Friday, January 30, 2009

Entire Bryan Adams album download for 99 cents on Amazon

Here. Remember Bryan Adams? Geez.

Celebrity President Lookalikes

Guest-posted by Nice Jewish Guy:

Was browsing around on the new White House Web Site, and they have an interesting section biographing all the Presidents, with portraits. It was interesting to note which celebrities some of the Presidents looked like.

7. Andrew Jackson- Fred Gwynne.

8. Martin Van Buren- Robert Prosky.

11. James K. Polk- a little bit like a cross between Daniel Craig and Mel Gibson.

15. James Buchanan- John Lithgow.

17. Andrew Johnson- Tommy Lee Jones.

18. Ulysses S. Grant- John Goodman.

25. William McKinley- Donald Moffat.

Just havin fun!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dan Weinstein


I've recently discovered this artist. Dan Weinstein is incredibly talented. I've been thinking about buying some Jewish art for a while now, but nothing has caught my eye like his stuff. The colors. Geez.

Not sure if I'll buy anything before I get a job though...feels a little irresponsible.

Free Coffee Today Only

Free coffee today only, Wednesday, 1/28/9 at Panera Bread. They have free WiFi too (all the time), which makes it the perfect place to hang out with a laptop.

High Fidelity

I have a lot of free time on my hands these days, being unemployed. So I called Verizon to see if they would lower our cable plan. I've done this a few times before, and every so often, I hit paydirt and they actually do lower it, for no apparent reason.

This time, they didn't lower it, but they did give me a free month of movies.

Free movies, unemployment. You do the math.

So last night, as I was clicking away, I found one of my all-time favorites, High Fidelity. Why do I love this movie so much?

First of all, I have a total movie star crush on John Cusack. I love tall, broad, skinny, awkward, funny-looking guys. I've had a thing for Cusack since Say Anything.

Second of all, I love the fact that his character is so obsessed with music and is able to make it a metaphor for life and love (see his rant about the science of the "the perfect mix tape"). I do that in my head all the time. And I love the two geeks who work in his music store, who have no lives, can barely tie their shoes but know everything about music. I am as geeky as they come when it comes to pop music. Ask me a David Bowie trivia question. Go ahead, ask me.

Third of all, he plays such a flawed character. I mean, he's a mess. He's complicated. He's painfully self-aware of what a mess he is and how he keeps blowing it. I can totally identify. And yet, as you watch the movie, you never stop rooting for him.

Fourth of all, the movie wraps up with one of the most beautiful love songs ever, Stevie Wonder's I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever). God-in-heaven, I do love that song. The chorus gives me chills. I mean, I really like most of the music on this movie soundtrack, but that song plays in the background of my head when I fantasize about the slo-mo kiss I will one day share with my ultimate Prince Charming. You know, that kiss. The one that will never happen.

If you've never seen High Fidelity, take it out from the library. It's a little dated, but it resonates. Of course, if they made it today, it would be called Ipod Love.

And here are the lyrics of that song, that sweet, beautiful, beautiful song, that no one will ever sing to me.

Shattered dreams, worthless years,
Here am I encased inside a hollow shell,
Life began, then was done,
Now I stare into a cold and empty well.

The many sounds that meet our ears, the sights our eyes behold,
Will open up our merging hearts,
And feed our empty souls.

I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever,
I believe when I fall in love this time it will be forever.

Without despair we will share,
And the joys of caring will not be replaced,
What has been must never end
And with the strength we have wont be erased,
When the truths of love are planted firm,
They won't be hard to find,
And the words of love I speak to you will echo in your mind.

I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever,
I believe when I fall in love this time it will be forever.

I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever,
I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever.

I'm so glad that I found someone to believe in again,
I'm so glad that I found someone to believe in again.

God surely answered my prayer,
God surely answered by prayer,
You know God surely answered my prayer,
You know God surely answered my prayer,
God always will answer your prayers,
Believe in One who will answer my prayer,
Thank you God.

Come on, let's fall in love,
You're the woman I've been waiting for,
Come on, let's fall in love,
You're the girl that I really adore,
Come on, let's fall in love...

Divorce here, divorce there, divorce divorce EVERYWHERE

I just found out that yet another couple I know is splitting up, and I cannot tell you how sick I feel about this.

I'm thinking back to a Friday night a few years ago in California (where they used to live). The Ex and I were visiting some friends and we went to Jill and Sam's house for Shabbos dinner. They had a great little house, but it was too small for their growing family, and they were leaving LA to go to the Midwest for more affordable housing in a frum community. I remember what a beautiful Shabbat table Jill put out...funky candle holders and elegant, modern table settings. Jill and Sam are both really bright, eloquent, fun people. I remember we brought them a delicious wine and polished off the bottle without noticing. It was a great meal....terrific food, conversation, setting. Everything was perfect. Later that week, we went out for all-you-could-eat Sushi, and the four of us put away (literally) about a hundred pieces of sushi, and how we were laughing about it and could barely move afterwards.

And here we are, four years later with our respective marriages in the crapper.

I get pretty depressed when I hear about another casualty in the marriage wars, especially when it was one that I didn't see coming (which of course accounts for like 90% of them). Why do seemingly great marriages fail? What is the secret behind staying together?

I hate divorce.

Cotton robe for $4

Comfy, 100% cotton men's flannel robe for four bucks on Blair. Use code YVF for free shipping.

Free Diet Dr. Pepper 2 Liter Bottle

Free.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Live-blogging tonight's episode of 24

I thought I'd try a little live blogging. Why not.

1:03 God, I hate Janeane Garofalo. Do something with that hair, PLEASE.

1:05 So is Agent Walker alive or not, dammit?

1:06 YAY Chloe! "She's not breathing." Like that's ever stopped anyone on 24.

1:07 SHE'S ALIVE! The Ex owes me ten bucks.

1:08 Tony is totally rethinking his entire life now.

1:09 Tony is gonna kill David Emerson. "Take the shot Tony!" "Shut up Jack!"

1:09:30 Tony takes the shot. Emerson's dead. And that's one.

1:10 Wondering how and when Jack communicated to Chloe and Buchanan that they needed to exhume Agent Walker, if Emerson has been watching him like a hawk. Telepathy?

1:12 And of course Mutobo trusts Jack implicitly regardless of the fact that he just kidnapped and nearly asphyxiated him.

1:18 President Woman has the fake Iraq war debate with her impossibly liberal advisor. Zzzzz.

1:19 Emerson not so dead?

1:20 Am I nuts or do Mutobo and Mrs. Mutobo have completely different African accents?

1:22 Ok, Emerson's dead. First he had to tell Tony to go to hell.

1:23 And Dubaku has a third kinda accent, no?

1:24 Uh oh.

1:25 What would Obama do?

1:29 Whoever holds the CIP is Boss of The Infrastructure, and thus, The World.

1:31 Joe Stevens is cute, really cute. But no one loves a quitter.

1:32 Oh good lord. President Woman is giving another damn speech. Stealing a few Obamaisms.

1:38 Agent Walker is pissed. And a little in love.

1:39 "Stay at home Mom." Snicker. I love Chloe.

1:42 First Dude is paralyzed but can blink? And show facial expressions? And move his head?

1:43 That's two (not counting the people on the planes). Maybe. Samantha's taking a while to die.

1:44 No, that's decisively two.

1:50 I really like Chloe better as a dirty-blonde.

1:51 Jack with an automatic MK-something. Oh yeah. That's four I think.

1:52 That is a nice loft. What did Samantha do for a living again? Law clerk?

1:54 First Dude is going to whale on him.

1:55 Five.

1:56 First Dude is a mess.

1:57 Love the electronic map with all the meaningless numbers running behind it.

1:58 "Begin." Like (lehavdil) Picard's "Make it so." Damn ominous.

Another excellent, excellent 24 ep. And here's another, much more detailed 24 live-blog over at Magic Lamp.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

MyPoints extra $15 FTD gift card if you redeem in January

Have you signed up for MyPoints yet? It is one of the greatest online points programs ever. Ever.

1) I know the rewards are real because I've cashed in points many times and received my gift cards, which don't expire.

2) You don't need to buy a single thing EVER. You get points simply by clicking on links in emails, or less often, filling out occasional short surverys, etc. Everything is optional. You won't be taken through a zillion screens only to be dead-ended. You click, you get 5 points. And the points really pile up quickly. So far, I have redeemed about $800 in gift cards from this site (but, to be fair, I've been a member for a long time too.)

3) If you don't want these emails cluttering up your box, simply create a gmail address specifically for these sorts of things. You should have one by now anyway. Frankly, I get my MyPoints emails sent to my regular email address. I click on them once a day, then immediately delete them.

4) Occasionally, MyPoints actually has worthwhile offers. But again, it's all optional.

5) If you get sick of MyPoints, just quit them. They will disappear from your email box.

If you're already a member of MyPoints and have been accumulating and saving your points, now is a great time to do some redeeming. With every point redemption until January 31, you'll also receive a free $15 FTD gift card (just in time for V-Day, guys!). I have the occasion to send clients flowers six or seven times a year, so I like extras like this. But before I send flowers on FTD or any other site, I always check sites like RetailMeNot.com for discount codes, of course.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1/28/09 UPDATE
I just found out (via googling around) that anyone can get the $15 from FTD. It's not a gift card per se, but a card that has this url on it: http://www.ftd.com/ftdgift. Here you can purchase a bouquet and get $15 off your purchase. Doesn't include delivery, taxes. This is sort of disappointing, not to mention misleading. I thought it was an actual gift card.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Recession?

So the inauguration is behind us, and President Obama is a reality. Now I want to address this post, where I talked about the cost of inaugurations, and how I would leave President Obama alone if he spent, say $50 million or so on his big event, roughly 25% more than any other U.S. president has ever spent on an inauguration celebration.

As a follow-up, I'm just going to quote this article in its entirety. This is from ABC News, btw, not Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or even Fox. No, this is from a mainstream media outlet, done by a reporter (not a blogpost or an opinion piece).

What Recession? The $170 Million Inauguration
Obama's Inauguration Has Been Financed Partially by Bailed-Out Wall Street Executives
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ
ABC NEWS Business Unit
Jan. 19, 2009

The country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which isn't stopping rich donors and the government from spending $170 million, or more, on the inauguration of Barack Obama .

The actual swearing-in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, according to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

It's the security, parties and countless Porta-a-Potty rentals that really run up the bill.

The federal government estimates that it will spend roughly $49 million on the inaugural weekend. Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland have requested another $75 million from the federal government to help pay for their share of police, fire and medical services.

And then there is the party bill.

"We have a budget of roughly $45 million, maybe a little bit more," said Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the inaugural committee.

That's more than the $42.3 million in private funds spent by President Bush's committee in 2005 or the $33 million spent for Bill Clinton's first inaugural in 1993.

Douglass said that this will be the "most open and accessible inauguration in history," with members of the general public able to participate on a greater scale than ever before.

"The money is going toward providing events which we hope are going to connect people, make them feel like we are all in this together and reinforce the notion that when we pull together, we're stronger," Douglass said. "And we need to pull together to face the challenges that are before us today."

Among the expenses: a Bruce Springsteen concert, the parade, large-screen TV rentals for all-free viewing on the national Mall, $700,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to stay open and, of course, the balls, including three that are being pitched as free or low cost for the public.

But there are plenty of rich donors willing to pick up the tab.

"They are not the $20 and $50 donors who helped propel Obama through Election Day," said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics. "These are people giving mostly $50,000 apiece. They tend to be corporate executives, celebrities, the elite of the elite."

Best Seats in the House
The biggest group of donors were none other than the recently bailed-out Wall Street executives and employees.

"The finance sector is well represented, despite its recent troubles," Ritsch said. "Those who worked in finance still managed to pull together nearly $7 million for the inauguration."

The donors will get some of the best seats in the house for the inauguration, as well as admittance to some of the best balls and other events.

"I don't think that they're going to get a whole lot of face time with the new president himself," Ritsch said, "but they are certainly establishing themselves from day one as his biggest financial supporters. And if there's something they need or to tell him down the road, they will have an easier time doing that than everyone else."

Besides Wall Street firms, a large chunk of the money came from employees at companies such as Microsoft, Google and DreamWorks Animation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer and his wife, Connie, each gave $50,000. So did Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, each gave $50,000. Filmmaker and DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate, both also gave $50,000. And DreamWorks employees gave a total of $275,000.

Billionaire investor George Soros and his family contributed $250,000 to the inauguration, and Google co-founder Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt each donated $25,000.

Other big-name donors who gave $50,000 include filmmaker George Lucas, artist Dale Chihuly, Los Angeles Dodgers President Jamie McCourt. Citigroup managing director Raymond J. McGuire; Oracle President Charles E. Phillips Jr.; actresses Halle Berry and Sharon Stone; and Melvin Simon, co-founder of Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the United States.

Despite all the donations, Obama's team has made donations much more restrictive than in the past.

Obama capped donations at $50,000 per person, which is still more than 10 times what individuals could give to his campaign, but a lot less than the $250,000 cap President Bush had at his last inauguration. Contributions from corporations, labor unions, political action committees and registered lobbyists are not being accepted by Obama.

The Real Money
For Bill Clinton's second inaugural in 1997, contributions were capped to $100. But that committee had some leftover money from the previous inauguration and charged people up to $3,000 for inaugural tickets.

"We have the broadest fundraising restrictions in inaugural history," Douglas said.

The inauguration team is also posting all donations of $200 or more on the Internet almost as quickly as they are coming in. The law only requires it to disclose the information 90 days after the actual swearing-in.

"The transparency of this inaugural fundraising effort is unprecedented as far as we can remember," Ritsch said. "We see that as a positive step and hope it's an indication that President Obama will use technology to make government more responsive and transparent to people."

That's all the play money. The bulk of cash will actually be spent on security and logistics.

In a letter to members of Congress, the governors of Maryland and Virginia, and the mayor of Washington said that their combined costs could exceed $75 million. That's on top of the $49 million the federal government is spending, again mostly for security.

"The historical significance of inaugurating the first African-American president of the United States alone makes the event unprecedented," they wrote. "Given its political significance, we expect that the event will be attended by hundreds, if not thousands, of elected U.S. government officials and foreign dignitaries. Turnout by the general public for the swearing-in ceremony alone is likely to exceed 2 million. Transportation officials estimate that roughly 10,000 charter buses will enter the District with approximately 500,000 riders alone, a number which nearly matches the city's population."

The emergency managers for the three jurisdictions said they expect this to be the most complex and challenging inaugural in history.

"The mass of attendees expected will challenge fire, law enforcement, emergency medical and mass transit capabilities," the governors and mayor wrote. "Moreover, the high volume of buses/traffic, weather factor and other threats will create additional demands."

With reporting from ABC News' Nick Tucker.

Well, there you have it. Tonight I read several articles about Michelle Obama's outfits and ballgowns and all I could think about was how the media crucified Sarah Palin for the expense of her stylish clothing. Tell me, do you think Michelle Obama paid for her "Neighborhood Ball" couture gown out of her personal funds? Has anyone even mentioned the cost of the gown? Of course not.

There are two sets of reporting rules out there, ladies and gentleman. There are certainly two standards of judgement. It makes me sad to see this type of prejudice and I hope the country will stop handing out free passes to its favored sons (and daughters). I am worried about the country I love and I fear it will no longer love me back. But tomorrow, as we embrace the start of The New Era of Hope and Change, I am open to (hopefully) changing my mind. Remember, I was once a lifelong Democrat.

We will see.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Getting My Hope and Change Freak On

Oh Good Lord, my head is going to explode. Yes, I watched the coronation today, from Aretha to that Godawful poet (what were they thinking???). Let me be clear: I fully support and honor Barack Obama as my president. I hope he succeeds in lifting us out of this bad economy and I hope he keeps us safe from The Bad Guys, who are really, really bad. I hope he implements none of the policies he promised during the campaign. I hope God shines His countenance on him and his family. I really do, no sarcasm there. But

Lordy Lordy Lordy. This guy is behaving like such a rock star, I cannot take it anymore.

Yes, I get the significance of having a black president and I celebrate the fact that America has finally shed her ugly legacy of slavery and racism once and for all. But can we move on please? When it comes to my "racial vision," I have weaned myself to a point to where I'm mostly colorblind. Seriously. I see a person, it registers that they are white or black and then I'm done and I go back to seeing them as just people. Isn't that really what we are going for here, that skin color becomes meaningless, because basically, it is meaningless. I want to see how Obama governs before I get tears in my eyes over his inauguration. I want to see Obama the person, the president, the guy who's gonna do something, before my heart swells because he has taken the oath of office. I celebrate the election of a black president, but then I don't care anymore. Can we stop this meaningless love affair please? Pretty please? Before I vomit? I'd like to love my president for an actual substantive reason. If my retirement funds recover their 20% losses by the end of next year, I will send President Obama a freakin Valentine, but until then, he's not even going to get to first base with me. I won't love him because he's a black president. I mean, for Pete's sake, isn't that just another form of racism?

Lotsa free, legal mp3s

Legal, free mp3's, some of major artists, right here on Amazon. You have to cherrypick through the list to find ones worth downloading, but I found quite a few. You'll need to first download and install their stupid mp3 downloader, but the good news is that the songs show up immediately in Itunes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Free Antibiotics

If you live in the NY Metro area (and especially if you have kids who are perpetually sick), take advantage of this offer from Shop 'n Stop pharmacies for free antibiotics until March 21.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dysfunction Junction

Having come from one and undoubtedly destined to create one someday (God willing), I thought this was cute. My favorite: "problems require blame."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More Free

As the economy continues to drag its butt, I will be posting lots more of these. If you find a freebie that you'd like to share, email me and I'll happily post. I do love free.

Today only: free bottle of Suave anything
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Cream of Wheat
Febreeze Sport
Quaker Mini-delights (doublecheck kashrut)
Dunkin Donuts Dark coffee
Rachel Ray new dog food sample

Shame On You, Frank

Guest-posted by Nice Jewish Guy:

Last night, a couple of friends and I watched the classic 1973 Sidney Lumet film Serpico, starring Al Pacino. I had never seen it, so when I noticed it while browsing Netflix, I put it in my queue.

The film was as great as they said; Pacino was amazing as Frank Serpico, an honest cop who faced widespread corruption in the New York City Police Department. He refused to take graft being skimmed off of the drug dealers and gamblers, and as a result no one trusted him; he was shunned by brother officers everywhere he went and got no support from his superiors. Over a 13 year career, mostly in plainclothes, he transferred from one command to the next in the hopes of escaping his hostile colleagues and finding an honest, corruption-free precinct. Fellow officers openly threatened his life. Finally, with no place else to turn, he went to the New York Times, which embarrassed the NYPD and the Mayor and forced the Mayor to convene the Knapp Commission. Before he could testify, though, he was shot in the face during a drug bust in Williamsburg, while his partners stood idly by and let it happen, leaving him to die in the hallway of a crappy tenement.

Here's that final climax of the film (warning: graphic).




He eventually testified, was promoted to detective, and retired to live a nomadic existence in Switzerland for ten years. He now lives in upstate New York.

Naturally, after seeing this film I was intrigued by this man and wondered what had become of him. We're all inspired by those who have stood up to higher powers and faced seemingly insurmountable odds, and prevailed. It's also heartening to see that there are, apparently, some genuinely honest people in this world, people who are able to recognize in black and white the dichotomy between good and evil, and choose the good, even under enormous pressure not to.

I checked out Serpico's Wikipedia page- a lot of it seemingly lifted from his website, which I checked out as well. So far, he seems like a smart and well-meaning, if a little bit hippie-ish, ethical activist. Okay. Then I clicked a link to his blog.

Imagine my utter dismay and anger when I noticed that his most recent postings were about the current was in Gaza. Here's what Frank has to say:


CHANGE?
WHERE HAVE WE BEEN
WHERE ARE WE
WHERE ARE WE GOING

While racist isranazis continue their genocidal holocaust doing unto others as was done unto their innocent ancestors.
A variety of vermin continue "BUSINESS" as usual, hiding behind overused and outdated terms such as Religion; Race, antisemitism etc.
History repeats itself and at the hands of the wealthy and powerful it is business as usual at the expense of poor and helpless individuals.
The only change will come when these individuals of the world unite as one voice against their oppressor.

The powerful continue to control the media so they are free to propagate their lies.

The powerful have all the weapons of mass destruction so they continue to slaughter the innocent.

Billionaire Bloomberg supports the Isranazis but he does not speak for all Israelis and New Yorkers.

The Palistinians are the "blacks" of the 1950's and Hamas is the Black Panther Party fighting for the liberation of it's people.


Oh, Frank. I don't know if that bullet you took to the face, whose fragments are still lodged in your brain, has addled your mind, or if the traumatic experience you went through has so polarized your world that you can't be objective. But I would have thought that you of all people would be able to clearly recognize pure evil when you see it. Are you so focused on who you think is the "underdog" that you can't recognize evil? Maybe living in Switzerland, those Nazi collaborators, has warped your sense of history. Hamas is in full control of Gaza. Gaza is crawling with terrorists who use their own people as human shields. Their "charter" calls for the destruction of Israel. Even The New York Times, the very newspaper that was instrumental in your redemption and salvation, is grudgingly recognizing that Israel has been left with no choice. Don't take my word for it; go on YouTube and watch the videos of booby-trapped schools, weapons being fired from civilian areas, toddlers dressed in explosive vests. This is what Israel is dealing with.

I get it-- your trust in the establishment, in governments, in authority, has been shattered a long time ago. But you're not doing anyone any favors by equating the Israelis with Nazis. That's just breathless rhetoric. Why don't you come up with a solution? Or go visit Sderot, and Ashdod, talk to some Israelis about the situation there. Learn some history. Israel dosn't want to be fighting this war; they left Gaza over 3 years ago. Hamas promptly staged a coup, took over, and started lobbing rockets into Israel.

Two axioms come to mind: "There will be peace in the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel" (Golda Meir); and "if Hamas laid down their weapons today, there would be no war, but if Israel laid down its weapons today, there would be no more Israel."

So shame on you, Frank. Shame on you for reflexively spouting knee-jerk leftist rhetoric. Your stand against corruption in the NYPD was heroic. But you were in the NYPD for 13 years. You don't know a fig about what's going on in Israel. Your nobility in 1971 doesn't grant you expertise or authority to pontificate about every world affair. Pick another battle-- there are plenty: Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, or any other country's problems. But leave Israel alone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Most Expensive Food

Guest-posted by Nice Jewish Guy:

The other day at work, having run through the reading material I had brought along to occupy me during the intermittent lulls, I wandered out to the reception area to peruse the magazine rack. There I found an old October issue of the NY Post's Sunday magazine, PageSix mag.

The last page was a restaurant review, and what eatery did they decide to review, but My Most Favorite Food- the kosher restaurant in Manhattan.

In the review, the article spotlights two of the restaurant's customers, (Rabbi) Dovi and Esti Scheiner. Here are some excerpts:

What did you order?
The menu had more lunch offerings than brunch, but included a few egg-based options like the house omelet with caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms and Gruy√®re cheese. We ordered the buttermilk pancakes with chocolate chips, which were thin and airy and had a delicate flavor. We also tried the cinnamon challah French toast, which arrived with a yogurt sauce and a berry compote poured over it. The yogurt sauce was sweet and delicious, but the compote had a slightly tinny flavor. Dovi ordered off the menu, asking for fettucine, prepared al dente, with a little spicy tomato sauce—and the kitchen staff happily prepared it for him.

Did you have dessert?
Yes, we shared a slice of marble cheesecake, which was rich and chocolaty but would have been perfect if it was a little colder.

How were the drinks?
Dovi had ginger ale—it's all he ever drinks. I ordered iced chocolate milk, which arrived in a wineglass and was very refreshing.

Sounds yummy. But let's see what the check came to:

Chocolate-chip buttermilk pancakes $14.00
Cinnamon challah French toast $13.00
Fettucine $25.00
Ginger ale $1.25
Iced chocolate milk $4.50
Total: $57.75

Zoiks. $60 with tip for brunch?! And if you notice, they left out the marble cheesecake- which at these price points, probably came in at around eight bucks. Fettucine for 25 bucks? With nothing but a little tomato sauce? Robbery. A box of fettucine costs around $0.89 cents, and a jar of premium sauce maybe 7 bucks. And chocolate milk for $4.50?! You could get a half gallon of milk and a bottle of UBet syrup for less. And what kind of rabbi can afford to eat out like this on a regular basis?! And these are brunch prices, too, mind you. Dinner prices undoubtedly run higher.

It would be one thing if such gastronomical experiences were worth every penny of these kind of prices. But just two weeks ago, a couple of friends of mine went to MMFD and had such a negative experience, that they walked out. They were meeting two other friends, who hadn't yet arrived. They informed the maitre d' that they were a party of four, and asked to be seated downstairs because one of the party who hadn't yet arrived was unable to climb stairs for some reason. The place was chaotically busy, and they soon realized they were being ignored, and others were being seated before them. When they indicated this to one of the wait staff, they were met with a dismissive remark. One of my friends asked to see the manager, and was informed that she was in fact already speaking to him. She then told him that the level of service so far was pretty abysmal, and the response was something like, "it's not about the service". Huh? It's exactly about the service. That's rule one; it's a service industry.

Another two friends of mine went to MMFD, around the same time, and were quite dismayed at their experience as well. The food was mediocre, they said, and quite pricey. They also were unhappy with the fact that the wait staff was all foreign, non-American though I'm not sure why. ( I guess they had difficulty communicating?).

I recall walking past MMFD sometime last year with a date, and her telling me that the place had really gone down hill lately. And with this economy, with people tightening down all around on things like eating out, when you do decide to eat out, you're going to want to get the most bang for your buck. Not overpriced pasta and chocolate milk served by a rude and dismissive wait staff.



Monday, January 12, 2009

Now THIS was an ugly divorce...

In the settlement, who gets the organs?

Television

I’ve been watching a lot more tv since I stopped working at the end of 2008. Though I have often suspected this, I finally have come to this conclusion:

TV sucks

I really like three shows: 24, House, and The Mentalist. Otherwise, I can’t seem to find any other reason to turn the idiot box on.

Sometimes I think I’m missing a part of my brain…the part that appreciates the pop-culture stuff that other normal people appreciate. Like soap operas. Reality shows like Survivor. Contests like American Idol. I don’t “get” any of these shows. I can’t watch them for more than three or four minutes.

Then there are shows that seem to be well-written, but have weird, liberal, quasi-political plotlines. Like why is it that Gray’s Anatomy has this whole strange lesbian subplot going on between the only two heavy, unattractive women on the show? And why is it that on Brothers and Sisters, the gay sibling has to mention his “husband” every ten minutes? And don’t even get me started on Boston Legal, where the show’s token Republican is a semi-senile, borderline retarded, doddering, sex-starved loser.

I have friends who don’t watch tv for religious reasons. I actually don’t think there’s anything religiously wrong with watching tv. I think that the quality of tv has just seriously gone down the toilet in the last few years. Nothing’s on.

Thank God for my library card.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Giveaway of the Day: free fully-licensed software

This is so cool. I graciously tip my hat to MyMoneyBlog.com (one of my all-time favorite blogs) for letting me know.

GiveawayOfTheDay.com lets you download a fully-licensed, no-trial, no-shareware version of some neat software. The catch is that it is only available for one day, during which you must both download and activate the software on you computer. Also targeted at the Windows OS.
Very nice tip, and this is definitely going to go on my list of sites to check daily. It combines two of my favorite things, technology and free.

How much do inaugurations cost?


How much do Presidential inaugurations cost?

I don't really have too many solid facts and figures on this. There's this Washington Times article from 2005, which it talks about President Bush receiving criticism for spending too much on his second inauguration, when he actually spent less than President Clinton did in 1997. Then there's this NY Times article from 1992 (cracks me up when they mention "change, hope, opportunity"). I found a bunch of other news articles and blog posts, but I don't consider them solid sources, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

So from the info I could round up, here's what has been spent on inaugurations so far:

Bush 2005 $40 million
Bush 2001 $40 million
Clinton 1997 $42 million
Clinton 1993 $25 million
Bush 1989 $37 million
Reagan 1985 $20 million
Reagan 1981 $16 million
Carter 1977 $3.5 million
Kennedy 1961 $1 million

Interesting, huh? And it seems that all inaugurations are paid for by a combination of private money and taxpayer money. So the estimated $50 million that will be spent on Obama's coronation inauguration doesn't really seems so high now. Parenthetically, what strikes me as very lame is Obama's office's claim that his inauguration will cost more because they will make more events accessible to the public...that's just a bunch of crap. All recent inaugurations have held both public and private events. So honestly, if they keep it to $50 million, I won't blink, even though it is taking place in this horrible economy. I would hope that most of the costs come from private donations and not from the taxpayer's pocket. But let's see.

Let's see.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Save Money on Kosher Dining

These discounts on gift certificates to kosher restaurants seems like a great deal. You save significantly on dining out and make up the $5 fee immediately on your first purchase. I'm a little surprised that some prominent kosher areas were left out (like nearly all of Central Avenue in Long Island and the entire state of Maryland), but maybe those restaurants didn't want to play ball. I'm definitely picking up a few. And I'm sending my friends in LA their long overdue 20th anniversary present, $100 gift certificate at Pat's.

BTW, if you run your shul's chessed organization and arrange takeout meals for avelim or people in the hospital, it makes a lot of sense to buy some of these gift certificates in advance.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Separated at Birth?


Am I nuts to think this is too weird? I mean, just rotate one and flip it....

Krauthammer on the Moral Clarity in Gaza

This Charles Krauthammer article is so brilliant, I'm not sure which section to quote, as every word is so well-written. Please click and read it. It's short, sharp and and hits the nail right on its head.

I do not understand intelligent, ethical people having any sort of ambiguity over the Gaza war. I simply do not.

Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

Support Israel like you've never supported her before, in big ways, small ways, all ways. Give money, attend rallies, pray for her. Post stuff on your Facebook page. Send out viral emails. Blog about her. Say Tehillim for her. Explain what is going on to your kids. When you hear the Prayer for the State in shul, focus hard.

May God's hand guide our IDF soldiers and those that command them. Finally, real steps toward peace.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Send me your codes

Ok, I'm the cheapest Jew ever. I admit it. But I like getting free Diet Cokes from CokeRewards.com, so if you don't do CokeRewards, would you please email me your codes, so that I can? They are on the insides of your Coke bottle caps or printed on the inside of your boxes of the cans. Send them to theroadtaken613@gmail.com. You guys are the bestest.

Can I live on a shoestring?



I'm technically unemployed right now. I say "technically" because I have a small income stream from some very minor clients and if I scrounged, I could take on some real pain-in-the-butt clients and have a more decent income from them. But the work I'd have to do would far, far outweigh the income. I'm looking for a more steady gig, like I had before. I do heart money.

But having been completely stress-free for an entire day now (well, at least work-wise), I'm wondering if I should or could take a little time off from my career. Sorry I can't really divulge what I do, but it's unique enough so that my identity would be in serious danger of being disclosed if I did. Besides, I dropped enough hints all over the blog, and if you were really curious, you'd probably be able to guess.

So my rent, utilities, health insurance, renter's and car insurance and cellphone are about $2,300/month. If I didn't buy clothes or anything else fun, stopped eating out, didn't travel, etc., those items would be my bare necessities. Let's say I spent $75 a month on food and another $75 on hostess/Shabbos gifts (I am already very well stocked, and eat most Shabbos meals out). That's up to $2450. Let's say $75/month on gas. And then let's say $175 on must have miscellaneous stuff. $2,700.

It's a little scary to think that I need to net $32,400 just to scrape by. Which would mean a minimum salary of around $50,000 gross. This is without saving a dime, giving any charity or early morning Starbucks. Interesting what qualifies as middle income these days.

I was spoiled for the last two years, reaping a comfortable six-figure income at a job I really liked for the most part, even though it came with bucketfuls of stress. I was able to save some for a rainy day, thank God, and if I don't get massacred by the IRS on April 15, I should be able to float along comfortably for the next few months without destroying my savings account. I'm actually considering applying for a job at.....are you ready?

Starbucks.

Why not? They give fabulous benefits, are walking distance from where I live, and I can adjust my hours. Most importantly, their jobs as coffee servers or baristas as they call them, are stress-free. Stress-free! The worst thing I would need to worry about is whether or not I got the foam right on the cappucino. It would only be a temporary thing until I find something a bit more suited to my skillset. Let's say I netted a thousand a month working at Starbucks. I have a small income stream of around $500/month from other sources. That would cover more than half my expenses, plus my health insurance premium of $400 would also go away, leaving me with only $800/month to pull from my savings. And I would have two or three gloriously stress-free months working in a young, social environment. And even after I left, I could COBRA the benefits. I am liking this idea more and more. Of course, there would always be the embarrassment of running into everyone from my shul while I'm behind the counter, but I'm not so sure I care. I do care a little, okay. But really, why not?

And by the way, Happy New Year!

Free Hebrew font from Davka

Free Hebrew font from Davka (legally), in exchange for your email address. It's the Davka Bodel font for Windows and Mac. I'll take that swap. I can always unsubscribe. Interesting Hebrew fonts are always nice to have.