Thursday, July 16, 2009


Posting will be light for the next year as I prepare for and eventually deploy. We'll resume when I am a civilian again, but I'll see if I can make some periodic updates.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Philosophy students

Two philosophy students. One Jewish, one Muslim. Both gave all so that others can breathe freer. HY"D.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Intelligence Officer Training Program in Colleges

Wow! Had George W. Bush proposed to institute an intelligence officer program in universities in the US we would still be hearing about it. Apparently, Obama has proposed a spy-training with with little fanfare. Not that this isn't a good idea. I have been of the view for a long time that we need a better language training infrastructure in this country and a better infrastructure to gather foreign intelligence.

This should be interesting.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Words to the Left and Words to the Right

It is claimed by the Left in scores of articles that Bill O'reilly is somehow responsible for the shooting death of the abortionist George Tiller. I suppose that the left expects that the religious right now do some soul-searching, take some responsibility, and tone down the rhetoric against doctors that provide abortions.

What they are actually doing is creating a climate in which anti-abortion rhetoric is equated with the murder of people who provide them.

But would the same people who have blamed Bill O'Reilly also start to blame the media and left wing intellectuals for the 9/11 attacks or this recent bit where a man killed two soldiers outside a shopping center in Arkansas? After all, the combined anti-military, anti-America, and anti-war rhetoric equating the Army with the greatest of evils are certainly greater and more widely known than anything Bill O'Reilly said. And how much left-wing anti-Israel rhetoric is blamed for the recent plot to blow up synagogues?

To my mind, murders by individuals should generally be blamed on the individual. So whence the double standard blaming people who kill soldiers on no one and when people kill abortion doctors blame the "right-wing media". I'll also bet that the shooting doesn't make it to the Daily Show, nor will the media make a big deal of it. (Bizarrely, this report from Iran refers to the soldiers "helping to recruit armed forces draftees", as if that were either true or possible. The US has no draftees, and if they did they would not need to be recruited.)

I think that we ought to be grateful that free speech is alive and well here and people can speak out against the US, against abortions, against doctors, against the military, against anyone they want. But to suddenly start blaming the exercise of freedom of speech for murders is disingenuous unless it is done by all, and I can't imagine the Angry Left is going to start examining its own speech too carefully in the near future.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Public concert

Some adorable kids held a concert in Brooklyn Heights' Boro Hall.

These kids are from PS 192.

Monday, June 01, 2009


As of now I am officially unemployed. I have no jobs, no work, nothing. . . And I can't even blame the economy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I just got thre first of many anthrax shots. They suck. Apparently some new law authorizes the government to do this.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I am now at my PhD granting ceremony.  It is now official.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back in NY

Just got back from a nice weekend in Miami.  I wish grading was over though.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Car show

This was somewhere in a Wallmart parking lot in North Carolinia about a week ago.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Finally . . .

. . . Leaving North Carolinia.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I really hate US Airways. It seems like every time I use them (and this is like my 5th time in the past year) they manage to screw my flight up and otherwide provide consistent mediocre service and give bad information.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What is Chavez's address?

At the Summit of the Americas Hugo Chavez gave Obama a copy of Galeano'a Open Veins of Latin America. Though I have not read it, the book is, by all accounts, an account of how the capitalists failed to help Latin America, and how they must therefore be the cause of all the world's ills. The book became an instant best seller on Amazon, as anything a big leftist thug endorses publicly will start to fly off the shelves. Chavez did this before with one of Chomsky's books.

Obama replied with some lame joke about thinking that Chavez wrote a book and wanted to give him one of his own books in exchange. At least I think this was a joke.

When I am in uniform I always carry a copy a copy of the US Constitution in my arm-pocket. It reminds me what I swore allegiance too, and why. One likes to believe that any American president always has some snippets of the Federalist Papers running through his head. this is a document that Chavez could learn a lot from. It tells us that there needs to be a balance of power in a state, and that there is a way to make a country work without a dictator and with political liberties.

What Obama should have done is have his people rush to the nearest Barnes and Noble to purchase a deluxe edition of the Federalist Papers to give to Chavez in exchange. As a matter of fact, if I don't hear about Obama doing that, I will.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Communist protest

There is some sort of big pro-communist protest right outside our madrid hotel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Girona

Commemorating Nachmonides in Girona; in the jewish calle.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Today ¨D¨and I visited Girona.  It is a beautiful city, like Barcelona.  But visiting the tiny mideval section was particulary interesting.  We saw some nice famous cathedral and the Jewish Museum.  We explored the streets Nachmonides used to walk.  We took in the sights of a Jewish community that was there from ancient times through 1492.I would recommend a visit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bike tour

Today ¨D¨ and I took¨a nice bike tour around Barcelona.  It was fun, for a bike tour.  I´d reccommend it if you want to see all the main attractions without really having to look at them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In Barcelona

¨D¨and I have arrived in beautiful Barcelona where everything seems to be on hold for some local holiday.  More details to follow. We are doing fine and the plane ride was not that terrible.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Birchat HaChama in Brooklyn Heights

Today is a peculiar day in the Jewish calendar. It is the day that we recite Birchat Hachama. We commemorate the biblical creation of the Sun by saying some blessings, and singing and dancing in the streets. It is a rare holiday, occurring only once every 28 years on the morning before Passover.

I vividly remember doing this 28 years ago on Ocean Parkway around avenue O with the "Tenker" rebbe (the father, not the son) and his shul, the one we prayed in back then. I remember a big assembly on the roof of Torah Temimah, the Brooklyn school I attended at the time. The assembly was led by the late Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum. School was fairly anticlimactic after the singing and dancing on Ocean Parkway with the synagogue.

Brooklyn's weather was nicer last time, but this time was nice too. Our synagogue celebrated near the windy steps of Boro Hall with our esteemed Boro President Marty Markowitz making a nice short speech and reciting the blessing.

Truth be told, the whole thing does sound very much like some Pagan Sun-worshiping ritual. We do the same for the moon once a month too. But it is still nice, and the rarity of the holiday makes it all the more special. I look forward to doing it again in 2037.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Afikomen story

Here is a story that is told to little Jewish children when they are in school. It is told of different people, though I remember it told of the Vilna Gaon. It goes as follows: Little Elija (or whoever) stole the afikomen from his father as per the usual custom. When the time came to eat it the father asked for the afikomen back. Little Elija demanded an unusually large ransom in exchange for the return of the afikomen. The father - almost too quickly - agreed to the demands. So the father promises a gift and Little Elija produces the Matzoh.

Everyone is feeling a bit smug when the time comes for the father to distribute the matzoh. But the father refuses to give a piece to Little Elija. The father demands that in exchange for a piece of the afikomen, he be released from his obligation to produce a present. Not one to be outdone, Little Elija then produced a small piece of the original afikomen and declared that he had anticipated this, and broke off a piece before the exchange.

That story is supposed to illustrate how clever the Vilna Gaon was as a child. But there are a number of problems with this. Foremost, Little Elija negotiated in bad faith. The father was negotiating for what he presumed to be the whole afikomen which he left for the child to "steal". But the child was only negotiating for part of the afikomen. Clearly he intended to keep part of it for himself. So he was dishonest from the beginning. Clever, yes. Dishonest, definitely! This kid also clearly grew up in a household where there was no trust between father and son, as the father was also negotiating in bad faith. The usual assumption is that the father will distribute the afikomen to the whole household. But the father demonstrated that he did not intend on doing this unless he was released from his promise.

Was this kind of negotiating normal in the household? Who taught such intense distrust for your own family? Was there some life lesson that they were supposed to be teaching each other?

So we have one of those classic stories that we tell all Jewish children that essentially describes the house that one of our sages grew up in as a den of crooks and theives. Cleverness apparently consists in figuring out how to cheat your father before he cheats you.

What kind of messages are we sending to young Jewish children?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Examined Life

"D" and I saw "Examined life" the other day. It was so so.

Appiah, Nussbaum and Singer, I thought, came off rather well for philosophers. But they were the only ones. Judith Butler and Sunura Taylor were not making any points except that some people should be more entitled than others because they are worse off, Avital Ronell was fairly incomprehensible (she actually use the word "alterity" as if people were supposed to understand it). Cornell West came off as a bit manic but pointless. And Slavoj Zizek was amusing to watch, though I was unclear about what he was saying about ecology. Michael Hardt was saying something about "the revolution" as if we lived in the 60s and cared.

All this was part of a quest to get at the meaning of life or something. All we actually got was a few people, some of them quite bright, trying to express their core beliefs to a lay audience and pretty much not succeeding.

As a documentary it was pretty uninteresting. People were filmed moving around and talking.

I would generously give the film a C-. Then again, I am a philosopher and perhaps I just don't know how philosophy appears to non-philosophers on film. "D" seemed to get something out of the philosophy, though she was pretty unimpressed with the film as a documentary (and she knows about those things).

Update: Tony Alterman expressed this much better than I, and I think he is, on the whole, absolutely correct.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In training

If someone were to make a film about what I am doing these few weeks it should be called: "Ahmed: the cultural learnings of Jordan for make the benefit of great friends American soldiers"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Jordan

I'm now somewhere at the edge of Jordan doing some Army training about Arabs and Iraqi culture. All in all it is not bad. While I am not discovering much I didn't know, I could see how a lot of people here are learning new things about how Arabs, Sunni Muslim Arabs in particular, think about the world. I suspect that it is a bit too late to send some people for the kind of training we are getting here and hope to change the way Americans are perceived, but it is a start. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Now I'm in . . .

Bangor, Maine. Fun, fun fun.

Friday, February 20, 2009

In Fayetteville

Yeah, for real. Thankfully it is just overnight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It was amazing to be under the same roof as 40 million dollars worth of rare Jewish books.  Wow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Krembo for Voting

I can't believe no one tried this here. I wish they did this where I was voting.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Job

Apparently I have the 12th best job in the country. I also seem to have two of the top five most respected jobs in the country.

I am not sure what this does for me though.

Graves in the streets of Brooklyn

There are a few sites (like streetviewfun, streetviewr, and this post) dedicated to strange and weird stuff that you can find on Google Maps. Here is one that "D" found the other day.

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