Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walking Exercise to the Upper East Side

Leena and I went for a long walk from our apartment on West 49th Street between 9th & 10th Avenues, east to 1st Avenue, then up to 60th Street and over to the river alongside the Queensboro Bridge at the East River Pavilion.

Then we walked on the walking / biking path up to Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion, using the public restrooms there before heading back inland towards Central Park.

At Central Park we walked down 5th Avenue to Central Park South and over to 7th Avenue, then zig-zagged our way back to our apartment on West 49th Street...

Overall a good walk.

I carried my SLR with the Tokina 11-16mm ultrawide angle lens, but wasn't happy with most of the pictures...  After using my Canon 35mm f/1.4 L series prime lens, the photos I get from almost all my others just seem dull and lifeless in comparison.

View Autumn Sunday Walk on Upper East Side in a larger map

Friday, September 28, 2012

Yom Kippur Symbolism and Synagogue Services

This is interesting…  I work in an office with coworkers who are almost all orthodox Jews, and one of them sent me this email for Yom Kippur, with quite a lot about the holiday I never knew.  While I have no wish to partake, I appreciate the symbolism and think about the meaning, at least in the context of "self".

For myself I haven't participated in Yom Kippur in well over a decade, and indeed, during my stay in India I often didn't even know when it was as I simply wasn't paying attention to Jewish holidays.

If I'd known some of this information about the symbolism and purpose of Yom Kippur when I was much younger, before I reached the point that I stopped believing in any gods, I wonder if it would've changed me at all.  Not now of course, now that I've had such a long time to not participate in Jewish life that I found out I'm not missing anything.

But I can still think about it.  There are equivalent ideas, looking inward, analyzing how I'm spending my life, how I'm affecting others, positively or negatively, without the religious component of believing in god or people having a soul.

My memories of going to the synagogue for services are that they're all pretty much the same.  Since I never learned Hebrew vocabulary and not a whole lot of the aleph-bet, and Hebrew school didn't really cover symbolism or what Jewish life was all about, services were boring.

Services were just sitting in the synagogue, fidgeting in an uncomfortable suit my mother made me wear, listening to the rabbi or cantor (I'm not sure I know the difference, really) drone on and on, or sing some prayers or something, while I followed along for a paragraph or two, turn the page when the rabbi either says to turn the page or when a number of people around me turn the page, stand when the rabbi says "all rise" then sit when the rabbi says to be seated and try not to stand when the rabbi only wants a small group to stand…

And do that for hours and hours, anxiously waiting for it to end.

Sure, Yom Kippur had fasting, and the Kol Nidre song, Rosh Hashanah had apples and honey, Simchat Torah had a parade of torah scrolls, and so forth, but services were almost all the same otherwise.  And we never really went to ones that weren't major holidays.

Between sessions or when it was was finished was the fun part, I could run around with either my Hebrew school friends or my cousins who were at many of the services.

Otherwise, services were just something to get through.

And after having gotten through my Bar Mitzvah at 13 and then later moved out from under my parents' roof, I'm glad I'm independent and can choose not to spend my time in synagogue services.

Below is the text of what he emailed me, which he got from Chabad, which came from  It is probably copyright and all that, so I want to make it clear that below is not my writing...  (and it's not my formatting, either, I originally received it with black text on a dark blue background).

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Tonight we will begin a 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur.  We don't do this in order to afflict ourselves, which is the purpose of the fast of Tisha B'Av when we mourn the destruction of the Temple—indeed Yom Kippur is not a day of mourning but a day of joy. We fast on Yom Kippur because on this day we want to transcend our physical limitations and be like angels, and food and other physical concerns distract us from our spiritual selves.

Some people may complain that the hunger distracts them from concentrating on the prayers and rituals of the day.  But this is precisely the Yom Kippur challenge—not to be overly focused on the physical.

Use the opportunity of not eating and not drinking to allow yourself to experience the food and drink that comes from deep within. Fasting will then become a very freeing experience.

Yom Kippur is one day in the year when you can access the deepest part of your soul. But this is only possible if you create the space for it. Your soul—every soul—has a still, soft voice that emits a unique hum. This sound can only be heard if you lower the noise in your life that usually drowns out your inner voice.

On Yom Kippur, when the "source" is nearest to the "spark" of your soul, you want to remove as many material distractions as you can, so that your soul can sing freely and your "spark" can dance.  

When you experience Yom Kippur this way—which does take effort, and that's why you need to prepare for it—then it will be for you not a day when you feel hungry, but a day when you feel angelic.

The same holds true for the other prohibitions of Yom Kippur—against bathing, anointing, marital relations, wearing leather, etc.—all of which are meant to detach us as much as possible from the physical realm so that we can be free to experienced the spiritual one.

Instead of indulging in physical pleasures, we spend the day in the cocoon of a synagogue where we are cut off from the outside world. We spend the day in prayer—our whole intention being to transcend the physical world, our material home, and to travel inward toward our purest spiritual selves—toward our true home in G-d.

Before darkness falls, marking the official beginning of the 10th day of Tishrei which is Yom Kippur, in every synagogue in the world a haunting melody is sang—Kol Nidrei.

Kol Nidrei means "All Vows" and its classic text, repeated three times, each time louder, is a renunciation of all oaths and vows.

It seems strange to begin the holiest day of the yea—the day which we spend asking G-d to forgive us for all transgressions—by breaking former promises.

But Kol Nidrei is not that. Kol Nidrei is the process through which we enter the holiest day of the year.

neder is not just the vow/promise that you vocalize to another person, it is a word that denotes all commitments, attachments, and ties that bind you.

By renouncing "all vows" you are declaring your commitment to break the bonds that keep you from traveling on the journey within, that keep you from opening yourself to the Yom Kippur experience.

Obviously, this does not mean forsaking healthy commitments and responsibilities—it means forsaking those attachments that limit you, that entangle and entrap you. 

That is the essential focus of Kol Nidrei. It is a perfect prayer to begin Yom Kippur with because unless you free yourself from such traps you cannot travel inward; with a ball and chain attached to you, you are not going to be able to get anywhere.

Kol Nidrei is repeated three times to relate to vows in speech, vows in deed, and vows in thought:

All vows and things we have made forbidden on ourselves... we regret having made them, may they all be permitted, forgiven, eradicated, and nullified, and may they not be valid or exist any longer.  Our vows shall no longer be vows, and our prohibitions shall no longer be prohibited, and our oaths are no longer oaths.

Wednesday, September 26
Tishrei 10, Yom Kippur

The preparation work in advance of Yom Kippur is a journey inward which culminates in the fifth and final prayer of the Yom Kippur service—Neilah (the "Locking of the Gates").  

Every day we have three prayers—Maariv (the evening prayer), Shacharit (the morning prayer), Mincha (the afternoon prayer). On Shabbat and every other Jewish holiday we have a fourth—Musaf (the additional prayer). But only on Yom Kippur is there a fifth—Neilah.

This is because Neilah corresponds to the fifth and highest dimension of the soul—the Holy of Holies of the soul—which we access only on this one day at this one time. 

The five dimensions of the soul (from lowest to highest) are:

Transcendental life
Intellectual life
Emotional life
Biological life

All days of the year we're able to access the three dimensions of our soul; on Shabbat we access the fourth,chayah, but only on Yom Kippur can we access the fifth,yechidah—oneness with G-d.

This is because during Neilah, before the gates are locked, everything is open and we are able to reach even yechidahwhich is the most intimate, vulnerable, tender, gentle part of the soul of the human being, unshielded by the defenses of the other levels. We reach it at the precise moment whenNeilah is said, and when at its conclusion we declare:Shema Israel... "Hear O Israel, G-d is our G-d, G-d is One."

The Shaloh, the great medieval 16th century sage writes that "there is no higher experience for the Jew—as when he acknowledges the oneness of G-d and his readiness to give his entire life to G-d." This is the moment when the spark and the flame come closest all year round.  This is the most powerful moment of the year. This is the moment that you are the closest that you can come to the essence of everything, to G-d.

xcerpt from 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2012. All rights
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Complaint Letter to Church & Dwight Co.

I'm sending the following letter to Church & Dwight Consumer Relations department about a product we recently purchased from them.  It's a disposable product, and the same brand and style we've used for nearly a decade.

The newest package we purchased feels and performs quite differently, in a bad way, from previous packages.

I'll post an update if I hear back from them.

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Church & Dwight Consumer Relations
469 North Harrison Street
Princeton, NJ 08543

September 26, 2012

Dear Consumer Relations,

My wife and I recently bought this box of Trojan Ultra Thin condoms and we're not happy with them at all.  We've been using the Trojan Ultra Thin condoms for a number of years so far, with a previous, smaller box, purchased in July 2012.

The condoms in this new box, purchased From Target early in September are different and harder to use.  They have an expiration date of May 2017.

The wrapper on each one seems to be different.  Instead of the paper and foil combination, now they feel more like plastic and I have to struggle more to open them.  Each time when I try, a small corner tears off, but not enough to get the condom out, forcing me to struggle a little more, at, let's be honest here, an inconvenient time…

Once the wrapper is off, the condoms in the new box simply don't unroll smoothy only my erection.  It takes far more effort to get them unrolled and most of the time I simply can't get one unrolled to completely cover my erection.  The rolled edges of them are far, far thinner than with ones from previous boxes we used, like they're rolled much more densely or something.

We've not successfully had intercourse using any condoms from the new box due to the difficulty in using them.

I am enclosing the bottom flap of the box as instructed.


Kevin Rubin

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Magic Love Spells

As a teenager in the 80's I was a big H.P. Lovecraft fan, and had my own copy of the Avon Books edition of the Necronomicon (it didn't seem so easy to find then, before Amazon and other online booksellers).  It's somewhat amusing, and I enjoyed the commentary part of it that compared Lovecraft's mythos to Babylonian or something more than I actually enjoyed the magic part of it.  It's a good companion to any Lovecraft collection, of course...

In college I met a few other fans of weird fiction, including Leo, who said he'd actually used the spell in it to find a woman.

The spell goes a bit like this (courtesy of the Occult Forum because I don't have my copy of the book with me in New York City):

To Win the Love of a Woman
(chant the following three times over an apple or a pomegranate; give the fruit to the
woman to drink of the juices, and she will surely come to you.)

I seem to recall it requires some preparation, including a specially consecrated knife and what-not, so this is only useful after having gone through some prep work for reusable equipment...  A short "by-the-way" overview is on this blog post...

Well, Leo said after he did that he ended up dating a girl named Shelly, and was still dating her when we were in college, though she wasn't there, so he had to head out of town to see her.  And of course, he could easily make the rest of our group a bit jealous by showing us the photo of her in a miniskirt, as the rest of us didn't have any girls in our lives, too nerdy...

Eventually they broke up and after college, in Seattle, he bought a lucky crystal and met and married a girl named Michelle, which lasted a while...

And now, nearly three decades later, he and Shelly just got married this past weekend...

Maybe it worked, just a bit slow...  In any case, it's a pretty cool story!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Evening with Leena near the Brooklyn Bridge

After lunch yesterday and some errands, as the sun was getting lower, I took Leena over to Brooklyn to see the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jane's Carousel and then we walked back to Manhattan after dark on the Brooklyn Bridge for a fun evening, out later than usual.

We saw some group of possibly actors in costume on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a photo shoot...

Leena took some photos of a young Indian fellow with his camera on the promenade.

We saw more than one wedding party for photos in the Brooklyn Bridge Park (although I have my doubts about one, I thought I overheard someone say "sweet 16 party" but there was a guy dressed different from all the others, like a groom in a wedding party, then again, they looked awfully young, I don't know...)

We made it to Jane's Carousel as it was getting darker and I managed to get some shots with a slow shutter during it's last run for the evening before they closed for the night.

Then we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to get back to Manhattan and catch a train up to Times Square, near our apartment.

Fun, fun day!

I like this one, putting her white sweatshirt on, Leena looked a bit like the guys in that party,
especially the one doing similar contortions...

Leena was photographing that couple making out, performing for their own photographer...

From Brooklyn Bridge Park I noticed that lone water tank on the roof, but the 35mm lens
wasn't idea for this shot, so some major cropping...

Love locks on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sex Life Improvements in New York City

One of the reasons I was getting homesick in India was because our sex life was, well, very dull...  Both of us were sick much of the time, going from one throat infection to a stomach ailment to a sinus infection, to the flu and so forth, and there was very little overlap when both of us were between illnesses.

In between those, there was a lot more pressure to overeat at most meals, and neither of us was exercising at all.  I was afraid to step out the door because of the traffic, heat, pollution, noise and general chaos of Indian streets made me horribly uncomfortable and relieved to spend most of my free time inside reading books or playing on the computer.

Unfortunately, all that really ruined our sex life, neither of us was "in the mood" at the same times, and when we were, I was so out of shape that my "performance" left a lot to be desired, not really satisfying either one of us.

But now that I've been in New York City nearly two years, eating somewhat better (I mean, no dietician is going to cheer over my diet, but it's not as bad as in India where Leena and her mother really pressured me to overeat continuously with oily, rich, fried Indian foods (I mean, don't get me wrong, most of it was delicious!)) and walking heavily on the weekends, I'm in better shape.  When Leena arrived a month and a half ago she commented on how I've lost a lot of weight.  She's also bee joining me in walking hard on the weekends and is overeating less here.

With both of us in less bad shape than we were in India, and healthier, our sex life is getting a lot better!

Some of what helps is we get to be more romantic on a day-to-day basis, holding hands while walking, and unlike India, where any time we move near a window there's someone down below looking up, drivers, watchmen, laborers walking by, here we can walk around the apartment in various states of undress without worrying about an audience staring at us.

Another big help is the smaller apartment, making us bump into each other quite a bit more...  In India we lived in a 3 bedroom flat, each with our own bedroom (she said my panic about being late every morning kept her from sleeping), and it was up to me to make visits in the mornings when I was in the mood (which sometimes didn't last in a chilly walk across the flat).  Now we have a single, tiny bedroom so we're sleeping next to each other, finally.

And having inspiring neighbors doesn't hurt, either...

So, yeah, life is better in New York City!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

At the Top of the Rock - Rockefeller Center

We had a fun day.  Leena and I walked to Rockefeller Center and met Lenny and Cookie, my mother's cousins, then got tickets to go to the Top of the Rock, the 67-69th floor observation decks on top of Rockefeller Center.

The elevator took us to the 67th floor, where there were rooms inside and outside observation decks with tall safety glass free standing, the same on the 68th floor, then the 69th floor was wide open.  The north side had shade and the south side had very harsh sunlight...

For camera gear I carried my Canon SLR with the 35mm f/1.4 lens and kept it on automatic the whole time.

My full album is on Picasa...