I received a very nice compliment, so I’m parking it here for just those times I might need to read it. . . . → Continue reading: Approbations

The Humanity Bureau (2017)

By coincidence, I just happened to be watching THE HUMANITY BUREAU (2017) last night. I say coincidence since I had no idea this low budget Nicholas Cage film was a fever dream for right-wing conspiracy types, so watching it, I felt like I was getting a glimpse of their thought world in the aftermath of last week’s real-life insurrection. . . . → Continue reading: The Humanity Bureau (2017)

Biden/Harris! 2020 בּײַדן/העריס

A political logo for the Biden/Harris 2020 campaign in the US General Election, using Yiddish orthography. . . . → Continue reading: Biden/Harris! 2020 בּײַדן/העריס

Wherever I live, that is my ‘Homeland’ — a Response to Zionists on the Jewish and Christian Right

For the last several years I’ve become concerned with a movement on the right, an alliance between Christian Zionists in the U.S. and Israel’s Likud party-flavored right-nationalist Zionism. Something I heard Sarah Palin say back in 2009 in an interview with Barbara Walters raised my eyebrow and Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic was quick to . . . → Continue reading: Wherever I live, that is my ‘Homeland’ — a Response to Zionists on the Jewish and Christian Right

A Simplified Summary of Public Domain Status for Creative Works in US Copyright Law (excluding audio works)

A Simplified Summary of Public Domain Status for Creative Works in US Copyright Law (excluding audio works) – Aharon Varady (CC BY-SA)

Among the many things I do in my work for the Open Siddur Project, I create digital copies of works in the Public Domain. These copies then serve as the basis . . . → Continue reading: A Simplified Summary of Public Domain Status for Creative Works in US Copyright Law (excluding audio works)

Full lyrics and video for “Unity of Oppression” by CONSOLIDATED

CONSOLIDATED – “Unity of Oppression” (1991, Friendly Fa$cism, Nettwerk/I.R.S Records) Adam Sherburne (guitar and vocals), Mark Pistel (samples, sequencers and keyboards/synths), and Philip Steir (drums). . . . → Continue reading: Full lyrics and video for “Unity of Oppression” by CONSOLIDATED

Preserving and Sharing Photo Captions from Picasa (before Google shuts it down)

When my father wanted to share an album of captioned photos with a colleague, he used to be able to simply send them a link in an email. This no longer works since the captions he saved in Picasa are not displayed in Google Photos! The solution I worked out for my father relies on Google’s Picasa application installed. So if you need this, go ahead, download and install the latest Picasa application. The rest of the solution is as follows: . . . → Continue reading: Preserving and Sharing Photo Captions from Picasa (before Google shuts it down)

Marcus Weisberg or Weissberger or Veiszberger… (d. 1880)

Some people ask me about my last name. “Hey Aharon, where does your last name come from?” etc. It’s a question I’ve long wanted to know myself. I know Varady is a common Hungarian last name and I knew that it was probably something else before it became Varady (or Varadi as some living relatives still spell it). . . . → Continue reading: Marcus Weisberg or Weissberger or Veiszberger… (d. 1880)

Reszi Sunshine (1885-1970)

1913, Regina and Coleman

I look for them in the past and I find their remains, enough to resemble a person, even someone whose passions I can identify more than vaguely with my imagination. Again, I have this feeling that the historical researcher is more than part necromancer. Not only do we create . . . → Continue reading: Reszi Sunshine (1885-1970)

What Happened‽ So what‽ Now what‽

2011 Gregorian. Such a quiet year for the Omphalos.

Even before New Year’s a year past, this blog had begun a mostly uninterrupted slumber beginning in 2009, what with most of my activity focused on directing the Open Siddur Project (2009-present), studying at Yeshivat Hadar (2009-2010), teaching with the Teva Learning Alliance (2010-2011), studying . . . → Continue reading: What Happened‽ So what‽ Now what‽

Beyond the Omphalos: Three Maps of Late Medieval France

When late last year my friend Dr. Allan Tulchin asked for my help preparing two maps for a book on the history of the Protestant Church in medieval France, I was so happy to oblige. I love maps and I love historical research. Preparing these maps would exercise my mapping skills using GIS software and . . . → Continue reading: Beyond the Omphalos: Three Maps of Late Medieval France

Professor Varady in the Netherlands

This is something of a guest post by proxy. My father, Dr. David Varady, is on his sabbatical and working at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. My mother, meanwhile, is working on visiting in person all the Dutch art she scanned from books during her tenure as the visual . . . → Continue reading: Professor Varady in the Netherlands


Fellow Omphalos gazers might wonder what I’ve been doing. And not just in the sense of, “Hey I’m wonder what Aharon’s been up to lately.” Well, after two months of productive work on the Open Siddur Project as a fellow with the PresenTense Institute in Jerusalem this summer, I spent a month in Philadelphia before . . . → Continue reading: Post-PresenTense

At your service

I am an urban planner by profession and degree, but while I’m looking for work I am also a technology consultant, copy editor, bicycle messenger, ipod manager, technical writer, blog reader, proofreader, and coffee sipper.

Perhaps you don’t have a significant other or know-it-all child or lucky friend to ask you for your computer help . . . → Continue reading: At your service

November 4th

. . . → Continue reading: November 4th

The Idiot Wind’s Gusts are Now a Gale

Xeni Jardin over at Boing Boing has an important post analyzing the dragging death murder of Brandon McClelland, 24, last month in Paris, Texas, an area of our country haunted by a legacy of lynchings going back over a hundred years. Please read it.

In light of the McCain campaign’s stinking “idiot wind” gusting over . . . → Continue reading: The Idiot Wind’s Gusts are Now a Gale

What’s the frequency, Kenneth!? (redux)

So far there is no indication that the recent near fatal beating of KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly in Little Rock, Arkansas, might be politically motivated other than the fact that Pressly is a member of the media and appeared briefly in Oliver Stone’s just opened critical biopic ‘W.’ But given that the daily vitriol heaped . . . → Continue reading: What’s the frequency, Kenneth!? (redux)

Translating the Hate of an Antisemitic Anti-Obama Effigy

“Is that a kippah on that anti-Obama effigy?” I couldn’t help but wonder while reading this article and watching this story that local Cincinnati station WKRC (Channel 12) aired yesterday about Fairfield, Ohio’s Mike Lunsford as reported on by Shawn Ley. (For those from out of town, Fairfield is a northern exurb of Cincinnati . . . → Continue reading: Translating the Hate of an Antisemitic Anti-Obama Effigy

Lingle and Boxer Spar for McCain and Obama

Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle and Californian Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) debated each other this past evening while representing John McCain and Barack Obama respectively at A Presidential Candidates Forum: America in the World – Friends, Foes, and the Future. The debate between the two Jewish politicians was organized by The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) . . . → Continue reading: Lingle and Boxer Spar for McCain and Obama

Philly Ambient Listserve Archives Alive

PHOBOS (ie.,, the Philadelphia Ambient Consortium’s once-vital, now deceased server, held the archives of the Philly_ambient listserve prior to the listerve’s move to the less crash prone yahoogroups account where it now lives. Good thing that I kept an archive of the discussions from those fecund first three years. In the sterile yet obscure . . . → Continue reading: Philly Ambient Listserve Archives Alive

Obama in Ault Park

I rode my bicycle over to Ault Park today to hear Barack Obama speak. Navigating the hills and valleys of Cincinnati on a beautiful day, as it was today, is so much more preferable to huffing it to the park from a car parked a mile away. As it happened I was pretty . . . → Continue reading: Obama in Ault Park

Vote Today Ohio: till the Election!

Yesterday we received the first numbers from our get out the vote early event from Vote Today Ohio HQ. Tate Hausman writes:

During Golden Week, Vote Today Ohio banked ~3,300 Obama votes, plus 621 voter registrations. Did we hit our ambitious 10,000 goal? No. Did we make a critical contribution in America’s #1 battleground state? . . . → Continue reading: Vote Today Ohio: till the Election!

Dawn After Golden Week

Yesterday the Scion xA and I got some street time shuttling students from Xavier to the Board of Elections building downtown and back. Who knew you could fit six people in that hatchback? From noon to five pm, I manned the “overflow vehicle” because our regular shuttle (a Windstar van donated for the day by . . . → Continue reading: Dawn After Golden Week


This is the last day of Golden Week, the week in Ohio when the periods for voter registration and early voting overlap allowing new voters to register and vote on the same day. Our teams are working hard to make one final push to get out the vote. I made posters like . . . → Continue reading: ELECTION DAY IS NOW

Vote Today * * * Ask Me How

Vote Today Ohio sent out the latest numbers just after midnight this morning on how many early voters our teams managed to shuttle over to the Early Voting Centers.

9/30: 380 votes 10/1: 429 votes, plus 121 new registrations 10/2: 449 votes, plus 306 new registrations 10/3: 776 votes, plus 391 new registrations

That’s 2,034 . . . → Continue reading: Vote Today * * * Ask Me How

Vote Today Ohio

Early voting began in Ohio this past Monday, September 29th. Over the weekend, I was making maps for Vote Today Ohio, a volunteer group hoping to make the most of a “Golden Week” during which Ohioans can register to vote and actually vote via absentee ballot on the same day. Field teams fanned out across . . . → Continue reading: Vote Today Ohio

Kabul, Afghanistan August 2008

Fellow Daniel Pinkwater afficionado 3m1ly recently returned from Afghanistan on official snark-out business and posted images gleaned from her travels at her flickr account.

Shipping Containers in Kabul (from 3m1ly's flickr photostream)

. . . → Continue reading: Kabul, Afghanistan August 2008

Ghost Recon and the South Ossetian War

My friend Guilherme R. and I were chatting about the terrible new war in Georgia’s South Ossetia (soon to be Russia’s South Ossetia?), and he blew my mind recalling the premise of a particularly prescient video game released back in 2001, “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.” From wikipedia:

Ghost Recon begins in 2008, with civil unrest . . . → Continue reading: Ghost Recon and the South Ossetian War

Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate

This week I’m in New York City for the New Voices Conference in Independent Jewish Student Journalism. “Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate” was the subject of last night’s (May 28) panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History (CJH).

Moderated by Marissa Brostoff (New Voices contributing writer), the panel consisted of Sam Freedman (Columbia . . . → Continue reading: Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate

Taco Maria Needs Your Love

You need a cat. Yes you do. Already have one? Does it have FIV? Great. Because I know a very special kitteh that needs a home and has FIV (NOT infectious to humans). Taco Maria is a great cat, a rescue from Hurricane Katrina. She needs to be quarantined from other cats so they don’t . . . → Continue reading: Taco Maria Needs Your Love

Feeling Philo for Philly

This last week I’ve been in Philadelphia, part of a three city trip to reconnect with friends, explore possibilities such as RRC and Penn’s GSE-JRE, and stumble upon whatever serendipities the cosmos has placed before my blind third eye. Philadelphia is wonderful, by which I mean, it is full of wonder even when it is . . . → Continue reading: Feeling Philo for Philly

less quiet than you might think

While the Leviathan has barely made a peep in the last month, I’d like to point out to interested readers and voyeurs that I’ve been blogging music related essays over at the new music site, You can read them in all of their snarky and music-dork glory here.

random things

is a hidden thing. the excellent student run radio station here in Baton Rouge is KLSU. Late nights keep me sane. there is no conquering the fleas. though they feast on me, i shall not become one of them. Or will I… ? confession: my JITW friends have great patience listening to me wax . . . → Continue reading: random things

On the Importance of Preparation

Truth cannot be told, but it can be pointed to. (this is in contradiction to teachings that “Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message” (Umberto Eco in describing the cult of tradition, the first feature of ur-fascism).

Pointed to, as in, go in . . . → Continue reading: On the Importance of Preparation

Lost Month

So what happened, Aharon? Death and resurrection. Of this blog. No more am I of the FEMA ESF-14 LTCR Team in Vermilion Parish. That’s all done with. Officially demobilised on March 20th along with all the other parish teams save for Orleans and St. Bernard Parish. About a month earlier, a local planner had seen . . . → Continue reading: Lost Month

Of the Red Stick

I am in Baton Rouge now, having been hired by a global megacorporation whose humble beginnings, I have learned, were in the plumbing trade, specifically, pipe manufacturing. Connections to urban and environmental planning interests, follow directly from the assimilation of firms specializing in engineering pumps, those laying labyrinthine pipeworks, and those mapping the guts and . . . → Continue reading: Of the Red Stick

More inspiration from broken hearts

Long ago I planted my heart in a field, the soil of which had long been fertilized with the dung of lumbering, magic creatures. I walked away with faith that upon returning years later, I’d find a heart tree, and live long succored by its precious fruit, and be nourished by a knowledge rooted deep . . . → Continue reading: More inspiration from broken hearts

There is only one L in Vermilion

Here’s a song that my co-worker, Leslie Meyers penned with the team lead for Beauregard Parish, Richard Hendrickson (who can sing it!)

There is only one L in Vermilion There is only one L in Chevrolet There is only one L in Louisiana And that is why people say:

You only need one L . . . → Continue reading: There is only one L in Vermilion

Protected Posts

A meta-post just to explain that some posts will now be password protected. The blog is a useful space for documenting certain thoughts for my own review. I could document these offline in a handwritten journal, or in a text document on my hard drive, but I find it more usful and interesting to see . . . → Continue reading: Protected Posts

Lazy Sunday

Today I’m catching up reading all the posts from the JitW-spring06 list that I missed reading because I didn’t register until a few days before the gathering. The discussions and insights of the folks on the list touch on all of the relevant issues and reflect the sophistication and insight I respect so much in . . . → Continue reading: Lazy Sunday

NPR in Vermilion Parish

Andria Hsu had a story in yesterday’s All Thing’s Considered on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita on Vermilion Parish. Listen to it here:

This group needs your help

Just got forwarded a link from a contact I made in Baton Rouge about a group concerned about the welfare of animals in Vermilion Parish. As it happens, one of the National Guardsman in my team, and his wife, have long been active with the group. They need some basic things like nails, and warm . . . → Continue reading: This group needs your help


Just briefly, here are the things I meant to blog about but haven’t yet, in no satisfactory chronological order. Just got to get them down or else I’ll forget to write about them entirely. (With blog rot in the Swamp of Despair, where the waters above meet the waters below, and the great Nothing erodes . . . → Continue reading: Slacker

Long Term Community Recovery

Today I am working on the Community Baseline, as I was yesterday, and I will be tomorrow. It is the first part of the Long Term Community Recovery Plan we will be submitting the compilation of my team’s planning efforts in Vermilion Parish. I have created worksheets for the other experts in my team to . . . → Continue reading: Long Term Community Recovery

New Orleans

I have a back log of things to write about so here are my observations from my visit last Saturday (1/28) of New Orleans.

The night before, I visited Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, for meeting Rougey Jews and to maybe even sing L’cha Dodi and other nice songs. The synagogue is one of . . . → Continue reading: New Orleans

First Day

This will be a short post because I am exhausted.

Early this morning I left La Quinta Inn for Abbeville. The hour an a half drive brought me to work by 7:30am where I met many of my fellow workers and my supervisors. After getting set up I began what turned out to be a . . . → Continue reading: First Day

Vermilion Parish

I just received my deployment details. I’ll be heading to Vermillion Parish in southwestern Louisiana, a largely rural parish in the heart of Cajun country where a number of small towns (population less than 5000) were devastated. I am very excited! I’ll be staying in Abbeville (or nearby) and filling in a gap with the . . . → Continue reading: Vermilion Parish

Motel Evacuees

I’ve written a little about the motels I’ve been staying while waiting for my deployment, but I didn’t write up some observations that now seem rather relevant to what’s going on here in Baton Rouge related to the evacuees. The reason I haven’t, I’ll chalk up to inexperience transcribing my observations… I’m not yet well . . . → Continue reading: Motel Evacuees

Checkout to nowhere

Yesterday morning, I finally received the call that my background check came through. Just in time, I thought, since my one week reservation at Motel 6 was coming to an end. So in a reprise of my recent nomadic exertions in DC, late last evening I repacked my belongings into my rental car, and in . . . → Continue reading: Checkout to nowhere

Motel 6

Fifty years ago Airline Highway was likely a very pleasant country road. No longer. I don’t have any pictures of it for you (maybe in an upcoming post) but I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It’s a sprawling commercial strip like any other. Every few years they expand the intersections to add another few feet . . . → Continue reading: Motel 6