Remembering my Grandmother

My dad and I have a weekly appointment to talk on Sunday mornings. This morning our conversation was as usual, we focused on how my grandmother was doing. Her condition had been going down hill since the end of August when she broke her leg in three places and needed surgery. It was later discovered that she had a lump in her cheek that turned out to be cancer which had spread so much that radiation therapy or chemotherapy wouldn’t make a difference. About an hour ago my dad called me from the hospice care and told me she had passed away. She was 87, a few weeks shy of her 88th birthday.  
Wedding photo of my grandparents John Benedict Sr. and Fay Benedict
Date unknown
  Lots of people have good memories of their grandmother and I’m no different. She (along with my grandfather) was a rock for me when my parents got divorced and their house was a refuge for me during those stormy years. My grandmother always made sure that I had a fun time. One of the things I distinctly remember is that on nights I would be there (often to sleep over) is the ice cream with the home made chocolate sauce. It was something that was always done with love and caring.    Her positivity and her joy for life. My grandmother (or “Mum” as I called her) always had this positivity about her. It didn’t matter what you wanted to do and she would try to move heaven and earth to help you and was always in your corner. This was evident even when she was trying to improve herself. I remember all of the ways she tried to break bad habits. Even the when I saw her for the last time (in a weird twist of fate the aforementioned broken leg happened the day we were driving home from our Pittsburgh trip) she was extremely positive.  As you can see from the photo at the top of this post she enjoyed life. That picture was taken at my niece’s Bas Mitzvah (she was holding her great-grandson) where we we had four generations of Benedicts in the same room. It was a very meaningful moment to me and I’m sure to the rest of my family.    I’m going to miss her. I have so many good memories of her and will always treasure those memories. Her memory should be a blessing to our entire family.

Focusing on What is Important

I hate labels and the is especially true when it comes to Judaism and more specifically when it comes to Orthodox Judaism[1]. In his post today Harry Maryles touches on some of these issues. He received an email from an anonymous[2] “Charedi personality” bemoaning this kind of behavior. Here is what I think is the main takeaway quote:

In his view there is a near absence of Yir’as Shomayim and Ahavas Hashem that begins in our G-d free zones in yeshivas and girls’ schools, and continues throughout the lifespan where the ‘Frum’ are focused only on the chitzoniyus (translation – what can be seen from the outside -ab).

In many ways this is true. Look at the way yeshiva boys dress once they become Bar Mitzvah, they all wear a black hat, white shirt, and dark-colored pants[3]. It almost seems that there is no individuality allowed. I’m going to go “old man yells at clouds” for a moment and say that this wasn’t always the way things were. When I was in yeshiva for high school (and even post high school) we all wore colored shirts and were allowed to wear different colored slacks as well. Now when I see boys who attend my high school or post high school yeshiva they are all in the same “uniform”.

The focus on the outer trappings goes even further. I showed my daughter’s class list to someone and they noticed I have an apartment number on our address. It was suggested to me that I get rid of the address on the class list because it won’t look good when it comes time for her to start dating[4]. The reason was if we have an apartment number in the address it looks like we don’t have money!

The community writ large needs to get back to the basics Avodas Hashem (serving G-d); and we need to realize there are many ways to serve Hashem. Once we realize that we can then begin to respect the differences and create the harmony that is longed for.


  1. I also hate the phrase Orthodox Judaism but that is for another time.  ↩
  2. If someone did this in a non-anonymous fashion the discussion may be farther along and real change may have occurred  ↩
  3. Trousers for you British folks.  ↩
  4. This blog isn’t going to do her any favors either.  ↩

What’s next for Wave Accounting?

I have been using the Wave Accounting service for several years. Recently I have decided to stop using Mint and use Wave for my personal finances as well. The idea is that this will allow me to streamline things when I purchase something business related with my personal card and the opposite. However, this week Wave decided to throw a wrench into my plans and get rid of some of the personal accounting features. 

To be honest I didn’t use the personal budgeting or investing features but I am concerned about what comes next for the personal side of their service. I completely understand and agree with their reasoning. If only a small group were using these features and they are in the way it makes sense to remove them for something else. However this is exactly the problem; their post didn’t spell out at all what was going to replace these features on the personal side (if anything was going to be replacing these features).   This is exactly what I am concerned about. I don’t know what features (if any) are going to be replacing the budgeting and investing. It would be perfectly fine if Wave was going to allow the personal side to view reports and charts (How much of my spending is going to restaurants?) but they just didn’t clearly state what was going to happen with the over all personal side of financing. They may be getting rid of the personal side all together. You can’t really tell from the post/email they wrote. Make no mistake, I’m very happy with Wave for my very small business and I will continue to use it for sending out invoices and keeping my business finances in line. I just wish they were clearer about what was going to be happening on the personal side of things. 

Thoughts on the NYC Mayoral Debate

A few weeks ago the New York City Democratic Party had a debate with the two candidates running in the primary coming up in a few weeks. The two candidates are the incumbent mayor, Bill de Balsio, and Sal Albanase.

For the most part the debate was your typical modern day debate filled with zingers, gotchas, and sounds bites. I wasn’t too impressed with Albanase and I’ve not been impressed with the way de Blasio has run the city the past four years.

There was one part of the debate that was interesting that was the good folks over at Intelligence Squared US co-sponsored the debate. There was one question which the candidates debated for and against a motion. Like all debates put on by Intelligence Squared the idea is to use facts are reason, not sound bites, to win.[1]. I didn’t think either candidate did a good job with the facts. In fact, I don’t think they fully understood what they were supposed to do. This is a shame but on the other hand it isn’t much of a surprise because they are not used to debating in that way.

However I think this is a great idea and I hope that more local debates do this and eventually all of the debates can be done in this fashion.


  1. The debate for the general election (October 10) will also have a round of questions where the candidates will have to do the same.  ↩

UBI, Healthcare, and the states

A few weeks ago the news broke that Hawaii was starting to look at having a state wide Universal Basic Income (UBI). I became aware of the UBI last year when Charles Murray did several short Youtube videos about how UBI would help in the U.S.

I don’t know any more of they details for the Hawaii plan but I think this is going the right way and it’s why Federalism can work if we just give it a chance. Think of it this way, if Hawaii is successful another state can take the idea and modify it to what works for them. If Hawaii’s plan isn’t successful there will be lessons that other states can learn from and possibly go ahead with a different plan from the lessons learned. If a subset of states are successful it can me a model for a federal plan.

It’s the same idea for the single payer health care. I am not the biggest fan of the of the single payer system but I do think that if a state wants to try a single payer system they should be able give it a try if they would like. (Of course the fact three states have wanted to try but couldn’t figure out how to keep their budgets balanced says something)

That states can try these things is the great thing about our federalist system and the exact thing that the Founders wanted them to try. Now that both political parties understand the need to the states to be somewhat independent from the federal government let’s see what the states can come up with.

Mars Edit’s New Public Beta

I’ve been a user of Red Sweater Software’s Mars Edit for quite a while now (at least seven years). It was to much joy that I saw the announcement of the public beta for the new version of the blogging software. It looks good so far and one of the features I am really excited for is the ability to preview your post with the theme of your blog. I am sure this was one of the more requested features to add.

What to do about the high school admission problem?

I’m in the final days of the school year and I’m filling out the report cards for my eighth graders. Teaching the subjects that I teach (ELA and American History) to 8th graders is difficult one the first term is done. This is mainly because they have already applied and been accepted to high schools by the end of the term. Once the second trimester starts they don’t care about my classes because they know there will be no consequences for doing poorly. They have already been accepted into high school. Of course if they don’t care about the grades then you can imagine what their behavior is like. In fact, I asked one elementary school principal what he does with his eighth grade classes and he gave me the following reply:

“Well, we don’t ask them to do much”

This is not very inspiring and believe me I don’t ask my eighth grade students to do much either1. However, there needs to be a better way aside from just asking them not to do much. I think the beginning of the solution can be found in Lakewood, NJ2. At least one year they tried to make the registration later to solve this problem. I am not sure if this worked or not but at least it is a good start3.

I understand and respect the need for high schools to know how many students they have coming in for the next school year. They have budgets to make and they need to know how much of a short fall they will have in their budgets4. On the flip side of that is the need for the teachers to have some kind of knowledge that the students will behave and learn somewhat. Moving the application and acceptance dates would help solve this problem.


  1. Even though I don’t ask much from them it doesn’t make me happy. I would much rather be teaching them a regular instead of dumbing down the lessons starting at the middle of the school year. 
  2. This was told to me by a rebbe who lives in Lakewood. 
  3. Yes, I am actually giving credit to Lakewood for something. I am as shocked as you are. 
  4. Most schools are in the red on tuition alone. They need to find other funds to break even or get into the black. 

Hate crime stats and what they say about NYC

Today there was a tweet about some hate crime stats in NYC:

There are several things that jumped out at me about these numbers:

  • Why are they comparing this year’s numbers to the attacked from 2015? It seems to me that the only reason they are doing that is because they can then show the much larger differences1.
  • The sample size of these numbers is very small. I don’t think you can make any points based on these numbers.
  • In what may be a surprise to some people anti- semitic crime is seeing the biggest increase. Again, these are small samples so your milage may vary.
  • These are only crimes the police classified as “hate crimes”2. How many more crimes were there when it was a question if it was a “hate crime” or not? I’d be interested in seeing those numbers as well.
  • Finally the total number of hate crimes in NYC is shockingly low considering the population of the city. This is a good thing and shows most people are tolerant of others. Of course the fact it is increasing is not good at all.

  1. I assume the they in this case is the NYPD, but no context was given in the tweet. 
  2. Yes the term is in quotes because almost all crimes of violence are hate crimes. No, I don’t like violence against anyone and I’d like to think I respect everyone’s beliefs.