Monday, January 31, 2005

Lord save me from IT recruiters

Could someone explain to me what "Native Word" is? According to some IT recruiter who called me out of the blue, it's a completely different product from Microsoft Word which Microsoft produces that contains no macros. I tried to explain to the recruiter that Microsoft only has one "Word" program on the market, and that this "Native Word" was likely a euphemism. I was reminded how I knew someone in 1998 who worked for a man who put ads in the paper looking for candidates with at least 8 years experience in Windows 95. He pleaded with his boss, trying to explain the mathematical impossibility that someone would have so much experience with such a young product, but to no avail.

Now, I've likely missed a potential placing because of what is probably someone else's garbling of the English language.

Oy.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Old Gimp and Me

I am finding, much to my surprise, that the free software program that I am opening with greater and greater frequency this past week isn't OpenOffice.org or Firefox or Kontact, but the GNU Image Manipulation Program, the GIMP.

My client in Boro Park, for whom I'm putting together a website, needed a logo to put in the setup, and they have no logo, even on their business cards and stationery, so I opened up the Gimp and designed one with a script for building logos that comes with the package. Now, they have a (somewhat) professional looking, albeit plain, logo, but they get what they pay for, and they didn't contract me for graphic design, nor would I allow them to do so.

I'm remaking my company's website, dumping the Flash site I made using Swish, and instead trying to cobble something attractive using Quanta Plus, before giving up and returning to Windows to shell out serious cash for something like Dreamweaver.

I've been using the Gimp mainly for editing my digital photos, as my daughter is quite red-eye prone. I never pictured myself using it for professional ends.

Also, important pregnancy update: my wife's due date was yesterday. My mother is wondering if child number two will be two weeks late like child number one was. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Holocaust and the New Judaism it spawned.

I was thinking about what I wrote earlier in response to the Chainik Hocker's comments on today being the anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz, and I feel the need to confess something about the Holocaust.

I almost never think about it.

On both sides of my family, we saw the writing on the wall before 1920 and packed up to come to America. Therefore, I have a hard time counting lost family members (that I know of) on even one hand, not that I'm complaining. I therefore have a distant view of it, less emotional, and as such, perhaps clearer perspective on it.

In short, we dwell on the Holocaust too much. We dwell on it so much that you'd think Herod, Titus, Constantine and Chmielnicki had never been born and had never harmed anyone.

Among the Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist, the Holocaust has become a foundationstone for their mockery of religion that they call Judaism. When most non-religious Jewish teens are asked what are the top three things that mean the most to them about their religion, Hashem doesn't make the list, but the Holocaust does.

The Holocaust has literally become Judaism to so many Jews. When death and destruction become a religion, is it any wonder why these people have no interest in going to shul or in being Jewish? Need we even ask why the conversion and intermarriage rates are so high?

In Judaism, we keep it in perspective. It is a mitzvah to be happy. We have Tisha B'av for sorrow.

VNC, SSH, and security paranoia

As a matter of routine since I set up my new office, I've been using ssh (secure shell) to log into my home machine from my office and vice versa. OpenSSH is a free implementation of the SSH protocol, which provides a variety of different methods to encrypt the network traffic between the client and the server to allow private transmission of data back and forth. SSH can piggyback other protocols through its tunnel, which is something I had never tried until this week. I installed TightVNC on the Windows boxes in the law firm, figuring that if they needed my help, and I was working from home, that I would be able to log into the office and perform remote admin of their systems. Two nights ago, I logged in, using X11 forwarding through SSH, I was able to get the vnc viewer window to be broadcast from my office machine onto the monitor of my home machine. It took at least a minute where the console just hung, leading me to think that I'd done something wrong, when the window shot open on my screen, totally encrypted to the outside world. I was surprised to see that the encryption did not damper the refresh rate of the screen, which isn't so great unless you're doing remote admin on a local area network.

So, fast forward to today, when I was working from home, and the attorney called me, telling me that his computer was slow. I told him I could look into it from my house. Opposite of how anyone else would react, he was none too pleased with this situation. He told me he expicitly stated he wanted to no network in the office, which I had taken to mean he didn't want a server for his files or printing. So, I abandoned the pursuit and told him I wouldn't log into his machine, and that whatever his problem was, it would have to wait until Monday, when I would be in the office.

See, now I'm stumped. I can't figure out how to alleviate his fears of my being able to do these things and the potential legal liability he would face if his files were compromised. How do I explain to him that the whole transmission would garbled and useless to anyone who wanted to spy in on us?

I decided it would be a lost cause. If he has a problem with me logging into my machine from home and vice versa, however, I'm going to have to call off the whole arrangement, as networking is a vital part of what I need to do. My sister in law volunteered to let me use her computer during the day if the need arises, and I might just have to take her up on that. I have the VOIP router for my office phone line. It wouldn't be that hard just to move it to her place if I needed it. T'would be a hassle though, since I just bought business cards with my office address on them.

sigh.

So well meaning, yet so wrong

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz in 1945. My friend, the Chainik Hocker, called me on the phone a few minutes ago, to draw my attention to what he wrote on his blog, and to ask me what I thought. This inspired me to write something of my own about the whole affair, as a discussion with my good friend would likely result in an argument I'd prefer to avoid.

Let me first address what is perhaps the most prevalent myth of our time, that the United States government is some lone avatar of peace and justice in this world. It's not. No one has any business making such claims about the US government when it steals from its subjects fifty times the amount that instigated revolt against Britain in 1775. When the US government kills its own citizens, like how Peter McWilliams died, victim of the government's benevolence, we cannot stand up and say we are the ones who will fight evil in the world.

Let me first addrss the second myth that is prevalent on a day like today. The United States did absolutely nothing to help the Jews, nor was it the government's responsibility to do anything. However, the individuals who sat by and did nothing should be judged.

Another myth is that democratic nations do not war on each other. Excuse me? What do you think World War I was? Germany was democratic! The US and Britain were democratic! Read this for more information. Perhaps World War I wasn't really a war, or those countries involved weren't really democratic. Maybe those Christians who murdered Jews weren't "really" Christians.

Chainik Hocker's continued vilification of Saddam Hussein in light of the recent revelations that he had actually been telling the truth the whole time about his lack of WMD, and that it was the Emperor who had been lying, is indeed strange to me. Since the government is known to lie when it suits their purposes, and we have seen that the government has lied about the WMD, why should we believe anything else the government has said about him?

In all honesty, and with all due respect to my friend, I thought was he wrote was emotional, illogical, and foolhardy. However, that is exactly what typifies the Republican Party today. The saying used to go that there were the evil party and the stupid party, respectively.

Had the United States not gotten involved in World War I, the Allies in Europe would have been much more disposed towards simply stopping the fighting. Instead, they were bolstered by the US' presence into thinking they could win, so they continued to fight. They stomped Germany into the ground, laying the blame for the whole affair on them, something that was totally unjust and something I've never quite understood. Hitler only capitalized on the harsh conditions in Germany that were imposed by the unfair settlement in World War I.

In other words, the United States' involvement in foreign affairs is the cause, not the solution, to so many problems in the world today. Remember the farewell address of George Washington, who would have strongly criticized our Emperor.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Failing with Flying Colors

I graded the midterms today. I was disappointed in my students' collective performance, more specifically their lack thereof.

In my English class, I gave them thirty questions. Five were multiple choice, and 25 were matching words with definitions. I divided the page down the center, with the word requiring definition on the left hand side, and the definitions with a letter next to them to answer the questions. This is where it gets funny. I wrote the 25 questions in OpenOffice.org Calc, the
spreadsheet component of OOo. I wrote the word in column a, a blank in column b, the letter to correspond with a definition in column c, and the actual definition in column d. Being lazy, I didn't want to keep track of each and every letter answer used, so I simply went down the sheet with definitions, a to z. I then highlighted columns c and d and sorted them alphabetically according to column d. Then, the test was ready. I didn't even think about what this meant at the time, until it came time to grade the test today -- a student would have gotten a perfect score had he simply written a-z alphabetically down the column as his answers.

Sadly, not a single student picked this up. Teacher mind games, perhaps?

My history class didn't have such a break handed to them. Instead, I told them that I was going to take the questions directly out of the book, and I did. After taking the test, one of the students came up to me and said, "Rabbi, I failed your test with flying colors." And, get this -- the highest grade on my history test belongs to a guy who forgot to write his name on the
test!

Oy. I hope the hanhala doesn't think this is a reflection on my teaching ability.

In other news, I did some googling, following Jen's questions about remote admin of her machine, and I found this site, which has links to free and not free implementations of ssh. I can only speak for one implementation of the ssh server, and that's the Cygwin product. However, as far as I have seen of Cygwin, this isn't recommendable for someone who wants to access their main filesystem, as Cygwin is a program layer that allows Unix/Linux programs to run on Windows by tricking the programs into thinking they're actually running in their native environment. It creates a Unix filesystem tree in a folder, and that's all you can touch with the Unix shell, as far as I can tell from my limited experience with Cygwin. I could be wrong.

Good for the curious to check out, just the same. SSH.com is mucho expensive, but some of the implementations of the server are rather reasonably priced for Windows software. They have some extra features that would be necessary for the software to be useful, because by itself, the Windows command line is completely brain dead compared to the Unix ones.

Of course, there's always the Unix/Linux world, where you can get OpenSSH for free. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

T'was a feat of computer acrobatics

For the past few months, I've been bringing in some extra cash by teaching some secular subjects at a local yeshiva. This week was..... MIDTERMS.

One of my students was not in school the day of my English midterm, which was last Monday. Today, when I arrived at the yeshiva, he was pleading with the rabbi to let him take the test that he'd missed. The rabbi allowed it, and the kid asked me if he could take it. I had no problem with it, except this: I didn't have the test with me.

I went downstairs to the admin office, and asked to use a computer connected to the internet and -- scandalous!!! -- there was one available, and on a high-speed connection, no less. I went to my yahoo email account to see if I had emailed this test to myself, and I hadn't. So much for Plan A.

Plan B -- I went to the website of what has got to be one of the most useful utilities for Windows that comes to mind -- PuTTY. PuTTY (maybe the author can explain why he chose such strange capitalization) is a free software ssh client for Windows, which allows console logins to remote machines. I downloaded PuTTY and PSCP (PuTTY's implementation of scp -- secure copy) to the yeshiva's computer. I then logged into my home machine and looked around my home directory to find the midterm. I saw that I only had the original document written in OpenOffice.org. The problem is that the yeshiva didn't have OpenOffice.org, so I had to get creative.

While still logged into my home machine, I opened up an irc client and went into a Linux chatroom on Freenode. I asked the room if anyone would mind me emailing an OpenOffice.org document to them, and that person then emailing me a PDF back. Someone immediately volunteered, and within minutes, I had something that I could print on the yeshiva's machine.

I then gave the student the midterm, and told him that he owed it to the kindness of a stranger he had never seen and would never meet.

Such is the free software community.

Now, some who read this may balk, saying I should have just used Microsoft Word, but OpenOffice.org exports to Word format, and the end results would have been the same, as I hadn't originally planned on sending the midterm document anywhere for another computer to read.

The big Israel post

I've wanted to write about this topic for quite some time, and my last post reminded me of it, and I have a short break, at a quarter to one in the morning, before I need to call a friend and business associate out of state to complete some web work we're doing together.

The problem today between the religious and non-religious in Israel today is one that cannot be understated. It is the cause of continual strife, and it has a most obvious cause that everyone overlooks -- democracy. Yes, democracy, that god that failed, as Hoppe called it, is the root cause of much of the hatred that brews among brethren today in Israel, because the political process in the Israeli government is inherently designed to force people into a continual string of fighting to get what they want at the expense of the losers.

End the democracy and socialism in Israel, and replace it with a free market economy, and there will be peace among the Jews there. In case this seems like an oversimplification, read what follows.

Whenever a religious Jew walks by a secular school, he probably thinks to himself, "money that I could have spent on causes X, Y, and Z were stolen from me to pay for this? Likewise, the secular Jew sees a yeshiva and thinks to himself, "my money was stolen from me to pay for this? The system is inherently designed to create enemies out of men who would otherwise be brothers.

Now, there are other issues of contention between the religious and secular, and don't think I'm unaware of them. I did live there for a year. I was in a yeshiva, but I wasn't entirely living in a bottle.

Now, there are religious Jews who object to this idea, because they are, unfortunately, addicted to dole. "The families in kollel would have no money to support themselves!" That's right, sweetheart, because those families are led by husbands who don't work. I think that it's great if a family is able to sustain themselves and the husband can sit and learn all day. If those families support themselves through the coercion of government subsidies, then those families should rightfully have the carpet pulled out from under them.

If the government would stop taxing the people so much, I have every confidence that the increase of money in the bank accounts that would result from an end to subsidies and lower tax rates would be more than sufficient to maintain the numbers in yeshiva and kollel. The ones who couldn't be sustained in kollel would simply have to work, just like in America and the rest of the world.

Now, my fellow libertarian Jew supports Shinui to that end, and I respectfully think that's misguided, as Shinui doesn't want to end socialism in Israel. They just want their version of socialism as opposed to the religious version. The end result would be the same.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Brothers in Solidarity?

I managed to create a small controversy for having the nerve to call Reverend King the man of violence that he was. I've been referred to speeches he made, but speeches are just talk if the actions don't follow, and that's the case with King. Had he fought only to correct racism in government, I would be able to say I support what he did. However, he used force to coerce private individuals to associate with people with whom they wouldn't have associated themselves otherwise. That is a form of slavery, and a libertarian cannot accept something like that as just.

In this, I met a fellow blogger, who is also a libertarian Jew. Funny, he would have had to pick a different name had I not gone with Yid instead of Jew.

Not knowing much about him, I think I can be pretty certain he is a brother in solidarity.

I read through his blog, and he posts a lot about something I rarely write about: Israel. The reason I rarely write about Israel is this:

I'm tired of nearly everything having to do with the Homeland. I cannot let myself get so wound up in the politics and the conniving and the violence over there or I'll work myself into an ulcer.

There is just one thing you have to know about the Israeli government and the situation with the Arab nations:

You need only think of the most sensible and speedy solution to the conflict, regardless of your political leanings, and the Israeli government will do the exact opposite.

After a while, I began to see little toeles in it all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

All Slifkin, all the time!

For those of you who are wondering, it was requested that I delete certain portions of what I wrote over the weekend. I was lazy and decided to delete all of it.

Barely any of my readers comment on my blog, but once I decided to talk about Nosson, suddenly I'm getting emails, like from Dov Bear.

So, I went to Dov Bear's blog, milding entertained by what he wrote, until I got to this post, wherein he decided that no southern citizen is beyond insult.

Dov Bear probably learned everything he knows about the Civil War from northerners, and thus doesn't know squat about it.

Bigots here, bigots there, we see bigots everywhere. As Wonkette, from whom I lifted this piece suggests, this Mississippi compromise was probably just a way to get the fine, backwards, incest committing people of the South to acknowledge - however backhandedly - MLK and all the good he did to make our country a better, safer place to live.


Dov, I'm from the South. I was raised in the South. I love the South. In my nearly twenty years there, I never encountered these so-called "backwards, incest committing people of the South," but apparently you have far more expertise than I on these matters.

So, perhaps Dov Bear can answer the following sticky questions regarding the South and the Civil War, whose army was led by General Robert E. Lee:

1) If the Civil War was about freeing slaves, weren't the states who seceded from the union enslaved when they were forced to remain part of the Union?

2) Are you aware of the 3500 to 5000 Jews who fought for the Confederacy?

3) Are you aware of Grant's General Order that ordered the expulsion of the Jews from territories the North conquered from the South?

4) Are you aware that slavery had been abolished in the North, but had been replaced with many local laws forbidding the very presence of blacks, under penalty of whipping?

5) Can you point to the article in the Constitution that made secession illegal?
5a) If secession is illegal, why did some states only ratify the Constitution on the condition that they could secede?

Now, if you've answered those questions, let me ask you something about the civil rights movement of the 1960's led by Reverend King:

Which is worse -- not wanting to have anything to do with someone because he's black, or being forced at gunpoint to have to associate with that black person? If you think the former, isn't advocating the latter a form of slavery, and isn't the latter exactly what the Civil Rights Act did?

I would argue that what King did was worse than the evil he claimed to want to rectify.

I can just imagine what you might be thinking right now, that I hate blacks and I want to enslave them. This is rubbish. I want nothing of the sort. I want the blacks to be free. I want the whites to be free. I want all of us to be free.

That's why my moniker is "Libertarian Yid."

All other Western countries got rid of slavery in a civilized manner. There's no reason to believe that it couldn't have been accomplished in the United States had Lincoln not enslaved the South.

So, Dov Bear, stick it.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Impeach the Emperor. Now.

We all knew unofficially. It's now official. The Emperor lied when he said that Iraq had WMD. So, tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed, numerous US military personnel were killed or maimed, and now there are countless Arabs who used to hate us, but now are willing to put forth the effort to act on that hatred.

But they hate us for our freedom.

Yeah. If you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Colorado for you.

"Boy. I sure do hate freedom. I think I'll go blow myself up on the other side of the planet."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Insults Wrapped in Compliments

In case you might want to email me from the address listed on my profile, you should know that I rarely check the email address I created to put on my profile. Tonight I checked my blog email for the first time in at least a month and a half. In it, I found the following message from some bloke named Nathan:

Your postings are that of a true patriot. Atheism is an idea that flows very easily through libertarians if they want to be consistent. Objectivity leads
itself to atheism or at the very least agnosticism. Commen sense and every day realities lead us towards that conclusion. Faith can only be proven by science, hence making faith a fact which by definition contradicts itself. complacency and denial have let reps and dems steal the liberty of the american people. Look bush won because of religion and the blind followers. All the facts in the world don't mean anything to someone who's priority is set on religion. cognitive dissonance. individualism,freedom from all bureaucracy including religion peace out.


Umm... Thanks, bud. Keep smoking whatever you're using, as it's clearly working. :)

Atheism might flow through libertarians but it's hardly consistent to be an atheist, in any way. Claiming to be an atheist claims a knowledge of every aspect of the universe, by claiming that there is absolutely no diety whatsoever.

Agnostics lack consistency. for example, you'll have a Jew who says, "I'm not sure if there's a Higher power, so it's okay if I have this cheeseburger on Yom Kippur." Since you're not sure if the water is poisoned, it's okay to drink it. This is completely the opposite of reasonably behavior.

The Kuzari principle holds. It's the argument that won me over to Judaism years ago, and I've found it expounded upon on many outreach and countermissionary websites.

Now, if the people of this (formerly) great country would simply apply the Kuzari principle to politics, we'd be in better shape.

Unfortunately, people don't like the burden of thinking. That's why the Republicans and Democrats hold power.