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

Friday, July 25, 2008

Four Miles

For many years, Christian Vandevelde was a "domestique" for Lance Armstrong and Team Discovery. Domestique literally means "servant" and, like all domestiques, Vandevelde's role was to do everything possible to Help Armstrong, his team leader, win.

(To those unfamiliar with bike racing, although individuals win races, the role of the team cannot be underestimated. As great as Lance Armstrong was, he would not have won 7 Tours de France without a very superior team (and a general manager who was the best tactician in the business)).

This year Vandevelde is the team leader of Team Garmin, a new U.S. based team (The Discovery Channel ended its association with bike racing this year).

Finally let loose, Vandevelde has had a spectacular tour. He is currently in sixth place, about four minutes behind the leader, Carlos Sastre of Team CSC (the best team in the tour this year, by far). Indeed, if not for one four mile stretch, Vandevelde might be competing for the final Yellow Jersey on Saturday.

Tuesday's 95 mile stage 16 included two sick climbs and ended with a 25 mile descent immediately following the second climb. Vandevelde had been able to stick with the group of elite riders all through the first three mountain stages and the first big climb of the fourth. However, on the bottom of this last climb, he broke and was dropped from the pack of lead riders. After four miles of struggling, he called on whatever willpower and reserves he had and started climbing strongly again. He reached the summit only 35 seconds behind the leaders.

Vandevelde is considered a great descender (there is a great deal of skill and fearlessness needed to descend mountains at 50 to 60 miles an hour) and, in a desperate effort to catch the leaders, he let loose. Unfortunately, he crashed and it ended up costing him another two minutes. His chances for the yellow jersey were over.

Vandevelde is a great time trial rider and will certainly leave it all on the road during Saturday's 32 mile time. Nevertheless, it will be virtually impossible for him to make up enough time. I suspect he will be very happy to settle for third place overall.

The point: The Tour de France, the greatest sporting event in the world, leaves no margin for even the slightest letdown. Vandevelde rode great for 2,000 miles but, in the end, the four miles that he didn't did him in.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Running The Gamut

It just dawned on me that last year, MHW and I paid:

1 Graduate School Tuition;
1 College Tuition;
1 Post High School Yeshiva Tuition;
1 High School Tuition; and
1 Play Group Tuition.

This year, we get to pay:

1 Graduate School Tuition
1 Post High School Yeshiva Tuition;
1 High School Tuition; and
1 Three-year Nursery Tuition.

How many people can make that claim?


One Down, Three or Four to Go

Today is OOS's last day of classes. Tomorrow, he graduates and gets his Masters degree.

This is good news, bad news, good news.

First, the first good news. OOS is finished with school (for now) after all these years. That is a great milestone and a worthy accomplishment. Mazal tov on a job well done. The bad news? After three summers in the U.S. to complete his degree, he and his mishpacha no longer have to spend their summers here. If we want to see them in the summers, we will have to go to Israel (actually, that's not such bad news after all). The second good news is that I'm done (as in DONE) with one kid's tuition, B'H.

(While OOS plans on getting a Phd sometime down the line, he knows the MoC family rule: Two degrees and you're on your own).

Yesterday afternoon I was calculating that over the past 21 years we probably spent (in notional dollars, not adjusted for inflation) close to $200,000 on his education alone. (It would have been more but he had a free ride for his last two years of college.) Yikes!

On the other hand, although there are still huge tuition bills in our future (especially if we are zoche to continue raising The Toddler), the light at the end of the tunnel is within sight.

There is some virtue in getting old.


Monday, July 21, 2008


My firm just hired a major player to run our analytics group. I've known her for a long time and we've worked closely ever since I took my current job. For the past five Tuesdays, we've been having breakfast at My Most Favorite Food Company to discuss work stuff. (We've had lunch there many times in the past; she's a vegetarian and I like the deep dish apple cake).

This afternoon, she sent me a confirming email. This is how our email conversation went:

1. She: "you still good for breakfast tomorrow?"

2. Me: "yup. You? 8:30 at MMFFC?"

3. She: "Yup. Want me to fax in our order? Asparagus scramble, decaf cappucino; poached eggs with spinach, breakfast tea?"

OK. I plead guilty. I'm predictable.

On the other hand, call me crazy, but I've been contemplating ordering a slice of deep dish apple cake to go with my decaf cappucino in lieu of the asparagus scramble. I know. I'm a wild man.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Bruce From Chicago Has Nothing On Me

Yesterday, I rode 70 miles on an organized ride, the Huntington Bike Club's Gold Coast Ride. It was extremely challenging, with lots of climbing and high temperatures. Nevertheless, I did pretty well.

But the interesting thing about the day was that I (almost) changed three tires for the same rider...not me!

I arrived for registration few minutes before 7. As soon as I got out of my car, I saw two riders from the Alyn Ride. They asked me if I knew how to change a flat. One of them, Billy, had suffered a blowout while inflating his tires prior to the ride.

Amazingly, I changed his tire in just a couple of minutes. Bruce from Chicago (penultimate paragraph) has nothing on me.

Billy, Charlie (the other Alyn rider) and I decided to ride together. We were a good match; all strong riders but not insanely strong. I was faster on the flats and a much better descender and they were better climbers. Around mile 25, Billy picked up a stray rider, Jen, who was also very strong but riding alone. Everything was going smoothly until mile 40.

Boom. Billy rode over a big pothole and blew out two tires at once. Yikes.

We pulled over and I took out my tools again.

I very quickly got his front tire fixed and started working on his rear tire. He had run out of spares but luckily (or so I thought), I had brought a couple of tubes so was able to give him one of mine. I pulled out his busted tube and started to insert the spare, valve first. Houston, we have a problem.

Billy has very fancy Zipp wheels. The problem with the Zipp (as you may be able to tell from the picture) is that it requires an extra long valve to reach through the wheel. Unfortunately, all of our tubes were standard.

Billy tried flagging down passing riders but no one admitted to having extra long valves. In the meantime, I tried patching the blown tube but the hole was not conducive to a patch.

In other words, Billy was screwed.

He called the sag van and we rode on.

30 uneventful miles later, we met back up with Billy at the parking lot.

Morals of the story:

1. Don't ride over potholes.

2. Don't buy fancy wheels; you're not that good anyway.

3. If you are going to buy fancy wheels, bring a whole bunch of spare tubes.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tired, Lazy and Not Much To Say

No. I'm not retired.

I'm just tired and lazy and have very little to say.

But, since you asked, here's a rundown.

1. The Toddler. Next Sunday marks the third anniversary of her first day with us.

This is what I wrote back in September, 2005 (I was semi-retired in July, 2005, when she first came).

On another front, two months ago, in a moment of temporary insanity, MHW agreed to take on another foster child, this one an infant, ten weeks old at the time of her arrival. She is the most delightful baby you can imagine and has added light and joy to our home. We have all flipped out for her. She has become our "hanimtzah kazeh". (And, as an example of how the Aibishter runs the world with a sense of humor, she is 90% height and 75% weight on the growth charts. For the vertically challenged MoChassid family, to be ON the chart is unusual and anything above the 3% mark is amazing.) We don't know how long this will last but we are enjoying her day to day.
Who knew that, three years later she would still be with us, an integral part of the family, who continues to bring us great joy and light? The hardest part is not knowing what the future will bring. (I guess that's always the hardest part with children but more so here).

2. Riding. I've been doing a lot of riding. I did 170 miles between the last two Sundays, including a 70 mile organized ride. Mostly, I ride with OOS who's an animal. I'm in really good shape but if OOS had a bike that was nearly as good as mine, he wouldn't even want to ride with me (of course, he is 29 years younger than I). This Sunday, another long ride, either 70 or 100 depending on how I feel.

3. Musical Noise. Over the past few months, MHW and I have been to a number of simchas where the decibel level has been off the charts. This problem, which is by no means new, seems to be getting worse. I really don't get it. Don't the band leaders get that there's a problem when they see numerous people walking around with their fingers in their ears? (I find it particularly amusing that one band actually markets a well-known drummer whose style could be described as "insanity let loose". While he may be a very agile drummer, he creates a level of noise that everyone else in the band needs to compete with. The last two times I've been to a simcha where he's played the lead singer was basically screaming in order to be heard. The other joke is that on each such ocassion the band also had a percussionist which was ridiculous because you could discern his playing whatsoever because of all the noise).

4. Baseball. How funny would it be for the Mets to take the division while the Yankees find themselves out of the playoffs? It could happen. (Keep in mind that a bit more than a year ago I predicted the demise of the Yankees and the ascent of the Mets).

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