Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting with the Program

The major supermarket chains in our area already started displaying their Kosher for Passover goods before Purim.  Why did they do so?  Basically because people over the years have been asking them around this time when the Passover products will be there.  The markets are responding to customer requests for earlier display.  And then there is this--the longer they have their displays up, the more goods they will sell, leaving them with less "leftovers" to have to put on sale immediately post Passover. (Note: a lot of those goods were offered on sale in those first few weeks.)

Apparently a lot of people in my area, myself included, don't leave their Pesach shopping to the last few days.  Except for maybe Matza and some candy/cookie items, some of the markets are already cleared out of basic Pesach products, items like canned tuna and spices and potato starch etc..

Sure, the kosher stores are there to take up the slack for those who don't shop early, but here's the thing--you are going to pay for putting off the shopping.  Sure, these stores do have some items on sale sometimes, but the real bargains are not going to be found there.  Gefen kosher for passover tuna was on sale in one of the regular supermarkets for $1 a can--not going to find that now.

Okay, so shopping early can save you money.  I then have this question: why do all the kashruth agencies first make their Kosher for Passover booklets/listings available only after Purim?  Obviously they know way before then what will be Kosher for Passover (and what will not require a special, separate Passover hechsher), since the regular supermarkets already have those products weeks before Pesach.  And it's not just the printed booklets I'm referring to.  The OU, for instance, in answer to my query, said that the online listing would only be up after Purim.  It's way past time for the kashruth agencies to get with the program, and to understand that lots of consumers out there are not waiting until right before the chag to go shopping.  It's actually bad for their business to procrastinate in this way.  Example: I didn't have the booklet info when I went shopping the first time so I picked up those "heimish" brands with a Pesachdik hechsher when they first came into the stores and were on sale.  Yes, other brands under certification would show up in the booklets as being okay for Pesach, but I didn't know to go looking for them, and I'd already shopped by then.  Manufacturers who see that paying for that Pesach hechsher doesn't really get them a whole lot financially are going to be less likely to pay for that hechsher in the future.

In short, the kashruth agencies need to get consumer and business savvy and get their listings out to the public far earlier than they do at present.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Funny Money

Lest we think that it is only Klal that comes up with some truly strange things to throw money at, I should mention that Klal is in good company with the Federal Government.

The NIH has given a psychology professor in Kentucky a huge chunk of money (The grant information shows the government launched the project with a $181,406 award in January 2010. It added the $175,587 cited by Neumann in 2011 and another $175,211 in February 2012. The study is slated to continue through January 2015) for research purposes.

What is the research this professor is doing? He is studying the connection between cocaine and the sex habits of Japanese quail.

Now, don't you feel all warm and cozy about what is being done with your tax dollars?

Monday, March 26, 2012

As long as We're Discussing Noses

The link below is to an article that ran in the New York Times this past summer, discussing a study linking mental illness with rhinoplasty.

Just one excerpt from the article: "About one in three people seeking rhinoplasty — commonly called a nose job — have signs of body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition in which a person has an unnatural preoccupation with slight or imagined defects in appearance."

No, It's Not the Nose

So you think that having a large or oddly shaped nose is the make or break item for finding a shidduch? You think that a nose is the deciding factor in whether or not a woman will be considered attractive? Luckily no one told that to the women featured in the article linked to below. If they can be considered as beautiful--and as successful--just why is it that so many others are harping on a nose as being a deal breaker when it comes to a shidduch? Could it be--gasp!--that some in Klal have got their priorities skewed, that they aren't able to assess the big picture correctly?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Beauty

There is quite a to-do raging over the Halberstam article in the Jewish Press suggesting that girls who "don't make the grade" beauty-wise seriously consider having plastic surgery so that they can get married. Trust me, there will be more postings on the underlying problem with this, but first I'd like to throw out a few items to think about.

Beauty is not, repeat NOT, something that has one pat, never changing definition. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and there are dozens of factors that may influence how that beholder defines beauty.

You cannot get everyone to agree about the beauty of inanimate objects, things like a piece of furniture, or a piece of clothing. You can't get them to agree about the beauty of an art object, a painting, a piece of music. You can't get them to agree about the beauty of things in the natural world. And we expect that there will be 100% agreement among men about what constitutes beauty in a woman they are meeting with the object of marriage in mind? Not possible.

So, any solution to our "shidduch crisis" that hinges on creating a standardized image of beauty through plastic surgery is doomed to failure. There is no standardized image of beauty that all will agree on. If we are going to throw money out on medical intervention, perhaps it should go towards psychologists and psychiatrists for the shidduch-hunting males and their mothers, to cure them of their skewed and unrealistic espectations and world views. That, at least, would be getting at the root of the shidduch problem.

Definitely more to come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Not What I Wanted to Hear

I had the radio on in the car as I ran an errand this morning. I so wish I hadn't turned it on. One of the news channels had a special report on the weather we can expect this upcoming summer. The basic gist of the report was that, unless we get some seriously colder weather/freezing temperatures/snow over the next month or so, we can expect that our New York summer is going to be hotter than usual with high levels of humidity. According to the weather experts on the panel, temperatures in the high 90s and in the low 100s is well within possible for us. In addition, those experts said that summertime allergies are going to begin earlier and last for a longer period of time. Oh yes, and we can expect our summer bugs to be hardier and more active, mosquitos in particular.

Sigh, there is definitely a tradeoff for having no snow in the winter. Normally cleaning the air conditioner filters is not on the Pre-Pesach cleaning list, but if the weather is already getting to 80 now, what's to say that it won't be air conditioning weather in two weeks, Particularly with the oven on for two days and a full house of people?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Airline Math--You Didn't Learn it this way in School

My hubby had to fly to Florida for two days. A non-stop flight on United was due to depart at 9:15 am and arrive in Miami at 12:46 pm. The cost for that ticket, from NY to Miami, was $500 for a non-stop economy class ticket. United's math had us puzzled. Since when does it take 3-1/2 hours to fly non-stop from NY to Miami? It only takes 4-1/2 to 5 hours to Las Vegas, and it's over twice the distance. And then there was that cost for the ticket. Actually, that was on the "cheap" end for United, as they also had plain economy class tickets for $584 and way up. (Keep in mind that hubby had to fly on a certain date and return on a certain date, because, yes, you can sometimes get cheaper fares--not much cheaper but cheaper--if you fly odd hours on odd days) You could fly to Las Vegas for $150 less and to LA also for $150 less. So it costs more money and takes more time to go shorter distances than it does longer distances? Hmmm.

Just a note: the flight landed exactly on time in Miami, at 12:46. Only problem was the plane sat on the ground in Newark for more than an hour past the takeoff time before it actually left. So am I now to assume that the 3-1/2 hours scheduled for the flight just "happened" to be for the amount of time a passenger will be stuck in the airplane rather than elapsed flying time?

We fly fairly routinely twice a year. We also know many others who fly way more often, mostly on business, and they aren't happy campers either. It's not exactly that you are getting more by way of amenities or services from the airlines. Seats have gotten to the point where a thin 6-year old might be comfortable. Amenities? What are those? Service? Not so you could notice. Convenience and on-time flights? May be found in a dictionary but not with an airline.

Honestly, there is a word for when people pay to get screwed, and it didn't use to be air travel--it is today.

Note: due to recent regulations by the FAA, airlines now must include in the posted price of their tickets all taxes and airport fees. This may account for some of the steep rise in posted prices for tickets. Also note the following: the FAA monitors the on-time statistics for flights, both departures and arrivals. Strangely enough my husband's flight, according to the FAA, left on time. Why? Because to be called on time a flight has to depart the gate within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure. So my husband's flight pulled away from the gate "on time" but sat on the tarmac for an hour, and that's not being late according to the FAA. It would be really lovely if our government agencies spoke the same English that we do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Israel Takes on Eating Disorders

Interesting report on what Israel is doing to help combat eating disorders through providing better role models in the ads viewed by people. It would be helpful if others emulated what Israel is doing.

New Israeli law bans underweight models in ads
Legislation hope to encourage use of healthy models and heighten awareness of digital tricks

A Polite Inanimate Object

Every year I know that at least one inanimate object in my house is going to up and die, usually right before a yom tov. Many years there has been more than one "death" in a year.

This year the inanimate object slated to leave my home--the hot water heater-- turned out to be a very polite one. Instead of dying in the week before Pesach, it died this past Sunday morning. In doing so during the early a.m. hours, it made its exit when my husband was home and when a plumber was reachable and available to come to the house. Of course, it destroyed my chores for Sunday, which included a whole lot of uses of hot water. On the other hand, it gave me an unexpected "free" day, and for that I can't complain.

I'm hoping that this will be the end of the "deaths" slated for this yom tov. Perhaps with all the mild weather we've had this winter, only one object will have gotten mortally ill. Yes, I can only hope.

Note: Only a few decades ago this story would have ended differently. A plumber on Sunday? Maybe if you lived in a frum area that had a frum plumber, and he was willing to come to you. But even then, that was more for small repairs than for major replacements. The plumbing supply stores that would have provided the water heater weren't open on Sunday. Hey, back then the large malls weren't open on Sunday either. Almost no stores were open on Sunday, with the exception of a few kosher groceries and/or bakeries. We would have been hotwaterless for at least a couple of days. Fast forward to now and the whole replacement took one examination visit and then the installation visit, all done within 5 hours of our discovering the broken heater. Yes, sometimes I really do love progress.

Monday, March 19, 2012

No, It's Not Anal Retentive

Every morning but Shabbos I take my first cup of coffee down to my computer and type a To Do list for the day. There, in black and white, is a listing of where I have to go, whom I have to call, what I have to do. If, heaven forfend, something is left over to do from the previous day's list, it goes on to the new list. I use a personal system of bold or underlining or all caps to highlight items that are absolute musts no matter what else happens.

As I complete each item on the list I cross it out. There is something very satisfying about seeing all those crossed out items. And the best part of the list is that there are no panic attacks as I suddenly remember something that should have been done hours ago and there's no time to do it.

Life nowadays is just too full and with too much to do to count on memory alone. I've gotten some good natured ribbing about the list (at least I'm assuming it was good natured) but it works for me and so I'll continue.

I also keep files on my computer with To Do lists for every yom tov. Those files contain cleaning lists, shopping lists, cooking lists, errand lists, menus and notes on how to make things run smoothly, garnered over many years of making yom tov in my own home.

Just when did being organized and following a schedule turn in to being anal retentive? I've a feeling that those who coined the term are also the ones you will find in a grocery store first doing their shopping an hour before Shabbos, or the ones who are paying megabucks in late fees because they just can't seem to pay their bills on time.

Here's a thought--instead of dissing those who are organized and/or use lists to order their days, you might consider joining them. There's a lot to be said for eliminating panic and frustration from our lives, and lists can help with that, especially if you follow them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Be Careful of What You Wish For

Note: This time of year the issue of cleaning help seems to get a lot of conversation, or yelling, as the case may be.There are obviously a lot of aspects to the issue of cleaning help, but I present the following as one aspect that doesn't get a lot said about it.

Cleaning help in the house has raised some strident backing and forthing over the years. Some believe that it is wasted money, that it is strictly a luxury. Some believe that it is a sign of laziness on the part of the balabusta of the household. Others, obviously, take the opposite position.

An acquaintance settled the matter in her household, and I approve of her methodology. Her husband decided "reasonably" that since they no longer had little children living in the house--in fact, no children living in the house-- that weekly help was money that could be spent elsewhere. When the regular cleaning help retired he announced that they would not be looking for a replacement.

Okay, facts on the table. Both husband and wife work full-time outside of the house. The square footage of the house is around 2300 square feet. Other than the extra bedrooms (more on that later) the other rooms in the house are used by both husband and wife. The wife concurred with the husband's decision but with the following proviso: the husband would take on the cleaning responsibilities for everything that the cleaning person had been doing. The wife would continue to do all the tasks she had been doing.

Yup, a lesson learned. On Monday night the husband returned home from work ready to have dinner and to relax a bit. He was greeted by his wife with the monthly cleaning schedule. She explained that some jobs are done every week and some only every month or so, and some before a yom tov. Wasn't he lucky--some of the monthly jobs and yom tov jobs were on the calendar for this week. The wife took care of her chores and then headed for bed. The husband had not yet managed to get out of the front half of the bottom floor. The scenario repeated itself the next night, and the next and the next. And then two of the married kids were coming for Shabbos with their children, and the wife handed the husband the amended cleaning list. And then Shabbos was over and all the extra bedrooms and bathroom were on the to do list as well.

In short, having had to suddenly take over the cleaning chores that had been handled by the cleaning person, the husband finally learned just what that person had been doing, and what it took to take on those chores in addition to the rest of "real life." At one point the husband griped "you could be helping me you know!" to which the wife quite calmly replied "And who will take on the chores that I still have to do even with cleaning help? Maybe you could help me when you get a free minute."And have I mentioned that both husband and wife in this scenario are not youngsters any longer?

And yes, you guessed it, there is now cleaning help in this household. A lesson learned.

In short, I believe that we ought to take the issue of cleaning help out of the public discussion venue and put it back where it belongs--between husband and wife. To blithely put cleaning help into the category of unnecessary luxury or forbidden to those who get a tuition reduction, for instance, is to be blind to the individual circumstances that surround that cleaning help.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Holiday Greetings

In case you missed it, today has been declared national "No, I Won't!" Day. Any and all references to the upcoming "P" holiday are completely and totally forbidden. Today you do something nice for yourself, even if that means doing nothing at all. Enjoy your "P" missing day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

For a Plain View of what Plainview is Offering

For those who are wondering what the NYC area might offer outside of the usual Brooklyn/Queens areas:

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Hebrew Academy of Nassau County Elementary School - $7,500 per student discount over 3 years (Grades K-6)
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Kosher Butcher/Takeout/Bakery/Pizza and more
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For more information, contact us or (516) 433-4811 EXT. 108

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What's the Context

We've all heard the old advice about how to view a glass. Some view that glass as half empty, and some view it as half full. Thanks to the connotations of "empty" and "full," we are supposed to believe that viewing a glass as half empty is a negative view, and that viewing that glass as half full is positive, and how we should be viewing it.

I don't always agree with the traditional view. My feeling is that you have to look at the context that glass falls within before you decide how to view that glass.

Let's take to-do lists. This time of year, with the "P" holiday coming right up, I'm thrilled if my glass is half empty. It means I got ahead of schedule and have less left to do. Looking at that glass as half full would clearly indicate that I still have lots more to do. In this case "empty" is what I want to see, not full.

I may want my coffee cup full or even half full, but I most definitely want any work needing to be done to be in the "half empty" category.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Freilachen Purim to All

A Freilachen Purim to all of you. May today be a joyous occasion, the memory of which will always bring a smile to your lips and gladness to your hearts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Somehow Knew This was Coming

I'm not actively redting shidduchim any longer, but my name still appears on a number of shadchan lists (can't seem to get it off those lists) and people still call me about shidduchim. Two weeks ago I got one such phone call. And frankly that call left me speechless.

A male in his early 20s called me from OOT. He was looking for a shidduch and knew precisely what would be suitable for him, having, as he put it, "tons" of dating experience. However, he offered a new twist on dating. He would not be coming into NY, if a girl were from here, for the first few dates. As he put it, those dates are about "elimination," not about choosing. To spend hundreds of dollars on plane fare to go out on a date and find out that the girl was not really shayich for him seemed insane. Instead, what he wanted was for me to arrange the first dates as Skype dates--they'd get to see each other and talk, but the cost would not be prohibitive.

Okay, there may be some positives for an out of towner in dating this way. But what would you like to bet that if this goes into practice for the OOT, it will soon catch on with those who are in town. It certainly would cut down on the cost of dating. And I can see some rabbis being in favor of it, because there would be no actual face to face meeting, getting into a car alone, being faced with temptation. Heck, even the environment would benefit, as less gas would be used, reducing air pollution and petroleum dependency.

As it is a whole lot of people are already replacing face to face socialization with online substitutes. I suppose it was inevitable that dating would find itself heading online. Still, I am already missing the "old-fashioned" way we used to socialize. Note: for those who don't have the Internet in their homes as yet, I'm sure the Marriot will jump to their aid. Instead of a lounge where real live people sit across from each other and talk, the hotel will provide a "lounge" with Skype-enabled computers for "dating" people to use.

Purim Torah? Sigh, I don't think so.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A New Holiday--as if there weren't already enough of 'em

I've had postings up before about some of the strange days that have been declared as holidays in the secular calendar. This year I've decided to start one of those special days of my own. I have a feeling it really might catch on, particularly among balabostas in the run-up to Pesach. I'm designating that day for Tuesday, March 13th.

I'm calling that day "No, I Won't! Day" The premise is a fairly simple one. Anything and everything that might possibly be connected in any way whatsoever to preparing for Pesach is totally and completely forbidden. Making lists of any kind? Strictly forbidden. Shopping for anything that is Pesach related? Strictly forbidden? Cleaning? Doesn't exist then. The only thing that anyone has to do on that day is treat him or her self to a break from the oncoming madness. Strictly forbidden on this holiday is any worrying about what has to be done the next day.

As the old advertising slogan used to say "You deserve a break today!"

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Hairy Situation

The weather is dismal in NYC right now, so if you're looking for something to break up the blahs, go on over to

The American Mustache Institute has found a duly elected official to present legislation relating to a tax break for those who have facial hair. Yes, you read that correctly. Strange (or not so strange) thing is, I could see thousands of Jews who otherwise don't seem to display any interest in the goings on of our government really getting behind this one.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Purim of Long Ago

There is so much of joy in the celebration of Purim. It is one of the few holidays we have where laughter and smiles dominate. But what must this holiday have been like for those returning from the camps at the end of WWII? And what was it like pre-War for the Jewish residents of Europe? For a bit of that history about how Purim used to be, go to