Monday, October 31, 2005

Wolf Parade -- Dinner Bells

I am getting tired of wearing this brace, tired of holding my hands up off the keyboard and sitting up straight. I long to slouch back into ignorance of myself and my positions. I have had a resistance to using keyboard trays because they are wobbly, and wobbly things make me dizzy, so when we moved here last year I didn't even give this one a go, but now I'be been made to try it by my ergonomics specialist, it turns out that it works well for being a keyboard tray. Very solid. But my mouse keeps wanting to fall off of it.

Halloween today. My daughter is an AWD. Angel-Witch-Devil. Rather than buy a costume, she bought the appropriate props. Rather, I bought the props for her, and it cost a bundle. Angel wings, witch hat, devil tail. I wanted her to get a pirate eyepatch but she thought that would be overkill. Oh, well.

Every year at this time, when we start over at Bereshit (Genesis) again, I resolve to keep up with the Torah portion each week. Somewhere in mid-Vayikra (Leviticus) I get really lost trying to understand the commandments for sacrifices and boils and the like and stop. We'll see what happens this year. There's no point in me entertaining the idea of doing Daf Yomi (a page of Talmud a day -- takes 7 years to complete) someday if I can't read the Torah portion once a week for one year.

But so far, it's the second week, we're reading Noach, and I'm totally on top of it, man!

But they key to this is my getting a good night's sleep each night, and I always manage to stay up too late. Forget keeping Shabbat. If the world got 8 hours of sleep just one day, Moshiach would come.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No Music - iPod dead

I am working at a different office and my iPod is dead and I don't have a charger. Whatever.

I am doing a training over the phone with dozens of people soon. I'm a bit perturbed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Destroyer -- Hey, Snow White

Naprosyn. It's special stuff. Very special stuff. My right hand is better but I have to keep it in a splint and rest it, so I am typing one-handed. Which merans this is all I am doing today. Except "Baruch atah adonai, rofeh hacholim." Blessed are you, G-d, who heals the sick." And who inspired scientists to make Naprosyn, a miracle drug if ever there was one.

Typing one-handed is no fun on a Microsoft Natural keyboard, by the way.

Friday, October 21, 2005

REM -- Everybody Hurts

I wasn't planning on writing about this, but when this song came on, it became obvious that I should write about this.

My right wrist is KILLING me. For the past ten years I have been dealing on and off with wrist issues. First it was wrist strain. Then it was tendonitis. And each time, I'd do exercises, take pills, try more "ergonomic" stuff, and get relief. But the past few months, my wrist has hurt more and more until now, it's constant pain. I start a new year committing myself to work on myself and improve my life and my wrist gets out of hand, so I have a full plate of changes I have to make to add to everything else! There's way too much for me to do in my work life and personal life! And I either stop working, because I have to type to work, or I work in pain, and it's very frustrating. I don't have any doubt that G-d has everything in my life for a reason, but I have no clue what the reason is. My boss routinely has aches and pains from her cancer surgery scars and my wrist hurting seems so silly and insignificant comparatively. And let's face it... I don't mind excruciating pain much if my hand still functions. But I think this sort of tendon issue can make it so I can't use my hand properly -- I had a friend whose carpal tunnel got to be so bad that she could not do ANYTHING with her hand -- so the whole thing is scary.

I have to stop typing this so I can go type other stuff... all the time, I have this glorious burning feeling in my forearm...

But tonight I will lay off my wrist and light the candles with my left hand and give my wrist a rest.... that's a tongue-twister, isn't it?

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Air -- Mike Mills

So, my computer likes to crash. Not all the time, mind you, just when I am doing something extra important. And it's not an exciting Blue Screen Of Death. No. It just freezes. No I/O at all. It's like it doesn't want to admit there's a problem. Perhaps it thinks I won't notice it if it sits perfectly still, like the response we see in some animals when a predator comes. Stop. Don't breathe. Blend.

So it did it again just now, and so I dutifully called in to the "Support Desk" and talked to a guy who dutifully took the report. We both knew it was for nothing -- the local IT guy will, rather than waste time trying to figure out my PC, just call for a rebuild, and I'll get it back, and after a while, it'll start crashing once a week again. And then I can call in another ticket.

I know what you are thinking. "Your computer only crashes once a week? Amazing! YOur computer is obviously state-of-the-art! Stop kvetching!"

You know what's funny? My iBook crashes too. You know what's funnier? Then only time my iBook crashes is when I am running Virtual PC!!. I know the reason it's crashing is that Virtual PC is a heavy duty program with all the software emulation of the Windows hardware, but still... when I am at work, I get authentic PC crashes, and when I am at home, I get the Virtual PC crashes.

Sometimes when you put your iPod on Shuffle, does it seem like G-d or some other Being is arranging the music? Right after the Air instrumental, now it's playing a Blur instrumnental. If the THIRD song is an instrumental, I'll know something is going on.

Anyway. I gotta try to make my PC crash again... but after I save this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fiona Apple -- Window

A lot of Jewish people don't like Chabad. And the reasons are too many to go into here.

Although my father and his wife daven at Chabad (the Conservative shul in his area recently moved out of walking distance, so it's Chabad or stay home for him on Shabbat, and he is shomer Shabbat) I have only talked to Chabad folks in person for about five minutes, and it was almost exactly three years ago.

It was a Sunday, and my girlfriend and I were walking in our town's little downtown, and Chabad guys were there and asked if we were Jewish, and they had us do the blessing and shake the etrog and lulav. Which was rather cool, because they were very happy to see us. It was like they were able to help someone do a mitzvah and that was exciting for them.

But I read all the time, and I learn a lot. While I have issues with Orthodoxy in general when it comes to women v men and gay v straight, I LOVE Chabad because they are so dedicated, and I guess because I love the Baal Shem Tov, when you get down to it. I love the way Chassids look at the world.

I love things like this, which I just read in an article about Katrina by Yossi Tauber, the Chabad rabbi in New Orleans:

And then, in a moment of quiet, the teachings of my mentor and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ring in my consciousness: "It is wrong to try to explain suffering or to excuse G-d for it, because then we would justify it somewhat. Rather, our role is to help alleviate suffering."

This truth is simultaneously painful and comforting. While we believe there is a "vast eternal plan" we should not attempt to understand the cause for the suffering of others. If we understood, it might become somewhat acceptable. Instead, we must become a partner with our Creator, using our energy and ability to help rather than blame or explain.

There's always these elements that are in tension with the other, as this Chassidic teaching says (referenced at :

"a person must always carry around with him two conflicting ideas. In one pocket he must put the sentence "I am dust and ashes" [Bereshis 18:27]. In the other pocket he must place the sentence "For my sake the world was created" [Sanhedrin 37a]."

Sometimes G-d feels so close that I know that G-d has me in the palm of his hand, just like in Psalm 145, which we recite every day as a central part of the afternoon prayer -- "You open your Hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." G-d feels that close. Closer, really, because of that mind-blowing realization that our bodies and everything we sense is made of G-d. And then, soon enough, sometimes even in the next moment, the very idea of G-d seems silly, because how can those old folks drowned in their beds, little kids buried in earthquake rubble, dying as their lungs are violently crushed, be in G-d's palm at all? We can't contain the opposites comfortably.

It's like the last chapter in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)and the way it ends -- "fear God and keep His commandments" after warning the young person how they will get old and stop desiring women and return to dust. It was to serve God that we were created, and it is only through doing this we can find meaning in life. When we are confronted by suffering and hunger in this world we must "partner" with G-d. We must be Her eyes and arms and legs and ears in this world. That is why we were created.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bright Eyes -- Road to Joy

A wonderful, wonderful day. We have thunder and lightning and rain right now, clouds gray with rain, and I am so lucky to have my window view.

There was also thunder and lightning from 1am until 3:30am or so this morning, and while it was easy to get back to sleep each time, I kept waking up. In my half-asleep state, I was trying to remember which blessing to say over which phenomenon, "who makes the world of creation" vs "for his strength and power fill the universe." It made for odd dreams, especially since I watched the movie Constantine last night and its simplistic reading of Job worked its way into my dreams a bit as well.

But there's lots to do today, so I am going to go do it. Happy Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ayub Ogada -- Obiero

I love this music -- Ayub Ogada is a guy from West Kenya that sings and plays a particular kind of lute called a nyatiti, that's apparently a really ancient instrument. Anyway, it's really nice. I have no idea what he's singing, but it's very soothing.

Over the years, I've developed a nice collection of "world" music. My sophisticated method? I blindly buy albums on the Real World label. If it has that stripe of colors along the side, I buy it. It's a lame way to pick music, but it's worked so far. Some of the best album art ever is on Real World album covers.

So hey! On Yom Kippur I afflicted my soul...I didn't eat or drink or bathe or work. However, I wore leather shoes, and I decided not to afflict my girlfriend's nose, so I did brush my teeth in the morning.

Speaking of which, I really got an appreciation for the traditional mechitza (the barrier separating men and women in Orthodox synagogues) yesterday. Our synagogue, of course, doesn't have one. And when I was a teenager and going to morning services, it wasn't an issue, because women never went. (If there had been a teenage girl at morning services, though, perhaps I'd have kept going rather than dropping out after a while...)

But I could see how I was getting so easily distracted with women about.... the older women behind us were commenting on the services the whole time, my girlfriend and her friend were talking from time to time, teen girls were getting in and out of their seats... it was distracting for me. And of course, once you are conscious of being distracted, EVERYTHING was distracting. Now, I am a straight guy. Honestly, I can't remember any guys in the synagogue besides the rabbi and cantor on the bimah, and there were hundreds there. But I can remember all the women and teenage girls and where they sat and what they were wearing, that one blonde sitting on the aisle a couple rows back that was wearing profoundly inappropriate fishnets, the girl in front of me who was actually studying for the GRE the whole service... . Of course, the traditional rabbinical line seems to be how easy it is for weak men to be distracted by pure and holy women, so we need to stick the barrier up so we can pray without the distraction of all that female stuff.

And this sucks in a way, because I don't want my girlfriend and her daughter excluded from anything. But there are also surely benefits to women when they are able to be with each other and not burdened by being distracted by men. We have all seen how girls often do better in school without the distraction of boys. Currently, there is lots of attention being paid to womens' practice, like all the Rosh Chodesh groups being started up. And we see a small but growing number of feminists find great power and freedom in supposedly sexist practices like muslim headcoverings and Orthodox Jewish "modest" dress, because they are free to be themselves and be judged on who they are, not their body.

Also, another possible benefit is that you emphasize community when you have the men with the men and the women with the women. Honestly, I tend to stay joined to my girlfriend's hip -- I'd be a lot more likely to meet and mingle and get to know guys at synagogue if I were just with guys.

This is all speculation, and I don't see myself in a shul with a mechitza any time soon, but I can understand the reasons in a way I never have before. Who knows. I could be wrong.

Services were good, but by the middle of the afternoon yesterday I had a killer headache and was really grumpy. When it was all over, and we were at our friend's house for break-the-fast, I got a cup of coffee and enjoyed the act of drinking, and then I piled a plate full of kugel and eggs and bagel and tomato and onion and I reconnected with the wonders of food. And within fifteen minutes, I was SO happy. We had a nice time seeing folks we only see a couple times a year on big holidays. It was so nice, sitting at tables under the stars, seeing everyone illuminated in candlelight, all us modern mostly-secular Jews still fasting and celebrating together.

And then when we got home, I did the bedtime Shema and had a great night's sleep...

And now Shabbat is on us and I haven't got hardly anything done. It's amazing how fast time flies. Everyone have a good Shabbat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An Easy Fast....

Well, I have to get home so we can eat our festive meal before sunset, and then it's Kol Nidre. I love fasting, and I'm looking forward to going all night and all day tomorrow without eating or drinking, just because I can (with G-d's help!). And as odd as it seems, I really like Yom Kippur as a holiday. I love the prayers, how evern the Reconstructionist synagogue we go to will have a long, long service with the proper prayers and shofar.

A friend of my girlfriend has a break-fast at her place every year with wonderful breakfast food and lots of people, so it'll be nice.

So an easy fast to all, and may you be inscribed in all the good books.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Gillian Welch -- I Dream a Highway

Podcast Outlaws is an useful site. They review podcasts you may not never have found on your own.

This whole Jewish thing is depressing me today. If I had grown up in some average American Reform or Conservative synagogue I wouldn't be feeling angst. I'd be happy with my level of (non)observance and not irritable. But with my odd upbringing, I have been for the past 27 years, in one way or another, trying to find my way into some sort of Jewish practice and not judge myself for not being perfect and not judge half the Jews I run into for silly reasons that have to do more with my insecurity than anything else. Either I'm not accepting of them or they're not accepting of me or they are too easily accepting, or they are not practicing enough, or they are too Zionist, or they are too anti-Zionist.

Perhaps in 5766 I won't commit every single one of the 44 sins of the Al Chet. A cursory glance tells me I've commited a lot today alone --- impure speech, foolish talk, scoffing, evil talk, prattle of our lips, glance of the eye, casting of the yoke, passing judgment, tale-bearing...

It's like the quote says:

"A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach." – Rabbi Israel Salanter

I have been way too worried about judging everyone else's behavior and opinions and not enough about controlling my own behavior respecting other opinions. I have to really work on myself this year.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bob Marley -- Easy Skanking

I was listening to this song this morning, standing in gorgeous gold sunlight, standing on a streetcorner and waiting for the light to change. Then, from my right, I saw five bombsquad trucks with lights flashing coming down the street, and I started to hear the sirens over the music. They went down a block before pulling to a stop outside some skyscraper or another. An unattended bag, I'm sure.

Something about Bob saying

Take it easy.
Excuse me while I light my spliff,
Oh, god, I gotta take a lift,
From reality I just can’t drift,
That’s why I am staying with this riff...

while the bomb squad rolled by... something about it was just sublime. It was magic.

So, Rastafarians have their spliff and Jews have their Shabbat, and I plan on getting totally lifted tonight with my daughter. We're gonna light the Shabbat candles and cuddle up and read and relax and ascend from weekday reality into cosmic reality, man....

Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Franz Ferdinand -- I'm Your Villan

You know, terrorists are so stupid. New York has this subway alert. Fox News says "A NYPD source told FOX News that the threat involved 19 suitcase bombs to be placed in the subway system."

These terrorists are going to stick out so easily. In London they were smart enough to use backpacks. Suitcases? No one uses suitcases anymore... --

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Beatles -- I'm Only Sleeping

This is in my top five Lennon songs. I have no idea from time to time what other songs are up there, besides Julia, but those two are always in my top whatever Lennon songs.

I have been listening to Beatles all day... I just spent two hours with a coworker visiting from Denver... we were sitting here in my cubicle running reports all different ways to get data on a particular account-- my head hurts from the number crunching and account-specific questions--- but we listened to a lot of great songs while doing it.

You know, 5766 is a kickass year so far! I am getting enough sleep, I am being more focused than in 5765, my yetzer tov is totally ruling over my yetzer hara, I am praying... and it's almost the 3rd of Tishrei already! And I get to go and pick up my daughter now, so it's hard to get any better. :-)

Beatles -- Something

You know how George Harrison was just reaching his creative peak with "Something" and put out the amazing All Things Must Pass after the breakup (well, except for the jams on the last side) and then went downhill with increasingly goofy songs?

I keep wanting to make statements or arguments about this, tie it to some larger observation, but I can't figure out why the thought popped into my head. I love the song so much. It's one of the best guitar solos ever.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Magic Numbers -- Mornings Eleven

This song is so damn catchy that when I played it in the car for only the second time, my daughter started singing along. When I wondered aloud how she'd already heard the song (I never listen to the radio, so I have no idea whether the music I listen to is getting radio play or featured on some ad or something) she said "No, you've played this song, like, ten times already!" I hadn't. I had just played it once. It's just that the chorus is so damn catchy and the song has tempo changes that reinforce the catchy chorus so well, that one time really sticks with you.

So. It's 5766 already. And I hardly got anything achieved in 5765 at all! But last year I was so unprepared for Rosh Hashana, and I didn't take off work. And on Yom Kippur I fasted but I worked. So this year, I'm taking off work, I'm going to services, I'm doing the whole thing. Well, not really. I'm going to wear my leather shoes and belt. I'm not wearing white. I'm not walking to shul. But I'm farther along the path than I was last year. It's painfully slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

So to everyone out there, L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thomas Dolby -- Radio Silence

OK. This is NOT the album I bought in 1982. When "Europa and the Pirate Twins" and "Radio Silence " came out I bought the original US release of The Golden Age of Wireless, which had a much better album cover-- Thomas Dolby standing on a stage with some sort of Jules Verne machinery behind him, and it was all golden. The album was a wonderful, wonderful thing. I played it to death. Radio Silence was especially cool to me, with the bizarre lyrics "Oh to paint her eyes of red, and her lips of blue/carve her likeness on the mast, Caroline 452/When they come to call for her, I will be there too" sung with such urgency you knew it was important, whatever it meant. And then, in the best part, there was Lena Lovich doing a mantra, chanting "Try to think of nothing" over and over again.

But every song was cool. Many of them tied in specifically to the wireless/technology theme. And it was a masterwork of synth stuff. This was one of the best albums of the new wave period. Then Dolby ruined the whole thing. Because then he did "She Blinded Me with Science." And that song became so big that they re-released the album, changing the album art, the song order, tossing great songs to stick in other songs, and even putting in a dorkier version of "Radio Silence." Dolby had a rock sensibility to him (he played rhythm guitar on Foreigner's Four album) and a funk sensibility, and the two sensibilities were balanced on The Golden Age of Wireless. Then his dorky funk sensibility won out, and I never bought anything of his again.

But at the time, I didn't care, because I had the original version of the album, and all was well. And then I lent the album to Fernanda Murillo.

Fernanda was one of the girls with whom I was in love in high school. I would make friends with girls and develop crushes and mope about in love with them like a dork. So anyway. She misplaced the album somewhere. And I never got it back.

After high school, I went to college and Fernanda went into the Army and became a medic. I once sent her a care package of clove cigarettes. She wrote back that the other soldiers hadn't ever smelled cloves -- some thought it was pot. (My first cigarette was a clove cigarette I smoked at the Balboa Pier at night with a gaggle of friends... I loved smoking cloves, especially at night by the ocean.)

I saw Fernanda a few times over the next few years, but we lost touch. A few years later, around 1990, I drove down her street and her parent's house, and all the other old bungalows on the street, had been replaced with an apartment complex.

Maybe she helped her parents empty out the house before they moved out and left the house to the wrecking ball. Maybe she found the album. Maybe she keeps it on a high shelf, safely out of the reach of her kids, in case she runs into me again. In the meantime, I hope she keeps it in its protective plastic sleeve, because it's valuable.