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Friday, December 29, 2006

Call Schedule Sudoku

A chance meeting in the hospital hallway:

Mark: Hey, Jeff.

Jeff: Hey, Mark.

Mark: Do you know who's on call this weekend?

Jeff: I guess it's not you?

Mark: No...and I guess that means it's not you?

Jeff: No. What about Bob?

Mark: No...Bob is on vacation this week.

Jeff: And it can't be Rob, because he was on last week.

Mark: So it has to be Dave!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

To Beta or Not To Beta

That is the question.

Now that Blogger is supposedly "out of beta" for the new version, it keeps trying to get me to convert to the dark side new version. I have to say, I did make a new blog (good luck trying to find it) and used the beta, and liked the new toys, like the sidebar customizer. But I have otherwise not been too impressed with the new version (why does it keep asking me if I want to see the non-secure data?) and it seems unstable to me.

Of course, as an added incentive, "old Blogger" seems to have some new quirks, like the new feature that quits your browser altogether when you try to add a picture to a post you're working on (grrrrr).

So what do you guys think? Switch or not? And will it totally screw up my sidebar links?

Mug Shots

I'm almost afraid to type this, but right now the Mrs and I are working on a scheme to bring the PT Clan to Israel this summer. It's almost like an impossible dream. The "Family Trip of a Lifetime." Literally. There may be no other time to do this. The PT is just about old enough to make the trip and not whine continuously, none of the older ones are married yet, and we have only one kid in college. Another year and we'll have two, and it will be too cost-prohibitive. Even now we cannot afford it. I will have to figure out a way to make the Geo last at least one more year.

But I think this is SO important. There are so many things we want to do. I want the kids to see their Israeli cousins and their kids while they are still...kids, y'know? I want to show them the beauty of their homeland. I don't mean to take anything away from the greatness of American Orthodox Jewish Life, but you can't really understand what it is to be a Jew if you haven't spent time in Israel.

So we're going to go. Period. We'll somehow make it work. There are a bunch of steps we have to take. We'll need to find an apartment. We'll need to book tickets. I have to find someone to cover my patients. I have no idea how we'll pay for it.

But first, we need Passports. With the exception of our little trip to Canada last year, none of the PT kids have ever left the country. So we're getting them Passports. Which means....mug shots. In the old days that required a trip to the AAA or DMV or someplace official, but we live in the digital age. So I lined 'em up and shot 'em.

They say you're not supposed to digitally edit your photos when you submit them, but I took the liberty of removing the Kool-Aid stain from the corners of The PT's mouth in the above photo.

At some point I'd like to write about my previous four trips to Israel. They were...interesting.

Detour (or, Rockford is Lovely This Time of Year)

When Adam Davis of Kfarcenter asked me to play Knishmas this year, he gave me a choice of three time slots, and I chose the first one, I'll admit, for purely selfish reasons: I wanted to get on and off stage quickly, and not have to drive back to Milwaukee at 3 in the morning. We're all a bunch of old men, I told him, and need our sleep. Let the young whipper snappers run and jump around the stage in the wee hours. Us old guys need to be in bed before Midnight.

So, that's what we did. And the show was great, by the way. We had a sax player with us for the first time and there were several moments when the audience started cheering mid-song after a particularly intense solo. There was a professional videographer there so I hope to get you some video at some point.

After the show, the sax player and I got in my car and began the drive home, about 90 miles, so maybe 90 minutes at most. I should mention that we got lost on the way down from Milwaukee. Yes, I've made this trip hundreds of times. But there's been a major construction project going on the Marquette Interchange up here and all the on and off ramps have been closing and opening and generally changing almost daily.

And then you get on these temporary ramps that swoop and curl around the construction zones like those old Hot Wheels (TM) tracks I used to play with as a kid. Really quite cool actually, when not terrifying. Anyway, apparently the one that used to go South towards Chicago now goes North towards Green Bay. And it took us about 10 minutes to get off and turn around.

Then we headed down towards Chicago, and I took my wife's advice and used 294 instead of the Edens to reach I-90, the Kennedy, which ran past the Club. We got there without incident.

So, after the gig, we got in the car and drove to the Kennedy, figuring to reverse our route. I could have sworn that I was paying attention to signs indicating turn-offs to I-94 and Milwaukee, but apparently, either the signs aren't there (there is construction down there too) or I just missed them.

Because after about 10 minutes I realized that nothing looked familiar. And there weren't any more exits. And we were still on I-90, which we should have left when we got to 294. Bryan, the sax player, took the map out of my glove compartment and gave me the bad news: we were on the way to Rockford, Il.

Now, I have nothing against Rockford. In fact, my wife's family comes from Rockford, but I really thought it would have been much better to try to tour the city in the daylight. At night, there's not much to see. So I tried to get off the highway. Unfortunately, there were no exits for about 50 miles. For some reason, this really irritated me. I started to talk like my mother.

"What kind person makes a highway with no exits?? Jerk! Have you ever heard of such a thing??"

Well there was an exit, eventually, a "Belvedere Oasis", but it was about 2 miles from Rockford, and if we just stayed on I-90, eventually, it would curve up towards Wisconsin again. So that's what we did.

We drove through Rockford at night. It was kind of like a yellow, glowing ozone cloud.

"Well, Rockford is everything I thought it would be," Bryan said.

"Yup." I replied. And kept my eyes peeled for the turn-off to I-43 at Beloit.

Here's the detour route. It's not hard to figure out how much shorter it would have been had we gone straight North:

For perspective, here's a Google Sattelite map:

And for even more perspective on our journey, here's a zoomed out map:

Grand total of 270 miles added to the Geo last night. Which wouldn't have been that bad, except that the old girl's not what she used to be. In the category of "strange things that break on old cars", my rear-view mirror broke while I was adjusting it to get the glare of some idjit pickup driver's brights out of my eyes. Well, at least the new tires were a blessing.

We got home at 12:40. But hey, we got to bypass the Marquette Interchange!

Ho Ho Ho!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The 2006 Christmahannukwanzakah Online Holiday Concert!

Come on! You know you want to go!

Update: Believe it or not, I found this link through Neil's concert post: It's a video from fellow Midwestern J-Rockers Even Shesiyah! Talk about your small blogosphere!

Sunday, December 17, 2006



And for your listening pleasure, I have recorded a new version of the olde tyme Channuka classic, Sevivon, for Neil Kramer's upcoming Christmahannukawanzaka Holiday Concert Program.

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Tachanun

I may have let it slip in the pages of this blog over the past few years that I daven (pray) at an early minyan (prayer group) that ostensibly starts at 5:45 every morning. You may even recall that after years of being, well shall we say...less than dedicated...to showing up consistently and on time, I rededicated myself in full force after the death of my father this spring. That's because one of my obligations as a mourner is to say the Kaddish and lead the davening every day.

One of the things I love about this minyan, aside from the fact that it is slightly faster than the other minyanim, is the cast of characters. Perhaps my favorite is the Rabbi who stands in the back of the room and implores me, every day, to skip tachanun.

Tachanun is a part of the service which means supplication and it is not infrequently skipped for various legitimate and some questionable reasons. There are different customs. The one thing that seems to be universal is that, whenever the ruling comes down that tachanun is to be skipped, there is near unanimous rejoicing. I even managed to find this essay on "Why We Hate Tachanun."

To the various reasons discussed there, I will add my own, which is that I hate tachanun because it adds between 5 and 10 minutes (depending on the day) to my already overbooked early a.m. schedule. To put it simply: the days that we skip tachanun are the days that I am more likely to get to work on time.

Which is why it is now so complicated that we have one guy in the back urging me to skip tachanun while the rest of the minyan thinks we should say it. Because as the chazzan, I am the final arbiter of whether it is GO or NO-GO. I feel like I'm in that scene in Animal House where I have the good angel on one shoulder and the bad one on the other. And I kinda prefer the bad one.

I really dislike being in the middle of this conflict. The shul doesn't help, because as a Chassidishe place they skip tachanun frequently to commemorate the yahrtzeits of rebbes whose names I can't even pronounce much less recognize. And they never say tachanun at all by mincha. So who am I to say that tachanun should be said on one guy's yahrtzeit and not another's?

It's getting to be kind of a joke around the community. "No Tachanun" is becoming a generic "Mazel Tov."

The Cohen's had a baby boy! No Tachanun!
The Shapiro's kid is engaged! No Tachanun!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! No Tachanun!
I think my boss is going to give me a raise! No Tachanun!
We have Heros to watch tonight on the TiVo! No Tachanun!

You get the gist.

I joke but the tension level is starting to rise in the 5:45 minyan, which, because daybreak is getting later and later, now starts at 6:10. The Rabbi REALLY wants me to skip tachanun. And some of the other guys REALLY don't want me to.

Today I thought it might come to blows. After I finished shmoneh esrei, before I could start the viduy (confession) before the tachanun, the rabbi yelled "yisgadal" from the back of the room, his prompt to skip tachanun and proceed directly to Kaddish. This caused a moment of doubt, because I didn't see today's date in the authorized "No Tachanun" list (yes, we have one) but then, it is the day before Channukah, and maybe that's one of those days that it's not said? So I went for it, and said Kaddish.

Afterwards there was a large argument out in the hallway between the Rabbi and the others and I knew that if I didn't get out of there soon that I would get caught in the middle. So I bundled up, put my shoulder forward and broke through like a quaterback trying to make a rushing play.

Believe me, if we never said tachanun again, I wouldn't miss it. I think the davening is too long already, but I just hate being in the middle of these things.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bagel Parts

Have I mentioned how much I love the J-Blogosphere? Yes? Well, anyway...

One of the things I love about it is the way that it enables people with different backgrounds to come together and learn something from each other. People who would never meet or speak in the real world can suddenly interact with each other in a meaningful way.

A Chossid in a Shtreimel in Milwaukee can now collaborate with prospective convert in Australia on a website dedicated to Torah. I really wish the Agudah could see this and tell me why the blogosphere should be forbidden.

But anyway, you may have noticed an addition to my sidebar for the last several weeks directing you to a website called Parsha Parts. This site is run by a dear friend of mine here in Milwaukee, who wears a Shtreimel (but I won't hold that against him), and who is a fascinating individual in his own right. Maybe one day we'll coax him into telling the story of his journey to frumkeit, but until then, it may interest some of you to know that he was the keyboard player in an earlier iteration of the Moshe Skier Band, and wrote one of my favorite MSB songs, Ki Vo Yismach Libenu. And no, I'm not going to tell you why he left the band. To quote the great Del Paxton, "Ain't no way to keep a band together. Bands come and go. You gotta keep playin', no matter with who. "

Parsha Parts started off as one of those leaflet publications that would get handed out in shuls on Friday nights many years ago, but disappeared after a while. With this New Year, he has restarted it, and added an internet version as well. I encourage you all to take a look at the site and sign up for the newsletter (and consider supporting it financially if you wish).

I agreed to help promote the site (well, as much as a link from psychotoddler can be called promotion), but the image he gave me to use as an icon was a bit of an eyesore.

I guess in the pre-blogosphere days we would have just left it alone, or maybe seen if one of our amateur artist friends was interested in playing around with it.

But all I had to do was look around the J-Blogosphere, and ask nicely. And Bagel Blogger responded. If you want to know a little about the Bagel Blogger, check out this great interview here. He and his wife Baleboosteh have been tremendous additions to the J-Blogosphere, and I think they'll make tremendous additions to the Jewish People when they get signed up for the program. BB (as I like to call him) did a terrific job on not only the icon for this site, but he went above and beyond the call of duty by redesigning the masthead on Parsha Parts as well. So if you have some graphic art needs, please consider hiring him!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Fortress of Solitude

Iguana: Where is Superman going now?

Abba: To the Fortress of Solitude.

Iguana: What does that mean?

Mommy: It's like the place he goes when he wants to be alone.

Abba: Like the bathroom.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chassidisco Fever

Yes, in case you were wondering, I did actually buy this album when it came out. Or, rather, my parents did. What? It was a pretty good album. It had a hot rendition of Riki Gal doing Shma Yisroel. Kinda Rod Stewart in his disco "If You Think I'm Sexy" days. I still cover that song to this day.

Anyway, since you've been good, and I've checked my list (checked it twice), here ya go:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Verdict

Curly gets a Gold Star for his performance this Shabbos! He layned beautifully, with very few errors (which I corrected instantaneously since I was by his side). Even more impressively, at the 11th hour he decided to chuck most of the written speech and talk off the cuff, which meant that he spoke clearly and convincingly like he knew what he was talking about. He looked very at ease up there and despite the Orthodontic Hardware was quite intelligible (moreso than some of the others I've heard). I'm so glad we were "grandfathered" in and are not affected by the new "takanah" against layning! Curly is like a different kid than he was before this endeavor. I really think this did so much for his self-confidence.

We were very saddened that my sisters got stuck in NY. But at least my Mom was here.

Here's something: Guess which movie my Mom and her 86-year-old Aunt Boba went to see? Extra points if you can tell if they liked it or not.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Your Daily Dose of The PT

She's too much PT for one blog to contain.

Good Shabbos.

Ich hob nicht kain Mazel...

Remember last year?

My sisters were supposed to fly in today. So naturally we have a blizzard here. So much for that. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is trying to make his way up here from Chicago before Shabbos.

At least Fudge, Grandma, Laya (and the rest of the crew) and the Miami squad are here.

Be good!