Thursday, March 31, 2011

waste of a post

I spent the better part of today trying to link random facts about countries together in order to make crazy statements like, "the number of Nobel Prize awards won by an individual from a certain country is proportional to the kilometers of roadways in that country."  or "The murder rate of country Y is correlated to the number of Internet Hosts in that country". you'd expect.  there is no correlation.

wasted day, wasted post.

but...i did come across this from Calvin and Hobbes back in the day.

So, not a complete loss.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why not to make fun of big Russian guys

I absolutely love Russian culture.  I love the food.  I love the music.  I love how they party.  Just about everything that encompasses how Russians go about their lives is entirely enthralling to me.

But, there is a limit to everything.  And I'm bad with knowing my limits.

Early in my relationship with my wife, she introduced me to a little gem of Northeast Philadelphia: Golden Gates.  If there was an empire of Russian restaurants, Golden Gates would be their Tsar.  It is Peter the Great amongst a gaggle of peasants.  The largest matryoshka to encompass all the others.

um...the...Alla Pugacheva of...ok, i think we've exhausted this.

I've only had my life threatened once.  But, I wasn't exactly aware of if at the time.

See, here's my side of the story.  My first time at Golden Gates was an experience.  Russian Restaurants in Philly are not like American restaurants.  There is more food than you can possibly imagine.  There is more liquor  than you can possibly imagine.  And there is a Song and Dance Troupe that performs all the hits from the Motherland from Victory Day to Today.  It is not suggested that you get up and dance, you are expected to get up and dance.  I was at an age where I was unaware of exactly how much vodka I could effectively handle, and I thought the more the better.


Preview of your graph

Right around 6 shots of vodka, you are having a great time, and dance like an idiot all night long, but any more, and you're getting into dangerous territory. I was about 8 shots in with no food.  Bad idea. 

Somewhere between "Ah, Kakaya Zhenshina" and "Rodina Moya: Belorussia" I end up making fun of the way some guys on the dance floor were dancing.  Please note: this is highly discouraged in any situation, but especially when uncoordinated but massively built Russians are concerned.  

It's not my fault they looked like refrigerators whose doors wouldn't stay shut

After a couple of songs, my wife and I went outside to take a smoke break (back when we both smoked) and two of the guys I was ridiculing came out behind us.  By this time, I had forgotten that I was making fun of them.  They hadn't.  So when they came over to me, I thought they were being friendly.

They said a few angry words in Russian, most of which I didn't understand.  There was, however, the word sapogi (boots) and a fairly dirtier version of the word popa (rear end).  

Still misunderstanding, I was smiling like a complete idiot, and repeating the three words I knew at the time:  "Chto? Pochimu? Vse!"  (what?  why?  that's all!)  hoping that some combination or ordering of those three words would sort of make them chill out.

Literally, the next thing I know, I'm in one of my friends cars speeding away as fast as possible.  I don't remember what happened, but I'm told that one of them pulled a knife and said something to the effect of, "I'll show you how to speak Russian properly!" at which point we all scattered.

Good job, me.  I really know how to show my girl a good time.  This is why I refuse to drink when we go out anymore.  

The next time we went to Golden Gates, I stayed sober.  But so did my wife.  There was some sort of cosmic justice, however.  My wife was driving at the time, and as she was pulling out, she backed into some tricked out brand new BMW that someone had obviously put a lot of money and time into.  She guaranteed that there would be a little more money and time put into the car.  She was freaked, and I didn't want us both to die being taught Russian grammar, so we high tailed it out of there like Dick Dastardly and Muttley (*hee hee hee hee hee*)

Needless to say, we haven't gone to any Russian Restaurants since.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March Madness

I totally had this wacky Final Four on my bracket.  I know, it's the weirdest thing.

Let me tell you my secret to filling in a bracket correctly every single year:  wait until the end of March.

This way, by the time you have filled out your bracket, you will have found out all of the upsets, all of the dominations by the favored teams, and you will end up with a final four that includes VCU, Butler, Kentucky, and Connecticut.  The only downside to this is that I don't have anyone picked out yet for winning the whole thing, but if I were to make a guess, I'd have a 25% chance of randomly guessing the correct answer, much higher than that of the poor guys and gals who were too impatient to wait and see who the final four was. 

I was just about to make my prediction for who will take the whole thing, but I realized I've gotta...go do...something.  Until April 5th.  So sorry.

In all reality, this is the first year that I haven't filled out a Bracket in a very long time.  So this is my excuse when people ask me about my bracket.  But being someone who doesn't really follow sports, I don't feel like I'm missing out too much. 

And why don't I follow sports?  Because my father follows Cricket.  The only exposure I think most Americans had to cricket was when Casey Jones from TMNT hits Raphael with a cricket bat ("Cricket? nobody understand cricket! You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket!").  Right after this Raph says, "A Jose Canseco Bat?  Tell me you didn't pay money for this". 

Self respecting American men should not follow Cricket - the only game where they take breaks for tea time. Seriously, they have a tea party in the middle of the game.  Complete with porcelain china.

I think it would have been different if he had followed something badass like Rugby.  Or even that ridiculous Afghani sport where they beat around a stuffed goat's bladder on horseback.  Provided, of course, he needed to follow a foreign sport in the first place. 

I would have been fine with Baseball.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two months in/friday ramble

This sunday, Sammy will reach his second month of existence.  Two entire months.  My wife and I were reveling in it a bit this morning - thinking how could it possibly be that the two of us are raising a baby.  It's like an explosion of "whoa".  He's starting to smile more, and as someone i was recently talking to pointed out, he's out of the "blob" phase of childhood, and slowly but surely moving into the "awesome" phase.

It's funny, though, how you come across the same empty questions and platitudes in every single social setting.


Q: "How's it feel to be a father?" A: terrible, i wish it had never happened, and you're fat.

Q: "Is the little one sleeping?" A: yes, to a scary degree.  He hasn't woken up since birth.

Q: "How's your little one doing?" A: He's a newborn; he sleeps, eats, and poops.  Or did you want something groundbreaking?  Ok, sometimes, he spits up.

Platitude: Babies are great, aren't they? A: maybe the conversation could be over now?  you obviously have nothing interesting to say.

P: You've gotta take him outside, now that the weather's good.  A:  Hold on, REALLY? I need a notepad to write that down.  Thank god for your advice, otherwise we would have kept him in a cage under the sink until he was 30.  NOW WE KNOW. *calls wife* Honey! Guess what?!

I hate it when people who have no business giving you advice on your personal life decide to barge in and start giving it you unsolicited.  Take, for example, the other day.  I was at my local Mulch vender, aka Lowe's.  I was loading Mulch onto a cart, and a guy comes up and gives me this bit of Einstein: "Hey, you should save yourself the trouble and pull your car up, and just load up your car".

First of all, Shut up.  Second of all, i know it is a good idea, but still.  Shut up.  Lastly: I can smell you over the manure I'm loading onto the cart. Addendum: Seriously, shut up.

Part of me is glad that we don't live in a closer society.  This way, nobody will bother me by pointing it out when I'm doing something stupid.  None - O - Yo - BEEZwax.

Happy Friday everyone - Peace Love and Privacy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An evening with Yan

My in-laws are smart.  Not just smart.  They're intelligent.  See, Americans do not really differentiate between the two.  If you know how they get the pirate ships inside those bottles and onto the fireplace mantles, you are then both smart and intelligent.  They are synonyms.

But my in-laws are intelligent.  To them, intelligence is a function of the amount of culture you've exposed yourself to.  No, not "exposed yourself", but "been to see, or experience".  Sounds like you might need a copy of Pat the Bunny. My father-in-law has read every book published before 1900, save the bible.  He is an adept chess player, can compute multi-variable calculus integrals in his head, and enjoys going to ballet, theater, and opera.  And, he started his own business in Belarus as a contractor.  We Americans don't consider contractors to be all that "intelligent", but it's different in the former CCCR.

His best friend in the States (they met in the requisite "welcome to America" class every foreigner apparently has to take) is a world champion chess grand master from way back in the day who has about 7 pHDs in mathematics and worked in some secret building in Moscow doing secretive spy (supposedly) stuff for the Communists.

His name is Yan.  He is about 70 years old, and has a well-tended-to, full head of silver hair, and my wife seems to constantly tell me that she could totally see how he was super-attractive back in the time when no one had indoor plumbing.  We meet up with him about every other weekend or so, mostly because he and his wife Gala have taken such a genuine interest in my wife and I, they could truly be "Uncle Yan" and "Aunt Gala".

Every single time we hang out with him, however, he brings something with him.  Last time it was a poem that he had written (in Russian, of course).  Other times it's a mind-bending mathematical problem.  And still others it's a simple English grammar question that he somehow corrupts to make it a mind-bending mathematical problem.

I don't think he understands fully that I speak only enough Russian to impress Russians.  I know the basic phrases, I understand the majority of low-level blabber, and, admittedly, almost everything about food.  When you are part of a Belorussian Jewish family, there's a lot of discussion about food, which is a topic for another time.  But the second anything above small-talk comes into the conversation, I'm immediately lost.  His English skills are as good as one could expect from someone who came here in their 60s.  That is to say, basically non-existent.

Being the first Saturday night that was above freezing, I was excited to grill - and Yan, being the naturally curious man he is, was hovering around my wife as she was feeding Samuel. Gala promptly threw him outside with me.

And this is where it gets weird.  Normally, when we spend time together, we barely talk.  The language barrier is paralyzing.  But for some reason, this time, he gets in his blabber mood.  The below is in Russian, translated for your convenience into English with the majority of Yan's side of the conversation contextually extrapolated.

Yan - So, Bill, you must certainly describe to me just how wonderful it must feel for you to finally be a father!

Me - yes - i think it is nice.

Yan - Of course!  I remember back when i was a young adult the same age as you, when Gala and I welcomed our first and only child just how excited and awe-stricken we were to finally hold her in our arms!

Me - it is interesting!

Yan - I know, isn't it?  so, now that Samuel is almost two months, can you feel those same emotions?

Me - Yes, he is very important.  So very important.  He is like Sun, and this (I point to the grass).

Yan - Like the grass!

Me - yes (though thinking he could have said anything in the general direction I was pointing, and I wouldn't have know the difference).

He then rambled on for a few more minutes about children, and love, and his wife, and family, and all the things you would expect someone to ramble on about when having a discussion about a newborn.  I understood less than 10% of it, but made some very convincing "I understand" faces.

Finally, Gala came downstairs and called him back inside signaling that Samuel was done eating.  Yan then went upstairs to prepare the three page poem he had memorized for the evening.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Night-time Routine

Fed up with the month long randomness that went along with having a month old child, my wife and I decided to put Sammy on a routine.

After a bath, a rubdown with baby-oil, and a clean diaper, and while being fed, we read to him, alternating between Russian language stories and English language stories.

That's all fine and good, but there's one problem.  I don't have any English Language books for a 2 month old.

I've got Calvin and Hobbes.  I've got Horatio Hornblower.  I've got Hardy Boys, and Treasure Island, and Three Musketeers, and old Spider Man comics.  Dragonlance, C.S. Lewis, The entire Oz series of books, miscellaneous Star wars (canon, duh) books, and Goosebumps.

But I have nothing for someone who cannot hold his own head.

My wife, on the other hand, has hundreds of silly jovial stories about various forest animals interacting in a friendly and helpful way.  In one, a friendly bird is helping some cute squirrels gather food for the winter.  In another, a fox defends a deer against a dangerous boar through wit and cleverness.

I started with two - Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny.  And now I'm out.

But I've looked!  and everything I've seen has been disappointingly stupid.  Take Mrs. Mustard's Baby Face book. Just a bunch of faces.  Dumb.  Then there's Black & White.  I'm not crazy about beginning to teach my 8 week old about racial inequalities just yet.  And I also came across Pat the Bunny, which seems like a thinly veiled sexy book.  inappropriate, much?

So, I guess I'm going to have to resort to reading in Russian, subjecting my son to bad pronunciation and frequently made-up words.  Anyone have any suggestions as to good infant books?

So - it's March?

Word on the street is that it's spring.  Don't believe everything you read on the internet, huh?  Truer words were never written...on the internet.

It snowed in Philly today.  This given that the past weekend was in the upper 70s.  That was three days ago.

My wife an I were one of the stupid ones at Lowe's, buying plants in the optimistic frenzy that consumes half the world after the first really nice day of the year.  They are in the ground now, likely covered in frost and snow, and dead.

However, what was nice about it was that Sammy got out with me while my wife was inside doing her wife-y things (read - making a to-do list for me for the weekend).  He helped me put pavers in and level out the stone patio.  It's incredible how helpful it is to have someone lie there and stare, then doze in and out of consciousness.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

something worth clearing up

The word "Dork" apparently does not mean "whale penis".  Don't ask me why, or from where, but I always thought this was the case.

I can't find a single source verifying this fact. If anyone can, please direct me thither. 

In other news - Look outside tonight.  The moon is in Perigee.

Friday, March 18, 2011

11:30 on a Friday night

Nine months and eight weeks ago, my wife and i would be spending our time at 11:30pm on a Friday partying.  now, she is seated next to me while "pumping in style" with medela.  Sammy is already in bed, and is getting ready as I'm typing to wake up in an uncontrollable fit of hunger.  And I'm torn between being supportive to my wife and staying awake with her while her eyes bulge slightly every time the pump's diaphragm contracts and going "all for one", leaving out the second part of the phrase, and passing out.

Sammy just sighed.  the hairs on the back of my neck just froze for a second.  I feel like he can sense that i'm typing about him.  maybe it's just the sleep deprivation though.

This every two hours gig used to be cute.  I'm just excited that he's almost two months, which means he's almost half-way to being legally allowed to be fed semi-solid foods, which will in turn lengthen his sleeping schedule to longer than a time period measurable in blinks.

Though it is super cute to watch him yawn.  besides smiling, yawning is probably the biggest heart melter.

in slightly other news, but still related, every time i think of Schwarzenegger all buffed out and roided up as such:

and his famously and tritely repeated phrase "Pump You Up!" i will forever imagine Arnold strapped with one of these:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Really? This is something we're doing?

One of the greatest things about living with someone who grew up in a different culture is they bring along all of their absolutely insane cultural quirks.  I've lived with my wife for about five years, and I've learned to deal with more than a few ridiculous quotidian practices that are steeped in the superstitious, or just backwards culture.

  • We are not to whistle in the house.  This is quite possibly the most heavily enforced rule in our relationship.  Cleanliness, fidelity, or honor could all fall by the wayside, as long as no one was whistling in the house.  Apparently, committing this heinous act means that the family will not have any money.  More specifically, that you will frivolously spend all of your excess cash and not be able to save.  It is also the most broken rule.  I love to sing/hum and dance around the house, but I can't reach the really high notes in a lot of songs, and don't feel like starting over in a lower key. So I substitute whistling for voice.  (note: we have trouble saving)
  • We are to completely overhaul the house at the most inopportune times.  More than once, dinner has been served, we are ready to sit down to eat, and she demands that the pantry be reorganized.  I don't believe this is a cultural thing, but it is probably the most annoying idiosyncrasy besides the whistling. It is routine that on a Saturday morning, before anyone is allowed coffee or breakfast, mopping must be done.
  • Do not sit on the corner of a table, only at the side.  This was probably the craziest thing I had ever heard, and thankfully, it only applied before we were married.  Apparently, this would prevent you from being able to get married.  All old maids and bachelors had fallen victim to sitting so that the plane of one of the ends of a table intersected their body.  Thankfully, this is no longer a concern for her.
  • We are not to go back into a house to retrieve something we've forgotten if we've already left.  So if you forgot your car keys once you've stepped out of your house, you're walking.  Thankfully, there is one saving grace.  The bravest among you CAN go back inside, provided you look at yourself in a mirror and say, "Hello".  This one is not a joke.
  • Just before leaving on a long trip, everyone must sit down and be absolutely silent for around ten seconds.  Don't ask me why, because I never did.  In addition, the people whose house you left are not allowed to take out their trash until you call to let them know you made it home safely.  Hopefully, it's not a long trip.
  • When someone is taking a test, we must think bad thoughts about them.  This is counter-intuitive, but it has to do with spirits.  Bad spirits need to be distracted, and it seems that the best way to do that is to badmouth someone you love.
  • This one is probably my favorite. When you make a large purchase, you must be the one to purchase a bottle of vodka to celebrate with friends and family.  It's more along the lines of etiquette rather than superstition, but still a fun one.  Whenever vodka is involved, I'm on board.  
The only reason the man on the floor will not be married: bad seating choice

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reversing from the Previous tone

I figured I didn't want to end the week in such a negative way, and considering I still have some time left before I'm out of here for the weekend, I wanted to share the best picture ever:

This is one of Sammy's first smiles.  He's done it before, but this is (I think at least) the first time we've captured it on camera.

And then there's this one:

That's the two of us being awesome, something we're fond of.

My wife: also being awesome.

Sometimes, I can't believe how lucky the three of us are to be so loved.

I want to have a snuggle sandwich with both of them.

Friday afternoon Blabber

So, I've got one more hour before the end of work, and today's an especially slow day.  So I figured I'd kill time by blabbering exactly ABOUT my work so as to feel at least somewhat productive. 

The office in which is work is a rather large corner office on the 7th floor of a building in a suburban Philadelphian landscape.  My two gigantic walls face away from downtown, so that in the distance, all i see are remote radio towers and the occasional church steeple.  It's really a beautiful view.

I moved up here from the third floor, which has a markedly less amazing office feel.  The third floor is structured like an assembly line, where men with advanced degrees and IQ's in the quadruple digits rub up against each other and occasionally smell each other's accident?  who knows.

I was sad at first to move away from the action like that, but once i saw the office i was moving into, i was extremely happy, especially because i only shared it with one other guy, and he was an alright guy.  We got along, and even joked around a bit before he announced to me that he was leaving the company.  I felt a little sad.

Then, the greatest thing in the world occurred to me.  I would have the entire office to myself.  100 square feet (i have no idea if that's accurate) of corner office all to myself.  I was living the dream.

UNTIL..........After three or so months of bliss, my boss decided that we couldn't do the job man-down, and hired a new person.  A female.  Someone wholesome and genuine and family oriented and a mother of two who is happily married.  UGH.  What did I do to deserve this???  She came into MY office and sat down and immediately started chatting with me about all her wholesome, genuine, and awful stuff.  No more jokes, no more pessimistic sarcasm, or witty repartee.

Just, "guess what happened to me at church last Tuesday night."

all the while, I'm thinking..."you go to church Tuesday night?" 

Her 'funny story' revolves around someone in her church group who 'comically' brought the wrong dish to their meeting, and how they all broke down into 'hysterical laughter' because of the ensuing 'chaos'.  My fingers are tired from all the 'air quotes'.

Now, if she were a normal person, I would have followed that up with a silly comment like, "well, that's it, she's cut off.  God won't let her in if she can't get his order at the restaurant correct".  But I had to be nice, and say, "Oh Brother! What a saucy situation!" or something like that.  I suppressed that memory even though it happened maybe two days ago.

And i think the worst thing about it is that she hums.  All.  Day.  Long.

I just wish one day, she were to look over at me, and say something like, "You know what, I hate the British." or "breakfast cereals", or "ceremonial headdresses" or anything that would strike up a good cynical conversation.  I've certainly made my effort of telling her how EVERYTHING is awesome.  the least she could do is reciprocate.

New Discovery

I've always been a fan of Wikipedia.  Ever since I found it, I wanted to learn about everything in the world, and I routinely use Wikipedia's Random Article feature, and then walk around in the archives like I'm in the Louvre, browsing the articles like they're fine pieces of art to be appreciated.  I'll find ones I enjoy reading about, usually about literature, authors, the lives of people in ancient times (or rather history) and geography.  Notice the link for Geography was to Lahore, a personal favorite because it sounds like Pepe Le Pew finally got fed up with the cat he was chasing and started calling her names.

I've fallen so deeply in love with Wikipedia that I started to find myself going from String Theory to Einstein to Munich then to Weisswurst, Parsley, and finally ending on Old English.

Then, I sit back and look at the path I've just taken with satisfaction.

It's not unlike the path your brain takes when you're in one of those moods where your brain function goes a million miles a second, and you realize that in the middle of a conversation with someone they triggered a chain reaction of tangents that lead you from your present conversation about Libya, to Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd, Modern Family (even though it's a different Christopher Lloyd), and Sofia Vergara's breasts. (didn't know her'd i figure it out?  .....Wikipedia!)

Maybe it's just because I'm a guy, but most of the tangents I go on usually end up somewhere in the breast-al region.

Back to more civilized things...

So the point of this is that I recently began trying to challenge myself by coming up with two of the most incredibly distant topics and seeing how few steps it would take me to bridge the gap between the two.  For example, I'd go with the Laws of thermodynamics and Lady Gaga. (i can only get 8 jumps between the two - it's a hard one).  And then i thought that I was some kind of pioneer, playing with Wikipedia as if I were a geeky Lewis and Clark.

Then I found the Wikipedia Game.  And it was a weird combination of excitement and disappointment, because I was excited to not have to come up with random pages to jump between, but i was disappointed because someone else had thought of it first.  Also, i guess i didn't realize how frequently religion came up in these sorts of things until the game created a sub-game called "5 Clicks to Jesus".  I can routinely get under 4 clicks.

Long story short - this could be the best discovery I've ever come across on the web, and I've been on here all day racing around going between pages like Joseph Kennedy and Gene.  ONE DOWNSIDE - you're timed on the website - so you are encouraged to click around like an idiot, and you don't get the chance to read the pages you're coming across, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the great aspects of going between the different pages.

Try it out!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One month in

So, Sammy, the recently-born member of my family, just passed his 1 month "birthday".  There was no celebration, but I think my wife and I both sighed a bit to realize that we're doing something right, because he's still somehow alive.

However, there were some interesting highlights of the past month.  Most notable was the increasing amount of goo flowing out of every one of our son's holes.  It's like he's got a sphincter problem of the mouth.  And when it comes out, it's half digested, warm milk mixed with stomach acid and bile, which i don't think could smell any worse.  i was actually more worried smell-wise about the southern hemisphere than the northern, but this was a new discovery, i think, for all of us.

especially because when he spits up, he looks around like, "whoa...WTF was that..." all wide eyed.  the great part about it is though, that he also sports a blue steel face at the same time.  sort of a mix between


Then he proceeds to fall fast asleep despite the smell.  and i feel like saying to him, "look, I'm not sure if you're aware, but you smell like a soup of both ass and puke put on a rolling boil" but I know he won't listen.  He's too stubborn. 

He's also got this delightful way of "discovering" that he's smiling.  There won't be much going on, and he's just sort of sitting there looking around, searching for...something to throw up on (?) and right away there will be this facial contortion that somehow falls upon an almost random series of muscle contractions resulting almost certainly without intent in a smile.

And it's the most glorious thing you've ever seen.  Having your son smile at you is probably the best feeling you could ever have, because you know that you're able to bestow happiness on someone that has been so unresponsive to your attempts at entertaining, calming, or even just keeping awake.  Those very, very few smiles he manages are worth every second.


He realized he did something out of the ordinary, because everyone around him erupts in outrageous laughter and glee, and he's uncomfortable with everyone's happiness and descends into a fit of crying until his wail-hole is plugged by a pacifier.