Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Mac's fault. It's Mac's fault!

After taking the week off to rebuild the porch, sink deeper into debt, and make George Bush proud of what we're doing with our tax rebate, our home computer decided it wanted in on this plan. We've had an iMac for the past several years, and it was starting to get a little long in the tooth. This past weekend, the logic board decided to crap out on us. The computer still works, but the built-in monitor doesn't. Handy given the prominence of the monitor hanging of the top of the computer.

It works with an external monitor, so my options if I want to keep using this one are to either glue a sheet of cork board to the front of it and use it to post my daughters' latest artistic creations, or remove the monitor and turn the gooseneck into a lampshade. Both are reasonably viable options, but it was time for a new Mac.

I was a little hesitant, because the rumor sites all said that new releases of the iMacs were about due. However we couldn't afford to wait any longer, so Saturday I came home with a shiny new 20" iMac with 4gigs of memory, a Time Capsule on the side, dual overhead cams, and chrome headers. Yeah, it's a Hemi.

And, conveniently, Apple released the new iMacs today. TODAY!

Okay, it’s not even remotely a big deal, but it IS hugely ironic. The good news is there is not much change to the one we bought. Instead of a 2.48gigahertz processor, it’s a 2.66. We'll never notice the difference. Otherwise, the specs and price are the same. But can you believe that crap? And no, I'm not going to return it because the additional gigahertz just ain't worth the two days I spent setting the new one up. But, man...that's uncanny.

The original iMac we bought years ago was purchased through MacMall, Apple dropped prices a week later and MacMall wouldn’t honor the price change. This is why I’m afraid to buy a new car. The day after we buy it all cars will run on plastic grocery bags.

But regardless, I'm happy now. More importantly, my lovely wife is happy now, as she's able to surf the net like she's Danica Patrick on the final lap.

When I finish the lampshade iMac project I will be sure to post pictures.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Our new Passover Tradition

Originally uploaded by daninhim
It was just over two years ago that we broke ground turning our humble little abode to a slightly bigger but still humble palace. Groundbreaking actually occurred during Passover 2006. So, in an effort to keep with Passover tradition, Dad and I tore apart the front porch this past weekend.

I never liked this porch. It's only four feet wide, and the railing makes the porch useless for anything but collecting leaves and varmints. And what's with those wagon wheels in the corners? Yeesh. Add to this the fact that I hadn't bothered putting a fresh coat of paint on the railing in the 8 or so years we've been in this house, and suddenly said humble abode was starting to look like it needed an old Chevy up on blocks in the front yard. It was time for some refreshment of the curb appeal.

Demolition was easy. Those columns weren't holding anything up. And the railing balusters were so dried out that one good smack with a Fubar took them right out.

I'm no fan of regular maintenance. For example, the landscaping in the front yard is "mulched" with river rock, so I don't have to do the typical suburban thing and shovel mulch every year. Thus, I wanted the new porch to be relatively maintenance-free. Thus, we had to consider a relatively new product: lumber made of PVC plastic.

I'm sure you've seen those vinyl fences that Home Depot and Lowes sell these days. They suck. They look ugly. Put one of those up on your property and you're barely making a statement of "I'm too classy 'nshit to have some ol' chain link fence in my yard". However, this new PVC lumber they've got actually makes a bit of sense. For one thing, it's textured to look a little more like wood. And for another, it's available in all sorts of widths, cuts well on a table saw, and is generally easy to work with. Aside from the fact that it is ridiculously expensive, nor overly "green" unless you count the gallons of paint and wood cleaner used over time if we did it with wood, it can be a good option when used appropriately. I'm hoping this was one of those appropriate moments.

For anyone who cares, those arches were made by hand, and the posts consist of pressure-treated 4x4's with the top half covered in a PVC tube made for this purpose, and the bottoms clad with PVC planks cut to fit each side. The project went smoothly and was relatively within budget (that is, the budget we'd set after the initial sticker shock for the PVC). There's still plenty more to do, like replace those discolored shingles, paint the ceiling, and build a deck over the porch to make it a bit more attractive.

We had two fun moments. First, you might notice in the picture that the gutter doesn't reach all the way to the right. That's because the longest in-stock gutter we could find was 21 feet, and the roof is 22 feet. And I wasn't about to special order or piece things together. I'm considering a rain chain or something decorative in that corner. But the fun part was getting a 22-foot gutter home in a minivan. It stuck two feet out the tailgate and about four feet out the front passenger window. I had to drive home carefully to avoid taking out a speed limit sign.

Then there were the moles.

We've had mole trouble for the past several years. I knew they were living under the porch, but I had no idea there was an entire compound under there. At one point dad put a small step ladder on the ground just in front of the porch. When he stepped on it, the ground opened up, exposing a hole the size of a waste basket (note the white piece of wood in the "after" picture, lying on the grass in front of the porch). I was able to reach under the porch the entire length of my arm, and there was still more to go. Luckily nothing bit me.

So there it is. Our annual Passover project. for next year's Passover seder, perhaps a pool.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Schmaltz in my veins, and Gribines in my heart. Don't call a doctor, it's Passover!

Tomorrow marks the first night of Passover. One of my favorite Jewish holidays, second only to Shmini A'tzeret (please note, that was the first of several references only Jews will get. For more information on Jewish holidays, consult your local library).

As long as I can remember, Passover was a pretty well-organized holiday. My mom would start cooking about three years in advance, stashing away briskets and chicken dishes in recesses of the basement freezer. That freezer was a constantly rotated inventory of large foil-wrapped platters, and I always knew Passover was coming when the number of platters became so many that the secret tin of frozen chocolate chip cookies she thought I didn't know about became almost impossible to reach behind the frozen tsimmes.

She'd invite no one officially, yet we never seemed to have fewer than 18 people including at least one person whom no one else at the table knew and and everyone wondered who invited. For years I thought it was Uncle Izzy, til I realized Uncle Izzy died in 1803.

Grandpa Jack would spend all morning bent over a wooden bowl preparing the chopped liver. From the depths of New Jersey Aunt Gert would deliver the 55-gallon drum of rendered chicken fat she'd been storing since last Passover (ah, schmaltz...sandwich spread of the gods) as well as the gribiness, a delicacy consisting of bits of chicken skin and onion fried black in schmaltz, (and low fat, too) and mom's friend would deliver the most insanely large and elaborate bouquet of flowers gathered since last season's Rose Parade.. Dad and I would spend a half hour wrestling with the nine-thousand pound dining room table he built himself out of solid oak and kryptonite (it's that heavy), and grandma would spend most of the afternoon grabbing various youngsters' arms, giving them $5 bills, and telling the to put that money in a safe place because, "you were always my favorite grandchild, not like your sister who never writes me."

The service was impeccably organized. Grandpa Jack, in his brown polyester shirt with the tan circles, would lead the proceedings with his Brooklyn accent and Ashkenazi prayers. As the youngest in the family, I'd usually get stuck asking the Four Questions. Mom would force the table to sing "Dayenu" in a key that totally pissed off the dog. My sister, my uncle and I would make the same lousy jokes every year about rabbis overcounting the days the Jews spent in the desert and about the "frog bowls" used to pour the wine into during the recital of the ten plagues. And when the meal started, it was matzah with schmaltz, chopped liver with schmaltz, and perhaps a hard-boiled egg with a little schmaltz on the side. In more recent years my brother-in-law Hillel would become the butt of a corny joke as the meat in the Hillel sandwich. And ever year, the various children would take that brief eighth of a second out from their meal to find the afikomen, which my unimaginative grandfather would predictably hide in the same place each year, under the chess set on the counter directly behind his seat. Easiest dollar you could earn.

Of course times have changed. My grandparents have long since been gone and, living 8 hours from home we don't always make it back for Passover. This year, however, we are looking forward to a new challenge. We're hosting.

Hilary has been cooking for the past eight weeks, sending me on countless trips to the grocery for potato and beef products. Natalie has been studying the four questions and Jessica has practiced Dayenu, looking forward to their on-stage debuts. The plastic seder plates they made in preschool have been dug out from the art bins under their beds, the ones that contain semesters of crayon and marker masterpieces from their formative years. There's a new cup on the table, placed next to the Cup of Elijah, to remember Hilary's mom who passed this year. And my mom and dad arrived yesterday in preparation for the big event.

Now anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis is probably wise to the fact that my parents come in and part of the house gets renovated. No exception this time. Dad and I tore down the front porch this morning. Hopefully by the time the first seder starts tomorrow we'll be able to access the front door. My sister, her husband and two kids arrive tomorrow night, using a Passover visit as an excuse for their daughter to tour Carnegie Mellon in search of a design school. Tomorrow there will be at least a dozen for dinner. Maybe more. Maybe Uncle Izzy will be there.

But some things don't change. The back of my parents' car contained the contents of their freezer. The flowers arrived from my mom's best friend today. Again, a Rose Parade float. And I've already sought out the best location for the Afikomen hiding place, on the buffet behind my seat at the table. As my daughters recite from the Haggadah and sing the passover songs tomorrow night, I'm looking forward to the time when, one day, they will have the opportunity to make fun of MY shirt. Traditions live on.

And mom brought Schmaltz.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Primping for Pesach

"I'll tell ya ladies, this spa is fantastic. First, an egg bath, then a matzoh meal facial (which I thought was a little odd, but this IS Brooklyn), and a little potpurri in the bath. What a life!"

Jon Stewart Clarifies the Obama Gaff

Jon Stewart did a brilliant job of putting the story of Obama's supposed slam against the good people of Pennsylvania into perspective. I typically ignore most of politics but, being a Western PA self-imposed elitist myself, I couldn't help but take a stand here. Thank you Jon, you've done a wonderful job of clarifying the issue, saving Obama's campaign, and, oh wait, demonstrating what a glorious booze-hound Hillary is.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Wii Teeth

Hi y'all, I'm back. Sorry for the extended's been kinda slow, and I haven't had much inspiration lately. UNTIL NOW!

Okay, check this out. researchers have put together a video game that teaches kids how to brush their teeth. Pretty wacky and totally impractical, but really, someone's thinking. I mean, it's gotta work better than the way I attempt to train my kids to brush. Usually my training regimen consists of yelling at Natalie to stop spitting on the mirror, yanking the brush from Jessica's hands when she insists on brushing with the handle end instead of the brush end, and getting really, really annoyed with having to clean up globs of Oral-B from the counter, the footstool, the toilet seat, and the lights. How they get toothpaste on the lights I don't quite know, but they do. On a regular basis.

So, in regards to this invention, it obviously isn't practical to install a computer in the bathroom to handle this. So maybe they should come out with a version for the Wii. Kids could bring a spit bowl and do it right in front of the TV. Heck, if they can have a Wii version of competitive eating (no, really), they should certainly have one for competitive brushing.