Saturday, August 28, 2004

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane...

So it is 3am my time and I wait for my nesher to the airport. My stay in Israel was more pleasent than I had expected. Every time I come here I realize why I have to lay off my moral high horse every so often.
Im Eshkachech...

Monday, August 23, 2004

How Much is my Soul Worth?

I wrote one of the best papers of my life. I fought hard to make it fair and balanced, while still coming to solid conclusions that I believe in. My advisor has an agenda to advance, at the expence of my fair and balanced aproach. There are a number of things I could do:
1. Go PoMo: Who is to privalege my agenda over his? We are all biased really, so his bias is different than mine, so what. All attempts at balanced writing corrupt our notions of objectivity, and feign a notion of "truth". That is really the true form of deception. At least writing with an agenda does not make any attempt to fool the reader into thinking they are receiving 'objective' material.
2. The Lesser Evil (aka selling my soul on the installment plan): Edit what I can, but leave most of the slant.
3. The Greater Evil (aka selling my soul cash on the barrel): So the paper has my name on it, big deal. It also has his. It will help me get a job or into graduate school, and that's what counts anyhow, right?
4. Fight: Stop the presses, take my name off this thing.

So I like 1 a lot, and that will be my cover. Then I will say I am doing #2, but really I'll take #3. It is a shame that the Devil does not quote you a price, but just insures you'll get paid, somehow.

You Decide

Today's question: Am I a delinquent or a snob?
So on shabbat I was invited to the apt of a friend from work. Very nice, upbeat, smart competent (not like Richard Joel, though) person. Anyhow, lunch was great but I was kinda bored. My friend stopped me today to explain that everyone around the table was 'spiffy' in one way or other, and in fact I could see that. But somehow I was not really entertained. It that because I am an intellectual snob (and these poor tendencies have only been reinforced at the UofC) or am I just a social delinquent with an odd choice of friends? Ibid.

Obviously, the real answer is both. Unfortunately, I don't like being looked at as a snob. sigh. Any thoughts Miriam? Tiki? Batya? (I already know your thoughts Oren).

So the addendum to this story is that after lunch I walked over to the Dan Panorama to meet up with the Chicago faculty mission. I was surrounded by 12 professors, and I felt at more or less comfortable, or at least entertained (although it is awkward to be 30 years younger than everyone else in the room, feeling most certainly like a pisher). I don't know that less interesting things are said in the Hillel TV room between mincha-maariv though.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Reaching New Heights

I've been spending some time with a lot of old friends from the Heights (I'm referring, of course, to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, home of Yeshiva University, the Dominican Republic, and at least 20 other strong odors) and realizing how great they are. I know all these crazy people in the area - some of whom are actually crazy, and some who are merely religiously nuts, and others who are insane merely because they live in Manhattan. But I really love them all, and I haven't seen any of them in about a year - but they're all still there! I remember a few days ago, I went to sit in the Beis , and the EXACT SAME PEOPLE were there who had been there my last day a year or so ago. No one seems to have left. And this is just the summer; a whole host of people will be moving back in the neighborhood in September which should be exciting.

Special mention will go to the Rebbeim who've come back for the school year, and who I've just seen around the past few days. A lot of people like to spend a lot of time complaining about the rabbeim of YU, and especially to roshei yeshiva, but there only a few who I know and they are all "amazing" (cf. zev's classification system.) There are aboue 5 individuals, none of whom probably remember my name, who are probably responsible for my living in the neighborhood -- just to hear them speak once a week, during davening,or at a tisch, or an 11pm chassidus shiur on some random thursday night, is worth it.

At work, they're starting to actually give me things to do, and I've come to the conclusion that my life is basically over. For next 10-or-so years, at least, it seems like I will be spending more than half of my waking hours on one thing and one thing only; I make it sound bad, but I'm actually sort of anxious to get started. I have soooo much to learn; I'm still working on the absolute basics (stuff like daycounts, and jargon, etc.) and am really quite useless right now. I figure for at least the next year or two, so much new stuff will be hitting me on a daily basis that I won't have time to get bored.

I've finally found a place to live; it looks quite nice actually, and it's cheap too. I'm very happy about it. It's got windows, and nice hardwood floors, and a decent sized living room, etc etc. It's currently unfurnished, completely bare, so I have to figure out what I'm going to do about that. (donations welcome, but I'm not desperate for junky stuff.) My roomate seems cool, and also seems to have a whole network of friends in the area, which should be a lot of fun. someone's father is a butcher :) mmm meat.

On that note, have a good week, and please be in touch.

Damn Skippy

While US News ranks Chicago at #14, below Northwestern, Brown & Wash U (WTF) and with U Penn stating proud at #4 (ditto). We do get accolades from elsewhere. The Best 357 Colleges: 2005 Edition, explains: "And while all college administrators vie to have their school be considered the one with the best undergraduate academic experience--top honors go to the University of Chicago this year"
Damn Skippy.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Zev the Critic

So Shani helped me devise a five tear system of classifying people in Zev-speak. If I meet someone for the first time, and I have to give a two word explanation this is what I really mean. It is completely descriptive in the sense that I just found that this is how I wind up speaking, without really thinking about it. The ratings loosely correspond with stars given to movies. 1 star is a waste of time that kills brain cells, 2 is good to watch on a plane, 3 is a solid thing to do on a wednesday night...
1. (Utterly) Vapid- This might really be Miriam's word. This distinction is reserved for Frat Boys and annoying high school kids. People who slam beer cans into their forehead. You get the idea. Sixth level of Hell stuffs.
2. Normal/nice- fun to hang around. Can't talk about anything that I am interested in. Good to have at a party. Nechmad.
3. A (really) good guy- someone you want to spend time with on occasion. Some interesting ideas which you can bat around.
4. Interesting/ a really nice/great guy- Impressive, solid well thought out ideas, someone to contend with, exceptionally giving or understanding, a pleasure to be aroud.
5. Amazing... (followed by some typical praise like brilliant or something)- It is really hard to be amazing. You know who you are.

Competent is also a word I flail around. But it is for different kinds of people who I don't really know. Richard Joel is competent.
Please don't ask me what you are, you can probably figure it out yourself.

Monday, August 16, 2004


I was at my cousins for shabbat and Daniel was explaining that his grandmother likes to invent yiddish words. They were going around the table giving examples of psuedo-Yiddish words that she tends to use. Daniel goes, "I bet this one is a real Yiddish word: Halb-Tsarus. It means half tsarus. Like, he's gay, but his boyfriend is Jewish. That's halb-tsarus" So what is full tsarus? "A couple gets divorced, thats full tsarus."
I really liked that idea. For (some) old Europeans the worst thing that can happen is a divorce, that is tsarus. A guy is gay, at least his boyfriend is Jewish. Halachikly, of course, it is the other way around. Divorce happens, but mishkav zachar is assur. It's a shame you can't make your grandmother a possek.

Monday, August 09, 2004


I believe that my father can only consider someone his equal if he/she has had the good fortune to read Bertolt Brecht. I have not.
After searching for the this uber-creepy song "Missed Me" on Galgalatz I went to check out the website of the Dresden Dolls, apparently self described as "Brechtian Punk Cabaret".
I think I must resolve to: A. Go to Sefer VeSefel and buy some Brecht B. Buy this CD

More on Gaza

There is an interesting document (.doc) on the IDF website which gives the ratio of terror attacks perpetrated versus those prevented since the beginning of the Intafada.
Also there is a report in Haaretz that the Egyptians are carrying on negotiations with Hamas to insure stability in Gaza after the pullout. I think that Israel is very lucky right now to have Hamas. Hamas will turn out to be a moderate force for anti-corruption, and transparency in the government. Also I think that the only person who propels the myth of "Palestinian nationalism" is Arafat, after he is gone, total anarchy will ensue. The desperate groups within Gaza will all try and assume power simultaneously. Hamas might be a powerful enough force to remind everyone that they are a "united people" and should have the decency to act like it. It that way Israel might have a negotiating partner in the coming years (versus the distant future). I think Hamas is much more dangerous as a rouge terrorist group, than as a significant minority in a Palestinian government. Politicians compromise, terrorists don't.

Based on Something or Other

There was an ad at the top of the page: "Palestine 101- a fact-based presentation to the end of the conflict" Is fact-based like a movie "based on the gripping story by Isaac Asimov" when the movie has nothing to do with the story really? I am skeptical.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A List

People who were in the Apt last year who will not be there this year:
1. Oren
2. Yehuda
3. Sara
4. Miriam
5. Sasson
6. Dan Meir ben Ben-Tzion
7. Yael Levin
8. Mr. Dr. Verskin
9. Ira
10. Sam
11. Israela

12. Batya
13. R. Yuter
14. Saleet
15. Ike (for part of the year)
16-18. Mike, Bat Ami and Gavi (part of the year)

There are more who are tentative. I don't know that many people, but the above-mentioned are a good majority.

Old Friends

Well, I've entered that stage in my life everyone had warned me about: I'm not making any new friends, and it's a bit of a struggle holding on to the old ones. Life is so different outside of academia. Fortunately, I've got the Big City out there, and in the coming few months things should get better, as I find things to do. (For example...)

This last thursday I spent a few hours in Bryant Park, playing chess. I think I will never tire of chess, at least at the level of a few hours a week that I currently play it at. I have so much room to improve... there was one old russian there, who they called "Grandmaster" (he probably wasn't, but I didn't see him lose a game, even spotting pieces/time) who beat me spotting me a knight. That was embarrassing, but not really, and a lot of fun. If all else fails, and I can't break into the Yeshivish "scene" (ha!), I may become a regular at the Park (and probably washington park too, where they play for money. and backgammon!). I could see myself sitting there muttering about gambits and politics over coffee after work, being thrashed by Russian phd "web designers" who win chess tourneys in their spare time. Not so likely, but at least a place to go when I'm lonely.

I saw my good friend Dave the other day, back from Japan. I've known Dave since... fourth grade, we go way back, certainly farther back than any other friend I'm still in contact with. We both play poker, and have done some of that. We went to a bar in Fair Lawn (so we could both walk back home), and oddly enough half of our middle school was there back from college, and one of them recognized us. She introduced herself, and I remembered her only as the first girl to grow breasts - really, this was the only recollection I had of her. This sparked a long, snobby conversation with Dave about how stupid most people are. Most of my life has been spent in Elite Institutions, where everyone is assumed to be on the same track, and rather ambitious about it; the other kids in this bar led lives consumed by drinking, flirting, and sports. It was an odd experience.

My mother is so holy. Friday night, I was trying to learn something, not having done so basically all week, and I randomly (ok, not random, arbitrarily) opened up to the first page in Berachos. She asks me what I'm studying, and I tell her I'm learning gemera, and she got so proud. Deep down, she's so jewish. She actually sat down for a while, and we read the first mishna and a rashi or two, and then had a long conversation about a lot of different stuff, and she unknowingly gave me some well-deserved mussar - "so how much do you study, about a page a day?" -- "Eh, no, I'm kind of a bum" -- "Well, start off slow, a little bit every day, maybe a quarter of a page, whatever you can do, it's very good, very important". What a yiddeshe neshoma. G-d bless her. Hopefully I will start learning more - if you talk to me, harass me about it. I've been a real bum lately.

Work is interesting. I am totally in love with concept of volatility; the way an option's price is equal to its hedging cost is really surprisingly beautiful, in that a-priori obvious but deeper-than-it-looks kind of way. And in practice, it's like this eternal war of gamma against theta, and everyone is always fighting the inescapable fat tails. It's amazing how new markets for volatility (and for risk, really) are, (despite being older than time in some cases, i.e. life insurance), and how much everything has evolved in really just the past 30 years. There's still tons of work to be done (and I don't just mean on the productiong/trading side.) Someone's got to figure this stuff out eventually.

Overall things are going well, but I really want to hear from people, and I apologize if you've been trying to get in touch with me and can't. The best thing to do is call me, it will make me so happy.

Shavua Tov to all, and now I must sleep.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


In meeting with non-US people I have realized how important it is to keep up on the Premiere Leauge as it is the one thing that can keep non-US persons interested (and have them think you are less American- which is always good in Europe). So I guess it is like golf, but more interesting. So I resolve: More futbol, less golf.


1. I read a quote I like on NYT: '"I've been on the other end of it," said John Olerud, the first baseman who made his Yankees debut with a two-run single in his first at-bat and a slick defensive play in the 10th inning. "Being a part of it is definitely a lot more fun."' - Yes, we all like winning.
2. I am still not sure what I think about Mr. Kobe Bryant's case. I completely agree that sex abuse cases should be treated more fairly than they are currently. But this from CNN makes me squirm for a mistrial: "Under pressure from the U.S. Supreme Court, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle on Monday released some 200 pages of transcripts from a closed-door hearing in June. The transcripts had been mistakenly e-mailed to The Associated Press and six other media organizations, who fought for the right to publish their contents."
3. I am reading "The Limits of History" by one of my more admired professors. I really like it. I am learning about locutionary and illocutionary stuffs, makes me feel like I am back in 3W.