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.

May 13, 2008

Brain dump, Tuesday night

I have to blog a thousand things, but I’ll just keep this to the top that I’m able to think of, in no particular order, before my fingers get tired:

  1. The evil bastards who control the food packaging disaster that is hot dogs and buns are even more devious than I previously suspected: We recently got Hadarya a play kitchen (and PLEASE don’t start with the sexism/promoting gender stereotypes/etc. arguments – she is a very well-rounded child who spends time doing lots of other things, but she sees us both working in the kitchen and loves to pretend to do so on her own), and Grandma Bonnie came through with a ginormous vat of play food to fill the kitchen. The play food container has, I kid you not, six hot dogs and TWO buns. What the???
  2. I’m completely engrossed in the audio recording of Wil Wheaton‘s Just A Geek. His writing is excellent – the stories of his time on TNG, including the hindsight on what a bonehead he was to not appreciate it at the time (he WAS a teenager, after all; it would have been more surprising if he HAD appreciated it); working the con circuit with fellow cast members; his brutal honesty and openness about his emotional fragility over the lack of work, with the concomitant ups and downs of auditions and wasted hours waiting for phone calls; his beautiful stories about his family and his struggles to support them; all of this is good source material, and it’s well put together on paper. But his performance of his own material is evocative, moving, funny, and true, with occasional asides and deviations from the written source that make this feel at once like the special edition of the book with extra features and like he’s performing it exclusively for me (it helps that I’m listening to it in the car when I’m either alone or with a sleeping toddler in the back).
    I’m able to relate to virtually everything he talks about because I grew up with a father who worked in “the industry” (what people who work in the movie/television business call their line of work), so the terms are familiar, and so are many of the settings (walking around studio backlots and sets, the peculiar hurry-up-and-wait schedule of a typical shoot, etc.). In some of the stories, the empathy is even stronger because our paths were even closer – growing up geeky, playing role-playing and video games, seeing all the same movies and listening to much of the same music.
    Then there’s his audition for the co-host spot on Win Ben Stein’s Money. Listening to that chapter was amazing, since I was a contestant on the show. Wil was up for the co-host spot after Jimmy Kimmel’s first replacement, but that wasn’t clear from his description, and since I stopped watching the show after I played on it (that story will get its own post), I didn’t even know there WAS another co-host, nor that he was Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin. That was all cleared up by Wikipedia, thankyouverymuch.
  3. It’s been a very long time since I was as wrapped up in a television show as I was in this week’s House, the penultimate episode of the season. I started watching the series when the strike took my other vegout shows off the air, and haven’t been disappointed, but they really nailed it this week. I’m going to catch up on last week’s episode via Hulu before enjoying the season finale next week. Then Veronique and I can discuss amongst ourselves, dahling.
  4. Is it just me, or is it weird that Hillary Clinton is ignoring the fact that her base, according to all the data I’m hearing, is essentially uneducated white people, while Barack Obama’s core supporters tend to be college-educated? I guess that explains some stuff, like her pandering to people with the proposed gas tax holiday, and how she can get away with calling him “elitist,” and other things. Meh. I so don’t want this blog to be about politics.
  5. I’ve got basic show notes written up for like a dozen How Do You Jew podcast episodes. I just need to put some music together, do a little research on each of my core topics, and start recording. Actually, here are some of the things I want to cover. Any suggestions for straightforward sources of good, solid information about them would be appreciated. The idea is that I’ll introduce and briefly discuss/explain a specific Jewish tradition or halachic practice each episode:
    • Torah scroll, sofer, filling in letters to fulfill mitzvah
    • Kippot/yarmulkes – where is rule to wear, who’s obligated/allowed, different styles and their connotations in different communities
    • Yahrzeit/shloshim/shiva
    • Hamantaschen – Haman’s ears vs. Haman’s hat & possibly other traditional Jewish holiday foods
    • Pikuach nefesh
    • Alright, Jenn should be home soon from the synagogue board meeting, and I need to fill out Hebrew High report cards, so that’s it for tonight… Also, Hadarya is restless and needs some comforting, so off I go.

May 4, 2008

A million kinds of awesome

Wil Wheaton is living the grown-up geek life. Since growing up geeky in LA, kickin’ butt as a writer in Stand By Me, then being the butt of countless jokes in Star Trek: TNG, Wil got to writing. Specifically, blogging. He’s got the gift, as a writer and a performer, not only to transport his audience to the setting of his stories (familiar snapshots of coming of age in LA in the 80s, playing video games & D&D, getting in on the ground floor of the PC revolution, and more, except for me without the acting bits), but to inspire people to tell their own stories.

He was in San Diego this weekend, and I got to enjoy his reading at Mysterious Galaxy and get his autograph on my brand new copy of his latest, The Happiest Days of Our Lives (a collection of posts from his blog). The setting allowed me to chat with him for a few minutes, letting him know about my absent friends (Stephen [who told me about Wil’s visit in the first place; thanks!], McHank, Paul, Cousin Alli… am I missing anyone?) who were bummed not to be there, and the theory Paul & I have about the Emperor’s limited vocabulary in the Star Wars movies, and my discovery of where the limitation came from (I think we’re all in agreement that “limited” is a good word for George Lucas’s writing aptitude, regardless of his other talents). Wil laughed easily and genuinely, like me. He talks like me, is excited about the same things I am, and I’m super excited to dive into his brain and explore the parts I know so well and those I don’t…

Awesome.

March 7, 2008

No words

In memory of the victims of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva shooting, March 6, 2008

November 15, 2007

Surprise! You’re the guest of honor/keynote speaker tonight!

Filed under: education,Family,Good News,Health,life cycle,tikkun olam,UCSD — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

When we walked in to the UCSD Faculty Club tonight for the San Diego Blood Bank‘s Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Donor Appreciation Dinner, we were excited to be back at this moving event, this time without our daughter, who was with us last year at the tender age of 6 weeks. Little did I know that my name appeared on this evening’s program as the featured speaker, with Phyllis’s and my story the central donor-recipient story. The staff at the donor center had called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to be their backup speaker because they were having some trouble getting someone, and I agreed, but they never called back, so I assumed they’d found someone else. Imagine my surprise when Maria ran up to me tonight and sprung this surprise on me! Well, never one to turn down a gig, I had a Heineken, wrote a few notes down, and took the mic when it was handed to me.

After it was all over, it took us about 45 minutes to get out of there for all the people coming up to commiserate and compliment me and share their own donor/recipient stories. Mine, as I said in my remarks, has TWO happy endings (Phyllis’s survival and then Hadarya’s birth), but not all bone marrow donation stories end so well. In some cases, the patients succumb despite a matching donor being found and a transplant being carried out, but in far too many cases, patients die for lack of a donor. This is where you come in. Open a phone book or a new tab in your browser (what, you don’t use a tabbed browser? OK, open a new window, then) and look up your local bone marrow/stem cell donor center (likely affiliated with your local blood bank). Call the center, and make an appointment to register with the National Marrow Donor Program. It’ll only cost you a small blood sample, but the difference you may make in someone’s life is immeasurable.

Also, you may get to correspond with a rock legend.

But that’s not the point. The point is you could save a life, and the person whose life you save may have undoubtedly has other people who care about and love him/her, which means you’ll have changed their lives too. The collateral benefits add up, which is why the Talmud teaches us that “One who saves a life, it’s as if he has saved the whole world.”

Do it. Do it now.

Another worthy webcomic

Filed under: Family,Good News,Health,humor,life cycle,technology,video,webcomics — howdoyoujew @ 16:36

Technically, Last Kiss is also a traditional comic, since it appears weekly in the Seattle Times, but John Lustig deserves the recognition anyway. He also distributes bonus strips via his email list, and his “gimmick,” if I may call it that, is a hoot:

Sure it’s schlock! But…

In late 1987, Charlton Comics was selling off the rights to all its comic books. By then, most of the “good stuff” had already been sold. What was left were series and genres (war, romance, western and horror) that had little appeal to modern American comic book fans—most of whom were only interested in superhero comics. Despite that, I had a vague idea that it might be possible to do something with the Charlton material.

For $400 I bought all rights to First Kiss – a 40-issue romance series published from 1957 to 1965. I took a gamble and bought the series sight unseen. It was the series with the most issues for the least amount of money. And I pretty much got what I paid for – schlock!

Oh, it had some good art too – stuff by Dick Giordano, Vince Colletta, Jon D’Agostino and others. But Charlton paid the lowest rates in comic books to its creators and to make a living artists and writers had to churn out stories very quickly. Speed was more important than quality.

And so, despite editor Pat Masulli’s pledge to readers on the first page of the series, First Kiss fell far short of being “the finest of the magazines dealing with affairs of the heart.” Instead, it was often shoddy and almost always quirky. Some stories (notably “Campus Crush” the first story in the first issue of First Kiss) don’t make much sense. Despite the now-quaint, 1950’s morality of these stories, there’s a nightmarish quality to many of them. Primary First Kiss writer Joe Gill was working much too fast to worry much about keeping characters consistent and logical. Anything can happen in First Kiss stories.

I guess that’s why I find them so entertaining.

The latest bonus from John prompted me to write him a quick fan/thank you note, based on my own experience with raising awareness and funds for cancer cures, and my personal involvement with saving a cancer patient’s life (have I mentioned that before?).

November 13, 2007

Quality time, and Spider-Man 3 pre-review

We spent time tonight with E and S, good friends with whom we have a weekly dinner, rotating between our two houses. We were scheduled to go up to their house, but S called to let us know their laundry machine is on the fritz again, so we switched the date to our place, and they brought their laundry to do at our house. Considering that we’ve stored S’s breast milk in our freezer, hosting them for laundry wasn’t such a big deal. E & S have a little girl about four and a half months younger than Hadarya, so we’re enjoying spending time together for our girls’ sake, too. It’s a real treat to watch them play together, and we look forward to many more evenings of this sort (without this last part when Hadarya woke up screaming, possibly from teething. We’ve gotten her back down thanks to S’s suggestion to use the portable swing we’d moved out the garage because Hadarya didn’t like it when she was younger. She’s sleeping like the proverbial baby now.).

We started watching Spider-Man 3 this afternoon. We’re about an hour in, which means

  1. I’ve already enjoyed the Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos, and I’m very afraid that they are the highlights of the film;
  2. I am already annoyed with Mary Jane for being such a prima donna while simultaneously being irritated with Peter for being so self-centered and full of himself; and
  3. I’m very aware of how long this movie has to be to deal with all its subplots, and that is way too freakin’ long. I mean, an hour in, and we still haven’t seen what the stupid black alien thing is actually gonna DO (not that I don’t know this from the previews/commercials/etc., but come on!

I hope I have time to watch the rest in the next day or two, since it was due back at Blockbuster yesterday. I’m teaching my University Seminar and Hebrew High classes tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll have something more interesting to say.
Laila tov.

November 10, 2007

The origin of this domain name

Filed under: Blogging,Family,history,life cycle,Life Online,Parenting,Podcasting — howdoyoujew @ 21:54

When I first started posting here in April 2006, I put up some divrei Torah I’d delivered over the last few years, and then I very briefly talked about why I got the domain and how I planned to start podcasting “soon.” While I haven’t accomplished that last task, I’m still working on it, and I thought I’d take an opportunity here to mention the origin of the name.

In early 2006, my lovely wife and I began talking classes to qualify us to become adoptive parents through the county of San Diego. The classes were primarily intended to address people adopting kids coming out of the foster care system, and mostly kids who’d been in that system for several years, which didn’t apply to us (we’d asked to adopt an infant). Also, much of the information delivered in the classes (27 hours of classes) fell firmly under the “common sense” category of parenting and life with which my lovely wife and I are oh-so-familiar and to which we subscribe wholeheartedly. Of course, much of the population is averse to the practice of this philosophy, which is why the county needs to deliver it in bite-sized chunks and very simple language over several weeks to the good people who want to make the lives of children born into unhealthy situations a little bit better.

In other words, the classes bored me silly. I gathered very quickly that if I didn’t bring my laptop or some other distraction to help me get through the classes, we would become ineligible to adopt through the county altogether because I would end up assaulting someone to try and pound the stupidity out of their head (remind me to tell you sometime about the moment of enlightenment I was involved in one evening, attempting to explain to one remarkably dense individual in the class why drug use by a biological father doesn’t have the same effect on a developing fetus as use by the biological mother during pregnancy) . So bring my laptop I did, and also some scratch paper and a pen.

And so it was on one evening, shortly after the classes began, and shortly after I was inspired by a particular moment in Adam Curry‘s always evolving and always excellent podcast the Daily Source Code, that I began brainstorming with myself possible names for my own domain and blog/podcast name. I knew it would have a Jewish theme, but I also knew it would touch on myriad other topics and would itself evolve over time as my curiosity drove me and my interests meandered. I was aiming for a name that wouldn’t lock me into a particular path and would allow me to question everything, something that Judaism encourages. That interrogative and open-minded spirit caused the phrase “How Do You Jew?” to pop into my head, and I knew immediately that I had my domain name. I reserved it that night through GoDaddy, and the rest is… well, yet to be written/spoken aloud.

November 5, 2007

Google is awesome. Google is also a little scary.

I need not elaborate on Google’s awesomeness. The scariness: crawling my blog within five minutes of my posting last night’s entry. MY site!? I knew it had been crawled before, when I first got the domain and started blogging, but I had no idea the bots were persistent and wide-ranging enough to grab my random rants so quickly.

I discovered this while trying to find a page with the lyrics (original and/or translation) of Naomi Shemer’s incredible “Oh Captain My Captain – Ho Rav Chovel” immediately after posting. I couldn’t, but the search query “shemer oh captain my captain” returned my entry from last night as the fifth result out of 313.

In personal news, I stayed home with Hadarya today, as she spiked a high (104°F) fever last night. We took her to the ER, where she was diagnosed with roseola, a condition that sounds far cuter than it is. Then again, it’s essentially a benign condition that essentially goes away on its own as long as we control the fever, so there’s that. Looks like Grandma and Auntie Kimber will take babysitting duties tomorrow so Jenn and I can both go to work. Jenn has a minimum day at work (every Tuesday), so she’ll be home around noon, and we’ll see how things progress from there.

This weekend is the Breast Cancer 3Day, where I’ll be rejoining my veteran partner Lloyd on the Gear & Tent Crew (Truck G – The G Spot!). I can’t wait to get up in time to be at the fairgrounds on Friday morning at FOUR AM! Yay. Seriously, it’s a terrific event, and I’m excited.

I wrote that letter to the community shaliach that I mentioned yesterday. I’ll post a follow-up when warranted. Now we have to try and get some rest, since we may have another long night in front of us. This is the part of parenting nobody tells you about or talks about much, but I would suffer much more to prevent harm to my child.

November 1, 2007

One-a-day, like vitamins.

Filed under: Blogging,Family,fun,life cycle,Life Online,Parenting,Podcasting,random — howdoyoujew @ 22:31

Thanks to my lovely wife‘s pointing it out to me, courtesy of our lovely friend Aaryn posting about it, I’ve joined in the madness that is National Blog Posting Month, affectionately known as NaBloPoMo. Perhaps this will prompt me to establish a regular posting schedule, which in turn will drive me closer to my ultimate goal of podcasting, which is why I got this domain in the first place.

For my first trick post, I’ll note that I’m working on turning Hadarya‘s car seat to the forward-facing position in my car. She’s over a year old, which is the minimum age for that, and I’m tired of not being able to see her while I’m driving. I also think she’ll enjoy car rides far more, especially in my car (which is lower to the ground than Jenn’s), facing forward.

When I’m done with that, I’m going to sync my Treo. Sound exciting? No? Well, perhaps when you learn that I’m adding software to it that will let me use this as a ringtone, you’ll understand why I’m excited.

Oh, and I got my brand spankin’ shiny new Jawbone today. Thank you, Aliph people! You know how to treat your customers.

June 12, 2007

In case you missed it…

Here’s that local news piece about my meeting with Phyllis in May. And yes, I’m really still working on writing the story.

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