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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Cat in the Cast

For complete details, see here.

Don't worry, The PT is doing fine. She's taking it all in stride.

What really bothers me is the impact this injury will have on her book writing career. As you may or may not know, since The PT learned to write, she has been spitting out novels faster than Danielle Steele on caffeine.

You can read some samples here or here.

But I'm worried that, now that her writing hand is out of commission, she will stop writing. Hopefully we can get her to continue with her left hand or at least do her best with the right.

In the meantime, enjoy one of her classics, Nuthing Lik A Famule, which has been adapted into a major motion picture production!

It's Not You; It's Me

BUZZZZ

Dang pager again!

"Hello? This is Dr. S. Did you page me? Fine I'll wait." I just love it when they page me but don't come to the phone when I call back. Well this is just a huge waste of time that I don't have right now--"Yes? What do you mean nobody paged me? My pager just vibrated! Do you think I'm calling because I have nothing better to do? Wuat? You called yesterday? I know that! I called you back yesterday! But you just paged me again! Yes, I'm sure! Look, here's the time on the...pager...right...here...and it says...yesterday...that's weird...never mind."

That was odd. I'd better get going here. Now I'm getting behind schedule. Let's see...patient in this room over here...

"Hi, sorry to keep you waiting here. I just...got paged...by the...hospital...er, anyway, how are you toda--" buzzzzzzzzzz "--now what! I'm sorry, I think that's my phone. Let me just turn it off before my embarrassing ringtone starts playing...and...hmm...that's interesting...it's not buzzing any more."

Maybe I didn't get the call fast enough. Let me check the call log. Weird. no incoming calls today. That's it. I'm taking off my phone and my pager. I gotta focus on my patients here in the office.

"Anyway, sorry about that. There. We'll just put these on the desk here. So what brings you--" BUZZZZ! "WHAT THE CRAP!!" My belt is still vibrating! Even though I took off the phone and pager!

Is it possible I'm suffering from...PHANTOM PHONE SYNDROME??

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stealth Blogging

I remember when a trip to New York was worth five or six long and detailed posts full of pictures and memorable quotes from Little Poland. Sigh. Now I guess we'll have to make due with hints about pictures and memorable quotes.

As I type this, I am stealing computer time in the Yeshiva University Library and at any minute a librarian could seize me by the ear and forcibly remove me from the computer. But I'm OK for the moment.

Wait--

Whew! That was a close one. I have to flip back and forth from a search of the library catalogue to my email page, blogger, and facebook. This is so Stalag 17! I feel the need to stuff dirt in my pants pocket. But I will resist the urge...for now.

So many things going on. By now you are wondering why I didn't tell any of you about this trip or herald it with a series of posts and requests for Blogger get-togethers. Well, the truth is I don't really have time to meet with any of you and I didn't want to insult you like I usually end up doing to my Polish relatives. So don't feel bad.

The only reason I have time now is that Moe or 30Cal or whatever the heck he is going by these days is off interviewing and touring for college here and I suddenly realized that they don't really want his father hanging around, so I made away with myself and my iPod to the library to do...whatever it is that I appear to be doing now.

I've heard that there is actually another blogger who haunts this joint and I'd look for him but I don't really know what he looks like. What I should really be looking for is a bathroom, but I'm afraid that if I get off this computer I won't be able to get back on. See the sacrifices I make for you PT readers!!

Don't worry, the trip has been very good so far and I may even have some pictures of some of your favorite celebrity blog relatives in the upcoming days. Meantime, I have arranged a play-date with my old college roommate for the next couple of hours so I must go.

Crap--here come the libraria

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chionophobia


I get it, I get it.

I live in Wisconsin. It snows here.

I should be used to it.

But I have to confess, ever since I wrecked my car a few weeks ago, I have developed a kind of fear of snow. Maybe fear isn’t the right word. Dread might be better.

It doesn’t help that just a few days ago I got my car back from the shop, and it looks and feels as good as new. I’m just not sure I trust it anymore.

Last night, as I made my way home, it was snowin’ like a banshee, as they say around these parts. (What is a banshee, by the way, and do they precipitate?) I found myself crawling through the streets, unwilling to build up much momentum, for fear that I would lose control of the car if I had to break suddenly. In fact, on a few longer stretches of car-free roads, I did decide to break hard, and was dismayed to find that my anti-lock breaks engaged every time and caused the car to move forward a car-length or two longer than intended. Maybe this is just the way they are supposed to work. Maybe the Geo would have simply spun out. I don’t know. This is not a video game, and I can’t just press reset if I end up attached to a tree trunk.

And yet, with all the nastiness falling from the sky and the mess on the ground, I still saw folks sailing past me, obliviously chatting on their cell phones as they cruised along into almost certain catastrophe.

I'm not trying to turn into an old man here, but I have been humbled.

Enough with the snow, already!

The Pitch

Blogging has been slow. Yes, I know. I'm busy. When I do find the muse, frequently I go through a two-step process. First I think, "wow this would make a great post," and then I counter with "...naaaaa..."

If an idea really does make it past step two, the challenge is to find the time to type it out before it leaves my brain. I suppose that I may have the chops to do some quality writing. But my life is such that whenever I do sit down to type, I get interrupted in about five minutes, and this cycle continues until I finally just give up and say, "well, this turning into a load of crap that makes no sense."

Speaking of which, it's much easier to find a few random bits to jot down in a sentence or two. For example, the title of this post.

I guess I could get into a long introduction about how, when I started this blog, I wanted to talk about my music, or at least give readers something that they didn't get from every other blog, like free original songs or movies or cartoons (still haven't gotten around to that). But I'll spare you that last sentence and just tell you that I was rummaging through my cassettes last night and found a very interesting batch of music that I'll share with you.

It was 20 years ago today, give or take, when Kabbalah had finished its second album and still had an excess of creative energies that needed spending. So we continued to work on new music.

The first two albums were self-published, but two of the band members were married by this time and couldn't afford to invest in another album. So my guitar player, Izzy, and I got together one evening with an acoustic guitar and a tape recorder and made a "pitch tape" of a bunch of songs that we then sent to a few Jewish Music Producers of the time.

We got some nice compliments, but lets just say that Jewish Rock wasn't exactly catching fire at that time. Many of these songs were never recorded. A few made it onto my solo album Rock of Sages, which, if you are steeped in the Psychotoddler Mythos, you know was really Kabbalah III in disguise.

Still, in listening back to these rough versions, I kinda like the whole campfire vibe of the recording.

Take a listen here, and feel free to download them (if you have an iPod or other MP3 player, you get a special photo surprise with each song).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

YYZ Oy Vey

If you ever want to feel bad about your musicianship, I suggest trying to play along with Geddy Lee on YYZ:



MAN am I out of shape!

Thanks to Computer Yid and Mike for putting this song in my head. Nu, when is the Rush Jam?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Marketing Genius



The PT, six-year-old bestselling author of such works as Mokneel*, Rambo, UP UP and UWA!, Nop Nop Nop!, Nothig Lik a Famule, and Tha Wil Lrn-a-Lesun, has been stretching her creative energies into new fields.

Now she is getting into marketing. First, she came up with a concept for a new restaurant called "Sloppy Joe's" where you have to kill your own food.

"You want turkey? There he goes!"

Then she patented a super discount store called "Feetheads" where everything is free. It even has its own tag-line: "Free...for you..."

"The PT, do you mean to tell me that everything in the store is free?"

"Well, not everyfing. Only the things that people want."

Her latest marketing blitz is to open a store (in our living room) where she sells all of my things. But don't worry, she gives you bills which she has labeled "real money," with which to purchase these items.

The bills are free, naturally.

*the K is silent

Friday, January 04, 2008

Synchronicity, Part II

It is perhaps bittersweet that, amongst the various traits, postive and negative, that I have imparted to my oldest daughter Fudge, she also seems to have inherited my mazel.

So it is small wonder that as I agonized all last Shabbos over the fate of my car, she was having similar issues of her own.

Read here, here and here.

And here.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Five Long Seconds

I should probably start listening to my wife. She says a lot of things that I don’t really want to hear, but she’s usually right, doubly so if snow is involved.

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and in order that this situation not in any way be exacerbated I will now reveal that I was not physically injured in any way. And now, on with our story.

Twice a week, I leave my cozy office and drive off for a consulting job in the Hinterlands. On one of these weekly commutes, I make it a point to call my mother and wish her a good Shabbos. My new car has this great Bluetooth feature that allows me to talk at the dashboard while it disconcertingly replies in my mother’s voice. The conversation usually revolves around complaints she has concerning either my daughter or my sisters, but this is a big improvement from when they were mostly complaints about me and how I never call her.

Last Friday, as we concluded our chat, I couldn’t help but notice that, as I sped down the highway, it was snowing heavily all around me and the other cars. Generally I’m not a big fan of talking on cell phones while driving, but this is about as safe a way as it’s going to get. To attune myself better to the road conditions, I switched off the iPod and turned on the AM radio to listen to the weather and traffic reports. As an aside, if you throw in sports, that amounts to the entire programming content of Milwaukee radio.

Despite the heavy, wet, and sloppy snow, there was little traffic around noon on Friday, maybe because most people were smart enough to stay off the roads. My wife, in one of those prescient moments, had advised me earlier in the morning that perhaps I should skip the afternoon session. “Nonsense!” I had declared. “This is Wisconsin! It snows here!” There was a sense of deja vu there.

Plus, I told her, this new car has all kinds of fancy-shmancy safety features, like traction control and antilock brakes. I would be perfectly safe on the road. After all, I’ve been a driver for 24 years and I’ve never caused an accident.

And so, concluding my weekly call, I continued down the highway to my destination. The radio, between commercials, informed me of the status of the “storm”, noting that the snow would cease falling some time after sunset. Scattered reports of accidents began to come in, but traffic remained light, although there was one now developing at or around my destination. I shifted my concentration entirely to the road, which, while becoming increasingly white, was still relatively open.

As the exit approached I saw no evidence of traffic. I took this as a sign that whatever mishap had occurred was now cleared. Jarringly, my dashboard rang, and I pressed the talk button on the steering wheel.

“Where are you?” It was my wife.

“I’m almost at the exit. I’ll be at work in 5 minutes.”

“So you went out there after all? I’ve been shoveling and shoveling! I thought you would come home instead.”

“Don’t be silly; the drive is fine.” Not to mention, this consulting job pays me by the hour, unlike the practice of medicine, which is a crap shoot at best.

“Well Shabbos is at four; don’t expect to be home in 15 minutes. Leave early.”

“I will. See you later.”

I pressed the “hang up” button and made my way through the exit ramp and to the first light. No sign of trouble. Good.

After the light there is a very wide street that needs crossing, and then a small hill, at the bottom of which is a left turn signal leading to a narrow road which winds through an industrial park. Twice a week I make it to that light uneventfully. Not this time.

As the light turned green I found myself behind a large truck that struggled to gain traction and make its way across the broad intersection. Gradually it built up speed and rose to the top of the hill. I followed slightly behind, it never being a good idea to brown-nose a truck going up a hill. We reached the summit and I saw the left turn lane, and signaled to move into it.

At the bottom of the hill I saw two SUVs waiting to make the left turn. There was about a half a block distance between the front end of my car as it entered the lane and the rear end of the second SUV. I was going not faster than 10 or 15 miles per hour at this point as I had followed the truck through the prior intersection.

This is where things happened. I applied the brakes. The brakes weren’t interested. I could hear and feel the antilock braking system engage. The car was not stopping. I found this to be mildly distressing. I watched as the gap, initially 4 or 5 car lengths, began to close with no sign of the car stopping. I had a few seconds in which to observe. The car was not traveling very fast at this point. But it continued to move forward. True to the ABS system, the car did not swerve, either. It just continued to plod forward.

Realizing that the ABS was engaged, I thought I should try something else. I took my foot briefly off of the brake and started to pump it lightly. Again I could feel the shuddering, grinding sensation of the antilock effect. I applied firm pressure. It seemed to make no difference.

I watched the rear end of the first SUV loom nearer. 3 car lengths. 2 car lengths. All this time I was thinking, “it’s going to stop. It HAS to stop. It’s going to stop…now.”

It didn’t stop.

A fraction of a second before the impact I recall thinking, “I can’t believe it’s not stopping.” Followed very quickly by, “hmm…maybe I should have switched lanes—too late!”

Like stock footage from a crash-test, I watched in slow motion as the front end of my car crumpled forwards, and then my hood tented up and began to approach the windshield.

And then—it was over. No glass breaking. No horn blaring. No airbag deployment. No screams of horror. No sirens. Just me sitting there thinking, “Damn it! Why didn’t it stop!”

I watched in a kind of stupor as drivers started to emerge from the SUVs, first the one in front of me, and then the one in front of her, and I realized that the impact had been enough to drive the first SUV into the second.

Eventually I got out and after profuse apologies and a sincere sense of appreciation that no one was actually hurt, we moved our vehicles out of traffic and into the first parking lot in the industrial park, where I waited for several hours for a tow truck while my car became progressively buried in snow and my cell phone battery slowly drained.

All of this was, as my mother would say, “nerve-racking,” as I sat in the lobby of the building and wondered how long it would take AAA to send a tow truck on a day when there were 30 or more snow-related accidents and the driving was slowly worsening. And if they would agree to take me all the way back to the body shop near me. And if my cell phone would finally die before it came. And if I’d end up looking for a motel to spend Shabbos in the middle of Yenemsvelt. And how long it would take to get my car back. And what the cost would be. And what I was supposed to drive during this time.

So we spoke to the police, and I called my insurance agent, and several towing companies until one finally did come, and even fielded a few surrealistic calls from the hospital, and eventually the other two SUVs drove off (they didn’t look damaged to me) and left my beautiful new car sitting in this parking lot looking like a boxer who had taken a really nasty blow to the nose. A snow-covered boxer.

As the tow-truck made its way back over the hill with me in the cab and my car out back, I noticed a news camera set up on the corner next to the highway entrance filming the intersection. I was not relieved to find out that there had been 5 other accidents there on that day.

And with all this I made it to shul the next day and said a blessing for delivering me from harm. I began to get increasingly angry about the whole affair. It still seems to me that the car should have stopped. I didn’t feel it skid at all. I suspect that, had I been driving a car like my old Geo, which does not have antilock brakes, that I would not have hit that SUV. Maybe I’m going through a little denial. Maybe I’m upset that my video-game enhanced reflexes did not allow me to escape the collision. I wish that I could have just backed up those five seconds and had a re-do.

So I’m back in the Geo again, thankful that we decided to keep it around for the kids to drive. They are no doubt upset that it won’t be available for their use during the forthcoming school vacation. Maybe, as my mother-in-law (who picked me up from the body shop 20 minutes before Shabbos) said, “it’s bashert.”

The Geo isn’t what it used to be. It’s noisy now, and it shudders, vibrates, and groans as it makes its way along the snow and ice covered streets. It sounds like an old man with emphysema and a bad cough. Maybe it’s better if the kids don’t drive it too much.

As I write this, it is now five days since the accident and I still haven’t gotten an estimate from the body shop. Were it not for the intervening Holiday, I would have taken this as a bad sign. I’m hoping that the damage isn’t as bad as it looks, new cars being made to crumple to absorb impact and yada yada yada. And I am truly grateful that I emerged from this completely uninjured.

I just wonder if maybe G-d doesn’t want me to have a new car. Six months old and this is its second stay in the body shop. Well, Geo still loves me.

I should probably start listening to my wife.