Sunday, July 31, 2011


Two videos worth watching (via IsraellyCool and Deadspin)

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plagiarism in the (Frum) Press


Please see updates at the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds crazy? I thought so too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 1 (by Ezzie):

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

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

UPDATE 2 (by Ezzie):

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Ezzie

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

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Agudah Clarification on Reporting Abuse

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

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

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

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

On Shifting Views - Media Bias and Gay Marriage

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fantasy Seasons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honesty and the Jewish Community VIII: Quotable Interjection

(continued as part of this series)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Time

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a friend discuss some difficulties they were going through with someone they knew well. As we discussed the various issues, it dawned on me that so much of what I was saying could easily be extrapolated to my own situation as well. Yes, there were obvious differences, but at the same time, there were some eerie similarities. I've always found it interesting and obvious at the same time how it's so much easier to help 'solve' someone else's problem than solve your own, even if they are exactly the same.

Similarly, something my cousin wrote recently about therapy struck home as well. (And perhaps it was ironic that he was here to raise funding to start a yeshiva that would be all about working on one's self...) Sure, we all know everything comes back to what we decide to do, but at the end of the day, we wait for so much else to happen first that is completely not dependent on ourselves... and that's the error. Today, the friend followed up and noted that they had successfully ended their difficult relationship. In the context of the conversation, they expressed how it was freeing to not be leaning on someone anymore. While noting that there are times where it's okay and appropriate to lean on someone, I had to agree wholeheartedly - it's so important to be able to be self-reliant in most aspects of life.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily make it easy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

BDE, Helen Stone

Helen Stone of Cleveland (my grandmother's sister and widow of Irving I. Stone - he of American Greetings, Stone Chumash/Tanach, and the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland fame) passed away today.

Baruch Dayan Emes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don P. Design House

It's always great to see friends working really hard at something they're good at, especially as they start overcoming the various hurdles associated with it. One friend who has likely been mentioned previously on this blog has always been a great dresser and designer, ironically married someone who does the same, and now has started manufacturing and selling his own custom shirts for little boys - and other friends have been buying and loving them. Feel free to support him, he's just a great guy - and your sons will look great.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

About Mental Illness

After the horrific events of the past days, a friend who works in the psych fields e-mailed me, asking that this blog discuss not only the very important aspects of talking to one's children and communicating with them about the various dangers and how to approach them, but also the fear and stigma the community sometimes has toward discussing issues such as sexual abuse and mental illness, and people who do not get help due to that stigma.

This friend also attended the funeral and noted that "...words cannot describe the experience adequately; the hespedim (that I heard) were in Yiddish, which I do not speak. There was no need to understand the syntax; the emotion felt pierced through and spoke what words could not." [sic]

The friend also emphasized the importance of reading the following letter which appears in full on The Yeshiva World, by the Director of the Center for Applied Psychology (CAPs) at Bikur Cholim (Rockland County), Yitzchak Schechter, Psy.D. I'm quoting an excerpt below, please read it in full:
A simple example to all of what we mentioned comes in this incident itself. Most school age children of the community, whether they be in cheder, day camps, mesivta, sleep away camps or at home will likely hear of this painful and horrific story (or may have heard of other difficult and harrowing stories of the recent past), that is the nature of childhood - stories circulate quickly and usually with great elaboration - without our control. To ignore the story, therefore, is likely foolhardy and to do so allows children to develop their own narrative, perhaps fears, wrong beliefs, etc. about the story and make the traumatic story even worse. Therefore, in a proactive step parents should, at the appropriate level of the child, mention, without anxiety, drama or stress, the sadness that there was a boy who died and if they have any further questions they can discuss it with you the parents. In addition, the moment can, if appropriate, be used to reinforce the very simple concept of safety and privacy (i.e. “no one should touch you in your private parts or make you feel uncomfortable, if they do immediately tell a trusted adult or your parents”). While in this situation it seems to have been a stranger- and of course one should never get into a car or walk with a stranger, the large majority of incidents of abuse occur with people known to the child and familiarity is not protective (and the child must be specifically told “no matter who it is”).
By not allowing secrets, developing open communication and dealing outright with our challenges- as a community, as parents, families and individuals we will create a better environment for our personal and spiritual growth.

Lesson Finally Learned?

I just read this piece by R' Yitzchak Adlerstein and actually clapped upon reading it. After the horrible news yesterday about Leiby Kletzky, the little boy who was picked up and horribly murdered and dismembered by confessed murderer Levi Aron, I noted and questioned to a few friends that it would be interesting to find out if anyone knew if this Levi Aron was a molester or pedophile, and someone covered it up as has been done all too often in the past. However, without proof, I was reluctant to even mention it, until reading R' Adlerstein quote an unnamed respected rav:
I am sure he was, and I am sure he molested many others, and I am sure that there were people that knew and hushed it.
Whether this was the case here or not, there are certainly people like Levi Aron who are free because people have done exactly that: Hushed up cases of abuse, molestation, and the like. This needs to end, once and for all.

As R' Adlerstein says:
It is time to forever bury the myth that reports of pedophilia can be managed and dealt with by committees of rabbonim, even for a short time. It is time to bury the myth that there is a serious halachic barrier to going to authorities to deal with credible reports of such behavior. Enough baalei halacha have told us that there is no barrier. 
Choshen Mishpat 358:12 tells us that those who vex the public can be handed over. Any pedophile does at least that, and poses a danger of doing much more. Moreover, mesirah of a molester exposes him to a safek of danger; pedophiles pose a much greater danger level to many more victims. 
It is natural and good that many people were not eager to rush to modes of address that themselves could be too sweeping and harsh, with terrible consequences to people and their families. They thought that various types of modus vivendi were possible. By now they should realize that this is not true. Rabbonim cannot handle the issue. We have enough evidence of this. Failure to take notice of this could have been said, figuratively, to be shefichas damim/ bloodshed. 
Today, it is no longer figurative. 
It is not a stain on our record that it took time to learn the facts about molestation. Reacting far too slowly is a terrible stain, though. 
Leiby’s horrific petirah can save the lives of many others – those who could meet a similar fate, r”l, and those victims whose lives are a living death. 
I may still be proven wrong, but the analysis will not change. Parents will be speaking about safety to their children. Whatever really happened to Leiby, the fact is that our kids are often in far greater [sic: danger] in school, shul and camp than from encounters with detested “others” while walking home. 
The greatest aliyah for Leiby and nechamah for his family will come from all of us getting serious about molestation. 
If your rov doesn’t get it, think of getting a new rov.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Switch Your Verizon Plan Now

If you're on Verizon or are considering switching to Verizon, do it today or tomorrow at the latest. After tomorrow Verizon will no longer have unlimited data plans. If however you're in by tomorrow you will be grandfathered in and keep your unlimited plan at $30/month (versus the new pricing levels which will range from $30-80/month).

Friday, July 01, 2011

Google+... +++

Ezzie: Tried posting this a couple nights ago, but didn't publish for some reason. Enjoy.

Jon nails why Google+ is off to a hot start, but to add to it - the accompanying xkcd is spot-on, plus there's the actual product: It's everything you want on Facebook, minus all the stuff you don't, with the ability to customize a bunch of stuff as you'd like to. The most important things to me are selective sharing, ability to restrict whether something I put up can be shared by others, and communication by group rather than all or nothing. So far it's pretty impressive.

On one hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch. On the other hand, you'll never be able to convince your parents to switch!