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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Man who Mistook his Meatball Sandwich for a Heart Attack

I'm twice blessed.

First that I have a sweet husband and second that he doesn't read my blog.
So here a story about his adventures but let's just keep it between us OK?

Last night my husband came home from work quite late at night and starving. He headed straight for the fridge and was happy to find a big pot of delicious sweet and sour meatballs I had made for Shabbos. I had planned to serve 1/2 as an appetizer Friday night and freeze the rest but I forgot about the freezing and left the remainder in the fridge.
My happy husband dumped the pot into a glass bowl microwaved the lot and ate it on thick slices of challah. When I came downstairs he was munching away happily cheeks as full as a squirrel's in the fall.

About two hours later as I was falling asleep my husband came upstairs to tell me he didn't feel so great and was going to stay up for a little while. Half and hour later he was back upstairs asking me what the symptoms are for a heart attack. I told him to take some tums, which he did. Then he went to Web MD and started self diagnosing - which is always fun, especially for hypochondriacs. By this time he was feeling a lot worse and was bordering on a panic attack.
His arm was numb he was having chest pains he was starting to freak out so he went off to the ER. I agreed it was better to be safe than sorry and normally I would have told him to go much earlier but that empty meatball pot was a serious clue to solving this medical mystery.

He was poked and proded, Xray-ed, IVed, measured and tested. He had his blood drawn twice (the doctor didn't like the first result) but eventually they let him go.
It was a little tricky explaining my absence at work today- meatball overdose? Acute hypochondria? but hopefully it will be OK. I'm just glad my husband is feeling better and next time I'll remember to put the leftovers in the freezer.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Advice to Missionaries

Now that my daughter (Bas-Shifra) is eleven I allow her to bike around the neighborhood with her friends. We always coordinate a time that she needs to be home and my husband and I recently purchased a pre-paid cellphone which we allow our kids to take with them when they are out alone or with friends. I find it very sad that kids have so little freedom today so I try to let her have her independence in small ways when I can (I know I rode my bike ALL over the place all day as a kid and my parents were QUITE overprotective.)

When my daughter and her friend returned to our house yesterday afternoon after a bike ride I noticed her friend had a "Why Islam" pamphlet in the basket of her bike. When I asked her about it a whole story came flooding out of both girls at once.

"There was this weird man..."
"He was wearing a white dress!"
"and he said hi to us so we didn't want to be rude"
"He asked us if we thought about why we were here in this world"
"and he kept talking about the afterlife"
"it was CREEPY!"
"and he gave us these pamphlets but Bas-Shifra threw hers in the trash right away!"
"He really freaked us out."
"He was just handing things out to people but when he saw us he started that whole conversation."

I was really upset.
If you want to missionize on the street that's bad enough but do NOT approach CHILDREN.

In a very uncharacteristic move I called the police. We live in a small town, I thought they should know. Bas-Shifra of course was SO embarrassed.
Apparently unless the man was "being inappropriate" he's within his rights to preach to children on the street.

Both the policeman and I reminded Bas-Shifra that she is not required to be "polite" to strangers who want to talk to her on the street and should just keep on moving when called to by someone she does know.

My daughter and I talked about it later - she apparently thought he was Jewish since he had set himself up outside a kosher eatery on the main street and had his head covered. "I didn't know he was another RELIGION" she said "he just seemed weird." When I explained to her about how missionaries operate she said "Wow, he was pretty subtle I had no idea I was being converted!" I almost laughed then, but honestly this whole thing has me a bit freaked out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SPLOGS! (a blogging on blogging post)

I love science and technology.
I'm facinated by all things new and cool.
I am easily distracted by shiny objects.
I subscribe to Wired Magazine and read it cover to cover.

This month's issue had a extensive story on blogs which are really just spam in disguise.
These "splogs" account for more than 50% of known blogs which often started out as legitmate blogs that were abandoned by their owners (snif!) and hijacked by these sploggers.

All those spammy ads we get as comments help to create yet another "link" in the twisted chain of fake blogs designed to sell a product or simply deceive google ads out of a few bucks.

While the article from this issue of Wired is not yet available online, here is one with some useful tips to help you to avoid being splogged.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Guess who's guest posting at Dov Bear?

Go on! Guess!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Questions I've been avoiding Part 2

It's a little known fact that only about one out of every ten "Ask Shifra" questions I receive at shifraq@gmail.com get answered here on the blog.

There is a method to my madness:
Most often the question's author asks me to not answer the question online because it is too personal, too revealing, or because I already know who they are (at least online.)

The second most common reason is that I don't feel equipped to answer the question. I do respond to all my non-spam email (eventually) but some topics are just over my head.

Gerus (or conversion to Judaism) is one of those topics. I get a lot of questions on that topic but I consider it out of my depth. It is difficult for me to get my mind around the idea of leaving everything you know and immersing yourself into a totally foreign lifestyle. It's difficult for me to give advice because my instinct is always to tell the writer NOT to do it - and that might be pretty hard to hear once a person has made a decision that this is what he/she really wants to do and is just looking for some support.

Another question I can't answer is "Should I break up with my girlfriend/boyfriend?"
As detailed as your email might be there are two sides to every story - I don't know you and I don't know your significant other so it's really impossible for me to assess the situation fairly. That said, if you are already at the point of asking a stranger over the internet if you should break up with someone you know intimately the answer is probably yes.

Beauty tips are also not my area of expertise - no, I don't know if a buzz cut would look good on you but odds are the answer is "no" and also "are you for real?"

Oh and for the last time I will NOT be answering questions about the halachik implications of wanking. Email Gil or something. I'm not a Rav or a posek or priest who takes confession, or a 900 number.

Last are the kind of questions that are not really questions at all - just sad stories.
But if you need someone to listen that's something I can do too... Sometimes it's good to get things out in writing. It allows you to look at your life from a new angle or to release some of what you've been feeling in a constructive way.

Well now you've had a behind the scenes peek at what it's like to be "ask shifra" but don't let that stop you from sending in your questions, whether I can answer them "online" or not it's my pleasure to help out where I can.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More from Chavi Kaufman

My daughter (affectionately known here on the blog as Chavi Kaufman) is at it again!

We were playing a game together on Shabbos when she devised a strategy that put her way ahead of me and very close to winning the game.
"WELL!" said Chavi "That worked like a clam!"
I looked at her questioningly...Like a clam?... Like... a... clam...OH!
"Don't you mean it worked like a charm?" I finally asked
"No." said Chavi "You must be thinking of some other expression."

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Case of the Lazy Gardner

Dear Shifra -

Here's a question that has been bothering my family for a while...

We use a certain gardener to take care of our yardwork. He isn't that great a gardener, and our yard barely looks passable. We pay him, because he really, REALLY needs the money.

Unfortunately, he does the bare minimum for our yard, doesn't know the meaning of grass seed, and our yard has had better days.

So it's basically, a tzedakka issue.

So what's the problem? We really want to switch to ANOTHER gardener, who happens to be an amazing landscaper. A real green-thumb pro, who would get our yard looking amazing in no time. And they also need the money...and they are ALSO friends of ours.

Problem is -- how can we dump the first gardener and switch to the other one?
I'm not even sure it's halachikally permissible, but we would so much want a nicer lawn and pay our friends to keep our yard looking nice.

Thanks for listening,

Yard which is less than green


Ooooh good question!
First let me lay out my usual disclaimer - I am not a halachik authority and I am not offering any kind of p'sak on this issue blah, blah, blah....

I've re-read your question half a dozen times searching for clues that might help me resolve your problem. It seems that your gardener is not a "gardener" at all - if your lawn looks terrible and he has not heard of grass seed, clearly this person is either unwilling or unable to perform his job.
It makes me wonder if this person also thinks of your payment as charity rather than payment for services rendered.
Have you tried telling him what you expect? Obviously it is not your job to teach him how to be a gardener but telling him that you expect him to mow/water the lawn or plant grass seed (which you can provide if he cannot afford it on what you pay him), or whatever else it is that you want him to do might help you to both get what you want.

If you have already tried this and find that he is hopeless as gardener or does not care enough to put in the effort required I think you are within your rights to let him go - you are paying him in return for a service which he is not providing, and not even ATTEMPTING to provide. If you wish to keep sending him checks just to be charitable go ahead - it's pretty much what you are doing now anyway. Once you make that decision it's up to you and your budget as to whether you want to hire the other gardener.

It's going to be a bit painful one way or the other for sure but as long as you give the original gardener a chance to improve I think you've been fair enough.

Good Luck!

Let me know how it turns out.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Sucker for Cleverness

I'm a sucker for all things clever.
Maybe that's why I'm such a fan of this band.

Check out what my boys at OK GO have been up to, and turn up the volume!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Fanning an Old Flame

Dear Ask Shifra -

A few weeks ago, I ran into my old girlfriend.
We've bumped into each other a few times over the years, but for some reason this last encounter made me wonder if she ever thinks about our past. The truth is I do think about her from time to time. We didn't break up on bad terms but drifted apart due to the circumstances of our lives when we were younger.
All these years later I'm happily married with children and thank G-d for giving me so many of life's blessings. She is also happily married to a very nice, good person who treats her very well. But I know I never fully got over her and now ever since we met last have been thinking if I am the only one who you have ever heard from who saves a piece of their heart for an old flame.
I am also really curious if my old girlfriend feels the same way and I have considered asking her.

What do you and your readers think I should do?
Also, do you know if women have these same concerns and would a woman who
found out her old boyfriend has very fond memories of their
relationship be pleased to learn this, especially if she knew her old
boyfriend understands that it is impossible to become a part of her
life again and impossible to pursue those feelings?

Very Curious

Dear Curious,

Please, call me Shifra. I think there are a lot of people who still have a bit of feeling for an old love tucked in the corner of their heart somewhere but the important thing to realise here is that this love is just a memory and not your current reality. Whoever you were, or she was, or the two you you were together no longer exists. What you are feeling are really just phantom feelings. Attachment to something that is no longer a part of you.

As for discussing your feelings with your ex I can't imagine it would do any good for either of you.

Here are some of the possible outcomes to that conversation and why they would be a wretched mistake.


Outcome #1 - She loves you and always has.
Problem: You are both pretty happily married with kids and debt and all that - but this is LOVE we're talking about! So what will you do?! Leave your families? Have an affair? Torture yourself with thoughts of what could have been? It's headtrip central!

Outcome #2 - She thinks you are insane or reacts to you as if you are. Your question (as benign as you make it sound) totally freaks her out. She tells her husband or your wife. She avoids you forever. This all could happen regardless of her true feelings for you.

Result: Embaressment and general weirdness for all eternity - HEADTRIP!

Outcome #3 - She thinks it's "sweet."
Ok so what does that mean? Is she being patronizing? Does she love you back? Can you ask her more questions? Will that lead to outcome #1 or #2? See Above (hint: headtrip, headtrip!)

Outcome #4 - She doesn't have any feeling for you. You phrase your question just right so that she can answer truthfully with no fear or pressure. But no, there is nothing there, sorry Charlie. Then you feel depressed because you had that little spark in your mind this whole time and it was just imaginary. Why did you need to ask her, now you just feel stupid. Waaaa!

So as you can see, no good can come of this.

Now as for how the woman would feel about knowing her old flame still has feelings for her:

As a married woman who has been in that situation I can honestly tell you that "Some things are better left unsaid." (Quick! Name that song- Elie? Mirty?)
I don't think most women would mind knowing that you still think well of them, or that you fondly remember your relationship, but knowing you are still pining for them on some level could be easily construed as either sad or creepy.

Running into someone from your past can churn up a lot of old feelings but once you settle back into your life and regain your perspective you will realise that this is something that is really that cannot be persued because what you miss is long gone. I'm sorry if that sounds a bit harsh because I know that old feelings run very deep but until they mellow out a bit I'd strongly advise you not to react to them.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Anderson Cooper 24/7

Like many of you thoughts of the war in Lebanon/Israel have been on my mind constantly these past weeks.

Since Jameel needs to sleep at least a few hours a night I've been watching a lot of CNN in the evenings. Based on my limited viewing (I'm normally not much of a news junkie) it seems like Anderson Cooper is the only anchorman they have - excluding Larry King of course but he creeps me out - can't they give that man a gold watch and send him home already? ICK.

Anyway back to Anderson Cooper - He reminds me of a man I used to work with who was a former US Navy officer (but unlike Cooper he was called up at the start of the war in Iraq and is still deployed as far as I know.) I'm suspicious of A.C. - he's kind of handsome in a decidedly cultivated sort of way and semi-intelligent but not in a way that would make anyone else feel bad about themselves. He occasionally reminds me of a robot of some kind. If the world suddenly discovered he was an android prototype I was not be surprised.

He's been hosting his show Anderson Cooper 360 live on location from the Israeli/Lebanese border and as with all live, on-location, overly long news programs (I wanted to write programmes - does that look snooty?) he repeats himself and others A LOT.

The other day on his programme (I think it looks good, sorry) one of the other journalists he was speaking to via satellite wondered if one of the two sides might be "extending the fig leaf" any time soon.

Extending the FIG LEAF?!?!

Talk about a mixed metaphor. As I was thinking about how that modified expression sounded like the punch line to a dirty joke I heard ol' Anderson repeat the phrase back in his response (I'm paraphrasing of course) "no, it doesn't seem like anyone will be ready extend the fig leaf just yet..." Hilarious!

When I heard it the third time (repeated once again by the other off camera journalist) I was yelling at the TV like an drunk Irish soccer fan "the OLIVE branch!!! the OLIVE branch!! What's WRONG with you people!!"

At the fourth repetition I turned the TV off.

OK that was a little bit of an unstructured looney post but I hope SOMEONE out there will appreciate it. Maybe Wolf Blitzer or George Stephanopolis?

Wishing you all a meaningful fast, it is my sincere hope that we do not add even one more incident or accident to the list of Tisha B'Av tragedies this year.
Keep your helmet on Anderson Cooper - where ever you are.