Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I read an article on the train this evening that really got me thinking, so I did the obvious and asked on FB, "So how many shluchim have ever done this?" Unexpectedly no one responded to this provocative question, possibly because of its ambiguity, though I'd like to think that clarity is the enemy of FB thought. Regardless, I think the question bears repeating. Have there been any reported cases of shluchim who left their shlichus because of theological reasons? You could point to Shmuley Boteach, of course, though one gets the impression that his leaving had more to do with ego than religion, even if it was cloaked in Lubavitch orthodoxy asserting its primacy. Otherwise? Shlomo Carlebach comes to mind, as do the names of (more than) several former California Shluchim, but those cases seem a bit different: Shlomo because he was never really a shliach, and California because, well, it's to be expected. And how about the people who haven't gone on shlichus, like Yossi+Simon Jacobson and Chaim Miller?

Meanwhile, in other news, this touched on some excellent points, which if this were four years ago I'd write a whole post about Chassidishkeit and sports and Friedmans (just kidding!) and what not.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest post: eBay, the scammer, and the seller Part 2

This post is going to deal with open cases and the further impact the scammer has on your eBay sales.

Firstly, just a thank you to the two readers of this blog who used the TRS10 redemption code and a reminder to the readers of this blog to use the code ‘TRS10’ for a 10% discount on your purchase from by eBay stores. Click here and here to access them.

Ok. So now that the scammer has got his free product the real repercussions start. There are 4 levels of sellers on eBay; Top Rated, Above Standard, Standard and Below Standard.

The level of the seller determines where on the page they will be when someone searches for an item they are selling. So a Top Rated will generally be right at the top followed by Above Standard, Standard and at the very bottom of the (or 6 pages later) the Below Standard seller will sit. So the higher you ranking, the more sales you will potentially make.

All sellers will generally start at standard or below standard and work their way up. There are various requirements to climb the ranks, amount of sales (quantity), amount of sales (monetary), DSRs and open cases to name a few.

The maximum amount of open cases the seller is allowed to have to be at the lowest rung (Standard) is 1% (so for every 100 sales there can only be 1 open case, or for every 1 case that is opened 100 items need to be sold to counter that case). Tough, I know!

Ok, so one would assume no problem, as long as the case is closed or sorted out I am safe... No! An open case is any case opened against the seller and even if the case has been closed it is still counted against the seller. Only cases found in favor of the seller are not counted.

So this case that this scam artist pulled can have a detrimental effect on the seller. It can put him from Top Rated to Below Standard just like that. And obviously being Below Standard makes is very hard to rank even Standard. The lower you are on the page the less sales you make, so the longer it will take to compensate for the case.

And these cases stay for 3 months so it can take a very long time for the seller to dig himself out of that hole.

Hope this (and the previous) post hasn’t been to long and boring! In part 3 I will discuss how to look out for a scammer, what the seller can do about it and, most importantly, what eBay are doing about it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest post: eBay, the scammer, and the seller Part 1

In days gone by the best way to be a scammer on eBay was to list a laptop for sale on eBay for an attractive price and send the buyer an empty box.

However this has now changed. The best way to become a scammer on eBay is to be a buyer. When scammers first turned to buying items to get their kicks one of the most popular ways was to use two accounts. Lets assume you want to sell your MacBook Pro which is worth about $800-900 second hand (brand new value $1,500). So in order to attract as many people as possible to bid on your item you start the bidding at a low price ($50 or $100). Now a scammer would log into his first account and place the starting bid (let's say $100) and then log into his second account and place a bid of $1,500 thus ensuring no one would out bid him (I mean who would pay more for the item second hand than you could buy it brand and new?). Now, about a minute before the auction is over he would retract his second bid of $1,500 and the item would be sold to the next highest bidder, which in this case would be himself at the incredibly low price of $100 and he would end up with a MacBook Pro for $100. Obviously the seller could appeal or refuse to sell it and besides this is a very complicated way of getting a free item and eBay have tightened this up, the bid you place is the MAXIMUM you want to pay and the bidding gradually increases as more people bid.

But by doing this scammers now have easier ways of getting free items. All they need to do is claim the item 'never arrived', and to ensure they get their money back they will open a case against you with eBay. Let me explain a bit about cases in eBay. There are two forms of ratings on eBay. One for the buyers and one for eBay (which the buyers don't see). For the buyers there is feedback which obviously the higher the percentage the more trustworthy the seller. eBay generally don't get involved in feedback (unless it dips below a certain percentage or the seller suspects foul play) in which case eBay will intervene and either suspend the sellers account or remove the negative feedback. The way eBay monitor the sellers is by detailed seller ratings (DSR) and by open cases (cases opened by the buyer against the seller).

DSR are those 5 stars you see when leaving feedback for a seller. These rate the seller and the more 5 stars the seller gets the better.

Open cases are any cases opened against the seller for any reason and these are opened in the eBay resolution center. It could be for item not as described, haven't received the item, item is damaged etc...

Now, for a scammer, leaving negative feedback is pointless especially if the seller had thousands of positive feedback. So the scammer will open a case against the buyer claiming he never received the item. Before anything happens the buyer and seller have to communicate in the resolution centre in eBay. After communicating, if the buyer is still unhappy, he escalate the case to eBay who will look into it and make a final decision. Since the case is harmful to the seller the seller may just decide to give a refund and be done. But if the buyer escalates the claim, 9/10 eBay find in favor of the buyer. So the scammer will buy an expensive item and pay for the cheapest shipping (thus ensuring there is no tracking on the item) and then open a case and escalate the claim to eBay and get his money back.

It is that easy to get free items from eBay! (I have essentially written the scammers handbook for eBay! although any scammer already knows this and is no deep dark secret.)

In part 2 I will discuss how eBay is very one sided and even once the scammer has received his money back the seller is still being scammed.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yossi's Guest Post

Hello to all the readers of this blog. So apparently I said I would write a guest post about the joys of selling on eBay, so here is. I haven’t had much experience in blog writing although when I was at college studying Media Production I kept a running blog of the goings on at college. This can be found here although it hasn’t been updated in over a year.

Since this post is all about eBay I would like to extend a special 10% discount offer to the readers of this blog. Click here and here to access my eBay stores and once you find the item you like, put the code ‘TRS10” in the notes section when checking out and I will refund 10% back to your PayPal account.

Anyway, here goes my rant about eBay, or more precisely, the stupid buyers on eBay. I am going to present of list of actual buyer messages followed by the response I would love to give, but having to keep a professional manner can’t.

Q: Hi there,
I haven’t received my item yet. Please can you let me know where my item is?
Looking forward to hearing from you.

A: Are you serious? You purchased your item 2 days ago and as your item is being shipped from the USA did you really expect the item to arrive in the UK in 2 days??? Really?? Use some brains.

Q: Hello, I see your item is for sale at $35 plus shipping. I can buy the item direct from the store for $20. Can you come down on your price?

A: If that is the case why don’t you go to the store and buy it from there. No I am not coming down on the price. No one is telling you to buy it from me.

Q: I have left you negative feedback because the item doesn’t match the skirt as I thought it would.

A: Really? So because it doesn’t match correctly, you are leaving negative feedback? Moron, next time check the color first.

Anyway, that is it for the time being. My next post will be about how eBay is one-sided and favoring the buyers way too much…

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Two thing happened this past Shabbos that prompt me to take iPod in hand and blog a bit. The first was that I spied Rabbi Wilshanski (my old Rosh Yeshiva in Morristown) doing something or other on the bima following kriah in 770. At that point memories of all our interactions flowed through my mind and I tried to remember the stories he had told at a melave malka he hosted in his house. Unfortunately I couldn't recall the details of the stories he had told, which disturbed me, because I distinctly remember telling the stories that very night to Yosef Abramov, and many times over later on. I figured that at some point or other I had written the stories down on this here blog, and in fact I did. But more on that later.

The second thing that happened to me this past shabbos was that I ran into Yossi Beenstock as he was escaping my class shul. He was actually running, or at least walking very briskly, and it is actually my class's shul, though I've never been there. Anyway, Yossi commented, as he has done many times in the past, that I hadn't posted a post on this here blog in quite some time. I replied that if he liked he could write up a post himself, and I'd publish it. He asked if he could make its subject the perfidy of eBay, and I told him that he could do whatever he liked.

Needless to say, this post is not his post. Rather, this post is a link to the stories I heard at that melave malka so many years (5767!) ago. Here is that link. It's cute to go back and read old posts, and even cuter to go back and read old comments. Admittedly, the comments on that post were not particularly brilliant, though my Aramaic was pretty good, if I say so myself. Those were the days, eh? When bloggers were real bloggers, commenters were real commenters, and Blogger didn't look like Microsoft Word circa 1993. We boldly split infinitives that had never before been split, were not yet the youths of Churchill, and set our minds a boggling.

And that was that.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sefirah Beards UPDATED! (scroll down)

I received the following email on the 19th of this here month of April:


I came across while searching for resources around psychology and facial hair and was wondering if this is the correct contact in regards to the content on the site. My team just created a graphic on the topic, would you be interested in taking a look? I would love to get feedback from your readers and see what they have to say about the topic, as well as yours.

Thanks in advance for your time.

I wasn't sure if this was spam or not, but eventually decided that it most probably wasn't, so I emailed back:


I'm not sure what the blog has to do with psychology and facial hair, but yes, I would probably be interested in seeing a graphic on the topic.

Just like clockwork, I got the following email:


Thanks for getting back to me. The graphic illustrates a brief history of the beard and how they are perceived today. The piece lives here and you're welcome to use it as you'd like:

Let me know what you think, I appreciate all feedback.


And for those of you too lazy to click on through to the source link, here(I don't think an apostrophe belongs here, so I'm not inserting one)s you go:

Created by: Online PhD

Two things: I'm impressed that Safari managed to maintain the hyperlinks while I was copying and pasting from my email to Blogger; obviously things have changed progressed from the TRS heyday. Two, I'm not sure what to make of this graph, but I'm sure my astute readers will have much to say on the matter.


Thursday, January 12, 2012


I recently heard a story from the protagonist, which is as good an indicator of truthfulness as any I know of.

A young South African gay Jewish man got HIV, in the days when getting HIV was essentially a death sentence. The young man's doctor didn't know whether he should tell him or not, so he asked everyone he knew, including, as it turns out, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Now, I'm not sure exactly what they told the Rebbe, but I do know what the answer was: "Tell him he's got it." Or something along those lines.

What does this mean? I'm not sure. I guess it's not a surprise that the Rebbe dealt with questions like this, and I don't know that I'd expect a different answer, but still. It has to mean something, right?

Thursday, December 29, 2011


There was also a personal aspect of that question: How was I going to pay attention to a game that lasts five days? I'm a typically over-connected modern worker bee. Lately, as the trips run into each other and I go 50, 70 days on without one off, I often feel frantic, wondering what I might be missing. I have two phones. An iPad and a Kindle. Three MacBooks. I take my iPhone into the bathroom, to text and play Zombie Gunship. Sometimes I take a call, hitting mute to flush. I use airport urinals with a phone in the other hand. I compulsively check my email. At dinner. In bed. At funerals. No, really, I checked messages at my great-aunt Thelma's funeral. I was a pallbearer. Lately, though I haven't told anyone, I've been having trouble reading. Half-finished books pile up. I open stories in browsers and get a few paragraphs in before I'm distracted by another link, another pop-up video. I'm an addict.

As I settle into my seat on my way to London, the plane over the Atlantic, I start a book called "Hamlet's BlackBerry," which hypothesizes that all our devices are removing the moments before and after important events, amputating both anticipation and reflection, robbing our lives of depth. I feel like the writer is inside my head. There's a passage about each generation fearing the new, describing how Socrates believed the invention of writing would be the end of creativity and critical thinking, the permanence of words calcifying ideas. Writing was to Socrates what video games are to current parents. This is fascinating stuff, just the sort of modern philosophy I'm usually drawn to, but my strobing mind distracts me. I mark my place and never pick it back up again. Oh, and I'm reading a book about the poisonous effect of our devices … on my iPad. Such is the depth of my sickness as I leave passport control at Heathrow. And yet, as my cab heads straight to Lord's Cricket Ground, I still feel in control. I mean, for instance, I don't imagine this trip will lead me to reevaluate my life in a Buddhist temple on the seventh floor of a north London public housing building.


It occurs to me, sitting in this grandstand, that maybe I'm looking for answers in the wrong direction.

For a few days now, I've been focusing on the game itself, reporting on the state of Test cricket. It obviously doesn't fit in a modern world. People don't have five hours, much less five days, to be disconnected. One look around the stands and you realize many don't have five minutes, or at least they think they don't: a parade of kids eating ice cream cones, holding hands with dads on BlackBerrys. The game is out of sync with today. But maybe it's deeper than that. What if it isn't the world that's changing?

What if it's us? Gary Small, a professor at UCLA, is at the cutting edge of research on what our devices are doing to our brains. His findings are terrifying. The way we ingest information is changing us. When we read online, our mind, instead of focusing on the text, is subconsciously making thousands of instant decisions, each hyperlink or embedded video causing a series of chemical reactions: Yes or no? Yes or no? Connect. Disconnect. Connect. Disconnect. "Our brains get trained to work like a search engine," Small says. "We jump from idea to idea. We're not thoughtful. We're not pondering. In some ways, we're less creative."

Like a muscle, the brain strengthens the part of itself that it uses the most. This isn't new. Scientists can point to the invention of the hand-held tool hundreds of thousands of years ago, and a corresponding growth in the size of the frontal lobe. The Internet is really just a sophisticated hammer. What will future anthropologists find out about our brains?

The good news is that, for digital immigrants -- people who grew up without these stimuli -- a few weeks away will allow the brain to return to normal. But digital natives -- those who've always known the Internet and smartphones -- might be forever different. Before the age of 20, there's a significant amount of pruning of the synapses. The generation coming of age now might have permanently changed its brains. Studies show humans are losing some ability to interpret facial cues. What's next? Will people one day be unable to read a novel? Or, say, watch a five-day sporting event?

"Digital natives are very impatient with mental tasks that involve delayed gratification," Small says. "That's what you're going to see with cricket. It will be very challenging for this long form of cricket to survive, except among a few aficionados. What's happening to the brains of young people is going to affect the fan base as well as the player base."

That's a new thought, a frightening one. Separate from the economics of television and advertising, from the money pulling at the players and the time required of fans, the biggest threat to Test cricket might be the reconstituted brains of those who watch it.

The face in the mirror is our own. We created a world without space for a pastoral game. We created a world without enough hours in the day. Forget great generals and politicians; unintended consequences are the true drivers of history. When the clock was invented, there was no minute hand. Nobody really needed minutes until around 1700. The modern wristwatch was invented in about 1820. What happened in between? The Industrial Revolution. For the first time in history, people needed to be at work on time. Minutes mattered. Now seconds matter. So we check our email every few moments, even feeling phantom vibrations in our pocket -- like pain in an amputated limb -- wondering what we're missing, even as we're doing something we profess to love.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tough Life

Exactly fourteen days after my previous post, I again take writing implement in hand (metaphorically, of course) and pen this missive to the masses. Actually, that's an interesting point. Would my fingers in this case be considered my writing implement? I suppose the keyboard would have that function. But if I were, say, scratching this out in the sand with my various digits, presumably my finger itself would be the writing implement. In which case how would I possibly take my writing implement in hand? My finger (thank the one above for his kind beneficence) is always in hand!

Moving right along, today is the ninth of Elul, which means that we say the 25th through the 27th chapters of psalms. Now, being that I'm currently enjoying the 25th year of my life, I say the 25th chapter of psalms every day. My daily psalm schedule is to say the Rebbe's chapter, followed by my own, and then the daily recitations for Elul and the month (The second ת in ח״תת [or is that חת״ת?]). And yes, I know the general rule that we do more common things before we do uncommon things, but in this case I'm afraid that I'll forget the extra three chapters if I say the others first, so I just say them first. We all need something to do Teshuvah for, right?

Point being, it feels really weird to say the same psalm twice in a row. Is there some sort of protocol I should be following to prevent this sort of thing from happening? I could say, for example, the Rebbe's chapter after my own, but that just feels wrong. Or perhaps I could say the Chitas ones first, but there's just as much trouble to be found there as anywhere. Heck, if I was a really precocious ten month old and it was Rosh Chodesh Elul, I'd have the problem however you looked at it! Unless I said my own last. Hmm, that's an idea.

Today I just ended up saying them back to back, which made me feel a bit like Prince and the (semi) Hebrew Hammer, but is there a better way to do things?

These are the questions that torment me on the subway ride to work.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Exactly twenty four months after my marriage, and eighteen after Yossi Shomer's, I attended the nuptials of my dear chavrusa and partner in argument, Michoel (Moo) Rose. Not only did I teach him the proper role of aircraft carriers in WWII, but I also helped him develop a lot of character. You're welcome Mrs. Rose.