Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Get Over It, People....

Good morning everyone.

Imagine...the United States has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar.  The National Security Agency has been listening in to phone calls of our friends in Europe.  Mind you, it is not just Joe Q. Public's phone either.  Amongst other things, the United States has been listening to the phone conversations of Germany's Prime Minister Merkel.

Yawn.  Yawn again.  Reach for cup of coffee.  Sip.  Yawn.

Someone in Israel compared it to Chief of Police Renault in Casablanca being shocked about illegal gambling.

The only thing that the NSA did that perhaps should have been done differently was to violate the 614th commandment: thou shalt not get caught.

Countries have been spying on each other for millennia.  It is likely the second-oldest profession, and has often made use of the oldest profession in this endeavour.  Friendly nations have spied on friendly nations as often as they have spied on not-so-friendly nations.  Everyone does it.  Everyone knows it. Friendly nations do not use the information against friendly nations, as a rule.  Friendly nations also warn each other when there might be a problem.

The only thing that nations do not do is get caught.

Everyone raise your right hand.  Extend your index finger (your INDEX finger) towards the US.  Wag it, and say 'bad!'

Can we please move on to other nonsense now?

Have a good day everyone.

R/SCG

A Good Day Bicycling...

Good morning everyone...

Yesterday was a great day to ride a bicycle.  The weather was perfect...somewhere around 8-9 degrees centigrade.  That is the right temperature.  It is not so hot that one is drenched in sweat upon arrival.  It is not so cold that one must wear every layer of clothing imaginable.

I was headed south on Beecroft, parallel to Yonge St.  I was all the way over in the right lane.  There was a car right next to me, also in the right lane.  There was a car in the left lane.  The guy in the car in the left lane was on his phone.  The guy in the car next to me rolled down his window and told the other guy to get off his phone.  The man on the phone replied with a vocabulary that would get my kids grounded for a while.

The man who was fighting for right and decency in the city continued, telling the man of colourful vocabulary and electronic communicating device that he was a threat to my safety because I was on a bicycle and he was a distracted driver.

At the next light, I thanked him.

Later, I had to get from a turn lane to a centre lane at a traffic light.  This is a tricky endeavour.  Usually it means signalling and taking a good guess as to whether or not the guy behind me is slowing down to let me in, or slowing down because we are in a game of chicken trying to figure out who is going to do what and when.  I finally guessed and made for the centre lane.

We both came to a stop at the traffic light.  I waved to thank him.  He rolled down his window.  We had a very lovely chat in which I told him that I hope I guessed correctly.  I did.  After some more back and forth, we both wished each other a good day, and cheerily went our merry ways.

A nice day indeed...when there was no war between cyclists and cars.

Have a great day.

R/SCG

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Don't Overwork. Don't Overspend...

Top of the afternoon to all.

One of my pet peeves is targeted overpricing.  That is where a product is greatly overpriced because the target consumer group will happily pay the extra.

Of what do I speak?  Jennifer and I went to the grocery store on Tuesday.  While we were there, I noticed Lieber's extra virgin olive oil in the kosher section.  It was marked at $32.99 for a 2-litre bottle.  That caught my eye.

I walked over to the aisle where all of the other oils are sold.  There, I found a 3-litre can of Colavita marked at $28.99.  I found other 3-litre cans at significantly less.

That is a 70% increase in price.  That is appalling.  The folks at Lieber's should be ashamed.  It is nothing less than a fleecing of the Jewish community.

I would not buy it.  It is not 'more' kosher.  Pesach is not a concern at all.  As such, there is no reason whatsoever to purchase a product with an unreasonably and unnecessarily inflated price.  Do not waste your money on it. Do not overspend.

If you choose to buy this product, do not pretend that Jewish Law requires you to do so.  It does not.  In fact, I would say the opposite.  Jewish Law requires that you not purchase it.  Why?  If you are one of the fortunate few who can afford to spend 70% more on a product, buy the cheaper product.  Take the 70% and donate it to your favourite tzedakah.  That tzedakah needs it more than the purveyors of grossly-overpriced goods.

R/SCG

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unable to Leap Tall Buildings...

Top of the evening all...

I had to get home today from the karate studio.  That is roughly eight kilometres.  It was rush hour.  It is a touch ironic that the slowest traffic times are called 'rush hour.'  Luckily, I had my bicycle.  I found a phone booth (no small feat), changed into my cape, and took off.

It was mostly a lovely ride.  I ended up behind a bus that kept stopping at all of the bus stops.  Imagine that.  I finally got sick of it.  Bathurst St was getting too crowded, and the cars were too close to the curb for me to get around them.  I left Bathurst St.

After traveling up the side roads for as far as I could, I ended up directly behind that same bus.  Finally, I was able to get around it at Sheppard.

After that, it was mostly clear sailing.  My friends, I beat the bus getting home.  This is not a statement of any physical prowess on my part.  Rather, it is a statement of the deplorable driving conditions in Toronto.

The more I drive here, the more I like my bicycle.

It is bedtime.

R/SCG

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In Search of the Lost Cord....

Good evening everyone...

Last week was a week of bizarre repairs.  The oven went.  The microwave went.  The wire on the coffee urn started arcing and sparking.

It could have been worse.  I am not certain, but I think that the oven is older than the kids.  I was really worried that there would be no parts available to replace a broken piece.  I had great fears of "it is a $10 part, but no one has made it for 10 years.  You have to replace the oven."  It was a $10 part, but it was just a wire.  The oven works again.

I am not sure what happened with the microwave.  The only thing I know is that RCA is willing to replace the parts for free, as it is still under warranty.  I have to ship it to them, pay to ship it back, and tack on a few extra dollars for the return shipping so that they could insure it.  I have to pay labour.  After all that money, it is easier to replace the microwave.  Conveniently, a friend is getting rid of a microwave, so this could work out for the best.  By the way, do not buy an RCA microwave.  This microwave was new.  A microwave should last more than four months.

The wire on the coffee urn went.  The urn would only work if the wire came in at a certain angle.  Then it started arcing and sparking.  As luck would have it, we were able to replace the cord at a fraction of the cost of a new urn.

And last, my brother gave us an old Mac mini.  It had a wired keyboard.  The wire was only three feet long.  We hooked the computer up to the downstairs TV.  Still, it was a pain to use.  Staples had an extension cord on their website.  After two futile attempts to get to Staples, I got there...and bought the wrong cord.  It turns out that the cord I wanted was only available on line.  The shipping was 67% more than the cord.  I found the right cord at a computer shop on Yonge, and returned the wrong cord to Staples.  I can now sit on the couch in the den if I need another computer.

I humbly do not apologize to the Moody Blues for the egregious misuse and abuse of the title of one of their albums as title of this blog entry.

Good night.

R/SCG


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beer and Wings...

Top of the evening all...

The running joke betwixt Jesse and me of late is 'beer and wings.'  It is the joke we make whenever we do something manly.*  Tonight was a beer and wings night.

At about 9:00, Jesse asked to play ping-pong.  I had to fix the dishwasher, so I said no.  Whenever I say no, Jesse always somehow manages to make me feel compelled to say "I did not kill your puppy."  In any event, within a couple of minutes we were both trying to get the dishwasher out from under the counter.  The spring on one side of the door had broken.  It was old.  Metal fatigue had worn it out.  If we let go of the door when opening the dishwasher, it came down hard and heavy.

We pulled out the dishwasher just enough.  This is good.  We could not get it out any further.  We checked the good spring to use it as a model to replace the other spring.  Then we replaced both springs, figuring that the other one had also suffered from similar age and metal fatigue and could break at any point.

We were not as careful taking the front apart as perhaps we should have been.  It thus took us about 35 minutes to figure out how to put it back together.

The good news is that there were no pocket screws.  Pocket screws are the screws that remain on the floor after a repair.  When that happens, most people just pick up the screws and put them in a pocket.

Jesse said to me afterwards that it was way more a bonding experience than ping-pong.  It was a total beer and wings evening.

Have a good night.

R/SCG

*Disclaimer - enjoying beer and wings is not limited to men.  Neither is fixing the dishwasher.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Would Like My Money Back...

Good evening everyone...

The US Government has entered its second week of shutdown.  The credibility of the nation is in tatters.

Last year, I paid $231 to the IRS for my federal income tax obligation.  This is one of the joys of living in Canada.  With most of my income up here, I pay taxes primarily to Revenue Canada.

In any event, I would like the IRS to refund to me $4.44.  That is 1/52 of the amount I paid in taxes last year.  It seems fair that any money I send forward to keep the government operational should be paid back if the government is unable to meet its share of that arrangement.

Have a good night.

R/SCG

Learning Coping Skills...

Good evening everyone.

October 7, 2013

Jennifer and I have had a rough week.  Over the last several days, we have lost the ability to nuke and to bake.  That is right.  The microwave died.  Then the oven died.  Initially, I was quite steamed.

Gavi likes a cup of hot chocolate in the morning.  We have to do it now the old-fashioned way, constantly stirring milk on a hot burner.

Jennifer made sauce and pasta for dinner on the stovetop.  Tomorrow, we will use the crockpot.

This is new for us.  Jennifer and I go through toasters the way most people go through socks.  We have been living in this house for four years.  In that time, we have had at least three toasters.  As well, since we have been in Toronto (eight years), we have used at least a half dozen telephones.

Tomorrow, the repairperson from Frigidaire is likely going to tell me that an oven that is older than the children is not worth repairing.

On the positive side, we have extra counter space without the microwave there.

I want to say "at least the (insert appliance here) still works."  For obvious reasons, I am not going to say that.

With all of this, I am rather fried.

Good night.

R/SCG

Update:

October 8, 2013

The logic would have gone like this.  The oven is dead.  We have to replace the oven.  When we redo the kitchen, we will have to replace what would have likely been a 1k expense, or model a new kitchen around an existing oven.  Therefore, we might have to consider redoing the entire kitchen now.  It turns out that there was a burnt out wire in the oven.  We repaired it; therefore, we do not have to gut the kitchen.


A Light Has Gone Out in Israel

Good evening all...

On the second day of the week, the third day of the month of Heshvan, five thousand, seven hundred seventy-four years from the dawn of creation, a light went out in Israel.  The former Sephardi chief rabbi, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, died today.  He was 93.

Within the world of Jewish learning, we speak of gedolei hador, the giants of the generation.  Rav Ovadiah, in the mind of many, was gedol gedolei hador, a giant amongst the giants.

I have had the privilege of reading some of what he has written.  His halakhic (Jewish legal) writings show a depth of knowledge unparalleled in this world.  In a Jewish society more and more dominated by stringencies, he fearlessly wrote leniencies in every area of Jewish law.  In one famous case, he allowed testimony that would otherwise not stand the test of Jewish law in order to free women whose husbands had disappeared in war.

He was also one of the few who had command of sources in both Jewish worlds.  While he was clearly a Sephardi, his writings often ended with a statement about the customs amongst the Ashkenazim.  Too many rabbis in either community ignore the goings-on in the other community.  He did not do that.

He has been cited at least once in this blog.

Rav Ovadiah certainly had a couple of times when perhaps he might have followed a model of silence instead of a model of speaking.  Nonetheless, over 800,000 people, fully 10% of Israeli society, crowded the streets of Jerusalem for his funeral today.

May we all seek to have a teaspoon of the amount of knowledge he had, and may his memory be for a blessing.

R/SCG

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Plague o' Both Your Houses...

Today is October 1, 2013.  Today, the US House of Representatives and the US Senate failed to meet its obligations to the American people.  Today, the US government shut down.  There is no immediate solution to this problem.

The Democrats refuse to give up on Obamacare.  The Republicans want to gut it.  Whatever our feelings on Obamacare might be, at the end of the day, it is the law of the land.  The Republicans, if they are committed to the concept of law, need to accept this and move on.

To be fair though, the Democrats might also realize that people are losing jobs and employers are refusing to hire full-time people due to this law.

Just because they sit on opposite sides of the political aisle does not mean that opposing parties are wrong in everything they ever thought or done.

At the end of the day, 800,000 will not show up to work tomorrow.  These are people with families to support.  These are people with mortgages to pay and groceries to buy.  These are people who have been faithful servants of a government, and who were let go with little fanfare.

President Reagan is quoted as saying that he would not allow himself to "go off the cliff with all flags flying."  It is a great statement about the idea of political compromise.  Sadly, that idea seems egregiously lost now, leaving the nation hanging in the balance of political bickering.

A plague o' both your houses.

R/SCG