Thursday, September 28, 2006

Worth reading,

as Ajami usually is on Islam issues. One guy at least who understands the real mentality of the Arab world.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun with Headlines

How easy can they make these? A nice fat one down the middle of the plate:

Georgia accuses 4 Russians of spying

What do you suppose they were spying on? The Coke museum? Peach Production? Silly peanut farmers? Surely not the UGA Cheerleaders page, which is sadly underpictured?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Grandpa John

passed away last week. He was Mrs. Skinny's grandfather, and a decent, honest, bighearted man. I had the privelege of meeting him several times, and it was fewer than it should have been. It's hard and expensive to travel to the west coast, there's no kosher food where he lived, etc., etc. As usual in these cases, you wish you had done things differently despite the effort involved.

John was a WWII vet, as I recall, and worked for Lockheed for many, many years. He was an inveterate record collector, stopping at all the yard sales to pick up more, whatever they were. He gave Mrs. Beatles records years ago - he never listened to them, but he had them. He was a fine singer, and fond of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas that Mrs. & I like so much - he played Ralph Rackstraw in Pinafore on a number of occasions. My dad met him on a trip out there a few years back, and the two musicians hit it off very well.

I'm glad he got to meet both of our kids, and we will certainly tell them about this wonderful man. Mrs. has gone out west for the memorial service, and, the rest of us are with her in spirit.

He was a terrific guy, and we will all miss him.

I should keep my mouth

firmly shut. Literally, and especially after making fun at Terry's expense about Southerners with no teeth. Saturday night, while chewing on a piece of Chalah (quite soft, delicious, and with chocolate chips, courtesy of Mrs. Skinny) I had a crown fall out. I was pretty annoyed since I had the root canal & the crown put in no more than a year and a half ago.

So I spent the last three days not at all ignoring the gaping hole in my mouth. It's extremely annoying to have that gap there and not think about it, which is why I failed miserably. I finally got the thing popped back in about an hour and a half ago, for which I am extremely grateful.

Unlike Terry, however, I did not take pictures. You'll have to manage without.

I haven't the patience

to read all of this drivel from the president of one of my Alma Maters. (Alma Matera? My latin still needs work.) I get the impression it's an impassioned defense of the University as institution, a bulwark against the tide of barbarism surrounding it. Which isn't too far off the mark in NYU's case, given the local population.

I don't expect much else from a University President, and as I say I can't be bothered to read the whole thing. Maybe he's talking about a new strain of genetically modified potatoes, I dunno. But a few things did catch my eye. He writes:

The Internet is a revolutionary tool, which provides the newest basis for such a belief; however, it works not only for but also (and less obviously) against the ideal of an informed and intellectually curious public. It does enable the previously passive and powerless to become actors and interactors in the unfolding drama of public discourse and politics; but, even as it empowers and informs vast numbers of citizens, it also is a tool for misinformation and false attacks, polluting the dialogue with an apparent “knowledge” base undisciplined by traditional standards of accuracy in public communication. Bloggers are their own editors and many make little effort to verify what they post.
Traditional standards of accuracy in public communication? I don't think he understands that a lot of the public now believes there are no longer any standards of accuracy. Memogate was just the most obvious recent example of the loss of those standards. Half the news stories we read in the MSM are from "unnamed sources", when a half an effort would reveal that those sources are utterly wrong.

A second item, along the same lines:
As an information surplus develops, the absence of accountability combines with an absence of formal checks to make it possible for pseudofacts to spread like wildfire. This presents even the intelligent and the rigorous with a serious sorting problem. One unsurprising response to this barrage of undifferentiated information is a kind of nihilism about knowledge which leads almost inexorably to an equation of fact and opinion and the reduction of argumentation to assertion. Paradoxically, this trend breeds and feeds a version of unreflective dogmatism.
I like the term "pseudofacts", but I think the good Prexy needs to examine his own institution for the very same malady. "Unreflective dogmatism" was an issue in my own schooling close to fifteen years ago - it's only gotten worse. Nihilism regarding information is, to my mind, a direct result of the increasing nihilism of society in general, spurred by the left and his own beloved academia's belief that there is no truth. Or that truth exists in the mind of the beholder.

Perhaps this is a brilliant essay, but Sexon's arguments in these two cases strike me as the usual bleat of the elitist uncomfortable with the free market of ideas. It's too easy for them to taken apart by rubes like me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hey folks?

Lighten up, willya? Considering the sort of things us Hebrews have to put up with, I don't really think you have any business getting offended.

I don't normally

participate in these sorts of things, but this one seemed too good to pass up:

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Your fate has been decided....
You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to Purgatory!


You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.

Well, that's one less thing to worry about.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Want something fun?

New York City Subway Maps from the 1880s to the present. I looked back at some from the 70s, and I had forgotten how much the routes have changed - some of the trains I used to take now follow completely different paths.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


For sure, t'isn't it Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye bilge rat and barnacle scraper!

Hoist your main sail or be scuppered, ye scurvy dog!

One other

political note. I had the misfortune to hear George Stephanopolous on Imus this morning. I'd love to know how so many smart people can be this dumb. He repeated the same stupid old story the liberals have been touting for the last year or more. "We have to give these captured Al Qaeda types the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The US cannot ignore a treaty that the rest of the world holds to. Why do we think we have a right to act unilaterally and illegally?"

Look, stupid, I'll say this once more, on top of everyone smarter than me who's said it. The Geneva Conventions DO NOT APPLY to nonuniformed, non-governmental troops. I cannot cite you chapter & verse, but you're a smart boy - look it up. The Conventions are meant to protect NATIONAL troops, in UNIFORM, of SIGNATORY PARTIES to the Conventions.

Al Qaeda is not a Nation.
It did not sign the Conventions.
Its members do not wear uniforms.

By definition, they have no rights under the Conventions. I believe the treaty is also supposed to apply only in times of war - are you admitting now that we're at war with Al Qaeda? Or do you want to stick to the script that this is all our fault?

The Conventions assumed we were in a typical war with other sovereign nations. We wanted to assure humane treatment for captured prisoners, on the assumption that each side would want safe treatment (within reason) for their citizens. Marquess of Queensbury rules for nations, if you will. But Al Qaeda fights dirty, and they fight to the death, and they're not looking for some level of accomodation. By the very law you knuckleheads keep quoting, we owe them nothing. Please stop pretending you don't understand this.

It appears

the Muslim community wants another, bigger apology. (See here if you can stomach AP stupidity on the subject.)

I'm going to presume to respond for the Pope, with the response I think he should deliver. As we would say in New York, "Apologize this, Abdul." (With appropriate hand gestures.) I don't care what they think, and I don't think the Bishop of Rome should care either. In the first place, no more than five people on the Muslim street had ever heard of Manuel II Paleologus; and I'd be surprised at this point if the number has reached 50. I'm aware of him as a former medievalist, but since I confuse the Byzantine emperors routinely (well, as often as it comes up, anyway) I couldn't have told you beforehand if he was in 9th or the 14th century. The average member of the Religion of Peace (as Mel Brooks as Hitler put it in "To Be or Not to Be: "All I want is a little peace! A little piece of Poland, a little piece of France...") hasn't the faintest idea what the Pope said, or why old Manny knew what he was talking about.

In the second place, Benny has a point - these people want to kill us, and it's pointless to pretend otherwise. We need to be careful of offending these nutballs? How about an apology for the 3,000 dead civilians of 9/11? How about a nice, loud, "Al Qaeda is not Islam" from an Imam or three? Never happen, right? You know why? Because they're not sorry. They like jihad. They want a world without Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and probably half the Muslims (depending on their own orientation.) It's hard to satisfy people who want you dead.

So why bother apologizing? Apologize for existing? No thanks. What are you going to do now, try & kill us? What? We're putting ourselves more at risk than we were before? The Yahoo link above had a sidebar that Al Qaeda is planning more attacks because of the Pope. So if he hadn't mentioned an obscure Byzantine Emperor the whackos would be sitting nicely and offering us peace & love? Somehow I don't buy it.

So here's my fantasy version of Benedict's apology. He stands in St. Peter's Square, and says "If there are Muslims out there who are offended and want an apology, they can bend over and kiss my holy, white robed tuchus. I'll apologize when you quit murdering Christians, Jews, and anyone else that gets your panties twisted."

Think it'll happen?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I can't tell you

if this story actually means anything about a revival of Jewish life in Europe. So much of European Jewry was destroyed half a century ago, and our best efforts have not really revived the depth and breadth of Jewish life that once was. There are also many, many more Muslims in Europe, and whatever they may say publicly, the Jewish people have (for all intents & purposes) few friends amongst the Muslims of the world.

But ordaining Rabbis in Germany is proof of one concept: Am Yisrael Chai - The Nation of Israel Lives. Kill us, torture us, assimilate us - do your worst. We shall not pass from the face of the earth, and we will in fact outlive anything you can throw at us. Mazal Tov to the graduates, and I'm sure they will be hearing from the Alumni Association shortly.

What day is it again?

Ah yes, Thursday. Time for the Thursday Three, that fine example of critical time-wasting skills. Today's set:

1) What are three new books that you’ve read recently?

The first is Sweet and Low, the story of (duh!) Sweet & Low sweetener. It's a terrific read, chronicling the truly bizarre actions of the family behind those pink packets. The author is actually a grandson of the founder.

Next, I recently read American Gunfight about the plot to assassinate Harry Truman hatched by members of a Puerto Rican independence movement. A fascinating story about something I'd never heard of, which I found slightly marred by Hunter's focus on the firearms involved. I don't mind that he's interested in them, but it's a bit more noticeable than I would want.

The last is my current read, Borscht Belt Bungalows, on the life and culture of New York Jews in the Bungalow Colonies of the lower Catskill Mountains in Sullivan County. I went to camp up there, and my dad got his start in the music business up there, so I have some personal connection to the area. Although this story is not my experience, exactly.

2) What three new products have you tried lately and what were your experiences?

I tried the 2003 Honda Accord. My experiences have been quite positive, but you can read about that elsewhere on here. I've worked on something called Windows Media Server, and while I don't know how it stacks up against other streaming media tools, it seems to do what I need, so I can live with it either way. I've watched other people play on a Microsoft product called SharePoint, which I am hoping to get my mitts on soon to play with.

3) What are three new movies or shows or plays or whatever that you have seen lately, or would like to go see soon?

Movie? Play? I'm barely allowed out of the house. We did just get notified of the next season of the local Gilbert & Sullivan troop, and they're doing something called the Rose of Persia which I'd like to see. I would also like to get to Cars at some point, but I suspect that's going on my Netflix list instead. And I have Narnia on my Netflix list for the future, so I guess that's it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I spent today

locked in a room with a buncha work people and a few folks from Microsoft. With no Windows. (get it? Windows?) It was a largely useful conversation about some projects we have coming up, but it was kind of a long day. I've forgotten what a cattle call commuting into Manhattan can be, which didn't help much.

On the plus side, when you go to these kinds of things they do take a certain amount of care of you. Free drinks and food, replenished often throughout the day. I actually got lunch from them, but decided I was too close to the kosher falafel cart to pass it up, even though there was a free kosher turkey sandwich arranged for me. I used to work a few blocks from where I was today, so I know most of what's in the neighborhood. I even got a freebie travel mug in the deal, and I love tchotchkes.

I get to repeat the whole thing again tomorrow, so I expect to fully loathe commuting in by tomorrow AM at the latest. On a positive note, the late meeting I was supposed to go to on Thursday has been cancelled, so I'm off the hook for one thing this week, anyway.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Michael Edward McHugh, Jr.

is probably not a name you've ever heard of. I hadn't either until a few weeks ago, when he was assigned to me as part of the 2996 Project, where bloggers around the world and the country are acknowledging each of the victims of September 11th.

So how do you capture the essence of a man you've never met? How can you possibly pay tribute to a total stranger? What on earth makes a guy like me, with no immediate losses on that terrible day, qualified to memorialize an innocent murder victim. Nothing does, and yet I still have to try.

There is one thing I think he and I have in common, aside from being New Yorkers living in the suburbs around New York City. We are both ordinary people - regular guys leading regular lives. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure Mr. McHugh was an extraordinary man to those who knew him - but there was nothing out of the everyday that you can't find all across America. He went to work, did his job, spent time with his family, got active in local politics - the picture of a decent ordinary citizen pursuing the totality of his life's work to the best of his ability.

And yet. And yet.

He was extraordinary in every way to the people who knew him and loved him. Brilliant or not, handsome or not, generous or not, he was the one and the only him, and no one could have been a better Michael Edward McHugh Jr. than he was. So who was Michael Edward McHugh, Jr? I couldn't tell you the first thing about the inner person, but here are some things I've gathered over the internet:

He was a husband to Maria Cermele McHugh;
He was a father to Michael III, Christian, and Connor McHugh
He was a son to Eileen and Michael McHugh
He was a brother to Darby McHugh and John McHugh
He was an energy trader for Trade Spark, a Division of Cantor Fitzgerald
He was a Village Trustee in Tuckahoe, NY
He was campaigning for a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators

So there you have the bare facts. But what of the depth? What of the life the man led? How to capture such things? Did he like football or baseball? Pepperoni on his pizza or peppers and onions? By the tributes on his Legacy. com page, I get the sense that he was the kind of guy all of us know in one way or another. A decent, hardworking guy who roughhoused with his kids and did what he could to make his corner of the universe a better place to be. A real man's man - not the overhyped blowhard type - but the guy who takes his responsibilities seriously and does what he needs to get the job done.

And what of Michael Edward McHugh, Jr.? What happened to that man's man? His life was cut short by the lowest scum of humanity. Evil, twisted subhumans who considered violent death for themselves and others to be a blessed event. Who decided that others had no right to live based on their faith, their nationality, or some other meaningless, invented designation. Michael McHugh had a right to live. He had a right to pursue his own dreams and success without the murderous bastards cutting those dreams short. He had a right to grow old with his wife. He had a right to see his boys grow up and become men. He had a right to see future generations born and grow. And all that lost because some nutcase had a deathwish.

Let us grieve for Michael. Let us remember his passing with sorrow, for all that he was and all that might have been. Let us recall his life and the joy he gave the world, and the benefit his existence was to the rest of us whether we knew him or not. We have arrived, as we did on that terrible day five years ago, on the cusp of the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana of 5762 arrived exactly a week after 9/11, and I can recall praying extremely hard that year for God to have mercy on us all. These days, even five years past, remain an opportunity to beg God for mercy for ourselves and the world around us.

We pray for life and health, and the Unesaneh Tokef prayer explains that on Rosh Hashana God decides who will live and who will die in the upcoming year. We none of us knew the previous year that so many would perish so close to the Days of Awe that followed. Michael McHugh did not know, and we must trust that God had a need for Michael greater than ours. That sounds terribly trite, but it is our responsibility to try and make sense of God's decisions, and take what lessons and solace from them we can.

There is no possible way my pointless blog can bring comfort to his family and friends that knew him. Trying is almost meaningless, but I had to give it my best shot. If any of his family happens to read this, I have done the best I could, and I hope you accept it in the spirit in which it is meant. I would comfort you if I could, and I grieve for your loss.

Michael, I wish you Godspeed wherever you have gone. May God bless you and yours, keep them safe from harm and grant them peace. Your sacrifice and martyrdom have not been forgotten, and your legacy will live on in the lives you touched all to briefly on this earth. May your memory be a blessing to all.

Michael Edward McHugh, Jr.

ca. 1966-September 11th, 2001

Friday, September 08, 2006

Now isn't

a coronary just the way you want to go into Shabbos? Me neither, but I didn't get the choice.

Oldest is now old enough to take the bus to school. Yesterday was day one, and the bus was 40 minutes late. OK, it's the first day. Probably about the same amount late on the way home. Again, it's the first day. This morning, the bus is about 20 minutes late, so we're doing better. But the trip home. Ah, the trip home.

The bus shows up, neighbor gets off the bus, other neighbor, and her older brother (about 13) who says "did oldest get another ride home?" Uh, no. No sign of my child. Freak out time has now arrived. I call the school. No answer. I leave a message at the principal's home. No answer. I call the bus company "we're not allowed to contact the drivers while they're on the road."

Great. A lost child, and we have protocol to worry about.

I call the school district, more than half frantic, and the woman says "hang on". While I'm on hold, another bus shows up with my kid on it. Huge sigh of relief, but still very upset and frankly pissed off. She's very upset, and explains that the end of school was very crowded, she couldn't understand what they were saying, and she ended up on the wrong bus. Fortunately she was with some friends, and on a bus that comes to our town, but scared and miserable.

So she's in PJs and watching TV, and I'm composing oratory to use on the school officials when I go see them on Monday. I appreciate that it's the first few days, and there are a lot of kids and confusion, but you damn well better be sure that a five year old ends up on the correct bus going home.

Somebody's getting an earful on Monday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


the Mrs. is actually down South, Atlanta way, on some conference or the other as she starts the long road to becoming a certified lactation consultant.* Meaning I am left home with the kiddles. Alone. This on top of the onslaught of relatives over the weekend just past explains my lack of activity (sister in law on Thursday, in-laws on Monday, parents came for dinner with in-laws on Monday [excellent grilled turkey breast, I might point out], inlaws to the airport tuesday with rental car thankfully, wife to airport Tuesday, my dad with the kids while wife taken to airport) blogwise.

It's not as bad as it sounds, largely because oldest starts school tomorrow and thus I am down to one as of about 7:30 AM tomorrow. So today I took oldest for her annual lice check at school, dropped off some of her supplies at her locker (yes, I was surprised that first graders get lockers, but they're not locked, so it's basically a cubby with a door), and then took the kids to a local science museum. It wasn't the best I've seen, but they were entertained and that was fine. We got ice cream on the way home, and I have to say I may be getting too old to eat an entire Carvel butterscotch sundae at one sitting.

I have no big plans with youngest beyond taking her to meet her teachers tomorrow, which will kill exactly 1/2 an hour. We've been invited out for both shabbat meals, so I may dedicate part of tomorrow to baking cookies with her. This will keep her busy, and give us something to bring to our various meals. Gingersnaps sounds appealing to me - simple enough & fun to make, without the noodgy part of shape cookies. My dad is supposed to come out again tomorrow so I can go play hockey at night, so that may distract youngest as well.

Posting may be light until next week.

*I should note that the idea of looking at women's chests, and getting paid for it, sounds too good to be true. And, in fact, it is.

Friday, September 01, 2006


pray tell, am I still up? Hockey's over, and I'm goofing on the computer.

I think I should have a bowl of oatmeal and go to bed.