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Friday, October 28, 2005

Miss Melodrama

Miss Melodrama went to the doctor.
Miss Melodrama had her blood drawn.
Miss Melodrama cradled her "injured" arm for the rest of the evening.
Miss Melodrama "needed" to sit on her blue chair and watch Jimmy Neutron.
Miss Melodrama couldn't use either hand to hold her cup of water, so her father had to hold it up to her mouth so she could drink with a straw.
Miss Melodrama somehow finagled her mother into putting pretzels, one by one, into her mouth.
Miss Melodrama took ten minutes to get undressed for her bath because she wouldn't let me pull her sleeve over her arm.
Miss Melodrama attempted to take a bath without getting her arm wet, but ultimately failed.
Miss Melodrama insisted I blow her a kiss from across the room so that her arm wouldn't be touched.
Miss Melodrama got a big fat smoochy kiss on the cheek instead.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Definition of Insanity

You'd think I would have learned.

When the lunch from the Jewish Home came today, the dessert looked a little familiar. It had that "not so fresh" look. And it smelled a little...stale. Like maybe it had been in a closet for a week. Or more. Or possibly sitting on a counter.

Funny, but it looked very similar about a week before, when its sister slice arrived at my office with a different lunch. At that time it also had that "shoebox" smell to it. Didn't taste too good, either. But I ate the whole thing.

These thoughts ran through my mind as I went back and forth over whether I should try the current slice of apple pie. In the end, the Y chromosome took over for better judgement and I took a bite. Yup, same pie as as last week. You can tell when you're eating something rancid because at the same time that you're putting it in your mouth, you can feel fumes come out through your nose.

Would you believe I actually took a second bite? I thought to myself, "Man, that was baaaad. Maybe I didn't taste it right. It doesn't look as bad as it tasted. Let me try again."

Don't worry. I didn't eat anymore. I'm not crazy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Holiday Gift-Giving

The PT is sick. She has 102 degree fever. She has been lethargic and miserable for the past 2 days. She missed all of Simchas Torah and Mrs. Balabusta had to stay home with her.

It seems she has a tendency to get sick during the Holidays. Why? I can't be certain, but it seems to coincide with the deluge of visitors from New York and elsewhere, all coming for the Holidays, and all bringing their sniffling preschoolers to the synagogue for the Holiday services. And leaving them in the playroom with my daughter.

While I appreciate the enthusiasm for exposing the little ones to the festivities at the Shul, and the fact that many of our guests have traveled here at great expense, I wish some would show a little better judgement when it comes to bringing sick kids to Shul. I would love for my daughter to meet new kids and share her toys with them, but I really would prefer they didn't share their germs with her.

That is All.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Base Guitar

Over the Holiday, The PT decided to start playing guitar. She picked up a plastic baseball bat and started playing it while singing songs that she learned in K4 or on Noggin. I wish I had a picture to show you, but apparently, in the past 24 hours, she has "outgrown" it.

She'd pick up the bat, hold it down by her hips (slung low), and then get a very serious expression on her face. Then, with her right hand, she'd start moving her fingers up and down. And then she'd sing something like, "It's just MEEEEEE, It's just MEEEEE." Or something like that.

I got the distinct impression that she was trying to play bass. It wasn't the strumming movement that most air guitar players mimic. It was a definite plucking motion. Which I find interesting because I play bass with a pick. So where she got it from, I don't know.

Moe told her she played real well. He said maybe one day Fudge will give her real guitar lessons.

"Ooh, that would be great," she said. "It would be a lot easier than playing this bat."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Except for this

My hands were so cold last night that by the time I got to the end of the last set, I could only play half the notes I wanted to play.

I wanted to play

DUM diggiDUM diggiDUM diggiDUM diggiDUM

but all I could get out was


It was too cold for the diggis.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I told you I wouldn't blog about it

So I won't.

The End is Near

This social worker walked into the elevator with me this morning.

"Only two days left," she said ominously.

"...until WHAT?" I asked, fearing the worst. World War III? The aliens invade?

"Until the weekend."

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I need a few days off in October...

How many of you reading this have had to say those words this year?

The Jewish Holidays couldn't have come out any worse. Two days the first week. One the next. And two more for each of the next two weeks. All smack in the middle of the week. From a productivity standpoint, the entire month is shot.

I happen to have a job where I don't have to ask permission for time off. If I need the time, I take it. And I'm fortunate enough to have a partner who's willing to cover me without making a fuss. But each day that I'm gone, while I'm in shul, the work is literally piling up on my desk, waiting for me when I get back. And all the patients that I can't see while I'm off are somehow being crammed into the days when I am there. So that those days are now incredibly hectic. Just thinking about it now is making me nuts.

There are also issues going on with my family in New York, and I'd like to try to find time to get back there, but I just can't now. The truth is that I feel trapped by the Holidays this year, and I can't relax enough to enjoy them in any way. It shouldn't have to be like this.

I'm sure it's worse for many of you, who have to try to get your bosses to understand and give you the time off. I wonder how many Jews are losing their jobs this month?

Well, I'm back in the office tomorrow. Can't wait till they ask me how my "vacation" was.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Weeee've been working on the Suuuukkah...

The PT, Curly, Larry, and Moe attempt to recreate the famous Iwo Jima pose.

Back to work!

BTW, all six kids helped with the Sukkah, but Fudge and Iguana weren't around when I snapped the pictures.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I've been tagged by Ezzie for the "7" meme. I suppose I deserve it for the all the misery I put people through with my Goatface club.

Oh well, here goes nothing:

7 things I can do:

  1. Play bass (and guitar--I thought about cheating and just listing the instruments that I play but I'll play along)
  2. Beat 13 year old kids at race car games on the XBOX
  3. Build a computer
  4. Build a sukkah (in fact I should really be doing that now)
  5. Diagnose and treat bizarre illnesses
  6. Make a wicked Cholent
  7. Read the Torah and Haftorah

7 things I can't do:

  1. Aerobics
  2. Clean a chicken
  3. Get that cwap out from inside the drain of the sink (there are some things that are too gross, even for a doctor)
  4. Drive a stick shift
  5. Any type of auto repair
  6. Any type of home repair
  7. Get people to give me things for free

7 things I hope to do in my life:

  1. Learn to drive a stick shift
  2. Fly an airplane
  3. Walk on the Moon (Mars will do too)
  4. Meet Doctor Bean and his family
  5. Tour the world and elsewhere
  6. Make Aliyah
  7. Dance at my grandchildren's weddings

7 things I say often:

  1. Cwap
  2. Who took my undershirts?
  3. Hello, this is Dr. S., did you page me?
  4. No, I'm calling you because I have nothing better to do at 3 am.
  5. Bubs! (to The PT)

This time I'm just going to pass this on to people who are related to me:

Fudge, Mrs. Balabusta, Laya

Monday, October 10, 2005

Saving Private Skier

PT: What are you playing?

Iguana: Call of Duty.

PT: Uh-huh.

Iguana: I have to regroup with my Seargent.

PT: Does your Seargent know that he's playing with a nine year-old girl?

Iguana: Uhhh....Nope! And he probably never will, because I look like this Soviet person.

PT: Uh-huh.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

We're losing the PR war

About this time last year I blogged about my discomfort with Jewish content in the secular media. At the time I felt that discussion of Jewish Holidays really didn't belong in the non-Jewish media, and since they couldn't do the subject right anyway, I'd just as soon they left it out.

So I guess I was a little unprepared for my feeling of disappointment when the local rag decided to completely ignore Rosh Hashana this year. I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe some mention. Something like, "Tonight starts the two day holiday of Rawsh Hashawnana, so you won't be able to get in to see your doctor/dentist/lawyer until Thursday." You know, like a little "heads up."

But not a peep in this week's paper. What tipped me off was when a patient came in to see me on Thursday asking if I was "celebrating" Ramadan. I looked at her in total disbelief. Surely she knew I was Jewish. Well, maybe she doesn't know that Ramadan is a Muslim holiday. Or she doesn't know the difference between Muslim and Jewish customs.

Or maybe it had to do with the fact that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided to run a huge glowing article about Ramadan on the first day of Rosh Hashana.

OK, so maybe Rosh Hashana and the start of Ramadan fell out on the same day this year, so why should I expect coverage of one to take preference over the other? Still, I can't help but wonder why it is that, while Jews have brought so many breakthroughs in science, medicine, and arts to the world, and Islam has given us terrorism, oppression and death, they still manage to get better press than us.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

Cheat Commandos

Long-time readers of this blog are probably perplexed by my semi-regular references to Homestar Runner. I think that brothers Matt and Mike Chapman are such comic geniuses that the link to their site was the third that I included when I started Psychotoddler. But the appeal is similar to that of Monty Python. Which is to say (paraphrasing John Scalzi) that "a certain segment of humanity will find it unaccountably amusing and will quote it whenever possible while the rest of humanity stares and wonders what the heck the geeks are going on about now."

Regardless of what you think of the site, the cartoons linked to below will give more than a chuckle to any kid raised during the 80's watching cartoons like "GI Joe", which was really a 30 minute commercial for their playsets and toys masquerading as a children's show. With a dose of heavy-handed moralizing tacked on at the end for "educational value."

Cheat Commandos Commercial

Cheat Commandos...O's...Breakfast Cereal Commercial!

Episode: Shopping for Danger

Commandos in the Classroom!

The genesis of the Cheat Commandos was, as usual, a Strong Bad email.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Favorite Machzor

The search is finally over. I’ve found the perfect Machzor. A Machzor is a prayer book that is used on the High Holidays. The services on these days being as incredibly long as they are, it becomes very important to find a Machzor that is comfortable and convenient to use. For hours. And hours. And hours. I’m not kidding.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to limit the discussion to ArtScroll Machzors. Everyone knows ArtScroll has had the market for Jewish Prayer books wrapped up since the 80’s. There’s no sense in arguing about it. An ArtScroll prayer book brings with it all of the innovations that the company has brought to the Twentieth Century, or in Jewish years, the Fifty-Seventh Century. Like punctuation. And readable type. And ArtScroll has a consistent policy of including all the relevant prayers. So, while my wife seems to prefer prayer books that were last typeset in 1909, are usually missing pages or whole services, and often leave out individual prayers (instead leaving little place markers, like “kaddish” or “ledovid”, forcing you to start turning pages to try to figure out where these prayers are), the rest of the civilized world has moved on to ArtScroll. Boy, I bet I’m going to get a lot of ArtScroll Google hits now. ArtScroll ArtScroll. They should send me money. Or a free set of Haggadahs.

So let’s discuss the contenders:

Exhibit A: The Zichron Moshe Machzor

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This is the standard hardcover English/Hebrew edition used since the 1980’s. Yes, I know it’s Nusach Sfard. There are no Nusach Ashkenaz minyanim on the Milwaukee West Side. Deal with it.

Exhibit B: The Shirat Moshe Machzor

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This is the book I just bought, and to which I am composing this blog. I love you. Mmmmah! (that was a kiss sound)

Exhibit C: The mini Zicron Moshe Machzor

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This is the small, softcover edition of the Exhibit A that my son Curly was forced to use over the holidays.

OK, Exhibit B wins.

What, you want reasons?

Alright. First of all, Exhibit B has proportions that are thinner and wider than the other two. The advantage of that will be more clear in a moment, but suffice it to say that it is also more comfortable to hold as a result. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this.

Second, while Exhibits A and C have an English translation on every other page, Exhibit B is all Hebrew, which means that it has half the number of pages as the other two editions, and is therefore lighter. Well, not exactly half. The layout is different, because

Third, Exhibit B has NICE BIG LETTERS which makes it easy to read if you lay it on a table or shtender. Exhibit A has smaller, but still legible letters, which is fine, but if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, and let’s face it, you all do, you’re going to need to hold this baby up to your face to read it. Exhibit C is a miniature version of Exhibit A, which means that anyone over 40 should not even consider considering it.

Fourth, and this is something that is very important to me, since I have a shtender (book stand). At least this time I did. That’s another blog. Anyway, there’s a real difference in the quality of these books which is related to the weight, proportions, and paper quality. It becomes apparent when you lay the book down on a table or shtender. Why would you want to do that? Well, the service can last six or seven hours. Believe me, you’re going to want to put the book down.

So if you put Exhibit A down, and open the page to, let’s say, Ashrei

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It looks OK as long as you’re holding the page open. But if you take your hand away…

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…the pages start turning…

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…all by themselves. So that you can’t leave the book alone for a minute. NOT ONE MINUTE! This can be both physically and mentally taxing.

Now let’s observe what happens when you open Exhibit B:

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…and leave it alone for a while:

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See? It stays put! So you can open your TorahGram or Gemorah or whatever reading material you brought along to the service and the book will be open to the exact page where you left it ten minutes ago, no doubt where the Chazzan is still kvetching away.

Now, just for completeness, if you were foolish enough to leave Exhibit C alone on a table, this is what you get:

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Exactly. Never put it down (sorry Curly).

And that brings me to my fifth point. There are a lot of extra piyutim (poems, or extra prayers) in place in Exhibit B. Normally I would consider this a detriment. Why not just exclude the extra prayers that nobody ever says? But in this case, for the High Holy Days, I consider it a plus. Why?

Let’s say you are stuck in shul staring at the same page for about 20 minutes while the Chazzan drones on, and on….and on…and ON…AND ONNNN…GOOD GRAVY GET ME A GUUUUNNNNN!!!! Huh? Where was I? Oh yeah, the Chazzan is kvetching arain for a good 20 minutes on the same page, and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Then suddenly, you see some unfamiliar small type on the next page:

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And you realize that it’s something that your shul (or any other that you’ve ever been in) never says. You start turning page…

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…after page…

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..after page! Suddenly, you feel like you’re making progress! The feeling of elation you get from rapidly turning pages after you’ve been stuck on the same one for half an hour cannot be described! You have to experience it!

So for this and many other reasons that I can’t remember, I highly recommend Exhibit B. And although Rosh Hashana is over, Yom Kippur is right around the corner. Now go out there and buy one!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shana Tova

Happy Rosh Hashana (New Year) to all of my Jewish friends! And to everyone, may you have a year of health, happiness, prosperity and health.

Mrs. Balabusta gives some advice for surviving the holiday with your health intact.

Yes I know I said health three times.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Paying for Jewish Education

You may have heard me kvetch about the amount of money I spend on my kids' tuition. I am not alone. The cost of Jewish education is skyrocketing, and just at the time when assimilation and intermarriage are reaching all-time highs, more and more young parents are considering not giving their kids a Day School education. This is very dangerous. I have said over and over that the only way to ensure Jewish Continuity is to teach our children about Judaism.

I have also found myself flat-out enraged by solicitors for the local Jewish philanthropies going on and on about the new exercise center or the new Olympic-sized pool they are planning to build out in the suburbs, when the average Jewish family cannot afford their kids' tuition, and the schools are cutting services and teachers' salaries as a result.

So what is the answer? As a dues-paying member of the Orthodox Union (the organization that amongst other things ensures the Kosher status of many foods and put the little "OU" symbol on them), I get a free subscription to Jewish Action magazine. This issue has an amazing series of articles on the subject. Not just bemoaning the current state of things, but also providing new, outside-the-box ideas for remedying the situation. It's worth a read (pdf only).