The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who's On First

I just had the following e-mail correspondence with a (non-Jewish) colleague.

I invited her to join me and my associate for a working breakfast tomorrow morning. I told her that the breakfast would take place at my most favorite food company, on 45th and 6th.

This was her response:

"Sure, I'd love to join you. What is the name of your most favorite food place?"


Teachers Conferences Updated

Last night MHW and I went to OYS's conferences. Thankfully, the last time that I expect to attend conferences for him (really, is there a point in going to a second-semester senior's conferences?).

The best analogy for last night is how my dad, z'l, viewed going to Mets games. Although he was a devoted Mets fan and prefered it when the Mets won, he measured the success of an outing to a game by how quickly he got out of the parking lot after the game.

Likwise, although I am a devoted dad (and the reports from the teachers were very positive, especially for a hockey-playing senior, the equivalent, I suppose, of a Mets win), I measure the success of last night by the fact that we were in and out in a half hour and waited on exactly zero lines.

As my dad would have said about the reservation system, America gonif.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random Fantasies: Beyond Bad Luck

Despite scoring 160 points last week, I lost to Joe Schick. He scored 176 points. Once again, I would have beaten every other player in the league.

My luck this year is beyond bad. In fact, if my buddy Ben Chorin is reading this I would ask him to explain how statistically improbable it is that I am tied for last place, with a 4 - 8 record despite:

* Having the second highest aggregate point total (1695; 107 points higher than the second place player (who is 8 - 4). I have 185 points more than the other team that shares my lousy record.

* My average score, about 141, would have won 22 of the 36 games played so far (61%). Instead, I have won only 33% of my games.

The reason for my lousy record is that, incredibly, teams have scored an aggregate of 1755 points against me. That's 124, or more than 10 per game, more than the next player and 270 points more (over 20 per game!) than the second place team.

In any event, I plow on, knowing that I am doomed. The question for this week is do I play Tony Romo against the dreadful Giants or do I play Tom Brady against the even more dreadful Lions?


OOS Starts Work

An auspicious beginning


A Tale of Two Schools

Last night, MHW and I attended teachers' conferences for OYD, a freshman at a very good high school. The lines were endless, the waits uncomfortable. In all, we saw 8 teachers in two hours.

Tonight, we have conferences for OYS at a different school. This school instituted a computer system through which you register in advance. You pick the teachers you want to see and the time slots that work for you. You receive an immediate confirmation of your schedule by return email.

Tonight we will see 5 teachers in about 30 minutes.

I was my normal patient self last night, muttering under my breath and saying things like "pre-historic" and "arcane". I did my best to rile up as many parents as possible. I'm hopeful that a popular revolution will ensue thereby ensuring that we don't have to wait on lines by this time next year.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


If it were up to The Todler, she would suck on a pacifier all day and all night. As it is, we let her suck on it only all night. We are fairly strict about not leting her have it during the day. (While we have absolutely no idea how we will eventually wean her off it at night, we absolutely don't want her walking around with a pacifier as a five-year-old ).

Nevertheless, as a precaution, MHW carries a spare pacifier in her handbag. You never know when you are stuck in a car at bed time and TT REALLY needs it.

The problem is, TT knows that MHW carries a spare and every time TT sees the handbag, she whines for the pacifier. Fortunately, MHW is strong and does not give in.

Yesterday, TT was in the supermarket with MHW, saw the handbag and, predictably, started wordlessly asking for the pacifier. MHW was prepared. She also had a small bag of crackers in the bag and, making believe TT was asking for the crackers, said, "Oh. You want these?" and pulled the bag of crackers out of the handbag. With the pacifier stuck to the bottom of the bag.

Oh well, good try.


Quantum Fries

There is a leibidik discussion going on over at Dov Bear (currently over 100 comments strong) on the deeper meaning of quantum mechanics prompted by an unsolicited guest post from the prominent physicist, Barry Simon.

I, too, have been thinking deep thoughts, spurred by my recent purchase of a burger and fries at Kosher Deluxe. What is better, regular fries or spicy fries? What would the Gra have said? Rambam?


Monday, November 27, 2006

Tickets Selling Fast

I just got an email on our local community list entitled "'X' Concert: Tickets Selling Fast!" I can't help it but why do I get the distinct feeling that tickets are actually selling slowly?


OOS Misses..

Family and Friends


Fosterboy's Sneakers

Fosterboy spent Thanksgiving with our family. Since my in-laws are going to Florida for a few months, we had MHW's family over for the Seudah.

Two things were noteworthy. First, The Toddler seemed to have some kind of mystical connection to Fosterboy. I can't explain it. She followed him around all day, sat on his lap, played with him. This made Fosterboy feel really good, which is really good.

The second thing that was noteworthy was the state of Fosterboy's sneakers. He was wearing Addidas high tops. When he walked in in the morning, I noticed that his laces were completely mangled and that he was, essentially, walking around with untied sneakers.

I went into my closet and took out a pair of old sneakers and removed the laces. I cut Fosterboy's laces with a pair of scissors (it's hard to describe how mangled they were) and replaced them.

All I could think about was, "doesn't anyone at the residence look at his feet?" How long had he been walking around like this? How could his supervisors let him go around like this?

The bottom line is that, for all intents and purposes, Fosterboy is an orphan.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Close Call Update

I was told that the perpetrator of the heinous cheap shot on OYS was suspended for one game.

While I think he got off easy, I am ok with that result, particularly since OYS seems to be fine. I hope he takes it to heart. It was just good fortune that OYS wasn't seriously hurt.


What's With The Fries?

Is it safe to say that no non-kosher Asian restaurant in the entire world offers french fries in lieu of rice?

MHW and I just came back from a lovely dinner at a local Asian establishment and there were probably more fries served than at the local McDonalds. Judging by the sizes of those eating the fries it wasn't because they needed to supplement their diets with additional calories.

Mi K'Amcha Yisrael?



I've posted numerous times about how disruptive parental visits can be for young foster children. Mainly, I was talking about the experiencs we had with Fosterboy and his younger brother when they were about 4 and 5 and then later, with Fosterboy, when he was a couple of years older. With babies, on the other hand, the disruption is different. There is no demonstrable emotional disruption, just one of routine. This is not a small issue since routine and structure for babies is very important. As the babies grow up and are more aware of what's going on, the disruption also grows.

I spent a good part of today ferrying TT to and from what was supposed to be a parental visit. I had agreed to guest-teach a business class at Flatbush Yeshiva H.S. for a good friend. TT's visit was scheduled for about the same time so I dropped her off at Ohel on the way. (There was also a periodic progress meeting regarding TT so I stayed for that, as well).

When I told TT it was time for me to leave, she was not very pleased. The BM was not there yet so I left her with the case worker from OHEL. TT has clearly reached the stage where she is very aware of what's going on (and although she likes the people at Ohel would rather not be left there). She is going to start really hating her visits.

(As it turns out, I got a call on my cell phone that BM never showed up for the visit and called 45 minutes late to let Ohel know she wasn't coming. This has happened a number of times now and does not bode well. I picked up TT after my teaching gig and drove her home).

It is very sad to think that this delightful child, who is about as happy a toddler as you'll ever see, is going to have to confront issues that no child should have to deal with.


Close Call

Last night's hockey game ended with OYS sprawled out on the floor after having been viciously mauled by the best player on the other team. OYS, protecting a 2-1 lead, took the ball into the corner to run out the clock and was lined up and smashed into the wall with 5 seconds to play. His right knee took the brunt of the hit. It was as big a cheap shot as I have seen in 9 years of watching hockey. Very scary moment.

Luckily, OYS seems fine this morning. After a few minutes, he was able to walk off the court and had full range of motion in his knee. He iced the knee last night and, against his wishes, took some Advil to reduce the swelling.

Ironically, OYS is a camp friend of the kid who nailed him. He has been to our house and I actually like this kid but he is out of control on the hockey court. He has been out of control on the hockey court for the four years that I've watched him but the refs have let him get away with it. (He is also a very talented hockey player, not merely a goon). After the game, the kid apologized and seemed genuinely sorry.

I hold the refs partly responsible for what happened last night. It could easily have ended OYS's hockey career (or much worse, it was that bad). I don't wish this kid bad, but he should, at a minimum, be suspended for a game or two.

It was too bad that the game ended this way because until that point, it was a great game. Despite the close score, OYS's team dominated the game and only because the other team's goalie made countless excellent saves was the score not more reflective of the domination. The defense smothered the other team and the offensive effort (despite missing two of their best forwards) was relentless.

In any event, it was, perhaps, the best all around game that OYS has ever played and he more or less controlled the game from his defensive position. (Full disclosure: As I have stated several times when blogging about OYS's hockey exploits, I am his father and you may think this is not objective, trust me, I am not exaggerating; perhaps the opposite).

At the end of the day, we are just grateful that OYS is, B'H. ok and look forward to the next game.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Random Fantasy Update

I crushed Elster by almost 50 points last week. But, to show you how random Fantasy Football is, Elster would have beaten every other team in our league by at least 10 points!

As I said, this has little to do with me; my first choice, LaDamlian Tomlinson, scored 4 touchdowns for the second straight week and has 19 in his last 6 games; perhaps the greatest fantasy football run in history. Go, LDT!


Pressure to Blog

I had a very pleasant dinner with OOD last night. During the course of dinner she told me how disappointed her friends are that my blogging has been so sporadic lately and asked her to urge me to be more on top of the blog.

Such pressure.

The truth is that after more than two years it's not so simple to think of interesting things to write. This is exacerbated by the fact that I travel for business a fair amount and that I am extremely busy at work even when not travelling.

Nevertheless, I understand my responsibility and pledge to try to do better.

(A tip: Some of my best writing was done early, starting in March of 2004. People are welcome to read the archives).

Finally, since we ate at My Most Favorite Food Company, I brought home a desert for MHW; a piece of strawberry rhubard pie. I predict that it will be finished by the end of Shabbos.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Hockey Season Begins

Our ninth and last year of scholastic hockey involving one of our sons begins tomorrow night. Technically, the season began about five weeks ago but the first meaningful game is scheduled for tomorrow. OYS's teams have won the first six games by an average score of 2,000 to zero, or something like that.

Because his coach has rachmanus, OYS only got to play small portions of those games so I usually found myself hocking with the other parents by the middle of the second period. So, a game that will actually be a challenge is most welcome.

To a certain extent, OYS is playing with house money having already won two elementary school, one JV and one varsity championships. But, I am quite sure that OYS and his fellow seniors don't see it that way and would like to go out on top.

My nerves have just about had it (we have attended championship games involving one of our sons in 6 of the 8 years they played so far) so I am happy, on some level, that I will be retiring this year.


Random Fantasies

I was convinced to join an NFL Fantasy league this year by the prominent Jblogger and crazy Jets fan, Joe Schick.

I was somewhat reluctant since I know almost nothing about the current NFL. Nevertheless, being a good sport, I became the sixth and final member of the league.

I prepared for the draft by talking to one of my colleagues, the data guy at my firm, who basically has no life and takes this stuff very seriously. He gave me a "cheat sheet" to follow with all the players ranked, by position. I lucked out by getting the first pick and, at dataguy's recommendation, picked LaDamlian Tomlinson. The draft went relatively well for a few more rounds until something went wrong and the computer started picking for me automatically.

I ended up with a fairly good offense and a fairly bad defense (or so I've been told). I promptly made things worse by dropping good players instead of benching them (to deal with bye weeks).

Joe sportingly tried to help and, in fact, did give me some good advice.

Predictably, my record dropped to 1 - 6 after seven weeks, owing to a combination of bad luck (I lost one week by 1 point and another because I played the guy with the highest total of the week), and and am ha'aratzus.

Then, things started to change. And, it had nothing to do with any newfound genious on my part. It had to do, mainly, with LaDamlian Tomlinson. He started going berserk, scoring about three touchdowns each week for the last six weeks. So, I now find myself at 4 - 7 after winning three out of four.

Totally random.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How Annoying Is This?

I am leaving for Boston in 90 minutes but I cannot find the annotated Power Point presentation that I will be giving tomorrow afternoon. I have given this presentation twice and need to give it four more times in the next 3 weeks.

Where are my notes? Agghhhh!



I travel on business a fair amount. But please don't feel sorry for me. If you have to feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for MHW (not that she wants you to). I usually get to fly business class, stay in nice hotels and often get to stop in Israel on my way to where I'm going. Sure, it stinks being alone and I do get lonely but it's nothing compared to what MHW has to deal with, i.e., loneliness AND handling everything by herself (made much more challenging since we have TT).

Take tonight for example. At 5 p.m. I will walk over to Penn Station, buy something to eat on my way over, hop in an Acela Express train, do some work, get some sleep and arrive at a five star hotel in Boston three and a half hours later. MHW will be feeding and bathing TT, getting her to sleep, supervising homework, taking the phone calls, cooking for Shabbos, arranging schedules, etc., etc. I get to hang out at a conference tomorrow, speak for an hour before a few hundred people, flap and quack with the machers, go to the gym and hang out. I take a train back on Friday morning and arrive home with a few hours to spare efore Shabbos.

Not too shabby.


Nothing to Say

I continue to be extraordinarily busy at work. Not only have I not had time to adequately manage my pathetic Fantasy Football team (much to the chagrine of Joe Schick), I have not had a chance to think of anything even remotely interesting to write.

And, since I am leaving on another road trip tonight (labeit domestic), it is unlikely that any Big Ideas will pop into my head anythime soon.

Just thought I'd let you know.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cranking With PsycleSteve

For a wonderful account of the first three days of riding on the Alyn Ride, check out PS's new blog. His account of the difficulties of the third day rings particularly true except that I, a much weaker rider than PS, had a much more difficult time riding in crazy winds (since I could not stay with any of the pacelines).

After reading PS's account, you will have a better understanding of why I ditched the challenge ride after three days.


Parental Advice

One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting is the reality that much of the advice you give to your children (particularly when they are teens) is ignored. Most teens don't figure out until much later that parents are not as stupid as they look.


Jawboning the CD

The heilig Levite Shlepper loves the CD


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chicks Post

It's been a while since I had a chicks post so here goes.

The Toddler (TT) is doing great. She just turned 18 months and has now been with us 16 months. And, it seems that she grew up about three months in the ten days that I was gone. I can't win. If I go to visit our grandchildren because I don't want to completely miss them growing up, I miss TT's development. She walks around all day long, is starting to make sounds and a few words and understands much, much more. The development of language in kids has always amazed me and I got to see it in two countries this week.

(By the way, is there anything cuter in the whole world than a recently walking toddler in feet pajamas?)

There is nothing really new with respect to her status. She will certainly be with us for a while but we have no certainty what the future will bring.

On another topic, I promise to finish the saga of how I met and married MHW in the near future.

Have a great Shabbos.


The Ride

Some thoughts about my recent bike ride in Israel:

Temparature. Every ride seems to bring different and unexpected challenges. During my first ride, in the south, we had to deal with average temparatures of 100 degrees. This year the temps were in the mid 80's. This made a huge difference. It was way more comfortable.

Winds. On the other hand, the winds were absolutely brutal on Tuesday and Wednesday. Over 120 miles of riding into powerful headwinds or excrutiating crosswinds. Many times I felt I would simply be swept off my bike (those were the times I envied the guys with bigger guts than mine). I can climb forever, but the winds killed me. With the exception of a moderate headwind last year as we climbed 40 miles up the Golan Heights, I had not experienced anything remotely similar. These winds were ten times stronger.

Climbing. If you ride a bike in Israel you need to be prepared to climb. The good news is that I love to climb and I can climb just about anything. And climb we did. I climbed over 17,000 feet in 5 days.

And, just when you thought you did the hardest climbs possible (Metzukai Dragot in 2004 and Ramat Raziel last year), another hill comes along to beat the last. This year's climb of Maaleh Akrabim (the Scorpion's Ascent), with its 31 switchback turns and 17 and 18 percent gradients, beat them all by far. For the first time ever, I had to get off my bike and rest in the middle of a climb. (I was not alone; a whole slew of riders walked substantial portions of the climb; I only walked 50 yards). I tip my helmet to Maaleh Akrabim. I will be back to conquer you.

Descents. This ride featured more insane descents than any of the previous rides. I normally don't mind descending. I have reached close to 50 miles per hour. I do hate descending in packs. There is nothing more dangerous and nothing that gets me more nervous. When you descend like that, too many things are not in your control and that makes me crazy. This year we started with an 18 mile drop from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea (in the rain) and ended with with an even steeper drop into Eilat. I am just thankful to have made it down in one piece. (The drop into the Machtesh Ramon (The Ramon Canyon) on Wednesday, however, which was not in a pack, was perhaps the single coolest part of the ride).

The challenge ride. I was a marginal rider in this group and should have stuck with the regular ride. Most of the riders in this group are certifiable lunatics. For them, it was ALL about riding (not that there's anything wrong with that; it just wasn't for me). I literally couldn't take a picture on Tuesday or Wednesday because I would have been dropped by the pack another mile. These guys were downloading their bike computers into their regular laptops every night and slicing and dicing their data in 50 different ways. I just like to ride my bike at a good pace. These guys look at asphalt all day and are happy. I don't regret having riden with them but they were killing me (I switched to the regular ride on day four).

My bike. (Warning: here is the part when your eyes are likely to glaze over if they haven't already).

MHW bought me a new Litespeed Teramo titanium bike for our 25th anniversary. I bought titanium because it is light yet much sturdier than carbon fiber. The big decision I made was to get a compact double chain ring rather than a triple. This makes climbing the very steepest hills more difficult but makes for much smoother shifting. All in all, I'm happy with the choice (although it certainly made climbing Maaleh Akrabim more difficult). The bike performed beautifully and the fit was perfect. I suffered no lower back or knee pain; the signs of a really good fit.

Although the accommodations were really low rent, I will probably do the ride again next year. I am quite certain the ride's organizing committee will react to the disenchantment with the places we stayed and it is much easier to find appropriate places in the North.

Only 360 days to go.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

RenReb Weighs In

On the CD. She orders you to buy it.


Vitamin A

There are three things without which it is very difficult to complete the Alyn Ride.

The first, of course, is a bicycle.

The second is Advil, the breakfast of champions. There is simply too much stress on the muscles to go five days without sucking down at least 600 mgs of Advil at least twice a day.

Finally, we have Ambien, the dinner of champions.

Because the sleeping accommodations were so, shall we say, low rent, it was virtually impossible to get a decent night's sleep without help. Too much snoring. Way too much snoring. And, without sleep, it would have been exceedingly difficult to ride. The overwhelming favorite among the riders was 10 mgs of time-released Ambien. I myself must admit to having popped an Ambien on two of the nights.

Bottom line: Advil rocks. So does Ambien.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Purim in Nachlaot

I just got back from Israel. Nice bike ride, no injuries, not even a flat. Baruch Hashem. I have tons to write about but no time. I am up to my eyeballs at work.

So, I thought I'd leave you with this story.

For a while, OOS had been urging me to try to arrange a visit during Purim. He said there's nothing like Purim in Yerushalayim. I said I would try to work it out.

Then, on Friday night during davening at a certain shul in Nachlaot, I looked around and said to OOS, "Why do I need to come for Purim. Every Shabbos in Nachlaot is like Purim". He just smiled.


The Maidel is Back

With a vengeance.

Aidelmaidel, one of the original big time Jbloggers, is back. She writes beautifully and poignantly about her struggles as a single mother. Well worth the visit.


MoC on The Road