Category Archives: Uncategorized


I wanted to post Gnarls Barkley’s Who’s Gonna Save My Soul, but it has embedding disabled. This one’s pretty damn good, though:



I keep thinking . . .

that a modicum of talent should translate into the ability to create something of comparable quality to the things created by folks who have dedicated their lives to this sort of thing.

Should I be surprised that after throwing myself into writing for five or six years I might come up with stories that are readable but not necessarily publishable? And should I be surprised that I can’t become a comics artist overnight?

Perhaps I should confine myself to the visual vocabulary of stick figures*. I could tell my story (relatively quickly) and stop being so damned frustrated all the time. Who knows, perhaps a real artist will find my story, like it, and offer his services. Such things do happen in the world of web comics

Still, it disappoints me that I’m only capable of stick figure comics, but I want to do something more of this quality.


*xkcd is self-supporting, after all.


Today, I finished Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road, a rollicking good read*, and I was surprised by his postscript, wherein I learned that he hadn’t pulled this whole story out of his ass. For starters, there was indeed a Khazar Empire (7th to 10th Century AD). See:


And they did, in fact, convert to Judaism sometime in the 8th Century, or at least their nobility did. If Chabon can be trusted (and it seems a solid speculation, at the least), they chose Judaism in order to maintain some neutrality between their Christian and Muslim neighbors. Previously, they followed a shamanic tradition.

Oh! Wikipedia concurs.

Some researchers have suggested part of the reason for conversion was political expediency to maintain a degree of neutrality: the Khazar empire was between growing populations, Muslims to the east and Christians to the west. Both religions recognized Judaism as a forebear and worthy of some respect.

Within the Wikipedia article on the Khazars is an interesting subsection concerning the relationship of the Khazars to modern-day Jews. If most Jews nowadays are descended not from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but from a bunch of Turkic converts, then their “ancestral claim” to Palestine loses any historical footing. (This ultimately gets back to the historicity of the Old Testament, which is a huge messy can of worms that I won’t dive into right here.) It’s a claim that goes back to the 1880s, and keeps getting recycled by a variety of antisemites and anti-Zionists. Trouble is, the Y chromosome data doesn’t support it.

By various twists and turns primarily involving the Diaspora and the Lost Tribes, I found myself reading about British Israelism, one of the odder concepts I’ve encountered:

British Israelism (also called Anglo-Israelism) is the belief that people of Western European descent, particularly those in Great Britain, are the direct lineal descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. The concept often includes the belief that the British Royal Family is directly descended from the line of King David.

Despite a lack of any historical or scientific evidence to support this notion, a number of folks have promoted it, even into the 21st Century. Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Southern California-based Worldwide Church of God (now called Grace Communion International). I presume British Israelism is a great doctrine for justifying Western exceptionalism to Fundamentalists. In any case, Grace Communion International dropped the belief in 2009, following Armstrong’s death. But beliefs do not change lightly among the faithful: “Church members who disagreed with such doctrinal changes left the Worldwide Church of God/GCI to form offshoot churches. Many of these organizations, including the Philadelphia Church of God and the United Church of God, still teach British Israelism.”

But getting back to the Khazars . . . their coin was called a Yarmaq, and since I like me my coins I tried to find a picture of a Yarmaq, but could only find this image of a man choosing the most difficult manner possible for a nipple piercing.


I also surfed over to an article on the Radhanites, who figure prominently in Chabon’s book. Jewish merchants on the Silk Road? Yup, they’re real too — not simply an invention of Chabon’s.

Ibn Khordadbeh described the Radhanites as sophisticated and multilingual. He outlined four main trade routes utilized by the Radhanites in their journeys; all four began in the Rhône Valley of France and terminated in China. The commodities carried by the Radhanites were primarily those which combined small bulk and high demand, including spices, perfumes, jewelry, and silk. They are also described as transporting oils, incense, steel weapons, furs, and slaves.

All of this goes to show that if you’re looking for something interesting to read on Wikipedia, purposeful surfing is a lot more productive than hitting the random article button, which gave me this article about an underwater submersible called the VideoRay.

Which is kinda interesting, come to think of it, but can’t hold a candle to itinerant Jewish slave-drivers.



*Downgraded by some Barnes and Noble readers because “i found myself trying to figure out the language that I completely missed what was going on. it was a very hard read.” But I did like the comment, “Imagine C.S. Lewis’ ‘A Horse and His Boy’ in which the horse does not talk and there is no underlying Christian allegory and you have ‘Gentlemen of the Road’.”

I solved the Federal budget deficit!

The New York Times has a cool graphic wherein you make a variety of choices in order to solve the Federal budget deficit. I did it and had a surplus left over, all without hurting the poor and middle class and the elderly.

Here’s what I did:

I eliminated earmarks and farm subsidies.

I made all of the suggested military reductions.

Yes on medical malpractice reform (you thought I’d choose otherwise?)

I reduced Social Security benefits for those with high incomes.

I returned the estate tax to Clinton-era levels.

I returned the investment tax to Clinton-era levels.

I allowed the Bush tax cuts to expire for those earning over $250K.

Yes to “payroll tax: Subject some incomes above $106,000 to tax” (and I probably have enough of a surplus to ease that one somewhat).

Yes to “Millionaire’s tax on income above $1 million ” and “Eliminate loopholes, but keep taxes slightly higher”

Yes to the carbon tax and bank tax.

Et voila, the poor, elderly, and middle class are mostly unscathed, and I have a budget surplus, albeit with a few toxic pills (higher taxes for banks, polluters, and the rich, oh noooooz!)

Try it and see how you do.


Let this be a lesson for you

One of the teacher’s at Jake’s high school got fired, ostensibly for posting a photo to his Facebook page in which he was grabbing his crotch. Not sure why that would get a teacher fired, unless of course he’s only wearing his hand in that photo. Such things are usually the tip of a grimy iceberg, but not necessarily. Maybe someone on the board really couldn’t handle something as minimally sexual as a crotch-grab. Maybe that same someone still, to this day, can’t watch a Prince or Michael Jackson video.

Speculation among the student body is rampant, of course. I can imagine what we would have done with something like this back in the 70s. (Not that we had Facebook, of course. Would have had to be a crotch-grabbing photo accidentally submitted to the Yearbook Committee.) Students would have declared the teacher gay, of course, which was the absolute worst thing you could say about someone back then. Everyone was in their own sort of closet back then. For example, even after Betty Ford, you could still scarcely say the word cancer.

If it was something more than a crotch-grab, why not tell the students? Wouldn’t the truth be far less damaging than the inevitable shit storm of speculation?


Cruel and unusual homework

I’m still busy hacking up what’s left of my remaining lung, but that doesn’t excuse duties to one’s offspring. So if Jake has to make a music video, we make a —

A what?

Yes indeed. For his Health class, he and his team were obliged to write, direct, perform, etc., a song about the dangers of cocaine.

Now my first idea was this: rip Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” from YouTube, and add on the following title screen:

Sung to the tune of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”
With special guest performer ERIC CLAPTON!

but Jake would have none of it. So his mother and I thought we would do something a la Romanek, i.e. just a series of disturbing images: a rotating pig’s head, for example, or since pig’s heads are hard to come by perhaps a pig snout. With powdered sugar in the nostrils, yeah, that’s it! Ken and Barbie drowning in a pile of powdered sugar, which subsequently catches fire and the two melt together all puddly and plasticky. Time lapse photography of an opossum being consumed by maggots, or something similar, like a McDonald’s Big Mac gnawed upon by a small child. *shiver*

Instead, Jake and three young women spent the better part of twelve hours acting and singing and editing while Karen and I served as technical support and food source (Popeye’s Chicken, since cannibalism was not an option). The end product is hands down OMG a camp masterpiece, complete with yogurt-and-barbecue sauce-fake-vomit, the cheesiest of seizures, the ripest of rhymes.

It is hopelessly square.

And it sure as hell better get an A+.


Received from NetFlix . . .

Allegro non Troppo, one of my favorite films from the 70s. Here’s one small bit.


This goes to . . . well, you know.

Even funnier with Legos.


The Catholic school’s not putting up any fuss over placing Jake in math analysis. He’ll have to perform well, of course, but we have no doubts about that.

Can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have administrators and teachers who are willing to work with us.


P.S.: I would have gotten thrown out of Catholic High School. They have this little rule in the Code of Conduct forbidding public displays of affection :)

Give him the business

Karen and I want to give a shout-out to our mortgage broker, Michael Zoretich. He’s been our broker for the last 7 or 8 years and has helped us — a lot. Many times. Anyway, the mortgage biz is a mess right now, so Michael has developed a sideline in mortgage consultancy. He’s offering advice on mortgages and refinancing deals. You give him your financial details and the quotes you’ve received, and he’ll figure out if you’re being screwed. Simple!

Michael is respected in his field. He’s the kind of guy you check in with if you’re going to write a “Should you refinance your mortgage?” column. He even got quoted on MSNBC back in 2007. Karen, a woman who knows her stuff, vouches that Michael knows his stuff, too. So if you need mortgage advice from a guy who knows his stuff, check Michael out.

In other news, I dyed my beard today and now I look like Evil Spock . . .


. . . only I can’t make my eyebrows do that.


I’m back

I had a nasty week, as some of you know, but here I am. I survived. That’s the lesson of life, isn’t it? You always survive these things. Until you don’t. I survived, and even if I didn’t solve every last problem, I took care of my people, and that’s what it’s all about.

Thursday night found me miserable and tired and stuck in Antioch. When I finally finished in the hospital, I should have done a quick google to find a hotel, but I didn’t. No, I had to drive around for 20 minutes to find some EconoHell, a $55/night crash pad with no end table lights, a broken toilet seat, and construction debris in the bath tub. The toilet deserves special comment. It was a steady state flush, which means that the bowl never really empties. So I called down the night manager and he “fixed it,” meaning now it didn’t flush at all. Fine. I was too tired to worry about the niceties at this point.

I had to go back to the night window to get a remote for the TV. WTF? Like people steal remotes? Not that I really wanted to watch TV, but I was too tired to sleep, if you know what I mean. Too wired, too annoyed with myself and with work and with just the general circumstances of life in general. Can’t reveal details about my patient, of course, but the take-home lesson from all of this? Chew your damn food.

Friday night, I was so tired that while Karen and Jake were watching Colbert, I fell asleep sitting up. I’ve never done that before. I don’t recall being that tired even in residency, which is bizarre since some of those marathon cancer cases led me into situations where I had been up 36 hours (or more) on only 1-2 hours of sleep. But it’s a different kind of tired, I suppose, when you’re The Dude and not just a 2nd year grunt, a warm body just awake enough to write notes and hold retractors.

A two-day weekend is not long enough to recover. I need a three-day weekend. Or a three-week vacation, but not a four-week vacation. In internship, we got two four-week vacation blocks, believe it or not. Four weeks was too much. By week three, you’re wishing you could get back to work because the sooner you started up again, the sooner internship would be over.

But this business of ours has no endpoint, does it? Except retirement, of course, but that’s 15-20 years away. So I have to focus on the short-term signposts: the end of this gig, the move, the adjustment to the new gig. Our 25th Anniversary is coming up, and we’re going to treat ourselves to some time on the coast . . . and maybe go back to Hoppe’s, site of our Best Meal Ever.


Next page →