Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm in a New York State of Mind

There is something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now that, in light of recent events, I need to come out with. Out-of-Towners are obnoxious.

Generalization? Maybe. But it’s true. How many times do you New Yorkers have to listen to whining of a transplanted West Coaster complaining about the weather, or a Mid-Westerner complaining about the unfriendliness, or a Floridian complaining that he can’t watch the Heat games (which he now wants to do because the Heat are apparently good)?

All the time, that’s when. (Well, except for the Heat fan, because he won’t start following until the playoffs anyway.) If I had a nickel for every time I heard two OoTs complaining about how they have to live in New York, I’d be making money in a really weird way. And a lot of it.

In all their complaining about how terrible New York is, they never stop to realize that there is, in fact, a reason they live here. I will share with you a story about someone I know personally, who was a transplanted OoT, and finally achieved his dream of moving out of the Dreaded Town of Death. His claim was that in the town he in which he wanted to live, he could buy a house and the monthly mortgage would be equivalent to the rent he was currently paying. Once he moved out of the DToD, it did not take him long to realize that he was right about the mortgage, but miscalculated other things, like property tax in his new home town. Oh, and a salary for the same type of job he was doing here was much lower. It wasn’t long before he had to take on a second job, but he was happy because he was out of the DToD.

And that brings me to why OoTs are obnoxious. I’m not saying that New Yorkers are nice, or even that New York is a great place to live, or raise kids. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. There’s a decent possibility that I won’t stay here. To each their own. But please do me and the rest of New York a favor. When you have something that you hate about New York, don’t complain to us about it. Just fuggedaboutit. You make these claims and you expect us to try to defend the City. You are putting us New Yorkers in an awkward position. We know your complaints are infantile, and it was YOU who chose to live here. Grow up and stop whining.

As a friend pointed out to me, OoTs whine about how New Yorkers don't notice things because we're moving so quickly, yet all OOTers notice are negative things. They're such pessimists about NY that they close their eyes to all the countless times random strangers help a mother with her baby carriage on the subway steps, or stop to make sure someone is alright, or give directions and make sure you understand them, or take a picture for you several times until it comes out right, or give up a seat on the subway to an elderly person, a pregnant person, or even to a child and parent, or a student with a heavy backpack or hold the subway door for you if you're running to catch the train, or elevator doors.

I hope I’m not making New Yorkers out to be Gandhi or anything. There is much left to be desired. New Yorkers can be jerks. But so can everybody else. This is America. The rest of the world hates us more than OoTs hate New York. Why? For the same reason OoTs hate New York. We’re brash, ignorant, arrogant and rude. Yes, it is a generalization, and I know you OoTs are saying to yourselves “that’s not me they are complaining about.” Yes it is. You are American. Therefore you are what Americans represent. New Yorkers are the same way. Not all of us (in fact, not most of us) are how New Yorkers are represented in your minds. (To tell you the truth, being from Queens, I have these same feelings about Brooklynites, but I’m not a jerk, so I don’t say it to their faces.)

When you yell at us as to why your home town was so much better than our home town, it annoys us. In fact, most of us can’t go on the offensive either. You know why? We’ve never been to you quaint little one-supermarket, two-traffic light, everybody-lives-within-a-block-radius-of-each-other-so we-only-have-to-pay-for-one-wireless-internet-provider-but-that-was-only-recently-because-the-internet-just-got-here-five-months-ago town. We’re New Yorkers, after all, and we don’t care. The reason you feel so comfortable attacking our City is that you know we have nothing to say about yours, and it’s not only because many of us can’t remember if it’s Denver or Detroit that’s in Delaware. It’s that we never bothered to figure it out. Because in the end, we just don’t care.

Yes, that was sarcasm. But OoTs really get annoyed when New Yorkers point out the OoT’s ignorance at basic New York geography, like Brooklyn being to the southwest of Queens, the various ways of getting to New Jersey, and how to get to the Five Towns. But when New Yorkers show ignorance of some OoT geography, like how close Memphis is to St. Louis, or That the largest city in Ohio is Columbus, or thinking that Oxnard is some sort of genetic defect, OoTs lose their minds. They call it “Typical New York Thinking.” I’ve got news for all you OoTs: If you live in New York, you should know more about it than we know about a town which we’ve never visited! I’ve known OoTs who have lived in the City that still don’t know the difference between the Harlem River Drive and the West Side Highway, or that SoHo and NoHo are named that for a reason, or which towns make up the Five Towns. Get with the program, OoTs: YOU’RE JUST LIKE US!

Now, I assume that I don’t have enough of a readership to suggest the following, but I would like to see other New Yorker’s opinion on OoTs. Do these types of things bother you as much as they bother me? And to the OoTs, where am I wrong? I know (if you read this at all), you were appalled at it. “How can he even compare us to New Yorkers,” you’re probably exclaiming. “He must be a New Yorker. It’s Dallas that’s in Delaware. Everybody knows that!” So please, I invite all OoTs to explain to me why I’m wrong. I will call it “The New York States of Mind.” So bring it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's the End of the Summer as We Know it...And I Feel Fine

When I was in grade school, the thing I (like so many of my classmates) looked forward to the most was not having to go to school. Whether this meant 4:00 (or 5:40 in middle school) when the school day ended or that magical time in June when school was out for two months, we counted down the time until we would be free.

However, once we came back from a summer vacation, we ran into the problem faced by many students all over the country – we forgot. I mean everything. I remember not being able to recall how to do simple algebra problems at the beginning of eighth grade. I wasn’t alone. Many teachers had to spend countless days and weeks going over the things from the previous years that we had supposedly learned already.

Even at that age, after a few weeks of vacation, I was ready to go back to school. Did I enjoy the vacation time? Of course I did! I had a blast over summer break. Was I upset that I had to go back to school? You bet! But in the back of my mind, I knew that I had gone nearly comatose lying in front of a TV for 14 hours a day. (This was before the internet made its way into my house and it’s not like I had a car to go anywhere, and most of my friends were still in sleep-away camp, as my camp always ended earlier than most.)

It always seemed to me that the summer vacation was too long. I much rather would have had a few smaller vacation periods throughout the year. Then I thought that maybe the teachers would rather have the summers off. It makes sense. If you had your summers off, you could get a second job for those two months of the year. However, these suspicions left my mind once I began to teach. I now know that as a teacher, I would rather have a number of shorter breaks throughout the school year than one 2 ½ month vacation in the summer.

For those of you who aren’t teachers, there are two times in a year that drive you batty. The first is October; you have no vacation days in October and it’s the same routine for that entire month. Once you hit November, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving hit and you get some sort of a reprieve. September is the start of the school year, and you don’t start until after Labor Day. December has Christmas break; January has mid-winter break; February has President’s Day/Week (depending on your district). March is the other time in the year that just drags on. No breaks at all; not even a random American holiday that extends your weekend an extra day. April has spring break; May has Memorial Day and June has school’s end. There are plenty of vacation times in school.

However, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I am against homework. Work should be done in school; once students are dismissed, they should be free to do whatever interests them. It is not fair to have them cooped up all day indoors and then turn them loose in order to do more work. Homework should be limited per night and per week. Having said this, I wouldn’t be against extending school hours. The New York public school students are in school for about six hours a day. There is no reason not to have them there longer.

A 9 to 5 school day is not a terrible idea. Additionally, teachers would be able to make a higher salary and students would get home not long before their parents (who would also presumably be working a 9 to 5. This would lessen the possibility of a child doing things they aren’t supposed to be doing. In my mind, the main time a child has for getting into situations that could only do harm is the time in between dismissal from school and parents coming home.

Having said all this, I am pleased to bring you this story on changing around the school year in Indianapolis, Indiana. The school year would no longer have a giant gap in the summer, but smaller periods of vacation spread throughout the year. Now, this would be detrimental for programs such as summer camps and other programs in the summer. Additionally, teachers would have to reschedule any long-standing summer plans of their own. However, I look at it this way. If programs like camps will be changing, it opens the door for other vacation possibilities. It provides a possibility of a three or five week program for vacationing students. Remember- although the students will be off from work, it doesn’t mean that the parents are off. There will need to be some sort of available program for bored children. Additionally, the article indicates that there will be an additional 20 classes a year. This (hopefully) means more pay for the teachers and less homework for the students.

As is written in the article, the vote goes up two days before Thanksgiving. I hope that a win for this rule is just the beginning of a nationwide trend, especially if the change helps “a district criticized for low standardized-test scores and high dropout rates.” I don’t know the actual numbers, but from how some people talk about New York, we can’t be too great on our standardized-test scores or dropout rates.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Boxer Rebellion

You know that there is a major problem in the economic system when…well…when it pays to be lazy. Just take a look at this article from msnbc.

You know the economy has become truly screwy when it pays more to collect jobless benefits than to get an actual job.

The economy is so weak and jobs are so scarce that some people are finding that it isn’t worth it to work. These workers say that’s because the only jobs available are part-time or low-wage gigs that would not only be a big step down from their previous careers but also would not even pay enough to cover their expenses.

About 8 million people are now collecting some form of unemployment aid, but how much they take home varies widely depending on what state they live in and how much they made previously. In Massachusetts, for example, the maximum benefit is $943 per week, including an allowance for dependents, while in Mississippi it is just $235 a week.

In August, the average weekly benefit was $293.54, according to U.S. Department of Labor. On average, unemployment pays about 47 percent of what people were making before they lost their jobs, according to the department's latest data from 2009.

James Davis, 34, made more than $30 an hour as a unionized construction worker specializing in commercial framing before he was laid off in June 2009. He expected to find a similar job within a few months, but the construction industry was tanking and he could not find anyone hiring journeymen like himself, he said.

“It was the worst time,” he recalled.

The only job openings he found paid around $10 an hour. That’s much less than the $15 an hour, or about $600 a week, he collects on unemployment in Washington state, and not enough to keep up with his family’s expenses.

“If I took home way less money it wouldn’t be beneficial for me,” he said.

Instead, Davis, who lives in Puyallup, Wash., has opted to go back to school to become a vehicle mechanic. While in school, he is allowed to continue collecting unemployment benefits for up to six months.

Even if a job in construction were to come up now, Davis is not sure he would give up on his mechanic training. That’s partly because last June, he did land a good job back in his old field, only to be laid off again five weeks later. He worries the same thing would happen again.

“I've got to wonder how long it’s going to last,” he said.

There's no hard data on how many people are turning away work because it pays less than unemployment. The general rule for people collecting unemployment is that they must be actively looking for work.

Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, said unemployed workers also could lose their benefits if they decline a suitable position that is reasonably fitted to the person’s skills and experience. But specifics vary by state and those criteria aren't necessarily tied to how much that position pays.

In Washington state, where Davis lives, workers are not required to take a job that pays less than their unemployment benefit, said Sheryl Hutchison, communications director for the state Employment Security Department.

Laid-off workers are generally entitled to a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment pay through their state, and federal extensions mean some workers can collect up to 99 weeks of payouts. With the jobless rate hovering near 10 percent, it now takes jobseekers about 33 weeks, on average, to find a new job.

The bill collector's tale
Those long job searches have prompted some to take jobs that pay even less than their unemployment benefits, although it hasn't always worked out well.

After Robert Nasuti was laid off as a technology consultant in March 2009, he spent more than a year looking for work in his field. Although the Myerstown, Pa., resident, was making ends meet on his unemployment benefits, he hated not working.

“The wear and tear of being at home, having nothing to do every day, nowhere to go, that’s what really started to wear on me,” he said. “I like to work.”

That’s how he ended up taking a low-paying temporary job as a bill collector for student loans.

“I thought it would be the responsible thing to do,” he said.

He quit after working just one week. He said he was asked to call grandparents who had co-signed student loans and threaten to withhold Social Security payments if they didn’t pay up, he said.

Quitting left him ineligible for unemployment pay. These days, the 26-year-old is working 20 hours a week, for $8 an hour, at a drugstore. He’s living rent-free at his dad’s house but still barely scrapes by.

He now wishes he’d stayed on unemployment and had never taken the bill collector job.

“I regret it every day. It was like a chance that I took, and I thought it was a good route to take, and it just blew up in my face completely,” he said.

With so much competition for so few jobs, many jobseekers are finding that they have to accept some drop from their pre-layoff salary to get back to work. In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study of displaced workers who had lost a job between 2007 and 2009 that they had held for three or more years. The study found that 36 percent of those who found new work took a pay cut of 20 percent or more.

“Most people on (unemployment insurance) aren’t there because they are unwilling to take jobs that pay less than UI,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in an e-mail. “They’re there because they can’t find jobs, period.”

After seeing firsthand how bad it is out there, some jobseekers say they’ve opted to take work that pays less than unemployment because it seemed more secure than counting on something better to come along.

Christopher Trimm, 46, had just exhausted his initial 26 weeks of benefits when he accepted a security guard job that paid $11 an hour. That’s slightly less than the $12 an hour he was making on unemployment in California and half his previous pay as a 411 operator for a phone company.

Trimm, who lives in the Los Angeles area, is now making $10 an hour in a different security job; he agreed to the wage reduction in exchange for a regular, full-time schedule with weekends off.

After watching his wife go through a job loss and difficult job search, and then spending six months looking for work himself, Trimm said he felt he couldn’t risk turning a job down, even if the pay was lower than his benefits.

He also worried that the growing gap in his resume would make it harder to get work.

“Ethically speaking, I’m a worker, you know,” he said. “I owed it to the people of the state of California not to be living off of their dime.”

Here, you find a case where a man completely lost out because he was trying to be a productive member of society. He thought that it was better to be doing something than sitting at home all day, collecting government money. When that didn’t work out, he ended up just sitting at home all day.

And it’s not like there aren’t jobs out there for these people to have. These jobs exist. Just it doesn’t pay to take a job that’ll pay less than unemployment is paying. The whole idea is that this promotes laziness. It all means that some job isn’t getting done (at least not by someone qualified) and the qualified people are sitting at home. Companies know that the job market is tough. If people are desperate to get jobs, they could offer a lot less than the job is worth. The potential employees won’t take it because it’s beneath them, and my taxes (aside from going to pay the unemployed) will end up being done by Renee, who is took ACT 101 AND 102 in college.

This is no longer just an issue when it comes to universal health care. It’s everywhere. From qualifying for Food Stamps to qualifying for financial tuition aid, more and more people are finding ways to beat the system, and they’re making more money than many who work.

If you have facebook, you have probably been forwarded the letter written by Dr. R. Starner Jones, and if you haven't, you can read it here along with the confirmation that it is in fact an real letter. This is just one side effect, no! DIRECT EFFECT of the crisis our society is about to endure.

My knowledge of the Russian Revolution and Soviet Russia is slim, but as an English major in college and former teacher, I am pretty knowledgeable in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Boxer, the sturdy worker, found his ends in a glue factory, while characters like the Sheep continued, not prosperously, but well enough to live. If you follow the book, the Sheep were simply going along with whatever was told to them (much like actual sheep do) by the pigs.

The way we as a society are headed is by way of the animals in Animal Farm (and presumably the USSR. Those who work hard to make a living will end up in the proverbial glue factory, while those who find a way around working will end up getting by. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Renee has informed me that I haven’t filled everything out yet.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Two recent events got me to thinking about how different people observe me. This particular situation is odd because although I tend to be quite conscious of my image, I never realized how different some people’s opinions of me actually are.

A recent conversation with my friend, S., began with him telling me that he has a joke to tell me that was a little inappropriate and I was his only friend that he felt comfortable telling. A little odd for a compliment, but I went with it. The joke was **JOKE HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR OBSCENITY** It wasn’t a bad joke, but clearly inappropriate.

The next week, I walked into a room where three of my friends who until that point had been talking and laughing loudly enough for me to hear bits and pieces of their conversation through the walls of the next room, immediately stopped their chatter when I walked through the door. Knowing full well what they were talking about and assuming that I knew why they stopped, I asked “What were you guys talking about?” Answer: “nothing.”

A conversation about something that seemed only semi-inappropriate in my eyes was apparently too vile for me to hear and be a part of. It certainly was not too unsuitable for me to simply be there and listen. However, it was apparently uncomfortable for these friends to continue such a conversation in front of me.

I’m not upset at either one. However, I would like to know what it is about people that causes their opinion of me to be different from one another. My current theory is that it has nothing to do with me. I’m wondering if it is simply who else they hang out with. Am I more apt than S. Lining’s other friends to talk about something like this? Am I less inclined to do so than the other group? I don’t know, but it’s the best I’ve got right now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Date Planner

So apparently I have become quite the dating pro. It has gotten to the point where I have multiple people going out nightly, using a date that I planned for them. This week alone, I have created six different dates; two dates for the same couple. It turns out that I have dated enough girls varying in hashkafa and lengths of time so that no matter where in the relationship a couple might be holding and no matter their backgrounds, I have most likely been there already and have at least one (usually more)place to suggest.

Here are just a few of the criteria that go into choosing a date spot for other people:

  • where the guy is from
  • where the girl is from
  • what number date is it
  • how long in between dates has it been
  • where the has couple gone so far
  • what were the last three dates
  • what they are in the mood for (i.e. quiet talk, food, fun, etc.)
  • how far of a commute
  • budget
  • (in one recent case) who is driving
  • an interest someone had professed during a previous date
  • time of day
  • time of year
And there can be many more. Now I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this what every guy does when he makes a date for himself? Yes. Exactly. Except I’m not him. I simply plan a date – not based on what I would do next – but on what HE would do next.

If you are a guy that is having trouble coming up with an inexpensive date or you’re a girl who’s
desperately looking to have fun with that nice guy who just doesn’t seem to have a personality, send me an email at jugheads_hat[at]yahoo[dot]com.

So why aren’t I married yet if I am such a good date planner? Well, that’s a story for like fifty more posts. Or just read the posts I’ve already written. That should give you some idea.

For your conveniance, I have put together a handy Date Planner form to fill out. If you are interested in filling one out, please email me for a copy of the form.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wedding Talk

In a recent conversation with a friend, I discovered that one of the two of us is an idiot. Please help me decide. In order to ensure non-biased rulings, I will not tell you which side I was taking.

The following is a dramatization of a discussion about marriage (about time Jug got back to that, right?):

Jim: It’s not fair. How come the girl gets more gifts than the guy?
Ira: What do you mean?
J: My wife will be getting a shaitel, a fall, a bracelet, a yichud room present and oh yeah, a ring!
I: And you?
J: I get a watch and a shas
I: Okay, but in many cases, you also get a yichud room gift, and sometimes she doesn’t. Also, some people don’t get a bracelet. They propose with a ring like the olden days.
J: Still, that’s not what most of our friends (including me) do.
I: Okay, but you’re forgetting two things. 1) She gets a shaitel, but you get to NOT wear a shaitel.
J: So?
I: SO?! It’s not an easy thing to cover up your hair. I’m sure it makes things hotter and uncomfortable, AND you’re covering up your hair. Girls like hair. I think. Don’t think that just because everyone you know does it, girls don’t struggle with it. I would buy a shaitel if it meant not having to wear it for the rest of my life. It’s well worth the purchase. 2) You’re getting one more thing. Her.
J: So? She’s getting me.
I: Not in the same way.
J: Of course it’s the same way! She’ll benefit from me in the same way I’ll benefit from her!
I: Don’t let HER hear that. It’s not the same way because she doesn’t give you the ring and say “Harayatah m’kudash li.”
J: I would never let her hear that.
I: Why not?
J: I wouldn’t want to hear the consequences.
I: Would you mind if she said it about you?
J: No.
I: So why do you think that is?
J: Because girls are crazy.
I: Maybe, but it’s also because it’s true.
J: You’re an idiot.

Okay readers, what do you think?
Do girls get too much stuff?
Do guys not get enough?
Is there too much gift-giving altogether?
Do you side with Jim, Ira or neither?
What about the shaitel thing?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Simchas Torah Song Guy

I haven't done a PiTYI in a while, so here's one that I noticed over Simchas Torah that every Young Israel needs to possess: The Simchas Torah Song Guy.

Easily recognizable by his sheet of paper or index card that dates back to the Renaissance, th STSG controls the hakafos in a well organized manner. The songs written on this paper are generally so over done that they almost make fellow shul-goers want to sit through a flight attendant safety demonstration.

The one thing not written on that card is the key in which to begin those songs. This is planned perfectly so that by the time the fourth hakafa is reached, nobody has a voice left and Ain Adir is barely audible.

Our STSG is also responsible for making sure that eventually the Sifrei Torah do go back into the Aron Kodesh so we don't sing S'u Shearim until Thanksgiving. That can get to be a little touchy as (of course) the Sifrei Torah always tend end up in the hands of those who don't really want to give them back when they are asked to. To combat this problem, our STSG shrewdly raises the key. This way, when nobody can reach the highest note, the song dies.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It is a sad, sad day in America when the most widely-read writers are determined not by the complexity of their work, but the ability to keep their message to 140 characters or less.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lucas Duda


Lucas Duda. That's who.

It was a very bleak day for Lucas Duda as he put on his Mets' uniform for the last time in the 2010 season. It was tough being a September Call-up for a team that was going nowhere and making sure to get there as fast possible. As he laced up his cleats, he thought "I wish there were a group of Jewish guys with nothing to do with their Sunday afternoon in October other than to come and cheer me up and cheer me on.

Wish granted.

On Sunday, a group of 30 or so staff members from a summer camp attended by this blogger was sitting in the left field seats of New York's Citi Field, a cat call's distance away from Mr. Duda. In the midst of a totally meaningless game (the Mets finished in fourth place while their opponents, the Washington Nationals, finished last), these young men brought joy, not only to a rookie outfielder, but to a section, entire stadium and even the next day's Daily News readers.

Amidst the enthralling 2-1, 14 inning Nationals win (in which many unfamiliar fans learned of the existence of a 14th inning stretch), many Duda-related cheers were invented, bringing much joy to not only Duda, who acknowledged their existence a number of times throughout the game, but to the entire section 135 of Citi Field. Some laughed at the creativity, while others even suggested their own cheers. Here's a brief list of some of the cheers performed for the newest Mets' fan favorite:

  • Lucas Duda! Duda Duda-ay. Duda Duda-ay. Duda Duda Duda-ay (to the tune of "Numa Numa")
  • Lucas, I am your father!
  • Zippidy Duda!
  • Duda the Maccabee! (Suggested by another fan)
  • And the ever popular- GIMME A D!...
Still, this paled in comparison to the way in which this rambunctious group of whippersnappers succeeding in starting the wave which went around the entire Citi Field a record 2 1/2 times!*

However, the residual effects of this groups outing at City Field did not become apparent until the following day. In the 14th inning, Mets' manager Jerry Manuel inserted abnormally maligned pitcher, Oliver Perez. In a show of unity with the rest of the Mets' faithful, the group paused in their admiration of Duda for a brief minute to welcome the pitcher with a beautifully arranged harmony of boos.

Immediately following the chorus, the group went back to cheering on their hero. This round included one more new cheer of MVP, which soon changed to MVD! However, in his Daily News article, writer Andy Martino had a different interpretation of the cheer:

Oliver Perez provided a fitting end to a season defined in part by his occupation of a wasted roster spot. The $36 million reliever entered in the 14th inning, and began by striking out a batter.

Exasperated Mets fans had not lost their wit, and started an "MVP" chant. The humor, though, soon turned to boos, as Perez hit a batter and walked the next three, forcing in the deciding run in a 2-1 loss to Washington in 14 innings at Citi Field.**

Yes, there were that few fans at the game.

By the time the game was over, the group had made a name for itself. Even as the guys davened Mincha, passers-by recognized them and made a point to stop and begin cheering for The Dudanator.

All in all, a good time was had by all. Any ideas for a Lucas Duda t-shirt?

*only stopped due to something more interesting than the wave happening on the field- namely in between innings
**For other articles on this chant, click here.