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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Implosion: UPDATED

To put it in perspective:

Had the Mets gone just 8-9 over their last 17 games, the Phillies would have had to go 16-1 to win the division. Instead, the Mets went 5-12 (and I guess the Phillies went 13-4).

Even worse. Even after last Tuesday's dreadful 10-9 loss (in which Tom Glavine gave up only 4 runs in the first inning rather than today's 7 in 1/3 an inning), the Mets were still two full games ahead of the Phillies with 5 to go. They went 1-4 and the Phillies went 4-1.

For a better analysis of what went wrong, check out the great Joe Schick's post. He nailed the Met's issues as far back as March. (Talk about miserable sports weekends; not only did Joe's Mets and Jets lose brutally today, his fantasy team is getting trounced by the only winless team in the league. My kingdm for a quarterback!).

Suffice it to say that Omar Minaya is not the great genius he was made out to be by the adoring press. He gave or traded away an entire middle bullpen, relied on ancient starting pitching, and developed no depth among position players. The aditional sad news is that I don't think the Mets have anyone to write home about in the minors that can help cure what ails them.

The manager is a mediocre, Joe Morganesque conventional-wisdom hacker who relies on hunches rather than statistics and believes in veterans over younger players even if they are way over the hill. And what's with continuing to pitch Mota, "Mr. deer-in-the-headlights", in crucial situations long after it had become apparent to even casual fans like me that this guy is spooked? Also, 21 errors over the last 17 games and numerous boneheaded fielding and baserunning mistakes...who is ultimately responsible?

Finally, what happened to Jose Reyes? He completely folded down the stretch. Very strange indeed.

The good news is that I couldn't care less; while I like to watch well played games, I long since stopped caring what local sports teams do. Second, sports talk radio promises to be absolutely fabulous over the next few days as dopey, suicidal Mets fans start to turn on Omar and Willie and chime in with their helpful suggestions like "we should trade Glavine and Milledge for Peavy" or "how about Delgado for Fielder".

And, as Joe also pointed out, the true executive of the year is Brian Cashman of the Yankees who has drafted aggresively and consolidated enough power over the past few years to be able to resist classic stupid trades of young talent for washed-up veterans. Joba and Hughes are two of the reasons the Bombers are where they are supposed to be; right in the thick of it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pulling an "Uppa"

My dad, z'l, was big Mets fan. While he liked going to the ball park occasionally, he liked getting out of the parking lot quickly more than anything. Whether the Mets won or lost was second in importance to whether he got back on to the Van Vyck quickly. So, as my brother once quipped, growing up we thought that Major League games only went 7 innings.

So, last night he and I went to Shea with OYD and her friend. And a dreadful game it was. Tom Glavine was essentially pitching batting practice and after one half inning the Mets were down 4-0. It got worse. In the top of the seventh, down 6-3, the Mets brought in Sosa who promptly game up two more runs. My brother and I, who each inherited my father's distaste for lines, etc., decided we had seen enough. The girls did not seem to care so we left after the Mets batted in the 7th.

As my brother described it, we "pulled an Uppa" (Uppa being the name that all his grandchildren, and then his children, called my dad).

There were smiles on our faces as we got onto the Van Wyck in less than five minutes.

We were home in plenty of time to see the Mets make a valiant, but unsuccessful, effort to come back, scoring six in the ninth but losing 10-9.

Uppa would have been proud.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Piling On

This seems to be another case of a prosecutor gone out of control soley as a publicity stunt. A state grand jury has indicted Michael Vick and his buddies in connection with the same acts for which he copped a plea in federal court. I am not a criminal lawyer, but if I am not mistaken, Vick's plea subsumes any state court charges with respect to the same acts, I assume a state prosecutor knows that, and these charges won't hold.

Not that I have much sympathy for Vick, but this would seem to be another case of knowing prosecutorial overreach. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.


Monday, September 24, 2007

The Big Winner

Clearly the big winner of Yom Kippur, at least in my shul, was.....Croc's.

It seemed that everyone was wearing them. I actually bought my pair (basic black)shortly after Tisha B'Av after I saw a number of people wearing them. Made sense to me.

Apparently, I was not alone. Virtually every kid was wearing a pair and lots of the men.

(I can't really say what was going on in the Ezras Nashim since I am too frum to (a) peak behind the mechitza and (b) look at women's feet).

I'm not really sure what the point is but, as a keen observer of the human condition, I thought I would pass on my observation.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Help Out The Pina Chama

My blogging friend David Bogner over at Treppenwitz reports that the Pina Chamah (warm corner), a volunteer oasis that supports hundreds of IDF soldiers, was robbed on Yom Kippur to its bare walls.

If you have a couple of extra bucks (and no donation is too small) please pitch in to bring this important "home away from home" for the soldiers back to life.


Missing the Boys For Practical Reasons

Having waxed nostalgic about missing my boys sitting next to me during the Yomim Noraim, today I missed them for more practical reasons...I had to shlep the succah from the garage to the backyard by myself.

Normally, I wouldn't have minded so much but I had put in a pretty hard 53 mile bike ride in the morning (and, BH, did not even get a flat) in unusually hot weather and it was still hot when I started working on the succah.

Thankfully, OYD did a great job helping me assemble the succah and I was done from start to finish in about an hour and a half.

The boys themselves put up a funky succah at OOS's apartment in J'lem so it's not as if they were slumming it. Just to be clear, I am moichel on the boys as long as the reason they aren't helping me is cause they're where they are!


Tidbits From The Toddler

MHW could not get anyone to babysit on Yom Kippur and The Toddler had a little fever in the morning, so MHW and TT spent the day hanging out. TT was extraordinarily good, playing in the basement for hours while MHW davened. She continued to keep herself busy while MHW davened Neilah.

Finally, as Yom Kippur was ending, MHW went to her corner to daven the amida for maariv. TT walked over to her, pulled her skirt and said, "enough davening!"

This evening we had chicken for dinner but TT wasn't buying it. After a few attempts to get her interested, MHW offered her string cheese which TT was very happy to accept. We pulled her away from the table and put the tray on her high chair and gave her some cheese (and a cut up tomato). MHW then remembered that she hadn't changed TT's juice cup. She said to TT, "TT, I'm going to change your cup."

To which TT replied, "It's fleishig!"


Friday, September 21, 2007

YOUR Fashtinkiner Mets

My brother just reminded me that our dad, z'l, a Hungarian immigrant who, somehow, became a huge Dodgers and, later, Mets fan, would refer to the Mets in different ways depending on how they were doing.

When they were doing well, he would say, "How do you like my Mets?" When they were messing up, he would say, "What's happening to your fashtinkiner Mets".

He would not be very happy with your fashtinkiner Mets right now.

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Sitting Alone

This year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am be sitting alone on the Yomim Noraim.

For many years after MHW and I got married I davened on RH in Far Rockaway, Ir Hakodesh, at the late, great White Shul, sitting next to my BIL, FIL and sons. On YK, it was back to Woodmere, with the boys, to the extent they had zitzfleish to sit through the davening.

About five years ago we started staying home for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the boys had grown up and at least one of them was always with me for yom tov.

This year, I'm sitting alone. OOS has moved to Israel (where he struggles to find a davening as nice as the one at our shul) and OYS is at the Mother Ship (where the davening, I am told, is otherwordly).

Not that I'm complaining. The boys are in a good place, I am still surrounded by friends, and I come home to MHW and the girls. I am blessed.

But it doesn't mean I don't miss my sons.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

There Are Just So Many Deep Thoughts I Can Handle At Once

Owing to the huge volume of crazy stuff that is going on simultaneously at work and the huge amount of mental energy I am consequently expending, there is very little mental energy left in my brain for this blog. It is therefore very unlikely that I will write anything more profound than that the Met's ship be sinking or that The Toddler is very cute or that there are only five weeks left to the Alyn Bike Ride.

Even those topics may be hard to address in the next couple of weeks what with my workload and the coming chagim.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Oh, and, BTW, the new CD is offically at the printer.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Slurping, Sulking and Sentences

Ok, all of you (increasingly dwindling number of) readers who are tired of my biking or narishkeit posts, here's one about The Toddler.

She is now 28 months old and is talking in sentences. Consequently, she is the source of a limitless amount of amusement for me, MHW and the girls.

She also thrives on structure. For example, every night it's the same routine. Bath, bottle (down to only one a day, before bed), "Big Album" (one of the seemingly scores of family photo albums that MHW has compiled), a bunch of books, piggyback ride upstairs, brushing of teeth, Sh'ma and Hamalach, pacifiers (4 of them), lights out.

She has also learned to sulk. Often, when she doesn't get her way, or sometimes for no discernable reason, she will stand still and sulk, the bottom lip thing and everything. While she can stay in this position for a couple of minutes, she is also easily distracted. If you say something funny or interesting, her head will pop up with a smile as if nothing had happened. Where do they learn these things? One day they cry the next day they sulk...

She's also learned to slurp her drinks. Wonderful. (This is addition to "show me", which OOD taught her a while ago, and about which OOD is immensely proud).

So, all in all, TT is doing very well, indeed, she is thriving. We are thriving too. We daven that the powers that be recognize that this is where she belongs and do the right thing.
Five Days Off

Another non-spiritual benefit of the Rosh Hashanah three day yom-tov was that I was unable to ride my bike or spin bike for five days (Erev RH, RH, Shabbos and Tzom Gedaliah).

I calculated that since my trip to Asia in late June, I had not gone longer than one day without either riding my bike or spin bike. My hammies and quads were tight as drums and I was suffering. And, because I'm too intense to take a few days off voluntarily, the Yomim Noraim came in to take care of me physically as well as (I hope) spiritually. I felt much better after Sunday.

Of course, the last two days I rode my spin bike with such intensity that I felt like puking by the time I was done. The good news: Succos is coming to save me.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Wide Brims and Other Inyani Hayom

On Rosh Hashanah, while other people in shul were thinking about teshuva and repairing their souls, I was thinking about hats. (Not that it's easy to distract me, or anything).

What got me thinking about this was my friend's father, who sat in the row directly behind me. He is a learned and holy Jew from another generation with deep roots in Amshinov Chassidus. Yet, he was wearing a "black hat" that (a) wasn't black, and (b), had a brim that was about an inch wide.

When did hat brims grow to six inches and more? Is it a macho thing? And when did hats get all black? And when did straw hats become assur?

My father, z'l, was a very good looking man who was always a sharp dresser (although by no means a peacock; he did not fargin himself to spend a lot on his own clothes but was always neat and sharp). I don't recall him owning a black hat. He wore gray hats and brown hats and white straw hats in the summer. Now if you wear hats like that your children will never get shidduchim. (It's actually better not to wear a hat rather than wear a kofer hat).

Ironically, I get why Chassidim wear shtriemels and spudiks; you may not agree with it but at least there is a rational explanation (which causes me to remember my friend, a spudik-wearing Gerrer Chassid, who would, on hot summer Shabbasos, often lament "the Baal Shem Tov couldn't have come from Panama?"). But, sorry, I just don't get why the Yeshivish world went nuclear on the black hat front.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Honey Dishes and the Circle of Life

This is how it works.

You get married. Perhaps you get a nice crystal honey dish as an engagement present. You don't get to use it because for the first few years you go to your parents or in-laws for yom tov.

You finally get to stay home but you still don't use the honey dish because, in the meantime, you've been blessed with kids who are attending nursery or kindergarten where they (really their teachers) make paper honey dishes which, of course, are more precious to you than any crystal.

And, if you're as sentimental as MHW, you keep using those paper honey dishes through the years, long after your youngest has "graduated" from kindergarten. You use them until they disintegrate or your youngest is already embarrassed that you're still using hers.

Finally, you get to use your beautiful crystal honey dish. The years have passed. Your 'little one' is now fifteen. The crystal honey dish is very pretty indeed, but you miss using the old paper honey dishes.

If you are fortunate, perhaps your grandchildren will come to you for yom tov soon, bringing their own paper honey dishes (or send them by mail from Israel). (And, in our case, may we be zoche for TT to bring one home in a couple of years).

And the circle of life continues.

May you all be zoche to use your own paper honey dishes.

Best wishes for a shana tova u'mesukah. A year of peace and parnasah and of b'soros tovos. I ask mechilah for anything I've written here that may have offended anyone.


Mark Davidman, A'H

Mark Davidman was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on Monday evening.

I can't say that I was a friend of Mark's. I was just an acquaintance. I knew him from the Young Israel of Woodmere, where he was one of the founders of the vasikin minyan (that was so helpful to me), and from around. He was one of those larger than life people you were just aware of. He was, in the truest sense, a man who was "involved faithfully in the needs of the community".

I did get to know his two older sons, Mike and Benjy. Mike was OYS's hockey coach and a role model for intensity, commitment, humor and derech eretz. Benjy has been a good friend of OYS for as long as I can remember. If it's true that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, then Mark must have been a very good man.

May Hashem comfort Mark's wife Debbie and the boys among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm Moichel

As we approach the Yomim Noraim, I just wanted to let all those who downloaded U'Shmuel B'Korei Sh'mo without paying that I'm moichel. On the other hand, if you wanted to send a check for $15 to Shirei Shmuel I wouldn't reject it.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

"If You Want Quiet, Go To A Church".

Yesterday afternoon, one of my friends had an encounter with visitors from another shul who had come to our shul to listen to the Rebbe's afternoon hashkafah shiur and stayed for mincha.

They started talking at the beginning of mincha and simply didn't stop.

Now, it is well known that our shul is "the no-talking shul". Over the years, especially in the early days, many people made fun of us (noting that our membership application included the requirement that members sign a no-talking pledge) and others envied us. Many accused us of being rude (the old Aishhhh Kodeshhhhh line) while trying to maintain decorum (and there was certainly a handful of kanaim who were rude in the early days). But, at the end of the day, most people respected us and some even tried to copy us. But I digress.

In any event, my friend politely tried a couple of times to get our visitors to stop talking, to no avail. Finally, he klopped on his shtender and made a 'finger-to-the-mouth' gesture, hoping that this would get their attention.

It did. One of the talkers wagged his finger at my friend and said, "If you want quiet, go to a church".

What can you say to that?


Must Be The Season of the Flat

If anyone knows how to break a bad tire spell, please let me know. In a previous post I noted how I was having an unnatural number of flats during this training season. Taking PscycleSteve's advice, two weeks ago I ditched my tires and bought two new Michelins.

Last week I rode on the new tires on Friday (27 miles) and had a metric century scheduled for Sunday (following the route of the Mansion Ride that I did in June). Nine miles into the ride, I got a flat on my rear tire. I changed the tube and shortened my ride to 50 miles without further event.

This morning I planned to do the same Mansion Ride route on the North Shore of Long Island. After getting to sleep at 2:45 a.m. following selichos, I woke up at 5:30 for the vasikin minyan. After driving to the Syosset train station, I was on the rode at 7:50 a.m.

Strangely, I felt strong rather than tired and was having a very pleasant ride on a very mild morning.

Five miles into the ride I took a detour to do a series of hill repeats at a short but very steep hill. I did three repeats of the hill (each of which was three tenths of a mile). The problem wasn't the ascent, it was the descent.

Normally, high downhill speeds don't bother me so I don't brake too hard. But, because the hill started on an extremely high gradient, it meant you had to break very hard at the bottom (or risk flying by the stop sign and going into a busy intersection). I tried my best to brake a lightly and gradually as possible but it was difficult to do so. (The problem with breaking hard is that it creates tremendous friction which creates heat which can blow a tube).

After the third descent, I was deciding whether to continue with the route or do another repeat. Suddenly, I heard a loud BOOM!, like a firecracker. I knew immediately that I was hosed. I just didn't know how badly.

I walked the bike to the curve to inspect the damage. Not only had I blown a tube, I had wrecked the tire. It was shredded at the clinch point for about 2 inches. This was not fixable.

Before I could even figure out what I was going to do (I was almost 5 miles from my car), I noticed two riders approaching me. One was riding slowly and the other was walking his bike. They came over to me to see what was going on. (They had heard the pop and actually saw smoke coming from my tire).

It turns out that the fellow walking his bike had himself suffered a double blowout (including one wrecked tire) when he hit a nasty pot hole. He was actually walking to a rendezvous point where his wife was picking him up. They had a bike rack and offered to drive me back to Syosset. That saved me huge agmas nefesh and probably an hour of walking on my cleats.

I couldn't find an open bike store so I just drove home. It was annoying to have woken up after less than three hours of sleep to get in less than 7 miles of riding but I was very grateful that I got the lift back to my car. When I got home I hopped on my spin bike and cranked very hard for another hour.

In the afternoon I bought a new, very expensive tire, a virtually indestructible Bontrager, the kind I used on my Trek 1500. I think I will replace my brand new front tire with a Bontrager as well.

Remarkably, I've completed three Alyn rides, over 1,000 miles without a single flat and until this year I never experienced anything like this while training. I think I got one flat all of last year. I am hoping that I am getting my bad-tire-vibes out of the way before the Alyn Ride.


Friday, September 07, 2007

The Greatness of Soup

I have posted frequently about the greatness of soup, especially, but not limited to, chicken soup.

I thought of that now because we are approaching a three-day yom tov; a veritable orgy of chicken soup eating (in addition to being among the holiest days of the year). Also, I just finished a ride on my spin bike and had two large bowls of soup. One might think that soup would not be appropriate following a long exercise session but one would be wrong. Indeed, on the Alyn ride (for which, btw, there is still time to sponsor me), my main food at lunch is soup, even in the Negev in temperatures hovering in the 80s and 90s. (That, of course, was when the goofballs running the ride did not run out of soup before I got there).

In any event, I will have the privilege of tasting MHW's magnificent chicken soup (from a brand new batch) in a matter of hours. Ashreinu.


Fantasy Update

It isn't even Friday yet and I am well on my way to victory in the first week of Fantasy Football, crushing the hapless Elster 43-1 after last night's name. It is true that I've used up one receiver (23 points), one defensive end (14) and my kicker (6) to his one defensive end (1), but I still have LT and Carson Palmer in reserve.


My Chilean Sea Bass Phase Is Over

I don't know when exactly it happened or why it happened, but my love affair with Chilean Sea Bass is over. This is problematic. I already have lost my taste for sushi and salmon. I am down to tuna and flounder.

I am looking at 60 business lunches a year; does this mean I'm back to steaks?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

OOS on the Mental Health Profession and Orthodoxy


While you're there, check out his other recent posts.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why Guys Can't Win

Last Thursday, I rushed home from work in order to drive with MHW to a family wedding in Boro Bark, Ir Hakodesh. She was still dressed in regular clothes, having just finished giving The Toddler a bath.

Stupid Me (SM) said, "You're not ready."

MHW: "I'm almost ready. I have my makeup on. I just have to put on my dress."

SM: "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice."

MHW. "You think I don't have enough makeup on?"

SM: "No, I just hadn't noticed. You have plenty of makeup on."

MHW: "You think I have too much makeup on?"

I give up.


The Mets

The truth is, neither the Phillies nor the Braves are that good and the Mets, rightfully, should win the division. The meltown last week was troubling and could have led to a bigger problem but the mediocre Braves came to the rescue.

The Mets have a few holes, particularly middle relief, and the manager has a few holes in his head, but otherwise they are a decent team. Despite his recent surge, Shawn Green is still lead-footed and dreadful,and Paul LoDuca is still a dreadful hitter (despite last night's production). (Can you believe they batted him second at the beginning of the year because he "can handle the bat", whatever that means?).

Jose Reyes needs his head examined, Carlos Delgado is an enigma, Alou is a solid hitter (but another brutal outfielder) and Beltran and Wright are wonderful.

I see the Mets winning one round of the playoffs.


Judah's Bar Mitzvah II

I am not often at a loss for words but it is simply hard to describe what I'm talking about here.

Last Shabbos was one of the most beautiful, emotional and spiritual Shabbasos I've ever spent. Davening where I do, I am used to spiritual and emotional Shabbasos but this was something else. It had little to do with the davening itself (although, the ba'al tefilah did have a beautiful voice and davened quite nicely).

Rather, it was the way everyone in the shul seemed to connect to and share the joy of the bar mitzvah boy, a boy who is not part of any of their immediate families but has worked his way into their hearts.

On Friday night after davening we had dinner in the shul social hall for the "insiders". The insiders included the three families of tzaddikim that have taken most responsibility for Judah in this community, Judah's "big brother" who has known him since he's five (and the big brother's wife, two small children, brother and parents), his current tutor, his most recent tutor (who flew in from Atlanta for the occasion), his current social worker at Ohel, his former social worker and her husband, another Ohel volunteer, my sister in law and her daughter (my brother was supposed to come but got sick on Friday), Judah's two brothers and their current foster/adoptive family, Judah's sister and her adoptive mother (who flew in from Houston) and the members of the MoC family who are not currently residing in Israel. We had a very lovely dinner with a few heartfelt speeches.

Shabbos morning completely blew me away. It was immediately clear how so many of the chevrah from the shul had connected to Judah. It seemed like everyone came over to him to shake his hand or give him a hug. Judah said the brachos for his aliyah, lained maftir and said the brachos for the haftorah. While this may not seem like a big deal, keep in mind that Judah has significant learning disabilities and has not been in Yeshivah for the past four years.

The Rabbi spoke absolutely beautifully before musaf and one could tell that he, too, had been touched by Judah's charm and inspired by his determination.

After kiddush we went back to the shul for a few speeches, each of which was sincere and moving. This was followed by a catered lunch, in which an amazing number of the shul's chevrah joined. There was a lot of singing and dancing a wonderful time was had by all, especially, and most importantly, by Judah.

Perhaps as significant as the beautiful simcha, MHW and I spent more than an hour after lunch speaking with a couple from the community that was seriously considering taking Judah into their home. Now THAT would be a simcha.

While I've tried to give a flavor of this special Shabbos, this is one of those instances where "you had to have been there" to really get it.

My bracha to Judah is that Hashem should bless him with what he needs; a home and a family, more than anything else.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lot's To Write About...

...But no time.

I came into work early today to get a jump on the return of everyone in my market. Now I have to spend the rest of the day in courtside seats at the U.S. Open with one of my board members. I know, it's tough, but someone has to do it.

These are the things I would like to cover:

* An update on Judah's bar Mitzvah. In a nutshell, it was one of the most emotional and holy Shabbasos I've ever spent.

* The schizoid Mets. They are now almost exactly where they were before the four game debacle in Philadelphia but they are eight games closer to winning the division.
Added bonus: Requiem for the Yankees.

* The triple threat. How we plan to potty train the Toddler at the same time we wean her off her botle and, even worse, her pacifier. Chez MoC is going to be a danger zone over the next few weeks.

* The New CD. The music is ready; the artwork is not.

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