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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sports Friday: Beyond Putrid

If my company ran the way the Knicks run, I would be out of a job and my boss would certainly be out of a job.

Only on the Knicks do you not only continue to be gainfully employed, you get your contract extended. Last night's game against the Celtics was almost beyond belief.

By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics had about double the knicks 40 or so points. It was a humiliation the likes of which I've rarely seen.

Now it's true that the Celtics have assembled a great team this year (finally, after 20 years of suffering from the Len Bias Curse). But yesterday's performance by the Knicks was something you would have expected from a mid-level college team.

How can an owner continue to stand by after witnessing something like that?

(BTW, I couldn't care less about the Knicks; I've been a lifelong Celtics fan).


Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Hot Dog Threshhold and a Hamburger

This is how I feel about Hot Dogs.

Yesterday I checked my weight and I was under the Hot Dog Threshhold. So, today, I was tempted to break down and get a couple of dogs with mustard and onions. As I approached the Mendy's stand in Grand Central this afternoon, I saw a sign for a big hamburger on a bun with mashed potatos!. Ashreinu!

What have I done to deserve this good fortune? (Must be my association with MHW; I don't call her MHW for nothing).

So, instead of feeling guilty all afternoon by buying a hot dog, I had a burger. I feel satiated and completely guilt free (I don't want to hear that it's just as bad as a hot dog; I'm not mekabel).


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Scam of The Century

I just received the bill from Yeshiva University (the main beneficiary of my annual income after the government) for OOS's graduate school. OOS is going for his masters at the Block program at Wertzweiler. This program includes three summers of intensive class work and two years of clinical field work (which he does in Israel).

The 6 weeks of classwork costs over $10,000. While there are occasional tidbits of useful information, much of the classwork is radical left-wing, psycho-babble, feel-good nonsense. (It is not unusual for me to receive text messages from OOS from class that say things like "Please shoot me" or I'm going to jump out the window".) But, it is what it is.

More amazing is that in addition to the $10,000 for classwork, I get to pay over $7,000 for each year of OOS's clinical work! Keep in mind that OOS works pretty much full time with some of the most dysfunctional situations that you can imagine** and doesn't receive a single shekel!

The good news is that there is only one more summer to go.

** All kidding aside, the clinical program in which OOS is enrolled is fantastic, he has outstanding supervisors and he is being exposed to amazing learning experiences. I am happy to pay for that even if I don't get it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ode To My Pedals

Last night I finally changed the pedals on my bike.

I put on a set of Look Keos to replace my ancient, first generation Looks. My old pedals were 20 years old and I had put tens of thousands of miles on them on three different bikes. They served me well on four Alyn Rides. I never had one problem with them either mechanically or technically. They never got "sticky" on me and I never fell because they wouldn't release my cleats appropriately.

It is rare when one buys a product that lasts as long, and serves as well, as my Looks. I have tremendous hakaras hatov to them. (I felt bad throwing them in the garbage but, heck, at the end of the day they're just pedals).

My new pedals, made of carbon, weigh probably one-fifth as much as my old Looks. They are also half the size. If I get nearly the same use out of the Keos as I did from the Looks I will be very pleased.

Let's hoist a cold one to the Looks!


Fantasy Update: MoC Does First Place

Having squeaked out a 2.5 point win over The Great Joe Schick, (who, fed up with the dismal play of Frank Gore, benched him and his 40 fantasy points, thereby handing me the victory), coupled with a shocking loss by Team Akiva to the fantasy equivalent of the Miami Dolphins, I am now in first place with a 9-3 record.

This victory was particularly sweet because it was payback for my first defeat of the season, by 4 points, to Joe.

This week is a big matchup with third place Lou the Toe. The big question: Do I play Adrian Peterson? Probably not. (And he will probably gain 250 yards).


Monday, November 26, 2007

K'Shoshana, Shir Chadash Version


The motsai Shabbos gig by Aron Razel, Shlomo Katz and Chaim Dovid at Shir Chadash in the German Colony in which they debuted the new CD was a huge success. Standing room only and I am told people were turned away.

The trio went through the CD in order and then played some individual stuff. MHW was there and really liked it (but, of course, she's not totally objective).

If anyone was there I'd love to get your feedback.

I am hoping to put something like this together in the US, perhaps in February.


MoC Gets Results: Yonatan Razel Version

Clearly my positive shout out regarding Yonatan Razel's new CD, Sach Hakol, has had a huge impact. MHW and a friend went to two different major music stores in Yerushalayim and both were sold out of the CD.


Where Did The Rest Of Shaya Lieber Go?

I was at a wedding of a good friend last night and the band was Neshoma. I saw a guy playing percussion who looked a lot like Shaya Lieber except a bunch of him seemed to be missing. Like 50 pounds or so.

I asked him during a set where the rest of him was. He said Far Rockaway.

Not only is he a really good guy, but he is a tremendously talented percussionist who played on a whole bunch of the songs on U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo. Now he's just a lot smaller version.


MHW Deserves A Raise

I don't know what they're paying MHW, but whatever it is, it isn't enough.

I am now 5 days through a six day journey of taking care of TT on my own (with important help from OOD and OYD). I can say without a doubt that my paying job is much easier.

Taking care of a 2.5 year-old, even a relatively well-behaved one, requires infinite patience. Sadly, I have a limited supply so it's a struggle to keep calm and collected. I've done a pretty good job but I wonder how much longer I could keep at it.

The good news is that I haven't burned down the house, the kids haven't starved (on the contrary, they have eaten very well albeit perhaps not to the health standards of MHW), TT is happy and healthy (ok, so I've given her a few more lollypops than MHW might have; sue me) and there are only 24 hours to go.

Today should be a lot easier compared to Friday, Shabbos and Sunday. TT has play group for three hours and then will take a nap. That takes up about 5 hours. She should be sleeping by 7:30 tonight so I only really have a little more than 7 hours left. Piece of cake.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Shmuel Ben Moshe David, Z'L: Three Years Later

It is impossible to believe that my father left the world three years ago today.

This is what I wrote at the time.

The good news about time passing is that my strongest memories of my father are more frequently the father who was a vibrant man of action and endless energy and less of the father who suffered for his last few years from Parkinsons.

May his neshamah have an aliyah.


Hanging In

It is now abundently clear to me that I am much better suited to help fix the market's financial problems rather than to take care of a 2.5 year-old toddler for six days.

Thankfully, after one session The Toddler dropped her silly potty training ideas; I would much rather change 50 diapers than deal with that.

The family has eaten very well for the past few days. On Wednesday night I cooked Burger's Bar and last night I made some excellent Subway sandwiches. Tonight I will be warming up a bunch of good food that MHW prepared before her departure. You think it's easy defrosting chicken soup?

B'H, so far I haven't done anything really harmful, haven't allowed TT to take advantage of me too much (ok, so I gave her a lollypop last night; is that the end of the world?) and haven't burned down the house.

I consider that a rousing success.



"Benny" Chorin has a beautiful post about his parents, refugees from Europe, leaving the U.S. for good.

With all its mishigas, the United States has been the greatest haven for Jews (other than Israel) in the history of the world and I share Benny's sentiment.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TT Throws a Curve

MHW left to Israel last night. The "Book of TT" in hand, I was ready. I dutifully took out the stuffed cabbage from the freezer and put it in the fridge, as instructed (so that it would thaw by Thanksgiving). I prepared dinner for TT and OYD and didn't burn it (back in the day, I actually used to be a fairly solid cook). I was getting ready to prepare TT's bath when, out of the blue, she says: "I want to sit on the potty. Dora's (the Explorer) potty".

I was not ready for this because it's been weeks since she tried to use the potty. TT showed an interest a couple of months ago but nothing really came of it. Despite the fact that this topic is not covered in the Book of TT, I was not overly concerned because, in the past, TT would just sit on the potty, look at a few books and nothing happened.

Of course, last night, after 90 seconds, TT did her thing in Dora's potty.

You. Must. Be. Joking.

This was not part of the plan. I had to improvise.

OYD and I made a huge deal of it. Woo Hoo. TT made in the potty!!! Found some construction paper. Found some Sesame Street stickers. Created "TT's Potty Chart". Hung it on the fridge.

I gave her a bath and put on a regular diaper for sleep.

Now what? This gig is hard enough without having to potty train.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chareidi Rent Control

Over the past few months, there have been a series of articles and letters in Mishpacha magazine addressing the rise and impact of a number of rent control vaads in a few Chareidi Jerusalem neighborhoods. The target of these vaads is mainly the "chutznik" kollel yungerleit from the United States who are generally supported by their parents and don't mind paying top dollar for an apartment.

The way these vaads work is that they strong-arm potential renters who are willing to pay more than the "going rate" that the vaad sets. The vaad threatens that they will be ostracized from the neighborhood. The men will not be called to the Torah, etc., and the women will be excluded from the community N'shei.

The first article extolled the virtues of these righteous, Rabbi-approved, vaads which seem to be able to keep rents in check. I found the conclusions of the first article to be very dubious. Indeed, the follow up letters were not so positive and Mishpacha ran a follow-up article that was more objective.

These are my thoughts:

From a market perspective, there are short term and long term costs to rent control whether imposed by the government or the rabbinate. In the short run, an economic benefit is artificially transferred from one set of stakeholders (landlords) to another (tenants). In the long run, when you take a way the incentive to own rental properties, the supply of rental properties will decrease and the stock that does exist will deteriorate over time.

From a moral perspective, the vaads are not doing anything righteous. They are protecting one interest group, i.e., current members of the neighborhood (meaning, themselves), to the detriment of two other groups, i.e., landlords and chutzniks. As a result, neighborhood people don't have to move to less expensive neighborhoods, chutzniks may not be able to find the apartments that they are otherwise willing to pay for, and landlords are getting less than the market value for their rental properties.

While I understand the frustration of long-term residents of these neighborhoods as the Ugly, Rich Americans invade their turf (something that is happening all over J'Lem (Baka, Nachlaot, German Colony, etc., with French and American buyers bidding up apartment prices)), what the vaads are doing is not a long term solution and will inevitably have very negative effects.


Pedal to the Carbon

I finally broke down and ordered new clipless bike pedals.

I have had my original Look pedals for about 20 years and three bikes. The old pedals are about twice as big and probably five times as heavy as the Look Keos that I just ordered. On the other hand, they have worked perfectly for all these years and thousands of miles. (That is why I couldn't fargin myself to buy new pedals all these years, even as pedals got lighter and the technology got better).

I justified this purchase on the grounds that I thought I had lost my bike (which would have cost me about $5,000 to replace), so spending $150 on new pedals is no big deal.

Imagine how fast I'll be now that I've dropped a few grams of weight off my bike!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Failing The Test Run

Yesterday afternoon, after visiting my sister and her two dogs with the Toddler (quite a sight by the way; the dogs jump all over her and lick her in the face the entire visit), I was instructed by MHW to pick up a couple of things for dinner and then some milk at the supermarket.

I managed the Chop-A-Nosh part rather well. How difficult is it to order Teriyaki Chicken?

Then TT and I went to Brachs for a few items. Here's where I dropped the ball.

As soon as we got to Brachs, TT reminded me of my obligation to get a can of Pringles that she could start eating immediately. (It is actually pretty funny to see the routine at checkout. Knowing that I have to pay for the Pringles, she actually offers me the can as soon as we get to the line and waits patiently until after they are scanned).

The main reason for going was to buy some milk for TT. She's still drinking regular milk (organic, of course) while the rest of us drink skim. Perhaps as a result of a mind freeze, I bought more skim milk.

When we got home, MHW discovered the skim milk and gently reminded me that I was supposed to have bought regular.

I thought about it for a second and said, "This must make you feel very comfortable about leaving me with the family for six days while you visit the kids in Israel."

She smiled.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Aron Razel, Shlomo Katz & Chaim Dovid In Concert

Aron, Shlomo and Chaim Dovid will be doing a motsai Shabbos gig introducing the new CD, K'Shoshana this week, November 24th, at Shir Chadash in Yerushalayim.

Doors open at 8 p.m.

Shlomo Katz will be performing at Aish Kodesh in New York on motsai Shabbos, December 15th. Details to follow.

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Thoughts on Israeli Style

From OOS


Banging On the Table

It's a good thing that Gil keeps posting fresh stuff because I haven't posted about anything particularly new or fresh in a while.

He recently posted a short article by Ari Enkin on the permissibility of dancing, clapping, banging and using musical instruments on Shabbos. While everyone agrees that the use of musical instruments is impermissible, there is disagreement on dancing, clapping and banging on tables to the beat of music (although admittedly, the arguments for being maikel may not be the strongest intellectual halachic arguments I've seen).

Gil, the card-carrying Litvak, posted in a comment that he does not permit table-banging at his home. I posted, "What a surprise."

What I really meant to say is that we each have to decide what's important and what's not but, for my money, I will risk the wrath of G-d by being maikel on this issue. I will continue banging on my table and encourage my children to bang on the table because, in the long run, I think that they will be more influenced by heartzige Shabbos niggunim than by intellectual discussions like why it is not permissible to bang the table on Shabbos.

(And, of course, we go to a shul where dancing in the aisle is a weekly event and banging your shtender is almost a requirement).


Friday, November 16, 2007

More Climbing



Mazal Tov!

To the heilige Jawboner Rebbe, shlita and his holy rebbetzin on the birth of a holy Jewish daughter. May we continue to hear b'soros tovos.


Business Class

I just got off the phone with OYS who called just before Shabbos.

I reminded him to get me the dates of his Pesach vacation so that I can arrange a flight (I am totally against guys in yeshiva in Israel coming back for Pesach break but I lost that battle about six years ago).

I noted that I want to use some of my frequent flyer miles to book the ticket so the sooner I know the dates the better. This is how the rest of the conversation went:

OYS: "Can I go business class"?

Me: "Absolutely not. Are you kidding?".

OYS: "You've gotta give me credit for trying".


Sports Friday: Idiotic Sportswriters, Part 70

Specifically, the A-Rod kerfuffle.

How on Earth do you describe a player negotiating a contract for $275MM, much of which will be paid when he will be eligible to be a member of AARP, as "crawling back". The sportswriters, who obviously have nothing better to write about, are making a huge deal of this supposed capitulation.

Here's what really happened.

A-Rod and his agent miscalculated the market, figured it out quickly, and cut their losses. Period. A-Rod will be making an average of $27.5MM per year for ten years. Where I come from, that's a pretty good deal.

This morning, they were talking about how Yankkes fans will react on Opening Day next year. My take: If they boo, A-Rod will feel bad until he goes home, turns on his computer and checks his portfolio.

Ich Kenesht.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh Man!

This evening when I got home from work, the Toddler was playing in our bedroom. She stepped into MHW's sneakers and started walking around. Suddenly, she slipped. She called out, "Oh Man!"

I burst out laughing. While some kids think you're laughing at them in situations like this and get all insulted, TT got the joke. She started laughing and repeating, Oh Man, Oh Man.

This on the heals of yesterday when I asked her if she wanted me to put some of my Vitamin Water (which she expropriated) into her cup. She said, "I don't think so."

Where does she come up with this stuff?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Opting Out

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has an important article about kids from frum families who are perfectly well-adjusted (not rebellious at all). They just don't believe in G-d.

Rabbi Horowitz believes that this is a growing and frightening trend. Anecdotally, I personally know two such kids in my immediate neighborhood.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transparency Is Overrated

I am certainly not competent to argue halachah with Gil Student but I take issue with one of his recent posts, about the accountability of charities.

Anyone who has ever run a charitable organization of any size, and I've been involved in running two, knows that transparency is totally overrated. Successful charities are usually run by a small handful of people who do all the work and make all the decisions. Successful charities are generally run by benevolent despots. The people on the periphery usually just complain and get in the way.

Going open kimono serves no purpose whatsoever. People who demand that schools or shuls fully open their books to the membership have obviously never run these types of organizations. People who run these joints need flexibility. The one thing they don't need is a bunch of do-nothing whiners second guessing allocations or important decisions.

Even organizations that purport to be transparent are only playing a game with their members. They show them what they want to show them and hide the rest. (For example, the books of an elementary school, which can easily be run at a profit, will never show a profit because parents, who are paying big tuition, don't want to hear that the school is actually making money. So, instead, the profit will be hidden somewhere in the budget). This is a good thing.

(By the way, I am not suggesting that these institutions are not being run honestly. Although, sadly, some institutions do cross the line (think Brooklyn), many are run very carefully and in full observance of the law; they just don't show their members exactly what's up.)

The other thing that I find silly is when people complain about how much teachers or administrators make. In America, you get what you pay for. If you want to pay your teachers poorly, you will attract lousy teachers. If you want an administrator on the cheap, you will get an incompetent administrator who will end up costing you far more than what you think you save. That's just the way it is.


The Alyn Ride, Day Three

Everyone Knows It's Windy


My Baby's Back

Well, not really my baby, my bike...

I brought the bike in on Sunday to be reassembled and tuned. I just picked it up. New cables. New handlebar tape. All clean and everything. She's shining.

It was a little to late to take her out for a spin today but let's hope for continued warm weather until Sunday. I know this relationship is unnatural but it is what it is.


Toddler Tales

We had another all-hands-on-board six month review today with Ohel and TT's birth mother. I can't really go into detail but suffice it to say that while TT is thriving, the situation is not pashut.

In two weeks we are back in court. As I've said before, the wheels of justice turn very slowly. I am encouraged by the fact that the judge in this case seems to "get it". Nevertheless, unless something changes, this is likely to go on for a long time.

And another thing. It is times like these that drive me crazy when people make disparaging remarks about Ohel. We've been involved with them now for about 8 years. All we see is dedication and mesiras nefesh by the staff and administration. Put simply, where would TT be without them? What are all the bigmouths doing to address these issues (other than whining)?


Sach Hakol

On my recent trip to Israel I picked up Yonatan Razel's debut CD, Sach Hakol. It is exquisite, something very different and special. Unfortunately, I can't find it online and I don't know whether it is available at all in the U.S.

If you see it at your local Judaica store, buy it. If you live in, or happen to be visiting, Israel, get it.

I give it the MoC guarantee.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Book of The Toddler

MHW will be leaving in less than two weeks to visit the Israeli branch of he family for six days. That leaves me with sole responsibility for taking care of TT.

That means that MHW will soon begin writing the "Book of the Toddler". In the book, she will leave details instructions for every possible circumstance that might come up during her absence, leaving as little to chance as possible.

Here I am, a man who, at work, makes many decisions with significant consequences every single day, reduced to consulting a manual to determine what to do with respect to the most insignificant issue regarding TT.

How sad.


The Alyn Ride, Day Two

Waiting in the Sun


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Alyn Ride Day One

The Year of the Flat


Climbing Something Or Other

MoC Climbing Nes Harim


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


My bike has been found. It is in Teaneck, Ir Hakodesh. Luckily, it is being held by the rider whose bike I have so it was a simple switch (and not a serial screwup which could have been much worse).

After thinking about it for a day, I actually correctly guessed who had the bike (or, more accurately, whose bike I had. There was no assurance that he would have mine). I knew this rider was from Teaneck, knew he had a nice Trek bike and I knew that he was travelling for a couple of extra days in Israel (and so might not have opened his box). Bingo. He landed this morning, opened his bike box when he got home and discovered my bike. He was delighted to get an immediate response to his email to the hospital that his bike was waiting for him in Woodmere.

By coincidence, this rider and I rode together a fair amount. He was in the lower quadrant of the challenge riders and I was in the top 10% of the regular road riders so we spent a lot of time in the same group over the last three days.

Anyway, I'm glad I don't have to deal with this anymore and I'm glad I don't have to buy a new bike.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Has Anybody Seen My Bike?

I'm back, finally. Lot's to talk about but I will probably be exteremely busy over the next few days and will have to dribble out my deep thoughts.

To summarize:

* The bike ride was great in many ways and extremely frustrating in others. Personally, I rode pretty well; much better than last year.

* The new CD is on sale in Israel and seems to be picking up a lot of steam. I haqve absolutely no idea how it's doing here.

* The Ashkenaz Shul in Yemin Moshe is as strange, in its MO way, as my shul is in its way.

* Israel is a very strange country in so many ways.

* The dollar is sucking wind, even in Israel, where it doesn't even buy you four shekels.

* The mechanics on the ride packed the wrong bike in my bike box. I discovered this motsai Shabbos before leaving for the airport. I have someone's Trek OCLV Carbon 110. Someone has my Litespeed Teramo titanium. This is not good. I am not yet freaking out because I assume someone, somewhere, will notice that they have the wrong bike. I also had no intention of riding a bike for a while owing to the soreness of a certain part of my anatomy that makes contact with a bike seat.

More later.