Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Matter How Hard

This is a beautiful piece I saw on Cross-Currents for those that don't read it, I chose to share it with you:

The article begins with the author’s many trips back and forth to the hospital during her father’s long, drawn-out illness; how she was tormented repeatedly by what appeared to be his imminent demise, death lingering around the corner, tauntingly, slipping maddeningly in and out of sight; and then, at last, how the final moments seem to arrive.
…[that] my father’s heart is weak, his kidneys are failing and his lungs are filling with fluid. For the second time in six months, he needs to have a tube inserted in his windpipe.

I nod, waiting for him to continue listing procedures and tests. Instead, he takes a small step back from the gurney and asks, “Does your father have a living will?”

I freeze. No emergency room doctor has asked me this before. I answer, evenly, yes. “Do you have durable power of attorney?” Yes.

Visibly relieved, he looks me in the eye and gently but pointedly asks: “Does your father want us to employ extreme measures” — he pauses one heartbeat for emphasis — “knowing that he is not likely to improve?” The two nurses flanking the doctor look at me kindly.

I smother my rising panic. I must stay calm. I need to think. The doctor has given us an opening, a chance to consider our options.

I know what I want: I want to stop the insane cycle of hospitalizations and heroic life-saving treatments. It is not helping my father. He is getting sicker. He is dying. And I am exhausted beyond belief. I have no energy for family or friends, and my career has suffered. I want my life back.

I am acutely tempted to answer, “Of course not — my father would not want heroic measures.” But I hesitate because I know it might not be true. In the past, he has wanted everything possible done. This night is different, but I do not know if his answer would be different.

I look at my father. It is hard to tell if he is conscious. No one else is looking at my father. Everyone is watching me closely.

Finally, I say out loud the only thing I know to be true. “In the past, my father has asked that everything possible be done.”

Then I bend over my father and ask him in a clear, strong voice: “Daddy, do you want to be intubated again? Squeeze my hand if you want to be intubated.” I wait, but he does not squeeze. Instead, he surprises us all by nodding his head. He is weak, but the nod is unmistakable.

One nurse grunts and rolls her eyes dramatically. The other mutters, “Oh, brother — here we go again,” and shoves a stainless steel instrument cart closer to the gurney. The doctor, more professional, remains impassive as he suggests I leave the room. “It is difficult to watch this procedure. Most patients struggle and flail, so we will have to use restraints.”

Yes, I know. I kiss my father on the cheek, tell him I will be back soon and head to the waiting room.

What the doctor and nurses do not know, what I hesitate to admit even to myself, is that I almost gave them the answer they wanted: the reasonable one. But I would have been terribly wrong.

My father never really recovered. He could never again breathe without a respirator, he never left the hospital bed, and he eventually needed dialysis and a feeding tube. Six months later he died of heart failure.

I suppose my father’s decision was a mistake. But it was his mistake to make, not mine. My role was to support my father, no matter what, and to tell the truth, no matter how hard.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JES: Letter to Mint

The following is a letter I wrote to (as friends and readers know, one of my favorite sites/tools) this evening about the Jewish Economics Survey and an idea a couple friends and I have discussed in the past. Hopefully they'll respond positively to the idea; meanwhile, I thought it was worth sharing with readers here, many of whom have expressed great interest in the JES and the future plans for it.

Dear Mint,

I've been using for a couple of years, and countless friends and family (whether through me or others) do as well, and we all love it. It's truly changed our lives - when I was laid off in July 2008, barely a month after my second daughter's birth, Mint helped us not only cut down our expenses without feeling any negative effects, but actually cut down on some of our debt and really get ourselves organized.

While I was unemployed, I had more time to spend on my blog, which caters primarily to the Orthodox Jewish community. Within the Orthodox Jewish community there is often a large but ignored financial squeeze on families due to some of the inherent costs of living within such a community - more expensive housing, due to the need to be close to synagogue; private religious school tuitions; Kosher food; etc. In addition, many Orthodox Jews marry young - my wife and I were married shortly before we turned 21. This often translates into an even greater difficulty when it comes to managing finances, as young couples and families are both unprepared for the financial difficulties that come with marriage and raising a family, and many are still in college or graduate school during the early years of marriage, adding to the pressures.

As a favorite topic of mine on the blog was always economics, I determined to write about the difficulties a young couple might face, and decided to ask a few friends in similar situations to compile a little data before writing. As I developed what questions I wanted to ask those friends, it turned into a larger questionnaire, and then a survey - for singles, couples, parents and grandparents. I decided to post the whole thing on the blog, figuring I'd get at least a handful of responses which would be useful as well. The survey took on a life of its own, and resulted in hundreds of people submitting their information over a few months, two presentations including one that was filmed and reviewed by a Jewish cable TV channel, a couple other interviews, etc.

While the primary purpose of the survey was (and is) to prepare people for various stages of life across different demographics and in different communities by seeing what people in similar situations typically spend, one of the great outgrowths of the survey was how simply answering the questions the survey posed made them more aware of their own expenses. About half of all respondents noted that just taking the (basic) survey made them more aware of their own expenses, and most seemed to feel they had a better realization of just how much they didn't know. Many took the suggestion at the beginning and end of the survey to use to help manage their finances, and some wrote in months later, thankful for the suggestion and noting how much it helped them really get a handle on their finances.

Thankfully, in July 2009, I found a great job in a wonderful start-up company which focuses on bringing great ideas to life. (Too bad Mint didn't come out now!) Unfortunately, as the company has grown and my own responsibilities have increased, this has left me with little time to work on the survey, so it's been put on hold temporarily. In addition, as wonderful as GoogleDocs is, it simply hasn't remained stable enough for the survey, sometimes randomly reordering the questions or having other glitches. However, I and the people who've helped me out think the project is a really important one, and want to make sure that we turn it into something strong and useful. One of the trickier aspects of the survey is that people's finances change over time - prices go up, prices go down, situations change... what a person responded in March may have changed by September. In addition, even when they're responding, people sometimes forget or estimate wrongly some of their expenses.

We started to wonder: What if we could help the people taking the survey, but at the same time, have them help us? Let's help them track their expenses - but allow us to use that information to help other people, too. Of course, we would need everyone's private information to remain that way - while it was amazing that so many people voluntarily shared information with the original survey, that was on a more basic level. After musing how it's too bad we don't have something like Mint, we realized - why not ask Mint?!

Our idea is to partner with Mint in creating opt-in opportunities within Mint. Let people choose to take part in projects such as ours by allowing their information to be relayed securely and anonymously through a trustworthy site such as Let projects such as ours design specific categories and subcategories within that are applicable to the communities we live in and are working to assist, and teach Mint to recognize vendors common to such communities. Seeing the trends and issues within such communities can help not only to prepare those people for the issues that await them as they move through their lives, but also can help communities to solve problems by working together to address those issues.

We think this is something that would be a great opportunity not just for us, but for any community or sub-community that wishes to carry out projects like this to help one another. In addition, communities can simply encourage their members to take part - even if the data won't be used, the members themselves will gain from that extra awareness Mint provides them with. And of course, Mint itself will be adding countless new members as projects encourage people to use Mint to help themselves and for the projects' sake.

We would love the opportunity to partner with Mint on this project, and believe that this can be a mutually beneficial relationship that could positively impact the lives of entire communities.

Thanks so much for your consideration,

Ezzie Goldish
Jewish Economics Survey, Creator

How To Report The News

Hat tip: Benny. Charlie Booker is hilarious.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't Pass Over

From the time I was born until I finished high school, I spent every Pesach at my parents' home in Cleveland, with fond memories of my sister somehow getting drunk on the four cups of wine and singing "Who Knows One" in a drunken yell, or the constant re-stealing of the Afikoman by my father, brother, and myself, or the hidden notes planned a year prior by Vervel for when she'd be in Israel asking if we missed her. The next two years, I split the sedarim in Israel: One at my cousins with many other cousins (figure 17 kids + the adults) and my aunt, and one with my friends from OJ at one of the rebbeim. Since then, it's been a mix of Cleveland and Monsey as we shuttle between my parents and Serach's - enjoying the dramatic difference between the two styles (my father-in-law is Sephardic, my father Litvak-American) and weather (like the drop from 80 to 28 + 8 inches of snow in one day in Cleveland).

One thing I've never done, however, is go to a hotel for Pesach... and neither have either of my siblings... until now. My dear older sister Vervel will be spending this Pesach at the stunning Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort by Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (I just found out the hotel is only 7 years old - wow). The company she works for started an annual Pesach hotel there and from what I've heard from people it's absolutely amazing. In one of those 'all worlds come together' things, one of the owners of HLF Leisure Tours is an old friend who went to OJ shortly after me and who has done an amazing job of putting this together with his partners. Perhaps interesting for regular readers here is that R' Yaakov Horowitz of Monsey is a main draw and will be spending the whole Yom Tov there. I also really like the whole presentation and approach - I was told it's a really family-friendly hotel and people really get to feel like they're a part of everything, and when my sister was telling me about the place and asking me to tell people about it I couldn't help but notice how they presented it - from their families, and from themselves:

Dear Friends,

HLF Leisure Tours is excited to once again host Passover at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Gold Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, Maryland. We look forward to having you and your family join us for Passover. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. We can be reached at 877-HLF-TOURS or Please check out our website at for more information.


Ed Hoffman Josh Lewis Jacob Fader
Anyway, the place looks absolutely gorgeous, the food is supposed to be amazing (anyone who has ever had Hoffman Catering knows this to be true), it's such a relaxing, fun getaway, and perhaps more importantly, the people who go that I know are all really great, nice people. It's not far from New York/New Jersey or Baltimore, and the prices are really reasonable for something like this. There's even a Facebook page (which already has over 100 fans - geez) for it. Plus, if you go there for Pesach, you can probably keep an eye out for my dear old sister and her grape-juice buzzed shenanigans. Trust me, it's worthwhile entertainment.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping it won't be snowing in Cleveland again.

Here's the PDF for those interested [click to enlarge]:


Having (finally) recently read Ayn Rand's classic, The Fountainhead, it was easy to appreciate an interesting link Benny sent me earlier in the day. Jay Kraut, who I believe is a candidate for a PhD in Bible, interviewed Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, to ask some questions regarding what Rand's approach would have been over the last few years and in general. It was somewhat disheartening at first to see that Kraut, in his own separate post-interview piece, clearly entered the discussion not understanding some basic economic principles, but in truth, the need to explain some of those principles lead to Brooks detailing extremely clearly just how an ideal financial sector should function. This helps turn the interview into a great presentation of ideas, rather than a typical, dull debate on public policy.

Both the interview and the postscript are good, worthwhile reads. One point very much worth discussing is an error that both the interviewer and perhaps a couple commenters on the piece seem to be making, addressed well by another commenter on the interview piece. Kraut writes:
I believe he accords too much of a presumption of good faith to the financial sector as a whole. I give Brook credit for condemning financiers who focus on short-term gains and – in the case of mortgage-backed securities, in particular – ignore the welfare of investors and consumers in order to reap quick profits. However, I think that he is overly kind in presuming that the primary source of such rapacious behavior is government coercion. To my mind, such a stance unfairly discounts the simple possibility that immoral people – under the current system, or in a purely capitalistic society – will seek personal gain at all costs, even if it entails cheating or engaging in dishonest, manipulative behavior. Brook seems to imply that, were government regulation to disappear, the pure (and honest) capitalists would naturally run the show. However, I am not sure that such an assumption is realistic. I would be interested in learning how – in Brook’s view – the danger of bad faith in the financial sector might be obviated.
What is often missed when discussing deregulation is what a deregulated economy would create in order to function properly. Without regulation, people become initially more hesitant to make an investment. The way companies can coax others to invest their money with them is by showing them how that investment could or would be worthwhile. The only way a rational investor would invest money in a company is if they felt they could trust that company's claims regarding its strategies - and the only way a company will earn that trust is through a rigorous combination of independent observers, auditors, and perhaps most importantly, transparency. In such a world, companies would literally compete with one another on measures of transparency, on ensuring that they are hiring the top independent reviewers, and the like, as each mitigation of risk would make investment in the company that much more likely. As Brooks commented, in a modern market, the debt-holders have no reason to watch the risk, because the government will cover the risk regardless. But without that coverage, nobody would invest in a company unless they were closely watching that risk.

The strongest antidote to corruption in finance is not regulation, but transparency. When everyone can see exactly what's happening, it becomes far more difficult to hide issues. Dishonest people have a much harder time trying to pull a fast one when the ability to do business is not dependent on the seal of a(n often inept) government organization, but on building a strong reputation through transparency and independent confirmation.

One of the best examples of this is from the housing bubble burst. Banks were leveraging assets at outrageous levels - for every dollar deposited in their banks, they were buying up to thirty-five dollars worth of investments. When a few of those went bad, it led to a rapid crumbling of those banks' stability - eventually shutting a number of them down. When Bear Stearns failed, the government bailed them out - and the other banks felt safe to continue this over-leveraging. Had the government let Bear Stearns fail, it is almost impossible to imagine that the other banks wouldn't have quickly reduced their leveraging to ensure capital stability.

In fact, as I was discussing with another friend on the subway home from work today, imagine if there were no FDIC insurance on our bank account deposits. Would you put your money into a bank unless you were extremely confident that they weren't over-leveraging your assets, placing your savings at risk? Now, one might argue that without insurance, nobody would use banks at all, placing the ability to invest in general in jeopardy; therefore, as Brooks notes, it isn't crazy to argue for FDIC insurance - but with capital requirements to match, and that's it. The absolute expectation by investors that their money is safe with a company would be constantly confirmed in such a society via transparency and independent, private organizations.

It is worthwhile to note that people in general are excellent at self-policing when allowed to do so. When people rely on government to regulate, invariably government falls well behind those who commit crimes in the first place. When people do not rely on government, they make sure to understand as much as they can, and where they cannot, they find someone who can. Randian philosophy would certainly be interesting to watch in today's times - it's too bad we're heading far off in the other direction.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Eating My Words

Sometimes, you just sound dumb.

My good friend was trying to convince me to let her sister (and me) come to join her in her culinary school for an afternoon to try her food. I was trying to figure out the timing of when she'd be making the food she was referring to, and how much it would conflict with work, but it didn't come out quite right:
me: when is it
M: class starts at 2
me: until?
M: class ends at 6
me: and the whole class is about making food?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When You Grow Up

Elianna: You're a grown-up, right?

Erachet: Yep.

Elianna: But when you grow all the way up to the sky, then you can go in the street by yourself. But not yet, okay?

Erachet: Heh. Okay.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tefillin in the Airport

One has to appreciate that this 17-year old who wore tefillin on a plane, resulting in its emergency landing in Philadelphia, and his sister were so polite and responsive and cooperative with the authorities. Hopefully this will be a big enough story that there won't be issues for others in the same situation. The comments on the mislabeled Times piece are interesting - certainly the news reports specifically note how polite he was; he was not "disruptive" as the Times put it. In the past friends have debated whether or not to put on tefillin while flying because of how it can be misunderstood (most people have never seen the little black boxes and straps, and it's easy to understand the concern), but usually we would avoid the issue. Sometimes it wasn't as avoidable, but on the rare occasion where someone asked, it was a simple and easy thing to explain. The issue we would have was with the rare guy who wouldn't respond to a flight attendant or passenger questioning the "strange" practice - use your common sense and explain briefly what's going on before they think you're a security threat. In today's story, it appears that he was never asked before the plane landed, and answered immediately when it did land. It's surprising that the flight attendant didn't even ask, and one would think that the lack of concern on the part of other passengers should have tipped her off that some may have seen this before, especially if she would have simply asked. Ah well.

Anti-Zionists Not Fooled

A clever piece in the Telegraph. What's hilarious/sad is how many people still didn't get it (see the comments after the piece). Excerpt:

Clever people the Jews… oops, I mean the Israelis. Look at the lengths to which they have gone to distract the world from their daily ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The latest trick is an Israeli field hospital, rushed into Haiti last Friday and erected in a soccer field.

The US, with all its resources, hasn’t yet managed to set up a field hospital in Haiti (undoubtedly the State Department is still drafting the crucial legal papers needed) but the Israelis, operating with their usual disregard to the niceties of law, slapped one up and have already delivered a baby there. The father, obviously paid off by the Mossad, rapturously declared that the baby would be named “Israel”.

According to Israeli government sources the hospital includes 10 tons of medical equipment, 40 doctors, 24 nurses, medics, paramedics, x-ray equipment and personnel, a pharmacy, an emergency room, two surgery rooms, an incubation ward, a children’s ward and a maternity ward.

Information from Israeli government sources should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt, but footage of this tent-city/hospital has now been seen on SKY, Fox and CNN, ABC and CBS and the video seems to confirm (Mossad video fabricators are tricky) at least that the facility is large, clean, and full of modern equipment. CBS’s piece called the hospital the “Rolls Royce of medicine in Haiti”.

Hat tip: SIL

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Srugim - Season Two

Nice piece in The Jewish Week about the upcoming second season of Srugim:
“There’s something fascinating about seeing your own subculture, even if it’s the Israeli version, portrayed on screen,” said Washington Heights resident Shayna Weiss, 24.

When she’s not working on her doctorate in Israel studies at New York University, Weiss is an avid consumer of pop culture — and she calls most American screen depictions of Orthodox Jews “shallow” and “inaccurate.”

“You notice certain things are off — the way they say the blessings, where the kipa is,” she said. “Here, it was accurate; it’s my own life.”

Fellow Washington Heights resident Eliot Orenstein, 26, can relate. Much like some women used to bond over episodes of “Sex and the City,” Orenstein would chat about each episode with his friend, Yitz Goldstein.

Rather than looking for designer labels, Orenstein loves spotting moments of Orthodox authenticity — like the final scene of the pilot episode, which follows the characters home after Shabbat dinner.
“The last scene they show is Nati” — the handsome doctor — “sitting on the hallway floor, reading the newspaper, because the only light in their apartment was from the bathroom light they kept on for Shabbos,” Orenstein remembered.

“Anybody who’s Sabbath-observant has done that at some point by the bathroom light.”
That was my favorite part of Episode One, too. Good call. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Conan O'Brien hosting a Jewish Television show?....

Yes, it might be true.

So here is the story. I work for JLTV(Jewish Life Television). It's a full time Jewish channel on Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. When the whole Conan vs. Leno vs NBC battle started getting heated up, we sent out a press release that we are offering a hosting position for Conan in case he leaves NBC. So we didn't hear anything, till now....

(que the video)

Thats pretty awesome (for us at least).

So here is where you come in. Go to here and vote that you want him to come work for us. I know its tempting to vote for the porno roll, but try your best.

(aka, future boss of Conan)

A True Kiddush Hashem

Hat tip: Moshe

Israel sets up a sophisticated hospital in Haiti post-earthquake for medical relief.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Suicide Groom's Anguish

Hat tip: Benny

A Brooklyn man who committed suicide two days into his honeymoon had confided to a friend's dad that he was molested by a prominent rabbi now facing charges of sexually abusing other boys.

The friend's father told The Post that Motty Borger, 24, accused ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, 59, whose trial -- on 75 counts of sexual assault involving three boys -- starts Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Borger's videographer dad, Shmuel, founded the boys choir Amudei Sheish. The Borgers and Lebovits shared strong ties to the Munkatch Hasidic sect.

Borger attended the sect's school and summer camp and its synagogue in Borough Park. Lebovits, too, was a regular.

Borger confided his secret to his bride, Mali Gutman, the day after their Nov. 3, 2009, wedding in Williamsburg, a source close to the family said.

At 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 5, as his wife slept, Borger jumped from the seventh-floor balcony of their room at the Avenue Plaza Hotel, cops said.

Lebovits is accused of repeatedly sodomizing two boys and fondling another, sometimes in his car and even in a mikvah, a ritual bath, in a synagogue, from April 2000 to September 2004.

"It was really well known in the community," said a source close to the probe. "It was no secret."

The last quote may be the worst part of the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

OU Marriage Satisfaction Survey Results

Hat tip: AnonD007

The Orthodox Union has published the results of its marriage satisfaction survey (discussed previously here). I haven't yet had a chance to read through it thoroughly, as I'm at work, but I'm sure it will be very interesting. The video is after the jump.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quote of the Day: Priorities

Princess D'Tiara:
Don't make people in your life a priority when they only make you an option.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Midnight Mathness

SJ: 3/10 + 3/100 + 3/1000 until infinity is...

Erachet: [Trying to think after having woken up in the middle of the night and being faced with math] Um...

SJ: .333333 etc. Which is also...?

Erachet: Um....a B?

SJ: [Looks at Erachet in utter bewilderment...]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Principles of Management

...because it always was my favorite class. (V'hamaven yavin)

Being in somewhat of a management position is a fascinating study of people in general and individuals in specific. What is particularly amazing is how easy it is to group people into types; someone remarked to me recently that there's a management philosophy that argues there are only four types of employees, and proceeded to list what they were. It was surprising how accurate those groupings were. A few notes I've made in the last few months on the job:
  • The people who everyone assumes are most averse to criticism are typically the least averse. The ones who assume are typically the most.
  • There is a dramatic split between those who take discussions related to work personally, and those who are able to completely separate themselves from the work in order to problem solve.
  • It is amazing how much one person can set a company back by simply not following up on the tasks they're assigned, and more amazing that even after some of those responsibilities are taken away, they still just won't focus enough on what's left, losing out on great opportunities to prove themselves for some short-term fun.
  • There's a surprising amount of hypocrisy among people who complain about how others around them act, and fail to see that they often act exactly the same way.
  • People who fight through their differences turn into stronger workers than those who sugarcoat them, nod and pretend they don't exist, or otherwise avoid dealing with issues they have with one another.
  • A well-placed line is a far more effective critique than a 10-minute talk.
  • A well-placed comment and thank you is a far more appreciated compliment than a big pump-up talk and thank you.
  • Management involves a lot of delegation; it does not and should not result in only delegation. Most of management work involves reading, studying, and preparing; the rest is rolling up your sleeves and actually working. Those who don't understand this or are unwilling to do it will never move up further and the people under them will end up passing them by.
  • Another key to management is believing in the people below you, showing them as much, understanding their strengths and how to focus them, and directing them appropriately. It is surprising how many people focus on what the people below them can't do instead of on what they can.
  • The best way to get something across is via a headfake. (V'hamaven yavin)
  • There is always something to do. There's no such thing as waiting: Prepare for the next step, push what you can to the edge and show it's ready to go, show that you're prepared for all the steps ahead, and if all else fails, find another project to start on. Or of course, go help someone else on their project.
  • People hate being sat on. Of course, those are the same people who don't work unless someone is sitting on them, however much they think the opposite is true. This is one of the most difficult things to show a person.
  • Perhaps the most difficult part of management is when you're dealing with factors that are not meant for staff, but they are pressing (properly) to move forward or to do things a certain way but you have to hold them back anyway. Balancing doing what's right but still maintaining that trust and reliability is almost impossible, yet necessary. To some extent, you're forced to rely on their ability to look back later and understand why you did something a certain way even if now they're going to be upset and frustrated. This is especially true when you're trying to also keep everyone motivated and positive.
  • Working with (and being forced to manage) friends and neighbors comes with a ridiculous set of difficulties, multiplying everything above by an incredible factor.
  • Managing people who are substantially older and who have many years of experience comes with another set of difficulties, but it's surprisingly far less of an issue than one might expect. Perhaps this comes from some of the advantages of an older generation: They are more likely to work regardless of what they like or dislike, they are far less likely to be distracted with other things (especially online), and they are far more cognizant of what is and isn't appropriate. They also recognize better where their strengths and weaknesses lie and are happier to pass along responsibility they're not comfortable with to others while taking ownership of the areas where they are.
  • There are some people who love to step up when things are rough or need to get done; there are others who love to step up when things are going well and take things to another level. But it's the people who step up when everything is just plain old normal who are the most valuable to a company: They make sure that things never get rough, and they create the opportunities for things to go well.
  • One of the interesting aspects of management is demonstrating to people what their strengths and weaknesses are - not necessarily so much to work on the weaknesses as to focus on the strengths and utilize them appropriately. Better to have lots of people who are good at specific tasks than lots of people who are okay at everything.
  • Basic psychology courses would probably be advantageous for people to take prior to managing. Advanced psychology courses could sometimes also be helpful. (V'hamaven yavin)
Those are the thoughts off the top of my head in the middle of two nights; feel free to add more.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Chilling Out

I just read this article in The Commentator written by a friend of my brother's and thought it was excellent. It does not say anything new, but it is a good reminder for both students and for anyone who attempts anything in life.


...the number displayed on the screen was the score that I had received on my first mid-term, the one that would find itself plastered on my personal transcript:


With this frightful realization, my heart sank. Oh, the horror of it! The shame! How did this happen? How had I allowed this to happen?

For days, I couldn’t put that horrid number - 88 - out of my mind. I thought about it as I tried to fall asleep at night. It irked me in the daytime too. Maybe Professor Luders had made a mistake? Maybe he didn’t count up the points right? Unlikely. Maybe he hated me? I grew paranoid with the myriad possibilities as to why I had been cursed with the scholastic tragedy that is a B. I was angry. I was upset. I wanted answers. Sure it was a B+. Some might even call that a “good grade”. But in my eyes, it was still just a B.

Why me?

I looked around YU at my fellow students, and many of them seemed to be equally mired in their own grade-induced hysteria. One of my good friends, after receiving a C on his English paper, related to me with utmost sincerity that “his life was over,” and that he’d “never get into law school now.” I felt for him. I could tell he meant it. But he sounded ridiculous. And I realized how ridiculous I too had sounded and acted in the aftermath of that 88.

And so, with the benefit of a little hindsight and some much-needed perspective, I arrived at the following conclusion:

Everyone needs to chill out about his grades.

Read the rest!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Discussing Discussions vs. Disgusting Discussions

With thanks to Binny, who made the point so well.

There is an oft-used tactic in modern debate which is extremely effective, yet quite obfuscating were one to consider not just its methods, but what exactly it's about. Confused yet?


While many public debates are debates over the substantive issues at hand, there are issues where this is not the case; rather, the issue at hand is itself whether a discussion should even be held. In other words, the debate is about what the discussion would be, not what the discussion would be about.

In cases like this, the oft-used tactic is to paint those on side A of the issue as "intolerant", and those on side B as very "tolerant", because side B is open to "discussion" and side A is not. However, this is incredibly twisted: It is not that side A is not open to the idea of discussion, but that in a particular subject, that the "discussion" itself is the issue and they are against it. Side B, itself unwilling to accept this as a legitimate point of view, then tries to paint this as an intolerant approach and tries to sway those who might otherwise agree with side A by claiming their "intolerance" shows them to be "extremists". After all, they argue, "What's wrong with just having a discussion?"

This happens with so many issues, but the recent panel at YU on homosexuality in the Orthodox world is a perfect example. A number of people mentioned to me that after the hubbub began, a group was started on Facebook for people who "Support a YU that Engages the Issues". What these people so obviously miss is that those in YU who were against the panel did engage the issue - and felt strongly that what YU did was wrong. As is clear from the group's introduction*, the group is one that strongly supported the panel that occurred and wishes for more such panels to take place. What they are not accepting of is discussion as to whether or not such panels are appropriate in the first place. (One person who tried to question as much on the group was quickly shot down, labeled as a "bad guy", his views as "bigoted", and was told that those who support the group were "good guys" and "open-minded" - and that was all in the first comment!)

It is important to recognize, particularly in issues regarding morality, that often the debate is over whether a topic is itself even up for discussion. Both sides of such a debate are well aware that even having such a discussion is itself a shift of the lines of debate and one which often is used to blur the discussion itself completely. Again, using the YU panel as an example, by taking halacha out of the discussion it shifted the debate from "how should we work with someone who is struggling with homosexuality but wishes to be Orthodox" or even "to what extent should homosexuality be a public subject" to "how should we react to someone who has homosexual relationships" (as two of the panelists openly acknowledged having or craving such relationships). Without many people even being cognizant of it, this shifts the debate into one of how to accept and make someone feel accepted despite their actions instead of whether they should be accepted because of those actions.

Just to switch the example to another subject briefly to show this approach is not confined to this situation, this is similar to how one can shift the discussion of abortion with ease {note: in conversation, not in historical political discourse}. Instead of allowing that abortion is a wrong, sad event, but that there may be exceptions where it should be allowed (if not encouraged), people will note that abortion is a necessity in some types of cases and therefore should always be legal - just in case. This then shifts the debate to whether abortion should be allowed only in specific cases, or even for anyone who wishes to abort her child early on in a pregnancy for any number of a variety of arguable reasons. That then sometimes shifts the debate even further as to whether partial-birth abortion** should be allowed to those who wish it as well. The shift of debate through the argument of "discussion" is a brilliant but immoral maneuver.

Switching back, it is clear why so many in, around, and outside of YU were upset with what occurred, and more importantly for the future, how some completely missed the primary focus of those who spoke out against it. What is especially important moving forward - not just in this situation, but in any - is that people such as the ones who joined that Facebook group understand that oftentimes, "engaging an issue" occurs by deciding that an issue is inappropriate for the venue, the crowd, or the university it represents. That many people feel an issue should not be publicly discussed does not mean it is not being engaged; nor does the fact that it is not being engaged in the manner that so many have come to or have been taught to expect as the norm translate into any other approach being incorrect or intolerant. Tolerance is not a free-for-all where anything goes; it is a respect that others have differing points of view, even ones we don't agree with or much like at all. Most importantly, tolerance is not acceptance, but balancing how one reacts with how one feels about a person or subject versus how they act upon the same.

* Quote from the group: This is a group for alumni, students and others who care about Yeshiva University to express their support for events that allow for open, nonjudgmental and safe dialogue and discourse on issues of importance to Orthodox Judaism in the twenty-first century. In light of YU’s noble decision to hold a panel last week on “Being Gay in the Orthodox World,” this group actively encourages such people to email President Joel and others in the University Board/Administration to express support for such events, and to ensure that the university administration is aware that, despite some voices to the contrary, such discussions are welcome and vital to a vibrant YU campus and community."

** Wikipedia: The fetus is turned to a breech position, if necessary, and the doctor pulls one or both legs out of the birth canal, causing what is referred to by some people as the 'partial birth' of the fetus. The doctor subsequently extracts the rest of the fetus, usually without the aid of forceps, leaving only the head still inside the birth canal. An incision is made at the base of the skull, a blunt dissector (such as a Kelly clamp) is inserted into the incision and opened to widen the opening,[8] and then a suction catheter is inserted into the opening. The brain is suctioned out, which causes the skull to collapse and allows the fetus to pass more easily through the birth canal.

What About Daddy Time?

At Rea's on Shabbos:
Elianna badgering Serach during the meal non-stop...

Serach: OK, Elianna, here's some more food, but I want you to please stop talking and eat. I haven't had a chance to take a bite yet, and I need some Imma time for me right now, okay?

{starts to eat}

Elianna: That's OK. I need some Elianna time.