Thursday, April 28, 2011

Media Woes

The often brilliant Vicki, who writes over at the modestly named blog Vic tac ular, wrote a post today about her Media Diet.  And let me tell you - it is ridiculous.  The girl basically reads everything written on the internet every single day.  That isn't an exaggeration.   

Which got me thinking about my relationship with the media.  It's rather unilateral, I think.  Let me explain.

In High school, did you ever have one of those really geeky dweebs who had a super major crush on you?  And you thought they were ok and all, but you'd never really like to get with them or anything, except in a freaky American-Pie-band-geek sort of one night stand.  That's how I feel about the media. They're trying so desperately to get in my pants that it kind of turns me off. 

CNN used to be awesome, but now they seem to have taken a more US weekly approach to news.  I remember finally officially turning it off during the Anna Nicole Smith media disaster. 

Fox is and will likely always be awesome.  Not for news, though.  More for gauging just how stupid media executives think we are.  Which is always an important thing to have a grasp on. 

I feel guilty getting news from Jon Stewart.  Mainly because the news he delivers is media centered, so the information isn't about the event being discussed, per se, but rather how the media is covering said event. And also, he's ridiculously liberal, which I happen to enjoy, but it doesn't promote entirely fair media consumption. 

Websites are usually tediously designed, with too much chaos to properly decipher what is news worth hearing about. I absolutely HATE the NY Times layout, which has unfortunately become sort of a model for other websites.  In addition, their headlines typically misdirect you with something that WOULD be interesting to read, only to find out that the story contained beneath it is only remotely related to the over-hyped headline. 

And finally, I tried the twitter feed, but there's just too much to keep up with.  I followed @breakingnews which worked for a while, but there was just SO much.  I couldn't keep up with reading this all the time.  And honestly, most of it was just headlines that one or two people died in Djibouti, which isn't all that important to me (sorry to say). 

(side note - does anyone know how to pronounce the name of this country?  I choose to pronounce it Ja-Booty.  I also choose to pronounce "Duchy" - Dooky - as in the "Grand Dooky of Lithuania" for the country that was the "ancestor" to Belarus).

So right now, I'm sort of getting my news mostly through passive diffusion.  Essentially, that means I'm too lazy.

However, I do occasionally enjoy Yahoo's homepage.  There are four stories you can see at any given time, which you can digest slowly and leisurely. There are usually stories with lots of pictures, which I like, and typically a lot of lists.  The only downside is that the majority of the stories deal with sports, and I seriously couldn't give a crap about sports.  More on that later though.

So, please, please, please help me!  I want to be up to date on the news of the world, but I need it fed to me in nice, easy spoonfuls.  Preferably spoonfuls with lots of pictures, and not much actual reading.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Camping, Part Dva: Russian Style

This is a followup to my post yesterday regarding my near death experiences while camping with my family.

Years after my last death march with my family, I slowly began to forget just how terrible they were at the time - either because I remembered the good times more vividly due to my genuinely bubbly nature, or due to memory repression.  I'll never know which.  And my experiences camping turned into a slight pretentiousness regarding camping.  This meant that to me, if the odds of survival are good, you're a wuss and not really camping.

So when my wife invited me to go camping with her family for the first time, I asked her where we were going.  She told me we would be headed for some campsite in the Poconos, and I giggled to myself - stupid people with their pseudo-camping. Psh, I bet they don't even dehydrate ONCE out there.

But, trying to be a good sport, and trying to impress her father, I agreed to go along.

First thing's first - the tent.  You could fit an entire village in this thing, which apparently, was the idea: we all slept in the same tent.  Why try to set more than one when they're about as complicated to assemble as nuclear reactors?  And we all know how well Russians are at assembling them *cough*had to fit in reference to Chernobyl's 25th anniversary, and BTW, yes, i know it was human error, not a structural design flaw*cough*.

Second thing - they brought legitimate air mattresses.  As if they figured being one with the earth was too "beneath" them, the needed to sleep on air.  Ooooo, how was your sleep on your cloud, Mikhail? Where did you grow up, France?

Third thing - literally everything else.  They washed a garden worth of fresh vegetables, they brought more alcohol than we could drink, plus some to pour into the car like liquid schwartz if we ran out of gas.  They brought badminton, a guitar, a chess set, an electric teapot, a radio, a hammock, and at least two pigs worth of meat.

"Good thing they brought the electric teapot", I thought, "cause I know lots of forests with electrical outlets."

When we got there, I was surprised to see hundreds of other people, sitting around the campfire next to their cars listening to either Bob Marley, or to some country song about Fried Chicken and biscuits (I tried to google the title of the song I'm thinking of, but there's an entire sub-genre of country dedicated to fried chicken).  The first three or four hours was dedicated almost solely to the set up of the campsite. 

And then...we sat.  And ate.  And then we drank, sang stupid songs on the guitar, played cards, and stayed up until 3 in the morning BS'ing with each other and dancing around like idiots.

There was no killer hike.  No trying to decipher a map, and making sure we're not lost.  There were no blisters, heavy packs, dehydration, or heat stroke.  There was even an electrical outlet so we could have hot water.

I pitied them for not realizing what camping could and should truly be - a test of your desire to survive.  Like 127 hours, only you didn't have a knife.

But I figure I'll go with them again just know...continue to pity them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Camping, Part One: American Style

We pulled up to the base of the mountain at two in the afternoon, when my brother and I were 9 and 7, respectively.  It was August in southern Utah, which, for those of you who don't know, is a freaking desert.  My dad had meticulously planned another of our family outings, which had earned the sarcastically affectionate term "Death Marches".

You see, my father was Andrew Jackson, and the rest of the family was the Choctaw Indians, and these death marches were his version of The Indian Removal Act of 1830.  There's your history metaphor for the year.

What follows is what my father had told us:

We get to Zion National Park, and climb a small incline from the canyon floor to the top of the canyon.  All vertical work is done by the first two hours, and the rest of the surrounding area is a forested plain, so it'll be smooth sailing from there.  The destination is "Dripping Springs", a veritable fountain spewing forth water as if there was some overfull bladder underneath the surface that couldn't be held back.  We'll only need to carry enough water to get us there, where we will refill our canteens, spend a night or two playing in the spring, and head back. 
It's actually kind of a beautiful plan when you think about it.  But that's not exactly what happened.

Like I said, it was two in the afternoon, and probably about 95 degrees when we started our hike.  The sun was permanently perched just above the other rim of the canyon, laughing at us with its grossly hot, sticky breath.  There was no tree cover - as it was the side of a canyon in the desert, and the soil was as sandy as a beach.  It could have been Omaha Beach for all I knew.

So the water that was supposed to last us for the entire day's trip to "Dripping Springs" lasted maybe thirty minutes before panic mode set in. And we may have been an hour into the hike when I began creating a list of family members in order of their nutritious value.

My brother started to legitimately get heat exhaustion, which bordered on heat stroke.  You know when you have heat stroke when you stop sweating, even though it's 95 degrees.  That was him.  After throwing up a couple times, my dad finally ended up carrying him the majority of the way up the hill, grumbling something about being "wussy".  I consider myself lucky that I was too young to be considered "able to carry weight" - and my backpack was full of mostly comic books.

We finally got to the rim of the canyon, but nightfall had come a lot sooner than we thought it would.  We weren't half way to "Dripping Springs", and we needed to rest. 

The only semi-suitable campsite was sloped downhill about 15 degrees.  So as we set up our tents and lied down to sleep, we slid a few inches every half hour or so downhill.  And as if God himself wanted to punish us for our stupidity and naivete, it poured.  It was as if all the tears Jack from Lost had cried throughout the entire life of the series were bottled and poured on us all at once.  I guess it was good that we were on a slope, cause otherwise, we would have woken up dead.

The next morning, we dried ourselves off and plodded on towards the holy land.  I think I was too young to feel resentment towards my father for bringing us on a trip with the explicit intention of collecting life insurance benefits.  Everything looked more upbeat in the morning, and we really only had about a three hour hike to get to "Dripping Springs", so we were excited to get moving.  And it was a short walk - especially given we were out of water, and essentially running to where there would be gushing rivers of delicious spring water that we could bathe in to escape from the oppressive mid-day heat.

There is a reason they call "Dripping Springs" "Dripping Springs".  When we got there after such a hellish journey, we realized why they called it that.  There was a pipe stuck in the side of a rock, and from the end of that pipe, there were a few infrequent drips of water escaping into the desert sands.  What didn't immediately evaporate formed a small puddle underneath the pipe where a few green weeds grew, laughing at us, as if to say, "psh, ridiculous idiots running around in the desert, what did you THINK?"

For the better part of the afternoon, my father sat with the water purifier, pumping ounce after ounce of water into our canteens.  After the hallucinations subsided, we asked him if he was enjoying swimming.  He looked up at us over the water purifier, and growled something I don't think I understood yet.

Growing up, this is pretty much all I ever knew camping could be.  Physically exhausting death marches into the wilderness, carrying too little supplies, and finding out how close to death you could get yourself without actually blacking out.

I will go into details of some of the crazier adventures later, but for tomorrow's post - Camping, Part Deux: Russian Style.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dear women of the blogosphere:

I just thought you should know.

As an addendum to a previous post, apparently, those of you who enjoy gardening, should not enjoy this relaxing past time while visited by your "monthly subscription" to "Midol magazine."

This will cause all your plants to die.

Just an FYI straight to you from the Motherland.

Also, did you read the Midol Ad?  Did we seriously think this was ok to say back in the day?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

10 Plagues of Egypt - Philadelphia edition

I consider myself a pretty badass dude.

  • I can parallel park like a mofo. 
  • I have seen ALL of Bruce Willis' films
  • I don't like wearing chick-approved clothes.
  • I know how to properly use an axe.

But I'm going to tell you something that goes against that badass, manly image.  I'm deathly afraid of bugs.  Not just any bugs, though most of them give me the shebee-dweebies.  But, I'm deathly afraid of stinkbugs.

 He wants your brains.

But I've got good reasons to be afraid of them!  There are the obvious reasons: they're creepy looking, they smell awful when you squish them, they make a terrible swooping noise when they're flying (not unlike a dragon sound), and they're ugly. 

When my wife (then girlfriend) were just out of college, we lived in a tiny crap-box apartment in Harrisburg, PA.  We were paying like $0.25/square foot for a 500 square foot shed.  And what made it all the more luxurious was every summer, in the beginning of August, stink bugs would literally TAKE OVER. 

I'm not talking like, "ooo, a stinkbug, run and hide, and also please change my underwear!".

No.  I'm saying that there were literally hundreds, and possibly a thousand plus of these miniature airborne skunks spraying their ass-juice on everything with a surface. 

The final straw was when they had figured out how to get inside our dryer vent and, no joke, CLOGGED IT.  There were so many stinkbugs lodged inside our bathroom (which is where our laundry room was also) that we couldn't turn on the dryer, due to the fact that there was a colony of these anally explosive mobile stink bombs living up there.
Kid - we could'a used you

We ended up quarantining off the bathroom and just using the outdoor facilities.  Ok, that's not true, but we were definitely considering it.

So, I killed my first stinkbug of the season yesterday night.  I'm hoping for two things, either this is just a fluke, and he is alone in the house, or that Moses is around here somewhere and I can gank his magic staff off him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Easter/Passover plans

My wife and I had just put Sammy down to bed last night, and we began discussing how we were going to celebrate both Passover and Easter in our house, cause, well, just in case.  We like to be ready for anything. Like May 21st, and of course, May 22nd.

Coming from two different religious backgrounds, we're trying to figure out what is going to be the most culturally rewarding, yet spiritually enriching way to introduce religion to Sammy's life.  But of course, as with any discussion about religion, we began talking about the rituals:

Me: So, what - no Easter Egg Hunts? 

Her: No, we already hide the matzo, that'll be our tradition.  And we'll make sure that Sammy knows why we're hiding it, unlike Christians, who don't know why they're hiding the Easter eggs.

Me: WHAT? We know.  It's like the Christian version of the Africa-man (you can see I try to be as cultured as possible). Deeply steeped in tradition and spiritual value.  You know, eggs = rebirth, right? And bunnies....?...lots of sex.


Me: which fits into the story SOMEhow.

Her: Exactly.  So this is why we'll be eating horseradish, dipping bitter herbs in salt water, and having hard boiled eggs.

Me: This sounds like a delicious feast.  Way better than chocolate.  Look - I don't care much for the Christian traditions, but I do care about the Easter egg hunt. 

This is where she made the compromise that we would be doing an Egg hunt, but it would be called a "Passover Egg Hunt", and it would happen on a day OTHER than Easter, so as not to confuse Sammy.

Psh, whatever.  I'm just excited about hiding the eggs. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Back in Business

Have you ever felt like a crazy, rabid monkey just would not quit humping your arm?  Besides the obvious pleasure from the experience, you'd probably feel a little annoyed that one of your appendages was unusable.  Also, there'd be a lot of loud screeching.

This is how I feel about purchasing my own domain.  I'm excited because it's a new step, and my URL won't have as many characters as War and Peace.  But at the same time, it's annoying.  It's annoying because my knowledge of internet speak is limited to URL, WoW, and porn. (note - I actually do not play World of Warcraft, nor have I ever watched pornography.  This is for humorous demonstrative purposes only...obviously)

And since I don't know anything about anything, it is a brutal march.  Just last night, I realized I could point this site back to blogspot, and not have it hovering in the purgatory between domains.  So I'm back here, hoping to figure it out so I can make the switch over this weekend.

Ok, but enough about that. I had this post imagined a while ago, and I understand it's a couple days late. (thanks, stupid interwebs).  For your viewing pleasure, six of the greatest Passover/Judaism related links ever assembled.  Notice, they are not sausage links, which would be delicious.  just the regular internet kind.

1. Dude makes Washington Square Arch out of matzo, wins $1,000 - goes on to dye hair normal color

2. Who doesn't like Orthodox Jewish Cats? My wife informs me that in Russian, Shpilkes are high-heels. That makes this comic take on a delightfully surreal meaning.

3. Journey out of Egypt through a tunnel of Matzo.  Oh, Canada, is there anything you can do that the entire world WON'T find adorable?

4.  For those last minute Seder gifts, don't forget to purchase The 10 plagues finger puppet set.  Educational, cute, and convenient that there is a plague for every finger!

5.  No list would be a list worth making if we couldn't insert some geeky math puzzle or theorem.  Just another beautiful thing about Pascal's Triangle.  As as side note, Pascal was a pretty badass dude.  First piece of evidence: the guy's name was Blaise.  Or spelled like anyone normal would spell it, Blaze.  If I were naming a big huge dragon, Blaze would be my first pick.

6.  Speaking of math, Rabbi + flamethrower - chametz = Hells yeah

Monday, April 18, 2011


I am in the process of foolishly trying to figure out how to move my site from blogspot over to on my own (with some help from the team at @elirosesocial).

so if you have been wondering why there has been no delightful and wondrous new content being published here - that is why. 

I just realized it is my own fault, as I have no clue even what a domain is (unless we're playing D&D).  so until things get up to speed, I think I'll stay over here at blogspot for a bit longer.

new content in the AM, I promise.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Guest posting over at Taming Insanity

Happy Friday everyone!  And as a special gift to you and your family, I bestow upon you my first guest post ever over at the lovely and wonderful Taming Insanity.  KLZ and her awesome husband have been good friends for a while, and KLZ is really the one that inspired me to start a blog in the first place.  So she's really the one to blame/thank.  And her husband is probably the one who got me interested in what it is that I do for a career now-a-days.

So I owe a lot to these kids.

So go check out KLZ - she's hysterical, sarcastic, and sweet all at the same time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Political compass

I recently took the Political Compass Test which gave me the result shown below:

This didn't really come as much of a surprise to me, as I had already known that I was fairly left leaning.  But what did surprise me was two things.  First: I cognitively recognize that I am authoritarian - I believe the state should have a lot of power for good reasons.  Regulation is not necessarily a bad thing.  So the fact that this showed I leaned Libertarian did surprise me based upon my answers to the questions.

The second thing that surprised me was the chart showing famous people and their placement on the compass:

Apparently, I'm closely aligned with the political viewpoints of Nelson Mandela or The Dalai Lama.Which is pretty cool considering I'm a big fan of South African accents.  And I enjoy goats and mountains.  These are pretty much the only prerequisites to being Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama, right?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

they're everywhere!

My wife and I have a habit of running into Russians.  No, silly, not literally.  Then we would be badly bruised and battered, because physical contact with Russians either begets violence or sex.  And the former is relatively similar to the latter in their culture.  Believe me - look it up. (Warning: looking this up is a bad idea, and the claim almost certainly false)

So back to what I was saying.

We seem to meet Russians EVERYWHERE.  For example, we tend to walk around a lovely park in an area that has absolutely no connection to the Russian community here in NE Philly.  We stop for a sip of water at the water fountain, and there standing next to us is an older couple saying, "What's wrong with these two - they look ridiculous" in Russian.  Then we give them our best scary-person glare and they run away.

Another, more realistic example is from our honeymoon.  We were in the Roman Forum, which, if you haven't guessed, is in Rome, where we were looking over the entire forum from a sort of rocky outcropping.  Right there next to us there approached a woman with a video camera who was minding her own business, but filming the view from the outcropping.  Then, she started narrating the video, describing each building inside the forum with unbelievable accuracy and detail...all in Russian. 

Ok, we can handle one random Russian encounter.  But later on throughout the day, we began meeting more and more Russians.  At lunch, there was a couple eating at the cafe we were in.  On the bus, there was a tour group all blabbering away in Russian to each other.  It seemed like every single place that we went on our honeymoon was littered with Soviets.

Third and final example: We went to vacation in the Dominican Republic about two or three years ago.  It seemed like the ENTIRE RESORT was Russian. If I had to give a reasonable and honest estimate as to the percentage of nationalities of the guests of the resort, I would say there was about 60% Russian, 30% American, and 10% tarantula. 

I have a couple of theories as to why we can't seem to get away from them.

These are the Serious and Reasonable Theories

  1. We only choose places to go based upon an already Russian-leaning bias because my wife influences family decisions with her Russian-ness.
  2. We are more aware of Russian nationality due to any human's inherent desire to seek out like-minded and similar individuals.  If we were, say, Swedish, we would notice and "run into" Swedes more often.  Though not likely, because they can't go outside due to their pasty-white skin.
  3. A combination of Theories 1 and 2.
And these are the Ridiculous Fringe Theories (somewhat better theories, I think)
  1. The global population includes an overwhelmingly Russian component.  Thus the chances of a randomly chosen person being Russian greatly outweighs the chances of anything else.
  2. Russians tend to become stuck in time, thus creating "loops" where they will clump together in a temporal sense, not unlike a lumpy space-time gravy where they haven't worked out the flour clumps yet.
  3. Poorly disguised spies on location with authorization from the Government (which one, huh? that's for them to know...if they've got clearance)
  4. Russians tend to live in cramped one bedroom apartments in America as well as in Russia, and all over the world for that matter, so the desire for them to get outside so as not to feel like pickled herring in a tin can is overwhelming - thus it may just SEEM like the population of Russians is a larger part of the overall piece than it actually is.
  5. It may not just be the clumping of Russians, but the LACK of the clumping of Russian-hating ninjas, thus creating so called "safe zones" where Russians can go about their lives without the fear of Ninja attack.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lunch Lady, and the Power of Newborns

I'm cool with the lunch lady here at work.  Back in the day, we used to go for smoke breaks together, and every once in a while, we'll chat over coffee for five minutes before getting back to work. 

About two weeks ago, she was telling me about how her son and his girlfriend were going to have a baby.  She was distressed because the son had barely spoken to her in months, and they were on the outs.  Every family has their reasons, and every side has its story, but the reason she gave was because the son and his girl were worthless sacks of flesh that were more interested in getting high than trying to find legitimate jobs and starting a legitimate life.  They had gotten pregnant a couple times before (on purpose), but they had gotten abortions due to the influence of each their respective parents (judge not - as this is definitely not the purpose of the post).

And because of the drama surrounding her son and the impending baby situation, you could tell that she was both deeply depressed, and emotionally exhausted from fighting with her son for what she thought was right - a good stable career and a steady income.  Whether she was right isn't the issue.  And as time went on, you could see the depression deepen, and the exhaustion worsen.

Until, through all the drama and exhaustion, she came to work today screaming and jumping like an idiot, waving a picture of her grandson as if there was some hysterical drunken parade, and she was the flag-bearer.  She came up to every single person in the lunch room, whether she knew them or not, and told them about her grandson, and how she was so proud - the ridiculous grin on her face seemed to belie anything personal that was going on in her life.

This is the magic of newborns - so weak and helpless, but still - so powerful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brilliant money making ideas

So, everyone needs money, and I am a person, so by the transitive property, money needs me?  I need everyone?  I was never really sure on the transitive property.

Anyway, here are a few brilliant ideas I plan on exploiting sometime in my life somehow to make money.

  1. I am fairly adept at making noises.  Tapping, tsk-ing, knocking on things, using random phallic objects as drumsticks.  I will even sing a song to myself as I'm chewing so as to keep up some king of internal rhythm.  This MUST be worth something to someone
  2. I can make, like, 10 different kinds of paper airplanes.  I'm thinking of having a paper airplane sale.  I'll color them with crayons.  and tear out little ailerons so the paper men can steer the aircraft.
  3. Once upon a time, I was very good at hacky-sack.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind that translated either to a soccer career or a gig as a ninja.
  4. I like playing with boys from the ages of 2 to 12.  Legos, and army men, and helicopter sound generators, and war, and capture the flag.  I could go on for hours with sweet games.  Maybe i could start a daycare for just little boys.  Or would people see that as creepy?
  5. Discussing sciency stuff.  You know, Astronomy, chemistry, physics, and the like.  If you're at a party surrounded by geeks, you could call me, and i'll show up, and talk to them for you.  Maybe I'd get their number and hang out with them on the weekends for you.  Maybe we could all go to the science museum without you.  Watch some Bill Nye.  Who knows?  you're just not invited.  But I'll expect a check.
  6. Blabbering excitedly about absolutely nothing.  I'm not sure how this will make me money, but I'm good at it, and with a little bit of creativity...! (crosses fingers hopefully)
Ok that's all I can think of.

Note: this was written just as I was about to leave on Friday, and I was rather coffee'd up and excited to go home and be awesome with my wife and son all weekend.  So don't take it the wrong way if I don't seem "Monday" enough for you.  WOO HOO

Friday, April 8, 2011

Russian Verbs in America

FYI - This post will mostly appeal to speakers of Russian, and those interested in the assimilation of cultures.  Everyone else might find this more interesting and appropriate for their tastes

Russians are language lazy.  I'm not sure if it's a product of trying to assimilate, or just the opposite, but they tend to melange their yazik all ensemble. Oh, I'm sorry, I must have dozed off while mixing my languages together.

But you would too!  Imagine, you're an American in France, eating a baguette, smoking a long cigarette out of one of those Cruella DeVille cigarette holders while deriding some foreigner for wearing a religious headdress.  You've almost entirely assimilated.  Yet, when you speak, you inject a little English, just for good measure, "Je n'ai pas du croissant, mais si vous voulez, vous pouvez breakfaster chez moi." (I knew I majored in French for something - education well used).

Then the French organize an impromptu flash mob and force you to eat like, 1000 frog legs.  You're still hungry afterward, cause, seriously...all you had was frog legs, and let's face it: there ain't much meat on them bones.

So getting back to the Russians.  While I might not speak, I understand about 90% of what's going on around me.  And having my Russian language background be almost entirely built upon a dude who has read more than Oprah, and who speaks impeccable Russian, I cringe just a little bit when I hear the local people use words like, "move-itsya" and "shop-itsya"; English words with Russian endings, a linguist's nightmare.

Ok, well, I've been staring at this page now for 10 minutes thinking of how to end this post.  But I can't figure out a good ending.  So here's Tom Cruise with no pants on.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Russian Grocery store

When normal people, meaning anyone not from Northeast Philadelphia, go into a grocery store, they normally expect nothing from the store except fresh veggies and a wide selection of breakfast cereals.

Not so for the Russian-American population.

The first time I went to the Russian grocery store, I was dressed like most normal people would dress to go to a grocery store: tee-shirt and jeans.  How naive I was, to think that would be appropriate in the frozen foods aisle!  My wife ridiculed me, saying she was going to be embarrassed to be with me, but I stood resolute - why would anyone wear anything else?  It's a grocery store!

Then...I realized what she meant.  The store is not a place to get fresh fruits.  It is a place for the women of Northeast Philadelphia to judge. It is like American Idol (but for un-Americans) and EVERYONE is Simon Cowell.
Natasha just picked up her deli meat from the kolbasa counter
 Both men and women are dressed as if they were going to a club - sexy, sharp outfits that make them look 50x hotter than they really are.  Women have more makeup on than clothes, and they're all wearing six inch heels.  All the guys are wearing designer clothes and button-down shirts with wild prints all over them, and leather shoes.

And the craziest thing is: my wife is among them.  A college educated, career-oriented and brilliant woman pursuing her MBA dressing up like, well, you know, so she can impress a bunch of people she only knows in the most remote ways. They're all deathly afraid that each other one will run home and say, "You see? I saw Katya Borisovna not wearing heels while ordering her dried cod's head!  That must be why she's still unmarried and poor!"  Then they go to pay for their groceries with food stamps (a subject for another time).

And rightly so, because they will.  My wife has said to me a couple of times that her mother has heard stories from her friends about how they can't believe a nice pretty young Russian Jewish girl like my wife can be stuck with such a dirty slob like myself.  

All because I wear jeans to the grocery store.

Now-a-days, my reputation is out, so I'm trying to cultivate it.  I'm now wearing a wife-beater, sweatpants and sandals.  I also refuse to shave more often than once a week, and I shower just as frequently.  
That'll teach'em.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Children's Interests

My wife is going out with one of her girlfriends for a walk with the kids today.  Her friend has a 3 year old that is obsessed with dinosaurs.  And apparently, everyone's amazed by this.  This is big time news that a 3 year old would be into dinosaurs.

When I was growing up, from the age of three to about 13 or so, I was absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs, So when this little boy discusses the eating habits of an Ankylosaurous vs. that of a Deinonychus, people are oo-ing and awe-ing over how he could possibly know these things.  And I'm sitting there like, "psh, I bet he doesn't even know about the evidence against pack hunting found in a recent Yale University study."  Stupid three year old.

Right around the age of 6, my family moved to San Diego, right in the path of the airport landing area.  There was also a crazy amount of military aircraft constantly circling the air, and doing super sweet touch and go's.  So naturally, my crazy love for dinosaurs then EVOLVED into an obsession for airplanes.  (pats self on back).

For example, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Holland, was such a great teacher that I wanted to thank her after such a good year.  We got caterpillars and grew them into butterflies, people - it was an amazing year.  So what did I do?  I drew a sweet picture of a squadron of ME 109's attacking a village.  She was deeply moved, I could tell.

On a tangent, did you know that the A-10 Thunderbolt II is so sturdy that it can actually lose a piece of its wing and still operate effectively?  The 30mm Avenger cannon on the front of it has earned it the creative name, "Tank Buster".

One word: Bu-GOW!

So I guess the point of the story is that when MY little one gets a little older, I can only HOPE that he's interested in awesome boy things.  The following is a list of pre-approved things that are awesome:

  • Rocket Ships
  • Space
  • Insects
  • Forts and their corresponding structural integrity
  • History is OK as long as it's military history
  • Ninjas
  • Race Cars
  • Tanks
I have a nephew who is a great kid, and I love him dearly, but he's into Pokemon.  There's not much cool that Pokemon has going for it.  And this off the heels of a deep Elmo obsession.  If I can help it, this will not be the path of my own boy.

Not that there's anything wrong with Pokemon and Elmo, but...just sayin'

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Charles Dickens - an explanation

Not too long ago, I briefly mentioned my hatred for Charles Dickens.  I feel like I need to explain. 

I have been told many, many, many times about how influential and monumental he was.  But you know what?  He published in serials.  You know who else "published in serials"?  John Wayne Gacy.  That's who.

Let me start my unsolicited complaining session with a block quote from one of Mr. Dick-ens' most famous and well-regarded novels.  Mind you, this is also one my wife consistently pushes for me to read.  Oliver Twist.  This was pulled from Project Gutenberg, the greatest and most worthy endeavor known to man.

Chapter I
Treats of the Place Where Oliver Twist Was Born and of the Circumstances Attending His Birth
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of morality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

Take that in.  You'll likely need about three or four times to read the entire passage through.

Notice also how it is ONLY ONE SENTENCE.  Wtf, Chuck?  You have every possible punctuation mark in there: the comma, the semi-colon, and, most likely your favorite, the *wink-wink* "colon" (let the pun seep in a sec).  Also notice how he doesn't say ANYTHING.  If I'm reading this in the 1830's - 1840's, I'm pissed off, cause you've just wasted 90% of my free time with your blabbering, and now I have to go work in the coal mines for a day and a half.  Sorry kids - can't kiss you good bye, you can thank Mr. Charles Dickens over there for stealing away your father's free time.

I've always been told in my writing, English, literature classes that the very first paragraph of your novel is supposed to be designed to get your reader hooked.  But after reading this, I'm already looking and saying...What?? how many pages are left?  Then I'm doing a double take at just how bloody long this bloody novel is.  Then I'm wondering if mass book burning would be OK if it were author-selective.

I will now rephrase it in real-person words.

Chapter One:

Where and How Oliver Twist Was Born

Common to every city, there was a workhouse.  And in one nondescript workhouse in one nondescript city, the eponymous character referenced by the title of this chapter was born.

BADA-BOOM.  Simple - straightforward, and you only have to read it once.  You even get the repetitive effect in the second sentence that metaphorically drives home how common the beginnings of Oliver Twist were. Not the most interesting of ways to lead into a novel, but that might just be the point.  Ok, I get that "the Chas-Dick" was paid by word, so there was incentive to blabber, but, I mean...come ON.  He sounds like a long-winded John Kerry. Or a hyperactive and under-confident valley girl telling you all the details they're NOT going to tell you about.  
Ok, so there's this guy, right? He's with this girl, but I can't tell you which girl he's with - not that it matters, because the story's not really about the girl, it's about the guy, and what the guy did with the girl.  Ok, so it's a little about the girl, but not enough that I have to tell you a lot about who she is or anythi...
I think you get the idea.

So, at risk of sounding like Charles Dickens, I think this post is long enough.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"I have one guy"

I know stereotypes are inappropriate, but my father in law is a mafia boss.

The first piece of evidence is that he looks like one.

Secondly, he almost never talks.  He says that men who talk too much are like women.  I'm not sure how he'd feel about this blog then.  I've gone to dinners with him where he won't speak all night.  Then the women will go to the bathroom, and it'll just be the two of us.  Thank god for internet on phones to divert the awkwardness.

But probably the most convincing reason I think my father in law is a mafia boss is this:  Recently, we were going through the house discussing all the different projects that need to be done - fix this lamp, stop the leaky sink, remove this, you know, blah, blah, blah.  If there was something that was too complicated for the two of us to get it done, he'd say, "I have one guy - get this done.  Very quick, very cheap." And he says it very off-the-cuff, like he says it all the time.  But his hand motion is what bothers me about it.  He makes a movement as if he's chopping someone's fingers off.  Again, very off-the-cuff, like he does it all the time.

Imagine now if we were not talking about the bathroom door, but about ordering a hit on someone.

"I have one guy - get this done.  Very quick, very cheap".

Sends shivers down my spine.

Tonight, for example, he is coming over to our place to speak with a contractor about getting some work done.  We have a couple of old, crappy sheds in the backyard that wild and crazy animals are now starting to populate rapidly.  So, we need a guy to come in and tear them down and remove the debris.  We got a quote last week from a guy that was just under $1000.

When we told the new guy that my father in law would be speaking with him, he said, "oh, then it won't be more than $250."

Fine and dandy - I could see contractor's quotes varying that much.  Sometimes, they try and gouge you.  But things get weird when you take into consideration my father in law has a "deal" with one of the local auto-mechanics.  I pay $10 cash for a full service oil change, and most low level maintenance is free.  I only pay for parts.

Honestly, I'm a little creeped out by it.  But my wallet's not.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Singing to Sammy

Sammy is beginning to learn that he LOVES listening to music.  He loves it when either my wife or I sing to him.  It's almost like an instantaneous calming effect that somehow brings him out of whatever funky mood he's in and gets him back to being a smiling little Schmoogle.

But there's a problem - I tend to blank out on song choices.  It's like three or four song Karaoke.  Luckily, Sammy doesn't mind.  He's totally into them, and why not?  They're awesome songs.'s a strange choice.

I know there should be some education somewhere in the songs for little kids, mixed with classical music.  So, these are the only four songs I can readily sing at a moment's notice.

1.  Bunny of Seville

Great song and great music. Plus, I have a little Wayne's World crush on Bugs Bunny when he's singing the "I'm your little senorita" part of the song.

2.  The nations of the World by Yakko Warner

Ok, I know it's a little out of date map-wise (there's still Czechoslovakia), but how can you not love a song that rhymes San Juan with Guam?  Canada with Panama? 

3.  Three is the Magic Number (blind melon version)

This video takes a couple seconds to get going, but who doesn't love schoolhouse rock?  and Blind Melon singing a Schoolhouse Rock song?  priceless. 

4.  Inchworm Song

I only ever knew about this song because Robert from "Everybody Loves Raymond" (or as my wife calls it, "I Love Raymond, screw everyone else!") sang it to the kids in the show in one very obscure episode.  But i'm a huge fan. Something about the minor key in a children's song, which is uncommon enough, mixed with the lackadaisical counting and alliteration of "measuring the marigolds".  Possibly one of my favorite children's songs ever.

And that's it.  That's my whole repertoire for age-appropriate songs.  I think while I may have been emotionally ready to have a child, i was nowhere near prepared in a mental sense, what with my lack of books, and now this lack of good music.

My wife, as she has always been, is great with remembering all those great songs from her childhood. There's goluboi vagon, Antoshka, the russian "happy birthday", Tra-ta-ta and about 300 others she can readily start singing.

Similar to asking about appropriate books, is there a kid's CD that is preferred over other ones?  I'm not exactly looking for "twinkle twinkle" or "the itsy bitsy spider", I think they're too...demeaning.  But I'm also not looking for Vivaldi's Four Seasons either.  Suggestions?