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2017-09-20 05:16 pm

Shana Tova!

For all those who observe, have a great new year! And best wishes to all the rest. See you in 5778!

'The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah actually means “Head of the Year.” Just like the head controls the body, our actions on Rosh Hashanah have a tremendous impact on the rest of the year.

As we read in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, each year on this day “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die ... who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.”

It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity and blessing. But it is also a joyous day when we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.'

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.
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2017-09-18 08:57 pm

Linkage 2017-09-18

Theory vs. the Jews: Michael Weingrad on Bruno Chaouat.
My friend Michael Weingrad reviews Bruno Chaouat’s book on postmodern, academic anti-Semitism.
'The answer to the book’s title is straightforward: No, Theory is not good for the Jews (or, for that matter, anyone who cares about intellectual and moral clarity). And, yes, there are probably better ways to spend one’s life than marinating in postmodernism’s silly conceits and tin-eared jargon. And yet, if Chaouat hesitates to draw such un-ambiguous conclusions he has nevertheless performed a service here by chronicling a range of Theory’s recent intellectual and moral failures and how they continue to revolve around Jews, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel. This is worth knowing about since, to adapt Trotsky’s warning, Jews may not be interested in Theory, but Theory is very interested in Jews. ...'

Africa / India / Israel: Devsena Mishra in JPost.
'... Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land reserves. The combination of Israeli innovation/conceptual abilities and India’s “collective effort, inclusive growth” approach can provide the right direction to sustainable development efforts in Africa. Clean and renewable energy, healthcare, agriculture and rural development, vocational/technical education, and entrepreneurship promotion are some of the key areas where India and Israel need to collaborate for a better future for Africa.'

Masoud Barzani on Kurdish Independence Referendum: Rudaw
'Amid numerous calls to postpone next week’s independence referendum and focus on discussions with Baghdad, President Masoud Barzani told a visiting British minister that they will not postpone the referendum without commitment from Baghdad to begin independence negotiations, with international guarantees that agreements will be enforced. ... “[T]he referendum will not be delayed only for the sake of holding talks with Baghdad without knowing the content of these talks or knowing what international guarantees they will have,” the Kurdish statement read.'
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2017-09-18 07:37 pm

Cooking Insight

The value of using tongs to cook hot food is greatly diminished if you place the tongs on the stove so that the handle gets as hot as the burner itself.
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2017-09-18 06:20 pm

Monday evening: Driving.

Around the beginning of 2017, I got set up as a driver for Uber Eats, figuring I might make a little extra money in my spare time by driving food deliveries. But not much came of it, as I discovered that there was very little work to be had. I'd turn on the app, and wait for calls ... and wait and wait and wait. Eventually I gave up, and shelved the idea.

Recently I got an email from Uber saying that they'd brought a lot more restaurants on board and made numerous other improvements to the service. So last weekend I decided to see for myself, and lo and behold it was a world of difference. Calls started coming in, and finally I was driving deliveries and making money. I drove every day from Sunday through Thursday, and drove again yesterday. I'm taking tonight (Monday night) off, but looking forward to doing some runs tomorrow night.

For most of my adult life I've had some degree of anxiety around driving, but I think this is going to finally let me get over it once and for all. Plus it's a great way to explore Portland, especially the east side where I expect to be moving soon - and, of course, I could use the money.
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2017-09-07 10:32 pm


While we're dealing with dry weather and forest fires in the Northwest, the opposite corner of the USA has to worry about wind and rain from hurricanes. A very dear friend whom I've known for more than half my life, and who recently settled among family in Miami, reports via FB that she has recently evacuated to inland. 'We've made it to higher ground. Irma's scheduled to make her debut Friday night. The b*+€# better behave herself.' I'll be keeping her in my prayers.
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2017-09-06 08:51 pm

Gorge Fire

'"One thing that was encouraging is there are still a lot of green trees, there's still a lot of area that did not burn," said Traci Weaver, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

"The fire did not burn through there and burn every tree and every green plant in its path. And I think people need to recognize that, that it's still going to be a beautiful place. And one nice thing about being on the wet side, like we are: Things are going to start to recover much quicker than they would in a drier forest area." ...'
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2017-09-06 06:56 am

Linkage 2017-09-06

Melanie Phillips: The greater danger.
'For the left’s Israel-hatred and Jew-baiting prejudices are on display virtually every day through the media, the arts, the universities, the trade unions, the churches and other institutions.

Of course neo-Nazis and their ilk pose a danger to Jews and other minorities, but their numbers are tiny. The immeasurably greater danger to everyone comes from the far-left and the Islamists — and from the broad left who ignore or sanitise what they do.

Unlike the far-right, the left controls the culture. It uses that power to deny its own Jew-hatred as well as Muslim antisemitism and religious aggression, and to defame and destroy those who call these out.

Ask the former Labour front-bencher Sarah Champion [], who drew attention to the cultural identity of the overwhelmingly Pakistani Muslim child pimping gangs, or the Muslim Labour councillor Amina Lone who stuck up for her — both now punished by sacking and de-selection respectively. ...'

Caroline Glick at JPost: The strategic case for Kurdistan.
'Compared to their neighbors, not to mention to the Times’ favored group the Palestinians, the Kurds, who have been self-governing since 1991, are paragons of good governance. Not only have they given refuge to tens of thousands of Iraqis fleeing ISIS. Iraqi Kurdistan has been an island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Its Peshmerga forces have not only secured Kurdistan. They have been the most competent force fighting ISIS since its territorial conquests in 2014.

The same is the case of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syrian Kurdistan. ...'
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2017-09-06 05:58 am

Smoke and Ash

Yesterday morning dawned with an eerie light. Red sun, grey sky. It was overcast without clouds.

All day, Portland was blanketed with the smoke from the Eagle Creek fire burning in the Columbia River Gorge about 50 miles east of here. At times flakes of ash fell like snowflakes. Pedestrians could be seen wearing surgical masks on the street. The haze reminded me of Kuwait in '91 when the other side set fire to the oil wells and there was smoke everywhere.

As my LJ readers may remember, I visited Eagle Creek / Cascade Locks with a friend last May. Dreadful to think of that beautiful place on fire.
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2017-09-01 06:16 am

Linkge: Iraq, Ukraine, USA

Iraqi government announces Tal Afar liberated.
'Iraqi prime minister Haider Al-Abadi announced earlier today that Tal Afar has been “liberated” from the Islamic State. “Our brave Armed Forces have liberated Tal Afar and the Iraqi flag is once again flying high in Nineveh province,” Al-Abadi tweeted. “I salute our martyrs, our injured and their families whose sacrifices have made this and other victories possible,” he added. “Nineveh is liberated.” ...'

Rudaw on Peshmerga contribution at Tal Afar.
'The commander said he saw Peshmerga do “incredible work” for the liberation of Mosul, adding they coordinated “very effectively and constructively with the Iraqi security forces. They allowed the Iraqi security forces to stage for the attack in Kurdish-held areas.” ...'

Jonathan Spyer on Ukraine's Jews.
'The war has impacted on Ukraine’s Jewish community in two central ways. Firstly, Jews resident in eastern Ukraine have suffered the direct physical effects of the fighting. Most of Donetsk and Luhansk’s Jews fled westwards as the frontlines approached their homes in 2014. The provisions offered by the Ukrainian authorities to those made homeless by the war are minimal. Efforts are ongoing by a variety of Jewish organizations to provide for those Ukrainian Jews made refugees by the events.

The second impact is a little less tangible. The war of 2014 was an important moment in the ongoing development of national identity in independent Ukraine. ...'

Melanie Phillips on liberal Jewish organizations in USA.
'Faced with left-wing aggression and bigotry, many American Jews display a high degree of cognitive dissonance. That’s because they think not as Jews, but as leftists – not least because they can’t discern the difference.

Left-wing antisemitism is running at epidemic level. Demonization of Israel based on lies, double standards and a near-supernatural attribution of cosmic malevolence is the default position on the Left.

Liberal American Jews aren’t merely allowing their liberalism to supersede their Judaism. They are actively siding with the enemies of the Jewish people and the Western civilization built on Jewish values. ...'
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2017-08-26 11:39 pm

Quiz time!

Which Garden of Earthly Delights abomination are you?

Your answers will remain strictly Hieronymus.
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2017-08-21 06:16 am

Legend of the Sun and Moon - Ethnix

They surround her,
the seven planets,
but she burns toward
the pallor of his face.

And he's so far away,
in the heavens of the Earth's sphere,
but he yearns for her,
her golden fire.

The moon's shadow stretches
over the sun's face.
Forever, day and night,
they are touching up above.
And it's not enough for him, not enough for her -
just for a moment, and then on.
And so, each day, for countless years,
he dies in her light, and she in his.
Sunset of a pink dawn,
lost love.

Time and again in their despair
they darken for a moment:
eclipse of the moon,
eclipse of the sun.
Yet in this pursuit
the illuminate the sky,
captive in their orbits,

הם סובבים אותה,
שבעת כוכבי הלכת
אך היא בוערת אל
חיוורון פניו.
והוא רחוק כל כך,
בשמי כדור הארץ,
אבל נכסף אליה
לאש זהב.

צל הירח
אל פני השמש נמשך.
תמיד בין יום ובין לילה,
נוגעים שם למעלה,
וזה לא די לו, לא די לה -
רק לרגע והלאה.
וכך כל יום, שנים אין ספור,
הוא מת באורה,
היא באורו.
שקיעת זריחה ורודה,
אהבה אבודה.

לא פעם בייאושם
הם מחשיכים לרגע,
ליקוי ירח
וליקוי חמה.
אך במרדף הזה
הם מאירי שמיים,
שבויים במסלולם
בלי נחמה.

צל הירח
אל פני השמש נמשך.
תמיד בין יום ובין לילה,
נוגעים שם למעלה,
וזה לא די לו, לא די לה -
רק לרגע והלאה.
וכך כל יום, שנים אין ספור,
הוא מת באורה,
היא באורו.
שקיעת זריחה ורודה,
אהבה אבודה.
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2017-08-13 08:13 pm


I'm on Goodreads. My first post there is my review of Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'.
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2017-08-13 07:57 pm

Sunday evening

Nice break from the heat, a busy day just taking care of stuff around the house. Tomorrow, Monday, back to work! I am liking the new gig, and it's great for training and experience.
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2017-08-06 05:17 pm

Made minyan this morning, got called a Nazi this afternoon.

Just another fun day in Portland!

I got up bright and early and drove to the shul in the Southwest Portland neighborhood where I used to live. The weather was nice, and we had a good turnout.

After davvening, I headed back home to downtown. Some studying, housecleaning, laundry - and then it was time to head down to the waterfront for today's rally.

I met up with a friend from our political community - she was standing near the great big flag and was easy to spot. We had a good turnout and I think morale was very high.

The folks from the other side were there too, of course - many of them wearing masks, banging on drums, or tooting those noisemaker horns to drown out conversation. And of course there were the obligatory chants of "Nazis go home!"

Today's demo was a logical continuation of the June 4 event. But there were some important differences. The June 4 rally was held at a park, on Federal land. (The Mayor would have liked to deny us a permit, but he has no jurisdiction over Terry Schrunk Plaza, so it wasn't up to him.) The event went well, but it was a bit claustrophobic: we were surrounded by a phalanx of law enforcement keeping us separated from the counter-protestors, who greatly outnumbered us.

This afternoon we met in the open, in public space, at Waterfront Park. There were no battalions of police officers, maybe only one or two cops in sight. And it was not a static rally, but a march - we walked north along the waterfront and back, being seen and heard. So I think in those ways it was a much stronger statement.

And the oppo weren't there in nearly the same numbers as before.

We got maybe a few hundred yards down the waterfront when we had to stop and pull back - the antifas were hitting us with pepper spray, and two or three people went down. Some of our security people served as medics for the affected folks. Eventually we regrouped and kept moving.

I didn't stay for the whole thing because I don't have unlimited endurance for these kinds of things - and I was hot and tired and I've got a job to go to Monday morning. But I was glad I went, and I was very encouraged by the high morale and the sense of momentum. Also I was moved by the number of people who'd made the trip from their homes in the more conservative, rural parts of the state to make an appearance in uber-liberal Portland.

I took a few photos which I'll try to post later. Meanwhile, the Oregonian has a decent write-up on the event, with lots of photos.
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2017-08-06 10:04 am

McMaster: Another View

I haven't been following the McMaster story closely, and I like to be careful in forming my opinions. So as a balance to the Caroline Glick article I posted earlier (previous post on DW / LJ), here is a Twitter link to Mark Dubowitz, which comes to me by way of Lee Smith. Dubowitz asserts that, contrary to the view of Caroline Glick and some others, McMaster has a very solid record of being tough against Iran and a strong supporter of Israel.

Also (via a friend's comment at FB), here's a series of YouTube links to a recent interview with McMaster.
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2017-08-03 09:32 pm

Caroline Glick on McMaster

'The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.

McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump. According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall.

What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. At the time, I and other reporters were led to believe that this was the decision of rogue anti-Israel officers at the US consulate in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. It was McMaster. ...'
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2017-08-03 06:47 am

The New Job

So, the first day went really well and I'm happy with my decision. Aside from the pay rate, this looks like it's going to be a 1000% improvement over my last gig in every single area where I was dissatisfied. It's a team environment, not a cube farm, so I'll be working with real live people. They are taking training seriously and it's clear I will be gaining a lot of new skills over the next 90 days. (At TheBank, I learned to reset passwords and ... reset passwords.) The location is in a hotel downtown, not a prison-like building out in the boondocks. And it's only 90 days, so even if I end up hating it - which is unlikely - I can put up with it for that long.

BTW this is a different gig from the one I was looking at earlier. The onboarding process seemed to take forever, and they kept demanding more and more information about my employment history, and started asking me to dig up pay stubs and W2s from three years ago. For a position that doesn't even start until 8/21, I began to wonder if it was worth it. Suppose they wanted some piece of documentation that I just couldn't provide? What if I missed all this work time and ended up not getting the job after all?

So I started looking at other options, and when this other agency called about this position, I jumped on it. I interviewed Monday and the manager must have liked me, because on Tuesday I got the call from the agency that I got the job. Email from the agency with the usual paperwork, sign it, scan it, send it back, done and done. And Wednesday - yesterday - was my first day at work.
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2017-07-30 06:49 am

'And the Crooked ...' - SY Agnon

'And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight', the debut novella by Shmuel Yosef "Shai" Agnon, is a tale of identity theft. But it's really an abdication: the self-absorbed and grandiose Menashe Chaim willingly sells his one article of monetary value - and with it, his good name - like Esau selling his birthright. To be sure, he duly agonizes over the decision, but never simply says "no" and walks away. This passivity and helplessness is Menashe Chaim's defining trait. "Even his climactic gesture of defiance and devotion ... [is] a decision not to act," notes translator Michael P. Kramer in the foreword. His final downfall (epitomized by the loss of his tefillin, symbolizing his bond to his religious and earthly responsibilities) is the logical culmination of his state of passivity. His wife Kreindel Charne will continue on without him. But effectively, Menashe Chaim is already "dead" at this point.
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2017-07-28 02:39 pm

The Narrative 'Mistake'

I'm working on a third reading of Toni Morrison's 'Jazz', and I realized there was something nagging at me about the book. The story seemingly has a "mistake" in the narration, and I realized I was reminded of Agnon's story 'In the Heart of the Seas', which also seems to include an error by the narrator. In both cases (the second shot that's never fired, the tenth man who's named but not counted), the author is pointing us toward a more sublime truth.