Monday, January 30, 2012

It's getting hot in here


Global temperatures have warmed significantly since 1880, the beginning of what scientists call the "modern record." At this time, the coverage provided by weather stations allowed for essentially global temperature data. As greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, industry and vehicles have increased, temperatures have climbed, most notably since the late 1970s. In this animation of temperature data from 1880-2011, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average. (Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Visualization credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Transportation network effects

Network effects explain why many systems become exponentially more useful as they are used by more people. Communication systems work that way: fax machines became much more useful as more businesses bought fax machines. Social networks work that way: Facebook became much more useful when the majority of your social contacts joined Facebook. Transportation systems, however, diverge.

Driving around Boston maximized its network effects a long time ago. We reached sufficient usage more than half a century ago to develop a complete system of roads, parking, gas stations, and repair shops. New fueling systems, such as charging stations, present a new network effects challenge: it’s not worth building charging stations everywhere until enough cars need them, and people are hesitant to purchase electric cars without knowing that there will be enough charging stations. But leaving that aside, we are not waiting for sufficient adoption of driving to make driving a better choice. Instead, driving long ago passed the event horizon into capacity saturation problems. When road usage saturates the road capacity, you get traffic congestion, which makes the entire system less useful for everyone instead of more useful. Adding road capacity is very expensive, and urban planners recognize that any new road capacity is immediately saturated as well.

Public transportation around Boston has lots of additional capacity. It is easy to increase the frequency of trains and buses, it is easy to add bus routes, and it is therefore easy to handle far more passengers. And with increased frequency and added bus routes, public transportation becomes more useful to current passengers and attracts new passengers, which can support further expansion. That is the classic network effect.

The trouble is that we put all of our resources into supporting the driving network instead of the public transportation network. This is a huge missed opportunity. And now the MBTA is looking to reduce service by reducing frequency and eliminating bus routes, and raise fares at the same time. If we want to leverage our public dollars, we need to shift our funding from the driving network to the public transportation network, not the other way around. And I say this as a committed driver.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome to the faith of your fathers

We completed David’s formal conversion to Judaism yesterday. It was a long and complex and ultimately rewarding process. Too many thoughts to process yet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

By the way, we have a son

Apparently some people view birth announcements as requests for gifts, and therefore refrain from widely distributing birth announcements or bridle at receiving them. We view David’s birth announcement as an announcement of David’s birth. This is the most important piece of news in our lives since we got married, so we want to share that news. We chose to create a physical keepsake, rather than rely on electronic communication, to signify the importance of David’s birth to us. We are planning to start mailing some of these out soon.

If you receive a birth announcement from us, it is because we want to share the news of David’s birth with you. Please don’t bridle. Don’t call my mother to complain. And for fuck’s sake, if you feel compelled to send a gift that you don’t actually want to send because we rudely mailed you a birth announcement (or sent you an email announcement, or called you to tell you that we have a son, or invited you to come share our joy in person and actually meet this brand new human being who we think is really amazing and who will want and need friends of all ages), get some therapy and grow a fucking spine. As far as we’re concerned, all of the reciprocity required by society is simply to reply through some convenient means at some convenient time with some convenient expression of your congratulations and/or good wishes for our and/or his future. Many of you have already done so, and we treasure those calls and cards and visits and emails and Facebook comments. If you happen to express (or even feign) joy at the same time, whether through words or tone of voice, you’ll make us even happier. That previous sentence is simply a point of information, not a demand for you to increase our happiness. And the sentence after that previous sentence, the sentence immediately preceding this one that you are now reading, is the exact sort of disclaimer that we feel very strongly we should not have to keep providing.

If you don’t receive a birth announcement from us, it is because we have run out of stamps, or because we don’t have your address, or because we can no longer find the Post Office in this Godforsaken frozen wasteland named Massachusetts. So instead of fretting or fuming or sighing with relief that you haven’t received one of these deeply offensive announcements that our household’s population has increased by 50% (or 33% if you include the dog, or 100% if you don’t include one of us, or 0.00414% by mass), just let us know at some time convenient to you that you’d like one. We have plenty. Because we think that it’s fun to share good news.

And by the way, we have a son. His name is David, and we think the world of him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

He was my Rabbi

My rabbi from before I can even remember died in late December. Rabbi Bernard Stefansky was a mentor, a leader, and an inspiration. He could summon fire and brimstone in his sermons, and he could communicate a fearsome disapproval in conversation, and both of those were absolutely overwhelmed in my experience by his tremendous love for the next generation. He taught me to lead services, and he taught me to teach others to lead services, and he taught me to question authority while respecting tradition. He was a major part of my life for many formative years. I miss him deeply.

His daughter wrote the following.

Broward County Bar Association
President’s Message
By Jordana Goldstein

When arranging the program for the Bar installation dinner last June, I had to decide who was going to give the invocation. Since my father was a Rabbi it seemed natural just to ask him to do it. However, I hesitated asking him because my father had significant health issues, requiring him to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. I was concerned that he would be unable to walk to the dais, let alone walk up the few stairs that would enable him to reach the podium. Ultimately, someone suggested that he use a wireless microphone, which would allow him to give the invocation from his seat. Problem solved. When I asked my dad to give the invocation, he said it would be his honor to do so. So on June 9th, my father, Rabbi Bernard Stefansky, gave the invocation at an event that was so important to me both personally and professionally. He sat at a table right before me and before the evening ended, he handed me a bouquet of roses and said some beautiful things to me in front of very many people. He made me feel proud to be the President of the Broward Bar, and I was very proud he was my father.

I never imagined that my father would not be sitting in front of me at the next installation dinner, when my tenure as President comes to an end. However, on Friday, December 23rd, my father passed away at the age of 78. He fought a long and courageous battle against heart and lung disease. I have never known anyone who had such a will to live as my father did, which is why he survived as long as he did with such an insidious disease. While my father was sick for many years, I do not want to remember him that way. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what he accomplished in his life and to celebrate his life. My father was an incredible person, because he was so selfless. His passion, and really his mission in life, was to help others and to inspire others to do the same. He was the Rabbi and spiritual leader of several congregations in New York, Massachusetts and Florida. In that role, he mentored and counseled hundreds of people, which is something he truly loved to do. So many people benefitted from his ideas and words of encouragement. He visited people in the hospital on a weekly basis until he became sick himself, where he often prayed for their recovery and provided emotional support for patients’ family members and friends. I can remember accompanying my father on these visits because often times the patients were elderly, and he felt they enjoyed having children visit.

Despite the fact that my parents were of modest means, my father always emphasized the importance of giving to charity. He worked tirelessly to raise money for various causes and encouraged many others to do the same. He was also an educator. He enjoyed conducting adult education classes on various topics. I believe so many people attended his classes not only to learn something new, but to hear him tell his famously funny stories and jokes. He truly loved to learn and to read. He loved history and prided himself on becoming a World War II aficionado. He was a war veteran himself, having served as a paratrooper in the Korean War. He offered comfort and strength to so many in difficult times, particularly when he was the Chaplain for the Massachusetts State Police and Medford Fire Department.

Most significant was the love he had for his family and friends. On December 27th, my parents would have celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. My parents were true partners in life who supported and encouraged each other throughout their marriage. My brother and sister can attest to the fact that my father expected a lot from us, and, therefore, could be pretty tough at times. But we knew he truly loved us, because he took the time to tell us so. It is difficult to fathom that he will no longer be calling me to express how much he loved me. My father was the very proud grandfather (believe me when I say he had absolutely no shame when it came to bragging about them) to seven wonderful children who will miss him terribly. He loved his friends, he loved being with his friends, and most importantly he loved laughing with his friends.

I am so thankful for my father because he was the one who taught me the value of an education, the importance of giving back to the community, and to always strive to be the best that I can be. He taught me to be strong, to work hard, and to believe in myself. I have always worked to make him proud and I hope I accomplished that in some small way. He was a man of honor and a true fighter. No matter how difficult life could be, he handled everything with courage and grace for which I will always be proud of him.

I have received phone calls, emails, texts, and condolence cards from so many of you. I cannot express to you in words how much I have appreciated you reaching out to me during this difficult time. While I cannot thank each one of you individually, please know that I will always be grateful for your support. You have reminded me just how kind and compassionate people can be. At the start of each new year my father would always say, “I wish for you in the coming year, what you wish for yourself.” In his memory, I extend that same sentiment to you. But I also wish for you to follow in his footsteps. My hope is that you will be more helpful to others, be more charitable, remember to tell your family how much you love them, be a good friend, and remember to laugh even during the most difficult of times.

The obituary from the Sun-Sentinel.

Stefansky, Bernard of Boynton Beach, FL passed away on Friday, December 23, 2011, at the age of 78. He was the Rabbi and spiritual leader of several congregations including: Temple Beth El in Patchogue, NY; Lake Success Jewish Center in Lake Success, NY; Temple Shalom in Medford, MA; and Beth Israel Synagogue in Longmeadow, MA. While in Massachusetts he served as Chaplain of the Massachusetts State Police and Medford Fire Department. Upon moving to Florida, he became the Rabbi of Congregation Anshei Sholom in Century Village, West Palm Beach, FL. He was a member of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War, 1951-1953. He was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia to the late Joseph and Esther Stefansky. He is survived by his beloved wife of 47 years, Evelyn; his adored children, Jordana (Jeffrey) Goldstein, Jonathan (Bracha), and Rebecca; his cherished grandchildren Yosef, Esther, Shira, Boaz, Avigayil, Ariel and Jonah; his sister Rachel Brody; and many cousins; nieces and nephews. He was a mentor, teacher, counselor and dear friend to so many who often sought his advice and guidance. He will be remembered for his sense of humor, his passion for learning, his love of history, particularly events surrounding World War II, and his significant contributions to the community and various charitable organizations. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Lung Association in Florida, West Palm Beach, 2701 N. Australian Ave., Suite 100, West Palm Beach, FL 33407 (; American Heart Association (; and Rabbi Meir Baal-Haness, 18 Hayward Street, No. 3, Brooklyn, NY 11249.

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