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Ask Shifra

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

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's (not) Wrong with this Picture

Do you remember the days before all playground equipment was covered in foam rubber, and children did not dress like miniature adults?
It wasn't so long ago that the world didn't seem like such a scary place.

In those days a heavy steel plate with bars which could accommodate a small horde of squealing children (and still more pushing the contraption around and around) was considered good safe fun. Today it would be called a screaming metal death-trap.

Little girls were allowed to wear pants or jeans (or slacks and dungarees as they were called in my house) which allowed them to hang upside-down freely from the monkey bars without showing the world their underpants. They didn't have to worry about tripping on their hems or ripping their tights or figuring out how to keep their dresses down while riding a bike. They also didn't fear being labeled or considered unfit for shiduchim.

Where I grew up kids played outside unsupervised until suppertime. My children have too much homework to get through to spend hours running around outdoors, even if it were considered safe enough to allow them to roam the block alone.

Has the world changed that much in 25 years or have we just become more fearful?

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Friday, January 19, 2007

ROTFL! (for real)

Thursday night can be a stressful time for a lot of frum women. Suddenly, on top of everything else and at the end of a tiring week, they are expected to churn out two top-shelf meals and get the house cleaned up all in one night!
(Yes, I know there are husbands who do all the cooking and cleaning, a wide variety of kosher takeout options, and cleaning ladies for hire - but this blog is about MY life, so work with me here people!)

When we lived in an apartment we had neighbors who would have a huge, loud, fight each and every Thursday night and even I'll admit that if something goes wrong on a Thursday night it doesn't take much to set me off. I once, many years ago, accidentally spilled an entire stock pot of freshly cooked chicken soup down the drain and cried for well over an hour.

I think, however, I've found the sure for Thursday night stress.
Extreme laughter.

Most people who use text or instant messaging have seen the acronym ROTFL appear on the screen at some point. It stands for "Rolling On the Floor Laughing" but is usually meant to indicated something you found VERY funny. While I've seen many people crack up laughing in my day, actual rolling on the floor with laughter happens a lot less frequently in real life than thost letters appear on the screen.

When it does happen though it feels great!

Last night my husband and I were in the kitchen getting some things ready for Shabbos when he suddenly launched into a version of REM's "Shiny Happy People" which he reworked to do describe some persnickety people we both know. Something to the effect of "Grumpy Cranky People pointing fingers" honestly I don't even remember most of his impromptu lyrics but they were so funny I just couldn't breathe. I had been mixing up a batch of carrot muffins at the table and I had to just sit down on the floor I was laughing so hard but he didn't stop.
By the time I was laying down on the floor laughing so hard my stomach hurt my husband was completely cracking up just from watching me laugh.

Even though our night started off stressfully (unexpected guests we couldn't say no to etc...) that ten minutes of laughter really made my night. Everything got done (almost) and we had a really nice night. I only hope he can come up with some new material for next week.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Writing Kefira is EASY!!!

To test out my theory on blogger tells I wrote this piece of machshava (to use the term VERY loosely) to be published anonymously on the famous "XGH" blog which is known for wide variety of hashafic outlooks and the frequent beating of dead horses.

Sadly it received this automated reply:
Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately it is not a fit with our current needs. However, I will keep it on file and will be sure to contact you should my needs change.
Thank you for you interest in XGH and good luck in your search for a blog on which to host your post.

So I'll post it here instead in the interest of not wasting.
Would you have known it was me?
BTW Writing kefira is a cinch! If I had to do it over I'd definitely rethink this whole advice blog business!


[Note: For this post I’m going to make the large assumption that you believe in God. If you don’t, it’s not going to make a lot of sense… Then again, maybe it won’t anyway!]

The problem with most religious indoctrination is that it happens before you are old enough to think for yourself.

Do you really still want to believe in the Santa Clause God you learned about in pre-school? He’s here, He’s there He’s everywhere!! He’s listening to our prayers, healing the sick, and making every blade of grass grow. All this attention to detail, and never a mention of his possible involvement in worldwide tragedies, genocides, and natural disasters.

But then again, four year olds are not allowed to stay up to watch the 11 O’ clock news are they?

It all goes down as easy as warm milk at bedtime.

But did you know that there are between 30 and 50 million lactose intolerant adults in the US alone?

Coincidence? Maybe.

Non sequitur? Yeah, Pretty much.

This crux of the matter is that you can't have it both ways – either God is micromanaging both the good and evil in this world or he isn’t, but perhaps those are not the only options.

Imagine the world was a hi-rise apartment building in Manhattan.

Who would God be?

The Architect

Sure he built that building! He has the schematics in his basement and will proudly show them to his friends when they come over for dinner. The building isn’t always on his mind; after all it is not the only thing he’s ever done. Still, whenever he is in town he can’t resist taking a peek at it to see how his baby is holding up, and once in a blue moon he gets a call from the owner to ask about the structural feasibility of removing an I-Beam to please a very wealthy and demanding tenant.

The Architect/Owner

Not only did this talented fellow build the building, he is that rare breed that owns it as well. Because he knows every detail and poured his very essence into each girder and rivet he keeps a close watch on everything. If there is a kid picking at the wallpaper in the hallway on the 19th floor, he’ll be dealt with promptly. If any big changes need to be made he will be the one directing it all. From evictions, to partial demolitions, to re-grouting the bathroom tile in 28C he knows and controls all.

The Lazy Superintendent

This old salt sure has a lot of stories to tell… Did you know he was around when this building first went up? Well he was! They couldn’t have done it without him to hear him tell it.

These days though he’s got a bit of a gut on him and he spends most days watching TV on an old black and white set in the basement. Occasionally he takes a peek at building’s security camera but mostly just to check out the women. He generally keeps things at the status quo unless someone really gets on his case. He can occasionally be swayed by tears or an animal sacrifice a carton of cigarettes. Once in a while he gets inspired to start up a big conversation with someone or do some major renovations but most of the time he’s pretty much invisible.

As an adult it should be impossible to look at someone in power and only see the good that he does (unless your only news source is Pravda or you are a Republican lackey) and as humans it would be natural for us to want find that leader accountable for his actions or inactions.

Does this mean we should go around making up our own little reasons for why things happen, or telling people we think they are sinners by comforting them with the Jewish expression “it should be an atonement” in their darkest hours?

Maybe we’re just giving the super too much credit.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Gratuitous Linking

This, is for always having something new to for me to read or watch in the middle of the night if I can't fall back to sleep.

Thanks Jack!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blogging "Tells"

In poker, a tell is a detectable change in a player's behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player's assessment of their hand. Behaviors that may exhibit tells include leaning forward or back, placing chips with more or less force, fidgeting, changes in breathing or tone of voice, facial expressions, direction of gaze or actions with the cards, chips and any cigarettes or drinks. A player gains an advantage if he observes another player's tell, particularly if the tell is unconscious and reliable. Some players may fake tells, hoping to induce their opponents into making mistakes based on the false tell.(WIKIPEDIA)

The blogging world is a weird one: aliases and screen names, fighting for justice from behind a monitor, and telling your deepest secrets to total strangers are all commonplace activities.
Sometimes I think we're all a little messed up. Lately there has been a new phenomenon which I'll call double-blind blogging, even thought thats not really the right words for it. I'm talking about new anonymous mini-blogs like the Hot Channie blog (spawned by snappy catch phrase on my blog) and the Dov Weasel blog (designed to bring down the bear by exposing instances of sentence lifting and plagiarism.)

Most bloggers I've spoken to assume that these new adept bloggers, who seem both technically Savvy and very aware of who's who in the J-blogging world must really be other bloggers in disguise. Based on that assumption they try to figure out who it might be (even if their detective work will only take them as far as their usual blog alias. )

Who is on their email list? Who's blogs do the quote? What is their level of technical skill on the web? What is their writing style, temperament, target audience...
Who would have the time to maintain two blogs?

Basically people are looking for tells.
While I'm not the author of the Hot Channie or Dov Weasel blog (and I don't know who they are so stop asking me already people) I was thinking a lot about my own personal writing "tells" and whether or not I could hide them. I'll confess to commenting just a few times under another fake name when telling something too personal or saying something just so snarky I didn't want it traced back to me. I'd guess most of us have done it at some time or another.

So what would be my giveaways....
Well, I tend to use dashes when commas would do (that's an easy fix.)
I also use ellipsis (ellipses?) you know those marks for parenthetical statements?... like they are going out of style. That would be a much harder habit to break.
I use the words "although" and "however" constantly but I suppose if I was adopting another persona I might try to write in a less subtle way and just foist my untempered opinion on the world. I'm also not much of a speller or an editor when I'm blogging or commenting in a hurry (like today) but I'd be more meticulous if I was trying to hide my identity.

What do you think your "tells" are?
What do you think about these mysteries wrapped in enigmas?

Tell all in the comments!

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Kinda Synergy

I work in an environment where phrases like "core competencies," "due diligence," and "intellectual capital" are thrown around like banana peels in the monkey house. Somehow though, when two things you love come together to make something special, "synergy" is just the word you need.

I've been watching and listening to these clever little Dunkin' Donuts spots on the radio and television for a while now (Click on "Fritalian" for one of my favorites - I can't seem to get the video link to work) and I don't know how I did not realize that this is the work of one of my all time favorite duos, They Might Be Giants!

TMBG and Dunkin' Donuts coffee together?! Life is too good!!
Quick! Someone pass me the monthly reports! I think I have the intellectual capital we need to fix our lack of due diligence in our core competencies thus maximizing our projected growth and sustaining our equity model!

PS That's two coffee posts so far this month! I think I need a refill.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

(not a) Shop Girl

My friend Miriam likes to shop, but I don't.

I don't know if it's my tight budget, my unusual taste in clothes, a lack of time, or the frustration I experience trying to find something to wear that is modest without being frumpy looking that does it for me, but I've always avoided the mall as much as possible.

Sometimes though you've got to do what you've got to do. And if your boots are coming apart at the soles and your coat is frayed at the edges and has holes in in the cuffs and pockets then what you have to do is... go shopping. Its a good time of year to shop too if you must. Most winter items are discounted and the holiday shopping rush is over.

As I was about to try on some boots a woman came over to me and asked to see some Nikes in a size 9. Since I have not been shopping without my kids in a while (I prefer to shop online for myself when I can) I had almost forgotten that I suffer from a rare affliction called shopgirlosis.

Since I was about 18 years old anytime I've been shopping alone - or left to wander the racks by myself even for a few minutes- I've been mistaken for a store employee.
It doesn't matter what I'm wearing - a skirt and sweater, business suit, sneakers, sheitel, hat etc... at least once while perusing the racks or on my way to the dressing room someone calls out or approaches me:

"Excuse me miss, do you have this in a size 8"
"Would you put this is the dressing room for me?"
"Do you keep the slippers in the shoe department or in sleepwear?"

For years I've been trying to figure out what leads people to believe I work at Macy's or Sears or Old Navy. It might be that I tend to smile when people approach me with a question confirming their initial assumption that yes, my sole reason for being is to check the back room for the sweater of their dreams.
It might also be that I am always careful to put things back on the rack that I took them from. I know it's a lot of work to keep a department in order so if I take something off the rack to get a closer look I'll do my best to return it properly.
My friend G suggests that perhaps I have a "retail face" but I think he's just kidding. Anyway I'm Jewish, if ANYTHING I should have a "wholesale face."

Truthfully, I don't really mind it. A brief "Oh sorry, I don't work here." Takes care of things quickly enough. It's just so odd! I wish I could figure out what causes it.

Does this ever happen to you or is it just me?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Coffee Quiz

Q. When when did this blog become a repository of links and miscellany with no creative or substantial content?

A. Since I got sick for two weeks and fell behind on EVERYTHING.

I'm catching up... bear with me.
In the meantime take this vicious little coffee quiz and post your results in the comments!