Thursday, December 31, 2009

Avatar 3D Imax! The Sequel! The Plot!

As far as the Avatar plot, ... well you are probably not going to see this movie just for the plot.

Actually, it wasn't bad (Pincus complement)... it just was so familiar.

According to the web - In 1994, director James Cameron wrote a 114-page script for Avatar. Cameron said his inspiration was "every single science fiction book I read as a kid".

It certainly contained elements of every science fiction story I have ever read, as a kid, and more recently, as a much older kid.

I may have a spoiler here so if you haven't seen the movie yet, you may not want to continue reading.

So which books / short stories might Mr. Cameron have borrowed some plot lines from?

Off the top of my head, the credits could have included:

Desertion by Clifford D. Simak - "Colonizing" Jupiter, human minds in native alien life form bodies. Written in 1944 (!), read by me later than that, earlier than 1994.

Various John Varley short stories - bio-engineering for inhospitable atmospheres

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card - neural network of trees.

Various stuff by Anne McCaffry - sentient planets, riding dragons.

Raising the Stones by Sheri S. Tepper - sentient planets, environmentalism.

Caretaker Series by David Klass - Greedy Big Business/Evil Corporations that pollute the environment!

Etc… Etc… Etc…

At least the plot doesn’t include time travel or parallel universes ie Schrödinger’s Cat references.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar 3D Imax! Special Effects! Side Effects!

We saw Avatar 3D Imax over the weekend. (Motz shabbos as part of the Vacation At Home program).

The movie was fantastic. The computer graphics live up to the hype. Another level of movie spectacle has definitely been reached.

What I had forgotten about, however, is the nausea inducing properties of Imax.

Imax 3D is definitely the way to see this movie, but they should give out Dramamine along with the 3D glasses. Maybe it would have been better if we sat further back?

I got so caught up in the movie that at times I almost forgot how sick I felt, and I managed not to throw up on the people in front of me, but going out for pizza after the movie was certainly not an option.

Lumpy had to leave the theatre for a few minutes at one point, and I shut my eyes during the credits, which we stayed for in their entirely (as per the family custom), or I would have lost it.

As far as my review of the plot... Stay tuned for Avatar 3D Imax! The Sequel! coming to a blog post near you, later this week!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vasovagal Syncope is the new Cute Bunny

Quite a while ago, I got a tip from the brothers. Based on their experience, a blog post about Cute Baby Bunnies would generate tons of blog hits.

So out of curiosity, I experimented with several Cute Baby Bunnies posts, none of which generated more than the usual number of blog hits. In other words, few if any. I was told I actually needed to post pictures of Cute Baby Bunnies, as if that should matter.

However, a post back in September, on vasovagal-syncope, has proven to be the Cute Baby Bunnies post equivalent for this blog. By several orders of magnitude, that post has been the most popular page on this blog, ever.

What conclusions can be drawn from this? I have no idea.

By the way, there were no pictures of vasovagal-syncope in that post, either.

To see the original post:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Definition of lottery

Definition of lottery: a tax on people who are bad at math.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Obama Asks Moms to Return to School

You've all seen it.

Variations on a very annoying animated ad that runs in an infinite loop on random web pages. "Obama Asks Moms to Return to School."

I've seen it a lot on Yahoo I think.

Not only is it incredibly annoying, but I also find it very insulting. More insulting than the "cheap way to turn teeth white invented by a Mom" ads. (Maybe just because the white teeth ads are not animated.)

Not sure what the "Obama Asks Moms to Return to School" ad is selling or if it just connects to a trojan, because I have never clicked on it.

However, this version came up today, and as opposed to the others, managed to be entertaining, not annoying.

And you thought the Mommy Moot was wierd.

Maybe the lump has a new career to look forward to.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

When in Rome ...

Just imagine Childrentals, how you would have liked me to have your underwear hung out for the entire tourist world to gawk at and post pictures of on their blogs.

When in Rome... or Saturnia, actually ...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is KAMUT?

List of possible allergens in an airline meal. But what is Kamut?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Best Clock

Thec clock at Ruth's Kosher Restaurant in Florence, Italy.

I felt myself getting younger as we ate our (delicious) meal.

As a bonus, the waiter's tranlation of the menu was very creative. We figured it was unlikely that what we ordered was really made from "Yellow Pumpkin" as described, and it wasn't.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do Not Leave FOD on Airbridges

Spotted this sign at the Manchester airport. Was very concerned about not leaving FOD on airbridges because did not know what FOD was, and by not knowing, might accidentally leave some on an airbridge. Which could be very, very bad. Depending on what FOD was. And we were boarding a plane for takeoff and didn't want FOD on airbridges messing anything up.

So started asking around. One nice couple figured it was probably meant to say FOOD, and that the Mancunians (Yup. That's what they call "A native or inhabitant of Manchester, England") did not know how to spell food. To which my Pi guessed correctly, "You must be from London." (Londoners tend to look down on Manchester as being somewhat of a backwater.)

Then we asked some guys who looked like they might be airport workers given that they were wearing reflective vests. And they cleared it up for us. FOD is Foreign Object Debris. So I said, "You mean garbage?" To which they replied, "It's an aeronautical term."

By the way, anyone know what an Airbridge or Apron Level are?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Leading Animals to Smoke

In order to maintain proper decorum at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Rome ....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speaking Italian in its Native Habitat

So I thought I’d report on how my few weeks of intensive study of Italian paid off in the wild.

Very well, thank you.

I got to use my new language skills almost immediately, in the train station at the Rome airport. A very nice lady came over and asked me in Italian if this was the train to Termini (downtown Rome version of Penn station). She was confused because the train was supposed to leave at - she rattled off a time of day, and here it was - rattled off another time of day. I responded with a fluent shrug since I hadn’t thought to learn the phrase for, “I am also confused.” I went to listen in as she asked someone else. The train did indeed go to Termini.

I spoke in Italian frequently, asking for directions, buying bus tickets, saying good morning, good afternoon, etc. I was surprised at how many Italians do not actually speak Italian, as they had not idea what I was talking about.

Somehow, hard to believe, many key phrases I needed were not in the standard tourist phrase book. Such as "Can you please fill this thermos with hot water", or "How do I get to the hot springs?" And I really hoped it didn't come out as "Would you please fill the thermos with water from the hot springs."

I think I only slipped up by using Spanish a few times. And my Pi just used Hebrew once.

By the end of the trip, even my Pi was Bongiorno-ing and Prego-ing with confidence.

The speaking Italian highlight of the trip came in the city of Saturnia in Tuscany when I booked a room in a charming B&B where no one spoke English.

I smoothly told the guy behind the desk “Vorrei una camera doppia per una notte con bagno per favore.” (I would like a double room with a bathroom for one night, please.) To which he replied, … Actually I have no idea what he said but he handed a woman who worked there two room keys and sent us to take a look.

Both were fine. I asked the woman how much they cost a night. To which she replied, … I was eventually able to figure out … that I needed to ask the guy downstairs.

So we went downstairs to ask the guy, “Quanto costo?” To which he replied … I have no idea what he replied but we made him write it down and fortunately they use the same numbers we do.

He drew us a map to the hot springs, and then told us a lot of other stuff to which we nodded politely. And the next day we figured out was probably something along the lines of "We are closed tomorrow" and "Where to leave the key because the office will be locked."

I also attempted to speak English in Manchester, but that is another story.

Cascate del Mulino a Saturnia

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Safety Lesson for Today

The Fire Safety lesson for today is -

Remember, boys and girls, when you toast a bagel in a toaster oven , take it off the paper plate.

Fortunately, there were no casualties from the fire except for a paper plate. And possibly a bagel.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Learning Italian Part 3

Some of the phrases on the Learn To Speak Italian tapes are stupendously useless to the casual American tourist spending a week in Italy.

For example:

I am going to sell my skis to my friend.

The 43rd fisherman.

My brother has a red bicycle.

I would like to sell my house.

In May, I brought the boat to Sweden.

While others are just plain baffling.

In case you don't believe me, listen for yourself.

I don't wash myself.

Could I have a discount off the price of the hotel room please? I don't plan on using any hot water.

He must die.

That tour guide didn't answer any of my questions. Where can I hire a hit man?
I need to get the accent right to audition for a part in a gangster movie.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Learning Italian Part 2

Spaghetti. Zucchini. Magnifico. Telefono. Importante.

My Italian lessons are coming along nicely.

And I can say a lot more than that in Italian.

Not that I have any idea what it means.

You see, most of the "Learn to Speak Italian" tapes have no English on them. This is called the 'Total Immersion' technique. Just someone saying stuff in Italian (with no translation), and pausing so you can repeat what they said.

I listen to a Learn Italian CD in the car on the way to and from work. (All the other learn Italian stuff is on cassette tape.) It's kind of like playing Foreign Language Balderdash.

I listen to the Italian, carefully repeat it, and try to guess at the meaning.

For example, I think it just said "Mario is feeding the cat." Or maybe it was "Mario is eating a cat."

There is a book that goes along with the tape, but I can't read it while driving because it would distract me from pressing the rewind button on the cd player in the car.

One set of tapes (Listened to at home. Thanks for lending me your cassette player, Lumpy!) with no English also has sound effects.

I kept up easily in the first lesson that made vroom vromm noises and has people talking to each other with useful phrases like una Toyota es una machina Japanesa.

The next lesson goes bong bong and I think was about telling time. The lessons after that, I have no clue.

By the end of the week I expect to be able to speak a fluent English with a heavy Italian accent. In case any American tourists ask me for directions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Mathematics of Packing For Travel

If 1 pair of underwear is good for 17 countries and 6 weeks,

how much underwear is needed for 2 countries and 11 days?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Learning to Speak Italian Part 1

I am going to learn to speak Italian in advance of our upcoming trip to Italy. (After the bar mitzvah in Manchester.)

I'm not going to be one of those stupid American tourists who goes to Italy who doesn't know a word of Italian and expects the locals to speak English.

I hope to be one of those Americans who goes to Italy knowing 15-20 words of Italian, and expects to have meaningful conversations in Italian with the locals, without the locals dying of laughter.

I think it is always important while traveling to be able to carefully communicate in the native language important statements like "I am lost", "I thought this train was going to Florence!" "You might not believe this, but I am an American."

And hope that what I say doesn't actually tranlate into "Your mother looks like a horse."

I plan on building on my fluent knowlege of Spanish from 2 years in HS and many more years of reading El Diario over someone's shoulder in the subway. And Italian is just like Spanish, right?

I have taken out several Learn To Speak Italian tapes from the library.

So far have just been listening to the tapes to get the rhythm of the language. So that if I, say, wander into Switerland or France by mistake, I will realize it immediately.

The tapes promise long lasting benefits. Like being able to understand Opera. Like understanding the names of all the different pasta shapes.

I may not be able to learn important phrases like Where can I get an internet connection so I can blog, or Where can I buy a SD chip for my digital camera, after all these lessons are mostly on cassette tape. So I suspect they may not be up to date on the latest slang.

Maybe I will listen to the tapes while I sleep, and learn subliminally in a method developed by Eli in elementary school.

I look forward to impressing the locals with my fluent misuse of the 15-20 words.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Lost and Found

We had a great time on yom tov! Thanks everyone for coming!

So far this this is the contents of the lost and found:

Please make a claim, or make a bid.

I'll keep you posted as more things turn up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Mother-In-Law Trickle-Down Effect

Grandma’s aide quit yesterday, saying she couldn’t take it anymore.

Grandma is now at our house while we scramble to make other arrangements.

I have told my Pi it is likely that in a few days I will move in with Eli and Stacy.

This is known as the Mother-In-Law Trickle-Down Effect.

Moshe, better get a shidduch fast.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vasovagal Syncope

The medical condition of the day is Vasovagal Syncope.

Sudden drop in blood pressure causing nausea, near fainting, chalk white face. Cold sweat.

No I did not find out about it from the 2,000 page Merck Medical Info Manual.

Rumors that the manual or the Physicians Desk Reference are my light bedtime reading are totally false. That was only the one time.

Found out about it at the dr (this time for annual physical (if annual means once every few years)).

So turns out weird episode last month was not a heart attack, but a Vasovagal Event, also known as Vasovagal Syncope. Apparently brought on at the time by a bad leg cramp.

You can find out more about this strange medical thing at

Although info on that page will NOT apply to you unless you are Canadian. (see website disclaimer.)

And sit down when you read this so you don't faint (ha, ha) - I actually let them give me a Flu Shot!

Given by the same nurse who took my blood last week. And, yes, she did remember me.

I am happy to say, the flu shot did not cause a Vasovagal Syncope. However, I did ask for a band aid (which the nurse was not planning on putting on my arm, can you believe it?)

Also, for those who are interested, I got a good report at the checkup, and am happy to say that I am currently feeling fine except for my right upper arm which is aching and the fingers on my right hand which are tingling and numb.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When Mr, Mrs, and Miss just aren't enough, or how to be Pretentious

Having missed all the other Epstein simchas, My Pi and I are planning to go to the next Epstein Bar Mitzvah, which is taking place in Manchester in the fall.

Signed up for British Air email. Had trouble deciding what to sign up as.

Her Holiness wasn't an option so I had to settle for Princesse.

What would you choose?

From the British Air website:

See for yourself at:

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sweatshop, Circa 2009

Last Thursday, the air conditioning at work was broken. The temp was about 85 degrees when I came in at 8 and went up to just over 90.

So this was wheeled in to the room, to cool it down a bit for the computers. A real genius came up with this device. The Personal Air Cooler:

"Personal Air Cooler The new personal cooler is an innovative, compacy (sic) design that delivers 1000 BTU of cooling pleasure. Ideal for use in home or office, the unit is small enough to fit inside cubicles, or compact spaces. This unit does not require any ducting to outdoors, and is totally self contained in sleek, sophisticated design. The APC2000 features multiple fan speeds, programmable timer, LED screen, easy-to-clean membrane switch electronic controls, dehumification function, auto open air louvers, and convenient fold out ergonomic handle for easy portability for multiple room use. "

The operative words in the above are: This unit does not require any ducting to outdoors.

So although this miracle of modern engineering has an innovative, compacy design, it still did not mange to defy the basic laws of thermodynamics. So I shut it off and wheeled it out after about 2 minutes during which it only heated up the room a little bit more.

And I replaced it with this innovative personal air cooling system which was amazing effective at cooling me off, don't know about the computers:
The air conditioning was fixed at around 2pm, at which point the temp gradually went back down to the low 80's which felt cool.

Update: Today I came in at 8. The temp at that time is shown below:
Having demonstrated my machosity last Thursday, I had nothing to prove by staying at my desk. So I took my laptop and relocated to my mobile office (car in the parking lot) till my boss showed up. After he spent about 5 minutes upstairs, he agreed that whatever we needed to talk about today could wait till tomorrow, and I could work from home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Waterfalls in New Jersey

Waterfall #1:
This waterfall is at the confluence of the Lehigh and the Delaware Rivers in Phillipsburg, NJ. Where when we went tubing today. Though not over the waterfall.

I am throwing in another picture from tubing, even though there is no waterfall in the picture.

Waterfall #2:
I went exploring the other day. While this waterfall is on the Raritan River, I am not sure if it is technically part of the Rahway River Park. So I am posting the photos here, instead of on the Rahway River Park Blog.

There are some beautiful places in central Jersey. But sometimes you have to look hard to find them.

By the way, it's been a year since I started the Rahway River Park Blog .

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Happy Surprise Birthday Party #3 Poot! (Had to cram them all in in 24 hours, due to short visit from Boston.) See how surprised Yoni was.

This cake was amazing! Your best ever, Aryeh.

Doesn't this look like one of those optical illusion photos?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wild American Backyard

These three have been showing up every so often. Their favorite spot is under the hammock for some reason. Maybe for the shade. I think the Synchronized Sitting Down is quite nice.

If they decide to sit in the hammock I'll take some more video.

Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday Poot!



Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ads That Miss the Mark

Got this targeted ad in the email the other day.

Subject: FRESHLY PICKED A juicy book Just for you, Lill
The seller went to a lot of effort:
We've searched our independent sellers' 100 million books and picked the following recommendations just for you.
and described the choice as offering:
Find endless entertainment...

#1 choice? Way up there at the top of the "Juicy" list offering endless entertainment:

Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, by Maurice Lamm

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Central Ave Lake

So you may have noticed that we have been having seriously bipolar weather lately. Now it’s sunny! Now it’s torrential downpouring with accompanying thunder and lightning! Now it’s sunny! Now it’s torrential downpouring with a tornado watch! Let’s see what the next 10 minutes are like!

The past two days have been especially nuts.

Have a look at the following 3 videos of Central Avenue Lake taken from my window at work. (The view from my window at work is frequently a source of entertainment, and has been featured in this blog before.)

Central Avenue Lake 2
A good shot of the waves washing over the sidewalk. If this weather keeps up we are going to have serious curb erosion.

Central Avenue Lake 3
Good audio on this one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Back from balloon festival AM launch. Helped on panda balloon ground crew! Excellent fun. Am gonna need nap later.

Lumpy and friends know Mark S who owns a balloon, and went to help out. Lumpy was going to see if my Pi and I could get in to launch area too.

So up ridiculously early, then waited to try to get word if weather would permit launches. Saw some blue sky and decided to go.

Got there, many balloons up, many still launching.

By Mark S's trailer.

The panda was up when we got there, our job to help put him (her?) away after he came down.

We need to hold open a vent in the balloon for the air to come out. The air is warm and smells from propane. Yuep. Makes sense, but I wasn't expecting it.

This is like folding up a tent on steroids.

After air is out, fabric is rolled up, carried snakelike by over a dozen people, and deposited in carrying bag. Like some wierd kind of simcha dance.
It all fits into here.

Panda stats: 611 lbs, 100ft tall, 112,000 cu ft.
More info on Panda.

More from the festival: