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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why I don't own a dog

I started typing a profound post about family and then thought the better of it. So instead I'm posting this joke that someone emailed to me:

Morty visits Dr. Saul, the veterinarian, and says, "My dog, has a problem."

Dr. Saul says, "So tell me about the dog and the problem."

"It's a Jewish dog. His name is Irving and he can talk," says Morty.

"He can talk?" the doubting doctor asks.

"Watch this!" Morty points to the dog and commands: "Irving, Fetch!"

Irving, the dog, begins to walk toward the door, then turns around and says, "So why are you talking to me like that? You always order me around like I'm nothing. And you only call me when you want something. And then you make me sleep on the floor, with my arthritis. You give me this fahkahkta food with all the salt and fat, and you tell me it's a special diet. It tastes like dreck! YOU should eat it yourself! And do you ever take me for a decent walk? NO, it's out of the house, a short pish, and right back home. Maybe if I could stretch out a little, the sciatica wouldn't kill me so much! I should roll over and play dead for real for all you care!"

Dr. Saul is amazed "This is remarkable! What could be the problem?"

Morty says, "He has a hearing problem! I said 'Fetch', not 'Kvetch.' "

3 days without coffee...

...and I'm doing just fine, thank you. Ignore that dragging sound you hear when I walk by. It is most definitely NOT my butt. Probably.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pesach with PT

I don't have anything really profound or interesting to say about Passover, so I'll just leave you with a few snapshots of Pesach with the PT clan:

While searching for Chametz on Thursday night, we decided to give the psychotoddler the task of carrying around the big wooden spoon, while her 8 year-old sister carried the feather. Then the rest of us spread out in SWAT-like fashion to search the house with candle or high-powered-flashlight-with-dying-battery. Upon discovering a piece of bagel shrewdley hidden on a stool by my son, the PT said, "Hey, that used to be my bagel!" Then we told her to use her spoon to scoop it up. "What??!!" Like carrying around a big wooden spoon and a feather is perfectly normal, but actually using it is absurd (well, she may have a point there).

***
My family is well trained when it comes to picking out wine for me: "CREAM MA-LA-GA." (Hey that would be a good blog name. Or rock band name). So my wife brought a crate-full this year. Still, our guests the first night didn't know any better, so they brought some fancy-shmancy white wine. I don't know, cabernet, or chardonnay, or some other frenchie word. And a cork-top, no less! The nerve! So we felt "obligated" to try it. The first blessing, I sat down, reclined, and promply poured half the cup into my lap. After my wife gave me a look that said Don't tell me you just spilled wine on your brand new suit, I quickly recovered with a "hey, at least it was a dry wine."
***
The Haggadah is great. All you do is follow it, and you can't go wrong. And every year I still notice things that I hadn't picked up on before, like the fact that Moshe is mentioned only once in the whole service. Also I noticed that the parts of the Haggadah which are taken from the morning prayer service seem to be in Nussach Ashkenaz, and as far as I can tell, there's only one liturgy for the Haggadah, unlike the Siddur. So how do those who daven Sfard reconcile this? I kept trying to add back in the extra words.
***
After getting up to wash, I noticed that my oldest son had stolen the Afikoman. Or so he thought. Actually, he had stolen the middle matzoh. The Afikomen was still there. So I took it and hid it myself. And after Pesach I'm buying myself some Lego.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'm a Mutt



Your Linguistic Profile:



40% Yankee

35% General American English

15% Dixie

10% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern


I saw this over at Z's place. I had to give it a try since I've blogged about regional accents before. Plus I really have no idear how to say "router", which is really embarrassing when I tawk to my IT guy.

(Dixie??!!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I find your lack of faith disturbing...

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So now you're scratching your heads, trying to figure out how the mind of this Psycho Toddler works. The last post was this angst-ridden plea for wisdom in raising my children on the proper path, and here's a cell from Star Wars. And here we are, days away from Passover.

Well good luck trying to figure it out! You'll get no help from me! Just kidding. I posted this picture because I was Pesach-cleaning. And part of my job is to go through the desk in the kitchen and thin out the piles of paper that have been accumulating all year. And go through the mail that my wife puts there that I never bother to look at. Like an invoice from Computer Geek World Magazine from 1997. And my driver's license renewal form. Usually I get 2/3 of the way down, toss everything out, and then I'm left with stuff that I've kept there year after year. Like my mother's living will. And some transparencies from the Rock of Sages cover shoot.

Or this picture of General Motti from Star Wars. I picked this up in 1999 when I first attended Gen-Con here in Milwaukee. This is a mega-dweeb convention based primarily around Dungeons and Dragons. Over the years it has grown to include not only role playing games, but also SciFi and Fantasy art, movie paraphernalia, and computer games.

At the time, I took my two oldest kids, then 10 and 9. We didn't go to play role-playing games. Mostly to walk around and look at all the weird items and people and soak up the atmosphere. And also to try out some cool computer games that were in development, like the Babylon 5 game that I was supposed to beta test but which was cancelled by Sierra because they thought it wouldn't make any money even though it was shaping up to be the best friggen space game ever but I'm not bitter NO I'M NOT BITT--

Ahem.

Anyway, it was a fun experience. And if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a total D&D and Sci Fi nerd, so I really got into it. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy sitting at a table, alone. And instantly I knew who he was. Not because he was some great actor, or had been in a lot of films, or even any recent films. No, I knew this guy like he was a member of my family. Because although we had never met, I had seen this guy literally hundreds of times before.

It was General Motti. No, of course I didn't know his real name. In fact, I still don't. I have to squint real hard at his autograph to figure it out, and then I'll probably have to go to IMDB to spell it. I couldn't believe no one was talking to him. I sidled right up to him and started to shmooze. Of course, as soon as I got close, I knew I was right, because he had a stack of these pictures right next to him. I wasn't nervous at all. I introduced myself, told him I was a big fan of his work, having also seen him in that Space: 1999 episode where he got eaten by that monster. He seemed relieved to have someone to talk to. I asked about what he was up to. He told me that he had been living in England for, oh the last 30 years, and was doing some playwrighting and directing and such. And of course public appearances and autograph signing.

It was about at this point that my two kids turned up. I waved them over. "Look who's here. It's General Motti!" They stared at him. "You know, from Star Wars? 'Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader...'" They still stared. I affected a choking pantomime. "I find your lack of faith disturbing..." They obviously recognized him, since no child of mine has reached the age of 2 without seeing Star Wars at least a dozen times.

General Motti tried to break the ice by asking them their names. Then they both looked at me with that he's talking to us expression. I gave up on the kids. I got up to go, and he signed the picture above and gave it to me. I thanked him profusely. Then he told me it would be twenty bucks. I guess I should have anticipated that.

I told him that I'd love to pay him, but I didn't think my wife would react well to my coming home with a $20 picture of General Motti. I tried to give it back. He seemed to have some sympathy for my plight. "Aw, just keep it."

I went back to Gen Con a few years after that. Never saw him again.

Happy Pesach everyone. The Matza will be with you. Always.

S'iz Shver Tzu Zein a Yid

I've been reading through some engrossing and extremely well-written posts over at Mirty's blog about her estrangement from Orthodox Judaism. I commented over there that she is scaring the crap out of me. And it's not just because I like to say crap (thank you Strong Bad). It's because I really understand where she's coming from. It's emblematic of what is wrong with Orthodoxy. How is it that we can turn off such bright, talented and creative people? Why are there so many old men in the shul every day, while their children and grandchildren have intermarried and want nothing to do with the faith that was transmitted, father-to-son, for 3000 years? Why do we hear so often about Baale Tshuva, returnees to Judaism, whose grandparents came from Orthodox European homes, but whose parents were not instilled with a love of Judaism? What have we been doing wrong?

I know. I was not raised in an Orthodox household, but I've been surrounded by Orthodox Jews my entire life. It boils down to this one phrase: S'iz shver tzu zein a Yid. It's hard to be a Jew. At no time is this more evident than before Passover, when our wives and mothers krechtz about how much work this holiday is. How much of a pain in the butt it is. How happy they'll be when it's over. What's a child to think? He/she has some time off from school, and it's all spent working. Scrubbing, cleaning, shlepping. Work work work. S'iz shver tzu zein a Yid. Who needs it? What's the message we're sending the next generation?

I'm Orthodox now. It took me a while to get here. It may not have been always for the right reasons. But now that I'm here I'm convinced it's the right path for me and my family. But I worry that we're sending the wrong message to our children. Orthodoxy isn't a negative form of Judaism. It's not all "you can't do this/eat this/have this/watch this." It's not about intolerance and bigotry and poor grammar and hygeine. It's NOT ABOUT UNIFORMS!

I don't think Mirty was shown the positive side of being an Orthodox Jew. When she needed help, comfort, guidance, there was no one there for her. And she turned elsewhere for her needs. She sounds like she's turned around and is looking back towards the direction from which she came. I'm encouraged by that. But I'm also scared. Not for Mirty. I think she'll be fine. I'm scared for my children, and the children I see around me. I want to be a good role model for them. I want them to say, "When I grow up, I want to be just like my Abba. I want to spend shabbos with my family." I know I have a lot of work to do. S'iz shver zol zein a Tatte.

Mental Knee Disease

I'm back to my goofy transcriptionist. Reading through some notes that came back today, I see one of my patients has "mental knee disease". I think what I really said was "tricompartmental knee disease." But I like mental knee disease better. I'm going to try to publish a paper on that. See if I can get my name attached to the syndrome.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tea Shmea

Mrs. Balabusta reports on the price of butter in Wisconsin.

The Passing of the Baton

A large envelope from Yeshiva University arrived in the mail yesterday. My daughter, who has just been accepted for early admission, opened it, assuming it was for her. It was actually for me. Enclosed were my promissary notes, originally signed in 1983. My student loans are officially paid off.

Might as well save the envelope.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Jerusalem Post

I've got press!

Ben Jacobson of the Jerusalem Post writes a pretty good and mostly accurate review of the band (really only the first word is wrong).

Best album review of a non-album I've had yet.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Lulliby

A few years ago, a patient came into my office carrying a guitar. He told me that I had saved his life by diagnosing a brain aneurysm, and he knew that I was a musician, and he had this old guitar sitting around his house for the past 20 years, and no one played it, and, well, here it is.

I looked at him and thanked him and told him there was no way I could accept this kind of gift from him. He was very insistant. I opened the case and plucked a few chords. It was a beautiful Alvarez guitar. He said it was a crime for such a beautiful instrument to go unplayed. I told him I would be happy to borrow it for a while.

He seemed very pleased at that. Then he told me I could give it back once I had used it to compose a lulliby. I put the guitar back in the case. In all my years as a musician, I don't recall being commissioned to write a specific type of song before. But he was very serious about this. This guitar, he told me, was meant to play a lulliby.

For several weeks I played the guitar. Very little came to me. Then one night it just popped into my head. I went down into the basement and recorded the song. I'm not much for lyrics, so I used some "placeholder" words. I've never replaced them. If you're having trouble sleeping, take a listen to this. There's also a nice acoustic bass in there.

I returned the guitar to the patient the next day, along with a CD. I don't know if he liked the song. We've never spoken about it in the years since then.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Extreme Kiruv

I don't know if anyone else linked to this, so I apologise in advance. My daughter sent me this link. Watch the video:

Extreme Kiruv

Shatnez

It is a little-known fact that according to Jewish law, even your clothes have to be "kosher." I don't know why it's little-known. Unlike kashrut, the laws of shatnez aren't hinted at or requiring of Talmudical gymnastics. It's written right there in your Bible: "You shall not wear shatnez, wool and linen together" (Deut. 22:11). There's no reasoning given for this. It seems to be one of those laws that prohibits unlike kinds from being used together. You know, like using a ram and a cow to plow, or wearing one black sock and one blue sock, or mixing the Hellman's with the Miracle Whip...I could go on ad nauseum.

Here's my dark little secret: I've never had my clothes checked for shatnez before. Sure, I've checked the "ingredients," but I've never had them formally inspected. I've always felt a little bad about it. The reason was that I could never figure out exactly how to do it. The logistics didn't really work for me. Trying to find a way to get a suit off to some mystical "shatnez lab" sometime between purchase and alterations seemed impractical. And I was too embarrassed to ask anyone, seeing as how that would spill the beans on how I hadn't done it up to now. Er...like I just did here. But I'm sure by now nothing surprises you about me. Whereas in my community, people still see me as an upstanding citizen (snort).

Anyway, this changed recently, since one of the local kollel guys hung up his shatnez-checking shingle. I thought, "great! I can finally do this right!" So we heard about a new "fashion superstore" which had just opened, and my wife took me and my 15 year-old son out to buy new suits. She came along as a sort of "international observer," ostensibly to make sure we didn't buy anything that made us look stupid. In reality, she kept trying to steer me into buying this metallic, emerald-green suit that most likely would have gotten me picked up for pimping. I was able to resist and come up with something more conservative.

If you ever want to feel bad about your body, go to one of these superstores to find an off-the-rack suit. I remember, a week before my wedding, going down to Syms and buying a black suit off-the-rack. No more. Now I have to choose between buying something that's a little too small and letting it out, or a little too-big and taking it in. Anything with the word "atheletic" in it is right out. Actually, if they could come up with a "non-atheletic" or "couch-potato" fit I think there'd be a big market. But I digress. (My skinny-as-a-rail son bought one off-the-rack). She also brought over the store Tie-Nazi to make sure that I picked out the appropriate non-matching tie and shirt.

Armed with our ill-fitting suits, we went over to the shatnez tester and dropped them off. 30 minutes later, they were pronounced kosher. I asked him what to do about the alterations. He recommended a local guy who has been doing work for the Jewish community, not-named Jimmy Woo. Fortunately, he works out of his basement, so I was able to get in for a fitting at 7pm on a Sunday night, before having to drive my son back to Yeshiva.

We went down into his basement. There were huge posters of Hong Kong everywhere, which I was able to correctly identify only thanks to the Hong Kong track in Gran Turismo 4 (again proving the value of video games). Jimmy Woo had a tendency to speak a little quickly, so the effect was like having a conversation over a digital cell phone. A little gap to process what he was saying before we replied. He kept saying things like, "You want me shorten the sleeves? I know you guys like to save money." Then asked if I knew all the other Jews in the community. But he tried to do that by showing me their clothes. "You know this woman (shows me dress)? She comes in all the time." "How about this man (shows me pair of pants)?" "Oh, yes, I sit next to him. Yes I remember that stain." Nice guy, if a little stereo-typical. My son was entertained.

I feel pretty good about myself now. This was one area of deficiency for me, and it turned out to be pretty painless. Going into Pesach, I can now feel good and look good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Plumbing

I don't usually do a lot of link posts. Must be a slow blog cycle.

Anyway, Anne over at Inland Empress writes an intriguing entry about her plumbing problems, and opens with a connection to the prayer Asher Yatzar.

It made me think about how important plumbing is to the world. I spend all day trying to make sure that parts of my patients that are supposed to be open remain so, ditto the parts that are supposed to stay closed.

Great Advice

My old friend David over at Treppenwitz gives some excellent advice about how to create a successful blog.

I might add that I have violated every one of his no-no's and yet look at how successful Psychotoddler has become!!

Ha!

whatever

How are you?

I have to learn to stop asking that question. People keep trying to answer me.

Franz Ferdinand

This is my new favorite band. I got turned on to their music after listening to one of their songs playing in the background while I was racing in Burnout 3. I initially thought it was some long-lost David Bowie song. When I found out it was this Euro-pop band, I was intrigued. I got their CD. I just love their sound. Very simple arrangements; in fact, the bass player didn't learn to play until after he joined the band (his style is embarrassingly like mine). In addition to Bowie, they seem to channel the Doors, Adam Ant, The Cure and Depeche Mode, minus all the synths. For the most part it's simple guitar/bass punk/disco. The beats are infectious.

To be honest, this stuff sounds very Jewish to me. I know this goes against everything I have ever said or written about Jewish Music. I think this just proves to me the extent to which Euro-Disco has permeated the Jewish Music establishment. When I hear a descending minor disco bassline, I think Avraham Fried now instead of Blondie.

The lyrics have really been throwing me. There's one song that starts off like a typical disco/hora number, but the lyrics make no sense to me. I finally googled them. You have to read this to make sense out of it.

Who says Rock'n'roll is a waste of time?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Look me in the eye

I was having a conversation with a friend who works in a public school but wears his Yarmulke. He was dismayed by the many negative comments it generated. Knowing him personally, I have no doubt that this is more of a statement about the people making the comments than his behavior.

It made me think of something. Sometimes, being a Jew who wears a Yarmulke to work is like being a woman with a nice rack. You like to think that people are listening to you, respect you, and have confidence in your ability as a professional.

But really all they see is the Yarmulke.

Cleveland Rocks

This is one of those posts that will be of no interest to those of you who have lived your whole lives on either the east or left coasts. (I know. I was one of you.) Jack's been on a campaign against Cleveland for some unknown reason. Something to do with Monkeys. I don't pretend to understand his twisted little mind.

I first visited Cleveland about 3 years ago. Due to the growing size of my family, and the diminishing size of my paycheck, we decided that we could no longer afford to take our annual pilgrimage to New York by airplane. I volunteered to drive the 3 older kids while my wife flew with the younger ones (let's just say I got the better end of the deal).

I love to drive. But I hate, absolutely HATE, all the packing, preparing and shlepping that goes along with it. I don't want to make 30 tuna sandwiches before I leave. I want to be free. Just get in the car and drive. Live off the land. But being a kosher traveller makes this difficult. The compromise is to try to find kosher food on the road. Fortunately, Cleveland is exactly halfway between Milwaukee and Queens. So prior to the trip, I did an internet search for kosher restaurants in Cleveland, and found 3 or 4. Then, armed with a AAA triptik and some computer printouts, my 3 older kids and I hit the road.

Eight hours later we arrived in Cleveland. The 4 of us, sweaty, tired, in shorts and sandals, stopped at the main restaurant, Abba's. We didn't have a reservation. They turned us away. Across the street there was a really fancy place called "Contempo Cuisine." Everyone in the joint was in a suit and dress. We looked like we had emerged from the desert. They took pity on us and seated us in a booth at the back.

Best darn road food I've ever had. Black forrest cake! $100 for four people!

My wife has never let me do the drive alone since then.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Kol Ha-Ipanema

Now that I have replaced my stolen car stereo with one that plays MP3s, I decided to put together an actual MP3 disk. I've come surprisingly late to the MP3 party. Although I've been making and posting MP3s pretty much since they were invented, I've never really listened to them. That's because I've finally come to the realization that I only listen to music in my car. I don't listen at work, I don't sit around and listen at home, and I can't eat when there's music playing (must be why I hate weddings). I had thought about getting an iPod, but then the logistics come into play. Where do I put it? I don't want another gadget on my Bat-utility belt. I'm afraid I'll leave it somewhere (oh, to be manly enough to carry a purse or "European carryall" unselfconsciously). And I don't want to fiddle with FM transmitters and other nonsense. So the CD/MP3 player is a good compromise for me.

So I went downstairs to my old computer, where the .wav files for all my albums are stored, and I made MP3s out of the lot of them. So now, instead of juggling 10-15 CDs with studio, live, bootlegs, demos, etc, I have one CD with 700mb worth of Moshe Skier Music. I call it "Skier Songs". There are many versions of the same song, but no copies. 5 or 6 Hafachtas. That sort of thing.

Interestingly, I didn't even listen to this stuff when I made the MP3s. So I'm hearing alot of this for the first time in many years. I've got stuff going back to 1985, plus tons of concert bootlegs from the late 90's and early 00's. To be honest, most of it is crap. But there are a few gems in there.

For example, I did a show in 2001 at the Sherman Perk, a coffee house down the street from me. It's a very...intimate environment, so we toned down the music quite a bit. For this show, we didn't just play the heavy metal on "2". We changed the arrangements. Heres one: A version of Kol Haolam Kulo (The world is a narrow bridge) done with a twist. Compare it to the version at The Note in 2004. Enjoy. Just make sure you get off when it stops on your floor. Here's another one.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Blue Book

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I did a Kelly Blue Book lookup for my '94 Prizm. I need the number for a financial aid form.

$1215

I guess they don't figure in sentimental value.
I'm thinking about doing a series of posts on cars I have owned, and asking readers to comment on their own. Like my first Jalopy, my first new car, etc. Any thoughts?


UPDATE:

I just unlocked the closest thing to my beloved Geo in Gran Turismo 4:

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This is an in-game "photo" of a Toyota Corolla Levin. I showed it to my son as I cruised down the streets of Tokyo. He was not impressed.

"I've never seen your car go 104 miles per hour."

That, son, is why G-d invented video games.

It's hard to describe this crap

If you're having difficulty describing your crap, might I suggest this handy little chart that a drug rep handed me today.

I tried to give it back to her, telling her that it was the most disgusting thing anyone had ever handed me, but then I thought it might be good for a few laughs.

My partner thought the same, since he came running into my office waving his chart around in the air.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Time to Kvell

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My daughter was just accepted for early admission to Stern College. I knew she could do it.

Now, to figure out how to pay for it...

The Pope and The Jews

I am a complete moron and unfit to comment on this issue. There's no debating that.

My Father-in-law, on the other hand, is a certified Super-Genius. His commentary is here.

The Big Lebowski



The Big Lebowski is now residing on my TiVo drive. I absolutely love this film. There is not a single character in it who is not completely hilarious. The Dude reminds me of someone...I'm not quite sure who. Maybe he just reminds me of Jeff Bridges. But the best character in the film is John Goodman's Walter. This screw-up-Vietnam-vet-convert-to-Judaism-whose-wife-divorced-him-anyway-but-remains-Sabbath-observant would fit in perfectly in my neighborhood: ("Tell that kraut I don't roll on Saturday! Shomer-frikken'-Shabbos!")

I'd like to actually recommend this film to you but I can't really, because it is so chock full of profanity and (presumably) nudity that nice Jewish Boys and Girls(TM) should not see it. Unless you can get the version I TiVo'd, edited for television. It seems that every single line of dialogue was re-recorded for this version, if you get my drift. And I'm not sure if Julianne Moore actually wears that fur coat in the unedited version. Thank G-d for network censors.

On the other hand, I also TiVo'd The Commitments, and all the cuss words are intact: "Ai! Ginjah! Shut the fook up!"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes

Mrs. PT baked some delicious cup cakes yesterday. My middle son, always thinking of others, decided to pack some for his older brother, who is at Yeshiva. I drove him up there last night, because he has a learning partner there anyway. When he got out of the car, he noticed that he had been sitting on the cupcakes, a little.

We looked at each other. "Don't tell your brother you sat on his cupcakes," I told him. "Until after he eats them." We both started giggling.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Public Service Announcement

(Note: This is not about YOU specifically.)

If you are identifiably Orthodox and you go out in public, please Please PLEASE behave yourself! Don't be rude, obnoxious, loud...don't cut ahead in line or refuse to pay your bills...don't let your kids run all over the place and make noise...and don't act like the world owes you something for being frum!

Whether you like it or not the entire Jewish nation is being judged by YOUR behavior, so you have a responsibility to be a good ambassador! Especially if you live someplace where they don't see a lot of Orthodox Jews.

So if you can't handle it, then do us all a favor and take off the Yarmulke!

That is all.

Memory Foam

After listening to my whining about my sore neck, back, and various other orthopedic complaints, my wife was good enough to purchase for me a pillow with "memory foam." Which, according to my 8 year old, was made with the latest pillow technology available, and "developed by NASA and...Sweden. Or something."

The first thing I noticed when I took it out of the box was that it smelled. The second thing I noticed was a note which basically said, "Don't worry: It's supposed to smell like that." It's a very familiar smell, musty. Smells like it was in your grandmother's linen closet for about 50 years. The note said to "air it out" for 24 hours and it should be fine.

Well, I aired it out for 48 hours and it still smelled, but for the promise of a good night's rest and a pain-free neck I wasn't about to pick nits. I was able to ignore the smell after a while. It felt like a lumpy pillow.

Did it work? Well, I tossed and turned all night, but I can't say for sure that this was because of the pillow. All I can say is, I didn't have a sore neck when I went to sleep, but I woke up with one. Maybe I need a "memory mattress" to go with my memory pillow. Or a new neck.