Friday, January 30, 2009

Please

Please have in mind Tamara bas Frayda Basha in your tefilos - the grandmother of one of our loyal readers and good friends. Thank you...

Elianna on Vacation

(Because this is more pleasant than ranting about economics.)

While it took her a day or so to understand that being on vacation did not mean that she was going to a place called vacation rather than to school, she's been hilarious all week, except for the little stiff-arms to Kayla when she'd pull her shirt. (Though they were well-executed.) I've been sick most of the week, so if Elianna would see that I didn't look well, she'd walk over, concerned, and the following conversation(s) would occur:
Elianna: Aw, Daddy, are you sick?
Daddy: Yeah... (cough)
Elianna: You're coughing? Do you need a drink of water?
Daddy: No, it's okay, thanks...
Elianna: Do you need a kiss?
Daddy: (laughing) Sure.
Elianna: {kiss} Do you feel better?
Daddy: A little.
Elianna: You're still sick? Do you want to go to the doctor tomorrow? Yeah? Okay.
We felt bad that we couldn't take the girls out to somewhere fun this week, with Serach having less hours due to vacation and Elianna off, but that's what happens when you live in NYC and your ABS sensor and bumper are getting replaced (and you're paying for it). Grr. But it's fun watching the girls in general, and this week listening to Elianna all day I've gotten to appreciate just how fast they're both growing. Kayla is sitting, crawling faster and faster, making noises like "Dada" though hard to say if she's directing them or not, and is eating real food well (ironically, she loves Bananas). Elianna's gone from full sentences to having a pretty good command of grammar - sadly, she says some things better than many adults I know. Her teachers were shocked when they showed a picture of Obama and she immediately called out "that's Obama! Where's McCain?", and she now knows that Obama is President of America and lives in a big white house. McCain is "on vacation" (apparently she doesn't care about Congress). Best of all, little shoves aside, she and Kayla adore one another, and Kayla cracks up at everything Elianna does that's funny. The hard part is making sure Elianna doesn't give Kayla things she shouldn't have or too much food at once, but she's learned this week about "chokables" and now grabs items away from Kayla citing their status as "chokable"... or of course, "mine". Sigh.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ezzie's Blog Roundup II, 1/29

Been wanting to post this (hat tip: Ed) for a while, but it's better after a couple weeks of news pieces. The difference is that this is a comedy show.
Enjoy!

Economics & Politics

I've been under the weather all week, so excuse the lack of real content...

For the dozen or so people besides me that read this blog and actually care about such things, here are some sharp pieces on the economy and political landscape:
  • Rush Limbaugh pens a rather funny but quite intriguing alternative, offering President Obama a compromise: The Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan 2009.
  • A WSJ editorial notes that barely $100 billion of the nearly $1 trillion in spending suggested by Obama has even a likelihood of stimulating the economy; the rest is a 40-year wish list for Democratic Party supporters. Quite mind-boggling to see where the money is going, when all you hear about in the news is the $30 billion for bridges and highways.
  • Dick Morris argues that Obama will have moved us toward socialism - even if he's voted out in 2012 - in irreversible ways.
  • An interesting (and eye-opening) take on the Bush economy - what was good and what mistakes were made.
  • A fascinating Q&A with a former White House economist on Freakonomics, with this piece the most important one to me (as we see it in areas besides economics):
    Q: What are some of the most absurd economic assumptions Washington politicians are guilty of making, and that you’ve had to “advise” against in your position?

    A: That’s a fantastic question, and it gets at a nefarious tactic by some advocates: they try to skew the “baseline” assumptions to make their proposed policy changes look more reasonable.
    Read it all, it's very telling.
Enjoy!

Brown & Orange Flurry

I was talking to my good friend and constantly pessimistic Cleveland fan Howie tonight, and the call ended with something it rarely ever does - slight optimism. For context, I'll share a voicemail that Howie left me and that I still have saved from October 2004, when the Indians were officially eliminated on a fly ball in the sun:
"You don't need to call me back. I just called to say I told you so."
This time, it ended with Howie saying that while he'd liked his own suggestion, the one I'd thrown out in response was a really good idea.

What about? Well, the Cleveland Browns, of course. You see, Howie and I own a pair of 50-yard line season tickets to the Browns, so their success not only gives us enjoyment as fans, but makes us actual investors in our team's success. And it therefore behooves us to - as all fans do - suggest just what our team should be doing to be successful.

A few notes to start: The Browns have the 5th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. If I'm not mistaken, they have the 36th pick as well. Via WFNY, there are teams like the Vikings who are interested in players like Derek Anderson. (Yay!) The Browns have a new coach, Eric Mangini, who seems to be reasonably intelligent with some good schemes, even if he was hired rather hurriedly; and a new GM, straight from Baltimore, in Kokinis. Kellen Winslow is not particularly happy in Cleveland; the other Browns' tight ends did fine in his absence. Terrell Suggs is a free agent, and is 26 years old. Shaun Rogers is HUGE. The Detroit Lions have the 20th pick in the first round in addition to the #1 pick in each round. The Philadelphia Eagles have the 28th and 31st picks in the first round.

The sharp among you may have already realized where I'm going with this, but to spell it out, here's what the Browns should consider doing:
  • Trade Kellen Winslow and Derek Anderson to the Minnesota Vikings for the #22 pick in the first round (and whatever else you can get with it - a defensive back, maybe?).
  • Trade the #5 pick in the draft to either Detroit for the #20 and #33 picks or the Eagles for #28 and #31.
  • Sign Terrell Suggs as a free agent.
  • Draft four defensive players between picks #20 and #36.
First, why Minnesota would do it: Duh. If you have Adrian Peterson and a good line, what do you need? A big-arm QB who can take advantage of defenses trying to cheat on the run. Winslow is a solid-blocking TE who has great talent and can also spread the field, works well with DA, and would be great off play-action with Peterson. He'd be able to function similar to how Gates has for years in San Diego with Tomlinson. For the Vikings, the ability to open up their offense like this combined with their already good defense seems to be a no-brainer as compared to a mid-first round pick.

Why Detroit would do it: Think Quinn + Thomas, but maybe better. Whether they take Stafford or Sanchez, what would be better than immediately grabbing a top left tackle to protect his blindside? There's nothing they could get at #20 or to start the second round that would compare to one of those top tackles.

Why Philly would do it: Their core is aging. They want someone who can make that immediate impact, whether by shoring up that O-line or wherever. Two picks at the very end of the first round to take that shot at a Super Bowl might be awfully enticing.

Why Suggs would do it: Baltimore is in disarray, and can't afford him and still pay Ray Lewis. Kokinis can bring him over. (Side note: If Suggs' reputation is merely boosted by the defense he plays for and not his own skills, presumably Kokinis would know this and not sign him.)

Why the Browns should do it: Why not!? The offense will barely be taking a hit. You'd still have Quinn, Edwards, and the O-line. You'd have a coach more willing to use Josh Cribbs as he used Leon Washington. Top 5 picks bust almost half the time, and they cost a lot more money. None would be of help this year except Crabtree, and he's unlikely to be available. You'd have a defense with two real studs in Rogers (29) and Suggs (26), leading a bunch of young, talented guys [Laurinitis, Mayben, Alphonso Smith, and William Moore?] who will be coming in as a group and learning a scheme together under their new, young coach. Will this team be great in 2009? No. But it could be really great in 2010.

People often shy away from plans that require lots of moves, figuring at least one of the counterparties will balk - but this plan is one that should be relatively easy to sell on each of the other partners. Minnesota is the first one, and is easy enough to find out. Philly and Detroit (especially Detroit) seem to be no-brainers; it's pretty clear who will be available at #5 and what each needs and wants out of this draft. Whether the Browns have 22-28-31-36 or 20-22-33-36 it should be relatively easy for them to get four players they really like, knowing the needs of the teams in between their picks. Suggs is probably the trickiest part of all of this, but seems to be doable especially in light of the ability he'd have to be the big name and leader of a high-potential defense for years to come.

Are we totally off here, or does this sound like it's just not too crazy to actually work?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now You Hear Me

...now you don't. This guy and his inventions are really cool, and the practical uses of the one he discusses most of the presentation are incredible.
My immediate thought was - as they start to be made smaller and cheaper - to talk to people far away without anyone hearing, such as in a crowded room, during a football game, or particularly cool for spies. The coolest use would be to talk to terrorists in the middle of the night, convince them that they're being talked to by God or some such thing, and get them to either walk into traps or give up on terror. But it would be incredibly useful for operations such as the ones Israel just carried out in Gaza - both for communication between soldiers and to warn away civilians from terrorists.

Ezzie's Blog Roundup, 1/28

It is always scary when your hometown gets bomb threats, even if this has seemingly turned out to be a dud. About 20 years ago, right around this time of year, someone firebombed the Young Israel of Cleveland (housed inside the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland). They walked into the building, then into the shul/auditorium, walked up to the aron kodesh, and threw a firebomb - at the stage in the back. A few people were in the building (it was Shabbos afternoon), so they grabbed the sifrei Torah and ran out. By the time the fire was put out, most of the auditorium and a number of classrooms (including my kindergarden classroom) were pretty much burned out.

Elsewhere from the past week or so:
  • WestBankMama is looking for posts by olim.
  • Via JoeSettler, this interesting electoral compass helps you determine who you should vote for in the upcoming Israeli elections. I did it for kicks - I'm somewhere in between Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud, which is about what I'd guessed (though that may surprise others).
  • Life-of-Rubin has Hannity's interview with Rush Limbaugh. Interesting. Also interesting to realize context - the current hubbub of Democrats complaining about Limbaugh saying he wishes Obama to "fail" is far different in context: He says he wishes for him to fail at putting in policies which he feels will ruin the country - big government, higher taxes, higher government spending, etc.
  • Matt's post (or rather, posting from others) on hashkafa touches on an important point, which is not getting too caught up in that one over everything else. A very wothwhile read.
  • A Soldier's Mother talks about the worry that your son is about to go back to war after yesterday's attack... and how soldiers get rewarded.
  • Via EK, Forbes discusses how overreactions and rushing to legislate harsh rules ends up causing major problems - in this case, for toymakers. Odds that this stops government? Zero.
  • R' Aviner notes that someone should not collect money for Shabbos or a wedding al pi halacha, and discusses weddings he went to which were 20 and 50 shekels. Final line:
    If a person wants to live with extras it is a personal decision, but living with extras with other people's money is unheard of.
  • R' Gil on lashon hara and newspapers.
Check them out!

R' Elya Weintraub on Adopt a Soldier

From RafiG: The full sicha in Hebrew is here. Here is the relevant portion, translated:
Rav Weintraub said "we have never seen anything like this before, in any of the previous wars, by our rabbonim. This is treif! .... Somebody who is tamim (simple? naive? innocent?) will respond saying what is wrong with it? They are giving up their lives for us, so why not? what is wrong with this?... The fact that every Monday and Thursday people can sell things to the public, things that our anscestors never did, and it can become so easily accepted so quickly indicates a lack of stability and a damaged haskafa. only somebody who is not settled in his hashkafa will can you put into his head whatever you want.

But what is wrong with it? .... Davening for a salvation is what we need to do... The problem is with the approach - that the yeshiva bochurim say "they are moser nefesh for us, so this is what we do for them" To make a partnership? To act as if there is a connection between our camp and the hiloni camp? That is treif! This type of a partnership means the haredi looks as if what he is doing is worth less than what the hiloni soldier is doing. And this denegrates the Torah.

You can daven for their salvation - they are tinok she'nishba and not evil, but to make a partnership? This is what is treif about Adopt a Soldier.

Another problem with Adopt a Soldier is that they say "they are being moser nefesh for us." That is not true! If you would go to the soldiers, not during war, and ask for 20 shekels for the yeshiva and for those learning torah in poverty, would they run to give it to you like they are running to fight in Gaza? For sure not! So 20 shekels they won't give you, but their lives they will!!?? Of course they are giving themselves up and being moser nefesh, but it is not for us! ....
I'd guess his feelings are not shared by most people in his camp, which is why he is speaking out about it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

OU Marriage Satisfaction Survey

I finally sat down and took this (actually pretty quick) survey on marriage that the OU put out, and recommend it to anyone who is married. It's actually quite interesting and well done. Take the survey here.
Dear Friends,

As part of an ongoing commitment of strengthening Jewish family life, we are asking you to participate in an Orthodox Union international survey on marital satisfaction and concerns. With just ten minutes of your time, you can join communities across North America and Israel in making an important contribution to the Jewish future.

The Aleinu Marriage Satisfaction Survey for the Orthodox community is based on a cutting edge project developed by the Aleinu Family Resource Center, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, and the Rabbinical Council of California. Together, they conducted surveys of Rabbis and congregants to gather information on the state of marriage in local Orthodox communities. The study produced such important insights that it has been taken international.

Please complete this anonymous survey and encourage your friends to be part of this historic and unique study. The deadline for participation in this survey is March 31, 2009.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes for completion. You must complete each online question to continue, and the entire survey for your results to be counted.

We thank you for taking the time which will benefit our Jewish community.

Yours Truly,

Frank Buchweitz
National Director
Community Services & Special Projects

Does This Worry Anybody Else?...

...not to go all "Elders of Zion" - but you could see were one might think that this is an aaaaawfully strange coincidence and start jumping to some not so gefilte fish friendly conclusions:

Former AIG CEO - Hank Greenberg

Former Lehman Brothers CEO - Richard Fuld

Former Washington Mutual CEO - Alan H. Fishman

Former Bear Stearns CEO - Alan Schwartz

Madoff Securities - Bernard Madoff

Goldman Sachs CEO - Lloyd Blankfein

Former Federal Reserve Chairman - Alan Greenspan

Current Federal Reserve Chairman - Ben Bernanke

Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee - Barney Frank, (D-MA),

Monday, January 26, 2009

IDF Ordered to Avoid Capture Even by Suicide?

Update via Jameel: Confirmed but not? Hard to tell.

This is a very troubling report:
Israeli soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip war this month were ordered to kill themselves rather than be captured, and if necessary to kill any Israeli soldier they saw being taken into captivity, the Yediot Achronot newspaper has reported.

"No matter what happens, no one will be kidnapped," the paper quotes one company commander telling his troops before the fighting began. "We will not have a Gilad Shalit 2."

While I understand the wish not to have prisoners for a variety of reasons, particularly when one considers the price Israel pays to get back such prisoners, ordering soldiers to commit suicide seems to be a horrible approach.
In the past, there were standing orders, known as "Hannibal mode", for firing at a vehicle taking Israeli troops into captivity to disable it and permit a rescue team to reach it, even at risk to the captive soldiers inside the vehicle. The new orders tighten those instructions, reportedly by permitting the vehicle to be blown up.
I understand the first approach, which is taking larger risks in dire circumstances... but the new approach is really disturbing. I must agree with Zvi Regev, whose son was one of those captured and killed by Hezbollah:
"We must leave a window of hope that the soldier will return," he said. "I'm shocked just to hear of the possibility that our soldiers will get orders to fire on other soldiers of ours."

The Best Present

When my brother turned 8-1/2 years old, he was given the best present of his life. Now, 25-1/2 years later, I get the pleasure of noting that he is more than two-thirds of the way to 50 years old, turning a grand old 34 years of age today. Happy birthday, OD! :)

A bunch of interesting pieces that aren't worth whole posts but are worth noting...
  • A good friend of ours served in a new unit of the IDF during the war, sending off drones that look like model planes (but weigh a ton) and then live monitoring from the front-line command centers in Gaza, embedded with Golani brigades, what was just ahead of advancing troops. Street by street, they'd help the troops they were with move forward safely. The article about the unit is here in English and Hebrew; the Hebrew version has a video of a drone launch.
  • Merkaz HaRav - A moving interview with the man who stopped the terrorists, David Shapira, at Jameel's; and Robert Avrech publicizes a wide unity event scheduled for the upcoming yahrtzeit of those who were killed.
  • Last stuff on Gaza for now: Note how little the newscaster for Al-Arabiya cares that rockets were launched from right under her; lyrics to the song by R' Aviner; amazing to see people claim that the smuggling tunnels are mostly gone, while FOX can watch them smuggle things live and even talk to the smugglers about it; two commentaries on the post-mortem of the war, with different stances - yet both quite well written and interesting; and finally, a map of part of Gaza City noting schools, other buildings, and of course, rocket launchers and the like.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Marathon: Bad4

As a former English major, I firmly believe that one could describe the experience of a marathon in words with clarity. However, this would take time and effort and I am currently too tired to bother with either. So I'm just going to pull some excerpts from the 1,500 word description I typed up for myself, and let your imagination fill in the rest.

This morning started very early, with us going to sleep around 1. Or anyway, going to bed. We mostly tossed and turned. I gazed in utter despair at the clock at 1:34 and 2:17. At 2:48 I took a stroll around the room. At 3:00 I took a bathroom break. Then the alarm rang at 3:50 waking me up, so I must have got about 45 minutes of shut-eye all told. Bas Melech wasn't in any better condition.

[We get ready and go downstairs, are herded onto buses, off of buses, and to the starting line.]


It was still dark and cool, but the circle of corrals was alive with energy and warm with bodies. Team Lifeline milled around the starting line pumping our fists and shouting “Yeah!” and posing for photos and doing such things as people are wont to do under such circumstances. We took a group shot, and then dispersed to our starting corrals.

A marathon is an unusual yet intimate way to get to know a city. As we crossed the first causeway, Miami stood beautifully lit up before us. Huge, glowing ocean cruise ships dwarfed us as we passed. At times, all was quiet except the slap of rubber on cement, breathing, and an occasional exchange of words between runners. At others, police and tug boats flashed their lights and blew their foghorns. Volunteers blared music from speakers on corners. It seemed like the city paid an admiring tribute to the runners. At other times, as we ran down streets empty but for a few people with signs, it was clear that Miami had yet to take its marathon as seriously as New York and Boston do.

Miles 1-4: easy. Am impressed with self because I never did more than 4 miles in training.

T-shirt sighted: "13.1 or bust"

Sign sighted: "Run like you stole something"

[The neighborhoods they chose for the route were exceedingly beautiful.]


Over Shobbos, one of the guys was making fun of the assembly. “To be here,” he said, “You can’t admit to having trained, and you have to be recovering from an injury. So, I haven’t gotten off the couch in two months, and I have two broken ankles!”


What's the surprise? We were here because we wanted to support Chai Lifeline. Running was secondary.

But I had to laugh, because I hadn't run in over a month due to a hip strain. It kicked in during the 6th and 7th mile.

Mile 6-7: getting harder. Miles 8-9: getting longer. 10-minute mile becomes 12.

T-shirt sighted: "Failure is not an option"

Sign sighted: "You are all Kenyan inside"



Team Lifeline Powerade station and cheering squad passed.
“Chai Lifeline is a Jewish organization isn’t it?” asked a man coming up behind me, reading my shirt. “Is it orthodox?” he asked. I said it was non-denominational, serving all those who need. “But the runners are all orthodox?” he pressed. “Mostly,” I panted. He ran faster than me, and I was having difficulty keeping up.

“I’m very impressed with the women runners’ dress,” he explained. “You know, so they can run, but they’re still modest.”

I grunt.

“Is there an orthodox shul around here?” he continued.

“I don’t know, I’m from New York.”

“Really? Where in New York?”

“Brooklyn.”

“What do the rabbis in Brooklyn think about Obama?”

“I guess about what everyone everywhere thinks,” I gasped, wondering where that one came from.

“Are most of the runners from New York?”

“No—we’ve even got someone from Australia.”

He explained that he heard that at the New York marathon there was always a minyan after, but he hadn’t been able to find one in Miami last year when it was his father’s yartzeit. I found that surprising, but couldn’t quite vocalize it. I told him I couldn’t keep up the pace and wished him luck, falling back to a walk.


Cheering squad painted all orange does dance routine on the side.

Mile 10-11: am visualizing myself with my right leg torn off at the hip, like a mutilated Barbie doll. Oddly, it feels better when I run than when I walk, but my lungs can't sustain the pace. My body has become a house divided against itself.

Sign spotted: "Finishing=beer"


There are hydration stations every mile. The ground is slick with Gatorade and water, and littered with paper cups that rattle as we run over them.

I should take this moment to thank all the people who came out to cheer for Team Lifeline. When we saw you guys shouting and waving ahead, we got a burst of energy we didn’t know we had to move faster, with more style, so we could pass you waving and cheering, united in our support of Chai Lifeline. When you had a camera, we really drew on unknown reserves to posture heroically as we passed. And when we did, we realized we had the strength, and could go farther for longer. Thank you.


Mile 12-13: I don't remember these at all, except that I was doing about a 14-minute mile.

Mile 13.1: Staggering along, wondering when it would be over. Heard a man say "Only a quarter of a mile left!"

"Only a quarter of a mile?" I ask in disbelief.

"Only a quarter of a mile!" he calls with a grin.


I smile back and pick up the pace.

I couldn’t believe it. I was done! People dressed up in armor knighted us with the medals. I wandered through the jubilant atmosphere of celebration, wanting to jump and dance with elation, but, like everyone else, weighed down with the miles I’d ran. I wandered slowly over to the Team Lifeline tent, taking water, a banana, a mini-Starbucks latte, as they were offered. [I sign in, I stretch, I grab a sign and a friend and head out to do some cheerleading.]


The post race seemed so anticlimactic. Months of training and fund-raising culminated in an intense event that took less than six hours before noon. Back in the hotel, we clung to fragments of those moments of glory, trying to stretch the great event into something longer lasting. People wore their medals, discussed their timing, compared their injuries, and weighed "cure-alls" for sore muscles while sitting around the pool.



Conclusion: There’s an energy that builds in this kind of event. It starts with the gathering of the team, when you meet with people who have the same goal as you, and share your training stories with people who think it’s just as important as you do. It builds with the renewed awareness of the importance of the cause. It expands on the marathon morning, surrounded by people attempting the same feat you are, and with bystanders and cheering squads who call you “hero” and “amazing.” And it culminates when you sprint across the finish line, victorious, arms aloft. Nor does it immediately subside. You are immediately surrounded by revelers, intoxicated with the impressiveness of what so many have achieved, and you are one of them, for now that you’ve done it yourself, you truly understand how awe-inspiring a feat it truly is.

Throughout the Shobbos, whenever we’d think of something we could have done better, we’d say, “Oh well, next year.” Then we’d look at each other and ask, “Next year?” Why should there be a next year? Will we want a next year? Could we do a next year? In the final mile of the half-marathon, “next year” and “possible” were the most unlikely word pair in our minds. But crossing the finish line and being swept up in the exhilaration, we begin to wonder, “Why not a next year?” after all, it was doable. And it can only get easier.


Will I do it again? I don’t know. There are too many factors to consider, and I still haven’t attempted to get out of bed tomorrow.But, injury or not, it’s not an experience I regret in the slightest. And for anyone looking to pair an invigorating goal with a meaningful one, I would recommend this as an experience you should try once.

Why Work, When You Can Learn?

In the previous post that touches on this subject, we questioned:
Imagine paying $40,000 in post-tax money in tuition for four kids a year, while discovering that another family with four kids is paying $16,000? That's the equivalent of earning $40,000+ more a year (pre-tax), for the same utility.

When one considers this, it is easy to understand how schools - consciously or not - would be resistent to transparency. Not only would there be a lot of animosity created or suspicions confirmed, but it would reinforce that the educational system's subtle push for kollel in many places is creating a huge drain on the community as a whole.
While that estimate was imaginary, it's apparently quite accurate. On Orthonomics:
I was called to my son’s cheder to talk about tuition. I was directed to the administrator, who informed me that he would be raising my tuition since, in his words, “You are working in Manhattan and making a nice salary.” (I’m already paying more than most people, as they won’t give me breaks because I’m not learning.)

... We started discussing the matter and he told me that his salary is $25,000, and that the yeshiva works out his payments so that he is still eligible for government funding. I then explained to him that he makes a lot more than I do.
Read it all there. Note that with all these calculations factored in, the principal has the higher salary - and then the working man pays (taxes and?) tuition. And this is a principal; a kollel man comes out rather close:
This particular individual is an administrator, but in the event that he was learning full-time and only receiving a kollel check ($4,160) and a night kollel check ($3,000), he would still be making more than $38,000, which is not much less than my $41,200.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bas4: Team Shobbos

Well, it was a close call, but Bas Melech did get up before noon, and we hit the beach. It was warm, the water was blue, the sand was coarse, but not hopeless for the task of building a sandcastle. Build a sandcastle, you ask, but with what? Well, we had no buckets, but we had other things. Ma, if you’re reading this and thinking “Those towers are shaped remarkably like my pareve green plastic container,” it is totally coincidental. Trust me – don’t check the cabinets.

Behind Casa Lifeline you can see the start of a crenelated wall that wasn’t completed due to budgetary shortages. The flag is a Team Lifeline luggage tag. The engineering was done by Bad4, the architecture and design by Bas Melech. Overall, I think we did a fine job.

We tried to make a time-stop film of it being washed away by the sea, but Shobbos intruded and we had to run.
~ Bad4


Boy, have I got an idea for the next hit reality show/sitcom: Put an engineer and an artist together in a hotel room for a weekend. Seriously, I’ve been looking for the hidden cameras since I got here. Whose idea was this, anyway? (Oh, right. Mine.)

Unfortunately, I STILL haven’t found the hidden cameras so I don’t have a record of everything that happened. All I know is that Shabbos was AWESOME. Mainly because Bad4 gave me the perfect opportunity to return her jibes about sleepiness by skipping out before dessert… to sleep. :-D (Bad4’s note: to read, then sleep. :-P ) While I enjoyed my vacation with some rousing games, meeting new people, the Misanthropes Club convened upstairs. (Bad4’s note: I adore people… when I can hear what they’re saying. Usually. OK, sometimes.)

Other than that, our excitement consisted mostly of helpful hotel personnel turning on the lights we left off, turning off the lights we left on, and opening and closing our refrigerator.

Overall, it looks like this is going to be one of those happy-ending shows. At least, if Bad4 stops leaning on the back of my chair and making it swivel, there’s still a chance. But she’s reading this and looking for drama.
~ Bas~Melech

Some stats from the Motzai Shobbos Pasta Party:
  • There are 230 runners.
  • They range from 12-70. (There are two 12-year-olds. One is a Camp Simcha Special camper. The other is the tweenager I saw on Friday. Dunno ‘bout the 70-year-old.)
  • One runner came all the way from Australia. (The runner sitting next to me came from Israel.)
  • In total, we raised over $1,034,000.
  • The top fundraiser raised $24,000. He’s a former camper.
  • The total miles we will run tomorrow are equivalent to the distance between Miami and Anchorage.
  • We drank about a zillion liters of water and ate a fagillion pounds of pasta.
  • We are going to wake up before 4 am tomorrow in order to make it to the start line in time. I’m not sure how Sleeping Beauty is going to manage that…

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hacked Again

Wishing you a good shabbos!
-Princess D'Tiara and Barfla!

Guest Post: Bas~Melech, Undercover in Hollywood, FL

I warned her. I really did.

When I stumbled into Florida in the wee hours this morning, I was ready for bed. But no, Bad4 had to go swimming. At one in the morning. Fortunately, the locked pool gate deterred her. Adventure always gives me a second wind, so I was left hyperactively blogging in my semiconscious stupor as Bad4 drifted off to sleep on a bed of clouds. Then she turned over, discarded the clouds (8 of her 10 cushy pillows), and returned to dreamland like normal. As if.
Five minutes later, she divebombed onto my legs. Yes, the ones that were going to do a marathon in less than 48 hours. Now I know why they call her Bad4.

Allow me to explain something. There are two types of vacationers. Having a serious dearth of vacation in my life, I have never had much opportunity to fully become either of them. The first type crams their schedule with exciting activities to make up for the drudgery of their non-vacation life. The second type has an exciting enough life and uses the vacation to relax. I lean towards the second category – my mind entertains all of the exotic possibilities (option #1: Join Bad4 in Walmart) while every muscle in my body says “Gimme a break.” Thus, when Bad4 delivered her stirring sermon about how we were here to relax and enjoy ourselves, I showed her just how very relaxed I was while she was “enjoying” herself trying to change my spots.

That was just my explanation of her previous post. Stay tuned for what comes next as I shake off the covers and prepare to explore in proper daylight.

Killing Friday Morning in Miami: Bad4

Woke at 7, and tried to stay in bed as long as possible for two reasons:

  • 1. Bas Melech thought it was sacrilegious to get up before 10 and
  • 2. between the hospital-cornered sheets, the inches-thick bedspread, and the numerous pillows, staying in was simpler than getting out
However, I had to get up eventually. I’m not very good at lolling in bed doing nothing. And it was already 7:30!!! I got up, showered, dressed, and davened on our veranda. We did have a view of the beach, it turned out, it was just behind a few parking lots.

I stood there, the sun glinting off the water warm on my skin, the light breeze caressing my face, the low, white city spread before me, and suddenly I felt like it was a crime, not a kindness, to let Bas Melech keep sleeping. I’ve never understood the point in going to a new location with many attractions just to sleep. So I gave her a ten-second warning that I was going to crash-land on her bed and that I am no Captain Chesley Sullenberger, and then I did it. She was entirely unimpressed with my attempt at chesed. I couldn’t budge her, even with a beautiful rendition of “modeh ani.”

With a sigh, I went out without her.

I discovered that a line is not the shortest distance between two points when there are parking lots involved. At one point, getting to the beach would have involved diving over a parking lot wall and into another hotel’s swimming pool (occupied by two old ladies gently stirring the water like soup), and then over the pool wall into the sand. I decided to go around.

The beach was deserted. Clearly, most of the world goes on vacation to sleep. I took off my sneakers and socks, left them on the sand, and walked along the surf.

The water here is a beautiful translucent blue. It rushes up the heavy, grainy sand, touching as high as it can with its lacy edges, and then retreats back.

“In New York,” I explained to the fisherman who looked puzzled when I asked him if he’d eat what he caught, “The water is murky and green and I’d never eat anything that came out of it.” He waxed lyrical on the fish he caught and how delicious they tasted.

I could have stayed there all day. But I thought it would be nice to share with my friend, so I headed back to the hotel, sneakers in hand. It seemed easier than trying to brush sand off my toes, but somehow, walking around barefoot looks less natural when you’re standing at the edge of a highway waiting for a chance to cross, with a gaggle of young men in blue shirts carrying tefillin bags on the other side studiously ignoring you.

I briefly wonder if I should have packed for a singles event, instead of cramming my junkiest stuff into a knapsack.

As we waited for the light to change, a female running posse exited and started jogging up the block. It was a mother, teenage daughter, and tweenager, all running together. How cute! But how on earth did they manage to raise all that money?!

“Hey Bas Melech! Let’s go skinny dipping motzai Shobbos! Nobody will be on the beach and there’s no lights! It’s 100% kosher!” I said as I burst into the room.

A groan from her bed.

“So can we go?” I asked. Her head turned left, then right, eyes firmly shut.

“Aw…” There are some distinct disadvantages to vacationing with a Bas Melech. I am avenging my disappointment by putting up yet another post without her. Take that, sleepyhead.

Guest post: Bas~Melech LIVE from Hollywood, FL

This post is by Bas~Melech. She's kind of tired and not particularly coherent, so keep that in mind. ~ Bad4

As Bad4 already revealed, she had plenty of time to trash our room before I arrived. My trip was not as eventful as hers; ever unathletic, I chose instead to gracefully pirouette through airport security. My excitement came later: As I sought company for my sojourn to the hotel, a dude approached. After ascertaining that we were both headed the same way, he asked why I was running, but before I could launch into my stirring motivation as explained here, he volunteered his own deepest interests. They number two: Running and math. I still held out hope of finding a young gentleman here. There was another dude with us, too; he offered to share his opera tracks with those of us looking to update our itunes before the race. Nice.

He redeemed himself, though, by helpfully offering to arrange a group ride for the Team Lifeline participants on board our flight. After strolling around Miami International ("Airport taxis always overcharge." Well, what other kind is there at the airport?!) he found us a very recent immigrant indeed who calmly assured us that he knew exactly where our hotel was. For some reason (maybe it was the 30-second pause before his response?) we felt neither assured nor calm about riding with the fellow, but he had already taken our bags hostage in his trunk.

Let's just say I got to the hotel... eventually. By that time, as you've already learned, Bad4 had ample opportunity to trash our beautiful room. She'd even had time to get in the first two marathon posts AND take a decent nap, rendering her annoyingly perky for one who has just been woken from a sound stupor by a traumatized and drained roommate falling in. Literally.

After admiring the toilet paper origami and water bottles and ascertaining that the refrigerator was not, in fact, monitoring our usage to bill us later, and that the internet would not, in fact, work from the comfort of our big, cushy beds, I was ready to explore (albeit quickly losing consciousness).

More to come, but first I need to get an edge on Bad4 with a few z's.

Arrival in Miami: Bad4

I stepped out of the terminal and braced myself against the cold. It didn’t come. I breathed out slowly, so I could watch my breath puff. It didn’t puff. “I don’t think we’re in New York anymore…” I thought. I wandered over to the taxi stand and signed myself up for a shared ride to the hotel. Then I stood there idly, waiting. I realized I wasn’t feeling terribly excited. You’d think I walked out of airport terminals surrounded by palm trees all the time. Heck – you’d think I walked out of airport terminals all the time! I was in Miami! Slowly I started smiling.

People claim that between Starbucks and McDonalds, you can’t tell American cities apart these days. So untrue. I would recognize Miami in a moment. It looks just like in those car racing games. Unlike in New York, where we build things tall and dark, Miami likes them low and white. Or at least light. And their trees are less shady.

I struck up a conversation with the lone guy sharing my ride in the 16-seater van. He was from Haiti, returning from post-op surgery in NY. He was glad to be out of the cold again.

I haven’t been in many hotels, so maybe my judgment is off, but I thought this place was classy. Waterfall in front, loads of marble and mirrors, and the room looked like a picture from Architectural Digest. Or it did, before I made it look lived in. Bas Melech never got to see it like that. When I first saw the shower my immediate thought was, “It would be a pity to use that and mess it up.” The toilet paper was pointed at the end. The beds bounce nicely. The patio had a table and chairs and a view—of the parking lot, but nonetheless, a view.

My favorite part? This notice near the towels:
“Dear guest, Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. You make the choice: A towel on the rack means “I will use again.” A towel on the floor means, “Please replace.” Thank you for helping us conserve the Earth’s vital resources.”
Imagine if I tried that at home!

I immediately set about ruining the picture-perfect room by throwing my stuff around. Food went into the fridge. Jacket over the chair. Crocs on the floor.

There were two liter bottles of Evian behind the sink. “How nice!” I thought, really impressed now. Then I leaned forward and peered at the label around their neck. The credit card I’d given them downstairs would be charged $5 for each bottle violated. “How cheap!” I was indignant now. It seemed crude. I went back and checked that there was no price tag on the toilet paper. There wasn’t. Well, time to explore now. The woman behind the desk said something about a 24-hour fitness center and recreation room. And what about that gorgeous swimming pool I saw in the pictures?

~ from the hotel lobby

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Road to the Miami Marathon: Bad4

It’s been a while since I last negotiated airport security. For those like me who have forgotten how fun and exciting it is (psychologists call this defense mechanism “suppression”), here’s a description. It’s a bit like those relay races we used to play in summer camp. You know – you have to put on a whole pile of clothing and then run to the next person, tag them, and take it all off type. Only in reverse. You take off all your clothes, run through a metal detector, and then put it all back on.

You wait on line, like a racer at the starting block. As soon as you pass the gray bins, you grab three. As soon as you reach the table, you plunk them down, and the race begins. You have mere seconds to remove your shoes, jacket, watch, belt, laptop, wallet, keys, and ziplock of liquids, while concurrently moving your bins down the table toward the machine. I completely forgot the liquids, but luckily, they didn’t make a fuss over it. Probably because by the time I passed through the metal detector, I was a ten-second hero.

See, it was because I was moving too hastily. I threw one sneaker into the bin, and reached for the other. To my horror, the sneaker hit the bin and bounced out—onthe other side of the table. It fell to the floor about two feet into the cordoned off area beyond the table.

Now, the table was about two feet thick, and had a shelf-type of level thing running about two feet off the floor. There were no security personnel inside. I gazed at my shoe in despair. My knapsack and carry-on were already entering the machine. The bin with my laptop was approaching fast. But my sneaker!

The people on line watched with a detached interest. The man behind the machine kept looking up, out of curiosity. How was Bad4 going to get her footgear back?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. There were two feet of wiggle room to duck under. I could do that. I did lower in karate class. It wasn’t exactly dignified, but neither was disrobing for a security check. I took a deep breath, dived under the table, grabbed my sneaker, quickly reversed, and emerged victorious, sneaker held aloft.

Cheers from the line.

“Hey, that was athletic!” the security guy enthused.

“I sure hope they wash the floors,” said the businessman behind me.

I plunked the sneaker in my third bin and accepted congratulations all around. Then I was through, we were all dressing again and dispersing to our various gates. I entered the terminal, completely anonymous.

Ah fame. Such a fleeting thing.

~ from the terminal

Harvard Prof Imitates FrumDoc

FrumDoc, Tuesday, January 20th:
8:49 PM me:what he said was a whoopsie
Doc: no its not it splits a base action with an adverb
Doc: roberts is right
8:50 PM me: but that's the text
Doc: i mean the correct way is "execute faithfully"
not faithfully execute
what do you mean if its wrong its wrong
8:51 PM me: one sec - he says execute the office of the President TO the United States faithfully
both times
Doc: roberts way isnt great but its better than splitting the infinitive!!!! heaven forbid
me: one sec - you think Roberts meant to say execute faithfully?
8:52 PM Doc: that wouldnt split the infinitive
me: but he didn't even say that either time
8:53 PM oh, i see
Doc: so you think just screwed up... no way... he meant to correct the constitutional text
me: lol
8:54 PM but it's weird, he did both, according to the transcript
ROBERTS: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...
OBAMA: ... that I will execute...
ROBERTS: ... faithfully the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United States faithfully...
8:55 PM Doc: the question then becomes if the constitution is grammatically incorrect how steadfastly are we required to use that text (incorrect)
Today's NY Times: Oaf of Office.

For all the picky English people out there, you can look at this in one of two ways:

  • What you do is really annoying, often silly (correcting the "ain't" in a song?! really?), and can once in a lifetime make you look stupid in front of billions who think the person you're telling it to cannot make a mistake, especially if he tells you "we're going to do it very slowly" the second time; OR
  • You too could be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Lifeline Added

On behalf of SerandEz, we'd like to wish good luck and good health to our friends who raised money on behalf of Chai Lifeline (which helps children with illnesses such as cancer and their families through numerous wonderful programs). They've all commited to run this Sunday in beautiful Miami, Florida on behalf of Team Lifeline in either full or half-marathons.

Bad4, Bas~Melech, and David Linn and his wife Sandy are to be praised for their hard work in both raising the money [over $13,000 among them] and training for the race, and we'd also like to give quick shoutouts to all our friends: CK, the other Double-Z, Ahuva, Xvi's bro, iPay and Princess D'Tiara's friends - and anyone else who is running. Tizku l'mitzvos!

What Makes A Superstar

Wow, who'd have thunk it: Hard work, humility, a willingness to ask questions (and listen to the answers!), and a healthy dose of brains. Even better, it takes guts and brains to be a teenager, take $50 from an NFL player to wash his car, bring it to a drive-in car wash, and keep the difference.

Oh, and yeah - being a ridiculous freak of nature who can and does go up and get balls that almost nobody else in the world could doesn't hurt, either.
The best part is where, when Carter asks if he has money on him, he answers "No no - I gotta save it." Too bad almost nobody else in this country, particularly in the Jewish community, seems to understand the concept.

Transparency and Punishing Success

Even though they're on completely different subjects, somehow Orthonomics' latest posts made me think of this.
And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government. ~ President Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech
...if only there were those in the Jewish community who would say the same. From charities to schools, the Orthodox Jewish world spends much of its time hiding its books. The need for this to change is paramount, and it is difficult to ascertain why there is such a reluctance on the part of Jewish institutions to show transparency in their revenues and expenses.

It seems worthwhile to take a few educated guesses as to why this might be, and feel free to add to or argue against any of these; many will be applicable in rare situations, more would be true in most situations. After this quick list, it is worth elaborating on another possibility which will make some people uncomfortable. For simplicity's sake, we will use schools as an example:
  • Illegal actions - A reason to avoid transparency is if the school is doing something wrong. Hopefully rare or non-existent, but possible.
  • Salaries - A school might not wish to disclose how much it's paying teachers and administrators, whether due to privacy or serious overpayment, particularly of teachers who have stayed a long time. Understandable to an extent, but one of the most likely places for wasting funds.
  • Inefficiencies - The main reason to open up the books is the main reason schools might not want to: They're horribly inefficient in their use of assets. They waste money all over, they tend to create numerous unnecessary positions then hire managers to oversee them. In all, a lot of people are being paid to do very little.
  • Misuse of funds - Similar but different to the first two. If schools are run by tight-knit groups, as is often the case, there is a tendency to favor people from that group and there might be a large portion of funds siphoned off to that group. Transparency would cause an uproar.
But a more troubling explanation, while probably secondary to the others, is that of disparity.

It's worth first using a quick example from today's United States. One of the largest problems the government is now facing due to its ill-advised attempts at bailing out the troubled firms of Wall Street is the view that safe, successful, and smart companies are being unfairly punished for being: Safe, successful, and smart. Bank of America, which by all accounts did the country a tremendous favor in offering to take on both Countrywide and Merrill Lynch and their toxic assets before they failed, wanted to lower the price being paid for Merrill to avoid hurting its own shareholders. Instead, it is essentially being forced by the government to pay the higher amount, give up a stake of BoA to the government, and all while reducing their own dividends to shareholders. In exchange, they get protection on bad assets that were almost all Merrill's to begin with. It's the equivalent of a neighborhood asking for a volunteer to care for an important neighborhood pet, then telling the volunteer when they ask for extra leashes that they'll have to pay extra for them, they're not allowed to spend money on their own family, and the neighborhood will cover the pet's damages.

It would be interesting if a similar skewering of the successful happens in the frum community. In schools, tuition costs make up a certain percentage of the revenues of a school. Rather than charge what it actually costs per student in tuition, and then make up the difference for those who cannot pay in full, schools often charge higher amounts knowing that the more successful parents will still pay in full, and they'll get whatever they can from the others. If schools were more transparent, the disparity would be out in the open - and there would be a tremendous backlash, particularly against those who choose not to work. Imagine paying $40,000 in post-tax money in tuition for four kids a year, while discovering that another family with four kids is paying $16,000? That's the equivalent of earning $40,000+ more a year (pre-tax), for the same utility.

When one considers this, it is easy to understand how schools - consciously or not - would be resistent to transparency. Not only would there be a lot of animosity created or suspicions confirmed, but it would reinforce that the educational system's subtle push for kollel in many places is creating a huge drain on the community as a whole. Moreover, those who are covering the costs of everyone else will quickly tire of it, especially those who are working but not wealthy. Knowing that they can barely make ends meet while working hard, but do not qualify for tuition breaks, while others are able to lead seemingly much easier lives while getting those breaks, these working class families will ultimately feel compelled to create their own schools which require lower - but full - tuition payments.

Lack of transparency and punishing success are two major problems facing the Jewish community economically. What's worse is when one is helping to hide the other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Everyone Should Read This - TWICE...

...one can only hope that this attitude is as prevalent within a silent majority as the opposite seems to be in what I can only pray is a vocal minority.

Operation Normal: Be Yourself from Erachet.

Citizens, Countrymen, Let Us Pray...

...Original
Almighty Blog, our creator, everything we see and everything we can't see due to a 404 error exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. The future is your story. The Blogture tells us, "Hear, oh Israel, the Blog is our Blog; the Blog is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have hosted.

Now today, we rejoice not only in the J-Blogosphere's peaceful transfer of power for the first time. We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our President of the J-Blogosphere.

We are so grateful to live in this Internet, a medium of unequaled possibility, where the commenter of one of the Founding Bloggers can rise to the highest level of our leadership.

And we know today that The King and a great cloud of Witnesses are shouting in Cleveland.

Give to our new President, he who’s name I dare not let pass my lips w/o prior written consent, the wisdom to lead us with his gut instincts, the courage to lead us with his unabashed arrogance, the compassion to lead us with his, and his alone’s, view of right and wrong. Bless and protect him, his family, himself as Vice President , the Cabinet and every one of our nepotistic, biased and cronyismly selected leaders.

Help us, oh Blog, to remember that we are J-Bloggers, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to high site-meter stats and comments for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, rejoice in us…for this is the purpose of all posted things. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, delight in us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, we do so only to please you.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new lack of clarity in our aims, an eschewment of responsibility in our actions, abstaining humility in our approaches and removing civility in our attitudes, with the hopes that in all things we will differ.

Help to prevent us from sharing, instead to serve and to seek the individualized good of each private blog.

May all people of goodwill today join together in their failing to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous blogosphere and a peaceful Internet. And may we never forget that each day all blogs and all their posters stand accountable before only themselves.

We now commit our new president and his wife, ******, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Blog, Blogspot, Wordpress, Blogerish [Yiddish pronunciation], Blogger, who taught us to pray, "Our Blogger who art in cyberspace, posting be thy game, thy kingdom come, thy will be done online as it is in heaven. Google us this day our daily links and forgive us our trespasses as we blame those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the main stream media, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory until a better technological advancement come along."

Amen.

Come and Get It!

The USA hasn't been this nuts about their leader since JFK. Is it the height, looks, and full head of hair? The eloquence? Or a sudden national belief in the massiah? Who knows. But if you're not producing Obama memorabilia to cash in on the craze, you're waaay behind the times. But if you're not - consider buying some. One must support American business, you know.

Barack Obama and Spiderman - together they can save the world.





















With the President at your wrist, you'll never be late... if you can tear your gaze away from his mug, of course.










Elections are over, but so what? Obama is the Miley Cyrus of grown-ups. Show everyone you're a fan. Hope t-shirts still available curbside, NYC.
But why stop at something as typical as a shirt? Match your top to your footwear with lovely Obama sandals.






Our new president has a gift for inspiring people. Get through your year with 12 images of Barack H. Obama looking visionary, accompanied by his words of wisdom on a beautiful wall calendar.








He's already married, but that doesn't mean he's not in the freezer. Baracky Road? Or some Yes, Pecan?






Want a Barack in every room? Don't stop short of the bathroom. Make sure to purchase a bust of the president carved in soap for your shower, and a roll of Obama for your toilet. Ah, the audacity of soap...And with that, I'd like to welcome our 44th president to his new post, and wish him luck in the next four years. He'll need it, to escape the fans who may want to mount his head on their wall as a souvineir.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where Government Works

President Obama's inaugural speech was a very good one; I was able to listen to almost all of it on the radio, missing a few lines here and there while I was driving.

While he did make a couple of small points that I think can be reasonably disagreed with, his points were predominantly those with which everyone can agree with. His focus on personal responsibility and his toned-down rhetoric in exchange for practical approaches and a request for the help of the citizens of the United States were wise and well-delivered. His assertion that
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works ... Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
was an excellent one. His offer to the Muslim world was also a well said one:
...we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
Overall, it was a very good speech, though without (as of yet) any memorable lines like JFK or others had. This, too, is good - any such lines can come off as mere rhetoric instead of substantial, and many of the lines we now recall were only remembered further in the future. May God bless President Obama and may he be safe, successful, wise, and humble these next four years while keeping this wonderful country the same.

Other notes:
  • Rev. Rick Warren's address was quite good; it was really interesting to have him use Shema Yisroel as a central focus.
  • Rev. Lowery's address was very nice and a good close.
  • I believe it was Sen. Feinstein who was speaking early on who had some overly politicized portions to her speech. It was unnecessary.
  • I never realized how different the oaths given to the President and Vice President are; the President's is far simpler than the VP's. Obama seemed to choke up trying to get through it for a second, though perhaps he couldn't hear Justice Roberts well with all the noise.
  • The booing of President Bush and chants of "Get Out" were tasteless and disgusting; in contrast, the respect President Obama showed, the genuine camaraderie he and his wife seemed to have with the Bushes, and the acknowledgment of the incredible assistance the Bush administration gave to the Obama one in transitioning these few months was incredible.
  • President Bush seemed quite relieved to be finished, understandably.
God Bless America!

Watch President Obama's Inauguration Live

Via SaraK, if you'd like to watch the historical inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, you can click here. As of now (10:43 am) they are on schedule to the minute.

Here are the highlights to watch:
  • 9 am/ET: Pre-inaugural coverage from the U.S. Capitol
  • 10 am/ET: The swearing-in ceremony begins with music from the Marine Band, the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein will issue the call to order and make brief welcoming remarks, followed by the Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
  • 10:30 am/ET: Aretha Franklin, who also sang at former President Bill Clinton's first inauguration, performs. Joe Biden will be sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
  • 11 am/ET: A musical interlude includes composer John Williams, violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill
  • 11:30 am/ET: Obama is sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
  • Noon/ET: Obama gives his inaugural address, followed by a poem composed and read by New York-born poet Elizabeth Alexander. The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery will follow with a benediction and the national anthem will be played by the U.S. Navy band Sea Chanters.
Enjoy!

Maybe I Could Do Better

Many years ago, a friend of mine went to discuss a shidduch with his Rosh Yeshiva. He had already met the young woman in question a number of times, and he answered positively in response to all the Rosh Yeshiva’s questions about her. Yet when he was done describing how things were going, he added, “Still, maybe I could do better.”
Jonathan Rosenblum has a fantastic piece on Cross-Currents that recently appeared in Mishpacha magazine on the topic of shidduchim. In his article, he touches on some of the issues so many of us have noticed at an ever increasing rate:
  • The way one views the person they are dating - not if they are good for the person, but if they are "good enough" relative to what the person thinks they can "get".
  • The wish to be "swept off one's feet" - and a failure in that regard means a quick 'No'.
  • A focus on the negative rather than the positive points of the other person.
  • A desire for a perfect composite of wonderful traits seen across a spectrum of people - all in one person.
  • The qualities of a good date (particularly the first couple of dates) have little in common with the qualities of a good spouse - good looks and personality vs. ... everything else.
Much of the piece is a strong Mussar shmuess to young men who are in the dating realm, and from our experiences in setting people up and simply listening to people discuss dating, every one of his points is all too accurate - predominantly on the male side of the coin, but increasingly on the female side as well.

When people used to ask for advice on dating, we would typically offer two simple nuggets of advice:
  1. Be yourself.
  2. Have fun.
In recent years, partly due to the reasons cited above, we've felt it necessary to add to the list:
  1. Approach every date as if there is at least one date after it.
  2. If something bothers you somewhat, keep going out and don't give it much attention.
Each of these ideas addresses some of the issues mentioned above. When a person views each date as a do-or-die situation, stress levels are high, each person feels obliged to show all their best qualities as quickly as possible, and every move - both good and bad - is magnified tremendously. This is unnatural and unhealthy to the development of a relationship. With the knowledge that there is another date after the one the person is on, a person can relax and show what they're about - piece by piece, as they would in a normal situation. It reduces the unconcious nervous tics of each that get overly focused on, the abrupt responses to fill silences or to get out a point, and the expectation of being swept off one's feet by allowing a person to build an understanding of their date.

Similarly, how many things can you name that bother you about a friend? A family member? How hard would it be for one of your parents to list 10 things about the other that bother them? The question is not if something about a person bothers you, but whether what bothers you matters. This is different for each person, and should be approached accordingly. If you notice something that bothers you on a date, does that mean the person's other traits are just ignored? Assuming that there are other positive traits to the date, continue going out and see if the issue continues to bother you; if it fades, it's probably not all that important. If it's still nagging you, analyze if it matters, discuss it with the person or with people who can give you an insight into it, and determine what to do from there.

A woman whose family I'm extremely close with told me something really interesting shortly after we were married. She was expressing her frustration with guys who refused a second date with her daughter for the simple reason that they were not swept off their feet, and said "You know, the first time I dated my husband, I not only didn't like him, I actually disliked him. The second date, I disliked him. The third date, I just didn't like him. By the fourth date, I actually started to like him." They've been married about 25 years, and two of their (eight) kids are now happily married themselves.

Are there times where a person "knows" it's not for them? Sure. But it is unlikely that such a large percentage of the Orthodox Jewish dating world is made up of experts who can so readily discern that a person has no chance of being right for them. Patience and avoiding a rush to judgment are key factors in marriage and raising children; it would behoove a person who is dating to demonstrate those traits while trying to find a mate with which to raise children of their own.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lethargic Light

A little light something for everyone, since I'm a bit lethargic...

Elianna got sick over Shabbos, and is just starting to recover now, but she's been really cute and polite about it the whole time. She stalks around in a hooded sweatshirt, hands in the pockets, hood over her head, frown on her face (just imagine a 2-1/2 year old pretending to be a teenager or angst-ridden college student), but when someone does something for her she's still great about it. Today, Serach came home with a few groceries, and Elianna calls out from the couch: "Thank you Imma for getting me Coke so I can feel better." Also, tonight she was watching a cute YouTube video with British kids dancing to If You're Happy And You Know It, and when they say to say "We. Are!", she would say "We-haw!" It was awesome.
  • A horrible but brilliant sign from the Steelers-Ravens game, if you're from Cleveland.
  • We have some crazy texters who've come here, but I don't think even they could pull this off: 14,528 texts in a month.
  • I liked the joke, but the message isn't bad, either. My dear cousin R' Ally - I certainly owe you and your family quite a bit...!
  • Harry reposts an interesting piece titled Frumkeit vs. Being Frum. I think the examples are very telling.
Enjoy!

Makes More Sense Than New York

There's lots of good stuff out there, but Rea got me in the mood... here's a couple of predictions about the future of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. These are not guarantees in any way; they just make more sense to me than LBJ moving to join the New York Knicks in 2010.

Rather than elaborate much, here's the simplified version:
  • The Cavs win one of if not both of the next two NBA championships.
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskus retires in the summer of 2010, content with a rather successful career and a ring or two, and not wishing to sacrifice whatever is left in his feet.
  • The Cavs re-sign LeBron for 6 years, $133 million.
  • The Cavs then sign Chris Bosh away from Toronto in that amazing free-agent class of 2010, noting that he can still live in Toronto if he wishes and that he and LeBron can be a serious dynasty for as much as a decade.
  • For a few years, a Cavs core of James, Bosh, Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson spends each year as a championship contender if not champions.
Note that all but West are signed through 2013, and West is through 2011 and would surely extend that on such a team. Presumably they'd either re-sign Varejao or find other similar players to him and Wallace (expiring after this year) to man the front lines with Bosh and Hickson, and a couple role players to back up the other trio at the guard spots, like Pavlovic and Sczerbiak do now.

What sayeth all of y'all?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Post Is Untitled

Go Cardinals!!! You are the last stand against evil in this world. Also, Mazel Tov to my good friend Coops, who hopefully can tell the people in Cleveland that there is hope in this world.

(And I don't mean LeBron playing for the Browns.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Soldiers' Names

Feel free to print these out and bring to shul... MiI and Tali have lists of the chayalim who have been injured and could use your tefillos. Have a wonderful Shabbos!

A beautiful example of Israeli humanitarianism:

Apocalypse Arriving Sunday @ 6:30pm EST...

...just thought you might want to know.

REPENT! FOR THE END IS NIGH...NIGH, I SAY!!!*



The Baltimore Goon Squad versus The Pittsburgh Spawn of Satan

The dark clouds marking the end of days gather on the approaching horizon. The time has arrived when there is no force for good left to fight for all that is right in this world. Only the forces of darkness are left to do battle, there is no more chance for a winner as regardless of the out come we are all to lose in this contest. These are the times prophesized, the times that we read about in long forgotten books that lie long forgotten on the bookshelves of history. We choose not learn of these times as they are too horrible to imagine, too terrible to contemplate. Alas, we now must pay a great penance for this act of self delusionment as the reality of those times are upon us. Woe unto us that we are the people who have allowed such calamity to take place, that we have not done enough to prevent such a confluence of evil to meet and propagate its ideals on an unsuspecting and unprepared public. It is too late now to do anything about it, this I know...and this I lament greatly. There can be no chance now for salvation - only misery awaits us all.


But I shall not type here and simply allow this to pass without at least making it known to one and all what we are witnessing. Do not be fooled by the spin doctors and soothsayers who would have you believe that all is well and life will go on as before. That next week nothing will change and all will be as it was. HERETICS ALL OF THEM! BLASPHEMERS! Know well that the result can only be that of doom. So stand tall and proclaim with me the valiant cry of a great man who also stood alone before a group of a the damned and the dirty who wished to suppress the right and the good from this world. Call out his cry of defiance...even if it may do no good...even if the future has already been foretold...even if the outcome is one that has no chance of being positive...CALL OUT!:

"Damn them...damn them all to Hell" - may G-d have mercy on us all
::sigh::...yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of...


*bitter? i'm not bitter

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