Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This comment is to my friend EG who made a comment on this post.

EG, obviously you're still my best friend. If your observance is where you want it to be (which I believe it likely is), then you shouldn't be sensitive or offended when someone makes a comment to remember that it is Shabbos where you are (noting that it was likely not allowed re: halacha to return your e-mail because it was Shabbos where you were, just as it is not allowed to make a phone call to a location where it is still Shabbos -- I was reminding you to mind your surroundings.) Think about it for a moment, and you'll notice that I put myself and my spiritual well-being at risk (something I will have to answer to on the day that I die and am judged by Hashem) and I consciously broke halacha by e-mailing you back to tell you that. I'd say that's an act of friendship.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Words of Wisdom for Law School Exams...

I wanted to share with you the words of wisdom I gave to my cousin (now in law school) who is taking his first law school exam today. Hopefully it might be of use to some of you who are about to go through the same thing.

(8:07:17 AM) Jumbugs: any last words of wisdom?
(8:07:25 AM) Jumbugs: other than prayer
(8:13:37 AM) Zoe: I'm assuming you're talking about your exams. I just resorted to prayer, fervently reviewing my outlines and knowing the elements of each rule, and keeping very calm. DON'T TALK TO ANYONE BECAUSE THEY WILL FREAK YOU OUT AND POSSIBLY GIVE YOU *WRONG* INFORMATION.
(8:14:06 AM) Jumbugs: i'm in a room by myself and staying here till 2 hours before the test to get some food
(8:14:17 AM) Jumbugs: i'm about to do practice essays for 5 hours
(8:14:31 AM) Zoe: cool... your outlines are good ?'
(8:14:39 AM) Jumbugs: yeah they're memorized
(8:14:46 AM) Jumbugs: well at least the one for today is
(8:14:54 AM) Jumbugs: i may have forgotten all the others by now lol
(8:15:52 AM) Zoe: cool. remember the point of the essay (like your memo) is to remember the elements of the rules, and to APPLY THEM to the fact pattern to come to an answer. Your answer is not that important, but your tying of the elements of the various rules from the cases you learned to the hypo fact pattern you are given.
(8:18:29 AM) Zoe: the profs want to know that you understand how to USE the rule rather than just repeating the law.
(8:18:57 AM) Zoe: ok, so good luck. remember again, try not to talk to anyone... not about showing off what you know, and not about listening to their "secret knowledge" or predictions about what will be on the exam. Remember, your peers will unconsciously try to spook you into losing your cool and flunking the exam so that their scores will go up because of the curve. I always found that the best way to enter an exam regarding peers is to pretend that you know nothing to them so that they won't try to one-up you in knowledge, and don't discuss anything you know with them. Stay aloof and distant. Take the exam, and relax.
(8:19:37 AM) Zoe: Remember, on the exam the professors often will try to throw a curve ball at the beginning just to spook you. Don't worry about it. If you don't understand something, move on to the next question and come back to it later.
(8:20:28 AM) Jumbugs: ok thanks Zoe
(8:20:38 AM) Zoe: Oh, and keep CAREFUL WATCH of the time. Students often run out of time because they don't pay attention to it. Also, PLAN YOUR ANSWER (on the scrap paper you'll be given) before writing. I often found that people jump to start writing without planning their answer first and that often gets them into DEEP trouble.
(8:21:00 AM) Zoe: Good luck, kick butt. See you after your exams.
(8:21:20 AM) Jumbugs: thanks!
(8:21:24 AM) Jumbugs: ttyl and send my love to the fam
(8:21:32 AM) Zoe: I certainly will. :)
(8:21:36 AM) Zoe: bye guy
(8:21:46 AM) Jumbugs: lol bye

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ignorant Comment about Chabad Lubavich EVEN IN VIEW of current events in Mumbai.

I was horrified this morning that in view of the horrible things that have happened to our friends in Mumbai, one of our own (a Jew) had the gall to do a search for the words "Chabad" and "cult" and post a comment on MY web site saying that Chabad was a cult because Jewish people (not necessarily even Lubavichers) moved in next to him and didn't befriend this Jew. I have pasted my response to his comment below.

It appears to me that you have found this web site by searching the terms Chabad and cult which is the first issue or that you are one of my personal friends who have had personal encounters with me and my peers. This is an old post, but it is still as true as the day I wrote it when I was in China in 2005.

I feel that your comment is uninformed because the whole purpose of Chabad is to teach people like yourself about who you are and to inform you of your obligation to practice the commandments that have been given to you. You might be a banker, a soldier, or a McDonalds burger-flipper, but you're still a Jew. Pardon your neighbors not coming over to your house to eat or for not joining you in your secular activities of which they have no interest or part -- the life of an orthodox Jew is a busy life with lots of responsibilities which you as a non-observant Jew either do not know about or have no interest in practicing.

I was studying with a close friend of mine who lived in Borough Park for many years -- a Jewish guy with a good heart, but limited observance. He means well, but I fear that his view of himself and his observance level is quite larger than is his actual practice. I learned Gemara with him shortly before he left to Iraq (at his request), and then before leaving, after me offering to provide his troops with Siddurim and reminding him to remember the Shabbat when he was abroad, he accused me of being a Lubavich missionary when I've been his been his best friend for over 10 years.

It is people like you who baffle me by allowing your egos to overcome your sense of sensibility and honesty about your level of observance of G-d's commandments. You think you are holier and mightier than the highest Rebbe, and you belittle religious people who actually know their place in the world and know how limited they are in their greatness in contrast to your own self-righteousness which convinces you that you are just as "religious" as they are. If only you knew how disastrous it is for you to pick up a phone or turn on a light on the Sabbath, you would never do so, but you do so unknowing the implications. That is where a fellow Jew comes in -- to remind you of who you are and to bring you closer to the truth which is Torah, mitzvos, and doing G-d's will.

As for your cult comment, forgive me for sneering at your ignorance. I am familiar with what certain Jewish organizations do, and I too believe some of their methods are creepy, but not Chabad. I've spent my entire life around them and now am part of them and I believe as one of them that their only interests are your best interests. Chos v'sholom you call a group of individuals who don't befriend your heiness (I spelled it that way on purpose) a cult.

Bottom line, the Chabad Lubavich movement is an outreach program where emissaries (shluchim) are sent to far parts of the world (and to local places like your local neighborhood) for the SOLE purpose of spreading Judaism to their own. The goal is to have fellow Jews recognize their role and identity in the world -- that there is a G-d, he created the world, he freed us from bondage in Egypt, and he gave us the Torah. As such, we have an obligation to be faithful to Him, and to do his commandments as he has asked of us.

I am saddened when people such as Anonymous post self-hating mumbo jumbo about certain groups (Chabad and otherwise) as being a cult. There is nothing asked of a Jew except to be a Jew and to perform G-d's commandments. There are no questionable tactics, but what I do see happen too often is that the ego of the other Jews are threatened when asked to put on Tefillin or to say a blessing (beracha), and are "turned off" to Judaism because some Chabad Rabbi asked them to do a mitzvah. Please spare me the idiocy. If you are offended because some Rabbi asks you to do a mitzvah, it is obviously because you are not doing it, or that you give off the message that you are not doing it. The rabbi has no benefit to asking you to do mitzvos except that you and him are bound together with all other Jews in one spiritual body known as Israel and every action of one Jew, religious or not, affects the body and soul of ALL OTHER JEWS around the planet. For this reason, there is no curiosity that shluchim will be sent around the world, even into dangerous places such as Mumbai to spread Judaism to visiting Jews because we are all of one body. On top of that, on a more secular level, obviously there is the motivation that you as a Jew will become more observant because you personally have a benefit of doing G-d's commandments, and obviously there is the not-so-exciting prospect that you'll give donations to further this shaliach's ability to affect other Jews to further his mission that he has been sent out to complete. There is nothing wrong with this.

Thus, your comment is unfounded and is wrong. Please do some inner searching before blaming some Rabbi for you not going to synagogue or for your lack of Jewish observance. You probably even owe this Rabbi an apology.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

US involvement in Iraq / Afghanistan from a Torah perspective?

To my female friend in the Israeli army from whom's e-mail I "lifted" the contents of this blog entry as fodder for conversation, I was curious what others would say about the US' involvement in foreign affairs particularly from a Torah perspective, and so I've pasted a snippet of the e-mail below. Please forgive me for my intrusion; I've done my best to edit out any identifying information that can be traced back to you.

Wow, I'm reading what you're writing about your group helping out in Afghanistan and it seems like the excitement level must be through the roof! As an answer to your question, it is widely believed in the US that the Afghanistan culture needs US intervention if the US is ever going to benefit from them and overthrow those who perpetuate terror from being in power. There are a lot of things we need to do that just don't make sense at first, but the thing that first comes to mind is the US' involvement in Afghanistan back in the 1980's through the efforts of Congressman Wilson of TX, and how the US did so much to help the Afghanistans arm themselves to defend themselves against the Soviet invasions, only to cause the emergence of the Taliban and the Muslim extremists who are plaguing the US with fear and terror today. While the benefit of arming the Afghanistans back in the '80s was that we were able to get them to fight our war for us, the end of the story is that we caused the problems we face today by not taking the final needed step of funding schools for the children of Afghanistan who were indoctrinated with hate and disgust for Americans and for western culture in general. By the time that became a necessity, Congress was so fed up with all the money we spent overseas that they just wanted to shut down operations abroad which is exactly what they did.

In short, my understanding is that it is the US' decision to get involved proactively in foreign countries to urge them to adopt western ways of life. We're not doing it because we want them to be like us, but as far as I understand, we're doing all this for peace and so that they won't attack us and cause a world war. My Rav said to me when we first met in a conversation never to underestimate the mind of the Arabs. He said they are far smarter than us, and their indoctrination to an extremist belief system is something to be feared to the utmost degree. He said this back in 2001 before the 9/11 attacks, and being fully aware of the terrorist attacks they have been doing for years within the state of Israel, he told me that it was only a matter of time before they attack Israel's allies, namely us. Thus, your inquiring of me about US efforts that don't necessarily make sense likely have a higher calling where the US is doing things on multiple levels to stop terrorism 1) by fighting it outright, but by 2) building THEIR infrastructure up so that they can learn to be educated and to promote peace in the world.'s a different discussion whether or not I think this will work, and Torah has its own opinion of what approach to take with issues such as this one although I never took the time to learn the detailed halachas of war and how to approach and/or to confront enemies of various kinds. Off the top of my head, Rambam has a whole book about it in his Sefer HaYad, Hilchot Milchamot.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Zoe Strickman, the jerk husband. Learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them.

Okay, now for the good juicy stuff. Yes, I am a jerk, and highly imperfect and all of that. I don't mean to be bad, but I just am.

In short, with the time change, as I've done in previous years, I continued to wake up at the same time without changing MY clock. That way, I wake up at 5:45am instead of at 4:45am; I get to minyan at 7:30am instead of at 6:30am; I get to work at 10am instead of at 9am. Why? All because I didn't change my clocks when everyone else did.

However, this year, I was trying to enroll and to convince my wife to do the same thing. When she objected about the baby waking up at 5am, I told her I would watch him. I didn't realize that meant that I'll be babysitting from 5am until 7:30am as is what happened this morning while my wife slept. Hence, I felt my wife tricked me into this and so we had a fight upon me getting to work. Pasted below is the resolution IM, but in truth, it just shows what an jerk I can be for trying to maintain the status quo.

(12:23:33 PM) You feel a disturbance in the force...
(12:23:33 PM) Wife: see me now
(12:23:37 PM) Zoe Strickman: yup, hi. :)
(12:23:41 PM) Wife: hi
(12:23:45 PM) Zoe Strickman: Did you vote?
(12:23:47 PM) Wife: i am getting ready to go vote
(12:23:53 PM) Zoe Strickman: cool.
(12:23:54 PM) Wife: not yet
(12:24:05 PM) Zoe Strickman: Listen, I was thinking about it and I owe you a big apology.
(12:24:17 PM) Wife: WOW

(12:24:21 PM) Wife: im listening
(12:24:25 PM) Wife: and flowers
(12:24:38 PM) Zoe Strickman: I thought yesterday was SO nice and today took me by surprise.
(12:24:44 PM) Zoe Strickman: Yes, I owe you flowers.
(12:24:51 PM) Zoe Strickman: And then some.
(12:25:01 PM) Zoe Strickman: Here's the apology:
(12:25:04 PM) Wife: k
(12:27:39 PM) Zoe Strickman: You've been so wonderful to me and to our son lately and I know you've been working soooooooooooo hard and I've been less than cooperative with you. There was no reason to get upset at you and link all past hurts to this one misunderstanding we had this morning -- and I did say what you thought I said, but I misunderstood the details of that statemtent that I would take care of our son in the mornings so that we can stay on the old clock system, and I didn't realize that it would mean that you would be sleeping in in the mornings because that doesn't work for me. [more]
(12:31:24 PM) Zoe Strickman: ...and I felt taken advantage of because of the misunderstanding. Really, I should have been more helpful and understanding rather than throwing a pissy attitude. I am sorry for my reaction and for saying and thinking the things that I thought and the things that I said. We will need to re-discuss the benefits of staying on the old clock because our understandings of the conversation were different. Please forgive me for my attitude this morning, and my accusations over the IM as well.
(12:33:12 PM) Zoe Strickman: I love you very much and I don't always get a chance to show you that I appreciate what you're doing, and although I disagree often with the way you approach and execute certain goals, I give you space to see whether that approach will work or not. I guess I was feeling hurt that I thought you broke our deal, that you took advantage of me, and that you were doing things on your own that I should have been a part of (an older issue where I felt that you didn't respect my opinions).
(12:33:33 PM) Zoe Strickman: [more]
(12:34:52 PM) Zoe Strickman: Instead, I should have identified that we had a misunderstanding this morning, and that I should have calmly discussed it with you rather than getting upset. I shouldn't have even gotten upset -- this whole issue could have been resolved with a cheerful supportive attitude and a smile.
(12:37:40 PM) Zoe Strickman: Additionally, I could have / should have taken a more active role in your attempts to get our son sleeping in his own bed, but under the surface, I was and still am slightly hurt by your approach so I've let you figure it out on your own without participating. My idea of being helpful was the almost 8-10 times (I'm not kidding) I went to get him last night. It was literally every few minutes to every half an hour and I thought I was being very helpful by jumping to get him last night while I let you sleep. Then when you didn't immediately wake up this morning, I was hurt and felt unappreciated.
(12:40:40 PM) Zoe Strickman: So the problem about the sleep issue was not whether I was helpful last night, but it was whether I was taking a more helpful, supportive, and active role more generally with the issue -- and the answer was that I was totally insupportive (meaning not unsupportive, but not caring about the outcome to help or not help) when I really should have taken a more sensitive and active role. I'm sure there are probably many more areas which haven't even crossed my mind where this also applies and I am just the selfish husband who only cares about his own routine.
(12:41:00 PM) Zoe Strickman: So for *ALL THIS* and then some, will you please forgive me?
(12:41:45 PM) Zoe Strickman: PS - When you vote, make sure to get an "I Voted" sticker so that you can get free coffee today at Starbucks on the way home.
(12:42:27 PM) Wife: yes, I forgive you. And thank you for being sensitive enough to see where you were being unreasonable.
(12:43:06 PM) Wife: and when you get home we can talk about the fact that you felt i didnt involve you in changing his sleeping habits
(12:43:35 PM) Wife: and how we can change that cause he still doesnt have good sleeping habits
(12:44:08 PM) Wife: and i cant have starbucks today cause i had my coffee and you sent me this post about not over doing caffiene
(12:47:07 PM) Zoe Strickman: [I thought you were still typing.]
(12:47:19 PM) Wife: oh no that was it
(12:47:34 PM) Zoe Strickman: ok, good so we'll talk when I get home tonight.
(12:47:47 PM) Wife: ok.
(12:47:59 PM) Wife: i feel much happier now thank you
(12:48:07 PM) Wife: i was in a rotten mood this whole time
(12:50:00 PM) Wife: also dont forget to fax the letter and email the rabbi.
(12:50:29 PM) Wife: k going to vote
(12:50:44 PM) Zoe Strickman: ok phone
(12:53:34 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'm so so sorry you were in a rotten mood. Totally my fault.
(12:54:18 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'm glad this conversation put you at ease. It must be terrible not feeling appreciated, especially after all the incessant work you do.
(12:54:52 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'll fax the letter and write Rabbi Teitelbaum right now. I mailed the other letter this morning.
(12:55:04 PM) Wife: great thanks
(12:55:09 PM) Zoe Strickman: Good luck voting! I'm sure it will be a great experience.
(12:55:17 PM) Zoe Strickman: I'll see you tonight.
(12:55:26 PM) Wife: i decided to walk there
(12:55:37 PM) Wife: it is at the public school on jones and main st
(12:56:28 PM) Zoe Strickman: cool! Enjoy the walk. I've been saddened by the shortened daylight hours.
(12:57:13 PM) Zoe Strickman: Apparently I'll have to readjust to being a creature of the night.
(12:57:16 PM) Zoe Strickman: See you soon!

So there you have it. Zoe Strickman, the jerk husband. Learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them.

Yes, I am ignorant, etc.

There has been so much talk about how much I am ignorant, and how unpolitical and incorrect my Jewish-centered point of view is on issues of politics, race, religious, and relationships with those around me.

The truth is that every "free thinker" is brainwashed to some point of view, ideology, or creed. The difference between a free thinker and a ignorant pundit is that a free thinker chooses who or what will form their thoughts and opinions, and ignorant individuals just go with whatever is programmed into their head.

When it comes to religion, there is halacha and then there is minhag (custom)... then there is what everyone around them does, thinks, or believes. For the most part, those who have read my blog for many years know that I have questioned all things, including minhagim and the things that many people do which make no sense at all, including uniform style of dress, elevated kashrut standards (e.g. "I only hold by X, but not Y although nobody will disagree that Y is kosher and/or halachically permissible," etc.) To many of these issues, I have fought against the ignorant base of "we do it this way" without reason. However, on other issues such as certain standards, if one wants to be part of the "in" crowd, e.g. be considered Lubavich, or be considered a certain level of frumkeit versus being thrown into the "modern" crowd, then certain things need to be followed.

In my circles, if people know that I have questioned the possibility of eating Triangle-K hechured food as kosher AT the level of kashrus we hold by (and Ahuva, thank you for your clarification about the oil issue as being an ongoing question -- I will check that out and learn what they do or don't do), they wouldn't eat at our homes. Further, they wouldn't let their kids come over and play with our kids (when we have them), and down the line, our reputation as being a certain level of observance of Jewish law might come into question. For these reasons, there are certain things that I just have to go along with, even though I know what is the mainstream belief might not necessarily be true.

For other topics, e.g. politics, beliefs and world views, obviously I have shaped my mind from a Torah perspective, and so I have (and will continue to work on this for the rest of my life) trained my eyes to see things from a Torah perspective, namely the perspective of a Jew, and often this will SEVERELY clash with the world views of what is politically correct or with what is accepted within our liberal "free thinking" American society. Topics such as whether goyim have free will, etc. are topics which will upset most individuals, especially ignorant ones who don't take the time to understand how G-d creates and controls EVERY DETAIL of the world's functioning and how everything happens according to G-d's plan. I won't apologize for these, and I have adopted them as truths which will make many see me as ignorant.

So be it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Discussion" with wife about being attacked this morning for Triangle-K blog post.

I had an argument with my wife this morning where I felt that she wasn't playing fair. The conversation started out about the discussions about the Rubashkin hechure where her butcher (a.k.a. pundit) told her that some of the people at Rubashkin were going to jail. I explained to her that there was an issue where Rubashkin hired bochurim to work there who were illegal immigrants, and that they got caught with them. She told me her butcher thought it was a kashrus issue with them, and I told her that the whole Crown Heights community still uses Rubashkin as their primary hechure. I also told her to be careful rumors because there is a lot of evidence that there is corruption among the major hechures where they bully customers and start rumors about other hechures. I gave MealMart as an example where as far as I know, that's a Satmar hechure and they've been known to badmouth Rubashkin, and vice versa based on what happened almost twenty years ago where a bunch of Satmar chassidim beat up a bunch of Lubavichers, and the Satmar Rebbe refused to renounce their actions when the Lubavicher Rebbe confronted him and asked him to renounce it to stop further hatred. As a result, each said not to trust the other's meat. Hence, Lubavichers don't eat Satmar hechures (e.g. I believe MealMart) and Satmars don't eat Lubavich hechures.

Then the conversation moved to Triangle-K. I told her that many of the problems with the hechure might be based on rumors, and that Rav Ralberg has not openly fought against them confirming them or denying them as opposed to Rubashkin who has fought against most rumors that come their way. ...At that point, my wife accused me of not keeping kosher and accusing me of regularly eating Triangle-K, which makes me think that she has been reading my blog, this blog, behind my back. She then went so far as to forbid me from eating triangle-k (as if I eat it just as readily as I eat OU or OK etc.) and said that if I eat potato chips from triangle-K, then she's going to go and eat Little Debbie's. I thought that was not playing fair. Our conversation is below:

(7:51:47 AM) Wife: hello what?
(7:54:51 AM) Zoe Strickman: Tell me the truth, have you been reading my blog?
(7:56:44 AM) Wife: what???? no
(7:56:52 AM) Wife: why what did you write
(7:56:58 AM) Zoe Strickman: do you even know the blog address?
(7:57:06 AM) Wife: no
(7:57:12 AM) Wife: :S
(7:57:36 AM) Zoe Strickman: I thought your comments this morning were unfair and you accused me of things that you shouldn't have.
(7:58:12 AM) Zoe Strickman: I've been very careful to keep our standards of yiddishkeit very high... brb
(7:58:38 AM) Wife: ok good
(7:58:40 AM) Wife: im glad
(7:57:06 AM) Wife: you just said that you eat tringle K after i explained to you that no orthodox person eats that
(7:57:15 AM) Wife: its just a fact
(7:57:33 AM) Wife: anyways im doing something nice for you now
(7:57:33 AM) Zoe Strickman: ok, I'm back. Joanne walked in about the litigation project
(7:57:44 AM) Wife: ok
(7:57:53 AM) Zoe Strickman: anyway, as I was saying...
(8:00:26 AM) Zoe Strickman: I've been very careful to keep our standards of yiddishkeit very high, and that includes things that neither of us kept 100% before the marriage, like cholov yisroel, etc.
(8:01:39 AM) Zoe Strickman: Early in our marriage, we had a conversation where you realized that I thought triangle-K was okay and I was oblivious to the fact that it was not okay because I saw Rabbi Friedman using it (yes, for apple juice) at the time.
(8:02:49 AM) Wife: listen i dont think you are not relgious and if you do do something that you are not suppose to I know it is because you just didnt realize so i was restating to help you realize the extent of how unkosher ppl view it
(8:03:17 AM) Wife: i dont think chas veshalom you dont care or that you are lax
(8:03:27 AM) Zoe Strickman: That's why I asked if you've read my blog lately which I consider to be private...
(8:03:42 AM) Wife: now i want to read it
(8:04:00 AM) Zoe Strickman: You and I had a conversation about triangle-k a few weeks ago which sparked my interest in learning what was the real story with the hechure.
(8:04:31 AM) Zoe Strickman: I put it on my list of things to do, and I did some research and wrote my findings.
(8:05:58 AM) Zoe Strickman: Hence, I found the issues I told you about this morning, namely that they had the reputation of being too small and unable to regularly check the hechures they gave out, and there was also the issue with the non-kosher oil tanker from a number of years ago that caused many to doubt the validity of the hechures.
(8:06:01 AM) Zoe Strickman: hechure.
(8:07:18 AM) Wife: ok
(8:07:23 AM) Zoe Strickman: These were my findings. So in my blog, I wrote that Rav Ralberg should not rely on the stupid fact that he's "a talmid chochom" which in my opinion is idiocy and misnogdishe stupidity, but that like Rubashkin, he should fight against the rumors and should open admit the things he did wrong or fight against them.
(8:07:41 AM) Zoe Strickman: Here's where I felt you fought dirty --->
(8:08:19 AM) Zoe Strickman: This morning you brought up the topic, and I wanted to share my findings about corruption and rumors with you because its an interesting topic in my mind.
(8:08:58 AM) Zoe Strickman: You immediately went from me telling you why I thought that triangle-K might be the victim of rumors to you accusing me of eating non-kosher.
(8:07:47 AM) Wife: well you said you eat it once in a while outside the home
(8:07:52 AM) Zoe Strickman: when did I say that?
(8:07:53 AM) Wife: you said it i didnt accuse you
(8:8:05 AM) Wife: you said you buy chips and stuff
(8:8:16 AM) Zoe Strickman: I said that anyone who eats it SHOULD NOT BRING IT INTO THE HOME.
(8:11:00 AM) Wife: ok anyways i dont feel so hotly about this i apologize for jumping on you incorrectly and jumping to wrong conclutions
(8:11:18 AM) Wife: again i dont doubt you are a relgious caring man
(8:12:32 AM) Zoe Strickman: You should know that I *do* feel hotly about the issue and I DON'T eat triangle-K because my research back in law school, and then my more recent research suggests that triangle-K *MAY* be a victim of rumors, where the rumors won the battle and they were too stupid not to fight against the rumors, unless the rumors were true.
(8:12:55 AM) Zoe Strickman: sorry, I mixed 2 thoughts.
(8:15:04 AM) Zoe Strickman: 1) I don't consider triangle-K as a good hechure and hence I don't eat it. That being said, for full disclosure because I don't lie to you, I have a number of times during our marriage had moments of weakness and I have purchased Sun Chips which are triangle-K, and I felt very bad as I did it.
(8:15:36 AM) Zoe Strickman: but NO, I don't eat triangle-K.
(8:17:35 AM) Zoe Strickman: That being said, WHY I don't eat triangle-K is the hot topic. This is one of the things I do because I am Lubavich and I follow things they say even though I don't understand their reasons... e.g. pas yisroel.
(8:17:56 AM) Zoe Strickman: I honestly don't understand the pas yisroel issue.
(8:17:02 AM) Wife: right but we never took time to understand it
(8:17:06 AM) Zoe Strickman: I know it's a bad example because you and I don't officially keep pas yisroel, but we try as hard as we can to keep it.
(8:17:20 AM) Zoe Strickman: what, pas yisroel?
(8:17:25 AM) Wife: yeah
(8:20:23 AM) Zoe Strickman: I tried. I couldn't figure out why it was a problem, especially when OU and OK and chof-K and all the others give hechures to certain breads that are not pas yisroel and pretty much ALL orthodox jews eat those breads WITHOUT feeling bad.
(8:22:41 AM) Zoe Strickman: ...anyway, this is a totally different topic than triangle-k. My opinion of the hechure is that it POTENTIALLY has issues because of the person giving the hechure and his ego and talmid chochom status. However, that's not the reason I don't eat triangle-k. The reason I don't eat triangle-k is because most of the orthodox world doesn't eat triangle-k, not because it is treif, chos v'sholom.
(8:23:44 AM) Zoe Strickman: Hence, I felt it was unfair of you to immediately twist my words into saying that it is okay to eat it, and that you'll go so far as to eat little debbies which is NOT EVEN CHOLOV YISROEL!
(8:24:04 AM) Zoe Strickman: That's where I felt you fought dirty.
(8:27:22 AM) Wife: ok, im sorry
(8:27:26 AM) Zoe Strickman: ...because if you ask my opinion, I don't think triangle-K food is not kosher as a rule, however there are enough questions not to rely on it, such as why a food company would go for that hechure and not OU if they had the choice. (with those exceptions of moment of weakness which I told you about) I'm just being careful about kashrut and holding to the level we are expected to hold to.
(8:28:22 AM) Zoe Strickman: so as you see, I *am* hot about this topic, just as I am hot about other topics of kashrus that I don't quite understand, even though I do understand the halachas about those topics.
(8:27:20 AM) Zoe Strickman: it's just one of those things about being chassidic versus joe the plummer orthodox that I am not happy about, but I go along with and trust the majority.
(8:32:46 AM) Wife: yes ok i understand
(8:33:07 AM) Wife: i think we analyzed and reanalyzed and spoke to death about the issue
(8:33:37 AM) Zoe Strickman: that's because it's not a hot topic for you.
(8:34:04 AM) Zoe Strickman: anyway, yes, I feel like we talked this issue to death and I need to get back to work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sometimes the same event can be ascribed opposite meanings. Even though they are opposites, BOTH are often true.

An interesting thing is happening at work... As you know, one of my close friends -- the one who got me this job -- was fired, and while things seem to be sound, there is evidence of problems down the line, as my semi-annual review is coming up where my friend was fired, so I could be next.

I've been managing a project that has been a disaster from the beginning. Initially, I took the project over because the owner of the company was giving instructions to a secretary who had no idea what he wanted of her. I clarified his needs and created a project to get him what he wanted. However, from its inception, the project has been plagued with incompetence where paralegals were billing over 20 hours for tasks that should have taken an hour or so and so on. As soon as I caught the error (on day 2), I brought it up to my boss for him to do something about it. We shuffled around who was working on the project, but in the end, there seems to have been no enthusiasm about the project and so nobody has been moving on it despite my assigning tasks and deadlines which are being missed and so the project is flopping on my watch.

Today my manager came over to me and asked me for a report explaining the project, and he asked for my review of the project. I wrote him an e-mail explaining what is happening, and the challenges I am facing with the project, but I know I was only giving him evidence to use against me to make the case to dismiss me for performance issues. If you don't remember, this was the manager who was opposed to me taking the Sabbath off and almost fired me when I first came to work for the company over me leaving early on Friday to get home in time for Shabbos. Since that event, he's begun to understand that I am a good worker, but I've always been careful around him, as he has been around me.

Anyway, my IM conversation with my wife about this e-mail is below.

Zoe: ok. did you read the letter I e-mailed you?

Wife: yeah. what was that about

Zoe: I'm not sure, but I have to watch my back. I have a feeling bad things are under the surface.

Wife: you think? maybe he just wants to know how much work to give you.

Zoe: Obviously that is how I am taking it, but between us, I can't be stupid. I *must* think the what if's or else I'll end up like my co-worker who was fired.

Zoe: this isn't the place to discuss it.

Zoe: Bottom line, while things are fine, he's asking questions and creating a paper trail of him asking about my performance.

Zoe: From an attorney's point of view, it's called gathering evidence.

Wife: intresting. i'm sure things are fine; not much you can do anyways

Zoe: True. And of course things are fine. You just have to understand that if there is a case being made against me for performance issues, this is one of pieces of evidence that would be used as support to show how I was mismanaging the paralegals and how I was being an ineffective manager, even though that's not my title. Also, under my watch, the project failed because I was in charge of it -- the owner said so himself, remember?

Zoe: Anyway, I'm just showing you what's under the hood, so to speak. Obviously to someone not paying attention, things are fine and that he's just checking up on me to see how much more work I can take on.

Zoe: Remember, in life, there are always a MULTIPLE number of things happening at the same time. As you think things are, they are, but there are always other stories happening at the same time with very different meanings.

Zoe: I smile, you think I'm happy... yadda yadda.. There are always multiple things happening at the same time. Take my friend's conversation last night with me. You know there were different things happening at different levels on that conversation.

Zoe: Same thing here. Got it?

Wife: yes

Anyway, sometimes when you speak to someone, you say something that is quite valuable and true, but the truth of it doesn't hit you until you say it. I've always believed that there are always multiple things going on at the same time, but I didn't have an appreciation of it until I explained it to my wife.

Here's the thought: "You see the world around you and thing your interpretation of events ARE the way things are. And while you might be correct, THERE ARE ALMOST ALWAYS OTHER THINGS GOING ON AT THE SAME TIME, to the point where an opposite interpretation could ALSO be true of those same set of events."

G-d seems to elude us sometimes, where we wonder, "How could G-d's doing X [event] to me (or to a friend, or a member of the family) be good? X is evil." And while that might be true, X could also have been "the best thing that ever happened to you."

You see, while this thought is engrained in us, we don't often take the time to appreciate it. If you're not appreciating it now, you didn't grasp the thought.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Sarah Palin Jewish?

I am totally blown away by this snippet I received, and I wanted to share it with you. Obviously, check the cites and the references, because the article is a cut-and-paste from a larger answer which also posits the answer that she is not Jewish. -Zoe

10/27/08 5:40pm UPDATE: Ahuva has shown the statements in the article below to be incorrect. Her comments and research can be found here.

Is Sarah Palin Jewish?
Source: Wiki Answers - Sarah Palin

Yes, based on Jewish tradition that makes one "Jewish" if born to a mother of Jewish ethnic decent, although touting at least a mask of evangelical Christianity. was most upset about her relationship with Jews for Jesus, see link:

Sarah Palin's mother (Sally Sheigam) was of Lithuanian Jewish heritage and so were both of her mothers parents (Louise Sheigam and Shmuel Sheigam). Her father Chuck Heath can also be considered of Jewish blood because his mother, Beatrice Coleman, was of Jewish decent. Further information on Governor Palin's ancestors can easily be found in the vital records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius. link: The Archives holds birth, marriage, divorce, and death records for the Lithuanian Jewish community from 1851 until 1915 when the Jews were required to leave the country because of World War I. They are in 18th Century Cyrillic script and Yiddish Many of these records include the mother's maiden name and town of registration.

Palin has three flags in her office: the flag of Alaska, the flag of the United States, and the flag of Israel. Two of Palin's prominent Alaska Jewish allies, Rabbi Joseph Greenberg and businessman Terry Gorlick, told Politico they consider her a friend of the Jews...see link:

In addition, when she ran for governor, the Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks issued the following statement today: "By choosing Governor Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate, John McCain once again demonstrates good judgment and a commitment to challenging politics-as-usual. As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska's Jewish community.

Palin’s Maternal Grandfather And Grandmother
Her maternal grandfather, Schmuel Sheigam, was a Lithuanian Jew, born in 1912 in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, The Sheigam’s The grandmother was a Jewess named Gower.
The Names Are Altered. At Ellis Island Immigration Centre, the name was entered as Sheeran, a standard practice when immigration officers were unable to understand the pronunciation of non-English speaking immigrants. They are buried in the Jewish cemetery at Budezeriai.

Additional Links:
Link 1:
Link 2:
Link 3:
Link 4: Jewish Press

Why I am voting for John McCain.

I want to be quick on this blog entry because I need to get to work, but I wanted to share my point of view about the elections.

I am voting for John McCain. I don't quite like him, nor do I think he will be very effective, and while I do feel it MIGHT be another 4 years of the past 8 years, I feel it is the lesser of two evils.

What haunts me about Obama are the many questions that have been raised over the months, but not answered. For the same reason I wouldn't give the Triangle-K hechure the stone-certain validity that I'll give to an OU or OK hechure, people raised some valid issues about Obama, but he never confronted them head-on nor did he answer them with an affirmation or a denial. ...and as you know, I believe a lack of a denial is really a passive affirmation.

What haunts me about Obama are where he comes from. No, I'm not talking about whether he was really born in Hawaii. It appears to me from the articles and opinions from the "Investors Business Daily - Editorials" (one of the few associations who seem to be doing their research unlike the mass liberalist media) that Obama doesn't necessarily stand for Obama, but for something else that the terrorists like. It is his past as a "community organizer" that troubles me. He has strong Arab / Syrian / terrorist connections who are the ones who put pressure on key United States figures to get Obama into Harvard Law School and who seem to be putting him in charge of the Presidency of the United States.

Why should I be okay with Middle-East terrorists placing a president into power? I am not, and I wish people knew about what I've been reading. ...and it is not one story that got me to say "Oh my gosh! Who is this guy?" but it is one piece of information after another after another!

After a while of hearing ALL THE BAD STUFF, I can't believe I still like the guy, and I can't believe in my own head I've been brainwashed to say "okay, yes, all this might be true, but maybe he'll be good for the country." It's shocking even to me that I am SEDUCED by Obama's words and politics.

That being said, any Jew knows how to vote with their head, and not their heart. My head tells me he is trouble and that he represents interests which don't represent me, and while I don't particularly love McCain, I do think that at least he will try his best to get the country back on the right side. I know for sure that he won't sell our soul to our enemies.

Barbara West Interviews Joe Biden (10/23/08)


It looks like the questions being asked should have been asked quite a long time ago. Spreading the wealth IS a communist / Marxist theory. However, based on Joe Biden's answers, I'm not so sure this is such a bad thing, as Bush HAS pretty much messed up the economy AND made the rich richer and the middle class MUCH poorer. Now I am and have been a McCain supporter throughout the election [inter alia] because of the questionable connections Obama has with people I wouldn't want running our government and his mysterious "rise to power."

However, hearing Joe's interview, I can't help but to think that maybe they're right and that PERHAPS they're just trying to reconcile what went wrong. Who knows.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Follow-up to previous post on Triangle-K

I wanted to preempt your question before you asked it. "Zoe, if you are frum and you have the slightest doubt about a piece of food you might eat, as a frum Jew, why would you even consider eating it in the first place?!?"

My answer is that much of what I eat when I eat in a restaurant, even one that has the best hechure, I have seen enough to have doubts about the kashrus of what I am eating, although bide'eved (after-the-fact) it is probably kosher.

When I eat at friends homes, while I am equally discriminating (l'chatchila), I often have doubts about kashrus after seeing things (e.g. over a recent meat sukkos meal, one of our newly-married hosts almost made a serious basar b'cholov mistake when after the meal, the husband took dairy soymilk into the Sukkah and wanted to serve us coffee with it; when questioned about it by his wife after seeing the looks of horror in our faces, he insisted it was parve [despite the dairy OU hechure on the back of the carton], exclaiming, "...soymilk is Parve!"-- NOTE: I will not be eating there anymore) thus I am slow to eat at people's homes.

When it comes to a bag of chips that is likely kosher, as you well know now, my opinion is that there is probably nothing wrong with eating it. If I have a legitimate reason to think it is TREIF (not kosher), I won't touch it and would likely vomit or spit it out. However, with triangle-K, all I would have here is a doubt that it is not up to my standards, not chos-v'sholom (G-d forbid) that the food would be treif!

Triangle-K -- not recommended, but after some diligence, it may be okay as a personal choice between you and G-d, but its not for your kosher kitchen.

Holy smokes! I was trying to find out about the whole Triangle-K hechure issue to learn what the story was. After some searching, I found a website by the Canonist which gave some good commentary and an interview with Rabbi Ralberg regarding the Triangle-K hechure.

As you know, upon getting married, I was still eating Triangle-K totally oblivious to the various arguments. However, my wife was shocked when she found out I was eating it and she forbade me from eating it.

Back in law school, I asked a Rabbi (who is no longer with us) what the problem was -- he told me that it was difficult for the triangle-K hechure to supervise everyone, so just be careful and check the ingredients with the company before eating the food willy nilly.

More recently, in my Lubavich circles, triangle-K is only considered okay for some foods which generally don't need a hechure, but is frowned upon for pretty much everything else. This being said, in our home and when eating out, we keep cholov yisroel, pretty much pas yisroel (there have been some exceptions), and are otherwise very strict in our kashrut. I don't think, however, that one who goes to the convenience store to pick up a bag of potato chips or Sun Chips which are triangle-K (such as what happened a few times when I had an overwhelming desire and there was nothing else available with a more credible hechure) would be breaking halacha. Those few times it would happen to me, I would hesitate about it and would feel bad about it as I was walking with it to the cash register, but I never would think the food was treif, but rather that I was succumbing to a lower standard of kashrut. That being said, I wouldn't bring it into my house, however, just in case what I was eating turned out NOT to be kosher.

Here is my possibly twisted logic:
1) is it kosher? probably.
2) Is it up to my standards of kashrut? probably not.
3) Will I feel bad about buying it? yes.
4) Will I enjoy it when I'm eating it? you bet, but this isn't the reason I decided to eat it.
5) Again, IS IT PROBABLY KOSHER? probably. I see one flavor has the hechure, the other flavors don't, so there's obviously some selection.

Thus, I didn't feel SO BAD when buying it.

On a more general level, my position of it is that I wish that the hechure were okay across the board. Any hechure with unresolved questions is NOT one which I would openly tell people it's okay to eat, and is NOT one that I would use in my home or encourage my family members or friends to eat. The fact that I find little wrong with buying something like a bag of chips with that hechure doesn't mean that it's okay for others to do the same without first checking things out on their own; it would be a judgment call on halacha and a personal choice between you and G-d how careful you choose to be in your kashrut. That being said, *I MUST REPEAT* if I eat it, I would NOT bring it into my house just in case it isn't okay and I certainly would NOT put triangle-K food into anything that I cook, especially when if there is a real kashrus issue with the food, it would destroy the kashrus of our home which my wife and I so carefully guard.

That being said, I encourage Rabbi Ralbag to be more proactive in countering the accusations about his certification. There are a lot of rumors flying around, and he should either admit guilt and change, or aggressively refute the accusations with proof.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How Sukkos Affected Me

Okay, one more post for the night and then I'm done because I'm getting tired.

Firstly, making the Sukkah this year was a pleasure. The title picture is pretty much the same Sukkah I built this year with my father and my brother, except that we built ours with four walls. Oh, and we don't live in a forest either.

The Sukkah was from The Sukkah Project, and we were very happy with the Sukkah and Schach we bought from them. We purchased the 8' x 12' Wood-Frame Sukkah plus the SukkahScreen as the walls and bamboo schach. The whole thing cost us $275, and then the lumber cost us another $60 from Lowes. The assembly was easy and we were very happy with the quality and the sturdiness of it.

On a more refined note, I felt that this Sukkos was the first Sukkos that my wife and I were on our own. In previous years, we were always guests at someone's house, and this year was the first year we were on our own two feet. Yes we had a Sukkah last year -- a 6' x 5' tiny tiny thing that my dad built (which was bigger than the 5' x 5' that my dad and I had the year before), but this year we were established. I had a job (B"H for now I still have a job), and I was confident on my own, knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. I fell a bit when it came to tying the knots on the Lulav, but all in all, everything ended up okay. I even hosted a close friend from the Army for a day, and I was happy to have him over and to catch up.

But the thing that I am coming away with is the feeling that I need to always remember that everything is impermanent and everything changes eventually, and that I should be happy for everything that I have while I have it because tomorrow it could all be gone. Further, I took away from this Sukkos that it is important to stay flexible both in character and when and/or if hardship hits, to take things one step at a time and to know that things have always been worse, and that we are built with the tools to deal with challenges as they come.

I want to wish my friend the best and an easy time finding the next job, and that it come with ease and with great profit and promotion in status, salary, power, and prestige.

My view of my job from a religious perspective.

Now to the religious stuff and the beliefs I have about everything that is going on.

Firstly, I have no idea whether I'm next or not, and whether when I go into work tomorrow I'll be told that I am no longer working there as well. I have to be prepared for this, even though my friend believes they'll just have me pick up his workload on top of my own.

<*!baby crying... be right back!*>

On Rosh Hashanna I did adequate Teshuva (repentance) -- not as wonderful as previous years' Teshuva, but I did have an idea this year of where I was strong in my religious observance and where I was weak. I am comfortable saying that last year I had so many things to be repentant for (my many sins) that it was hard to cover everything between the Shofar blasts.

This year, my list was very short. How I betrayed and disrespected my wife, my son, and my family by not being there for them as much as I could have been; how my Torah study was not as strong as it was in previous years; how I indulged in to the desires of my body far too often and disrespected my health by letting myself eat food and rob my body of sleep causing me to gain weight; and how I still squabble with certain kashrus issues such as Pas Yisroel and triangle-K hechures (kashrut certifications) which a normal Jew should have taken care of long before they were at where I am in my level of yiddishkeit (Judaism).

But all in all, I am satisfied with my Teshuva. Further, I did fast Yom Kippur and I did go to shul (synagogue) -- what I like to refer to as "bad tasting medicine" -- both during all the Yom Tovs and regularly for 6:30am minyanim (prayer) throughout the year. This was such a big accomplishment that in addition to providing a parnossa (a living) for my family and in addition to chinuch (child education) and just being an example for other Jews, I hope that I am in good favor with Hashem and that my sins have been forgiven and that I have been inscribed and sealed for a good year.

I believe that I"YH (if it is the will of G-d) that I have done what I need to do and if I am meant to have a good year I will and if not, then not, so if I get fired then I am sure it is the will of Hashem and I will just pick up and move to the next chapter in my life. Obviously it will be uncomfortable and change is never fun, but this is the way things are. On another note, if I am not to be fired, then I will continue to work hard and to stay on the plan to get the degree so that I can get the patent attorney job I've been longing for for so long.

My close friend and co-worker was fired this afternoon.

I don't know how to talk about this so I'll just come out and say it -- one of my close friends at work got fired while I was out for Sukkos. Obviously I change things on this blog so I'll call him a her and/or vice versa, but no doubt, should he read this he'll know I'm writing about him, but I only have good things to say.

This friend of mine got me my job. He fought for me to get an interview and now over ten months later, they let him go. I just called him on the phone and it appears that while it was a shock, he had the feeling it was coming.

This concerns me because while I have worked my hardest to make myself valuable to the company and to the owner of the company, nobody can deny that we're in tough times. Even speaking to my superiors, they have acknowledged that these are tough times. Yes, the patent world is said to be recession-proof since even during an economic downturn, customers who own patents start to enforce them through licensing programs.

But that doesn't change the reality of things -- times ARE tough and I was even telling my wife that I'm fearful for my job because there is a lack of stability in the air. I don't remember the contents of my conversation with my wife -- actually now I do -- she wanted us to consider moving closer to my work which is over an hour away from our current home, but I told her that would be an unwise plan because I have a feeling my job could go away at any moment, and now the cut has gone to the one person who got me into this company.

I will end this post here. I have a lot of feelings about this, but let me just say that my heart goes out to my friend and if the company were smaller and I had some clout which I don't, I would say "let's all quit." But it is certain that this was a business decision and the company is weighing in and they had to cut a branch and my friend was the one running that branch.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Instant Message conversation about life and work. ...boring

This will be a cheap blog entry, skip at will. I'm just cutting and pasting snippets of my feelings about life in general from an IM discussion with a friend of mine. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me using our conversation as fodder for a blog entry.

(6:41:50 PM) Zoe: I'm just balancing a full family life, 8 credits of compsci courses, full-time work, reading countless books to improve career knowledge, paying all the bills and hoping we have enough at the end of the month, and at the same time, trying to pay off my $160K of school loans at high interest rates AND deal with my own laziness and inability to function up to my own standards.
(6:50:57 PM) FRIEND: how is your son doing?
(6:51:07 PM) FRIEND: when are u putting him in school?
(6:51:40 PM) Zoe: He is doing well, as you can see from the pics.. He's growing so much!
(6:51:45 PM) Zoe: You wouldn't recognize him.
(6:52:03 PM) Zoe: He won't start school until he's 5.
(6:52:28 PM) Zoe: We'll probably put him in baby daycare and/or preschool and/or gan before then too.
(6:52:35 PM) FRIEND: nice
(6:52:43 PM) FRIEND: how does it feel to be a daddy?
(6:53:39 PM) Zoe: It feels as if there's meaning -- I can't pull the same stuff I did before I was married. There's little room for waste once you're married.
(6:54:21 PM) FRIEND: what do u mean?
(6:54:35 PM) Zoe: That's probably why I'm having such a hard time. I have a hard time waking up in the morning, getting to minyan every morning, showering, eating, getting to work on time, being productive at work, billing the hours I work (lately I've been spending so much time at work billing nothing because I'm just distracted), etc.
(6:55:04 PM) Zoe: meaning that I'll be at work for 10 hours, but I'll only be able to bill 6 or 7.
(6:55:15 PM) Zoe: and even that's pushing it.
(6:55:19 PM) FRIEND: :(
(6:55:39 PM) Zoe: I'm scared of being fired and I'm scared of being caught that I am not as productive as I feel that I should be.
(6:59:20 PM) Zoe: PLUS, it KILLS me that I spend so much time here that I can't be paid for because I'm just not being productive.
(6:59:26 PM) Zoe: I just can't get my head in order.
(7:00:20 PM) FRIEND: maybe your just thinking to much
(7:00:31 PM) FRIEND: or maybe u just need to just pick up and leave hook or crook at a certain time
(7:01:38 PM) Zoe: um, I physically MUST bill a certain amount of time each week, and I physically MUST bill a certain amount of ADDITIONAL HOURS OVER THAT TIME to pay the minimum bills each month.
(7:01:52 PM) FRIEND: i see
(7:02:00 PM) FRIEND: my field works a lot different
(7:02:21 PM) Zoe: that's the lawyer world. you bill what you produce, not how many hours you were in the office.

Monday, September 08, 2008

LHC is most definitely a ticking time bomb, or not... [article link]

Again, I can't stress how excited I am about this project, and how DISAPPOINTED I will be if it turns out to be a dud... I think I spend every day in an office waiting for something exciting to happen, like perhaps Moshiach coming or the revelation of G-d, and I'm generally bored out of my mind with my life. Yes, I have my constants in life which are wonderful [wife, son, family, few friends], but I can't believe the most exciting thing outside of my family is hearing over and over again how Obama is a socialist (and he is), or what McCain or Palin said. This is a very sad life, and I wish something more exciting were going on in the world -- something I can believe in.

Geneva (Switzerland) - When the LHC is switched on in less than two days, Switzerland may finally pay the ultimate price for never having chosen sides. In this case, for deciding not to choose to walk on the side of caution. That is, if what many scientists, watchdog groups and concerned activists believe is about to happen. The worst case doomsday scenario resulting from the operation of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) involves the total destruction of the Earth within minutes or days of the planned online time. The best case doomsday scenarios involve a slow poisoning of the Earth through unexpected radioactive emissions. So, is the sky really falling? No, because many scientists believe that all such fears are unfounded and even silly.

read more | digg story

G-d particle countdown... [article link]

I've been reading up on this the past few days and the whole project seems incredibly ...exciting? ...dangerous? ...stupid. Nevertheless, I am VERY excited to see what happens, and I hope we don't blow up the planet in the interim. --Zoe
Countdown starts in quest to pierce secrets of Universe from

Particle physicists believe they will throw open a new frontier of knowledge on Wednesday when, 100 metres (325 feet) below ground, they switch on a mega-machine crafted to unveil the deepest mysteries of matter.

Media Ignores Massive Voter Purges by Republicans [article link]

I'm not exactly one to get involved in politics (well, I certainly am, but not in the context of one party blaming the other,) but I do believe in voting and rights to vote. It bothered me when there were allegations these past two elections that the polls were manipulated. It also bothered me that the presidential nominations for various states this year were also called into question regarding manipulation. Thus, I share with you the article snippet below. --Zoe
While the media focuses on the antics of McCain's chosen VP battleground states are purging their voter rolls. In Colorado, one fifth of all voter registrations were dropped. Florida is refusing to accept 85,000 new registrants -- overwhelmingly blacks. Ohio & Nevada are scrubbing tens of 1000s of voters who lost their homes.

read more | digg story

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Letter to Senator re: Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac Activities

To all readers: I ask that you read the following and consider sending a similar (or the same) letter to your local senator.

Dear Senator,

I want to express my sincere disgust in the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the past months (and years) regarding the irresponsible and perhaps criminal activities and borderline unethical conduct regarding their most recent overstatement of their capital base.

As a citizen, a husband, and as a hard-working father, I am strongly AGAINST any form of bailing out of the two mortgage giants by the federal government. I believe this would put an undue burden on the taxpayer, and there is no reason why any of us should pay for the mismanagement by questionably criminal executives running those companies.

Further, I would strongly request a criminal investigation into the executives and those running both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and I would push for an indictment regarding their activities, the handling of the companies, and their questionable accounting methods.

Additionally, I would request that the accounting standards board also be reformed as I am of the belief that those making the decisions there are unethical and are in favor of those businesses who have broken the law, and that the recent decisions by the board fly in the face of sound accounting methods.

My opinion as a concerned citizen is that the country needs an education in ethics and corporate responsibility. While everybody is touting the poor homeowners who are in foreclosure, who are losing their homes, or those that won't be able to get mortgages if the two mortgage giants fold, we must acknowledge that laws have been broken by both the banks, the mortgage lenders AND the homeowners, regulators have not done their job, and that many of the homeowners are in homes that they got mortgages for based on lying on their mortgage application forms about their income, and by taking mortgages for pieces of property they clearly could not afford. There is no reason the government (and thus the taxpayer) should foot the bill for this kind of irresponsible and unethical conduct.

Thus, I ask that you 1) fight AGAINST the government taking over and/or helping the mortgage giants and let things run their course without government intervention; 2) I ask that you start a criminal investigation into the executives running the companies to hold them criminally responsible for the activities of their companies; and, 3) I ask that you push to reform the recent decisions of the accounting standards board and fight for reformation of the board to return to sound and ethical accounting standards.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Family Use of Car? Final answer -- Yes.

Okay, so I understand from what everybody was saying is that if something would happen then my wife's parents' insurance would cover it. If that is the case, then yes, I trust them 100%. Her father is a good driver, and I don't believe anything would happen -- it was the RISK of SOMEONE ELSE doing something to THEM (uninsured) that I was concerned about, and the insurance ramifications of such an occurrence.

To be specific, my fear was that if something happened, I know my wife's parents would do the right thing -- whether that would be using their insurance to repair damage done to the car or even offering to pay for repairs themselves. However, I *do* know that if for some reason something happened while they were driving the car and their insurance *didn't* cover any damages, then UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would my wife let me take money from them and she would make us eat the losses. For that reason, I told my wife "absolutely not" regarding lending out the car.

Overall, my thoughts circled around financial risks of "what-ifs." If something happened to the car, at this point, we couldn't afford to repair or replace it (we barely can make the payments now), which means that I wouldn't be able to get to work and my job might end up in jeopardy. This is a risk I couldn't take. Yes, we have a piece-of-junk van that I just picked up from my dad's that is drivable -- for now. But! It 1) is a gas guzzler, 2) has 200,000 miles on it, 3) looks like a big box, 4) has no air conditioning, 5) the windows don't open, 6) the radio doesn't turn on, 7) is very dirty inside, 8) the rear door is broken and doesn't open, 9) will likely break down and go to the junkyard within the year. So, in short, I wasn't willing to take the risk of something happening to the Accord because if something happened to that car, I might have some problems getting to work.

In the end, her parents rented a car anyway and the fight kind of just went away. She was slightly upset that I didn't let her offer to use our car. If she asked me about it again, after reading your e-mails and knowing that their insurance would likely cover any damages, I'd say yes and just resort to "hoping and praying" that nothing went wrong.

Senator McCain - Honorable TV Ad

I don't think Senator McCain specified exactly what he was referring to, but he was talking about Obama becoming the first black democratic presidential nominee ever in U.S. history. I think that was very honorable of him to recognize Obama for his achievement. I listened to Obama's speech last night with fervor looking to be inspired with facts to back up the promises -- I still think I'm voting for McCain.

On another note, I almost fell over laughing when at the end of his speech, after the fireworks, the confetti misfired and covered the backdrop of his stage making it look more like a horror show rather than a presidential nomination acceptance speech.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Whether to lend my wife's parents our new car when they visit... I say absolutely not.

I just got into a "discussion" with my wife over letting her parents (who are flying in from CA tonight to visit for the weekend) use our new car. Upset that my wife's parents were going to spend money to rent a car, when my wife asked me whether we should offer to let them use our new car, I said absolutely not, because if something happens to the car when her parents are driving it, while they might have their own insurance which would cover their own injuries if something happened, the car is likely not insured against damages that occur while they are driving it.

My wife used the example to counter my argument that when we went to visit my mom in Colorado, I wanted to use my mom's car, and why would that be different? I told her it was different because my insurance covered only our own personal injuries and I didn't care if something happened to my mom's car -- I was just going to drive responsibly and let them take the risk because they're my parents. In the end, my mom wouldn't let us use it because she wasn't willing to take the risk of us damaging her leased car.

Then my wife exclaimed that when we go to CA to visit her parents, they let us use their piece-of-junk 4x4, and they don't care. I answered that if something happened to the 4x4, they wouldn't be so upset, so they were willing to take the risk. However, they would never let me drive (or even let me stand near) their new 2008 BMW because if something happened, they wouldn't be willing to take the risk of me damaging it.

I think the issue is about risk. Then my wife got upset at me that it's an issue of family, and that I am not letting them feel as if they are part of the family by not offering to let them to use our car. I told her that they could use the piece-of-junk van, but not the new Accord. She didn't like that answer.

What's your view of this situation?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Resolution -- Patience

Firstly, with all the responses, you should know that yesterday was quite traumatic for me. It bothers me deeply when something shakes me at such a deep level as throwing everything else [such as my marriage, my identity as a husband and a father, and my home] off balance. I didn't like getting angry, and I didn't like fighting with my wife. I have a strong shalom bayis mentality, and so it is rare that I'll do something that will shake my wife's confidence in me like losing my cool.

It should be known that from the few e-mails I received last night, friends told me that I made my wife sound as if she did absolutely nothing all day, every day. In a way, that is true, but not that she sits in front of the TV wasting time -- we don't even have a TV in our home. Rather, she spends her day playing with the baby, changing diapers, feeding the baby food, and doing a small chunk of housework, sometimes more than a few. My critique of her is and has always been that she spends way too much time doing things that questionably don't need to be done (such as spending several hours making a cake,) and almost zero time on things that are important. It's a time management issue along with a procrastination to do what needs to be done, and that is why it gets so frustrating when she says that she spent all day doing who-knows-what, and I look around and nothing is done. Maybe I'm just the idiot husband who is jealous that my wife doesn't have to work and that I come home each night and see that she has read half a novel [and she's a slow reader] when she claims she had no time to do anything around the house.

Anyway, this blog should not be about my wife. She's a loving woman and I care about her immensely. She has a good heart, and she means well. We both have faults (G-d knows I have mine) and so if I should expect her to tolerate my many many shortcomings, she should expect the same thing from me.

That being said, last night after being tired of being upset, I decided to "make nice" to her. I came in and I dropped all feelings of anger at the door. It's hard for me to express this, but I don't believe I was angry, but rather, I was merely upset that I had to fake anger to get through to her. Either way, whatever it was, I dropped it at the door, and I sucked it up. We spoke, and she told me that she didn't think that I handled the whole situation properly, and that I should have just told her again what I needed (even for the millionth time) without getting annoyed or visually upset. Being that she is a loving woman who does love me and wants to do good by me, she said eventually would have caught on and would have gotten to it. Instead, she did the laundry and made me not out of love, but feeling restricted and being told what to do, a hot button for her because nobody tells her what to do -- not even me.

So now things seem to be back to normal. I will work harder on picking up the slack rather than getting upset for things that aren't done. She probably is working overtime and over-hard, and I know our lovable son is a handful because he is always going somewhere he shouldn't, or picking up something he shouldn't, or standing on top of something he shouldn't be, demanding love and attention and giving the same in return.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The comments on my various posts by Shoshi have been disturbing and have put me on edge (maybe that's a good thing.) I feel painted as the evil, selfish husband who nags his wife to death with his unending tirades. Hold on to your seat belts, I have one more, and this one is probably big.

I believe my responsibilities as a husband consist of the following things: minyan, work, caring/helpful husband/father. This morning I blew the word "caring" out of the water.

My wife and I have been discussing what is important for her to have done in the house: mother, maintain clean home, clothes, food. After tripping over clean clothes she has not yet gone through for over a week now and being annoyed that I have to fight with her to get the laundry done so that I can have clean undergarments and shirts to wear to work, I stumbled to minyan wearing the same pants I wore yesterday.

Looking the rabbi in the eye this morning from across the room, I could tell he was wondering why I was late *again*. I wished he knew how difficult it is in my life to have things in order and I wish he knew how disorderly everything is in my life. I wanted to cry.

I came home, entered the house and saw that the kitchen light was on. I was happy about this because my wife and I had a fight yesterday after her not waking up for the umpteenth time to make lunch, one of her responsibilities (don't ask me why, that's just the way it has been -- on that note, I have suggested to her a million times that it would be easier on her if she only made lunch once a week, such as on a Sunday, and then just make a number of portions.) Knowing that she had a midwife appointment, I decided to surprise her by moving the baby's car seat into the other car without her having to ask me; I did this quietly so that when she would ask me, it would already be done. When I came back into the house, I noticed that the kitchen was empty. She wasn't even awake.

A bit confused, but slightly annoyed, I wondered to myself why she only reacts to a fight and ignores everything I say otherwise. I gathered my things for work, and without eating breakfast, I wanted to just leave. She woke up and came out of the bedroom with the baby, took one look at me, and noticed that I was upset again. I left without saying a word, without breakfast, and again, without her making me lunch. I slammed the door on the way out for the first time in our marriage.

Waiting for her call to remind me not to take the good car because of her appointment, I heard nothing from her. Now even more upset that she didn't even remember her own appointment, I drove to work. She called a few minutes later, but I didn't answer, thinking, "you treat me as if I am single, I'll let you figure out for yourself which car I took and whether I moved the car seat." A few seconds later, I gave in and called her back just in case it was important and just in case she needed something, and she picked up in a cute voice saying, "you're not allowed to leave the house without saying goodbye."

[I HATE BEING ANGRY, yet I hate even more being angry over the SAME PROBLEMS EVERY DAY. Whether it's the cleaning, the laundry, the food (or the lack thereof), I have spoken to my Rabbi many times telling him I just want to take over these things because I hate waiting for her to do them. He has told me that "this would be a very bad idea for the sole reason that you will resent her for not doing them and thus it will cause a shalom-bayis issue between you." You have no idea how many times I have wanted to TAKE OVER these responsibilities of hers, but I have held back so many times and have waited for her to do her part.]

Sitting in the car fuming from anger, I drove to work. When I got close to work, I called her calmly to ask her if she even knew why I was upset at her. She knew, but then did not take responsibility for her not doing what she was supposed to do and instead, she turned it on me that its ugly for me to be angry at her. This really annoyed me.

I raised my voice (with a loud pleading voice rather than a shouting or yelling voice) and I told her that I HATE being angry. I hate seeing the same things not done every day, and I hate having the same fights with her every day. I wanted to tell her that it was her fault I was angry but let's be real -- I was choosing to be angry because while it sapped my energy and hurt my heart and my chest and made me cry to do so, I felt it was the only thing that she responds to. At that point, she started nit-picking defenses, and I got annoyed at her again. "She's not even listening," I thought. I tell her five things that are not done, and she focuses the argument on the one thing she did yesterday when the point is the FIVE things that GENERALLY ARE NOT DONE EVER.

During the fight, I realized that she was getting upset and/or hurt which meant that for once, she was not just shutting down and putting up a wall the way she usually does when I say something critical to her, but that what I was saying was actually getting through. At that point, fearing a tear, I backed off and ended the conversation.

So that was our fight. It should be noted that the content of our fight was not over the laundry or the food or the lunch or the cleaning, etc., it was over her not taking an active role in our life together and treating life as if it were a vacation while shirking her responsibilities. Case in point, I was upset at her for not taking the initiative on so many areas of our life that she promised that she would and that I was relying on her to take the initiative, such as in the areas of 1) her finding a job, 2) her doing research on real estate and foreclosures for us to buy our first investment home, 3) things that we agreed that we would do together (e.g. she wanted to take the introduction to computer science online courses with me), and I am finding that I am doing them alone, and 4) taking the initiative on things that should be done to move our family forward, such as writing a check to pay the parking ticket she got a few weeks ago and that I've been hounding her to pay, etc.


When I come home from work every evening exhausted, I don't sit down in front of a TV and veg out. Instead, I spend time with my wife and my son, I talk to them, I play with them, and I often help her put him to sleep, spending close to 20 minutes holding my son's hand before he falls asleep. At that point, aside from doing some minor chores or helping my wife out with something, I feel that my day is over BECAUSE I HAVE FULFILLED MY RESPONSIBILITIES. I feel that I have earned the right to sit down with a book or to open my textbooks and start doing schoolwork or learning something.

If you think I am selfish for this and for wanting her to have finished her part of the bargain by doing her responsibilities, I think you are wrong. There is nothing I want more than to sit down with her lovingly and to pay attention to her and love her for the rest of the evening, and I usually do turning a blind-eye towards the things that have not been done. But after a while, some things can just no longer be ignored.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Do you hate your wife/life?"

Meir, that was an interesting question. "Do you hate your wife/life?" Obviously, the answer is an emphatic NO.

My understanding about love and hate when it comes to my wife (who is my partner in life) is that love or hate is determined based on the CHARACTER of the person you are loving or hating. When I dated my wife (albeit briefly per the shidduch model as opposed to to the secular dating model), my four-part criteria for marriage was 1) whether she is a good person, 2) whether she has a good heart, 3) whether she has good or selfish intentions, and 4) whether she would be a good mother / wife.

My wife is a loving, caring woman who while she obviously has her flaws (as I certainly do too,) is a good person with a good heart and a good character. Her intentions are for the most part good. She is an excellent mother, and she tries her hardest to be a good wife. Where I take issue with her is her organization skills and her openness to dealing with my criticisms, even when they are constructive (which they usually are first and it upsets me that I feel that she responds better to anger and fights rather than loving suggestions.) I have strong expectations for how a family should run (clean house, things in order) and while I believe in a relatively high maintenance household, she does not share that high maintenance attitude and is more lax and chill about things which frustrates me and is the root of most of our problems. We are the "odd couple," me being Felix and her being Oscar, and most of our fights come from this point.

The problems arise from the fact that I try to be understanding about her mentality and I give her a lot of slack but that doesn't change my expectations or my willingness to live in a dirty, unorganized, or messy home. I won't and I cannot live in a messy home and I know that many people are comfortable or happy in this environment, but not me. I absolutely will NOT live in a home like this and I will make problems and even pick a fight if and when this escalates past my level of acceptible discomfort. My wife tries her hardest to keep everything clean and to have everything done, but I suspect that she doesn't yet have the organization skills to maintain the house in this condition. I also suspect that she wastes time daily on facebook and on other websites when she should be running the household and taking care of things that will move our family forward rather than cause us to slide backwards. So yes, this is a big weakness on her part, but then again, look at me now -- I am writing this when I should be working and so I will have to stay extra hours to make up for the time I am wasting now writing this blog entry.

So in short, yes, I love my wife. As for my life, I value the fact that I have a caring wife who is a good person and who I love dearly. I also cherish the fact that I have a cute and loving child who she is raising into a wonderful little boy, and that we have a second on the way. I am relieved and happy that I have a job that pays our bills and contributes to paying down debt (albeit slowly), and that we have our health and are living a semi-comfortable lifestyle.

What I do not like is the fact that I often feel physically dirty after being in our house, and that my clothes and other parts of my life are not in order. I hate the fact that I am 40 pounds overweight, and I hate the fact that my busy disorganized life does not give me the time or the money to pursue any of my interests. I hate the fact that my wife and I are over $160,000 in school loan debt, and I hate the fact that my job barely pays my bills and that it minimally pays down my debt and that there is barely anything left over for the comforts in life. I hate the fact that I always feel poor, and I hate the fact that EVERYTHING is getting more expensive and that our cost of living only increases and this bugs me to no end, especially because I am trying my hardest to conserve. I also hate the fact that I worked so hard for a law degree and that I have not been given the chance to use it, yet I still have to make my blood payments towards those loans every month. Most of all, I hate the fact that it will take at least 4-5 years to get out of this mess at a minimum, and then we will be left with only $100,000 in federal loans which we can pay the minimum at 3.125% for the next 20 years (even though our payments keep increasing and will continue to increase until we pay it off based on our current payment plan.)

So you see, I love my life, and I hate my life. The most important thing is that I [for the most part] wake up every morning, I go to shul and pray, I spend some time with my wife and my son before I go to work, I work hard, and in the evenings I try to rest (even though this almost never happens.) I am taking steps to remedy the "no technical science degree" issue by taking classes online which will get me into a degree program which will take me a few years to complete. At the minimum, I am happy this plan is in motion. Lastly, my wife and I are working together to build an orderly house, and we each are working on bettering ourselves both physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I wish there would be a quick fix for our problems, but they all take time, care, and effort which we are giving them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wife, you STOLE my evening.

I want the world to know that I am angry at my wife, and I feel that she has stolen yet another evening from me, and this time I want it back.

Because our landlord has failed to fix the central air conditioning in our not-so-humble apartment, I went back home this weekend to my dad's house to pick up wall-unit air conditioners (and a beat-up old minivan so that my wife can have a car so that she won't be secluded in the house while I take the car to work each day.)

Well, as usual, today around the end of a grueling day at work, an hour or so before five o'clock pm, I receive a phone call from her asking me when I'll be home. By her voice alone, I crumble and I give up plans that I really want to go to the gym and I say "I'm coming home directly at 5pm" and she is happy.

I come home, and today for the first time we have a guest in the home -- my wife had a neighbor stop by (they are both pregnant and so they will be going shopping tomorrow together). A few minutes after the neighbor left (now around 7pm,) her father called me up urging that I go to Mincha/Maariv minyan at 7:30pm. I can't say no, so I go. 8:30pm rolls by and I am back at home, and again, my wife is struggling with the baby to put him asleep and he just doesn't want to. "It's probably too hot" I think, and so she puts him into her bed in our air conditioned room and I wait for her to come out and at least say hello to me.

Minutes turn into hours, and I'm STILL waiting for her to come out. I make my presence known by walking into the bedroom so that my wife can see that I exist, but its dark in there and I don't want to wake the baby. I sit by the dining room table burning DVDs and ordering books for the 8 credits of computer science classes that I am taking in the fall online so that I can get a technical science degree (to get a job as a patent attorney), and I wait for my wife to come out, but she doesn't come. I sit by the couch waiting for my wife, and I fall asleep. I wake up sweaty at 1am realizing that I fell asleep again waiting for my wife.

I am so ANGRY and SAD and LONELY because I feel neglected by my wife. I feel as if she has taken on the role of being a mother, but she has forgotten that she is ALSO MY WIFE, a role she has long neglected. Not only that, but I feel stupid that I give up each and every evening running home to her only to have ZERO interaction from her because she goes to sleep without telling me only to have me waiting all night for her. I think to myself, "why don't I be a bit selfish and NOT run home each night? Why don't I just go to the gym as my health NEEDS me to and be a good husband an hour later?" No. Stupid me runs home each evening thinking that this one will be different, only to be disappointed again.

Wife, I feel as if you stole yet another evening from me, and I want it back. I had plans for us to sit by the table and talk about our day, to reflect on our experiences, and to plan for our future, and you stole that from me. I wanted you to put the baby to sleep and to come out and spend your evening with me. I wanted us to watch a movie; to play a game; to do anything, as long as it is together, and AGAIN, my night has been spent alone. Had I known this, I would have made plans without you. Had I know this, I would have done something else. I wouldn't have sat by the dining room table waiting for you as the minutes and hours passed by. I wouldn't have busied myself watching the clock for you to come out of the bedroom, but you didn't.

I want my evening back. You stole it from me. Thief.