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Saturday, April 30, 2011

I don't know how much of this book I read...

before I concluded that it was hogwash.  Quite a bit, actually.  I think I read it until he started having heart-to-heart talks with the Taliban, or al-Queda, or some other stone killers who just rolled over and acted like pussy cats when he let loose the charm.  It seemed a bridge too far.  It had a few things going for it: 
Exotic setting--check.  Noble altruism--check.  Appealing kids--ditto.  You want to believe life is like that.  That the only thing standing in the way of educating little girls in a hellhole like that is lack of motivation.

In truth, it takes a lot of work to get anything organized, from the U S government to a library book sale.  Sigh.  I should have known.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My first thought on watching this was:

 This woman has to have gone to Harvard. So glib, so self-assured, so dead wrong  Another Jamie Gorelick, leading her country over a cliff with complete confidence..

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I beat Dell

I've been pissed at Dell, once my favorite computer company, for years. We've been buying their products for years, and were happy until Dell sold Mr Charm a computer that didn't work. We called the company and got the usual runaround, the one where they imply with more or less contempt that you are an idiot.

Reader, it never worked. I blamed Mr Charm and he blamed me and we both blamed Best Buy. But when Mr C was in the hospital the first time, no-one could remember his password. So I took the computer to Staples and they couldn't fix it. The problem was a defective motherboard. Turns out the Dell Corporation knew these motherboards were no good but shipped out a number of them nevertheless just in case the consumers didn't notice. Or they might work. Or something.

The latest dust-up was about another of the computers we bought from them. (We bought about ten in the space of four years. Dumb? Yes.) They raised their rates in the middle of our financial disputes and started assessing penalties, late charges, interest, etc etc. By this time the amount owed had snowballed to the point where you would have thought we had bought a private jet.

At some point I stopped paying them. And they started calling me. I told them to stop calling and to sue me if they thought they had a case.

So--they sued me. I received a very legal looking notice which was supposed to scare me, I guess, but both my parents were lawyers and gave me legal documents to draw on the back of, so I had seen plenty of them.

So I wrote a letter to the Court explaining that I had plenty of time and would be defending myself pro se and requesting certain information. They sent me copies of spreadsheets that meant nothing to me, but they postponed the trial date. I was supposed to see them in Court on April 29.

Well, they finally called off the lawsuit. Dell Computer Co, it turns out, is a paper tiger. Nyahhh!

Shopping cart multiculturalism


Seen at a shopping center near me.
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Monday, April 25, 2011

A Gregor Samsa moment

Something awful happened to me this morning. No, I didn't turn into a cockroach, sorry to disappoint you. But when I opened the morning newspaper, I realized I could not read it with my 2.00 reading glasses! Overnight my vision had worsened.

I had to go to the dollar store and buy six new pairs of readers in 2.50 before I could face life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let's close fraternities

They might upset some of the girls.

This woman strikes me as a person whose sensibilities are too delicate for modern society:

My fourth night at [the University of Virginia] , I went with some friends to Rugby Road, where the fraternity houses are located. They are built of the same Jeffersonian architecture as the rest of the campus. At once august and moldering, they seemed sinister, to stand for male power at its most malevolent and institutionally condoned. I remember standing there thinking I'd made a terrible mistake. It wasn't worth it, I decided. The next day I withdrew from the university.

I hope nobody ever tells her that half the human race are males. I don't know whether she could withstand the shock.

Shame on the Wall Street Journal for publishing drivel like this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How could I skip Poetry Month?

My mind is coming unglued. I always, always celebrate Poetry Month!

so, a poem:

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That opresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the meanings are--

None may teach it--Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows--hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--

-- Emily Dickinson

Whew! That was close!

Speaking of poetry, I've always thought T S Eliot's "April is the cruelest month" absolute rot. You want a cruel month, Tom? Try February in Nebraska. You'll find it way crueler than April. April is pretty. Flowering trees flower. Spring flowers spring.

Another poem, more cheerful this time:

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

I used to like Hopkins more than I do now. I do like several of his poems, though.

Both these poets lived in obscurity--poetic obscurity, that is. Neither was published in his or her lifetime. That has got to suck, no? I would hate to be posthumously famous. However, there is no danger of this at present. For one thing, I am not dead.

By the way, it is also Occupational Therapy Month. Let's hear it for the OT workers!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is the painting I am working on now


If I ever have time.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here we go again.

People are getting ready for Passover.

When I was a child seders seemed to last for eons. All my mother's family, my parents, my two uncles and their wives and children were always present, because anything bubbe hosted was a command performance. The good linens, china, and silver made the table gleam under the light of bubbe's two candelabras.

We children were excited beyond hysteria until the ceremony began, and we were forced to come to the table and stop hanging upside down from the sofa, climbing the walls, and knocking down the furniture. I particularly enjoyed the presence of my cousins because I was an only child at the time, and lonely. My eldest cousin, three and a half years older than me, was a goddess of sophistication to me; her brothers were rowdy playmates. Uncle Doc's little girls were too young to play with but they were mighty cute and dressed to the nines.

Once the youngest child present had recited the four questions the prayer competition began. Both my uncles and my cousin Bernie read the haggadah aloud --individually--in Hebrew as quickly as they could. The conversation went like this:

Uncle I: It's time for the first (or second, third, or fourth) cup of wine.
Uncle II: I haven't gotten there yet. You read too fast.
Uncle I: It's a long service.
Uncle II: All right, all right. Come on everybody. Drink the fourth (or third, or second) cup. Where's the bottle? Pass me the wine, somebody.

They raced through the prayers and then had to stop and wait impatiently for the others to catch up. It was rather like riding in a car that alternately speeded up and stopped dead, causing you to lurch forward and back.

Meanwhile, my cousin Sam and sometimes one or two of the other children would drink too much wine and slip quietly to the floor. It taught me the meaning of drinking yourself under the table. After a brief nap the culprit would re-appear, refreshed.

The two little girls were too small to read, so they raced around the table fighting with each other until Uncle Doc started yelling at them and threatening to spank them. My aunt, his wife, would burst into tears because he had shouted at the girls. She would threaten to leave. They would yell some more until he calmed down and apologized to the girls and gave them some candy or gum he just happened to have in his pocket. The girls, of course, would stuff themselves with sweets and would not eat the festive meal when it appeared.

The festive meal! Chicken soup with matzoh balls. We called bubbe's matzoh balls cannon balls. They were heavy but nourishing. Then we had chicken. With the chicken came potato kugel and chopped liver. Gefilte fish. Someone probably slipped a green vegetable in there somewhere, but I don't remember it. Bubbe didn't hold with all this greenery anyway. Her idea of a salad was: take one cucumber; add pint of sour cream; eat. And we couldn't have that, this was a fleisheke meal.

Bubbe would heap each of the children's plates with massive portions of food and then bawl them out for not eating it all. We were starved and ate voraciously. If someone had thrown one of us into the river we would have plummeted to the bottom and sunk without a trace.

Dessert featured, but was not limited to, Manischevitz macaroons, served in the can. The featured wine was Mogen David.

After eating, there was a timeout while the children searched for the afikomen and the adults sat still and burped.

Since I was not used to staying up late, the remainder of the seder was one big blur to me, except for opening the door for Eliyahu hanovi. Then came Chad Gadya, which meant the end of the service and blessed release.

And then we did it again the next night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hospital red alert!

So Mr Charm broke his femur, and was taken to the hospital, where they set his bone. They made three neat little incisions--arthroscopic, don't you know. We have a view of the river this time, which beats last time, when we had a view of a cemetery.

However, Mr C has a roommate who is deaf, and confused. The nurse who was attending him raised her voice in an effort to make him understand. And what a voice! A fine Wagnerian soprano which caused the bedpans to rattle. Really--it was an assault on the ears and the nerves.

This hospital did not have a guy riding a huge floor polisher, but of course we were there on the weekend, and maybe their floor polishing man works Monday to Friday.

However, they did make a serious medication error--one that I've corrected several times, but which persists on the hospital database. Tomorrow I will talk to the doctor. I will not shriek! I will not shriek! No! Will not...

Could I be fated to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the person who had two relatives murdered by hospitals in one month?

I asked my uncle many years ago what the date was when doctors started curing more patients than they killed. He looked pained and said he wasn't sure we had passed that date yet.

I will calm down. Have a cup of tea. Serious sedation is called for. Where are those beta blockers?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

my dad in his youth

We have few ppictures of him; he was always behind the camera, as he is here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

It wouldn't be Passover without it

The Maxwell House hagaddah.

I still have a few copies.

My father, December 1911-April 2011

So my dad died, hastened to his end by the wonderful folks at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where he got the infection that did him in. No biggie, he was almost 100; but I wanted him to reach 100 and get a letter from the President, something he would have cherished.

I wanted to post a picture of him in his youth, but can't get Blogger, or Picasa, or either, or both, to work. I'm working on it, in my baffled, disgruntled, tooth-gnashing way.

He was fun to be around. He loved to tell stories of his adventures, some of which were actually true. My uncle, his brother, remarked that you could only believe half of the things Nate told you, but you didn't know which half. For instance, did he grow up in a house with a dirt floor? He did. How about taking his first airplane ride in 1926--doubtful, he would have been 15 then. Having a play optioned by a Broadway producer in 1939? Maybe.

He was very smart, and a quick study. He could understand the workings of various gadgets around the house. He could fix things--replace a light switch or fix a toilet, talents which have eluded me, as has his aptitude for math.

He didn't seem to get old, like other folks. When he was 90, he acted and looked like a man of 62. He was a writer, a painter, a cook, and he could balance his checkbook with ease. Just lately, though, he began to slack off, and we feared the end was near. I wanted him to have that signed letter from Obama, though. Dang.


Monday, April 04, 2011

At last--the reason spent fuel rods continue to pile up--in the U.S. and not in other places

Why spent  fuel rods continue to pile up.

After World War II, Congress created the Atomic Energy Commission to oversee military and civilian use of nuclear phenomena. That action held that only the feds could make plutonium.
Under A.E.C. control, utilities built nuclear power plants and jointly built a fuel rod reprocessing plant. In 1978 the reprocessing plant was ready to start, but President Jimmy Carter, saw that it would produce a small quantity of plutonium.
Therefore, Congress prohibited civilian reprocessing of fuel rods and bumped the cost of nuclear power. Utilities can take 3 percent of the power from fresh fuel rods before reprocessing is needed.
The “spent” rods are stored until the day that Congress permits reprocessing. Meanwhile other countries reprocess their fuel over and over again.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The New Jersey Turnpike

I'm out of practice in driving the New Jersey Turnpike.  I had to drive it yesterday during the Friday evening rush hour.  What a relief to get off, finally!  I think you have to keep in practice to drive the thing, just like an Olympic athlete has to keep in practice.  Otherwise it's a bit intimidating.

I used to be scared of driving the turnpike, but since I am scared of lots of things I have to cope with, I ignored my fear.  If I let my fears govern me, they would get worse and worse, and eventually I would crawl into the hall closet and huddle into a ball among the winter overcoats.

Hospitals are dangerous

My father is in the hospital right now.

Among the mysteries of modern life is the  disappearance of the notion that hospitals should be quiet.   Remember those signs that used to be posted on the street?  Or am I revealing my age?

I visited my dad yesterday and was surprised by how noisy it was. Everyone appears to be shrieking at everyone else, unless they are too sick to move.  There is a clatter of trays and other equipment,  personnel coming and going and filling each other in on their private lives, greeting old friends and just gabbing.  To add to the confusion, a maintenance man was driving a  floor polisher which is so large he was seated on it.  It reminded me of a large tractor or a zamboni.  He must have driven the thing past my father's room six times.  What zeal!  Or maybe it was just fun to ride the thing.

My father's chair was in the reclining position, and the platform underneath was crusted with dust.  We called attention to this to his nurse, and she said that was not "our first priority" right now.  This was richly ironic, since my father was there in the first place because he had had a pacemaker inserted in this very hospital and received a blood infection from the procedure.  If they had been a little more obsessed with cleanliness, my dad would be home right now, watching a ball game and drinking a martini.