My Grandfather Laid Tefillin

My zayde came to the United States in the early 1900s. He left the pogroms and challenges of living as a Jew in Lithuania for the promise of a new beginning in the United States.

A tailor by trade he made his way to Chicago where he was determined to make sure that he and his children were as American as those around him. Many of the old traditions were left behind but not all. Family legend relates the tale of his father coming to America to visit his son.

He had been here but a short time when he found my great-grandfather eating treif and declared that America was no place to be a Jew and with that he picked up and returned to Lithuania. It is thought that he died prior to the Holocaust but that remains somewhat unclear.

Here in the states my great-grandfather worked hard to support his family. Although he no longer lived as an observant Jew he made sure to teach his children about all of the holidays and made sure that they never went to school nor worked on yontiff.

His children all spoke reverently and with great respect of the man they called Pa and there are many stories about how he helped to establish several unions in Chicago, including tales of how he and his friends would occasionally battle the police. He was an even six feet tall and broad shouldered and according to his children quite strong.

Apparently in those days that was considered relatively tall and as a result he was commonly mistaken for a policeman.

Anyway, back to the main thrust of this post. The brothers who left Lithuania most definitely went down different pasts. Some headed to Israel, some to South Africa and one ended up in London where he was among the chief rabbis of the city.

I often wonder about those days. The stories that I grew up hearing were these colorful tapestries of a life that in some ways was no different than my own and in so many so very different.

My grandfather told tales of the neighborhood kids and their sports and the rivalries with other streets and ethnic groups. Sometimes the fun turned into something more serious and it wasn't all that unusual for the Jews to battle the Poles or to have the occasion to do battle with the Italian kids.

The Chicago of my grandfather's youth was Al Capone's town and there were stories about the men and boys who were part of that life and how they touched my grandfather's life too.

Eventually the boy who grew up to be my grandfather enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He spent a couple of years serving Uncle Sam before being discharged. (You'll forgive me for bouncing around a bit, I like writing in a stream-of-consciousness style).

In time WW II hit and he returned to service. It was during this time that he married my grandmother and that my father was born. The family moved around a lot. There were stays in Los Angeles, Gary Indiana, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

During one of these stops my grandfather placed my father in a yeshiva. My father loved and thrived in the yeshiva and has many happy memories tied into it. He speaks fondly of davening each day with my grandfather. As you may recall my grandfather did not grow up in an observant household.

He was proud to be Jewish and although he didn't attend shul on a regular basis it wasn't totally out of character to find him there. So when I write about my grandfather layin tefillin and davening with my father it is a sign of the love that he had for his children. He didn't do it so much for himself as much as he did it because it was something that he could share with my father.

In time my father left the yeshiva and the days of davening daily with my grandfather ended.

(Author's note. Sometimes transitions can be rough. As a matter of fact the reason for this author's note is that I am not sure exactly how I want to move on to the next point in this story so I am going to use this interjection to make it happen.)

I only remember my grandfather laying tefillin once. Grandpa never believed in laying tefillin just because Chabad or someone asked him to do so, he said that if you were going to do it you should do it when it meant something.

It was at my bar-mitzvah, Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5742. If I close my eyes I can picture myself standing in between he and my father and I can still feel his hand on my shoulder.

Because I Wouldn't Get a Tattoo

I just might have to try a pair of tattoo sleeves.

Thanks for the tip Houston.

A Simple Difference Between Boys & Girls

I have 17,000 younger sisters. Ok, maybe 17,000 is an exaggeration but I am my father's only son and on more than one occasion complained to him about not having a brother.

As a parent I have noticed many differences between my son and daughter. At the moment there is one that stands out from the rest.

Why do little girls love shrieking so much. My daughter has a high pitched scream that could wake the dead.

My son never did this or anything close to this.

Don't get me wrong, I love my children equally. But I also love the ability to hear and a couple more banshee screams and I might become deaf.

He is Smarter Than the Average Bear

"GOLDEN, British Columbia - A freedom-loving grizzly bear named Boo smashed a heavy steel door and barreled through two electric fences to escape a second time from a resort near this south-central British Columbia town.

Boo was recaptured Friday, two weeks after breaking out of an artificial den at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but escaped from tighter confinement within a day, resort spokesman Michael Dalzell said Tuesday.

"It's unbelievable," Dalzell said. "We thought there was no way, it was absolutely impossible, but he found a way. It was basically like breaking out of Fort Knox."

He said the bear bashed a nearly 400-pound steel door off its four bolts, destroyed an electrical box while tearing through two electric fences and scrambled over a 12-foot fence anchored with 2 feet of steel below ground.

"I think he just kept charging it (the door) and charging it until it broke off its bolts," Dalzell said. "Everything was completely trashed. We are dealing with a pretty smart and determined bear."

Better hide those picnic baskets, Yogi is determined.

The Secret to Living Past 80: Make it to 65

Simple advice, don't you think.

"In aging, as with many things in life, it's best to take things one step at a time.

Doctors conclude in the July issue of Harvard Health Letter that one of the best ways to help ensure you'll live past 80 is to first set your sights on making it to 65.

The Harvard Medical School publication also finds that according to various studies, Americans are living significantly longer and healthier lives than just a few years ago. This is good news for the country's aging baby boomers, or "abbies," as the researchers call them.

The raw numbers

But America will have to play catch up if it wants to match the health and life expectancies of some other countries.

The latest figures from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics state that life expectancy in the United States is 77.6 years. This is a significant improvement from 1990, when life expectancy was 75.4 years, but it's lower than some other countries.

In Japan, for example, the average life expectancy is 80. Compared to the rest of the world, American males and females rank 12th and 15th, respectively, in life expectancy at age 65.

The silver lining

Today, an American man who makes it to 65 can expect to live 81.6 years. Then if he manages to make it to 85, he can expect to live long enough to blow out the candles on his 90th birthday cake.

Click here for the full story.

Thoughts About My Grandfather

Even thought it has been a relatively short period of time since the loss of my grandfather it feels like it was forever. I suppose that this is due to some of the things that happened prior to his death.

In August it will be three years since my grandmother died and looking back it is easy to see how her loss weighed upon him and helped to accelerate his decline.

When my grandfather was happy there was a twinkle in those soulful blue eyes of his. It was joined by a smile that always made you wonder what kind of mischief he was about to get into. It is the same kind of look that people say I have.

My buddy G says that whenever I get that look he knows it is time to hold onto his wallet and prepare himself for some kind of trouble, mostly the kind that involves way too much fun.

I suppose that you could call my grandfather a bit of a rascal. He loved to read and spent hours absorbed in books, but had little interest in being tested upon his knowledge. School was never his thing. He never went to college but he was street savvy and easily navigated his way through the world.

He spent time as a carnie in a traveling carnival, was a veteran and held various salesjobs. He loved to gamble and spent part of his time in the service as a pool shark.

There are hundreds of stories about things that he did. Here is one that has always been a favorite of mine.

At one point in time during his high school career he got himself into trouble and was suspended from school. In order to be readmitted the school insisted that he come back with his father.

My grandfather knew that to bring back his father would mean being punished at home and came up with a plan to avoid his father's displeasure.

So he paid a man that he knew to come to school and pretend to be his father. The two of them sat down and listened as the school administration explained what the problem was and why my grandfather had gotten into trouble.

Midway through this lecture the man pretending to be my grandfather's father belted him on the head and swore that when he got home he would be severely punished for his transgressions.

Once the meeting ended and they were back on the street my grandfather angrily confronted the man and asked him what the hell he was thinking.

"You wanted it to look real, didn't you," came the reply.

And that is just one of the many stories I know about my dear grandfather.

Harry Potter Thoughts

Soccer Dad has a nice post about Harry. Check it out here.

The Couple That Pees Together

If you have accused your spouse of not giving a crap this is for you.
Happy Valentine's Day sweetheart.

Thanks for the tip Gail.

Eliyahu Asheri Deserved Better

Eliyahu Asheri had a mother and father. Eliyahu Asheri had siblings. Eliyahu Asheri had every reason to look forward to a long and healthy life.

Sadly Eliyahu Asheri is not going to be able to enjoy that life. His family will never know what he could have become. His siblings will grow old without him and his parents will join the sad and solitary club of parents who have lost children.

There are no words that I can offer them to ease their sorrow. I cannot say that he died so that others could live. I cannot provide any sort of tribute or meaning that they can use to assuage their pain and for this I am sorry.

I don't compare believe in comparing tragedies as it is a fools errand but I think that in this case there is a reasonable exception to be made.

In a suicide bombing one could say that there is a certain randomness to the act. The victims just happen to be there. The kidnapping is a bit different, at least it feels different to me.

It feels different because there is no doubt that the murderers took time to pick their victim, that they were more specific in who they hit. At least this is how it feels to me.

Earlier I blogged about how I felt that I had been wrong in my opinion about Gaza and disengagement. One of the commenters said:
"You weren't wrong. It was the right step. The problem now lies with the current government. I supported disengagement and still do. I understood that being out of Gaza would give Israel carte blanche to retaliate in an appropriate manner. This kidnapping would NEVER have happened if Israel bombed the shit out of Gaza the first time kassams and ketushot. The Palestinians only understand force. The only diplomacy they understand is violence. Israel should have done what they are doing now months ago. It's the current governments fault (Amir Peretz as Defense Minister?!?! PLEASE!) not disengagement. You think it would have gotten this far in Sharon was still PM? Never!"
I can appreciate this sentiment. Regardless of whether you loved or hated Sharon he brought a certain sense of security with him. You didn't worry about appearing weak and inviting more attacks.

But the reality is that Sharon is not here and the situation is what it is. So I am hopeful that the government will look at the current situation and understand that they are at war and act appropriately.

The time has come to seek payment and to seek justice using all avenues. I am very sorry to have to write that, but in the end if you want security there is a time when you must use force to obtain it.

My condolences go out to the family of Eliyahu Asheri and the families of those who are going to give their lives so that others do not suffer the same fate as he.

Awkward moments abound in penis pump trial

Sorry, this headline is too good not to bring to your attention:
Awkward moments abound in penis pump trial

"BRISTOW, Okla. - Serving on the jury in an indecent-exposure trial unfolding in this conservative Oklahoma town has been a giggle-inducing experience.

Former Judge Donald D. Thompson, a veteran of 23 years on the bench, is on trial on charges he used a penis pump on himself in the courtroom while sitting in judgment of others.

Over the past few days, the jurors have watched a defense attorney and a prosecutor pantomime masturbation. A doctor has lectured on the lengths the defendant was willing to go to enhance his sexual performance.

The white-handled sexual device sits before the jury box for hours at a time. Occasionally an attorney picks it up and squeezes the handle, demonstrating the "sh-sh" sound of air rushing through the contraption's plastic tubing.

The jurors sometimes exchange awkward looks and break into nervous laughter when the testimony takes a lurid turn.

Thompson, 59, is charged with four counts of indecent exposure, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, he would also have to register as a sex offender, and his $7,489.91-a-month pension would be in jeopardy.

Thompson's former court reporter, Lisa Foster, wiped away tears as she described tracing an unfamiliar "sh-sh" in the courtroom to her boss. She testified that between 2001 and 2003 she saw Thompson expose himself at least 15 times.

"I was really shocked and I was kind of scared because it was so bizarre," said Foster.

She testified that during a trial in 2002, she heard the pump during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather.

The grandfather "was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump," she said. "It was sickening."

The allegations came to light after a police officer who was in Thompson's court heard pumping sounds and took photos of the device during a break in the proceedings."

Ok, here is a question. How involved do you have to be for you not to notice that there is a cop taking pictures of you and your pump.

A Few Mumblings About Construction

There is something to be said for remodeling your home on a day when it is over a 100 degrees and you cannot leave the house.

There is something to be said for remodeling your home on a day when it is over a 100 degrees and you cannot leave the house and you have two small children at home with you.

There is something to be said for remodeling your home on a day when it is over a 100 degrees and you cannot leave the house and you have two small children at home with you and one of those children is sick.

That something is ^%E^&U&^UI^$ &$$)@^@ )YIHG)JBOT^T$U*()U*$)$*UI#!!!!!!!!

The Thomas Roundup

You can find it here.

What To Do With Old Record Albums

If you are of a certain age there is a good chance that you have a fair amount of viny floating around your home.

I suspect that there are a quite a few visitors to the Shack who remember taking trips to the "Record Store" as well as remember the fun of playing a '33' at '78.'

You might also remember that there was a time when scratching a record was not a good thing.

If you are like me you still have a ton of old record albums floating around that you are unwilling to part with. Perhaps you have tried to replace those old albums with the CD version. If you have any sort of collection this can be a costly endeavor.

Well now it appears there is another alternative that you can consider using.
This combination recorder and stereo system allows you to preserve classic vinyl records by recording them to CDs. It takes a few simple steps to faithfully transfer an LP to a CD-R or CD-RW, and at any time during recording you can pause to select only certain songs, turn the album over, change albums, or make compilations. The system accommodates and plays 33s, 45s, and 78s, and has a built-in AM/FM stereo with analog tuner and single CD playback tray. Includes automatic/manual track increment control, record level indicator, record level control, backlit LCD screen, and remote control. Plugs into AC; UL listed. Remote runs on two AA batteries. 9" H x 19" W x 15" D. (23 lbs.)
Please note that I have no vested interest in this product and cannot tell you if this is a good or bad product.

I Almost Feel Badly For The Burglar

I meant to blog about this a while ago.
ST. LOUIS, MO -- A burglar picked the wrong home to invade Thursday morning. The intruder had a knife, but the homeowner he encountered pulled out a gun and started shooting.

After breaking Willie Brown's window, the burglar walked upstairs into a bedroom where Brown was sleeping. But after grabbing Brown's wallet, the knife wielding thief received an unexpected and unwelcome surprise when Brown opened his eyes.

Brown said, "He was standing right at the door. He said, 'I got a knife. Don't move.' I said, What? 'I got a knife. Don't move.' Don't move, huh? You got a knife? Okay, you got a knife. And I shot him."

He said, "Whoops!"

"I said it's too late for whoops now. I'm going to put a whoops to this 38."

If Dubya Was a Jedi

Hat tip to J-Cop


I was wrong about disengagement. Yes, let the record state that I was wrong. At the time I had thought that it was going to be a painful but necessary step in trying to bring peace. I didn't see it as having immediate results, but saw it as being something that would be part of the process.

Instead I have been proven wrong. The rockets still fly and the attacks continue and the world basically ignores what is going on.

And now with the kidnappings it is time to show a very strong response. The terrorists need to see that the consequences of their actions lead to a response that is too painful to endure.

It is time to go back in and retake Gaza, or at least large sections of it. It wasn't a great situation before, but it is worse now.

Dear Soccer Hating American

I received the following email:
Dear football hating american. The only reason that you hate the beautiful game is because your bloated and overindulged country is pathetically bad at it. True football is beauty and art that is beloved by the world. Unlike that silly game you play called football. watch and learn well and maybe one day your country will learn how to be a part of nations.
Hmm... I am tempted to post your email address so that you can be overrun by the hordes of the shack. My minions shall feast upon your mortal soul and you shall know no rest.

Ok, that was a little dramatic but so was your note. You'll notice that I only posted a fragment of it which works because you write in fragments. I don't know if English is your second language but I hope that it is because your writing is like soccer, atrocious to watch.

I have watched the cup and laughed at the antics and bad acting of the so called players. I laugh at the flops and falls as they beg the officials to penalize the other side.

I am playing around with creating the World Cup of Paint Watching. I figure that we can play that alongside the cup because few people will know the difference.

The best part of a soccer game is watching the fans riot and burn down the stadium every time the other side loses a game. In fact I think that I am going to launch a new business in which I insure the stadiums for ridiculously high premiums.

It'll be a gold mine.

Having Older brothers linked to being gay

I thought that this was interesting as well.
Older brothers linked to being gay

"Having one or more older brothers boosts the likelihood of a boy growing up to be gay--an effect due not to social factors, but biological events that occur in their mother's womb, according to a study published Tuesday.

In an analysis of 905 men and their siblings, Canadian psychologist Anthony Bogaert found no evidence that social interactions among family members play any role in determining whether a man is gay or straight.

The only significant factor was the number of times a mother had previously given birth to boys, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Each older brother increases the chances by 33 percent. Bogaert said that assuming the base rate of homosexuality among men is 2 percent, it would take 11 older brothers to give the next son about a 50-50 chance of being gay.

In a previous study, Bogaert and his colleagues estimated that about one in seven gay men in North America--roughly 1 million people--can attribute their sexual orientation to fraternal birth order.

Bogaert said he doesn't know what mechanism is behind the effect, which he and a colleague first identified 10 years ago."

The Commodore 64 lives on

I thought that this was kind of interesting. I never had one, but a lot of my friends did.
FRESNO — Robert Bernardo spent a week this spring traveling the Pacific Northwest, trying to save part of yesterday's future.

The high school English teacher swung through Portland and Astoria, Ore., and then on to Ethel, Wash., to drop off a collection of antiquated computers — a PET8032, three VIC-20s, an SX-64 portable and a Commodore 128D.Then on his way home to the Central Valley town of Visalia, Bernardo packed his white Crown Victoria with three more SX-64s, boxes of software and a couple of printers.

With any luck, this agglomeration of decades-old circuit boards and dusty disk drives will allow Bernardo to reboot a handful of computers made by the long-defunct Commodore Business Machines.

In an era when a home computer's power is measured in gigabytes, Bernardo still counts kilobytes as a devoted Commodore user 12 years after the last machine was assembled.

Once the largest personal computer maker in America, the company behind the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64 introduced millions of people like Bernardo to the digital age. The company went out of business in 1994, but its legacy survives in dozens of Commodore clubs around the country.

Bernardo presides over the Fresno chapter.

Never mind that the VIC-20 has so little usable memory — just 3.5 kilobytes — that it can store only a couple of pages of text in its buffers. Or that Commodore hardware was notoriously clunky and buggy. Bernardo still manages all his e-mail on a 1980s-vintage Commodore 64.

"I've never considered the Commodore obsolete," Bernardo said. "I can still do many things with it — e-mail, browse the Web, word processing, desktop publishing and newsletters. I still do games on it: new games that are copyright 2006, ordered from Germany."

Like classic car fans, Bernardo and other Central Valley Commodore devotees lug their gear every month to the Pizza Pit restaurant and put the hoods up, so to speak. For many, a Commodore machine was their first computer. They cherish their machines the way some guys pamper their high school hot rod.

The World Cup Is Almost Over


You Never Really Die

Today I explained to my son that as long as people remember you then you never really die. Death is a hard concept for children. It is hard for adults. The finality of it all makes it very hard to deal with. Some people just don't.

During the past couple of days I have been handling many of the responsibilities that surround an event like this. I have spent time reviewing paperwork, shuttling family members to and from the airport and so much more.

In the course of reviewing some of the associated paperwork I came across the civil marriage license for my grandfather and my grandmother. I took a moment to review it and was surprised to see that she had a different maiden name listed on it than the one I knew her by.

It caught me by surprise and withouth thinking I yelled "grandpa" and then waited for the standard reply. I waited even though I had realized that there wouldn't a reply long before the echoes of my initial cry disappeared.

There wasn't time to ask my father about it nor was I able to ask any other family. It is a mystery. I feel a little silly saying that, but it is true.

It is moments like this when you really learn about your family. These are the times when the family secrets are shared and you find out about that crazy aunt or uncle. There have been some great stories, just amazing.

Inventions You Might Not Need Or Want

Here are a few items that you might not need or want but should know about. Why? Why not.

Ear Wax Camera/Cleaner
"The Nap Helmet"
Long subway rides in the mornings can be tiring, and sleeping in a seated position can be bad for your health. So that's why The Nap Helmet got invented. Put this baby on your head and pop the plunger onto the window as you dose off.

Use the Head Bath cap for thicker and fuller hair.

Simply amazing, aren't they.

Two Books I Enjoy

Rare Words
Words That Make a Difference

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit is the name of the soldier that was kidnapped by terrorists and is currently being held for ransom. Here is a short roundup of posts that you should read about this subject:
What Gilad's father is thinking

One Soldier's Life.

Keep Him in Your Prayers

Channel 1 breakdown of Terrorist infiltration

Hamas leadership in Syria apparently behind kidnapping

I want to go back to David's post and cite something he said there.

"I am also a father of a Gilad. In a few short years my Gilad will be donning the uniform of his country and will potentially be asked to walk in harms way.

I know with absolute certainty that there is no price I would not pay to secure the release of my son if (G- forbid) he were ever taken hostage by the enemy. I would endanger the lives of 100... or even 1000... other people's sons, and would throw open the doors of every prison in the land if it would mean having my precious son home again safe and sound. I would even gladly exchange my own life for the chance to let my son marry, have children and enjoy a full life of his own.

This is the reason why fathers should not make the decisions in such cases... and why the depths of an individual father's love for his son should never be considered by the government in matters of national security. The government must be strong when the soul of every mother and father in the land screams out that this one life must be saved at any cost... because the alternative is to allow ourselves to become a nation held hostage."

Very powerful words and quite true. Pray for Gilad and pray for peace and pray that those responsible for these actions receive fruits of their bounty. Justice shall be served.

A Cure For Your Headache

The BBC is running an article about this device:

"The hand-held device creates a short-lived electromagnetic field which 'interrupts' the migraine.

At the American Headache Society meeting researchers said the device was effective in treating nausea, noise and light sensitivity.

UK experts said the findings were interesting but warned it needed to be tested in a much larger study.

People who suffer from migraine headaches often describe seeing showers of shooting stars, zigzagging lines and flashing lights, and experiencing loss of vision, weakness, tingling or confusion.

These neural disturbances or 'auras' signal the onset of migraine headaches.

The device, called TMS, delivers a strong electric current through a metal coil, which creates an intense magnetic field for about one millisecond.

The theory is that the electrical charge interrupts the aura phase of the migraine before it leads to headaches."

Call me skeptical, but this device looks like it has more potential to create headaches. Make one slip while using it and you might end up knocking yourself out. Of course that would help in the short term but once you came to you probably wouldn't feel al that refreshed or happy.

Dream Walking

Sometimes dreams can be invigorating and sometimes they can be quite cruel. Much of this depends upon your attitude. I dreamt about my grandfather all night long, but it was only when I awoke that I realized again that he was gone.

I choose not to be bitter. I have so many memories. I'll share more here later.

Pictures, Videos and Memories

This morning I woke up with a sour taste in my mouth. I rolled on my side and looked on the floor for the bottles that must be there. I looked and looked and didn't see them. It wasn't a dream, it wasn't a nightmare. My grandfather had died, that was the reality.

So I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling. I wasn't thinking about any one particular thing at all, just let my thoughts drift where they may. So many memories of the moments I spent with my grandfather and of the conversations we had.

A short time later I was on the phone delivering the news to more relatives. More tears, more cries asking me to say that it wasn't true and more sharing of grief. Again I felt like the angel of death. Maybe I wasn't administering it but I was the messenger and that had its own share of challenges.

My uncle shouldn't have had to hear that he had lost his brother by telephone, but we don't live in a small town world. And so I created a new memory. If I close my eyes I can hear his silent sobs into the telephone and the whispers of regret.

Later I told my children about the loss of their grandfather. My daughter just went about her business, that is the way two-year-olds are and I didn't mind. In a way it was refreshing, but my son had lots of questions and plenty of tears.

He understands that he is gone but doesn't quite understand why and I can't give him all the answers that I want to. For the first time in a while he asked if I was going to die and I nodded my head. For a moment his lip quivered and then he asked if I thought that it would be soon and I told him no.

He asked if there was a way to avoid death and I again said no. I don't lie about these things. I don't give him more information than he needs either.

And then came the pictures, the videos and more memories. I shared many of the stories with him, but not all. Some will wait until he grows old enough to hear them and then we'll bring grandpa back to life.

That is what I told him. I said that as long as people remember you than you never really die. Stories bring our friends and loved ones back to life. They show up for a brief visit and then go away again.

They may not be hear in the fashion we want but that is a part of life.

A number of years ago my grandfather and I discussed death. I remember him telling me that he would keep fighting for every breath until he was done fighting and then he'd fight some more. I told him that I appreciated that.

He smiled and said to remember that every man has their limit. At some point we decide that we are satisfied and then we just let go. It was accompanied by a brief, mischievious smile and then it was gone.

I am not done writing about my grandfather. I don't think that I have really tapped into my own pain yet, but I am trying to. All you can do is take life one day at a time and within that day you do the best that you can.

Here is what I know for certain. The pain of his loss is an indication of just how much we loved him and we loved him an awful lot.

In time the sting will become less painful and I'll be able to focus more closely on the lessons he taught. My grandfather was quite an interesting man. More to come about him on a different day.

The Bearer of Bad Tidings- One Less Set of Footsteps

Earlier this week I wrote a post called The Father Leans On The Son. In it I spoke of my concern about my grandfather's health and some other issues tied into it.

Earlier this evening I received a call at around 7:30 PM in which I was told that the paramedics were taking my grandfather to the emergency room. I took five minutes to change clothes and grab a book and then headed off to my parent's house. I wasn't sure if they had taken his ID and since the hospital is all of five minutes from my folks I figured that I had the time.

During the drive over I asked my grandfather to hold on a few minutes longer or maybe I prayed for five more minutes so that I could speak with him again. I am not completely certain. What I do know is that the time passed quickly and before I could blink I was inside the ER.

One of my younger sisters and BIL arrived moments before I did and together we waited for a nurse to give us an update on his condition. It was a short wait, not more than three minutes passed before we were hustled into a private room. I took a deep breath because I knew from their manner and approach that the news was grim.

The attending physician gave a succinct report on what happened, paused and then explained that by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital my grandfather had already passed away.

"We did our best to restart his heart but in spite of our efforts we were unsuccessful. We lost him to a terminal condition. I am very sorry."

And with these words he confirmed what I already suspected or maybe really even knew, Grandpa was dead. He was gone and that was that.

While it wasn't a surprise it still felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on my head. I took a moment to console my sister and then I called my father and for the second time in my life I had to tell him that someone from his immediately family had died.

The first time I was able to do it in person but in this case I had to do it by telephone. He and my mother had just sat down at a restaurant to eat dinner. They were enjoying a much deserved weekend away and I was about to not only wreck his appetite but lend a different color to the memories he was creating about this particular trip.

I don't choke up easily, but this made me. The lump in my throat made it an effort to speak. I clenched my fist, took a deep breath and then told my dad that I was at the hospital.

In a calm voice he asked "Is grandpa ok. What is going on?"

I hesitated and then said no. For a moment there was silence but it didn't stop the message from being sent.

"Dad, I am so sorry to tell you that grandpa is gone. He died, he passed away"

There was more silence on the other end of the phone. I could feel my father composing himself and then came a series of questions and instructions. "What happened, how did it happen and I need you to call the mortuary and these people" were part of a short burst of speech from him.

Then came a couple more instructions and fatherly concern about how I was doing. I told him that I was fine but the docs said that I'd never play the piano again. I felt him smile and then he told me not to worry about it, that I didn't have to sit with grandfather because his neshama had already departed.

There were a few more words exchanged and then I ended the call to go visit my grandfather. It was time for me to spend a few moments alone with him.

I walked inside and closed the curtain. He lay there with his body covered by a sheet, but his head was exposed with his mouth wide open. I had seen him look like that on a thousand occasions, except those times he was sleeping.

I bent over and kissed his forehead and listened for breathing. I checked his carotid for a pulse and his wrist, but I didn't find any. I gently poked him and asked him to stop fooling around but there was no response. The light in those bright blue eyes had gone out.

And then I cried a little. I asked him to forgive me for anything that I might have done to upset or disappoint him and he didn't respond. I didn't expect it, but I still had the smallest inkling of hope that the doctors were wrong.

I bent over one more time and hugged him. When did he get to be so small. The man who carried me as if I weighed nothing, who took me to Dodger games and taught me how to enjoy a real shvitz in a real steam room was simply gone.

It was hard. It was cruel and it was wrong. I just wasn't ready for my grandfather to be taken from me. In the morning I will tell my children. My daughter is only 2, she won't get it, but my son will understand enough to be upset by this. My job will be to console him and explain another aspect of the life cycle to him.

Anyway, I am babbling now so I am going to wrap this up. People will say that this for the best. They'll remind us that his health was not great and that now he is in a better place and I hope that all that is true.

I won't lie and say that I am happy about this. I am not. I learned so very much from him and now my teacher has left me with so many lessons left unlearned and untaught.

But I learned the most important ones and I have some incredible memories and so ends the stream of consciousness about my grandfather who is now of blessed memory.

A Roundup of Random Thoughts

Top Ten Gadget Lists & More

No, You Cannot Cancel AOL

The Father Leans On The Son


Study says spider web developed just once

The World Cup is Over

Sleep Sex Is No Joke

Too Many Sequels

Summer Solstice

You Live In A Christian Country- Deal With It

Top Ten Gadget Lists & More

I love this kind of stuff. I have to share a few of the pix with you
Keep all your secret documents safe with this shocking suitcase — 80,000 volts to be exact. The electric shock alarm is activated at the push of a button via remote control. A built-in secondary 107db alarm keeps would be thieves away. Available in brown or black colors, this suitcase comes packaged with 16 batteries and two remotes.
ARES Defense Systems when you need a light that also works as a .410 shotgun.

Why carry your sleeping bag when you can wear it.


For those of you who have lost your turntable I present the Record Runner.

No, You Cannot Cancel AOL

You have to love this customer service. (Audio file)

Click here and here as well.
Here is a partial transcript:

Hi this is John at AOL... how may I help you today?
VINCENT FERRARI: I wanted to cancel my account.
AOL: Sorry to hear that. Let's pull your account up here real quick. Can I
have your name please?
VINCENT: Vincent Ferrari.


AOL: You've had this account for a long time.
AOL: Use this quite a bit. What was the cause of wanting to turn this off today?
VINCENT: I just don't use it anymore.
AOL: Do you have a high speed connection, like the DSL or cable?
AOL: How long have you had that...
VINCENT: Years...
AOL: ...the high speed?
VINCENT: ...years.
AOL: Well, actually I'm showing a lot of usage on this account.
VINCENT: Yeah, a long time, a long time ago, not recently...


AOL: Okay, I mean is there a problem with the software itself?
VINCENT: No. I just don't use it, I don't need it, I don't want it. I just don't need it anymore.
AOL: Okay. So when you use this... I mean, use the computer, I'm saying, is that for business or for... for school?
VINCENT: Dude, what difference does it make. I don't want the AOL account anymore. Can we please cancel it?


AOL: Last year was 545, last month was 545 hours of usage...
VINCENT: I don't know how to make this any clearer, so I'm just gonna say it one last time. Cancel the account.
AOL: Well explain to me what's, why...
VINCENT: I'm not explaining anything to you. Cancel the account.
AOL: Well, what's the matter man? We're just, I'm just trying to help here.
VINCENT: You're not helping me. You're helping me...
AOL: I am trying to help.
VINCENT: Helping... listen, I called to cancel the account. Helping me would
be canceling the account. Please help me and cancel the account.
AOL: No, it wouldn't actually...
VINCENT: Cancel my account...
AOL: Turning off your account...
VINCENT: ...cancel the account...
AOL: ...would be the worst thing that...
VINCENT: ...cancel the account.


AOL: Okay, cause I'm just trying to figure out...
VINCENT: Cancel the account. I don't know how to make this any clearer for you. Cancel the account. When I say cancel the account, I don't mean help me figure out how to keep it, I mean cancel the account.
AOL: Well, I'm sorry, I don't know what anybody's done to you Vincent because all I'm...
VINCENT: Will you please cancel the account.


AOL: Alright, some day when you calmed down you're gonna realize that all I
was trying to do was help you... and it was actually in your best interest to listen to me.
VINCENT: Wonderful, Okay.


The Father Leans On The Son

Life never slows down. It doesn't stop and it doesn't wait. No matter how badly you try to hold on and no matter how desperately you beg for it to just give you a moment to catch your breath you are forced to accept a simple truth.

Life continues.

In the midst of your glory and in the middle of your pain life continues. The river just never stops flowing.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley

My father just called to ask for my advice. It seems that my grandfather is not doing as well as he could be doing. When I was at their house last night we noticed that he seemed a little weaker and that something wasn't quite right, but at his age it is to be expected. Some days are good and some are bad.

Anyway, my father called to consult with me regarding what to do about my grandfather. Do we take him into the hospital or do we wait and see what happens. In some respects it seems to be an easy decision, but like so many others there are some twists.

At his age it is quite likely that he'll be admitted to the hospital. There are a couple of concerns. During the past 18 months he has been hospitalized about three times, once for a broken pelvis and twice for some other issues that his doc attributes to his old age.

Each stay leaves him disoriented. Each stay pushes him further into a place inside his head that we cannot follow. He grows less responsive to anyone besides my father and myself, and even that is at times sketchy. If you push him he will respond. He recognizes us, but sometimes the dates are screwed up and sometimes he thinks that I am my father, albeit a younger version.

Here are the other components currently involved in this decision. We haven't been able to get in touch with his doc to discuss this, but have discussed this with my BIL the doctor. My BIL is in touch with my grandfather's doc and familiar with his health, but at the same time he is not here to say yea or nay.

At the moment he says the decision is up to us.

The next ingredient in our recipe is that my parents are supposed to leave tomorrow for a weekend trip. If we could definitively say that this is a major health episode they would cancel it, but at the moment we can't make that determination.

So now we are waiting for my grandfather's doc to call and are hopeful that he'll provide a little guidance. In the interim I am concerned. The fear that I wrote about still exists. I worry about my father and my grandfather.

I have instructed my father to go on this trip. I want him and my mother to get away. I am here to watch over my grandfather and if need be I'll see that he is taken to the hospital. But I worry and wonder.

And now I am going to spend a little time with my son. My beautiful little boy who says that when dads have a bad day they should go to a place where dads can play with their sons because that always makes them feel better.


And while we are on the topic of science I'd like to share this too. Sometimes the world reminds us how very small we are.
"Lurking deep below the surface in California and Wyoming are two hibernating volcanoes of almost unimaginable fury. Were they to go critical, they would blanket the western U.S. with many centimeters of ash in a matter of hours. Between them, they have done so at least four times in the past two million years. Similar supervolcanoes smolder underneath Indonesia and New Zealand.

A supervolcano eruption packs the devastating force of a small asteroid colliding with the earth and occurs 10 times more often--making such an explosion one of the most dramatic natural catastrophes humanity should expect to undergo. Beyond causing immediate destruction from scalding ash flows, active supervolcanoes spew gases that severely disrupt global climate for years afterward."

Study says spider web developed just once

I find science to be quite interesting.
"WASHINGTON - Will you walk into my parlor, said a Cretaceous spider to an ancient fly. The classic spider's web, like Charlotte would have woven, was invented just once, way back in the Cretaceous period some 136 million years ago, scientists report.

Called an orb web, it's the generally circular style spun by two major types of spiders, which had raised the possibility of the two groups evolving this form separately.

But a paper in Friday's issue of the journal Science says a comparison of the spider genes related to web making shows that the orb web developed just once.

Researchers led by Jessica Garb of the University of California, Riverside, compared orb-web building spiders in the genuses Deinopoidea and Araneoidea. Both build orb webs to catch prey and the deinopoids also include net-casting spiders that throw a modified orb web over their prey.

Araneoids include the orb weavers such as golden silk spiders with their traditional spiraling web as well as those that weave sheet webs.

Garb said in a statement that the finding "does not support a double origin for the orb web," but indicates that the unique design evolved only once.

While the two groups probably developed orb-web spinning from a common ancestor, they came up with different ways of making the web catch prey.

Araneoid webs have glue droplets that make prey stick to the web, while deinopoids wrap their threads with a different type of silk fiber that "the spiders comb, until it almost has the appearance of Velcro under a microscope, and they snag insects that way," Garb reported.

Not all spiders make orb webs. The black widow, for example, weaves a web that is a tangle of silk without the circular pattern."

Click here for the story.

The World Cup is Over

The US is out of the World Cup. Consider me one of 170 people who noticed but not one who cares all that much.

Though one day I suspect you might see us dominating the sport just because we can, assuming that we don't all fall asleep.

Sleep Sex Is No Joke

Is it just me or does this look like it should be in the National Enquirer.
Sex While Sleeping Is Real, And May Be No Joke

"An extreme form of sleep-walking-having sex while asleep-is probably much more common than physicians have previously suspected, researchers reported here.

"The important message is that this is a real entity," said Colin Shapiro, M.B., ChB, Ph.D., of the University Health Network in Toronto at Sleep 2006, the joint meeting of the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Doctors and others, including prosecutors, need to take this reality into account, he added. "It's a more common problem than people have hitherto recognized."

"I look at it as one form of parasomnia," he said in an interview. "People walk in their sleep, they talk in their sleep, they drive their motorbikes in their sleep, they eat in their sleep, and they have sex in their sleep."

Dr. Shapiro and colleagues reported the results of an anonymous 28-item Internet survey that had 219 validated responses. "It's not huge," Dr. Shapiro said, and like all Internet research it has limitations, "but for me it's a proof of principle." A more directed survey, among 300 patients at Dr. Shapiro's Toronto sleep clinic, is under way, he said.

"The problem with an Internet survey," he said, "is that you don't know who you've surveyed." So, for instance, the researchers say they have no idea how prevalent sex during sleep—dubbed "sexomnia"-actually is among the general population.

On the other hand, the Internet survey appears to show that the problem-once thought to be predominately found in males-actually is more broadly distributed: Thirty-one percent of the 219 respondents were female.'

Click here to read the whole story.

Too Many Sequels

One of the diseases of the modern filmmaker is the need to make sequels to a film. In and of itself a sequel is not necessarily a bad thing and sometimes can be better than the original film.

The problem arises when the company decides that in the name of profit they are going to just keep pumping out films and to hell with the quality. Here is a short stream of consciousness list of movies that went astray.

Jaws- A classic film and a classic soundtrack. Without Jaws we wouldn't have had the fun of watching spin-off flick Orca. Of course we wouldn't have been subjected to such horrific movies as Jaws IV.

Revenge of The Nerds
- The first one was ok and kind of fun but by the time they got to number 4 it was just painful.

Police Academy- First movie was fine. It wasn't spectacular but it was enjoyable. If I am not mistaken they are still making these films. Police Academy 27 rolls out later this week.

Rocky- I admit to having enjoyed each one, but by the time they reached Rocky 49 I was just bored beyond belief.

Batman- The Batman series as done by Tim Burton was never great and at times rarely good. The first one was enjoyable in part because of the novelty but Batman and Robin was horrible. On the other hand Batman Begins was excellent.

Analyze This- Ok, Deniro and Crystal pulled off a few laughs in this one but the sequel Analyze That was so bad SAG threatened to pull their cards.

What do you think?

Summer Solstice

Today marks the Summer Solstice. Wikipedia provides this explanation:
"The summer solstice is an astronomical term regarding the position of the sun in relation to the celestial equator. At the time of the summer solstice, Earth is at a point in its orbit where one hemisphere is most tilted towards the sun, causing the sun to appear at 23.45 degrees above the celestial equator, thus making its highest path across the sky. The summer solstice is the day of the year with the longest daylight period and hence the shortest night. This day usually occurs on June 21/June 22 in the northern hemisphere and on December 21/December 22 in the southern hemisphere. The actual date changes due to differences between the calendar year and the tropical year."
I have been rather fond of the day for years, primarily because it marks the beginning of summer. Summer is easily my favorite season, especially early in the summer. There is something about early summer that just makes me smile. Maybe it is because it is filled with so much potential.

I also find the summer solstice to be interesting because of Stonehenge.
"Stonehenge (stōn'hĕnj') , group of standing stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, S England. Preeminent among megalithic monuments in the British Isles, it is similar to an older and larger monument at Avebury. The great prehistoric structure is enclosed within a circular ditch 300 ft (91 m) in diameter, with a bank on the inner side, and is approached by a broad roadway called the Avenue. Within the circular trench the stones are arranged in four series: The outermost is a circle of sandstones about 13.5 ft (4.1 m) high connected by lintels; the second is a circle of bluestone menhirs; the third is horseshoe shaped; the innermost, ovoid. Within the ovoid lies the Altar Stone. The Heelstone is a great upright stone in the Avenue, northeast of the circle. It was at one time widely believed that Stonehenge was a druid temple, but this is contradicted by the fact that the druids probably did not arrive in Britain until c.250 B.C. In 1963 the American astronomer Gerald Hawkins theorized that Stonehenge was used as a huge astronomical instrument that could accurately measure solar and lunar movements as well as eclipses. "
I don't know about you, but there is something very cool about the place. I haven't been there, but it is on my list of places to visit.

Age and Be Happy

For those of you who are afraid of getting older I present this:

Research Shows That Age and Other Perceived Adversities Don't Always Bring Us Down

June 21, 2006 -- We may get creaky and cranky as we get older, but we can be happier than we were when we were young.

So says Peter A. Ubel and other researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Ubel has spent years researching how we cope with life, and how we deal with the circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in, and he reveals all in a book just released by McGraw-Hill, "You're Stronger Than You Think: Tapping the Secrets of Emotionally Resilient People."

Ubel, director of the university's Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine, says people are wrong if they think sad circumstances condemns them to a life of misery.

"They imagine that experiencing adversity, like a serious illness, or a disability, or aging, if you want to call that an adversity, will make them less happy," he says. "But a hoard of studies really show that it has a much smaller affect on people's happiness than they anticipate.

"Many people come away [from adversity] no less happy than they were before."

In his latest study, carried out with Heather Lacey, a postdoctoral fellow with the Veterans Administration's Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ubel found that most people are happier in their later years than they were when they were young, although they may not have expected that to be the case.

The research also shows that even if you think you're going to be happy in your senior years, you probably think most of you're friends won't. But that's not true either, says Ubel, who is 44 years old and admits to being chronically happy.

Wisdom May Bring Contentment


Click here to find out the answers to why.

Almost 20 years

Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of this spot. Hard to believe, not many have kept going since then. I have barely kept up...