Friday, January 27, 2012

Wicked Writers Warp Wikipedia

The Frum World often seems to be a Johnny-Come-Lately in certain regards. Part of this might stem from the dictum "Chadash Asur Min HaTorah". Tradition by nature is very suspect of change, and people are uncomfortable in upsetting the apple cart. If it worked until now, we will not change it.

Yet time moves on. It is very easy to say that computers are not necessary in the schools, that cell phones are not necessary, that the internet is evil - that we've survived for thousands of years without this technology and therefore have no use for it now...yet these arguments eventually get stampeded and eventually we come around to figuring out how the new advances in science can actually help the Frum World thrive.

Computers have opened new windows in learning. Schools need not hire tutors when the same job can be performed over and over by a machine that does not tire. The internet has spawned new avenues for finding hard-to-find Seforim, and countless hours are saved as a result. Cell phones allow one to go out to learn, not tied to the house waiting for a call. Etc.

Yet one avenue where the FW has not caught up yet is in updating Wikipedia. [The concept of Wikipedia is to have all the world's information available to poor and rich alike. Money should not be an impediment to knowledge. Wikipedia allows anyone to update their encyclopedic website. If I know information about a concept or person, I can add to this world's knowledgebase so that others will now know the same information.]

While this concept is truly one of noble intention, unfortunately it is rife with abuse. Anyone with a grudge against someone else can simply post unflattering, even derogatory information and destroy a lifetime of good. A Rosh Yeshiva can counsel thousands of Talmidim for a jubilee, yet one disgruntled student can bury that RY with a few swift pecks at his keyboard. A doctor can serve faithfully for decades, then give it all up because of one crackpot with loose fingers.

My recommendation is that the Frum World hire publicists and scrubbers to ensure that their reputations remain clean. Waiting ten more years to figure this out and then try to undo the damage may be too late.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three Threats Thankfully Thwarted

Reading the news from time to time, one can get depressed from all the evil that exists in the world, particularly when it is perpetrated against fellow members of the tribe.

There was a time when we were not so wired, when days, weeks and even months passed before we were made aware of happenings outside our own backyards.

I often wonder how the current generation will turn out, due to the never ending bombardment of beeps, rings and TXT's. I've commented in the past what a blessing Shabbos is, how the entire electronic world is brought to a standstill for 25 hours, allowing one to regenerate and rejuvenate for the week ahead.

It boggles the mind how we've come so far so fast in so short a span in technological advances. Yet the psychological fallout of all these "improvements" may not be reaized for decades.

But aside from my familiar theme of Torah/technology, what I'd like to focus on for this post is Hakoras Hatov. Three unconnected instances of hate against Jewish people were newsworthy these past few weeks. A stolen Torah, A jewelry heist killing and the firebombing of a Shul. Surprisingly, they all came to a somewhat happy ending with law enforcement apprehending those responsible.

We must give much to thanks to our society which differs from the old European model and works to catch criminals who prey on others. If our great-great-granfathers would return from Europe, aside from the cars, planes, phones and rocketships, I think they would find having the police on our side one of the great advances of our modern era.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lamenting Losing Letters' Legacy

I remember going to camp as a child, when cellular phones were not commercially available. Several Ma Bell telephones served the entire camp population, yet these were seldom used due to the prohibitive cost of making a long distance call.

Communication was facilitated by postcards. Every several days one was supposed to write home, and part of the camp requirements were to come to camp prepared with a certain amount of prepaid postcards.

I can't describe the joy of being on the receiving end of a letter from home. Going to camp meant that one was virtually cut off from home, and getting news of one's loved ones was soothing balm to many a home-sick child.

Fast forward to the modern era of camping. Camps now have computer rooms whereby campers can stay in touch with their Facebook Friends. Campers have cell phone whereby parents and friends can TXT and call at anytime.

While I appreciate the advances of modern technology, I lament the missing postcards. I lament the nostaglic history that will no longer grace the scrapbooks and albums of the youngsters. I lament the history lost in The New Age of Psak.

And so too, the beautiful letters depicted in the new Artscroll volume above, may not have any modern additions, as letter writing goes the way of the dodo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Communication, Collaboration: Cellular Calling

I am always amazed at how technologically advanced we have become over previous generations.

Man has come a long way since the days of simply finding food, shelter and clothing.

Invention of fire, bow and arrow, metal-working, the wheel, hieroglyphics, alphabets, sea navigation, the printing press, steam engine for boats and trains, the assembly line, radio waves, sound recording, electricity, the automobile, airplane, rocketship, telephone, television, computers, air-conditioning, refrigeration, spacecraft, internet, lasers, nuclear technology, biotechnology, the space station and recently the mobile smart phone has proceded with dizzying pace.

In my youth, I thought that we had already discovered all possible inventions. Man had recently stepped on the moon, and it seems that there were no more spheres to conquer. Yet the past few decades have practically seen more inventions than the last millenia combined. This dizzying pace, confounded by the various "Springs" in the Arab World do not bode well for peace.

Yet for the believing Jew, they fit well into the prophecies of old. A grand battle of Gog and Magog is shaping up. Once thought to be the USA vs. the USSR, the battle now seems to be defined as the West vs. the Islamic World. Not only will the conflict be fought with unconventional weapons, but we are getting closer and closer to a technology war, whereby the fighting will be with our computers against theirs.

The dizzying pace of the technology race is one to be noted. I recently re-read a few pages of a popular mystery series from my youth, only to discover that the the villains cut the phone wires to prevent communication with the authorities. I laughed. Today's child would not understand, which explains why these books need to be updated every so often, to replace the roadsters of old with the modern equivalents.

A recurring theme on this blog is how technology is fueling a floundering belief. There was a time when people accepted as an act of faith that the arrival of Moshiach will be known throughout the world simultaneously. As time went on, there were those who questioned how such a thing will be possible; yet today's savvy technologically advanced youth will accept it as par for the "smartphone" course.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shabbos Sounds So Sweet

Click this link to watch without the coming attractions: purelink

See this link for more about purelink.

Hat Tip: YL

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tim Tebow Theological Triumph

Not since Sandy Koufax refused to play on Yom Kippur, has a professional sports player worn his religion on his sleeve so prominently.

Tim Tebow, Quarterback/Runningback for the NFL Denver Broncos has quite a few accomplishments under his belt.

He was the first college football player ever to score 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns the same year.

He was the first college football player to win the Heisman Trophy in only his Sophomore year. He is also the only home-schooled player ever to receive this honor.

He owned the NFL record for Jersey Sales even before he played his first professional game.

He has engineered some spectacular fourth-quarter-comebacks this season.

Yet what I consider to be his greatest accomplishment is his unabashed thanks that he shows on the field - as he prays publicly.

He should serve as an example to all of us not to be embarrassed to Daven to our creator - even in a public setting.

Yet what makes all of this more becoming, is the fact that doctors unsuccessfully tried to convince his mother to abort him. Thank G-d she refused.

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