Sunday, December 2, 2012

No, not closing down

An apology for not posting this earlier, but life has been rather hectic in the K household since Hurricane Sandy unfurled.  Nothing that is severely life threatening happening, but so much going on that there simply are not enough hours in the day to get to everything I'd like to get to.  And no, it isn't all "bad" news that we are dealing with, as B"H we have an engagement in the family today--a simcha to sweeten what has been rather sour of late.

I hope that all of you are well and coping with life, and that you, too, have some simcha to make things "taste" better.  Hope to be back on a regular basis soon, but making no promises.  Life has a way of dealing you the hand it wants, not necessarily the hand you are going to be a big winner with.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Day to Remember

In the years to come there will be all sorts of reasons to remember the events of yesterday and today.  Personally, I would rather not have the memory of snow covering my yard on November 7.  It's only the first week of November and we've already had a hurricane and a nor'easter.  And please keep in mind that this is officially not winter yet--it's fall.  Our area still has a mega gas shortage and thousands still without power.  Now with the nor'easter in play, the areas that were flooded last week are heading for flooding again.  Normal seems to only be a word in the dictionary, because it sure does not apply to daily living right now.

I'm sure that somewhere in this mess there is a lesson we are supposed to be learning, but frankly, other than hope for the best and expect the worse, I can't fathom what that lesson is supposed to be.  I'll leave further contemplation for later--just staring out the windows at the weather has given me the chills and I need a warm drink.

I hope that all of you have warm and liveable shelter and that you are weathering our current conditions in safety.  Oh well, a lot of J bloggers were hoping for something to blog about other than yeshiva tuition and the state of shidduch making, and here it is.

Monday, November 5, 2012

But the Memory Lingers On

Hurricane Sandy left a load of devastation as she passed over our area.  No, things are not back to normal, and not likely to be for some time, especially given that a nor'easter is also expected this week.  We've been on and off hosting people from some of the hardest hit areas since the storm hit, as we kept our power on.  One family has a flooded house and repairs to the house are going to mean months of not being able to live in it. 

Public transportation is still spotty, gas for cars is still only available in limited places and in limited quantities, fresh milk and produce is not available all over nor in large quantities. Some schools are opened and some are still closed.  People with simchas this week are truly wondering just who is going to be able to show up, and what kind of food the caterers are going to be able to prepare.

One thing, however, showed up in discussions time after time--our dependency on electronic communication devices.  Regular phones and cell phone towers made getting in touch with family and friends an impossibility, and some areas still don't have all phones working.  Computers were obviously out in many areas as power went down.  And then there was this--many people no longer keep a hardcopy phone book with everyone's regular and cellphone numbers in it.  The reasoning is that it is far simpler to have all that info right there on your cellphone.  The storm showed us otherwise.

So yes, a black and white printed list of everyone's contact information is something you might consider making now, if you have your power back.

And given the storm that is supposed to hit us this week, it might also be a good idea to have a plan in place if family members find they can't get home--where will they go, how will they get there, what is the contact information for the people where they might go.

Emergency planning needs to take place before an emergency arises, not during it.  Taking a few moments now can save huge amounts of trouble later.

Monday, October 29, 2012

On Fridges and Freezers

Just another bit of info on storm damage and what to do.  If power goes out, refrigerators and freezers, full of food, will have no way to remain at proper temperatures for extended periods of times.  Go to the following site to get some info on keeping food safe during a power outage and on what can be kept and what should be thrown out.

The article also mentioned something I hadn't thought of.  Many of us have picnic coolers that we use for outdoor adventures.  They're a good tool to use when the power is out in the house.

Here's hoping we'll have to use none of this info, but just in case, better prepared than sorry.

When Old Technology is Needed

Prepping for the storm, what came up with many people was the fear that they would be without phones if the storm knocked out their electric power or disabled the city's cell phone towers.  Many people have replaced those "old" phones with new electric plug-in models or use their cell phones instead of having a house number.  No, we too have those electric models.  However, we also kept one of the old Princess phones, which remains plugged into a phone jack.

The benefit of that old phone is that it is not affected by an electrical outage.  Only if your phone lines go down will you not have phone service, and there are many areas of the city, such as ours, where phone lines are now underground precisely so heavy winds and rain can't rip them down.

A bit late to go shopping now for such an "old" phone, but it's something you might think of acquiring after the storm is over.  Electrical outages in the NYC area don't require a major hurricane to occur--I can't remember a summer yet where we have not had areas of the city or the whole city without power for a while.  Besides, think of the joy and fun of introducing your kids to some old technology that can nonetheless save the day when new technology is laid low.  No, they (and you) won't be able to text on those phones or play games on those phones, but you'll be able to be in contact with others or summon help in an emergency--and isn't that really the point of a phone?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preparing for Sandy

Just when I was wondering if there would be anything to post about, given that the choices were becoming quite limited to old news--yeshiva tuition, the nutty shidduch system etc.--along comes a possible devasting storm that will hit us in the NE from Sunday to Tuesday.  While there are some who are shrugging their shoulders and taking a wait and see attitude, that way could lie disaster.

Now is the time to do some thinking about how you will handle the storm and any complications it could bring.  If you have to evacuate, how will you do so and where might you be able to go?  If you are stuck at home, do you have the necessary storm equipment, such as flashlights for when the power goes out, food to eat that does not require cooking, in case stoves are unavailable, extras of any medications you must take and you may not be able to get to a drugstore, extra blankets in case the heating goes out etc..

Now is also the time to be a good neighbor and think of those on your block or in your area who may be alone during the storm, such as the elderly.  There's safety in numbers is not just words on a page--bringing such a person to stay in your home during the storm could well be a matter of sakonos nefoshos.

Do you have any loose items in your backyard or on your porch or balconey?  Time to get those things to an enclosed shelter so that they don't become airborne missles when the strong wind gusts arrive.

Are your street-side sewer drains covered with leaves and debris?  Do yourself a favor and get out there and remove the leaves.  Heavy rains need somewhere to go, and clogged drains don't help.

There's lots of helpful information about how to prepare for a weather a storm of this type available online, but it's only helpful if you actually access it and use it.

Let's hope that we all get through this storm in safety, but some of that safety is going to depend on what you do now.

A gutten Shabbos to all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Loopy but Living

Just in case any readers are wondering why there have been no postings, the cocktail of medications I'm on, including a goodly dose of codeine, are just not conducive to thinking and writing right now.  Can't wait until this is finally over and I can go back to "regular" life.

Stay healthy all--it's really no fun the other way.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sukkah Soaking--hope not

My men folk got busy today and put up the sukkah.  My daughter is already planning out how she'll decorate it this year.  I'm busy inviting guests for the yom tov meals in the sukkah.  Everyone seems to have a truly positive attitude about sukkos--except for the weather forecasters.  Haven't found a forecaster anywhere who is saying anything but thunderstorms, heavy rains and cooler weather for the first days of sukkos.

Of course, those forecasters do not have a stellar record of accurate predictions, but darned if they don't somehow manage to be pretty accurate if the time period is a yom tov one.  I'm hoping that they are truly, truly wrong about next week.  After all the work and preparation, it would be nice to actually be able to use the sukkah, not just stare at it through the patio doors.  Regardless, I'm going to have to think of just how all that company will play out if it's pouring outside.  So not something I want on my to do list.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

In the Strange World of Politics

I generally do not do postings of a political nature, but I'm making an exception with this posting.  Yes, the presidential campaign in the US is heating up and is on a lot of people's minds, but this is a report of a different campaign--one for the mayor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Apparently one of the popular candidates for the mayor's office is a cat named Tuxedo Stan--yes, you read that correctly:  a cat. The candidate is quite popular, already having over 2300 friends on Facebook.  And yes, his handlers are raising funds for his candidacy.  They do state that all funds raised will be used for spaying and neutering cats in Halifax.  Now here is the interesting part--there is a municipal law in Halifax that actually and specifically bans animals from holding office.

Okay, someone please explain to me why any municipality anywhere on earth might need to put into effect a specific law that bans animals from holding political office.  Are there really that many animals that in the past made a decision to run for such offices, and so the law was established?  Go ahead, someone give me one concrete example of an animal that willfully and consciously decided on its own that municipal office holding was what it wanted. 

I know there has been a lot of discussion both in the past and now about whether or not our elected officials are really doing a good job.  Do they truly understand what is important to us or do they spend far too much time bogged down in passing laws that are counter intuitive and don't provide much or any benefit to us.  Obviously some of those elected officials in Halifax had time on their hands and so this strange municipal animal office holder ban law was passed.

Of course, this is not really the strangest part of the story.  It appears that Alaska does not have such a law on its books, and the mayor for the past 15 years of Takeetna, Alaska is a cat known as Mayor Stubbs.  People were not pleased with the candidates for mayor 15 years ago and so voters were encouraged to elect Stubbs as a write-in candidate, and yes, he won.

"Because Talkeetna is a "historical district," the mayoral post is more symbolic than functional, said Andi Manning, president of the Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce."  Right, and I don't care quite how symbolic that job might be--there is a town of 900 residents whose mayor is a cat.

When I passed on this information to a friend, first she laughed and then she said that maybe what we need is just this kind of candidate running in our local elections.  She said she wouldn't choose a cat because politicians are quite "catty" already, and more of that isn't needed.  She did, however, mention that she wouldn't object to a dog's running for office, since so much of politics is already a "dog-eat-dog" undertaking.  Her feeling was that at least a canine would have a legitimate reason for behaving in this manner.

All this just might give you an inkling of why I normally don't write about politics. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

All the Best

With Shabbos and Rosh Hashanah running so close together, let me now first wish you a gutten Shabbos.  May you all also be blessed with a new year of peace and health, of joy and happiness, of contentment and success, a year filled with all the blessings Hashem has to bestow.  And may we all be zocheh to be wishing each other a wonderful new year next year at this time.

Shanah Tovah!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rabbis' Speeches

When I first moved to New York my family lived in Far Rockaway.  Our main shul was the White Shul.  And certainly one of the draws for that shul was its rabbi, Rabbi Rafael Pelcovitz.  One thing that stands out about Rabbi Pelcovitz was his speaking ability.  Congregants actually looked forward to his speeches on Shabbos, and they weren't short ones.   Yes, he had all the personal qualifications that make up an excellent speaker, but it was more then that.  The subject matter he chose for his speeches was such that people really thought about and talked about that subject matter.

Obviously, his speeches were "learned" in their presentation of elements of Tanach and the commentaries.  Obviously he spoke of the parsha of the week or about Shabbos or about elements of a particular yom tov, but he went much further than that.  He related what he was speaking about to the everyday lives of his congregants.  He made a clear connection between then and now.  And yes, he was not afraid to tackle community issues that had come up.  He was not afraid to take a stand on a problem facing our community in particular or the greater community of Klal.  He didn't dance around these issues but clearly put forth an opinion.  He called for change, and not just in a philosophical sense.  He was activist in all the finest senses of that term.

And that is what I find missing in so many of the rabbanim who head up shuls or head up our multitude of Jewish organizations.  They sing a philosophical tune, but they aren't there calling a spade a spade about the issues and problems we face in Klal.  They  give us all kinds of new p'sukim about the parsha to deepen our understanding of the parsha, but they wimp out when it comes to taking a stand on the real life issues.  It seems that so many of them have a "don't rock the boat" attitude, and clearly don't see that the boat is sinking in so many cases.

Our rabbanim are called our leaders, and I wish they would act the part when it comes to the practical issues of Jewish life.  Plenty of people in Klal who can give you a proper "taitch" for what a posuk means.  Shul rabbis and organization heads need to go beyond that.  I certainly hope and pray that in this new year that is coming up for us that our so called "leaders" actually and finally prove that they understand the problems and issues facing us, and that they are willing to publicly raise their voices in calling for change and for repairs to a system that needs them.  I live in hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No, It's Not a College Degree

Diploma mills have been around now for a while.  They bill themselves as "alternate" ways to "earn" a college degree without having to go through all the "trouble" that regular colleges put you through to get that degree.  Sure, you get a piece of paper that says you have a degree, but what you have is a piece of paper, not the education that such a degree normally signifies.

Yes, there are some employers for whom that piece of paper will be sufficient for hiring purposes, and a whole lot more for whom that piece of paper will remain just that--a piece of paper with ink on it, not a testimonial to an education received.

Last week someone told me about the latest diploma mill out there.  Apparently a fairly well known and respected rabbi and his wife have started a program that will give you that sought after college degree.  What does it take to get this "degree"?  You need to take one course--all the other so called credits are transfers from seminary/yeshiva and possibly life experience.  Yup, one course and you have a college degree---no, no, no you will not have a college degree!

More than time to come up with some other name for whatever that piece of paper is supposed to represent, because in no way, shape or form does it represent a college degree.  And no, I truly don't like it when people who have purchased that piece of paper believe themselves to be equal to those who went the traditional route and worked and earned that degree.  No, their "degree" is not equal to mine and to yours.

So, any suggestions for what we might rename that piece of paper?  I was toying around with calling it a PBC--payment-based credential.  What might you call it?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Days

The first day of the Fall Term is tomorrow for me.  You would think that after this many years of teaching, the first day would be just another day at work.  Wouldn't that be nice.  One thing I've learned over the years is that every term is different, is unique, and because of this I prepare myself to expect the unexpected. 

What doesn't change from term to term is my hope that the students in my classes will learn well, will become accomplished in the subject matter, will be active participants in their education.  Sometimes, with some students, that hope is fully realized.  Sometimes that hope is only partially realized.  And yes, sigh, sometimes there are the students who are simply passing time in my class and whose only goal, it seems, is to see the semester finally end.

Nonetheless, I can't wait for classes to start tomorrow.  I'm that cockeyed optimist who is sure that this time, everything will go splendidly.  I'm still dreaming about having a "perfect" term, one where both all my students and I are truly sorry to see the end of the semester coming.  Dreams are what fuel changes in reality, and wouldn't it be nice if this dream were to actually come true now.  Here's hoping.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Slay a Vampire and Save Money

I was researching something else when I ran across the term "vampire electronics."  It caught my interest and so I went looking for more information.

One of the things you will commonly hear people discussing is the high cost of utility bills each month, electricity being one of those utilities.  What if someone told you that you could save from $120-200 a year on electricity?

Standby electronics, sometimes referred to as "vampire electronics," individually may only be costing you an extra dollar or two a year, although some will cost considerably more, but add that many homes have at least 40 of these standby electronics and you move the figure into the hundreds of dollars.  For example, computers and monitors that are turned off at the machine still are drawing power in off mode.  The same for all the television systems and gaming systems.  Keep your cell phone charger plugged in even when no phone is being charged and it will draw power.  Keep your air conditioners plugged in when you aren't using them and they will still be drawing power.  Some of our electronics may be too complicated as to location to keep plugging in and then unplugging, such as a stove or microwave with a digital display.  But there are plenty of others that are fairly simple to turn off completely when not in use.  Yes, even your toaster could be an energy vampire.

What would you do if you "suddenly" found yourself with an extra couple of hundred dollars?  I'll bet you could find a better use than letting electronic appliances eat that money.

For some further information, go to

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

Yes, I can think of a few instances in which a person might need/want to buy a bottle of drinking water. For one, the regulations in place at airports means you can no longer bring a thermos of water with you when traveling.  However, for everyday use there seems to be no logical reason to be buying those bottles of water. 

Here in NYC we have highly ranked and rated tap water.  In fact it's so highly rated that a smart young man began bottling and selling NYC tap water a few years ago, and yes, it sells well.

NYC residents are already paying for that water through water and sewer taxes, so why not take advantage of what is being paid for?  Even an expensive thermos or specialized "water bottle" pays for itself within a few weeks, and then it's yours for decades of use.  Like your water icy cold?  Err, anyone reading this who doesn't have a refridgerator available?  Spend another couple of dollars for a 1/2 gallon or gallon container, fill with tap water and keep in the fridge--instant cold water to fill the thermos with.

I've heard many people say that it is a pain to have to shlep that thermos around, and that it is more convenient to just buy a bottle and throw out the bottle after it's empty.  After all, we're only talking about pennies here.  Sigh.  As if pennies don't add up to dollars, lots of dollars, rather quickly.

Let's say you are a commuter who doesn't carry bottles with you, but you do buy a bottle at a convenience store on the way to the office.  On average that is going to be $1 per bottle you buy.  Five days a week of work, and you are spending $5 a week for those bottles.  Drink more and you are obviously going to be spending more.  The vending machine at school sells the small bottles of water for "only" 75 cents each.  Again, you do the math.  This could amount to $260 per year, per drinker.

Even if you buy those bottles in the 24-packs on sale you are not likely to be getting them for less than $3-4  per pack.  You might be averaging about 15-20 cents per bottle.  And check the amount in those bottles--a whole lot of bottlers are putting in less than 8 ounces to a bottle.  So now you are only going to be spending 30 to 40 cents per day for those two bottles of water.  But hold on, that's 30-40 cents per person who takes water with them in your household.  Let there be only 3 people who take that water and you are now spending 90 to $1.20 per day for that water.  Carry this out to a yearly expense and what you have is about $300  per year, if not more.  If you have more water drinkers or drink more water the cost obviously goes up.

Given the cost, a thermos or water bottle would pay for itself in from 2-4 weeks.  Why not decide that this is the year that you aren't going to "water down" your available spending money and are going to start putting that money back into your pocket.  Just another example where the pennies add up to serious dollars.

Note: if you buy those water bottles in a supermarket, check your register tape.  Those cases of water that are on sale at 4 for $12?  Sorry, but that isn't the final cost.  Check the tape and you will see that you are also being charged 5 cents per bottle for the State bottle deposit charge.  At 24 bottles per case, that's an additional $1.20 you are being charged per case.  And if you throw away those bottles instead of recycling them yourself, that's $1.20 you are willfully and knowingly throwing in the garbage.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to Labor Day

Today marks Labor Day, a day observed as a holiday here in the US (although you might ask all those who have to work today how they feel about that).  However, for those in the various fields of education, today might better be referred to as Back to Labor Day--the last "free" day before schools begin. Some schools have already begun, but those that haven't will all be up and running this week.

And if schools are starting, can yom tov be far behind?  Time to put away those lazy, hazy days of summer and start planning for the weeks ahead.  Time not only to have school supplies handy but also all those items you might need for yom tov meals and observance.  Time to be thinking about menus and cooking and who will be invited to various meals.  The supermarket chains in our area already last week had Rosh Hashanah items advertised and on sale.

The weather in our area is making it easier to sit at a desk and plan--rainy, mega humid and so not bbq weather.  However you are going to be spending today, I hope it will be an enjoyable end to summer.  And to really get ahead of things, please note that next year Rosh Hashanah will be on Labor Day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Milestone Birthday

Among those things we ask God for is arechas yomim.  And sometimes we see this gift being given.  Today the family is gathering to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday.  And yes, we do so in wonder and amazement and in a super thankful mode.  Four generations will be together celebrating this milestone birthday.  And yes, we will also be celebrating that we are in a time and place where the four generations exist and can come together.

We will celebrate my mom's birthday, but we will also celebrate and be thankful that we have all been allowed to share in this time and occasion.  We know how lucky we are, how fortunate to have been blessed in this way.

Ima, we wish you all the blessings that God has to confer and that we all may be zocheh to celebrate together many, many times in the years to come.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yes, the Pennies Count

The saying used to be "Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."  Today a lot of people pooh pooh this saying.  After all, what today can you possibly buy for a penny.  It's the dollars that are far more important.

Well no.  It still takes 100 pennies to make up one of those dollars, and I have yet to hear of a merchant who will sell you an item costing $1.19 for only $1 because you don't have those 19 pennies.  But the saying alludes to more than just pennies and dollars--it's telling us that you need to watch small expenses and savings just as much as you do larger ones.

And related to this is the idea that saving even a little bit can add up in the end to larger savings.  Saving 60 cents on a can of tuna may not sound like much, but saving $6 on 10 cans of tuna is not small change.  Okay, so maybe you don't need the ten cans of tuna.  But what if, through reading the circulars and clipping coupons, you saved about 25 cents on each of 13 items--$4.25 is dollar savings.  Multiply that by 4 weeks to the month and you've saved $17 that month.

What brought on this posting?  I passed along some information I received about senior citizen discounts.  Please keep in mind that for retailers, senior citizens may begin at 50+ and go up to 65+.  A number of stores and service/product providers will offer these discounts, the key being that you have to ask for them.  Some providers will limit the discount to certain days of the week--Pathmark supermarkets offer a 5% senior discount on Tuesdays, and you must bring in the coupon that is printed in those circulars that are delivered to your home.

Someone responded to my email by basically saying big deal, they're willing to give you a paltry 5%? What's the big difference if you pay $100 for something or $95 with the discount?  It's this type of attitude that fuels a lot of the budgetting/financial problems you hear about today. 

What's the big deal with "only" saving 5%?  We were away this month.  Thanks to the discounts available, our air tickets and rental car were  $63 cheaper.  The groceries we bought while away were $17 dollars cheaper due to the discount plus an additional $34.30 in sales/coupons savings.  Our movie/show tickets while on vacation gave us a savings of $39 dollars.   One of our restaurant meals was $10 cheaper thanks to a weekly coupon.  Yes, "only" a 5% discount, but it all added up.  We saved $163, and that's an awful lot of pennies added up.

If you don't know if a retailer offers any kind of discount, ask!  What have you got to lose?  And look at what you just might gain.  Don't know about you, but I can think of a lot of things that $5 would pay for.  Actually, I can think of a lot of things that even $1 could pay for.  Besides, it's my $1, and why should I spend it if I don't have to?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Hot Water Again

After the news of the last few days, I would very much love to hear about a zillion people taking purveyors of Shabbos hot water urns to a din Torah, or filing suit in secular court.  It is not exactly a secret that the vast majority of the hot water urns sold for Shabbos/Yom Tov use are not under the UL--Underwriters Laboratory.  And yes, I'm not going to be l'chav z'chus and say that the owners of these stores have no idea what the UL is or that there are UL certified urns.  If you sell electronic items you need to be knowledgeable about those items--ignorance is no excuse.

News of three accidents that happened with non-UL urns.  One urn overheated and shorted out the electrical system in the owner's kitchen, leaving them in the dark and with no hot water for Shabbos. Sparks from the shorting out urn also put burn marks into the kitchen counter.  Also cost a small bundle to repair the shorted out system.  Two urns with the bottom spigots that were overturned and had no reliable safety feature to keep the top closed when someone applied pressure to the spigot handle to get hot water into a cup.  In one case an adult got scalding on his body; in the other case a young child got scalded from the head down.

A lot of the stores selling these urns don't carry any UL urns.  Generally, those white urns with the flowers on them are not under the UL.  One brand that is UL certified is made by Innovative Consumer.  It's a brushed stainless steel outside and inside finish.  There are a few stores in Brooklyn which sell this model.  Call first and save yourself a trip to a store that won't have a UL urn.

You could also try querying UL--Underwriters Laboratory--for a more complete list of the urns they certify.

Note: one of those injured by a non-UL urn actually knew that UL urns existed but mentioned that she was waiting for her old urn to wear out and then she would replace it with a UL one.  Please, there is being money conscious and then there is taking an unwarranted risk with your safety.  With Yom Tov coming in a few weeks and all the added hot water use, now is the time to prepare for the new year with safety in mind.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Change?

I've been playing around in my mind with some topics for future postings.  Yes, I've thought of a few things I haven't really written about before that I want to research.  But here's the depressing thing--the major problems that seem to occupy our minds are still alive, well and unchanged.

School tuition?  I've heard of a few schools that raised tuition for this year but not one that lowered tuition to a workable level, or any lower level.

The School Day?  No announcements anywhere that even one school is considering altering its hours to fit in with what working parents need and want or that would be beneficial for family togetherness.

School Lunches:  Still the same dismal offerings that most schools presented last year.

Shidduchim?  Still no national organization or community group that has announced it will be approaching things differently, allowing for more "natural" socialization among singles.

Money and Budgetting:  Not a single national organization or a local one either that has come out and said that expenditures are outrunning money available and it has to stop, the first step being eliminating conspicuous consumption and spending on simchas and lifestyle events. (Yes, I know that Satmar last year announced some changes, but they apply only to those in Satmar.)

Not all the problems we all wish would disappear or at the very least be reduced in intensity, but there they are, unchanged and still among us.  And yes, still  topics of serious and sometimes heated conversation when people get together.  And yes, here I will go again this year, banging my head against the granite wall of indifference that so many of the "major" organizations and "machers" of Klal have erected to keep us exactly where they would like us, never mind the harm that causes.

Oh well, I must be that cockeyed optimist because I believe and hope that if we all keep chipping at it, that wall will come tumbling down.  Even a few visible chips and missing chunks would give us chizuk to keep on trying.  We shall see.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


A recent posting at Orthonomics once again brought up the subject of SAHMs--stay at home mothers--in reference to a posting at imamother.  And once again I'm scratching my head and wondering just where some of the people commenting on the imamother posting have been living for the last decades.

Let's get something on the table right from the beginning--even where and when being a SAHM was considered a societal norm, it never was so.  That's right, it never was an across the board item.  There have always been working women in society, and working mothers.  And yes, there have also been those who closed their eyes to this fact and continued to preach the "a woman's place is in the home" party line.

Go back to biblical times and read the Aishis Chayil word for word.  Yes, it talks about all the things a woman does in her home for her husband and children.  And yes, it also clearly and with no fuzziness delineates all the areas of commerce that the woman is involved in--that's commerce such as in working.

When mass producing factories came into being there were women working in those factories.  Many a small business, such as a grocery store, took both the husband and the wife to keep the business afloat.  The servant class was mostly populated by women, and yes, many were married with families they were helping to support with their wages.

Let's move into the more recent past and guess what--we still find lots of women in the workplace.  During WWI and WWII women in droves replaced the men in the general workplace who were called up to fight.  And when the men came back home, many of those women remained in the workplace.  As this country continued to make manufacturing a primary concern, women worked in those factories.

Yes, many of the jobs that women worked at were not considered as "elegant" or "highly desired."  This was as much a result of society's restricting women from being educated as it was from society's attitude that a woman's place was in the home.

You want to see the working mothers of Klal?  You have only to look at the immigrant generation that arrived after WWII.  Go ahead and ask your grandparents how many working women they knew of.  If they're being honest they'll tell you "tons of them."  My mom worked outside of the home, as did my mother in law, as did my parents and in law's cousins.  Some worked together with their husbands in small businesses they eventually were able to begin.  Others worked in a variety of factories.  Food on the table and money to pay the rent beat out any societal grumbling about a woman's place.

And today?  A woman's place is anywhere she needs it to be or wants it to be.  The stark reality is that Klal has engendered a "required" lifestyle that makes it impossible for a whole lot of  single earner families to comply with.  Unless a husband is making uber megabucks, it is going to take two salaries to cover expenses, maybe.  And perhaps this is time to mention that for a lot of the frummer families in Klal, where husbands are sitting and learning, it is the woman who is the sole wage earner.  And yes, even where both husband and wife are working, there are enough cases where it is the wife that makes more money than the husband.  And by the way, this isn't limited to just Klal either.

So please, let us once and for all retire the idea that SAHMism is the societal norm and the best thing for a mother to be doing.  Instead, let's get practical for a change.  What we need to do is make sure our women--and yes, our men too-- are well prepared and well educated, so that when they do go out to work they will qualify for jobs of a higher caliber that will pay more and have better benefits available.

And just slightly off the topic, but definitely related to it, why is it that when those ubiquitous researchers do studies about the children of SAHMs versus working mothers, they fail to include fathers in the equation?  Yup, two parents are working to support the family, but if something disturbs the children it is always blamed on the mother's working.  So fathers are nothing but sperm donors?  Talk about an out of whack and out of date attitude that needs adjusting.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Defining Terms

I went with a friend to a lecture/discussion about the rules of the nine days.  Those in attendance were from a truly wide number of shuls/observance groups.  This year there were some differences in what was being said about what is permitted and what isn't, according to various rabbanim.

For one thing, those rabbis present all seemed to finally agree that the prohibition on wearing freshly laundered clothing does NOT include underwear, undershirts and socks--a decided change from last year. They also specifically mentioned that for very young children laundry may be done if they have nothing clean to wear. 

Then there was the discussion on wearing freshly laundered clothing during the nine days.  At first each rabbi said it was not permitted unless one had put on those clothes before the nine days so they wouldn't qualify as freshly laundered.  Okay, I teach English and yes, I tend to want my definitions as exact as possible.  I also know that certain words have more than one definition, so I want it to be clear as to which definition is meant when a word is used.  I raised my hand and asked if I could please have an exact definition for what "freshly laundered" is.

At first they looked at me as if I were some kind of alien being.  One member of the panel asked which particular word I didn't understand.  I answered  "freshly."  And that's where the fun began.  Two people immediately answered that "freshly laundered" meant not having been worn after laundering.  I responded that that was incorrect according to the definition of the terms.  "Freshly laundered" has nothing to do with whether or not clothing was worn but does have to do with the time period when the laundry was done.  Freshly has the meaning, in English usage, of having happened in the immediate time before today, of having happened recently.  Its opposite would be something that was laundered in the past--note: this does not mean dirty or already having been worn but refers strictly to the timeline of the laundering. Some were not happy to do so, but they begrudgingly agreed that "freshly" would apply to the time period that something was laundered in.

So the next question was what precisely was considered as "recently"?  Would laundry that was done yesterday be considered as done recently?  All agreed that it would be.  The next question asked, what about laundry that was done 1 week ago?  Was that recently?  A few were scratching their heads and said no, but most agreed that that, too, would be recently.  Then I stretched back in time and asked if laundry done 2, 3, or 4 or more weeks ago would be considered as recently done.  Now there was not a consensus.  Most finally agreed that anything washed that far back would not be considered as something cleaned recently.  So I said that if I took out a blouse that had last been washed 2-3 weeks ago and put it on today, I would not be putting on freshly laundered clothing and could therefore wear it without having tried it on before the 9 days.  Should have seen the looks on some of the panel's faces, but given the definition of "recently" they agreed that clothing laundered 3 weeks ago would not be considered as freshly laundered.

On of the rabbis on the panel decided to change things and said that what was meant was that "clean" clothing could not be donned during the nine days.  I pointed out that the opposite of "clean" was dirty, so was he saying that only dirty clothing could be put on?  His argument to me was that "dirty" is not the only opposite meaning of clean.  Really?  At that point I decided to shut up.

Frankly, the members of the audience were quite happy with my questions, and the rabbanim were not quite that happy.  But yes, this was a matter of definition of terms.

My female readers out there, do you own more than 6 skirts that you wear during the summer?  Might that number be more in the 12+ range?  Do you own at least the same number of tops, if not more?  I'm no clothes horse, but I counted the skirts I can wear during the summer (keeping mind that I don't throw out any clothing bought in  many previous years), both for Shabbos and for weekday wear, and I counted 20.  According to that number I've got a lot of skirts (and the tops to go with them) that would not qualify for freshly laundered even if not worn.  They've been hanging in the closet or on a shelf in the closet for quite some time.

So, it would seem that some of the prohibitions for the nine days hinge on terms and terminology that is not correct, or is not exact, or that can be defined in more than one way.    And oh that it were only this particular issue where a lack of proper word usage causes problems. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bite me!

While summer weather has some real plusses for us, it also has some minuses.  Among those minuses are the mosquitos that populate our outdoor world.  Some people don't seem to be bothered by the pests, and some people spend the summer scratching  all the strange places the mosquitos seem to like to attack us.  Ever wonder just why some people seem to be mosquito magnets and others aren't?  Interesting and informative article at the link below.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

And so the War continues

I am not attesting to the facts in the story I'm about to repeat.  Whether or not the details are as reported is almost irrelevant.  The fact that such a story could be making the rounds now is enough of a concern.  What went viral over Shabbos in my community is the following story.

There was a wedding that took place up in Monsey.  Two men were called up to be edei chupah.  When they got up to the chuppah, the mesader kiddushin asked them both to take out their cell phones.  He examined them and then told one of the men that he had no filter on his phone and therefore was a posul eid and could not be used as a witness for the chupah.

Let us assume that this story is true as it was reported.  Has our community, or at least parts of it, lost its mind?!  Phone filters as the final determiner as to whether or not someone is frum enough to participate in Jewish ceremonial life?

Hmmm, I wonder if the mesader kiddushin also checked the cell phones of the choson and the fathers of the choson and kallah.  Would he have refused to be mesader kidushin for this couple if a filter had been missing from one of their phones?  Wouldn't bet against it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Will be on the Menu?

The three weeks first begin today but some of us are already thinking ahead to Tishe Ba'Av, basically because of the way the taanis begins.  This year we go from Shabbos into the taanis, and the question has come up as to what is going to be served at that last meal on Shabbos that will get people through the fast day comfortably.  Keep in mind also that many men will not be at home  right before the fast, able to eat their meal then, so their pre-fast meal is going to extend that fast day by a couple of hours, since they will be eating earlier.  Hot food will probably also be a problem.

So, what type of meal, types of foods are you planning for the taanis?  Have you used these types of meals before, and were people "full enough" to get through the taanis comfortably?  Please, share.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Germany on a Roll? Not This Time!

So, you think that history can't repeat itself?  Think again.  A German court recently banned brit milah in Germany.  Once again the German state is mixing into matters of religion, and not to the benefit of those religious practitioners. 

The Jewish Press has a petition up against this intrusion into religious life which will be given to the German ambassador in Israel.  Wait, I know what you are going to say--so what, what can one petition do?  Really?  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  And unless you take that first step, no other steps can follow.  No one is all that busy that they cannot take one minute to protest an act of barbarity clothed in judicial robes.

And please, pass on the link to your friends and acquaintances.  Unlike pre-WWII, our voices can, will and must be heard.

Thanks to Joe Settler at the Muqata for the link below

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another Plus for Computers

Among those things that can be done with computers and the Internet, our right wing friends are vociferously against playing computer games.  They consider them as time wasters, as brain and thought dulling--well you take your pick.  In this our right wingers are in good company, as many others have complained about what they see as the ills of playing computer games.  Certainly a primary complaint has been that those who play these games tend to get "addicted" to them and can spend hours and hours a day playing them.  Many blame this game playing as a cause of the obesity epidemic in the US and elsewhere.

However, in the past few years dozens of studies have been run--and dozens more are now being run--that show the benefits of computer game playing for both children and adults at all stages.

What the studies have shown is that regular computer game players have better thinking abilities and perception than those who do not play.  The studies show that hand/eye coordination not only improves in those who play games, but that the "elderly" or older adults who play these games retain their hand/eye coordination, unlike a majority of older adults who lose that coordination as they grow older.  One study was quite fascinating.  It followed adults with cataracts that were interfering with their vision.  To date the only solution for these cataracts when they reach vision blocking stages is surgery.  The researchers found that a steady dose of computer game playing that required rapid eye movement 5 days a week pretty much "fixed" the cataract problem in 80% of the participants. 

Regular computer game playing has a beneficial effect on memory.  Those older adults who play regularly are seen to have less memory loss problems than those who do not play.

And no, it does not only have to be those action games that get some parents in a tizzie.  Any game that requires strategy, size/shape/color recognition, information retrieval and memorization and, obviously, hand and eye coordination will work.

Scientists are excited about the results of these studies and are jumping in to do more and broader studies of the benefits of computer game playing.  Anything that can keep us agile, both mentally and physically, without expensive and painful medical intervention is a plus for me.

If Klal continues to be divided over the benefits of computers and the Internet, we're going to be a perfect study population for scientists in the future.  One group in Klal does use the Internet and it does play computer games.  Another group does not play computer games.  Down the road, when today's youngsters and middle agers reach the border of "old age," we will see which of the two populations has less trouble with vision and with memory as they age.  We will see which population retains its physical adeptness and adroitness. Sigh, of course we would first have to convince our "righties" that science is not black magic and that scientific studies do have validity.

Friday, June 29, 2012

School Supplies Anyone?

Must be my week for posting about retailers.  I had an $8 coupon for Staples that was expiring tomorrow so I decided to go there yesterday.  As I walked into the store I was greeted by huge signs hung across all the ends of the rows, with displays underneath them.  What did those signs say?  SCHOOL SUPPLIES HERE.

I admit I was really puzzled by these signs.  As both a parent who once had children attending school and as an educator, I am fully aware that schools--public and private--ended about a week ago.  I'm also aware that schools won't be starting again until Labor Day--September.  I also remember that, even though I like to shop ahead, I didn't buy school supplies more than two months in advance. So what was the purpose of advertising and pushing those supplies right now?

This puzzled me as I was going down the aisles of the store and the only possible reason I could come up with at first was that this must be aimed at those going to summer school.  Further thought brought to mind that this couldn't be the answer.  There simply aren't enough students in summer school to warrant such a large campaign.  In addition, I have never, ever seen any store advertise school supplies for summer school, so why would they be starting this now?

I got busy with other things so I put my questions about this out of mind.  Last night though I started wondering about it again.  And then I think I may have found one possible answer--getting a jump on the competitors.

Lots of places besides stationary supply stores that sell school supplies.  Usually those sales start occuring at the beginning of August.  Many parents take advantage of the fact that these multiple retailers all offer sales on different items, and they go from store to store taking advantage of the sales.  Staples does not have the reputation of being a lowest-prices-in-town retailer, and it gets plenty of competition from other retailers.  Or at least it does when all retailers are pushing school supplies.  Right now Staples is the only one in our area who is actually advertising school supplies and has the full range of those supplies. 

So, the question is, will parents start buying supplies now?  Will Staples' jump on the competition work?  Maybe yes and maybe no.  For those who comparison shop, it might not work.  For those who have become accustomed to shopping way in advance (keep in mind that many retailers now start advertising the fall and winter holidays immediately after Labor Day) it might.

As for me (and I imagine for many other parents out there) I am not going to think about school until waaaay later in the summer, no matter what a retailer might be doing now.  Getting ready for school is not on my to-do list for right now.  For me this is akin to a Jewish bookstore's pushing supplies for Sukkot in June.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Reason for Wanting to Ban the Internet

Let me begin this by saying that yes, there is pornography available on the Internet.  I have no problem whatsoever with parents being educated about filters that would prevent their children (or adult males) from getting to this stuff.  However yesterday I became acquainted with another reason that many frum Jews would like to ban the Internet.

In a word--shopping.  I accidentally found myself on the periphery of a conversation which involved a few people who have shops selling merchandise geared for a frum population.  What came up more than once in the conversation was that the Internet is bad for these frum-focused businesses because it would draw customers away from the stores, making parnoseh much more difficult.  I got drawn into the conversation when one of the store owners pointed to me and the clothing I was wearing.  She said to me "I bet you didn't buy that in one of the frum stores here in Brooklyn.  I've never seen that particular style skirt in any of them.  Did you buy it from a regular store?"  Honesty required that I answer truthfully--"No, I bought it on the Internet."  She smiled triumphantly.  "Why would you do that when you know that frum clothing store owners rely on the frum olam to buy from them or they wouldn't have any customers."

Now things got really sticky.  How to put what I was going to say without causing a ruckus.  I tried a neutral approach first.  "As you say, you don't carry this style of skirt and that is what I was looking for and what looks good on me."  She didn't seem to be buying that so I tried something else.  "You also don't carry all the colors in clothing that I like to wear."  She asked me what colors I was talking about.  I basically answered "all the colors of the rainbow and there is no black in a rainbow."  I got "not all colors are tsniusdik" muttered under her breath.  She wouldn't leave it alone so blunt honesty got trotted out.  "Frankly, I don't like being rooked when I'm shopping.  I won't pay X amount of money when I know that I can get an item waaaaay cheaper by shopping elsewhere, such as on the Internet.  And I don't like cheap, flimsy material.  I don't want items that are going to shrink the first time they are washed, cold water or not.  And I particularly don't like being told that the frum olam HAS to support frum businesses so the owners can make parnoseh , particularly when those businesses are going to cost me money and are not offering the quality I'm looking for." 

I walked away from the conversation seeing that WW VII was going to break out.  And yes, I'll stick by my guns on this one.  If you are going to be a retailer then you need to understand that competition will be out there, whatever form it takes.  Yes, all other things being equal, I would support a frum store owner.  But it's those "other things being equal" that is the deal maker or breaker. 

Comparison shopping is a blessing for consumers, especially when it has become physically lots easier to do so, thanks to the wonders of the Internet.  This week alone, on items we needed to buy for the house and comparison shopped for, I saved $479.35  I'll bet you could all find some good uses for a sum like that.

Ban the Internet?  Not in my house.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What value that Degree?

An interesting article in the JWR today about undergraduate college degrees.  I'll state up front that I don't agree with all the points being made by the author (some logical fallacies present, among other things), but I do agree with other of his points.  Fodder for another posting, but please do read the article.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Murphy is Chortling

The last week of classes, which was last week, is always hectic for me, as is final exam week, which is this week.  If I only had school to concentrate on I would still be ultra-busy.  But "real" life is also going on during this time.  Last week it was real life with a vengeance. I was seriously going to be a walking, talking experiment in whether life can be sustained if you don't sleep for a week.  And to add to the bedlam, a tooth decided to act nasty and there was a wonderful--not--visit to the dentist.

On Friday I had decided to just pretend the week hadn't happened and enjoy the peace of Shabbos.  Sigh.  A bit after 5:00 central Staten Island was hit with a power outage that took out the power for 80,000 people.  Con Ed swore the power would go back on that night so we tried our best to leave switches on for lights we would need and air conditioners etc.. I lit a burner with a match and put up a blech so we could at least have some warm food.  Let me tell you, eating dinner by candlelight is only romantic in Regency novels.  Still, it was kind of nice to sit around and talk to each other, even if we were in the dark. And glory be, Con Ed came through and the electricity came back on that night.  I'll admit it was a bit odd to go from room to room and see all the clocks flashing.

Sunday brought its own weirdness, but I was hoping that would be the end of it.  Yeah, right.  I woke up early this morning and went down to my office.  A few minutes after I sat down at my desk my eye caught movement right outside.  There was a quail waving around a worm.  As I watched it snapped the worm in half sending one half to thunk up against the door.  Needless to say, I took my coffee back upstairs--nothing like a thrashing mutilated worm to start off the day.  

I ran a few errands that had to be done and afterwards came to my office to check my email.  In looking out the door, I noticed that there were now two worm carcasses right by the door.  A few minutes later what I believe was the same quail came over bearing yet another worm, and the scenario repeated itself.  I called up the SI zoo and asked to speak to someone with knowledge about birds.  The person who got on the phone said that quails that are courting frequently bring gifts of food to the object of their courting.  Say what?!  A quail was courting me?!  Then I remembered that I hadn't been there when the second worm was deposited.  When I told this to the person, he asked me if the door was solid or glass.  When I replied "glass"  he had his aha moment.  He told me that the quail was probably seeing his reflection in the glass and didn't know that.  The quail thought he was seeing another quail, hence the courting ritual.

I put some paper on the door to block the reflection--I don't think I could have dealt with another worm present.  I should have stuck with the quail.  At one and the same time somewhere along the sewer line someone was doing some digging/flushing, and all the incoming water lines were bringing in brown water.  According to the City, it could be up to 48 hours until the problem was cleared up.  I was so ready to just pack it in, head for bed and hide under the covers.  Luckily I just checked the toilets and sinks and the water is almost perfectly clear.  Thank you God for your input so I didn't completely lose my sanity.

I wish Murphy would take his law and go peddle it somewhere else. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

No, You Can't

At least in theory we can all recognize when two items are mutually exclusive.  Either you are sleeping or you are awake, but you can't be both at the same time.  However, the asifa that took place re the Internet brought up a situation where this basic rule need not apply.

Let me backtrack a moment.  There is always much discussion about SAHMs--stay at home moms.  For many, perhaps most, in klal this is the "only" correct place for the mother of children.  I'm not arguing about the correctness of this but would point out that it is the "ideal," and is not possible for many, many mothers due to other requirements that klal has.  You want parents to have large families?  You want all the children in yeshivot?  You want them in summer camp? You want families living in certain communities and places as opposed to others?  Okay, but just how is all this going to be paid for when you also want young men sitting and learning as opposed to working?  Even when--begrudgingly--you say that a man can go out to work, just how much money on average is this quite possibly under-educated and under-experienced young man going to be making?

Ah yes, silly me, I forgot about that other requirement--the one where a woman's parents are supposed to be kicking in megabucks in support.  Hmmm, let me see, those parents have a SAHM in the house and they have 5 kids who between them have 31 children, all in yeshiva.  And the father's name doesn't happen to be Warren Buffet.  Support for their children may be a tiny drop in the bucket for what is actually needed to live the lifestyle some groups in klal insist on.

Now to get back on topic.  The Internet represents a way that the mothers in situations as described above can, indeed, be in two places at once.  They can be at home and they can be at work.  I'm not saying it's easy to do this, but it is possible, and yes, I know women who are doing this.  But that also brings up a different issue that would need to be addressed.   Many of our young women are being channeled into the therapy fields or into teaching.  Here's the thing--you can't do physical therapy over the Internet and you can't teach a school class that way either. (Obviously there are online classes available, but those are given by teachers employed by schools, not by SAHMs.)

So, some in klal would need to change their views about the Internet if they want SAHMs to be the rule, not the exception.  Those same people would also need to change their minds about what is "suitable" employment for the SAHMs.  And if they want their future SAHMs prepared to be able to work from home, they are going to have to give good instruction in computer use while these future SAHMs are in high school, or even college.  And they are going to need to do some thorough and objective research about what types of jobs can be conducted over the Internet.

Those in klal who are so opposed to the Internet--and no, it's not only because of possible access to pornography--need to heed the old saying "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  The circumstances under which they would be "joining them" could be theirs to decide, but only if they first take off their blinders and look at just what century we are living in and under what circumstances.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lessons from a Fly

Sometimes we are so focused on the big picture that we forget that the big picture is made up of thousands of tiny brush strokes, each one contributing to the whole.  This morning I got a reminder of that, albeit in a strange way.

Yesterday a fly somehow got into the house, a fly of considerable size.  He was buzzing around my office and bothering me as I was working.  I opened the sliding door hoping that he would fly out.  No such luck.  This morning there he was again, perched on the sliding door facing the outside.  Once again I opened the door and hoped he would leave.  This time he flew through the opening and right out into the pouring rain.  Two seconds later he was perched back on the sliding door, this time facing in.  Maybe it was the early morning hour but I imagined him to be rather mournful that his wish had been granted--he wanted a do-over.

All kinds of platitudes came to mind in watching him, but the one that stuck was "Be careful of what you wish for--you just might get it."  Sometimes we are so focused on attaining a particular goal that we forget to ask ourselves the important questions, such as is this goal really going to be the best for me in the long run and what are the costs, if any, if I attain that goal.   My fly was clearly not happy with what he had wished for.  Tough luck fella.  Risk assessment has to come before action, not after it. 

Note for a rainy Monday morning: even a fly can teach us things, remind us of things we need to know and remember.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Wisdom has long held that patience is a virtue.  As the saying goes, "All good things come to those who wait."  Yes, patience and waiting go together.  Unfortunately, the word "patience" may soon be listed in our dictionaries as archaic, no longer in use.

We live now in a world that gives highest priority to things that are "instant."  Waiting for anything is seen as annoying and out of sync with the way things should be.  When we hit the "on" switch for any of the electronic items we own, we expect immediate results.  Even a few seconds wait is intolerable.  This carries over to other aspects of our lives as well.

I asked the manager at one of our local supermarkets which is the bigger seller: traditional, long-cooking (relatively speaking that is) oatmeal or what is sold as instant oatmeal.  He answered that more instant oatmeal is sold.  What is the actual time difference between the two items?  Give or take, 5-7 minutes.  I asked the manager why he thought the instant oatmeal sold more.  Yup, his answer included the word "patience."  Why stand over a stove and wait for the old fashioned oats to cook when you can nuke the instant variety in a minute?  He added that "instant" varieties of just about every food type were big sellers--frozen waffles, pancakes and french toast, 'instant' mashed potato flakes, pre-cooked just about anything, frozen ready-cooked dinners etc..

Why are there more and more ready-prepared, take-home food outlets?  A whole lot of people with no patience for the slowness of having to cook food from start to finish at home.  Why are there more and more restaurants?  Same reason.

Even our language exhibits signs of the impatience that people feel today.  Texting and twittering capitalize on this impatience by "requiring" a foreshortened form of English.  And because that foreshortened English is so convenient, users look at standard English as somehow backwards and too oldfashioned to spend time in learning well.

It used to be that patience was a sign of maturity, of being a "grown up."  Little children were always asking "Are we there yet?!"  Adults were supposed to know better, to have developed patience.  Unfortunately, today it is both adults and children who whine "Are we there yet?!"

Watch some drivers at a red light and you see this impatience.  They are tapping the steering wheel, texting or speaking on their cellphones, eating a snack, talking to someone in the car, fiddling with the knobs on the dashboard and turning their head from side to side to see what is going on outside of the car, and sometimes all at the same time.

Look at some of the "rules" in place for shidduch dating and you see impatience perfectly illustrated.  By the fifth or sixth date a couple is either engaged or they are over.  Some of those involved in making shidduchim have even foreshortened this time requirement.  For them, if you don't know for sure that a prospective shidduch is going somewhere by the the third or fourth date, it's over.  And some of this shidduch impatience also applies to how long any individual date may last for.  Most of the "laws" I've seen say a maximum of two hours for a date.  When I read that requirement I really laughed.  Here in NY, getting from a point in one part of the city to a point in another part can easily take you one hour in each direction.  So basically dating couples don't need to go anywhere but just spend the time inside of a car?  Impatience personified.

Yes, I know that today's world also presents us with a lot more to do in those few hours of the day there are to do them.  Yes, I know that lots of people are multi-tasking inundated.  Yes, there may be certain situations where patience is just not possible.  But those same situations are made worse when we don't have the patience to deal with them.

When I mentioned the idea for this posting to someone, they countered with a different old saying: "The race goes to the swift." Patience is an impediment in getting to where you have to go.  A different old saying by Aesop came to the rescue: "Slow and steady wins the race."  But hey, don't take my word for it--read what some others have said about the value of patience.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. ~John Quincy Adams

How poor are they that have not patience!

What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
~William Shakespeare, Othello, 1604

A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. 
~Dutch Proverb

Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.
~George-Louis de Buffon

One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. ~Chinese Proverb

He that can have PATIENCE can have what he will.
~Benjamin Franklin

It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience.
~Horace Bushnell

A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.
~Cato the Elder

To end off, let me repeat what many a parent has spoken to their children:  Rome wasn't built in a day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Consistency? Not!

The mayor of NYC is determined to get obesity under control  To that end, he has put into effect a rule that will become official next year that no public venue can sell a sugared drink above 16 ounces in size--no more giant cups will be allowed.  The law will cover restaurants, sports arenas, and street vendors initially.  Talk is that he also would like to ban groceries from selling sugared drinks above that size--good luck to him if he thinks he can take on the drinks industry.  "Diet" drinks would not be covered under the ban.

Why do I find this so ironic?  Today is National Doughnut Day in the US.  Early morning news reports showed people lined up twelve deep at places that sell doughnuts, all eager to participate in this national "commemoration."  Lots of buyers getting lots of doughnuts so they can extend this holiday over the weekend.  Want to bet that plenty of the City offices will have doughnut celebrants chomping on a doughnut or two?  Wouldn't surprise me if Hiz Honor was also a doughnut aficionado today.

Perhaps it's time to get obesity control out of the hands of the politicians and into the hands of those with more knowledge and better ideas about how to prevent and reduce and control obesity.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shabbos and Yom Tov Greetings

May you all have a gutten Shabbos and a gutten yom tov.  May there be happiness and joy in abundance, and may you make wonderful memories for you and your family.

And for Yechezkel ben Yitzchok a"h, may his neshomah have an aliyah, and may he continue to be for us a guide in following the path of mentschlichkite and ehrlichkite.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the "Under" World

NOTE: Any reader who gets squeamish at the mention of undergarments or body parts might want to skip this posting.

Has Klal totally and completely lost its mind?!  It is hardly a secret (and I've commented on this phenomenon before) that members of the press are not all that objective.  Let a scandal erupt, and, short of its actually being a church-based scandal, we will have no idea about the religious affiliation of those involved.  Except, of course, if Jews, particularly religious Jews, are part of the scandal.  Given that this approach by the press is common knowledge, it behooves us, as members of Klal, to watch our behavior. And of course, let's not forget that we are told to behave ourselves in our own code of laws.

I was standing in line at the supermarket yesterday, and a headline caught my eye on the NY Post.  It was a long wait in line so I opened the paper to read the story.  There went my day.  In a nutshell, a woman was fired from a company that is a purveyor of woman's lingerie and undergarments.  Why was she fired?  According to the article (and to comments printed in other news outlets), and as seen in the accompanying photos, she was quite buxom, looked "hot," dressed in figure-presenting clothing, and was a distraction, therefore, to the other workers.  Her supervisor, a woman, wanted her to, among other things, tape down her busom so it would be less pronounced.

Why am I reporting this?  Sigh.  The opening lines of the article state that the company the woman worked for is owned by orthodox Jews.  That information is repeated more than once in the article.  There are also a number of orthodox Jews who work for this company, both men and women.  What is also mentioned in the article are descriptions of some of the merchandise that this company sells, and that this merchandise is displayed on mannequins in the workplace.  To be blunt, some of the products the company sells are what I would call just plain "prost" or in poor taste.

Then there is this excerpt from the Post article:  "A male worker, who refused to give his name, said of Odes’ choice of clothes, 'It’s not appropriate.  The women here, they dress nicely but covered up. Most are Orthodox. There are a lot of married men here, and it’s not OK to have a woman dress like that.'  When it was pointed out to the man that there is lingerie displayed throughout the workplace, he said, 'It’s what we sell, but it’s not the work environment.'” 

There is a rather earthy Yiddish saying that answers this last statement: "Ahz muh handelt mit tinuv, shmekt min fun drek."  Translated this means that if you deal business-wise with excrement you are going to smell like manure.  The company sells undergarments which are sensual, bawdy, obscene, lust-inducing, raunchy, smutty and suggestive, but that's not part of the work environment?!  These garments are on display where the people are working, but that is not part of the work environment?!

The woman who was fired has filed a suit for an EEOC violation  This is not just going to be a few moments of talk and then no one will remember it. 

There has been a lot of talk about how some men of Klal are not working for a living, but are sitting and learning instead.  Given the nature of the business described in the article, perhaps we had better redefine what we mean by working when we tell our men to go out and get a job or start a business.  Is this the type of business that men of Klal should be involved in?  Is this what we want to the world to see us as?

Frankly, this whole thing disgusts me.  Unfortunately, for some in Klal, this is just business as usual.  Anything to make a buck.  And I couldn't help but wonder if the owners of this business, and those who work there, are also the ones who tsk-tsk when a frum girl walks by wearing a piece of clothing that is not black or doesn't follow exactly the "rules" for what is tsniusdik.  So much a case of do as I say, not as I do.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rain, Rain Don't Go Away

My students, both past and present, seem convinced that I have either supernatural powers or that I've made some special arrangement with God, referring directly to the fact that if I have to be in school, it is going to rain.  This is not limited to the students in my present college either.  Students in the other colleges I have taught at believed the same thing, although they also added in snow and thunder and lightening to the mix. 

You know how a joke may be funny the first few times that you hear it, but starts to get really old and not funny around the 458,925th time that you hear it? 

I've tried to get this particular joke to go away, but it keeps showing up.  Desperate for a way to get rid of it, I spent a bit of time this morning developing a "quiz" that the next class that brings up rain and me in the same sentence will get.  Only about 57 questions asking students to list and discuss the benefits of rain for NY.  They will need to give acceptable sources for their answers, and at least 10 of the answers must come from Tanach.  And when they ask, yes I will count the quiz.

Sure, rain can get messy and it may not be a lot of fun to take a shower with your clothes on as you try to get to wherever you need to go.  But that rain we've been having has done wonders for the levels in our reservoirs, so if you can take a nice long hot shower without being under water restrictions, thank the rain.  And the sidewalks in NY are nice and clean for a change, again thanks to the rain.  And the birds are thrilled with their bonanza of plump and juicy worms, thanks to the rain.  And no one has to worry that their lawn is turning brown or that their plants and trees look scrawny, all thanks to the rain.  And this rain just could turn out to be a bit of a money saver as well.  If the NY and NJ farms get plenty of rain then their crops will grow well and be plentiful, and just maybe prices will be lower this summer.

So no, I'm not causing it to rain this week or any week for that matter.  But we should all be thankful that we are getting the rain instead of the alternatives.  Is there anyone who really, truly prefers shoveling snow and getting frost bitten to getting a little wet?

And we might also keep in mind that there are plenty of places on earth that are suffering from lack of rain and which would welcome our rain with open joy and pleasure.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Irony of It All

The Asifa that was held yesterday is really a study in irony.  It is being reported that 50,000 people attended the asifa, both in person and remotely.  Purveyors from here and from Israel were present to sell their wares--kosher phones and Internet filters.  Those who spoke made it clear that such filters and phones HAD to be used if you are using a cellphone or the Internet and that attendees and listeners had better buy them. 

So what is the irony?  Had the Internet not existed, the Asifa would not have been possible.  Short of certain parades many years ago, the Asifa is being touted as the largest gathering ever of Jews in one place in the NY area.  Did they gather together to address any of the truly pressing issues that Klal faces, issues like yeshiva tuition and the fact that Klal is beggaring itself through its insistence that young men not work but sit and learn forever instead?  Nope, they gathered because a "truly evil" force is in our midst.  They would much rather have banned Internet usage altogether--and there are many rabbonim who do just that--but they used that old axiom "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Ironic that those who could not attend in person could do so through their cellphones and through the Internet.  And let's not forget the money made yesterday.  Those purveyors had a captive audience, and they bought and bought and bought.  I'm not sure how much mind expanding was done yesterday, but some people's pockets were stretched wide as the money poured into them.

If the Internet did not exist, what issue of importance would have possibly brought together this many people?  The answer is no issue would have brought them together like this.  It would seem that no other issue could get so many rabbonim and their followers to come together in one place and in seeming unity, rabbonim and followers who otherwise "don't play nicely together" and would rather chew nails than have anything to do with each other.  And yes, that is ironic. 

What's in a Name

What to name the baby has caused more problems in more families than a whole lot of other things. People spend what seems like a gazillion hours in trying to find just the perfect name for a child. But it's not first names that fascinate me--it's last names.

Although today surnames/family names/last names--take your pick--are pretty much the rule around the world, it didn't always used to be this way. Different countries and cultures adopted the idea of a surname at different times. Generally the surnames were given to show that someone was the child of a particular father, to show a region that person came from, to show what occupation that person had, to show a personal characteristic of that person, to show a religious or cultural affiliation, or to show some quirk about the person. In addition, some last names don't have direct affiliation with a person but were seemingly chosen because someone liked what was associated with that name.

I've been active in many organizations and have taught for many years, so I've come across a lot of names that are carried by those of us in Klal. Some of those surnames are common not only to the Jews, names like Stern, meaning star, and some are common only to the Jews, like Cohen/Kahan/Kohn/Katz, meaning of the Kohanim. And some truly catch the imagination as I wonder what could have been the story behind the original surname.

Take the name Morgenbesser for instance. Translated this name would be tomorrow is better or tomorrow will be better. Surely a tale hangs on that designation. Or take the name Lebenswohl--life is good. And then there is Kopfstein--either head rock or the head is standing or standing on the head.  Kleinman and Grossman are pretty self explanatory, but what should we make of Mittleman or Middleman? 

All the names mentioned so far have a German and/or Yiddish/Hebrew origin.  Add in all the other languages that have contributed to our surnames, and you get an even greater variety of things that people were named for.

What are some of the interesting or unusual surnames you've run across?