Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is there such a thing as "ideal"?

Wow, I haven't posted in a while.

(Truthfully, my life's been somewhat boring. I worked in a law firm for a few weeks, sat around on the computer, and then ran off to Chicago, where I had a most adventurous Friday visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, spraining my ankle, walking through the streets of Chicago after 12 a.m. on crutches, coming back to a pitch-black house because there was no power, and being woken by a house alarm 4:15 a.m. Shabbos morning.)

But anyway!

I've been wondering something for a while:

Is there such a thing as a universally ideal lifestyle?

Is it a good idea to teach that there is a certain ideal lifestyle that every Jewish household should aspire to or try to be?

What are the consequences of such teaching?

What happens to the people who can't (or don't want to) live up to that ideal?

I have been doing a lot of thinking on this myself (and maybe I will follow this up with a post on what my background is on this), but I would like to hear your thoughts.

P.S. In case you weren't sure, when I say "ideal lifestyle," I mean being a man who is learning Torah full-time or being married to a man who is learning Torah full-time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I tried on someone's sheitel today, and I looked really good. So now I'm wondering if I should grow my hair out again. If you could do me a favor, I've posted a poll at the side of the page to get your opinions [EDIT: I reformatted the poll at 2:20 a.m. on August 12th, so if you voted in the old one (that only had two categories), can you vote again please? Todah robbers!]. Even if you don't know who I am, you are welcome to vote. This is basically what my hair style is now:

I cut my hair in 2005, after I graduated from high school. My hair was sooooooo long before - almost to my elbow. I cut it for a few reasons: a) it was way too long; b) I wanted to donate it to make wigs for kids with cancer (which I did); c) I had always kind of wanted this haircut ever since I saw this ad. I just didn't work up the guts to do it until after high school.

On a separate, more random note, did you know that when you Google "halacha of going clubbing" my blog shows up as the third hit?

Monday, August 6, 2007

How did I mess up today? Let me count the ways ...

[Ahhhh, Internet. *deep breath* I have withdrawal symptoms from not having Internet access ALL DAY.]

Oh gosh, did I make some hilariously embarrassing mistakes today.

1) I faxed something to an attorney whose first name I thought was Lillian. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the actual first name was, in fact, William. So not only did I *totally* get the name wrong, but it was even the wrong gender. Smooooooth.

2) I spilled food all over the floor.

3) After a caller identified herself, I breezily said, "Hey! What's going on?" Bad. Baaaaaad. She was not happy.

Oh, did I mention I'm working for a law firm?

You'd think I have no experience working in an office based on this.

Well, in my defense . . . okay, I have no defense, except to say that I haven't worked office phones in, like, a week, and also, "William" in script looks a lot like "Lillian." Okay? Hmph.

But I don't think anyone noticed anything! And also, there's no Internet at the office (which means no G-chatting, or AIM, both of which I have become seriously addicted to recently). So nothing to while my time away, except for game after game after game of Solitaire, which requires almost no brainpower. I should really do crossword puzzles or something.

Besides, it's much better to be able to laugh at yourself than to get all worked up about these kinds of things, right? Right.

As long as I don't get fired . . . la la la la la . . .

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My summer in review

I was curious to see for myself what exactly I did this summer in Washington (since I seemed to spend a lot of time doing, well, nothing). This was what I found:

I wrote letters and/or did research on the following topics:
an outreach letter to constituents on minimum wage
the Realtime Reporter Act
drug safety
resolution calling for Turkey to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate
noise from car stereos
lobbying reform
check hold times
tax on alcoholic beverages
military postage (APO/FPO shipping)
adoption regulation
the CLASS Act
funding patient navigators
protecting workers
9/11 memorials
military policy on DUIs
pet food safety
breast implants
the Executive Branch Reform Act
reshaping the NYC taxi system
a recommendation letter for an old intern
direct-to-consumer drug advertising
small business grants
letter congratulating the Tuskegee Airmen on receiving a Congressional medal
funding for the arts
congratulations letter to the Women's Business Council
Bloomberg's congestion tax
letter to fifth graders about the Congressman's school visit to them
water for the poor
employer-provided tuition tax breaks
NYC DEP police labor contracts
scholarships available for people with disabilities
Internet gambling
(In case you're wondering, constituents write to their representatives on anything they feel like. Including cell phone bills. And car stereo noise. And to thank them for passing bills that don't actually exist [no clue as to how they get their erroneous information]. And the list goes on. Of course, the phone calls can be even more ridiculous. I had an irate constituent threaten to march down to the district office with a sign saying "Congressman So-and-so is a piece of ****" if I didn't call him back RIGHT AWAY to tell him the answer to his question. Then there was the constituent who expressed himself using, ahem, a lot of profanity. Then there were the people who called about the increase on the cigarette tax, who had been forwarded to the office by tobacco companies. Half of them either a) didn't know whom they were calling; b) didn't know why they were calling; c) didn't really care, or some combination thereof, or, alternatively, yelled in my ear for five minutes straight about how smokers are now a minority being discriminated against. But I digress.)

I also:
- wrote a press statement on grants awarded to hospitals in the district
- wrote a statement for the Congressional record on a constituent who had turned 90 (and voted in every single local and national election since becoming of voting age)
- wrote a floor statement for the Congressman to say on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War
- researched the voting records of the New Democrats on 3 bills
- called every single Democratic office in the House to find out the name of the trade legislative aide
- put together a "pitch list" of articles from the Washington Post, NY Times and WSJ on carried interest
- made a pitch list of articles on SCHIP
- spoke on the phone to Congressman Ron Kind, Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman Joseph Crowley and Congressman Eric Cantor
- chatted in the elevator with Congressman Marion Berry
- heard Senators Chuck Hagel, Bob Casey, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Amy Klobuchar, Sam Brownback, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins speak
- heard Congressmembers James Clyburn, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Gus Bilirakis and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speak (in person, not just on C-SPAN)
- shared an elevator with Congressman Jeff Flake (and other Members whom I couldn't identify)
- heard Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, speak in the Old Executive Office building
- attended briefings on: the visa waiver program; preventing the spread of HIV from mother to child; the creation of an education coalition to help minority students; Turkey's current problems; how Greece has become a good example for nations in the Balkans
- wrote a memo on the Hamas takeover of Gaza
- summarized the 2007 Farm Bill
- watched Congress vote on H.R. 2641 from the House gallery
- gave tours of the Capitol
- brought cosponsor sheets to the Democratic cloakroom
- rode the subways from the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings
- went to the Supreme Court and heard Justice Samuel Alito speak in the chamber of the court
- ate lunch in the Members' Dining Room with the Congressman I worked for (in the middle of the meal, Mayor Bloomberg called to speak to him)
- compiled Hill-related news stories for the staff every day for about two weeks (from the New York Times, WSJ, Washington Post, USAToday, NY Daily News and Roll Call)
- went through the passports of the foreign relations staffer and made a list of every country he has been to in the past four years
- heard the Secretary of the Senate and the Senate Historian speak
- did general office stuff, like answer the phone, sort the mail, sort faxes, bring letters to staffers to approve for signatures, gave out Hill publications to all the staffers, went to the office supply store, greeted people who came to the office (visitors ranged from ex-Members of Congress, important lobbying people, really irritating lobbying people, deranged people, interns sent on errands, Congressional pages, other Hill staffers on occasion, mail delivery people, soda delivery people, furniture delivery people, computer maintenance people . . . )
- signed up for my first screenname EVER in order to communicate with the staff and other interns online
- attended the kick-off dinner for the Endowment for Middle East Truth

In my own time, I:
- visited the National Air and Space Museum
- went kayaking on the Potomac
- saw the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall
- visited the National Building Museum
- went on a Jewish interns cruise on the Potomac and heard Jeremy Katz, the White House liaison to the Jewish community, speak
- went shopping in Georgetown
- visited the national sculpture garden
- went to the Spy Museum
- wandered up and down the National Mall
- rode up and down the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere every day (Wheaton station of the DC metro)
- ate dinner at every kosher restaurant in DC (okay, there's only two)
- visited the National Archives

Huh. That's some pretty good stuff. Looks like I did a lot more than it felt like I was doing :).