Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Year's Gifts (SerandEz)

As some of you are well aware, I've been incredibly busy lately - what with working, commuting, being out-of-town, training, and the like, blogging has taken the standing-on-a-crowded-bus-trying-to-hang-on-for-dear-life spot. Thanks for your understanding, patience, and basically continued support, whether by comment, e-mail, or simply continued visiting of this blog.

Following in Pearl's ways a bit, I wanted to basically give a "New Year's Gift" in honor of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to many of the bloggers whose blogs I read and some people who read this one. I'm not going to include everyone, so don't be insulted when you don't see your name - just ask "What about me?!" in the comments. Since there are so many of you, I'm going to split it into posts over the next week or two.

First, to the amazing group who guest blog here at SerandEz:
SIL - A sweet, stressless year. Nachas from not only from the (amazing) kids, but OD, too.
Prof. Justice - Happiness in your job, whether the one you're in or a better one. More time to relax.
FFD - Calm. This will probably be the most whirlwind year of your life - new job, marriage, then hopefully med school - but thank God you've set it up really well.
MordyS - Finding more people who really get it. Help in showing people the light when they don't.
Pobody's Nerfect - Success at guiding those who need guidance... while realizing that sometimes, the answers have to come from within.
Holy Hyrax - Contentment with life. Complete answers you won't find - but contentment and happiness are within reach.
Reb Abe - The ability to remain on a high, even when you eventually come back to Earth.
Jameel - That you receive as much joy as you bring others; that you accomplish that which you are trying to do.
Shoshana - A year of real smiles.
David - The ability to ignore that which is unimportant... and to keep enjoying that which is.
Sarah - A year as vibrant as the pictures you take; a you as excited and lively as the character you draw.
Chana - Fulfillment of potential. Combining the learned wisdom of practicality with the heart of idealism.
DGesq - Overcoming obstacles. Finding a way to utilize that which you have against the odds.
IPayTooMuchForMyHair - Unintimidating co-workers. :) A year of good company.
Next: Family & Friends

Frum economic crisis

Before you read this blog, please accept my apologies for it being written in a disjointed way (I am sitting in remedies class now). I would like to thank Ezzie for letting me post this. Just so you know a little about me-- I too grew up in Cleveland with Ezzie, and attended the same grade school that he did. Ezzie and I have been friends for about 18 years and we still continue our friendship (it was thru him that I met my wife). I've been married for about 18 months and I am the father of a beautiful son (he is four months old). Thank G-d life is good.

I read the post about the frum economic crisis and I've had some of my own theories of why this is so. I have been pondering these ideas for about two years and I've spoken these theories with Ezzie numerous times--he agrees with me. So I decided I must post my theories. Here it goes...
Back fifty to sixty years ago, when all the holocaust survivors moved to America, they knew nothing of college, and especially nothing about graduate schools. The ones who survived the horrible massacre moved to America, worked hard, I mean real hard, and started businesses (they where known to be business smart). A large amount of them became extremely successful in things like nursing homes, hotels, real estate, construction companies etc. So they had children, and those children took over those businesses. If you looked 15-20 years ago nursing home owners owned one or two nursing homes, or one or two buildings. Now, nursing home owners own ten nursing homes and real estate owners own ten buildings. Business has become monopolized.

People speak of "street smarts" or "business savvy" as if it means something in this day and age. That's not true. We now live in a world in which a frum person needs to got law school, medical school, dental school, or become an accountant to be comfortable. I am in law school, and let me the first to tell it' not for everyone. I feel I could be much more successful as business man, but that doesn't mean anything, what business am I going to do. People cannot create new businesses anymore, there is no such thing. I mean the two wealthiest people that I know (really know, not just heard of them) never stepped foot in college, probably never even went to high school. Those people run huge businesses, but I bet if they started today they wouldn't make it. People can’t be creative anymore, they can only be innovative. I know what everyone is going to say “look at the owners of google and yahoo, they started businesses!” The creators of google and yahoo, took technology and made it better, they innovated. They didn’t actually create anything.

So what is the point of the aforesaid information? Let me explain.

Due to the fact that that people cannot rely on "business smarts" in the present time, they feel a justifiable need to go to some sort of graduate school, be it law school, medical school, dental, school, business school etc. That causes an influx of people in professional school which makes the job prospects once they're done minimal. People fall into debt, as a result of graduate school loans they spend the next thirty years paying them back.

The above is the reason for the frum economic crisis.

Ezzie will expand on this idea.

Oh Yes... Elianna

I'm not sure who posted her, but someone posted a couple of pictures of Elianna which are now on the homepage of OnlySimchas in honor of her turning 6 months old on Rosh Hashana. Check them out! :)

I Haven't Forgotten...

I just was away for a few days. I have a number of posts I wish to write, I just need to find the time to write them. Many of them are regarding the Jewish Economics issues touched on in the last post; a good friend asked to join the blog and post his take on the issue, which is fascinating, and hopefully that will come soon as well.

Oh, and I can't believe that anyone who works for a living can possibly argue for higher taxes. You'd have to be pretty oblivious to not see the disincentive to work created by higher taxes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Jewish Economic Collapse

In discussions with friends, family, and others, I have long argued that the economy of the "frum" world is set to collapse within 20 years - possibly 10-15.

Now, I think the 10-15 is more correct. Read (and weep while doing so) Jewish Debt over at AskShifra. The comments are incredibly saddening.
NOTE: To be fair, Jameel - at Orthomom's post on this
- argued that perhaps we're only getting a sampling of a certain demographic...
but considering where readers of this blog come from, I think the sampling of
blog readers is about the same as the Jewish community as a whole, though the
high and low ends are somewhat nonexistent. Most people in the frum community,
and most J-blog readers, likely fall into the lower-middle middle class range,
even though people like to think that we're all upper-middle class.

If you are willing, post what you feel comfortable posting at Shifra's - as anonymously as you want to. I will be posting at some point later, once I've figured out what I can and can't post, seeing as how I'm *not* anonymous. The numbers people have posted are absolutely mind-boggling... until I realize that even as 23-year olds, are numbers are scarily comparable.

I also think that a post which I wrote a couple of months ago (one of the few good posts I've written in a while) bears great relevance to this. Much of Making Assumptions is not only true regarding ourselves, but I'm guessing it's true for almost every commenter at Shifra's. Some have even said as much: 'I just smile and say everything is fine.'

Everything is far from fine.

I think this is a proper time to plug one of my favorite blogs: Orthonomics. It should be a must-read of everyone's by now. And now, back to training.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Krauthammer's Law: Everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise

Shana Tova!

To all my readers, friends, fellow bloggers, whoever... I've been a bit busy lately, as many of you are well aware. I'm currently posting this from a friend's laptop in the hotel we're staying at for week 2 of orientation, which includes the new associates from all over this region.

But I do hope to get back to regular posting in the very near future. Meanwhile, I just wanted to wish everyone a (belated) shana tova. I have in my head a whole list of what I'd 'wish' a number of different bloggers for the coming year, but I don't have the time or energy to remember it all at the moment. Hopefully, that will come soon.

Thanks to all those who e-mailed their own wishes for Rosh Hashana - I'm sorry I can't reply to all of them now. Rosh Hashana was excellent, though it always helps when the baalei tefillah are both guys who sang at your wedding. :) Perhaps Chana, who I had the opportunity to meet over the chag, can write about it...

All right. I need to get up waaaay too soon. Don't worry, to those who were: I'm still blogging. Hope to catch up on my reading in the near future. Shana Tova, everybody!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nasralla and the Jets

So...Ezzie thought there wasn't a snowballs chance in Ramalla that I would get around to posting on his blog. I guess the joke's on him, isn't it? On the one hand, we're all very happy that he's working now...but how about the JBlogosphere? Nu, Ezzie? Have you abandoned all of us? What are we, chopped liver?




In honor of the New Year, I hereby present the above video (just click the picture to watch it).

For some additional shameless self-promotion, I won't talk about the time I wore a bandana to Stern (yes, I also got rude comments), or about the time I spent at the Stern dorm (someone had to fix the Student Paper's, "The Observer" computer), instead I'll just point you to the Muqata's Annual Shareholder Report. The year in review section was rather unbelievable -- it's been a long year, and viewing it through the eyes of the JBlogosphere is rather...different, to say the least. Don't forget to check out the financial section as well!

Shana Tova -- A Wonderful Year to you all!

Jameel.
The Muqata

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

oh, the droll scenarios that arise at Stern

Well, dear people. What can I tell you.

At the rally for Darfur in Central Park (which I attended this past Sunday,) I was given a blue bandanna. A blue bandanna saying "AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL" and the like. I tied said blue bandanna in my hair, and upon looking at myself, decided I liked the overall effect. It was pretty. It kept my hair out of my face. It's comfortable. In other words, I have now come upon a realization- I like bandannas, scarves, and other hairpieces. Not the ones that hurt like the dickens. Just pretty pieces of cloth.

So I decided to wear said bandanna to my Chumash class. I tie it over my head (it covers most, but not all, of my hair) and go to class. I realize that nobody else in my class is wearing anything in their hair. Maybe a sparkly barrette or a hairclip, but nothing like what I've done.

And so it was that my Chumash teacher inquired, very innocently and sweetly, "Dear, did you get married over the weekend?"

I blushed and said, "No!" very sternly, perhaps more sternly than I had meant, as she smiled and said, "Oh, well, I like to keep up with the news."

I went to tell my friend (she's in the Advanced Talmud Program) this story, still wearing my bandanna. My tone is indignant as I say with horror, "she thought I was MARRIED!"

That's when my friend's study partner turns to me and says, "Well, are you?"

Ye gods, my dear people. Ye gods.

Now to the tale of the librarian.

I'm a freshman, right? I've never used the library before. I don't know what kind of system they've got, what kind of card-cataloguing goes on, and so on and so forth. So I enter the library and say that there is a 'sefer' or Judaic work that I need called 'Halichois Baisah." The librarian looks at me with a distinctly unfriendly glance and informs me I need a call number.

I go off in search for a call number. But how, how, how, do I get the computer to type in Hebrew? After much work I realize that I press ALT + SHIFT to toggle between Hebrew and English. (About five minutes later I look down at the base of the computer and realize there's a sign that says that. Just how tired am I?)

Anyway. I go to check out the book (because there's an absurd rule that even these books, when used in the library, must be checked out.) I am allowed to have the book until 11:54 PM (generous, isn't it- two hours exactly. *rolls eyes*) The librarian scans the book with her exciting laser-gun appliance, and I reach over to take it, sliding it across the desk. She takes it back and says, "Don't take the book! First of all, it's rude to grab it from me, and secondly, I have to write down how long you can have it for."

Stunned into silence on account of my apparent "rudeness" in reaching for a book that is for all purposes MINE now, I nod my head and acquiesce.

The next sefer I need is the Igros Moshe. I come to her with a call number, very proud of myself, only to have her point out to me (and shake her head wearily at my infinite stupidity) that the book I want is in the Gottesman Library on the YU Campus. She finally scrolls down and points me to the reference section.

I want to call my father to find out what "OC" means in the reference (Igros Moshe OC 2:26) but this woman literally comes over and claps her hands in front of me, shrieking "No cell phones!"

Now the fact is, I frequent libraries very, very often. I am considerate of people. I do not begin two-hour conversations in libraries. And I'm telling you that a two-minute conversation with my father asking what OC means would not have upset or alarmed anyone in that library. But that can't happen. No, I have to get up, walk outside the library, talk to my father for about two minutes (and I'm not even talking, just listening) and then walk back inside. Grrr!

I wanted to see old tests that my Biology teacher has given, but by this time I realize that this woman views everything I have to say, ask or do as a great bother, and so I don't even try. You have to wonder at the logic of it, though. This is the library. I'm really not out to get you. I just don't know what the rules are. I don't KNOW about call numbers or the Gottesman Library. So please take pity on me!

Work - Day 3

I don't have much time now to respond to all the comments, but it's important to get a few points out there... Part of what was cut off in my first post about work* was a simple statement: I won't be blogging about work very much. First of all, I can't blog about anything I'll be working on even if I wanted to. Second, I'm not really interested in doing so anyway. I don't plan on blogging from work, and I'm not even sure I could, even if I wanted to.

The company I work for is a great one, and I'm impressed with how happy with the firm almost all the people who work there are.

Also, quick reminder for everybody who can make it - I can't - there is a rally outside of the UN today which should be very large. They expect well over 100 buses already. You can also take a few seconds to sign this petition to the UN.

And now, it's time for Day 3 of orientation.

* SD - Firefox still crashes a lot less than IE. :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Whole Nother Concept...

Remember back in elementary school when grammar worksheets included activities like "Circle the sentence which is grammatically correct?". Okay, well try your hand at this one.

Circle the most grammatically correct sentence:

A) Immediately after collecting the term paper, Dr. Brown assigned a whole
nother report.

B) Immediately after collecting the term paper, Dr. Brown assigned another
whole report.


Okay, I'll admit I'm a bit of a grammar freak. It's not my fault, really. When all my friends were busy melting their brains on Pac-Man, I was competing against my brother in a fast-paced game of Grammar Examiner. Editing skills, spelling, grammar, and punctuation were our after-school "leisure" activities. And, being that we were not informed that it was nerdy to play, we played it. And, might I add, we enjoyed it- thus proving the point that educatoin CAN be fun.

But back to the topic at hand, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WHOLE NOTHER!! I have never met a NOTHER, nor do i wish to! Some rules of grammar can be pardoned in times of dire need, such as ending a sentence with a preposition (though NOT by English professors. I will not mention which college I attend....) Some people, such as Bais Yaakov graduates and pirates, are exempt from grammar rules. However, the prevalence of "a whole nother", even among well-educated and upstanding citizens, is getting on my nerves. Even my father, to whom I've always looked as a grammatical role-model, being that he served as editor of the Yale newspaper for 4 years, has slipped up with the 'nother mistake a few times. Grr!

Of course, my obsession is slightly problematic, in that I dream of moving to Israel, thus raising little Sabra children whose grasp of the English language will undoubtedly be less than appealing. But I guess that's the price I'll have to pay!

Dear reader, please forgive me if I have offended you. (Unless you are an under-educated BY student. Then you must find it in your heart to get up and LEARN something despite your terrible education.) But before writing me off as some fanatic grammarian, think about the future generations, and how their speech might revert back to that of cavemen, if trends such as "a whole nother" are permitted to go unnoticed. Take heed, for the end is near, my friends!

The Working World

I wrote a good chunk of a post, but Firefox crashed on me. Argh. Short summary: About 50 new junior associates, a bunch of different speakers explaining different facets of the firm to us, nice amount of Orthodox Jews in the bunch (and in the firm), they're great about Jewish issues such as kosher, etc. There was one "team-building" exercise, where we split into 16 groups of 3 or so, and had to take an egg, 8 short straws, and a 16-inch piece of masking tape and construct something that would allow us to drop the egg without it breaking. I've never done this before (apparently, some people had in science classes), but the group I was in lasted the longest [4 rounds] and therefore "won" the competition. We thought they were joking when they said the winner gets a prize, but after lunch they gave us each $25 I-Tunes cards. Sweet. :)

And now, it's time for Day 2. Regular posting will resume once I'm on a good schedule (almost there).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

You are what you wear, or are you?

Now, I'm not one for online blogwars. In fact, I'm not a big fan of machlokes or any type of debates. However, I do really enjoy a gentle exchange of words and ideas.

When I saw this article written by a guy who calls himself Rare Find, I could not resist exploring the points he raised a little more. I originally wasn't planning on turning this into a post, but after getting a little bit of a feel for his true feelings on the matter in the comments, I decided to adress the article. The most troubling paragraph:
"External appearance has become the most prominent indicator of the value system in ultra-orthodox society. It boggles my mind when I see yeshiva boys and hassidim, decked out in full-blown black-and-white-with-a-hat-on-top attire, hanging out with girls and watching movies. While I have no problem with either of these two activities, I know for a fact that the yeshivot these people attend disapprove of such behavior vehemently. Yet, when these boys choose to go against the values of the yeshivot they represent, they don't break the dress code, Heaven forbid. They break the other rules - the ones with a bit of logic behind them, the ones intended to prevent immoral thoughts and behaviors. At least from my vantage point, it appears that what is being drilled into their heads in yeshiva is not how to act, but how to dress."
Anyone who knows me from back when I was in High School knows that I cared a lot about how I dressed. Yes, I cared about every detail of how I dressed down to the last spike in my Doc Martin boots. And because I cared so much about how I dressed (metal, NOT goth), Rabbis were always interested in letting me know the hashkafic importance of how one dresses. Finally, when I got to OJ I realized how much of a difference dress really can make, and I realized that it's a lot deeper than most people think. However, to someone who's never explored the extremes of attire (or been inside a Hot Topic), they probably haven't thought or learned about the effects of how people dress as much as I have. Thus, I think it's easy for a dude to write an article in a YU newspaper bashing black hats just because he didn't like what his Rabbi used to annoy him with back in high school. In fact, it's just too easy for a YU student to write an article about how yeshivish people care more about dress codes than Middos or Torah, or other things that Chareidi people obviously do care about, even with his disclaimer:
"(I know, this is a sweeping generalization, and not everyone in the ultra-orthodox community is obsessed with the external. But there is a large portion of the ultra-orthodox community to which this claim does apply. So allow me to offer this disclaimer that when I speak of the community as a whole: I am only referring to those who display such feelings.)"
Therefore, I took it upon myself to let him know that this stuff is a little deeper than he thinks, and Rare Find answered. But even after I pointed out how deep his opinions run, he just had to make it clear that he sticks by his contention. Like I said, as I much as I don't enjoy fighting, and I hope Rare Find doesn't view this as any sort of attack, I just couldn't let a discussion about appearences go unmentioned.

But think about this Rare Find: What do people in Teaneck say when a guy walks into a shul wearing a black hat? What do people in Efrat say when someone walks into shul not wearing a kippah sruga, but a black velvet kippa instead?
"But unfortunately, what appears to be missing in the ultra-orthodox mindset is the understanding that traditional garb is just that: Garb. Clothes. Nothing more. And what really troubles me is when people try to make it seem like it is more than that."
You're going to honestly tell me that such a superficial mindset doesn't exist in a Modern Orthodox setting as well?

We're all Jews, and we all suffer from the same communal problems.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Congratulations to Orthomom!

I guess all that dedication to the Lawrence school district finally payed off. Her blog was recognized worldwide in the New Jersey section of the New York Times in a great article about school boards and the rift that us Jews are supposedly responsible for.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cubicle Culture: Why Multi-Tasking is Bad

(Hat tip: Dad! I think that's his first ever.)

Orthomom, you listening? (Kidding. I had to pick someone, and for some reason, OM came to mind first. She strikes me as the multi-tasking type.)

This article is probably a fitting one, as this is the last normal working day in which I am still a free man... it's interesting to see what is or is not a good way of working, though I'll likely stick with what works for me to some extent. Anyways... here's an excerpt:

Multitasking, a term cribbed from computers, is an information age creed that, while almost universally sworn by, is more rooted in blind faith than fact. It's the wellspring of office gaffes, as well as the stock answer to how we do more with less when in fact we're usually doing less with more. What now passes for multitasking was once called not paying attention.

Employers continue to seek out jugglers despite decades of research showing that humans aren't great multitaskers. (And in the case of distracted driving, we're downright dangerous.)

"Multitasking doesn't look to be one of the great strengths of human cognition," says James C. Johnston, a research psychologist at NASA's Ames Research Center. "It's almost inevitable that each individual task will be slower and of lower quality."

I still remember a Hagar the Horrible cartoon from when I was a child: Lucky Eddie walks in and tells Hagar that he heard that people can't do two things at once and do them both well. Hagar laughs and says "Ha! I'm sitting, and I'm eating!" A second later, his chair breaks and he falls to the floor. For some reason, this always stuck with me, and I have always felt it to be true: I've never seen someone do two things at once at their optimal level.

People often think I'm a multi-tasker myself, but I have realized that it's not really true. I do tend to do a lot of things in a short amount of time, but I'm not usually doing them all at once. More often, I'm doing one after the other in rapid succession after setting them up the way I like. In accounting, this is often exactly how things need to be done, so that should work well.

I start work this Monday at a large accounting firm in midtown Manhattan, beginning with two weeks of orientation. We don't have cubicles - we have "pods". The hope is to actually get one, and not be stuck working in abandoned conference rooms or the like. Orientation is not at the office, but for one week at a locale in the city, and the second week at a hotel in a different area. The second week is the national week of orientation, and unfortunately is being held in the NY area and not somewhere like, oh, say Orlando, where it was last year. Ah well.

Ah, the working world... I'm actually looking forward to this. And not just because of the pay. :)

What kind of blogger are you?

Posted by Soccer Dad
The way I figure it, there are five primary kinds of bloggers.

1) The linker. Instapundit, of course, is the best example of this. Sure he writes commentary. But a lot of his commentary stands because of what he links to (and thus deems important).

2) The essayist. Bloggers like the Gates of Vienna who generally write longish essays anaylzing issues of the day.

3) The storyteller. Treppenwitz is a good example of this. While he may have commentary its usually couched in the form of a story.

4) The quick hit artist. Meryl Yourish (and her co-bloggers) and Mere Rhetoric are very good at this. They take an article (usually no more than a paragraph or two) and add a relevant critique in just a few sentences.

5) The editor. This blogger doesn't write much of his or her own but quotes extensively from articles. Crossing the Rubicon2 is my idea of an editor.


Of course there are hybrids. Ezzie seems to be a cross (mostly) between a storyteller and a linker. I tend towards linking and essaying. (Though I really envy the quick hit artists.)

So for those of you bloggers out there, what kind of blogger are you? Did I miss any types? And for those who read blogs, what kind of blogs do you enjoy reading the most?

UPDATE: I see from the comments that I should have been clearer. My question was meant more as "What skills do you employ for blogging?"

I believe the "ranters" and "venters" are indications of style, not skills.

But Sarah is correct. I left out "photo-bloggers." Look at hers or Not Quite Perfect (coincidentally also from down-under) and you see that they're primary skill used in blogging is art. So maybe "art-blogging" would be better, but point taken. I guess that's six then.

My point in asking the question wasn't simply idle. It's something I've been grappling with. Though my readership has been growing, it hasn't grown as much or quickly as I'd like. So the question is am I blogging to my strengths. What I enjoy doing is writing, but am I perhaps a better linker or editor instead of essayist? If I did more linking would more people read me?

Irina, I view you as story teller and Shoshanna I'd agree that you're an essayist. (Though your skydiving story was great.) And of course Jack is a Jack of all trades. He's the ultimate hybrid, when it comes to blogging.

Technorati tag: .

Welcome to the Five Towns

(Hat tip: Someone from the Five Towns, who got it from their rabbi.)

Anyways... watch this short cartoon, then write what you think about it in the comments.

My thoughts: I'm going to assume the rav sent it as a reflection of the [wrong-headed] attitudes some people have. My first reaction was "it's not funny, it's sad" - but really, it is funny, because it is so sad. Ugh.

FWIW, I don't have much of a problem with individuals hiring people on their own for a fair price to do work. I *do* have a problem with corporations doing so, and more importantly, I think it is disgusting how some people take advantage of illegal immigrants. Where's your common decency!?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quick question

Well, maybe not too quick. Anyways, my three-year-old daughter goes to a school here in L.A. From what I see, its pretty good. The Menahel is very tolerant of different levels of how observant families are. Most families are M.O. Anywho, it was back to school night yesterday and my wife had to go cause she teaches there. She told me about the science teacher they have there. He is a non-Jew English man that has been working there for eight years. Science for him is very important. He has come to an agreement with the school about what he is going to teach. He decided to leave certain things out of the curriculum all together. His philosophy is that he would rather not teach a certain subject rather than teach the kids something half-assed in order to not get into conflict with the Limudei Kodesh (I'm assuming). So, my question is, is this a good thing? I don't really know yet. I mean, won't it lead to problems still when at home you talk about the age of the earth and the kids wonder why the teacher did not mention it?

Football & the (Next) President of the United States

A quick post before I get back to work...

I was watching the Giants - Colts game this past Sunday night, and in the crowd was the next President of the United States. How do I know? Well, the reaction to his appearance: A huge standing ovation and plenty of cheering. Who was it? Why, Rudy Guiliani, of course.

I'm not the biggest Guiliani fan: He's a social liberal, and not a mild one at that. However, he is a better option than most of the others that seem to be planning a run, and it seems clear that if he runs in 2008, he will win - and here's why: The electoral college system.

First, here are the 36 states plus Washington DC that were solid red (GOP) and blue (Dem) in both 2000 and 2004:
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Connecticut
DC
Delaware
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Mississippi
Montana
Nebraska
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wyoming
I am starting with the safe assumption that these states [save the ones I will discuss later], which all won by 5+% in both elections, will vote as they did in 2004 and 2000. Of 538 electoral votes, this means that the GOP begins with 191, and the Dems begin with 183. (270 are needed to clinch victory.)

Of the 14 remaining states, all but New Hampshire and Ohio have swung to the right... and they stayed right around the same as they had in the previous election. Some quick analysis:

First of all, thanks to demographic shifts – which I’d say are mostly due to births and the Roe Effect – Red states picked up 11 electorals while losing 4, while blue states picked up 1 while losing 8. That’s a 14-vote swing right there. [2000 vs. 2004] This shouldn't affect the 2008 elections, as they won't be adjusting the electoral votes by then, as far as I know.

Second: Of the only 3 states that swung in the past election, 2 swung Bush (Arizona, Iowa) and 1 swung Kerry (NH).
Of the 11 swing states in 2004, this is how Bush did as opposed to 2000: (margin of victory <5%)>* This was based off whatever numbers I was using - a couple of these may be off slightly, as the New Hampshire one at least seems off... but the numbers and the point I'm making should be correct regardless.
Of the 12 states that were swing in 2000, 3 were no longer close in 2004 – all easily red. Of the 2 that were new to the list, 1 came from each party. Of the 9 that remained on the list, New Hampshire is the only one to become more “blue”, and by a negligible amount.

Pennsylvania and Michigan are *still* swing states. Bush did better in Illinois (+1.5) and way better in NJ (+6%) than he did in 2000. He even picked up 3% more in CA and 5% in NY. This, despite being one of the most vilified incumbents in a long time during an election.

Even if we assume that the three former swing states (FL, TN, MO) that Bush won by more than 5% in 2004 don't continue to swing right, it is safe to assume that they will not swing left in this election, particularly if Guiliani runs for President. Therefore, one can add another 49 electoral votes to the Guiliani tally, giving him 240 to start.

Now, here's the interesting part: Guiliani can win just one other state and win the election. Care to guess which state? Why, New York, of course. New York's 31 electoral votes would give Guiliani a minimum of 271 electoral votes, which means he could lose every single 2004 swing state and still win the Presidency. Heck, he could even lose Tennessee and Missouri if he pulls off Connecticut and New Jersey.

Some people may ask, "How do you know Guiliani will win New York!?" - especially if he is facing Hilary Clinton. I could easily answer that Hilary isn't as well liked, especially compared to Guiliani, or note how popular Guiliani was on all sides of the spectrum when he ran NYC, but it's so much easier to point to this past Sunday night's football game and say:

I heard the cheers... I heard the cheers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Quick Football Break

I'm actually progressing rather well on whatever it is I'm doing, so I'm taking a quick break to provide a quick update which nobody except maybe the missing Ze'ev cares about: My NFL picks. Here were my picks... now you can see how I did.

Survivor:
Arizona (vs. San Francisco)

The Cardinals are opening their brand-new, ridiculously cool stadium to a sold-out crowd, and picked up Edgerrin James this off-season. And they get to host one of the worst teams in the league, too. Sweet.
Survived: As close as this game ended up being, thanks to Arizona's poor D, they were leading the entire game. I wasn't worried, even while watching it... though I did stop watching before the onside kick, not thinking SF would actually get it.

Survivors with friend:
Arizona (vs. San Francisco)
Tennessee (vs. NY Jets)

The Titans host the worst team in the NFL. That's pretty much it.
Survived/Lost: Stupid Titans. They should have kept Vince Young, whose throw that was picked was actually a smart (albeit underthrown) one, in the game, and not used Kerry Collins, who still hadn't really played with the receivers he was throwing to. Ugh.

Pool:
Home teams in CAPS; my picks in bold
Mia 2 PIT W
W Phi 11 HOU
Buf 8 NE W
Den 1 STL W
Bal 9 TB L
Nyj 15 TEN L
W Sea 10 DET
No 13 CLE L
Cin 5 KC L
Atl 12 CAR L
Dal 4 JAX W
W Chi 3 GB
Sf 16 ARZ W
W Ind 6 NYG
Min 14 WAS L
W SD 7 Oak
Ouch. I finished with just 68 points, 40 back from the first-place guy, and in 24th place (of 26). After winning Week 1 three or four times over the past decade, it was quite a wake-up call. Interestingly, I had more wins than almost everyone (10-6), I just did terrible on the numbers (losing 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15), which is usually my strength.

Our roster this week:
QB E. Manning (vs. Ind)
RB M. Bell (@ StL)
RB S. Jackson (vs. Den)
WR R. Wayne (@ NyG)
WR D. Mason (vs. TB) [not B. Edwards in the end]
TE A. Crumpler (@ Car)
K A. Viniateri (@ NyG)
DEF Cleveland (vs. NO)
Bigger ouch: We actually had a good week, with 85 points - but played a better team who had 88. We would have beaten 7 out of the other 10 teams, but we got a bad draw. It didn't help any that he had LaDanian Tomlinson score 20 points on Monday night to give him the win... and that the Browns' D - who actually played well but were hurt by the poor offense - scored 4 less points than the Jaguars' D, which was our other option. My brother-in-law gets to rub it in the rest of the year. In better news, we dropped our backup TE for QB Chad Pennington, and are now offering QB Vick and WR Mason for WR Marvin Harrison, which would give us Wayne, Harrison, Deion Branch, and Braylon Edwards at WR - awesome. We're also trying to claim the recently traded Samkon Gado, which would make our team a bit ridiculous all the way around.

Finally, in yet another pool, I picked Arizona as the survivor (check) and won 7 games against the spread (good for 95th of 225 or so in a rough week). Not bad, especially when it's been a while since I picked against the spread.

Can I Pull It Off?

Ahh, the question of the... well, next few days. Many of my friends who read this could probably guess what I'm talking about (and I can't write it here, at least for now), and everyone is welcome to guess yes or no. Either way, you'll get to keep enjoying the guests, at least until I start work (!) next Monday, if not beyond... They're all so good, I'm thinking of keeping them on for whenever they want to post something. (The ones who don't have a blog of their own are definitely remaining here.) Anyways, what do you think? Can I pull "it" off? :)

[As a note, many of my friends say, alternatively, "No way" or "You're nuts... but get going!"]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Way Cool

Since other guest posters are posting videos, I figured I could as well. This one is courtesy of Sara K:

Pictures: Past & Present

These days, cameras are everywhere. Everyone is able to take photographs whenever and of whatever they like. We take it for granted that we can snap pictures with our digital camera or phone or computer, choose the ones we like and then within minutes we are able to print, publish or send out our photographs easily and cheaply. Even with traditional film you can have your prints back within an hour or polaroids within minutes. We are able to document everything we do with digital cameras and video recorders.

What happened to the time when photographs were something for special occasions? Holidays? Portraits? When a few small black and white prints were treasured because that was the only pictorial documentation of an event you could have.

My great-grandparents photo album is a perfect example of how special and treasured photographs were. This album is beautifully bound in red cloth, filled with thick archival paper and the photographs were mounted neatly with the little photo corners. The first few pages date back to Poland before World War 2 (1930's or earlier) and most are posed, a family photo or just one of the children, nothing spontaneous. Even holiday photos at the beach, as carefree as they are, has had some thought in setting up the composition and poses. These photographs gave me an insight into what life was like for my great-grandparents back then and it's quite amazing looking at these relatives and see resemblances to family today. Even more importantly, this album was transported with the family as they escaped Poland and made it to Australia to be continued with new memories.

(I do not know names of the people in the pictures yet but my grandfather remembers all of them and will help record that.)

I have always imagined those times in black and white, without colour because the images I've seen are black and white even though I know that it wasn't really like that. Despite this, seeing such a collection of family photographs has injected some colour into my thoughts of the days when my grandfather was a child because these images are so alive with memories. I've learnt so much from these pictures and hope to find out more about all these relatives.

Due to the age of the album, the adhesive corners have come off so the photographs have fallen out and are a bit jumbled. As well as the pre-war photos and more recent ones of the grandchildren (like my mother) are several formal, posed photographs of various family members, one in particular I would guess to be nearly 100 years old. The image is of a woman and three girls, one of which may be my great-grandmother, all dressed formally. There are two copies: a black and white copy in a plastic sleeve and a torn, sticky-taped sepia copy with the name of the photography studio printed on the back. The wear and tear indicates that this was probably a very meaningful photograph.

Also found in my great-grandparents album is a small Rosh Hashana (New Year) greeting card, about three inches by one inch photographically printed design, greeting in Hebrew and Polish and a small picture of the family. Personalised cards were being made even back then! (We could even make more of that one, the film negative is there too!)

The contrast of this collection of treasured photographs and memories to how we treat photographs these days is amazing. Over what is really just a few decades, the way we treat pictures has changed so much. From something that is used to document special occasions in a few black and white prints to today, where full colour videos and photographs are sent and displayed with hardly any thought.

A picture will always tell a thousand words, it's just that the older, more treasured ones are more meaningful because there are less of them.

(See how easy it was for me to take a picture of the album with the camera that's built in to my computer and then post it on blogger!)


~ Sarah

It's That Time of Year Again

Happy birthday to the lovely, cute, and amazing lady who puts up with my blogging habits for your entertainment... the one and only Serach! (She has slightly better manners now than she did in this picture...)

Happy Birthday, Buba! Mwah!

[And now, back to the guests. Y'all are doing a great job.]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Where's Ezzie

All right boys and girls, it looks like Ezzie is missing in action. Rumor has it that he is somewhere in this crowd of evil democrats. Can you find him?

Ezzie says: Closely monitoring my guest bloggers, one of whom is toeing the line of one of my 3 golden rules... :) [the evil saved you, you furry little creature...]

Thoughts on "The Haredim: A Defense"

A reader sent me the article "The Haredim: A Defense" by Aharon Rose from Azure, which you can read in full here. It's an interesting article, with a lot of good points. The end of the article made me think the most.

This paragraph brings up a lot of questions for me:

The preservation of such an intense, close-knit community involves the suppression of a certain measure of personal freedom. And indeed, the Haredi is not free to think, to doubt, and to act as a secular person does. He is committed to his community's tradition and to the authority of his community's leaders, and lives in a social and cultural ghetto. No doubt, this is a heavy price to pay - for many, it is simply too heavy. But to the extent that the Haredi community demands the forfeiture of the individual's personal liberties for the sake of the whole, the individual is rewarded with a life imbued with meaning, and an almost unparalleled feeling of belonging and of continuity, and of certainly as to his place in this transient world and beyond - indeed in all of Jewish eternity.

What I found interesting about Rose's description was that he seems to view the Haredim as a collectivist culture. The way in which he describes this life sounds very much like many Asian or Africa cultures in which the good of the whole community comes before the good of the individual. The reason I find this interesting is because I don't think that many Orthodox Jews would consider themselves part of a collectivist culture, would appreciate being described in such a manner. And I'm not sure why that is.

A question it brings up is whether the price that people pay to be part of such a collectivist culture, for their individuality, is too much. Obviously, what is being offered is a lot - community, tradition, safety. And that is plenty for many. But what about those who fall through the cracks, who it isn't enough for? Is what it offers worth the fallout of the few? It's an age-old question, whether the price paid for a few souls who can't handle it is worth those who can, whether it's better to get rid of a "bad seed" from a group rather than trying to have the group rub off on the "bad seed" in a good way.

The other question it brings up is whether someone who didn't grow up in such an environment could possibly subscribe to it and give up their personal freedoms in order to be taken care of in such a way (obviously, I'm thinking about baalei teshuvah here). I think it depends on how a person is raised - if they are taught, as many are in American society, to value individualism and indepedence, I think it would be extremely difficult for them to ever completely accept this attitude. But I think there are people, even who grow up non-religious, who are taught tradition and obeying those in command (the traditional Southern attitude actually comes to mind here). However, I know for myself, that I couldn't handle subscribing to such a view. It's just not part of who I am. And if that was the only option in the world of Orthodox Judaism, I'm not sure I could be an Orthodox Jew, to be perfectly honest.

My 9/11 Story

I really don't have much of a 9/11 story. I think the main part of it lies with the fact that I am in the West Coast. I have yet to hear of someone from the east, that doesn't have a great story of how they saw fires, the towers collapsing and people running. For me, it was all shown on TV. That's as close as I came to living it. I was actually asleep when the whole thing happened. By the time my parents heard about it from a neighbor and woke me up, the towers were gone. I am actually quite drawn to watching the whole thing over again on the internet (some people can't stomach it). I think its because I still quite fathom the scope of such an attack. It was just so terrible and at such a large scale, that it boggles the mind. Everytime I look at those scenes, I just think to myself how the world changed at that precise moment. It's just too enormous.

Now, 9/11 is going to be a day when everyone asks: "So what were you doing in 9/11?" Kind of like when asked "What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?" But have you ever asked yourself, "What were you doing the day before? What were you doing 9/10, the last normal day before everything was turned upside down for all of us. As expected, most people probably have no recollection of what they did. Now, its obviously not a critical question. It's not like people were asking themselves "what was I doing Dec. 6 1941," but seeing where we are now in the world, I sometimes wish I did remember, at least for sentimental purposes.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Installing Love

I got this in an email... it's a little nerdy, but sappy things are sometimes good.

Technical Support: Yes, ... how can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can
you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do
first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your
Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay
to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running ?

Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and
Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your
current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no
longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem
with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to
completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from
being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?

Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness.
Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been
completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You
need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program
not run on external components." What should I do?

Tech Support: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run
on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical
terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is
playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over
My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually
everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One
more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its
various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and
return some cool modules back to you.

Customer: Thank you, God.

TEST

Friday, September 08, 2006

Those Matrix dudes lend a hand to Mario

This one's cool with Super Mario! Not as slick as the first one, but still gets a laugh:

"Uhhhhhh, how do write a letter E again?"

As most bloggers, I have a job that requires me to be in front of the computer all the time. Keyboard and mouse for most of the day. It was only last week, that I really noticed the down side to this. I had finished designig a project and a co-worker, in jest, asked me to autograph a piece for her. I began to notice that I was slowing down when I was writing my last name. No, I did not forget how to spell, (shut up Ezzie), but i was having a hard time actually writing out some of the letters. I usually write in cursive and I was slowing down at certain points where one loop would connect to the next letter. I was shocked (and a bit embarrased). Another co-worker told me this is completely normal since most of the time I am typing and not actually writing, and so what came naturally before in my hands mobility to easily write, now requires some effort of thought.

This was indeed an eye opener for me because all the time, you tell yourself that you should do more reading. But what about writing? Ofcourse, not everyone uses the computer all day, but for those that do, I think its important that we don't loose this basic skill. I have made it a priority now (along with a bunch of other priorities I have set aside) to do some random writing every now and then. Just like anything else, whether its drawing, skating, or even reading, if you don't keep practicing and doing them, you might eventually forget how to do it.

A lot of help I'm going to be when my kids enter elementary school and practice writing on those dotted lined pages only to have their dad doing the exact same thing right next to them :) Am i over exagerating here, or has anyone else experienced this?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Join One of Ezzie's NFL Pools

Click continue for details.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that every year, I run an NFL football pool among my friends and some of their friends. This year, I'm opening both the normal pool and the new "survivor" (or "suicide") pool to the blogging public. To join, e-mail me at serandez at gmail.com, with the words NFL POOL in the subject, and I will send you an invite as quickly as possible. The season begins Thursday evening, so try and not wait until the last second. Payment instructions will be sent via e-mail as well.

A quick explanation of the two pools...

Survivor:
  • How it works: Each week, you must pick one NFL team to win their game. If you are correct, you stay alive; if you are wrong once, you are out of the pool. To make it trickier, you can never pick the same team twice. That means that if you use the Colts in (say) Week 2 against Houston, when Week 5 comes and they're hosting Tennessee, you can't pick them.
  • How to win: Be the last one standing. If more than one person are the last in the pool and get knocked out the same week, they will split the winnings.
  • Cost: $50/entry. $250/6 entries. No more than 6 entries per person.
  • Prize: Almost everything that's in the pool, which depends on how many people join. There may be a small amount set aside for 2nd place or even 3rd place - this will be determined in the near future.
NFL Pool:
  • How it works: Each week, you pick the winners of each NFL game for that week. You then have to place different weights by each game, numbered from 1 to 16 (or 14), based on how many games there are that week. The objective is to get as many points as possible. You want to place your highest numbers by the games you are most confident about, and your lowest numbers by the games you are least confident about. If the team you picked wins the game, you receive the number of points you placed by that game; if they lose, you get 0.
  • I have a few examples in the sidebar under Sports, such as this one.
  • How to win: Each week, there is a first, second, and possibly third place winner. At the end of the season, a pre-determined number of people [last year it was five of 25] will win based on their total points over the course of the season.
  • Cost: $10/week, $100 for the season. [It is much simpler when people are in the pool for the entire season.]
  • Prizes: All prizes depend on the number of people who eventually join. Generally, a weekly first place winner will at the least be making his money back from the season plus a bit; an overall winner will be winning a few times his original cost.
What I get out of this: I don't make any profit from the pools. However, I do not pay for my own (single) entry. For the survivor pool, a friend who will be helping me run it (and whose idea it was) will also not be paying.

To join for free: You can earn a free entry or half-off an entry by recruiting others into the pools. If you can get 6 others to join one pool that I otherwise would not have been able to get, you get 50% off; if you can get 10 others, you receive a free entry. (This can be your original entry or a second set.)

Payment: The last couple of years, I'd have taken a loss if not for the fact that I won a few times, because I had to pay out the money even though a few people never paid me. Because of that, all money this year must be sent out by Sunday, September 10th. If you join, you will receive payment instructions via e-mail.

I think that's all the important info. If you're interested, we'd love for you to join. Again - e-mail me at serandez at gmail.com with NFL POOL in the message subject.

Has anyone else seen this?

My dad emailed me this story back in late July, and since Ezzie has been hounding me to post things, I was just curious if anyone else in the J-blog world has seen this:

The following is the English translation of this, that was published in a Spanish on-line journal Gentinuo in 2004:

All European Life Died in Auschwitz

By Sebastián Vivar Rodríguez

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz. We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims.

In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world. The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime. Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for hoping for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe.

Ping Pong in The Matrix

This is really cool:

NFL Week One

I may not have much time to blog these days, but it seems as if the guests are doing a better job than I normally do in my absence. Keep it up, and thanks!! :)

Last year, I used to post my NFL picks each week for the pool I run. This year, I am running two pools [and please, feel free to join!] and my brother-in-law asked me to join him and create a fantasy team, so there's a bit more to put down. In addition, a friend asked me to split two entries with him into a huge survivor pool that has a grand prize that is somewhere between $150 and 200 thousand dollars.

Here are this weeks picks:

Survivor:
Arizona (vs. San Francisco)

The Cardinals are opening their brand-new, ridiculously cool stadium to a sold-out crowd, and picked up Edgerrin James this off-season. And they get to host one of the worst teams in the league, too. Sweet.
Survivors with friend:
Arizona (vs. San Francisco)
Tennessee (vs. NY Jets)

The Titans host the worst team in the NFL. That's pretty much it.
Pool:
Home teams in CAPS; my picks in bold
Mia 2 PIT
Phi 11 HOU
Buf 8 NE
Den 1 STL
Bal 9 TB
Nyj 15 TEN
Sea 10 DET
No 13 CLE
Cin 5 KC
Atl 12 CAR
Dal 4 JAX
Chi 3 GB
Sf 16 ARZ
Ind 6 NYG
Min 14 WAS
SD 7 Oak
Fantasy: We had the 7th pick of the draft, which means that each round we alternated between 7th and 6th (of 12) pick of the round. The best RB available at #7 was Stephen Jackson, and at #18 Warrick Dunn was the last very good back available - and Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald were all gone. Our 3rd rounder was WR Reggie Wayne; we wanted Matt Hasselbeck at QB, but he didn't come around, so our 4th pick was Eli Manning. We didn't want to wait and hope Marc Bulger came around, and we're lucky we didn't. Our 5th pick we were a bit stuck, so we took WR Derrick Mason - worst comes to worst, we can trade him later as part of a package. In the 6th round we happily took TE Alge Crumpler, and when the Panthers Defense was taken, we took RB Mike Bell in the 7th round - a very good backup for our RBs. We had been hoping on taking Matt Jones - and almost took him, until Bell lasted - but he got snatched at the beginning of the 8th round, so we took the Jaguars' defense. For the 9th round, we were undecided: Drew Brees was still around, and he'd be a great backup QB, but we wanted a backup WR, so we took WR Braylon Edwards knowing there were plenty of other backup QBs available. Brees got taken a couple picks later, so we took K Adam Viniateri, then QB Michael Vick. At this point we had no needs, but we are required to draft one more RB or WR; a backup TE; and a 2nd defense. In the 12th round, we figured WR Deion Branch was a great gamble. If he plays, he's a top-tier WR; if not, he was a nothing pick. He's great trade-bait, too. Our last 2 picks were my brother-in-law taking rookie TE Joe Klopfenstein and me taking the Browns' defense.

Our roster this week:
QB E. Manning (vs. Ind)
RB M. Bell (@ StL)
RB S. Jackson (vs. Den)
WR R. Wayne (@ NyG)
WR B. Edwards (vs. NO)
TE A. Crumpler (@ Car)
K A. Viniateri (@ NyG)
DEF Cleveland (vs. NO)
We're benching Dunn against the Carolina D, figuring that even if Bell only plays half the time against St. Louis he'll get better numbers and have more shots at a TD. There's no reason to start Vick against Carolina, and Manning should be fine against the Colts; Branch is still a holdout, so we can't play him. Mason is questionable, and Edwards should have fun against the Saints' secondary; Crumpler against Carolina is a tough one, but Klopfenstein is a rookie in his first game. The Jaguars are hosting Dallas, one of the most high-powered offenses, and one of the few teams I'd sit them against, and primarily because it's Week 1. The Browns are hosting the Saints, who are better but still not great on offense, and it's Drew Brees in his first game as a Saint; no Dante Stallworth; and Reggie Bush's first game ever. They might play okay, but I don't see big numbers from either of them or Joe Horn in this one, and the Browns - who had the 4th best passing D and were 7th in points against last year - are much improved on defense (Ted Washington, Kamerion Wimbley, Willie McGinest, much better subs...).

And that's Week 1. :) Ahh... my favorite time of year... Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?!!?

Open the Door

I've been trying to think of something interesting to put up as my first guest post here at SerandEz but haven't quite had the time to write anything this week so I thought I'd share this short film because it does have some relevance to the month of Elul. And it's a bit funny.
(Thanks mum for forwarding it to me!)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Animal School, or the reason so many of us turned out the way we are.

After reading Shoshana's post, I was reminded of my old seminary days, where we discussed at length the issue of children who learn through different methods. This video is a visual presentation of the parable that Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald used to address the issue. Enjoy.

Is Creativity Lost from Education?

While Ezzie has been swamped with moving, he hasn't forgotten about his blog. In desperation, he spoon-fed me material with which to guest post about. Luckily, he picked something that I strongly believe in - education. So...I took the bait.

He pointed me in the direction of this video by an organization called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). The video is about 20 minutes long, which I have to admit is a bit long for my usual Internet attention span, but the content is definitely worth it.

Along with the video from TED, I received my copy of Newsweek yesterday. And the cover story was also about education.

Both the video and the article in Newsweek made some extremely important points. The video focuses on the fact that only certain kinds of intelligence are valued in education today, while the truth is different people are gifted in so many different ways - some classically academic, some artistically, some musically, etc. I've often felt that the educational system is deficient in making students who excel in areas other than math, science and writing feel like they can match up, when the truth is, it just depends on the specific arena in which they are performing.

The speaker on the TED video points out that today, due to the focus on specific areas of expertise, we are teaching students to be boring. Okay, he doesn't use that word, but he does say that we scare students from an early age from being innovative. We teach them that there is a right and a wrong. We don't teach them how to look at a problem and use their own logic skills and their own mind to creatively find an answer.

I don't complain about my education, because the truth is, I received an excellent one, and we were given a lot more freedom and encouragement to think than many (I was fortunate to be in a very good program), but I still experienced some of this. When learning algebra and calculus in high school, I would look at the problems and figure them out my own way. I would get the right answer, using my own logic. And my teachers would tell me that I was wrong, that I should specifically follow the steps they were showing me. Why? Why wasn't I encouraged to use my own brain to figure these problems out? Who knows, if I had been encouraged to do so, I might have learned a lot more, and come up with whole new ways for accomplishing math (okay, that could very well be an exaggeration, but I do remember being very frustrated by feeling like I was held inside a box and not understanding why I couldn't do it my own way).

The speaker from TED laid out three factors of intelligence - it is diverse, dynamic and distinct. Intelligence comes in many forms, it changes and grows throughout time, and it's different in each person. I think he certainly has a point.

The Newsweek article dovetails nicely with the TED video. The point of the article is that education has become so focused on basics, at such a young age, in part due to the No Child Left Behind Act, but also due to pressure from parents to "perform" from birth, that it has lost its flavor, its creativity and its appeal to even the youngest students. According to Newsweek, "instead of story time, finger painting, tracing letters and snack, first graders are spending hours doing math work sheets and sounding out words in reading groups."

The earliest years of education are being stripped of their fun. And I think that's incredibly detrimental to most. If a student learns at age 5 that school is about pressure, stress and sitting still while filling out a worksheet, why on earth would they want to endure a minimum of 12 more years of it? Much less continuing on to college?

Five year olds have a natural curiosity about the world, and I think the best form of education for them is one that doesn't bash them over the head with tests and facts. It's a more subtle education. For example, Newsweek speaks of a school in Chattanooga, Tennessee where "two weeks ago newly minted kindergartners were spending the day learning about the color red. They wore red shirts, painted with bright red acrylic paint. During instructional time, they learned to spell RED. Every week each class meets for a seminar that encourages critical thinking." That's education.

I remember my kindergarten teachers hosting units on a variety of interesting subjects - from astronauts to scuba diving to nursery tales. The lessons were made creative and interactive. We put on plays, we colored pictures of the topics we were learning and we put together books about these topics. I still remember it, because it was fun. The years I spent sitting still were certainly not imprinted in my mind, and I probably remember little that I "learned" during those periods.

It's not easy to balance everything that an education should be. I would love to see it much more individualized, and tailored to each child's unique needs, skills and talents. But that's not easy to do when you have a classroom of 25-30 (or more) students, each needing individual attention. I don't have the answers, but I do have to say that after hearing reports of the state of kindergarten these days, I wouldn't want to go back.

UPDATE: I was just talking to my co-worker who was ecstatic that her 3-year-old "got in" to preschool at the last second, after being rejected by five other preschools. The amount of time, money and stress that goes in to these preschool applications, interviews, tests, etc. is retarded. I wouldn't trust such people with my kids.

Cross-posted at Sweet Rose.

Goodbye, Home

My last few minutes at our apartment on 76th Avenue. It's so sad to leave a home for the very last time...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

E-mail Update!

*sticky* Please start using SerandEz at gmail.com instead of verizon.net. Thanks!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Now THIS is Service

...of God, of country, of one's people. Olah Chadasha has been posting video compilations from the recent war of Israeli soldiers, and the first three have all been excellent. This is the third one... here are one and two. About thirty seconds in was a clip you may have seen previously, but if not, you must. WestBankMama pointed to it recently and I really wanted to link to it, but I've been so busy... it's a reporter embedded with an Israeli unit as they attack a house with terrorists inside, and it's almost all in night-vision goggle view. Crazy stuff.

And now, back to packing. [ugh]

Other than ...

Posting here what do I have in common with Ezzie?

Find out.

(This is a cheap trick to drive lots of traffic to my blog. I hope Ezzie forgives me. :-)

Ezzie: In case y'all didn't figure it out... click here. Mazel Tov, SoccerDad, SoccerMom, and SoccerKids!!!

RIP Crocodile Hunter

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,20349888-2,00.html

Most people knew it would end this way some day, but I'm still going to miss his: "Ohhhhh, what a beauty"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Non-Daters, Inc.

(To the tune of "Toys 'R Us Kid")

We don't wanna grow up,
We don't want to date guys,
If a shadchan says 'Hey look at him',
We just close our eyes.
We don't care if he's the next Gadol Hador*,
Still don't want him knocking at my door...

I have a confession to make. I am twenty years old and I have never been on a Shidduch* Date (gasp!) nor do I have intentions of doing so in the near future (double gasp!). Yes, I do intend of eventually finding my Bashert* and getting lots of OnlySimchas posts about "being Zoche to build a Bayis Ne'eman B'Yisrael"*, but I am as of yet not on the market. (Shh, don't tell or I'll have the whole Flatbush pointing and staring. It's bad enough that I don't blow my hair on a regular basis or look like I'm attending a wedding just to go to the pharmacy.)

You may question the thoughts behind my decision, but I'm sorry to say there's no drama involved. I simply don't feel like waiting another few months or even a year or two will put me on the shelf with the Old Maids. Some feel that my refusal is tantamount to Shidduch suicide, that I'm not putting in my necessary Hishtadlus*. But I remain strong in my beliefs. So strong, in fact, that after a discussion with a friend in the same predicament as I find myself, Non-Daters, Incorporated was born. It started off as a spoken joke, nothing too serious. Then we designed the membership cards. (Note: THIS IS A JOKE!!! JUST A JOKE!!!)

Soon after came the Theme Song, featured at the top of this post. Now all we need is publicity... I can see it now. Billboards, ads in the Hamodia and Yated*, Frisbees with our name on it... hey, maybe we'll even advertise straight from Serandez!! The outcome would be astounding. Imagine, post-seminary girls using that flipped-out attitude to change the world instead of trying to secure a spot on the list of every boy still in The Freezer*. If we could get membership up... we could solve the "shidduch crisis" here and now! The first official meeting will be held at Ezzie's *new* apartment this coming Shabbos. Be there or be a parallelogram!

S.H.I.D.D.U.C.H. - Changing the world, one 18-year old seminary girl at a time.

Many thanks to Ezzie for all his help. (See, Ezzie- I didn't disclose which parts you helped with.)


* Glossary
Gadol Hador - spiritual leader of the generation
Shidduch - arranged date
Bashert - predestined marriage partner
Zoche to build a Bayis Ne'eman B'Yisrael - typical blessing given to newly engaged couples that they build an upstanding Jewish home
Hishtadlus - effort
Hamodia and Yated - two widely read Orthodox newspapers
The Freezer - ask Ezzie to explain

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Before I Go Back to "Vacation"...

...which is anything but a vacation...

My mother e-mailed me two great articles that were in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. They're... quite applicable to this blog at the moment. :) Excerpts after the jump.

No Day at the Beach:
In the height of summer-holiday season, bloggers face the inevitable question: to blog on break or put the blog on a break? Fearing a decline in readership, some writers opt not to take vacations. Others keep posting while on location, to the chagrin of their families. Those brave enough to detach themselves from their keyboards for a few days must choose between leaving the site dormant or having someone blog-sit.
Rabbinical Advice: How to Keep the Sabbath in a 24/7 Online World:

For all its putative godlessness, the Internet abounds with religion; most major faiths have thousands of sites devoted to them. One run by the Eretz Hemdah Institute in Israel, www.eretzhemdah.org, features an "Ask the Rabbi" service. We asked some questions about the Internet of Rabbi Yosef Carmel, dean of the institute and a rabbinic judge, educator and author.

* * *

What are some issues involving the Internet that an Orthodox Jew might be concerned with?

An Orthodox Jew who runs a business is supposed to close it on Saturday, the Sabbath. But what about a business on the Internet -- a Web-site business? The answer is he doesn't need to close his Web business on Saturday, and for two reasons. First, he isn't doing anything, and thus he isn't violating the Sabbath according to Jewish law. And second, on the Internet, it is not Sabbath for everyone in every place.

And now, back to packing. Enjoy the guests! ;)

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's About Time

(Hat tip: R' Gil)

From the Washington Post: [excerpts]
WE'RE RELUCTANT to return to the subject of former CIA employee Valerie Plame... But all those who have opined on this affair ought to take note of the not-so-surprising disclosure that the primary source of the newspaper column in which Ms. Plame's cover as an agent was purportedly blown in 2003 was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage.

Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly. He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him. ...

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. ...

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is [Ez: her own husband] Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
Amen to that. (Funny, I said some of this over a year ago.) What's interesting is just how much this one story has affected the perception people have of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Karl Rove over the past three years. I've made this point before, but it's worth repeating: The number of stories that reflect poorly on President Bush - major stories - that have later been proven completely false is astounding and unprecedented in history. The way in which this has affected the thinking of the people of this country - even among moderate Democrats and Republicans - is immeasurable.

Forget the fact that at this point, most people will always think that Cheney and Rove tried to out a CIA employee. Even among those who know that it's not true, our perception of this administration has been colored by the allegations placed on it by the media. Whenever someone is accused of something, it affects the way people perceive that person in other situations - and even if it later turns out to be completely false, the damage has already been done. A good portion of this country hates this administration, hates this President, and hates the direction of this country: And that hate has been built primarily on false and exaggerated stories reported by the media.

The time has come that we focus our anger on the right people. As I wrote last time,
Isn't it beyond ridiculous already? How much longer are we the people going to allow our news media to get away with this willful lack of standards? Think through the major stories that were breathlessly reported over the past couple of years - how many have been proven false as the dust clears:
Valerie Plame's outing. Tens of thousands dead during Katrina. Black people left to die during Katrina. Tens of thousands dead at the Superdome. Israel kills seven at beach. Israel kills. Israel kills. Israel kills. Haditha. Missile attack in Afghanistan by US soldiers wipes out village. Karl Rove to be indicted. Vice President Cheney to be indicted. Military recruitment down. US torturing people at secret camps in Europe. US tapping domestic phone calls. US compiling all phone records from phone companies. Speaker Hastert to be investigated.
The list goes on and on. All of the above were major headlines for at least a day or two - some for much longer. All turned out to be false or very different than originally reported. In many cases, the truth could have been discovered quickly simply by asking the right people (as discussed previously). It is absolutely pathetic that the news media reports with no compunction, with no fear of backlash, with no worry that their irresponsibility may one day hurt them. It simply never does.

What kind of standards are we holding our news media to?

Apparently, none.
Even with Reuters getting busted for a few fake photos, the answer is still basically the same. How many people know that less than 3% of Beirut was bombed? How many think that Bush ignored intelligence about Niger? How many still think that more black people died in Katrina than white people? How many think that the US can listen to calls within the United States?

Let's take a moment and remember where many of our problems come from. The problem is not this government. The problem lies with the people who report on them.

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