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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Time Zones

TT has decided that getting acclimated to time zones is not part of her plan. So, she is going to sleep at about 1 a.m. and waking up (or being woken up) at noon. The good news is that we are just chilling in J'lem so we're not on any schedule. In addition, it gives OYD an excuse to do her teenage thing, i.e., stay up till 1 a.m. and sleep till noon.

The better news is that when we get back to galus, TT will be more or less on her regular schedule.


Monday, January 29, 2007

An El Al Story

A few weeks ago I was invited to an important meeting in London that takes place tomorrow. I volunteered to interupt my vacation to fly over for a couple of days from israel. I asked my travel agent to book a flight round trip from Tel Aviv.

He sent me an itinerary that put me on British Air. Now, everyone knows British Air is better than El Al, especially in Business Class. Nevertheless, I decided that I'd rather go on El Al for a couple of reasons. One, I feel better security-wise. Two, I'm a Zionist and I'd rather use an Israeli airline (sorry, but I had no intention of buying into the boycott). Three, it was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper and although it's not my money, I try to be careful with my firm's money as much as possible.

I told my travel agent to change the flights to El Al and he did.

Turns out that British Air will be on strike the exact two days that I am travelling and all flights have been cancelled. So, I guess this is the exception that proves the rule: No good dead goes unpunished.


Random Thoughts From Israel

1. It is impossible to have a relaxing meal at a restaurant, no matter how fancy, when you are accompanied by a twenty month old who has no idea what time zone she is in. The good news is that OYD is babysittting tonight while MHW and I have a real meaal with real adults.

2. It is depressing reading the newspaper here. Although I follow the Israeli news over the internet, having the paper in your hands seems to bring home how distressing everything seems to be.

3. It is difficult to determine whose ear-piercing and glass shattering screach is more potent; our grandson's or TT's.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Home of His Own

Please read this post.


The Apple of My Eye

Robert Avrech is a very big fan of Apple Inc. He is a user of their computers and iPods. He is an enthusiastic shareholder. He and I have recently been discussing Apple in an email correspondence. He is still bullish on the stock even though it has recently run up after their iPhone announcement. I am also a huge fan. Although I haven't made the switch to a Mac, I am the proud purchaser of about 7 iPods of the past couple of years. And, my recent foray into the Apple store on Fifth Avenue sealed it. It is one of the coolest stores I've ever been to (more on that when I have time).

(I told Robert that I also wanted to buy Apple stock last year but my $85,000 tuition bill got in the way. Of course, had I bought enough apple stock, its appreciation would have paid a significant portion of that tuition).

The real point of this post is that Apple has changed the word. In particular, the iPod has changed the world. Even more specifically, the iPod has changed the Jewish music world forever.

This has been brought home to me over the last few months since I released the CD I produced, U'Shmuel B'Korei Sh'mo.

Although sales have been solid, they don't seem to be anywhere near the level that they should be at based on the play that Nachum Segal has given the CD and the very positive feedback and word of mouth that it's gotten. Incidentally, Shlomo Katz is experiencing the same thing with his new CD, V'Hakohnim. Everyone he meets seems to have it but sales do not reflect this.

My experience today at the Mother Ship confirmed what I've been thinking. During my trip in September, I left a box of 50 CDs with one of the boys. When I returned today (with OYS who is checking it out for next year) only 15 had been purchased. This surprised me. For a minute.

I later took a tour of the dorms with OYS. Every student has an iPod. Many have an iPod with a docking station that allows them to play the songs on their iPods through speakers.

So, why should I expect a kid purchase a useless piece of plastic? None of the students has a CD player. (In contrast to when OOS went to yeshiva and everyone had either a portable CD player of a boom box).

Like it or not, the paradigm has changed.

So, the Jmusic world has to respond to the changes or die.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. CDs will soon go the way of the cassette. Every car will have a built-in transponder that will allow you to play the music on your iPod over the radio. (You can buy a very good transponder today for $70). iPod docks will replace stereo systems.

1. Well produced CDs will only be possible with independent funding (such as what I will be providing through my not for profit, Shirei Shmuel, Inc.) or if the big bands are interested in promoting a performer with a CD as a loss leader (with a couple of exceptions for the Shiny Shoe megastars).

2. A lot of lousy CDs will be produced using home computer technology.

3. The major distributors of Jmusic will have to quickly develop their own version of an iTunes store or they will be hard pressed to remain in business.

My bottom line is that you can't fight city hall. I am no longer going to get agmas nefesh over CD piracy. I will adjust. How exactly, I don't know. But I will never produce another album with the expectation that the proceeds of CD sales are going to make me whole.


Friday, January 19, 2007

On the Road Yet Again

I am going out of town for two weeks. Blogging will be sporadic at best. You are invited to read posts from my archives.


Sports Friday: Metric Football Edition

I found out this week that there is apparently something called the MLS, short for Major League Soccer. The league is America's best-kept secret. Only DovBear and a few people in Long Island and similar suburbs have ever heard of it.

I am told that they play games in various cities across the country but I have yet to meet anyone who has actually gone to a game and I don't have channel 638 which is where, I hear, their games are televised.

In any event, I heard that the MLS team from Los Angeles has apparently spent an astronomical amount of money to sign a washed-up English soccer player named David Beckham to play for their team. This is similar to what the long-defunct New Jersey Cosmos did about 30 years ago when they signed a washed-up Pele and a washed up Italian player whose name escapes me.

Message to the MSL: NO ONE IN AMERICA GIVES A HOOT ABOUT SOCCER. SOCCER STINKS. GO BACK TO FRANCE OR WHEREVER YOU CAME FROM. Signing washed up European players ain't gonna help. Give it up.


Thursday, January 18, 2007


I just gave a lunchtime presentation at a major financial institution in town. It turns out that it was bonus day, the day managers let their minions know how much they will be getting for their 2006 bonuses. (The bonuses themselves usually get paid in the near future). This institution, like most Wall Street firms, had a very good year and the group that I came to talk to had a particularly good year.

When I walked on to the trading floor, I was met by the head of trading, a fellow whom I've known for 20 years. We were shmoozing before my presentation when he suddenly noticed one of his traders looking at a screen that did not contain the usual financial information. Instead, the trader was scrolling down the website of a very fancy car company.

The head trader called him out on it and everyone on the trading floor had a good laugh. I guess it's good to be one of the masters of the universe.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More on Chinuch

Charles Murray writes in the first of three articles to be published in the Wall Street Journal that we do not take into account intelligence when accessing our schools systems. He points out that 50% of all children in the system have below avergae intelligence (as measured by IQ). Consequently, we have unrealistic expectations for our schools and design politically correct but bound-to-fail programs such as No Child Left Behind.

(His second, fascinating, article postulates that there are WAY too many people in four year colleges).

I think Charles Murray articulates a problem that also envelopes the yeshiva system, across the board, from MO to Chareidi. Most MO education does not properly account for differences in intelligence. The secular curriculum is generally very demanding and if you can't cut it you are an outcast. (Even though the schools typically have different tracks, I don't think even the lowest tracks account for the fact that, for example, some kids simply can't get math or science).

In the chareidi world, all the boys are expected to excel in learning. But we all know that learning Talmud requires a certain type of logical mind. Nevertheless, if you can't cut it, you are an oysvorf. And, as Rabbi Horowitz has repeatedly pointed out, being forced to produce in an environment where you are not capable of succeeding is a sure recipe for "children at risk".

(Taken to the next step, the kollelim are full of yungerleit who simply do not have the skills or intelligence to succeed. They are wasting away when they could be learning vocational skills or going out into the work force. They would be happier, their wives would be happier and there would be much less poverty in the Jewish world. If you read Charles Murray's second article use your imagination and simply substitute the word "kollel" for the phrase "four year college", the article still works.)

Parents also really need to be careful and objective about assessing their kids' skills and abilities. Kids have enough peer pressure to succeed as it is. If parents put too much pressure on their kids (particularly demanding unrealistic results in light of their kids' abilities), they are doing real damage to their kids and are asking for trouble.

(Our kids know that I couldn't care less how they do in school. The only thing I want to hear at teachers' conferences is that the kids have nice midos and are making an effort. At the end of the day, it wworks itself out as long as you don't make your kids meshugah).

I think we can all learn alot from Charles Murray.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1 + 1 = 5

I renewed a prescription today under my new (read: worse) health insurance plan. It's a pill that is sold over the counter in measurements of 75 or 150 mg. but is sold in prescription form at 300 mg. I was informed that the pills are no longer covered under my revised plan. I told the pharmacist to go ahead anyway since, insurance or not, I need the pills.

The cost: $126 for 60 pills.

I paid and then walked over to the counter where they sold the same medication in 150 mg. form. 65 pills for $24.

Even I didn't need a calculator to figure out that I had just been ripped off. I had paid $126 for less than what I could have bought for $48.

I made a quick U Turn, refunded the prescription and bought two bottles of the over the counter stuff. The pharmacy was very gracious. My beef is not with the pharmacy.

But, hey, what's up with that?


Monday, January 15, 2007

Melaveh Malkah

Stop what you are doing and buy Yosef Karduner's new CD, Breslover Melavah Malka. What a simply beautiful and enchanting CD.

(I suspect that Yosef produced this CD for less than 20% of what it cost me to produce my CD. I still have a lot to learn from him.)



This morning I was walking in town with The Toddler when a friend, passing by in his car, yelled out, "such a good zaiydi!". I responded, "actually, such a good father!".

I can't tell you how often this happens to me and MHW. People in this neighborhood simply don't expect people my age to be walking around with a 20-month-old who is not a grandchild. Even people who know us and know that our grandchildren live 6,000 miles away forget and routinely make this mistake.

It isn't a big deal now because TT doesn't really get it. But soon she will. Hence, today's Request For Proposals.

How should MHW and I respond when people comment about our "grandchild" in front of TT? (This assumes we have not yet adopted her; should we adopt her, the response is easy).

Do we say, "No, this is actually our foster daugther"?

Do we say, "No, this is actually our daughter"?

Any other suggestions?


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Exit Interview

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has published his second in a series of articles on chinuch. The article was originally published in the latest issue of Mishpacha Magazine.

(An aside. If you are reading this, Mishpacha subscription people, can you please work on getting your distribution fixed so that we don't receive the magazine on the Monday following it's Thursday publication date? Thank you).

Rabbi Horowitz begins by noting that when you cancel a credit card, the company will probably call you to request an "exit interview". That is, they will ask you why you are cancelling so that they can better understand what went wrong and how better to retain customers.

He writes:

Well, over the past twenty years, I conducted hundreds of terribly painful ‘exit interviews’ with children and adults who have abandoned Yiddishkeit. I can tell you in no uncertain terms what it is that they wanted – and why they took their business elsewhere. They were looking for respect and understanding. Acceptance. Safe and nurturing home lives. Hands-on parents who offer unconditional love along with their guidance. Caring educators who dealt with their admitted misdeeds gently and privately (firmly was OK). The ability to be a bit different without being labeled or judged. More time for hobbies and more recreational opportunities.
Consequently, writes Rabbi Horowitz,

I would think that the frightened parents in the community ought to shorten the hours that their children are in school, offer more extra-curricular activities, clamor for more tolerance, invest in the educators of their children, and boycott the schools that dismiss children for misdeeds. The community leaders would do well to meet with the mental-health professionals and those who deal with the ‘at-risk’ teen population, perhaps even with the troubled kids themselves, and listen – really listen – to their advice. I would love to tell you that this is happening. It pains me to report that this is usually not the case. Those of us who deal with at-risk kids are consulted in firefighter mode by desperate parents and educators – but little time and energy is being spent in fire prevention. They are asking us what to do with the at-risk kids, but not what we think should be done for all our children.

In many communities, I’m sad to report, exactly the opposite is happening. School hours are getting longer and longer. Kids have less time and opportunity to engage in desperately needed recreational activities. In fact, in some communities, normal sports activities are frowned upon or outright banned – sometimes for children above the age of ten years old!! (emphasis mine) Schools that dismiss children are valued and pursued. Acceptance criterion for high schools is getting increasingly more challenging. On many occasions, I have clearly stated that in today’s climate I would probably not have been accepted to any ‘normal’ high school when I graduated eighth grade thirty-three years ago!!

Most peculiar is the reaction of parents who respond to their fears by striving mightily to place their children in the most rigorous programs. The thinking is that their children will be safe there, as the ‘chevrah’ will be better and the ‘at-risk’ children will be excluded from those elite schools. However, this thinking is terribly flawed. For there is no guarantee that their child – or one of their children some time in the future of their family life – will not be one of those children who will need some adjustment, tolerance, or understanding. So, in effect, the parents are raising the bar – and the ante of this very high-stakes gamble – by opting to send their child to a program that purports to produce a ‘metzuyan’ or ‘mitzuyenes’ (exemplary children). But at the same time, they are greatly increasing the odds that their child may find the train running away from him or her. And, in all my years of dealing with the at-risk teen population, I have not noticed that the elitist schools have any lower percentage of kids abandoning Yiddishkeit. (emphasis mine) All the more so if you include those who were asked to “find another school,” midway in their school experience.
(Interestingly, there is a growing phenomenon among the Dati Leumi in Israel called Torani high schools with an extremely rigirous Talmud and Limudei Kodesh curriculum that are also designed for elite students. I wonder if they will also suffer from the issues raised by Rabbi Horowitz. I will address Torani schools another time).

I have written many times that I am grateful that our sons have not had excessive pressure put on them in high school. Also, the fact that they've had the opportunity to play varsity hockey has given them a fantastic outlet. I don't think they would have reacted well to a more rigid environment. On the other hand, we've seen much more pressure put on our girls (in two different schools) and I don't think it's healthy.


Nifong: The Slime Continues

Rather than do the right thing and drop his ridiculous case against three Duke lacrosse players, Mike Nifong has, instead, recused himself, on the ground that because of all the focus on him personally, he cannot adequately prosecute the case. Instead, he has punted the case to the attorney general of North Carolina.

This is all nonsense.

Rather than make the politically difficult move of dropping the case (after making such a big public fuss about it, particularly to his black constituents), he lamely walks away, thereby putting the onus on the attorney general to make the politically unpopular move. What a shameless lowlife. But, could we have expected anything better?


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sports Friday - Hall of Fame Edition

1. Which dopes didn't vote for Tony Gwynn? The dude batted over .300 19 straight years and had 8 years of at least 400 at bats and fewer than 20 strikeouts.

2. As sportswriter Wallace Matthews pointed out, if you take away McGuire's two big steroid years, you have Dave Kingman. About 420 homers and a .248 batting average. Neither deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

3. As predicted, both the Jets and the Giants lost last week. The Jets were outclassed by a better team. Will they ever be able to beat the Pats so long as they have Pennington and the Pats have Brady? The Giants, sadly, did not get beaten badly enough for ownership to have jettisoned their coach. It could be a sneaky move. Maybe they're thinking "We keep this stiff for a year (the team isn't any good anyway, especially with Tiki gone) and then pick up The Man From Pittsburgh.

4. I've been going to health clubs for the past 21 years. January at any Manhattan health club is the worst month. All the people who make New Year's resolutions to lose weight or work out regularly start coming in January. January also coincides with when many Wall Street types are flush with cash from their bonuses and sign up at the clubs. The good news: by February, a very high percentage of the new members will be gone, never to be seen again, the health clubs will thank them for their generous contributions to their bottom lines, and I will no longer have to wait for a shower stall to free up.



No, not "first", "ist", with an "I". This is how the boss, also known as The Toddler, says the word "sit". When you give her a bottle in the morning or at night, she sits on the couch, points to the spot on the couch right next to her, and says "ist", expecting (demanding?) that we sit next to her. And, of course, we always do.

She also likes to drink the bathwater and, after her bath, eats the baby lotion.

I guess when you eat as many vegetables as she, bathwater and baby lotion taste good on a relative basis.

(I had to post this after three posts that actually require one to think. I have to keep my fan base happy).


The Mike Nifong Scandal Continues

Dorothy Rabinowitz lays it out.

More "evidence" turns out to me mush.

When will the judge throw out the case?


Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A friend sent me this email in response to my recent posts about perfectly normal, well-adjusted MO kids going off the derech:

The key word I see in your second post is “parve”. For a kid to grow up and hold on to the traditions of his ancestors, somewhere he’s got to run into some PASSION. He/She doesn’t have to run into it everywhere, just somewhere.

I have discussed with my Rav and others the failure of the MO world. The philosophy of the MO world in its purest form is unbelievably inspiring. Deep down, I still believe in all my heart that it is a wonderful, true, and ultimately fulfilling path to living in this beautiful world and using everything it has to offer to live a life of service of, and devotion to, Hashem. At the inspiration of my daughter, I am once again rereading the writings of The Rav, and being inspired by the greatest example of a true MO, Religious Zionist, American Jew.

If the philosophy is so great why doesn’t the MO world work in a practical sense? Let’s talk about the home, and then about our mosdos.

Home: Show me a home where the parents are passionate about their Yiddishkeit, and I’ll show you a home where the kids have a chance. And it doesn’t have to be about every aspect of Yiddishkeit. In some homes it’s Gemarah, in some it’s Chesed, in some its Israel and Zionism, etc. Just find Something to be passionate about, and your kids will be inspired to investigate and find some aspect of Yiddishkeit that appeals to them. How much do you think your father’s passion for music made you what you are, and in turn how much will (has?) your passion for music affected your children? In my case, my parents were not that knowledgeable or passionate about their Yiddishkeit, but I was lucky enough to have a mentor, a Rav down the block who turned me on to learning. Thankfully for me, my kids have told me that I have enough passion to keep them on the Derech.

Mosdos: Here’s where you have a very difficult problem. Face it everyone: We live in the USA (or in its cultural suburbs i.e. Israel and the rest of the world). No matter how insulated you are (even Chareidi or Chassidish) you will be assaulted with a culture that wants to dilute your passion for G-dliness in favor of a passion for Mammon. Look at me. I may have some passion for Yiddishkeit, but I am also ridiculously passionate about sports, still in love with my Rock and Roll roots, and extremely distracted by the full frontal Tumah of the ever-present media machine. In fact, that Rav who made me passionate (as well as a few boosters along the way) is the only reason I have been able to hold on. Many of our friends and family have lost this war,

Let’s say you lost the war, but for old time sake or to keep your parents happy you remain “orthodox”. What branch of orthodoxy will you affiliate with? MO. You wouldn’t want to be near anything “Right Wing”. So you join your local MO Shul and send your kids to the local MO yeshiva. The percentage of the uninspired at these mosdos is huge (and I include ALL of our MO schools, up to and including YU). How can you expect the leaders of these mosdos to bring passion to the table when the majority of members/parents don’t want passion? More to the point of your post, how can those of us who do care, inject passion into the lives of those who don’t care?

At the end of the day, the kids need (and want) passion. For the individual family, they can try to provide passion for their kids. On a communal level it’s hard to provide. Clal Yisrael has been fighting this battle since the beginning; only 20% made it out of Mitzrayim.

Side point: I don't know if the Yeshivish side is much better at the passion deal. The whole Chareidi world expends its energies trying to insulate from the outside. I wish they would spend as much energy trying to inspire as they do condemning and criticizing. That media machine gets in their heads too, and there are a lot of Chareidim who may look the part but are empty inside. (see: the Davening in Brooklyn Shteiblech)


Ten Reasons

I received a number of excellent comments to this post

I wrote, in part:

What is not as frequently discussed in MO circles are the kids who are NOT demonstrably at risk but go off the derech nevertheless. In other words, these kids are not particularly rebellious, they aren't necessarily doing drugs or drinking, they are doing fine is school, etc. They just don't believe in the program. And, at the first chance they get, whether in college or slightly later, they drop the facade of any religious observance.

There are lots of questions. Like why is it happening and what can we do about it.
So, let me make my own attempt to answer the why question. The what to do about it question is much more difficult and I will address it another time.

It is important to note that when one speaks of the "MO world", he speaks about a very wide-ranging world. Thus, some of the reasons listed hear apply to left wing schools, others to right wing schools and some cross over.

1. In some schools, it is forbidden for a Rebbe to smile or have a warm word for a student. Their approach to Yiddishkeit is cerebral only. If that doesn't work for you, you disengage. Guess what? It doesn't work for most kids.

2. In some schools, Yiddishkeit is an afterthought not to be taken too seriously. So, for example, the headmaster will think nothing of routinely making announcements over the PA system in the middle of davening. Consider the message that this sends.

3. The concept of "emunah" is almost never discussed in many schools. It's as if emunah has no role in Yiddishkeit. In general, there is a de-emphasis on machshavah. Consequently, kids' questions don't get addressed or answered.

4. Many kids come from homes that are not observant to start. What do you expect? Other kids come from homes where the parents take great liberties with halacha and view Yiddishkeit as a social rather than religious experience. Some of these kids might flip out (if they are allowed to go to Israel after high school) but are much more likely to bug out, having no interest in following the inconsistent path of their parents.

5. Many boys don't 'get' Gemorah and are left behind.

6. Kids find the outside world much more stimulating and exciting than Yiddishkeit, particularly the parve brand of Yiddishkeit that they see at home and in some schools.

7. Girls.

8. Boys.

9. Cynicism. Many kids hear the most cynical and sarcastic things from their parents about religious figures and institutions. It wears off.

10. A lack of mentoring. There simply aren't enough mentors in the schools with whom kids feel comfortable. The value of mentors is very underappreciated. Some schools do a much better job than others but there is still a gap.

Anyway, that's my ten cents worth, off the cuff.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New CD Project

I am very pleased to report that, through my not-for-profit company, Shirei Shmuel, Inc., I will be embarking on a new and exciting CD project during my forthcoming trip to Israel in late January. Can't really say much more for now.

I am able to do this because (a) the sales report that I received from Sameach Music on U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo was very positive so I will be able to recycle some of the proceeds, and (b) I received a funding commitment for approximately half the cost of the project from a very holy Jew who shares my vision of Jewish music.

Also, having done this once, I learned a lot and hope to bring this project in much more quickly and cheaply. For one, I will produce the CD entirely in one studio in Israel rather than all over the lot (including the U.S. which is almost twice as expensive a place to produce as Israel). Second, all the arrangements will be done by one person (although a number of musicians will perform).

If anyone else out there wants to help me fund this project, please let me know. Also, it's not too late to buy the original CD. Not only will you be getting some excellent music, you will be contributing to the cause.

Finally, thanks to MHW who tolerates my insanity.


Eighteen Months, Part II

We've all heard horror stories about families who have raised adoptive children for years only to have once-estranged biological parents sue to take the children back. We've seen on TV heart wrenching scenes of the children being forcibly separated by court order from the only parents they had ever known.

At this point, that would more or less be us if, G-d forbid, this scenario were to play out with The Toddler. I have long since banished from my mind the possibility that TT would ever leave.

The good news is that it is looking increasingly unlikely that any such thing will happen. As each day passes, it seems more likely that TT will, indeed, stay with us.

As I have said before, this is good for two reasons. First, and selfishly, I don't think we could bear the thought of her leaving (no more than we could have borne any of our other children being taken away from us). Secondly, under any objective or subjective standard, it is the right result for TT. She is in a structured, secure environment where she is smothered with love and attention by parents and siblings. She is loved unconditionally and is the center of attention.

Unfortunately, it will still be a long time until this situation finally resolves itself. It is said that the wheels of justice turn slowly. Well, the wheels of justice in family court turn even more slowly.

And, of course, it will be tragically sad for the biological parents. There is no getting around that.


What's Up...



Monday, January 08, 2007

Children Not Demonstrably At Risk

There is an awful lot of talk in MO circles about "children at risk" and there are those in Chareidi circles who are also raising this issue. Organizations like TOVA attempt to identify these children at risk early on and intervene with mentoring programs.

But what is not as frequently discussed in MO circles are the kids who are NOT demonstrably at risk but go off the derech nevertheless. In other words, these kids are not particularly rebellious, they aren't necessarily doing drugs or drinking, they are doing fine is school, etc. They just don't believe in the program. And, at the first chance they get, whether in college or slightly later, they drop the facade of any religious observance.

I have no idea what the numbers are but I suspect they are relatively high. Anecdotally, in OOS's class of less than 40 boys, there are at least four such kids that I know of. And this was a relatively right leaning, all-boys school!

There are lots of questions. Like why is it happening and what can we do about it.

We allocate fortunes of money to kiruv organizations but I submit that we lose at least as many kids who are already in our system as we gain through every kiruv organization put together.


Eighteen Months

This week marks 18 months since The Toddler Formerly Known As The Baby entered our lives as a ten-week-old. And, our lives have certainly changed she joined the clan. I have many thoughts that I am trying to process and hope to write about this week. In the meantime, I am linking to the first five posts about The Baby.

I, II, III, IV, and V

Bonus: I discovered this post in my draft file. I don't know why I never posted it.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Sports Friday: Goodbye to the Menuval

1. The newspapers are reporting that Randy Johnson, also known as Mr. Charm, is on his way back to Arizona. From a purely statistical perspective, it's probably a neutral to bad move for the Yankees. They need to replace about 170 innings with about a 5.00 ERA. (Of course, Johnson could have rebounded from his mediocre 2006 and had a much better 2007; we will never know). Nevertheless, getting rid of such a menuval is a net positive.

2. I'm hoping the Giants get blown out so that we will have another week (or two) of suicidal callers into Mike and the Mad Dog. Joe thinks the Giants will win but I just don't see it. I think Manning is a basket case. The Flyers (or is it the Eagles?) just have to contain Tiki.

3. On paper, I think the Jets have very little hope of beating the Pats. Nevertheless, you never know. They have done much better than expected this year, and have already beaten the Patriots in Foxboro. It could happen. The downside is that if they lose, I don't expect the suicidal callers because the Jets have overachieved so much this year. The callers will more likely be in the "great year, looking forward to next year" genre. So there is no point in the Jets losing.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Basic Question

OOS writes, in a comment to his own post:

I was not debating the merits of the (early Hebrew immersion) program. In all likelihood, the kids would come out speaking Hebrew well. I know that I can't wait for my kids to come home from gan speaking Hebrew to each other in our ancient tongue (is there anything cuter than little kids playing in Hebrew? "Tafasti!!!" Lo! Lo tafasta!!!").

I think that the question for American schools is what happens after preschool? Fern mentioned that although she had a good grasp of Hebrew in third grade, she was not able to hold onto it after she left a surrounding where she was immeresed in the language. I think this is the challenge that the proponents of this method face. O.K. the little kids know Hebrew. Now that they are big kids and need to start learning real stuff, what language to we teach it in.

If we make a commitment to teach in Hebrew, what happens if the most scholarly and charismatic rabbi has a poor grasp of the language? Do we give up the love of Yidddishkeit that this rabbi can give over to his talmidim because he can't speak Hebrew? The answer for me is simple-- no. The answer for the school that I mentioned in the post is simple-- yes.

But this is the basic question.


Shiny Shoe Glasses

It seems to me that there is a trend developing in the Yeshivish world. I think I'll call it "Shiny Shoe Glasses" (TM).

An example can be found here (see the picture of D. Nachman). I was at a wedding last night where Lipa was the featured singer and he was wearing even more rad spectacles. The trend must be taking off because, lately, I have been seeing a bunch of yeshivish guys walking around with glasses like those. (One of the requirements for wearing them seems to be being relatively short and pudgy; I could be wrong).

I have not seen anyone in the secular world wearing these kinds of glasses, so it must be a Yeshivish thing. Any thoughts?


Guest Post at DovBear

Walking a Tightrope

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Important Calls

I spend most of my day on the phone or in meetings. When my blackberry buzzes more than twice, I know it's a phone call rather than an email. I never check my emails during meetings but I sometimes check for calls depending on whether I'm expecting an important one.

Today, during a particularly silly meeting, the phone rang. It was MHW. It seems that The Toddler wanted to "speak" to me. She has been doing this a lot lately. She usually mumbles "Abba" and a couple of other things, I respond with a few words, and she then waves bye-bye at the phone indicating that she is done.

When MHW asked if I could take the call, I said that since there was little doubt that TT would be making as much sense as anyone in my meeting, I would be happy to.


Where Did I Go Wrong?

Last night, The Toddler's dinner consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, avocado and about four pounds of broccoli. She did not touch the chicken we offered.

She can even say broccoli and avocado!

Clearly, she has been spending too much time with MHW and not enough with me. I think I will take her for a pastrami sandwich this Sunday. Desperate times call for desperate measures.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007


As a general rule, I don't do politics here. I violated this policy with my original and first revised posts. I should have stuck to my general rule.

Bottom line: I was never a big fan of Elliot Spitzer. Coming from the financial world, and in particular a firm that was ambushed by the justice department, I was never fond of his bullying tactics. As my firm found out, it is very hard to fight the government even when you are absolutely right, unless you are willing to bet the franchise.

Nevertheless, as a self-interested member of this state, I wish him the best. Having achieved the goal that he has been focused on for the past 8 years, I hope he can rise above the corruption and smallness that poisons our state government and makes this state one of the highest taxed and least competitive states.


Fantasy Finale

Since starting the fantasy football season 1 - 6, mired in last place, I made a valiant run and played the last 10 games to a record of 8 - 2, including a finishing winning streak of 5 games. My 9 - 8 record landed me in third place (although I was only 50 total points behind 12 - 5 Joe, and almost 200 points ahead of the second place finisher, Jetsphan).

For someone who knows very little about football, I can't complain. With some help from Joe, I figured out that you don't really need to know much. You just need to follow the free agents, see who is hot, figure out who is not, and look at matchups.

That, and draft LaDamian Tomlinson.

On the real football front, I was disappointed that both the Giants and Jets won because for the first time in weeks, sportstalk radio is missing the suicidal callers who live and die with the fortunes of the Jets and Giants. It is so much more entertaining listening to the callers who are feeling agmas nefesh and listening to their ridiculous solutions. ("The Giants should trade Eli Manning for Tom Brady").

No doubt, next week we will be back to normal with the Giants getting crushed by Philadelphia. (Even if the Jets lose, most Jets fans are very satisfied with what has been a very good and unexpected year).

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