Wednesday, March 02, 2011


The past year or two, I have gotten really in to baking bread. Homeade quality is rarely as high as an excellent bakery but since freshness makes a big difference and good homemade is much much better than day old bakery bread, I find it's more convenient, more fulfilling, more delicious and cheaper to bake rather than buy under more circumstances. Additionally, when I bake at home the resulting bread doesn't have all the stabilizers and preservatives they use to keep commercial bread shelf stable for longer. At a more abstract level though, there is something very powerful about baking bread myself. Just by putting a few ingredients together, exposing it to heat we end up with something wildly different. This surprising process by which wheat is turned into loaves was the key factor that led to the rise of cities based on agriculture (in much of the world). I am moved by being part of the simple discovery with such profound implications.

I find that it is the easiest to make this recipe using a digital scale. They can be had for pretty cheap although here is a good one for $30. It's not necessary though--I list volume measure later.

Here are some weights (see above for info on scales):
Flour 860g (we prefer bread flour to all-purpose. You could also make it partially whole wheat or other types of flour but need to work to get the same lift. Since I make a lot of bread I buy King Arthur Special by the 50-pound sack.)
Water 690g
Salt 16-18g (I prefer {misnamed} Kosher Salt)
Yeast 2g (I prefer jars/cartons to packets)

1. Mix flour, yeast, and salt. (salt can kill yeast so i put them on opposite sides before i mix)
2. Add water
3. Mix
4. Let stand in a warm, but not hot, place at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours (18 hours is optimal) [if it is colder than 65 degrees or so in your house overnight, you'll get less rise]

after the 12 to 24 hours have passed
5. Stir dough a couple times so it begins another rise.
5. Preheat oven to 465 with a soup pot/dutch oven with a lid (make sure it is ovensafe)
6. When oven reaches 465, take pot out and dump in the dough
7. Optional--dust top with a bit of flour (this just makes it look nice)
8. Put in over for 38 minutes with lid on
9. After 38 min, remove lid and bake for additional 10 to 20 min, until chestnut brown (some prefer golden but then you'll get less caramelization of the crust)

Ta Da!

It is a really forgiving recipe so if you mess up, don't worry. It will be delicious no matter what.
If you'd like to make an olive bread, follow the same recipe to make the dough. While you are pre-heating the oven, dice some olives. Obviously this will be easier if you buy pitted olives. Stir olive bits into the dough before dropping the dough in the pot. Try to have as little olive brine as possible get into the dough. Don't put the olives in at the beginning since they inhibit the rising of the dough.

Any pot with a tight-fitting lid should work so long as it is oven safe to 465. Here is a good candidate. Note, that if you buy that one, you'll have to swap out the top handle since it isn't oven safe to a high enough temperature. It's pretty easy though, just unscrew the screw and add a replacement.

I find that lining the pot with a silpat like this one completely prevents the bread from sticking to the bottom of the pot and makes cleanup much easier.

Here are volume measures:
6 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of yeast
somewhere between 3 and 4 teaspoons of salt
3 and 1/4 cups of water

Thank to AZW for his mentorship in this arena. Thanks to Mark Bittman (popularize-r) and Jim Lahey (originator) for the original recipe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wedding Manifesto v1.2

Wedding Manifesto

As we planned our wedding we came under pressure to spend obscene amounts of money on a variety of silly things--I suspect this is the American way. The pressure was real, came from many places, and thankfully was almost entirely resisted. If it can happen to us--it can happen to you! I’ll outline some of the things we did and why, including resources. My approach to weddings is that it’s critical to save your budget for things that will make your wedding match your goals. Since the budget is limited, spending on things you care about will necessitate ruthlessly cutting things you don’t. I’ll talk more about this throughout. My experience with wedding is a bit limited (though I’ve been to 30 or so I’ve only planned one).

What’s the Point?

When you organize a political event, start a new project, or decide how to manage an initiative, you probably start by thinking about what you want to accomplish. What are your goals? A wedding, for all its differences is still an event and you should start by clarifying your goals. Would you like friends from different parts of your lives to get to know each-other? Your families to acquaint? The friends and family assembled to understand more the nature of your commitment to each other? Give people a sense of how your life works?

What do you view as important? Classiness? Environmental simplicity? Your ethnic heritage? Labor rights? Silliness? Fashion?

Think about your goals before you think about the details. Most do it the other way around and that often leads to spending lots of money on things that don’t meet your goals. If you have it in your budget, spend lavishly on things which facilitate your goals and be relentlessly thrifty on things which don’t. At the end of the day you will be married. You need to figure out what else you want to happen.

The Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC)

There is an entire industry devoted to profiting from your joy. Profiting from your joy isn’t necessarily bad--you are joyful and businesses exist to profit so sometimes it can work out. The big problem occurs when they manipulate you to increase their profits. The easiest way to avoid such manipulation is to avoid conventional wedding professionals. Some are terrific but many aren’t. Typically they have spent years learning their trade and are better at getting you to spend a lot than you are at resisting their charms. They have a lot more practice (several hundred weddings) than you do (this is probably your first, possibly second, certainly not 253rd).

From the photographer who wants you to spend an extra $1000 for some fancy doodad that will “help you remember this day forever” to the wedding dress boutique salesperson who is paid on commission and says “don’t you think you look a bit sexier in the other dress” rather than “is the other dress really worth $2000 more, they are quite similar”, you should know that they are very clever and have had lots of practice. The WIC uses gender assumptions against you, they use self-consciousness to profit, and build up expectations to unreasonable levels. Don’t do business with people who make you nervous, seem manipulative (even if it’s just a bit), or are not on board with your ideas.


As my partner says:

“Don't read too many wedding books or websites. they're bad for your health, seriously, they warp your wedding planning from being about what you and your partner want to being about what they want you to want. It's a mess.”

Most wedding books are part of the broader wedding industrial complex. Books which build up the idea that you are trying to achieve your perfect day should be discarded. Books that make your feel stressed or inadequate are bad for the soul. Books that don’t focus on how your wedding can reflect who you can slowly move you towards someone else’s vision.

Two books we liked (I'd like to add some non-Jewishly-specific books, please recommend):

The New Jewish Wedding
The Creative Jewish Wedding Book: A Hands-on Guide to New & Old Traditions, Ceremonies & Celebrations

Our friend WB writes:
The best non-Jewish wedding book I know is Miss Manners On Weddings. Despite what some people might assume about Miss Manners, the book is subversively anti-WIC, It's very good about discouraging versions of the "everybody tells us our wedding has to have outrageously-expensive thing XX" line of thinking.


If you are snail mail oriented you might send out save-the-date cards and invitations. To us, that seemed a little bit silly since most people in our generation do better with e-mail. Turns out doing it with PaperlessPost costs about $0.05 per invitation. Much cheaper than the $0.44 stamp and the printing/envelope that can be a couple bucks. Send out 150, do both save-the-dates and invitations and you can be looking at about $500. For us it wasn’t worth it.

Paperless Post

WB again:
We used paper for two main reasons. 1, we really enjoy stationery and paper goods, so our invitations were a chance for us to share our love of paper goods with our guests. 2, we had a number of guests from a significantly older generation, and we worried that they would find paperless invitations and save the dates confusing, disorienting, and alienating; in order to make them feel more welcome, we used traditional paper for everybody.
It sound as though they really enjoyed the aesthetics of the invitation. Given the amount of enjoyment they got from this, it sounds like they made a great decision. We sent paper invitations to older folks who we thought wouldn't understand our normal approach. In our case, that ended up being about a dozen people.


For us, it was hard to balance focusing on getting married with a lot of people being excited to note the occasion with gifts. On the one hand, it seemed like it’d be cool if everyone just gave to a charity and came to celebrate but on the other hand it was great to get lots of stuff that makes it easier to cook, serve, and host, since those are all things we like to do. Lastly, it was hard to balance being happy to receive things which will enrich our life with not wanting to be nor appear to be materialistic. Lastly, we have heard a lot of feedback that we should have a wedding registry. One guest said, “look I am getting you a present, you can either tell me what you want/what kind of thing you want, or I can decide. Put up a registry since I am going through a crystal vase phase.”

Typically people go to one or more retail establishments and go around with a scan gun, laser-beeping things on to their registry. For their part, the stores usually encourage people to register for many presents than guests. This has the effect of people sometimes feeling sad when they didn’t receive something that a few weeks earlier they had never heard of, let alone need. It’s a very good way to get couples to demand more stuff than they intended. It’s so much fun to go around and scan things--a sort of twist on on the 1980s hit supermarket sweep. I think zapping is fun, if you do as well, go to a laser-tag place (do they still have those?).

We initially tried to avoid having a registry all together but after much feedback from family and older friends we built one. Our goals were:
  • to be very clear that we don’t expect gifts and that the main thing is that folks should come celebrate with us
  • to have items in many price ranges
  • to avoid an array of choices which would overwhelm folks (see Schwartz)
  • to help people understand why we were excited about the things on the list
  • to help people coordinate so that we wouldn’t get multiple identical gifts

We ended up using alternative gift registry and borrowing artful language from our friends JN and EM. In addition to gifts, we listed some organizations that we would be honored to have folks support with us in mind. On the gifts front, we vaguely prioritized our list and tried to have roughly two items under $50, two between $50 and $100 and two over $100 most of the time. When someone bought something (more specifically, indicated that they would), we deleted that item and added the next one on our list. This was a bit confusing for some guests but was generally well received. AGR gives a place for text where we described a bit about why we put an item on the list. If we had something specific in mind we posted a link (victorinox makes reasonably priced chef’s knives that outperform ones 4 times the price). When we didn’t know much about the subject we said so: “Composter--We’d like one that turns food scraps into dirt.” For the most part this system worked for us.

Alternative Gift Registry
Our text (thanks JN/EM!)


If they are helping you fund the wedding, it is important to have a sense from your parents about how they think the money will work. Some of my friends have split it evenly 3 ways (couple, one side’s parents, the other side’s), others have picked it up entirely themselves. In some cases the bride’s parents have picked the whole thing up (traditional American approach), and in some cases the parent’s split it down the middle. It’s helpful to have a clear idea from the outset so you can start to have a vague idea of the budget. They can pay for things directly or fund an account that you write checks from (the way we did it).

Exercise: Set up a meeting where all parents and partners can be present. Say something roughly like: “we will take two minutes so we can all visualize a specific moment in the wedding that we are excited about. We’ll then go around and share our moment, what it sounds like, looks like and feels like. Remember this is a snapshot not a discussion of broader themes.” In our case, one parent talked about the ceremony, another the band, and a third the food. We had worried that they’d have strongly differing views but actually, this helped us see that they were focused on different pieces and prioritized differently. It was a huge relief.

Getting to Know You/Rehearsal Dinners

It is important to help people get to know you better as individuals and as a couple. Many friends of your parents, family members, etc won't know you as adults nor your partner at all. Part of the task of a wedding experience (especially any pre/post events) is to help people learn about who you guys are. For instance, rather than a rehearsal dinner, we did an open mic where we served dessert, wine and beer while people played music, toasted us, roasted us, and through the process introduced us to the people who didn't know us well from the other side. It was a lot of fun, and fulfilled a goal (help people get to know each other, and us) rather than us trying to fit our goals into the normal way of doing things (an expensive rehearsal dinner).

The Wedding

With regard to the actual wedding itself, we tried to focus on what things would tangibly help people enjoy the experience and build community. Cut flowers are expensive, bad for the environment, and usually are produced under bad labor conditions. Since we don't think they mattered, we just didn't have any (if cut flowers are important to you, cut somewhere else, and go all out on flowers).


We elected not to have them and it turned out well for us. Our friend Will remarked that he and his wife didn’t need any more divisions and public prioritizations among their friends. We primarily thought that causing people to buy dresses they wouldn't want to wear again was silly. Still, it is important to many people to have wedding parties, if you do this, think back to when you have been on the other end, what would have made your experience better? What did you resent?

Who is the Wedding About?

It’s entirely about you and your partner! Nope! Lots of folks will say that the wedding is all about you--normally to sell you something designed to enhance your appearance. Really, the wedding is about your relationship with your partner and your collective relationship with family and friends. If it was all about you, you’d be better off taking the money and going on a very long cruise or something similarly lavish.

This day, is very important for most people at the wedding. Brides and grooms must resist the pressure to focus exclusively on themselves. Weddings can be hard for single friends or coupled friends who aren’t ready to marry. Weddings can be challenging for people whose relationships are not recognized as readily in society, especially if your relationship is. Be aware of how others may be thinking and feeling--it will mean a lot to them, and ultimately to you.


Since most catering isn’t amazing, it seemed silly to spend $100 per person when we could do fine for $20. Our experience is that catered food is rarely delicious for the price. We focused on a cuisine with a tradition of delicious buffet dining and figured that it would be good rather than amazing. Since we didn’t feel strongly that there ought to be meat or fish, we served vegetarian Indian food (and some bland food for those who didn't like Indian). This cost about 1/3 to a 1/6 of what normal catering would have cost--this freed up budget for other things. The vegetarian-ness also made the food lighter which led to more dancing. I suggest you speak with restaurants you like a lot and see if they’d cater and for what price. Not only will it be more delicious and cheaper than most other options, it’ll also give people insight into your life. For some folks, food is the signature piece of the wedding. If this is you, it’s reasonable to spend like it. If it isn’t, you don’t need to break the bank.


We had an amazing experience with delegating. Everyone we asked to do anything at our wedding exceeded expectation and did a breathe-taking job. From the Carinne and Seth who who MCed the open mic and organized a band of mostly ex-housemates to Beth who put together a team to make all the desserts to Jon who wrote a 4-part arrangement and trained a group to sing it while we processed to Kavitha who ran point all day--literally everyone nailed it. We considered which skills each of our friends had (cooking, likes to be charming/funny in front of large groups, creating intense emotional space, juggling, singing, connecting people etc) and thought of things to ask of them. This helped our wedding feel like our wedding and our parents/parent’s friends/relatives got to see why we love our friends so much. Highly recommend!


At the end of the day you’ll be married. The rest is just details.

In a future edition:
How do you get reluctant stakeholders (parents) on board with this plan?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Movement, Denominations, and Minyanim…oh my!

A little while back, in addressing recent discussions of minyanim and reacting to Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, BZ posted:

Rabbi Kaunfer writes “New self-proclaimed movements sprung up — Reconstructionism, and the Renewal and Chavurah Movements.” The “Chavurah movement” is not now and has never been a “self-proclaimed movement” parallel to the “big three” or the Reconstructionist movement. Rabbi Kaunfer himself has argued for why the latest wave of independent minyanim do not constitute a “movement” in that mold, and the same is true for earlier waves of havurot.

This has led me to think about the similarities and differences between what people tend to refer to as Chavura, Conservative, Independent Minyan, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Renewal. (note that I alphabetized them rather than forcing them into a spectrum that doesn't quite fit). Of course these labels have substantial overlap. Some are parallel. Some are not. They all come about because people want quick categories that they can use to label the Jewish approach of themselves and others.

--This next paragraph can be skipped, it defines a few terms and frames the issue, but some might find it needlessly semantic--Some of these labels are (what I'll call) institutional, ideological, and/or aesthetic. Insitutional groupings are based on a subset of Jews being unified based on connection to an institution(s). For instance, The Conservative movement is an institutional grouping since it's people are connected through camps, schools, youth groups, an other institutions. It is also an ideological grouping since it has positions on many questions that it endorses. Conservative Jews have tendencies to think about Israel in certain ways, egalitarianism, etc. Of course, some differ and there is some diversity, but certainly, you can see what I mean by ideological grouping. By aesthetic, I mean a preference for decision-making model, prayer approach, or something else which is not explicitly Ideological. In many cases these issues are deeply moral, so I don't mean to imply that this is in any sense superficial. Minyanim, for instance are united by a desire for lay-ledness and thus "Minyan" is an aesthetic grouping. This is a rather arbitrary nuance but there certainly is a nuance between how people think about the world (ideology) and how they prefer their prayer specifically (prayer aesthetic) that while influenced by the former is a slightly different issue.

Now I'll take a look at a few common groupings and examine what they are, where they come from, and which they are parallel too, and not.
Read more »

Monday, August 17, 2009


[I hope there will be a lot of collaboration on this one, so i will set out the framework and edit it a lot, so please make suggestions and additions in comments and I'll add them to the main text.]

One of the most festive parts of the (Ashkenazic?) Jewish wedding tradition is the shtick. According to Wikepedia:
"Shtick" is derived from the Yiddish word שטיק, meaning "piece"; the closely-related German word Stück has the same meaning.
In a wedding context however, it refers to a specific part of the dancing. Generally there is circle dancing. At some point brides and grooms (and sometimes their families) are lifted in chairs. Once the couple* is returned to ground level it is time to fulfill a special wedding-specific miztvah: mesameach chatan v' kallah (gladdening the groom and bride).

The general setup is:
  • bride and groom is sitting on chairs
  • open space in front of them
  • music playing
  • people standing around the open space.
Now, many things will happen, all designed to entertain the couple. I'll look at a few categories of entertainment and then at a few common tricks. I am sure that many of you will have all sorts of ideas as to how to do these various tricks better and will have suggestions of others I forgot. My intention is to create a framework so that we can all collaborate to make a good repository of ideas so that folks unfamiliar with this part of a wedding can think about how they'd like to participate ahead of time. My personal experience, is that this offers an opportunity for different kinds of skills to emerge and people who aren't used to having some of their talents recognized in a Jewish context get that chance here.

Oftentimes guests who know the bride and/or groom well will have prepared various sorts of brief skits. These should be short because quick turnover is important to the flow, and these can drag out if brevity isn't a focus. As my new neighbor, BZ, reminded me--since the music is often loud, skits should be purely visual so the bride, groom, and assembled masses can all enjoy it without hyper-focus. Examples?

Signs, Decorations, etc
It commonly happens that people will use inside jokes, groom/bride related humor, etc to concoct funny posters and other objects that relate to the specific couple. Who has examples?

Often, kids get involved and do very cute things. I saw a 7-year old bring a violin once, hush the band and play a piece he had recently learned. It was delicious.

Personally, this is my favorite category. Tons of approaches are in-bounds. Magic tricks, feats of strength and balance, fancy dancing, and anything else worthy of the spotlight. Here are a few examples:

Bottle Dancing
--This is a feat of balance that ranges from simple to extremely hard. You move around with a bottle on your head. If you are beginning you might just walk around, which may very well impress. The guy pictured below can come very close to lying down and standing back up without ever touching the bottle. Word to the wise: this trick is easiest when the bottle is about half full. Difficulty: Ranges. Wow Factor: Very High. Injury Risk: Low.

(Photos Courtesy of The Wandering Jew)
Super Spin (no idea the actual name): This one is about balance and focus. It happens with two people. They hold both their partner's hands, lean back and spin as fast as possible. Without good execution this can lead to all sorts of problems. A few thoughts on how to do it well. You need a lot of space--if you don't have enough you may end up in a high speed collision. Make sure your hands are fairly dry. If you lose your grip, both people will go flying. There is some tendency to move together away from your starting point, slow down when you feel this motion since you will be somewhat disoriented and have a difficult time judging how far you can move. Generally, it's optimal to have people of roughly the same size and weight if you plan to go very fast. Additional variation: if one person is much lighter then the other, the light-one can jump and become fully horizontal. Difficulty: Low-Moderate. Wow Factor: Moderate. Injury Risk: High, if inexperienced. The name I attached to this is stupid. Does anyone have a better suggestion?

Flying Hora--This is another trick that is easy to dabble in and hard to execute well. It happens with an even number of people and is a close relative of the super-spin which is discussed above. The taller (and usually bulkier) folks spin the leaner folks so they are nearly horrizontal. This is accomplished by the taller folks holding each others hands and the lighter folks holding hands behind the taller folks shoulders. If you want to try this out, look at the specifics of the grips and locations in the picture below carefully. Difficulty: Moderate. Wow Factor: High. Injury Risk: Low, if experienced.

--pretty obvious. Difficulty: Ranges. Wow Factor: Medium (unless stuff is burning, then high. If plastic is burning, very high, bro.) Injury Risk: negligible.

(sp): This is one of a variety of difficult dances which originated in the Russian folks dance tradition. It features kicks from a squated position. This one takes practice, balance, strong ankles, backs, and legs. It also has a wide range of variations with different difficulties. The name, probably emerged from Kazak, the word for Cossack in many Eastern European and Central Asian languages. Here is a video that features the most common variation of that dance at the 0:38 mark. Difficulty: Ranges widely. Wow Factor: Moderately high. Injury Risk: Moderate (especially with a history of back or groin problems).

Balancing Stuff: People sometimes do complicated balancing routines besides the bottle/head maneuver. Just this past weekend I saw a guy balance a folding chair on his chin.Difficulty: High. Wow Factor: High. Injury Risk: Modest (mostly to people besides the balancer).

Fire Tricks: This is a very broad category of tricks which includes everything from juggling to fire swallowing. My personal favorite involves lighting hats on fire. Fedoras work well for this. It must be done with a liquid that will burn at a lower heat than the one at which the hat's material will burn (or melt). The theory goes, that the fluid (isopropyl alcohol, for instance) will burn but the hat will not, giving the appearance of the hat being on fire but not being consumed. Make sure there isn't alcohol on the under side of the top of the hat. You MUST NOT use a fluid with a fire point close to that of the hat nor can you let the hat burn for more than a few minutes. Lastly, beware of hats made of synthetic materials as they can melt. If you get good you can also toss the hat. As with any fire trick, beware of this problem and make sure you have water or an extinguisher handy. Difficulty: Modest. Wow Factor: Very High. Injury Risk: Ranges widely with practice level.

Human Pyramid: You are no doubt familiar with this standby. Obviously, bigger people on the bottom, lighter folks on the top. Difficulty: Depends on size. Wow Factor: Depends on size. Injury Risk: Modest.

Break Dancing: This is another big category. Be it b-boying, popping/locking, capoeira-influenced it will be a hit. Difficulty: High. Wow Factor: High. Injury Risk: modest.

Wheelbarrow: This is another piece of shtick that is very common. It is exactly as you remember from grade school. One person holds the other's legs and the other walks on his/her hands. Some just go straight to walking on their hands.

Bull Fight: This is another common maneuver often making an appearance during the shtick portion of the celebration. You typically see a person with a napkin waving it as a matador might. A second person snorts and charges as a bull might. Great fun is had by all.

What other things have folks done, seen, considered?

Here is a clip of what I assume is a professional shtick guy. He does some wild stuff.

*for simplicity's sake I will defer to a wedding with one groom and one bride, though several other combinations are obviously possible. Brides, Grooms, and a Bride+Groom function basically identically in this ritual, so assume when I say "Bride and Groom" assume I mean "a bride and a groom, brides, or grooms" .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Battle

I just had a birthday. In this era of social media I found myself warmly embraced. Thanks to all who called, e-mailed, facebooked, sung on conference calls etc.

Before I get into my main birthday-related point I should say that I am mostly posting elsewhere these days and apologize that this blog has largely fallen into disuse. I occasionally post at You can find my feed here. I also have gotten into Labornerd where I post occasionally under a super-secret pseudonym. So check me out in those places.

Now, back to my story. My parents came to town for my birthday. We had a few great meals and hunted for wedding venues for a bit. Then we ran a couple errands. When they departed I used a newly learned skill (thanks Aba!) to fix some scratches in the floor with polyurethane. This experience worried me greatly. By itself, fixing one's floor isn't worrisome. What is worrisome is the satisfaction and happiness it provided. I fear that I am now in the waning years of my fight against being grown up.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Souter and Specter

A few quick thoughts on recent events:
  • Specter switched due to polling. (obvious)
  • I prefer him as a Dem than as Rep but I'd prefer a real Democrat. (nothing new here).
  • If Specter isn't the key vote on cloture for several major issues (un-rigging labor law, healthcare, judges) then he will get a serious primary opponent. Perhaps Allyson Schwartz.
  • He may get a decently top-tier challenge anyways from Joe Sestak.
  • Sestak is a telegenic former Navy Vice Admiral and would run well statewide, but I have an inkling that we could get someone a bit more progressive.
  • Whether Schwartz, Sestak or someone else, that person might sit a long time. The state is now solidly blue and trending bluer.
  • Lots of Dems are pissed that Specter is getting to carryover his seniortiy.
  • I suggest they give him .5 years of Dem Seniority for every year he has been in the Senate. That way, he won't get any major chairmanships ahead of Feingold, Boxer, Mikulski, etc and won't be a Senator long enough for the deal to screw young Senators. Arlen might accept the deal in order to get a prominent sub-committee chairmanship.
  • Here is the seniority list of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hatch has occasionally been very reasonable. I wonder how he will perfrom as Ranking Minority Member.
  • We really, really don't want the guy who presided over the Alito and Roberts processes chairing Judiciary if Leahy swings to Approps.
  • How did the Souter news impact Specter's decesion?
  • Shouldn't we have extracted a deal where by he would have supported our candidates as a Republican and given a bipartisan veneer?
  • Specter must have known this was coming down the pike. It wasn't much of a secret. I, for intance, am very much out of the loop, especially on SCOTUS, and heard rumors starting before pesach.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

25 Best Days

People often worry about down markets and investing in them.
Once the market is down, it generally has some of it's best days of growth on the way up.

This makes a teaching from Ramit Sethi especially timely:

From 1970-2006 (the period studied) the average return of the S&P 500 was 11.1%. In that 36 year period, what would your return have been if you missed the best 25 days (less than 1 day per year)?

Was it 11.0%? 10.7%? 8.4%? 7.6%?

Think about it for a minute and then check the excerpt from his book below.

From Ramit's book: “Recently, a group called Dimensional Funds studied the performance of the S&P 500 from January 1970 to December 2006, during which time the annualized return of the market was 11.1%. They also noted something amazing: Of those 36 years from 1970 to 1986, if you missed the 25 days when the stock market performed the best, your return would have dropped from 11.1% to 7.6%, a crippling difference."

Better than a Nursing Home at half the cost

I read this wonderful piece A faithful diner's last will and condiments in the LA Times. It's about a guy who spent decades of his life eating three meals a day at a small college in Southern California.
Over the years, the gray-haired man in the short-sleeved plaid shirt became a legend at the 2,200-student university, where -- over a plate of Swedish meatballs and a large bowl of soft-serve ice cream -- he would hold court in the crowded dining hall. Lindsay befriended students and dispensed Depression-era advice to anyone who would listen: Respect your parents, never drink or smoke, be frugal, save money.
It just seems like such a fun way to age, imparting wisdom, and spending time in a vibrant atmosphere. Acting as a source of institutional memory and serving as a student advocate. He loved the community so much that he donated his estate to the college. Read the story. It's totally sweet.