Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yes, men can do the dishes too. As long as they aren't married .

Study here
New study finds married men do less housework than live-in boyfriends

The age-old stereotype that women do more housework than men has gotten more credibility with a George Mason University study co-written by sociologist Shannon Davis.

The study of more than 17,000 people in 28 countries found that married men report doing less housework than men who are live-in boyfriends.

This study was recently published in the Journal of Family Issues by Davis and co-authors Theodore Greenstein and Jennifer Gerteisen Marks of North Carolina State University.

According to Davis, the key finding of the study is that it suggests the institution of marriage changes the division of labor. Couples with an egalitarian view on gender—seeing men and women as equal—are more likely to divide the household chores equally. However, in married relationships, even if an egalitarian viewpoint is present, men still report doing less housework than their wives.

“Marriage as an institution seems to have a traditionalizing effect on couples—even couples who see men and women as equal,” says Davis.

While the researchers did not follow cohabitating couples over time to see if their division of housework changed after marriage, their study provides a “snapshot” in time of couples all over the world.

“Our research suggests that couples across many countries are influenced by similar factors when deciding how to divide the housework,” she says. “It’s the way the society has defined what being married means, the institution itself, that affects behavior.”

I find this study very interesting, but not surprising. I am a feminist as is my partner, and so are most of our friends. Yet, I recall when I got married, all of a sudden, I really ceased to be a separate person. It took me years to get used to the fact that a simple change of householding arrangements made most of the world see me in an entirely different way. People would be astonished that we still maintaied entirely separate bank accounts (at the time). More astonishing to people was that I did not take his name. It remains a source of perpetual astonishment to me that women still do this - in fact, it seems to me, that most women still do this; why one would erase one's own identity in favor of someone else's is bizarre to me, especially given all the baggage that goes along with it societally. If I were a man, I think it would be less of a problem for me, beause all the nonsense that goes with it is absent (other than people simply failing to believe that you've done it. The one couple I know where the man took the wife's name, no matter how many times they explain it to people, people simply write it out of their minds. Of course, that's a general human mental failing, I think. I note that with my DS, simply because he has longish hair and wears pink tackies (sometimes), almost all white people assume automatically that he's a girl - and will persist in calling him "she" even if he corrects them (neither of us do usually, because after all, who really cares? Especially pre-puberty?).

So, back the the real question though: I know that people really love and are tied to their notion of highly differentiated gender as "natural," despite the scientific evidence - most people will take bad anecdotal evidence over it all the time - and truthfully even scientists aren't immune, cf. Dr. Carol Tavris excellent book The Mismeasure of Woman. But this study is one of many that really belies the psychology of how women get stuck with the dishes, as it were. How do we move beyond this - and as a rabbi, a question we need to ask: with the agunah question looming over us still, maybe it's time to reevaluate what marriage is; How it's done; Perhaps we need a new seder nashim, with commentary.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More on kittypidgin


The image macro is born out of this cycle.

Forums typically put new posts underneath older ones. So, a direct response to someone’s rant about the coming police state in America may be immediately followed by an image of Captain America crying. Everyone gets the reference and the idea. This is a very high-level, metacommunication format.

Consider how difficult is its for computers to identify faces. Consider how confirmation keys are now images so computers can’t understand what is being communicated. Consider the new confirmation keys where a series of images are displayed and the user must pick which one of these is not like the other. Computers have a terrible time with this kind of task.

Communication through images is a powerful way to pass complex ideas back and forth. You see Captain America crying, and you understand a concept that would take several paragraphs of exposition.

So, image macros have really blossomed online in the last few years. Many of them take a slant on an existing meme circulating across the Internet. Of course, most of them are also designed to make you laugh along with solidifying in group status and also getting a point across.

For instance:

<– Someone is being overly dramatic.

Thank God I'm a geek.

At no time in my life would anyone ever mistake me for a hipster.
This is pretty funny.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More from Consumerist on getting the better of corporations who are trying to ignore you

from Consumerist

Giant corporation ignoring your repeated and valid pleas? After exhausting traditional methods of complaint resolution, including, but not limited to, at least calling at least once and escalating to a supervisor, try "Faxing For Dollars," another get-em-by-the-balls technique described by Ron Burley in his book, Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide To Getting What You Paid For.

1) Draft a good, cogent, spell-checked, grammar-checked one-page complaint letter (here's how), with your full contact information.

2) Find the fax numbers for executives. These can be found by Googling for: SEC filings, Financial documents, often found in company's investor relations section, press releases, Internal promotional events, like charity auctions and golf tournaments, sales materials, contracts, other legal documents...

Be sure to look at the roster of executive officers on the company website, and cross-reference it with the management information available for most companies under finance.google.com

3) After harvesting as many executive fax numbers as you can, fax them all copies of your complaint letter, again, again, and over again, until you receive a call on your telephone. If you don't have a fax machine, you can send faxes online with a service like eFax.

4) When that happens, keep your head screwed on, and your voice even and professional. Burley says say something like, "Thank you for calling. I realize that you are a busy person, so I hope that we can come to a quick resolution of the matter."

Peculiar video of the day

Not that I disagree with the sentiment, exactly ("Wimmin can do anything!") and I have liked the song for some years, but....


from our friends at the "Maoist Internationalist Movement."
No, really.

Warning: brief flash of women's undies for those at work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My newest hat

My chaver and teacher just returned from Israel with a gift for me.

As he said, it's our team hat (Can you guess what we study? Yes, Emet v'emunah).
He has one too of course.

“The heart should be broken; both shoulders would be crushed and heaven and earth would be ground up and yet one must not depart from one’s own." -Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk
(trans R. Moshe Faierstein)

Plastic water bottles

Have been in the news a lot lately. First, we read about how actually bottled water may well be less safe than tap water, as it isn't covered by the same regulations. Then, we had the reports on plastic seeping into our edibles and drinkables - and thus into us - causing possibly generations of fertility problems, among other health effects, and of course there's the environmental problem - in san francisco, plastic water bottles are no longer permitted to municipal employees on the city's budget - and kudos to them, I say, since they have some of the best water in the country (in D.C., this would probably not be such a good idea. Here in MD, where the water is quite fine, thank you, I think it would be a good idea). So, if you haven't had all you can take about plastic and especially plastic water bottles, here's one more take on them - use of oil:
From Reason Magazine

Every Little Bit Helps... Right?

Juliet Samuel | August 14, 2007, 11:09am

Conscientious greens fix their sights on plastic water bottles:

In the last few months, bottled water — generally considered a benign, even beneficial, product — has been increasingly portrayed as an environmental villain by city leaders, activist groups and the media. The argument centers not on water, but oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels a year just to make the plastic water bottles Americans use, according to the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, plus countless barrels to transport it from as far as Fiji and refrigerate it. ...

The US currently uses 20 million barrels of oil per day. First we’re going to ban plastic bags, slicing away a giant 0.16% of that consumption. Now, bring on the plastic bottle ban, slashing a full 0.02% from the oil guzzling. Take that, global warming!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

JTA Comments on its own new hires, goodbye to Jewschool ed, Dan "Mobius" Sieradski

OK, granted, it's a little bit navelly-gazey, but one does have to give them credit for whom they hired. Congratulations to my, well, we don't really know one another well enough to say friend, but it's more than just regular-old "I've heard of him," since I've been writing for Dan "Mobius" Sieradski's blog Jewschool for a few years now (as well as another of his blogs, Radical Torah).

The editors of Jewschool have posted this as our goodbye to our fearless leader Dan, and an explanation of who and what the current leadership of Jewschool will be.

In any case, congratulations Dan, you'll be fab in your new job as director of digital media for JTA, which I hope you enjoy.

As Dan says in his final post on Jewschool as editor,
The greatest gift I could hope to have given?

Who owns Judaism?

It’s like the old Zen kōan, “Who is the master who makes the grass green?”

The answer is “You.”

If I’ve accomplished anything meritorious in my tenure, I hope it has been imparting that knowledge to at least one person.

...Since December 2002: 12,552 posts. 38,959 comments. 78 contributors. 5 servers. 1 hell of a ride.

and we'll keep Jewschool fresh for ya'

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An UNrelated, but very useful post to the last one

HOw to Be a Customer Service Ninja

From one of my favorite sites, The Consumerist. Everyone should have this blog on their must read list:

... Austin writes in a hot tip for all of looking to pole vault low-level CSR and reach the Valhalla of customer service.

"Most all large companies have some sort of executive customer service staff, made up of individuals who have the power to cut through all sorts of red tape," he writes. "The key is knowing how to access these wonderful people who can make things right when everything else has gone wrong."

• For public companies, put the stock ticker symbol in Google Finance and pull up the profile page. The corporate office should be listed under Company Facts.
• Call the corporate office.
• Ask for a transfer to the office of the CEO.
• You will likely get an exec. assistant but that's good. Voice mail is ok, too.
• Give succinct summary, including identifying details like order numbers and confirmation numbers.
• Remain nice.

"Within a day, you should get the phone call equivalent to the holy grail--a call back by someone on the executive service team."

How to de-RFID your credit card

WHY there is such a craze for sticking RFID chips in everything in these days in which we are supposedly trying to be more alert about security, I have no idea. Not to mention the unparalleled level of identity theft. Yes, let's do put our credit card numbers out there for any hacker with a hankering to find.
Luckily, Consumerist has been keeping up with this foul trend:

Credit card companies are putting magical radio chips inside your credit cards to allow for "touch n go" "contact-less" payments, but if for some reason the idea of a miniature beacon transmitting your credit card information, albeit however encrypted the companies feel like making them, there is something you can do about, blogs Cody: Dremel!

1. Google your specfic credit card name and type (i.e. Chase Freedom Card) + RFID. If you get some hits of people saying there's an RFID chip inside, it's probably got one.
2. Hold your credit card up into the light and see if you can spot the raised bump. That's the RFID chip.
3. Drill a hole in the spot.
4. Voila! You're off the grid.

As long as you don't make huge gashes and tear through your magnetic strip, this should in no way affect your ability to swipe at the store or use ATMs.

Three related posts for the paranoid:

From BoingBoing:
Hacked passport crashes readers

A hacker has demonstrated an exploit against the RFID tags in the new US passports that allows him to clone a passport and modify the RFID with bad code that will crash the passport readers.
... "If you're able to crash something you are most likely able to exploit it," says Grunwald, who's scheduled to discuss the vulnerabilities this weekend at the annual DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas.

Also from BoingBoing:
UK security experts have cracked the sooper sekure new UK biometric passports. It took 48 hours. With £174 worth of sniffer hardware, attackers can read all the personal information off of any of the three million new UK passports in circulation -- and if combined with demonstrated hacks for reading RFIDs at a distance, this could happen from across the room, or even farther. You can then clone the RFID and stick it in another passport (surprise! your identity is now owned by a terrorist!).

If this worries you, perhaps you'll want to read this (But I am not advocating breaking the law by tampering with your passport). From Wired:
All passports issued by the US State Department after January 1 will have always-on radio frequency identification chips, making it easy for officials – and hackers – to grab your personal stats. Getting paranoid about strangers slurping up your identity? Here’s what you can do about it. But be careful – tampering with a passport is punishable by 25 years in prison. Not to mention the “special” customs search, with rubber gloves. Bon voyage!

1) RFID-tagged passports have a distinctive logo on the front cover; the chip is embedded in the back.

2) Sorry, “accidentally” leaving your passport in the jeans you just put in the washer won’t work. You’re more likely to ruin the passport itself than the chip.

3) Forget about nuking it in the microwave – the chip could burst into flames, leaving telltale scorch marks. Besides, have you ever smelled burnt passport?

4) The best approach? Hammer time. Hitting the chip with a blunt, hard object should disable it. A nonworking RFID doesn’t invalidate the passport, so you can still use it.

– Jenna Wortham

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quote of the Day

IT's funny, I don't really read fantasy much anymore. I don't know why exactly, maybe it's just the library I now live near not having much of a selection and not disposable income to waste on buying books - I've mostly been reading mysteries. But recently a few volumes came in and I picked them up, and I found myself in the second volume of what is apparently an in-progess trilogy. The book is called Fugitives of Chaos and is more erudite than fantasy is normally credited with (or, for that matter, actually is), most of the time.
I like the book, and am sorry to have begun in the middle, but will almost certainly read the third book when it is finished. I was very taken by one quote:

When I was young, I thought the act of getting older meant, year by year, getting more sophisticated, more hard, more cool, and unpitying. Less innocent.

Maybe that was a childish idea of what getting older was about. Maybe adults, mature adults, get more innocent with time, not less. Because the word "innocent" does not mean "naive," it means "not guilty."

Children do small evils to each other, schoolyard fights and insults, not because their hearts are pure, but because their powers are small. Grownups have more power. Some of them do great evil with that power. But what about the ones who don't? Aren't they more innocent than children, not less?

Now, having a toddler at least gives me a pretty close view on how purehearted children are. I think that when we use that term, it's probably inapprorpiate for children - especially very young ones. When they're angry, they would happily kill you. But that's also largely because they have no sense of consequence. They are little storms of emotion, and in five minutes, they will forget they were ever angry at you, and will sob like theatre actors if you go to the bathroom and shut the door with them on the outside. But there is something to Wright's comment: We act as if adults are somehow not innocent, but truthfully, most of us, even when we indulge in our baser enotions and thoughts, are relatively innocent. Most of us at least attempt not to harm others, most of them time. Even when we're thwarted, or angry.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A non-cranky entry

Both about the same local tv show. Hey, if anyone from Pancake MOuntain is reading, how I can get my kid involved with this? We don't watch TV, but it sounds like it would be fun for him to go and he loves to dance...



from OKFuture.net
For the last several years, a Washington D.C. area local cable access station has run the hippest kids show on earth: Pancake Mountain. The central theme to the show has been the “dance parties”, which involves inviting hot indie groups,and occasionally higher profile acts (The White Stripes were recent guests) to play music for the excited tots. In addition, a clever and mildly sarcastic stuffed-goat interviewer by the name of Rufus Leaking is a recurring sight, with his humorous asides and inane questions for guests. A fine example:

At last year’s HFStival, Leaking interviewed two clearly perplexed members of the rock-rap group Cypress Hill about their biggest hit, “Insane in the Brain.”

“Uh, yes, I have a question for you,” said Leaking. “What is my membrane, and how do I know that it’s actually insane?”

The show has, deservedly, generated a cult following and become a magnet for visiting celebrities. And it’s great for kids.


Boy, I'm feeling cranky today. Is it the news, or just the weather?

Yes, indeed, we are all to stand in awe of another Bronfman project to lead the Jewish world into the Future. According to JTA, "three dozen Jewish intellectuals are put in a swank ski resort for 48 hours and let loose on the question 'Why be Jewish?'"

From July 29-31 the Samuel Bronfman Foundation ran a conference hosted by the foundation's managing director, Adam Bronfman, son of philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, that "included French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion President David Ellenson, writer Anita Diamant and other rabbis, professors, artists, philanthropists and communal professionals."

But even JTA itself noticed, "These rarefied, all-expenses-paid gatherings beg the question: 'So what?' What does it matter if a bunch of smart Jews sit around talking? Some in Park City wondered the same thing. 'The take-away is there's no take-away,' said former Under Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim of Washington. Some participants questioned the top-down premise. 'There's a presumption that we get to answer the question "Why be Jewish" on behalf of the "amcha," ' or Jewish people, said Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, an advocacy group for gay inclusion."

In other words, even the grand old daddies (well, not Keshet, exactly) of institutional life are beginning to wonder, along with the rest of us, why there are all these conferences in which "important people" chosen by other "important people" sit around yakking about what the rest of us ought to do. I suppose it's news that, at least in this case,

If some participants grumbled about the conference's lack of tangible goals, organizers insisted that was the point.

"We're not looking for 'an answer,' " explained the foundation's executive director, Dana Raucher. "We've gathered a rather eclectic mix of people, each of whom has something to offer. Each of these people has influence somewhere. Each of them will hopefully have been enriched by this and will take the conversation home with them."

In other words, they didn't come out of the conference with another program that doesn't change anything, or more instructions that have nothing to do with actually living a Jewish life that we're all to fall in behind with cash in hand. Perhaps that's an improvement. Although I do have to draw breath at such pronouncements as, "In fact, as more than one conference attendee pointed out, the Talmud, the seminal text of rabbinic Judaism, emerged out of just such open-ended conversations among Jewish leaders." Wow. I think our old friends the Greeks might have referred to this as hubris.

I think, though that the most important comment in the article is this:

Arthur Gross-Schaefer, a professor of business law and ethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said the American Jewish community "needs a new myth" that can appeal to the younger, largely unaffiliated generation. That's something this group, and others like it, can realistically tackle, he said.

It seems to me that this nicely sums up the attitude that hasn't shifted amongst the cohort that is failing to engage those whom they ostensibly wish to engage. In other words, there's you young people out there, not doing what we want you to do; we need to make up a nice story for you (yes, I'm aware of the Gillman idea of myth, eh.), so that you'll fall in line with our priorities. Instead of actually talking to the young, affiliated, engaged people in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties - and even older folks who have helped build these alternative organzations, groups, minyans and institutions- who have built an entirely different way of relating to Judaism, just as vibrant (actually, IMO, more vibrant, and also healthier and more Jewish) as the old Holocaust, peoplehood, anti-semitism emphasis of the last thirty-five years.
There's no shortage of young Jews engaging as "more observant" than their elders, of independant minyanim, trichitzas, potlucks for eating habits across the spectrum, social justice Judaism as an outgrowth of halachah, and organizations that are helping build these new foundations out of what are really, the old bricks that we had forgotten about for oh, so long while we were busy becoming American: how about JFSJ, JUFJ, JFREJ - well, you all know the drill, we talk about them all the time here.

Bronfmans: we're waiting on you.

Crossposted to Jewschool

AgriProcessors: When abusing people and animals isn't enough

What? Again? Can't these people get it together?
Believe it or not, AgriProcessors is in the news again.

According to the Forward, in March and September of 2006 the USDA sent the AgriProcessors plant manager a “Letter of Warning” reviewing a series of problems, including: receiving 250 non-compliance records from the United States Department of Agriculture during 2006, five of them for inadequate safeguards against Mad Cow disease, and at least 18 records for fecal matter in the food production area (Including one, on December 26, in which the inspector wrote that during multiple checks of 10 chickens “fecal contamination varied between 70 and 80%.” and another, similar, citation a day later).
Oh, yeah! MMM. Take that, all you folks who buy kosher "because it's healthier." Granted, IMO, this is not a place whose products I would be sanguine about calling kosher, as we've seen reported here on Jewschool several rounds of violations of actual kashrut, as well as violations of other halachic obligations, including the acceptable treatment of workers. See: צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה, Where’s the beef now? Kashrut update on Rubashkin’s, Another beef with kashrut in the news, and Kashrut Brouhaha Has Legs; just one month ago, Mobius added this gem to the treasury: Agriprocessors: Still trayfin’ it up,
and Failed Messiah continues to do a wonderful job documenting this unbelieveable, interminable scandal.

In case that all hasn't turned you veggie yet, just compare: the entire beef, poultry and egg industry had 34 recalls in 2006, AgriProcessors had two during the last eight months, both of them Class I, the highest risk level.

In case there's any doubt, I'd like to note that these items are not disconnected. As the Forward reports,

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been attempting to unionize the workers at the Postville plant. The documents all stem from incidents between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007. They are being released to the public by the UFCW at a press conference later today...
Jim Blau, assistant director of strategic resources at the United Food and Commercial Workers, said that workers at the plant tipped the union off to food safety problems. Blau said his organization, which represents close to 300,000 food production workers, was interested in dealing with the issues at AgriProcessors as a matter of protecting the industry.

“When you see things like this — it’s not good for the industry that there is a company that’s out there behaving like this,” Blau said.
Way back when, I spent some time working to organize workers in another industry. I want to emphasize that one of the reasons that it's so important to do so is because unions don't just protect the workers themselves. Unionized workers are able to report problems with lesser fear of reprisal. I myself know of several individuals who after whistle blowing, were protected by unions when their employer tried to fire them. It's not just a matter of some people you didn't really care about all that much who you'll never meet, and maybe who don't even speak your language.
That's pretty important according to Jewish law: they are to be protected, and paid honestly, and treated with respect. It's a Jewish obligation, and one which a kosher slaughterhouse ought to be obliged to meet before it can call itself in compliance with Jewish law. And let's not even review the problems of the slaughter itself, which fails to follow the law it claims to follow in order to make its ginormous profit off the wallets of Jews who are, essentially a captive audience (just try to find an independant shochet these days. I know of one, I'm sure there must be a few others - is there one in your city?).
But since self-interest is the cornerstone of progress, let's just say what's really going on: these folks have no qualms about doing whatever they want to increase profit. The limitations don't seem to be laws of kashrut directly pertaining to the meat itself, nor to the laws pertaining to the treatment of workers. Now it's apparent, they don't even care about the safety of the people eating the meat. It's in the best interest of the Jewish community to make sure that workers are safe and able to report on what's going on behind the scenes without threat of reprisal.
I don't know when the Tzedek Hechsher will be making its now long-promised appearance, but Baruch Hashem, it couldn't be too soon.
But don't worry, I'm sure this will all be brushed off as a plot by the liberal Jews or the anti-semites to harm Orthodoxy.

Whoa. I think steam is coming out of my eyeballs. Wait, I need to go have some sweet tea or something. Hold the burger, willya?

hattip to Arieh Lebowitz at the JLC
Cross-posted to Jewschool

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Let me be the first to say...

to my chavera and fellow blogger Danya Ruttenberg, who is getting married tomorrow. Wish I could be there chabiba!
A thousand years of happiness, and
אֲחֹתֵנוּ אַתְּ הֲיִי לְאַלְפֵי רְבָבָה וְיִירַשׁ זַרְעֵךְ אֵת שַׁעַר שֹֽנְאָֽיו

(Gen 24:60)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Weird (music) science!

Hattipped by Boingboing, I zipped over to this page to view an rather interesting music product demonstration video (below) which I heartily recommend to anyone who is a fan of weirdness, robots, music ...or the 80's. Really, all that kept running through my head during the video was flashes from that movie "Weird Science."
The 80's live!