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December 04, 2010


Singing "Messiah" three times (last night, today and tomorrow afternoons). Annual event, these will be my 16th-18th performances with Duke Chapel Choir. I've got a way to go to catch up with another bass, who's singing for the 106th-108th times.

And then a well-earned break from singing. At least in public.

We haven't gotten to Love Actually yet but of the several movies we view ritually every Christmas Love Actually is near the top of the list. May I also suggest The Holiday and The Ref.

Offseason baseball rumors, a Chanukindle, and the knowledge that I'll soon be halfway done with law school.

Maybe you could get NewEra to create an ObWi hat, perhaps with a sniper kitty logo? If that's too much, how about 'ObWi' in the crosshairs, that may be a little too melodramatic. Could be a way to raise some funds without selling ads, and I really appreciate the lack of ads here. Just a thought.

Christmas time is here, by golly
Disapproval would be folly

... but what the hell -- I'm foolish, so here goes:

My sister lives in Amherst MA. Earlier today, I called her to ask how she and her kids had enjoyed the town's Christmas tree lighting ceremony yesterday evening. With a snort of exasperation and contempt (for the town, not for me) she explained that it was not a "Christmas Tree", it was the "Merry Maple" that they lit up.

Now, I'm a complete atheist. I'm entirely against civic obeisance to religion.
But lighting up a DECIDUOUS tree around the time of the winter solstice is
The Stupidest Fncking Thing I've Ever Heard.

Well, no: I suppose that would still be Rep. Shadegg's claim that spending doesn't drive the economy. Still and all, a "Merry Maple" lighting ceremony?!? Bah, humbug!


For the first in about 5 years we have enough money for holiday presents larger than a book apiece. My husband's birthday is in the last week of the year, so, for Hanukah/his birthday we got ...

A NEW TV!!! It was MADE THIS CENTURY!!!!11!!

Seriously, for us the upgrade is *astounding*. We are basking in the glory of a flat screen with about twice the display area of any previous TV for us. We're also folding laundry more promptly, because it's an excuse to watch TV! (well, DVDs. We still don't have cable, and that's always worked well for us.)

My son got married to a really excellent young lady from New Jersey. She comes from a solid liberal Democratic family. Her dad and I got along famously nonetheless, the common denominator being a fondness for alcohol. Not unlike what seems to unite ObWi across otherwise vast political divides.

McKinney, congratulations to you and your family on your son's marriage! Chin-chin!

I'm almost done raking the yard

I don't believe in a god. But I grew up in apartments in the city, even though I'm a burbie now. I've always felt: deity put the leaves there, let him take them away.

@Tony P
My daughter graduated UMass in 2003. While she was an undergraduate, the high school scheduled West Side Story. Umm, nope. I forget why, but the PC police got it canceled.

Congratulations! My daughter and her husband just celebrated their first anniversary. To borrow your phrase, a "really excellent" young man. Unfortunately, can't share the enthusiasm for the new in laws. His mom is psycho. I mean, really, No details.

@Doc Science
Last night I ordered two 23" flat panels for the kitchen and my den/office, to replace the 15" Sharp color sets (which owe me nothing) that I bough in Costco, late 80s/early 90s for maybe $85 each. This paycheck has the semianual bonus. Yay! Holiday shopping.

And (cramming it all into one overlong comment) my daughter posted this over at TNCs open thread yesterday. Worth sharing, I think.

I've had this thought in my head since yesterday... Let's talk holidays!

What are your unique holiday traditions?

For me, it comes from having grown up in a house with one Jewish parent and one Christian one. We had both Hannukkah and Christmas in my house, always.

So I lit the menorah and put it in the window on Wednesday night, and delightedly exclaimed to my husband, "THERE! Now it looks like Christmas."

He thought I was nuts, but I guess in my head, I can't ever have the one without the other.

(Only, our apartment's not that big, so I was planning to use the same window for both menorah and tree, so now I have to figure out how to do that without lighting anything or anyone on fire. Hmm.)

So I lit the menorah and put it in the window on Wednesday night, and delightedly exclaimed to my husband, "THERE! Now it looks like Christmas."
This is *awesome* and I plan to quote it widely -- that sums up our household, too!

Congratulations, McKinney! You and the father-in-law have something in common that matters a lot more than abstract arguments about politics. Anyway, you're generally a good sport when it comes to those arguments.

elfy, I share your feelings on leaves. And grass for that matter. I grew up in a house with a yard about 15 feet on a side and mostly paved with concrete. Our front yard had a patch of grass about 6 feet on a side. That's about the right size for me. Our current (rental) place has a huge lawn and a big enclosed side lawn but the &*&% gardener hasn't been around in months and it's all overgrown. However, it is Somebody Else's Problem.

Contemplating putting up our Non-Denominational Holiday Lights, which is my favorite thing about this time of year. Scaring Eli with a toy helicopter, watching him take all my books off the shelves for the 1,000th time, failing to feed him some Gouda for lunch - eyes tight shut, mouth clamped shut except for going "BBBBHHHBBBBHHHBBBHHH!" every time the food comes near - and lazing around with my wife. Nice thing about the winter: a decided lack of guilt for just staying at home.

As with russell, glad to be employed and employable. I'm worried what's going to happen to a lot of other people in the next couple of years, but for us, at least, things are pretty good right now.

McK: congratulations. I'm also married to an excellent young woman, and I highly recommend it. (Although she refuses to buy a new TV until the old one breaks. The old one is about 25 years old and doesn't have its own remote. I haven't been able to bring myself to disable it so far, but I think she's starting to break down on her resolve.)

And we just booked a mid-Jamuary vacation in the Shenandoah Valley. Recommendations welcome.

Yesterday the law firm where my wife works one day a week had an outing to the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute, followed by dinner at a North Arfican restaurant. The exhibit was pretty awe-inspiring; they've started excavating the underwater remains of ancient Alexandria and finding amazing stuff (that managed to survive the Roman purge after Cleopatra's death, as well as the subsequent floods and earthquakes and tidal waves). The food was excellent; I had a lamb stew over basmati rice that still makes me smile. (Aya's Cafe, Arch Street between 21st and 22nd, if you're in the area.)


My family celebrated both holidays too. My dad got a kick out of placing the tree an menorah side by side in the window facing the house of the Orthodox rabbi who'd just moved next door. Always a troublemaker.

I'm getting ready for a family latke marathon. Best recipe ever:


I have been working for about a month on the rescue of a dog and I finally got her into a foster home yesterday. I got an email a few minutes ago from her foster mom: she said that Mercy, the dog, was laying on the couch with her head in the foster mom's lap.

Mercy was abandoned with three other dogs ina shack and left locked in to starve to death. after a week or so of barking, ignored by the immediate neighbors, the dogs chewed thier way through the door. Two disappeared. The threelegged spaniel hobbled down the road to an encampment of old guys who wear army fatigues with their grey ponytails and are rumored to support themseles through illegal activities. Whatever. They contacted my rescue and turned Lucky in to us.

A neighbor and I started leaving food out for Mercy, the last remaining dog. She ran when she heard us coming. I amde a whole bunch of pohencalls and emails but no rescue wanted to take in a very shy old vision impaired dog. I kept feeding her. I was beginning to think I'd have to trap her and bring her in to be euthanized rather than having her live out n the woods all alone.

Then I got an email from Old Dog haven, a rescue north of Seattle, These wonderful people specialize in the rescue of old dogs, many of them with the health problems that come with age. They excepted Mercy into their hospice program.

I drove her up tot her foster home--a truly saintly woman whose home is completely given over to dogs. With Mercy she has ten! Remarkably her house is clean. There are dog beds everywhere. There are dogs everywhere too, all big old dogs. I arrived just as she was giving out the noon meds. She ahd those plastic medicine organizers out on the counter, each witht he dogs name on ti and a bunch of chpped up hotdogs.

I love old dogs.

I hope everyone has a lovely relaxing holiday. This is my favorite time of year.

. . . and then, as we were processing in to sing "Messiah" today, came the first snowfall of the year here in central North Carolina, drifting slowly down.

Every valley shall be exalted.

People must have puddings.

All the news from me, Emily Dickinson, Patrick O'Brian, Allegory and Shackleton the cats. Other posts back on my poor, lonely, unread Amygdala.

Love, Actually took some damage for me. :-(

I clearly left the italic tag open at the end of "Amygdala," and can't fix it without the Superuser password. Russell, you'll have to do it, or Slarti or Eric, pliz, beg pardon.

P.S.: Names at tops of posts = good. kthxbai!

It's a warm wet summer so far in Sydney, the kind we haven't had in a decade or so. My two youngest kids are confused, but it reminds me of my childhood. The zucchini plants in my garden grow while you watch, and the jacarandah is still flowering, way late. We've finished a long project to cover over the back deck, so even if it rains there'll be plenty of outdoor space for the extended family at Christmas, when we gather in a warm evening for cold turkey and huge numbers of salads, followed by Christmas pudding.
Hot, rainy Sydney, thunderstorms and jacaranda. It must be Christmas.

On substance, this about Russia is all true.

It's warm here, for a day or to at least and then back into the lower 60's. A beutiful morning, both cats and the dog laying in the sun on the lanai.

Christmas tree is out of the box, oh well not natural, and waiting for the grandkids to arrive next week so my wife can decorate it while they pretend to want to help.

My favorite time of the year has come and gone, Thanksgiving is a time that is truly shared with few expectations.

From here on it is the constant balancing act between unmeetable expectations and remembrance of why we have the holiday. My atheist friends have it the best, it is a purely beautiful and fun time with no underlying guilt at the season being coopted by the non religious aspects.

A job would be nice, but a plethora of healthy and happy kids and grandkids still makes those problems fade into the background. I read yesterday that the most noble job anyone can take on is to become a parent, if personal joy and fulfillment is the measure then that truly must be the case. I have never had a job that came close to filling that need as well.

I have only one required holiday movie, White Christmas, although I also try to find the original movie the song was in, Holiday Inn. Neither has popped up yet on AMC, the best reason for having cable.

I still only send out Christmas cards with a single wish: Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men. And this I wish for each of you and all of the extended us.

I'm almost done raking the yard

Leaf-raking isn't done until they're completely covered with snow.

Thanks for all the kind wishes, everyone. It's nice to back off and relax a bit. Sadly, I'm at the office this morning. The good news is that I have enough work to make this necessary. Back to it . . .


More than 25 years ago, my wife, a recovering catholic, made a hannukah present for me.
She put together a wooden 6-pointed star tree-topper, about 10" across, and painted it blue and white. Still have it, still use it. Clearly visible through the living room picture window, although here in Very Catholic RI its probably more confusing than anything else.

My mom was at best an indifferent, and not very good, cook. She could do two things really, really well: brownies and latkes. The latter were so good, my little brother would volunteer to hand-grate the potatoes. No food processer in them days, no sir; and that's the way it was, and we liked it! But the pancakes just came out SOOO crisp, in a way that commercial/restaurant ones never do.

Speaking of Christmas movies, has anyone here seen Miracle on 34th Street in BOTH the original 1940s version and the 1990s remake?


Hey, remember that discussion hear a short time ago about NJ governor Chris Christie and his opposition the NY-NJ rail tunnel? Well, it turns out he's figured out something worth spending taxpayer money on: rescuing">http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/nyregion/27Xanadu.html">rescuing a privately built and owned boondoggle in the Meadowlands. Cool, huh?

Heading out shortly to sing a set with my chorus at the tree-lighting ceremony in Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side. Brrr.

"That discussion *hear*"? WTF?

TP, I think the question should be who hasn't seen both versions of Miracle on 34th Street? I love them both, and as much as I adore Natalie Wood, I think Mara Wilson's performance is better. The resolution is handled more neatly in the '47 version and the '94 version is both darker and funnier than the original IMO. Seeing them both is to see the difference those 50 years made in our societal development. One side note, peak movie going for the average American occurred in...1946.

Spoiler alert--I always loved the scene where Kris sings jingle bells with the little Dutch refugee girl and wondered how they would play that in the new version, the update they came up with was as good or better.

Real spoiler alert--I am still mad at the article that pointed out that the Macy's parade in the new version was shot in the spring, once you know that it is impossible not to notice it.

UK, your mentioning Carl Schurz Park brought to mind his famous quote "My country right of wrong; if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right." Words to live by.

right OR wrong (I'm blaming UK for that)

"Saying, 'My country, right or wrong," wrote G.K. Chesterton "Is like saying, 'My Mother, drunk or sober."

Someone had to say it.

Also, on "my country, right or wrong."

Right, so: if you wanted to have a gathering that was, in no precise priority order at this moment:
1) near College Ave and Alcatraz Ave in Berkeley/Oakland, CA;
2) allowed for between 2-20 people to talk as easily amongst each other as possible, as flexibly as possible;
3) indoors, presumably in a commercial establishment, probably of pubbish or coffee shoppish nature, though not necessarily;
3) were quiet, but might or might not include quiet music;
4) served beverages, if not food, and were pleasing surroundings;
5) available at the usual times that people are best able to gather, yet aren't apt to cause problems with being overly full and noisy and boisterous?
6) Making a reservation for a group in advance is probably the way to go if that will help.

Exceptions to all of these guidelines allowable; maximum options being sought at this time, to be considered, and optimized. Requirements subject to change and re-evaluation, etc.

Participants largely only know each other from writing; a gathering open to any who hear of it, but centered loosely around people who know me, Obsidian Wings, blogs, or are otherwise friends of such people, and interested in dropping by.

Time frame of either Friday night, or Saturday brunch, afternoon or Saturday afternoon/early evening, or Sunday brunch, either December 10th-12th, or 17th-19th.

Could wind up with just 3-4 people; how many more, unknown, but I think it's reasonable to plan for a max of 20-30, and not expect more than 10-14 in all probability, at most, and probably in the 4-10 range, but will have a better idea if things get narrowed down so I can pick a place and announce in the next ocuple of days.

Any thoughts at all?

I'd like to start doing something regular, if possible, but that's a future question; one experiment is enough for now, and a failure is a learning opportunity, so no worries about any bad ideas.

As previously discussed, but since no one else appears to be doing anything, I'll pick a place on my own: suggestions, anyone?

If need be, I'll just have lunch with 2 people. Or maybe even I can go wild, and meet twice in one weekend! I have offers.

And I'm subject to cancellation at the last minute for any plans, alas, so plan on my not being able to make it as at least a 50% possibility for now, to be updated in the days prior.


If I don't get enough discussion here to make it seem worthwhile, I may do my own open thread on the front page on this topic by Tuesday or Wednesday evening, or may not; the longer the wait, the more likely need to make it the 17th-19th, and that's sufficiently close to the holidays that I think this weekend, the 10th-12 is better, but only if we can pick a place/time, and make a definite announcement by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, and that's closer than preferable.

I'd have prefered having settled this by now, but since it isn't, and I've done little about it, let's.

Previous discussion here and above that.

I'm sitting here in my cubicle, exhausted and therefore basically useless.

My daughter has produced her first tooth. She would like to make it clear to the world that it hurts.


On the bright side, Rob, they pay you to be useless.

I suggest getting her a Bluetooth replacement.

I'm perfectly happy to try starting a regular every-two-weeks weekend, or weeknight, gathering, starting in some location in this neighborhood, but which I'm willing to consider expanding to more centrally located parts of the Bay Area in future, or perhaps rotate locations.

People can commence coming or not as they like. I'm trying to feel out what I want to do, as much as everyone else.

But I've started such things that have lasted decades, and have no problems trying to start such things that don't last more than two weeks. It's all good.

That is, what I have in mind will be ObWi centered, and if I'm organizing it or part organzing it, I'll have a major say in it, and anyone else is free to do what they like. :-)

Consider this an announcement from a founder or co-founder of What May Or May Not Yet Be.

I figure to also invite anyone else I know whom I think might be a genial addition, and I'll encourage others to do the same, unless or until that gets out of hand, which isn't a worry for the moment.

Ot might be nice if it gently expanded into a gathering for other bloggers of our sort, perhaps Balloon Juicers, etc., but one step at a time.

I have no interest, mind, in creating anything beyond a regular social gathering; nothing else.

But meanwhile, a first step is a first gathering, but that's the framework I'm shooting towards, if possible.

So meanwhile, I'd like to pick out a place, ASAP, where there's at least going to be a guarantee we can be seated immediately. That's my my first requirement. Beyond that, I'm open to negotiation.

Catchy or non-catchy names, hmm, must think. Unfortunately, the name "Obsidian Wings" isn't all that helpful, being so opague of meaning to most.

"ObWi Bay Area Blogger Bash" is not very catchy or amusing. Blogoclasts? Bay Area Bloggers & Bullshit League of Earth = BABBLE?

Got another "E" suggestion?


The Obsidian Wings Flight Deck? Bloggers of Doom? League of Evil Bloggers?

"That thing."

Knock yourself out with suggestions, and you may go down in _Obsidian Wings_ history as the creator of a name that may last sheer days!

Or I'll just muse on my own, thanks.

Meanwhile, still working on finding a decent place to try out either this weekend or next. Or maybe both!

Or maybe a weeknight and one or the other!

Or maybe I'll just get together with one or two people. Or maybe you'll show up without me. Que sera.

If you're free and interested in a get-together this weekend, in the Berkeley/Oakland area, probably near either the Rockbridge or Ashby BART stations, who prefers Friday nights, who prefers Saturday brunch/afternoon, who prefers Saturday evening, and who prefers Sunday brunch/afternoon?

If anyone at all.

Feel free to answer the same question about next weekend, generally, and in future.

Other comments and suggestions on the topic and related issues welcome.

If there were a regular gathering every month, any idea how often you might be interested?

(Obviously, that wil depend on how much fun or interest you find when you show up.)

If there were something every two weeks, would you ever show up?

There's no need to make any plans to lock in stone, and such are always inadvisable and don't work for long, in any case. I'm asking for feedback for future reference.

Rob: My daughter has produced her first tooth. She would like to make it clear to the world that it hurts.

Tried a visit to the magical land of Ty Le Nol? Or called in the grand vizier of Ibu Pro Fen?

We found that pretty much essential, especially at night when nothing else was distracting him. Had to get over the mental block against administering medication to someone who doesn't even understand what you're doing, let alone in a position to consent, but they're very safe and it certainly made him a lot happier.

Not to state the incredibly obvious, just that my inhibition about medicating our baby was very strong, but not very well-founded. I sympathize with the lack of sleep whichever way, of course.

We plan on giving her tylenol before bed tonight. We had intended to do that last night, I believe, but forgot. Doh.

I'm told barrels can be useful.

Anbesol worked best for teething pain, I think.

That, and suitable doses of ethanol for the parents.

We have both the topical stuff (I forget the name, but basically ambesol) and children's tylenol. Tylenol worked wonderfully last night.

I know it's late for this thread, but I can't pass up the story.

As my many friends and admirers know, I was in Orlando last week to play in a bridge tournament. While there, I heard this tale:

John Paul Stevens is an enthusiastic bridge player, who often competes in events in the DC area. A few years ago he planned to play in some event, and his partner drove to the Supreme Court building to pick him up. Stevens came out and apologetically told his partner,

"Sorry. I can't go. That a**hole Rehnquist called some kind of meeting this afternoon and I have to attend."

Stevens started to go back into the building and then suddenly turned and said, "To hell with him, I'd rather play bridge," and got in the car.

Worthy of WikiLeaks, Bernard Yomtov. Thanks for that!

White Christmas 8 EST AMC. YAHOO!

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