This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tai-Shan is a lazy Prince

We went to the National Zoo with some friends before Pesah and saw the new baby Panda.

His name is Tai-Shan, so I wore my Pistons hat, hoping to get an autograph. But, as you can see, he was asleep most of the time. That's him up in the tree.

Anyway, I've wanted to post these for a while, but I haven't had the time to learn how to do it.

I also took some video footage of the pandas, particularly of the father eating. He's a fat, lazy dad, lying flat on his back with his gut hanging out while he eats, which he doesn't seem to stop doing except to sleep. Meanwhile, it's the mother who tends to the baby.

The truth is that the father is separated by a barrier set up by the zoo staff, because apparently in the wild a baby panda doesn't have any interaction with its father in its developing years, so they wanted to keep it as real as possible. But it's still pretty comical to watch this Homer Simpson-esque panda just being a fat, lazy blob.

If I ever learn how to post video, my plan is to put them up here. But something tells me Blogger doesn't let you post video, so we'll see if that ever happens.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Just a Reminder

If you haven't downloaded the David Wallach 'Omer calendar, which I posted a month ago, it's still available online, and it's still the best 'Omer calendar I've come across. You can go here for it, or you can go directly to David's website for it.

If you haven't missed a day yet, but you've been lucky, it's a good download. Just make sure to post it someplace where you cannot avoid seeing it before going to bed but after the start of the Zeman.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The "Phone"y Open-Mindedness of Left-Wing Talk Radio

There is a "left-wing" talk radio show that I listen to almost daily. It's called the Ed Schultz Show, and the reason I normally listen to it is that he usually makes well-reasoned points, rarely getting into arguments with callers, even though he invites people who disagree with him to call in, and they do. Ed is usually as cool as a cucumber, listening patiently to the comments of those who call with a difference of opinion, and discussing their difference of opinion openly and clear-headedly. At this point his is one of the only two shows on the radio I still listen to, because of the following:

On Friday I called his show, and I actually got through. I believe this is because he was at his son's graduation, and most of his listeners tuned out when they realized someone was filling in for him. I actually was about to tune out as well, until I heard an interesting comment come out of the mouth of his substitute, Jay Marvin. He was upset that conservatives are railing about amnesty for illegal aliens and how it's unfair and unjust because they broke the law. His main complaint was that he didn't hear these same conservatives complaining about the president breaking the law with the domestic wire-tapping program.

I called to say that I don't want amnesty to be granted to illegal aliens, because it is unfair and unjust to offer the same advantages to law-breakers that law-abiding citizens get, or worse, to offer those advantages that are not offered to people sitting in other countries, waiting to be allowed in legally, and that I also feel that the president broke the law with the domestic surveillance program. This is just how I feel, and I wanted to say, "here I am, a conservative (at least someone he would consider a conservative), who wants no amnesty for illegal aliens and also feels the president broke the law."

Since the purpose of the left-wing talk radio movement was to give a voice on the radio to the left, after years and years of talk radio dominance by the right, and to create a more balanced atmosphere with free speech and open-mindedness, I assumed that my opinion would be heard and welcomed on this left-wing show. Unfortunately, Jay Marvin apparently didn't feel that "open-mindedness" ought to be extended to people who didn't fit his ideology or anyone who wouldn't help him prove his point that everyone on the right is evil and has what he called, "selective morality".

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Very Tough Moral Dilemma"

I wrote the post below on "Out of Town" Jews after Ariel Sharon had his stroke. I decided at the time that I would add his name to my Holim (sick people) list. Every time that I Daven I say his name in "Refaeinu" ("Heal Us" - a blessing in silent 'Amidah prayer, recited three times daily), and I think about that decision every time. And I wonder if, now, after so much time has passed, people might be more willing to add his name to their prayers than when he originally had the stroke. I know that some people had no interest in praying for him because they felt he had betrayed the Jewish people as a whole. One person with whom I spoke about this seemed angry at the mere suggestion of praying for him as a member of Kelal Yisrael (the Jewish People). I wonder if she would feel differently about that now. I mean, how many emails do you get a week or a month, and how many notices do you see in your Shul, asking you to pray for someone you don't know? I know a lot of people probably ignore them, and a lot of people probably think to themselves, "I would pray for that person if I could memorize names better," or "I would pray for that person if I had some way of finding out later on if they recovered or not, so I don't end up praying for them indefinitely." I used to add names without knowing anything about the person, and now I add them if I feel that I will be able to find out later what their status is. But I have a very long list and it's difficult to add the names of people I don't know. But what about Sharon? Let's say we don't like his policies? Let's say we don't like him personally? Does that mean that we have a valid reason not to pray for him? I know exactly who he is. And I will almost definitely be able to find out if he recovers or doesn't. I know for a fact that he is currently still living and currently still in a coma and in need of prayers. How can I choose not to pray for my fellow Jew who's stuck in a coma, when these are the circumstances? Anyway, below is my original post on the now mostly abandoned "Out of Town" Jews.

It's clearly the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Ariel Sharon, if he survives, will never hold political office again, barring a miraculous recovery. (If anyone anti-Sharon is reading this, please understand that I am using the word 'miraculous' in the literal sense - ie, that it would take a miracle for him to recover fully to the level to be able to run for political office again - not the optimistic sense - ie, that it would be wonderful and miraculous if he could make it back to power. I am attempting to leave politics completely out of this conversation.)

But the question has presented itself to me: How do we treat Sharon's illness on a religious/spiritual/Jewish level?

If we love Ariel Sharon, we must obviously pray for his full, "miraculous" recovery, and that he chooses to ignore what will almost certainly be his doctors' most urgent order, to retire for his own health's sake. If, however, we oppose Sharon, as a prime minister, as a politician, and/or even as a person, we are faced with a dilemma. I do not know the answer, but here are the factors that must be considered:

1. He is a human being with a family, and one who spent his life trying, at least in his own mind, to serve Israel and the Jewish people as best as he can.

2. He is a Jew. Jews have always prayed for one another. We have a saying from Pirqei Avoth: "Kol Yisrael 'Arevim Zeh LaZeh" - "All of Israel is responsible for one another." (Israel is this case, of course, refers not to the State but to Jews as a nation). This statement has been understood throughout the millennia to mean so many things, including one another's physical survival, welfare, health, financial well-being, and even religious/spiritual well-being.

3. He has been involved in political scandals. He may have muscled his way to power and abused power. He and his family have been accused of criminal conspiracies.

4. His policies may be damaging to Jews and the Jewish state.

5. He is a symbol of Jewish strength and political and military success.

This is where the dilemma comes in.

At what point do we draw the line and pray for someone whom we hold to be damaging to the Jews? Do we say that he deserves this as punishment for his actions? Do we assume that if he lives he will have no influence over policy, and that therefore we can be comfortable with his survival (assuming we disagree with those policies)? Do we say that we pray for any and all human beings, no matter how much we may disagree with them?

My feelings may appear to have come out a bit in this post, but I have tried to stay neutral. I believe I have succeeded. I played both sides, and I noted where assumptions on one side or another would be necessary. Obviously the dilemma is slightly more pronounced on one side than the other. I hope I didn't offend anybody. This post was inspired by some conversations I had with others, in which many different opinions came out, and I tried to represent all of those opinions fairly here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

D-troit Gettin Some Respect - Sort Of


500-1 "Tigers Win it All!"
20-1 "Red Wings Win it All!"
5-1 "Pistons Win it All!"
2-1 "Lions Contracted!"

--ESPN The Magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 09, p.40
May 8, 2006