Monday, September 24, 2012

Sept 20-24

Sept 20, "So, WHY didn't Moshe Rabbenu get to take an El Al donkey into Eretz Yisrael? Well, when the Shotrim, Datan and Abiram (Edward G. Robinson and Frank de Kova (F-Troop's Chief Wild Eagle) in the movie), met him on the way out from kvetching to Pharaoh, he ricochet-kvetched to H": Things are WORSE! Why did You send me? Rashi comments: You are not up to Avraham's standard. When I told him to sacrifice the son for whom he waitd so long, through whom I had said his inheritance would descend, he just got up early the next morning and set out to do it. For this, while you WILL see My victory over Egypt, you will NOT see My victory over the kings of Canaan. This does not quite explain why Avraham pleading for Sodom is not equally "quibbling with H"'s methods", though."

Sept 20, "Lessee... on the one hand, Israel says it's okay with a civilian nuclear program in Jordan... on the other hand, the US warns Israel that any actio on Iran's nuclear program would likely lead to a rupture of the current worthless (okay, tha
t's just MY opinion) ties with Egypt and Jordan. Ah, Ike's Atoms for Peace. Like partition, it worked so well. The question is, would it lead to a cessation of US baksheesh to those countries?"

Sept 21, "I do not understand. In my culture, Judaism, we have a principle older than Islam or even Christianity governing the relations between Jewish law, Halachah, and civil law of any country in which we live as a minority. It originates with the
 prophet Jeremiah at the beginning of the Babylonian expulsion. Dina d'malchuta dina. "The law of the land (literally, kingdom) is the law". Unless a civil law specifically requires something forbidden or forbids something required by scripture (e.g., eating a weekly ham sandwich, or forbiding circumcision), Judaism requires us to obey the laws of the country in which we live. Why exactly can't that standard be extended to any other groups that have their own legal traditions? Why exactly can't they be required to extend respect to American society, if they hope to have American respect extended to their cultural standards?"

Sept 24, "Anyone else hear the ticking? From the "friendly, peaceful" demands to "renegotiate" the Egypt and Jordan piece (deliberately spelled thus) treaties? Agreements Egypt, at least, has been in breach of practically since the first American ba
ksheesh arrived? The situation, though, especially in Sinai, has gotten ridiculous. Riots everywhere? Saudi funded Egyptian newspapers fomenting revolution in Syria at three removes? Did I mention Iran? But the ticking is so soothing. You have to understand, the NRC "strategy" called "Defense in Depth" has spread to State: Nothing will go wrong. If anything were going to go wrong, it would have already, but it hasn't, so it won't. It won't. It WON'T. Shut up. Sort of like the guy who jumped off the Empire State Building, and said, as he passed each floor, "So far, so good." Johnson and de Gaulle's advice in June 1967 was to wait for the Arabs to strike. Besides, you know to what previously solved case this situation reduces: Osirak. Wait for Israel to handle the problem (could that sixth German Dolphin sub Ehud Barak wants be a cruise missile launcher?), condemn Israel, go to Bullfeathers for bourbon and backslapping about how successful THAT total lack of action was."

sept 24, "It looks like the honeybee problem is man made and worse than I ever thought. A new (1994) type of insecticide causes it, and it spreads so fast because bees do not, in the US, primarily make honey. They are trucked from farm to orchard to pollinate, and fed modified corn syrup laden with... just the sort of neonicotinoids that cause CCD. Apparently, the California almond growers use half the bees in the country. Something like 25 times the revenue of US honey making in almonds. What do we lose if we continue this way? Fruit, berries, onions, pumpkin. Say goodbye to Thanksgiving dinner as we know it. Apple/blueberry pie. French Onion Soup. ANY decent soup. Triple berry smoothies."

Sept 14-19

Sept 14, "Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan (attacking Germans. Germans?), Akko, Yerushalayim. Somehow, ISRAELIS managed to keep rioters out of US embassy. "Only a strong, ISLAMIC state will 'quell the rage'". Appease Arab barbarity now?!? Oh, oops, sorry, "militants" storm peacekeeping base in Sinai. Missed that one. Are you getting this yet?"

Sept 15, "It's an interesting experience, not needing a vest, either to cover the stretch of my shirt over my paunch, nor the unsightly muffin top. Also, being able to button the neck of a shirt in which I couldn't do that when I bought it for my father in law's funeral in 2005."

Sept 16, "Just read about the Smurfette principle: in any cartoon not specifically aimed at girls (She-Ra, Gem, Princess Guenevere), either there will be only 1 female character, who will B essentially "the" chick, or there may B "feminized versions 
of the existing male characters" (Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse). The Archies & spinoffs (Sabrina the teenage witch, Josie & the Pussycats) & Scoobie Doo R apparently the exceptions that prove the rule. Tula the Geomancer on Pirates of Darkwater was clearly more than just the "chick", but she was pretty much the only female ever on the show. There were numerous females on Gargoyles, but I don't recall any besides Demona & Angela, Goliath & Demona's "lost" daughter, appearing for more than an episode or 2. Every clan obviously needed an egg layer. I don't know that I'd call Wonder Woman exactly the "chick" of the Justice League. Personally, I always found her ability to stop bullets with manual dexterity & bracelets more impressive that Superman's solar powered invulnerability, but I'm hard pressed to name another "chick" in the pantheon before 1980. Things seemed to pick up (even out?) with Raven & Starfire in the Teen Titans, but I was a big Avengers & Xmen fan, not a DC expert. While later groups did include multiple simultaneous females (Rogue, Storm, Shadowcat, Phoenix, even the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants had Mystique & that blind, elderly precog), the XMen only had Wondergirl for years. Reflexively as I wanted to snort derision at this idea, one thing struck me. My daughter LOVED Avatar, partially for the strong, active, independent female characters: Katara, Toph, Azula, Mai, Tai Lee, Katara's mother (Kya) & "Grangran", Zuko & Azula's mother Ursa, & many incidental but significant females. When we looked for action figures, we never found any females. Ever. Even on ebay. We never found an Iroh, either, but she's got Aang, Sokka, Zuko, Bumi, Roku, even a plush Momo. No females, though, & that's a 21st century series."

Sept 18, "Love the Romney response to the Romney take on Mencken, that 47% of America is composed of parasitic fools. Inelegant phrasing. Like there's a way to say, "Screw you guys, I'm going home" that will inspire affection and confidence."

Sept 18, "Apparently, Romney has said something else that deeply outrages the Liberal Blogosphere: "The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in achieving peace." Oh, My G-d, the man has been reading what the Palestinians themselves have been saying, or accounts of what effect twenty years of concession, appeasement, and political correctness have actually had, instead of clinging limpet-like to a bunch of warm, fuzzy, but baseless assumptions about "universal values". I think THIS Republican must have LEARNED something at Harvard."

Sept 19, "Get this straight: If you say something that upsets a muslim, and he chooses to go on a murderous rampage instead of calling you an idiot or writing a letter to the editor of initiating a lawsuit, it's your fault. Their standards must be 
respected everywhere, they have no need to respect anyone else's anywhere. International bodies should make the exercise of free speech illegal HERE because it might "cause" riots in the Muslim world. Or Paris. Or Sweden. This is what they are saying, loud and clear, over and over."

Sept 8-14

Sept 8, "PLG. PRD. BDL. QDSh. ChLQ. ChTzH. Why do we need 6 verbs for "separate"? QDSh means set aside for a particular, holy, purpose. BDL seems to mean a dichotomous division. ChTzH, means to bisect, as an arrow (Chetz) does a bow (Qeshet). ChLQ, which seems to mean divided evenly in more than two parts. PLG appears to indicate a natural division, as in Palgei Mayim, streams of water. But I'm still trying to figure out why we need PRD, what specific shade of meaning it represents.

Similarly for beautify: PAR and HDR can both be used for that, as in tiphara/tipheret or hidur mitzvar (doing a mitzvah not merely minimally but beautifully, joyfully).
So why would Rashi say that a perfectly common comprehensible shoresh/root in our parsha today was ACTUALLY a unique word, found nowhere else, meaning one of these two things?"

Sept 10, "Only Jerusalem has a monument to the victims of 9/11.  
Let's see.... HOW many of our Arab allies have a memorial to the victims of 9/11 in their capitals? Oh, right, I forgot, the US doesn't recognize Jerusalem, the only place with a Liberty Bell Park, a Kennedy Memorial, a 9/11 memorial as the capital of Israel. Because it would upset our Arab "allies"."

Sept 11, "September 11, 2001. I was on a treadmill at Gold's Gym, now closed. The tvs all faced in; the treadmills all faced the windows. I got off, and noticed lots of folk staring at the monitors Two weight machines later, everybody was watching the monitors. It felt like the 1986 day the Challenger crashed. I walked past the EE lounge at UMCP about 30 seconds into the 72 second flight. On the way home, 
I was astounded there was no traffic. Most of the way up 270, I turned on WTOP, and... BOOM. This 2001 day, I saw the smoke from the Pentagon. My 4 year old was in the kiddie room, where the very nice Afghani lady who ran it, Hamida, was freaking out because her daughter was a Marine corporal who worked there, & she didn't answer her phones. Fortunately, she had the day off and had just turned them off. My wife had chosen that day, of all days five years before or after, to take the metro UNDER the Pentagon, and of course cell phones did not work in the metro at that time. It was, as the Chinese say, an interesting morning."

Sept 12, "Interesting... anyone else note that the argument and tactics against human induced climate change almost exactly parallels the same industrially generated delays regarding CFCs?" (See Sept 24, BEES)

Sept 14, "Egypt... Libya... Yemen... Now Tunisia... Because we have freedom of speech, not because of Israel. Because an Egyptian Coptic Christian made a film. How many people died because of films in which Jesus was shown as less than perfect? How many movies show David, Solomon, Samson, Abraham, Moses as less than perfect? When was the last time Israeli Jews attacked the American embassy, or there was an antiamerican riot at the Vatican? Are you getting this yet? When did the archbishop of Canterbury lead a frothing mob against the embassy in London, or hindu clerics whip a pack of howling jackals up against the Mumbai embassy?"

Sept 1-8

Sept 1, apropos of Republican advice, "One might consider whether their advice was worth having, considering the results the first time. There's a value to experience, of course, but OUR experience is they crashed the system (allowed the crash and militated to make the "system" vulnerable) and then stood in the way of remediation while blaming their successors. Of course, NAFTA, a Clinton era "accomplishment", exacerbated the problem."

Sept 3, "Apparently, another batch of lovely fellows took umbrage that a woman was sitting in the front of an Israeli bus. Thankfully, they seem to have inflicted nothing more violent than loud noise on her.

I don't quite get what these idiots are trying to achieve by displaying such hideous middot. My daughter went to an orthodox school, where her favorite teacher was an "ultra-orthodox" rabbi. He hol
ds an annual barbecue for his fourth graders, boy and girl alike, at his home. We go to a Chabad shul, and this is NOTHING my rabbi would condone. When those awful people spit at those little girls in long skirts and called them whores, we got three sermons in a row on how awful and how totally unjustifiable such behavior was on a Torah basis.

One wonders. Torah teaching on the subject is from Brachot: Who embarrasses his fellow in public is as if he shed (literally poured) blood. Shaming a person publicly is elsewhere one of the several reasons it would have been better if that person (the shamer) had not been born.

What I can't figure out is how they can even speak to her: Avot 1:5. "Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem would say: not engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said even regarding one's own wife--how much more so regarding the wife of another. Hence, the sages said: One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory." So, how dare they even address her?"

Sept 3, responding to a Reuters story, ""Iran could strike U.S. bases if Israel attacks: Hezbollah" BEIRUT (Reuters) -They could strike, and have struck US bases and other assets (Pakistan this morning? USS Cole? 9/11? US embassies in Africa? Khobar Towers? The first attack on the WTC? Marine barracks and embassy Beirut?), whether Israel attacks Iran or not. And not just the Iranians: there is enough of it that there is a term (Green on Blue violence) for Afghan trainees attacking American trainers, just like "Palestinians" did Israelis in the same situation. The Argentine Jewish Community center, of course doesn't count."

Sept 5, "It's so inspiring that the British policy of denying Jews any rights that "upset" Arabs, of recognizing the Muslim right to express "upset" violently and destructively, has spread from the British mandate for A Jewish Homeland in Eretz Yisrael ארץ ישראל to so many other places, many supposedly "sovereign" states."

Sept 8, "Many moons ago, in the green of the world, around the bicentennial, I looked up my last name. I found it odd that it meant "small lake or pond: tarn" in German but "river" in Yiddish. I chose the German meaning, and have been using Agami אגמי as the Hebrew version since the early 1980s. My daughter has heard this, like so much else, FAR too many times, but apparently, because it has a Dr. Who resonance (the companion du jour is Amy POND, whose daughter is RIVER Song, because the people who raised her had no word for pond), suddenly, it's COOL. Like bow ties and fezzes."

Sept 8, "So, I'm reading Yehoshua chapter 9, because Joan is napping and Jessica is at a friend's house (napping, I later learn), and it's Shabbat, soooo... I don't know how I missed the NUMBER of parallels to earlier Hebrew models. He meets an ange
l before a momentous confrontation like Yaakov, he stops the Yarden like Moses does Yam Suf, AND he leads his men on a forced 20 mile up hill night march and beats a confederation of kings in a rescue mission like Avraham. I mean I read this last Summer. And I guess you could say he massacres Yericho and Ai, like Shimon and Levi."

Sept 8, "The shofar or ram's horn has been used to call Jews together at least since the Exodus from Egypt (Yetziat Mizrayim). Today it is played in the synagogue on weekdays after morning services (Shacharit) throughout the month of Elul, culminating on Rosh haShanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in the month of Tishrei. In the Jewish tradition, this represents the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai betreen the incident of the Golden Calf (Egel haZahav) and the gift of the second set of tablets (Sh'nei Luchot haBrit) containing the Ten Commandments (Aseret haDibrot).

There are four "notes" played in various patterns throughout the High Holiday services. T'ki'ah ia a long, uninterrupted blast. Sh'varim (broken) is three short blasts. T'ruah is approximately nine very short toots. T'ki'ah g'dolah is basically a T'ki'ah held for as long as one has breath.

Playing a shofar requires practice. It is very similar to playing a trumpet, or any brass instrument, except that the mouthpiece is not as easy to use. Basically, one presses one's lips together and forces breath out through them, producing the sort of vibration we all remember from kindergarten. Holding the shofar against one's vibrating lips produces the clarion, inchoate call we all know so well.

But here's the catch: Each shofar is unique, and most are not deliberately worked into a nice, symmetrical, trumpet-like mouth piece. The only way to get one to work is to hold it up to one's mouth and try and try and TRY……. until that sound starts coming out.
B'hatzlachah! (Best of luck!)"