Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Slaughterhouse Rules

I found Jonathan Reisman's article, "The Bodies That Guard Our Secrets," to be fascinating.

Did you know that the anatomy between cows and humans are similar? It makes me consider the ban on the gid hanasheh in a new light. 
Via haaretz.com
Anywho, Reisman, when a doctor in training, visited a kosher slaughterhouse to learn more about the design of the body. 
And this is the heart of the situation: Kashrut’s concept of cleanliness and health relies on the sanctity of the barrier between the inside of the body and the outside world. Maintaining cleanliness means keeping the outside out, much as people in many cultures remove their shoes before entering a house or a place of worship. When we breathe, air enters our lungs and whooshes all the way down to the alveoli — but this is not truly inside the body. The air in the lungs is still continuous with the atmosphere and all of its dust, spores and smoke. The real threshold of the physical self is the lining of those deep alveoli where the body meets the atmosphere. The lungs are like the skin — a boundary with the rest of the world — but outside-in. A hole connecting the inside of the lungs to the pleura is a way for the dirt of the outside world to get in, truly inside, the body, and once that sacred barrier has been breached, innocence and purity are soiled.
It made me consider how spirituality and physicality aren't on separate planes; they are parallel to each other.

Our bodies reflect that which should be a careful mindset: walking the line between external influences and maintaining personal sanctity. I don't even speak of secular generalities; I mean also the "chaver ra," the one who can lead one awry, who can be present even within the religious community. 

As I meet others who relate to the world differently—some who shun any secular exposure, those who identify with it more than I do—I am noticing that it is, as in all things, a personal call on keeping the balance. 
In medical school I learned about how the body is held together and how it falls apart in illness. In the kosher abattoir I learned about the sanctity of those boundaries that keep both humans and animals healthy. The basement membrane protects every organism from the filth and infection of the outside world and the cancerous disease from within. It is the inviolate outline within which a healthy life is lived. Ultimately, every bout of disease — every violation of the basement membrane — leaves a mark and makes up an individual’s medical story. And when the body is opened, whether in the dissection lab or in the kosher abattoir, that story will be read. For what we all hold most strongly in common is precisely that which is most private and personal: our hidden insides and the story they tell.
If our physical challenges leave a mark, so to our spiritual challenges leaves theirs.

While true repentance, it is said, wipes the slate clean, that is how Hashem perceives us. But the echo remains in ourselves.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brush Maintenance

Most makeup artists boom, "Wash thy brushes regularly!" 

OK, I confess shlakiness on my part there. My bristles tend to accumulate pigment over time, and when I finally wash them I am amazed what comes off. Well, maybe horrified.

My favorite all-around cleaner is Castile soap. Castile soap is formulated from natural oils, meaning it isn't as harsh as other soaps. I even read somewhere that castile soap molecules are round, whereas most soap's are more sharp-edged, making it ideal for non-irritating cleansing. 
I have a large bottle of Castile soap that I use for cleaning pretty much everything. It is great for bathrooms and kitchens, for instance, without getting woozy from ammonia fumes. They also come in a variety of pleasant scents; I'm partial to lavender.

While Michelle Phan (video embedded below) is quite persistent about using antibacterial soap, I have banned that stuff as creators of the future mutant virus that will destroy us all. Regular soap is sufficient. 
She mixes dish soap with olive oil; since Castile soap is derived from natural oils so I use it without any additionally oily help.

Maybe the reason why I don't wash my brushes enough is because I'm not sure what to do with them while they dry, and I know they shouldn't be left upright. Michelle suggests the Brush Guard, so I purchased them
Via bunbunmakeuptips.com
They really are fun; wash brush, slide the thingamabob on, chuck it upside down into a cup, and let it dry.

The Guards are also ideal for travel, since they prevent the bristles from being bent misshapenly while bouncing along in my carry-on.

Now I actually clean my liquid makeup brush every time I use it; I don't bother with the plate that Phan suggests. A little squirt of Castile in my palm, rub the bristles into it, rinse it clean, wipe off the excess water, pop on a Guard, chuck it into my neigel vaaser cup, and there you go. It's usually dry the next morning.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you guys: I made my peace with liquid foundation. Post still in the works!    

Friday, July 18, 2014

Take One For the Team

Oh, bother, I thought tiredly, as he squawked on the phone. He's one of those

The man-child in question was very obviously attempting to manipulate the situation that I should say no to a date, so that way he can go back to his sister and say, "It's not my fault. She didn't want to go out with me."

My dear boy, I'm better at this game than you. 

His sister and my brother are neighbors, and over a shared Shabbos meal she cooked up the idea that we should go out. My brother, stumped as to how to turn her down yet simultaneously maintain the family friendship, unconvincingly "sold" this Tuskan Raider to me. For the sake of keeping things pleasant along the borders, I agreed. 

Instead of being permitted to fall elegantly on my light saber, I had to grant this Sand Person all the accoutrements of being a stalked eligible. But no way was I going to get blamed with turning him down, so I feigned dimness as he tried every which way to get me to nix a date. Eventually, he set a reluctant day and time for our outing. 

I told myself to enjoy this from the elevated position of wry amusement. That was made slightly more difficult as he texted his arrival from his car. 

In my driveway. 

With no intention of coming to the door.

Older singles aren't "jaded." We're traumatized. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Welcome to the Dark Side (of Chocolate)

I know there are a lot of jokes out there about girls and chocolate, although I don't quite understand how is became a gender-specific pastime. How many guys out there turn up their noses at chocolate? 
Milk chocolate, once, to me, was the only true heaven. If I was ever offered anything dark, I would gag. Dark chocolate? Who would ever eat dark chocolate? 

I'm not sure which is responsible; adulthood, which means the body no longer craves such copious amounts of calories to feed a growing body, or the fact that I eat better than I used to, readjusting my palate accordingly. But in any case, I find myself actually enjoying the bittersweetness of a high-percentage cacao chocolate. 

Unheard of! Absurd!

When I heard how the high-percentage cacao chocolate was healthy (specifically over 70%) I took a tentative nibble. If consumed right after anything sugary, it will be a letdown, but as a "mouth-straightener" following a meal, it is pleasantly satisfying.

Modern science has proclaimed (I'll take it while it lasts) the healthiness of dark chocolate: "Why Chocolate Is Good for Us." The article mentions unsweetened cocoa powder and cacao nibs, but I wouldn't suggest the latter. It really doesn't taste like anything, and I'm not crazy about the consistency. It really is amazing how much of the flavor in chocolate as I knew it was sugar and oil. 

When there is a sale in my local Jewish supermarket, I stock up on months' worth of Schmerling's 72% Cacao Chocolate. These are the only bars I can find, with the minimum percentage requirement, that are pareve. 
I then discovered Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao Bar at my local drugstore. But they seem to sell out fast, especially when I have a coupon. It is, however, milchig. Also available on Amazon, thankfully. 
This stuff is now my means of staying sane yet healthy during the week, when sugar is a no-no. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: My New Candy Store

For some time now I have been really aware of vegetables. Thanks to Dr. Fuhrman, I've realized that I was consuming too many grains (albeit whole wheat) and could definitely benefit from the nutrition and scant calories available in the veggie world. 

I sauté, roast, soup, and raw; I feel satisfied, light, not remotely deprived. With just olive oil, black pepper, (a dash of) salt, and garlic powder, any vegetable becomes yummylicious.

Stopping into the fruit store I frequent one evening to load up on more oranges, I was surprised to notice that suddenly, I felt giddy with desire. 
Hubba, hubba.
Zucchinis, gleaming an alluring green; the seductive, sensual shape of the butternut squash; leafy cabbage, peeking appealingly; fiery oranges and yellows of the pepper; regally purple eggplant; alabaster cauliflower, that had unthinkably replaced my potato-love; onions, that make life worth living; the come-hither scent of the parsnips; mushrooms, that earthy fungi with irreplaceable flavor; carrots, demure in their sturdy skin that concealed an untapped sweetness, yearning to be released.  

I blinked confusedly; I shook my head a little. But the candyland image remained, the lighting no longer harsh but caressing and warm on the produce beneath. 

I grabbed a basket and dazedly poked and prodded a few root vegetables; I just couldn't leave empty-handed. At home I sliced, seasoned, then roasted, moaning appreciatively over the (in all seriousness) candy-like flavor of the carrots and parsnips. 

I had completely forgotten the fruit store has an actual candy section.

OK, I know some of you will probably think I was high, but here is simple science: processed foods have an overabundance of sugar and salt which tampers with the palate. Remove the troublemakers, and soon real flavors (occasionally heightened with small amounts of sweet and salty) become appreciated.     

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Snake Eyes

I read this quote in an article about risk and chance ("Playing the Cards" by Brooks Haxton):
Einstein said that “the Old One,” his name for the ultimate cosmic power, “does not throw dice.” The logical crux of this statement for an agnostic like Einstein might have involved some gamesmanship. But Einstein’s refusal to accept a way of thinking that devalues the idea of consequence and choice has always struck me as admirable.
Judaism has an understanding with seeming chance, mostly in terms of "throwing lots"; even our ultimate villain, Haman, knew about this bond, and attempted to manipulate the concept for his own ends, even unintentionally naming the resultant holiday, Purim. 

On Yom Kippur, two literal scapegoats were brought before the Kohen; a lot was thrown, decreeing which would have a noble end as a sacrifice to Hashem, while the other would be unceremoniously shoved off a cliff.
I found this article on the OU website tying together the two seemingly disparate holidays. 

Lots, or dice, are the essence of caprice: no rhyme, no reason. One day, flying high, then slip on a banana peel and down he goes. The subjected one, inexplicably, is tossed into security and grandeur. No matter how one claims control, we are all subject to the seemingly chaotic whimsy of the universe. "Mensch tracht und Gott lacht."  
It is in lots that many cultures see the divine, the order that is emitted from turmoil. It is when we throw the dice that we abdicate from our ability to choose, placing the outcome in the hands of a higher power. It is not that we ignore God when we employ the anarchy of lots; we remove our biases by abiding by a decision from the truly unprejudiced. We throw together a dizzying array of variables, give a shake, and toss out a simple solution. Is that not where we see the Eibishter most clearly?

We can choose to see only chance. Or we can choose to see only "the Old One."  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hear Ye, Hear Ye


On the day of Friday, the 20th of June, year 2014, the Frumanista posted her experience of a dating suggestion (whom, it should be noted, was not identified in any way, and it would be impossible to do so). The Suggestion was hurt by her written perception of him, and the Frumanista does not wish any to feel pain from her posts. 

Therefore, the original post has been modifed, deleting the offensive passage.

—The Frumanista 

Dressing for Men: Yarmulkas!

The yarmulka design selected (or kapuls, as they are referred to in my house) is usually an individual decision based on religious identity, separate from the fashionable realm. 

But I still believe that, overall, there should be some protocol in place (you can take the girl out of Hungary . . . )

The standard kapul has a dome-design, to hug the back of the head.  (Take, for instance, the term for Israeli anti-rocket security, the Iron Dome: Kippat Barzel.)

However, I notice that a number of men scooch the kapul forward from its designated, rounded spot to the flat part of the head, then attempt to clip it down, somewhat unsuccessfully. This is sometimes done in a weak attempt to shield a receding hairline. 

The kapul was not made to be flattened. It doesn't like it. It rebels. It bunches, it fights the clips, it becomes . . . unflattering. 

For the gentleman who is trying to shield his bare scalp, I have some sad news: Clipping the kapul there merely attracts attention and identifies the wearer as insecure. The major bummer about hair loss, and I sympathize: Resistance is futile. 

Alternative: Opt for close-cropped haircuts, which renders thinning hair less obvious, and still wear the kapul where it should be worn, at the dome of the head. Otherwise, develop a hat fetish.  

While the dome design is necessary for kapul wearing, sometimes it goes too far. 

There is a kapul catching on now whose physique is rather disturbing . . . it is stiff and peaked, not mimicking the soft curve of the head but stands to attention a trifle disconcertedly.
Wearing such a kapul turns one into . . . a Conehead. 

This can probably be blamed on the design. 
The more segments there are in a fabric yarmulka, the wider the base, the lower the height, the snugger the fit. Even five-part yarmulkas are sometimes insufficient for those with large heads; they need the six-part. 
Only 4 segment here. Nope.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6! We have a winner!
(Because the suede yarmulkas are flatter by design, four segments are sufficient.)
Knit yarmulkas, also known as kippah srugas (kippot sruga? kippot serugot? Dikduk is not my best subject), do not have this concern, being segment free.  
Best. Picture. EVER.
I was invited to a wedding where the couple had recently become religious, meaning most of the guests were a blend of gentile and Jew; I have a feeling the former outnumbered the latter. The venue's complimentary yarmulkas were not the usual white satin "conehead" variation, but the sufficiently segmented black velvet. 

I have to say I was having a really hard time trying to differentiate tribe member from polite observer. All the men looked so natural in the black velvet kapul, even the one with distinct Nordic roots. The secular grandfather was the only one who looked awkward, his white peaked yarmulka fresh from a pocket, doomed to perpetual creasing.

I'm partial to the black velvet. It's subtle, doesn't need clips to stay on (unless the wearer is 3), and it takes a lot more than the slightest puff of wind to knock it off. The knit versions are usually the safest in terms of chic fit, but can often require clips. However, with the black knit, since it tends not to draw attention to itself, a larger size that will hold to the head without assistance is a viable option. 

To summarize: A yarmulka should curve companionably to the dome of the head, but not add extra height. It should seem as though it is not trying too hard; it should be worn effortlessly.
Nice fit.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Happiness Without Reference

School years were tough. Not academically; I'm what my mother calls a "professional student." What was hard for me, in retrospect, is that one is thrown into a classroom of girls, and chances are that a large chunk of them is not one's type, and the ones that could potentially be one's type are usually all too aware of the "ranking system." 

When 12th grade ended and I was finally released into the wild, I reveled in my freedom. The morahs weren't the worst, really; whatever inaccuracies they attempted to impart were casually undone by my parents every night. Rather, no matter how I tried or didn't try, I never really found my niche amongst this haphazard selection of classmates I had no say in. 

As it turns out, not being reliant on others for happiness is the way to go. Instead of being slavishly devoted to whatever goodwill others' may or may not choose to grant me, I have found personal contentment and self-esteem. 

If someone my age attempts to insult me, I no longer know how to take it. I haven't had to humor or cajole social acceptance for years. I respond sharply, casually cutting the conversation short, because I have no desire to share the company of she that can belittle me. If someone older than me attempts to insult me, I respond as politely as I can, casually cutting the conversation short, etc.

There is one segment from Laura Munson's book that stuck with me. 
My twelve-year-old daughter comes in crying because one of her best friends won't talk to her. It's been going on for weeks, she says, and she can't stand it anymore. It's eating her alive. She needs advice.
And I tell her all of this. The theory, that is. The stuff about suffering . . . 
And she gets it. She's suffering because she has chosen to base her personal happiness on things outside of her control . . .
What if someone told you that when you were twelve years old? What if you'd spent your whole life understanding that we have a choice?
One of my favorite scenes in Pride & Prejudice is when Lady Catherine, fearful that Darcy plans to marry Elizabeth rather than her own daughter, bears down on Longbourn to browbeat her into submission. 
At one point, Lizzie states: 
". . . I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me."
How often do we let those who are "wholly unconnected" to us dictate our peace of mind? Why do we care? Why do we let the seemingly gleaming lives of others tarnish our own?

I choose not to be on the lower end of a friendship. I choose to spend my money the way I want to spend it, not how others do. I choose to dress the way it suits me, as opposed to any unflattering trends. 

For too long I projected unhappiness onto an external cause. But why should I abdicate a personal right to others?  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

You've Got Too Be Carefully Taught

Q: You were on the Mets when they were known for having a hard-drinking clique of players called the Scum Bunch. You’re a very religious man. Did that keep you out of trouble? 

MW: No question about it. When you’re younger and you get a little freedom, you always want to test the water. But there’s something in the back of your mind that corrals you, and that could be nothing but your faith and what God has instilled in you. It starts with your parents — your parents can only teach you. They can’t force you to learn it.

The above is from an interview with Mookie Wilson, a former Mets outfielder (fear not, my brothers raised me right; I am a Yankees fan). Mr. Wilson is currently training to be a minister. 

The Sh'ma states: "And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up." 

Hashem knows our limitations as parents. We cannot force our children to follow in His ways, in our own ways. We can only do as much as we can, which is to tell them, to teach them, to talk about our beliefs casually and constantly. 
Via vosizneias.com
Like Mr. Wilson says, "Your parents can only teach you. They can't force you to learn it."

When I'm babysitting, I usually get roped into reading a few too many Berenstain Bears books, so by the time I finally execute the final tuck-in I'm ready to make a run for it. 

"We have to say Sh'ma," the little one insists. 

I figure the main phrase is sufficient, but the 4-year-old informs me, "We also say 'V'ahavta.'" 

They don't know yet what they are diligently saying. But they were taught, and they learned, and in time, they will learn more, please God.

As Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."