Thursday, December 30, 2004

Thursday Three

:Sigh: Here we go again.

1) What was the best gift you got (or gave) this year?

Best (and only) gift I got was a microwave for work, which since I work alone, I can keep kosher. No More PB sandwiches every day! And to think I thought of returning it.

2) What was the worst gift you got (or gave) this year?

Well, this isn't entirely a gift for me. Work gives kids under ten big boxes of presents every year. Very generous of them, and I appreciate the thought. Small problem is they keep giving noisy toys. And baseball hats and t-shirts that are 10 sizes too big for my kids. We kept it all away from the kids for now - with grandparents & their birthdays so soon after Chanukah, we can save these for April, or regift 'em.

3) What gift are you going to have to go back and get for yourself because someone forgot to read your list to Santa Hanukkah Harry?

I suppose Kelly Preston is out of the question? I could really use a new PDA since my old one crapped out, but I think I'll hold off for a while.

A Little Football

My buddy said the NY Giants have been playing like this all season.

I leave it up to others to make Alabama jokes.

Speaking of Which, Archives of Interest

This week, we'll go with the granddaddy of them all, your very own National Archives. Yep, this is your tax dollars at work, but here is one case where I think you're getting your money's worth. There are NARA facilities in 18 states, keeping records of vast historical significance from virtually every part of the nation, from every era in our history, on virtually every topic, from virtually every government department ever in existence.

I can't even begin to explain the breadth and depth of the records NARA maintains. Immigration records; military records; presidential records; films; documents; maps. Pretty much you name it, and it's somewhere in the system. And, you can go look at almost any material you want - FOR FREE.

I don't love everything about our government. Government is one of the major employers of archivists, and according to those who work there, it's not always a fun or loose place to work. But given the importance to our society of the historical record, you will not do better with your tax dollars.

Well, maybe you could, like a free picture of this lady and free ice cream for every citizen, but your tax money goes a long way at NARA.


I don't think this is an archives I will include in my Archives of Interest posts.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Speaking of history

I have been reading a lot lately, which I'm glad about. One of the better ones I've read lately is this book - The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber. Unbelievable story of a guy in post-communist Hungary who takes up bank robbing to supplement his non-existent hockey player salary.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. I've been interested in WWII a lot lately, and I came across a few books in the library that piqued my interest. I ended up reading this book, Duty, and Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation back to back. I haven't finished the latter, but I've read enough to have formulated an opinion.

I know Brokaw's book has been hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I think the parts of the book where the subjects actually talk are wonderful. But, having read both, I would absolutely recommend Duty above Greatest Generation. I admit I've been conditioned over the last few years to think the MSM is evil, but I do think I gave Brokaw a shot. But his editorial additions to the book (his intro & in each chapter) make me think he was just ticking off his checklist of things to hit. Duty (written by Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene) is a much better book, and provides much more insight into the mind of that generation than Brokaw's ever could.

Part of that is the difference between focusing on one or two people vs. three pages each on a few dozen. But I think the rest of it is Brokaw's vision of what that generation was about rather than what they actually were. He starts in his intro about how critical these people were in the women's movement, in civil rights, Vietnam, etc. I don't know how true any of that is. I for one think that's a stretch - much of that generation were probably disturbed by most of those changes, though not enough to protest the changes in an obvious way. What I think is really going on is Brokaw thinks these are the critical events of the twentieth century; this is arguably the greatest generation in American history; ergo, this generation's work was to enact the greatest events of that century.

Greene to my mind really captures what made the WWII generation unique. A combination of personal responsibility, resourcefulness (based a lot on the effects of the Depression), and most importantly a deep sense of the greatness of the United States of America. Half of Greene's book is about Brig. General Paul Tibbets, the man who flew the Enola Gay to Hiroshima. Tibbets view of his actions there are as honest, honorable, and straightforward as I believe most of the WWII generation to be. It was a job that needed to be done to save lives and the right thing for the US. Tibbets was the best man to do the job. The job got done.

I feel like Brokaw would have gone on (perhaps he does - I haven't finished the book yet) about the advent of the nuclear age, the destruction man wreaks on man, wringing his hands the whole time. If I had to capture the spirit of the WWII generation (based only on reading, since I've never really known anyone who fought then), I think Greene got it right. No grand sweep of history, just the story of a father and his son, and the story of men doing what they need to do to preserve the freedom and lives of their countrymen.


Terry's back! Now I can go back to loafing.

Incidentally, since I'm housekeeping, you may notice that I've added Armor Geddon to my bloglist on the right. I ran into it somehow, and I thought it worth adding. Be forewarned - this is standard MilSpeak, which is to say the language is pretty coarse.

On the other hand, Red6's newly born log is a first person account of tank operations during the battle for Fallujah. I can't think of another time when the individual soldier has been able to share his thoughts with a wide audience this close to a battle. Normally letters and diaries of individuals don't make it to the world - they're aimed at the person themselves, or to the loved ones who receive the letter. We've reached an interesting point in history, where the spread of technology has led to an overwhelming amount of information right at the point of action.

It does raise the question of what we'll have for posterity. Letters on paper from the Civil War will be equally readable (if cared for properly) 200 years from now. Will the same be true for the emails and blogs coming from our soldiers today? Something to think about.

Gee, that wasn't really housekeeping, was it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Two Years Ago today...

I got the best present in the world.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

[UPDATE: I just noted the cookie in the mouth. Adds character. And she has more teeth and hair now]

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Last week's head cold has morphed into this week's virus. I got into bed somewhere around 8:30 last night, slept badly, and spent much of today wrapped in several layers in bed, trying to get warm.

My menu since about 3PM yesterday as follows:

One (1) mug tea
One (1) 32-oz. bottle of Powerade
One (1) small bowl chicken soup, provided by kindly neighbor
Two (2) pieces toast
Two (2) doses of varying strengths of painkiller.

My presence in the outside world tomorrow (bearing in mind the white stuff falling now, and needing snowblowing) is tentative at best. While the rest of you are rejoining the world of the Blog, after what I hope was a better Dec. 25th than mine, I may yet be in bed.

Which, in fact, is where I am dragging myself off to right now.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Not quite sure what the problem is here

Look, I certainly wouldn't buy one of these for my kids for Chanukah (or any other known holiday, real or invented), but the toy's, umm, "output" is not much different from the real thing.

Though I wonder that the Greenhouse Gas (heh) crowd hasn't raised a (heh heh) stink about such toys, not to mention the real deal.

Oh, sometimes I crack myself up.

This seems like a New York Story

I'm not sure why this is such a big deal. Sure, Bar Mitzvahs in places where Arafat invested has a certain irony, but why is anyone surprised? The little troll had tons of money he stole from his people, courtesy of US, Israeli, and European foreign aid. Like any smart investor, he looked for profitable investments.

I suspect he invested in all sorts of things that led to Jews (and others who hated the little gnome) indirectly supporting the PLO and their terrorist activities. You can't stop buying Coke and Oreos just because some terrorist might make money off it.

I do find it interesting, given that:

1) at one point in my life, I bowled two or three times a week
2) I used to live two blocks from Bowlmor Lanes in the Village
3) I now work less than ten minutes from the New Hyde Park bowling alley

Anyway, I chalk this one up as weird news.

Per Miz Jordana's Request

I have no objections to this particular piece of beefcake. He seems like a manly man, so...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

My head

appears to be stuffed with high-grade cotton balls. I seem to have picked up my children's illness in earnest, and I am now fully aware of my sinuses. They have been packed full of something painful, and neither the expired Benadryl I took last night nor the Sudafed are helping much. Ugggh. And yes, I have been using Zicam, which I suspect is merely limiting the amount of awful I'm feeling.

In any event, I've decided I have a small gripe. Like most people, I like free stuff. Unlike some people around here, I never seem to get any. Others are surrounded this season with baskets of junk food taller than me (granted I'm undertall), and what has shown up at my door? Bupkis. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

So here's the word going out to the people I work with - SHOW ME THE GOODIES. Howzabout winging a box of Godiva down this way, huh? I know none of you know I'm here most of the time, but let's make with the candy/cookies/brand new Honda Accord Hybrid, okay? (Look, I'm not a car guy - I like Hondas, and I want to save on gas. Save the Double overhead cam hemi 457 Magnum stuff for the gearheads.)

Not that I'm greedy or anything, exactly. It's just nice to be noticed, in a box of full-fat, expensive chocolatey sort of way.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Totally gratuitous

picture of Rita Hayworth.

Well, now

Larry A. points out (quite correctly) that I am not maintaining the usual PossumHumor in the Marsupial's absence.

I've decided that he's right, and it's because nothing extra funny has happened to me recently. Or I can't make ordinary things sound funny. Or something. Stuff has happened, but not in a humorous way. I'd like to make the errands I ran on Sunday seem funny, but the truth is I actually got everything accomplished in a speedy and efficient fashion. The children were home sick, which is not particularly laughable.

(Though in honesty, older child had a good line on Friday. The two kids were running around screaming as they often do, and I suggested a new game. "Let's say absolutely nothing for the next five minutes." To which oldest responded, naturally "Absolutely nothing for the next five minutes." My daughter, the prodigy. Who knew there was an inheritable gene for smart-aleck?)

So in comedy, as in life, timing is everything. Hopefully something of note will occur before Terry gets back. In the meantime, as this chap would say, "pewhaps something wisible?"

Our Current "Troubles"

I got to thinking about the war on terror the other day, and this is where my head went.

We're fighting for our lives here - most reasonable people understand that. We're in that position because our enemies feel that death and destruction is a good thing. And yet, where might we be if the Osamas out there believed in something different? What if Mohammed had promoted Islam as requiring Muslim control over the world's finances? Or if interpretations of the Koran led the Wahabbists to choose to dominate the world in baseball rather than homicide bombers? We in the west would probably have looked on it as reasonably healthy competition. Cutthroat, perhaps, but not in a literal sense.

That led to a train of thought on Japan. The West faced a militarized, martial culture prior to and during WWII. I don't claim to know much about Japan or its history, but clearly the military was ascendant for some time. It was a militarism we in the West could understand (as opposed to the Wahabbi nutjobs we face now) , but still an alien culture. So we fought them, and had to defeat a hardy, difficult enemy. Even with the Kamikazes, however, I don't think the Japanese were suicidal for its own sake. Yes they might sacrifice themselves for the fatherland, and maybe death before dishonor, but they weren't in a hurry to die (again, near as I understand it).
So we beat them. Took a lot of hard fighting, a lot of death, and two nukes, but we did defeat the Japanese. So what did they do? With our help, they reset their cultural norms. Still the same intensity, but they focused on success in non-military areas. Technology and capitalism are the two most obvious examples. And they certainly did overtake us significantly, though not permanently. The Japanese remain highly innovative technologically, and in the '80s at least it appeared they were kicking the daylights out of us in capitalism. We're still ahead in baseball, though there are some very strong Japanese players coming over to MLB.

What I think I'm getting at here is that we've seen this before. Sure, life would have been easier if Islam had wanted its adherents to learn to turn a double play. But that's not how it turned out. Nobody thought the Japanese or the Germans could be turned away from their violent, expansionist ways, and yet we did. I know this looks like a long haul with no end now, but we have done this before. Yes, it was against sovereign nations and not loose agglomerations (good word!) of wackos. But cultures can be turned, for their good and ours.

Few people would say the Japanese were better off as they were (certainly Manchuria could speak to the benefits, though being part of China now they probably just want to keep their heads down), and I think the same is true for the Islamic world. It will take some time, but I believe we will eventually compete against the Mullahs on the diamond or in the boardroom rather than with automatic weapons fire.


Terry at Possumblog is on "Vacation" this week, and I wondered if I could (or should) fill in. So, lessee, hmmm. OK, here goes...

Blah blah blah blah up the hill blah blah blah crazy children blah blah blah over to Sam's blah blah blah Miss Reba (Rrrowwlll) blah blah blah fall asleep. Blah blah blah CHET!!! Put down that leaf blower! blah blah blah Jimmy (from Next Door) blah blah blah deep fried canola oil (yum).

See? It's not so hard. With our simple PossumBlog Starter Kit, for only $29.95 you too can share your possumy goodness with the world.

(We kid because we care. Really)

(Why, no Terry, I didn't post anything on your blog. Say, where's Chet? Terry, what are you doing with that large wooden BADGER? AAAAGGGHHHHHH!!!!!)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Oh Mr. Possum

The Scots seem to have gotten a jump on PossumKitchens, Inc.

Unless, of course, your European subsidiary, PossumKitchens, Ltd. is the organization responsible for this rather peculiar idea. It certainly illustrates the idea that anything can be fried, and that already delicious foods can be better when hot oil and batter are applied.

I think the only further we can go with this is to deep-fry foods that are already deep-fried. Dip potato chips in batter and drop 'em in the fryer?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Thursday Three

Not perhaps the most appropriate to my faith (see below), but I will alter to suit my own holiday needs.

1. The ol’ Tannenbaum--fake or real? When does it go up? And when does it come down?

No Tannenbaum for us. I do use an olive oil Menorah as opposed to wax candles. The oil is considered the best way of commemorating the Menorah of the Temple, though the wax is legal as long as it lasts enough time.

On a related note, one of the funniest holiday cards I've ever seen had a guy on the front pulling a tree, with the words "Oh Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum..." [open card] "put down that tree, you're Jewish."

2. Shopping--fake or real? Oh, wait, that’s the last question. Here we are--do you wait until the last minute or plan ahead? Do you give gift cards?

I wait until the wife has planned ahead. Older child is old enough to go through catalogs picking everything she sees. Wife cleverly found other, equally attractive gifts for this year's Chanukah, and Grandma & Grandpa provided multiple gifts.

3. And finally, where do you carry out your celebrating, of whatever sort it might be? At your house, at a relative’s house in the area, or out of town?

Chanukah being a bit more spread out, there's more options. The day to day candle lighting happens at home, of course. This year we had a Chanukah party at my brother's house, and he invited my cousins. Who brought all twenty or so of their kids with them. So it was a little noisy & crowded, but it was nice to see them all. Other people I know have set parties every year on the Sunday that falls out during Chanukah, but we're not that regular.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I was thinking about this more last night and this morning, and thought a short disclaimer should precede what I have to say. Jim's question struck a nerve with me, moreso than even I expected. What follows are my opinions. I make no apologies for them, and I do not excuse them. My intention is not to offend, but if I do I think the offended reader will have to live with that offense. Few things get me riled up. Religion is probably #1 (followed by hockey), and I defend here not my opinions but my faith. If that bothers you and you think I'm narrow minded, best to stop reading now and come back later when I will likely link to something silly. (In fact, I'll do that right now to give folks something to do)

My Christmas is a different experience from what a lot of Jews in America have. We are Jews in a largely Christian country. Moreover, the vast majority of Jews in America are not observant to any noticeable degree. They're twice a year Jews, without the presence of regular faith in their lives. Since they live their lives all year as basically secular people, I think a lot of Jews feel the pull of Christmas. It is, in the modern American world, a joyous time of love, generosity, family, and goodwill towards men. Since we've largely commercialized and de-Christianized Christmas (at least here in the Northeast - perhaps it's different elsewhere) there's no real reason why a Jew with no noticeable faith of their own wouldn't celebrate Christmas to some degree.

Given also the high rate of intermarriage between Jews and other faiths (47% between 1995-2000, according to the National Jewish Population Survey), a lot of nominally Jewish people have reasons to celebrate the holiday. What it means to me, unfortunately, is the loss of a lot of Jewish souls to a detrimental form of secularism. There's an old Jewish complaint in this country about why all the children are marrying non-Jews. The punchline to many stories is "at least s/he's Jewish." What these complaining parents don't realize is that they have given their kids little reason to care about being Jewish.

You prepare for a bar/bat mitzvah, you pop into services once a year, and you act surprised that your kids don't identify as Jews? What did you expect when you yourself don't demonstrate any strong devotion to your faith? The Christmas celebrations in Jewish households (those that haven't intermarried) are not, IMO, just an attempt to fit in with the neighbors. It's reaching out for some kind of meaning. It disturbs me so much because there is a great deal to appreciate within Judaism. The rhythm of the Jewish day, week, and year allow me to live my life to a cadence. I know that doesn't work for everyone, but so many Jews have dismissed their faith without really knowing the first thing about it.

Look, observant Judaism is hard. I make no bones about the difficulty of being an observant Jew. But life is hard - why should religion be easy? We call ourselves the Chosen People. What casual observers assume is that means we think we're better than others. The interpretation I've always gone with is different - we're not chosen to be better than others. We've been chosen to take more responsibility. This chosenness is a double edged sword - we are supposed to be more loved by God, but that brings with it a greater share of the work of building and maintaining the world.

The reasons Jews don't proselytize is not because we don't want more Jews. We don't seek new recruits because being an observant Jew is very difficult. We'd rather not bring in new people who are not going to observe the commandments. Better for such a person to lead a good non-Jewish life, observing only the seven Noahide commandments (courtesy of Auburn, interestingly) rather than make them into a Jew who does not obey the 613 commandments.

The observance of Christmas by Jews is to me another sign of the lack of commitment many Jews feel to their own faith. For many (maybe even most) it is not their fault - they have been brought up with nothing. I have had conversations with many Jews who give me various explanations (excuses?) - "I had a lousy Hebrew school experience"; "I tried once but I couldn't handle it"; and my favorite "I'm a really spiritual person, but I'm not religious." This doesn't cut it for me. For 3500 years Jews have survived by doing our job - following the words of the Torah and serving "as a light unto the nations." Not by assimilating. Not by being more like the others. We've tried that in every country we've lived in, and we still end up singled out, and often destroyed for being Jews.

A Jew is a Jew. We have a responsibility to be good Jews. I don't know for a fact that my observance is the right way. I am sure that a Christmas tree is not the way to be a good Jew. The Chanukah story demonstrates that the observance of non-Jewish rituals is the way to disaster. Only by fighting for God (sometimes literally, other times figuratively) and standing up proud of our unique (NOT BETTER) "lifestyle" will we succeed as Jews.

[End Soapbox]

Christmas among the Heebs

Dr. Jim asked in an email (since there ain't enough room in the comments area) how I as a Jew have handled Christmas. It's an interesting question, and my answer surely differs from that of many other Jews.

Anyway, Christmas has basically meant not a whole lot. I realize that's different for a lot of people, but over the years it's gone from being an inconvenience to being a chance to have a day off from work. I don't mean the day has no meaning for others, but for me there's no particular significance.

Let me esplain... wait, there is no time, let me sum up.

First and foremost, I am an Orthodox Jew; "Modern Orthodox" by the current designation, meaning I read non-religious texts, watch TV, surf the internet, count non-Jews among my friends, and some other variations on "regular" orthodox. There are many divisions within Orthodoxy, and this is probably not the best place to go into it.

At any rate, being an Orthodox Jew, we're most interested in maintaining our own faith and its precepts rather than taking on parts of other faiths. Whatever may be said by the "Happy Holidays" crowd, Christmas is a Christian holiday - it celebrates the birth of Jesus. Since Jews do not believe that Jesus is the savior, celebrating Christmas would be (to my mind) tantamount to repudiating Judaism. Since I wouldn't do that, I feel no need to celebrate someone else's holidays. And believe me, we do have enough of our own to deal with.

As a young kid, I have no particular memory of the celebration of the day. A neighbor who used to work for Con Ed (the gas & electric utility in NYC), I remember him having a huge display of lights, and being able to spot my block from half a mile away. I don't remember being jealous of the non-Jewish friends I had and their new Christmas toys.

As I got older, I moved to a more Orthodox school, and we had school on Christmas. Half a day, since there was no school buses functioning, but we had school. It also meant (since I took public transportation) that buses were limited. Here's the inconvenience part - waiting outside for buses that are running once every half hour. In the cold & snow. Not fun. Later on, there's the inconvenience of all the stores being closed. I understood why they closed, but for someone not celebrating who needs a container of milk, it was a pain. That's changed a lot - many places now open for part of Christmas, which I actually think is a shame. Clearly the holiday has lost some of the sanctity it once had.

Since then, Christmas means a day off from work. I'd be happy to go in for someone else & cover them so they could take off, but I work by myself. Instead I get to stay home and spend some time with my kids, which is nice. I do recall getting mad at a Rabbi I knew (not to his face) for insisting that they hold morning services on Christmas at the regular 6:30 AM time instead of bumping it back to 8AM. I know some people feel there's an obligation to avoid celebrating a non-Jewish (religious) holiday, but nobody really thinks a bunch of Jews in prayer shawls are celebrating Christmas by sleeping in until 7:30.

We told my oldest girl last year (when visiting our neighbors and seeing their tree) that this is other people's holiday, and we don't celebrate it. Nothing more, nothing less - it is what it is, and she accepted that.

To be continued...

Archives Of Interest

This week's archives is the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. They seem to have a lot on Texas history (naturally enough), but they also have the John Nance Garner Museum and other materials of more national interest.

Apropos the posting of the other day on Southern Jews, I note they have a sizable collection of Jewish themed materials from Texas, appropriately called the Texas Jewish Collections.

Words are not Adequate

to describe this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It's Good to be Reminded Now & Then...

...that different people have different experiences, even from within the same faith. I caught the film Shalom Y'all last night on our local PBS affiliate. It was an entertaining look at Jewish life in the South from roughly 1920 to the present day. In my insular, New York Jewish world, it's easy to forget that the broad array of kosher food, other Jews, and choices of denominations were pretty peculiar to our area.

The filmmaker went around to small towns, big cities, and everything in between, and documented a Jewish life very different from what I grew up with. Synagogues (one with a HUGE pipe organ) that now have fewer than a dozen members. A black police chief with Jewish ancestry who converted to Judaism later in life. Real, serious Deep South Anti-semitism, including homes & synagogues bombed during the civil rights era. And even parts that are more recognizable to me - the huge growth in the observant Jewish community in Atlanta, GA over the last few years.

Even as I've gotten to know some bloggy folks from thataway, I still have this idea in my head of a monolithic (or at least monoreligious) section of the US, and it's helpful to remove the blinders occasionally. Anyway, it was a neat movie and certainly of more value than the football type game on TV last night.

Check your local PBS listings.

Interesting article

I know the Washington Times has kind of a funny reputation, and they're supposed to be a front for this guy, but it's an interesting look at the disparity between Bush and Kerry supporters among men with kids (77% for W vs. 18% Kerry on the question of the "cultural direction of the country" for those with no time to read the article.)

I think there's something pretty straightforward behind this, personally. There's a responsibility that comes with fatherhood, and I sometimes think a type of manliness expected of a father. The conversation that a father will often have with a child when a bully beats up their kid will go something like this "Son (I imagine sometimes, "Daughter") - you go back there and stand up for yourself. You can't let people like that do this to you, or you'll be walked on for the rest of your life. Go out there and show them what you're made of."

The father understands something here (sometimes the mother too - I heard an actor or sports figure once who said his mom had this same conversation with him). You might get your fundament kicked by the bully. You'll get laughed at, and you'll hurt, but you will stick up for yourself. The next time something like that happens, you'll beat the crap out of the person trying to knock you down.

Look, I'm not advocating simple macho violence for its own sake. If you go to a bar and get in a shouting match and end up unconscious and bloody, I don't consider that manly. But I think it's important to stand up for yourself when it counts. One sea change among certain Jews following WWII and the Holocaust was a determination not to go like lambs to the slaughter the next time a Nazi showed up with a machine gun. The Israelis are the best example of this change in historic Jewish attitudes, and I subscribe to it - "Never Again" means (among other things) that some Jews will fight back when attacked, and they intend to win.

The point of this, and what I think the article illustrates, is that America's fathers overwhelmingly understand the fight we're in. They believe the bullies are trying to shove us around, at the cost of our lives. They believe this is a fight we need to win, and we need to not only stand up to the bullies, but beat them so hard they'll slink back in their holes like the cowards they are. America's fathers also believe that George Bush has shown he wants to beat the bullies, and they believe he will continue to do so.

John Kerry, on the other hand, represents (no slight intended to women here) the "run home to mommy" philosophy. Mommy in this case is the UN, or perhaps France. Run to mom crying, and wait for her to call the bully's parents and complain that your kid got beat up. You meet on neutral ground, bully's mom shoves him forward, and he mumbles an apology. Guess what happens the next time? Bully finds you after school, kicks the crap out of you again, and says "if you ever do that to me again, I'm gonna knock every last tooth out of your head." And when mommy is, as in the UN's case, a drunken, profligate, absentee whore (and yes, I mean every word of that), she's certainly no help.

America's dads voted for America to stand up and act like a man, in the best sense of that phrase. Take responsibility, stand up for yourself and others weaker than you, and make the bad guys pay.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I Know...

exactly what this woman's mother's brother is thinking right at this moment.

Wait for it....

"Well I'll be a Monkey's Uncle!"

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week, try the salmon.

(Hat tip to Rich Lowry at the Corner)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

And people say I have too much free time

Archives Of Interest

This doesn't strictly seem to be an archive in the formal sense (though I imagine they are) but it does appear to be a large collection of historic photos.

Anyway, here's GRIN - Great Images in Nasa. I had started out originally at the JSC Digital Image Collection, but there was a link there to the other one, so I chose that instead. Technically I've added both, so think of it as a buy one, get one free deal.

No refunds or exchanges.

Fast and Loose With the Truth

It's not that unusual for movies to get things historically, scientifically, or otherwise wrong. But this story just makes me wonder - does ANYONE do any research before they write stuff?

I understand that there's artistic license involved, and that these people are essentially fiction writers, not journalists. I also understand that a movie is only so long and you have to leave things out, or alter them to make the movie work. But to make the reach that Ray Charles was actually banned from an entire state (which I doubt a legislature could legally do even if they wanted to) is beyond license. It's complete fabrication.

I don't know if I would care that much except for the thousands (possibly millions) of people who will use this movie as the only history of the events they ever see. Lots of people won't bother to read a book on the subject, and they'll assume that if the movie said it, it's true. Since the Augusta Chronicle took the time to make three phone calls, couldn't the scriptwriters do the same?

(Hat tip, incidentally, to my online colleague Peter for the link)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Jury Duty Fun

So I got the thing in the mail for Jury Duty. They have it worked out so you call in during a specific week and they let you know if you have to come in. I had a high number, so I was figuring it all week, and hoping I would not get called.

Naturally, on the one day Shabbos starts earlier than any other time of the year, I get called in for Friday. Heart in hand, and a large book in my bag, I head over to the Court building. Metal detector, etc., and into a large room, where they hand us brochures that include a jury word find. Go figure.

They run this unbelievably hokey film containing various news "journalists" talking about how far we have progressed since the days of the Trial by Ordeal. [ed. - I did try to find a reliable site about TbO, but came up empty.] I have a vague Grad-school memory of it being largely an ecclesiastical exercise rather than criminal/civil, so Ed Bradley's contention that all in the Middle Ages was dunking seats and walking on hot coals seemed a bit overplayed. Especially the guy in the video slowly sinking under the water, which lacked only the cartoony "blub, blub" sounds.

Anyway, I tell the nice lady collecting our tickets that as a Sabbath Observer I need to hit the road no later than 3 PM (remembering again that Shabbos starts at 4:10.) "No problem" she says, and about 15 minutes later my name gets called over the loudspeakers. Troop off to Room #2, where four lawyers are gathered. Everybody's name goes in the bingo hopper, and out comes... Yours Truly, for slot #6 in the rogue's gallery.

The rest of the morning is a haze of repeating the same questions to everybody - where are you from, you married, kids, blood type, social security #, the whole deal. Punctuated every 15 minutes by the four bloodsuckers legal types stepping out to conference. Everybody with an excuse has to talk to them privately. Including the guy who can't speak English.

So what's a guy who doesn't want to be on JD do? Act all obnoxious, or say something nasty about a race or religion? Not likely in a room full of complete (and to that point, friendly) strangers. So I gave the best answers I could. And sat. And sat. And sat. By the 12:30 lunch break I've been in the chair for 2 1/2 hours, and I figure I'm screwed - I'm on this jury for a week or more right in the middle of big work project, etc.

Come back at 2 PM, fiddle around a bit more, and finally lawyers leave for conference # 298, 375. Back in ten minutes, call the six of us out. Mr. Jury Office Man says - "you four, go home" Relief and joy, wait twenty minutes to get the get out of jail free card (good for six years locally, 2 years federally), brief thank-you from the ticket lady to our veterans, and home like a madman.

I should say that I know the jury system is a wonderful thing, and is critical to democracy, and billions of people would love to have this opportunity for justice. It's selfish, but I'm still glad I don't have to actually serve on the jury. Welcome to my contradictions.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Strange things on the road

I believe I have now officially seen it all. I'm on the road last week to a meeting, and riding on one of our local parkways. I happen to glimpse the gentleman in the vehicle next to me. He is alone in the car, so I presume that he's the one propelling the car along at 60 MPH. And what is this gentleman doing with at least one of his hands?

Playing the trumpet.

I kid you not, the shining bit of brass had the requisite three valves, so trumpet it must have been. Though I suppose it could have been a cornet. Anyway, I figured there were two possibilities: A) He was on his way to a tryout with the local Philharmonic and Hot Dog Appreciation Society; or B) He heard something on the radio he liked, and decided to play along.

I grant you I have eaten and taken a drink while behind the wheel, but I think classical brass is a bit too far. Unless somehow there's a Sousa March requirement on one's car lease.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Archives of interest

To wrap up the trifecta of posts this PM, I'll close with this week's interesting archives.

Since I found them when looking for a finding aid example, I'll go with the Tarheels of UNC-Chapel Hill and their University Archives. Like a number of places I've seen (or worked at) they have divided their archival collections into a few areas. They have the University Archives, but also a Map Collection, Manuscripts Department, Rare Books, and a host of others. It tends to be a way to keep certain divisions between areas of interest - internal records, local history, areas of literature, whatever.

I also noticed this, which looks neat - Documenting the American South. Fun stuff to page through when you're bored.

In other news...

In vaguely chronological order:

1) Thanksgiving was very nice. Went to my mom's, where all was well in order (not traditionally done in years past). Mrs. Skinny suddenly lost her voice the day before, so she was a little hard to communicate with (keep the smart remarks to yourself.) I made mini corn muffins instead of corn bread - partly so there would be leftovers to freeze. We ate them before they got frozen.

2) Post-thanksgiving visitors. Mrs' best friend and Best Friend's Husband arrived from the deep South (Wash, DC area. Look, from my end of the universe, anything south of Bayonne, NJ is below the Mason-Dixon line.) We had a lovely visit with them, marred only by the miserable storm that hit Sunday. We also had lunch with our newest neighbors across the street, and she made a fabulous cholent. I will not attempt to explain cholent here - it requires its own post. The kids played together nicely, even so far as them shifting to our house towards the end of the afternoon. Can't remember why, but we needed to be home, so they came with us. Nice to have neighbors you like.

3) Part of the weekend's catching up included the viewing of a newly-purchased DVD copy of Harry Potter III, where Harry battles the vicious Clubber Lang and succeeds in saving his father from the Evil Emperor and finding the good in him while discovering he has a sister.

Don't laugh - I think that would have made a better film. This is Mrs' favorite of the five HP books, and frankly, they didn't do it justice. The whole purpose of the book in continuing to develop the presence of Voldemort in Harry's life was glossed over, and the whole thing felt like a bunch of vaguely interconnected skits. Look, I know there's a lot to cover, but I think they dropped the ball on this one.

4) Everybody seems to be sick at one point or another. The aforementioned laryngitis has finally cleared up, only to be followed last night when oldest had a major ear problem. It's not like her to be up all night, but boy was she ever last night. Every hour coming out & complaining her ear hurt, in a way that's not like her. Mrs. actually let her go downstairs at 2:30 AM & watch a video to distract her. Off to the sawbones today, and big surprise, she has an ear infection. Dunno how any of us managed on the three hours of sleep we got, but she dropped off tonight in less than five minutes. Uncharacteristic, but understandable.

So, that's the Cliff's Notes version of the last two weeks.

So where have I been?

Outta my brain on a train on a train, outta my brain on a train. (See here if you're culturally illiterate.)

I have, in fact, been up to my eyeballs (literally - staring at the screen of the demon machine all day) in my brand-spanking new database program. Those regular readers of this space - both of them - may vaguely recall my mentioning this way back when, and I suppose now is as good a time as any to explain what's going on. It's a long story.

See, I run an archives, and one of the key things is being able to find all the stuff you're responsible for. In many places that's done by a finding aid, as seen in this fine example. For me, databases are the way to go - make it available electronically to speed reference, with the flexibility of a database (as opposed to the static document the example provides). So when I got to my job four years ago, I asked to and eventually was allowed to purchase a database program I had used elsewhere.

Now, I've tried many of the DB programs meant for computer savvy but non-geek users. Access, FileMaker Pro, and a wretched piece of code known as Q & A. The Inmagic brand of software outstrips them all in features, simplicity, and functionality. I taught myself pretty thoroughly in two weeks. So I get the OK to buy it, knowing all along I might like to purchase the software add-on that allows the thing to be used on the web. This way, anything I did in the back-end could be sent out to users elsewhere in the organization.

Flash forward a year. The company now has an intranet site. I get the bright idea that this software would be perfect. Send out memo. Discuss in no great detail. Shelf idea for a while as various anniversaries will take my attention for two years. Flash forward two more years. Start the gears grinding to buy the thing. Price has gone up dramatically. Beg and plead, vendor knocks price down. Spend four months talking them into OK'ing the cost. Spend six more weeks trying to talk the purchasing folks into allowing me to spend money I have been told to go spend. Two more months to get the IT people all in one room to discuss.

Noticing a pattern here?

The rest of this is actually pretty smooth sailing. The individual IT folks have been great. From the time we first sat down until I was actually able to begin serious work on my part of this is only about a month. But for the last two weeks, when nothing of consequence has been written on this blog (well, one could reasonably argue that this is simply par for the course - it's only the absence of any actual words that differentiates it) I have been working like mad to get all the stuff in order to actually launch this thing to the rest of the organization.

Parts of this are working like gangbusters - forms are doing what they should, search screens, the whole business. One small but significant technical problem is interfering, but we are working it as best we can. The truth is I'm feeling a bit worn out by the whole thing. I need to do this, and the results should be fantastic, but I've got two different spreadsheets just to keep track of what I still need to do.

Mrs. Skinny has pointed out that I should probably take a break for a while, and I think she's right. It's just hard to do when you feel like you're an inch away from completing something that's taken so long. Today's trip 40 miles each way to visit one of our facilities to pack up their board minutes (dating from 1923! Jackpot!) was probably a useful interruption.

Now as long as I don't get actually called in for jury duty(I'm on phone standby)...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Thursday Three, a bit late

I was away from the computer all day yesterday, so I'm catching up.

1. Is your birthday in a good time of year or does it suck?

Depends. August is a nice enough time of year, but as a kid it meant I basically had no birthday parties. Nobody was around. On the other hand, I now have a job where I get my birthday as a personal day, so it's pretty cool.

2. How did you spend your 21st birthday? (Assuming you have done that and still remember.)

I have (at least physically) passed my XXI birthday, and I have no memory of what I might have done. I don't drink, so it's not because of alcohol. I was unintentionally, but decidely single and unattached, so it wasn't lost in a haze of romantic bliss. Chances are I watched a bit of TV.

3. Do you know anyone with your birthday?

There was a guy in school and summer camp with me who had the same birthday (I think I was older by a few hours). We'd get a birthday cake during lunch at camp, which is how I found out we shared the day. Others with my birthday are here. I knew about Dustin Hoffman and The Edge, but Esther Williams was a surprise. Events of the day are here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Archives of Interest

This week's entry is technically a museum, but there's a lot of crossover between the archives & museum worlds, and they do have a research library.

Anyway, here's the website of the Cartoon Art Museum. I have been a fan of both still and animated cartoons for many years, and clearly so are others. I still maintain that the 1940s era Warner Brothers cartoons are among the highest form of art produced in America. I'm sure others are better artists (although the animators and background artists were terrific), but comparatively few of them actually make you laugh.

Learning to Drive

Well, learning to take some points off my license, anyway. 'Bout two months ago, I got my first ticket in 17 years of driving. As they say across the pond (or did in the 19th Century, as Rumpole points out often [caution: sound file]) "It's a fair cop, guv." I was over the speed limit, and earned the ticket.

Anyway, to knock the points off I went to the AAA defensive driving course Monday and last night. I don't know how this works elsewhere, but in NY there's no practicum - it's all classroom stuff. Ours was, to boot, basically watching videos for 6 hours. The guy teaching the thing is a retired cop, so he was full of war stories about people doing stupid (and occasionally fatal) stuff on the roads.

It wasn't quite as fascinating as I might have hoped, but I admit I'm more conscious of what I'm doing and others are doing on the road. And I've hopefully kept my insurance premiums where they were.

Weekend Update

Why no bloggy for a few days? Dunno - semi-busy at work, and not a lot went on, I guess. Lunch with our neighbors on Saturday, rush from there to a 40th birthday party for another neighbor, then home. Sunday was mostly quiet.

The only noticeable thing is that I got a cold and can actually pinpoint exactly when it started. 4:30 PM on Friday, I suddenly thought "I don't feel so good." There begins the sinus cold I've had since then, which I can't say has been fun. Poor me, Poor me.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ding, Dong...

the terrorist psycho's dead. It's a joyous day for me, and I only hope it was miserably, excrutiatingly painful. Or maybe not. There's a concept in Judaism that God doesn't let the evil suffer on earth so they will suffer more in the afterlife, where it is infinitely more permanent, and more painful.

He's directly responsible for the death of thousands of my co-religionists, widowed husbands, orphaned children, and parents who had to bury their children. He and his terrorist associates have maimed thousands, and shattered lives around the world. As the father of modern terrorism, he opened the door to the sorts of things we see now in Iraq, and the midwife to the Al-Qaeda movement. Don't read what he said in English if you want the truth of this man - find out what he said in Arabic, and you'll know what he really felt. He stole from his own people by the billions, and left them without the barest bones of a civilized government or hope for the future.

He was not a leader. He was not a statesman. He was not a proponent of peace. He was an evil, twisted, sick gnome and the world is a better place without him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Archives of Interest

In honor of Mrs. Skinny's brief trip to Chicago (she goes to see her sister, a sometimes theatrical-type person, perform on stage), this week's interesting repository is the Chicago Historical Society. I actually made a stop there on a vacation to the Windy City a few years back (busman's holiday and all that, though I seem to remember I was gainlessly unemployed at the time). Their online projects page looks pretty neat, including their exhibit of glass plate negatives from the Chicago Daily News. I don't personally maintain any of that variety of negatives, but I have heard they can be difficult to preserve properly.

I have enough to worry about.

Reason #4,254,675 Why Computers ain't all they're Cracked up to Be

This is a NY Times link, which needs registration. You can avoid giving them a blood sample by going to, which will give you a userid & password for these sites [ed. I won't use this for pay sites, but if they're offering the content for free, I see no reason to share my personal information with them]

Anyway, a couple of things to note. First, it's good to have this conversation in a very public arena like the Times. Second, I'm glad they talked to actual professionals. Third, this part is a bit overstated:

"Professional archivists and librarians have the resources to duplicate materials in other formats and the expertise to retrieve materials trapped in obsolete computers. But consumers are seldom so well equipped."

Dunno what resources they're talking about. There's a box of 8 inch floppies sitting in a storage room that I can't decipher, and I haven't any idea who could. My professional resources are a bit more limited than that. Thankfully the materials on these disks are not archival. I snagged one to use as a demonstration to people who think they have taken care of their records, but I don't need the boxload of 'em.


Mr. Tony is back on the Radio!!!!!! The Tony Kornheiser show has returned on SportsTalk 980- WTEM in Washington DC. I was a longtime listener to Tony's show on ESPN Radio, and I had to go find something else to listen to when he left in March.

Well, the TK Man From DC-Town is back, and I am glad to have something useless to listen to. I don't care about the sports, it's all the stuff about his crazy dog and his family.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Weekend...

..started off peacefully enough. Mrs. made a lovely crockpot-based chicken thingy for Friday night dinner that was very nice, along with a very nice apple crisp (listen, Jews & food go together - that's just how it is)

Saturday was the usual morning services, where oldest was well behaved. At least I assume she was - she disappears as soon as we get there, and comes back only to get snacks and ask permission to eat the lollipop she wangles every week. We were then off to lunch at some friends way over on the other side of town - I think it's about a mile and a half, which is a lot when you have to walk and push a double stroller. I got my cardio in this week, anyway. As the clocks have changed, sundown hit around 5:30, so we just stayed till after Sabbath and got a ride home.

Sunday was supposed to be hectic - two birthday parties for oldest, plus a party for the rest of us, thrown by some friends for a new baby they had. A lot of running, but two out of three were right in town, so not a huge deal, right? Youngest had other plans. She says, around 8:30 AM, "I poopy Daddy", so I go and get started on the business. Except she starts to cough, then proceeds to upchuck all over the place. So I got problems on both ends, and Mrs. (who had been sleeping in) gets screamed for. The rest of the morning was a bit of a shambles.

We'd already arranged a carpool out to oldest's first shindig, so at least by 9:30 she was out of the picture. Youngest is sitting in a series of clothing changes as she drinks two sips of sick juice (Powerade), then shares it back with us. The poor thing was miserable, and our party was essentially out the window. So I go off to the thing for about 10 minutes, see some old friends, give our regrets to the host, and off to pick up oldest and friend from end of party #1. Drop off friend, call Mrs. to check in. "Oh, other friend needs a ride to party #2, or she can't go" Off to the other end of town, pick up friend #2, leave both at party #2.

Return home, discuss various food options for the week, and rest. Briefly. Head out to drop off donation for birthday present for other friend, see house of nice new people in the neighborhood we met recently at services, got phone number (no pens on Sabbath, so gotta wait for a weekday). Got jealous of people who, a month in, have lots of stuff nice and finished while we, two and a half years in, still have lots to fix/update/finish. Off to supermarket. Bought a little junk, not too bad.

Home, drop groceries, yell for Mrs. to put freezer stuff in actual freezer. Off to retrieve oldest and friend, eat birthday cake in substitute of lunch, drop off friend, return home, collapse in front of dismal NY Jets football-type performance. Youngest has awoken from nap, and is much more chipper. Dinner for children, bath, bed. Dinner for us, and Persuasion on DVD. [ed. - Movie is not bad, but you have to think it would have been easier had Ms. Austen not come up with all these complicated twists. Mrs. pointed out it would have been an awfully short film. Which might have been my point to begin with.] Collapse into bed, eventually - after making the bed at close to midnight, since the youngest's effusions had landed where they oughtn't.


Just because

I actually wrote this yesterday, and then Blogger ate it. Clearly the squirrel on the wheel that powers Blogger's generator got tired, or went to hibernate. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Anyway, I shall attempt to recreate yesterday's brilliantly mediocre humor.

I got the following from Chuck Shepherd's news of the weird site.

More Scenes of the Surreal
(1) Joseph Manuel Augusto, 37, and Andres S.
Diaz, 52, chased each other around a Burger King in Stratford, Conn., in July
after Augusto had become enraged that Diaz had occupied the men's room too long;
Augusto was flailing at Diaz with a small pocket knife, and Diaz at Augusto with
a straw dispenser.

Now, I have been in desperate need of a restroom in the past. I don't agree with the idea, but I can even see how someone might get into a fight about it. But a straw dispenser? C'mon, pal, what kind of girly-man attacks with a straw? At least throw ketchup packets at the guy.

How much damage can be done? I can just hear it now "the guy tore off the end of the paper wrapper, and shot it at the other guy, and he could've gotten like a paper in the eye, or a paper cut!" You know there's a legislator out there with too much free time about to introduce the Cylindrical Paper Enclosed Bendy Suction Device Assault Weapons Ban into whatever august body he belongs to.

Some people.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Archives of Interest

I had planned to move this to Wednesday so as not to conflict with the Thursday Three. But I forgot. So here it is on Thursday, and that's life.

This week's winner? The International Jazz Collections at the Lionel Hampton Center of the University of Idaho. Why? First of all, why not? It's different, and people like music. Second, I have an online pal (I've actually met him in person) who is the archivist there. Third, my dad is a musician with a deep interest in Jazz (he still plays dixieland once or twice a week for free, with a bunch of other old guys.)

More interesting and unique primary source websites to come, dear listeners. And now, a word from our Sponsor, Blub Blub Soap.

Thursday Three

1. What was the first election you voted in and who did you vote for?

Bush/Dukakis in 1988, and I'm fairly certain I went Bush.

2. Who was the biggest loser you ever voted for?

Depends how you mean it. The one who lost by the biggest margin, probably Dole 1996. If you mean Capital L on the Forehead, I believe I voted Clinton in 1992. I say that not just because I'm a right-wing maniac. I say it because the man's legacy (such a focus for him) is going to be one of empty rhetoric and failed delivery. Peace in the Middle East? Healthcare for all? Destroying the terrorists trying to kill us? Ending Saddam Hussein's evil ways?

Oh fine, it is because I'm a maniac.

3. Have you ever run for office or worked in a campaign?

Sorta. I was part of a group in college that ran a referendum to get more money for the academic clubs on campus. I spent the entire day running like a looney talking things up, and the referendum passed. Plus all my buddies were in student government, so I had connections.

All is well

In my America, anyway. Americans did the right thing as far as I'm concerned. John Kerry had nothing to offer in any concrete way, and apparently values were a critical factor. For reasons beyond me, all the hullaballoo on the Left side of the fence is about how they could possibly have lost, and we're about to turn into a fascist state. Since no one has actually arrested Michael Moore, I think it might be a little over the top.

Some observations, in no real order:

1) If everyone who claimed they were going to leave the country actually leaves, this should be a nicer place to live. Though, as this article points out, getting into Canada isn't as easy as it sounded coming from Alec Baldwin. Sean Hannity offered to pay for a flight for Al Sharpton and Michael Moore to anywhere in the world they wanted to go. I'd be happy to contribute. I hear Tora Bora is nice this time of year.

2) Boy, watching the media implode has been fun. I think Dan Rather is still treating the race as "too close to call." I think the major news sites still haven't given New Mexico and Iowa to Bush. On a side note, I can't tell you how irritating it is to stay up until 2AM, then wake up at 6:30 and find out they STILL don't know what the deal is. Most notable partisan shot I saw? Peter Jennings talking to John McCain, after asking him about his "good friend" John Kerry: "Do you feel the President has used you?" Depends, Pete - do you think maybe you have no idea how people in this country actually feel?

3) Kerry conceding was the most adult thing done all campaign. He earned a modicum of respect by doing the mature thing. Edwards, on the other hand, is deservedly unemployed. He didn't bring along the South as he was supposed to do, and then in the concession outlines his campaign for 2008. Pardon my french, but he's a putz.

4) My wife and I have been talking about this nonstop since Tuesday AM. Neither of us has ever been this interested before. We're older, we have children, and obviously 9/11 completely changed our view of the world. I'm not sure this really explains why this is so much more interesting to us (note I didn't say important - voting has always been important, but not necessarily of interest) , but we've been dissecting it in a way we never would have before.

5) This is a red country. This map should make it quite clear. Take a look at California in particular. By comparison, here's 2000. Other than urban areas, most counties in this country are red. What the dolts overseas, the hard-core lefties, and the media in this country don't understand is that many, many people think this way. They think that way not because they're stupid goobers or bible thumpers, but because they're regular people who have a different value system than the left. We are not all primary school dropouts, farmers, Southern Evangelicals, or anything of the kind. We are, most importantly, not proto-communists in the making, waiting to toss of our chains. We're ordinary, everyday people who made an intelligent, informed choice. It just didn't agree with what the left wanted, and instead of realizing we disagree, they think we're too dumb to make the right choice.

I'm feeling optimistic about the next four years, and the future of this Nation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I Eat Color!

Words you don't really want to hear from your nearly 2 year old child. I didn't actually hear them because A) I'm nearly stone deaf in my left ear; and B) said small human was down in the basement while I was upstairs straightening the kitchen area. Mrs. Skinny comes up the stairs yelling for help, holding a smiling but struggling toddler.

Seems the Mrs. went over to the laundry machine to rotate one mound between washer & dryer. When she comes back, munchkin has a large grin on her face, the title statement, and a ring of red around her mouth. Seems one of the crayons looked good enough to eat, so she did. Probably just a nibble, but enough. She seems fine two days later, so...

It set the tone for the day. Both children were certifiable all day. Clearly we brought two more lunatics into the world. Little one was alternately grumpy as heck and devlishly mischievous all day [Editorial aside: I get REALLY cheesed off when people pronounce that word as "mis-chee-vee-us" Don't know why it bugs me so much, or why people can't speak what they see. Goes along with people who say Nukular.] Oldest was better behaved, until...

The candy bowl came out. We don't celebrate Halloween, but I thought we should be neighborly enough to have something for people who came by. It was beautiful in NY on Sunday, so I dragged oldest outside during youngest's nap, forcing her to [shudder] PLAY OUTSIDE. Except she didn't want to play. She wanted to hover six whole inches from the candy bowl. (Reese's minature peanut butter cups and two-piece Kit Kats, for the record). "When are people coming by? When can I give someone candy? Can I have just ONE piece? PLEEEEEEEZE?" Repeat until nausea.

Suffice it to say one or two people came by, candy was dispensed. Oldest's best friend came by, they proceeded to fight for 90 minutes out of the two hours they were together. The last fight of the afternoon was over, I kid you not, a sequin one of them found on the floor. Of such crises wars are made.

Anyway, I had spent the earlier part of the day cleaning out the garage in order to fit my car inside. We heard when looking for a home here that nobody parks their car in the garage, and it turns out to be true. Halloween, with it's accompanying shaving cream/egg rituals meant Mrs' car had to go in the driveway, & itty-bitty Honda Civic had to go in the garage. (it worked - not a spot on either car.) So by the end of the Great Sequin Incident, I was close to foaming at the mouth. All got resolved eventually, and I collapsed on the couch in front of a completely meaningless Bears-49ers football scrum, and went to bed way too late.


Vote. Now. Please?

I went at 7:15 AM, and sailed through. NY is a lost cause in many ways, but at least one popular vote for George W. Bush is coming from the state. I even turned the lever for some guy other than Chuck Schumer. A guy can tilt at windmills, can't he?

Monday, November 01, 2004


Terry & Jim decided that predicting elections is not just for the hoi-polloi, and dopes like the rest of us should have an opportunity to look stupid. Heh heh - not that we have to look like fools in front of millions of people, as the dopes in the MSM have to. Are you listening, Dan R?

Anyway, the question was to predict outcomes of the national & state races. For my unfortunately Democratic state, the outcome is pretty straightforward. I expect that in the Senatorial race, Chuck Schumer will crush John D. McWhatisName; it's likely to be 85% for Schumer or better. I intend to be in the minority. I expect Carolyn McCarthy will also win big, 75% or better. I don't honestly know what else is up for grabs - some local judges, I think.

On the Presidential question, I expect NY to go big for Kedwards. 60% at least, and possibly closer to %70. Happily, my neighborhood is a bastion of some Bushies - there's a guy a block away with a yard sign bigger than my car. Granted I'm driving a Civic, but still.

Nationally, I say Bush takes it all in a noticable way. Not a landslide, but somewhere between 52% - 55%, and around 300 EV. The Osama video is just one more reminder what we're up against. As a bumper sticker I saw on the way home last week put it, who would OBL vote for? Based on the video, now we know. I know how I'm voting.

I must say I'm tired of the whole thing - it's dragging on me, and I even turn off the radio for people I agree with. I will not be entirely sorry when we can go back to talking about the latest "reality" show.

Awfully quiet around here, isn't it?

The silence (relative) in our house this Shabbos was deliberate. Oldest child got a chance to spend the Sabbath with Grandma & Grandpa just down the road a piece. Given the nature of that road & the so-called drivers who use it, that's neither as close nor as quick a trip as it might look on the map. In the dead of night, Christmas Eve, say it shouldn't take more than 20 minutes. On our annual pilgrimage to see friends in Washington, DC last year it took us probably an hour to cover the same distance. That, incidentally, is why this year's pilgrimage involved leaving the house at 4:30 AM. It worked - we made it to New Jersey in about 45 minutes, which is as smooth a trip as can be.

Anyway, Grampa came by on Friday to get the girl - he pulled out as I was returning from work. I followed him for about 5 blocks honking & flashing the brights so I could say goodbye before the overnight. Happily, he noticed eventually (don't get me wrong - my Dad is a terrific person and a good driver, it's just he can get a little focused sometimes) and I got to say goodbye to the cutie. And then home, to figure out what was for dinner. As you may remember from last week's episode, no direct cooking on Sabbath, only reheating.

And boy, did we reheat. I cooked up some rice fresh, but the rest was leftovers. We had some frozen Chana Masala (Scroll down a bit, or Edit/Find on this page for the recipe). I grew up pretty traditionally, and meat on Friday night was pretty much expected, but I was willing to broaden my horizons for the sake of not cooking. Gave me time to make a batch of cookies. Chocolate chip, mostly without the chips. I'm part of what I've discovered is a growing cadre of people who like the Toll House cookies without the chips. I did concede to a couple of trays with chips.

And then a peaceful, on time Sabbath. I think younger child was confused she kept saying "[Older child] school?" We said "no, [older child] at Grampa's house", which was repeated to everyone's delight. I went to services solo on Saturday morning, and had the unique experience of uninterrupted prayer. I felt like I should have been doling out raisins or denying multiple lollypops to someone. The Mrs. felt a bit sad at Oldest's absence, but Friday was clearly a lot calmer. Saturday might have even included an unheard-of nap, but using her evil Femi-nine wiles, Mrs. pulled out the secret nap-denying tool. A 1500 piece puzzle.

Nap time was frittered away on this monster, based on this picture. Not finished, and in the middle of doing the edges we realized it was too big for the table we were using. It's now sitting on the Coffee Table, hanging over the edge.

Girl made it home in one piece, had a wonderful time seeing her cousins (who live near my parental units), and got put to bed. I changed the clocks, wasted more time on the puzzle, and the rest will follow in a post on our Sunday fun.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


is quite Cool. (Via Jonah Goldberg at the Corner)

Archives Of Interest, Part Deux

As a nod to a place I'm actually familiar with, this week's link is to Columbia University Health Sciences Library. My colleague and friend there has been very helpful, particularly as I was getting established in the smaller sub-field of Medical Archivy. Be sure to get a look at their online Finding Aids. The finding aid is the point of entry to any archival collection - your index to what the collection holds. In my case I have no formal finding aids, only an electronic catalog. Some day I might do more formal FAs, if I can ever get out from under the mess on my desk.

Incidentally, Mrs. Skinny used to do webdesign for them, and I introduced their current Web person at a conference a while back. So there's the circle of working life all coming back to it's starting point.

Thursday Three

Once again, it's that time of week:

1) Name your THREE favorite candies you hope for when you go trick-or-treating.

Not really applicable - us Hebrews rarely do this sort of thing, though years past I did go out with some of the non-Jewish kids on the block. Nevertheless, since I can contribute to the candy end of it, I think I'd go for the MilkyWay Midnight, Krackel, and Crispy M & Ms. All now kosher, thankfully.

2) Name your THREE favorite things at state/county fairs (food or exhibits or rides or animals or animal food rides or whatever).

N/A. A County fair in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit.

3) Which THREE songs you would download for a cell phone?

Tough call. I currently have Mark Knopfler's "Sailing to Philadelphia" on there, which I had to program myself because nobody had it. All they carry are Dire Strait's "Money For Nothing" and "Walk of Life". Good songs, but not what I'd be looking for. I'd take anything by Knopfler or Dire Straits, though my first choice would probably be the obscure-ish but fun "Industrial Disease", maybe Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love", and a traditional Irish tune called "I'll Tell Me Ma" Eclectics Rule!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Your Tax System at Work

At least if you live in Australia. Clearly I'm in the wrong line of work, as I too would like to deduct illegal earnings.

Though I must ask - since when do drug dealers fill out tax returns at all? Maybe this is the fallout from Al Capone going to jail for not paying his taxes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On A Lighter Note...

RatherGate Revisited

I was blogless at the time of the whole memo-gate thingy, but I vaguely remember having something to say about it then. We'll see what I can reconstruct.

For many reasons, I take the use and misuse of documents very seriously. I am, professionally, responsible for the care and maintenance of thousands, if not millions of documents. I am responsible to my employer and history at large for preserving the historical record. As a trained (sit, boy, sit! Good grad student) historian, the records of the past mean a great deal to me. They represent what is often our only vision into the past, and future interpretation depends on the records we leave behind. I'm well aware that history is flexible, historical fashion changes, and the records themselves are not perfectly reliable.

That said, Rather's actions regarding that memo strike me as extra reprehensible. I don't understand why the man would risk his reputation on clear forgeries. I don't understand how he could claim any objectivity at all. I don't know what his beef with the administration was. But I admit to being most offended by the manipulation of the historical record by Dan and others to smear a sitting president. Have we lost all respect for the presidency that they we are prepared to accept any insult provided by what were laughably amateur forgeries? Are people so determined to defeat George Bush that they are prepared to manipulate history? All of this from the side of the political aisle that's supposed to be more intellectual?

I know the answers to all of these is yes. I'm not surprised by it, particularly. But I am disappointed in a lot of people, and disheartened by the nature of modern political disagreement.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ah, Shabbos

Or Shabbat. Or the Sabbath. As you prefer, or depending on which particular community you grew up in. In my case, it's as listed in the header of the post.

Anyway, as the Bible (V. 1.0) relates, the Lord created the world in six days, and on the seventh He rested. So do we, by extension, follow His example by working a forty hour workweek, with a Sunday for honeydo lists. And football. Shabbos itself around here is usually fairly relaxed. No TV, no mail, no compewters, no phones. The kids are still up early, but since we're usually in bed at a reasonable hour on Friday, it's not awful. So, a day of rest indeed.

Why is it, then, that the days prior to Shabbos, and Friday in particular, are a whirlwind of last minute cooking, cleaning, and insanity? I'm usually so worn out by the time it starts it's all I can do to keep from falling asleep on my plate (though Mrs. Skinny points out that late night hockey on Thurs. doesn't help. Apparently none of the other men in this town cook, so it has less impact on them.)

We had friends stay with us this past weekend, which was fantastic. They have a 4 month old baby, and we don't get to see them as often as we'd like. So I get a jump on things earlier last week. There's no cooking allowed from Friday sunset on, so everything has to be prepared before and warmed up. So Weds night I get the chicken soup & matzah balls done, plus the meatloaf. Thursday the mashed potatos. In the freezer from previous sessions are 1) Potato Kugel (pudding); 2) Squash Kugel (pie); 3) Lemon Bars (bars).

So what's left for Friday? Mrs. S. has the Chalah and zucchini salad, I get the cholent and a chicken/orzo salad thingy for lunch on Saturday. No big deal, right? Why is it she's first mixing the mashed spuds with the new batch of sauteed onions and I'm still assembling the chicken/orzo with 10 minutes to go before candlelighting (5:47 PM here in NY last Friday). Plus our guests are wiggling their way through side streets on Long Island after the parkway they were on got shut down - some knucklehead in a Big Rig who didn't see the sign saying "No Commercial Traffic"

Somehow we all made it to Shabbos in one piece - I even made it to services Friday only 20 minutes late, which is not bad. (I used to be on time, then I got married & had kids, & it all went to hell in a handbasket.) The rest of Shabbos was lovely. We had a wonderful time with our overnight guests (no travelling allowed, so anybody that comes is staying), and a nice lunch with some other friends and our new neighbors who moved in a week or so ago.

I'll only say that the week before I had no idea what was for dinner on Friday morning, and I was ready in plenty of time that afternoon. Some weeks you're up, some you're down.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Good to Know, I Guess

Normally these don't interest me much, but this seemed worth a shot. I actually prefer the Jelly Belly Cream Soda flavor jelly beans, but it's still not far off.

You are Larry Koffi.  You are director in charge auditing and collecting Union Togolaise De Banque Lome, Togo West Africa.  You came across $44.5 million of a dead person in your bank. You will give me 25% to be his NEXT OF KIN.  You like red jelly beans.
Which Nigerian spammer are You?

Oh Baby!

... as JD would put it.

Last night was the weekly Roller Hockey game with the other fat old guys from the neighborhood. I'm always wiped out on Fridays because the game rarely ends before 11:45PM, but it is absolutely worth it. Who wants to get work done anyway?

I got into the game about a year ago. I've always been a hockey fan, but never played. An email went out from one of the Synagogues we belong to saying they were restarting the game they used to have. After a bit of thinking (oh man, they're all great players & I've never played & I'm going to suck, etc.) Mrs. Skinny said "what's the big deal? Go, try it, see what happens." I married a very smart woman (though some might ask how smart she could be if she married me, but...)

Anyway, I did suck, but so did a lot of the other guys, and I have gotten a lot better over the last year. There's no set teams, so you never know who you'll be playing with. Last night I ended up with the best player in our group - fun, but challenging. He's always thinking ahead, and you really have to try & get in position for him to make a play. Plus he can get frustrated because the rest of us can't always keep up to his level. Playing against him is an equivalent challenge, and I consider it a successful night if I manage to stop him once or twice.

Last night started slow - because of holidays and rainouts, we haven't played in a few weeks & I was feeling rusty. I got into it, and ended up with three goals, two of which were actually nice plays on my part. We don't really keep score, so I didn't exactly win the game for us, but I'm always glad to contribute. I did take a wicked slap shot off the back of the leg. The guy taking it started winding up, and I made one of those calculated moves - 1) get out of the way (this was actually my plan); 2) face forward and risk damage to some fairly sensitive body parts; 3) turn around, which is what I did. Naturally, shin guards only cover the front of the leg, so I took a hard shot right off the calf. Like a good player, I stayed on & skated it off.

I also reached out & caught a clearing attempt with my hand - my right thumb is turning a lovely shade of purple. One shot also went off my ankle, so I'm a hurting puppy at the moment.

Now That's Hockey!

Beyond Ridiculous

Someone's going to have to get a pounding if I hear this one more time. I listen to Imus in the Morning in the car on the way to work. The politics, especially during an election year, are to the left, but I know that going in. I listen for the humor, which appeals to me BECAUSE it's juvenile, and some of the guests are interesting.

This morning, Imus was talking to Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and he said something I've heard dozens of times from the Left: "If we knew then what we know now, we'd never have gone into Iraq"

Well, DUH! This is easily one of the most idiotic statements I have ever heard made - it's Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking reduced to a sound bite. It's intellectually indefensible - of course people would do things differently knowing things in advance! Knowing what I know now, I would have bought $10,000 worth of Microsoft in 1986 and sold them in 1999! Heck, even if I hadn't sold at the height of the boom, the Evil Empire says my investment today would be worth $3.4 MILLION.

Hindsight, as is said, is 20/20. It's meaningless to say you would do things differently with new or different knowledge. Expecting the President to have made a different decision is moronic - he went with the information he had. You want to criticize something, pick on the intelligence which was faulty. Put some responsibility on the Clinton Administration's wall between parts of the intelligence community. Don't blame the guy for going with what he had at the time.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

See how smart I am?

I'm cleverly avoiding other people's problems with Blogger and Haloscan by not posting anything.

Sly like a fox, that's me.

Oh, and on a side note? Can we please not start this again? If you can't read the frappin' ballot, either 1) don't vote, or 2) ASK FOR HELP. You may look like a moron, but you will at least get a chance to choose what you actually want.

Thursday Three

Possumblog, of which I have become a regular reader, runs a weekly "Thursday Three" set of questions. The Southern-themed ones are usually beyond my ability, but I contribute when I can. Now that I am be-blogged, I can actually put stuff in my own blog instead of wasting valuable comment real estate.

This week's set of questions are right up my alley:

1. What is the most hapless/hopeless team/athlete you have rooted for (rooting against a team does not count).
2. What is the oddest sport you follow.
3. What is the furthest distance you have gone to attend and/or participate in an event.

1) Oh, MAN. This is a long, slow, lazy fat pitch for me to whack out of the park. I am, of all things, a New York Rangers fan. Up until a mere ten years ago, the most cursed franchise in all professional hockey. When I became a fan in 1986, they were 46 years into what ended up as a 54 year drought between Stanley Cups. When you consider there were only 6 teams in the league until 1967, that means there were 27 years when the competition was a measly 5 other teams. I became a fan in the glory days of Walt Podubbny. In addition, I have now suffered through 7 straight years of the highest payroll in the NHL, and no playoffs. Ranger fans know suffering.

2) See #1. And maybe competitive balloon animal making.

3) Technically I did not travel this distance just to see the game, but I did catch a Maple Leafs game in Toronto while on vacation there in 1987. And given the difficulties of traveling from any part of New York to New Jersey, I have schlepped out to the Meadowlands on one or two occasions.

New Feature

I know, with a three day old blog, they're all new features, but what can you do?

Once a week or so, I'm going to provide a link to an interesting online Archival Website. Historical ignorance is rampant in this country (though not, I hope, among the four people who read this blog) and I want to do my bit to introduce people to the wealth of primary sources maintained by archives and manuscript repositories in our own communities. Few people know that archives are there, and often open to the public. It helps to have a reason to look for stuff there, but the good Archival sites have a wealth of interesting and sometimes useful material online.

This week's choice is the Glenbow Archives and Museum in sunny Downtown Calgary, Alberta CA, where post time temperature is a balmy 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Helpfully, points out that it feels like... 27 degrees Fahrenheit.

I don't actually know anyone who works there, but they're using the same database I'm trying to get up & running, so I've been noodling around their site for a bit. They've put lots of images up on the site, and there's a ton of information about the history of their particular part of the world. Poke around - see if you learn something interesting. (For the record, the first search I attempted was on the word "fish". The DB found 36 records, so it wasn't as odd as it sounds)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Progress, of Sorts

Making some headway with the wacky fun of databases and HTML. Exported search screens from Database not interested in talking politely with web design program. And yet, as was said in a fine movie, we "endeavor to persevere." Everything looks screwy in the design pane, but looks appropriate when viewed in the browser. I do not know why. I'm pretty sure I don't care, long as it works.

Now, if I can only get the IT folks to install the server & stuff, we could see if the framitz actually coincides with the boolean. With a side order of spicy fries, if you please.


Couldn't let this one pass. Check this out on Little Green Footballs.

Look, I know things can get taken out of context. But Jimmuh's been leaning so far left lately he's tilted over & cracked his head; thus, he gets no break from the likes of me. I don't have the energy to read through the 500+ comments at this story, so I don't know if someone made this point.

Is Jimmy suggesting we'd be better off without a United States of America? His suggestion that negotiations would have resolved the issue is ridiculous, and implies that he'd be happier with a Canadian-style relationship to Britain rather than the free and independent nation we got. It also fails to take into account the relationship between colony and motherland, and the nature of that interaction.

This is the sum total of certain people's understanding of the world - all we need to do is talk about it and we can reason with the other side. I believe that's a ridiculous idea in the 18thC. relationship between the colonies & Britain, and even more so when dealing with crackpots of today who want us all dead.


I don't feel so good. Woke up at 3:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. Going to be a tough slog at work, and more importantly, here.

I woke up in the middle of a pretty vivid dream. There were the obligatory nekkid wimmen, naturally (whoever produces my subconscious clearly knows what sells). I remember a gaggle of purse snatchers coming out of a subway stop in view of the World Trade Center, and very clear views of someone going through a purse looking for cash. One odd view was a young woman finding a set of car keys & hitting the buttons to see if the car was parked nearby.

It segued into those images from the WTC on September 11. (Incidentally, I'm of the opinion that all decent people of the world should see video of those terrible scenes at least once a week, to remind them what it is we're fighting for, and against.) That huge radio tower on top crashing onto a parked car - impossible, I know, but that's dreaming for you. There was also a distinct image of a group of construction-worker types in a subway station below the WTC, hauling on a rope, presumably in an attempt to keep the tower from falling.

No, I don't have a clue what this means, I'm simply laying it out there. As they would say in Brooklyn, "Analyze THIS, Dr. Freud!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bear with me

My occasional Luddism is back with a vengeance tonight as I learn some of the ins & outs of this here blog-thingy. There are few things in the history of mankind better designed for making smart people feel stupid than the computer. I am attempting to load HaloScan comments instead of the OEM comments, so there may be some difficulty. Feel free to chime in with assistance if you know anything pertinent. I have saved the originals, so anyone who bothered commenting, they will be kept on my rickety old Sony Vaio.

Add this to a late-in-the-day attempt to create a new database that will resolve all of the company's issues, slice bread, and bring peace to the Middle East, and it's been one of those computer days. No, I don't do computer geek stuff for a living, it justs seems like that sometimes. I'll get into the professional stuff at a later time.

Oh, those wacky Brits

For my first interesting post, I'll redirect you to the paragon of Socialist journalism, the Guardian. (WARNING: Foul Language Included, and thanks to Jonah Goldberg at the Corner for the link)

While I appreciate that the British have a decided interest in the upcoming US Election, I very much resent the idea that they have a better idea of what it is we in the US need in our president. I don't think the nasty, obscene response is justified, but I do think they should know that we don't really need their help. With that in mind, I have composed the following response to the Guardian. Maybe I'll even send it to them:

Dear Concerned Citizen of the United Kingdom,

Thank you very much for your interest in our upcoming presidential election. We realize you have a choice of which election to meddle with, and we are grateful for your desire to participate. We are, however, quite unable to process your intrusion at this time. We have quite filled our quota of irritating, leftist do-gooders at this point. Should Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky expire prior to November 2nd, 2004 we will be sure to let you know.

We would like to point out as well that we would prefer that you rectify errors in your own representative democracy prior to attempting to adjust ours. We understand that you are stuck with Socialist Prats like Ken Livingstone, but we think that's your responsibility. We also note that we have rejected your form of Constitutional Socialism (see Battle of Yorktown, Decisive American Victory of) more than 200 years ago, and we are not prepared to reconsider that decision.

Please note that this will in no way affect our efforts in the War on Terror. We are fully prepared to remove your chestnuts from the fire. We will allow you to revisit the glory days of our greatest hits - World War I, World War II, and the Defeat of Communism. We remain committed to the preservation of freedom and democracy, whatever the yellow-bellied Nancy Boys may whine about unilateralism and giving peace a chance. We're quite certain you won't get much assistance in promoting Liberty from the Islamo-fascists.

The Citizens of the United States of America

PS Should you decide to become a citizen of the US, as millions of others have done happily (and legally) we will be delighted to extend you the franchise.

UPDATE: How's that for timing? Apparently today, 10/19 is the anniversary of the Battle. Sometimes you get lucky

Awright already

Several polite folks with as much free time as I have suggested I start a blog. I can't imagine why, but I have been considering it for a while. No reason why other people shouldn't read the garbage that comes out of my mouth - at least they have the option of not reading me at all.

If you want to blame someone for what happens here, El Possumo Grande, Mr. Unfreezing, and the good folks at Curmudgeonry were responsible for pushing me over the edge.