Friday, May 05, 2006

Something to Ponder for Shabbat

Is Schrodinger's cat a psik reisha of killing on shabbas?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hello my Family!

In a very intimate communication i say hello to my family. Because i know no matter how hard you avoid posting you wander over here occasionally. So i've finally finished my moed alephs (first test dates) and in two weeks i'm presenting my seminar paper and then i''m pretty much done with my degree. (Not that I won't moan and groan any more in the process.) But that realization just hit me today and i feel very accomplished.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Theology of Dieting

Today, the New York Times ran an article reporting the results of a major study showing that low fat diets do absolutely nothing for people. The evidence is overwhelming, but nevertheless, some people refuse to believe.

"What we are saying is that a modest reduction of fat and a substitution with fruits and vegetables did not do anything for heart disease and stroke or breast cancer or colorectal cancer," said Dr. Nanette Wenger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Emory University Medical School. "It doesn't say that this diet is not beneficial," she added.

As far as I can tell, they've just proved that low fat diets have absolutely no health benefits. So, the only possible benefits must be spiritual, which by definition are unprovable. The Earth Mother must love people who eat food that tastes bad.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Something I'm Conflicted About Posting

Even though I rarely post comments specific to Life in Israel I really am always trying to find incidents that reflect on my life here. And in that respect this story is appropriate. On the other hand I don't want to write it so that everyone else in the family can feel self-righteous and dismiss all Israelis as bigots.
On Shabbos afternoon I went with 5 other girls to visit patients at Tel Hashomer Hospital. Before going it sounds awkward and uncomfortable-just marching into a hospital room and announcing to the weak patient "we've come to visit how are you doing?" but for every patient who prefers the company of people he knows or just wants peace and quiet to recuperate there is another patient who is lonely and needs to be distracted and really appreciates our presence. First we visited a surgery ward and then the other girls decided they wanted a change of pace and we went to the children's hospital. Almost all of the children are accompanied by a parent but in one room there was a little Arab boy, around 8 years old, who was in a room all alone. Although none of us spoke Arabic it felt wrong to move onto the next room when there was a boy who really needed attention. We tried to talk in that universal method of if I talk loudly and clearly then he/she will understand my Hebrew/Arabic. Luckily he had a few balloons on his bed and we started playing the classic keep the balloon off the floor. The other girls moved onto to the next room but I stayed behind to play with the little boy. In the middle he stopped the game and said to me very deliberately hahasamak. I tried every approximation to hebrew that I could think of but when I couldn't figure it out I remembered there was an Arab Israeli down the hall so I went over to him and asked him to translate for me. (It means "what is your name") On the way back I passed the father of a boy in the room next door to the Arab boy's room who asked me "are you girls Arab?" i answered "no" and he started walking away and then turned around self-righteously and told me "matim lachen l'hiyot" (it's fitting for you to be) [if this next line is inappropriate you can delete it from the post] suddenly i saw all those videos we watched in US history, To Kill a Mockingbird, the sneering "nigger-lover" and it turned my stomach to realize how the cost of intifada and terror isn't only the victims but its also the morality of my country, where a father who also has a son sick in the hospital can't understand that a little 8 year old boy is lonely and afraid all by himself in the hospital but instead all he seems is the enemy.
At this point in the story I'm still the hero, the liberal, humane girl fighting against the prejudices of backwards people. But when i re-entered the room i couldn't view him the same way. he tried to explain to me in arabic why his legs had been amputated and afterwards tired of the balloon game he picked up a foam ball on a string that he had in his bed also and showed me how he whirled it over his head. and i had to leave because all of a sudden i saw rows of little boys hurling rocks at soldiers and i probably imagined it but i saw hate in his eyes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Creating a Legend

About three weeks ago I started helping out this family. I'm supposed to give the 6 year old daughter one-on-one attention but in the end her three brothers usually end up tagging along with us. Last week I decided to write a story with the girl and her brothers. In the end we got caught up drawing a map of America and describing why Stalin was such an evil person. (Who was the Communist leader with the goat beard because that's how I drew Stalin and when I looked him up on the internet all his pictures were with a kibbutznik moustache.) And then her 9-year old brother had an idea for a story: One clear day everyone laughed at G-d. G-d punished them.
So for this week I decided to write a story for them to show how it should be done. I tried writing about a party the student union threw but in the end it just sounded like an orgy-dim lighting, loud music, a sumptuous chocolate fountain. So I tried to think of a story that they would relate to, something from my own childhood. But all my memories lack plot, climax, drama.
Step in Joe. My brother Joe is two years older than me. He has brown hair and brown eyes and is very good at sports. A legend is born! In the story Joe rescues the ball by bravely climbing the tree which is even taller than the house but in the process falls on his face but through his quick wits he covers his face and escapes with a broken arm. (I am the nervous younger sister in the story sucking her thumb.)
Anyway, for next week I need to come up with another story involving Joe's larger-than-life espacades, but I don't want it to involve breaking any more bones. Suggestions will be welcomed.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The case for language

Today, we were eating dinner with some mustard. Tom started pointing at the mustard and saying "da" --- he clearly wanted the mustard. He was becoming very upset about this. When we gave him some mustard, he did not want to eat it. When we gave him the jar of mustard to play with, he seemed happier but then gave it back to us to do something with.

Because he cannot talk, he cannot tell us what he wants to do with mustard! Grunts and hand gestures are not enough. Some people say that they learn Russian to read War and Peace --- well, maybe Tom will learn English so he can play with the mustard the way he wants to.

What do you think Tom wanted? My theory is that he liked to watch us squeeze the jar of mustard

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cute kids

What is the cutest move of the kids.
1 Ruti's eyeroll
2 Chaim's Veggie Tale singing ( he sings along to all the songs)
3 Yosef's actually ( Actually its....)
Vote in the comments

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Guilt-free Way to lie to the Government

On January 1rst, Illinois changed the income limits for Medicaid, so now me and Shmuli can get free health insurance. Obviously, as an economist I agree this a completely stupid policy, but it would be even stupider not to take advantage of it. However, I had problems applying, because the computer program insists on asking about income received in the last 30 days. As a student, I'm paid irregularly, so that often I'm not paid at all in a given month, but when it's more than the monthly income limit. I've tried reasoning with the bureaucrats, but they always say that the computer system does not allow people to have irregular pay.

However, I figured out a completely (I hope) legal way to get around it. I applied for FamilyCare using whatever numbers I needed to make the computer system happy. Then, on the signature form, I wrote 'The numbers I gave on the application were altered slightly to make the computer system happy, but I certify that I am legitimately entitled to FamilyCare". I'm 90% sure that whatever bureaucrat that processes the form won't even notice the note right above my signature. So, I can get all the benefits of lying to the government without actually lying to them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pictures Here

Pictures of the boys are up at the linked website (just click on the title). These pictures are the first pictures of the parents taken with new millenium technology (a digital camera).

Monday, December 26, 2005


Chanukah season has begun here marked by really pretty looking doughnuts that are suprisingly doughy and if they have filling its just a small blob. But the beauty of the confectionary sugar sprinkled on top. Every time it fools me into buying them.
Our landlord is coming today, hopefully to fix our heat which is blowing out lukewarm air (does the word lukewarm fit air or is it only for liquids?). With incredible irony we spent this morning cleaning the apartment so that our landlord isn't upset at us when he is coming to fix his broken heat. (Not the most sensical sentence but I needed the parallel italics.) The apartment really was a wreck because we had these 5 australian birthright girls staying by us for the weekend with their luggage for 6 weeks. Given the size of our apartment I think its pretty impressive that we were able to fit 5 more people in. And luckily the downstairs neighbors didn't complain about them making too much noise or anything. (Yet another person who should be our equal bc we both just pay rent but we live in fear of and avoid riding the elevator with)[and i just ended that fragmented sentence with two prepostions] Oh that reminds me, the other day i finally got to show off my english knowledge by editing one of the graduate students paper that he's submitting to a journal. No snide comments about my writing skills, i did an excellent job editing it. The only thing i didn't have the heart to change was his concluding paragraph that began: in conclusion the answer is yes, _____ has been proven to _______. THere was something that seemed a little too boisterous and not-scientific about that sentence. But who am i to come and strip all personality from his paper.
Rachel and Shmuli- i want to see pictures of the new house.
Joe-if you ever want to go to australia the birthright girls pledged everlasting thanks and hosting tradebacksies that you could negotiate for.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Did I Go Too Far In Saving Money Today?

I need the family's opinion on a minor etiquitte point. I had 15 minutes to kill before picking up Chaim from school, so I went to Main pizza and ordered fries. While there, I noticed that the table next to me had left a meal virtually untouched. I asked the guy cleaning it up whether I could take it and he said okay in a doubtful sort of way. Despite the less than glowing recommendation by the purchasers, the food was actually very good, much better than my undercooked fries.

I'm not terribly worried about germs, I cut off the part why the guy bit into it. And, the germs in half eaten food are relatively benign compared to the toddlers snot or worse I'm continually smeared in.

Nevertheless, I'm aware that asking for leftovers from other people's meals is probably against some social norms. I need an opinion for the service professionals in our family on what they think of it. I doubt the waiter minded, I left him a $1 tip on $2 of fries to thank him for the leftovers. But, did the restaurant owner mind? I wasn't going to purchase lunch, I wouldn't have had time to wait, and the food wasn't worth paying full price for.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Strange VeggieTales

Yesterday, Shmuli got a new Veggietales movie. It was "King George and His Ducky", and it was a remake of David and Bathsheba, except he stole a rubber ducky, and the guy survived, so he was able to apologize and give back his ducky. Otherwise, it was extremely close.

However, I was bothered by one thing. They decided that the moral of the story was "Don't Be Selfish". However, that makes the whole movie surreal. It's all very well and good to share rubber duckies, but sharing wives is definitely forbidden.

I think the real problem is that they're confusing two separate morals. It's a bad thing to be selfish (for most thing), but it's really a small sin. On the other hand, stealing is a much bigger sin. I have little problem with the king having a 100 duckies and some people having 0. The problem was that he had 99 and took the other guy's 1. (And of course the murder)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

20 Minutes of Wasted Time

As you may know the Yeshiva has Night Seder until 8:00 three times a week. On Thursday we have, in addition, a 20 minute speech on various topics. This week it was given by a rabbi known for giving short speeches based on gematriot. These are usually dubious but to give you a feel of what we use the time for here's a partial transcript (from memory) of what the speech was.
Rabbi: You probably think I can only give gematriot but I'm going to go farther than that and not give any gematriot in the speech. (applause) He started off by mentioning his second grade Rabbi was the one who told him about a lot of his chassidic ideas which he uses in speeches ( Admitting he was giving second grade level speeches). We see in our parsha that by the birthright it says Eisav ate, drank, got up, and left. This was transformed to he ate without a a brachah, he drank without a brachah, got up without bentching, and left without a yarmulke. (Editor's note by Yitzchak it uses the phrase he ate, and he drank and it doesn't mention a brachah said.) He said it was a chassidic dvar torah and then asked a Rebbe at the school who is a chassidic Rabbi if he had heard the idea and he replied no. The speech continued on with the importance of saying brachos and saying them slowly. Then he went on to an analogy. Rabbi: Suppose someone gives you a check with 3 zeroes and you say that's worthless so he adds another 3 zeroes and then you hand it back and he adds 3 zeroes. Finally he adds a 1 in front and now what is it? Audience: (several at once) A bounced check!
He then went on with the George H.W. Bush idea of telling us to be more like the Walton's who made a blessing before each meal. Finally he used a strawman argument within a strawman argument to make his point. He said the ordinary person who works from 9-5 if you ask him why he works he'll say to pay the bills. Then if you ask why pay the bills he will say "To have a roof over my head." Then if you ask why you need a roof they will say to sleep well. Then if you ask why you need to sleep well they will answer so I can get up for work. For a Jew its different because he's doing it all to serve Hashem's will. ( Of course if you continue that line of questioning it will also eventually be circular.) This is not only demolishing a series of questions and answers that no one would answer but also attacking them even though there's nothing wrong with the answers because he's working to maintain a quality of life which makes him happy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I thought

November 21 was Talia's birthday, but since none of her siblings blog-wished her a happy birthday, I must have been wrong.