Friday, October 31, 2008

Noteworthy

Last week, the Obama campaign decided to bar certain television stations from interviewing either Obama, Biden, or their wives after those stations asked rather tough questions in interviews (of Biden, in particular).

This week, it is interesting to note that the campaign has barred a number of newspapers from covering the campaign - though they had been doing so from the start - after those newspapers' editorial pages endorsed John McCain for President:

Journalists from three major newspapers -- each having endorsed John McCain -- reportedly have been booted from the Barack Obama campaign plane for the final leg of the presidential campaign.

The Washington Times reported Friday that they were notified of the Obama campaign's decision Thursday evening -- even though the paper has covered Obama from the start.

"I hope the candidate that promises to unite America isn't using a litmus test to determine who gets to cover his campaign," Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon said in the article

The New York Post and Dallas Morning News also have been kicked off Obama's plane, according to the Web site The Drudge Report.

It will be interesting to see what kind of effect this has - knowing that only media outlets who support Obama are allowed close coverage of the campaign. Should he win the Presidency, it would be an incredible blow to the American populus to not have any serious or critical coverage of the White House and the decision-making process of the President. (Note that FOXNews is still on board, but they are not print media.)

Back to Basics

I loved this post on A Simple Jew:
One has to begin from the basics: to be a simple Jew.

(Yehudi HaKadosh of P'shischa)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween

Question:

Is there something inherently wrong with orthodox Jews going trick or treating? Sure you can get into the historical specifics, but you can probably do that with any holiday. Today, halloween is just a fun cheesy holiday to dress up, get frightened, and get some free candy.

Words, Words, Words

We watched this short clip in my speech class today.

Sometimes it's not about what you say but about how you say it. You may not think you've said anything wrong, but innocent words can still be hurtful if said in an insensitive way. On the flip side, harsh words can sometimes be easier to swallow for the listener if said with care.

Just Say No

This letter at YWN is mind-boggling: [emphasis added]

...

My issue however is what has been going on recently with both girls AND BOYS alike as far as brand name clothing is concerned. Many of us do not realize that many sixth and seventh grade girls are going to school with $175 knapsacks. Sweatshirts that run $75 a piece, and can’t be worn more than once a month. I recall being in school and wearing the same pair of school shoes all winter. Now the girls need their Ugg boots ($110), and three pairs of shoes.

Many high school boys are now wearing ties that I am told run upwards of $150. That is correct…..$150. Their glasses (and g-d forbid you should only have one pair) are all designer names many of which I have never ever heard of. Belts can run over $200 and yet somehow so many of these yeshiva bochurim have them.

I know that many of you are going to comment that you need to learn to be mechanech your kids and learn to say NO. I know all about it. A few months ago YWN posted an article (HERE) about the cost of seminary and most of the comments (ludicrous in my opinion) were how this parent didn’t understand how to say no. My guess is that many (not all) of these comments came from people who are not in the “parsha”.

We need to understand the ENOURMOUS pressure that is put on these kids in school by their friends and classmates. It is easy to sit back and be an armchair NO NO NO parent. If I had a daughter… I would tell my son… If you are able to and it doesn’t backfire, great. Consider yourself very lucky. But many of us do not want our children to be outcasts and want our children to be happy. With all that is going on with children at risk today, the number one priority you hear from the people that deal with this is to make sure your children are happy.

I don’t have a good answer to the problem and while I am inclined to say no, and my gut tells me to say no, it breaks my heart to see unhappy children.

Any advice?

First commenter there said it well: Just say: No!

What's ridiculous about this letter is that she completely discounts saying "No" - even calling it ludicrous - and yet still has the audacity to complain about the problem. If you're completely unwilling to be a parent or do what is obviously necessary, then don't complain about the problem.

{I'd never heard of $200 belts until Squooshball mentioned it when we stopped by their house last year - how insane is that?! I'm still wearing the same $10-15 belts I've had for a few years, and they're holding up just fine. My grandmother even told me last night that recently, my nephew's pants were falling down, so she gave him a shoelace to use as a belt. Much cheaper. I say sell the belt and invest in something thats price is low because of the market.}

An Interesting Study

I was asked to post this, and after taking it, think it's interesting and worthwhile:
"A research team from the Psychology Department at New York University, headed by Professor Yaacov Trope and supported by the National Science Foundation, is investigating the cognitive causes of voting behavior, political preferences, and candidate evaluations throughout the course of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. This stage of the study focuses on the information people use to inform evaluations during the last few weeks before the election. They seek respondents of all political leanings from all over the country (and from the rest of the world) to complete a 15-minute questionnaire, the responses to which will be completely anonymous..."
Take it here. http://www.psychsurveys.org/brietruesdell/2008elections

It took me about fifteen minutes, but I did it rather slowly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rabbonim vs. Roshei Yeshiva

I noticed over Yom Tov this piece in the Jewish Action discussing with seven older, former rabbonim some of the issues facing Orthodox Jewry today and the transitions within the community over the past half-century. I still haven't read through the whole piece, but this section caught my eye:
Mr. Savitsky: Many people today are claiming that the community rabbi is being replaced by the rosh yeshivah, since more and more she’eilos, questions, are being asked to the rosh yeshivah, and not the rabbi. What do you see as the role of the community rabbi in the years ahead?
The answers varied, with different Rabbis taking different positions on the subjects. It was the final comment that struck me in particular:
Rabbi Schonfeld: Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik told us thirty years ago that the tekufah of the rav is [over and that a new] tekufah of the rosh yeshivah was beginning. We didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say [at the time], but we can see it today.

The function of a rosh yeshivah is to teach Torah, to be a model to the community, more than the rabbi is. Oftentimes, a rosh yeshivah is brought in from Israel to be a mesader kiddushin, at an expense to the [parents]. By the following year, the rosh yeshivah forgets the talmid’s name! There are great roshei yeshivah who remain part of the talmid’s life, and those are outstanding people. But the rabbi who lives day and night with the family should not be excluded when it comes to times of joy. It’s not a question of kavod. It’s a question of the function of the rabbi as a servant of the community—an eved Hashem and an eved of Klal Yisrael. Very often, [they are] pushed aside.

The function of a rosh yeshivah is not to get involved in paskening [rendering a rabbinic decision] the she’eilah, unless you ask him. That’s the function of the rabbanim, who know Yoreh Deah. Not that the roshei yeshivah don’t know [it], but their function is to set the mode of life to the talmid. The rabbi’s function is to be involved in the life of the congregation. The daily life; the day-to-day problems. We have to find a modus vivendi of not overlapping each other.
It's worthwhile to read the comments of all of them on the subject (and on breakaway minyanim and on kiruv, which I may write about later), but this last one in particular was interesting. Firstly, do people agree with the split R' Schonfeld has stated? One of the other Rabbonim seemed to disagree somewhat. Second, if you do agree with R' Schonfeld, where does the problem lie in order to fix it - is it the people who seek out the Roshei Yeshiva over the Rabbonim who are not understanding what the functions of each of them are, or should the Roshei Yeshiva be instructing these students to seek out the advice and psak from their Rabbonim instead of from them? Whatever one feels, what can and should be done about this - or should nothing be done?

The Perfect Perfect

These photos were all taken in Cleveland over Sukkos; the first by a friend, the others by me at Starbucks. It's probably worthwhile to note that this was tagged as a picture of me. Sweet. Thanks, SCoops!

And of course, as everyone knows, just after God comes... football:

And on the other end of the spectrum, you have abominations like this:

For what it's worth, she matched her car. Really. Matched perfectly. Dead serious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Can't Believe...

...but it's starting to sink in, that we're helping to host a Shabbos Kallah for Pobody's Nerfect this weekend, along with the Raggedies and another friend.

{inserts earplugs}

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Journalist Admits and Explains Media Bias

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Story?id=6099188&page=1

Not Your Uterus

Aliza Hausman has a fantastic post up at BeyondBT titled My Uterus is None of Your Business. It is, unfortunately, right on the money.

Motherhood is hard. And I don’t just mean raising the babies. I mean having them. I mean trying to have them. There is just so much pressure in the Jewish community to have children.

The first year we were married, people - men and women - would ask constantly whether or not I was trying to get pregnant or was already pregnant. And if the answer was “no” and “no”, people hummed around me with sympathy and wished me luck having a baby. ...

At another Shabbat meal, a married woman whispered conspiratorially in my ear that people would stop asking about my womb once my husband and I survived our first anniversary.

“They’ll think you’re having problems,” she whispered.

“Problems?” I murmured, mystified.

“Getting pregnant.”

She's right on the money. Unfortunately, countless people in the frum community are just... rude! When we first got married, a few friends threw me a surprise birthday party. Serach wasn't feeling well at all - so of course, they assumed she was pregnant, despite her even saying "No, I not pregnant." (Not that it was any of their business.) In an insane twist, when she had to have surgery months later for something, a friend informed me that people apparently had suggested that she either miscarried or had an abortion.

Really.

She would also get questions such as "Oh, did you wait?" (Favorite response: 'No, God waited.') A close friend from Cleveland lamented to us when we came to visit once a couple of years ago how so many friends from New York would call him to say hi, and in the context of conversation, ask "So, is your wife pregnant yet?" He found it incredibly rude, and noted that if they wished to inform people if she was pregnant, they would. If they didn't, they wouldn't. At some point, it becomes obvious; and if she isn't pregnant, it is simply insulting and rude. Either they are trying and it hasn't happened yet, or they don't wish to get pregnant at this time, or perhaps they're having trouble getting pregnant. In any of those situations, it's not anybody else's business.

Thankfully, there are numerous organizations in the Jewish community and outside of it that help people who wish to have children and are having trouble for whatever reason. From a friendship side, if a friend wishes to confide in you, leave it to them to choose to do so and make yourself available. You probably should not, however, be asking questions unprompted.

It's just none of your business.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Save The Date: November 2, YU Tanach Yom Iyun!

For everyone who enjoyed last year's fabulous YU Tanach Yom Iyun...the opportunity has come again! Welcome to the NOVEMBER 2nd production featuring controversial figures in Tanakh!

Did you ever wonder about Shimshon's marrying non-Jewish wives? What about Hoshea having to marry a prostitute? Were you ever curious about how these people fit into the spectrum of Judaism and Jewish life?

Well, here's your chance to find out more! Just join us on November 2nd at the Wilf Campus from 9:00 AM-1:30 PM to hear some fabulous speakers...and enjoy!

For more information, times and speakers, please see here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Polls Trolls

WestBankMama says it well enough - only November 4th matters - and points to a decent piece in the NYTimes on the subject, but for all those concerned about the polls, here's a quick breakdown of possible swing states. Before calculating these states, assume 255 electoral votes to Obama, 174 to McCain, including a Bush state, Iowa (7), to Obama. 270 are needed to win. Red went to Bush, blue went to Kerry. Note that polls have a margin of error between 2 and 4 points, usually, and that polls tend to skew slightly to the left. In a given state, I'd put anything that is less than 2 points toward Obama into the red column, and anything less than 4-6 points into a tossup.

I'm using the Zogby Interactive Poll from 10/19 (McCain has been surging since, for what it's worth), since it's a more reliable poll than most. Jim Zogby is an open Democrat and a solid pollster.
  • Colorado (9): Obama +0.3
  • Florida (27): Obama +3.6
  • Missouri (11): McCain +0.3
  • Nevada (5): McCain +7.5
  • New Hampshire (4): Obama +0.3
  • New Mexico (5): Obama +0.6
  • North Carolina (15): Obama +3.1
  • Ohio (20): McCain +2.8
  • Virginia (13): Obama +3.6
In none of these states does Barack Obama have greater than a 3.6% lead according to Zogby, which essentially puts them all in serious play. It's important to note that the last-second undecideds may often flip toward McCain in many of these states; not only are they red-leaning states, but people will either prefer a steady hand over an inexperienced one or will not wish for a liberal supermajority (White House - Senate - House of Representatives all blue).

McCain can lose either Virginia; Missouri; Colorado + New Hampshire; or any two of NM, NH, and NV and still win. He can lose all three of NM, NH, and NV or CO and NM or NV and still tie.

Obama/Palin Ticket

Not sure if this is more funny or sad. (Opens MP3 file.) [Hat tip: Josh L]

The basic gist of the clip is an employee of Howard Stern walking around Harlem, asking Obama supporters if they support him for different policies - McCain's policies. They all support staying in Iraq, they are pro-life, anti-stem cell research (McCain actually is not against, but okay), and most importantly, would be perfectly fine with Palin as VP should Obama win.

Winston Churchill used to say that the best argument against democracy was 5 minutes with the average voter.

A Thousand Miles

Over the eleven days ending Wednesday night, we'd driven over a thousand miles at night*, taken down and then put back up bamboo sticks that held some raccoon droppings and a couple ant colonies, decorated a sukkah [hut], undecorated and dismantled another, had five days where no work could be done but much eating and walking was, watched a Presidential debate (pretty decent), a spoof of a debate (pretty funny), a football game (not so good), took Elianna bowling for the first time (44!), had some Shannon Road Ice Cream (awesome), attended a panel on Iran (pretty good), and listened to a couple panelists afterward (very good).

Seeing Elianna play with her cousins lets us see just how old, big, and mature she's gotten. Full sentences, a really clean grasp of what's going on, a sharp understanding of how to do things... it's amazing. Throw in how she is with Kayla (who enjoyed having a cousin her age around and is laughing like crazy at Elianna when she plays with her), and it's really something.

How was your Yom Tov?

* New York to Cleveland: 473 miles. Sat. night, 11:20pm-6:20am, Pobody's Nerfect in the front, Serach and the girls in the back, twice stopped for gas, once stopped for a cop [no ticket, just a warning].

Cleveland to Baltimore: 370 miles. Sat. night, 1:17am-6:45am, girl who needed a ride in front, Serach and the girls in the back, once stopped for gas.

Baltimore to New York: 206 miles. Wed. night, 11:12am - 2:15am. No stops.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Journalism

Orson Scott Card nails it.

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?
By Orson Scott Card

Editor's note: Orson Scott Card is a Democrat and a newspaper columnist, and in this opinion piece he takes on both while lamenting the current state of journalism.

An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America:

I remember reading All the President's Men and thinking: That's journalism. You do what it takes to get the truth and you lay it before the public, because the public has a right to know.

To Text or Not, That Is The Question

LWY on dating etiquette. 'Tis a fair question...

Performance Reviews Are Dumb

Amen. Hat tip: Mom.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crossword

We (Adina and I) found out on Shavuos that our friend, Dani Raymon, had his second crossword puzzle accepted by the New York Times.

It was published today!!!!!

Check it out...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Say a Little Prayer for Her

Please daven for my nine-year-old niece who was just diagnosed with Leukemia this past erev Shabbos.
דינה שרה בת שיינא מירה
Dina Sora bas Shayna Mira

May she have a refuah shelaima, and may we only hear good news from one another this year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Blog Alone...

...on the "Boulevard Of Bloggen Dreams" *

Original by Green Day

I type a lonely post
The first one that I have ever wrote
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I blog alone

Stare at this empty screen
On the Boulevard of Bloggen Dreams
Who has time to sleep
am I the only one and I blog alone

I blog alone
I blog alone

I blog alone
I blog a...

My keyboard's the only one that sits beside me
My cordless mouse the only thing that's clicking
Sometimes I wish someone out there will read me
'Til then I blog alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah,
Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I'm posting all the time
All kinds of things from somewhere in my mind
On the border line
Of sanity and where I blog alone

Read between the lines
Comments picked up and everything's alright
Check my meter signs
To know I'm still alive and I blog alone

I blog alone
I blog alone

I blog alone
I blog a...

My keyboard's the only one that sits beside me
My cordless mouse the only thing that's clicking
Sometimes I wish someone out there will read me
'Til then I blog alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah
Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I blog alone
I blog a...

Stare at this empty screen
On the Boulevard of Bloggen Dreams
Who has time to sleep
am I the only one and I blog a…

My Blog's the only one that understands me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I blog alone...

* 'kay, I am well aware of how this particular parody comes across so this a disclaimer to inform one and all that THIS IS NOT MY STATE OF MIND - however, I was listening to the song and all the pieces just fit together too well not to use it. And so, here we are.

R' Horowitz Radio Show

R' Horowitz's radio show kicks off tonight!
I am excited to announce that this Thursday evening (October 16th) I will be launching a pilot call-in radio program, to enable you to ask me questions and discuss parenting issues. The program will be airing on WSNR 620 AM in the New York metro area and on WKAT 1360 AM in Miami at 10:00 p.m. or streaming online at www.talklinecommunications.com.

The Path of the J... Straight

It is currently 4:11am in Cleveland, Ohio, and there are many thoughts occupying my mind. One of the particularly intriguing ones to me is a rather amusing question my sister-in-law, SIL, asked me tonight as we were waiting to make havdalah. "If you could change the name of your blog right now to anything, what would it be?"

In truth, I like the name SerandEz and am not changing it. But immediately, three possibilities that I'd play around with popped into my head. One was Clarity. The second was Balance. The third, and somewhat favorite, was Yashrus (Straight [referring to how one acts]).

Tonight at my parents' shul in Cleveland Heights there was a guest who - for the second consecutive year - was particularly thought-provoking when speaking briefly before ma'ariv. His topic this year was... chasidus (not that kind), or piety. One aspect that was particularly interesting was that he spoke entirely from the direct words of the classic text, Mesilas Yesharim - as he noted, often mistranslated as "Path of the Just", it actually means "Path of the Straight".

While I can easily write countless lengthy posts on either what he spoke about or on Mesilas Yesharim (and am considering doing just that), a couple points in particular that were interesting were among the first notes he made. The first, famous line of the text is
יסוד החסידות ושרש העבודה התמימה הוא - שיתברר ויתאמת אצל האדם מה חובתו בעולמו
...loosely translated as "The foundation of chasidus and the root of service that is pure is: That it be clear and truthful to a person what his responsibility is in his world." The speaker* noted that the task is really straightforward: Birur, or clarity. A person needs to understand what exactly it is they are trying to do, where it is they are trying to get to.

Second, while people often call Mesilas Yesharim a mussar sefer (texts regarding ethics, self-improvement, conduct, et al.), he noted that it is not one - mussar plays a minimal role, and the author specifically only uses it to accomplish certain goals and make specific points throughout the text. The goal of the text is in fact to steer someone onto that "Straight Path".

Finally, the speaker noted and discussed a curious aspect of the text: Only one large section, the one on chassidus, has a subsection on what to look out for in determining whether or not one should pursue it. Up until that point, everything discussed are things that a person must do and must not do to be righteous and do what is right. However, for chassidus - going above and beyond what is necessary - a person must weigh and determine what is and is not appropriate for them in their world. The text specifically warns against chassidus because it can lead to people making mistakes that hurt both themselves and others.

There was a ton of interesting material; enjoy this food for thought. Moadim L'Simcha!

* Please note that I'm relating, from memory, my own impressions from the speech. Any and all mistakes are mine; any ideas may be and often are my own interpretations based loosely on what I heard or thought I heard.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Calling Music Lovers...

...a request has been made to cull the collective minds of you our fair readers for good ideas for music which a Chosson and Kallah could walk into dancing.

As I know the involved parties - think on the louder side and something that builds up.

Thoughts...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Apropos & Thank You

I saw this one parked outside one of the local Jewish groceries last Thursday night, and thought it apropos for Yom Kippur and the coming year.
While this is unlikely to be the last post before Yom Kippur (and certainly Sukkos) on this blog, it is surely going to be a busy few weeks for us and I doubt I'll have time to properly say anything during that time.

On behalf of Serach and myself, we'd like to wish everyone a g'mar chasima tova and a wonderful year. We'd like to thank all those who made this past year as good as it was; it had the potential to be a very difficult year for us in many ways, yet every time that was the case something would happen, someone would help us out, in ways that we will never truly be able to express our gratitude for. Often, we hear and see an understandable and important emphasis and focus on the big issues, the large gestures, and the need to focus on one's own self first - and those certainly do usually come first. But those who can and have done the little things, who have taken care of small but important details, and perhaps without even realizing it have tremendously impacted people by their simple care and friendship, thank you. It was without a doubt the little things that have gotten us through these hard times.

Some of you know who you are. Some of you think you know but your humility won't let you admit it to yourselves. There are some who don't even realize what they do, as they take it as a given - or can't fathom how they have helped despite being so far away or having done "so little". And then there are those who think they may have helped in the past but that something has changed. We thank all of you the same from us, and knowing what kind of people you are, many others owe you similar thanks. We hope to be as good to all of you as you have been to us.

As an aside, a person who can take a step back and look at a bigger picture cannot help but see more behind what goes on in day-to-day life, from the positives to the negatives, from the human side to the spiritual side.

May we all be blessed with a year of health, happiness, and hatzlacha.

Navigation

Hello! I'm in Israel now! I just thought I'd say hi and tell y'all about a few highlights so far:

1. You never know the impact just one small creature can have on the grander scheme of things. For instance, due to a bird hitting the wing of our plane while it was in JFK (before we even boarded), we had a three hour delay, reached our connecting flight in London with 20 minutes to takeoff (they had to re-open boarding for us and the other people on our earlier flight), and all our luggage ended up getting left in Heathrow Airport. We won't be getting it back until tomorrow morning (we landed last night). That is erev Yom Kippur when this whole country shuts down. My grandparents said we're lucky if we get it all in time. I'm just hoping we don't all have to go to shul in our clothes that we've been wearing for three days already.

2. As we were sitting on the plane in New York waiting for the "situation" to finish being dealt with, my dad asked a tall, lanky British flight attendant, "Excuse me, what's going on with the delay?" And the flight attendant replied, in his British drawl, "I really don't know, sir. I'm just passing by to get an orange."

3. Running through the airport with a bunch of Chassidim is a VERY funny sight, I just have to say.

4. We saw the new bridge in Yerushalaim for the train thing that won't be finished for another two years. But the bridge is really pretty! It was lit up all purplish white last night and it's built to look like David's harp.

5. I realized that, for the first time in years, I am completely and utterly dependant on my parents and/or grandparents. I have no phone (my family only has one phone here and my parents have it) and no money. Just what my parents give me. It's kind of scary like that because it means I can't just go off on my own with my friends really, or even by myself. Well, I guess I can, but I won't be very findable, nor will I be able to reach anyone else.

6. Fourteen hours of traveling - if you don't count all the time in the airport before we left JFK - is LONG.

7. When I logged in here, everything was in Hebrew! It was actually really cool! The whole log in thing at the top was in Hebrew and, yeah, I thought that was so cool. :)

8. Bye! Miss you guys!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

We're Not Biased - We're Dumb

This CNN clip is hilarious and says it all:

Now, pause it and count the hands - she calls it "overwhelming" when about 10-13 hands of 30 are raised for Biden, and "a handful" when the same number of hands are raised for Palin. Now, either, she's just dumb, or she's already decided what the answer should be. Either way, good job, CNN. Ugh.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Winner Is...

...America, for one night, at least. Tonight's Vice Presidential debate was {gasp} an actual debate, for the most part. Sure, Senator Biden asked for extra response time a couple times, and yes, he of course tried to pin quite a bit to Bush; and sure, Governor Palin (and Biden) avoided the actual question that was being asked a couple of times, particularly in the beginning. But overall, that was actually a well stated debate by both parties, which probably favors Governor Palin more than Senator Biden in terms of results, as she - like Barack Obama in the Presidential debates - was trying to show she's qualified and knowledgeable enough to carry out her duties as Vice President. Senator Biden was trying to present the Obama ticket as a superior one due to their policies, particularly by pinning McCain to Bush. It didn't seem like he gained any new support with what he was saying tonight, but he didn't make any real gaffes that could have eroded any major support.

Palin actually did a decent job not only of presenting herself as qualified, but at pushing the McCain-Palin policies over the Obama-Biden ones as well; not sure if it would sway many, but the social liberal/economic conservatives in the middle might like it. She did a very smooth job at pointing out that most of the people in the $250k+ bracket are not individuals but small businesses; I don't think Biden's arguments about Exxon getting a break resonated because people understand that that's not what Palin was referring to (Exxon is a public corporation, not able to file the way a small business does). Certainly, her arguments should have resonated with small business owners and employees, as would the $5k tax credit, because they usually don't have health insurance through their employers. That the health benefits other companies offer would become a taxable benefit was a good attempt by Biden, but I don't think it would take those voters away from the right; those same voters also gain by their companies having lower corporate taxes under McCain-Palin and are likely to be against the idea of universal health care to begin with.

I was slightly surprised that the Supreme Court didn't come up much, nor abortion. I sincerely hope that nobody tries to claim that Biden's emotional reaction about raising his kids as a single dad was fake, nor on the flip side that Sarah Palin was implying he didn't understand what it was like to "sit around the table" with one's family. She was clearly showing her connection to the middle class, and he was clearly showing he has had his share of hard times as well. I liked what he said about not questioning their motives; I liked what she said about it coming back to the actual policies. Biden's line takes away some of that "attacker" label, while hers was a nice shot at hammering home "our policies are better".

Biden may have actually helped Palin a bit by consistently agreeing with her policies as Governor of Alaska, noting he liked what she did there. He was trying to not come across as condescending but instead confirmed her abilities as an executive. One very interesting thing to watch was the two of them after the debate standing and talking to one another not only civilly but for real - it wasn't those fake political smiles, it was real discussion and actual introductions between family members. Biden came across as a true grandfatherly figure, while Palin started talking to one of Biden's daughters or nieces and was making a little impact just having that conversation, which I found interesting. Biden does seem to come across - and I don't mean this in a bad way - as someone who wants to get down to business with the people that understand what he's talking about, while Palin is trying to take her time and explain to everyone what it is that is going on and why. Biden noticeably focused his answers at Gwen Ifill or Palin, while Palin noticeably looked into the camera even when responding to Biden much of the time. I think each of those worked to their respective strengths - Biden as the person who has this experience, Palin as the person who can connect to the people.

Unfortunately, the media is going to spend the next 24 hours killing this debate and reducing it to soundbytes and comparisons and instant meaningless poll results and attributing it all to whatever they want to. Fortunately, it was probably a well-watched debate, much like the Obama and Palin speeches were, and people can actually form a decent opinion on their own without being told what they should think. All that being said, it was certainly cute how each side managed to get in their soundbytes - Biden about the "Bridge to Nowhere" and the "change" and "more of the same" mantras, and Palin with the "maverick" lines and the Reagan quotes, with the best being the "There you go again, Joe" that even Biden cracked up about. The very best line was where she mocked the jokes each made, getting laughter from Biden and the audience.

All in all, it was a really good debate, particularly the last 30-40 minutes or so. I think the best way to grade debates is not the "who won" but by grading each; whereas McCain and Obama, from the sound of it (I started to watch it on YouTube but didn't end up doing so), probably both graded in the "D" range, Palin probably got more of a B+ and Biden a B for tonight's debate. What's often - but not always! - the best measure of who won is InTrade, which is people putting actual money on these things; Obama's value to go up after the debate dropped a nice amount (60 -> 48) as soon as it ended, as did the likelihood of Palin being pulled as the VP nominee (11 -> 5). Biden's chances of being pulled as nominee rose a teeny tiny bit (5 -> 6). That sounds like Palin reassured people she was qualified to be the Vice President, which takes her from a possible lag on the ticket back to being the one who can connect to middle-class voters.

What are the chances the Presidential debate next week will be this good? Here's to hoping...

Time For Some

Time For Some Campaigning - JibJab. Just in case you hadn't seen it yet. :)

1/4 Of The Way

...okay, actually 4/17ths, but who's counting. [Oh - I only care to see a Rays - Brewers World Series, and I came in second in fantasy baseball.]

NFL: The Browns stink, everyone forgot just how good the Panthers can be, it is the Patriots' lack of defense - not Tom Brady - that will hurt them, the Colts, Chargers, Texans, and Vikings are going to still make runs, and defense still wins ballgames.

Suicide pool: Of 3,296 entries (that's $164,800 if you're counting at home and if my math doesn't stink), two of which were mine and iPay's, there are now just 681 remaining [only one of ours]. We've already picked PIT, ARZ, NYG, and CAR, and this week are required to pick two teams - as of now, we're going with DAL and GB.

Ezzie's pool: I was horrible the first few weeks - including dead last in Week 1 - but this week had a legitimate shot at winning, and ended up in third. I usually start every year slow and then pick it up as the season goes along, so this is actually an early good start for me, though I'm still 60 points behind the overall leader.

Spread pools: One pool I'm in has been simply horrible - I'm somewhere near the bottom overall. The other one is an old office pool, and after a dead last Week 1, I'm moving up slowly, coming in tied for first (losing on a tiebreaker, but still in the money) this past week and moving into the pack overall.

J-Blogger FFL: NoyG, G, and Squooshball are all 4-0 in the other division, but I'm all alone in first place in the division I'm in at 3-1. Eliezer StrongBad is 2-2 along with EDS and Frayda. Imperfect Dynasty, Jacob da Jew, and General R. Blie are 1-3, while two teams are 0-4. SerandEz members are clearly strong at the top, with only NoyG ahead of us in total points at a ridiculous 443; G is next with 402, Squooshball has 359, I have 353, and StrongBad has 345.

I think my team is actually really great now:
QB PManning, O'Sullivan, Anderson
RB Westbrook, Slaton, Lewis, AGreen
WR Holmes, SMoss, Gage, Stallworth, KCurtis
TE Cooley, K Folk, DST Chargers, Seahawks.
We play one QB, two RB, two WR, and a flex RB-WR, so I have options every week.

In the league my BIL and I run, Squooshball is running away at 4-0, pulling out this past week against me on Monday night by a point, leaving me at 1-3. The whole league is topsy-turvy, with an 0-4 team at 6th in the league in points, a 2-2 team that's 3rd, and a 3-1 team that's 11th. Braylon & Ocho Cinco have stunk it up for me.

On the team my BIL and I run in a public league, we've rebounded from two bad losses to pull to 2-2. We have a solid team:
QB Hasselback, O'Sullivan
RB Graham, Slaton, Addai, SYoung
WR Edwards, Harrison, Gage, Holmes
TE Winslow, K Dawson, DST Seahawks, Chargers
We probably have to drop Dawson and Young this week to get a K and TE.

All in all, bad start, seems to be turning around across the board. Now if only the Browns could, too, so our season tickets can go back up...!!

Myths that have known me

When I was younger, and in my more vulnerable state, I was often susceptible to the instructions of other girls in my bunk at camp as to what was proper halacha. Afraid not to be as "frum" as they seemed to be, I followed their instructions, too scared to ask any questions lest I appear less knowledgeable than they. As I grew older, and wiser, it came to my attention that most of what they had told me were . . . well, "total and complete fabrications" is a little strong (and often not really applicable - some of them are just halacha that is now defunct), so I term these "Bais Yaakov Myths."

So I present, for your edification, the short list:

1. You can't daven in your bedroom.


2. You can't drink water that's been uncovered overnight.

These are the two most common ones that I remember being swayed by. What myths have known you?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My New ?

Who had the weirdest new fruit this year?

I decided that instead of eating fruits that looked dangerous to eat and had the consistency of baby food I'd wear a new suit (charcoal gray with a white a blue pinstripe)



But the rest of the family ate a paw-paw and I've never been more disgusted in my life.

According to Wikipedia The fruit is a large edible berry, 5 to 16 cm long and 3 to 7 cm broad, weighing from 20 to 500 g, with numerous seeds; it is green when unripe, maturing to yellow or brown. It has a flavor somewhat similar to both banana and mango, varying significantly by cultivar, and has more protein than most fruits.


What did you eat?

All this food talk is making me hungry. Time to pound leftover before the fast

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