Monday, March 23, 2009

OU Transliteration Humor

It's nice when a blog people actually read picks up on important news like the OU's kitniyot waffling on quinoa.

In my last post, I pointed out the different spellings of kitni[y]?o(t|s|th) on the same site, and had simply assumed that there were just a lot of articles with different authors and no style guide. I could easily excuse the headline writer of this article for not carefully reading the article. What I hadn't noticed last time is this page (which is very similar, but not identical to, the content of the PDF Passover Guide), which includes all of the following words, all within two paragraphs:

Why not just throw in some "kitnios" for good measure?

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quinoa 2009

Once again, it's time for the annual check on the status of quinoa for Passover. This year, instead of Aish Hatorah, the source of bafflement is the OU.

Their Passover Guide is out and online. The full PDF quotes the now common and relatively safe "ask your Rabbi" (yes, Rabbi is capitalized) position. One article attempts to define "kitnios" (or is it "kitniyot?") logically by reference to the Mishnah Brura, thus stating that quinoa "logically" should be kitniyot, despite all the exceptions that lead to the conclusion that kitniyot defies logic.* (Another baffling statement in the article is that if kitniyot are prepared on Pesach for a permissible reason, "they should be prepared in special non-Pesach and non-chametz utensils, which should not be washed with the Pesach dishes" -- anyone know where that comes from?) The other quinoa-related news on the OU website is the short kitniyot list, which, despite the official "ask your Rabbi" position, says (drumroll please):

The following may be Kitniyot and are therefore not used:


* The article was prepared in a word processor with autocorrect turned on. Anyone want to guess how I knew that? :-)

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Funniest copyright license?

From a Debian bug report comes the copyright license for a file from a LaTeX package:

% This should appear in a file named diagram.tex
% Copyright 1988,1989 Michael Barr
% All commercial rights reserved. May be freely distributed
% and used with the following exceptions:
% 1. No commercial use without explicit permission.
% 2. It may not be used by any employee of a telephone
% company.
% 3. It may not be distributed without this notice.

You have to wonder what the author had against telephone companies.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Post-election baby-eating roundup

An earlier post tracked the election by how many times "[candidate name] eats babies" appeared on the Intertubes (via Google). It was posted shortly after Palin was selected as McCain's VP nominee, and so, she had very few hits. How things have changed:

McCain-eats-babies: 2340 (up x4.95)
Obama-eats-babies: 85000 (up x107)

Palin-eats-babies: 1910 (up x955)
Biden-eats-babies: 22 (up x5.5)

Well, except for Biden. He made so little of an impression that he didn't even eat triple-digits worth of babies.

Obama and McCain had head starts over their running mates, but boy did Obama chow down in the three months since we last visited this topic. The largest increase factor, though, was Palin's, at almost 1000x higher than her August numbers.

What does it mean? I'd go out on a limb and guess: very little.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Do they teach spamming in publicist school?

I just got this email in my blog account email box:

Hi there,

I'm reaching out to offer you articles by [innocent client], author of [client's other book]. !

Below is an article by [innocent client] that I thought might be of interest to you and your readers. Please feel free to reprint it including copyright information and let me know if you'd like any additional materials, as I have several others. I look forward to working with you!



[...snipped out the actual press release...]

Julie Harabedian
Main line [phone number redacted (easy enough to find by Google)]
FSB Associates
[address redacted]
[link redacted]

I've gotten email like this before, usually promoting websites and blogs with kooky views, but what caught my attention this time is that the company is real and presents itself as a professional operation, the name associated with the email appears to be real, and the product seems to be real too.* The company is probably aiming for something of a viral marketing campaign by having random bloggers print their press releases (read: advertisements) for free, and make it look like a popular product endorsed by all sorts of random people. Because I've never had a business relationship with the sender or the company, sending the canned post to me is completely random. The key point that was missed is that spam is unprofessional.**

Additionally, the sender didn't read the terms of use/spam policy that is listed right next to my email address. How could she? She probably used a spider/mass mailer to get my email address.

Congratulations, Julie, you've now got a cherished place on the list of evil spammers on my right sidebar. Maybe I'll tip you off. You were nice enough to give me an email address to contact you if I want more ads. Otherwise, I hope you Google yourself some day.

* The spam operation is presented on their own page this way [my comments in bracketed italics]:

Content Syndication:
The majority of web sites online are eager for content deemed of interest to their readers. FSB has established and continues to establish [parasitic] relationships with numerous Web sites - for both general interest and niche audiences. We are able to provide these Web sites with ready-to-use electronic book excerpts and original articles as well as electronic photos making it as simple as possible for online editors to update and add to their sites [because they can't come up with their own original content]. These features happen faster and last longer than other types of media coverage, giving the buzz about a book a quick start and longevity.

One particularly entertaining tidbit is that the spammer also touts their own “thorough understanding of "netiquette."”

** Or, alternatively, which part of "this is not an advertising blog" was unclear?


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Throwing the bums out

Place: "Studentville," MA
Time: 9:25AM-9:55AM
Line length: Approximately 40-50 ahead of me. 20 minutes long. By 9:35, approximately 30 more were behind me. The line length was getting slightly shorter over time, but was still out of the polling place and around a corner when I left. For reference, the longest voting line I had waited on previously in Studentville was about 5 minutes, during the previous state gubernatorial election. I usually vote at about the same time of day.

The apparent average age of the voters was definitely younger (20's-30's) than usual (40's+ -- "usual" is based on a much lower sample size!).

Studentville uses optical scan paper ballots; Disabled voters can uses an ES&S AutoMark (link is to a press release) machine, which marks the same optical scan ballots, but does not record votes.

Voting problems: The usual procedure for checking voter eligibility is to check off address-associated names from the list at the entrance/exit. Some names (including mine) were not on the voter lists. When that happened, the poll workers were checking IDs and writing names and addresses on a list at the entrance and exit from the polls. They were making some people sign forms, and others not. Sometimes, they seemed to be giving provisional ballots, sometimes, not. (They gave me a real ballot). I'm not sure what differentiated what happened to whom (having a photo ID?). A call to the Studentville Elections Commission revealed that they printed incomplete lists and were delivering complete lists to polling places. They verified my registration over the phone.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Meta d'var Torah on Parshat Noach

The beginning of the Tower of Babel story is Genesis 11:1: וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים.. The (old) JPS translates "And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech." If you assume that the Bible conserves words, the meaning of this verse must be nontrivial, after all, speaking the same language necessarily implies usage of the the same words.

I would propose that the "one speech" (d'varim achadim) is a hint that everyone was giving the same d'var Torah, resulting in the beginning of the end of the Babylonian project. The languages were confused so that nobody would understand each other and they might come up with some original ideas.

The story was placed in Parshat Noach as a warning to future generations. It didn't work.

PSA: Save the world! If you're giving a d'var torah this week, avoid the Rashi on the first verse of the parsha at all costs.

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