Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taxes

Here's a coupon for $25 bucks off of an H & R Block tax prep for a new client.

I've seen those commercials for the "Refund Anticipation" pre-paid debit cards. I can't imagine any situation other than desperation that would warrant someone getting one of those. First of all, you pay fees on this, so you lose a small portion of your refund. Second of all, putting your tax refund on pre-paid debit card is ridiculous. If you need the money that bad, you should be withholding less and stop giving the government an interest free loan. Putting the money on a debit card is just guaranteeing that you will spend it sooner. It won't earn any interest and won't stand a chance of being put away.

Unless you really, really need it, sock that refund away. Put it in a retirement fund or a savings account that you don't touch. If you feel the need to treat yourself, take up to half the money and blow it on a cool gadget or whatever it is you'd like, but put at least half the refund away and feel good about it.

Pretty soon, refunds will all be issued electronically, directly into your designated bank account. Hopefully that will do away with "Refund Anticipation" ripoff loans.

Music is Better Than Chocolate (sometimes)


I love chocolate. Too much. But there are times when hearing an old song that I used to love is even better than eating chocolate. Yes. I know it sounds crazy, but the wave of recognition and pleasure that washes over me when I hear that song for the first time in a long time is great. It bring back memories of much happier times, a much sweeter part of my life, and it reminds me that it's possible to have little pockets of perfection in your life. There are songs that are truly perfect.

I don't know why, but I recently downloaded George Harrison's "Cloud Nine." I hadn't heard it in (literally) years, and it just made me feel so much better. It was like running into an old friend.

Like Stevie says, "Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand."

Sorting Things Out

One of the sad ironies of dating after you are divorced is that because you know how great marriage can be, you are even more anxious to get married, but because you know how horrible marriage can be you are twice as careful about not marrying the wrong person.

Booming biological clocks aside, I really do want to be married again. There is no question that your community status rises when you marry and that friends and even close family look at you differently. Perhaps it shouldn't be that way, but it is. It is also nice to come home to someone, even when things are bad, to have someone to call with that good news, or even more so, with that bad news. It's nice to have someone to struggle along with financially (assuming that person actually treats you as a partner) and nice to have a permanent date and vacation partner. For the times when my marriage was good, I really enjoyed being someone's wife, having a husband. I miss it.

Sometimes divorced people tend to eulogize their marriages, and because they are out of the pain, they can selectively forget how miserable it was. I do this occasionally, and when I slip into this amnesia state, I give myself a little virtual slap across the face. Snap out of it WebGirl! The fighting, the silences, the passive-aggressive games, the lack of love and affection, the mocking, the religious alienation...it all comes rushing back. And the memories make me want to hide inside my house and never leave, never go out on a date again with these terribly, terribly flawed men, who will make my life a living hell if I God forbid marry any of the them.

Balance. Yes, I know. Balance. You have to balance the reasonable part of your fear with your longing to be with someone again. It sounds lovely. Try living it.

I know I've been depressed lately, and I've been struggling against it. The stupid crying jags that punctuated my marriage are back, maybe as commas and not as periods, but they are back. I've been trying to push myself, to force myself to do the things I enjoy whether I feel like doing them or not, to distract myself and not fall into that chasm of self-pity and self-loathing that is so very destructive and ugly and probably contributed a great deal toward the final demise of my marriage.

Today, I did something I've done only twice before. I wrote to someone on Frumster. He doesn't have the type of profile that would normally attract me, the one that's funny and light and the kind I want to read twice. His was more serious and brief and to the point. He's a little older and he's decent looking but will never appear in GQ. He's accomplished and educated, sounds sincerely frum, and is tall. I just want to try some new things. This is definitely new. I'm not overly invested in it either way.

I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

President on Facebook

I trolled Facebook tonight to see how many presidential candidates had Facebook entries.

Hillary, Obama, Rudy, Romney, Edwards (HORRE...oh, the horror, the horror...). McCain was mysteriously absent from Facebook. Hmm.

BTW, hands-down, Obama had the most supporters on FB. Yeesh.

Soup


I was stuck in Five Towns tonight with about an hour to kill, so I went into Stop & Shop to do some grocery shopping.

I eat a lot of soup. It's easy, warms me up in the winter, and is preparation-free. But kosher canned soup costs about 50% more than its non-kosher counterpart, mostly because it's made by "heimishe" brands, like Manishewitz or Streits. I was excited to find a can of Stop & Shop brand vegetable soup with a good hechsher on it. Two bucks a can. It doesn't take much to excite me these days.

I was standing in line, waiting my turn at the cashier. As my turn came up, I was hit by a wave, no, a monsoon, of body odor. We are talking b.o. of unimaginable proportions. I think I can still smell it. I literally gagged a little. I turned to the source of the miasma, the teenage cashier. He looked normal. He looked clean. He seemed to be wearing clean clothes. His hair seemed ungreasy. But there it was, and it was choking me. I began to wish I hadn't bought so many cans of soup. I started bagging my groceries myself to move things along. As he finished ringing me up and I thanked him, the guy in back of me startled both of us and said "Whoa! Dude!"
I turned around. He was addressing the unfortunate cashier.

"Dude, you gotta get a shower! Oh man, you are killing us. What the f___ is the problem, dude? Soap and water, man."

All true, but was it necessary to shout that? Did he have to embarrass the poor clerk in front of everyone? And believe me, he was quite embarrassed. He met my eyes and then he turned red. And looked at his feet. And he mumbled something.

"I have a condition."

"What man? Speak up?"

"I have a condition that makes me sweat. I'm taking these steroids for a thing I have."

I felt horrible. Poor kid. He was so terribly embarrassed. I wanted to throttle the jerk in back of me for humiliating him, the jerk who didn't apologize and actually seemed proud of himself for shaming the poor kid.

It's so easy to be nice. Why do people have to act like asses?

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Not There, or How Sunday Really Turned Out


Well, it started out as an evening that I was supposed to spend with a girlfriend. We were going to grab some chickfood on Kings Highway in Brooklyn and then go and see Juno. And of course, she canceled on me.

Why is it that these days, whenever I make plans with someone, there is about a 70-30% possibility that he/she will cancel?

Sigh.

So as I was settling in for an exciting evening of throwing out papers and cleaning out boxes, my friend Shmuel called me. He and his boyfriend were going to see the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There in the Village and would I want to come along? Ok, why not. I'm actually a huge Dylan fan. I love "Blood on the Tracks."

Sidestep: in 1999, I went to see Bob Dylan and Paul Simon play at Madison Square Garden. It was the only time I had ever heard Dylan live. I was a little curious as to how that peculiar combination would work out musically. Both men were poets. Both were musical products of the sixties and seventies. Both were hyper-talented. Both were anomalies of popular music, for very different reasons. I expected to hear Dylan twanging out: "Hello darkness, my old friennnnnd." But I discovered that Dylan can be conventionally melodic when he wants to...that signature twangy quality to his voice is something he can turn on and off. The concert was beautiful; two mega-artists paying tribute to each other without being phonies, without any hype. Hearing Dylan sing "Sound of Silence" with Simon and Simon belting out "Like a Rolling Stone" with his heart falling out of his voice was incredible. I've been to a ton of concerts; this one was memorable.

So back to the movie. I'm Not There is weird as hell. It's not a conventional movie with a storyline. Six different actors, including a woman and a small black child, play Bob Dylan. Ok. Well, I guess they play "aspects" of Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan the superstar, Bob Dylan the rebel, Bob Dylan the outlaw, Bob Dylan the husband and father, Bob Dylan the druggie, Bob Dylan the scared child, etc.. It was hard to follow all the stories and all the characters...the movie kept weaving around timelines too. One minute it was the late 1800's in the Wild West, and the next minute it was 1970s London. After a while, I gave up and just tried to enjoy the movie in the moment; that worked much better.

Cate Blanchett gave an INCREDIBLE performance as the dark, drugged-out Dylan of the seventies, the character named Jude Quinn. She nailed his mannerisms to a tee. It was very strange watching a woman play such a masculine role, but she was believable and good. She definitely took some artistic license with her interpretation of Dylan. I watched some of the YouTube clips of the real Dylan living the scenes that the film portrayed (here's one, if you're curious), and the real Dylan wasn't nearly as angry and belligerent as Jude Quinn. The real Dylan had a sense of humor, and was earnest without being pissed-off. It seemed to me like the real Dylan thought most things were funny. Jude Quinn was always enraged. But, even with her liberal interpretation of Dylan's attitude, Blanchett stole the show.

It was strange seeing Heath Ledger on the screen, after hearing about his death this week. The Richard Gere role was, well, confusing, as was the Marcus Franklin role.

It was a good film. Actually, now I'm inspired to read Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles Vol. 1. When I compared notes with Shmu and his bf, it seemed that the more we were able to connect the movie to what we knew about Dylan, the more we could enjoy it. We all felt that as soon as we stopped expecting it to act like a conventional film, we were able to understand it more. Here's the trailer, btw. And, just as a treat, here's a 1964 video of Dylan playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" that I really like. I've already downloaded it to my Ipod. Gotta love YouTube. It has changed our access to everything.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How to Ruin a Sunday

I was having a really good Sunday. I got up early and ran on the t-mill for half an hour. I went through one box of crap in the basement and gleefully threw out half of the contents. My Mom has called only four times. I am nearly finished with Freakonomics, which is an excellent book and will probably yield at least one blog post this week. I made plans to get dinner and see "Juno" later tonight with an old girlfriend. Costco called and my replacement tires are finally in. Keifer Sutherland/Jack Bauer is out of jail. I have no overdue library books. I am only a week and half behind on my work. I made myself an enormous salad with romaine, red pepper, plum tomatoes, avocado, red onions, almonds, sliced half-sour pickles and fresh tuna, with Ken's Lite Italian, a little balsamic vinegar and some basil. I'm in salad heaven. This is A Creation. I am about to dig in when the phone rings.

It's my old friend, Meirav. Meirav got married a few months before I did. We fought in the singles trenches together, and since my divorce, she is one of my few friends who has been killing herself to set me up. She has tried countless times, and I've gone out on mediocre dates with four guys that she suggested. Mind you, "mediocre" means they are in the parsha, were nice looking, employed, sane, frum and personable. There was just no fire. But that's okay. Right now, considering what some of my other girlfriends are going through in their dating lives, mediocre is the new good. I trust Meirav to have my interests at heart.

So she's got three new suggestions for me:

1) a 44 year old divorced Chabad guy from Australia who lives here now, one kid.
2) a 42 year old divorced Persian guy, no kids.
3) a 40 year old never-been-married unemployed Brooklyn guy.

So, no, no and no.

I explain. I have absolutely nothing against non-American-born guys. I love non-American born people and will be happy to count them among my friends. But I will not date them. This is not discriminatory; I simply don't want to waste their time and mine. I am deeply, deeply entrenched in American culture, language and values. I have dated Brits, Israelis, Persians, and Australians when I was single and it has never worked. Tziporah Heller advises her students to look for spouses who are more similar to them rather than go with the "opposites attract" credo. She says "it's enough that you are female and he is male." She recognizes that of course people who are very different can have wonderful marriages, but the more dissimilar you are, the harder you have to work to make it good. Based on the reasons my own marriage went bad, I have to agree with this.

I love Chabbad (the non-meshiachy part of it), am very Chabbad-friendly, but no way in hell am I going to live a Chabbad lifestyle. FOR-GET it.

I feel for unemployed guys. I feel for unemployed anyone. I might be unemployed very soon too. But unless it's just a glitch of a few months, and there is a plan in the works, I can't deal with having a chronically unemployed spouse (which sounded like this was #3's story). I am absolutely willing to co-struggle in the parnassah game and I am no golddigger, but really, if a guy doesn't have the job thing mostly figured out by age 40, what does that say to me?

Meirav didn't like anything I had to say. She is a little mad at me now and thinks I am being way too picky "for my age and situation." Suddenly I'm not so into my yummy salad anymore. She is sort of sniffy when she hangs up, and I'm feeling defensive, self-doubting and depressed.

A perfect Sunday, ruined. I do not heart dating at all.

Finishing Things

I'm making curtains for my home-office.

Ok, now the truthful version.

I'm thinking about sewing some curtains for my home office, in an ideal world, where I have endless amounts of free time to go out and buy some fabulous, color-soaked fabric (on sale, of course) and sew up some beautifully stitched and trimmed panels. The chances of this actually happening? I dunno. Maybe.

But I'm thinking about it. And I found this great online yardage calculator. I made curtains for my former, married, home (and left them there) and overbought fabric, trim and tieback cord. I made two throw pillows from the overflow, but I started getting nauseous from having everything in the room match. This time around I want to buy just enough.

Is it just me? Does anyone else have boxes of needlework and other half-done craft projects that were eagerly started and then just as quickly abandoned? I wonder what this says about my life.

Chasing the Rate/The Subprime Mess

I started my tiny little nest egg at one of Etrade's online savings accounts last year. Etrade was offering a 5.15% APY at the time. Ok. I was thrilled, because this was a better return than the long-term cd that I held at another bank, and the Etrade account was completely liquid. Then I started reading My Money Blog, my favorite blog ever, and discovered FNBO Direct, which had a 6% APY. I chased the rate and moved my money there. That was nice, and my nest egg has grown very nicely, thanks to strict, relentless saving and the high APY, bee-aitch. When FNBO dropped their rate, I found Everbank, which was offering a 6.01% promotional 3-month rate. I jumped again.

Now I've come to the end of that promotion and I've been scouting around for another online bank to park my little bag-o-cash. I temporarily have it at Countrywide, which is offering a 5% APY on their SavingsLink account, but I keep thinking I can do better.

I know these great rates are not going to be around for long, thanks to the Fed dropping like a stone, in response to the housing crisis/bailout. Let me send a big shout-out to the homeowners who foolishly got into mortgages they couldn't afford, since I am now paying for their bailout. And a big hug to the mortgage brokers who sold them the ARMs; I really hate you.

Thanks to a comment posted at My Money Blog, I found One United Bank. They are offering 5.30% APY, as well a $50 signup bonus if you do direct deposit or set up recurring payments on their debit card (which is so easy to do...just pay two consecutive utility bills). This currently seems to be the best thing out there right now. I think 6% APYs are going to be a thing of the past until the country recovers from the housing fiasco.

As you might be able to tell from my tone, I'm a little angry about the subprime mess. Sure, I feel bad for these people and I don't want them to lose their homes. But I also wanted to buy a house recently, and you know what, I held off because I assessed my situation and to do so would have been irresponsible. It feels like the responsible folks who are living within their means are being penalized and those living in as much debt as they can get themselves in are getting breaks that they didn't earn. Read this MMB post on one of the subprime "victims." Do you really feel sorry for this couple? Do you own a $50,000 Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV? Do you have a koi pond? I don't. You know why? I can't afford those things. And I make more than they do, have zero cc debt and no kids. But I work hard and live within my means. Buying a house is the single largest financial transaction most people ever perform. Why wouldn't you put an enormous amount of thought and planning into it? Why wouldn't you take the time to understand the terms of your mortgage, or if you don't have the capacity (as I fear I don't), hire someone who will? Am I being too harsh? I don't think so.

But I understand that because of the subprime disaster, this is the worst housing market since the Great Depression and I know what that will mean to the general economy. And I'm not completely heartless and I understand the need for a compassionate plan to help these people. It just hurts that whenever a crisis like this happens, it's the responsible, middle-income taxpayer that pays the price.

Enough whining; back to banking. In the midst of all the stock market turbulence, a guaranteed 5-6% return on your nest egg is a nice, safe quiet harbor for your money. Here are my personal requirements for a high-interest online savings account:


  1. must be FDIC insured. You can look this up here. Of course, you should never keep more than $100,000 in any single account.
  2. must be fee-free.
  3. must have either no or reasonable minimum balance requirements.
  4. must allow free online transfers to other external accounts.
  5. funds must be completely accessible at all times.
Don't forget that you will have to pay tax on these nice returns, so be sure and set aside some money for that, come tax-time. But that should be your biggest problem.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dooney and Bourke coupon

Ladies, here's a 10% off Dooney and Bourke coupon. I don't live near their retail stores, so I'm bummed.

Please don't use it to get any of their animal print or metallic bags. Ew. Personally, I love this one and this one. Wish I could afford them right now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All teched out

Ok, only those of you who are computer nerds and personal finance junkies will appreciate this. Everyone else go back to your Facebook superpokes.

I can actually download all my 1099s this year. All of the accounts that I've held, including brokerage, are posting 1099-INTs and 1099-DIVs on their websites. Amazing. I don't have to wait to get all my paperwork in the mail to go to my accountant. I can actually email all of them to him as pdfs. I stand in awe.

I love that I can pay my estimated taxes online, open bank and brokerage accounts without walking into any buildings or licking any envelopes or writing any checks. I love that I gave most of my charity online through billpay this year, and all I need to do is download a statement to get a total figure. No more sifting through checkbook registers, thank you letters and receipts. When I think about how far we've come since, say 1999, when most banks didn't even have websites, I am blown away.

I totally heart the Internet. And it hearts me too.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thanks for the Hate Mail

Dear Two Idiots Who Sent Me Hate Email Regarding My Post About the Yeshivah of Flatbush Thing,

Thank you so much for calling me (respectively) a f____ing, closeminded, Orthodox c___, and a brainwashed, frummed-out homophobe. Really. I'm sure you will agree that blogs, especially anonymous blogs, are all about the free exchange of ideas without judgement, except of course when you don't agree with them. Thanks for not according me respect for speaking my mind and trying to defend my point of view from a rationalist approach. Thanks, above all, for pointing out how close-minded I am. I apparently have much to learn from two open-minded individuals such as yourselves.

Tonight, after Shabbos, I went out to dinner with my gay, shomer Shabbos friend, Shmuel, and his boyfriend, and because I always like a little validation, I asked him if he thought I was a brainwashed, frummed-out homophobe. He said "why, are you afraid of me?" I shared my opinion about the YOF controversy with him and asked what he thought, as someone who has a foot firmly planted in both the gay world and the frum world, and who is able to have a perspective on the realities of both without having to drown himself in p.c. platitudes. He said, "I agree with you that YOF did the right thing, but they probably could have handled it better." He also pointed out something that I had completely forgotten about, that YOF had a lot of recent baggage in this area because of a Rabbi/teacher that abruptly and angrily left the school two years ago when he came out of the closet. Keeping this background in mind only reinforces my opinion that YOF made a courageous and good decision.

So, hate mailers, thanks for the name-calling and the intolerance and have yourself a great day beating up on people who disagree with you. Please don't read my blog anymore. Thanks.

Love,

WebGirl

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Putting the Orthodox back into Modern Orthodox

The Modern Orthodox controversy du jour, is in this issue of The Jewish Week.

The upshot is that Yeshivah of Flatbush, a Modern Orthodox day school, won't let an alumnus bring his gay partner as his date to a reunion. And Y. of F. is getting flack about this.

Wah. Oh, how cruel of Yeshivah of Flatbush.

I know you're going to disagree with me, but this is just Noah Feldman all over again.

Look, this has nothing to do with whether or not gayness is okay. Who cares? It's just not part of the argument.

The crux of the matter is that Yeshivah of Flatbush is a private, Modern Orthodox institution, and they are under the auspices of normative halacha. You can agree or disagree with this particular halacha (that's your prerogative), but Yeshivah of Flatbush cannot say that it is okay for a man to bring his homosexual partner to one of their social functions. And you cannot expect Y. of F. to do so. It is absurd and unfair to expect a halachic institution to publicly accept a gay couple. To do so would be clearly condoning a controversial practice that is in violation of halacha.

The gay alumnus argued that many other couples attending the reunion might be potentially violating halacha and are not discriminated against in the same way:

The doctor at the heart of this issue said, in an exclusive interview with The Jewish Week, "They don’t know which relationships are halachic relationships. A gay relationship is different because it’s more obvious. But what about a husband and wife who aren’t shomer niddah, or not shomer Shabbos [observing the laws relating to marital sex or Shabbat]? But they’re invited anyway."
He's wrecking his own argument. Sure, some other couples might not observe the laws of Niddah, but, as he says himself, the violation is not as obvious. The women in these couples don't wear signs around their necks saying "I don't go to the mikvah and I don't care." Some couples might violate Shabbos as well, but again, the halachic violation is not as blatant and in-your-face as that of a man bringing his gay lover as his date.

Really, it's just not any different from the Noah Feldman issue. It's a free country. Marry non-Jews, sleep with people of the same gender, have a good old time. As a fellow human being, it is not my place to judge you. But as a fellow Orthodox Jew, don't expect me to embrace you either. And certainly don't expect Orthodox institutions to embrace you. Show a little intellectual honesty here...you might disagree with the halacha, you might dislike the halacha, and you might dislike those who agree with the halacha. But if you are violating the halacha, I respect your right to do so, but please acknowledge the consequences.

I bristled when I read this part of the article:

Yeshivah of Flatbush, which includes elementary and high schools, has long been known as a bastion of Modern Orthodoxy but many say it has moved more to the right in recent years.

"I was there a few weeks ago, and I have the feeling that the place has become a little more rigid than it was before," said Dr. Eric Kandel, a 1944 graduate of the school who is a neuroscience professor at Columbia University and in 2000 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

"The Yeshivah of Flatbush, which has been providing leadership in Jewish education, should lead," he said. "Am I surprised at the school’s position? No. Disappointed? Yes. It would have been nice for them to take a different position. This is not nice, not productive and not good for the Jewish community."

Why? Why would he expect Yeshivah of Flatbush to act differently? Because they are Modern Orthodox? Does "Modern" cancel "Orthodox?" Does "Modern" mean "less halachic?" Does "Modern" mean that regardless of whether or not the institution is Orthodox, it needs to adjust its moral and sexual standards to those of, say, "Will and Grace" or "Friends?" Would that make it more Modern? Would that make it more courageous? Would that show communal leadership?

Please, a little intellectual honesty here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taxes and Toiletries


Two money tips:

  1. If your adjusted gross income is $30K or less, you can file your taxes online with a free version of Turbo Tax. Click here.

  2. If you live in NY/NJ/CT and spend a lot of money on drug store stuff (shampoo, panithose, makeup, diapers, nutrition bars, tissues, tp, etc.), I found out something interesting yesterday. Harmon's Discount is a full service discount drug store that actually accepts Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons, as long as they are unexpired. (As you probably know, Bed, Bath and Beyond will accept their own in-store expired coupons.) This means that if you need to buy that expensive European conditioner or get your Aunt Rochel that diabetes monitor, you can now get 20% off your purchase. The only drawback is that BB&B coupons are per item, instead of for a total purchase. It is still very worthwhile if you have a large toiletries expenditure coming up. I just did my semi-annual run and bought $200 worth of stuff for $160. Harmon's selection is even better than Walgreen's or CVS and their prices are excellent to start with.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Life, what is it but a dream?

A boat, beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July-

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear-

Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July,

Still she haunts me phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;

Ever drifting down the stream-
Lingering in the golden gleam-
Life, what is it but a dream?

-Lewis Carroll
This poem was one of my all-time favorites in college. It's clever--it scans and rhymes beautifully, perfectly--and is an acrostic of "Alice Pleasance Liddel," the real-life girl to whom Lewis Carroll dedicated Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland. It is also creepy and surrealistic, conjuring up images of ghostlike children who never grow up. Well, it can be creepy and surrealistic if you choose to read it that way (I do). It can also just be a beautiful dream of a lazy summer afternoon, and three innocent children listening to a pretty story. Or it can be a metaphor for childhood and innocence, always alive in some form, in some child, or, more likely, in memory.

I was sifting through some boxes in my basement when I found this old poem that I typed up (yes, typed) and pasted to my college dorm wall. College seems like such a short time ago, yet in truth, it was years ago, a lifetime ago. Time is definitely getting away from me in leaps and bounds. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if I look very old and I'm just not capable of realizing it anymore. Sometimes I just wish time would go even faster, so I can get through this phase of my life and get on to where I want to be, as if that will happen, if only I wait long enough.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Polyester Mafia

I watched the season premiere of that new show, Cashmere Mafia, tonight. And that is another 58 minutes that I will never have back again.

This show is so obviously trying to be Sex and the City with a twist, you can feel the palpable effort. As in SATC, the female characters are powerful, beautiful, fashionable, brilliant, ruthless and totally together in virtually every area of their lives, except for relationships. When it comes to relationships, these women are train wrecks. As in SATC, though these women are close friends, their lives (and coincidentally, their hair colors), couldn't be more different. And as on SATC, where these women have gaping holes in their lives caused by failures with their partners, they are filling in with their closer-than-sisters relationships with each other.

(hair toss) I love you guys. I really love you guys!

How many different ways can you say "unhealthy" and "fake?" Like polyester.

I'm absolutely sure that this show will be a hit. Yet another reason to keep the tv off, that is, until 24 comes back on the air.

And Speaking of Hooking Up.....


Now, I've truly seen everything. Everything.

There is a Facebook group entitled "Tefillin Date." I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that it's a joke right? It's not.

Name:
Tefillin date
Type:
Common Interest - Sexuality
Description:
A tefillin date is one in which the boy brings his tefillin along to the restaurant so if he ends up spending the night with the shaina maidel he won't chos vesholom miss Shachris in the morning before work or college.

Who needs jdate?! Forget Futuresimchas! This is the best casual dating site for the frum community!

How it works is if you would like to meet someone for a teffilin date, post a note on our page telling a bit about yourself (age, height, weight, level of frumkeit etc...) and mention what kind of person you're looking for and other members interested can contact you. Also if you see a post you like from another member feel free to write to them.

If you don't like this group or don't recognise it's right to exist, DO NOT LOOK! This group is for Frum, heimishe adults who are looking to hook up and if you don't like that this is not the group for you. Save us and yourself the time and don't bother spewing religious rhetoric. That is not what this group is about and you have no outlet here for your stupidity. ALL SUSPICIOUS COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED!!

Brocho vehatzlocho!


Of course, I trolled through the (322!) member list out of pure nosiness, and while there were plenty Ploni Almoni names, there were many more real ones. I recognized someone I dated from Frumster (who did not bring his Tefillin along), two guys I knew when I was single, and (gulp) the daughter of a former teacher.

Ok, before you nominate me for Orthodox Prude of the Year, let me explain. It's not so much that I don't know that Tefillin Dates happen and apparently, happen often. It's that Tefillin Daters are now a Community, with a Capital Cee. There is no longer any shame or secrecy attached to Tefillin Dating. This strikes me as a sociological wonder. I know that many frum single and divorced people are openly not Shomer Negiah, but there used to be a mighty ginormous hurdle between giving up a little sugar and doing the deed. Apparently not any more. It is no longer embarrassing to be frum and hooking up.

Brave New Frum World.

I have to say, I'm not really in favor of this level of openness. There is something surreal about it.


You know, I just don't know what to think.

You had me at Shalom


From the Facebook group "Jewish pickup lines." My top twenty in no particular order. Sorta Lettermanesque, though I know some are so painfully cornball you will groan, roll your eyes, and click over to another blog.

  • Are you the Messiah, because I've been waiting for you...
  • Do you want to try for 9 crazy nights?
  • Do you want something to atone for on Yom Kippur?
  • Want to party in my Sukkah?
  • Which commandment do you want to break?
  • Want to go fiddle on a roof?
  • Why is this night different than all other nights? I'll show you why...
  • All I want for Chanukah is you.
  • Is your Sukkah kosher? Cause the only stars I can see are in your eyes.
  • I see that you are dancing with the Torah. Mind if I cut in?
  • The first line of the Shma commands us to "Love the Lord with all your heart." After meeting you, I don't think I can keep that mitzvah.
  • In this shul, women are not called up to the Torah. May I call you up at home?
  • A woman like you makes me wish our mechitza were see-through.
  • One look at you and I gotta start my al-chaits all over.
  • Even though it's breaking a commandment, I'm worshiping you right now.
  • Did it hurt when you wrestled with Jacob (because you're an angel)!
  • You had me at Shalom.
  • Funny, I don't remember climbing Jacob's ladder, so how did I end up in heaven?
  • I don't care what the Torah says, I'm not leaving any of your four corners unplowed.
  • If you think I got lost in the desert for forty years, try looking in your eyes.

Don't Hook Me Up

JetBlue is now offering WiFi on some of their flights. This means that, assuming you have a laptop, PDA or an expensive cell phone, you can now check your email, browse the internet, etc. while in flight.

I love technology. I live online. I shop online, get my news online, take classes online, (obviously) blog, pay my bills online, invest online, email, IM, send pictures, watch episodes of House online, listen to music, shiurim etc. online. I have a desktop and two laptops. I also carry a cell phone. Actually, I carry two (used to be three), one for work and one for personal use. I'm a real twenty-first century kinda girl. But when I am in an airplane, I want to be suspended in 1992. When I fly, I use that time to read, to crochet, to doze, to relax, and to chat with my travel companion (if I have one). I don't even like to watch tv or a movie when I fly. For four or five hours, I just want to unplug. Is that asking too much? Call it a little "Shabbat-like" break from technology, just for a tiny portion of the day. I don't want anyone to call me, IM me, text me, or email me while I fly. No matter what it is, it can wait until I land.

My last refuge of technology-free time is slowly being taken away from me. Yes, I know, it's my choice of whether to plug-in or not, and I can just not use my cell phone and laptop when I fly. But you know that if the option is there, eventually I will use it, whether compelled by forces of work-guilt, or keep-in-touch-guilt or just plain wanna-be-part-of-the-crowd pressure.

I remember when I got my first cell phone in 1996. I was traveling on a month-long cross-country roadtrip vacation with a girlfriend, and we both got cell phones for safety purposes. My cell phone was about the size of a Bass loafer (Get Smart, anyone?). I remember vowing that as soon as we returned from the trip, I would get rid of the cell phone. I found it intrusive. I was perpetually worried about losing it. For some reason, it bothered me to always be reachable. Can't there be a period of time when I am just not reachable?

Here I am, 11 years later. My $600 Iphone is a lot sleeker looking than my first clunky cell phone, and it takes great digital pictures, plays music, and I can get my email and browse the internet. Who knew? I never thought I'd own something cooler than Captain Kirk's communicator. And yet, with all my love for technology, my cell phone makes me feel less free, more tethered and weighted down. I am always nervous when I can't find it, even for a few minutes, since I can't afford another one (even at the current "cheap" price of $400) and my whole life is inside that thing, contacts, etc. For some reason, I always need to be connected and reachable, whether it's by work or my siblings, or my Mom, or my friends. My friends actually get annoyed when they can't reach me for an hour ("where were you?"), and my boss once asked me to take the cell phone into the ladies room with me (I just said no). When I go into a movie theater or lecture, I turn the cell phone to vibrate instead of just off. I recently visited a male friend and when I went to use his bathroom, I saw that he had a metal folding chair in front of the toilet. I asked him what it was for, and he answered (sheepishly), "my laptop."

We are the generation of instant gratification and hyper-connectivity. It's an old story. Technology does free us and make our lives easier, and believe me, I love gadgets and online everything, and the way technology has enriched my life. But it has also encroached upon my private time, the time I just want to walk to the newsstand and not talk to anyone, to curl up on the couch with a book and a cuppa coffee, and to fly in an airplane and daydream about nothing. We all need a little time to untether ourselves, unplug, and unleash, to reconnect by disconnecting.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Mean Zone

What it is like to be a Customer Service Representative? I wonder how CSR's deal with all of the hostility and frustration that is directed toward them every day.

Part of my dealing with the consequences of yesterday's car accident has been speaking to lots of different vendors and service providers. A car accident will have you tied to the phone for hours. You would think that living in the information age would get rid of some of the tedium behind the insurance claim process, but this has not been the case so far.

I have had to speak to: 1) a claims intake CSR 2) an claims assessor 3) a claims adjuster 4) the claims adjuster's assistant 5) my insurance agent 6) my insurance agent's assistant 7) 3 body shop owners 8) 2 body shop owners' receptionists 9) a AAA reimbursements manager 10) a AAA reimbursements supervisor 11) a clerk at the police department 12) a rental car agent 13) my doctor's receptionist 14) a Costco Tire Center mechanic.

This was all the result of one day's due diligence. I have a new manila folder with the words "Horrible Accident 1/1/8" written on the tab. It is already packed with paper and receipts and copies of forms and scraps of notes and about a pound of my flesh. I am already burned out and exhausted from speaking to people with sub-normal IQ's, people with unintelligible accents, people who just don't give a damn and are giving out ridiculous, contradictory information, people who are just plain asses. I am trying to be polite and patient, but my head still aches from the accident, and I am reaching the end of my rope. I feel myself getting into The Zone. The Mean Zone.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry explains to the irritating car rental agent (who did not hold a car for him, even though he had a reservation) what the word "reservation" meant? And she replies "Sir, I think I know what the word means." And Jerry icily replies "No. I don't think you do." That's The Zone. The Zone is the place where you have just about had enough bureaucracy and bs and just want to verbally slice the CSR to ribbons. You find yourself being nasty and sarcastic and terribly, terribly impatient. You simply cannot take one more inch of red tape or one more ounce of crap. You are done.

I am now residing in The Zone. And I'm not very happy.