31 July 2006

V'chol Maasecha B'sefer Nichtavim

And all your deeds, in a book, are recorded.

I don't know about that, but I do know that your IP address is recorded and passed around all over the place.

I want to thank Mis-nagid for pointing out to me about the need to be more careful with my IP address.

I'm not an expert in this but I did want to publicize a few things. And feel free to chip in and add some more info or correct any errors.

In case you're new to this planet, every end point into the Internet is represented by an IP address. It might look something like

I pulled that number out of a hat.

The number is associated with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who owns a range of addresses for example thru 255. (I'm just making these up, if this happens to be your address, well that's a co-incidence).

A search on http://www.arin.net/whois/ tells me the owner of that range of addresses.

If you come in from a Cable company or Dial up, your specific IP address is probably assigned to you dynamically when you connect and may not be the same every time you connect.

When you connect to a web site, that web site can capture and record your IP address. Say you logon to Yahoo and send Email from there. Yahoo has your IP address which might identify you as connecting from the IRS in Minnesota. Or it might be Verizon Wireless - which has no Location. Or it might be AOL.COM from Long Island, or it might be 47Th Photo in NY (which no longer exists, but you get my drift).

When you send Email from Yahoo and most other places, the originating IP address is sent along with the Email. The receiver of the Email can view the IP address and look up the ISP of that address.

Likewise when you connect to CITIBANK, CITIBANK has your IP address. And when you connect to a Blog, the owner of the Website (BLOGSPOT or BLOGGER) can capture your IP. But if I run a blog out of Blogger, I control the screen that you see. I can insert HTML that captures your IP address. Normally, individuals do not code this directly, but subscribe to a third party vendor which will do this. This third party software also keeps statistics as to how many visits there have been to the Blog.

I guess you see where I'm going with this. If you're a skeptic and wish to remain anonymous there are steps you might want to take.

Now, is anyone really looking to out me? I don't think so. Nevertheless, I don't want people to know who I am.

Here's some things to know. HUSH mail and GMAIL do not pass along your IP address. So I switched from Yahoo to GMAIL.

I normally don't refrain from commenting on other Skeptic sites. I trust them. We're in the same boat. But see below for an important caveat.

As a general rule, I might comment on other very busy sites where it's difficult for the Blogger to correlate times.

Also you can use what is known as an "Anonymizer". It is effectively like sending a messenger to do your dirty work. The messenger will get shot. The target web site sees the IP address of the intermediate machine. See www.antiwebfilter.com for a free version. It does have limitations; unless you install a special piece of software it does not support SSL so you cannot logon to Yahoo and protect your address.

Also, I have found that some sites (for example Lakewood Yid) do not permit commenting when coming through the anonymizer. I don't know if it's a function of Haloscan or not. I sent LY an Email, from Gmail of course, but he could not figure out why I can't comment on his site. So I don't comment there; sorry LY.

I also can not anonymously comment on Blogger Comment Sites if Word verification is on.

Scroll to the bottom of my Blogpage and you'll see a rainbow colored Icon by Sitemeter. I don't have thousands of hits yet, so my Icon does not publicize my Hit count. If it did, you would see a number indicating the number of visitors I had.

But separate and distinct from the raw number of visitors is the IP information about those visitors.

I configured my Sitemeter account properly and no one can access the addresses and information of my commenters. So when you visit my site, even without an anonymizer, no one else sees your IP address.

But, other sites, such as Dov Bear, are configured as public so all the IP information is available to anyone. Just click on the Sitemeter Icon in the frame on the right side of the page.

(Do not get confused between the Hit count and the ability do see the IP stats. They are configured separately.)

Now Dov Bear's site is relatively busy and it is probably difficult to correlate a comment with an IP address.

But there are plenty of other low activity blogs whose IP stats are public.

So here's what I've done so far.

A) Switched to Gmail.
B) I use a free (remember I'm Jewish!) anonymizer.
C) I don't comment on any non-skeptic sites if I can't use the anonymizer.
D) Before I comment on a Skeptic Blogsite, I click on all "Icons" on the screen to see if I can access the visiting IP addresses. If the stats are public then the same rule applies; if I can't use an Anonymizer, I stay away.

Will I lose you guys? I hope not.

If you have any concerns about commenting here, please send me an Email at BAALHABOS@GMAIL.COM

Have an easy fast.

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    30 July 2006

    Tisha B'Av - God removed his presence

    I just don't get it. First in a series of God knows how many.

    Can someone explain this to me?

    God took away the Neviim from us because we were not behaving ourselves. And if that wasn't enough, because we still had not repented, we lost the second Bais Hamikdosh as well. Still not behaving? God sends the Church, the Muslims, the Nazi's, etc.

    If you had a troubled child, what's the right way to handle the situation. Do you throw your child out? Do you to smack him senseless? Do you excommunicate him. Do you embarrass her in front of the rest of the class?

    That's a sure way of losing him or her forever.

    Yeah, yeah, I've hear the Dubner Magid parables about a King who teaches his son a lesson by throwing him out of the palace. Well, it's a poor example. Firstly in most cases it simply does not work. We see first hand, how children that are not loved, do not behave well.

    Secondly, the Prince is still well aware of the kings majesty. The King has not gone into hiding.

    If we didn't behave when God's Neviim were with us, how can God expect better now when there are no prophets?

    If we didn't behave when there were open miracles in the first Temple, when the Shechina was manifest, how can God expect better of us now?

    It's like a student that's not doing well in school, what do you do? Do you fire the teacher and bring in a lesser instructor? No, you need to add tutoring, not take away the teacher.

    If the Dor Deah sinned, how would we do better?

    The people who witnessed Yetsias Mitzraim, the people who are the basis for the Kuzari's argument, rebelled countless times, we're going to do better? We who are far removed and have no idea whether there even is a God are going to get it right?

    God needs to move closer to us, not further away.

    I know this is nothing new, and my treatment of this above is quite superficial, but stripped down to bare bones that's the situation.

    It just makes no sense.

    May the nation of Israel live safely and securely together with the rest of the world.

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    28 July 2006

    Headlights and Flashing

    No, I'm discussing the real kind.

    There's somewhat of a convention when driving on the highway. Drivers, by flashing their headlights, warn other approaching drivers of police cars hiding by the side of the road waiting to catch speeders.

    On the way to the country, it occured to me - "whats the point" ?. I may warn the first set of upcoming drivers, but by doing so, I alter fate and just cause some other poor hapless soul be ticketed. So who am I to be playing God?

    You might counter, that by slightly delaying ticketing, ultimately less people will get ticketed. Thats because the cop will go off duty, or get called to some other business, etc.

    Lately, as I've begun to slow down because of age and in an effort to increase mileage (yes, it makes a big difference and I don't want to support OPEC anymore than necessary), it's occurred to me that maybe I should completely stop this Flashing business. But then I remember how painful it can be to get stopped by the Cops. But then I think about the anguish that can be caused by an accident on the road.

    I decided to stop Flashing.

    So what do you do?

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    "And must I now begin to doubt
    Who's never doubted all these years"

    - Javert in Screenplay - Les Miserables

    Ironically, it was on a flight home from Israel, when I tripped over to disbelief. It was really like a bulb coming on, where everything that I had read, suddenly and without warning, just tipped the scales of my mind. Like a see-saw where my life is in perfect balance and someone got off the other side and I went crashing to the ground.

    Here I am, somewhat middle-aged, coming upon this crisis of faith. I guess I had the typical reaction, but I don't really know. I remember thinking how unfair this is. After all, anyone coming across this information, in the exact sequence as I had, would definitely come to the same conclusion that I had. I'm pretty certain now, that is not completely accurate. There are different levels of incongruity that people can live with.

    The words of Javert came to mind. Someone firm in moral convictions can suddenly see things differently.

    Several years later, I came across a tale by, IIRC, Isaac Bashevis Singer where a Rabbi on his deathbed undergoes what I went thru.

    I wasn't dying, but I knew my life had changed forever.

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    24 July 2006

    The making of a skeptic or The 5 books of Baal Habos

    Reminiscing over my own Aitz Hadaas I'll summarize it into five books. Think about it, reading 5 eclectic books over a two or three year period, turned my world topsy turvy and undid years of yeshiva study and countless hours of learning. Mind you, I did not go out looking for this change. It happened because the information came to me nonchalantly or as we say "Mesiach Lfi Toomo".

    Not in chronological order:

    Breishis: VS Stephen Hawking "A brief History of Time", this book about cosmology and physics is a real eye-opener and unlike any physics that I came across in college. One of the things about this book that strikes me, is not only the concept of the book, "a history of time", but it's also a history of man's unlocking the secrets of God's universe(s). Each generation of scientific creativity is built upon the genious of it's predecessors.

    Shmos: VS Charles Pellegrino "Return to Sodom and Gomorrah", this somewhat fanciful and speculative book tries to map out and explain the origin of many Bibilical Stories. This is real ironic. I read it as an attempt to help shore up my faltering Emuna. I figured wow, this guy has got archeological evidence to help prove events in the bible. It turned out to be the my TKO. I remember reading this on the airplane to Eretz Yisroel and then again on the return flight home. There was something about this book that just blew me away.

    Vayikra: VS Anne Rice "Lestat"; It's extremely odd to include such literature together with the others, yet it did have some impact so I must therefore (abashedly) include it. This wonderful piece of fiction and the rest of the vampire chronicle series, is unlike the movie version of the first in the series; "Interview with a vampire". I never saw the movie, but I understand it's terrible and bears little resemblance to the books. This is a book about, well it's just too bizarre to discuss the details. But it's a great piece of literature about loneliness and the meaning of life and existence. The relevance here? It introduced the novel concept to me, that perhaps mankind is so messed up and life can be so difficult because God is imperfect. It's amazing to me, how a piece of fiction could have such impact on me. But it did.

    Bamidbar: VS Unfortunately, I don't recall the title. But it was a modest size book that discussed the age of Planet Earth and described how 20 scientific disciplines converge on a common age for planet earth.

    Devarim: VS Any secular book on Jewish History coupled with some info on dead sea scrolls.

    These books above were the start.

    So, any questions? Comments?
    I would really love to hear your personal experiences.

    Coming up: "So now what?"

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    15 July 2006

    GH Retiring?

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    14 July 2006

    Brief quiz.

    I hope you all had a good fast. (I did too).

    Lets see if you've been paying attention.

    What do you think it was it that caused me to see things in a different light?

    A) I was not scholastically accomplished as a child and was not provided with a proper tutor.
    This would be the theory proposed by Faranak Margolese in 'Off The Derech'.

    B) I was sexually abused by my Camp Counselor or Rebbe.
    This would be the belief of Unorthodox Jew.

    C) I was exposed to The Godol Hador of Blogging. This would be postulated by Godol Hador's critics.

    D) I could not resist the temptations of my Friends Wive's
    throwing themselves at me. (Don't worry, the image is safe even for the Yated Neeman and the Modia). This would be the explanation of Chazal who state "Lo Uvdo Avoda Zarah Ela Lhatir Lahem Arayos".

    E) All of the above.

    F) None of the above.

    In case you don't know, the answer will be published next week. God Willing.

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    11 July 2006

    In a jam

    When I'm driving I don't pay much attention to what's going on inside other cars. But, when I'm stuck in traffic, it's almost impossible not to. Usually, I see the same things. Women putting on makeup. Men shaving. People drinking their coffee. Typical stuff. Other people looking out the windows, etc.

    What I saw today was really odd. It took me a while to figure out what he was doing, but it turned out this dude next to me was flossing his teeth, Yes F-L-O-S-S-I-N-G.

    Now that really takes the cake. Or I guess he already took the cake before he drove.

    Hmmm. I got to ask my dentist about that.

    So what have you seen out there?

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    10 July 2006

    Baal Habos

    When I came across a fast moving blog and had the urge to post something, I quickly conjured up a very nondescript name out of the air with the intention of coming up with something a little more creative at a future date. Perhaps something that might describe the type of Baal Habos I was, or some hobby that I was really into. Or some name that invoked some grandiose image. But as it turns out "Baal Habos" is perfect. Because the path that life brought me down is really one that could happen to any of you Baal Habattim out there.

    You see, I didn't go out looking for any sort of skepticism. I really toed the line. Unless you call "reading" a sin. I realize some of you might. But it's really not that unusual or atypical.

    I really am one of you, in every way a very typical Baal Habos. As a child, I may have gone to camp with you or maybe I didn't.
    OK, maybe I went to college and you didn't. Or maybe I learnt in Kolel and you did not. Or you're richer/poorer taller/shorter than me. Or maybe we're 10 years apart. But, I'm just a a very typical Baal Habos.

    You would never in a million years have picked me as the one to go skeptic.

    I sit right next to you in Shul. I might have even davened "far dem Umud" this past Shabbos. Ha, I might even be your Chavrusa. As we speak, you might be checking out my Tsotskele as a prospective mate for your Shaifele. I might already be your Mechuton/Mechitten. I might be your father.

    And you don't have clue.

    You think you'd be different if you'd be in my shoes? I don't think so.

    So please, I beg you, don't judge me too harshly. Or for the skeptics out there, don't give me too much credit. I'm just me. And I tell you now, it's no picnic.

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    09 July 2006

    Come with me, little neshamala

    I guess after blogging a bit, I can now firmly state the purpose of my blog. It's to portray the life of one such as me, who lives a Frum life even though I'm pretty convinced that OJ is off the track.

    I am not looking for this to be a debate on skepticism or OJ. I'm not really very good at that. I suffer from CRS (See below). There are other excellent blogs for that, Godol Hador, Ben Avuya, JA, Orthoprax, RecoveringOrthoJew, (just to name the few that instantly come to mind). There are also plenty of blogs for those seeking Chizuk, such as LY, etc.

    I'm taking this from the perspective of wanting to share my life with you. Some of my history, how I became dubious about OJ (without trying to convince anyone) and of the difficulties of living in two worlds.

    Now and then I may take potshots at things that I feel are wrong with the OJ & Chareidi system. I'll point out the nice things about it too. But that would be no different than other Frum bloggers who have plenty of Emuna.

    I must point out that there is a wonderful forum on Yahoo that already has this stated claim. It's the Frum skeptics group. If you're a skeptic, check it out. If you're looking to be Mekarev someone, stay away. I note though, that it does not serve my particular needs and caters more to those that have made a break from Orthodox practice. There are some wonderful conversations and resources in that Forum so I try to participate. My immediate future posts on this blogs will be about issues that I've brought up there already, so bear with me if you've already been thru those.

    So please come with me, join me on this journey; I honestly don't know where it will lead. Feel free to comment or not. Feel free to leave if you're bored or offended. Feel free to offer suggestions for discussion.

    Oh! I almost forgot. CRS - "Can't Remember S*&%" or us Frummies may say "Can't remember Squat".

    It strikes anytime past the age of 40. I first heard of CRS from a co-worker around three years ago. He mentioned CRS to me as a bumper sticker that he'd seen somewhere. Then something strange happened. I felt I was beginning to come down with it. So I mentioned to him that I'm coming down with CRS. He says "CRS, whats that?" He literally had no-recollection of our conversation. I guess It's progressive.

    So now that I have CRS, I feel I'm no good at debating, bringing up Pesukim to prove contradictions or citing references of scholarly books. I'll leave the facts and debates to other blogs. (Well maybe we can debate a little).

    This is for feelings and experiences.

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    06 July 2006

    Humbling experience

    Blogging can be a very humbling experience.

    Earlier this week, posting what I believed to be a clever post and then getting zero, count em, ZERO, Nada, gornisht, none, EFES, comments is a real downer.

    The saving grace though is the little NEXT BLOG button on the top frame of most BLOGSPOT blogs.

    Most bloggers are good citizens and do not remove it from their Blogs.

    Have you ever hit that button? It brings you to a random blog hosted by some other shlemiel. And I must say that most bloggers get absolutely zero hits as well. So I've got lots of company.

    So why do I blog? I think I do it for myself. Still, it's nice to have feedback.

    I've been toying with the idea of putting up a hit counter. After all I know you're really out there, but you just find everything I say to be so witty and correct that you've no need to comment, right?

    Ha, Fat chance.

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    03 July 2006

    Something missing from Mis-nagid's Masbia Mission.

    Omitted from Mis-nagid's post last week was "how much to donate to Masbia".

    Kolel Yungerleit and others may choose to give 18 for Chai (or some nice multiple thereof). The Kabbalists will undoubtedly donate something like 26 for Yud-Kei_Vuv-Kei. And some others may give some other long cherished Gematria. Like 52 for someone looking to sire a son.

    Hmm. Here's where the skeptics and heretics have it difficult.

    So lets start with the obvious.

    (Here's where I get into trouble with poor Hebrew Spelling. Or maybe it's my math.)

    We can go for 441 which is Emes, after all that's what were searching for. Others will insist we give 306 for Kofer, cause thats what they call us. I would think something like 114 might be appropriate for Madah but others will say 418 for Taavah (did I spell that right?) because they believe we have ulterior motives. I say 240 is really appropriate for Safeik and I imagine Godol Hador will want to donate 516 for Taiku.

    One thing seems clear. It's much more expensive to be a Skeptic than a Maamin.

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