closet and step inside. I enter the room and let the shadows have their way. More often than not I realize that they don't have any power that I haven't given them and then I remember how to find my way home.

I am a very lucky man. I look around and I see many who are not as fortunate as I. It is not always easy to remember how good I have it, but each day is a blessing. It doesn't matter whether you believe in God or not. One day we'll learn the truth of that.

In the end it comes down to who you are and what you surround yourself with. That last line may sound like a lot of hokum, but it works for me.

The Deeper Meaning of Harry Potter Stories

In a relatively short time the latest and final edition of the Harry Potter series is going to be released. As a fan of the series I am quite excited about it. It will be fun to learn how J.K. Rowling ties up the various loose ends that currently exist.

Alongside the book are going to be a ton of analysis pieces in which amateur and professional pundits are going to deconstruct the book in an attempt to show the symbology of the book. There are many examples of this already. If you surf around the net you can find essays/blogs in which the authors claim that the whole store is an allegory for their particular faith.

This is a different sort of analysis than the posts that speculate about whether Dumbledore is truly dead, whether Snape is good or bad etc. I find those types of posts to be kind of fun, but the others just annoy me. I don't want to waste time discussing whether Snape is equivalent to Judas or Harry's use of a wand is reminiscent of the great flood blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes a story is just a story and nothing more is intended than what you see on the surface.

Choice Versus Happiness

I Killed The Easter Bunny

There is a saying that goes along the lines of "People Plan and God Laughs." Typically you hear that sort of remark just after you finish telling your pal about how all of your hopes and dreams have gone to shit. It is a real feel good kind of remark. Personally I think that it ranks up there with telling a mourner that God has a plan for their wife/husband/son/daughter etc.

If you have spent any time here at all you know that I just love dealing with the holiday season.

I Hate The Holiday Season
I Wished Death Upon Santa

Those are just a couple of posts in which I express my disdain for the chaos surrounding this time. Someone once asked me why I picked on Santa and not someone like Judah Maccabee. Well the answer is pretty simple.

Santa is a jolly old fat man who is easily fooled by using the Moe from the Three Stooges school of fighting. Judah is a warrior who carries a sword and knows how to use it. What do you think I am? Crazy yes, stupid no.

Ok, ok, ok, if it makes you feel better I'll give the hammer a run for his money. He is not the only grumpy old man around here, but I digress.

Earlier in the week I was forced to venture over to the local shopping center to acquire a few items. Thanks to the joy that is spring break the place was overflowing with screaming teens and more mothers with strollers than you can shake a stick at. That place was chock full of nuts and in a short time I was beside myself.

I know that if they ever figure out how to clone people I am going to have three more made of myself so that I can send the boys out to run errands for me. Why should I be forced to contend with all this mishigahs.

Deep in the heart of the beast they call The Mall there was a booth with people and a six foot tall rabbit who unfortunately was not named Harvey nor Bugs. All around the booth there were people trying to usher parents and their young children inside so that they could take picture with the freaking rabbit.

As my son and I approached we were accosted by at least three people with clipboards. Each one waved their arms at me and said that I should take advantage of their special rate on pictures. For a moment I considered the various options at my disposal. Some of them were so far over the top as to be ridiculous.

See I played around with grabbing the dumb rabbit, tying him/her/it up and shipping it out to a field where it would be tethered to a stake and slathered in fresh blood. I turned that down because it wasn't original enough.

Then I thought about setting up an elaborate sting operation using real bees. It seemed simple enough. I even know who has plenty o'bees but then I decided that was too much work.

Little did I know that he freaking rabbit had esp because before I knew it the creature had leapt over the rail and begun an all out assault upon my person. It was an epic struggle that wont soon be forgotten. No sir, three days later they were still talking about the guy who knocked out the Easter Bunny's teeth with the fake eggs that were plastered around the photo booth.

Ok, none of this actually happened. I didn't have a fight with a man in a bunny suit. I didn't even see a photo booth. This was just a ridiculous post that never managed to make the leap from ridiculous to semi-respectable.

Pallywood Posts

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