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  • March 16, 2016

Louis Brandeis

Brandeis, c. 1916

Merrick Garland

Garland, c. 2016

One hun­dred years ago (Jan. 28, 1916), President Wilson nom­i­nated Louis Brandeis to the US Supreme Court. What fol­lowed was one of the most con­tentious con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in his­tory, due to Brandeis’ reli­gious her­itage and his unabashed lib­er­al­ism (espe­cially his record of fight­ing big Wall Street bankers).

One hun­dred years later, Merrick Garland is unlikely to face anti-Semitism on the Senate floor, and he’s a far less polar­iz­ing pick than Brandeis was. Nonetheless, his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings — if they even hap­pen — are likely to be even more contentious.

Funny how much has changed. And how little.

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  • March 2, 2016

The Women Take Over” by Dahlia Lithwick (Slate​.com):

… it’s hard to imag­ine President Obama con­jur­ing up, from even the dark­est, most devi­ous under­ground lab, a new jus­tice who would be half as fierce as the four-car train of whoop ass we saw today.

It’s hard to imag­ine any­one con­jur­ing up a bet­ter com­men­ta­tor on the Supreme Court than Dahlia Lithwick.

Her writ­ing on yes­ter­day’s oral argu­ments in Whole Woman’s HealthHellerstedt is a beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tion of why I’d rather read her than pretty much any other jour­nal­ist work­ing today.

benedictine chili.
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  • February 26, 2016

Toasted English muf­fin topped with chili con carné, sour cream, shred­ded cheese, fried egg (one for each side) with the yolk still runny, and a lit­tle more cheese.

(I dare you to come up with a bet­ter use for left­over chili.)

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  • February 24, 2016

Douglas Rushkoff is cred­ited as the ide­o­logue behind the “dig­i­tal Sabbath.” He’s a smart guy: Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY; media com­men­ta­tor; author; first coined the terms “dig­i­tal natives,” “social cur­rency,” and “viral media”… yada yada… his whole bio is on Wikipedia if you want it.

Several years ago, he argued that peo­ple needed to take time away from dig­i­tal media. And because he was into the Jewish thing at the time, that idea mor­phed into the notion of a “dig­i­tal Sabbath.” And then some­thing called The National Day of Unplugging was estab­lished by ReBoot. (ReBoot is an orga­ni­za­tion built on an annual gath­er­ing which Rushkoff helped to con­vene, ini­tially. But he now calls it elit­ist.) The National Day of Unplugging exists to encour­age peo­ple to take their own dig­i­tal Sabbaths, all on the same day.

Now, Rushkoff says he does­n’t like the idea any­more. From the Guardian, Douglas Rushkoff: ‘I’m think­ing it may be good to be off social media alto­gether’:

I came up with this thing which I now don’t like: the dig­i­tal sab­bath. It feels a lit­tle forced and arbi­trary, and it frames dig­i­tal detox as a depri­va­tion. I would much rather help peo­ple learn to value look­ing into other people’s eyes. To sit in a room talk­ing to peo­ple – I want peo­ple to value that, not because they aren’t being inter­rupted by dig­i­tal media but because it’s valu­able in its own right.

That’s novel, I sup­pose. (Though I’m pretty sure Ari Kelman would­n’t think so.)

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  • February 21, 2016


Today was the GOP pri­mary in South Carolina. Jeb Bush just dropped out of the race because he failed to receive the sup­port of pri­mary vot­ers in three states whose del­e­gates — com­bined! — make up 3.5% (19/538) of the elec­toral college.

(In other words, these states are basi­cally irrel­e­vant in the national elec­tion, yet some­how some­one gave their most extreme vot­ers — the ones who show up for the pri­maries — the power to sink a viable can­di­date’s chances of get­ting the nom­i­na­tion in favor of a guy who is demon­stra­bly loony toons.)

I’m by no means a fan of Jeb Bush, and a part of me won­ders if it helps Dems’ chances in November if the Republicans end up let­ting extrem­ist vot­ers in small states nom­i­nate an openly racist can­di­date to the par­ty’s ticket. But seri­ously… if this isn’t enough to give some legs to efforts to change the pri­mary sys­tem, I don’t know what will.

Also, won­der­ing: After the way Trump took every oppor­tu­nity to pub­licly bad­mouth, embar­rass, shame, and vil­ify him and his fam­ily, if Trump ends up being the can­di­date will Jeb even cast a bal­lot in November?

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  • February 27, 2015
for our daughter.

On the occasion of your naming. February 27, 2015.
Peninsula Temple Beth El, San Mateo, California

Sara's baby naming.
October 1981.

Sela Penina Mason-Barkin, or Penina Selah in Hebrew.

A big name for a very, very lit­tle girl. But we know that no mat­ter how small you are now, you will grow into this name — this name that was so care­fully cho­sen for you.

Sela Penina, you are named for two very strong, intel­li­gent, lov­ing, and beau­ti­ful women.

Your first name, Sela, is for your GG – your Great- Grandma Selma. Sela, you are your GG’s six­teenth great-grand­child, so we know exactly how much she would have loved to meet you. Just like she loved meet­ing your cousins and your big brother, watch­ing you play would have made her blue eyes twin­kle and when we placed you on her lap, I know she would have chuck­led deeply.

In her absence, we have given you a name that not only sounds like hers but that we also hope will inspire you live up to some of her most spe­cial qualities.

Your GG pos­sessed a quiet strength and a grace that allowed her live an incred­i­ble and full life, even after the death of your great grandpa, Carl. At her funeral, many spoke about the ways that she con­tributed to her husband’s busi­ness suc­cess – and how in another day and age she would have been run­ning the store her­self. Well my lit­tle Sela, here you are – in another day and age. I know that it wouldn’t mat­ter to your GG what your pas­sion comes to be – whether you find your­self lov­ing writ­ing or music or math: but it would mat­ter to her that you put your whole self into it. This is our wish for your, too.

Another endur­ing les­son from your GG that we hope you will always take to heart is the impor­tance of fam­ily. Your GG made it a pri­or­ity to make sure that fam­ily always got together, and really got to know one another. You have already begun to live this with­out even know­ing it, when you wel­comed two of your big cousins to come visit you when you were still in the hos­pi­tal. Your brother Charlie and all your big cousins Zachy, Eliza, Aviva and Caleb already love you so much – and you have so much to learn from them. Your GG would have loved to know how impor­tant they already are to you, and our hope for you is that fam­ily will always come first – and that you will always make this a priority.

Your mid­dle name, Penina, is for your Great Grandmother, Ina. We find the let­ters of her name at the end of yours. Your Great Grandmother was also a source of strength for her fam­ily and force in her com­mu­nity. She was a Dean at Clark University and val­ued edu­ca­tion and learn­ing for her­self and for her fam­ily. If your Great Grandmother was still here, she would want to play scrab­ble with you, teach you three syl­la­ble words, and talk with you about cur­rent events. As you strive to reach your big dreams, we hope you do so with a thirst for knowl­edge and love of learn­ing that would make your great-grand­mother so proud.

Your great-grand­mother was very cere­bral, but also appre­ci­ated beauty and detail. One of her most won­der­ful qual­i­ties that I, unfor­tu­nately, did not inherit, was to set a beau­ti­ful table and host a gor­geous hol­i­day meal. She always hosted with plea­sure and beauty. Whether or not you love to cook, we hope that you will always strive for bal­ance between the intel­lec­tual and the aes­thetic. We want you to find beauty every­where you look, just as we see beauty when we look at you.

Sela Penina, or Penina Selah in Hebrew:

Penina in Hebrew means Pearl. Your great-grand­mother Ina had ter­rific taste in jew­elry, and a few years ago she gave me a beau­ti­ful pearl neck­lace of hers, which will some­day be yours. When I wear it, I think about not only the beauty of the pearls, but about the pearls of wis­dom that your great grand­mother would share as she tried her best to help me in the kitchen, as she set a beau­ti­ful table, or as she quizzed me on the mean­ing of a new word.

Selah in Hebrew means Rock. Just a few months ago, at your GG’s funeral, we remem­bered her lov­ingly as ‘the rock’ of our fam­ily. She kept us all, and con­tin­ues to keep us all together as she heads the fam­ily with her lov­ing strength. In the book of Deuteronomy, God is described as nurs­ing Israel with dvash mis­e­lah, honey from a rock. Like your GG, a rock is strong. It is stead­fast and with­stands much. But like you, and like your GG, this imagery shows us a rock filled with honey: a rock that is sweet, a rock per­form­ing an act of love. This describes your GG to a tee, and so too may you be as strong as you are sweet.

Our lit­tle Sela Penina, Penina Selah, we real­ize these names are a lot to live up to for a lit­tle tiny baby. But there are no two women more deserv­ing of a name­sake as pre­cious as you. Welcome to the world, we are so proud to be your parents.


Mom and Dad

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  • January 14, 2015

From “Synagogue-based Religious Schools: A Community Responsibility,” by Lisa Harris Glass and Stephanie Hausner

We have spent a gen­er­a­tion dis­pro­por­tion­ately focused on day schools, thereby rel­e­gat­ing sup­ple­men­tal reli­gious schools to sec­ond-class sta­tus. Our efforts have done noth­ing to increase day school choice in the major­ity of the Jewish com­mu­nity; but have served to suc­cess­fully demor­al­ize sup­ple­men­tal school edu­ca­tion direc­tors and dec­i­mate the bench of qual­ity, qual­i­fied, inspir­ing reli­gious school teach­ers. We have con­signed our num­ber one oppor­tu­nity to inspire/ignite a life­long love of Judaism and pos­i­tive Jewish iden­tity to “less than,” “wannabe” status.

Whoa. Because truth.

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  • January 6, 2015

Twenty years ago, I was always read­ing at least one book. And I’d read dozens — maybe hun­dreds — each year.

Now? I can’t remem­ber the last time I read a book. But…


I’m def­i­nitely read­ing more than ever.

unlocked iPhone 6 works great in the uk.
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  • December 29, 2014

The short ver­sion: This arti­cle from MacWorld UK is wrong. A US-pur­chased unlocked iPhone 6 works just fine in the UK. (If that’s all you wanted to know, I fig­ured I’d spare you the details. If you want to know more, read on…) Read More

limmud handouts available for download.
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  • December 28, 2014

Here’s where you’ll find my hand­outs from Limmud 2014 in Coventry, England. (I’m post­ing them live on the day of the ses­sion. All hand­outs should be up as of January 1, 2015.)

If you have any ques­tions, or if you’re look­ing for some­thing that should be here but isn’t, drop me an email.

the handouts.

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  • November 16, 2014

Hacking Hanukkah to Design the Jewish Future:

This return to the blog has turned into a shar­ing of other peo­ple’s wis­dom rather than my own. That is prob­a­bly the best assur­ance that it is actu­ally wis­dom! Today is no exception.

Read the rest

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  • October 25, 2014

Just text me, ok?

Please Do Not Leave A Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail:

We’ve all heard that auto­mated voice mail lady, telling us what to do after the beep. But fewer peo­ple than ever are leav­ing mes­sages. And the mil­len­ni­als, they won’t even lis­ten to them — they’d much rather receive a text or Facebook message.

So true. I really really hate voicemail.

Read the rest

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  • August 28, 2014

I backed a Kickstarter cam­paign. And it paid off, which is to say that I even­tu­ally received an actual prod­uct in the mail. Here it is, ladies and gen­tle­men: the Almond+ wifi router. (Pics inside.)

Read More

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  • August 26, 2014

Instagram’s new Hyperlapse app is amazing.

Basically, it sta­bi­lizes video as it shoots it (or soon there­after) and allows you to play back at var­i­ous speeds. It’s time­lapse pho­tog­ra­phy in super-smooth mode, or a replace­ment for a very expen­sive video sta­bi­liza­tion rig.

Instagram HyperlapseThe secret, accord­ing to a Wired pro­file, is that the app does­n’t try to sta­bi­lize with any­thing like the fancy (and very proces­sor-inten­sive) soft­ware found in high-end video pro­duc­tion soft­ware. Rather, it uses data from the iPhone’s built-in gyro­scopes to sim­ply adjust for movement.

My ini­tial reac­tion to the app was (a) won­der­ment, and (b) hope­ful­ness that the app would let me import media (like, um, from my GoPro?).

After read­ing the Wired arti­cle, it’s clear that the Hyperlapse app won’t work with imported mate­r­ial, since the whole point is that it records the gyro­scopic data as it’s record­ing (and adjusts the video accordingly).

But what if…

  1. We use a rig that mounts an iPhone directly to a GoPro, cam­corder, or DSLR. (There’s this cool mount for GoPro, or you could just use any dual-cam­era tri­pod mount, like this one.)
  2. We have an app on the phone (like Hyperlapse) that records the gyro­scopic data.
  3. We then take the video footage from the GoPro/camcorder/DSLR and plug it into a desk­top app along with the iPhone app’s gyro­scopic data. It could then sta­bi­lize the video using that data — just like the Hyperlapse app, but as a post-pro­cess­ing tech­nique rather than “in-cam­era.”

For this to work, you need to be able to pre­cisely (!) sync the gyro­scope’s data with the video. For that rea­son, I’m won­der­ing if the app might record audio, which the post-pro­cess­ing desk­top app could use to sync the recorded data’s time with the footage. As you begin record­ing, it could even emit a beep or clap­per sound or some­thing sim­i­lar that would be picked up by the video cam­er­a’s mic. (The desk­top app could know to look for that pre­cise sound.)

Or… we could sync even eas­ier. Both my GoPro and my Canon 6D can be con­trolled by cor­re­spond­ing iPhone apps. What if the gyro­scope data col­lec­tion was sim­ply built into those apps. Then, you could trig­ger record­ing on the cam­era direct from the phone and simul­ta­ne­ously begin record­ing the data needed for stabilization.

I have no idea what kind of patent that Instagram (err… Facebook) has on this tech. My point is that this one amaz­ing inno­va­tion has the poten­tial to be a big-time game changer, since all the other pieces already exist (or, in the case of the desk­top app, should be doable by apply­ing exist­ing tech). With some­thing like I described above, you could replace an expen­sive sta­bi­liza­tion rig with an iPhone, a mount­ing bracket, and some sim­ple (ish) software.

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  • July 23, 2014

From “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League The nation’s top col­leges are turn­ing our kids into zom­bies”:

What an indict­ment of the Ivy League and its peers: that col­leges four lev­els down on the aca­d­e­mic totem pole, enrolling stu­dents whose SAT scores are hun­dreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a bet­ter edu­ca­tion, in the high­est sense of the word.

I can’t speak for the Ivy Leagues, but my fourth-tier lib­eral arts col­lege did a pretty good job.