Monday, December 31, 2007


Myfanwe bought me a little bauble.

We love the car, but I wasn't prepared for the time commitment involved. We arrived at the dealership at 9:10 a.m. and didn't leave until 2:45 p.m. And we knew what we wanted when we walked in the door!

We each had a piece of pizza at noon, but nonetheless I was experiencing food management issues by the time we finally got out of there. As we were waiting for them to pull the car up to the door, our salesperson, Evan, said "We just have one more'll only take me five minutes to show you how to operate the radio." I couldn't help myself. I blurted out "No! I swear to G-d in heaven, if I have to stay here one more minute I am hurting somebody! There's a chance it wouldn't be you, but if I were a betting man, I still wouldn't take that bet."

She rides like a dream.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Oh, wait. Yes you are. My bad.

I have mentioned in these pages that I have a great boss. I do. I have the best. Without a doubt.

I'd like to give you evidence of his greatness.

At the end of 2001 I was working on a huge, pressured anti-trust case at a boutique firm -- one of those firms that prides itself at having a staff smaller that your average Baskin-Robbins but able to take on the behemoth cabbage-demons of the business world. One of the parters, I'll call him Leo, if you don't mind, had always been a little bit crazy, mean, and vindictive. The office story was that he always had to have one person who he hated. And I had become his bitch.

So, we are working this big case. I've been working it for a couple of years and feeling lucky to have a job after the economic and emotional downturn following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yes, Leo did everything he could to make my life a living hell, but I had a family to support, and I could put up with anything from him.

Then, not unexpectedly, a month or so before trial (but not before I assembled the 10,000+ exhibits we expected to use at trial) all of the bad guys started to settle. The office did well. We negotiated settlements of over a billion dollars for our clients. And the firm received a percentage of that amount, so we are talking about a $100m year for the firm. Visions of Christmas Bonus' danced in my head. I had, after all, had a major role in staffing the case.

So imagine my disappointment when, a couple of days later, the managing partner, I'll call him "Sir", walks into my office and closes the door. He told me that the partners had held their year-end meeting, and that Leo had advocated vociferously for my dismissal.

Sir then said that he wouldn't let him do it -- that he thought I was a good worker and would be glad to have me work on more of his cases. He told me that, in a year where 5 figure bonuses were de rigeur, I would be receiving $1,000 -- and that he had to fight with Leo to get me that. In addition, Leo had insisted that I be moved out of my 32nd floor window office into what had always been (and still was) a file room. A file room not large enough to accommodate a desk, so I had a table. A table I had to climb over to get behind.

Sir told me that I had a choice to make -- I could be unhappy and look to leave, or I could work my way above Leo's enmity and continue with the firm. He said that he believed I could do it. And he hoped I would.

So, I made my decision. I stayed. I moved to the file room, I bore the indignity of Leo's constant hate. I worked for Sir, learning a whole new area of work and getting kinda good at it. We really developed into a team. One of our biggest cases resulted in Sir being out of town four or five days a week for several months at a time. He trusted me to keep the home fires burning, and when people half a world away who created the documents couldn't find them, he would call me and I'd have them to him in an instant. As I said, I got kinda good at what I do.

Then, last February, things kinda fell apart at work. Leo screwed his partners and brought down the firm. My guy, who wasn't one to cut his own deal and screw everyone else, advocated for finding a merger where all the attorneys could go without conflicts. Leo, who wasn't ever raised to think about anyone but himself, said "F**k you all."

The month that the firm was closing down, Leo wasn't around unless he has a meeting at his new firm. He did absolutely nothing to aid in closing up the shop. My guy? Well, my guy was going through his files and throwing out dumpsters of papers. And when he wasn't doing that he was hustling new jobs for his employees -- I could tell that it was eating him up, having people out of a job and not have solid things lined up.

I lined up another job in about 45 minutes. I have skills and they are marketable. But I was miserable. It wasn't going to be working with My Guy. It was a big hit to my psyche. I could hold things together for three or four hours, but then at lunch, rain or shine, I would walk up and down Michigan Avenue bawling like a baby. I must have looked like an absolutely lunatic. Then when the hour was over, I'd pull it together and go back to work, putting things in order for Sir.

When Sir called and told me he had firm offers lined up and asked if I would go with him, I was floored. It was the one thing that none of the other positions could offer me. (Oh, and they offered me a 10% higher salary for working only 90% time! Can you say "Heaven"?)

I just had my first of, I hope, many annual reviews at my new firm. 14% raise. (on top of the earlier increase), and a 13% bonus! And -- I kid you not -- the words "beloved by all" were included in my review. I still get a little teary-eyed when I think about it.

I know that there are a lot of people who don't believe that G-d is involved in our lives. Myfanwe constantly says "Well, G-d could spend a little less time helping Carleen find short-shorts on sale at TJMaxx and use the time to help all those people in Zimbabwe."

I don't know how to reconcile the disconnect, but I do believe G-d has helped me. G-d has been merciful to me. I am happier than I could ever have hoped to be. I have a great wife, a great boy, a lovely home, fine friends, and a job that makes me happy to get up and go to work in the morning.

It does make me feel a little guilty for all those nights I prayed for Leo Fried to choke on a ham sandwich while looking in the mirror. ( I know that sounds mean, but I thought it would be comforting for him to see the person he loved most in the world as he died.) Jerk.

Friday, December 28, 2007


OK. My vacation ends in four days. I return to work on my 44th birthday. I'm actually looking forward to getting back in a way -- I don't like to be away for too long.

But I'm sad. You see, I sort of promised my wife and my physician that, at the New Year, I would make some diet and lifestyle changes which will, hopefully, result in a healthier me. (I swear, umpteen-thousand dollars spent on high tech brain imaging and neuro-psych evaluations and dog knows what else, and all I have in way of a definitive diagnosis is that I am "morbidly obese". I questioned my doctor..."Morbidly?" asks I. "Oh, yeah" says Doogie Houser, M.D.

Now, he admits that this isn't what is causing my health problems, but I think he figures this dieting and exercise will keep me distracted while he tries to figure the rest of my stuff out at a nice leisurely pace. I would say he is wrong, but one of my problems is memory loss, so I probably will be easily distracted. Could you all remind me to take the wind out of his sales once in a while?

So I have only 5 days left to cook and eat what I wish. (I am NOT starting the dieting shit on my birthday and you can't make me!) I am panicking. After a long internal discussion, I've decided on a devil's food cake with 7-minute-icing for Saturday. My grandmother used to make that for me. And I think on Sunday I will make some hand rolled Chinese dumplings. I love me some potstickers. (I have to make them out of chicken because Myfanwe doesn't allow pork int he house.) Maybe Monday I'll make apple pancakes -- the bigass brown buttery caramel ones from the Original Pancake House! You know the ones. I have a great recipe...I make them just a little less sweet and they are ever so much better. Yum.

And somewhere in my day I am going to have to squeeze in a trip to the gym. And Myfanwe is going to say things like -- no you can't take it out of house cleaning time. You can take it out of knitting time. And then I'll have to hate her for an hour or two because she doesn't even TRY to understand how important knitting is.

Well, you can't say I didn't warn you that this post would be without import. But you read it anyway. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Migraine Morning

I woke this morning with a pretty nifty migraine. Which really pisses me off. I feel like I've been robbed of a day of vacation.

Ooh. Did I mention I was on vacation? Yup. I have been since noon last Friday. And I don't go back to work until Wednesday, the 2nd of January. (Which happens to be my 44th birthday!)

Anyway. After administering copious amounts of caffeine -- Excedrin Migraine washed down with strong coffee -- I am at least somewhat relieved of the pain. Not completely relieved, but enough that I can stumble around the house instead of just rocking back and forth on the bed praying for death.

I had been planning to bake some rugellach today, but the idea of doing anything around food makes my head pound more. So that will have to wait for another day.

I did get item of my "To Do" list done. I did this:

My Luna Moth shawl. I didn't realize until I was pinning it out that I hadn't worked in the ends...a serious but not insurmountable mistake. I hate blocking, and I am really quite bad at it. But it is a necessary evil when you knit lace. Overall I'm pleased.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Ich wollte einen speziellen Gruß schicken meinen engagierten Lesern in Frankfurt und in Hamburg. Sie können nicht sich vorstellen, wie glücklich er mich Sie sehen läßt, meine Anmerkungen hier gelesen zu haben.

Ich habe Familie noch in Deutschland, obwohl wir nicht in 25 Jahren geentsprochen haben. Meine Familie dort waren Wurst-Hersteller, und ich bilde mein eigenes wurst hier in Amerika, weil es hart ist, wirklich gutes Wurst hier zu finden. (Ich überlasse dem Brauen Fachleute, obwohl!)

Ich sollte vermutlich hier über, wie das Internet die Welt kleiner gebildet hat, oder möglicherweise etwas sagen etwas, das profund ist über, wie Stimmung allgemeinhin ist. Aber wirklich, möchte ich mich rühmen, wie mein Sohn spaetzle und Kohl liebt! Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut. Ich mußte Hälfte von ihnen oben schauen. Verzeihen Sie mir bitte.

Ein gutes neues Jahr. Gott segnen Sie.

*My careful reading of my StatCounter stats indicate that a large number (2) of my readers hail from Germany. Three years of high-school German and an internet translator make me feel qualified to address them in their native tongue.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Did you know that there is a city in Canada by the name of "Placentia"? I kid you not. Check it out.

There is also a Placentia, California.

I wonder if the name was an afterthought?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ho Ho Ho, Y'All...

...Or how nice Southern Jews celebrate Christmas.

My friend Nancy's mom and dad, Beverly & Vince, are in town for a few days, and I wanted to do something to mark their visit. You see, Beverly and Vince host us every year for Passover at their home in Toledo. They are our family now -- we couldn't possibly love them more if we were related by blood.

So I asked Nancy if, while here parents were here, I could whip up a little dinner, just for the family, so that I could repay in some small measure their kindness and hospitality. Since both Beverly and Vince are from the South, I decided to put put together a menu of Southern comfort food.

To start, I made a couple hundred cheese straws -- lovely crisp cheesy crackers heavily spiced with cayenne which go well with every sort of cocktail imaginable. (And pretty damn well with a glass of milk -- Norbert's favorite beverage!)

A salad dressed with a garlic vinaigrette and blue cheese will follow, then chicken and dumplings -- the rolled dumplings, not the drop biscuit kind. (Yankees drop biscuits on top -- Southerners roll out their dumplings.) I like my chicken and dumplings with carrots and peas cooked in the broth, and with lots of mushrooms!

Then comes the most important part of the meal:

Three layers of coconut scented cake, filled with lemon curd, then frosted with 7-Minute-Icing and topped with coconut. Yummmm!

And I don't want you to get the wrong idea. On Christmas Day we will do what Jews across the country are sure to do. We will see a movie and go out for Chinese.

For Christians, Happy Holidays! My Muslim readers, I hope and pray your Eid was filled with peace. And for my Jewish readers, Try the mooshoo. Yum.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Borders Sucks

So -- I thought I was being soooooooo smart. Sue Said, one of my beloved readers, suggested Barbara Abbey's Knitted Lace as a resource for planning the border of my cashmere shawl. (I know -- I should have planned it before I started it...shut up.) Sue Said mentioned I could order it from Schoolhouse Press. I didn't want to pay for shipping, and the one thing I ordered from Schoolhouse took absolutely forever to arrive...which is funny, 'cuz Wisconsin is just up the road, so to speak.

Anyway, having checked a few web sites, I decided to order the book from Borders, because I could pick it up in the store and not pay for shipping. (And I always have coupons, so I could save some money!)

BIG MISTAKE. Borders sucks.

Today I called to see if they could tell me when they thought the book would come in, and, after getting passed around a few times, I was told by the woman who does the ordering that she had determined last week that she couldn't order the book and had canceled the order. But hadn't calle me or e-mailed me or written me a letter or any of the other things that might have been confused for customer service. Her response? "Sorry. We're busy."

BORDERS SUCKS! had the book. I ordered it. Their postage wasn't bad and they ship pretty quickly. But don't forget...Borders sucks. If there is a lesson to be learned from this experience, it would have to be that Borders sucks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Ass!

The lilac and willow Baby Surprise sweater didn't end well, thanks to Gauge, the Evil Knitting Demon. But, I couldn't have shown up at a baby shower without a baby present, so I pulled this out of my ass.

I literally was sewing on buttons while Myfanwe curled her hair for the party. But, thank Bob*, I got it done and it fits! Or at least it LOOKS like it fits! I think we will have to wait until February to find out for sure!

An interesting note about the buttons. When my father, z"l, passed away, one of the things my brother Mark gave me was Pop's button tin. It was obvious that my dad had never thrown a button away in his life. And he had cut a number of buttons off of my mom's old clothes and from the five kids, as well. I treasure it, and dole out its contents as if distributing gold. The five shell buttons came from Pop's stash -- a sure sign of how much I love and treasure the baby's moms.

* My Ravelry friends will know who Bob is...and I will write more about the new knitters holiday, Bobmas Eve, closer to the April 10th celebration. (Bobmas Eve is traditionally celebrated by getting together for food and libation and exchanging stash! Can I get a Woot! Woot!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I've been thinking a lot recently about an old, long gone friend of mine, Michael Current, and how much I wish he was still around today, and how excited he would be by the state of issues he cared about.

I don't have any pictures of Michael, save for those which live on in my brain, but I think I can describe him so that you'll get the general idea of what Michael was like.

I met Michael when we were both working for Paul Simon's presidential campaign in 1986/87. We were roommates for the entire time we worked together. Michael was tall, thin, and almost always laughing. He had bright, piercing, deepset eyes -- very expressive...full of fire. He was an idealist, and he was smart. Really, really smart.

Michael was the biggest sissy and also one of the biggest hypochondriacs I ever met. I'm not saying he didn't have real physical ailments -- he did -- but he traveled with an old-lady Samsonite make-up bag full of medicines and other cures. If you had a sinus headache, Michael could diagnose and provide. If you had a migraine, he just might have a couple of Darvocets or a Caffergot. I seem to recall, after checking into the only hotel in a small town, him pressing 2 Valium into my hand and saying they would make the roaches less scary. Which they did.

When the Simon campaign ended, he went home to Iowa and I went home to Springfield, Illinois. We talked rather frequently on the phone. I loved picking up the phone and hearing his voice -- I knew that I'd be laughing non-stop for the next half hour.

Michael was a very visible face in the struggle for Gay & Lesbian civil rights in Iowa. He was a gay rights advocate before being a gay rights advocate was cool. He lobbied tirelessly for gay rights -- he was three feet smarter than any legislator he ever encountered and I know that even people who didn't agree with him had to admire his intellect.

He believed in love desperately. Not just that torrid, sweaty sheet love. He love his friends fiercely and was tremendously loyal.

One day in 1994 his calls stopped. I tried calling, but his phone was disconnected and no forwarding information was available. I missed him something fierce. He was such a wonderful friend.

I never stopped thinking about him or missing him or looking for him, and finally, in 2002 or so, I had free access for a day to a Lexis database, so I typed in his name, and I found him. Or at least his obituary. He had died, just about the time I lost track of him, of complications of diabetes.

I miss him. He was a spectacular friend. He made the world a better place. What a loss to the world. He was a world-changer. I hope that Michael -- wherever his energy has taken him -- can sense my love, respect, and grief. And, wherever you are, Michael -- save a Valium for me!

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Every knitter I know is feeling the pressure of completing holiday knitting in time for their respective winter solstice holidays.

I, however, am not. Because I am not knitting for the holidays this year.

That does not mean that I am not knitting. Nor does it mean that I am not stressed. In some instances, I am knitting for LAST year's holidays.

I have yet to block the shawl I knit for my sister-in-law. I knit this for her because I didn't knit anything for her last year. It's KNIT, it just isn't blocked.

I am a third of the way through a Baby Surprise Sweater which I cast on and worked on in August, but haven't made a stitches progress on since then. The baby shower is next Sunday. Hmmmm. I wonder if I'll make it.

The Swallotail which I really had wanted to give to my friend Nancy weeks ago is stuck about 5 pattern repeats from the end of the first chart. It is BEAUTIFUL, but it doesn't want to be knit.

I haven't touched it in weeks because I made a mistake on it months ago and now every time I fix the mistake, I knit five rows before finding another mistake...five rows back. I feel like friggin' Penelope, without the entourage.

And then, as if you didn't already know that I am a big, fat idiot, I ordered some cobweb cashmere/silk from GEORGEOUS a light olive. This stuff is soft as a new baby's scrotum. And at $34 for 2500 yards, postage (from Britain) included, the price can't be beat.

Anyway, I swatched a couple of shawls and I didn't like any of them, so I just cast on a few stitches -- without a plan -- and started knitting. LOTS of knitting...LOTS of stockinette. It just seemed to WANT TO BE stockinette. And it is so light and dreamy and happy...knitting with cashmere is like mind. Myfanwe doesn't like it when I blog dirty.

Anyway, somewhere in the back of my mind, the plan has been to pick up stitches along the edges and knit a patterned border. It was only recently that I realized I had a) never done anything like that, b) really had absolutely no idea how to plan a border, work the math involved, or c) what books were out there to help idiots -- I mean people -- like me learn the skills necessary to plan and execute a nice border.

I am ashamed of myself.