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?