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The book of Genesis tells tale after tale of fraternal relationships gone awry. We begin with the worst case scenario: Cain kills Abel. Then Sarah becomes incensed when Ishmael is playing with Isaac, and he is banished; they reunite only for their father's funeral. Then Jacob buys Esau's birthright and acquires Esau's blessing, they enjoy one reunion, and don't see each other again until they must bury Isaac. Finally we have Joseph and his brothers - who sell Joseph into slavery. In this case, the entire family is reunited, everyone hugs and cries, Jacob and Joseph are gathered to their kin and חזק חזק ונתחזק.

There is a progress, of sorts, through Genesis; each fraternal conflict has a successively better outcome, but it is in Exodus that we finally see siblings dwelling together, by and large, in peace. I'm speaking of Amram's kids - Miriam, Moses, and Aaron.
Read the rest at The Reform Baal T'shuvah
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אני יכול לקרוא עברית מודרנית

כמו ילד בן שבע

בעזרת מילון

I can read Modern Hebrew

Like a 7 year old

with the aid of a dictionary.

And I'm proud of this. I've learned the binyanim, have a small working vocabulary, a larger reading vocabulary, and children's lit is teaching me some of the idioms. I am proud to be able to read "Mr. Loudmouth" in Hebrew with a dictionary.
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Some reflections on Matzah and Injeerah inspired by this week's Parsha can be found on my jblog.

The Reform Baal T'shuvah: Parshat Bo: The Thing which Matza is Not.
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It's the day where the Hillel at Glasgow University makes kosher Haggis. Not difficult, really, given that Haggis is basically sheep entrails and grain, but there's always lots of discussion of it over there. You kind of need to have a good relationship with the abbatoir though so you can get a kashered sheep's stomach.

One day I'll try my hand at Haggis, I suppose, but I want to talk about about something similar. Stuffed Kishke. I made stuffed Kishka today (appropriate to Robbie Burns day in its way I reckon) following a recipe I learned from my teacher Rob Portnoe. The recipe goes very much like this:

1 Package of Ritz crackers or equivalent (ideal to find something Parve (ritually neutral with respect to separation of milk and meat))
4 Tbsp of a parve fat.
5 large Carrots
3 Stalks of celery
1 large onion
Salt and Pepper to taste.

To his teaching I add

4 leaves of fresh sage.

Grind the fat, crackers, and dry spices finely in a food processor. Decant to mixing bowl. Grind the veg in the food processor quite finely. Add to cracker mixture. Knead it all together so it is well blended, form into logs (its better than bad, its good!) and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Put your foil wrapped logs on a baking sheet and bake at 375F for 75 minutes. Let cool. At this point, I rewrap and freeze so I can use it at my leisure, slicing and frying it up when I'm fixing Shabbos dinner.

Now that that's before you (and recorded here so that I won't be at sea if I lose Rob's sheet), lets have fun with language.

Kishkes is a Yiddish word meaning "guts." Literally. So stuffed Kishke should and did mean a beef intestine stuffed with stuffing. The recipe I give above is a contemporary filling. Earlier, more traditional recipes might have made use of some organ meats, would have used chicken fat (schmaltz) rather than a parve shortening or margarine, etc.

But you will note, from the recipe, that no actual kishkes are used. The thing being stuffed is aluminum foil. One might find Parchment called for instead. This recipe is parve, and can be made Vegan with little effort. And when one speaks of Kishke today this is what one means. 20 years ago, if you ordered Kishke in a deli, you got it stuffed in a beef casing. The casing was the Kishke, and the stuff you actually ate was the stuff you actually ate. Now the Kishke has been cast off, and the word "kishke" has come to refer strictly to the stuffing.

The shift is sufficiently complete that one can get from Empire Poultry a Kishke stuffed-boneless chicken breast (similar in concept to chicken Kiev, but stuffed with, well, kishke instead of fat-n-scallions).

This happens, quite simply, because beef intestine is hard for the consumer to come by, and the product wouldn't be parve if it were, and people tended to regard the stuffing as the point of the dish, so that was the thing that became what the word kishke signified in the culinary sense.

A Caveat.

Jan. 20th, 2009 06:27 pm
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[ profile] level_head has a post worth contemplating, regardless of its slant, called Unpatriotic.

It's noteworthy to my mind because it points to a way in which we, as Americans, have gotten sloppy in our thinking, especially over the past eight years, but going back farther than that even. We have become accustomed to an us and them style of thought. The right and the left alike have spent the Bush years assimilating the "if you're not with us, your against us" mentality. And here is my warning: any lefty who brings this framework to the Obama presidency is going to be disappointed.

What we have in Obama is someone who grasps realpolitik. And that tends to mean compromise. If the last 8 years have had any effect on our culture at all, it has been to make "compromise" on either side of the fence a dirty word. The partisanship that has been brewing since Nixon, that saw its full flowering in the "Republican Revolution" and the Bush administration have torn this nation limb from limb. Getting us to where we are now demanded that Franken take on Limbaugh, that Maddow deconstruct Coulter, but the battle is now lost and won, and its time for reconstruction.

I think that Obama's ability to blend that which I agree with along with that which I find distasteful speaks volumes about his ability to reintegrate a nation that has been separated as if by a centrifuge. To those who are seeking ideological purity, he will seem a sellout, but to those who want a nation at peace, he may just the ticket.

You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.

[Edit: [ profile] bluerain notes: "I actually think it's grossly unfair to cast anyone who is angry at the selection of Warren as displaying an "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality." This assessment is correct and just, and I have therefore removed the reference from the body of the post. Thanks to her and [ profile] orv for helping refine my thoughts on that.]
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Learned from [ profile] level_head who learned it from [ profile] rowyn that at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, an employee was stampeded to death by a mob awaiting the store's early opening. Do read the story if it is not familiar to you.

Now, where to even begin?

Well, let's see, let's begin on Thanksgiving, when people who were working retail had to be prepared to wake up at 2 or 3AM to be at stores by 4am for 5am openings. Many would have had to have earlier Thanksgiving meals, or given up on it in order to be alert the next day. This was noted by friend Stego.

This is in service of what?

Then there are those 5:00 store openings as well, littered with loss-leaders to entice people into the stores. Heavy discounts on flat screen TV's were common, not just at Wal-Mart, but at Best Buy, and many other outlets across the nation.

This is in service of what?

Then there are the people determined to be first in line, determined to beat their neighbors to those loss-leaders. Instead of getting a good night's sleep and spending the day after Thanksgiving in quality time with family and friends, they're up at God-knows-when so they can get this stuff that no one really needs.

This is in service of what?

There's desperation all over this scenario - the retail worker desperate for a paycheck, the retailer desperate for sales, the consumer desperate for the discount. And all this desperation collided tragically on Friday in Valley Stream, and a man died.

This in service of what?

Ben Zoma would say: "Who is rich, he who is happy with his portion." (Avot 4:11)

If everyone in America followed Ben Zoma, our economy would collapse in a heartbeat. So we live in a world of manufactured need, and discontent with our portion is the engine that drives our economy. And right now, problems in banking and industry are forcing some to learn to be content with their portion, and others to look for bargains that will allow them to assuage their discontent within the constraints imposed by those problems.

Sales like the Black Friday sales are designed to capitalize on the discontent that our culture works so hard to manufacture. And that discontent is a powerful enough force that this year, it killed a man.
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President-elect Obama is making appointments. I congratulate myself on having correctly guessed Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. Many seem to think she's too hawkish, or that Larry Summers is too politically incorrect for the role he will be taking on, or that the Obama Cabinet is looking too much like the Clinton cabinet and there seems to be some disappointment there.

I think too many people voted for the man that the Republicans were running against. The socialist redistributor of wealth who would negotiate with terrorists. Thing is, that man wasn't in the race, Obama was.

I did not go to the Caucuses because I could not see any material difference between Obama and Hillary. Then I saw Hillary do something somewhat foolish on Energy and had a momentary preference for Obama, then Obama did something similarly foolish, and it was back to 6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

Obama's a centrist. So was McCain.

The difference is that we didn't need to tie a lunatic fringe albatross around our centrist's neck to make him palatable to the base - the threats in the Republican ads evoked from me a response of "you say that like it's a bad thing."

But Obama is NOT the man the Republicans ran against. He'll do less harm than McCain would have, might even do a bit of good, but FDR he is not.


Book Meme

Nov. 20th, 2008 12:53 am
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Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
Turn to page 56.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post that sentence along with these instructions on your LJ.
Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

ויאמר אלהים אל יעקב קומ עלה בית אל ושב שם ועשה שם מזבח לאל הנראה אליך בברחך מפני עשו אחיך
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Here are some thoughts of mine on the matter of the Real Estate market correction and its consequences.

The assumption that the bubble came about solely because of subprime lending unhinging home prices from inflation misses the point. The Fed lowering the Prime Rate to levels that were unsustainable in order to combat inflation near the beginning of this decade did a lot to make people seek new mortgages and re-finances who perhaps otherwise would not have. It demonstrates a failure of the "Free Market" that prices so quickly began to outstrip value. One thing this should teach us is that homes, real-estate, have an intrinsic value, separate from the market value. The bursting of the bubble is a "correction," but this is a more tragic correction than, say, a correction in the stock market, because rather than being stock certificates, these are people's homes. So these homes go into foreclosure because, in many cases, the homeowner is burdened with a debt that exceeds the value of his collateral. Seen this happen first hand.

Banks could have taken two approaches - 1) Take a loss by writing a new mortgage for the real value of the house, or 2) Take a bigger loss by foreclosing the home and reselling it in a depressed market, depressing it even further.

Banks seem, by and large to have chosen option 2. It seems to me that any "bailout" would have to favor option 1 - I suspect many homeowners currently faced with foreclosure would greet a manageable monthly payment at a fixed rate with relief.

And this brings me to my last point. If you are buying a house because you plan to fix it up and resell it within a year, perhaps an ARM makes sense. But if you are buying a house as a roof over your head, and a nest egg, then the ARM is a predatory instrument. Especially in times where the prime rate is unsustainably low. If subprime lending is to continue, ARMs should not be among the instruments used: a subprime loan presumes a precarious borrower, it is folly to imagine that such a borrower will be able to manage a higher payment when the rate goes up.

So, my proposals are as follows:

1) Do not write (or underwrite) loans for more than the home is reasonably worth.


2) Do not make ARMs available to subprime borrowers. The more precarious your economic situation, the more important it is that your housing costs be Fixed, not Variable.

Item 1 is tricky, because it raises the problem of how to assess a property's intrinsic value (by which I really mean the market value in a market which is neither inflated nor depressed). I suppose a formula that looks at average home prices over a fairly long period of time, adjusted for inflation would come close.

The effect of people not being to obtain loans for a ludicrously overvalued home would be that they could not make offers on them and the prices would have to reach sane levels before the loans would be written.
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I braised some endive Sunday because I've always wondered what endives are for, and I came across the idea in a British cookbook I ran across in the bookstore. I didn't by the book, or even memorize the recipe, but I held onto the idea. Ultimately, what I did was to brown 8 endives in butter, deglaze with 2C chicken stock and 3oz Lemon Juice. Parked that in a slow oven for a couple hours. They came out really good, but I think I used more liquid than was necessary; I wound up wasting quite a bit of it.

They were a nice side with my Buffalo Burgers Caprese, which I make by cooking bison patties on a griddle with Balsamic Vinegar, a touch of Tabasco and a little grapeseed oil, adorning them with minced fresh basil layered with many thin slices of tomato and topped with a slice of mozzarella, served on grilled multigrain muffins. There was about one half of a medium sized tomato on each.
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Posted to Saabscene, X-Posted here.

Well, my 95 9000CS has passed on to the great parts bin in the sky (or Fridley, where most of our breakers are). I had just replaced its fuel pump (Thanks TB!) and was about to take delivery (it arrived today) of a new return connector for the pump (the return had broken, and I temporarily bodged it with JB Weld). The car would not live to have it fitted.

As I was driving home yesterday from work, contemplating its next oil change, I hit a dip in the road and the transaxle-side front wheel was from its axle untimely ripp'd. Amid screeching and smoking tire, I guided it to the shoulder (testimony to Saab's attention to active safety, that the car was eminently controllable with one of its wheels akimbo). I had thought it merely a blowout, but when I saw what had in fact happened, I knew that she had reached the end of her service life.

Exchanged it to the breakers for the cost of the tow. Performed the sad business of transerring those of my possessions I wished to keep to my wife's Kia. Gave the engine compartment a final puzzled stare. Contemplated taking the DI Cart as a keepsake, it being a bit emblematic of the car to me, and decided against; the jagged scar on my little finger, acquired when removing the antenna, is sufficient memento I suppose. And today, like an orphan with no knowledge of its mother's demise, that new fuel return awaited me on my porch.

I don't know that my next vehicle will be another Saab. While it was a pleasure to drive, I don't know that it was a pleasure to own, and it wasn't (except for the fuel pump) a pleasure to work on. I may revisit the ringed planet, having sojourned there once before in a Saturn SW1 with sufficient joy. But I won't be haunting these halls again for a bit.

There are some matters I would like to deal with in closing out my saloon's estate*. If you are USian and interested in any of the following items, which I purchased but never installed, please PM Me.

Front Brake Pads (Metallic Cheapies)
Lower engine mounts, front and rear
Torque Arm (Upper engine mount) Bushings
Torque Arm Bushing Extraction/Insertion hickey.
Fuel Pump Return connector with O-Rings

* This pun could not be made in my native Yankee.
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Today I took a call from a client who could not connect to the internet. I wanted her to power cycle her modem and router, but after she went to do so, she returned in defeat - the modem and router were in a locked room to which her husband had the only key.

And my mind turned toward Bluebeard.


Jul. 23rd, 2008 01:03 pm
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Had my appendix out Monday morning after presenting at ER Sunday night/Monday AM. Quite surprised - symptoms seemed more Gall Bladderish. Was released Tuesday afternoon.
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Spent the day replacing my rear brake pads and patching up some rust spots on the Saab - I'll take a bondo-bubble over a rust bubble any day.
richardf8: (Default)
You can't take them into the theatre with you if you aim to enjoy the new Indiana Jones movie.

It's a fun piece of fluff, and good brain candy - no nutritional value at all.

So don't ask what kind of temperatures the ground reaches during a nuclear test or how one can drop into the standing wave at the foot of a waterfall and not be churned there. This is pure Cartoon Physics.

That said, I wish there were more river between the waterfalls so that we could spend more time watching them run rapids. - You know you're a canoeist when your first thought when the Heroine lands the Amphibious Vehicle in the river is "Shoot for the V's!"

So all in all, cotton candy for the brain, a good fun way to pass an evening, but don't poke at it, because it WILL break under scrutiny.

Yom HaShoah

May. 1st, 2008 10:44 pm
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Many years ago the father of a friend gave me a gift. I don't know that he ever trusted his son with it, but he trusted me.

He was a survivor. His wife too. Don't know the details, but the PTSD was something his wife never let go of. One day, I delivered him food, because he was in need and he gave me the gift of this story. I only remember its climax, its crux, and I figure there is no day better than today to record it.

He was on a train headed for a camp. It was summer's peak and they were packed in. Stopped. Without water they would die. They drew lots. It fell upon my friend's father to escape the train and bring back water. People gave them what valuables they had so that he could pay.

He left the train, acquired the water, and returned with it. It seemed odd to me that he would return to the train, but people were depending on him, and the Hungarian countryside would not necessarily be a hospitable place for a lone Jew.

People were grateful and the train moved on. Death was postponed, but it only ever is anyway. They were alive then, and that was what mattered.

He survived. Sired a son. Told me this story, and I'm sharing it because that's what was wanted.
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These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, and italicize the ones you own but have not read.
Big List of Books )

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