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Monday, February 28, 2005

The Song Remains the Same

My 3 year old decided to give an impromptu concert at the dinner table Friday night. She gave a little introduction:

"FIRST I'm going to sing 'Twinkle Twinkle'. And THEN I'm going to sing 'ABCD'."

Then she gave a little wink.

"But you KNOW, 'Twinkle Twinkle' REALLY is the same as 'ABCD'."

To which my 13 year old said, "REALLY?? I never realized that!"

It's OK. I didn't figure it out until I was about 31.

Rose's Story Part VIII...

...the Angel

Here's some inspiration in non-everyday events

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Evil Eye

Are you superstitious? Do you believe in the Ayin Hora, the Evil Eye (no, it's not a dance). Well, I think I do. No, I definitely do.

A few short posts ago I mentioned my car. I alluded to the fact that it's not exactly the car of my dreams or a powerful vehicle. Never-the-less, it has been the most reliable and trouble-free car I've ever owned. So maybe I should have spit on the ground a few times or said "Ken-ayna hora" when I typed that, because over the weekend it was vandalized.

It wasn't excactly broken into. It was in my garage, and that was broken into. The car was unlocked, so baruch Hashem or ken-ayna hora there's no broken glass to contend with. But they ripped apart the dashboard and stole my cheapy car CD, and made off with all of my CDs. They now have the complete Moshe Skier collection, including a lot of live material.

They also took all of my hospital parking-lot entry cards, so I have to both notify the hospitals to disable them and get new ones.

I'm feeling alot of emotions here. Anger, violation, betrayal, fear. But oddly, the one emotion, if you can call it that, that seems to be bubbling to the top is...inconvenience.

I know the radio is replaceable, the CDs, maybe less so. The cards will be replaced. The garage will be dealt with. But what's really bothering me is trying to figure out when I'm going to get the darn thing fixed. I guess I can drive around with a shredded dashboard, but I think that's just begging someone to break in and rip off the rest of the car. And I work every day, and the auto shops are closed on Sundays. So when am I supposed to get in somewhere and get this fixed? And if I have to leave the car, then what? Will the insurance pay for a rental? And do I even want to deal with that?

I guess things could be worse. Ken-ayna hora they didn't get into the house, where my valuable stuff is, and no one was hurt. But I'm still pissed off.

Don't Judge a Book by its Covered Cover

I was in shul this past Shabbos when I saw one of my friends reading one of those "inspirational" Jewish books. He had his hand partially obscuring the cover. I cocked my head sideways and tried to read it.

"Strive for Fruit??" I asked.

He shot me an annoyed glance and moved his fingers.

"Ohhhh, Strive for Truth."

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Messenger Kills Message

If you ever call my house, looking for my wife, and one of my kids answers the phone, be sure to call again later, because the odds are that she won't get the message.

Recently, my wife was out of the house, and she received call after call. My 11 year-old son answered most of them. This is what I could hear of his side of the 4th or 5th conversation:

"Yess???

"NO.

"We already KNOW that!!

(rolls his eyes) "FINE!

"GOODBYE!!"

So I asked him, "Who was it?"

"I--DON'T--KNOW!!!"

Apparently, as I found out later on, this was the other side of the conversation:

"Oh, hi. This is your Aunt speaking. Is your mother home?

"Well, I just wanted to tell her that I had a baby boy this morning--

"Oh...I see...well, could you tell her I called..?

"Well, then, er, goodbye..."


PS: If you ever call my house, looking for my wife, and I answer the phone, be sure to call again later, because the odds are that she won't get the message.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Vroom Vroom...

I got Gran Turismo 4 this week. I had to replace my PS2 just to play it. (It was one thing when it wouldn't play my daughter's games. But I had to draw the line when it stopped playing my games).

Despite having an impressive stable of over 500 cars, I couldn't help but notice that the 1994 Geo Prizm remains conspicuously absent.

Well, I'll have to make do with driving virtual '05 Mustangs and Jaguars. It's a much cheaper way to have a mid-life crisis.

Besides, when you get to drive a testosterone-laden beast like my Geo to work every day for real, you don't need a video game version. Yep, that's what I keep telling myself.

Mistaken Identity

I was walking out of the music store last night with my 16 year-old daughter (we'll call her Fudge).

Fudge: So Abba, my guitar teacher told me that one of her other students is Jewish.

Me: Really.

Fudge: Yeah. Apparently he saw you at your last gig at the JCC. He told her that you guys were great, and the guitar player was just incredible, like the best he had ever seen.

Me: No kidding. Wonder which kid he was?

Fudge: So my teacher told him that I was your daughter, and he was instantly impressed. She thinks that you are some kind of guitar genius.

Me: Um...but I played bass on that gig.

Fudge: Uh-huh.

Rose's Story Part VII...

...the Hospital

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hot Shaved Asian Teens

Apropos this:

As a consolation prize for having to miss the concert, my bud the club owner gave me a copy of Glenn Tilbrook's new album, Transatlantic Ping Pong.

It's a much more down-to-earth production that some of the late-era Squeeze albums. Almost sounds like something I could put together in my basement. Well, if I had a fraction of his talent.

Now I'm really bummed about missing the show. But mainly because I would genuinely have gotten a kick of yelling out a request for "Hot Shaved Asian Teens."

Squeezed Out

I saw a patient this morning who was just squeezed out of her health insurance. She is taking her medication, but has had a cough for a few weeks. She's also lost some weight. I told her I'd like to get a chest X-Ray. She told me, no, that's ok. The cough is getting better. And she wants to lose weight, although she's not really trying.

I explained to her that, although it's unlikely, the combination of unexplained weight loss and cough points to lung cancer unless proven otherwise. She really didn't want an X-Ray.

And it's not just the cost of the X-Ray that concerns her. It's the implication of what the findings will mean to her future insurability. If something is found, not only will she not be able to afford treatment, but she won't be able to get insurance.

She actually broke out into tears at this point. She explained that the simple fact that she was a middle-aged woman with high blood pressure and high cholesterol meant that most insurance companies won't take her. And her employer doesn't offer health benefits. And she makes too much money for Title XIX. And HIRSP, the plan that's supposed to help people who are shut out of commercial insurance, wants $450 a month, which she doesn't have. And that's for a high-deductible plan, which means she pays almost everything out of pocket anyway.

This is nuts. If you work for a big company that offers group health, great, although if you're like me, you're finding that they're taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of your paycheck every month and you're paying more out of pocket. If you're unemployed, or crazy, or an alcoholic or drug addict, you're also in luck, because the government will give you free health care.

But if you're a poor working stiff, who goes to work 9-5 to support your family instead of filing for unemployment, and maybe you work a second job to make ends meet, then you're SOL because the government won't let you in to their programs, the commercial insurance plans won't touch you, and the so-called high-risk plans want your first born child and maybe a limb or two as payment.

Meanwhile, the drug companies are sponsoring the Superbowl.

Rose's Story Part VI...

...The Attic

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On Dreams

3 year-old psychotoddler: I had a dream last night, and you know who was in it?

Me: Who?

PT: You know who?

Me: Who?

PT: YOU KNOW WHOOOOO?????

Me: Er...no.

PT: YOU were in it!

Me: Really? What happened.

PT: Noffing.

Me: Oh. That doesn't sound too interesting.

PT: Yeah.

Me: I had a dream too. Do you know who was in it?

PT: No.

Me: Tom Brokaw! And he let me do an imitation of him. And then he imitated Gerald Ford!

PT: I want milk.

Woah...that grey IS sneaking up on me!

DovBear attempts to name names and ages and as usual gets all the facts wrong.

Dude, I'm still in my 30's. I may look like Captain Kirk in that episode where he gets the aging virus, but I'm still clinging to delusions of adolescence.

It's funny. I was pretty young when I started practicing medicine, and a grew a beard because it made me look older. Now, if I shave the beard, I look older.

Rose's Story Part V...

...The Ghetto is Raided

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Playing to Tens of People!

From BloginDM:

Hillel
Rocks On!

Jewish rock 'n roll groups Reva L'sheva and Rakan performed in front of
30 people on Wednesday, Feb. 9 in the Hillel, Student Union room 206.

Thirty people???



That's 28 more than I played to at my last Hillel gig.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures...

...or The Case of the Poisoned (cream) Puff.

I got in to work this am with just a little tuna sandwich for lunch. I was feeling a bit peckish midmorning when I noticed a bag on top of the filing cabinet in my office. I had a vague recollection of putting it there not too long ago, maybe a week or two. I looked inside, and sure enough there were two cookies.

I took one out and was about to take a bite. Then I had to stop for a moment. How long had the bag been there? 5 days? A week? Maybe two? I couldn't remember exactly. And then I thought, what if something is wrong with the cookies? Maybe they're bad or something. I got a sudden flash of deja vous....

It was last summer. The drug reps had been bringing me lunch from the nursing home. I opened up the bag and was surprised to find a cream puff for dessert. Cream puffs are big in Wisconsin, around the time of the State Fair, but they're not Kosher. Evidently, the cook at the home had decided to whip some up. I ate it, and it was good.

The next week, I received another lunch from the home, and surprise, another cream puff. This one was...ahem...not as...fresh...as the previous one, but still perfectly edible.

Two weeks later, I was somewhat concerned to find another cream puff in my lunch. This one clearly did not look healthy. The cream was dry, the cake stiff, and an odor eminated from it. Still, boys will be boys, and I figured, "what's the worse that can happen?" So I took a bite. And immediately regretted it. My stomach started to heave, I broke out in a sweat, and my eyes started to water. I had to go to the bathroom and wipe off my tongue with damp paper towel.

And so I looked at the cookie. And the cookie looked at me (is that Nietzsche?). And I talked to the cookie.

"You're OK, aren't you? I'm very hungry, and I'm fresh out of Kit Kats. I've got to eat something! You can't be that old, right?"

The cookie did not talk back. I took that as a good sign.

So I took a bite.


It's a guy thing, I think.

Rose's Story Part IV...

...In the Bunker

The Kosher Shpiel part 2

Them: So now what are you eating?

Me: Kit Kat bar.

Them: Kit Kat bar? Why?

Me: Because I had to leave early this morning and I didn't get a chance to make a tuna sandwich, and the only kosher food at the gas station was candy.

Them: You gotta be kidding! Kit Kats are kosher?

Me: Yep.

Them: Why?

Me: Man, that's a deep question. Superficial answer: Because there's nothing non-kosher about them.

Them: How do you know they didn't use pork feet to make it?

Me: Aside from the repulsiveness of that suggestion, I know because it says so on the wrapper. See here?

Them: What, that little "u"?

Me: That's a U with a circle. We call it an "OU". It stands for "Orthodox Union." It means there's someone who inspects the plant to make sure that insect blood isn't being squished into it.

Them: What do you mean by...insect blood?

Me: Oh, didn't you know? Insect blood is a very popular form of red food coloring. But non-kosher.

Them: (putting down their sandwich)...er...really? So the rabbi is like a health inspector?

Me: You see me eating a candy bar for lunch, and yet you ask if the rabbi is there to ensure that the food is healthy? Remember, kashrut has nothing to do with health. It's a wives tale to make people feel better about it. No, he's just there to make sure it's kosher. But I guess it helps that there's someone keeping an eye on things, so more unsavory stuff doesn't get in.

There's actually a lot of kosher products. Here look in the fridge: this ketchup, the cream cheese, these baco bits, the soda.

Them: So is this salad dressing kosher?

Me: (inspecting bottle).....nope.

Them: What about this symbol?

Me: Registered trademark.

Them: Ok, how bout this one?

Me: Copyright.

Them: Well this has to mean kosher--it's a K!

Me: It might. Plain-K isn't a kosher symbol. It's something the manufacturer puts on to make it look kosher. It doesn't belong to a certifying group. I'd have to check with someone on that, like kashrut.com.

Them: I can't believe that all these mainstream food products are inspected by rabbis!

Me: The world is a strange place.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rose's Story Part II...

...The Ghetto of Srodula

Please blogroll this site.

Also, if any of you have any interesting links, images, or online media that pertains to any of the material in the post, please email me at mskiermd@sbcglobal.net and I will try to edit it in. If this is going to be an online document, we might as well take advantage of the internet.

There's going to be an interesting bit coming up. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but a famous author's father shared some space with my mother during the war...although she didn't realize it until she read his book 50 years later.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Kosher Shpiel

Today I gave the Kosher Shpiel. It is a shpiel, or story, that I have had to give several times a year, every year, since I left New York. I've had to give it so many times, I've thought about printing it up and handing it to people. It usually goes like this:

Them: What's that you're eating there?

Me: A tuna sandwich.

Them: Is it "kosher"?

Me: Yep.

Them: So tuna is kosher?

Me: Yep.

Them: I see...so what is "kosher" anyway? Did a Rabbi have to bless it or something?

Me: (Deep breath) OK...there are a couple of basic rules. First of all, the laws of kashrut are in your bible there. They're in the "old Testament".

Second, certain animals are kosher and certain aren't. That's spelled out there too. It has to chew its cud and have split hooves.

Them: Ewwww....I'm eating here! So why is that?

Me: Because it says so.

Them: Isn't there some reason for it? Is it a healthy diet?

Me: You ever seen Jews eat??

Them: Well why can't you eat a pig?

Me: Because it says so. There is no reason given. It's a rule. Like leaving the tags on the pillow.

So aside from the which-animals-are-kosher bit, they also have to be slaughtered in a specific way. No electrocution. Some people say it's more humane. But that's not necessarily the reason. It still fits into the "because it says so" category.

Them: Don't you want to know if there's a reason behind it?

Me: Sure I do. But that's immaterial. Besides, as a parent I know that if I try to explain my rules to my kids, they will always find a compelling argument for breaking them.

So the next part is no mixing meat and milk.

Them: Why would you want to do that?

Me: Cheeseburger.

Them: NO CHEESEBURGER??? Are you sure you want to stay with this religion?

Me: Small price to pay. Anyway, that's a verse too. Something about not cooking a kid in the milk of it's mother.

Them: I told you I'm trying to EAT here. Knock it off with the farm animals. So is that some kind of rule for compassion?

Me: You can look at it that way, I guess. There's also a rule that if you want to take an egg from a nest, you should shoo away the bird so she doesn't see you take her kid. Same thing, I guess. It's not written out that way.

Look, the laws of Kashrut were given without explanation. We're just supposed to do it. You can read into it anyway you want. Maybe if we're careful about what we put in our mouthes, we'll be more careful about what comes out of them.

Them: I'm warning you...So what about the Rabbi? When does he bless stuff?

Me: The only blessing occurs when I eat the food. The Rabbi is there to make sure all the other rules are followed. He's the inspector. If I don't know that a restaurant or a product is under supervision, how do I know that they don't sneak a couple of squid eyes into the soup?

Them: You better run...

Nice Tie

An elderly patient complimented me on my choice of shirt and tie. A nice, olive shirt with a gold and black tie. I thanked him.

But he really shouldn't be giving me the credit for this fashion coup. No, that belongs to the guy at Kohl's Department store who sets up the floor displays. I never buy a tie unless it's physically connected to a shirt. That way, I know that they match. I consider the department store guys to be the ultimate authority on what goes with what.

I'm sure this will generate comments like, "why don't you buy Garanimals," or "why don't you just wear black," or "why do you think any of us want to hear about what a moron you are." Well this is my blog and I can type whatever drivel drifts though my consciousness.

Anyway, for a guy who gets dressed in the dark, it's a miracle that my socks match. No I don't pin them together!

Rose's Story...

Prologue: Pre-War Poland

Part I: Germany invades

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

TiVo is EVIL

Let me preface this by saying that I don't watch much TV. No really, I don't. I don't have much interest in it, and I despise commercials. I'd rather play video games or watch a DVD. When I have time. Which I don't.

The only show I was watching recently was the West Wing, which my wife and I watched together. But she's not usually at home when it's on, so it had been my job to tape it for her. Well, after the umpteenth time that either I forgot to record it, or the kids changed the channel, or the timer reset on the VCR, we decided to get TiVo.

Now, I had been saying for years that for TV to survive it needs to change. My ideal TV situation would be "TV on demand." So if I want to watch episode #82 of Lost in Space (the one with the guy dressed up as a giant carrot), I could just plop down in front of my set, press a few buttons, and have it download and watch it at my convenience.

Well, we don't have that yet. But we do have TiVo. For the two of you out there who don't know what this is, it's basically a little hard-drive connected to your cable box that lets you record TV shows, VCR style. Except that it's actually pretty smart. So you can have it record whole seasons at the push of a button, or search for and record shows of a specific genre, or even have it make suggestions for you.

The first time we booted it up, I had it search for Sci-Fi TV shows, which are never on when I want to watch them. Lo and behold, there were about 2 dozen shows on at different times, like Battlestar Galactica, Enterprise, Buck Rogers. Stuff I hadn't seen in years. So I set it to record.

That's where the problem starts. Within about two weeks I had a long list of shows waiting to be watched. And no time. And...I don't know...it seems like the TiVo is trying to pressure me into watching them. Quickly. There are little icons next to the older recordings demanding attention.

I've also noticed that shows are starting to disappear off the list before I can get to them. I taped a dozen Buck Rogers, but only 2 or 3 are left in the queue.

It's starting to make me feel guilty. It's like I made a commitment to the TiVo, and now I'm letting it down, not living up to my end of the bargain. And it's starting to get annoyed with me. It's sending me threats. I feel, when I pull up the "Now Playing" list, like I've been dragged in to a room with a Loan Shark:

"If you don't start watching these shows, we're gonna have to cut them off, one at a time. You wouldn't want me to do that, would you? I would feel real bad if, say, the second half of the pilot episode of The Bionic Woman were to suddenly...disappear off the hard drive. Capiche?"

I mean, the thing is ruthless! It wouldn't be so bad if I knew, for instance, how much space was actually on the darn drive to begin with. How many shows can I tape before I run out of space? But no, they won't tell. They just randomly erase things. My wife's episode of Body by Gilad is still there from December, but the Giligan's Island movie is gone gone GONE!

Well it's not all bad. I can skip commercials, and I'm getting to watch the new Battlestar Galactica, which is HOT.

And we haven't missed any West Wings since we got it.

Mezuzah Time

The guy came in to install the gas line for the new stove.

Now the furnace doesn't kick in.

Might be time to check those mezuzahs.

Could be worse. Could be raining (cue lightning).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sabbath Mode

So on Sunday my wife is cooking something in the oven, and she hears crackly sounds eminating from within. She opens the door and sees white sparks shooting out from the bottom coil.

We have boiled hot-dogs for dinner.

Now we're in the market for a new oven. Don't talk appliance repair with a housewife. She's determined to get the gas-powered stove she's always dreamed of (hmm...can I rule out sabotage?). So we're off to see the wiz--I mean Sears. The saleswoman is listing off the features of the stove in question (which by the looks of it, is big enough to cook a whole cow).

We stop her when she gets to "Sabbath Mode." That's odd, sounds vaguely Jewish. Well, she doesn't know much about that, but Sabbath mode apparently circumvents the automatic 12hr cutoff which has been a feature of new stoves since 1994, and allows you to keep the burners on for up to 72hrs continuously. My wife and I exchange glances. What an entirely novel, and...useful...feature. For a change.

Not only that, but the electric indicators cease to function when Sabbath Mode is invoked. The oven light doesn't go on when you open the door. And the oven doesn't go on by virtue of the open door dropping the internal temperature.

All stunningly useful for Orthodox Jews. Could it be that someone talked the major appliance manufacturers into designing and implementing a feature in one of the most common household appliances in the world just to satisfy Orthodox Jews? Who can't possibly make up more than 1% of all their customers?

A quick search of the web turned up this. If you think that's interesting, Star-K has started giving out hechshers to various appliances that comply.

I think this is absolutely astounding. What took so long? And what took so long for the Kosher refrigerator to appear? What kind of muscle must have been used to get these companies to buy in to this?

A bigger question:

When can we expect to see a kosher toilet paper dispenser?

Overheard

I went shopping at Sears last night with my wife. We were talking to a saleswoman.

"I like your shoes," she said.

"Thanks. I bought them here."

"I was talking to your wife."

Yarmulke Drift

My wife returned from New York last week, bearing gifts, like some explorer returning from a voyage to the Orient. My gift was a pair of new suede yarmulkes. Right off the bat I noticed that they were a good 2 inches wider in diameter than my current chapeau. This probably wasn't intentional. My yarmulke wasn't available for comparison when she went to the store, seeing as how it was pinned to my head, which happened to be about 900 miles away at the time.

A few years ago, an overly large cap would have ended up in my drawer, next to my huge pair of black-striped tzitzis. This time I just shrugged and put it on. This represents a major change for me.

I first started wearing a skullcap at the age of six, when I enrolled in Yeshiva Dov Revel. At that time, I wore one of those incredibly large and dorky blue felt jobs, the kind that have the name of the Bar-Mitzvah from whence it was procured stamped on the inside. I quickly came to realize that only non-observant types like myself wore those. The frum kids wore either a suede kippah, or had one crocheted for them.

In particular, as we got older, the cool kids would have their "girlfriends" crochet a yarmulke with their name on it. This presented a problem for me, since being a complete space cadet dork precluded the posession of said "girlfriend." So I stuck with the stock variety for a while.

One day, maybe sixth grade, I came home to find a really nice crocheted kippah on my bed, with my name in different colors. My mother told me that her friend's daughter had begun making them, and had made one for me. I was ecstatic! I had graduated into the cool club.

During high school, and most of college, my sister made me a variety of caps. She made a whole set for my first band. We each had different colors, to match our jerseys. They seemed to get progressively smaller. I was always told that there was no particular size requirement (size doesn't matter!), and anyway, it was just a custom, so I took comfort in that.

After graduating med school, I moved to Milwaukee for residency, and joined my wife's shul. This is a warm, incredibly open and welcoming community, but suffice it to say I was the only one wearing a kippah sruga. I think some of them looked at this as a "kiruv" opportunity and tried to pur-suede me to switch to a larger, "darker" yarmulke. At first I was a little offended, but after having various mental patients shout out my first name (which was crocheted into my hat) on the psych ward, I reluctantly switched to a more non-descript black suede cap. Which I've worn for the past 10 years.

I've generally resisted the urge to move back to a big felt yarmulke, which oddly enough seems to be the vogue among frummies (talk about your full circle). I'm happy with the one I've had. It doesn't call too much attention to itself, but if you know what it is, it's easily seen.

But maybe I'm just drifting a little to the right, caught in the intense polarizing current around me. It's hard to hold the center. If drifting to the right means 2 extra inches on the yarmulke, I guess I can live with that.

Rose's Story

I've started work on the transcription of my mother's Shoah interview. I got my computer working again (woo-hoo!) and transfered the VHS tapes onto it. The interview is 210 minutes long. I've also scanned in some pictures. I thought about just summarizing the interview, but the truth is, my mother tells it so well, and really doesn't meander too much, that it's better just to let her tell it in her own words.

I thought about editing it, but the only thing I would consider cutting is the introduction, which deals with life in Poland before the war, and to some extent, this is the most important part. It's not as dramatic as the events during the war, but if you don't have this context, the introduction of the characters, the family and religious life pre-war, how can the rest of it have any meaning? You don't know what you've lost if you don't know what you had.

So it's a little slow going. I've typed up the first 20 minutes. Only 190 to go! But I'll be posting it in chapters anyway. So those of you who want to read it, get settled in for a long one.

Oh, and the site is up now. It's called Rose's Story.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Handwriting part 2

Ok, now it's getting freaky.

Today I was reviewing old records on a new patient, and I found a note that I wrote last year. Then I took another look at it. It wasn't possible. I'd never seen this patient before. But it was definitely my handwriting.

A closer look revealed that the note was actually from a physical therapist. But the handwriting was instantly familiar. The same abbreviations. The same arrow for "increased". The same way of leaving the back of the 9 open so it almost looks like a G. The same way of looping a capital S into the next letter. The same half open a's, slurred m's and r's that look like v's.

This guy connected the same letters and disconnected the same letters as me. The spacing was the same.

It's totally weirding me out. Is there another Fred Flintstone out there who's a successful, if sloppy, physical therapist?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Computus Interruptus

I was hoping to be able to write something interesting for you today. Maybe about how I got the box with my mother's Spielberg testimony and an envelope full of pictures and that I had started work on that project. But instead of finishing off my home movie-DVD transfers I spent 4 hours last night with Dell technical support trying to figure out why my one month old computer went on the fritz.

I came home last night hoping to get to work, only to find that flipping on the computer left me staring at a bunch of corrupted startup screens, followed by the monitor switching off. After much gnashing of teeth, I was able to get it working in safe mode, but rebooting caused it to go back to the black screen. I tried uninstalling the video drivers, and this actually worked, but as soon as the desktop rebooted, it immediately reloaded the old drivers and crashed the next time the drivers reinitialized. And updating to new drivers didn't make a difference.

So when I called Dell tech support, I pretty much knew I was going to end up with them shipping me a new video card which I'd have to install myself. But we still had to go through their entire script, which took me through all the same steps again, plus reinstalling windows, plus unplugging and replugging my card and memory (things have changed since the last time I assembled a computer) and this took almost all night.

So bottom line, they are sending me a new video card, and I can't get any of my projects done until then. But on the positive side, there's very little my kids can do to the computer in the meantime.

Zdravo

Zdravo. That's Serbian for "hello." I try to learn a few words in each of my foreign patient's languages. I should at least be able to say "hello" and "goodbye" to them.

Pretty pathetic considering my mom is fluent in 6 languages. I'm a product of the American Day School system. Oh well.

Chao

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Battlestar Galactica

The new Battlestar Galactica DOESN'T suck!

I know, I know, I'm just as surprised to be writing this as I'm sure you are to be reading it. But it's actually pretty good...

Ok, look. I've gotta come clean with all of you:

I'm a Science Fiction Nerd. No--don't try to stop me--it's true. I'm as geeky as they come. Sure, I'm into bass guitar and I'm married and I shower everyday and use deodorant and whatnot. But I've been into Sci-Fi since I was a little kid who thought "I Dream of Jeannie" was about an astronaut.

I have Space: 1999, UFO, Babylon 5 and all the Star Wars movies on DVD. That's because there isn't any good Sci-Fi on TV anymore. Enterprise is awful. I can feel brain cells dying as I watch that one. Roddenberry is spinning in his grave.

And let's face it, the original Battlestar Galactica wasn't exactly...Shakespeare. As a kid I thought it was a cool special effects extravaganza based on the Jews' trek through the desert. As an adult, I think it's actually some weird, campy Mormon parable.

So my expectations for the new show weren't high. But thanks to the magic of TIVO, I've been watching. And I've been very impressed. It seems like someone had this idea: What if we actually tried to make a GOOD science fiction show? What if we took it seriously? What if we used real plots, real tension, great production values, and a good cast? (The actor cast for Starbuck is a little zaftig; nice to see a real woman on TV for a change).

They've taken the old "starfighter-which-flies-like-a-plane-roaring-over-your-shoulder" bit, which we've had since 1977, and turned it on its head. The space battle scenes look like they've been shot with a steadicam from the window of news chopper watching the battle.

There's actually an ongoing story arc, like in Babylon 5, that continues from week to week. This is good solid TV drama, not just Sci-Fi. And yet, you can still see where they are borrowing episode ideas from the original show. The only problem is that it's a little racy for the kids (probably for me too). But it's a great show that I can actually watch with my wife.

Well, I'm done raving. If you're at all into action or Sci-Fi, check it out.

The Balancing Act

I think I need to keep my links more balanced. I know that "no news is good news" but too much negativity gets me depressed.

I think for every Modern Ultra Orthodox Yeshivish Guy I need one Simple Jew.

Let's try to get a little perspective, people.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Handwriting

I just saw a patient who has the same handwriting as my father. My father has a very distinct handwriting. He prints everything in all capital letters, with the first letter of a sentence slightly larger than the others. Every letter is meticulously formed, evenly spaced, like an engineering diagram. I don't know why he writes that way, because as far as I know he doesn't have any technical training. That's just the way he is.

I can always tell when he's written something. It can be from 40 years ago or two weeks ago. If there's a caption on a picture, or a rating on a record sleeve ("NG" for "no good"), or a date on a letter, it's pretty obvious who wrote it.

I, on the other hand, inherited my mother's handwriting, which allows me to write fairly quickly, but generally requires a team of Egyptologists to decipher. Maybe the handwriting experts are right. Your writing does say something about you. My father: slow, deliberate, precise. Me: quick, sloppy, imprecise.

Anyway, this patient handed me a notecard with the names of his medications on it and I handed it back to him. Then I grabbed it back and did a double take. It was bizarre. Exactly like my Dad's. I told him this. I don't know if he was flattered or horrified. I hope it was the former.

Could Be Worse...

So far so good. Actually, I'm kind of getting a kick out of being Superdad.

After the boys went off to school yesterday, I got the PT dressed. Only took me about 10 minutes. I imagine the experience is similar to trying to put a 3 piece suit on a dog.

Then I took her and her 8 year old sister out for coffee and doughnuts. Well, I had the coffee, and they had the doughnuts.

I have this mechanism to keep up with the mess. I clean a dish as soon as I use it. Done frying? Into the sink and wash the pan. You done with that bowl? Go wash it. Everybody had some ketchup? Back in the fridge. That way I'm not faced with piles of dishes in the sink and a mess on the table.

Later that day I treated the whole family to my world famous grilled burgers. I tried to surprise them, but when the PT came up from the basement, waving her hands around and asked, "Where is all the smoke coming from," it pretty much gave it away.

At night the whole family watched "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." I love that film. It's a great family flick. Lenscap.

This morning was the first in about 2 weeks where I didn't wake up with neck pain.

The wife returns tomorrow.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

While the Cat's Away...

...the mouse has to keep all the plates spinning.

So, while my wife and oldest daughter are in New York interviewing at Stern College, eating at Kosher restaurants, and generally finding ways to spend money, I'm at home with the rest of the kids trying to keep it all together.

Today's tasks:

Get the PT to the bathroom, dressed, fed, teeth and hair brushed
Make breakfast
Clean up breakfast
Do dishes
Start Laundry
Take the kids to see the greatgrandparents at the Home
Buy food for lunch
Get home before the boys get back from school
Make lunch
Clean up lunch
More dishes
More laundry
Gotta find time to have a real hissy-fit about why I'm doing all the work
Get the big boy from Yeshiva
Yell at him after he crashes the home network
Make dinner
Set the table and serve dinner
Clean up Dinner
Dishes
PT needs a bath
Make sure there's something for tomorrow's lunches
Blog about what a pain in the butt this is
Get a brag call from my wife about Benji's Pizza/Chosen Garden/The Shaitel Macher from Notre Dame
Drive the boy back to Yeshiva
More laundrey
Go to bed
Rinse
Repeat if desired...

Do it all tomorrow AND get to work and make rounds...

Friday, February 04, 2005

Rafi Learns to Speak

Our first child was fairly precocious. She could speak in full sentences when she was one. Our first son wasn't quite as fast; he was communicating by 18 months.

When our third child hit 2 years of age, and still hadn't uttered a single intelligible word, we got scared. We had his hearing tested. We began speech therapy. We enrolled him in Easter Seals.

He seemed to understand everything we said. And he was extremely expressive. He would utter entire sentences that sounded like this:

"Ah uh, eh aah ah UH ah." No consonants. No "mama." No "baba." He did a lot of gesturing. And we, as parents, filled in the gaps. If he would pass a mirror and point at his pajamas and say, "Ah uh," we would say "paJAmas."

As he approached the age of 3, one of the teachers at Easter Seals suggested we teach him sign language. While this initially horrified me, I soon realized that we had little choice if we were to get him to communicate. My wife took a course and we started using signs.

And then, something extraordinary happened. Almost as if a key had been turned, he began to speak. At first, verbalizing with the signs, then eventually abandoning them. Something must have clicked in his brain. He realized that he actually could use his mouth and voice to talk to us.

As he began to pick up more verbal skills, we could tell where the deficiencies were. At first he could only do vowels and m or n sounds. Then came b and eventually t. The guttural sounds took much longer. It was quite a while before he could do a g or a k. But he began using substitutions, like too-ie for cookie. That was a big jump for him.

A few years later, my wife edited together some video footage chronicalling his metamorphosis. I found it recently and transferred it to the computer. If you have kids, you probably have similar footage of your own. But I think she did a good job showing the progression. If you look at the early footage, you'll catch him using the sign for mother. You'll also notice the absence of guttural sounds on all but the very end of the sequence.

This video covers the period of his life from a little over 2 to 3 1/2 years of age.



Post Script: Rafi's 10 years older and had a great Bar Mitzvah where he read the entire Torah Parsha, and has just been accepted into a great High School. He has the clearest speech of all my kids.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fear and Loathing in New York

You can add another one to the list:

The Barber of Seville
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Phantom of the Opera
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Shaitel Lady of Far Rockaway

My wife is going to New York next week.
Be very afraid...