Monday, January 31, 2005

My rabbi quit today. I think I may cry.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

I will never ceased to be amazed

Are people just stupid, or malicious? I'll let you decide.

What Kind of Elitist I Am

On Zev's recommendation, I took the Elitist Test. My results: apparently I'm a "Book and Language Snob". Here's their description of me:

"You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every book ever published. You are a fountain of endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and never fail to impress at a party. What people love: You can answer almost any question people ask, and have thus been nicknamed Jeeves. What people hate: You constantly correct their grammar and insult their paperbacks."

Now, in my defense, this is not all strictly speaking correct. For one thing, I do not insult people's paperbacks. For another, I don't remember people being all that impressed at parties.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

My, How Far Apple Has Come

/. linked to a really provoking article at I, Cringley about what Apple may be able to do. iFlix sounds like the coolest thing ever (not that they have gone and done it yet) and it is amazing to realize the potential of Mr. Jobs.

During the 90's (when Apple was Jobless, as it were) Mac was doomed. Microsoft needed to step in to keep Apple afloat to avoid its own anti-trust woes (even now Microsoft developers work closely with Apple to ensure that Office if fully compatible with Windows [An Office-less Apple would be a rotten one for sure]). I condemned Apple's practice of controlling the source of production for all its hardware, even as the Clones were killing the Apple franchise. At the dawn of 2005 Jobs looks not only like a Messiah (which he was in '99 (?) when he returned to Apple) but also a marketing genius. By creating kick-ars software, that leads the industry in what it does and ease of use, Jobs has finally been able to do what has never been attempted since 1984, give the PC a run for it. Just as no one could see back in 1980, when Macintosh first appeared, that the personal computer would be ubiquitous to the world of 2000, no one could imagine how Apple's model of making the computer the center of the digital home could transform computers. By lowered prices (finally!) and dropping the strickly high-end market business model, Apple is taking a huge leap, attempting to create the iPod style iBox for the prosumer.

The iPod is amazing in its own right. Who could have guessed that people would be willing to shell out $300 for a thing to listen to music? A really nice diskman was $200 and no one had those, they were for rich middle-age people. But iPod created a demand for something people didn't know they couldn't live without. I am considering buying an iPod and even though there are cheaper alternatives merely because the iTunes is that good. The razor is so good, I can't justify buying any other blade. Now with the Mac Mini they are trying phase II, and over-priced home entertainment system. Can the market support it? Someone must think so.

The difference is that iTunes preceded the iPod (from what I remember). Here there is no software that the Mac Mini will immediately latch on to. In all fairness the Mac Mini is not being billed as a home entertainment anything, but just a cheap option to Switch. It does set itself up well though. Creating the demand is the key. Apple must convince all of us young rich people that we want an expensive home theater that can stream HDTV, radio and movies and that we have the funds to afford it.

It is just amazing for the moment to reflect that a company which has failed for so long with its business model, which combined the software and hardware development, is now on the verge of being so successful with both. Who knew. (A. My Dad)

Friday, January 28, 2005

There is a difference, zev.

"I give thanks to thee, O Lord, my God, that thou hast set my portion with those who sit in the house of instruction, and has not set my portion with those who sit in street corners, for I rise early and they rise early, but I rise early for words of Torah and they rise early for frivolous talk; I labour and they labour, but I labour and receive a reward, and they labour and do not receive a reward; I run and they run, but I run to the life of the world to come and they run to the pit of destruction."

There are different ways to toil. From, on this weeks parsha:

The Ha'amek Davar adds an additional dimension to the concept of 'Am Segulah'. Before Matan Torah, he explains, anyone was able to serve G-d, each in his own individual way. But once the Torah was given, this changed. There are many gentiles who are ready to become servants of Hashem, he explains. It is no longer possible to achieve this however, unless one converts to Judaism and accept the entire Torah. Which is what the Torah means when it concludes "because the whole world belongs to Me". Even though all the nations belong to Hashem, the Pasuk is saying, there is only one treasury - Yisrael, and there is no way of becoming treasured by Him, other than via that treasury.

The avodah chazal talk about, of course, is avodas hashem.

In other news, I did dance and sing yesterday. Have a good shabbos everybody!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Arbeit Macht Frei

As the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp has been in the news a lot I cannot help but reflect on the iron sign which stands frozen in the landscape of history, "Arbeit Mach Frei". I hate that sign; I hate it because it is true. As I work in the Reg late into the night I cannot help but think of that motto. It seems to parody not only a attitude I greatly identify with, but also many maimerim of Chazal (e.g. HaYom katzar ve'melacha merubah or Al te'ye eved she'oved...). We are working, we are always working and toiling, for ourselves and for Hashem. And they turned it against us...
"זכר את אשר עשה לך עמלק" (Deut. 25:17)
As to V.P. Cheney's remarks ("The story of the camps reminds us that evil is real and must be called by its name and confronted." - NYT) No. The camps remind us that even our civilized brethren, Ubermenschen, as it were, can also be mass murderers. It is not a problem for others, but a problem for ourselves. We must guard against becoming the animals that the Nazis became.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On the Road to Damascus

For the vast part of my life I have puzzled over the line from "Yankee Doodle" (not a song about the Rebbe's son) "Stuck a feather in his hat and call it macaroni". None of my teachers in school could satisfy my mystification over that line. A feather is not a piece of pasta!!!
Lo, and behold! My boss at the Reg (Taylor) informed me of an alternate definition for macaroni:

2. A dandy or fop; spec. (in the second half of the 18th cent.) a member of a set of young men who had travelled in Europe and extravagantly imitated Continental tastes and fashions. (

Now it makes sense! Hazzah!

(P.S.) I am far behind my work in school, so communication will be sparse. Except of course if something traumatic happens, say (to pick a random example) someone gets stabbed in the school-yard and you want to talk about it.
(PPS) In honor of Apple's 21st B-Day I changed the Easter Egg. When I get time I will change it for real.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Million Dollar Movie

I just feel impelled to post a little something about this moive I saw last night. Million Dollar Baby is a great film, and one of the heaviest movies I can remember. After the movie two of the people I was with bounced up; I lay anchored to my seat. If you want to read about the movie, Roger Ebert recaps this movie well (wo spoiling it!). I just can't remember the last time I felt such sympathy for the protagonist, as if I were there, in the gym, at the ring... I am very happy that the year after LotR won best picture, with a bugdet larger than many small counties GDP, this movie has a strong chance this year. MDB, which is just about movie making; lights, camera and action/acting.

Unrelated, I was thinking about Teshuva this weekend, and realized that it presumes the linear progression of time. That is for every x (time) there exists a point in space y (or the space of one's moral character), related by some aribtrary function, or whatnot. I sort of like the idea that time can loop back on itself, or exist in more than 1-D space. What really bothers me is that it seems to flagrently violate Zeno's paradox. How can now be mechapper then? The two are independent. My thought was that Rachamim is supposed to account for just that. Rachamim is the thing that we don't deserve, but we get anyway, due to this love/mercy (which I don't understand other to say that it is the answer to the paradox). But I don't know that it makes much sense...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Palestinian Police

Just to get something straight. I was told that there are about 25,000 people on the payroll of the Palestinian Police as of this summer. That between 1000-2,500 are being deployed seems underwhelming.

Thoughts on a Second Mid-East Democracy

Having returned early from the shuk on account of a bomb scare, I have found myself with some spare time to post to the blog.

In chapter 5 of The Prince, Machiavelli says, "When those states that are acquired, as has been said, are accustomed to living by their own laws and in liberty, there are three modes for those who want to hold them: first ruin them; second, go there to live personally; third, let them live by their laws. . . . For since such a state has been created by that prince, it knows it cannot stand without his friendship and power, and it has to do everything to maintain him. And a city used to living free may be held more easily by means of its own citizens than in any other moder, if one wants to preserve it" (Mansfield translation, University of Chicago Press: 1998). The examples Machiavelli then proceeds to give of those who tried the third mode are the Spartans and the Romans -- both republics.

Although the Israels have for a long time now tried some sort of mixture of all three modes, it appears that they are finally settling for the third mode. Problem is: it isn't clear that Palestine is a state "accustomed to living by [its] own laws and in liberty". If I recall correctly, even after the Palestinians were freed from Jordanian tyranny, they have resisted every attempt to allow them to live by their own laws and in liberty. Even generous offers of autonomy and control of territory have been rejected in favor of more suicidal public policy.

Yet Israel may have solved this problem by establishing not only a democracy for the Palestinians, but also borders for their territory. Perhaps like the Israeli republic, the Palestinians also seem to have no constitution. The moderate terrorist Abbas is also a new hopeful for the fledgling democracy, despite the fact that links between his Al Aksa Suiciders and the recent bombings in Gaza might seem to undermine his intentions toward any sort of peace with Israel. A strong enough wall, however, between Israel and Palestine should prevent most serious infringements on Abbas's desire for peace and stability.

Nonetheless, for those of us who live on the democratic frontier, there is more to worry about from across the border than a few Mexicans looking for work.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Newsflash: Science Tries to Explain Observed Phenomenon

WRT Mr. Summers remarks, (and kind of responding to Sean Carroll) I just can't find them so offensive. Back in the day when the Moderns tried to live according to Natural Law, such a remark would have been damning. By saying that it is not society, but rather nature that has put women in their place, the Moderns believed that society should attempt to preserve the Natural Order.
We now use science not as a tool for levying judgment, but rather to help humanity (ok, try to help). So if we see that a family is short, we will give them the option of giving GhG to the kids to help them grow taller. We don't say "You are bad because you are short." If science were to determine that women in fact were at a disadvantage then we could find ways to equal the balance.
Aside for the role of science, many people are gifted with many different talents. Venus Williams could kick my ass in tennis. But she is a woman, you respond. Doesn't matter, she could still kick my ass. Point is just because women are worse at some things than men does not mean that any given specimen is better or worse than any other. In tennis, however, we have seating to tell us who is better than who. In science there is a lot more to do, such as hard work, asking the right questions, rigorous quant. analysis etc. So even physicist who are not as good as others can still "be the best". (all my physics profs claim that they were "not the best in their class"). Thus, why any individual women gets offended is beyond me.
Even if we do say that women don't get it as fast as men, we are only making a descriptive comment, we are not saying anything prescriptive. As a closing comment; if there is discrimination against women it must be aressted. That is independent, in my mind, from saying that there might also be gender proclivities.

Stranded in Buffalo

I think I have figured something out. My life is stranded in Buffalo. I am stranded within a small Jewish and academic community which never really grows and never really shrinks. It just stays small. Everyone talks about leaving, but no one can. You wish it got bigger, you wish more people would come (like you), but it never happens. You resign yourself to live in Buffalo because you are not bold enough to leave and not dumb enough to move to Teaneck.
Hamevin Yavin.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

1 Weekend

2 Airports
6 Minyanim
1.3 lbs of Meat per person
64 oz of Salsa (4 lbs!)
3 lbs of Tortilla Chips
2 tubs of Gummy Bears
4 boxes of Matt's Cookies
29 beers
300 ml of Argle-Bargle (Ardbeg 10)
500 ml of Vodka
196 oz of OJ
23 Jeremy stories (give or take)
2 kugels
1 chulent
2 Movies
1 lecture on Social Justice (JFREJ)
1 Shiur by Shmuel
= 1 weekend*
For everything else, there's NY
Thanks Oren.
* see, I can do arithmetic.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I am un chien! Andalusia!

THANK everyone for a wonderful stay in Chicago. You all rock. Go you.

Charles Mingus rocks.

I had a funny day at work last thursday, another long conversation with my boss where another dimension (literally) of my job which I had been previously unaware of was revealed to me. So much to learn, so little time. It's somewhat ironic that after all these years I'm ending up as, basically, an engineer. I was always different from most of the other mathy/technical people I knew, much more "theoretical" and pure-math minded - a number of my professors in high school had me pegged for a math professor, as did my family and most of my friends. It's fitting that I trade exotics in the interest rate space, pretty far out there on the theoretical/intuitional side of things. I am however, a trader, different from a "quant" (researcher); at the end of the day, I need to make money (the equivalent of an engineer's bridge remaining intact), and I am far, far, far more grounded than most researchers are forced to be. It seems to be a good fit for me so far - I have a personality which is better suited to one-week or shorter term problems than things beyond that horizon (though I'm also pretty certain that my intellect is aligned in exactly the opposite way.) Whether or not this is my "true calling", I'm very well situated - surrounded by great people, with a great "team" dynamic (I realize this sounds like management rubbish, but it happens to be true) and a willingness to spend time on junior members and bring them up to speed. The people are also generally more interesting than, well, the stereotype of Wall Street.

I've decided to start reading again, which I am doing. What do new yorkers who work crazy hours do for books? The NY Public Library is apparently never open and rather annoying to get books from. I may just start buying books and amass a collection, but having stacks to browse really makes choosing books a lot easier, and, well, I miss libraries. I think I may have to settle for reserving books online and going downtown to one of the central libraries to get them (they're open a bit later than the ones up north.)

You should all see the movie "Zorba The Greek." That's all for today, I'm off to bed.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Making the Impersonal Personal

This afternoon we (inc. Rebecca Feldman) were partaking of a leisurely lunch, discussing celebrity gossip as we digested a heavy chulent. Half asleep we played the rather obnoxious game of "Hot or not Hot".

"A Certain Actress in Holywood."
"She's ok."
"I was in a class on Brecht with her at (blank) and not only did she look like trash, but she was also making comments, which were rather uninteresting."

Woah. I did not think this game could get personal like that. Sheesh.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Best Movies

Here it is. The final version (or ver. 1.0 at least) of the best movies before 1980, courtesy of my Dad. Be advised though, they are not all the movies, e.g. not every Ingmar Bergman movie is there, just one (maybe a few). That is not to say that the movies don't merit, just that you can't put them all in your top 100 (or so).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Thoughts on Abbas (overdue)

I think that his election is not bad, but certainly not the best thing. He is a "moderate" and not as corrupt as Arafat. This means he might actually live up to future agreements and money that the international community will provide to the Pals will not be stolen (at least not as much). I think that the attack yesterday at the Karni border crossing is evidence of Abbas' weak position (ie the lack of a swift Pal response is evidence of a "slow" transition"). People elected him to be the leader of a state, not the leader of a revolution. That is, I do not think it is Abbas that will be strong enough to end the violence or foster a new Palestinian understanding of the world (like possibly Dahlan or Barguti). To compare to Russian history, he might be a Gorbitchov, but he is no Yeltsin (and even a Putin can follow a Yelstin).
I think it is also helpful to think about what we hope from the Palestinians under the term of Abbas. An end to terror is slowly coming based purely on the difficulty of carrying out the attacks. The real thing I think we can hope of Abbas is creating a strong federal infrastructure. That (not with all the Jeffersonian checks and balances) I think he can accomplish with some modicum of success.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Day off

I have MLK day off. What should I do? Call me.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Translation of Euripides' Chrysippus (Fr. 839)

אין דבר נולד שמת
אלא חלקיו מתפרקים כל אחד למקומו
ויקבלו צורה אחרת


"If f is continuous on [a,b] and K is any number between f(a) and f(b), then there is at least on number c in the interval (a,b) s.t. f(c)=K"
-Salas et al "Calculus: one variable" 8th edition

I was thinking about this in the context of my cup of tea this evenning. It is funny how the mind plays little tricks on us. In my mind I know a time where the tea is too hot, and then a time where it is too cold, so I imagine that there is a time when the tea is at just the right temperature. I may never have even drank tea at said temperature, but in my mind's-eye, I know I have.
Kinda like life...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Creative Misreading of texts - Harold Bloom

A Relative disreading of lex - Daryn Gloom
A belated misfeeding of tex - Larry Cloon
An unpropitiated grating of hex - Marry Loon
An unsubstantiated mating of hens - Karen Toom
A recalcitrant dating from Friends -Lauren Goon
A malcontent hating of Ken's -Barry Moon
...a substantial gating, for soon... The Hapless Spoon

The bicycle uttered for the last time and fell to bits.
(I should note - after a long and drawn out BA session concerning plagiarism - that the last two lines are not mine, but that of the late Edward Gorey's "The Epiplectic Bicycle")

Monday, January 03, 2005

Forged Inscriptions

There is now much controversy in the Land of Israel. The IAA (The Reshut HaAtikot, or Israel Archaeological Authority) claims that five men lead an operation to forge inscriptions on relics and pass them off as real. These relics are some of the most notable ever found and include the Jehoash inscription, James' ossuary and the Solomonic pomegranate.
I was so happy with the news. Hershel Shanks, my least favorite man in archeology has used his magazine BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review) to promote these artifacts which are obviously fakes (esp. the ossuary) and continue the debate surrounding these items long after the archaeological community has proclaimed these items inauthentic. Now he looks like a total fool.
I told my former boss at the IAA of my enthusiasm and he told me, "An indictment doesn't mean a conviction. Lets see who looks like fools in the end." In light of this he showed me today's posting on the ANE listhost (great listhost, BTW for anyone interesting in archaeology you get to keep up on all the current discourse for free) on behalf of Robert Deutch which is certainly interesting, and to be considered. You can also check out this thread from today's postings which are abound with discussion of the matter.
Which leads me to another matter. What does the ROM insist on still showing the relic of the ossuary? If reputable collection will pay good money for these artifacts it will create a market for forgeries (duh). These museums seem to care more about grabbing headlines than presenting real works. Not to broach the discussion concerning how relevant relics are (theologically, etc), but (in as much as it is important) it is not fair to be honest with patrons as you are their only source for objectivity. It is sort of like a judge saying "Well this is a small torts case, it doesn't really matter who I award the money to." Economically it will not set of fireworks if small claims courts were somehow arbitrary, but we need faith in the system, at all levels. Here at the highest levels museums seem not to care that objects which they present the public are highly controversial at best.

Being Unbored

So as break ends I finally figure out what I should have been doing with my time: watching good old movies. My father composed a list of his 100 Best Movies (before 1980) which is worth a glance if you want to get yourself netflix-ed up.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

So, this time I will just link to a poem, a classic:


Most of you have probably read this, and if you haven't you should (warning: it's really, really gay.) What you probably don't know is that I read about 5-10 minutes worth in front of my 10th grade english class - which was rather intense at the time. It's kind of odd that that would be harder for me, now, than it was then; and this isn't because I have any fear of public speaking. Reading poetry in public (esp. ginsberg) is really ... emotionally vulnerable? That's not exactly what I'm looking for, but something like that.

Rav Reichman is the man. I went to his thursday night "chabura" (for lack of a better word); it was an odd experience for me. For some reason, my mind was swimming with all sorts of chassidic/kabbalistic nonsense on the way home - though he hardly spoke of such matters - I was drawing all sorts of weird connections between what he had said, and sefirot, and various platonic stuff, and stuff in my life, and random aggadot I had heard, and some science I know, and none of it made any sense but it all seemed perfect and really important at the time. I went to sleep dreaming of weird webs (I actually saw graphs in my head like the ones you do in graph theory) of analogies between fire,water,sin,torah,flooding,sand,geulah, noach,enoch, the republic and a thousand other things, it was very weird and mildly hallucinatory. This was especially odd because the things he had spoken about were mostly mundane. It was also a weird experience because of my own reaction to his extreme right-wing-ness - stuff that used to get me fired up, but to which I have a very different reaction nowadays than I used to, which I need to sort out. I should note, however, that on the whole the experience was really awesome, I had missed that sort of thing greatly, and I plan on going every week if possible. It was just odd.

Shabbos was nice. Go Shabbos. I got to explore with some friends, sneaking onto the roof and into some of the towers of the main building. Quite an adventure. Good fun was had by all. We also had a nice dinner at my place with like 8 people. Having goyim at shabbos dinner is so funny, it's basically like everyone is speaking french or something, and the poor guy is trying to follow the conversation, and every few minutes he notices that someone said something about him.

After a few slow weeks at work, it promises to pick up rather heavily starting tomorrow, which should be good.

Happy new year everybody, send some love.