Saturday, March 28, 2009

They're Both Right

Reuven and Shimon come to the rabbi with a court case. Reuven explains to the good rabbi why Shimon owes him $100. (Chauvinist footnote for the non-Yeshive educated: Reuven is always claiming that Shimon owes him $100. Either that, or his cow is goring Shimon's cow.) Says the rabbi, "You're right!"

Shimon explains why he absolutely doesn't owe Reuven the $100. Says the rabbi, "You're right!"

The rebbitzin, who was cooking chicken soup, pregnant, but not barefoot because she was a tznius lady, says, "They can't both be right!"

Thinks the rabbi for a minute and says, "You're also right!"

My dear friends, farwhy do I tell you this oft-repeated joke?

Nameless Faceless rails against the evil of Tefillin Dates, and Frum Satire extols them. If the circumstances demanded it, I could passionately argue in defense of both of these position (although not at simultaneously). What do I really think? I don't know. It's a moot question, so I'll probably never find out.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uncle Sam will Abandon Me, but New York State will Gather Me In

So my father prepared my taxes for me, and it came out that I owe the government $906. This was quite a shock. I always thought that in this country we believe that poor people don't pay taxes. But here I am, struggling to live the American dream of hard work and higher education, and those snot-nosed bastards in Washington think I'm rich enough to get taxed out of my pants? Harumph. They also said I was too rich to get Pell grants. What about President "Let's spread the wealth" Obama fighting for the struggling Americans?

And then, on top of this, I'm supposed to give New York State money also? After they raise the subway fare by 25%?

Anyhow, my father just wrote back to me that he figured my New York State taxes, and NYS will give me $545. So I guess I'm not doing too bad. I can afford to pay next month's rent and my taxes, and sill have money to put bread on the table (but not much more than bread).

In unrealated news, I'm getting into Der Erlkonig, by Franz Schubert and Goethe. But I find that when I sing the lyrics to myself, the German turns into Yiddish.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This is not whatś important

Nor is it much of a kuntz. But I´m number one!

What´s really important in life

(in no specific order)



financial stability

an understanding of the past

hope for a better future


a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

The problem is that it´s hard to figure out how to attain the last three.

Futility of Futilities: the Security Guard's Utility (or lack thereof)

Do you ever think what it's like to be a security guard in a school? All you do all day is check ID cards. "ID, young man!" and "ID young lady!" is all these people say--around a bajillion times each day.

Suppose the unthinkable happens, and terrorists decide to blow up City College. They could waltz right past the security guards by flashing a B. G. Karalenkavo Kharkov Scientific Library card, which looks just like a City College ID card (I have such a card at home). They could also use the ID card which formerly belonged to the kid they killed as he was parking his car behind the Marshak building. The guards never look at the photo anyways--I often show mine with my finger on the picture. Or they could walk through one of the many doors which our building administration deems impervious to terrorists, because they have "EXIT ONLY" clearly printed on them.

When the security guard gets out of bed in the morning and hurriedly brushes his teeth to be on time for work, what does he think? Does he say, "Oh joy! Another day of foiling terrorist plots and saving innocent young scholars' lives"? He probably says, "Oh brother. I bet that red-haired kid is gonna have to dig in his wallet for twenty minutes for his card, while tens of unidentified students rush past. Can't that kid get his act together?" which is a really silly situation, because if he knows the kid by face, it's a probable that the red-haired trouble-maker is a registered CCNY student.

The real question concerns the security guards who don't ask for ID. In the North Academic Center we have a lot of those (which is stupid because it's the biggest building with the most doors and makes the most tempting terrorist target). What do those security guards think every morning? It's probably along the lines of "Another day of standing around and staring at nothing. Maybe today will be an interesting day, and somebody will ask me for directions." When he arrives at 9:00 a.m., how can he bear to think about the long, boring hours until 5:00 p.m.?

The only thing that makes this non-"ID young man"-shouting security guard more fit for his job than a stone is that the security guard can be blamed if terrorists ever do blow us up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Picking vs. Snipping: an Aesthetic, Moral, and Halachic Discussion, dedicated to Cheerio, who finds this topic interesting

(Stam, I dislike the word "trimming" because it evokes images of Beis Shmuel people, whom I do not wish to emulate.)

View your beard as a field of grass. The natural, Chassidish beard is like an untamed prairie: nice, but wild.

A trimmed beard is like a well mown lawn: also nice, but under control.

The picked beard is like a lawn in which an amnesiac squirrel has buried his acorns: here it's long; there it's short. And everywhere, it's a mess.

So much for aesthetics. Now onto morality.

A beard picker says, "I don't want to have a beard. But my scruples don't allow my to cut it off. Oh! What a surprise! It seems that half of my beard is missing. Oh, what a nasty habit I've developed. Oh well. At least I look handsome. And don't blame me for not having a beard. It's just a habit! I've got no self-control."

The beard snipper says, "If I'm not gonna have a beard, I'm not gonna have a beard. No use avoiding the blame or pretending that I'm all holy."

Who is in control of his actions? Who's more upright and emesdik? The guy who doesn't follow his scruples or the guy who doesn't have the scruple in the first place? To paraphrase TRS' favorite haftarah, it's better to go to Baal than to jump on both posts.

Now for halacha:

There are two issues with beard cutting: "lo silbash" and "lo sashchis es pe'as zekanecha." The first issue applies equally to picking and to cutting and need not concern us now. Let us focus on the second. The Torah tells us not to "destroy" our beards. Cutting is not destroying. Picking is. Cutting leaves over some serious stubble. Picking leaveth not anything. So in order to assuage their guilty consciences, these pickers transgress a more serious prohibition "abi" to convince themselves that they're scrupulous young men.

Evil. Evil. Evil.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise!

This week's chapter of chemistry was fun! We learned about the ideal gas laws and the ideal gas equation. When I heard my professor lecture about it, I was completely freaked out. It looked like a bunch of equations to be memorized, without any rhyme or reason. (Nothing rhymes nicely when my professor speaks. His accent is a bit obnoxious.)

Then I finally got home and read the chapter, and by golly, it works! Joy!

Before continuing, I must note that my audience is composed of two groups: the pursuers of knowledge (ch"ch, as CA would say) and the ignoramuses (or theYoshvei Ohel , as the holy books call them). I can't write a post that will interest the former while being wholly understandable to the latter. I'd love to explain things well enough so that the yeshiva-educated can understand, but that would require more time than I have. So sorry, y'all! E-mail me, and I may be able to explain things further. Now back to business...

The first surprising thing was how proportions get transformed into equations. It's a neat trick. You can't do anything with a proportionality, but add in a constant, and viola! You've got a nifty equation.

While this trick was neat, it got kind of burdensome after we had transformed around four or five proportionalities into equations. There's Boyle's Law, and Avagadro's Law, and all the others that I can't remember. Each one got its equation that needed to be remembered. Plus I was a little perturbed that they never told us what these constants were. It seemed like cheating. Kind of like making calculations in moles, without knowingAvagadro's number.

But then they lumped all these equations into one mother of an equation: The Ideal Gas Equation. How many equations out there get a name with a word as nice and important-sounding as "ideal"? Not many, I bet. Anyhow, now that everything is compressed into one equation,PV = nRT , you only need one constant, R. It's one of the funniest constants I've ever encountered, with all those units tacked onto it. What is it? 0.082058 Moles Kelvin Atmospheres^-1 Liters^-1? Yeah, those are lot of units for one constant. But I'm glad that R has all those units.Cuz now I don't need to worry about them. I plug in the units, and friendly old Mr. R cancels all the units.

That's another nice thing about this equation: no messy conversions. A nice figure like 2.00 grams can become really ugly when those grams are actually 0.0991101396 moles of neon. But in ideal gases, the conversions are a breeze.Celisus to Kelvin? Just add 273! mL to L? C'mon, that just 1/1000! And you don't even need to bother with Torres to Atm . You just use a different value for R, and you're good to go! With my handy-dandy TI-83, I stored 0.082058 in the variable R, and 62.36396119 (i.e. the R value necessary for calculations involving Torres) in the variable Q. So all in all I dealt with normal numbers.

Now here's the real thing I like: Everything is so Goddamn linear! The algebra is a breeze. From PV = nRT, you can get V = nRT/P, T = PV/nR, or whatever. You only need to memorize one equation, and the others are derivable with the snap of the fingers! And because it's linear, you can estimate it all in your head. You can say things like, "Well, if it's 8 liters atSTP , it ought to still be in the neighborhood of 8 Liters with 770 Torres and 265 K. You can't make those estimations in other equations.

Last thing: The questions sound so bloody confusing--but they weren't. There are so many figures in each question. Here's an example: How many grams of N2 (g) at 25.0 degrees C and 734 Torr will occupy the same volume as 25.0 g O2 (g) at 30.0 degrees C and 755 Torr? If you got a molarity problems with this many numbers, you know you're heading into trouble. But with this, you just got to figure out your unknown variable, solve the equation for that variable, and then plug in your constants--and you can do the conversions while entering the stuff into thecalc! That's one of the most elegant things about mathematics: things which look scary turn out to be really simple. It's like transforming 3(X + 2)/6 = 6 into X = 10. Simplifying scary-looking expressions is what math's all about.

Now I just got to read the end of the chapter about kinetic-molecular theory and real gases. I don't know what that's about, but I saw variables getting squared and radical signs, so I fear things will not longer be so linearly predictable. Plus "real" sounds so ominous when contrasted with "ideal." And tomorrow we start the next chapter, which I haven't even looked at. So the horizon seems a bit cloudy, but at least I'll share the jubilation with you as long as it lasts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Response to the Facial-Hair-or-Lack-Thereof Situation

Great! I got to use hyphens and "or lack thereof" in the same title!

Back to business, here are some things people have said to me regarding my appearance:

"Oh. I thought your were rolling it up." --roommate

"Did you dye your beard?" --longtime bosom buddy (For some reason, my beard looks redder now.)

"Did you gell it back?" --a bochur who was rather disturbed at my unforgivable actions, after he figured out what had happened

"Looking snazzy!" --my sis, who proceeded to tell me which spots I left out, and recommended getting a barber on the case.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's Up with Y'all?

So, last Tuesday I snipped off part of my beard. Then I snipped off some more. Then some more, etc. There's plenty of beard still left, but it's a mere remnant of its former unshorn glory. Here's the surprising thing: NOBODY'S BLOODY SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT IT!

First I thought that they just didn't notice. So I snipped off some more. By now, there's no way you can't tell that my beard has undergone some heavy surgery. So why is everyone pretending that nothing happened? If you have an issue, spit it out. We'll discuss it. Don't just ignore what you don't like. Do I intimidate you? Are you scared of what the answer is going to be?

Fact check: a few people did comment, but these are but a tiny fraction of all those who have seen my partially bearded face.)

UPDATE: So far two people have asked me straight out what's up with the beard or lack thereof. One person has asked, but only after considerable deliberation. We'll keep you posted on this developing story!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This is the first post

I can't stand when blogger tells me "no posts match your query." I'm posting this to get blogger to buzz off.