Category Archives: Personal

My so-called life.

Cellular Suggestions?

Last night my cell phone decided to shuffle off this mortal coil frequency. My options are as follows:

  1. Keep my much better than average deal with Sprint and spend $200-$300 to replace the phone.
  2. Cancel my Sprint contract with no penalty and sign up for another service, most likely T-Mobile (best rates on a GSM network).

Keep in mind that with me being me I have no idea where I’m going to be in the near to far future.
Any thoughts?
UPDATE: Moot point – I’d have to pay the $150 cancellation fee because the grace period ended yesterday. *sigh* At least I’m certain I will not be renewing with Sprint when the current contract is up.

Posted in Personal, Science and Technology.

Catching Up

I’m in a very strange place right now where the most interesting things going on in my life are things I’m not at liberty to discuss publicly at the moment. On the whole, life is pretty much the same as it usually has been, but there’s still some catching up to do.
Enter the bulletted list:

  • This may sound surprising coming from me, but we’re sorely lacking in good accessible poskim. To paraphrase R. Tendler, calling something a safek, throwing up your hands and being mahmir isn’t pesak, but the avoidance of pesak. Thankfully I have some numbers in my cell phone, but it’s still a problem and it’s going to get worse.
  • Speaking of cell phones, mine is literally falling apart and it’s depressingly difficult to replace. Since the current expectation these days is to replace your phone every two years, manufacturers are making cheaper phones. I can understand my model doesn’t exist anymore, but the new ones are flimsy and actually have less functionality than the one I have which I purchased for the same price two years ago.
  • Should you ever need to get a non-Mac laptop, get a Thinkpad. Best quality and service out there hands down. Personally I think I’ll be making the switch when my current one dies, but hopefully that won’t be for another few years.
  • It’s elections like these which make me proud to be a registered independent.
  • I recently signed up for Spertus College’s Feinberg E-Collection and I highly recommend it. It works very nicely and gives you significantly cheaper access to several wonderful resources, accessible from almost any computer. I happen to own the latest Bar Ilan CD, and I still find it worthwhile. Check it out.
  • If you’re in the Philly area, try to spend a day at Wissahickon Creek. It’s really close by and gorgeous on a nice fall day.
  • From the Ironic Errors Department, if you go to Israeli Government’s offical website for aliyah, the links on the page produce a “Runtime Error.” On the Facts about Israel page, the “History” link returns a “Security Error.” (At the time of this posting at least).
  • And for some blog notes, as a followup to our earlier post on the matter, the Bitachon people have since added attribution.
  • Also, you might have noticed that I’ve included a “Printer Friendly” link at the bottom of each post. Should be self-explanatory.
  • Finally, and this one is important, due to the exponential increase in blog spam I’ve had to make an important change in the site. Until now I’ve been filtering spam messages by manually approving valid comments, but the inundation of spam has made this solution far too tedious and time consuming on my part to continue. I have experimented with creating my own CAPTCHA, but completing it will take way more time than I have right now. (There is a plugin for MT3 but the load it puts on the server makes this option implausible). In the meantime, to post a comment on this site, you now have to register with Movable Type’s authentication service TypeKey. Registration is really simple and safe from what I can tell. We’ll see how this works for the time being, or at least until I find a better solution (or someone codes a CAPTCHA for me).

Hopefully we’ll have some more thoughtful posts coming soon.

Posted in Personal.

Shana Tovah!

Dear Loyal Readers,
I’d like to wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy new year. I would also like to ask mehilla for anyone I may have hurt over the course of the year.

I know I haven’t written much about my personal life as of late, partially because I’m not at liberty to do so for many things and partially because I just haven’t had the time. The short version is that things are fine, status-quo is holding in most cases and improving in others. As always, I hope to get back to blogging a little less erratically than I have been, but real life must always take precedence of the the virtual one.

I’ll be in HIR for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and I’d love to meet any readers who happen to be around then. Otherwise, I hope everyone has a holiday season which is meaningful to them, however it may be.

Shana Tovah,
Josh

Posted in Personal.

9/11: Five Years Later

Like most of the country today, I’ve been thinking about 9/11. Granted given the current geo-political situation, it’s difficult *not* to think about 9/11 since there is always something in the news reminding us. For New Yorkers, the experience is understandably much more personal. It wasn’t just your country that was attacked, but your home. The familiar iconic towers vanished, as well as the lives of many friends and loved ones. Personally, despite my extended connection with New York City, I’ve always had a somewhat detached perspective towards 9/11, mostly because I wasn’t around at the time.
I remember being in afternoon seder in Gruss learning hilchot shehita when someone came in with the news he read off the internet. Knowing this person’s jocular nature and the implausibility of the report we didn’t take him seriously at first. Eventually we went in to double check, and were shocked at the images and video. Our lagging single dial-up connection combined with the worldwide demands on the Internet throttled any incoming information. Phones were down for hours so we couldn’t even make direct connections with people. Understandably, confusion was rampant as were the feelings of uncertainty and helplessness.
Still, while we felt these emotions, we weren’t impacted directly. We worried and prayed, but our day was still basically uninterrupted; there was even a bris in Gruss the following day. Then of course, the religious hyperbole started coming in. It only took a few days until I started hearing quotes from kabbalists claiming how this would usher in the war of Gog and Magog or other signs of the impending apocalypse. Having not been so directly affected, 9/11 almost immediately became mythic; it wasn’t so much a terrorist attack but a watershed event in hummanity.
Returning to New York, I felt like a ghost. There was the aura of tragedy and meaning, a collective experience with which I could never fully empathize. Gradually people moved on, but as those who pass Ground Zero today will notice, the holes are still there.
I think it’s obvious that people are still dealing with the tragedy and are in their own stages of grief. Some have accepted and moved on, others are still in denial. For me 9/11 is somewhere in the middle of feeling the raw emotions yet always remaining distant. It is both personal and abstract simultaneously. But while there is a feeling that I will never be able to share with my fellow New Yorkers, I hope that I will never have the opportunity to share such an experience in the future.

Posted in Personal, Politics.

First Fark Post

I’m mildly amused to announce that today I have had my first story approved on Fark. Ex-roommate Yossi sent me this mashup of The Chevra’s Yehei over an early adult swim animation. All we needed to submit the link in standard Fark cliche language and there is is.
Shiny.

Posted in Personal, Shtick.

Coming Attractions – Shabbat On The UWS

Just in case you don’t have your Shabbat plans finalized, I’m going to be speaking this week at Rayim Ahuvim on the Upper West Side (72nd Street) on the topic “Existential Teshuva and The Incredible Hulk.”
It’s a little more philosophical than my usual comfort zone, but I’m planning on having some fun with it, and I hope if you come you will too.

Posted in Personal.

Dates To Forget

Years ago at the Shabbat table my sister and I used to tease my father’s “selective” memory with the old joke “the memory is the second thing to go.” What made this funny was not the joke itself, but the number of times we were able to successfully elicit the appropriate response of “what’s the first?” Our amusement increased exponentially each time.

Sadly, it seems that I’ve inherited the selective memory gene, or at least as it pertains to my dating life. I first noticed this on a flight to Israel for last pesach. Trying to be friendly, I introduced myself to the person sitting across the aisle only to be reminded (very gracefully I might add) that we went out once about a year and a half earlier. Only after a good 5 minutes of solid thought was I able to recall the date. During that stay in Israel, a friend referenced the fact that I went out with someone with whom she was indirectly connected. This time it took a few days to make the connection and remember that I did in fact go out with that person. A few weeks later I participated in a Hospitality Shabbat in Washington Heights. It turns out I had gone out once with the wife of the hosting couple, but I had no idea who she was until I noticed her maiden name on her diploma.

My memory is generally flaky regarding people. Sometimes I remember a name, other times I can only remember where we met, and often I just remember that I know the other person and can go on naturally. Or I can forget someone’s name but recall some peculiar detail about the person. While I suppose it’s normal to forget people from time to time it does bother me when I cannot reciprocate even basic recognition. It’s especially troubling when I’ve met this person in the context of a date in which the entire purpose is ostensibly to actually get to know the other person.

I don’t think it’s a matter of cognitive dissonance so much as that most dates were, to put it bluntly, wholly forgettable. If a date goes horribly then we have comical stories to tell our friends. While I have my share of those, the majority of dates haven’t been good or bad, they just sort of…were.

I freely admit that it often has to do with my attitude. Given the number od disappointments and inappropriate matches, I can’t really get excited enough to put in the time, money or emotional energy to do something special. But even as dates should just be “getting to know someone,” conversations are generally safe and bland and this too is largely due to personal or ideological incompatibilities (I’ve even had to adopt the policy of avoiding talking Torah on dates). Regardless of the reasons, the results are the same. What should ostensibly be a pleasant outing usually becomes what I tend to call a “Date By Numbers.”

Mind you this doesn’t apply to everyone. Despite the frustrations, the dating process has also introduced me to some incredible and special people, some of whom have become close friends. The point is that some dates have become so perfunctory and meaningless to the point where people are interchangeable.

Even adopting a more selective approach in accepting matches has not reduced the number of pointless excursions.

I’m not going to reduce this to yet another gripe session on Jewish Dating or about how this is just part of a process etc. (Remember, I moderate the comments). Perhaps it’s just natural or inevitable to forget people who haven’t had a lasting personal impact, sort of like most grade school classmates. Even putting in more effort in the date won’t help if the other person is disinterested in reciprocating and you’d likely never see each other again.

Then again on the plus side, it does make the memorable encounters all the more valuable. And who knows, maybe one of those will be special enough that it won’t be one to let go.
Now that would be a first worth remembering.

Posted in Jewish Dating, Personal.

Official Officiant

As of this afternoon and in accordance with New York City regulations, I can now legally officiate weddings in the city of New York. While anyone could be a mesader kiddushin, clergy need to register with the city in order to sign the marraige licence.1
While I’m not planning on officiating any weddings in the near future, you never know when it could come in handy. A few years ago I was Shabbat walking through Fort Tryon Park and I was approached by a Hispanic contingient asking me if I was a Justice of the Peace. Apparently their minister was late and who else goes walking through the park on a Saturday in a suit. Sadly I was not able to perform the ceremony – I was still in smikha at the time – but it did get me thinking that I could otherwise be in a position to help out some people. The rabbinic prohibition against getting married on Shabbat would be inapplicable (B. Shabbat 148b) and I doubt that it would violate existing RCA policy (not that I’m currently a member).
At any rate, if you’re planning on getting married in NYC and need the marriage licence signed, you know where to find me. Words of Wisdom at no extra charge.

1. This is only for weddings performed in the city of New York proper, and I do not believe it is necessary for the rest of the state. I know that in New Jersey all that is require is an address. A few years ago there was an issue where a Conservative cantor was found to be a fraud and the state government needed to pass an emergency legislation to retroactively validate those weddings.

Posted in Personal.

Lock, Stock, And Birthdays

Until last night, I never cared about my bedroom’s doorknob. Or to be more specific, until last night I never really paid much attention to the lock which is inside of it.
For reasons still unclear, I somehow managed to lock myself out of my bedroom last night. Adding to the degree of difficulty, in said bedroom were my phone and computer cutting off communication, as well as my shoes and keys making it harder to go out and actually get help. And all this comes after a day of fasting in scorching hot weather. I figure if you have to get yourself in a pickle, you might as well go for the whole barrel.
But you know what they say, God never closes a door without supplying an opportunistic locksmith. The local guy used the “credit card” method with a piece of sandpaper to get around the edge. After the whole minute it took him to get in and literally paying for my stupidity, all is well and back to normal – except for a pair of socks which really need replacing.
The thing is, for the first time in ages I had quiet time to just be with myself. With no computer/internet (*gasp*) or cell phone for distraction, I was forced to just be, free to read and meditate without outside interference. While this could in theory happen on Shabbat, I’m usually run-down by that point in the week or coming back form a really late ending meal. Even during quieter moments during the week, I invariably get lost in the myriad of diversions such that even if I had the opportunity for peaceful reflection there is always something getting in the way.
Thanks to this forced respite from the world I was able to catch up on some books, some learning, and more importantly, myself. I thought about the past year with all the challenges and changes of the past year. I thought about developing different perspectives and attitudes and how at some point I’d really like to blog about faith. I thought about all the new people I’ve met and also being able to reconnect with some others with whom I’ve lost touch. I thought about the future, possibilities, opportunities, and contingencies.
It also occurred to me that I really haven’t done this sort of thing in quite some time. I know I haven’t blogged much about my personal life in the past year, for which there have been good reasons, but still missing the outlet to express what I could.
On that note, I’d like to thank everyone for “being there” in some way shape or form, and for all the birthday wishes,1 and I recommend that everyone go through some form of technological detox at one point or another.
Oh, and always keep your keys with you.

1. I’m not just surprised at the number of people who remembered, but who, especially when I can barely keep people’s names straight.

Posted in Personal.

Shavuot Shiur Preview

For those planning on being in Washington Heights for Shavuot, I’ll be speaking in Mt. Sinai on Shabbat between Minha and Maariv on the topic of “Segulot, Simmanim, and Superstition in Mahshevet Hazal.” As you might expect, the subject does not lend itself to a comprehensive treatement in a 1 hour shiur so I will be covering some of the halakhic and hashkafic sugyot identifying ambiguities and contradictions.
Depending on how it goes I may write it up afterwards, otherwise I can post the mekorot if there is interest.
UPDATE:I’ll also be at the Bridge Shul at around 1:00 AM.

Posted in Personal.