Category Archives: Uncategorized

Open letter to the Guardian

Yeah, I’ve been writing a couple letters lately.  If people want peace, the first necessity is a common understanding of basic realities.  Feel free to write them yourself at

Regarding your defence of the anti-Hamas advertising:

While I admire your defence of an advert, the dithering language in which you defended it distresses me. You are a newspaper. You could have easily countered the clamor among your readers with an investigation on whether the human shields argument is TRUE or not. Which, it is. There’s plenty of evidence out there to make that assertion, or at least defend it. I’m sure I, Rabbi Shmuley, or any number of your readers would be happy to engage people on this topic. Indeed this is what needs to be done in a forum where more Israel opponents deny Hamas is even firing rockets into Israel.

If all you are is a gossip column for those who want to believe a propaganda line, then by all means continue what you’re doing. But if you aspire to be journalists, I urge you to at least research a bit and not just be a weather vane for public opinion.


Your Running Shoes Don’t Matter

I’m a proud owner of a pair of Vibram FiveFingers.  In fact, it’s my second pair, I wore out my first pair with no adverse effects on my legs.  So I watch with amused disinterest when I see the various pro/con stories pop up.

This latest one, “Barefoot running shoe maker forced to withdraw health claims”, got me thinking.

Thing is, I also own a pair of Nike Frees.  And a pair of rather bulky Asics.  I rotate between all three for my runs.  And I can say this with confidence:

Your running shoes don’t matter.

Sure, the shoes feel different.  And they teach you different things about your stride.  My Vibrams taught me a lot about how bad my form was when I got them.  This just happened to coincide with a rigorous yoga/training schedule that included weight training, better diet, and less running.  Yes, less running.  Don’t knock it, it shaved almost a half hour off my marathon time, but that’s beside the point.

Here’s where I learned that if I wanted to be a faster runner, my form needed to improve.  And that’s why your running shoes, in the end, don’t matter.  The distance between your foot and the asphalt?  ¼ inch, tops.  If you’re thinking a proper cushion is going to make a lick of difference, you might want to rethink that.

No, it’s your footstrike that starts the cushioning.   The arch of your foot grips the road as it coils up, the shock travels up your leg and gets further absorbed by the thighs, hips, and then your core.  There’s your cushioning.  About four feet of muscles and tendons in a delicate trapeze to keep your torso gliding smoothly as a cloud over the road.

Sure, Nike and Vibram will tell you some BS about how your feet and calves will adapt to the strain of minimalis shoes.  They’re marketing departments and you should suspect them.  Is your form off?  Do you run with a hunched back and a potbelly?  Do you shuffle along like it’s a struggle to stay upright?  Your feet and shins are not designed to handle that kind of strain.  They will only crack and break.

It’s what I discussed with my friends at Phase IV – “overuse injury” is really a misnomer.  It’s really “overabuse” – that is, running for too long with a form that abuses specific joints not designed to handle stress.

Instead, look at the people that show off those light shoes in the ads.  They’re fit, trim, their abs are tight, and they run like they’re hovering over the ground.  If you want to avoid injury, you need to learn how to run like that.  That takes dedication.  It’s the kind of gait we aspire to as runners, it’s what we admire in awe when we watch elites glide down the road like a dream.

And when you keep this as the benchmark of injury free running, your running shoes don’t matter.

Is PETA anti-Semitic?

So I’ve been hearing this more and more lately – Kosher animal slaughter causes much more suffering to the animal than conventional slaughter. As a Jew, I take this accusation seriously, since the entire law of Kosher slaughter is based on the animal not suffering at the moment of death. So I did some Google searches on the subject, and I have to say the results weren’t satisfactory.
On the one side you have PETA, who has a definite agenda to go vegan, and they bring this all up to support their argument. Their one source of actual evidence was this NY Times article from 2004 detailing abuses at a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa.
One article about one place ten years ago does not constitute a pattern, less a policy that contradicts the theory. And only a cultist would run with it straight to the conclusion that vegetarianism is the only solution.
On the other side, you have the rabbis, who insist up and down that according to Jewish slaughtering rules, the animal must not suffer. This guy gives a good explanation. I have to acknowledge what he says about this accusation being another form of anti-Semitism. Frankly this whole “Kosher animals suffer more” has about the same amount of evidence as the old “Jewish bankers run the world” canard.
And I’ve known people who’ve learned the trade of Kosher slaughter, so I know the proper practice exists at least in some places. But, as another article puts it, factory style slaughterhouses may have a completely different practice. And that’s where I see there may be a point.
So it seems like the issue is transparency at kosher slaughterhouses. Are they living up to the spirit of the law and making sure that animals are not suffering? Or are they just giving a tip and a nod to the law and, in the name of efficiency, maintain practices that result in a lot more suffering than conventional slaughter? And if that is the case, are Jews aware of this and doing anything about it?
If people really wanted to address this question, this is how they would approach it. So far I’m not seeing that. All I’m seeing are the kind of abstract debates and finger-pointing that the internet excels at. Like I said, this is a serious accusation, and if it is true, and Jews remain unaware of this, then Judaism is in need of some serious reforms. But if it is false, then the accusers can be branded as anti-Semites.

Our health profit system

So I pulled a calf muscle in my last half marathon, nothing debilitating but I am limping a bit. And I’m wondering if I should go see a masseuse about my calf, to see if they can tell if it needs anything more than basic TLC. It’s because at this point I’m avoiding doctors at all costs.
You see, less than a year ago I broke my fibula – that’s the small shin bone. It was pretty bad, and the orthopedist convinced me it would heal best if they surgically implanted a rod to fuse the broken halves together. I agreed, and in retrospect, I’m glad I did.
But even with insurance that thing cost me over $5000 out of pocket. Even not including physical therapy, it cost me about $4000 out of pocket.
I got a bill from the doctor, a bill from the anesthesiologist, the surgery center charged my card before they even let me in the door and the company that provided the rod and screws billed me. That’s not including the copays I shelled out between visits or the miscellaneous drugs I was prescribed.
Each bill was almsot $1000. It’s ridiculous. I don’t have the money to pay these guys, I’m basically paying about $100 a month between them all to keep it from going into collections. The insurance company is absolutely no help in helping me figure out if any of them are even justified in charging me. All for a freaking outpatient surgery. I think the surgeon told me it took 15 minutes to do the acutal procedure.
The whole industry is like a pack of vultures on a carcass. It wasn’t always like this. Back in 2000 I had a burst appendix and spent a week in the hospital, the whole thing cost less than $30k and the insurance paid for eveyrthing.
And here’s the thing. I’m not poor, I don’t have some shitty job with no benefits, I make over the median and pay extra for decent coverage. But apparently, decent coverage now allows you the same benefits as no coverage did only 10-15 years ago.
Why is this not the foremost issue in Washington? How is it that people aren’t up in arms about this? Not only are they not up in arms, they’re actually defending the current system! The health care system isn’t broken: we HAVE no health care system. There is no such thing as health care in America anymore. It’s a health profit system. They find ways to make money off you if you’re sick or injured, and God help you if you actually expect them to make you better.

Guns guns everywhere, but nary a man who thinks

I originally wrote this back in [Tue Apr 24 13:53:33 2007] on my old website. Seems worth repeating today. You can browse for it at

The thing that frightens me most, after the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, was all the people I met who thought it would be a good idea if everyone in the university were carrying a gun. It’s simple really – guy shows up in a classroom toting a gun in a threatening manner, everyone pulls out their guns and mows him down, disaster averted.
Well it certainly set me off. Thinking this was just the opinion of a lunatic fringe that has no idea what a University should look like, how a safe and open atmosphere needs to be cultivated so people can freely exchange thoughts and ideas, I kept repeating to others “can you believe people actually think everyone should carry a weapon everywhere they go?” And time and time again, I was met with a pause, then a “what’s wrong with that?”
I was so flummoxed that I went to the local bar – hardly a place to discuss gun restrictions – and drank myself silly. But then, as I went to puke in the toilet, and I fell forward and hit my head on the porcelain, Jesus came to me and explained everything. He explained exactly how if people were armed, everywhere and all the time, the world would be a better place.
And here I present to you, straight from my personal lord and savior Jesus, a list of the top ten spots where people should be able to carry guns to prevent possible attack:
10. The shower. Would Norman Bates have stabbed that poor girl in the shower if she was within arms reach of a 9mm?
9. Political rallies. You never know when a crazy gunman can come in…
8. White House press briefings. In fact, if we did this right, who’d need a secret service?
7. Pre-schools. In fact, the sooner you can teach your infant to carry a gun, the safer they’ll be from predators and childless lesbian baby-snatchers.
6. Those swimmers in Jaws. Nothing like an AK at sea to ward off sharks…
5. Congress. We can both get rid of metal detectors and stop all that liberal backtalk.
4. Parliament. That 12-foot space between parties in Parliament to symbolize the length of a lance? Only a brit could think up that faggoty idea!
3. The boardwalk. I feel so much more comfortable and safe now that everyone’s got a pitbull on a chain, everyone with a gun should be paradise.
2. Work. If everyone carried a gun, nobody would ever go postal.
1. Ban chopsticks – bring guns and stilettos back to the dinner table.
Some other honorable mentions –
Schools. This didn’t make it, because we’ve already got schools where everyone totes a gun, and we know what paradise those places are. I see all the rich families busing their kids to those.
Parks and playgrounds really fall in with the other categories.
Hospitals. We’re closing all those down anyway so it’s not a significant location.

Allison Stokke at the 2012 Olympic Track Trials

This is also my experiment with image embedding and SEO. I understand a picture of Allison Stokke can get you a huge traffic boost. So here’s me with her at the Olympic Track Trials in Eugene from earlier this year. Worth it all despite the busted leg and the rain.
with Allison Stokke at the 2012 Olympic Track Trials