Friday, January 30, 2009

A little long in the lungs

I have a superpower: My lungs are abnormally long. Not "down to my feet" long but longer than average. On the occasion that I need to get a chest xray, they need to do it in two parts.
This has always seemed like a pretty cool ability - being able to hold my breath a few seconds longer than most people. It's ironic, of course, because I have athsma. That's sort of like having your superpower and your superweakness are the same think (like if Green Lantern's ring was made of Kryptonite... and he was allergic to Kryptonite too...).
Anyway, D mentioned to me recently that not of my T shirts fit very well. They are all mediums, so I went and bought larges. Still, when I yawn they ride up. Which brings me to a strange thought: Do I, a mere 5"10 inches tall, need to shop at a Tall Men's Store? Do I need a 32 long?
Gripping revelations, really.....

Scum and villany

Dianna often has her pulse on things that I would never believe were true. In this case, it's the escapades of goldigging banker's mistresses in NYC. The blog is called Dating a Banker Anonymous and was profiled in the NY Times. This entry below by a 24 year old adultress blows me away. It's from her to her economically embattled (and married) man. The bolding is mine:

Me *pouting*: You haven’t taken me on a trip since we went to Bermuda in September. What’s going on?
Charles: Honey, finances are tight right now so my wife has taken it upon herself to check up on all of our accounts. She will notice any big expenditures.
Me *cute voice*: Wellllllllllllll, what are you going to do to make it up to me?
Charles: Can we talk later sweetheart? I’m really busy right now.
Me: No. Give me an answer NOW. Don’t you realize what you have? I’m way too hot to be treated like this. (Disclaimer: Yes, I come across as bratty here, but it typically works when trying to get something out of him)
Charles *yelling for the first time in our almost two-year relationship*: I’VE GOT TO FIRE TWENTY PEOPLE BY THE END OF THE WEEK. Z has four kids, X just had a baby girl, Y just sent his son to college and I’ve got to get rid of two of those guys… and you’re complaining about vacations and dinner? God, you are so 24! GROW UP!
Me *stunned*: Okie dokie, let’s talk later lover.

He apologized a few hours later. He promised my age was one of the things that endears me to him the most, but that I just don’t understand the tremendous amounts of pressure he is under right now. Fair enough. But damn, it’s tough to date a banker, even for the girl on the side.

But wait - there's more. There are comments SALUTING HER!!! She makes me seriously, vicerally ill. If this is what some of the "hot" girls I have met over the years think, I am very happy they left me to pair off with richer men.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Does my bag suck?

I take this to work every day. It has lots of pockets, and the handles are gen-u-ine leather. My fashion-critic / roommate / girlfriend says it looks tired and beat. I leave it you, my loyal reader - should I chuck this or not?

Grow - The funnest flash game you'll play all day

Check it:
A great game played with only five clicks.... total!!! Beware its bizarre addictive properties.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Never again

I have been sold a bill of false goods. How was I to know that Fuddruckers, which once carried tasty seasoned fries and a "make it yourself" toppings bar, becomes a hellish playground for rude, loud teens after dark. The food seemed to have lost its delicious, MSG-laced tastiness, and was instead coated with a blandness normally found only in dying house plants.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why Twitter might not suck

It's easy to hate new things, especially new things with cutesy names. And that goes triple for anything gadgety that people tout like a hiar restoring tonic. I'm speaking, of course, about Twitter. Journalists have some of the loudest proponents of Twittering, or "micro-blogging." They are also, as a rule, really annoying about talking about Twitter, or simply twittering about whatever is on their mind at any point - you can feel their egos from your screen.

A better description of what Twitter is, though, might be "instant messaging with the world."

Here is a good intro video by the awesome folks at CommonCraft. Imagine that all your emails (except ones that you deem as private) entire a pool of emails rather than a single message box. Your friends have you on their lists, so your messages, all of which are 140 characters or less, pop up on their screens as you type them. But unlike Facebook, you can search this pile of words not only by people, but by topic or keyword. Because people can send out "Tweets" through their cell phones, you can update people minute by minute. And if you have a fancy cell phone (Iphone / Blackberry) you can read other people's at the same time.

Who cares, you say? Well, this came in really handy in our coverage of the inauguration. We had people out at the events sending Twitters to people in the office. These people then posted on's Twitter site minute by minute. Again, who cares, you ask? Well, it turns out, lots of people. When there is a big event, people tend to label it with a # to help with searchings, so there were boatloads of people searching for #inaug09. We put this in our Tweets, and suddenly people who wanted to know what was going on in DC on inauguration were seeing our real-time updates! And passing them on to other people!
You know how recent blog posts have an immediacy to them than a week-old letter to the editor doesn't have? Tweeters have even MORE. it's like they are alive. People kept telling us that reading our Tweets was like being there. That's pretty impressive.

I think Twitter is more useful as a communications / broadcasting tool than an individual "here's what I ate today" social updating tool. It's great for gossip. it's works tremendously fast - every communication is essentially viral. This chart shows how Obama Tweets happened in real time throughout the day.

Did I explain this well? probably not, but it's a start.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A wholly original idea: Zombie laborers

Most types of zombie movie plots have long been played out, BUT NOT THIS ONE:

Zombies are usually seen as a liability - they try to kill you and are generally uncooperative. But what if they had real value to humanity? Their value comes from their uniqueness: They are essentially perpetual motion machines - they require no fuel and can move forever. They are, therefore, a source of unlimited energy. Zombies, then, could solve our energy crisis!! Whether tethered to machines for use as transportation, or chasing a human in order to turn a turbine in a power plant, there are millions of ways zombies can be use to better humanity. Just don't get bitten.

(OK, now that this is on the internet it is only a matter of time before this idea is copied by some scheister....)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

on my lunch

A coworker killed my lunch. With a gun. It used to be a deer. Then, sometime after its death, it transformed from deer into "venison." What's the deal with this meat shift?

Bull = live, beef = dead
chicken = live, chicken = dead
pig = live, pork = dead

So there's no logic. Perhaps its a portion thing - like beef is a certain part of the cow. But I thought beef was the whole cow, and things like steak / roast, etc. were the parts. Is it because we are trying to distance ourselves from the animal?
Also, why do we say certain types of meat are "gamy." Like, say, hunted game is gamy?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yoyo Ma, Ithzhak Perlman, John Williams... another WOW

Aretha Franklin singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee"

Absolute perfection.

bush looks pretty glum

... as do all his handlers, many of which will be jobless in 21 minutes.

Inaug countdown

I may have drunken the Kool Aid. In Arlington, roads everywhere are closed and blocked off by military Humvees and army soldiers. And although the military is usually synonymous with violence, here I feel only safety and concern. So far, security has been superb. On the radio, we hear about people camped out in the teen-degree temps since 4 a.m., and these folks are some of those suffering hypothermia. That seems to be a big deal - hospitals and ambulences are full and they are sending overflow people to museums to keep warm.
Obama is walking in with Bush... wow.
I'm feeling old - I did the concert but I don't feel up to hitting two in a row. That's OK, though - I had my fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

But is it good for the Arabs?

I was going to blog about Busta Rhymes' new song Arab Money. The song talks about how great it is to be rich like an Middle Eastern oil sheik and be loaded with "Arab Money." I was going to write that maybe it's actually not bad for Arab's to be associated with wealth - unlike negative stereotypes about Jews being rich and covetous, rich Arabs don't really have any negative stereotypes as yet. I was going to say that if urban youths start wearing headscarves and talking in fake Arabic that it probably raises cultural awareness a smidgen.

But then I saw the video and realized the damn thing is ridiculous.

Introducing: Joe

I met Joe downtown. He may or may not be homeless, although he asks for spare change or food. He told me he's from Native American stock and comes from out west. His childhood dream was simply to get out of the Indian Reservation.
Yesterday, he shared some stories about the people you see asking for change on the way to work. Joe is very intelligent and quite self-reliant. He never bums cigarettes - he'd prefer to buy them himself or pick butts off the ground. He considers this to be more dignified than asking people for things. He doesn't even really ask for change - he just has a sign that requests it.
He also doesn't dumpster dive. He says that many bakeries have a system where if you wave to them through the window at the end of the day they will put the day's items in a plastic bag for you and leave it outside.
He doesn't hold many of his fellow panhandlers in high esteem. Some of his pet peeves are:
1. Aggressive beggars ("Give me money"). These tend to be drunks, he said, and prey largely on old women and young girls.
2. Scammers - People who give you a little something (like a flower) then ask for a donation and if you don't give one they take the flower away.
3. People who fake illnesses or who play up their woes for your donations.

He said to NEVER give panhandlers money - it all goes to coke, crack or booze. I already knew that, but it was good to hear again.
Also, he told me a story that really hit home:
A group of Jewish teens came in from out of town with a bus full of goods to give to the homeless population. I'm familiar with this program - I chaperoned a few of these bus trips from RI to Philly. Anyway, Joe said a bus rolled in and, as usual, there is a hustle and bustle of the locals trying to get goods before anyone else. One girl was handing out goods with a smile, and commented that one particular gentleman seemed to be really eager to clothies and other items. Joe told her to watch him. She saw the man go to every teen and collect bulk items - 20 packs of socks, etc. - then walked half a block away to where a group of guys were standing. He dropped off the stuff with them, and then went back for more. "He's going to sell this stuff for booze," Joe told her. The little girl went from happy to furious, and kicked at the dirt in frustration. It was some lesson he taught her, although I'm not sure if it's a good one or not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Someone get that old man down from there....

Last night, I went with some friends to see the author of an enticingly titled book:

It's written by Edward Kritzler, a Jamaican Jew (but, sadly, a white one originally from New York). I went into his presentation highly skeptical, because his book:
1. Had laughable footnotes (few if any primary sources)
2. Had no reviews from any historians or publishers, just other "Pirate experts"
3. Had little to do with Jewish pirates.

He spoke at the DC JCC, and we settled in to hear his speech. The next 90 minutes were filled with anecdotes, yarns, stories, legends and, perhaps, a fact or two. He answered few questions directly, especially those that required actual research (like how large was the Jewish population of Jamaica at its height? How were you able to identity conversos when they were trying so hard to obscure this fact, etc.) He used every question as another opportunity to hear himself speak and talk about whatever he felt like.
"He sounds like my rambling Jewish grandmother," my friend Ilan said. It became apparent that his book, rather than talking about pirates, talked more about expelled Jews from Spain becoming wealthy merchants in Jamaica, and their attempts to make the island into a safe haven from the Inquisitors. Interesting topic, but not what we paid for. In one word: Feh.

Monday, January 12, 2009

90 grams of fat

I should be dead. Or obese. Last night, I misjudged my hunger (and food supply) and had nothing but a bag of BBQ Fritos for dinner. It was a big bag. Each serving has 10 grams of fat. There were nine servings. Since then, I have drank about seven glasses of water and am still thirsty.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loud and in my face

There was a roar. It echoed through the marble facades downtown and into the shops and malls. It was the voices and shouts of angry people. Lots of angry people. I have seen many protests, and been involved in quite a few myself, but there is always something uneasy that happens when people seem to be protesting.... you.
Dianna says this is not so, that the thousands and thousands of people protesting Israel's war with Gaza were angry at a. Israel and b. a pro-Israel U.S., and not at all angry with c. young Jews like myself. Certainly I have no reason to think so. The protesters were angry, yes. They were peaceful and non-confrontational, and were happy to mug for the media, as all smart protesters should. They had loud and catchy slogans like:

"2,4,6,8 Israel is a terrorist state"
"Gaza forever! Gaza will never die!"
"What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now."

They also had young children carrying signs that said "Stop the Israeli Holocaust," or that had pictures of the Israel flag with an "X" over it. The messages were all acceptably P.C., but hey, we're all aware of the largely UN-PC enmity under the surface on both sides. Also: please notice the people in the above right picture screaming out of a megaphone are about 9 years old.

I believe in the state of Israel, but we are clearly losing the media battle here. The crowd was largely Arab / Muslim, but the non-religious left were there in good numbers as well. The Israeli-Palestinian war has been waged for so long and with so much spin that sometimes you struggle with all the messages and talking points you've internalized. You want to argue with them, and you also want to absorb some of their message.
It made me remember one of the reasons why I got out of protesting in the first place. I liked the causes in 2000, but I there were always rabid anti-Israel protesters crashing the completely unrelated event. Their clear hatred and fury was appalling, and I felt complete disconnect from their cause and emotional-state. Plus, like most protesters, they were ideologues and refused all countering arguments. To me, they were crazies.

Today, in 2009, the past met the present. The protesting crowd had all the familiar elements from "my day," but this time the cause had shifted, and I didn't know which side of the police barriers I belonged on.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Guitar.. will travel

I enjoy labeling myself as a "budding musician." Carrying around a Level One music book meant for gradeschoolers is not humiliating - it's a rite of passage that all musicians have undertaken (in my mind, anyway). Delusions of grandeur must be a common side effect for playing an instrument for three weeks. I even chatted about music with a coworker, and understood about 5% of what he said.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Guitar Zero

I like the Mel Bay Guitar Method. I respect the Mel Bay Guitar Method. But a minor flaw with their design had me learning / playing my strings in the opposite order, creating awful sounding "songs" that made me think I was tone deaf / riddled with Alheizmers for not recognizing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star... Truth is 90% of the notes were wrong. Fortunately, even when you learn strings "upside down" you are still learning, and with one evening's practice I got back to the "A" string.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Git-tar: Week two

Dianna was kind enough to buy me a guitar for Chrismukkah. Recalling the lessons of my venerable guitar master, G.O., I purchased the equally venerable and equally difficult Mel Bay's Guitar Method book. It is HARD. Learning how to read and play music is a completely different experience. I can actually feel my brain flexing like a muscle, crying for relief after a brutal workout and... um... shooting steroids before a big gig, or something. My fingers are tough enough now that playing doesn't hurt anymore, and I can play the first five strings. Amazingly, I've been playing every single day, without exception. Very happy.
Walking to work, I heard a song on my Ipod and I felt a strange feeling in my fingers... as if I was seeing the notes (and the guitar, frets and fingers that made them) in my mind. It was like some long dormant part of my musical DNA said, "Hey, you can make music like that!"

Review: Burn After Reading (2008)

More like Burn Before Viewing. I love the Cohen brothers, and their quirky mix of comedy and violent drama. This film, however, really wasn't either. It just continues to slowly and boringly unfold, introducing more and more despicable characters, and balances them out only briefly with Brad Pitt's superb character, who.... let's just say, exits. It's no wonder nobody talked about this flick...

Some random experiences

* Had my shoes shined in an airport... first shone shine ever. My "shiner" was a nuice man in his 50's who said he shined shoes as a youth, then "took 40 years off" and did other things. He said some expensive shoes can last 17 YEARS with regular shining and a few resolings (if that's not a word, it should be).

* Saw my first opera at the Yamato theatre in NYC. Enjoyed it. The theater was only 25 feet wide, the stage only 20. It was in English - this turned out to be just fine.

* Overheard at a NY Deli to a waittress: "Hey - have you gained weight?"