Archive for the ‘Seth’ Category

Does Chanukah Really Have to Jump on the Commercialism Bandwagon?

December 23, 2006

One of the benefits of being a member of a minority faith/race/culture is that marketers of stupid shit usually don’t cater too much to you, leaving the crass displays of commercialism to other groups with larger numbers.

Well, not always. While reading one of the local papers I saw an ad for Chanukkah related chew toys. This is the closest I could find online, but it really doesn’t do it justice.dreidel

Sweet. I too can watch a dog shred a symbol relevant to my religion. Archana, you got anything similar to deal with?


My 2006 Election Predictions

November 7, 2006

Senate: Tester, Casey, Whitehouse, Brown, Menendez, Cantwell, Cardin and Webb all win for the D’s. For the Republicans, Corker wins relatively big and Sen. Talent wins a nail-biter. Lieberman wins handily.

House: 26 seats move to the Democratic side. Close winners include McNerney (CA-11) , Kleeb (NE-03), Lampson (TX-22), Trauner (WY-AL), Grant (ID-01), Paccione (CO-04), Mahoney (FL-16), Cranley (OH-01) , Yarmuth (KY-03) and all three CT races.

Texas Governor, in order: Perry, Bell, Strayhorn, Kinky.

PS – Does anyone know how to use Sunlight Labs’ Popup Politicians on blogs?

Although I’m a proud independent, I’ll be watching the races closely to see if dems can pull out some big gains. I’ll be especially rooting for McNerney against Pombo in CA-11.

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Kol Nidre at Beyt Tikkun

October 2, 2006

Tonight is Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of antonement. Usually I spend Jewish holidays with relatives at their synagogues. I could’ve gone to Etz Chayim where my aunt and uncle belong yet again, but I thought I would try out Michael Lerner’s Beyt Tikkun.

Beyt Tikkun is a part of the Jewish Renewal movement, which seeks to:

heal the world by promoting justice, freedom, responsibility, caring for all life and the earth that sustains all life —tikkun olam.”

There’s lots of singing and dancing and the prayers have a comparatively modern language. Michael Lerner is a pretty well known figure in the religious lefty world. He’s the editor of Tikkun magazine, author of The Left Hand of God, one of the organizers of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and all kinds of other stuff as well. His version of Judaism places great value on the concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. As a result, he frequently brings up Darfur, torture, the Bush administration, AIPAC, “Israel/Palestine”, and a host of other relevant political issues.

I’m not really sure what to make of my experience. I was raised in a very conservative synagogue where dancing and other mystic tools for achieving “a connection with the G0d-Energy” were not present. It was pretty buttoned-down. And even though I’m not a particularly buttoned-down kinda guy, I feel a little uncomfortable in mystical Jewish settings.

Actually, I’m sort of uncomfortable around dance in general. It’s the one thing I’m pretty self-conscious about. I don’t really care what people think of my looks or attire (I don’t own a comb or a brush) but I do have something left inside me from awkward middle school years that has me feeling weird dancing in public. Lots of alcohol helps ease the discomfort in a club atmosphere, but that’s a no-go during services. I’m not proud of my self-consciousness, a trait I view as a negative, but I admit it and am trying to change. I knew Beyt Tikkun was pretty touchy-feely and dance-heavy, and I partly chose it over other shuls to challenge myself. When I see the rhythm-challenged middle aged white people dancing their way towards the Divine I’m more than a little jealous. After a while I felt more comfortable dancing with the crowd of several hundreds, but I was still pretty restrained.

The services were nice but a little long. There was a really good band and the content fit my level of understanding of Hebrew, customs and traditions. One of the interesting things was the translation of the Ashamnu. The prayer seeks forgiveness for an alphabetical list of sins that anyone in the community has committed during the previous year. Most translations, in order to keep the alphabetical aspect in English, tend to be for sins like stealing, lying, cheating, etc. Tonight it was sins like poisoning the sea and land with toxic chemicals, homophobia, xenophobia, building weapons of mass destruction, etc.

The services really challenged me. I’m not used to my religion and my politics intersecting so closely, and I felt a little uncomfortable. Which is good. That’s why I pray, to get outside my comfort zone to expand my mind to a higher level of consciousness.

So to all those who are fasting, have an easy one. To those that I’ve wronged in the past year, sorry ’bout that.

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Great Ramadan Blog: Blogging Ramadan

September 27, 2006

Check out Blogging Ramadan, it’s a bunch of Muslims (and some non-Muslims) from around the world talking about their experiences during Ramadan. There’s a very wide range of opinions, viewpoints and personalities, and should be required reading for anyone who has ever started a sentence with “The thing about Islam/Muslims is…”. A great read and worth perusing multiple times over the next month.

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L’Shana Tovah Tikatevu and Ramadan Mubarak

September 27, 2006

Friday night was the start of both the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the Jewish new year) and the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of an intense ten day period of fasting (at the end on Yom Kippur), reflection and repentance. Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting, reflection and repentance. Both began at sundown.

The Arabic word for blessing is “Mubarak” (Ramadan Mubarak is a common greeting between Muslims during Ramadan), and the Hebrew word is “Baruch”.

The Arabic word for peace is “Salaam” and the Hebrew word is “Shalom”.

Jews and Muslims have much in common. Here’s to hoping that all who celebrate these holidays have blessed, peaceful, reflective holiday seasons that allow people to recognize our faults and forgive those of others.

For instance, by staying up late writing a blog that no one reads I’m pissing off and neglecting my girlfriend. And I apologize publicly to Sara for being mildly annoyed at her that she won’t ever post here and to Archana for secretly enjoying her horror stories about her time in Guatemala. See folks, that wasn’t so bad!

On a more cheery note, my good friend Lenny wished me the following blessing which I’d like to pass on to all of you:

“I hope the holiday season is joyous and meaningful for you, filled with a renewal of faith in the possibility of radical change – from the most personal to the most global. And treats. Always treats.”

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George Allen’s “Ethnic Rally”

September 13, 2006

Photo from Talking Points Memo.

“Ethnic Rally”, huh? George Allen, Republican candidate for senator in Virginia, seems to be have a hard time being inoffensive. First, there was the whole “Macaca” thing. Then, to make up for it, he has an “ethnic rally” to show that he likes and is liked by all kinds of “ethnic” folk.

Does “ethnic” mean anyone but white folks? How bout people of Greek ancestry? Arab? Jewish? Italian?

You’d think that a senator would be more used to the politically correct reality that is American politics by now, or at least have someone to talk to that might have an “ethnic” perspective.

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Ineloquent reflections on 9/11

September 12, 2006

Since its the fifth anniversary of 9/11 I guess I should have something profound to say. Well, I don’t, but here’s what’s on my mind right now, at 2:04 AM when I ought to be asleep:

I feel terrible for those who lost loved ones. I feel proud of those on Flight 93 who took matters into their own hands and kicked some ass. I feel sad that the heartfelt sympathy the world felt for us here in the US has probably disintegrated by now. I feel glad that firefighters get more respect now.

Its weird; I’d never been to NYC before 9/11/01, but I had been to such terror hotspots as London and Jerusalem. Being Jewish, terrorism wasn’t this abstract thing that happened oceans away, it happened to people just like me all the time in Israel, and occassionally in places like France, Russia and Argentina. I’m Jewish and I’m American, and those two facets of me usually blend cohesively. But before 9/11 I did think that the US was pretty isolated from the violence that routinely plagues the rest of the world. Americans didn’t seem to have much of a connection with terrorism.

Well, that seems to have changed. The way politicians (of all stripes) talk nowadays is of an impending and possible victory over terrorism seems a little naive to me. I don’t think we as a society will ever be able to stop terror. It’s certainly nothing new.

So with that in mind, hopefully we can do our best to recognize it, minimize it, and learn to live with it.

And on a more intellectual note, check out the Wikipedia entries on terrorism and 9/11. Pretty incredible that these rich articles were created by volunteers. Both are worth reading and reflecting upon.

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WordPress is really hard for me (really)

August 6, 2006

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a wordpress blog hosted by an outside source (as opposed to this one which is hosted by, hence the URL). I’ve had a really hard time trying to customize themes, the vPIP plugin for my videos seems to work on some other computers but not mine (I’d love to hear if it works for you), I’ve had a hard time changing the feed to a feedburner one, and haven’t gotten a lot of useful advice from the codex (I was told to fool with my .htaccess file, and I don’t know what it is or where to find it). Everyone always talks about how easy wordpress is, but that has simply not been my experience (although is pretty simple).

Currently I’m at Wordcamp, which is a bunch of wordpress users talking about wordpress. Everyone here is really nice, but a lot of the sessions I voted for that were more oriented towards beginners were nixed. It’s still interesting, and I got to meet Enric of vPIP fame and have him help me out a bit (I’ve got some problem with my Windows Media Player that neither of us could work out), but I’ve been a little disappointed. I asked if there would be some sort of a WordPress meetup that wordpress guru numero uno and fellow Texan Matt seemed interested in, but there were dozens of questions that he was also interested in, so doubt sure it will happen. Posting notes in coffeeshops asking for wordpress help in return for beer or money have so far yielded no responses, but that’s probably because Ritual Roasters doesn’t have one, torpedoing my best opportunity.

I guess I’m just frustrated because it’s been a long time since I’ve been so lost and baffled by computers. What I want to do is interview people on Caltrain on a video recorder, transfer it to my computer, edit it a bit, host it on Blip and embed it in my blog to learn about the nation and people of Caltrainistan. At each step of the way I’ve encountered major problems. My recorder has some weird a/v issue where the audio doesn’t quite link up with the video, Windows Movie Maker is unreasonably hard to download (the website lies, it’s not automatically downloaded if you have their auto update thing enabled), Blip erased my video for a day even though some folks could still see it (I couldn’t) and vPIP is still not easy as pie.

I have a hard time learning things from online tutorials and things, and I learn much better in person. Maybe if there had been a skillshare part where people could bust out their laptops and get into it I would have gotten more out of this. Then again, the folks who know a lot probably wouldn’t want to come because they’d be busy at the sessions.

As I read back over this it paints a rather dark picture. I have enjoyed myself, and its neat to be here. They even had brisket, which I love. I guess my expectations were a little high. Well, enough blogging, I’m gonna walk around and see if I can’t get some tech support lovin’ around here.

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I wish President Bush did this all the time…

July 18, 2006

So two noteworthy and unusual things happened today regarding President Bush. First of all, he spoke candidly, as if no one was listening. But wait, they were.

I’ve noticed a stark contrast between the Republicans and non-Republicans that I’m around. The Repubs think that Bush’s greatest character trait is honesty and straight-shooterness. Liberals and radicals think he is usually misleading at best, and lying at worst. Today Bush spoke what he really felt. He used a the big bad “s word” because he was, frankly, tired of Hezbollah’s shit.

Which is understandable, because (here’s the second thing) I’m tired of Syria’s Hezbollah bullshit, too! President Bush and I agreed for once. It’s actually happened a couple of times, although only his trying to close military bases and more importantly, cut farm subsidies to huge agribusinesses come to mind as other examples.

Anyway, I found his talk refreshing. I wish he just told the public what was on his mind all the time and treated us as if we were his buddies. He always gets so much credit for being the loveable guy next door, but he rarely his. He always cloaks his comments in politicospeak. I like him a lot more when he’s not trying to talk the way that his handlers want him to talk. Why can’t he always call people/countries on their bullshit? I, for one, am very curious what he really thinks about many issues. I know he doesn’t think that Iraq is “Mission Accomplished”. I’d like to know what he really thinks. We bloggers pride ourselves on speaking from the hip. Why can’t our politicians do the same?

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We’re gonna miss you!

July 18, 2006

So I’ve been waiting for Archana to say it for a while. But alas Archana will be leaving very soon, although for those of you who don’t work with her, since she’ll still be blogging here (and elsewhere…?) you probably won’t notice anything different. But she’s always the one bailing the rest of us out and picking up the slack, so we’ll miss her even though we’ve found a fabulous replacement. I might just have to get on down to Guatemala next year, and with my friend Laksh going to the cricket world cup in the West Indies in April, I might just have to make a big ole trip out of it.

On an unrelated note, I am struggling mightily with setting up a new blog. This is hosted, and I’m experimenting around with the DIY WordPress, with the whole hosting thing and whatnot. I ain’t gonna lie: it’s hard and I’m stupid. But hopefully I’ll get a lot of insight at the BrainJams Rent-An-Expert thingy in two nights. If you are in SF and have stuff to learn or teach about tech stuff, this is the place to do it. Anyone can offer a session on any tech topic, and the “students” of each session make a small donation at the end of it based on how much value they got from it. At the end of the night everyone will vote on a charity that will recieve everyone’s donations. And there’s food and beer. So I’ll be there with bells on, and others should too.

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