Pages

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Economics of Dating

From Forbes.com

Money matters because dating is a way of sizing someone up and assessing the value of their company.  Every decision on a date can be broken down on an economic level.  Which place did you choose, what clothes are you wearing, which beer did you order, what words did you use to describe your job, your living situation, your family?
Serial daters just want another person in their lives, one might say, at any cost.  And it’s true.  Dating does cost something.  Patience, time, vulnerability, and dollars and cents.  Long distance relationships have larger opportunity costs.  Plane or bus tickets might have been used to pay for a nicer apartment.
Fairy tales have an even steeper price.  Girls my age grew up on Disney movies and some attribute unrealistic expectations to them, but they should remember that Ariel sold her voice and Belle traded her freedom—Prince Charmings don’t come cheap and neither do plain, ordinary significant others.  Some might say that it’s all worth it.  It’s certainly good for the economy: every failed movie date provides capital to make yet another independent romantic dramedy.  Yet, I often hear people complaining about the complexity of dating and it might be because they aren’t thinking about it economically.
 Its interesting to think about dating that way. I hardly ever went to a restaurant on earlier dates because I did not think it was worth the money, especially since I paid for my own dates. But I think the final line of the article makes a lot of sense; people should not put a dollar sign on everything, but should not disregard the fact that they should look at how one chooses a partner from an economical standpoint (how much love, patience, and attention you are able to spread out over a dating period).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unorthodox

(Hat tip: Mirie) This fundraising project on Kickstarter looks interesting:
Unorthodox is a feature documentary that follows three teenagers from the modern Orthodox community as they spend a post-high school year studying in Israel. Tzipi, an intellectually gifted young woman, travels with intentions of clarifying her problems with Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law. Jake, a musician, wants to follow the religion but doesn’t see how he can reconcile his faith with his professional ambitions. Chaim, a half-Dominican bad-boy, undertakes his year of study without thinking about the possibilities of religious growth; he goes to Israel because tuition is paid for by his rabbis. In addition to documentary cinematography shot in the US and Israel, Tzipi, Chaim and Jake film themselves throughout the year with video diaries, offering an incredibly vivid and intimate glimpse into their lives. Narration throughout the film weaves Anna’s own story—of leaving the modern Orthodox community—with that of the three subjects, lending a very personal glimpse into the world of Orthodox Judaism.
They're looking to gather many small donations to complete the project, which is most of the way there already (all filming was completed, etc.). If you're interested in seeing this, read about it and donate!

Speaking of unorthodox, Chana sums up the YU Beacon story best: Writing a (poor) weak erotica-style piece with some confusing details about a girl's first-or-not time having sex with a guy she is-or-isn't in a serious relationship with is about attention-seeking, not about discussing an issue seriously. If they wished to discuss the issue of pre-marital sex among Orthodox people seriously, they could have done so by actually discussing it as a serious piece [much as Chana did with other aspects of the subject, as she notes]. Yes, there would still be much objection to this - a reasonable argument could be made for or against YU's school newspapers being the proper forum for such discussions - but at least it would be defensible [I should disclose that I did not think even Chana's were all necessary/appropriate, but they were at least defensible]. Oh, and in case it wasn't clear this was about attention, leaking it to national media is rather immature as well: Deal with the fallout within the context you wrote a piece, don't seek media to try and force and/or embarrass your university. Kudos to YU and its students for standing strongly against this, and it seems that the general consensus even from media was "...that was crappy writing."

And finally, singer/rapper Matisyahu shaved his beard. He's also still Orthodox, not "Un-Orthodox" (and looks really tired). So... who cares?




Sunday, December 11, 2011

And Then There Were Three

Welcome to the world, Ariella Shalvah Goldish! Born 8 pounds, 12 ounces (3,970 grams it said, not that anyone knows what that means) at Mt. Sinai hospital yesterday afternoon.

Elianna and Kayla are incredibly excited to be big sisters! Serach and Ariella are doing great, bH.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

House Over Health = ...Hero?

(HT: Josh Yuter)

A lady named Spike Ward penned an op-ed yesterday in the LA Times discussing how she was formerly against ObamaCare, but now that she has cancer, she has changed her mind. In her words:
The time finally came when we had to make a choice between paying our mortgage or paying for health insurance. We chose to keep our house. We made a nerve-racking gamble, and we lost.
Now, she has discovered that ObamaCare has a provision which allows her to get insurance, and this may now help save her life.

From the comments on her op-ed and on Facebook, etc., it seems as if many people are hailing this as a proof that ObamaCare is wonderful. While certainly it is wonderful for Mrs. Ward that she can now be treated without going broke, isn't this absurd? Mr. and Mrs. Ward made a conscious decision to choose their house over their health insurance, and contrary to her statement that "We chose to keep our house. We made a nerve-racking gamble, and we lost", they in fact won: They got to keep their house, and their health insurance tab is now being picked up by the rest of the country (somewhat indirectly, as she is paying premiums, but that is not the point).

Contrast that with the decisions made by millions of people each day who consciously choose to keep their health insurance intact and sacrifice in other ways: Nobody is picking up the tab for their foreclosed (or sold at a loss) homes or their cars. They don't get to keep everything they had and then have the rest of the country cover anything they can't afford anymore. It is a horrible testament to this country that someone's irresponsible and selfish "gamble" is being guaranteed by the federal government* and that that burden is being carried by people who made responsible decisions.

* Note that this is no different than the bank bailouts in that sense, except that at least the argument there was (however much I may disagree) that despite their irresponsibility, a bailout was necessary to avoid others being hurt as well. Here, the only beneficiary is Mrs. Ward and her family, who get to keep their house and have her healthcare paid for by everyone else.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jewish Economics Survey - Redux

A few years back, a number of friends kept asking me questions about finances, particularly when it came to getting married. "What does it cost to live for a young couple in their first few months? First year? First three years? With a kid? In a 2-bedroom apartment vs. a 1-bedroom?" ...You get the idea.

While I would try to answer as best as I could, at the end of the day, everybody's expenses are different. I decided to try e-mailing some questions to friends, and as friends and I thought of more and more questions, it was decided to make it into a Google form. From there, it turned into a questionnaire, and finally, the Jewish Economics Survey was born. Thanks to the help of many individuals (particularly Tamar Snyder Chaitovsky) and through much discussion, the data gathered was formally presented to extremely engaging crowds, and the knowledge gained has impacted many people tremendously - including myself. For example, it was only after creating the survey that we finally took to heart how important having life insurance is. My favorite letter has always been this one:
Right when you came out with the survey, I took it. I also emailed you to say thank you for giving me the nudge to speak to my chasan. I am happy to announce that one year into our marriage, we are DEBT FREE and even have savings (two-months of salary!).
What's truly great (besides this couple) is that this was a completely side benefit of the survey, one which admittedly wasn't realized until after a number of people had already taken it. The primary purpose of the survey was to have information for people to utilize while preparing for different stages of life, whether sharing a singles apartment in Washington Heights, being a newly married couple in Baltimore, having two kids in Brooklyn, raising three teenagers in Cleveland, or surviving five tuition payments in Houston. What people have taken out of the survey for themselves has been nothing short of incredible.

It's now about to be 2012, and with some tweaks, I'd like to give the survey another go-round. A number of organizations have expressed serious interest in the survey and its potential utilities, and it would be incredible if we had the resources to do this in a more formal fashion - but first, let's see what can be done just like this. To have at least some understanding of what the cost of living is in various Orthodox communities in the country is would be fantastic; and to be able to identify just what people are struggling with most - and to what extent - is incredibly important.

The Jewish Economics Survey is completely anonymous and takes most people about 10-15 minutes to complete*. Please take the time to fill out the survey and help us all have a more clear picture of both our present and our future.

Please also pass along and share the survey with friends and family, spouses and Facebook friends at http://tinyurl.com/jeconomics. Please share any feedback you have so this can continually be improved upon, and thanks so much for your time and help!

~ Ezzie
P.S. If you have formal survey training, actuarial skills, and/or programming skills and would like to help, we would love to improve upon both the survey itself and its presentation via a dedicated website which would present information for members of the community to prepare themselves for various changes, from a move to a marriage, from a birth to a child entering high school. If you are interested, please reach out to us at jeconomics@gmail.com or myself directly at serandez@gmail.com. Thank you very much.
If you find that it takes longer, a) please let me know! and b) it's probably good that you took it. :)

Boring

"Boring is the new exciting." ~ Cymbaline
When we're young, we often tend to love chaos. Chaos is exciting! Disorganization makes life interesting! Being all over the place is fun!

...and then, it gets tiring. A friend who was dating a few years back had what seemed to some people a very "boring" life: He would get up, go to work, come home, learn, watch some TV shows on his computer, travel to date sometimes... some people didn't understand it. "That seems so... dull." But he was happy. Some of those people had "exciting" lives, but they often were not.

Stability and predictability (in any aspect of life) are often the key to allowing people to adjust to difficult times. If life is chaotic, then everything that doesn't go perfectly can sends things into disarray. When everything is going smoothly, if something goes wrong, it's far easier to handle and fix. This is true at home, at work, in school, and in life.

Amen, Cymbaline.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How I Met Serach, Part XV: You're WHAT?! and Rockefeller Park


This is Part XV of a series about how I proposed to 
Serach. To see the series, you could simply use the guide link under the header of the blog or this link right here titled "How I Met Serach".
Ezzie's note:  In Part XIII, I explained the difficulty in writing this series. We spent this past weekend at my in-laws in Monsey, and I realized on Friday night that Shabbos was the 8th (!!) anniversary of when I first met Serach that fateful pre-Thanksgiving eve. I determined yet again to complete the series as best as I could, so here goes. 

When we last left off, I was calling my parents to tell them about the girl I was dating. While perhaps initially surprised that I was dating, I believe they were at first fine with the idea... until they realized that I meant it was serious. And by serious, I meant Serious - that I wanted to marry this girl. At this point, they... panicked a bit. I am pretty sure I remember my mother explaining to my father, dumbfounded herself, that I was quite serious about this. My friends and roommates from that semester claim that it was a rather... "loud" discussion from what they could make out from the other rooms in the apartment, which rings a bell.

I do know that I discovered shortly thereafter that they had, late that night, called my Rebbe and principal from high school whom I and they both respect heavily and who knows Serach's family well from growing up to discuss it with him (more on that later), and I found out months later that they had also woken up our best friends in Israel in the middle of the night to ask them about her and her family as well. Luckily, they all had only positive things to say, so that mitigated many of their initial concerns and at least kept things from going insane... for a bit, anyway.

This is the point in our dating where a lot of the history merges together. A lot of what I remember in an order makes no sense, as they had to have happened earlier or later, so if stories seem to contradict, that's why.

One of our most beautiful dates, one which I recommend to most people who've dated a little bit (NOT for early dates), was when we went to the Rockefeller Center area in late December one night. You don't need to be Christian to appreciate the snowy and lit up trees, the beautiful ice sculptures, and the generally calm yet festive atmosphere in the air. You don't have to ice skate to appreciate watching people having fun on the ice skating rink. It's fun, it's relaxing, and it's romantic (shut off your phones). I still remember it as one of our most relaxing, fun dates, walking slowly through the area with the sculptures and stopping every now and then to just look around.

Eight years later, it's easy to see that the calm times are hard to come by. Between our jobs, the kids, and everything else that goes on, life always seems to be incredibly busy. I personally take advantage of quiet hours in the middle of the night to think and reflect, but it's not the same, and certainly isn't something we're able to share - if we're both up, then there's always something that needs to get done, something we need to remind each other about or a story we need to tell. A friend who stopped by today once told me a great analogy for marriage: When Troy Aikman was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, in their first training camp session, he would take the snaps, step back... and hold the ball, waiting and waiting and waiting, until someone would tag him for a "sack". After this happened a few times, he was asked what he was waiting for. He answered that he was waiting for a receiver to get open - he was used to a college game where his WRs would be able to get wide open and it was easy for him to throw to them. One of the coaches told him, "This is the pros. Here, that IS open." Once you're married (or hit other major transitions in life), time disappears rapidly. You have to take advantage of every opportunity, or everything that needs to get done slowly (or rapidly) piles up on you, until it's impossible to manage. Troy Aikman learned his lesson and became a very good NFL quarterback, winning a few Super Bowls along the way. In a marriage, that's not as easy, but it's a lesson worth learning.

That all said, as important as it is to try and make some calm and quiet time, even when we can't, we can always think back to times when we could - and strive to capture more of those in the future. That night, walking around Rockefeller Center with Serach, was beautiful, and I always remember it.

Next up: It's Shidduch Time!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some People Dream Big



When I watched this video it made me think about how people make career choices. I mean does anybody actually grow thinking they want to be an accountant or do they fall into their career choice because they found something they want to do or because they happen to be good at it? When I think about my career choice, I know that I love my field and when I first heard about it, I knew thats what I wanted to do with my life. But would I have chosen it as a child and followed that dream of this job? Unlikely. As a child I thought I wanted to be a Rebbi. I adored my rebbeim and I had some really good ones as a child. Then I entered high-school and had such bad experiences that I never wanted to look at that profession. 

So my question is specifically in terms of dreams and modeling (not economic factors)
A) Do we have a shortage of good teachers because of the bad teacher experience, because of the shortage of good male role-models in education? 
B) Is there an interplay of having more women going into education because of the difference in quality of women educators? 
C) Any other comments?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Perspective

Via Princess D'Tiara, this video of Emmanuel Kelly auditioning for X Factor 2011 (Australia, I believe) is simply moving. I'm not sure who is more amazing; him, his brother, or his mom.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

R' Schachter Slams Batei Dinin

In an interview with Ami published on VIN, R' Herschel Schachter slams battei dinin (Jewish courts of law). [Hat tip: Eliezer StrongBad]

There is less of a surprise in the content of the interview (sadly) than in that he so openly discussed it, particularly the issues which he finds to be the most problematic (including to'ainim, people choosing and paying off their own judges, and the like). He offers a number of small suggestions that would help improve things, but overall he seems to feel that it depends on the people and their intent coming into beis din. If they have no interest in yashrus or justice then it is very difficult for a beis din to be formed properly and to mete out justice appropriately.

The most telling quotes:
Q: Would you call then the problem in the bais din system a crisis? A: It’s worse than a crisis. They tell me that there is a prominent talmid chacham in Flatbush who tells his baalei battim to go to a secular court because they stand a better chance of yoshor [justice] in a goyishe [non-Jewish] court than in a din Torah. If you ask him, he’ll deny it, but that’s what he tells people. Unfortunately, I think that the comment about yoshor is true.
Q: How do we bring public awareness to these problems? A: Rabbonim should speak about it. Why is there so much cheating in business? Rabbonim should get up once a year in shuls and speak about Lo sigzol, that you’re not allowed to cheat in business, and that you’re not allowed to cheat on your income tax. If you talk about it long enough it will have an effect on some of the baal habattim. Rabbonim have certain topics that they talk about in hashkafa. Let them give chizuk about gezel.
Q: Could there be a watchdog group, with rabbanim getting together to examine how the batei din are behaving? A: It’s a safek sakana [possible danger] for the watchdog group; they’re going to be killed.

Somewhere in Between

I can't be
Losing sleep over this
No I can't
And now I cannot stop pacing
Give me a few hours
I'll have this all sorted out
If my mind would just stop racing 
Cause I cannot stand still
I can't be this unsturdy
This cannot be happening 
This is over my head
But underneath my feet
Cause by tomorrow morning I'll have this thing beat
And everything will be back to the way that it was 
I wish that it was just that easy
Cause I'm waiting for tonight
Been waiting for tomorrow
I'm somewhere in between
What is real and just a dream? 
~ Somewhere in Between by Lifehouse
I was sitting at this computer tonight, not quite ready to head to sleep, wanting to write... but not really sure what I wanted to write. I noticed that my Pandora was paused, so I hit play - and the above song started playing, and it was absolutely perfect.

Earlier today, a couple of good friends who are in town for Sukkos stopped by briefly to say hello, and one friend noted that the present time must be a nice feeling for me in a lot of ways: Thank God, some important aspects of life are looking up nicely, and before those "get going", I have a couple weeks to relax - particularly weeks that include Sukkos, which is always a really nice Yom Tov. I agreed (and do agree), but while this has been true for a few weeks now, there's this other feeling that comes along with it that's a bit weird: A feeling of being caught somewhere in between.

(I had written much more, but removed it.)

Suffice it to say that being somewhere in between is odd: It's hard, but it's not necessarily bad. As the song says, your mind is racing, but in circles. You feel unsturdy, but you feel that tomorrow you will be in far more control... probably. You've been waiting for so much, and prepared and worked hard for them, and now there's not much to do but wait - and then take it from there. Meanwhile, you just wait, knowing what's coming.

Here's to the future: May it be completely real, yet feel like a dream.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Life, Like History, Repeats Itself

One of the nice aspects of having had a blog for a number of years is the ability to look back and recall what was going on, what happened, and how we felt about everything through various periods. I was curious to read what I'd written in prior years around Yom Kippur, if anything, as I am aware of the near preachy tone that can come across in such posts. At the same time, there can often be much meaning, particularly to myself, knowing what was meant then and especially now looking back, being able to view it from the present.

When I glanced back, I was struck by how apropos is the (ironically titled) post Apropos & Thank You from just before Yom Kippur in 2008. Admittedly, this year was probably a bit more difficult than that one, for a variety of reasons beyond anyone's control or knowledge - and similarly, there was only so much anyone could have done for us even if they were aware of it all. But that does not take away from what was written then, which is just as applicable today:
On behalf of Serach and myself, we'd like to wish everyone a g'mar chasima tova and a wonderful year. We'd like to thank all those who made this past year as good as it was; it had the potential to be a very difficult year for us in many ways, yet every time that was the case something would happen, someone would help us out, in ways that we will never truly be able to express our gratitude for. Often, we hear and see an understandable and important emphasis and focus on the big issues, the large gestures, and the need to focus on one's own self first - and those certainly do usually come first. But those who can and have done the little things, who have taken care of small but important details, and perhaps without even realizing it have tremendously impacted people by their simple care and friendship, thank you. It was without a doubt the little things that have gotten us through these hard times.

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

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

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

Dink and... Doink

In 2009-2010, politicians (mostly Democratic) went after banks. The CARD act in 2009, Dodd-Frank in 2010, and other laws were passed to restrict various fees and limit interest rates being charged by banks. The obvious result of this was that banks began making a lot less money, particularly in certain areas - for example, banks could no longer charge retailers "swipe fees" for every transaction using their debit cards.

The even more obvious result is that banks, starting with Bank of America, will now charge debit card fees of $5 per month. Whoops!

Here is what inherently bothers me about how people stupidly approach regulations: There is never an end to them. Unless you completely restrict all free choice and eliminate the free market (and there are those who advocate this... as long as it's not for them), there is no way to "control" the market. People and companies do things and create primarily because it is worthwhile for them to do so. As soon as it ceases being worthwhile, they will stop. This is not "evil". This is reality. 

The shortsighted approach people and politicians have when it comes to how regulations impact the economy is mind-boggling. I recently was reading about GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain, and was pointed to video of a 1990s town hall meeting on President Clinton's healthcare plan, where then pizza company CEO Herman Cain challenged the effects of President Clinton's proposed plan on businesses such as his own. While Clinton's handle on the subject was solid, Cain was quite masterful in showing that for most businesses the impact would be quite harsh... and even though Clinton suggested passing that cost on to customers (!), that simply would not be enough, nor would smaller or midsize companies be able to compete long enough with the largest ones in that situation. 

Let's forget for a minute that restricting freedom is wrong. What happens when a rule is made? There is a reaction. And if that reaction does not fit perfectly into the rule-makers' designs? Another rule is made... and this goes on forever, never solving the original problem fully while creating entirely different sets of problems along the way. In the comments to the last post, Vox Populi and I were having another positive and interesting debate, and one of the features was an aside on whether government should support people's post-high school educations. He was of the opinion that we could make college completely free for all, and this would service us better as a country. I strongly disagree for many reasons, and some of these are obvious objections, but for fun, we debated how this would work.

Essentially, what would end up happening in such a scenario (and I'm going to exaggerate on this, don't take it too seriously) is that there would be created a myriad of rules, as the response to every flaw in a rule is simply creating another rule: College education is free, to help people get a leg up in society. But, we don't want people going to school forever and never contributing, so we'll cap it at two degrees. But what if someone's first degrees don't work out or become obsolete? We'd have to make an exception. But then others would take advantage of this exception. Plus, what about people going to medical school? And what if someone is demonstrably better, and getting this third degree would help them contribute more? But that wouldn't be fair to the other person who didn't grow up with some of those advantages. But maybe we shouldn't support people who aren't going to contribute as much? Or maybe we should cap the number of people in each major? Or perhaps we should create a board which determines who should go into what field based on the skill sets they currently have. Also, now that we have X number of X major, but there aren't enough jobs for them, that would be a waste of taxpayer resources, so we should force companies to hire these students. The extra expense could be a tax credit to those businesses, picked up by the taxpayers. ...and so on. Meanwhile, costs would continue to skyrocket with no real value added - certainly not a value worth the cost. 

A good example of value not worth the cost was the "stimulus", and another good one is President Obama's latest jobs proposal. Essentially, he wants to spend about $450 billion dollars, which would hopefully create about 2 million jobs. Essentially, the cost per job created would be $200,000 per job. How is that logical? I'm unemployed - I'll take $100,000, stop collecting unemployment, and government can keep the difference, is that a good deal? I'm betting that 4.5 million unemployed people would take that deal - how would that impact the unemployment rate, you think?

The silly approach of ignoring the consequences of regulations and other approaches within government needs to end. Instead, it's used to vilify individuals and corporations for doing what actually makes sense given the cards they are consistently being dealt by reality and government.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Proposed List of Demands from Occupy Wall St.

From here:
Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.
Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.
Demand four: Free college education.
Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.
Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.
Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.
Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.
Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.
Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.
Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.
Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.
Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.
These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.


Klal Perspectives

Readers of this blog will most likely be very interested in a new publication that has sprung into existence with a strong initial entry, Klal Perspectives:
Klal Perspectives’s goal is to provide the Torah community with a forum to address and debate the major issues confronting the community today. We envision a quarterly journal in which a diverse group of rabbinic and lay leaders will share their varying perspectives on a given topic in each issue, with an eye to not only describing problems but also pointing to possible solutions. Input from the broader community will be sought and published as well, in order to broaden the discussion and enlist as many talents as possible in developing strategies for the future.
The mixture of people they've enlisted on this first issue is rather impressive, particularly considering the difficulty in drawing submissions for a first-time publication such as this (as the editor noted to me via e-mail). The journal wisely asked three questions to the writers, and let them decide where to go from there. I've had a chance to read a couple of the pieces so far, and they were fantastic.

In particular, it is heartwarming and comforting to see that this will not be a publication dedicated to either sugarcoating the problems we face as a community nor bashing individuals, organizations, or groups - nor is it unafraid to look at new approaches and to correct accepted assumptions and approaches which may no longer work as they once did (if they ever did at all). In short, it is genuinely and properly dedicated to solving real problems for the long-term rather than complaining about the ones we currently face.

One especially excellent essay is by Moishe Bane, on the Unintended Consequences of Compelling Strategies. He discusses briefly but thoroughly as examples three "representative topics" which are worthy of being addressed, including:

  • The Decline of Fatherhood - the increasing lack of fathers taking a major role in the education of and involvement with their children's lives and education
  • The Consequences of Isolationism - and how attention should be paid to "the impact that has had on both the broader Jewish community and on the frum community itself".
  • Communal Infrastructure - my personal favorite.
A choice quote: 
Attendant with the expansion of the population and its affluence, local educational and service organizations have blossomed – but without coordination or objective consideration of communal priorities or implications. At the forefront of communal failures has been the virtual absence of even the effort to engage in deliberate, long-term planning, except in extremely select, localized instances. Despite the increased sophistication and affluence of the Torah community, communal decisions are made incidentally and with virtually no accumulation of data or infrastructure expertise. At the same time, the community confronts increasingly complex and serious social and educational challenges – challenges which are expected to grow.
Similarly, the community fails to engage, or even encourage, efforts at evaluating community priorities or eliminating duplication and inefficiency. Institutional transparency and economic and programmatic accountability remain elusive, as even active and influential philanthropists decline to impose such basic expectations on the beneficiaries of their largess.
The ability to recognize these issues and how they must be analyzed will be key to solving these issues, and the new journal seems dedicated to doing so, and doing so properly. In the original questions, the journal takes for granted that there simply is a large lack of empirical data to go on from which to design the future, and asks what data needs to be gathered to be successful. This is absolutely the proper approach, as data is the backbone to understanding what exists, what is real and what is perceived, and what is realistic as we try to move forward as a klal.

I wish the journal much success and look forward to its future, and suggest readers sign up to receive their quarterly journals. I believe it can have a strong positive impact on the Jewish Community's future, both in the short-term and especially in the long-term.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Yes, It Looks Different

It appears the time has come to finally update to the new style of templates, and with G6 talking about it I started perusing the options. I'll still fix it up quite a bit, but meanwhile this is to start out. I believe you can choose your own view from the options on the top left, so enjoy.

One reason I'm switching it up is because this will probably become SerandEz v.4.0 or so, as I mentioned to a friend recently - more consistent, more essay/editorial in style, and more discussion inducing (or not, that's up to the readers). I hope everyone enjoys; if you're still reading after all these years, most likely you will, and thanks for continuing to come back. :)

UPDATE: Reverting for now, since apparently I can't insert any of my sidebar or header items at the moment. I'll switch once they've worked those issues out and/or started to allow widget functionality.

~ Ezzie

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Day To Disconnect

I have been wanting to post about this for a while. The video says it all, perfectly:



I think we so often think that we need to be accessible, or accessing, at all times - always connected. (Myself included, if not especially so.) One especially wise aspect of this campaign is that it was scheduled for today, Tzom Gedalya - immediately following a '3-day Yom Tov'. Yes - I had 92 e-mails when I got my phone and computer on. But I didn't turn my phone on for about an hour and a half after Shabbos... and the world didn't end. In fact, it hadn't ended the entire 74 hours my phone was off, or while my computer was off. I didn't even miss anything I really "needed" to see or learn that couldn't wait until I read about it later... and I'm a Red Sox hater as much as anyone who is sick of Boston sports teams.

I know that today is Tzom Gedalya, which means we're not going to be out and about. I know it's a Sunday, which means I will be wanting to watch and follow and track anything NFL-related, particularly the two pools I'm in and the two fantasy teams I manage. But I think this is a brilliant project, so I'm going to give it a real shot: 3 hours. I'm going to tough but fair and honest with myself: 3 real hours, but ones where I think I can "handle" being disconnected: 10-11am; 12-1pm; and 6:45-7:45pm. For those who understand, that's a morning hour but before the injury reports and the like are finalized; the hour where my pool picks are locked, but before the games start; and the hour as the fast is finishing and then finishes.

The site says its quest is to get 1,000,000 hours of disconnection. Join me.

For those interested, here is other (equally professional and quite good) video from the site:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Truly Hope No Part of This Story is True.

from here

Over 30,000 British schoolchildren, some as young as three, have had their names registered on a government database and branded “racist” or “homophobic” for using playground insults, infractions that could impact their future careers.
The shocking figures were disclosed after civil liberties group the Manifesto Club made a Freedom of Information Act request which betrayed the fact that kids who used petty jibes are now being treated as thought criminals by education authorities.
34,000 incidents of “racism” in total were reported for the year 2009-2010, with nursery school toddlers as young as three being put on a state database for using the words “gay” and “lesbian”. One child who called another “broccoli head” was also reported to authorities. Other cases included a child who used the word “gaylord,” while another who told a teacher “this work is gay,” was also added to the thought crime database.
The majority of the reported cases involved primary school children.
“The record can be passed from primaries to secondaries or when a pupil moves between schools,” reports the Daily Mail.


“And if schools are asked for a pupil reference by a future employer or a university, the record could be used as the basis for it, meaning the pettiest of incidents has the potential to blight a child for life.”
Schools are being pressured to report such incidents to authorities and face punishments for not doing so under anti-bullying policies.
This is a clear example of how hate crime laws have brazenly been hijacked by the state to get children institutionalized on criminal databases at an early age. This is about the state dictating what your child can think and say – it’s the thought police on steroids.
Orwell talked about the state reducing language via Newspeak in his book 1984. By eliminating the very words that come out of children’s mouths and punishing them for thinking certain thoughts, all critical thinking is ultimately abolished, and Big Brother assumes the supreme power to dictate reality – a dictatorship over our very minds.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

How Time Warner Lost A Customer

Sorry for the lack of posting, it's been a busy few weeks, including a nice trip to Baltimore and Cleveland.

About a year ago, we moved into our current residence. Prior to moving, Time Warner Cable was offering a nice Triple Play Package - for $99/month, we would get phone, cable internet, and cable, including HDTV reception in two rooms, and we wouldn't be tied to a contract. Great, we signed up.

The disasters started immediately. First, they didn't show up on installation day. When we called them about it, they apologized but said they tried to call our home phone to reschedule. Except, we didn't have a home phone yet, because that's what they were coming to set up! Brilliant. They reschedule for about 2 weeks (!) later. If I'm remembering right, nobody shows again, we call and complain again, they want to reschedule for a week later, then someone shows up and does a nice job installing everything. A week later they call to make sure we're home for the installation, and when we tell them someone came the week before, they seem surprised. Odd. After numerous calls and complaints, we are given free cable channels we don't want and free DVR for 1 year which we didn't need, but isn't horrible. Woo.

A few months later we realize we're getting charged for an HDTV box. We never ended up buying a second TV nor can we hook up the laptop to the cable (need an IR thingy which I can't seem to find), so the second HD box is just sitting in our living room unused. We ask them about it, and they insist that only one HD box is free... except we were told differently. I have them remove the charges and tell them they're welcome to come collect the HD box, which has never been used. They agree to this, and that's that... until the guy comes to get the box. He calls well out of the time that I said worked, when I was not home, so I suggested calling back a couple hours later. He said fine. He never showed. I forgot about it (I don't use the box, it's out of the way), until I saw I kept getting charges. I called and complained again. The service reps insisted they could only remove 3 months of wrongful charges, which was ridiculous. Finally someone collected the HD box, and I called back again to get the rest of the months back.

I should probably add that every call required approximately 1 hour of my time, between putting in my information 3-4 times on each call as I got shuttled from service to service, wait times, and actual conversation. It's atrocious. Recently we saw charges for the DVR service. They claimed we only were supposed to get 6 months free (false), despite the fact they had given 8 months already. I simply told them to look at the history. Once again, after much arguing, someone finally gave the charges back.

Through all that, and a couple outages, we kept the services... but then it all really went to hell. A few weeks ago, while videoconferencing for the first time simultaneously with a few people, the conference froze. I thought perhaps it had been too much for the computer. I checked everything - it was fine. I noticed nothing online was working, so I checked and restarted the router, the cable box, the computer... all to no avail. Then I noticed the phones were out, so I called (using my minutes) from my cell. A very nice lady checked to make sure there were no outages in our area, then did everything she could to help, all to no avail - all told, about an hour of time yet again. Meanwhile, I can't do anything other than use my cell. When we finished all that, she got notice of an outage in our area. Fair enough - I asked about compensation, she said that I should call for it after the outage is over (it lasted a number of hours or so in the end). No problem.

When I called for compensation, I asked for what I felt was a reasonable amount. The customer service rep claimed that they have fixed amounts in case of an outage, and offered me about $15 - an amount I thought was insulting. I asked for the manager, and was put through... and waited. And waited. And waited some more, for over 40 minutes. At that point I received the biggest jerk ever to work in customer service.

Mr. Manager was rude from the get go. When I noted that I'd been on the phone almost an hour, he said nothing, just ignored it and kept talking. I stopped him to note that he should at least apologize for my wait, and he grumbled something or other. When I explained the situation, he said the customer service rep had made an error: He should have offered three dollars and fourteen cents. Incredulous, I said that's insane, and again asked for a more reasonable amount. He insisted that $3.14 was the appropriate rate. We argued for half an hour, with him being incredibly rude the entire time. I asked for his manager - he insisted he was in charge and had no manager, and that he was the top ranking person at night. After 20 minutes more of this, including my demanding a transcript of the call and his insisting that he couldn't put me to his boss' voicemail and that in fact nobody has voicemail or email there, I asked for a call back from his boss, which he said he could do. I asked why he hadn't offered - he didn't reply. He put in for me to get a call back and a transcript.

I never got either.

When I called again, the customer service rep and her boss were both properly appalled and took down my info. They gave me back $25, the max they said they are allowed, and suggested calling the customer retention department when I noted that other services were offering very nice deals.

I then went online to ask for the customer retention department number. The chat agent immediately gave me the number - great. I called the number, and it started ringing. And ringing. And ringing. And ringing. I started a new chat, and the new agent gave me all the canned responses "I understand your frustration", etc. He took a few minutes, but gave me a new number... the regular customer service line. No thanks, I said - if I wanted to waste another hour of my time going through four levels of people to get to customer retention I'd have done so, but oddly, I'm not in the mood. I suggested that if TWC wants to retain a customer, they can call me. He said they can't set up a call from the chat service as I wished him a good day.

Oh well. Bye-bye, Time Warner.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

Hi everyone,
I'm looking for a room in a kosher/shomer Shabbat female apartment on the Upper West Side for September 1st.
If you have any leads please leave them in the comments.
I really appreciate your help!
(I have been checking bangitout.com several times a day.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nice Guys... Nearing First?

While the adage goes "nice guys finish last", the Cleveland Indians are nearing first place in the AL Central. But a nice bonus as an Indians fan is that they are truly nice guys. In a really incredible story, utility infielder Jack Hannahan found out that his wife was going into a very premature labor - beginning of the third trimester. The Indians were playing in Boston at the time, and there were no night flights out of Logan Airport in Boston to Cleveland. The best the Indians' traveling secretary could find was a 6am flight which would definitely be too late, but at least he would be there soon after the birth. They looked into charter jets, but a charter jet would run $35,000 - no small sum even for a major league baseball player, especially a journeyman free agent to be who is 31 years old as Hannahan is.

That's where the rest of the Indians, led by stud Justin Masterson, stepped in:

But then Masterson came over and asked what was happening. He had a thought, and wasn't taking no for an answer.
Walters recounted the conversation:
"Book it," Masterson told Hannahan.
"I can't. It costs too much," Hannahan replied.
"Book it!" Masterson said.
Then Masterson passed a hat around the clubhouse. Teammates immediately contributed $35,000.
Hannahan took the private plane, arrived in Cleveland about 3 a.m. and reconnected with his wife just 15 minutes before John Joseph Hannahan V was born. Though he weighed just 2 pounds, 11 ounces at birth and hasn't come home from the NICU yet, baby reportedly is doing fine. As are mom and dad.
Read the whole story on Yahoo (via WFNY), and read and watch Hannahan talk about it on MLB (and see the other video on the page where the Tribe announcers tell over some more information as well). Such a classy story and team.

Go Tribe!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reshaping By Ones

Lifehacker recently linked to an interesting piece in Psychology Today which essentially discusses how people are wired to care more about individuals than groups, or as they put it, "Why Millions Can Die and We Won't Care." It's all rather interesting if somewhat unsurprising, but the examples they gave made me wonder why more charities (particularly tzedakos and/or schools) don't utilize this information to their advantage:


In [a] study people were paid to participate in an unrelated psychological quiz, and on the way out they were given the opportunity to donate up to $5.00 of their earnings to Save The Children. They were given three options:
  • They could donate to help Rokia, a 7 year-old Malian girl. The subjects were shown a picture of Rokia. They were willing to give $2.25.
  • They could donate to help the hundreds of thousands of children in eastern Africa who were starving. They were willing to give only $1.15.
  • The third option was to help Rokia specifically, but along with this request subjects were also given the statistics about the other starving east African kids. The same people who were willing to give $2.25 when it was just for Rokia, were only willing to give $1.40 when the request to help Rokia included information about the larger statistics!

Fascinating, right? Moreover:
Other studies showed similar results. For example, people would donate $11 to save one child but only $5 to save eight. The same goes for single events—like a tsunami—versus an ongoing event—like starving children.
One of the first thoughts that came to mind was the approach some schools have, where they basically require parents to either give or fundraise on behalf of the school ("give or get"). This is (perhaps accidentally) rather smart and effective: Firstly, it splits the burden up among hundreds of people, with a much greater net reach. But more specifically, the givers will identify their charity with the child of those parents who are asking for the funds, and this may make them more willing to give more money.

But more importantly, individual stories are always stronger. When schools focus on one individual story and why they need support to help that child's dream, it has a stronger impact on donors. Recently I found that even bringing the numbers down from an overall support to a specific support was incredibly effective. I am on the Alumni Board at Lander College, and we did a scholarship drive during the summer to help financially strapped students for this coming school year. Just upon hearing the individualized impact the prior year's small donations had been able to have made encouraged everyone on the Board to donate more themselves, and it was a really strong pitch to other alumni. As soon as I (and others) would mention how a dozen or so students had been able to more easily afford their tuition, people would suddenly be far more interested in offering their support. It seems clear that being able to directly associate giving with a recipient, and therefore feeling that one has made a (more) significant impact, helps encourage greater levels of charity.

It would seem a reasonable idea for Jewish schools (and charities) to attempt such pitches, whether focusing on individual children who need financial assistance, or by idealizing the education of a class through the persona of a single student, and how giving support will help that child succeed. It will not solve the current crisis, but perhaps it can lessen its impact just a bit.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Netanyahu's Speech - Translated by sub-par Ulpan Student

You have to know some basic Hebrew for this. It is utterly brilliant.

The byline on the video says: For more info about Hahafuch group: http://www.facebook.com/hahafuch And remember, if you don't think Israel is funny then you haven't seen our show.

Written by Aaron Friedman
www.aaronfriedmancomedy.com

Google Celebrates Tu B'Av

Hat tip: Binny

http://www.google.co.il/

Very cool.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Downgrade

Obama: "And the markets agree with me."
Markets: Dow Below 11,000; Nasdaq, S&P Lose 5% After Obama Addresses Downgrade (Yahoo)

Whoops!

Hasn't the time come for President Obama to stop thinking that people will believe something just because he says it on camera? That worked as a candidate - not as President. It is doubtful that even most Republicans and conservatives expected him to end up Jimmy Carter-esque in quality, but right now it's looking that that will be the company he keeps as far as Presidents go. That's rather sad for someone who - regardless of one's feelings about him - came in as someone with incredible oratory skills, polish, and who showed quickly that his views on defense could shift as his understanding of it grew with the office. Liberals certainly expected better of him (in different ways), but nobody of any stripe expected a Presidency this poor.

(It is perhaps just as sad that there is no current Republican candidate that one can point to and say "That would be a huge upgrade!")

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hush Author Unveils

In a rather brave and well-written piece on the Huffington Post, Hush author "Eishes Chayil" has revealed her identity as Judy Brown. (Interestingly, someone outed her on Frum Satire months back though it seems to have been the only prior mention.)

In her piece:
I accidentally learned what the words molestation and rape meant at age 23, after telling a therapist I met about something I had witnessed happening to a friend when we were children. Suddenly I realized I had been talking to strangers all my life. After I started meeting with victims and speaking with therapists, I began to encounter the community's wall of denial. These are things Jews don't do, I was told. It was easy to say it was all a lie or just faulty memories of childhood.

When I first tried to write about abuse in our community, to use the words needed to describe what was happening to so many children, I was firmly told not to.

Some subjects are better left in silence, the rabbis said. Orthodox Jews did not need such words. Those were words for gentiles. We had built walls and had built them high; the outside world could never enter. But as the walls grew higher and wider, we forgot look inside, to see that the most dangerous enemy always grows from within.

The abusers, trusted men wearing traditional garb, had not killed their victims, after all. But they did not need to. Some victims, driven to despair by years of enforced silence and secret shame, killed themselves.

"What will it take for them to listen?" one young man, a victim of horrific abuse, once asked me. "What will it take for them to finally realize what they're doing to their own children?"

It took something unspeakable, something none of us even knew could happen: a murder so brutal, so uncomprehending, we still wake up each morning wondering that life dares go on. What do we teach our children now? How had our walls failed to protect us?

But things haven't come to this. They have always been like this because of that misplaced blind trust. Perhaps now it is time to see it, to crack wide open the secret box of words and give them to our children as weapons, as a promise that they will always know what is happening to them, and be able to describe it so they can ask for help. A world without words is not a safe and warm place; it is a dangerous one, where children become mute victims of torture.

Six months after my book, "Hush," came out, my publisher and I began receiving threats in the mail intended to intimidate us for daring to expose these unspeakable truths about my beloved community. The message was clear: I had violated the rule that said victims must protect the community from their own crimes. Now, I would pay.

For too long we have tiptoed around our flaws with fear and caution, pushing them into the shadows in hopes they will disappear. For too long, victims have been made to be the villains, and abuse was called loshon harah, evil talk. For too long, we have refused to honestly discuss the horrific possibilities, and in doing so allowed our children to fall victim to them. And for too long, I have allowed my own fear to make me part of a wall of silence -- guilty for what I had seen, guilty for what I had written.

I refuse to continue to allow that fear to force me into hiding over a book that should have been written long ago. I no longer want to be known only as Eishes Chayil when my name is Judy Brown. I must find the courage to stand with the victims who carry the burden of our silence for the rest of their lives.

I originally wrote my book under a pseudonym to protect my family and friends from community retribution, but so far we have only hurt ourselves. Maybe now, because of Leiby's tragedy, things will change. Maybe now, we will finally teach our children what we should have taught them years ago: morality has no garb.

Children have always gotten hurt in our world -- sometimes quickly, walking home from school, sometimes slowly, piece by piece, over years of abuse and terror. Perhaps we live in a world that is black and white, perhaps we want to keep it that way, but we must at least know that there is still a whole lot of gray in it, strangers live among friends and that such words, after all, are very complicated to define.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Heroes

Two videos worth watching (via IsraellyCool and Deadspin)

The trailer for Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall's movie about borderline personality disorder (BPD), which Marshall discovered he had and now is using his experiences to educate the public about.
After three months of treatment and therapy, psychological and neurological exams at Boston's McLean Hospital, the training ground for Harvard University medical students, Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall believes he's finally at the root of his struggles.
During the summer of 2011, following a domestic dispute that led to his wife's arrest [she allegedly stabbed him], he been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, or BPD.
Short documentary on Israeli lone soldier Michael Levin, one of three soldiers killed on August 1, 2006 in clashes with Hizbullah in the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab. It is quite moving, and worth the time to watch.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plagiarism in the (Frum) Press

UPDATED:

Please see updates at the bottom.

**the following post was not written by Stam. It was written by a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous and who does not have posting privileges on SerandEz :)**

My first taste of Internet plagiarism came in a bittersweet form.

It started out in my email inbox, with the subject line "FWD: fwd: fwd: FWD: fwd: very funny!! MUST READ!!!!!" Needless to say, I was hardly intrigued. I started to read, and the words looked very familiar.

As you may have guessed, I'd written the email. Not as an email, but as a post on my blog. My first thought was "cool, people like my blog posts enough to send them around as email forwards." But as my eyes scanned the email for the credit for this "must read, very funny" email, I was exceedingly disappointed. No name, no link, nothing.

You know those famous emails that are credit "author unknown?" Well now I know how they start.

My second taste also came in the form of an email, but this one was a link to a "frum" forum, where some poster was reaping compliments off of a post...copied directly from my blog. This time it hurt a little more than it felt nice. Someone was gaining off of my writing (even something as minor as a compliment), and it wasn't me. How is that fair?

When asked by my friend if I was going to complain, my response was simple. "It doesn't pay. It's not as if they are making money off of me or my writing."

But what if they were? What if a magazine published my writing, but sent a check to somebody else?

Sounds crazy? I thought so too.

Then I opened up the Ami Magazine. I love to cook and bake, so naturally, I turned straight to the recipes section. One of the recipes really popped out, and not because of it's mouthwatering picture, or the delicious sounding idea. No, this one stuck out because it made me feel a strong sense of deja vu.

"I've seen this before," I thought to myself, quickly opening my favorite baking blog. And I wasn't wrong. I had seen it before, almost word for word the same. The name was almost the same, as was the picture. I looked at the page of the magazine, then again. No credit, no "reprinted with permission." Just the misleading impression that the columnist had come up with this recipe on her own.

Doesn't this seem wrong? How can a Frum magazine lift a recipe directly off a website and expect no repercussions? "Be dan lekaf zechus," my friends warned. So I was. I assumed that Ami wasn't aware that they had printed a stolen recipe. So I sought out the editor on twitter, and received the following (mocking) responses:

"There's nothing new under the sun." And "don't go nuts."

If I were an honest magazine editor who had just discovered I published a stolen recipe, I would be the one going nuts.


Here's the link to the original recipe and the page in Ami:



If you think this is wrong, please let the Ami know.
Call them at 718.534.8800
Email info@amimagazine.org or the editor-in-chief directly: rechy@amimagazine.org
Or tweet the editor @victoriadwek.
Or let them know how you feel on Facebook.
If you're a blogger, please spread the word.
Together, we can teach the Frum publishing world that plagiarism isn't going to be tolerated.


**this post was not written by Stam. It was written by a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous and who does not have posting privileges on SerandEz :)**


UPDATE 1 (by Ezzie):


The chief editor of Ami responded immediately to an e-mail asking about the incident:
I will check this out [...] and get back to you. One thing I can tell you now. Ami magazine does not want to plagiarize. And if that happened we will make amends
They told another e-mailer (via the comments section here) as well:
This was brought to my attention yesterday.
As I told the writer of that e-mail, Ami certainly does not want to plagiarize.

I will get back to you as soon as I get in touch with the person who wrote the recipe for us and understand what is going on here.
Thanks
So far, the response has been quick and appropriate; we'll see what reply is given later.


UPDATE 2 (by Ezzie):


After no further response, I e-mailed the chief editor again. I have yet to receive a reply (it has been a number of hours).


On Friday I was told that the writer was upset and felt she was misunderstood and wanted me to e-mail her. I noted that she could e-mail me herself directly if she wished, but have yet to receive an e-mail from her.


**this post was not written by Stam. It was written by a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous and who does not have posting privileges on SerandEz :)**

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Ezzie


Today is Ezzie's birthday. Festivus is still some time away. So why not combine them both?

So in honor of both days, we will celebrate with the official "airing of grievances" against Ezzie.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Agudah Clarification on Reporting Abuse

The Agudah has put out a statement clarifying its position on reporting abuse to the authorities. Read it in full please.

Personally, it is extremely non-compelling and somewhat distressing. The Agudah is saying that one should report abuse if they are reasonably sure, but not in a case of mere suspicion, and instead talk it over with someone. However, because people are not experts in what would qualify as knowledge/assurance vs. what would qualify as a mere suspicion, they should first discuss that with a Rabbi knowledgeable in the matter.

That essentially boils down to saying that a person should talk it over with a Rav regardless of what they think, to make sure that they are making the right call in reporting to the authorities. That seems to be a huge error, as this again means it is solely up to the Rav involved to determine if the authorities should be contacted, which was exactly the problem previously. This comes off more as a protective clarification where the Agudah is saying "of course abuse must be reported", but in practice it will come down to the personal discretion of the Rabbonim who are asked.

It is also disingenuous for the Agudah to claim that telling all people to report to the authorities is 'further than the law', which only requires mandated reporters; the law certainly feels everyone should report abuse as well, but adds an additional level to mandated reporters that by law they are required to do so or they can face punishment for failing to.

On Shifting Views - Media Bias and Gay Marriage

(via CC) A study by a UCLA professor finds that journalists and the media are so biased that we perceive centrists as conservatives, and liberals as centrists:
Fox News is clearly more conservative than ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and National Public Radio. Some will conclude that 'therefore, this means that Fox News has a conservative bias. Instead, maybe it is centrist, and possibly even left-leaning, while all the others are far left. It's like concluding that six-three is short just because it is short compared to professional basketball players.

The simple reason:
Groseclose opens his book quoting a well-known poll in which Washington correspondents declared that they vote Democratic 93 percent to 7 percent, while the nation is split about 50-50. As a result, he says, most reporters write with a liberal filter.
Helen Thomas is the perfect example of this. While a White House reporter, she was considered a great journalist... but now is exposed as not just having liberal opinions, but as being a far-left nutcase. How is it possible that someone with such extreme opinions was able to co-exist - and be heralded as great - in a supposedly neutral environment as the journalistic field, when people who express commentary that even agrees with mild right-leaning initiatives are blasted as being biased? It is when the journalistic center is skewed so far to the left, that extreme liberalism is viewed as mildly liberal while mild conservatism is viewed as extreme.

This is true beyond media, however. Whenever we shift conversations in a specific way, it redefines the center viewpoint, making one side or the other seem extreme. For example, even proponents of gay marriage who are liberal but not gay claimed that it would never impact or be forced upon religious people in any way; that it was the religious who were unfairly imposing their morality on homosexual couples. And yet, as gay marriage has become fait accompli, proprietors are being sued for being unwilling to cater to homosexual couples' wishes, such as hosting or catering or photographing their wedding. Proponents of the separation of church and state (not in the Constitution) felt that religious values should have no weight in determining what people can and cannot do. But one of the protections afforded by the Constitution was freedom of religion, which was supposed to mean that people would not be forced to perform acts that are against their beliefs. By suing proprietors for standing up for their beliefs, gay couples, through the Courts, are essentially reversing the Constitution by forcing people to perform services that they feel go against their religious beliefs. Moreover, in discussions on the subject, people who formerly claimed it does not have anything to do with religious people and that "gay marriage doesn't hurt anyone", now have shifted their views even further, noting that to not service gays should be discrimination like any other, such as racism or sexism.

That all said, not all bias is extreme, nor does it shift completely to one end of the spectrum. In the rather extensive Wiki on media bias, it notes that Groseclose and his colleagues found that despite the heavy bias in media in the USA, all major news sources remained within the overall center - from the New York Times at the left edge of it to Fox News in the very middle, all were within the range of moderate Democrats and Republicans in Congress. If news organizations were people, Fox would be somewhere between Joe Lieberman and John McCain, while the NY Times would be somewhere around Bill Clinton - which, upon a little thought, would likely make sense to most people.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fantasy Seasons!

WARNING: For most of you, this post will be boring. You've been warned.

With the NFL seemingly on its way to ending its lockout, the guy who runs our fantasy football leagues with me g-chatted me about starting to contact people to make sure they're coming back. I e-mailed a couple guys, and their replies were fantastic:
  • Hells to the yeah I am!!! and
  • Ill paypal you the $$ the second that CBA is signed
Nice. That's how it should be.

Meanwhile, while our friend Rea has been struggling, I've started to come back from deep in last place in fantasy baseball [standard 5x5 roto], now sitting in 7th of 12. I've locked up most of my innings (we have a 1250 IP max, and I'm at 852), and spun a number of trades, while all my players are finally (!) back from their injuries. I'm planning on (and should be able to) pull off one or two more trades before riding what I have to the end. It's a really close league, with pretty much anyone in the top 9 still alive, though the top six teams have the edge for now. After trading Lincecum for Price and Pineda, then trading them for two closers, this is who I've got left:

  • C Avila
  • 1B Huff (been horrible, will probably be used only as a sub once I make a trade)
  • 2B Utley
  • SS A.Cabrera
  • 3B Walker
  • CI Kotchman (FA pickup to replace injured Headley, will drop once I make a trade)
  • OF V.Wells
  • OF Hart
  • OF Brantley
  • OF Joyce - will likely trade before deadline
  • Util OF R.Davis - big interest from people in trades, but his SBs are too valuable to trade
  • Util Hafner
  • Bench - OF Torres - will possibly trade before deadline, OF Jay - will likely trade before deadline
  • SP Halladay - will likely trade before deadline
  • SP Kershaw
  • SP Jimenez
  • SP Masterson - received in late May for SS Bartlett and 1B B.Wallace. Quite the steal...
  • SP Tomlin - picked up as a FA
  • CL Bell
  • CL Wilson
  • CL Papelbon - received in Pineda/Price trade yesterday
  • CL Hanrahan - received in Pineda/Price trade yesterday, will likely trade before deadline
  • RP Venters - will possibly trade before deadline
Currently, I've got by far the best K rate in the league (only one guy is even within reach), which allows me to pitch Masterson and Tomlin. My W rate is decent and improving. I'm a couple saves away from an 11, which the new closers should give me, and I expect to finish with 10s in ERA/WHIP (a couple guys have been sick). On the hitting side, I used to be so far behind it was laughable, but now I'm just 8 SBs from the lead, I've passed a couple people in RBIs and AVG, and I'm about a dozen HRs from a 6 while I'm about to catch people in Rs. Assuming I can flip Halladay and a package of others including Joyce and Hanrahan for a couple of power CIs, I should be able to make a nice run at first. It'll be interesting to see if it works, if only because I had to take an extreme pitching-only approach after being P heavy to begin with, then having injuries kill me - I had seven guys on the DL at one point.

The one move I may end up having blown the season on was trading Alex Gordon for Jonny Venters when Gordon was slowing down and Venters was rumored to be taking the closer's role. Ugh.

But hey, even if I can't crawl all the way back, at least there's football!

Honesty and the Jewish Community VIII: Quotable Interjection

(continued as part of this series)

"Anonymous" recently made the following comment on a post:
IMO as long as he is supporting frum families it makes no difference if it is stolen money.
It doesn't appear that there is a logical reply to someone who thinks in such a twisted fashion and truly believes this, but it brought to mind the following observation of a Gemara made recently by R' Yitzchak Adlerstein at Cross-Currents:
The latter version tells us that serious sin is no bar to emunah. Chonyo could try to kill his brother for his aggrandizement, but this would not get in the way of his seeing himself as remaining within the basic faith. People rationalize all sorts of things, including the worst transgressions.

The former version, however, shows us that an upstanding member of the community whose safety is jeopardized by someone close and trusted, and who is then let down by a community that does not protect him, will easily run headlong out of the fold, and take up the embrace of an alien ideology. He has had enough of the one he used to be comfortable in. If he can be treated so savagely by people he trusts, and if the community at large is powerless to save him, he will walk out.
In light of what numerous friends of ours (and we) have gone through the past years, it seemed an apropos pair of thoughts - particularly when combined.

There appears to be a general feeling among a thankfully small but unfortunately not insignificant portion of the Orthodox community which feels that various indiscretions and transgressions, no matter the size or impact, somehow do not take away from one's faith (or even enhance, as seen above). Worse in a fashion, however, is the shrugging of shoulders and sometimes outright support to the transgressors, even at the expense of those upstanding members of the community whose safety were jeopardized by these formerly close and trusted individuals.

Some of the primary thrusts of this series are to demonstrate just how dangerous this attitude is for those people who are jeopardized and how important it is that as a community we stamp out not only corruption, but support for corrupt individuals. It was unexpected to find that there are some who do not grasp the basic concepts of right and wrong, but as it is futile to convince those who are capable of rationalizing anything, this series will not attempt to do so. Those who believe evil is justified will continue to justify such acts to themselves and one another, and the only way to deal with such people is to isolate and expose them - at least, the ones who aren't placed in prison first.

Powered by WebAds