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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Bikes

I put this in a comment in response to daat y but I assume EVERYONE really wants to know this:

Here we go. Double and Triple refer to the crank gears in the front of the bike (where your pedals are attached). Double means there are two crank gears, triple means there are three.

The numbers mean the number of "teeth" on each gear. On crank gears, the more teeth, the bigger, or harder, the gear. The third gear, the "granny gear", is usually very small, about 30 teeth, and makes climbing hills easier. So, a standard triple might be 53-39-30. A standard double might be 53-39. A standard double is good if you are an animal or you don't expect to climb much.

A 'compact double', what I bought, is a compromise. The bigger gear is smaller than a standard (50 teeth rather than 53) and the smaller gear is smaller than a standard second gear but bigger than a granny gear (34 rather than 39 or 30).

Of course, the crank gears work with the rear cassette. The rear cassette consists of the gears that are connected to the rear wheel. They work in the opposite way from the front gears, meaning that the bigger the rear gear, the easier. In most performance bikes you will have 9 or 10 gears. (My new bike has 10, my Trek has 9).

Rear gears are described by the number of teeth on the smallest gear (the hardest) and the number of teeth on the biggest gear (the easiest). In my case, it is a 12-25.

So, combining my crank gears and my rear cassette, my easiest gear will be 34 in the front and 25 in the back. My hardest gear will be 50 in the front and 12 in the back.

Now, my concern about the lack of a granny gear is this. When climbing the nasty hills of Israel, instead of having an easiest gear of 30-25, I will have an easiest gear of 34-25.

Finally, the bike frame I got is made of titanium, a strong and relatively light metal. I had been strongly thinking about carbon fiber, which is lighter, but based on advice from Psycle Steve and others, decided to go for the stronger if slightly heavier titanium.

The weight is very important, especially when you are as light as I am. To illustrate: If you weigh 200 pounds, and your bike weighs 20 pounds (220) and you upgrade to a bike that weighs 16 pounds, the difference is minimal (about 1.8%). If you weigh 132 and you lose 4 pounds of bike the difference is relativey more important (2.63%). Shlepping as little weight as possible is most important when you are climbing. (Bottom line, it's better to lose ten pounds of fat for free than to lose 4 pounds of bike for an extra $2,000.)
Is this clear?
Happy Anniversary to MoC

Not really. That's not till late August. The big 25.

But MHW presented me with my anniversary present last night. Well, MHW didn't exactly present me with the gift. She sent me to buy it since it is impossible to buy a really good bike for someone else.

Why so early? A couple of reasons. I was planning to hand down my beloved Trek 1500 to OOS before he takes HHW and our grandson and absconds to Israel in September (When you pound into your children the importance of Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael and they end up taking you seriously, there is not much you can say other than Tzeitzchem L'shalom). Their lift leaves in July so the bike needs to go. Second, since I will be doing most of my training in the spring and summer, waiting until the end of August to get a new bike makes no sense.

Highlights: Dura Ace components, titanium frame (thanks to Psycle Steve), nice light weight, real nice fit.

Downside: I no longer have any excuses for being slow. And, if the Alyn Challenge Ride ends up being more than I can chew, it's on me, not my bike. Also, I'm taking a huge chance on a compact double crank (50-34) rather than a triple (53-39-30). The salesman convinced me that with a 12-25 cassette, the compact will be virtually equivalent to the triple. I told him that if I'm struggling climbing the hills of the Negev I will be cursing him all the way up.

Anyway, thanks to my beloved MHW for the bike but especially for the 24.85 years. I don't know what you could possibly have been thinking in April of 1981 when you said yes.

(If you need Rashi or Tosafos for parts of this post you can send me an email.)


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Year Ago...

No, not since I started posting. One year since the decline and fall of MoChassid, the blog.

I started my new job the day after Memorial Day last year. That's when I took a hiatus from blogging for a few months and, truth be told, it's never been the same. At this time last year I was getting about 500 hits a day and writing stuff that didn't stink. Now, I get 200 hits a day, 250 on a good day (when DovBear links to me!) and I rarely write anything of consequence.

Too many lunches. That's the problem. In the year that I've been here, I've had at least 45 lunches at good restaurants (too say nothing of another 10 or so breakfasts). All that good food is clogging my brain.


Justice Prevails

I found out this morning that the case in which I testified a couple of weeks ago was decided entirely in favor of the defendants.

The case was brought by a neighbor against the contractor who built our shul as well as the company that did the demolition and excavation. (He had originally sued the shul itself but we were able to get the case dismissed as against us before trial.) I always thought his claims were ridiculous and I am gratified that a jury was able to see this clearly. I am also thankful that I had a role in undermining his case. (I had warned his lawyer that calling me to testify was a mistake; he just wouldn't listen).

What's even crazier is that the plaintiff's lawyer did not take the case on a contingency basis. The plaintiff spent $75,000 of his own money on legal and experts' fees.

Even better, the defendants apparently offered him $90,000 to settle during trial (I don't really understand why. I thought that after my testimony alone his case looked silly).

This case demonstrates a life's lesson. Never act on your emotions when it comes to business. The plaintiff took the building of the shul personally (understandable, up to a point) and was never prepared to deal with it in a businesslike way. Had he been more detached, a suitable arrangement could have been reached.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Bar Mitzvah Excess

While we have not necessarily sunk to the levels described here, we could also use a dose of modesty and restraint.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Niggun Un-Neshama: How to Destroy a Beautiful Song

I received this link via email. Someone has taken a beautiful, holy niggun and perverted it. I can't even imagine what they were thinking when they made this arrangement. It is truly hard to believe. Shlomo Carlebach, z'l, must be spinning in his grave.

The good news is that Shlomo Katz, who popularized Shlomo's "Niggun Neshama" is releasing his new album any day and has recorded the niggun in a way that would make Reb Shlomo proud.
Not Going Anywhere

It is pretty clear that the Baby is not going anywhere for quite a while.

What is not at all clear is whether she will will stay with us permanently.

This is hard to process.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Playing Ball With Rebbes, Class Trips and Other Horrible Things

I wasn't at the TU conference and I didn't hear what was said or not about playing ball, class trips or abuse.

To the extent gedolim said things that we can't understand, I attribute it to their exististing in a different reality from us, by us meaning those not in the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox world.

For what it's worth (not much), this is what I think:

Child Abuse: The machers at the TU conference should have gotten up and said, mefurash, that TU has a zero tolerance policy and that we will examine strategies for policing and reporting it. It should have been said clearly and forcefully. Period, end of story. Ain Mah L'daber.

Class Trips: I just sent OYD on her class trip to Washington. As a graduating 8th grader, the alternative to taking this trip is wasting yet another two beautiful May days in class with nothing at stake, simply waiting for the year to end. Instead, she will have two wonderful days with her friends, in her case a last opportunity to hang with her classmates since she will be attending a different high school next year. I have to admit, I just don't get what's wrong with this.

Playing Ball With Rebbes: It is pashut that it is increasingly more difficult for teachers to relate to teenaged boys, especially in the MO world. There are way too many things pulling them in different directions. If a Rebbe can shoot some hoops with the boys during recess or discuss the latest Yankees game, his stature goes up in their eyes, not down. We are simply not holding by yiras haRebbe so we have to find what works. (It is so difficult to understand what was allegedly said at the TU conference because this is so pashut in our circles.)

(Let me go further. What about the girls? In my experience (2 daughters), it seems that morot who dress fashionably or seem to be 'in touch' also have a much better chance at relating to their students than teachers who are remote or out of touch. That's another one that isn't too difficult to understand.)

Bottom Line: In the chareidi educational circles there is way too much emphasis on Sur Mai Rah and not nearly enough on Asei Tov. There is an overwhelming fear of the outside world but not enough confidence in the beauty of Torah and Yiddishkeit. Consequently, we hear about restriction after restriction rather than discussions about inspiring our children. This is tragic.

More about this later.


A-Rod Can't Win

On Monday night, A-Rod hit a homer in the top of the ninth at Fenway Park with the Yankees losing 9-1. You can just hear the chorus from dopey Yankee fans: "When will he hit a meaningful homer?"

Last night, with the Yankees leading 4-1, A-Rod hit a three run homer. Once again, you can imagine the demeaning comments about his alleged lack of clutchness.

Of course, the Yankees bullpen proceeded to implode, walking 6 and giving up 4 runs. Final score: 7-5. Margin of victory: A-Rod's three run homer.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Tuition Kerfuffle: Missing the Forest for the Trees.

Orthomom attracted over 100 comments on her recent post about a 12% tuition increase in one of the Five Town Yeshivas. With a very few exceptions, most of the comments completely miss the point.

When I went to school in the 60's and 70's, most of the Rebbeim, with a handful of memorable exceptions, were terrible or worse. Some were just boring and disinterested. Others were, nebech, bitter survivors. Still others were cruel sadists. In my 12 years, fewer than a handful were inspiring.

By and large, at least in the yeshivas that our kids have attended, the opposite has been true. With a few exceptions, the morot and Rabbeim have been excellent, in many cases forging important and lasting relationships with our kids.

I think this is true for a number of reasons. One of them is that many rabbeim and morot come from well-to-do families who are (happily) subsidizing their childrens' choices to be mechanchim. In addition, the pay in the MO and quasi-chareidi yeshivas is more reasonable (albeit, on a relative basis, tiny compared with the alternatives). These two factors have made it possible to attract very fine young men and women into chinuch.

Indeed, the parents at these institutions demand nothing less.

This, and not administrative costs, and not lack of transparency, is the underlying cause of the tuition crisis. Teachers' salaries make up the overwhelming percentage of the costs of running a school. It's really that simple.

I addressed the red herring of administrative costs yesterday.

The idea that a lack of transparency is a cause of the tuition crisis is another red herring. Anyone who has ever run any charitable organization that is not disfunctional knows two things: First, they are not democracies. They are usually run by 5 or 6 men who put their money and their time where their mouths are.

Second, transparency is overrated. What good, exactly, do people think will come of transparency? What do parents think they will see when they look at the books? Will it change the fact that teachers' salaries comprise over 75% of the budget? Do they want to see how much each teacher is making? Will that help attract teachers?

Instead of harping on transparency and administrative costs, people need to be focusing on raising money from alternative sources. As one astute commentor correctly pointed out, we are being bled to death by parlor meetings for mosdos from out of town. We absolutely must find a way to fairly impose an 'inheritance tax' to build up a proper endowment (then transparebncy will, perhaps, become more important). Yeshiva education simply must become the most important focus.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Hakaras Hatov to a Bicycle

OOS just called me from the road. The chain on his 1989 Schwinn Circuit (that I gave him two years ago when I bought my Trek 1500) just snapped. He is 45 minutes from home. He is, as we say, hosed.

Rather than berating the bicycle for breaking down at this most inopportune time, let me raise a glass of Powerade in a toast to this great machine. OOS and, mainly, I, have ridden this bike for thousands of miles and countless races and tours over 17 years. Until today, other than a few flat tires, nothing has gone wrong with this bike. Nothing.

It has its original gearing and (until today) its original chain. Its original seat and brakes (the brake pads, have, of course, been replaced from time to time).

May it continue to rock and roll.
School Stuff I: Tuition

After months of not having anything significant to say (or even the interest in posting on anything more important than my next bike ride) I will be addressing some school related issues in my next few posts. I may still not have anything important to say but at least I will be trying.

I have been awakened by recent important posts by Still Wonderin', Orthomom and the Bear.

Topic I, Tuition.

Orthomom wrote a post about how a local yeshiva bumped up its tuition by 12% while at the same time offering discounts to selected parents (subjectively chosen). This apparently engendered much bad will and outrage.

(Tuition is a topic I think I know a little bit about. In a previous gilgul, I was a lay leader of a large MO school so I got to see the numbers and understand how things work. Also, MHW and I have paid almost 50 years worth of yeshiva tuition (with only another 5 years to go (not including college). Although, BH, we have been zoche to never have taken a cent in scholarship money, we have struggled mightily over the years to meet our obligations.)

Let me make a few points.

1. It makes sense for a school to raise the amount of tuition it charges to the level of 'the market'. This way, it does not leave any money on the table from people who can afford it. The problem is that even though the school is prepared to offer discounts and scholarships, the rest of the parent body will not be indifferent if this causes them to go from full-tuition-payer to discounted payer or scholarship receiver.

2. The school obviously did a poor job of rolling out the increase and had a tin ear with respect to the idea of subjectively and unilaterally offering discounts.

3. The problem with yeshiva tuition has nothing to do with too many administrators. That is a red herring. The problem with yeshiva tuition is that teachers need to be paid and good teachers need to be paid relatively well (and I mean relatively). If you take a normal yeshiva with a budget of say, $15 million, and assume the administartors are making, say, $1.5MM in aggregate, and assume further ( a big assumption) that you can fire half the administrators, saving $750K, you will have reduced tuition by 5%. Big deal. That will reduce your high school tuition from $15,000 to $14,250. While that is nothing to sneeze at, does that really fix the problem?

4. Thus, there is no tuition-based solution. Firing administrators or running things more efficiently will only attack the problem at the margins. Tuition will continue to go up as teachers' salaries continue to go up unless other, outside sources of money are found. So, whining about tuition is useless.

5. There is a fantastic amount of wealth within the affiliated Jewish community. We are simply not tapping into those sources adequately, particularly in the Ashkenazi community.

6. I don't know how this system is sustainable in the long term. If you were looking for easy solutions here, you've come to the wrong place.

NEXT: How Can the Very People in Charge of Jewish Education be SOOOO Off?


Friday, May 19, 2006

"The Point of the Letter is Not to Scare You"

It's been my experience that when someone tells you "I am not trying to ________ you" (Fill in the blank: scare, discourage, threaten, etc.) that is precicely what he is trying to do. This morning I received the following email from the organizers of the Alyn bike ride that bears out this point.

Congratulations! We understand that you have signed up for the Challenge Route on the Alyn Charity Bike Ride. Perhaps you have heard through the WOL grape vine that the Challenge Route is completely filled and we have an ever-growing waiting list.

We’re sure you’re all charged up and fired to go, but, before the other routes fill up, we just want to make super extra sure that you know what lies ahead, aside from lots and lots of road.

The Challenge Route is intended for remarkably experienced and strong cyclists. Unlike the regular road route where riders basically ride at their own pace–some on road and some on off-road bikes--the challenge route is far more intensive and riders will be expected to keep up with the rest of the group. Unlike the other routes, which are also rather challenging, there are no ‘recovery ride’ days and far fewer pit stops per km/mile. In short: it’s called a challenge route, because that is exactly what it is!

The point of this letter isn’t to deter or even scare you. We just want to make sure there aren’t any misunderstandings later on. (emphasis added)

Having said all that, we want to welcome you to WOL’s latest route addition and wish the best of luck training and raising as much as you can for the great kids at Alyn.
Scaring people off the challenge route is precisely the purpose of this letter. It is oversold and the organizers are concerned that some riders (mainly those who have not done an Alyn ride yet), don't know what they are getting into and have bitten off more than they can chew.

(BTW, I have reviewed the list of riders who have signed up for the challenge. With the exception of one guy who needs to lose 25 pounds (and possibly me), all of the people that I know who have signed up are certainly capable of doing the challenge. I am actually very concerned about my ability to keep up and wonder whether I've gone off the deep end).

So, next time someone says, I don't mean to ________, you will know that the opposite is probably true.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Waffles and Justice

I am a simple man. One of my simple pleasures in life is to occasionally go to Central Perk in Cedarhurst and order well-done waffles and a cup of cappucino for breakfast. Unfortunately, I rarely get to do this because work gets in the way during the week and biking gets in the way on Sundays.

Thanks to the slow movement of the wheels of justice, however, I got to enjoy my simple pleasure not once, but twice.

I was called to testify in a trial that is a wonderful example of what's wrong with the American system of justice. Had English rules applied (loser pays costs of winning counsel), this case would never have been brought. But I digress.

I was scheduled to be the first witness and was told to appear at 9:30 on Tuesday morning. So, after shul I had time to get to CP and get my beloved breakfast. I then spent the entire morning in court watching lawyers do essentially nothing. There was a courthouse but no judge and no jurors. I had important meetings scheduled for the afternoon but it soon became apparent that I was not going to make it. Suddenly, at around noon, someone called the courtroom. One of the jurors had bugged out. Because the case would be a long one, the judge (who apparently did exist but whom I never saw) ordered the lawyers to find a couple of more jurors. End of my day. I got on the next train and made my meetings.

The bad news: I had to be in court this morning at 10 a.m.. The good news: Waffles and cappucino again.

In any event, I did my testimony thing, it got very testy, the people who called me probably wish that they hadn't (my momma didn't raise no fool) and I'm preparing for a conference call in 15 minutes.

All in all, waffles considered, it could have been worse.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Alyn Ride Phenomenon

I am trying to make sense out of what is happening around registration for this year's Alyn Ride. Registration opened on May 8th and over 220 (out of 325) people have already signed up. The 50 spots for the 385 mile challenge ride have already been spoken for and there is actually a waiting list!

What's going on with klal Yisrael?

(First, an aside. No matter how many times you warn first-time riders that this is a serious ride and that the hills are VERY long and VERY steep, many of them don't process it. And, anyone who signed up for the challenge ride because they have an imbalance of testosterone could be making a VERY big mistake. I consider myself to be a decently strong rider in very good shape and I am worried about the ride. It is not a joke).

I find it interesting that this ride seems to have taken on a certain life of its own. Sort of a "OK, I've done the spin classes, I can do this", or a "I've done a Marathon, I can do this", thing.

(The only thing I'm concerned about is that some of my buddies from previous rides will get shut out if they don't act soon).

So, if you are thinking about doing it, you don't have much time to act. And, if you want to meet some of the riders and find out more, we will be meeting with our bikes at Central Park, East 90th Street entrance (Fifth Avenue) at 8:30 a.m. this coming Sunday, weather permitting. 3 laps (18 miles).

Monday, May 15, 2006

One Woman's Shoe Is Another Man's Bib Shorts

Sarah recently posted about sandals that she fell in love with. Problem was, they cost almost 400 American. As she put it, unrequited love.

I can relate. Not about shoes. I don't really hold much for shoes. (Other than bike shoes; I have my eye out for the latest Sidi shoe). But a friend who is doing the Alyn ride with me told me about these top-of-the-line bib shorts. Only 275 bucks!

My current bib shorts cost me $99. But when you sit on a saddle for 7 hours a day for 5 days in a row, is $275 so unreasonable (he tries to convince himself)?

The truth is, I can live without the fancy bib shorts. But I'm still chalashing for my Madone 5.2 It doesn't compare with Psychotoddler's mean, lean biking machine, but it's a start.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On The Road Again

I will be back next week.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Designed by Sadists...

.....For Masochists


Mikvah People

This is a guest post from our own dear son, OOS.

During my second year learning in Israel, I began going to the mikvah on Erev Shabbos, and have continued this minhag ever since. I find that toveling is the perfect culmination of my week, and an uplifting way to enter Shabbos. More than the spiritual benefits that result from immersing, (which I must admit I don’t really understand) I use the time to reflect upon all that has happened during the previous week, and what I would like to improve on during the coming one.

The mikvah experience is a spiritual one. Yet, because of the tiny confines that usually characterizes male mikvaos, and because of overdeveloped male homophobia, it can be also be an uncomfortable one. Indeed, the mere thought of the mikvah nauseates many lesser men. Those of us who brave it in order to reap the spiritual benefits possess a certain respect for one another.

Any veteran mikvah- goer knows that much of the mikvah populace are caricatures and are replicated in virtually every mikvah in the world. The following is a brief list of these people.

1. Token Chassidish Guy (TCG): It never ceases to amaze me that I can go to the mikvah at 2:37 PM and my chances of having privacy are absolutely zero. This is because of TCG. Truthfully, you don't even need to go to the mikvah to know about TCG-- he is quite famous. Rest assured that right now the mikvah in Biloxi, Mississippi is occupied by TCG, and after he dries off he is probably going to Akron, Ohio. My theory is that in the heart of Boro Park there are Chassidim operating a satellite coveraging every mikvah in the world. When a mikvah turns blue an alarm sounds: WARNING!!! WARNING!!! UNOCCUPIED MIKVAH!!! Immediately, a dispatcher traces the location of the nearest Chassid who is promptly sent to fill the void. Does anybody have a better way of explaining this phenomenon?

2. Baal Shem Tov Guy (BSTG): Under the illusion that he is taking a dip in the icy waters of the Carpathian Mountains, BSTG can spend up to three hours in the mikvah, dipping and muttering strange incantations. One hundred dunks? Three hundred? Six hundred and thirteen? It's all good. BSTG either has a long beard with long payos and lots of tattoos, or a scraggly beard with bushy payos and lots of tattoos.

3. Mitzvah Haba Beaveira Guy #1 (MHBG #1) or "I showered at home" Guy: Yeah, sure you did. Technically, this despicable act is not really a MHB (see Minchas Chinuch, mitzvah 1), but when I start my own religion not only will the perpetrator's mitzvah be canceled out, he will also receive malkos and be forced to bathe in all of the filth he has left for the rest of us. Is there anything more inconsiderate and disgusting than not showering before immersing and leaving all your grime for everyone else to wallow in? To make matters worse, I presume that often, MHBG is also One Shower a Week Guy, or even No Shower, One Mikvah a Week Guy. Gross.

4. Mitzvah Haba Beaveira Guy #2 (MHBG #2) or "I'll pay next week" Guy: Sure you will. While not as physically revolting as MHBG #1, MHBG #2's actions are just as morally disgusting. Amazingly, MHBG #2 is almost always the one to complain that the water was .0046 degrees too cold, or that there are no towels left. He wonders why the mikvah board cannot provide these basic services, and criticizes their awful fund- raising skills.

5. Country Club Guy (CCG): Unable to afford membership fees at the local country club, CCG takes solace at the mikvah. Indeed, CCG can kill an entire morning or afternoon shmoozing in the mikvah (yes, in the actual water), sometimes talking politics or business, but usually just some good old loshon harah. The reasoning behind CCG's decision to forgo the country club and go for the mikvah is really quite logical, as a quick comparison will show. CC- sparkling, heated, indoor pool. Mikvah- dirty, occasionally heated, indoor rainwater. CC- sprawling 18- hole golf course. Mikvah- ???. CC- Naked old men in a locker room. Mikvah- Naked old men in a locker room. Makes sense to me.

6. Yomim Noraim Guy (YNG): You can smell the discomfort emanating from YNG when he goes to the mikvah before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I actually think that YNG gets all his caparah simply from the mesiras nefesh it takes to step into that highly awkward place where he sooooo doesn't want to go.

7. "Come on in, the water's fine" Guy (COITWFG): A little background is in order. During the hours immediately preceding Shabbos many mikvaos get very crowded. Since there is only one mikvah for many people, and because it is Erev Shabbos and these people are in a rush, (except BSTG and CCG) one usually needs to 'share' the mikvah. Although this is very uncomfortable it is something that all consistent mikvah goers must endure. Normal mikvaos can hold two people, or even three if it is really crowded. More than that and I refuse to go in. However, while I wait on top of the stairs leading down to the water it seems that inevitably one of the men already inside notices my hesitation and yells, "nu, there is plenty of room. What's the problem?" What's the problem???!!!! Are you nuts???? Even worse, COITWFG is often also BSTG or CCG so they are going to be in there for a while.

8. Fake Rebba Guy (FRG): Accompanied by two hulking 'shamashim' FRG nobly walks into the mikvah hoping that someone, ANYONE!! will give him a kvitle. Unfortunately for FRG nobody is fooled, because we all know that no self- respecting rebba would even think of stepping foot into a public mikvah. FRG is going to have to wait until some rich guy buys his story that if he builds a private mikvah for the 'Rebba' he will get a portion in the world to come.

9. Random Englewood/ Lawrence/ Riverdale etc. Guy (REG): Stories are told about certain Rebbas who would refuse to touch someone who had not gone to the mikvah that day. For the friends of REG the opposite is true-- they put out a restraining order against him. "You go to the what???" is the common response when they hear about his Friday afternoon activities. Assuming that REG has lost his mind, they immediately call his wife. When they hear that she knows about it, and (oh my God) approves, they then call their psychotherapists and beg him to take on this sad case.

10. CANNONBALL!!!! Kid (CK): Actually, this only happened to me once, but it was so completely bizarre that it must be mentioned. One Erev Shabbos as I was stepping out of the water I noticed a Sephardi kid who was probably ten years old run by me. Since the sight of Sephardi kids running around is not an uncommon one in the mikvah, I paid no attention to him. But, as I was putting on my clothes I heard, "CANNONBALL"---splash--- "WOOHOO!!" Curious to see what was going on I walked to the mikvah and saw the Sephardi kid doing the backstroke back and forth in the mikvah. Suddenly the mikvah man rushed by me and the two started to yell at each other in Arabic. Not wanting any part of this fight I quickly backed away. As I left the premises the mikvah man walked by me in a huff, and I continued to hear CK splashing around in the water. Never underestimate the power of a naked, psychotic kid.

I hope that I have not scared anyone away from this beautiful minhag. Although these people may seem odd, you learn to appreciate them after a while. Friday is just not Erev Shabbos without them.


Friday, May 05, 2006

COMING MONDAY!! Guest Post by MoC Jr. on "These are the People in the Mikveh Neighborhood"

Don't miss it!


Baseball Rocks

You can take your football and basketball and, yes, even hockey. There is nothing like a beautiful night at the ball park. (Especially when you are with your kids sitting in the very first row along the first base line.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fleeting Moments III: Happy Birthday Baby

The hardest part is the uncertainty.

Tomorrow is the Baby's first birthday. There is no more certainty about her situation today than there was when she appeared at our doorstep ten months ago. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.

The Baby is thriving. She is a happy, bouncy, playful, smiley, beautiful baby. We have raised the baby as our own. She is a part of the family. She is one of the kids. We are all hopelessly in love with her. It's that simple.

We never talk about about her leaving. We try not to even think about it. But we do. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when those thoughts cross my mind.

Don't get me wrong. I feel great sympathy for the parents. But we still want to keep the Baby. For two reasons. First, selfishly, we love her and could not bear to lose her. We would be devastated if she left.

But that would be our problem. When we signed on as foster parents, we signed up for that risk. (Of course, we could never have imagined that we would be in the position we're in.)

Most importantly, in my heart of hearts I believe that it is in the Baby's best interest to stay with us. I can't get into details. I just believe it's true. Without a shadow of a doubt.

In the meantime, we ignore all these things. We just go from day to day, taking care of the Baby, loving the baby, enjoying the Baby, doing all the things you do with a one-year old Baby.

The only difference about tomorrow is that tomorrow is her birthday.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The First Century...

....of 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fleeting Moments II: Missing Shalom Zachors

Last week three boys were born to members of my shul between Thursday and Friday morning. Mazel Tov. That meant three shalom zachors. I decided not to attend any of them. In fact, I have only attended two since my father, z'l, passed away 17 months ago.

It's not because I am anti-social (though I may be). I just decided that I would sooner spend Friday nights at our table with my family rather than run around town drinking scotch at other people's tables.

In the beginning, I used my status as an avel to excuse my absences. When my aveilus ended, I continued to stay away, without excuses. I simply give a 'mazal tov' to the ba'alei simcha in shul on Friday night.

Last Friday night was a good example. We sat down for our seudah at around 8:30 p.m. The shalom zachors were called for 'sometime after 9'. Had I decided to attend one or more of them, I would have had to pick myself up from the table no later than 10 (I live 20 minutes from pretty much everyone in the shul). As it is, both OOD and OYS had guests for Shabbos and we had a delightful Friday night meal that lasted until 11:30.

One of our kids is already grown and out of the house (soon out of the country). One is home only for weekends. One will be leaving in a bit more than a year for a couple of years in Israel. Our youngest will be starting high school next year. (We will be celebrating the Baby's first birthday on Friday but that's another story).

The years pass quickly. We intend to spend as much time with our kids as we can before the inevitable parting of the ways. It's too bad that I have to miss all these shalom zachors, but I am not sorry.

Next: Fleeting Moments III: The Baby Turns One


Another Take on Reyes

Tim Marchman, a sports columnist for the New York Sun whose opinions I respect, has a strong view on Mets' shortstop Jose Reyes. He believes that Reyes is, indeed, a budding star.

Here's why.

Although he is only hitting .250, the differences between his statistics this April from last April are striking.

He walked 12 times this April. He walked zero times last April.

His OBP is 80 points higher than his average, a league average .330. Because of Reyes' amazing speed and stealing ability, Marchman believes that simply maintaining a league average OBP will make him a star. He believs that Reyes' potential is much higher.

Marchman points out that ALL OF LAST YEAR Reyes had only 49 1-0 counts. THIS APRIL alone, he had 44 1-0 counts. Reyes is taking pitches and being much more selective. A great trend for a young player.

Marchman expects Reyes to break out no later than next year and believes he may put up crazy numbers before this year is up.

Here's hoping he's right.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fleeting Moments I: The Cul de Sac

This Shabbos afternoon, I was awakened from the deep sleep of my nap by the familiar sound of children playing. I recognized the noise as coming from the cul de sac around the corner; less than 100 feet away as the crow flies.

What was different about these sounds is that they were not coming from our children or their friends. The sounds were from the scores of kids that seem to have sprung up in the neighborhood while we weren't looking.

When did this happen? It seems like just the other day that we were woken up by our own kids on Shabbos afternoons when the weather was not quite hot enough for our air conditioners to be turned on. Now our kids are far too old to be hanging out in the cul de sac. That's for little kids.

MHW and I talked about this on Shabbos afternoon. We were taking care of the Baby. She is finally crawling and is also starting to cruise. Our grandson, a real chevrahman, started walking a while ago. Mr. Perpetual Motion. It occured to us that we don't remember what our kids looked like when they started crawling or walking. We pretty much don't remember anything. We just have a lot of pictures.

Before you know it, the parents of the current generation of cul de sac kids will be asking the same question. Where did the time go?