Monday, June 28, 2010

Google Gleans Global Gossip

Elsewhere on the internet, subpoenas abound whereby a lawyer endeavors to uncover the identity of a blogger. Whereas some people still believe that anonymity is assured on the internet, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t so.

The Mishna is Avos 2:1 cautions: “Know what is above you…an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your actions are written in a book…”.

Whereas the primary interpretation refers to the King of all Kings as the inscriber, modern technology has shifted that focus, and nowadays it just may be that it is the subject himself who is doing the writing.

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all the social networking sites comprise a new reality in living. There may soon come a day when every human being will as a matter of course transcribe his life, his hope and his aspirations daily on his website.

These posting will serve to prosecute or defend, at the end of days, when the King of all Kings commences the mother of all trials.

See also this post

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aish Admonishes America’s Addiction

If you want to read about Surreptitious Ships (floating flotillas), Sickening Sentences (Rabbi Rubashkin), Segregated Schools (Emmanuel establishment), Severe Slicks (BP bungle) or Sea-Salmon (anisakis antics), you came to the wrong place. But if you want LH free Short Snippets on contemporary Jewish life, thanks for Saying So.

Some time ago we discussed fanatical fandom link1 and link2. I was somewhat mystified at the time to understand the addictive attraction of Sports Shows and how they control our lives. Below is an excellent link that perhaps Sheds Some light on this Spectator Sport. Enjoy.

Money Quote:

"Of course I knew that the emotional investment I was making in every victory or defeat wasn’t real. If I stopped to pinch myself I would, naturally, realize that some total stranger named Gary or Jose or Carlos hitting a ball, 2 7/8 inches in diameter, over a fence 345 feet away was not of any cosmic or personal significance. But there is something enjoyable about pretending to care about something that, in truth, is pointless. It is the essence of every great motion picture and every novel. It helps us to safely touch feelings that long to be experienced without the fear of exposing them to authentic suffering."

Updated 10:15 PM 6/22/10

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Legitimate Links Labeled LoshonHora?

Way back, when the idea of a Loshon Hora free blog was just that, I deliberated whether upon opening I should link other blogs or not. While it is a relatively simple task to keep this blog Loshon Hora free, the only way I could influence other blogs to follow suit would be by example.

Yet the other day, of all people, “Korach the Blogger” challenged me for allowing links to blogs that have a more lackadaisical interpretation of these laws.

I am no expert on Loshon Hora, but I believe the concept of Apei Telasa would apply here. Once something is published on the internet, the great web crawlers and archive blogs make it impossible to retract and it will become known anyway.

I can’t ask my Rabbi, as I’d like to keep my anonymity, but if anyone feels comfortable enough to ask their Rav, please do so and post their response in the comments section.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Discovering Design Deep Down

It is refreshing to see that some scientific “truths” are proven to be falsehoods. The Torah speaks of creation, yet for millennia scientists believed in the Steady State theory. Only in our century has the “Big Bang” become accepted in scientific circles. Scientists also believed that there could be no life without the sun, yet in 1977, life on the ocean floor was discovered, as seen below:


In 1977 scientists discovered that at the deepest parts of the ocean, which people had long imagined to be dark, cold, and lifeless, was a strange environment teeming with life.

Marine geologist Robert Ballard (b. 1942) and a team of oceanographers and marine geochemists and geologists, took the deep sea submersible Alvin to the Galápagos Rift near the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Their expedition was to look for hydrothermal activity like that found at Yellowstone National Park. Geysers or hot springs of some kind were predicted at the Rift based on the relatively new plate tectonic theory. Remote sensors showed temperature changes and the presence of large clam shells that looked promising. A crew took Alvin down to 2,500 meters below the surface where they were gratified to find what they had been looking for -- and more. The water near the bottom shimmered with the difference in hot and cold, as very hot water spewed out of vents into the 3-degree Centigrade ocean water. A dusting of white lay around the vents, and in some places, had accumulated so high as to look like chimneys on the sea floor, smoking with hot, mineral-rich water. As the water cooled, material that was dissolved in it solidified and settled out.

The crew was happy to have found what they were looking for, but stunned by what else was there: life! Immediately surrounding the hot vents and chimneys were thriving communities of strange species such as giant clams, eyeless shrimp, and colorful tube worms. But no sunlight. How this food chain began was a mystery. It was apparent that the life there was completely dependent upon the vents since only the remains of dead organisms surrounded inactive vents. Scientists collected water from the vents and later found sulfide-eating bacteria, similar to those found in land-based hot springs. These were the initial food source for the larger creatures. The sulfide was in the minerally water coming from the vents, and it was suspected that the heat of the earth itself served as the primary energy source.

Other scientists returned to these life-filled vents and also found similar ones in the Atlantic. Ironically, the original team had included no biologists, since they were looking into theoretical and practical geologic questions. For example, mining interests wanted to know where there might be mineral deposits in the oceans. Deep-ocean study has since been carried out mostly by biologists, whose detailed findings have suggested that life on the young, volatile planet earth may well have started at the bottom of the ocean.

While indecency can be filtered from one’s internet experience, ideas that are antithetical to Torah are much more difficult to avoid. Even Korach has emerged from his aperture to spout his nonsense. Perhaps this underground energy is sourced in all the hot air that he has been spewing for the past 3000 years.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Internet Information Is Inconclusive

Zacharnu Es HaDagah...

…We remember the fish that we ate in Mitzrayim free of charge… A few short weeks ago we read this passage in Parshas BeHaaloscha, just as the fish controversy was raging on the internet. Rashi quotes from the Sifrei that “free of charge” can not be literal, because it is not logical to think that the Jewish People would be given fish to eat for free when the Egyptians had just instituted that they must now secure their own straw. {What I don’t understand is that perhaps fish were so plentiful that they did not amount to a large expense. Also, the Mitzriyim must have realized that the slaves could not work if they had no food. Yet that would not prevent the Egyptians from increasing their slaves’ workload.}

The internet is changing the way Pesak is rendered. The fish controversy seems to be the first major issue where Rabbonim have used the internet to debate the issue via "internet teshuva". Poskim must now realize that their Pesak will be scrutinized by many multitudes and mistakes in lomdus/scholarship will be quickly disseminated. Additionally, we have the “global village” concept to contend with, where Poskim are now Paskening for areas outside their local sphere.

Perhaps one day our children will say “Zacharnu when it was permissible to eat fish”. Just as some of us remember when candy was eaten without a hechsher (by reading the ingredients). There was a time when fruits and vegetables were the most kosher food available. What could be possibly wrong with milk or water?

It is quite ironic to think that one day, by weddings, while everyone will be eating fish, the caterers will offer meat portions for those chashuvim that are makpid on the anisakis worm. As one fellow asked another, “What is the Heter to Assur fish”?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bob Beats Back Blogs

The age of the blog is here. Blogs have accomplished much in their relatively short existence. The push button publishing aspect of blogging allows anyone and everyone to get out their message in an inexpensive way and reach tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of readers.

While the blog is demonized in Frum circles, nevertheless the recent race for public office in Lakewood caused many new blogs to sprout up in honor of the election. Several years ago, one blog that was created to follow the social goings on of one particular Yeshiva evolved into a major Frum news blog.

Years ago it was the Rav of the Shul who was in the know on all major issues. Nowadays, that same Rav is far behind his congregants on the latest news unless he has an internet connection. The recent Fish controversy has highlighted the fact that the BLOG is a new force to be reckoned with, as the Poskim are now posting their Teshuvos directly on the internet.

As powerful as the blog might be, they still do not totally rule, as the Bob Singer victory yesterday showed. Anti-Child-Abuse advocates have scored many victories in removing molesters from our midst, yet they still have failed in having the laws changed.

All in all, the biggest victory the blogs have won is the deterrent factor. The insular community which was able to hush up wrongdoings will no longer be able to do so. Public exposure will hopefully keep potential perpetrators on the straight path.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Checkmate Challenges Chess Champions

Chess problems are more often than not futuristic, that is, one must analyze a given position to determine how soon Black or White can win or draw. Yet rare is the position that one must engage in retrograde analysis, using deduction and logical reasoning to determine the past history of a game.

Perhaps the most difficult chess problem I’ve ever seen of that genre is depicted above. Given that the game was played with legal moves only, the quest is to figure out that which piece resides at square h4. There is only one of the 12 missing pieces which can sit on this square. Yes, there is enough information to figure it out.

Chess players are known to look for the minutest advantage to score a victory; on or off the board. In one match (pun not intended), one player withdrew a cigarette from his breast pocket and placed it gingerly on the table. When the opponent protested that smoking was against the rules, the first player said that he was not smoking. The opponent challenged the referee saying that in chess, it is not necessarily what you are doing, but rather the threat of what you might do. The umpire agreed.

In another tournament, a neophyte touched a rook pawn to start the game. Before she placed it on the new square, she changed her mind and decided to move the king pawn. The opponent challenged her saying that once she touched the rook pawn, she must move it, while she claimed that the game hadn’t started yet. Ingenuitively (no, there is no such word), she switched her rook pawn and king pawn claiming that she was still setting up the pieces and then proceeded to move the piece she had touched!

Intelligence has always been a hallmark of chess players. Many great chess players of world championship caliber were/are Jewish. This week’s Mishpacha magazine features GrandMasters Boris Gulko and Leonid (Aryeh) Yudasin as some current examples of this phenomenon. They join a long list of Jewish greats who played the game. Aron Nimzowitsch, Akiva Rubinstein and Samuel Reshevsky are more examples. Additionally, these three all attended Yeshivos.

The great Chess Championship of 1972 which pitted Boris Spassky against Robert (Bobby) Fischer brought great pride to the United States in that they were finally able to beat the Soviets. Both Spassky and Fischer were born from Jewish mothers.
In fact, better than half of the World Chess Champions in the modern era were Jewish.

Updated 6/13/2010

Chess I

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mourning Meaningful Missed Memories

What will become of all the memories -
Are they to scatter with the dust in the breeze?

So begins the chorus to the mournful melody composed by Abie Rotenberg.

One of my favorite childhood memories was occupying myself on long Shabbos afternoons either reading the Jewish Observer, playing board games, or leafing through the family photography albums.

Years ago, when film was necessary to take pictures, each picture was costly. Kodak used silver in the film making process, and hence photography was a sport for those with means.

In today’s digital era, picture taking has become a lost art. Everyone and anyone can host a little gadget in their pocket, that not only snaps still-lifes, but can even record movement. These same pictures and videos can then be instantly transported around the world, for all to see. As I’ve said before, although past generations may have wondered how the entire world will know of Moshiach's arrival simultaneously, our generation can easily grasp this concept.

Yet the sad trend that I’ve noticed in my family and therefore I assume it exists by others also, is that now that we are flooded with photographs, we rarely make the effort to transform the digital into hard-copy. To confound the problem, those who have all their pictures stored on their computer risk losing everything if their hard drive crashes.

One childhood friend told me that his mother said if there were ever a fire in his house, after making sure her children were safe, the first thing she would save would be her photo albums. How true. All else is replaceable.

Please take this moment to ensure that you have a backup plan. Periodically backup your files to disk or an online backup service. Also, make sure to print a few pictures every month to ensure lasting memories for Shabbos and the coming generations.
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