Monday, January 31, 2005

Several Years ago today

Some very nice people on the West Coast did the nicest thing for me anyone on earth has ever done. I don't imagine they had me specifically in mind, but I appreciate it anyway.

Happy Birthday, my Love.

Talk about having the Last Word

I don't blame this guy in the slightest. Everyone connected to the NHL should be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Uh Oh

Let's just say the hold portion of the evening should have shown me. 25 minutes with American Airlines, just for them to tell me "oh, you're on the wrong phone # - here, let me transfer you" 20 minutes later, and "yes, sir, cancelled means cancelled. Would you like to leave through San Diego, switch planes, and get home Monday at 5:30 AM? No? Better book you on the 11:30 AM Monday flight from Seattle."

So we extend the hotel a day, head back up north to see the relatives again (why not?), with the obligatory shopping stop, and all is well. Until dinner time. "kids, are you hungry?" "No, I'm just having grapes"

Whatever.

And then, at 7 PM, comes... The Return of the Grapes. Upchucking everywhere. Oh boy. Clean up, pack children in car, bring a barf bucket, stop every 10 miles to let more come out. Back to hotel so... youngest can add her contribution, in the elevator. Upstairs, one in the bath, one in bed. Deliver powerade, receive powerade back. Finally let exhausted youngest fall asleep at 11:30, while Mrs. is down at hotel washing machine cleaning clothes & such. Fall asleep at about 1AM, with a 6:30 wake-up call. Mrs. sleeps not at all, handling oldest every 20 minutes.

Pack everyone for van ride to airport, get on a VERY crowded airplane (when I originally reset our plans, they had us in 4 middle seats, one behind the other. Not only 4 unhappy people that way, but 200, so they swiftly got us all in a row.) Oldest is half-comatose the whole trip, with the ice bucket we took (with permission) from the hotel on her lap. Land early, and... no gate available. 25 minutes. Oh wait, new gate. Hurray. Taxi over, "we'll just be a few minutes." 10 minutes later, move into position, seat belts off, collect ourselves, and - nothing.

"Sorry folks, having trouble with the gate". Oldest is lying like a wet dishrag in the aisle, moaning slightly & unable to move. Overtired youngest is screaming to be held. We're up near the front, so when we start moving 10 minutes later, we're off in a jiffy. I tell wife to move off with the kids, I'll wait for the gate checked stroller. And wait. And wait. EVERYONE is now off the plane, including the pilots. I finally ask the electrician working on the gate to see what's going on, while the pilots are kindly waiting for all of us standing there waiting for our stuff. The poor electrician goes out in the 10 degree weather & grabs them himself.

I meet up with Mrs & kids, figuring everyone else is gone. Turns out... no bags at all. No moving carousels, and our co-flyers are waiting around fuming. It's now an hour since we landed, and nothing's happening. Wait, wait, wait. One carousel starts moving, we all head over there, nothing. Then it stops. Finally an announcement "your bags will be off in five minutes" - no announcement where, so I stay where I am. Ten minutes later, I check with the bag lady, who [sarcasm] politely [/sarcasm] tells me "I made an announcement", I say "you didn't say where", and she graciously tells me "#2." It does eventually begin moving, and half an hour later, our bags come off.

Call the car pick up place, race in the snow across to the CORRECT pickup location, pay, watch poor guy (on our flight, it seemed) whose car key didn't work and was told to go get a new one, he says "I LIVE IN NEW JERSEY", oldest upchucks again in the lot, get home, have oatmeal, crash.

The rest of last week is everybody else getting sick, and I'd like a do-over on last week. So that's our trip.

So then what Happened?

I can't entirely remember Thursday. Friday we hit the Aquarium, and the Indian restaurant (again.) We spent shabbos with some lovely people in one of the Jewish areas in Seattle. How we got there is pretty roundabout, but this is how Jewish Geography sometimes works.

You may recall I mentioned the fabulous party we went to some time back? No? Here's the recap - scroll to Wednesday. Anyway, while waiting in line for our car, we got to chatting with a guy. Turns out we're both going back to Long Island. I tell him what town, he says "oh, do you know so-and-so? They just moved from Seattle" How funny - we're going to Seattle! Anyway, I track down the new people on a synagogue mailing list, call up & drop the guy's name, and ask if they might be able to hook us up with anyone when we're there for shabbos hospitality. She says "oh, some friends from Seattle will be visiting next week - why don't I introduce you?"

So Mrs. goes over next week, meets the visitors, and by the time she's through we are invited to the visitor's for shabbos. Easy, right? At any rate, we found them and spent a very nice shabbos with them. They have kids around our kids age, toys to play with, and it was all very nice. It even turns out they're highly conservative (politically) and the husband knows the guy who ran for governor over there in this last election. They had other plans for lunch on Saturday, so we were assigned to have lunch with the Rabbi who's an old NY expatriate. We had lunch there with some other locals who, it turns out, we had met many years ago. The wife was a former congregant at a beginner's service that I used to work at, and we had a really nice time talking all sorts of stuff.

So Shabbos was lovely, and then back home to pack.

For our trip.

Home.

Where there's 800 feet of snow falling as we speak...

The rest of the Week

is something of a blur. The family lives a few hours north of Seattle, so we wanted to plan it rather than just running up there. Our trip was Seattle based this time because of the travel issue. Past trips have involved leaping off the plane (well, shuffling slowly off after the 10,000 other people who were hiding in the overhead compartments to slow our exit from the Sardine Can), hopping into transportation for a 2 hour ride. Not a good thing after small kiddies have been locked in a plane for 6 hours.

This time, we figured we'd stay down south (no, not Down South™), enjoy the city, and most importantly, not have to kosher shop for a week in advance. There's an Albertson's (local chain) with a kosher deli counter, kosher bakery, kosher meat available), and it was ten minutes from our hotel. So we spent a few days bumming around town doing touristy stuff, and I took the wife to a kosher Indian restaurant sans kiddies (thanks, Grandma!) which was very good (there are kosher Indian places in NYC, but us suburbites don't get in to the big city as much as when, say, we lived there.) So good was the restaurant, that we went back the day after I took Mrs. for dinner to take some of the Northern relatives, who were down for other purposes.

Weds. was back (again) to the shopping for more food, including three times as much raw chicken cutlets as I needed for the four kosher ones for dinner. We were heading up to the relations, who don't keep kosher, but it's hard to buy a small package of food in a place without a regular butcher. The relations have a grill we bought a few years back which they've left kosher for us, so I can cook there every four years or so. Anyway, drive up, and have a lovely day visiting with the folks. Great Grampa, supposedly the frail one, is walking with a cane but is otherwise in fine fettle. He told stories, jokes, and even sang a little (he used to perform light opera, including the Gilbert & Sullivan I enjoy so much.)

Uncle is retired Navy, and one of the decentest people I've ever met. He's supposedly very tactiturn, and I've noticed he's not a yakker, but I've always enjoyed talking to him. He's also tremendously handy - he built his house, and I mean actually BUILT it. Had instruction from an electrician, and paid other people to sheetrock the walls for time reasons, but otherwise it was all him. And Aunt, whom I like very much as well. I'm actually quite jealous of his skill, and it's something I wish I had. One fallout from a yeshiva education, unfortunately.

We also went to see their son & daughter-in-law's house. Cousin has inherited his dad's ability, and is rebuilding top to bottom. He even borrowed some kind of etching machine & did this neat pattern on some glass. We like all the cousins, but they may be our favorites. Lots of fun to talk to, and his wife has a phenomenal sense of humor. He's a cop in their tiny little town up there, and he had some neat stories to tell.

Anyway, dinner back at Aunt & Uncle's was a party. I had tons of chicken (marinated in lemon, pepper, salt & olive oil) so there was plenty for kosher & non-kosher alike, and we had a blast. The kids were exhausted, but they fell asleep on the way back to Seattle so it worked out.

Righto

Let's try this again, shall we?

The idea for a trip out West began some months back at the urging (all right, insistent noodging) of my dear mother in law. She pointed out (correctly) that the Upper West Coast relatives, including the Great-Grandparents, had never met our youngest child. They were not doing terribly well, getting older and all, and MIL felt it would be a good idea for us all to get out there. Now, I really like these relatives quite a bit, but I had three basic problems:

1) We never seem to just go on vacation - we're always travelling to see somebody
2) Flights and hotels are dad-blamed expensive
3) SIX...HOURS...ON...A...PLANE...WITH...SMALL...CHILDREN.

Discussion ensued, financial assistance worked out, and hence Dark and Early on a January Sunday morning, small children were wakened from their beds at about 4:30 AM and plopped into a minivan for a ride to the airport. Thence by Wing├ęd Conveyance to the Great State of Washington, being completely and almost exactly unlike Washington DC. The flight was not as awful as it might have been, which is to say it was kind of awful. We had taken the last row of the plane, a window & aisle each, in the hope that the flight would be empty & we could have the whole shebang to ourselves. Which turned out to be the case, as a 7AM Sunday flight was, for some inexplicable reason, not so popular.

The constant in & out of car seat by youngest child was not appreciated, but she did eventually fall asleep. The kosher meals consisted of some mad genius' approach to scrambled eggs. I think. It was yellow, anyway. It appeared the "Chef" took some eggs, roasted them over a bic lighter, ran them over with a forklift, and then put them through a shredder. The consistency resembled couscous, and the flavor... I think the straw wrappers were better, personally.

Anyway, we did survive, and hit hitch #1. Aforementioned in-law had planned to meet us at the airport, as she was driving up from Californiay. Where they live. We finally managed to contact her while waiting for our bags, when she told us she was about 80 miles from the airport. Oy. (Incidentally, I thought it was kind of cool that the Aeroflot baggage claim was right next to ours. We're in from NY, Pavel over there is in from Valdivostok. Welcome to America, Old Boy!)

Anyway, cab to the hotel, meet MIL a bit later, no rooms ready, entertain overtired children (who are jumping up & down on the hotel's lobby furniture), and we head off instead to the Children's Museum, which is a neat place. Back to hotel, no rooms, start making threatening noises, and "oh, wait, maybe it's ready after all." Run out to supermarket, buy what passes for kosher food in a non-Jewish neighborhood, collapse.

Thus ends Day 1. (Relax - the rest will be compressed)

Friday, January 28, 2005

So....

I was all set to update everyone on my fascinating trip out West, and then oldest gave illness to youngest, who gave it to Mrs., who gave it to me. I will dispense with graphic description, and simply point out that my absence this week from both blogging and work was due to G-I Tract concerns.

Can I get a do-over on this week?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Since you're wondering...

We have returned from a trip to the Left Coast. The short version - nice trip, delayed home from stupid snow, now everyone is sick.

The longer version will post after I finish catching up. Not on work, silly - blogreading.

Look for exciting episodes such as Dinner with the Pacific Northwest Relations, Rise & Shine at Dawn (EST, not where we are), Lunch With the Rabbi, Various Kiddy Museums, Grocery Shopping Daily, Snowed in when there's no Snow, and, of course, Barfing in an Ice Bucket.

I suspect there will just be one or two long posts, but this should give a flavor.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Thursday Three

Gee, what IDIOT came up with these stupid...

Never mind.

Anyway, I asked 'em, I gotta answer them.

1) Name three movies you could not live without on a desert island

Believe it or not, this is one of the tougher ones for me. Many choices, and I can't always remember what I like best. I leave open the option to change my mind later.
A) Life of Brian - "Lord, I am afflicted by a bald patch" - 'nuff said.
B) Goodfellas
C) Princess Bride - "Nothing's better than a nice Mutton, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich"
Given that I have that one memorized, it might not be completely necessary, in which case I might substitute The Quiet Man. Or The Man who Would Be King. Or... [ed. update - I thought of one more: Mr. Roberts. "The symbol of our cargo record has been thrown overboard!"]

2) What movie have you fallen asleep in the middle of/asked for your money back/thrown up while watching?

Star Wars Episode I - "The Beginning of the Plotless Prequels, where we spent $10 Billion on FX but couldn't spare a C-note for an actual scriptwriter" is coming to mind.

The real winner is Before Sunrise, as colossal a waste of film stock as has ever been seen. If I wanted to watch two people on a date, I would be on my own date. If I hadn't been on an actual date with a cute girl (pre-Mrs. Skinny), AND if it hadn't been at the $2 theater, I think I would have asked for a refund.

3) Who would play you and your significant other in the movie of your life?

The inspiration for this question is from numerous real conversations I had back in college with my friends, most of whom were in student government. Their particular party was the PHD party, for reasons pointless to explain, and we spent a lot of time casting "PHD: The Movie"

Now, I'd like to say that I was consistently compared to some of the greatest leading men in film history: Harrison Ford, Kenneth Branagh, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, George Peppard. For good or ill, however, the consensus was always (as I remember) that the right guy to play me is...

Rick Moranis. (Here's an appropriate alternate shot)

The wife is a little harder to pick. Obviously, she really looks like this. However, since I can't overwhelm the masses with her timeless beauty, I will go with one of my favorites - Helena Bonham Carter. Preferably, for my tastes, in Prim Edwardian Look, rather than chain-smoking Parisian lady-of-the-night mode. Certainly not looking like this. Ick.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Archives of Interest

The fabulous International Business Machines has a publicly available corporate archives site. (The archivist there is a guy I've met a few times.)

When you think about how much of our lives are computer driven (and that you are reading this, I assume, on some sort of computer), you begin to appreciate the impact companies like IBM have had on the world. To think also of IBM's predecessor companies beginning their work in the 1880's, you begin to realize the crazy paths that history sometimes takes. It's hard to conceive in 1885 that punch card machines would lead to instant communication anywhere in the world (as well as massive timewasters like blogs), and yet here we are.

IBM is also an example of Corporate Archives at work. What you're seeing here is only the tip of the iceberg. The archives there is providing research, insight, and information to people around the world, both internally and externally. It's a unique function in a corporation, and one that many organizations don't appreciate.

Ummm, OK?

This is the first time I've heard of anybody wanting to go to Ethiopia since Mussolini invaded in 1935.

I will trust that the late Mr. Marley has communicated his wishes. I don't really want to know for sure, though.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Rather, Old Boy

Well, Gunga Dan escaped the firing squad. I'm not surprised, even if I am disappointed. Dan's the last guy left on earth who thinks Memogate got the story right, even if us simple types can't see it. What I can't see is how See.B.S. can possibly consider itself an honest dispenser of paper Dixie cups, much less the news.

I heard Bernard Goldberg on Sean Hannity's radio show this PM, and he suggested that this was all unnecessary - the MSM only needed to adjust itself to modern realities of the news business and they would not be irrelevant. What he meant (as I understood it) is that people have plenty of choice, and if the MSM is going to treat the public like morons, we're going to go elsewhere. I don't think this has happened yet, but it's seeming more inevitable as time goes by. Blogs, talk radio, whatever - there are plenty of places where people can go for news, analysis, opinion, whatever.

There's no need to take Rather et al as THE truth. Moreover, when a guy like this is shown to be a partisan, stubborn, know-nothing hack, the rest of us feel pretty justified in ignoring the MSM. All Rather had to do was say "look, we thought it was kosher & it wasn't, sorry" and he might have saved a shred of credibility. At this point, you get more reliable information from the Weekly World News and the National Enquirer than from network news.

Let's not even mention the report the suits came up with. No political bias? I presume there was no intent to influence the election, hmmm? I read a great quote from Abigail Adams tonight in Our Oldest Enemy ( which I highly recommend, BTW) when referring to the undeclared war between the US and France in the 1790s "Why, when we have the thing, should we boggle at the name?"

Now, aside from anticipating a highly popular word game of the 20th century, Mrs. Adams had her head screwed on correctly. Just because nobody found a memo from Rather to CBS execs saying "hey guys, I'm gonna screw Bush tonight so Kerry gets elected" doesn't mean the thing wasn't intended that way. The rest of us can see that. Defend this to the death, Danno. You're just hastening the death of network news, and I'm ready for that.

Clean-up weekend

We did have plans for the weekend, which included going out to Joisey to see some friends. Thanks to various illnesses (their child and ours) we decided to reschedule. While this meant oldest child had a chance to go to yet another birthday party, it did leave me at somewhat loose ends. Out of sheer frustration at being thwarted at my somewhat well-laid plans, I decided to attack the monster that is my office.

Now, I don't really need an office, exactly. We have a room in the basement that used to be the Mrs.' office. But, see, it's real hard to get any work (or goofing) done when small children won't leave you be. Hence the move to the family room, so children can glaze over on Dora the Explora (don't spit on the floor-a, use the cuspidor-a, that's a what it's for-a) or some other vaguely wholesome fare. And if they need Mommy, they can see her instead of checking on her every 30 seconds.

All this means is that I got an office. Which I proceeded to pile higher and higher with the great mass of critically important pieces of dead tree we get daily. Most are trifles, like bills, but occasionally we get those critical, vital, essential offers for new aluminum siding. Anyway, I went at it in a frenzy on Sunday, and succeeded in actually filing a large mass of former living oak, or ash, or sequoia, or whatever. I wouldn't say it's clean, precisely, but I have verified there are both a floor AND a desk in the space.

Oh, and I watched the Jets game on Saturday night, which ended well, if not exactly prettily enough, for my tastes.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Too good not to share

And I thought the Japanese had trouble getting things translated safely into English.

(Hat Tip to Jack Fowler at the Corner)

Thursday Three, '05 Model

1) What are three things you wish you had been able to get done in 2004, but didn’t?

Get filthy stinking rich. Two outta three ain't bad.

2) What are three things you have always wished to do, but still haven’t done?

Learn to fly; buy a brand new car for cash money; learn to cook a steak properly on the grill.

AND FINALLY, from Larry Anderson up at Kudzu Acres, who sends along this contribution regarding things of true importance--
How about some questions to really bring out the football fans this week?

Where were you on 17-16?


Well, up north we only have 12 months in a year, so I have no idea what you Southy folks mean.

What were Shug's and Bear's real names?

Abbot Suger, as we've seen previously. And I always thought it was Fozzie. Waka waka waka.

Why would anyone go to Alabama when a good school costs about the same?

Stupid question. Because they shoulda made that left toin in Albequerque.

You know, some real intellectual ones this week to get the year off right.

Of course, Skinnydan may feel a little left out, so you could always ask how Rutgers did this year.

Rutgers? They have a football team? Didn't he play bass for Springsteen?

It's been a long week

Busy, mostly in a good way, but busy. The Cliff's Notes version:

Friday, 12/31: Happy Birthday, Big Girl! For the record, it's not her finest picture ever. And she was standing in the nose section of what I seem to remember as a DC-3. So you can imagine she might have been too busy to pose like a supermodel. I'm off work, Mrs. sends me & youngest off to local children's museum so Mrs. can surprise us with homemade chocolate/mint fudge. WOW. And delicious. (museum was fun - membership means we can go anytime for 45 mins & not feel like we wasted money.)

Saturday: Big girl has a lunch invitation that lasts till Shabbos is over. Mommy gets a nap, Daddy gets to read uninterrupted for three hours. Evening actually has me & Mrs. Skinny take a night out. Local performance by an improv troupe, arranged by the Sisterhood at one of our Synagogues. Accompanied by a kosher attempt at barbecue, which was edible. The show was lots of fun.

Sunday: Lord help us. Birthday party day. 30 children 5 & under in our house. My one key line to Mrs. after was "I told you so." She agreed we didn't need to invite so many kids. Lots of help from my parents (dad brought his keyboard, and entertained musically while the paid entertainment was doing her best to keep kids in line for face painting) and other parents who stayed with their kids & served pizza, juice & cake. It was pretty rough, I must say. They get a smaller party next year. My folks stuck around & we headed off (along with two nieces) to the local chinese place for their buffet, which is better tasting & a better deal than ordering direct.

Monday: Launch date. The catalogs I have been building for 4 years, and the software installation that took so long to realize finally went live. It went smoothly, and pretty quietly for all the agita that went into getting it done. Somewhat anticlimactic, in fact. Probably just as well. It hasn't led to a deluge of reference requests, but it did bring some nice notes from colleagues around the organization.

Tuesday: Hmmm. I'm not sure anything happened. We made more fudge, which was not as successful as the mint. Milk chocolate/butterscotch, white chocolate/butterscotch. The latter tasted good, but didn't set properly. Mistakes happen.

Wednesday: All day fixing up my own web stuff. But at night. Oh man. We got invited a week ago to a 40th birthday party for a friend. Like the together people we are, we never called the inviter back until the night before. We figured "no big deal, we can show up, have cake & chips" Mrs. was dressed pretty casually, but I guessed it wouldn't matter.

Oh boy.

We show up at the house back in our old stomping grounds in the Bronx, and there's valet parking. At a house. Uh-oh, says Mrs. We go inside (we're early), and there's servers carrying trays. There's a bar. I am in BIG trouble for telling Mrs. not to change. Plus we figured it was low-key, so we had eaten dinner. Well, I was forgiven for the faux pas (that's "goof" in Frenchytalk) when we tasted the meat on a stick being passed around. Oh, it was fabulous. And then the little franks in blankets. And the... and the...

Well, we had two dinners last night. Between the actual dinner served later, and the food passers, I ate like a pig. Believe it or not, I've never had lamb chops before. I was a picky eater as a kid (hence my svelte frame) , and I've never wanted to risk buying it in case I hated it. Well, they had 'em last night, and they were fabulous. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

They topped everything off with the most amazing bit of food related gadgetry I've ever seen. The tower o chocolate. It was one of these deals. I'd never seen one, and it's really cool. The chocolate runs down in a waterfall, and you take your strawberry/marshmallow/slab of beef and stick it under the chocolate, and whammo! You got a chocolate covered prime rib.

Anyway, it was a lovely party, and the birthday girl and her husband are among the nicest people we've ever met, and we had a great time.

Today: busy working on somebody else's website. They seem ready to get things in gear, so I've been webbing away (spiderman, spiderman).

So that's my life for the last week. Any questions?