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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Jews and Faith: Is Faith a Requirement?
So, here I am in Las Vegas, and I'm engaged in a heated debate with my dad on Judaism. My dad is a Christian, so his views come from that perspective.

The conversation began with me stating that my understanding of Judaism is that it is a religion of works; not faith... that faith is not a requirement. I went so far as to say that a person could be a devout Jew (through his actions and observances) without necessarily believing in the existence of G-d.

He told me I was full of it, and we argued for a while, with me telling him that I thought his opinion on the subject was colored by his Christian faith (faith is the foremost requirement in Christianity; works are secondary), and him not buying it.

This morning he printed out Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith. There are various wordings, but the first one is basically faith in the existence of G-d. I looked up Maimonides and pointed out that he was a 12th century Rabbi, and that his Principles were apparently both controversial, and widely ignored for a long while after he wrote them. I acknowledged though, that the Principles had eventually been integrated into the siddur, and are apparently widely held beliefs in "most of Orthodox Judaism".

So, we batted it around for a bit, but I kept coming back to the problem with the debate... neither of us is a Jew, so our limited understanding of Judaism is going to hinder a full understanding of the issue. So, I bring it to Kerckhoff, where I know there to be several well-informed Jews, in hopes for some light to be shed on the subject.

So, is faith in G-d a requirement for a Jew? For an Orthodox Jew? Can a person be an atheist, and still be a religious Jew?

Any links to authoritative stuff would be great.

This should be interesting.
Etch-a-Sketch Philosophy
Over Thanksgiving the Bean Bunch hung out with some wonderful relatives of ours. They bought our kids a couple of Doodle Pros, Fisher-Price’s update of the classical Magna Doodle. It’s a great toy, because it’s a mess-free way to, um…, doodle. And the Doodle Pro I guess assures that you’re not just doing amateur doodling.

So after the kids doodled to their hearts’ content and put the toys down, I picked up one and started jotting random notes and erasing them. The relatives we were staying with are committed liberals, and truly generous kind people. We frequently tease each other about politics. So I decided to write a statement of principles on the Doodle Pro. It wasn’t meant to convince opponents or prove anything. It’s just good to occasionally boil down most of what you think into something that fits on a Doodle Pro.

statement of principles
I showed it to the extended family. I got one chuckle. Another person said with great concern and not a trace of humor “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

What’s on your Magna Doodle? Or do you prefer summarizing policy on an Etch-a-Sketch?
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Joe Lieberman, Grownup
The Gentleman from Connecticut brings the pain to his Democratic colleagues who want to cut and run.

The countdown to switching parties has begun.

(Nah, he's too classy for that kind of stunt. But one can dream.)
Throwing It All Away
You've probably heard about Duke Cunningham, the eight-term Republican Congressman from San Diego who pled guilty to bribery recently. This disturbs me, but not for the reasons you might think.

Naturally I'm dismayed that the Democrats are exploiting this opportunity to criticize the morality of the GOP. Nancy Pelosi said this is "just the latest example of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican-controlled Congress, which ignores the needs of the American people to serve wealthy special interests and their cronies." But that's just politics. Nancy is supposed to say crap like that.

What really troubles me is that Duke Cunningham could have been a great man - he was a pilot during the Vietnam War and popular enough to be elected to the House of Representatives eight times. People admired this guy. That he would trade his honor for a yacht and a Rolls Royce is perfectly contemptible.

I am reminded of George Weller, the 86 year-old who accidentally drove into a crowd of people in Santa Monica, killing ten. George was described as a nice man by just about everybody. He beat the odds and lived to 86. The prize for living so long? Infamy.

Duke committed his crimes on purpose. George committed his on accident. They are united by a common thread - they will be remembered for making the world a worse place. A part of me hates them and a part of me pities them.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Dogs and Cats, Living Together
Jewish and Muslim teens come together to help the homeless.

Skeptics will find things to quibble with in this article, but I gotta spread the good news when I see it.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Air America lives on in LA
So the other night I'm scanning stations on the AM dial here in Los Angeles and find a Clippers game. The Clips have a good squad this year so I assign a preset button to the station, 1150.

Next morning I press the 1150 button and find out that when the Clippers aren't playing, 1150 is our local Air America affiliate. I thought it had been blacked out in the LA market. So I'm about the return that preset to a different sports talk station when I think, hey, maybe I'm not challenging myself enough. Maybe I should be listening the what the other side is saying, just so I'm not taking positions based on sheer reflex. Maybe the Left has some good positions from which I can learn.

All I've heard so far is the morning host mocking Bush for talking about democracy and religious freedom on his recent trip to Asia and the Sunday night host complaining that major newspapers keep referring to "Tookie" Williams, a death-row inmate with a death date set for Dec. 13, as a "convicted killer." Even though he was, um, convicted of killing. People.

Anyway, I'll let y'all know if I hear anything else good.
Bad Baby
Our almost-two-year old baby is really no longer a baby and is blossoming into a psycho toddler in her own right.

Doctor Bean: The baby woke up at 5 this morning so I went and slept with her. I'm really tired.

ball-and-chain: That's after she woke up at 2 a.m. and I put her back in bed and let you sleep.

DB: Solzhenitsyn says that the line between good and evil runs though the heart of every man, but I think through the baby's heart runs the line between evil and extremely naughty.

b&c: Yeah, she's never really good. She never protects the weak from the cruel or donates to charities. [grins idiotically at baby]

baby: Momeee seeeleee!

DB: She's very cute though. [grins idiotically at baby]

baby: Dadeee seeeleee!

DB: If I lapse into a prolonged stupor you have my permission to remarry.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Happy Thanksgiving
God has been very good to me this year and I'm feeling especially thankful.

You all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat a little turkey. Have a little wine (or beer). Watch a little football. Catch up with the relatives. Enjoy your blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving
A year ago Nomad posted George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation. I think it’s worth reading every year. ball-and-chain and I read it and Psalm 100 at our Thanksgiving dinner annually.

Among the abundant blessings for which my wife and I are deeply grateful are having Nomad, Ralphie, and Oven as our dear friends, and having the chance through this Coffeehouse to develop email friendships with Torontopearl (who we actually met in real analog), Psychotoddler, Treppenwitz, and Og. You’ve made our lives much sweeter.

We’ll be away from the web for the next four days, so I won’t be answering your comments promptly, but I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for and whether your family has any special Thanksgiving readings or traditions.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers and your families.
Hillary and McCain
I've never bought into the Hillary hype. I've always felt, yeah, she sells well in New York, but I wouldn't want to have to market her elsewhere. She lacks Bill's charisma. She comes across as phony on her good days, and downright abrasive on the other ones. If her last name wasn't Clinton, she'd be practicing law in a private firm. I don't think she'll win the nomination, and certainly not the presidency. I'm waiting for a dark horse governor to show up and ruin her fun.

And from my conservative perspective, McCain sucks. I wouldn't trust the guy any further than I could hurl him. His campaign finance reform was a rape of free speech, his grandstanding in the MLB steroid issue was annoying, and his recent attempts to handicap our intelligence-gathering efforts are reckless. Most hard-core conservatives loath the guy. I think Giuliani (in spite of his pro-abortion position) sells a lot better with both conservatives and the general electorate.

Anyhow, here's a good rundown of numbers relating to Hillary and McCain, and the problems they face in their quests for the Oval Office:

Fatal Flaws For 2008 Front-Runners?
Monday, November 21, 2005
Speaking of comebacks...
First the remake of Battlestar Galactica, now this...

V - the Second Generation.

"What is Love?" as interpreted by Balding European Guy.
Watch this guy sing along with Haddaway's "What is Love?" It's funny!

Greatest American Hero
I'm watching the series on DVD. Loved that show. Isn't it time for William Katt to make a Travolta-like comeback? Are you listening, Quentin?
Me (after shaving 4 days' worth of stubble down to a goatee): What do you think?

Mrs. Ralphie: I think you need to keep shaving.
Israeli actor plays Muslim terrorist in US
Great. Showtime has a new series, "sleeper cell," that features an Israeli Jewish actor portraying a Muslim terrorist pretending to be a Jew who joins a synagogue he's targeting. Thanks, Showtime! Have any more great ideas we can give the terrorists?

Sheesh. All we need now is for some self-important know-nothing to blog about this and get it even more publicity.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
What the-?
Okay, I realize this just makes me sound old - ok, it makes me old - but I just saw a commercial for a video game called "Call of Duty 2" (no, i will not link to it) and it looks like the worst thing ever.

Seems it's WWII, you're a US soldier in a tank shooting at stuff. Then you get hit and a Nazi tears the top off the tank. You shoot him and then poke your head out and start shooting anything you can. Yes, you're the good guy, but it's hyper-realistic with people shouting all over the place, screaming in pain, things are blowing up...

It's just wrong. And I'm just old.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Non-profits and money
Often you'll hear one pundit or another claim that a non-profit interest group is peddling fear in order to keep itself in business. For example, on NRO today David Klinghoffer suggests that the Anti-Defamation League beats the drum of Christian domination in order to raise funds. Well, he first suggests that, then kind of sort of retracts it, or molds it into something slightly different.

I agree with Klinghoffer's assessment that defending Jewish life against a benign, even pro-Jew (fine, "philo-semitic") American Christianity is absurd in and of itself, not to mention that there's another world religion we might need to be a tad more worried about. (Hint: It ain't radical buddhism.)

But I just don't believe that the ADL leadership doesn't believe what they're saying (or even have tricked themselves into believing it). I believe that they believe it. I guess it's possible they're ignorant, or perhaps even willfully (if not blissfully) ignorant, or the real world situation. But then, that's a general Right critique of the Left, isn't it? (And it's the Left who usually says that the Right is lying to drum up support.)

And I don't buy it in general. For example, I don't think that the mainstream American black leaders cry "racism" in order to keep their status and their jobs (and their people's votes) - I think they believe what they believe. They just happen to be wrong more often than not.
True Blue
It’s the tiny things in life that give us comfort, the minute constants whose persistence reassures us.

One of those constants was my blue pen. Doctors write a lot. I actually write much less than most doctors since my medical records in my office are electronic. So I mostly type. But in the hospital, or when filling out forms, or when signing secure prescriptions I still do a lot of writing. Most doctors get a constant abundant supply of pens with various drug brand names from drug reps. I don’t. Because drug rep pens always have black ink. They all have black ink because historically medical records used to have to be written in black ink. That’s because blue ink would usually not photocopy very well. Nowadays, of course, copiers can copy blue ink just fine, so a small but growing band of doctors write in blue.

Blue is my favorite color for a bunch of reasons. It is the color of techelet, the blue threads commanded in Numbers 15:38. It is both American and Zionist. It’s almost always been the color of the good guys. It is the color of fidelity -- not passionate violent red, not mellow yellow, not nature’s green -- true blue. Writing in blue also lets me find my notes in a hospital chart very quickly in a sea of other doctors’ black ink.

So three years ago I decided to invest in a decent pen, one with a fat comfortable grip and a smooth writing tip. I settled on the Cross Morph. I had it engraved with my name, and bought a gazillion blue ink refills for it. It brought me a tiny bit of pleasure every single work day.

mightier than the sword

Yesterday, I lost it in the hospital.

I’m surprised at how sad that made me. I know it’s not the end of the world, and people have much bigger challenges than losing a favorite pen, but my pen’s absence from my white coat pocket is very unsettling. I miss it. It will only cost $30 (plus shipping and engraving) to replace, but it has also cost me the pleasant illusion that the small things in my life are predictable.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Rat update
...and here's my attempt to drive KC readership into the ground: an update on the rat situation, first broached in my feast-of-tabernacles-related post, Sukkah stuff. Warning - if you are squeamish in any way shape or form, skip to the next post.

So the shed where I kept my sukkah had been overrun with rats. The shed is a bit of a shanty, an all-wooden job wedged between the back of my garage (guest house, that is) and the back fence. Mrs. Ralphie insisted we tear it down and buy some sort of all-weather, impenetrable shed. I said I didn't think it was necessary, the rats were all gone, and besides, we keep a lot of stuff in there, and the guest house water heater is in there, too. I said I would at least determine the volume of the water heater to see if we could enclose it if we decide to remove the shed.

I entered the musty shed and took a couple of steps towards the water heater, then jerked backwards in revulsion as a rat scurried across the top. I then mentioned to Mrs. R. that maybe she was right about this whole tearing-down-the-shed thing. So we bought a Rubbermaid shed and moved as much stuff as we could from the old shed to the new. The rest we just threw in the yard, basically.

Here comes the scary part. Our friendly neighborhood handyman tore down the shed... and what he found their might shock you. First there was the bucket o' rats.

Yes, it seems that an exterminator from a while back had done more than just set a few traditional mousetraps that bore no fruit. In the back of the shed, he had set up some sort of master trap - kind of a like a roach motel, where the critters check in but don't receive a bill under the door tallying up the adult movies they requested on the pay-per-view, if you know what I'm saying. The only problem is the guy never bothered coming back to check on the dang thing. So we had a bucket o' dead rats in our shed for who knows how long.

But that's not the worst part.

When said handyman started to enclose the water heater with the aluminum cabinet I retrieved from Home Depot, he noticed something. Something... hideous. It seems that the water heater was propped up on some cinderblocks, and the rats somehow entered the shed that way. They might have even lived (still live???) under there. So the guy filled it in with cement, entombing any remaining rats.

No, that's still not the hideous part. He couldn't enclose the water heater because he first has to find a replacement for the part of the water heater ONTO WHICH A RAT'S BODY HAD BEEN SEARED, YEA MELTED.

Of course, Handyman was sure to point this out to Mrs. R., who couldn't sleep last night because the sickening image haunted her dreams.

And if you think I'm going out there to take a gander, think again, my friend. Think again.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Kinky Friedman Running for Governor of Texas
Author, entertainer and Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, complete with cigar, black cowboy hat and Southern drawl, is about to star in his own reality show.

"Go Kinky," airing on Country Music Television, follows Friedman, an independent candidate, on the campaign trail in the Lone Star State.

“Every crazy redneck in Texas is for Kinky,” Friedman told FOXNews.com from his ranch in Medina, Texas.

A successful mystery novelist, Friedman led a band called Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys, founded in 1971. He penned songs like “Ride ‘Em, Jewboy” about the Holocaust and “Wild Man From Borneo” about a person in a cage as part of a circus.
I read one of his murder mysteries a long time ago, but I don't remember which now. I remember liking it. I remember the protagonist, an unmarried detective, digging through his fridge and finding something that had been there since last Purim. That's funny.
His campaign platform — its slogan is "Why the hell not?" — calls for legalizing casino gambling to fund education, reviewing death row inmates and outlawing the de-clawing of cats. Some of his strongest backers are country music star and longtime friend Willie Nelson and wrestler-turned-Minnesota-governor-turned-talk-radio-host Jesse Ventura.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Treasure Hunt – Part III
This has to be done sequentially. If you haven't seen Part I or II, do them first.

Back to Part I
Back to Part II

You're traveling in Los Angeles. You happen to be on an avenue with the same name as the county in answer 14. You're hungry so you stop at an (15.) eatery that has been a Los Angeles landmark since 1931. Their menu brags that they have served more than how many pounds of lox? (16. Number.)

For the next part you'll need to do some math with at least 7 or 8 significant digits, so get some sort of digital electronic assistance.

Consider the following equation, in which answer 16 is simply the coefficient of x squared:

(answer 16)x² + 66,711,000 x – 6,025,593,321 = 0

This equation has two solutions. One is (17.) a latitude and the other is (18.) a longitude of a (19.) North American landmark. (It should be easy to figure out which is the latitude and which is the longitude, since if you reverse them, you'll end up in Antartica.)

That's it. The first to put the answers (numbered 1 through 19) in the comments is the winner. If Wanderer wins, I'll just buy him lunch. If anyone else wins, you can let me know what you'd like that costs $20 or less that can be arranged without much hassle over email / the web.

I sincerely hope this had some entertainment value for the puzzle geeks out there.

UPDATE: Ayelet is the winner! She get's a seat of honor at the Coffeehouse for life (ha! as if we'll be around that long), and if she ever tells me what she'd like as a prize, she'll get that too. She would also like our readers to visit her blog.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Movie Review -- Bee Season
That's right, coffeehauzers, you get your reviews here before the movie comes out! Or at least this time you do. Caught a sneak preview of Bee Season tonight - based on Myla Goldberg's acclaimed novel. I haven't read the book, so no comparisons here.

The movie is about a little girl with a spiritual relationship to letters. I know, I know - not that old chestnut again. Actually, it's about her relationship with her family, especially her father, and with God. When her father, a religion professor at Berkeley, learns that she is a spelling champion, he becomes obsessed with helping her win - and commune with the Lord. You see, he wrote his thesis on Kabbalah (No Madonna stuff here - he's hardcore), specifically about the power of letters to connect to the spirit of God. So, instead of just breaking out the dictionary and tearing through it, he tells her to do things such as "think of everything in the world that begins with the letter E." And he has her hum letters as if they were mantras.

Meanwhile, her brother, who Father has neglected while he fixates on her, is humming some mantras of his own. He's secretly been wooed by a Hare Krishna (played by Kate Bosworth, so can you blame him?) and he's joining up. Oh, and did I mention Mom's a kleptomaniac? Except instead of having an uncontrollable urge to shoplift, she gets her jollies from breaking and entering.

Actually, neither she nor anyone else in this film is particularly jolly. More like melancholy, baby. The movie is filmed beautifully, often evoking a dreamlike state to convey, well, I'm not sure what, but I liked it.

I liked the movie, but I got the feeling I would have appreciated it more if I had read the book. And I don't love that about movies based on books. I'd prefer a movie that can stand on its own. But the movie is so unique - I guarantee you won't see anything else like it anytime soon - and the performances so good that I'd recommend it.

Other Reviews:

Movie Review -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Movie Review -- The Dinner Game

Treasure Hunt Announcement
The last part of the treasure hunt, Part III, will be posted Sunday, November 13, at noon Pacific time. The first to put the correct answers in the comments to Part III will be the winner, but all who complete the Treasure Hunt will accrue unimaginable glory.

Back to Part I
Back to Part II
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Bush Meets Dalai Lama, Ignoring China's Objections
Once again, Bush stands on the side of freedom.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush met at the White House on Wednesday with the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, ignoring objections from China 10 days before he makes an official visit to Beijing.

The private meeting with the president and the first lady came one day after the Bush administration named China a serious violator of religious freedom in a report to Congress.
This may seem like pointless symbolism to us, but it's very important. China knows that. Look at my review of The Case for Democracy to see why.
Just heard on Foxnews...
Interviewer: "Do you think these hotel bombings have anything to do with the infatada (sic) currently going on in Europe?
Interviewee: "That's interesting. I haven't heard anyone I've been talking to make that connection."

We are doomed.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
California Ballot Initiatives
I voted...

73 - 77: Yes
78 - 80: No

How'd I do?
Prepare for Retirement
Ben Stein wrote an article for Yahoo on preparing for retirement. He made an insightful comparison between Hurrican Katrina and retirement. Said he, "Those who prepared [for the hurricane] got off relatively cheap. Those who had an evacuation plan, plenty of canned food, flashlights, medicines, and batteries got away from the storm or weathered it while others struggled. The hurricane that's coming now is called retirement. It's a storm that's been forecast over and over and it's bearing down on 78 million baby boomers. For most of them, the preparations have been pitifully small."

I agree. If you don't know what you'll need to live comfortably in retirement, you've got work to do. When you figure it out, the next step is planning how to get there. I found that a spreadsheet is a useful tool. I've forecasted the contributions, expenses, and investment returns that I expect to see throughout my earning years and my retirement years. I consider any combination of variables that puts my kids through college, lets me play golf once a week, and gets me to age 90 with more than $0 a winning formula.
Bad Moon Rising

By Cox and Forkum
Monday, November 07, 2005
On Constructionist Justices
Just a great. simple piece on what Conservatives are looking for in the judiciary.



When conservatives say that we want "conservative" judges, or "strict constructionist" or "constitutionalist" judges, what we mean is pretty simple: We want judges who won't make stuff up. We want judges who won't view the Constitution as a mirror in which, at every turn, they see reflected their own opinions and policy preferences. We want judges who will play it straight, read the Constitutional or statutory text (our text, not foreign ones, which the court has relied on in cases like last session's Roper v. Simmons , which held execution of juveniles to be unconstitutional), and apply it as fairly as they can to the individual case before them.

If that were all, liberals would be left with little to say. But there is one thing more: The corollary of the proposition that judges shouldn't make up stuff that isn't in the Constitution or laws is that judges also don't have the discretion to ignore language that is in the Constitution or the laws. Thus, the interstate commerce clause must be recognized as a limitation on Congress's power to regulate the economy, as Judge Roberts noted in the case of the "hapless toad." The Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws can't be ignored every time a public university wants to prefer some applicants over others, based on race. And the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms can't be treated as if it got repealed somewhere along the way.

It is in connection with such issues that liberals often argue that conservative judges are really just as "activist" as liberal judges, if not more so. This is based on the observation that conservatives sometimes hold statutes unconstitutional because, for example, they exceed the constitutional limits on federal power. But again, liberals overlook a fundamental asymmetry: It is activist to import something into the Constitution that is not written there, based on one's own policy preferences. It is not activist to apply and enforce the Constitution as it is written. That, on the contrary, is the duty of every state and federal judge.

Saturday, November 05, 2005
Paris Riots Hit Night 10
The news from France only gets worse.

ACHERES, France — Riots that started in Paris' lower-class suburbs last week and resulted in 250 arrests of predominantly Muslim youths Saturday moved into the capital of France early Sunday morning.

By 1 a.m., a spokesman for the national police reported 13 vehicles torched in the capital - and 607 vehicles burnt overall - during the 10th straight night of rioting. Totals are expected to rise by morning.
They have to say "predominantly Muslim" in case a Jew or Greek Orthodox Christian snuck in there somehow.

The violence — originally concentrated in neighborhoods northeast of Paris with large immigrant populations — has spread across France, extending west to the fields of Normandy and south to resort cities on the Mediterranean. Attacks were reported in Cannes and Nice.

In the Normandy town of Evreux, arsonists burned at least 50 vehicles, part of a shopping center, a post office and two schools, the police spokesman, Patrick Hamon, said.

Five police officers and three firefighters were injured battling the blazes, he said.

The unrest is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in its suburbs, where many Africans and their French-born children live on society's margins, struggling with unemployment, poor housing, racial discrimination, crime and a lack of opportunity.
Hey, wait a minute! I thought France was a socialist paradise? Don't the Europeans always accuse us of unemployment, poor housing, racial discrimination, crime and a lack of opportunity? I thought those were the evil consequences of runaway cowboy capitalism which oppresses the workers. How can the French with their cradle-to-grave government benefits possibly have poverty? How can the French with their sophisticated post-modern liberalism possibly have racial discrimination?

Mayor Alain Outreman tried to cool tempers.

"We are not going to start militias," he said. "You would have to be everywhere."
You would also have to have guns, a willingness to defend yourself and your property, and courage. Have you considered surrender?

Here's another frightening article:

Paris Rioters Set Woman Afire as Violence Spreads

The African immigrant attackers doused the woman, in her 50s and on crutches, with an inflammable liquid and set her afire as she tried to get off a bus in the suburb of Sevran Wednesday, judicial officials said. The bus had been forced to stop because of burning objects in its path. She was rescued by the driver and hospitalized with severe burns.

Police said troublemakers fired bullets into a vandalized bus and burned 85 more cars in Paris and Suresnes, just to the west. In Meaux, east of Paris, officials said youths stoned rescuers aiding someone who had fallen ill.
That must be a misprint because France has very strict gun control, not like in gun-crazed uncivilized America where everyone can just willy-nilly own a gun. French citizens can't own guns so I'm sure that the rioters simply could not have been firing bullets, since I'm sure they could not have obtained guns illegally. At the same time, I wonder if the owners of all the burned buildings and cars feel delighted about having subcontracted their right to protect themselves and their property to their government.

As always, the food here at the Coffeehouse is marginal but expensive, but the advice is terrific and free (if rarely solicited). So here are my suggestions to our French brothers and sisters as a token of our gratitude for their assistance in our War of Independence and for the Statue of Liberty.

Friday, November 04, 2005
Oh Happy Day
The Diva is our eldest daughter. She is seven. She is beautiful. Not beautiful the way non-Jews are beautiful, no blonde ringlets or blue eyes, but beautiful the way Jewish mothers hope; straight, shiny brown hair, upturned nose and full lips. Maybe Bean and I were stunned to be the recipient of such splendor and charm. Perhaps we let her get away with too much. Oh, of course we did. Regardless of nature or nurture, The Diva has learned to get out of challenging tasks by feigning illness and batting her eyelashes. She is quite bright, but always does the minimum required and uses cuteness to take her the rest of the way. If she were an adult, she’d be a sociopath. Fortunately, there is still time to beat it out of her.

Last night, I got a call from The Diva’s teacher (TDT). I was trepidacious. Despite her attitude, The Diva had never been in trouble in school. In order to be charming, of course, one has to behave. TDT told me not to be upset if The Diva returned home saying “I hate TDT.” Or “TDT is mean to me!” TDT has decided that she has “to ride” The Diva to get quality work out of her. She recognizes herself in The Diva. She too, was cute and charming and used it to get by. She was shocked when she got a job and discovered that it didn’t work anymore. She just wanted me to know that she only had The Diva’s best interests at heart and wants her to use all of her talents. Bean and I are so happy. Finally someone who understands our daughter! I look forward to a terrific school year. What a great teacher!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Minor Abortion Information
With less than a week before the California special elections, can we have a quick discussion about Prop 73? This is the one that requires parental notification 48 hours prior to performing abortion on a minor. (I don't think it actually requires consent, but that might be splitting hairs).

Here's the California Sec State voters guide (PDF).

The main argument against this seems to be, pregnant kids will get an abortion by hook or by crook (probably both, literally), so this proposition will result in kids dying from botched abortions.

Does this ring true? Did it really happen all the time prior to Roe, or is that just a myth?

On one hand, one cannot perform any sort of body piercing on a minor in California without parental consent (or notification?), so it seems obvious that abortion, not to mention any other medical procedure, should be in the same boat. On the other hand, the kid's desire to perform a piercing wouldn't be as desperate, or as seemingly necessary, or seemingly as possible to hide...

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a little torn. I have two young daughters, for what it's worth.

And, if I may, I'd like to lay a couple of groundrules for this discussion: 1.) (Mainly for random commenters who might stumble across this) No hysterics, please. (No pun intended, by the way). 2.) For the purposes of this discussion, the issue of pros and cons of the existence of voter referendums is off the table.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Another good food trend
My wife is into this new dark chocolate health kick. She was pretty much a strictly milk chocolate person before. I'm loving this, cuz I'm all about the dark, knowhaImsayin? More and more companies are making dark (or darker) versions. Move over special dark, hershey's making a 60-percenter. So's Ghiradheli. Good stuff.
Another sign you're in California
My kids' Orthodox yeshiva day school (Preschool - 8th grade) just offered a new daily lunch menu item: sushi. I'm not kidding.
Rosa Parks
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks took the bus. She sat in the middle section between the white front and the black back. When a white needed a seat in her row, she was supposed to stand and move away. She did not. It was a gutsy move on her part. The driver had her arrested and Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize a boycott of Montgomery's buses.

Ms. Parks died on October 24. Here's to you, Ms. Parks.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Riots Plague Paris Suburbs for Sixth Night
Good gravy! Rioting in Paris for six straight nights?!? What's the world coming to? I bet it's those troublesome Presbyterians. Once they dominate a neighborhood, it's nothing but rioting. Let's read…

PARIS — Unrest spread across troubled suburbs around Paris in a sixth night of violence Tuesday as police clashed with angry youths and scores of vehicles were torched in at least nine towns, local officials said.

Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets at advancing gangs of youths in Aulnay-sous-Bois — one of the worst-hit suburbs — where 15 cars were burned, said the prefecture that runs the Seine-Saint-Denis region. Youths lobbed Molotov cocktails at an annex to the town hall and threw stones at the firehouse. It was not immediately clear whether there were injuries from the clashes.
Crikey! It sounds like the action scene from a special effects thriller. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe these are marauding Buddhists. You can never turn your back on a group of Buddhists. They're always liable to riot.

The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, often from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency. Anger and despair thrive in the tall cinder-block towers and long "bars" that typically make up housing projects in France.
Oh! Muslims! Causing trouble in France?!? Huh! Who would have guessed? They're probably just misunderstood.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — blamed by many for fanning the violence with tough talk and harsh tactics — met Tuesday night in Paris with youths and officials from Clichy-sous-Bois in a bid to cap days of rioting. But the unrest spread even as they met. Sarkozy recently referred to the troublemakers as "scum" and "riffraff."
Whoa there Nick! Calling young rioting gangsters names? Why this is all your fault! I know that if you called me names the first thing I would do is get on a plane to Paris and riot. You're practically forcing them to riot.

Unrest was triggered by the deaths of two teenagers electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police. A third was injured. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.
Ahhh, the heavy hand of the fascist Islamophobic police is to blame, electrocuting innocent teens for their sadistic fun. If that happened in my neighborhood, I'd be sure to riot.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Tuesday with the parents of the three families, promising a full investigation of the deaths and insisting on "the need to restore calm," the prime minister's office said.
Has he considered surrender?

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