Wednesday, July 22, 2009


What is going on in my life (for those who've asked):

(1) Trials and the prep that goes along with them.

(2) Chris goes into surgery on August 11, 2009. He has two weeks of post-op recovery in a wheelchair, during which time he will be living on a futon in the living room (our room is upstairs). After Labor Day, he goes to school to earn his Master's in Social Work.

(3) The associated stress from numbers 1 and 2 is causing bad skin and weight loss (I tend not to eat when I'm under stress).

(4) My hair is growing out and I look like a troll. The Jewfro shall reach epic proportions by fall.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Over and out.

On being a boss (and a father).

My father was the type of boss everyone loves to have. In his heyday, he worked as Vice President of Purchasing and Procurement for large food corporations. As I understand it, the folks who worked under him were commodities buyers. My father was of the position that his company paid the people who worked for them a good salary to do what they did. They were hand-picked, and would not have been hired if they did not know how to do their jobs. Thus, he articulated a standard, and he let them work. He gave them enough space to do their jobs. He did not micromanage. Were mistakes made? Sure. But as Dad likes to point out, mistakes are part of the learning process. When his folks asked him for help, he was more than happy to lend a hand. And on top of that, he kept a small portion of the direct work himself. They need to know that the boss is keeping up with the industry and the trends, Dad would tell me. They need to know you can relate to what they are doing -- do as I do, and not just as I say.

The way my father managed his employees was not dissimilar from how he treated me when I was growing up. Expectations were brightly articulated. Empty threats did not exist in my household. For example, on a family trip to the Bronx Zoo, Dad told me and my sister that if we argued with each other in the car, he would turn around and take us home. We made it all the way to the parking lot of the zoo, before I exclaimed, "She's touching me! She's touching me!" Two hours after we had set out, in the parking lot of the zoo, Dad turned the car around and took us home. We learned at a young age that when he said something was unacceptable, he meant it.

At the same time, my parents once told me that kids reach a certain age where you have to trust that you raised them well enough, and let them make their own mistakes. As a teenager, I was never grounded. My parents were savvy enough to know that if I really wanted to go out, I'd find a way to sneak out. They granted me my independence when it was appropriate, and stood back to watch as I muddled my way through my later teen years and early adulthood, making all sorts of foolish mistakes. They pointed and laughed at these mistakes, too.

Chris did not have it so lucky. His father was also in upper management. An extremely Type A sort of fellow, Chris's dad kept a keen eye on everything that was going on. Unfortunately, he ended up micromanaging his children the way he micromanaged his workers. He would lament that Chris was not learning responsibility, but would forbid him to get a car. He dictated those decisions that should have been left to Chris. And worse, he never let Chris fail. Chris began drinking alcoholically at 17. When he crashed his car after a night of drinking, he was "punished" with a brand new car. After Chris was kicked out of his first college for drug use and told his folks that he wanted to get a job and move out, they told him no. (I've often argued that if Chris had really wanted to move out, he would have anyway.)

Because Chris's father managed Chris's life to the extent that he did, he never let Chris fail. I do not blame Chris's dad for Chris's alcoholism, drug addiction, or related paralysis. Chris made his own decisions and is left to live with them now. But it occurs to me that if Chris's father had been a different sort of boss, Chris would have ended up with a different sort of upbringing.

After my brief analysis of these starkly different management styles, I am left with the notion that one can tell a lot about a person's parenting by looking at that person's management style.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An observation.

Look at that nose. That cute, little boyish, Peter Pan nose.

Now, let's compare.

Michael Jackson. Same nose.

Coincidence? I think not.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The world will never be the same.

For years, I have been lamenting the downfall of the English language. In 1997, I refused to use emoticons. Since then, I've given in.

In 2000, I started all my Instant Messages with capital letters. While I still use periods, commas, and even semicolons where applicable, my usage of capital letters has lapsed.

In the mid-2000s, I refused to meet any online dating suitor who replaced the letter u for the word "you" or the letter r for the word "are." If I were still single, I would likely abide by this rule. I mean, a girl's gotta have standards, right?

Through it all, I bemoaned the death of English. I railed against poor grammar. My arguments were cogent and articulate. I always had something to say. And yet, when I saw this, words failed me.

I haven't eaten McDonald's since 2007, so boycotting them now shall be an easy thing to do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ODC: When life gives you lemons...

Citrus Dude: 2002

I don't know his name and I don't know where he came from or how he found me. I only know that he really enjoyed citrus. And when I say he enjoyed citrus, I mean he enjoyed citrus. Biblically.

You don't get it yet?

Hmmm. How shall I put this? The man violated citrus. Grapefruits. Limes. Lemons. I never actually replied to this man. I never said, "I really dig how much you love this fruit." Not once. Perhaps if he had used a key lime or a kumquat, I may have responded. That would have been impressive.

What did I learn from this experience?

Clearly, when life gives you lemons.... put your cock in 'em.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baby on board?

On my way home today, I saw a "Baby on Board" sign on the station wagon driving in front of me. And I wondered: Does that really make anyone more cautious? Perhaps, in this age if litigiousness, people would be far more cautious around a car that had a sign proclaiming "Lawyer on Board." For while lawyers are a loathed group of folks, the consequences of careening into a lawyer could prove far more dire.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Patriotism (and Judah Maccabee).

Blind patriotism is almost as dangerous as blind faith. They both lead to useless and avoidable wars. The only difference is that one is fought in the name of so-called freedom, while the other is fought in the name of God. More often than not, neither accomplishes anything.

In 1991, when we were ensconced in Dessert Storm, my Sunday Jew School decided to have a Parents' Day. We (both parents and 10 through 13-year-old students) were broken up into three groups. We were told to design a campaign platform and commercial for one of three candidates, who were running for US President. The three candidates were Hillel, Maimonides, and Judah Maccabee.

Maccabee's campaigners likened him to then-President George Bush, putting forth a wartime platform. During a campaign Q&A session, Maccabee's lead guy (a Jew School teacher who could not have been much older than 23) stated that Maccabee would be a strong leader, yet loving and compassionate as he spread freedom, much like Bush was spreading freedom to the Kuwaitis.

Though she had been exercising amazing self restraint up until that moment, my mother could no longer take it. Her hand shot up and Maccabee's Main Man called on her. "That's a bunch of bullshit," she exclaimed. A hush fell over the children. Yes, someone's mother had just used the word "bullshit" up against Warrior Maccabee. "Complete and total bullshit. We're not there helping to spread peace among the Kuwaitis. Bush could give a shit about the Kuwaitis. We're there for oil. It's about money, not freedom, peace, justice and the American Way."

And Mom was right. It was never about freedom for the Kuwaitis. Yet the spin doctors spin at they must to get the general population on board and keep approval ratings and morale up. It's one thing to fight in the name of freedom. But no one ever wants to admit when we're warring over money and oil: necessary commodities for us to continue living the lifestyle in which we have become accustomed.

(Ed note: Judah Maccabee won the election. I did not vote for him. Ever the precocious child, I submitted a write-in vote for Mario Cuomo.)

So when the Fourth of July rolls around and people start flag-waving and partaking in blind patriotism, I get annoyed. There is much talk of freedom, and thanks for our servicemen and women. And while I appreciate our armed forces and the people who dedicate their lives to working for said armed forces, I recognize that we've not fought a war since WWII that has anything to do with our freedom, or even with the imperial notion of spreading freedom to other places.

I am not the only one who thinks this way, either. Military Policy Analyst Andre Bacevich has argued that American foreign policy and American military policy is geared towards Americans having the ability to buy lots of stuff (i.e., the freedom to live comfortable lives as compared to the rest of the world) without having to make great sacrifice. And by "great sacrifice," he speaks about our armed forces.

It's interesting that we go on and on about how much we support or troops and efforts abroad. However, if you were to look at the racial and economic makeup of our enlisted men, you would find it tends to mimic our prison population: There is a disparate number of minority poor who serve in our military. And why? Because joining the military is what someone does when faced with no more appealing options (like college). Thus, we have an all-volunteer force comprised of uneducated people of the lower classes. Bonus: No political backlash when we do send troops abroad, as we can claim that they're all volunteering to begin with.

Don't believe me? Look at the numbers. In 2002, of enlisted men and women ages 18-25, the military was made of up 61.2% whites, as compared to 68.8% in the US population. African Americans in the military made up 21.8%, as compared to 13.1% of the US population. Hispanics made up 10% of the military as compared to 13.3% of the US population (interestingly, this group is under-represented in the military; I don't have enough data to extrapolate much from this). And "Other" made up 7% of the military as compared to 4.8% of the US population.

What is probably the most telling to me, however, is Congress. Congress is the only branch of government that is empowered to declare war. And from 1951 to 1992, at least half of Congress were military veterans. Not so today. As of 2007, only one-third of Congress were veterans. As for your Congressmen and women telling you that the understand the toll war takes on our children? Yeah, not so much. The rich don't go to war, folks. In 2007, only 9 of our 535 members of Congress had any children who had served in a war.

Blind patriotism is -- to use my mother's word -- bullshit. It's been a long time since we fought for anyone's freedom. We fight, rather, to keep ourselves free to live the way we want to leave, to keep the little guys down, and to ensure that we remain the premier Superpower in the world.