Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


OK, so tonight was a slow night... (for once!).
I decided to check on how many people in the United States have the same name as I....
See the results for yourself....
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

NO PEOPLE??!?!? NONE???!?!?

Now I know that my name is not exactly the most common out there, but I find it hard to believe that no other exists (forget the fact for a moment that I myself don't exist).
I was going to write to these folks and tell them that they are wrong, wrong, wrong... but apparently they KNOW THAT already.
Read their page on "accuracy" -


Q: How accurate is this program?

A: More accurate than a Magic 8-ball. Less accurate than distributing and collecting 300 million surveys.

Q: No, really. How accurate?

A: Well, it's hard to say. In order to determine how accurate this program is, we would need a program that was completely accurate for comparison purposes. If we had a program that was completely accurate, we'd use that program instead of this one. At that point, discovering how accurate this program is would no longer be worth the effort. Therefore, we can fairly confidently say that it is impossible to determine how accurate this program is. (Confused? We're just warming up.)

In our completely non-expert opinion, we say that the program gives a decent ballpark estimate, but it shouldn't be used for anything more than that.

Q: Why isn't it more accurate?

A: There are a number of possible sources of inaccuracy:

First and foremost, the program is based upon a convenient fiction. Without getting too technical, the program makes the assumption that a person's first and last names are independent of one another. What this means is it assumes that the probability of a person having a particular first name is the same no matter what last name they have. It isn't.

So, for example: The program assumes that the chance that your first name is "Juan" is the same, regardless of whether your last name is "Arteaga" or "Epstein". Episodes of Welcome Back Kotter aside, we would hazard a guess that there are not that many people in the U.S. actually named "Juan Epstein". Depending upon what your family name is, it makes certain first names more likely, and certain others less likely. The program cannot compensate for that.

Second, the data is old. The data for this program comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's 1990 census. That makes the data about 17 years old or so. This is the most recent name data available from the Census Bureau (the 2000 census did not include name data), but it's still old, and it's accuracy may be slightly questionable.

Third, the data appears biased towards more formal versions of names. The data comes from forms mailed to the Census Bureau. It appears most people put their full, formal version of their name on the forms rather than a nickname. So, for example people who normally call themselves "Bill" would likely tend to put the name "William" on an official Census form. In fact, the data shows the name "William" outnumbering the name "Bill" 20 to 1. So, it appears that nicknames are under-represented in the statistics, and full formal names are over-represented in the statistics.

Fourth, not every name is on the list. A certain number of instances of a name were required to even make the list. About 10% of all responses were not included on the list because they appeared too few times. So, uncommon names are not represented on the list.

Fifth, we failed to make the required blood sacrifices to the gods of programming and statistics. Surely they will plague our endeavor with errors and inaccuracies.

Q: Can I use data from this site in my report / project / masters thesis?

Sure. However, we take no responsibility for any merciless mocking from your teachers and/or peers for using questionable data.

I'm soooo glad... there are days that I feel invisible enough without this!

Chopsticks Like You've Never Heard Before

Simcha the Butcher Called - So Purim is "ON"

I love Purim. It's a Yom Tov and a party all in one! It combines the spiritual with the physical {Michael's article on Purim for Hakesher magazine expounds on this quite well. As soon as it's available online, I will try to post it}. I have many fond memories of Purim at Ami's house - - - decorated of course, with the requisite paper curls :) . We continue the tradition and take it one step further by hanging cookie Haman men from the chandelier and his ten sons from our door. I want to make memories for the ones I care about that rival the memories I cherish.
That is why I wanted a full table at our seudah. Little did I know....
Now the immediate problem is can we seat more than 14 without resorting to the dreaded "kiddie table" (the harbinger of much therapy...). But don't get me wrong; I am NOT complaining. I share the load. Jennifer is making all the placecards with her new skills in calligraphy (thanks Judy!). Joseph's grammen is going to require more and more stanzas; no guest is spared his rapier wit.
Back to Simcha: my personal butcher extraordinaire. He said... "don't worry, I promise I'll get you a roast that's big enough and in time". This gets filed back in the *I'm not easy to please* category...... Well, as promised, he just called to confirm that he's got a piece of meat in that will live up to my standards. So you can all exhale now - Purim will not be cancelled this year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Finding Light in the Darkness

I read a very interesting article this weekend on how to view ostensibly bad things that happen to people. This article maintains that nothing that happens to us is "bad", when viewed on a larger scale. I'm not going to try to give the article over to you, because I thought it was extremely well written (and those who know me are aware that I'm a tough critic ) and I don't want to do it any injustice. Read it --- please --- trust me :) .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In one kid and out the other

Thanks to this "lovely" custom Yeshiva's have gotten into of sending the bochrim out to the far corners of the earth to fundraise the week before Purim, we were the beneficiaries of another weekend with Joseph. (I'm flattered that he chose us over San Diego....). He spent the latter part of the week in Monsey and then arrived home chilly (Florida winter clothes aren't exactly Monsey winter clothes, lol) and rumpled, but smiling widely late Thursday night.
Michael already had plans to go to Rabbi Friedman's house for Shabbos. I suppose he felt that since Key Food already has Pesach groceries on the shelves :-O, it is merely a matter of days before Joseph will be home for Yom Tov again anyway, so he wouldn't be missing too much.
The meal included cantaloupe with kiwi, matzo ball soup, chicken, apple kugel, beet salad, asparagus and banana chocolate chip cake for dessert. {Don't tell the guests - - - they were supposed to have peanut butter crunch ice cream for dessert, but that stayed in the freezer when I noticed that nobody had eaten this week's crop of bananas, which means..... (all together now..... "BAKING TIME" ) Stay tuned for the ice cream next Shabbos}.
Oma commented on how colorful the plates looked, with the rich color of the beets (which matched the tablecloth) and the bright green of the asparagus. Chaya S. and Miriam G. were also present Friday night. Oma joined us for lunch as well, so that we could all be together the week that Joseph was home.
Joseph kept us all highly entertained with stories of Yeshiva, regaling us with all the Rosh Chodesh Adar antics, including, but not limited to, a fully grown uprooted palm tree in the Yeshiva lunch room and a live chicken. We were saddened to hear of the apparent suicide of the beloved Yeshiva Cat.

Norby's windows were a tribute to Aviva K.'s wedding this week. He seems to enjoy making chuppah windows.....

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friends are necessary for mental health

What would we do without friends? It's not about quantity... it's definitely all about quality.
Of course, we have different friends for different things. There are your nearest and dearest friends - a select few - who know more about you than anyone else. Those who know the worst of you and yet, remarkably, have not gone running for the hills.
There are the "shopping buddies" those to love to shop as much as you do (or hate it as much... depending on what the case may be) - the ones who are able to answer with aplomb, the unanswerable question, "Do I look fat in this?".
And then there are the friends that you want to be around when you feel like you need to escape from the real world. Friends who won't ask you to repeat for the hundredth time how your cruddy week has been. These are the people who will just help you have a good time and relax. These are the "mental health" people in your life.
I like spending time with Estie R. She's fun. She's funny. And she smiles a lot. Estie joined us Friday just in time to prevent me from jumping out the window (and since we live on the 6th floor, this is no laughing matter). I think we were serving as mutual mental health friends this weekend. Her week wasn't too hot either ;) .
Aryeh and Dani S. came as well, which made the meal really fun. It'd been ages since they ate with us.
Once again there was too much food. Tricolor gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, chicken, glazed salami, yerushalmi kugel, sweet potato/pineapple rings, cucumber salad, beets and carrot cake for dessert.
Binyomin B. (a.k.a. Joseph 2.0) slept over for shabbos. He actually finished his shabbos lunch meal before we ever started ours, so he sat down and joined us for an impromptu second. We also had Yehuda C. for lunch, which included gruenkern (with more Baltimore smoked meat - {shout out to David A.!}).

Norby's windows were a personal disappointment for the first time ever.... a tribute to Rav G. and the Yeshiva dinner........... (oh please! Must I revisit the evening??!??)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Zachor's, Kiddushim, and Aufshnit, OH MY!

Lester was ill this week. What a shame, because I like my guests to EAT! He tried, really he did, but I have more leftovers than I know what to do with. Lester arrived during shul, and I abandoned him curled up under Ami's blanket as I went down to visit Judy.
When we all returned home we had a pleasant dinner of gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, chicken, cucumber salad, spanish rice and frosted canada cake for dessert.
After dinner, Lester returned to his fetal position on the couch, this time with a good Wodehouse book and we set out for Yosef and Sari's shalom zachor - - - cute baby!!!
***If all this sounds insensitive to Lester - - - fear not. We really do care about him :) He knows this and that's probably why he actually comes to us when he's sick.

We were all invited to Rav Mantell for kiddush on Shabbos after shul. Jennifer discovered she likes herring (which brings to mind my father's "du liebst herring?" joke, of which I will spare you the details). Michael discovered that both he and Rav Mantell enjoy the works of Rav Tzadok.
Lunch was made extra special (aside from being extra late) by the fact that David and Sharon (having gone to their niece's vort in Baltimore last weekend) had sent us Baltimore aufschnit (with all the add-ins; olives, peppers, mushrooms, pistachios......mmmm....) and Liverwurst. Once again.........too - much - food.......... :) It was Michael's turn to eat at Oma's and he was able to enjoy Yosef and Suri's company as well since they were in for shabbos. (He'll polish off the aufshnit he missed on Sunday night when the rest of us go to the Yeshiva's Annual Dinner)

Norby's windows were {you guessed it} Matan Torah. The upended, sand coated salad bowl made a nice Har Sinai, though Michael questioned the size relationship between Moshe and the palm trees. I say it's all in the angle................

Monday, February 5, 2007

How I Spent Superbowl Sunday

The bar was set pretty high after last year's wonderful Superbowl Pool Playing Party at Amsterdam Billiards. Not that I'm into football, mind you... I couldn't give half a hoot about the game, but you know me... any excuse for a party....
After much back and forth, we decided that our superbowl festivities would NOT include watching the game :) . No great loss, if you ask me. So after a morning spent at an Achdus Group Brunch, followed by some *quality* gym time and a visit with our family in from Chicago, we went out with Eric and Arona and saw Dreamgirls, followed by dinner at Noah's Ark. It'd been a long time since we'd eaten there and I was hit by a wave of nostalgia, remembering Joseph running amok up and down the back ramp, and even earlier memories of snowsuit clad Michael stuffed in a stroller and smiling. I must say that it is a very enjoyable feeling eating a hearty good meal that I did not have to prepare or serve. Oh! Did I mention that the starry sky was awesome last night?! I picked out the big dipper, orion and gave a silent smile to my Dad.
We arrived home later and met up with Michael and Aviv, who were returning from THEIR superbowl festivities, which most DEFINITELY included football and we helped them whittle down the remainder of their evening's alcohol. Note to whoever cares: Arctic Berry Smirnoff is *not* a favorite... stick to the Raspberry.

Tu B'Shvat with Mark Twain

Friday night was a most pleasant affair. We were joined by Chava and celebrated Tu B'shvat by eating many different fruits and incorporating the Shiva Minim into the menu wherever possible.
We enjoyed challah (wheat), salami quiche, matzo ball soup, chicken, barley with mushrooms (barley), tomato salad, and fruit and nut platters for dessert (figs, dates, grapes, to name just a few...).
Michael gave a wonderful dvar torah and referenced a very interesting essay by Mark Twain, entitled "Concerning the Jews". Apparently, Mark Twain saw what we all know... the overwhelming contributions and "staying power" of the Jews as compared to our size. A definite must read.
Erica joined Oma for lunch on Shabbos.
Norby's windows depicted Kriyas Yam Suf, along with Miriam and the women playing music as the Mitzrim drowned.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

On Hot Dogs and Roast Potatoes

What is it about Thursday night dinners?
It's the only night of the week in my house when you can be sure of the menu. Hot dogs and roasted potatoes.
Originally this began because it was an easy dinner with minimal prep, that left me more time for shabbos cooking. Who knew it would become a fixture in its own right?
It became a way to meet and give family atmosphere to "starving dorm boys" - so much so that whenever Binny gets married, we joke that I'm making his Thursday night Sheva Brochos and I'm serving - what else? - hot dogs and potatoes.
When Erica would come home for the weekend from Seminary, what do you think she wanted waiting for her on cold Thursday nights? I think she even instituted the tradition at her boarding family's house in Cleveland.
So back to my original question. What is it about this dinner? The comfort food factor? The routine? My EXCELLENT potatoes? An early TGIF factor?
[ And why am I the only one eating eggplant parmesan ;) ]