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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, January 30, 2004


I was listening to the radio this morning on my way to work and they were talking about the Palestinian "militants" who were killed by Israeli troops yesterday. The words "terrorist," "murderer," "hate-monger," or even the completely non-controversial "suicide bomber" were never used. The "news"caster went on the talk about how the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade and Hamas were both claiming responsibility for the murderous bus bombing that happened yesterday. Imagine that, two organizations fighting over who gets responsibility for being blood-thirsty murderers and no one even bats an eyelash. The report went on to speak about the fact that Israel exchanged 400 Palestinian terrorists (of course that word wasn't used, I think it was prisoners) for 1 Israeli businessman and 3 bodies of Israelis that the Palestinians killed. The report concluded with the sad news that Israel had killed four Palestinians who were carrying explosives towards one of the Israeli settlements. The fact that one of these Palestinians was only the tender age of 17 was noted as the final sentence of the report. Was there any mention of the 10 Israelis civilian who were going about their normal day-to-day lives yesterdays, riding on their usual bus to work or school, when suddenly they were viciously murdered because of their nationality? Did it mention the age of any of the victims in that attack? Did it mention that the only weapons the bus-riders had with them was possibly a pen or maybe a purse (I know, you can get pretty violent with a purse)? Hmmm, maybe when the reports lament the fact that civilians rather than terrorists carrying explosives are killed, there will be hope of a peaceful Israel.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


I don't have much to say today, but I just read the following quote and thought it was something to think about: "Words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies." -- Sir Francis Bacon, Novum Organum or True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Ramblin' On

I need a routine. I was so ready to get back to school and now almost the entire first week has been cancelled. I like being so crazy busy that I can't think. It keeps my mind away from the fact that I have no life. Ok, sorry, had to get that out. This weather is driving me crazy. I get very agitated when I am counting on something and it gets cancelled or postponed. I have had enough of winter. I hate bundling up everytime I go outside and having to clear off my car for fifteen minutes before I can go anywhere. Ok, a few happy thoughts. I have decided that one of the greatest inventions ever was the little Post-It sticky arrows that I have been using to mark great passages in the books I have been reading. Speaking of reading, I love the Odyssey. It is such a great story, with so much richness to it. So much more interesting than the Iliad, which was so full of war. I feel like the Odyssey puts so much more emphasis on the value of human companionship. The Iliad talks about "beloved companions" in regard to Achilleus and Patroklos, but the characters let their rage and pouting get in the way of taking care of each other. The entire Odyssey is about striving to reconnect with family and friends. The characters are constantly crying about the loss of their companions. I just find it to be so human. I am also reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I read it ages ago when I was in junior high I think. Steinbeck's language is absolutely beautiful. And he really describes his character's motives very interestingly. I can't remember how it ends, I will let you know. Okay, back to pretending like I am doing work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


The weather outside is just yucky today. There was a sheet of ice on my car that took my a good workout to clear off this morning. I had no idea it took so much muscle to clear ice off a car! I have school tonight - I am so ready to get back in the groove of things and see my friends from school and just get back into my routine. I had a chevrusa last night. I want to learn Hebrew and so a friend of mine is going through the Chumash with me and she is helping me translate and then we discuss as we go along also. I am really enjoying it, but I find it really hard work! I am learning a lot, but when I get to the end of a pasuk and translate the whole thing, I am wiped. And when my attention is gone, forget it! But I am really finding that it is enhancing my appreciation of the Chumash, I have a good idea of what is going on in the parsha each week and I am really learning a good bit of Hebrew. After my chevrusa last night, I got in a snow fight with my friends. It was so much fun to act like a kid for a few minutes and just have fun. I really enjoyed the snow for once.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Snow Day

I would just like to point out the fact that when you have a full-time job and go to school, and only one of those are cancelled when it snows (guess which one was cancelled), it is not nearly so much fun.

The Odyssey

I have been reading The Odyssey by Homer. It is such an incredible story. There is so much depth in it, and the tales that are spun are so interesting. Most of all, the interactions between the characters are really fascinating. The language is a bit difficult to get through at times, but when you get used to it, the story just flows. I was asked why it is that Odysseus wants to leave Calypso and go home. I think living with Calypso is just incredibly antithesis to Odysseus' life. Odysseus is used to being king, being glorified by those around him, being in charge of everything, and being known as a great warrior and strategist. Living on an island with only one person who is holding him against his will has got to go against everything that he is used to. Besides the fact that he is lonely and needs more than just one companion (even if you are with someone you love, you want some outside stimulation sometimes), he has been relegated to a place where he can't make any decisions for himself, and I think that is just so completely against his character that he doesn't know what to do with himself. And who wants to be forced to do something anyway? If he made the decision to be with Calypso it would be one thing, but he is being held captive, and no one likes that. And then of course, there is his wife and child at home, and all his friends, who I am sure he misses. Not having any idea what is happening to the life he left behind 20 years ago must be incredibly hard. Some other things that came up while I was reading: I think the interaction between the gods and the mortals in the Odyssey is so fascinating. I can't figure out what makes the gods godlike and the mortals mortal half the time. The line, "A god is difficult for a mortal man to master" just blew me away. Wow. Do the mortals really think they can master the gods? The love Athene has for Odysseus and Telemachos, the vengeance the Poseidon wants to place on Odysseus, it is just so human and fallible, do the mortals really take the gods seriously or do they just see them as a better-than-average mortal?. And why does Athene have to disguise herself as other people all the time? Are the gods not able to be seen by the mortals outside of a assumed mortal body? The gods are blamed for evil, it says, "yet divine Zeus sometimes gives out good, sometimes evil." Can something that a god does ever be evil? Maybe we see it as evil, but because it comes from a god, doesn't that automatically make it good? I feel like the tone of the Odyssey is very different from the Iliad. The Iliad was always talking about anger and vengeance. The Odyssey keeps making comments about sorrow and sadness. It talks about the loss of loved ones, and a need for friends and family. Instead of everyone raging, they are thoughtful and even show humility and respect. Anyway, just some impressions of mine. I will keep updating as I get farther along - it is a long book!

Friday, January 23, 2004

St. John's College

I had my visit to St. John's College in Annapolis yesterday. I spoke with the Admissions Director, had a campus visit, sat in on some classes and met my professor's girlfriend, who is in her last semester there. I really enjoyed the classes and felt like I would learn a lot from them as well as contribute a lot to them. I was not allowed to contribute to the class discussion, but in both classes, students brought up questions that I had wondered about myself. The students in the classes were serious about learning, had done the readings and were honestly endeavoring to find answers to questions about the texts. I was impressed by the students and teachers, and I felt like I could definitely fit in there. I had been concerned about being intimidated or put off by the intellectualness of the people there, and it was not the case. My concerns revolve around three main issues. The first is money. All financial aid at St. John's is awarded on a need-based, not merit-based, system. So it is going to be plenty expensive for me to go there. The second issue is what to do after getting my graduate degree there. A Masters in Liberal Arts basically qualifies a person to either go on for further education, teach at a private school, or do something completely away from the liberal arts arena all together. I am still not sure what I want to do professionally, and I am getting to the point where it is harder and harder for me to envision my future. I wouldn't mind going on to get my PhD, I think I could do it if I put my mind to it, but the academic job market stinks and pays extremely poorly, and it is a lot of work and debt to get there. I better make sure it is what I really want to do before I shoot for it. I have one other concern about attending St. John's. I know it sounds a bit silly, but I am almost afraid to surround myself with people who are into this kind of reading and discussing. I don't want to limit myself in the people who I associate with. I will have to work on making sure that my interests and friendships remain broad. Hopefully this task will not be too terribly difficult.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Brave New World

I finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley last night. I have to say that I was quite disappointed with the ending. I just want to touch on a few points that I found interesting about the book. First, the language used was really fascinating. Huxley has one of his characters say, "Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly - they'll go through anything." Huxley uses phrases through his book that are just so interesting, such as "so frighteningly clever" and "awful glad" and "success went fizzily." I also found Huxley's use of Shakespeare to be very poignant. Contrasting a world with no emotion to the world of Shakespeare gives such a set of extremes; Huxley admits no middle ground into the book. While the "Savage" (a name in which I find another interesting choice of word usage) was exposed to a world where emotion was experienced, he didn't seem to infuse any of it into his own life, instead choosing to fixate on Shakespeare's extreme worlds of tragedy as his example of what life is about. I don't think anyone could successfully live in either world Huxley portrays. Anyway, I had lots of other thoughts about the book but I am getting sick and my brain isn't working as well today as it should.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Blah, Blah, Blah

Not too much to blog about today. I had a chevrusa last night with a friend. She is working with me on my Biblical Hebrew. As someone who has never been overly interested or particularly talented in languages, I am actually having fun and feel like I am making progress. We are going through the Chumash and she is helping me translate as we go, and then we sometimes break out to talk about some of the interesting themes (we could spend the whole night on that!) in the pasuk. Today is a blah day. I have very little to do at work, which always drives me crazy. I feel like I might be coming down with a cold. I would like to be curled up in bed, reading The Odyssey. And my wallet is very depressed at the moment (that's what I get for balancing my checkbook). Why is a college education such an incredibly expensive endeavor? And why can't professors use books for courses that can be bought used? But on the bright side, the week is half over, tomorrow is my visit to St. John's, and it is sunny out, even if it is insanely cold (today is the kind of day I don't mind being inside). And I shared some of my thoughts about Socrates with my professor and he told me that I am "just amazing" and "um, not the average undergrad at UB." Well, at least someone is impressed with me. I am almost done with Brave New World, I am hoping to finish it tonight, so I should have a lot of thoughts about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

A few questions to ponder

I added my current favorite quote to my blog - I like it not for the genius part nearly so much as for the part about society providing molds for people. Gives me a lot to think about. I have a couple questions that I am pondering at the moment. The first is something that I would love to write a paper about, though I would need to do a lot more reading first. The second is just a life issue type of question to ponder. 1) In Plato's dialogues, Socrates states over and over that he doesn't know anything (except for in The Symposium, where he says that he does know about love). He also states in Crito that the unwise is evil (and this thought is echoed by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics). But then Socrates says that he is wise because he knows that he doesn't know. Okay, so if he doesn't know anything, then how can he be wise? Is wisdom different from having knowledge? Can you be wise without having knowledge? And if not knowing anything does equal being unwise, then is Socrates evil? 2) Why does it seem that to be considered "deep," a person must also be depressed? It seems to me that the people who are considered the deepest, heavy thinkers, are depressed and sad and that if you are happy and think that the world is good, then you are not, and can not be, considered deep. What does it mean to be deep anyway? My thoughts for the day.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Too much going on

I hate my job. I have to redo a huge project and it is not my fault. Actually, I am glad that it is not my fault, but it is still a big pain. I am in the middle of reading several books at the moment: I have been working through Emma by Jane Austen. I feel like I should like it because it is considered good literature, but the truth is, I am having trouble getting into it for two reasons. First, having seen the movie Clueless about 15 times, I know exactly what is going to happen in the book the minute each character is introduced. Second, I feel like the book is just 19th century wedding porn, which is exactly the kind of books that I have been trying to escape lately. I just don't see any major difference between Emma and Last Chance Saloon by Marion Keyes. Maybe I am wrong, but I think Jane Austen was just the beginning of a really long trend. A friend suggested that I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because she wanted to discuss it with me. The premise is similar to The Giver by Lois Lowry, which I recently read, a utopian society that has been engineered to "perfection." The book keeps surprising me, so I am going to wait until I finish it to post my full review. I also started The Odyssey by Homer. I have scheduled a visit to St. John's College this week to decide if I really want to go there for grad school, and I am sitting in on a class that will be discussing The Odyssey. I figure I will probably end up reading the whole thing, because it has been on my list anyway. So far, I have only read the first book, but so far I am finding it easier to follow than The Iliad, but I am not sure if it is because I know a lot of the characters from having read The Iliad or if it because I have gotten used to reading more difficult language and it is becoming more easily understandable to me. During my visit to St. John's, I am also sitting in on a class on Plato's dialogue Meno. I am really looking forward to it, because I read the dialogue on my own for my class last semester but I never got a chance to discuss it and I thought it was extremely interesting. Other than books, not much going on in my life. I am still having major trouble my glasses and have to go back to get a new prescription. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 16, 2004

On Intellectualism and Humility

I have been having trouble with the idea of being intellectual lately. Or I guess to be more exact, I have been trouble with the idea of actually being what is considered "an intellectual" but balancing that with not being elitist or a snob. My experience growing up was that those who considered themselves "intellectuals" also considered themselves better than those around them who were not intellectuals. They were well-read, wise, snotty and not the kind of people I enjoyed being around. Could I match wits with them? If I felt like it, but I didn't really want to be around those people very often so I didn't usually bother trying. Since returning to school, I have been exposed to a new vision of the intellectual world. I have been exposed to incredible literature and thought that I never considered before. The fact that I really enjoy learning about these things de facto puts me in the category of being intellectual and the truth is, I really do enjoy intellectual discourse, I love discussing philosophical ideas, and I really enjoy the mental stimulation and challenge of being a part of that world. But I have a problem with associating myself with a group of "intellectuals" because of my past experiences with the air of superiority that people who are intellectual often put on. There is a lot more to it, but I don't feel like expanding upon it here. The solution suggested by someone I talked to about this problem, is in humility. When we know first of all that there is an awful lot that we don't know, then we won't be arrogant or elitist about being intellectual. I know that there is a ton of stuff out there that I have never even ventured to think about. And there is stuff that I am not even capable of understanding. I have also been taught that humility is acknowledging that everything I have, my intelligence, my wealth, my health, is a gift from Hashem. I can't take credit for it, and therefore, what right do I have to be haughty and arrogant about it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Dating Stinks

I haven't been reading much the last few days for a list of reasons, but my life has been surrounded by discussions of dating, so I figured I would talk about that. For once, it is not my dating life that has been the topic of discussion, but the dating life of my friends. It amazes me how so many people, men and women, seem to hate shidduch dating, and yet, we all buy into it, keep going through it, and nothing seems to change. Girls and guys both have various forms of the same complaints, yet we keep doing to each other what we hate. No one seems to learn from their mistakes. A lot of lip service is spoken, but what is really felt is not. Expectations go up, get squashed. People are rejected quickly and dismissively. Dishonesty seems to be the policy. If you are not a good little cookie cutter, it makes it worse. I am not going to act like I am better than anyone else. I haven't made any radical changes in the dating system. I get asked advice from my friends, I try to be honest with them, but I don't want to be mean, so I let them continue to get excited even when I have a feeling the situation is not as rose-colored as they think it is. And life goes on. And dating goes on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Return of Four-Eyes

I had a traumatic experience last night. I went to the eye doctor for a routine visit. It's been almost two years since I have had my eyes checked and I was almost out of contact lenses, so I figured it was time. I also figured that since my glasses were about eight years old and I can't see out of them, it was time for a new pair. The doctor takes one look at my eyes and says, "Uh oh, that's not good." I told him that was a horrible thing to say to a patient. After he finishes looking at my eyes, he tells me that I have a problem. Apparently I have a condition called corneal neovascularization. What this means in English is that I have been depriving my eyes of the natural oxygen that comes into them by not changing my contacts often enough. Because I have been depriving my eyes of oxygen, they have formed blood vessels to carry oxygen into them on their own. If this continues, the blood vessels will grow into my pupil and cause permanent damage. Of course, this was totally out of left field to me, so I contacted an old friend of mine who is in optometry school (I am so proud of him) to make sure what this doctor was saying is for real. My friend confirmed that this condition is for real and that I better not put contacts anywhere near my eyes until my doctor says I can. The good news is that by wearing glasses instead of contacts for a while, I can reverse the damage that I have done to my eyes. The bad news is that I am not used to wearing glasses, so now I am nauseous and head-achey from going to contacts to glasses without any transition. So, I went last night and got myself a new pair of glasses. Amazing what they can do in an hour. As if I hadn't entrenched myself enough in geekdom by my new intellectual pursuits, now I have the glasses to announce to the world that I am officially a four-eyed nerd. Oh well, at least I have my eyes. As Tom (the aspiring optometrist) put it, "You only have two eyes, you better take care of them."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Weekend Wrap-Up

My mom came to visit me this past weekend. It was nice spending time with her, but I find it is difficult to sustain activity for several days on end. It is also weird to spend so much time with my mother at once. I feel like she is such a separate part of my life that it is hard to reconcile having her be a part of my Baltimore life, which I have cultivated so differently from how my life was in Birmingham. We had fun though. We went to the Baltimore Museum of Art, we went shopping, we saw the movie Big Fish, which was really interesting and different from most of the movies out there - I recommend seeing it just because it isn't the same as everything else, and then we drove down to Annapolis and hung out. I was a good friend and support this past weekend. I am now drawing on my past experiences to help friends go through their current ones. Last night I took time to just sit and read and relax. It was really nice after a weekend of being on the go. I needed it to recharge my batteries. Ahhh, relaxation.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

On Liberty

I have been reading "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill. It is really interesting considering that Mill wrote this essay during 1800's England. His premise is that we should be able to do whatever we want as long as we don't hurt anyone else. He bashes Christianity, the government, the people of his time and basically anyone who says that we should conform to accepted norms. I feel like he was not especially popular with his contemporaries. I am a bit surprised he wasn't executed. I don't agree with everything he says, but he makes some really important points. He says that for someone to believe in a specific issue, he should examine closely all opposition to that issue so that he can effectively argue against the opposition. He says it is important for people to think for themselves, and do not what is customary, but what they individually believe is correct. He states that all opinions, because they are opinions, should be heard and not deterred as long as they are not causing danger to others. I can't sum it up as well as he says it, so here are some quotes that I like: "People are accustomed to believe...that their feelings on subjects of this nature are better than reasons and render reasons unnecessary." "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." "Who can compute what the world loses in the multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train of though, lest it should land them in something which would admit of being considered irreligious or immoral?" "The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity and even moral preference are exercised only in making a choice." "The mental and moral, like the muscular, powers are improved only by being used." I think this is my favorite: "Persons of genius are, by definition, more individual than any other people - less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of molds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character."

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Random Stuff

Okay, one of those days when one full post just won't suffice. On to my random musings: You know that expression, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"? Well, apparently, in my case it is, "Those who can, marry. Those who can't, give dating advice." I am flattered that my friends trust me enough to come to me for dating advice, but really, don't you think that they would look at my miserable track record and go running in the other direction? You would think they would go to someone who has been successful in dating. Like someone who has managed to build a successful relationship with someone. I guess all those horror stories we keep sharing hasn't scared my friends away yet. So, I keep trying to give the best advice I can, all the while worrying that maybe it is the blind leading the blind here. I have been reading a bit of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. I think the Ethics can be summed up in this quote: "Human good turns out to be activity of the soul in accordance with virtue." It is interesting because Aristotle was, at least according to the histories I have been reading, a student of Plato's school, but their approaches are completely different. While Plato goes about trying to define things by asking tons of questions and ruling out what something isn't, Aristotle gets to the point and tells you exactly what he thinks something is, giving names and definitions. Aristotle's writing is dense, but at least I feel like I am getting somewhere when I am reading his stuff. I really liked this quote: "Both art and virtue are concerned with what is harder; for even the good is better when it is harder." I know throughout my life, the things that I have worked the hardest for have been the sweetest successes. The goals were much more valuable to me when I knew that I had put effort in to achieve them. I am also reading a book of Dostoevsky's short stories. All of the stories that I have read so far have been so full of sadness and loneliness. I am not sure if Dostoevsky himself was really lonely, but he manages to capture a lonely soul pretty well. Okay, enough random thoughts for today.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Grades are In

Yea! My grades are finally in and I got all A's! I have to admit, it is nice to know that my hard work this past semester payed off.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The Giver

Over New Year's, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is a book written for the "young adult" crowd, meaning 10-12 year olds, but it embodied a message that I think anyone could learn from. The book is about a boy named Jonas who grows up in a community who enforced a doctrine of "Sameness." In making everyone the same, they substitute emotion and free will with security. It is an interesting trade-off. Family units are constructed by "The Elders," spouses are assigned to each other, occupation is assigned by careful observation. Development is carefully engineered year by year. Death is blocked out of consciousness by the concept of "release." No one feels emotion for anyone else. Once you are old enough, you have your own home, your parents are no longer a part of your life. The concept of love is completely alien. Language is to be used precisely, though that precise language is a pale substitute for what normal human emotion is all about. Jonas is chosen as the "Receiver of Memories." His responsibility is to bear the memories of before "Sameness" - memories of love, fear, pleasure, pain. He is allowed to read books, books which describe all these memories, which no one else is allowed access to. It is a world of loneliness, because the rest of the community has no interest and no capacity to handle all these emotions. When Jonas described feeling love for the first time, and realizing what he has been missing, it brought tears to my eyes. I realized that even though life is hard, I wouldn't give up the pain that it brings for a world with no choices, no emotions, no real connection to others. It is so hard to let yourself connect emotionally with another person, because there is a risk of being hurt, but in lieu of living a life like that in The Giver, I would take it any day of the week. So I am now determined to appreciate everything as it is given to me, the pain and pleasure, the love and hurt, the ability to feel. And maybe I will need to re-read the book when I forget what a great treasure we do have in the capacity to choose.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year

Ok, so that is probably the most popular title of he day, so much for originality. I had a very calm New Year's Eve - watched a video with friends and we watched the ball drop at midnight. For me, that was enough excitement. The fact that I could spend New Year's with people whose company I enjoy brought the year in positively for me. I wish a year filled with happiness for everyone!