funny jPhone video

iPhone Video: But does it have a shabbos mode?

After this video you definitely won't be able to wait until June to get an iPhone even if it does not have a shabbos mode.

Conan Video: New iPhone can be used as peyes (sideburns)

Watch for peyes, (Wikipedia: "the often extended and curled hair from the sideburns worn by many Hasidic Jews") second to last example, in the hilarious Conan video:


Israel Baseball League's Opening Day

Israel Baseball's Opening Day: Modiin Crushes Petach Tikvah, 9-1

Walmart vs. Monsey

Walmart is a discount department store. The idea that it is a threat to the way of life of Hasidic Jews is nuts. The NY Times really flopped on the coverage of this story, writing that some say the store, "Will pollute the spiritual environment" of the holy Monsey community. Well actually it will replace a drive in theater - where only sacred activities occurred - and thus for the first time it will bring sin into the camp of the holy.

Funny thing. There is a rabbi in a nearby community who is accused of real moral turpitude. It is nutty nutty nutty to think that interloper Walmart - the largest retailer in the world - will generate moral shortcomings for this area. The Monsey folk do very well without foreign intervention.

So how did the Times get into this situation - declaring a moral battlefield has emerged in the leading unincorporated hamlet of shteibeldom?

The guys at the NYT love the theme of modern and progressive vs. traditional and regressive. It is one of their favorite tropes.

So our conflict stirs up images of David vs. Goliath, morals vs. sin, the sacred vs. satan... the drama that newspapers love to "discover".

Brown U will build new natatorium

I recall with great fondness swimming at 10 PM at the "new natatorium" at Brown in 1973. The pool has just opened and it was one small factor in my decision to attend Brown for graduate school. A brand new 50 meter pool - wow.

The Smith Swim Center was among the best in the nation when it opened in 1973. It featured a 50-meter long course, a 25-yard short course, spectator area, locker rooms and squash courts. Brown hosted major competitions at many levels.

The roof, which suggests a circus tent, became a landmark on the East Side.

It was my second favorite long course pool - after my favorite - the famous Gordon pool in Tel Aviv.

Well the pool has seen better days. It had to be closed because of timber rot. So now the Brown Corporation (=Board of Trustees) has committed to building a new $35 million structure. Good decision.


Rumor: Apple Selling Itself to Google

I could not resist posting this rumor direct from the Apple 2.0 blog - love that logo.

Anatomy of a Rumor: Google To Buy Apple?
My friend and colleague John Heilemann should be flattered.

A blind quote buried deep in his eight-page cover story on Steve Jobs in this week's New York Magazine has launched a cottage industry of journalistic speculation about whether Google (GOOG) might actually buy Apple (AAPL)....

Newsweek's Nattering on Nile Niqabs

Sinister and scary. That is what we are taught here about masked and hooded people. The KKK. Ghosts. Bandits in bandanas. Bad guys. Crooks. Bigots. Criminals.

So how can we be expected to react to the niqab - the Islamic veil? I don't like it. A checkout girl at the Walgreen's Drug Store in Teaneck wears one. I felt uncomfortable paying at the counter. Cultural conditioning is a strong force.

Newsweek writes about the rise of the niqab in Egypt.

Behind the Veil
An Egyptian court has ruled that universities can't bar Islamic face-coverings. But that's unlikely to stop the headdress attracting unwelcome attention on the streets of Cairo....more


Vatican's 10 Commandments for Drivers

These “suggestions” are a great start. Next time I hope the Church is more “commanding,” like saying clearly, “Thou shalt not drive when drunk” and put some teeth into the edict by refusing to give communion to any parishioner convicted of drunk driving. And while they are at it, the Church might want to move on to outlaw a malady that kills 400,000 a year in the US with another direct commandment: “Thou shalt not smoke.” (Hat tip to the BR Road Warrior. )

Vatican's 10 Commandments for drivers

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

The Vatican on Tuesday issued a set of "Ten Commandments" for drivers, telling motorists not to kill, not to drink and drive, and to help fellow travelers in case of accidents.

An unusual document from the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people also warned that cars can be "an occasion of sin" - particularly when they are used for dangerous passing or for prostitution.

It warned about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out "primitive" behavior in motorists, including "impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code."

It urged motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray when behind the wheel.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the office, told a news conference that the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving had become such a big part of contemporary life.

He noted that the Bible was full of people on the move, including Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus - and that his office is tasked with dealing with all "itinerant" people - including refugees, prostitutes, truck drivers and the homeless.

"We know that as a consequence of transgressions and negligence, 1.2 million people die each year on the roads," Martino said. "That's a sad reality, and at the same time, a great challenge for society and the church."

The document, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," extols the benefits of driving - family outings, getting the sick to the hospital, allowing people to see other cultures.

But it laments a host of ills associated with automobiles: drivers use their cars to show off; driving "provides an easy opportunity to dominate others" by speeding; drivers can kill themselves and others if they don't get their cars regular tuneups, if they drink, use drugs or fall asleep at the wheel.

It also pointed the finger at traffic problems particular to Rome: "Danger also derives from city cars, which are driven by youngsters and adults who do not have (full) driving licenses, and the reckless use of motorbikes and motorcycles."

It called for drivers to obey speed limits and to exercise a host of Christian virtues: charity to fellow drivers, prudence on the roads, hope of arriving safely and justice in the event of crashes.

And it suggested prayer might come in handy - making the sign of the cross before starting off and saying the rosary along the way. The rosary was particularly well suited to recitation by all in the car since its "rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver's attention."

The document is intended for bishops conferences around the world, and as such offered recommendations for their pastoral workers, including setting up chapels along motorways and having "periodic celebration of liturgies" at major road hubs, truck stops and restaurants.

The "Drivers' Ten Commandments," as listed by the document, are:

  • 1. You shall not kill.
  • 2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
  • 3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
  • 4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
  • 5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
  • 6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
  • 7. Support the families of accident victims.
  • 8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
  • 9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
  • 10. Feel responsible toward others.


How to avoid a speeding ticket

On Rosh Hashanah the junior rabbi at our synagogue gave a sermon that included a detailed story about a speeding ticket. So that is the connection here from this blog's main focus to the article below.

Paris can learn a lot from N.J.
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Maybe I've covered too many drunken-driving sentencings, but somehow I managed to withhold my outrage over the cruelty inflicted on teary, distraught Paris Hilton when a California judge, Michael Sauer, insisted that she serve all her 45 days in jail -- not in her Hollywood Hills mansion.
Sauer is the same jurist who didn't accept the heiress' defense for driving in violation of probation tied to an alcohol-related conviction. In case you missed her excuse, here it is: She misunderstood what her agents told her about her sentence.
Her reasoning ranks at the bottom of the excuse barrel with these Golden State contrivances uncovered on "Speeders," a Court TV reality show that tapes motorists at traffic stops:
"I washed my hair and didn't have time to hand-dry it."
"I'm trying to get home in time to take my fertility pills."
Surely, Californians can do better than this.
Like film acting, which began in Fort Lee, avoiding traffic tickets is an art form pioneered in New Jersey, where road warriors have embraced it as part of the culture. After all, ours is the state where the governor doesn't buckle up, where the attorney general comes to her boyfriend's rescue at a traffic stop, and where cops' friends routinely get off with warnings simply by showing a Policemen's Benevolent Association shield.
Attend municipal courts in the Garden State and you'll see lawyers and clients plying a dubious craft that gained momentum in 2000 when the unsafe driving statute was adopted. Pleading guilty to this violation, 39:4-97.2, allows motorists accused of such offenses as speeding and careless driving to avoid points by paying fines of $50 to $500 plus a $250 surcharge.
Lawyers and defendants who can afford $750 (plus legal fees and court costs) like this system because it spares them the bother and confusion of trials, during which each side offers conflicting testimony and celebrity heiresses run a risk of crying for their mommies when they lose.
So, take note, Californians, here are some of the sophisticated ways that New Jersey road warriors have been perfecting their craft, ideas that actually work on occasion:
Bergenfield police couldn't give a ticket to the person they found in the driver's seat in March when they stopped a car for allegedly running a stoplight. The reason: He was 11. But an adult in the car, Jose Morisete, was charged with allowing a minor to operate a vehicle and endangering the welfare of a child. Police said Morisete was under the influence of alcohol.
Passaic's Richard Doren avoided several tickets last year even though he parked illegally on Howe Avenue. The reason: He displayed a card that read "PBA Local 14." "I made it myself," Doren said, adding that he also got nailed for several tickets despite the bogus card.
(But consider this caveat: One former traffic cop remembered refusing courtesy to a speeder who handed him a business card bearing the name of "my friend," Patrolman Ronald Beattie. The reason: "Look at my name tag," said the cop. "I'm Ron Beattie.")
Another ex-policeman said he refused to give a female driver a speeding ticket even though she was going way over the limit. The reason: She was stark naked. "I had one year to go to get my pension," he said, "and I sure wasn't getting involved in that."
Jo-Anne Glock beat a Paramus parking ticket simply by showing up three times to municipal court. The reason: Court ended before her case was called the first time, and the judge couldn't hear her case on the second two court dates because of a conflict -- he once represented the policeman who ticketed her. "He begrudgingly dismissed my case," said Jo-Anne.
Inez Bisconti offered the strategy I liked best. The Harrington Park woman avoided a ticket with this simple, honest reply after rolling through a stop sign in Washington Township: "Yes, I know, and boy was I stupid," she told the cop.
So, guile, smart lawyering and persistence can sometimes beat tickets, but make room for honesty, too. It's far better than telling the cop: "I pay your salary!" Experts advise staying in the car and being contrite.
"Show the cop who's boss," said Glen Belofsky, whose parkingticket.com Web site is devoted to fighting parking tickets, "and the boss certainly isn't you."
If stopped, Belofsky recommends saying: "If you say I broke the law, I'm sure you're right, but if you look at my record, you'll see I'm a clean driver, so I'd appreciate any break."
Of course, this approach has its limits, like the time Patrolman William Barbieri pulled over a former high school classmate in Closter. The driver was too drunk to recognize him.
"Gimme a break," he pleaded. "I know Billy Barbieri."
"I'm Bill," said the cop as he placed him under arrest. After the driver was convicted of drunken driving, Barbieri figured he had sacrificed an ex-classmate's goodwill in a good cause, but he never calculated exactly how good a cause it was.
"I ran into him a year later and he thanked me," the cop recalled. "He said he was an alcoholic and the arrest changed his life. He hadn't taken another drink since then."
We can only guess what Paris Hilton might tell Judge Sauer in another year or two.


Judaism's Vast Theological Wasteland

The Forward published an op-ed lamenting Judaism's vast theological wasteland: Where Have All the Theologians Gone? opinion by Elliot Cosgrove.

It's not a very good essay. The author says he does not know of any young Jewish theologians of note.

When Cosgrove in his essay gets past the name-dropping, he reveals a banality of thinking which underscores the point he laments. He asks at the end, "Do we believe that Mount Sinai really happened? Do we believe that the Torah continues to command us, shape us and bind us as a people? How can a Jew stand simultaneously at the base of Sinai and firmly in modernity?” The answers to Cosgrove's "key" theological questions are: Yes; yes; and that's what religion is all about.

His call to make "Judaism compelling to the Jews of its age" is straight out of 4th grade Hebrew school where a student might ask, Why is this Rashi relevant to what I had for breakfast? That’s not the all. He concludes, "The time is ours. Nevertheless, the question remains: Is anyone interested in being part of the conversation?" Here Cosgrove ignores the reality that serious theology requires sustained inquiry and study, publication and review. It’s never been a “conversation.”

And the major reasons we don't have a larger number of serious theologians are pretty clear. First, there is no place to go to study to become one. Show me a graduate program where a student must master the tools to become a professional Jewish theologian. Great thinkers must be properly trained and groomed. They don’t just rise up out of thin air to start “conversations.”

Second, when a creative thinker does come forward and publish, despite all the great obstacles he or she must overcome, that person unfortunately often is subject to attacks by the right wing rabbis and, even worse, usually is ignored by the progressive rabbis and scholars.

And the lay people are happy to read about “kosher sex” and consider that a substantial theological inquiry.

The result? Because of the shortage of trained constructive theologians, the decades have passed and neither the Holocaust nor the State of Israel has been integrated properly into our current Jewish religious thought and practice.


Columbia U Mocks British Boycott of Israeli Academics

Ridicule is usually not the first line of response in sober academic discourse.

Thanks go to President Bollinger of Columbia U for utterly dismissing and dissing the British academics' boycott Israel movement.
Statement by President Lee C. Bollinger on
British University and College Union Boycott

As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate -- as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their governments' policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.


The Sopranos, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Last Supper

Another gem from the Times using religious imagery to report on current events:
The TV Watch
One Last Family Gathering

There was no good ending, so “The Sopranos” left off without one.

The abrupt finale last night was almost like a prank, a mischievous dig at viewers who had agonized over how television’s most addictive series would come to a close. The suspense of the final scene in the diner was almost cruel. And certainly that last bit of song — “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey — had to be a joke.

After eight years and so much frenzied anticipation, any ending would have been a letdown. Viewers are conditioned to seek a resolution, happy or sad, so it was almost fitting that this HBO series that was neither comedy nor tragedy should defy expectations in its very last moments. In that way at least “The Sopranos” delivered a perfectly imperfect finish.

The ending was a reminder of what made David Chase’s series about New Jersey mobsters so distinctive from the beginning. “The Sopranos” was the most unusual and realistic family drama in television history. There have been many good Mafia movies and one legendary trilogy, but fans had to look to literature to find comparable depictions of the complexity and inconsistencies of American family life. It was sometimes hard to bear the encomiums — the saga of the New Jersey mob family has been likened to Cheever, Dickens and Shakespeare; scripts were pored over as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. But its saving grace was that the series was always many different things at once....
And not to be outdone, the Daily News asks, "So was that Tony Soprano's Last Supper or what?"

Jews for Libby

Blogs were replete last week with the letters to the judge on behalf of Lewis Libby.

Here are some of the Jews (among many others) who support Mr. Libby and asked the judge to be lenient (with thanks and some links to thesmokinggun.com) - not that there is anything wrong with this...
  • literary editor of The New Republic Leon Wieseltier,
  • former Richard Nixon counsel Leonard Garment
  • former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky
  • Sharon emissary, Arie Genger
  • Formerly w/ defense dept., Richard Perle
  • Commentary editor, Norman Podhoretz
  • Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross
  • diplomat, Henry Kissinger

Talmudic Study of the iPhone

Leave it to the NY Times to come up with the most colorful description for the iPhone mania:
A Few Details of the iPhone Galvanize the Apple Cadre
These days advertisers fret over DVR owners fast-forwarding through their commercials, but that was far from the case with the release by Apple last week of four iPhone commercials, which viewers pored over with Talmudic intensity.

The product was announced in January, and some teaser ads for it ran during the Academy Awards ceremonies in February. Last week, three new television commercials for the iPhone divulged the product’s release date — June 29 — and showed off a range of features that led Apple fans to seek more details....


Google Will Scan 10 Million More University Books

Remember: their plan is to scan every book in the world.

U makes deal with Google to put up to 1 million books online.

By Mary Jane Smetanka, Star Tribune

Up to 1 million books in the University of Minnesota's libraries will become part of Google's project to put every book in the world online, U officials said this morning.

The new agreement is between Google, the Big Ten institutions and the University of Chicago. Google will scan up to 10 million volumes from libraries at those institutions.
"We're talking about library collections developed over 150-plus years," said U of M Librarian Wendy Pradt Lougee. "This is a true national resource, as much for its diversity as for its sheer size."

Among the distinctive U collections that will be targeted first for scanning are books on Scandinavian history, literature and culture; forestry; bees and beekeeping; and medicine, including oncology, radiation and pediatrics.

Google's library project, which was announced in 2004, has been controversial. Some publishers have sued, saying copyright could be violated. But supporters say the project, which is free for anyone to use, could save researchers weeks or months of research by allowing them to locate sources at the touch of a mouse.

The contract with the U and other schools in the new agreement will allow Google to scan entire books into its system if they were published before 1923. For works that are copyrighted, Google will provide a few sentences of the work online and then direct readers to libraries that have the book or to bookstores that sell it.

The contract with the U is for six years with an option to renew. No money will change hands. Google essentially is digitizing large parts of the U library for free. If the U did it itself, it would take years and cost about $60 per volume.

Lougee said the project doesn't mean the death of traditional libraries. On the contrary, she said, her previous experience at the University of Michigan with 19th-century collections that had been buried in stacks but were digitized shows that "hidden treasures" can be opened to the world. More people came to see and use those documents in person once they could be seen online, she said.

"They got 1 million [online] hits a month worldwide, and comments from people all over the world," she said. "You see the power the search gives, and the way it can lead people to the real thing."

Twenty-five universities from around the world have now opened their libraries to Google. They include the University of Michigan, University of California system, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Oxford in England. The New York Public Library also is involved.


Israeli Rabbi to girls: dodge the draft by lying (YNET)

This makes all rabbis look bad - see the talkbacks on the article.

Please cut it out rabbosi.

Rabbi Aviner: Girls should dodge army service

Prominent rabbi says recruitment of women may bring about spiritual deterioration. 'Who do we want in the army, women or the Almighty?' he asks

by Kobi Nahshoni

"Girls should dodge army service, as their enlistment is tantamount to a mitzvah that entails an offense," Rabbi Shlomo Aviner stated in an article written for the synagogue pamphlet, Be'ahava U'Be'emuna.

In an article titled "Recruitment of girls is absolutely forbidden!", the rabbi of Beit El and head of the Ateret Kohanim yeshiva presented several halachic rulings regarding the issue that were given in recent decades, and stated that despite the "Mitzvah War" the people of Israel were engaged in, the modesty of women must not be compromised.

According to the rabbi, a girl who avoids joining the army only strengthens it, because she allows for God to be present in the IDF base. "This is our choice: Who do we want in the army, women or the Almighty?" he wrote, adding that the recruitment of women may lead to spiritual deterioration among soldiers.

Rabbi Aviner added that in certain cases, girls are even permitted to evade service by making false declarations to the IDF about their religious beliefs.

Aviner advised female teens to prefer Sherut Leumi (national service) over service in the IDF, reminding them that there were no women in the armies of Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, the Hasmoneans or Simon Bar Kochba.