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.

June 20, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

I just successfully upgraded my WordPress installation, which powers this blog, to the latest version (3.0, called Thelonius – see the complete list of major WP releases, all named for jazz musicians). I did this with nary a bump, very few changes in settings, and everything seems to be right.

My first activities with the new version was changing the theme of the site (the look & feel theme, not the content theme) to WP’s default for this version, called Twenty Ten, then changing the header image that appears on each page. While the default image is nice, I wanted 1) to test the waters and modify something and make sure it worked, and 2) to personalize the site imagery. To that end, you’re currently enjoying a (cropped) view of the Brandeis Bardin Institute, home of BCI, the summer camp for Jewish young adults that I attended as a camper (’95) then returned to as an advisor/counselor (’98). This small image hardly does the place justice, but it’s indicative and evocative of the campus’s beauty. I’ll write and talk more about this place another time.

For now, I’m going to call it a night. The plan for tomorrow is to begin documenting my participation with a good friend in The Jonah Project.

Edited on 6/23 to change post title. Because I can.

January 31, 2010

We must be doing something right.

Earlier this evening, after a terrific day that started with our amazing music class with the fabulous Ms. Laura and continued with a fantastic get-together with our awesome chavurah (including you, Bernsteins! See you soon!) at Fanuel St. Park, my beautiful 3-year-old daughter, of her own volition, helped clear our dishwasher (she did about half of the top rack while I was on the phone). I briefly thanked her, but I owe her a bigger show of gratitude tomorrow (for the help in the kitchen and for the fact that she was asleep before 8 PM).

It made me think of this beautiful drash by R’ David Wolpe that I received just the other day as part of his Off The Pulpit series (highly recommended subscription; some of the drashot are even shorter than this one, but they’re always thought-provoking, often profound, and ever relevant; I’m including the signup info at the bottom so it’s easy for you):

For My Daughter

By Rabbi David Wolpe

This past Shabbat I had the great joy of addressing my daughter on her Bat Mitzvah. I pointed to the phrase in her parasha (Torah portion), “… a night of watching.” (ex. 12:42) It occurs twice in the Bible, both times in the same sentence. The first time it refers to God’s watching; the second to the Israelites watching.

What were the Israelites watching? It was the eve of redemption and they had to protect their children as plagues ravaged Egypt. Parents do many things — we dream and disappoint; we hope, we advise, we criticize, we draw close, we puzzle, we praise. But mostly, we watch. We watch as our children grow and change. We watch as they listen to our stories and create their own stories. We watch as they become not who we plan for them to be, but who they truly are; as they step from our vision into God’s.

My wife very beautifully said that when she looks into my daughter’s eyes she sees not just where she is, but all the phases of her life. The parallelism in the verse makes sense: as God watches us, when we see a child flourish, we get a glimpse of God.

We hope that you will email these words to a friend, and encourage them to sign up by e-mail so they will be able to receive similar articles as well as updates in the future. Together, let’s create a virtual community of modern Torah for the 21st century!

Author’s note: Yes, I’m very aware of how long and full of adjectives the first sentence of this post is. It’s MY blog. I’m my own editor, and that’s how I like it.

February 9, 2009

Twelve minutes of excellence

Filed under: Blogging,Life Online,productivity,technology,video,work — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 16:55

Seth Godin is a guy whose work I’ve been meaning to read/browse/digest for a while. This was an easily consumable chunk I thought I could handle in the middle of the day, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you are at all interested in social networks (online and off), technology, and people reaching their potential, watch this:

(via)

July 17, 2008

A Day In Israel: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 – 13th of Tamuz, 5768

0830 We got up and started getting ready for our day. This included a light breakfast for us and Hadarya.

0900 My friend, roommate, and rabbi Scott, called to tell me that Channel 10 News was covering the prisoner exchange in the north, in case I was interested. I was, of course, so I turned on the (fancy flat panel) TV in our flat and started watching.
Within a short time, the feed switched to the Lebanese side of the border, where the Hizballah spokesman began his remarks in preparation for the exchange. With the posturing typical of Arab representatives of years ago (and still all too common today) when the Arab leadership spoke of pushing the Jews into the sea, he spoke in grandiose and pompous terms about the “war of aggression started against” Hizballah by Israel in 2006, and the “intense international pressure” Hizballah withstood regarding the prisoner exchange. Despite the pressure, he said, on their own schedule, his organization was now ready to turn over the captured Israeli soldiers, Ehud “Udi” Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (he of course did not use Goldwasser’s nickname).

A bit of background is appropriate here: the 2006 Lebanon War was in fact instigated by a Hizballah ambush on the convoy Goldwasser and Regev were part of, along with a Katyusha rocket attack on northern Israeli civilian targets timed to coincide with the ambush. The IDF operation in Lebanon to try to neutralize Hizballah, which lasted just over a month, cost hundreds of lives on both sides of the border, and failed to accomplish its secondary objective, returning the kidnapped soldiers (I will not address here whether the primary objective of neutralizing Hizballah, was accomplished or not).
Israel’s policy and military code has always held that we do not leave a man in the field of battle, be he wounded, dead, or otherwise, so the only kind of negotiation Israel has ever undertaken with terrorist groups has been in the form of prisoner exchanges. These deals have historically been ridiculously lopsided, partly because it is rare for Israeli soldiers to be captured by the enemy in any condition, and largely because Israel places such a high value on the lives of its soldiers and citizens. Thus, we have in the past released dozens, sometimes hundreds of prisoners in exchange for one or two or three missing or captured men.
Two things stood out about the deal for Goldwasser and Regev: First, we didn’t know for certain whether our men were dead or alive. We knew from forensic evidence at the scene of the ambush that they’d been seriously wounded, enough that IDF officials publicly stated that they needed immediate medical attention in order to survive. We obviously had no way of knowing if Hizballah provided any, let alone adequate, medical care to our men, so the nation, and the two families, were left mostly in the dark these last two years, although IDF Intelligence had told the families that the two were “most likely” dead.
More significantly, the second thing that made this deal different is that, for the first time, Israel had agreed to release a captured terrorist with blood on his hands, that is, one who had murdered Israelis. This had always been a well-defined and well-known line that Israel didn’t cross in prisoner exchanges with any party, but our position in this case was weakened by a variety of factors. Thus it was that in exchange for the two soldiers whose fate we did not definitively know, we agreed to release Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze terrorist directly responsible for the deaths of four Israelis, including two children, in an attack on the northern coast city of Nahariya in 1979. In addition to him, four other Lebanese prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese killed in fighting with Israel were included in the deal.

Back to the morning of the exchange: After the Hizballah rep announced they were returning the soldiers, a reporter shouted out, “Are they alive or dead?” and the terrorist representative said, “You will see in a moment.”
It was then that a couple of goons pulled a black coffin out of a waiting vehicle and laid it on the ground in front of the assembled media and Hizballah and Red Cross personnel. Then they brought out a second coffin.

The Israeli commentators on television who were narrating and translating the action were noticeably moved and shaken by the revelation that the two reservists, who were just 31 (Udi) and 26 (Eldad) when they were kidnapped, were dead. Among other comments, they pointed out that it was impossible to tell (at least at that point) when the soldiers had actually died, but that hardly mattered.

I sat and watched the coverage for over an hour: I saw the same footage over and over again of those coffins being laid on the ground by people unfit for the task; I watched cutaway live footage from outside the home of the Regev family in the small town of Kiryat Motzkin; I listened to the commentators and pundits talk until they had nothing more to say; and I cried.

I started crying very unexpectedly (at least I didn’t expect it), and very hard, and I kept crying for several long minutes as that footage of the coffins played over and over again in the living room of our rented flat in Jerusalem with my wife and toddler daughter watching me. My lovely wife brought over a box of tissues, and my darling daughter noticed rather quickly that something was wrong and began saying, “Aba…Aba!” in a plaintive, sympathetic tone that made me fall in love with her all over again for the umpteenth time this week. (I wrote out a draft of this entry in longhand before typing it, and choked up as I wrote that last bit, and I just got teary AGAIN typing it in.)

1030-ish We left the flat and got a cab to the city center, where the Jerusalem office of the Ministry of Interior is located, to begin the process of registering Hadarya as an Israeli citizen and applying for her passport. We got new passport pictures taken at the kiosk (the Hebrew word for bodega) next door to the office, and went upstairs to wait in what I was sure was going to be the first of many long lines that day. My suspicions were not helped by the receptionist, who told me that we’d first have to go to one office for the citizen registry, then go to another area entirely for the passport application. But I knew the nature of the bureaucracy we were dealing with, so I went along with it, knowing we could always split the two tasks up and come back if it took too long.

We got into the first office after a not-too-long-at-all 10 minutes, and sat down to explain to Malka the clerk what we needed to do. While she remained somewhat surly throughout the process, I’ll just say that we left Malka’s office less than half an hour later, with my new Israeli ID card supplement papers listing my correct and current marital and parental status, and with Hadarya’s passport application already in the pipeline, with the passport expected at my aunt’s in Ra’anana (the only permanent address I can reasonably claim in Israel) within a week – that is, in time for us to get it before we leave back for the States. Malka didn’t HAVE to process the passport app in addition to the citizen registration; she chose to help us out, I know not why. But it is not my place to question such acts of charity; I merely accept them when they are given.

Around lunchtime We walked the block and a half to the Ben Yehuda promenade and enjoyed lunch at McDonald’s, a singular pleasure we can only partake of in Israel. We then walked up and down the busy shopping thoroughfare and did what tourists do, but with the added flavor and advantage of some authentic Middle Eastern bargaining and haggling over prices. This helped us complete much of our gift shopping for family, friends, and ourselves without feeling like we spent too much money.

1530 After yummy frozen yogurt with mix-ins, we headed back to the flat and met up with the Meltzers for a trip to Malha Mall for dinner (and a movie for the Meltzers; Hadarya can’t sit through a feature film yet) and some more shopping. Jenn scored a couple of beautiful new hats for shul, we had kosher KFC for dinner, and Hadarya cavorted with a couple of dozen other kids at a little play area in the mall before we left to go home for bedtime.

I realized on the way home (and on the nightly stroll through the neighborhood putting Hadarya to sleep) what a powerful, emotion-filled, fun, difficult, hot, typically Israeli day it had been, and I felt so at home.

June 23, 2008

HDYJ Podcast: Episode 1

Filed under: Blogging,Family,fun,Life Online,Podcasting,technology — howdoyoujew @ 13:33

So this newest version of WordPress I’m now running, after that wacked-out update, has this handy “add media” gadget right in the interface instead of relying on a plugin, so I’m going to try it with the already-recorded episode 1. If this works, I’ll come back at ‘ya with another show this week… Here goes nothin’: How Do You Jew episode 1

June 22, 2008

High time

Filed under: Blogging,Good News,Podcasting,webcomics — howdoyoujew @ 22:38

It’s high time I updated my theme anyway.
It’s high time I went to bed for the night.
It’s party time because I recovered my blog!!! Hooray!

Coming up: Official posting of HDYJ podcast episode 1, to be followed shortly by episode 2; review of Beards of Our Forefathers; a new theme for the site; and news about our exciting summer.
Stay tuned!

May 15, 2008

Geeky, goofy goodness

I am going to HAVE to experiment with some of our own pics (too few and far between, unfortunately, since I’m usually behind the camera, but they’re around), but ManBabies.com is a treasure trove of silliness.

As is this collection of swapped grandparents and babies at SomethingAwful, dating way back to 2004.

Also tremendous is this Flickr set documenting The Secret Lives of Stormtroopers.

I also like playing with Legos.

I lovez the interwebs.

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 9, 2008

I’m smitten

With Twitter, and with Wil Wheaton.

I got a Twitter account a few weeks ago, and started following some friends and strangers and sending my own updates when I remember (not often enough). After I met Wil at a reading & signing at Mysterious Galaxy last weekend, I started following him, and he’s just as funny in under 140 characters as he is in his longer blog posts and books (I’m listening to Just A Geek in the car, and laughing out loud so much I’m beginning to worry about road safety).

Example: He’s off to Seattle for a con this weekend. Here are two Twitters from this morning:
wilw: Kenny Loggins was at the ticket counter near me. The girl checking me in was early 20s and had no idea why her cow orkers were so excited.
wilw: I was unable to see if his destination was the danger zone, but it was clear that he was alright, so there was no need to worry about him.

That made me laugh again, just copying and pasting it.

I’m such a geek.

edited to add: Wil posted the entire Kenny Loggins Twitter adventure on his blog.

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.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress