imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

a blog that reclines to the left


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Warning: This has been migrated from an earlier blog server. Links, images, and styles from postings before 2018 may be funky.

29 Nov 2014Yellow and purple: a parable of sexism

A faraway planet is populated by a sentient species that comes in two genetic varieties, the Yellows and the Purples. These two varieties are more or less equal in their physical and intellectual abilities, with one glaring difference: the Yellows periodically have to go to the bathroom, and the Purples do not.

29 Dec 2011They do not speak in my name, nor I in theirs

As the Midrash says, there are seventy faces of Torah. I have chosen to follow a certain path within Orthodox Judaism, but I’m willing to admit that other paths are also valid. In particular, if other Jewish men and women find spiritual benefit from practicing a higher level of gender segregation than I favor, they should live and be well. To paraphrase a certain Chinese sage, I tolerate those who are tolerant; I also tolerate those who are intolerant.

29 Nov 2011Putting the financial system in the red

Yesterday, Fred Wilson, a prominent New York venture capitalist, had some kind words for Bitcoin, the crypto-currency that is “mined” by computers solving progressively harder math problems:

18 Nov 2011When Scalzi called it “Omelas State University” he was being generous

A columnist for The Nation quotes a Penn State student defending Joe Paterno, the football coach who allegedly shielded a child rapist from the law:

17 Nov 2011Two cheers for government debt

If the Occupy Wall Street movement has done nothing else, it has pushed the mainstream media to actually talk about income inequality. Of course, now that the encampments have been rousted in New York, Oakland, and elsewhere, the punditocracy is free to return to its previous obsession, Teh Deficit. Better still, the Congressional deficit-busting “supercommittee” is approaching its deadline, with no deal in sight, so we can expect to see lots of hand-wringing about Congress’s bipartisan failure to reduce Teh Deficit.1

16 Nov 2011Some scrolls regarding proper treatment of scrolls

Mishnah Bava Metzia 2:8 (this is in the chapter discussing the laws of returning lost objects to their rightful owner; cf. Deuteronomy 22:1–3):

27 Oct 2011Voice recognition technology? In a phone? In Scotland?

Siri, the virtual personal assistant that comes with the new iPhone 4S, is advertised to understand English as she is spoke in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Somebody forgot to tell Apple’s engineers that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, so the poor electronic lass is mistaking “cheers” for “chairs”… and worse.

16 Oct 2011George W. Bush, untaxer of the poor

In response to the we are the 99% movement, a number of right-wingers have focused attention on the fact that only 53% of Americans pay Federal income taxes. (This statistic ignores all the other kinds of taxes that lower-income folks pay, but set that aside for a moment.) Who is responsible for this mass legalized tax evasion? Republicans.

09 Oct 2011Not exactly a resolution, but

I hope to do more blogging in 5772.

09 Oct 2011Milestones

About twenty years ago, I spent a month in Argentina, visiting a high-school friend, practicing my Spanish, and getting a socially inept gringo’s view of Buenos Aires. If I want to remember exactly which year I was there, I look up a biography of Rudolf Hess, the Nazi who had been second in line to succeed Hitler. Why? Because the month I spent in Argentina was the month in which Hess died in prison, and one of my memories from that trip was the photocopied, anonymous fliers posted all over the city, with his picture and the caption:

05 Aug 2011In defense of the debt-ceiling deal

In the aftermath of this week’s budget-cutting, debt-ceiling-raising compromise, both liberal Democrats and Tea Party Republicans have excoriated their respective leaders, charging that those leaders were snookered by the other side. The more I think about what happened, the more I believe that the Tea Party folks are right: Speaker Boehner got taken to the cleaners.

21 Jul 2011New beta story: “Husbandry”

The missionaries’ suntans contrasted with the rain falling outside Angela’s porch. They wore raincoats with the same lemon color as the house’s trim, and their facial expressions reminded her of puppies begging for attention. As the woman held up a plastic-bagged copy of The Watchtower, Angela rubbed sleep out of her eyes. Maybe she could invite them to use the bathroom and get a drink of water? Should she check with Mike first, or just assume that her husband had slept through the ringing doorbell? As she debated with herself, she noticed that the man’s face was changing: his cheekbones rose, his nose widened, and his skin bronzed to match Angela’s own complexion. “Derek?” she whispered.

The alien winked and put one finger to his lips.

“Come in come in.” Angela held the door wide for them. As they climbed the narrow, dimly lit staircase, she heard a door open on the second-floor landing. She called up, letting adrenaline power her voice: “It’s OK, sweetie. Old college friends.” Derek lowered the raincoat hood. His hair curled as it retracted into the scalp. The woman followed him, and Angela took up the rear. “You must be Kimberly?” Angela whispered.

Kimberly looked bashfully over her shoulder. Her lips had tinted themselves an un-Christian shade of red. “Sorry if we woke you. Your phones were off.”

“We were up late,” Angela admitted. “Just talking.”

Safely inside the apartment, Kimberly embraced Angela’s husband, a white man with a shaved head and a Vandyke beard. Angela kissed Derek on the lips, muttered something about how awful she looked, and took both raincoats to the bathroom. Between flushing the toilet and turning on the sink, she heard Mike’s question “So, honey, how’s that invasion of Earth coming along?”, and Kimberly’s laughter.

20 Jul 2011Getting closer to nature

A flowering onion stem: a single umbel atop a tall, leafless scape.

13 Jul 2011Debt ceiling: the endgame begins

1:09 p.m.
President Obama warns that if the debt ceiling is not raised by August 3rd, Social Security, disability, and veterans’ checks may not go out.
2:56 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) proposes an escape hatch that would allow the President to unilaterally raise the debt limit, subject to Congressional disapproval. (The Democrats would be fools to accept this plan, but it represents a massive step backward from the Republican position that any debt-ceiling hike not accompanied by massive spending cuts and zero tax hikes is unacceptable.)
5:27 p.m.
Right-wing Republican base has a cow.
6:56 p.m.
House Majority Leader John Boehner (R–OH) says he likes Senator McConnell’s plan.
7:40 p.m.
Grover Norquist says he kinda sorta likes the plan.

07 Jul 2011Lambda: the ultimate religion

The Puritans of the colonial era believed in Calvinist theology, which states that God chose who would be saved from eternal damnation, and if He didn’t choose you, nothing you did could change His mind about your fate. In order to join their churches, you had to convince the church elders that you were one of the Elect, which you did by describing your personal conversion experience; this experience proved that God had laid His hand on your soul and brought you into the fold.