Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm anti-social

So, it's already a month into the semester, and I've had a total of three conversations: (1) with Prof. Destina about Hebrew language and Judaism, (2) with Prof. Mboup (my math teacher last semester) about what I'm studying this semester, and (3) with Prof. Destina about what I'm studying this semester. Aside from that there have been a bunch of friendly nods to various classmates, a few "hi"s, and a lot of business-like conversation with the library staff. And I had some math-related conversations with the teacher and the guy in the tutoring center. But that's it. I don't think I said a word to any of my classmates besides for salutations. Oh yeah, I also had a quick hi-how-are-you conversation with this former-Satmar girl whom I haven't seen around since then. So that makes a grand total of four social conversations on campus in one month.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Read shall you all read this article

which explains the origins of a Jewish linguistic quirk. (Hint: I just expressed myself in said quirky manner.) It doesn't say anything earth-shattering; I kind of suspected its main point all along, but it's nice to hear an expert say it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

~[(P => Q) => (Q => P)]

If jack drives into a brick wall at 90 MPH, it is highly likely that he will die. But if Jack dies, it his not at all likely that he drove into a brick wall at 90 MPH.

The fallacy of the above inference is obvious, but people make this mistake all the time. Kids often say things like, "Someone stole my pencil! I can't find it anywhere." I used to get nervous when my classmates would say that. If someone stole your pencil, it's likely that you won't be able to find it. But if you can't find your pencil, it is still rather unlikely that someone snuck into your cubbie, rummaged through your markers, tzedakah pennies, candy wrappers, and tickets, and stole your chewed-up pencil.

People say, "You know why they haven't developed feasible alternative fuels? Because the oil companies won't allow them. Big oil controls everything. They don't allow the scientists to make any progress." Ignoring the question of who exactly "they" are, there's a bigger issue. A Big-oil conspiracy makes alternative fuels unlikely, but lack of alternative fuels does not make a conspiracy likely.

My darling little nephew (who is picted in my Facebook profile picture) had bronchitis, poor thing. Said his mother on Shabbos, "Yankel is sick. Sarah is sick. It must be that Junior's disease is contagious." Thought I, as I sat at the table and contemplated writing this post, "Junior's disease being contagious makes it likely that Sarah and Yankel would be sick at the same time, but does their illnesses' coincidence mean that Junior's bronchitis is contagious?"

Now for the point of this whole exercise:

People say, "Do you know how unlikely our universe is? And then imagine how much unlikelier our beautiful planet is? And the human being is the most unlikely of all! Such magnificent coincidences cannot be the product of random chance. Obviously, G-d created the world and has plan for it. Certainly we human beings play a special role with cosmic significance.

Say I, certainly the existence of a G-d with human-centric plans makes our circumstances likely. But do our circumstances make G-d likely?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I am not responsible for this post.

I hate those bloggers who post about posting. Even worse are the bloggers who post to tell us all the wonderful things about which they're not posting. To these Cretens I say, "Don't you have anything beter to share with the world that your silly cicular thoughts?" But the worst are the bloggers who don't prrof read and leave typos in theire final porduct. If you want me to read your stuff, can't you at least read it youself to make sure it's well written. But today, I'm gonna commit all the sins I've jsut mentioned. I wanted to post today, and I didn't get around to it until now when I'm too tired to think straight and too lazy to type everything right hte first time and too lazy to go back and correct the mistakes. so there. Take that. This post sucks. Sorry for making you read it. It really sucks.

But I can be proud of myself that 12:45 is now crazy late and WAY after my bedtime. It means that in general I'm going to sleep on time.

HELLO??? So much has happened in the last few days, is htere really nothoing better to post about than my bedtime? Yeah, this is one of htose horrible, self-refrential posts. Aurgh. I'm not proud of this post at all. And yess, I'm about to hit "publish post," and I didn't read this post even once. And I see lots of red lines. And they're gonna stay there. Forever. too bad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Is Your Religion, Part I: Healing Clothes

Here's one of those "yeah-right" things, of which Judaism is abundantly blessed, loosely translated from the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, 228:29.

First, some background: grinding is prohibited on Shabbos. The Sages were concerned that if people could take medicine on Shabbos, they might grind fresh remedies on Shabbos. So, they prohibited doing anything which heals on Shabbos, even if the cure does not include any grinding, such as taking non-ground medicines, massaging oneself, gargling vinegar, etc.

Says the Alter Rebbe:
It is permissible to put a dry sponge or dry pieces of cloth on a wound if they are new, because they do not heal; rather they ensure that the [injured person's] clothing do not scratch the wound. Old clothes are prohibited, because they heal. When does this apply? when the [old] clothes have never before been on a wound. But if they were already on a wound, they will no longer heal--even though they are old--and they may be placed on a wound on Shabbos.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Internet is evil

There's a new mishega'as in Lubavitch. The websites post pictures of l'chaims and weddings. There's no privacy. A private citizen goes to l'chaim, and the next day there are pictures of him online. This is a case in point. I saw the photographer there, and moved away after I saw him aim his camera at me. Apparently he didn't want to post the picture of me giving him a dirty look and turning away from him. But he didn't mind post a rather non-flattering picture of me. What kind of craziness is this? Do I need to guard myself from paparazzi when I go to a l'chaim? The point is that today there is no privacy. Suppose somebody wants to see a picture of me, and he knows that my cousin or friend recently got engaged or married. That person can go snoop on me, unbeknownst to me.

Most people with whom I've discussed this phenomenon agree that it's evil, but they all look at these pictures anyways. Like all forms of gossip, everyone says it's bad, but everyone wants to engage in it themselves.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

e and the Muslims

Perceptive readers have noticed that I like Islam. Before explaining why, do the following: Forget about current events. Go back around eight hundred years, when the Christians were butchering heretics and the Muslims were inventing algebra. Also, keep in mind that my liking Islam does not mean I think it's true. I'm talking about an aesthetic appeal.

1. Islam is focused on the main point.
Muslim's are fanatically anti-idolatry. No icons, no pictures of Muhammad, no nothing. That's why Muslim art is mostly calligraphy and flowers, not Jesus getting crucified (gross) or grotesque Where-the-Wild-Things-Are-type godlets (think Hinduism).

When Muslim's pray, they face the Kabbah in Mecca. It's just a big black square rock, which they claim Daddy Abraham erected. Unfortunately, they idolatrous pre-Muhammad Arabs later put idols around the Kabbah, but Muhammad got rid of idols and reminded everyone that the Kabbah is where it's at.

This is kind of like what the Rebbe says in "B'yom Ashtei Asar": forget the BS. Remember the ikkar.

2. There's less of a "yeah right" reaction
Face it. There's some stuff in Judaism, to which the natural response is "yeah right." I like to minimize the public kefira, so I won't go into examples. Christianity also has lots of "yeah right" doctrines (virgin birth, infallibility of the Pope, "No man cometh unto the Father except through Me," to name a few). With Islam, you have much fewer. The Koran was written recently, so it's not hard to believe that it was actually dictated by Muhammad. The Koran doesn't include a hard-to-believe-ancient history. So believing Muslims don't need to argue with mainstream scientists and historians.

3. There's less "crazy stuff."
Judaism has lots of crazy stuff, eruv tavshillin, kappores, sha'atnez, wacky holidays, etc. And we also get really OCD. Open up a Shulchan Aruch and you'll be amazed at what the rabbis think up. Muslims have "normal" rituals (relatively). No crazy long prayers that are impossible to pay attention to. No writing scrolls that nobody's gonna read (think tefillin and mezuza). No refraining from electricity to help you "rest."

I don't know if this really does justice to issue. I think there's a more underlying and more essential property of Islam that appeals to me, but this is the best I can come up with.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

N'nu, Yiddish is always better.

This heimishe yungerman declares: if you think someone has been molested, don't waste time with the rabbonim. Take it straight to the police. In the past we have relied on the rabbonim and askanim (activists) to deal with the epidemic of abuse. And they did a lot--they protected the abusers' reputations.

If you understand Yiddish, check out the link above. If you don't, you can hear a much less juicy version in English.

Once we're talking about abuse, here's a vitally important email I got:
Some of you might know that there was a serious upset in the NY State legislature today (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/09/nyregion/09switch.html), which makes it even less likely for the Markey Bill to be passed. According to the SFJ blog (http://survivorsforjustice.blogspot.com/), what this means is that the main person who has the ability to get the bill passed is Senator Dean Skelos, the presumptive Senate Majority Leader. Therfore, if anyone is able to, it is vitally important that they contact Senator Skelos to impress upon him the importance of getting this bill passed into law.

I'll just quote the blog post here:

Today's surprise upheavel in the New York State Senate puts the fate of the Child Victims Act of New York (the "Markey/Duane Bill") in the hands of Senator Dean G. Skelos of Long Island. Senator Skelos has been supportive of some legislation designed to protect our children yet may be opposed to the Markey/Duane Bill.

Please call Senator Skelos' office and tell him that you are a supporter of the Markey/Duane Bill and that you are counting on him him to allow it to the Senate floor for a vote. Explain that you and your neighbors will support any member of the Senate who votes in favor of the Markey/Duane Bill and will likewise vote against any Senator who chooses to play politics with our children's lives by voting against a bill that protects children.

Senator Skelos needs to hear from us daily in order to understand how important this bill is to our children.

Albany Office
Legislative Office Building
Room 907
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: 1-518-455-3171

District Office
55 Front Street
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
Phone: 1-516-766-8383
Email: skelos@senate.state.ny.us

Friday, June 5, 2009

Some Muslims are cool.

Like this one, who converted a robber to Islam and gave him free food and money.

Hatip to Mottel.