Wow. I live miles from the fires but I can still see the flames from my home.

A Recent Conversation With My Supervisor

I suppose that you could say that I have issues with authority. But this felt oh so good:

"Commodus: How dare you show your back to me! Slave, you will remove your helmet and tell me your name.
Maximus: [removes helmet and turns around to face Commodus] My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

Taxman Is Using Social Media To Help Collect Taxes

The Cookie Fairy

Daddy, He Is Beating Up Goofy

(Originally posted here)

Way back in the annals of time, when Jack was a young man, a strapping young man I might add he had an incident at Disneyland.

I was all of 20 when that fateful day came. My fraternity had held its formal at the Disneyland hotel. It was a night of many memories, or should I say few memories. Yes, we were drinking. We drank so much the fish fled from our presence for fear that their habitat might be destroyed.

It was a bad combination of young, dumb and stupid, not to mention way too much alcohol, but that was Saturday night and this tale is about a single event that took place the next day, Sunday afternoon.

We were tooling around Disneyland, frequently hanging our heads because the happiest place on earth is not that much fun when you are hung over. Then it becomes, loud chaotic, and somewhat unpleasant.

The boys and I were in Tomorrowland waiting for our dates to exit the bathroom. I don't remember what we were talking about, it could have been the mystery of why women need partners to pee, but again it is so long ago who knows.

Someone thought that it would be a good idea to go on Space Mountain, but the way my head was pounding I was not that person. So begged off and told everyone that I would meet them after they had finished the ride.

As I was walking through the park I bumped into one of the characters, it was Tweedle-Dee or maybe it was Tweedle-Dum, who can tell. All I know is that he pushed me.

He pushed me and I tried to say excuse me and step by him. I figured that it was all in jest, but apparently I was wrong. As I tried to step around him he blocked my way and pushed me again. It wasn't very hard, but enough to get my attention.

I told him that I wasn't kidding. It was hot, I was hungover and I was not in the mood to play, but he persisted in trying to block my way.

Finally I lost it, I grabbed the portly character and bodyslammed him onto the ground. I tried to get up and run but he grabbed a hold of my leg at which point in time I started smacking his hollow head with my open palm.

He still wouldn't let go. So I flung myself on top of him and made like Hulk Hogan coming off of the ropes. I remember yelling at him, telling him to release me.

While all this was going on I can remember hearing a little kid yelling and pointing at us, "Dad, dad. He is beating up Goofy!"

I looked at the kid and growled something at him. In the meantime I was able to free myself from the corpulent character's grasp and made a hasty retreat back to the hotel. I had images of being arrested, but fortunately it never happened.

It was a number of years before I returned to Disneyland because somewhere out there, he waits for me. I know it. Somewhere out there in the distance I have a date with destiny.

Tweedle-Dee and I will dance again, but this time there can be only one.

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Can I Text Barack Obama

The Dark Haired Beauty wants to know if she can send a text message to Obama. The joy of being 5, all things are possible.

How To Make An Impression

Every now and then people ask for my advice on how to make an impression upon others. Well I am not going to give away all of my secrets because it would be awkward if you all became as cool as me.

But I will share one thing that I have found to be very successful, especially in job interviews, a personal theme song or soundtrack.

Lately I don't enter a room without this music preceding my entrance. Every now and then I do mix it up. Past choices have included this, this, this and this.

Special Forces- Science Explains Their Reaction To Stress

This is a very interesting article about why some people handle stress better than others do. Dr. Andy Morgan of Yale Medical School conducted research to determine why some people handle stress better than others do.

His research took him to Fort Bragg which where the Army's elite Airborne and Special Forces school is located. Let's take a look at an excerpt from the article.

"For Morgan, POW school was the perfect place to study who survives the best under acute stress. If you think it's just training and the soldiers know they're not really in serious danger, consider what Morgan discovered. During mock interrogations, the prisoners' heart rates skyrocket to more than 170 beats per minute for more than half an hour, even though they aren't engaging in any physical activity. Meanwhile, their bodies pump more stress hormones than the amounts actually measured in aviators landing on aircraft carriers, troops awaiting ambushes in Vietnam, skydivers taking the plunge or patients awaiting major surgery. The levels of stress hormones are sufficient to turn off the immune system and to produce a catabolic state, in which the body begins to break down and feed on itself. The average weight loss in three days is 22 pounds.

Morgan's research—the first of its kind—produced some fascinating findings about who does the best job resisting the interrogators and who stays focused and clearheaded despite the uncontrollable fear. Morgan looked at two different groups going through this training: regular Army troops like infantrymen, and elite Special Forces soldiers, who are known to be especially "stress hardy" or cool under pressure. At the start or base line, the two groups were essentially the same, but once the stress began, and afterward, there were significant differences. Specifically, the two groups released very different amounts of a chemical in the brain called neuropeptide Y. NPY is an abundant amino acid in our bodies that helps regulate our blood pressure, appetite, learning and memory. It also works as a natural tranquilizer, controlling anxiety and buffering the effects of stress hormones like norepenephrine, one of the chemicals that most of us simply call adrenaline. In essence, NPY is one of the fire hoses that your brain uses to extinguish your alarm and fear responses by keeping the frontal-lobe parts of your brain working longer under stress.

Morgan found one very specific reason that Special Forces are superior survivors: they produce significantly greater levels of NPY compared with regular troops. In addition, 24 hours after completing survival training, Special Forces soldiers returned to their original levels of NPY while regular soldiers were significantly below normal."

So if this NPY serves as a sort of natural anti-anxiety drug I have to ask the obvious question. Can we find a way to produce it? Maybe I am being naive, but from a laymen's perspective it sounds like it could be a great resource for people. It might allow some people to stop taking their meds.

Another part of the article that I thought was interesting is the section in which they discussed heart rate variability. Take a look at this:
It turns out that the best survivors don't have a lot of heart-rate variability. Instead, they've got "metronomic heartbeats"—their hearts thump steadily like metronomes—with almost no variability between beats. That is, the intervals between the beats are evenly spaced. Morgan believes that a metronomic heartbeat is an easy way to detect good survivors and high neuropeptide Y releasers. It makes sense biologically because your brainstem, which controls your heartbeat, has a high density of neuropeptide Y.
Part of what I found interesting was that the article says that metronomic heartbeat is associated with early heart disease and sudden death. So there is a question about whether this is really a benefit. It is good if you are a soldier or in some sort of very stressful profession.

But if it is tied to heart disease the negative can potentially outweigh the positive. Nice to stay calm, but not at the expense of not living past fifty.

Best of the Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere Blog Carnival #232

Hi gang,

It is time to let you know that the latest edition of Haveil Havalim, The Best of The Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere is now live. This is one of the longest running blog carnivals.

Without further ado I am pleased to present Havel-Havalim Number 232- The Back to School Edition.

If all of life is a lesson

Tutorial RoomImage via Wikipedia

If all of life is a lesson than I wonder just what it is that I am being taught now.

Am I being given a tutorial in how to handle adversity and challenge. Is this the lesson in which I learn that it doesn't matter what road we choose to walk upon because they all have their challenges.

Is this the moment where a voice reaches down from the heavens and tells me that the grass is always greener and that we all have our challenges.

Do I look at this time and shrug my shoulders because, "this too shall pass."

Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

It reminds me a bit of that joke/story/parable that I have heard so many times:

Nightshot of the Western Wall in Old JerusalemImage via Wikipedia

A religious man heard an urgent news report on his radio that a flash flood was within minutes of entering the peaceful valley where he lived. Immediately he went to his knees and prayed for safety. The words were still on his lips when he became aware that water was gushing under his door. He retreated to the second floor and finally onto the roof of his house.

While he sat on the roof, a helicopter flew by and the pilot asked over the loudspeaker if they could lift him off. It's not necessary since I have the Lord's protection, he replied.

Moments later the house began to break up and he found himself clinging to a tree. A police boat, braving the waters, approached him for rescue, but he assured them that the Lord would save him. Finally, the tree gave way and the man went to his death.

Standing before the Lord, he asked, "Lord, I'm glad to be here, but why didn't You answer my prayer for safety?The Lord responded, "Son, I told you over the radio to get out of there Then I sent you a helicopter and a motor boat!"

I appreciate that story for a whole variety of reasons. What I take from it is a very practical message. It is a wake up call that says we are responsible for taking care of ourselves and our needs.

Granted some of you will be fixated on the other stuff. You'll tell me that this story is a perfect example of how prayer is answered but not always in the manner we wish that it would be. I don't get caught up in that. Is that possible? Sure, I can't say that it isn't.

But what I can say is that taking responsibility for ourselves is absolutely the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do because it is the only way that we guarantee that someone will be looking out for our personal interests.

I am not talking about material things but the stuff that makes you want to get up in the morning. The relationships with others and the feeling that your life has purpose and meaning. The initial task is to identify what those things followed by the hard work of setting out to get them.

So when I look at that story and think of a person who is waiting for G-d to save them I make a face and roll my eyes. I have faith in many things, but my faith is deepest in myself. At least when it comes to taking care of that which Jack requires.

Besides it is much easier to beat myself up for shortcomings or to point my finger in the mirror and say that the only one preventing me from getting what I want is me. As I tell my children it all comes back to being able to go to bed knowing that you did the best that you could.

It doesn't feel good to fail at things and sometimes it is a small consolation to go to bed with that knowledge, but in the end the one person you can never truly hide from is yourself.
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Life Is Overwhelming Me

Yes it is true, even the mighty Jack has moments of doubt and pain in which he feels that life is completely overwhelming. So much is going on that my head is spinning. I suppose that the good news is that this proves that my brain was not replaced my a melon, but is actually still located inside my skull.

Hooray for small favors or small wonders, I can't remember which.

Ok, Jack, you can't begin a post with that kind of introduction without providing an explanation for what is going on. And you can't really keep speaking about yourself in the third person unless you are Ricky Henderson or riding the subway.

So let's take a moment to try and take stock of what is going on and why my head feels like it is going to explode. You could say that some of this is part of the pseudo-mid life crisis I am in the middle of. It is a good place to start.

I feel trapped and angry about a number of things and no I am not going to list them all here. Thanks to the lack of complete anonymity I am not real comfortable displaying all of these things. When this place was populated by complete strangers it was easy to let it all hang out, but at the moment that is not the case.

There are unwanted visitors who frequent this joint. You know who you are. I don't understand why you are here or what you hope to accomplish. You are emotional vampires who make yourself feel better by feeding off of the pain of others. But I know your game and I know that in the dark corners of your little mind you are scared and insecure.

So if it makes you feel better to feed off of my distress, feel free. The difference is that even though I am torked I know that I will come out the other side. It is not a question of if, but of when. What did Churchill say, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

That is what I am doing. And because I am an ornery cuss and a glutton for punishment if I happen to stumble into the devil I will tweak his nose, poke him in the eyes and kick him in the ass. And if he happens to drop that pitchfork I will snatch it up and insert it into his ass pointy end first right up to the handle.

Yep, I am frustrated. I am angry and I am feeling crazed because there is so much going on that it is hard to catch my breath.

If I were advising my children on how to deal with this I'd tell the to break it up into bite size pieces. But since I rarely follow my own advice it doesn't matter. Ok, that is not true, I am breaking it up into little pieces. But it is taking a toll and I am a bit low on energy.

Part of the problem is that I had to suspend my gym membership. I used to expend all of my stress on the court. Three or four nights of basketball did wonders for my sanity. But given the economy and two kids in private school it made sense to give it up for a while.

I found a couple of new pick up games to play in, but they have challenges of their own. They all take place outdoors, on cement and my forty-year-old body doesn't like that very much. It is not that I can't play, but that I have to be more conscious of the pounding that my back and my knees take.

I want to be able to keep playing for years to come so I can't completely ignore the aches and pains that come from playing on the concrete. And it frustrates me to no end to have to limit my game because of this. I don't feel old. I see these twenty somethings and I can still run with them. Strength wise there are very few who can out do me, I haven't lost it there.

But the speed isn't what it once was and more importantly the elasticity of the joints and the resiliency is lacking. I don't recover like I used to. I keep trying to, but I can only fight time for so long.

It brings me back to where I was. If I can't relieve stress the same way than I have to find a good alternative and I am searching for it.

Writing always used to be a great complement to the basketball, but lately that hasn't worked as well. The words don't just fly off of the keyboard anymore. They feel stilted and awkward and that has stifled me a bit.

But I am working on it.

I suspect that part of it is due to the number of places that I am writing now. I am writing in a few places under my real name. Part of that is great and freeing, but it takes some of the energy I have for here.

The boys and I are leaning upon each other. A couple of them are in the midst of getting divorced. I do a lot of listening. I get a lot earfuls of their stuff. I don't mind as long as they can occasionally listen to my own.

But it all adds up.

Did I mention that the stress of getting the kids into back to school mode is another nightmare. So much freaking work. It shouldn't be this complicated, but there is just so much to do. I graduated from college last century, several presidents ago. Been working for years, but I still hate to see summer end.

Got to break out of this rut. Think that I am going to go grab my kettlebell and exercise for a bit. See you in a bit.
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The Effects of Drugs on Spiders

Sounds Of My Youth

(Originally posted here)

Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time dreaming. My thoughts flitter around this and that and here and there. In my mind I visualize myself in various places with various people.

Some of it is fantasy and some of is memory. I suppose that you could attribute this to being someone who enjoys creativity and storytelling.

The world is a very interesting place. I never run out of things to do, places to go or people to see. In many ways I am a boy in a man's body. I love doing new things but I also like thinking about my past. I have many fine memories and I rather enjoy visiting them from time to time.

Certain smells and sounds remind me of the past. Some of them are bittersweet memories of people and places that are no longer part of my life, at least not in the way that they used to be.

For example for the first 28 years of my life my maternal grandparents lived in an apartment complex in West Hollywood.

I remember the drive from my parent's house in the Valley through Laurel Canyon to Hollywood. If I close my eyes for a moment I can hear the sound of a Dodge Dart or a Chevy Impala Station Wagon. My father is driving. I am sitting right behind him watching his every move. My mother is stationed to the left of him, a younger sister between them and two more to the right of me.

If you watch me drive you can see some of the same gestures my father makes. Watch me get onto the freeway. My foot presses down on the accelerator and I crane my head to the far left, searching for oncoming traffic. I mutter to myself about the traffic around me, some of it is intelligible and some less so. Those are the words that I really strain to hear because my father is cursing the guy who doesn't understand that you don't get on the freeway doing 25 MPH or maybe it is the guy in the lime green Ford Pinto who hasn't enough sense to signal before he switches lanes.

We aren't on the freeway for all that long before we exit.You get off at Laurel Canyon and make a right. Go straight for a couple of miles and suddenly you are in the middle of the canyon surrounded by the Hollywood Hills. If you know where to look you can see the ruins of Harry Houdini's home.

The houses are distinctly different from those in my neighborhood. There is a different feel to the area. I am too young to put my finger on it, but I am aware of it early on. The drive through the canyon is pleasant. Maybe it is part of why I enjoy fiction so much because it really feels like a transformation of worlds to me.

I rarely noticed the time in the canyon. One minute I was in the car and the next was spent finding a parking space in front of the building. Their apartment was on the third floor and overlooked the pool. I spent many pleasant hours eating lunch on their balcony and watching people swim.

But one of the things that sticks with me more than anything else was the sound that their front door made whenever it was opened or closed. I can't really describe it so I won't bother with an attempt other than to say that in my mind it is a very soothing sound.

I don't even have to close my eyes to see the way it looked inside. When you opened the front door you stepped into the living room. To your right was a hallway that led to the two bedrooms and a bathroom.

In front of you was the dining room and off to the left lay the kitchen. The kitchen that didn't have a dishwasher. Just off to the left of the front door was the door to the balcony. An end table was nearby. They stored decks of cards in it that my sisters and I would use to build houses or play games with.

We spent untold hours there. At a Passover seder I proposed marriage to my cousin. She was an older woman but I was a very mature six or maybe she was a very immature seven. One of these days I'll have to ask her.

It is funny to me how these memories stick with me. Not funny in a humorous way, but funny in the way that just intrigues me. Sounds, sounds, sounds. So many routine noises that have so much meaning. In the years that have passed I find so many reminders. Certain staircases have a specific echo that makes me remember the days in which my father had the biggest hands of anyone I knew.

Dinners at my parent's house where my mother suddenly realizes that she has forgotten to serve a dish remind me of an untold number of meals at which my grandmother did the same. Her expression and comments mirroring her mother's.

It is times like this that I miss my grandmother's little brother, my uncle. My dear uncle who would wait until the middle of the meal at grandma's house to ask her what she had forgotten. There was always this mischievous gleam in his eye that I recognized. I might have been a kid, but I was a big brother and that meant that I knew a little something about teasing a sister.

He died unexpectedly in 1985. More sounds at my grandparents. Only this time there is silence. My grandmother is clearly upset but she is hiding her feelings. I am old enough to understand that she is trying to avoid upsetting my sisters. It doesn't occur to me that maybe she is trying to protect me too.

It is not something that occurs to me because just a few months prior to this I was in Israel. Ten weeks abroad without my parents and I feel like an adult and so I help to maintain the silence there. It is almost unnatural, this silence. There are too many of us and it is just not that quiet.

Later that evening the silence is broken. It is the sound of someone crying. It is my grandmother. She is in the bathroom and she is trying to be quiet, but there is an echo in there. There is an echo that made the children laugh because if you didn't use the fan it was very obvious what was going on in there. And lord knows that potty humor is high comedy for the five to ten year-old crowd.

Sounds, more sounds and more memories. The complex is built around a large oval swimming pool, an intentional or perhaps unintentional amphitheatre. Voices carry and bits and pieces of conversations float up to the third floor.

Some are stories of fleeing the Nazis or the Cossacks, some are tales of how smart the grandchildren are. Today whenever I hear someone bragging about their grandchildren I remember the conversations from around the pool. Sometimes the sound of someone diving into a pool remind me of the pool at my grandparent's complex.

This October it will be nine years since they left Hollywood for the greener pastures of Camarillo. I have tried to develop new memories there but it is not the same. I still find myself listening for those old familiar sounds. The screendoor doesn't squeak and since they no longer live in an apartment there are no footsteps to listen to in a dark staircase.

My grandfather no longer watches for our arrival from the balcony. He stopped smoking cigars when I was about 22 so there are no ashtrays to help stimulate olfactory memories.

Don't get me wrong, I love my grandparents dearly and I really have found some special memories in their new home. But it is not the same. They have been there for almost a decade and I still refer to it as the new place.

Sounds, sounds, sounds. I listen for them sometimes consciously and sometimes otherwise but they just aren't there anymore.

A Quick Summary of Recent Posts

If you haven't been around for a while here is some of what you missed:

A Father's Responsibility

Does Fear Prevent You From Living Your Life

Why Some Blogs Fail Revisited

Blog Questions We Ask Ourselves

Do You Live Your Dreams

When Blogging Became A Business

Getting Paid To Write- The Blogger's Dream



Send a Blogger To Israel For The JBlogger Conference

The denizens of the Jblogosphere have the chance to send a blogger to Israel. Yes, friends and neighbors you can help one of your fellow bloggers win a free trip to Israel to attend the Second International Jewish Bloggers Convention.

I am short on time so I am going to quote the Elder here:
Nefesh B'Nefesh is asking Jewish/Israeli bloggers to nominate other bloggers to fly to Israel on a NbN flight, with the proviso that they must write about their experience.

The catch is that we can only nominate other bloggers and must write a blog post as to why we chose that person.
And I am actually going to bend the rules and nominate two people. The first is the inimitable Soccer Dad, my predecessor as the admin of Haveil Havalim.

Every so often you will see posts such as The Golden Age Of The JBlogosphere in which silly old timers talk about how much better things were in the past. Soccer Dad is responsible for many of the positive developments of the present.

He has been a consistent and stable presence within the Jblogosphere and has always been good about trying to help others. His is a labor of love. It is not easy dealing with all of us crazy MOTs and all of the mishegahs surrounding us, but he does it daily.

My second nominee is another elder statesman of the Jblogosphere. The Elder has been around for what seems like forever now. He produces high quality posts that have served as an excellent resource for Israel advocacy.

And again he does so with great regularity. It takes a lot of time and effort to do what these men do and they deserve our thanks and recognition for it.

A Severe Case of Bad Blogging

A reader wrote in and asked me if I ever encounter writer's block or situations in which I am less than satisfied with the quality of my posts. The answer is yes to both questions. It is not at all uncommon for me to stare at the screen and wonder why the words aren't magically filling it.

And without a doubt I have published more than one post whose quality was less than stellar. Blogging is no different than anything else in life there are good days and bad days. There is one significant difference between bad days in general and bad days in blogging.

A bad day in blogging can not only be memorialized forever it can go viral and be seen by millions of people. A bad day in blogging can hurt you professionally and personally. I suppose that if you are really paranoid I just helped to make your day.

In every day life you really have to work hard to do something dumb enough to receive that kind of life long notoriety.

For most of us none of these things in real life or in blogging will happen so let's circle back and talk about the more mundane question of what to do about bad blogging. What happens when the quality of your posts suffer and how do you deal with it.

There are a few initial questions to ask such as whether it is a personal or professional blog. The answer there is self evident. If your blog is supposed to provide a professional representation of your work you need to take extra care with what you publish. Better to provide fewer examples of a higher quality than a thousand mediocre ones.

On the personal side it is a different sort of question. I view my blog as a working tool and living chronicle of my life. As such I am less finicky about publishing posts that may not always be my finest work. Doing so provides me with benchmarks that I can use to measure my growth as a writer/blogger.

And candidly I am confident enough in my ability that I do not worry that I going to publish total crap. It doesn't mean that I love everything I write, but I can usually live with it.

One more thing to mention. I like reading a blog that isn't composed solely of shiny pennies. I think it is more authentic to read a series of posts and get a chance to see the diamonds in the rough.

The bottom line here is that blogging is another one those places where we have shared experiences. We all have moments of doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes you just have to endure a severe case of bad blogging and work your way through it.

What do you think?
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A Father's Responsibility

Sunday night my father and I had a good old fashioned fight that reminded me of that guy that used to live in their house. He looked a lot like me, but he had more hair and drove a bitchin' Camaro. Five

First generation Chevrolet Camaro.Image via Wikipedia

points to anyone who gets the musical reference.

Anyhoo, the old man and I screamed at each other for a bit and followed it up by glaring at each other in a way that would have melted steel. I won't bore you with the particulars of the disagreement other than to say that ultimately we were both coming from the same place, a twilight zone I like to call A Father's Responsibility.

A Father's Responsibility is a catch all for all of the obligations that we fathers have upon our shoulders and it is a load. Before the mothers erupt in a huff this isn't a competition about who has more work or more responsibility. It is not about who suffers more for the sake of the family.

Those types of discussions are bootless, fruitless and useless.

I am not the kind of guy who makes to do lists and gets off on checking off items as I complete them. I am goal oriented, but in a different sort of way. I am the guy that gets lost in thought for a thousand hours and then comes out of the day dream trying to figure out a good reason why I can't make it reality.

Not unlike most parents I have sacrificed many things for the sake of my children and my family. For many years it was a traditional set up while mom stayed home I went to work and functioned as the sole provider. It is an awesome responsibility and one I gladly took on. But I won't lie and say that it wasn't a relief to get some help there.

When we were robbed at Target it hurt for many reasons, not the least of which was because it was an affront to my fragile male ego. It is my job to protect my family and I felt like I had failed. I was face to face with the guy. It is probably a good thing that I didn't try to take him down. There is no telling what could have happened, but it grated on my nerves. I don't ever want the family to be afraid that I won't protect them because I never forget about their safety.

That is because it is A Father's Responsibility to handle that. When there are repairs to be made around the house I make a point of involving my children. There are two reasons that I do that. One is that it helps to teach them that we all have responsibilities and that they are not exempt from them. And it also provides a practical teaching experience. One day they'll have to fix a toilet, change a tire or take apart a sink.

I do my best to try to make time to play with them. It is not always easy, especially given the current economic climate. There may be some traditional role playing going on now, but I want them to always feel comfortable coming to me. I am not always as good about that as I should be.

The dark haired beauty sometimes brushes my hair while I am working at the computer. Fancy Nancy sometimes hears stories while the BlackBerry buzzes. These are moments that I struggle with because A Father's Responsibility means providing and playing. It is sometimes hard to weigh which is more important.

So I try to compromise and set aside time where the turn off the phone and walk away from the computer. It is these moments when having a home office really is a double edged sword. But at the same time who else is going to pick them up and swing them around. Who is going to wrestle and tickle them. It is A Father's Responsibility to get them totally amped up before bedtime.

Anyhoo, when my old man (he just loves when I refer to him that way) got irritated with me much of it had to do with his perception of his current responsibilities towards me. He is good about it. I tend not to hear criticism unless he sees it as a safety issue or I ask. This time I asked a question and he didn't like my response and we ended up jumping all over each other.

But the best part about taking a trip back in time was that instead of having to stew inside my room I could just get up and go home. On a side note, I probably should apologize to my mother. Our voices carry and since our cone of silence is broken she was forced to endure 400 pounds of angry men.

Later on when the dust had settled my father called and reminded me that the good news is that I only have another 30 years or so before I get to retire. I asked him why that is good news and he said, "you're grandparents are 95" the last thing I heard before he disconnected was him laughing.

He may have been laughing, but I know better, A Father's Responsibility never goes away.
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Been Hanging Out Over...

Been hanging out over here trying to win a few contests and prizes.
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I'm Free

Does Fear Prevent You From Living Your Life

The rules of the blog are simple- brutal honesty. This is where I empty out the contents that are rattling around inside my skull and sift through them. This is where I take a hard look at myself and demand that I be honest with myself about all that I think and all that I feel.

It is not a joke. It is a serious exercise and at times a very painful one. I make a point of visiting the good and the bad. I know what my flaws are and the ways in which I sometimes hide from them.

I am no different from anyone else. There are painful moments and experiences that have shaped and influenced me. The question I ask myself is whether there are lingering effects from those times. What are the things that are preventing me from taking that next step.

Am I living the life I want to lead or is fear preventing me from doing what I need to do. I think that I am in a transitional stage which is why I am asking these questions and why this Nickelback songhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maINUv2H8A0 resonates with me.

So tell me, dear reader, Does Fear Prevent You From Living Your Life?
"My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you had, if today was your last day?
What if, what if, if today was your last day?

Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts 'cause there's no second try
So live like you're never living twice
Don't take the free ride in your own life

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you had?

And would you call those friends you never see?
Reminisce old memories?
Would you forgive your enemies?
And would you find that one you're dreaming of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you'd finally fall in love if today was your last day?

If today was your last day
Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it's never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are

So do whatever it takes
'Cause you can't rewind a moment in this life
Let nothing stand in your way
'Cause the hands of time are never on your side

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past?
Donate every dime you had?

And would you call those friends you never see?
Reminisce old memories?
Would you forgive your enemies?
And would you find that one you're dreaming of
Swear up and down to God above
That you'd finally fall in love if today was your last day?"
If Today Was Your Last Day- Nickelback

Getting Paid To Write- The Blogger's Dream

Since I turned 40 I have been in the midst of a pseudo midlife crisis. So I did what most guys do. I bought a new sports car, started dating the 25 year-old triplets from across the street and backpacked around Europe.

The new car has been great. There is nothing like cruising Pacific Coast Highway with two hot blondes and a brunette to keep you company. My oh my, Louie Armstrong was right, what a wonderful world.

Ok, the only thing that is true among the previous two paragraphs is that I turned 40 and that I am in the midst a pseudo crisis. It is not a full blown midlife, but it has a few elements that would be appropriate, or so I think. What the hell do I know about midlife, my grandparents are 95 and I am only 40. Clearly I am not middle aged.

But I did make a decision that I am going to actively work on gaining employment as a writer. I love doing it and I seem to have some talent for it so what the hell. And that my friends takes us to the real point of this post which is that it is possible to be paid to be a blogger.

I am not talking about being paid to be the ghostwriter for some Fortune 500 blog either.

You can be paid to write for your very own blog.

So now you are wondering how this can be, I can feel some of you salivating over the prospect of being paid to write your own blog. Stop drooling and relax and I'll address the question of how to do it. Or rather I'll tell you a bit about what I am doing.

A while back I read about a site called Triond that sounded interesting. And then life got in the way and I promptly forgot about it. Three or four days ago I stumbled onto this site and was reminded of it so I decided to sign up.

However, I decided not to be anonymous there. Over on Triond I am writing without the mask that I wear here. It is a bit odd, but that mask can get awfully hot, talk about sweating. Whew.

On a serious note it enables me to build a portfolio of my work that I can use to try and generate additional freelance work with. It has literally been years since I made my living solely via my words so I am excited about trying to do so again.

I'll let you know how it goes.
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Why Some Blogs Fail Revisited

This past week I read a number of posts in which bloggers discussed how long they would continue blogging and so I thought that it made sense to revisit my post about why some blogs fail.

I still maintain that one of two key elements must be present for bloggers to make it for the long haul, financial incentives and or personal satisfaction. Most bloggers will not make any significant cash from blogging so the bottom line will come back to whether they enjoy it or not.

Why Some Blogs Fail

My blogging friend LB and I had a brief discussion on Twitter regarding why some blogs last and others don't. On a side note be sure to read his post on Hummus, see Benji, I am working on that Google page ranking. ;)

Anyhoo, he turned me onto this article from the New York Times called: Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest, or When The Thrill of Blogging is Gone. The question/topic of our tweeting was about why this happens and what it takes to survive. Before we get into that let's take a look at an excerpt from the article.

"Like Mrs. Nichols, many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — to build an audience and leave their day job, to land a book deal, or simply to share their genius with the world. Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a little time and inspiration. So why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door." [Emphasis in bold is mine J.B.]

If you want to be a successful blogger and be around for the long haul than you need one of two things to happen. Blogging has to be profitable or a passion. If you are lucky than you receive both.

When people ask me for advice on how to start a blog I always begin the conversation with a question, "Why do you want to start blogging?" If their answer is that they want to become rich and famous and hope that blogging will provide a platform for that I wish them good luck and ask them if they have really thought it out.

Do they have a plan? What is the blog going to be about? What blogging platform do they intend to use, Wordpress, Typepad etc? What is the name of their blog, have they secured the domain name etc?

These aren't hard questions to come up with. They don't require any real insight or expertise to develop. There are a million sites that ask and answer these questions. A million sites that tell you they can help you use the net to get rich.

Most bloggers won't ever make much money. Chances are they won't spend much time on any in developing a marketing plan. They won't really expend much effort on making it work. They'll dip their toes in and decide that it takes work and continue because they like it or just give up.

That is why I say that it takes passion. You have to enjoy this. You have to get something more out of it than just the hope that you might make a buck at it. Because it is like anything else, if you like doing it than chances are you'll stick with it.

At least that is what I think. What about you?

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Posts About Faith, Blogging & Stuff

Spent more time cleaning out the closet and decided to share some of what I found lying there:

A Question of Faith
The Sign Said Ten Items or Less
The Long And Winding Road
Daddy, They Have Mommy's Purse
Jack And The Missionary

Blog Questions We Ask Ourselves

If you are one of the 17 long time readers you know that periodically I recycle old posts and use them again. What you may not know is the methodology that I use in choosing what to run again so here is a brief explanation.

Sometimes I'll rerun a post because I happen to think that it is good enough to merit additional exposure and or it ties in nicely with a current topic.

At the moment I find myself in the midst of a pseudo crisis so as I work through the various elements that I find troubling it makes sense to revisit some old posts and see how they hold up.

I wrote the post below on January 1, 2006. I think that it has held up pretty well, although I should add that I am still asking myself a lot of the same questions. Maybe there are no good answers to them.

Blog Questions We Ask Ourselves

The title of this post is a bit presumptuous because I am assuming that I am not the only blogger to ask these questions, or maybe I am.

1) If you are an anonymous blogger would the loss of your anonymity stop you from blogging? Golda Leah touched upon this in her post today and many other bloggers have dealt with it.

My own anonymity has been compromised and I simply refuse to stop writing because this is outlet means a lot to me. I am appreciative of the community I have become a part of and happy that I have been given the opportunity to learn.

But there is no doubt that the removal of the veil changes a blogger's approach. What do you think?

2) Many blogs have regulars, you know they are the commenters that show up on most if not all of the posts. Sometimes those commenters disappear. Do you wonder where they went? Do you wonder if they think that your blog has jumped the shark, if you upset them or if there is some other explanation for why they have forsaken you.

3) Do you ever wonder what the shelf life of your blog is? That is, how long will you be able to keep you going/how long do you want to keep going?

I readily admit to all of these, but I have to say that I my smallest concern is how long I can keep this up. I don't have a problem coming up with content. The big question is how much of my evening I want to dedicate to this.

If you enjoyed this or are curious to read my other rambling remarks about blogging try reviewing the posts on the blogging drop down menu such as

Blogging for Ego, For Experience, For What
Do you Have Blog Envy?
How Many Blogs Do You Read?
Blog Regulars
The Most Time Consuming Part of Blogging
Obsessed With the Blogroll
Blog Disappointment
Commenting on Comments
Anonymous Blogging- Pulling Back The Curtain

The Best of The Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere

Haveil Havalim, The Best of The Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere weekly blog carnival is now live.

She Died- Death Notices Via Facebook



I often write about different the world that my children are growing up is from that which I experienced. But I don't often really stop to think about the affect and impact those changes have upon me. Tonight life decided to remind me that I don't live in a vacuum.

Tonight's lesson came courtesy of Facebook. A little after 11 PM I signed on and learned that my great aunt had died. I didn't receive the new via a direct message or email. Rather I learned because my cousins had changed their statuses to mention her passing and to honor her.

It was a bit surreal and it took a moment to sink in. My aunt was the older sister of my grandmother. She was approximately 18 months or so older, although for the past 25 years or so she tried to insist that she was younger.

I can't really say that she was taken too soon because 97 is a nice long life. But I can say that she was a very special lady. This means that my grandmother is the last member of her family, all of her parents and siblings are gone now.

It is a surreal experience learning about death via Facebook. In some ways it was incredibly impersonal and yet in others it felt a bit more intimate. So many comments poured in from family that even though we weren't together it seemed otherwise.

Because I got the news so late in the evening I haven't any idea as to whether my parents or siblings are aware of this. I rather suspect that my mother will call me early tomorrow to let me know. She'll be shocked to learn that I already heard the news and especially surprised to learn how.

Well, changes impact us all. I'll miss my aunt, she was a special lady and a lot of fun. Baruch Dayan Emet.

America's Best Public Restrooms

Friends it is time again to announce the winners of America's Best Restroom contest. As you know this is one of the yearly features of the blog so I am pleased to present it to you again.

Here is a list of the top five which I am sad to say have never received a visit from me, but perhaps one day.
1. The Shoji Tabuchi Theater, Branson, Missouri (Click Here)
2. The Tremont Plaza Hotel, Baltimore, MD (Click Here)
3. Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY (Click Here)
4. Zeffirino Ristorante, Las Vegas, NV (Click Here)
5. The Drake Hotel, Chicago, Illinois (Click Here)

Among the remaining finalists, those placing in sixth through tenth place are as follows: Macy’s – Union Square in San Francisco, California; The Tampa Theatre in Tampa, Florida; NOVA 535 in St. Petersburg, Florida; The Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan and Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, Washington.

The Shoji Tabuchi Theatre received the coveted “America’s Best Restroom” plaque of recognition from Cintas during a special presentation today, and secured its place in the “America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame” found at www.bestrestroom.com.

Musical Medley

Some of the songs that I have been listening to:

One Day- Matisyahu
Hey Jude- The Beatles
I am Sorry- John Denver
Annie's Song- John Denver
Burn- The Cure
Who'll Stop the Rain- CCR
Have You Ever Seen The Rain- CCR (Can't listen to one without the other.)
Take The Long Way Home- Supertramp
Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac
Rhiannon-Fleetwood Mac
Tusk-Fleetwood Mac
Turn On Your Lovelight- The Grateful Dead
Rocktstar- Nickelback

Do You Live Your Dreams

This is one of those questions that is worth asking repeatedly:

My question dear reader is this, Do you live your dreams or dream your life?

Vendor Client Relationships

Hah, this made me laugh.

It Is Not Really A New Discovery

Thanks to the amazing power of Facebook I just came into contact with another friend from my past and I can't say that I am entirely thrilled about it. Sometimes we inadvertently lose contact with people and sometimes it is intentional.

I can tell you unequivocally that this was an intentional thing on my part. You see Marty (not his real name) was one of those people who had to one up you at everything. No one ever got a better deal on a car, knew of a better restaurant or had better ideas for a good time. Marty was a maven at anything and everything.

What he wasn't good at was knowing when to shut his mouth or give other people credit. His superstar personality and supersized ego did an excellent job of burning through friendships like there was no tomorrow. We got to be friendly shortly after one of his relationships flamed out.

Initially I blamed the break up for his behavior. I figured that he was heart broken and this was how he was compensating, but that turned out not to be true. Marty was a putz, a yutz and a giant pain in the ass. That is not to say that I am perfect, I have my share of flaws, but I have enough sense not to tell the Native Americans that I discovered America. He did not.

Anyway some twent years or so ago I got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore and decided that it was time to let him go. Since I didn't want to be a jerk I made a point of letting go over the summer. I was working at a sleepaway camp for the summer and cellphones weren't ubiquitous so it made it easy to just kind of fade away.

I hadn't thought about the guy in years until today when I received a message via Facebook from him. Spent a few minutes emailing back and forth and learned that he is still the same guy. Apparently he began blogging not so long ago and was only too happy to try and tell me how popular he is and how he is a great daddy blogger.

It was kind of a funny exchange because it never occurred to him that I would know what a blog is or that I might even be a blogger. Instead he prattled on about himself and suggested that I might consider trying it out, blogging that is. And even better, he offered to teach me how to do it.

I was momentarily tempted to send him the URL of my blog if for no other reason than to remind him that there is a big world out there and people besides him are capable of discovering things. But I really didn't want to deal with all of his nonsense, not to mention he is the guy who will spend hours going through the archives to see if I have written about him.

Well, now I have. Thank you dear friend for reminding me why I let go in the first place. BTW, I do have a blog and I am not impressed that your stats show that 50 people read you every day.

Love,

Jack

P.S. Don't take this personally, but I don't think we'll be getting that drink any time soon.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation

Periodically I like to share worthwhile causes with you. The Bob Woodruff Foundation is one of them. It is a good way to support our troops.

The mission of the Bob Woodruff Foundation is to provide resources and support to injured service members, veterans and their families -- building a movement to empower communities nationwide to take action to successfully reintegrate our nation’s injured heroes—especially those who have sustained the Hidden Injuries of War—back into their communities so they may thrive physically, psychologically, socially and economically.

BWF is a national nonprofit that helps ensure our nation’s service members return to a homefront ready to support them.

BloggersBase

I signed up for BloggersBase today. Very curious to see how it all works.

When Blogging Became A Business

Sometimes I think about writing a parody of You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore. It would be about blogging and how it evolved from something that we did for fun into a business that we hoped would make us rich.

Of course when I do write it I am going to have to send an email to the guy who said You Just Aren't that Funny. I kind of wonder what happened to him. For a while he was one of the resident trolls who used to haunt this place. Those few of you who know me in real life know that I feed off of that sort of nonsense. Tell me I am not funny and I'll find a way to make you split a gut laughing.

I can't help it, I am that talented. It is a burden, but I have broad shoulders and can carry load.

Back in those days only a few bloggers were able to generate enough traffic to pull in real advertising dollars and sponsorships were just a figment of imagination. Back then we didn't have discussions about ridiculous badges that proclaimed our innocence and trustworthiness.

Certainly more than a few of us harbored dreams of being discovered by a publisher or studio. There was always that silent hope that someone would read a post and decide that the world had to be exposed to their prodigious writing ability and pay them huge dollars to write a book.

I'll raise my hand and say that I am one of them. Seriously, I could do this for a living. I could write books, plays, movies or greeting cards for pay. Don't believe me, make me an offer and I'll prove it to you.

Yep, those were the days when we didn't skewer bloggers for a lack of transparency. You didn't read a review of a product and wonder why the blogger hadn't realized that it was obvious that they copied the entire sales sheet verbatim. Back then I didn't find entire sections of a blog outlining what the sponsorship policy for the blog is/was. And you certainly didn't find links to media kits there either.

A friendly word of advice to those of you who have a media kit or are thinking of creating one. If you are going to do it you better do it right. Don't use terminology that you don't understand and please don't rely solely upon a spell check to proof read your copy. Within the last three weeks I have reviewed more than a few media kits and found them to be problematic for all of the reasons I listed above.

It wouldn't be hard to write an entire rant about that alone. It is similar to telling your mechanic that your carburetor is bad when you car uses a fuel injection system. All it does is create a red flag that let's everyone know that you haven't got a clue what you are talking about. Keep it simple and you'll save yourself a lot of grief.

Of course the beauty of blogging is that we all have opinions that we can share and that was mine.

If you are wondering I don't have a disclosure policy because I don't write reviews for compensation. I have one spot on the sidebar in which ads run and I run Adsense in my RSS feed. Over the years I have been approached on numerous occasions with requests to do reviews and run sponsored text links.

Until this past year I had always turned them down because I didn't want to run that sort of blog. But the blog has evolved and in theory I have evolved. I have since decided that I am open to doing these things. It doesn't mean that I will, but if the opportunity comes around I am sure that I will consider it.

Ultimately it comes back to the question of why I blog. I blog because I find it to be cathartic to write about my life. I find it enjoyable to write short stories and I love the interaction. As long as those things continue I am sure that you will still find me here.

And that is all I have to say about that......for now. ;)

Anonymous Blogging- Pulling Back The Curtain

This post initially began with a smartass remark about blogging being covered as a social disorder in the upcoming edition of the DSM IV. I opted to dispose of that because this is a semi-serious post and it deserves a better joke than something as weak as that.

Anonymous blogging is an issue that generates strong feelings on both sides and one that is beginning to be discussed with increasing frequency. The primary complaint is that anonymity provides an abdication of personal accountability for what is written. It is a reasonable concern. I have stumbled upon more than a few blogs that served as vehicles to attack the character of a person(s) and or businesses.

If you have been on the receiving end of some these hatchet jobs you might have found yourself frustrated with an inability to confront the writer or writers of the posts in question. I know of several cases which led to the use of the legal system to attempt to gain the true name of the blogger.

More than one post has been written in which the author suggested that anonymous bloggers are cowards. I understand where they are coming from and appreciate why they might think that those of us behind the mask don't really stand behind our principles. Of course had they been a student with me they would know that I usually stood before the principal, but I digress.

As the seventeen long time readers know I have been wrestling for a while with revealing my true identity. In concept pulling back the curtain should provide more advantages than disadvantages. It allows me to retain the benefit of my brand while simultaneously growing it more quickly than I have in the past.

After more than five years of blogging I have an established readership and name. For years many of my friends and family have made repeated requests to get a chance to visit this corner of cyberspace. With very few exceptions I have always rebuffed those efforts. I like the anonymity because it allows me to write more freely. Take off the mask and some of the more self introspective posts will disappear.

I kind of like writing those. Of course there is nothing preventing me from continuing or establishing a new blog to keep writing them on. It is not that I can't discuss those introspective posts, because I can. But I don't really want to. Some of them are pretty raw and I don't feel like having to go through a 27 hour explanation with some of the people who will ask about them.

I have very realistic expectations about how many of my friends/family will read this thing. A bunch will take one look and never come back, but I can guarantee that more than a few will hang around. So I really need to ask myself if I am prepared to open that can of worms.

As for setting up a separate blog, well I have five now and barely have time to keep them going. Setting up something new is going to require giving something up, which might not be such a bad thing.

In addition to the benefits of retaining my brand taking off the mask would make it easier to get more writing jobs, at least I think that it would. In theory if they didn't get scared away by the wacky world I write about it would provide a ton of samples of my writing ability for them to review.

As it stands now it is a bit more challenging to produce as many samples as they'd like.

I don't expect to make any quick decisions about this. The good news is that I don't really have to, but I kind of expect to do it. At least I think that I am probably going to, but I suppose that only time will tell.

If Today Was Your Last Day

Some songs have a message that never gets old.

Save The Last Dance For Me- 75 Years of Marriage

Not so long ago I explained my belief in astrology. It is very simple. If I like my horoscope than I believe wholeheartedly in it and if I don't I write it off as being nothing more than superstitious bunk. I do the same thing for most of the new agey stuff.

Don't tell me that if I ask the universe to give me a gift it will come true. Because if that was true than back in high school good old Ann Stacey would have been really attentive to my needs. But I digress.

This afternoon I saw something that might have made me question my beliefs a bit. This afternoon I watched two 95 year-olds dance themselves back in time. And then I saw them kiss in a way that made me remember that Sarah was older than my grandmother when she gave birth to Isaac.

Great googly moogly, grandma and grandpa kissed each other like they really meant it. If nothing else they managed to make my son ask why grown ups like to kiss so much.

I told him not to worry about it and to watch them dance because he might not get to see it again to which he replied, "are they going to die?" I rolled my eyes in mock exasperation and said yes. For a moment he stared at me and they I told him that I didn't expect it to happen today.

But the truth is that this might have been the last dance and that makes me a bit sad. My grandparents are one of the constants of my entire life. For forty years they have always been a part of it. I have seen them dance at untold numbers of family parties, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs etc. They always spent time together out on the dance floor. It occurred to me that I am not sure when I last saw them dance.

I hadn't realized until that moment that dancing is one of the images I have of them. But when I think about it is easy to envision them gliding around the floor. Confession time. I remember being about 15 and thinking that if I could dance as well as my grandfather it would make it a lot easier to find a girlfriend.

For a brief time I tried practicing in front of the mirrored closet doors in my parent's bedroom, but that didn't last long. As a 15 year old boy dancing wasn't something that I was real comfortable with. I didn't want to talk about it and wasn't about to ask for lessons. Maybe I should of have.

Nah...

Anyhoo, it was all part of an anniversary party that we threw to celebrate their 75th year of marriage. The best part of it was seeing how much fun they had. Later on we went back to my parent's house for dinner.

I got a kick out of watching them sit on the couch holding hands. It was very sweet and I couldn't help but wonder what they were like 75 years ago. They got married twice. The first time was a secret wedding at the court house. So for a year they lived at home and pretended to be dating.

I'll share more about them in part two of this story.
Just watched my 95 year-old grandparent's dance at the celebration for their 75th wedding anniversary.

Their great grand children loved it and so did I.

Idea #237 for Wooing a Woman

This is part of an ongoing series in which I train men how to woo women. For the prior installment please click here.

Women love men who can dance and sing. When you find a woman that you wish to woo it is always good to gather some friends and dress up as The Village People. I have had great success dressing up in leather and singing Macho Man to the women of my world. You ought to try it too.

The Ultimate Birthday Party Revisited

If you asked me to describe the birthday party I wouldn't hesitate to say that it felt a bit like these two videos by the Red Russian Army Choir & Leningrad Cowboys. Stop wiping your eyes, you read it correctly the first time.

Simple tunes that were turned into major productions that magically retained their simplicity. Don't ask me what that means, I am tired. I just finished cleaning up mystery items that were left as gifts by the hordes of children and assorted guests.

For those of you who weren't fortunate enough to witness the dark haired beauty in all her glory let's undergo a short recap. As previously stated this venture into the dark side took place here on the Ponderosa minus Hoss and Little Joe, although I am pretty sure that Rooster Cogburn made a guest appearance.

There was a Hello Kitty theme to this party. This made the dark haired beauty's eldest aunt quite happy as she had a thing for the ferocious feline too. It included basic entertainment, much of which was provided by your's truly.

I suppose that I should clarify by saying that I found it exceptionally entertaining to tell the children that I had stuffed the pinata full of broccoli, zucchini and brussel sprouts. SInce most of them were five or younger they were naive enough to believe that I was telling the truth. One girl was positively irate until I told her that her mommy insisted that she only be given apples to eat. Once I said that she shrugged her shoulders and said, "you did speak to her."

Additional entertainment was provided by the bounce house, also known as a moon bounce, bouncie and that big blue noisy thing. Again it served as a major source of entertainment for me as I took great pleasure from jumping alongside the kids. Let me tell you, they loved it. Every time I landed it launched them fifteen feet through the air. There was much squealing and only a few tears. But that kid was a total baby, I told him to watch out. It is not my fault that I landed on his toe.

On a side note, it is implortant to remember not to call a kid stinky in front of his mother. For some reason they frown upon grown men taunting their children. Again, not my fault that he is proof that some people are born with the ability to break wind upon command. Seriously, he could be a superhero of some sort, Flatulent Boy.

If I was his publicist I'd market his ability to clear a room to law enforcement or the military. He might even replace the Taser. "Hold still sir, or he'll shoot."

Anyhoo, I am here, stuffed full of 235 slices of pizza and ready to cut a hole in my gut to relieve the pressure. Please remind me that I don't have to imitate a puppy and keep eating until there is nothing left on the plate in front of me.

The most important thing is that the dark haired beauty had a great time. Not to mention that she told my MIL not to bother me because daddy is the boss of the house. I am not sure what prompted that or the context of it, but when my sister told me the tale I immediately called American Girl and placed an order for the entire store.

Did I mention that I am positively delerious with exhaustion.
Live Blogging The Party-

Pizza, snow cones and pinata are complete. Clean up has begun-

Doing our best to hold the line, but the hordes keep coming.

The Calm Before The Storm
Defcon 1

Almost finished with last minute details for party. You know, the few things you can't do until just before it starts.

Best of the Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere Blog Carnival

Haveil Havalim, the blog carnival of the Jewish/Israeli blogosphere is now live. Go check it out here.

For past editions please click here.

The Ultimate Birthday Party

Tomorrow we are throwing a birthday party for the dark haired beauty. That five year-old is going to get a chance to have an old time birthday party. Yes ladies and gents, our house is going to be over run with children.

Ten thousand screaming tykes are busy dreaming now of the many different ways that they are going to terrorize us. By this time tomorrow my home will look like it was hit by a class 5 tornado and I'll feel like I have gone 237 rounds with the best MMA fighters around. Great googly moogly, what have we done.

In days of yore these parties were regularly held at a home. That changed at some point in time, not sure exactly when, but it did. Someone figured out that it wasn't always cheaper to hold these affairs at home and then marketed the idea to parents. It does hold a certain allure, holding a shindig elsewhere. Someone else has to do the cleaning before and after.

But this year we decided against it. No Chuck E. Cheese or Under The Sea or any of the million other places. No tea parties or dress up parties, just a good old fashioned chance to bash a pinata and play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Although I should confess that given the chance I might have pushed to have this at Farrells.

Except I just don't feel like driving out to Egypt and I am guessing neither do most of the friends. But I have got to tell you, those parties were great. I have a million great memories from them.

Anyhoo, in spite of the chaos that is coming I am excited about the party and most importantly so is she. Five years old and she is already stressing out over what party dress to wear and what shoes. She tore into her closet and made me watch as she ran through a bunch of her favorites.

Of course I reminded her that I think she is smart and beautiful and that a dress doesn't change anything. And as expected she was so excited she had trouble sleeping so I had to climb into bed and tell her about 1,363,988 stories. Apparently I must have fallen asleep because at some point I realized that she was shaking me and complaining that I was snoring.

I suppose that if I had any sense I'd take me and my snoring and move to the bedroom now. It probably wouldn't hurt to catch a few extra winks. It is a nice thought, let's see if I follow through on it.

My Childhood Home

I was tempted to begin this post with the usual crack about not being able to go back home again but it just doesn't feel right. You see, I am home. This post is being composed from the same bedroom in my parent's house that I grew up in. Right here, in this very room I planned and plotted a million different schemes.

Here in this bedroom I lay in the dark and dreamed dreams about the life I thought I was going to live. This is where I was when I decided that I wanted to live in Israel. This is where I was when I realized that I was in love with my high school sweetheart. She of course had figured that out long before and was unhappy because I refused to say those three words. This is the same room in which I retreated after I had my heart broken. This is the same room that I lived and died many different lives in.

Except it is not really that room any longer. I haven't lived here in decades and it shows. There is not one single piece of furniture left from my time, certainly not the very cool flat screen hanging on the wall. I would have died for that one. The office furniture isn't mine, nor the changing table.

About the only thing that is the same is the wood floor, but even that has been refinished since I was here, so...In the time since I left it has served as a room for the dog, my grandfather's domicile, a nursery of sorts for grandchildren and now, an office.

The house is quiet now, everyone is asleep. In the old days I would have tried to have arranged to spend the night with the boys or go on a date. During the summer of my college years I might have brought home a girlfriend. Technically she wouldn't have been allowed to stay in my room, but we would have spent a few minutes in here anyway. It would have been rude not to show her the places that had made me who I was/am.

Now I find myself sitting here dreaming about the future. Some of those dreams are quite different from those I used to have, yet some are not that different. It might not be my room anymore, but there is a quiet familiarity here that I appreciate. The shadows whisper lovingly to me and I can't help but feel like a piece of me that is missing lives on in this place.

The Shmata Queen & I Meet

For years now people have begged the Shmata Queen and I to share a picture from our first meeting. Ask and you shall receive. Behold Jack and the Shmata Queen.

Idea #265 for Wooing a Woman

This is idea #265 for wooing a woman and like all ideas here personally tested and proven to be effective.

Unfortunately this edition of wooing a woman does not come with video, but perhaps one day it will. Here is the concept:

You head down to the office of your lucky lady and serenade her with Kenny Rogers songs, while dressed like Kenny Rogers. If you really want to have fun grab some of the guys from this site and use them as your backup singers.

I Can't Wait To Be A Grown Up

He said it with all of the earnestness and honesty an 8.5 year-old can muster, "I can't wait until I am a grown up." I smiled and said that he really could and reminded him that he needed to get his shoes on now.

He looked up at me and told me that he was moving as fast as he could. I smiled again and said that I knew, now get them on. It is the typical banter between the two of us. The two of us were in the living room of his friend's home, the end of a play date.

Just off to the side of us his friend's mother was in the middle of negotiating a truce between two of her children and trying to keep the baby from tearing off her diaper. It was clearly time to go, but the joy of being 8.5 is that those other things aren't important. In between fighting with his little brother the friend was trying to negotiate terms for my son to stay longer.

I was pleased to see that they had so much fun and had I the ability, I would have let him stay longer. But their family had things to do and so did we. So the decree was final, play time was over.

Safely ensconced inside the car he started in on me about why he couldn't wait to be a grown up and old enough to take care of himself. He didn't mean anything buy it and he didn't say anything that I had said when I was his age. But he managed to catch me at a bad moment, so I responded.

I asked him if he was ready to worry about paying for a mortgage and for school for kids. I asked him if he was ready to spend sleepless nights worrying about how to make it all work. And then he told me that it couldn't be that hard, that grown ups had money and answers.

For a moment I was thankful that he couldn't see my face because I was certain that if he could he'd know for certain how wrong that impression was. He doesn't need to know that I am not kidding about the sleepless nights or the moments of self doubt. He doesn't need to know that yesterday another friend called to tell me that he and his wife are splitting up and might it be possible for me to help watch his kids occasionally.

He doesn't need to know that the only thing I know for certain is that I really don't know anything. Yes, it is true, I am in the early to middle stages of a crisis. Stuff is going on all around me and I am not certain how to avoid getting smacked by the things flying through the air.

I keep on driving, my eyes on the road and softly explain that he needs to enjoy the time as a kid. There will be plenty of time to be a grown up. He may not see it now, but he'll spend the majority of his life on the other side of the kid wall. Funny, he keeps trying to climb over to my side and all I want to do is jump back on his.

Twenty years ago I spent endless summer nights on the beach with a girl who had dark hair, dark eyes, a nice tan and no desire in life other than to spend time with me. I had no responsibilities outside of myself.

But that was then and this is now.

He asked/told me that my life was better because no one tells me what to do. I laughed and reminded him that the grass is always greener. Sure, no one tells me what to do. I really can do almost anything I want, but there is one major problem with that.

He asked me what it was and I told him that it is called responsibility and conscience. He nodded his head and I could see that he understood the concept. "I get it dad, you mean that you do the right thing because when you don't you feel guilty."

"Yep, that is it," I said. But what was left unsaid was that you don't always know what the right thing to do is. Some situations are very clear and some are not. At the end of the day, we do our best to try and make good choices and that is it.

Lightning Is About To Strike

Lightning is about to strike again, not a doubt in my mind that we're going to see it live and experience in 3D. Some lips are bound to ...