Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Five


Monday, June 29, 2009

EZ Reads 6/29/09: Super Cool Sports

Just some fun sports stuff today:
  • This guy is going to play (new Cav) Shaq in HORSE:
    My favorites are the off the slanted roof catch in air behind-the-back 45-footer and the full-speed behind-the-back off the telephone pole pass.
  • Via Deadspin also, this site, FlipFlopFlyBall is funky (and you don't necessarily need to like sports).
  • An article on how the Tribe fell apart in the last year and a half. Interesting, actually.
Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Financial Restructuring of the American Orthodox Community

Hat tip: Harry-er than them all

This article in the Jewish Action (the Orthodox Union magazine) by Mark (Moishe) Bane is one of the best articles on the future of Orthodox Jewry in terms of economics that I've read, and he covers just about every major point that needs to be covered perfectly and succinctly.

Most of all, he notes the need for a more bottom-up approach, including advocating transparency, efficiency, and proper utilization of resources after first understanding what resources are available.

One of my hopes for the Jewish Economics Survey is a twin approach: Creating (and educating) individuals and families which have a sense of control and responsibility over their own personal financial situations, not only for themselves but also to better gauge what we have as individuals and communities available, and to reduce the necessity of organizations and charities in the first place. The more responsible and efficient people are with their own money the more money will be freed up for those in need, while simultaneously reducing the need. It will also foster a greater appreciation and demand for organizations, schools, shuls, and the like that are as cost-conscious and efficient as the people in the community are themselves.

EZ Reads 6/28/09: Commentary

Happy Birthday SIL! After an adventurous weekend (to be continued), it's nice to sit and not be driving.

There are a lot of really great pieces out there and plenty to say on each, so here we go:
  • First, the funny: Bad4 retells some horrible guy actions on dates, like discussing date rape on date number one, questioning stopping at stop signs within 5 minutes of meeting the girl, or spitting at someone - then running to a cop when the guy turns around. If you're a guy, are you not appalled? Are there girls who are just as bad? What's so hard about acting like a gentleman?
  • Chana has the Miriam Webster Shidduchtionary (an excerpt from Perel Grossman's Adventures in the Produce Aisle and other 'Perelous' Tales), which is overall funny and has some really great lines. Some of the definitions are remarkably accurate: "Bright: always had a lot of potential throughout high school, no achievement, just potential" and "Interesting: weird".
  • Rebecca Honig Friedman writes at The Jewish Channel about the R' Elyashiv instruction for men to marry closer in age or even older women than themselves, and the comments ask why men are reluctant to do so. In a follow up at Jewess, a couple men said it's because older singles are "bitter about not being married yet"; from the many 'older single women' we know, I would venture that that's not the case, but they are often extremely unimpressed at the males available to them. We actually have a number of friends where the girl is older than the guy, and we've had people want to set up girls we know only to hear that they're older - and they express the frustration in knowing that their friends will simply not date older women regardless of how good of an idea it is.
  • Now for the cool: A little about the Israeli taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
  • Via A Bit of Light, a really interesting clip about a ba'alas teshuva musician/artist.
  • So the Aron might be in... Ethiopia?
  • Josh at ParshaBlog discusses the Chazon Ish piece (mentioned on Friday), and thinks it's quite important how the Chazon Ish knew what he did about urology. My bet: He made use of the books that weren't far away.
  • So... now $300,000+ in NY/NJ doesn't leave you with much savings or charity. Ouch.
  • Iiiinteresting: Chief Sephardic Rabbi Amar has banned R' Abraham Sherman from having anything to do with geirus, after his nullifications of conversions by R' Druckman. Honestly Frum thinks this is tremendous.
  • Finally, Chana gives her Guide to Judaism, which is certainly an interesting perspective.

Poppy

From SIL:
Shen (2-1/2) was taking the poppy seeds off of her challah today.
OD: What are you doing?
Shen: I'm making a dot-to-dot.

Friday, June 26, 2009

EZ Reads 6/26/09

A great quote to start, via Uncle Bruce:
Sports is man's joke on God, Max. You see, God says to man, 'I've created a universe where it seems like everything matters, where you'll have to grapple with life and death and in the end you'll die anyway, and it won't really matter.' So man says to God, 'Oh, yeah? Within your universe we're going to create a sub-universe called sports, one that absolutely doesn't matter, and we'll follow everything that happens in it as if it were life and death.'" Sportswriter Sam Kellerman
Some good r
eads:
Finally, a great video via A Negative Benefit for all the Mac users... and those who like to make fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Moderate Community

Josh M. asked a great question on the last post which touched on "moderate" communities.

There are plenty of people who would be interested in helping to build such a community, but often, their determination of the "least bad" option incorporates a recognition that there are fringe moderate groups in their infancy that despite having a preferable ideology, have other (often number-related) disadvantages that prevent them from winning their full support.

What do you believe would be the first step towards creating a viable moderate community?

Quotes of the Day: Jewish Community

YD, in Finding a Center: The Role of Yeshiva University Part II (I reposted Part I yesterday):
What our community needs is an option in the center. There is a large gap between the Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish communties, which are, in my mind, both generally missing the boat. There is no real community in the middle, only individuals that believe in a more balanced approach to Judaism.
As I basically commented there, people need to help join/create such a community. Instead, even among those people, they are simply weighing which is 'least bad' - the right or the left - when it comes to them and especially their children. (And by and large, they'll choose the right.)

On Da'as Hedyot, in his Better Know A Kofer series:
The frum world is not as good as it thinks it is; the outside world is not as bad as the frum world thinks it is.
I think that's something that's important for us to acknowledge, rather than trying to scare kids into obedient servitude. We should focus instead on showing the advantages of and strengths of an Orthodox life, while acknowledging that as a community we need to strive to do better to get to that level.

EZ Reads 6/25/09: Gives Me Hope

  • A fascinating piece by Elliot Abrams in the WSJ, detailing the talks, Sharon's thinking/actions, and what happened back in 2003-2004 in terms of Israel, the settlements, and Gaza.
  • Chana points to the new GivesMeHope site, which is a nice foil to a different site. It's really nice, and GMH.
  • Shaq joins the Cavs. Certainly not a bad move; question is if they could have gotten better elsewhere. LeBron is happy, so that's something.
  • R' Ally on Green Bay to Crown Heights on the Lubavitcher Rebbe's yahrtzeit. Short and interesting.
  • R' Dovid Landesman addresses the "what if the Chazon Ish studied medicine instead" question. Interesting.
  • Via LOR, Lipa thinks we're all too busy to enjoy music. Or life, for that matter.
  • ProfK and Special Ed point out this cost of living calculator. Obviously this is different for the Orthodox community, so fill out the Jewish Economics Survey (link above). :) According to the site, a move to Dallas would allow a 42% salary reduction for me and Serach. Ouch.
  • Search for Emes gets his tuition bill. Ouch.
  • Finally, I've always loved this song. Worth a listen, especially the lyrics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Not Easy Going Green

Via The Daily Harangue, a solid new site my friend MemphisII is managing, comes this interesting bit:
...Shockingly (but not really), people don't really seem to care about "going green" if it comes at their own expense. Sure, companies need to be more green, but consumers? No way! Why should they? Of course customers are willing to go green, but only if it doesn't inconvenience them. Why should I pay more for something that is made of recycled paper? If it's better for the world, they should make it cheaper. That way, more will support it. There was an interesting study done that highlights just how "green" people care to be if it means giving up certain everyday items (some of them, luxury items).

You can read about it here... Two Thirds of Americans Would Refuse to Give Up iPod - Even if it Ruined Environment


In response to the question,
"
If you thought these things were harming the environment, which of the following would you be willing to give up?"

These were the responses...
iPod - 38% would be willing to do without it
Dishwasher - 35%
Microwave - 25%
Cellular phone - 21%
Air conditioning - 14%
TV - 13%
Computer - 7%
Car - 6%
None of the above - 21%
All of the above - 6%

Finding a Center: The Role of Yeshiva University

Reprinted with permission from Adventures in Chinuch
by YD


I just read that DRS (the boys high school in Woodmere) is opening up a post-high school yeshiva program. I am extremely happy with this news, although I am sure (based on speaking to someone there), that Yeshiva University is not. Obviously this presents a potential cheaper option for those who want to attend Queens College or a comparable place. But it is not only the potential savings that excites me.

I am not going to go through my entire story, but suffice it to say that I was not happy for the year I spent at YU. I subsequently switched to Lander College, from where I graduated. I know, if I switched to Lander you are probably thinking that I must have...

a) Thought of myself as being yeshivish
b) Considered poetry to be the source of all evil in the world
c) Labeled Rabbi Lamm as a kofer
d) Been really weird
e) All of the above

Actually none is true, except maybe d. I switched because I wasn't happy. I wasn't happy because I felt that the environment in the Yeshiva Program was (and probably still is) a bit too Torah-Centric. Here's what I mean:

As we have discussed numerous times, there is a lot more to meaning in a Jewish life than how much a person engages in "holy" activities. There is a lot to be said for accomplishing things outside the realm of what people call "spirituality." People, including myself, are often sensitive to this, and need other things for their spirituality. In fact, engaging in pursuits other than "holiness" may be fulfilling part of the purpose of creation. If you don't trust me, read the first chapter of By His Light, which is based on R' Aharon Lichtenstein's speeches. (Thanks to fellow blogger Erachet for suggesting I read it; it's a must-read for anyone who believes in "being normal.")

This idea, is one of the biggest casualties of the "flipping out" phenomenon. When many teenagers flip out they change their entire focus to the areas of Talmud Torah and holiness. What many don't realize is that to drastically alter your focus is not an obligation incumbent on every person, and that for many, it is unhealthy. Additionally, they may become ignorant of the fact that other who don't follow their approach, may actually be doing the right thing.

As we have discussed, the Rebbeim is Israel have the ability to set these kid straight, and often don't, either because they don't believe they should, or because they think it will hurt the effectiveness of their Yeshiva, or some other reason. However, as fellow blogger Chaim pointed in the comments, the post-high school Rebbeim have just as much responsibility and ability to attend to this problem.

Which brings me to YU. I found there to be very little guidance from the Rebbeim in Yeshiva University. Many of them only come in for a few hours, just to give shiur, and leave. Very little is heard from the Rebbeim besides the Torah they teach, and for some, even the Parsha shiur is just another Gemara sugya on a topic related to the Parsha. Every once in a while there was a speech about a meaningful topic like dating or something, but this was never followed by a "meet with the rebbe and discuss your issues personally" session. In short, one could easily get the impression there that Talmud Torah is the only important value.

My impression was that this attitude was very prevalent among the students there as well. People spent hours on end learning, (which is good) but cut a lot of their classes (which is bad), brought seforim to class (which is disrespectful), were constantly deriding the Madda portion of the school (also bad), and gave off the general impression that value to yourself and the Jewish people is based on how much Torah you learn. These guys were the ones who were "well-known" in the Beis Medrash (aka the role models), and were overall just way too intense.

I wouldn't have a problem with this if YU were strictly a Yeshiva for the most serious boys. But it's not. Just based on the sheer numbers, there is no way that the Yeshiva Program can expect everyone to be Torah-only students. Additionally, YU itself stands for the type of well-rounded philosophy that is not most common among it's students. Most care too much about Torah, or not enough Torah, to even come near the ideal YU product. So either the Rebbeim are not on boat with YU philosophy (which is dysfunctional) or they are, but don't have time to care (which is equally as dysfunctional).

Either way, YU has the potential to produce normal, but G-d fearing graduates who are knowledgeable in both their professional field and in Torah. But unfortunately, the opportunity is not being taken advantage of for whatever reason or reasons that may be. I know YU has been trying lately to reverse this trend, but until they do more to change the culture there, I will be excited about any new possible program that may (or may not) steer their students, and by extension the rest of us, in the right direction.

EZ Reads 6/23*/09: Iran and Ambidextrousness

* ...because yesterday was the 24th, apparently.

A quick PSA first: My friend Memphis texted me that due to a miscommunication he has two extra Rascal Flatts tickets for tomorrow night that he spent $180 on. If you're interested, e-mail me and I'll put you in touch with him.

SIL sent in a cute question Hen (4-1/2) asked: " Are you a righty, a lefty, or electric?" (ambidextrous)
  • A really interesting read in the Washington Post on how studying the digits of the vote total numbers show just how likely it was that the final results in Iran were messed around with.
  • Harry makes the short point from what's happening in Iran in terms of information control that the Jewish community can learn clearly from it that we can't shut out the outside world and deny it.
  • A hilarious rap video made up of some of the classic sports interviews and press conferences. It's incredibly well made.
  • Old joke Special Ed said on Shabbos: What do you wish someone who is turning 120? Have a nice day! Hirhurim's Ari Enkin writes about living to 120 and beyond.
  • Material Maidel listens in on an interesting conversation about Rabbinic abuse on the subway... with a twist.
Feel free to send in interesting pieces, and enjoy!

The Week Ahead: Serach in Los Angeles = Freedom! (...just kidding)

Serach is leaving this morning with Kayla to Los Angeles for a week for her cousin's wedding. She'll also be hosting two sheitl sales in LA, at which she'll also have her tichels (scarves) and headbands. The sales are:
Wednesday, June 24th, 7-10 PM, 5318 Teesdale Avenue, Valley Village and
Monday, June 29th, 7-10 PM, 620 South Highland Avenue (city)
Meanwhile, while she's enjoying beautiful LA, I'll be getting our car fixed (finally), taking care of a million things at home (okay, drawing a blank there), watching Elianna, then driving to Philadelphia and Baltimore for the weekend with Elianna before bringing back my sister and niece who will be enjoying a day in New York in honor of Perfect turning 9. One interesting part: My sister asked Perfect, who has celiac, if she would rather go to a Broadway show or eat out at a Kosher restaurant that is all gluten-free for the big treat of their trip. Perfect chose the restaurant, because she said she never gets to eat out! It's both really cute and really sad at the same time.

We'll probably join them at some point Sunday for a little while as well; Monday, Elianna starts camp. Serach returns Tuesday night, landing just before our 5th anniversary ends. (Yes, I am holding this over her head.) On Wednesday, I start working again.

Looks like the next 175 hours or so will be fun!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Well Waddaya Know XXX

Kudos to Shragi for keeping these coming despite his busy life... Last week's question and answer:
Which depiction of neurological damage is least realistic?

Memento
2 (7%)
50 First Dates
13 (48%)
Dory in Finding Nemo
9 (33%)
A Beautiful Mind
3 (11%)

Votes so far: 27
Poll closed
I've only seen the middle two, I believe, but A Beautiful Mind is based on a real person, and 50 First Dates starred Adam Sandler. Ya know?

This week's question is up to the right.

EZ Reads, 6/24/09: Sir Ken Robinson & JibJab!

If you've known me or just been a reader of this blog long enough, you might know that one of my favorite videos of all time is a presentation Sir Ken Robinson gave on education at a TED conference a number of years ago. I'm starting to realize just how long this blog has been around, when Erachet (a good friend for a while now) starting talking about it, and subsequently posted about it, and never even heard me go on and on and on about it like I used to do a lot, so here it is, after the other links - recommended for any future parent, teacher, or person who plans on being an adult on this planet. It is about education and creativity, and it is still one of the best things I've ever watched.

Elsewhere:
  • JibJab continues its brilliance with a hilarious video titled He's Barack Obama! They're so incredibly clever, it's amazing.
  • My mom sent me that and this fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal about how an Israeli radio station is captivating Iranians.
  • A fantastic, detailed letter to the President on health care.
  • Ariella with a very interesting (academic-ish) piece on Beauty and the JAP.
  • Hirhurim has an interesting piece on women slaughterers, which is really about women becoming rabbonim. Personally, I find the discussion over whether "not seeing is a proof" or not is more important in terms of its applications elsewhere.

Speaking of Dancing...

Here's a great rant from Jughead's Hat about wedding shtick:
I have not ranted about anything in a while. I don't know why; it just hasn't happened. However, it is wedding season, and I have been to quite a few recently, and I must vent my frustration at one incident that occurred at one such wedding.

I hate when people don't think. I know I do it at times, but it is much more frustrating when the lack of thought is a planned out idea. Case in point: I was recently at a wedding where two people of lesser intelect thought it wold be a good idea to bring on some "schtick." For those of you unfamilliar with this term, "schtick" in this case refers to thought out forms of entertainment usually meant to be humerous. In other words, it could be amazing and hilarious, or pathetic and disasterous. Case in point:

By this particular wedding, these two mental midgets thought of the terrific idea of dumping 50 gallon bag of styrophome peanuts on top of the choson and kallah.

Hilarious!

Amazing!

Why didn't I think of that? Probably because I have an IQ higher than that of a shuffleboard disc. I assume that this is what the choson and kallah thought as well, judging by their reactions of bewilderment during and following the incident.

However, the story does not end there. What do you think happened after those peanuts were dumped? Of course! The people who dumped them out went and got brooms and dustpans and proceded to clean up the mess they made. Then the Middle East Crisis was solved, the Clippers won the NBA title, and Elvis came and sang Ben Bag Bag.*

Of course none of these things are true, and in fact, it would have been more likely for any of those three things to happen before the two styro-jerks would think to clean up their mess. What actually happened was that I went out with a friend, found two brooms and a dustpan, and began cleaning up the mess.

I am not trying to make it seem like I am perfect. As many of you can probably guess, I had a great time trying to sweep up the mess from under the feet of the still-dancing group of people. It was made trickier by the fact that due to the peanuts on the floor, and thus a tremendous lack of friction, many dancers were subject to sliding accross the dance floor. This included one almost disasterous and hilarious incident of a colision between a boy and a cameraman-holding step-stool.

Evetually we gave up trying to sweep the mess up because people kept stepping into our pile, so we left it, and the mess was evetually swept up by the grounds crew who had to pause the wedding for a rain delay. The point is that these people did not think their schtick all the way through. In fact, they didn't think about it at all. It wasn't funny. It had no point. It was unsafe. They didn't take responsibilty for their actions. Oh, and it wasn't funny.

If you are going to devise a wedding schtick, please do me a favor. Think before you do it. Ask yourself "what is the point of this?" If the answer is "because I want to," don't do it. Whew, that was tiring.

*Other things that would happen before the two guys would have cleaned up the mess:

Carot Top at the Appolo
Snow in Pheonix
Mike Tyson in Cambridge
Bridge from California to Hawaii
Mel Gibson in Tzitzis
Winter Olympics in Tehran
Switzerland fighting a war
George W Bush on "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dancing is NOT Tznius

Via a friend:
My sister is in Bais Yaakov of Monsey, and they had their end of year assembly today. The principal announced that from now on at the annual play, they are not having dance, because it's not tzniusdik. The end.

[...] Mind you this is the school that barely even lets the girls stand still and clap because all the dance moves they wanna do aren't tzniusdik enough, so they are taking dance out; and in its place they are having something called "musical movements". (She got a laugh from the school when she announced that.)
I'm just glad Serach went to Manhattan High School instead.

All seriousness, I don't get it. At what point will a large chunk of the people in communities and schools like this simply say "Dai!" and either go off or blow up the system? You can only restrict people so much before they finally have had enough - especially when there are alternatives.

Updated - Additional rules, via this friend:
  • Not allowed to cheer vocally (not tzniusdik)
  • Rules about length of earrings
  • Color of tights
  • Color of shoes
  • Can't sit on the floor
  • Can't drink from a bottle (straw only)
  • Send girls home for wearing scarves
Also, as someone else pointed out, MHS is not necessarily much better nowadays.

EZ Reads 6/22/09: Inspired

Note that many of these are older, just been waiting for a good time to post them.
  • This video posted a while ago by A Soldier's Mother goes well with the previous post.
  • I thought this story by Treppenwitz was great.
  • Neil's successful ride last month is a good lesson in hard work, but this clip he put up of R' Avigdor Miller discussing an apple is an even better lesson in appreciation.
  • At the same time, this I Wish by JACP is moving in its appreciation of what makes everyone who they are.
  • This Indexed is important to remember.
  • I'd wanted to write more about this, but now I have no idea what... but it's still interesting! Stats in love and war.
  • Jewess suggests that the most important way to combat poor self-image in females is to spread awareness not just among women and girls, but men and boys.
Enjoy! Still working on some more serious pieces.

A Tragic, Wonderful Small World

Groovin' was in town yesterday for a wedding, and we went to Pita Hot for him to get his usual KGH shwarma. While we were talking about his impending aliyah, he mentioned that his sister is considering returning to Sharfman's for a second year, but she's been a bit shaken up since their cousin was killed in friendly-fire incident in the IDF. I stopped him and asked the name: Noam Adin Richter Levi. I was shaken up, having read a few posts by A Soldier's Mother about Noam, and mentioned it to Groovin', particularly the part about the family welcoming the soldier whose gun it was and telling him it was not his fault. Groovin' then noted that a Cleveland boy in the IDF was Noam's bunkmate in the army. I then told Groovin' that that Clevelander was actually living in his off time at RivkaT's parents - a place where Groovin' and I went for Shabbos a few times while in Israel. That boy also happens to be G's first cousin. It's a small, small world - both in tragic situations like this, but also in beautiful and happy times.

Somehow, that conversation took me back to a post I read a while back by Daniel Gordis about Israel. He was asked at a meal "Why would you live here?", and didn't necessarily have a great answer. But after a series of meaningful conversations the next week, he realized exactly what the answer should have been. It's a very moving post.
You live here, and you feel things that you don’t feel anywhere else. You just do. You’re part of things that you wouldn’t be part of anywhere else. You care about people you wouldn’t care about in the same way anywhere else. Other people’s stories are your stories in ways that they couldn’t be anywhere else. You cry, and you laugh, and you mourn and you celebrate, with people who elsewhere, might not matter to you at all. You may not even be sure that we should make the trade to get their kid out, but you cry when we can’t.
Emotion is part of life. Sometimes, that will make it feel like life is so incredibly painful... but without those connections that can bring us that pain, we could never experience all the highs and wonder. It is important to remember this through our times of pain so we can survive them, and to better appreciate what we have so we can experience and share, and share and experience, all of those pure joys.

Sister, Sister

Today is June 22nd... also known as my sister's birthday, my "sister's" birthday, and my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary. I always thought it convenient that my sister Vervel got married on her birthday; one less day for me to remember. I found it ironic that my "sister" B shared the same birthday as Vervel, and laughed when she got married June 21st... and that they brought out a birthday cake as the clock struck midnight in honor of her birthday.

So - a very Happy 10th Anniversary to Vervel and BIL - 10 years, that's really something. To B and JB - 4 years ain't too shabby, either.

While thinking of B as 25 years old isn't so weird (halfway to 50!), thinking of Vervel as 32... You're finally half as old as Dad. Now that is old. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

EZ Reads: 6/21/09

Mazel tov to B & JB (of the How I Met Serach series) on their 4th anniversary today! :)
  • Haveil Havalim #222 is up at The Real Shaliach. He has a few links about his upcoming wedding to le7; I always enjoy couples who met through their blogs. Last time I went to a wedding in Milwaukee it was beautiful, not to mention a tiny fraction of the price of one in New York.
  • ProfK has a very interesting look back to how shidduchim would work "back in the olden days".
  • Via NMF#7, President Obama is now calling out FOX for being "too critical". It is mind-boggling how this country has turned, to the point that the only media network that actually presents both sides of stories involving the White House is actually called out by the President. Meanwhile, almost nobody cares. JoeSettler has a piece (about Israel) on how the greatest threat to democracy is apathy. I don't think this country will get that far, but by the time people start caring about what's happening the country will be almost irreversibly changed, to its detriment. Unfortunately, when the subject is primarily economics, 99% of the country seems to think it's beyond them and therefore they have no say. It's sad.
  • Orthonomics has one of the greatest comment threads going on education, tuition, and the Jewish community. Money quote:
    Why are the best and most insightful discussions of one of the most pressing issues in the frum world taking place on a blog??! Where are our leaders, our institutions, our media? Why is this not being addressed directly and seriously by people in positions of authority??

    The cynic in me says that the quality of conversation here on this topic is because it's anonymous, while the situation is so bad no one wants to put their name on the truth. Or worse, because the responsible leaders are well placed in the status quo (how many of our leaders are roshei yeshiva?), and any realistic solutions would change or diminish their power and standing. :-(
  • Some people are too bored:
    Beit Shemesh rabbis issue modesty rules City's religious and secular residents find booklets in their mailboxes instructing women to keep hair tied, wear long-sleeved shirts and skirts without slit
I'm off to pick up Groovin' from the airport.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Idiots Ruin Things

...for everyone else. What a jerk: (emphasis added)
The Oakland A's have reached a $510,000 settlement with a male attorney suing them because he wasn't given a commemorative cap being handed out to women at an A's game on Mother's Day 2004.

Attorney Alfred G. Rava initiated a class-action lawsuit against the A's because, as a biological male, he was not given a plaid sun hat being handed out to the first 7,500 ladies arriving at the Mother's Day game.

He sued over a commemorative Mother's Day cap? He could have at least held out for the Giambi bobblehead.

The whole context of the promotion make Mr. Rava's legal efforts even more deplorable. The Mother's Day promotion in question was the day of an A's-Twins contest that followed a 5k "Race For a Cure" event, a fundraiser for breast cancer research and support of breast cancer sufferers. The first 7,500 female fans entering McAfee Coliseum for the A's game were given the commemorative hat.

Rava, who has initiated similar lawsuits against the Padres and Angels and was perhaps only attending the game in order to sue, claimed gender discrimination and filed a lawsuit.
I'd love someone to sue the guy for being a shmuck and have a judge award back the money.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Opinions

Adventures in Chinuch with your weekly dvar Torah on Shlach, opinions, and knowing when to keep them to yourself.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shidduch Quotes

A couple of interesting comments on the/from the shidduch world; curious what people think of them, especially the opinions expressed in the first one. The first one is a comment by "N" on a post by Bad4 about people who are rejected before getting a date due to deaths in the family at younger ages; the second is a comment someone made to ProfK when she asked why there was so much outside interference between a couple who went out a number of times.

In the modern orthodox world, a MAN or WOMAN is presented or viewed as an adult, with unique experiences, abilities and personalities. While all would acknowledge that losing a parent at a young age shapes a person–ultimately people are looking a the person who has been shaped. By analogy, often a person’s grandparents will have an influence on their life–but in the MO world no one really cares what shtetl in Lita or Ohio your grandparents came from; it is who YOU are now and what you, coupled with your personality and grace (or lack thereof).

In the charedi world BOYS and GIRLS are essentially variable fungible marriage units for marriage transactions. Yeshiva X, Bais Yakov Y; Flatbush Est 2?rd street; oldest youngest, Litvish, Galitzianer etc. Tall or short, oh and of some minor importance, rich or not rich. As people are setting up CHILDREN (in their mind) who have never accomplished anything of their own, all that matters is relative conformity to some ideal. Variation from the ideal is then weighed positively or negatively (balancing weight with wealth; measuring yichus against a sibling’s satorial choices). Families play a game where wining is defined by marrying better than you would have expected (by their crooked and warped sense) and losing is marrying down.

[I note incidentally that since in the charedi paradigm "children" can not acheive anything on their own of worth, any educational or communal success (becoming a JD/MD/organizing a tomchei shabbat) or entreprenurial success (demonstrating ability to open a business) demonstrated by a child is actually viewed as a negative as it is a mark of non-conformity. similarly merely being older that the norm is cause for a non-conforming demerit].

So my sister a was head of GO at BY X and best camper at charedi “no pockets allowed on skirts” de jour. She also happens to be beautiful. Nonetheless because she had a widowed mother she was viewed as substandard merchandise. Fortunately, she was able to marry a prospective 2nd generation kollel candidate given my Mother’s willingness to provide an appropriate remedial dowery. As for my late father’s reputation as a baal chesed and baal tzedakah, suffice it to say that those midos/ot were unfortunately canceled out by his gonig to work My other sisters were able to obtain appropriate husbands who had corresponding handicaps, perhaps a lame sibling or attendance at a second rate HS. As they are all happy I suppose the system worked.

In the MO world, people actually cared about MY adult educational acheivements and career and about my own spiritual acheivments in both Israeli yeshivot and YU.

In summary, if all that matters is a resume that needs a healthy dose of conformity — a death in the family will be a black mark. If what matters is the person themselves then a fat schlub will fail on his own merit.

That was where I first got puzzled. "You mean the shadchan was still involved on the seventh date?" I asked. And then I got the answer that reminded me of why I don't actively redt shidduchim anymore. The mom's voice was incredulous. "Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."

EZ Reads 6/18/09: Irony

It's always nice to get the breaks you were looking for to help push a project forward... when it'll be much harder to take advantage of them. Not that they are any less appreciated, it just makes them a bit trickier to take advantage of.
  • Freakonomics discusses morality, economics, and Jewish leap years.
  • A really fantastic piece questioning Warren Buffet's methods and morals. Important to keep in mind when thinking about the approaches the Obama administration are trying to take.
  • Daled Amos discusses the WaPo's attempts to present the shaping of President Obama's views on Israel as coming exclusively from Jews, as opposed to Arabs.
  • It's always crazy to read the offers Israeli leaders have made to the Palestinians - in this case, Olmert's offer to Abbas, via Jewlicious. Geez:
    At the end of Olmert’s term he tried one last maneuver in an effort to secure a legacy. Olmert told me he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008 and unfurled a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories. He says he offered Abbas 93.5 to 93.7 percent of the Palestinian territories, along with a land swap of 5.8 percent and a safe-passage corridor from Gaza to the West Bank that he says would make up the rest. The Holy Basin of Jerusalem would be under no sovereignty at all and administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans. Regarding refugees, Olmert says he rejected the right of return and instead offered, as a “humanitarian gesture,” a small number of returnees, although “smaller than the Palestinians wanted—a very, very limited number.”
  • Cool piece on the speed of baseballs coming off of bats in Major League Baseball.
  • Funny rap video on Material Maidel about Jews abroad's opinions on Israeli policy.
  • Interesting article about how a brain tumor has turned a painter into a Picasso.
Check them out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Idiocy

That's right. The problem is not frum people committing financial crimes or holding lavish simchos in jail or trying to make things nice for people who are in jail, it's a press moser that causes all our problems.

What freaking morons.

EZ Reads 6/17/09: The God King

I will admit that I never understood the concept of (for example) a Shabtai Tzvi, or Jesus, or the like and how simple charisma and presence could somehow sweep the world (or the chunk they are in contact with) to follow such a person all on their own. I must say that I now easily understand how this is so.
  • In the midst of Jason Maoz's latest Jewish Press piece, which is quite good, he cites a great paragraph from The Weekly Standard:
    "Obama being Obama, however (and Newsweek being Newsweek), this is not quite your usual God. This is not the God of Battles, to whom Henry V prayed before Agincourt. This is not 'Our fathers' God, to Thee/Author of Liberty/to Thee we sing.' This is definitely not the God of the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' as this God isn't given to trampling anything, and when it comes to the terrible swift sword, you can simply forget it. This God doesn't do swords, much less battles. This is a modern God, a media God, a God for Whole Foods, and the Politics & Prose bookstore on upper Connecticut Avenue, a God who is into recycling. There is the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the New Testament, but this is the God of the Newsroom. Religious tradition tells us that God created man in His image, but the press has created this God in its image - diverse, multilateral, and nonconfrontational. He is cool, hip, urbane, and extremely un-Texan. He is all that the Fourth Estate values in life, and aspires to be in its own private dealings. He is all it holds dear.
  • The WSJ discusses some of the health care reforms the Obama administration is trying to push through. At least the White House Council of Economics Advisers isn't buying.
  • A hilarious but rather enlightening satire on health care reform via tax cuts and the great President Obama, circa 2070.
  • It is mind-boggling that a major news media network would perform an hour-long piece from within the White House and yet claim to have no subjective bias. It is more mind-boggling that this is largely being ignored as okay. If this would have occurred in any prior administration people would be dumbfounded and the outcry would have been incredible.
  • And speaking of things that would have gotten an outcry... firing investigators for doing their job? Nice.
  • On a lighter note, another Israeli scientist is trying to make strides against cancer using old herbal remedies that seem to create antioxidants that stop cancer cold.
  • Been meaning to put this up for a while: The break of a curveball, and how its study won an international scientific contest.
Finally, a huge Mazel Tov to SweetRose on her wedding tonight!

Arc of Justice

via RafiG, this speech by Senator Bob Menendez on Israel, directed toward President Obama, is fantastic. It's one of the clearest short descriptions of Israeli and Jewish history and Jewish rights I've seen given, and is a great clip to use to help educate people.

Winning

Who cares about winning? Why do we care? Do we care?

A few months ago, Matt put up a thought-provoking post about Questioning Ends. Admittedly, I was very turned off by the post and some of the comments that were left on it, and it's worth taking the time to read both the post and the comments to understand the points in full. In short, however, Matt was questioning a friend's drive to "win" races (based on a quote the friend posted), and asked "Why is winning important?"

What upset me at the time was that the question, and later the answers some gave, completely misunderstood the friend's own answer, which explained the quote ("You just have to keep believing that one day you will win.") by saying "The quote really means to get to the heart of not doubting it when it seems a dream is impossible."

Earlier tonight I was having a conversation with my friend Howie, with whom I own Cleveland Browns' season tickets. He was noting that following sports in general is an exercise in stupidity from a payoff standpoint: You follow a team for a lifetime and if you're lucky, they win a few championships? I commented that our friend Jay had made an interesting point when the Cavs were knocked out of the playoffs, suggesting that focusing on the enjoyment of watching Lebron James instead of whether they win would be more worthwhile. Howie replied that while that's a cute and clever thought, when it comes down to it it is completely unsatisfying. He - and most any fan - would rather trade Lebron James away if it meant watching a championship team. The value in watching a sports game is increased by whatever it is they are playing for. The reason people are less interested in exhibition games is because they have no inherent value - though it may be the same players, the game is not the same. While it can still have some entertainment value, it comes nowhere near a regular season game, let alone a championship.

As I agreed with him, I couldn't help but think back to Matt's post. What is it about exhibition games that make them so much less valuable? It's the same game, with the same rules. They play predominantly the same way. The answer is obvious: It's less valuable because nobody really cares who wins at any point in the game. And yet, even when a team loses a championship game, their disappointment often does not come close to what one might expect as compared to how much emphasis they place on winning. Why is that? Why is winning so integral to the game all the way through, but losing far less important at the end?

I think the answer is clearer when we look at the rarer losing team who is absolutely devestated at the end - sitting on their bench, that crushed look on their faces as their chance at victory has been snatched away. Their devastation most often comes from a failure of some sort - expectations unachieved, squandered opportunities, and a disappointment at having failed where they were supposed to have succeeded. Ultimately, that sadness comes from having not been their best when it truly mattered. Lebron James says he found it difficult to congratulate the Orlando Magic after they knocked the Cavs out because as a competitor it did not make sense to him to do so; the Cavs, after all, had been the favorites to win. The same Lebron James had no such difficulty congratulating the San Antonio Spurs after being swept in four games by them two years earlier, because those Cavs were not expected to even make it that far.

The significance of victory is much deeper (or simpler) than merely winning. I commented on Matt's post at the time:
The purpose of winning within just itself, of course, is to win. But the reason we encourage people to strive to win is because the drive used in attempting to win brings out the best in that person while they strive for that victory. [...]

Winning in and of itself is important for a brief moment. Like any success, after the achievement is reached it is only useful in measuring how far you've come and how that can be utilized to be successful in the future. Winning as a *concept* is important in that by striving to "be the best", people are forced to BE their best.
Professional teams often play exhibition games against college or semi-pro clubs. The pro team gains nothing if they win the game - there is little pride earned in winning a game one is supposed to win. If the college team wins, however, even if the pro team was playing its bench much of the game, the college team will take intense pride in their accomplishment.

Ultimately, striving to "win" - much like any goal - is what brings out the best in people. Without that mindset, there is simply almost no way a person or team will put forward their best efforts and utilize their greatest skills. People typically don't play basketball - or even Boggle - without keeping score, because it would be boring and the people wouldn't be trying nearly as hard; but should they keep score, even the 'loser' is satisfied at the end if they feel it was a "good game" where they put in a solid effort.

The reason winning brings such elation is that it is a measurement of having succeeded in one's quest. That feeling also quickly dissipates to an extent as the person then tries to consider ways in which they can be even better, or more consistent - can they do it again?

Near the end of the comment thread, Matt adjusted his question to agree with this point, but question why bringing out the best in many areas of life was worthwhile.
"I agree that encouraging people to win can help them to bring out the best in themselves. But the question is: best in what?"
I felt that the answer to this was important as well:
Best in whatever it is that best utilizes their skills and drive, typically, though it could be something which best lets them overcome a weakness, something which best helps them develop a mindset for life, etc. Certainly the idea alone of "I can accomplish anything I put my mind to to a degree far exceeding what I could currently" would be an improvement to near any human being.

Winning, or the drive toward it, is actually quite similar in the end to self-reflection and introspection. Both are not ends in and of themselves, but means to ends. I think often people forget this, and take pride in their self-reflective, introspective, or even intellectual natures or actions (rightfully, I might add) but forget that all of those are but tools to becoming a better person - not just in thought, but in action. We forget that the theoretical is there for its practical intent, not just for its own self-purpose.

Whatever one may think of winning a medal's value, the lesson we learn from one who pursues it is quite impressive if we choose to do so.
In the end, nearly everything in life comes back to how it helps us live that life. Mussar can be taken from anywhere and applied to anything. The drive to win happens to be an easier lesson which resonates well with nearly everyone, and what comes out of that drive is unmatched from nearly any other method: Introspection, intellectualism, self-reflection - those often pale in comparison to winning when it comes to motivating people. Without motivation, success in any area of life is difficult to achieve.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

EZ Reads 6/16/09: Why Be Jewish?

A few shorter thoughts, musings, and links:
  • Jack sent out an e-mail a while ago asking people why they are Jewish or why one should be Jewish. I thought the question was better than any answer that came to mind that I could express well, so I never did reply (and I've been a bit busy). He posted some of the replies he's gotten - certainly a few of the answers will occur to you on varying levels, but it's an interesting piece.
  • I was going to write about Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech (link at Jameel's), but truth be told there is little to add. I agree with Jameel and Joe Settler's take and think it was a very good speech clearly delineating the requirements Israel has before accepting a Palestinian state. I think it's important to continue to emphasize that it would be a demilitarized state, and finally, JoeSettler has it right when he notes that it was a nice little education for President Obama. One of the reasons I've always liked Bibi is his ability to speak and the grasp of history he has at his fingertips. Barack Obama is a good prepared speaker; Bibi Netanyahu can respond strongly to anything thrown at him and turn it on whomever he is facing - and come off looking well in the process. For all the noble ideals that Obama can raise as to why the world would like Israel to commit to certain actions, Netanyahu is the most capable of replying in a way that demonstrates why the best path to those ideals is not the actions the US suggests. No other Israeli politician could come close on this score.
  • On a related note, this piece by WestBankMama was perfectly put - noting what they hear and what we hear.
  • This was a moving piece touching on DNR - do not resuscitate - patients by R' Avi Shafran. It's hard to describe, so just read it.
Enjoy. A few posts are in the works on other subjects, but I'm trying to clean them up in my head first.

Well Waddaya Know XXIX

Last week's question and answer:
Your brain uses about as much energy as:

a refrigerator light
11 (29%)
a laptop computer
10 (27%)
an idling car
9 (24%)
a car moving down a freeway
7 (18%)

Votes so far: 37
I finally got another one right! I always thought that was quite the testament to the amazing abilities of our brains. Meanwhile, this week's question is up to the right.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Deaf Pachelbel

Hat tip: Memphis II. I thoroughly enjoyed this and found it inspiring, even if it is predictable.

Are Jewish Organizational CEOs Overpaid?

The Forward: Yes. The Jewish Channel's Steven I. Weiss: No.

I was recently filmed for a documentary (which isn't showing until next month) in which I was asked the same question at one point. I had just been noting that a major problem in the Jewish community is the tremendous waste that seems to take place within Jewish organizations, as organizations dedicated to carrying out certain tasks end up spending very large percentages of their incoming contributions on overhead. I was a little perturbed by the question, but my answer was simple: I have no idea, as there simply isn't enough transparency.

On the face of it, however, while there are certainly institutions where people at the higher levels are overpaid in comparison to their duties and what they bring to the institution, I would tend to agree with Weiss that by and large, Jewish organizational CEOs (like most CEOs) are not overpaid. He sums it up well in the opening paragraph before dissecting some of the broader points:
This is suggestive of a general problem with lay-personomics, whereby people who make lots of money to do their jobs seem to be hated for that reason alone, and those who make less are seen as entitled to a specific slice of CEOs’ pie.
More importantly, and perhaps most importantly, a Jewish organization's CEO is typically a talented individual who has a pick of many jobs which he or she could otherwise be doing. Suggesting that the CEO cut back irrationally on his or her own salary to save what seems to be an unnecessary position is just foolish; not only would you be promoting further inefficiency in a time where the money could be better used elsewhere (Weiss suggests the charity work many exist for), but you're driving away a talented individual who helps make the organization succeed in the first place.

Are there administrators who are overpaid? Yes, there probably are - but because of their lack of success or because their pay is not commensurate with their responsibilities and duties in the first place. To get - and retain - quality administrators, however, Jewish organizations must be prepared to pay them in line with what they could expect to receive elsewhere, or expect to lose those individuals to other fields.

Geez

Random thoughts, comments, funny stories:
  • The old adage is that "Time flies when you're having fun." On the other hand, time seems to just disappear when a lot is going on. Just to think back a month or so, I gave that first presentation on the Jewish Economics Survey May 6th. Only yesterday did I realize that that was only a month ago - it felt as if it were three or four months ago, as so much has happened since then.
  • SerandEz is now an international stopover point. This morning I drove my Israeli cousin to La Guardia for his flight to Chicago; later today I'll be dropping ~Sarah~ from Australia at JFK for her flight to Los Angeles. Between that and our own travels (this past weekend to Harrisburg, yesterday to Brooklyn, next week to LA for Serach, Philadelphia and Baltimore for me), it just feels like the world is in this nice little whirlwind.
  • Two of my closest friends got engaged yesterday (Yeah!!!!!), which really leaves me with very few single male friends. Meanwhile, we know a large number of really great single females. One common refrain we've heard from (and said on occasion to) friends of ours is that even among the guys we know, there are very few we'd be willing to set up. It's sad, really. But at least I get to enjoy watching these guys go! It's crazy to think how long I've known each - 23 and 8 years. That's a long time.
  • Great story:
    Elianna: ~Sarah~ is with her brutha.
    Erachet: Brother.
    Elianna: Brutha.
    Erachet: BrothER.
    Elianna: Broth...er?
    Accents are great.

Friday, June 12, 2009

EZ Reads 6/12/09: Haha, English

I've been collecting stuff to post for waaay too long, but it's as good of a day as any to stop being lazy and post some of them.

Ed got me onto an xkcd kick last night, and, well, this is why an English major is garbage: (I kid, I kid! ... sort of :) )

Elsewhere:
  • Classy move by President Obama, giving a 10-year old a note to miss class. Nice. One kid who won't hate politicians.
  • An interesting piece on why Orthodox women don't wear pants at Jew in the City. Personally, I don't necessarily agree (or disagree) with some of the reasoning, though it's all accurate, but I actually always felt the last point was not to be underestimated and probably the best reason. I also don't think women typically are interested in MC Hammer pants. The only pants-like clothing I've seen girls/women wear that is obviously non-problematic was in Israel, where you actually would think it was a dress they were so loose. That said, what bothers me is the assumption that someone who wears pants doesn't care about halacha or cares less than someone who won't. If their shita is that certain pants are okay, you may disagree, but don't just lump them in the "does not care" crowd. It's sad that a friend felt she had to stop following what she felt was okay halachically because she'd only get set up on dates with people who did not care at all.
  • Interesting piece on "Friend Turnover" at Freakonomics. I'm actually surprised it's as high as it is, assuming we're talking about the person's basic social circle.
  • Adventures in Chinuch doesn't understand the "flipping out" when it comes to secular names. I have to agree: What's wrong with secular names? I think the Rashi on lo shinu es shemam has got to be one of the most mis-applied Rashis in Torah. Look through Gemara - they have almost no "Jewish" names, they're all Aramicized names! R' Akiva? Aramaic for Yaakov. On the flip side, I personally just don't see a need to give kids different English names, particularly today when it's not as if any name is especially strange. My English name: Eliezer Chaim. But for those who do? Why change it?
  • For all the fleish-o-phobes... here's what cheeses not to eat (at Hirhurim) if you want to avoid being milchig. What's funny is it never even came up when I was a kid despite our love of cheese, and I was surprised when my cousins in Israel were waiting 6 hours to eat meat.
  • Cool Coca-Cola art. Recycled cans to make, oh, a truck. Or a dress and a tux. Or a row of Coke zombies. Or... underwear!?
Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Emerging Jewish Communities

Hat tip: Jack

This coming Sunday, June 14th, is the OU's (Orthodox Union's) fair on emerging Jewish communities around the country. For those interested, you can register in advance at www.ou.org/communities, for the chance to win a laptop computer and other valuable prizes. For more information call 212.613.8188.

One of the primary purposes of the Jewish Economics Survey I've been carrying out is to gauge costs of living in different communities around the country, including smaller towns such as the ones listed. Obviously, data is harder to come by in those communities, but my guess is that those smaller communities which wish to pitch the idea of relocating to their communities would gain tremendously by being able to demonstrate just what their actual costs of living are.

The list of communities at this fair are interesting; some are obviously larger than others, and may have the advantage of being able to pitch "small but not too small" to people. I wish I could go, but alas, Serach is taking part in a fair in Brooklyn, selling her tichels and headbands. All the cities I've wanted to hear more about (Dallas, Memphis, Phoenix, et al) will be there, and I'm curious to hear how they each pitch their communities, particularly economically.

We'll actually be spending this Shabbos in one of those small communties, Harrisburg, PA, for my nephew's bris.

If anyone at the fair wants to mention/pitch my survey to representatives of different communities, I'd be really thrilled - the more this can spread, particularly to smaller communities, the greater the impact it can have in helping people determine where to live, understanding what things should cost, and hopefully improving how our Jewish communities run by making them more efficient and helping them learn from one another.

Communities that will be there according to the flyer:
Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Des Moines; IA; Fairfield, CT; Harrisburg, PA; Houston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Malden, MA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Phoenix, AZ; Providence, RI; Richmond, VA; San Francisco, CA; Southfield and Oak Park, MI; St. Louis, MO; Stamford, CT; Stony Brook, NY; Upstate, NY - Albany, Schenectady, Troy.

The Cost of Keeping Kosher

Hat tip: Susqhb

This appeared on Money; it's a short clip discussing the high costs of living in a frum community, in this case, in Houston, Texas. Well done, well presented. Now, if more people can fill out the Jewish Economics Survey, maybe we'll have a better idea just how much more it costs. :)

Moments

As the weeks tick down toward my starting work again instead of staying at home watching my little girls, I can't help but appreciate this beautiful post by JACP. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama is sort of........

The Savior

From today's Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Obama's comments yesterday are a perfect illustration of just such a claim. In the months since Congress approved the stimulus, our economy has lost nearly 1.6 million jobs and unemployment has hit 9.4%. Invoke the magic words, however, and -- presto! -- you have the president claiming he has "saved or created" 150,000 jobs. It all makes for a much nicer spin, and helps you forget this is the same team that only a few months ago promised us that passing the stimulus would prevent unemployment from rising over 8%. [...]

"You created a situation where you cannot be wrong," said the Montana Democrat. "If the economy loses two million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would've lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs. You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct." [...]

If the "saved or created" formula looks brilliant, it's only because Mr. Obama and his team are not being called on their claims. And don't expect much to change. So long as the news continues to repeat the administration's line that the stimulus has already "saved or created" 150,000 jobs over a time period when the U.S. economy suffered an overall job loss 10 times that number, the White House would be insane to give up a formula that allows them to spin job losses into jobs saved.

Monday, June 08, 2009

...Wow.

Via ZeroHedge

The primary difference between the Obama and Bush administrations: The Bush administration felt that what they were doing was legal. The Obama administration knows that what it's doing is not.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

This piece by Racheli Geizhals at 219 Magazine is worthwhile watching if you'd like an introduction to the world of shidduchim; as Bad4 notes, a slight disclaimer for the crowd here: This piece was produced to explain the shidduch system to people who know absolutely nothing about it. It wasn’t meant to go too in-depth.

Fun for the readership here: Two friends of ours are in the video - Bad4Shidduchim herself and one of my best friends from when I was 2 until today, who's been mentioned a number of times on this blog in the past. Nice job, Sal. :)

Personally, I thought that the piece was excellent, giving a really fair portrayal of the shidduch system and some of its criticisms from a basic level. It's rare that we get to see a balanced portrayal of anything in the Orthodox world, so a Well Done is due to them.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Quite (and Quote) the Weekend

It was quite the weekend...! We think it was Elianna's favorite weekend with almost all her favorite people: SJ and Erachet visited us for Shabbos, J&S (and for the first time, our friendly sometime lurker Shosh!) came over Friday night, RivkaT stopped by, we were late for a kiddush for D&E before their upcoming move away, ate at Pobody's Nerfect & Shake for lunch, had a dessert at D&E where it seemed a nice chunk of our friends were, and then hosted shalosh seudos for a bunch more, including Rea and Xvi.*

Oh, and: My brother and SIL had a baby boy on Shabbos (Mazel Tov!!!), Kayla's birthday was Friday, I got a job, and we had parties galore it seemed.

All in all, it was nice, exciting, exhausting, and nothing compared to what next week will probably be like in terms of hecticity. This is niece/nephew #17 for us (#8 on my side), and mother and baby are bH doing well. Ben, Hen, and Shen are super excited about their new baby brother!

And of course, there's never a dull moment, so here are some of the best quotes from another great Shabbos:
Serach: What's Daddy's favorite color?
Elianna: E!

Elianna (rambling about a story she's making up as she goes along) "...I made a cupcake."
SJ: What was in it?
Elianna: Vanilla... and ice cream... and blue!

Older gentleman on way home from shul, as we walked past heading toward a kiddush: {smiling} "Are you going in the right direction?"
Ezzie: {smiles} Yes, I am. Perhaps you are going in the wrong direction?
Older gentleman: No, I'm going in the right direction as well. Isn't it something that two people going in opposite directions can both still be headed in the right direction?
Ez - I just love that one.
* Later, we got ice cream, although we did not have a hot chocolate ending.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fun Fun

It's been a fun week. We got a "swine flu" scare, when one of the students Serach works with was tested for it and Elianna and Kayla have both been ill; luckily, it turned out to be just fine and the kid is back in school today, as is Elianna (who went to a farm!). Kayla turns out to have just another ear infection (takes after her Daddy) along with mild pink eye (for which she has drops - joy and a half). All in all, nothing contagious, which is good, because this week starts a slew of goodbyes to friends making the (smart) move out of New York.

There are lots of posts I'd love to write; they'll have to wait.

Have a good day, everybody!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Feeling Old

I'm sure anyone older than me will rip me for this, but here we go anyway. :)
  • June 10th: My parents will celebrate their 36th anniversary.
  • June 22nd: My sister and brother-in-law will celebrate their 10th anniversary.
  • June 30th: Serach and I will celebrate our 5th (!) anniversary.
  • July 3rd: My grandparents will celebrate their 66th anniversary.
  • November 3rd: My brother and sister-in-law will celebrate their 10th anniversary.
My oldest niece, Perfect, will soon be 9 years old. Elianna is 3 years old. Kayla will be 1 year old this week. Heck, even this blog turned 4 years old yesterday. Serach and I are about to turn 26 - which is substantially closer to 30 than 20.

Whether ourselves or our friends, we've seen people come, seen people go. We've watched as people have experienced the ultimate highs and the hardest of lows. We've had friends get married. We've had friends pass away. We've watched people lose jobs, find jobs, have babies, move from one stage of life to another... it's been crazy, looking back to how we viewed life just a few short years ago and comparing it to now.

I'm feeling old.

Half-Moon K Joins OU

This is very good news in the world of kashrus, via Kosher Blog: (hat tip: Eliezer StrongBad)
The Kosher Overseers Association of America (KOAOA, or Half-Moon-K) recently announced that they’ve completed their full and thorough review of “virtually all of the companies and products” under their purview, and brought their practices up to “all of the standards that the Kosher-consuming public has the right to demand.”
KosherBlog points to the Seattle's Vaad online listing of acceptable hechsherim where it now has the Half-Moon K listed, as part of the Orthodox Union (OU).

Particularly important:
ALL DOLE PRODUCTS HAVE BEEN REVIEWED AND ARE ACCEPTABLE, with the exception of fruit cups.

Singing for Babies - and Families

One of our very close friends, Shloime Kaufman (ironically the same person we just bought our life insurance through), is putting out a charity CD next week.

The name of the CD is Avodas Tzedaka, which literally translates into A Work of Charity. All of the proceeds of the CD are going to A T.I.M.E., an organization that "is the premier, internationally acclaimed organization that offers advocacy, education, guidance, research and support through [its] many programs to Jewish men, women, and couples struggling with reproductive health and infertility."

A TIME is an amazing organization - we know of friends who have been helped tremendously by them, and it's an incredibly professional, helpful, on-top-of-everything organization that goes above and beyond even its own far-reaching mandate. From people who are having difficulty getting pregnant to people who have lost pregnancies or babies, we've yet to hear anything but awe and thanks from those who have dealt with them.

As you can see on the accompanying cover, Shloime [who previously put out Emes and Emes II] enlisted an impressive group of talent to join him in the creation of the CD: Abie Rotenberg, Dovid Gabay, Boruch Levine, Michoel Pruzansky, and A.K.A. Pella sing on different tracks, while Yitzy Waldner produced the CD and Baruch Levine composed the songs.

Yossi Zweig (at Jewish Insights) has a preview sampler as well.

The album is by a great guy, for a great cause, and knowing Shloime, it's a great CD to listen to. Keep an eye out for it and enjoy beautiful music while supporting a truly wonderful cause.

Well Waddaya Know XXVIII

WWK27's Q&A:
Who said the following? "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind".

E.B. White
5 (29%)
Robin Williams
5 (29%)
Orson Welles
3 (17%)
Stephen Colbert
4 (23%)

Votes so far: 17
This week's question is up to the right.

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