Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Makeup Can Be Murder

Wouldn't that be a great title for a book in which the makeup artist kills the victim while applying something deadly? I was speaking with a makeup artist today who told me that, in fact, airbrush makeup, can prove hazardous, or even deadly if it is mishandled. She said that the great pressure can be damaging in the hands of someone who does not have the right skills. Interesting, and a great premise for a murder mystery. I was also thinking of "A Flawless Death" -- for the flawless coverage airbrush promises or "Looks to Die For." Free titles up for grabs here for aspiring writers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

There actually is a book on this

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Deeply Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine

Believe it or not, the author does not reside in the 5 Towns or even LI. She based this book on her experience living in California, which actually offers parallels to affluent NY Jewish life. If you think I'm being unduly harsh, consider the conversation I head a woman having into her cell phone at the gym: "I feel bad about spending $250; it's just a beach bag. It's not like it's leather or anything -- you can't buy a leather bag for $250. He [referring to her husband who has to bankroll this beach bag] is good about these things, but I can see where he's coming from [in questioning the purchase; neverthelss, her mind is made up]. I want it."

Here are some quotes from an interview with Madleine Levine that appear in:

What affluent parents tend to do is to see the child they wish they had -- not the child they have. Parents have this notion that their child is supposed to be a certain way, because performance is so highly valued in affluent communities. Parental love has become contingent on performance, which is very damaging.
I just had parents who came into my office with their crying daughter and said, "We just wasted $160,000." Why did they think that? Because they sent their kid to a private school and she wants to go to the University of Colorado instead of, say, Georgetown.
Kids aren't having the experiences that are mandatory for healthy child development -- and that's a period of time to be left alone, to figure out who you are, to experiment with different things, to fail, and to develop a repertoire of responses to challenge. They have no interior life. It's all about performance -- and performance is not real learning.

A sign that chivalry is not only dead but buried

This past Shabbos, there was a kiddush in shul. My youngest daughter really enjoys kiddush chulent and kugel, so I piled some on a plate for her. She wanted to sit while eating. So I looked for a chair and spotted an empty one in the corner. I brought her over. But just as she was about to sit down, a boy of about 8 or so came over and declared that it was his seat. Mind you, he was not even within a couple of feet of said seat when we approached, though he seemed to consider himself to have been koneh it, nevertheless. So much for a young man giving up a seat for a young lady. Here he required a young lady to give up a seat that he declares his own even after having walked away from it and leaving no sign of its occupancy! Definitely a macher in the making here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Passing up the chance for a bargain

I sometimes buy flowers in the local kosher store. There is a selection of daisies, mums, and carnation in modest bouquets for $2.99. These flowers are not only very affordable, but tend to live through at least 2 Shabbosos, unlike roses and other delicates blooms that last just a few days and cost far more. I picked up one today. When it was rung up, I pointed out an error. It rang up for just 13 cents. I know that these are supposed to be $2.99. But the cashier did not make the error; the person who had put the price label on had. It really did say 13 cents. So, theoretically, I suppose I was entitled to buy at the price marked. Still, I was certain this was an error on their part, and just as I point out errors in favor of the store, I point out errors in my own favor. So I gave up the savings of $2.86. I am not certain if that was lifnim mishuras hadin or required, given the facts that there was a taus on the store's part, but also a general rule that items sell for the price marked.

How kosher "Chicken Soup for the Soul" is produced

I saw the following posting on one of the frum Yahoo groups:
Do you have an incredible story you'd like to share about that time you
gave tzedakah and unexpectedly received so much more in return? Do you
have a special miracle that "coincidentally" occurred right after you
gave ma'aser (10%), or any other type of charitable donation?
With great excitement for the upcoming bestseller about the miracle of
giving charity, we would like to invite you to contribute your own
personal and inspirational stories to be included in this incredibly
touching book. The goal of the book is to inspire people to open up
their hearts and allow abundance to flow in and out of their lives
through keeping the one mitzvah that Hashem welcomes everyone to test
Him with – Tzedakah - Charity.
Please let us know if you would like your name to remain anonymous, and
we will gladly change it for the book. We are looking forward to
reading your wonderful stories!

Now my cynical observation on this is twofold: One, it is very easy for someone to get out a book when all the material is provided by others. Two, such works could be categorized under the logical fallacy of "stacking the deck," [ For every person for whom it has worked out, there could be ten for whom it hasn't, but they do not get represented. ] not to mention the "post hoc" or faulty causation fallacy [B may follow A, but that does not mean that A caused B]. Yes, there is a power to tzedaka. However, there is a danger to leading people on with a work that makes it appear to be a "guaranteed" avenue to getting what you want. This announcement didn't mention segulas, but points to the same type of magical thinking with which certain sgulos are promoted. While tzedaka is most assuredly a good thing and is permitted to be done for ulterior motives (as in selah ze al manas sheyichye beni), there are many factors in the direction of people's lives and wishes don't always come true.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The "Amazon Tax"

Last month here:
Kallah Magazine: the blog for the magazine: No mere tarrifs but an outright ban for NY
I blogged about New York's state law requiring out of state businesses to collect NY sales tax if they advertise within NY. This has major ramifications for the internet companies that advertise with NY based affiliate programs. I wondered at the fact that people just accepted this imposition on trade within the country.
Facing budget deficits and a slowing economy, the Paterson administration enacted two provisions this year aimed at boosting state tax revenues by tens of millions of dollars. One that became known as the "Amazon tax" requires the Internet giant and other online retailers to collect city and state sales tax on all goods shipped to New York State.
But now Amazon is doing battle, as you can read in the source for the quote above.
Amazon has challenged the provision on constitutional grounds, arguing that it violates the Commerce Clause and citing a 1992 Supreme Court ruling in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota that reaffirmed that a business must have a "physical presence" in a state in which it is assessed sales taxes.

There is a Federal law that the new NY law may violate. Nevertheless, NY insists it does not want a loss of revenue. And the quote from the NY side does not address the legal question at all but only takes a limited view of the economy on a very local level:

Mr. Weiner, a candidate for mayor in New York City next year, defended the bill in a statement. "New York's business community, particularly our vital financial services sector, has been hammered with business activity taxes in states and localities where they do not operate," he said. "It's bad for our economy and kills jobs. Period."

What of the general economy?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2 pockets of literal thinking

I am working on clearing up my desk today and happened across a clipping I had saved to use as the subject of a blog post. This appeared in a Northern NJ based Jewish publication in Sivan. It's a business card sized ad that says on top: "What's in Your Pocket?" It's not about keys, wallets, or even a segulah thing but 2 coins. As it explains [capitalization in source]:
Rebbe Simcha Bunim Said to His Students:
Every person should have two pockets;
And he can use each when he needs it:
In one pocket is placed the statement, "The world was created for me."
And in the other pocket: "I am dust and ashes."

Below that is a picture of the coins, but it is not clear enough to fully make out what they say or what the one on the left actually illustrates. Yet, for only $14.95 per set, you can have this "HUMILITY AND JOY COIN SET" to allow you "LIVE THE WISDOM" by carrying them "IN YOUR POCKETS."

What a pity that so few women's skirts come with pockets. Do you think it would work in a handbag?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Survey for SJFs

I'm posting below what was passed on to me in an email. I don't know the originator of the survey.

I am a PhD graduate student completing my dissertation in Clinical Psychology at Hofstra. My dissertation is about dating and dating anxiety in Jewish females. <> I am looking for women who are 18 and over, who consider themselves Jewish, and who consider themselves single. All the women have to do is visit:

to fill out my 10-15 minute questionnaire. Those who are interested and qualify can also receive free treatment for difficulties with dating. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks in advance.

Best, Rebecca Sachs

Are you Jewish? Female? Single? I'm sure you have something to say about dating!

Rebecca Sachs is a doctoral candidate completing her PhD. at Hofstra University's Clinical Psychology program. She is doing her dissertation on the dating experiences of Jewish women. Part of the study is an online survey that takes about 10-15 minutes to fill out. Please take the time to fill out the survey if you are a female who is:
  • 18 year or over
  • consider yourself to be Jewish (ranging anywhere in observance and beliefs from the completely unaffiliated, secular individual to the ultra-orthodox long as you consider yourself to be Jewish)
  • consider yourself to be single (ranging not-dating at all to being in the early stages of a relationship, as long as you consider yourself to be single)
  • heterosexual
You can find the questionnaire at:

Thanks in advance for your help. Hopefully, this study will be help begin in a better understanding of the positive and negative aspects of dating in the Jewish world and come up with some solutions for the problems which exist. Feel free to forward the link along to others!
If you have any questions you can contact Rebecca at

Desperately Seeking Shidduch

and we do mean desperately. Psst, want to make some money? Get in on this shidduch sca --er, I mean solution. See Orthonomics