Thursday, June 30, 2005

Who says San Fransisco liberals aren't religious?

One common response to the critics of Kelo has been that the Supreme Court merely ruled eminent domain for private gain constitutional, but it certainly isn't mandatory and legislatures can easily ban the practice if they desire. Now of course this argument can be used against any SC restriction on government behavior and I doubt it's Kelo proponents would find it persuasive in many other contexts. Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Pelosi apparently didn't get the memo. She apparently so worships the SC that government activities they suggest permissible she considers mandatory. I suppose her deification of the SC could be distinct from her confusion of permissible and mandatory, but altogether it was a bizarre press conference from she who would be Speaker.

Here is the relevant excerpt:

Q Not on the Court, withhold funds from the eminent domain purchases that wouldn't involve public use. I apologize if I framed the question poorly. It wouldn't be withholding federal funds from the Court, but withhold Federal funds from eminent domain type purchases that are not just involved in public good.

Ms. Pelosi. Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.

So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.

Q Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?

Ms. Pelosi. It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

For you Lorax lovers

My sister-in-law Tobie has the business school version.

If I understood Shmuli correctly,

then the fact that my birth has not had a significant effect on human history is a strike against me. In any case, several important people were born on June 28, if not in 1983:
(source: wikipedia)

On June 28, 1983

NASA launched Galaxy-A and a Greenwich, CT bridge collapsed . It was altogether a remarkably insignificant day in human history.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Mother Russia

Snot and Whatnot

A great little post someone got onto the Yavneh listhost. I was rolling on the floor:
If I may, I'd like to add a view from Jerusalem. I actually don't think the
issue is "eating child snot." I would prefer not to eat adult snot either.
The issue is snot, simpliciter. However, if the point is to separate adult
snot from child snot, I am not sure how I feel about that. Maybe some kids
don't want to eat adult snot, some adults don't want to eat child snot, and
some adults and children don't want to eat any snot, regardless of its age
or gender. Until we settle some of these basic questions, I am not
convinced that separate tables--or a mehitzah--will solve the problem. The
only unequivocal solution, which does strike me as a tad Draconian, would be
to eliminate kiddush. Or maybe even the minyan.

Yes, as Jack reminds us, fascism is often preceded by anarchism. Now,
there's something to look forward to.

Some people are really much funnier than they appear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Residing in Lakeview....

Now that I've got DSL for my apartment, I can finally start to contribute. So here's my first entry of substance....

It's now been 3 weeks since I've moved from sleepy, ol' Hyde Park, up north to Lakeview. All in all, things have been going just fine, although my apartment is still a mess (but is in the process of obtaining some sense of order). A few observations on the neighborhood, and Anshe Shalom:

1) The bus ride to work has been rather different than the one I had while coming up from Hyde Park. It's pretty clear how segregated this city is, and apparently iPod sales must be booming in this neck of the woods, as everyone seems to be sporting the white headphones. Now that I am amongst the yuppies and bourgeois, does this make me a yuppy or bourgeois? I certainly hope not, but my pink shirt seems to indicate otherwise.

2) Anshe Shalom is really big. Never again will I ever have to feel guilty about coming to minyan late because I might be that 10th guy. Also, I would imagine long gone are the days when I get to lein every week. It's so big, that I think it's almost too big. To some extent, I sorta miss having to scratch and claw for a minyan, and having the honor of leining every week (although I'm sure my occasional no-shows won't be missed). The flip side to being in such a large community is that a) the kiddush is really large (and doesn't have snot on it); b) there is an eruv, and apparently a mikveh on the way as well (in which I'd hope there are no sharks); c) plenty of learning opportunities (into which I hope to infuse myself).

3) As I sit inside trying to study for another regulatory exam I have coming up (clearly the studying isn't that effective), I can't help but notice how many people are partaking in the Gay Pride parade outside. Several people from shul urged to me check it out, saying how much fun it is. Would I ever receive such encouragements from people at Yavneh? Probably not, as they'd be too busy urging me not to get my snot over the potato chips on the kiddush table.

Is Lakeview the anti-Hyde Park? Time will tell...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminent Disaster

The American supreme court has ruled "that fostering economic development is an appropriate use of the government's power of eminent domain" (New York Times). The idea is that the government can take land from private citizens and give it to private companies. Not surprisingly it was the more liberal judges who were for this. Scalia and Rhenquist were both opposed. I found the liberal justification for this action surprisingly Lockian: developers will make better use of the land than the citizens who were living there previously.

Funny story: in Israel, where a similar argument is being used to justify the expansion of Jerusalem and other cities, the liberals are radically opposed to the government's use of eminent domain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stumpo's and Cheesequakes

On our drive to Ben's wedding yesterday Oren and I stumbled across two fine parts of New Jersey: Cheesequake State Park and Stumpo's Italian Restaurant. There were, obviously, other landmarks we passed, but none took out attention quite like these.
What is a cheesequake? How does it occur? When was the last great cheesequake? Are they doing anything to prevent another of similar magnitude? It soon became clear that Stumpo had saved the entire village from the certain decimation of a vicious Cheesequake and in recognition of his brave rescue and sacrifice, they named a restaurant in south Jersey in his honor. At 11p last night, while driving home to Oren's melodic snores, I composed a ballad of Stumpo's intrepid battle against the Cheesequake to the tune of Paul Robeson's "John Henry." But I have forgotten it now. It started something like,
Oh it happened many years ago
That Philly cheese came a-rainin' from the sky
and it did cascade down the mountain
yes the Cheesequake of aught six had arrived
but I forget the rest...

Checkpoints have a purpose

Zionist thugs humiliate Palestinian woman.

Kosher Wines

There has been a recent explosion in the interest of wines. Not just kosher wines, where Jews are discovering that there is more to life than Carmel, but also an interest in small, fine wineries from remote parts of the world. "Sideways," as I see it at least, was only an indication of this trend.

The funny thing about kosher wines, however, is that they are completely identical to non-kosher wines. Ideally, whereas non-kosher food contains ingredients which either by themselves, or mixed together are trief, a non-kosher wine consists of nothing which is physically assur. Rather wine, through Rabbinic edict, must be "made by a Jew" (whatever the technical definition of that may be). It is thus very frustrating for a wine coinsure that the wine, so rich and subtle, which he or she may have enjoyed in a past life, is no longer permissible for merely artificial and ethereal reasons.

You enter a large wine supermarket and are overwhelmed by the choice and selection at hand. There are wines from known and venerable wineries, along with new, smaller groves. While those instantiated wines are known for their exquisite composition, you can always get a surprising and novel new wine, with a palette you could have never otherwise dreamed of. As you go through the store you accumulate a basket full of wonderful, exotic, rich, complex wines which have been fermented and crafted with the utmost care. As you proceed to the register you remember that you ought to check the bottles for a hechsher. Nothing. They are all trief. You put them all back, one by one, shedding a tear as you replace every bottle individually. But as you replace a certain highly touted and specialized New Mexican '85 vintage you can't help but pause and sigh.

"Can you please direct me to the kosher wines?" you inquire of one of the attendants. The kosher wines are kept in a small ill-lit room in the back. There exists a wide variety of fruity, bubbly and overly sweet Mascato D'Asti-esque beverages (which seem filled with mostly air) and Baron Herzog White Zinfendels, the complex (yet acerbic) end of the Jewish palate. As you rummage through the selection in desperate yearning for a kosher run of that New Mexican wine you love so much--or any other respectable wine for that matter-- you are at a loss. Nothing. Where are the sweet, soft, light, complex and intriguing bottles that you had discovered just moments earlier? While at one time you were amused by some of the Israeli and Australian attempts to mimic good wine, you know that today is lost.

You leave the market, bowed head and bowed shoulders, lamenting the dismal array of kosher wines. Oy me haya lanu. Pausing, you compose yourself-- DAMN IT! DAMN IT!!! you then yell in a fury which could only echo the cry of Hades when he lost Persephone-- and then regain calm. There is no guarantee you will ever be able to find the a kosher bottle of that New Mexican you once cherished so. But you must face the truth, Jews do not know how to make fine wine. So you wait, as others do for the messiah, for the once a decade kosher runs from your favorite trief wineries. You must be patient and not lose composure, settling for the second rate Binyamina or Dalton, but remain composed for the best wines to become kosher. It takes a combination of luck, patients and discernment, but it can be done. Hamevin Yavin.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

End of a School-Year

Well, folks, my school-year is officially over -- excluding exams and papers which will continue throughout the summer. I am pretty much done with my coursework here and I am considering sticking around to do my PhD here as well. If I stay here, I will work on the connections between Greek philosophy and Jewish and Islamic philosophy. Particularly the poltical philosophies of both and the connections between (religious) law and philosophical ideals.

I am also nearing the one- year anniversary of my arrival in Israel. Unfortunately I cannot seem to remember on which day exactly I arrived. I think it was between June 20 and 22, but the trip was such a nightmare that I am blanking on the details.

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying your summer.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

For Zev, with Love

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. 10
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, 20
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse. and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Update: This poem is by Carl Sandburg.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why a Mac Mini?

As my old computer entered college with me, it is time for a new one. Although I have been oggling over a iMac G5 for many moons, I think I am going to go with the Mac Mini. Here's why:

1. Apples move to Intel- if the chipset is going to be so vastly improved over the course of the next year, it seems silly to invest in old technology.

2. Disposable computers- the Mac mini is cheap enough to replace every 15 months. I figure that I spend $2000 on a computer for four years. Why not invest in a cheap machine that can be upgraded more frequently? Present value, and all that.

3. Gaming- There is an age old adage about Mac gaming: If you want to be a Mac Gamer buy a PC. Why should I buy a high end G5, which will allow me to play a few, very nice games (e.g. Doom 3) when I can buy a PS2 (or maybe 3) and hook it up to an external monitor
3.5 External monitor- imagine the possibilities...

4. External monitor redux- If and when I do choose to get a higher end machine, I can use the monitor that the Mac mini used as a second monitor. That would also allow to get the 17" and not the 20" iMac (thus saving $300+)

5. It works- 1.5 GHz is enough for me to do the photoshop and other graphics processing work I want, which is really the most intensive process I use.

6. All Macs go to heaven- after a year or so of faithful service I can still use the Mac mini as a server, DVD player or other such piddling uses.

My rant ends.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Will Zev leave a legacy?

This past weekend was alumni weekend here at the UofC and included a 5th year reunion for Rachel's graduating class, the class of 2000 (perhaps the greatest ever). Apparently only one Hillelite, Eugene Rabinovitch, showed up from that class. Eugene's presence sparked Josef Stern to ask me who were the Hillelites from that class. I mentioned Rachel, Eve Krakowski, Dashiell Shapiro, and Daniel Pilarski among others. When I mentioned Daniel Pilarski, though, Josef simply had no recollection of him. This astounded me because Daniel was the Zev before Zev. Well maybe they weren't that similar, but they were both red-headed tyrants of Yavneh. I can only imagine that in five years, if someone mentions Zev Berger to Josef, his response will be a bewildered "who?". Now I think that it will be different for me. I will be better remembered than Daniel or Zev, if only because of my family's notoriety.

Conversation in 2011 between Josef Stern and Yehuda Halper (who has returned to the UofC).

Y: Do you remember Shmuli Soloveichik?
J: I think so. Wasn't he the guy whose kids dropped Hillel library books from the third floor in an attempt to get them in the small wastebasket next to the staircase on the first floor. (Shmuli- in all fairness only Yosef was trying to drop them into the wastebasket, Chaim thought the point of the game was simply to throw books)
Y: Yeah that's the one.
J: What about him?
Y: Do you know he still hasn't given me the Family Guy DVD's he bought for my wedding present.
J: Scoundrel.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Weekday Update

In no particular order, an incomplete list of books I've read in the past months:

1) The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson et. al.
2) The Image and other stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
3) The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer
4) Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez
5) Dune by Frank Herbert
6) Maps in a Mirror, by Orson Scott Card
7) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
8) Winning Low-Limit Hold'em by Lee Jones
9) The Unbearable Lightness of Being my Milan Kundera

I recommend all of these, though most are appropriate only for specific audiences.

Some random thoughts on academia, from an aspiring (cough) academic:
1) Academics really don't work hard, unless they choose to, and even the ones that choose to work hard work much less than similarly skilled professionals in the field.
2) That's what's great about academia, and there's nothing wrong with that. Society likes smart people to have a second to think, and (some) smart people care more about that free time than they do about the higher pay in industry.
3) Academic jobs in fields which pay extraordinarily well in industry (law,business, medicine, and once upon a time CS) are really sweet jobs. I may want to do this one day. You get paid a fraction of what your colleagues in industry earn, but three times what your colleagues who teach sociology earn, and you don't really work much harder. The anecdotal evidence I've heard suggests it's easier getting these jobs than other jobs in academia (at least in business). The downside is, well, the money, and grad school.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Zev has graciously invited me to join this august blog. If my preliminary computations are correct, this brings the number of bloggers to six, which is two times three. Thanks to the magic of computers I can easily look up information about this obscure number. So here's six songs with the word "six" in the title:

  1. "On Six," Cephalic Carnage (also six seconds long!)
  2. "Six Pack," Black Flag
  3. "Six Six Sixties," Throbbing Gristle
  4. "Four on Six," Wes Montgomery
  5. "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought-Six," Tom Waits
  6. "Page 6," Fantômas

I heartily recommend Schoenberg's "Six Little Piano Pieces," Bartók's six string quartets and the DJ stylings of Kid 606 as well. Of course, six has special resonance here in the sixth state to enter the Union. Just last year, the Red Six were world champions for the first time in something like six jillion years. Also last week I finally saw Revenge of the Six. Unbelievably bad.

I don't have anything else to share with you today. Blogging will be light this summer while I am in Chicago and California.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Intelligent Diseased Ashkenazim

The NYT article about intelligent diseased Ashkenazim is being widely discussed. People may want to read the actual study rather than the NYT writeup. Unsurprisingly, there are those who just don't like it (I don't know whether "it" is the actual study or the NYT writeup). What I don't understand is the demand to see a "mathematical-type model of the strength of pressures necessary to maintain mutations with these adverese effects based solely on the advatages the allegedly confer in terms of survival (though such models are themselves highly speculative, i think)" in order to credit the study. We are discussing a hypothesis that is relatively simple to test empirically.

Friday, June 03, 2005

on Finishing

So it appears that I am done at the UofC, or more appropriately, the UofC is done with me. If words and wishes are in order I think Chazak VeEmatz is my favorite. Mazal Tov implies that it was a chance occurrence, and congratulations is far too happy.

I was feeling quite down until I ran into a prof I had once, a grad student in the Math dept. I told him graduation was a sad occasion, he reminded me that never graduating is even sadder--an all too common occurrence in the grad school. I realized it is not so bad, it could be worse.

As I finished my last exam (after taking a train back from StL at 4:30a) I handed it in to Dean Boyer, received the standard congratulations and walked outside. My friend had called to say she was busy and could not go to see the Phantom Tollbooth so I walked to see the movie, alone, in the drizzle. Dramatically ironic, I thought.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sylvia Plath - Mad Girl's Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Prisoner Release

The world apparently thinks it a good idea for Israel to release her security prisoners. I, as someone who could be susceptible to further security breaches, am somewhat sceptical of the value of this approach. Further, as someone who grew up in Georgia, where people routinely bid for increased punishment for attempted murder, I find the public sentiment toward the recent freeing of these 398 security prisoners somewhat odd. Nonetheless, no one asked me and I am forced to record my opinions on this blog.

There are some indications that the Israeli prisons may not live up to their reputation. According to the Jerusalem Post,
Although initially 400 prisoners were meant to be released, at the last minute, two decided to remain in prison – one because he wished to complete the bagrut (matriculation exam) and the second because he wished to stay with his brother who was still completing his term.
While 398 did actually leave, the fact that 2 stayed really shows the humanity of the Israeli prison system. I've never heard of this happening in the United States, nor in the Russian Gulag.