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)...