Our New Daughter’s Name, Rimon Hadasa, OR, What Do Purim, Pesach, Circumcision, And Wood Skewers Have In Common?

Thank God, we have another daughter. Everyone is healthy and the birth went well, though there was a scare that turned out to be nothing in the end, caused by a broken monitor that had a team of doctors rush in to do an emergency C-section. But the midwives stopped that and got control of the situation, got a new monitor, everything was fine, and 10 minutes later she was born. I was sitting at home working when my parents called to say Natasha was in labor and I should get to the hospital. So I leisurely started putting on my shoes and was starting to head out. By the time I got to the car my father came around the corner and asked me how many pounds is 2.8kg.

“Huh?” I said, “Already??”

She came out fast. It was the first birth I actually missed, but it’s OK. It was a good thing I wasn’t there during the emergency C-section scare. I would have freaked out. My mother and mother in law handled it all pretty well.

We named her on Shabbat, Rimon Hadasa Farber רימון הדסה פרבר. Here’s the story and meanings behind it.

Natasha’s grandfather (poppy) Murray, משה בן אסתר, passed away last year. He was 90. About a day or two before he died, we found out that Natasha was pregnant. It was a surprise for us, but a pleasant one. It was way too early to tell anyone. We had just found out, but we decided to tell grandma and poppy anyway because we all knew he was slipping away and he should know before he died. So on his deathbed, through Skype, we told him that we would name the baby after him.

We wanted an ‘R’ and ‘M’ sound in the name for Murray, and picked Rimon, Hebrew for pomegranate. I myself am named for two great grandmothers Raizel and Feigle, hence the R and F in my own name, so we did a similar thing here. Hadasa, Rimon’s middle name, is Queen Esther’s Hebrew name. Esther was her Persian name.

We were quite hesitant about the name Rimon at first. We liked it personally and it sounds nice to an American ear, but we both knew that to an Israeli it sounds like “hand grenade” which is another modern meaning. That wouldn’t have been a problem by itself but we also have a daughter named Serach (שרח) which is a name I love because I love the character and the story behind her. She is Asher’s daughter, Jacob’s granddaughter, who is mentioned in the list of 70 people going down to Egypt in Breisheet and also coming out of Egypt in Bamidbar. According to some sources, she – not Ruth – is the first convert, adopted by Asher. Given that she’s mentioned both going in and coming out of Egypt, she lived at least 210 years, and some Midrashic sources say she never died.

Anyway, we call her Serri and she is beautiful, I mean really. Many times Israelis stare at her and tell me that, and then ask her name. And I say her name is שרח. Then what usually happens is that they correct me and say something like “In Hebrew it’s pronounced Sarah, not Serach.” And then I have to insist that her name is not Sarah, and that I know my daughter’s name, thank you very much. I’ve had to do this many times, and those are the easy encounters. At worst, they look at her, tell me she’s pretty, and ask me her name, I tell them שרח, and they say, “Why did you give her such an ugly name?” Those are the really “Israeli” Israelis.

See, in Hebrew, Serach sounds like מסריח , which means “stinky”. We knew this. It has absolutely nothing to do with the name though, and we weren’t going to let that stop us from giving her a name that we actually wanted and admired.

Anyway, two days after Rimon was born, before she was named, I was at the post office with Serri and the same thing happened. We were the only ones there and the two clerks, both women, commented that’s she’s pretty and asked her name. I tell them Serach. And again, they correct me and say it’s not pronounced Serach, it’s Sarah. And again I insist that I am not a stupid American who doesn’t know Hebrew, I know what my daughter’s name is, and her name is SERACH. Asher’s daughter. It’s in the Tanach, in Hebrew.

“How do you spell it, with a ה or a ח?” one of them asks.

“A ח. שרחחחחחח,” I emphasize and extend the ח.

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

Then I made a mistake. They ask me if she has any other sisters. Absentmindedly I say that she just got a new sister two days ago.

“And what’s her new sister’s name?” they ask.

Not thinking, since you’re not supposed to tell people the name before the naming, I tell them “Rimon”. And they look at me weird, saying with their eyes, “Well here’s a crazy American naming his daughters ‘Stinky’ and ‘Hand Grenade,’ like one of those postmodern hippieish people who are into homeopathics and whatnot.“

A lesson – not telling people the name before the naming is important, because it can create doubts.

We were going to name her on Thursday but I didn’t wake up early enough for the 6:15 minyan, thinking that subconsciously maybe I was having second thoughts. So we thought it over again Natasha and I, and we decided, definitely Rimon. Here’s why.

I’m not the kind of person that looks into “signs from heaven”, but I don’t discount the possibility of them, or of God trying to tell me something, just an ordinary person. So the following I’ll just say that maybe God was trying to get me to name her Rimon, and maybe I’m just reading into things, but then these are pretty crazy coincidences. Interpret however makes you feel comfortable, but this all happened.

When we were first settling on Rimon, Natasha asked me where the word appears in the Torah. I remember it is featured a lot on the clothes of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, and remembered part of the verse describing his tunic because it repeats. פעמון ורימון פעמון ורימון are the words I remembered specifically, and that the pasuk must be in Tetzaveh or Pekudei, or both, which describe the whole priestly wardrobe. So I looked it up and sure enough, it’s there, in both places, slightly different in each place. Here’s the one from Pekudei:

וַיַּ֛עַשׂ אֶת־מְעִ֥יל הָאֵפֹ֖ד מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֹרֵ֑ג כְּלִ֖יל תְּכֵֽלֶת׃ וּפִֽי־הַמְּעִ֥יל בְּתוֹכ֖וֹ כְּפִ֣י תַחְרָ֑א שָׂפָ֥ה לְפִ֛יו סָבִ֖יב לֹ֥א יִקָּרֵֽעַ: וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ עַל־שׁוּלֵ֣י הַמְּעִ֔יל רִמּוֹנֵ֕י תְּכֵ֥לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָ֖ן וְתוֹלַ֣עַת שָׁנִ֑י מָשְׁזָֽר׃ וַיַּעֲשׂ֥וּ פַעֲמֹנֵ֖י זָהָ֣ב טָה֑וֹר וַיִּתְּנ֨וּ אֶת־הַפַּֽעֲמֹנִ֜ים בְּת֣וֹךְ הָרִמֹּנִ֗ים עַל־שׁוּלֵ֤י הַמְּעִיל֙ סָבִ֔יב בְּת֖וֹךְ הָרִמֹּנִֽים׃ פַּעֲמֹ֤ן וְרִמֹּן֙ פַּעֲמֹ֣ן וְרִמֹּ֔ן עַל־שׁוּלֵ֥י הַמְּעִ֖יל סָבִ֑יב לְשָׁרֵ֕ת כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־מֹשֶֽׁה׃

The robe for the ephod was made of woven work, of pure blue. The opening of the robe, in the middle of it, was like the opening of a coat of mail, with a binding around the opening, so that it would not tear. On the hem of the robe they made pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, twisted. They also made bells of pure gold, and attached the bells between the pomegranates, all around the hem of the robe, between the pomegranates: a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe for officiating in—as God had commanded Moses.

Now, about two weeks before she was born, when we were already mostly set on Rimon but I was still having some doubts, our community was honoring the חברה קדישא, the “Holy Gang,” volunteers who clean and dress the dead for burial. Thanks to my friend Ezra, I am on the Chevreh Kadisha. The week the shul was honoring the Chevreh was Parashat Pekudei, the Parasha about the Cohen Gadol’s clothing. They gave me שלישי, the third Aliyah, which begins with that exact passage about pomegranates and bells all around the Kohen Gadol. In no other place in the Torah does the word Rimon appear so frequently, five times in three psukim! I am imagining that God is ringing off the pomegranate bells that this is her name. Ding ding! Use it! פעמון ורימון פעמון ורימון OK OK I get the point!

But it didn’t stop there. Thursday night the next week, our parents are both with us helping to watch the kids, waiting for Natasha to give birth. The city is hosting a dinner at a nice restaurant for the Chevreh Kadisha and their spouses, and Natasha and I finally get to go out on a date to a nice restaurant without the kids thanks to our parents.

We go out to the “Chevreh Kadisha Party” and they present a gift to each person on the Chevrah Kadisha. It’s a cutting board. Here’s a picture of it:

Pomegranate Cutting Board

Rimonim all over the place. I get the point. Her name is Rimon. Rimon is coming.

The pomegranate has plenty of Halachic and religious significance. It’s the fifth fruit of the 7 Biblical fruits of Israel, which is the most well known aspect of the rimon. I won’t go into everything here, but there is one obscure importance to pomegranates that most people are not familiar with. Mishnah, Psachim 7:1

כֵּיצַד צוֹלִין אֶת הַפֶּסַח, מְבִיאִין שַׁפּוּד שֶׁל רִמּוֹן, תּוֹחֲבוֹ מִתּוֹךְ פִּיו עַד בֵּית נְקוּבָתוֹ, וְנוֹתֵן אֶת כְּרָעָיו וְאֶת בְּנֵי מֵעָיו לְתוֹכוֹ, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי. רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר, כְּמִין בִּשּׁוּל הוּא זֶה, אֶלָּא תוֹלִין חוּצָה לוֹ

How is the Pesach offering roasted? We bring a skewer of pomegranate wood and stick it into the mouth and through the anus, and place its legs and entrails inside of it according to Rabbi Yosi Haglili. Rabbi Akiva says “This would be a kind of boiling. Instead we hang the entrails outside of it.”

Why pomegranate wood? Because the lamb must be entirely roasted by fire, and not by a material that the fire heats up, like a skewer. So we can’t use a metal skewer, which would get too hot and cook the meat that was in direct contact with the skewer. We also can’t use just any wood, because wood tends to sweat moisture when heated, and the escaping water would boil the meat at the point of contact rather than the fire roasting it. So pomegranate wood specifically is used because pomegranate wood is dryer than other woods and doesn’t sweat when heated.

Now, consider this. Every Pesach sacrifice needs a fairly long pomegranate wood skewer. That’s a lot of skewers. What must that have been like? Well, on Succot in Israel there these big open markets of the four species lulav, etrog, hadas, and arava and there are different kinds, different levels. Mehudar (pretty), super mehudar (super pretty), plain kosher, really big etrogs for those who want an extra beautiful one, etc. Hiddur mitzvah, getting the biggest and most beautiful, is a big thing with the four species. People are really into it. I’ve even seen a guy with what must have been at least a 10 foot long lulav. (Haha, yeah yeah, laugh it out.)

Imagine what Pesach would have looked like during the time of the Beit HaMikdash when everybody did the Korban Pesach. There must have been huge markets selling long sticks of pomegranate wood, some of them decorated maybe, carved with shapes in them, maybe pomegranates, plain kosher, mehudar, super mehudar, all that stuff. These things were probably given as gifts also. I can imagine in people’s homes at that time beautiful decorated pomegranate skewers for each Korban Pesach hung up on walls and such, one for each year, burnt edges, clean middle. This is what Pesach would have actually looked like, and very few people are aware of it, that pomegranate wood skewers were such a big part of the Passover holiday. The pomegranate to this day remains a very popular decoration in shuls and Jewish homes. (Cutting board case in point.)

Essentially, you cannot do the mitzvah of Korban Pesach correctly without a skewer of pomegranate wood. It’s there in the middle of it all, hanging it all up, stabilizing the whole animal, but not influencing or interfering with the process of the roasting at all. It knows its place. Unassuming, humble, but central to the whole mitzvah. Doing its part by staying cool, not sweating, and letting what needs to be done, get done, so the mitzvah can be completed. I hope Rimon ends up being just like that.

One last thought. We have one son, Efraim. We call him Fry. I struggled doing a brit milah (circumcision) on him, because that violates the non aggression principle, the holy of holies of libertarian halacha. This is what I wrote about that:

And in the end, Judaism forces me to be a minarchist, of a sort. To draw a line from my own personhood instead of from something outside myself. To have just a little intuition of my own. I circumcised my son without his consent, and thereby broke the NAP, the holy of holies of libertarian law. I hated it. I cried. And then even I, the uncontrollable libertarian radical teeming with hatred of the State, drew a line from within to circumscribe power. I did, and will do brit milah, and that’s it. I can’t explain why in any logical terms other than God told me to. And I will not go any further than that into the realm of power over other men. Not ever. Not one inch.

I didn’t want someone else to be my messenger for an act that I found problematic. It felt cowardly, so I did the cut myself. (The mohel did the setup obviously. I just did the cut.) After that, though maybe I shouldn’t have in retrospect, I asked God not to give me another boy because I just didn’t want to do that again. (Yes, I would have done it again if it came to that.) I only circumcised because I believe God told me to do it. That’s it.

What does this have to do with Rimon? Well, there are only two positive mitzvahs that failure to do them results in Karet, spiritual excision from the Jewish people. Very bad punishment though I don’t really know what it means. It’s just below the death penalty. One mitzvah is Brit Milah, circumcision. The other is Korban Pesach. They are both blood mitzvahs, the blood of circumcision, and the blood of the Pesach lamb that was smeared on the door posts in Pesach Mitzrayim. These two mitzvot tie the Jewish people to God in blood. This is what is referred to at a Brit in the pasuk בדמייך חיי, בדמייך חיי. By your blood you will live, by your blood you will live, repeated. One blood for circumcision, one blood for Korban Pesach.

Just like פעמון ורימון פעמון ורימון. A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all around the Kohen Gadol, who actually executes the Pesach sacrifice. I’ve done the first blood in Brit Milah. And we named Rimon after the second, and after Murray, and after Murray’s mother Esther, Hadasa.

To an Israeli ear, Rimon is a boy’s name, another reason we were initially hesitant to name her that. I know two women named Rimon though, so I knew it wasn’t exclusively a boy’s name. Perhaps though, the fact that it is seen as a boy’s name is appropriate in retrospect, since she is named after the Korban Pesach, the parallel to a Brit Milah.

Born between Purim and Pesach, she has a name related to both, Rimon Hadasa. Related to circumcision, related to Murray, משה בן אסתר, and related to the blood mitzvot that tie all Jews together and to God.

And there is no fruit juice more deeply blood red than the blood of a pomegranate. Another Jew has come into the world. Thank God.

 

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The Life-Changing Magic of Dumping Your Crap On People In Need

We’re KonMarieing the house. We decided to do this when our 10-month old baby who can neither walk nor read books about the Japanese art of tidying, took a book about the Japanese art of tidying off the bottom of an abandoned bookshelf in my parent’s house, and handed it to me, as if to say, “UB-YON!”, which is the only thing she knows how to say.

The KonMarie method of tidying was invented by a crazy Japanese lady named Marie Kondo, who was so obsessed with tidying as a kid that she would spend her recesses in grade school organizing the classroom bookshelves by hue instead of normal kid activities like eating Tide pods, which would probably make sense for someone obsessed with tidying. Her entire approach to tidying is to THROW. EVERYTHING. OUT.

She’s one of those weird success stories of someone with an extreme mental illness who made millions by convincing everyone else that they are the ones who are actually crazy, God bless her.

So you KonMarie your house by giving it a surprise enema so that all the garbage you have ever accumulated in your whole life – minus the things that you really actually wanted to find – end up on the floor in a pile that vaguely resembles your house on any given day anyway, except this time you did it on purpose. You have to empty out every drawer, cabinet, chest, closet, panel, safe, crawlspace, sinkhole, and portal to the Upsidedown.

Then you put on your HazMat suit and start picking the things up one by one and feel them intently in your hands, provided that these things aren’t oozing radioactive gunk and none of them have infected you with flesh-eating disease, at least as far as you can tell. If they have, then you need to get a new HazMat suit.

The idea of fondling all the junk in your house is to better determine if it “sparks joy”. If something does spark joy, then stop fondling immediately before anything dangerous happens and make sure you have no gas leaks. If it doesn’t, you either throw it out (KonMarie it) which Marie Kondo recommends, or you KonMarie it onto somebody else, which Marie Kondo warns you never, ever to do because it is inconsiderate, but…well…you know…Pearl Harbor.

My sister-in-law has been into the KonMarie method for years, but I never realized until now that we’ve been the KonMarie dumping ground for all her junk this whole time. We’ve since KonMaried all the stuff she’s given us back to the garbage, just like Marie Kondo says to do, because I listen to Japanese voices when they tell me to do things.

Now that my house is much emptier and I’ve fondled all of my stuff more thoroughly and intently than I ever thought I was capable of, keeping only what sparks joy without blowing my house up, I’ve come to understand a lot about opportunistically dumping junk on unsuspecting people in need.

I came across a Facebook post recently that announced that a local preschool was collecting donations for a family in real dire straits but not the band.

The story is typical and could happen to any of us. The wife is in the hospital, there’s a new baby besides a 3 and 6 year old now home alone with their in-way-over-his-head father who has to watch the baby so he can’t go to work and can’t KonMarie the kids onto somebody else, so they have no money and they’re desperate. So the post says thusly:

“We are collecting clothing, shoes, stuffed animals, and used towels, and money for the family.”

Under any other circumstance I would have considered this type of post to be very thoughtful. But having just finished Konmarieing a lifetime’s worth of accumulated junk, I suddenly understood that this poor family was about to be turned into a KonMarie Ground Zero Landfill at a time when the last thing they need is everyone else’s useless accumulated crap.

I found myself wondering, acutely, what exactly a family in dire need could possibly do with old clothing, shoes, stuffed animals, and used towels. After thinking about it for 3 seconds, I knew the answer. The father is home alone with the kids. He probably did not consult his wife because he didn’t want to feel like an idiot asking what he was supposed to do now, because that would mean getting yelled at. So he called one of his wife’s friends who people generally call who’s into community type something or other and she’s really uppity and “does things”. Here’s how the call went:

Dad: We’re in a bad situation. I can’t work and my wife is in the hospital and I’m alone with the kids and I don’t know what to do and I’m freaking out!

Poster: Oh wonderful! I can organize a donation campaign for you! I’ll post it on Facebook and get the local preschool to collect stuff. What else do you need? Clothing? Old shoes? Stuffed animals for the kids?

Dad: Uhh…sure yeah that sounds great. What else do I need?

Poster: What about towels?! We can collect towels for you!

Dad: Yeah, towels…Towels are great…

Poster: Got it. What about money?

Dad: Definitely money.

In all seriousness, the family probably lost all their stuffed animals when the wife went to the hospital. Maybe the kids lost all their shoes overnight now that their mother is temporarily out of commission. Maybe they threw all the towels in the compost bin in an ill-advised game of Towel the Compost and the father can’t clean the towels because the kids ate all the Tide Pods and he doesn’t know how to use the washing machine. Maybe he thinks he’ll burn down the house if he pushes the wrong button, like what happened last time and his wife yelled at him, which is why he needs all that used clothing.

Have you ever seen a used clothing drop off point? In my city there are many of them, and they’re always bursting full of old clothing that nobody ever picks up. It just sits there for years, evolving, a testament to the out-of-control clothing epidemic in the West.

There is, and this is totally true, a now former used clothing store that closed down (or as we like to say in the West “Clothesed Down”) because it became overridden with too many clothing donations and the owner just abandoned it.

This used clothing store died, it was literally suffocated, by people dumping their clothing in a rabid KonMarie frenzy. Now this former store, located right next to the beloved municipal tax agents, has bags of clothes literally vomiting themselves out of its windows, and people are STILL dumping clothes there. The rule of thumb is, if you see a mountain of used clothing, add to it as fast as possible in order to usurp city dumping ordinances.

I wonder how high the mountain of used clothing and old shoes and towels is just outside this poor man’s house now. What if all the crap was KonMaried right in front of his door while he was out visiting his sick wife and he can’t get back in his house without hiring a crane? Worse, what if the donations came when he was IN his house and now he’s barricaded in by the KonMaried refuse of the entire neighborhood? What if the police never rescue him because they think his house is now just another de facto legalized dumping ground for used clothing?

Somebody get me my HazMat suit. I’m going on a rescue mission.

 

 

My Three Year Old, Offended by Everything, Ready for University

If you’ve ever had to deal with a three-year-old pre-gendered person who doesn’t understand how offensive it is to say anything at all to anybody about anything involving something that could define some other thing in some way that makes it not a different thing, then you’ll understand what’s going on in college campuses today.

My three-year-old child (or as racist sexist fascist Nazi cultural appropriators would say, “boy”) Fry is totally ready to be a college student because he gets offended by everything. And when he does get offended by something, almost always literally anything unless in very rare instances it happens to be something else, I have to put him in a “safe space” where I have removed all dangerous objects within a five-foot radius where he can scream until his face turns blue and he faints.

He really does this. He gets SO offended by something that he cries and cries and screams louder and louder until he turns purple and I can see the intricate vasculature in his 3-year-old neck. Then he literally stops breathing, at which point he finally quiets down because he can no longer, you know, breathe, and therefore make any sound, at which point we begin “The Countdown”.

When “The Countdown” begins, we usually have between 5 to 7 seconds before his teetering and staggering leads to him falling over. So my wife and I clear the 5-foot radius around him of all dangerous objects he could fall on and whack himself with and while I’m doing this I tell my oldest daughter Tzivia, who is 7 and strong enough to resist his violent staggering and also doesn’t rage in response to orange cheese sticks not being blue for example (we’ll return to this shortly), to grab onto him gently so that when his knees buckle from lack of oxygen he doesn’t break his face on the floor.

Then his knees buckle, and Tzivia lets him down easy, and he arches his back violently while sort of resembling the shape of a dead caterpillar on the floor. Then we count back up to 5 and he takes a huge breath and has no idea where he is or how he got there or what he was so offended by in the first place. It’s like it never happened. That’s called “The Reset”. Sometimes we prefer resetting him because it’s easier than plotting a long circuitous path down from the current insanity fit, wrought with land mines of potential offence.

Picture dealing with a Microsoft Windows crash. A dialogue box keeps popping up telling you about an error and you keep pressing OK but it keeps reappearing no matter how seriously OK you are with this error personally as long as the computer keeps computing. Then the computer freezes up and stops breathing, and you can either try to grease it up again somehow, which could take hours, or you can just reboot the whole thing.

The last thing Fry was offended by was “blue sticks”. We didn’t know what a blue stick was so we gave him a blue marker, a blue crayon, anything that was blue but every time we gave him something he’d scream louder and say “NO!” Then we switched our focus to the stick part and tried giving him a cheese stick, but he was very offended because he wanted blue cheese, not a blue stick, but we were getting closer!

We didn’t have blue cheese, but we had blue duct tape, so we put the blue duct tape on the cheese stick. He calmed down for a second, and then remembered that he was still offended because the cheese stick with the blue duct tape on it wasn’t orange.

We told him that we are very sorry, but blue can’t be orange because colors are mutually exclusive and he fainted again, which is exactly why he’s ready to be a college student.

In college you’re not allowed to say that anything is different from anything because the fact that some things are different from other things is discrimination. The more obvious the differences are that you point out, the more offensive you are, so just like my son needs a safe space to faint in when he is told that blue cheese sticks can’t be orange, many students need safe spaces to grieve in when told that men and women have certain biological differences, like being able to read novels about a fictional husband from the 18th century who understands his wife’s emotional complexities so thoroughly that he must have a tumor somewhere, and functioning nipples.

For example, take these offended students from Portland State University.

They became offended by the fact that women are the ones who gestate and lactate and men don’t. “You can be irritated by the fact that women are the ones who have to gestate and lactate. But taking offense is a response that is rejection of reality,” said evolutionary biologist Heather Heying whose gender must not be named because it is female. The students then staged a protest, and waved around cheese sticks wrapped in blue duct tape screaming about the fact that they weren’t orange and that this was fascist.

Regarding the genderless evolutionary biologist, one student responded, “Even the women in there have been brainwashed!”, which raises the question of how this student even knew that Heying was a so-called “woman” if you can’t discriminate based on nipple functionality. Another student response also reminded me of my 3-year-old in the midst of a fainting fit only with a slathering of intellectual superiority. “We should not listen to fascism. It should not be tolerated in civil society. Nazis are not welcome in civil society!”

He then gestated and lactated in front of everyone, to the surprise and dismay of Dr. Heying.

Let us end with some cultural expropriation in the form of a politically correct Zen Haiku:

Hysterectomy

Confusion say no Nazis!

Perform it on man.

Why We Definitely Need More Gun Control Alt Delete And Intergalactic Kama Sutra

Remember when we were kids and the government told us all not to do drugs? I remember it fondly because I was naturally a sedated kid and didn’t need drug sedation in order to sit in a chair for 7 hours every day for 13 years straight in order to get educated about stuff. I would supplement my education by scribbling crude scientific diagrams of various alien genitalia and their uses within the context of xenoreproductive habits. I was working on my resume for Star Fleet Academy.

In retrospect, it was rather unwise of me to craft these drawings within the margins of various workbooks, my teachers on occasion flipping through said workbooks to check periodic enrichment assignments. My margins were way too enriched, if you know what I mean. My teachers probably all thought I was on drugs.

Anyway, so we were told not to do drugs in a class called “D.A.R.E. To Keep Kids Off Drugs”. We would all wear these black goth-looking emo shirts to illustrate how D.A.R.I.N.G. we were not to do drugs, and boy did I learn a lot about drugs during that government program! It was so much fun! I specifically remember learning about LSD and how if you took it you could “taste music”, and “hear colors,” and “sing with all the voices of the mountains” and “paint with all the colors of your wind”!

I was quite a gassy kid so I was really excited about this. When I heard about that I actually stopped doodling alien genitalia for a few minutes and when I went home I further supplemented my D.A.R.E. education by learning all I could about how to make LSD. Dial-up AOL internet was really slow and pixelated though in the mid 90’s and it knocked out your phone line so I just gave up.

But then the policeman who taught us all about LSD, someone named Officer Becker, told us not to do those drugs and I went back to my xenobiology diagrams. All drugs were bad, Officer Becker taught us, except for Aderall® (amphetamine), Concerta® (methylphenidate), Desoxyn® (methamphetamine hydrochloride AKA “glass pills”), Dexedrine® (dextroamphetamine), Focalin® (dexmethylphenidate), Ritalin®, Datrana®, Vyvanse® (lisdexamphetamine dimesylate), Intuniv® (guanfacine alpha-2-adrenergic agonist), and Straterra® (atomoxetine). Those were all great drugs despite mandated FDA black box warnings of increased suicidal tendencies in children if we weren’t good at sitting still by occupying ourselves with the fine details of sketching extra-terrestrial sex positions and needed some help calming down.

I didn’t need those drugs, but I do remember they made up some complicated name for the terminal disease all these kids had that did need them. They had this serious problem where all they wanted to do was like, get up and, like, DO things instead of sit all day. They called it ADHD, for Accelerated Decrepit Hyperinsanity Disorder. Oh, and the ADHD kids were all told that the best weapon against a drug habit was a high self-esteem, and also to make sure you took all your drugs if through no fault of your own you were unable to SIT THE $%*& DOWN AND SHUT THE *#@& YOU LITTLE S*$&S!!

It was top notch education.

And while the bad drugs were bad, if, through no fault of our own we were sad all the time, we could also take fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram, paroxetine, fluvoxamine, escitalopram, or guanohexadinaflarg cyanide. (OK, I made the last one up. Guanohexadinaflarg is actually a poison. But seriously, the rest, which are all real, were considered good despite additional FDA-mandated black box warnings of increased suicidality. But never mind that. All they really did apparently was prevent your brain from reabsorbing neurotransmitters like serotonin, which floods your brain with serotonin, which makes you really jumpy all the time, which means you have to double up on your dose of prescription meth to SIT STILL! I forgot to close parentheses.)

So in my D.A.R.E. class we had all these kids told that they had hyperinsanity dementia for not sitting still, on brain-chemistry-altering neurotransmitter-flooding drugs because they were sad, on more drugs to keep them sedated from the other drugs, all with black box warnings of increased risk of suicide, being told that in order not to do drugs they had to think very highly of themselves and learn about how amazing drugs like LSD are but you definitely should NOT do them. This is known as “drug control”.

Maybe I live under a jagged rock or I’m just too busy drawing aliens or I’m taking way too many drugs (probably all three), but as far as I know there is absolutely no drug problem in the US because we have drug control. I mean aside from all the drugs that we’re supposed to be on. Drugs are illegal, at least the illegal ones are, and after spending more than $1 trillion on drug control enforcement, drugs are finally a thing. Of the past.

So that’s why we need way more gun control. Because in order to stop crazy people from murdering others with assault weapons, all you need to do is make them illegal. So if the government just sits down and does something responsible for once and makes it illegal for anyone to purchase assault weapons, all the kids now on brain-altering antidepressants and ADHD drugs to make sure their antidepressants don’t make them so jumpy that they no longer have the ability to concentrate on their D.A.R.E. courses about how they shouldn’t do drugs which they can’t get anyway because of drug control, won’t go out and somehow find an assault rifle somewhere on the black market and murder people.

It really has absolutely nothing to do with all the drugs the government says these kids should be on because they need to sit and listen for 13 years straight 7 hours a day and they have hyperinsanity dysphagia, but shouldn’t be sad about it because it’s really not their fault, and won’t be as long as they’re taking all their antidepressants.

I mean think about it. When the government says you can’t buy something, like an assault rifle, how in the world are you going to find one?

I would suggest, humbly, as someone successfully educated by the government never to taste any colors with LSD, that maybe the solution to mass shootings could perhaps involve something like stop giving kids so much drugs that come with warnings of increased risk of suicide and making them sit and be lectured at for 13 years straight by law and instead let those who can’t handle such sedentary habits go to work and DO something but I’m just too busy illustrating the Star Fleet First Contact Guide to the Intergalactic Kama Sutra.

Enjoy this very serious and not sarcastic piece? Then you’ll be totally titillated by this fantastic nonsense about Libertarianism and Silicone Brain Implants.

Libertarianism and Silicone Brain Implants

I have an announcement to make. But before I do, I want to talk about silicone brain implants.

I just learned, in what may seem surprising but in retrospect makes perfect sense considering how little people think about stuff, that you can actually cut half of a person’s brain out of his skull and aside from the opposite side of his body being numb and  the loss of side vision, the person will be fine. Maybe a bit forgetful (as in, “Hey, where did I just put my hemisphere?”) but pretty much fine.

The procedure is called a functional hemispherectomy, and it’s a real thing. The doctor basically comes at you with a really precise chainsaw and after flipping a coin for dramatic effect and making a doctorish quip or two like “Don’t worry, I know it’s the left one, right? Don’t get ahead of yourself! Just kidding! Relax!” carefully removes half of your brain. In preparation for surgery, it is recommended that you store all critical information in the remaining hemisphere, such as where you put your car keys, and remembering why the chicken crossed the corpus callosum. (Answer: to get to the other hemisphere.)

Some questions you may be asking yourself at this point:

  • Why would someone have half of his brain removed?
  • Are silicone brain implants available for these patients?
  • Where can I get a really precise chainsaw?
  • Where are my car keys?

The answer to question 1) is life-threatening childhood seizures. This is a serious non humor thing. Apparently, functional hemispherectomies have a 75% success rate in stopping these seizures which is great for 3 out of 4 people. The other 1 out of 4 apparently just feel a bit lightheaded.

Now, while it is generally known that cannabis oil can sometimes be helpful in treating seizures in children, that is only the case in jurisdictions where cannabis is not a schedule I drug that has no generally accepted medical use and has high potential for abuse. In said jurisdictions, doctors first resort to chemically engineered lab-created schedule II drugs that thankfully do have a generally accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. If those don’t work, you can always just calmly and gently remove half your brain.

At this point (.) I’d like to share a passage from a post on the interwebs that I found by googling “Cannabis hemispherectomy” because surprisingly, it didn’t lead me to a porn site. (At least not yet.) The post opens thusly thus:

Just a a (sic) quick post today. MCANZ has heard second hand anecdotal stories from an (sic) NZ Refugee to Colorado, that CBD rich Cannabis oil has worked on children for seizures where this much more drastic (and rare) [functional hemispherectomy] procedure has failed.

You hear that boys and girls and other assorted genders? After having half their child’s brains excised and the procedure failing, only then did these responsible parents try cannabis oil for their child.

Now call me old fashioned, but I’m the type of parent who, before resorting to having a doctor slice half of my child’s brain out and having to go through the trouble of finding a suitable tailor-made silicone brain implant – quite expensive from what I hear – I would first maybe try to get my hands on some cannabis oil somehow on the off chance that perhaps, possibly, it might help a bit even though it is a schedule I drug with no generally accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. That just seems more reasonable to me than cutting out half of your kid’s brain first before even trying it.

But the author has another critical point I didn’t mention, one based on the Hippocratic Oath of Do No Harm. There’s an ethical dilemma here:

So we have an ethical dilemma, the use of an experimental medicine [cannabis oil] with scant but positive scientific research and attached legal baggage, versus a rare, but extreme, and on average effective treatment for those children with life threatening seizures.

It’s a question of morality, people! If you have your child take a schedule 1 substance before first removing half his brain, he may get stoned for a few hours for nothing! After all, in three out of four cases a hemispherectomy will work just fine, so why risk it? Aside from the matter of the opposite side of the body losing feeling, at least until a suitable brain donor can be found. And on the off 25% chance it doesn’t work, just think of it this way. You won’t even have to fit him with a silicone brain implant. You can just have the doctor stuff the old hemisphere right back in there with a shovel maybe and save some money.

Don’t worry. It’s a very small precise shovel. It comes in the same do-it-yourself hemispherectomy kit as the chainsaw.

But then thinking about this again with both my hemispheres, (sorry for triggering those with only half a brain) I don’t quite get the ethical dilemma here. Maybe it’s because I’m on the “spectrum”. Perhaps I need a functional hemispherectomy in order to see things more clearly. I just don’t have the money for an implant and I’m a DD.

Anyway, here’s my announcement. After thinking long and hard and after several seizures, I’m rebranding this blog. I used to be a humor writer, even before I was a libertarian. And I used to be really good at it. It made me happy. Google “Rafi Farber hoot” and you’ll find some good stuff. (Google “Rafi Farber hemispherectomy” and you’ll end up right back here, probably at this very parenthetical sentence. (Not as in a sentence that is very parenthetical, but as in this very sentence that also happens to be metaparenthetical.))

I’m still The Jewish Libertarian, but instead of blasting righteous anger at politicians and governments like some abused half-brained chipmunk, I’m going to return to my roots and instead employ humor. Because I know politicians would never try Schedule I drugs with no generally accepted medical use.

I don’t want to be angry anymore. Anger leads to hate leads to suffering leads to Yoda leads to Hayden Christensen mumbling super creepy Attack of the Clones dialogue about sand being coarse and irritating (It gets everywhere!) and none of us want to see that movie ever again. I’m sure we’d all rather have double hemispherectomies, whether functional or not.

And a shout out to Dave Barry, who probably gets shouted out at a lot. He is the closest thing to a professional writing role model guy that I have. And I’m pretty sure he’s libertarianish, too. He runs for president every election cycle. Vote for him. I will. (I’m seriously not joking.)

And President Dave, might I add that The Silicone Brain Hemisphere Implants would be a great name for a band. Trump could probably use one. Or two.

Bonus for alert readers: Describe, in 100 detailed illustrations or less, what a cannabis-hemispherectomy-themed porn site would feature. 

Gun Control for Math Geeks

While four heroic government policemen were dodging bullets by staying wisely behind their cars as Nick Cruz was murdering kids, at least the police had sense to investigate a math problem. They then shot the kid for using the square root sign, which looks like a gun.

That last part about police shooting a kid for using a square root sign is a joke, but soon it might not be. From my hometown paper:

On the afternoon of Feb. 20, detectives investigated a report of terroristic threats at the school, where they learned that a student had been completing a math problem that required drawing the square-root sign.

Students in the group began commenting that the symbol, which represents a number that when multiplied by itself equals another number, looked like a gun.

The square root symbol.

After several students made comments along those lines, another student said something the sheriff’s office said could have sounded like a threat out of context.

Police searched the student’s home, where they found no guns or any evidence that he had any access to guns. Authorities also wrote there was no evidence the student had any intent to commit harm.

Another Gold Flag Waves Today

Stocks continue their sharp decline that began yesterday. Interest rates are on the move higher, and the dollar is down again. Gold is up.

Most notably, rates on 2-year Treasuries have moved up 69% (!) since September from 1.254% to 2.116%.

Everyone knows what I’m rooting for. Let’s bankrupt the US government and be over with it already. I do feel bad for any generally conscientious person who lives off the government dole though. They’re going to be hammered hard.