Monday, August 16, 2010

My goodness

I spent the morning researching pension funds and deciding on my ideal risk portfolio. When exactly the heck did I become an adult and how does one make it stop, please?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unstructured Thoughts about the Rape by Deception Ruling

I am literally seething about this ruling (found via search-for-emes). And actually not the racist, Jim Crow part that bothers everyone else, because although that's horrible, the real problem here is the ruling that all sex achieved through lying is rape.

The ruling seems like a reductio ad absurdum of the Israeli judicial obsession with everyone playing nice. When it came up in contracts and Aharon Barak was saying that everyone must be full of good faith and "homo homini homo" if not "homo homini deos", well, it was sort of cute. When the court decided that good faith applies to all fields of law at all times, well, at least they were sticking to civil law. But do they honestly not understand that there is a line between moral and legal duties and that not everyone who is not nice ought to be tried in court? And fine, tried in civil court or even criminally fined, but you're going to equate this with rape?

The Israeli court has increasingly taken power compared to the legislature and executive branches, and while I theoretically oppose this, I can see how the temptation to sort things out when you're the only competent person involved would be pretty overwhelming. But this- this is simply megalomania to think that every single not particularly nice action ought to be taken to the courts for them to determine whether it's so not nice as to be criminal. I tend towards the libertarian personally, but this- this has zoomed down the libertarian spectrum way past Republicans or Democrats and is currently so distant from it that the curvature of the universe should be coming into play soon.

And like most anti-libertarian ideas, it leans towards paternalism, except that in this case, it's leaned so hard that it fell right over into out and out patronization, claiming that women wander around innocently, victims to smooth-talking con-men waiting to steal their precious virtue. Women have plenty of ways to protect themselves. One of them- and I'm not trying to judge the plaintiff here, but honestly- one of them is to wait a bit before sleeping with someone so you have more time to confirm the story they're telling you. Or, you know, google them, which in this case might have revealed that he was married. And the more that a trait matters to you, and the more devastated you would be to discover that it were false, then the more you wait and the more research you do. You don't go crying to the court to protect you from deception in dating.

Is there anyone out there except the judges who want every bad break-up or unhealthy relationship dragged before the court for inspection? And hey, did anybody else notice that we may have just created a de facto criminal law against cheating in a relationship? Or saying you love her when you don't? Heck, a judge who could keep a good straight face could probably convict a woman of rape for wearing make-up.

I don't have a summation here, but I'm still a little steamed.

Monday, July 19, 2010


for the imperfection of circles
and the asymptotic gap
for acceptable losses
and necessary evils
for satisficing
for entropy

for the way things are
and the way that they ought to be
and for the way thing have to be
because they always will.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The sign of a fraying friendship is when you find yourself tracking how much of each conversation is about them and how much is about you. Never a healthy calculation, and one that I am reasonably sure ou never do when things swing the other way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Things I Need to Do Before I Can Feel Properly Grown-Up

  1. Wash dishes without splashing water all over my front
  2. Purchase a flip phone
  3. Eat dinner on a real plate for every meal for a week
  4. Drink wine without wincing
  5. Wear heels on a regular day
  6. Know what's going on with my Bituach Le'umi payments every month
  7. Rinse my contacts as often as the optometrist says one should

Thursday, June 10, 2010

American's View of Israeli's View of America

It's so odd listening to Israelis describe America, particularly when they are professors and they just keep throwing out random observations, composed of some equal mixture of tv, news stories, and academic studies, all equally detached from any real context. It's not that they're always wrong about things, it's just this weird skewed picture, literally like a caricature, in that some features are there and some are exaggerated and some are under-aggerated and the whole thing is just oddly out of proportional. The professor currently lecturing for example, sees America as a sweltering mass of racism where anybody driving a junky car in a nice neighborhood is going to be continually pulled over by the police. A place where sheriffs patrol the streets of fancy San Fransisco suburbs.

And yet, at the same time, you get this sort of impression that somewhere in the back of their minds, they truly do think that the streets are paved with gold and SUVs. It's distinctly odd. And don't get me started on how fascinated they are with Obama. I think because they think American is so very racist, the idea of those racists ever accepting a black president just blows their minds, so that he becomes even more mythological than he was to Americans.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Things to make your head explode, just a little

There are signs all over the law building, calling on students to join in on an organized day-long boycott of the new coffeehouse, for:

1) having prices that are too high and
2) not offering products that the student community wants (like sandwiches).

Can someone- anyone- explain the logic behind this? Or is this just knee-jerk Israeli strategy kicking in?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Zombie Day

One of the cooler things that I have done in my short life (for a given value of cool) happened on Friday and since so often this poor blog (yes, I have decided to anthopomorphize my blog as a hungry, bored little child. run with it.) has to make do (I know that I have too many parentheticals, but did you know that until a few weeks ago, I always thought that was "make due". I am full of shame) with random musings or angst (or random angsty musings!), I decided that I would tell you all about it.

So that was all one sentence, setting aside the fact that it ignored all the decent rules of grammar. Huh.

Anyway, on Friday I was a zombie. And not just in the ordinary recreational sense. I was an official zombie extra for the first Israeli post-apocalyptic zombie movie. (Sidebar: do not see this movie. It's going to be entirely in English, to appeal to the international audience, and it is unbelievably proud of the fact that its zombies are not reanimated corpses but ordinary humans who have been struck with some biological weapon that makes them feral, vicious, and super-powerful. Bless their sweet souls, they seem convinced that this is groundbreaking. And one can't even hope for classic cult B-movie because it doesn't seem to have any sense of humor about itself. Here is their website. You'll see what I mean.)

Anyway, it all started a couple weeks ago when my roommate heard about a zombie training day for people to learn how to be zombies so as to be able to extras in the movie. Zombie training rocked. We learned how to snarl and claw and maul and run and get shot and fall and roll and limp and be electrocuted. On concrete, too. So that was pretty awesome. Then we told them the days that we'd be willing to come (for me, days when my classes don't take attendance, and don't get me started on the fact that I am a Master's student and still having classes that call roll) and off we went.

Then Friday morning, at around nine, they called me up and asked if I'd be willing to come in right away. A bus, a train, and a ride-from-someone-from-the-crew later, and I was in the mall parking garage where they were doing the shooting. I got there around 10:30.

What happened next was 3-4 hours of standing around. When I arrived they costumed me up and then spent the next hour or so being re-costumed. Every so often one person in charge would wander by and criticize the outfit and the person costuming me would mumble and find something else and have me change into that. Fortunately, they were responsive to my expressed desire for nothing too revealing. Unfortunately, what with one thing and another, my outfit translated into "Seminary Girl Gone Feral"- the inevitable tiered, floor-length denim skirt and a white t-shirt covered by a long, black, hooded sweater/jacket. Every time I got a new costume, I stood around in it for several minutes having them dust it up with various colors and types of dust they had. (It was actually pretty cool- they were like a mesh floor bag of dust or something).

After the costuming, we stood around for a long time. Then we got our glowing red contacts put in. Then we stood around for a long time. I should mention that there were only 5-6 zombies, so it wasn't like I was standing around while they were working with other people. We were all just standing. Then we got our make-up, which in this particular case meant that we were squirted, painted, smeared, and generally soaked in a corn syrup-water-food coloring blend. It was pretty cool, actually and a lot disgusting, particularly as it got into my hair, making it impossible to detach my hair from my neck or my shirt. 

So then we stood around for a bit more inside the parking garage. Then we went to stand around outside, to be ready for the shoot. Then it started to rain, so we went back inside. Gripping stuff. Eventually, we actually did the shot, which was literally 15 seconds during which the principals run into their car and the zombies chase the car. We did the take several times, but mostly because they kept changing their opinions about where the zombies should come from. I can well imagine that they were having a hard time figuring out how to make six people look like a zombie horde. (yeah, like I said, z-movie territory). Still, the whole thing took about a half an hour. Then they had us do another shot of running directly at a hand-held camera. Then we were done. I'm guessing no more than 30 seconds worth of footage.

Then it was time for lunch, but more importantly, it was 3:30 and I was getting antsy about shabbat. They had promised me that they would send me home by 3:00, which of course I didn't take seriously, but time was a factor. So while people were eating lunch I hovered around being nervous. I also ate a pita, since I didn't want to bother anyone with asking whether the catering was kosher.

Then one of the other extras wandered by and told me that the director had said that he was done with us and we could de-make-up. There was an entertaining bout of cleaning up the upper half of one's body, including most of the hair, in a portable-bathroom sink, but I eventually got enough to be able to ship out.

Almost as soon as I left the bathroom, it turned out that they actually wanted us for another shot. People were entertainingly annoyed at the director. The lady in charge (I have no idea what her real role was) asked me if I would be okay with costuming and make-upping up again. I looked apologetic and mentioned the sabbath thing.

It was, actually, incredible how instantly she accepted that and started reacting to it. Immediately, she sent somebody else to get made up, and recruited a crew member to give me a ride back to the bus station, with the immortal words "One of the zombies is shomeret shabbat. Hurry!" which are words that should be said more in this world. And so, hair mostly covered in corn syrup, torso covered in blood and ditto, I made it to my shabbat destination with a couple of hours to spare. And that is the story of my zombieness. I leave you with this picture. Guess which one is me:

Huh. I really don't particularly enjoy blogging life happenings. I mean not anti, but it's just a bit dull. Good to know.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random Class Thought II

If female lawyers choose to work in the public sector rather than the private sector and if the reason they choose to do so is because they feel less of a need to earn money and therefore can pick jobs they like better, is that sexism? Sexism against men? And who should be changing it and how? If women care less about money (perhaps because society does not value them based on their earning power, perhaps because they don't have to support a family)- is it wrong to pay them less?

Obviously, that's not the only possible reason. There could be real sexism. It could also be a question of the insanely long hours. And again- is it sexist if women prefer not to work insane hours? Is it only sexist if they do so because they feel obliged to raise a family?

In other words, I do not think I get a word of what this professor is spouting.

Edit: Do you ever sit in class and listen to people asking questions and think to yourself: "How on earth could you think that's a real question? For your sake, my friend, I hope that is a thought that popped into your head and your hand went up before you finished the thought because if you actually thought about that thought for more than five seconds, I simply don't understand what it must be like in your head." Not questions of failing to understand the professor, but questions of ah-ha! I have thought of something clever and you're just like oh honey. oh no. For example: Can something be disparate treatment and disparate impact at the same time for different groups? Yes, honey. It can. Good question.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's so bad about genocide?*

*And then the lawyer in me feels the need to quickly disclaim that the above question is obviously facetious, intended to pique interest rather than to suggest that genocide is anything other than heinous. That said...

Genocide is really the prototypical evil thing, both in terms of convenient rhetoric for a lot of debates and for international law purposes. And I agree that it's pretty darn evil. But I'm not entirely sure what about it is more evil than the murder of an equivalent number of people based on some other grounds. I should note that I also have some instinct that this is the case, although perhaps not so strong an instinct as is common. 

Okay, so is it a question of mens rea- the mental state of the genocider? It's less moral to kill somebody based on ethnicity because it compounds the offenses of murder and of racism, so assuming that racism has a non-zero evil quotient, the same murder will be x + y evil instead of just x evil (presumably the justification behind hate crime legislation as well). Although if we are accepting this as mathematical in any sense, at some point the genocide of a relatively small nation would be less evil than the non-racially-motivated murder of a whole lot of people. Which I'm not sure is the case, but it would be interesting to run experiments to see how people feel about that. However, I don't think it's just the compounding effect of racism. I don't really know the full legal definition of genocide (and I'm pretty sure that there's not a simple or uncontroversial one) but racially-motivated mass murder may not qualify unless there is some real goal of annihilation. (Interestingly, I'm not sure mass murder based on other discriminatory patterns- murder of gays or the handicapped or lefties- would count as genocide, even if the goal was annihilation).

This implies that the real concern is something closer to the value that we place in diversity. Perhaps a better analogy than hate crimes would be endangered species. We think that there is value to the continued existence of variety and diminishment of said variety is a real harm. This is all very well and good, but as Rachel (my older sister, for the, like, two readers who are not family members) has pointed out, the value is never to maximize the number of animal species. In fact, those who are most concerned with conservation of endangered species also tend to be those who are really offended by the idea of frankenfruits and so forth or any sort of human-created diversity. And back to the human example, I don't know of that many people who encourage more people to go split off and create new ethnicities or cultures or what have you. Although the general lamenting of globalization and so forth is prevalent, I'm not sure anybody thinks it's as evil as genocide. Is the difference intent? Or is genocide precisely as evil as mass murder + globalization? 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Class Thought

The press conference as the modern embodiment of eglah arufa, in terms of form, content, and goals, specifically the public self-humiliation by public figures as a means of illustration the seriousness attributed to murder and specifically unsolved (and thus unpunished) murders and as a means of drawing attention to the murder to ease the solving. Discuss.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It seems, and this is a fact that flatters and disturbs me, that this blog is actually still being read, not merely by safely anonymous strangers but by people within a degree or two of separation from me, myself, personally. For that matter, who can say but that my family members might not be checking in from time to time? One would have thought the months+ delays between posts would have thrown them off my track, but this does not seem to be the case.

Well, this is in many ways worrisome and I will tell you why. Bloggery- particularly on a most defunct blog- has a comforting sensation of anonymity. At the same time, it allows a sense of officialdom that thoughts and sentiments lack when confined to your own computer or your own mind. The best blog, I am convinced, or at least the best blog in the narrow category of blog-as-diary, which this blog, largely although not exclusively, but definitely increasingly, is, would be one that could be read by anyone but isn't. (Yes, that was a sentence. Ish.) A blog that is read by strangers is nearly as good because everyone knows that strangers aren't really people.

What such anonymity allows is the expression of thoughts/sentiments without complete endorsement. I read a lovely theory of privacy that included the idea that access to people's thoughts is wrong because what is important is the thoughts that people choose to endorse by granting them verbal (or other) expression. Anonymous blogging is not the same as saying something because it does not imply the same level of endorsement.

For me, this is particularly critical when it comes to my angst. I angst rather more than I strictly speaking approve of, and therefore I tend not to endorse such angst by sharing it with others. I do, somewhat hypocritically, write poems with the angst, but I regard that as fair play because: 1) I rarely do anything further with the poems and 2)I try to make sure that they are decent poems and worth existing (it's a low bar, but I think it would keep out most of the angsty poetry out their). And also I may blog the angst- more recently since I became more convinced that nobody who knew me would read it.

The upshot of all this is that my blogging needs to become

1) more anonymous: which would mean killing this blog, so there's that.
2) less honest: which would probably entail less existing (although there's not a lot of room for that with this particular blog).
3) less blog-as-diary and more blog-as-random-thoughts, which is all very well and good but I had been hoping that the blog would, to a small degree, chronicle the way I was at this age so that I can read it in a couple years when I have completely forgotten. (I already can barely envision my high school self. It's weird).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going Gentle

This too shall pass me by
And I will watch it as it goes.
I will smile.
I will comfort.
I will give sage advice.
I will try to avoid comparisons.
There will be ice-cream.
There will be congratulations.
In either case, there will be hugging.
I will be happy for them.
I will be patient.

Time will pass and denial will be harder.
There will be crying into pillows
But less than you'd expect.
It will not be unbearable.
It will not be a tragedy.
At some point, they'll start to notice.
Subjects will be avoided.
They'll try to be more sensitive.
In some ways that will be better.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It came to me that I am not entirely sure that there is anyone in my life who really knows me well. Not even in the sense of all my hopes and dreams, but in the sense of being able to predict how I would react to a variety of situations with high accuracy. An angsty teenage delusion or a testament to my uncommunicativeness or inconsistency?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disney Alienation

So I've been entertaining myself by watching some classic Disney animated films on youtube, and I was struck by a theme that seems to unite many of them, certainly in the era after they discovered that heroines should actually be given personalities. Beyond even the twisted notions of love for which Disney is so justly famous, almost every protagonist was suffering from a severe case of alienation at the beginning of the film. They all felt different, out-of-place, mocked, and so forth.
I stole the list below from the official Disney site- let's have a look:

1937 –Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: not really, I suppose
1940 –Pinocchio definitely
1940 –Fantasia well, no, but N/A really
1941 –Dumbo yup
1942 –Bambi I suppose not
1943 –Saludos Amigos never heard of it
1945 –The Three Caballeros ditto
1946 –Make Mine Music ditto
1947 –Fun and Fancy Free ditto
1948 –Melody Time ditto
1949 –The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad never seen, not really a classic
1950 –Cinderella well...she is out-of-place and unloved, but she doesn't really harp on it because of the aforementioned personality thing
1951 –Alice in Wonderland haven't seen the Disney version, certainly high on the alienation in the original

okay, this is tiring, let's skip over several because it seems pretty clear at this point that all the films I was thinking about are from one, shorter era.
1989 –The Little Mermaid: whole songs about it
1990 –The Rescuers Down Under: haven't seen
1991 –Beauty and the Beast very much so
1992 –Aladdin: to some degree
1994 –The Lion King: I suppose not.
1995 –Pocahontas: a little, but not a major theme
1996 –The Hunchback of Notre Dame: well yeah, the poster child for it. Not even posting links here
1997 –Hercules: quite
1998 –Mulan: very much so
1999 –Tarzan: oh yes and understandably so

So in that 10 year period, 6 of the films had alienation as a major theme, including 4 in a row. (And all those four with a pretty uniform structure: Someone feels that they will never fit into their society because they are different and flawed. Others assure them that they are wonderful as they are. Then they dare to be themselves, save the day, and everybody recognizes how very wonderful they truly are.) Now I know that alienation is one of the themes of modern existence, but that seemed a little extreme.

And the situation is even more odd when you think about the target audience. Firstly, these are little kids- is it really true that all little children see themselves as ostracized outsiders? And we're not talking about fringe films for the kids who are a little different- this is mainstream entertainment that seems to assume that every child will relate to the problems of this protagonist.

It's possible that these messages are pitching to slightly older children- the little ones will come for the music and adventure and so forth, so the messages of alienation are trying to hook in the young adolescent crowd. And such feelings are stereotypical of adolescence.

It's also possible that Disney just enjoys the message and doesn't really care about the target audience, but that hardly sounds like their M.O.

But still, this sentiment of being a rejected outsider- I had always assumed that it was typical only of those who are atypical. It's strange to think that Disney, at least, assumes that all kids feel this way enough to make it a major theme of their existences.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ad Hoc Poem

Explicating the diagram: This evening, I suffered something of a disappointment. Nothing apocalyptic, but enough to be legitimately frustrating. Short version: There was a poetry reading in Jerusalem. Miri talked me into coming and reading with her and I got myself sort of psyched at the idea of reading in public, since I've never done it and I'm trying to make myself have experiences. Psyched enough to re-arrange my studying schedule, ignore the fact I have a final tomorrow (albeit open book), rush out of my final today straight into the 1.5 hour bus ride to Jerusalem, skip dinner to make it there as on time as possible. Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch and my name did not get on the list and this was not realized until it was too late. The following is the extremely ad hoc pseudo-poem that I scribbled on the bus ride back just expressly for the purposes of this very blog post:

I'm not quite sure how to play it.
I mean, I think that once
I have the character down
the line readings should come
more or less naturally.

I mean, okay, anger is a given,
and disappointment, sure,
frustration, sure,
bits of stress slipping over the edges,
sure sure sure.

I think maybe she might cry a little?
Not on stage, obviously,
but off on one of the pockets
Maybe when she's walking home
in the darkening streets
in the rain.
Except obviously it's not raining
and I'm not good at crying
and the timing's all horribly off.
Walking down Yaffa sobbing
crosses the line into bathos.
And this mustn't seem ridiculous.

My instinct, of course,
is to go straight to martyr-
Brave smile, chin up,
think of real people with big troubles.
But would the audience get it?
I mean, would they notice how very, very
wonderful she was being?
Because if not,
well that just misses the point.
and if I have to keep on
shooting them pointed looks,
it sorts of destroys the whole illusion.

I suppose someone else might play it
straight out anger
or grumpiness
or resignation
or whatever.

Actually, I have no idea
how they would play it.
I think I'd like to see
some talented people give it a shot.
Maybe I could pick up
some techniques.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yeats, Just Because

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Automatic Breathing

Last night while I was waiting for the paralysis of sleep to strangle my brain into unconsciousness, I started wondering about the following hypothetical: what would happen to a person for whom breathing was exclusively a voluntary function?

I don't see any way that they could sleep without being hooked up to breathing machines, given that one generally loses control over voluntary functions with unconsciousness. Perhaps one could train oneself to have some sort of surface-level sleep, like those who can sleep standing up or the descriptions given by soldiers of learning to sleep while marching. Of course, I'm not sure how such a training process would be conducted, under the circumstances.

But the day time is actually, for me, a more interesting question. If we posit that the person would experience all of the normal discomfort associated with holding ones breath when they forgot to breathe, then they might be able to function. Should they forget to breathe, they would be alerted to the fact in plenty of time to take a deep breath without any real adverse effects; their breathing might be more sporadic, but there's no reason to assume that it wouldn't get the job done.

After a certain amount of time, I think it would become an automatic function of its own- not in the sense that the brain stem would handle it, but in the sense that every thirty seconds, the person would remember to take a breath so that it became a part of their daily rhythm. I wonder if that would interfere in any manner with higher brain functioning- having to have a basic point on one's mind constantly, like they say that having to remember a three digit number impairs mathematical ability, etc. It's even possible that the person would prefer to be hooked up to the automatic devices to avoid the trouble of remembering, although this is somewhat dubious considering the degree to which such machines impair ones freedom.

Of course, the person could never fall asleep accidentally, since we've pretty much determined that that would mean stopping breathing. This, though, I don't consider such a huge limitation on freedom, compared to the other stuff, but that could be because I tend not to fall asleep until I have given myself 'permission' to do. In any case, it would probably be wise for the person to have some sort of device monitoring oxygen levels and emitting a loud alarm before they become dangerous, since the unpleasant sensations of holding one's breath might not be sufficient to wake the person up in time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

American Students

I love American students. It's been years since I've heard Nietzsche quoted with such fluency, such fervor, and so little relevancy.

Update: And today, they presented our professor with a birthday cake. With those trick candles. Our professor, for this particular class, is Dean Kenneth Starr.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I have decided that if I could pick one person to write my biography, and under the assumption that I had accomplished something in my life to justify such a work, and under the condition that being dead was not construed as a barrier to such a service, then I would totally pick Irving Stone. I have read only a few of his books (Agony and Ecstasy, Those Who Love, They Also Ran), but from what I've seen he combines sensitivity to historical context and character with healthy dose of fictionalization that would be necessary to make my life interesting and relatable to future generations.