October 20, 2011

Time passes differently

When you were a child, for instance, it seemed that school days in June, when the weather had turned warm, moved more slowly than school days in January when it still got dark so early in the north-east. When you were a child, time seemed an infinite resource, replenished unstintingly from a never ending flowing river. Days followed on days and you thought, if you thought about it all, that it would never end. I'm sure that's what my college roommate, D, thought, too.

Then he was rushed into emergency surgery to take a tumor out of his brain, a stage IV glioblastoma, the worst kind. He and his wife were very brave as they made the rounds of Sloan Kettering and Duke to see if D was eligible for trials. I'm sure, even with this jolt of mortality, that they still envisioned an ending time that they could not put a date to, even if it was now longer infinite in comprehension of scope anymore. They were full of brave words about how young D is, how he is in great health, that he could and would beat this, that he would be able to dance at this daughter's wedding one day.

Now, not quite a year has passed since I last saw them. Now, in the space of 2 months since D's last MRI, the tumor has grown back so quickly that it is as large as the tumor that they took out not quite a year ago.

Recurrence. Now, all the choices (assuming they really ever had any choices to begin with) are bad and all the choices come with easily comprehensible expiration dates. When the average projected survival rates are 14-36 weeks post second surgery, then your time is now longer infinite. Now you can grasp an end, if you will. Your mind can comprehend the conclusion date, even if it is more of a range than a date certain.

So the question is, how is it that time which once passed so slowly is now passing so quickly? Time which stretched out into infinity is now quite finite.

There is no dying with dignity here. There is simply tremendous sadness that time has become so circumscribed. I am put in mind of Houseman's poem, To an Athlete Dying Young:

To An Athlete Dying Young

THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come, 5
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay, 10
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers 15
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man. 20

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head 25
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

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October 19, 2011

Dusty in here

So, this feels a bit weird. It has been about 2 years since I shook the dust off my blog and tried to write. I feel like maybe enough time has passed and maybe I cannot quite deny the compulsion to give this means of expression another shot. I think I burned out before. And then I needed my blog when I had my surgery 2 years ago. So, now, I need an outlet again. Facebook just doesn't do it for me, especially when I know that some of my readers/friends are minors. I feel I have to be very careful not to express myself too exuberantly. So, I'm back, I think. I wonder, before I really start writing, is anyone still reading?

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November 18, 2009

First rehab visit today

I met the with the physical therapist today for my first rehab session. It was harder than I expected it to be and that was a little discouraging. All we did, as per my surgeon's instructions, was work on range of motion and mobility stuff as I am not permitted to lift more than 5 pounds with my right arm. Still, it was hard and it left me sore and perhaps a tad discouraged. Just the same, I will totally do this.

I went back to work on Monday and am really only good for about a half a day before I just want to melt into my chair and sleep. So, we'll see how that goes. I just want to get through this week and then next week is a short week with Thanksgiving. I hope to be in a better place (physically, emotionally, energy wise, pain management wise, etc.) after an extended break with more sleep. I hope to get more sleep generally. It kind of sucks to wake up every single time you want to shift position in bed. Normally, you can just turn over in your sleep but I cannot do that right now. I think that the lack of consistent sleep must be wrecking my mood and making me more prone to unhappiness and discouragement. Here's to sleep! Sleep that knits the raveled sleeve of care!

Sleep well, y'all! And thanks so much for the comments.

And a little brag. I stayed home to attend the Girl Child's parent teacher conference with her 3rd grade teacher. The teacher read a story out loud to us that the Girl Child had written, told us that she had never seen anything like it from a third grader ever, and read it out loud to all the other third grade teachers. She said that there is no doubt that this is a very special, very smart little girl. I kind of already knew that, by the way.

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November 14, 2009

Our meeting yesterday with the surgeon

It went well. He took something like 85 surgical staples out of an angry red line on my arm and tested my range of motion and mobility. He was visibly surprised by how much motion/mobility I had and agreed that there was a lot to be said for being so physically active for so many years prior to the surgery.

Then he told us some good news. The margins tested clean, according to pathology. Whatever he took out of my body is out. They are still uncertain about what it actually was, mind you, but it came out clean and left nothing behind in my arm. He was delighted to tell me that. Oncological orthopaedic surgeons at Memorial Sloan Kettering rarely, in my experience, use words like delighted. I take that as a good sign. We are waiting for the pathology report to come out and we are waiting for them to first finish some further genetic testing to tell us whether it is a low grade sarcoma or benign. He said that even if it is a low grade sarcoma, and it might be, he is not inclined to order radiation which he feels, in and of itself, carries risks which might not be warranted in my circumstances.

So, on to rehab. I will have pain in my arm for at least the next year, he cautioned me. It was a radical and "difficult" surgery. I slept, last night, or tried to sleep, without the sling for the first time and I can attest that I concur that it will continue to be painful. It was painful all night.

But you know what? I am a survivor. I have spent 6 weeks wondering, each time I have hugged my 3 year old, if I had an expiration date on those hugs and if he would remember me. That horrible introspection takes a terrible toll. I think that I am going to need some time here. Even if the tumor turns out to have been benign, I am a survivor. But more than having survived, now, I intend to thrive. So, pain be damned, get me to rehab. I have a lot of living left to do.

And thanks to the guy sitting next to my wife and me at Doc Watson's last night (2nd Ave and 77th/78th streets) who, after hearing me share my good news with the bartender last night, bought us a round of beers. New York is a great place to celebrate life, as this lovely fellow reminded me last night.

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November 13, 2009

Back to the surgeon today

I will journey back to the city today to meet with my surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He will remove the stitches from the 10 inch incision running from my shoulder to almost my elbow. He will discuss with me the healing and the rehab limitations. I hope to be released from my sling. I have been required to keep my arm in the sling for the last 9 days, including while in bed. It is simply not comfortable to sleep with a sling.

I will have lots of questions about rehab. I am impatient to begin.

I will, at this meeting, be told first thing about the verdict rendered by the tumor board on the pathology of the mass he removed last week. This is of no small moment for me and I wait, knowing that this outcome was determined prior to the surgery albeit unknown to me. I am hoping that it was benign and that the surgeon just has to say he's sorry for being so aggressive and so conservative and I can tell him not to worry, that I understand why he removed 40% of my right triceps. On the other hand, I could live with being told that it is a low grade malignancy and I need to light it up with some radiation. That would be ok, too. Either verdict will lead to numerous follow up questions (and no one asks follow up questions like a trial lawyer looking to exhaust a topic).

I am mentally and emotionally in a pretty good place right now. I have had some wonderful experiences from friends who expressed love that I did not know they had. I am over the complications (bleeding heavily from the catheter trauma) and nothing improves your outlook more than being able to pee without pain or heavy bleeding. I stopped taking the prescription pain stuff some days ago. Why do people seek that stuff out of their own choice? It is disgusting. My natural sense of optimism is reasserting itself.

Today will be a good day. Tomorrow, I am finally able to allow myself to think, will be a better day.

I will follow up with a post that I have in mind later to explore, in my usual disorganized fashion, what lessons I can glean from this experience. One quick one I will share is that life is uncertain -- eat dessert first.

Thank you all for all the comments. They have helped more than I can say.

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November 08, 2009

Surgery -- appears to have been a success

I am home, since Friday, from Memorial Sloan Kettering. The surgery was on Wednesday and required 5 hours. The surgeon took 40% of my right triceps. He felt it went well. I feel as if I have had better weeks and will write more once I can use my right hand again.

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October 24, 2009

Not so clear

We got what the oncologist called "relatively good news" yesterday. It is not a synovial sarcoma, which was what was expressly feared. The tumor board at Memorial Sloan Kettering absolutely ruled that out. The tumor board came up with three possible things: the first two are benign and the last is a non-aggressive low growth malignancy. They just cannot be sure. Yeah, that's right, I stumped the tumor board consisting of specially trained radiologists and pathologists and oncologists.

So, here's what they recommend (and what I will be doing): surgery on Nov. 4 to remove the entire mass by way of a semi-wide excision. The surgeon will not go as wide as if it were a synovial sarcoma but not as narrowly as if they knew it to be benign. This means that I will have a 3 hour or so surgery and they will take a good chunk (but not 70% as I had once feared) of my triceps leaving me with months of physical therapy and a permanent impairment. There will be no chemo and probably no radiation at all. That's good news.

The impairment bit is bad news. I take tremendous pleasure out of my daily game of squash on the weekdays and my tennis on the weekends. That will stop for months and may not come back. If I suffer nerve damage during the surgery that he, a micro surgeon, cannot successfully repair, then I can really kiss full use of my arm goodbye. The possibility of nerve damage is quite real, we were told yesterday.

But this is still, mostly, good news. It is better news than we feared, if not as good as we were hoping for. I am not looking forward to the 4th.

Yesterday, emotionally, was a horrible day. I won't delve into the details here (or anywhere) as I am still numb from it all. Suffice it to say that I was a total basket case. Probably still am. Can't really just flip a switch and turn it off. The mental connective tissues are still stressed, I think, and just because most of the pressure was removed does not mean they snap back into place. No, I understand that there is no such thing as mental connective tissue (at least in the way I am using this) but that's just how I visualize and hence describe it here.

Thank you all for your notes and letters. I am sorry that I have not answered them; I will. They have meant a great deal, more than I can really say.

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October 22, 2009

Taking my temperature

The results of the biopsy, while unknown to me (and maybe to the lab and the tumor board at this point), are fixed and not susceptible to change. I don't know, at this point, what they are, but that lack of knowledge does not change the outcome. The outcome will be communicated to me on Friday (tomorrow afternoon) at my follow up appointment with the oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I grow increasingly anxious, nervous, fretful, scared.

For most of the week, I have managed to keep a fairly even keel. I have not had great emotional swings. I have chosen to believe that the diagnosis will be benign. I have seized on several facts and chosen to believe that these facts auger an outcome for the ultimate result. I have done so knowing that I am not a doctor, knowing that these facts may not really be that important in the great scheme of decision making, choosing to ascribe great significance to these facts anyway, fearing -- just the same -- that I have deliberately fooled myself into giving these facts great weight and allowing them to comfort me, to calm me. So, I guess that means I have still a nagging concern that my comfort is premised on a faulty foundation. But it is all that I have right now and so I seize upon it, I hold it close, I don't hold it up to the light, I hope that the holes which may exist are holes I have worn in it from touching it over and over in the same place, and I choose to take comfort.

Its just a coping mechanism, really. But it has helped.

I have been tired as hell all week. Partly, maybe, that's a lingering effect from the surgery. Partly, I have been sleeping poorly -- not enough and not terribly well when I do sleep. But yesterday I made it through an almost full day at work for the first time all week. And that was good.

I have been taking comfort from food, sort of. That's not really too helpful since I cannot exercise right now. But every night on the way home from the city, I buy a chocolate chip cookie to eat on the train. I have no explanation for this, or, at least, none which I care to explore and find.

As I said, I have been coping ok this week. Until last night. Last night, I began to imagine what my wife and I might do to celebrate a benign diagnosis. I thought, maybe I should wear a tie after all on Friday and we could go somewhere nice and get gloriously, gleefully, gratefully drunk. But then, then I had the thought, but what if the news on Friday is not good? And that's when I began to experience feelings of panic again.

That feeling of panic lingers even now. I don't know what else to say, really. Friday will come as it comes. I cannot hurry it and wanting it (and also not wanting it) to come will change nothing -- it will take the same amount of time either way. But we are not made to be rational at all times, are we? We are creatures of emotion.

And so, my stomach churns as the clock ticks relentlessly forward and I await my diagnosis, sometimes calm, sometimes terribly anxious. But always feeling blessed by my children.

Thanks for reading.

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October 16, 2009

At night

It is hardest at night, not to take counsel of your fears. At night, when you are the least capable of rationally examining a possibility for its realistic effects, that's when you are most vulnerable. You are not able to distinguish, to right your listing little boat of a mind, to make yourself say, "oh, stop it". That's where I was, again, last night. I woke at around 2:30. I was physically uncomfortable, sure. I cannot turn on to my right side to sleep and have to sleep either on my back or my left side. And I kind of have been keeping a pillow between my right arm and my rib cage. If the dressing over the wound presses against the mattress, it causes discomfort, sometimes sharply, but always at least dull discomfort. Anyway, I allowed, somewhere in the night, my fears to overwhelm me and I woke somewhat overwrought. Ok, that's not quite right. I was awakened by a combination of physical discomfort and being scared. Waking up mostly took care of the overwrought, actually. Getting out of bed, closing the door to the bedroom so that the light from downstairs would not wake my sleeping wife, that took away some of my fear.

And I freely admit to being scared. I don't want this thing to be cancer. You would not know this, but if it is cancer, this is relatively rare. Only, perhaps, about a thousand people a year in the country get this one. That's why I was seen so quickly at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. That plus the fact that the tumor is actually pretty large.

Anyway, I learned last night that the doctor was unable to tell from looking under the microscope whether it was malignant or benign and that the final verdict must await the tests that will conclude some 9 days from Wednesday. I will learn what it is on the 23rd. In the meantime, I will try to control my anxiety, which is actually sometimes palpable. I mean, I can actually feel my heart race. It was worse, mind you, before I got the results of the CT scan when I was terrified that (1) it was cancer and (2) that perhaps it had spread to my pulmonary system -- the one fatal consequence for me that the doctor had identified. That was when I was terrified. As I asked, brokenly (and I mean brokenly -- I could barely get the question out, it took at least three tries), would I live to dance at my daughter's wedding? That is what I was focused on -- my children.

It is difficult not to let them know how I am feeling. But that is not a fear that I will visit upon them. I mean, if I can barely deal with it, and I actually have some fucking perspective on this, how could they? Right. They cannot. So, one attempts to cope. And so far, it seems to be working out ok. They seem unaware, unchanged. That's good.

In the meantime, I wait. I don't wait very well. But for right now, I wait and the thing that bothers me is that this waiting period, which is terribly unpleasant, might turn out to be, in retrospect, the best part of the whole experience. That is the thing that I really hate. I feel almost as if I have to enjoy this waiting period because, God forbid, this might be the last time when I can believe that I am cancer free, when I don't have to think about radiation/chemo/more surgery. This waiting time might be thought of as the time of innocence. The time after might be the time of experience. I dimly think that William Blake wrote poems about that, several hundred years ago. Anyway, that is ultimately what freaks me out right now, that my time of innocence might come crashing down around me with one simple sentence on the 23rd -- your tumor is malignant.

I'm not sure if it helps to write this out. This, after all, might just be an extension of my night fears.

But it sure feels real.

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October 15, 2009

so, so much to say

I am typing left handed only for the moment as my right arm is in a sling, per the instructions of the oncologist-orthopaedic surgeon who performed an incision biopsy on a large mass on my right triceps yesterday morning. I am coping, sort of.

I don't know if this is cancer. It may be, but I am strongly hopeful that it is benign. Benign is an awfully bland, beige sort of a word for a concept of such stunning personal significance. I believe that this mass, this tumor, is not cancer, but I have been seriously freaked. Still, even if it is cancer, the ct scan shows it has NOT spread to chest/lungs/heart, so that's very good news. It also has not gone into the bone or nerves. That's also good.

I expect I will write more later but am tired and need a nap now.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 10, 2009

This still works, I gather

I am curious to see if, after so many months have elapsed, my blog still works. So, let's give it a shot.

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December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Hey, everyone,

Just a quick blast to wish everyone the joy and peace of the season and to share my absolute favorite rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas:

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August 12, 2008

And the trip ends with sunshine

We have spent the last 10 days in Oslo, Norway, visiting the in-laws and inhabiting a strange land where the children are permitted ice cream for breakfast. Exactly how we were raised, says my sister in law, sardonically. The sun is shining today and we drove up to Bogstad Gard to walk among the animals and hang out by the water. It was the first sustained glimpse of sunshine I have seen since we arrived, last week.

It has been a long visit. Only in summer in Norway can you find yourself distracted by being able to see your breath as you run in the hills overlooking the fjord in the morning. I was not pleased to have it so cold, and gray, and rainy and wet.

But we did have a good time, even if it is starting to feel as if Norway (or at least Oslo) is becoming an Islamic Republic. I could not believe how many women I saw in head scarves or even in the full scale burka (they look like ghosts in those). I was treated to Islamic sermons from fairly radical sounding preachers over taxi audio systems. The Viking Bride and I took a tour of the Royal Palace (cool) where a Pakistani visitor indignantly refused to put the shoe cover things on, exclaiming to his mother (and to us) that, regarding the Palace: "This is not a mosque. I mean, really, this is NOT a mosque." Really, Norway, does this whole path truly make sense to you?

We went to see the Fram (again) with the kids. This year, for the first time, the hatch to the lowest deck where the engines are located was open and the Boy Child enjoyed that so much that he went back down, grandmother in tow, for a second look.

It has been a stressful visit in many ways; most of which are internal to me and not related to the annoyance of being cooped up with my inlaws (although that annoyance should not be understated).

Norway is shockingly expensive. It is now about 5 kroner to the dollar so you can do the math when you find out that 8 beers cost about 730 kroner.

It was well over a hundred dollars to take the kids to the children's theater in Frogner Park to see Pippi Longstocking (very cute). We went with my dearest, oldest friend in the whole world since we were 2 years old. Our children had never met so that was particularly cool. It was interesting to watch them play together.

What else can I tell you?

We leave tomorrow to return to reality. The children are totally spoiled. One of the answers supplied by the Girl Child to the question, what do you like about visiting Norway was: "There are no rules here". By here, she clearly means in her grandmother's kitchen, by the way. Norway has lots and lots of rules.

I think that we are all looking forward to being back in our own house, even if we must first endure a very long plane trip back to Newark, NJ and a long drive back to Connecticut.

So, to be clear, while I have been away, it has not been a vacation. No rum. If there isn't rum, it is not a vacation. Besides, vacations should not involve extended exposure to mothers-in-law.

Hope all is well with you all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2008

Playing catch up

I have been busier than a differently abled decorative wall covering installation customer service associate.

I have been, in some cases, fending off calls from head hunters who want to move me from my current firm, and, in other cases, succumbing to their blandishments, entreaties, and probable outrageous overstatements and agreeing to meet with some people. It has been an interesting experience, actually. Law is a business, dont forget. But the fact is that most lawyers are terrible businessmen. So, discussing a potential business combination with another lawyer is actually a bit of a frustrating experience. This is why lawyers (like me, not to brag) who have any kind of decent head for business are really loved by their clients.

I dont even know how to catch up on all that has gone on of late, so I am not sure that I should even try to compose a connected, related post that flows, chronologically, from topic to topic or event to event. Instead, maybe I just throw it out there as best as I can recall.

* * *

I had the Girl Child (7.5 now) into the city with me on Friday last. We played hooky from camp and work, respectively. She needed the time away from life and I wanted to have a father/daughter day for just the two of us. We had lunch and breakfast in the city and I took her to the Museum of Natural History to see the Horse Exhibit where she stumped the docent when she asked why the chestnut was not marked on the large model of the horse they had put up.

Highlights of the day include her telling me that the lions in front of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library were named: Attitude and Fortitude. Much better names for NY Lions than Patience and Fortitude.

We also talked about weddings and I asked why girls seemed to spend so much time and energy on a wedding, thinking, somehow, that a great wedding was a guaranty for life happiness. I asked her since she was a girl, I told her, and more likely to be able to explain it to me. She put down her fork and said: Pappa, I think it is because of the movies. You know, like Cinderella. The girls see these movies and want to be just like the girls in the movies and marry princes. Thats why I think it is. She is much smarter than I am.

* * *

I signed up for the Fall to coach the Boy Childs Soccer team. I played in high school for a very good program and I expect I remember how to do it. I am so glad I can spend this kind of time with him. There are no do-overs, are there?

* * *

I played in a huge 32 team tennis tournament this weekend with a friend. We made it to the finals in our bracket where we lost. Much sun, much beer, much tennis over both Saturday and Sunday, much trash talking (in a nice way), and way too much fun.

The Girl Child swung by at one point to watch and then went to have lunch with another family. The other family has a daughter the same age as the Girl Child. She asked the Girl Child where I was and was told, playing tennis. The other girl offered up that her father plays tennis, too, to which the GC (not at all competitive) responded: is he any good?

* * *

We are in countdown mode for the trip to Norway. Leaving at the beginning of August. Right when a deal I am intimately involved in and which could have a huge financial impact on my family, is about to get hot. Timing, at the moment, looks quite bad. I may end up being excused from this trip as I cannot possibly be 9 hours out of common time zones from the board president if this thing goes live. I couldnt stand it; not after working on this for 4 years. I have to be involved in the take down at the end. At least, I desperately hope that there is going to be a take down at the end. Please. Please. Please.

This is the source of no small amount of stress. Even more stress than contemplating changing law firms.

* * *

I have left out so much. But that said, I would prefer not to sacrifice acceptable on the alter of perfection and so, with that, I publish.

Nice to be back, yall (not that I think anyone is actually going to be reading this after all this time).

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May 09, 2008

A strange balance

I feel a bit unbalanced today. You may not know this about me, but I am completely ambidextrous. In fact, I normally write with my left hand but play tennis or squash or throw with my right hand.

I play a lot of squash. I probably play a minimum of 4 and sometimes up to 6 times a week. Lately, however, I have begun to experience some pain in my elbow and my shoulder. I decided to take it easy and rest the arm, opting to not play this week. I got talked into giving it a try this morning, though. I easily won my first game and then the shoulder started to ache, kind of sharply. So I did the smart thing and resigned the match. That should have ended it.

Except that my partner suggested that I switch hands and play lefty. I have never tried that before but, sure, why not. We hit some balls so I could get used to it and then we went for it. I lost three games very quickly: 9-0; 9-0; 9-1. So we played three more and I lost all of them, too but by a much better score: 9-5; 9-6; 9-6. Yes, I took respectable losses against an experienced player by using my weak hand for the first time ever.

Cool. I was so pleased when we walked off the court.

But then it got weird. I went to get a cup of coffee to take into the locker room and I ended up using my left hand as my dominant hand. I have continued, off and on, to confuse which hand is dominant. I have felt slightly off balance, too, like I used my body in a familiar task but in an unfamiliar way. All very odd.

I highly recommend this experience, if you think you have the ability to switch it up a little.

Change your perspective. Use your other hand (good luck serving, though).

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April 28, 2008

Quite sad

Saturday found me in a local upscale grocery store with the Girl Child to buy cupcakes to celebrate, later, the Boy Child's first little league game (he did great, more on that later). I ran into my neighbor, who I have not seen in some time. He lives right next door and just got remarried to a lovely French woman and they are raising her young children together. I was pleased to see him. I asked him how he was and he said, looking at the Girl Child, that he got some news but would call me later to discuss. I understood and sent her off to the smoked fish to find something yummy (her favorite stuff, really). And he told me that he was just diagnosed with lung cancer and it was in his lymph nodes. None of the kids know yet. He just found out this week.

His wife told me on Sunday that he is now taking anti-depressants. I was out in the yard practicing baseball with the Boy Child when her 7 year old son came running out with his glove to join in.

So, here's the question: would you take drugs to adjust your emotional reaction to devastating news? Or would you say, forget it, this may be the last ride of my life and I am going to fully experience the highs and the lows?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:19 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 24, 2008

Rumors of demise are exagerated

Nope, not gone.

Just so totally whip sawed between work and home and outside obligations that I have barely had time to think, let alone write.

So, if anyone is still reading this, I will try to write some more soon. Truth is, I miss it. Finally.

Off early today from work. I am going to coach the first practice for my five year old son's little league team. I am, probably, more excited than he is.

And I could use that kind of fun. I watched, yesterday, as they performed a funeral mass for my partner's young cousin. He was 20 and the cancer he had been fighting finally did him in. I know his mother and father, too, and have for years. The grandmother, too, come to think of it. As I watched the boy's mother walk into the church, behind the casket, all I could think was that grief had destroyed her face in a way I had never seen before. Usually, if there really is such a thing, grief eats away at the flesh and the fat and leaves the bones etched in sharp relief on the face. Here, her face, as she followed the body of her only child into the church, was collapsed as if grief had rendered the bones of her face brittle and they had shattered under the weight of her sadness. It was heart rending.

So, today, I go out into the sunlight with nine little boys and I teach them how to run, to hit, to throw, and to cheer for their team mates. It is a beautiful day and a blue sky and I am happy to be alive.

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February 26, 2008

A selfishly perfect evening

Any evening that starts with a glass, a generous glass, of Rebel Yell bourbon in a small bar room with beautiful paintings of dogs and horses and ends with a recitation of Kipling poetry, at a table in a dark room lit only by candles in gleaming candelabra, shiny silver table decorations (I think they were quail) and a very good glass of port in a crystal port glass is clearly going to be a perfect evening. In between those two things, we eight people spoke mainly of PG Wodehouse.

It is difficult to imagine how the evening could have been improved upon.

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February 14, 2008

Cheer up, right? Please.

This day has gone from inconvenient to annoying to down right so angry that I just actually told my accountant: "You have disturbed my serenity to such an alarming degree that I actually cannot adequately communicate it to you". Much, much better than telling him to go f**k himself.

To begin, I could not sleep from between 12:30 and 1:30 this morning. I lay on the sofa downstairs and listened to the storm battering the house. It was loud, persistent, and somewhat violent.

I left the house at 4:56 this morning to go to the train station, as is my custom. There was a huge tree branch, like half a tree, down and blocking my driveway. I had to go over the lawn to get out of my house. I should have just gone back to bed.

It was a slow train ride in to Stamford. Once in Stamford, they announced that the train had hit some debris and they had to change equipment. That meant that they had to cancel our train and stick all of us on to the local -- the one that makes every stop between Stamford and Grand Central. Having left the house at 4:56, I arrived in Grand Central at 7:05.

No time to play squash this morning, due to late arrival. My partner picked up another game, you see.

Get a call from the accountant who got call from my wife who got a letter from the IRS asking in that really gentle IRS kind of way, where are your 2006 tax returns? For gentle, read: there could be criminal penalties associated with failure to file returns. As much as I would like to say, kiss my Wesley Snipes ass, you jerks, I resist. I tell my accountant that I am puzzled since I have his letter telling me that my returns (joint returns) were filed electronically. Ah, says he, let me call you back. See, if e-filed, that means that his firm did it.

His partner calls me. Turns out, for reasons he cannot explain, none of our tax returns (we file federal and in two states) were filed for 2006. Their mistake. He is going to re-prepare them and send them over to me for my and my wife's signature so that we can file them by mail. He will, I insisted, include a cover letter on his firm's letterhead taking full responsibility for the mistake.


And if this mistake screws up my wife's application for US citizenship? What do I do if that happens?

I am now terribly concerned about what bad and stupid thing is about to happen next.

I have not had lunch yet. I bet I break a tooth when I bite into something and the dentist won't be able to see my until June. If I was a betting man, that's what I would bet will happen.

I am really beyond angry here. Way beyond. As only a guy who hasn't slept well in two days can be.

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Fly, Flamingo, Fly!

I give you, Minnesotans for Global Warming:

I just wish I had thought of this first.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

The race to the swift, etc.

Someone once said that the race may not always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet. The same can be said for squash. The match may not always go to the younger by 15 years guy, the thinner and taller guy, the guy with longer arms and longer legs, but that's not a bad way to bet.

Except, of course, for last night. That was when I beat up a 25 year old guy in straight games (3-0) by the scores of 9-4, 10-8, 9-4 and saved my club team from being swept in a 9 match challenge for a pretty silver cup that the other team ended up retaining.

I am still, hours and hours later, pretty damn pleased. And the best part is my knees don't even hurt today. Woo hoo!

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February 05, 2008

My first free weekend

Now that my trial has ended, I was actually able to take the entire weekend away from the office. As would be my custom, I threw myself at it.

*Friday night -- martini night and dinner with friends


--take all three kids, who are up waaaay too early, with me to the grocery store to stock up on Super Bowl type food;

--feed the kids breakfast;

--take the Girl Child to her riding lesson and stay to watch. Try not to judge her too much as she whacks the pony on the butt with her crop because hell buck if that happens and she thinks that's fun;

--bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies from scratch with some small help from the kids;

--oversee the Girl Child as she prepared, in her own words and her own hand, two cards to go with the two plates of cookies;

--take the cards, the cookies, and the whole family to the firehouse and the police station to thank them all for keeping us safe;

--get a tour of the firehouse and watch the kids be allowed to sit in the driver seat of the biggest of the trucks. The baby (not quite two, yet) went right for the wheel with the left hand and the shifter knob with the right and turned and gave us quite the most self-contented grin I have seen in quite some time;

--get a tour of the police station, including the booking room, the cells, the 911 communications center, and the break room. Get a special introduction to the blood hound and be allowed to play with him in the parking lot.

--explain to the children what "say no to drugs" means on the way home from the police station. The Girl Child saw it on a poster and wanted to know. We told her about how drugs were bad and if people tried to give her any, she should turn them down. She wanted to know from us how she would know, asking, would it say drugs on the side of the thing?

--take the children home to turn them over to the babysitter so we could go off to an adult's only dinner party

--go to a dinner party and have great fun with a whole wide range of people (ranging from investment bankers to music industry types). Get home late.


--Get up early and hit the paddle courts for my first paddle experience since New Year's Day. Realize that a three week break has somehow magically improved my game. Walk off the court feeling like a million bucks, although a confused million bucks, and with an invitation to a Super Bowl party, which I decline with great regret;

--Go home to switch off with the Viking Bride as she headed off to dance class, pulled the baby into the shower with me, then went downstairs to begin the pot of mega-chili (YAY!);

--take the Girl Child to Sunday School and come home to finish the chili preparations while feeding something inappropriate to the boys for lunch and then put them down for their naps;

--pick up the Girl Child, take her home to feed her, and then take her to the aquarium for a birthday party;

--come home, pick up the boys and the Bride, take them to a playground for a half an hour and then take them all to the aquarium to see the sharks while we wait for the birthday party to let out;

--bring everyone home, feed them dinner, and turn on the Super Bowl;

--watch the first half with the children and the second half without;

--offer up my thanks and joy when the Giants take home the trophy.

All in all, it was a pretty packed weekend, wouldn't you say?

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Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

It is most certainly not progress that I sit at my keyboard today, looking out the window at an overcast sky, while the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans works its way ever closer to the Hurricane fueled culmination of months of exuberant self expression.

I miss New Orleans. I miss the New Orleans I used to know, used to live in, used to love. I sometimes sort of miss the 23 year old kid who lived there in that time. The New Orleans I loved has been washed away by greed, corruption, and incompetence as the flood waters inundated the city in an almost biblical fashion.

But I can cast my mind back just the same and remember how I used to spend Mardi Gras. For many, Mardi Gras is spent in an alcoholic haze, oggling naked women in the French Quarter. That has its charms, to be sure. But I preferred a more Uptown approach to Mardi Gras.

I would float, with friends, from house party to house party. There was always something yummy to eat, happy to drink, and use of a bathroom (always appreciated). The houses were some of the most beautiful in the Garden District and occupied, in some cases, by some of the oldest families in the city. They were also close by to St. Charles Avenue and thus convenient to get to the parade and catch stuff.

So, as I sit here in very un-Mardi Gras New York, with zydeco music playing softly in the background, working on a contract, I taste bourbon and cheese grits and dream of humid air and masked people on floats throwing cheap beads.

That was a heck of a time.

Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

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January 31, 2008

Reports of demise? Don't believe 'em

Neither me nor my poor neglected blog have really gone anywhere. Indeed, I was quite pleased to remember my password. It feels, what, kind of nice to see the familiar blog-entry screen and to watch the letters march across the space.

Sorry for not calling or writing or anything. I was on trial. It was quite intense. 14-15 hour days were the norm. I worked every day of every weekend. I am happy to have it behind me but for the post-trial briefs. Those are coming down the pike.

I have re-grouped. I have slept through the night for the first time in weeks -- no more waking up between 2:30 and 3:15 to wonder about whether I should include a line of questioning in my examination outline or whether I somehow blew a pre-trial submission deadline (never). No, the alarm clock is waking me now. I am returning slowly to the gym -- which is painful. I am sending out emails to clients who I put on hold to let them know I am available to help them again. I am paying bills and attending to personal details (just beat the deadline to sign the Boy Child up for little league for the spring).

In short, I am attempting re-entry. I am still probably not quite the best company in the world right now and need some time to re-gain my usual patience with my children and their needs.

But, it is coming.

Anyway, point of curiosity. I have not blogged in weeks and yet site-meter claims my daily visits are rising? Why are you all coming to see the blank space? Or, heaven forfend, is the blank space generally more interesting than my writing?

Anyway, nice to be back, y'all.

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January 06, 2008

Pushed and pulled

I feel a bit stuck, whipsawed by life this weekend. On Friday, on a piercingly, achingly cold and beautiful day, I spoke to a group of some thirty people gathered together to witness the burial of my cousin, Don. I called him Donny, actually. I was the only one there who called him Donny. Donny was 69 years old when he was struck down by terminal bone cancer. I miss him, already.

I stood at the grave and remembered how when I was a senior in college, or just before senior year, my grandfather and Donny took me out to visit the two cemeteries where our families are buried. We had lunch in between the visits. We went to the first one, where my grandfather now rests, buried next to my grandmother, which is where my grandfather and his family line are buried. The second cemetery holds the remains of the family of my maternal grandmother's relatives, the branch Donny was part of. Actually, since Donny had no children, the family name of my maternal grandmother has disappeared. Anyway, Donny and my grandfather told me that they wanted me to know where the family graves were because one day it would be my responsibility to make certain that the graves were cared for, to make sure that those who came after me would know something about the people who were buried in these places.

I had not been back to my grandmother's family's graves since that visit, some 18 years ago. It seemed to me that it was too soon to be back now. 18 years? That would have put Donny at just over 50, only 10 years older than I am now. Donny seemed to young to die and too close to me in age for me to feel that it was ok for him to die, that it was part of the natural order of things for him to leave this earth. But, of course, he has.

I spent Saturday morning and afternoon consumed by the Girl Child's birthday party. She will be 7 quite soon and we held her party yesterday. As per custom, we went to a local gymnastics place and ran around before she had her cake. Her cake, per her request, was an ice cream cake with a picture of her dressed in her horse show clothes and sitting on one of her favorite horses. It came out pretty darn cool, actually. As for the party, I won't ask you to guess who was the only parent there who threw himself into all the games, chasing the kids around, being chased around, having balls thrown at him and throwing them back, and generally wringing every second of fun from the party that he could. Yup, that was me. The Girl Child, the Boy Child and the Baby all had an excellent time, as did I.

My father turned 65 yesterday, the same day we celebrated the Girl Child's birthday.

That evening, before we took my father out for dinner, we drove into the city for a packed house memorial service for Donny. Seriously, it was standing room only. That was quite a tribute for my cousin. All of the speakers who spoke about him spoke of qualities that spoke of another man, although they did not know this. See, Donny's father died so terribly young, in his 40's, of a heart attack. Donny's father, Sam, my grandmother's oldest brother, actually put my grandmother through college during the Great Depression. Donny kind of grew up in my grandfather's house and, as Donny himself told me, my grandfather, his uncle, became a father to him. Donny did his best to emulate my grandfather -- he looked up to him so much. The qualities they spoke of in Donny at the memorial service, those qualities were learned from my grandfather. It would have made my grandfather so proud to hear people speak of his nephew like that last night. Just the same, it would have devastated my grandfather to watch his nephew die from this horrible disease.

After the service, we took my father out for his birthday. It was generally quite nice, albeit quiet and even a bit subdued due to the circumstances.

And so, I feel a bit whipsawed. Pulled between the too early death of my cousin and the celebrations of the lives of my father and my daughter.

I cannot quite figure out where or how to end this. I am not sure I even started this post with a destination in mind. So, maybe, I will just stop here.

Rest in peace, Donny. If its ok, and I know from the memorial service that everyone else called you Don, I am going to keep calling you Donny. After all, and since you kept my father company in the hospital some 40 years ago waiting with him while I was born, I have only called you Donny. It isn't a bad thing to have people call you by the name you were known as a child, even when you are dead, is it?

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January 03, 2008

A chilly start (woo hoo!)

I knew, intellectually, it was supposed to be a bit chilly this morning. But as I left the house and turned on the engine to my car, I was a little taken aback to see it register 23 degrees inside the garage. The register dropped quickly from there all the way down to a balmy 11 degrees.

It is a decent illustration of how debased and strange I have become that my first coherent thought after my shock passed was: gee, it is just perfect weather for platform tennis, too bad I have to go to work.

I need help. It would help if I worked less and played more racket sports. I'm sure that the solution lies somewhere in there.

Don't count the fact that I have already played paddle once this week (twice if you count Sunday) and squash twice, too. That should not count at all in evaluating my claim of racket sport deprivation. Ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Farewell, Flashman

George MacDonald Fraser has shuffled off his mortal coil at age 82.

According to the AP wire:

George MacDonald Fraser, author of the "Flashman" series of historical adventure yarns, died Wednesday, his publisher said. He was 82.

Fraser died following a battle with cancer, said Nicholas Latimer, director of publicity for Knopf, which will release Fraser's latest work "The Reavers" in the United States in April. Latimer was unable to provide details of where Fraser died. He lived on the Isle of Man, off the coast of northwest England.

"Flashman," published in 1969, introduced readers to an enduring literary antihero: the roguish, irrepressible Harry Flashman.

The novel imagined Flashman the bullying schoolboy of 19th-century classic "Tom Brown's Schooldays" grown up to become a soldier in the British army. In the book and 11 sequels, Flashman fought, drank and womanized his way across the British Empire, Europe and the United States, playing a pivotal role in the century's great historical moments. A vain, cowardly rogue, Flashman nonetheless emerged from each episode covered in glory, rising to the rank of medal-garlanded brigadier-general.

Fraser thought his antihero's appeal was not surprising.

"People like rascals, they like rogues," Fraser told the British Broadcasting Corp. in 2006.

"I was always on the side of the villain when I was a child and went to the movies. I wanted Basil Rathbone to kill Errol Flynn."

The Flashman books were also praised by critics for their storytelling flair and attention to historical detail. Each installment of the series purported to come from a faux-biographical trove of memoirs The Flashman Papers discovered in an English attic in the 1960s.

Fraser proudly pointed out that a third of the first book's American reviewers believed the Flashman papers were real.

Some readers and critics found Flashman's 19th-century racism and sexism disturbing. But by the time the final Flashman book, "Flashman on the March," appeared in 2005, the critical tide had turned in Fraser's favor.

Fraser also had heavyweight literary supporters. Kingsley Amis called him "a marvelous reporter and a first-rate historical novelist," and P.G. Wodehouse was also a fan.

Born in Carlisle, northern England in 1925, Fraser served as an infantryman with the British Army in India and Burma during World War II, and in the Middle East after the war. He worked as a journalist in Britain and Canada for more than 20 years before turning to fiction.

Fraser was the author of screenplays including "The Three Musketeers" (1973), an adaptation of his novel "Royal Flash" (1975) and the James Bond movie "Octopussy" (1983).

Fraser also wrote several works of nonfiction, including a wartime memoir, "Quartered Safe Out Here," "Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border" and "The Hollywood History of the World."

His final book, "The Reavers," is a a historical romp featuring espionage and intrigue during the reign of Elizabeth I.

There was no immediate word of funeral arrangements or whether Fraser left any survivors.

This is really quite sad, actually. He was a brilliant author and his books were tremendous fun. No more Patrick O'Brien, no more Flashman. The world is getting smaller and smaller with every passing.

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December 13, 2007


A little catch up is in order. When last we left our hero, he was holding the phone, cursing the fates, and wondering how he was going to prepare for oral argument on a motion that was six months old. Well, here's what happened. I told the judge that I wasn't coming in the next morning but could see him next week and he agreed.

So, I spent hours and hours getting re-prepared, re-researching, updating old research, re-dissecting arguments and constructing some new ones, and, and, and today was the day. I was up at 3:30 this morning because I could not sleep. Six hours later, there I was, standing in front of the judge, trying to tell him why we did not need to have an immediate trial on a particular issue. The judge, however, was hot to trot and when the other side said that they had a family trip planned, the judge scheduled the trial for the day after the guy's return. That is ugly. So, away we go. Let's get ready to ruuuuumble.

* * *

We had our joint birthday party, the Viking Bride and I. It was a cocktail reception for 70. It was a grand success. We had to keep the bar open for an extra 45 minutes. We stayed in that night in the City. The kids were in the room across from ours. The kids came to the first 45 minutes of the party. How could we have a party to celebrate our birthdays and tell the kids that they couldn't come? We couldn't figure out how to do that, so we didn't. They came.

The Viking Bride and I retired at 1. At 3, the baby woke up, screaming his head off. I ventured across the hall, picked him up, and soothed him. He would not go back into his crib. By this point, the Boy and Girl Children were up. I gave up and took the baby into bed with his brother and sister who had been happily sharing a king sized bed up to that point. The baby insisted on staying inside the circle of my arms with his head against my face. That made it easy for him to head butt me in the eye socket or chin whenever he wanted and it was also easier for him to reach my hair when he needed something to pull. I had just about managed to get us both back to sleep and I heard the following exchange.

BC: GC, I cannot tell what time it is. That is one of the hard numbers for me.

GC: Let's figure it out together, BC, shall we? What comes after 4?

BC: 5!

GC: Very good! Give me a hug!

It was too cute, even if, at the time, I just wanted them to shut up.

* * *

The Girl Child continues to ride and ride well. The senior instructor types were telling my wife that they think she's going to be a great rider. She's back to where she was before her fall and more so, even. She informed me when I got home that she learned something new, how to do a cross-over. I thought this might be a neat new way to change a diagonal. Nope, it is, instead, a new way to smack the horse with your crop.

She's going to make some man very miserable one day. Or very happy, I suppose, depending on the guy.

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November 27, 2007

Fingers have gotten stiff

My fingers are stiff and it required quite a lot of work to blow the cobwebs off of the keyboard. Honestly, I am not at all sure where to begin. It seems like such a long time since I last sat down and pecked out an entry here that I am at a loss for a starting point. Maybe, instead of something structured, I could just ramble a bit, indulge myself with a little free association. I warn you, though, that if I decide to do that, I will not re-read the entry. I will simply, when I tire of writing, hit "post" and let it rip. So, bearing in mind that caveat, I begin:

I remain puzzled by the flurry of statements and accusations released by the Democratic presidential candidates. Is really nothing going right in the country? Is all that is going wrong really correctly laid at the President's door? Why, now that things seem to be going so much better in Iraq, have the candidates stopped talking about the war? I am waiting for one of them to show me something special, something that looks like leadership. Right now, the only guy I really admire is Rudy. He has, at least, the courage to stand up and say that he is running contrary to the deeply held views of his base. At least he's honest.

* * *

I watched my daughter ride in her second horse show this weekend. The results were quite a bit better than even her first. And, considering that she has only been riding since August, I gather it is remarkable that she jumped cross rails well enough to take a ribbon. And it wasn't one of those "everybody is a winner" ribbons. It was a "I did better than someone else" ribbon. She had to be pulled aside by her instructor before the two jumping rounds so she could watch the other children ride first since she had no idea how to jump a horse show course. The thing that pleased me the most was how calm and composed she was when her horse refused a jump in the second round. She just pulled his head around, took him back, and then took him over the jump. That showed a terribly rare grace and composure under pressure that seems unusual in a not quite 7 year old. Good for her.

* * *

We spent a long weekend recently in Boca Raton, Florida. We had to go for a family bar mitzvah.

I loathe Florida, at least that part. It all looks alike, I cannot find my way around, I cannot differentiate one part of the area from any other part. I am so glad I plumped for the GPS unit in the car I rented.

That said, swimming with the kids was nice.

I actually missed, almost entirely, my cousin's bar mitzvah, though. I took the Boy Child to the potty and, coming back, found an elderly woman, in tears, sitting on her walker. The lobby attendant asked me if I knew her and, sure enough, she was Gloria, my aunt's oldest friend. The lobby attendant immediately fled and there I was with Gloria. Gloria got lost on the way to the synagogue, she got disoriented in the handicapped bathroom and exited into a dark room where something feel on her leg, and now she just wanted to leave. I calmed her down, after some time (I think we were out in the lobby for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes) and all three of us went back in to sit in the back. Once in the back, we regularly got shushed as we sat there and made disparaging comments about the rabbi and all of the silly and pointless speeches. It was great fun.

Gloria had been married to a very, very learned man, an Algerian Jew. Her husband, in fact, at his own son's bar mitzvah, was supposed to read from the Torah. He told the rabbi there that he would read it, although the Torah was wrong. Turns out he was correct and the scribe who wrote the scroll had made a mistake. I don't know too many people who can do that. So, if Gloria, finally calm, wanted to talk smack about the rabbi, you bet I was going to let her and even join in.

Gloria later sent my parents an email, by the way, thanking them for raising me so well. She even called me a young man, which was especially nice. If there is any interest, I will post the email. It was quite the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.

* * *

My in laws are in town for a three week visit. It may feel as if it is dragging on a bit. My father in law has already killed the bourbon, which is a shame since with my mother in law in the house, this is when my wife needs it the most.

* * *

I brought the Boy Child, all of 4.5 years old, on to the paddle tennis court to hit with the instructor for 15-20 minutes. I trust the instructor. He's a good guy and promised to be honest with me about the Boy Child. His verdict? The BC has extraordinary coordination, better than many of the 7 year olds he teaches.

Can anyone say, "squash scholarship", please? Pretty please?

* * *

I have had a beastly cold for a little more than a week now. I believe I must have caught it from one of the children. I have not let it interfere with anything important but it is damn little fun.

* * *

I forgot what I was going to put here. No bother. We leave this section as is and move on to the next one.

* * *

The Viking Bride and I are gathering some 70 people together and making them put on ties and dresses, as appropriate, for a cocktail party marking our both turning 40. It was what she really wanted to do, you see, and who am I to tell her no? Just the same, while I am sure it will be fun -- lots to drink, lots to eat, a string trio for light music, good company -- I am not completely looking forward to it. Go figure.

* * *

I have to cross the water tonight. I am going, in other words, to Brooklyn. I have not been there in a really long time. I have to play a squash match for my club team where I will do my best to, if not cover myself in glory, at least not make anyone say, "it is so sad when they get old yet insist on playing".

At least I got an early slot: 5:45. Means I might make it home before day break.

* * *

I attended a memorial service on Saturday where I watched a friend say goodbye to his wife of 48 years. He did so with remarkable grace and tremendous class. How does one summon the necessary fortitude to get up in public and bid farewell to your best friend of almost half a century?

* * *

Ok, enough for now, I think.

Anyone still actually reading this blog?

Or, should I let it go the way of all things and allow it to slip gracefully into the twilight, unmourned, but remembered with affection, rather than continue to hit it with the occasional jolt of energy? Seriously, any thoughts?

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 09, 2007

An opening

So, as I recently posted, I asked my wife for either a mistress or a puppy. She thought about it and told me last night that I could have a mistress. A mistress, she said, is someone I could take care of during either business hours or the evening, from time to time. But a puppy, said she, is something that she would have to take care of all the time. So, I was cleared for a mistress.

I am now accepting applications.

Just saying.

In all seriousness (although creative emails and comments are welcome), I have to report that I did then go on to tell her that if I was being cleared for the odd evening out, I would actually prefer to play squash. I mean, I would still have to shower afterwards but it might go on for longer (squash, that is) and I would not have to ask my partner if the experience was good for him or her. It sucks getting older, doesn't it?

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Difference between fright and exhilaration

I have just this week managed to pin down the difference between fright and exhilaration. Let's say, by way of illustration (no, there really aren't any pictures here), that you have to give a talk, a set of remarks to about 250 people gathered to listen to you present an award to a distinguished American historian. The event is going pretty well and it is almost time for you to speak. You discreetly pull your notes from the podium to go over your remarks during dessert to make sure you are not going to screw up your delivery or the message you want to present. You read the notes and the prepared remarks. You decide that, despite all the time you spent writing them, they really don't come within 500 miles of hitting what you had hoped to convey. So, you sit there with the notes in hand, while your ice cream melts, and you decide that you cannot give these remarks.

That is pretty close to fright.

You get up to the podium and ask for the room to come to order so you can speak. You tell the audience: "I have some remarks that I prepared for the occasion and I am now going to throw them away. Let's wing it, shall we?"

That is liberating. One step on the way to exhilaration.

The room goes totally silent when you tell them you are chucking your speech. You begin to talk. You speak extemporaneously, from the heart, and with some passion. You are interrupted twice by spontaneous and sustained applause.

By the second interruption, you experience exhilaration.

That's the difference between fright and exhilaration. Stepping out on to the wire without a net and then getting to the other side.

I might not want to live every speaking engagement in that fashion, but I am happy to do so every so often.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 02, 2007

To catch up

Well, I know that of late all you have seen on my page has been acres and acres of white space with no text to fill it up. I have been consumed with demands on my time and, with little end in sight, I am going to simply catch up in a sort of staccato bullet form entry:

*The Girl Child rode in her first horse show last weekend. She looked so mature on her horse with such beautiful posture. She rode in Short Stirrup Equitation Walk/Trot and Walk/Trot/Canter. Her instructor told me that it was a big deal to canter in her first horse show, that she had other students who had been riding in Walk/Trot for six months without cantering. She also told me that the GC had come to the attention of the senior trainers at the Club and that they were beginning to discuss her development plans. I gather that they think the GC might be something special. After I saw her handle her horse when he tried to buck her off, I might have to agree (no flinch at all on her part, she just smacked him on the neck with her crop and pulled his head around with a sharp tug of the reins with her other hand and off the horse went, quite happily -- her instructor, watching that, said to me, "and that's why the GC is so awesome; did you see that?").

*I attended, as a guest, the quarterly dinner of a PG Wodehouse club. I was asked by a senior member why I was not a member and I had to tell him it was because I had not been asked. He walked away muttering, "well, we have to change that". That was nice. The dinner was over candles in large silver candelabra and with silver pheasants on the table. It was lovely. We dined at a very small, very snappy private club on the Upper East Side in a small townhouse. The place has no sign and no markings. Very private, indeed. Great fun.

*I heard, last week, Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak. She is extraordinary. Maybe the most extraordinary person I have ever met. I intend to contribute to her protection fund and I think you should at least consider doing so, too. Also, she is so charming.

*The poor Girl Child was sent home from school on Wednesday with what turned out to be strep. In other words, she totally missed out on Halloween. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to get her drugs, candy, treats and then a video at the rental place. She selected her mother to stay home with her. They had a great time, ordering pizza and watching videos and playing on the swings. I took the boys out for two hours of candy gathering. The Boy Child was persistent. The Baby was happy to walk by himself for about 20 minutes. I carried him for the other 100 minutes. It was a long night but very satisfying for them both.

*Turning 40 was not a thrill. I began the day with squash and eggs benedict and ended the day by watching a professional squash tournament and then being taken out for dinner by some friends. That was great fun. I just wish I could have prevailed upon my friends not to order the Dom Perignon with dessert. That may have been the one bottle too many that accounted for my feeling older than 40 this morning when I failed to get up to go the gym. I am still dragging, actually. I think, by and large, that birthdays suck.

*I had the conversation with the Viking Bride about my turning 40. It went like this:

I think that I am going to experience my mid life crisis now that I have hit 40. I think that I would like to take a mistress. I think that I would like to start sleeping with other women.

[Pause. Silence. No reaction from the Viking Bride.]

Or, maybe I could get a puppy. What do you think?

[Cue laughter until tears ran down her cheeks.]

Regrettably, I think that I may have a better shot at a mistress (which I know I don't have the time for) than I do at a puppy (which was what I really wanted). Can't say I didn't give it a shot.

*I had an oral argument last week that ended with me being told to shut up and sit down. The judge granted the relief the other side requested and denied my application. After he gave his oral decision, I asked the record to reflect my exception to his ruling and requested that he reconsider his decision after taking the time to read the papers on the motion, most of which he had received just moments before argument began. He denied that application. I am pleased he didn't sanction me. I walked out of that court as angry as I have ever been before. It really may be time to stop litigating. I don't think I can handle any more of these lazy, incompetent, phoning it in, hack judges who do more to lower the reputation of the courts than any dishonest lawyer could do.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday to drop their birthday wishes in my comment section. I was really surprised by all the lovely comments and good wishes. Thanks so much!

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November 01, 2007

Well, my log in still works

I am happy to see that I seem to remember my password and my log in information has not been deleted for non-use.

So, today I have turned 40.

More later. I just didn't really want the day to slide by without at least noting it.

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October 23, 2007

R.I.P. Jessie

Please, if you have a moment, go and share your condolences with Jim, one of the few very good guys. Jim's wife, Jessie Peacock, was killed by a drunk driver on October 20, 2007. Jessie leaves behind three young sons and a husband. Jessie home schooled her boys. The void left in their lives now is honestly too horrible to contemplate.

I had a lot of interactions with Jessie over the last year. She was a hell of a class act.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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October 11, 2007

A random sort of an update

I have not had a lot of time to write and nor have I had a lot of time to string together a coherent, much less organized thought. So, throughout today, I am just kind of going to peck away at an entry. I am going to fill this page with random, disconnected, patternless thoughts and reflections. You can tell one from the next by the "* * *" I will use between each one. That's about it. Let's begin.

* * *

Apple picking with children on a warm October morning, moving from tree to tree on a steeply pitched orchard hillside, followed by ice cream and a warm apple dumpling. That is a mighty fine way to start a long weekend.

* * *

Taking the kids by myself on Columbus Day while my wife was out during her thing was nice. I had the boys in bed for their naps and the Girl Child all to myself. We settled down for some serious cooking.

First, we took some our newly picked apples (Gala and Cameo) and made apple sauce. I have a great recipe for that. You take 8 apples, peel and core them and cut them into chunks. Add 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons water, some cinnamon, and cook them over medium heat, covered, for about a half an hour, until they all are sort of mushed down. You will know what looks right. It tastes fabulous and is especially good warm.

Then, she helped me wash and strip a huge amount of basil so we could make our own pesto. My wife bought this garbage pesto from the store and I was inspired to make the real thing. We bought fresh basil from a farm stand, fresh garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and we had good olive oil. Put it all together, and it is a thing of beauty.

* * *

Hunter trials are fun. Do you know what they are? A horse show that involves the horse going at a gallop and jumping hazards that are meant to mimic what you would see in the woods if out hunting foxes. You know, downed trees and streams and fences. Very cool. I took the kids to watch as I thought the Girl Child might find it inspiring.

You see, the Girl Child was just on a pony that decided to jump all by itself over a fence. The riding instructor told me that most kids would have freaked out and started to cry. Not my girl. I was told she laughed. I was also told I have one tough, fearless little girl. *sigh* I have decidedly mixed emotions about that.

* * *

The Boy Child came home from pre-school and told his sister that he had started yoga and that the class went into New York City. She doubted him. She wrote a note to his teacher (her old teacher) that posed two questions: Did the Boy Child have yoga and did the Boy Child go to New York City? Yes or No, please circle the word you want to use and sign your name next to each question. The teacher complied. I wonder how much trouble the Boy Child will be in when she finds out he did not go to NYC.

* * *

The Boy Child attended the next level up in the group class for cello at his Suzuki music school. The teacher played bits of music for her class and asked the class, and then the parents, what song she was playing. No one was able to answer a single question. The Boy Child, just visiting from the class below, then answered for every one, confusing only the 2nd and 3rd minuets, I was told. It got to the point where the teacher simply played the song and turned right to the Boy Child for the name. The teacher was amused that he knew every song by name and by the opening notes.

I am more than a little bit impressed.

* * *

I have been contemplating wealth of late. I have been wondering, what would I do if financially I was no longer required to practice law for a living? What, if I had the financial means to do anything, would I do with myself?

I have no idea. Do you have an idea about what you would do? If so, would you share it with me?

Part of my problem is the pressure I feel to make the "right" decision. This is not a new problem. I have always felt compelled to make the right decision with regards life choices but I have never understood, until recently, and even now my understanding may be imperfect, that there may not be such a thing as a right decision. Life goes on in stages and it may be that a decision you made some years ago, thinking that it was the right decision that would set you on the correct course for many years to come, well, it may be that the decision has been rendered incorrect merely by the passage of time and the change in life events.

So, I am trying to pull away from the thought habits of a lifetime and try not to say, ok, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. That simply is too much.

No, the "right" decision is the decision that most closely matches up between your desires and your responsibilities (both as currently existing and as reasonably projected). For instance, your desire may be to go live in Florence (or wherever) for a year. But your responsibilities (including providing proper schooling for your kids) may preclude this. In that instance, you need to either find a way to align the two things or modify the desire side of the equation. And always remember, your desires (at least mine, but I am fickle) can change in a very quick period while your responsibilities tend to linger and remain and not change as quickly as your desires.

It is the match that may lead to a "right" life decision.

Or so I am thinking this week.

Still, I have no idea what the "right" decision would be for me if I didn't have to practice law to pay for such mundane things like food, riding lessons, squash court fees, mortgages, etc.

What would I do? What would you do? And, how would you go about figuring out what you would do?

For the foreseeable future, mind you, this is an entirely theoretical discussion. OK?

* * *

So, another member of the family has been diagnosed with cancer. A cousin, a close cousin in his 60's, has been the pain he has in his hip and leg is not related to a back problem but instead is bone cancer.

I feel quite powerless to help or do anything. He is a lovely man. He kept my father company while I was being born.

* * *

I am not excited by the impending (sooner than I would like) turn to 40. The odometer ticks over soon and I kiss goodbye to my thirties. They were, on balance, good years. I will reflect on them further, no doubt, in another post -- I certainly don't lack for the impulse towards maudlin self-directed nostalgia -- but I think the whole idea of becoming 40 is weighing me down, just a bit.

* * *

I think that, while I could continue, it might be time to bring this to a conclusion and just post it. And so, why not?

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October 03, 2007

Further to last words

I had written about a "last lecture" given by Dr. Pausch, recently, and wondered, what would you say if you had the opportunity to give your last words to people you loved.

Well, yesterday, I got a partial answer to that question. Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my 95 year old great-aunt. I met up with her grandson, my cousin, in the parking lot outside the funeral chapel and he told me that she had called him on the phone the day before she died. She shared with him her last lecture, if you will. As with so many things in her life, it was direct and to the point and exquisitely focused on what is important in Life. She spoke to my cousin with the full knowledge that she was going to die and she remained in possession of her faculties pretty much right up to the very end of her long and wonderful life. Here's what she said:

"S____, I am going to die. Take care of your family. Good bye."

That was it, my cousin told me. Short and to the point. She was clear about what was important to her: family.

She was quite a lady, my great aunt.

And yes, I did end up speaking at her funeral. No one spoke about the importance of Judaism in her life, about celebrating Jewish holidays and living the Jewish calendar. So, I got up and did that. Her grandchildren thanked me for it. And you know what, I made everyone laugh, too. She would have liked that, also.

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September 28, 2007

An unpleasant moment

This week has been full of unpleasant moments (but some very pleasant ones, too) but if I had to pick one unpleasant moment above all others, it would be this one:

So, there I am, lying on a weight bench, 8 reps into my third set of chest presses. I am pushing a 75 pound dumbbell in each hand and at this point, I have pushed them for a total of 35 times. Five more reps and I hit 40, at which point I will stop. Or, and now we get to the unpleasant part, I could just stop at 8 when I feel something in my left shoulder painfully pop in the middle of the rep, causing great pain and resulting in my arm collapsing so I kind of bounce the 75 pound weight off of my chest.

The trainer took me through a series of exercises with both arms afterwards and determined that I did not have any muscle problem or any rotator cuff problem. I am not sure what failed but I know that I am a bit sore, still, and quite hugely pissed off.

Yes, a most unpleasant moment, indeed, when I realized that my arm was going to collapse on me.

I trust, for my friends out there, your day is going better than mine.

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September 26, 2007

An interesting remark

I was idly casting my gaze over today's NY Times restaurant review when a remark in said review kind of jumped off the page and slapped me on the chin. Here's the remark:

[T]hey know that many diners sprinting to the newest hot spot dont really want to find anything new. They want reassurance that theyve mastered whats worth knowing.

Half of being cool in New York is making it look like you are in the know. I assume that applies just about everywhere, of course, but the fact is that the pace of change in New York can feel so rapid, with so many people full of tremendous energy packed in like rats on a sinking ship, so many of them feverishly working away at redefining what's cool and what's now and what, by contrast, is so pathetically two weeks ago, that it takes on an extra edge in New York. Or, at least, we'd like to think so. Those of us in the know. You know.

But it does seriously point out one thing: at some point you just get tired of trying to absorb new facts and new information so that it looks like you are in the know. At some point, the brain overloads. That's when pizza comes in. Pizza is your cure for the overworked mind.

Or chocolate. That's good, too.

I seem to have gone way off from where I wanted to go and, now that I am lost in the strange byways of my own mind, cannot figure out how to get back.

Ah, well. Interesting quote, though, right?

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September 21, 2007


If you visited my site yesterday between, say, 5:00 and 10:00 last night, you would have seen not the lovely banners my friend Margi created for me out of my pictures of Antigua Guatemala, but some odd Islamic midget wrapped in that ever so attractive burka along with a scrawl that I believe represented a form of communication in Arabic. In other words, I was hacked by someone from the Arabic speaking (or at least, typing) world. I was unhappy about it, certainly, although I have no idea what message the writing was intended to convey. Perhaps a simple, "Kilroy was here" kind of thing.

Either way, huge thanks to the Pixy Master himself for restoring peace, order and tranquility to my little home.

And so, ceaselessly beating against the currents, we blog on.

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September 20, 2007

Last lectures?

I had not heard of this thing before, the last lecture. Have you? It is thought provoking and more than a little searing. The idea is that you have one chance to speak, one chance to give your last words, your last thoughts, your last reflections, your final synthesis of your years of concentrated musing, your parting words.

I don't know (and indeed, shy away from thinking about it too deeply) what I would say at my last lecture.

This article from the Wall Street Journal, which I excerpt below, blew me away:

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you." He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.

Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh." Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."

Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."

Dr. Pausch's lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.

Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang "Happy Birthday," many wiping away their own tears.

Dr. Pausch's speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they're older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: "This was for my kids." Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.

If you'd like to see the full video report (some 4 minutes), here it is:

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September 18, 2007

Food Safety Concerns and a Risk Mitigation Strategy

Our news outlets have been full of stories lately about unsafe products coming in to the United States. There are unsafe toys and unsafe pet food. There have been unsafe fruits and vegetables contaminated with all kinds of icky things which lead, I gather, to hospital stays and other unhappy experiences. Other times, you hear about and may have even witnessed people choking in restaurants on fish bones or a piece of gristle from a steak. Happens even in the best of dining establishments.

Well, I have a solution to this problem. A solution so obvious I am shocked to be the first one to propose it.

Only eat dessert.

That's right. The people are right who advocate: "Life is short, eat dessert first". There are no food safety issues with dessert. When did you hear last about contaminated chocolate? Never, that's when.

When did you see someone choking on ice cream? Never.

You want to be safe and careful and sane when you eat?

Eat dessert. Leave the meat and vegetables to the dare devils.

Me, I'm advocating a pure risk averse life style here: eat only dessert.

Be safe, people.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

Nope, not dead

I am sorry about all of the silence over here. Things have been crazy busy at work and with the Jewish holidays coming very early this year, well, I have not had a lot of time to write. So, in case you were interested, that's my excuse and I am sticking to it.

I don't have a whole lot else to say right now, or rather, I have so much to say that my thoughts have crowded each other out in the race to get to the front of the line. So, I will be back when I calm down a titch.

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August 14, 2007

The sugar helps get me going in the morning

On the squash court today, one guy said, "whoa, look at these wheels!", after he made a particularly good get. I said, "must be those little chocolate donuts for breakfast".

Remember that?

If not:

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August 13, 2007

Entertaining etiquette

Here's a question for all of you more socially couth people out there: how do you handle the situation where a guest to your home for a meal brings with him a bottle of wine? You've planned your menu and you have, hopefully, purchased wine that will harmonize pleasantly with what you will be serving. Your guest brings a wine that pleases him greatly and he wants to share it with you. Or, he just brings something because he doesn't want to show up empty handed. Either way, you may not know the difference. Now, what do you do? Do you open the wine, thus perhaps upsetting the balance you've tried to strike? Do you just thank the guest, and put the wine away? I never know how to handle this. I was confronted by both situations yesterday.

We entertained my pilates class friends at the house. Our class has shrunk to three, including me, and I invited the other two and their significant others and the instructor and her significant other, out to the house for lunch yesterday. I determined that what I really wanted to prepare, other than grilled veggies and assorted cold salads, was chili-cheese burgers and so I did. I selected a Spanish white that was from close to the French border and was 30% Gewrztraminer, a grape that can stand up to spicy food. I bought six bottles and chilled them all.

Lunch was a great success and indeed did not break up until about 5:45, thus requiring me to cancel our dinner engagement. My wife wouldn't let me throw everyone out.

I put all the wine into the fridge and served the first three bottles of my wine, which went just as well as I had hoped it would. Then, for the fourth bottle, we opened a really grand unfiltered rose that one guest brought. He had tasted it and thought we would love it. Clearly, it needed to be open. We drank that one sitting in the garden while watching the children play as some smoked cigars (I passed this time).

I didn't open any guest wine during the meal and happily we had need of more wine after lunch. If not, I am not sure what I would have done.

What would you do?

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August 10, 2007

Plans are rarely plans

I have been ruminating a bit on the credit crisis engulfing the markets. I have been reading books and academic papers of late concerning valuation of collateralized debt obligations and mortgage backed securities for a couple of months now. I have been discussing the problems faced by traders and investors in marking portfolios to market and marking portfolios to model and what happens when there is a real contradiction between the model and the market. I have been doing this because I am a geek and I find the structured finance side of the market, and the implications on leverage and the implications leverage has on liquidity, to be utterly fascinating. You should, too, by the way.

One of the issues I think is most interesting is that the models created by hedge funds or by structured financial products traders rarely actually accurately models a total melt down. The models, take Bear Stearns recent debacle, probably did include the possibility that the exotic securities they were trading could go totally south, but the humans doing the trades and making the investments in the funds would have discounted that possibility down to very little if not nothing.

That's what we humans do. We make plans but we cannot honestly confront a worst case scenario. That's why we call it a worst case. We give it that name and that assume that the probability of it taking place is not worth discussing. I think it is human nature. We don't actually assign a real probability factor to the problem posed by the worst case. I think that the only place humans do this is with regard to estate planning. We know we're going to die so we make plans for that worst case scenario. But not everyone does this, you know, and not everyone who does do it can successfully contemplate the worst case scenario posed by their own certain mortality and do it efficiently and correctly.

We don't like to think about bad endings. Or monsters, come to think of it. But I think that they both exist.

No, human beings plan for the middle and include slight deviations from the middle. Some really smart humans can plan for volatility but even that will remain within artificially set expectation bounds so that when the volatility surpasses those bounds, trouble can result.

Where am I going with this?

I'm not 100% sure. Maybe I am just going with the thought that I have to be a better planner. I have to take disaster planning more seriously, for instance. I, and many others, will discount the possibility of a catastrophic disaster down to zero and stop thinking about it even though we know that power failures, for instance, can last days.

We plan not with our intellects but with our emotions.

I think it is time to take the emotional out of the planning stage.

It is time to contemplate both the worst case downside scenario and the best case upside scenario for this family corporation I am an officer of and start to plan accordingly even if the business and financing climate has changed. This is different from lawyer think and legal analysis. It is going to be an interesting exercise.

Oh, and I really have to finalize our wills.

You should, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 03, 2007

Travel for travel's sake

I was chatting today with one of my partners at work and we were discussing a dream I have long held of visiting all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. [Political digression: the United Nations does not care to acknowledge that Jerusalem is in Israel. Israel has several sites but Jerusalem is the only city that gets listed without a country designation, other than that it was suggested by Jordan. Jordan behaved shockingly badly until the Israelis threw them out of Jerusalem. Bluntly, the United Nations is a nest of anti-semites. End digression]

So we pulled the list up together and reviewed. I have been to 48 of them. It feels like a lot but I suspect many of you will have been to many more. Check the list out and let me know how you did?

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July 30, 2007

A new market

A thought hit me this weekend and I promptly shared it with my wife. I told her that while I could not really see myself hiring a woman of the evening for sexual relations, I could easily see myself, a happily married man, hiring a woman to sit across a table from me, look deeply into my eyes with great sincerity, and just tell me, over and over for a half an hour:

You're right. I was so wrong. I just didn't look at it the way you did. You were so right. I should have listened to you. I'm sorry.

Every married man I know harbors this secret, deep fantasy. If they don't, they're not being honest with themselves. It isn't wrong, is it, to contemplate paying a woman for this kind of illicit rendevous? How could it be wrong if it felt so right, so good?

And by the way, my wife laughed very hard. But she never said I was right about this, either.

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July 25, 2007

Happy squash goodness

I just picked up my re-strung squash racquet. I bet it is going to feel like a totally new racquet tonight when I attend this bi-monthly squash clinic that is so hard on me that I actually will lose 3-4 pounds between now and tomorrow morning. I am thinking that the ball is going to jump off these shiny new strings like it was shot from a gun. I am, in short, way more excited about this than I have any right to be. It is pathetic. I kept twirling it around in my hand the whole way back from the store. I am itching to pick it up now to see how it feels all the while knowing it will feel almost precisely how it felt when I walked it over to the store this morning.

One nice thing was the wear pattern on the old strings. The old strings had started to unravel and fray. Where? All in the sweet spot, baby, and no where else. Meaning? I was striking most every ball right in the middle of the racquet (or else I was dinging the other shots off the frame). Nice.

Like I said, pathetic. I am going to be 40 this year and here I am gushing like a kid over a new car.

Still, I am so looking forward to banging a ball around tonight for a couple of hours.

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July 24, 2007


Mark, at Irish Elk, has kindly nominated me for a "Thinking Blogger Award", not for any particular post (see rule 3 below), I gather, but for general thinkingness. Or something. I am terribly grateful. Thank you, Mark.


The rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote...

Here are five thoughtful blogs (in no particular order) that may not have been tagged yet, and deserve to be:

1. The Llama Butchers: A great read on a daily basis ranging from bad movies to good literature and the ocassional and always well received Naval Geekery post.

2. La Antigua Guatemala Daily Photo Blog: Like it sounds. Daily pictures from one of favorite places in the whole world.

3. Everyday Stranger: If Helen doesn't make you think, or at least feel, give up right now.

4. Simon World: Simon is wicked smart, writes well, and writes about Asia. It is usually important. More so than my blog, that is for certain.

5. Critical Mass: Erin writes beautifully and fluently and fights the good fight for academic freedom. You should know about her if you don't.

Happy reading! And thank you, again, Mark!

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July 12, 2007

Jewish Culture without the Jews?

I read an article in the NY Times this morning about a strange revival of Jewish culture and life in Poland. At one time, prior to the Second World War, Poland was home to the largest Jewish population in Europe. Those few Jews who survived the Concentration Camps (remember, please, Auschwitz was on Polish soil), were further thinned out by State sanctioned pogroms and other anti-Semitic actions. When it came to anti-Semitism, it would appear that we have found something that the Poles absolutely excelled at.

Now, however, the Poles are in the process of rediscovering the contributions made by the Jews to Polish culture -- food, music, literature, architecture, language, art, and science. There is a veritable revival. The NY Times thinks this is great and seems to think it is kind of amusing that the Poles are managing to do it without the Jews. The tone of the article, I feel, is ironic amusement.

There is nothing ironic about it, from my perspective. Jewish culture without the Jews who live it and practice it, Jewish culture divorced from the religious observances which gave rise to such culture and around which such culture revolves, Jewish culture there is not Jewish culture. Klezmer music played by Polish, non-Jewish, musicians, to Polish, non-Jewish, diners eating "kosher" Polish, Jewish food (I have to think it is simulated "kosher" or kosher style food because where would they find the appropriate authorities to certify it?) is NOT Jewish culture. It is a simulacrum of Jewish culture.

It is also at once both an appropriation of Jewish culture and perhaps the ultimate example of Polish anti-Semitism. First, Jewish culture divorced from the religious calendar has little meaning. It is simply the Disneyification of Jewish life, celebrated by those for whom a connection to Jewish life is purely theoretical. It is, I suppose, a living museum. It is, in this regard, deeply offensive. Jewish culture is not here for the Poles' amusement and attempting to live it cannot be left for them to feel better about having wiped out their Polish Jews. I understand that they feel a void in Polish culture. It is understandable considering the contributions of Jews to Polish culture. But this way is wrong. Jewish culture is being lived by Jews all over the world in places other than Poland. It is lived every time a Jew celebrates the Sabbath or observes, with joy, a holiday (holy-day, right?). It is not ready for a museum.

Secondly, as I said above, it is the height of the expression of Polish anti-Semitism. After all, what could be better, from the Polish perspective, than taking the best of Jewish culture and enjoying it, all without having to be inconvenienced by the presence of a Jew?

Jewish culture without the Jew. Welcome to Poland. Be real careful getting on a train, you never know what the next stop will be.

Indeed, what better proves my point about how strange this all is than this photo (note the Crucifix, please):


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July 11, 2007


I have just learned, as I sit here, that nothing helps you contemplate your own mortality more easily that a 12 page letter from your own lawyer that begins:

In accordance with your request, we enclose for your review proposed new Wills, Revocable Trusts, Health Care Proxy, Declaration and Organ/Tissue Donation Forms, Durable Powers of Attorney and Deeds of Gift. In order to assist you in your reading and understanding of the drafts, I have briefly summarized their provisions.

If a summary is 12 single spaced pages, it is hardly brief.

Just the same, it is kind of humbling to think that your entire life, and the arrangements to tidy it up, can be so neatly summed up.

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July 09, 2007

Trip to Norway -- back safely, if not entirely sanely

I have once again returned to my native shores, y'all. I will post, in dribs and drabs, updates and recaps of our two week excursion to Norway. In the meantime, I will lead off with the most negative and pessimistic recap I can possibly conceive of, one I shared with my wife already (who, by the way, I told at some point during the trip that my next wife was going to not only be a local girl but an orphan to boot).

The trip can be summed up as follows:

I told the driver who was coming to pick us up to take us to the airport to begin our voyage to basically fuck off after he called 5 minutes before we were supposed to leave and told me, after I asked, that he was more like an hour away.

I told one of my brothers-in-law to go fuck himself as we were saying goodbye the night before leaving to come back to the States (more on why later). I assured him that I meant it in the nicest possible way, though, as I shook his hand goodbye.

In between those two events, it rained and I gained 8-10 pounds.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Well, there were some nice moments, but I will blog about those later.

Nice, sooooooo nice, to be home.

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June 21, 2007

Burnt offerings in the clearing on the left, please

Summer is here, today, officially! YAY! I am celebrating, not by making burnt offerings to the Norse gods, but by breaking out my seersucker suit (supposedly from the Hindi words "shir shakkar," meaning "milk and honey") and the madder silk bow tie (madder refers to a natural dye from a Eurasian herbaceous plant, Rubia tinctoria).

What else to celebrate?

The Girl Child finished kindergarten today! Her last day. I asked her last night if she was sad and she said she wasn't. I reminded her that she would most likely not be in class next year with the majority of her current class mates since the school likes to mix things up each year and she assured me, with a smile, that she knew "many people in the other kindergarten classes" and thought that she would be just fine next year.

The school year sure flew by. It seems like yesterday when I brought her to the bus and watched her recoil in fear as she exclaimed, "this isn't a little kids' bus; there are big kids on this bus!" She went from that to quietly proclaiming that she liked to sit towards the back of the bus and listen to the older kids talk because she found it "interesting". I just managed to shake off the inclination to home school her at that point, let me tell you.

We are off to Norway on Saturday for the burnt offerings, the swimming, and the attempts to play nice with the in-laws.

In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of summer, y'all!

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June 19, 2007

Mad dash

I am running as fast as I can. More or less. I mean, if I'm writing this, I am hardly running anywhere. Still, I am trying to figure out how to get prepared with two things heating up at once so I can still get on the plane on Saturday with my family to go to Norway for two weeks. If things get too hot here, I will not be on the plane. This will mostly make me sad as I had plans to spend alone time with my children. Only mostly sad, you see, because I could probably pass on living at my in-laws for two weeks.

In the run up to leaving, the Viking Bride had to prepare the kids for camp which begins the day after we return from Norway. The Girl Child intends to join the swim team at the Club and this week was Get Wet Week -- after school practice. Her first day was yesterday. She was the only one who insisted on staying to get extra practice in with the big kids after the little kids were dismissed. The coach was very impressed with her attitude, telling the Viking Bride that an attitude like that was going to take the Girl Child far in life.

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June 14, 2007

A rebound

I have been a bit down of late, I must confess. Well, I don't have to confess it, I suppose, but I am going to just the same. I am feeling pressured at home by the difficult adjustment period my wife is going through, I am pressured by the demands of work, and I am wicked pressed by the financial side of things -- who knew windows could cost so much? The result for me is an increasing lassitude and difficulty in sort of pushing myself to complete the important daily tasks I used to just dash right through. This might also explain the paucity of posting here as I have difficulty rousing myself to write anything.

But, as I was walking on Park Avenue this morning, on the way to mortify the flesh at the gym again, as I do most every morning, I was thinking how nice and cool it was, and how the sun had perhaps not yet begun to take the chill of the darkness away. Then, I had a moment of clarity, a moment that perhaps, while not unique and known to everyone else already, was not robbed of its power in the slightest. It occurred to me that every day, the world is re-born. Every day, when the sun rises, it rises on a new world, a new day, a new you, even. Every day, at the rise of sun, you are given a new shot at redemption, a new beginning, a new possibility.

Even if you cannot wipe the slate clean from the day before, even if your personal balance sheet didn't reset and you carry over the debits and credits of the preceding hours, you still get the potential for grace. Redemption, it seemed to me as I paced the avenue, is not necessarily made up of a great epiphany or a grand and overwhelming gesture that tends to compensate for all the ills that you have performed or have befallen you. No, redemption is perhaps less of an end and more of a journey. Redemption, if you cease the moment and embrace the new day's sunlight, begins with and perhaps is entirely composed of small steps, halting movements that can become more sure over time. It has to start somewhere and it can come from making a small decision to do something different. It can even consist of a desire to change with the desire being the mother of the deed and that deed can be a baby step. What becomes important then is just taking another step and another step until you are on a totally different path.

Now, I don't mean to suggest anything is easy or even simple, that you can wipe out your debts simply by changing your mental latitude as the result of a ray of sunshine. No, not at all. What I mean is that you have to start somewhere and you might as well begin with the dawn. As Homer called it, "the rosy fingers of dawn". I wondered why he would choose to call them fingers. Perhaps it was because attached to the fingers is the hand and you can grasp the hand, each morning, and decide to pull yourself up and over and, in the process, begin anew.

And so, I choose, today, to take one small step, to throw myself at one or two small windmills and to, if not win the joust, tilt. For maybe it is enough to try. And maybe it is enough to keep trying, for in the trying, comes change.

And change can bring redemption. Every day brings that opportunity, that grace. Today it just seemed clear to me. So, today, I choose to take that hand.

I hope the above made some sense to you all. It was crystal clear to me as I wrote it.

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June 08, 2007

Not easily star struck, but. . .

Last night was cool. I got an invite earlier in the week to attend The Economic Club of New York's Centenial Celebration dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel last night. I am glad I overcame my initial reluctance and pulled the tuxedo down off of the back of the office door (doesn't everyone keep the full black tie get up at work?) and toddled off to the Waldorf.

New York is a place where everyone comes to or through. You can argue the comparative merits of living in Atlanta or Houston or Santa Monica, sure. But at the end of the day, they ain't NY. You just don't get the volume of interesting people passing through as you do in NY.

Take last night for example. I got to listen to Condi Rice talk about American Realism in foreign policy, Alan Greenspan as he compared JP Morgan's actions during the 1907 crash with his own actions during various other crashes, Paul Gigot from the Wall Street Journal, Lionel Barber from the Financial Times, and Pete Peterson of the Blackstone Group.

Rice was particularly interesting. I'm going to vote for her for President, by the way, should she ever seek the office. She noted that if she finishes her term as the 66th Sec. of State, and this is not a justification for affirmative action, that it will have been 12 years since the United States has had a white, male Sec. of State. I am still chuckling over that.

That was really pretty darn cool.

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June 06, 2007

A thought

I stumbled upon the following line in the middle of a book review and since I have been thinking about it, on and off, for a day now, I decided it was worth sharing:

[P]olitical correctness, which is to thought what sentimentality is to compassion. . .

T. Dalrymple.

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May 29, 2007

A list of things

What follows, now that we are on the cusp of summer, now that we have spent some time this past weekend thinking about our men and women who have made the final sacrifice so that we could enjoy our liberty, now that we look forward to the long, sunlit days and warm and humid nights, now it seems appropriate to consider some truths (summer edition):

*Kosher hot dogs taste better than other hot dogs;

*I believe that while the world may be renewed every day by the breath of school children, the world takes joy from every whoop pulled from a child's mouth upon jumping off into the first cannonball of the year;

*Anti-bug candles are a scam;

*The sound that a well struck tennis ball makes is very satisfying (especially after laying off the sport for 15 years);

*Teenage girls in bikinis do not look like the teenage girls in bikinis I remember. If the girls back then looked like the girls today, I would never have had the courage to speak to a single one of them;

*The smells of summer are grand -- suntan lotion coming off the hair of a child cuddling on your lap; warm flowers; cold beer; freshly cut lawn; charcoal coming up to temperature; even chlorine smells nice;

*Roasted peanuts and beer at minor league baseball. Enough said;

*The feeling like the sun is never going to set and your summer day is going to stretch out into infinity with endless possibilities and always enough time for just one more jump into the water;

*Watching sailboats in the distance makes me think of the best of modern dance and poetry combined as the boats dance and weave around each other and as the sails dip and fill with the capricious whims of the wind;

*Warm tomatoes fresh from the vine. My grandafather used to eat them like apples. I used to think that was odd. I don't any longer;

*All the glorious summer fruits make me realize that even as wonderous as they are, they are but a pale shadow of the fruits of Mexico and Guatemala;

*Summer makes me want to play hooky in ways winter never, ever does.

Feel free to add your own, should you feel inspired.

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May 18, 2007

Catch up

I have not been inspired to write of late. I look at the blank screen and I got a whole lot of nothing. I have been considering whether I should close it up, wondering whether I have written everything I have to write, contemplated whether I am done. I have decided not to make any decisions. Just to let it ride for a bit longer and see what happens. Maybe I continue; maybe I don't. I'm really not certain at all.

In the meantime, I am going to do a series of mini-posts, all contained within this larger post. A bit of catch up, if you will.

* * *

This has been a stressful week at home. We received very unwelcome and expensive news concerning the condition of the house. We have rot issues that will take many thousands of dollars (and I mean, many) to rectify and the rectification process must begin immediately. So, let's see. The Viking Bride has removed (with my blessings) her salary from our income statement and our budget just got shot out of the water with a huge cap. ex. problem. Yeah, life continues to get interesting.

* * *

Attended a squash clinic on Wednesday night with a young kid late of the Trinity College Squash team -- they are basically professionals, all of them. It was the best time I had all week. And I was even able to move the next day. But I learned a lot.

* * *

Mother's Day was outstanding. My mother felt well enough to attend brunch with us. The Girl Child (aged 6) spent part of a school day writing a card for both her grandfather and grandmother. It read:

Dear Grenparens,

Thank you for making my life so much nicer. I love you lots.

The Girl Child

Not a dry eye in the house after having read that.

* * *

The Boy Child is still sucking his thumb. We are not that happy about it.

While at brunch, I had to take him to the bathroom. Upon our return, his plate with his cookie on it was gone. He was not pleased.

BC: Pappa! My cookie's gone!

Me: So, go back to the dessert table and get another one.

BC: I don't want to go by myself.

Me: Well, I just took you to the bathroom and I am not taking you to the dessert table. Ask your sister if she will take you.

BC: Girl Child, will you take me to the dessert table.

GC: Yes. [gets up, holds out her hand to him, he puts his hand in hers and they set off]

Then I hear her say

GC: But Boy Child, if I see you put that thumb in your mouth, we are coming right back. Do you understand?

Tough kid.

* * *

Celebrated 17 Mai yesterday. Norwegian Constitution Day. I had to give a dinner for a committee I serve on so I created a 4 course meal that the chef made for us. It was a stunning success. Much aquavit and beer. So much that when I was in the gym this morning, my sweat smelled like caraway, of all things.

* * *

I have been immersed, in my own head, thinking about issues concerning pricing and value. I started a post on it but didn't finish it. Maybe I will.

* * *

I hope you all have a great weekend (anyone still reading, that is)!

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May 04, 2007

Clutch it

A college diploma is the tangible evidence of having been adjudged to have received an education. An education, a college education, is what all parents in the United States want for their children. I say "all parents" but it probably isn't all, just the majority. You probably heard it all the time from your parents so much -- "if you don't buckle down, you'll never get into college and then see what your life will become!" -- that it became a joke to you -- "if you can't shotgun that beer, dude, you'll never succeed in college".

So, college, the ultimate American escape (from high school, from parents, from the life you led prior to college, etc.), looms large in your mind. It shimmers on the horizon like a vision of, what, fear (thanks to your parents), escape, and, for the lucky few, the chance to expand their minds. But, I wonder, do you ever really get away from the fear?

Every so often, when you see a homeless person, do you clutch your education to your chest and rub it like a talisman, saying to yourself, I have my education, I will never be like that?

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May 02, 2007

It can take a lifetime before the doctor crosses the floor to give you the news

When the neurosurgeon walked into the waiting room last night at just past 7:00, still wearing his scrubs and clogs, my father and I were the only ones sitting there. We had been at the hospital since a little after 11:00 that morning to visit with my mother and to help her pass the time until they came to take her away for her surgery.

She had been in the hospital since Sunday. My father had her taken over when she was suddenly unable to sit up or stand. They ran a cat scan and discovered that, in two areas, she had been bleeding in her brain and that blood clots had formed and were compressing her brain inwards. The neurosurgeon thought that it was important to relieve the pressure and to remove the clots and recommended surgical intervention. She was admitted Sunday afternoon.

When we spoke, she and I, on Sunday evening after I called to say good night to her and to tell her that I loved her, she told me that she wanted to kill herself. I have never heard her express despair like this. I was shredded by this. I was consoled only by the call my father made to me later that evening to tell me that she was totally disoriented, asking him why he was still in the office (at 9 on a Sunday) and asking further about why she was in the hospital. I have decided to attribute her statement, her unbelievably out of character statement, to the confusion caused by her condition. Just the same, I slept only about 3.5 hours Sunday night into Monday and those hours I did sleep were not restorative.

I left work early on Monday to commute back to Westport to get the car and the Viking Bride and drive down to the hospital in Greenwich. We visited with my mom for an hour or so and took off. The Girl Child had to be taken to observe a violin lesson. My father drove up and joined us for dinner.

Yesterday, I again left work early and met my father at the hospital. My mother slept from about 12 to 2 but we were with her until they took her away at 5:00 or so. The surgery was supposed to be at around 3, but was delayed due to an emergency.

Waiting is difficult. I shan't elaborate.

After they took her off, my father and I walked to a local restaurant to sit and decompress while they performed the surgery. We ate too much and drank a little wine. We discussed the future. He is quite a realist, my father.

And then, all too soon, we were in the waiting room, again, alone but for another woman waiting for news, too.

The doctor looked so grave when he approached us. I don't know if he was tired or whether that was simply his normal manner. But the news, he said, was very good and she came through the procedure with flying colors.

My father made a peculiar strangled gulping noise and I realized, looking at him, that he bit back a sob.

He looked at the doctor and said, clearly teared up:

Doctor, we have been married 42 years. You look at this woman and you see this withered thing. But I don't see that. When I look at her, this is what I see. [And he pulled his wallet out and showed the doctor that picture of my mother when she was maybe 22 years old]. This is how she looks to me. Thank you for helping her.

I am a bit tearful now as I re-tell this here. It was a beautiful statement and a wonderful sentiment.

The doctor thinks that having had the pressure relieved on her brain, he expects her brain to "come up again" and re-expand to occupy the full space in her skull. This really was excellent news.

I must say, I cannot believe it is only Wednesday. I feel as if I have had a life time packed into the last three days.

A lifetime.

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April 27, 2007

Admitting you have a problem, etc.

It really is the first step. Of course, what they fail to mention is that your first step of admitting you have a problem may well be the last, final and terminal step, too. After all, you can admit you have a problem, acknowledge the scope of the problem, and decide, screw it, I am going to find a way to co-exist in peace, or some semblance thereof, with your problem.

For me, the problem is that I am a squash glutton. If given the chance, I will gorge myself on the game. I will play until the sweat is dripping off the racquet grip and I have to wipe my hand on the wall. I will play until no wants to play anymore or until I run out of time. This probably does not come across as a problem, does it?

But, you see, I am turning 40 this year, not 30.

The normal amount of time for a squash match is around 30 minutes. Today, I played 90.

My elbow hurts, my knee hurts, my back is tight, my hip is iffy, my shoulder is questionable, and my feet are not speaking to me anymore. I have conclusively established that playing for 90 minutes straight is too much.

And yet, I was seriously thinking about playing with this nice fellow of Indian descent (warning: generalization here -- Indians and Pakistanis are often very good squash players) this evening when he asked me if I knew how he could get a game up tonight. That would have been folly.

Playing for 90 minutes is a problem. Considering playing for more is more of a problem.

I admit (and my joints are forcing me to admit) that I have a problem.

That said, I think I will decline to do anything about it. Because, viewed from a different angle, the problem is that I am less happy off of the squash court than on it. So, perhaps, the impediment to true happiness is work and the time demanded by work. Maybe I should be thinking about ways to spend more time on the court and not less time.

Gee, sounds like I solved my initial problem, didn't I? I admitted I had a problem and then I found a solution to it.

Of course, I suppose the next entry should probably deal with how denial is not a river in Egypt.

Anyone free for a game?

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April 18, 2007

More search fun

I am tickled by the thought that if you search the internet from Norway, using a Norwegian search engine, for "Sarah Jackman Lyrics" (link is to the Norwegian search), I come up as the number two result.

All hail Allan Sherman! Even in Norway!

Must have been an American. Seriously, can you imagine a Norwegian searching for this?

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April 17, 2007

Thanks for all the good wishes on the squashed face

The after effects of taking the racket off of the left cheekbone have been minimal. I love ice. Just a small knot that was a bit sensitive to the touch. No visible bruising. Just a bit tender to the touch, still. Honestly, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of applying ice to an injury.

The vodka at lunch didn't hurt any either, I'll tell you.

Thank you for your kind remarks and good wishes!

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April 13, 2007

They should not call it squash

*Squash* is not the sound that a racket makes when the edge of it, on a backswing, smacks into your cheekbone just below the eye socket. It makes more a sound between a crack and a dull thud. I know this from personal experience. I gained this personal experience, followed by application of ice to said cheekbone for 40 minutes, this morning while playing someone with a big tennis backswing. I tried a rail shot (scooting the ball down the wall) when I should have gone cross court because when you play a tennis player, the best thing to do is to hit the ball so he has to move away from you in order to make his swing. This was sage advice given to me by an old and wily squash player. I had followed it to great effect and safety up to the point that it seemed a rail shot was called for and then *WHACK* I get slammed in the face with the edge of his backswing.

I am going out for lunch and I am going to apply, internally, a great big extra spicy Bloody Mary. Or maybe even two. I am certain that after ice, vodka, applied internally, is the best thing for me.

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April 02, 2007


Today begins the celebration of Passover. There are a lot of different themes and images and stories bound up in the celebration of this holiday. One is a theme of remembrance as you commemorate the time spent as slaves in the land of Egypt. Remembrance, for a Jew, for anyone really, is critical. If you do not remember the key events in your shared/collective past, than your current shared identity morphs in ways that cannot be controlled, as it should be, by a reference to the anchor of history. History is critical.

This is why, on the eve of Passover, this story out of England is so troubling:

Teachers are dropping controversial subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from history lessons because they do not want to offend children from certain races or religions, a report claims.

A lack of factual knowledge among some teachers, particularly in primary schools, is also leading to shallow lessons on emotive and difficult subjects, according to the study by the Historical Association.

The report, produced with funding from the Department for Education, said that where teachers and staff avoided emotive and controversial history, their motives were generally well intentioned.

Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes. In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship, it concluded.[an error occurred while processing this directive]

However, it was concerned that this could lead to divisions within school, and that it might also put pupils off history.

Link to story.

I gather it is offensive to Muslim children to learn about the Holocaust. It is easier, I suppose, to close your eyes to a truth than it is to be forced to confront it.

This Passover, I choose to remember. I choose to remember that Jews were once slaves in the land of Egypt. I choose, moreover, to remember that on the first night of Passover in 2002, a Palestinian homicide bomber walked into a Seder and killed 30 people, many of them survivors of the same Holocaust that has now become too sensitive a subject to teach to the children of that bomber's co-religionists.

I remember.

Tonight, I will tell the story of Passover again to my children so that they too will remember and they too will be part of an unbroken chain of recollection stretching back 5000 years.

I will also spare a thought, a grateful and hopeful thought, that those men and women who stand ready to protect us and all the other Passover Seders taking place tonight are bored out of their minds.

Peace, my friends.

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March 23, 2007

Google Search happiness

I have several high placed Google Search Results:

*No. 3 for the Battle of White Plains

*No. 2 for Taking Things for Granted

*No. 2 for stupid celebrity comments

*No. 1 (!!!) for Oggi, Oggi, Oggi, Oggi

*No. 2 on the mighty Ghurkas

*And No. 1, in Argentina, for "matrimonial part" definition

All in all, I have absolutely no idea what to make of all of this.

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A disconnected feeling to life, all of a sudden

I think I may have unplugged a year from my machine. All of a sudden, I find myself rounding up my age. I am telling people that I am 40 when I know darn well that I won't turn 40 until November. I have been doing it since I started playing squash with 26 year olds, I think. But I suspect I have always had a tendency to round up. Just, I never saw myself rounding up my own life.

What am I missing by sliding past 39? What am I going to do when I do actually get to 40? Have I somehow contrived to deny an entire year of my life? I wonder, can you do that? Can you decide that the year doesn't count and thus, by fiat, make it go *poof* and disappear? Truthfully, so far, 39 has been filled with exceptional stresses -- my mother's cancer, the firing of a nanny, the Viking Bride re-inventing herself as a stay at home mother, becoming a partner at my firm, dealing with a huge fall out at an organization I am a member of (I never really wrote about this and am probably not likely to, let's just say it approached the highest levels of suckitude) -- but does that mean I should deny it exists? I suppose I really shouldn't, should I?

Besides, what could the hurry possibly be to get to 40? Sure, I am going to throw a big party (jointly with the Viking Bride) but, truth be told, I don't really like to throw parties that much.

Maybe it is because I feel my body creaking and aching more after the morning workout. Maybe that's why I am rounding up -- because my body feels like it is at least 40 years old, if not a few years more.

Either way, I have to stop this.

I am, after all, only 39 years old and there is a long way to go until I get to 40. I hope.

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March 22, 2007

The baby shall be called

I have finally decided on a name for the baby for the blog. I have a Girl Child (who last night, when I essayed one of my witty remarks on her, pranced by me and announced, "I am going to pretend I didn't hear that") and a Boy Child and, as you may know, another baby boy, aged almost one year -- 04/05/06 is his birthdate. And what to call him? I have not worried overly much about this as he has yet to really speak. But now he has begun to call me da-da and to wave good night. Clearly, the time has come to bestow a non-de-blog on him.

As I have two sons, I am leaning towards the French system. The Boy Child, le fils an, is the older son. He shall remain the Boy Child. The baby, being the younger son, shall simply be called le fils cadet, meaning, the younger son. Fils cadet or FC, as the spirit moves me.

Anyone got anything better? I'm open to all suggestions.

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March 19, 2007


So, if site meter allows one to predict with any kind of accuracy, I ought to get 10 more visitors shortly and thus go over 95,000 since I started this.


Thank you, in advance, for all the visits and especially for all the comments. I love the comments. I try to tell myself I write to fulfill some need to express myself but, and while that may be true, I also write because I looooove the comments, both good and bad. So, to all of my very kind and faithful readers (all six of you), let me send to you my heartfelt thanks as I close in on 100k.

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March 16, 2007

How to tie a tie: three basic knots

I found this on the Wall Street Journal -- Europe Edition -- Weekend Section and thought I would post it here. The big knot is back my friends and here's how to do it:

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A happy cooking experience

In order to make sure that my Viking Bride continues to get to experience the joys of adult conversation, I invited another couple over to our house for dinner last Saturday night and then made sure to do all of the cooking. I thought I might share with you all the very successful recipe I made up as I went along.

I took one butterflied and boneless leg of lamb, about 4 pounds, and covered it with fresh chopped rosemary, fresh chopped sage leafs, crushed garlic cloves, some sea salt, cracked black pepper, and then drizzled it with olive oil. I let it sit in the roasting pan for a couple of hours.

Oven to 475 and roasting pan in for about 25 minutes. The lamb is nice and pink that way and the herbs and garlic get all crispy and yummy and the house smells wonderful.

Remove the lamb from the roasting pan and put on a warm platter.

Put the roasting pan over a burner and deglaze the pan with a very healthy amount of cognac and a little bit of water. Let the cognac/water mixture boil up as you happily scrape all the crispy bits off the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle into the liquid some dried sage, be liberal with it.

Pour the accumulated meat juices from the platter back into the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in some heavy cream, as much as you feel you want, really. When well mixed, pour it into a gravy boat and away you go!

I served this with a Pinot Noir, roasted asparagus (that I roasted on the bottom rack while the lamb cooked) and mashed sweet potatoes.

It was a huge success. I was so pleased with the cognac/sage/cream pan sauce that I created that I just had to share.

Happy eating!

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March 15, 2007

Favorite new song

This is Israel's Eurovision song contest entry:

The song is sung in English, French and Hebrew. It is kind of odd but I really like it.

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Something to ponder

My dad sent me the following email and I thought it contained so many things that smacked of truth that I wanted to reproduce it here for your pleasure:

#10 Life is sexually transmitted.

#9 Good health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die

#8 Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich.

#7 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

#6 Some people are like a slinky... not really good for anything,but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

#5 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital dying of nothing

#4 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

#3 Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars, and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents???

#2 In the 60's, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

AND THE # 1 THOUGHT FOR 2007: We know exactly where one cow with mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in America , but we haven't a clue as to where thousands of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of immigration.

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February 28, 2007

A question for da ladies

Who told you all that relatively tight, high waisted, pants in plaid would be flattering? I have been seeing it again and again on the trains. Young women who otherwise appear to have fairly nice figures in these pants. When did they become fashionable? Has no one told them that it is impossible not to look like they are packing huge butts with those things?

Make the bad pants stop, please. Summer cannot come too soon.

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A farewell party

My wife had her farewell dinner from her place of employment last night. She was taken to a Mexican joint with 17 others. I gather they had a heck of a time. Her boss called me at just after 9 to suggest it was time for me to come to whisk my wife home. I gather that the timing of that call coincided with the decision to play quarters. With tequilla.


The wife is feeling a bit fragile this morning.

I am, too, but for different reasons. I have to stop, and I mean it, stop playing squash with people 15 years younger than I am. It is going to kill me. I played four games this morning. I think my arm is going to fall off and when it does, it will have my right knee to keep it company.

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February 27, 2007

A random disconnected constitutional

I have not had the time or the energy to do one of these posts in a long time. I'm going to start it now at around 12:30 while I wait for a client to call me back and then I am going to add to it as I go along through the day until I just call it quits and post it.

The Viking Bride leaves the work force this week. Her last day on the payroll is Friday. We are more than slightly apprehensive about the future, both economically speaking and in terms of her sanity as she shifts to become the primary care giver.

* * *

My mother in law is taking care of the kids this past two weeks now. I came home from work to find her standing in the kitchen with the Boy Child at the kitchen table. The yellow pages was open on the counter. I said to her: "M___, why are the yellow pages open to the bail bonds section? I come home from work and find you've just been . . . " At this point, the Boy Child, who was following raptly, contributes with an emphatic nod of his head: "screwing around". My mother in law, I am happy to say, thought that was hilarious.

* * *

A high school basketball team in NYC was suspended for the season. The school is reputed to be a tough place, although with a school graduation rate of 56%, it is above the NYC average, so the Times reported. 56% is above average? Holy crap. How is it that the NYC public schools graduate fewer than half of their students and the parents are not burning cars in the streets? Is it just that expectations are lower? How terribly sad.

* * *

I have to stop playing squash with 26 year olds. I turn 40 this year. There is a difference between a 26 year old knee and shoulder and the 40 year old version of the same. The 40 year old version hurts more.

* * *

The baby has begun to crawl and is so damn happy with himself that it is impossible not to watch him and feel delighted yourself.

* * *

A Jewish kindergarten was attacked today in Berlin. Anti Semitic graffiti was sprayed and a smoke bomb, that failed to ignite, was thrown into the building. Despicable. Utterly despicable. What brave warriors to attack a building full of five and six year olds.

* * *

The Oscars. What a load of self-referential crap. Does anyone care?

* * *

I got sucked into a vicious political fight at an organization I belong to. I learned something very useful there. Tell the truth and act only in ways consistent with your moral outlook. It makes politics irrelevant and your choices become very easy. I'm not saying take the high road at all times, just don't act in ways that will make you ashamed. That said, it was interesting to be part of an event that had not taken place in this organization for over a hundred years. It was less fun being a target for the discontented and dishonorable opposition, however.

* * *

My mother is currently in a rehab facility, more of a nursing home. Nursing homes are, no matter how hard they try to make it cheerful, horrible places. They are places where many people are put so that they can die with the least amount of inconvenience to their families. They smell bad and are always overheated and stuffy. I hope I have enough money as the years go by to make sure my parents never die in one of these places. They are the warehouses for the not yet dead.

* * *

I bought a new computer this weekend. Our old laptop has developed serious and terminal problems. My wife insisted on something new. I bought an iMac, my first Apple. So far, I am chagrined to admit, I like it just fine. How long will that last? Beats me. But so far, so good. It is kind of easy to use, although I miss the "My Computer" feature from Windows. Any way to reproduce that feature?

* * *

Ok, back to work.

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February 23, 2007

Numb, which is good

I am back in the office after a morning spent in the dentist's chair while he repaired my fractured tooth. I cannot feel a thing, yet. But I will, I know.

Today I mark the birthday of the Boy Child who turns four. I spoke to him on the phone as I had to stay overnight in the City last night. He sounds very grown up already. He has chosen a white cake with white frosting and a banana cream filling. Sounds like it will be a good one.

Things have been insane of late -- terrible work deadlines and pressures. Also, my mother has been hospitalized as the chemo has destroyed her white blood cell count, she is anemic, she has thrush (an infection that closed her throat) and she contracted neumonia. Just when she was ready, after a full week in the hospital, to be released, my father was struck down by the flu so she has to go to a rehab facility because she clearly cannot go home.

So, right now, the numb I am feeling is better than the frazzled I will feel shortly.

I hope you are all well and, if you are still bothering to come by and visit this sadly neglected blog, on track for good weekend!

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February 19, 2007

Beware the ice in front of my desk

It is too cold to write today and too cold to stay. I am leaving now. We have no heat in the office. I was planning to write today, to catch up a bit. But I can see my breath. And my hands are too cold -- soooo cold that I don't even want to try to go the bathroom before I leave!

So, hasta. I'm off to run errands before catching the train home.

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February 12, 2007

The weekend got away from me

We were all over the place this weekend. I had the Boy Child at a birthday party for a while and then with me at the super market. I swear, at not quite four, he seems to be adopting some of his sister's speech formalism (I blame myself). When I asked him if David and Jack were is best friends, he pulled his thumb from his mouth and replied: "It would appear so, yes". Blew my mind. This on top of his six year old older sister telling me that another much younger person called her names that were "inappropriate". Sheesh.

Where was all of this wonderful eloquence when we needed it, though? No where. The kids, this Sunday, got to meet the Norwegian Crown Princess, ("my future queen", sayeth the Girl Child) and they were so shy they were somewhat struck dumb. The Crown Princess admired the Boy Child's Norwegian/American dual flag pin and told him that she had one of those at home, too. She seemed awfully nice. It was well worth meeting her, even if we had to drive to Queens, NY to do it. Never drive in Queens if you can avoid it. Enough said.

Now, back to work. Sorry about all the silence, by the way. Just overwhelmed and it won't get much better for some time, I fear.

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January 25, 2007

The Viking Bride has quit her job

She resigned her position as vice president yesterday and accepted the offer of employment as full time mother, care giver, and general all around boss. Her boss cried when she accepted her resignation and told her that not only would the door always be open, but that if my wife's position had been filled by the time my wife wanted to return to work, the boss would fire someone to make a spot for my wife. That is about the nicest thing she could have said, isn't it?

So, we are going forward without the benefit of my wife's generous paycheck and dental benefits. How bad can it be? Don't answer that.

Let the freaking out begin!

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January 24, 2007

While I wait to hear from my wife

who is giving her notice today (and I am waiting by the phone, unable to concentrate, and consumed with and by concern for my bride), I give you the following. Make what you wish of it:

Plov or Osh, the Uzbek version of "pilaff" ("pilav"), is the flagship of their cookery. It consists mainly of fried and boiled meat, onions, carrots and rice; with raisins, barberries, chickpeas, or fruit added for variation. Uzbek men pride themselves on their ability to prepare the most unique and sumptuous plov. The oshpaz, or master chief, often cooks plov over an open flame, sometimes serving up to 1000 people from a single cauldron on holidays or occasions such as weddings. It certainly takes years of practice with no room for failure to prepare a dish, at times, containing up to 100 kilograms of rice.


Plov is or should be, Vodka free.

There are so many ways to cook plov; some say there are 200, others-1200. But the main ingredients such as meat, rice, onion, carrot and oil remain unchanged. Then the fantasy sets in: plov with quince, with Turkish pea, barberry, eggs and pomegranate. Classical plov can be light in color (sometimes cal led Samarkand plov) and dark (Ferghana). The second one is heavier, but the taste! By the way, the real men's plov only can be dark. First peculiarity You should never drink vodka after plov. You can drink it before, but no way after. Only green tea and such is the tradition; very sensible tradition, mind you. Because only a very healthy person can drink a 40% alcoholic drink after heavy plov. In Central Asia if not every person, then every second can cook plov. Some better, some worse. But when it's necessary to feed the whole crowd of guests for example on a wedding, you'd better call oshpaz. The work of this master will cost a lot and basically he doesn't cook himself, but co ordinates his assistants.

When oshpaz goes to buy ingredients for plov, it is a comedy, which every person is ready to come and see if it is possible. I once have witnessed how one oshpaz, surrounded by the army of his assistants, was choosing rice. He slowly moved from one seller to another in the market, holding a bit of rice, smelling it, saying something to himself, and the throwing it back. All the vendors were very nervous; they were hiding something under their tents and putting something out. If oshpaz buys rice at a pi ace, then it's the best advertisement and this seller will have success in trade for some time, it is important to notice that a good plov can be made only from rice of the recent harvest, if it's from last year, then you can cook something that looks like plov.

Second peculiarity
If you have never lived in Central Asia then I need to explain what "gap" means, it's translated from Uzbek as "the talk", but it has a slang meaning - chat. However in Central Asia this word is used to define a small friendly party held for some reason or without any. And "gap" is a thing for men and usually it takes place not in the houses but in choykhonas (tea houses) or some other places. Plov at "gap" is cooked by the participants themselves and not by the master.

One of my foreign friends who lives in Uzbekistan recalls how they were cooking men's plov: while the person appointed as the chief cook was preparing meat, all the others were cutting onions, carrots and Namangan reddish. The secret of men's plov is: when the cook takes out the cracklings from kazan, there is still a little bone left on cooking in the kazan. This bone gives plov that noble yellow-brownish color and the taste of real men's food. Now every thing is ready and we are ready to taste plov. The cook has to finish some magi n tricks and this is the most difficult moment. Firstly, because others will be giving him vodka to drink and if he will partakes then he will spoil the plov. Secondly, all the drinking people are eager to steal a piece of onion or meat, and he is waving with his Kapkir (skimmer) on them, yelling, that no good plov can be prepared this way.

Third peculiarity
"Oshi Nahor" - morning plov, is one of the elements of Central Asian family traditions. There are millions of guests invited and tables usually are set in the house and not in the yard. The activity takes place from about 6 to 9 a.m. New guests are seated right away on free seats by the young helpers. After three minutes you see green tea at your table and after another five-plov. But if you refuse to come to "oshi nahor" the hosts will consider that you don't respect them, in the season of weddings, you might get a number of invitations for "oshi nahor" in a day.

Again, one of my American friends told me how he had four invitations. All of them were in different parts of the city. He was traveling from 5:30am and by eight he was able to pass al ready 2 plovs. At third plov he couldn't eat and was just sitting there quietly drinking tea. But someone noticed that he wasn't eating and told the master. The master appeared next to him. He was forced to eat. It was a real torture for him to think about the fourth plov, but knowing Uzbek traditions and respecting the people who invited him, he finally went there. He was forcing himself to eat fourth plov. "I thought I would die, or even that I wouldn't be able to stand up and get to the car" - says Michael. But somehow he managed to get to the car and asked the driver to turn the air conditioner on. Slowlo, he came to his work. During the day, one of his colleagues came in saying: It's my father's jubilee today and he is cooking lots of plov. Please, come to my pi ace today.


We now return to being a Plov free zone.

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January 22, 2007

Every leap begins with a step

Or, if done incorrectly, every leap can be the result of an attempt to convert a stumble into a jump in the hopes of landing safely on your feet and, if lucky, with some small amount of grace. But here's the thing about leaping or jumping; I'm afraid of heights.

I'm deathly afraid of heights. I have probably written about that before. I cannot go to the edge and I dislike even thinking about it.

So, sea level is probably a safe place for me. I spent some time, a couple of hours, at sea level on Sunday all by myself. The kids did not want to come with me to walk on the beach in below 30 degree weather. I went to hunt sea glass or beach glass. Sea glass is a piece of glass, usually from a broken bottle, that has been tumbled about in the ocean where the movement tends to polish the edges and make it smooth to the touch. I wanted it either to put in a glass filled jar on the kitchen window sill where it would sparkle when the sun hits it or to glue on to picture frames as decoration along with some shells.

It is awfully peaceful to walk slowly along the winter beach. There are few people and they are mostly solitary types. The wind was blowing and the waves were gently slapping at irregular intervals against the sand. It smelled desolate but the cries of the sea birds gave lie to that impression. There were shells everywhere, the discarded former homes of sea creatures who had no further use for them. The shells crackled under foot as I kept my eyes peeled for the tell tale gleam of sea glass shards. It was terribly cold.

But I was not feeling the cold much. No, I was too involved with taking counsel of my own fears. We are resolved that my wife is going to leave her job to take care of the kids and the consummation of this resolution is fast approaching, brought about by shaken confidence in the ability of the nanny to provide safe supervision of the children. I had run the numbers before and, assuming nothing changes too badly, we can afford to take the income hit for at least a year before she would have to go back to work, again, assuming that other plans do not come to fruition as we are so devoutly hoping/praying. That is what I tried to tell myself, as I contemplated being the sole income source for my family. I tried to tell myself that I could swing this, that I had run the numbers before and I had done that exercise with full theoretical detachment. That exercise, even if it was done as a back of the envelope scrawl, is something that I have been carrying around in my bag like some sort of talisman I can use to ward off evil thoughts and fears. I reminded myself, while slowly pacing next to the water, to trust my dispassionate analysis. That was a comforting thought.

I needed some comfort, I decided. It felt too much like events were rushing towards us, that our leap into the unknown was about to begin with a stumble and not with a considered and confident stride forward into the future. And I don't like heights to begin with, you see.

We did not fire the nanny on Sunday night. Instead, in the kindest way, I told her of our unhappiness with the job performance and our unhappiness with some decisions she had made. I asked her to go away and reflect on how to either restore our trust or help us to figure out a transition so that we could part as friends. I have given up trying to guess what her decision will be; I am simply trying to plan for either eventuality.

I cannot envision how our lives are going to change as a result of this decision. It feels like the right thing to do for the children, though. I hope I can remain flexible enough to keep my balance as we stumble forward. It would be too much to hope that it looks graceful.

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January 19, 2007

Physical limits

I may not have totally reached my physical limits, but my body is telling me that the limits are in sight. And by "in sight", I do not mean something glimpsed just peeping up over the horizon. I instead mean something on the grill of the Mack truck that is looming larger in your vision with every passing second.

I am 39; not 29. I should know that the following may be too much:

Mon. 45 minutes serious cardio.

Tue. Squash, additional cardio, pilates.

Wed. Heavy weight lifting, Squash.

Thurs. Squash, additional cardio.

Fri. Squash, pilates.

The body is cramped and hurts a bit in places where I wasn't entirely aware I had places (pace, Ms. West). I will not try to slip out of the house early on Saturday morning now to go play squash at the local racquet club. I want to, mind you, but I will not. Instead, I will sink into my own decrepitude and hope that the damage I have wrought will have healed up by Monday, so I can start all over again. After all, I have a squash date that morning.

Still, I have never been one to acknowledge physical limits, at least, not happily or willingly. So to be confronted by them now is not pleasant.

I have no intention of aging gracefully.

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January 17, 2007

Read any good books lately?

I would like a recommendation for a good book. I just finished Amos Oz's memoir, which I wrote about in an earlier post. I am currently reading a lot of foreign language translated into English mysteries. These can be a bit hit or miss but I tend to enjoy them just the same. Still, I feel a rut coming on. Also, I seem to be lacking the motivation or energy to begin to tackle the sizeable selection of unread non-fiction I have been accumulating like a squirrel with a pile of nuts.

Otherwise, I have been reading out loud to the kids and they have been responding very well to the old great ones, including, Charlotte's Web (finished), Stuart Little (in process), The Wind in the Willows (in process), and the Jungle Book (finished). I can't wait to start reading them Kim and the Three Musketeers, but that may be a couple of years yet.

So, what would you recommend for me? Classic or non-classic, new or old, recently read or way old favorite. Let me have it.


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January 15, 2007

A cake, I tell you, a cake

I made a fateful discovery this weekend and I wanted to pass it along to all of my married friends. I discovered what to do when my wife has been hit by the double whammy of a baby with dual ear infections plus her getting PMS. Sleep deprivation plus hormones and emotions running all over her body. Exhaustion plus irrationality with a dash of crying or sometimes downright anger. You get the picture, right? It was a long weekend and destined to be even longer if I didn't figure out how to make amends for all of my many, and unspecified, transgressions.

Well, I figured it out. Here's what I did and you can do it, too.

First, go to the best bakery in town. The place that makes cakes a woman would kill for.

Second, pick out the triple chocolate cake. The chocolate cake with the chocolate frosting and the chocolate mousse filling and the little bits of crushed chocolate bits on the outside.

Third, tell the baker, when she asks you what you want written on the cake to just write: Sorry!

Fourth, present the apology cake to the wife. Enjoy being excused for everything bad you have done up to that point during the weekend. Hope that she saves you a slice.

I wish I had stumbled upon this method sooner. Still, better to acquire wisdom late than never at all.

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January 05, 2007

Truth is stranger than fiction

I gave up sleeping this morning at 2:20 and probably should not be allowed near a keyboard, but, hey, no one is up to stop me.

I've been reading this interesting memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz, an Israeli writer, inter alia. One thing he wrote (p. 32) was: "Sometimes, facts threaten truth". I've been thinking about that, off and on, as I've tried to decipher the meaning of it all. Four simple words. Four very difficult concepts.

Sometimes. Temporal issues. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. It is not at all clear to me when it does and when it doesn't. No way to tell. But, clearly, its use means that what follows is not an absolute rule but a mutable rule, to the extent that a rule can even be mutable. I guess, if it is mutable, maybe it cannot be a rule at all.

Facts. I think facts are clear. Facts are verifiable and concrete things. Things you can look up, things you can measure, things you can rely on to always be correct, that is, until the tools you use to measure and verify improve.

Threaten. This is a scary word. And it implies that the word that it modifies can feel emotion and can discern and analyze situations, not a word that normally applies to an inanimate thing, such as the word truth.

Truth. Well, I used to think that I knew what truth was, but I am much less certain. I used to think that truth and facts were if not the same, at least living in the same apartment building and maybe on the same floor. You know, sharing the same elevator every day. For more, you can see the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. An interesting read, more or less. I no longer, anyway, think that there necessarily is one immutable truth anymore. Truth is probably more of an instinct, more of a sense as to what feels right when you measure any given set of circumstances against your accumulated storehouse of experiences from which, generally speaking, you derive your ability to form judgments -- both moral and perceptual.

So, if you take that wishy-washy sort of truth is whatever feels right approach as a definition, and I am not at all convinced you should, then the statement that truth can be made to be less true by a fact is correct. Any fact that causes you to change your judgment will have to cause you to change your perception of a truth.

Maybe, also, a fact is just a truth that is all grown up.

Not all truths are capable of being shook so easily, some of them being premised on terrifically firm foundations. But some truths are nothing more than unexamined beliefs received in the form of generally accepted wisdom and thus can easily be threatened by a fact or two. I decline to give examples right now, although they certainly exist.

And so, I suppose, the word threaten makes sense as well since, according to the above, truth is both variable and experiential, emotional and logical, filtered through a set of experiences and prejudices and pre-existing beliefs. Although, cognitive dissonance is the mind's way of dealing with this "threat" since it allows you to reconcile contradictory beliefs and facts and truths and allows you to hold both comfortably in your mind at the same time when really doing so should drive you to total distraction. So the threat is, while compelling, not critical.

Since I am not sure where I was going with all this, I cannot be certain I have arrived at my destination. If you, gentle reader, got this far, you can let me know if I should pick my pen up once more.

In any event, it sure as heck beat watching that Amanda Peet and Ashton what's his name horrible movie on HBO at 3:00 this morning.

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January 02, 2007

That's all?

You know those moveable radar detectors the police put up? They tell you the current speed limit and then show you how fast you are going. We have one the police set up in Westport all the time.

Am I the only one who wonders how high they can get that sucker up to?

Assuming, of course, I am not driving with the kids in the car and further assuming I am in my wife's BMW.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Beyond marketing

I was driving along the Post Road, early Saturday morning, after doing my grocery shopping (I did a lot of cooking this weekend) and I was sort of taken aback by the number of Lexus cars and SUV's on the road. They looked kind of nice and I got to wondering about whether I would want to buy one. And while I was wondering, really, no more than idly musing, I was sort of eavesdropping on my thinking not quite out loud and I heard myself, to my horror, wonder: Who drives a Lexus and do I want to be that person?

Feels like a triumph of marketing to me, that I am more concerned, at a somewhere between conscious and unconscious level, about the image or the lifestyle or the personality associated with a car than I am about whether the car is a good piece of design and will be safe and reliable. I like to pride myself on the thought that I can make decisions rationally, that I will decide on major items based on the sensible criteria. I suppose, however, that I am not immune to questions of style and image -- no matter how wonderful the Yugo may be (and it isn't), the fact is that I will not drive one. No, the other problem is that I am woefully unqualified to judge based on first hand information how well a car is made. Cars are now way beyond the ability of a shade tree mechanic to repair and maintain. So, maybe all you have left is style and image and anecdotal information such as you get from Consumer Reports.

When I related all this to my wife, she reassured me that actually this was a failure of marketing. Marketing doesn't want you to consciously think about these questions. They want to influence you in more subtle ways, in meta ways, and if you ask the questions than marketing has failed.

Scary, when you reflect on it, how marketing shapes our decision making process at a fundemental and basic level such that the decision itself is corrupted from the get go. I mean, if the way you set the process up to make the decision is faulty, than the decision has no integrity either, does it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Year, new attitude?

Beats me. Like I said to a friend on the train this morning after he said something about nothing changing, same job as last year; that's true, but I cannot keep doing it with the same bad attitude.

So, here's to an attitude adjustment. I think what I need is a really good fight. Something to get the juices flowing.

What do I have? Well, besides the beginnings of a cold, thanks to the Boy Child, I have a motion in a, get this, SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD CASE in which no discovery has ever been taken. The wheels of justice grind slowly, I know, but this is a bit unusual even for New York.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 28, 2006

Inspiration took the long way around

I was waiting and waiting for inspiration to strike. Instead, it seems to have taken the long way around and gently pinched me behind the knee. I have had a confusing couple of weeks, packed with changes, and not a lot of time to reflect on their meanings or ramifications. In no particular order:

*As of Jan. 1, I am a partner in my law firm. I have mixed emotions about this. Very mixed. It complicates things greatly.

*My mother started chemo.

*The Boy Child, yesterday, fell and cut his face from the corner of his left eye to almost the side of his face. The plastic surgeon believes it will leave a scar. I take him back tomorrow morning for another consultation. I am simply very sad.

*The Viking Bride has decided that she wants to stop working outside the home and instead devote her considerable talents and energy to caring full time for our brood. This has consumed much of my thinking. I am concerned about the finances (very real since she is particularly well thought of at her job and compensated accordingly), about the changes for my relationship with her, about the changes she may experience, about how my relationship with the children will change (will I be more of an outsider now that she is spending vastly more time with them?), and, well, just how it all would work.

*And, if she does stay home, we are kicking around the idea of her taking the kids to Norway for an extended visit (4-6 weeks) this coming summer without me. That's a long time for us all to be away from each other. And it was my idea.

*I am consumed by hope and tortured by thoughts that a certain family enterprise is going to work out such that we could afford, no sweat, to have the Viking Bride no longer contributing to the family coffers and I would no longer have to earn my bread by practicing law. These thoughts are not healthy as they depend on a million things, all outside my control, and thus verge on fantasy. Even if this fantasy flies, it ain't gonna happen before 2008. That's a long time to wait to see if a fantasy is going to come true and a lot can happen in between.

Yup, just a whole lot going on.

I cannot wait to turn the page on this year. As if the act of writing a new year on the next to do list will magically transform everything. As if.

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November 23, 2006

A Wodehouse thought for the day

I give you this, to ponder on during this most wholesome holiday:

South Kensington . . . where sin stalks naked through the dark alleys and only might is right.

Service With a Smile, 1962

I really can't say why I find this one so funny. But I do. Maybe you just have to know South Ken.

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November 17, 2006

Breast cancer operation a success, we think

Thank you all for your kind comments and supportive emails. I've read everything, be assured, even if I have not had the time to reply or respond.

I have not felt much like writing this week, truth be told.

My mom's surgery was a complete success, or so we have been informed. She is cancer free at this point and must undergo chemo as a prophylactic measure.

Monday was a long day. I spent most of it with my father who was and remains a bit of a basket case. We took a lot of walks around the grounds while my mother was under the knife. He told me that he did not know what he would do, how he would live, without her, that they had grown up together. I was a little taken aback because, well, my dad, well, let's just say I have never heard him speak this way about my mother. He also reflected on the relationship he has with my sister and the relationship he had with my now deceased maternal grandfather, who he says he knew for a longer time than he did his own father. We talked about my uncles and the family business we are trying to run. It was a long day, as I said.

I got to spend an hour and a half alone with my mother, chatting, after she came up from recovery. She tolerated the procedure remarkably well.

Now, of course, her spirits are a bit low as she says she is mourning the loss of her body part. I take a contrary view. I have told her that we should be celebrating the gain not mourning a loss, that she now has a second shot at life. I keep trying to convince her of this.

When Tuesday came, I was drained and exhausted. I had to stay late in the City for a Board of Directors' meeting. Of course, the train broke down on the way home.

Wednesday, still exhausted. My mom is released from the hospital, though. We had the Girl Child's parent-teacher conference. She is a "delight; an adept and rapid learner". We learn, on Thursday, that after the conference, the teacher's husband died that night.

Wednesday, I also learn that I have become a focal point of controversy at the Club where I have been a member for some 15 years and which I love very much. That is a shock. The support I have received is overwhelming and the critics, who went way too far, are on the short end of an investigation which likely will result in the termination of their membership for failing to act like gentlemen. Upsetting but uplifting as people have flocked to my defense.

Thursday, what about Thursday? Oh yeah, that was cool. I had a tour of an architectural masterpiece from the CEO of the Fortune 100 corporation headquartered in the building. Then the CEO and I had a private lunch in his private dining room. That was an interesting experience.

And now Friday and I am happy to look forward to a weekend with my family as I recover from my attempt to run for 30 minutes on the treadmill today to burn out some of the stress I am feeling. Running is not a good idea for your knees; unless you are being chased.

Pax tibi!

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November 10, 2006

Breast cancer update

My mother has been advised that the tumor was larger than expected. She is scheduled to have her breast surgically removed on Monday. This was decided last night.

I am having concentration problems today. Somehow, the question of whether a claim relates back for the purposes of avoiding a statute of limitation issue is hard to concentrate on.

Thank you for all your comments. I have not felt much like blogging of late but have appreciated very much all of your comments.

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The wonderful mint julep

As my thoughts turn southerly, as the days grow colder, I remember fondly my time living in New Orleans where I quaffed more than my fair share of mint juleps. PG Wodehouse, in 1929, had this to say about that lovely drink:

"Insidious things. They creep up to you like a baby sister and slide their little hands into yours, and the next thing you know the judge is telling you to pay the clerk of the court fifty dollars." (from Fish Preferred).

I've always liked that description and thought you might enjoy it, too.

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November 03, 2006

Still, there i sroom for hope

I took the day off today to read to my son's preschool class and to visit my mother who was in the hospital to have a lump removed from her breast. The doctor thought that she was in stage zero breast cancer; stage zero really being pre-cancer. She was not, as it turns out. One of the lymph nodes was involved. This means that instead of stage zero, she jumps to stage two. Mortality rates change and treatment becomes very different.

Still, there is room for hope. And still, I will hope.

Her mother, my grandmother, died of breast cancer when she was just 59, you see.

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November 01, 2006

Today is my birthday

I am not feeling greatly celebratory but I have friends who are not prepared to accept that. My college room mate is taking me out for a big lunch. Other people have been ringing me at work to send their best wishes and I have gotten a number of emails. Of course, I did have to remind my father when we spoke this morning to wish me a happy birthday. That is simply par for the course from the man who bought my mother a St. Patrick's Day card for Valentine's Day one year.

I am going to take myself off after lunch and buy myself a happy birthday tie and a very nice half bottle of something yummy to drink on the train on the way home tonight.

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October 31, 2006

Sort of a review

The nanny is on her way out -- tomorrow is her last day with us. I have no intention of telling her that she is leaving on my birthday. Why give her the satisfaction?

She abbreviated her notice period. That was very uncool. I asked her, "You are not working out your contract, you are not working out your full notice period, when the Viking Bride and I have been nothing but kind to you, even offering to assist you in returning to college, how is this honorable behavior?" She replied that she was leaving us with a totally clear conscience. I told her, "That simply means you are not very self-reflective." It ain't ending on a nice note, I'll tell you. At least, not from my perspective.

The Mother of Viking Bride has flown in to visit and otherwise be of assistance. That's nice. Super nice, actually.

The new nanny will begin on Monday.

* * *

In the meantime, thanks to the nanny shenanigans, the Viking Bride and I have begun the maybe-she-should-stay-home-with-the-kids conversation. She'd like to and I would like her to. It may be a question of how we can make it work financially as her salary is quite nice and we have all grown used to regular meals. Still, this question has been in the forefront of our discussions of late. Hopefully, by the summer, we will have sorted all of our thoughts out about it and be in a position to implement a decision, assuming we decide that she will leave work.

In that regard, I gather that I am going to be made partner at my firm. That will ease things somewhat but only somewhat. At least, it will be enough for us to think about how to move forward.

* * *

This weekend I attended my 20th high school reunion. It was somewhere between amusing and odd and sad. As an officer of the Alumni Association, I had to lead the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association. At least turnout was nice and low due to the inclement weather. Turnout for our reunion was high; some 40 out of 90 showed up. We have a cohesive class.

Still, getting together after a 20 year gap was strange. We left as children, we have returned as adults with our own children. We left looking to conquer the world, we returned as lawyers and doctors and hedge fund managers; teachers and Marine Corps officers and stay at home moms; and, at least one of us did not return at all -- leukemia.

I wonder what the next twenty has in store for us?

* * *

The nation is in good hands, going forward. That is my assessment after spending an evening with the 20 top ranking cadets from this year's senior class from West Point. I am involved with the Military Academy and help the cadets prepare for Rhodes and Marshall scholarship interviews. These are an impressive and articulate group of kids; born two years before I graduated from high school (see above). I felt old at the conclusion of the event but at least no one offered to help me to the elevator or asked if I needed assistance finding my walker. There must still be something very good about this nation if we are able to attract the best and the brightest into her service.

* * *

In the midst of all this craziness, my mother has received a bit of bad news -- pre-malignant breast cancer, kind of a pre-cancer diagnoses. The lump will be removed on Friday. I am not worried in the slightest; possessed of an unshakeable belief that this will amount to no more than an inconvenience. She, however, is a basket case and reminded all the time of the death of her mother who died from breast cancer. I am concerned for her and sad that she is so upset but I absolutely refuse to consider any other possible resolution other than a complete and total success.

* * *

I hope you all have a lovely Halloween. I will be out early to take little ones out to beg for candy.

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October 26, 2006

You poor dear

I know I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry. I have been under a lot of pressure at home and at work. I have not intended for you to wither from lack of attention, but, just the same, that seems to have happened. Well, I'll be back soon. Promise!

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October 16, 2006

Today, my stress levels go to eleven

Stress one. The nanny gave notice last night. She has also given what amounts to a truly insufficient notice period. Three weeks. As I explained to her, when one of our nannies resigned in the past gave notice because her grandmother was dying, she stayed with us for a month, which was the quickest we could get a new nanny. I am concerned. Mighty concerned. In fact, I have done little all day but try to figure out a solution. Oh, and our nanny agency tells us that we should not expect to see a new candidate from them until Christmas is over. The kids, I bet, are going to be devastated.

Stress two. I am a private banking client of my bank. My bank has transferred most of its branches and thus the retail accounts in those branches to another bank. I discovered today, when I called to transfer money from private banking to checking that my original bank has kept my private accounts but mistakenly sent my retail accounts to new bank. This is unacceptable. It gets more unacceptable. To transfer funds, old bank now has to send a wire to new bank and new bank will charge me $30. Old bank agreed, in response to my delicate question, that yes, old bank will eat those fucking charges. To reunite my private and retail accounts once more might mean having to go and open totally new accounts with old bank, with all of the annoying documentation demands that entails with opening SIX NEW ACCOUNTS for four different people. As I said to private banking person, if that's the case, why should I bother? Wouldn't it be easier to simply open one new private account at a new bank? Audible gulp on the other end of the line as she began to realize that our 30 year relationship may have reached its natural termination.

So, to recap, no nanny, no cash (my extravagant $5.43 lunch went on my Visa), no sleep.

At least I have a clean desk.

That will be a consolation when they come and take me away, I assure you.

And by the way, I have managed to already reduce my stress from the time I began writing this by having an hour conversation with a new potential nanny.

Still. You know? Just, still.

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October 15, 2006

An unveiling

I took the day off of work on Friday to attend the unveiling of my grandfather's head stone. Or, what should have been the unveiling, if the monument maker had not messed up the date or the delivery. So, instead, the family gathered around the hole in the ground where the headstone was supposed to be. And we had a small service, led by my uncle. One of my cousins said something quite lovely afterwards. She said that while it was too bad not to have a headstone, the marker was really not all that important. All the marker would have on it would be his birthdate and the date he died and a couple of small words. The important thing wasn't the two dates but what he accomplished in between those dates and he really did accomplish an enormous amount.

I held it together the whole day. No problem. Actually, it was the first time I had ever left that place without crying, although it used to be tears for my grandmother who died when I was in third grade. Not this time. No, I was ok up to dinner when the Boy Child, in all the innocence of 3.5 years, leaned across the table and said to my mother:

"I are sad because I can't see my friend, Grampa H., laugh anymore."

From the mouths of babes. . .

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October 06, 2006

Go to jail. And I mean, now!

When I was in law school, I learned about when a shrink had to, by law, violate doctor-patient confidentiality. If the shrink learned, during the course of treating the whacko, that said whacko was an imminent danger to society, that said whacko was actually planning to harm someone, then the shrink had to blow the whistle. Failure to do so by the shrink might lead to the imposition of criminal penalties. That is my recollection.

Therefore, I have to say that the shrink who helped Barbara Streisand overcome her crippling case of stage fright, the stage fright that has largely kept her out of public appearances for the last 12 years, should go to jail right now. That shrink had an obligation to keep us from harm and by us I mean all of us, each and every one of us. He or she knew that Babs might get out on a stage and entertain, i.e. subject us all to that revolting mix of her naive and terribly righteous political views and her schmaltzy songs.

We must find this shrink and put him or her in jail now before this person can heal anyone else.

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A Promotion

Mia is asking you to help her make a clean breast of it. And who among us doesn't support that idea?

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And the week closes with a whimper

But it least it appears to be closing, thank goodness. The silence here this week is a result of the tremendous time crunch, stress, and pressure I have been under this week. So this post is going to be sort of a recap of the week, a random series of not necessarily related anecdotes and thoughts, as I do from time to time.

Some of you know what Kol Nidre is. For those who do not, it is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. At Kol Nidre, you ask God to forgive you for all the promises you broke to him during the year and to release you from all the bargains you struck with him but did not fulfill. Example, "God, if you let me find my keys, I'll never eat Fritos again, I promise!". Keys found and soon thereafter you have a mouthful of Fritos. You need to be forgiven this one, or so we believe. So, there we are, in synagogue with the Girl Child, the Boy Child and my parents. We are in the middle of the Silent Amidah, the main prayer for forgiveness. It is a solemn moment.

The Boy Child observes the solemnity in his own special way by passing a little gas. We have the following exchange:

Me: [Speaking in Norwegian so no one around us will understand] Did you fart? Please don't fart in here, ok?

BC: [Clearly didn't hear me as I was speaking kind of low, answers loudly in English] Pappa, are you talking about my farts?

Everyone around us broke into laughter.

* * *

This Yom Kippur was the first one spent in a temple other than my grandfather's temple. You may recall, he died in December 2005. It was my first Yom Kippur wearing his yarmulke and his talis. It was hard. It felt like, in many ways, maybe the only reason I am a Jew is because he was a Jew and he believed. With him gone, the experience went from technicolor to flat. It was as if the full range of the color palette had been severely restricted. When he died, he took some of my light out of the room, or maybe it was just that he reflected my light back on me with such love that his absence makes me think everything is a bit darker.

I'm not sure about my relationship to Judaism with him not there anymore. I can tell you that I would like to figure it out. One way is that I am going to try to live the Jewish calendar this year. I am going to try to attend Shabbat services, to celebrate the holidays I never celebrate (that would be most of them so no point in listing them here), and to give it a fair shot. Maybe at the end I will be a Jew for me and not just for him. Either way, I think I'm going to have a lot less free time on the weekends going forward.

* * *

Tuesday was not good. It was a trial day. It was so not good that in the course of that day, according to the scale in my house the next morning, I lost four pounds. And no, it wasn't because I hurled in the courtroom.

The Court found that the chief witness I was putting on, that this witness testified incredibly as a matter of law. In other words, without saying he was a liar, she said he was a liar.

The remainder of my week has been spent dealing with the fall out. I have never seen that happen before. And in case you were wondering, I think that the judge was totally off base.

* * *

Tuesday night was spent at the Girl Child's elementary school open house. The Viking Bride was home with the kinder. I went to school from the train station. It was poorly organized, sometimes downright insipid (the principal greeted the assembled parents with a bad poem of her own creation), and eventually nice. While wandering the schools, I somehow connected with a Norwegian speaking parent and spent much of the time chatting with her in Norwegian. Her son is in another kindergarten section.

The parents of any boy I met in the Girl Child's class all said the same thing: "You're the Girl Child's dad? My son talks about her all the time." Another mother who I knew from pre-school told me, "all the boys love the Girl Child". I inquired, with some concern, why that would be and she told me it was because the Girl Child liked to play and run around with them during recess. I'm glad it was that and not because she was showing the boys her underwear in the corner of the playground, you know what I'm saying?

* * *

Thursday night I was MC at a dinner for the opening of a private showing of an astounding collection of historic American flags. It went very nicely. Did you know that before 1912 when the President entered an Executive Order setting out the required appearance of the Flag, that the arrangement of the stars was entirely up to the creator's imagination? Cool, no?

* * *

So it is Friday. Finally. And considering the week I have had, I want to leave you with a little something on the lighter side, a little helpful advice from the National Health Service (Britain, I think):


Have a nice weekend!

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September 28, 2006

Nine hours

The title in this post is the amount of total sleep I have had in the past 48 hours. In that time, I have managed to do quite a bit, however. I shook hands with the first man to walk on the surface of the Moon, had dinner with a former hockey star (now retired), attended a contentious and difficult board meeting, set up two dinner events for later in the year, gave a bunch of legal advice for free to the president of another board, played squash, lifted weights, did some pilates, and, oh yeah, actually practiced law for money.

If it weren't for the headache, I think I could be convinced that sleep is over rated.

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September 26, 2006


We, as Americans, are kind of misunderstood on the world stage, I think. The world thinks that we are nasty imperialists, bent on spreading our revolution by hook or by crook throughout the world. Maybe. I personally think that the world would be a better place for it but you can't make a retarded mule into a race horse, no matter what kind of saddle you put on him. That's all an aside. No, I think that the world misapprehends our nature. We, as Americans, are more likely to tend towards the isolationist than the imperialist. We prefer, as we showed in the aftermath of WW I, to withdraw into the comfort of our vast nation and let the rest of the world go on its merry way.

Look at some of our national icons for illustration. The lonely rancher, battling against the weather and the odds. Ralph Waldo Emerson Thoureau*, in splendid isolation up on Walden Pond (a lovely place to visit, by the way). The heroic sea captains, cut off from civilization. Astronauts, can't get any more away from it all than that. The list goes on and includes individuals doing individual things.

No, we like our privacy. Even Alexis de Tocqueville talked about our tendency to withdraw from society and the only thing that could bring us out was our self interest properly understood when we would join together into voluntary association in order to better govern ourselves or accomplish a limited task.

But privacy is something that cannot really be taken for granted. I am, sad to say, not a scholar of privacy rights. I am not even sure I understand anymore what privacy really means. If it means a right to go unmolested in your own home, absent a compelling reason or showing by the government, then I understand that. If it extends to your car, as an extension of your domicile, than I understand that perhaps a little less well. Does it extend to your communications? Sort of, I suppose. I guess it extends to those communications in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Only, how reasonable is the expectation? No one, for instance, expects that a post card is private. Everyone expects that a private letter or a telephone conversation on a land line will remain private, again without a compelling reason otherwise. As for the rest, it becomes a bit more opaque.

Unless, of course, you serve on a corporate board. Or, to digress for a second, you enter a store which posts a sign that all persons entering consent to search of their bags. I hate that one, personally, and do not know what the Constitutional staus of such a warning is. I was never much of a Constitutional scholar in law school, I confess.

But back to the board. Let's say you serve on a board. Beware the phone taps. It looks like a lot of people over at Hewlett Packard are going to get into major trouble for tapping the phone lines of their board members to try to discover who was leaking information to the press. Interestingly enough, though, the stock price has remained flat during this period. That signals that no one in the market seems to care and that you can expect this not to touch HP's strong profits or results.

Let's say you serve on a board and are tempted to do this, to tap phones and spy on people. Let me make it easy for you to figure out whether you should do this or not. And I have to make it easy, since I have already explained that I am no Constitutional scholar. If you are thinking about invading the opaque area of another person's privacy, take the Talking Heads test. Ask yourself, seeking guidance from the masters, do I pass the following test:

We got computers, we're tapping phone lines I know that ain't allowed

(Source: Life During Wartime)

If the Talking Heads tell you that it ain't allowed, then you should know that your contemplated actions will most likely not pass Constitutional muster. And if you are thinking of using a computer while doing so, well, that ain't allowed either.

I hope that this helps clear up some fundamental misunderstandings about America and your right to privacy as an American (assuming you, gentle reader, are an American).

If you are not an American, by the way, and, say, you are an Italian. Well, don't worry about the Talking Head test because you have no right to privacy at all while conducting private conversations, as the recent scandal with Telecom Italia has shown:

On Friday September 22nd, as details emerged of the scope of an alleged espionage operation run from inside Telecom Italia (TI), the country’s cabinet approved a decree to limit the practice.

* * *

The targets of the spying operation apparently included many of Italy’s elite, including leading businessmen, bankers, sports figures, celebrities and politicians. But the true extent may never be known. According to reports, most of the records were destroyed after the information had been passed on.

Up to 500 people are reported to have been involved in the snooping, which began in 1997 according to investigators. But what was it all for? The investigators claim to have established links between the TI operation, a private security firm whose boss was a friend of Mr Tavaroli and the state intelligence apparatus, where he also had acquaintances. Some of the spying was done for clients of the security firm and some at the request of the government's own spies.

From the Economist, which is subscription only, so no link.

* Thanks to Tuning Spork for the kind correction.

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September 21, 2006

Still breathing

In case you were wondering, I am still breathing. I think. I mean, the chest is still moving, but that might just be from the production of nasty green stuff. The kids have gone back to school, the Girl Child has a tiny, little sniffle. I have the plague. The Viking Bride may be the next to fall.

In the meantime, I have new clients to tend to and to nurture and old clients to fix. Fix? Well, what else do you call it when you are at a trial and your client testifies on direct examination so differently and so significantly differently from what he told you would be his testimony that you ask the judge for a continuance so you can re-organize your presentation. In the face of stiff opposition, since the other side smelled blood, I actually got the continuance.

So, while trying to fix that, I got a new client -- the brightest most successful guy I know. And he has a big problem. If not handled right, it would be a regulatory problem. Ugly. Then, in the middle of all this, the senior partner comes in and says, what do you know about the rights of a New York corporation to issue new shares of stock and dilute the holdings, as a consequence, of a minority shareholder. Well, I've been busy finding out.

Lunch was taken at 2:30 today. I feel fortunate to have been able to find time to eat at all.

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September 06, 2006

A recap

In a sort of vaguely chronological order, I am going to recap the highlights of the last couple of days.

* The power failed in our little Connecticut hamlet again. I have begun to expect the power to fail when so much as someone sneezes near the utility poles. We were without electricity from about noon on Saturday to 4:22 a.m. on Monday morning. Hence, no blogging, of course. Most of Sunday was spent at my parents, where we hastened to in a successful attempt to preserve all of the expressed breast milk in the freezer and fridge. I am waiting to hear from the power system backup people to find out how much a backup system will cost. I am fine with throwing out a fridge or freezer full of food from time to time. Really, I have become resigned to that. What worries me more is the loss of power and thus heat in the dead of winter, when my pipes might just freeze up as a result. That is what terrifies me the most. So, I may be writing a big old check now to avoid writing several big old checks later.

* The Girl Child has commenced kindergarten with no small amount of trepidation. I made her lunch on Monday night for her first day on Tuesday. I cooked, a lot. I made a roast beef and also roasted a turkey breast and some chicken breasts so that she would have yummy, homemade lunch. A lunch made with love. I told her this and she insisted I blow a kiss into the ziplock bag. I think she understood entirely.

* The school bus was scary. We walked down our very long driveway to where the bus would pick her up, trying not to trip on the detritus from the recent storm -- all of the dead branches and twigs. The bus arrived and she took a step back, saying: "That bus is full of big kids! This isn't a little kid bus!" But I urged her on just the same, telling her that it would be fine and she had practiced taking the bus and was absolutely ready. She sort of squared her shoulders, her little back up hanging down her back, and off she went up into the bus. She found a seat next to window towards the back, which is where she had hoped to sit and looked out at me. We waved to each other. The bus left. I did not cry, although it was a very close thing.

* I spoke to her after she arrived home and confirmed that all of her fears were for naught. She had a wonderful time, had no problems finding her way to her classroom ("all by myself, Pappa!"), had no problems getting on the right bus to come home -- although some other child blew it, much to her amazement, had and enjoyed her lunch (insisting that I prepare the same thing for the next day for her), and came home with a present from her teacher -- a new book. When I asked her if she was reading it now, she told me no, that she was "experiencing some of my old stuff right now". I see. I sent a note back today to her teacher to thank her for making the Girl Child's first day so wonderful.

* I had a follow up appointment with the urologist for him to examine the fishing tackle. A word of caution. Let's say you get the occasional migraine from time to time. You know the kind, the ones that make you vomit because the pain gets so bad. Let's say that you get one of those just as you leave the office to go see the doctor. You try to sleep on the train on the way out to Greenwich and you sort of succeed but the pain doesn't retreat. You are in full blown migraine without pain killers by the time you have your appointment. Given the vomiting thing, I caution you never, ever let a urologist manipulate your testicles, no matter how gently or professionally done. There just is no way that can help the nasua.

* I got a clean bill of health from the doctor and am feeling remarkably more chipper down south. The pain is way down to just the occasional twinge and the swelling is mostly gone. Up north, however, the migraine lingers today, even though I blasted it yesterday with tylenol and took a two hour nap when I got home. The journey home was not fun. Thrashing around on the bed, moaning, while waiting for the tylenol to kick in was also not fun.

* As I said, the migraine lingers. I know this because my speech is slightly impaired and I can feel the thing lurking at the back of my head. I'm off to take more tylenol now. I wish you all a happy day.

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September 01, 2006

Still home

I did not go to the office today. I gather that, all predictions to the contrary, they appear to be muddling through without me. Indeed, I am not even sure they noticed I was gone.

Seriously, I decided not to go in today since the pain and the swelling both appear to be receding. This is good news and I thought it was better not to push it.

I did have to go out, yesterday, to take the Girl Child to her open classroom at the kindergarten where we met her new teacher and some of her classmates. I thought she was doing just fine about it all but there were some anxieties that came out later. She came into the baby's room after we put her to bed and said to my wife: "Mama, I can't sleep, I'm thinking about kindergarten and I have some . . . concerns." She then enumerated them for my wife, including concerns about the bus, about making friends, about lunch, etc. We tried our best to allay her concerns but I think that it will simply take time. She's going to do just fine.

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August 30, 2006

Even drugs have their limits

I have spent the day zonked out on pain killers -- floating in and out of sleep, in and out of pain. When not zonked, I read a Clive Cussler book. I picked it up just before V-Day when I figured I needed something mindless to read whilst recovering. Even the Percoset could not make Mr. Cussler's novel readable. It was a disaster. I implore you never to read anything by him, ever again. The only good thing about the book was the picture on the back cover of his pretty classic cars.

On the other hand, I heartily recommend Mr. Fick's book: One Bullet Away, the story of Mr. Fick's time as a Marine officer serving in the Iraqi and Afganhi campaigns. He signed up after graduation from Dartmouth with a degree in classics and ended up a Captain in Force Recon. Well written and very hard to put down.

I will resume my drug induced haze shortly. Thanks for continuing to stop by, check in, and leave your much appreciated comments.

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August 29, 2006

A short visit to the office

All I'm good for is a quick pop in visit to clear my email and make sure nothing exploded on my desk in the past couple of days. I slept the entire train ride into Grand Central today. Thank you, Codeine! That was the only positive thing I can mention. I am going back to see the doctor again. I am not at all certain that things are progressing as they are supposed to. In fact, as the bruising appears to be getting worse -- darker and more extensive -- I am concerned that I may be bleeding internally still. So, off I go again.

Thanks for all the nice comments y'all have left. Even if I have not replied to them, I have read them all and appreciated each one of them.


The doctor said that I am in the 5-10% of those who experience these kinds of reactions. Not to worry, he claims. It will all clear up in time. Of course, I have to go back next week. In the meantime, the nice doctor has upped the painkillers from codeine to percoset. Boy oh boy, that percoset is much stronger.

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August 27, 2006

I figured it out

It has all become clear to me now. A vasectomy is reliable contraception because you never, ever want to have anyone (not even yourself) touch your genital area ever again. Oh, and the whole area looks so icky that probably no one ever would want to touch it anyway, even presuming you'd be willing to let them, which you would most emphatically would not.

I spoke to the doctor today. He kindly called me back very quickly at 12:30 after I called him at 8:30. I wanted to know if the debilitating pain I felt between the lowest abs and the genitals was normal and why I was getting this huge black and blue mark pretty much all over the place. Turns out it is. Who knew?

I will be amazed if I feel well enough to return to the office tomorrow.

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August 26, 2006

The day after

Ok, briefly, it hurts. And I've learned that there is no way I am ever going to allow myself to be talked into having someone cut my body open to "fix" something that works exactly as it is supposed to be working ever again. The swelling, the continuing to bleed a little bit from one of the incisions, the pain, and the side effects. What side effects? Well, I'm trying to figure this one out but the Cipro apparently can really upset your stomach while the Tylenol with Codeine claims to give you constipation. The two little pills are fighting it out right now, I gather.

Yup, a whole lot of fun here.

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August 24, 2006

Today, I am a man

This phrase, in the title, is the phrase commonly uttered by American Jewish boys on the occasion of their bar mitzvah. The bar mitzvah is the traditional manhood test in Judaism. You stand in front of your community and you prove to your community that you are literate and that you either have an understanding of the laws of the community or can acquire such an understanding. It is a literacy test that, when passed, confers the status of adult on the test taker. If you can understand and follow the laws, you are no longer a child and you will be held accountable for your conduct. Hence, the statement, "today, I am a man."

This phrase came back to me today as I await tomorrow when I am scheduled to have a vasectomy. I was wondering, as I kicked the thought around, do I say tomorrow that now that I can no longer father children, "today, I am somewhat less of a man"?

I don't know the answer. The reasons for having this procedure, which I am dreading, having never really had any surgical intervention before, are easily set out: my wife really must not fall pregnant again. And as the urologist and I discussed, we need a foolproof method. Actually, we had the following interchange:

Doc: What kind of birth control are you currently using?

Me: Well, I have been trying to convince my wife of the benefits of "oral contraception", if you know what I mean.

Doc: *Loud Snort* Please. You're married. That's never gonna happen.

I don't personally feel his medical judgment is binding or even ought to be considered by my wife, but just the same, there it is.

So, I await the chop tomorrow with great anxiety and no small amount of unhappiness. I've been very happy over the years with the way my plumbing has been configured. I am struggling to accept the need to re-arrange it. One, I am not big on pain. Two, well, do I need a two beyond pain? If there is a two, it might involve strange, sensitive, and not too deeply examined issues of self-image.

This has been the medical attention week. I saw the urologist on Monday, the annual check up on Wednesday, the dentist on Wednesday, and then I will have the big chop on Friday. In anticipation, I also had a haircut. There were thoughts of Samson, in part. Also, I wanted to have short hair if I was not going to be able to wash it for a day or two. The doctor yesterday, by the way, gave me a nice clean bill of health, subject only to the blood test results. In anticipation of that, I carefully broke my fast after that first Wednesday appointment with a 10:00 a.m. big old serving of onion rings covered in chili and melted cheese. Food of the Gods, my friends, and vouchsafed only to those deserving souls who either have low cholesterol already or those who don’t know what their test results are but want to stock up on the yummy fat, salt, and grease in case of a result that would suggest such happy food is contraindicated.

I do hope tomorrow goes ok and that I do not get any of the complications the urologist described in too gruesome a detail.

But before that, I will be dining with wife and friends tonight at a classic old New York steakhouse where I will prepare for the snipping with rare meat and red wine. However, and I am not saying I’m compensating for anything here, and shame on you if you think that, I am going to hit the gym and lift a lot of weight. At least two of the three sets of chest press with the 75 pound dumb bells. Not compensating at all, ok?

Anyway, have a nice weekend, y'all. If you need me, I'll be the guy on the couch with the icepack. I plan on being whiny, a little bit, too. Just because.

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August 18, 2006

What card do you send?

I'm pretty sure that Hallmark doesn't have a card for this situation. Let's say, hypothetically (or not), you have a friend. You've kind of lost touch. You happen to pick up the paper. You see your friend quoted extensively. You read the article and figure out that he's being quoted because his $430 million hedge fund just blew up (that's business speak for went bust). You want to send him a note, something along the lines of it will all be ok in the end but you're not quite sure what to say. Hallmark is not an alternative.

What would you write? I am curious. I did drop him a note telling him that I expect that this will turn out, in the years to come, to have been simply a hiccup in a successful career.

Man, how do you lose $400 plus million.

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August 17, 2006

How not to have a productive afternoon

Suggestion One: Go to a meeting to plan a dinner for 100 people. Taste the menu. Determine which wines work best with which courses. In doing so, try three whites with the appetizer and two reds with the main course. Go back to work.

I am very tired all of a sudden.

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A re-discovery

I like it fast and hard. Not a lot of pauses. I like it when you're going so hard that your glasses fog up, when the sweat is dripping down your face. I like it when you have to stretch yourself into positions you never thought you could contort yourself into under the circumstances as you streeeetch. You have to do it with a partner, of course. That's what makes it fun. The sharing of the time and the striving against each other.

I'm talking about squash of course. I played this morning.

Boy have I missed playing squash. I just didn't realize. I took quite a break for several years as I let my elbow heal up. There's just somethinga about the game that is so seductive. The pace is fast, the angles are acute, the shots have to be just so and controlled, all while running around the court, and the reflexes have to be sharp. Oh, and you have to think and react. Damn, but it is fun.

There is another racquet game I would like to play. Ever hear of Court Tennis? Or Real Tennis? It is the game from which regular tennis evolved. There are not a lot of courts in this country. I can think of one in NYC, one in Philly, one in Rhode Island, and one in Tuxedo Park, off the top of my head.

Competition is good. I have been jazzed all day.

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August 15, 2006

A Guest Writer: The Viking Bride

What follows is an email I received from my wife which I thought was so funny, I had to share it.

Epistles from Bridgeport

Out getting lunch today, I had the following experiences, which, to me, encapsulate Bridgeport fairly well.

*Overheard from late-20’s woman in jeans, t-shirt, and knit vest while she was chatting on her cell phone: “Well, I’m off to parole and then I’m going home.” Perhaps she was talking with her partner in crime?

*As I continued walking down the block, I saw 2 nubile blondes talking to a middle-aged hispanic man. They were asking, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love the Lord?” He was looking confused.

*Farther down the block, a mid-50’s woman in a skirt and cardigan made eye contact with me. Sensing she may have some connection to the nubile blondes, I decided that really, I didn’t feel like engaging in conversation about my love of the Lord. So when she volunteers “My name is Claire”, I respond “How nice for you” as I cross to the other side of the street.

She cracks me up, my wife.

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August 14, 2006

Reflections on the weekend

I think that since we've had a third child, my life has narrowed quite a bit. I am less concerned with the outside world since I am just trying to hold it all together, kind of on the fly, at home and at work. No matter how bad I have it, of course, my wife has it way worse. No question about it, she rocks.

But, back to me. Like I was saying, my focus has narrowed. I have less energy to devote to thinking about world affairs, about politics, about international relations, about international and even domestic economics. So, of course, I write less about it here. Instead, the home front, the kids, my wife, my health, working out, my weekends, all of these things take on much greater significance. I think, perhaps, just maybe, I am beginning to entertain the possibility that I am losing my perspective a bit.

Also, I have to say, that whenever I do focus on the news, I am disappointed. Lamont over Lieberman? Really? The idea that Israel should not have the right even to exist? Really? Can you blame me, at some level, for not pushing too hard to escape this narrowing of focus?

Either way, that's where I seem to be right now.

So, the weekend had a lot of highlights and almost no lowlights.

* Seeing old friends for dinner on Friday night and watching the moon rise, fat and orange, over Long Island as we sat out on a terrace on the water.

* Playing with the kids at the pool.

* Sitting outside on the deck with my family and my parents, drinking a bottle of rose prosecco, as we celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary.

* Taking a solitary dip in the ocean while my daughter waited for me, happily ensconced on a towel in the sand on Sunday.

* Taking my non-napping daughter to see some open houses. She insisted on seeing all the bathrooms and closets, objected to the lack of bookshelves in the library, and was concerned about how to fit a kitchen table and chairs in one house. Interesting to see what $3 million can buy, though. Theoretically, that is, since I don't have and don't expect to have that kind of cash to spend on a house.

* Making the baby laugh.

All of the above are high points. There were certainly more. But with the sleep deprivation comes the loss of memory. So, there.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A signal

I think that my brain is sending me a signal, a message, a sign. There can be no clearer indication that you want to replace your 1995 Subaru (with 97,000 miles on it) with a new BMW when you find yourself deeply immersed in a dream in which you are, and probably have been for quite some time in the dream, reading the owner's manual on a new BMW 525xi at 4:40 a.m. when your alarm wakes you. And you were jotting down points during your dream so you could follow up on them later.

I'm hoping by noting this here I will purge myself of this. Futile? Perhaps, but one must try.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

Blog Meet

I've been in and out of trial all week. The first day, sort of, was Monday. We showed up and the court had us hang out for a really long time before telling us he couldn't take us that day. We arranged to come back the next day and to continue on Thursday if need be. This was good. This left me with an entire afternoon all to myself as I had zero intention of driving back to CT from White Plains to then go into the City by train.

So, I met up with Robbo who was on his way to his secret Llama Vacation Destination ("LVD") at a barge/bar on the Saugatuck River. It was really lovely. The meeting, that is, not the bar, although the bar was just fine. We hung out for around 3 hours, drinking beer, eating fried shrimp and chicken wings, and sharing stories and confirming similar outlooks and viewpoints. I hope that we get a chance to hook up again on his way back from the LVD. It would be fun to get the families together and drink a little tequila. Or a lot. Whatever happens.

It was really grand, our afternoon together.

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August 08, 2006

Off in trial

Silence continues here, more or less unabated. I am in trial in one of the surrounding counties. Off to catch a train in a few moments. Gotta love these intra-family disputes in these close corporations. Vicious.

I'll report back, probably tomorrow. I spent a lovely 2 1/2 hours with Robbo the Llama Butcher yesterday. No full report forthcoming as I fully intend to protect his privacy and secret identity, but perhaps a mini-report.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 03, 2006

Are you there, God? Its me, counsel for Margaret

The title illustrates what a lawyer is reduced to when his phone system goes ker-pluff, as mine has. No calls in, no calls out. Kind of peaceful actually and conducive to a rambling post, the likes of which I have not done for a long time. So, if you are interested, here it is, a random walk through my brain:

* The way to beat the heat and humidity is not move too much and drink a lot of gin. I intend to put that into practice at a reception later tonight.

* Last summer the fashion among women was the peasant skirt, which I noted before. This summer, I am happier to report, it appears to be the baby-doll half dress thing. Way more fetching, way more likely to cause a fellow to walk into a lamp post. Not that that happened to me, mind you. I'm just saying it is a possibility. I could see it happening.

* I have hit on a brand new marketing idea for my firm's legal services. I spent the morning writing it up in a memo and have circulated it for comment. Could be a damn fine opportunity.

* Nothing sets a man up for the day more than an early game of squash (RP four games, opponent nil), followed by a breakfast meeting at which a smoked salmon omelet cooked in plenty of butter was consumed, and followed by a lunch meeting during which the main topic of conversation, over lobster bisque, was PG Wodehouse. Yes, indeed. Some days it do pay to arise from the bed.

* The Viking Bride, she of the steely gaze and strong constitution, has returned to the work place after 16 weeks maternity leave. As she told her boss, "I had to come back; I only had $31 left in my checking account". The kinder are taking it well, mostly. They passed a nice Monday together going bowling and then painting pottery before she went back to work on Tuesday. The baby is waking up once a night now, which is still a bit too much for the Viking Bride to fire on all cylinders. Just the same, her firing on 6 is still more than most on 12.

* I have ceased reading all newspapers and watching any news shows at this point. The coverage Israel receives simply depresses me. It is so terribly slanted, so one sided, so grotesque that I am forced to conclude that Israel, with the exception of the United States (the best friend any country can have, in my opinion), for the most part, stands alone. Israel must look to herself for her own defense, for her own protection, for her own success. The international community of nations will not now nor likely ever grant Israel full recognition or treat it fairly. So, if Israel must go it alone (but for the United States), then so it shall. I had a chat with a woman the other day who spent World War II first being hidden and then in a ghetto and then in a camp. She is worried, again. I think she is not wrong to worry. I share her concern even if I lack a similar personal framework of experiences against which I can measure today's events.

* I am seeing an enormous rise in cases involving employee dishonesty. I have two in litigation now and was consulted on two more yesterday. I am wondering if there is a sickness in society that brings these out now. Maybe people see all the fortunes being made so quickly (or they think quickly) and want it for themselves right now. Maybe it is just a translation of immediate gratification through creative embezzlement. Maybe people just suck. Beats me. Or maybe corporate governance has improved and more of these shit is getting flushed out of the system. Either way, I don’t like these people.

* Petunias. Big hanging baskets of pink and purple ones. I have hung them from the pergola over my deck at home and they have made me very happy. I enjoy watering them in the evening, I enjoy gazing at them from the kitchen, I enjoy being out on the deck to look at them as the butterflies buzz all around us. Happiness is a petunia. I will post a picture over the weekend, I think.

* Rosé wines make summer happier, too. This cannot be disputed. I purchased, yesterday, an Italian rosé. It is cooling in my fridge now and awaiting the marinated, boneless leg of lamb I intend to grill for dinner on Friday. I look forward to Friday. I do indeed.

* I reached out today to an old friend, someone I have not spoken to in years. It was gratifying to hear the pleasure in the surprise in his voice. We’re having lunch in about two weeks. I thought about him because I had been looking into a certain signer of the Declaration of Independence and he is a descendant of that signatory. It is cooler that you have to know him for years and years before you learn that fact.

* I have been asked to hold another lawyer’s hand at trial on Monday. I will read the papers and do what I can to be helpful. It is nice to be asked. I hope I can contribute something worthwhile. I do like trials. Trials are fun.

* I leave you with this thought. It is summer. I hope that you follow my lead and eat as many berries or stone fruits as you can. They all taste better with a tiny bit of heavy cream poured over them, by the way. Just saying.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 01, 2006

Da heat

It is sucking my will to live out through my pores. Totally enervating.

So, in the meantime, I will post an email exchange I had with my cousin's idiot girlfriend in London. It might further raise the temperature. It started with someone sending around pictures of soldiers in mostly Iraq having kind of touching interactions with the local populace. The idiot girlfriend objected.

First, her email:

I think it more honest to show soldiers killing people. That is, after all, what they are trained to do irrespective of country, politics, race, creed or colour. (or predilection to kittens).

Second, my response:

While I have done my best to stay out of this one, the following from Opinion Journal bears quite a lot on your comment below:
A cartoon that has been making the rounds shows the difference between Israel and its enemies. It shows an Israeli soldier and an Arab terrorist pointing rifles at each other. There is a baby stroller behind the Israeli soldier and another in front of the Arab terrorist.

Here's an anecdote from an Associated Press report that illustrates a similar point:

Sgt. Ron Yehushua, 21, of Jerusalem, said there were moments of beauty in war, too.

Despite the brutal carnage he witnessed, he said the image etched most deeply in his mind was that of the Lebanese family he encountered in the midst of battle. He said he shared some of the little food he had with them and handed a young girl a piece of candy.

"That's the bravest thing I did," he said. "I was afraid that in war people lose their humanity, that they become bad. I will carry that memory with me because it reminded me that I am human, and that I am fighting for peace."

Then her reply:

Fighting for peace? Please......do people really still say things like that? Well in order to stop the I'm right your wrong thing - I believe it leads to people to kill each other in the end - Here's a thought from John Steinbeck which will I hope stimulate some more thought.

"Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live - for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And this you can know - fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe."

Comforting? Impossibly naïve? Think on.

Finally, my response to her reply:

Do people really say things like that? Yes. People who feel threatened, pushed to the wall, confronted by others who wish to push them into the sea. This isn't naïve at all. Instead, it shows, I think, a soldier trying to hang on to his own humanity while protecting those people who he is charged with protecting from showers of rockets. Rockets sent to kill civilians and only civilians. People who are fighting for their very survival do believe they are fighting for peace, fighting for the chance for their grandchildren to take buses free from fear, to play in schoolyards without looking for rockets or men with guns. If you fail to appreciate that, it means simply that you are very fortunate that you live in a place where such fear is not part of your daily existence. To call it naïve is wrong. In fact, I thought it showed a great deal of hope for the future.

Steinback has always been a bit of a hack, in my view.

Where, if anywhere, do you all come out on this?


Here's the cartoon:


Posted by Random Penseur at 11:51 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

How to improve your stress

You can, you know. It turns out that it is easy to improve your stress level.

I woke up this morning at 3:30 and got out of bed in order to send myself an email detailing all the things I need to do. There are many of them. The list was daunting. Just the same, I took care of at least trying to organize my thoughts for the week and break everything down into a manageable list of tasks. I tell you this not to exalt my own stress levels, since we are all stressed, to one extent or another, but because I wanted to give you a glimpse of my mindset going forward.

I toddled off to the gym at the appointed hour and lifted weights. I did not have it in me to do the cardio work out. Got to the office early, ready to tackle my list, when my cell phone went off. It was our alarm company. The glass break alarm in the kitchen went off at 8:29. The police had been dispatched.

I sat down and opened my coffee. It was now around 8:35 or so. I waited to hear something. I called my wife and I called the nanny to let them know something was going on. I waited some more.

I called the alarm company back to see if they had received any reports back from the police. They had. All was well. It was just the painters, you see.

Fine. The painters. Ok. But, small detail, we weren’t having any painting done.

Stress level shoots waaaaay up and I begin to perspire.

I call the police back. We have a pleasant chat and they confirm that they spoke to the painters who were there to re-do the upstairs wall paper. That’s nice. Our upstairs doesn’t even have any wall paper to re-do. The responding officer and I chat some more and it turns out that he had visited the house next door, not my house.

They re-dispatch officers to my house. By this time, about 50 minutes had elapsed since the alarm company first registered the alarm. Plenty of time to clean the place out. I sit here, drumming my fingers, hoping that if someone broke into the house, they did not take my grandmother’s ring, which I had just given to my wife and which I need to have appraised so I can schedule it on my insurance. Current status of ring, in other words, not scheduled, not insured.

A little while later, the Viking Bride calls to tell me that the police were there when she got home from some thing she had to attend at camp today. All is well, false alarm.

And that, in a nutshell, is how you improve your stress level. Mine went way up in a really very short time.

How’s your stress?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006


This is an interesting concept and one I probably don't have to define, right? I was really first made aware of the concept of seasonality and its impact on financial statements by my father. I was in high school. My dad and I had formed the habit of going out to dinner, just the two of us, every week or every other week. We would often spend the conversation discussing a philosophical problem that he would pose. One time, he began to teach me how to read financial statements. First, he gave me a book and then we discussed it. So, what, you saying your parents were normal? Anyway, one example he gave me, while trying to teach me what kinds of questions you should ask while reading an income statement, was what impact seasonality might have on a business. For instance, his example, if you looked at a Christmas Tree business's income statement during the month of December, you would see huge income being generated and if you took that as your beginning point and made assumptions about their regular monthly sales based on that single month’s results, you'd be way off because you didn't take into account that it was a seasonal business. I really enjoyed these dinners with my dad.

Now, just to demonstrate now how a child can be warped by strong parental influence, I was walking down the street today to go to my tailor. As is my wont, I was observing all that was around me and I began to ponder the age old question of seasonality and the impact on income statements. What I was wondering was, quite simply, are sales of bras significantly down in the summer? Because it sure looked like no women were wearing them today.

I bet I was the only sicko on the streets of NY today staring at woman's breasts and wondering what the impact of their bra-less state was on the income statements of lingerie manufacturers and further wondering whether there was any play in the stock market because of that fact.

I think this is probably a cry for help, by the way.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Like a sieve

Or maybe a colander.

Our little spot of paradise received an inch of water in a very short time yesterday, along with high winds and thunder and all the other bits that make inclement weather so interesting.

Of course, we lost power, too. But only, as it turned out, for about two hours.

In that two hour period, however, my house showed how it is different from a sieve or a colander. Want to know how? Well, a sieve or a colander, while it allows water to pass through it, also by design permits the water to drain away. My house, while it shares the function of allowing water to pass through it, wants instead to retain the water and not permit it to pass away.

We had 8 different leaks in 5 different areas of the house encompassing 3 different floors. 8 leaks. I am quite certain that my entire kitchen ceiling will need to be replaced. (In fact, that reminds me, I need to call my insurance company). Well, my insurance company will most likely disclaim coverage, as I have just found out. I am not shocked. I just called because I would have felt like an idiot for not investigating the possibility of making a claim.

The roofer is coming by today, this morning.

At present, I still don't hate my house. Yet. The time, however, may be coming soon.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

When bad things happen

Christina, at Justdotchristina has had a horrible thing happen -- her house was struck by lightening and burned down. She has also had a wonderful thing happen -- no one, no child, no person, no animal was injured.

God was looking out for you that day, my friend. And I'm so glad.

Please send her your prayers, your thoughts, and any good ideas you have for kitchen and bath remodeling.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thanks, Verizon

Thanks for nothing.

Verizon lost internet service yesterday in large parts of NYC. Our office lost internet connections and our email. All has been restored. Took about 24 hours but finally back.

In the meantime, I renew my desire never to go into a business venture with a family member, other than my father, I suppose.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

Home from the seas

I have, as we are fond of saying in my office, returned with my shield and not on it. Actually, as far as visits to in-laws go, this was among the best. I attribute that to my decision to strike out on my own a bit, to leave my kids with my in-laws, and to make my own way in Oslo. Since I have a number of friends and made some appointments for myself, it was not too terribly difficult. Just had to suffer through a number of interminable family dinner parties at night, really. The days, however, the days were mine.

A full report to follow. When the jet lag clears. The baby, unfortunately, senses weakness and was up three or four times last night. I am a bit tired.

Sunday I was swimming in the Oslo Fjord and today I am back at my desk. I feel like the arm of a record player dropping back into a well worn groove. I'm not sure I like it. I usually find some comfort in routine. Today I wonder whether routine, while often pleasurable, comes at the expense of imagination. You follow along, like the milkman's horse, and forget to lift your head, to look at the horizon.

In other words, were it not for kids, I feel the need to go on an adventure. Quit the job, move to Oslo, and see what happens. I bet I could find something. Certainly found some beautiful apartment listings on the web.

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June 27, 2006

We're here -- no trolls

Norway is beautiful and we are here. Sounds like a postcard. The trip over was very not very pleasant. The Boy Child was apprehensive. When the Viking Bride got up to change the baby before the plane took off, the Boy Child was hysterical that the plane was going to leave Mamma behind. No reassurance calmed him -- he was certain his mother had to leave the plane to go to the potty and no one would hold the plane until she returned. Very sweet.

Upon arrival, we lingered in a very long line at passport control. The Boy Child wandered about 10 feet or so away from me and called back in a loud clear voice, as only a 3 year old can:

Boy Child: Are we in Norway?

Me: Yes

Boy Child: So, where are the trolls?

All the tired people in the line laughed.

More to come when I am less tired. Thanks for all the good wishes.

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June 23, 2006

And awaaaay we go. . .


We leave tonight for Norway and return the afternoon of July 3rd. I anticipate not a lot of privacy to blog so you should equally anticipate not a lot of blogging. I think I can best sum up my feelings about this trip by relating an anecdote, an interchange I had with a friend in the gym this morning:

Me: See you in about two weeks!

Friend: You off traveling?

M: Yup.

F: Business or pleasure?

M: Neither. I'm going to see my mother in law.

What more could I possible add to that?

Be good, y'all.

And pax tibi.

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June 21, 2006

Happiness is PG rated

PG Wodehouse, that is.

I have been invited, as a guest, to a dinner of a select club of Wodehouse enthusiasts. It happened, serendipitously, as a result of my remarking at a breakfast meeting that if my acquantaince sat at an adjoining table, I would lob rolls at him. He got the reference immediately and an invitation issued shortly thereafter. I should add that I had no idea this fellow had any connection to anything to do with Wodehouse. I have just always felt cheated that I could not be a member of the Drones Club, where you could throw rolls around to your heart's content.

My reaction to spending a whole evening chatting about Wodehouse? Unmitigated glee.

October cannot come soon enough, I tell you.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

With apologies to Clueless . . .

but these days, you could call me Sporadicus. I post sporadically. The problem, as I see it, is one of sleep deprivation. Sleep time is when your short term memory is transferred to your long term memory. If your sleep is interrupted, you dump your short term memory and never achieve long term memory. As my sleep is very interrupted, I am pleased when I can simply remember my own name and terribly pleased if I can recall how to spell it. My telephone number, at this point, is regrettably beyond me entirely.

I hope to blog more regularly soon.

Although, in that regard, I am off to Norway on Friday for 10 days. Posting may not be very convenient until my return. We'll see how it goes, ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Creature of habit

I know, if I didn't know before, that I am terrible creature of habit and when I break a habit or deviate from a pattern, well, it doesn't work so well for me. Proof of concept: I turned from my usual position at my desk to talk to a colleague about an assignment he wants some help with. I put my coffee cup down at a convenient spot during our chat and then resumed what I was doing prior to the chat. Later, when I wanted some more coffee, I looked at the cup's usual spot and, voila, no cup. So, I assumed I had finished my coffee and thrown out the cup. I was just now pleasantly surprised to discover my wandering coffee cup precisely where I left it. Never would have thought to look there. I guess I am officially in a rut.

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June 13, 2006

A change in diet

While perusing the NY Times this morning on the way into Gotham, I noticed an article in the Science Times discussing the benefits of breast feeding. Among the many, many benefits is that breast fed babies are less likely to be obese later in life. I gather that these babies develop a better on/off mechanism in terms of full/not full.

Is it just me or do you also see a new diet craze sweeping the covers of next month's men's magazines? Straight from the tap, my man.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 12, 2006

It strikes

Inspiration, that is. I've been waiting all day.

I just got off the phone with a lawyer in Ohio who is going to instruct his NY client to retain me to handle the winding up of a business. I heart new retainers. It won't necessarily mean a lot of money but right now, I like it a lot. See, its shiny and new and pretty. No muss, no fuss, no annoyances. Just a theoretical retention and a chance to meet new people and learn about their new problems. The ennui will come later, in its own time.

The weekend was so wonderful and wholesome. Really wholesome.

* The Girl Child insisting on going to temple. Staying for only a half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, before leaving. The Boy Child inquiring about the manque de snacks.

* Trip to the library.

* Picnic at the beach on a bluff overlooking the ocean, followed by the kids racing around a huge swath of grass.

* Trip to playground followed by dinner with my father outside overlooking the harbor.

* Sunday starting with a trip to Southport harbor to see the sailboats and walk around:


* Trip to Rye for brunch with my step-grandmother (who attended the Girl Child's graduation from Pre-School and cried the entire time).

* Long visit to Playland (warning, link brings up annoying music) to watch the kids ride and shriek with happy terror on some of the same rides I rode as a child when my grandfather used to take me there.

The whole weekend was delightful, although I seem to have finished it even more tired than when I began it!

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June 06, 2006


My train passes over at least three decent size rivers before reaching NY -- Westport, Norwalk and Greenwich each have one. I look at them with great attention each time I pass over them. They are always different -- be it the tide or the weather or just the way the sun happens to be reflecting off the water at that given moment. This morning I was treated to seeing rowers rowing crew. They skimmed over the water in, from my distance, total silence. The oars rose and fell as if one, coordinated by the same central nervous system. The quad sculls (four rowers) skimmed over the water as if barely touching it; on it but apart from it; existing with it but clearly not of it. The sun was barely up and reflecting towards the water and they rowed away from it, as if chasing tomorrow. It was simultaneously ethereal and the product of great effort.

I love watching crew and I particularly like crew art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an outstanding collection of paintings of rowers. Can't find it online at their website, but well worth a visit the next time you are in Philly.

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June 02, 2006

The Trichotomy that is my life

Yup, this is all about me.

I have never felt the demarcation, the boundary lines, the absolute separateness of my life as much as I have this week and at this particular moment. It isn't a dichotomy, it is a trichotomy (is that even a proper word?). At least three separate spheres, all of which are totally different, totally apart from each other. I just got off the phone with my wife to learn that the Boy Child has now officially gone an entire week with no, what exactly shall I call it, premature urination in the bed. The excitement I felt about that was probably all out of proportion to its importance, but still. It brought home, the excitement did, that I lead three different lives.

Life One -- Work. I spend a fair amount of time at work or thinking about work or hating my job or contemplating new career possibilities. Either way, I'm here and for large parts of it, don't want to be. Welcome to being a grownup -- you have bills, you have responsibilities, you don't always have to like it. Although I am in the process of trying to fix that.

Life Two -- Family. I am very involved with my children and love being with them and taking care of them and I delight in watching their brains grow and their accomplishments continue. Totally divorced from work, mind you. Totally compelling.

Life Three -- Me. I have a very involved personal life outside of work and outside of the family. Just in the past two weeks alone, I have: attended a couple of cocktail parties; met and chatted with an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court; had a private lunch with the US Army officer who took over command at a certain infamous US Army Prison in Iraq in order to clean up the place after Military Intelligence made such a huge international hash of it; took part in a private viewing of pattern plates used by the printer/engraver in the creation of Audubon's Birds of America, the single most important work of an American naturalist; and have had several interesting other experiences. This is a rich life and a source of tremendous intellectual stimulation. The blog sort of fits more in here than anywhere else. When I reflect back on it, I am a lucky guy.

But all three of these things are lived primarily in isolation from each other. Very little contact between these spheres. I don't know if it is a natural occurrence but I do know that the lines dividing these things run very strong.

Do others feel this way? Or are other people better at integrating their lives, work, and family together?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 31, 2006

The elegance of English

I think that we've probably lost something in terms of the elegance of expression as English has grown to include alternate forms of the language. As Rap has crossed over from sub-culture to main stream, as the language of the street is heard practically everywhere.

We were listening a lot to Kiss me Kate this weekend. One line from one song has been repeating itself over and over again. First, remember, Cole Porter wrote this in the 1940's. Let me give it to you here to illustrate my point.

"He may have hair upon his chest but, sister, so ___ Lassie."

What do you think goes in the blank?

I suspect you would put "does". Am I right?

Cole wrote it as "has". Sister, so has Lassie.

Do you see? The have takes has later in the sentence, not does. The two verbs repeat, correctly. And the effect is rather elegant. More so than if we slotted "does" in that blank.

When did we lose that elegance of expression? When did we start dumbing down the language?

How do we get it back?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Log jam

It really does feel like an old fashioned log jam. I've had soooo many things I've been wanting to write about, to record, to memorialize, to sound off on, but have had absolutely no time. So, the pressure builds. And I deal with the pressure, I think, by forgetting about some of the things I wanted to write about. So I am left with the pressure, the memory of the urgency, but not really the reason for the urgency. Odd, no?

Example of time pressure. The annoying partner, he who I have sometimes referred to as "Stinky", in times past, came into my office on Friday morning demanding to see my research file and draft complaint on a new case. I had a very sketchy 5 page draft and no real research to speak of. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the facts. After I understand the facts, I do my research. He made me print out my draft, over strenuous objection from me, read it and then excoriated me for it. I love that kind of shit. Really. So, I buckled down for the next 6.5 hours and gave him a new draft, now some 20 pages, with 7 well pleaded causes of action, and a thick pile of research to support my efforts. My reward? I was told he felt a lot better now and did understand why I didn't want to print out what I had earlier. Well, since I'm all about making him feel better, I'd say my reward more than compensated me for his being a total putz. No, really.


Anyway, that's kind of where things have been lately. No time for anything fun.

Hope you all, anyone still reading me, that is, are doing better!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

Through the haze

I feel a little as if I were underwater, moving just a bit more languidly than the rest of you. It is the result of sleep deprivation. The baby was up at around 3 this morning and I could not get back to sleep. So I move more slowly than the rest of you today. The lethargy creeps up on me and takes me unaware. This post will thus be yet another in my long series of disconnected thoughts and random observations. I simply lack the mental acuity to tune it up into anything else.

* * *

Why does Darien, CT, need a store called Bob's Unfinished Furniture and Gun Exchange? Do people come in looking for a little pine night table and go out with a shotgun? I mean, can you picture the impulse buying?

* * *

The Fugees do nothing for my five year old daughter. Or so she told me in the car yesterday: "Pappa, this song does nothing for me, can you change it?" I hastened to oblige. Besides, it wasn't doing anything for me, either.

* * *

Scurvy, the scourge of the fleet, will not be a problem in my house. Fresh limes, squeezed into a pitcher and combined with copious amounts of to-kill-ya and triple sec, have put paid to that problem. I have perfected the recipe. Simplicity. Eliminate the ice and blender part, quadruple the liquor called for, and you still get the same number of servings as the original recipe -- 6.

* * *

A good read: Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest, by Douglas Preston. Enjoyed it very much, even if I did not really agree with all of his political views. The man, a total greenhorn, rode a horse through the desert for over a thousand miles, trying to follow the trail of Coronado as he searched for the mythical cities of gold. A very well written book, indeed.

* * *

I am happy to put this weekend behind me. I have been way too much on edge of late -- for reasons I am not inclined to rehash right here, right now (too darn tired, frankly) -- and not been good company. Too quick to anger, too slow on the patience thing. Not that there weren't some very nice moments. Just, on balance, I'd prefer to not have had the low moments. I need a break and some quality sleep.

* * *

We lost a beautiful apple tree. Sad. It just missed taking out part of the house. Happy. Very happy. Deliriously happy. I have to call the insurance agent and see if we can make a claim.

* * *

You know that the appellate opinion has already been written when you answer the calendar call for oral argument and are allotted only 2 minutes by the panel. 2 minutes. I thought I mis-heard and actually had to ask the presiding justice to repeat himself. I guess, after argument, that the panel wasn't too pleased that we had convinced the trial court to impose a $200,000 sanction on opposing counsel and his client, jointly and severally.

* * *

I was pulled out, unexpectedly, last week to attend a funeral for the grandmother of my college room-mate's wife. She was a lovley woman. When my grandfather died, my friend and his wife took the day off from work and attended my grandfather's funeral and their support was wonderful. It was the least I could do to drop everything and get out there to New Jersey and do the same, offer whatever comfort I could. And so I did.

Standing in the cemetery, I let my attention wander at one point and I looked at the surrounding tombstones. At that point, I realized, yet again, that America has been a wonderful place for Jews. So many of these tombstones were of people who died in advanced old age -- mostly their 90's. I reflected that it was a wonderful thing that they lived in a place where they were able to live so long. Yes, America has been very good for the Jews. I think we have been good for America. It was gratifying to see so many American flags next to so many other tombstones.

* * *

The Viking Bride and I attended a cocktail party on Saturday night. It was our first night out without the baby. It was awfully nice to be a grownup again. Mostly we were seeing people from our old building in Manhattan. I was on the Board of the building and have remained friendly with a number of people. So often, conversation among Manhattanites turns to real estate. I had forgotten. Still, less controversial than politics, I suppose. We didn't get home until very late.

* * *

The Boy Child and I dropped the Girl Child off at a birthday party on Sunday morning and headed off to do what boys do -- we went shopping for sports equipment. We bought 4 mini lacrosse sticks. It was such a great pleasure to hold a lacrosse stick in my hands again, even such a little one as the kid sized ones we bought. I had somehow forgotten how much fun it is. We all spent about half an hour in the bright sunlight on the front lawn trying to learn how to catch and throw and how to scoop the ball up off the ground. My one disappointment is my continued failure to find a left handed throwing baseball glove for the Boy Child. The kid needs a glove.

* * *

I shopped at Walmart for the first time. I was hoping they would have the baseball glove I was looking for. Instead, I bought some whole wheat fig newtons for the kids. What a horrible place. I hope never to return.

* * *

Well, that wraps it up here. I have people to sue and really ought to be off doing that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

A void?

Not really a void. When I go home tonight, I expect that my quality of life will have improved dramatically. Why? Because by the time I arrive home, SAS will be winging my mother in law back to Norway.

The visit is over and, really, not a moment too soon. She was a big help to my wife but a difficult woman to be around. I am a little overdrawn at the nice bank, having pulled out a lot of my emotional reserves to make sure that I was welcoming, pleasant, accommodating, and making her feel comfortable.

I cannot wait to go home today.

And I go home, as we say in my office, with my shield and not on it. I had a huge victory today, after arguing for 75 minutes, I convinced a judge to award judgment to my client today on default in the face of strong opposition. It was a great day for my client. Of course, it may have screwed up vacation plans for the month of June -- going to Norway -- since the judge has scheduled the inquest for damages for then, but, still, when the judge gives you everything you've been asking for you don't tell her that the date she picked is not convenient. You just can't do that, especially when you've been urging speed. Next move, a motion to hold the defendant in contempt. I would not be shocked to see this play out so that the defendant spends a night or two in jail at the end of the case. A civil case, mind you. I bet he's sorry that he (the defendant) called me an asshole. Nothing like a little motivation, you know?

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May 10, 2006

Quite a lot on my plate of late

Hence the silence. No shortage of things to say, mind you, just a huge shortage of time to do write them all up. So, let me memorialize one very sweet moment before I forget about it entirely.

Monday night, I was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for dinner to finish cooking. The Boy Child came over to me and, without a word, climbed up onto my lap. He sat himself down on my right leg and leaned across my body to snuggle his blond little head into my left chest and collar bone. Into his mouth went his thumb and my head came down against his back and neck and I closed my eyes. And we sat there. Just the two of us for what seemed like a really long time. If any of you have direct experience with three year old boys, you know that getting them to sit still for anything is worthy of comment in and of itself but to be gifted with a cuddle was lovely beyond compare.

And then it got better.

His sister came over and they exchanged the following words:

Girl Child: Why are you two sitting there and cuddling?

Boy Child: [Removes thumb from mouth with audible pop] Because Pappa loves me.


Which does not mean under the lime, you know. Because if it did, we'd also probably have to have a word like sublemon and we don't, ok?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006


Just clearing my throat a little. Seems like it has been a long time since I last wrote anything on my blog. Dear Diary, so much has happened! She looked at me today! No, that doesn't feel quite like my style, whatever style that may be. So, perhaps I will just talk a little bit.

I've been running a bit on empty of late. Burning the candle at both ends and sometimes in the middle, too. Lots of work, little of which jazzes me, although I am preparing for an appellate oral argument for a very important client of the firm. That's kind of fun. You read the briefs, especially the reply brief, and you try to find that logical flaw, the one the other attorney has spent a lot of time glossing over or pretending doesn't exist. You look for this thing like it was a loose thread on a cotton shirt because you know that when you find it, you can start asking questions: well, does A really follow from B or can you get to C without having had to pass through B? And when you tug on it, you can watch the whole thing unravel. There is always something; you just have to look hard enough, ask the right questions, and be creative enough to construct the right argument when you've finished. It is intellectually satisfying, in a good way.

One of my non-profit boards is in a huge uproar over a very significant governance issue. I can't say more other than it has become a huge time suck, taking up hours every day with phone calls, consultations with our attorney, lunches with disgruntled directors, etc. If it wasn't so important, I'd resign, too. Actually, I may resign anyway as soon as the issue is resolved. It wouldn't be fair to step down now.

My mother in law is staying with us. This means that there really isn't any private time, any quiet time, any time I can just veg for a half an hour after the kids go to bed and before I go to bed. 30 minutes. Not very much time but I am a little bit taken aback by the void it leaves.

Don't go into business with a family member, if you can avoid it. It is kind of hard to tell your uncle he's an idiot, no matter how stupid he's being. Like, for instance, unilaterally changing the law that applies to the shareholders' agreement to a state in which the attorneys who drafted said agreement are neither admitted nor competent to advise on. Little things, like that.

This post is turning whiny. Or has already turned whiny. Maybe I should go back to the Dear Diary thing. No, on second thought, I shall slog on and see what transpires.

The newest little one has his days and nights mixed up. Otherwise he is gorgeous and I suspect has a lot going on. When awake, he looks around very intently, very much in deep concentration. I am beginning to suspect he will be bright and potentially even more of a pain in the butt than the other two put together.

The Girl Child, if she behaves, will receive her first baseball glove tonight. I went into the sporting goods store next to Grand Central to replace my weight lifting gloves and found gloves for kids on sale. A no-brainer. I just wish they had gloves for left handed kids -- I'm pretty sure that the Boy Child is a lefty. I can't wait to give it to her. I sure hope she was good enough to merit a present.

What else made me happy recently? Ah, yes. Shopping for new suits. Getting into shape can be expensive. When you in-grow (what else could the opposite of out-grow be?) your suits because you have been so assiduous in your fitness center attendance and you need to wear suits to go to court, you have to buy new ones. My wife is very understanding, which is nice.

Spring is making me deliriously happy. I cannot wait for the beach weather to be upon us but I am enjoying seeing every tree in my yard burst into glorious flower.

Well, my logic games are calling so return to the salt mine I must.

Thanks for reading. Nice to stretch the fingers again.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 28, 2006

My wife is so tough. . .

After the night before last, during which I believe almost no sleep was obtained, and only twenty two days after giving birth to our new son, my wife went twenty one minutes on the elliptical trainer machine.

So tough. She laughed, almost spitting her tooth paste out, when I told her that she totally shaved off 3, maybe 4, ounces.

Did I mention how beautiful she is, too?

She's gonna need every ounce of that tough, by the way, since her mother arrives today for a three week visit.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:44 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006

That smell

I am certain that I am not the only person out there who is actively engaged in a conversation with himself. It isn't out loud, mind you. It is sort of a quiet undertone kind of thing inside my head as I "talk" to myself about observations and the world around me. Calling it a conversation gives it too much gravitas, actually. Its more like a stream of consciousness babble that I only sort of pay attention to. Kind of like just not being able to turn my brain off. It gets more active the more tired I am. I have been tired for some time now, of course.

Here's one observation I thought I'd share it with you here. I was walking through one of the secondary passageways in Grand Central, on the way to my train and observed to myself that when the gentle smell of feces wafts its way into your nose, the following thought sotto voce intrudes into your babbling dialogue: "Please let that smell be from a dog and not a person. Please."

Thus proving that I have been in this city for too long.

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As not, for whom the bell tolls . . .

. . . because it is your alarm clock and you have to get out of bed now. Right now. No screwing around. Get up!!!

Or not.

I am a creature of routine and habit, at least in the morning. That alarm goes off every weekday at 4:40 and I take the 5:17 train into the city. From there, I head straight to the gym for about an hour and a half to two hours of exercise and then to the office. This is my regular morning thing. I am like the milkman's horse. I just get up and go. I have it down to the point where it is more difficult not to go to the gym than it is to go to the gym.

But not today. Today, that alarm clock went off and I turned it off and went back to sleep for another hour and a half. About the same amount of time as a workout, come to think of it.

The baby is having bad and painful gas. He was up, I think, a lot last night. All I know for sure is that the Viking Bride never returned to the marital bed last night. That's not to say that I slept all alone, because I didn't; the Boy Child came in sometime in the middle of the night to cuddle and sleep with me. I escorted him back to his own bed after a lovely cuddle. He believes that the rule is that if our door is open, he can come into bed with us. And he's basically right.

The baby's gas pains were somehow soothed for little while after I picked him up and, holding him to my chest, began kissing him on his neck and collar bone. Three quick little kisses without taking my face from his neck. He stopped crying, seemed to really like it, and feel asleep on my chest for a bit until the internal pain woke him again.

We are all very tired and I have been burning the candle at both ends. Getting up at 4:40 all week and not going to bed until 11:40 -- filling the intervening period with court appearances and oral arguments, contentious board meetings and rancorous and difficult phone consultations regarding the same, hosting a dinner for 90 at which I had to speak (at three different points during the event), and otherwise just trying to stay on top of things generally.

So when that bell called this morning for this fighter to step into the ring, he did the only thing he could do -- he turned it off.

May I ask for your kind thoughts, by the way? My mother in law arrives for a three week visit tomorrow. Any good energy / nice thoughts you can send my way would be fine.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

A little self realization ain't so bad

I had a bit this weekend. I looked deep into the abyss that is my dark heart and realized that I am not a hitter. I am not going to hit my children. I will not spank them. I am not going to do that bullshit thing that my dad did. You know, the "this is going to hurt me more than it will you" thing. I always used to tell him, that if that was true, why didn't we just skip it? I'd still get spanked. I didn't get spanked a lot, mind you, but I did get it from time to time. I am absolutely 100% certain that I deserved each and every one of those smacks, too. But, I don't think I will be doing that to my kids.

I threatened them with it on Sunday, though. I told them, after they continued to run around the house and after I told them to stop. I told them that since they had just broken the crystal bowl I was given from my much beloved, now dead, grandmother, that I would spank them if they didn't listen to me and if I had to tell them something again twice.

But, here's the thing. I can't do it. I won't do it; not over this. I might give them a swat in the parking lot if they tried to get away from me and thus scared the living hell out of me. But to just whack 'em for not obeying?

No. I can't do it. I won't have my children look at me fearfully. I told them, too, that I was changing my mind, that I wouldn't spank them for not listening to me, at least, not automatically. I do want to leave a small area of doubt. But when I sat back and thought about it, I realized that I can not just cold bloodedly, at this stage, put them over my lap and hit them. Laps are for cuddling. Laps are for hugging and for squeezing and sometimes for tickling. Laps are not for hitting. Cold blooded, by the way, because I never, ever want to be the person who physically corrects his kids in anger -- that's a disaster waiting to happen.

I don't know how my dad managed to make himself do it. I don't mind at all that he spanked me since, like I said, I bet I drove him to it. I was a bit of a terror and had a mighty smart mouth on me. But I just can't see myself doing it.

Especially to my daughter. I don't want her to EVER think that any man has the right to put his hands on her violently. EVER. End of discussion there.

So, where does that leave me? Where I started -- enforcing discipline through a consistent application of the rules so that the kids know where the limits are, where the boundary markers lay, what my very, very clear expectations are for their behavior. I don't want to force adherence to the rules out of fear, no matter how badly I want them to adhere. Some things may just not be worth it, some avenues are too likely to transform all of us in ways I am just not comfortable with.

So, I put the hand back in my pocket. You see, the next time I take my hand from my pocket, I don't want my kids to flinch when I go to stroke their hair, which I do a lot.

All bets are off when they get to be teenagers, of course. Although, by that time, its probably way too late.

And by the way, I reserve the right to change my mind as circumstances require. After all, grand pronouncements of parenting rarely, if ever, survive contact with a real, live child.

Hope some small part of that above ramble made sense.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Today I am two years old. It almost slipped past me actually. But as of today, I have been blogging for two whole years now. In that time, I have had around 70,000 visitors, according to the not terribly accurate sitemeter. I have posted over 1000 entries. I have received, since moving to MuNu, over 4100 comments.

I set out, with my first post, to do the following:

My goal here is to create an outlet where I can comment on the things that piss me off, interest me, amuse me, or will do any of those three things to my readers. In short, this will be a general interest blog for catholic (with a small c) interests. I welcome your participation in my little experiment. I will be adding more later, including email contact information.

I think I have mostly succeeded in doing that. But what has made it all worthwhile is the comments I have received and the friendships that I have been fortunate enough to form with some of you.

Thanks for sticking with me these last two years! I'm off to have a long lunch and a short afternoon!

Pax tibi!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:15 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

This really, really old house

One of the great things about living in New England is the sense that history is just around every corner. I took a picture of the oldest house I've been able to find, so far. It is in Fairfield, CT and I think it is absolutely charming:


Want to guess how old it is?


Yup, about 1690. Fascinating, isn't it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It is all fun until someone has to sign a release

In Michigan, a few days ago, a minor league baseball team did a cash drop to drum up attendance. They chucked $1000 out of a helicopter onto the field and let everybody run around to collect as much as their sticky little hands could hold. The problem was that two small children were injured. Not seriously injured -- a split lip on one and some bruising on the other. But the bruised one had to do to the hospital. Asked for a comment, the team PR flack said:

"It's for fun and games," spokeswoman Katie Kroft said. "This is why we have everybody sign a waiver."

I have to remember this bit of learning for the next birthday party. All kids have to sign waivers before they play "duck, duck, goose".

Seriously, isn't that a ridiculous comment?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 14, 2006

A letter of thanks

I wrote, this morning, a long letter of thanks to a friend, a Hasidic Jew who gave me a gift this year and a gift several years earlier. With some minor changes, I realized upon re-reading, it would make an excellent blog entry. And so:

Dear Friend,

Please excuse the fact that I am writing to you on my computer as opposed to by hand. I want you to be able to read my note, you see, and my handwriting would make that much more challenging than strictly necessary.

This is a long overdue note but, just the same, I write to thank you for the gift you made me of the _______ Haggadah some several years ago and for the gift you gave me of the matzah, this year.

As you may know, I now have three children: The Girl Child, age 5; The Boy Child, age 3; and, The New Addition some 10 days old now. I send the Girl Child and the Boy Child to preschool at the _____ Synagogue of ____ where, along with playground time, they receive the beginnings of a formal Jewish education. Frankly, their education is already probably better than what I was open to receiving. Indeed, I wish you could have heard the Girl Child sing the four questions at the Seder on Wednesday night in Hebrew. It was lovely and better than I could have.

As we were coming home from the Seder, the Girl Child told me that she did not want to have a second Seder on Thursday night. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to push Jewish life on her. My view is that it needs to be a part of her life because she has been led to want it as a part of her life not because I have forced her into it. It may not be the right decision, at the end of the day, but I am doing the best I can. So, I acquiesced and told her that that would be fine and we could skip the second Seder.

Then I got home last night and, I am happy to report, was confronted with an angry and disappointed young lady who demanded to know why we were not having a second Seder. I explained to her that if she had wanted one, we would have been able to have one but that I had to prepare and would have had to have come home much earlier than I did. Her mother promised her that, with the seven days left to us, we would have a second Seder. She was mollified.

And so, I went to the bookshelves in my den. I knew that I would find there the only Haggadah I owned: The _____ Haggadah you had given to me. I took it from the shelf and put it in my bag to bring with me on the train for my commute so I could review it and make some appropriate selections from it for our second Seder. I had never, I must confess, looked at it beyond a sort of cursory fashion before but, I thought, it is a Haggadah and a Haggadah is exactly what I need.

I read through the first half of it this morning and, in one sitting, feel as if I have acquired a vastly different understanding of the Passover holiday, of the miracle of the Exodus, of the importance of it all to me as a Jew. It is a wonderful book, my friend, and, I am almost ashamed to say, I have already learned so much from it.

I did not realize that “the Children of Israel ‘were naked and bare’ -- they did not perform mitzvot in Egypt [and] [e]ven the mitzvah of circumcision was forgotten. When the time for the redemption finally arrived, G-d gave the Jews to mitzvot to perform: the Paschal Lamb and circumcision . . .” (citation omitted). I did not realize that it was, among other things, due to the performance of these two mitzvot that G-d redeemed our people from slavery in Egypt. This affected me greatly and I want to share with you why.

My newest son, the New Addition, named in blessed memory of my grandfather, _______ who died in December 2005, was born on April 5, 2006. We held my son’s bris on Wednesday, April 12, the morning of the first Seder. His circumcision was held the morning of the day on which we gathered to thank G-d for his redemption, just as the Haggadah recounts that our people were circumcised those thousands of years ago. With that beautiful ceremony, we were all privileged to share a connection with our fore-fathers as they too were circumcised and waited to be freed from slavery. I, obviously, did not realize the significance of the timing of the New Addition’s bris until I read the book you gave me. My grandfather would have known, I bet.

I was terribly moved by this wonderful occurrence and felt, as I felt when my wife was spared the devastation of September 11, 2001 because we were all at the mikvah for the conversion to Judaism ceremony for the Girl Child, that somehow G-d has welcomed my children into the covenant of his people, despite the fact that I married, for love, outside my faith.

Reading this Hagaddah that you gave me has given me greater insight into the holiday and spurred me on to want to know more and to study and to acquire more knowledge. And so, I write to thank you and to tell you that, in my view, you have performed a mitzvah. You have allowed me to learn and kindled within me the desire to learn more. You have made my Passover more significant, more meaningful and more important, less rote and more feeling and intellect. In short, maybe, you have helped me with your gift become a better Jew and a better guide to my children as they learn what it is to be a Jew. I will, I suspect, always think of you at Passover from now on.

While you gave me this gift several years back now, I think that it was only with this Passover that I actually received it. Thank you, my friend.

And while I thank you, thank you also for the wonderful matzah you gave my family and me. We will have it and eat it, in fulfillment of the laws of our people, at this second Seder that my daughter has now demanded that we hold.

With the fondest of thanks,

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:57 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

Tears, the good kind

At 3:30 today, our newest son arrived in the world. I cried, just a little bit. He cried a bit more.

Mother and child appear to be just fine. The baby is in the NICU right now but, I hope, he will be out soon. They just want to make sure he's taking food properly and that his breathing is good. The Viking Bride has already been allowed to eat chocolate again and her blood pressure and other things are all back to normal again.

He's wicked cute and I love him already.

His brother and sister assured me that there was enough room in their hearts to include their new sibling.

And yes, he will be named for my grandfather who died in December.

Now, I go to sleep. I expect a good night's sleep for the first time in days.

Thank you all for your thoughts and support.

Bris will be held next Wednesday, according to the Mohel, who I just got off the phone with.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:49 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

April 04, 2006

Some good news: let the countdown begin

The results of the amnio are back and the baby's lungs are mature. That means, that as of about an hour ago, they gave my wife Cervidil. The labor induction has begun. I will join her tomorrow morning and, assuming everything goes smoothly, we will have a new baby tomorrow evening and the Viking Bride will be all better.

Thank you all, so very much, for your kind thoughts and your prayers and your emails. I have not been able to respond to them all (uh, any of them, actually) but I have read them and they helped.

Meanwhile, I leave you with the instructions the Boy Child (aged 3) told me to communicate to the doctor:

Pappa, tomorrow you go hopsbital, you see doctor, you say: "mamma ready come home now, she come home now", ok?
Posted by Random Penseur at 07:51 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

The latest

I have finally gotten the children to bed. We called Mamma at the "hobspital" on my cell phone, put her on speaker, and included her in the good night stories and the songs. The kids sang Norwegian children's songs for her and I think she melted.

I am beat. I drove down to the hospital this morning and had breakfast with my wife. Then trained into the city to go to work for a couple of hours and returned in the late afternoon. After another visit and a consultation with her doctor, I drove home to take the kids.

The doctor was interesting. Basically, my wife is getting worse, trending from mild to severe. The blood pressure is up and rising and the other issues are going the same way. If it weren't for the gestational diabetes, they would have induced labor already. Why wait? With gestational diabetes there are lung maturation issues. You see, complication upon complication. What we are going to do, assuming she stays the same, is to have an amnio again tomorrow morning to check for lung maturation on the baby. If the lungs are mature, they induce right away. If the lungs are not quite ready, and my wife is stable, they will try to delay the process for a couple of extra days. If, however, my wife begins to get worse, they induce, regardless of lung maturity status. Either way, we're getting a baby by the end of the week.

Thank you, all of you, for your good wishes, kind thoughts, and your prayers. I appreciate them all. I don't have the time right now to personally answer each one, as I am sure you understand, but I read them all and am grateful.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 02, 2006

No title here

I lack the inspiration to title this post. I am, at this point, exhausted and am really just writing this to unwind a bit. Last night, I allowed the kids to have a sleep over again. After a while, the Girl Child called to me and I went running upstairs:

GC: Pappa, my tummy hurts. I don't feel good.

Me: [honestly, thinking at this point that this is the last thing I need] What's wrong, peanut? Is your tummy unhappy?

GC: Well, its not happy; its not angry or disappointed, but its not happy. I think that maybe its just empty. Dinner was a long time ago.

Funny, since I recalled, at that point, exactly what she ate the day. Breakfast, one huge slice of Challah, toasted with butter and jelly. Then we ran errands and came home and she ate a bowl of oatmeal with a half a bannana. Then she went to a birthday party and ate cake and pizza. We came home and she ate 6 dumplings that her brother and I brought home from lunch for her. Then she napped. A little candy after her nap and a little ice cream when we visited her mother at the hospital. Dinner with my parents where she had bread and a whole plate of tortellini. And she was empty. Did I mention that you can see the girl's ribs and she eats like this? Unreal.

So, update on the wife's situation. She is not coming home from the hospital. Not until after she gives birth. We are on a day to day thing here. Her pressure keeps moving in ways that make everyone unhappy and her liver enzymes are increasing. There is no way to know but there is a sense that she is brewing something and everyone is nervous that it could escalate at any moment. So, she stays.

The kids saw her twice today. Once in the morning after breakfast and once after naps. They understand that she is not well. The Boy Child told my mother: "My mother in hobspital; she not feeling well. She sick." The Girl Child hasn't spoken about it but she knew the instant we pulled into the parking lot that this was the hospital that she went to visit her great-grandfather when he was dying. She asked me, as I switched off the engine, "are you sad to be here, Pappa?" I told her I wasn't, that I wasn't sad any more about my grandfather dying but that I was happy about the wonderful life he lived. She seemed to accept that, but, you never know. She's a deep one and there is, really, no question in my mind that she has made a connection between the hospital and death and her mother being there. I hope, merely, that it fades.

I don't want to end on that last thought. Instead, I will end on hope. I leave with a thought of hope. And the words of the Boy Child, who wanted to know if his mother could come home and check on him sleeping. I told him she couldn't.

Finally, I leave you with Kiss me Kate. We, the kids and me, have been listening to the soundtrack.

Its too darn hot.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:12 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006

An update re the Viking Bride

They're keeping her, maybe until sometime on Monday, maybe longer. The problems are, potentially, very serious and they don't want to take any chances.

I am exhausted. The kids are down napping, now, and when they wake I will take them to visit their mother at the hospital. They have, needless to say, no idea of the seriousness of the problem. All they know is that Mamma is having some tests and they need her to stay over.

I am feeling a number of things right now. Worried about my wife, concerned about the kids, unsettled by the hour to hour uncertainty, and a tad overwhelmed. It feels, for the first time, like I am a single parent, like I have sole responsibility for the kids and that's it and it may be for some time. Its different from having the kids for a week while my wife is away on business, for instance. I can't say how, but it is hugely different.

Our nanny has not offered to help at all. Meaning, she has not asked if there is anything she can do. She has no plans this weekend. I know because she told me that. If I was undecided at all, I am now resolved that this will be her last week. Come Friday, I will fire her. If I'm gonna be alone with the kids, then fine, let me be alone with them and at least I can do it while just wearing boxer shorts.

I will post more, if I have the opportunity, later. Or not. We'll see how it goes.

Thank you, by the way, for all your kind comments. They were awfully nice to read.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:35 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 31, 2006

An Adjournment, that's what we need

These are useful things, adjournments. Its what a lawyer says when he needs to reschedule. Its what I just did at the Appellate Division, First Department, for my appellate argument previously calendered for next Friday. You see, the Viking Bride is being admitted to the hospital today for preeclampsia (follow the link if you want to know more). I am more or less beside myself with worry and writing this to distract myself and use up some time until the next train leaves to take me back out to Connecticut so I can be with her at the hospital. They are going to keep her over night, at minimum.

The baby is fine but, who can say, may decide or the doctors may decide that he or she will be coming out soon. Sooner than expected by a lot. It goes without saying, I suppose, that we are so far from ready for this baby to be born. We still need to locate and wash all the old baby clothes and put the cradle together. This will happen (meaning, I will do it) while everyone else sleeps, I bet. An adjournment of the birth would be helpful, but even with a stipulation with all parties consenting, I don't know which judge or clerk to present such a request to.

Yes, indeed. Life is happening while we fiddled and made other plans.

Ok, off to the train and to join my wife at the hospital.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:11 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Memory lapse?

I think my memory is going. My short term memory. The thing that lets me retain instructions from my wife, for instance. I know she told me I have to do something but I have little to no idea what that thing might be. Honey, if you're reading this, shoot me an email, ok?

My memory for blog material is also suffering. I think I need to get a pad or something. I see all this cool and interesting stuff and I want to blog about said stuff but something happens. Sometime between thinking its cool and getting to my keyboard, I lose the thread. I get here and can't recall at all what I wanted to write about. *sigh*

Court went well yesterday. I do remember that much. My client was pleased and I got a preliminary injunction to shut down a former officer from competing with my client after said former officer admitted to stealing file and confidential business information. Injunctive relief work is very consuming. It is all done on short notice and without the usual care you might take in preparing a serious application. Sometimes, it is all about the speed. And the speed, that my friends, is a rush.

So much of a rush that I was still happy this morning when I got to the gym and put up 70 pound dumbbells, 10 times, for my last set of chest press. That explains, in part, why it was difficult to dry my hair after my shower. You know you worked out hard when you can't dry your hair because your arms and chest are too pumped.

So, that's it really.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006

A milestone reached!

This post represents something special to me. This is a milestone reached, a distance covered, a length traveled.

This is post number One Thousand. For around two years now, I have been filling my blog with whatever falls out of my head. I began my first post by noting:

My goal here is to create an outlet where I can comment on the things that piss me off, interest me, amuse me, or will do any of those three things to my readers. [Ed.: Mind you, I had no readers when I wrote this!] In short, this will be a general interest blog for catholic (with a small c) interests. I welcome your participation in my little experiment.

I think, modest as my goals were, that I have mostly achieved them. Additionally, modest as my invitation was, it has mostly been accepted. Indeed, the comments make it all worthwhile. I still wrestle with why I blog or what I get out of it. I am way past caring that for some unknown reason I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts with a planet full of strangers and a small mini van full of people who I have come to share a friendship with. I am, however, pleased that my blog has also become a place where I memorialize -- what for many must be mundane but for me are -- the daily joys of sharing the lives of my extraordinary children and wife.

And I am, as I said, happy to receive the comments even if I tell myself that I would surely just keep on writing without them. Surely, I would. Surely I would derive the same pleasure from the writing that I do when I receive the largely thoughtful and intelligent comments I am fortunate enough to attract. Surely I am not lying to myself.

So, although I have said it before, thank you for the comments you leave. I am very appreciative of them.

One thousand posts seems like an awful lot to me. For a while there I thought maybe I was running out of things to say, running out of inspiration, losing my juice. My site stats bore silent sentinel to this as I have seen my average daily hits drop by a third. But recently I feel like it is all slowly creeping back in -- the pleasure derived simply from writing and expressing my thoughts, the having of the thoughts worth writing about, the caring. And the hits are slowly coming back up again. And the comments are still worth reading. So, I think that I pick option (A) on the menu: I will continue this little experiment and keep on writing.

And I will keep on writing here on MuNu where, courtesy of the gracious hosting by Pixy and thanks to the kind invitation from Helen, I have found a home and a place within a community of writers who I respect greatly. MuNu is a fabulous world and, if you haven't, I urge you to explore the MuNu links on my side bar. You will be richly rewarded by the experiment.

So, as numbers go, this is post one thousand, as I expect you have gathered. I am a bit humbled by what comes next. Many of the thousand were written elsewhere but since the first post I have put up here at MuNu, I have garnered some 3900+ comments. Since starting, I have had around 68,000 visits, many of them repeat offenders, of course, but we all know that recidivism is a problem not just for MuNu but for the world as a whole.

I guess I end this post here with a simple (as if I could do anything simply) thank you for sharing my life over the last 1000 posts. I think it has made my life richer and for that I am quite grateful. Here's to the next 1000!

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:00 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

A little randomness

I can't seem to get my thoughts organized into a coherent post today. As much as I keep prodding them and pushing them, they keep expanding / escaping / resisting all my efforts. So, I give up. Herewith, a random, disorganized post.

*I just returned from taking my tax information over to my accountant. He wasn't there, which is just fine with me. On the way back, I purchased a DVD to watch with the children: My Neighbor Totoro (link to review). I'm told that the animation is so equisite that it looks as if it was painted. Very excited, I am.

*The Viking Bride fled the state yesterday for meetings in Rhode Island. Before leaving, she attempted to poison the minds of the children against Rhode Island. They requested that she return with toys and she responded that Rhode Island was completely devoid of toys. A desert of toys, as it were. She's hoping that in 15 years time when the Girl Child hears the name "Rhode Island" she will have a negative reaction to the place and not know why. I ask you, dear readers, is it any wonder that I am as warped as I am after spending over 20 years with this woman?

*As a result of her leaving for meetings in RI, I had the kids to myself last night. If I was restricted to one word to describe how it all went, after a really shitty day at work yesterday, I would have to say: Bliss. Pure bliss, if two words. We read five stories and then tumbled around like kittens, cuddling, tickling, trying to squish Pappa, all with no one getting hurt, especially me. They listened like angels and the Boy Child went to bed without a peep. The Girl Child, on the other hand, was allowed secretly to stay up. We cuddled on the couch and watched a little pre-season baseball. She told me that I had to watch a lot of baseball when she grows up so I can see her because she's going to be a baseball player when she grows up. On the weekends, though, she says she's going to work in a restaurant as a chef but she's not going to tell me what she'll be cooking. Well, at least she has a strong work ethic, which I like.

*We have hired a new nanny. The old nanny does not know. Expect tears and recriminations when we hand her a plane ticket home. This will be my first time firing a nanny for performance issues. It has been tense, at least for me.

*I have been fighting an urge to flee lately. A desire to load the family in the car, shut the door on the house, start driving and just keep on going. We probably have enough cash to last for a couple of months, I suppose. Or just pack everyone off to the airport and get on the next plane out to anywhere. Well, not anywhere. I don't care for Michigan, so that's out. It is a combination of wanderlust, unhappiness at work, and probably some other stuff which I cannot really identify. Just the same, it looks like our Saturday just freed up. I think this could be the day to just fill the tank and see where the highway leads us without reference to anyone's nap schedules.

*The Viking Bride will travel into the City tonight from the far reaches of Connecticut and we will dine with the CEO and Chairman, and his wife, of a major league, big time, you'd know the name, international company. I'd be less than completely honest if I said I didn't hope that I'd get some business out it.

Ok, that just about wraps it up.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:57 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

And it was a good night

I spent last night in my tuxedo for the monthly meeting of a board I am a member of. The meeting was fine -- a little contentious but in a good way--, the dinner was forgettable, the wines not great. That was ok. I was on my own for the evening, staying in the city, dressed up, and for once, not pressed for time. That was the key to my feeling good, you see. Not being pressed for time. I did not have to worry about the train schedule or getting to sleep in time so that my wife had enough rest or making sure that I had enough sleep to be able to get up for the early train or anything. I stepped off the treadmill for the evening. It was very relaxing. Even if you only take your vacation from life in four hour doses, sometimes the right four hours is really medicine enough.

But what made the whole evening terrific was the conversation later.

After the dinner part of the meeting ended, I found myself in the bar with two older gentlemen from the board. One was in his early 80's and the other in his late 70's. We chatted for a long time over brandy. The topic of virginity came up and the elder fellow told us about losing his when he was 16. He came into NY with some chums from prep school and found himself with a much older woman, a prostitute. They all drew straws and he got to go second. He said she actually lit a cigarette and told him that he had until the cigarette finished burning to "complete his mission". He confessed he wasn't sure what his mission was! Anyway, he said he did go back to her one more time, after redeeming some of his dad's soda bottles to get another $5. I asked him if he brought a cigar with him for the second time and when he asked me why, I said, "well, cigars burn a whole lot longer, don't they?" He threw his head back and roared.

All in all, it was a fabulous way to end the evening as these two older gentlemen reminisced about their mis-spent youths. I felt quite lucky to be included in their conversation.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:53 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006


For what, I cannot say. But I feel poised, balanced, suspended between what has passed and what will occur. To a certain extent, we all are, aren't we? Every second of the day we live in a moment until the moment is no longer and we are in the next one. But sometimes, rarely, but sometime we can sense that exquisite tiny balance. Sometimes we become aware of how precariously we are perched in the present, not quite out of the past, not quite into the future.

I noticed it this morning as I was waiting for my train. It was 5:25 a.m. To my left, a short walk away, is the Long Island Sound and a charming beach. The sun was rising from that direction. It was painting the sky in bands of pink and orange and purple, all clearly delineated as if G-d had finally learned how to color within the lines, thank goodness. Above the colors, it was a very sweet baby blue. To my right, it was still night, complete with moon and stars and mostly black sky. And there I was in the middle, suspended between day and night, between yesterday's darkness and today's light. It was as if time had stopped for a moment, leaving me there to appreciate the balance as the clock ticked over for another day.

Perhaps I feel it because spring has, technically, arrived, although you wouldn't know it based on the serious cold snap we are trapped in. The cold weather actually makes you feel it better, the sense that you are suspended between time. You know spring is coming, because little green things are beginning to poke their heads through the earth, because I no longer travel to and from work entirely in darkness, because you can just feel it. But it is February cold, still, like winter hasn't quite finished with us. We are poised to shed our heavy coats and embrace the weak spring sun but it is not quite ready for us. We are expectant but still anticipatory.

Maybe it is because we are countdown mode for the arrival of our new child. Induction will be, as I mentioned before, on April 21, if he or she does not decide to poke his or her head out earlier. We are both ready (happy for the pregnancy to finish) and utterly unprepared for the birth.

Either way, I feel it -- hung up between possibilities. It can be exciting, sometimes. Like while I wait for a friend to provide introductions so I can continue to explore career change options (or futures, either instrument, really). The possibility is tantalizing, the reality of the perceived immediate professional future significantly less so.

I'm not sure where I am going with this entry but that's ok. I'm not sure what's going to happen when this pause between moments ends and I am launched, however unwillingly, into the future. Care to come along for the ride?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 10, 2006

Why I have been so quiet of late

I know that of late my poor little blog has suffered. I know that. I’ve seen the number of daily hits go down. But, between the quite encompassing demands of my job and the demands on the home front, my poor little blog has gotten squeezed out a bit. Couple all of that with the fact that I am a bit down and, well, the blog suffers as my motivation to write declines. I’ve had some time, this week. Not a lot of time, but enough time to think it through a bit and here’s where I am, here’s why I haven’t been writing. I have been feeling fey. Quite down, actually. A feeling that I am communicating with only great difficulty here. I’ll explain.

I am feeling overwhelmed by the idiotocracy. The feeling that the forces of stupidity are beating the forces of good. The sense that, looking at the world, we are not in a good situation at this point. True, there are sprinklings of good news here and there. See, e.g., recent elections in Canada as a ray of hope. But, by and large, it looks bad and it has my down and too tired to keep fighting the good fight. If you are unsure about what I am referring to, let me give you a non-exhaustive list:

*Venezuela – Chavez is a nutburger with oil money and strikes me as being a menace.

*Bolivia – Morales. Need I say more? If so, let me note that the Cubans and Chavez’s people have taken over security for him and he has dismissed the entire army general staff. Not good. We need our secret equipment back.

*Jimmy Carter – Hasn’t met a terrorist he can’t empathize with. As for his election to the Presidency, I demand a recount!

*Al Gore – Put a sock in it, Al. Telling the Saudis that we abuse Muslims is so beyond the pale that you, sir, are committing treason in my book.

*Israel – Looks more and more alone every day and seems unjustifiably to inspire more hatred and fear than anyone out there. I fear for her future.

*Jews – The world looks not so good for Jews these day, truthfully. I wonder if there has been more naked anti-Semitism in the world at any other time, WW II excepted. I worry about what I am bringing my kids into.

*Cartoons – Free speech and the great tradition of Western Liberalism has just been shot in the head and buried in a ditch behind the Mosque. Bravo to the Danish Government and brickbats to the craven Norwegians who officially apologized for free speech.

*Islam – This a religion of peace, are you kidding me? This is a religion which seems fundamentally incompatible with world peace and with anything approaching Western values. Why are we tip-toeing around on this? The Islamic world sure isn’t. Am I really the only one who thinks we are in a full blown ideological conflict, the biggest one since the Cold War ended?

*Europe – Further to the point above, by the way, I think it don’t look too frigging good for Europe. Pity. As one comedian once said, “Nice country; we beat them in world war II, you know?”

*Kids, today, or Moral relativism / Multiculturalism – What passes for the willingness to entertain a dissenting point of view today on our college campuses is nothing short of admirable, if your name is Josef Stalin, that is. Colonel Boyington and the University of Washington, springs to mind by way of example. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google it, rinse and repeat.

*Media – Big media is no longer worthy of trust. Can you believe the amount of ink spilled over Cheney’s hunting accident? Tell me, honestly, that the media has become one huge partisan hack. You can’t; because it has.

*Politicians – of either party. All they seem to be doing is scoring points on each other. They are not doing the people’s business. I am totally disgusted. When will we get politicians who govern instead of this lot? Maybe we get the politicians we deserve, but I’d like to think we deserve better than this lot.

*Africa – Repression in Zimbabwe, so bad that I have ceased trying to record it since the world clearly does not give a fuck. AIDS in every other country. Corruption. Starvation. Everyone dying and no one caring.

*Iran – Are we really gonna let these nice people get a bomb? Enough said.

This list could go on and on. But it won’t. One more point, though:

*Truth – I leave off on this point. When was the last time someone actually stuck to the truth in advancing an argument? When did everything become spin? This is the last casualty. I am so dispirited by the lies.

No wonder I can only find energy to write about my kids, lately.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:22 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 08, 2006

Today's sign I'm getting older

So, there I was in the fitness center this morning, after completing my workout, chatting with a couple of friends, one of whom is off to Amsterdam for her first trip. She's going for business, to close a very nice deal, and one of her business associates suggested that in celebration she get herself a pot brownie. This sort of scandalized my very nice friend and led to me making the following observation:

You know you're getting old, and I feel like I am all the time, when you kindly respond to the offer of a pot brownie by saying: gosh, thanks, but I'm on a low carb diet and I really can't eat that.

Water came out of my friend's nose. A successful snarf.

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March 03, 2006

See ya', Margi!

Margi is hanging up her blog. Go wish her well, will you? She's one of the really good ones, you know. I'll miss her writing, very much.

My only consolation is that she has done this at least once before and decided she couldn't stay away. I'm hoping that history repeats itself in this regard and she comes back soon.

So, instead of good bye, I will simply wish her a nice break and keep my fingers crossed.

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March 01, 2006

Catching up a bit

So, the birthday party of the Boy Child was grand. He threw himself around all over the place and loved it. Predictably, the cake was his favorite part. I had a good time, too. I put the camera down and spent as much time as I could chasing him and the other kids around the gym. It made for a very enjoyable party and a nice payoff for all the time I've been spending in the fitness center. In other words, I'm totally in shape enough to play and play hard.

I've actually been keeping a log, since Jan. 3, of my workouts so that I can show the doctor at my annual physical, which physical I need to schedule soon. Since Jan. 3, I have traveled some 130 miles and burned around 22,000 calories. Is it any wonder I have had to bring my cummerbund in on my tuxedo? That doesn't include all the weight lifting and pilates and general daily ab work. I will be, if this keeps up, the perfect picture of pumpitude.

D.C. was great. It was an excellent meeting for an informational interview, ending with an offer to not only continue contact but to have me meet with his colleagues if I thought it would be useful. That is really about as good as it gets with an informational interview. And it was mighty useful, filling my head with interesting ideas and thoughts and information about how to effectuate a career change into the financial services / investment management world.

Speaking of which, by the way, the one guy here in NY I was trying to summon up the courage to call next, just called me to invite me out for a drink because he wanted to learn more about the topic of the speech I gave last night. He heard that my speech was fantastic and he wanted to chat about it. Upon his return from foreign climes, we are going to meet up and I am going to share information with him and then ask him for his thoughts and, if willing, his assistance in making some introductions. This guy knows everyone, is terribly senior, and extremely well thought of. Somehow, he likes me and respects me. That he called me? A perfect alignment in the cosmos, somehow.

D.C. was chilly but beautiful. I know I repeat myself, but I like the place. Something to do with the human scale of the height of the buildings and the real youthful vibe it actually has. I got to steal lunch with my cousin and take the train back to NY with my dearest friend from law school, with whom I spent the entire ride chatting, reminiscing, and catching up.

Now? Well, now I am back in appellate briefing hell while, with the other hand, trying to keep a settlement from blowing up. Would you, dear reader, be so stupid as to let a million dollar deal go down the tubes for the sake of $150k? Well, after three days of intense conversations, I have convinced my clients to be flexible and bid that money goodbye in exchange for receiving the bright shinny other money. Some people, I tell you, can't keep their eyes on the ball.

Anyway, I hope you all our well and happy.

If I know you, and you know what I mean, and you are curious to see a picture from the Boy Child's birthday party, and promise to gush appropriately, drop me a note.

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February 23, 2006

Off to D.C. for the day

Tomorrow finds me leaving the house at 5:00 (right around my usual time, come to think of it) to head off to D.C. for a morning meeting. One meeting. Many hours of travel to partake in said meeting. While in D.C., after my meeting, I will have lunch with my cousin and ride back on the train with my bestest and dearest friend from law school. It should, from a social perspective, by quite a snappy day.

Oh, and the meeting, if it all goes swimmingly, could just result in a change of career somewhere down the line. It is an "informational interview". You know, you get to ask all sorts of questions while the other guy gets to decide whether you are smart enough to interview for a real job without any pressure to make a decision. At least, that's how I hope it will all pan out. We will see, won't we.

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Today's reason why I'm happy art history never panned out

I read the following statement by a curator of a new exhibit and it filled me with joy, the kind of joy you can only get when you realize you dodged a blivet (a fifty pound sack filled with one hundred pounds of horse manure):

"This exhibition is about arriving at a point of hypervision, where our senses are acute and we finally perceive the act of looking as a physical, emotional and transformative experience,” said Markonish. “The artists participating in ‘Hypervision’ bring viewers into this space of increased perception and make them conscious of their own act of looking."

Can you imagine spending your days in an environment where such language was not only acceptable but actually encouraged?

*exaggerated shudder*

I'm happy to keep thinking about art. Its the reading about it I can't seem to do anymore.

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February 22, 2006


When nursing a hangover brought on by mixing too much bourbon, white wine, red wine and a lovely post-prandial MacCallan 12 year old and then trying, but failing to sweat it all out after 60 minutes of working out (890 calories burned), it is just the height of unfairness for the guys laying carpet in the hallway outside of my office to be playing the Bee-Gees. At high volume.

I have no idea how I am going to get that song out of my head today.

I just hope it happens before I have to give remarks to 75 people at a dinner tonight at 6:00.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 21, 2006

Silence, etc.

Sorry for all the quiet. My office has been receiving a new paint job and new carpet. I have moved out and back. I have helped others move out and back. I am exhausted. Regular posting to commence again shortly.

I'm off to put on my tuxedo and have a drink.

Pax tibi.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Random walk through my brain

I have been way too swamped to put together a decent, coherent post. So, I choose instead to punish you all with a post consisting of semi-coherent, not totally thought out reflections. Your choice to read it, of course. No one will force you.

* * *

Defer my gratification? Please. I don't do that so well. I am not a good waiter. I am not patient in lines. I don't see everything as a plot to frustrate me when I am waiting in line, I just don't like it.

The same goes the other way. Good news? A present? I cannot wait to share them. I can barely wait for the birthday to roll around to give my wife her gift. Good news is the same thing. Even if it is a secret or if discretion is the better part of valor, I burn to share my happiness. Of course, that doesn't apply if it is somebody else's secret; those I can keep without a problem.

So, care to hazard a guess about what state I am in right now after being told that something marvelous is happening? Something splendid? That the chances of the something happening have now gotten way, way more better? But that the something I am referring to won't really start to be great, if it happens at all, until the end of 2008?

Two years to wait. Two years to count down until I know for sure. Two years before . . . I'm not even close to sure how to finish that sentence.

I got two years to count before I know. A lot can happen in two years. A lot of things can change or slip or mutate. Wars take place, circumstances are altered, capital markets can collapse. The Girl Child will be almost 7 by then and the Boy Child 5. The New Baby, assuming everything goes well, will be looking forward to his/her 2nd birthday.

So, here's to change properly directed and more good news in 2008.

* * *

Cheney in a hunting accident and CNN can barely keep its panties on. Does anyone really care about this? Would it be any different if he had whacked some guy in the face with a frisbee? Or smacked someone with his squash racquet?

I spent an hour in the gym listening to CNN go on and on about all sorts of things. I can't recall hearing one single positive word about America or our government. I don't get it. Really. According to CNN we are either Satan's spawn or terribly incompetent. For goodness sake, just pick one already.

* * *

New pictures of old abuse in Iraq. Timing of release? Suspicious. Behavior of news media who mention, as if an afterthought, that the pics are from 2003 and are not current, horrid.

* * *

Danish cartoons. Islamic reactions. Over-reactions, really. Can you imagine, if you tried, a more prickly less self confident group of people than those who are so terribly wounded by a Danish newspaper?

Come on, we're talking about Danes, here. A people so placid that their Prime Minister (or maybe Foreign Minister, can't recall) said that this was the worst foreign relations crisis for Denmark since World War II. Must be nice to be Danish.

Cartoonists pick up pens and people die. Just goes to show, the most dangerous thing in the world is not a nuclear weapon, it is an idea.

* * *

Work is, once again, kicking my butt. I think a new career is in order. I've been saying that for some time, however. Next Friday, I venture down to Washington D.C. to meet with someone who, if all the stars are aligned, might actually be able to help me. Maybe I can squeeze in a drink or late lunch with my cousin on the same trip. That would be nice.

* * *

I am feeling more curmudgeonly with every passing day. At this rate, I am going to just calcify in place.

Good thing we're having another baby. That keeps you young.

Or leaves you so tired you can't remember how old you are.

* * *

They are painting my office on Monday. That means I have to pack the whole thing into boxes and move it out into another room so they can paint. Everything has to go.

Tomorrow I wear jeans to work. And throw out a lot of stuff. Time to be ruthless since the situation is forced upon me.

I look around at the accumulated shite and I shudder. Probably easier to just fire to the whole thing and dance around it like some savage.

* * *

I learned that it is not true that you have to drink a bottle of vintage Port the same day you open it. This is happy news. You can keep it for between four days and a week, depending on which of the two experts I spoke to you care to believe. I err on the low estimate. Either way, I am glad to hear this.

* * *

Back to the salt mines.

Pax tibi.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:49 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 09, 2006

Our weekend away

We were adults last weekend. Childless adults. If you have kids, you know the kind I'm talking about. The kind who dress beautifully for dinner (because nobody is there to smear food on you by accident), the kind who goes to museums to spend as much time as they want there, the kind who gets up an hour before breakfast is served at their quaint b&b so that they can read Civil War history without fear of interruption or demands that other books by read to small critters, the kind who can imbibe adult beverages whenever they felt like it, the kind who could sleep without baby monitors buzzing away, the kind. . . No. Here I stop. You get the idea and if I keep this up the memories of my pre-child days, most of which I have carefully locked away, will return and drive me batty. No, instead, I will simply review our weekend.

Since it is a very long entry, the rest is below in extended entry.

We escaped, not without tears shed, on Thursday. The Girl Child was quite reluctant to see us go. In fact, the only way we escaped, I think, was to tell her that if we didn't leave, we could not return with a present. That, in a nutshell, was sufficient consolation. This was our first trip away from the kids in about a year.

The drive up to the Berkshires was lovely and took me through a part of Connecticut and Massachusetts I have never seen before. Must be terrific in the summer months. There is something to be said for going off season to a popular destination. The people are simply more relaxed, the traffic less frantic, the restaurants less crowded. It feels half empty and a little sad, sometimes. Sort of like everyone is waiting for something and you know that something ain't you. Its a slow time, made worse for the locals by the lack of snow, I perceive. No snow? No skiers.

We arrived at our b&b without incident. We stayed at the Applegate Inn. It was delightful. The breakfasts were yummy and copious and the room was luxurious and faintly decadent -- a bathtub in the middle of the bedroom overlooking the gardens and a shower with two shower heads. A gas fired fire place lit the room at night and they thoughtfully provided a full decanter of not bad brandy, which I availed myself of shamelessly. This was our room. The pictures don't really do it justice.

We had drinks soon after unpacking. The Inn has 5:00 wine and cheese. We met and chatted with some of the other guests, who we actually enjoyed meeting. Then off to dinner and an early night.

We started our day on Friday, our first full day, with a little shopping at the nearby outlet center. As with everything, we spent more money than we intended but got some good and useful stuff -- new winter boots (probably for next winter at the rate this one is going), for example. It was pissing down pretty hard that morning and I think we benefitted since, in many of the shops we went into, we were the only customers.

lion inn.jpg

Then, off we drove to Stockbridge for lunch. Stockbridge is the home of the Red Lion Inn and pretty well known. A little history first. The Red Lion Inn, operating since the late 1700's, claims to have been the headquarters for the 1786 Shays Rebellion during which "Daniel Shays led a group of more than 100 local farmers and citizens in protest to British oppression and unfair taxation".

Or so claims the Inn's site. I kind of doubt it myself. Firstly, the Brits were gone from Western Massachusetts in 1786. There was a little thing called the Revolution in 1776 so I doubt the Brits were still oppressing the farmers. Second, it was a bit more than a protest. In fact, it was an armed insurrection. The Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society has a well written write up on it. Second, most of the action was in Springfield, a good distance from Stockbridge. So, call me a sceptic.

Lunch at the Inn, however, was very nice and then, off we went for a post-prandial stroll, since the rain obliged and went away. Then off to the Norman Rockwell Museum. It so happens, we arrived in time for the Viking Bride to partake of some of the birthday cake they had out for Mr. Rockwell's birthday. Neat.

Before my visit, I sort of didn't really think much of Mr. Rockwell. My mistake. His work has a breadth and a depth of intellect and emotion that blew me away. Mostly, you have to see it yourself in the oils. The prints just don't do him justice. He was an American genius.

Some of my favorites include:

Freedom of Speech


The Gossips

After our museum visit, and more shopping in the bookstore, we rambled our way back to our Inn for wine and cheese and to dress for dinner.

We dined at another Inn, tucked away, far from everything. It was called the Williamsville Inn and it was perfectly charming and merits a return overnight stay, especially since they are very welcoming of kids. The dinner was excellent. First, they had mulled wine. I limited myself to one because, I don't know, but there must be something in the mulling process because I always find mulled wine to be much stronger than the unmulled variety. The Viking Bride and I had almost the undivided attention of the chef, there was only one other couple dining there that night. If you care, I had the: Trilogy of Duck Foie Gras on Corn-Raisin –Port wine sauce and the Sauerkraut Platter with sausage, boiled bacon, smoked pork loin & roasted vegetables, close to a choucroute, which I adore. The Viking Bride was happy with: Cheese Spaetzle with roasted onions, with Emmenthaler & Gruyere Cheese and Wiener Schnitzel, sauce tartar, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes followed by the Bavarian style warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce. Did I mention it was a German restaurant? If not, I'm sure you twigged to it by now. We ended up having just a lovely chat with the co-owners/chefs. We got back to our Inn on the late side, but not too late for a brandy.

Saturday was gorgeous and warm. We spent the morning limbering up, stretching the stomach muscles and getting ready for what I was sure would be a highlight of the trip. The Superbowl of Chili. That's right, sports fans, Chili. One of my top 3 foodgroups. Turns out a local art school was holding a fundraiser to build a salt kiln. You showed up at the school, picked out a handmade bowl for $10, filled it with chili, to your heart's content, and ate until you were sorry. It started, officially, at 11:00. We arrived at 10:45. I immediately scooped up the single largest bowl on the table. I grabbed a few more that I thought were just plain beautiful, paid, and made my selection among the five or six homemade chilis on offer. I filled the big boy with chili and looked around for my bride. She was still picking her bowl, carefully weighing them in her hands for balance and feel. I added sour cream and went back for hot sauce and grated cheese. She was examining the glazing for a pleasing consistency. I sat down. I waited. She selected between two bowls. I went back for coffee. She made her selection, chose a chili, and joined me. My chili was still warm, thankfully, although I think it was a much closer thing than this description might indicate.

We ate too much. Ok. I ate too much. I ended up having thirds. We also had a very nice chat with the director of the ceramics department and admired the girl with the blue hair.

It was pretty much perfection. How could we top that? By a beautiful drive up county to Williamstown to visit some art museums.

First up, the Clark. This is a gem of a place. A first rate collection of impressionists and some other lovely paintings. Including, this Monet:


Not necessarily worth a drive of more than 2 hours, we concluded, but a lovely place to visit just the same.

I cannot, however, say the same for the Museum on the grounds of Williams College. That museum was a wonderful example of everything that is soooo wrong with art historical scholarship today. It was a huge disappointment. If you visit and see the visitor comment book at the end of the exhibit on pain in photography, look below the gushing comments for mine. I left: "Contrived and terribly self conscious." See if they left it in. I'd be curious.

This exhibit, purporting to juxtapose the works of "contemporary artist" Lalla Essaydi and 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme in particular was atrocious. Let me quote from the press release:

This exhibition marks the unveiling of bold new work by contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi in which she challenges the worldview of 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme. Her large and provocative paintings are juxtaposed with Gérôme’s iconic painting The Slave Market, generously loaned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. All of the paintings in the exhibition depict classically rendered figures and evocative architectural settings; while the French picture invites voyeurism and stereotypes the so-called ‘Orient,’ Essaydi’s paintings will not allow it. All her figures gaze right back at us and command respect, be they male, female, or hermaphrodite. Complementing the monumental photographs of women, for which she is already well known, these paintings challenge our assumptions of North Africa to foster cross-cultural awareness.

If you thought that was perfectly sensible, I invite you to leave. Now. The essays that went along with the "paintings" selected for this were mere recitations of popular buzzwords and jargon, devoid of actual thought or first class criticism. It was enough that the paintings "transgressed", as if transgression was a goal in and of itself and as such worthy of praise and genuflection. I walked out angry and, at the same time, happy I did not end up in the field as a professional, which almost happened. A narrow escape indeed.

We then amused ourselves with a hot chocolate on Spring Street and a gentle stroll around parts of the pretty college campus, where all of the students looked to be no more than 15. 16 at the most.

At this point, our plans for the evening changed. The Viking Bride, who had been quite the trooper up to this point, felt that attending the Beethoven piano concert at the college that night was just beyond her. So we left, went back to the Inn for wine and cheese and had a perfectly forgettable dinner.

Sunday arrived and we departed. We left on the early side so as to enjoy the peace and solitude in our empty house, something of a novelty for us, I assure you. We had a happy drive down and went out for lunch, again, just the two of us.

We picked the kids up from my parents' tender care after naps and in time to join everyone for dinner. My dad, bless his heart, made yummy beef goulash and we ate too much and watched the first half of the Super Bowl with them. Then, home for baths and bed.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

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February 01, 2006

The quiet is deafening, ain't it?

I have been terribly busy and thus without sufficient time to really blog. This makes me feel a little bad because, no matter how putrid the outcome, I really enjoy the writing. Hopefully, I will have more time to blog going forward.

In the meantime, I hope not to lack for material as my lovely wife has given me a subscription to the Economist. How did I survive for so long without such a subscription? Partially there has been an intimidation factor. It is a serious obligation to read the Economist every week. Mighty time consuming and I just wasn't sure I would do such an expensive (around $100 a year) subscription justice. But, with my longer train ride, it looks like I will be able to fit it in just fine. Yay!

Look for more posts soon, I hope.

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January 25, 2006

Putting the Frazz in Frazzled

I have been a denizen of appellate briefing hell over this whole month. But it will soon pass. The brief (50+ pages so it ain't too brief) is due next Wednesday at the Appellate Division. But I have been running and running and running with this and trying to keep up with other responsibilities. So, a very short post as a kind of snapshot.

*A dinner in a wood paneled library. Black tie. Silver candlesticks with huge candles. A long table. A convivial group of some 50 people. It was mighty nice.

*A ton of work on a pre-marriage agreement for a lovely client. By a ton of work, I'm sure I have billed over $30,000 on it. Well, I believe that push has come to shove today and the client and his intended cannot come to an agreement. I am both happy (that he isn't getting stuck with this woman) and sad (that they couldn't make it work). I know it wasn't my fault. But, just the same. . .

*The English really do make beautiful shirts and I may have a problem here. Like, I may need an intervention. Hilditch and Key. At least they're on sale. My wife is gonna, well, not kill me, since she still needs me to do stuff around the house, but, she may be less happy than she has been in the past. Still, a great deal and who is it who does not love a great deal? Not I!

*I think that the combination of too much work stress and not enough sleep makes you feel like a pencil that has been sharpened too many times. Just a pathetic little nub, not good for much of anything.

*The Viking Bride and I are taking a romantic weekend away next week. Hoping to feel rejuvenated. We probably haven't done that since December 2004, I bet. And boy, that is waaaay too long between times away.

*I hope all my buddies are doing fine over on their blogs as I have lacked quality time to visit.

Pax tibi.

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January 20, 2006

It all makes sense now

I am a student of history. An amateur, to be sure, but a committed student with wide ranging tastes and interests. So many interests over so many periods in so many different locations that I would be hard pressed to pick just one to say, yes, that’s my favorite. But, if pressed, I confess to certain themes, certain issues, that I like to read about. Violent or revolutionary change is one theme, across cultures and in different places. Sometimes, when you read or when you observe, you are able to suddenly come up with an insight that escaped the professional historian. Maybe its because you are more widely read and have a less concentrated focus. But, either way, you have suddenly made a connection across cultures or periods and this connection allows you to evaluate or think about something in a new and different way. It is a serendipitous moment when it arrives.

I’ve just had one. For years and years and years, historians and anthropologists and archeologists have wracked their brains, trying to come up with a believable or at least plausible reason why the Mayans simply abandoned their cities in Mexico and Guatemala. Why did they just walk away from these gorgeous places they built over many years?

Well, I think I’ve come to know. Thanks to Connecticut Light and Power, I’ve been granted a stunning insight that has totally escaped the professionals.

Here’s what happened. The Mayans lost power and they moved back home with their parents. While they waited for Quetzal Luz & Electricidad to hook ‘em back up, the pipes in the pyramids burst and, rather than clean it all up, they just stayed at their parents’ house. And thus, the great cities were abandoned. Of course, QL&E still got a huge rate increase but the cities never came back.

Can’t you totally see it?

We actually didn’t have a burst pipe. And we did get our power back last night, thus allowing us to move home to discover that now that we had power, we had to call the oil company because we didn’t have heat. They were very nice and came over within the hour to bring our house back from the high 40's to a happier temperature.

Still, as we pulled away from my parents’ house last night, my daughter called to her grandfather: “Bye, Grandpa! See you at the next storm!”

That’s probably going to be this weekend.

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January 16, 2006

Refugees, with cake, from the storm

A huge storm hit our area on Saturday, and no, I’m not talking about my wife’s reaction to my having to stay at work until 9:30 on Friday night and then spend the whole day – through dinner – at the office on Saturday. The storm took down trees and power lines. It took our house off the power grid at 1:00 on Sunday morning. The temperature, in the meantime, plummeted. When we were up on Sunday morning, the day of the Girl Child’s birthday party, it was 55 degrees in the house. In case you were wondering, no power with a forced air heating system means no heat in the house. It was around 25 degrees outside. It did not look good for our heros. Snow, ice everywhere, and a very hopeful Girl Child.

Happily, for her, the party went off without a hitch. Almost all of her guests came and she had a lovely time. We had the party out of the house at a local gymnastics place. The Girl Child was the center of attention, surrounded by her friends, all of whom seemed to like her and were happy to be with her. It was sweet to see. The kids were all run ragged and the real shocker was the Boy Child. My son is without fear and with exceptional coordination. He declined any and all help on the balance beam, walking all by himself from end to end, many times, and then happily threw himself into the pads to dismount. He’d climb on other things as high as he could and throw himself into matts. He bounced, he rolled, he insisted on doing everything the older kids were doing. The staff, unsolicited, volunteered that they had never seen anything like him. I think we’re going to sign him up for gymnastics. I’m not sure we have a choice. The remainder of the Carvel ice cream cake came with us.

After the party, we went back to the house. Temp? 49 and falling. Decision? Evacuation to my parents back in Westchester. Run all the taps in the house, pack the bags, set the alarm (on extensive battery backup) and hope for the best. As evacuations go, it wasn’t horrible. We were taken out for a lovely dinner and the Viking Bride and I slept on the floor of my childhood room while the kids had a sleep over in my sister’s old room. Just the same, we slept terribly and the kids were up hours and hours before they should have been.

Power, according to CT L&P, was not going to be restored until midnight tonight. However, according to my alarm company (I heart these guys), power came back on at around 7:30 this morning. I immediately called the house and was thrilled to hear my wife’s voice on the answering machine, meaning that power really was back.

The kids are spending the rest of the day with my mother and my wife, who headed back up to the house, just called in to report that the power is back, the heat is back, all the water is still running, and, mirabile dictu, none of the Champagne froze and exploded!

Not exactly how my wife had hoped to start her birthday, but, there you go.

Happy birthday, my child bride!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:35 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006


I gather that here on MuNu, it is de-lurking week. This means that if you come by and visit but don't generally leave comments, this is the week to leave a comment, to step out of the shadows, to just say hello or to slag me off because you think the site is shite. Seriously, if only to satisfy my own curiousity, should you choose to de-lurk, would you mind telling me how you came to this blog? Thanks!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:28 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

Brief shower of existential angst, followed by doubt

In helping to clean out my grandfather’s things, I took for myself a large number of old photographs, many of them of me when I was a child.

I gaze upon this child, with his hazel eyes holding an intense gaze and his skin kissed gold by the sun, and I don’t recognize him at all. I feel no kinship, no sense of immediacy, no relationship at all. It is as if I have never met the boy. I recognize the bookcase he is posed in front of, remember the color it was painted, even some of the books. I actually recall the t-shirt, it was a favorite. But of the boy, of the person, nothing. It is as if I have no connection to the past. When did that happen, I wonder?

I know I was not created fully formed, as if sprung up from the earth, a man with hair going gray at the temples and wearing a suit and a tie, a man with a mortgage and responsibilities, with children and a job. I’m not sure what happened to the child, the boy. My memories of him are evanescent.

Alienated from the past, is it any wonder that sometimes one feels adrift in the present? And thus, unsure, uncertain, unable to visualize the future?

Or is it all just a crock of shit?

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January 08, 2006

Amy's back!

Amy is back on the web! YAY!

Links joyfully updated! All systems go!

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Observe the forms

There are certain forms, certain of what used to be commonly accepted ways to initiate interaction and social discourse. These are, probably, thought of as old fashioned by some and as taboos to be transgressed by iconoclasts and other self-consciously hip trend setters, both young (who ought to be rebelling against something) and old (who really ought to know better, but so be it). But they are neither. These forms, this kind of politeness, is neither old fashioned nor unnecessary. They include words like: please; thank you; excuse me; pardon me; may I trouble you; or, do you mind. These words provide a sort of social lubrication so that the parts in the great social machine (meaning, you and me) do not rub up against each other and snag or create friction which leads to heat. They allow our wheels to move more smoothly when we have to mesh together, even if only for a brief moment. I insist on them, both for myself and my children. My wife and I, if you can believe it, actually say please and thank you to each other, both as a matter of habit and course and because our kids might as well see manners in action -- do as I say and as I do.

So, background over.

This morning, as I awaited the 7:34 train to come and whisk me away to the bib bad city and to my desk where multiple tasks were provided by my kind and munificent employers to both delight and entertain me, I gazed out over the quiet, and mostly empty, parking lot. It was peaceful and I was sort of pleasantly lost in thought as my mind kind of drifted this way and that, sort of just bobbing along with the flow of my relaxed little stream of consciousness. The snow was falling, rapidly but not heavily, kind of drifting down etherally and lightly but quickly. It was kind of nice.

Then, an interruption.

"Do you know when the train comes", I was asked.

No, excuse me or pardon me or sorry for interrupting but . . . I dislike that quite a bit, as if you didn't know by now. If it were me asking, I would make some sort of prefatory apology first because I certainly don't think that just because you are standing there, just because you exist, you owe me any information or indeed any form of social discourse at all beyond the social implied contract that you will leave me alone and not trouble me and, hopefully, not impinge on the quiet exercise of my own liberties. That's certainly what you can expect, I believe. So, I acknowledge that and then ask for assistance or information or whatever.

Now, having examined what was missing from her question, let's look at what was there and reflect, if you are still reading, on why it was a bad question on at least a couple of levels.

First, I could have simply answered it, yes. Yes, I know when the next train is coming. Although, actually, even though the question is structured to permit such an answer, I would have to have a claim to some kind of omniscience that I do not really possess to know when the train is coming. So, I suppose I could have simply answered it, no, I do not know when the train is coming.

How could I know when the train is coming? I cannot see it, I have no GPS relationship with it. No, the most I could know is when the train is supposed to arrive at my station, when it is scheduled to arrive. That I could know and that I could tell her.

But you see, all she asked is whether I knew, not for the information I actually had to convey, although I believe she really meant to know the information and was not really inquiring whether I was generally informed and possessed of the information. Although, I suppose she could have been. Maybe she was seized of a compulsion to generally inquire of her fellow citizens to gauge their level of information concerning train arrivals and departures. Perhaps an over or under medication issue and not simply the evidence of a sloppy thinking process.

All that said, I doubt she walked away from our encounter thinking much more of me than I of her. I answered her thusly:

"Do I know when the train is coming? No. However, it is scheduled to arrive here at 7:34."

She walked away, her braided pig tails, so incongruous in a woman over ten, bobbing in her wake, seemingly so content with the information I provided that she, in the bliss of her contentment, neglected to thank me.

And so the wheels of social interaction grind together and stop. A little lubrication probably would have helped. I think you know what I mean. And since you do, let me not neglect to thank you for actually reading to the end of this rant.

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January 01, 2006

Breaking in the new year right

The new year began with snow for us here in coastal Connecticut. Lots of thick, wet snow everywhere.

So, our new year officially began with snow suits for the children and a shovel for me. They tried out their new sleds (Hanukkah gift from my parents) with great shrieks, dastardly spills, and dizzy revolutions. I would pause in my occupations of shoveling driveway and sidewalk to watch and listen to the shouts of laughter. Indeed, watching the 22 week pregnant Viking Bride slide down the slope was excellent, too.

After an hour spent in the snow, we rang in the new year properly. The kids had oatmeal with dried fruits and I. . . I had some hard earned contentment. I sat at the kitchen table amid the happy bustle of my family with the NY Times spread before me and a large mug of fresh brewed coffee into which I liberally added milk and Cognac. A cafe corretto, in Italian, or a kaffe avec, in Norwegian. Still, whatever you call it, it is a lovely reward for an hour of hard work on a cold morning.

Nothing to make a habit of, but it gives a nice glow to the new year, to a new beginning.

Not a bad thing at all, really. I wish you all a happy new year, filled with shrieks of fun and a little bit of Cognac for when it gets cold.

I have written and deleted a sentence about three or four times now, however, concerning a matter of grave concern to me. I am trying not to rush to judgment about something until I have all the facts, but just the same, I feel a great sense of unease. An uncle may have committed a breach of trust in our family concern, a concern of which I am a board member. I wish I did not have to start the new year wondering if my uncle is a goniff. And trying to figure out what to do about it. Either way, even if it is totally innocent, and the amount of money involved makes it hard to think that way, any faith or trust I may have in his judgment is impaired. So, in truth, it is a rather mixed way to start the new year and not, I hope, a harbinger of things to come.

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December 30, 2005

A Retrospective on the Old Year

Well, another year is almost in the books and, like many, I greet the thought of slamming that book shut with a mingled sense of relief and nostalgia. Seems like a good opportunity to take stock of what transpired, think about roads not taken, and just sort of aimlessly reminisce.

First, this felt like the year of the disaster to me. From the tsunami to Katrina to earthquakes in Pakistan to the new wild fires (or maybe not so wild) in Texas and Oklahoma. Basta, I say. Enough. I think we’re all officially good on natural disasters, ok?

Second, this has been a year of no small change for me and mine. I’m not even sure where to begin. Maybe sort of chronologically.

*The Viking Bride quits and takes new job.

*The beloved nanny serves out her contract and leaves. We get new nanny for about three months and she goes home at request of her parents. We get next new nanny who only lasts a month.

*We sell our house in Westchester and buy a new place in Connecticut. We move. In the process, we live with my parents for a month.

*My grandfather breaks his hip and begins his slow physical and mental decline culminating in his death earlier this month. Many weekends spent visiting with him, mostly with the kids in tow. We bury him.

*My wife and I find out that we are going to be adding a third college tuition obligation come May of ‘06.

*I rediscover physical exertion and begin to exercise. Perspiration is good.

*As a result of above, I get to start buying nice clothes again and my wife doesn’t even seem to mind!

*The Boy Child begins to do his thing on the toilet and, last night, receives his first pairs of big boy underwear! YAY!

The year has been filled with lovely things. Long walks with my family; spying on deer and wild turkeys; hunting for seashells; swimming in the ocean; trips to the playground.

In fact, I notice, I do not have a single thing down about any professional success or failure. Well, I think that may be because this was the year that I tinkered with my career and because I value my family and take more pleasure in them than from anything else.

I applied for, interviewed for (second round) and probably would have taken jobs in any of Ft. Worth, Miami, Chicago and Washington D.C. All of these would have been government jobs, by the way, mostly regulatory and prosecutorial in nature.

I applied for and interviewed for a change of field job which I did not get and I am kind of not totally crushed about. More of that to come in the new year.

I am in the midst of career angst, unhappiness mixed with not a lot of sense of what I want to do next, no burning attraction to anything. So, unfocused angst.

The new year ought to be interesting. I have a lead on a change of career job. Might even pan out, you never know. I’ll know more in the new year. In the meantime, I will continue to push forward on all fronts. Even and including continuing to build my law practice, since, hey, you never know.

I had some nice recognition on the not for profit front, being put on another board. Got to meet some interesting, intelligent, and pretty famous people through that. Also got to wear my tuxedo a lot, which was a nice bonus.

I made a lot of friends this year, both through this blog (you know who you are and I feel it would be undignified to be specific) and in the flesh. Sometimes, both, as I got to have dinner and drinks with Helen and with Simon. Still waiting for Jim to get up to NY or me to Atlanta.

All in all, to sum up the summing up, the best parts of 2005 were spent with those I love and those who I like and learned to like even more. I suppose if there is a lesson here, and I am cursed to always seek a lesson from past experience, it is that the people matter. Find good people (add good wine if you can, just saying) and the rest will fall into place.

I plan to spend next year trying to be more patient with those who need patience and to cherish the ones I hold dear as much as I can.

I also plan to win a lottery or something and become filthy rich. And when I win, I want them to show up with beer. A real beer. Like Keystone. (Am I the only one who remembers that campaign?)

So, let me wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year, filled with joy and peace and with obstacles that, once overcome, leave you feeling like the greatest thing ever.

If you can’t have that, I wish you instead onion rings covered with chili and cheese. Works for me in a pinch, what can I say?

Pax tibi.

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December 28, 2005


*When you say the title, by the way, say it in a creepy half British half Frankenstein kind of voice, ok?*

We are the house of plague. Except for me, everyone in the house is sick. Saturday morning, at 1:30 (thank you very much), I was awakened by the sound of the Girl Child sobbing in the bathroom. Ear infection, said the doctor some 9 hours later, both ears, full blown. Antibiotics. The Boy Child has a factory in his nose devoted to the production of snot. Requires nose blowing assistance at all hours of the night. The Viking Bride down with a nasty cold, too, with a cough that keeps her and me up all night. There is little sleep to be had and that sleep that we do get is not quality or good. I am feeling a bit punchy.

However, still up for the early morning train and the gym, although I am now doing the psychiatrist's hour work out (that's 50 minutes, by the way) instead of the full 60.

Hanukkah was still fun, the first night, even though they were both sick and icky. They loved the presents -- a Playmobile Viking Longboat for the Girl Child and a wooden train set for the Boy Child. I got a nice tie from my wife. A really nice tie. A Borrelli hand cut and hand sewn tie. Makes most of my other ties a little ashamed to be hanging next to it. We celebrated at my parents' house with homemade brisket and homemade latkes, both really outstanding.

We also had my cousins up for the weekend from D.C. I was so glad to have them there. My cousin J is about 10 months younger than I am and the second oldest grandchild. We were pretty close growing up. It was nice to be together, now that my grandfather is gone. He would have loved that we were together. So, it was extra nice even if it was bitter sweet.

This week is flying by and I am feeling great pressure to produce some things at work. However, it is hard to feel motivated when you kind of hate your job and when you are none to happy in the field in general. I look forward to completion of these projects.

Hope you all are well and had a lovely holiday, whichever it was that you were celebrating.

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December 24, 2005

Early Christmas Present

So, we're sitting here with the Giants/Redskins game on mute and I start to cheer when the Giants pick off a pass: "HE. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY!"

My wife looks up from her book and says: "This is a big one, right? If the Giants win here they win the NFC East, don't they?"

Shocked silence as a smile spreads over my face and I thank my lucky stars all over again.

I hope you all get exactly what you want and, if you get something else, you have the wit to recognize, as I just did, that maybe it was exactly what you wanted anyway.

Merry Christmas!

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December 22, 2005

Starved for input

You know that you are starved for input, that you have been kept too long from the glittering lights, when you take amusement, great amusement, in trading emails with your wife in which every other word is in a different language as you alternate between French, English, Norwegian, German and Spanish, all in one sentence. It began with a simple: "Tout va bien, i dag?" And rapidly spun out of control.

What the heck. Beats working, right?

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December 20, 2005

New ways to find pain in the gym

It is called Pilates. One fellow fitness center regular who has become a friend has brought a Pilates instructress into the FC in the morning to lead him in Pilates floor exercises. He kindly allowed me to join in and try it. I did that morning and learned a new way to say pain. We lay on the squash courts on mats and were tortured for about an hour by this gorgeous young woman. My abs may need a day or so to recover.

Anyone out there done this before? Should I continue with it? Are there any benefits to it that you found?

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One odd interchange

This was after my grandfather's funeral and back at my parent's house. I don't want to forget this one, so I might as well share it with you here. Now remember, at this point, there were all sorts of people I didn't know at my parents' house:

Aunt M to me: How come I never got an invitation to your house in Westchester?

Me: Because we sold it and moved!

Stranger: You sold your house? How much did you get for it?

Me: (After turning to look at him and think about it for several long seconds) (Hold out my hand to shake) Hello, I'm Random Penseur. How nice to meet you.

Stranger: Hi, I'm Wendell Something. So, how much did you get for it?

Me: You know what, Wendell, I'm not at all sure that I'm comfortable having this conversation with you. And by the way, what are you doing to my father's bookshelves?

Stranger: I'm re-arranging the books so that they look nicer, putting them in size order. Doesn't that look better?

Me: I couldn't say (walking away shaking head).

I went and asked my dad if he knew some odd guy was re-arranging his books and he, already pretty emotional, went in and told the guy, after asking me if I was kidding, that if he didn't put every book back where it was, my dad was going to throw him out of the house. My dad later said he felt violated by having the guy rummaging through his shelves. I understand completely.

Like I said, an odd interchange all the way around.

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December 19, 2005

Cleaning up loose ends

I spent most of Saturday morning helping my uncle pack and ship the remainder of my grandfather's belongings out to both my uncles in California. For which, UPS wanted a shocking sum of money, by the way. I'd like to say it was cathartic, or some other such psychobabble like thing that emphasizes healing and being in touch with your feelings and being good to the earth. It wasn't. It was just a loose end. We all come to loose ends, I suppose. We leave behind wonderful memories and a huge pile of junk that has to be disposed of, stuff that was meaningful to you and that you kept for some reason that is not at all apparent to those who come cleaning up after you. Some of it was clearly important, and that was shipped.

I took a box for myself with maybe 30 or 40 CD's, mostly classical music. My grandfather liked them and that was good enough for me. In the box was a very nice selection of Gilbert & Sullivan songs. I popped it in the CD player in the car for the ride home, to share it with my kids. My kids had spent the morning with my parents and I picked them up after finishing up with my uncle and dropping him back off at the train. I have no idea why I am noting these logistical details but I can't seem to make myself stop. So be it.

As we were driving through Connecticut, I heard the beginnings of one of my favorite songs, "I am the very model of a modern major general" and I warned the kids that this next song was going to be a doozy. Of course, since they have excellent taste, they loved it. They started dancing in the back seat to the song and demanded it be turned up, which I did. And then I started to cry at the same time I was laughing. Laughing at their antics and crying because I knew that my grandfather would have loved that his CD had brought the kids so much pleasure. And I was sorry he wasn't there to see it.

Its the little things that get you. Like just noticing that I have his name written on my telephone speed dial.

Another loose end. I guess it isn't necessary to try to get them all.

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A word to be weary of

Truly. I am weary of truly. I think it is a word that implies dishonesty. When you see it used these days, it seems to be used in a way to emphasize the sincerity of the speaker's emotion or reassurance at that particular moment. "I am truly grateful". "Truly sorry". "Truly happy". Sort of says to me that all the other times you said you were grateful or sorry you really weren't, since you now feel the need to emphasize this time that you are really, in truth, grateful. I say a pox on truly. Either you mean what you say or you don't. Either way, leave poor truly out of it.

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December 12, 2005

To sum up, albeit briefly

My grandfather is dead and, five days, buried. I am still devastated by his death and by my loss. I am sure that the passage of time will make my grief less sharp, will smooth over the jagged edges of my emotions, will help me hurt a little bit less. At least, I hope it will. You see, his passing has left me feeling a bit empty and somehow like someone has sucked all the color out of the world. Since I like to think I don't tend to the melodramatic, I leave it to you to figure out just how sad I really am based on that last sentence.

I want to give some passing impressions from the last few days, so as to record them for myself in the future:


*The funeral day was terribly cold. It was held at his old synagogue in New Rochelle. I sat in his old seat, the seat he had occupied all the years I had attended high holiday services with him. I thought, somehow, that it would make me feel closer to him. It didn't. It just felt weird and may have driven home his absence more fully.

*The casket was so very small for such a powerful and vibrant man. I had problems looking at it. I declined, as if stung by a live wire, the invitation to view the body. The family, you see, has to identify the body. I let my uncles and father and mother do that. My wife went in, too. I told my uncles that I absolutely had no interest, that the last memory of him I wanted to preserve was my cupping his beautiful face in my hands, my telling him that I loved him, and my kissing him goodbye. Not the image of him dead and in his coffin. No thanks. My wife should not have gone in. She is taking his loss very hard and she came out and buried her face in my collar bone and sobbed. She loved him very much and he loved her.

*I have little memory of the eulogies. My uncles and mother each spoke and they all spoke quite well. It was hard not to cry but I held it together. At least, up to the point where the grandsons gathered to wheel the casket from the sanctuary. When we got outside, I sobbed inconsolably. I felt myself gathered up in someone's arms and comforted and didn't even know who. I have no idea how long I cried for. I eventually realized it was my cousin J who held me. He and I are the closest in age.

*The ride to the cemetery took a very long time. We passed the time in the limo, the kids' limo (no adults allowed!), by exchanging stories and memories and teasing each other. That was nice.

*The cemetery was terribly frigid. He was lowered into the earth next to my grandmother. I put a stone on the headstone to mark that I was there for her, as well. I gather I was the only one who did that.

*You may not know this, but Jews bury their own. You put a shovelful of dirt on the coffin yourself. I did this. I took off my gloves so that the cold of the wood and the metal would burn my hands and fingers. I took a big shovelful and I draped it over his coffin as if I were laying a blanket on him. It hurts to remember this, by the way. And then. . . Well, then I fell sobbing into the arms of my Uncle E. He held me as I cried and I have to say made noises like I have never heard before, like I was some wounded animal. After I recovered, and we said the Mourners' Kaddish, I returned the favor, the comfort, to my cousin J as I held him while he cried. Everyone left and I lingered, gazing into the hole, unwilling to leave because I just could not bring myself to say goodbye. My wife had to pull me away with a gentle tug.

*I remember basically nothing of the ride home to my parents. We washed our hands outside on the porch before going into the house. My children were there and the Boy Child was in fine form, not bothered in the slightest by all of the strangers, quite content to sit by himself in the dining room along the wall, filching cookies for himself. He was a source of joy and comfort.

*We stayed that first night until about 8 or 8:30. The Rabbi came over and we had the evening service at 7:30 and all said the Kaddish. He left a set of prayer books for us to use during the shiva period and I promised to return them.


*Shiva started at 1:00 in the afternoon. Before it began, I returned the books to the temple. We were supposed to get a huge snow storm and I was concerned that if we did, I would be unable to return the books and, well, what if some other family needed them?

*I drove back to New Rochelle, after dropping our old nanny off at her friend's house. Did I mention that our first nanny flew in from Utah just to attend the funeral? That gives some indication of my grandfather's magnetic personality.

*I dropped the books off and I spent a little time with the secretary looking at the various places on the walls of the synagogue where my grandfather's name appeared. Then I went back upstairs and sat by myself in his old seat in the sanctuary, all alone. I am not sure why. It did not bring me peace. If anything, it made me more sad as I wondered if this would be the last time I ever visited this place where I had spent so many years. It is a beautiful room. I miss it already, but then, I suppose I am predisposed to mourn the passing of things at this very moment.

*Shiva was long. Lots of visitors, lots of food. I didn't get home until after 8 that night. I spent some very important time with my uncles. My uncle S told me that he knew how important my grandfather was to me, how much of a father figure he really was, how much of a void he filled, a role he played. I had no idea he knew and am not even sure I totally knew. There were more tears that day. I still felt so alone. My uncles and mother (and my father) are so hurt by his death.


*The storm hit over night and it was a big one. I drove down to Westchester anyway. I had to get the car serviced that morning but I was the only one there so I was in and out in a half an hour.

*I then drove over to my grandfather's old house. I met my uncle S there. Later my cousin E arrived. I spent over three hours with them selecting photographs from my grandfather's collection of family pictures. Some of them will go into a book we will make, including, for example, the water color caricatures of him and my late grandmother made in 1948 on a trip to Havana, Cuba. This was a lovely, although very dirty time. We laughed, we compared pictures, we reminisced. It was grand. I filled quite a box with pictures, a lot of them of my mother from the 1940's. My grandfather, by the way, appears to have never taken a bad picture. He was quite photogenic.

*We then sat shiva at my parents. No one came. No one. The storm was too much for them. Instead, my wife left work early and joined us and we all gathered, some 12 or 14 strong in the family, around the dining table and ate my father's homemade spaghetti and meatballs and drank wine and laughed and shared memories and stories and gave each other a hard time. Comfort food, my dad called it. And it was, for the soul and the body. It was beautiful and the one person who would have enjoyed it the most couldn't be there. My grandfather enjoyed his family more than anyone I've ever met. It was a constant source of delight and strength to him. He would have loved dinner that night. Just loved it.

*After we left, my uncle E read out loud some of the letters they found that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in the 1930's. They were, I'm told, delightful. My uncle is going to copy them and send them around in a very limited distribution to all the grandchildren.


*Spent this day back at my parents. At least, most of the day. We went back down to help my dad clean up and we ended up sitting and going through all the family pictures I had selected the day before. Lots of laughs.

Today is my first full day back at work.

It is very hard, still. I expect it will be for a long time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:23 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

Well, I guess its true

His obituary appeared today. I can't pretend that it was a mistake anymore. Because I conduct this blog behind a thin gauze curtain of anonymity, I cannot publish his obituary here. I'd like to. They do obits for prominent people in advance, did you know that? So that when there is a death, they can just run it after some quick updating. I read his today and learned some things about him that I never knew:

*Once CEO of a NY Stock Exchange traded corporation.

*Once National Conference of Christians and Jews Man of the Year.

*Once a recognized expert in New York City real estate law and regulations.

All that came as a surprise to me. You would never have known these things if you had spoken to him. He wasn't humble but he had the kind of deep inner self confidence that did not require a recitation of accomplishments in order to assure the listener of his place in the cosmos.

I am bereft.

I attended synagogue yesterday and today at lunch time for the afternoon service to recite the mourner's kaddish. The first day was too weird -- it was among the Lubuvitchers (spelling?) in mid-town. Didn't enjoy it all. Today I went to the Garment District Congregation, over on 7th Ave and 40th. I recited the kaddish and broke down in the middle, forcing myself through the ancient cadence as the words washed over me, as the congregation recited it with me. I knew no one in the room, other than my father. There, surrounded by strangers, I said the formal mourning prayer.

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

You may find this explanation interesting, assuming you read the translation from the Hebrew. Because if you did, you would have noticed that there is no mention of death, just of peace.

Having read the translation of the Kaddish Prayer, one should realize that, although Jewish Law requires that the Kaddish be recited during the first eleven months following the death of a loved one by prescribed mourners, and on each anniversary of the death (the "Yahrtzeit"), and by custom in the State of Israel by all Jews on the Tenth of Tevet ("Yom HaKaddish HaKlali'), there is no reference, no word even, about death in the prayer!

The theme of Kaddish is, rather, the Greatness of G-d, Who conducts the entire universe, and especially his most favored creature, each individual human being, with careful supervision. In this prayer, we also pray for peace - from apparently the only One Who can guarantee it - peace between nations, peace between individuals, and peace of mind.

Paradoxically, this is, in fact, the only true comfort in the case of the loss of a loved one. That is, to be able to view the passing of the beloved individual from the perspective that that person's soul was gathered in, so to speak, by the One Who had provided it in the first place.

As Beruriah, the great wife of Rabbi Meir, consoled her husband, upon the death of their two sons, with words to this effect, "A soul is comparable to an object which was given to us - to each individual, to his or her parents and loved ones, to guard and watch over for a limited time. When the time comes for the object to be returned to its rightful owner, should we not be willing to return it? With regard to our sons, let us therefore consider the matter as 'The L-rd gave, and the L-rd took back, may the Name of the L-rd be Blessed!' "


I hope, now that his soul has been taken from me, that there is someone else who is caring for it. That concept is somewhat comforting.

Thank you all for the comments you've left. They've helped more than I would have thought possible, actually. And for those of you who have sent me emails, I am very touched. I had not intended to leave comments on for the last post. I haven't had any comments on for any of the posts about my grandfather but I am glad I was too distracted to remember to shut them off. So, I'll leave them on now, too.

Tomorrow is the funeral. We start to sit shiva after the funeral. I may not be posting for the next couple of days. Or I may post compusively as I try to write through my grief. I'm scared about tomorrow. I'm afraid I will melt away. I am barely keeping it together now. On the other hand, maybe it will come as a relief.

Either way, tomorrow will be a very cold day for a burial. Seems fitting.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:34 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 04, 2005

October 6, 1914 - December 3, 2005

I awoke this morning to a blanket of snow on the yard, to more snow falling, and to the grim news heralded by the blinking light on the answering machine that my grandfather died last night. My mother didn't leave the news on the machine, but I knew why she was calling at 11:47 p.m. Why else?

I am curiously empty.

I told the kids this morning over breakfast. The Girl Child looked up from her oatmeal (with pomegranate seeds, pretty yummy). She wanted to know: "why did he go so early, before the new baby came?" I explained it was just his time, that he was very old and very sick.

We visited him yesterday, the Girl Child and Boy Child and me. They played in his room and gave him kisses. I cupped his head in my hands, peered into his beautiful eyes and told him that I loved him when I left. His eyes were odd. Multi-hued and strangely translucent and terribly fragile looking. He began to tremble during our visit and I went and found another blanket to tuck around his shoulders. I am happy that I was able to provide something for him. My mother thinks that he was waiting for me to visit so he could go. She bases this on the fact that he told me, when I asked how he was, that he was going to be going soon. I don't know. Perhaps. I am sceptical.

I wrote about his birthday last year (2004), if you are curious.

I suspect it hasn't hit me yet. I am, not curiously empty, but painfully empty. The grief, when it deigns to arrive, will be convulsive. It will not, I suspect, be grief for him as much as it will be grief for me. When someone dies, someone who was so intimately involved and such an integral part of your life, he takes you with him. Your life, a part of it, has died with him. The reminiscences are gone with him, the shared memories are gone. The shared memories have gone from a dialogue to a monologue. Monologues are lonely. His memories, his views of our experiences together, have returned to the earth.

I'm also going to be feeling bereft. His guidance, his advice, his protective and sheltering embrace and presence is gone. I feel less protected just by his no longer being.

My wife is reading about shiva, sitting next to me, in the Jewish Book of Why. She just said, "this is so confusing". Welcome to the practice of Judaism.

I may write more later. It is all too fresh.

I need to go take the wine off the stove. I am reducing a bottle of wine to a cup in order to make a wine reduction to braise some short ribs in. That's what we seem to do in my family. People die, the survivors cook.

I have not spellchecked this.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:37 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

December 02, 2005

Thought for the day

Lift hard or go home.

I anticipate the pain to begin sometime tomorrow. More ambitious parts of the body will start hurting sooner.

Just a thought, when using a personal trainer for weight lifting, as I have been doing, and not just for some bullshit weeny motivation for cardio, you could do better than to mimic my example of motivating my trainer to push me harder by: asking him when he was going to actually start making me work; inquiring whether I was paying him so we could sit around; asking whether that was really all the weight he wanted me to lift; and basically implying that he wasn't pushing hard enough. I suspect this is going to end in tears. Mine. And by tears I mean both the saline from the eyes and the thing that happens when a muscle rips. Same spelling, two meanings and I think I mean both.

But all that said, how else are you going to convince the guy that a leg press at 230 is for wimps? By making him let you do it at 290 and going for 15 reps easily, that's how.

He says I'm the only client who tells him that he doesn't make me work hard enough.

I can believe it.

Lift hard or go home. That's what he's taken to saying. Me? I tell him that I want to leave it all on the floor, that I want to leave the room with nothing left in me.

Maybe he'll start believing me.

We only lift together once a week, but I try real hard to get in there at least every business day morning to do at least 45 minutes of cardio.

How often do you all work out?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

I have lacked, what, lately

Something. I'm not entirely sure what, though. Inspiration? Energy to post? Material? What?

Has this exercise run its natural course? Should I bow out now rather than let the poor thing expire from lack of care and attention?

Beats me. I don't think I'm ready to do that, although I may be teetering a bit. It may just be that I am feeling a tad beaten down at the moment with the confluence of recent events -- my grandfather (terribly sick but still lingering); a bout of stomach flu; the whole stress of the nanny situation; the pregnancy; unhappiness with my current employment; etc. I think I stop here with the list. It grows unseemly and smacks of whining. To balance it out, though, and to note that there are still bright spots and that not all is doom and gloom, I was just told by a retired three star Marine General that my leadership on a recent committee I chaired was "superb". That was rather nice, considering the source.

So, stay tuned. I'm not ready to hang it up. I'm just, perhaps, in a bit of a dry spell coupled with a severe case of the lassitudes.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:52 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving: To abstain


That’s the word of the day for Thanksgiving this year. Why, you may wonder, would I associate the word abstemious for a holiday that has become practically a byword for gluttony?

Because our littlest bio-terrorist gave the Viking Bride and me the gift that keeps on giving. And giving. And giving.

Matching stomach bugs. Hit us both at about 2:30 on Monday morning. The Viking Bride is of an iron constitution and got up and spent the day training the new nanny.

I spent it in bed, more or less, and I think you know what I mean by that qualifier.

Thus, I anticipate a quiet Thanksgiving, a Thanksgiving spent more for the company than the food. The company has always been good, in the past. In the past, though, we’ve all always eaten too much. Way too much. And that has always been fun. The Viking Bride once described hunger on Thanksgiving as the absence of feeling sick.

I hope that you all have a safe and terrific Thanksgiving.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

Happy homemaker am I

We dads who are fortunate enough to take care of our kids all by ourselves don't like to be called "Mr. Mom". I speak for myself only in that. I prefer to be called Primary Caregiver. Too much? How about Happy Homemaker?

You see, the in-laws have escaped back to Norway and we have a gap in coverage of several days. I took yesterday off from work and will take tomorrow, too. It was glorious. Simply, totally, glorious.

We were on time to school, hair brushed, ready to go. So what that the Girl Child's knees were almost torn out on her jeans? Kindly, no one said anything.

We waited, after depositing the Girl Child, for the appearance of the fire truck. "Harrow, Fireman", sang out the Boy Child! It was a glorious pumper truck capable of holding some 750 gallons. And the Boy Child and I had the exclusive attention of the firemen for about 10 minutes while the school got organized. We got to see inside the truck and I got to take a picture of the Boy Child on the truck. Then the firemen had to leave to respond to a call so we got to watch them change into their gear. The Boy Child was very impressed.

I decided that this was a good learning opportunity, so I suggested, to great acclaim from the Boy Child, that we remove ourselves to the library and take out books on firetrucks. I made him go up to the librarians and ask where those books might be found. We each pulled up a windsor chair and poked around through them until we had selected a couple of interesting ones. We then killed a little time reading other books and selecting other ones to add to our pile. He was very well behaved, although he did object to being called "tomato", as in my instructions to him when he lags behind: "Catch up, my little tomato". (Get it? Catch up/Catsup?)

Off we then went to the supermarket, where, happily ensconced in one of the shopping carts with a pretend car stuck to the front, we "made groceries", as we used to say in New Orleans. Oh, and where he kind of embarrassed me. On the way in, he asked me a question and I replied, either, "yes, sir" or "no, sir". Well, I guess he liked that because throughout the store, he kept calling me "sir". He'd stick his golden little head out of his car and call back to me, loudly, "sir!". I got a couple of looks from little old ladies who wondered, one of them audibly, about the kind of discipline I kept my son under. Embarrassed or not, I did nothing to discourage him. He was having fun and that was all that mattered to me. And besides, I kept changing aisles as quick as I could!

After that, we picked the Girl Child up from school (after stopping to acquire more lightbulbs). She was happy to see us and off we went home where I simply dropped all the bags from the supermarket on the floor of the kitchen in order to speed the preparation of the requested mac and cheese. It was consumed with great happiness and we repaired to the bed chambers to read pre-nap stories. I had just gotten the Girl Child into bed and the Boy Child changed into his diaper when the doorbell rang.

It was the plumber who had come to charge me $120 to do nothing with my outside taps. He told me that I have frost-free pipes, showed me how to turn them off, and explained that nothing needed to be done to them to prepare them for winter. He declined to charge me less than his service fee which I thought a bit much since he showed up, poked his head into my basement, and left. Still, happy enough a report.

The Boy Child went off to bed with no protest and so did the Girl Child. At least, the Girl Child went off to bed and stayed up there long enough for me to install the new portable 250G hard-drive for the laptop so that I could back up all 4.5 years of kid pictures. We'd be devestated if they were lost and it seemed like a good idea to back 'em up.

The Girl Child quit her boudoir just as I was about to start preparing dinner. Cauliflower soup (omit the truffles when making for kids) and chili (omit all spicy bits for kids). Both from scratch.

I sat the Girl Child up on the counter and she kept me company while I cooked. After a bit, while I had been slipping her pieces of yellow and orange pepper, she said the nicest thing to me:

Pappa, I'm having such a nice time. We're chatting about nice things, you're giving me yummy things to snack on, and I'm just enjoying being with you. Its so nice!

Note to self: check on getting her pony.

Seriously, I almost melted into a puddle in the middle of the floor. And before you ask, that's exactly how she put it. I am constantly shocked by how bright and mature she is. Waaay beyond 4.5 years old.

Eventually, she went off to color while I finished cooking and cleaned the kitchen.

Promptly at five, the Boy Child awoke and joined us. The chili was a big hit. He ate his entire bowl (unusual for him) and she had two bowls and a bowl of soup, too.

One small conflict during dinner resulted in my raising my voice to the Boy Child (who was making a huge mess). His reply? Finger pointing at me, shaking up and down, he bellowed: "Stop! Yell! ME!" He's got a bit of a temper on him, that's for sure. I loved it.

After dinner, we made a mess in the playroom, danced to bad music from the 80's, and read stories, all until Mamma got home from work around 7 or 7:30.

Off went the kids to bed and I changed lightbulbs and took out garbage and otherwise made myself useful.

It was just a perfect day.

If I had the financial ability to pay my mortgage without the need to work, I suspect I'd be very quick to be the stay at home dad full time.

I anticipate another lovely day tomorrow. We also, tomorrow, will go to spend shabbat with my grandfather again as we did last Friday.

So, if I don't have time to post tomorrow, have a great weekend y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Too much Wodehouse

You know that you have spent too much time watching your dvd collection of the entire Wooster and Jeeves set (all four seasons, baby) when you sign off on an email to your wife with: "Tootle pip, my little inebriated newt fancier".

My in-laws enjoyed watching these things.

At the conclusion of the Sunday night episode viewing, my father in law noticed he left a ring on the shelf of one of our bookshelves. He called my mother in law in for the rescue. While she was scrubbing away at the ring, we had the following conversation:

F-i-L (to me): You know, she doesn't even charge me for this!

M-i-L (to him, having not heard what he said): You have to be more careful. You know that. [tone, restrained fury, words bitten off]

Me (to F-i-L): You know, just because she doesn't charge you, doesn't mean you don't pay.

I thought the good man was going to fall out of his chair, he was laughing so hard.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:07 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

What's in a number?

Maybe just some small gratification.

Over the weekend at some point, I clicked over the 50k counter for unique visits since I was invited to move over to MuNu. Fifty thousand visitors later and I still haven't done much to tart the place up (thanks again Margi, for the cool banners you made out of my photographs!).

Anyway, thanks for coming, y'all. Not too many entries these past few days. I've been a bit preoccupied with my grandfather. I'm itching to write something, though, so be patient and I will update soon.

Pax tibi and thanks for all the visits and the comments!

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:21 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

Another day gone

A day at the hospital was . . . what. I’m kind of at a loss to describe it. I suppose it was fulfilling.

I spent the whole day, from about 9 in the morning to 7 at night. My grandfather alternated between sleep and alert and awake and communicative. One cousin drove up from D.C. and another flew in from San Diego. Both came to say goodbye. I’m glad they were able to attend and spend a little time with him.

The medical treatment has been halted. No more antibiotics and no feeding tube. The anti-seizure medication is still going in and he is receiving enough fluids through his iv line to keep the line open. But nothing more. No nourishment. This is at his express direction. He told his sons yesterday that he is ready to die, that he wants to die, that he doesn’t want and will not live like this anymore.

And yet, somehow, now that he has made this decision, he seems very calm about it. Except for the pain, of course. That he is not calm about but he is refusing medication. He seems determined to wring every little bit out of the remaining time he has left. He is, when he is with us, totally with us. Total attention. Questions, memories, love, flirting with the nurses, and a sharp and fierce light burning behind his eyes, still. His speech is impaired but that’s not slowing him down.

I told him lots of things, yesterday. One thing I said to him was: “You’ve taught me so many things in my life and now you’re teaching me how to die; with strength and with dignity”. It is a useful lesson to learn.

I managed to tell him that I love him without breaking down. He knew that already but I was determined to repeat it to him. How many more times do I get to tell him that? He told me that he loves me, too.

Now I need a moment, here, to get myself together.

I also told him that he was the most important influence in my life. He nodded and then fell asleep holding my hand.

And I broke down a bit and sobbed quietly as he slept.

Before that, though, I reminded him that the Girl Child and the Boy Child had been there all day the day before. And it was the only time I saw him smile. He absolutely grinned with pure pleasure. And I told him that the Boy Child insisted on kissing him while he slept and then insisted on being picked up to do it again because he wasn’t satisfied with the first kiss he gave my grandfather. My grandfather grinned again.

We reminisced yesterday about the trips we took – houseboating on Lake George and down the Sacramento River, touring Israel in 1983 and hiking together up Mount Masada. Trips to Washington D.C. and trips to watch the Harvard-Yale game.

I reminded him about how he cheated me on every single hand when I told him that I learned how to play poker and he suggested that I play with him. After we played, he told me that he cheated on every hand, that I didn’t notice, and that I should never play again. And I never have.

After we talked about that, he grimaced in pain and I asked him if I could get him anything. He said, “a new deck” and I told him that if I did, he’d probably just cheat me again and he said, “probably”.

I’ll end this note with an exchange he had with my father, his son in law. My father came in and apologized for forgetting to bring the wine and my grandfather said to him: “a fatal error”.

I cried, off and on, the whole drive home. I don’t recommend driving on I-95, in heavy traffic, while crying.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:25 AM

November 06, 2005

It was very hard

I spent much of the day at the hospital yesterday. Well, maybe that wasn't true. We spent about four hours there. We brought the children with us. They played in my grandfather's room while he slept and while he had small seizures in his sleep. They are used to his being in a hospital setting, having visited him most weekends while he was in the rehab facility, so this was not disturbing for them. Although we did tell the Girl Child that he was dying. Having the kids at the hospital, along with my uncles and my mother, made it seem much better somehow. Much less scary, much more like death is a normal part of life. I am not explaining this well and I don't know that I can. It is just that they were not shielded from this experience and the way they regularly went over to him in the course of their play to talk to him and tell him that they loved him and to tell him the news about our new baby just made it seem so every day. They were not scared by his appearance. In fact, the Boy Child insisted that I hold him up so that he could kiss his great grandfather on his cheek. Twice. The Girl Child insisted on the same.

We don't know how much my grandfather heard of all this. He was drifting in and out of his stupor and having multiple small seizures.

He's had a major stroke, as it turns out. There is no hope of improvment and he wants nothing heroic, nothing invasive done to him to prolong his life. I cannot blame him in this. The man can no longer swallow as a result of the stroke.

I stayed with him when everyone went to get lunch. I just couldn't bring myself to leave.

He woke at around 3:30. I was sitting next to him and I held his hand. He held my hand very tightly.

I tried so very hard not to cry. Just like I'm trying now. Mostly its working.

The Girl Child wanted to know why I was so sad and I explained it to her later.

It seemed to me that he was trying to say goodbye to me. I think he was. At least, sitting here now I am sure of it. I talked to him about some of my cherished memories, I held his hand tightly while he experienced pain, he tried to speak to me, I held on when I was afraid I was going to break down entirely and couldn't trust myself to speak, I somewhere found inside myself a place where I could speak to him calmly and soothingly. He knew I was there and he knew who I was and he nodded in the right places.

I relinquished my spot after about 20 minutes to my aunt, his sister. She's the eldest so she must be about 95. She was driven down by my cousin, her daughter, from New Jersey. It took two hours and I think that they both knew that they were saying goodbye. They were very close all their lives.

I abhor melodrama and I don't think I am being melodramatic here. But, while he was talking to his sister, I locked eyes with my grandfather from the foot of his bed. His eyes, for just a moment, looked so fierce to me, so filled with resolve and with the spark. So trapped in his frail body. I felt as if he were saying goodbye to me.

I'm going back this morning.

Just because I think he may have already said goodbye to me doesn't mean for a moment that I have said goodbye to him. Or that I'm going to let him die without my being there for him.

We've always been very close. I have no doubts that while he loves all of his grandchildren very much, I was the first born and I was without question his favorite.

I hate this.

He was right, some months ago, when he told my father that it is very hard to come into this world and it is just as hard going out.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:00 AM

November 04, 2005

This isn't for you, this one

It is for me. Purely for me. I need a moment, a space, a place, where I can be very sad.

You see, I'm not ready. I'm not willing or . . . . I don't know. I'm not prepared to, although I'm going to, take my children with me down to Greenwich Hospital this weekend and say goodbye to my grandfather.

He's had a stroke and has an infection in his heart.

My mother and her brothers had a long discussion with him today. He wants off the medication, on the morphine, and, well, off the planet. On his terms. On his decision.

I realize some may read that to mean he has a suicide urge. I don't know why I'm going to address that since, as I pointed out, this one isn't for you anyway. He doesn't. He just knows, as we all do, that he is very ill and will not get better, will not shake this, will not improve, will no longer have a quality of life to speak of, will no longer what, exactly?

I need a moment. I will not cry at my desk, ok?

Will no longer be able to put the top down in the car like he did when I was a kid in the autumn to look at the leaves; will no longer speak to me in that outrageous half English, half Cambridge, all 1930's Harvard accent;

I'm not ready to finish this right now. I am not ready to reduce to a list, in some electronic form, my precious memories of him. Not yet. I'll have to do it soon. Some of these memories, frankly, go to the absolute core of who I am as a person. They are my touchstones, rubbed a little shiny and smooth at the edges, but they are experiences that have formed me. His influence on my life cannot be overstated.

But I cannot reflect on it all now. No.

Now, I have to go home and celebrate my wedding anniversary today. Well, maybe not celebrate.

I am devastated. I knew that he was going to go one day. And I always worried that if he did, I would collapse, that I would get all hollowed out and slowly deflate. That may still happen, I suppose. Beats me.

I am closing comments for the first time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:38 PM

November 01, 2005

Today in history: Me!

Yup, that's right, another year has rolled on by and I am another year older. I refer you, respectfully, to my Today in History edition of last year of this same date, to see what cool things happened and who was born or died on First November.

I have been up since three o'clock this morning. Couldn't sleep for some reason, not really sure why. So I thought I might come down and reflect a little on the year past. I had some big changes and there are more on the horizon. I'd like to review: bought and sold a house; moved to Connecticut; seriously pondered career changes and began the inevitably slow process of effectuating same; watched my much beloved grandfather go from hale and hearty to a bare shell of the once robust and wonderful man he was for all my life; began interacting with my son as he began to talk; had the joy (mixed with terror) of hearing my wife tell me that she was pregnant; was put on the board of an old and august institution; made a couple of new friends; began to exercise every business day; perfected a recipe for black beans that is so good that if you tasted it you'd go home and punch your mama in da mouth (and it is vegetarian, Helen!); went to London all by my lonesome and met Helen; had dinner with Simon; and, through many acts of grace, small and large, had my faith in the essential goodness of man re-affirmed. Oh yeah, I should also add that this was another year in which I learned that the love I had for my wife and children the year before was shallow and insignificant compared with the love I feel for them now.

I don't have any idea, really, what the next year of life may bring for me and for those lives I necessarily touch, and I can't really forecast anything, but just the same, I hope it is a year of growth. I hope it is a year of plenty, in the sense that our little family will grow by one more and that one more, I hope, will be healthy. I hope it is a year of continued good health. I hope it is a year of, if not reasonably good fortune, at least not bad fortune.

There is something deliciously self-indulgent about making yourself a pot of coffee at three o'clock in the morning. I'm going to go back and enjoy it now. As we are now without nanny, as you may have noticed from the post from yesterday, I am going to spend the evening at home. Yes, there will be a good bottle of wine involved but no, it will not be a quiet evening out. Still, sounds like it might be just fine.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:56 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

The Dilbert Blog

Scott Adams has put up his own blog, talking about, among other things, the creative process of writing Dilbert and what gets rejected and what gets published. Very cool.

Thanks for the tip, Owlish!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is this just extra paranoid, or what?

Listening to the radio last night on the way home from the train station. I am such a geek these days that mostly I listen to 880 on the a.m. dial. The all news station. Anyway, they warned us not to hold our credit cards out while standing on line in a store. People with cell phones, they cautioned us, could take pictures of our card and use the information they captured to clone our cards and steal our identities.

Seems a little far fetched to me. Anyone agree with them?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

Rainy day at work

I'm chained to my desk on this dreary Saturday, waiting for someone to review a five page memo I just wrote to a client who was just, one week before his wedding, blind sided with an outrageous prenuptial agreement that his wife had been working on with her lawyer for over a month. I read it for the first time last night going home on the train and I garnered strange looks as I exclaimed out loud and profanely about the fairness of this document. So, while I wait, I thought maybe I could stretch the fingers and exercise the mind and blog a little.

Thanks again for all of your collective patience during my recent trial and internet outages. No idea about the internet, but the trial closes to the jury on Monday morning and that will be that until post trial motions.

I rode into the city today and was reminded how unpleasant it can be to ride during the non-peak hour trains without an mp3 player. Lots of ambient noise, cell phones, loud chatter, and distractions. Hard to think under those circumstances.

But there was one couple I looked at, for really no more than a moment, a short moment, but it was enough. They were in their early 20's, I'm guessing. She was dark haired and pale skinned. Makeup expertly applied -- not too much and all of it to flatter her features. And she smiled at her boy friend and the smile was so lovely, so graceful, so unhurried in its patience and love. I felt privileged to have seen it. It made me think that she must have a lot of inner serenity and that the old wisdom that youth is in too much of a hurry doesn't really ring true. At least, not there. Her smile suggested that she had all the time in the world for him and all the time needed to appreciate him and the experiences they were having together. No pressure, no rush. His good fortune, which I bet he does not understand, is nothing short of astounding to me. I took all this in very quickly, but the memory stayed with me some several hours later. It really was quite a smile.

My in-laws are in town to stay for the next three weeks. Might as well be three years. Well, that was snide. It might be just fine. I'll try to reserve judgment.

While I was here at the office, I missed a milestone at home: Boy Child pooping on the potty! He called me at work to tell me about it in great excitement. He and the Girl Child left me a long and breathless voicemail while I was otherwise engaged. Do I need to tell you that I have saved that voicemail? Still, I regard this as proof positive that while I am at the office, shit happens.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:42 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

But for how long?

So, internet service has been restored to my office. Still no email, still no fax, still only a couple of phone lines working. But, its a start. The only question I have is, for how long will I still have internet service? When I come back from trial today (been on trial all week), will it still be here? Truthfully, it is awfully convenient to be able to do legal research in the middle of a trial, so I hope it remains when I return later.

Otherwise, I'll catch up to you all later. Thanks to everyone who sent notes wondering if I was still alive. That was very kind.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:29 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

Up too early?

Do not rely on television during the in-between hours to provide anything approaching diversion. Up at 3:30 and not because you're slipping out of someone's bed who you just met three hours earlier at a party? Don't turn on the television. I feel as if I've taken a bullet for you all here. Sports Center can only be watched for so long. Dating programs, Blind Date and Elimidate, are just, what, disturbing? An outlet for behavior that I otherwise don't get to see a lot? If this kind of behavior passes for normal these days, than I lead a sheltered life. Its hard to look away, like a bad car accident is fascinating.

Actually, I have to say, the advertisements they run during these programs are really interesting. Feminine hygine products. Chat dating. Internet dating. Internet services. Other dating program promos. Fast food. Breath products. Most of them with a sexual theme. You can sort of reason backwards, reverse engineer, if you will, the typical viewer of these programs. I have to conclude that the typical viewer, the target market, may be a lonely woman with bad breath who has bad periods and likes Taco Bell while shopping for a new cell phone plan to use while chatting on singles' lines because her acne is too bad to date in person.

I have to say that I didn't even know programs like these existed before I turned on the television this morning to see how the Yankees did last night. Um, not well, as it turned out. When I want to bed, they were tied. When I woke up, the Angels had clearly turned it on. Still, there is at least one game left to play in New York. Unlike in Boston. Sorry, Mark. Seriously.

Anyway, off for more tea.

By the way, in case you were wondering, my grandfather has responded very well to the antibiotics and appears to be doing much, much better.

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

It wasn't me, I swear

I know I have some problems with my job, of late, but it wasn't me. I didn't do it. I did not cripple the office. That was Verizon and ConEd. ConEd had a transformer blow up, the old kind with the asbestos, and it took out a Verizon cable. What did that mean for us?

*No Email

*No Internet connection (no legal research, in other words)

*No faxing (fax line gone)

*Only 20% of our phone lines up

Take away our ability to communicate, to research, and to get all our phone calls, and what do you get? Lawyers who have a lot of time to clean their desks up.

We are pretty much totally shut down.

Also, personally, I have some bad news and some neutral news. Neutral first, I am still in the running or at least not been rejected yet for the change of career job.

Bad news: grandfather taken today to the hospital with a very high fever. My mother is beside herself.

I'll try to post a bit over the weekend but tomorrow we are all off to the city to see a princess. A Norwegian one who will read from her children's book. Ought to be fun.

Pax tibi.

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October 06, 2005

No title today, just some random thoughts

I have vacillated recently between blogging, bursting to write, and all dried up with no inspiration. A feeling like maybe I've said everything I've had to say and maybe I should consider taking a break from the writing. I think that maybe I'm just a teensy bit unhappy at the moment and maybe that means that I don't write when I'm actually unhappy. Really unhappy. That makes some sense, I suppose. When I was a child, and even now, when I was hurt, I tended to withdraw into myself, not wanting to be touched, just wanting to be left alone. The only company I could abide as a child was my dog. He was a 165 pound Great Dane. I used to curl up with him and cry out my sadness, cuddle away my disappointments. I miss him. We don't have a dog anymore. Instead, I have a blog. Less feeding and I don't have to walk it in the middle of the night, but less tactile comfort here too. So, there are tradeoffs.

I am not inclined to complain. Much. Funny aside, by the way. My fingers are not used to typing the word complain. Instead, they want to type the word complaint, which is more normal for these lawyer fingers to type. Aside over. The reason I am not inclined to complain is because of something William Buckley wrote about his mother. I read it last night on the train and it sort of smacked me in the face. His mother had just seen her eldest son buried and was in the midst of what Buckley describes as "convulsive grief". And he writes:

He had been visiting her every day, often taking her to a local restaurant for lunch, and her grief was, by her standards, convulsive; but she did not break her rule -- she never broke it -- which was never ever to complain; because, she explained, she could never repay God the favors He had done her, no matter what tribulations she might be made to suffer.

I was impressed by this because, inter alia, it contained two semi-colons. Also, it made me take stock and count my blessings a bit. Not a bad exercise when things seem a bit bleak. Bleak may be too strong a word. Maybe when you feel a little discouraged by the twists and turns your fortune seems to be following.

The book I took that quote from was "Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography". Good stuff. Some essays better than others but he writes quite beautifully.

Rosh Hashana at my parents' house was not a great success. My grandfather came from the nursing home in his wheel chair. We carried it up the steps to the door and included him in the gathering as best as he would permit. He is so greatly diminished that if I stopped to let myself think about it, it would break my heart. He's always been my role model and seeing him like this is difficult, for him and for me. Today is his birthday. I called to wish him a happy birthday and it was not a good call. He knew who I was but was not well. We did not have a long chat, just exchanged a couple of sentences, some good wishes, some hopes on my side and some admitted unhappiness on his. I had to push a bit to get him to tell me how he was feeling.

Today, I hope to go home to a harmonious house. A place where my children have been well behaved and not given our new nanny a fit. The Girl Child has been exhibiting adjustment issues. The new nanny, a sweet girl, feeling the culture shock ("boy, people out here sure are direct when they talk"), feeling homesick, trying to deal with body image and self confidence problems (none of which she should have; she's lovely), was told by the Girl Child yesterday that the was "fat and ugly". My wife and I were kind of impressed, quietly, that the Girl Child figured out how to put her finger so unerringly on the new nanny's ouchy spoot. The Girl Child also told my wife that she wouldn't listen to her because she was stupid.

None of this did I take well and we had a long discussion, mandatory apologies, and a no-story bed time. The Girl Child, I should note, did not take a nap and that always makes everything waaaay worse. I was really very angry about this and some other transgressions she committed and she knew it.

That said, and I have to say I respect her for it, even in the face of my very real anger, she stood up for herself and her perceived rights. I love her so much for that.

We got upstairs and I told her to get in the bathroom and brush her teeth. She told me that she didn't want to talk to me, that I made her sad, and that I had to say I was sorry first. I told her that if she was sad, it was a sadness of her own making, brought about entirely by her own bad behavior and that, as her father, I was required to correct it when necessary. She clearly disagreed and held me responsible for her sadness. But she shifted to another tack just the same and said that I had to say I was sorry anyway because I didn't say please when I told her to go brush her teeth. I agreed with her, apologized, and sent her off to brush.

I was so proud of her, at 4.75 year old, for standing up to me, for demanding a little respect, and for standing her ground. I have always tried to walk that very fine line between bending my little savage to the civilized comportment needed to live in my house and not breaking her will. Still working on the little savage part but clearly the will is still all there.

I think that may be enough for now. Besides, I have to take a friend to lunch for his birthday.

Pax tibi.

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October 04, 2005

Its quiet for now

The house isn't stirring yet. All I hear is the drip of the coffee maker and the clicks I'm making on the keypad.

Today is the first day of the High Holidays. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. It is customary today to wish people a sweet new year. You eat apples and honey together, among other things, because they are sweet. It is also the beginning of the time of repentance which culminates on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This period is one in which you ask for forgiveness from those around you against whom you've transgressed. On Yom Kippur you ask G-d for forgiveness.

As all New Years go, it is a time for a new start. At least, I hope it is.

I didn't get the job in Chicago. I found out last night. I was "nudged out by someone with a better experience package". It wasn't me, I was told. Not to be too catty, but I am not unhappy about not working for someone who isn't clear on the difference between nudged and edged. Both have dged in them but they do mean different things. Also, truthfully, I'm not at all sure that I want to continue to be a lawyer at all. More on that, perhaps, later.

No word on the change of career job I interviewed for. At least, no definitive word. I gather from the head hunter that I still have some convincing to do, some doubts to resolve about the transferability of my skills. I suggested that if there were any doubts, ask them to meet with me and let me try to convince them why my skills could transfer. I hope they take me up on it. In the end, I would hope that I'd be able to state a good case.

As the Jewish calendar ticks over, I hope that there will be some new start for me. I am looking for a clean slate, a fresh start.

In any event, may I simply wish you all a sweet new year?

My daughter is awake now and I am going to hang out with her. And get some of that coffee.

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September 28, 2005

No title

I woke this morning an hour later than I normally do on a weekday. I woke alone, in a giant four poster king size bed, in a corner room, paneled entirely in some rich oak looking wood, high over Park Avenue. I was not hung over, exactly. Not really. Just tired from the steady consumption of excellent bourbon, fine single malt, and first rate wines (both white and red) over the space of some five-six hours the night before. I include the roof top cocktail party with the stunning view of the Chrysler Building all lit up. Beautiful night for it.

There is something to be said for going to bed alone after having overindulged in good food, fine spirits, and diverting conversation. Something neatly self contained about taking all the fellowship and happiness and walking away with it tucked into your breast pocket. Sends you off to bed with a warm glow. Maybe that was the single malt, of course.

I think I am going to like these monthly obligations -- attending a board meeting in black tie (cause I love getting dressed up!), socializing, drinking, eating, etc. A reminder of life before children when your obligations to others was more theoretical and you could seek your own pleasure, within limits, without worrying overly much about the consequences.

Today, however, I am a bit less useful than normal. A residual effect of the booze, despite my best attempts to sweat it out in the fitness center before coming to work.

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September 23, 2005

Sort of just occurred to me

You know what the worst thing is about walking sideways to your responsibilities, at least your work related ones? It makes every day feel like Monday, every morning feel like the same start to the same day it was yesterday. It makes Friday feel like something other than the end of the work week and the it makes the weekend feel somehow devauled, somehow less merited. You end each day with the same to do list you begin it with and you realize that time passed but you gained no traction on it. The same lassitude gently laps at you and pulls, stupidly at you, like too much humidity and not enough cool air. This is what happens when your week is filled with responsibilities other than work, when you put on a dinner for around 250 people that lasts for 5 hours, when you attend board meetings, attend committee meetings, when you occupy yourself with everything other than your occupation. A person, could develop a cold. Or at least a feeling that the end of the week is nigh but not for you.

It has been a complicated week but not a productive week, not for me at work at least.

But the dinner I organized, in recognition for Vietnam Vets, was a huge success. One Vet wrote me:

that was the most deeply moving evening I have ever had over my Vietnam experience and it is because you pursued the idea and made it happen. i will never forget last night.

That makes it feel a bit better.

But not enough to make it feel like a Friday. Not enough to make it feel like I should have cashed that paycheck.

Guilt. Unresolved feelings of guilt. It ain't ever enough, anywhere, is it?

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September 19, 2005

Catching up from last posting

To catch up, since it seems to have been a while, I have passed a very active couple of days, filled with many things, few of them work related, I am happy to report. Let us kick off with Friday.


This day was spent mostly in transit. Approximately six hours or so of travel time in order to attend two hours of meeting. Still, it did not appear to be time wasted, although I did not get to meet Elizabeth, as I had hoped to do. We traded a bunch of messages and had several pleasant conversations. However, the point.

I went to Chicago on Friday for a job interview. I think it went well. I was slated to meet with three people and was told that in almost no circumstance would it exceed an hour and I could plan accordingly. The meeting was at 3. I arrived at around 11:00 in Chicago and took the train into the city. I had scads of time and the train, while slow, was only $1.75. I got out at Jackson, in the loop, right in front of the Monadnock building, the last tall building built only on masonry load bearing walls. By Burnham and Root, if I recall. It was a pleasure to see the old fellow, again. The walls at the bottom are extraordinarily thick, six feet, to support the 11 stories above without a skeleton. I then made my way to the Union League Club of Chicago where I had privileges and managed to hang out, read, prepare, and have lunch before my 3:00 interview. The interview was just a couple of blocks down the street, making the Union League very convenient. The food was excellent, actually.

I arrived at the interview 15 minutes early and had a lovely chat with the receptionist. When her relief came, about 1 minute before my interviewer arrived, I thanked her for babysitting me and she said she didn’t babysit me. I agreed, remarking that she didn’t even tell me a story. So she said that was true and offered to tell me a joke. I assented, of course. Just before the end of the joke, my interviewer came to fetch me and I actually asked him if we could wait one second so I could hear the punch line of the joke and he was fine with that. Set a good tone for an interview, maybe, if you can show how relaxed you are.

I met with three people. We spoke for an hour about my background and about the position. At the conclusion of the interview, they excused themselves and said that they were going to go into the hallway for a moment and chat about me. Ok. Odd, but whatever. After about 5 minutes they returned and asked me if I had any more time free. I did and they asked me to meet with another three people and I met with them for also about an hour. I think it went pretty well. At least, I suppose, I made it to the second round right on the spot. I regard it as a positive development, although you never know.

Made it home by about midnight. Long day that started at 4:30 so I could work out before heading out to the airport.


Started the day exhausted. Mother in law was visiting from Norway. Enough said.

We took everyone to the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. The kids had a great time. We saw three five-month old baby Siberian tiger cubs; turtles; alligators; wolves; monkeys; birds; and all sorts of reptiles. We left with exhausted children. The Girl Child, nonetheless, declined to nap. While she declined to nap, I gave my mother in law a driving tour of the area.

Upon our return, I had a brilliant idea. No cooking for me that night. I generally do all the cooking, actually. Pretty good deal for my wife. Instead, we would sally forth, acquire fried whole clams, bowls of lobster bisque, piles of onion rings, and bottles of beer and take them to a small beach near the house where there were picnic tables to be found on a small bluff overlooking the beach and the ocean and we would dine. And so we did, all while watching the storm roll in over the ocean from Long Island. The thunder was loud, at times. The dinner was outstanding, above the waves as they beat against the shore, as the light changed from the oncoming storm. We were pretty much totally alone. After dinner, we ventured down to the sand to collect sea shells. It was low tide. We found some lovely small ones.

The Girl Child and I had an amusing interchange at the picnic table after I remarked on the presence of grills and said next time we could bring charcoal and make our own food. I said that one of the grills I would not want to use as it was too close to a bush.

GC: Why wouldn’t you want to use that grill, Pappa?

Me: Well, it is too close to the bush and I would worry that the bush would catch fire. No burning bushes for us; too biblical.

GC: What does that mean?

Me: Ask your teachers on Monday about the burning bush and they’ll explain it to you.

GC: I don’t think I want to.

Me: Why not?

GC: I think that if I did, it would freak ‘em out.

Might be right, come to think of it.

Then we got back in the car and set off in search of the storm. We drove around for a while and eventually the storm and us found each other. Went home in the pouring rain through very quickly flooded streets. It was delightful.

Even better? No leak at the house.


This day commenced early as the driver came to retrieve my mother in law at 6 for her departure to the airport.

The Boy Child arose shortly thereafter.

After the Girl Child joined him, for a happy breakfast of Lucky Charms – yay, Pappa! - I adjourned with the children to purchase Halloween costumes. The Girl Child having determined that she wanted to be a witch. She was beside herself with excitement as we picked out pointy hats and brooms, robes and other scary things. The Boy Child announced that he was not going to wear a hat at all. “My no hat on, Pappa”. No problem, I assured him.

Then we went home to get my wife. At that point, I announced a general nap amnesty coupled with a desire to do something fun. We set off to visit the Railroad Museum in Danbury, about 45 minutes away. The Boy Child was the perfect picture of excitement. He could not stand still when we arrived and discovered we were just in time to join a vintage train ride. He literally began to jump up and down. “My up-I toot-toot”, he announced. Yes, I agreed, you are going to go up in the train and take a ride. His smile was infectious and practically beatific.

After the ride, including a visit to the last turntable still operating in CT, where we got to watch an engine get spun around, we were able to explore the yard and some other vintage trains. Then, a visit to the gift shop where we procured a Junior Engineer Train Set for each child, consisting of a blue and white stripped hat, a red bandanna, and a whistle. I told the Boy Child that he was going to wear this for Halloween, complete with overalls and he could be a Toot-toot guy.

BC: Pappa, my no hat on.

Me: Not even this blue toot-toot hat?

BC: Blo toot-toot hat?

Me: Yeah, you don’t want to wear the blue toot-toot hat and be a toot-toot guy for Halloween?

BC: My wear blo toot-toot hat. My blo toot-toot guy!!!!

All objections to the hat disappeared with the excitement of the realization that he was going to be a blue toot-toot guy for Halloween. He spoke about it off and on for the next five hours. Oh, to be 2.5 again.

After the museum, we wandered back along Route 7 for a late lunch at a small outdoor shack advertising homemade ice cream. Oh, the joy. The masses ate fried things while I virtuously consumed a salad, filching the odd onion ring now and again. After buying the three of them two scoops of ice cream, the banana was declared the best flavor, I had exactly a nickle left in the pocket.

It was a good day. A really good day.

I made them all eat grilled zucchini with parmesan sprinkled on top and grilled asparagus for dinner later that night. Clemintines for dessert, with the Boy Child greedily stealing all the sections that my wife peeled for herself.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.

Tomorrow, by the way, is the Boy Child’s first day of school.

I’m not ready. He’s too little.

Don’t look for a posting tomorrow. I take the Boy Child to school and then rush into the city for a deposition.

Pax tibi and y’all keep your fingers crossed for Chicago, ok? I mean, I’m not sure I’ll take the job but I’d rather have it be my decision, ya know?

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September 13, 2005

Fog descends on office, world cut off

Anyone get the reference in the title?

We had something technical explode at the office and lost all connection to the internet for the last four days. No email, no legal research, no guilty pleasures, no not so guilty pleasures, no connection to the outside world (did you miss me, world? I missed you.), no nothing.

It was kind of restful. I re-discovered the joys of solitaire. I caught up on work, on phone calls, on all sorts of stuff.

One of my phone call exchanges has been back and forth with an admin type at the Pentagon. In my next life, I want someone that efficient working for me. I imagine it must be liberating. And when you talk to people there, they are always in a hurry. Always. The speech is clipped and quick. The manner decisive. Kind of made me sit up a bit straighter in my chair while talking to them.

I have been arranging transportation and other stuff for a big shot from there who is speaking to an organization I head. The speech is tomorrow and I have to introduce him. Ought to be cool. In addition, I get to meet a Medal of Honor recipient. They are not called winners, I am told. They are called recipients. I am so far out of my league that I am totally relaxed about the experience. Really, what else can you do? Just relax and go with the flow.

What else happened while I was cut off? I have a new niece, according to my wife. My poor sister in law brought a child into the world after a scant 30 hour labor. Kids today, slackers all of 'em.

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September 09, 2005

It was rather a long day

I'm posting much later than I'd care to. Sitting here with the laptop, watching the Yankees/Red Sox game, decompressing from my day.

I had a job interview today. It was with a head hunter and it was a screening interview. Mostly, those are a waste of time. Today's was little different. She met me and will "promote" me for the job. It would be cool, a career change, no longer practicing law. That would be fine with me right now. Of course, it means in the long run that I'd probably be exchanging the devil I know for the devil I am not yet on speaking terms with. But still, change can be good, right?

If I get it, I will tell more. All I know now is that there are rounds and rounds of interviews ahead of me and personality tests to take. I was worried about the personality tests until I realized that those are kind of out of my control. I mean, I am 37 years old. I kind of figure that I am who I am and if that isn't good enough, there ain't nothing I can really do about it now. One thing, I'm sure, is that they will find a personality. Will it be the right one? Beats me. Its right for me.

Also, I have that other interview coming up next Friday. I have to prepare for that one of these days. That will take some hours worth of work. All for a job I am not totally sure I want. Still, I'd rather be the one to decide that after they make me the offer. That's a better place to be, right?

Thank you all very much for the very thoughtful, cogent, sometimes penetrating insights you all left in the comments to my last post. It was the only post I've ever put up that I almost closed comments for and then, when I didn't, I almost chose not to read them. I'm glad I did. Thank you for your friendship and for caring enough to take the time to share your thoughts with me. That was really excellent.

Some updates on more important things:

*Two days in a row of the Boy Child peeing on the potty!!! Life is good. He is so proud of himself when he does it. Still having a little trouble getting the little pee-pee pushed down so that he doesn't pee all over his feet, but hey, that's what parents are for, right? That and teaching the post-pee shake. Gotta get that down.

*The nanny resigned last night. Long chat ending up with her feeling that she was torn by her family's demands that she leave. Howard's going to be bummed. He liked this one. I think that the kids are going to be upset. She was only with us for a little under 90 days, just long enough for the Boy Child to bond with her. The Girl Child remained a little standoffish, which will stand her in good stead in the circumstances.

*Anyone seen a Brooks Brothers shopping bag on the over head rack on the train? If so, can you just turn it in to lost and found? It contains two new pairs of chinos that I screwed up and left on the train. They fit really nice, too. Maybe they'll fit someone else really nicely, too, now.

*Finally, I thought about noting this but I am simply not a big enough person to let it go. The NY Times today decided to publish articles about the loss of art and artefacts on the Gulf Coast and the damage to the legal system. I believe I wrote about those things some six days ago. Is that a scoop, then? Listen, NY Timesers, if you need another idea for an article, y'all feel free to come back and browse through my archieves and swipe something else, ok? No need to attribute it, I'll know. And you'll know. That will be quite enough for both of us, right?

Anyway, have a nice weekend, y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

This one is for me

Hell, I may not even publish it. I'll wait and see. If I do, I warn you, this a really long, disorganized, extended look into my head at the moment. I am not writing it for you, whoever you are, but for me, as a chance to try to figure some things out.

Still here? The rest is in extended entry below:

* * * * *

There is a coiled sensation along my jaw line and up behind my ears, a suggestion of shallow breathing, a pre-adrenaline feeling. Can't really describe it better than that, I suppose. It is a feeling like something is about to happen, like we are poised for a great change. There could be several reasons.

First, after only being with us for not quite 90 days, the new nanny may be resigning her position. This is not ideal. The timing is unfortunate. The reasons, while not relevant, are lame. I think that she has an all too human tendency to shade the truth in her favor, to color things in a way that I dislike, so that's why I think her reasons are not relevant -- they can't be totally trusted. So, again, timing not great but not broken up to see her go.

Second, in the middle of all this, I have received a job interview. It would be a cool job, but it is in a state far, far away. They are calling in eight people to be interviewed. If I get it, I cannot imagine turning it down. I also cannot quite imagine taking it. I am waiting to hear about other job possibilities, other interviews, other situations.

All I can really say with any certainty at this point in time, and I firmly believe certainty about life is a temporal thing, related completely to circumstances as they exist and as you hope they may exist in the near future, and even then Life has a way of making all of your little plans, all of your careful machinations, totally useless. Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, I have pretty much decided that I do not want to stay at the firm I am at, that I do not want to be a partner, that I don't really even want to continue practicing law in a private lawfirm. Although, I have mouths to feed and mortgage to pay, so I will do what I have to in order to meet my obligations. That said, I think that I will look at three options: in house; in government; or in a totally new and different field, a career change.

I expect to receive at least a couple more interviews and only one of them will be for a position in this area. In other words, the way things are at the moment, I may actually be in a position where I put my family back onto a moving truck just a short while after taking them off a moving truck. So, I face the thought of moving with no small reluctance.

And I have roots here. They get deeper all the time. I have civic involvements and friends, community ties and family, personal inclinations and historical connections. They get deeper, as I said. We had orientation last night for the kids' new pre-school and we walked away with a very good feeling. Especially for the Boy Child. He is going to love it and his teacher is the absolute best kind of kook. I love her already. She had no problem with the fact that a large portion of the Boy Child's vocabulary was in Norwegian and even asked us to write out, phonetically, several words and phrases so she could learn them. How cool is that? I already feel a strong aversion to taking him out of her class room and they haven't even started yet!

What happens to roots if you pull them up? I suppose they die. They certainly change and that can be indistinguishable from death. I'm not saying, exactly, that change is death and yet, I suppose, there are similarities. As things morph and become unrecognizable, isn’t that a kind of death?

But there is a feeling of adventure, a feeling like taking a job and running half way across the country would satisfy a need for adventure. The tension I alluded to elsewhere comes, maybe, from a feeling like I might be being pushed into the adventure instead of jumping into it. But, at the end of the day, does it matter much how you ended up in mid-air, jumped or pushed? You’re still in mid-air and you have to start concentrating on the landing as opposed to the take off, right?

So, landings. Maybe I should stop thinking about the take off, assume that I am already in play, already in mid-air, and start instead thinking about how to land. Well, that sounds good, a little bit overly simple, maybe, but still like there’s a lesson in there I can extract. I’m not sure what it is, mind you, but it is in there.

September and October look to be terribly busy. I’m certainly feeling the pressure from that. Black tie events at least three or four times in the next 30 days. Often enough that I have to think about buying another shirt to wear, just in case the cleaners can’t get my other one back fast enough. Engagements, meetings, interviews, appointments, up to my ears, and now perhaps having to find a new nanny. All of a sudden, it is as if the schedule turned around and swallowed me up.

I spent the weekend either by myself for some hours at a stretch or with my family. We hit the beach each day. It was a glorious weekend, weather wise. The ocean was terribly strong on Monday and the children and I spent time jumping in the waves. The Boy Child was especially enthusiastic after he first felt the power of the waves slapping him back to the beach. He was positively gleeful. We held hands and jumped up and down as each wave hit. They hit us hard enough that he would be pushed back, as if on a pivot attached to my hand, his whole body pushed back to the shore. He laughed, shaking the salt water from his face, spluttering, “more, Pappa, more”. Indefatigable. The Girl Child and I had already had our fill of playing farther out and eventually we opted to move from the Atlantic to the more pacific waters of the big kids’ pool.

Basically, I delight in the company of my children. I love them and I love being with them, teaching them, learning from them. I already hate that the Boy Child is headed off to school, even if it is only two days a week.

I think that my conflict is that on the one hand, I want to stay home and take care of them. I want to be the primary caregiver. On the other hand, I am fiercely competitive. A little burnt out on the practice of law at the moment, but still ready to heed the call of the bugle and charge back in if appropriately motivated. So, I want it all, both things at the same time. The total wonderfulness of raising my kids while still getting the fulfillment of being able to do complex litigation. The thing is, I can’t. No one can. It ain’t possible to practice litigation part time. It is a tension. Wanting what you can’t have.

I have no solutions. Nothing. All I do is sit here and plan and ponder and consider. And make my morning workouts progressively harder in an attempt to deal with the stress. 50 minutes cardiovascular this morning with an average heartbeat in the high 130's will certainly get your blood moving, won’t it? At best, it is a temporary cure.

Part of the weekend was spent with our first house guest. One of my uncles, who I love dearly. He was in from California to attend a meeting regarding my grandfather who is not getting better in this rehab facility. My uncle thinks the care given there has been negligent at best. He’s a practicing doctor so I give great weight to that opinion. I think that without his intervention at other stages, my grandfather would have died and the rehab facility would have lived up to its name by facilitating that process. The bastards. My uncle wants to get him out of there. It isn’t an easy proposition. I’ve offered to let him come live with me but my house isn’t really wheel chair appropriate and I don’t think they will take me up on it. Besides, he has a wife, my grandfather, and he ought to be living with her. Although I gather that there are serious strains in that marriage. A hell of a time for them to appear, no? We chatted about all of this well past our bedtime as my uncle and I drank the remainder of a 1985 St. Emillion which we had opened with dinner.

Again, people, life is too short to drink bad wine and if you hold on to it too long, waiting for an occasion, you will find that the wine, much like life, has moved past its prime while you were waiting for something excellent to happen.

I have no idea where this post was going or where it got to, but I think I feel a little better for writing it.

What you make of it, this post of 1600 words, I have no idea. But this one was for me, anyway, I suppose.

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Funny that I should lack for inspiration

Considering how crazy life has been of late, it is odd that I should lack for inspiration. The situation in the Gulf Coast has numbed me. The focus on scoring political points in the aftermath of the storm has left me feeling like our political culture is. . . What? Broken? Corrupt? Unfeeling? Almost stupid beyond redemption? So utterly self-referential that every utterance, every thought, is shared and feeds on the one before it and acts as fuel on the one after it until they forget that there is anything else happening beyond the need to score points. Call it what you will. Pick your own boogeyman. The Howard Deanism or Karl Rovism of political culture. I lean towards Howie. But he's not the cause, just a visible symptom. Like a pimple on a sexual organ is an outward manifestation of an inner sickness.

I'm not saying that "hard questions" don't need to be asked. I'm just saying that they need to be asked by someone who doesn't appear to have an axe to grind. Is that too much to ask?

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August 30, 2005

The Un-blog

I am overwhelmed with lassitude and unblogginess today. I can't seem to get excited about writing about any of the things I thought interesting today. So, instead, I choose to meander. You are welcome to tag along, if you wish, but only if you would wear a scooby-doo band aid to work. I require that you be prepared to exhibit that level of not taking yourself too seriously today to go any farther. Ok?

*First, the text of a movie review from the NY Times today:

Another neglected Eurotrash classic resurrected - in an extremely good print - by Mondo Macabro DVD, "Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay" is a 1971 French softcore sex and horror film that might have been directed by Jacques Rivette and written by Jean Cocteau. Obliquely based on the legend of King Arthur's half-sister, the sorceress, the picture takes place almost entirely within a remote chateau, where Morgana (Dominique Delpierre), employs her ancient wiles to recruit a young tourist (Mireille Saunin) into the ranks of her female love slaves, all gifted with immortality. To keep things lively, Morgana's court also includes a psychotic dwarf (Alfred Baillou) with an excessive fondness for eyeliner and a lust for revenge.

Despite the ultra low budget, and the apparent inability of the cameraman to create a single atmospheric shot, the film - the first to be directed by Bruno Gantillon - develops a real sense of mystery and fantasy, chiefly through a theatrical stylization of movement and dialogue (choral forms predominate) that casts a spell not unlike Mr. Rivette's celebrated "Céline and Julie Go Boating," which "Morgana" predates by three years. A genuine curiosity, presented here with appropriate respect and illuminating supplementary material, including Mr. Gantillon's short film "An Artistic Couple." $19.95. Not rated.

As one of my co-workers astutely points out: lesbian love slaves and dwarves, how can you go wrong? Indeed.

And how cool a job does the reviewer have, huh?

*Second, it seems like summer is slipping away, taking with it half memories and full truths of summers past: sticking to the faux-leather seats in my dad's Oldsmobile, cooled only by the breeze from the windows; sand in places sand should not comfortably be; smelling like sun tan oil; eating anything by the sea because it is a truism that food consumed next to salt water simply tastes better; children kissed golden brown by the sun; the Girl Child demonstrating the cannon ball; the Girl Child learning how to swim and throwing herself into the big kids' pool, totally without any fear, to demonstrate her new skills; the Boy Child throwing up his hand and yelling "MEG!" (pronounced "my") when asked who was going to the Kiddy Pool or to the "Beak" (his word for beach); the feeling that your whole life still stretches in front of you as the days become longer and the sunlight keeps coming, long into the evening; the sailboats tacking back and forth as they race on the Sound, looking sleek and purposeful; the explosion of the fried clam belly in your mouth with all of its richness, so powerful as to almost be too much, although you finish the whole order anyway; the taste of that cold, cold beer that somehow never tastes the same, never seems quite so necessary in February; summer's happiest tomatoes (need I say more?); and, finally, the bittersweet realization that the beach toys are soon to be packed away, the life guards gone back to school, and the days grown shorter, until all I have left are these thoughts.

*I don't really get the whole Cindy Sheehan thing. At first, I have to say, I thought it just fine that she wanted to meet with the President, sort of in the grand tradition of common citizens meeting with Lincoln at the height of the Civil War. But now, I have come to think her a lightning rod for fools, a rallying point for the wacky left and the ugly right, a place where people who hate America can come together and find common ground. It never ceases to amaze me how much the extreme left and the extreme right have in common. I just wish David Duke and Al Sharpton had been visiting Ms. Sheehan on the same day. That would have been gorgeous to see. Either way, we contain multitudes, this nation of ours. Welcome to the tumult.

*I wonder, sometimes, about why I continue to blog. I don’t have an answer. Until I come up with one, I will, like the milkman’s horse, keep coming back here almost every day and continue to write. Do you know which post of mine takes the most comments? Easily, without comparison, its the one on Welsh hip hop. Click on the category page for that topic and marvel at how alive that music scene is.

*My Gmail seems to be down. Thank goodness. Jim and I have been torturing each other with School House Rock songs, throwing snatches of lyrics at each other. With my email down, that gives me last word.

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August 26, 2005

As the ref's whistle blows, this week is over, all but the injury time

The week, thankfully, is drawing to a close. It was a miserable week, by and large. I am not sorry to see it go, no matter how spendthrift that makes me seem with the small amount of time granted to me on this earth. I'm happy to pretend that this week was no different from trying to hold water in my hands, that the week had to drain away no matter what I did. That's the good thing about time, right? That it wounds all heels, or something?

Still, the week has ended / is ending on a positive note and I shall reflect on the highlights here:

*Thank you all for the very kind comments you left and for the private emails you sent me. It was an unlooked for, unexpected kindness, the best kind really.

*Dinner with Simon was really a bright spot. We happily chatted away for 3+ hours and I think it could have been more if I didn't have to catch a train.

*I will note that most weeks generally will not include a trip to the dentist among a list of highlights but this was not most weeks. Being out of the office was just grand. No matter how much discomfort.

*I already had a screening interview for a new job here in NYC. Keeping my fingers crossed. The interview went smashingly well, so we'll just have to see. If it works out, it will mean a career change. That sounds very nice at this point in time. Very nice.

*Just the same, I had a new client come in today for a preliminary consultation. A young guy, younger than me, but successful. Sounds like a nifty little case and one I'd enjoy doing. I'll quote him a fee on Monday and see if he wants to retain me. When I say little, I don't mean to demean him or his 7 figure plus problem, I just mean that it felt very self-contained. But I already see a couple of places where I could change that, change the dynamic of the interactions he's had with the defendants and maybe blow things up a bit. Like starting with disqualifying the defendants' law firm. That always upsets people.

*My kids were flat out joys to be around this week. No qualification possible. I may have the cutest kids in the whole world. Last night, I read "The Enormous Crocodile", by Roald Dahl, to the Girl Child. Couldn't help myself at the end, when Trunky the Elephant is swinging the Enormous Croc around and the Croc says, "Let me go!", from then saying/singing: "I will not let you go . .Let me go. . .I will not let you go. . .Let me go". Shameless, I am. After the reading, the Boy Child crawled up onto the Girl Child's bed and, at the invitation of the Girl Child, lay his little curly blond head on her lap so she could stroke his hair and forehead. He looked up at her and told her that he loved her. I wanted to cry. It was that beautiful, that perfect. Makes all the work stuff seem trivial.

*I got another expression of interest from another head hunter about some in house compliance positions. May not go anywhere at all, but you know what? It don't got to go no where. See, what it is, is hope. Hope is a powerful and uplifting emotion. It can pull you out of the dumps, let you lift your head up and contemplate the horizon a little. Once you see the horizon, you know that the shitty place you may be in at the moment can and will be a memory. Hope lets you imagine a different future and when your present doesn't amuse, a different future is a wonderful thing to be able to muse about. So, I'm enjoying my little shot of hope. I'm even a bit buzzed on it, truth be told. I can see myself in that future and, even if it turns out to suck, it least it would be a different kind of suck. Right?

*Another high point may be that these horrible peasant skirts which are all the rage this summer could be reaching their natural end. I have yet to see a woman look good in a peasant skirt. Really. I wish the fashion industry would stop being run by people who hate women.

I'll leave you with this, which a friend sent me. Seems appropriate:


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August 17, 2005

Black tie

I have to say that I really enjoy shopping for suits. It is a hugely tactile experience for me. I almost close my eyes and walk down the rack for my size and run my fingers along the suits, stopping only when I hit some fabric that feels especially fine. Then and only then do I look at the suit and the pattern. In the first instance, its all about the material, baby. Its gotta be wool and its gotta feel good. Don't let someone tell you that there isn't a difference between suit manufacturers or that all the suits are the same or that wool is wool. Wool is most certainly not just wool. Really.

Today, I went to my favorite store. Don't ask for the name, they're doing just fine without my plug and I don't want to have to fight to get in there, ok? It is not a street level men's store and they don't rely on walk in customers. In fact, I don't even think that there's a sign in the lobby. And when you get to the door, you have to be buzzed in. At least you don't have to knock three times first.

I went because I needed a new tuxedo. I have lost a bit of weight and my old one cannot be taken in as much as it needs to be taken in. I looked like a kid playing dress up in his father's clothes when I tried it on. Also, I realized, looking at my calendar, that I am going to be wearing black tie at least six times between September 1 and December 31. So, I bought one and, like with any suit, I chose between two models and picked the one with the better feeling wool.

What did I get, you may ask? Or maybe you don't care. Well, I'm gonna tell you anyway, so there.

I bought a beautiful Hickey Freeman tuxedo for about 60% off. See, the fabric has to feel good but the deal has to also feel good. Welcome to NY. The deal has to be there. Only suckers pay retail in NY. Or really rich people. I know I'm not rich and I like to think I am not a sucker, or at least rarely. Hickey Freeman makes beautiful, exceptionally constructed suits out of gorgeous materials. The only better off the rack suit is Oxxford and I cannot afford them, even on sale.

The tuxedo has a shawl collar. This is not something you see so often but I am enough of a clothes horse to want one. With a shawl collar you don't look like you are either wearing just a black suit or are part of the catering staff.

It looks like this:


Something about the shape and drape of the collar and the whole jacket just feels like a throw back to the 1920's and 1930's. Just something very elegant about the look and the statement it makes. Another nice thing about it is that you do not look like everybody else when wearing a shawl collar. Subtly, you stand out a bit. And that's not at all a bad thing, it seems to me.

Now, I just have to talk my wife into letting me go back and get some new suits. They're having a sale and the fabrics were to die for, as my grandmother used to say.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Shopping on the internet for another life

I do that sometimes. Hell, everyone does that sometimes. The internet makes it easy. You sit at your desk and you click through possible job openings in related fields and, with a click of a button, you apply for jobs in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles and Chicago. All places you don't really want to live in, mind you, but they kind of have to be far away to qualify for other life status. A move to a far away place is an integral requirement for this out of current life fantasy.

Or you think, gee, what happens if the money actually comes in from whatever (inheritance, some big case, lottery, or that old mine you bought so many years ago when the price of that mineral was at next to nothing), where would you move to? And you click on real estate listings in whatever city catches your interest at that particular moment.

Today, that was New Orleans, the city of some of my mis-spent youth. I played around with the real estate listings, knowing all the while that I would really have to be out of my head completely if I decided to ever move back there or own property there. Seriously, all the mature indicia augur against any such decision. In short, it would be stupid.

But then you allow the domestic architecture to seduce you. You realize you could own a 130 year old house with a staircase that looks like this:


And you think to yourself, maybe it wouldn't be so bad living back down there. I mean, that house is gorgeous, isn't it?

I have never lived in a city as house proud as New Orleans. I used to love, just love, driving around and looking. To my great fortune, I was friends with some very socially prominent people down there and thus invited into some of the grander houses for Mardi Gras house parties. To see these houses was a real privilege.

I miss the houses. I miss the city. I seriously doubt I could ever live there again, no matter how much I want to fantasize about it.

My wife is so patient with me when I get like this. I’m a lucky guy.

Still, that wanderlust is rising. . .

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August 15, 2005

Disaster Planning


It was around 4:00 yesterday afternoon. The kids were napping, I was updating security software on the laptop, the Yankees game was on mute on the television, the a/c was humming away quietly, and classical music was playing on the radio. Then the storm hit and it hit with a fury. Lightening flashing, thunder booming, and the rain coming down fast and heavy, driven against the house by the wind.

*POP* Out go the lights, out goes everything powered by electricity. Everything. Including the sump pumps in the basement, it just occurred to me. Gotta check that tonight. Oh, well. Hopefully that will be ok.

The kids were still napping but when they woke up, just like that, they were knocked out of our century. We lit the house with candles in whatever rooms we were in -- none of the candles were left unattended. Too scary a thought. My wife ordered pizza in for dinner and after dinner we all played on the floor of the den and then all over the house. The kids were tumbling over each other like puppies. It was adorable. And the house looked pretty nice in the candle light. It was an interesting exercise, a throwback to times past.

Connecticut was hit pretty hard by this storm. The mayor of Stamford compared it to some horrible ice storm in the 1930's.

And we were totally unprepared. Well, not totally. We did have flashlights and candles, canned food and cell phones, bottled water and other things. But, we were fortunate in that we just happened to have this stuff from prior storms and prior incidents. We've done very little in the way of major storm planning.

So, I'm going to do that here and invite comments. I am fortunate in having somehow attracted some terribly smart people to my blog (why, I have no idea) and I'm going to take advantage of it now and ask for your thoughts on disaster planning.

The Plan

*Enough flashlights for every person in the house
*Extra supply of fresh batteries
*Good battery powered radio
*First aid kit
*Figure out how to open garage door when power fails
*Make sure cars are gassed up in advance of major storm predicted
*Buy a couple of battery powered camping table lights
*Establish emergency supply of bottled water
*Get shelf stable milk in small packages for Boy Child
*Make sure to have several rolls of duct tape (hey, you never know)
*In advance of storm arrival, unplug all sensitive electronics
*In advance of storm arrival, turn fridge and freezer to coldest setting and move some of the ice packs from freezer into fridge.
*In advance of storm, make sure cell phones are charged.
*Keep emergency cash in the house.
*Post list of not commonly used phone numbers on door of fridge -- power company, water company, telephone company, etc.
*Make sure that there is a princess phone for use when power outage takes out wireless phone system.
*Make sure that you have enough shelf stable (i.e., canned or dried) food for at least three meals. More than that you ought to probably get out of the house, it seems to me.
*In advance of storm, run dishwasher to make sure you have clean dishes and place for dirty ones.

*For winter, make sure that you have some wood to burn in the fireplace since the furnace will go out, according to the nice oil company lady I just spoke to. Are there viable battery operated heaters?

So, what do you all think? Missing anything important? Including anything silly?

Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts on this.


Happily, after placing a call to the people who put in the sump pumps for the prior owners, I have learned that the sump pumps are on a back up battery system good for around 6700 gallons of water. I think that I will not have to worry about the basement. Which is nice.

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August 14, 2005

The box picture

Well, since you all asked, here's the picture I took of the garage, filled with boxes after three straight days of unpacking.


Scary, huh?

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August 12, 2005

A rare time

I was detained, last night, by evil companions (a good friend and my wife) and only managed 5 hours of sleep. That's ok, all you need is five hours if you then go and mortify the flesh in the gym for about two hours. Indeed, that's also a good way to make walking later too painful to do much of. But back to last night.

I went with a dear friend who is an international expert on rare books and manuscripts and toured some of the highlights of a private book and manuscript collection at a private club here in New York City. Seeing and handling rare books is a pretty interesting experience. I don't have the rare book bug, although I probably could catch it if I let myself. Its just that I lack the time, the money, and the education. I have the inclination, at least mildly, but the inclination by itself will not a collection build. Which is good. Collections are a responsibility and I'm never really certain who owns whom. Does the collector own the collection or does the collection, which requires special care and storage and handling and security and professional care, own the collector?

This collection had some highlights and I was really very fortunate to be able to touch and admire the following:

*Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London 1771). Catesby predated Audubon and his drawings of birds and plants were so extraordinarily colorful, even after some 230 years and so lifelike. It was the first natural history of America. We didn't look at the fish, but maybe another time.

Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, & The Bahama Islands is one of the great achievements of Anglo-American science in the eighteenth- century. Catesby's great folio plates provided the means by which Europeans could view the natural produce of North American and thus were a part of the continuing discovery of the continent. Most of Catesby's figures were based on watercolor sketches that he made in the field or upon specimens made available to him in England. The work remained a major source for the study of American plants and animals through its own century and even into the next.

Here’s one of his prints of the Teal (blue winged):


Regrettably, when his books come up for auction, they are often bought by dealers who cut them up and sell the prints individually. I think that’s cultural vandalism, personally.

*Ptolmey's Geographica (Venice 1511). This was one of the most interesting of the renaissance version of the atlas and while they corrected some of Ptolmey's mistakes, they couldn't bring themselves to correct all of them. Especially noteworthy is that this contained the first map that showed North America, or so I'm told. A nice link here. Here's the map. Love the little putti:


I think the thing that most blew me away with this printing was the title page. It was in red and in the form of an inverted pyramid, I assume in homage to Egypt. It was such a modern feeling graphical design presentation and the red was so beautiful. So exceptional.

*A couple of examples from the William Morris printing house, Kelmscott Press. These were rich, lush and detailed printings. Stunning stuff. You can see some examples here. A nice collection of information on Morris here. We then saw the 1903 printing of the Doves Bible by Cobden Sanderson, a protege of Morris, who rejected the rich and lush look for a much more sparse and very powerful look. Cobden Sanderson believed that the font stood for itself and should be powerful enough to support the work by itself. Here is the first page from the Doves Bible, one of the most famous pages in printing history, I'm told:


Pretty impressive, no?

*Leaving out some of the Renaissance era architectural books we looked at, at my request, we also looked at sketches and drawing by George Cruikshank, a noted satirist and caricaturist of the 1800's, in the tradition of Hogarth. The drawings were marvelous, a collection of full out water colors in exquisite detail all the way down to doodles he did, and signed, on the backs of envelopes and receipts for erasers. My favorite was a very powerful unfinished sketch for a series of illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost. The edition was never published and Cruikshank destroyed the plates and the drawings, except for this one. It was quite a thrill to see it, to know that I was looking at something that existed nowhere else. Cruikshank also painted wonderful animals -- dogs and horses, in the best tradition of an English artist, it seems to me. The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco has a large collection of his works and many of the images are online.

We finished off the visit with an hour long drink with the curator as we chatted about wonderful rare books he had seen in the course of his long career. A very real book nerd evening. After he left, we adjourned for dinner.

All in all, an outstanding night. It is really quite an experience to hold a book published in 1511. Makes one feel a little less important in the grand scheme of things, which may not be so bad at all in our very individual focused society.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

I know nothing

I’ve been musing a bit about knowledge. How do we know what we know and why do we think we know it? I’m sure that philosophers and just philosophy majors have spent years and years debating these questions and have honed them down into a manageable mess. I am not a philosopher and I did not major in philosophy. Nor, for that matter, have I read much philosophy, preferring to leave my mind uncluttered to better appreciate the simple pleasures of beer and baseball, preferably at the same time. So, I bring no baggage to these questions.

My musings were prompted by a book I’m reading. My dad gave it to me, I threw it into my bag and forgot about it. It isn’t heavy, so carting it around without remembering I had it for several months was no hardship. I found it this week when I went digging for my as of yet not located notary stamp. Damn that stamp. Anyway, the book, One Nation Under Therapy : How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance , is interesting. One chapter in particular got my attention. The chapter on grief counseling and grief therapy.

Basically, the book asserts, the long held and widely held beliefs that you need therapy to deal with your grief, that you need to vent, to share your emotions and how you feel about your loss, is a bunch of hooey. The belief doesn’t stand up to scientific review. In fact, for some, therapy simply prolongs the grief. The book notes that the 5 stages of grief that have become common cultural touchstones are in fact a distortion of the work of the shrink who came up with it. The 5 stages were not meant to apply to survivors but to people who had just been told that they had an incurable disease. Interesting, no? Pretty much anyone you ask will tell you (I know, over-generalization but, hey, its my blog) that grief and recovery from follow certain recognized pathways, right?

I paid particular attention to this because of the state my grandfather is in, you know.

Well, how is it that this is thought to be true if it isn’t? How do we “know” something? How can we be certain we know something?

We learn things by hearing them or by reading them. We rarely examine primary sources or conduct experiments ourselves. In fact, I think that for most things, we are probably three or four, at best, stages removed from the knowledge. The experiment is performed and the results are observed. Stage 1. The results are written up in a paper and presented somewhere. Stage 2. The results are then published in a journal. Maybe Stage 3 maybe just another stage 2. Then someone, maybe someone with no science training, writes an article about the report. Stage 4. That article is read or skimmed in the newspaper by the consumer. Stage 5. Public exposure of the article results in, maybe, a television appearance in which someone long removed from the experiment discusses the experiment and the results. Rarely is it the scientist. Stage 6. Maybe you’ve caught the 120 seconds of television airtime summarizing the article that summarized the report that summarized the experiment. And you become guided by it. Maybe you repeat what you think you’ve learned to your friends or co-workers, always with the authoritative phrase, “studies show” without really knowing that maybe it was just one experiment. Stage 7. And then we have public knowledge. Far removed, in 7 approximate stages, from the experiment and totally dumbed down.

That is how as best as I can figure out, knowledge becomes widely spread. At best, for most of us, we get our knowledge at Stage 4, the article. At worst, Stage 7. It doesn’t have to mean that the knowledge we obtain is unreliable, but it doesn’t bode well for a high reliability factor, does it, not when I break it down like this, right?

Sometimes we learn from school and from text books and from lectures from teachers or experts. Again, we are asked to accept the “knowledge” imparted in the book or from the lecture. We are asked to accept it as true. But we all know that information in this context is rarely complete and that information is often distorted by outside political forces. Take, for example, textbooks. Textbooks are often reviewed for “sensitivity” issues, for whether they may give offense to other cultures. In that regard, how can we ever accept, uncritically, anything that ever appears in a textbook, again, knowing that the contents have been, perhaps, distorted? Don’t believe me? Go forth and see what Diane Ravitch has said about some of these things (and then throw up):

*Diane on Math and

*Diane on Language Police.

So what can we do? I think that when you have the time, you should read and read critically the source material that an assertion claims to be premised upon. Grief counseling evidently rests on a very shaky foundation of science, or so the book claims in synthesizing the research of others. Don’t accept the bland “studies show” assertion. Go find out for yourself. Inform yourself, educate yourself, empower yourself.

But do it selectively. I mean, at some level, you have to trust or at least decide that the matter isn’t important enough for you to spend the time researching and you might as well accept what you read. Reductio ab absurdum and you find yourself repeating Newton’s experiments on gravity or learning ancient Greek because you don’t trust the Sophocles criticism you were reading. So, clearly, at some level, it can’t be taken too far. I assume we all, intuitively, know what that level is. If not, good luck figuring it out.

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August 09, 2005

Comments, etc.

Comments, as I have noted before, are the best thing about blogging. Comments make it more like making love and less like intellectual masturbation.

I hit a milestone, yesterday, when Tuning Spork left me my 3000th comment since coming to MuNu. Wow. 3000 comments. I am really very grateful and a little bit overwhelmed by the number.

Rob said it the best on his blog, in referring to the people who comment on my blog:

You have, without a doubt- The best collection of "commenters" I have seen, bar none.

Rob is right. Y'all are the best! Thanks so much for making this worthwhile for me.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 08, 2005

Adios, Christina

Christina, at Feisty Repartee, is hanging up her spurs. I will miss her sure handed and spare writing (never a wasted word), her clever insights, her penetrating observations, her sometimes heartrending stories and the terrific anecdotes of her way too smart children. Today, we lose one of the really great ones!

Thanks for the excellent writing and wonderful memories, Christina!

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 03, 2005

In praise of the natural

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon. The kids actually were napping, the wife was working out, the nanny was off at church, the air conditioning was humming away, we were as unpacked as we need to be at this stage of the weekend, and, for the first time in four days, I sat down for more than a moment.

But, I am a man and in some ways a typical man so I could not sit down in my new den without holding the remote. The adult male pacifier. And I could not hold it without using it, of course. But I did strike gold. Conan the Barbarian was only moments away from starting. I settled in to the couch to enjoy, as if for the first time again, the theatrical stylings of the Governator.

This brings me almost to the point of this post. Bet you thought I'd never get there, did you?

While watching this subtle play on the nature of good and evil, on choice and destiny, on nature v. nurture, I kept seeing breasts. There were a bunch of woman naked from the waist up in this cinematic tour de force. Normally, I suppose, I appreciate the naked female form as much as the next red blooded heterosexual male. But something about these breasts struck me as odd. And then it hit me. These breasts were real! That's why they looked so unusual and even, frankly, so nice.

And now we do get to the point. The point is this: real, not surgically enhanced breasts are seldom seen in movies today. They have vanished, much like cigarette adds from television. So much so, that I am wondering whether the natural breast should be added to the California endangered species list, Hollywood Chapter. They should not be allowed to vanish altogether. We should take a stand and demand their return to the big screen.

Seriously, how messed up is it that real breasts stand out on the screen? How many women have undergone cosmetic surgery to "improve" their looks for movies?

I'm reminded of a scene from a movie I can't recall the name of. Steve Martin and Sarah Jessica Parker are fooling around, in LA, and he says that her breasts feel weird and she says that's because they're real.

Could we start a grass roots movement here? Small breasts for the big screen! A rallying cry!

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August 02, 2005

I am moved. In, that is.

The movers came, the movers schlepped, the movers worked hard, they nicked walls, they damaged only one piece of furniture, and they left us with our boxes of possessions all over the house, mostly in the correct rooms.

We unpacked, to a minimum level of acceptability, our bedroom. We worked until late and then went out for -- margaritas. Well deserved re-hydration.

The next morning came with no hot water in the house. Someone had turned the furnace off, kindly meant, to not burn oil without the need. I turned the furnace back on and promptly it filled the furnace room with smoke and fumes. Service call one. The oil company. Hot water was restored, bodies were washed. Happiness returned. Ten hours of unpacking later, the kitchen was done. Kitchens take a lot of time to unpack. No question about it. In the meantime, deliveries came and went and our house became fuller still.

Friday, my father came to help. He made us a little bit crazy but he was a huge help. The kids' bedrooms were done and the den and living room were unpacked, the book shelves were adjusted, and the books were put away. Cable was hooked up so we had television again.

Saturday dawned with a trip to Stew Leonard's for pick up 1.5 lbs of jalapeno poppers. That's all we ended up eating for the whole day, as it turned out. The playroom was unpacked. The gym equipment was delivered and assembled by experts. We worked until the wee hours getting everything as finished as we could.

You should see the garage. In fact, I will take some pictures so you can see how we turned a spacious two car garage into a place where boxes were sent to die. My garage is the elephant graveyard of moving materials.

Sunday, the children came to their new home. I was promptly informed, and then regularly reminded by the Girl Child, that if it "was too hard" for her at the new house, her grandparents said she could move back with them.

Yesterday, first day back at the office and lots of catching up to do.

Today, too gruesome for words at work. Oh, and my wife has left us. You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille! Jetted off to Cinncinnati. Business, she claims. But we all know what a garden of temptation Cinncinnati is. Who knows what she's doing there.

I told the Girl Child last week that when her mother went away, we could stay up late and do something fun, just the two of us. Last night, after I said good night and turned off her light, she said, "Pappa, I am sooo excited about tomorrow night!" Yay for me! I'm going to hold on to these moments as long as I can!

Another thing I'd like to hold on to? When I tell the Boy Child that I love him, in Norwegian, "Glad i deg!", his response back, "Goal die!" is too precious for me not to savor.

Finally, the kids are excited by the deer. They have seen the deer and like them. Me? I have seen the deer and concluded that, much as pigeons in the City are rats with wings, deer are rats with antlers and big ears.

More to come later.

Thanks for all the good wishes on the prior post! You all are the best!

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:30 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

We have beer. We just need to find the opener

What does that title mean? It is what I figure I will be saying tomorrow night after the movers have left us with 835,003 boxes, 834,000 of which will be labeled "Misc.". I will look at the sea of boxes and say to my dear wife, "I have the beer, we just have to find the opener". And she will smite me. Being smited is not the same as being smitten, just in case you were wondering.

I am cautiously looking forward to having our house be ours. Cautiously, because I do not yet know what surprise awaits me in owning this house, although I assume that there will be many unpleasant surprises in my future. It is all part of owning a house.

In the midst of unpacking, for which I am taking off the next three days from work, we have deliveries up the wazoo, cable and telephone people coming, alarm system people coming, post office trips and town office trips to make, and generally speaking more work and appointments than I care to shake a stick at, even though I am not generally in the habit of shaking sticks at anyone. Nor should one be. You could put someone's eye out by over enthusiastic stick shaking, you know. Don't you listen to your mother? There's no talking to you, is there?

*Whap* Down, boy, down.

Sorry, I let my inner idiot take control of the keyboard for a moment and he revealed more about the inner dialogue in my head than he should of. Oh, well.

At least it isn't supposed to rain tomorrow. Today, however, is supposed to be the hottest day of the year, according to the weather people. Although tomorrow is supposed to be hotter. And I'm in a suit and tie today. Oh, joy.

Keep cool, y'all and send me nice happy thoughts as you think of me marooned in a sea of packing boxes, searching for a bottle opener.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:25 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

19 Days before the first problem hit

The bank and I owned this house for 19 days before the first problem reared its ugly drip. I got a call from my wife who got a call from the contractor that the air conditioning unit in the attic was gushing water onto the floor of the attic and screwing up the ceilings below. Enter crisis mode. Immediate call to a/c people who promised to dash over in the afternoon to see what they could do. Meanwhile, the contractor promised to do what he could do. I took the next train out to CT to see the damage for myself.

First, of course, I stopped for a moment to bang my head on the desk a couple of times. Know why? Because it feels so good when you stop.

I got out to the house just fine. Did I mention that it was in the 90's yesterday and so humid that it felt like you were swimming? Any advantage accrued by living so near to the coast was purely theoretical yesterday.

So, there I was, drowning in my clothes, looking at the pretty new patterns on the ceiling of the guest room and on the ceiling of the first floor below the guest room, when I realized, gee, it isn’t nearly as bad as I feared. The a/c guy fixed the problem easily – blaming it on an improper installation coupled with a filter clogged with saw dust – and I realized that this is only a painting problem at the end of the day. And you know what? I just happened to have a painter standing right there who could fix that problem lickety split as soon as it dried. How about that? In the great scheme of things, not so terrible.

And while I waited for the a/c guy to finish up and then to go forth to procure correctly sized filters and return with them, I hung out outside on my new property. This was probably the longest time I had been there by myself, so far. It’s lovely. Really lovely. A view of old, huge, majestic trees. Pretty little fawns. I heard what I am reliably informed was the sound of some wild turkeys calling in the woods behind. I went ahead and tasted one of the wild strawberries. I pictured my children running around the yard, chasing soccer balls with me. I painted quite the idyllic picture. I was content. Hot, sweaty, dripping, soaked through and disgusting, but content.

And to top it off, the a/c tech serviced my a/c units and told me that they were in great shape and should last for years and years. I heart good news like that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

Random Collection of thoughts

Hi, all, I had some random thoughts which, again, don't rise to the level of a post all by themselves and I decided to air 'em all out here:

*Why would anyone ever want to swim in a lake where they do baptisms? I mean, if the water in the lake washes away all of a person's sins, why would you ever want to swim around in all that sin?

*I had forgotten how good the novels of John D. MacDonald are. He's best known for the Travis McGee series. I have, at my parents' house, all 21 of the books. I re-read one of them over the course of the weekend. That's one of the nice things about going home again (despite everyone saying you can't). Becoming re-acquainted with old books. It is like seeing old friends again. Friends you've forgotten, faces you can't place, but personalities which start coming back to you and remind you why you liked them in the first place. Tastes change over time so it is especially fine when you still appreciate the yarns you read 20 years ago. If you stumble across one of his novels, I highly recommend the experience.

*There is a farm about a half a mile from our new house. It is a very small farm. They had a sign out on Sunday advertising fresh tomatoes and corn and squash for sale. I bought some small and ugly tomatoes. They had just been picked that morning. We ate them with blue cheese and onion and fresh basil. It was sublime. It made every other tomato, the ones you buy at the super market, taste like nothing at all. It was what all the other tomatoes aspire to be when they grow up. I think we're going to be regulars at this farm stand.

*I have not been to the beach or in the water for two weeks now. I think I'm going to shrivel up if I don't get some salt air on my skin.

*It rained very hard, very briefly, yesterday. I sent the Girl Child out on to my parents' deck in her bathing suit. She danced and cavorted and gamboled out in the rain with a huge grin on her face. That was kind of magical. When did we all lose the capacity to take delight in a good rain storm? How do we get it back?

*In free moments, my mind is occupied by thoughts of death and dying, by how one dies, by how dying seems to involve a loss of dignity, by how the health care system works, by how the system processes you on your way out. I try not to draw lessons from it all. I do know that I don't ever want to be a burden to my wife or children if it came down to it. That thought fills me with horror. And I worry that I'd be too quick to check out, that I wouldn't fight hard enough, because I wouldn't want to be a burden. I wonder if the really fastidious people die faster.

*I have deer in my yard at the new house. I’d like to plant roses. I hope deer do not eat roses. That would make me sad. I want masses and masses of heavily perfumed roses all over the place.

*Did I mention that my backyard at the new house is practically carpeted with wild strawberries? I heart wild strawberries.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:09 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

Not blogging today

Nope. Not me. I had an entry roughed out in my head about my experiences at the DMV in CT yesterday, including encounter with anti-semitic whacko and me telling him off, but I don't quite have the motivation to write it up today. I blame the humidity. It made my clothes feel wet walking back from lunch. It sapped my strength and sucked out all motivation.

All I want is a nap. And a drink. And a piece of chocolate. Not necessarily in that order, mind you.

Have a nice weekend, y'all. I'll give this whole blog thing another shot come Monday.

Oh, and by the way, if you are looking for someone who exhibits excellent motivation, great skills, and a sensitive treatment of some beautiful architecture, go check out Mr. Cusack's post on the Old Irish Parliament House. Great pictures, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Rare books

Books and manuscripts are interesting things, I think. I spend way too much of my day reading things in electronic form. Just pixels on a screen arranged to form letters or images all to convey information. It is a rather cold and lifeless experience. To me, reading online can never replace the book. The book is a much fuller experience. The heft of it, the feeling of the papers on your fingers, the sound it makes when you turn the page, the slippery cover of a new book, the excitement of turning the page. Reading a book is tactile. Reading a screen is not.

Older books are more tactile still because they also smell different. The bindings are often nicer, too. There is something quite wonderful about a nice binding.

I have been thinking, idly, about old books and manuscripts of late. About the attraction they hold for so many collectors. Heck, even used books can become an obsession for some. Ever been to the Strand in NYC? Or browse the book sellers along the Seine in Paris? Addictive, I tell you.

But none of this would have been possible without the invention of moveable type and the printing press. Without Gutenberg, who can say just how we'd be transmitting information and ideas to large numbers of people. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Gutenberg made our world possible and without him, the world would be completely different.

At least, that's what I was thinking the other day when I found myself in the NY Public Library (Main Branch, 41st and 5th), very near my office, all by myself, except for a guard, contemplating the first Gutenberg Bible to make its way to these fair shores. They have it on display at the library. I stood there, all alone, and contemplated the page printed in 1455, the page that changed the world.

Go see it if you can. It's on display until the end of the year. I think it may be the most important thing ever to happen. If you disagree, I'm happy to debate it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:59 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

An Episode

NOTE: I wrote the below post on Monday, July 11, at around 9:00 in the morning. Internet is down at work so I can’t post it.

An episode. What an innocuous word, episode. It might just mean that the next installment of whatever vacuous television show currently in vogue is due to be aired. Or it might mean something far worse. It might mean a sudden and unexpected incident or manifestation of deterioration.

The latter meaning is what I am referring to. Or rather, what the doctors were referring to when my grandfather was hospitalized again this weekend. The medical types attribute it to an episode. All by itself, that word means nothing. It certainly doesn’t function as a word should. It does nothing to explain or elucidate. Indeed, if anything, it invites further words, questions, demands for understanding. I suppose, as words go, it is a flag word in the medical community. By flag word, I mean a word that should stand up on the page and look like a big flag waving and telling the reader, hey, stop and inquire here.

He slumped over into his lunch on Saturday. He was confused. He has, in the last six weeks, lost 10% of his body weight. He lacked the strength, all of a sudden, to keep his head up. This from a man who played fullback on the Harvard Freshman team in the 1930's. He didn’t know where he was. He told people, when asked, that he thought he was in Texas or Boston or Norway. It’s like he’s already gone. My uncle E was with him. E is a psychiatrist and lives in California. Lots of business for shrinks in California, I gather. E is a lovely man, very bright, very compassionate. I’m glad he was there to ride herd on things.

E dined with us on Sunday night. After dinner was over, he pulled me to one side and he told me that my name appeared on certain legal documents for my grandfather. I didn’t know what he was talking about. E is my grandfather’s health care proxy and also holds his durable power of attorney. E explained that I was selected by my grandfather to be the backup on both of these documents. Upshot? If my uncle is unavailable and there is a question about whether my grandfather is to be intubated, that decision will be mine to make. When my uncle asked my grandfather if he had discussed this with me, my grandfather told him, no, but that “RP is incorruptible”. I gather that is a reference to the fact that with a durable power of attorney, I could sell his house if I wanted to.

I was and am flabbergasted. E pointed out to me that this decision by my grandfather, taken some time ago, might be regarded as very sensitive in the family and was otherwise not generally known and maybe, unless circumstances required, might be better left unknown. I couldn’t agree more. My grandfather has three children and six grandchildren. I think it would cause hard feelings if it was known that I was picked instead of, say, his other son. On the other hand, I feel immensely honored to have been so trusted by this man who I admire above all others. There isn’t much more to say about that. Except, maybe, that I am nervous about ever having to make a decision about whether, say, heroic measures should be used to preserve my grandfather’s life. We’ve never spoken about it, he and I. I wish he had initiated that conversation since he had picked me to make that decision, under certain circumstances. I wish I knew more about his wishes. Especially now, when my uncle tells me that my grandfather lacks the competence to make these decisions or to even have the conversation.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t have moments of heartrending lucidity. Saturday night, in the middle of his “episode”, he reached for my uncle’s hand and said to him, “E, it is very hard coming into this world and it is equally hard to go out of it”. I cried, just a little, when my uncle told me this. It was like the curtain got pulled back for just a moment and my grandfather was able to peer out and report back. And we were able to get a glimpse of how it is on the inside for him, said with his usual devastating understatement. He’s dying, or at least thinks he is, and in that moment communicated that he knew it. It must be a terrible thing to be able to contemplate, at a leisurely pace, your own mortality as something more than a distant philosophical construct. To lay there and review your life, weighing the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and consider its cessation. No more kisses from children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. No more responsibility to provide, to protect, to act as pater familias, to be the head of a family.

Of course, because of the dementia, I gather that these moments are few. But I guess that while he does have them, he puts them to good use, as evidenced by his comment to my uncle.

I’m glad that we went over on Friday night with my parents and my children. Four generations in his room at the rehab facility. We gathered, at my suggestion, to celebrate Shabbat with him. My wife brought candle sticks and matches and I bought challah. He sat in his wheel chair and joined us in the prayers over the bread and the kindling of the Sabbath lights. He ate his piece of challah. My dad made him.

The eating thing, or not eating thing, according to my uncle is a combination of three things which suppress appetite: pain; pain killing medication; and depression. All of which lead to weight loss and to muscle loss. This leads to loss of mobility and makes him more suceptible to infection and less able to fight off an infection if it comes. According to my uncle, this is what could end his life.

Still, hope is not over. My mother says that while she is hopeful, she is not optimistic. She spoke to him this morning and he told her that he’s ready for this bad luck to be over. If that’s true, maybe he hasn’t given up fighting. My uncle thinks my grandfather is at the point of no return, or close to it. They are going to put in a feeding tube to bring his weight back up. If they can, and he has the will to come back, it might work. As my mother said to me this morning, if he doesn’t want to come back, they won’t be able to bring him back.

I’m glad we saw him on Friday night. I’m glad I picked up my son and held him so that he could give my grandfather a kiss goodnight. Thinking about that now, actually, is making me choke up. So, I think I’ll stop writing now.

I have my fingers crossed. I just don’t know if it will do any good.

By the way, assuming you went this far, I am not re-reading this before posting it. I don’t think I can, frankly.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:07 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

London, continued

My entry on London yesterday sparked an argument on my comment board. Fair enough. We're all adults and can handle the bruising comment and the rough and tumble free exchange of ideas.

But when it comes to a reaction to what happened in London, Mia said it best. Go read her Fuck Off Letter. I have nothing to add but that I found it inspirational.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:43 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Taking things for granted

We all take things for granted. Basic things, simple things. It's normal, isn't it? You live in a routine, for the most part, and the more routine, the more dependable the thing is, the more you stop noticing it. For instance, you don't really notice each time you take a breath, do you? You don't notice the pavement you walk on, unless you trip because the frost heave has caused the pavement to twist or buckle, right? You expect the pavement to be relatively uniform in height and so you get accustomed to lifting your feet a predictable number of inches off the ground with each step. Then you stumble because the height has changed, even just a little bit.

Routine can be good like that. It can, at its best, free up your mind for other things. When you're walking, you can be thinking about anything you want because you already know that the pavement doesn't require anything even close to your full attention to be able to keep on moving along.

I like routine. No, that's too much. I am comforted by routine but I crave something else other than routine.

Ok. This damn post is going off in two or three different directions, none of which were intended when I began to click away at the keyboard.

Let me return to my first thought and leave routine and the pluses and minuses thereof alone for a bit.

What else do I take for granted? The sun coming up, the light turning on when I hit the switch, the chair supporting my weight when I sit in it, a dial tone when I pick up the phone, that my body will move when I will it to. Ah, the last one. My body moving.

Body moving is partially about health. Health is something that too many of us take for granted. And if we don't take it for granted, we only pay it lip service. We assume that our joints will work and our body will move when we command it to. We assume that and we take it for granted. Really. When was the last time you thought about moving your leg, or standing up when you were seated. When was the last time you traced your movments, slowly, to see what actually was happening? Probably not recently, if ever.

You learn something, it works, you take it for granted that it will work that way forever.

I took my children yesterday to various medical appointments. The Boy Child had his 2.5 year check up. The "Dock-her" said he was perfect. When we got home from the appointment, the Boy Child clutching his new matchbox truck or, if he's speaking Norwegian, his "ah-ah bil", ran around showing his grandmother and his sister his "art" (heart) because the dock-her listened to it, his "ouchie" because the "mommy" (nurse) gave him a shot, and his band-aid. For the record, he gained weight despite his steadfast refusal to eat and he grew. He is now 29 pounds and stands 36.25 inches tall. This puts him in the 48th percentile for weight and the 52nd for height. Like the dock-her said, perfect.

The Girl Child had a dental check up. It went just fine, as it should. She was brave, did not cry, and selected an extra toy out of the box to bring home for her brother. She also, I think for the first time, consciously spoke to me in Norwegian to avoid other people understanding what we were talking about. I think she is beginning to grasp the notion that Norwegian can be her secret language and I think she likes it. We had, by the way, the most overqualified dental assistant ever. She was a dentist herself, just graduated from dental school and temping until her post-doc program starts at NYU Dental in the fall.

On the way home, we drove past a cemetery and she had a lot of questions about death, dead people, how they were buried and why. She also wanted to stop by and visit her great-grandfather, about whom I've written before.

He is in his 90's and is a most impressive man. He's also someone who never seems to take anything for granted, not the important things, not his mind or the small pleasures vouchsafed us by our creator -- the joy of a ripe summer tomato, for instance.

But his mind is going. It's cloaked. His doctors told my mother and my uncle (a shrink) that he is suffering from mild to moderate dementia. The things he has taken for granted, that we have all taken for granted, are no longer to be treated so. He is disappearing before our eyes.

It was quite a contrast yesterday, my children in perfect health and my grandfather at the end of his.

Here's the rub for me. He is not eating and I understand that. This broken hip and confusion of the mind is robbing him of his dignity and pride. He has loads of both. I understand his not wanting to live without them. But you know what? I miss him already.

While I had the Girl Child at the dentist, my wife visited my grandfather with the Boy Child. She told me later that my grandfather's face lit up when the Boy Child kissed him. It's these little things, like kisses, that we ought not to take for granted.

You can't live your life taking note of every single thing. But every now and again, examine your world and marvel at it. It will do you good, I bet.

Sorry if this one turns out to be as confused a mess as it felt while I wrote it. But, you take the good with the bad, right? Even if the bad is a really long post.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 07, 2005


I am totally numb with the news from London. I used to live there and I know the places those cowards bombed.


Helen, thank goodness, was not in London today.

May God's mercy and light shine down today on London.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:23 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005


I am back at work today for the first day in a week (feels like a month) and back blogging for the first time in a week (feels like a couple of months).

Thanks for all the lovely comments you all left on my last post regarding the move. I'll try to update below. But since this isn't really a journal, I'm just going to do it in a series of random observations and vignettes, as is my wont, rather than tell a blow by blow account.

*We got packed up and moved out. I learned a little something about myself during that process. I packed over 50 boxes of books but only 2 boxes of DVD/Video tapes.

*I did buy a bottle of Champagne for the buyers of my house. I couldn't not. Karma, etc.

*Watching all your stuff disappear into boxes and then loaded on a truck is both scary and liberating. All the important stuff is with me: my family. The rest could just totally disappear and, sure, there would be times I'd have pangs of regret for certain sentimental items, but by and large I think it would not be a big deal. That's the thing about sentimental items. You have them because they evoke memories and the memories are the things that are precious, not the items in and of themselves. I have always opted for the things that evoke memories and not just the things for having things.

*I am a sentimental person. I don't do change well. I really don't. And yet, I have nothing but relief and happiness to be out of that house. Really. Couldn't be happier. I always like to be the last person out of whatever place we're living in. I like to be the one to lock the door for the last time and savor the poignancy of saying goodbye to a place. No poingancy here. Except for a moment. It was Wednesday. The movers had loaded everything out. I was alone in the house waiting for the cable guy to come pick up the cable box. The heavens had opened up. Rain was pouring down and all I could do was sit in the little window seat, waiting for the cable guy, hoping fervently that no new leaks would appear and that this damn house would let me go. I sat there, happy in my no sadness about leaving state, and then I noticed that the glass on the front window overlooking the street was smeared with marks. And then I had a pang. The marks were made by my children as they would wave to whoever was leaving. They would kneel on the window seat and blow kisses and wave and lean against the glass and smear it and streak it with their palms and fingers. I looked at the rain falling through the smears and listened to the rain echoing in the empty house and just for a moment, I was sad about leaving. After all, we brought our son home to this house. And then I remembered, I was bringing my son with me. No need to be sad.

*Almost every day last week I got to peek in, while the movers took lunch break, at my daughter who was at camp at the local beach club we belong to. It was her first summer there. I visited her life every day. See, as a working parent, I don't share much of my child's life. She lives her life -- at school or camp or play -- and I live mine at work. Our lives intersect for a couple of hours a day, at best. So observing her at play at camp, without her noticing on one occasion, was like a really sinful dessert. I savored it. I ate up the expression on her face as she took in the fact that I was where she did not expect to see me. I also stumbled on a truth. Science has said that the most attractive, the sweetest sound to any person is the sound of their own name. Untrue. The sweetest sound is someone else calling the name of my child. I loved listening to her counselor call her name while they had beach play time.

*The close on the house we were selling was easy. It was nice to feel rich for an evening. The lawyer for the other side was an hour late due to a flat tire.

*The close on the house we were buying was not easy. Our closing statement required 45 minutes to review to make sure it was correct. The lawyer for the sellers was on time but was a slime ball. We found water in the basement in the utility area where water had not been seen previously. That made me unhappy. I had, happily, thought to bring with me my digital camera and took a picture of the seepage. This became important later. We argued about the water. The closing took 5.5 hours. I wanted money in escrow in case it was a serious problem. The sellers did not want money in escrow. Then the lawyer told me that the basement may be covered by a warranty from Basement Systems (“BS”). Fine, I said, check with the seller. And then we had the following conversation when he (Charley) returned:

Charley: I checked with the sellers. The basement is covered by a 25 year warranty from BS.

Me: [thinking it over] Charley, would appear to have left an unfortunate ambiguity in the conversation. Did BS do work in the utility portion of the basement such that the warranty runs to that portion?

Charley: [long pause] No. [bullshit, right? I mean, that was the impression he was trying to finesse his way into, to mislead me into believing, right?]

Me: So, now I have to ask, with respect to the remainder of the basement, are we now in year 26 of that warranty?

Charley: [offended] No!

Sellers’ Broker to me: What do you do for a living?

Me: I’m an attorney and I do complex corporate litigation. [turning to Charley]. But Charley already figured that out, right Charley?

Charley: [nodding his head] Yes, I did.

Upshot? Money is being held in escrow pending my satisfaction concerning the water.

We were exhausted at the end of the close.

*Our contractor was in by Saturday and the painting has started. I think, tentatively, that I’m going to love the new house. Remember, not big on change, me. So I am kind of shocked I can’t seem to locate any buyer’s remorse. I think my wife is more shocked.

*Picked up a nasty cold right in the middle of this. I think it was from the stress just breaking my body down.

*The weekend was spent at the beach. I swam out to the float the club keeps in the middle of the Sound and lay out on it for 15 minutes or so while it rocked in the waves. I felt safe and protected out there. Odd, no? I think it had something to do with the motion and the sound and the light. I heart the ocean. Deeply. I used to think I preferred the mountains. I was wrong.

*We have all taken up residence at my parents. My wife and I are on an air mattress in my old room and the kids are in my sister’s old room. The Boy Child chatters at night and the Girl Child complains that his noise is “disturbing” her. I can hear her at night telling him to be quiet.

*The Boy Child is 110% stubborn mixed with the terrible two’s. He is unmovable and willing to push every single issue to the brink. I admire this “damn the consequences” attitude. He stands there, refusing to listen, and when the tone of my voice gets more serious, the thumb goes in his mouth and he starts sucking furiously as he continues to defy. The trick I face is how to get him to listen without doing anything to break his spirit. This requires more thought than I ever anticipated.

*I hate being back at the office. I miss my kids. This is not new, mind you. It is, rather, a constant refrain running quietly in the background.

*What else do I want to remember about this week? Beats me, right now. If I think of anything else, I’ll update.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:58 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

June 25, 2005

The Abyss

I stand looking into the abyss and it is looking back at me. It is contained within the confines of a corrugated cardboard box.

Monday and Tuesday, the movers come to pack us for our move. Before that, Saturday and Sunday, I must scurry around the house frantically packing up all the valuables I can find to bring them over to my parents' house. I also have to get clothes and things packed for a 2-3 week sleep over at my parents' house. My parents are being very nice about the fact that a hotel for that time would be 6-8 grand and it just ain't in the budget.

Wednesday, the movers remove us from the house.

Thursday afternoon, we sell the house.

Friday, we buy the new house.

If you've ever done this before, you know that there are more than a few places where these well laid plans could go awry.

Perforce, blogging will be somewhere between light and none. Consumption of rum in the evenings may be a bit higher. Just a guess, of course, but a good guess just the same.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:40 AM | Comments (20)

June 22, 2005

The well is a tad dry today

I lack inspiration today. Well, no, that isn't true. I lack the energy to write a decent post today.

I was up at around 3:00 this morning, stressed by all the shit that needs organizing and attention as we slide faster and faster to the move. This thing, this move, this sale/purchase of old house and new house, this is a very intricate dance with lots of small pieces, all crucial, requiring coordination.

By the way, seems to me I never showed anyone what the new house looks like. Since I can't really come up with a decent post:


In the meantime, I spend my day chipping away at the to-do list email I sent myself this morning at around 4:00. I am not doing any legal work today. Just moving stuff. Consequently, I have a greater sense of accomplishment today than I have had in some time.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:05 PM | Comments (14)

June 21, 2005

Something nice

I was due, I figured. Due for something nice to happen to me. It feels like it has been a long, hot and dry spell since the last soothing balm was applied to my sense of self. The drought is over.

Today, to my surprise, I was elected to the Board of an institution with which I have been involved for some years. I have only been active for the last couple of years and didn't imagine this happening for many years to come, if ever. I was shocked. I am being appointed to serve out the term of someone who recently died. I am probably the youngest person on the Board by some 10-15 years. To use an old English expression, I was gobsmacked by the call. The President of the Board assured me that no one on the Board was drinking at the time this decision was made. I asked. He also said my appointment was unanimous. I am to serve out the term of the man I am replacing and then I will be re-nominated to another three year term, or so the normal course goes, assuming I don't screw up too badly. You never know, of course. I am capable of pretty spectacular screw ups.

Still. What a lovely surprise and quite an honor.

Sorry I can't name the institution, but that's what happens when you blog in secret. You have to be a bit coy sometimes.

Posted by Random Penseur at 05:31 PM | Comments (15)

June 20, 2005

He slept

I went back yesterday, on Fathers' Day, to visit my grandfather again at the rehab facility to spend a little time with him on the holiday. See two entries below this one to understand the background.

Unfortunately, he was napping and I did not want to wake him. Instead, I sat with him. I settled into the vinyl (?) covered armchair which squeaked like vinyl does when I sat in it and I watched him sleep for about 20 minutes before I wrote him a note telling him I had been there and then I left.

It was sort of peaceful. He lay there on his back and frightened me a little bit with his breathing, which seemed rapid and shallow, not deep and restful like it ought to be for a nap. He was restless in his sleep, twitching. I wonder if he was in pain. It was a lot like watching a baby sleep. They move a lot and breath in ways that can be scary.

I just sat there and let the sounds of the place wash over me as I contemplated my grandfather's face and his body. He has aged so much, so quickly. He is less. He is not eating and the nurses are concerned. One has told my father that she thinks my grandfather has made a conscious decision to not eat. If true, I don't know what we can do about it. But he has lost weight. He was once very powerful, broad in the shoulders and deep in the chest, like he was when he played fullback on the Harvard Freshman team in 1934. He never had his nose fixed from when it was broken in those days. The thing that intrigued me, as I sat there watching him sleep, was that even though he has shrunk, his hands are still large. The hands don't change and maybe they give you clues about the body they used to be attached to. Parenthetically, hands are very hard for painters to paint correctly. They are complicated little things.

I think that the things you both value and take for granted as you grow older, you lose when you get very old. Privacy is the big one. Not just the privacy you get when you shut the door, but the privacy of silence. It's never quiet at the rehab facility and this is a pretty swank place, too. Still, you hear other televisions, you hear other conversations, you hear other people moaning. You can't lock it out. Noise is a physical assault as it manifests itself in sound waves that crash against your inner ear and cause the ears to vibrate. You don't have the means to protect yourself from that assault. You have no privacy. Unless your hearing is impaired, a mixed blessing under the circumstances.

I left him there, asleep, his hands clasped over his once broad chest. I left him a note telling him that I loved him and wishing him a happy fathers' day.

I spoke to the head nurse about the disassociation of yesterday (again, see two posts below) and she took notes and promised that the doctor would be made aware of it and would evaluate him.

I didn't cry. But it was very close. Close enough, I suppose, that the nurse tried to comfort me.

Underlying all of this, you know, is the thought, the hope, the belief that he's going to snap out of it and get better and be his old self again. That maybe he's just confused because of the painkillers. Any other result I cannot bear to contemplate. And so I don't. I choose not to.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:38 AM | Comments (7)

June 19, 2005

Who are you?

How much of your time do you spend trying to answer the question of who you are, how do you know you exist, what defines you? A least some of it, I bet, if you are at all self-reflective. You have also probably spent more time at various points in your life contemplating this question than at other times in your life. But it's always there -- how do you know?

Descartes had a simple answer -- Cogito ergo sum. Je pense donc Je suis. I think therefore I am. Rene wrote it in Latin, first, but I intially heard it in French. He defined his existence by his capacity for thought. Simple, no?

Too simple. I think that you are defined by what others think of you. Do you really exist if no one knows your name or recognizes you? Or are you a ghost, just sort of touching on this plane, temporally. I think you exist because others believe you exist. You are a hero if you are thought of by others as a hero. You are unkind if, etc. See, other people are, among other things, a mirror to reflect your own existence back at you. Without others, you don't exist, except maybe in your own mind and even then, who can really say. Think about it, too much self reflection, too much self contemplation, too much inside your own head and the rest of the world becomes less, or maybe more, but just the same your existence changes. I think.

Moreover, I think that your family is the most important source of you. What do I mean by that? They set the expectations that you try to measure up to, they are the ones from whom you hope to receive praise for your accomplishments, the ones you keep coming back to in order to affirm your growth, physical or other. They are the wellspring, the measuring stick. They confirm your existence and your place in a hiearchy.

What happens if your existence is suddenly called into question by the rest of the world? Or at least by someone very important?

You crumble. At least a little.

That's what happened to me yesterday.

I took the Girl Child to go see my grandfather in his rehabilitation facility where he was recovering from his broken hip.

He didn't know me. He asked me if we were in Texas and I told him no. He asked where we were and I told him -- in the rehab facility in Westchester, NY. He asked me if I was the Secretary of the facility. I told him no and we discussed how long it might take us to get to a mountain in Nevada. He didn't believe me when I told him how long it took.

I felt like crying.

I think that when my grandfather didn't know who I was, my place in the world became less firm. My existence wavered and I realized, if enough important people don't know who I am, I cease to exist.

I am posting this without re-reading. Sorry if it doesn't make any sense, but I wrote this one all for me. I needed to.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:51 PM | Comments (12)

June 17, 2005

Yay, Margi!

Margi's two year old grandchild is about to get a new aunt or uncle, sometime in 2006! That ought to make family reunions more interesting. I want to be there the first time the grandchild gets to babysit the new aunt or uncle.

YAY, Margi!

Go over and give them your best wishes, will you, I think Margi would appreciate it.

And Margi's the best. They don't come any finer.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:10 AM | Comments (4)

June 14, 2005

A strong finish

It can not matter how you start your day, how you conducted yourself or your affairs during the course of the day, how overwhelmed you may have felt as the day ran on, if, and this is a big if, if you finish strong. For some, that may mean pushing through the pain at the end of a run. That would not be me, that person.

No, yesterday was a day of quiet. Not solitude, not happy quiet, not peaceful reflection. It was a day of feeling the desperate quiet, the stillness that comes from paralysis, not meditation. The frozen feeling of not wanting to take another step because you don't know what's going to reach out, grab your ankle, and send you sprawling all over the mess you are trying to avoid. One of those days. We all have them. I had it almost all day. I left the office to go home a beaten and downtrodden man. I went to bed a happy and rejuvenated guy. How come? Strong finish.

First, I reconnected with someone on the train ride home who is coming in to my office tonight after work to make a presentation to me and another one or two lawyers about a new case. I love, just flat out love, new cases. They are all shiny and fresh and smell like opportunity. I can't yet see all the hard work involved or if I do, I discount it a little in my excitement. She's decided to come in and talk to us because I am the only lawyer who has understood what she was talking about and she has tried to describe this to six or seven others. She's a lawyer too, for that matter. So, that put a spring in my step on the way home.

Then, home to a quick happy summer dinner. The temperature was in the 90's yesterday (and will be even hotter today). It was a day for a cold dinner. I had made, the day before, a salad of white beans, Italian tuna packed in olive oil, fresh pepper, and chopped roasted red peppers. A very simple thing. And then I applied some wine therapy -- the Vino Verde. Instant mood elevation. Vino Verde is from Portugal. It is a young wine, described as a"crisp fruity white, with lemon and green peach flavors". It is also slightly effervescent. A slight but happy fizz. It is a bit dry but very fruity. Not sweet. It is, at around $6 a bottle, the greatest thing to happen to summer wine since beer was sold at baseball parks. It is that good. It is particularly good with things piscine. Or with nothing at all. It is a young wine and meant to be drunk young. Go buy some. You will come back and thank me for it, I guarantee (channeling a little Justin Wilson there, remember him?).

Then, I tumbled on the floor with my children. The kids were like a litter of puppies. It was of no moment that I took a knee to the chin or my son's thumb somehow ended up in my nose. Didn't hurt a bit. They growled and climbed all over me and it was lovely, sublime even. Then stories were read, cuddles and kisses were given, and they were deposited in their beds a good 40 minutes later than usual.

To cap it off, what do I find on the idiot box? Grosse Pointe Blank. I really like this movie. First, I like John Cusack and like just about every movie of his I've ever seen. Second, it's the 1986 high school reunion! That was my graduation year. Third, the music. Finally, what can I say? I like a nice satire now and again. Besides, it has some other great actors in it. I couldn't stay up to watch the whole thing, but what I saw of it made me happy.

Yes indeed, it isn't where you start, it's where you finish.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:10 AM | Comments (10)

June 13, 2005


She was terribly piteous in her pain. She moaned and she cried out loud and loudly, without the apparent ability to contain her cries. She was very old as was her husband. She, in a wheel chair, he, mobile and in what looked to be good health. They sat together, bound by what -- duty? love? habit? vows? no other choice? -- and alone, separated by her illness and his health, an unbridgeable vastness. Divided by physical condition. It is an immutable law of nature, I think, that while joy can be shared, pain cannot and it cleaves those formerly joined by love and shared experience. They ate from trays provided by the nursing facility at a round table in a sort of sitting room next to the door to her room. After the meal, he will leave and she will return, alone, to her room. I don't know their names. He called her Bee. He was very patient, almost infinitely patient, caring and tender. He explained to me, helplessly, that it's her back, that she needed an operation but, for some reason he did not explain, the doctors could not perform it. I was there because I had to retrieve the cup my daughter let in my grandfather's room. I was there to help this man, how could I not offer? I gently pulled her back upright in her chair. She had slipped down and he couldn't lift her and I am strong, certainly strong enough to lift a frail old woman and to do so gently so as not to hurt her more than that which I could not avoid. He was grateful and offered to me the back problem as an explanation, as an attempt, I think, to share his burden. Her feet slipped off the leg of the table and he knelt and placed them back on, without complaint, with all the patience in the world. I left them there, eating their dinner, joined by love and divided by pain -- is that melodramatic, that phrase? I hope not. It's how I saw them. Two gray heads together at the table. In truth, while I was saddened terribly, I was humbled by his love for her. I was saddened by the terrible indignity of aging, the thought that the golden years are not golden at all, but. . .

But what, really. I'm not sure. I left them there to go be with my little family. My golden haired smiling children. This reality is not yet mine. I can't share their experience but I could help just a little bit by lending my physical strength and my sympathetic smile to his explanation. Indeed, no one can share their experience. Pain cannot be shared. I watched my children play and thought, I'm glad that's not me in there. Not yet, at least.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:45 AM | Comments (5)

June 10, 2005

Some random thoughts

This barely qualifies as a post, just a collection of random thoughts this morning. Welcome to the pit that is my brain:

*Are thongs over? I have made a careful study of young, attractive, young, fit, and young women in tight summer pants and I am gravely concerned that I see panty lines all over the backside area. Have these women stopped wearing thongs? This is deeply disturbing. Can't somebody do something about this? For the love of God? Please?

*Where does the phrase "so long" come from? So long from what? To what? What's so long? How did this come to mean goodbye.

*Pecans must be the most expensive nut known to packers of mixed nuts. Why else do you only find around six of them in a can of mixed nuts? And why can't you buy them all by themselves, salted? In a way, this concerns me more than the thong question because I like to have mixed nuts in the drawer of my desk and really there isn't that much time during the day that I can devote to looking for thongs. I bet Howard, if he stops by today, will disagree and that's ok. It's a free . . .uh. . . something.

*It's nice to be a regular at your local whatever. It means that you find yourself paying for your breakfast and leaving the tiny joint before the two people in front of you have even been asked for their order yet. Yes, I am the breakfast king this morning. All must bow down before me. Ok, I'm getting a little carried away here, but still, perhaps a small kernel of truth?

*Do you think it's true that it takes at least a year to fully mourn a parent? An editorial I read this morning said that. It said you need a year to go by to fully experience at least one round of holidays without that parent and that each holiday tears it all open anew.

*I attended a reception last night that had, afterwards, a Lilly Pulitzer themed party. I was there at the reception for work, sort of. But the party, let me ask you, would you actually wear a tie that looked like one of these? I declined. It was either that or surrender the last vestige of any self respect I still possess. I had a nice time anyway, catching up with some old acquaintances.

*Picking up the new nanny today at the airport. The current nanny leaves us next Friday. The kids are going to be devastated. Still, they're young, they'll bounce back. But the stress is going to get seriously ratcheted up a notch now. Now, it feels as if the slope is significantly more inclined as we gather speed and move faster and faster towards having to have the house packed for the move. Stress always tastes so good. Well, to be thankful for the little things, at least with this move my wife isn't pregnant. Right, honey? Right?

*I heart the comments most of of you leave. The ones who leave the occasional nasty note, I do not heart. Them I pity. I can't always answer every comment, as much as I would like to, but I read them and I just adore getting them. So, my gracious thanks for the remarks y'all are moved to leave.

*[big sigh] I just figured out that seasons are not capitalized. I have been capitalizing them all along. I wonder where I picked that up from. I don't think French. My wife confirms not in Norwegian either.

*Speaking of summer (note correct capitalization), may I say that I need more fried summer foods. Specifically, fried belly clams. Them's fine eating. Seriously, there are certain things I feel one has to eat in the summer time, when the living is easy, catfish jumping *whap*. Down boy, down. Back to my thought, things one has to eat during the summer include, but are not limited to: fried clams; lobster (I actually like mine broiled over boiled or steamed); steamers; raw clams; watermelon; ripe local tomatoes mixed with raw onion and blue cheese (my four year old loves this, go figure); an ear of corn picked no more than an hour before; berries and cream; grilled burgers (Jim's look good, I'll take two, Jim!); and, surely, a peach so gloriously ripe that the juice runs down your chin and stains your shirt. Leave anything out?

*There. That just about concludes this brain dump instead of a post. Please feel free to either move about the cabin or go back to your regularly scheduled day.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:48 AM | Comments (24)

June 08, 2005

Worms, etc.

The practice of law has been light the last few days. So has blogging. The two are related. The server at the office has a backdoor worm. I'm told that the whole server may have to be taken down and "cleaned".

I, techno-god that I am, immediately had a vision of the Worm Squad, intrepid souls in hazmat suits venturing into the server with explosive tipped probes to kill and/or chase the worm out. They would have voices burred from too much bad whiskey and cigarettes. They would have a devil may care and, at the same time, world weary attitude. They would save our infected machine. Some might die, but they would do so bravely and with an excellent last speech.

Now that sounds kind of cool. Probably much cooler than what they will actually have to do to the machine. What that may be, I still have no idea.

I'm going back to the Worm Squad idea. Go get 'em, guys!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:05 AM | Comments (2)

The Hollywood Cliche

There I was, sweating away on some instrument of torture or other this morning, distracting my mind by looking at the t.v., when some commercial for some silly looking movie came on. As part of the trailer, they showed a rope bridge used to connect two sides of a steep ravine. I'm guessing it was supposed to be in South America but I don't really know. Anyway, it caused me to think of film cliches and here is a partial list:

*Rope bridges between ravines will break when you and only you are at the midpoint.

*Don't be a best friend in a war movie. You will die.

*Never, ever, go into the cellar in a horror movie. Again, death.

*A boy and his dog are soon parted.

*Preachers' kids are wild and dance better than you do.

*Hookers are not crack addicts and have a deep wellspring of sympathy and empathy.

*Many animals can and will talk if you only listen.

*Bad guys often can't shoot straight and if they hit anyone at all, it's the best friend.

*The geeky shy girl? Don't be mean to her. You're going to want to take her to the prom and she's going to be the hottest girl there. And she's going to be smart, too.

This is just a partial list to get people started, if anyone is inclined to play this game with me. Well, are you, punk? (Gratuitous Clint Eastwood reference).

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:51 AM | Comments (14)

June 03, 2005

What is friendship, anyway?

I was kicking this question around with my wife last night. The conversation started because she asked me what I get out of this blog, now that I've been doing it for awhile. I told her that, inter alia, I've made some friends and that took us to the question at the heart of this post: can you be friends with someone only through virtual reality? I told her yes but I want to expand upon my thoughts here.

I don't think that you need to be in the same room with someone to be friends with that person. Sure, having a few too many beers with someone, putting 'em in a headlock, giving him a noogie, all while saying "I luuv you, you little fu*ker" is truly a tangible indication of friendship. But is it necessary? No. How many of you have had penpals before? Would you consider them friends? I would.

No, I 've made friends here, even if I can't stay out let and drink/eat/talk too much with them and even if I've only met two of them in person -- Helen and Amanda -- that doesn't mean I don't value them just the same. That said, I sure would like to have drinks with some of you, and I think you know who you are (said in my very best Billy Crystal voice).

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:10 AM | Comments (13)

A milestone

Yesterday, I reached my 30,000th visitor since moving to MuNu, last year. Wow. I'm kind of stunned by that, to tell the truth. I know that some people come because they are looking for answers to particular questions and Google sends them this way. Some of those questions, by the way, are pretty icky. Others come because they have become friends and they want to check in. I have no idea what brings the rest of you! But, that's ok, too.

One thing that makes it particularly interesting for me to continue is the comments y'all leave. That makes it much more of a conversation and less of a monologue. I am very grateful for the comments. They make it all worthwhile.

So, 30,000 visitors later and maybe, just maybe I can start to think of myself as a writer. Maybe. You see, I find it hard to think of myself like that. Writer. It's such a big word, encompassing multitudes (with thanks to Whitman, there). No, I think I may be more comfortable describing myself with a less pretentious word. Scribbler, maybe. I don't know.

I don't know who my 30,000th visitor was, but he or she was searching for a picture of children holding hands. I think that's rather nice that a request such as that is what brought that person here. I hope you found what you were looking for!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:41 AM | Comments (8)

May 27, 2005

A visit

Last night, I came home from work early, loaded up the car with the kids, and went over to visit my 90+ year old grandfather who broke his hip recently, in two places, and was now in a rehab facility a couple of towns over from where we live. So, off we went.

My grandfather is someone I cherish, deeply. He has been the man I have always wanted to be -- strong; smart; polite; worthy of respect; religious in a quiet, sincere way; good humored; and full of love. He is our pater familias.

Now, he is diminished in body and in mind. He has lost weight, because he isn't really eating. While I was there, it was clear that the nurses were making him drink Ensure, a nutritional supplement. He asked me 4 or 5 times whether the kids had eaten dinner yet. Each time, of course, I answered the question as if it was the first time I had heard it.

I know that we are all supposed to get older and eventually die. But I'm not ready for him to go yet. I think that having the kids around cheered him up. The kids were adorable and very well behaved and the expression of astonished joy on the Boy Child's face when he figured out how to operate my grandfather's hospital bed seemed to make my grandfather radiate happiness himself. I hope he decides that he ought to be taking care of himself and eating now that he has seen his great grandchildren.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:19 AM | Comments (6)

May 25, 2005

A Sale of House Disaster Averted

To sell a house, to convey clear and good title, you need to be able to produce a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A clean CO is needed because it shows the world that the town or village says that the structure you are selling is a legal and proper structure with no code violations on file. Failure to obtain and produce a clean CO will be taken to mean that you don't have the legal right to occupy the dwelling on the property that you own. As you might imagine, it is a big deal if something goes wrong with the CO.

Something went wrong with our CO. Our sellers, the people from whom we purchased the house we currently live in, built a brick patio in the backyard. According to our buyers, that brick patio does not appear on the CO or on the survey and thus we do not have a clean CO and we need to get this taken care of. I learned this yesterday.

I pretty much almost went through the fu*king roof when my lawyer told me this, since neither my lender nor my title agency told me this when I bought the house. This can be a real problem to fix because you need to fill out an application, attach a certified architect's plan, a check for a fee, and hope for the best.

Well, as it turns out, problem solved. The head of the Building Department and I had a very nice chat. First we gossiped a bit about mutual acquaintances and then he told me that he remembered inspecting the patio some 13 years ago and that it was built before zoning laws required a permit or CO for these kinds of patios and he would send me a letter to that effect. Believe me, I asked no questions designed to probe the acuity of that memory.

What an exceptional, unlooked for act of sheer kindness.

The letter arrived the next morning (today), by fax, and appears to resolve entirely the issue my buyers raised.

I now have a nice, clean, sparkling, shiny CO to convey.

Thank goodness for small towns and the nice people who actually think that from time to time they're there to help you, not hurt you.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:13 PM | Comments (7)

Notes to self

In lieu of a real post, I give you the following "notes to self".

Hey, self, are you listening? Some reminders are in order:

*Don't use the stairmaster for the full 30 minutes when someone else beat you first to the machine of choice because it makes your knees hurt;

*Low sugar or no sugar candy or snacks are still crap;

*A clean Certificate of Occupancy is a happy C of O;

*Don't use your cell phone while crossing the street -- it's a good way to get squashed by a bus because you aren't paying attention to the world around you;

*It isn't necessary to prove that you are the smartest guy in the room and in fact by trying to do so, you might just prove the exact opposite;

*Don't guess if you don't know the answer to a question;

*Decisions made in haste, while they may be regretted later, are often the most exhilarating decisions to make; and,

*Have you recently told your wife how much you love her?

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:47 PM | Comments (3)

May 12, 2005

Sure is quiet around here, huh?


*dropping stone down well of posts to hear a far away splashing noise*

Well, ain't going to get any better until next week. I was in Philly all day yesterday on meetings. Saw none of the fair city except the windowless conference room and the taxi to and from the train station. Today, after a whirlwind of activity, I am off to Washington D.C. where I am leading a small group of friends (about 15) on a fun filled tour of the City. I will report back on some of the more interesting details upon my return, but, it will involve a private tour of the Supreme Court.

So, gotta hustle outta here.

Speak to you soon!

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:27 PM | Comments (10)

May 05, 2005

Lessons learned in transit today

Sure is beautiful here in Guatemala today. The kids are out in the pool, splashing their grandparents and enjoying themselves immensely. So I decided to make myself scarce for a moment to give them all some time alone and what better way to occupy myself than sharing some of my newly learned lessons.

*Waking children up at 4:00 a.m. to go to the airport is an exercise fraught with hazard.

*Thanks to the nice Transportation Security Agency lady I now know that when zipping the suitcase closed, do it in such a way that the zipper pulls are as far from the handle as you can possibly place them. This deters thieves in the baggage handling area from doing a quick unzip and stick hand in move. She explained that if they have to search for the zippers, they are more likely to just move on the next bag. Now that the bags have to be unlocked, this is just damn good advice. I think of it as a reward for being nice to people and chatting. I bet a lot of people don't chat with this lady and therefore don't get this safety tip.

*There was an adhesive fake fly on the urinal wall in JFK, Terminal 4. I read that a Dutch company (and I read this years ago but I think it was in the NY Times) figured out that if you put the fly there, guys will aim at it and thus the amount of spillage on the floor is reduced by some percentage. As I perversely refused to pee on the fly today, I learned that I would have hated to be the guy responsible for measuring the amount of urine on the floor of the un-flied urinal v. the flied urinal. Some jobs, I realized, I would not be happy having.

*Finally, it's really kind of fun typing on a Norwegian keyboard. It has all these cool letters built right in: Ø; Æ; and, Å. That said, the Norwegian spell check will not be very helpful in checking this post. Win some, lose some.

Posted by Random Penseur at 06:28 PM | Comments (2)

May 03, 2005

Behind the Curtain: Arthur Ferguson

I came across, in my wanderings, the following extract which I copied and pasted from I don't recall where but which inspired me to do another Behind the Curtain post:

In 1924, a Scottish conman by the name of Arthur Ferguson succeeded in extracting from a wealthy American businessman a down payment of £6,000 on Nelson's Column. Ferguson had met his victim in Trafalgar Square and convinced him that it was being sold to reduce the national debt and that he was the estate agent charged with effecting the top-secret sale. Emboldened by his crime, Ferguson went on to con other tourists out of a £1,000 downpayment on Big Ben and a £2,000 deposit for Buckingham Palace, before heading for America, where he was caught trying to sell the Statue of Liberty to an Australian tourist.

The information on Ferguson is scant, unfortunately. In fact, I suppose I can't really do a Behind the Curtain Post for him considering the paucity of material.

I found this as an aside in an essay about another conman, although it appears to have been cribbed without attribution from the FreeDictionary:

It finally dawned on Ferguson that America was indeed the land of opportunity, and so he emigrated there in 1925. He sold the White House to a rancher on the installment plan for yearly payments of $100,000 USD, and tried to sell the Statue of Liberty to a visiting Australian, who went to the police. The authorities had been looking for the mysterious salesman of public landmarks, and Ferguson went to jail, to be released in 1930. He profitably continued his trade in Los Angeles until his death in 1938.

Even if this is not really a Behind the Curtain post, I don't know what else to call it and I would have really enjoyed meeting this fellow. Although I'd have left my wallet at home.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

May 01, 2005

Today's Lesson: How to deal with a troll

Today's lesson of how to deal with a troll is brought to you courtesy of Linda, who demonstrates the proper way to heat the poker before applying it to the troll. It was a thing of beauty. And remember, a thing of beauty is a joy forever!

Posted by Random Penseur at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)

April 27, 2005

Random, disconnected thoughts

Today you get the collection of random thoughts that are scrambling around in my brain, fighting for attention, hoping that I'll notice them enough to let them out. I do these posts every once in a while, you may recall.

*What the heck is everyone so upset about John Bolton for? What does it matter if he is difficult or rude? How can that possibly be the issue holding up his confirmation? As the Democrats trot out every fruit cake who ever came into contact with Bolton, I can only think that this process, this trivialization of the confirmation process, can only end in scaring more people away from serving their country until we end up with those the Anti-Federalists feared the most: those who seek office and power for their own ends and not because it is good and right to serve your country.

*Sometimes, hours after you have exercised, you feel as if you could float down the hallway on legs rendered postively gossamer as a result of the blood flow.

*An important lesson learned: never challenge a Navy man on the topic of breasts. If you don't understand, feel free to ask Jim and he'll explain it to you like he did me.

*I have been toying with the idea of what I would do if I didn't have to work for a living anymore. Would I still work? Would I get a useless graduate degree? Travel without end? Or would I just continue to work anyway because my whole being and imagination, much like a tree tied down to a fence, has become so warped by years of work that too much of my self image and self esteem is wrapped up in professional identity and accomplishments? Or, finally, would it just send a bad message to the children if I just upped and quit? Note: this thought is entirely theoretical. There has been no lottery won, no inheritance gained, no huge damage award procured.

*I received a gift this morning from the locker room attendant at the gym. He's a nice guy and we chat from time to time. I suspect that maybe not everyone chats with him. Anyway, we got into a friendly argument about Rum. He's from Barbados and I was, to his mind, foolishly extolling the virtues of Guatemalan Rum which is this truly excellent stuff that you drink like a brandy, in snifters or at least without a mixer. He disagreed, being from Barbados. This morning he gave me a bottle of Mount Gay Extra Old Barbados Rum, described on the Mount Gay website as:

EXTRA OLD, in its category, is the reference of the rum world. It is a masterful blend of the finest, aged spirits, selected attentively amongst the oldest reserves with a resulting maturity of 17 years. The force of its oak aromas is softened by its sweet, fruity notes, reminiscent of pastry and bananas. Easily identified thanks to its traditional label and its malt whisky type bottle, its magnificent luminosity, dark amber colour and extreme clarity are the key qualities of this rum. The result of many years of meticulous development, EXTRA OLD has received several Grand Gold Medals and Trophies from the highly respected International Institute for Quality competition.

I am excited to crack it open and very grateful for the gift. I'm going to get him some of the Guatemalan Rum to try.

*I am watching a not for profit I am involved with gear up for a messy internal fight. There are two boards, I serve on one of them as an officer. I just had an hour long discussion with the President of my Board, the upshot of which is that the other board may discover that they have bitten off more than they can chew on this one. I think it will be disconcerting for them to discover that we have formulated our own agenda, our own set of aims, and backed it up with advice from counsel and from an accountant. Yup, gonna be an interesting Summer for sure.

*[WARNING: SAD] Don't read the thought I put in Extended Entry unless you think today you can handle pain/sadness. Just skip it if you are feeling raw today.

I faltered today on the stupid elliptical trainer at the gym. Seriously, I almost stepped off to slink out of the fitness center to go have a cry. The morning news program showed pictures of the two children in Georgia who, from what I understand, figured out how to open the front door of the house and slipped out and ended up drowning, together, in a nearby drainage pond. The news reported that there was no evidence of foul play. I note that the drainage pond was improperly fenced with numerous holes. The picture made me want to cry as I imagined the two children drowning together. Maybe one fell in and the other tried to save the first one. Maybe they died calling for their mother, alone, bereft of help or succor. I am seriously upset as I write about this. Ever since having my own children, I am rendered completely distraught by events like this. I will end this one here because I have nothing further to say about it and am too broken up by this to continue. Rest in peace, little ones.

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:21 AM | Comments (3)

April 26, 2005

Who is the most inept spy in Europe?

According to this article in the Daily Telegraph, it's Les Belges! The Belgian spies are no longer to be trusted with guns. That's right, no one is allowed to have a gun any longer:

The battered reputation of Belgium's security forces took a new hit yesterday with the revelation that its internal spy service has disarmed almost all its field agents after one drunkenly tried to shoot a colleague in the head. The civilian agents of the Sûreté de l'Etat, the equivalent of Britain's MI5, are already among the most powerless intelligence operatives in the Western world, with no right even to tap telephones.

Now, they have had their handguns confiscated on the orders of their general administrator, Koen Dassen, a Belgian newspaper reported. A working group has been established to work out who is armed and why, after Mr Dassen realised that controls were "worse than approximate".

Saar Vanderplaetsen, the chief spokesman for Laurette Onkelinx, the justice minister, confirmed that Sûreté agents had had to hand in their weapons, pending new rules and regulations.

She was unable to confirm reports that officers had gone on a virtual work-to-rule since being disarmed, including avoidance of risky missions. The exact numbers and missions of Sûreté agents are kept confidential.

Miss Vanderplaetsen said: "For the moment, everybody has had to hand in their guns because we had this incident, in October or November last year, during which an agent shot at another."

Mrs Onkelinx was reportedly distressed that she only learnt of the incident, in which no one was hurt, from the press four months after it took place in Brussels.

The agent suspected of firing his gun in the general direction of his colleague's head was said by the media to be an alcoholic with a dependency on anti-depressants.

Belgium's internal security arrangements have proved a source of frustration for their Western counterparts.

Lax passport security helped Tunisian militants based in Brussels to supply fake Belgian passports to the men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan commander and enemy of the Taliban, in 2001.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

The travails of the house

Mark asked for an update on the house and, since I am particularly pissed off by the whole situation, I decided to write an update in the hopes that it might calm me down. Here's where things lie: I have tendered a contract to my Sellers and my Buyers have tendered a contract to me. My Sellers have not signed my contract and, thus, I have not signed my Buyers' contract. You can see why, right? If I sign my Buyers' contract to buy my house and my Sellers don't sign, I am bound to sell my house with no place to move to. My Buyers are getting antsy. So, I picked up the phone to explain the situation to them, to cut out all the middle men (the brokers and attorneys) so as to avoid diffusion of communication. Turns out the guy is a bond trader. *sigh* That means he has the professional time horizon of a day. Tops. I was told by him that he had received legal advise to withdraw his offer. Untrue according to my attorney who spoke to his attorney. Whatever. Buyer then told me that he would stand on his offer until close of business today and then re-evaluate. I said, fine, and thanked him for his courtesy.

I then heard from my lawyer that end of business means 4:00 and that "re-evaluate" means withdraw their offer.

Ok. So I email my attorney in CT and tell him that if the Sellers don't sign my contract and return it to me by 3:00 today my offer is withdrawn. As I said to my attorney, I cannot be in the position of my deal in NY falling through at the same time that I am bound to purchase this house in CT. That is a non-starter.

So now we wait while the clock ticks.

Did I mention that I am pissed? I now intend to be a prick with respect to the closing on my house, assuming that the deal goes through. What does that mean? No courtesy whatsoever shall be granted to the Buyers. No explanation that certain pipes might be adversely effected by low temperatures, despite all appearances to the contrary. No extra lightbulbs left for light fixtures we can't use anymore. I'll chuck 'em instead. I will not share any information whatsoever with respect to the house that I am not contractually required to share and that covers a multitude of topics. And that bottle of Champagne that we would usually leave for the new owners? Ain't happening. That will go to my attorney, instead.


My Sellers have returned their signed contracts. I guess the deal is going through, after all.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:01 AM | Comments (8)

April 25, 2005

No motivation, today

I got nothing, today. No topics I feel moved to write about today, although I was interested in writing about them before today. That's ok, they'll keep. I think what it is, you see, is a case of the Spring blahs. They happen to everyone, I believe. Today is my turn. So, here's what I'm going to do. If you feel motivated enough yourself to care, I will give you the two topics I was thinking about writing a little something about and let you decide what you feel like reading about.

Topic 1: Jewish holiday of Passover.

Topic 2: The power of a Court to make someone stop uttering defamatory statements.

Like I said, not much, but I'll let you vote.

Believe me, you'd rather hear about this than have me whine about coordinating the almost simultaneous sale/purchase of our old/new houses.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:34 PM | Comments (8)

April 23, 2005

Take a moment and introduce yourself, if you would be so kind

[UPDATE] I'm sticky posting this at the top for a week or so as answers seem to be still trickling in. [/UPDATE]

Mia had an excellent idea which I am borrowing from for here and which she took from fellow Munuvian, Eric. She asked:

A while ago Eric at SWG asked his readers if they would leave a comment after a post to say if they were lurkers and/or bloggers themselves and he was surprised by the amount of comments he received. I like that idea because that would mean if they had sites themselves I could have the chance to go read what they were all about and I'd not feel so vulnerable as I do sometimes (when I see from my stats that someone has spent the last 3 hours reading my archives). So ....... if you have a moment, drop me a comment and perhaps tell me who you are? Lurker, commenter or blogger . Thank you.

I'm not feeling vulnerable, particularly, but I am curious. I figure that in a normal day, fewer than 5% of visitors as counted on my statmeter actually leave a comment. So, like Mia, I'm wondering about my visitors. Are you lurkers? Casual visitors? Google search visitors who, having found what they are looking for simply read and move on? Regular readers? Or just a good buddy (and you know who you are and I do, too) stopping by to see what's up?

Please do leave a comment and say, hello. At least that way I can get some sense as to who is reading, if anyone.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:27 AM | Comments (54)

April 22, 2005

R.I.P. Rover (no, not the dog, the car)


Rover Cars, the once proud British marque, is no more. Stunningly, I have not seen this story mentioned in the newspapers I read (the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal). Or, if the story has been mentioned, it was mentioned in passing and, to borrow from EB White, Rover passed despite the mention.

Some highlights: Rover announced about a week ago that it would no longer honour (spelled with a "u" out of respect) its warranties. That's right. You had a Rover and, bam, no more power train coverage, or any coverage. That sent the British press into a tizzy.

Then, this week, we learn that after all the land had been sold out from under the factories in a desperate attempt to raise money, the company is bankrupt.

Just so you know, that means 21,000 people are out of work now in England. Twenty One Thousand. That's a lot of people, any way you write it.

And with Rover, some say, goes the heart of British industrial manufacturing capability.

Finally, with the passing of Rover, we say good bye to some of the most famous British car names:





and of course, MG


Silly, isn't it, but I'm kind of sad.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:18 AM | Comments (6)

April 21, 2005

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Today, one year ago, I launched my little blog. At the time, I said:

My goal here is to create an outlet where I can comment on the things that piss me off, interest me, amuse me, or will do any of those three things to my readers. In short, this will be a general interest blog for catholic (with a small c) interests.

I hope to have some lively discussions as time goes by.

I think that the year has been a success. During this year period, I have put up 764 posts which, since I moved to MuNu, have attracted some 2217 comments. These 764 posts have attracted over 23,000 visitors to my Mu.Nu incarnation and, counting the prior site, 26,531 total visitors. Some of you visitors have become good friends and I value these friendships we have made together. I think you know who you are so I won't single you out now.

In any event, thank you all very much for making this such an interesting year. I'm still more than a little shocked to think that over 26,000 people have stopped by to read my blog. I'm also a little shocked that I've written 764 posts, for that matter.

And thanks, also, to Pixy, who provides such great hosting and permits those of us without great technical skills to still get in the game.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:56 PM | Comments (11)

April 19, 2005

Things that made me smile today

Overheard while half listening to Sports Center on ESPN while tormenting myself on the various machines in the gym:

He was on that pitch like a fat kid on a Twinkie.

Is it bad that I laughed at this? I do like a good sports cliche.

While perusing an article on the endangered Pitcairn Island dialect which they have declared to be a language (and why not?) and are now teaching in school:

Alice Buffett, a seventh generation islander who has written a Norfuk text book and dictionary, said the pupils were enjoying learning phrases such as "Whataway yorle?" ("How are you?") and "El duu f'mada" ("They'll do for dumplings").

You have to laud a language that celebrates the integral role of the dumpling in society. "They'll do for dumplings". Big smile. I like it better than "that dog'll hunt".

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:01 AM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2005

How to sell a house quickly

Have a nice house to sell in a red hot housing market. Its really that simple. Here was the chronology for us:

Friday: Broker open house; five showings after that.

Saturday: Out of house all day; shown 15 times.

Sunday: Out of house all day; shown 10 times.

Sunday night: Tell those who made offers that best offers will be accepted by 11:30 a.m. on Monday.

Monday: Best offers made by 11:30, decision as to which to accept taken by 11:45.

Wednesday: House inspection occurs.

Friday: Contracts signed by buyers and 10% deposit check forwarded to my attorney.

I am a little bit astounded by the rapidity of it all, I must say.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:45 AM | Comments (6)

April 17, 2005

No metaphors, just the facts

First, thank you all for the thoughts and the prayers for my aunt. I considered turning the comments off for that entry and I'm glad I didn't. So, as I said in the title, here are the facts and just the facts.

The diagnosis, after the scans, is very grim. The cancer is located in her leg, as I said, but also in her neck and spine, which we didn't know. Simply put, this is a death sentence. I'm not sure how long she has, but this will kill her and will do so very painfully.

The best we can hope for, according to the many doctors in our family, is that she can start chemotherapy, have the chemo cause the cancer to go into remission, and then, have it go very fast when the cancer inevitably returns to her body. So, that is what I'm hoping for.

We had my parents over for dinner last night so they could play with the grandchildren and have a moment or two away from this. They had a nice time but. But. My father looked diminished by the news and sadder and suddenly older. He is the younger brother and he worshiped his sister growing up. I hope my son never gets news like this. He fielded one hysterical crying phone call from one of my aunt’s five children yesterday.

As for me, I'm kind of numb, still trying to make myself understand and accept this. My aunt and her family have always been very close to our family. I need to call my cousins today. I just, again, don't know what to say. I'll find something but whatever it is, it will be inadequate.

Posted by Random Penseur at 07:08 AM | Comments (8)

April 15, 2005

What can you say?

Cancer has been a fact of life for humanity for many, many years, some countries more than others. What is cancer? It is abnormal growth of abnormal cells leading to the formation of abnormal tissue. In other words, your cells freak out and make tumors. They can spread pretty quick, too. And if you've had a type of cancer before, you are, I gather, at a higher risk for having your cells freak out again in some other area.

Like my aunt. She had and beat breast cancer. She's one tough cookie. But she went to the doctor yesterday because of persistent pain in her leg.

She has bone cancer.

It was not a good day for the home team, yesterday.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:52 AM | Comments (14)

April 14, 2005

Expect it to be quiet today here

Today, I have to practice some law and stop blogging and stop reading and stop dealing with house moving stuff and house selling stuff and all the other shite. So, it will be quiet here today, in blogland. If you've come to read me today, may I suggest you check out some of my "Daily (practically) Reads"? They are all exceptional writers.

But before you go, spare a moment and remember President Abraham Lincoln, shot down this day in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater. He may have been the greatest president we have ever known.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:56 AM | Comments (3)

April 12, 2005

There I was . . .

. . . standing in the bathroom, slumped against the wall, my head pressed to the cold metal of the door frame on the stall, wondering whether I was going to vomit, and not sure whether I hoped I would already or whether I thought I could chance taking the train home without throwing up all over myself. Not exactly the high point of my day yesterday, but I suppose it will have to do by way of introduction to the migraine that burst into being sometime after 3:00, as near as I can recall.

I've had these headaches since I was a child but I've not had one for a very long time and this one just seemed to come out of nowhere. I called the nanny and asked her to pick me up from the train and then waited as long as I could, in a dark conference room or shuttling between the dark conference room and the bathroom when the nausea got too intense and felt too sudden, until I was reasonably certain I would not vomit from the pain on the train.

I made my way slowly to the train and sat down, pulling a cap low over my eyes, and sat there for the entire ride, trying to think of anything other than what I had for lunch. I sat there in more or less of a daze, not sleeping, not awake, just zoned out so that the announcement for my station came as a surprise, a welcome surprise but a surprise just the same, thus indicating that I had lost all spatial relationship with my sense of time and distance -- usually I know exactly where the train is in relation to my stop without effort.

I walked, again very slowly and with great attention to my balance, up to the parking lot where the nanny collected me, thank goodness, and I was able to locate the sun glasses I had left in the car and she took me home. She took one look at me and said that she would stay with the kids until my wife got home. That was very kind as I was close to totally incapacitated at that point.

I went upstairs, undressed, and climbed into bed, still wearing my sun glasses, where I remained and I think I may have slept, for about 2 hours and the worst of it passed and I was finally able to remove my sun glasses and tolerate the light.

When I was a child and would get these, I always had to vomit from the pain, I could not tolerate light, and I had to get cold, as cold as I could. Sometimes, I would take off all my clothes and lie on the tile floor of the bathroom, just to get as cold as I could, with a towel wrapped around my head to keep the light out. I think that used to worry my parents quite a lot when I was small. I can certainly understand why that would be.

Today, I am post-migraine. Not 100% by any means. I did not work out and I took 2 advil as a precaution because I can still feel something lurking. If I make it through the whole day, I will declare a victory.

I suppose time will tell.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:12 AM | Comments (5)

April 11, 2005

Our House was Off Limits this Weekend

The house was listed on Thursday and the brokers' open house was on Friday. Between Friday and Sunday night, I believe it was shown about 20 times, maybe more. We were politely asked by our realtor to make ourselves scarce this weekend since, after all, they are trying to show a house in which a family resides all while pretending no one lives there.

We were out on Saturday by 9 to deliver the children into the tender care of their grandparents. The kids slept over there Saturday night and, by most accounts, had a really nice time. Although, my father reports the following interesting exchange with the Girl Child:

GC: The Boy Child and I are going to get married and have a baby.

Grandfather: What are you going to do with the baby?

GC: We're going to play with it.

Grandfather: Where will the baby come from?

GC: Out of my butt!

That seems pretty close, actually, for a 4 year old.

And when queried about what she was going to be when she grew up, she explained that she was going to be a dentist and a ballet dancer and when questioned further about the combination, replied indignantly, "I can do both!!" You go, girl!

But that was all from Sunday. On Saturday, still on Saturday, my wife and I enjoyed a practically perfect example of the pre-child day, the kind of weekend day we used to spend when we were younger and had no responsibilities in our relationship other than making each other happy. Actually, those were pretty nice days, in retrospect.

We drove into the City on a glorious Spring day, dropped my wife's bag off at the gym so we could work out later and went off to the nearby American Scandinavian Foundation House to see an exhibit of contemporary Norwegian paintings from the collection of her Majesty, Queen Sonja of Norway -- a dedicated collector of contemporary Norwegian art. They also exhibited some of the Queen's stunning photographs of Norwegian nature. The photographs were mostly far superior to the paintings, I felt.

Then a taxi down to Chelsea to get tickets for the matinee performance of the Richmond Ballet at the Joyce. The Joyce is the preeminent center for modern dance performance in New York City. The best troupes in the world come through NY and many of them play the Joyce. Pre-child, we used to have a subscription to the Joyce and attended a lot of performances there. I heart the Joyce.

After procuring tickets, we adjourned for lunch at the Rocking Horse Cafe, where we sipped exceptionally spicy Bloody Mary's, drank strong coffee, and where my wife fell in love with a sandwich. And she fell hard for this: the Croque Señor, pulled pork sandwich with rajas poblanos, avocado, watercress, and queso Chihuahua.

After lunch, we wondered up the avenue a bit to go to my favorite source for Gay dance music so I could get the latest Gay Pride cd and whatever other excellent Gay party mix my buddy behind the counter, who has been there for years, could talk me into buying. They always have such a great selection and, what can I say, I love the music.

Then, the ballet. I was so disappointed by the performance. First of all, this was a big deal for this troupe -- the State Ballet of Virginia. This was their New York debut. As one group seated behind us said, they were "prepared within an inch of their lives". An inch, huh? Maybe they should have gone the extra mile. We saw two pieces -- Nuevo Tango and some Scottish thing. They were terrible. The dancers were wooden, no emotion, bad lines, sloppy movements, poorly defined hands and legs. I had a thought while watching them that just flinging yourself around a stage does not a ballet make. The choreography was worse, though. It was filled with cliches like dancers walking purposefully around the stage, lots of floor rolls, excessive use of props, overly dramatic lighting, total insensitivity to the music (unless that was the point, but I doubt it), and bad timing plays. It was dreadful. It was a second rate performance, if that.

I think we are spoiled living in NY and having our eyes trained by the best dancers in the world. I think that maybe the Richmond dancers, maybe, are at a disadvantage being so far from other dancers and the exchange of dance ideas and developments. I am trying not to say that they were provincial, because that is such a loaded word, but. . .

In any event, after the ballet, such as it was, we window shopped our way back over to the East Side and to go work out. On the way, we popped into furniture stores and thrift shops and a fun restaurant supply store where, my wife pointed out and wants to get, a sign for the kitchen which reads: The Hostess will seat you. I eyed several big espresso makers covetously, out of the corner of my eye so as not to alarm my good wife.

After a decent workout, we took ourselves off for dinner in the little concentration of Indian restaurants in the upper 20's in Lexington Avenue and for a little spice shopping in one of the excellent spice stores. My wife also picked up a glossy Bollywood gossip magazine from which I have added the word "gymming" to my lexicon. I did manage a decent little play on words, something that passes for humor in my house, when my wife and I had the following conversation concerning her order of Butter Chicken:

W: Do you think that they make this with regular butter or with Ghee?

Me: I have no idea. Why don't you ask the waiter and perhaps he can clarify it for you?

On the way home from the City, we received a phone call from my parents. The Girl Child was demanding to come home. She was only pacified with the promise of pancakes in the morning but it looked, for a moment there, as if we were going to have to go get her.

The Boy Child, by the way, declined to nap at my parents' house. My father said that after the Boy Child was piteously crying for a really long time, he went in where my son looked up at my father, cried, "Duuuude!", was picked up, flung his arms around my father's neck and kissed him as his savior. My father was quite pleased.

In any event, it was a wonderful day.

Now, as for the house, let the bidding begin!

By the way, if you are curious, I've put a picture of the exterior in extended entry below.

Our house:


Posted by Random Penseur at 10:15 AM | Comments (6)

April 08, 2005

Some friends are hanging it up

Go and bid Amber and Dan farewell as they hang up the blogging spurs and ride off into the sunset. They are great writers and I will miss them both. Thanks for all the great writing, you two, and best of luck in your future endeavors!

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Telephone Call of the Day

We have been having major problems with our phone lines this week and I just got a helpful call from Verizon to check on our status. It went something like this:

Her: Hi, this is Verizon calling to check on the status of your phone lines. Are they working?

Me: I don't really know.

Her: [astonished] You mean you haven't checked!

Me: Well, it really isn't my job to check and no one asked me to, but if you hang on for a second, I can go check right now, I suppose.

Her: Ok, now if you have any problems I will give you the Verizon repair number to call.

Me: What? You mean I can't just tell you, a Verizon employee calling to check the status of my lines, if I have a problem with my lines? That won't take care of it?

Her: No.

I hung up shortly thereafter since it was clear to me that this call had no purpose other than to waste my time and pad a statistic for the public utilities commission the next time Verizon wanted to raise rates. What a total crock.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

April 07, 2005

The Last Interview thought

It kind of hit me last night that my brave volunteers set themselves up for whatever questions I felt like asking and then answered them forthrightly and completely, for which I am very grateful. But it occurred to me that maybe it shouldn't be so one sided. Michele, in one comment, suggested that I answer all the questions that I asked people. Well, I'm not really inclined to do that since that would be something like 38 questions. But it did seem to me that if my interviewees wanted to each pose one question to me, that would total the same number of questions that they each had to answer individually and give them each a chance to turn the tables back around on me, which they might enjoy.

So, Indigo, Hannah, Dee, Angie, Helen, and John, do you all want to ask me one question each? What do you think? Make sense to extend this meme in one last direction and point it back at me?

I leave it up to you all entirely.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:43 AM | Comments (3)

April 06, 2005

While on the subject of headlines. . .

This one, from the NY Law Journal on Monday:

Sex Trafficking Trial to Begin in Brooklyn

No word on when the trial will be expanded to Manhattan, but I'll keep you posted. Is this a great city or what?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

Today's misread headline

Sometimes I read too fast. Couple that with not getting nearly enough sleep, and not nearly enough high quality sleep, and you get this, at 5:45 a.m. on the train platform:

Actual Headline: Influx of Pilgrims Puts Strains on the Italians.

Headline as Read: Influx of Pilgrims Puts Strains on the Indians.

My Thought: What is this, an historical headline? Of course the Indians would have been put out by the arrival of the Pilgrims. It was the beginning of the end to their way of . . . Oh. Italians. Must mean the Pope. Right. Never mind. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along. How'd the Yankees do against Boston yesterday?

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2005

Some random, disconnected thoughts

I have way too much going on right now to impose the kind of intellectual rigor required to produce a good, or at least decent, coherent post, so, as is my wont from time to time, I give you the following disconnected observations and thoughts that are rattling around in my head:

*I'm sorry that the Pope appears to be dying. On balance, I think he was a force for good and that the world will be a poorer place without him. That isn't to say I agreed with everything he did, or every position he took, because that would likely be impossible. But still, I'm sorry.

*I have not blogged about the elections in Zimbabwe. As you may know, the situation there has concerned me for many years. However, the regular media is paying lots of attention and I have nothing new to add. When the NY Times and the rest of the world goes away, I'll be back poking at it with a sharp stick.

*I read the newspaper on the train in the morning and then watch television news while working out. Does the television news channel rely almost entirely on the print media who, my issues with them to one side, do an outstanding job in comparison to the television types?

*There is something so relaxing about bringing a cup of coffee into the steam room after working out that it verges on the obscene.

*Putting your house together to sell is an exercise in small deceptions as you try to erase most, if not all, evidence of the fact that you live there. I will be keeping that in mind as I return on Saturday to the house my wife and I will most likely be buying. In the meantime, I hope nothing major happens to my house *fingers crossed*.

*Being a parent, any kind of parent (working, stay at home, whatever), is an exercise in applied guilt. Always being torn between different obligations, always trying to be patient with children, always feeling like you are short changing someone or something. Guilt. Learn to live with it because it ain't going away.

*Helen has had a birthday and is changing demographic groups. She might appreciate a happy birthday wish.

*Elizabeth is having a particularly tough time these days. If you have a moment, I suspect a kind word, while not helping any, would at least not go amiss.

*How can you not be impressed with the way Simon is kicking butt on readership? Congratulations to you, Simon, on a great blog!

*The heavens are supposed to open up this weeked and dump 3-5 inches of rain on us in a roughly 24 hour period. I've had better news, but, at least it ain't snow.

*I yearn for summer, for the shirt off on the beach, for making sand castles with my kids, for the smell of sun screen, for chlorine in the kiddy pool, and for rum drinks.

*Finally, I have put my tax information together. Those rum drinks sure sound good right about now.

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:31 AM | Comments (4)

March 31, 2005

Ruthless, personified

That's me. I move through the house with nary a care for the usefulness or emotional attachment we have to the object. If my house will show better without the object, then that object is already halfway out the door. Today is bulk pickup garbage day. Things like, say, broken chairs in the basement which were waiting for me to fix, are no longer in the basement and no longer waiting for me to fix them. To the curb. Old vacuum cleaner we (well, I) were keeping in anticipation of having it fixed to keep upstairs as a second vacuum, to the curb. I admit a small pang as I looked at it on the grass. We bought it a long time ago when we had different lives and were living in a different town. It brought back some nice memories.

That's the thing about objects. The reason you've kept half of this garbage is because it reminds you of things, of times past, of when you were a different person. When you were young and married and had no real responsibilities. The vacuum, by way of example, reminded me of all of the apartments I used it in. Vacuuming was always my chore. My wife hated it but did not mind cleaning the bathroom, something I hated. So I used that vacuum in a house in New Orleans (where we bought it at Sears) and in an apartment on the Upper West Side and another apartment on the Upper East Side and then the house, where it quit after some 12 years of faithful service.

So, just because I was ruthless does not mean that I was not reflective and maybe a little bit sad. I liked the people my wife and I were when that vacuum was young. I miss them, sometimes. Life was simpler then and our options seemed without limit. Now, our lives are much more complicated and our options more constrained. That comes just with growing older and having kids. I love my kids and I wouldn't trade them for anything but I miss the feeling that the possibility of the future as this limitless adventure is, if not gone, waving bye-bye.

That feeling has not been moved to the curb, but it may just be a matter of time.

Geez, I never would have suspected that old vacuum cleaner had so much life left in it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:45 AM | Comments (3)

March 30, 2005

Pack rat? Me?

In a panic, last night, I realized that if we are well and truly going to be putting our house on the market next week *GULP*, this might be the last recycling day between now and that date. Therefore, it was incumbent upon me to race around the house and ruthlessly reduce the old magazines which were cluttering up the whole house, stashed in lopsided piles in odd corners and in each bathroom and the guest room and next to my bed and, well, you get the idea. In a burst of energy, I rounded up something like 9 shopping bags full of old Sports Illustrated, Architectural Digest, Consumer Reports, Westchester and NY Magazines, and various other random publications and conveyed them to the curb for disposal.

I have barely scratched the surface, I realize, of what needs to be done to make the house ready to show, but it felt good to get started.

Tomorrow, I'm afraid (and I really mean afraid), may be the last bulk garbage disposal opportunity before the house lists. Thus, tonight may be a really late night as I attempt to make some snap decisions about what stays, what goes, and what gets run to the curb tonight.

All the fun and drama of packing up an entire house but compressed into 2 nights.

In the back of my mind, I hear my late grandmother's voice, passing along the words she used to tell my mother when my mother was sent off to clean up her room: Be ruthless.

Wish me luck, for it is against everything holy for a pack rat to be ruthless.

By the way, how come nobody is ever told to be "ruth" anymore? How come ruth fell out of the language except as a first name?

Posted by Random Penseur at 11:42 AM | Comments (8)

March 28, 2005

Buy/Sell and Sell/Buy: The difference?

The difference is the amount of stress and the sheer terror that sometimes accompanies the purchase of a new house and the immediate, and chilling, obligation to get your current house in shape and on the market. I have spent the day alternating between stressed out, temple throbbing, chest pounding anxiety and fatalistic acceptance that I am slowly pushing down a major commitment which will absolutely, no question about it, be a big mistake. Why a big mistake? Because at least right now, in my current house, I understand and appreciate what I don't like and what is not suitable. In a new house, in a new town, and in the state next door, all that is unforeseen and unappreciated. Besides, I think that deep down I really loathe change. Also, I pretty much hate debt and debt is a new best buddy.

Hence my silence today. Too much time being freaked out and unhappy. I have also done no work today of any kind professionally speaking.

Did I mention that we found a house that we really loved this weekend and can't quite afford but are planning to buy anyway? I may have left that out.

Posted by Random Penseur at 04:31 PM | Comments (7)

March 25, 2005


Religious holidays are odd things. They are so many different things to so many different people. I have no idea if anyone reading this will be celebrating Easter this year, or if they are, whether they will sit awhile and think about the deeper significance of the holy day (where do you think the word holiday comes from, hmmn?) but I hope they do. We'll be watching our kids run around picking up eggs. I'll be the guy with the Bloody Mary in his hand.

So, that said, if you are celebrating Easter this weekend, I wish you a happy, peaceful and meaningful holy day.

And maybe, just maybe, you'll spare a thought for Terry Schiavo. Mark at Irish Elk has provided very thought provoking coverage.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:04 PM | Comments (3)

March 24, 2005

When an update is not an update

Like now. I owe you all an update on the visit to England and dinner with Helen, etc. I can't do it right now, I fear. I was in Atlanta all day yesterday and returned on a very, very delayed flight. I walked in to find my wife telling me how much our daughter was looking forward to seeing us all at her school for her Purim party. *gulp* I am bad parent. I forgot about the Purim party. I did not go to work this morning. Instead, I went to Purim party, more on that later, as well. I have been playing catch up at work ever since.

I will leave you with the words that the Girl Child dictated as she pretended to write a letter and she closed it out:

Gratefully yours,

Love you,


She assures me that is how she ends all her letters.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:49 PM | Comments (2)

March 22, 2005

Oggi, oggi, oggi, oggi, oi, oi oi (spelling guessed at)


Yay, Wales! I am informed that the title of this post is a cheer at Welsh rugby matches (if informed incorrectly, please let me know). Among the things I did in London was spend two hours in a pub on a beautiful day drinking with friends and watching as Wales beat up on Ireland in the finals of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament (also caught the end of France/Italy). It used to be the Five Nations. In fact, the Five Celtic Nations. Now Italy's joined. Let's just say the Italian Rugby Team has a ways to go.

This is the first time since 1978 that Wales has won the tournament with a grand slam (all the matches). The first time in 22 years that they have managed to beat Ireland at home in Wales. Wales exploded in joy after the match.


And it was a very exciting match, too.


Rugby is an excellent sport to watch. You cannot believe, if you’ve never seen it, how fast and strong the top players are. And how they fling themselves about with almost no regard for their personal safety. There was quite a bit of blood on the field. Oh, and injury care? That seemed mostly to involve a 30 second application of an ice pack. That's it.

My favorite anecdote about 6 Nations? The Welsh team is sponsored by Brains beer and wear, on their shirts, the name: Brains.


The French prohibit advertising on the pitch so the Welsh replaced the word Brains on their jerseys with the word: Brawn. Excellent, no?

So, join me and lift a glass to the 2005 Six Nations Rugby Champions!

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:55 PM | Comments (2)

I have returned, with a theory, no less

I am back from England where I had a wonderful time (more on that later) and trying to prepare for a meeting in a far off city tomorrow. I am working very hard to pretend that jet lag is a theoretical malady that afflicts others, not me. And I have a theory. For the first time, I actually have concocted a theory about jet lag and the is it worse here (US) or there (Europe) debate. My theory is that jet lag is simply worse wherever you are returning to. When you go to a place, you suffer less from jet lag because of the excitement about the travel, especially if the travel is holiday (vacation) related. You arrive and are up early and are out the door, buzzed to get going and do stuff. You ignore the jet lag, pretend it isn't there.

But then you get home. And you don't pretend the jet lag isn't there. You can't. In fact, your mind keeps returning to vacation and you think to yourself that, gee, its noon here but its five o'clock back in London. And since your mind keeps going back that way, and you keep imagining yourself back in London (or wherever), you magnify and intensify the jet lag.

That's my theory, in a nutshell.

I tried to put it into practice. I set my watch as soon as I got on the plane to come home. I dragged myself out of bed at the usual time and went to the gym and did the usual hard workout. I came to work. I have thought nothing about what time it might be in London.

And you know what? I'm pretty wrecked actually. But it has nothing to do with jet lag. Nope, according to my theory, I'm totally over that.

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:28 PM | Comments (5)

March 16, 2005

Like a good ol' country lawyer, I'm hanging a sign on my door


Well, not really. At least, not fishing.

Nope, off to merry old England as of tomorrow morning. Just me, no wife, no kids, no car seats, no strollers, no diaper bags. Just me and a new book on the history of the Late Roman Empire I picked up last night in the bookstore. I will have 6 (or so) glorious economy class hours all to myself to read without interruption. I guarantee that this is the part of the trip my wife envies me the most for. I know that I have envied her that part when she has gone on business trips. Solitude. *sigh* I cannot wait for some solitude. Not too much, mind you, just a couple of hours.

Expected highlights of the trip to come:

*Dinner with Helen and Angus on Friday night! I am looking forward to this tremendously and am only sorry my wife cannot join us.

*A moment to pay my respects to the Laughing Cavalier (Franz Hals) at the Wallace Collection, where he lives. He is one of my all time favorite portraits:


I'm sure you can see why. Actually, permit me a slight digression. Among the things I love about this painting are the twinkle in his eye, like he is sharing a joke with us, not laughing at us and the gorgeous clothes he is wearing. I have read that Flemish painters in the 1600's, when this was painted, used to get their commissions from rich Flemish wool merchants and they were famous for providing stunning and luxurious fabrics to the rest of Europe. Such that, Flemish painters used their portraits, in part, as an advertisement for the Flemish fabric trade and painted these stunning clothes in these fabulous textures and colors -- rich brocade, deep velvets, heavy silks, etc. Next time you see a Flemish painted portrait of a well off woman, take a close look at the clothes. That depiction will knock you out. I promise.

*Lunch with my old fencing master! A very dear man, in his 70's now.

*Hanging out time with some of my bestest friends from law school, people who rented the other half of the house we lived in for 2 years.

*A visit to the National Portrait Gallery.

*A trip to the British Museum to see some treasured old pals: The Elgin Marbles; the Assyrian collection; the Magna Carta; and any other damn thing I want to see!

*A wedding on Sunday!

*Some time in the bookstores, getting my wife her perfume, maybe picking up a new tie or two if the exchange rate doesn't absolutely frighten me away first.

*and finally, walking around to my heart's content, taking pictures of the splendid buildings and just being happy about being in London.

When a man grows tired of London, etc.

Wish me a safe trip, if you would be so kind, and look for my reports next week.

Pax tibi!

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:21 AM | Comments (18)

March 10, 2005

Hey, buddy, you got a light?

I am a reformed smoker. I quit the day after I took the NY Bar exam, some 12 years ago. Sometimes I miss it, sometimes I hate even walking behind someone smoking. Sometimes, though, the feelings I associate with tobacco go from mild missing, to nostalgia, to craving to being really sorry I gave it up. Those feelings usually sneak up on me. Like today.

There was this nasty, beat up van waiting to pull into the street from a gas station as I passed by. I took it all in -- the dents, the multihued exterior from original paint to bondo to rust, the driver with the predictable lit cigarette. And then, whoosh. Damn, I wanted one. I am not going to have one, clearly. But I am going to write about it.

At its best, a cigarette was a sensuous experience. Every part of it.

First, you'd pack the pack. The smack as you slapped the top of the pack against the palm of your hand and the little sting you'd feel. You'd do this several times until all the loose tobacco was packed firmly into the cigarette. Then the crinkle as you took the plastic off and the smell as you opened the pack and pulled the silvery paper out of the top.

You'd take the cigarette out of the pack then and put it in your mouth. You'd hold it loosely with your lips as you pulled out the fire. Loosely so you wouldn't get it wet.

Then, fire. Flame came from several possible sources. First, matches. The scriiitch of the match head against the strike paper, the quick attempt to cup the match if you were outside so it wouldn't go out, or the even faster attempt to light the smoke right off the flare as the match ignited. This was the least satisfying but had some appeal anyway. No, I really liked the zippo lighter, the heft of the brass. I had my initials engraved on mine. The sound of the top as you popped it open, that metal snick. The roughness of the wheel as you engaged the flint. The smell of the lighter fluid that just seemed to make the Camel Lights (my preferred brand) taste better. The solid thunk like the door of a Mercedes as you closed it. It always stayed lit in the wind, too.

Then there was the sound of the cigarette as it took the flame. The crinkle noise of the paper as it caught at the end. The change it made as the tobacco started to burn.

Then the smoke as it finally hit your lungs. That part was really quite excellent. Quite excellent.

Of course, I also liked the holding of the cigarette, the gesturing with it for emphasis, the flicking away the butt when I was finished, the quick tap or flick to knock the ashes off the end. All of this I liked.

I liked a slow smoke. I also liked a fast smoke. Like one of my classmates said in law school, in con law, when asked by a professor whether the cigarette boxes still had the Surgeon General's warnings on them: "I don't know, Professor, I just rip 'em open and smoke 'em."

I also liked pipes and still take, maybe a couple of times a year, a good cigar. But this post isn't about that. It is about missing my little pack of smokes and my snazzy zippo.

As I've said often to my wife, the thing I regret the most about ever starting to smoke seriously is that I can now no longer have the social cigarette if at a bar with friends. Nope. I'm done.

But I can still miss them from time to time. And I do.

Posted by Random Penseur at 03:48 PM | Comments (9)

March 08, 2005

Welsh Hip Hop, reprise

Back in December of last year, I put up an entry on Welsh hip hop. Would you believe it still attracts the occasional comment from the Welsh hip hop afficionados and partisans? This is why comments should not be closed. It may have something to do with the fact that when you run the Google search, my little blog is the second search result on the list.

The BBC put up a nice review of the album released last Summer: Miwsig I'ch Traed A Miwsig I'ch Meddwl. I cannot pronounce it, honestly, but I like the way all of the letters look together. This album was put out by Boobytrap Records, which also puts out Welch Hip Hop albums by Kentucky AFC. If you want to hear a snippet from MC Mabon's hit single, go iawn wir yr click on the song title and hopefully that will work. If not, click here, because I don't want you to miss your chance at hearing the "chanting song of acid-guzzling choir goers".

Here is a great set of resources for Welsh Hip Hop from BBC Wales: Adam Walton's Magical Mystery Tour. Here is an informative looking website from another record company: Angst.

Finally, the BBC Wales does have a nice looking set of links to Welsh music sites generally, with some hip hop mixed in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check out The Martini Henry Rifles new video. Not hip hop, mind you, but quite interesting and in English.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:56 AM | Comments (5)

February 28, 2005

Snow Dance

I'm like a little kid today, anxiously peering out the window, waiting for the blizzard they've promised us to start. I'm calculating how much time I'll need to get to the liquor store to buy a bottle of Rioja (something spicy with a lot of fruit) and hit the bookstore for the new Charles Todd mystery before I flee the office. I'm burning a cd full of documents and caselaw so that if I get snowed in tonight and can't make it in tomorrow I can get some work done while the kids sleep. I'm going to light a fire tonight as the snow falls, and I'm going to open that bottle of wine, and I'm going to put on something other than Barney or Norwegian children's music on the stereo system and I'm gonna be a happy guy tonight. That's my plan.

As for bringing work home, I'm going to do it but the brief I'm working on is not due for another 16 days. I would dearly love to have it finished early but I think I need the feeling of impending deadlines to motivate me to get to work. At heart, I procrastinate. I vow to change that with each new task, but I can't really. I need the pressure to make the diamond, to get results. No pressure, no deadline, no work. I'd like to change this, but I can't quite seem to do it. Still, no time like the present, right? I think that, if I can get to work tomorrow, my goal will be to have a good, working first draft of this reply brief done by Friday. I think it can be done.

I love snow days. I hope, if we're going to get snow, that we get a whole lot of it.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:34 PM | Comments (6)

February 25, 2005

Pardon the dust, but renovate we must

Thank you, Margi, for taking my photographs and turning them into these snazzy looking banners. Indeed, if you hit refresh you will find a veritable rotating bonanza of banners, all thanks to the very kind technical and artistic intervention of Ms. Margi.

One of the best things about MuNu is the friendships I have made here. They are no less real because they take place in this medium instead of in a bar or at a cookout. Thank you, Margi, for your friendship.

While I am bubbling over with gratitude and nice things to say, I fear that they will sound insincere if they all come out at once. So instead let me say, on the theory that sometimes less is more, thank you for all your hard work and kindness. I am more touched than I can say and terribly appreciative.

Don't you all think the joint is looking better as a result?

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:55 AM | Comments (13)

Butts in the air, waving around

Curious title, no? Well, that's what you'd see if enough people joined me today in my first, Stick Your Head in the Sand Day. If you lean over and stick your hand in the sand, that would be your butt waving around in the air. And if enough people join in, no one will even be able to see your butt or remark on the fact that you might have sat on something that left a stain.

I am feeling entirely overwhelmed, today. What follow is not meant to be an extended whine, but an explanation, pure and simple, of why I want to stick my head in the sand today.

* I have a tension headache brought on by some work related matters that started in the back of my neck and, no kidding, just finished climbing over the top of my head and hit my nose. A new personal best for tension headaches. Pardon me for a moment while I interrupt this typing to take something.

* I hate the fact that this morning, after crawling into bed with the Girl Child in response to her summons, I had to answer her question about who was going to be taking care of her today with an answer different from, "me". I have guilt. Big time guilt.

* I am ground down by the war on terror. I can only hold firm to the belief that Bush is right and the only way to win this battle is to spread liberty and freedom, even as paradoxical as it sounds, if it has to be at the point of the bayonet.

* I am saddened and diminished by every serviceman's death.

* I am daunted by the task of getting my house ready to sell and finding a new house in a different community which we will have chosen based on too little research and too much salesmanship, no doubt.

* I am just feeling like too little butter spread too thinly over too little bread with too many committments between work, not for profit demands, and my preference to be home with my children as they bounce all over me.

I'd like to say just writing it all down makes me feel better, but it doesn't.

So, I'm trying something new today. I will stick my head in the sand. No newspaper at all, no current events, no thinking about the house, can't avoid the work obligations but I will try to leave them at work today, no reading anyone's tales of woe, and no focusing on anything negative. That's it. That's my solution.

If you see my butt in the air when you pass by today, and it looks as if I sat in some old chewing gum on the train this morning, I will trust that you will have the delicacy not to mention it. I wish to remain serenely untroubled by absolutely everything today. Tomorrow is soon enough to consider today’s old chewing gum.

Pax tibi.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:45 AM | Comments (8)

February 18, 2005

"Sod Off, Swampy"

That from a British oil trader to a Greenpeace volunteer after the oil traders kicked the shit out of a Greenpeace commando group who invaded the floor of the oil exchange.

If this wasn't reported in the Times of London I would have thought it was a joke.

one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Damn, I wish I had been there to see that one.

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2005

A conversation or two that I've had the past week

Did you form the impression yet that I'm what my grandmother used to call a smart aleck? Let me share with you two conversations I've had recently that amused me, at least, to no end.

Conversation 1:
Place: Walking up the train platform with a commuting buddy

Her: What was that language I heard you speaking to your children the other day? Was it French?

Me: No, it was Norwegian. We speak Norwegian to the children. We only speak French to the servants.

The look I got was priceless.

Conversation 2:
Place: Gym, this morning

Her: If you need to reach me tomorrow, I should tell you that I will be out of the office all day.

Me: What are you doing?

Her: It is my art and culture day. You know what I mean? I'm going to see Christo's installation in Central Park.

Me: Oh. Its good that you explained what you meant there because when you said culture, I assumed you meant yogurt.

Another incredulous look.

Its just sometimes, I forget to turn on the filter between my brain and my mouth. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often, but still, it does happen.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:07 AM | Comments (9)

February 11, 2005

Public Speaking

I love public speaking. I have no fear about getting up in front of a group of people and speaking. This is a useful thing for a trial lawyer. In fact, I don't know how I could be a trial lawyer if public speaking bothered me. But Wednesday night was a bit different. I had to give a small speech to a small group -- about 60 people -- in my new role as chairman of a committee that was sponsoring an event. As chairman, I was the master of ceremonies. The dinner ran for about 3 hours and my speech was very well received. The crowd laughed in the right places and were solemn in the right places. It was very satisfying.

There is something about good public speaking that is a combination of Aikido and seduction. Aikido, in part, is premised on the belief that you can take another person's energy, control it, redirect it and then throw the person. Seduction? Well, you know what it is even if you can't explain it. When it goes well, it goes like this. You stand in front of the group. You make eye contact with some and you speak. And as you speak, you sense the energy of the group. You change your tone and your rhythm and your cadence and your volume as you speak. You force them to pay attention. To be drawn in to your words. Then you pull them along with you and make them think that they are interacting with you, that you are speaking to them. It feels seductive and you know you succeed when people you've never met before come up to you afterwards to say how much they enjoyed your talk and you can tell that they want to just linger, just to chat. You've seduced them. You've taken them from cold, although mildly interested, to warm, to hot. You can feel the energy in the room as it changes and you wrap yourself up in it. I really like that.

And the corollary, of course, is that sometimes your speech goes over as well as a "come here often" line. Happily, that didn't happen this time. And if you have a decent sense of rhythm, you ought to be able to avoid that entirely.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)

London trip

Remember when I said that I was going to London to see the Queen? Just for the record, that was not a sly reference to the upcoming wedding of Prince Charles and Ms. Parker Bowles.

Nope. I declined that invitation.

Why did I turn that invitation down? Because Helen, who lives in London, is free while I am there and we're going to get together for drinks! Yay! You can see how, faced with the choice of Prince Charles or Helen, the Prince just had to go. Besides, Helen met him at Ascot last year, I seem to recall, and she can fill me in on all the gossip.

I'm really looking forward to it. Helen is the one who sponsored me for MuNu and, as I've already promised, I've got first shout.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:47 AM | Comments (2)

R.I.P. National Hockey League

I think it is pretty much over. Hockey season this year died before it was born, taking with it some hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars out of the Canadian economy, I read in Sports Illustrated recently. The Union and the League have called off talks and I think that there is really no hope that we are going to see a zamboni again this year on the ice at Madison Square Garden.

The sad part is that I only now just really noticed. I mean, I was excited and all to take part in the Inter-Munuvian Hockey Bitch Slap (hence the Rangers image on my sidebar) even knowing that my local team was going to feel the bitch slap a lot. But I didn't miss it for more than a minute. I barely noticed that no one was playing. And why would I? I think that these greedy asswipes have effectively destroyed their league, their game, their place in the pantheon of professional sports. My bet is that no one is coming back when they turn the lights back on again. I wrote about hockey before, asking: when did hockey lose its relevance. I guess it happened when most of us were doing other things.

Sprint training for baseball begins really soon. That, I'm excited about.

Rest in Peace, Hockey. We hardly knew ya.

Posted by Random Penseur at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2005

Happy Birthday, Margi!

Go wish Margi a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2005

Off to London to see the Queen

I have reserved my ticket to London for mid-March. I am off to see a friend get married. Frankly, I always assumed he was gay, so this is kind of a nice surprise. He may still be gay, of course, but he's getting married anyway. And I have to be there. Unfortunately, my wife is not coming, so I will be off in London by myself. Automatically, that makes it less fun. It will be a busy trip. I have old friends to see -- buddies from law school who are there, friends from back in the day when I lived in London, my old fencing master who I just love, and all the wedding insanity, of course.

There are also some museums I have missed and some, very small, shopping to do.

I also just want to wander about and see some old buildings/friends and retrace my steps on some favorite old streets. I always need some quiet alone time in cities I've lived in before. I can have that quiet alone time with my wife along and actually prefer to have her along for that but I have to have it. Something about revisiting the scene of youthful indiscretions, misdemeanors if not quite crimes. I like to totter along and see if I left any part of myself there, if I'm quick enough, I might just find myself in a favorite old pub, or cul-de-sac. A younger me, with less gray in my hair and more optimism about the future, dressed impeccably having embraced the English bright shirt and tie thing, hurrying along imbued with the joy of living in London and being 25. I'm going to be looking for that guy. I don't think I'll see him, but I'm going to look.

I also want to go to Simpson’s on the Strand for breakfast one morning, if I can get a moment. Oh, and the book store. And maybe buy a tie. And get more perfume for my wife (a top priority)!

I have way too much to do in London. I feel pressed for time already. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Posted by Random Penseur at 02:22 PM | Comments (5)

A tourist in my own life

Having a job interview for a job far, far away, doing something different, but not radically different from what I do now, makes me feel a bit like a tourist in my own life, a visitor to a distant, but familiar land. Am I just browsing in this store? No thank you, to the clerk, just looking, you say.

You have the interview and it allows you to imagine, to project, to take a tour in your life -- what would my life be like here? What would it be like to uproot my family and take them across the country? How would I live there? Before it gets serious, before you get the call back to come and fly out, you become the tourist. What would it be like to live there? You browse some real estate listings and are stunned by the palaces you could buy for half the amount your house is worth now. What would it be like? You picture yourself living there and doing the work and that is tourism in your own life.

It works that way for house hunting, too, because there you actually picture yourself, sort of, living in another house with someone else’s furnishings. We did that all last weekend and will continue for part of this upcoming weekend.

I feel like I'm not being clear, but I get this sense of other worldliness when I take an interview and contemplate moving. A feeling like I'm visiting my life in a parallel universe, where, maybe, we can afford for one parent to stay home and where work on weekends is the exception and not the rule. Maybe its just a fantasy, you never know until they make you an offer. And until they make you an offer, you never have to really ask yourself any of the tough questions, you can just sort of gloss over the inconveniences and the difficulties, not to mention the potential trauma in uprooting everyone.

That's why I'm a tourist. Its my life, but sometimes, I'm really just visiting.

Make any sense to anyone?

Posted by Random Penseur at 01:43 PM | Comments (5)

February 07, 2005

Be berry, berry, quiet!

We're hunting wabbits! We loaded our SUV with equipment, children and snacks for said children, picked up a trusty native guide, and set off in search of game. In short, we did some house hunting this weekend. It was both interesting and annoying.

First, to all you real estate brokers out there: Stop calling them homes. I supply the home, you supply the house. The house is what we are shopping, tentatively, for. We will put the home in the house. The house is merely the wrapper for the home.

Second, when asked a question about a negative aspect of the community. Don't over sell me. Don't say, "I can't deny that X is a problem", and then go right ahead and finesse it or deny it. That behavior just makes me suspicious. You see, I am trained to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. That is a big part of what litigation is all about. Ask, listen, and test the answer against what you know or think you know or the common sense understanding you have of the rhythm of the transaction in order to pick up on discordant notes. So, when you elide an issue, Ms. Broker, it trips that spidey sense and makes me question your candor and listen more carefully. I don't particularly enjoy that.

Finally, house hunting is both exhilarating, mildly, and sobering, majorly. You can get more for your money if you move out of overpriced suburb close to NY City and move to overpriced suburb farther from NY City, but you need to spend more, too. It is kind of exhilarating to see all the new space and the greater amount of space and the amount of land and to imagine yourself living in it. It is sobering to realize how much money is required to do so. Other parts of the country have it better in this regard, there is no doubt. For instance, Fort Worth, Texas. I could buy a five bedroom house in Fort Worth for a lot less than what I am spending in the NY metropolitan area.

You know what? I think that someone, somewhere, knows I am thinking about selling my house. I've just spent the last 20 minutes on the phone and off the phone with the plumber, authorizing him to put in a new hot water heater in the house. The old one has just dumped a quarter inch of water in my basement. How come I couldn't get away with the old one for, say, another three or four months? Also, how come I never have a problem with this house under the four figure range? Huh? Why is that?

Frustration level with house: High.

I miss my apartment in the City. I really do. A nice superintendent. I was a more equal pig than others since I was the Vice President of the Co-op Board and always was attended to promptly. I sure do miss that. *sigh*

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:38 AM | Comments (6)

February 05, 2005

Bad things don't always happen in slow motion

People say that when something bad is happening, its like time slows down and they can see every aspect of the bad thing right down to the texture of the paint on the car or whatever. They say that, while they are powerless to change the outcome, it all goes so slowly.

Not always, I discovered.

Sometimes, it is almost over before you know it.

I fell today while carrying my son. I fell on some black ice while turning from the sidewalk into my driveway. I fell so fast that I didn't realize I was falling until I was already down. Nothing slowed down for me; it all sped up. The Boy Child fell from my arms, missing the concrete retaining wall by six or eight inches and went belly up onto the gravel driveway. He was just a little scared, not hurt at all. I was up to get him so fast that I didn't even realize I had cut my elbow or that I had even come down on my elbow. I just wanted to see if he was ok. Only later did I realize that I had hurt myself, my hip, my elbow, my back, and really given a wrench to my left shoulder and arm, the side I was carrying him on when I went down.

I expect I will be pretty darn sore tomorrow. But the Boy Child is ok and that was really all that mattered to me.

It was just so fast. Me on my side looking at him face down on the gravel. I've had better days. I just hope that, with respect to my boy, I don't have worse.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:37 PM | Comments (11)

February 04, 2005

Follow up to Time is Money Post

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts about time and it really isn't money and I received, thank you very much, some very thoughtful and interesting comments. By the way, I heart comments and especially the excellent comments y'all left yesterday.

But here is another way to look at time and its value: Through the eyes of the lawyer who bills by the hour (I am reproducing the contents of that page below the fold here just in case the link stops being live, for whatever reason):

The Truth about the Billable Hour

As you try to choose a path in the law, or choose among various law firms, you will often hear mention of the billable hours that are expected of the associates in a law firm. Most law firms make their money by billing their clients by the hour. If you do not bill a certain number of hours, you do not bring in enough money to cover your salary, not to mention the profit share for the partners and overhead. The more hours billed, the more profit for the firm. Government and public interest employers do not typically have any billable hour requirements because they do not bill their hours to a paying client.

Firms "average," "target" or "minimum" billables typically range between 1700 and 2300, although informal networks often quote much higher numbers. The NALP forms ask employers for their average associate billable hours, as do many interviewees, because of its enormous impact on associates' lives.

The purpose of this handout is to help you understand the billable hour expectations most law firms have for associates, and the impact of those expectations on your lifestyle. Keep in mind that not all law firms have the same emphasis on billable hours: public interest law firms, smaller law firms, and law firms outside of large metropolitan areas often require less billable hours and may place more emphasis on training, client development, community-related activities and the like. In addition, government and public interest employers typically do not have any billable hour requirements because they do not bill their hours to a paying client. Speak with a CDO counselor to discuss these options in more detail.

A. The Full Time Job:
Target 1800 Billable Hours

Assume you "work" from 8:00 am - 6:00 pm each day 10.0
Assume you take an hour for lunch -1.0
Assume you take two 15 minute coffee breaks -.5
Assume you spend a half-hour reading legal updates and reviewing general correspondence -.5
Assume you will need to attend department meetings, occasional conferences, and do CLE -.5
This means that you work 10 hours a day but may bill 7.5
If you work a 5 day week x 5
You have been at work 50 hours and billed 37.5
If you do this all year long, and we assume:
3 weeks vacation
2 weeks holiday
No sick days or personal days
You will work 47 weeks x 47
And have billed an annual average of 1762

To gain an extra 70 hours to be respectable you could:
(a). Add approximately 1 1/2 hours a week (approximately 20 minutes per day) 1 ½ x 47=70 1832
So come in at 8:00 am and work until 6:20 pm Monday - Friday
The Commute

With a half hour commute (to your desk and working) you are gone from home 7:30 am to 6:50 pm

With a one hour commute you will be gone from 7:00 am to 7:20 pm, Monday - Friday
(b) Work one Saturday a month (10:00 am to 5:00 pm with 1 nonbillable) 6 x 12 months = 72
You have now billed 1834
You have been "at work" 2434
This schedule does not account for any personal calls at work, training/observing, talking with co-workers, a longer lunch (to exercise? Christmas shop?), a family funeral, any pro bono work (if not treated as billable hours), serving on a Bar committee, writing an article for the bar journal, interviewing an applicant, etc.

B. The Overtime Job:
Target 2200 Billable Hours

Assume you "work" from 8:00 am - 8:00 pm each day 12.0
Assume you take an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner -2.0
Assume you take four 15 minute bathroom/coffee breaks -1.0
Assume you will need the same time for department meetings, conferences and CLE -.5
This means you "work" 12 hours a day but bill only 8.5
You do this 5 days a week x .5
You have "worked" 60 hours but have billed only 42.5
If you do this all year long, and we assume:
3 weeks vacation
2 weeks holiday
No sick days or personal days
You will work 47 weeks x 47
And have billed an annual average of 1997

To gain the needed 200+ hours you could add two Saturdays a month
If you work 10-5 on these Saturdays with 1 nonbillable hour you will have 6 billables per day x 2 = 12 x 12 months = 144
For a new total of… 2141

Still Short!

So add another Saturday a month for 10 months (take a break in Nov. & Dec. for the Holidays)

6 x 10 months =


You made it!

You have billed


However, you have been "at work"

The Commute
With a half hour commute you are gone from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday - Friday
And 9:30 am - 5:30 pm three Saturdays a month
With a one hour commute you are gone from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday - Friday
And 9:00 am to 6:00 pm three Saturdays a month
BUT once again this schedule does not account for any personal calls at work, training/observing, talking with coworkers, a longer lunch (to exercise? Christmas shop?), a family funeral, any pro bono work (if not treated as billable hours), serving on a Bar committee, writing an article for the bar journal, interviewing an applicant, etc.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:40 AM | Comments (4)

February 03, 2005

Time is money?

How often have you heard that? A lot, if you live in NY, I bet. But is it really true? I was kicking the thought around this morning and decided I'd write about it to see if I couldn't come up with a more disciplined result. As one old professor of mine once said, you don't know anything until you write it down.

First, you can save money but you can't save time. Saving money makes sense. Spend less, put more money in the bank or the market, and watch it, hopefully, grow and maybe even compound. Time, on the other hand, you can't save. You can rush around all you want, get stressed about making a deadline or catching an earlier train, all with the over riding goal of being more efficient and saving time. Well, what do you do with the time you save? You can't put it in a bottle (thank you, Mr. Croce), you can't store it up until a more convenient moment. It won't grow like money does in the bank. No, you can't really save time. Consequently, I suppose, you need to live more in the moment. You need to live fully and thoughtfully so that you can extract the maximum amount of value from the time you do have. It is a finite amount, after all, you just don't know how finite.

Second, if time were money, or at least a commodity, you'd have to be able to value it. How much money, I was wondering, would it be worth to me to buy time? Let's say I had a million dollars. How much of that million would I spend to buy an extra hour of life? An extra hour to say goodbye or visit with my loved ones. What is that worth? A lot? A little? Let's complicate things. What if, in making this calculation, you know that your heirs apparent need this money that you will be leaving behind. Does that factor into your calculations about how much your hour is worth to you? Is this too hard? What about buying an extra five minutes? Is that worth less? How do you assign a value to time?

Let's try something easier, something market driven. Travel costs. Travel costs are often a matter of assigning a monetary value to time. Flights at undesirable times often cost less, right? The reason seems clear, to entice you to fly when no one wants to. But what is it worth to you to fly at an inconvenient time? How much are you willing to spend in order to have more time at the office to prepare for a meeting, or to arrive at a more convenient time at your destination so that you are rested for the upcoming event? Hundreds? Maybe. A thousand? Who knows, right? Depends on the circumstances. But what if the timing of the flight may mean the difference between spending time with an aging relative who you may not get to see again. How much is that worth to you when you run your little balance sheet calculations? Can you put a value on the time? Sure. Its the difference in cost between the convenient ticket and the inconvenient ticket. The market set that price difference, but what is it worth to you to pay it?

Beats me. I don't have any answers. Well, maybe I have one answer. Time is precious, even if I can't set a price for it. And good health is beyond price. So, spend some time, time you can't save anyway, tending to your health. Go to the gym, get a physical (you know, the one you've been putting off), and eat smarter. This may turn out to be a big dividend paying investment as the years roll on.

Did this post make any sense to anyone?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:54 AM | Comments (10)