Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Lines From Shabbos

All by Elianna:
  • While Ezzie, Pobody's Nerfect, and RTM were playing the 'family game of visual perception': "SET!"
  • While reading the letters on a picture of NBC Studios: "N... B... ...Cookie!!"
  • "I like Shake!"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ezzie's NFL Pool, Year XII

Ever since I started high school, I've been running an annual football pool. [Shh, don't tell.] Back then, the pool was $1 (the first year) to $5 (the other years) per week, with a small discount if you were in for the whole season. Before the NFL was full of so much equality, I came up with a system that one year allowed me to win five of the last seven weeks and the overall total. Unfortunately, that doesn't work anymore - I finished 14th of 27 last year, the first time I was out of the top 10 that I can recall. Ah, nostalgia.

This year, I am running the pool for the 12th year. I'm conveniently ignoring that the pool was a failure for the two years I was in Israel; after all, the guys in WITS ran it without me those years anyway before re-joining mine. The pool is a weighted pool that awards each week and overall - if you know what that is, skip the next paragraph.

The pool has used the same rules for all the years: Each week, every person picks the winners of every game and assigns a weight between 1 and the total number of games to each winner, using each number once. They are then awarded points based on which games they got correct. People tend to put their highest numbers on the games they think are most likely to be correct (say, 16 on the Patriots hosting the Jets) and lower numbers on closer games (say, a 4 on the Browns hosting the Cowboys). Whoever got the most points in a given week would be the winner, and there would be overall winners at the end of the season based on cumulative totals.

So... here's the e-mail that was just sent out. Note that I keep nothing other than my winnings, but I do not pay an entry fee. Welcome to Ezzie's NFL Pool 2008! First order of thumb: The fee for the pool is $125. If I receive your money by September 3rd, 2008 (note: NOT if you send it - I must receive it), you get a $25 discount and must pay just $100. If you don't get your money in before September 10th, you must pay a $25 penalty, or $150. To join just for an individual week will be $10.

Winnings will only be determined after I've received everyone's money. As a gauge, 25 people paying on time would allow for $100/$10 to the weekly winners, $400/$150/$50/$30 to the overall; 30 would be 120/20 and 400/150/50/20; 35 would be 125/25/5 and 500/200/100/50/15; and 40 would be 125/40/10 and 600/250/100/50/25.

It's the standard rules from every year (weighted each week, 1 through however many games). Feel free to forward this to whomever you know; if you bring in 5 new people, you get 50% off, and if you bring in 10, you get a free entry. If anyone has questions as to the rules, feel free to email me.

I'd prefer if you send me money via Paypal if possible, but that has an additional $4 charge from Paypal if you are not a verified member, so add that if you are using it - serandez@gmail.com is my Paypal email. If you'd prefer to send a check, e-mail me for my address.

If you're interested in joining the pool, click the link below. You'll be asked to enter the pool's password before you can join. The pool password is included below.

http://ezzie.football.sportsline.com/e

Our Pool password is: Pay Up!

I'm also considering running a survivor pool once again, but I won't do so unless there's enough interest. E-mail me if you're interested.

Talk the Talk, March the March

Via LWY, I thought this was an interesting set of statistics - the demographics of enlisted soldiers in the US Military, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the US Military Academy. I think the most telling graphic is this one which lets you see the percentages in each state in terms of how many people they have in the military, the academy, or ROTC. The report focuses on dispelling the idea that the poor and minorities are overrepresented in the military:
Members of the all-volunteer military are sig­nificantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 per­cent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) pro­gram, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods—a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
What is striking is that on the graphic which shows the state numbers of enlisted personnel the bottom rungs are filled almost entirely by liberal states (color is from the 2004 election):
50) North Dakota (48th ROTC, 41st Academy)
49) Utah*
48) Rhode Island
47) Massachussets (43rd ROTC, 44th Academy)
46) New Jersey (40th ROTC)
45) Connecticut
44) New York (47th ROTC)
43) Delaware
42) Minnesota (41st ROTC, 40th Academy)
41) Vermont
40) California (50th ROTC, 43rd Academy)
* Presumably, Utah has low numbers because the Mormon population tends not to join the military.

Of 19 blue states in the 2004 election, 9 are in the bottom 11. Of 31 red states, just two are. (Actually, after Mississippi at 39 come Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - making it 12 of the bottom 15.) Just a few interesting statistics...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tap Tap

...shoot, it is on!

Um, anyone want to take over for a bit? I'm a little busy, and the crowds await... (or my mom, anyway).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Impossible Dream Re-Analyzed...

...'tis the season for parody (just you wait and see:) , so let us try and get off on the right key - the key, the key...The Key of G:

Original

Last night I watched Freedom Writers. It's strange to watch one's own greatest annoyance played out in a film. If I had a goal, it'd be to eradicate Ms. Gruwell (Hilary Swank) and to do away with that kind of person, the one who tells various people what can be and then demonstrates how it should be. That's a life of arrogance (and often times an accompanying condescension), the fulfilled life of the so-called 'idealist', because she ends up accomplishing her goal - that of shaping her world as she sees fit, regradless of anyhting or anyone which finds itself within that sphere. And she ignores everyone who tells her she may be wrong, instead insisting that it is they who are not in the right (there's that condescension I was typing about). But it was a different part of the movie that struck me in particular. It has to do with her relationship with her husband...poor guy (Patrick Dempsey...great hair though). I have noticed this theme repeated in various books and films. There's a dialogue between the two in the film that goes like this:
Dempsey: I just want to live my life- and not feel bad about it.
Swank: Well, I'm not trying to make you feel bad.
Dempsey: You don't have to try!
Swank: I didn't plan on becoming responsible for these kids...
Dempsey: Well, who asked you to?
Swank: No one asked me to-
Dempsey: --kids!
Swank: Well, why do I have to be asked? [pause] I- finally realized what I'm supposed to be doing and I love it- When I help these kids make sense of their lives, everything about my life makes sense to me. How often does a person get that?
Dempsey: Then what do you need me for?
Swank: You're my husband. Why can't you stand by me and be part of it, the way wives support husbands?
Dempsey: Because I can't be your wife. [pause] I wish I could make that sound less awful. Erin, you know if you had to choose between us and a class- who would you pick?
Swank: If you loved me, how could you ever ask me that?
Dempsey: Erin, look at me- this is all there's ever been to me. This is it. I'm not one of those kids; I don't have any more potential. So you don't want to be here because if you did, wouldn't you be in the classroom every night?
Swank: That's not true- I want to be here; I love you.
Dempsey: You love the idea of me.
Swank: But it's such a great idea.
Dempsey: [softly] I know.
It occurred to me that this dialogue is an exact replay of an extremely similar one in The Way We Were:
Streisand: There's something I want to ask you. [drinks a little] I hope this doesn't make me drunk; I want to sleep.
Redford: Don't drink it like water.
Streisand: Okay. It's because I'm not attractive enough, isn't it? I'm not fishing, really- I'm not. I know I'm attractive...sort of. But...I'm not attractive in the- I'm not attractive in the right way- am I. I mean...I don't have the right style- for you. Do I? Be my friend.
Redford: No. You don't have the right style.
Streisand: I'll change!
Redford: No, don't change. You're your own girl. You have your own style.
Streisand: But then I won't have you. Why can't I have you? Why?
Redford: Because you push too hard. Every damn minute! Look, we don't- there's no time to just relax and enjoy living. Everything's too serious to be so serious.
Streisand: If I push too hard, it's because I want things to be better. I want us to be better; I want you to be better. Sure, I make waves. You have to. And I'll keep making them until you're...every wonderful thing you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much or love you as much.
Redford: I know that.
Streisand: Well then, why?
Redford: Do you think if I come back it's going to be okay by magic? What's going to be different? We'll both be wrong; we'll both lose.
Streisand: Couldn't we both win?
Redford: God, I- [pause] Oh, God, I- [pause] Katie, you expect so much.
Streisand: Oh, but look what I've got...
So you see there is a theme. There is the underlying theme of the relationship between the so-called 'idealist' and her husband, or lover. And it is simply this; the so-called 'idealist' pushes the other person too hard, whether she does it deliberately or simply by the nature of who she is as a person is ultimately beside the point (although to imagine the person who does it deliberately to one they say they care for is to boggle the mind). The exact same idea is echoed in each of these exchanges. Dempsey tells Swank "You're in love with the idea of me," and she responds, "But it's such a great idea." Redford said the exact same thing when he explained, "Katie, you expect so much" and she said, "Oh, but look what I've got."

The tendency of a person is to look for where they can improve, but for the ways in which everyone around them can improve- how they can grow, become better, achieve their whole self? That is not something for them to decide. And generally this tendency is even self serving, because the idea is that a person is happier when he has achieved his whole self and everything that he might be and desires to be as prescribed that other individual. Such a person glows with confidence and pleasure in everything that he is told to be, so the thinking goes.

So, how can you expect Streisand or Swank not to be what they are, not to want to change the world and everyone around them as they see it, and bring that kind of joy and pleasure to everyone else?

The problem is that they cannot see when other people are already happy. Take Dempsey, for example, who is happy with his job and has no interest in the work required to go back to school in order to become an architect. That's because his attitude is that this is his chosen world that needs no additional tweaking, that's the way the world works best for him. It is what it is. This is the way things are. Relax and enjoy it. Because you don’t need to get anything else, and it's not worth the time if you’re content. That attitude kills the people who are around who are so-called 'idealists'. It rips apart the fabric of their world, a little at a time. Because to them, it appears as though you are choosing to remain unhappy, even though that is the farthest thing from the truth. And they just don't get why anyone would deliberately choose to remain a mere part of himself when he has the opportunity to be whole. They're in love with the idea of a person at his best as they see it, doing everything they want he should do. They're in love with their idea of a joyous person, a happy person, a fulfilled person. And damn right they're not going to take it when someone says that they already are, because that's the only thing they cling to in order to stay alive.

I think this is true, not merely of relationships with lovers, but of all relationships that a so-called 'idealist' has. The people who are around them are subjected to scrutiny, usually unintentional (so they say), or they feel like the idealist looks down on them, which is sadly often the truth. Some people look down on anybody. Some people are just perplexed, confused. Because how can you have the ability and opportunity to reach for something wonderful- and still deny it to yourself? Why won't you believe? How? Why? Because it's not a question of having anyone believing in you. You believe in you. You believe in all of us and in the good that is at our core, no matter how you may appear to lead your life.

I hate how some people talk to me, with their statements that suggest how everything should be, forever and ever. Every so often I fear that I'll start accepting the stress filled parameters of their world, the world which simply works a certain way and that I can't change, that place where things just are and it's my job to make it so, no matter how fair, unfair or unjust it is. That world where all I have to do is...do what they want. I have no intention of ever doing that, and with God's help, I never will. It is our job to see everything that our world could be, and to partner with God in making it more beautiful. It is our job to hope for the better and to look for the beauty in people. It is our job to forgive the unforgivable, to learn to see people, to stop cowering because they won't dare to believe that we already are the things we wish to be because we have put in the time and effort. And just because I haven't yet found the way to 'perfection', or whatever term one wishes to use for thier goal(s) in life, doesn't mean I can't, or that I won't...in my own way.

The thing that makes me sad is this idea found in the literature and the movies, that it's impossible to live with a force of nature. Because who wants to deal with someone who pushes too hard or who wants everyone to live up to an unnecessary standard? So yes, you can be extraordinary, or strive to be; just know that you may lose people along the way depending on how you go about it. And if you do not choose wisely it's going to hurt both you and them. And you're going to hate yourself for not being able to change enough, and wishing you could, while knowing you can't and people may hate you for the changes and wishes you try to force on others who don’t need them. But you won’t stop and consider their position…because that would hurt you more.

My Girls



Place Your Bets...

...ladies and gentlemen, plaaaaace your bets.

The House will only be taking money on simple up/down positions. However, we fully encourage the gambling public to set their own odds and/or over/under in the comments.

XGH
MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2008
We apologize for the inconvenience
As I said a few days ago, this blog has gotten depressing. I rue the day I got skeptical. Maybe I can turn back the clock, maybe not. But anyway, it was fun at the time, but now I regret it all! And just to prove that this time I'm serious, I am disabling all comments and deleting all posts. So long.
POSTED BY XGH
AT 1:59 PM

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not Exactly Change

I've been debating what and how to say what I think of the choice by Barack Obama to name Joe Biden his Vice Presidential candidate. I think it's got to be the worst choice if you're voting Obama, and the best if you're voting McCain. That the GOP is more excited than the Democrats about the pick is very telling. Chaim sums up the reasons nicely - check out the whole post:
In 2007 he said he DOES NOT want to be Vice President. He said he has NO DESIRE TO BE Vice President. ... The same year he also said that Obama was not fit for President and during these times we are not able to have to settle with someone who is gonna get on the job training. He said this repeatedly and was even asked to confirm at a debate in front of Obama’s face and he said he still agrees with it.

This pick burns his bridges with Clinton supporters. ...When you chose a Vice President you are choosing someone who can possibly be [sic] President if something happens to you. This means that to Hillary supporters Obama is saying that he thinks Biden would be a better President then Hillary. Joe Biden barely got 8,000 votes throughout his entire primary run! ...

Republicans are dancing in the street. The love that Biden has shown McCain for years is gonna hurt Obama. Biden has said tons of nice things about McCain including a few years ago that he loves McCain, he supports him, he’d even RUN with him! ...

Another great thing is this message of “Change”, apparently Obama thinks Change is a guy who has been sitting in Washington in the Senate for 35 years! Biden is the very definition of old dog, old washington politics. This guy is the poster child for business as usual back room politics.

I’ve got more, this pick is terrible because he picked someone who supposedly does well in places where Obama doesn’t. He has longtime experience and a good record on Foreign Policy. Why is that bad? Easy, because he picked someone who very clearly highlights his own faults and just like the Democrats will all remind us, Vice Presidents don’t matter. So what good does it do his voters to learn that in the places where he lacks, his Vice President makes up. Who cares? Biden isn’t running for PRESIDENT!
I'll make one note on that last part: It's fine to have a VP who complements where the President lacks, so long as those deficiencies are in areas that are less important or don't need instant decisions. In that vein, it is more important that a President have a good grasp on foreign policy, war, and the like than long-term economic decisions, even as that is possibly more important in general most of the time.

Also, courtesy of DGEsq, check out Obama's face as Biden calls him not ready to be President in a debate.

Accountant, Hero

This story is cool:
It took seven years, but Charles Ulrich did something many people dream about, but few succeed at: He beat the IRS in a tax dispute.

Not only that, but tax experts say potentially millions of other taxpayers could benefit from his victory.

The accountant from Baxter, Minn., challenged the method the IRS has used for more than 20 years to tax shares and cash distributed by mutual life insurance firms to their policyholders when they reorganize as public companies.

A federal court recently agreed with his interpretation.

"There's a tremendous amount of money at stake," said Robert Willens, a New York City-based tax analyst at Robert Willens LLC. "Tens of thousands of people could be in line for a refund."
The coolest part is he did it all on his own.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Celebrate... Good Times

Starting last Monday:
  • Monday - Wedding (Bronx)
  • Tuesday - Wedding (Brooklyn)
  • Wednesday - Sheva Brachos (Queens)
  • Wednesday - L'chaim (Queens)
  • Thursday - Sheva Brachos (Queens)
  • Sunday - Wedding (Long Island)
  • Sunday - Wedding (Monsey)
Hope the streak continues...

Best Lines From Shabbos - Not Really

Eliezer StrongBad, during Shabbos:
Whaatt? You're saying Special Ed has better lines than me? I'm sure I have better lines than him.
After Shabbos:
Whaatt!? How could it be that I had no lines the entire Shabbos. I just don't believe it. It can't be.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sharing Simcha

No, this isn't about the sheva brachos we had for Moshe last night, or the l'chaim the previous night for Pobody's Nerfect. This is about Bas~Melech's inspiring post as she starts her series on working at Camp Simcha to encourage people to support her as she runs for Chai Lifeline (which runs Camp Simcha) in their half-marathon.
I, a fortunate, healthy JAP, had always looked towards people like my new charges to remind myself that things could always be worse. How would I now address twenty adolescents, most of whom could not walk, eat, or even breathe without technological assistance, and make them feel lucky? I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry for all the pain contained within that one small room.

Feelings aside, it was time for shiur. I introduced myself and opened the discussion with a question: What makes you happy?
Read the whole thing, and of course, support her if you can.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To & From

A couple quick shots I took this week as my brother drove us to and from a wedding. A bit blurry, but he was driving...


Sooo....

  • I was asked once again to join a football team in the DegelUSA flag football league that takes place in the Five Towns each year. The league gets written up each week in I believe the Jewish Star. Last year the league had 16 teams if I recall correctly.

    Each team costs $1,300, and the team I was asked to join has no sponsor as of yet. If anyone is interested in being a full or partial sponsor, we could really use one by the end of the day, as all the information has to be submitted by tomorrow morning. The team would then be named after the sponsor and the logo or company information would be printed on the team jerseys. The players on the team are from Kew Gardens Hills and the Five Towns/Far Rockaway areas.

    If you're interested, please contact me at SerandEz@gmail.com. Thank you!
  • Noyam and I are still looking for 1-3 more people to join the J-blogger Fantasy Football Challenge. Nu?! Update: As I wrote this, Noyam tells me another person joined. We have 10, would prefer 12, so if two more people are interested let us know!
  • And, of course, the annual pool I run is back for its 12th year of existence - if you're interested, please e-mail me and I'll give you all the details. If you were in it last year, please e-mail me ASAP as CBSSportsline deleted some information that is important and basically said "Oh, whoops. Sorry.", so I need to discuss it with people. I run a weighted pool (between 25-40 people each year) and will run a survivor pool if there is enough interest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bad & Good Hectic

This has been and will continue to be a crazy week for us. We've had a few bad things that we had to take care of on the one hand, but those are easily outweighed by the really great things from this week, including two weddings (one of them Moshe), two sheva brachos (also one of them Moshe), and an engagement party (for Pobody's Nerfect). And in the end, everything manages to work out anyway (even if it might be hard at the time). If anything, the good parts of this week are perfectly timed in a way to make everything else that's going on not just bearable, but almost insignificant - to the point that I almost titled the post Good Hectic and totally forgot about all the rest of what's going on.

As a good friend said last night about a different subject (and I then used that point to someone else later), "He's definitely got a plan up there."

Amen.

Running to Help, Too

Bas~Melech, after much agonizing, has decided to run for Chai Lifeline, too. She has a close connection to Chai Lifeline, so it means something a little different to her:
As you may know, I spent several summers volunteering at Camp Simcha and Simcha Special, the one-of-a-kind retreats for seriously ill Jewish children. The kids and staff are so amazing that every year I am inspired to go further in my efforts to join them in putting smiles back where they belong.

In fact, this year I've committed to go quite a few miles further than before -- I'll be joining Team Lifeline in the ING Miami half-marathon this January, iy"H. This way, not only do I go the distance for our kids, but I'm giving you all the opportunity to participate. I'll do the sweating, but please help out by sponsoring! To donate, follow the TeamLifeline link at the end of this post.

To help you understand what's so special about this cause, and in appreciation of your generosity, I am beginning a series of posts to give you an inside peek at the Camp Simcha experience. Every account is true in that it really happened, though I have altered identifying details and sometimes changed the point of view (i.e. don't assume that "I" is me)
If you'd like to help Bas~Melech, please head to her post and access the link there. If you see the whole post, you'll see she's actually giving up a lot more than sweat and time - something that for some people can be very difficult to give up. Wish her luck, and help support her - she deserves it, and Chai Lifeline needs it!

You can also read Bad4's post on her own run, and David Linn's post on how that inspired him and his wife to run as well. Support them all!

International J-Blogger Convention Kicking Off

...in just over half an hour. Watch online here; if you register, you can get into the chat room as well. The live event is overfull and they had to close out registration. I'm already in the chatroom, along with Dan and Frumhouse and others, as people keep coming in to test.

Elsewhere, the J-bloggers who have been covering the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight have some excellent and often emotional posts up - check them out:
Enjoy!

What A Nerfect Night!

A HUMONGOUS mazel tov goes out to Pobody's Nerfect on her engagement!!!

And, in her honor, I think it's apropos to repost the most nerfect proposal/engagement song out there:



MAZEL TOV POBODY!!! :D

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Michutz L'Machane

Wolf has an interesting post that to me has a plausible explanation, but judge for yourself:
On the way back from the mountains, Phoebe told us about her trip up. She went to see her daughter in the same camp that Wilma is in. However, the people she went with made a stop at another camp to see their son at a learning camp somewhere in the Catskills. Apparently, this learning camp doesn't allow women on the camp grounds at all. They set up an area outside the camp (michutz la-machane... literally) where the women could have refreshments... but they could not step onto the actual grounds. This sounded very odd to me, so I asked Phoebe what the mothers do on visiting day. Do they just go up but not see their sons? Do they not go up at all? She responded that no, the boys go out to the women's area to see their mothers.

I don't understand the logic in this at all. If women are barred from the grounds in toto, and the boys could not see them, I could see the logic (I don't agree with it, but logically, given the values of those running the camps, I can understand the course of action). However, if they're allowing the boys to go to the women's area to see thier mothers, then why not allow them on the grounds already? The boys are going to see other people's mothers when they go to the women's area anyway. So what's the point? Why keep the women confined to one small area?
In the comments, after many very plausible but more harsh explanations were given, suggesting that the camp wishes for a variety of reasons to be overly strict and/or make a statement about separation of the sexes but wishing to allow the campers to see their mothers, I suggested the following:
To be fair... it's *possible* that they simply don't want women walking around the bunkhouses where people might be changing, dressed more casually, etc.
I should add as someone else did "and the mess!!" I could see a strong case being made for either side. Which do you think is more plausible? Are camps simply going off the deep end, or do they simply not want the women to be in the bunkhouses for one of the aforementioned reasons?

Deconstructing Rabbi Falk...

...'s sefer Oz Vehadar Levusha, a worthwhile endeavor in my not-so-humble opinion, has been taken up to a degree by the one and only Parshablog.

Take a look.

--This 'sefer' was recently brought to my attention by someone who thankfully has the ability to see it for what it is...The result of one person's view getting passed off as concrete halacha.

The Olim Have Landed!

Hi All -

I haven't yet had the opportunity to properly blog and say what a truly wonderful time I had at the Beyond-BT/SerandEz Shabbaton Melave Malka -- it was really a pleasure meeting you all!

I have just returned home and put up my first blog post of a few, detailing my flight home, along with 240 others who were flying home for the first time.

May we be zocheh to many more flights -- or in the words of NbN Co-chaiman Danny Ayalon this morning -- Nefesh b'Nefesh hopes to bring over 100,000 olim from North America within the next few years.

You too can live the dream!

Regards from home,

Jameel


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, August 18, 2008

J-Blogger Week: Netanyahu to Attend Conference

On Thursday night, I had the opportunity to go to dinner with R' Gil of Hirhurim and Jameel of the Muqata. We went to the very noisy but delicious Clubhouse Cafe, where it didn't take much to get Gil to try the excellent duck empanadas, before I ordered the (excellent) prime rib du jous sandwich and they got steaks. At one point, I mentioned that I had to speak at the Shabbaton the next night, and Gil suggested I take from his post the previous night; in retrospect, that might have been better than what I tried.

We were later joined by Treppenwitz and MOChassid, who came over from La Marais (which opened Clubhouse Cafe) across the street and ordered dessert by us. At some point, listening to the stories and thoughts of the others as we all sat there talking, I recall thinking how interesting it was to sit with a group of people who were so much more accomplished than I. While there may not have been a lot to learn per se, it was certainly fascinating to think about just how much each of them do and the impacts they have - both in real life and with their writings. We were joined at the very end by Chana, SJ, and M.R., and SJ made a comment to me at the end that I think summed up the evening the best: "It's nice to see that they are all such menschen!"

The bloggers I ate with are ones who are genuinely nice people, as are most bloggers - certainly with blogging as in real life there are some bad apples, and perhaps they are louder online, but predominantly it is a community like any other. We've had countless bloggers at our home in the past, and we don't think of them as "bloggers", really - they're good, close friends. Therefore, it was especially nice to see how these "bigger" bloggers are also so truly dedicated to what they do and what they say and are true menschen in how they go about it.

As of this moment, Gil (Hirhurim), Jameel (Muqata), and David Bogner (Treppenwitz) and a number of other J-bloggers are in the JFK airport heading to Israel on the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight that is carrying a couple hundred new olim to the Holy Land. Those links are to posts they've written in the last number of hours about their upcoming trip and the people they will be accompanying and writing about as they go. Robert Avrech has come in from LA and is headed on the flight, too, with a great lead-in post. ck of Jewlicious has started writing about the girl he is accompanying. There will be far more posts coming from many J-bloggers all over who are blogging the trip and the stories of the people who they are accompanying on behalf of NbN. The NbN blog will probably be linking to some of them as well. While still at the starting stages, the posts are interesting and some already are discussing the people that are on the flight; we know at least one family on the flight, my former co-worker/brother(-in-law) of FFW and FrumDoc.

The flight is a lead-in to the 1st International J-Bloggers Convention in Israel (you can register to watch online or attend in person here), which I see now will include former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Thanks to the always reliable Esther Kustanowitz for that one - she, too, is on the flight and already has a couple of short posts up (and missed out on dinner Thursday night!). I'm sure it will be amazing, as will the trip (if tiring), and hatzlacha to them all, especially all the people making aliyah!

The Parker Bros. Paradox

There is something that has been bothering me for a while now and maybe some people here can help me figure this one out.

When I was a kid, one of the standard shabbos activities was playing board games (monopoly, risk, stratego, trivial pursuit, etc.), as I am sure it was for many of you as well. This was all fine and well, but it was restricted exclusively to shabbos, as other activities, such as video games, were not an option. I can probably count on one hand the amount of board games I have played that were not during shabbos.

So here is where my problem comes in; my experience has been confirmed by virtually everyone else I have asked.

However, we see with our own eyes that the game board industry is an ongoing profitable business operation, but I cannot believe that it is being entirely supported by the shomer-shabbos population (board games as a shidduch date activity notwithstanding); so I ask all of you, how is it that board games still continue to be made? Where does this industry's support come from?

BBT/SerandEz Shabbaton Recap

Whew! I knew I could count on Mark Frankel of BeyondBT, who has written a recap already, saving me the effort. (And many of you know how much I love saving effort.) My biggest surprise of the weekend may have been Mark's own surprise at how many of us have at least one parent who is a ba'al teshuva, something I found to be incredibly common throughout my life.

We owe a huge thank you to Mark, David Linn, and their wives and kids. While the Shabbaton was named for both of us, they are the ones who did all the work, from the logistics to the catering to actually doing all the serving, cleaning... everything was taken care of. All we had to do was show up. I also have to give a huge thanks to Serach, who put up with hosting five young women in our little 2-bedroom apartment - which can be hard, even when you like all of them - and setting two young men up at a friend across the street.

Finally, a big thank you to the Apple, RaggedyMom (not just for dealing with Princess D'Tiara, also known as the living spit up cloth), Special Ed, and Jameel of the Muqata who were brave enough and kind enough to speak at the Shabbaton. While all of them are pretty busy these days - the Apple and Special Ed were working over the summer, the Raggedies headed yesterday to visit family in Europe for a couple of weeks, and packing was a nightmare, as the closest kosher store is not close, and Jameel was trying to take care of a million and one things even as he takes part in the NBN trip and conference - they each took out the time to try and come up with something to speak about. More importantly, they all spoke really well. Also a thanks to Jameel, Kasamba, and T&DE for making special (long) trips to come join us for the Melave Malka. We really appreciated it.

We hope everyone enjoyed as much as we did, and we are sure we'll see y'all again soon!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Well Waddaya Know XXI

Last week's question and answer:
What animal was used in the original "classical conditioning" experiments?
Rat
6 (10%)
Pigeon
4 (7%)
Cat
2 (3%)
Dog
44 (77%)
Mouse
1 (1%)
Shragi says: The classic classical conditioning experiment was Pavlov's dogs. Cats and pigeons were used in operant conditioning experiments. Rats were used for many experiments including operant conditioning and mapping brain functions.

This week's question has not yet been received, so it'll go up when it has been. :)

Best Lines From Shabbos - BBT/SerandEz Shabbaton Version

Special Ed: Erachet, I saw a crazy old guy today and I thought of you.
Everyone: ...?

[In a conversation where the word 'molecularly' was used...]
Ezzie [to Bad4]: Is molecularly even a word?
Special Ed: I'm no Scientologist, but I'm pretty sure it's a word.
[Everyone laughs]
Special Ed: Yes! I'm on a roll! You've gotta know when to use it! You have to know the right time to use the line! You've got to use it the right way!

[Elianna commandeers the double stroller and walks with it across the room. Corner Point chases her down and turns the stroller around]
Ezzie: ...is Kayla in there?!
Everyone else: [staring] You're holding her!

Serach: Who was that guy who was sitting across the street from...?
Ezzie: ...across the table?
Serach: Who was that guy who was sitting across the street...?
Ezzie: You did it again!!!

RaggedyMom [to MordyS]: So, you're a firefighter? We once had a garbage collector come to us for Shabbos.
MordyS: Are you comparing firefighters to garbage collectors?!
RaggedyMom: ...Yes.

[During "Apples to Apples," Erachet is judge of the word 'flirtatious.' She looks at the cards and exclaims]
Erachet: Firefighters?! Firefighters aren't flirtatious!!!
Ezzie: [Looks meaningfully at MordyS]
MordyS [half asleep]: Wait, what? Did someone just say something about firefighters?

Ezzie: I'm debating whether or not to make Erachet really self-conscious right now.
[Pause. Erachet glares at Ezzie and starts slinking under the table]
Special Ed: Well, that worked!

[SJ, Bad4, Corner Point, Erachet, Apple, Special Ed, and Serach cluster around Jameel, listening with rapt attention]
Steve of Webads turns to Ezzie: He was never this popular with the girls at NCSY!

Jameel: I'm Jameel.
Princess D'Tiara: I'm Princess D'Tiara.
Serach [inserts herself into the circle]: I'm DovBear!

P.S. Kayla has selected her future career: she wants to be a pirate. CornerPoint, Bad4, Erachet, and SJ determined that her pirate name will be "Nobeard Pinksock." Or alternatively, "Pinkbeard Nosock." She is currently accepting applications for a First Mate.

Friday, August 15, 2008

BeyondBT & SerandEz Shabbaton

This weekend is the Shabbaton that we are running together with BeyondBT here in Kew Gardens Hills. For all those who are coming, well, we'll see you soon! For all those who couldn't make it, feel free to join us at the Melave Malka, which is being held at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel on the corner of 73rd Avenue and 147th Street in KGH. Jameel and Kasamba will be speaking briefly, the BBT Jam Band will be playing some music, and a good time will be had by all... plus, it's my Hebrew birthday! (T"az B'av)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Bio: Da Kirsch

All Guest Bios

As people may have noticed, to the right is a list of contributors to this blog. On each drop down, there is a line for "Bio". This is the first of those Bios, which will hopefully give a slightly better understanding of each contributor.

Da Kirsch is - whether purposely or not - one of the funnier people I've met. We actually met briefly in Israel, when my CafeNet football team throttled his Melech HaFelafel team (and their league-leading offense) 19-7, but we didn't really know each other until we were studying in Lander College together. Or, more accurately, he played a lot of Madden, and I... well, I did something, anyway.

Da Kirsch is a marketing management major who somehow graduated despite spending most of his time playing video games and listening to sports. You've never seen someone read mock drafts years in advance so religiously until you've met him, and if you ever want to know the 40 times of your team's 5th-rounder, he's the man to ask. Though his dream is to be a video game tester for EA Sports, he currently manages an upscale kosher restaurant in Monsey. Da Kirsch lives in New Jersey.

Cookie Cutter Kids

This post by Shoshana depressed me a lot. Excerpt:

This afternoon, two weeks before the start of school, she got a call from the principal of the school who wanted to discuss a couple things with her before school starts. The main thrust of the conversation was my friend's dress.

According to this principal, who my friend has spoken very highly of in the past, "the goal of the school is to create cookie cutter children." She also stated that while it is admirable that my friend stresses and insists on respect and diligence in the classroom, her dress is confusing for its lack of being cookie cutter.

I'm extremely troubled by this for several reasons. First of all, children are NOT cookie cutter, no matter how hard you try to push them to be that way. For that to be the goal of the school completely disregards what it means to be a human being. And I also believe it completely disregards the concept from Torah that God made us each with our individual talents and strengths.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I Love Jews

Jameel already posted this, but just in case there are people who read SerandEz but who don't read Jameel's blog, I'm gonna post it here. Everyone should check out this blog by a Jewish guy named Barry. He's currently in Beijing working at the only Kosher restaurant there and acting as a spectator of the Olympic sports. I think he's there working for Chabad.

It's posts like these that make me really love Jews:

"Meet the Lone Shomer Shabbos Athlete in Beijing Olympic Games

August 6,2008

Bat-El Gaterer is Israel’s lone Shomer Shabbos athlete, scheduled to compete in the Taekwondo competition. Her training crew explains that while other athletes are ingesting high-protein bars for quick energy between competitions, she will be using instant soup containing high doses of MSG. Coach Noa Shmida explains that the issue of her dietary restrictions is indeed problematic since she is not eating as healthy as she feels she should, but on the other hand, she is Israel’s only athlete competing in the Taekwondo, so she must be doing something right."

...now after hearing this i went to the supermarket and purchased a large amount of kosher protien bars and other foods. however she has yet to arrive. I HOPE TO CONTACT HER WHEN SHE ARRIVES ON THE 12

This boy doesn't even know Bat-El (and she doesn't know him) and yet he is looking out for her. I love it when Jews come together like that and take care of each other. I think it happens most when there aren't so many other Jews around, but that should change.

Also, I just love reading about a frum kid hanging around in Beijing. It's so cool!

Anyway, the blog itself is pretty interesting, especially considering the topic. So check it out!

Psak On TV Dating

Here's an interesting twist in the news thanks to the new hit Israeli show, Srugim:
In one episode, one of the women on the show, Reut, debates whether to go out on a date with a man she's been introduced to, after she already agreed to go out with her tutor. When her friend expresses her displeasure with the decision, Reut responds: "Why do you care who I go out with? Even Rabbi Aviner said that it's ok to date two people at the same time."

One of the viewers, perplexed by the moral dilemma, sent Rabbi Aviner a question, citing the show and asking whether this indeed reflected the rabbi's view.

Rabbi Aviner responded: "Certainly not," and proceeded to explain that dating two men simultaneously is generally a dishonest and immoral act. However, the rabbi admitted that there are some exceptions to the rule.

"Only in unusual cases, when the woman is older and time is running out, and the guy takes his time making a decision," is it ok to multi-date.

However, writers for the show said they based the quote in the episode on an answer provided by the rabbi to the same question about a year and a half ago. At the time, the Aviner responded: "It's immoral, unless you're old and can't wait."
It's an interesting psak in general, if only because it's an interesting issue to have a psak about. I thought that people generally don't really "double-date", though plenty will 'look into' more than one person at a time, or even look into people while they're still dating someone if they think it's not going to work. But certainly to see a shaila asked because of what was quoted on a TV show is pretty new...!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

English snob

I am sure that certain readers of this blog will be amused by this.
Eliezer Strongbad: why do people say "literally" when they mean "figuratively", the complete opposite?
the apple: because people don't know how to use the english language properly?
just a guess
Eliezer Strongbad: oh
the apple: yes
Eliezer Strongbad: hmm
the apple: what's the sentence?
Eliezer Strongbad: the apple: he was literally screaming his head off
the apple: oh.

A Sub-Par Spin III...

...I'm reading your new words
Got me ten different kinds of sad
And I'm hearing what you say
But I just can't believe you now
You tell me that you need me
Then you go and cut me down
But wait...
You tell me that you're sorry
Didn't think I'd turn around and say..

That it's too late to apologize, it's too late
I said it's too late to apologize, it's too late
See yesterday's post. (previously:Sub-Par, Sub-Par II, Why Post)

I am posting the below e-mail as a way of responding to Rav Balanson's "apology" for his remarks. Each person can judge for themselves if they feel that he honestly thinks his original comments were truly "insensitive, untrue and unfounded" and "far harsher than in the context in which they were stated".

In an odd sort of way I am very disappointed in Rav Balanson. I may not have agreed with his worldview and am glad that the result is what it turned out to be. However, despite it all there was at least a sense of respect for someone who held what he held and was willing to say it straight regardless of how it sounded to others, who did and said what he thought was right and was his idea of the true ratzon Hashem and damn those who just don't or won't get it.

Oh well...I guess it's easier when the person on the other side is a kid who doesn't know what he knows yet. So much for doing what God wants and following/listening to Da'as Torah no matter what.

--this e-mail was never part of the publicly sent chain, it was sent in response to personal e-mail about the original remarks concerning YU made by Rav Balanson... I received it via e-mail--
Rabbi, I love and respect you deeply, but this recent set of Q and A's really let me down. How can you bash a respected yeshiva like YU so openly? It's really insulting to the hundreds of sincere bochrim learning there now and to the thousands of graduates such as myself. I really hope that you apologize for these comments soon, before these comments spread even further than it has. For OJ's sake, please apologize.

A: Two points. First of all, I will copy for you a letter that I sent out to one of my talmidim, which explains the situation - a bit of dan l'kaf z'chus would be nice. Second of all, the OJ newsletter will include a letter that I sent to Dr. Davis at YU, clarifying my stand.


Thank you and have a Chag Kasher V'Sameach.

Asher Balanson

The letter that I wrote to one of the talmidim:


I hope Rebbe is doing well. I recently read this passage in one of rebbe's emails and just wanted to ask a few questions.

A: Certainly.

1) Does Rebbe feel that is a mitzvah to hate the entity of YU?

A: YU is certainly against the accepted Daas Torah, both here in Eretz Yisroel and in America. The people who run it are going against Daas Torah and therefore are going against Ratzon HaShem.

Or is it a mitzvah to hate the boys who learn in YU?

A: Chas V'Shalom!! Most of them either aren't aware that Daas Torah is otherwise or else are forced into going there by parents. And, some of them rely on Rabbanim who hold otherwise than the accepted Daas Torah. There would not be a heter to hate the boys who learn there.

The rebbes whoteach in YU?

A: Also, Chas V'Shalom. I don't know all of them personally, but I assume that they are teaching there because they want to do their best to influence the talmidim as best as they can. That is a very noble intention.

What about MTA, which is an affiliate of YU?

A: MTA is like any other Modern Orthodox Yeshiva High School. They all aren't interested in Daas Torah, but that is because that is the way they were raised. We ought not to hate them, chas v'Shalom.

Are they all considered to HATE Hashem?

A: Of course not. They simply either don't understand what HaShem wants or don't care enough about what he wants to make changes in their lives.

2) If someone is shomer torah u'mitzvos but he learns in YU, is he b'chlal
amisecha? Are the rebbeim b'chlal amisecha?


A: I don't know what you mean by "amisecha". If you mean "amcha", then of course the shomer mitzovs people are amcha as are the Rebbeim. It is the institution - and some of the people who make the decisions there (the Rebbeim themselves often are not happy with the decisions made there and there is nothing that they can do about that).

3) Is it permitted/encouraged to make fun of specific YU Rebbeim, for
example, R' Hershel Schachter is a fool.

A: You shouldn't have written that even as a question. Of course you aren't allowed to make fun of Talmidei Chachamim!! I think that Rav Schachter himself is critical of many things that take place at YU, but there is little, if anything, that he can do about it.

Or R' Mordechai Willig is a big am haaretz.

A: Again, you shouldn't have even written this as a question. How could anyone be able to say such a crazy thing? Rav Willig also is critical about what happens in YU.

R' Yitchok Cohen is a shaygetz.

A: This is totally absurd. Rav Cohen is a big Tzaddik as everyone knows. And everyone also knows how much he has suffered at the hands of the people who make the decisions in MTA and in YU!! I assume that he remains there because of the very important influence he has on the bachurim there. However, he most certainly doesn't agree to all that goes on there, as I am sure that you know. Rav Parnes, after having taught in the Yeshiva for fifty years, left the Yeshiva because of the way the people who run the place were acting and the decisons that they were making.

4) Is it preferable to refer to the rebbeim there in a derogatory manner,
such as JB soloveitchik?

A: Again, we don't speak that way about Talmidei Chachamim!! Doing so is playing with fire.

I have been a long time reader and talmid of rebbe. I am sorry if this letter appears to be chutzpadik, but I would REALLY appreciate if rebbe could answer my questions, because right now I am severely confused.

A: I hope that I have explained myself. My intent was to speak against the institution, not about the Talmidei Chachmim who teach there or about the boys who are shomer mitzvohs and learn Torah there.

Chag Kasher V'Sameach

A: And the same to you .

...

It's too late to apologize, it's too late
I said it's too late to apologize, it's too late
I said it's too late to apologize, yeah yeah
I said it's too late to apologize, a yeah

I'm reading your new spin
Got me ten different kinds of sad...

Making The Jump

Well before I was born, my father, a couple of years removed from his many years at Telshe Yeshiva and Ner Israel Rabbinical College, spent some time on a kibbutz picking oranges. A few years later, he and my mother went on a short pilot trip to Israel to see about making aliyah, but determined it was not feasible at that time. At around the same time, both of my father's siblings made aliyah - his sister and her husband packed up their three kids and ended up in Petach Tikva, and his brother and his wife packed up their three kids and ended up in Sanhedriya Murchevet in Jerusalem.

Over the years, it seemed as if all of my parents' friends, relatives, and mentors would make aliyah or lived in Israel. R' Schubert Spero was the rav of the Young Israel of Cleveland, and made the move around 1980, if I'm not mistaken; he was joined by countless other Clevelanders who ended up in places such as Harnof, Efrat, and many other areas throughout the country. Cousins of ours made the move: Romberg, Rock, Weisberg, Weisberg, Weisberg... Friends: Sukenik, Zivotofsky, Reich, Jacobson, Becker, May, Neustadter, Spero... the list was endless. When I got to Israel, I had over 40 places I could feel comfortable calling up and asking to come visit, and surely many more that I could have if I'd wished.

My two years in Israel were amazing ones for me, but hard ones for the country. It was 2001-2003, and the intifada was at its worst. But even with all of that, there was *something* about being there that was indescribably incredible, and partway through my first year there, I told my parents I'd be staying a second year. I still remember the flight back to the United States at the end of that first year - I found myself literally shaking at the prospect of leaving the country, tempered only by the knowledge that two months or so later I would be returning. In the middle of my second year there, I started speaking to a lot of the friends and relatives there about the idea of attending Bar-Ilan instead of returning to the United States. After a little investigation and understanding the feasibility of it, it was still suggested to me - unanimously, I should add - by all of the people who had made aliyah that I should first get my degree, get married, and work a number of years in the US while saving up money before doing so. That if I wanted to make aliyah and stay, the best path for me was to actually spend some time away from Israel. That the hardships involved were something I'd be far better prepared to handle - even with all the advice and assistance I could get from all of them - a little further down the road. Oh, and make sure to marry someone who is serious about moving as well, or it won't happen. So far, we're doing pretty well on that plan.

But it's because of all of that that I couldn't help but really love and appreciate this post by the Apple.
Living in Jerusalem for those two weeks was the closest I've ever come to truly feeling like Israel could be a permanent home for me in all the time I had spent in Jerusalem thus far. One day, while I was walking down King George towards home, a chill ran through me and gave me goosebumps that were quite unconnected to the blazing heat of the day. My goosebumps were the result of the awesome, spine-tingling, tearfully exciting feeling that I experienced at that moment of a simple and incredible love of the place I was standing in. I need to be here, I thought to myself. I love this city. I love this country. This will be my home.

I do have concerns, though. I know that day-to-day survival in Israel is based on more than an overwhelming and abiding love of the land. I am not afraid of the bureaucracy that everyone loves to hate, or going food shopping, or speaking in Hebrew every day. What I am afraid of is not finding a job that gives me enough satisfaction so that I won't regret having left family and better job opportunities (and with that, more ways to support and build a family) in America. I'm afraid of the loneliness that will come from moving away from all my family and most of my friends. Those things aren't small concerns - they're big ones, and for that reason, making aliyah after graduation isn't a cut-and-dried plan just yet. There are lots and lots of details to consider and people to talk to and network with before I can really, truly commit to this.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letter Up To Par

Previously: Subpar, Subpar II, Why Post

As a follow up to the situation created by the comments of R' Asher Balanson regarding YU, here is a letter Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim (also known as OJ) sent out about it recently. Note that I am an alumnus of OJ, and think very highly of the institution and rabbeim as a whole. I have told a few people I am friendly with in the past few months who asked me questions about specific family members (or themselves) and whether they should go that they should do so. I am going to let the letter OJ sent out speak for itself; any commentary I might have will be posted in the comments if at all.

R' Dovid Schechter was the av bayit in OJ when I was there, and has always had multiple other responsibilities within the yeshiva.
From: Dovid Schechter {removed}
To: {removed}
Sent: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 8:47 am
Subject: (no subject)

Dear Talmidim,

We hope that this note finds you well with your families in the best of health and enjoying your summer.

We are writing, on behalf of the Yeshiva, to address an unfortunate incident that occurred prior to Pesach that indirectly impacted each of you. In a conversation over the internet with a student not from Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim, one of our rebbeim wrote highly derogatory comments concerning Yeshiva University. This came as a great shock to us, since in the many years this individual has taught at Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim, he has rarely, if ever, communicated any negativism of any sort and certainly not about Yeshiva University. When the Hanhala confronted him, he expressed great remorse over the comments and felt that they came across far harsher than in the context in which they were stated. Since then, he has apologized, in writing, to the administration of Yeshiva University, declaring unequivocally that his comments were "insensitive, untrue and unfounded", and asked forgiveness for the insult to both the administration of Yeshiva University and to the hundreds of his students who have and continue to flourish there. Furthermore, he has since cancelled the weekly emails to former students and closed his web site where those conversations were archived. Our Yeshiva has both personally and by official letters communicated its apology for this unfortunate incident and the great consternation concerning it. Despite the fact that this staff member (ironically himself a YU alumnus) is a truly outstanding Talmid Chochom and an exceptionally gifted Posek who has over the years contributed greatly to the growth of many students, and despite his apologies and the fact that his comments were not made to our students, we nevertheless felt that he had to take responsibility for the damage caused. As such, the Yeshiva has asked him to take a leave of absence for a half year and intends to greatly curtail his level of involvement with our students for the forseeable future. By doing so, we sought to communicate in the clearest manner that we will not tolerate conduct that could, in any way, breach our long standing relationship with Yeshiva University.

We want to make it exceedingly clear to our alumni who attended Yeshiva University, that we completely repudiate the derogatory comments in the email. We offer our unqualified support for Yeshiva University as a L’Chatchila Makom Torah and an institution of higher learning. Indeed, we take the greatest of pride in the hundreds of our alumni whose Torah learning, personal and professional development has thrived under the care provided by Yeshiva University. Our joint alumni are second to none, both in their personal accomplishments and in the enormous level of service and leadership that so many have provided the general Jewish community over the years.

By reaching out to joint alumni and in engaging Yeshiva University directly on the matter, we seek to guarantee that we continue to promote common values and enhance the relationship between the two Torah institutions in a manner that promotes both 'Emet' and 'Shalom' and works towards "Lehagdil Torah U'Leha'adirah".

All the best,

Rabbi Moshe Ch. Sosevsky
Rabbi Shmuel Wagner

Cc: President Richard Joel
Cc: Dr. Hillel Davis
Edited for formatting only.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 8/12: Mom

Most important announcement of the day: Happy Birthday Mom!! As the very first regular reader of this blog, along with the whole eight months on bedrest to get me into this world thing, she is obviously a very important part of this blog's existence. And mine. And it's her birthday today, so if you'd like, you can leave a comment for her about it.

A few worthwhile reads out there today:
  • Nephtuli's baby son's surgery went well, b'H, but he's still got more to go. Please keep davening for Tinok ben Shifra Yocheved.
  • NoyG is running a fantasy football league for J-bloggers; about half the slots are already filled, so if you're interested, sign up fast. It's free and for pure J-blogging bragging rights.
  • An impressive result: Bad4Shidduchim is still raising money for her Chai Lifeline marathon run, but her plans have already inspired David Linn and his wife to run as well (and they supported Bad4 - kudos to them). Support them all!
  • DryBones always expresses the feelings of many so well. This one is what I thought of when seeing "Palestine" in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
  • Dave notes the new way Israel is dispersing crowds of rock-throwers and the like: A "skunk" hose. Interesting.
  • Very interesting find by Kankan Chadash of a lecture Mortimer Adler gave to Catholic educators; Matt applies it to Jewish ones and it is quite apropos. Excerpt on expand:
    I am told that Jewish education must give its college graduates a fundamental body of truths for the guidance of their lives. I am told that this necessitates the covering of much ground. You can guess my response. I simply ask what is the point of covering ground, if the students’ feet never touch it, if they never learn through independent exercise to walk by themselves, with head erect and unafraid of all intellectual opposition and difficulty. What is the point of memorizing truths, if they can really guide us only when they are genuinely possessed, if they can protect us from falsehood only to the extent that we understand them as fully refuting errors—real, live errors, not dummy ones concocted for the purposes of an easy victory. I would feel happier about the graduates of yeshivot if they really understood a few truths well—understood them as solving problems which vigorously challenge the mind and perplex it— rather than be able to recite, from merely verbal memory, a whole catechism of philosophical answers to problems they did not really understand or take seriously.
  • Josh Waxman discusses an excerpt from R' Falk's Oz V'Hadar Levusha on tznius. Pravda and Wolf also discuss it. Here's the excerpt, feel free to form your own opinion: I counted nine troubling things in that paragraph.

Last Chance!

Today is the last day to sign up for the BeyondBT / SerandEz Shabbaton being held this Shabbos (Shabbos Nachamu) in Kew Gardens Hills, NY. It promises to be a great Shabbos, with good food, relaxed meals, and personal thoughts and musings on the themes of Individuality, Integration, and Inspiration, capped by a Melave Malka including music by the BBT Jam Band. To me, the best part about such a Shabbos is the company that surrounds, and this Shabbos will be no different, with a number of members and good friends of this blog already signed up. A small sampling:
I'm not sure who else I can mention (I'm not even sure I should have mentioned all of those!), with everyone and their varying degrees of anonymity. All in all, it should be a great crowd, and we'd love to see you there. If you'd like to come, please register by e-mailing BeyondBT@gmail.com. If you have any questions, e-mail either BeyondBT or myself at SerandEz@gmail.com.

Thanks! As a small aside, Mazel Tov to sometime reader/commenter Bob Miller, a big commenter at BeyondBT, on his son's engagement!

Monday, August 11, 2008

For all the Srugim Devotees

Below is the FULL version of the Srugim title song, Anah Efneh [Where Will I Turn?] by Erez Lev Ari. Great Stuff.

!!MINOR SPOILER ALERT!!

The music video contains clips of various points from the series, some of which have not aired yet, but without any real context, so view at your own consideration.

Beis Din HAGADOL...

...would that we were worthy of one such as this...would that we were worthy...






Slow Day Gold

It is now the end of Day Three of the Olympics, and I must say, I've found myself enjoying it far more than I recall doing so in a long time. If you have an hour, the opening ceremonies in Beijing were like nothing I've ever seen before in my life - it's well worth it just to know that you've seen the largest and perhaps best performance that's ever been put on, certainly to open an Olympics. The stadium there was designed specifically with this opening ceremony in mind - think about that.

What is most interesting is what constitutes an Olympic sport. Certainly it doesn't go by how riveting a sport is (I mean, really - equesterian!? What the heck is "dressing"?!), nor should it. But it is certainly fantastic to watch athletic feats and skills, even in sports a person doesn't particularly care about: Archery, for example, or fencing, or even (oddly) badminton. The men's 400M relay in swimming was incredible to watch.

What are the strangest sports in the Olympics, and should they be Olympic sports? And what isn't there that should be? (Baseball? Cricket?)

Brilliant

Via Bas~Melech...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Srugim, now this

Hattip: Eliezer Strongbad

A Jewish singles scene on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?!

No way!

Surely this is breaking news!

Sigh.

Following in the footsteps of the WSJ, which featured a story on Jewish dating in its "Houses of Worship" column, the New York Times has "discovered" the Jewish singles scene in the UWS and written about it.
The Westmont is home to large numbers of young Orthodox Jews, and because pressing elevator buttons is forbidden on the Sabbath, which begins Friday evening, the many young people who had been invited to dinners in the building were hiking up multiple flights to reach their destinations.

Young men wearing dark suits pressed against the walls as young women in pencil skirts and high heels carefully made their way up the stairs, balancing berry pies and dishes of potato salad in their arms.

One of the dinners took place in the 12th-floor apartment of Baruch November, a 31-year-old Orthodox man. In the living room, a score of young men and women perched on futons and folding chairs, waiting in slightly awkward silence for the meal to begin.

I looooooove the awkwardness of a singles' meal (or at least, meals featuring mostly singles - I don't think I've ever actually been at a singles-only meal). It always lends itself to some good story afterward. At any rate, the article is an interesting (if not exactly new) read. I really do wonder what people who aren't familiar with the community think, though. Like, I would think it sounds slightly insane. Or is it just me?

Running to Help

Well, I did it.

After almost a week of hemming and hawing, I surfed my way over to www.teamlifeline.org and ponied up the registration fee for their Miami marathon. By doing so I have committed to train for the marathon (which takes place January 25), and to raise $3,600 for Camp Simcha, Chai Lifeline's summer camp for terminally ill children. It's the only kosher summer camp of its kind in existence, and is an enormous chesed for both the children and their families.

$3,600 is - at least to my tuition-centric, student mind - an enormous sum of money. But I feel confident that people who understand the great work that Chai Lifeline does and appreciate the exertion that us marathon runners are willing to put in for the cause, will help me reach that goal and even surpass it.

Chai Lifeline's motto is "Fighting Illness with Love." They're fighting illnesses with no cure, so love and compassion are the only ways to battle back the disease and keep despair at bay. They provide support and counseling services, internet hookups to allow kids to keep up with their classes and friends from their hospital beds, meals delivered to home or hospital, and a host of other small services that make a huge difference when your life has been turned upside down.
But Camp Simcha was their first project and a wild success, and it is Camp Simcha that the marathon funds are going to support. It's tough being a sick kid in a healthy world - Camp Simcha helps these children forget it all and just have fun with people who understand them and what they're going through. It's a month of golden relief in an otherwise tumultuous and terrifying year.

A few quotes taken from their website:
"Camp made me forget about all the bad times I had."
~ Camper at Camp Simcha

"I can shoot a whole roll of film of him at home and never see that smile that I saw in his pictures from Camp Simcha."
~Vicky Olesky, camper's mom

"At Camp Simcha, no one asked questions or stared if you didn't have any hair. I thought it was the greatest place on earth."
~ Former camper at Camp Simcha
If you'd like to help these children have an awesome summer (and also help me reach my fundraising goal), please follow this link and be generous. You have a whole lifetime to earn back those few extra dollars, but for these kids, every summer has to count.

All donations are tax and ma'aser deductible.

Don't push it off until you forget - donate now and bring a smile to a child's face.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ha'aretz Covers J-Blogging Conference

Interesting short article in Ha'aretz on the upcoming International J-Blogger Convention hosted by Nefesh B'Nefesh in Israel. Apparently over 200 people have already signed up to attend with another 200 registering to watch online (a number I thought was a little low, though the timing may play a role, as most people are at work then). The quotes they got were interesting if unsurprising; I'm not sure why some people are surprised that an organization which is there to promote and assist people in making aliyah would primarily focus on groups where that is likely to have an effect, which tend to lean center-right. Treppenwitz said it well:
"...that demographic seems to skew somewhat right-wing religious - just as the actual aliyah statistics do."
OnTheFace had an odd complaint, wishing that Arab bloggers would have been represented as well; I think that odd considering that this is not an Israeli blogger convention, but a Jewish one. Moreover, if she felt the conference were slanted center-right, then it makes sense to encourage those on the left to attend, not the reverse.

I particularly enjoyed R' Gil's comment on the subject, which I think says it best:
"The conference is an opportunity for people who are online friends through writing and reading blogs to meet in person for the first time," said Rabbi Gil Student, one of the panelists and editor of Hirhurim, a blog about religion.

"There are times when people are more comfortable arguing with and insulting people who are just words on a computer screen. When you meet someone in person you tend to judge them more favorably and treat them with more respect." Student added that the convention "is an opportunity for people to take time out of their busy schedules and stop and think about what they do, why they do it and how they can do it better."
One of the (many) reasons we particularly enjoy having bloggers among our many guests is the opportunity to meet and understand the people behind the names. It certainly is true that it becomes much more difficult to 'fight' with someone you know and understand; issues become a lot less black-and-white. And of course, it is always a good idea to stop and think about what one is doing and why. I think this conference will have a very positive impact on the J-blogosphere as a whole. (You can register here.)

Tisha Ba'av

Ezzie asked me to link this:

Do you ever feel guilty on Tisha Ba'av?

A Few Things

  • So in the end, what happened with the tickets from yesterday? My Dad gave the tickets to his partner and G's uncle L, who took his son g out of work and went to the game. I hope they were there for this play, which is one of the sickest catches I've ever seen. He doesn't even spin until the ball is 3/4 of the way there. And of course, since it's Cleveland, they got to sit through a thunderstorm delay.
  • R' Gil has a great post on "proving God" which is a worthwhile read. I always find it interesting to read stuff of R' Schubert Spero [quoted in middle], as he was the rav of the Young Israel of Cleveland [where my family has davened for half a century or so] for many years before making aliyah (and quickly being followed by a nice chunk of the shul). In a nice little connection, I sat next to R' Spero on the way to a wedding a number of years back - the wedding was a daughter of the person who answered my father's shailah about the tickets.
  • The Shabbaton is coming! For anyone who has still not registered for the BeyondBT/SerandEz Shabbaton next Shabbos (August 15th-16th, Shabbos Nachamu), you have until Tuesday to do so, though obviously the sooner the better in terms of knowing numbers. It promises to be a really nice Shabbos with great company, and we'd love to see you there. We have a nice crowd of people who read this blog on the guest list already, and we'd love to have some more. If you're interested or have any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail myself at SerandEz@gmail.com or BeyondBT at BeyondBT@gmail.com. To register, e-mail BeyondBT. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bloggers Never Say Die

I know this is an odd time to post because it's 11:00 at night, but I just want to express something. I think that everyone goes through difficult times - not because difficult things are happening but just because they are viewing life and the world in a somewhat negative way. And it's really easy to get sucked into that and to get pulled even further downward.

But I'm finding that if you spend time with just yourself and really take the time to think and reflect and just be...well, it helps a lot. Sometimes there's so much immersion in what's going on outside of yourself that it's easy to get detached from what's really you. I know that's a bit difficult to understand - I'm having a difficult time explaining it. I guess what I'm really trying to say is...when things get tough to handle, a good place to look for strength is inside yourself. And once you get back in touch with yourself and what you're all about, it will be easier to climb back into the daylight of a more positive outlook.

And the most important thing to remember is to never give up. Even the tiniest of hurdles is important enough not to ignore. If you give in to something small, it will be easier to give in to the bigger things, too, and that's bad.

No matter how negative a person might feel, no matter how much you feel like people don't really understand you...they probably do. And in the end, the person you really have to answer to is yourself.

The weird thing is...I'm still struggling with all of this stuff. I'm not even quite sure where this post is coming from. It's just sort of...coming out. I hope it's worthwhile.

The Return of SlugGirl


(i was actually purchasing flying insect killer, but had to post this one!) - from the name, my guess is the company might be based in New England.

Crossed Signals

When I was compiling yesterday's roundup, I was confused by a pair of posts that were written back to back on Cross-Currents and decided to discuss them separately. Jonathan Rosenblum's Think Green was an excellent post discussing, of all things, environmentalism and charedim. While noting accurately the reasons charedim (and in truth, many people) are wary of environmentalists, he still makes an excellent case for people doing their part to make the world better for the next generations.

Immediately following, however, was a post by R' Avi Shafran about The Jewish Week and charedim. While Shafran's overall thrust was fine (the Jewish Week should have a charedi on its editorial board to give a different viewpoint), his arguments were troubling in their onesidedness, particularly as he starts the article by complainging about JW editor Gary Rosenblatt by saying "issues like those Gary raises (like most issues) do have two sides."

One of the issues that troubled me was Shafran's seeming desire to have it both ways: While requesting that a supposed inclusive paper such as the Jewish Week have a charedi member to present that point of view better, he argues that the Charedi papers need to have no such thing as they make no claims of inclusiveness. While on the face this is a valid argument, the question becomes why this is true. Why can't any of the Charedi papers try to be inclusive, try to present other points of view? Why is that onus only placed on everyone else?

If one of the largest criticisms of the Charedi world is its inability to respect other viewpoints, wouldn't it make sense for them to show that in fact, this is not the case? Shafran decries being "accused of wielding influence beyond our numbers (even of being, as per Gary’s title, “All Powerful”) and of poisoning the wells of “tolerance.”" Wouldn't the best solution to this be to not demand a seat at the Jewish Week, but to show tolerance and understanding?

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