A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

Healthy Wait

I don't think Kaiser is at fault. I hope they are not. They were decent about the weigh-in. I hope I don't have to get weighed in again. Well.... I paid sixty dollars to join the Match Up at Healthy Wage. I have rechristened them Healthy Wait. My verified weight is no where to be found. While it is conceivable that Kaiser dropped the ball, other weird figures on the site that don't make sense indicate that something is very wrong across the board. I feel ripped off and cheated.

I also feel that something very easy has been made hard, and it's not just the unposted weight. I can't tell the whole story, but this time last week I was dealing with serious drama on a team that dumped me. You have to be on a team of five. I'm on one. It's my third team. I don't know what is happening to the other members but I bet none of them will be posting a weight on Friday. I bet I won't be able to either.

The drama has left me exhausted and the bureaucracy has left me angry. The dieting itself sometimes leaves me hungry and sometimes sick and sometimes weirdly satiated. I'm still not used to giving up sweet drinks and watching what I nibble around the kitchen. It feels like I'm going through all of this for nothing. I'm disgusted, but not disgusted enough with myself to quit, though right now a Mighty Mocha would taste delicious.I guess I have a right to be disgruntled if not angry.

I leave my unhappy attitude on the team web board. My messages are the only one there. I dread that nobody reads them and then I feel relieved. I'm sure Healthy Wait...I mean Healthy Wage, staff monitor the teams. Well, they've seen that I'm fed up. Maybe they'll take it as good quality, negative feedback. Maybe they'll censor it. It wouldn't surprize me. I don't like learning that I've blown sixthy dollars. I know it is not the fault of Team #2 where I had the drama, that I blew the money. They are in this as victims too. And I don't think any body out there wins the thousand dollars.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 31, 2011

This is Your Child, Brother, Husband, or Boyfriend

It could even be your father. There were two of them. They were the center of attention, the heart of the crowd. I knew as I approached the part of the platform of Kensington Station where I usually pick up the express MARTA bus up Memorial, around 8:15am this morning, that something was very different.

There were too many cops. There is always some security at MARTA stations, but this time it came in every shape and size. There was even a female officer in a lacey shirt. There were police in polo shirts, and even a bicycle cop. The half a dozen officers were necessary to arrest a young man with short, stubby dread locks, a faded blue t-shirt and blue jeans that fell half way down his buttocks. He looked young. I don't know his age. I saw teh cops put handcuffs on him. They also arrested his friend. He had on a white T-shirt and loose fitting (down to his butt too) black denim jeans. Both young men were African American. I do not know their ages. I'd estimate fourteen to twenty, and probably closer to twenty.

The men said something I could not hear. I got to see handcuffs closer than I have ever seen them except as part of a costume or on sale in a novelty store. Seeing handcuffs in actual use was a new experience.

The young men were students. I know this because they had dropped their books. Their girlfriend or sister eventually retrieved them. She watched the goings on with a look of anguish that is seared into my mind. Sorry for the cliche, folks.

After the police, cuffed the young men, they patted them down. A pat down can be a tool of intimidation, and this morning it was. One of the police, squeezed the young man in the black jeans' groin. I bet it hurt.

I did not have to think about what to do. I reacted. The only question was whether I could pull it off. That really was the only question. Do not ask what part of your brain takes over. It is probably the same part of my brain that is writing this blog. I got out my cell phone. It was wrapped in earbuds. I was clumsy. There might be a photo here if I were not so clumsy. I was clumsy, so I was not discrete. The cops saw me. I shouted back that this was a public place and they were free to photograph me and video tape me. There are surveillance cameras all over the MARTA stations. I don't resent this, but cameras work both ways.

The cop finally asked if I was waiting for a bus. The answer was obvious. Of course I was. I really did look like a commuter, despite my backpack. I tried twice to get a good shot. The second time a cop on a bicycle came after me. Visions of third world countries where they steal journalists' cameras flashed through my brain. "You're not getting this!" I yelled as I backed toward the archway at the edge of the platform. The cop told me to leave. I left.

I just wish I had a really good shot. As it is, I have my memories. I am blogging this and the world will know what happened, or at least what I know.

I caught a bus to work outside the DeKalb County jail. No irony there. Memorial Drive just runs that way. It was even an express bus. I probably would have been delayed anyway. I was lucky.

Now, you can ask me whether the young men were guilty? That is for a court of law to decide or the juvenile justice system, depending on their ages. You can ask me what they did. I do not know. The driver on the express bus, said that the alternative school kids are a handful. They are rowdy, spit out windows, and cuss. Some do. Some are grateful for the quiet ride, since kids that age prey on each other.

I said that I did not know the young mens' offense. It could have been fighting, theft, harassment, all of which meant they deserved arrest, though not the gratuitious pat down. It could have been rowdiness, mouthing off, cussing, vandalism, all much more minor offenses. Was the young mens' treatment at the hands of MARTA's finest disproportionate (Yes, like Israeli air raids in Gaza. Lovely word huh?)? I think it was. I think the police had something to hide or they would not have cared who or what photographed them. After all the police blotter is public. The MARTA station is public, and an arrest in the middle of a public place is public.

Police can not and should not act with impunity (and brutality) because the next person they arrest will be you, and if not you, your son, boyfriend, brother etc... Yes, I've had friends spend their nights as guests of various counties. Even middle class people can be arrested. Some have hot heads. Some don't back down. You don't want those you know (or you) handled with unnecessary roughness by police who think they can and do get away with anything. Nobody deserves what happened to those young men on the Kensington MARTA station platform this morning.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 24, 2011

Rip Tear Shrederoo!

I'd rather do this here than on Facebook. Here is a status.

I was raised to say please and thank you, to have respect for my elders, to lend a helping hand to those who were in need, to hold the door for the person behind me, to say excuse me when it was needed, and to love people for who they are, not for what you can get from them! I was taught to treat people the way I want to be treated. If you were raised this way too, please re-post this... Wondering who will? This has been a lost practice...

Now let's take it apart. I was raised... to follow a whole bunch of polite and virtuous practices that are utterly beneficial, but was everybody? Clearly there are some people who were not raised this way, kids from large families whose parents were either too busy or too rude to instill manners, adults raised in institutions, or foster care or other dysfunctional situations. Sorry, they're left out. Then there are those who practice these polite and beneifical things who learned them as young adults or late in childhood through school or work. They also don't fit the mould. Then there are those who only learned part of these things. I think a lot of people fall into this group. I know I do.

To say please and thankyou. Hmmmm, why is this so great? Because a lot of the time, it's not sincere. Sometimes it is not even "nice." A lot of the time it is not even nice. Try this: "Please move your ***ing butt!" or the thankyou for the awful gift said through clenched teeth or the proverbial bread and butter note that everyone knows is pro forma. Please and thankyou aren't worth muich when they are not sincere or used as a bludgeon. They are little formalities. They have their place, but they are nothing about which to brag.

To have respect for my elders. Sorry, I did not learn this one from my parents. I learned that respect is earned, and my parents had generation gap issues. I grew up in a house where certain older relatives were called "biddies" and "fuddy diddies." No the people who used those names are old themselves, and I still don't think longevity is a reason to respect anybody.

To lend a helping hand to those who were in need. Again I'm not sure I learned this at home. My parents favorite charity instituions were their alma mater and certain political causes. Not all families do a lot of charity work. It's a scarey world out there and helping those in need often means getting conned some of the time, used, etc.... There is a huge moral debate about giving money to beggars or getting mixed up in something that is over one's head. I got taught to be careful. I did not always listen.

To hold the door for the person behind me. I'm not sure everybody learns this. I learned it being raised in an urban area. I also learned to cross through traffic. These are kind of the same type of skill. In a crowded place, someone comes after you, and folks take turn opening a door. Similarly, youlearn how to wait in the middle of the road for the second set of lanes to clear or you will never get off the street. A person raised in a rural area, might not have to hold open doors very often, and might not have any one coming out after them very often. Sparse population not lack of virtue is to blame.

To say excuse me when it was needed. Hmmmm, this is one a lot of people think they know and don't. How many times in a given week do I hear "excuse me" used as the magic words to clear space when none exists. "Excuse me" will not get me to step aside if my back is to the wall. I usually say "excuse me, I have no where to go," back. "Excuse me" also has the magic power to not quite transform a rude shove into something else. It doesn't quite work. Excuse me before you bust on through, means you are still shoving on through. I don't think that many people know how to use "excuse me" when it is needed. I think it gets abused way too much.

To love people for who they are, not for what you can get from them! How many of us were really taught this? Let me put it another way, there are people who are genuinely loveable for a variety of reasons, and I think we'd love those people without being taught and we'd love them because they deserved it, but what about people who are not loveable but to whom you are beholden or who are loathesome but who offer reward for alliance, affection, and/or deference? Were most of us taught that since we love people for whom they are that it is OK, to forgo benefits and keeping a job by NOT sucking up to those we can't love, or are we taught the more pragmantic lesson of sucking up to get a reward for our trouble? I suspect most parents are pragmatists.

I was taught to treat people the way I want to be treated. This is great training for customer service, but again not all people are loveable. What do you do when you just don't have the stomach to deal nicely with someone who does not deserve it? The golden rule is also directly at odds with loving people for who they are. Some people stink. I suppose one could be taught to keep one's distance from stinkers. On the other hand, one could rationalize the above and decide that if I were dumb enough to whatever was done to me, I too would have it coming so a little revenge can taste really sweet. There's also the problem of being taken. Sometimes compassion really gets falsely placed, and then there is the backhanded gesture of kindness. The person behind the line can't wait for you to dig money out of your wallet, so he or she pays for whatever to get the line to move faster. Hey, hold your stinking horses. I wait my turn! I suspect a lot of people think they do the above and don't.

OK, these are vanishing skills according to the forward. Maybe they are going the way of the dinosaurs for good reason. I did not repost the forward. I did have fun with it here on my blog though.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 22, 2011

Negative Blessings

I started today counting my blessings. No, this is not what you think. You don't ever want to start your day counting your blessings. My list went something like this:

Wow, thanks I'm NOT hauling my cart.
Thank you God, I'm NOT carrying a five pound bucket of salad.
Thank you God, I'm NOT going to have to ride the MARTA bus for a whole hour this evening.
Wow, thankyou, NO meetings at work.
Wow, thankyou God, I can get my mocha this morning or a canella if the mocha machine is out of order.

Do you see a pattern. I've often said that gratitude is a weak feeling, not exactly a sign of weakness, but just a weak emotion, just one notch above or below relief depending on the circumstance. Avoiding disaster usually results in a big gasp of relief. The gratitude comes later, a kind of runner up and second best. Well there I was waiting for the MARTA train and resorting to gratitude of all things. God help me!

And it's time for a good sociology of religion rant. I can still see the tomato sandwich I ate for lunch last Saturday. We had a catered kiddush in honor of a bris which is a ritual circumcision performed in public. Yes, I got to see it up close. All the women say they can't look, and then of course they do. The little girls alawys manage to get front row seats. This time the baby did not cry and scream too much. He got to suck the mohel's finger so that helped staunch the pain.

Then we ate catered food, and yes, (moment of gratitude!) I've had worse. You can see why I say what I say about gratitude. The bread WASN'T stale. There were plenty of pickles and tomatoes. There were seeds in the pasta salad and not enough vegetables. It's the same pasta salad made with the same rainbow rotini. The tossed salad looked a bit better than most and tasted a bit better. There was no cole slaw, potato salad, and the desserts were pareve. There was no carrot salad, no potato chips, and lots of meat that I had no desire to eat.

This was dull in the way a lot of kosher catering is dull. There is just not the competition to develop wow for wow prices. I was a disgruntled consumer. I should have known that it is always easiest and safest to complain about the food. Now, I don't do anything to make me a center of attention and I really don't want to be a center of attention. I don't even really want a free lunch and don't mind going home and being on my own all Shabbos afternoon if you want to know the truth, but still I somtimes feel there is something missing.

Rabbi Feldman at the Southern Singles Shabbaton last winter said that singles suffer collateral damage of being alone. I protested about that statement on my blog. Living alone is really not that bad. Being invisible is another story. Those with simchot steal all the limelight. They even steal it from the Torah and the regular service. And those who are single are structurally locked out of most rites of passage. We have the public service and the holidays and I love those, but when there is a rite of passage celebration, I feel like screaming: "Take your stinking party elsewhere!"

The problem is that you have to be or become part of a family to have most of the joyful rites of passage. If I got married, had a child, had a sibling who had a child, had a sibling who got bar or bas mitzvahed, had a young relative who participated in the religious educational system etc... I could be part of as many simcho as I wanted, and more than I needed, but I'm single and childness.

I also "don't live in the neighborhood." This sounds so Atlanta Georgia it is not funny, but it's true. I want my privacy. I can walk from one neighborhood to another. I can even get to Or veShalom twice in a row for food co-op and without a car!

But living in Toco Hills would still change nothing. I am single and childless. I could even say child free. Other people's children are not my property and I have no say in what happens to them. Parents of other people's children who are busy talking children have very little in common with me. This makes it hard to be a family friend, especially when friends have children and suddenly it's "take a number time." I usually vote with my feet in those situations and living in Decatur lets me do just that.

Besides, I sometimes think that if I actually had children, I would not be in an Orthodox synaoguge. I believe in secular education and that would put me at odds with parents instead of just on the outs. My kids and their kids would have little in common. There are other houses of worship, and I don't have any kids, so all this is a moot point. Orthodox Judaism works well for me because I am a middle aged, childless, single female.

It also works against me though at times. Now you aske what could make this better besides my voting with my feet. Well, a singles group, not a shidduch group. If people meet in the group and marry, fine, but that's not the group's aim. It is the group for singles to socialize in a low pressure environment and get rid of that left out feeling. We'd even have lunch together sometimes and this way not have to hear parent talk. We might make some aunt and uncle talk, but not everyone is involved with relatives. Dirty secret: Not everyone's relatives are observant, so the involvement is not always simcha related. I really would like to start a singles group. I'm not sure if I'd get any takers.

American sociology of religion is on my side by the way. Churches and synaoguges are female hangouts, except for Orthodox Jewish ones and even they benefit from the prevailing cultural trend. A woman in a new town seeks out a house of worship. It's a place to socialize, belong, and not get hit up. It's a place to network and a kind of family of choice. None of what I wrote above changes any of that. I am grateful (God I hate that word!) for my synaoguge. Actually, I am more than grateful. I just wish I didn't feel the way I do about simchot.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 19, 2011

I could SCREAM!

And you won't hear half of it here. I can't discuss it. It scares me. I know it is happening. I saw it. I heard it, and I'm not telling you about it. No, it hasn't happened to me. It's not personal, except I had a rink side seat for most of it. I am powerless to stop it, powerless to change it, and I'm not going to tell you about it.

Instead, I am going to tell you that I feel ill used and supremely so, and for quite another reason. I left work after Convocation. Today was Convocation Day. I got to the bus stop to catch the express to Kensington Station and realized my wallet was not in my purse. I thought I left it in my office. I found it in my backpack. That was a sign, but I did not recognize it. Instead, I was glad to pick up my lunch that I had not eaten and took it with me. I caught a different bus and caught a later #8 to the pick up point for the Kosher Co-op Delivery which was way up beyond the intersection of Buford Highway and Druid Hills Road. Well.....

The bus ride took forty minutes. It was tortuous. I felt a bit motion sick on the way back, but that may have been psychogenic. The driver said he did not know where Temple Or veShalom was. I found it anyway. I had fairly good directions. I got off the bus, and saw...trouble. The parking lot was empty. That's not the way a Kosher Co-Op pick up site looks. I checked doors. They were locked. I decided to bring up the co-op web site and call the emergency number, when in came a car. I followed it. It was turning around. The driver had to pick up someone else' Co-op order. I said I'd check the Co-op web site and see if there was any news. Meanwhile, in came another lost soul. He found the fatal sign on the door. The order pick up is delayed until tomorrow. The order pick up is for less than an hour early in the evening at an awful and out of the way spot. By the way a delay like this happened the last time I dealt with the co-op two years ago, and there was a reason I did not go back.

Now I'm going to have to arrange for time off from work to accomplish the pickup. I can't tell you how inconvenient this all is, but the Co-op has my check and I can't just say two words that aren't happy birthday. Take my order and stick it where the sun doesn't shine! THIS IS NOT THE WAY YOU TREAT A CONSUMER! Of course because this is a Kosher Co-op they get away with it, and tomorrow I enable them. Blech....

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 15, 2011

The Big Unhappy News

Some things are hard to write about because you would rather forget them and think they happened to some other person. That is what happened to me near the end of the black fast of Tish B'Av on Tuesday. I had an easy fast for most of it. I slept a lot, did not feel hungry, and went to watch my schul's festival of sad movies. Thsse are usually Holocaust documentaries. They have amazing footage in them. Some of the footage is bullshit of course. Children in Europe in the late 1930's, especially what they sometimes still call Central Europe were often poor as dirt. Their childhoods were far from idyllic. This was true of Jewish and Christian children.

I started feeling sick during the movie. It was medication withdrawal. Apparently if you are fasting, you hit the wall for benzodiazipene withdrawal sooner rather than later. After a couple of hours of suffering, I finally broke down and took my med. I felt a good deal better. A friend offered me a ride home. I warned him about passive motion issues. Humans are not meant to go beyond running speed so if they are sitting in a car and don't feel good to start with...you can figure out the rest. I made it about three quarters of the way home. Then I had the not-so-dry heaves all over myself. I threw up six times and felt rather good afterwards. I drank a lot of herbal tea when the fast ended and felt utterly restored, and two days later....well you can guess the rest.

My body feels like my own for the first time in about five or so days. The computer is still not quite right. I'm downloading my second upgrade of Second Life since I fixed things. I'm better at keeping the light fixture fixed. I have learned how to clean the bulb and socket when it starts strobing. It's quiet most of the time.

Yes, I'd fast again. Yes, I'd remember to take my clonopin. No, I wouldn't choke it down without water. I'm not that dumb.

On other health related topics, I've been thinking a lot about my peri-menopausal symptoms. My hot flashes are not that bad. They are cyclical both across the day and the month. I don't mind being warm all that much, but if I get a lot of them, I get a kind of false start of period symptoms, sore legs (drawing pains), and upset stomach. This is not serious according to my gynecologist. It's just normal peri-menopause. I also get nightmares the week before my period, usually dreams about arguments. They are the most banal, boring, and annoying of nightmares. They are not scarey, just good and unpleasant.

It was the nightmares, however, which gave me the big clue. I've inherited my perimenopause from my father. He would be the kind to have nightmares and wonkiness. Mom was steady as a rock and terrific at denial. Dad couldn't deny the psychological stuff. It was just too there. Like my dad, I go for the drama. And it doesn't matter what Grandma Kramer did since we'll never know. I know how dad was at my age.

Actually, there is more to the story. Dad had hemarroids. I know this because they hurt. I can remember him suffering the tortures of the damned in Bloomingdales or Barney's when I was eighteen. I was semi-sympathetic, because I had seen my mother laid low with a fissure, and I knew Dad and I both got constipated, so it all kind of made sense. Dad did not just hurt, however. He bled. This upset mom because he was sloppy about it. I remember a blood stain on the bath sheet that used to get hung over the bath tub door in the children's bathroom in the house in Westchester where I grew up. I had just been menstruating for a few years, and the parallels were unmistakeable. I remember mom complaining about Dad's stained panties, and she went and bought him dark colored ones to hide the stains. I never asked if she asked him to wear some kind of pad. I never got yelled at for staining my panties, but I didn't do it as often. I remember gettin lessons in how to remove blood stains. Dad never got such lessons or he disregarded them if mom taught him. She thought it was disgusting the way he let himself stain things. I know now, it really wasn't his fault. Stuff happens.

I think of Dad's hemarroids as a kind of role reversal. Mom was probably perimenopausal though the word didn't exist in the 1970's. Dad was now the one who had begun to bleed. I laughed at this at fifteen and sixteen. I'd stare at the blood stain on the towel and think: "hmmm...." Then I'd think that gross things happen to people when they got older. Now I'm old enough for the gross things to happen to me, except they have an utterly crazy side. I blamed my dad's midlife craziness on drinking. Now I think some of it was just there the way my own is now. I wish I had a better relationship with my Dad and he had a better relationship with himself so we could discuss all of this, but knowing whose genes I have makes me feel a bit better.

Eileen H. Kramer August 12, 2011

And yes, I fixed the light fixture too...

Writing this makes me nervous. I'm still wary that somehow I will jinx myself, but I've spent three nights fixing my computer, and sometimes it felt like I made things worse. It started off with a sluggish machine that refused to load programs when I mouse clicked on them, a machine that dropped its modem connection if you stared at it cross eyed, a machine where I barely felt I could control my mouse. It is a six year old machine into which I have invested about two hundred dollars. It sports a new mouse, a new video card, and some extra ram. On good days it worked great, but the good days were long behind it.

I knew I had to fix it. This is where things got scarey. I really don't know how to fix computers. I do know how to fix viruses and remove malware. I dreaded that this machine had eaten malware. It was an entirely founded dread since the Norton I was running was five months out of date. I had let the subscription expire because I had terrible memories of renewing its subscription two winters ago. At that time, my computer froze up and I had to call the emergency number. A tech unstuck it remotely and I got my renewal. I did not want to go through that again, so when the renewal asked for a number I did not have and prompted me to call someone, I stopped. Sorry, if you want my business make my life genuinely easier. Now though I was genuinely worried.

I ran Spybot and found a few very predictable things, mostly suspicious cookies. Adaware which required a new installation came up with nothing. Last but not least I tried to run Malware Bytes which refused to execute. Something was very wrong! Still, I'd get Malware bytes on a flash drive at work and follow the instructions for an emergency installation and run. This kind of thing happens. Meanwhile, I had one more bit of routine computer maintenance. I defragged my hard drive. This is easy and puts together fragmented programs and gives the computer more speed. It's an old strategy. A Defrag takes about five or six hours to run these days, but it's easy. The computer does all the work.

By Tuesday night, the defrag had made things a bit faster. I put the flash drive in the machine, and installed a new version of Malware Bytes. It then asked if I wanted to run it. I held my breath and...it ran. It found several virus fragments (Norton had done some partial kills very fortunately) and a couple of inactive BBO's, (again partial kills). My computer did not have a serious malware infection. I then installed and ran AVG. Again it found only a couple of inactive items. The problems my comupter had were not malware! This was a big relief, Firefox was embarassingly slow to load and Second Life would not load at all. I felt scaird and sick.

Wednesday I did some research into how to make an old PC run faster. I removed unwanted and useless shortcuts from my desktop. I also needed to uninstall Norton since it was expired and AVG was current. This took a lot of steps. Norton was all over the place and lacked a real uninstall. With Norton gone, my computer booted up more quickly. It still ran Firefox slowly and did not load Second Life. When it did load Second Life, it ran it in slow motion. I went through Windows Firewall and made exceptions for Firefox, Second Life and WS-FTP, all of which would give trouble. Second, I did the same thing for AVG. Problem not solved.

By now I realized AVG and possibly Windows Firewall were the culprits. I had moved from having a slow PC to having firewall issues. I disabled AVG's Resident Shield. AVG gave me dire warnings, but I rebooted the machine and....no Second Life. Firefox though ran beautifully. I was halfway there. I knew what had to happen next. I was scaird now. I needed to have Second Life access by Monday evening so I could run my volunteer shift from Info Island.

Thursday night I uninstalled AVG. It gave me a survey when I rebooted. I was in no mood to fill out a survey. Next I disabled Windows Firewall. I rebooted my machine. Windows warned me my computer might be at risk.

As if I all ready didn't know. I was tired and frazzled and angry. I had spent a lot of time lying on my bed unable to sleep and too nervous to read. The cats had snuggled and nuzzled me in my hour of fear. I realized I might have a broken computer. I knew there was no one to whom I could turn. I was at the end of my knowledge relying on pure reason, and that uninstall was taking forever.

Then it was done. I turned off Windows Firewall, rebooted the machine and held my breath. I clicked Second Life and....it worked. My only problem was that I had a naked computer as far as security was concerned. I turned on Windows Firewall. My connection to Second Life seemed uneffective. By the way FireFox ran just fine once it had exceptions. It also no longer dropped the modem connection to the outside world. The mouse was more responsive. It is aggravating though when you are short one program you need to run. No one had ever threatened my second life lke this before and I hated that it was my own machine betraying me.

I held my breath and logged out of Second Life, and then with Windows Firewall in place, brought it up again. It came up. I logged in. I logged out to take a shower and logged in again. I decided it was time to fix the screensaver since I had taken it down while I worked with the defrag back on Monday night. When I tried to fix the screensaver, the application froze, and Second Life wouldn't run. I rebooted the computer and turned off Windows firewall. Second Life ran. I turned on Windows Firewall this morning and Second Life ran again. I ran it twice just to make sure. I think I can run Second Life Monday. The screen saver will have to stay broken or I'll have to fix it and then reboot. I'll see how all of that goes.

I'm still shaken by this week of electronic repairs. Working at the edge of my knowledge, having no backup, and running on educated guesses has taken its toll. I don't fully trust my computer. I used to feel this way after killing viruses. I remember the hours of uncertainty. I am hopind and praying that all will be well on Monday.

And then there is the light fixture in the kitchen which has turned itself into a crackling strobe. One thing about older rentals is that crucial things get fixed (if your cat gets accidentally boarded into a crawl space in a wall), the landlord's improvement projects get done, but small noncrucial fixes go. These do not include leaky toilets, lack of air conditioning or heat etc... Everything else though.... Everythign else includes every light fixture in my kitchen. I think the starter motors on both fluorescent lights are dead. I don't know how to fix these. I'm not sure what to buy. And the kitchen light fixture has given trobule before. It is running an energy saver bulb now, so I'm NOT overtaxing it. I tried changing the bulb that worked for a week or two. Sometimes screwing in the bulb or looping up the ceiling fan chains (I never run my ceiling fan), all sometimes worked. What worked last night was removing the bulb (and the switch was off if you are curious and wiping out the socket with a napkin, wiping off the bulb socket with my shirt, and putting it back together. It will work, until the whole business gets dirty again. It will work, until it stops working.

As for the computer, software fixes if they are real fixes tend to have a longer lifespan. I'm still not sure I really have the computer fixed.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 5, 2011

RSVP with Regrets

I finally wrote the letter. The US Government beaurocracy made the decision along with the debt crisis. I wasn't sure that the government would even be processing passports properly. Mine is expired and it takes four to six weeks to process one. I could have gotten stuck with advance paid airfare and no passport. Those things happen. That made up my mind, so good friend, I RSVP'd no with regrets. I never got to really make the decision. I guess that is a regret of sorts.

I made it a nice, personal RSVP. I asked how you were. I asked if you were working. I even asked for the menu, though I think I am the better cook, as a home cook. It's done. You don't write to me anyway. If you walk away you pay the price, except this time you didn't except that I probably wouldn't have dragged my heels. So it goes. You can always write me back. You know where to find me. The world is smaller than it used to be.

The Second Generation

My religion has a thing about second generations. It took a second generation (forty years in the wildnerness, time for the first generation and some of their memories and ideas to die out) to enter the Holy Land, so balae tsuvim have frum from birth children, and they are different.

Actually, the two fully grown ones with whom I interact and the others I have met more casually and who may be generation three, four, or five (Is there such a thing? Human nature and the American immigrant experience says "no!" but I could be wrong.) have all left a strange taste in my mouth. To put it mildly, I could NOT see myself switching places with them. At their age, I did not consider being frum practical or desireable. I believed in God. I went to services. I hated getting dressed up on Saturday. I was a scruffy graduate student and an even scruffier undegrad, but that aside. I was not going to give up sharing food with my friends or worrying about who ate out of my dishes. I was not going to give up dating whom I chose. I think this is still a sticking point. I can stomach God in my stomach a lot more easily than I can in the bedroom.

I think what crawls under my skin is the utter submission to parental authority, even with little games of protest which are the rankest hypocrisy thrown in. I feel like shouting, "stop fooling around you idiots. Attack the gates front and center! Leave the earth charred! They'll get used to it. You are an adult. You can do this now. You will be an adult. You can still do this. You are an individual. Your parents made choices and so can you!"

By the way, I haven't tossed all my upbringing to the winds. I learned a lot from my parents, but I chose to go my own way where religion was concerned. Religion is an individual choice, and not one your parents make for you. How did I slip into the second person wtih this?

Now, on Saturday afternoon when everyone is eating with parents and no one wants to make a scene, I'm going to see generation two frum from birth adult children at their positive worst. The one person I know who is a generation two frum from birth adult whom I know through work, does not rub me the wrong way, even when I see him on Shabbos, so a lot of what I may be seeing is context.

Still part of me screams: "How can you be so [EXPLETIVE DELETEDing] docile?" or so smug about the path to success? Don't you want your own thing, whatever that thing is? Don't you want your own BIG THING? What big thing did I want? I still write fiction. I still ask questions. I taught myself to make bread. I try to teach myself to program in PHP. I taught myself HTML. That's not much, but hey I still play Second Life, and if something makes absolutely no sense, I don't do it.

Maybe I react to the docility in generation two adult children because I see that same docility in my middle aged self. Most people live small lives. So what if we do, but once there should have been a point where our lives weren't small or we imagined that they weren't, even if that point never existed, it's important that it did or at least we look back and can see it.

Eileen H. Kramer -- August 1, 2011