November 9th: Getting to Work

I know a lot of people who are saying that they aren’t going to work or school tomorrow. This day has been exhausting, and many are depressed and disheartened. I don’t blame them. But I won’t be one of them.

You better believe that, at 8 am, I’m going to be in Bible class, tired and stressed. You better believe that I’m going to daily services held at school. You better believe that I’m going to get to work. Because today is the day that I’m needed most. The world needs leaders, rabbis, who are willing to work hard when the world looks bleak. Today is the day that we need those individuals who are willing to find hope in the despair. Today is the day that we need to fight for our country and our values, even when the majority of our country are willing to side with bigotry and xenophobia, to vote for fear and not for hope.

Now is not the time to abandon the country and move to Canada. It is the time to fight, to demand that our country represent our values. My tradition teaches me to protect the weak and stand up for the downtrodden, to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. We are a country that was built upon a foundation of taking care of all members of society, and I’ll be damned if I let a racist, homophobic, womanizer take that away from us.

So I’m going to school tomorrow to work toward being a leader. The world needs real, true, moral guides right now. We can’t afford to rest.

November 8th: The Time to Act

Today is the day when America changes. By tonight, the country will be profoundly different, one way or another. We have waited a long time for this day. From two fierce primaries to a long, bitter campaign season, the country has been constantly confronted by the challenges we face and demands some kind of solution from one individual or the other.

We are going to wake up tomorrow morning with a new leader (assuming the election is called by then). Yet, all of the problems we’ve been talking about for the past 18 months will still be very much real. We will still have a massive wealth gap, dividing the rich from the poor. We will still be faced by immigration from countries with huge refugee populations, looking for a safe place to call home. We will still have a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which could cripple the country’s ability to govern itself meaningfully.

We have spent months talking, discussing, debating. Now is the time to begin the work. It is time to make policies that will make the lives of Americans substantially better. It is time to begin to work together to come to terms with our political reality, rather than simply waiting for the next go-around. The time for waiting has come and gone. Now is the time for action.

It has been clearly established that it is very likely that over 50% of Americans will not have voted for the next president. There will be a great number of people who will be represented by the OTHER candidate. Are those people to go into hiding, flee the country, be left on the fringes of society? No. That is not what Americans do. Those people have an important role to play, demanding that all voices are heard and that all Americans have a stake in this country’s future.

We cannot afford to keep waiting. We continually sit and wait and argue and filibuster. Our inaction as we wait for the political election process has only exacerbated our challenges. We now must get busy doing the work of running the country, both Republicans and Democrats, in order to ensure that the work gets done and gets done well.

We have seen enough division and conflict. We have felt enough hatred and anger. It is now time to heal, but we need to do so actively. We need to take ownership of the running of our country, and ensure that we move forward into a future we can all be proud of.

The entire world is watching what happens tonight, to see who will be the next generation of leaders in this country. Tomorrow, it is time to show the world what it looks like when Americans take pride in our nation, and what happens when we rally together to stake our claim as the leaders of the world.

October 27th: Apple’s Diverse Convergence

A little over a week ago, Apple sent out invitations for their latest tech launch. CEO Tim Cook took the stage today and announced exactly what most had speculated for the past several months: the newest edition of the MacBook Pro.

As predicted, the new Pro device is not only thinner, lighter, and brighter than its predecessor, but also features an LED command strip, which allows app-specific commands and navigation. (Did I mention that it comes in Space Gray?)

There had also been some conversation about an update to the MacBook Air, which hadn’t received any attention in the past several years. That foot didn’t drop, but one Apple representative put it fairly clearly: between the 12-inch MacBok and the 13- or 15-inch MacBook Pro options, everything you needed from an Air had been swept up into the new line.

This might displease some Apple fans, but it shouldn’t. The brilliance of Apple’s reach is becoming more and more clear with every product they release.

Our media use is more diverse than it has ever been. We are consuming and creating in ways that are not only new, but ever-changing. As a result, Apple has made a committed effort to ensure that each user gets a device that caters specifically to their needs.

From Apple’s smallest screen on the Apple Watch to the mid-sized tablets of the iPad to the maximum productivity notebook of a MacBook, consumers see a solid line from each size and style, flowing one to the next. By removing the Air from their line in favor of simply the MacBook, they are able to maintain the linear nature of their products and eliminate the redundancy of two different 13-inch laptops.

Those that want a touch-screen have the iPad Pro in both larger and smaller sizes. Those that want a classic clamshell laptop have the traditional and bonafide versions. The goal becomes that an individual is able to walk into an Apple store and tell an employee exactly what they are trying to do to be matched up with the perfect device for them. Most importantly, they will not only receive a device that matches their needs, but receive one that is the top of its class, the absolute best phone, tablet, computer money can buy.

Apple has, over the last year, been working to bring all of their branches together to form a single line of products, flowing one into the next. Today, they took a big step forward to trim the fat where it needed to be trimmed, and beef up the last area that was lacking. The convergence of their personal technological products have made them the perfect fit for any consumer. Apple is attempting to prove that, while you can’t be everything to everybody, you can be each thing to anybody.

October 26th: America’s Literacy Report Card

Reading is more accessible today than at any other point in human history. Books are produced more easily than ever, magazines seem to be everywhere. New media like blogging and digital publishing have made information easier to transmit and new technologies like tablets and e-readers make that information easier to access. Everywhere you look, there are access points to literature, news, academic writing, and more, at any place, at any time.

The Pew Research Center took a look at reading habits of Americans and discovered that, while the format and accessibility continuously changes and adapts, the amount of reading done by the average citizen is remaining fairly constant. Reading on tablets and cell phones is on the rise, while dedicated e-readers aren’t very common and aren’t growing any more so. Maybe most surprisingly, the study found that young adults actually read more often than do their older peers, while millennials are matching the reading behaviors of their parents and older generations.

This is encouraging data for a society that is constantly afraid of the erosion of a culture of learned scholarship. Access to, comfort with, and understanding of literature is, after all, central to the ability for a society to advance in positive directions. Throughout history, there are dozens of examples of places in which our written materials have not only withstood the test of time, but have fundamentally the way we think about who we are and who we hope to be. From religious texts such as the Bible to governing documents like the Constitution to literary fundamentals like Shakespeare, pen to paper has been the way that we, as human beings, have been able to understand ourselves and create something meaningful to drive our existence.

Literacy and a willingness to read lead directly to a comfort in writing. Now, not every participant in a society needs to be responsible for writing the next great text or manifesto, But, a culture that values reading and writing leaves the door open to allow for the constant evaluation and reflection that is inherent to a high-thinking society. As long as we continue to expose ourselves to new and diverse ideas, we remain open to inspiring our own creativity and ability to use language to reflect and, in some cases, change our experience of the world.

October 25th: Happy Birthday iPod

15 years ago this week, a technology company released a product that fundamentally changed not only the music industry but, in many ways, the world of personal data forever. Thus was born Apple’s iPod.

Over the subsequent 15 years, iPods got smaller, bigger, developed larger screens and fewer buttons, and created an industry around the ownership and sharing of music. While mp3s existed before the iPod, the product became the gold standard of music portability.

Interestingly enough, the iPod is all but dead. Apple doesn’t even have iPods as a tab on their website, only a music tab where you have to scroll down to figure out how to buy one. iPods have almost entirely been swallowed by the cell phone industry. Why carry a second device when your phone can carry your music and do so much more?

While this may be true, it is impossible to ignore the influence that these early toys had on the development of the modern cell phone, and the ways in which music purchasing and sharing changed as a result of the departure from physical music sales (i.e. records, CDs, etc.)

As iPods celebrate their 15th birthday, it is very reasonable to believe that there won’t be a 16th. Yet, as the iPod specific brand passes on, it is impossible to ignore the fingerprints that they have left all over the evolution of modern technology.

See the evolution of the device on The Verge.

October 20th: A Cut Above

During last night’s NLCS game, Dodgers’ center fielder Joc Pederson came about one comment away from being thrown out of the game. After being rung up on a borderline strike three call, Pederson gave the home plate umpire an earful, arguing that he should have earned a walk. Clearly home plate umpire Angel Hernandez was feeling generous, because what would have been an easy ejection during the regular season was only a stare-down in a game that mattered that much.

What the camera didn’t show as clearly took place a few innings earlier. During an at-bat in the fourth inning by Cubs star and leader Anthony Rizzo, strike 2 was called on a borderline 3-1 pitch. Rizzo, thinking it was ball four, dropped his bat and began to walk to first base. Upon realizing a strike had been called, he came back, picked up his bat, and proceeded to club a massive home run.

The TV broadcast crew showed footage later on of Rizzo’s next at bat. In it, you can hear a conversation between Rizzo and Hernandez in which Rizzo gives a heartfelt apology for showing up the ump. They share a nice chat, all was forgiven, and Rizzo continued on to have a massive slump-busting night.

These games are the most intense part of the year. Every pitch counts, and both teams are playing like there is no tomorrow. For Pederson to get upset is absolutely normal, understandable even. For Rizzo to keep his cool and behave like such a class act shows just how special he is.

I won’t buy or wear a t-shirt or jersey for players who cheated or committed crimes. I will only represent people who are worthy of the admiration we give to our sports heroes. In the sports world, there are plenty f people who do not live up to the standards set before them, who do not uphold the values of our society. After last night’s game, and after seeing the entire body of his career, I am reminded that I’ll never have to worry about my Anthony Rizzo jersey. I’m proud to be a fan of a player who respects the game and all who make it possible, and a team that has chosen him as their leader.