Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Nose Knows

Parents are permitted to kvell about their children all the time. Well, teachers are allowed to kvell about their students as well, even about their ex-students. Want to read something bright and witty and sure to shake you out of a case of the dismals? Please go on over to bad4shidduchim and read her "Celestial Practical Joke."

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again and I'm wondering where the time flew to. Ready or not here comes 2010. So much has gone on in the family that I can't believe it all got packed into one short year.

Someone at worked asked how we celebrate New Years Eve. Really simply, as it turns out. Comfy in a robe and slippers, sipping a toasty cappuccino. Yes, counting noses and being joyful that all noses are present and accounted for, and not sniffling. And at midnight I'll do what I've done every year since I'm married--I'll call my mom and wish her a happy new year, as she will do for me. And then I can go to sleep happily, knowing that all the important people are heading into that new year with me.

Whatever you need or want, I hope the new year will bring it for you. I hope that next year at this time you will be able to look back on 2010 as having been a good year, a fulfilling year. I hope that this year will be one of peace, both personally and globally. I hope this new year will be one of progress, again both personally and globally. Let this be a year that "mazel tovs" ring out loudly and frequently. I'm really looking forward to getting lots of blisters from my dancing shoes from all the simchas that are going to take place. Let this be a year in which refuahs and yeshuahs come in abundance. Let this be a year in which impossible dreams come true by the hundreds. Let this year be whatever you need it to be.

Happy New Year!

NOTE: To any commenter who is considering leaving a comment about how frum Jews should not be involved in celebrating the secular new year or even giving greetings of happy new year, because secular new years is all about the drinking, may I advise that you don't leave that comment, or my pre-Purim rant on alcohol is quite likely to come far earlier in the Jewish calendar than Adar.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Choices, Choices Everywhere....

Once, in the dark times of long ago, "choice" was a luxury, a luxury that not too many people had. Where you lived was pretty much decided for you as an accident of birth. What you ate was proscribed by where you lived; fresh vegetables and fruits were limited to spring and summer with few exceptions. Meat was eaten when you found game to kill, or when a sheep became too old to produce milk any longer. What your profession was going to be was also pretty much decided beforehand; most boys apprenticed with their fathers and entered their fathers' professions. If your father was a cow herder, you were going to be a cow herder. Or perhaps if your father in law was a vintner, you would be a vintner. And life was good, and people were mostly contented.

Fast forward to now. The problem is not that there are no choices available but that there are too many choices available. Making a decision about what to choose can be paralyzing to some people. They worry incessantly that if they choose X then they can't have Y and what if Y would have been the better choice? Or Z? There is discontent when you have this worry. There is a feeling for some that they are "settling" rather than choosing freely. They constantly flit from place to place, from item to item, always looking for that elusive one thing that will bring them complete happiness and contentment.

New York and its surrounding area is very much like the situation described above. For Jews, there are lots of schools to choose from, lots of stores to shop in, lots of shuls to choose from, lots of restaurants to choose from. Whatever you are possibly looking for as relates to Yiddishkeit, you have a huge choice to select from here. And yet, New York is not a contented place, not for its frum citizenry. No sooner does someone make a choice here then they already have growing a seed that says "look further, choose again." They look and see others making different choices and this doesn't always sit well. Either they wonder if their own choice was really the right choice and perhaps that other person made the better choice, or they feel the other person is a fool for having made the choice he/she did.

Sometimes having a choice can be a good thing; other times having too many choices can lead to discontent, to overspending, to kinah. It seems to be really true that sometimes "less is more."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Icons and Squeaky Wheels

Once upon a time it was the practice in our country that news consisted of information that was of importance to us as a nation or as a region. Importance was defined fairly narrowly--something that could change our lives or affect them, either positively or negatively. Sometimes that news would affect only one segment of our society; other times the affect would be across the board. What it costs to live in our country was considered news. What Congress was debating was considered news. How much water is in our reservoirs was considered news. Agricultural methodology changes in the Midwest was considered news.

Pretty much we knew that "news" appeared on the front pages of newspapers or in the front sections, or were the opening headlines of television news reports. Reading a daily paper and/or catching the evening news reports on television/radio was a communal custom across the land.

No, those newspapers were not devoted only to "hard" news, but basically they were. Any "soft" news was buried in interior sections. Yes, mankind being mankind, there were social columns that told us who was marrying whom and what the latest styles were going to be in clothing. And yes, some papers have always had a resident gossip columnist. But no one back in those dark ages considered this type of information to be news of the type necessary to be blazoned on the front page.

There were some publications that came in a physical newspaper form that purported to be giving us news, but we all knew that they didn't. You know, those tabloids that were sold in supermarket checkout lines with headlines that yelled, "Aliens hold Midwestern man hostage as his wife gives birth to her own mother." These types of publications were truly the "low man on the totem pole" in the newspaper hierarchy, and no one, but no one regarded them as a serious news source.

Fast forward to today and the situation is wholly different. More and more today the "major" newspapers are becoming repositories for stories that would have been buried in yesteryear's newspapers, if they were printed at all. Today's news, if we can call it that, is about our "icons," the highly visible people whom our society has elevated to "superstar" status. Generally, these people come from the entertainment/sports arenas. Some come from the fashion industry. The rare few who make it to "icon" status who come from government and industry usually do so because they have one of two things that has propelled them forward: a sex scandal or mega, mega bucks. The saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Today that translates to mean that those who have icon status, who are "personalities," get put on the front page: real news is now relegated to the interior sections somewhere, if it makes it into a paper at all.

We do subscribe to our local newspaper. I don't think the paper would be happy to know that we do so mainly for the coupons and store circulars that come with it during the week. We don't so much read the paper as we skim it to see if anything of real importance is buried in it. Yes, on occasion, the paper does carry a front page story of interest to those in our borough or city. Sometimes they actually carry news on the front page. Sadly, mostly they don't. Open the front page of the front section and you have arts and entertainment staring at you--yup, all the latest tidbits of (no) interest on entertainers and sports figures. Sports gets a complete section of its own. International and national news? Buried here and there when given at all.

An editorial in our paper last week was a rant about how they were disappointed that more Islanders did not show up at a public meeting with the MTA to discuss Island concerns about the new MTA policies. They stated that they had advertised that forum in the paper. Uh huh. That article announcing the forum was buried somewhere in the interior. What made the front page? The death of some 32 year old actress under what may be suspicious circumstances. Like I care.

There are all kinds of outlets today from which we can get news. Newspapers, with only a few exceptions, are not the favored outlet for most people. When newspapers complain about declining numbers of subscribers, they just might look to themselves for the source of the problem. As long as the "news" part continues to be less important than the antics of the Hollywood and sports crowd, readership is going to continue to decline.

While out shopping Sunday I noticed the headline story on the front page of the Daily News--it was about the terrorist on an airplane who was caught before he could ignite the bomb he was carrying. Real news, right? Sure it was. With a headline that screamed out underpants where terrorist hid bomb, emphasis underpants. Want to bet just how many people were drawn to the paper, not by the "real" news that might have been buried in there but by the underwear reference? Add to the icons and the squeaky wheels that sex sells and you've got the philosophy of a whole bunch of newspapers.

And just a final word on those newspapers that are Jewish ones. They aren't any better than their secular counterparts. They, too, are "icon/squeaky wheel" driven. Real news is rare and certainly not reported in anything resembling an objective manner. Advertisements outnumber news stories. Personal opinion columns certainly outnumber news stories. There's a lot of reporting on personalities within the frum communities. Sometimes the letters to the editors outnumber the number of news items. Honestly? When I glance at some of these Jewish papers what comes to mind is not newspaper but tabloid.

One major newspaper uses as a banner "All the news that's fit to print." Yeah, right. That really should read "All the quasi-news that fits into our print allotment."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Building Blocks

A few years ago a family that had moved on to our block recently had the idea to give a kiddush and invite all the frum people on the block. Since she wasn't sure that she knew how many of us there were, as she asked one person she asked them to give her another name until she had all of us. We were a pretty diverse group that arrived for kiddush, from many different shuls. But we had one thing in common: we were neighbors.

We range in age from a couple in their high 70s to a young newly married couple in their early 20s. What came out of that kiddush was a newly heightened feeling of achdus. The young children on the block have been beneficiaries of this achdus. They skateboard and ride their bicycles up and down the block and have people they can wave a cheery hello to. And those kids know that if an emergency of any kind occurs away from their house there is another house they can ring the bell at and get some help. When one neighbor family was going to be away for a week they left with the peace of mind that a different one of the neighbors would check that the mail was taken in. When a different neighbor's wife was away for a week he had an abundance of invitations for Shabbos meals and for weekday meals as well right here on the block. When one neighbor's wife went into labor in the middle of the night there was no problem of what to do with the other children in the house. A quick call to a neighbor brought over someone to stay with the children until a grandparent could arrive. When bad weather hits, and even when it doesn't, borrowing from a neighbor if you suddenly run out of something you need is common.

Yeah, so what? I can hear you saying. Well, it's a big so what. There are thousands of frum people living in NYC who have no idea who their neighbors are. There is no attempt made to welcome new residents into the neighborhood or onto the block. Social groups are drawn from shuls perhaps, or perhaps from among fellow classmates of high school or seminary or yeshiva. These friends live all over, most not on our blocks. One of my sils has been sharing a driveway for decades with someone whose face she might recognize if she saw him off the block--or maybe not--but she can't give you his name for sure. They don't run in the same circles. She's not atypical.

What are the building blocks of achdus in Klal? Well, building relationships on your block is one of them. No one is saying you have to become best friends with everyone on the block. But you should know who these people are. Let me give you a practical reason, if you can't think of another one. Snow removal can be a pain in the patoot. Lots of people have purchased a snow blower or removal machine. These are NOT inexpensive items. Now let's say there are 20 frum families on your block. That would mean that each house made an outlay of $300-500 to buy the snow machines. Why? Two or three should suffice for the whole block, and the cost goes way down if neighbors buy the machines jointly. The same goes for for gas and electric lawnmowers. We did not buy the machines in use on our block jointly, but we all gladly share and lend each other whatever is needed.

Winter is upon us and our block is in action. We check with each other to make sure that everyone has what they will need if the weather is nasty. Older people are not isolated and left to feel as if they no longer matter. And younger couples with little children are not left to flounder when they simply cannot get out with the whole crew. One of our block members cannot make the round trip to shul Friday night very easily in bad weather. He gets a car lift from someone on the block before Shabbos so he only has to walk home, and that walk is not alone either. Three others walk with him just to make sure he gets home safely. If someone is ill on the block the neighbor grapevine works efficiently so we all know and can offer whatever assistance we can give. No, we are not each other's best friends, but we are friendly neighbors. We understand the benefits of physical proximity.

How can we build achdus in Klal? One block at a time. Start with your own neighbors and then go from there.

Note: LOZ recently had a post in which he complained about the neighbor problem in his area. I'm not sure that what I'm suggesting would work for all the blocks in that "B" area, but it might in some. And if it doesn't, take heart anyway--it works in lots of other places.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dag Nab It! Spelling Counts!

So, I'm doing maintenance on all my email accounts today, getting rid of all the account-clogging ads and appeals. One such ad had me laughing and crying at the same time--laughing at the absurdity and crying about the sad state of those who attempt to write in English.

The subject line clearly stated: "Lowlife insurance rates like you've never seen before." Say what?! It had never occurred to me before that lowlifes would have trouble getting regular insurance and would be required to purchase insurance specially tailored for their needs. In a strange way it even makes sense: lowlifes are liable to involve themselves in risky undertakings, so they should be paying extra.

For anyone who still doesn't get it, what the ad should have said was "Low life insurance rates." At least I can be thankful that it wasn't one of my students who penned this gem.

Teaching Torah Not

I got a phone call before 9:00 today from someone calling to raise funds for a yeshiva. It was a frustrating call, to say the least.

The yeshiva is not physically located in my neighborhood, nor even in my city. It is not a yeshiva I have donated to before. I politely explained to the person on the phone that our yeshiva tzedaka money was staying local for now. That should have ended the call, but it didn't. The person on the other end made a point of emphasizing that our local yeshivas are yeshiva ketanas (factual point: they aren't all) and that it is higher up on the tzedaka ladder to donate to a yeshiva gedolah, that that is what is required of us. "Why?" I asked. He told me that it is because the yeshiva gedolah teaches Torah. So I asked "And a yeshiva ketana doesn't teach Torah?" He backtracked only a half a millimeter and said that they don't teach Torah on the same madrega as a yeshiva ketana; the learning is of a much higher value, so the money donated there is of a higher value. At this point I was not happy and asked him: "If you didn't have a yeshiva ketana teaching ahavas Torah first just who would be coming to your yeshiva gedolah?"

He decided to end the conversation and said: "So, I can put you down for $54?" I answered "no" and disconnected the call. No, fundraising today is not easy, not with the financial situation many people are in. But if yeshivas and other organizations are going to be doing telephone soliciting, someone needs to get those solicitors together and train them better. First, they need to be able to recognize when "no" means "no." They also need to learn that insulting those they phone by denigrating the choices of where those people are giving money to is not the way to go. And could someone please tell them that calling before 9:00 on a Sunday morning might get them some grumpy responses?

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Day Off

I was speaking to someone last night and mentioned that I had gotten up extra early yesterday morning to run out and do any food shopping I needed to do for Shabbos. All the major markets in our area were going to be closing at 6:00 pm yesterday and would remain closed today. Even the smaller stores and specialty markets, such as fruit/vegetable stores, would be closed tomorrow. I also knew that the markets, and their parking lots, would be extra full of people doing last minute shopping for the holiday. She was having trouble getting her head around this. "Don't you have kosher shopping available in your area?" I was asked. "Why should you care if the big supermarkets are going to be closed?"

All frum parts of NYC are not the same. In some areas you see no or almost no chain supermarkets. Shopping for frum consumers in those areas consists of a number of small kosher specialty shops--butchers, fish stores, bakeries, small groceries--and in some places a few mega stores offering those specialties under one roof. They also have large numbers of stores owned by frum people selling clothing and sundries etc.. For people living in such areas, yesterday and today were going to be no different from any other day in the year. A whole lot of the rest of us live in areas where there are some kosher only stores, but only a few of them, and shopping gets done at major supermarkets, with huge kosher sections, including fresh meat and fish, and major fruit and vegetable markets.

I live in one such area. Yes, our kosher bakeries and butchers were going to be open today. Strangely enough, they do a landmine business on this day in the calendar from non Jewish customers who suddenly need something and have nowhere else to get it. I wasn't going to brave the traffic, both human and car, and shopped yesterday.

There's also this: ALL the malls in our area are closed today, as are virtually all other kinds of stores. You're not going to find a single clothing store open, nor any stores selling hardware or appliances or books or anything else for that matter. All the big box stores are closed. Yes, there are some gas stations open. Yes, some restaurants are open. Yes, movie theaters are open. But the rest of the Island is pretty much closed down for business.

I LOVE it! What a gift! A day where no one can expect you to shop for anything, because there is nowhere to shop. A day where there is nowhere you HAVE to go because nothing is open. A day where you can just veg out at home and not feel the pressure to run out. And I love that this is happening on a Friday when Shabbos starts early. There is going to be no pressure to be out and doing. The only thing necessary to concentrate on is making Shabbos. Far from considering this a chisoron, I consider it a big advantage of living where I do.

As I write this my cholent is bubbling merrily and the soup is finished. The meat and side dishes are prepared and just waiting for the right time to pop them into the oven or onto the stove. The rest of the day is mine to do with whatever I want. I'm seriously considering a long soak in the whirlpool tub--not a usual on my list of things to do on a Friday. My friend? The one who pitied me because I don't have a wonderland of kosher stores in my area? She is going to be out today shopping, in addition to everything else that needs to be done for Shabbos. I know she pities me for the dearth of shopping opportunities in my area. I wonder how she would feel if she knew that I pity her for having to be out today, for not having a day off.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Let a Smile be your Umbrella

Okay, if no one else will try and cheer me up, and knock knock jokes don't seem to be doing it for the rest of you, let's try the following.

During a recent password audit, it was found that a blonde was using the following password:


When asked why she was using such a big password,
she said that she was told it had to be at least 8 characters long.

Crying for Klal

The news in Klal has not been particularly uplifting as of late. No sooner does one scandal appear than another is hot on its tail. Should I be angry? Should I rant and rave at the Chilul Hashem being committed? No, I think instead I will cry. I will let hot tears run freely and hope and pray they will dilute some of the pain I feel.

In Israel, if you ask someone for directions they will tell you "yashar, yashar." Yes Klal, yashar is the direction we all need to follow. So many of the comments elsewhere about the illegal activities of the Spinka Rebbe and of others all begin with "Everyone does this so why pick on these frum Jews." When I was a child and my siblings and I would tell our parents "but everyone is doing this!" our parents would answer "And if they jumped off of a bridge would you jump too?" It's wrong for those people and it's wrong for us too. Two wrongs still don't make a right. The law is the law. If you don't like the law work to have it changed, within legal boundaries.

What is also being offered as commentary is that the money being illegally laundered was being used for a good purpose, was not being used to enrich the Rebbe but for the purpose of supporting the mosdos and community he is the leader of. And this changes things just how? Am I permitted to rob a store if I take the money thus gotten and put it into a tzedaka box?

It would seem that so many people are upset not because an illegal activity took place but because a frum Jew was caught doing something illegal. It's the caught part that bothers them, not the activity itself. And yes, that makes me cry. How is it that our Klal continues to carry with it a European attitude and modus operendi that does not apply here and only brings tzaar to Klal? Why does anyone in Klal still think this way? I refuse to believe that mothers in Klal are telling their children "Thou shalt not steal unless it's from the government."

As to the Tropper scandal, yes, the tears are falling again. Not for Rabbi Tropper but for the rest of us. It is the same mentality that refuses to call him what he has shown he is that also allows the molesters in our community to continue to breathe freely, and that leaves our children and ourselves vulnerable to be preyed upon.

We are not a perfect people but we are told that we must continuously strive for that perfection, we must work every day to make ourselves better than the day before. We are told that we must be "a light unto the nations." Each time another scandal breaks it dims our light a little more. And yes, for that I am crying.

No, I'm not a perfect person, nor do I claim to be. No, I don't like some of the laws that I live under. Yes, as a NY resident, I believe I am being taxed to death. And yes, I also full appreciate the freedom that is allowing me to write this and post it for others to see. When I look at what my options are for getting tax relief I don't head for the illegal side of the ledger; I believe that it is against all the principles of Yiddishkeit that I have ever been taught to do so.

So yes, I am crying this morning, not for R. Tropper and the Spinka Rebbe but about them. Whatever their reasons were for their actions. those reasons are irrelevant. What remains is that they did something wrong. And what remains for us is to look at what they did and to swear to ourselves that we will not follow in their footsteps, that we will hold tight to our mesorah of yashrus.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Playing With Words

No secret that language fascinates me. It's cold and dreary out and a perfect time to do some language sleuthing. I really love the BrownieLocks site for a number of reasons, but the offering I link to below offers a look at the sometimes quirky side of our language. You'll find the history of anagrams there (auction=caution), some really great cognative anagrams ( alien forms=life on Mars) and some very funny malapropisms (Generally speaking, can you be more specific please?)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Groan Along With Me

There is plenty going on in the world to cause us to groan mightily. A friend decided that she had had enough with groaning about world events and what is going on in Klal, so she sent me the following link. Her instructions? If we're going to groan let there at least be some humor in that groaning.

I present for your groaning delight the world's best knock knock jokes.

Just as a sample to prime that groaning:

Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Delores who?
Delores my shepherd.

Knock, Knock!
Who's there?
Alpaca who?
Alpaca the trunk, you pack the suitcase.

Someone is going to buy this

I've been doing some price comparisons on an item I want to buy for my kitchen, so I've been surfing some housewares/cooking utensil sites. It never ceases to amaze me just how many different types of kitchen doodads there are out there. Heading into the holiday season, many of these sites are touting "amazing" items to give as gifts.

One item in particular has me scratching my head. It's a pot, but a pot with a difference. This pot is divided into three sections on the interior. The three sections are different sizes. Two of the sections share one pot lid; the other section has its own lid. It's non-stick, of course. Total capacity is 7 quarts. The manufacturer is touting this as perfect for the cook with limited cooking space. The pot fits over one burner but allows you to cook three different items at one time on that burner. The advertisement just gushes about this pot. "No more having to find three pots to fit those items you are cooking!" "A meal in one pot!" "No more waiting to reuse a pot for a different dish!" And the best is "No more having to scrub and wash out three different pots--saves the cook time and inconvenience!"

Okay, I hate all the washing up after I'm done cooking, but please explain to me how this pot saves me any cleaning up time? Don't those three sections equal three pots worth of washing up to do? And doesn't this pot presuppose that everything that is being cooked will need to be cooked at the same temperature and for the same amount of time? And how are you supposed to drain the contents of one section without tipping out the items in the other sections? And while I'm thinking strange thoughts, is it even possible that one or two sections of this pot could be considered pareve while the other part is considered milchig or fleishig?

Okay, cooks out there, is this pot something that you'd consider a valuable addition to your kitchen? If so, why? What might you use it for?

Monday, December 21, 2009

On Governance Committees

Every time my mom hears someone say "It was like this in der heim" she grits her teeth. Mostly these speakers are younger than she is, a lot younger. And unlike my mom they never lived in der heim. What they know of that long ago Europe is through tales and stories, many apocryphal. As my mom has said on many an occasion, "I lived in der heim and in der heim just wasn't like people describe it."

There is an interesting aspect of in der heim that never seems to get mentioned or where references to this aspect may be buried in history texts moldering on library shelves. That aspect is on how communities were organized. We have come to believe today that decisions about Jewish communal life are the purview of the Roshei HaYeshivot or the Rebbes or the National rabbinic alliances. These people pontificate on everything and anything that constitutes Jewish life here. We are not talking only halachic rulings and discussions. We are talking about every aspect of living, from what color you can wear and when and to whom you should be talking or not talking to and what you should be doing to make money and how organizations should be organized. For large parts of Europe this was not the case.

Let me use my mom's home town as an example. Although not a major city as we think of city today, it nonetheless had a Jewish population of 5000 plus. One of the Viznitzer Rebbe's sons opened up a large branch of the Viznitzer Yeshiva in this town. He was clearly a person of importance but was he the ultimate authority in town? No. There were other shuls and other rabbeim besides the rosh yeshiva. What's more, the town had a "chief rabbi" and it wasn't the rosh yeshiva. But there was more. There was a community council made up mostly of lay people. The rabbanim in town were considered as the advisory group to this committee but they didn't sit on the committee. The committee would consider matters of importance to the community and come up with dictates that the community would then follow. They were the group that dealt with the various government bodies on behalf of the Jews in town. When business questions arose they were placed before this committee. Tzedaka and chesed organizations came under the supervision of this committee. In short, communal life was the responsibility of the community council. The head of this council, the Rosh Ha'Ka'hal, was a man of importance in town, as were the council members.

Dividing responsibility for the life in the city meant that decisions were made by those best qualified to make them. Halachic decisions were made by the rabbanim, working in concert so as not to disturb the achdus of the community. "Life" decisions were the purview of the Community Council.

An awful lot of the problems faced by the organizations of Klal today would benefit from just this type of division of duties. Let the rabbanim stick to what they know best--paskening halachic questions or teaching Torah. And let those with experience and expertise in finance and running businesses have the responsibility for those aspects of community organizations that require such expertise. Yeshivas and the other organizations of Klal would benefit from having people in charge who have a clear understanding of how money actually works in the real world and what must be done so that these organizations get out of the red and into the black. Savvy business people may have wish lists of things they'd like to see happen, but they also look at the bottom line. So much of the duplication of organizations with the same purpose would not happen if they had to get permission from a central community committee to set up shop. And yes, yeshivas would surely benefit if their boards had any real clout other than rubber stamping what the rosh yeshiva wants.

So many people speak about in der heim and how we should be aiming to duplicate it here. Well, if you really want that duplication, stop picking and choosing what suits you and duplicate it all. Get those community committees up and running and let them take care of business. It surely can't be any worse than the way we run things now.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Observation on the Snow

I've been watching the snowfall since yesterday. The city got itself organized early and had trucks out laying down salt even before the snow covered the streets. The first plows came around our area around 11:45 last night and made another couple of passes before 3:00. They were back very early this morning.

But here is where we have a problem. The plows push all the snow to the sides to make sure that the streets are cleared for traffic. In doing so they block in all the cars parked on the street and in the driveways. So, out go the people with shovels and blowers to uncover their cars and create openings for those cars to be able to drive on the street. But where is that snow going that is being taken off the cars? You can't shovel it onto the sidewalks and block people into their homes and the front yards are already full of snowdrifts and there is no room for any more. So where is that snow going? Back onto the center of the street. No sooner had the people on the block managed to dig out some openings for their cars when the plows were back and blocked them all back in again. And out again went the people, re-digging out their cars and putting the snow back in the street.

There was a bit of a shouting match down the block between a few shovelers and the plow operators. The plow operators want that shoveled snow to be put somewhere else other than back into the street. The shovelers reasonably pointed out there there was NO place else to put the snow. They already were parked in snow caverns.

The amount of snow we got puts us into a catch-22 situation--darned if we do and darned if we don't. We're running into some basic mathematical/scientific facts. You can't put more into a container than that container can hold. Unless and until some of that snow melts we are going to be spending a whole lot of time digging and re-digging and re-re-digging, moving the snow accumulation from curb to street and to curb again.

And I am sending up some very sincere prayers that please, please let this be the last winter I have to spend in a snow area.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Close Enough to a Miracle for Me

Fifteen minutes to Chanukah lecht lighting and I'm on the phone wishing my mom a gutten Shabbos. I happened to glance down at my left hand as I was using the right one to hold the phone and got a real shock. My wedding band was there and behind it was my engagement ring--or what was left of it; the diamond was missing.

I can't begin to describe how I was feeling. Yes, I was more than a little frantic. And then came all the questions from the family members. Did I remember when I last saw the stone? What had I been doing from when I last remembered seeing it to this moment? I was washing dishes in the sink, so hubby quickly dismantled the sink trap to see if it was stuck there, but it wasn't. I had folded up some laundry and my daughter unfolded it all and shook it out. No diamond. I really tried to get into the right frame of mind for the Chanukah lecht but I was devastated. That ring hadn't been off my finger for more than about 6 weeks total (having my kids and hospital stays) in almost 38 years.

To say I was weepy would be an understatement. Somehow I made it through the Chanukah lighting and all I wanted was to hibernate somewhere. And then my son, who had gone down to the laundry room to get a warm sweater for the frigid walk to shul, came nonchalantly up the stairs asking, "So would that diamond look like this?" And there it was, in his hand. He had checked all the clothes in the dryer and it wasn't there and something prompted him to check the washing machine as well. And there, in the fabric softener dispenser, a piece of "glass" winked up at him.

With all the miles of carpeting in the house, with all the zillions of little corners that stone could have hidden in, what would be the possible chance of finding the diamond? And yet, there it was. So yes, this was close enough to a miracle to qualify for me. I admit my husband was far less affected than I was when we didn't know where the diamond was--"it's just a stone." I'm fairly certain that a whole lot of you women out there will understand what I was feeling. Just a stone? Not likely. That stone represents a treasure far different from whatever monetary worth the stone may have. Hopefully by next Shabbos that ring will be back on my finger, and all will be right with my world.

Friday, December 18, 2009

When the S Words Collide

It's Friday morning and Shabbos preparations are well under way. One S word present and accounted for. All the shopping for Shabbos was done yesterday. Another S word accounted for. And then the weather forecasters dropped another S word into my lap--Snow! This is one S word I am never ready for and would be thrilled if it were not present and accounted for.

I've been carefully following the weather predictions and each day the forecasters have added another inch or two of accumulation to the tally. What's worse is that they are now saying that the snow might continue into Sunday, another S word ruined. I don't mind snow when viewed on a postcard; I do mind having to deal with the aftermath of all that pretty snow once it has fallen. It brings with it all those other S words: slush and slippery and snarled and slow traffic. And if you are out there trying to deal with the shoveling--a truly nasty S word--then you are also likely to end up with another S word--sore muscles.

What can I say; I'm just not a fan of snow. So let me wish you all safe walking tomorrow and a truly restful and peaceful Shabbos--you're going to need it because Motzoai Shabbos is shaping up to be nasty.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kashruth Made Simple...Not

99.99% of the employees in my husband's company are frum (start right of middle and keep moving right until you fall off of the planet). Every year there is a Chanukah party for the employees with catered food at lunch. The majority of the employees come from Borough Park, Flatbush and Lakewood. The company offices are located on the border between Borough Park and Flatbush. So what's the problem? A meeting was held to decide on where the food was going to come from. And it took almost two weeks--two weeks!--for everyone to agree on a restaurant/caterer whose hechsher would be acceptable. In the end there was only one restaurant that everyone would agree on; yes, only one.

Now, I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but Borough Park/Flatbush has dozens of restaurants/caterers, maybe even hundreds. It seems like every other day that a new restaurant opens. And yet there was only one restaurant "kosher enough" that everyone could agree to eat from?

I once made the comment that the way that Klal is heading, pretty soon we are all, each of us, going to be our own division of Yiddishkeit. Is there anything that we all agree on when it comes to Klal? Is there any area where achdus draws us together? Keeping kosher can get complicated, given all the wonders of chemistry and food additives and food production, but have we really gotten to the point where lunch requires the input of 60+ people and two weeks of arguing? Oh that this were only a one-off aberration, but it's not. Just what are we doing to ourselves?!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Color Me Mad

God, the ultimate Creator, gave to mankind an incredible world. Variety of things in the world? Innumerable. And the colors He used? Magnificent, vibrant offerings to gladden the heart of mankind. And how do we return the favor? By being "color blind."

I am just so sick and tired of the color blahs that the frum community, or at least part of it, have decided are tsniusdik. Is anyone really trying to tell us that certain colors and those colors alone are tsniusdik? Based on what? Are we really accusing God of having created untsniusdik colors?

It is the custom in both my husband's and my family going way back that the women wear robes at least for Friday night. Now, I am not talking about terrycloth here but what has been called hostess robes. When the kids asked me what I would want as a Chanukah present I said I'd love a new Shabbos robe. Grrrrrrr. My daughter went shopping when one of the manufacturers was holding a sale in her neighborhood specifically for Chanukah. And every single one of those robes, every single one, was black!

Black robes, black dresses, black suits, black skirts, black sweaters, black everything! Certainly enough to put me in a black mood! Go ahead, look all around the outside world and tell me where you find a black flower or even a black bush. There is no black in a rainbow. Even blackberries are not really black but a deep purplish blue. By comparison to all the other colors and shades in the world, black is the least visible, the least used. Want to see black in nature? Look for mold, not exactly something I want to be associated with.

I've been shopping around for material, and no, not in the Brooklyn fabric stores. That robe will get sewn up because I, for one, am refusing to blacken my life any more. I found some beautiful velvets and velours in ruby and sapphire and emerald and topaz. The mood I'm in now, I just may buy all the colors and make myself up a beautiful bouquet of robes to wear. Womankind is no less a beautiful flower than all the other blossoms God created, and we deserve to be decked in the abundance of colors God made available to us.

A color can be untsniusdik? For some, tsnius is in the mind of the beholder, and I'm no longer going to be pandering to some people's sick mental wanderings. If I wear blue or yellow or gold or ruby or emerald I'm going to be responsible for some man's immodest/immoral thoughts? Please, get a grip. Tsnius is a way of behaving, not a color. And when I stand in front of my lachter on Friday night, preparing to usher in the Shabbos and give thanks to Hashem for the wondrous gift of the world he gave to us and for His gift of the Shabbos I'm not going to insult Him by wearing a color He didn't favor much when creating the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Boring Would Be Nice

Last week I noticed that that J-blogosphere was awfully quiet. Regular bloggers weren't posting or posting sporadically, and the few who were posting had nothing but "good news" posts up. What a relief! "Maybe this is really the season of miracles," I thought to myself. No such luck, as it turns out. We're right back to business as usual.

A pashkevil here, a kol korei there and, for a change, a scandal brewing involving a well known rabbinic personality, whose former employers reacted by praising his work to the sky. For a change the Internet is under fire, chareidim picking now to ban blogs, all blogs, even the frummy ones. For a change, a well known rosh yeshiva has decided to lump as sonei Yisroel the "heretics" of the reformed, the conservative and the MO branches of Judaism. Teaneck took heat as being too modern, having too many restaurants, not having proper tsnius standards, and not giving enough tzedaka. For a change, a well known rebbe is defended as not having done anything really wrong because tax fraud against the government is not really stealing. For a change, a get is finally given to an agunah of many years standing because her family was finally able to raise the outrageous sum that her husband was demanding as her ransom.

Other good news? Well, no yeshivas have announced that they are reformulating their budgets to take into consideration that parents simply cannot pay the exorbitant tuitions. Oh yes, and those same yeshivas have not announced that they are cutting down on their highly superfluous and extremely well paid staff. No rabbanim have gotten up and announced that parents, who simply don't have the money, will no longer be forced to send their children to summer camps or to Israel post high school. No rabbanim have stood up and said that simcha celebrations are simply too costly to Klal in all ways to continue the way they have been. No rabbanim have announced that they have seen the light and come to realize that their not being part of the solution to Klal's problems means that they are part of the problem. The right, the middle and the left are still happily taking potshots at each other, proving yet again that "kol Yisroel areivim zeh lo'zeh" are only words on paper, not a philosophy to live by.

In retrospect, those few days of comparative silence on the blogs were the lull before the storm. Given all the pots coming to a roaring boil now and all the pots that should be on the flame but are stone cold, boring would be welcome.

Work? Work!

I've mentioned before that my first language was not English. Yiddish was among those first languages. My mother and my aunt, both with beautiful voices, used to sing to us kids a whole slew of Yiddish songs from "in der heim." Decades later, when I'm busy around the house I still sing those songs, nostalgia making the work go easier.

There's been a lot of arguing about whether or not work is a concept that frum Jews need to deal with. Well, here's what they thought about it in that long ago Europe so many are so fond of romanticizing. The song? Rozhinkes mit Mandlen--raisins and almonds. The song was an old Yiddish lullaby, arranged in the form many of you might now recognize by Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908). And yes, work, and the view of work, figures into the song.

The links below will give you the "message" as well as showcase the beautiful voices of two long ago operatic/chazonish stars--Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker. Jan Peerce
[Note: I had this posting scheduled for today and then discovered that it happens also to be the yahrzeit of Jan Peerce. Eerie coincidence.] Richard Tucker

For those who don't speak/understand Yiddish, head over for the lyrics, transliteration and translation to

Monday, December 14, 2009

Torture or Progress?

The world at large has spent a lot of time lately discussing what types of torture are humane. Yes, I know, "humane torture" has to be a whopper of an oxymoron, but there are people who are worried about it. Those who classify the tortures put privacy way down on the list of things to worry about. Prisoners cannot expect privacy, full stop. If you are imprisoned then you are going to be watched 24/7.

Now let's reverse that idea. If you are watched 24/7 does that make you a prisoner, does that make you a victim of torture? Nope, not necessarily. What that might make you is a citizen of a technology-laden society. Not so slowly but surely our regular, day-to-day lives are fully entwined with the computer revolution. Less and less the regular business of living is conducted face to face, or envelope to envelope. More and more bills are paid online, banking is taken care of online, business is conducted online, schooling is happening online, shopping is online, information gathering is online, personal and social contact is online. Nor are we limited to land-locked computers; there are a multitude of small and hand-held devices on the market that allow you to do pretty much everything you can do on those computers and phones sitting on your desk.

Thanks to these computerized products virtually everything we do is known to someone else, sometimes lots of others. Get in a car and use your GPS and someone out there knows precisely where you are going, and any detours you are making along the way. Stop in a store and use a charge card and someone knows precisely where you were and when and how much you spent on what. Send a message, text or email, and someone out there knows who you are talking to, for how long, and yes, they can, if they wish, know just what you said. Privacy, as we once defined it, no longer applies. We aren't living in a private world.

There is no expectation of privacy in the work world either, something the courts have settled. Businesses regularly use keystroke programs and video cameras and audio recorders to check up on those who work for them or who are in their businesses as visitors. When you hear "This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes" you had better believe that someone is listening in on your conversation.

There is another correlative to this. Because we are so interconnected, others believe that we should be contactable at all times. Where once business was considered a 9 to 5 idea, today it's not. And not just business either. Once, if you wanted to contact a friend to see how they were doing, you needed to keep in mind whether or not they were working or likely to be home. Social contact was what took place through a landlocked home phone or face to face. Most homes had a cutoff time after which phone calls were not taken or allowed in--you might wake sleeping people in the household. Today there are no such limits. It doesn't matter what you are doing or where you are; your friends can contact you at any time, without limits.

We've all had the experience of being in a store and being forced to listen to cellphone conversations taking place. Or being stuck on a bus or train when those conversations were going on. We've all seen those people walking city streets while furiously texting messages or having cellphone conversations, and who have no sense of what is going on around them. They step off of curbs still texting or talking, without checking what the traffic situation is. They expect you to walk around them. What's worse to me is when you see two people or a small group of people sitting down at a restaurant, presumably to see each other, to socialize, and at least one person, if not more, is busy texting throughout the meal.*** The same for business meetings, lectures and school classes. The old song said: "When I'm not with the one I love, I love the one I'm with." Passe today. There's no such thing as not being with someone--just hit the on button.

Far from valuing privacy in general or private moments in specific, lots of people today believe that the opposite of privacy is what is valuable. They seem to feel that instant contact, 24/7 is a gift. They believe that being accessible at all times is a right and privilege. Try not picking up a ringing cellphone or, gasp, having it turned off, and watch some people go ballistic. How dare you not be available when it was convenient for the caller/texter! Never mind what the law says--what better time to have a mind-engaging conversation then when you are driving 60 mph on a congested highway somewhere.

The right to privacy is not specifically delineated in the Constitution but is derived from the penumbra. For years we have argued about having that right, but we're pretty much shooting down any right to privacy through our love affair with technology. There are still some who would like to have it both ways--we get privacy and we get 24/7 access to anyone and anything we want. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

There is one way, however, that we can get some measure of privacy--turn the machinery off and/or set some rules about when you will and will not be contactable. If you're out to dinner with your husband/wife, pretend there was a massive power outage and refuse to answer any messages, calls or texts. You want to save yourself some time? Stop texting/talking while in a grocery or other store, and just shop and get out. And maybe, just maybe, we might want to rethink the topics of conversation that are going to be overheard by others in a public space--do I really need to know the intimate details about your digestive/reproductive system? Please, spare me!

So no, a lack of privacy is not considered as torturing prisoners. How could it be? None of the rest of us are getting any privacy either. You want to give me the perfect gift for Chanukah and the rest of the year? Give me back some measure of privacy. Stop assuming that we must be available to each other at all times.

***A slight side detour as regards texting. You think we aren't addicted? Think again. NYC has had not one but close to one dozen cases in the last few weeks of bus drivers who have been reported and suspended for texting while they were driving---yes driving a bus in traffic. And a few of those drivers have been school bus drivers. Now, don't you feel all warm and safe about getting on a bus?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Leftover Heaven

I love having company in the house for many reasons. Last night we had my side over for Chanukah. First good reason for loving the company? The z'chus to see four generations at one table. Second good reason? Being able to catch up in person with what is going on in each other's lives. Third good reason? Watching the little ones go from arm to arm, from lap to lap and watching their unbridled fun and joy. And for me, as chief cook and bottle washer, there are the leftovers in the fridge and the cook aheads that went home with some of the guests. Anyone wanting to know what's for dinner tonight needs only to open the fridge and take their pick. It's my Chanukah present to myself: I don't have to cook again tonight.... Maybe.

We are getting together at 1:00 today with my hubby's side of the family and it will also be a milchig meal. A family member of mine made the point that eating lasagna three times in less than 24 hours has to be an Italian minhag, and s/he could swear we are Hungarian/Romanian/Czech. I may concede the point and make fleishigs tonight. But the family can place bets that tomorrow night will then be milchigs; having lasagna every other day does not contravene ethnic origin but does show good taste in dairy dishes.

So far Chanukah has turned out to be that joyous time I was looking for. And let's not discount that full fridge as one of the reasons for that joy. A happy Chanukah all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Freilachen Chanukah

Chanukah begins tonight and I am so primed for this to be a joy-filled, light giving holiday. To all of you, a freilachen Chanukah and wishes for all good things to be yours during Chanukah and afterwards as well. And yes, enjoy the latkes and other goodies!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Entertaining the little ones

Some of you may be hosting get togethers over Chanukah for family and/or friends. If those get togethers include young children you may be heading to toy boxes or toy stores to get something to keep those kiddies entertained so that the adults can actually get in a word or two of conversation. Let me offer the following as one way to keep them happy and busy.

Whenever my youngish great nieces and nephews are expected as guests I put together arts and crafts folders to keep them occupied. I use brightly colored 2-pocket folders. The Internet is full of sites that have all kinds of pictures to be colored that are Chanukah themed. I found some pencil mazes appropriate for younger kids. I also found some pages with cut outs of dreidles and menorahs that can be made into rings or bracelets or hair ornaments. In addition, I got some really nice Chanukah stickers that they can use to decorate those pictures and the folders with. Party City also had dreidle shaped crayons and Chanukah decorated pencils and erasers.

For just a few dollars and a little time researching on the Net the little ones are going to be happy, and so will their parents be. I download way more pictures and activities then they will be able to do in just one sitting and then send the folders home with them so they can continue the fun in their own homes. Lots of artistic creations going to be possible to hang on refrigerators so parents and grandparents can kvell.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gifts, Covers, Boxes and Ribbons

Ever watch a little child when they've been given a wrapped gift? They turn it upside down and examine all the parts of the wrapping. They shake it and listen to the sounds made. They ooh and aah about how big the box is, how heavy it is. They play with the bows. They seem to do everything but open the gift. For a little child the wrapping IS the gift, or so it seems. They eventually do get around to opening the gift. And then they go back to playing with the wrapping paper, finding a lot of fun in ripping the paper into tiny shreds.

A whole lot of those Chanukah gifts that are being given to children are going to find themselves tucked up somewhere on a shelf in fairly short time. Too many of these gifts lack that something that will keep a child interested over the long haul, will keep them coming back again and again. With many of these gifts, parents and other givers might have done as well to simply wrap up a box with attractive paper and leave it empty.

I remember two occasions when the "wrapping" saved my sanity. Bad weather, no way to go out and two grumpy little girls who really needed something to do other than cheppe at their mother. So I handed them a roll of toilet paper. It was fascinating to watch them carefully take apart that roll, sheet by sheet. Two hours of perfect contentment on their part. On another occasion I gave them a supersized box of tissues and again, happiness for the cost of a few sheets of paper.

We might want to remember that it isn't the cost of a gift that is the most important quality. It's time to stop worrying that we spent too little.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If you want to know why...

I have yet to hear anyone ask a teacher of math to justify teaching their subject matter. Even those who teach history are not asked to do so. But teach English and the question is asked by many: "What good will any of this ever do me?" Teachers of English, particularly those who teach literature, are the unloved step children in the yeshiva educational system--barely tolerated but certainly not valued. And yet, we continue on, being bolstered on rare occasion by the exceptional student who not only gets us but gets our subject matter. We continue doing what we do because we know something our students don't--that yes, some day something we have taught them just might prove to be of use after all.

That's why the latest posting by The Rebbetzin's Husband resonates with me--clearly a student who "got it" and who found out what good it would do him many years after class was over. If you're still looking for the answer to that question, pop on over and see how the Rabbi answered it.

Let the Flames Burn Safely

Chanukah is soon going to be here. We so look forward to the joy of this holiday. Let's make sure that joy is the only thing we get. Fire safety is a real concern when it comes to Chanukah. Many homes have not one but many menoras burning at one time. This year Chanukah comes out on two Shabbosim, so there will be the Shabbos candles twice in addition to the Chanukah candles. Some people use actual candles; others use oil. Either way, you have a possible tragedy in the making if you don't take proper care with your menoras. Nor is it only the menorahs that can present a fire danger. For this holiday a whole lot of people are going to be frying latkes or frying sufganiot. Hot oil is another Chanukah danger.

Want to know what to do to protect yourself? Go to the following links:

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm sorry, who are you again?

Bad4 always manages to make my Mondays interesting. Today she has a posting up in which she discusses the use of first names during dating. Included is this statement:

Now, it is generally considered a faux pas to use your date’s name on a date. This is because, I guess, you’re not supposed to be on first name basis yet. I would think that by the fifth date or so (in the S7D sequence) this would no longer apply, and you ought to be able to act like you actually know each other (which one hopes you do).

Let me see if I get this right. You and your family have spent weeks researching all the minutiae about a particular person who was redt as a shidduch. You probably know as much, if not more, about this person as the government does. You know where his/her great grandmother went to school and the dates that said great grandmother had measles, mumps and chicken pox. You know who this person's best friends are and what those friends think about him/her. You know the dish clearing habits in his/her house, and what his/her mother likes to do in her spare time. You know what size clothing this person wears, and what type. You know when he/she was a bit chutzpadik in 3rd grade and the morah/rebbi had to call in the parents for a conference, but it worked wonders and what a baal/baalas midos this person is now. You probably know just how much money the father makes and the likelihood of his sharing that money with you and his child after marriage.

But you don't know this person well enough to be on a first name basis with them until a fifth date?!!!! Yes, dating has truly changed since I was a girl. Back in those days a boy had to call a girl and ask for a date. When she got on the phone the opening was something like this:

He: Chani? This is Moshe Smith.
She: Hi Moshe. How are you?
He: Fine thanks. Chani, I was wondering if you would care to go out this Thursday night.

Today, in most/many cases, the shadchan sets up the date and the boy first sees the girl and speaks to her when he comes to pick her up. And he doesn't address her by name because that would be too familiar and awkward this early in the dating process?!

I could really write way more about the way I feel about this, but I'll suffice by saying I find it shtuss, plain and simple. You want to know about why there is a shidduch "crisis"? Maybe we should start by looking at the fact that being on a first name basis with a date is a no no until later on in the process.

What say you readers?

I've Got a Secret

If I know your community structure and your yeshiva or seminary and I know your geographic location and the time of year, I can plot with almost 100% certainty where you will be going on date #1, #2 etc. Dating has in most cases for the frum community boiled itself down to a formula.

A different blog, one with perhaps a "frummier" orientation then mine, actually set out all the required dates, where to go, how long in hours and minutes each date should last and the "correct" interval between the dates. Also included were the topics of conversations appropriate to each date and what personal information is appropriate to volunteer at different points in the "dating system." Feh, yuck!

This from that blog: "it is inappropriate and could respresent a personal danger to volunteer personal information that is not generally known before it is clear that a shidduch is about to be made. Discussion of family or personal problems HAS NO BEARING ON THE DATING PROCESS."

Let me just say that my generation was and is far from perfect. Yes, there were some problems that occasionally arose in the dating process. But a canvas of members of the Boomer generation brought to light that it was the truly rare occurrence that a shidduch, once it became a shidduch, was broken off. Not so today. Can any of you say that you have never heard of a shidduch "going back," maybe more than one? And I'll venture a guess that at least one of the reasons for those shidduchim breaking off is because of information that first comes out after the shidduch becomes official. And sometimes that information doesn't come out until after the marriage has taken place. Can you spell DIVORCE anyone?

Just among people I know there have been three--count 'em, three--marriages that dissolved because it wasn't considered important to reveal that the girl/boy were on long term medications for psychological issues. Now yes, the people involved were perfectly normal during the dating process and getting married process. None of us as observers could see a thing wrong. And the parents of those children, and others who knew, did not reveal this information. After all, everything was fine so what's the big deal about taking a pill every day. As it turns out, the medications being taken were contraindicated for use if you were trying to conceive a child. They could affect the father and/or the mother. So the three young people stopped taking their medications because they wanted to become parents. And the excrement and the fan collided.

Do you need to reveal that your father's uncle's son in law washed his hands 3560 times a day on average? I think most people would say no. Both my husband and I each had an aunt whose personalities were less than scintillating and could be downright abrasive, but knowledge of this had no bearing on our getting married--everyone has some strange family members. But there's a difference between a dust mote in the closet and a skeleton. We're placing so much emphasis on keeping everying private, keeping everything a secret, that we are creating problems where they shouldn't exist. An educated consumer can make a wise choice. If nine out of ten of the things that consumer wants are present he/she will probably say "Fine, I can live with/without X." But if X turns out to be something that wasn't disclosed beforehand, if X turns out to be the deal breaker, that "product" is being returned to the store post haste.

Maybe we should stop listening to the "shidduch experts" out there and start applying some common sense to shidduchim. Maybe we should remember that "I've Got a Secret" was a television show, and it ran for a while and then got cancelled due to lack of interest.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thank You Mr. Policeman

There's a common phrase "Where is a police officer when you need one?!" Today the answer was not the usual "never around when you need one."

The Shoprite plaza nearest to our home is busy over most weekends, but more so now that it is getting closer to the winter holidays. Parking spots were not plentiful and waiting was common. Pulling out to go home I turned the corner towards the exit and came to a standstill. Traffic was backed up all over the very large lot. Why? A woman in a van was blocking the main access to the exit. She was obviously and clearly on a handheld cellphone while driving (or not driving more than an inch a minute) and was clearly having an argument with someone. She was waving her free hand (sarcasm intended--one hand on the phone, one waving around, and which one on the steering wheel?) all around the car and was obviously yelling. Horns were honking furiously all over the lot. A few people got out of their cars to walk over to her car and tell her to move it now. Nothing was helping.

And then, blessedly, an off duty police officer got out of his car, went over to the woman's car and flashed his badge. As we watched he wrote out more than one ticket for her. And the sound of applause was heard all over the lot. And once he got her to move he directed traffic for a few moments so the lot could get unsnarled. Thank you New York's Finest!

Now if only I could believe that the woman who caused all this will have learned her lesson and never break the law in this way again. Yeah, right. Still, at least today I saw the law work the way it's supposed to work: If you break the law, you'll pay the price.

It's a Dog's Life

If you think that Jewish life has been going to the dogs, you're going to love the posting that Ezzie has up about the Jews of Montana.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter? No thank you

There aren't many things that I truly hate, but I make an exception for Winter. I am so not a cold, wet and mush person. And now the weather forecasters have mentioned the dreaded S word--snow. That will produce another hated item--slush. And for the last two weeks the weather has already brought two cases of major sniffles to the house. And if I'm reading the symptoms correctly, hubby has bypassed the sniffly cold and headed straight for the flu. My not-going-to-leave-the-house Friday is over as I head out to buy extra tissues and tea and decongestants and sanitizing hand lotion.

The only thing keeping me sane right now is that Shabbos will be here in a few hours. Somehow everything gets put into perspective once Shabbos arrives. The light from the Shabbos candles warms up even the dreariest day. Still, I think those animals who hibernate right about now are on to a good thing. Fall asleep at the end of Autumn and wake up in Spring? Yeah, I could go for that.

Ah well, off to shop, another one of the dreaded S words. Let me wish you a gutten Shabbos a bit early in the day--I've a feeling that this afternoon is going to be a rather full one with no time for leisurely greetings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Things are a'changin'

My recent posting on Twitter came about because of an email exchange I recently had. I have an idea for something that I think might be a worthwhile J-blogger-wide effort in the near future. I emailed a few bloggers who have been blogging for far longer than I have to get their feedback. One blogger, truly involved in the blogging world for quite some time, said he thought it was a good idea. As to whether or not he felt the J-bloggers would support the idea actively, he was not so sure. He said that a year ago he would have had no problem saying the J-bloggers would be active and join in. Why not now? The proliferation of Facebook and Twitter, which has had an affect on blogging in general.

Bloggers, just like "real" people, have things that go on in their lives which may change the amount of time they have available for blogging. You all know of blogs that were here, and now aren't here. There are bloggers whose output has slowed down. Yes, there are still new bloggers coming on the scene, but with nowhere near the frequency they did in the past. Why? I don't think that saying that Facebook and Twitter are around is the complete answer.

One reason is simple: effort. Most, in fact almost all, blogs have postings that run from fairly short to really long. In general, a blog posting runs longer than 140 characters--the limit on a Twitter posting. {The sentences you just read in this paragraph up to but not including this sentence equal 207 characters--67 more than is allowed on Twitter.} It takes some time and effort to come up with something you feel is worthwhile to share with others who come to read your blog. Even when you are just "talking to yourself" on your blog, you're looking for more than a cursory skimming from others.

Another reason is choice. Before blogs proliferated you really had few choices to "speak" to people and to "hear" what was going on. There were some regular sites online and there was, of course, email. And there was instant messaging for those who needed instant gratification. Well, now the number and type of social networking sites online have grown. It's not just Facebook and Twitter either [and let's not forget about the ubiquitous texting]. Some of you may have heard of or belong to Geni--there are others as well. With all this choice available and a limited amount of time--and patience--people are choosing the "less time consuming" options out there. They are seeing blogs as less about social networking and more about "work." It takes time to read a post, and it may not be one that you agree with or that makes you happy. You post a comment, but a response to that comment might take hours to appear, if it does.

And then there is this--blogs are not, at heart, about socialization but about substance. They may have regular readers who exchange opinions with each other and with the blogger. But they are discussing content. Blogs are a strange mix of impersonal and personal. A blogger may share personal information with the readers. This information may or may not get commented on. But I have yet to read a blog (okay, I haven't read every blog out there, but this applies to all the ones I have read) whose total substance boils down to a calendar of what the blogger is doing from second to second with daily acts of functioning.

Thankfully, all of us who are still blogging also still have readers. There are still people out there who consider that reading is not too difficult a thing to do, that reading more than 140 characters is not too taxing for the intellect. I'll surmise that a lot of those who left blogging (not all of them obviously) or who no longer go and read blogs weren't "real" blog aficionados to begin with--they were just interested in the newest phenomenon. When something else popped up that was the latest in thing they flitted off. Or maybe they really weren't looking for what blogs offer and were looking for a place to just drop in and say "Hi!"

Me? I'm sticking to blogging. It's a forum I enjoy writing for and I enjoy the comments when they come. So tell me, why do you blog or read blogs? What do you get from the activity? Why are you still reading what we bloggers produce?