Showing posts from May, 2008

Saying Nothing In So Many Words

I just skimmed some articles in a newsletter put out by a university that is well-known in Jewish circles and reminded me of the fact that the written word often does more to obscure meaning than to illuminate it. This is not true only in academic circles but in businesses that use the buzz words so regularly that Dilbert was able to use them in bingo games with coworkers. Job applicants attempt to emulate that style and cram their introductions with such general terms, completely oblivious to how vapid such writing is. But I suppose that if the intended audience is the HR person whose thinking is not only inside the box (the reverse of one of the favorite catch phrases in business today) but really two-dimensional (as in Flatland See then there really is no point to writing clearly and directly.

When I taught composition and rhetoric I often started with photocopies of the essay "How to Say Nothing in 500 Words" that you can …

Don't mind the budget gap

You've heard of people with champagne taste and beer budgets? For some people there is a definite gap between what they could afford and what they want. In the past, wisdom dictated that such people get grounded in reality and learn to like the beer they could afford and give up on hankering for what was beyond their financial grasp. But that is not the attitude I see today. Instead, those who can only afford beer insist, not only on champagne but on the finest imported French bottles and only from the very best years of vintage, metaphorically speaking, of course. So if the drinkers of champagne cannot afford to pay for it, who is to foot the bill? Other people, of course.
On the neighborhood email list, I am constantly seeing requests for money or other types of handouts from people who are not destitute but who just don't want to do without. And those who are getting married seem to have the greatest sense of entitlement. For example, a few weeks ago a prospectiv…

Proof I've been a good influence on my husband ;-)

Mother in Israel, your post is mentioned and linked to there!

In anticipation of Father's Day (or is it Fathers' Day?)

Over the weekend, my husband and I observed various fathers' behavior. On Shabbos, we walked to a park in the area. As we were leaving, we saw a father with two young boys coming. We both had the same reaction: At first we were impressed that the father was taking his children to the park, but then we saw that he was merely dropping them off to be attended by the babysitter who was already there. But we were really impressed by the frum father (who actually lives in the 5 Towns) we saw on Sunday with his son and daughter at the production of The Importance of Being Earnest. The children (who appear to be jhs and hs age) said that their father does this sort of thing regularly. A third father . . .well, I won't go into that one. Enough said about contrast. As for father-kid outings in my family, though we did not take our children to this play, they have been exposed to theatre, as well as theatre in the park, not to mention countless museums, etc. And on Monday we t…

Torah True Market Value

I've been meaning to post the following piece since I read it last week, but I was very involved with magazine layout on top of finishing the round of essay scoring. But better late than not at all, for it is an idea that is always relevant.

In his commentary on Parshas Behar, the Abarbanel brings out an important point about the price set on a field sold. The price should be higher if there are more years until the yovel than if there are fewer years, for the purchaser is really paying according to the the field's yield. That the text says "velo tonoo ish es amitho"[one should not oppress his fellow], the Abarbanel says is a warning to the wealthy buyer who holds the advantage over the poor seller who is forced by circumstances into a situation of having no recourse other than selling his estate. Given the seller's desperation, the buyer could take advantage in naming his own price. So the Torah warns him to not to do the hona'a . The buyer is not su…

Gotta love those cure-all segulas

I got the following email:"Hi,
You now have the opportunity to donate the minimal amount of $72 for Chai Rotel Mashkeh on the holy day of Lag B’omer. Countless people saw great Yeshuos and Refuous, it has been proven a powerful Segulah (talisman) against barrenness, illness, shidduchim difficulties and countless other crises in people's lives. Just visit _____ and click on “Take Part”."
May the Zchus of the holy Tana Reb Shimon Bar Yochai always protect you.
Amen."[But, apparently you have to buy that protection for a minimum of $72. Why should a yeshua require a minimum payment of $72? Why not $36 or even $18, or even some amount not divisible by 18? What a commercial use of RaShBY's yotzeit. And, you know, based on what we know of Rav Shimon Ben Yocahi, I would say he would be one of the last people to hawk yeshuos. Remember, he was the man who learned in the cave with his son for years and years. When he emerged, his burning gaze literally burnt the p…

Fostering Integrity, or My Kids Are Also Doomed

My oldest daughter did not wish to go to camp this summer and so had to find something else to occupy her. She did contact some people who wanted camp counselor assistants, but they generally wanted someone older. So I encouraged her to pursue the mother's helper job that only required a minimum age of 12. She met with the mother and child and agreed to accept the job. While the pay is lower than I had anticipated, the mother says she did check the going rate, and I really believe she is not trying to take advantage in any way. Ok, so we confirmed on both ends. Just a day later, my daughter got called by one of the people she had called earlier. Apparently that job is still open. But my daughter had just committed herself to someone who is now counting on that. So I told her she has to tell that to the caller. You see, we are handicapped by integrity. On the other hand, a true bred macher would hold her cards and ask this woman how much the job pays and use her other jo…

Red nailpolish is bad news, or how you rate on the shidduch scale

from the 1930's check it out at

Wedding standards

Should you minimize or maximize? Check out Sephardi Lady's

The Quality of Infinity and the Pardes

This is what I thought of this morning. Those of you who have actually read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) by Robert Pirsigshould recall that the narrator had had a type of nervous breakdown. He recalled it starting from thinking about what do we really mean by "quality." I thought of the fact that this parallels that of a mathematician (can't recall the name) who went mad from attempting to divide by zero. I'm sure he knew the answer is infinity but was not satisfied with that, which is really more of a representation of the answer than the answer itself. There is an elusive quality to the grasp of the infinite in both the realm of language and numbers when it comes to representation, or to use the jargon -- the attempt to bridge the gap between signifier and signified. (A couple of years ago, a Dr. Anderson proposed a solution based on a new number - 'nullity' - which sits outside the conventional number line, but despite the boast…

Checking the price before agreeing to buy

The following was a real post on a neighborhood email list:"Hi, Does anyone know how to get the real estate taxes lowered? I am purchasing my first home in Woodmere. YIKES!!! I am wondering if there is a way to bring the taxes down - Prior to closing? Or after?? It's
very expensive (Over budget)Any ideas would help? Thanks"

There seems to be an assumption here that you can appeal to get your taxes lowered on the basis of entering into the contract without having actually reviewed the numbers and factoring it into the expenditures connected to the house. But the only basis I have ever heard of for lowering property taxes is conclusive proof that the assessment is out of line with comparable properties in the neighborhood. Inability to pay the taxes is not viewed by the powers that be as grounds for their reduction. While they may have been able to attempt to negotiate a lower purchase price from the sellers on the basis of the high taxes being a liability on the hous…

I do have a post in mind

that I hope to get to soon. Right now I will just announce that there have been major improvements on the site. I've designed a new banner and divided up some of the material online to make it easier to find. So please do visit and let me know what you think.

Quick is not right in context

Way, way back I put up a post on my now gone forever Wordpress blog entitled "One degree please, make it a double and hold the education" about the programs geared toward granting seminary girls a bachelor's degree after only a year (plus a summer or two) enrolled in the program with the degree granting college. There is also an option to get a master's in education and special ed or literacy. For nursing, though, the BS will be stretched out to 2 1/2 years. the slogan for the program is: "Earning a degree? Do it quick. Do it right." Can you guess what really, really bothers me about this? It is not merely the fact that what is "quick" is presented as the idea and equated with "right," though that is rather irksome. What really bothers me is the grammatical ignorance that the slogan reflects. Quick is an adjective, not an adverb. One cannot do a degree, or earn it [if you can apply that term to such a program], quick but rathe…