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Income Disparity in New York State

This article from Friday's New York Times states that "Income Gap in New York Is Called Nation's Highest." It's sad, but not surprising. Read it and weep.

Highlights, or, more accurately, lowlights:
The average income of the richest fifth of New York State families is 8.1 times the average income of the poorest fifth, according to the study, which drew from census data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, two liberal research groups based in Washington....

Tax policy played a role in the widening of the gap over the years, according to the study, which adjusted income for federal but not state taxes. On the state level, Gov. George E. Pataki has proposed another slate of personal income tax cuts and rebates, and more than half of the value of the package would go to the state's wealthiest 10 percent.

"We've made taxes less progressive — we've cut the top rate by more than half since the early 70's, and Pataki's proposing to cut it again," said Trudi Renwick, a senior economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute in Albany, a liberal group that collaborated in the income study and presented its own report on New York....

E.J. McMahon, a budget expert at the conservative Manhattan Institute, attributed the large income imbalance to "the large number of foreign immigrants in New York, who are largely poor, unskilled workers."

"To me, the whole focus of this report is, in my view, totally misplaced," said Mr. McMahon, adding that the more important question was what was keeping workers from moving from one income strata to another. "One barrier is education, or the lack of educational attainment, and that would imply that we need to focus on making schools better," he said.

Ms. Renwick cited a court order to pump billions into city schools, which Mr. Pataki is appealing.


Word Cloud

(Hat tip to Persephone and Jody.)

This word cloud illustrates the frequency with which various words appear in my blog. It's heavily skewed by the Brazil posts. (For example: Brazil, hotel, Foz, Iguacu, Janeiro, Rio, Ipanema, tennis--do these words appear outside of the Brazil posts? Well, maybe tennis does.)

I am happy that "people," "good," "love," "book," "books," "read," and "reading" are all high up there. Books and reading would be even higher if it was smart enough to count "book" and "books" as one word, and "read" and "reading" as one word. Also, "Shabbat" makes an appearance, as do "Talmud" and "Torah," although I would not put those high up there in terms of what this blog is about. "Shabbat" may have mostly been mentioned in connection with Brazil as well. I sure do wish that the word "fun" were larger!

This word cloud reminds me of something that was tacked onto the bulletin board in Sharon Steiff, z"l's English classroom. It looked a lot like the word cloud above, but with letters of the alphabet instead of words from a blog. The size of the letters illustrated how often they appear in the English language. Such a thing would be very helpful to have while appearing as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. And it was fun to look at, too. Not that I was ever bored in English class in junior high. Never!

"Ms. Steiff," as I called her from 1991-1997, was my English teacher in 7th and 8th grade. This past Thursday was the second anniversary of her death on the Gregorian calendar. I learned a lot from her, although I didn't realize it at the time. I also had the good fortune to work with her in the spring of 2000, when I still called her "Ms. Steiff," because she was a formidable woman and I was scared to call her Sharon.

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Father knows best!

One of my loyal blog readers has requested more posts that summarize articles I've read and then react to. In his words:
I like the posts where you summarize an article you read and respond to it. That way it's less reading for me!
I am flattered that one who has not read a book in five years deigns to read my blog, so I agreed to work on it. Ignore for a moment the fact that I hardly have time to do laundry these days, nevermind peruse the daily paper. (And books! What's a book?)

Nonetheless, I read this article on Thursday, and it struck a chord. It was about a father whose kid, at the age of 6, was asking a lot of questions that he didn't know the answer to. (Ending with a preposition! For shame! But I read somewhere else that this practice is perfectly acceptable these days. I forget where. Ah, see the fourth question on this page. It's not where I originally read this, but since it's from the Chicago Manual of Style people, I trust it.)

This is not a particularly deep thought, but it reminded me of how I used to ask my physicist father all kinds of questions, especially when we walked to school in the morning. I'm pretty sure we walked to school together from when I was four or five until I was seven, but he probably remembers better than I.

I specifically remember being interested in why the sky was blue. I was happy with his answer about why the sky was blue, and I think I even remember trying to explain it to some classmates, who looked at me like I was crazy. (For those who want to know, it's basically about blue wavelengths bouncing off of the atmosphere while other wavelengths pass right through it. So when we look at the "sky"--the atmosphere--all we see is the blue light.) I gathered from this conversation, or perhaps my father told me this explicitly, that there was nothing inherently "blue" about the sky or "green" about leaves--it was all about which wavelengths were absorbed and which were scattered. This impressed me greatly at a young age, although I'm sure my classmates didn't believe me when I tried to explain it to them. I also remember him explaining why seashells sound like the ocean. To one who really thought the ocean was inside the shell, or that there was some inherent reason why seashells sounded like the sea--this was a tremendous revelation!

Because my father knew all of this, I was sure that he was the smartest person in the world. How terrific to have the smartest person in the world for a father! Then I asked him how telephones worked. I understood about electrical impulses going through the phone lines, etc., but I wanted to know the specific mechanics of what made the telephone ring, I think, or maybe how the electrical impulses were translated into voices that we heard. I remember desiring a much higher level of detail than my father could give me, and I think he said, in the end, that he just didn't know. (Did he really not know the answer to my question or was he tired of explaining things to an ever-questioning daughter whose curiosity might have been stronger than her ability to understand the answers given? Only he can answer that question.)

There went all illusions of my father's brilliance--right out the window, into the light-wave-filled sky! I remember being so disappointed, and coming to the conclusion that if my father couldn't answer even this simple question about how an everyday item like the telephone worked, then perhaps he wasn't the smartest person in the world after all. (Thanks, Daddy, for answering all those questions anyway! I take full responsibility for any inaccuracies of 20-year-old conversations contained herein.)

The author of the article mentioned above managed to avoid this by taking notes on his son's questions and then referring to "the experts." It was quite an amusing and informative read. Here is one I never would have thought to ask:

"Why are there sidewalks on both sides of the street?"

Iris Weinshall, commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation:

"It goes back to the late 1800's. The city started to grow, we didn't have a subway system, we didn't have an extensive mass-transportation system. How did people get around? If you didn't have a horse and buggy—which was very expensive—you walked everywhere. We started to think how to keep people safe. There were something like 900 pedestrian deaths at the turn of the century. Basically, what the government was saying was we have to recognize there are multiple uses for the streets, and we have to tell the property owners how to create this safe environment for people."

I didn't realize that there used to be so many pedestrian deaths from horses and buggies, and that sidewalks were created in a reaction to that.

Anyway, you can read the rest yourself if you want. And since gender is never that far back in my mind, I want to ask--do other people ask their mothers these questions?



If you haven't read this yet, you should

BZ's latest exposition explores the eerie congruence between Kabbalat Shabbat and REM's Automatic for the People album. This post is amazing. Read it now before it sells out and you're stuck fighting tooth and nail to buy it used on eBay. You'll be glad you did.


Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet, I guess

It's traditional to say "Baruch Dayan (Ha)Emet," which means "blessed is the true Judge" or "blessed is the Judge of truth," when hearing of someone's death. It's really hard to say that when you hear this news of Hannah Engle zichrona l'vracha's untimely, horrific death on Saturday night. I did not know her personally, but know a lot of people who did. Hannah was active in Hadar, a graduate student in the joint masters program at NYU, an intern at the UJA-Federation of New York, and a former employee of the JDC (American Joint Distribution Committee), working on the Jewish Service Corp program.

I feel like the longer I live, the more people I know who died far, far too young. I guess that's just the way it is, but it never sucks any less when I hear about someone I know, or could have known, dying before his or her time. It always seems just as tragic as the first time. And there are no real words of comfort.

May her memory be for a blessing.



Truth in Text

Here's something else that I read recently that resonated. I have recently become more and more convinced that the move from face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice communication to instant messaging and text messaging and, to a lesser extent, e-mail, has really changed the nature of friendship and intimacy.

Charles McGrath puts it this way in this week's New York Times Magazine:
This may be the universal attraction of text-messaging, in fact: it's a kind of avoidance mechanism that preserves the feeling of communication - the immediacy - without, for the most part, the burden of actual intimacy or substance. The great majority of text messages are of the "Hey, how are you, whassup?" variety, and they're sent sometimes when messenger and recipient are within speaking distance of each other - across classrooms, say, or from one row of a stadium to another. They're little electronic waves and nods that, just like real waves and nods, aren't meant to do much more than establish a connection - or disconnection, as the case may be - without getting into specifics.
Like Charles McGrath, I feel that it's just a bunch of waves and nods, without substance. Waves and nods are great for when you're really tired or in a rush or just trying to maintain a connection with someone who, because of geographic distance, you only get to see once or twice a year. But for it to be the main connection between two people--the stuff over which you become friends--seems kind of ludicrous to me. I actually don't think I could really become good friends with someone over the phone either. I guess I really do need some minimal amount of face time or shared experience/history to become good friends with someone.

I do think that e-mail is different, at least if the correspondents are both decent writers. That, at least, hearkens back to the days when people maintained friendships through the exchange of letters, which is a time-honored tradition. I think that e-mail exchanges can deepen a friendship the way that IMing and instant messaging never can. (I can't believe I just used the word "hearken.")

I also wonder if this is a generational thing or a gender thing. It may be at least partly true that younger people (younger than 26, that is) and that (at least some) men* are less disturbed by the lack of connection, intimacy, or substance in many forms of electronic communication than, say, I am.

*Note that I am not conflating young people and men. Their only commonality seems to be that they are less disturbed by how much human communication--important, essential human communication--people attempt to conduct through instant messaging or text messaging these days.

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I can't say I disagree...

with this editorial from the Boston Globe about the portrayal of Jewish women in Hollywood. I feel like I've become somewhat, well, used to these popular images of Jewish women and they don't bother me as much as they should.

Although I enjoyed watching Prime (parts of it were funny, maybe "enjoy" is too strong a word), I was a little bothered by Meryl Streep's portrayal of a very stereotypical middle aged Jewish woman. I think that she is a great, very convincing actress (I have thought this especially since seeing Angels in America), but the stereotype was disturbing. Maybe not as much as it should have been, though.

P.S. Welcome to any new visitors who are here from Drew Kaplan's blog. And thanks for the mention, Drew!



Would I be repeating third grade if I went to a NYC public school?

I think that this, by Greg Palast, is self-explanatory, but I'm going to comment on it anyway, because it shocked me. Even though it probably shouldn't have. Read it and then read on. (Thanks, BZ, for pointing it out.)

* * *

The opinion piece I've linked to quotes two sample questions from the actual test being given to 3rd graders in New York State today and tomorrow. As I understand it, students who don't pass this test have to repeat the 3rd grade. I don't know what happens if they fail it two years in a row.

Let's put aside, for now, all questions about what role, if any, standardized tests should play in determining whether or not individual students should advance a grade. This test is frightening, because I could not conclusively answer the two questions quoted in the piece. The point of the piece is that the tests are clearly biased towards upper and middle class people.

But it may be worse than that. The questions might just be incredibly poorly-written. I grew up middle class and went to Harvard with lots of upper class people (not that I really spoke to them for the most part, but I was at least exposed to them). And I have, um, 20 (count 'em, 20!) years of schooling under my belt, not the 3-5 years that most third graders probably have. And I happen to be a champion at standardized tests, at least the ones that don't involve math. In fact, I remember enjoying taking the standardized state tests that we had to take every other year or every third year in elementary school.

So why are these questions giving me difficulty? Because they're terrible questions, that's why!

The first question quoted is:
The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year.
And here's one of the four questions:

The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played:

A. two matches in one day
B. against each other
C. with two balls at once
D. as partners

If the Williams sisters played doubles tennis together, on the same side, and won a lot of games that year, then D is clearly the right answer. (I have no idea how many games they won in 1999 or if they played on the same or different doubles teams.) If the Williams sisters played doubles tennis with other partners, then "could not seem to lose that year" could be a clever way of alluding to the fact that at least one of them would win every time they played against each other, and B would make more sense. If at least one of them won, then they "could not seem to lose." (If they played mostly against each other, and not against other doubles teams. But I don't really know enough about how tennis works to answer that question.) If B is the right answer, the reading comprehension portion would be clever, but not grammatically correct, because at least one of them would lose each time they competed and thus, it would be false to say that "the Williams girls [plural] could not seem to lose that year," because only one [singular] of them would win.

If I was taking this test, I would guess D, because it doesn't require the reading comprehension piece to be clever and it probably wasn't meaning to be. If B was right, though, and they were trying to be clever, I would not be surprised by the grammatical error. And I was, of course, only able to answer that question at all because I know that doubles tennis means that two people play on each side, and that singles is when one person plays on each side. (That is all I know about tennis. I have no idea how scoring or matches work.)

The second question was easier, but the answer was also a bit shaky and inconclusive:
Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs. In this sentence, a club is probably a:

F. baseball bat
G. tennis racquet
H. tennis court
J. country club

Greg Palast adds: "Helpfully, for the kids in our 'hood, it explains that a 'country club' is a, 'place where people meet.' Yes, but WHICH people?"

I would guess J, but I'm not sure that H, strictly speaking, is incorrect. I mean, presumably, "Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private" tennis courts, in which case, you could replace the word "club" in their sentence with "tennis court[s]." I could guess J in the end, because I know that country clubs have tennis courts. But if I didn't know that, I think H might really make the most sense. And even knowing that country clubs have tennis courts, I don't think that H is conclusively wrong. And aren't there private tennis clubs? I feel like there are. But I really have no idea. I've never played tennis and never been to a country club.

* * *

In related news, to sooth anxiety-ridden 9 and 10 year olds who are about to take reading tests that include essay questions (could I write an essay in 4th grade? I'm not sure), this article ("Toughening Up For Tests") from yesterday's New York Times discusses "test monsters." One choice excerpt:

"Oftentimes you have kids who just fall apart during the test; they just start crying or having a temper tantrum," said Barbara Cavallo, clinical director for Partnership with Children, a nonprofit group that works in the city schools.


Educators say that easing pressure is not just compassionate. Because anxiety hurts academic performance, too much stress can reduce scores - not a good result when schools that fail to make progress face federal sanctions.


To ease fears, city education officials this year urged teachers and principals to teach strategies for test-taking and effective use of time. Gym teachers were advised to teach isometrics, yoga and other relaxation techniques. Parent coordinators were told to spread the gospel of a good night's sleep.

Guidance counselors were advised against reminding fifth and eighth graders that they might not graduate to middle or high school if they failed. Parents were warned to avoid saying that failing could ruin the family's summer vacation.

Okay, I'm quoting enough that it's no longer an "excerpt." Go and read it on their website.



Feeling Poor and Lucky (now updated)

I read this article in a old issue of Business Week when I was waiting in a doctor's office. Look, it was either that or Field & Stream. The article, titled "Thirty and Broke," was both about me and not about me.

It was about me because of all of the many, many reasons not to pursue graduate school, money is definitely up there. I also made, and continue to make, many life choices based on the high cost of education, the high cost of rent, and the relatively low-ish salaries available in the non-profit sector, where I happily reside. It was about me because my fancy education cost an arm and a leg, and I'm not rolling in it. (If I had wanted to go the corporate route--which I didn't--and if I had been able to get a job in that sector, I would be more financially comfortable now. But probably a lot less happy.)

It was not about me because I am lucky enough not to owe the Feds any money for my undergraduate education, due to: being the second child going to college (parental assets already gone to first child's alma mater), going to a school with a lot more financial aid (including grants) than most universities (and they upped it at least once during my time there, in competition with Princeton), some unusual events, and my parents' generosity. I am very grateful for all of those things.

It's also not about me because I don't have any credit card debt, unlike most of my generation. I've always been responsible with credit cards (pay off everything every month). I can do that because I am blessed with a job that pays a living wage, and because I keep my expenses proportionate to my salary. Entertainment can cost a lot in the City, but, lucky for me, I am happy entertaining myself with the New York Times (split three ways between myself and my two roommates, it's a bargain), library books, talking with friends, learning Gemara, and wasting time on the Internet. (Since I broke my eBay addiction that last one has been cheap!) I sometimes go to a movie with a friend, but it's not a default weekend activity for me. And my lovely grandmother takes me with her to the theater a few times a year, which satisfies my desire for those finer forms of entertainment. Although part of me would like to go gallivanting about the world some more (India, anyone? Argentina? Italy?), while I'm young, unencumbered, and have a lot of vacation time, another part of me wants to save some money for, say, an emergency fund. You know, like they say responsible people should have? Also, shouldn't I be socking money away for retirement, while it's still at least 40 years away? Because, you know, there will be no Social Security or anything left for us? Yeah, I thought so. So, in that respect, I seem to be not-so-much like others of my generation, at least not the other who consider themselves to be part of "Generation Debt."

Then I read this article in Slate, titled, "The It-Sucks-To-Be-Me Generation," and my feelings about "this is me and this isn't me" all made much more sense. I agree with the article (others didn't like the article as much), especially on the perspective part. It's really hard to have perspective at 26. And it's true that other generations have struggled far more than ours, financially and in other ways. Like my grandmother often says, when she was my age, she and my grandfather made $2K/year. That's right, $2,000.* A generation later, my aunt's starting salary in Manhattan was $7,280. So they also struggled. And they ended up okay. And I, hopefully, will too.

* This number is approximately accurate. I don't remember, really, because whenever my grandmother or aunt points this out, I immediately respond with, "Yes, but how much was your rent?" Because it seems that at least two things, rent and college tuition, have unequivocally gone up faster than inflation or salaries.

UPDATE: My aunt's first rent was $230/month, or 38% of her gross income. My first rent was also 38% of my gross income, but the difference is that my aunt was living alone in Brooklyn and I was sharing a two bedroom apartment with three other women in Manhattan. (It was a two bedroom turned into a four bedroom through temporary walls put up in the living/dining area.) It's hard to say who had the better deal.



(Self) righteous indignation, or what gets my goat

I was (self) righteously indignant about this this morning, but haven't had a chance to post it since I've been busy at work. In the intervening ten hours (yes, I work long days--I'm here for another two hours tonight, and I've gotta' work for all of it, since I have a lot to do), my righteous indignation has dissipated.

Nonetheless...Here is a wordy, mostly boring story that explains this now somewhat dissipated (self) righteous indignation.

This morning, as I was about to board the bus, I saw a blind man making his way from the street to the sidewalk (which is the curb--the street part or the sidewalk part of that interface?). It was difficult, since the sidewalk was crowded with people waiting for the bus, so I remarked to him, "There sure are a lot of people here," so he'd know to move further back, away from the bus, or go to the front to get help. I don't generally offer blind people help when it looks like they're managing fine on their own, although if I can make offhand, helpful comments within their hearing range, I do. I feel like a lot of blind people who use dogs or canes are rightfully proud of their hard-won independence and don't appreciate people either grabbing onto them or insisting on helping them. Indeed, a kind of screechy woman called out, "Sir! Let's go to the front of the line and I'll get you on the bus!" and he politely declined her offer and waited his turn in line with the rest of the grumpy commuters. Clearly, if someone looks like they need help, I offer it without qualms.

HOWEVER, upon entering the bus, five of the six front seats--the one reserved for the handicapped--were taken. Now this man had a red-tipped cane and was also elderly. He would have merited a first seat on either issue alone, but certainly with that combination! And at least two of the people in the most-forward seats had entered the bus immediately before him (after cutting me in line--harrumph!) and certainly knew that there was a blind man boarding the bus. I expected someone to get up for him as soon as he got on, but, no. He had to fumble his way past the first few rows and then, finally, a woman stood up and said, "Would you like my seat?" And he said, "Any seat," but really, there weren't many seats on the bus.

I have a few hot-button issues. One is gratuitous food wastage. I hate to see people throw out perfectly good food. There are so many people in this city--in my neighborhood--who don't have food that there's no need to resort to the "starving children in Africa" to feel guilty tossing good food into the trash. (Food pantries in NY turn away 2,500 people/day.) You can go ten blocks and give the hungry people the food! And if you find yourself throwing out spoiled food often, buy or make less in the future. You can also freeze some foods to eat later, if you can't eat them before they spoil. (Check on the individual food, though--I'm mostly thinking about bread here. With other things, you might risk food-poisoning.) With the money you save not buying or making food destined for spoilage, you can feed hungry people in Manhattan or the starving children in Africa. One reason that I think this pisses me off so much is because it's such a terrible problem--people not having enough to eat--and so easily rectifiable.

My second hot-button issue is people not standing up for the elderly or disabled on buses and trains. It really gets my goat. I noticed it in Boston and New York. Repeatedly. I will admit, that when I am especially tired, I go all the way to the back of the bus to get a seat and to reduce the likelihood of having to stand for someone. But people who need seats more than I do get to the back, I stand for them no matter how tired I am. If I'm sitting in the middle, I stand. And I never sit in the front of the bus--those seats are for the elderly or disabled.
I'm always surprised by how many youthful lads and lasses plop themselves down in those seats and make themselves nice and comfy, letting older people stand.

The only problem with trying to stand for older folks in New York is the prevalence of youthful dress and cosmetic surgery. Sometimes I can't tell if someone's old, and I don't like insulting people by standing for them if they're not old. It's especially touchy with some of these fancy people who the redone faces and the mink coats. Part of me feels that if you buy into the youth culture to the extent that I can't tell if you're 40 or 70, then you don't deserve my seat. You want to be young? Be young! Stand! Most of me thinks that's ridiculous, and, in general, I try to check out their hands--if they're old-looking, I get up for them. You can't fix the backs of your hands with cosmetic surgery, at least not yet.

It's also not clear to me, in general, what the age cutoff is, even assuming I can accurately guess their ages. Do I stand for the average 50-something? (Parents, don't kill me. I don't think you need a seat on the bus, but maybe you do.) 60-something? 70-something and older--the answer is obviously yes. For me, I think it's more an issue of their ability than their age. I stand up more for practical reasons than any sort of "respect your elders" reasons, although I do, usually, respect my elders. I will stand up for anyone who looks like they need a seat or would have difficulty standing--pregnant, carrying a small child, carrying a lot of bags, older, wobbly, holding a cane, on crutches, etc. I am always astounded by how many people don't. How far back in the bus does the lady with the cane have to creep before someone stands up and offers her a seat?!

Anyway, that's all the ranting I have time for today. Back to the grindstone. The good thing about working these long hours is that there's always a seat on the bus going home!

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RE: previous post, or, more on gender and work

That was a total lie. I am not 100% tired of talking about this stuff, as my brother pointed out, or I would not have posted about it. So I hereby retract that statement.

Re. David's comment. That makes sense, except that if you have multiple children then it's not a matter of spending 2 years out of the workforce, but 4 or 6 or 8. So I'm not saying that everyone should/would make this decision or even that I would personally, but it's possible that it's worth it to have daycare eat up most or all of one person's income in order to keep working. Either way, you're going to lose one income--you could do it staying home with your kid(s) or you could do it paying someone else to take care of your kid(s) for 8-10 hours a day while you work and advance your career. In some/many professions, taking 6 or 8 years out for rearing children would not just stall a career, but reverse it.

There are also, I think/hope, some happy mediums in between these two rather harsh options, including staying at home for 6 months or 1 year per child, rather than 2 full years. I'm also fervently hoping that, as time passes, it becomes more and more possible to do some combination of telecommuting or part-time work with part-time child care, either in the home or outside it. (As a veteran babysitter, I think you're kidding yourself if you think it's possible to work from home while taking care of a child of almost any age.) This should be especially possible for those of us with portable skills who aren't in high-earning, fast-paced, 60-hour-a-week careers in business or law or whatever it is that those high-earners do. (Aside: Who makes those huge salaries? Everyone I know is a teacher, a social worker, a writer, a social activist, or a Jewish communal professional.)

As far as "Who pays on a date?" goes, David's comment about the importance of social etiquette make sense to me. I guess I just feel that sometimes it's about social convention and not all about that other stuff, which is pretty much what David was saying. And the current social convention seems to be that the guy pays the entire bill on the first date, although the woman offers to split the bill. After the first date, I think it depends. Ken Wheaton over at the Nondating Life has something to say about who pays from at least one guy's perspective, but some of these people are spending far more on dates than I would ever want to anyone to spend on me.

And that's all I'm saying about dating on this blog, possibly forever, as the gantze mishpocha reads it.

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If you aren't tired of discussions about gender, education, feminism, and relationships

Here's more. From Modern Orthodox Woman.

I'm downright ashamed to say this, as a Women's Studies major (or minor, depending on how you parse the school-specific lingo), but I, personally, am a little bit tired of it all. By "it," I mean all of the discussion generated by Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? and, before that, Larry Summer's infamous speech.

Of course we haven't achieved that utopian state of post-feminism (as that term is popularly understood). Of course if women have the financial means they can stay at home after having children rather than enter the paid workforce. Of course we should support quality, affordable child-care so that women who wish to can join the workforce without leaving the kids home alone. Of course women should be given opportunities to excel in physics and mathematics and computer science and men should be given opportunities to excel in education, psychology, social work, and nursing (all fields dominated by women). Of course if a woman wants to go to an Ivy League Law School, practice for three years, and then stay home with her three children, that should be her prerogative.

Also, I'm tired of hearing that smart, educated women won't be able to get married, either because less-educated men won't want to marry them, or because they won't want to marry less-educated men. Enough already. It's like when they tell me that people in their 20s now will have to die young or not have enough money to retire, ever. And telling me this is helpful how? Are you seriously suggesting something constructive or just being gratuitously annoying?

And I guess I just feel like this world has bigger issues to deal with than "Who pays on a date?" Even though I realize that nobody who is hashing out the issue of "who pays on a date" is discussing that matter alone, but rather, dealing with all kinds of issues related to men, women, money, power, control, gender roles, gendered expectations, and self-possession, which I think are quite important and timely, even in this day and age. Maybe what I'm tired of is the hashing/haggling feeling that I get from reading blogs, and would prefer a nice, sit-down conversation with tea and scones. Anyone want to join me?

I don't remember if I linked to this before, but there was a good discussion here, and here, and here about this stuff in November over at Smeliana's blog. I left two long comments on one of her posts before I got burned out by the whole subject.

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2005 Words

My first post in 2006 is about 2005. What does that say about me? I'm not sure.

The Global Language Monitor publishes an annual list of top words, phrases, and names. I don't know how they come up with these lists. Are they the most spoken, most cited in the media, the most cited in American media, or something else? Also, it's clear from this list that they weren't very strict with their calculations--avian flu and bird flu were considered to be one phrase.

In any case, some interesting top-10s from 2005 include:
The Top Ten Words of 2005
  1. refugee
  2. tsunami
  3. Poppa/Papa/Pope
  4. Chinglish (Chinese + English)
  5. H5N1
  6. recaille (word used to describe youthful French rioters of North African and Muslim descent)
  7. Katrina
  8. wiki
  9. SMS (Short Message Service, a.k.a. text message)
  10. insurgent
In 2004, the Top Words words were incivility, Red States/Blue States, and Blogosphere.

The Top Ten Phrases of 2005
  1. out of the mainstream
  2. bird flu/avian flu
  3. politically correct
  4. North/South Divide
  5. purple finger/thumb (badge of honor worn by Iraqi voters proving that they voted in their ground-breaking elections)
  6. climate change/global warming
  7. string theory
  8. the Golden Quatrilateral (India's new superhighway system that links the key cities of the Subcontinent)
  9. jumping the couch (losing complete emotional control; made popular by the escapades of Tom Cruise on the Oprah television show)
  10. deferred success (idea introduced in the UK that there is no such thing as failure, only deferred success)
In 2004, the Top Phrases were Red States/Blue States, moral values, and Two Americas.

The Top Ten Names of 2005
  1. (Acts of) God
  2. Tsunami
  3. Katrina
  4. John Paul II
  5. Wen Jiabao (Premier of the People's Republic of China since March 2003; leading perhaps the largest economic transformation in history)
  6. Saddham Hussein
  7. Dubya
  8. Oprah
  9. Shakira (Columbian songstress)
  10. John Roberts
In 2004, the Top Names were Dubya Rove (W. and Karl Rove), Mel (Gibson) (Michael) Moore, and Saddam Hussein.


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