Sunday, April 23, 2006

more from the nyt

What I thought made for a great opening to an overall delightful Op-Ed, The Modern Elizabethan:
AN academic colleague of mine once asked me who had made me into a writer. "And I don't mean one of those creative writing professors," he said to me, a creative writing professor.

"Well, who do you mean?" I asked, probably ungrammatically, a thing creative writing professors get to do.

"I mean, who was your Shakespeare professor?" he asked; he was of course a Shakespeare professor himself.

what society has come to...

Wanted: New Roommaid:
Shorty after Stephen McCarthy moved to Las Vegas in 2004, he offered a female friend an interesting proposition: if she kept the place tidy, cleaned up after his dog Maya and brought in the paper each morning, she could live in his house rent free.
While it seems men may always have ulterior motives ("Guys," he says, "always have it in the back of their mind." ), even when it comes to "roommaids," one claimed this wasn't so saying, "I'd like to meet somebody," he says, "but it's not going to be my roommate."

Though Richard Feynman hired a "roommaid" and she later became his third wife...

good line from the nyt

From "And You Thought Abercrombie & Fitch Was Pushing It?":
But he is quite possibly the most unorthodox Jew in the history of the shmatte business.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

on the latest evolution finding

Tina Fey:
Scientists have discovered a fossil of a 375 million-year-old fish with a reptilian jaw and a swiveling neck that they say is a long-sought missing link between fish and walking land creatures. Disturbingly, they found it in a Red Lobster fried-seafood platter.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

another genius and his baggage

A biography on Oppenheimer won one of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. I hope to read it, but for now, I was reading a bit about him here:
Despite his evident success as a scholar, he was plagued with doubts. In a letter to a friend, Oppenheimer concluded a listing of his feverish academic pursuits with the abrupt phrase "and wish I were dead." As an adult he recalled that, during his adolescent and college years, nearly everything about him aroused "a very great sense of revulsion and wrong."

Thomson accepted Oppenheimer as a research student and gave him the task of preparing thin films of beryllium. Oppenheimer regarded the work as "a terrible bore" and pronounced himself "so bad at it that it is impossible to feel that I am learning anything."

Oppenheimer celebrated the end of the war and the success of the Manhattan Project, but the death toll and chilling descriptions of radiation sickness had a sobering effect. He informed government officials that most scientists in the project would not continue to pursue such work. "I feel we have blood on our hands," he told President Harry S. Truman. "Never mind. It'll all come out in the wash," Truman replied.
The only genius that I can think of off-hand who was not disturbed was Richard Feynman…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

what little people feel like on the subway

From Express Train

Monday, April 10, 2006

on cleaning

You Want It Clean? You Clean It!
Two things are clear. First, women still do more housework then men. Married women spend twice as much time on housework than their husbands, and single women spend twice as much time on housework as single men. Second, much time that could be spent cleaning is spent fighting about it.
The thing a lot of women miss is that you can’t make men do more than they would do on their own. Clearly, most men don’t need things to be as clean as women prefer them to be; hence they are likely to get resentful if they’re made to work harder than they would if they were living alone. (It’s kind of like when you work on a group project, and you’re generally a slacker, but your group wants to get an “A,” so you are forced to work overtime…It can be extremely frustrating…) However, if roles are reversed, and the woman is working and supporting her husband, that’s when I think it's only fair for the woman to expect the man to more housework...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The “Jewish personality” according to Nuland

From Maimonides by Sherwin B. Nuland (pp. 23-24):
Among Jews, especially those of an intellectual bent, there is commonly a kind of restlessness, an anticipation of uncertainty, ambiguity, imperfection and the sense that one must do something about it even though the total solution will never be found. Many have lived in relative comfort with a chronic sense of discomfort. Irritability and a persistent low-grade aggravation are in the very marrow of such people. Though the qualities rankle, they may be the source of an active response to the world, whether productive or counterproductive. As the sociologist Thorstein Veblen famously put it in his frequently quoted essay of 1919, The Intellectual Pre-eminence of Jews in Modern Europe, “They are neither a complaisant nor a contented lot, these aliens of uneasy feet.”

Out of this restless dissatisfaction there arises a skepticism, a questioning of oneself of one’s place in the predominantly Christian world and, indeed, of the givens of that world, both great and small. Many Jews have felt themselves less bound by the encompassing assumptions of the surrounding culture, in part because they could never be wholly a part of it. “The first requisite for constructive work in modern science, and indeed for any work of inquiry that shall bring enduring results, is a skeptical frame of mind,” Veblen correctly pointed out.
I’ll buy it, although I feel like this “Jewish personality” is becoming less common with increased assimilation and seeming acceptance of Jews into the Christian world here in the states...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

when criticism could be a good sign

Bill Gates mocks $100 laptop project:
"If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type," Gates said.
(Geez, Bill, some people don't have billions of dollars and can't afford "to get a decent computer.")

And MIT Professor Dismisses Laptop Criticism:
"When you have both Intel and Microsoft on your case, you know you're doing something right," Negroponte said, prompting applause from the audience of several hundred open-source software devotees.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Chabad* masked as hipster synagogue

With Yoga, Comedy and Parties, Synagogues Entice Newcomers:
The pioneers of outreach to secular Jews are the Chabad-Lubavitchers, members of an Orthodox Hasidic sect that is based in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Although their tactics have sometimes drawn controversy, their work has become a model for many Jews.

Dovi and Esty Scheiner, a young Lubavitch couple who moved from Crown Heights to TriBeCa several years ago, are trying to bring Judaism to the cool and hip in Lower Manhattan.

In order to reach the downtown audience, it was necessary to rethink the traditional synagogue approach, said Rabbi Scheiner. "This is a very anti-establishment, anti-organized-religion type of community."

Instead of holding religious services, they gave fancy cocktail parties in art galleries and lofts. In the middle of the events, Rabbi Scheiner would offer a few words of Jewish teaching.

The parties have now given way to the SoHo Synagogue, which they believe is the first Jewish house of worship in the neighborhood. About 250 people attended a dedication party last month for the synagogue's first home, on Varick Street near Canal Street. It is a stylishly decorated 5,000-square-foot space, complete with chic couches, a lacy flora-and-fauna-patterned curtain that functions as the mechitza separating the sexes and an avant-garde sheet-metal ark to store the Torah.
Also, watch the The SoHo Synagogue video.

*For the record: it has been pointed out that the SoHo Synagogue is not officially a "Chabad establishment."

in favor of the new design

Nytimes launches a redesigned version of their website. See details in A Letter to Our Readers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

back in HSI zone

After nearly a week of very limited internet access, I decided to catch up on my reading (and over did it). Some amusing posts I came across: (I'm thinking I might make better use of my time if I switched to dial-up internet even if it costs me more than cable...)