Monday, June 30, 2008

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...


To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them. To die. To sleep.

Yes, we got tickets. And Hamlet was amazing. Incredible production.

The costuming was modern, but the play stayed true to Shakespeare's original language. There wasn't a bad actor in the entire company, though I thought Claudius was miscast. The two actors that stood out in my mind were Michael Stuhlbarg as Hamlet and Sam Waterston (of Law and Order fame) as Polonius.

Michael Stuhlbarg plays a grieving, relentlessly miserable, brooding, crazy Hamlet. He vocalizes a lot, making funny, clownish contemporary sounds which he incorporates into the Shakespearean dialogue. He's very physical, dashing around the stage, constantly moving, like a nervous beagle. I found it interesting to have a lead actor who was so short. He couldn't have been more than 5'4" or so. All the other actors seemed to tower over him, including Ophelia. But he gave a huge performance. His gestures and vocalizing contemporized the dialogue and made it modern and relevant. I thought his Hamlet was fabulous.

Sam Waterston stole the show. His Polonius was every inch the wise, elderly advisor, and also the silly, somewhat senile clown. The audience laughed at every joke that he conveyed through his delivery. He still maintained that gravitas he exudes as he senior DA on Law and Order, but this was a whole new character. He kept me riveted.

Hamlet is a little like 24, in that there is a huge body count at the end of the show, but the violence seems to be appropriate. The show closes with a new world order, and you wonder how they will avoid making the mistakes of their predecessors.

This was the first time I've seen any production of Hamlet since my father passed away. It's interesting for me to observe how much more engaged I was this time in the language of mourning. Hamlet, Laertes and Ophelia all lose their fathers and all deal with it differently. This probably flew right over my head until I too became a mourner.

What a perfect night, in spite of the occasional drizzle. I have not thought once tonight about my divorce, my childlessness or my "situation." I have not felt that trapped, choking, hopeless desperate feeling at all. All I felt was happy and engaged. What a day. Today, I left my self-consciousness and self-pity at home (where unfortunately, they were waiting for me upon my return).

Next month's play is Hair. Not sure what Hair has to do with Shakespeare, but I am definitely going to go see it, if I can fit it into a non-Three Weeks date. The music alone is worthwhile.

Today, I love New York.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On line

This is sort of a new experience for me...posting from my Iphone. I'm on line (not online) in Central Park with some friends, waiting to get tickets to the season's last production of Hamlet. For you non-New Yorkers, the way Shakespeare in the Park works is, you get on line for tickets at around 8 in the morning. They start giving out (free) tickets at around 1pm. So basically, you hang out in the park for 5 or so hours. It's pretty much the only sure way to get the tickets.

We got a late start and got here at around 10am, so we are nervous about whether or not we will get the tickets. The line is about a quarter mile long at this point, but there are roughly forty people behind us, so we are hopeful.

We are sitting on blankets, eating cold turkey sandwiches on crusty rolls with pickles and potato chips and overripe drippy nectarines and Diet Coke. We brought Ipods, Ipod speakers, library books, puzzle mags, sunscreen and umbrellas. It's been warm and breezy, but we had a ten-minute rain shower about an hour ago. Everyone is having a pretty good time of it.

The couple on the blanket next to us is in engaging in major pda (public display of affection). My friends are all frum, and although not all of us are truly shomrei negiah at this stage of the game, everyone behaves with decorum in public, so we are all pretty grossed out by this. The couple next to us has been entertaining us all morning by doing pretty much everything except actually having sex. It is starting to get annoying. And they are not kids...they look like they are in their forties! I held back one of my more vocal friends from shrieking "get a room!" at them. "Look," I said, "it's New York. Look around you. It's pretty much a freak show. It's part of the charm of the city. This is nothing. Let it go." He did. We are all trying not to stare at them, but they have been going at it pretty consistently. Finally, one of the older women from the senior citizens line who was power-walking past us said very audibly "that's disgraceful!" and that seemed to make them aware that they were in public. So they cooled off a little. The guy downgraded to rubbing the woman's legs, from the top of her thighs to her ankles, over and over again, for the last hour. The woman has her feet propped up in his, ahem, lap. I hate pda. Hold hands and wait until you're alone, geez.

So far it has been the near-perfect summer day. We are all at ease with each other, the turkey sandwiches are delicious (why does picnic food taste so damn good?) and the park is so beautiful. The crowd is friendly and bohemian and the is atmosphere is festive. We've got some great old eighties music playing on the speakers. I feel my skin frying, even though I practically bathed in SPF 5000 that morning (I am the whitest white woman alive...blue eyes, light hair, a poster child for skin cancer, Gee"eff). I have no makeup on, and my hair is tied back with a bandanna. It feels like my freshman year Spring Fling. I am really, really looking forward to seeing Hamlet. I was an English major in college, and Hamlet is easily one of my favorite plays. So much of the writing has become a seamless part of our vernacular. To thine own self, be true...neither a borrower nor a lender be...to be or not to be...frailty thy name is woman...the play is the thing....alas dear Yorick, I knew him well, etc. I live for this stuff. I love this stuff. When I spend the day doing this, I can be myself, not the old fat ugly childless divorcee, but me, the way I was , the way I used to be before life happened. I love this day. I wish I could take it home in a bubble.

I'm going to post this later, after I get home. Too hard to edit on an Iphone and I see dozens of typos. Damn Iphone keyboard is made for Lilliputians.

Great design: Sinatra stamp

So, two more things about me: 1) what I do for a living has something to do with design and 2) I collect stamps.

Collecting stamps is something I inherited from my father, literally. He collected stamps since he got out of a labor camp in World War II. When I was younger, I used to collect stamps and give them to him, so I sort of made his collection our collection. When he was niftar, I inherited his stamp albums. It's not something I do actively now, but every now and then I will drag out the collection and flip through the stamps. They are probably not worth much monetarily but I am very nostalgic about certain stamps, like the ones my father saved from pre-state Israel/Palestine, and some others. Every now and then I'll buy a new stamp that looks interesting, but I'm not that consumed with it.

When the new Frank Sinatra stamp came out a few months ago, I checked it out. I don't particularly like or get Sinatra, but The Ex was a huge fan, so I guess I still have some residual interest in it. When I saw the stamp, I bought a sheet, not so much because I care about Sinatra, but because the design was outstanding. Because I work in a design-related industry (sort of), I like to think I have somewhat of an eye for good design elements. This stamp is a winner.

  1. They chose a great, picture of Sinatra, young, with a slouchy hat, big wide smile, and sparkly blue eyes.
  2. The background is superb. The blue brings out his eyes, his hat, and it pops. The halo is subtle and works.
  3. The layout is great. Country and amount in tiny silver letters tucked away in a corner, slanty but legible signature across the bottom, says it all.
Clean, crisp, sharp design. Excellent. Click on the image to get the full, enlarged impact.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Racism against Obama

I'm on MoveOn.org's mailing list. Why? Because one of my closest friends from Out-of-Town is one of their organizers, and she encouraged me to at least hear what they have to say. I've been getting their stuff for three years now and I freely admit that reading their crap (really, utter crap) was one of the deciding factors in me becoming a Republican. Thank you, MoveOn.org.

So I got an email from them today with this in it:

Right now, FOX is trying to paint Barack Obama as foreign, un-American, suspicious, and scary. They're trying to send Americans the message that our country's first viable black candidate for President is not "one of us."

We've seen this before from FOX. They won't stop until it becomes too painful to continue—until the public calls them out and advertisers start getting worried.

Now is the time to draw a line in the sand by putting FOX on notice that their behavior won't be tolerated. Nearly 100,000 Americans have already expressed their outrage. Can you express yours by adding your name to this message?

"FOX must stop injecting racism, prejudice, and fear into our political dialogue. We intend to hold FOX, its advertisers, and its personalities accountable for FOX's attempts to smear the Obamas."


Yeah, okay, MoveOn.org. Unbelievable. Name ONE, ONE racist thing said by a FOX News commentator. Honestly, are they really accusing FOX of being racists? Really?

Let me make this clear. No one on the Right thinks Obama is unfit for the role of Commander of Chief because he is black. As a matter of fact, everyone loves the fact that he is black. Even though I hope he loses, I think it is historic and important that he got as far as he did. Senator Lieberman beat all odds by becoming the first Jew (not just a Jew, but an observant Jew!!) to get nominated for major office, and we were all proud of that fact, but didn't vote for him because we disagreed with his ideals. The Right didn't withhold their support because he was a Jew! No one thinks Obama would be bad for the country because he is black. But damn right that he is scary. His ideas border on socialism. Yessireee Bob, that scares the hell out of me.

When you accuse someone of racism, you better get specific. I challenge anyone to find an iota of racism in the reporting of FOX News on Barack Obama. Quit playing the race card. Politics is tough, MoveOn.org, so why don't you get on the bus and stop playing victim. Enough.

Today only

$5 off $20 at Walgreens. Go buy shampoo. I bought a stapler and Benadryl. Great deal!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Overripe Pear




I am reading a pretty interesting book about Mary, Queen of Scots. Anyway, here is a bite from one of the entries in her actual journal:

June 11, Anno Domini 1582. I am now in my fortieth year - how chilling that sounds! I cannot be the first to be surprised to be suddenly "old," but when I was fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five, I thought youth would last forever.

Nicholas Hillard came to Sheffield recently to paint miniatures of Shrewbury and his family, and he painted one of me, too. I hated it. The woman he painted was like a distorted vision of the girl painted by Clouet long ago in France. She has the same features, but they had blurred and run, were softened like an overripe pear. I have often observed such pears lying on their platters. They still hold their shape, but they are soft enough that the bottoms are a little flattened where they are lying, and the skin is slightly swollen. These, incidentally, make the best eating, if one eats them just at that moment. The next day they are inevitably mushy and show spots.

To think I am in that state! And yet, upon looking in my glass, I had to admit that the portrait was accurate, it captured all the features. It was even, truth to tell, a little flattering. My chin is fuller than he painted, and my nose sharper.

A woman of forty. She is seen as a simpering, silly thing, a witch, or else a lascivious man-eater, hungry for young male flesh.

Good writing holds through time. If Mary would have been alive today, she probably would have been a blogger.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And More on the Shidduch Crisis

I got this in an email today.


This is one of those things that doesn't require any commentary from me. It sorta speaks for itself. I'm going to let you readers write this post. Comment away if you like.

Truth is, I just can't deal with this stuff anymore. I'm out of steam.

Friend Me! Fan Me!

So in the interest of utter narcissism, I started a Facebook page for this site. It's here! Come on, be my Friends! Be my Fans! Let's make it interesting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Getting back in.

The stock market sucks. It has been in the toilet for a while now.

I'm getting back in.

I got out at around October of last year, after I made a few thousand dollars on some short-term buys. Nothing to write home about, not a whole lot of money, but it was a nice tidy little bonus. I got out of it because I didn't want to be a pig about it.

Now I'm getting back in. But not as an "active" investor. I don't have the patience. I'm going to sink $3,000 into a Vanguard fund and keep an eye on it. We'll see.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gentle Drifting Deaths

Sometimes friendships just die. There doesn't have to be a fight, or even a major change in circumstances. Sometimes you find that you have just drifted away from a person. You still like them, or at least, you don't dislike them. You just feel an utter lack of connection.

It's always a little sad when this happens. The worst thing is when one friend tries to hang on to the friendship, not because they still feel a connection but because they can't deal with the end of the friendship. I honestly feel that some people want to be friends with everyone, forever.

When I was married and lived in Out-of-Town, I became very close to a woman who volunteered with me, Devorah. We really didn't have that much in common except that we were both married, frum, very involved with the community and somewhat smart. We definitely shared a sense of humor. This was interesting: we disliked the same people and we had many of the same friends. I think a great deal of our relationship was based on that. We still had a lot to say to one another, but much of it was gossiping about people we jointly found irritating. We were also there for each other. When Devorah needed surgery, I took her kids, picked her up from the hospital, etc. So it wasn't a friendship based on nothing.

She was the first person I called when The Ex and I decided to go public about our separation. I tearfully told her I was leaving Out-of-Town and divorcing The Ex, and asked her to daven for me. She was warm and supportive.

I've been divorced for a year and a half now. I've spoken to Devorah on the phone, maybe three times. I've been back to Out-of-Town twice. She's never had me over for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal. We had coffee together once and it was just like old times...talking and laughing. But there was no "followup." We just drifted apart.

I confided in a mutual friend, Rickie, that I was sad about losing Devorah as a friend. I felt that I tried to maintain the friendship more than she had, but that I still liked her very much and didn't bear her any ill will. I told Rickie that I recognized that sometimes friendships just die, just like that. I have no proof of this at all, but I'm sure that Rickie went running to Devorah and told her what I said, because I got a phone call a little while after that from Devorah, making excuses about not getting together with me when I was in Out-of-Town, blah blah blah. I was very warm to her, but I just let it go. I didn't call her again. Now, we have nothing in common, not marital status, not community, nothing really. She was having a little bit of a hard time recognizing that we weren't going to pretend that we were still friends.

But sometimes friendships just die...gentle, drifting deaths. And I think that's really okay.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Feeling Good About Obama

I was catching up on blogs tonight, and I came across this on Frum Satire: http://www.frumsatire.net/2008/06/04/obama-is-nominated-and-i-think-its-cool/.

I too think it's very cool that a black man has been nominated by a major party in the United States. It finally allows us to shed our legacy of slavery and bigotry. If a black man can become the Democratic Party's nominee for President, that says that there is nothing, nothing a black person in this country couldn't do if he sets his mind to it.

But it's not enough. It's great to feel good about a candidate. But what does your mind tell you?

  1. Name a single great thing that Barack Obama has done as a Senator. Actually, he is a presidential candidate, so let's raise the bar.... name three great things that he has done.
  2. He wants to unite the country. Name a single time he has reached across the political aisle. It's easy to say you will unite the country behind your ideas. What has he done to unite the parties as a Senator?
  3. Ask yourself this: before Obama started campaigning for President, what did you know about him?

Let's set aside all the weaknesses and gaffes that Obama has made recently. Look, he's really good looking, he's black, he got a model-pretty wife, he's a great speaker, he's got youth and passion going for him and the media LOVES him. They eat him up. It feels great to have this guy running. But I've got to say, he hasn't got a single qualification speaking for him. I question his judgment and I seriously doubt his ability to govern and lead The Free World. You can say that politics bores you, that you don't give a damn about who wins the presidency, but you should. It's going to strongly, strongly impact your life and future.

Make a decision with your head. Obama for GQ, Obama for public speaker but Obama for President scares the hell out of me. Run McCain through the same three litmus tests above and see how he fares.

It's not enough to feel good.

More on gas

Life Marching On

Lot's been happening around my life.

1) A friend of mine, someone I used to work with, died today. It was expected. She was on a respirator. But nevertheless, I am devastated. She was such a fiery, whirlwind of a person, generous, thoughtful and creative. I am just heartbroken. The funeral will be in the city in which I lived when I was married, so I won't be able to be melave mais.

2) A close male friend of mine is getting engaged. This is marriage #3. When I met him (we dated) ten years or so ago, he was just getting over marriage #1. Around the time I got married, he met wife #2, whom I thought was an utter witch (I was correct). He's a cancer survivor, an amazingly talented, warm, funny, bright-as-a-light person. I love him like a brother. I'm so happy that he has gotten to this place. Wife #3 seems like a keeper. She seems to be one of these people who is beautiful on the inside and out.

3) I got a dog.

4) I will be working at my current job until the end of the year. In January, I will be unemployed. At that point, I will be taking The Vacation That Will Blow Away All Other Vacations, b'ezrat Hashem. I really, really need it. I really, really hate my boss, but it's good money, and so I will swallow it until December. And then I will burn my bridge to her like nobody's business, tell her what an awful experience working for her has been. She has it coming. I have enough sterling recommendations from previous managers and other team members there that I can do this. With pleasure.

Some other stuff's been flying around, nothing earth-shattering, but I'm not sure how much to divulge and still protect my anonymity. I guess I can let it out slowly in some upcoming blogposts. Watch this channel.

Friday, June 20, 2008

And now, for the stupidest, most gratuitous "Shabbos product" ever

Thanks to Paul S. for this one:

http://www.kosherimage.com/sbt.html

Ok, look. I actually bought a Shabbos lamp. It's a halachically clever item, using a swiveling cover to douse the light on Shabbos. I like halachically clever things, mostly because I like clever things in general. The challah knife with the salt shaker built into the handle. The "pisher" kiddush device that spouts kiddush wine into little cups like a fountain. The challah board that rises up and becomes a challah basket, to hold the bread once it is sliced. The pen with birkat hamazon rolled up inside the barrel that pulls out like a tiny little megillah. But this is stupid. What, pray tell, is the chap here? Pre cut toilet paper? Ooo, how clever.

Equally annoying is this.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gotta drill

Gotta drill.

Ladies and gentleman, that is the answer to the gas crisis. We gotta drill. Every time an American politician even says we can't drill, the international oil market snickers and kicks up the price of a barrel (the oil market is a futures market). We gotta drill.

I'm not talking about drilling in the Grand Canyon. I'm not talking about ruining national parks or pretty pretty places in our beautiful country. I'm a national park freak. I have one of those silly "passport" thingies and frankly, it's probably 2/3 full. I love the United States. I don't want to ruin it by turning it into an oil refinery, contrary to how the environmentalists feel.

But there are places that are remote, I mean really remote, and are oil rich, like the outer-continental shelf. And we are not drilling there because there is a federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling. And that is just plain insane. Oil went up to $140/barrel yesterday. It's time to get the drills out. We have unbelievably rich natural resources, and they are untapped. What are we waiting for? $10/gallon gas?

Drill, my friends. Time to drill.

Crunching the cost of gas

I see Jeep commercials on TV that offer, as a bonus to buying one of their vehicles, a "hold" on gas prices to $3/gallon for the next three years. That made me wonder, how much of a benefit is that? How badly am I getting gouged on gas prices?

If I ask myself off the top of my head how much I am overpaying for gas, I'd say offhand that if gas goes, to say $4.70/gallon by December, I'll be overpaying a total of $2,000 by the end of this year. I just pulled that number out of the air; it's based on nothing.

Now, let's do the math. Let's say that I consider $3/gallon a reasonable amount to pay for gas. I don't really, I think $2/gallon is reasonable, but okay, I'll go with three. My little sedan holds 15 gallons. So in theory, a $45 fill-up is my reasonable starting point.

I get an overall average of 23 mpg, and I don't drive a lot, as I have a very short commute to work, and always have had a short commute for as long as I've owned my car, the last five years. On average, I've put on about 6,000 miles a year on my car. So based on that, let's say I fill up 18 times a year, or 1 1/2 times a month. So 18 times $45/fill-up would be $810 per year that I spend on gas. I understand that this is on the low side, and that many families own SUV's with bigger tanks and/or put much more mileage on their vehicles.

Today I filled up on $4.20 gas. I'm reasonably sure that in six months, gas will be at least 50 cents more. So let's pick a guesstimated number and say I paid an average of $4.50/gallon this entire year on gas. That's $1.50 more than what I consider reasonable ($3/gallon) or a full 50% more. So I'd be paying, in theory, $405 more a year or a total of $1215 a year on gas.

Actually, that's not so bad for me personally in terms of actual dollars. Right now, $405 is less than a day's work for me, so I need to put it in perspective. It's the 50% that really bothers me. And the fact that if I increase my usage for whatever reason, that number could easily reach the point of not being affordable. I know there are people who fill up every week. On a 15 gallon tank, that's an extra $22.50/week or an extra $1,170 per year. That's obscene.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going over to The Dark Side

I changed my party affiliation. I am now a registered Republican in the state of New York. Deep breath.

I guess the time had come for me to publicly acknowledge that I had changed. Or maybe the Democratic Party has changed. Or maybe we both have changed. I have absolutely nothing in common with the Democratic Party anymore. We don't share values, positions or ideals.

I came to realize that the reason I resisted changing my party in the past was 1) I just couldn't imagine, in my wildest dreams, being a Republican. It just wasn't part of who I was, at least the way I saw myself. I voted for Bill Clinton! Twice! and 2) The Ex is a staunch, dyed-in-the-wool Conservative Republican. I guess I didn't want to get absorbed into his political identity. I wanted to be my own person. Thing is, we agreed on just about everything political. And now, post-divorce, my niggling little identity twitches aren't really an issue. I'm very much my own person, in every conceivable way.

So here I am, Webgirl, Republican extraordinaire. Yup, it feels true.

and God bless America.

Searching for...me

So for the helluvit, I decided to google "Webgirl" and see what turned up.

Lots and lots of porn. Yikes. I picked quite a name for myself. Webcams, nasty clicks. Pervs galore. Yeesh. Don't click here. Superyuch.

Also a few other legitimate blogs, which I did click on, sorta dull. A bunch of freelance web design companies, though frankly, I think Webgirl Design is a dumb name for a web design company.

Some bizarro lesbian stuff.

More porn.

I was around page 9 of my googlesearch and about to throw in the towel, when I found this site: http://prettywebgirl.com/. It's a Russian Bride Agency. I can't believe these things really exist!

Hello. I am Katerina. I am dreaming of meeting you my second half who’ll make me happy for all my life. I’m honest, communicative, generous, and pretty girl. I love life and enjoy every moment. I want to make strong and happy family. You must be intelligent, cheerful and kind man.
Actual quote from the home page. Oh lordy lord. Ok, so that filled my 40 second attention span. Back to the search.

On page 11 of the googlesearch, I found this definition in the self-described Urban Dictionary:

webgirl: Usually an amateur model, pornographic or otherwise, whose image appears on more than one website that would display such content.
Whoa! That's not good. I guess I'm not ordering a WEBGIRL vanity license plate too soon. Back to the search, but getting ready to give up. I was getting tired of slogging through the pornlinks. My God, how much porn is there on the Internet? (NJG is laughing his head off right now.)

I gave up on page 22. Porn, dumbblogs, bad webdesign, porn, porn, porn. Another search dead-ended. I'm getting used to it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dream

I've said over and over on this blog how divorce puts you in a strange dilemma. It's almost a theme. On one hand, you are terrified of getting married. You know how awful marriage can be, and you never want to be in the situation of feeling trapped again, of feeling lonely when you are with someone, of losing yourself in the pain of a miserable loveless marriage. On the other hand, you are terrified of never getting married. You know how wonderful marriage can be, how meaningful it is to build something, to have someone you love, and you don't want to be the only one left standing, feeling the stonecold loneliness of having no one, of losing yourself in the pain of not being able to give.

Being divorced, well, you just feel like, no matter what, you are screwed. Damaged.

There is some other aspect of the second-time-around that makes it very different from the first time: the lack of dreams. I no longer dream of my fluffy white wedding; I had one already. I no longer dream of a romantic honeymoon traipsing around Europe or decorating a home together, or buying china, or getting flowers for Shabbos, or of being Mrs. Someone, or of being part of a couple. I don't dream. I feel like I just want to get there, skip the trappings, skip the journey.

But I'm a liar. I know that there is some teeny, tiny part of me that is still dreaming of Mr. Right. I deny it, even to myself. It certainly doesn't come out when I make decisions or try to sort out where I'm taking my life. I don't let it. It has no place in my plans anymore, this dream, it has no voice in my internal dialogue. If it starts to come, NO, I tell it, GO AWAY. Most of the time, almost all of the time, it's silent, as it deserves to be.

It comes out when I listen to music. I'll listen to a song that used to make me think about my Prince Charming, long, long dead to me now, and then, against my will, I'm dreaming again. "Oh baby you're the only thing in this whole world that's pure and good and right," Meat Loaf will croon, and I feel my mind leave the room. Peter Himmelman is singing "When you need confession, I'm there to listen; when you're crossing the ocean, I've got a boat to row, that's the mission of my soul..." and my heart turns over. Sheryl Crow will wail "when I’m throwing punches in the air, when I’m broken down and I can’t stand, will you be strong enough to be my man?" and I wonder where he is, this elusive man of mine, and I dream of him, fighting it every step of the way (stupid stupid stupid!), but I dream anyway. Will he come riding in on his white horse and come and get me, even though I stopped looking for him, even though I push him away every day, I push away even the chance of him, because I'm so tired of kissing frogs, I'm so tired of feeling ugly and fat and old and dead, and it's so much better and healthier to embrace reality than delusion. Even though I tell myself and everyone else that I'm okay, really, really okay by myself, thank God for good friends and rock concerts, thinking about getting a dog, and going to Scotland on a vacation and I'm going to be FINE. Will he come and get me anyway, my Mr. Right? Will he know? Will he find me?

It's only when I listen to music, when it's four in the freakin morning again and I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep without Ambien, with my Ipod strapped on, it's only then, that I let him in, the dream of him, maybe the hope of him, into my life. It's only then.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Saving on Gas

Just got my Chase PerfectCard. I'm going to get 6% back on all my gas purchases for the first 3 months (3% after that). That will bring $4 per gallon gas down to $3.76. On my 15 gallon tank, that brings a $60 fillup down to $56.40. As my uncle used to say, it's not much but it's better than a stick in the eye.

Surreal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXT2E9Ccc8A

I Hate New York. Today.

If nothing else, I think I am pretty self-aware. I know about most of my many, many flaws. One of the more prominent ones is that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I would always rather be somewhere else and doing something different.

Recently, I was in the position of possibly losing my job at the end of June. All signs pointed toward my present employer not renewing my contract, but bee-Aitch, I was offered a nice renewal at least until the end of the year, a rather sweet deal actually. So how do I feel? Relieved? Happy? No. Now I am disappointed that I have to postpone that long, overseas vacation that I've been dreaming about. If my contract had not been renewed, I'd be sweating over the lost income, even though I'm financially prepared for a break in work time. I'm never happy. Never ever happy.

For the five years that I was married, I lived in a medium-sized community outside of New York, or, as we egocentric Nuyawkuhs like to refer to these places, "Out-of-Town." I was pointedly miserable for the first year or two, missing my relatives, my friends, my lifestyle, the kosher restaurants, reasonably priced kosher food, etc. As I got more settled in Out-of-Town, made friends, started enjoying my job, got very involved with the Jewish community, etc. I started to reluctantly like Out-of-Town. By the time I had to leave, I had a thorough appreciation for Out-of-Town, and didn't want to come back. But the divorce didn't really give me much of a choice, as the frum single forty-something guys were all here in Ir Hakodesh, and my family was here, and it seemed very important to put many miles between me and The Ex. In retrospect, it was a good decision.

Doesn't mean I can't complain about it. I'm never happy. I'm never, ever happy.

I just spent Shavuos in a different Out-of-Town community down South, with some family members. Whenever I spend some time outside of New York, it always takes me about two weeks or so after I return to stop hating New York. I expect it. At this point, even my friends expect it. My roommate said to me "how long are we going to have to hear you bitch about New York this time?" when she picked me up at the airport. I laughed, because she hates New York even more than I do. Actually, almost everyone I know who lives here hates New York just a little bit, on some level, even my fellow native New Yorkers. We all seem to be here for a good reason, whether it's for family, custody arrangements, dating, work, etc. No one I know is in New York because they love it and want to be here. At least, no one admits that. In Out-of-Town, I've met tons of people who have just picked up and moved because they love Out-of-Town. They truly love it. They love the lifestyle, the slower pace, the easy traffic, the cheaper and larger houses with the enormous rolling lawns. They love being able to have their children play in the backyard without worrying about predators. They love that their morning commute to work is 13 minutes, with traffic. They love being able to wear a nice sweater and skirt to shul and not feeling underdressed. They love the fact that people don't behave like animals when they drive. There is a lot to love about Out-of-Town.

What don't they love? They don't love the lack of a really strong art-culture; there is no where to go on Sunday afternoon that you haven't really gone to three hundred times before. They don't love the lack of kosher restaurants. Out-of-Town had maybe four decent kosher places, whose menus I had memorized, having been to each of them at least a thousand times. They don't love the lack of nightlife. In Out-of-Town, if you didn't like bars, the nightlife consisted of a movie and Starbucks. Period. Nothing else was open past 8 except for Target. They miss not having a substantially sized religious community, which is ironic, because that's also what people hate about New York. But with size comes choice, and sometimes choice is nice to have. New York is also near many other communities, while Out-of-Town communities are often geographically isolated, and so even living in New York, I have the choice of spending my Shabbos somewhere else without getting on a plane, and can drive back in time to make it to work on time next week. I have the entire East Coast in my reach.

Today, I hate New York. I do. It's smelly and noisy and I hate driving on the Belt. Gas is $4.20/gallon and people act like boorish idiots.

But by the end of the month, I'll be okay again. I'll probably spend a Shabbos or two near the beach somewhere. I'll probably eat at a few five-star kosher restaurants once or twice. I'll see my family and I'll probably buy something at Eichlers when I'm in Brooklyn. I'll take one of my nieces to MOMA and really enjoy it. And I'm sure I'll go out with friends for some late night sushi on Thursday night. And I'll begrudgingly admit that it's not so bad.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Testing

I got married in my early thirties. Since I was considered an older bride, I wanted to be responsible and get a bunch of medical exams before the wedding, make sure everything was in working order so to speak, which of course necessitated a trip to the ob-gyn. I wanted to get a general fertility test...nothing invasive or extreme, just a simple test to find out if all my chemistry was ok. After all, I was planning on trying for kids right after getting married and I wanted to know if there would be any challenges up front. I also wanted to be tested for all the Jewish genetic diseases, like Taysachs and Gauchers, as The Ex and I were both of Ashkenazic descent and I wanted to know if I was a carrier.

So I had a regular physical exam and then spoke to my doctor. She told me that my insurance (which was a major carrier PPO at the time, one of the best available) would not cover any fertility tests until my partner and I tried to conceive for at least a year. I thought that was ridiculous. Why try for a year if you could find out before that there is a chemical issue that might need to be addressed? Then you have wasted a year. She asked me if wanted her to lie and say that my fiance and I had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully. I couldn't do that. She said she still might be able to test my blood for certain hormone levels, under the medical guise of suspecting something else. I felt uncomfortable with that, but she seemed okay about it. I wondered why insurance companies wouldn't cover basic fertility testing as part of pre-marital health checks.

Then on to the genetic screening. She had already taken my blood sample (quite a large amount of it too) at that point and said she would take care of all the pre-marital testing. She was rushing me out as we already spoken for ten minutes, so I thanked her.

Two weeks later, I got a notice from her office that they were happy to report that I did not have AIDS, syphillis or gonorrhea. I immediately called her office and asked them why I received this report and why this test was done. I was not sexually active before I got married, so I wasn't really concerned about any STDs and didn't recall authorizing a test for them. I was actually pretty angry about the test...it felt very presumptuous for them to assume that since I was over thirty, I must be at risk for an STD, regardless of my religious background. She came to the phone and after a little digging, explained the mixup. It seemed that her PA had misunderstood my asking for a pre-marital test. Though I was very specific about it being a genetic screening, she thought I meant just the "regular" pre-marital test and had sent my blood in for an STD test. "And anyway," my doctor explained, "your insurance won't cover a pre-marital genetic screening."

I didn't believe her. It seemed outrageous. I called my insurance company, and sure enough, the AIDS test was covered 100%, no problem. A blood test for genetic screening would have cost me $1,200.

Later on, after I was married, I had different medical coverage in another state where the co-pay for the screening was only $100, so I had it done (and Bee-Aitch, I'm not a carrier for anything).

Insurance companies don't seem to really be interested in promoting responsible pre-conception care. Pre-marital genetic testing is not covered at all, but a pre-marital AIDS test, well, that's de rigeur. Also interesting to me was what my doctor told me, that if my AIDS test had come back positive and I had ever lost my current coverage, I wouldn't be able to get health insurance ever again (which is why many people choose to be tested privately, off their insurance radar). Not sure if that's true, but it's pretty frightening. What if there had been a false positive?

Sometimes I think I am just very, very naive.

Two Questions

Ok, any liberals or sort-of-liberals or partial liberals out there? Just answer two questions for me:

1) is there ever a justified reason for America going to war? If there is, what would that reason(s) be? Understand that by "going to war" I mean committing to the idea of spending billions of dollars and sacrificing American lives. Is there ever a reason to justify doing that?

2) whose responsibility is it to provide the following, the government, the individual, or both (and if both, in what ratio?):

a. medical insurance
b. dental insurance
c. college education
d. summer camp (for kids)

I really want to hear what you think. Honest.

Frumster going for the gold

Frumster has annoyed me again. They just sent out this email blast about how they got their members a special 20% discount on Artscroll books...."just use the code 'FRUMSTER' when you place your order" blah blah blah. Delete.

FYI, Artscroll regularly gives 20% discounts on all its online orders. Frumster just wants to show Artscroll the power of its marketing database to solicit high rates for future advertising.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Control control control

There is nothing more irritating to me than being around control freaks. People who start sentences with "you need to..." and "you have no business doing..." and "you should think about..." Sometimes I feel like everyone I am related to is a control freak, and the main object of their control is my life. My siblings, every last one of them, seem to feel the need to direct me, advise me, push me, know where I'm, what I'm doing, when I'm doing it. When I fail at something (like oh, say, a marriage), they are all over that, not with "I-told-you-sos" but with endless unasked-for input and disapproval and ways to be more like them. When I was married, they treated me much more like the adult that I am. When I divorced, I got demoted back to 12-year-old status again. I can't seem to shake their endless involvement and frankly, they are making me neurotically private in an effort to avoid their infantilizing scrutiny and control.

I have one sister-in-law who treats me like one of her kids. She's only five years older than me, mind you, and she's got all sorts of stuff going on in her own life that needs addressing, but I guess it's much more fun for her to criticize mine.

"You need to sleep more. If you slept more, it would be easier for you to lose weight and you wouldn't be at such high risk for cancer."

"High risk for cancer? Erratic sleeping habits place you at high risk for cancer?"

"Yes, I just read an article about that. And you need to drink more water."

"You know I also just read an article about the whole water-drinking thing. Turns out it's not really a health benefit to constantly flood your body with water...."

"(utterly dismissing me and anything I have to say) You need to drink more water. You're not giving your body enough fluid."

"Well, I think cutting down on eating and exercising more will probably be a lot more important than going to sleep at 10:30 and walking around with a water bottle all day...."

"Listen to me! You need to get to bed earlier and you need to drink more blah blah blah..."

And so it goes. Mind you, this particular sib has a weight problem and is a breast cancer survivor, so there is no question in my mind that she is projecting her stuff on me because I am a relatively easy target and she knows I won't fire back. Frankly, I think getting cancer is just a lottery, and I don't think staying up late is going to put me at higher risk. But I am subject to this kind of "helpful advice" all the time. And it bugs the hell out of me.

Maybe it would be easier to take if I thought my sibs actually appreciated some of the stuff I've had to deal with of late. You know that supposedly Indian proverb: before you judge me, walk a mile in my moccasins. I mean, in less than eight years, I have moved cross-country twice, lost a job, lost a parent to a horribly slow illness (to whom I was the primary caretaker, being the only sib without children), lived through a painful marriage, gone through a divorce, and find myself all alone at an age where they are all immersing themselves in their spouses, their children, their nachas-enriched lives. I pat myself on the back that I am still gainfully employed, emotionally sound, and high-functioning. I never complain to them, not a word, even when there is significant stuff about which to complain. I don't expect sympathy or a prize or even acknowledgment for what I've had to deal with, but a little privacy would be nice. My female sibs and sib-in-laws are all stay at home moms, and my male sib and sib-in-laws are all career oriented dads who have their every personal need taken care of by their wives. I know everyone has worked hard and I really don't deny them one bit of their happiness, but then would they please leave me the hell alone and stop trying to control my life?

I have another sib who insists that I email her my itinerary whenever I fly somewhere.

"Why? " I ask her.

"In case something happens or we need to locate you."

"But I have a cell phone. And what exactly are you thinking will happen, that you need my flight itinerary? The plane will go down and you will need to know which seat I was in? I mean really, what? When I was married , I flew seven or eight times a year and you never asked me to send you anything."

"But then your husband knew your itinerary and he was taking care of you."

Hah! If she only knew how disconnected I was to my husband during the course of our marriage. And what is this "taking care" crap? So now, she needs to take care of me? Am I one of her kids?

I think one of the reasons I was so close to my Dad was that he never, ever tried to control anything I did. Once I moved out, he pretty much treated me like a grown-up, even before I was married. I think he instinctively recognized that this control thing was a major trigger for me and wisely avoided it. Maybe he empathized. His life was so much harder than any of ours, but he never complained. He too, was a private person who didn't take control or criticism well.

This morning, one of my sisters started in on my again. This time about the way I was handling some stuff with my cousin. I had enough. I didn't hang up on her, but I did tell her that I couldn't listen to it anymore and gently hung up the phone.

This is why family members are often so estranged from each other. They don't know when to stop. They don't know when to back away and give the people they love the space they need. I love my sibs, but I need some time away.

Aids no longer a threat to heterosexuals in the US

Mind blowing article. Read this. I mean it; read it:

Threat of world Aids pandemic among heterosexuals is over, report admits.

Really?

A quarter of a century after the outbreak of Aids, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has accepted that the threat of a global heterosexual pandemic has disappeared.

How can this be? What happened to the threat?
In the first official admission that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misdirected, Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO's department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.
Ok, yeah, I also had a good laugh over that name. Kevin de Cock? Oy. But apparently, he's a real senior official of the World Health Organization. And he's telling us that sexually active heterosexuals in the United States are not at risk for aids anymore. Yup, this is HUGE.

So what happened? What has changed? Why aren't heterosexuals at risk? I mean, no one is truly safe, yes? Anyone remember this?

Um, could it be that maybe, just maybe, (hold the hate email), heterosexuals (outside of Africa) were never at risk? That major fundraising efforts for this horrible disease exaggerated the risk to non-homosexual and non-intravenous drug users, in order to panic the general population into donating gajillions of dollars to stop the disease, because they felt they personally were at risk? After all, how many heterosexuals would have dipped deep into their wallets had the high-risk groups been restricted to homosexuals, intravenous drug users and Africans? Maybe some. I don't think many.
Aids organisations, including the WHO, UN Aids and the Global Fund, have come under attack for inflating estimates of the number of people infected, diverting funds from other health needs such as malaria, spending it on the wrong measures such as abstinence programmes rather than condoms, and failing to build up health systems.
And further...
Critics of the global Aids strategy complain that vast sums are being spent educating people about the disease who are not at risk, when a far bigger impact could be achieved by targeting high-risk groups and focusing on interventions known to work, such as circumcision, which cuts the risk of infection by 60 per cent, and reducing the number of sexual partners.
That's fascinating. So by diverting attention from the people who are truly high risk for aids, and pouring money into prevention programs for people who really weren't at high risk, they might have actually harmed true aids victims in high risk groups.

I keep thinking about all the tv shows and movies I've seen that showed heterosexual people dying of aids, and how frightening they were to me. But that's Hollywood. I did a quick google on aids statistics and found that (admittedly not knowing at all how reliable this source is,) in 1985, when that Life magazine article came out, the number of American aids cases attributed to heterosexual transmission was 2.5 percent. But heterosexuals were all at high risk, yes? No one was safe.

Look, this isn't an anti-gay thing. I have no stake in promoting hate against gay people. This isn't a judgement. I've always said that I just don't care who anyone sleeps with privately, and I stand by that. Human beings are human beings. And frankly, I'm not the Boss of the World. But that doesn't mean that we are all equally at risk for the same disease, or even that some of us are at risk at all. Why is bigoted to say that aids might be spread by some forms of homosexual behavior? Because we wish it weren't so? Because it offends our sensibilities? No. Enough of this crap already.

My head exploded when I read this article. I keep waiting for it to appear on the front page of the New York Times. I don't think it will.

Do you think that lying about exaggerating the level of a threat in order to make it more common and ordinary and therefore raise more money for the cause justifies the lie exaggeration? Do you? I don't. I think it's despicable. I think it's playing God. And I think it cost lives in the true high risk groups. If I were an American gay man, I would be outraged.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear somebody tell you how global warming is killing the planet.

Boy, I am gonna get some hate email now. But I don't care. I think this article and the WHO admission was important enough to get out there.

Parenthetically, let me just tell you this: I will publish any and all comments about this posting unless you 1) use obscenities 2) call me names without any reasoning and 3) rant and rave like a lunactic.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Still Chasing the Rate (but is it worth the chase?)

Those few of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I actively seek high-rate, safe, online bank accounts in which to park my little nest egg. Why shouldn't my money earn a little money? Last year I made several thousand (sadly taxable) dollars in interest actively moving my money around various online bank accounts, starting with Etrade's 5.15% (now paying 3.15%) savings account, then moving to FNBO Direct's 6% account (now paying 3.5%) , then to Everbanks 3 month intro 6.01% account (now paying a 4.01% intro rate, which I can no longer qualify for, having already held an account, and 3.06% non-intro rate).

Once the Fed started dropping the Prime Rate like a stone (thank you very much, irresponsible mortgage buyers), those fabulous online bank rates started dropping as well. I currently have the nest egg parked at Countrywide, which is giving me 3.75% (for a $10,000 minimum). Not great considering the inflation rate (~4%) and the fact that the interest is taxable...depressing actually, but I don't see anything too much better out there. There is a site called Bankrate.com that chases these online rates, but it doesn't always report the highest rate available. Indymac is offering 3.85% for it's $10,000 plus online accounts, and I was debating whether it was worthwhile for me to jump over to them just for 0.1% difference. I used My Money Blog's handy-dandy Ultimate Interest Rate Chaser Calculator, and figured out that for every $10,000 I move over, I'll only make $10 more a year in interest. Nah, not worth the jump.

Any other online banking deals out there? Either post it to comments or write me at theroadtaken613@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to Buy Your Mom $371 Earrings for $247

I saw these very cute earrings on Ross-Simons.com, one of my favorite place to waste spend money. But $350 is a little steep for me these days. They also wanted $20.95 for standard delivery, which would have brought the damage to $370.95. Yikes.

So I googled around and found a 20% off (-$70) and free shipping (-$20.95) discount code, WISHLIST. This code is good until the end of the year ladies; work it.

But before I bought anything on the Ross-Simons site, I first clicked on over to Ebates and then went to the Ross-Simons site through the Ebates link, because Ebates sends me a cash rebate of 7% ($19.60) for my Ross-Simons purchases. By the way, if you haven't signed for Ebates yet, you're not too bright or you don't like money. They have major retailers on their list, and if you spend any money online at all, why wouldn't you want to get some money back on your purchases? Really? Money, not points, cash, moola, kessef. I pulled in over $200 this year on gifts, books, even some business things, all tax free and all in cash.

Anyway, I did buy the earrings, and I paid for them with my Citi Cashreturns card, which at the time I applied for it, gives you 5% back (-$14) on all your purchases for the first three months.

So my Mom's $370.95 earrings ended up costing me $246.40. Savings of 34% or $124.55, which will allow me to fill up my tank, oh twice.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Health Insurance

Ok, this is sort of an unusual post.

I need help, from you my dear blog readership (both of you). I am shortly going to be in a situation where I will need to purchase my own health insurance. I am on group insurance currently, and because my employment structure is about to shift, it is coming to an end very soon. I know all about COBRA, and for complicated reasons that have nothing to do with anything, I'm not eligible.

Does anyone know anything about health insurance for consultants, self-employed individuals, single proprietorships, in the state of NY? I am willing to pay up to $700/month for a decent POS plan, but I am not willing to pay over $1,000, which seems to be the published going rate for individual plans. I vaguely remember many years ago, Bnai Brith used to offer group insurance and so did Nat'l Council of Young Israel. Does anyone know of any similar organizations that offer group plans to members? I'm in good health bee-aitch, if that makes a difference.

I know about the plans for individuals who make less than $25,000/year and I'm not eligible.

Help. I'm in a real bind here. If you know anything that you think would be helpful, please write to me @ TheRoadTaken613@gmail.com. Thanks much.

-WG

Cheap date

Yum.