Thursday, March 23, 2006


for the absence, but I am up to my eyeballs in work suddenly. I can go months without talking to another human, and now I'm buried. I guess it's good to be busy. I guess.

But I did want to bring this to your attention. The New York Post reports that Hill (of Bill & Hill infamy) said: The GOP would have booted Jesus. (Registration required to see the whole article - try for a login that doesn't require you to give a blood sample.)

Now, I won't worry about the headline, which is Post standard. What I do think is worth noting is that Hillary Clinton, guiding light (to many) of the modern, liberal, democrat party, is invoking the name of Jesus? And accusing the Republicans of criminalizing Jesus and the Good Samaritan?

Let's analyze this, shall we? Her party stands for the normalization of Gay marriage, undermining 5,000 years of normative society and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Her party stands for the breaking down of the traditional family structure, and she herself argues that a village raises a child better than parents. While not officially, elements of her own party scorn and mock the practitioners of traditional organized religion.

And now she's citing Jesus? Jesus would somehow identify with her and the leftist, socialist, secularized Deomcrat party? Where did that all of a sudden come from? Oh, I know politicians will say anything, but she's really opened herself up to criticism here. I can live with questions being raised about a bill. There's room for disagreement on the immigration question, and I agree that she should bring up her reservations if the bill as written if it really bothers her.

But how about we drop all politically motivated references to the leading figure of a major religion? [ed. You'll have to forgive me if I choose not to identify Jesus as the Lord; I have some personal issues with that concept that have no impact on this particular post] Oh, I know I'm asking for the moon here, but let's think twice before we decide we have personal insight into the will of a deity, hmm?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Purim Madness

Despite my unwellness, Purim follows immediately on the heels of the fast. Normally I wouldn't have eaten until the services were over that night, meaning in effect the fast continues into Purim, but as we have seen that didn't work out this year.

Off to services to hear the Megillat Esther (what you all know as the Book of Esther.) It's incumbent on every adult Jew to hear the entire Megillah every year on Purim, once at night and once in the morning. Since the kids usually can't sit still for the 35-40 minutes it takes, we usually leave them with Mrs. and I go, then she goes to the late reading. This year oldest begged to go, so I agreed to take her if she promised to really sit nicely & not bother me during the reading. You're obliged to hear each & every word, so a whiny, noisy child defeats the purpose.

She agreed, and she was pretty good on the whole. Noodging her friend sitting next to her, and asking to go out & play in the hall with other friends for part of the time, but she mostly behaved. Home, oldest to sleep, Mrs. went to the 9PM reading.

The next day I got up for the 5:30 AM service, on the theory that Mrs. could then get to one of the later services that wasn't terribly full of other people's noisy children. All would have been fine, since I was asleep by 9:15, except I woke up at 1AM and couldn't get back to sleep. Despite that I went to the 5:30, which was pretty crowded, then home. Mrs. went off to the 8AM, which turned out a bit noisier than she wanted, but OK. A friend dropped his kids off so he could go to services undisturbed, since his wife was out of town on business.

I'm not sure I could handle four kids all the time.

He picks his kids up, promises to come back later & help me get the sink fixed (more on that later). I took youngest to a late reading at her request, but she seemed overwhelmed and we left after twenty minutes. We completed our assembly on the Mishloach Manot we plan to give out. These are food packages that can go from the polite, to the fancy, to the outstanding, to the way overboard. One's reguirement is met by delivering two food items to one person. Somehow this has exploded into giving every human on the planet 40 pounds of assorted baked goods and processed sugar crap.

It also often involves themes, sometimes mighty clever ones. We had a great idea, but Mrs. illness last week killed our momentum. We'll save it for next year. My brother's are beyond insane. They're hugely complicated, always very funny, and often make you wonder how he has time for all this silliness. This year his theme was St. Patrick's day, complete with small plastic leprechaun and homemade CD containing a mixture of Irish & Jewish music. And my mom said he made 48 of them. And to think I have too much free time.

For our part, I made gingersnaps and choclate chip cookies, we added a piece of fruit, some hershey's miniatures, mini twix bars, and a sprinkling of candy corn. We made twelve, and people just kept showing up all day. We recycled a lot of the bags we got, subsituting our food in other people's bags to make up the shortfall. All this despite participating in two separate synagogue group baskets.

We closed out the day at a potluck festive meal, which was a blast. Now our house is filled to the brim with all the junkfood we could ever want, and more besides. I think I'll bring the leftovers to work.

After I pick out the good stuff, naturally.


I meant to get to this, but life intervened. Anyway, Monday was The Fast of Esther, the precursor to the holiday of Purim. The Book of Esther relates that the Queen fasted for three days prior to seeing King Achashverosh (Ahaseurus is I believe the standard Englsih for it, but that always makes me think of a nasty foot fungus.) We fast as well to commemorate the occasion.

I do not fast well, but things had been better for many earlier fasts. This one was an exception. By the middle of the day I was really headachy and a little spaced. Normally that hits towards the end of the fast, and by 3:30 I called it quits and headed home to rest. By five PM I was feeling nauseous and light headed, so for the first time in many years I broke my fast before it was over. I had some water and plain pasta, and if anything I felt worse than before. That led me to conclude that I had gotten dehydrated, since that's how I felt the last time I got dehydrated.

It's a minor fast - it starts in the morning instead of the night before, and many people I know skip it, but I was kind of disappointed with myself. Not enough to have to go to the ER like the last time, but I do like to try & complete these things.


Or Thursday three, your choice:

1) What are your THREE favorite sugary snacks?

I'm quite partial to the British Mars Bar - there's no nuts, and I like 'em. I also like the Mily Way Midnight, and Crispy M & Ms work nicely for me too.

2) What are your THREE favorite salty snacks?

Wise BBQ potato chips, over which I have no control so I don't buy them much anymore. Tortilla chips with Salsa. I also like Garden of Eatin's Red Hot Blue chips. I tend more toward salty than sweet, so I'm more likely for this type.

3) What snack food do you dislike, even though everyone else raves about it?

Probably popcorn. I don't mind the taste, but I always get those hard shells caught in my teeth and throat, and it seems like more work than it's worth.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I was

going to catch everyone up on everything, but now I have to go to an all-afternoon meeting offsite to talk about web stuff.

So my thrilling tales of derring-do will just have to wait.

There will

hopefully be time later for a dehydration update, a Purim update, and a Vanity of Vanities update.

But first, a special message to the obnoxious woman/man in the white SUV in front of me this morning on both the Southern State Parkway and the Cross Island:

I saw you toss out of your car window, in succession: one (1) empty box of what looked like Parliament Cigarettes; one (1) plastic cellophane covering from a new box of cigarettes; one (1) foil covering from inside said box of new cigarettes. There was another driver in a white SUV, which may have been the same one, who later threw additional items out the window onto the roadway.

I can appreciate that you like to keep your car clean. I can appreciate the possibility that you don't have a garbage bag in your car. But I do have to ask - did your parents bring you up to be a disgusting slob of a pig? Would you drop garbage in front of your own house, let alone inside your living room? Would it be that much trouble for you to keep the trash in the car until you reach your destination, then find an actual trashcan? You are a selfish, filthy, thoughtless person, and I think a sizeable portion of your eternity should be spent shoveling up mounds of trash while thoughtless demons drop more empty wrappers, half-eaten sandwiches, and cigarette ash on, around, and near you.

Thank you. Now back to the regularly scheduled stupidity.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thank goodness

Thursday three is here. Now I don't have to think up anything original.

BONUS - Sweet tea: your first choice of beverage, lemon or not, Lipton or Luzianne?

Not first, with Lemon, I've only ever heard of Lipton. Snapple is a sometimes, as is Nestea.

1. What do you drink the most at work, and do you bring your own?

Water, fresh from the cooler upstairs.

2. Nutrasweet (aspartame) or Splenda (sucralose)?

Fie! A pox on ye, all chemically laden sweeteners! Good ol' C12H22O11 for me, please.

3. Do you keep candy at your desk/work area?

Sometimes. I have a candy jar on the desk I got from a patron a while back, & sometimes I fill it.

1. What do you drink the most at home, and do you change on the weekend?

Water & Seltzer, and not really. Occasionally there's some Lemonade, and once in a great while I buy a six-pack of Dr. Brown's Cream Soda, which will usually last 3-6 months or so.

2. Nutrasweet (aspartame) or Splenda (sucralose)?


3. Do you keep a candy stash? Change its location periodically?

Not a stash - the kids are too short, even on the chairs they drag over, to reach the upper shelves of the pantry. Sometimes we're good & there's nothing in the house, other times not so good.

1. What do you drink when traveling? (Marc had “by plane” for this one, but I’ve changed it to be any sort of travel)

Mostly the same as at home.

2. Nutrasweet (aspartame) or Splenda (sucralose)?


3. Do you chew gum to help your ears pop on a flight? (Obviously, this is for airplanes, not cars or buses or trains, unless you happen to be on one that flies.)

Sometimes. Sometimes just regular sucking candy. None of it helps much.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here's an op-ed

that actually made me think a bit, which is not a bad thing. Unfortunately for the author, one Michael Kalin, I don't think I reached the same conclusions he did. The short version of the author's point is that Jon Stewart's impact on the best and brightest of America is actually negative. He believes the smirky, humorous approach of Stewart and the Daily Show have led to the "declining influence of progressive thought in America."

He then proceeds to set up a straw man of a fictionalized, prototypical Stewart watcher, who, taking the message that there is no decency or honesty in politics, heads for a six figure salary as an analyst at Morgan Stanley instead of becoming the next Teddy Roosevelt. He concludes as follows:

Although Stewart's comedic shticks may thus earn him some laughs Sunday at the Oscars, his routine will certainly not match the impact of his greatest irony: Jon Stewart undermines any remaining earnestness that liberals in America might still possess.

So, allow me to analyze this to the best of my ability. In the first place, his prototypical Stewart viewer is the kind of white, Jewish liberal overachiever who tends to think they know more and better than the rest of us. The implication is that unless you end up with a high GPA at an Ivy League school, you can't possibly be seen as a future leader of the Democrats. All of that presupposes an importance on the children of the upper middle or upper classes of America, and a Harvard Education (more on that later). How then to explain Harry Truman, product of Missouri farmland? Eisenhower? Ronald Reagan, son of a drunken door-to-door salesman? The point here, of course, is that the idea that the best and the brightest, evidenced by Stewart's viewers, are lost to America is laughable. It's ahistorical for one, and elitist to boot. Great men become great men regardless of the social conditions around them. Teddy Roosevelt becomes TR whether he reads the Iliad in Greek or watches Ren & Stimpy. I grant you environment contributes greatly, but I don't believe the drive & ambition that leads some men to be great can be destroyed because a TV host looks at the news in a funny, cynical way.

Similarly, the idea that Kalin's fictional Stewart viewer will be turned by a TV show to sell his soul to Corporate America instead of joining the political march to progress is disingenuous at best. People make decisions for a lot of reasons, not just because of a cynical culture. The fictional Mr. Goldberg of the article makes a choice, carefully elided by Kalin, to take a career as a financial analyst instead of becoming a politician or party leader. He may do this because he wants a comfortable life without the pressures of government; he may do this because he likes the challenge of being a Morgan Stanley analyst; he may do this because his girlfriend works there. Again, people determined to become great politicians, great athletes, great opera singers, don't let things get in the way of their dream. Stewart's show won't deter someone committed to being a leader, and a non-cynical approach wouldn't suddenly create whole new legions of progressive leaders. The author is simply ascribing too much power to this show.

Third, earnestness is the one thing not missing from the liberal side of the aisle. Every liberal I see or meet is full of earnestness and progressive (as opposed to Progressive) ideas. They tend to be loose generalizations of "social action" and helping those less fortunate. What's missing from modern liberalism is not earnestness, but a healthy dose of realpolitik. The kinds of people who are prepared to balance social needs with the reality of American life. There's a squishiness about liberalism that is fully prepared with a lot of airy fairy goals and very short on the hard numbers and tough decisions that getting things done requires. Kalin's desire for more earnestness is precisely why the Democrats are losing elections - I don't think Americans want earnest people, they want people to make tough choices and sacrifices that will lead to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit, not the handing over on a silver platter. It's an open question whether the Republicans are those people, but I think that's what the average American really wants.

I don't disagree that too much cynicism is a bad thing - I'm a lifelong cynic, and it's not the healthiest outlook on the world. On the other hand, there's an assumption in this op-ed that Stewart has a wider impact than I think he does. Sure, a certain subset of Kalin's focus group here are Stewart watchers, but a) not all of the future of the Democrats fits that demographic, and b) people like my wife, conservative in outlook, are also watchers of Stewart. I can tell you she hasn't lost or gained any idealism - she just thinks the show is funny. There's a note at the end of the article than Kalin is a 2005 graduate of Harvard. Frankly, it shows. He sounds like a kid just out of college, full of energy and concern and handwringing over the future of America. He also sounds like Harvard did a poor job of teaching him basic reasoning. I think I've poked some large holes in his logic, and I'm just a dope from Brooklyn. To think this kid's parents (or perhaps us, the taxpayers footing some kind of scholarship) paid for him to go to Harvard for four years. If this is the best Harvard can do, I think the school has some issues. Like his ideal, his thinking is squishy.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to shred this guy out of political issues. And no, I don't think the Daily Show is the world's most important subject. But I do think that someone writing for a major newspaper should think his argument through more clearly before committing it to electrons.

Monday, March 06, 2006

What a weekend

Everybody, including me, was sick on Friday, so I was out. A lot of running around. Oldest feels better, wants to go to school. Oldest to school (over my vague objections that she was too sick), home. Mrs. to doctor. Call from school. Oldest needs to come home (a whole HOUR after I dropped her off). Youngest in car, off to get oldest, stop by Dr's office. "We're closing for the day, go to other location 25 minutes away at 2PM." Home, cleaning, wife calls, looks like she has strep.

She comes home, shlep the kids to other office, oldest has strep, youngest might. Two MORE prescriptions on top of Mrs', home. Good thing we have meatloaf in the freezer & bought chicken soup for dinner. I skip shul Friday night, we have soup, I'm in bed by 9PM & out cold by 9:03.

Wake up at 6, kids running in & out, get out of bed by 7:30 or so, leave them home & head to shul. Back, have meatloaf for lunch, send Mrs off to nap, fall asleep on the couch & then upstairs in oldest's bed. limp through the rest of shabbos and eventually watch a lousy hockey game.

Sunday. Ah, Sunday. I shall attack the bathroom, and try & crank this sucker out. Start off with pancakes - youngest, who crawled into our bed around 6, is still asleep until about 10 - very unusual. Head across to neighbors with tools, install door sweep. Back home, and get the new mirror/medicine cabinet in. Without using a single swear word, I might add. Out to garage to retrieve useful plumbing bits off the old sink. Use a LOT of swear words.

Back inside, line up the vanity, screw in place. Begin assembling new faucet arrangement. Most parts are simple, sink stopper is not so, dry fit the sink on and...

The new down pipe is shorter and smaller than the old one.

Off, believe it or not, to the first hardware store trip of the day, find a plastic, flexible J joint that looks like it might work, buy, back home to discover - still too big around.


Quit for the day, go make burgers (which perked everyone up considerably), and call it a weekend.

Maybe I forgot

to pay the vig or something, but Blogger wouldn't let me see my own blog today. Seems to be worked out now, but somebody warn me if they see the electronic equivalent of a couple of strong arm gorillas that want to talk to me in a meaningful way.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday has arrived

And with it the return of a few people's favorite entertainment, the Thursday Three.

1. Whatcha reading?

I just finished a couple of Fantasy novels by Raymond Feist, the "Conclave of Shadows" series. Meh. Not bad, but he has a habit of repeating himself. The whole fantasy genre has become kind of stereotypical - elves, troubled hero, dark, mysterious enemy, etc., etc.

2. …Listening to?

Right at this moment, the Tony Kornheiser show over the net, from his Washington, DC home station, WTEM. He's very funny, and even though we're on opposite sides politically, I try not to miss a show. Musically (see yesterday) there's a lot of Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler, which is pretty standard for me. There's also been a lot of Kinks, some AC/DC, and my favorite Celtic rock band, Off Kilter.

3. …Watching?

Not much recently. TV is largely about hockey for me in the Fall/Winter/Spring, and I skipped the Olympics. The Rangers are back on the ice tonight, so there will be some hockey. I did catch an episode of Overhaulin' the other night, as well as some Monster House.

AND, in one of the biggest surprises of all, A BONUS QUESTION— Whatcha cooking?

Last week there was a ton of cooking, but most by the wife. We had noodle & squash kugel, and a delicious corned beef. I made eggs for dinner last night. I'm waiting for it to get slightly warmer and a little less snowy to get back into the grill groove, and then we'll see what I can come up with.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We've got

to install microwave ovens
custom kitchen deliveries
we've got to move these refrigerators
we've got to move these color teeeeeveeeeeeeeeeeeees

Just thought you'd like to know.