How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

November 30, 2007

10 Years? Felt like 10 minutes!

Filed under: Blogging,Family,fun,Podcasting,technology,travel — howdoyoujew @ 19:39

Just had a fabulous dinner (at Bahama Breeze, in case you’re keeping track; excellent jerk-painted tilapia and terrific chocolate desserts) with Cousins Marc & Lynn and their boys who, conveniently enough for us this weekend, live in Orlando. Last time I saw M&L was at least a decade ago, before they had any offspring, so there was a lot of catching up to do, but it honestly felt like we’d been keeping up with each other regularly forever. I love family like that. We’ll get together again Sunday so Jenn can enjoy their company and they can meet her.

I don’t love that the NaBloPoMo group page has been taken offline, before I had a chance to post all my entries from here over there. All that means is that I’m not eligible for prizes, and since that’s not why I took on this challenge, I’m not upset about that, but I wish the option hadn’t been taken away from me so unceremoniously. Granted, I should have read the rules more carefully, since apparently they stated that you had to do the double-posting, but still…

Anyway, I’m glad I did this NaBloPoMo thing, since I’ve gotten into the habit of posting regularly. My idea for the podcast is to do shows on Monday and/or Thursday. I will do my best over the coming weeks to manipulate my schedule and use of free time to enable that goal to come to fruition. Stay tuned.

November 29, 2007


Filed under: Family,Health,Parenting,travel — howdoyoujew @ 21:25

Last time we traveled to the east coast with Hadarya, in March, we kept her pretty much on west coast time, which prevented shifting back when we went home. At that time, naps weren’t as important, and she was sleeping through the night really well, so it worked out great.

This time, her schedule is important, and we’re out here for five days, and today (the first day) was weird. It’s as if she really knows we traveled far enough for her to say up on local time to make it easier on us overnight, but it certainly didn’t seem that way for me, since I didn’t sleep much on our redeye flight out here last night.

What I’m saying is, I’m tired, you know?

November 28, 2007

Movie review: 28 Weeks Later

Filed under: movies,Parenting,technology — howdoyoujew @ 20:53

Very briefly, because I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about this movie:

Scariest movie I’ve seen in years, possibly ever. Not only in the jump-out-of-your-seat scary, although it has enough of those moments, but more of the sustained scariness of a horror/sci-fi movie that’s just close enough to being real (the underlying concept of the Rage virus from 28 Days Later, the premise of repopulation under military auspices that is the foundation here) that it messed with my head for days after I saw it. It’s possible that, as a friend suggested (without having seen the movie, only based on my reaction), that it struck a particular chord with me for one or more of several reasons – my being a parent, my awareness of the precariousness of biomedical research and its risks, my experience and views of security issues – any one of these or all of them together could have contributed to my being affected by this movie in a way I don’t remember a film hounding me in ages.

Not for the queasy or soft of stomach, but highly recommended nonetheless. Perhaps I’ll come back and talk about it in more detail at another time…

November 27, 2007

Professional development/putting myself out there

Filed under: education,history,humor,Israel,SDSU,technology,UCSD,work — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

Last week I participated in an IT Careers Panel organized by our colleagues across town at the UCSD Career Services Center. There were three other panelists (all UCSD alums), and a whopping TWO students attended. So, yeah, it wasn’t a resounding success in terms of attendance, but the two students who were there sure got lots of personal attention and customized advice from all of us. I was honored to be included (thanks, Bobbie, Craig, etc.!)

This afternoon I taught the second-to-last session of my University Seminar, an introduction/orientation to Career Services, and this evening I taught my Hebrew High class, the 12th Grade Seminar (we began a unit on dealing with Israel issues, anti-Zionism, and the like on college campuses).

I love an audience, but public speaking engagements depend a lot on the audience’s reaction, and I’ve had very different responses along the way (tonight’s Hebrew High class was great; the University Seminar class, not so much). For me, the more reactive and participatory the audience (whether they’re responding to my questions or laughing at my jokes), the better. I still remember the first time I got a feel for working a crowd, delivering my bar-mitzvah speech. I had some native Hebrew-speaking guests, and I inserted a section of Hebrew into the middle of my speech. When I switched back to English, my first words were, “Hi! I’m back!” and I got a nice laugh (which I wasn’t really expecting, frankly). I got such a rush out of that, and have used that as motivation in driving my public speaking ever since. I fed off the energy of my audiences in high school speech & debate (and yes, I’m aware that the people in the photo banner at the top of the page look like they’re in a SNL sketch), and I continue to do so these days, when I present at the occasional conference or speak about Israel or other topics I’m passionate about.

I’m available for weddings, birthdays, and bar-mitzvahs. Thank you, thank you… try the salmon!

November 26, 2007

Ignorance fuels violence

Filed under: Commentary,education,Islam,Politics,religion — howdoyoujew @ 14:42

Yes, I know this hasn’t gotten physically violent yet, but it easily could. When is this going to stop?

A British schoolteacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

BBC story.

This whole business with images of the Prophet confuses me. Part of the issue in this story is the book the kids made with the picture of the bear and the name Muhammad on it. Does that mean that Muslim boys named Muhammad can’t get their picture taken? I wish I could figure it out, but the rules of logic and common sense don’t apply to fundamentalist religion. And until education becomes a higher value than blind devotion, things are only going to get worse.

November 25, 2007

Holiday wish list

Filed under: random,technology — howdoyoujew @ 22:02

Dear Santa/Hannukah Harry (can’t be too safe),

I think I’ve been pretty good this year. Here’s my entirely unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, lottery-winner’s gift list, in no particular order:

I’m sure I could think of things that are more, er… meaningful? But that’s what comes to mind at the moment, and really, isn’t the holiday season all about receiving gifts?
What? No, it isn’t? Oh… nevermind then.

November 24, 2007

My amazing offspring…

…except that, well, you know, she isn’t my offspring in the literal sense of that word. Regardless, she IS amazing, and I happily take credit for her attitude and disposition, seeing as how I’ve been co-responsible for her since the moment she was born. She had a rough night last night, up a few times to eat, crying, not her usual self. She woke up for good at 5 AM, hung out with us in bed for a while, then participated in our morning routine getting ready for Shabbat at Ohr Shalom, where both I and my lovely wife were scheduled to read Torah, so we were obligated to go. She didn’t go down for a nap before we left the house, rested in the car for a short time on the way down there, remained awake the whole length of the service, and maintained her standard good mood throughout.

She catnapped on our way out to Coronado to hang out with Doda Shlomit and Dod Dave and Ben Dod Jonah, woke up promptly after we parked the car, and was up the entire afternoon and evening until about 6 PM, again, with a smile on her face the whole time. She ate like a champ the whole day, and that, in combination with how long she’s been awake, plus the fact that we’ll be keeping the house a little warmer tonight than it has been lately, makes us hopeful that she’ll sleep through the night, as was her habit since the age of 3 months.

All I want to do now is sit and veg in front of the TV. It’s rare that I get like that, but tonight is one of those evenings. If we can’t find anything good on live TV (we only have basic channels) we’ll certainly find something online.

Oh, yeah… This morning at shul I delivered an oral version of the drash I wrote up the other day, and it was well-received. Good times.

November 23, 2007

Times when I don’t feel like being a grown-up

Filed under: Blogging,Family — howdoyoujew @ 22:16

Having to make a personal family budget, and dealing with rising costs and expenses on the one hand and stagnant income on the other, is not fun. I know I am more fortunate and well-off than a mind-numbing portion of the planet’s population, but that’s not my fault; that’s an accident of birth. Trying to make ends meet in my current reality is my responsibility, and we were reminded today that we’re struggling a bit. We’ll have to come up with creative ways to solve our issues (we’ve started working on that already), without the “benefit” of creative accounting and other such perks of the corporate set.

This blog may be many things already, and it will hopefully grow and evolve some more, but one thing I don’t ever want it to become is a bitch & moan session, so ’nuff said.

Shabbat shalom.

November 22, 2007

On giving back, giving thanks, and not giving up

We got up bright and early this morning to walk 5K in downtown San Diego to raise money for Jewish Family Service and the San Diego Food Bank. Felt good. Ran into many people we know, and saw the power of grassroots passionate politics in action: two Ron Paul supporters I saw walked the entire route with extra promotional material showing their allegiance.

One carried a “Ron Paul – Hope for America” preprinted cardboard sign, raised in his right hand, the whole length of the walk/race, during parts of which he faced runners coming the other way. A few people offered cheers in response as they ran by, and one lady came up to him and asked him who Ron Paul was while I was walking next to him. In my opinion, he got into way too much technical detail and talked too much, and possibly lost the lady by the time she managed to extricate herself and walk on, but that’s the risk you take with a candidate who doesn’t have a well-oiled campaign spin machine with professionally distributed talking points, etc. This guy turned out to be a very recent convert to the cause (like one month ago recent), which also explains the rusty preaching. If it were me, the spiel would be something like:

  • He’s a strict constitutionalist
  • He’s the most principled, honest, straightforward congressman on the Hill
  • He wants to end the war in Iraq/bring the troops home immediately
  • He wants to reduce the size and power of the federal government, and
  • He wants to increase and protect your personal freedoms and liberty (by, among other things, repealing the Patriot Act)

But that’s just me. I’m not even sure I’m going to vote for the guy.

The second supporter ran the entire race while towing a Radio Flyer wagon plastered and stacked with Ron Paul stickers and signs. I didn’t talk to him, but seeing both these guys was eye-opening. No other candidate was visible in the race – I don’t recall ANY t-shirts, let alone anything more visible like what these guys did. It’s amazing to me how passionate Dr. Paul‘s supporters are, and it makes me sad that the entire electorate doesn’t share this passion.

Most people vote for one of two reasons, I think: 1) for convenience (how I used to vote), or 2) for who they think will win, as long as the candidate is within a very broad margin of where the voter’s interests lie. I decided several years ago to stop voting for convenience and start voting my conscience. I’ve thus technically “wasted” my vote a few times, voting for libertarian and other independent and other party candidates who have very little chance of winning the seats they’re running for. But I recognized at the time I made this decision that my vote is not really wasted – in fact, I’m getting more value out of my vote than most people, because… I was going to say because I can sleep at night, but I’m sure most other people don’t have sleeping problems based on their voting record, mostly because they’re too complacent and content to feed on the bullshit that the political machine and mainstream mass media feed them. They also probably think that, in the few cases where they actually do care about something and it’s not going the way they want, they can’t make a difference, so they don’t try, and resign themselves to the status quo. I want to raise my daughter to be a true critical thinker with advanced analytical skills applicable to all aspects of life, and to always know that she CAN, in fact, make a difference, so I will not be one of the mindless masses meandering about making do with meaningless materiality.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the 5K walk… Anyhow, after that we went home and all three of us took a nice nap, then got our day going getting ready for the family-and-friends feast at the Meltzers’, which didn’t disappoint. Among the highlights of the afternoon/evening was finally meeting and getting to know Rav Menashe East and his wife (and their adorable infant daughter). We’ll be spending a considerable amount of time next summer with them in Israel, so it was good (not surprising, but still good) to discover they’re cut from the finest quality menschlichkeit cloth.

November 21, 2007

It feels like Friday

Which means that since it got dark a few hours ago, I’ve felt like it’s Shabbat and I shouldn’t blog until after… but it’s not Shabbat, it’s Erev Thanksgiving, and there’s nothing to prevent me from writing, using the computer, etc.

Jenn spent much of the day cooking and baking for Thanksgiving, which we’ll be celebrating at the Meltzers’ with a bunch of extended family and friends. I successfully lobbied one of my favorite community organizations (in this case, Ohr Shalom Synagogue) to send out an email to the membership about the Give One Get One program I wrote about yesterday. Phyllis & Joel commented on Jenn’s post about the Bone Marrow Donor Appreciation event. Hadarya had a great day and a good evening, including when we went down to minyan.

This week’s parasha is Vayishlach, which includes the story of Yaakov’s struggle (commonly translated as “wrestling”) with… well, with someone – the Hebrew is ha-ish = the man, but this is usually understood as an angel of God. Tonight, though, we looked at four possibilities of who the struggle could have been with:

  1. God
  2. An Angel/messenger of God
  3. Yaakov himself
  4. Esav (Esau, Yaakov’s twin)

The discussion that ensued about each of these was the richest exploration of this story I’ve ever engaged in. My contributions included the following:

  • Assuming the struggle was with God, I thought of the conversation God has with Moses later in the Torah (verse 20) when Moses asks to see God’s face and God tells Moses that “no man can see my face and live.” That said, Yaakov may have gotten so close to God by engaging in this “struggle” that he came away with a physical wound (the hobbled leg, the limp).
  • If it was an Angel (and somewhat spanning the possibility of a struggle within himself): Yaakov remembered, of course, the dream he’d had some 20 years before of the ladder with angels climbing up and down. This time, rather than remaining passive and simply watching, he tried to engage his visitor. He was more mature, more ready this time, but it was still a serious spiritual and physical challenge, and he came away changed (spiritually with the name change, physically with the limp).
  • If the sparring partner was Esav, the thing that struck me most was the parallel of lower limbs in their history: at the beginning of their lives, Yaakov grasped at Esav’s heel, then engaged in some rather unsavory behavior to usurp his brother’s birthright. Here, decades later, HIS leg is injured, mirroring his brother’s “wound,” and the very next day, Yaakov and Esav meet and reconcile.

There was some very nice input (not mine; I think it was Rabbi Scott’s) on this last option, raising the possibility that Yaakov and Esav had to have a physical confrontation, a cathartic wrestling match, to get out their aggression and relieve their longstanding animosity, and that only after this fight could they embrace and kiss and weep.

All in all, a nice lead-in to the holiday. Tomorrow first thing in the morning we head downtown for the 5K Walk for the Hungry, then relax and eventually head to dinner to give thanks ourselves. Happy holiday!

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