I’m gettin too old for this shit, Penn edition

As you might imagine, I’m not an enormous fan of fracking – though I am an enormous fan of fracking puns. So when Donna from Jews Against Hydrofracking asked me to raise awareness about the issue at Hillel, I agreed – even though everyone’s pretty much out the door by this time of year, and also I haven’t done this in forever.

If you who don’t know what hydrofracking is – or just want to see someone light his tap water on fire  (crazy shit) – check out this preview for Gasland, named Best US Documentary Feature at Sundance 2010:

Continue reading I’m gettin too old for this shit, Penn edition


Classic New York Times

I’m somewhat conflicted about correcting people. On the one hand, truth and precision. On the other hand, it can make me feel mean. So there are only certain situations in which I feel totally comfortable indulging my predilection. When they appear in the Paper of Record, I have no such qualms – it makes me feel like a real copy editor!

I once caught Thomas Friedman write ‘lightening’ when he meant ‘lightning’, and it was fixed after my correction was the first comment on the article. I’m so excited about that, I’m telling you about it literally half a year later.

So today’s New York Times article about divorce ceremonies was obviously thrilling.

“When people get married, they have a wedding ceremony, they’re making vows and promising to be with each other,” said Barbara Biziou, a wedding officiant in Manhattan and the author of the book Joy of Ritual. “When that dissolves, you need another ceremony to release you from it.”

I’m not going to get into semantics here (‘need’ vs. ‘want’), especially because that debate is inside protective quotation marks. And I normally wouldn’t use my blog as a forum for correcting minor errors in the NYTimes – but since this article doesn’t have a comment section, I will denote in bold one mistake that could have been avoided by a simple Wikipedia fact-check:

Some religions have built divorce ceremonies into their liturgy. (Judaism has a get, a Jewish divorce officiated by a rabbi; the Unitarian Universalist Church has a ceremony of hope, and the United Methodist Church offers a divorce ceremony, but not much else commemorates the ending of a relationship.)

Continue reading Classic New York Times

Ain’t nothing new under the retractable roof

On Thursday, someone related to me that Carlos Beltran will soon become (if he hasn’t already) one of only eight players* in MLB history to amass 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. Baseball statistics are fun like that: set any arbitrary combination of select parameters and statistics and you could probably find a way to group Miguel Olivo and Ted Williams.

Examples are not hard to find. A quick Google turned up – without much trouble – ‘Record for most hits by a pitcher on opening day’, ‘The only two brothers who ended with the exact same batting average in the same season’, and ‘The first player in All-Star Game history to bat against the same pitcher 10 or more years apart’.

You can hardly swing a bat without hitting some arbitrary statistical achievement. I just checked Twitter for the first time in a month (once upon a time, I tried to keep up – today, I declare Twitter bankruptcy, and will just try to do better from here on out) and this was sitting at the top of my timeline:

But I think I’ve found my favorite. Presented without further ado – nor further comment – the following excerpt, which appeared in the The USA Today (presumably from wire reports) on something like, but not necessarily, April 10:

1B Eric Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas homered in the same Major League game for the first time in a 6-3 triumph vs. the Angels on Saturday. It was a feat they had accomplished in the minors.

Continue reading Ain’t nothing new under the retractable roof

And now for some hakarat hatov* towards Google

After picking on Google in my previous post, I felt like I should probably point out that forcing everyone to switch to the new Gmail hasn’t kept the company from also significantly upping free storage space. The bar warning me I’m almost out is finally gone, and I’m down to using just 71% of my inbox – after spending the last three years (I exaggerate not) hovering around 95%+ (if you’ve never tried it, let me warn you: this is exhausting).

And if you don’t believe me, this actually happened, on November 17, 2011:

Continue reading And now for some hakarat hatov* towards Google

Strange goings on over at Gmail

A few people have mentioned to me that they were disappointed when Gmail recently made the switch to its new look absolutely mandatory (much like a Pyongyang party). I can’t say I sympathize a whole lot. I’ve been using it since I got annoyed with Gmail’s incessant begging, and by now, I’m used to it. They will, too.

That said, maybe Google should have first made sure it worked out all the kinks. Everything you see below is from a single screenshot (with a big chunk removed from ‘Important and Unread’ – note the curvature of the planet – because if it was so important, it felt weird letting you all read it before I had a chance to):

The bluest mikveh you’ve ever seen is in Seattle

Blue in the sense of sad, because there’s apparently something wrong with the water in Seattle.

A friend recently sent me an article by Rabbi Yossi Azose that was – broadly – about halakhic stringencies and leniencies in America, and – narrowly – about the mikveh in Seattle in the years prior to 1963. More specifically, Rabbi Azose discussed the practice, prevalent at the time, of filling mikvaot with tap water.

I’m not going to get into the technical details, because I already gave you the hyperlink, but as I wound my way through the 5,500-word article, two things occurred to me. One, I found it fascinating that in an article of this length about mikvaot, Rabbi Azose didn’t seem to mention women once (maybe I’m just more alert to this after the uproar over Darrell Issa’s hearings on contraception). And two, I thought it was interesting that finding sufficient rain water in Seattle was ever an issue.

Both my musings were addressed just past the 4,000-word mark, with the first – and only – appearance of the word ‘women’:

[Rabbi Shapiro] had arrived in the city after Rabbi Halpern had already built the community mikveh using city water with the blessings of Rabbis Widrewitz and Gordon. Years later, when the mikveh was in need of repair, he spent much time delving into the laws of mikva’ot together with the members of his chevre shas study group, and they all concluded unanimously that, given the specific situation in Seattle, it was permitted to use tap water. They had in fact considered building a rain water mikveh, but discovered that the rain water in Seattle when collected emitted a foul odor, and it would be objectionable to the women to immerse themselves in such water.

Turns out, Rabbi Azose was fully justified in his exclusion of women from the article about mikveh. One second, you give them an opinion, and the next they’re complaining about the rain water in Seattle. Yes, that Seattle rainwater (article from 1977 – if anyone knows how to get rid of Google’s blue highlight, let me know):

Continue reading The bluest mikveh you’ve ever seen is in Seattle

Award-winning recipe straight from the Master Chef (me)

Some of you may have noticed today or Friday that Hillel served a special dish for lunch:

An accompanying sign explained what I had learned in an email earlier last week:

Dear Mordechai,

My name is Brian Aranda, marketing assistant at Bon Appétit at Penn Dining, and I’m emailing you to congratulate you for winning this year’s first annual Recipe Contest!  Your Pindi Chana dish will be featured at Falk Dining Commons on Friday, April 20th for lunch.  Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you for your participation!

First annual? You’d think they would name the contest after me.

I can think of only three reasons I might have won a recipe contest for which I submitted only a recipe (and not, for instance, a cooked dish): I submitted the only recipe, I’m the only one whose recipe was not for Kobe Beef, or I’m the only one whose recipe wasn’t for cheeseburger (though the thought did cross my mind).

My motivation for entering was simple: Hillel’s vegetarian options are often disappointing, and I love Indian food, so winning would be a good way to ensure I would have something to eat. So I’m glad I entered, even if the name is a little too confusing for Hillel – it’s pronounced ‘ch’ as in ‘chew’, not as in ‘Mordechai’… or Chana.

I’m obviously going to share the recipe momentarily, but I first wanted to thank the Hillel kitchen staff, especially Elijah and Chef Kenny, for putting it together, and Chef Jerome and Dottie for putting it back on the menu after I was out of town on Friday. Also, I wanted to thank Ariel Allon, for being the first person to make it with me, and the internet, for providing me with the recipe back in 2007 (though, in fairness to me, it’s been significantly modified). Also, God, my parents, and everyone else who made this possible.

And apologies to anyone who complained to me because they don’t like spicy food. Just kidding, they barely made it spicy. You’re weak.

And so without further ado – because one ado is enough – my submission:

Continue reading Award-winning recipe straight from the Master Chef (me)

The worst translation of all time. All time.

It was about four months ago that I first noted how poorly Bing translates Facebook statuses. Since that time, I’ve been slowly collecting my favorites for an eventual compilation of some sort. This is not that post – my sample size is still pretty small, and I often forget to record examples even when I spot them – but in the meantime, I’ll skip ahead and share what has to be a) the worst offender I’ve come across yet, and b) mindbogglingly unique in my inability to begin to possibly think about starting to comprehend how this was allowed to happen.

You don’t need to know any Hebrew, or read farther than the very first line in English and then Hebrew, to decode this debacle:

Twenty-two points to whoever can explain how this happened. All 13 of them will definitely come in handy.

Continue reading The worst translation of all time. All time.