Great Moments In Penology

pe·nol·o·gy also poe·nol·o·gy (pē-nŏl'ə-jē) pronunciation

The study, theory, and practice of prison management and criminal rehabilitation.

Here at the Shack we're pleased to bring you some great moments in Penology. Sure, we could be serious and cover the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, but what fun would that be.

Instead we are going to cover great moments in music in prison

First there was Johnny Cash at San Quentin and then came the masters from CPDRC. You remember them, the prison where the inmates reenacted Thriller. These fellas are quickly gaining a special place in my heart. They don't just do Michael Jackson. No sir, they also perform songs by Queen and bits from Sister Act and do the Jumbo Hot Dog Dance.

Just in case you are interested in learning more about such a progressive institution they have a promotional video that you can watch here.

P.S. Technically this post is supposed to deal with real prisons, but just this one time we can adjust the rules to allow the king to participate. Elvis doesn't count but what the heck.

The Shmata Queen Has Left The Building

Another blogger has retired. The Shmata Queen has hung up her keyboard.

It Is Broken Now

This morning was rougher than I could have anticipated. One of the things about being a parent is that even when you are doing your job well you still have moments where you just feel lost and or upset.

Some of my children's relatives have decided that the best gift is green in nature. I suppose that one of the benefits of being part of a large and generous family is that in a short time the children have accumulated a nice amount of cash. This provided an opportunity for a good life lesson in which they have begun to learn about the benefits of saving money so that they can buy something nice that they might not otherwise be able to get.

This past weekend my son and I were running errands when he spotted a toy that he really wanted. Initially he asked me if I would buy it for him. I declined to do so and explained that we just didn't have the extra cash to buy a toy, and besides he has some really nice stuff at home.

He responded by explaining that he thought that he had outgrown some of his toys and that we could give them to charity and that he had his own money. I told him that I thought that this was a very mature way to approach things and that I was agreeable to him getting the toy in this manner.

On a side note, I happened to think that the toy was quite cool. I had something very similar when I was younger and was quite excited at the thought of using it with him.

Anyhoo, we used his funds to buy it and brought it home. From the moment he took it out of the box it became one of his favorite toys and as expected we had a great time playing with it.

Until this morning. That is when the damn thing decided to break. I wasn't in the room when it happened, but it didn't take long for me to hear about it. The big boy used the intercom system to call me over to take a look.

It didn't take more than a moment for me to realize that I probably will not be able to fix this. I won't be able to forget the look on his face when I told him that it was probably not something I could fix.

It was a combination of shock and disappointment. He was truly surprised that there is something that I can't do. And I realized that I have really enjoyed being his hero. And while there are any number of good lessons involved in this I have to say that I was surprised at how it affected me.

The time is rapidly approaching when he is going to see that I really am just a person and not the incredible man he thinks I am. Forgive my ego for being a little bruised, I just thought that this would go on a little bit longer.

The Celtics Still Suck

In theory NBA fans should be pleased to see the hated Celtics gain an opportunity to become a player again. But I just can't get behind that. All I know is that two of the hated Celtics colluded to make this trade happen. Feh. You can't tell me that McHale acted in the best interests of his team.

Bill Simmons says as much here:

My NBA guide claims that McHale retired from the Celtics in 1993, but apparently that’s a misprint. How else could you explain his decision to trade Kevin Garnett to Boston for the Al Jefferson pu pu platter deluxe? Just five weeks ago, McHale and Minnesota couldn’t close a potential deal in which they received Jefferson and Boston’s No. 5 pick. Now? They’re settling for Jefferson (a potential franchise player), Ryan Gomes (an intangibles guy who’s useless on a bad team), Bassy Telfair (a year away from signing in Italy), Gerald Green (a homeless man’s J.R. Smith), Theo Ratliff’s expiring deal, a 2009 lottery-protected No. 1 pick (congrats on picking in the mid-20s) and the return of Minny’s future No. 1 that was stupidly included in the Ricky Davis/Mark Blount-Wally Szczerbiak trade.

Does Love Last?

After I wrote about my grandparents 73rd wedding anniversary I received some feedback from some bloggers who weren't convinced that people can be madly in love for that long. They said that at some point in time love dies or changes and just becomes friendship.

I haven't provided a serious response to any of them because I have been trying to decide how I want to approach this topic. Love is a complicated beast and it deserves something more than throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks. At least my initial thought was to try and compose something that was based upon more than just anecdotal evidence and personal experience.

It was a good idea and I even had the beginning of a reference to use. The LA Times is running an article today called This is your brain on love. "When you're attracted to someone, is your gray matter talking sense -- or just hooked? Scientists take a rational look."

But like so many things in life the plan has changed, courtesy of my BIL whose timing and driving ability are less than impeccable.

So I'll roll with the punches and ask you a general question:

Does Love Last?

P.S. This will likely be edited or updated so feel free to check back in.

First Update: In A Story of Two Souls I wrote about a couple who fell in both love and lust. So lets add that to the mix. Do love and lust last forever? Can they last forever? It sounds a bit adolescent, but I am curious to hear you thoughts.

A Long Way to Find A Bathroom

Here is a cheap impression of Paul Harvey. Have you ever heard the expression about being up to your neck in crap?
Climbers and walkers can worry less about eating yellow snow in the French Alps, thanks to the installation of two public toilets on the highest mountain in the range.

Mont Blanc - Europe's highest mountain - can be saved the nickname of Mont Jaune thanks to the two public toilets that have been set up near the summit of the 4,800 metre high mountain.

The latrines will be the highest in Europe, according to mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains Jean-Marc Peillex, standing, or sitting if you will, at an altitude of 4,260 metres.

"This move was much needed. Our beautiful mountain's white peak was full of yellow and brown spots in summer. It used to look very dirty and was also wrecking the environment," the Times of India reported Mr Peillex as lamenting.
And now you know the rest of the story.

Apparently Disney Loves Me

Not unlike so many other bloggers I know I make no secret of checking my stats. You can find all sorts of interesting information in there. It is fun to see how people find the blog and what they do.

Apparently the Big Mouse loves me because I see Disney in my stats virtually every day. Now if only I could figure out a way to have that translate into free passes to Disneyland. My kids would love it and so would my wallet.

Do you have any idea just how much it costs to take a family of four to Disneyland. It is about $300.00 for admission. Add gas, parking, food and souvenirs and you have dropped a bundle. All for a one day adventure.

Hit By A Sturgeon

I find this to be pretty funny. Ok, it is probably not all that funny to the people who are being hit, but something about it grabs me. Can you imagine calling your boss to say that you are going to miss work because you were hit by a sturgeon.

It is a brilliant excuse. I'll post an excerpt from the story. BTW, I love the graphic that says Sturgeon Zone in big red letters. It reminds me of my room in college. I had a sign on the ceiling that said Men At Work. Caught a lot of grief from that one.
Boaters and other watercraft riders are being hit and injured by giant jumping sturgeons at record pace within a 40-mile stretch of water in Florida.

"People and sturgeons are colliding," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official Karen Parker said.

Sturgeon, which is one of the oldest genera of fish in existence, have been leaping out of the water without warning and striking people.
I'd like to see a newscaster say that with a straight face. I think that my favorite part is where they say that the fish have been doing this without warning. What do they expect. Are the fish supposed to wear a bell or sound some sort of aquatic air horn.

Do You Have An Accent

Yes, it is another recycled post.

So here is the question of the moment, Do You Have An Accent? Not clear on what the meaning is, take a look at this link.

The latter part of the definition is really what we are talking about.
The word accent in English is also understood to mean the pronunciation and speech patterns that are typical of a speech community;
As a child I never realized that all people have accents, or should I say that it never occurred to me that people would think that my own speech has an accent. I grew up on the West Coast, Los Angeles born and bred. We didn't sound like people from Long Island, Brooklyn, Nashville or Alpharetta.

And we certainly didn't sound like we had rolled out of Tel Aviv, JoBurg, Sydney or Mexico City. To be clear, I have always enjoyed accents. It tickled me pink to hear people speak English yet sound so different. In fact, there was a point in time in which I was disappointed that I couldn't speak with an English accent, but that was short lived.

It was during that famous summer of 1985 trip to Israel that I learned that people thought that I had an accent. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I do remember some Israeli boy telling me that I speak Hebrew with a thick American accent.

Whoa. What do you mean that I have an accent.

One of the other people with me confirmed it. He was a Jewish kid from Buenos Aires. He said that I sounded like an American.

I was truly dumbfounded by this because until that point, I had never thought of myself as having an accent, that was something that other people had. But I had to admit that it made sense, it hadn't ever come up before.

In the years that have passed I have been told by others that I have an accent and I am sure that many of my international readers would agree with this. Upon occasion people tell me that they can hear some East Coast influence, or that pronounce some things like a Chicagoan.

I laugh when people think that I am from New York. IMO, my voice doesn't sound like that at all. If I am around people with a thick Southern accent it is not unusual for me to start to affect a drawl. I have been asked if I am from Texas.

As for Chicago, well half my family is from there, including my mother so there is probably some truth to that.

One of the funnier occasions came during a wedding I once attended. The bride was Irish and quite a large number of the guests had come to the states to help her celebrate her nupitals. During the reception I walked over to the bar and placed an order for a drink.

The bartender smiled and began preparing it. While he was doing so he looked at me and said:

"I have Irish relatives. What part of Ireland are you from?"

I laughed and said "Hollywood."

The bartender scratched his head and said "Wow, you know that we have a city called Hollywood too."

Now I'd like to say that it was an easy mistake to make. I'd like to say that he was competing with the band and that some trombonist was especially loud, but that wouldn't be true. The band was on a break. It was relatively quiet so I said,

"Begorra, this ale do taste mighty fine."

It probably sounded more like pirate than Irish, but it fit my mood and was lot kinder than asking him if I looked like Lucky the Leprechaun from the Lucky Charms cereal box.

And while we are on the topic of accents let me share something else. Someone once told me that Australian women loved to hear American men speak. The legend said that if you found a nice Australian girl your voice would give you an edge. As a scientist I have always been disappointed that I couldn't test that theory. In the interest of discovery and human development I would have enjoyed running a lab on that.


Let's go back to the topic of the post. Do You Have an Accent?

Well, do you? And if so, how would you describe it?

Moshiach Now- Maybe Not

Chana verbalized a number of my concerns in this post.

An Alternate Means of Payment

This really should be the symbol at the gas station.

73 Years Of Marriage

Today marks my grandparent's 73rd wedding anniversary. They are both 93 and g-d willing are on track for hitting 100. In the interim we have, rather I have big plans for them.

I am trying to convince my grandfather to start training for the 100 yard dash. The idea is that in two years we'll do a world tour in which we will promote him as the fastest 95 year-old man in the world.

It will also coincide with their 75th wedding anniversary so we'll plan a big bash to celebrate that as well. My grandfather agreed to this provided that he can still walk. As an extra incentive I told him that I would personally see that anyone who was at their wedding attends the party for their 75th anniversary party.

This made my grandfather laugh hard enough that his dentures flew out, which in turn made him laugh even harder. Once he stopped laughing he told me that everyone is dead which either makes me a cheap bastard or a very good businessman.

Then he got very serious and told me how happy he was to have seen me become a father and that he hoped that one day I could become a great-grandfather, even though I could never be as great as he is. At this point I reminded him that when I was five he promised me a pony and that 33 years later I was still waiting.

At this point my son walked in and spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out what happened to my horse and why his great grandfather told him that Elmer had taken care of the pony.

All in all it was a fine day and I was pleased to celebrate with them, especially my grandmother who in many ways was the backbone that kept things going.

And in case you wonder what the secret to surviving 73 years of marriage is my grandmother has an answer. If you want to be married that long you have to take it one day at a time, or you can listen to my grandfather who says that it helps if one of the spouses is deaf.

All I know is that I cannot conceive of them as anything but a team. Seventy-three years, wow.

The Harry Potter News You Didn't Read

If you haven't read Deathly Hallows you might want to skip this. Now that the weight of protecting her creation has been lifted JK Rowling has been sharing more information about what happened.

Here is a partial excerpt:
Harry, Ron and Hermione
We know that Harry marries Ginny and has three kids, essentially, as Rowling explains, creating the family and the peace and calm he never had as a child.

As for his occupation, Harry, along with Ron, is working at the Auror Department at the Ministry of Magic. After all these years, Harry is now the department head.

“Harry and Ron utterly revolutionized the Auror Department,” Rowling said. “They are now the experts. It doesn’t matter how old they are or what else they’ve done.”

Meanwhile, Hermione, Ron’s wife, is “pretty high up” in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, despite laughing at the idea of becoming a lawyer in “Deathly Hallows.”

“I would imagine that her brainpower and her knowledge of how the Dark Arts operate would really give her a sound grounding,” Rowling said.

Harry, Ron and Hermione don’t join the same Ministry of Magic they had been at odds with for years; they revolutionize it and the ministry evolves into a “really good place to be.”

“They made a new world,” Rowling said.

This doesn't work well for me. It is too pat, too simple, too easy.

Israel & The Palestinian Authority

Dave at Israel At Level Ground links to an interesting opinion piece that was written by Khaled Abu Toameh the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.
  • Within a few months after Abbas came to power, Palestinians started realizing that he was not delivering. Instead of fighting corruption, he surrounded himself with the same Arafat cronies. There was a decrease of perhaps 30-40 percent in the level of corruption but an upsurge in internal violence.
  • The January 2006 election that brought Hamas to power was mostly about: "Let's punish these Fatah thieves." Hamas was building schools and kindergartens and clinics, while the PLO was building a casino and villas for its leaders. I believe some 30-35 percent of the Palestinians who voted for Hamas did so as a vote of protest because they were unhappy with the way the Palestinian Authority was running the show.
  • Let Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO and Fatah start rebuilding their institutions, reform themselves, get rid of the corruption, and come up with a new list of candidates. Then run in another free and democratic election and offer the Palestinians a better alternative to Hamas.
  • The Palestinians do not need more guns and military training. If the U.S. has $86 million and wants to help the Palestinians, then help them build civil institutions, help them build freedom, educate them about good things. What's the point in taking 200 Presidential Guards to Jericho to train them? Who are they going to fight at the end of the day? In Gaza they were defeated.
  • What should Israel do at this stage? Nothing. There is no one to deal with on a serious basis on the Palestinian side. Abbas doesn't even have control over his own Fatah militias. Israel should just sit and wait. Don't repeat the mistake of unilateralism, when Israel left Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
  • It is ironic that the West is supporting the guys who are suppressing the moderates and people who want democracy. The West is actually undermining its own goals.

Incredible Sandcastles

These are amazing. They come from a contest that was held at Harrison Hot Springs.


I think that I am going to give in and get a pair of Crocs for myself. I keep hearing/reading stories about how comfortable they are and that has my attention.

Fads don't interest me and I don't care much about style, but comfort is of major interest. And comfort seems to be the one thing that is always associated with these shoes.

Do any of you own Crocs, and if so, what do you think about them?

Barry Bonds

In a past life I had a dream of becoming a sports writer. In part it was due to the influence of Jim Murray. The man could take words and make them sing and dance in such a beautiful way. I am not half the writer he was, not even close to one quarter. But the nice thing about writing is that is one of those skills that can improve with age and with practice.

The same is not necessarily true of hitting a 90 MPH fastball. There comes a point in time in which your skills begin to diminish and you are no longer able to do what you once did. Most baseball players begin to see this change some time in their mid to late thirties. Rarely do you see their skills begin to improve.

Barry Bonds seems to be the exception to the rule.

As a fan of the game I'd like to celebrate this. I'd like to look at Barry with a mix of awe and envy and wish that I could do what he does. The problem is that I cannot.

I cannot because he plays for the hated Giants and as a Dodger fan that is not something you do. Ask a Sox fan if he'd like to get a Bucky Dent jersey and see how he responds and you'll get a sense of what it means. As an aside most Sox fans I know never speak of Dent without using the middle name they gave him, Bucky F*ing Dent.

But it is more than team loyalty that prevents me from trying to appreciate Bonds. By all accounts he is a surly and often obnoxious man that walks around like he has a chip on his shoulder. The persona he portrays to the public is not one of affection.

Still, that is only part of the equation. When I add in another factor it becomes even tougher to really get behind him.


And the truth is that part of me feels badly about that because I don't see it as a black and white issue. Bonds played during a time that can be called the steroid era. It is a given that the explosion in home runs we witnessed is not just due to bigger players, league expansion or other soft ball explanations.

Bonds has never admitted to taking steroids and to the best of my knowledge no one has proven that he has taken them either. In theory one should be innocent until proven guilty, but that doesn't apply everywhere.

And here is what we know. Major League Baseball hasn't embraced him. He is on the verge of breaking one of the greatest records in the game and people don't want to talk about it. Hank Aaron refuses to attend or acknowledge it and until recently the commissioner has refused to discuss whether he would try to be in attendance when Bonds breaks the record.

The lack of support from within the MLB bothers me. I think that it speaks volumes about this. It is just disappointing to see Bonds do this. I had always kind of hoped that Junior would do it.
I suppose that it is still possible that he might, but that seems like a bit of a stretch now.

The one thing I know for certain is that records are made to be broken. Bonds will have his time in the limelight. Regardless of whether he took steroids or not he is one of the great players of the game, I'll grant him that. But sooner or later someone like A-Rod will come along and take the record away.

I just hope that whoever does it has more to show for themselves than Bonds.

Reader Feedback- I Don't Care Edition

It is time to dig out the old mailbag and share some of the feedback that I have received.

Dear Jack,

You shouldn't write posts about grammatical mistaiks because you make plenty of your own....


Dear Sheri,

I am still wondering if your mistaik was intentional or not.


Dear Jack,

You used to provide more original material. What happened?

See you,

Dear Trina,

It is probably on the new blog.


Dear Jack,

I really don't care what music you listened to Saturday night.

Singingly yours,

Dear John,

You sound just like a rabbi I know, but funnier. Right now I am listening to an '80s CD. In particular the song is Talk Talk by the band Talk Talk.

Rocking out,


Thoughts About Cell Phones

Just some random thoughts about cellphones.

Is there a proper etiquette for handling a dropped call? That is, if you are having a conversation with someone that is abruptly ended by a dropped call what are you supposed to do?

Do you immediately try and call them back or do you wait for them to call you back. Here is a slight variation on that. You're in the middle of a call when someone beeps in for the person you are speaking with. They click over and while you are waiting for them to return the call is dropped.

What do you do then?

You have probably noticed that some people have a habit of yelling into their cellphones. As you can imagine I have as much interest in their conversation as they do in mine. Sometimes I'll react to their actions by singing quite loudly.

Other times I may respond by asking them if they still beat their wife or how do the neighbors feel about living next to a sex offender. I know, it is juvenile behavior and not very nice but sometimes ...

Actually if I could I'd respond the way that these musicians did when someone began speaking during their concert.

New & Improved Toilet- Fish 'n Flush

In a never ending quest for new and improved toilet The Shack is happy to present you with the Fish 'n Flush aquarium toilet.
"Both fresh water and salt water can be added to our 2.2-gallon aquariums, but live coral should not be used. Fish 'n Flush provides a dual-filter system, making it safe for children. It also provides two nine-inch plastic plants, a fill valve, and a complete flushing system. All you need are water, fish and food.

These acrylic tanks are fully functional, impact resistant and stronger than china. They are completely separate from the toilet tank and are designed to fit directly against the companion tank reservoir.'

Why I Am Not Getting Much Done

Several weeks ago I wrote about the challenge of working out of a home office. Today the challenge is even greater than normal because of a favor. A friend had to drop her children off so that she could attend to some business.

The influx of children has raised the terror alert to its highest level. In fact I would argue that I have already survived numerous terror attacks. Let's use the shrieking as an example.

Why dear lord must little girls shriek. My ears are ringing and the neighborhood dogs and I are considering the benefits of heading for the hills. The incessant shrieking has shattered three plate glass windows and caused every car alarm within a three mile radius to go off.

But the boys are not about to be outdone by the girls. Oh no, they wouldn't consider the advantages of building a clubhouse outside. Instead they have constructed a racetrack inside the house. Since they are too big for a simple oval track they have made sure that it runs around the entire house, including the little corner I call my office.

In between the races they have decided to engage in simple imaginary play. It is kind of nice to see them use their imaginations and not rely upon things that beep, whistle or tweet. They're pretending to be superheroes and supervillains.

Apparently I am supposed to be one of them too. I am some kind of giant. I don't know if I am good or bad, just that I am included. Did I mention that this involves being attacked with various objects and body parts.

Fake rays have blasted me. Pillows that are supposed to be some sort of device or something have been used to assault my person. And as mentioned body parts have been used. It seems that I have been struck by kryptonite hands, radioactive feet and a host of other items.

It also seems that telling the boys that I don't want to play and that I am angry enough to spit blood is not a deterrent. Instead it is viewed as encouragement to continue.

Of course my clients may not accept any of this as a reason for why I want an extension. Perhaps a better excuse such as my dog ate my homework would suffice.

Excuse me, I was just attacked by the Joker and Batman. I think that Giant Man is going to respond. Back later.

Recently Declassified CIA Video

Here is another failed attempt to assassinate Castro. Everyone knows that an exploding banana peel is much more effective.

Obsessed With the Blogroll

I have a habit of recycling posts. This one just seemed appropriate.
If you have been blogging for any length of time you probably have received an email from another blogger asking for you to blogroll them. Sometimes they phrase it differently and offer you a reciprocal link exchange.

Either way the question is still the same, "will you blogroll me?" They want a link on your site that can be used by your readers to find their blog.

I am a bit of a prickly and at times moody fellow so these requests haven't always fallen upon receptive ears. Sometimes I have just done it and sometimes I don't even bother to consider it. You may recall that in the past I asked the denizens of cyberspace to tell me how many blogs you read.

It was a serious question that I asked because I have noticed that many bloggers have blogrolled an exceptional number of blogs and it occurred to me that it would be tough for them to read them all. So I spent a few moments pondering this and considering whether I thought that it made sense to have that many blogs on a blogroll.

Part of me thought that it was similar to having more than a few pairs of shoes. You couldn't possibly use/read that many consistently so after a while it seemed a bit like excess and overkill. I even read a few explanations in which the blogger suggested that the more links they offered the more that they would receive. I remember snootily thinking to myself that I would never let my ego get in the way like that blogger had.

Well, I was wrong. My ego did get involved and I began to get more involved with this than I had intended. I started paying a lot of attention to Technorati and to my stat counter. In fact I paid enough that I noticed that after a period of time some bloggers had unblogrolled me. I admit to being a little miffed by it.

I wondered what had happened. Why the hell did they keep that really stupid and boring blog. They could have dumped him and kept me. I was bent about it. And then there were the occasional blog altercations in which another blogger and I disagreed so vehemently that we had to unblogroll each other. Nice to see that you never outgrow junior high.

Anyway, after a time I grew more settled into my blogging routine and began to see things differently. I am a voracious reader. I have around seven bookcases that are jammed full of books and probably 12 boxes of books in my garage. One day while I was looking for a new book to read it occurred to me that in some respects keeping a long list of blogs on the blogroll wasn't all that different from what I did at home.

It wasn't profound, but it made perfect sense to me. The other thing I learned about the blogosphere is that it is littered with space junk. There are tons of abandoned blogs. People start them and just leave them up, hanging there, leaving you to wonder if they intend to return or not. Some of my favorites no longer exist.

And then there is the other issue. You run into blog boredom. Some blogs just stop holding your attention. I am sure that there are people reading my blog now who are ready to move onto something new. It happens. It is hard to keep your muse employed full time. They expect benefits and a pension and you are often lucky if you can offer them a simple IRA or 401k.

Apparently my own muse just quit on me. You'll excuse me for a moment as I need to go chase them down and beg their forgiveness.

Things I Have Never Done

Here is a list that I plan on developing 0ver time. Here is a short list of things/places I have never done/seen:
  1. I have never seen snowfall.
  2. I have never driven in the snow.
  3. I have never been to Japan.
  4. I have never been skydiving.
As mentioned above this list will grow over time as I add to it.

What Are Your Favorite Blog Names?

***Sticky Post- New Content is Below***

AbbaGav deserves full credit for this post. As you can see from the link he did this last year but I thought that it was worth another crack at it.

Tisha B'Av- Redemption

We humans are a superstitious lot. If you think about it you can probably come up with a list of ten superstitions that are relatively well known. And if you really concentrate you can probably come up with a list of personal superstitions. I know that I have my own and in spite of what others may claim it has nothing to do with OCD.

Some of my fellow MOTs find the three weeks to be terribly distressing. They expect and anticipate that bad things will happen to them during this time. I can think of more than one conversation in which someone explained the real reason behind the car breaking down or a summer cold.

It all culminates on Tisha B'Av. On Tisha B'Av we see the end of this cycle and the beginning of a new one. In my mind I always like to think of redemption as being the second and in some ways more important part of the day.

I can attribute this attitude to how we observed Tisha B'Av at camp. The evening was always somber. We'd gather on the tennis court and listen to the chanting of Eicha. Under a star filled sky I'd try to imagine what had happened with varying degrees of success. It is not hard to remember heading back to my tent with a myriad of thoughts running through my mind.

In the morning we'd wake up knowing that although it would be somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees outside there wouldn't be any food or drink. It was a fast day that often moved slowly. Sometimes it was tough to be living in a place that was designed for so much fun on a day that was supposed to be so somber. But that was only for part of the day because in the afternoon we'd start to think about redemption.

And redemption is something that I find quite interesting. I am not speaking of the days in which moshiach comes. The truth is that I have kind of mixed emotions about that. It is a hard concept to wrap my brain around. It is hard for me to imagine that time and what life will be like. It is not that I can't do it, but sometimes it is just hard to let go of the concrete realities of the life I have now and picture that particular future.

So when I think about redemption I think of it as a time of growth. I picture it as being a time in which things can and often do get better. Life improves because we make it improve. For me it is a particularly salient point because lately life has been very tough. So now I am doing whatever I can to make that happen. And the thing is that I do feel like a weight is lifting off of my shoulders.

Perhaps that is just my own superstition or perhaps there is something more. All I know is that perception is often a major part of the battle and my own perception is that a positive change in the air. Redemption is here.

Study Links Diet Soft Drinks With Cardiac Risk

MONDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking more than one soda a day -- even if it's the sugar-free diet kind -- is associated with an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a study finds.

The link to diet soda found in the study was "striking" but not entirely a surprise, said Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, study senior author and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. There had been some hints of it in earlier studies, he said.

"But this is the first study to show the association in a prospective fashion and in a large population," Vasan said.

That population consisted of more than 6,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been following residents of a Massachusetts town since 1948. When the soda portion of the study began, all participants were free of metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors including high blood pressure, elevated levels of the blood fats called triglycerides, low levels of the artery-protecting HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar levels and excessive waist circumference. Metabolic syndrome is the presence of three or more of these risk factors.

Over the four years of the study, people who consumed more than one soft drink of any kind a day were 44 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who didn't drink a soda a day.

That sound you hear is the collective groaning of Diet Coke addicts all over the world.

More Gun Than They Need

I don't know about you, but I don't think that I'd want to be standing anywhere close to these guys.

I Have To Try This

It looks like it is a hell of a lot of fun. Credit for the photo goes to Zorb.

She is a Butterfly

"Like the purest light in a darkened world
So much hope inside such a lovely girl
You should see her fly, it's almost magical
It makes you wanna cry, she's so beautiful"
She's A Butterfly- Martina McBride (Click to hear the song)

This has become one of my favorite songs to listen to. It reminds me of my daughter. Not just because the lyrics do an excellent job of describing her but because every time she hears it she insists that I dance with her. And that is not something that I can refuse.

My dark haired beauty will turn three tomorrow. So today we gathered family and friends and celebrated. Yes, I survived a birthday party for a three-year-old. Not only that but I survived the shrieking that seems to be part and parcel of little girls playing together. If I had planned more carefully I would have remembered to bring earplugs. Instead I'll suffer through a temporary case of tinnitus.

Her birthdays are always special to me. Not just because of her but because she was born two days after my father had a triple bypass. In many ways the days leading up to her birth were stressful and frightening. My father was exceptionally ill and the docs were suggesting that it was very likely that he might not make it. I remember the fear and the excitement I felt. If ever there was a time when my life felt like a soap opera that was it.

But now I have this incredible little girl who melts my heart. Long, dark, curls that are sort of like little ringlets dot her head. She loves to climb into my lap and listen to me read her stories and tell me about her day. She hasn't any clue how much I love these moments. She hasn't any sense of how much I love to dance with her, to take her in my arms and spin her around.

I know that time will change some of that so I am trying to absorb as much as I can now. I try to suck it all up and savor the moments we get. This special little girl melts me in a different sort of way than her brother.

The other day she asked me if I would be at her wedding. I don't know what prompted the question, but I do know that for a moment I choked up a bit. I can't quite imagine what she'll look like as a grown woman, but I do know that one day some other guy will become her hero and I'll just be dad. That's ok, but it is not easy to take.

Fortunately I have many years to go before I have to worry about that, but still....

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- A Simple Review

****There are no spoilers in this review***

Now that I have completed the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter series I have a few thoughts to share. Nothing too sophisticated or profound, just a few thoughts that are percolating inside my skull.

I enjoyed this book. It was pleasurable and I am happy to have read it, but I feel a bit let down. I haven't decided if that is because I devoured the book, if I am disappointed to see it end or what. I'll give it a little more time to mull it over and digest what I have read.

This much I can say with certainty. Rowling didn't catch me with any unusual twists. Nothing happened that surprised me and I was hopeful that something would. But then again some of the things that took place have been building for virtually the entire series so it is hard not to see them coming.

Still the story held my attention. At no time did I feel like I wanted to stop reading or flip ahead and that is worth a lot to me. I can also say that this is a book that I definitely want to read again.

After some more time has passed and more people finish the book I might write something more detailed than this, but for now this will suffice.

The Answer to Photo Friday

Here are some potential answers to David's Question.


I suppose that among the many reasons I miss my grandfather is that he knew more colorful phrases and expressions than anyone else I can think of. Right now I could use something more descriptive than saying I am having a run of bad luck.

Right now I feel as if I have been jinxed. Someone hit me with a hex, a curse, bad juju, that voodoo that you do is quite frankly fucking things up with the kind of regularity that makes me wonder if karma really does exist.

Ok, the truth is that I am a bit superstitious. There are some things that I have seen and experienced that I can't quite explain. The good news is that those things encompass both good and bad. I also believe in making my own luck. I know that I can turn it around. I can make things change.

But sometimes it is hard to walk through mud that is waist high. Slogging through cold slush isn't fun, there just isn't anything pleasurable about it. So I am doing what I need to do to get through to the other side.

I have been through the bad runs. I have been knocked down, kicked and trampled on. This is not the first time and it is not going to be the last. There is one significant difference between now and the past.

My kids.

They haven't any idea how much energy and strength I get from them. This morning my daughter climbed into my lap and just stared at me. Moments later she wrapped her little arms around my neck and said "You'll never know how much I love you." Had she asked me to give her the moon I would have reached right through the roof of our house and grabbed it.

Last night I told my son that I was sorry if I have been overly cranky lately. He looked at me and said "it is ok." I told him that it wasn't and that I was sorry if I snapped at him. He just looked at me and said "you're just taking care of us."

What can I say, they just make me smile.

Saudi Summer Marriages

Elder has an interesting story about Saudi Summer Marriages. The more I read about Saudi Arabia the more irritated I become that they are one of our allies.

If you spend any time reading about the policies and positions that Saudi Arabia takes on foreign and domestic issues it becomes all too clear that they are given carte blanche to do things that would bring down UN sanctions on most countries.

All because of the power of oil. It just disgusts me.

Cleveland Politics

Well here is an interesting story for you.
JULY 19--Incensed by the most recent arrest of an alleged drug dealer, a Cleveland politician wrote the perp a scathing, profanity-filled letter that referred to the man as a "crack dealing piece of trash" who should "go to jail or the cemetery soon." In a July 12 letter, a copy of which you'll find below, Councilman Michael Polensek, 57, tore into Arsenio Winston, 18, after learning of the teenager's arrest earlier this month on a felony drug trafficking rap.
For the full story click here.

Phillipine Justice

This is a novel punishment. Go to prison at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines and dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Click here.

Jew Talking To Me

New Orleans — 'DO you have a pioneering spirit?" read the recent ad in the Jewish Week newspaper of New York. "Are you searching for a meaningful community where YOU can make a difference?"

To generations of American Jews, the pitch had a familiar ring. But this was not an invitation to settle the Promised Land. It was a call to repopulate New Orleans, a city known less for its Jewish culture than for its shellfish, sin and pre-Lenten carnival.

New Orleans' Jewish population, in fact, has long been a subtle but important ingredient in this curious dish of a city. But its numbers, though always small, have declined precipitously since Hurricane Katrina. Of the 10,000 Jews in the area before the storm, 7,000 remain.

With fewer dues-paying members, some synagogues and Jewish service agencies have been kept afloat by donations from Jews around the country. But the bulk of that largess, provided by the nonprofit United Jewish Communities, dries up at the end of the year.

The Jewish community is by no means New Orleans' most afflicted demographic. But Jewish leaders do not want to see a single Jewish institution closed. They don't wish to consolidate any of the seven synagogues and two Chabad centers that offer a full range of religious observance.

The issue is plain.

"We need people," said Jackie Gothard, president of Congregation Beth Israel, a modern Orthodox synagogue that has seen more than 40% of its members move away.

So Jewish New Orleans has cooked up a novel solution: a recruitment drive. With an ad campaign crafted by an Israeli public relations firm, the city's Jewish leaders are hoping to attract at least 1,000 Jews to the city over the next five years. They will appeal to potential pilgrims' better natures, stressing the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, Hebrew for "healing the world" — or, in this case, healing a broken city.

They also plan to lure them with cash. Starting next month, any Jew who has relocated to the city since Jan. 1 will be eligible for up to $5,500 for moving and housing expenses, interest-free loans of up to $30,000, half-price tuition at Jewish day schools, and a year of free membership at a synagogue and a Jewish community center.
I first read about the plan last week but what really caught my eye was this:
In the late 1990s, during one particularly uninspiring football season, local poet Andrei Codrescu remembers watching with astonishment as a rabbi marched through Jackson Square with a handful of congregants. He was playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" on the shofar.
Now there is something that you don't see every day.

My Personality Test

Call me a narcissist, but I love these personality tests. Wandered, bumped and stumbled my way into the bar to check out the ActualMe personality assessment and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Here is the abbreviated version, which is almost way too long to share.
You are a Motivational Visionary

Your Communication Style

A Natural People Person

When you are walking down a corridor or a street, you like to greet or stop to speak to someone. People just love to talk with you about anything. That's because the positive energy that you give off during conversations develops an instant bond with everyone.

You love to interact with people. It doesn't matter how many people there are or at what level you're communicating; you do it effortlessly. Conversation has been extremely natural to you your whole life.

You have a wonderful sense of humor. When people are with you, they smile and laugh a lot. Whether it's telling a joke you heard before or sharing a spontaneous ad lib, you're naturally funny and entertaining. Your humor and ways of communicating are constantly creating situations that relax and motivate other people.

Strategic Creativity

Unless people know you very well, they won't realize that you are quite capable of creating strategic plans, following intellectual pursuits and developing new, abstract theories about how things integrate or function. You're able to look at the whole picture, break them into discrete, unusual parts, and synthesize these into unique wholes or strategic plans. You thoroughly enjoy discovering creative options when thinking through difficult problems and challenging ideas.

Motivating and Leading Others

When it comes to dealing with people and problems, you use a combination of intuitive and rational thoughts very successfully. Your positive, personal and intelligent ways of relating to people make them want to follow you during times of confusion and stress. It's when the situations are dynamic and need optional thinking and/or in-the-moment organization that you're able to step forward, take command and lead others towards successful outcomes. This is when your style of leadership becomes most effective.

Even if you're not knowledgeable about a subject area under discussion, you come across as smooth and intelligent. It doesn't matter to you what conversations others are having or what topics they're discussing, you can join in without missing a beat. That's because you intuitively know how to listen to the underlying messages being delivered and how to successfully respond to people intellectually with just a few facts.

How You Learn

Besides reading and studying, conversations and dialogues provide you with an enjoyable opportunity to learn. It's during this repartee that you're able to ask any type of question: logical, analogical or just odd ones to serve your curiosity. One of the best ways for you to learn and to be motivated is to belong to a study group, particularly one that has members who are focused on the objectives and deadlines. The process of these groups can provide you with the focus and further detail to study and learn effectively.

Speaking in front of Groups

Speeches and presentations to small or large groups come naturally to you. You can either be prepared or wing it when making a speech. The latter, with a few notes jotted on a piece of scrap paper, is your preferred way to present. Also, you'll use theatrical intonations and gestures, personalized comments and anecdotes with humor, integrating them around facts, logic and important points. When you have finished, people leave your presentations feeling that you have presented a solid case, you have touched them personally and you have spoken to each one of them intellectually.

Your Leadership Qualities

As a leader, you're a powerful combination of intellectual insightfulness, future predictions and personal charm. The former allows you to plan and think things through intuitively and logically. The latter allows you to be empathetic and personal in your expression of motivation and planned action. The two of these combined give you the positive power that people trust and follow.

Glorifying Terrorists

Seraphic Secret has a story which is quite distressing.
Recently The New York Times carried a review of a film called Hot House that goes inside Israeli prisons and examines the lives of Palestinian prisoners. We're not recommending the film or the review. But we do want to share our feelings with you about the beaming female face that adorns the article. You can see it here.
The film is produced by HBO. So it's presumably HBO's publicity department that was responsible for creating and distributing a glamor-style photograph of a smiling, contented-looking young woman in her twenties to promote the movie.
That female is our child's murderer. She was sentenced to sixteen life sentences or 320 years which she is serving in an Israeli jail. Fifteen people were killed and more than a hundred maimed and injured by the actions of this attractive person and her associates.
Click here to read the full story. And please click here to read more about Malka Chana Roth, or Malki, the girl who was brutally murdered in a senseless terrorist act.

Harry Potter- Deathly Hallows Thoughts and More

Last night I finished re-reading Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. It was a lot of fun. In some ways I enjoyed reading it more the second time around. This time there wasn't any concern or worry about someone spoiling the ending for me.

Rowling did an excellent job of creating all sorts of excitement and anticipation about the coming book. It doesn't hurt that there is an immense amount of hype surrounding the release of Deathly Hallows. If you are a fan of the series it is hard not to get caught up in it all. Not to mention that the media and Scholastic public relations department are working hard to generate more. That is part of why Rowling is asking the public to 'Help preserve the secrecy' of Potter.

"As launch night looms, let's all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,"' Rowling wrote in a message posted Wednesday on her Web site,

"I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!"
Her last line about knowing everything touches upon something that bothers me. When I read Harry Potter or Tolkien I suspend disbelief. I don't try to view the world as I know it to be. I try to see the world as the author has drawn it. A place in which magic and magical creatures exist. It is a fantasy world and I know it to be that.

The thing that makes me a little crazy is the intense analysis in which armchair pundits try to claim that the author used character XYZ as a metaphor for life or scenario PDQ is really political commentary. That doesn't mean that sometimes these things aren't happening, it is just my commentary. I don't want to get caught up in whether the Ministry of Magic is supposed to be representative of a good or bad government. I just want to enjoy the freaking story.

And now on to my own suggestion of which two characters are going to die in the story. If you don't want to hear this please stop reading now. I haven't spent hours and hours thinking about this so consider this to be just the random mutterings of one more fan.

Death Watch: Hermione, Neville, Hagrid and Snape will all die. Stay tuned. It won't be long until we find out for certain.

Posts That Lack Substance

I try not to waste my time complaining about other bloggers. Some of this is because of the old saw about people who live in glass houses should not throw stones and some of it is because I don't expect that my words are going to affect any sort of change so I might as well focus my energy elsewhere.

Every now and then I break this rule. The most recent example is The Yeshiva Owes Your Parents a Refund in which I complained about some of the horrible writing I found on various Jblogs. The crimes against grammar and spelling are amongst my biggest complaints. I suppose that second on my list are those posts that seem to be completely devoid of logic and reason.

They're usually political posts in which the author has gone on some sort of a rant about a topic. The problem isn't just that the logic and and reason are missing or questionable, it is that they haven't any factual support. There is not a grain of empirical evidence, not one shred of proof of their position other than their whining.

To be clear I am sure that in almost 5,000 posts you can find examples of this in my own writing. But my word, it just irks me to see this repeated over and over again. So if you are wondering why I no longer visit your little world it is because the province you occupy has proven to be more than dull and I have enough tedium in my life.

What Is My Purpose Part 2

About 18 months ago I wrote a post called What Is My Purpose? This ties into that post because I am still searching. It is a search that began decades ago. I don't say that for dramatic effect but because it is the truth. It is one of the things that I love about blogging. I don't have just one chevrusa but many. In truth the list is abridged. I hesitate to share that because it is incomplete and I search for a complete picture.

My children ask for answers and I feel obligated to provide them. Often I turn the question back on my son. What do you think? I do it because when you deal with abstract concepts it is hard to provide concrete answers. Sometimes the child's perspective is more honest. They haven't had years of life experience to prove that something has to be a certain way. It is much easier for them to just accept.

I don't do that easily. I don't just accept. I fight. I fight. I fight. I battle and I fight. Wrestling is a way of life. There are days in which it wears me out. There are moments when I wish that I could just buy in and accept everything but I don't know how.

Faith is like that. Sometimes there are things that you accept because you can and sometimes you simply cannot.

We are in the midst of The Nine Days. If you are unfamiliar with what I am referring to email me and I'll try to bring you up to speed, but for now I am going to move on. Tisha B'Av weighs upon the community. Frankly I don't observe most of the laws and minhagim surrounding this time. I won't stop listening to music. Someone once asked me to justify why and I had to laugh. I don't keep Kosher, I am not Shomer Shabbos so why would they be upset by my listening to music.

Still they insisted that I answer the question. Here it is. Music is a tool that I use to help me engage in deeper introspection. Kavanah my friend, it is about kavanah.

Tisha B'Av weighs upon me for many reasons but not the least of which is from my experience in '85. We read Eicha while overlooking the Old City and it penetrated my heart. I felt it. I felt such sadness. In my mind I could hear the cries of the fallen and I just felt intense sorrow at what was lost. In my head I could hear the war and visualize the destruction. I have never forgotten that moment.

It was one of many moments in Israel. I never stop that search. I never lost the feeling. It is part of what ties me to Israel. There is a deep connection there that words never truly express. It is a love for the land. I love America and being American. I love watching the US take on all countries at the Olympics, but my love for Israel is a different sort of love.

It is similar to the feeling you have for you first love. It is deep. One day I will go back. If you'll forgive my inner geek it will be similar to when the elves visit Cirdan to leave Middle-Earth. For now and forever America is home but Israel will always occupy my thoughts.

So here I sit at the computer with so many thoughts still unresolved. There is a lump in my throat. I am torn. This is part of why I wish for a life that was a 1000 years. There is so much to do and so many things that I want to explore and so little time.

The blogosphere is such a good outlet because it provides at least one venue in which I can try to explore these dark and uncharted corners of my heart.

One day my children and I are going to have a long discussion about the choices we make and how they impact our lives. Sometimes it is hard not to wonder if this is the life that I am supposed to lead. Have I been true to my heart? Have I done right by myself or have I buried who I am so far beneath the weight of responsibility that it is lost.

I have a heart and soul that sometimes are at war with logic and reason. Equilibrium exists. More often than not it exists but the moments in which it does not are hard. I suppose that I'll finish this rambling by quoting myself:
When I ask what my purpose is I am not really asking. I have an understanding of that and it works for me. I suppose that what I am saying is that sometimes I want to skip the journey and see the finish. Tell me the who, what, where, why and how and I'll be forever grateful or maybe I won't. Maybe the most important part is the journey and that which is yet to come.

Come Play Quidditch With Me

I thought that this was interesting.

Dewey, a student at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, organizes the campus Quidditch club of about 40 Potter devotees imitating the aerial game of the book series.

Although Bucknell has not played its first official game -- that is expected in September -- Dewey's club has received $150 from the college to buy supplies, including hula hoops and a volleyball that stands in for the fictional "quaffle."

Also on the equipment list are the brooms on which J.K. Rowling's Quidditch players fly around during games and which Bucknell players are required to hold between their legs.

Clearly there are a few things that make this game more challenging than in the book, such as the inability to fly.

Each team consists of 12 to 15 players, seven of whom are on the field at a time. They include a "keeper" to defend the hoops through which scores are made; "chasers" whose job it is to put the quaffle through the hoops; and "beaters" who throw balls called "bludgers" at their opponents.

There is also a "seeker" who chases the elusive "golden "snitch" around campus during the game. The capture of the snitch, usually after about 15 minutes, signals the end of the game.

Dewey described the sport as "mildly full-contact" and said it requires some athletic ability, particularly for seekers, who are typically cross-country runners. It appeals equally to men and women, he said.

Death Is Not Good Enough For Them

I stumbled onto two articles that infuriated me today:
Man guilty of abducting mom, leaving daughter to alligators

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- A man who had been released from prison early for good behavior was convicted Tuesday of trying to kill a young mother and leaving her 5-year-old daughter to be eaten alive by alligators in the Everglades.

Harrel Franklin Braddy had befriended Shandelle Maycock and her daughter Quatisha. Maycock testified that Braddy went to her home in November 1998 and grew enraged when she asked him to leave.

He choked Maycock until she was unconscious and then forced her and Quatisha into his car, the woman testified. At one point, Maycock gained consciousness, grabbed the child and jumped out of the moving vehicle.

Braddy stopped, choked the woman again and put her in the trunk, she testified. Maycock never saw her daughter again. Prosecutors said Braddy then drove to a section of Interstate 75 in the Everglades known as Alligator Alley and dropped Quatisha in the water beside the road.

She was alive when alligators bit her on the head and stomach, a medical examiner said.

Dad to child killer: 'My daughter has heard me cry'

Couey, a convicted sex offender, was staying nearby in a trailer with his half-sister. Couey kidnapped the girl from her bedroom and later, in a taped confession, admitted that he buried the child alive. "I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it. Buried her," he said.

She was found wrapped in garbage bags, holding a stuffed toy dolphin, her hands bound with stereo wire. Jessica died from asphyxiation after being sexually assaulted, according to a medical examiner's report.

Some times there are no words.

Things I am Thinking About

I have a number of different thoughts flowing around my mind. It is well after midnight and I really should be going to sleep. Instead I have been mulling over posts about the Nine Days, Minhagim and a half dozen other ideas.

Since I haven't finished thinking things through I am going to provide some links to old posts that tie into some of these thoughts. I'll take a look at it all in the morning and we'll see if I come up with anything brilliant.
Morality Without Religion- A Comment to The Self-Righteous
The Future of Judaism
My Brother- A Lesson in Simple Physics
Twenty Five Years of Torah Reading
Frum & Gay
Moments When I feel Closest To G-d
What is My Purpose?

If things go well I'll figure out how to put all these thoughts together into a coherent and thoughtful post. Lately that has been a task. Wish me luck.

What I Listened to Today

I had planned on going to bed well before the witching hour but a double dose of the news has left me wired so here I sit. I made the mistake of reading about people who murdered children and that upset me so I am trying to just mellow out. So as a bonus you get another post to read.

Here is an incomplete list of the music I listened to today.
Cat's In The Cradle
Harry Chapin
Drive On
Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson
King for a Day
The Thompson Twins
The Other Side
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
Once In A Lifetime
Talking Heads
Ray Charles
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Elvis Presley
All Along The Watchtower
Jimi Hendrix
Who Wants To Live Forever
So What
Miles Davis

Shopping Carts

When I was a boy I used to love it when my father would ask me to "take a ride" with him. It usually meant that he had some kind of errand to run and wanted a little company. In a house full of a zillion sisters and a mother it was important for the boys to stick together, or so I thought.

More importantly it was a chance to engage in what my son now calls special daddy and Little Jack time. I have vivid memories of climbing into the car and looking out the window as my dad drove. When I thought that he wasn't looking I would stare at him and try to imitate his gestures. Decades later I have them all down. When the family gathers I can bring down the house with a five minute impression of him, but I digress.

Usually these errands found us in one of three places, Builders Emporium, Gemco or the supermarket and that brings me to the heart of the matter; shopping carts.

Yes, that is right the ubiquitous shopping cart. The four wheeled dolly that we all use to transport the items we purchased from the store out to our automobiles.

One of the things that I learned from taking a ride with dad was that after you finished emptying your groceries into your car you had to return the shopping cart to the store or to the shopping cart parking lot depot. I can still hear my father explaining that we returned the cart because it was the polite thing to do.

Unfortunately it seems that at some point in the last thirty years the polite thing to do is no longer considered necessary. More often than not I find myself navigating parking lots that look like they have shopping cart measles. Just pulling into a parking space can be tricky because if you are not careful you'll end up hitting a shopping cart that was left there by someone else.

Still I always try to do the polite thing. When I no longer have need of the cart I take it back to the appropriate space. If there are people waiting for my parking space this sometimes creates an issue. Nobody wants to wait for me to return the cart. Instead of smiles they will honk and roll their eyes. Sometimes colorful words accompany the honking.

Maybe that is the new polite thing to do. I don't really know anymore.

Not Quite Abandoned

I didn't think it had been as many months away from here as it has clearly been. I was certain I had updated this place in December and ...