life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Songbird Salutes the 70's --- Queen

The 1970's.  My teen years.  My musical tastes were developing.  I liked a lot of different types of music, anything I heard on WABC, NYC's top 40 station, was good...pop, rock, country, movie ballads, all good.

For awhile I was really into the singer-songwriter style.  Harry Chapin.  Don McLean.  Jim Croce.  John Denver. 

And then along came Bohemian Rhapsody, and swung me right back towards rock...

I mean, listen to that song.  It starts and ends with Freddie Mercury's incredible, powerful, wonderful voice.  Add beautiful vocal harmonies, mysterious and intriguing lyrics ... it's a ballad, it's hard rock/heavy metal, it's opera. It's a capella singing at its finest, it's beautiful piano, it's a fast paced guitar solo. 

And the technology -- the dubbing and overdubbing --

The song captures and holds you...

It's an incredible song  by an amazing artist.

I had to buy the 45.  I was so disappointed when I played it on my old phonograph, I didn't have stereo speakers, I lost the full effect.

Later I would discover Queen's albums, and all the quirky, weird and wonderful music. "Killer Queen", "You're My Best Friend", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Bicycle Race".  And, of course, what would become the stadium anthem --  "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions".

Sigh.  Another one gone too soon, Mercury died at age 45 in 1991.

Monday, March 30, 2015

global warming

Ever use Timehop?  It's an app that searches out your old posts on various social media.    It will tell you what you posted on Facebook or Twitter one year ago, two years ago, five years ago.

Looking at my Timehop every day --I do an awful lot of whining about the winter weather.  Complaints about the cold, complaints about the snow.  I really need to stop that.

And I am so glad we are finally warming up, that it's officially spring.

But it seems to me, winters used to be milder here on Long Island.  Sure, we had cold weather, and spectacular winter storms, but they were few and far between.  I remember my 9th grade science teacher telling us that we were spared the worst effects of winter because we were surrounded by the warm ocean currents.  The first time I ever remember dealing with single-digit temperatures was when I was in college upstate.

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure.  But when the vast majority of scientists tell us that we are experiencing a period of climate change, I have to believe them.

And when they say it's man-made...

We need to stop listening to the idiots who bring a snowball to the Senate floor as "proof" that global warming doesn't exist.

It scares me.

Carl Sagan said:

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology.  This is a prescription for disaster.  We might get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

I spent 12 years in the environmental claims department of a major insurance company.  I spent my days analyzing claims for damage to the environment -- funding the clean up of oil field waste, pipeline ruptures, chemical plumes, Superfund sites.   Spent hours upon hours consulting with geologists and other experts.  Saw exactly what kind of damage we can do on a small scale, and also how we can bring a contaminated area back to life.

If this is the kind of mess you find locally, what are we doing on a larger scale?  We have only one planet, if we mess it up we have nowhere to go.  Science fiction movies like Interstellar ..well, they're based in science fact, in our current understanding of the world and how we deal with it.

We need to figure out how to take better care of our home

As Sagan said:

“If we are not graced with an instinctive knowledge of how to make our technologized world a safe and balanced ecosystem, we must figure out how to do it. We need more scientific research and more technological restraint. It is probably too much to hope that some great Ecosystem Keeper in the sky will reach down and put right our environmental abuses. It is up to us. It should not be impossibly difficult. Birds—whose intelligence we tend to malign—know not to foul the nest. Shrimps with brains the size of lint particles know it. Algae know it. One-celled microorganisms know it. It is time for us to know it too.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Another This and That

So today is my parents' 56th anniversary.  They got engaged on a moonlit night in Miami, and got married a few months later, on Easter Sunday.  There are very few pictures of the wedding; the photographer my mother's cousin hired was not a union member, and the unionized catering hall staff said they'd walk out if the photographer was allowed to take pictures.  All the posed shots of my mother and father in their wedding attire were taken the following summer, and had to hide the fact that my mother couldn't button the wedding gown anymore -- I was born 11 months after they got married...

So my mom had her valve replacement up at Columbia-Presbyterian (which explains my late night drive on the Cross Bronx).She was in the hospital for four days.  She's doing well in her recovery.

Becca has decided to hold off on the apartment search for a few months.  She thinks she'll do better in the summer, the apartments she's seen lately are either too expensive or totally unsuitable.    Plus she's got friends who will be graduating from college in May, and that means a potential roommate situation may develop.  She really dodged a bullet with the" almost roommate", but she's not happy living at home.

Jen signed a contract for another summer at the day camp.  They have her working as an instructor for rock climbing, the zip line, etc., which is very good money.  But she says she's "done" with camp, and hopes to get a summer school position instead.    Her boyfriend is going to be tending bar on Fire Island most weekends; it's very good money, but Jen isn't happy about the time commitment.

The girls are talking about taking another "sisters trip" to Disney this summer.  In the meantime, Becca is planning a trip to Punta Cana in May with "friends"  (i.e., the new boyfriend I'm not supposed to know about just yet).

Drew and I, however, are planning another summer of "staycation". Money, medical matters, commitments to's tough being a responsible grown up sometimes.

It's going to be a strange Passover at my house this year.  With the kitchen in the current state of disrepair, my sisters are deciding whether to cook in someone else's house or simply buy the whole Seder meal ready to eat. No matter -- as long as we have the same Haggadahs, with 50 years of matzo crumbs between the pages, we will be fine.

Yes, a strange Passover.  But then again, my life is certainly not "normal".  I never imagined that I'd raise my children in my parents' house, or that after such an acrimonious divorce years ago I'd find myself involved with Drew again.  Yet here we are.  Take it as it comes.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Product review Fitbit

Having lost my iHealth activity monitor just as I was getting interested in using it, I ordered a new activity monitor.

This time around, I chose a Fitbit Charge.

I like that the device is permanently mounted in the wristband.  The band is slim and comfortable to wear. The clasp takes a little getting used to.  I hear that some people get skin irritations from the band, but thus far I haven't had a problem.

The Charge measures steps, flights of stairs, distance, calories burned and sleep quality.  Data appears on your device at the touch of a button, or on the app.   The device syncs with the phone via Bluetooth, and even gives you caller ID.  I'm going to have to get used to a vibration on my wrist when I get an incoming call.

I probably should have spent the extra $20 and gotten the Charge HR, which also measures heart rate.  At the moment I'm using a heart monitor app on my phone.

I'm not using the food log on the Fitbit dashboard, so I'm not fully using the calories burned function.  But that's because I've paired my Fitbit with my Weight Watchers tracker, and I'm tracking food and activity at the Weight Watchers site.

My chief complaint about the Fitbit is that the charger cable is not a standard USB cable, it's proprietary.

So far I'm happy with this product.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Women and Driving

So I found myself alone in my car at 11:00 one night, driving on the infamous Cross Bronx Expressway.  Conditions in the Bronx  have vastly improved since The Bonfire of the Vanities, but that highway is still a nightmare.  Potholes, construction, big trucks and lunatic drivers.

And for some reason I was thinking about a friend of mine, a woman I haven't seen in awhile.  I was remembering a conversation we had.  My friend lives in New Jersey, and her  teenage daughter is involved in an activity with events all over the state.  My friend was telling me about the various activities, and how she had to drive her daughter.  Then she said "but the event next week is too far, I am going to have to ask my husband to drive her because I won't drive that far."

The day she said it, I had just come back from a road trip, Becca and I had gone to Boston to check out a few colleges. Just the two of us.  I'd driven all the way to Boston and all the way back.

I thought that my friend's attitude about driving had died off in the 20th century.  But I  suppose there are still a lot of women who feel the way my friend feels..  Not comfortable behind the wheel, deferring to their husbands when it comes to driving. 

When I was a little girl, the "crazy woman driver" was a staple of sitcoms and standup routines. Ironically, the insurance industry statistics say women are better drivers than men, less likely to have an accident, less likely to receive a traffic citation. But back then, everyone talked about "crazy women drivers" and how men were superior behind the wheel.

 I laughed at the jokes like everyone else, but honestly, the character they were talking about, well, in my world, she was pure fiction.

My mother learned how to drive when she was in college.  It was the early 1950's and she was living in the Bronx, so learning to drive was not a necessity.  But her cousin who lived in the suburbs was learning to drive, and she was very competitive...

She was a very good driver, maybe a bit aggressive on the road, but competent and unafraid to drive anywhere she wanted.  She hasn't been behind the wheel of a car in 3 years, but she still thinks of herself as a driver.

My sisters and I were raised in the suburbs of Long Island, in a community with no public transportation. Learning to drive was a necessity, a car represented freedom.  Of course we got our driver's licenses, and of course we drove everywhere.

I have never hesitated to drive anywhere.  I've driven Pennsylvania on vacation, to Boston and Rhode Island on college searches, even took a group of teenagers to Six Flags in a rented van.  It never occurred to me to think I couldn't do it.

Don't misunderstand.  I don't particularly like driving.  I think it's a means to an end, a way to get from point A to point B.   I don't like sharing the road with big trucks, I think there are a lot of lunatics on the road (of both genders), and driving over large bridges makes me nervous.  But I value my independence, my ability to take care of myself, of not having to rely on someone else to take me wherever I want to go.

I don't think either of my daughters ever gave a thought to gender differences when it comes to driving.  They simply get into the car and go.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

elder care woes

Drew went to see Marvin again at the nursing home earlier this week.  Drew asked him what he needs, and the only thing Marvin asked for was a clock.  It seems there's no clock in Marvin's room, and he's finding it hard to keep track of time.  Marvin's brother Les told Drew to buy Marvin whatever he needs, Les will be glad to pay for it.  The poor man wants so little..

The facility staff is meeting today to discuss a plan for Marvin, that is, where he should go once he finishes with rehab.  Drew has had a few good conversations with the folks the facility in anticipation of this meeting.  The social worker told Drew to anticipate a call from Adult Protective Services.  APS has been involved with Marvin's situation for since at least 2013,  they took over his financial affairs because they felt Shelley wasn't handling Marvin's limited resources properly, and there was some concern that his living environment wasn't suitable. I'm sure they will listen to Drew's concerns.

It's clear Marvin needs some supervised environment, that he cannot go back to Shelley's house due to his current physical limitations.  The physical therapist is recommending that he stay at the facility.  The social worker liked Drew's idea of the veteran's home, the nursing facility  where Drew's father spent his final months. 

(It's a good thing Drew has me around.  He doesn't have Marvin's discharge papers or any other proof Marvin is a veteran, and was unsure where to start to get that information.  I reminded Drew that Marvin used to go to the local VA hospital for his medical treatment.  They will have more than adequate proof he's entitled to veteran's benefits, enough to satisfy the requirements of the nursing home.)

And Shelley?

When she posted on Facebook last week that she was finally going to visit Marvin and that she was bringing him a box of matzo to nosh on, I couldn't help but think "It's a freebie she got in the supermarket."  Catty, I know, but oh so accurate.

She has not been included in the discussions with the social worker or the nursing staff at the facility.    She found out about the big meeting yesterday, and wound up in a huge fight with Drew over Marvin's care.  She told him "I'm going to sue APS."  (Good luck with that.)  Ultimately I think she will blame Drew for this situation. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Broadway Diner

Hadn't been here in awhile, and decided to stop by for a bite to eat.

Drew ordered the sliced London Broil sandwich, which was cooked to order, tender and tasty.

I ordered a Philly cheesesteak, which was a bit of a disappointment. Thin slices of beef on a kaiser roll, with a minimal amount of bell pepper and cheese, it was served with au jus. Cheesesteak with au jus? But the meat was a tad bit too dry, and needed something to remoisten it.  The au jus worked perfectly for that.

I really like this diner, but I won't be ordering that sandwich again.

Broadway Diner on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Awhile back, Drew and I picked up dinner from a then-newly-opened Smashburger on Long Island, and I was not pleased.  In hindsight I think we just had a bad night -- Drew mixed up the burgers,  I wound up with the one he ordered, and he wound up with mine, so I was a bit peeved.  Later, after he heard so many good things about the chain, Drew went back.  And really liked what he ordered.  I wasn't so sure I'd want to try it again.

But last summer, I found myself working temporarily in the Financial District.  And I watched a new Smashburger being built about a block from my office.  And I decided I would try Smashburger again as soon as the place opened.  Then the job relocated to Long Island, with occasional trips to the city to meet with the client.

So one day I came across a news item:  Smashburger was giving away burgers, but only at its newest location at 136 William Street.  the irony?  The giveaway was the day before my next meeting with the client.  Ugh.

So of course I had to try Smashburger at my next opportunity.

I had the BBQ Bacon and cheddar burger -- a hamburger topped with cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, barbecue sauce and haystack onions(similar to onion rings) on an egg bun.   burger was juicy and flavorful, barbecue sauce kept the burger moist but wasn't drippy or runny. 

I decided to keep it simple with the side dish, I ordered regular fries:  shoestring potatoes seasoned with salt.  Decent fries, not spectacular, but next time I might go a bit more exotic.

Theere's a serve-yourself soda fountain.  I have to admit that I was disappointed, so many new places opening up these days have a freestyle coke machine...

So the next time someone says "Want to go to Smashburger?"  my answer will be a definite "Yes."

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 23, 2015

Songbird Salutes the 70's: the Four Together Concert

My dream concert, one I really wish I could have gone to see. Funny, though, I didn't know about this concert when it happened, I stumbled upon some videos on YouTube...

 10/15/1977 in Olympia Stadium, Detroit.  A crowd of 17,000.  And four incredible performers.  It was a charity concert, the proceeds benefited World Hunger Year.

I mention "world hunger" and you probably already know at least one of the artists. 

Harry Chapin.

I've written before about 7/16/1981.  How I was in Eisenhower Park, waiting for the Harry Chapin concert to begin, when we learned he'd been killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway.  I'd seen several of Harry's concerts, I had several albums.  I was a fan for many years, even before he did a concert in my high school auditorium.   I knew he devoted much of his time to world hunger organizations, as well as a local organization, Long Island Cares.  Harry's activism was as much a part of him as his music.

The second artist was John Denver. One of my favorites.  I had every song on An Evening With John Denver memorized.  I knew he donated all the proceeds of "Calypso" to Jacques Costeau's organization.  I was not aware, however, of his involvement with world hunger, until  I saw a BBC documentary on his life on PBS a couple of weeks ago.  He was appointed to serve on President Carter's Presidential Commission on World Hunger.

The third artist was James Taylor.  Sweet Baby James.  Who doesn't have at least one song by James Taylor on their playlist?   Also known as an environmental activist, and one who espouses liberal causes.

The final artist was Gordon Lightfoot.  I didn't know much about him except for his big hits. 

The set list included such songs as  Denver's "Back Home Again", "Take Me Home , Country Roads" and  "Rocky Mountain High"; Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", and"If You Could Read My Mind"; Taylor's "Fire and Rain", "You've Got a Friend" and "Sweet Baby James": and Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle", "W.O.L.D." , "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" and "Taxi".

The concert was only part of their activism.  They also founded  what would become The Harry Chapin Foundation.

Some highlights of the concert --sound quality isn't great, but still --

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Music is You

Music makes pictures and often tell stories, all of it magic and all of it true.
And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you.
Music makes pictures and often tell stories, all of it magic and all of it true.
And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you.

An artist touches you.  His words, his music become a part of you.  Memories, hopes, dreams, all find expression in the music.

And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday
What about tomorrow
What about our dreams
And all the memories we share

How poignant the lyrics are. How they spoke to me back then, even in my teen years, before I had much life experience to reflect upon.  How much deeper the meaning now, decades later.  I can look back at life experience, good and bad.

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Song lyrics are poetry. The best of them conjure up images, emotions.  How wonderful it is to be  in love, how having a partner can make your life so different.

 I'll walk in the rain by your side, I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand.
I'll do anything to help you understand, and I'll love you more than anybody can.
And the wind will whisper your name to me, little birds will sing along in time.
Leaves will bow down when you walk by and morning bells will chime.

When I listened to those words years ago, I had no idea, no clue, how becoming a parent would change me.

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops
Sail over the canyons and up to the stars
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are

The lyrics can set your heart soaring.  Nature, spirituality, hope for the future.

The music, the lyrics, they fill a piece of my soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

legal ticket scalping

I'm getting very frustrated with the market for concert tickets.

A concert in announced.  Tickets will go on sale on, let's say Monday, at 10:00 AM, at Ticketmaster or Live Nation or whatever.  You go on line at the appointed time, and despite being asked to type words or phrases to prove you're not a robot, you can't get tickets.

But within minutes, there are hundreds of tickets available on the secondary market sites like Stub Hub.

Sometimes you're lucky, if you go back to Ticketmaster or Live Nation an hour or two later, there are still tickets available, you just couldn't get them because of the heavy volume hitting the site at 10:00.  But all too often, your only choice is to pay inflated prices on the secondary market.

I really had to admire what Cat Stevens/Yusuf did vis a vis tickets for his U.S. tour.  In order to gain entry to the concert, you not only need your tickets, you need the credit card which was used to purchase the tickets.  There were no seats for sale on Stub Hub, you can't resell tickets unless you plan to show up with the buyer ... he cancelled his New York appearance, because apparently this type of arrangement does not comply with New York law.  Pity.

Well, I did land two face-value tickets to see Jimmy Buffett at Jones Beach in August, but it took a lot of effort.  And they're not exactly prime seats.  I may have to see what's available on the evil Stub Hub...

Friday, March 20, 2015

blood moons and solar eclipses part 2

I first explored this topic in a post last year.

Two partial lunar eclipses last year.

This year gets even more exciting, from an astronomical view. 

Today is the vernal equinox.  It's also the full moon -- a super moon, as a matter of fact.  That means the moon is at its closest point to the earth.  And a solar eclipse, the biggest Europe has seen since 1999. Alas, not visible here in the United States.

And in two weeks, a lunar eclipse.  It won't be visible here on the East Coast.  Sigh.

A partial solar eclipse September 13 -- not visible here in the U.S.

September 28, a lunar eclipse.  Visible here !!!!!!  Pray for good weather.

A Christian minister believes these are signs of the Apocalypse.    Some Jews have jumped on the bandwagon:  Passover Blood Moon Preceded by Exceedingly Rare Solar Eclipse

There will be a total eclipse of the sun for two minutes over the North Pole on Friday, March 20, the day of the Spring Equinox which coincides with the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nissan, the first month in the Biblical calendar year, a solar occurrence that has never happened before in human history.

These celestial happenings excite me.  The fact that they all fall on significant dates in the Jewish calendar intrigues me.  I do not know that I believe in signs and portents, but nevertheless...I will be watching.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


We had the opportunity to revisit Monsoon Asian Kitchen and Lounge.

Loved it last year.

I still think the place is a bit pretentious, but the food is excellent. Once again the menu has been revamped.

We started with the appetizer sampler platter. Bibb lettuce wraps with peanut dipping sauce were incredible. Spicy shrimp tempura had just the right bite without being overpowering. Yakitori steak was tender and flavorful. He liked the duck bun, I thought it was merely ok. Neither of us cared for the edamame dumplings, very bland.

Main courses were shaking beef -- filet mignon in a sweet soy glaze -- and tempura shrimp. The tempura batter was light and not greasy, the shrimp came with an interesting assortment of vegetables. The shaking beef was tender and tasty.

 Fried rice comes with a whole fired egg on top.  You're supposed to mix the egg into the rice, but we've never found a way to do that without spilling copious amounts of rice onto the table.  The dish, minus the egg, was a little bland.

Dessert menu didn't impress us.

Another successful evening, and we will be back.

Monsoon: Asian Kitchen & Lounge on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dairy Queen redux

The lure of free ice cream brought us to Dairy Queen on March 16, they were giving out cones in honor of DQ's 75th birthday.

We stayed for a meal. This time around I ordered a burger. It was disappointing. The buns are oversized, meant for a double patty, so my single patty felt overwhelmed. Didn't care for the mushroom swiss burger, the mushrooms were very drippy and had an artificial taste. I'll try different toppings for my burger next time. Fries were crispy delicious, as always.

I must say that the cone giveaway was well organized. The free cones were modestly sized but very tasty.

Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Midnight is just the beginning

I am unashamedly, unabashedly sentimental about all things Disney.

My strongest memory of the 1964 World's Fair is riding "It's a Small World".

The very first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was Mary Poppins.

Sleeping Beauty was re released when I was in college, and I dragged a group of friends off campus to the local movie theater so that I could get my "fix". (I kind of think they all enjoyed it.)

Hearing "When You Wish Upon A Star" leaves me teary-eyed.

But Cinderella holds a special place in my heart.

When I was a little girl, my Aunt Eileen would sing "A Dream Is A Wish". I can still hear her voice in my head. And when we drove up to the Catskills, where my grandmother rented a bungalow every summer, she'd point to the castle in Tarrytown -- the one you can see just before you get onto the Tappan Zee Bridge -- and tell us "That's where Cinderella lives."

That Cinderella, she really gets around these days. She pops up in lots of movies, doesn't she? Ever After. And  Ella Enchanted. We saw her on Broadway not too long ago, in the revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and she's currently off Broadway in the Roundabout's Into the Woods.

But on Saturday night we got a treat, seeing her in Disney's new live action movie. The film takes its storyline from the 1950 animated classic. A very straightforward telling of the classic fairytale. Cinderella's widowed father, a merchant, marries a widow with two daughters of her own. The stepmother and stepsisters are cruel to Cinderella, begin treating her like a servant in her own home even before her father dies. An invitation to a ball, some magic from a fairy godmother, a charming prince, a pair of amazing shoes. A happy ending. No weird twist to the story, no attempt to "modernize" the tale.

My favorite performances in this movie weren't the leads, though Lily James and Richard Madden make a cute couple. I really loved Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother -- she's so good at evil, but it was fun to see her as a quirky benevolent character. Derek Jacobi, who captured my attention when he did all that Shakespeare on PBS in the 70's, makes an excellent King. But Cate Blanchett, as Lady Tremaine, steals the movie. So cool, so calculating.   Not to mention, her costumes are incredible.

This movie is not a musical, but two songs from the animated film --  "Bibitti Bobetti Boo" and "A Dream Is A Wish"  -- are sung over the closing credits.

This Disney fan was satisfied.

The film is preceded by a short cartoon featuring the characters from Frozen.  It was cute, great for fans, and just enough to whet the appetite for the upcoming sequel.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

A St. Patrick's Day musical treat

Monday, March 16, 2015

Laundry woes

Why does a laundromat bring out the worst in some people?

It's Saturday afternoon, and the laundromat is fairly busy. Attendant says she hasn't seen it this busy all winter.

I see a guy taking laundry out of a dryer, so I ask if he's done with the machine. He says yes. But after I start loading the machine he tells me that the dryer isn't working properly, it takes a long time to heat up. So I take my clothes out of the dryer and start loading them into another machine. After the machine is loaded, that's when he tells me that machine isn't working at all.

Is he getting his jollies out of my woes?

So I tell him to please stop "helping" me.

So he gets all macho, very confrontational. How dare I speak to him like that? He's going to make me shut up.

You know, you're getting on my nerves, please just go away.

More angry confrontational nonsense.

So I rolled my eyes, looked at his wife and asked her to tell him to just leave me alone.

He left me alone, but while I'm sitting there waiting for my laundry, he's arguing with his wife and preteen daughter.

Something tells me he did NOT want to be in that laundromat.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

good as gold(a)

"Golda Meir 03265u" by Marion S. Trikosko - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.03265.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

It's Women's History Month, so I thought I might talk about one of my personal heroines/role models: Golda Meir.

Born in Kiev, raised in Milwaukee, immigrated to Palestine.  She was a teacher, a Zionist, a kibbutznik, a fundraiser, a politician.  One of the founders of the State of Israel.  And one of its greatest Prime Ministers.

And yet, she was also the quintessential Jewish grandmother.  So smart, so wise.

Some quotes.

"We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon - no alternative."

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the 13th - again

I will not scoff at Friday the 13th.

I will not scoff at Friday the 13th.

I will not scoff at Friday the 13th.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

weight loss?

Looking back a few years on my blog entries....

There was a time, a few years ago, when I was really into watching "The Biggest Loser".  I cheered the contestants as they dropped pounds, I worried who would be able to maintain the weight loss.  Part of me identified with the contestants,  because I was following the Weight Watchers plan at the time, trying to find a time and place to exercise, losing a bit of weight and ....well, it felt good.

Lost interest in the show, lost interest in proper diet and exercise.

And when it comes to rationalizations, I am the queen of why I "can't" lose weight.

I am seriously thinking that it's time I stopped saying "I can't."

I reactivated my Weight Watchers subscription.  I've activated my iHealth activity monitor.

I....I...well, myself.

I need to go grocery shopping...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

eldercare update

The family "war" is about to erupt. 

To the best of my knowledge, Shelley still has not been to the rehab to see Marvin, and she hasn't called the rehab to find out how he's doing.  If you are the caregiver, you should express at least some concern about the person you're taking care of, right?

Drew, on the other hand, had a long talk with the caseworker at the facility.   He expressed his concerns that Shelley is unreachable -- she turns off her phone when she goes to bed at night.  He told the caseworker about the clothes incident on Saturday. 

And he told the caseworker that he's concerned about Marvin going back to Shelley's house.  Marvin has had mobility issues for awhile now, he's had to rely on a cane.  On Saturday he told us  that when he goes to dialysis, he uses a wheelchair because his legs are so weak.    The stoop at Shelley's house has three steps and no handrail, and we don't know that Marvin will be able to maneuver those steps.  And his bedroom is on the second floor. 

So now Drew is the designated "caretaker" as far as the rehab center is concerned, and he's the person who will be consulted about Marvin's ongoing care.

No surprise there.  Drew is the one who took care of his father.  And he did it long distance -- Drew's father was assisted living in Florida for several years, then a nursing home in Florida before Drew arranged to bring him back to Long Island last year.

Shelley will not be happy, of course.  And for entirely selfish reasons.  She cannot afford the rent on that house without Marvin's financial contributions. 

It's going to be interesting around here.

Hug your children

Jen and Becca spent their childhood summers at day camp.  Later, in their teen years, they enjoyed a teen travel program sponsored by the camp.  Jen's first real job was as a counselor at the camp, and Becca worked as a CIT.  Jen continues to work there every summer.

So of course they had lots of camp friends.  Boys and girl with similar backgrounds, similar interests. And because my girls are close in age, they know a lot of the same people from the camp.

Jen and I were talking last night, and I asked her if she plans to work at the camp again this summer.  She said yes.

And then she interrupted me because she got a text message from Becca.

It was about a young man they both knew.  He'd been in Becca's group at camp, had travelled with her to various places up and down the East a Coast.  

He'd worked at the camp.  He was there last summer, Jen said she spent some time hanging out with him.

Last night Becca heard from one of her camp friends.  The news was awful.

The young man committed suicide.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Billions and Billions of Stars - Who else is out there?

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

Interesting article about a recent discovery in space.

Seems that NASA's Dawn spacecraft saw something ....interesting...on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Two lights.

Mineral deposits?  A frozen lake?

Or...something else?

We may find out soon, as Dawn continues its exploration.

It is a human conceit to think we are alone in the universe.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

I wanted to cry

Actually, I did cry ...for just a few minutes.

It's about Drew's uncle Marvin.

Drew is finally intervening in the situation. After what happened on Saturday, how could he not?

The poor man deserves some dignity, after all, some comfort in his declining years. He's 88 years old, he needs someone to look after him.

It's becoming increasingly clear that Drew's sister Shelley is not an appropriate caregiver on any level. Something needs to change.

Marvin had surgery last week, and afterwards they sent him to rehab not home. Drew and I went to see him on Saturday, at the rehab center.

He told Drew "At the hospital I told them I don't want to see Shelley, all she does is yell at me.  And I said I don't want to live with her anymore.  I have to tell them I didn't mean that."

Shelley had not been to see him at the hospital or at rehab. He has no phone, no connection to the outside world. And he wasn't able to go to the dining room, social activities, physical therapy, etc. because he has no clothes -- the clothes he wore to the hospital are soiled and in the laundry, and Shelley didn't bring him any clean clothes.

And when Drew called Shelley from rehab, she gave him an argument. We wound up going to Shelley's house, gathering up what we could, and bringing it back to rehab.

Broke my heart to see how grateful Marvin was for this small kindness.

Drew will be speaking with the social worker today.  We have to do what's best for Marvin.  And if it means Shelley will be angry, so be it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Margarita's Cafe

Located in a strip mall with a horribly small parking lot, Margarita's has quickly become a popular dining spot.

The space is long and narrow, with very high ceilings.  The room is divided, the dining area on one side of the wall, the bar (with space for a live band)  on the other.  Tables are somewhat close together.  Mexican folk art decorates the walls.  The acoustics -- well, it can get very loud. Don't plan on quiet dinner conversation, especially after the band starts to play.

The menu is very extensive, featuring steaks and seafood as well as tacos, burritos, enchiladas and the like.  I ordered arroz con pollo, chunks of grilled chicken stirred into seasoned rice -- nice garlicky flavor.  It was served with refried beans topped with just a dollop of melted cheese -- a nice accent, not overpowering.  Tostones -- fried plantains -- were served with dipping sauce.  The tres leches cake looked tempting, but I had fried ice cream instead -- be careful, the ice cream is very hard.

We didn't order the guacamole, but I watched them make a batch for the diners at the next table.  I'm definitely going to order that next time.

Yes, the food is definitely worth a return visit.

Margarita's Cafe 3 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 7, 2015

airplane accidents, old and new

I was working from home on Thursday, the office was closed due to snow, and I had the TV on as background noise.

So of course I heard the news.  There was an accident at La Guardia, a plane skidded off the runway while landing.  Fortunately, no one was killed, and there were no serious injuries.  But there was wall to wall coverage of the story on the local TV stations most of the afternoon.

And then someone mentioned the 1992 accident.

March 1992.  Same airport, same runway.  A plane that was not properly de-iced tried to take off, but wound up in Flushing Bay.  27 people died. Horrible accident, but they say that the safety precautions instituted after that night may have helped minimize the injuries on Thursday.

I remember that night. It was just a few months before Becca was born, and Drew and Jen and I were living in Queens, in an apartment on the service road of the Van Wyck Expressway. Interesting location.   We'd see lots of traffic accidents on the highway below, and once we saw Bill Clinton's motorcade. If we were watching a Mets game, and it started to rain at Shea, we'd close our windows.  We could see Kennedy Airport from our balcony, and we'd often watch the planes approach the airport.

We knew something was going on long before the news hit the TV stations.  It's not often that you see an armada of rescue vehicles, sirens blaring,   driving past your house.  It looked like every fire engine, ambulance, etc. in the entire borough of Queens was headed up the Van Wyck, on their way from JFK to La Guardia.  It was truly an impressive sight.

Friday, March 6, 2015

restaurant review; BurgerFi

So we heard about this restaurant in Newsday:

It’s the biggest BurgerFi in the nation, and as of Friday it is serving up hormone-and-antibiotic-free burgers and the like in Uniondale. The new 6,000-square-foot branch of a Florida-based “green” franchise burger chain seats about 200 people and uses solar panels for about 20 percent of its energy usage.
The eatery, close to both Hofstra University and Nassau Coliseum, occupies the fully renovated Hempstead Turnpike building that formerly housed Social Sports Kitchen. Come the warmer weather, floor-to-ceiling windows will open to the outdoors.
There are already two Long Island BurgerFi locations, in Oceanside and Woodbury. This one is the fifth to open in New York, and the 66th in the nation.
BurgerFi is at 1002 Hempstead Tpke., Uniondale, 516-280-3900.

Well, with that kind of write up, we had to go.

Exterior was really cool.

Inside is loud, cavernous.  The gimmick here -- you place your order at the counter, you're handed an electronic  "tracker" which you must place in the center of your table.  Your order is brought to your table.  Even if you order your food "to go", you're asked to wait at a table with your tracker -- I'm wondering what will happen on a really busy night.

On a recent Friday night, we were the only customers over the age of 25 -- the place seems to be very popular with Hofstra students.  Can't imagine why,

Burgers and hot dogs are served on potato rolls and are offered with a variety of toppings.  I liked the kobe beef-style hot dog with mustard and neon relish, but to be honest, a Nathan's dog is better.  Similarly, my hamburger -- served with Swiss cheese, grilled onions,grilled mushrooms and BurgerFi sauce, was merely "OK".

I was unable to decide between onion rings or fries, so I ordered the "Cry and Fry" -- a huge order of fries topped with three large onion rings.  The fries are cut shoestring style, with just enough potato skin left on to add a bit of bite.  The onion rings were a bit too salty.

I'd certainly go back again if I found myself in the neighborhood, but with so many other burger places on Long Island, it's not worth the effort to make a special trip to BurgerFi.  Given the location, however, I'm sure they'll make a fortune here.

. BurgerFi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Honoring Esther the Queen

The Bible says she existed and saved her people.  History says she's more of a myth.  But her story inspires.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was flipping though channels, trying to find something to watch on TV, I came across an old movie, Esther and the King.  Filmed in 1960, it stars Joan Collins and it's based on the Biblical story of Queen Esther.  I saw maybe 15-20 minutes of the film.   The cinematography captured ancient Persia. Joan Collins was gorgeous, and it was so interesting to see her play an innocent,  sympathetic character -- so different from the roles that made her famous later on. I couldn't really get involved with the movie, though, because the writers took a lot of  poetic license with the story.  And it's a story I know so well.

The Jewish holiday of Purim began last night and will be celebrated today.  Purim is yet another one of those "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat" holidays.  In this case, the "we" were the Jews of Persia, especially in the capital city, Shushan. The  "they" was  Haman and his followers; Haman was an advisor to King Ahasuerus.  The heroine of the story is a Jewish girl named Hadassah, also known as Esther, the niece of Mordechai, another advisor to the king.

Purim is similar to Mardi Gras or Halloween, it involves dressing up in costume, feasting and drinking.    You're supposed to exchange gifts of food, including hamantaschen, a triangular pastry  that's supposed to resemble Haman's tricorn hat.  You're supposed to drink until you can't tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai.  In more traditional times, the children would go door to door, begging for treats.  They'd recite:

Today is  Purim
Tomorrow no more
Give me a penny
And show me the door.

These days, most synagogues and Jewish community centers host a carnival for the children.  I can't begin to tell you how many goldfish I've won at Purim carnivals, or how many my daughters brought home.  Ah, tradition.

But the most important ritual of Purim is reading the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther.  The congregation shows up in costume, with all sorts of noisemakers.  The entire story is read aloud.  And every time Haman is mentioned, the entire congregation is supposed to make as much noise as possible, to blot out his name.  In our synagogue, the readers sometimes use funny voices, and the Rabbi likes to throw chocolate at the children if they answer his questions correctly.  It's loud, it's  irreverent, it's fun.

The story is intriguing, filled with palace plots and the like.  And interestingly, it is Esther, not Mordechai, who saves the Jews of Persia from death. 

A bit of trivia about the Megillah.  G-d is never mentioned, not even once.  Esther and the Jews of Shushan fast and pray, but the Almighty is more of a behind-the-scenes presence than an active participant.  The bravery of a single Jewish woman saves the Jews of Persia from death at Haman's hands.

Well, no wonder that the largest philanthropic organization of Jewish women is called Hadassah.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another this and that

Lots going on around here.

Jen and Becca were in a minor car accident Saturday night.  (Frightening thought for any mom!).  Jen's car was rear-ended while she was stopped at a red light.  Both girls were a little sore for a day or two, but they're ok.  There are some dings and scratches on Jen's car, but nothing major.  Significant damage to the car that hit them, though.  Becca tweeted that the driver hit on them ...

The scary part, however, happened while they were exchanging information and waiting for the police.  Another, far more serious accident took place across the street -- when a truck ran a red light and hit a car, and the car went spinning out of control.  The car's driver was taken away in an ambulance.  My girls were lucky ...

And you should have seen Jen do her happy dance Sunday night when she found out the school district opted for a two-hour delayed opening Monday morning because of the bad weather.  Sometimes she acts like she's still 12 years old. 

That was the morning Becca needed a ride to the county clerk's office.  She had to file some papers for her boss.  Took her all of three minutes, I think.  I drove her there (it's good to have a mom who knows how to get to the courthouse) and dropped her off at the train station so she could go to work.

I am so sick of this weather.  When I said to my sister "March comes in like a lion," she told me "I hope it goes out like a lamb, and not some deranged demon sheep."

We are worried about Drew's uncle Marvin again.  Drew's sister posted on Facebook that Marvin is back in the hospital.  Marvin is 88 years old and hasn't been doing well for a long time.  Back in law school we used to joke about the legal principle called "the fertile octogenarian."  Frankly I'd be happy to label the octogenarians in my life "reasonably healthy".  Not going to happen, but a girl can dream, right?

Drew went back to work this week.  He's taking it slow, he's not fully healed from his back surgery.  He's getting better, slowly but surely.  So working has been rough.

He's got a few other issues going on.  So do I.  The joke is that we both must be out of warranty, everything is falling apart.  Can I trade in my old body for a newer model?

And the stress from dealing with Marc isn't helping.  There's goin to be another confrontation soon ....

We plan to do another staycation this summer.  There were a lot of things we wanted to do last year but never got around to doing.  This year we will plan our time better, I hope.  Concerts, ball games, road trips, it should be fun.

Ah, summer, how I've missed the warm weather ....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

so -- the speech

Yes, I watched it. 

It was actually a decent speech.  Lots of platitudes about bipartisan support for Israel, and the support Israel has received from the Obama administration.  Biblical references to Esther and Moses -- not unexpected.  Holocaust references, the "never again" rhetoric  -- also not unexpected, nice touch to have Elie Wiesel in the audience.

He made his case forcefully but respectfully.

How much nicer would it have been had protocols been followed.

I am not convinced he's right, I am not convinced he's wrong. 

I think the deal happens regardless of this speech.

And he didn't offer an alternative.

The US, Israel and Bibi's speech

Everyone who sees my Facebook feed knows my political views very well, I am very opinionated and very outspoken.  But I seldom discuss politics on the blog.  However, given that the March NaBloPoMo theme is news, today I would like to address  a major news event: Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress.

The  issue I'm addressing today speaks to me not only on a political level, but involves my identity.

I am an American.  I am a Jew.  And until now, those two parts of me have always been compatible. 

My Hebrew school education started in 1968, shortly after the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem.  My bat mitzvah was in 1973, a few months before the Yom Kippur War.  Growing up, the message I heard was that American Jews must be Zionists, we must support  Israel,  we must defend Israel from attack, that the entire Arab world wanted to "push the Jews into the sea."  This was before Jimmy Carter brought Begin and Sadat together, before Bill Clinton tried to broker peace with Arafat and Barak.

As an adult I remain an ardent Zionist, though one with her eyes opened to the problems in the Middle East.

Israel's safety and security should never have become a political football.  The American Jewish community is being torn apart by partisan politics.

I place the blame squarely on John Boehner, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer.

Boehner, of course, is the not-so-loyal opposition to President Obama.    His moves and countermoves are to be expected.

I always tried to stay away from internal Israeli politics. Which candidate became Prime Minister was none of my concern, I would support Israel and whoever was the designated leader of the government.

But I found myself really disliking Bibi in 2012.   Bibi, as you may know, was born in Israel, but spent a good deal of his youth in the United States. He holds degrees from MIT and Harvard.  At one point, he and Mitt Romney were coworkers, colleagues.  In a way, it was no surprise that he went on the Sunday morning talk shows and actively campaigned for his dear friend.    But this created two problems:  (1) it soured his relationship with Obama, who easily won reelection, and (2) the vast majority of the American Jewish community identifies with the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, was born and raised here. His early political career, before he made Aliyah and became an Israeli citizen, included an extensive employment history with Newt Gingrich's organization.

Are you starting to see the problem here?

So, about Iran...The President wants to negotiate with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the House Republicans want to impose sanctions on Iran to prevent it from gaining any sort of nuclear ability.    And the Prime Minister of Israel sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to his own country.

So Boehner invited Bibi to speak to a joint session of Congress, without involving the White House. 

The battle was therefore lost before Netanyahu even took the floor.  Democrats, even those who would otherwise have supported the sanctions bill, have to react to the disrespect shown to the President. Some will boycott the speech, others will listen politely but will not support the legislation..  How much better would it have been, how much more receptive would Congress have been, if protocols were followed?

And the American Jewish community is so divided on this issue.  Should he speak, or should he have stayed home? 

And Obama will remain in office until January 2017, so Bibi will have a real headache...


Oh, yeah, there's an election in Israel on March 17.  And the voters  back home (or, rather, some of them) see Bibi's speech to Congress as grandstanding, as a political ploy to defeat the opposition.  I mean, he's about to fly to Washington, and he takes time for a photo op at the Wall?

I hope the leaders of Congress who wanted this speech are happy to be used as tools in the internal politics of Israel.

It no longer matters if Bibi is right or wrong, he cannot accomplish anything meaningful with this speech.

Who knows?  Maybe he will be reelected, maybe not.    Maybe in a few weeks we'll be talking about Israeli Prime Minister Herzog...

Monday, March 2, 2015

He lived long and prospered

The internet is full of tributes to Leonard Nimoy, who died Friday at the age of 83.  A fine actor, a philanthropist, a supporter of science.  Every geek's favorite grandfather.

I am a science fiction fan, I love Star Trek.  A show for science fiction fans who think, it explored topics such as racism, gender identification and inequality, ecology/climate change, war, violence, rebellion, brotherhood...

And, of course, I found Spock fascinating.  The ultimate science geek.  No wonder some of the loudest tributes come from astronauts, engineers, scientists.

One thing that always fascinated me -- the origin of the Vulcan greeting.  A bit of trivia that speaks to me.

The kohenim are the hereditary priests of the Jewish people.  The designation is passed down from father to son.    I am a bat Kohen, the daughter of a Kohen.

In ancient times the Kohenim were the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem.  In modern times they play a role in various ceremonies in the synagogue.  They give the priestly blessing to the congregation.  There is a special way each Kohen holds his hands while giving the blessing:

"Grave Rabbi Meschullam Kohn" by Alexander Mayer - Alexander Mayer. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Nimoy, as everyone knows, was Jewish.  I love is explanation of how he came up with the Vulcan salute;

Yes, every time you give the Vulcan salute, you are using an ancient Hebrew blessing.

May G-d bless you, Mr. Nimoy, for all the good works you have done here on earth, all the pleasure your work has given us. #LLAP

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March NaBloPoMo: News

This month's NaBloPoMo theme:  news

This month we'll be talking about news. The places you get your news, the amount of time you use focusing on the news, and critiquing the news to see what works and doesn't work.

Well, that's an easy one for me, I  love the news, world events, politics, even entertainment news and gossip.

I subscribe to The New York Times, Newsday and The New York Daily News.  My Facebook feed includes The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post and Ha'Aretz, as well as news feeds from WNBC and WABC. 

I watch the local news every day, and my Sunday morning viewing must include Face the Nation or Meet the Press.

Two of the presets on my car radio are the all-news stations, 1010 WINS and WCBS-AM.

I must have been 11 or 12 when I started reading the newspaper every day.  Newsday was an afternoon paper back then, you'd have to wait for it to show up...and then I'd argue with my mother about who got to read it first.

Yes, this month is going to be fun for a newshound like me.

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