Friday, July 29, 2005

A Note from Geza and Lilly (Szonyi's parents)

Greetings from the 80plus team in Lexington, Mass. We very much enjoyed all the news in your blog, which connected us with the rest of the Orenstein family, near and far. We loved snapshots of Sam and Elliot, Emmett and his parents and interesting news from Ben as well as from Beth and Mike in Cape Town. Your comments about Sylvia were especially appreciated.

We just got over the worst dog days of summer. It was too hot to go swimming, and we finally showed some good sense in just staying in cool places, forgetting about our ambitions to swim at least l0 laps each day.

More interesting news may follow in the fall, when cooler weather will allow us to use our brains again.

In the meantime: best regards to all from Lilly and Geza (Szonyi) from "North Country"

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Life-Affirming Death Notice

The following actually appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer. It demonstrates that even a deadly (pardon the pun) dull genre, can be enlivened by the right, and in this case, loving, author.

On June 3, 2005 at 10:45 p.m. in Memphis, Tenn., Dorothy Gibson Cully, 86, died peacefully, while in the loving care of her two favorite children, Barbara and David. All of her breath leaked out. The mother of four children, grandmother to 11, great-grandmother to nine, devoted wife for 56 years to the late Ralph Chester Cully and a true friend to many, Dot had been active as a volunteer in the Catholic Church and other community charities for much of the past 25 years.She was born the second child of six in 1919 as Frances Dorothy Gibson, daughter to Kathleen Heard Gibson and Calvin Hooper Gibson, an inventor best known as the first person since the Middle Ages to calculate the arcane lead-to-gold formula. Unable to actually p! rove this complex theory scientifically, and frustrated by the cruel conspiracy of the so-called "scientific community" working against his efforts, he ultimately stuck his head in a heated gas oven with a golden delicious apple propped in his mouth.
Miraculously, the apple was saved for the evening dessert. Calvin was not. Native Marylanders and longtime Baltimore, Kent Island and Ocean City residents, Ralph and Dot later resided in Lakeland, Fla., and Virginia Beach, Va. Several years after Ralph's death, Dot moved to Raleigh in 2001, where she lived with her son David. At the time of her death, Dot was visiting her daughter Carol in Memphis. Carol and her husband, Ron, away from home attending a "very important conference" at a posh Florida resort, rushed home 10 days later after learning of the death. Dot's other children, dutifully at their mother's side helping with the normal last-minute arrangements -- hospice notification, funeral parlor notice, revising the will, etc. -- happily picked up the considerable slack of the absent former heiress. Dot is warmly remembered as a generous, spiritually strong, resourceful, tolerant and smart woman, who was always ready to help and never judged others or their short- comings. Dot always found time to knit sweaters, sew quilts and send written notes to the family children, all while working a full-time job, volunteering as Girl Scout leader and donating considerable time to local charities and the neighborhood Catholic Church. Dot graduated from Eastern High School at 15, worked in Baltimore full time from 1934 to 1979, beginning as a factory worker at Cross & Blackwell and retiring after 30 years as property manager and controller for a Baltimore conglom- rate, Housing Engineering Company, all while raising four children, two of whom are fairly normal. An Irishwoman proud of and curious about her heritage, she was a voracious reader of historical novels, particularly those about the glories and trials of Ireland. Dot also loved to travel, her favorite destination being Eire's auld sod, where she dreamed of the magic, mystery and legend of the Emerald Isle.Dot Cully is survived by her sisters, Ginny Torrico in Virginia, Marian Lee in Florida and Eileen Adams in Baltimore; her brother, Russell Gibson of Fallston, Md.; her children, Barbara Frost of Ocean City, Md., Carol eroney of Memphis, Tenn., David Cully of Raleigh, N.C. and Stephen Cully of altimore, Md. Contributions to the Wake County (N.C.) Hospice Services are welcomed. Opinions about the details of his obit are not, since Mom would have liked it this way.

For sleep-starved parents, crazy teenagers and creative types who are blocked

Study confirms sleep essential for creativity

German scientists say they have demonstrated for the first time that our sleeping brains continue working on problems that baffle us during the day, and the right answer may come more easily after eight hours of rest.

The German study is considered to be the first hard evidence supporting the common sense notion that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep, scientists say. Other researchers who did not contribute to the experiment say it provides a valuable reminder for overtired workers and students that sleep is often the best medicine.

Previous studies have shown that 70 million Americans are sleep-deprived, contributing to increased accidents, worsening health and lower test scores. But the new German experiment takes the subject a step further to show how sleep can help to turn yesterday's problem into today's solution.

Scientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep. The results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The study involved 106 people divided into five separate groups of equal numbers of men and women ages 18 to 32. One group slept, another stayed awake all night, and a third stayed awake all day for eight-hour periods before testing following training in the main experiment. Two other groups were used in a supplemental experiment.

The study participants performed a "number reduction task" according to two rules that allowed them to transform strings of eight digits into a new string that fit the rules. A third rule was hidden in the pattern, and researchers monitored the test subjects continuously to see when they figure out the third rule.The group that got eight hours of sleep before tackling the problem was nearly three times more likely to figure out the rule than the group that stayed awake at night.

Jan Born, who led the study, said the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process, he said.

"This restructuring might be occurring in such a way that the problem is easier to solve," Born said.

Born said the exact process in the sleeping brain for sharpening these abilities remains unclear. The changes leading to creativity or problem-solving insight occur during "slow wave" or deep sleep that typically occurs in the first four hours of the sleep cycle, he said.

The results also may explain the memory problems associated with aging because older people typically have trouble getting enough sleep, especially the kind of deep sleep needed to process memories, Born said.

"Even gradual decreases in the total time for slow wave sleep and deep sleep is correlated to a kind of decrease in memory function, and in turn to a decrease in the ability to recognize hidden structures or the awareness of such things," Born said.

Other researchers said they have long suspected that sleep helps to consolidate memories and sharpen thoughts. But until now it had been difficult to design an experiment that would test how it improves insight.

History is dotted with incidents where artists and scientists have awakened to make their most notable contributions after long periods of frustration. For example, that's how Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev established the periodic table of elements and British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his epic "Kubla Khan."

Born and his team "have applied a clever test that allows them to determine exactly when insight occurs," wrote Pierre Maquet and Perrine Ruby at the University of Liege in a commentary on the research, also published in Nature.

Maquet and Ruby both say the study should be considered a warning to schools, employers and government agencies that sleep makes a huge difference in mental performance.
The results "give us good reason to fully respect our periods of sleep -- especially given the current trend to recklessly curtail them," they said.

An interesting link for news junkies

Curious how others around the world see the news? Check out the following link that will connect you to the front page of over 400 newpapers around the globe.

David's Graduation from Brown

Fabulous Day and lovely picture of three Greenberg Boyz.
David graduated with honors with a degree in math. We all
shared a lovely picnic lunch provided by Jon and Ephraim.
In this photo David is wearing his gown, but Ben, in anticipation
of future triumphs, has appropriated the hat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Newest pix of Emmett and his Adorable Parents

Here's a picture from Emmett's trip to the Weisz family reunion. Emmett's birthday is coming up at the end of August. By then he will be fully recovered from his pneumonia, although his parents may not be.

A Joke from Szonyi

Moishe is driving in Jerusalem.

He's late for a meeting, he's looking for a parking place, and can't find one.

In desperation, he turns towards heaven and says,

"G-d, if you find me a parking place, I promise that I'll eat only kosher, respect Shabbos, and all the holidays."

Miraculously, a place opens up just in front of him.

He turns his face up to heaven and says,

"Never mind, I just found one."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Can you take NJ out of the Girl?

People around these parts (Bloomington, Indiana) will often comment to me, "you're not from around here," or ask "are you from NY?" and then get very nervous if I ask them what makes them think so. The truth is that it is hard to take New Jersey out of the girl, and even though this girl, on and off, has lived in Indiana since 1992, there are parts of my personality and driving habits that scream east coast.

I thought you might enjoy a column from the Chicago Tribune on the subject of midwest calm, a quality attributd to Judge Roberts, the lastest nominee to the Supreme Court. The piece features my colleague, Craig Bradley, who is in fine form. Some have suggested that "calm" is a code word for non-Jewish (just as New Yorker is a code word for Jewish).

`Midwest calm': What's that supposed to mean?
By Nara Schoenberg
Tribune staff reporter
July 22, 2005
Plato wrote in praise of calm, as did Wordsworth.
Calm is good when a tornado is approaching.
But when The New York Times quotes a former colleague of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr.'s, who grew up in Indiana, as saying he possesses a "Midwest calm"?
Hmmm. We're not so sure.
On the one hand, Midwesterners are indeed a relatively low-key lot, prone, statistically speaking, to understatement and self-deprecation. Not prone, in general, to temper tantrums.
On the other hand, calm?
"That is such an interesting word, calm," says Ruth Olson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin, who sees links between the concept of "Midwest calm" and the more widely used "Minnesota nice," which is not necessarily a compliment.
Indiana University law professor Craig Bradley, who hails from a suburb of Chicago -- city of "brawny, brawling, big shouldered, calm types," he deadpans -- is less diplomatic.
"I think when Easterners describe people from Indiana, if they use the word calm, what they're trying to say is 'uninteresting,' " he says.
Midwesterners don't tend to use the word calm in referring to themselves. A search of newspaper articles nationwide turns up only a handful of non-weather related references to "Midwest calm," all of them in New York, Boston and California.
Bradley, who knows Roberts, says he is indeed a "an even-tempered, calm guy, not real excitable, and, more importantly I would say, not real ideological," but whether he's any calmer than anyone else from the Midwest, "I don't know."
Adds Bradley, with the wry understatement that has sometimes also been associated with this region, "I guess he probably was considered uninteresting -- until he got on the short list for the Supreme Court."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Muckraking Benny G

For those of you who haven't been able to stay fully current with Ben's writings, here's a link to his opinion pieces in The North Star, Bloomington North's High School newspaper. My personal favorite is A Jew on Christmas. Saba used portions of the Freedom essay for a sermon.
You can find a good portion of Ben's oevre at:

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What are the Gifted Doing this Summer? -- A REPORT FROM BEN

Here's an excerpt (ok, it's the whole thing) from an email from Ben, detailing his classes at the Summer Institute for the Gifted. The Benster writes:

hip hop- great class, we're dancing and having a lot of fun and learning
about hip hop

improv- the teacher is whacky as hell but its a fun class, ignoring
some crazy spiritual type stuff he has us do

filmmaking- a very small class we're were just having fun and making a
couple short fun movie.

poetry- kinda boring..i think itll pick up though
once we're actually writing.

martial arts- this class is fun, new teacher kinda not as fun/cool as
last but shes good anyways. i have some good friends in this class which
makes it better.

im having fun and doing so much, much love
-benny g

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

?Sylvia, How Is She?

Devoted readers and cognoscenti: The question of Sylvia (a.k.a Savta, a.k.a. Ema) is a complicated one. If my mother is asked directly how she is doing, you will received a curt "fine" or "I'm doing better," and the topic will be switched immediately to how you're doing, not-so-subtly implying that your hangnail or cold is somehow equivalent to her cancer. Don't be fooled! Cancer is worse, particularly when one is allergic to one of the chemotherapy agents and has to go back to drugs used in the late medieval period, and then only on the worst of the heretics. She feels awful, but the only thing that makes her feel worse is complaining about it. So here's my suggestion: Don't ask, tell. Tell her that you are thinking of her. Tell her (if there's even a small chance that God likes you) that she is in your prayers. Tell her that food will taste good again someday (a side-effect of the chemo) and that you will take her out for a vanilla malted as soon as her appetite returns. Tell her about all the upcoming simchas and the recent chochmas, (especially concerning her grandchildren). Regular email contact (she can be reached at and an occasional mishebayrah for Tzipora bat ha-rav Yisrael v' Ahuvah is the very best medicine.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Jewish Haikus From Sara Kober

My Cousin, Sara Kober (my father's oldest brother, Archie's daughter), sent along some Jewish Haikus. Here are my favorites

Today I am a man.
Tomorrow I will return
to the seventh grade.

The sparkling blue sea
reminds me to wait an hour
after my sandwich.

Sorry I'm not home to take your call.
At the tone
please state your bad news.

Today, mild shvitzing.
Tomorrow, so hot you'll plotz.
Five-day forecast: feh

Hard to tell under the lights.
White Yarmulke
or male-pattern baldness.

And, note to Greenberg boyz:

Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Finally, a picture of some more nephews. Sam and Elliot Orenstein, the North Carolina contingent of Orensteins are horsing around. This summer, Elliot is playing baseball and basketball. Sammy is also attending various camps enjoying arts and crafts. They both get to swim at their neighborhood pool.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Here's a picture of Debby "Mama" Orenstein and Sticky in a pensive mode. We are eagerly awaiting pictures of Sam and Elliot to post. We are awash in cute nephews.

From Debby O
Hi, Aviva. I read the entire blog from top to bottom, and loved every bit of it. I must say, your "cover boy" is gorgeous! And your contributors (i.e., sons) are very witty, funny, and just a bit smart-alecky. They are also well-traveled and brilliant. I wonder where they could possibly have gotten those qualities.
Here are some further updates about the cover boy (official conflict of interest disclosure: my son Emmett, aka Sticky). This week (at 10 and a half months) he made some very sudden and amazing leaps in development. Every day, something new. He called me "mama" for the first time and has continued doing so. He really seems to understand that that is my name. Just yesterday, Emmett starting saying a "p" sound to mean "up." I thought it was a coincidence, but he did it unmistakeably and in context again today. He has also begun clapping, holding an object in each hand and banging them together, and cruising along furniture (holding on and walking the length of things). On a couple of occasions, he has even let go and stood suspended in mid-air for several seconds, but he seems to have no awareness that he is standing on his own, and is a little startled by the unusually hard fall onto his tush and/or the fuss that adults around him make.
Other big news, "Little Lord Fontlaroy" [someone will correct my spelling; it's Aviva's nickname] usually eats by opening his mouth and waiting for people to put (massive amounts of) food in it. No amount of coaxing has induced him to use or develop the fine motor skills to lift food or spoon and put it into his mouth. "Thank God, he doesn't have to." (If you are unfamiliar with that joke, you obviously don't know Jehiel Orenstein.) Finally this week, Emmett ate one cheerio and two bites of green bean on his own, so it appears that I won't have to re-enroll in college and go to the dining halls to make sure that L.L.F. doesn't starve.
Taking after his uncle Rafy, Emmett is very interested in light and lighting fixtures. When I come into his room each morning, I always greet him and then turn on the light. He now looks up at the fixture before I flip the switch, and it delights him every time that I can do the "vayehi or" trick.
One last thing: he literally grew out of all his 12-month-old clothes overnight. I had to let him walk around yesterday getting a breeze because I couldn't snap up any of his one-sies around the polkas. Craig is going shopping for some clothes tomorrow and will mail them done to us here. (He is still making a movie in Northern California and will be back home in L.A. on the third week of August.) BTW--Today is the proud papa's birthday. He turns 42 [fill in your own gematria or aging joke here]. I'm sure he would love to get some friendly birthday e-mails (
Well, that's more than you wanted to know. I promise not to deluge you with chochmas from now on. It really was quite an amazing amount of change for one week, and I thought I would share it with the whole clan.
Debby [aka Ema; Ma; Mama]

hi from ben

im in south orange new jersey. mom's "blog" is cool. notice that blog is in quotations because its a silly word for website. im writing for various newspapers, doing well at my pursuits. Im hoping to hang out with friends, and I am going to sig very soon.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Here's a photo of "Sticky" (aka Stickford aka Emmett Alfred Weisz) becoming less sticky.

Here's a photo of David and me in Budapest in October 2004

Correction: See David's comment below. Budapest was in October 2003. (There is a noble tradition -- wherever David Greenberg is that's where Aviva spends fall break)

Too Big for My Fomer Blogspace (Britches)

Well, here's the newest spot for the 3901News Blog -- more accessible than the former one which requires readers to sign into yahoo and listed my number of friends, which seemed stuck at the pathteic 2-friend level (thanks though, Amy Perlmutter and Szonyi, you guys rock). I am appending below the original blogs and pictures so that you have missed no part of the 3901 adventure. Please feel free to comment and send me photos, stories, poems and other matters suitable for posting.

Entry for July 12, 2005

Above -- a picture of Sticky getting unsticky
Hello folks -- a real day of ups and downs. Good news is that the Benster was accepted into the American School of London, a pricey but wonderful public (i.e. private) school in England where they don't flog even the baddest of boys. I am really thrilled for Ben, because the program seems stimulating and is a seamless fit with his first semester in the US. They even offer American History AP and Japanese II. For those of you who don't know, I should tell you that the gantze mishpacha, small as it currently is, will be in London for the Spring semester next year. I will be teaching American students, Szonyi is planning to do some writing and some social work. David may be in Heidelberg or Zurich, Michael will be in Haifa. We are all oh-so-contienental. Naturally, a major goal for Ben is to learn how to affect a British accent and to get in the habit of declaring barbaric all things American.
As for the bad news, this evening I had to tell a client that the court found against her for custody of her son. It was a big blow. I honestly don't think there is anything either of us could have done differently. The die was cast long ago, but she still held out some hope and I am really sad for her. Attorney-client privilege prevents me from discussing the details of the case, but the whole thing makes me so grateful for (almost) every moment I've had with the Greenberg boys.
Speaking of gratitude and throwing in tremendous personal strength, please visit the blog of Tricia Black, a fomer law student of mine who, tragically, has a serious, aggressive cancer. Her spirit, inspired in part by her 10 month old son, is amazing. She really appreciates thoughts and prayers from strangers as well as friends, so if you have a minute, drop her a note. Even if you don't correspond with her, take a minute to be inspired by strength and to be reminded to let all the petty aggravations of life go. Her blog can be found at:

Entry for July 11, 2005

Emmet Aflred ("Sticky") Weisz, son of Debby and Craig is the cutie-pie above.
Well, I know the blog will be successful because it has already generated irritated email from devoted readers dedicated to a quality product. It seems I may have gotten some "facts" wrong in my description of the antics of various Greenberg boys. Here is the correction per Michael Greenberg, who, I am delighted to report, will soon be a regular contributor to 3901 News Blog. Those of you who remeber his movie reviews ("cool things blew up!") will welcome his return.

From Mike:
Work is fine, pretty slow. You know, the developing world and all that. I've taken to carrying around biltong (heat-dried strips of spiced meat). It's delicious and very veldttrekker of me. I'm trying to convince S&S [Saba & Savta, Jehiel and Sylvia Orenstein] to come here when they get a chance; I think they'd love it. Tons of Jewish stuff, tons of crazy African stuff. There's a kosher meat place with pretty good ribs. And you can get kosher biltong.
Your blurb about Beth and me is amusingly off. We're at the University of the Western Cape. I work for a bioinformatics non-profit on a top-to-bottom database (i.e. it doesn't just have data about gene sequences and protein structure, it contains information about how genes relate to proteins and proteins to metabolic pathways, and so on all the way up to the organ level). Beth is doing preliminary thesis work directly through one of UWC's health programs. She's presently investigating the relationship between self-efficacy (one's ability to change one's own behavior) and community involvement and use of free time. Her thesis will be on autopoiesis of community programs (my choice of words, she's much more down to earth). Lastly, Dave is at the Max Planck institute.
I'm forced to wonder about the editorial quality of the original 3901 newsletter but am certain that my revision seriously buoyed the print quality, if not the content. I must say, my movie reviews were superb.

Entry for July 10, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,
It was inevitable that eventually I would begin a family blog. The vanity press known as 3901 News, which ceased publication when my granmother Libby died, was a primitive version of the urge to share my life and loves, up and downs, with the world. We always imagined future issues with articles like "Aviva Marries Some Guy" and "High School Degree Not Essential for Ivy League Success" but somehow never got around to it. I will try to post events and little vingettes from our lives inviting you to comment and providing links to other interesting pages. Above is a picture of David and me in Heidelberg Germany from last fall. Current Greenberg-boy citings:
David -- back in Heidelberg after a visit to Budapest. He is back working at the Max Planc institute.
Mike -- in Cape Town South Africa with his girlfriend Beth Adler. Mike is working in the University of Cape Town's department of informatics doing some programming around the human genome project. Beth is assessing the success of an after-school program in keeping kids off drugs and preventing risky sexual behavior.
Ben- is a cub reporter for the Bergen Country Jewish Weekly Standard where he writes a teen column and will be doing some feature reporting. He later goes to his annual gig at Bryn Mawr, the Summer Institute for the Gifted. Despite the off-putting name, Ben has a blast taking film production, self-defense and hanging out with old friends.