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

- [ Wednesday, September 29, 2004 ] -
Sukkah: Things could be worse
After seeing this, I know that we have very nice and tolerant neighbors. Things could be much worse.

(via Eagle-Eyed Zalman)

Sukkah: complete
As of 2:00 AM on September 29, 2004, there is a sukkah standing in parking spot #27 in the condo building that overlooks a menorah.

- [ Tuesday, September 28, 2004 ] -
Trivia Question
Who knows the significance of 9/16"?

Succah: Yes, but no. Maybe.
The hobby condo complainers caused no problems last night. I was able to address all their concerns to satisfaction. The well-meaning but bureaucratic-to-a-fault condo board is another story.

First, I will give you a very short version of some third-hand condo history. There are about eighty units in the building. The building was predominantly older people. Now there is a stream of young, frum couples moving in. There used to be an evil condo-board from the older crowd that acted unilaterally and ruled the condo with an iron fist. Due to a cell-phone tower, some bad science, lawyers and a petition, the evil board was ousted. A new, mostly young and frum board took its place. This new board is very timid, and wants to keep everything straight and on the up-and-up. They fear being ousted with the same ease as the previous board.

Back to the succah. At the meeting last night, the decision came down to a yes. But only on the condition that the condo is covered at no cost for any additional liability.

Wonderful! Start building the sukkah! Not quite. We have to satisfy everyone's version of liability. In legal terms, unlike mathematical terms, there is no difference between probable and possible.

The fact is there is no additional liability. We (my wife and I) already have coverage for all liability. The fact that we will have a succah up for ten days (nine days, now) doesn't increase the liability. With no change in insurance policies, everything is covered.

We changed our policy. We added the condo-board, the management company, and all affected parties with a rider. Now the building is covered even for legal fees that might come up in lawsuits from the sukkah.

The coverage is there.

The board needs to have the building's lawyer to look at a piece of paper with the new insured's names on it. For $145/hour. At our expense. Maybe it'll be fifteen minutes, maybe it'll be three hours. They want a blank check, without giving any estimate.

It ends here. We've done all we can do. We are Jewish, so we know at least a handful of lawyers who can look at this professionally for nothing. My wife works at a law firm that exclusively handles the cases of a large insurance company. She has all the connections, knows many lawyers, and has extensive knowledge of this particular area of liability coverage. We can certainly find a dozen ways to show the board that the building won't be liable for any damage resulting from our succah.

There are many ways to see that we can build a succah legally, with complete protection from liability for the building. Some of these ways say that we don't need any additional coverage at all. One of the ways say that we can build a succah, and if the board doesn't like it, they can issue us a paper that will tell us to take it down in thirty days (of course, they would have to vote on it). There are a few ways to see that maybe some people might not be 100% satisfied.

Almost every person on the board told me that they don't have a problem with it, but just to cover their own asses, it's forbidden without this lawyer's consent. We can't issue a blank check. I understand both sides.

My wife, who keeps me on the up and up, and I thank her and God for that, would like for me to follow the strict version of the condo's rules. I can be hot-headed and make poor decisions on my own. But I must follow her wishes and not act out in this case. I'm sure that makes me a better person. That's why I'm not building a renegade succah. That's why the neighbors and condo-board won't be upset with us.

As I'm writing this, there are frantic phone calls and e-mails shooting around to push through the BS and make this decision that everyone already agrees with airtight enough to satisfy everybody.

As it stands now, our friends have stepped up to risk the open-ended lawyer's fee. We are pushing veitur.

I would like to thank MO-Chassid for his professional help and well wishes on this aggravating erev-erev-yontif.

I would also like to thank my amazing wife for all her diligence in the paperwork area and her patience with my insanity (insanity is an explanation, not a defense).

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): I also forgot to mention that the board actually voted on this last night. I came to the board meeting at the end, and I was told, in the presence of the entire board, that I could build the succah that night (9/27) if I verbally agree to pay the lawyers fees. I fetched my wife from upstairs, and we discussed our terms with the remaining members of the board. At the end of the conversation, the three remaining members couldn't agree on their recollection of the decision, and the decision that they had voted "YES" became a "NO." They voted that I could build it pending a verbal agreement. Then three of them said they couldn't verify what they voted on it.

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): I'm furious. The lawyer has decided that she has to draft a letter for us to sign. I can't even imagine what strange and new species of BS will evolve from this steaming pile. And I still have several hours to put up a succah, along with my day job and extra errands I have to run before the chag.

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): The lawyer's letter is running at least $350, paid for by a good friend of ours in the building. I really hate that he has to shell out even one dime. In addition the letter is totally bending him over backwards, in that he has to accept total liability for everything. In the remote chance that something bad, God forbid, happens, he's totally f'ed. He is signing a paper he doesn't fully understand. He's been in the building forever and he just wants a succah. I hate that it went down like this. It's much uglier than I ever wanted it to be. But I should be happy. I got what I wanted. Why do I feel like crap?

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): We could rent a flatbed and build a succah on that for this cost.

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): Now I'm just being bitchy. I would feel more comfortable with a $350 bribe. But I've been reminded by the new owner of my succah that we are making Chicago condo history. I'm very thankful for that and very proud.

UPDATE (later on 9/28/04): I've gotten over it. I'm really excited about it.

Rare political link
Jewish and still voting Democrat? This isn't 1944 and Kerry is no FDR. Please take a look at this very eloquent Jeff Jacoby column.

- [ Monday, September 27, 2004 ] -
Wish me luck
Tonight, I'm going to attend a condo-board meeting and attempt to argue my case for having a Sukkah in my parking spot. The board (no longer evil) will vote on this at the end of the meeting. Their decision will be based on the reaction of the condo-meeting attendees. I'm hoping for a friendly crowd. Although the purpose of these open-issue meetings can be great venues for those who enjoy complaining.

In actuality, I can legally build it in my parking spot and I will have thirty days to take it down. I'm just being nice by discussing it and attempting to alleviate the fears of the closed-minded. I hope it's not as difficult as I imagine.

- [ Thursday, September 23, 2004 ] -
New word
I like inventing words, band-names, and awful plays-on-words and puns.

Just minutes ago, my wife and I exchanged e-mails at the same time. This is the second time this happened. We each wanted to make sure the other was on the list.

The word for this kind of occurrence is...synchronerdity.

n. pl. syn·chro·nerd·i·ties
  1. The state or fact of being simultaneous and nerdy.
  2. Coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related and are exlusively nerdy.
  3. A state caused by two nerds or nerdy entities simultaneously.

New Evën Sh'siyah Song
Evën Sh'siyah just released a new song for next album. This is the first song to come out of our new basement studio. We have plenty more, but they are still in the works.

- [ Wednesday, September 15, 2004 ] -
Zichron Yaakov Minyan
My favorite minyan is only held 6 times a year. It's more of a supplemental minyan, temporarily attracting members of many local synagogues with limited attention spans, limited tolerance for dreying cantors and a limited tolerance for general high-holiday nonsense of the big shuls.

It's the fastest minyan in town, yet the services are very spiritual. A lot of the piyutim that are usually said responsively, are sung in unison. The chazzanim are the same every year and I like them all. They use good melodies, they are quick, loud and clear. No one talks during services and nothing is skipped.

A lot of people say that this time of year is very precious to us, and that we can surely afford the three days to spend a long time in shul. Maybe for you. When I am presented with a minyan that begins at 8:30am and ends after 1pm, I will show up at least 1.5 hours late, sit in the back and talk for the duration. It's not something I can easily control. I don't seem to have the zitsfliesch* required to spend all day in shul and keep the proper mindset. Fighting this urge can take up most of my energy, otherwise better spent on self-reflection and praying.

It's not for everybody, but Zichron Yaakov is certainly appreciated by many. I can't imagine davening anywhere else. This minyan has spoiled me for all others.

Minyan Times at Zichron Yaakov (located this year at the Veitzner Cheder on Touhy):Show up early in the mornings if you need a little more time for Pesukei D'Zimrah.

* Literally - "sitting flesh." Euphamistic for "attention span." Having significant meat on your tush means you can be comfortable to sit and learn, or in this case, daven all day without getting antsy.

Have a sweet, new...
International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
Visit the Talk Like a Pirate blog: Aaaaaaargh!

- [ Sunday, September 12, 2004 ] -
This is going to get really big, really fast.

- [ Friday, September 10, 2004 ] -
My Wife and I Are Huge Nerds
The Jews of the hip neighborhood, being statistically younger, are more open to technology than other Jewish communities I've seen. When I moved there, I was immediately able to join the shul's active e-mail list which includes a weekly status message for the eruv.

Moving back to my old neighborhood, the shtetl, I was missing the e-mail updates. I did some online research and found an eruv-status e-mail list put out by one of the shuls here.

I was so excited for this find, I immediately signed up and e-mailed my wife about it.

A few minutes ago, I got the first update and forwarded it to her. Then I IMed her about the e-mail. She replied that she got the eruv e-mail herself and had just forwarded it to me!

What a cute, nerdy couple we make.

- [ Tuesday, September 07, 2004 ] -
Condo B.S. #1: Garbage
I love our new condo so far.

The condo has many rules about garbage, some of which make sense.

You take regular garbage to a garbage room, located on each floor. If you have anything else, you have to take it out to the dumpster yourself. They don't want to take it.

Inside the garbage room, there are two small garbage cans, and two smaller tubs. The regular garbage is supposed to be in closed garbage bags and placed in the cans. Recycling can be put in the open tubs. Or not. Nothing will be recycled. That's officially the stance of the building that has been discussed at board meetings. Everything in the cans and tubs will be taken down to the dumpster by the maintenance guy.

While moving into the building, I set my bike down next to all the other bikes in the basement. Some of them were hanging on the wall, some of them were standing up. Some of them were locked to the wall, and some were just locked to themselves. I figured my bike would be safe there. There was no lock on it, but it was crappy enough that no one in the building could possibly want to steal it.

A week later, it was gone. I'm going to rule out theft, because I can't imagine what anyone would want with it. I refuse to believe that anyone who would have access to the basement would steal something so crappy.

It was thrown out.

The building's mailboxes are all locked. The only ones who have access are the residents and the mailman. There are some bins under the mailboxes for misplaced mail. There is also a shelf for mailbox-stuffers and generic junk-mail. A friend of mine needed to drop something off for me so I told him to place it by the bins and the shelf.

A few hours later, when I got home, I looked for it. It was gone. There was some other stuff still in the bins, some of it was real mail, but the envelope for me wasn't found.

It was thrown out.

Lesson: If you want something unusual thrown out, just place it anywhere except the garbage room. You don't want to get in trouble.

Additional note on the garbage room:

Some people can't manage to take closed garbage bags to the garbage room without leaking all over the carpet. Sometimes people don't close their garbage bags well and they get the garbage room all messy and stinky. A solution proposed at a board meeting has been to install video cameras in the garbage room in order to chase down people and fine them. I'm not too worried about this, as even the most solid ideas can rarely pass a "yes" vote. Especially when there's money involved.

Raging Success at the YIWRPMMM
It was SN's great idea to have a good ol' band farbrengen (a get-together for Torah and song) on the Shabbat preceding the show. Obviously, it didn't get crazy like the days of old, but we certainly elevated ourselves to the proper heights that insured solid inspiration that carried through motzei-Shabbat. The purpose was also to show some members the true inspiration for our band. On Friday night, we reached the highs we were looking for at the home of SN and YN's parents. Rabbi N was in perfect form and we sang a gamut of the classic Lubavitch niggunim, as well as some new songs.

Objective details about the 9/4 FBIO gig can be found on the Farbrengiton Concert Blog.

This was by far, our best performance ever. True, we've only had four, but this one had the others beat by far. I'm not entirely surprised. We were the most practiced for this gig. We also had sufficient time for all of the band members to get acclimated to our current line-up.

It was a great crowd. People clapped after almost every solo. When we played Avinu Malkeinu, there were people who recognized the Alter Rebbe's niggun as well as people who recognized the Phish version.

After I failed to introduce a song properly, people asked us questions about it. After I gave an insufficient answer, they asked more questions. The point here isn't that I failed to do a proper introduction, but that the audience showed an active interest in the show and was paying attention to the lyrics.

They sang along with "I Am a Jew" with almost no prodding.

We started on time, which was a real shocker. There were about 30 people there at the time. As we played, about 100 more people walked in. Most of whom, I didn't know. Band-member, NS, claims to have invited about 30 people, 8 of whom he predicted would make it. Most of the crowd started leaving as the second band played, and the room was almost empty around 11:30. Judging from this, most of them were there to see us. Where did everybody come from?

Also, there was some additional, unexpected, rock-star vibe going around this Shabbat. SN told me about some oddities that took place at the Lubavitch shul this Shabbat. NS got an aliyah. SN got maftir. After the haftorah, a guy in front (that we don't know) started chanting "Far-BRENG-i-TAHN." To which the gabbai corrected him, "No, it's pronounced, Far-breng-it-ON." The band didn't know any of these people.

According to my observations, SN is the biggest rock-star in the band.

- [ Thursday, September 02, 2004 ] -
Concert Reminder
Motzei Shabbat at 9:30 pm
Young Israel of West Rogers Park
2706 W. Touhy Avenue

opening for Ruby Harris.

It will be our fourth gig.
It will be our second gig with the current line-up.
It will be the first gig with the current line-up after we've practiced more than once.

This is sure to be our best show, yet (with G-d's help).