I am a Yid. I like to rock. Veitur!

- [ Tuesday, January 17, 2006 ] -
It's A Boy!
I have resigned to a hiatus from this blog primarily to get my act together and take care of the more important things in my life. This is the prime reason.

I'm very thankful to G-d and my entire family, and extremely proud to announce the birth of my son. He was born yesterday, on the 16th day of Tevet (January 16th) at 2:16pm in Evanston. I pray to G-d that my amazing wife and I can raise him to a life of Torah, Chuppah, and Good Deeds.

For the ladies, because I know they like this stuff:
Please call for Bris and Shalom Zachor party information.

- [ Tuesday, August 16, 2005 ] -
The Temple Still Burns
Every generation in which the Holy Temple isn't rebuilt is equivalent to the generation that saw it destroyed. Coming off of Tisha B'Av, I can't help but cry. We've been defeated and destroyed before. But how much more painful is it when it's done by Jews? Watch as G-d uses the secular Israeli government to hand over our homes to our enemy.

Read Eichah, and follow along here:

Or, you can follow along, one 30-second snippet at a time, with your local and national news coverage, as they tell us how "Jewish right-wing militants" are "violently" using passive resistance to try to acheive their goals after voluntarily handing over their guns.

"Next year in Jerusalem"-- But for who?

UPDATE (8/18): Brilliant photo essay from Arutz 7

- [ Monday, August 01, 2005 ] -
PSA about this blog
I appreciate my audience's concern. This blog may experience a slight period of inactivity, as it's owner experiences a proportional period of productivity.

I'm sure I'll have a ton more to say soon. I just happen to be extremely busy.

Ironically, I just wasted a huge amount of time on this post.

- [ Thursday, July 07, 2005 ] -
Blog, blog, bloggeroo, blog, blog, blogblogblogblogblogblogbloggity blahgger.


Blogging is dumb

- [ Friday, July 01, 2005 ] -
I will not tolerate infestation!
After work yesterday, I found no less than five species of insects with an active interest in my garden. It's quite the wild kingdom on my balcony; many species are fighting for survival. I will describe them only briefly, as I don't want to creep out my wife. I have not seen a single twiddlebug.

Leptomastix dactylopii

These guys are nice. They've been around for a couple weeks, pollinating the beautiful flowers on my basil, catnip, tomatoes and peppers. They are wasps that don't sting. They are a natural enemy of the *ugh* mealybug.

Citrus Mealybug

I discovered this guy last night. My wonderful peppermint had its leaves coated, on the underside, with some kind of white and hairy larval forms. I found some information on alternative pest control. Apparently, both alcohol and soap can be used in solution to fight plant pests effectively. I filled an almost empty Febreeze spritzer with water, as Febreeze contains both alcohol and soap, and I washed the entire plant, leaf by leaf (I hope the plant survives). After reading more about these bastards, I realized that the waxy-shiny substance I saw on the leaves last week was not a normal part of the mint. Mealybugs secret a sweet honeydew.

Greenbug (aphid)

They're barely visible, yet I hate them. I have two flower boxes growing grass. One of these boxes is flourishing, the other one is not. I investigated the sick grass and I saw an infestation.


In cleaning up the garden last night, I was heartened to find a ladybug. Defender of all that is good, and eater of aphids. It's not the brownish foreign invader look-alike, but rather the bright-red real deal. I think. I hope.

F*cking ants

Ants aren't a problem unless they're in your home. We've had kind of an ant situation in our building for a while. So far, they've been a only a mild nuisance and have kept away from our kitchen. Seeing this new development, it's time to step up the battle.

Now they're in my garden. The ants have been enjoying a buffet of the finest honeydew secretions of both the aphids and the mealybugs. Ants are very industrious. They're not satisfied with picking up snacks to go. They actually farm the aphids. They provide shelter and protection from predators. It looks like they took up residence with the aphids in my grass box.

Seeing that the grass was almost dead and easy to grow from scratch, I thought I'd use a more certain strategy, rather than plant-safe. I took a look in our cleaning supply cabinet. I briefly considered using bleach, but I thought it might be too hard on the plastic. I decided on a bucket of hand soap and water. I just drowned the entire box of grass and sprayed everything that moved and the entire perimeter with my Febreeze mix.

And they're up to something on my blueberry bush. I gave that a good spray down.

I'll be watching them. I will not tolerate infestation. If I wanted to breed insects, I'd be keeping them on my desk in a thin clear-plastic box.

- [ Monday, June 27, 2005 ] -
Hack to fix Blogger bug

Blogger is still broken, with no word, yet, from any humans. There is no reference to this wide ranging issue on either Blogger Status or Known Issues.

I've been working on a couple different web pages, and I've been building my CSS skills recently. I did a search for the CSS clear property, and turned up with the answer. The hack is pretty easy. This is a temporary solution, making your code a little sloppier, and not a "fix." Only Blogger can fix the bug.

Add one of the following lines to your <style> section in the <head>:This, or a close variation, should work for most blogs. If you're having trouble, I may be able to give additional help. This code might have negative side-effects on your page if you use the CSS clear property for your layout.

UPDATE: Late Monday, I got an e-mail from a robot named "Andrea" telling me they're working on it. Blogger updated their status page, and posted a different hack to temporarily subdue the CSS demons released from the bowels of the Blogger machine. If one of my listed hacks didn't work, give the Blogger one a try.

- [ Sunday, June 26, 2005 ] -
Blogger is screwed (scroll down)
There are errant tags in every one of my blog pages that weren't there on Thursday. The errant tags are, <div style="clear: both;"></div>. I don't want them. It makes people think my blog is closed, or worse--"under construction."

I went to the Blogger website to look for help. I did some searches. I saw this on the bottom of the page:
Ask Support
Can't find what you're looking for in Blogger Help?

First check Blogger Status and our known issues page, then write Blogger Support and we'll see what we can do.
I checked both recommended pages. I think "see what we can do" means they will send you an automatic e-mail telling you to look for help on their help pages before you reply to the e-mail, asking for help again. Now I'm waiting for a second response. I hope the response won't tell me to refresh my browser or reinstall Windows.

Does anyone know how to make it stop? Does anyone know of other affected blogs?

If Google hasn't been taken over by Cyberdyne Systems Skynet robots or monkeys on typewriters, and a real person comes checking around here for clues, I want to show links to other blogs likewise affected to show that the problem isn't on my end. I know how good tech-support is for services I buy. I can only imagine the alacrity the Blogger team will have for my problem, as a non-paying consumer of their product.

Please comment here and link other blogs that are screwed.
I only know of a couple other blogs so far.(This post may come down after the issue is resolved and this post outlives its relevance.)

- [ Tuesday, June 21, 2005 ] -
Treyfe? Or Just a Little Phishy?
Photo by Jeff Kravitz, stolen from the Bonnaroo website

I love Matisyahu. His music is great and well produced. He works hard. He's a humble guy. He lives Torah and spreads Torah. He inspires people. His popularity grows by leaps and bounds. And that's only my opinion as a fan.

As a musician, I'm very appreciative. His popularity only increases the possible market for my music. As he does better, I do better. He's not the first, nor the best (he's definitely better than I), but he's the most marketable and the most popular. The untapped market of Jewish rock is blowing wide open, with Matisyahu on the cutting edge. He's opening the market to far more people than anyone before him.

He hasn't made it to Chicago once. I saw him perform in Milwaukee, and I would love to hear him again, especially in a closer and better-sounding venue. I'm bothered by something. He will be playing a show in Chicago this summer that I can't see because of religious reasons.

Matisyahu is scheduled to tour with Trey Anastasio, opening for the Midwest dates, including Chicago. In case you're unfamiliar, Trey was the lead singer of Phish (a hugely popular band with a massive following) and a huge inspiration and part of Matisyahu's spiritual life. Personally, I'm a big fan of Phish, and to a slightly lesser extent, Trey's post-Phish solo work. I've heard good things about the last time Trey played here, and with Matis as an opener, that show is going to be freakin' sweet. (Enjoy the bootleg of Matisyahu playing few songs with Trey at Bonnaroo!)

Unfortunately, the tour with Trey occurs during the Three Weeks, and more specifically, the Midwest shows are scheduled for the Nine Days.

During this Jewish mourning period, there are restrictions on many musical activities. The scheduling of these shows is problematic, not only because of his own religious circumstances, but also because his audience is primarily Jewish. True, most of this audience will be there for Trey. But these concerts are heavily advertised, and have the potential to attract many Jews who don't know better and even many that do. This temptation might even be greater given the current absence of a single "kosher" Chicago show.

Initially, it felt to me like someone who normally sells kosher food, now sells traife. But the feeling goes even a little deeper. Why shouldn't I be able to go to hear Jewish music, G-d's words and divrei Torah, being performed in the Nine days, when less observant and knowledgeable people will get to have this unique religious experience? It just seems so wrong, and I couldn't figure it out.

I posted this observation, and my questions on the JDub message boards. There has been some response, all of it supportive on this especially difficult topic. Some comments sound harsher than others, but in the end, we all love Matis and want him to do the right thing. More than that, we all want to judge him favorably and believe he is doing the right thing, and that everything is kosher.

One of the responding posts came from management, saying Matis got an authoritative rabbinical ruling that the activity in question is permitted. This response post was brief, vague and sounded like a brush-off. Totally unconvincing. I still felt that this was more of a public affront to his religious beliefs that are inseperable from his image, and thus deserving of a more public and thorough explanation.

Later, in a different thread, guest poster, Umass rabbi, posted the following clarification:
Hey friends,
I just spoke to a friend of the family and got the information on Matis playing during the nine days. It seems that there is a halachic difference between the nine days (i.e. rosh chodesh av until tisha b'av) and the actual week where tisha b'av occurs (i.e. post shabbos until tisha b'av). There is a lienency during the first set of days to play for various different reasons. Additionally the fact that the crowd is not entirely Jewish, (i.e. this is not a Mordechai ben David concert) plays a factor in the heter. FYI before Matisyahu agreed to play with Trey on these dates he and his wife both spoke to a reputable Beis Din about the situation. Sorry if this is a little halachic and dry but I wanted to clearly spell out what was shakin' and clear the air. Have a good one.

This sounds a little better, and more believable. From this point on, I'm assuming Matisyahu has a solid heter to play these shows. But I still feel bitter and whiny...

Stepping back from the situation, I see the schmucks who hassled Matis for his style of music when he played for a yeshivish audience at the HASC show (Goyish music will lead us away from Yiddishkeit!). I also think of the people who don't like that he plays in bars (Goyish venues will lead us away from Yiddishkeit!). And now here I am, upset that he's leading Jews awy from Yiddishkeit while playing during the Nine Days.

Narishkeit, I say! I'm done being bitter on this one. To simplify, I was experiencing a common feeling. Anyone not on my level of observance is clearly misguided. Those with stricter observance are ultra-religious nuts, and those who are more lax in observance are heathens.

I won't go to the show. I imagine that most Jews who are going to the show, would be seeing Trey anyway. Provided we don't have the arrival of Moshiach before then, I encourage Jews who love Matisyahu to avoid these shows to spare his soul from the strain. With G-d's help, there will be many, many more shows like this, or better, in the future. Please support Matisyahu by buying his CDs, attending his other shows, and spreading the word.

Matisyahu, mazal tov on this fortuitous gig. Kick some ass and show the crowd what you're about. Keep spreading the good vibes. Stay Holy. And please...

play (a kosher show) in Chicago already!

- [ Thursday, June 16, 2005 ] -
(not) Cheap Jewish CDs, part II

I'm also shopping for the newest Moshav Band CD, Malachim. I'm disappointed to say that I'm not pleased with their distribution.

Here is the results of my Google search.
  1. Israel-Music
    CD cost: $20.00
    Shipping: $4.00
    Total: $24.00
  2. AllThingsJewish.com, "Judaica and Jewish Gifts for All Occasions"
    CD cost: $15.00
    Shipping: $6.99
    Total: $21.99
That's it. Two places to get it. The first link is from an Israeli music website. I find the extremely high price to be standard for Israeli CDs. Shopping for CDs in Israel is an expensive experience. Israel also has an extremely high rate of media piracy. Are they related? Which one is the cause? The second link is also linked directly from the Moshav Band's website, thus indicating their preferred distributor.

$15 is a fair price for a CD (within the current music market), though not on the cheap end of the spectrum. They are a professional band with a professional sound, so I can accept it.

There is no excuse for $6.99 shipping (a charge that is all but hidden until after you enter a credit card number).

Sounds like a good time to call my local Jewish bookstores, right? $18.98 is cheaper by comparison. I called two local bookstores. Unfortunately, they don't carry it and they've never heard of it.

Not being associated with a major Jewish label, I know firsthand that distribution can be a pain in the butt. Currently, there are many businesses around that are geared for distributing CDs for a small band. The profit margins and amount of time that the artist needs to invest can vary, but no more than with a big-time distributor.

I've listened to the CD, and I'm going to buy it no matter what. It's a great CD. The $21.99 price tag makes me consider my budgetary restrictions.

Maybe I'll wait a little longer. I suppose the bookstores will eventually carry it. But I'd rather wait until the Moshav Band comes to town. I can buy directly from them. This is actually my preferred way of buying music from independent artists, as they keep a much larger percentage. That way, I don't have to pay the highly inflated (especially in this case) price of distribution.

Cheap Jewish CDs?

Does anyone know the cheapest possible place to get the newest Blue Fringe CD?

Here is my preliminary findings on the interwebs, based on a single Google search. Also, for the sites that require registration to find the total cost, I filled out a bogus address in my zip code, and a temporary e-mail address I got from my Bloglines, velvel.12103782@bloglines.com (feel free to e-mail me anything you want!)
  1. Judaism.com
    CD cost: $17.95
    Shipping: $5.95
    Total: $23.90
  2. Eichlers.com, "The World's Judaica Store"
    CD cost: $14.99
    Shipping: $7.63 (the extra high shipping charge looks like a great way for the store to grab more money without paying any royalties)
    Total: $22.62
  3. 1800Eichlers, "The largest Judaica Store"
    CD cost: $15.99 (the customer is also shown "List Price $16.99." On what list?)
    Shipping: $5.00
    Total: $20.99
  4. Mostly Music, "The heartbeat of Jewish Music
    CD cost: $14.99
    Shipping: $1.99
    Total: $16.98
I called my local Jewish bookstore. Music isn't their specialty and they have no reason to offer a reasonable price. 70 Faces costs $18.98.

All in all, $16.98 from Mostly Music isn't a terrible cost for the CD--especially for a Jewish CD. But this is only based on the market value. That's what people pay, so that's what I have to pay. Price fixing among the major distributors has been established and "settled," but the prices are still the same. Jewish CD producers and distributors were not part of the CD price fixing scheme, as lowering your prices to do so would miss the point. (Tapes are still priced a few dollars cheaper, in spite of being more expensive to produce.)

I'm proud to support the band Blue Fringe, and I can't wait to see them again (hopefully at another 18+ show). I hope they end up getting a decent percentage of my hard earned money from my forthcoming purchase.

UPDATE: In composing my next post, I remembered another local bookstore, with a slightly different clientele. Their price: $19.99.