Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Losing It

This is just getting weird...

As elections are coming up in just a week, Democrats should be pretty positive. They look to have a decent shot at taking over either one of the two houses, particularly the Senate. And yet, oddly, a few of them seem to be losing it - particularly among the leadership. Charlie Rangel and John Kerry were the best examples of the day.

Vice President Cheney spoke out against Rangel, who would take over the tax-writing panel if the Dems won, by criticizing how Rangel would act on the committee:
"Charlie has said there's not a single one of the Bush tax cuts he thinks should be extended. And he could achieve that objective simply by not acting. Unless there's an affirmative action by Congress, legislation passed to keep those rates low, those rates are going back up, and he'd have a massive tax increase,"
This seems to be a fair attack, on the issue at hand. But Rangel took this particularly personally:

"He's such a real son of a b****, he just enjoys a confrontation," Rangel said, describing himself to the newspaper as "warm and personable." He told the newspaper Cheney may need to go to "rehab" for "whatever personality deficit he may have suffered."

"When you have those sorts of problems, you're supposed to seek help," Rangel said. "He acknowledged that he has problems with communication."

Does that mean Rangel will be voting to keep the tax cuts? I'm not sure. But John Kerry seems to think that US troops are dumb:

Kerry's bitter words for the administration were sparked by his own comments a day earlier to a group of students during a campaign stop at Pasadena City College for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides.

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq," he said.

I have so much I could say on that, but I think it speaks far better for itself. Sick, sick, sick. (He has also refused to apologize, calling it a "botched joke" and blaming the Bush administration's policies in Iraq.)

Finally, blame both parties for this sad statistic:
An assessment of campaign advertising spending shows that in this campaign season, the political parties have spent about $160 million in negative ads compared to about $17 million on positive image message, a rate of about $1 of nice for every $10 of nasty.
Pathetic. Shame on all politicians.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 10/30: Top Ten Posts

I rarely have the time to do these anymore, but there were a number of great posts all over and I just felt they were great to point out to everybody, as you likely haven't seen all of them...
  • 10) The first one is actually not a great post per se but a great milestone: PsychoToddler recorded hit #100,000 today. So did A Simple Jew.
  • 9) Balaboosteh points out a cute, heart-warming site: Kids expressing their love for Israel in drawings.
  • 8) Hayom reminds us how we should portray gedolim (great Rabbinic leaders).
  • 7) I just realized I only have 9, so I'm skipping this one. :)
  • 6) TafkaPP has the comment of the day:
    Do you know- if it wasn't so funny how we Olim all try to out-Israeli-fy each other, it would actually be quite tragic. For where, indeed, does one draw the line?!
    Speak/work/live/breathe/dream only Hebrew? Avoid the homeland by not having Cable TV? Make your own Humus every morning and learn to recite the recipe in Arabic? Marry into an established IDF family? Live on a hill, farm goats and play an ancient Akkadian flute to them as they graze? The list goes on. But hey, however we "score", at least we make *ourselves* feel better that we are authentic Israelis by always having someone underneath us- namely, the constant stream of newbies!
Heh. Okay, now for the Top 5...
Enjoy!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Quote of the Day

"We can do all things through Christ. It is time to put those words into action for tomorrow’s patriots." - US Senate candidate, earlier this week on the campaign trail.
I'm somewhat surprised this isn't a bigger story. Does a quote like this bother you? Not bother you? Why (or why not)? I have my own opinions, but I'm curious as to what others think first... Contrast it also with the praise and criticism other politicians have received (George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon for example) for invoking God in speeches.

False Advertisement?

As bloggers, we often state our opinions on subjects without necessarily possessing the expertise we perhaps should have. Personally, I think this is absolutely fine. Nobody expects us to be experts in any particular subject, we're not claiming to be, and as long as we're not making claims that have no basis, I don't see a problem with it.

I do think a different standard applies to advertisements. If you are presenting an ad for a product or idea, you should have some understanding of what you're presenting. That doesn't mean a pro athlete should understand the science of a product, as he isn't expected to do so. But if - for example - someone were filming an ad about a political issue or amendment, they should at least know what the amendment says. At the very least, they should know the main theme and some important details of the amendment.

Last week, there was a hubbub over Michael J. Fox's filming an ad in Missouri. This hubbub may or may not have been warranted; likely not. What is more disturbing, however, is that Fox admitted to ABC that he doesn't know exactly what the amendment says. While he does get credit for being honest about this, this is a bit troubling. In his interview with ABC, Fox states that he is against cloning - which is the same reason Jim Talent has given for opposing the amendment. Fox doesn't believe that the amendment would actually end up allowing cloning, but admits:
"I don't think that's true. ... I have to qualify it by saying I'm not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative. Although, I am quite sure that I'll agree with it in spirit, I don't know. On full disclosure, I haven't read it, and that's why I didn't put myself up for it distinctly," Fox said.
Yet he backed the Democratic candidate based on this issue. I don't understand how that's honest advertising.

Extra Hours

Shoshana put up Haveil Havalim #91 - quite impressive, great stuff there. Check it out!

We're off to some more training today for part of the day - fun fun. I'll be sitting there unable to move after yesterday's football game, which we won 26-12 despite absolutely crazy winds. Our defense picked it up a bit after an early adjustment (and a couple of dropped interceptions) and ended up with three INT's, including one returned for a touchdown, and forcing a safety. This was despite missing two of six starters. The offense had a rough time because of the wind, as it was forced to keep everything short, but it picked it up in the second half to score three touchdowns.

We're 2-0, tied for first in the division - and of course, playing the other 2-0 division team next week. Big game...

And now, back to the fascinating discussion below.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are you prepared to lie to the Shadchan about....

After some very interesting Shabbos table discussions, I'm left trying to formulate an opinion on what seems to be a big issue. So I turn to those faithful SerandEz readers for your thoughts, in the hope that someone inspires me.

The question: How should issues like eating disorders and depression be treated in the Shidduch-world? If a "teenage problem" is "solved" by the time a girl or boy returns from his/her year in israel, does a prospective spouse need to know about it?
(notice the strategic placement of quotation marks; hamayvin yavin.)

Breaking the Law & Making a Kiddush Hashem?

(Hat tip: Yeshiva World)

Here's an interesting case... the yeshiva in Waterbury was in the news recently for using private homes as dormitories. All in all, the news coverage was quite good - sticking to the facts, airing both sides of the story, etc. Basically, Waterbury has been using these homes as temporary dorms with the full intention of building actual dorms on campus within 1-2 years. With the large growth of the school, they've put people in homes - which they own - nearby. It wasn't clear if they realized this was or wasn't illegal from the story, and interestingly, the neighbors don't (generally) seem to mind them:

Several neighbors said the yeshiva students are a welcome addition to their neighborhood. They drive like Brooklyn cab drivers, but who cares? said 74-year-old William Regan, a roofing contractor recovering at home from pneumonia. Ive never had any problems with them.

They’re just kids, dear, interjected Regans wife, Barbara. She recalled one boy insisted on helping her carry groceries when her husband was in the hospital. If there was a problem, Id be the first to complain, Barbara Regan said. I find them very respectful.

Yeshiva student Eli Lang, 16, said he can understand noise complaints, but stressed his classmates do their best to fit in. The schools rabbis have impressed upon them the need to be courteous and respectful, he said.

We are not looking to make enemies. We want to make friends, Lang said.

The latest round of city interest in the dorms was sparked by Alderman Denis Odle, who asked the Zoning Commission to order Sequin to enforce the city’s zoning codes. Odle said he has received nearly two dozen complaints about poorly maintained properties and wild driving by the youths.

Both of those problems are easily fixed, as the yeshiva could put a bit of money into fixing or have the guys themselves fix the place up. And, they could easily ban those under a certain age from driving as many schools (such as my own high school) do.

The yeshiva also doesn't seem to have been hiding the issue, either: They have bought more houses and applied for them to be taken off the tax rolls because they're a tax-exempt entity. The article seems to show that the issue is more of the city allowing it, to the point that they actually specifically met with the yeshiva about it:

The dorms are an obvious breach of the city’s land-use regulations, City Planner James Sequin told the Zoning Commission this week. But city staffers were leery of infringing on the students religious rights, he said. So, after meeting with yeshiva leaders, city officials agreed to allow things to continue as long as there were no flagrant problems, Sequin said.

The city’s fire marshal also inspected, and cleared, the dormitories, he said.

All in all, this is a weird case. Clearly, what they're doing is illegal - but nobody really seems to be much bothered by it. The city seems to be trying to figure out how to best work this out, as the yeshiva (and presumably, community) growth seems to be a positive for the city. The students seem to be polite and trying their best to "make friends" with their neighbors, their poor driving skills notwithstanding, and the neighbors themselves seem to like having them around. Obviously the law is something that cannot and should not be broken, but the approach by the yeshiva and the city in working together toward a solution is nice to see. There is none of the all-too-common bickering, the claims on one side that the Jews are 'creating their own set of rules' and on the other side that people are 'out to get us'. This is how all disputes should be handled: Quietly, calmly, honestly, and with proper derekh eretz*.

Who knew that breaking the law could create such a kiddush Hashem**?

* loosely: manners
** lit: santification of God's name

SerandEz PSA

Remember to change your clocks back. It would be annoying to show up an hour early for your football game, ya know? :) [Haven't played in 45mph winds in a long time... should be fun.]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The best part about living in Ramat Beit Shemesh: Israel is only 2 hours away."

(Sorry, you two... and a bunch of other bloggers.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

In The Oval Office

Excellent editorial by Daniel Hellinger in today's Wall Street Journal. The interview with President Bush that he puts pieces of in the article are very telling and - in my opinion - Bush's statements are right on the mark.

An important question to me is - and has been - why the Republicans aren't making those same points across the board. I've seen some of them, but most of them are couched in political speech and other garbage. They're relying on people disliking the Democrats and what they want to do (or the fact that they aren't giving alternative options) instead of driving the message of what needs to be done for the sake of this country.

Perhaps this is why this other editorial (also in the Journal) sadly makes so much sense: Many conservatives think that the GOP needs to lose Congress (or at least the House) to be reminded of what they're in office for.

I'm hoping they'll remember on their own. I still do think the GOP will hold the Senate, and likely the House as well, but one point should be clear: It is better for the GOP to lose the House and remember what they are there for than to win it and keep thinking everything is okay. If the latter happens, a Democrat will almost certainly win in 2008 - and they'll take Congress then, too.

So Little Time...

I wanted to put up a whole bunch of posts, but between Blogger problems and my own going out I simply didn't have the time. A few quick notes:
  • The post before this was the 1,300th post on SerandEz. Wow.
  • I'm shocked that the Cards are up 3-1 in the World Series.
  • My camera is back from Canon - long story, but I have quite the moral dilemma now; so far, we're taking the probably overly nice route and losing money that we may not have to.
  • On a similar (oooh, related?) note, we're getting to keep a lot of rent money - but that's because we still don't have a kitchen (not to mention other problems). I hate Home Depot, who has spun a fabulous series of lies and promises... while putting on an incredible show of incompetence.
  • I've met a few more bloggers recently, with Irina the latest victim. So far, it seems like all the blawgers I know (lawyer/law student bloggers) are nice, blowing stereotypes out of the water.
  • I was finally able to attend TheShmuz. Solid. Need to go a few more times before I can write a good deal about it. Impressive crowd for an average Monday night in KGH - 50 people.
I had wanted to do a quick roundup, but that's not happening. One random blog note: I miss RenReb. (We hope all is well, and that you come back when is good for you...) I miss Orthomom, too, though she's not really missing, just a bit bogged down. On the flip side of those genres, Shifra and Ariella have been great lately and been posting a lot more often. Layla tov!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Noah, this is the Lord speaking...

G found the famous, classic, hilarious Bill Cosby routine. It's funny every time...

The Ultimate Championship

Ohio State. Michigan. The best rivalry in college football. This year is a dream year for the two colleges, as they are currently ranked #1 and #2, respectively, with joke-easy schedules remaining until Michigan visits Columbus in November for the last game of the season. They are both undefeated, having blown out pretty much everybody they've faced - including some top-tier teams. The consensus seems to be that whoever wins that game will play in the championship game against some other team that will likely have one loss on their record. This is simply because after a loss, teams tend to drop in the rankings which are big factors in determining who goes to the championship.

But why? Think about this: Let's say Ohio State beats Michigan in a tough, close, nail-biter in Columbus on November 18th. This is somewhat likely. Now, Michigan will be 11-1 with its sole loss to Ohio State - the best team in the country - on the road, in a huge conference championship game, in a tight game, in one of the best rivalries of any sport. The fact that it happened on the last game of the season should not make it therefore have more weight than (say) a loss by Florida to Auburn by 10 points this past week, an Auburn home loss to Arkansas the week before, or an Arkansas blowout loss to USC in the first week. Barring USC or perhaps West Virginia remaining undefeated, Michigan should retain their #2 ranking and play in the championship - against their utter rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Michigan vs. Ohio State for the national championship in a rematch of a game played just a few weeks prior. Wouldn't that be incredible?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Get a Jump on the Parsha (Funny Commercial)

(Hat tip: Sara K)

Acting or Not...

There's a controversy over recent ads by the Democratic Party fueled by criticism from Rush Limbaugh. Personally, I have no clue if Limbaugh is right or not, and I don't think it matters. The issue is simple: Michael J. Fox, a great actor who is suffering from the terrible disease of Parkinson's, appeared in ads promoting stem cell research and claiming that the GOP is against it in the states in which it airs. This doesn't seem to be true - Missouri Senator Jim Talent (R) has supported research as long as it doesn't include cloning or destroying a human embryo, which is why he's against a current amendment, as it does include cloning. But the controversy is over whether Fox is acting in the commercials - while we all know he has Parkinson's, is he acting the symptoms for the commercials to bring in greater sympathy and to draw voters? After all, he's acted in TV shows as recently as this year without the ill effects, which are "on and off". Limbaugh thinks that he's acting for the commercials (though later he said he could be mistaken).

To me, I have no clue if he's acting or not. I'm inclined to believe that he is not, but that brings a greater question to my mind. The ill effects of Parkinson's (the shaking, etc.) are "on and off". Did the Democrats wait until Fox was suffering to film the commercial, just to score political points? Fox has been an amazing spokesman for sufferers of Parkinson's for years - and without the shaking. I still remember the very simple but powerful ads they used to show during Spin City reruns late at night - he would say his piece and sit there, unmoving, staring at the camera. It just seems wrong to try and wait for a time where he can't control his shaking to film the commercial solely for political points, especially as he's noted the difficulty acting and how painful it is when he is shaking. Throw in the false claims of the ads, and it just seems that the Democrats are sinking to deep lows in their quest for Congress in some races around the country.

They could have easily run a solid ad with Fox claiming that Democrats are stronger supporters of greater forms of stem cell research. The GOP would have countered that they are against certain forms of research because of moral issues. Both would have been true, and would have allowed voters to make their own decisions. Instead, these ads have twisted the debate from what it should be about. It's sad.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jewish Economics - Pitfall #1

A must-read to start is (Orthonomics) Sephardi Lady's latest, Budgeting Tool #1: Monthly Budget Tracking & Budget Summary. She has an excellent, thorough listing of what you can, should and must do - and how to do it. I want to mention a couple of the pitfalls you may run into in trying to do them, so you can avoid them.
  • Fixed vs. variable expenses: People - especially young couples, especially young about-to-be couples - sometimes underestimate just how much their fixed expenses are going to be. I still remember the 'Woah' look on my friend's face when I went through it with him a couple of years ago. But usually, people have a pretty good handle on their fixed expenses after a while if they're paying any attention to their budget. The tricky part is variable expenses. Even if a couple is paying attention to their expenses, the variable expenses add up to a lot more than people realize. People will estimate, then add a good 30% assuming they aren't thinking of everything... add when the month ends, they can't figure out how they have no money left when they thought they'd have plenty. It's amazing how much the little drugstore buys and extra food and whatnot add up to. Mind-boggling, really. Be careful to try and track those variable expenses as much as possible to see how much they're adding up to. Don't drive yourself nuts - it's not worth it - but if (say) you are using a debit card, those purchases will be on your statement. Cash purchases you may need to write down.

  • Don't forget about basic expenses. I know this sounds obvious, but it's amazing to see how easily people forget to include expenses such as: Gas and electric, cell phones, home phones, DSL/Cable, car insurance, health insurance, gas, etc.
  • There were more, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment. Plus, it's good to see only a few bits and pieces at a time. One final note, that SL already touched on but is worth spending more time on: Interest. For those people who are using credit cards and aren't paying them off in full, they often neglect to add in the interest into their budgeting when figuring out how much money they're spending. I would tell people not to get into credit debt in the first place, but it's often either unavoidable or too late for that: But it's not too late to start tracking it.

    Just as an example of the first part above, here's what our basic fixed costs were for our old 1-bedroom apartment (on average):
    1. $983.25 Rent
    2. $125 Gas/Electric
    3. $396 Health
    4. $70 Phone + DSL
    5. $140 Cell phones
    6. $100 Transportation
    7. TOTAL: $1814.25/month [$21,771/year]
    For everyone, especially young couples - and especially couples-to-be [Y'all know who you are ;) ] - make sure you're well aware of these numbers. We didn't (and don't) have a car, which would have knocked it up many thousands more. We did have tuition, but I'm not even going to touch that here, as that both varies highly from person to person and is a completely different story. Please feel free to point out anything I may have missed, especially as it pertains to what I've tried to cover in this particular post (or SL's post). Thanks.

    The Great Waterfall of Sukkos

    My brother OD, nephew Ben, and niece Henna Bayla (sitting on OD's lap) relaxing at the waterfall downtown.
    Photo Credit: My sister-in-law SIL.

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Best Blog Names

    I don't want to put up too many posts too fast, and I have almost nothing to post at the moment, but AbbaGav has a fun post up about blog names:
    Of course there's more to a great blog than a great name, but it's a good place to start. Here are a few of the blog names that have tickled my fancy even before the blogging began
    He has his own list, including one of mine. The ones that really stuck out at me:
    PsychoToddler, Jameel @ the Muqata, Renegade Rebbetzin, Wild Tumor*, Godol Hador (now here), and Kefirot.
    I would say Hirhurim but I knew what it was before I started blogging. Which ones stuck out at you?

    * Before anyone gets insulted, he actually works in the field. Okay? Good.

    Bloody Rude

    Some good reading this Monday morning...
    DAG gets asked a question that's more wrong than rude; Sephardi Lady gets a suggestion that is more rude than anything you've ever heard; and DAG notes the difference between being good and being ehrliche. (Ah, I've always loved R' Salanter.)

    On a more positive note, SJ has an excellent and eloquent post about bashing New Yorkers (or not) that is a must read for all to understand what's going on. She's new to blogging, but so far her blog is top-notch. Plus, she's a great Shabbos guest. :)

    Finally, a hearty Mazel Tov! to JH on the birth of baby boy!
    Also, I'm loving the great posts below by MordyS and Pobody's Nerfect. Check them out.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Israel for the Chagim

    While it’s still somewhat fresh in my mind, I want to tell the world (or maybe just SerandEz readers) about my trip to Israel for Yom Kippur and Succos. Yes, if I seemed MIA during the chagim that was the reason why. I had this idea before I left the states of starting a blog and posting all the things I did on my trip but it proved a much more daunting task than I originally thought. I was actually annoyed for the first few days that I wasn’t going to be able to keep to it, but then my friend pointed out that I was on vacation and that I should just enjoy the trip. So enjoy the trip I did.

    When people ask me how it was I’ve been saying that it felt a lot like my first year in Israel. When I got to Israel in 2002 for my first year of yeshiva I knew nothing about the land of Israel, not a word of Hebrew, and just had no clue what Israel was like. I went with the intention of just soaking everything in. I didn’t get there and say that I’m going to try to learn everything I can about Israel. I just went there with an open mind thinking that whatever happens, happens and whatever I learn, I’ll learn. To this day I still tell all the kids I meet that are going to Israel for the year that they should just go there with an open mind and suck everything up. I tell them to observe everything, ask questions, and just see how all the different types of people in Israel live their lives.

    During that first year in Israel I met and talked to a lot of different types of people from all different walks of life and learned a lot about the country, the people, the politics and all the different angles and views that make up our great homeland. This trip had a lot of the same feelings. I’m annoyed that the blog idea didn’t work out because almost every day of this trip contained another interesting story or incident that I probably could have written at least a page about.

    Out of all the little things that happened though, there is one little conversation I had that I’m realizing was not as insignificant as I thought.

    One night during the week between Yom Kippur and Succos I met up with my friend Avi and we had nothing to do so we started roaming around Ben Yehuda talking about what was up and how our trips were going. We got on a bus and headed over to the Tachane Merkazit to meet up with some friends of his and while on the bus we started talking about yarmulkes and how he was experimenting with different yarmulkes and he felt like he was getting different reactions from people based on which yarmulke he wore. We both realized that was way too deep of a conversation and we weren’t interested in discussing the depth of yarmulke psychology at the moment (that’s for another post). But then he told me this little thing that happened that day. He had a locksmith over to change the locks on his parents’ apartment where he was staying for the chag and the guy didn’t look frum or not frum. He just looked like a regular Israeli and he wasn’t wearing a yarmulke. After the locksmith finished Avi offered him a drink and he said yeah. But first he asked if he could borrow a kippah to make a bracha. That was the story. The guy wouldn’t take the drink without having a yarmulke on his head to make a bracha. No big deal. People like to make brochos. And maybe he was Sefardi and some don’t always wear a yarmulke because that’s their minhag. Not a big thing at all.

    And it hits me. I love that. I love those little things that only happen in Israel. There are all those lists that people have of things you only see in Israel or the lists of reasons why Israel is so great. And those lists are great and I love them and the fact that people can list endless amounts of little things that are so great about Israel makes us all feel warm and fuzzy inside. But when it comes down to it I realized that I live for those little things in a completely practical sense. Those little stories give me so much chizuk when I think about how I’m going to eventually make aliyah and how I’m going to have to support a family and raise children in a country I wasn’t born in and didn’t grow up in. People can talk all about how great it is to be in a Jewish country or about the Medina, or how the foods better, or how the air is better for learning Torah or whatever, but that’s all the big picture. I know the big pictures already. I spent years figuring out the big picture and thank God I get it in some sense. I know that God gave us Israel and how many wars have been fought for our land and I know there are so many great things about being in the land, and what the Torah says about our land and all that stuff. But it’s all about the little things. It seems almost like Ba'al Tshuvas who have all this insipiration when they first become frum and then they have to learn how to make the inspiration into reality and incorporate it into their daily lives as a frum indivduals. (Isn't that an interesting comparison? Olim to Ba'al Tshuvas? Something to think about.) I know it’s going to be hard to make a living and I know I’m going to have to worry about all types of things when I move there, but if I could hear just one of those little anecdotes a month I feel like I’d be good to go. If I can continue to be as conscious of those little things that lift my spirits when I move there as I am when I go there for the chagim every year, I know I’ll have no trouble fitting right in.

    Winning & Losing

    Football. Easily the best sport - whether to play, to watch, or to follow.

    First, the bad news (for me, anyway): I'm getting trashed in my own pool once again. I'm currently last (of 20 people), and will likely finish in the bottom five this week. In the last survivor pool I was in, Jacksonville got crushed and knocked me out [...thereby proving my theory that you never want a road team in a survivor pool - from now on, I should listen to that and not "well, it's Jacksonville against the TEXANS!" Ugh]. I'm 2-6 vs. the spread on the week so far. The Browns are playing great D but blowing it on 3rd-and-1 all game and are losing 10-0 at the half. It's just been ugly.

    But, the good news is that the real football game went pretty well. Though it was the first game and we made a few mistakes, we still easily ran over the Hitmen and won 33-15. One sometimes commenter on this blog led us with 3 TD's, and though it was still just 13-7 at the half we had a much easier time in the second half. We should have won by a lot more, but a couple of mental errors and a lot of missed flags cost us. None of us have played in this league before, but it seems well-organized, well-run, and should be fun. (Quite a bit of swearing on the other team, and one ref was a bit of a space-out - calling a TD for the other team when their WR caught the ball about 15 yards out the back of the endzone originally until the other ref was able to explain it to him - but otherwise nothing bad to say.)

    Good Eats

    Me-Ander has the 11th Kosher Cooking Carnival - What? Food after all the Holidays?! Yum.

    PUMPED

    There is nothing like waiting for that first football game of the season to begin. Nothing.

    (In case y'all are curious, my friends and I are TwistCafe.)

    As promised...

    The Traveler and the Princess
    (Or Lament Of An F.F.B.)

    Author Unknown
    Discontented sat the Princess on her golden chair.
    Then they brought a traveler in. She sat up with a stare.
    “Tell me,” she beseeched the traveler, radiant of face.
    “Tell me of your bitter journey back to this, your place.”

    Wistfully she listened to the tales poured in her ear.
    “Tell me of your joy,” she begged, “now that you’ve made it here!”
    Shifting shadows played upon her features as he spoke
    And when he’d done, she murmured in a voice that sadly broke.

    “Not for me the frozen march across the windswept waste
    Nor the bliss of seizing what so very long I’ve chased!
    Here I sit in cozy splendor, fed from silver spoons.
    Not for me the lonely baying under silver moons;

    “Not for me exquisite warming at a newfound fire
    Soaring up on brand-new wings, high and ever higher;
    How I envy you, dear traveler, fresh from wind and frost
    Hugging to yourself the joy of finding what you’ve lost!

    “Never will I stand upon a long-awaited shore
    Knowing that I’ve reached at last the home I’d left before.
    An uncut diamond, how you’ve worked to free your inner glow!
    Something I – a gem in a velvet box- will never know.”

    The traveler seemed astonished, his brow creased in thought.
    “You’ve never known real cold, it’s true, although you think you ought.
    The freezing trek is strange to you, the ice that takes its toll –
    But Princess, have you never felt a chill upon the soul?

    “You haven’t hunted wary miles, of that I will be bound.
    But tell me, have you never strained to gain a little ground?
    And have you never felt the longing, just as I have done,
    To draw a little closer to the Ineffable One?

    “You’ve never felt the bliss of toasting at a newborn flame
    But Princess, doesn’t aged fire warm you just the same?
    Soaring high on brand-new wings is what you yearn to do
    But don’t you know the joy already? Haven’t you flown, too?

    “Finding something that was lost is splendid, I’ll admit,
    But you, dear Princess, haven’t known the pain of losing it!
    Coming home is quite a thrill, back from a distant shore –
    But don’t you feel the same, each time you step inside your door?”

    The Princess bowed her lovely head, “How right you are!” she cried.
    “The way you feel today is how I’ve always felt inside.
    I have always known and cherished that which you’ve just found.
    We two are but a pair of jewels adorning the same Crown.

    “In my quiet way I’ve made my journeys, just like you
    And if your tales are more exciting – mine are special, too.
    Two travelers are we, indeed, for no one stands quite still:
    We both are striding down one road, to satisfy one Will.”

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    And On The 7th Day...

    A few good links before Shabbos which I've wanted to put up... anyone else having blogger trouble today? There were a number of good posts and discussions on SerandEz this week, so please scroll down to check them out if you haven't yet, particularly Pobody's Nerfect's post below this.
    Olah Chadasha put up Part IV of her series of videos on the recent war. It's amazing (and emotional). Check it - and the first three parts - out as soon as possible.

    WestBankMama notes a great point from her rabbi:
    He said that not only is it important to know that you can win a war, but that you have the right to do so. This knowledge is sorely lacking in some sectors of our our society.
    PsychoToddler has a great post about hats and how people relate to one another up at DovBear. On a similar vein, Steve Brizel posts at BeyondBT about how the MO and Charedi worlds can learn to appreciate one another.

    Nephtuli takes Dawkins to task.

    And I miss this concert that Life-of-Rubin has clips of - it's always good year to year, and it seems to be getting even better.
    Have a wonderful Shabbos! We're eating out, seeing as how we are currently living without a kitchen and master bedroom.

    Metamorphasis of a Teenage Punk

    Okay, so Ezzie told me that the best posts don't get feedback and that is SO unjust because I'm a female and need lots of reinforcements. So please comment!!!
    The following is an essay that I wrote for English class, on the topic, "Growing Up." Enjoy.
    Metamorphosis of a Teenage Punk
    Many people have a hard time digesting the following information about my past, but I guarantee it is no jest. Despite my current appearance as a happy, religious, and overall normal young adult, my turbulent teenage years saw me as an angry and rebellious punk. For some, the most shocking aspect of my transformation is that I speak about it readily; they expect a closed attitude of, “Let history remain history and move on.” However, I feel differently. Though my past may conjure up some unpleasant memories, I have made a conscious decision to learn from my experiences and use the lessons to better my present and my future.

    During my early high-school years, I hated everything Judaism represented, mostly because it had been misrepresented to me. Many teachers refused to acknowledge my questions on the existence of G-d or explain the traditions we were being instructed to practice. My persistence in questioning eventually rewarded me with answers, and I am ever thankful to the patient few who guided me in the proper direction. The truly influential people in my life were the ones who never forced their beliefs on me, allowing me to instead come to my own realizations. What affected me perhaps the most was that I saw my mentors apply the principles they were teaching into their own lives. I anticipate the day when I can use the knowledge and insights I gained through my journey to help others who are seeking the truth.

    The change in my attitude towards Judaism brought about a change in my outer appearance as well. My wardrobe back then was very black- right down to my nail polish and spiked leather bracelet. Like most teenagers, I was expressing myself through clothing. My goal was to convey to the world that I was displeased with everything life had to offer. Since my spiritual metamorphosis, my closet has also morphed into a more conservative, button-down blouse and kick-pleated skirt style. Due to my drastic change, I that people would be changing their mental judgments of me. This brought me to the realization that dressing as an observant Jew is a responsibility. My future actions would be stereotyped as typical of Orthodox Jewry, whether that became my objective or not. It is my hope that I can accurately represent my people and my faith before a judging world.

    Perhaps the most important discovery I made as a teenager was about the true path to happiness. I spent much of my punk stage miserable that my life wasn’t perfect. I blamed my unhappiness on the dysfunctions of my family and on my own character flaws. What I didn’t realize was that I was bringing about my own sadness; I was not allowing myself to become happy. Happiness requires constant effort and self-control to keep from thinking depressing thoughts. That might be to be a lifetime battle, but I am confident I will succeed.

    To quote the character Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” My experiences as a teenage punk helped form the person I am today. The journey is not over, but I hope to take the lessons I’ve acquired with me as I struggle to soar higher.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Is This 2002 All Over?

    (Hat tip: SoccerDad)

    Before I get back to work... I said a few days ago that I think the polls - which currently are predicting leads or close races for many Democrats - are very wrong. Today, Instapundit linked to Dan Riehl's post about 2002 which actually tracked many of the close races and did this exact comparison: The pre-election polls vs. the actual results. Excerpts:

    Max Cleland, what can I say? Result in bold. Are you noticing a pattern here?

    Georgia
    Cleland 49 46
    Chamblis 49 53

    My, my .. the beat goes on.

    Texas
    Kirk 48 43.3
    Coryn 49 55.3

    And going back to Oct. 22, these pearls of wisdom from DailyKos via Charlie Cook:

    Cook notes that Dems have a good shot at taking GOP seats in Arkansas, New Hampshire and Colorado, while the race in North Carolina has become unexpectedly competitive...Consider, perhaps the surest takeover bet is Arkansas, a GOP seat. And if the GOP loses New Hampshire, which I believe is likely, then forget it. There's no way the GOP can take the Senate.

    Too bad Dems lost all of the above by 5 - 10 points.

    Those are just some of the examples. Other examples were off by as much as 16%. One common theme: All the polls were off to the left.

    Something worth remembering... both when deciding whether to vote or not, and when wondering why all the polls were wrong.

    We Don't Hate All New Yorkers

    "...just the ones who act like N** Y***ers." Sorry, I had to.

    I actually have some work to do now (shehecheyanu), but I just wanted to make clear that the post from yesterday's point was not to bash NYers. [Insert NY-bashing here to show when we *would* be doing so :) .] As I said in the comments there, in response to a good point/question by RaggedyMom:
    We actually had this discussion at my house over Shabbos Shuva, where a good friend argued the same thing. It's not a "NY-bashing" session as much as it's making a point, mostly to ourselves.

    The idea is to point out the actions and attitudes that pervade the NY-NJ area, particularly the Jewish communities - where we "expect better". PsychoToddler and others have made the point well in other places. The NYC area is generally looked to as a guide to 'how Jews should be', primarily because it's where most frum American Jews live. This is where the more recognized names are, this is where you have seriously big Orthodox communities. It is important to remember the flaws that come with it, particularly when people in other communities "bring NY" to those communities.

    I really want to write more about this, but here's one example I gave that Shabbos: I notice that when I'm in NY, I act a certain way that I don't like. I drive a certain way, I cross streets a certain way, I answer my cellphone at certain times, I generally do a number of things that are perfectly normal here in NY. They may not even be "rude" in NY. But if I'm in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Chicago, Baltimore, or Los Angeles, and I do any of those, they are rude and they do upset people. Most of all, they upset me. I think they show a lack of manners, even when I'm in NY - and yet they're "normal" here.

    When someone says "Stop acting like a NYer",
    You can read the rest of the comment here.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Quick Rant

    I'm so pissed off right now. Why? Simple. My boss decided to order pizza for everyone in the office today. But instead of ordering kosher pizza so I could eat as well, he ordered treif. And not just ordinary treif, but with pepporoni. I wear a kippa and everyone knows I keep kosher. We are a small company where everyone is really close, so it should not have been a problem ordering the bit-more-expensive pizza so the frum yid can eat as well. YA, YA, that same frum yid that helps everyone whenever they need it. "Oh, how do I force quit?" "Why isen't it printing?" "How do I attach this?"AND, I work for a Jewish company for God's sake. Instead, I ate my plums while the rest of the pigs ate their pepperoni.

    Hail Ezzie.

    Why We're Jerks

    In light of some of the despicable actions reported over Sukkos by Orthodox Jews - lack of basic manners, proper derech eretz (similar to manners), and simple respect for one another - Elie asks simply:
    But I guess the first question would be, how on earth did we ever get the way we are now?
    I responded in the comments (so please excuse the lack of clarity, grammar, and other problems) what I think much of it stems from. This is but one of many issues, but one I've noticed more and more often, particularly the longer I've lived in New York City:
    Too many people wanting their children to have everything they didn't, resulting in people who think everything is coming to them? It's one of many possibilities.

    People don't teach proper middos often enough, and I am a firm believer that this is more true in larger cities, particularly NY/NJ. The more 'rushed' everything is around you, the more you are forced to 'fend for yourself' in all the little things. This leads to a subconscious disposal of basic manners.

    People like to point to the great way people responded on 9/11 as a testament to how 'nice' and 'great' NYers are. While that was great, rallying in a time of crisis is not surprising or incredibly extraordinary. People aren't generally 'bad' people who are completely selfish. They simply lose focus of what's important, getting swept up by what's going on around them on a daily basis.

    What's important is to have that kindness, that derech eretz, that kavod ha'adam, that unselfishness - *all* the time, not just when it's desperately needed.

    If doing it for its own sake isn't enough, look at these posts and see what happens when we don't.

    Haman, Extortion, Incitement, Censorship, & Inspiration

    Catchy title, isn't it? A few really fascinating links...
    Life-of-Rubin finds a movie being made about - basically - Megillas Esther (The Book of Esther). The previews both look pretty good. Something about it reminds me of the Ten Commandments, without the cheesiness.

    He also notes a story that should be more reported than it is: A Reuters cameraman inciting people to throw rocks at Israeli vehicles, starting a riot.

    BagelBlogger has been censored in Australia on his American-based website by the Danish government about Muslim issues. Interesting... and not a good sign.

    R' Max Weiman on BeyondBT regarding thinkers vs. sheep. Great post.
    Finally, (via KesherTalk) RedState notes that the recent attempted outing of a supposed closet gay GOP Senator is extortion, whether it's true or not. The person behind the outing threatened to out the Senator unless he voted against Alito, and said he would wait to out him until a politically expedient time - i.e., 3 weeks before the election. That seems pretty clear cut to me, and it's not as if the person behind it is hiding his intentions about this.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Rating the Food

    Working in midtown Manhattan has its perks... and drawbacks. Having a lot of Kosher restaurants nearby is both. (See previous post.) From a food standpoint, all the ones we've gone to so far (we being myself and some co-workers, including one person listed as a contributor below) are pretty solid and not too expensive. Here they are:
    Fast favorite: Milk & Honey - good, reasonably priced milchigs (dairy), quick service. Plenty of choices of everything dairy. If you're into salad, you can get pretty much whatever you want in it without the price going up.

    Easiest to mock: Circa - though it's a couple subway stops away, we all have unlimited MetroCards. It's basically the same thing as Milk & Honey, but slightly more expensive. There's more room to sit usually, and you get to make fun of all the jabbering Stern girls (or Stern-wannabes) whodon'tstoptalkinglongenoughtobreatheandfeelcompelledtotalkreallyloud. Geez. It IS fun to make fun of them, though. (The only time they get quiet: To talk about someone in the restaurant. Pretty funny/obvious.) (Sorry to all the Stern girls who read this. I don't mean any of you, of course... none of you were there when we went. :) )

    Best weather: Ah, to not have to go outside... Mendy's is underneath a whole bunch of buildings in the city, including my own. It's good, solid deli. Nowhere to sit during mealtimes, even in the large eating areas nearby (unless you catch people leaving at juts the right moment!).

    Best coffee: The Starbucks when you come into our building. Sweeeet. :)

    Best speed: Kosher Deluxe. I've never waited more than a minute to get my food. Plus, it's cheap and somewhat filling. Milk & Honey and the back part of My Most Favorite Dessert Company are both pretty fast, too.
    Basically, those are the places I've been to so far. I'm about to go to a birthday party at Mr. Broadway [which is why I'm blogging from my desk], which I don't know if I've been to since Serach & I were dating (good, though), and I'm sure I'll soon be at Cafe K, J-2 [or not, depending on how much I remember past experiences], order from Dougie's, go to Le Marais, and if someone else pays hit up Prime Grill or Wolf & Lamb. Until Serach kills me, anyway.

    For all those in the city, drop me an e-mail if you'll be [or are] nearby. Until busy season hits at least, perhaps we can do lunch.

    Jewish Economics - Misconception #1

    Somehow, my last post turned into politics. It was supposed to be about economics.

    One of the most difficult issues with trying to 'fix' problems is that people don't relate to them the same way. This causes two problems: Those who are trying to think of solutions don't leave much room for error, where that room is needed, and younger couples - especially those from more comfortable families - run into problems when they get surprised.

    Since that was incredibly confusing, here's an example: Most people have some money in the bank. If for whatever reason, someone spends a bit more money or writes out an extra check, there's no harm done - their bank account balance shrinks a bit, and that's it. They'll bring it back up at some point, and there's no harm done. Or, more common, someone forgets to enter a check into their register right away, and their balance is lower than they think - odds are, this won't cause a problem. Their extra money in the bank will keep the check from bouncing.

    Now, take the same situation, but imagine it's a young couple. This young couple generally has to toe the line a bit on their bank account. Now, say they write out a check and forget to enter it right away. Or, maybe they have deposited a check, and it's been two days, and they assume it has cleared already - but for some reason it's held up and it hasn't. Now, they write a check, and it bounces. Or they buy something on their debit card, and it goes through - only their bank nails them with a fee for spending money that wasn't there. The latter is worse, because they don't even find out about it right away. Their bank account has been lowered without their knowledge, and they then write a check - which bounces. They get charged more fees. Maybe, they've written out checks to a bunch of places - and even though there's enough for all but one of them, the largest one gets deposited first, so all the other ones bounce.

    If you're paying $27 for each bounced check, that adds up really fast (not to mention the embarrassment of having to send out a second check). Not only that, the person who deposited the bounced check may have gotten charged $10 or so as well, so you need to pay for that too. What may have been a $35 check is now costing you $72, or $37 extra. Say that happened to five checks at once, and you've just lost $160.

    Now, here's the problem: Many people simply don't get it. They don't understand that putting $10 on your account doesn't just cost you $10. They don't understand that you don't have a buffer to keep you from going over your account balance. They don't understand that while you may be able to afford the $10 easily in a week when your next paycheck comes, right now you can't. Worse, some people still don't get it when it's *them* living on the edge like that - and they drive themselves into debt. Worse still, some of them have parents who bail them out - now wanting their child to be able to buy what they want - and they never learn. Meanwhile, the parents are now losing money, the child is losing money, and nobody is learning how to fix the problems.

    So, misconception #1:
    Stop living as if there's a buffer. Especially now, there is no buffer! There's no room for error, no room for buying 'just a little something special', no money for that extra shwarma from Massov, no matter how good it is.
    And we haven't even touched credit cards yet. Or budgeting. Thank God for Orthonomics, or I'd be writing forever. :)

    Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

    As I said, I'd like to start spending a bit of time focusing on different economic and education issues that plague the Orthodox Jewish community. Most of these are not exclusive to the Jewish community, but it's what I'm familiar with and therefore the easiest way for me to write about it.

    At the same time, elections are in about 3 weeks - important elections. Most people who have been paying attention until now had already decided who they were voting for a long time ago. But the people that swing the election are often just tuning in now. Early prediction (even though I hate predictions, which tend to be meaningless): The GOP hangs on to their majorities everywhere, shocking and angering the left whose polls told them they'd take the House and come close in the Senate. People forget that even a 50/50 representation of Republicans and Democrats isn't necessarily an accurate representation: There may be more Republicans than Democrats in that area. Throw in that the polls are actually taking Democrat-heavy samples much of the time, and it's no surprise that the polls are consistently off.

    On top of that, polls tend to call people during the day. (At least, based on when I've gotten calls.) Well, who is home during the day? Retirees/older people; young people who are in school [school is not all day]; unemployed people; people whose jobs allow them to be at home; stay at home moms. More importantly, who is NOT at home? Working people, businessmen, etc. Which grouping is likely to vote Democrat? Women tend to lean Democrat (whether because of abortion or other reasons). Older people do (Social Security). College students do (brainwashed). Unemployed people do (welfare). Finally, Republicans are more hestitant to trust pollsters, so they turn them down more.

    If you look at the bottom of a poll, it generally shows the makeup of the people polled and when they were called. The percentages are incredibly off from what a typical population should be and actually are. The +/- 3% they generally give are too small: I'd say that any race that's within 10-12 points (led by a Democrat) going into election day is winnable for a Republican (though not necessarily going to win). On the flip side, I'd say that a 6% lead by any Republican is safe enough.

    If I can, I'll try and test this in Novemeber. What do you think? Am I right, somewhat right, mostly wrong...?

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Ah, Deadlines

    Filed my tax return. Now I'm off to deliver other people their own. Nice.

    And the Answer Is...

    4:20. Y'all worry too much... :)

    Others, however, were not as lucky, with people being stuck in places like Philadelphia. Ouch.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Take a Child to Shul

    Check out R' Yakov Horowitz's post at BeyondBT, Take A Child to Shul this Simchas Torah.

    When I was in Israel, I spent the Simchas Torah of both years with a specific family. Both years, I would daven at the local "Chutznik" minyan for those who had 2 separate days for Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, then go back to the family I was staying at and take their youngest son on my shoulders and parade him around the shul during hakafos. So did a few other neighbors and family friends - along with taking the (then) 12-year old and 8-year old in the circle and dancing with them. I'm not sure who appreciated it more: The 3-year old experiencing his first real Simchas Torah, the 8-year old, or the soon-to-be bar mitzvah boy.

    Actually, it was none of them. It was their mother who appreciated it the most. So really, take a child to shul this Simchas Torah. Not out of pity, or charity - but because it makes people happy and it's the right thing to do.

    Chag Sameach, everybody!

    Taking Bets on Baltimore

    What time do you think I'll get there? I'm leaving work at 11:30, should leave home by 12:30. Any guesses? :)

    Prof. Justice: Damn Yankees

    DAMNED YANKEES
    This being October and me being over stimulated on pervert teachers, predator politicians, pathetic psychopathic child-killers and, oh yes, Pyongyang’s Kim Jong-mentally-Il, I’ve focused on something of far greater significance: the cataclysmic collapse of my New York Yankees - the mightiest sports franchise on the face of the earth. Well, far be it for me to not maintain a proper perspective of my life priorities, but I am beyond devastated. In fact, it has now been (gasp) six whole years since they last won the baseball world’s famed fall classic. Desperation and despondency have engulfed every fiber of my being. It’s just more than I can bear.

    The New York tabloids, for their part, have fueled my depression. Losing to a team which, during the regular season was forty games over five hundred and had the best team earned-run average in all of baseball, was embarrassing enough. But they thought it necessary to reopen the flesh wounds inflicted by the perpetual season-ending losses since 2000. You remember: the 2001 and 2003 World Series losses, the 2004 American League Championship Series historical collapse to the dreaded Boston Red Sox and, the 2002 and 2005 Division Series losses to the Los Angeles Angels. Geez, it’s a good thing my sixth-floor office widows are hermetically sealed.

    Of course, New York’s talking heads screamed for the trading of A-Rod, the dumping of Gary Sheffield and the firing of Joe Torre. “Outta Here” headlined The Daily News. “No Mo Joe” read another. One writer stated, “Opportunity knocked, louder even than Alex Rodriguez gets knocked,” but he didn’t answer. Why? Because “with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning of their Game Two loss, he swung and missed at a Justin Verlander ninety-eight mile an hour fastball for strike one, then swung again at a one-hundred and one mile an hour pitch and fouled it back.” Such incompetence. I suppose it would have understandable had Verlander been throwing really hard, like one-hundred and five miles per hour. Another insightful writer offered this epiphany, “Yet after committing an error and going 0-for-3 in Detroit’s 8-3 ousting of the Yankees, He was 1-for-14 in this series, and in his post season career he remains hitless in sixteen at-bats with eight strikeouts in situations of two outs and runners in scoring position. This is not some insignificant player achieving this infamy. This is a player good enough to be part of an all-time 25-man team just assembled by Sports Illustrated.”

    To be fair, the pundits didn’t unleash their wrath exclusively at Alex Rodriguez. Some conceded that it wasn’t only A-Rod’s failure to notch one run-batted-in throughout eleven consecutive playoff games that caused their demise. And several of the sharpest writers offered a few keen insights into the obvious. One wrote, “[The team was] a staggering one for thirty-two with men on base in two straight losses . . . [and] Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano have been particularly pungent.” Another said, “A mind-boggling twenty innings the Yankees went without scoring on the way to yesterday’s 8-3 humiliation that bounced them out of the first round on their wrinkled butts for a second straight October.” Yet another whined, “Until Derek Jeter led off the seventh with a single, the captain had only two hits since his five in Game One. Johnny Damon had not reached base since his homer. Finicky Bobby Abreu was on an 0-for-9 slide.” And finally, AARP member Randy Johnson was trashed for being “touched up for three runs in a second inning of ground balls and a bloop hit helped by a poor jump by right fielder Bobby Abreu, plus a botched pickoff by double-clutching first baseman Jason Giambi. Johnson then put up three more innings of zeroes.”

    They didn’t spare Joe Torre either. If you believe them, he managed (pun intended) to go from Hall of Fame genius to a moron because of his “gambit to bench Gary Sheffield, start Bernie Williams as the designated hitter, and play Giambi at first base failed.” Sheffield, who had never played first base in his career, played there because of Giambi’s bad wrist. When that didn’t work out so well, Torre made the rash decision to return Giambi to first base where he promptly committed an error and cost the Yanks a run. And let’s not forget that Bernie Williams going hitless with two strikeouts was very predictable considering that throughout his career, he had enjoyed unprecedented success against Tiger’s pitcher Kenny Rogers.

    “And it didn’t happen just because Alex Rodriguez failed so miserably for the second straight fall that keeping him a Yankee may no longer be viable, or because Jason Giambi’s wrist was crippled, or because Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui couldn’t make up for all that lost time after all.” Nah, I’m sure that had nothing to do with it. It must have been because Torre failing to get them to perform better. Or maybe it was because Torre “overused” the relief pitchers that, during the regular season, protected leads, saved games and significantly contributed to the sweeping and burying of the rival Red Sox. Hmm, I suppose that might explain Torre’s remarkable ninth consecutive division championship and eleventh consecutive playoff berth. So now the best manager in baseball who, during his eleven-year tenure, has distinguished himself through his trademark calm and steady stewardship of massive egos, is suddenly a dunce and should be run out of town because he failed to get A-Rod perform better?

    Well, at least the critics all agreed on the solution. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner should fire Joe Torre and hire former Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager, Lou Piniella. Piniella, who despite winning a championship with Cincinnati in 1990, had A-Rod and Randy Johnson along with a host of other talent in Seattle and failed to get to the World Series even after achieving an American league record one-hundred and nineteen regular season wins. Yeah, he’s the ticket.

    Look, the New York Yankees are arguably the most successful franchise in baseball and perhaps in all of sports. Their accomplishments throughout history and most recently since 1996 are impressive. And it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Rodriguez hit the ball hard three times in Game One. Two years ago, the Yankees may not have beaten Minnesota without him. In the 2004 American League Championship Series against Boston, nobody else did much offensively. And, in the post season, Rodriguez has a .294 career hitting average with six home runs and sixteen RBIs in one-hundred and twenty-six at-bats. By the way, you may not have noticed that with the exception of last year, the Yankees since 2000 have been bounced into “humiliation” by the team that would become World Champions.

    Listening to the sportswriters buying into Steinbrenner’s shtick, one would think that it is the Yankees’ birthright to win the World Series in perpetuity. And if, heaven forbid, they don’t, the baseball universe is awry. Amazingly, escaping these writers is the possibility that (gasp) the Tigers performed better. I know. That’s blasphemous. It must be that the Yankees bombed (actually, that was their problem - they didn’t hit any bombs), flopped and collapsed. Has anyone considered that maybe, just maybe, the Tigers are a better team? Okay, maybe they are and maybe they’re not. Who cares? The fact is they outplayed the Yankees. So before the theorists jump to the conclusion that the Yankees woefully contributed to their doom, I’d point out that eleven of the first nineteen Yankees batters took strike one off Jeremy Bonderman on the way to getting five soft hits off him. It was Bonderman who got the first fifteen batters out before Robinson Cano snuck a bouncing grounder through the middle of the infield to break up a perfect game. Even Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson acknowledged that the Tigers’ pitching should be given credit for “making their pitches.” Everyone, including New York’s sportswriters, knows darn well that good pitching will beat good hitting every time. The fact of the matter is the Tigers had it and the Yankees didn’t.

    If the pundits were more intellectually honest, and there were some who indeed were, they would place the blame for the Yankees “failure” squarely on the shoulders of their domineering Boss, George Steinbrenner. His incessant desire for high profile “proven” players (read: aging and breaking down players who are offered more money than they could ever expect from anyone else) incites his eagerness to give away young stud prospects to obtain what he perceives as a certain championship. After all, he “deeply want[s] a championship. It’s about time.” Tell that to the Cubbies. My eight-year-old son deeply wants a lot of things also, but like most people he doesn’t get most of them.

    Admittedly, since returning from his baseball suspension for dealing with a convicted felon, Howard Spira, he appears to be relenting to the wiser organizational gurus who resist such “quick fixes.” The Yankees have been better about retaining and cultivating their young players such as Chien Ming Wang, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. And they have a giant prospect in pitcher Philip Hughes who is reportedly close to be ready for the major league. If George’s petulance doesn’t get in the way, perhaps the Yankees will have a tremendous one-two punch for many years in Wang and Hughes. That’s precisely how the Tigers built their staff, by drafting Verlander and trading for Robertson and Bonderman.

    Steinbrenner, for all his ills, does put his profits into the team instead of his pocket like Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad. And consequently, he always gives the team a chance to win every year. But it’s just that: a chance. Like it or not, the reality is that the chances of a team reaching and winning the World Series are slim at best in any year, much less every year. Unless the Yankees change the way they acquire talent, especially pitchers, those chances will become remote. It’s not the Yankees’ birthright to win. And when another team does, it might actually be because they’re better. Go Tigers!

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Sports Post

    MLB: As I said before the playoffs: Tigers over Yanks in 4. That was easy. I was completely wrong when I said the Twins would demolish the A's, but it wasn't difficult to pick the Cards and Mets to the NLCS. Now, I stand by what I've been saying all along: Tigers-Cards in the World Series, with the Tigers winning easily with pitching and the Mets getting killed because they have none.
    Note to New Yorkers: Pitching wins championships. Lack of pitching will cause your team to lose, no matter how good the hitting is. Sure, it's much more fun to watch Jeter, ARod, Sheffield, and Giambi or Beltran, Reyes, and Wright in the same lineup, but that means less money to spend on important things like - oh, say, starting pitching. So, I hope you enjoy watching the Yankees and Mets continue to be heavy favorites to win something, easily win a lot of regular season games, then stumble against an average-hitting, good-pitching playoff team. Meanwhile, teams like the Tigers, Twins, and (next year!) Indians will fight for supremacy because they have great starting pitching. Who honestly doesn't think that everyone but the Royals in the AL Central would beat any team in the NL in a World Series? I mean, seriously.
    NFL: This is what this week's Aikman ratings (which I use to determine my weekly picks) came up with. It's a bit scary, but it proves itself time and time again, so...
    The top team is the road team, the bottom team the home team. My picks are underneath, with the number in () the weight I'm placing on the game.
    SEA
    STL
    PHI
    NO
    TEN
    WAS
    CAR
    BAL
    BUF
    DET
    NYG
    ATL
    HOU
    DAL
    CIN
    TB
    MIA
    NYJ
    SD
    SF
    KC
    PIT
    OAK
    DEN
    CHI
    ARI

    STL
    (6)
    PHI
    (2)
    WAS
    (8)
    BAL
    (9)
    DET
    (4)
    ATL
    (7)
    DAL
    (12)
    CIN
    (3)
    MIA
    (1)
    SD
    (11)
    KC
    (5)
    DEN
    (13)
    CHI
    (10)
    Personally, I'm surprised that Chicago is such a heavy favorite against Arizona, and that Baltimore is so heavy against Carolina. On the other hand, that might be my intense hatred of both teams blinding me, which is one reason I use a system. I'm not surprised by the medium weights on St. Louis (vs. Seattle) and Atlanta (vs. the Giants), seeing as how the Giants really aren't that great and Atlanta's defense and running game are; while the Rams actually play defense this year and Seattle (quite simply) can't seem to score without Shaun Alexander. It's a bit scary to see Denver as the top favorite (and as my survivor pick in the only survivor pool I'm still alive in), if only because they really can't score. Then again, it's the Raiders... and they're so bad, 51% of the people polled on ESPN think they will go 0-16. That's just pathetic. Half the people don't believe they're even good enough to get lucky once. Heck, the Browns beat them - in Oakland - despite giving them an early TD on a questionable fumble call and another on one 65-yard run where they seemed to all just stand there. The Browns!

    I think this will be an upset week, with a few favorites getting surprised... but I can't figure out which ones yet. I just feel it, ya know?

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Autobiography in 5 short chapters

    This is one of my all-time favorite poems. Thought I would share it with ya'll. Enjoy.

    AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS
    by Portia Nelson

    Chapter I
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost... I am helpless.
    It isn't my fault.
    It takes me forever to find a way out.

    Chapter II
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don't see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can't believe I am in
    the same place but, it isn't my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter III
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in... it's a habit.
    My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter IV
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter V
    I walk down another street.

    Plane Hits NYC Hi-Rise!

    UPDATE 3:52: Yahoo News has a live stream from a helicopter with a newscaster from somewhere in it. Seems to be (as she put it) a case of "prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and that seems to be the case here".

    Side note: She doesn't realize that when she's not on-air, people watching online can hear her. It's clear from what she's saying that air traffic control has lost radar where they are temporarily, and she's telling the people with her to tell them they're not there so they can keep filming. Now that they're about to get radar back, she realizes they're probably going to have to move. I'm not sure what's worse (in her obliviousness here) - that air traffic doesn't currently have radar; that she is telling the world they don't currently have radar; or that she is lying to air traffic control. Meanwhile, as a newscaster, she's pretty good.

    They're also running into weather problems. 'I want to make sure that we can get home and not... end up like these guys.'

    Apparently, they're finding out that the helicopter that hit the building had mechanical problems. It hit the building, broke apart, and fell to the street leaving large chunks of debris. Helicopters don't have "black boxes".

    Jameel alerted me to this first...

    A plane smacked into an upper-East side hi-rise in Manhattan just a few minutes ago. Fires are raging in the floors around where it hit...

    They're not sure if it's terror-related, and not sure if it was a plane or helicopter, but NORAD is scrambling fighter planes around US cities as a precaution. Seems to have been a small "general aviation" aircraft.

    The crash set off a raging fire that sent a pillar of gray smoke over the city, police said. Witnesses reported seeing a gigantic fireball come out of the building, police said.

    Flames could be seen shooting from windows on two upper floors of the 50-story building, near the East River. Burning debris fell from the tower, and a column of gray smoke rose over the city.

    "There's huge pieces of debris falling," said one witness who refused to give her full name. "There's so much falling now, I've got to get away."

    Fire Department spokeswoman Emily Rahimi said the aircraft struck the 20th floor of the building, located at 524 East 72nd Street.

    More details as they come... There are people trapped on the floors above the fire.

    I'd Be Gleeful, Too

    These are probably two of the happiest people in the world right now. And, they deserve it. Innovation is the force behind progress. Congratulations, billionares. What the heck do you do with 1.65 BILLION dollars?!

    American Student Kidnapped?

    Both Arutz-7 and FoxNews (headline, no link) are reporting that an American student was kidnapped in Shechem today. Hopefully, this is not true. If it is, may he be returned safely and speedily - and along with the 3 soldiers who are still missing.

    UPDATE: The name is Michael Leighton Phillips, of "Project Hope".

    Enjoying the Good Times: Baltimore-based

    I've decided to push off writing about Jewish debt until after Sukkos. I want to enjoy the week, and if I start writing that post it probably won't help me do that. So next week, iyH.

    A quick shout-out to ChanaF, because I said I would. (And you probably didn't believe me.)

    I'm spending this week in New York, while Serach and Elianna are enjoying the wonderful city of Baltimore with family and friends. Yesterday, I went to work. SerandElianna hung out with my parents, sister Verv's three kids, and other family. Today, I went to work. They went to Hershey Park (where hopefully they didn't have this happen to them), where they visited with SIL, my dear OD brother, Ben, Henna Bayla, and SIL's family among others. Tomorrow, I'm going to work. They're doing other fun stuff. Ah well - as long as some good pics come out of this (pleeease say that someone is taking pictures...!!!) so I can see them. And of course, I actually collect a paycheck (assuming you consider what's left after the Fed, state, city, and island all take their cuts a "paycheck" - it's amazing that there are working people who actually think higher taxes make sense).

    Anyways, we've always been fans of Baltimore. For all the knocks we've heard about it, and seen for ourselves, it's overall always a pleasant place to be, and that's just not as common in most other cities. We actually almost moved to Baltimore a few months ago until my work called me at just the right time and convinced me it was worthwhile to stay for the time being. One of the reasons for this is perfectly discussed in this guest post at Unenlightenment by the Cubicle King, who I met (again) over the first days of Yom Tov. He wrote it a week ago and Shoshana linked to it then, but I wanted to post it closer to Simchas Torah, which is the perfect time to keep it in mind.

    I had a bunch of other "happy" things to post, but I'm drawing a complete blank. Chana (there are getting to be waaay too many Chanas...) reminded me: See Ushpizin if you haven't yet! It's great! (Cruisin' Mom, Jack, FurryHyraxMan, this means you - I saw it in a theater in LA last year...) I'm too lazy to search for it now, but I wrote about it last Sukkos.

    Once again, Moadim L'Simcha!!

    Woah - one more thing. RafiG posts about this year's Birchas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) which drew 80,000 people, apparently a record for it. Weird, because I thought the estimates for my second year there were at 100,000, but perhaps I'm mixing up Birchas Kohanim with another event. However, the year I was there, it was not only spectacular; not only packed to the point that my kind-of-sister B couldn't get close enough to even see the Kotel; and a stunningly gorgeous morning and incredibly inspiring davening, but I also was standing right behind the chazzan for davening which added quite a bit to it.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Some Quickies...

    Mazel tov to one of my favorite blogs - from Kew Gardens Hills, no less - BeyondBT on reaching 100,000 hits (and closing in on 300K pageviews). Keep up the good work, Mark and David! (And the Steelers stink - ha!)

    Jameel has a great fictional story at Elster's StoryTellers blog - do I sense a little Dan Brown? :)

    I'm hoping to follow up soon on two subjects, primarily: Jewish debt/economics (thanks, Shifra, for starting this) and education. I'll still be discussing everything as always, but those are the ones I'd like to focus on. All thoughts are encouraged and welcome.

    And, how many people (besides Scraps) know [without looking!] what to respond to "Moadim L'Simcha!"? I only learned this a few years ago...

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