Sunday, November 29, 2015

An American in Oxford...

Top of the afternoon all....

After my last blog post about the abuse of the English language, I thought it appropriate to to pause and chat about the comma.

Many of you have heard of the Oxford comma.  It is sometimes referred to as the Queen's comma.  It is the last comma in a set.  For example: I ate spaghetti, salad, and an orange.  The last comma in that sentence, separating salad from the orange, is the Oxford comma.  It is acceptable not to use it in certain circumstances.  There are, however, circumstances where it is absolutely necessary.

I would like to thank my friends, the Queen and the Prime Minister.
I would like to thank my friends, the Queen, and the Prime Minister.

As far as I can tell, these are two separate sentences.  In the first sentence, the phrase after the comma is an appositive.  An appositive is a noun or a noun phrase that explains or identifies the word right before it.  It is usually marked with a comma separating it from the noun being described (with thanks to the Purdue University grammar owl).  As such, the first sentence means that the Queen and the PM are my friends.

In the second sentence, I am thanking three distinct entities.  The Queen and the PM may or may not be my friends.  This second sentence has the Oxford comma.

Here is the interesting thing.  I learned about the Oxford comma in grade school, although we did not call it that.  That it is known either as the Oxford comma or the Queen's comma suggests that it should be important in British grammar.  I learned about it in the United States.  What makes this even more interesting is that I do not see it used that often living here in Canada, where one would presume that something that is common in British grammar might have more of an effect.

I always use it.  It is confusing when it is not present.

Have a great day.

By the way, I have updated my most recent entry on the abuses of the English language.  I am about to make one more change.  Hopefully, I can leave it alone.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Apologies to My Unpaid Editors....

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen...

I am a huge fan of Lynne Truss.  She wrote the book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves."  It is a masterpiece of satire on the demise of the formal structures of the English language.  Every day, some other assault on the language takes place.

The following blog entry will be a linguistic and grammatical disaster.  It is deliberate.  My goal is to take as many of the current linguistic fads and combine them into one coherent (?) blog entry.  There will be poor spelling, misuse of commas and apostrophes, bad usage, and words that do not exist.

To GS and EKB, my unpaid editors who often catch my typos, I humbly apologize.

I am giving this my usual signoff here, as I do not want my name to be associated with what is about to be written.  I have also put a few extra spaces between my name and this entry, and have changed the font.


I was walking in the wood's one day.  I heard a loud noise.  I looked to my rite to see a large bare.  It was ginormous.  I yelled at the bare.  Nothing I did would effect it though.  I turned to run away.  I was moving.  I was literally running as fast as I could.  Over they're, I saw a yard with some shrubbery and too people.  It was the bushes, Barbara and George.  Its great that they were their.  "May I hide in you're yard?"  "Of course," they said.  I was like "thank you.  Nice complements to the groundskeeper."  I wondered what I should hide under.  As I hid, a truck full of bare food went driving by at the precise moment that a breeze blue towards the bare.  It was a perfect storm, and it allowed me to escape.

I am still stressed after this.  Between you and I, I must speak with the chaplin. 

The Bard Meets Madame Curie...

What a piece of work is a noble is xenon!


Good night to all.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Apparently, We Still Have Paris...

Bon soir mes amis...

Back in January, Paris, the City of Lights, was attacked.  Citizens of Paris were massacred for cleaving to an ideal that the beasts in ISIS cannot seem to accept - freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

The City of Lights went dark Friday evening.  The beasts in ISIS attacked again, murdering over 130 people who were simply out and about for the evening.  President Hollande finally said that this was an act of war.  I am uncertain as to why the attacks of January were not an act of war, but at least he has finally realized it.

Today, French airplanes attacked an ISIS command centre in Syria.  The intelligence needed to carry out such an operation did not come into the hands of the French only over the weekend.  One then wonders that if this was a known command centre, why did the bombing of this command centre take place the day after the goings on in France as opposed to the day before?

To President Obama, you commented that these terrorists should be brought to justice.  With respect, perhaps, but only as captured POW's.  We are involved in a war with them.  To treat this only as a criminal matter will not lead to a satisfactory conclusion.  Furthermore, wars are not won in the air, and they are not won with special forces.  These pieces are vital, but wars are won eyeball to eyeball on the field.

To Prime Minister Trudeau, I understand the promise that you made to bring Canada's six fighters back from that region.  I urge you to reconsider.  Standing with France must mean not leaving all of the dirty work to them.  It must mean that we here in Canada understand that an attack in Paris can just as easily be an attack in Ottawa.  It must mean that the security apparatus of Canada recognizes that we can fight the war in Syria and Iraq, or we can fight it here, but we are going to have to fight it.  I think of the quote from Leon Trotsky: "you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."  As well, my Jewish soul demands that you fulfill your promise on bringing refugees into Canada.  I remind you though that when attacks in the past have happened, you have asked what the motivation of the attackers was.  The motivation of these refugees is that their homelands are being torn to shreds by the very people who perpetrated the attacks in Paris.  The refugees are better off not having to be refugees.  Help them not to be refugees.  Help them to live in a homeland that is safe.  Last, when I applied for my permanent resident status in Canada, I had to get police certificates from all of the places I have lived.  If the folks at Immigration Canada were so concerned about me, a commissioned officer from an allied nation, there must a vetting process to match that concern with the refugees.

To the entire European Union, if you continue to delude yourselves that the disintegration of the Middle East has to do with whether I purchase products from Judea and Samaria, you will continue to throw your efforts at a non-solution to a non-problem.  Whether there is a another attack will no longer be the question.  It will only be a question of Berlin, Rome, or Copenhagen.

To the people of France, we send our deepest sympathies to you.

When I wrote the blog entry on the first attack in Paris back in January, I wrote that "we make a gravely wrong assumption when we assume that the line between Jewish and anything else is as significant to the murderers as it is to us."  Friday's attacks prove how utterly wrong that assumption is.  These attacks did not take place in a synagogue.  They did not take place in le Quartier Juif.  The people were murdered for being French, for being Parisian.  Religion had nothing to do with the choice of victim.

Sleep easy my friends.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Cup Runneth Over...

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen....

Most of you have likely heard about the controversy surrounding Starbuck's coffee and their line of cups for the holiday season.  Apparently, their cups now are red and green, colours traditionally associated with Christmas.  For some reason, Starbuck's only put the colours on the cup.  Nowhere on the cup does it say "Merry Christmas," or even "Happy Holidays."  Starbuck's said that they wanted to embrace the simplicity of the season and offer customers a blank canvas to tell their own holiday story.

First, to Starbuck's, colours are colours.  Removing words from the cup does not change the deep connection of red and green to the holiday of Christmas.  Starbuck's should be aware that more than words state the holiday.  Aesthetics do so also.  That being said, better than avoiding the controversy, seize it.  Print cups for every major holiday around this time of year.  Remind all of us that some of our neighbours celebrate Christmas.  Others celebrate Hannukah.  Others celebrate Kwanza.  We have the distinct pleasure of living in a multi-cultural mosaic in North America.  That makes me happy, even if my coffee comes in the Christmas cup.  Starbuck's can even go beyond December.  Print cups for other holidays throughout the year.  Did you all know that Starbuck's coffees are certified kosher for Pesach?

To the people who are upset at Starbuck's for removing the colours, get a grip.  Christians are being murdered in Iraq and Syria.  North Korea has concentration camps.  The homeless problem in our cities is appalling.  To waste time on a couple of words on a coffee cup is an insult to every person suffering anywhere in the world.  If you do not like it, bring your own mug.  I have a lovely Hannukah mug from Starbuck's.  Alternatively, there are many coffee shops in every city and town.  Get your morning fix somewhere else.  Or you can go to any Starbuck's and purchase this year's Christmas blend .  I think they have a holiday blend also.

In years past, Starbuck's has given out free coffee to veterans in honour of Remembrance Day.  That is a far more important statement from this company, a statement worth respecting.

The Gorman family has been in Toronto now for over a decade.  Jennifer and I will tell you though that we really miss being in Manhattan during December.  All of the stores have stacks of Christmas trees out on the sidewalks.  It lends a lovely smell and a richness of colour.  People smile a little more.  Stores are decorated.  It is a time-honoured tradition to go to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, and perhaps to take part in the public singing of Handel's "Messiah."  I like to purchase a bag of hot chestnuts from the street vendors to nosh while looking at all of the store displays along 5th Avenue.  That Christmas is not a Jewish holiday does not mean that we cannot share in the joy of our neighbours.  That governments guarantee freedom of religion was never intended to mean that there was to be no public recognition of holidays.

Have a lovely day.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Today's Safety Training...

Top of the evening to all...

Some years ago, my medium monster asked me asked me if our senses grow duller as we age.  I said to him that our senses do in fact get duller as we age, with the exception of my sense of irony, which seems to be getting sharper every day.

With that sense of irony, I must tell you what happened today.  I am writing presently from Buffalo.  I am in Buffalo for my monthly reserve duty requirement.  When I am in Buffalo, there is often a fair amount of admin that must happen.  This month, I had to sign off on a safety training.  The subject of  training for this month was Christmas tree safety.  Yes, it was quite funny.  They just signed me off on it.  I read the training.  Put the tree in water to keep the wood from drying out.  Clean up fallen needles.  Do not use an extension cord to connect it.

Now, we should talk about hanukiyah safety.  Jennifer comes from a family with the custom that everyone should have a hannukiyah.  Well and good, but with five of us in the house for Hannukah, the second half of the holiday scares me.  This runs the risk of either a class A or class B fire, depending on whether one uses candles or oil to light the flame.

Hannukiyah safety?  Keep a fire extinguisher handy.  As the holiday develops and you have had way too much fried food, keep your distance from the flames.

Have a good evening everyone.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Provide for the Common Defence...

Top of the evening to all...

With Jennifer in Israel, I clearly have more time to write, as this is my third entry in the last hour. 

Many of you have been keeping one eye on the news from Israel.  The Palestinians are yet again committing violence and mayhem in the hopes of getting a state from which to commit large-scale violence and mayhem.

Throughout this recent violence and mayhem, press secretaries everywhere have been quick to assert that Israel has the right to self-defense.

This is not correct.  Rights can be surrendered.  I have the right to free speech.  I may give up that right at any time.  I have the right to free assembly.  I have the choice to give up that right.

The title of this blog entry is from the preamble to the US Constitution.  In stating that one of the goals is to provide for the common defence (that is the spelling in the Constitution), the Constitution has removed the right of common defence.  The government has the responsibility of common defence.  It cannot just put that obligation aside.  It cannot choose whether or not to exercise that obligation. 

It is all sunshine and flowers to hear these press secretaries defend the right to self-defence.  I want to hear just one of them state the obligation.  Only then will it be clear that they truly understand a government's obligation to its citizenry.

Have a good night.


It Is Possible She Is Overreacting...(Very Tongue in Cheek)

Top of the evening to all...

Can someone please explain to me why my beloved bride has said that I have wrecked 22 years of marriage?  I am confused.  It all started with a joke I developed.

Anne Shirley, perhaps known better as Anne of Green Gables, has finally retired.  She still spends her summers in PEI.  Seeking a little winter warmth, she has purchased a condo in the Miami area.  In Florida, they call her Anne of Coral Gables.

I told our male friends.  They thought it was hilarious.  Our female friends agree with Jennifer.

Is this another one of those times when the difference between men and women is clear?  What am I missing?

Have a good evening.


Plus Ca Change....

Plus c'est la meme chose.

Top of the evening to all...

I do not know why that idiom exists primarily in the French.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  It works just fine in English.

In January 2012, Jennifer had to go to Israel for about 10 days.  During that time, I wrote an entry to this blog entitled Defending This Caveman.  The entry was about the impending disaster Jennifer was expecting to find upon her return from Eretz HaKodesh - the Holy Land.

Jennifer is in Israel again (yes - I am bitter).  She is there for the WZO conference.  She read Torah this morning at the Kotel.  I had a conversation today during minyan.  One of our regulars asked me how I was holding up with her gone.  It is a lot of work when one must fill the role of both parents for a sustained period of time.  I appreciated the question and the concern.

She also asked if I was doing the cooking, the laundry, and keeping the house clean.  I said yes, but then I returned the question.  "Would you be asking a woman the same questions?"  She thought about it for a second, realized she would not, and told me I was right.

A couple of things: I came home a little early today to cook dinner.  We had fake crab sauteed with some peppers served with rice.  My laundry is done.  One kid's laundry is in the washing machine, and the other pile of laundry will meet the same destiny shortly.  On Sunday, I dusted and cleaned bathrooms.  There is some straightening to be done, but the house has definitely been in worse shape.

Gentlemen, on the off chance that you have doubts about your abilities to run a house and work full time while your spouse is away, know that you can do it.  Ladies, if you want your spouses to be able to cook, do laundry, and clean, then start with the expectation that this is something your spouse should be able to do.

Mothers and fathers are different.  I once tried to close a diaper with duct tape, because I had torn three tabs off, and diapers are expensive.  It did not work.  Jennifer thought it was hilarious.  The point here is that men think about things a little differently.  It is not better or worse.  It just is.  We are capable of handling a household.

When I am responsible for the grocery shopping, I do not buy Kix cereal.  The reason is the advertising catch phrase: kid tested, mother approved.  If we want fathers (mixed-gender couples, of course) to be involved in raising their children, we need to make conscious efforts to change the way we think about how we understand their roles.

Have a good evening.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Reflexive Property of Theology...

Top of the evening to all...

The math people who read this blog saw that title and expected to see a different word at the end.  They are used to the reflexive property of mathematics.  It is the first property we learn when we take algebra.  According to the reflexive property of mathematics, in all equations, A = A.  Essentially, this property allows us to balance an equation knowing that both sides of that equation share the same vocabulary.

I mention this in terms of theology because of a discussion I have with every one of my conversion students.  Invariably, one of those students uses the term 'Old Testament' in our discussions.  This only happens once.  After our discussion, they are usually quite aware that as future Jews, that term does not fit our theological construct.  Allow me to elaborate.

1.  To use the term "Old Testament" implies that there is a new testament.  While it is clear that such a document exists from a historical perspective, Jewish theological belief cannot hold that it exists as a religious document.

2.  There are books in Christian Testament that do not exist in our TaNaKh [an acronym, referring to Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings)].  For example, the Catholic canon has the book of Ben Sira.  It was a book known to the Rabbis, but not considered canonical.  In this equation, A does not equal A.

3.  The Christian should really be in the plural.  Catholic canon and Protestant canon differ as well.  The Christian Testaments are in a different order.  Some of the changes are logical.  For example, the Book of Ruth is placed prior to the Samuels, as Ruth is an ancestor of King David.  Beyond that, the Christian Testaments place the prophets last.  This makes a powerful theological statement.  At the culmination of Malakhi's prophecy, or perhaps as the culmination of Malakhi's prophecy, the messiah arrives.

4.  The Torah portion of Matot begins in Numbers 30:2.  If you were to look in a Torah, you would find that there is a clear paragraph break after 30:1.  Obviously, there are no chapters and verses written in the Torah itself.  30:1 belongs to the Torah portion before.  This paragraph break is important.  Following the Jewish change of portion at 30:2, 30:1 is thus attached to what came before - the schedule of holy days.  Knowing that Christianity broke with Judaism as concerns calendar issues, the Jewish breakdown connects Moses speaking as God spoke on the calendar and holiday observances, and not on the matter of oaths that will start in 30:2.

5.  The very last verse of the Tanakh is at the end of II Chronicles (36:23).  Again, this is different from concluding at the end of Malakhi's prophecy.  Take note of the last verse though:

כה אמר כורש מלך פרס 
כל ממלכות הארץ נתן לי ה' אלוקי השמים
 והוא פקד עלי לבנות לו בית בירושלם אשר ביהודה
 מי בכם מכל עמו ה' אלוקיו עמו ויעל

Thus spoke Cyrus the king of Persia:
all the kingdoms of the earth God has given me, 
 commanding me to build a Temple in Jerusalem, 
in the land of Yehudah (Judea); 
all amongst you from his people, 
God is with you and you should go up.

This verse actively encourages people to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple.  At the time that the various canons are determined, the early Church Fathers are shifting their focus away from the Land of Israel towards Rome.  To have the last word of what they would call the Old Testament point in the opposite direction contradicts numerous theological tenets for the early Church.

As we can see, A does not equal A, not in the least.  To speak of the Old Testament is to speak of a different book, with a different layout, with a different set of books within, and with significant theology underlying it all.  The change in vocabulary has far deeper meaning than just a different title to the same (not!) book.

Have a good night.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reconsidering Reconsidering My Path

Hi all...

Back in May, I wrote a blog posting entitled Reconsidering My Path.  It was about the tension between personal safety and breaking the law.  I had only considered the issue from one viewpoint.

First, an amusing story.  Seven or eight years ago, I was riding my bicycle up Poplar Plains coming back from the downtown area.  Those people who ride in Toronto know this street.  It is a difficult uphill.  About halfway up the hill, huffing and puffing in the June heat, I was considering dismounting and walking it the rest of the way up.  At that moment, a woman blew past me.  Now many women are in better shape than I am.  In and of itself, this did not bother me.  She had a baby on the back of the bicycle.  That adds extra weight and drag.  I did not get off the bicycle.  I made it up that hill.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that some people on a bicycle are just people on a bicycle.  Others have a passenger.  Such little passengers affect balance and speed.  An unsafe street is not right for them.  

The questions of road safety go well beyond lone riders getting to work.  Extra seats and even carts must also be part of the discussion.  The infrastructure must change to allow for this.

Have a good evening.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Mad Magazine

Top of the day to all...

When I was a kid, my brother had a subscription to Mad magazine.  This was back in the days of Don Martin and William Gaines.  I remember their movie and television spoofs, 'Spy vs Spy,' and a few other things.

Two specific memories stick out in my mind.  The first was a spoof of the animated version of "The Hobbit."  It was a musical.  One of the lyrics, reworked to "Blowin' in the Wind," was 'how many days can a Hobbit go on, when he's hungry and tired and hurt?"

There was once a feature on laws we would like to see.  It is this section that brings these other memories to mind.  What triggered my memory of this section?  It is the only law that I remember, and it is highly relevant as we go into a federal election here in Canada, and then prepare for an election in the United States.

All candidates will be required to eat any campaign signs still posted three days after the election.

This still strikes me as a good law.

Have a great day everyone.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Instincts and the GPS...the Rest of the Story...

Top of the evening to all...

I wrote the piece on instincts and the GPS while we were on vacation out east.  I did not want to be too specific, as we were away.  Announcing that the house is empty is not exactly smart personal security.

We are back now, and I must tell you that the Province of New Brunswick is just lovely.

Let me tell you about the GPS problems we had.  Please note that these problems were with both the Garmin GPS and with WAZE.  The car's built-in GPS was not helpful either.  However, it is the original that came with our car.  The car is a 2009.  Much has changed since then.

For example, there is a bypass around Montreal.  The signage there is a little confusing.  The GPS and WAZE did not direct me to it, and I did not realize the correct detour until it was too late.  Not that it matters.  The computers, as you are aware, are all-knowing.

Both devices told us to get of the Trans-Canada Highway near Canterbury.  Well we did, and this is most definitely a Canterbury tale.  We drove for about 12 kilometres along route 122.  It was a two-lane road, but it moved nicely.  Then we were supposed to switch to route 630.  About 30 seconds after making that change, the pavement disappeared.  It was a dirt road.  Well....that is an overstatement.  It was a dirt pothole.  We turned around, and went back to the highway. 

As soon as we got back on the highway, the GPS recalculated, and sent us the way I thought we should have gone in the first place.

On the way back, we stopped in Montreal for dinner.  Jennifer was not pleased with the fact that I had consistently started driving and gotten to decision-making points before she even had the chance to plug in the address.  So I waited.  This time, the GPS said to turn right, but had not yet registered that I had turned the car around.  As such, again, it sent me in the wrong direction.

All of this computer gadgetry does have its purposes.  I do like the fact that I can tell the GPS to find the nearest gas station or restaurant.  I like the fact that it may get it wrong from time to time, but probably gets it right way more often than not.  Not always finding the best way is far better than getting hopelessly lost.

I made a suggestion for WAZE.  With permission from both users at that very moment, it could become a useful way to find someone in a crowd or in an unfamiliar area.  If we could program it to find a cell phone, it can become very easy to avoid getting lost in a crowd.

Have a good evening everyone.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Instincts and the GPS...

Top of the evening to all...

Over the last several months, I have been more and more reluctant to use my GPS.  I find that I am getting sick of it.  For the most part, the only reason I use it lately is for an ETA.  I usually know more or less where I am going.

Recently, my GPS and Waze have failed me.  Waze took me an extra exit, only to require a u-turn to get back to the exit I needed in the first place.  My GPS has also goofed, sending me down a side road that was not remotely paved.  When I got back to the highway and went the way I thought was right in the first place, it shortened the travel time.  I lost 30 minutes on a detour I should not have taken.

Reasons I do not like my GPS:

1.  I trust my instincts.
2.  I would like to maintain my instincts.
3.  My instincts tend to be right.
4.  I find both the picture and the voice disturbing.

My friends, the GPS and Waze instructions always tell you to look at a map before traveling.  You can bet I will do that henceforth.  I have been to too many places that I have not intended recently.

Have a good night.


Monday, August 24, 2015


Top of the evening to all…

Please forgive the attention-grabbing title and the slightly morbid beginning to this blog entry.

The kill radius of a standard grenade is five metres.  The injury radius is 15 metres.  Why do I tell you this?  I tell you this because we have all just been witness to a grenade explosion.

Last week, two lawyers in Ontario filed a class-action lawsuit against Ashley Madison, the website devoted to helping people have an affair.  The lawsuit is for $578,000,000.  The news reports today that there have been two suicides possibly connected with the mass hacking and release of data from that company.  There will be other lawsuits.  There will be broken homes and broken families.  This grenade has killed people, and it will seriously injure others.

My sympathies for all of the active parties are quite limited.  You all know that I regard adultery as abuse.  No company should market marital abuse as a commodity.  That Ashley Madison will likely have to close down shop over this is frankly a benefit to marriage and to society as a whole.  My sympathies for the customers are also limited.  They tried to do something despicable and keep it secret.  They should realize and remember my mother’s sage advice: it takes two people to keep a secret.  If my sympathies for those two groups are limited, my sympathies for the hackers are non-existent.  They have invaded the private lives of many people with the sole purpose of committing crime – extortion, blackmail.  These people are beneath contempt.  They are cowards.  They hide behind computer screens and destroy people.

I have never been able to put into words the difference between sex and intimacy.  I have come close.  Last year, Jennifer did something to her back.  The result was that for about a month, she had to sleep downstairs until we replaced our mattress.  It was torture for both of us, even though I moved downstairs also.  I realized that much of the contact that takes place in a bed is not specifically sexual.  The need for that non-sexual contact is at least part of where I define intimacy.

There is more to the definition than just that contact though.  I say this because the sense of betrayal is far more acute and palpable when there has been a sexual violation of a marriage.  If sex were only a physical activity, to change a partner should really be no different from any other physical activity.  “Honey, I have a new racquetball partner.”  Who cares?!  But that this type of betrayal leads to broken marriages and shortened lives states clearly that (marital) sex is far more than just a physical endeavour.  Bringing someone else into the picture is not at all the same thing as a new racquetball partner.

This grenade has not yet completed its explosion.  There will be more death.  There will be more dishonour.  All I can do is again remind you that there is nothing that can happen with an affair that cannot happen with one’s own spouse.  And the beauty of it is that there is no grenade.  No one’s life will be wrecked.  In fact, the opposite will likely happen.  Lives will be made better.

Good night my friends.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Public Safety Bulletin...

Top of the afternoon to all...

When I do my two weeks a year with the Navy, I go to Marine Corps Base Quantico.  Most of you do not know Marines.  Marines run.  They can be seen at all times of the day on the running tracks and paths throughout every USMC base.

MCB Quantico has safety rules that govern this.  If out running, walking, or cycling, it is required to wear reflective gear.  As well, the use of earbuds is forbidden.  These are smart rules.

I have tried an experiment a few times.  I get consistent results.  When I am coming up on someone, as always, I ring my bell.  Without fail, the people with earbuds have not heard me.  This is dangerous to them.  It is dangerous to me as a cyclist.

It is dangerous to them because there are other people they may not hear.  Such people may just be clumsy, or they may have nefarious intent.  In either event, the shortened time for a reaction can have consequences.

As well, there is a danger to me.  Humans naturally have a startle reflex.  If that reflex occurs when a cyclist has passed, the cyclist and the walker (or the other cyclist) could get hurt.

Folks, I have heretofore written only about potential negative results between a cyclist and a walker.  If we add in cars to this equation, we have gone from possible injury to possible fatality.

My friends, take the earbuds out.  Listen to the birds sing.  Their music is as lovely as anything you will hear on the ipod.  Listen to the cars drive by.  Listen to the people around you.  And if you miss a phone call, the world will continue.

Be safe.


It Is Difficult to Be Sympathetic, But.......

Top of the afternoon to all....

Many of you are aware of the major security breach that took place at Ashley Madison this week.  If you do not know, Ashley Madison is the company that helps people sleep around.  Their motto is "life is short.  Have an affair."

You know my feelings about adultery.  I wrote an entry about this exactly four years ago.  It is marital abuse, and has no place in civilized society.  Whatever sympathies I have for the people who tried to have their information deleted is quite limited.

The company has a service in which it promises that for the mere fee of $19, a file can be erased completely.  Hackers stole the 'deleted' files in an effort to prove that there is no such thing as permanent deletion.

I have issues with all hackers.  To steal from a company via computer is no different from stealing from the cash register.  On top of that, for the hackers to hold the personal files hostage because of the company's mistakes and misdeeds is unreasonable.

That being said, my mother always told me that it takes two people to keep a secret.  The warning here was clear.  It is an echo of the rabbis from Pirkei Avot (2:5): do not say something that is not meant to be heard, for it will be heard.  In this world of computer history, that admonition has never been more true.

The folks who thus went to Ashley Madison were therefore sinning egregiously and naive for thinking it could be kept secret forever.  This is why my sympathies are limited.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to have some sympathy.  I am still waiting for the US government's response to the fact that my information may have been hacked.  My information was given to the government in good faith.  That being said, even naive, egregious sinners are entitled to privacy.

At the end of the day my friends, stay home.  Have an affair with your spouse.  Your spouse will not mind.

Shabbat Shalom.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cutting the Mustard...

Top of the evening all...

Some years back, Jennifer and I purchased mustard seed.  I think that the reason might have had something to do with finding kosher for Pesach mustard.  It has been so long though that I do not remember the reason.  I do remember though that the intent was to make mustard.

A few weeks ago, I finally made the mustard.  I found several recipes on line, and gambled.

It was b-i-t-t-e-r.  The instructions said though to let it sit for a few days.  It did in fact lose most of the bitterness.  Jennifer decided that she did not like the consistency.  The recipe said to add water until achieving the desired consistency.  I missed that part.  Jennifer added some water.

Folks, that is really good mustard.  I do not know that I will ever make the jump to making my own mustard at home.  But I can tell you it was worth the (minimal) effort.  I will certainly do it again.

It was easy and worth it.

Have a good evening.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Getting It Right 100% of the Time...

Top of the evening ladies and gentlemen...

Over the last several months, the US Government has twice failed to protect its citizens on its own soil.  You are aware that US Government computers were hacked a few months ago, with personal information on approximately 21 million people compromised.  I received an e-mail today stating that anyone who has undergone a security clearance check is likely amongst those whose information is in the hands of those who clearly think that there is some profit to be gained by having that information.  To answer your question: yes, I have undergone a security investigation over the last several years.

And now today...four US Marines and one US Sailor were murdered in Chattanooga.  The story is still developing.  I very much want to know how it happened.  Given that the attacker had taken aim at a recruiting centre seven miles away, I am at a loss to explain why NOSC (Navy Operational Support Center) Chattanooga was not immediately upgraded to Force Protection Condition Delta.  That is the level of force protection, with commensurate increased security, that all installations in the vicinity of an attack are supposed to set.  The Marines who were killed today either should have been in a safe spot or, if they were part of the security detail, should have been wearing body armor.

I am not going to point my finger at the US Government and say "j'accuse."  I believe not only in the government's desire to protect its citizens, but also its will.  The problem is this: the good guys cannot make a mistake - ever.  The bad guys only have to succeed once.

The bad guys have now succeeded, not once, but twice.  Four Marines and one Sailor are dead.  The lives of 21 million people may or may not need some revision.  We do well.  We need to do better.

I normally would sign off telling you all to have a good evening.  Instead...

Semper Fidelis.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

That's Four...

Top of the evening to all...

Some years ago, I had received mobilization orders to go to Afghanistan.  People asked my beloved bride if she was worried about me in a combat zone.  Jennifer's response was tongue-in-cheek, to a point.  She said: "he rides a bicycle downtown.  That scares me more than anything he might do in Afghanistan."

On May 19th, a cyclist was hit in the Mt. Pleasant area.  He died May 29th.    Since then, two more cyclists have been killed in Toronto.  Today, a fourth cyclist was killed while riding his bicycle out in Milton.

Does anybody care?

When I was but a wee lad growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there was a stretch of US 58  near Emporia, VA, about an hour to the west, that was known as "Suicide Strip."  It was a two-lane highway that was a legal passing zone.  There were deaths along that stretch of road for years.  Finally, the government widened it, and in 1991, dedicated the new US 58, a four-lane highway that is now a lovely drive.  Historically, it had been a death every 2.5 months.

Apparently, when motorists die, it is important.  No one asks if the driver was being reckless.  No one complains that someone was speeding.  People point out the unsafe conditions, and finally elicit a response.  Dangerous drivers do stupid things.  Infrastructure can and should be built to prevent such stupidity as much as possible.  In Virginia, it happened.

The recent mess has been more than one death in 2.5 months.  This is now four deaths in five weeks.  In these cases, the cyclists were all being safe.  Not that it matters...there is clearly a need for safety measures.

When I first really started traveling the city by bicycle, I was usually content to ride in the painted cycle lanes.  There are some really nice lanes.  Russell Hill is just a dandy ride.  I was run off the road there once though.  A driver did not see me, and elected to go around a turning car via the bicycle lane as I was passing.

Lately, I have been more and more uncomfortable traveling on the streets.  The carnage of the last five weeks is unnerving, to say the least.

I no longer support painted lanes.  There should be a physical separation on all of the major streets.  The bloodshed must end.  Cyclists have the absolute right to safety on streets for which they pay taxes to pave and to maintain.  Not only do they have the right to safety, they have the right to the feeling of safety.

To its credit, the City of Toronto is embarked on a major study to figure out the next steps in developing infrastructure.  It will take time to see if the city is serious in taking the set of steps necessary after the current set of steps.  I will believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to go to to do the cycling survey and to make your own cycling map.  This is not just an issue for cyclists.  This is also an issue for drivers.  We do not have to be adversaries.  We should not be adversaries.  We all want to get where we are going safely.

Thank you all for listening.

Have a good night.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My International Following...

Top of the afternoon to all...

From time to time, I report on this blog.  It is fun for me to know who is checking the blog from where.  I assume that it is fun for you.

There is more than I realized to seeing who is checking from where.  It is not just a matter of who is reading.  I am now being quoted.  That is interesting.

The latest is from the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.  In an interview, two professors (married to each other) quoted my blog entry about wearing orange from a couple of months ago.

I am flattered.  I also now have to be more careful (perhaps), about how I write things.  The quote in the article has a little bit of a sarcastic edge to it.

I was quoted on another website about three years ago.  The owner of that blog writes about marriage and divorce out in San Francisco.  I found out about that quote only a few months ago.

Have a good day everyone...


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fusion Cooking....

Top of the evening to all...

I do not know if you have heard the latest.  Taco Bell has merged with Golden Chopsticks.  Their new restaurant is set to open in the most dangerous part of town.

The name of the new restaurant is 'Taco Wok on the Wild Side.'

With apologies to the great Lou Reed.

Good night to all.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Dawn of the Irony Age

Top of the evening to all...

Some years back, my medium child asked me if our senses grow dull as we age.  I said that they do, with the exception of my sense of irony, which seems to grow more acute every day.

Why do I tell you this?  For personal reasons, I looked into university scholarships for kids with ADHD.  There were many possbilities.

I was truly shocked though.  They all had deadlines.

One of the kids' friends (also ADHD) told a joke in the car a few years back.  How many ADHD kids does it take to change a light bulb?  "Let's go ride bikes!"

Deadlines?  Really?

Have a good evening everyone.


The previous entry was slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bring Back That Blogging Feeling...

Top of the evening everyone...

I have not blogged in a while.  Worse, a new reader said that the blog of late has been very serious, and not quite what she might have expected given that she has also met me in person.

I want to assure everyone that I am still out there and kicking.  While I have been quite serious of late, I remain as off-beat and funny as I have always been.

I thank all of you for your continued attention, and promise that I will resume more regular blogging shortly.

May the best of the evening be yours.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reconsidering My Path....

Top of the evening to all... is not what you think, but it at least worked to get you to read.

The Provincial ordinance states clearly that bicycles are not allowed on the sidewalks.  That is reasonable.  Collisions between cyclists and pedestrians are not healthy for anyone.  The Provincial laws state further that bicycles are entitled to a full lane of traffic.

Taking a full lane is not a good way for a cyclist to make friends and influence people.  Drivers really do not appreciate such use of the roads by the slowpokes on the bicycles.  Many drivers are also not aware that cyclists are legally entitled to the full lane.  It takes a cyclist with nerves of steel to withstand the pile-up of vehicles in the rear while maintaining a spot in traffic.  Most of us do not like to do that.  We thus stick to the sides of the road as much as possible.  Staying in the centre of the lane is uncomfortable and dangerous.  As well, most serious riders try to avoid irking the drivers.

I often have the need to head south along Bathurst St on my trusty steed of steel.  I wear a helmet and reflective gear.  After all, I take time to reflect when I ride.  Here is the challenge.  The side of Bathurst St is rough more often than not.  There are holes.  There are patched potholes.  Sometimes, in order to have a smooth (safe) ride that does not jar my shoulders and back, I have to make the choice of swerving way out into traffic, often as much as a metre and a half, or hitting some of the rough pavement and flipping the bicycle.

It is an unreasonable choice.

So here are the options for a cyclist on Bathurst St.

1.  Ride in the middle of the lane, where it is more or less safe and smooth, but where drivers will really be annoyed.
2.  Ride along the side of the road, and risk life, limb, and bicycle due to the horrendous condition of the road.
3.  Ride on the sidewalk, and risk a ticket in the amount of $110.

I am getting awfully close to choice #3.  The city is obligated to provide a safe means of getting around town for all commuters, including those on only two wheels.  My taxes pay for that concern.  If the city is unable to do its job, I have to consider my own safety.

This is a tough decision.  This cyclist takes the rules of the road very seriously.

Have a good evening everyone.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I Am Not Christian....

Top of the evening everyone...

I just saw an article on Fox News.  Here is the link.  There is a movement amongst our Christian friends and neighbours to wear orange.  Some are wearing orange in the form of those little lapel ribbons that have become so ubiquitous over the last few years.  Others are including orange in whatever they might wear to Church on Sunday.

I believe that I will go upstairs and see if I have an orange kippah.  I am not Christian.  I look terrible in orange.  Nonetheless, I will take part in it.

The reason is that the lovable folks from ISIS are forcing Christians to wear orange as they walk to their executions.  It is no different from the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Shoah.

I am reminded though of the statement from the Protestant minister of that time.  First they came for the communists.  I did not speak up, because I am not a communist.  And so on...Christians are only the first ones on the menu for the insatiable appetites of these beasts.  I stand with those Christians for two reasons.  They are being targeted specifically.  Everyone else is next.

You should stand with them too.

As we note the 70th anniversary of the end of the Shoah, we say "never again."  It is happening again.  It is happening in North Korea.  It is happening in the Levant.  I do not know what we can do about North Korea.  As concerns the Levant, we have just been offered a way to be in unity with the victims.  I seize that opportunity.

I call on all of you to seize that opportunity as well.

Good evening to all.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Partisanship of the Press....

Good evening everyone...

My father-in-law and I have an ongoing argument.  He reads CNN on line.  I go to Fox.  He is probably right.

So if he is probably right, why do I not go to CNN, or perhaps to MSNBC for the news?  The reason is that I used to do that.  I found though that the anti-Israel bias was too much for me to accept.  Fox is far more biased towards Israel.  Jennifer and I used to receive the Toronto Star.  We now receive the National Post.  The reason is the same - bias.

There is a greater question though.  What happened to just getting a straight reporting of facts from the news?  What happened to an editorial page that was more or less balanced?  It is a problem.  In the US, the news organizations on the left in the US believe that the President can do no wrong.  Those on the right - if the President donated a kidney to save a life, they would paint him as conniving for political reasons.  It makes it very difficult to figure out what is the reality on the ground.

The reason that this comes to mind now has to do with Hillary Clinton.  As you are all likely aware, she conducted State Department business on her private e-mail account.  We will ignore the fact that any correspondence from a member of the government in the performance of his/her job is a matter of public record.  That means that if the Secretary of State replies to an e-mail with 'LOL,' that response is a Freedom of Information Act concern.  To delete those e-mails is problematic.  To use a server that would require a subpoena for the information is also problematic.

I care, but people on the higher echelons of government can figure this out.

I have two e-mail accounts that are subject to the regulations concerning federal records.  Once upon a time, I used to communicate informally with the Navy via my personal e-mail account.  Then the Navy decided that that was no longer allowed.  Then the Navy decided to start enforcing the change.  One of my commanding officers sent me a nasty-gram about it after I persisted in using my personal e-mail account.

So my question is: why do I get in trouble for this and Hillary Clinton thus far does not?  The president's cabinet is on a far higher level than I am.  To enforce these regulations on some but not on others is lousy leadership.  Selective enforcement leads to selective obedience.

I started this blog entry with concern about bias in the press.  Would someone whose politics lie somewhere to left of the spectrum please offer me an answer?  I am certain that I am missing something.

Have a good evening.


Monday, March 16, 2015

An Apology....Really?

Top of the evening everyone.

As many of you are aware, the Secretary of State is presently in Zurich trying to hammer out an agreement with Iran on Iran's nuclear program (more on that in a minute).  Many of you are also aware that a large number of US senators signed and sent a letter to the Iranians about those negotiations.  The President called the letter destructive.  The Iranians brought up the letter in the discussions with Secretary Kerry.

Secretary Kerry was asked if he intended to apologize for that letter.  Appropriately, he said he would not.  His reason was that he did not feel the need to apologize for a letter initiated by someone who had been a senator for less than 60 days.

Right answer...wrong reason. 

Right answer...right reason?  We will not apologize.  We may give it some thought, or not.  While we are giving it some thought, or not, perhaps the Iranian government might think about apologizing to the US for invading our sovereign territory in 1979.  Perhaps it might apologize to the US for holding its citizens hostage for 444 days.  Perhaps it might consider apologizing for planning to assassinate a member of the Saudi royal family on US territory just a couple of years ago.  It is a long list.

As concerns US-Iranian negotiations, 1986 comes to mind.  In the fall of that year, President Reagan went to Iceland for a summit with Mikhael Gorbachev.  For a long time, that was called a failed summit.  History appears now to be showing that the Reykjavik summit was crucial to the demise of the Soviet Union.

At that summit, President Reagan brought to the table a point of concern about the USSR.  It was one of human rights.  It had never been mentioned.  This concern of human rights might be an issue right now, given that Iran's record in this area is dismal at best.  "Where is my vote(?)" was the mantra of the so-called Green Revolution in 2009.

Upon his return to the US, President Reagan addressed the country from the Oval Office.  He made the following statement: "for a government that will break faith with its own people can not be trusted to keep faith with foreign powers."

Why are even considering trusting these people?

Have a good evening.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Global Warming...

Top of the evening to all...

I was half right.  I said that this winter would not be as bad as last winter.  The first half really was not.  The second half has been way too cold, and on average colder than last winter.

I am further aware of much of the discussion over the last several years about global warming.  I am not sure that I believe in it.  There is simply too much that we do not know.

That being said, I fully support the concept of global warming.  I would like to see a little bit of it.  I would like to see it Toronto.

(Sigh) extra layers again tomorrow.

Stay warm folks.



Top of the evening to all....

I have been wondering lately as to how a tradition becomes a tradition.  Some customs are around for years, but remain only on a small scale.  Other things become tradition overnight.

One of the wonderful modern traditions is the song 'Oseh Shalom.'  It is sung in most congregations in North America at some point during a service.  Everyone knows it.  People join right in.  The version most people know is by an Israeli songwriter named Nurit Hirsh.  It is the quintessential 'Oseh Shalom.'  Here is a link to it: Nurit Hirsh. 

Nurit Hirsh composed this in 1969. 

Another tune, and my favourite, is by Debbie Friedman.  Here it is: Debbie Friedman.

Debbie Friedman composed this in 1981.

What I do not understand is how one composition became the version that the Children of Israel sang at Mt. Sinai, while another just did not.  With only 12 years between the two compositions, they were composed at the same time in terms of the history of Jewish music.

I prefer Debbie Friedman's version.  It is the one we sang when I was in camp.  When done well, the counterpoint is wonderful.

Happy listening.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Noncombatant Status According to the Geneva Conventions....

Hi all....

You are all aware that I am a military chaplain.  I will be one forever.  Upon retiring from the Navy, the letters 'CHC' (Chaplain Corps) will remain as part of my official identification for the rest of my life.

According to the Geneva Conventions, chaplains are non-combatants.  In the US, this means that we do not carry weapons.  We have a bodyguard in the field at all times.  It means that the enemy is not allowed to target us deliberately.  It means that we cannot be POW's.  We are detainees.

The question of being a detainee is not one of mere semantics.  The Conventions continue in Article III, Convention 33, stating that if we are held as detainees, the detaining power is required to let us continue to perform our functions.  The same holds true for medical personnel.

I was with a Marine battalion on September 11th, 2001.  We were in the air, headed up to Bridgeport, California for mountain warfare training and an exercise with the Royal Marines.  This was up in the Sierra Nevadas.  It was late September, and it was gorgeous.  On the last night of the exercise, seven or eight Royal Marines 'killed' our perimeter guard and overran our camp.  I woke up with a Royal Marine in my face yelling "whar's yer weapon?"  I showed him my hands and said 'chaplain.'  He left me alone, and 'shot' my bodyguard instead.

It is of small comfort that if the US ever goes toe to toe with the British, my status will be respected.

Protocol I, Article 41 states that POW's (and detainees) are not to be targets of attack.  They are to be protected, and all feasible precautions shall be taken to ensure their safety.

My friends, we have seen the treachery that the kind folks in Northern Syria and Iraq have had to offer us lately.  Most recently, they have burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive.  This is beyond negotiation.  This is a war on the norms of humanity.  It must be treated as such.

King Abdullah of Jordan has stated that Jordan's wrath will be visited on the perpetrators until Jordan "runs out of fuel and bullets."

This is the right approach.  One does not go to war to lose.  One does not play war to a draw.  One goes to war with the approach of utterly destroying an enemy.  Anything short of that goal will render a war that does not end.

I commend the Jordanians for having such clarity of goal.  It is a shame that such clarity is lacking in other national leaders.

We should all send our deepest sympathies to the family and to the nation of the murdered pilot.  His name was LT Muath al Kaseasbeh.  He had a family.  He had friends.  May his memory be for a blessing, and may we maintain the resolve to make absolutely certain that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime never sleep soundly again.

For the record, I will not, under any circumstances, maintain my status as a non-combatant if I am mobilized to go there.

Have a good evening everyone.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Challenges of Translation....

Top of the evening all...

Since finishing seminary too many years ago, I have become more and more reluctant to translate.  The reason is that translation is an art.  Let me give you my favourite example:

It was a dark and stormy night.
I was up late reading a bunch of old books.

That is the translation.  And now for the original:

Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary 
over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

I deeply apologize to Edgar Allan Poe, the author of "The Raven."  In rendering this translation, I destroyed both the rhyme and the metre.  No reader will read on to find out about the noise, or the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.

The translation never left the original language of the poem, and is only separated from the original by only about 130 years.  Furthermore, we can all point to words that have changed meaning in our lifetimes.  A friend's daughter wanted to give a report about donkeys in the Torah not due to any interest in donkeys.  Rather, she wanted to say the word 'ass' in front of her teachers.  'Ass' is a word that has changed meaning in our lifetimes.

With that rather inglorious introduction, I was in Buffalo this week.  I had scheduled to go to see a friend.  It was snowing and nasty out, and I did not want to drive.  The commanding officer wanted to get everyone out a little early in order to avoid the worst of the weather.  I asked if he might also confine us to quarters.  He declined to do that, but said that I could happily use his name in vain if I did not want to go.  "Translate the Torah into Sailor-talk," he said to me.

I went to see my friend.  The driving was not so bad.  The company, as always, was quite good.  I also wrote a tongue-in-cheek translation of the opening verses of Genesis.

In the beginning of the creation of Heaven and earth, when the earth was on limited availability status, and God's spirit was haze gray and underway (fluttered over the water). And God said (conventional power) "light off"/(nuclear) "start the reactor," and thus was the boiler lit off/the reactor started. And God saw that the boiler was lit/the reactor was started, and that was good to go, and God separated between the lit off boiler/started reactor and the darkness. And God called the light 'underway' and the darkness 'in port;' and it was taps, and it was reveille reveille all hands heave out, Day 1 on the Julian calendar. 

This really was intended to be tongue in cheek.  Thinking about it though, even within this silly translation, there is phrasing that one group within a very defined subculture might have a clearer way to understand than another subculture within the same defined group. 

So much for tongue in cheek.  This silly translation brought up a significant issue.  In and of itself, the translation might have been funny.

I heard recently that explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog.  You understand exactly what is happening on the inside, but the frog is dead.

I might have done that here.

I really like "and it was Taps, and it was Reveille..."

Have a good evening.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je Suis Juif!!

Bon soir mes amis...

We have all been following with rapt attention the recent events in Paris.  The targeted assassination of journalists and the deliberate murder of people for their religious affiliation strikes us at the heart of our consciences.  Having lived our lives in the West, the ideas of freedom of the press and freedom of religion are as much a necessity of life as oxygen.  For Americans, we are very much aware of what the First Amendment says.  It mentions both the freedom of the press and the freedom of religion.  For Canadians, both of these freedoms are the first Fundamental Freedoms spelled out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

After the initial set of events, the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, people all around France, and all around the world for that matter, began wearing shirts and holding signs that said "Je suis Charlie."  Rallies with thousands of people expressing that sentiment took place all around France, and all around the world.  I expect that such a statement is to say that when faced with the choice of the pen or the sword, to side with Charlie is an open statement of the choice of the pen.  I agree with that statement.  In that regard, je suis Charlie aussi.

Please take note: as Jews, while we are decidedly on the side of choosing the pen over the sword (Jewish Law defines handedness by writing), Charlie Hebdo was not our friend.  Jews and Judaism were very much the target of Charlie Hebdo's poison pen.  Trust me when I tell you that this was not a publication I would have bought.

There is another side to this though.  It is a side that is disturbing, to say the least.  What might have been different if the attack on the kosher supermarket had taken place first?  Would the people of France have stood up and said "je suis juif"?  They did not do so after the execution of children at a Jewish school in Toulouse a couple of years ago.  I do not expect that they would have done so now.

Mes amis, je suis juif.  J'aurais ete dans ce marche vendredi matin.  Charlie Hebdo was decidedly not my friend.  The folks at the kosher market were.

Je suis juif.  I am Jewish.  I hope that the people of France realize this identity.  Jews were targeted for being Jewish on Friday morning.  These nice folks who did this do not like Christians or atheists either. I am not at all saying that the French should stand with us or they are against us.  I am saying that we make a gravely wrong assumption when we assume that the line between Jewish and anything else is as significant to the murderers as it is to us.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When We Chose the Rabbinate, and When Our Rabbinates Chose Us....

Top of the evening everyone...

Several months ago, Jennifer and I thought it would be interesting to write on the exact same topic.  We also decided that it would post at the exact same time.  So when you get this entry, go immediately to Jen's entry on the same topic and read hers also.

I have been asked many times over the course of my rabbinate when and how I chose to be a rabbi.  I always give the same answer: "I do not know."  I suppose that I started making the decision in high school, but remain unable to pinpoint the exact time that my decision was made.

During seminary, my concentration was Talmud.  I actively avoided philosophy classes, and took only the history courses I had to take.  One course, Intellectual History, I failed.  I turned in the final paper several times, and apparently kept missing something.  The dean decided to let it go.  I think it is because he was a Navy chaplain when he finished school, and knew that was where I was headed initially.

Since finishing, I have barely cracked open a volume of Talmud.  It is rather upsetting.  On the positive side, I found that I truly enjoy medieval exegesis.  The intelligence, subtlty, and passion of some of the medievals is often quite stunning.  I miss Talmud, usually.  This was the beginning of my rabbinate choosing me.

Since then, other things have come up on my radar, 'forcing' to the surface the concerns of this rabbi.  At my first pulpit, I had a person with a significant alcohol problem.  This was a person with a PhD, whom I could not ask to lead a responsive reading.  I did not know what to do.  Looking back on it, I also believe that this person was an abused spouse, possibly physically, certainly emotionally.  I have learned much about alcohol and about spouse abuse since then.

One result of this is that I never drink at public synagogue events.  Another result of this is that I think synagogues should be dry.

Anyway, several women have confided such secrets of abuse to me during my rabbinate.  As such, this is now one of my concerns.  It chose me.  I did not choose it.

The Navy has made me travel a fair amount.  Jennifer thinks I am crazy.  I only take one room key at hotels.  She always knows the name of the hotel, my room number, and the phone number immediately.  I avoid even the appearance of indiscretion.  Such indiscretion is very much a type of abuse.

And I am firmly of the belief that myths should be destroyed.  God does not have a finger hovering over the divine 'smite' button just because I might say Kaddish while my parents are still alive.  There are other customs that have such silliness as their basis.  While I do not necessarily believe in tossing such customs, your Judaism should be intellectually healthy as well as spiritually healthy.  It is not enough to keep a tradition.  Tradition is wonderful, but Tevye, the quintessential traditionalist from "Fiddler," cites the Good Book incorrectly every time.  Be Tevye in your attachment to tradition.  But do not at all be Tevye in your understanding of it.

Another matter that has become prominent in my rabbinic thought is that of the cost of Jewish living. This is particularly the most pronounced and annoying in the area of kashrut.  I get that kosher food is more expensive, especially when dealing with meat.  That is okay, I suppose.  Still, I do not support dramatically increasing costs for unnecessary and irrelevant stringencies, either on a personal level, or especially on a communal level.  If you have the financial wherewithal to spend more money on a stringency, stop and ask yourself instead whether a charity might be able to use that extra money.  If you have the financial wherewithal to spend more money on a stringency and you do not wish to give the extra to a charity, fine.  Just keep it a personal stringency.  Your stringency should not bankrupt others.  On a greater note, many people will use piety (knowingly or unknowingly) as a means of masking other psychological concerns, such as OCD.  Piety is wonderful.  Make sure it is piety and not pathology.

These have been my concerns over the years: abuse, alcohol, intellectual maturity, and the cost of Jewish living.  There are others.  My colleagues have their concerns.  I suspect though that their concerns are not so much matters that these rabbis chose.  Rather, like mine, they are matters that chose the rabbi.

Have a good evening everyone.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Now Just Another Minute....

Top of the evening everyone...

Several weeks ago, Jennifer wrote a blog entry entitled Weird Things Couples Fight About.  The title says everything about the subject matter.  That blog entry got over 40 hits.

I am confused.  I thought that you, our loyal readers, should hear the other side of that story.  So I wrote Now Just a Minute in respectful but amusing response.  It got all of eight hits.

I fully respect that couples disagree.  It seems though that our loyal readers should be willing to read both sides of the story.  There are 32 hits missing from mine.

Have a lovely evening everyone.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Bounced Cheques...

Hi all...

Every year, I am required to do on-line trainings for the Navy.  I did several of them today.

One of the courses was on computer security.  As a short exercise, I had to look at five sheets of 'paper' and decide which could go to recycling and which had to go to the shredder.  One of the sheets of paper was a bank statement.  Obviously, that goes to the shredder.

The character who takes us through this on-line course is none other than Uncle Sam.  For you Canadians out there, he is this grandfatherly symbol of the United States.

I have done this course before.  It has not really been updated over the last couple of years.

This year, I looked closely at the bank statement.  The owner of the account was Uncle Sam.  His address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Again, for you Canadians out there, this is the address of the White House.

The bank statement started off with a balance of $0.55, and took in approximately $1450 in deposits over the month.  Cheques and withdrawals totaled approximately $1515.

I am forced to conclude that the White House is overdrawn.

I have been chuckling about this all day.

Did you all know that banking problems can affect my security clearance?  They can also affect any potential to deploy.  The reason is that those folks with banking problems are more susceptible to bribery than are those who manage to keep their finances in order.

I am still chuckling.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Note...

Top of the evening everyone...

My congregation receives an e-mail from me every Friday morning.  Its primary purpose is to convey information about the goings-on over the next several weeks.  I have started adding a link to a youtube video from the world of Jewish music.  This is not as easy as you might think.

Usually, I look to the Jewish calendar or to the weekly Torah portion.  If there is music I know based on one of those two things, I will grab that.  The yahrtzeit for Debbie Friedman comes in the beginning of the month of Shevat, usually around the end of January or beginning of February.  At that week, the musical choice is always one of her compositions.  At Veterans/Remembrance Day, I always pick a version of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"  It is based on a Yiddish lullaby.  One of the people asking for a dime is a soldier.

If someone is going to be in concert in Israel, I will often put up a link to that person's music, in the hopes that someone will buy me a ticket.

Here is the interesting thing.  I may have a bit of a closed mind in certain ways.  If you were to go back and listen to all of the pieces that I have put up there, I have assiduously avoided two things.  I have avoided music with Ashkenazi pronunciation.  Part of the message that I wish to convey in what I think the Jewish world should hear is that the correct pronunciation of Hebrew should be used at all times.

I also avoid music from people who will not sing in a mixed group.  There is a difference between liturgical music and other music.  While I can respect the position of not hearing a woman's voice in a liturgical setting, I will give it no countenance in any other setting.  It is not the mindset I wish to create.  It is not the mindset I wish to promote.

This part of my weekly e-mail has on occasion taken a substantial amount of time to get right.

Have a good evening everyone.