Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cutoff to a Fresh View

We take this commercial break from the discussions below to discuss... accounting?

For some people, December 31st is meaningless. It's just another day that rolls into another and nothing really separates the two - perhaps having to remember to change what year they write on the rare check they write, or maybe it means a nice day off. Other than that, it's really not particularly important. But for some, December 31st means cutoff day: Trying to close out your books, making sure you've put everything in the right category, trying to get everything in as much order as possible so you're as prepared as you can be to put together your financial statements as accurately as possible and in a way that any auditor in the world would be satisfied. Sure, you can always correct an error, but the closer you can get it to perfect on the first try the better.

When I used to work as an auditor, our dream was a client that didn't do any transactions in the last few days of the year. Working from the other end, it's easy to see how impossible that is - but the experience has taught how important and helpful it will be for both us and them to have as few as possible and to have a great way of showing just what's floating at the end of the period. The other important lesson was to utilize the tools and skills we developed on the audit side for ourselves - both as a check and for analysis. It will always shock me at how underdeveloped most companies are when it comes to quick and easy analysis of data. In my old job, auditing complex hedge funds, we developed formula-driven templates and pivot tables to almost instantaneously be able to analyze any data we were looking at and to find any errors - and all in Excel. Now, we're almost done developing a system to track and analyze every single transaction we make in the company outside of QuickBooks, in addition to working with a great consulting group that is helping us to tweak QuickBooks to suit our needs, so we have a great side-by-side check - plus a much better way of analyzing data and developing reports than what QB can do. [For the nerds: Rating the most useful tools in Excel, pivot tables have got to come in right at the top, challenged closely by vlookups and the now unlimited IF functions. And I barely know Excel compared to what's really available there.] We'll be able to literally group or drill down by any category we want - by division, by type of expense, by date - and see the data we want to see instantly in as detailed a fashion as we'd like.

It's fascinating to be working in a company that in has a strong start-up feel, but at the same time is really running with a huge jump start. We started with a cushion that allowed us and is allowing us to quickly determine best practices and to invest in technology and expertise that, while perhaps not cheap in the short run, will provide us with huge savings in the long-term. We also have a mostly young, bright, energetic group, peppered with some people with more experience as appropriate, but with varying expertise across the board and some specific knowledge that puts us literally years ahead of where most start-ups would be six months in. Most companies don't start earning real revenues for 2-4 years; we have the potential to do that in the very near future. At the end of the day, no business survives unless it starts earning money, and to be in the position we're in this quickly is a blessing.

We've also been able to learn from the successes and mistakes the various people we have have made in the past - whether operational, marketing, or anything else. Our cushion let us 'overhire' early to move ahead faster and to avoid letting details slip through any cracks - both operationally and financially. Last quarter, we reconciled our books to within 3 cents - perhaps something only an accountant could appreciate, but something we were quite proud of.

When I was leaving my old job, my former boss told me simply: "Public accounting just isn't for you. You need to do something entrepreneurial, start your own company or something. I'm just not sure you'll be able to do it without having to put up with a few more years in a corporation like this." It took a year, but thank God, it appears that we've been quite fortunate. It would have been impossible to imagine 7-8 months ago when things looked quite bleak that the right set of circumstances would result in being in the position and situation we're in now. Now, it's amazing to look back and see just how much has happened in such a short period of time and to think just how much can happen over the next.

God definitely works in mysterious ways, and sometimes it takes that looking back a bit to appreciate just how amazing everything was to get us to where we are, to see what we couldn't before.

Tweet Your Prayers

Life in Israel blogged about this today, but I figured it deserved a shout out here as well

Seems that Twitter is useful after all. Alon Nir the founder of Tweet Your Prayers takes your tefillos and delivers them to the Kotel. Oh, and be sure they are less than 140 characters!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movin' Groovin'

On Sunday, I received a call from one of my best friends in the world, Groovin'. We talked for about three minutes. Last night, I tried reaching him quickly after a Lander Alumni Council meeting to see if I could catch him, but it was too late. The next time I speak to him, he'll have fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams: Become an olah. {Shortly thereafter, he'll fulfill another one which the rest of us have joked about for a decade: Live in a caravan.}

I'm hoping to catch the Nefesh B'Nefesh video of his charter flight tonight, but I know already that I'm going to find it more than a little surreal. For some reason, it just doesn't click that he, his amazing wife, and their two beautiful little girls have somehow pulled this off and are really going through with this - even though we've all known for years that if there was going to be someone to do it first it would be him. I'll never forget a conversation we had during our first year in Israel, when I asked him if perhaps he was moving a little too fast; his response to me was simply, "I don't know, it's possible. But perhaps you're moving a little too slow?" Once again, Groovin' is calmly moving ahead in life, taking the next step confidently but carefully, knowing exactly what he's doing and what to do if he hits a point where he doesn't.


Growing up in Cleveland, I didn't actually know Groovin' all that well during our early years. He was in a different (more charedi) school until 7th grade, and when he came to the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, he immediately took geek status with his long lanky frame and propensity to talk to himself in class. But by 8th grade, I was sitting behind him every morning on the window side of the classroom, with Deep Throat in front of him and L'il Jason to his left. By the middle of the year, we'd all settled on attending WITS for high school, and over the years, we all - along with DGEsq - became incredibly close. Groovin' and I roomed together in both our junior and senior years in WITS before moving on to OJ for our first year in Israel. Ironically, OJ was never originally in my plans; there had been another Clevelander two years ahead of us in WITS who had attended OJ a couple of years before, and one of my rabbeim surprisingly (to me) suggested that based on his success there, I would get a lot out of it as well. That strong and strong-willed young man who had grown up right near him was also extremely close to Groovin', and I'm sure that played a role in his coming to OJ as well.

After OJ, we both moved on to Lander. A couple of years later, I was married, and Groovin' was enjoying his times in Lander, in no rush to date. DeepThroat had come back to Lander to study, Li'l Jason was finishing up YU and had moved to Kew Gardens Hills, and DGEsq had gotten married and lived down the block. For the first time, all five of us lived within 3 minutes of one another, and it was awesome. A short while later, though, Groovin' "ruined" it, going out with our OJ predecessor's sister and of course, marrying her {on Super Bowl Sunday, no less!} and moving back to Cleveland. Groovin' then developed an incredible series of spreadsheets to help track all their expenses so they could start saving money and I believe he utilized that to start putting away for them to make aliyah. [As an aside, it was seeing the detail on those spreadsheets which helped spurn the Jewish Economics Survey, and Groovin's actuarial background has helped in its development. Of course, his spreadsheets were quickly made obsolete by]

Even with them moving, it's nice to be living in the 21st Century. Between Skype and Gmail and all the other technology we have today, odds are good that we'll be in better touch than we were even when they were living in Cleveland. It doesn't feel like they're moving to a place where we'll never see them; it's more of a feeling of "it's going to be a little harder to drop in on them than it used to be..."

I'm not sure why I'm writing this; perhaps I think that somehow this will make it click that he's really making aliyah as I'm doing this. It's odd - while it's impossible to imagine them making aliyah, it's also impossible to imagine them not making aliyah. This is such a core essence of who they are and what they're intended to do in this world. Groovin' and Classy and their girls are to a large extent the epitome of what NbN wants and what Israel needs: Bright, dedicated, reliable, amazing people who are starting out and who will help build the country in whatever way they can. That's just who they are.

If you're awake, take a few minutes and watch the NbN charter flight land. It's incredibly emotional even if you don't know a soul making the trip. In addition to Groovin's family, I believe we know at least one other family on this flight. Watch the people step off that plane and step onto the ground with that welcoming crowd... it's incredible to see. Who knows? Maybe you'll see Groovin'.

He's kind of hard to miss.


One of the aspects of the homosexuality panel discussion that have been especially interesting is the comments I've been hearing from friends and others, including comments that are being passed along the grapevine. Friends and colleagues whom one wouldn't even expect to have read the previous post, let alone necessarily agree, have stated that they thought the comments and opinions expressed were especially good and right along the line of what they themselves felt on the subject - whether people from the "right" or "left" of the Orthodox spectrum. In addition, R' Twersky's and R' Reis' speeches tonight were excellent, and the general goings-on at YU are fascinating.

There are a few minor and major points that seemed especially interesting and which are worth mentioning:
  • One YU Rosh Yeshiva apparently voiced what many have been thinking: Until now, the yeshiva world blasted YU, but didn't have much ammunition behind it. Now, they have something legitimate.
  • One friend noted simply that her brother (a good friend of mine) who is planning on entering into social work had previously been considering attending Wurzweiler for graduate school. That just became extremely unlikely.
  • A friend commented that she now somewhat regrets attending Stern, and questions how YU can consider itself a frum school.
One of the most interesting comments came from an alumnus who was furious at the event, and basically vowed not to send their children to YU in the future (as it does not live up to the ideals of Orthodoxy that they feel are important). When I asked what if it straightens itself out, they expressed serious doubt that this was possible, noting strongly: [sic]
...It can't straighten out. They are out of control!! It only gets worse from here. They do these radical things, make radical statements. And for what?? More money? They don't honestly care about these people who were on the panel. President Joel doesn't give two ***** about homosexuality in the frum community.
While that's surely an immediate overreaction that will temper with time, how much of perception here is reality? How much of a hit will YU actually take - perhaps not from alumni, but from current and future enrollment, from support? This presumably won't help their recruitment in Israeli yeshivos and seminaries, and it marginalizes their own graduate schools - certainly Wurzweiler - at least a little bit by making them viewed as far less Jewish and far more as just a Jew-heavy school. (Though this was true already to an extent, this certainly isn't going to help the cause.) How many roshei yeshiva will continue to stay in a university where many supposedly were already uncomfortable with some of what goes on? There are certainly other options out there for many of them.

It's important to remember that many, many people were already somewhat wishy-washy on YU and its direction over the past number of years, uncomfortable with what they viewed as a leftward-leaning direction. An event such as the one held last week only confirms and seals this perception for those people and allows them to cross off YU in their minds permanently. While certainly not for all, for many, YU was viewed as the strong, appropriate balance of Judaism and how one maintains and builds on their religiousity while balancing that with the secular world. Without that balance, for those people, YU loses its identity at best, and quite possibly crushes it - eliciting reactions like the ones above.

In the earlier post, I touched on the idea that R' Gil Student, in his post on the subject, may have somewhat overstated the idea that the Orthodox world will be swinging to the left after this panel. I think he has it partially wrong and partially correct: YU itself will likely continue a gradual shift back to the left, but Orthodoxy as a whole won't go with it - in large part because those who are uncomfortable with YU's direction will shift away from that world. It seems as if YU itself only realized just how much of its constituency it upset with this after the fact, and its own rabbonim are furious and extremely saddened.

As a friend in YU put it: After years of toeing on the brink, YU is now in a full-blown identity crisis. Instead of a world outside which often looked askance at its actions but a strong frum core from within who could defend its balance, it has now crossed the line where even its staunch supporters are now forced to question what they're supporting, exactly. R' Reiss and R' Twersky spoke strongly (and extremely well) tonight, and the excerpts that have been shared with me by people who attended seem to have nailed the issues perfectly. One lamented that at a few points in the panel, there was applause for what the panelists were saying. At no point, however, did anyone object to what was being said, including when a panelist alluded to homosexual acts.

My friend also made an interesting analogy, comparing it in a way to the Golden Calf. When making the egel, everyone who was there thought that it was not just okay, but important to do. Aharon HaKohein felt that it was a good idea, at least to some extent, if not completely. Only when a person steps back and takes a look from a bit of a broader point of view can they realize "What the heck are we doing!?" and understand that it sends the wrong message and doesn't accomplish much beyond a short-term good feeling.

A number of people have noticed one other important point: Before the event, a lot of people were indifferent to the event. But as the last week has passed and people have thought about the event and read the transcripts, read the commentary, they have found themselves more and more against the event having taken place. They don't understand what it was supposed to have accomplished, what it actually accomplished, and taking a step back, they're questioning why something like this should have happened on such a public stage - and nobody has a good answer, and that's forced people to shift from disappointment to disillusionment (if not outrage).

As discussed in the previous post, perhaps if there were a positive outcome that emanated from this panel, one could argue that it was necessary despite the negative aspects and implications that can be drawn from it. But without that, all it does is raise questions as to what YU stands for and where its priorities lie. This time, those questions aren't coming mostly from outside, but instead, they're being hotly debated from within its very core.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish World

PERSONAL REQUEST: Please do not read this post prior to reading the full transcript of the Yeshiva University panel Being Gay in the Orthodox World posted on Chana's blog. Please also read her To Deserve and To Sacrifice post and R' Gil Student's The Growing Problem of Post Orthodoxy post as some points that will be attempted to be made below will undoubtedly overlap with some of the points they made in their writings. If you have the time, I recommend skimming through some of the comments on those posts as well - there are some interesting discussions scattered throughout. Thank you in advance.
Last week, Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler graduate school for Social Work hosted a panel whose mission was to share with the public the incredible difficulties faced by homosexuals in the Orthodox community, as halacha (Jewish law) does not allow for them to act upon their desires. As might be expected, it's a strong flash point in the Orthodox world, and discussions have abounded wherever one might step foot, with very interesting and different discussions all over - at work, at home, at Shabbos meals with different crowds, at shul.

According to the organizers and panelists, the primary purposes of the event were to promote discussion [and/that would in turn] evoke sympathy and understanding in the Orthodox world as to the difficulties faced by gays and lesbians in the frum community. The stories themselves are fascinating and in some cases, surprising and eye-opening, and each of the four panelists' stories bring up different aspects of the trials a gay person goes through. There are a number of things that can strike a person upon reading the transcript, but perhaps the most interesting point that sticks out is one that demonstrates just how unnecessary the entire production showed itself to be at this point in history.

The issues regarding homosexuality in the Orthodox community are predominantly different than those faced in the overall American public. The battles are not over gay marriage or civil unions, and based on the statements of the panelists, they never should be: The cause is to help those who are committed to living an Orthodox lifestyle while struggling with a severe test, which by definition a gay marriage could not be. Instead, the issues are more similar to those perhaps of discrimination, or more likely those of social ostracism and other social and familial relationships.

What was particularly interesting, however, was the overall consistency of the responses put forth from all over, with the summary being along the lines of: "That must be incredibly difficult, and we feel horrible for their impossible plight. If they're not acting on it, that's amazing, and good for them - I can't possibly imagine how hard that must be; if they are, it's something that needs to be condemned, not condoned. But did this need to be made into a public issue at all?" This is similar to the letter put out by some of the YU Roshei Yeshiva the morning of the event and also the letter YU's President Richard Joel put out along with the RIETS menahel (principal), R' Yona Reiss, after the event:
[...] Of course, as was indicated in a message issued by our Roshei Yeshiva, those struggling with this issue require due sensitivity, although such sensitivity cannot be allowed to erode the Torah's unequivocal condemnation of such activity. Sadly, as we have discovered, public gatherings addressing these issues, even when well-intentioned, could send the wrong message and obscure the Torah's requirements of halakhic behavior and due modesty. [...] We are committed to providing halakhic guidance and sensitivity with respect to all challenges confronted by individuals within our broader community, including homosexual inclinations, in a discreet, dignified and appropriate fashion.
Perhaps, however, the point was most clearly made by one of the panelists himself, when discussing his friends' reactions:
I told one friend and he was cool with it, but he would say ‘you can’t tell so-and-so because he’s too religious.’ So I went for it, next person I told was him and he was even better about it. And he said, ‘But you can’t tell so-and-so’ where it became this game. If only everybody even today knows how okay with it the next person was- truthfully it really surprised me. My friends are amazing.
It seems that people assume there to be a huge swell of homophobia and lack of tolerance within the Orthodox community to homosexuals - but that in truth, this just is not the case. There is certainly a lack of tolerance to or acceptance of homosexual actions, and anything which seems to condone this will immediately be shunned by the frum world - an appropriate reaction even according to at least some if not all of the panelists and presenters. Such a reaction would likely be similar to the one people would have to those who would openly break Shabbos or otherwise act in a way that was clearly against a major precept of Torah observance; in fact, people who have turned away from observant Judaism can likely confirm this to be true. While there may be eventual acceptance of "this is who he/she is" when a person leaves Orthodox Judaism, no Orthodox person would likely condone actions that are against Orthodox beliefs and imply that they acceptable within the Orthodox camp.

Instead of homophobia, however, it seems that gays and lesbians within the Orthodox world, when it actually comes down to it, are met predominantly with acceptance and usually a quiet sympathy. The assumption of intolerance just does not seem to match the actual reactions people have when faced with the situation. Much like in the outside world, when it comes to practical differences the gay population has with the straight population, there's not really anything there. Much like in the outside world (hat tip: Charlie Hall in the comments on Hirhurim), there's a clear level of acceptance that is particularly there among the younger generation. And much like in the outside world, it's hard to say that additional discussion would advance anything more that is positive for gays and lesbians, particularly as that translates into the Orthodox Jewish world.

In the end, it comes back to what the panelists themselves hoped to accomplish with this event, and that's difficult to say. If it was about understanding and sympathy, it is unclear what was accomplished; it seems that this understanding and sympathy was already there, certainly among the crowd that was drawn to the event and almost assuredly in the crowds that have been discussing it. The panelists seemed to feel that most of the Rabbonim they approached about their struggles reacted surprisingly well, and that the same was true of their peers. Typically it was families who reacted the worst, at least initially, but this is not particularly surprising in a community which prides itself often on its future plans and progeny and suddenly learns that this will not be happening as they may have been imagining it. All in all, it seems doubtful that the panel will have made much of an impact in how people view gays and lesbians in those terms.*

Some of the arguments people have for turning this into a public issue revolve around comparing it to other issues that were taboo or ignored in the Orthodox world until people forced them on the public until they finally started dealing with them. The primary flaw in this argument, however, is that there's extremely little the public can actually do in this case. As opposed to agunos**, publicly discussing homosexuality will not be placing pressure on others to help right a wrong that was committed. As opposed to molestation, discussion will not create awareness of a problem in order to protect children. As opposed to abuse, a public event will not help those who are getting hurt find a place to escape to to avoid that hurt. With homosexuality, it is a private and personal issue which the public cannot well relate to and where the public is almost completely powerless to help beyond what they are already doing at this point in history.

Ten or twenty years ago, this panel would have helped bring about incredible change by speeding up the acceptance of individuals who are gay or lesbian by their friends and relatives by helping them understand what they go through at a time when people really didn't understand well enough what being gay or lesbian meant. In December 2009, however, there doesn't seem to be that fundamental unawareness in the Orthodox community. The creation of such a panel and the promotion of groups that promote additional tolerance seem unlikely to create more tolerance but far more likely to create an impression (whether intended by its creators or not) of an acceptance of homosexuality that perhaps goes beyond just sympathy and understanding. That there was so much confusion as to this point even at YU seems to show an obvious lack of clarity as to where the lines are drawn in Orthodoxy, despite the panel's best efforts to mark those lines. While perhaps R' Student's warning of an upcoming leftward shift are overstated, he is certainly not wrong in seeing how this event can be used as a catapult for such a shift. Moreover, there are undoubtedly those who will use this event as a springboard to accepting homosexuality to a greater level than it should be, despite the best intentions of the planners of this event and the pronouncements of those who appeared.

Ten or twenty years ago, this panel could have been incredibly important and made a positive impact on the Orthodox Jewish community. Now, its potential for change is far more toward paths that most of the panelists and presenters themselves would deem completely unacceptable in Orthodoxy - and that's a shame.

* To preemptively discuss, the argument of "discussion shows positive impact" is a somewhat ridiculous comment in a context such as this, as discussion having a positive impact is true when there is a desire for some type of change to occur. As there is no such change being sought here, it turns into a circular "discussion is good because it's discussion, and that's good" argument.

** The comparisons of homosexuality to issues such as agunos are actually disturbing and somewhat despicable, in that they cheapen the plight faced by the various victims in those situations. Agunos receive public support for two primary reasons: 1) They were hurt by members of the community who are abusing the halachic system to shackle them, and therefore the community feels a responsibility to show the person that the community as a whole cares for them. 2) Publicizing the issue hopefully helps to force the 'husband' to send a get to her that otherwise he would not have. Molestation was made into a public issue to instill greater fear and responsibility in our schools and others to help stop abuse from happening in the first place and to encourage victims to speak up and families to not view it as taboo to do so, in order to punish the perpetrators and protect others from becoming victims as well. To compare situations like these to homosexuality is absurd - there is no unwilling victim and there is no outside factor playing a role that the community can help with.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Snow Of The Winter

(Because I know Ezzie won't since he has no time, even though he said he should post this.)

Erachet: When my brother and I were digging out our car from the snow, my brother threw a chunk of snow at me just to get in our requisite snow fight. So I threw snow back at him. It was fun but... ::Sigh:: That was my only snow fight all winter!

Ezzie: ::Incredulous stare:: ...This was our first snow of the winter!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Grumble Factor

  • How long will you wait for your luggage at the airport?
  • How long would you wait for an elevator?
It seems that the powers to be have figured out how inefficient they can be without people complaining. Read this narrative and weep. Its long but worth it.

It seems that if the carousels are moving, people will wait 20 minutes longer without complaining, even if your bag isn't on the belt yet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

R' Goldwasser in KGH Tonight

R' Dovid Goldwasser is at the Young Israel of Queens Valley from 8:00-9:30pm tonight - it should be excellent! (If we weren't going to be in Monsey, I'd probably be there.) The title is "Seeing Hashgacha in Times of Challenge".

The address is 141-51 77th Avenue.


That's Right (Why Bottled Water is Bad For You)

Hat tip: Memphis II (I think)

The Facts About Bottled Water

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood

Every once in a while I come across some interesting articles in the psychology which I feel I should share. This one I came across as it speaks very pertinently about problems in chinuch and education which should be addressed.
Childhood is a syndrome which has only recently begun to receive serious attention from clinicians. The syndrome itself, however, is not at all recent. As early as the 8th century, the Persian historian Kidnom made references to "short, noisy creatures," who may well have been what we now call "children." The treatment of children, however, was unknown until this century, when so-called "child psychologists" and "child psychiatrists" became common. Despite this history of clinical neglect, it has been estimated that well over half of all Americans alive today have experienced childhood directly (Suess, 1983). In fact, the actual numbers are probably much higher, since these data are based on self-reports which may be subject to social desirability biases and retrospective distortion. The growing acceptance of childhood as a distinct phenomenon is reflected in the proposed inclusion of the syndrome in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, or DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association (1990).
There are also many different models to describe the problem The Sociological is the most compelling:
Emile Durkind was perhaps the first to speculate about sociological causes of childhood. He points out two key observations about children: 1) the vast majority of children are unemployed, and 2) children represent one of the least educated segments of our society. In fact, it has been estimated that less than 20% of children have had more than fourth grade education. Clearly, children are an "out-group." Because of their intellectual handicap, children are even denied the right to vote. >From the sociologist's perspective, treatment should be aimed at helping assimilate children into mainstream society. Unfortunately, some victims are so incapacitated by their childhood that they are simply not competent to work. One promising rehabilitation program (Spanky and Alfalfa, 1978) has trained victims of severe childhood to sell lemonade.
Efforts to treat childhood are as old as the syndrome itself. Only in modern times, however, have humane and systematic treatment protocols been applied. In part, this increased attention to the problem may be due to the sheer number of individuals suffering from childhood. Government statistics (DHHS) reveal that there are more children alive today than at any time in our history. To paraphrase P.T. Barnum: "There's a child born every minute." The overwhelming number of children has made government intervention inevitable. The nineteenth century saw the institution of what remains the largest single program for the treatment of childhood -- so-called "public schools." Under this colossal program, individuals are placed into treatment groups based on the severity of their condition. For example, those most severely afflicted may be placed in a "kindergarten" program. Patients at this level are typically short, unruly, emotionally immature,and intellectually deficient. Given this type of individual, therapy is essentially one of patient management and of helping the child master basic skills (e.g. finger-painting). Unfortunately, the "school" system has been largely ineffective. Not only is the program a massive tax burden, but it has failed even to slow down the rising incidence of childhood. Faced with this failure and the growing epidemic of childhood, mental health professionals are devoting increasing attention to the treatment of childhood. Given a theoretical framework by Freud's landmark treatises on childhood, child psychiatrists and psychologists claimed great successes in their clinical interventions. By the 1950's, however, the clinicians' optimism had waned. Even after years of costly analysis, many victims remained children.
The Good News:
After years of this kind of frustration, startling new evidence has come to light which suggests that the prognosis in cases of childhood may not be all gloom. A critical review by Fudd (1972) noted that studies of the childhood syndrome tend to lack careful follow-up. Acting on this observation, Moe, Larrie, and Kirly (1974) began a large-scale longitudinal study. These investigators studied two groups. The first group consisted of 34 children currently engaged in a long-term conventional treatment program. The second was a group of 42 children receiving no treatment. All subjects had been diagnosed as children at least 4 years previously, with a mean duration of childhood of 6.4 years. At the end of one year, the results confirmed the clinical wisdom that childhood is a refractory disorder -- virtually all symptoms persisted and the treatment group was only slightly better off than the controls. The results, however, of a careful 10-year follow-up were startling. The investigators (Moe, Larrie, Kirly , & Shemp, 1984) assessed the original cohort on a variety of measures. General knowledge and emotional maturity were assessed with standard measures. Height was assessed by the "metric system" (see Ruler, 1923), and legume appetite by the Vegetable Appetite Test (VAT) designed by Popeye (1968). Moe et al. found that subjects improved uniformly on all measures. Indeed, in most cases, the subjects appeared to be symptom-free. Moe et al. report a spontaneous remission rate of 95%, a finding which is certain to revolutionize the clinical approach to childhood. These recent results suggests that the prognosis for victims of childhood may not be so bad as we have feared. We must not, however, become too complacent. Despite its apparently high spontaneous remission rate, childhood remains one of the most serious and rapidly growing disorders facing mental health professional today. And, beyond the psychological pain it brings, childhood has recently been linked to a number of physical disorders. Twenty years ago, Howdi, Doodi, and Beauzeau (1965) demonstrated a six-fold increased risk of chicken pox, measles, and mumps among children as compared with normal controls. Later, Barby and Kenn (1971) linked childhood to an elevated risk of accidents -- compared with normal adults, victims of childhood were much more likely to scrape their knees, lose their teeth, and fall off their bikes. Clearly, much more research is needed before we can give any real hope to the millions of victims wracked by this insidious disorder.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Great post by Chana: I Am Not A Tragedy. Excerpt:
Do I want to marry somebody? Yes, I do. But I also want to marry that person at a time when we shall be financially stable, when I know my own mind, when I am mature and certain that I can live happily and healthily with that person. I want to create and cultivate a family and raise them with as much love and joy and thought as my parents raised me. Thus, I want to marry the right person at the proper time, whenever that may be. I don't believe in expiration dates and I don't believe that once I turn 24, should it happen that I am unmarried, everyone ought to be crying over me. Because I'm not convinced that I have to be a tragedy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Orrin Hatch's Chanukah Song

Hat tip: Mom

This is interesting and cute, and just kinda nice:

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a solemn-faced Republican with a soft spot for Jews and a love of Barbra Streisand, has penned a catchy holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.”

The video was posted Tuesday night on Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish lifestyle and culture, just in time for Hanukkah.

Known around the Senate as a prolific writer of Christian hymns and patriotic melodies, Mr. Hatch, 75, said this was his first venture into Jewish music. It will not be his last.

“Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do,” Mr. Hatch said in an interview before heading to the Senate floor to debate an abortion amendment. “Mormons believe the Jewish people are the chosen people, just like the Old Testament says.”

In short, he loves the Jews. And based on an early sampling of listeners, the feeling could be mutual.

There's also a detailed piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in Tablet about how it came about; meanwhile, enjoy!

Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Montana Miky & The Rabbi

Hat tip: Mom

This is a really nice, funny story in the New York Times (and a nice kiddush Hashem).
In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Good Question

Hat tip: Amir, Binny

From Bill Simmons' latest NFL Power Poll:
32. Cleveland
First, the Cavs choke in the 2009 playoffs. Second, the best two starters on the 2008 Indians start Game 1 of the 2009 World Series for two teams not named "Cleveland." Third, the Browns clean house and hire Eric Mangini, who takes that same house and sets it on fire with a flame thrower. Fourth, what could end up being LeBron's final Cavs season was distinguished early by Shaq looking like a bald Aretha Franklin and LeBron's body language occasionally lapsing into "I can't wait to find a new team, I am tired of playing with crap teammates" mode. And fifth, there are two nights of star-studded concerts to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- located in Cleveland, as you know -- and those concerts happen at Madison Square Garden.

Here's my question, God: What did Cleveland do to You?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Knocking On Doors

I have a question for those of you who are working in an office (or even not) based on a conversation had today:

If a new graduate from college or graduate school came knocking on your office door looking to intern, would anyone in your office give that person the time of day? Would anyone be receptive to that person? Would you be impressed that the person came knocking on your door? Or would you prefer the person email first? Would you not like it that the person just showed up without an appointment or without checking when would be a good time for you? Would it make a difference if the person was offering to help for free or if the person wanted to be paid?

In short, how would you advise someone who was looking for an internship or job? To go knocking on doors or to send out emails? Or some other way? Is knocking on doors too old-fashioned and just wouldn't fly today? Or would it impress you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jewish Connection

By Moshe
Overworked and over-caffeinated are often words used to describe medical students on their surgery rotation. Such was my state of mind this morning at 7:15. I was on-call last night, got a few hours of sleep in the resident/student dorm connected to the hospital and was back in the hospital at 5:00am. So by the time 7:15 rolled around, I had seen a few patients, finished rounds with the residents, and was set to head to the operating room.

I ran to the hospital basement to see my friend Jay. He is a forty-something year old African American fellow who works in the nourishment center. We have become good buddies and he gives me free coffee whenever I drop by to say hello. “You look extra-tired today doc. Long night?” I smile and nod, and mutter that I will stop by later to catch up with him about his recent schedule change and why his DVD player is missing. “Ok, doc, grab a big cup today and I’ll see you later for a refill. The usual, right? Black without sugar and milk,” he smiles proudly as he hands me the largest cup he has.

I step outside the room with my coffee in one hand and the OR schedule in the other. I place the coffee down and pull out my pocket-size surgery book and try to read about the surgery when I hear a voice behind me.

“Do you have lunch today?”

I turn around and find myself staring into the face of a middle-aged man in jeans and a red sweatshirt wearing a colorful knitted kippah on his head. While I think I have seen him around the hospital, I am not certain that I recognize him.

“Um, no,” I respond, thinking that he asked if I have a lunch break today (we don’t get official lunch breaks).”

He opens his briefcase and says, “I have these franks ‘n blankets that I don’t plan on eating today. I have a double lunch. Here, take these throw them in the microwave for thirty seconds and enjoy. Don’t worry, they are OU.”

He pulls a zip-lock bag out of his briefcase hands it to me and quickly turns and disappears into a lecture hall.

I stand there in shock. I have no idea who this guy is but he gave me lunch but I am grateful. He even walked away before I had a chance to introduce myself!

When I told this to my fellow classmate, she responded, “You gotta love the Jewish connection. I wish I had that.”

Quote of the Day

"There is no growth in comfort, and there is no comfort in growth" - heard last night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Self-Respect Or Ego?

Did you ever find yourself feeling so critical, you wonder if maybe it's you that's the issue, not the rest of the world? I'm someone who always thought of myself as lesser. If the world was a story, I was never the main character. Happily, I graduated college with a new sense of self-respect. I found I was actually quite a good person, that I do have some talents after all (even ones I was selling myself majorly short on), and that I held respectable values.

Now I find myself being constantly critical. It's hard to tell if I'm justified in being so, or if my new sense of self-respect is causing me to place too much judgment on others. I'm not consciously doing either. I know that as much as I am drinking in good values and habits from those around me, there are also plenty of things I see that I don't like and don't respect. It's difficult to find a balance between what deserves being thought about critically and what ought to be understood and ignored. I don't know if this is coming from actually respecting my values as opposed to those of other people or if I am getting an inflated ego that likes to find fault with things that are not myself. Either way, I find the way I feel disturbing and wish I did not feel so. It's probably not smart to write all of this in a blog post, but I'm not sure what else to do.

I know the world is not Candyland. But it must be easier to control your own thoughts and feelings than this?

Rabbi Machlis in Queens 8:30 TONIGHT!!!

You may have been a guest in their home for a shabbos meal during your year in Israel. You may have only heard of the dining room in which “there is always room for one more.” For over twenty years, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Mordechai Machlis have opened their home to hundreds of individuals every shabbos in a remarkable display of chesed, kindness, warmth, and joy.

TONIGHT is your chance to hear Rabbi Machlis speak on a topic he is quite familiar with “Avenues of Chesed in the Modern World.” Join us in welcoming him to Queens and sharing his Divrei Torah TONIGHT at the home of Yermi and Tamar Ornstein at 147-17 72nd Drive in Kew Gardens Hills.

Don’t miss this opportunity!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

These Foolish Things

(Hat tip: Benny) I thought this piece on was fantastic, and think that a nice chunk of the readership here [if y'all are still around!] would enjoy as well... I apologize for re-posting in full, a rarity on this blog.

These Foolish Things

There are three kinds of fools: Real Fools, Professional Fools, and Unsuspecting Fools. The professional, a staple of Shakespeare’s plays, is, in reality, nobody’s fool.

By Michael Dirda

Aristotle is sometimes called the Master of Those Who Know, which may explain why most people find him easier to admire than to like. By contrast, his own teacher’s famous teacher might be dubbed the Master of Those Who Haven’t a Clue. Informed by an oracle that he was the wisest of men, Socrates immediately recognized that this must be some kind of Delphic joke. Wise, pshaw! At best he was just a lover of wisdom — etymologically a philo-sopher — rather than a possessor of it. Really, Glaucus — he might have said — if I’m so smart, why do I have to go around asking all these questions?

Still, Socrates does at least look the part of antiquity’s Yoda. Everyone knows that to be wise means to be old, with lots of wrinkles around kindly eyes that have seen much and forgiven much and are full of pity for the fools that mortals be. But that, in short, is the trouble with wisdom. It implies a superiority to or withdrawal from the hurly-burly of life. While most of us are surrendering to what Joseph Conrad called “the destructive element,” and probably drowning in it, the wise guy is there on the shore warm and dry in his old flannel dressing gown and his new fluffy bunny slippers, and he’s probably murmuring something like, “Grasshopper, only a fool would go into the water on a day like this.” Shaking his head, he will soon pad on back to his snug little burrow and a nice cup of chamomile tea.

This is living? Wisdom plays it safe, avoids occasions of sin, sits home on Saturday night with an improving book. Elvis used to croon that “Wise men say, ‘Only fools rush in.’” But like the king he was, he knew that a brokenhearted clown understood more about the heart than any cautious Polonius. What would love be without impetuousness? Who can love and then be wise? “The heart has reasons that the reason doesn’t know.” No proverb says that love should be the end product of careful calculation, that it’s the smart move. This is why computerized dating seems repulsive to so many people; you just know the machine would be happier working on a spreadsheet. Besides, who would trust his emotional life to a program written by some Caltech brainiac who’s spent his entire geeky existence playing Halo and Warcraft? To quote Mr. T, “I pity the fool.”

As every truly wise man or woman knows, love is just one of those crazy things, and there’s no logic to what attracts us to one person and not another. You can tot up the pluses and minuses of a relationship all you want, meditate on the possible outcomes of commitment, consult past experience, but you’d do just as well, or better, to listen to a lot of country and western music. You want an explanation for falling in love? “Maybe it was Memphis.” Montaigne, whose Socratic motto was “What do I know?” accounted for his love for his friend Etienne de la Boetie perfectly: “Because he was he and I was I.”

In other words, when it comes to falling in love, who can explain it? Who can tell me why? Well, the goddess Folly can. In Erasmus’s The Praise of Folly she proclaims that she oversees love, that folly embodies the intuitive and passionate side of life and is far more fundamental to our human well-being than propriety or reason.

And that’s just for starters. Folly points out that Christ endured the “folly” of the cross and reminded His followers to imitate “children, lilies, mustard-seed, and humble sparrows, all foolish, senseless things, which live their lives by natural instinct alone, free from care or purpose.” Folly represents the “natural” in all its senses, standing in opposition to the mind-forged manacles of societal norms and expectations. Eventually, notes Erasmus, this sort of folly can even modulate into mystical distraction and ecstasy. Plato asserted that the madness of physical love, during which we forget all about thinking and our spirit seems to leave the body, is the highest form of ordinary happiness, while Christianity offers a similar joyful and irrational dream state when the soul temporarily unites itself with God.

Humanity, that dialectical animal, likes to look at things as binary opposites: raw and cooked, gay and straight, Laurel and Hardy. Just so, foolishness is the usual antithesis of wisdom. But foolishness, as Erasmus reminds us, is one of those qualities with a bit of range to it, so that another possible opposite is prudence. In fact, prudence and wisdom are practically roommates, and while sometimes being wise can look attractive — Gandalf, anyone? — almost nobody, except perhaps investment counselors, really wants to be thought of as prudent. Might just as well be an old maid in sensible black shoes or a Mr. Peepers with a coin purse. No, no, no; give me stiletto heels or give me death! If you can’t say “keep the change,” why bother to go to the bar?

In truth, there are essentially three kinds of fools: Real Fools, Professional Fools, and Unsuspecting Fools. Real Fools are the innocents, the simpletons, the idiot savants and “naturals” who react to situations and people with an Aspergian lack of restraint or decorum. They speak their unmediated minds, and great truths sometimes emerge, as “out of the mouths of babes.” Any of them might have blurted, “The emperor has no clothes.” Forrest Gump is our great modern examplar of this kind of fool. Heaven looks out for such as these.

Professional Fools include court jesters, clowns, toadies, con artists, and a whole range of yes-men. By pretending to be stupid or servile, the Professional Fool coolly aims to reinforce his client’s conviction of his own obvious superiority. In fact, these performance artistes always quip and caper with a purpose: a salary, behind-the-throne power, a scam. In literature one of the most memorable of these professional fools is Rameau’s Nephew, who in Diderot’s famous dialogue of that name toadies to the rich and powerful in return for a snug berth and regular meals. In the film The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey is a more complex example: Hunched and crippled (as were many professional court jesters), he’s slightly pitied by the tough and obviously much smarter people all around him. But Verbal Kint is far more than the “talkative child” that his name suggests.

As for Unsuspecting Fools, they are essentially everyone else in the world, starting with you and me. Everybody plays the fool sometimes; there’s no exception to the rule. More particularly, the Unsuspecting Fool is the supposedly wise figure — a sovereign, a pedantic scholar, a pillar of the establishment — who is blind to his own vanity and self-importance, ignorant of what’s really going on, puffed up with hubris. Pride goeth before a fall. In tragic vein, Oedipus and Lear are Unsuspecting Fools.

If you want to understand the power of Real Foolishness, read fairy tales. If there’s one thing that such stories teach us, it’s to trust animals. The simpleton who befriends the local forest creatures will find the treasure and win the princess. Every time. Not the clever older brothers with some Mission: Impossible plan. The guy who takes the thorn out of the lion’s paw, who doesn’t trample on the ants, who is careful not to crush the wildflowers will be rewarded.

Why is this? Because such saintly or holy fools possess a primitive, almost prelapsarian goodness. They are close to Nature, and they are empathetic and kind and humble and unsure of themselves and maybe not very good-looking either. They’re picked on by society and were probably in the lowest reading group, and their good souls shine forth like shook foil. Think Shrek. It’s no accident that the Feast of the Holy Innocents is also the date for the Feast of Fools. Over and over again, the Bible reminds us that the humble will be exalted.

In Shakespearean comedies (and tragedies) you’re certainly smart to play the Professional Fool or clown. When Bottom the Weaver is “translated” into an ass, the very symbol of the fool, what happens? The gorgeous Titania leads him away for some quality time in her bower. Hamlet knows that with his “antic disposition” on, he can do or say whatever he’d like. There’s no need to act the conventional young intellectual like his earnest schoolmate Horatio, who probably wears a bow tie and always makes the dean’s list at Wittenberg. As for the late Yorick, that fellow of infinite jest was obviously the only person at the gloomy court of Denmark who ever brought a spark of joy into the life of the melancholy Dane: “He hath borne me on his back a thousand times!” Even the greatest of all Shakespearean characters, Falstaff, is essentially a fool writ very, very large. Wherever Sir John goes, it’s party time, Carnival, and he is the Lord of Misrule. Certainly this jolly fat man is a lot better company than, say, the rather cold-hearted and manipulative Prospero. But even that magician finally decides to drown his book and give up his power. Being superhuman isn’t half as much fun as being human.

As for those Unsuspecting Fools, take a look at King Lear. Here the best and the brightest — the king himself; the clever, upwardly mobile Regan and Goneril; that shrewd bastard Edmund — wreak nothing but havoc and sorrow. Everything goes wrong. But why, how, could this happen to them? They took every precaution, they carefully plotted and schemed, they made Venn diagrams and flow charts, and they were careful not to let people or human feelings interfere with their big plans. By contrast, the most admirable characters in the play are terribly na├»ve (Cordelia), insane (Edgar as Tom O’Bedlam), or simpleminded (the Fool).

One might argue that Shakespeare’s wicked characters aren’t wise but merely worldly wise and usually too smart for their own good. They’re the sort of people to whom Paul offers his famous advice in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” They are, in fact, self-centered egotists who have suppressed the springs of natural affection. In this respect, if not in any other, they aren’t really so different from the great sages and Buddhas, who remove themselves from this world, who keep a safe distance from the bonfires of desire. The austerity of spiritual life, the quest for perfect understanding or oneness or transcendence, asks that we give up being human. Is any abstraction really worth so much?

The English author Walter Pater suggested that we should seek experience itself, rather than the fruit of experience, i.e., wisdom. Of course, he was an aesthete with an ornate style, so it’s easy to dismiss what he said. It’s important for human beings to make mistakes, to do stupid things, to go overboard, to be foolish — even if it’s painful — and not to judge themselves too harshly when they’ve been burnt. As Zorba the Greek used to proclaim, “Life is trouble!”

Let me bring this foolishness to an end by repeating the advice from the closing lines of The Praise of Folly: “Clap your hands, live well, and drink!” In other words, meine Damen und Herren, life is a cabaret. What is the use of sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play! And, then, if you’re really wise — or do I mean foolish? — you might as well dance.


Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize–winning book columnist for the Washington Post and the author, most recently, of Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Honey, I Can't Hear You!

Dear Mom, SIL, Vervel, and Serach:

So... you know how y'all complain that we don't listen? Well - apparently, it's *not our fault*! It seems like instead, it might be Daddy's fault. (Woohoo!) We seem to have possibly inherited this little issue called "otosclerosis", which basically says that as we get older, this little issue with our ears gets much much worse.

So... the next time y'all are upset that we didn't hear you call us for dinner, or to turn off the game that's on, or to get off the computer, or to take out the garbage, or to go get the baby, or whatever... well, we're sorry: We just can't hear you. It's not "selective hearing", or "ignoring", or "tuning you out"... we're just not hearing you. So next time you want something from us while the Cavs' game is on... sorry, we just can't hear you. :)

Love, OD & YW Ezzie

P.S. Hearing loss is not a joke! If you think you're not hearing quite as well as you were/should be, go get it checked out. Otosclerosis is in up to 10% of adults, more common in Caucasians, more common in women {though in our family it's all the men}, and it is very often hereditary. If one parent has it, you have a 25% chance of having it; if both do, it's up to 50%. Perhaps most important, however, is that the earlier you catch it, the more you can do to stop it. A 'simple' surgery can almost completely stop the effects, and having fluoride with calcium is a suggestion often given (please consult with your physician!).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chicago Mayor Daley Blames Fort Hood On America’s Love Of Guns!

From here

With no pogrom backlash after 9/11, no pogrom backlash after Bali, no pogrom backlash after Madrid, no pogrom backlash after London, no pogrom backlash after Mumbai, no backlash after countless other Jihad attacks, why would there be any reason to believe the reaction would be any different in this case? As we have written before, the West has already passed this particular civility test.

The Mayor is using a straw-man argument that conveniently provides him with an opportunity to politicize the terrorist attack as part and parcel with America’s love of guns.

Mayor Daley, and other politicians, like to blame gun violence on the guns themselves because that is so much easier than admitting any inconvenient truths which might be revealed if they were to place blame where it belongs.

Kids murdering each other in the inner city? That’s because of guns, not the War On Drugs which turns poor children into black market drug distributing gang members.

Islamists murdering people while shouting Allah Akbar? That’s because of guns, not the Jihad being perpetrated globally against all so called “infidels”.

They blame the guns because guns don’t vote.

lastly, is Mayor Daley seriously arguing for increased gun control on a military base? If there had been more guns around, this ticking Jihad bomb could have been put down a lot faster than he was.

And in case you couldn't guess, he is a democrat :)

Best Quotes From Tuesday

With Ezzie too busy to blog, there hasn't been that much Elianna and Kayla stuff on here in a while.

I, however, have (too much) plenty of time to blog and I had the pleasure of hanging out with Elianna and Kayla yesterday. It's amazing how they've both gotten so big so quickly. The first time I met Elianna, she was only a little bit older than Kayla is now. Now she's old enough to grab my hand and insist I go skipping with her on the sidewalk, or make me a birthday crown and put it on my head (no, it's not actually my birthday, but that's okay!), or talk about the Parsha. And Kayla - well, she went from being teeny tiny to walking and talking, though it doesn't feel like so long ago that she wasn't even born yet! (Well, it wasn't that long ago...and yet it kind of was a long time ago, too.)

Anyway, now that Kayla says words, she is actually quite funny!


[Picking up Kayla from the babysitter]
Kayla: [crying, crying, crying]
Dog outside: Bark!
Kayla: [picks up her head, alert] DOG!

[Walking with Serach, Elianna, and Kayla and passing by an auto shop]
Elianna: What happened to that car?
Serach: It's getting fixed.
Elianna: Fixed?
Erachet: Yeah. It was broken so it got brought here and when it's fixed it will get brought back.
Elianna: [Thinks for a minute] ...This is the shop?!
Erachet: Yep!
Elianna: My daddy takes the car to the shop!

[After picking up Elianna from school]
Elianna: Let's go to the park!
Serach: No, not today. It's going to rain.
Elianna: But I want to go to the park!!!!!
Serach: No...but we can go home and play a game.
Elianna: [pouts for a minute, then breaks into a huge grin] Let's go shopping!!!

[Kayla goes to stand in front of a floor lamp in the living room and studies it, as though wondering what to do with it]
Erachet: Kayla...are you making trouble...?
Kayla: [Huge grin] Yah!

Kayla: [crawling on the floor] Ruff ruff!

Kayla: [while eating, she throws her sippy cup onto the floor]
Erachet: Kayla, that wasn't nice.
Kayla: [Grins and shakes her finger] No no no!

[I don't remember the context for this, I just remember it happened]
Serach: Not now.
Elianna: Not now.
Kayla: Nah now!

...And there are lots more I am probably forgetting.

They're the cutest kids! :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What the Pelosi Health-Care Bill Really Says

I figure Ezzie is not around, so why not help him out a bit.

Interesting and important article here.

BTW, this woman actually read the ENTIRE bill. I wonder how many of our representatives actually did that.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fathers Father

Interesting article in the NY Times last week about parenting:

As much as mothers want their partners to be involved with their children, experts say they often unintentionally discourage men from doing so. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way, said Marsha Kline Pruett, a professor at the Smith College School for Social Work at Smith College

In a similar vein
Uninvolved fathers have long been accused of lacking motivation. But research shows that many societal obstacles conspire against them. Even as more fathers are changing diapers, dropping the children off at school and coaching soccer, they are often pushed aside in ways large and small.

“The walls in family resource centers are pink, there are women’s magazines in the waiting room, the mother’s name is on the files, and the home visitor asks for the mother if the father answers the door,” said Philip A. Cowan, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who along with his wife, Carolyn Pape Cowan, has conducted decades of research on families. “It’s like fathers are not there.”

And now for the really interesting part

In the study, low-income couples were randomly placed into a father-mother group, a father-only group and a control group of couples. The controls were given one information session; the other two groups met for 16 weeks at family resource centers in California, discussing various parental issues.

In both of those groups, the researchers found, the fathers not only spent more time with their children than the controls did but were also more active in the daily tasks of child-rearing. They became more emotionally involved with their children, and the children were much less aggressive, hyperactive, depressed or socially withdrawn than children of fathers in the control group.

But notably, the families in the couples group did best. They had less parental stress and more marital happiness than the other parents studied, suggesting that the critical difference was not greater involvement by the fathers in child-rearing but greater emotional support between couples.

“The study emphasizes the importance of couples’ figuring parenting out together and accepting the different ways of parenting,” Dr. Kline Pruett said.

Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.

Dr. Kyle Pruett added: “Dads tend to discipline differently, use humor more and use play differently. Fathers want to show kids what’s going on outside their mother’s arms, to get their kids ready for the outside world.” To that end, he said, they tend to encourage risk-taking and problem-solving.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Patience & Advertising

(I'm sure Jon would appreciate this one.)

Last night, we had a bright, handsome young man over for dinner. After dinner, he was calmly expressing his frustrations with different aspects of an organization he's involved with, seeking out advice as to how to best approach the various issues facing him and those around him. He noted that the largest difficulty they faced was the overall apathy of the people around them in general.

What was perhaps most interesting among the various suggestions posed by the different people still remaining were that they all had the same approach, or more accurately, all noted the same points about his planned approach:
  • You will not succeed if you expect to make sweeping changes in a short period of time, and if you do expect to do so, you will only frustrate yourself to the point where you won't succeed at all.
  • The best way to have the impact you desire is to bring in people just ahead of the stage you are in life who can impress upon everyone around you what aspects of life they need to be cognizant of for themselves.
  • Only after people around you see how things impact them will they suddenly turn back to you to seek out help in addressing those issues.
  • Most importantly, you must have the selfless idealism and understanding that whatever impact you have will not be seen until after you are long gone from the place you are now, and you have to accept that whatever changes you cause you will not see yourself.
What was particularly interesting was that this young man clearly "got" what everyone was saying, was able to accept it, and yet you could see the pain evident in his expression at the idea that this would be something that would only occur years down the road after he was gone. He was mature enough to accept it, he is mature enough to still move forward... but it certainly hurts. In a society of instant gratification, it is difficult for people to take a long-term approach, and it is commendable that he is likely going to push aside that pain to do what is necessary to help others down the line.

I thought it was interesting partly because of how it was a flipped version of something we went through at work this past week. Our company, on the advice of my boss, placed a large-scale advertising push that cost us a nice amount of money for one of our divisions. The manager of the division being advertised almost panicked, not sure they'd be able to handle the volume of calls. I didn't expect a lot of calls, but didn't know if they could handle the demand should they get too many. End results - Day One: 1 call. Days Two - Four: A handful. Day Five: A bunch. Total: Maybe 15-20 calls, for an entire week of not cheap ads. But as anyone in business or majoring in business will tell you, advertising is a bunch of bull - its purpose has nothing to do with business directly, but branding, image, perception, and awareness. Every vendor or person that walked into our office this week commented how they'd noticed our ads all week. A local news station wanted to run a story. Other vendors wanted to know if we'd advertise with them. The people who helped place the ads wanted to use our services themselves and recommended it to friends. When we asked our boss when he came back into town how many calls he expected on the week, he said "10". Upon hearing that we took a little more than that, he was thrilled; we'd beaten expectations. But the primary lesson of the week was that advertising is about delayed gratification. It's not that someone who sees an ad then calls up to use that service or buy that product; it's that when they're looking for a service or product, that ad they saw is what comes to mind and is the first place they look.

While people often vastly overrate the importance of experience in many areas, there are plenty of areas in which people vastly underrate it. Listen to your elders, but don't be afraid to challenge them as well - if you don't state your objections, you won't have the chance to learn where you may be making an error. I've learned more in the past four months both by teaching those around me and by questioning those above me than I have in a long time. My boss is notorious for saying "You'll see" after giving his explanation of what will happen when it flies in the face of logic as we might understand it... and has been more than vindicated each time. Perhaps most important, both applicable to business and life, never be stuck on your own opinion of something: If you take it personally, you will not be able to succeed. Fight for your opinion, but when you see that it has lost, move forward. You will eventually see better what was and was not going to work from your approach. It was heartening to see the young man at our table arguing strongly for different ideas, but understanding the flaws as they were noted. He'll go far in life.

Postscript: I thought it was ironic that the young man's major was psychology.

Postcript II: This post sounds way more serious and pompous than it is intended to be. It's supposed to be random musings on life as learned over the past couple of months, seen more clearly when flipped from the student role to co-advising role. Please read it as such. Thanks! :)