Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I was observing the differences in the way my children chose sunglasses this past weekend. We were walking around Chinatown Saturday, and the sun was unbearably bright for some reason. It was even worse for Amy (15) being a recent contact lens recipient. We went to a particular vendor and Amy looked over the glasses. She picked up a large yellow pair and tried them on. They looked good with her outfit. I told her I liked them. Over the next 5 minutes, she tried on a white pair, then back to the yellow, another white pair, and finally a pink pair, each time looking in the mirror and asking for our input. After the 5 minutes of pondering she chose the original yellow pair and paid the woman at the table. Now, I am not complaining. 5 minutes is actually good for Amy. We have had some pretty long periods of indecision before this that could be nominated for some sort of Guinness listing. No, it's the contrast with Alec (11) that I find funny. Alec, a few minutes later, decided he also needed sunglasses and a walking vendor happened to put a large bag of them down in front of him. He grabbed a pair from the top, pulled them out of the plastic and put them on. He looked to me for approval, I nodded once and before I cold get the words out, he paid the man and said thank you. All in all about 30 seconds. Now, would it be reversed if I sent them out to buy computer monitors?

It's that old catch-22 that we get when asked by a woman, "Does this look good on me?" If you don't believe my answer, or are going to do what you want anyway, then save me the confusion, but know that I will always answer truthfully, uh, well, as truthfully as you want me to? I will still need a fashion advisor to shop with for my own clothes and accessories though. Poor old colorblind, fashion-retarded dad! Is this green? I thought it was. What do you mean it's PINK!!??

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Meebo, Gmail, Customized Google, etc...

AJAX based web services are all the rage. I urge everyone to check out what's out there. Here's a short list of what I use:

Meebo A multi-protocol messenger client that runs in your browser. Great for those of us that move from machine to machine, or need to use a foreign computer temporarily.

Gmail I can't say enough about Gmail. It seems to do so much well. I have begun the process of abandoning my Hotmail account. Gmail is still by invitation only, but I have plenty. Email me if you need one.

Customized Google Try to make your own custom Google page. It's fun! You can drag the elements around and re-arrange endlessly.

There's much much more. Use Google to search for AJAX applications. Microsoft seems to be playing a game of catch-up with its "Live" products, but they are still clunky, and don't have the Firefox cross-compatibility.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


How ironic is life? Very. I think it's hard, as a man of science, to express my views on religion in a general way. Is there a God? Well.... there has to be a force that holds it all together and makes things happen. It can't all be chance. Can you personify that force? There's the typical man-with-a-long-white-beard view that we all see sometimes. Then Kevin Smith would have you believe that God is a petite brunette woman that yodels when she sings. Or maybe it really is George Burns! But, lately it's the irony in life that makes me think that God must be a comedian. A witty, intelligent, public-radio style comedian.

Kind of like a cosmic Garrison Keillor: Angel Cloud Biscuits? Heavens They're Tasty!!!

Or you might hear: It Was A Quiet Week In The Heavens Above, My Home Town......"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Yard Sale Self-Hecklers

I was browsing the yard sales around Ridgewood NJ today, and came across something I hadn't seen before while indulging in this favorite activity: Humor!

I mean, there's always humor from us, as we find the bizarre and unexplainable, and amaze ourselves at the ludicrous things people think they can charge money for, or the ludicrous things people will PAY money for. No, this was humor supplied by the proprietor. Organized, intentional humor.

A sweet old couple, at the end of a cul-de-sac, had years of dishes, tools, and other standard yard-sale matter scattered about their lawn. On many of the items I found little notes. One, on a stack of tray tables read; "If you love clutter, you have to buy these". Another, on a very odd piece of artwork said; "Local artist, be careful with the comments". I had lots of fun reading all of them. On the way out, the note on the "free" pile caught my eye. It read; "This is the stuff we don't have the nerve to charge money for".

Thank you folks, for making me laugh today.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Open Letter to a Teenager

Let's trade shoes.......

Mine are worn.

Can you fill my shoes? It's not as easy as you think.

For I wore your shoes once. Long ago.

They were comfortable, even inspiring. I was convinced that they were the best shoes in the world. Better than any of the old, worn shoes I saw. New is better, isn't it?

But, they aged quickly, and became painful. Although they still looked good, I continued to wear them, and tell myself that they were better. As much as I tried, they would not soften. They grew more and more painful each day. Still, I convinced myself that they were better. After all, they still looked better than the old worn out ones that I saw.

There came a day when my shoes failed me. They were unbearable. I fumbled briefly with other new shoes, and even no shoes. I finally
found a pair that would wear with me as I aged. At first I wept at their ugliness. I stumbled frequently as they seemed too big at times.

There have been days when they would not fit, and days when they were so big that I could barely walk in them.

We as adults must wear these shoes. We cannot wear yours anymore.
Oh, yes. Sometimes we can put them on and pretend for a few moments, but we always find our way back to the old worn shoes we know best.

They are not new...

They are not attractive....

They are each our own, and no one else's.

Can you wear my shoes? Because some days they don't even fit me.

Too big to tie, and stained with tears.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Smushscreen TV

I need to vent a bit on one of my pet peeves: Widescreen TV

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching movies in their original size,
without the black "waste of space" above and below. It's the non-wide
media that bothers me. Just as we adapt a widescreen picture to display on a normal-sized TV, we should do the same on a widescreen TV. BUT NOOOO! For some crazy reason, most of the sets I see (usually in public places) are set to stretch the screen to fill left and right. This gives everyone a "smushed" look. What makes it worse is that the owners of these publicly viewed sets, and their patrons, ACCEPT this! What will this do to our culture? Will it affect natural selection to create a race of "Danny DeVitos"? Will we consider 6 foot tall, 185 pound men to be "freaks"? I think the acceptance of this is what bothers me. Similar to the acceptance of badly converted MP3's. Most younger people today don't seem to notice the difference in audio quality between well recorded music, and low bitrate MP3's. I sometimes wish I wasn't so picky about what I hear, but I still stop dead in my tracks when I walk past a pair of speakers the are out-of-phase.

So, those of us who browse the Irish pubs in New York, will continue to watch smushball, and I will sit there trying to resist the temptation to grab the remote and change the settings...... Barkeep! Another Dewar's please... Why does the bottle look shorter and fatter than it did last time?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Random......(sleepless in jersey)

Ahhh, up at 5 AM. Can't get back to sleep. It's been nice to sleep in a normal bed again (thank you to Marti). The stack of futons and mattresses was not doing it for me. Kind of like sleeping on an eternally collapsing laundry pile. Plus, the references to "The Pea" were getting to me. So, the wife was getting some spares for the house from the college and had an extra twin mattress and frame. There was a twin box spring already here that I had attempted to use as a base for "the pile", but had only worsened the unstable nature of the whole thing.

So. Am I condemned now to sleep in a twin bed? It's comfy, don't get me wrong. I actually salvaged the nicest of the futons from "The Pile" and used it on top (running up the wall a bit) to make a kind of daybed, but I digress.... I suppose a college-aged male enjoys sharing such a small bed with a female, but at 41 I'm not sure if it would be much fun anymore. The sleeping portion at least. I am larger than I was then. We also get less tolerant of our sleeping partners as we age. What was cute and funny at age 18 gets old quickly sometimes. What with snoring, and gingivitis vapors (ick?), and kicking your partner while you dream your clutch is not functioning (no, really!). Lack of funds will keep me in this one for awhile. Lack of space also makes it interesting. "The Pile" was close enough to the computer before that I used it as my desk chair. Now I have a real chair. It must have been funny before to watch me try to perch on the edge of that eternally sinking mess.

Note to anyone who wants to know: I am not here to spout feelings about my situation upstate. I will always consider Marti my friend, but its too late to try to repair what I should have years ago. Relationships rarely fail from one person's actions. I will not participate in finger pointing and other time wasting activities. I know where I am going. The road ahead is hard to see, and I know there are many obstacles but it leads to the right place. It breaks my heart to know that I will be traveling it alone for awhile, but I need to do this. I will always worry about where she is, and how she is doing, as much as that statement might upset my stubborn lady, it is a fact about me.

Work is good, if not a bit crazy. I wish Carlos would not be so paranoid. I know that it's a security man's job to be paranoid, but I would like to see him relax a bit. Travel season is starting again soon, so I need to evaluate my health, wardrobe, and ability to leave my desk for a few days. Paul leaves for vacation today. I will drive him to JFK tonight to catch a plane. Hopefully "the beast" will do better than it did on its last airport run (sorry again Ash!). I am amazed at the trucks willingness to live, but I fear that its half life is coming near again. It runs so well, but little annoying things keep happening. It has been annoying me lately by not allowing me to unlock the driver's door periodically. Forcing me to slide in from the passenger side. The wipers are making a very strange noise lately. I fear the mechanism or motor is starting to go. A trip to Harry's is coming I think.

There is a little white Ford Festiva sitting up JFK Blvd. with a for-sale sign in the window. I might have to check it out. 40+ mpg is tempting. Otherwise, I am still planning on trying to put the VW Fox I found on the road soon.

OK, I guess that's about all of my ramblings this morning. You can wake up now.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Little Novelist

My kids live with their mother during the week in upstate NY. I am currently spending my weeks in New Jersey to make the commute into Manhattan easier. I drive up or take the train every Friday afternoon to see them. Currently I bring them to the house I still own half of in Kingston. As that situation changes, I will begin to permanently reside in New Jersey in the not-too-distant future. At that point, the kids will come down to New Jersey and get to enjoy romping around Manhattan with their dad. Until then, they look forward to seeing me every Friday night, and some weeks get a bit impatient waiting for the weekend to arrive.

Most kids though, will call you when the need arises. I'm not saying they don't care enough to call out of the blue usually, its just that at age 11 or 15 your priorities are different. So most parents will get that phone call that begins "So, how is everything? What are you doing?". When this happens we politely wait for the request for music, clothes, speakers, or a friend to sleep over.

This past week, both of my kids called me twice each. Just to say HI! It was strange. Made me feel good though. Knowing that I had raised two amazing kids that care about their dad and want to show their support to me. In each of the four calls I got, I kept asking "Is everything OK?" They have been extra eager a couple of times to see me after a trying week with my Ex's ummm, man-friend (what's P.C. here?).

The last of four calls I got was from Alec, my youngest. At 11, he has an amazing imagination and zest for life that any adult who knows him is amazed by. He told me he wanted to write a book. I think many kids go through this stage. I know I did. I wasn't expecting what happened next. Alec started to give me a summary of the plot of his book. A book called "The Key to Amber". A fantasy novel, where a group of kids discover a gateway to a magical world in the basement of a mansion, all stemming from a magical key given to one of the kids. Wow! I might convince him to let me post it online. Lets all join in encouraging this kind of creativity. GO ALEC!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Lately I have been eating fresh artichokes almost every day. Sam's Club had very nice ones, in a bag of 4, for a good price the last couple of weeks. Prep is simple: Simmer in 1/4 to 1/3 pot of hot water with extra-virgin olive oil for 1 hour, cool, and chill, or eat warm right from the pot. I have been enjoying them cold at work with salad dressing for dipping. Pull the leaves, one at a time, and draw them between your teeth to scrape off the tender part. Dunking in melted butter, salad dressing, or spiced mayonnaise is optional. When you get to the very-tiny leaves, you can usually just bite the ends off of those, and the smallest ones are too small to bother with and should be discarded (the last two to three rows). The developing thistle part will remain. This looks like a small patch of hair-like fibers. Either scoop these small spines out with a spoon, or pull out with your fingers in clumps. They are not edible. Try to get only the spines as what remains is the best part. The remaining "heart" is then cut up into smaller pieces and eaten. All of this seems normal to me, however I noticed my co-workers looking at me like I was eating fish-eye salad or something as strange. I guess the artichoke must look rather odd to someone only familiar with the marinated hearts that are used in cooking. Kind of like a giant green hemlock cone. The artichoke is actually a thistle and if left to mature produces a large thistle-like bloom (see photo). It is a member of the same family as Burdock (Gobo), Dandelion, Sunflower, and the misnamed Jerusalem Artichoke. There are many great resources on the internet regarding preparation, and even growing them yourself. Even though they are a warm-weather perennial, I have seen instructions for growing them successfully in the northeast as an annual. Do try one!