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Well, it looks like even though things were bad for the Democrats, they weren't any worse than predicted--and at least in the Senate, slightly better, in that the craziest of Tea Party crazies unexpectedly lost (ie., Sharron probably Joe Miller in Alaska, and possibly Ken Buck in Colorado, too), and the Democrats managed to hold the Senate. Of course, even though I was hoping that Harry Reid would get re-elected, I was also hoping that he'd get replaced as majority leader, and it sounds like that's not actually going to happen...

So I guess my feelings about the election are a reflection of the way the human reward/punishment system really calibrates to expectations, huh? Since I already got the nauseating feeling from these results earlier on, realizing from Nate Silver's predictions that this really was going to happen. Also, I do think/hope the Republican House will help Obama get re-elected, since they can't just say no to everything and blame it all on Obama. But I guess we'll see how that works out.

Now, I'm also confused about California...which I guess shouldn't be a surprise. The Democrats won all the statewide offices, but the propositions passed to make it completely impossible to do anything to balance the budget other than cut spending. But then how did they also did get rid of the 2/3 requirement to pass the budget? At first, I couldn't even figure out how that would work...but I guess it just means that it'll be easier to pass a budget, but impossible to avoid spending cuts (or even more creative accounting?) in doing so. So...does this mean that UCs are screwed even more than before?

Also, I'm kind of disappointed that the citizens' redistricting thing got applied to CA U.S. House seats, because that's probably not going to be good for the Democrats nationally. But I guess we'll see how that one works out. (Am I remembering right in thinking this doesn't go into effect until 2020? So I guess this could still be repealed, given the chaos of California politics?)
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So after seeing other posts on LJ about Swarthmore alumni weekend, I'm wondering...

I am definitely planning on being there, and it looks like I'm sticking to my original tentative plans, getting in at 10:30 PM on Friday, and leaving at 4:30 PM on Monday. But I'm wondering, for '05 people in particular...if you're going, did you sign up for the class dinner on Sat.? I did sign up, but I'm not sure if it's actually worth the money ($37) if it sounds like other people I know aren't going, I may try to get my money back for that. So...[ profile] reldnahkram? [ profile] uncleamos? [ profile] think_too_much? And, [ profile] rose_garden, if you come to alumni weekend? Anybody else I'm forgetting who might see this? Are you all planning on signing up for the '05 class dinner?
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So I had been meaning to write for a while somewhere publicly about the issue of Holocaust obfuscation in Lithuania, which I became fascinated with this summer. Well, one of the other students on my trip (who happens to also be at UCLA) wrote about it online, and I wrote a fairly long, impassioned reply agreeing with him (and replying to some of the commenters criticizing him and our position).

The original article (which is also very much worth reading) is here:

My comment apparently still needs to be approved by the moderator on that site, but I'm posting it below. Just to say, though: even though I've always thought the Swarthmore activisty obsession is kind of stupid...this is an issue where I really do think some activism is worthwhile, because assuming that what we were told is the full story (some commenters there raised doubts, but I still haven't seen any actual arguments against what we learned), it's something people really should know more about...

My long comment on the issue )
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Just a quick status update here... I did manage to move out of my apartment in New Haven (about 24 hours behind schedule, but hey...), and I made it to St. Louis without incident.

Now, in just a few minutes, I'm going to be heading to the airport to go to Lithuania for a month, for that Yiddish/Jewish history summer program. (I get back on Aug. 22.) I'm not sure how much E-mail/Internet access I'll have there, but I'm hoping to have a little bit, at least... Let me know if you'd want a postcard from there, though, and I can try to send one...
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If anyone who's in the vicinity of New Haven is interested, I finally posted a list on craigslist of stuff that I'm selling before I move. Note that if you're in the vicinity of Philadelphia, you want something that fits in a car, and you see [ profile] reldnahkram on a semi-regular basis, I could probably leave whatever you want with him...

Check out the list here:
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So, I guess our democracy does work--eventually... It's such an amazing feeling to think that we're actually going to have someone intelligent, honorable, and competent to try to lead us out of the mess we're in as a country, after the insanity of the past 8 years. Even though it wasn't a surprise, I was still overcome with emotion last night when I saw that, yes, he had actually won...

And, also--thanks to all of the people on my friends list who worked to help make this happen. I didn't do as much to help as I maybe should have, given how much I wanted Obama to win, but it's good that so many other people did...

P.S. Now, can we please send Sarah Palin back to Wasilla, Alaska, never to be heard from again? And Joe the Plumber... I think McCain was again reminded of, and embarrassed by, the nastiness of that faction of the Republican party, with the loud boos when he was congratulating Obama in his concession speech. God help us if that faction of the Republican party manages to come to power (again). But maybe Obama's presidency can help us move beyond that?
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Crazy, depressing story about academia, from NPR:

Apparently, a researcher who made an important contribution to the research that won the Nobel prize in chemistry this week is now driving a bus for a living. Apparently, he wasn't able to get any grant funding, didn't get tenure, and now hasn't been able to find a job in academia.

Audio at:

According to the comments in a blog post about this, while he wasn't included in the Nobel prize, his work was important enough that it very well could have been.

I posted about this to the SWIL chat list this morning, but it's hard to stop thinking about it (especially with the reflective mood of Yom Kippur). I mean, I don't think this is all THAT common (is it??), and there could very well be somewhat more to this story than we hear from this. And I'm guessing that at least for him, his fortunes will improve some with the attention from this story. But
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So despite my general opinion that both Clinton and Obama have real strengths, and that, despite Obama being really inspiring, Clinton's "experience" really is valuable...with the way this campaign is turning after the March 4 primary, it's really making me nauseous to listen to/read any political news.

Why in the hell is it really necessary for Hillary to turn to Karl Rove-like tactics to try to beat down Obama, even though her chances of winning at this point still aren't great?? Well...I guess the answer mostly confirms the worst stereotypes about her--she wants to win, and she doesn't care who she brings down, or what damage she does, in trying to do that. (After all...if you haven't heard, she apparently said yesterday that, basically, she knows that John McCain is prepared to be commander in chief, and she is as well, but "you'll have to ask Obama about whether he is".) And even though I don't think McCain would actually be THAT horrible as President (well, at least, he'd be better than Bush, unless he decides that he has to keep up his pandering to the right wing)...that's still pretty bad form...
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I think the Cardinals-Mets baseball game tonight has to be about most exciting, dramatic baseball game I've ever seen. And somehow, despite being pretty mediocre since, like, June...the Cardinals are going to the World Series. Now, I don't think they have much of a chance against Detroit...but, nobody thought they had a chance in the playoffs at all, so hey.

The highlights, for people who weren't following:
--The catch. So Scott Rolen has generally been good for the Cardinals, despite getting run out of Philly a few years ago. But for the past couple of months, because his shoulder has been bothering him, he hasn't been able to hit much at all. And in the playoffs, he's been REALLY horrible hitting. And, it's been bad enough that he's not talking to the manager, because La Russa is mad that Rolen wasn't completely honest about being injured. So he comes up with one guy on base, and I at least figure that, once again, he's not going to do anything useful. But he hits a long fly the wall...and the Mets left fielder makes an amazing catch, 2 feet over the wall. And then, he catches the runner who was on base, who apparently assumed that there was no way the ball would be caught, so since it was, they doubled him off also. So instead of the Cardinals taking the lead, and Rolen FINALLY doing something big for the Cardinals...the inning was over, and the game was still tied. The next inning, Rolen ended up making a huge error on defense, which he almost never does...maybe partly because he was still thinking about what happened the last inning. But the Cardinals' pitcher managed to pitch around it, and still, the game was tied.

--The ending. After the Cardinals got a home run by their catcher, who's really not a very good hitter, to take the lead in the top of the 9th, the Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th, against the Cardinals' rookie closer. He's been good, but he's also only done it about 5-10 times, since the Cardinals' regular closer was injured. So he got nervous, trying to close out game 7 of the NLCS, and the Mets end up loading the bases. And with 2 outs, the hitter is Carlos Beltran. He's the Mets' best hitter, and a guy who has KILLED the Cardinals in the NLCS, especially in 2004, when he was with Houston, but at times this year also. And all he has to do is get a base hit to tie the game...or an extra-base hit or a home run to win the game, and the series. So it was a perfect setup for the Mets to end up coming back and winning... But somehow, Wainwright calms down, and strikes out Beltran on three straight pitches. And that was it--the Cardinals won.

There was more, but those were the biggest highlights. I've calmed down some since I started this post, though, and I'm tired anyway, so I'll leave it at that. But yeah...the game was pretty amazing... The thing is, I wasn't even ecstatic, so much as amazed at the perfect dramatic tension in EVERYTHING, and that the Cardinals actually managed to win. Now, hopefully they'll manage to do at least a little bit better than in their last trip to the World Series...but we'll see about that...
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Wow... Apparently, ABC is planning on airing a miniseries about 9/11 that focuses on how it was allowed to happen, and depicts specific people in the Clinton administration vetoing specific military efforts to go after al Qaeda. But according to the people that are shown in the movie, like Madeline Albright, those things never happened. The producer's response is, "well, we say at the beginning that some events may be fictionalized, so it's OK if scenes are misrepresent what actually happened." But if you're showing real people...saying things that would be plausible, if nobody had heard the people who are shown saying them say that these things never happened...and those things happen to be things that would give a big boost to the Republican party if people believe that they did happen, which clearly they will....ugh. Why in the hell do people have to be dishonest and manipulative?

Article about it: Clinton officials rip 'Path to 9/11'

An activist group that has a form letter setup to send to ABC: "Think Progress" Apparently, sending this signs you up for their mailing list, but I think that's worth it in this case... (And yeah, I usually get annoyed with activism because it seems useless, but in this case, ir seems like there may be some chance to actually stop them from airing this thing...)

Now OK, I guess it is possible that the spirit of what the movie shows is true, even if the specific events that they're showing didn't happen--there isn't really strong evidence other than the words of people in the Clinton administation to say for sure that this is wrong. But considering the track record of Republicans lately, I think it's a better guess that this movie is a blatant attempt to make people believe things that aren't true, in a way that will be a huge boost to Bush's approval ratings...
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Just for curiosity, has anyone who follows "Law and Order" noticed a distinct change in the politics of the show in some of the newer episodes? I actually never used to watch it much before, but my roommates got me addicted to it (well, and the fact that there's endless reruns of it on TNT to watch when I want to), so I've watched a lot of it this year. The thing is, on all of the old episodes, Jack McCoy (the District Attorney) really seems like he's honestly interested in looking for the truth and doing the right thing. But I've noticed at least a few episodes from the past year or two (which are noticeable because Jerry Orbach isn't in them) where he instead looks like your stereotypical obnoxious, nasty, egotistical prosecutor who just wants to be able to say he did his job, even if that means ignoring the truth to make his job easier. And the thing is, the way it plays out, it's not intended just to make the show more interesting--it looks like the show is portraying that as how things are supposed to be. And because I generally have grown to really respect Jack McCoy's character, from watching all of the episodes where he is a good guy, it really pisses me off to see that. Can I blame Bush for that? (ie. the show decided that the country has become more conservative, so they need to follow the tide?) Of course, if this has really just happened in the last year or two, they're a little bit late on that, but I don't know.

This was brought on by an episode that I saw tonight, which was really bad with that. A description of the story )

So yeah, of course it is just a TV show, and after writing this, I think a lot of what's bothered me is more from crappy/lazy writing more than any conscious political agenda... Still, I wouldn't be surprised if they are trying to make it more "realistic" to what prosecutors are really like, and trying to appeal to a more conservative audience. And either's upsetting to see a (yeah, fictional) person who you generally really respect as good and honorable, and who does his job the way we'd hope real prosecutors do, all of a sudden become...less so, and be more vindictive and egotistical, and less truth-seeking. But just subtly enough that there's no real explanation for it, and nobody around him treats him any differently, so it just seems like an evolution in his personality, not something sudden that would have an expicit cause that can be analyzed. (Now Arthur did tell Serena, when Arthur was lecturing her, and she asked this, that Jack didn't feel as strongly as he did, but it was Arthur's decision to make. But there's no evidence that Jack disagreed with him, and everything that they did show earlier in the episode suggested that Jack generally agreed with Arthur here, which is what's out of character with what I would have expected from him in the past.) And I guess it's also upsetting to see a show that always was well-written, interesting, and idealistic to all of a sudden change like this. Well...I guess there's still plenty of old reruns out there...
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OK, I guess I'll try this too... (along with a good portion of my friends list)

Johari window
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So in looking at my copies of old Phoenix articles from 1948 and 1949, so I could describe to [ profile] baaaaaaaaaah what happened with Jewish admissions quotas at Swarthmore in a little more detail, it turns out that I had remembered part of the story wrong from when I last looked at these articles a couple of years ago. It turns out that the person who was defending having admissions quotas for Jews, with some statements that sound really bad out of context, and not much better in context, was Everett Hunt, the Dean at the time, not the President of the college. (At least, in this article--I still remember seeing some quotes from John Nason about this, but not in the articles I have here.) The problem is, Everett Hunt is also the author of my favorite book about Swarthmore, "Revolt of the College Intellectual." Actually, his book is really the source for a lot of my idealized vision of Swarthmore. Obviously, the fact that he thought having too many Jews would be detrimental to Swarthmore doesn't mean I can't like his book, but it does make me think. Mostly about the fact that it's probably the same tendency for overgeneralization that makes me enjoy his book so much that also leads him to be somewhat prejudiced. (At least, one person who was at his speech where he defended the admissions quotas said that he needs to follow the principle of "respect for the individual as a unique being in his own right," which I think is a more eloquent way of saying that he really overgeneralized.) And, of course, I'm aware that I myself really like to overgeneralize... I don't think that's always a bad thing, and I'm not going to say that I need to stop doing it, because if I did, I wouldn't have much interesting to say. But it is sobering to be reminded how overgeneralization leads to views that really aren't so good.

Oh, and to describe the issue itself, for people who are curious... Basically, there was a pretty significant number of Jews at Swarthmore in 1948, but they made sure to limit it to, at that point, 14% of the population (where it had been 6% at one time), when there were enough qualified Jews that they could have admitted more. The reason, as paraphrased by the Phoenix, is that they have to maintain Swarthmore as a particular type of community, and "he felt that the duty of the admissions committee was to select students in such a manner as would be most beneficial to the life of this community." "He went on to say that any group such as the Jews would, after a long period of being persecuted, acquire certain aggressive characteristics, and that if as many Jews were admitted to Swarthmore as would be proportionate to the number of Jewish applicants, these characteristics would manifest themselves in a manner not only harmful to the Swarthmore community, but also harmful to the Jews themselves. This was the argument used in defending the "restrictive principle" applied by the admissions committee regarding Jewish applicants" --The Phoenix, Dec. 14, 1949. For the record, the Phoenix had an editorial that was strongly against the quotas, and the students were against them also. So I'm guessing they were probably removed at some point not all that long after that...

But yeah... I mean, I would actually say that the basic idea of wanting to keep the community a certain way makes some sense, even if I obviously don't like the generalizations that he makes about Jews. And apparently (according to the short thing about it on Elizabeth Weber's Swarthmore history page, here, which was where I found out that these articles existed in the first place), most private colleges had Jewish admissions quotas at that point. But still...
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So right now I'm trying to decide if I should actually come to Swat for pumpkin caroling. Pumpkin caroling is a lot of fun, so I think I want to... But if I do, I'll have spent an awful lot of time at Swarthmore in the past few days, especially because I think I'd want to eat dinner at Sharples if I come tonight. So I'm trying to figure out if this is a bad thing (in terms of being around more than an alum really should)... But it really is just because my favorite SWIL events happen to be the ones around Halloween. I would also have to skip the class that I'm auditing, which isn't ideal, but it wouldn't really be the end of the world. Hmm...
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I just posted a long reply to [ profile] crystalpyramid here about why bring from the Midwest explains why I avoided SWIL at first, along with some other sweeping generalizations about the Midwest, and upstate New York, and other things. But it was enough of a monologue that I thought it would be nice to post it here too... (Following in the tradition of my first LJ post, which was also copied from a long introspective comment about SWIL in someone else's journal...)
Well... I'm mostly thinking of the Midwest (or at least St. Louis, or at least my family, but I think it's more than JUST my family) being really conformist, and thinking that it's a really bad thing to be defined as "weird". (It's interesting to notice how my grandma, who I'm closer to than I am to anybody else in St. Louis, is uncomfortable with the idea of me being comfortable with being "weird". And I still sometimes use weird as a fairly strong pejorative term without really thinking about it, even though I realize that it doesn't actually work with my thinking weird people are interesting. But I guess I am still a conformist, in that I don't like being completely separate from the group; I'd rather find a group where I could fit in without having to try too hard, which was why I liked SWIL. This is also why it bothers me to see how SWIL has been changing to be such a closed clique of '08ers, but I guess that's a different can of worms... (I should also say that I don't think SWIL is/was actually a completely compatible social group for me, but it was definitely still better than most others that I've found... And one big reason was that I never had to worry about feeling unwelcome with SWIL.)

But back from that digression... Besides wanting to conform to social norms, the only kind of social groups that I saw in St. Louis were...well, not places where people talked about random, interesting ideas. Like Ronni was saying at Swiloween, people in the Midwest generally aren't as open to talking about abstract ideas. (Actually, I think Ronni can actually make a more fair comparison between St. Louis and Swarthmore than I can, because she knows a lot of people at Wash. U. and went to Ladue High School, which is in an area of St. Louis that's...well, it's known for being rich, but it's also the older rich area, not the area that's full of rich yuppies, which means I would think if anybody would value intelligent people discussing abstract ideas for their own sake, it would be people there. Wow, that sounds incredibly elitist, so, um, I'll acknowledge that before anybody jumps in to point that out and I end up getting offended. But I definitely think the people Ronni's been around in St. Louis would be a lot more open to that kind of thing than the people I was around in high school. My parents live in a blue collar neighborhood, and I went to elementary and middle school there, then the magnet schools I went to for 8th grade and high school were mostly kids from the city. There definitely was a group of smart kids there that I, eventually, became friends with, and actually, if I hadn't been socially inept, I probably could have been better friends with them. But even most of the smart kids I was friends with in high school are a lot less idealistic than I am--they want to do well so they can make money and be happy, not so they can come up with some brilliant new ideas for the world. Which isn't a bad thing, I guess, but it's not what I idealize as much... And then there was my Jewish youth group, which was made up mostly of kids of yuppies, who also weren't exactly the type of people to have the conversations that happen at SWIL table. And, for the record, having conversations about random intellectual things at SWILtable was the thing that I really liked best about SWIL, and Swarthmore. It could be said that I'm comparing apples and oranges trying to actually make a comparison between the Midwest and the East Coast based on that, because obviously, Swarthmore is one of the places on the East Coast where you're most likely to find people like that, where there are places in St. Louis where I wasn't where you might be more likely to find that. But that's why I think it's interesting that Ronni would say the same thing, so maybe I'm not completely crazy making a big sweeping generalization like that.

Why I made a point to say that, in my mind at least, this doesn't apply to upstate New York )

But anyway, where I tend to find patterns where I like people from upstate New York and California, a decent number of the people at Swarthmore who I really don't have anything in common with or who really bother me philosophically are the ones from the Midwest and the South. Well, if I'm thinking of specific people, maybe more the South or middle-of-nowhere places in the Midwest, rather then the Midwest as a whole, because there are some people I like from the Midwest. So maybe it's just that I don't have anything in common with people from red state areas, even if they themselves aren't exactly typical of those areas, which maybe shouldn't be surprising.

But I think that does go back to what I'm theoretically talking about, that the kind of social dynamic I was used to in St. Louis was something where a group like SWIL was something to be avoided, not something to join. So it took me a while, and some dragging, before I realized that I should drop those prejudices because I actually would be happier around the kinds of people in SWIL than around the kinds of people I was used to being around in St. Louis.

So hmm, hopefully this will actually make some sense, and doesn't ramble too too much... (Hmm, while I'm at it, maybe I'll copy this into my own LJ...)
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Hmm, reading the Phoenix, including the article about $1000 being stolen from a freshman in ML, and Arthur's column, being reminded again about what happened at that Sharples party... I guess this is what happens when they try to make Swarthmore more "normal", isn't it? Well, when you decide you don't want to fill your school with wimpy intellectuals, and instead try to increase the number of people who will make lots of money and donate back to Swarthmore... (which is something that I know Jerome Kohlberg has strongly encouraged the school to do), and still expect to keep Quaker values... I guess it doesn't work so well, does it?

(OK, this might be more angry and less well-reasoned than it might be because I didn't get enough sleep last night, after sitting on a closed Schulkyll Expressway from 2 AM and 3:30 AM last night, and I should be studying for a test tomorrow. And I'm a little bit numb from the Cardinals losing, although by the end, it looked like the Astros really were the better team, so the Cardinals needed to just be put out of their misery... Well, it hurt a lot less than if they had lost on Monday, which they were within one out of doing... And I'm also noticing the irony of blaming Jerome Kohlberg, when the victim of the Sharples thing is an Evans scholar. And considering that he gave me about $150,000, I guess it's really not fair for me to blame him for things. But still, wow... There really has been more aggressive violence by Swarthmore students lately than there ever was before, hasn't there?)
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So I did end up going to KI for services today. They were OK, and I can see that Rabbi Sussman is probably more intellectual than most Reform Rabbis... But I saw that there are still significant things that annoy me about Reform Judaism. For one, the whole idea of the suburban, upper middle class Jewish ideal, which is so obvious in a Reform community. I guess it's ingrained in me, too, but...I guess I've learned to be aware of it, at least, rather than just accepting it as good... Well, I guess that comes from Swarthmore, doesn't it? I also really realized something else on the comparison between Reform and Reconstructionist Judiasm. I think Reform really does feel like it's your responsibility to be Jewish, it's your responsibility to contribute to and be a part of the Jewish community, it's your responsibility to raise kids Jewish, and so on. So Reform make that responsibility as easy as possible, but...there's still the expectation that you don't necessarily WANT to do it. Or if you do, it's because you want to contribute to the community, or you feel that it's your duty from God. But the idea of wanting to do it for yourself, because you think Jewish traditions themselves are valuable and interesting, and that they're actually meaningful... I don't think Reform has as much room for that. I may be wrong on this, and Reform synagogues do talk about community a lot, but I still feel like there's less actually wanting to be a part of the community, and more getting brownie points for being a "good member" of the community. Well, I don't know maybe that is just my experience, but... I'm pretty sure Reconstructionism has a stronger focus on actually making people WANT to be Jewish, and on showing why the traditions themselves should be meaningful and important. Well, hmm, I was starting to think that that meant Recon is more focused on Jewish history (and culture) where Reform is focused on community, but maybe that doesn't exactly work, since Reconstructionist does really try to build a sense of community... But...oh, actually one thing I was thinking of at services, Reform does a lot of things for APPEARANCES. That's what really annoys me about it (and what really annoys me about that suburban, upper middle class Jewish ideal, really). That was why I liked Edward Parrish so much--because he blasted Magill for wanting to do things just for APPEARANCES. Parrish, on the other hand, would never do something just for appearances--if he did something, he wanted it to be really meaningful. I think Reconstructionist really tries to give things a deeper meaning, like Parrish would have, where Reform Judaism figures that nobody really cares, they just want to get on with their lives, so you might as well try to look good...

On a separate note, I was also somewhat annoyed with the sermon, which I had really been looking forward to. Well, I guess hearing Rabbi Sussman give a sermon was my main reason for going there, to hear what an intellectual Reform perspective would be like... He was talking about the Israeli pullout from Gaza, and how great it was, and how Israel handled it so well. And actually, even though I haven't followed that all that closely, I really agree with the decision; I think it's good for Israel's own interests, and it's also really good to at least try to let the Palestinians have some freedom. But he was only talking about how great Israel was, and how Jews HAVE to support Israel, and giving the entirely one-sided perspective that the mainstream Jewish community has. I mean, I AM relatively pro-Israel, and I definitely think Israel's existence is a good thing for Jews. And I really believe something that I mentioned last night, that people in my grandparent's generation couldn't dream of criticizing Israel, because they were alive when it was still a dream, and then they saw it actually created, so it's still something really special to them. Where people in our generation take Israel for granted, and we can be more critical of things Israel has done, because, well, Israel HAS done some bad things, and Jews SHOULDN'T be expected to just blindly support Israel just because it's the Jewish state. I was actually a little shocked at one part of what Rabbi Sussman said, that KI especially has to be sure to show its support for Israel in the wider Jewish community, to erase the stigma on the congregation from 60 years ago (when, I'm guessing, KI must have come out publicly against the state of Israel...) I guess I didn't realize that support of Israel was so expected in the Jewish community (or at least in the Reform community) that there actually could be that strong of a stigma for not giving Israel full support.

I should mention that in general, I thought the sermon was in general articulate, and he did go into some intellectual depth on why Israel's decision was a good one, which was interesting.... But, wow, I had forgotten how being pro-Israel is so strongly dogmatic, at least in the Reform Jewish community...

But I don't regret that I went there, I don't think, because it was interesting to go somewhere different, and like I said, even though Beth Israel's services are OK, and I like Reconstructionism, Beth Israel's services aren't perfect for me either... I do wish I could go to Reconstructionist services for Yom Kippur instead of my family's Reform temple in St. Louis, but ah well... It will be nice to actually go with my family for Yom Kippur, though, I think...

Oh, and I should also add, L'shanah Tovah
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I'm at Swarthmore right now, after going to Rosh Hashanah services and dinner on campus, which were fun, although I ended up being later than I would have wanted to be, because of the silly people at Bed Bath and Beyond screwing up an exchange that I was trying to do... Well OK, the person who actually screwed up was helpful, but the people who tried to correct the mistake, since she had apparently been just about to leave, took forever... (Actually, I was meaning to post this question on LJ... Does anyone have advice on finding a mattress pad/protector that's comfortable on a bed that's perfectly comfortable without a mattress pad? It's really harder than you might think... )
Oh, after checking Google, apparently wool is actually a really good dust mite repellent. So maybe this one actually WILL be the best...

But the other thing I'm trying to decide right now is where I want to go for Rosh Hashanah services tomorrow--Beth Israel (the Reconstructionist synagogue in Media), or Keneseth Israel, where [ profile] rose_garden's former rabbi is. He's a professor of Jewish history as well as a Rabbi, and Viva really liked him, which makes me think I would enjoy his services. So I was leaning towards KI, just to try it, especially since it's not far from where I'm living, even though I really like Reconstructionism much better than Reform. But Viva has said that a good rabbi is more important than the denomination, which I can believe... But since I'm going to Yom Kippur services with my family in St. Louis, do I really want to go to Reform services for both high holidays? And the stuff I've seen from KI makes it sound like a fairly typical Reform temple, like what I know from St. Louis, which isn't so great... At the same time, even though I like the Reconstructionist prayerbook and philosophy, the rabbi at Beth Israel isn't necessarily my absolute favorite, because I think she's really too activisty/ultra-liberal. I also was thinking I probably wouldn't know anyone going with Ruach to Beth Israel anyway...but then I ended up having a really nice conversation with a guy who transferred to Swarthmore this year as a junior, and I'm guessing will be going to Reconstructionist. It sounds like he's going to be pretty involved in Ruach, and it would be nice to make a new friend in Ruach, which might convince me to come to Ruach stuff more than I probably would otherwise, since most of the people I was really friends with in Ruach were '05. And he, and Jethro, the new Jewish advisor (well, and a student at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), were both trying to convince me that Reconstructionist services probably would be better, even if Lance Sussman is a really good rabbi. But...if I'm driving by myself, which I guess I might as well do, since apparently Ruach doesn't need drivers, would I even talk to anyone who goes from Swarthmore anyway?

Yeah, so I'm kind of locked in indecision, although I guess I'm leaning towards Beth Israel at this point... Does anyone have advice? (Especially [ profile] rose_garden, if you see this...)
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We're in Rome right now, and seeing some interesting things. We went to the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's today, but I started to realize that in the Vatican Museum especially, and in Rome in general to a pretty significant degree, there's just an ovewhelming amount of stuff to see, but you really need to have a lot of background knowledge to really appreciate it. I guess most tourists don't have that knowledge, so they just look at the pretty stuff, and admire it. And it is worthwhile to do that, I think. But I couldn't help but feel like "hmm, I know this can defintely be appreciated more if you have more background knowledge..." Especially with the Vatican museum, where there's ridiculous amounts of pretty artwork, but they don't make much effort to explain why it's significant. I guess that can be hard to do with a display, and it's even harder because we were rushing through things, since we only had a little over an hour, because we didn't want to wake up insanely early to get there when it opened, and they close early, (1:45 on Sat.), and there's long lines to get in. And plus I don't know all that much about Christian theology in general, which it's sort of assumed that you do in Christian artwork. But what I'm thinking is basically the difference between a random classical music concert, and a concert conducted by John Alston. With one, you say "oh, pretty music", where with the other, you really appreciate what you're hearing. So, yeah... Well, it was still cool to see, even if I couldn't entirely appreciate everything...

I think I do have more background knowledge for (at least some of) what I've seen in Germany, which has helped. And I've picked up knowledge about the Berlin Wall stuff (which I don't know as much about), from helpful displays there. This experience in Rome has kind of reminded me why it probably would have been interesting to do the summer Yiddish thing in Lithuania that I thought about doing. But that wouldn't have actually worked out for this summer, for a number of reasons, and I've probably had more fun anyway sightseeing with Susan.

I guess since I am posting, I should also mention that Susan decided that we should just be friends, at least for a while. We are definitely still having a lot of fun together, and it's true that that does take some pressure off for right now, as far as like having to worry "should we be dating? or should we just be good friends?". And we can maybe still have a relationship that's sort of in between dating and not, sort of like [ profile] scibilia and David. At the same time, though...well...I definitely do still have a lot of affection for, I guess we'll see what happens. I've definitely felt more angsty about this at other times over the past week (ie. when I've had time alone...), and I probably will post again with deeper thoughts on this at some point relatively soon. But in the end...I guess it depends on what she wants...
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