In which I find out the source of 99% of my spam. Also, I eat a dosa.

What’s your idea of a good time?  Mine is bitching  about how much Philly sucks.

But unfortunately, it’s started to unsuck for me lately, which is disappointing, because complaining is as much as sport for me as running (which I haven’t been doing too much of lately so I’m definitely going to fail my first 5k next week.) Maybe it’s the spring, maybe it’s the fact that Mr. B is here to add aesthetic to my life, or maybe it’s the fact that I finally don’t feel like I need to hide from Society because I have The Winter/Mr. B-less Sads.

Yesterday, I told Mr. B that I need to be involved in a Jewish community, a foreign policy community, and a nerd community, or my spirit will wither and die like a fragile flower.  Or, I sent him a link to this event and told him, “You’re coming with me.”

Since Mr. B doesn’t work in the city, I had a little bit of me-time beforehand.

A little bit of ING Cafe.

A little bit of dosa.

And then a little bit of discussion about the Middle East situation in a very cool bar with a group of people our age, interested in the same things we’re interested in.  The speaker was from the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia and it was really interesting to hear perceptions from an officially Israeli point of view. Sharon was extremely articulate and while I  disagreed on several points with her, it was interesting to understand how the Israeli diplomatic force perceived social media, and not only because I spend my whole life on Twitter.  I loved meeting more Jews our age and I’m hoping that this is the first of many times that we go to a Collaborative event.

Mr. B and I also learned a really important thing last night: Sharon is responsible for 99% of our spam.  While she is extremely nice, we learned that the Israeli diplomatic community, in addition to others,  originate hundreds alarming emails that we get about threats to Israel.  These emails are so common and plague the Jewish community so much that a whole column has been devoted to them:

The Emails of Zion is a collection of messages from Jewish parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and others who are eager—often way too eager—to inform their children about issues of pressing concern to the Jewish community. Some of these emails may sound crazy, paranoid, ethnocentric, and/or racist, while others are disturbingly sane.

For example, here’s an email I’ve received from at least five different people recently.  This is in no way a comment about any of those people, who are all good wholesome people that would buy me Nutella at a moment’s notice, but just about the type of mail that’s circulated:

These emails evoke an urgent cause to action without presenting any facts.  They usually start with FWD:FWD:RE: URGENT ISRAEL HELP subject lines and end by panicking the reader. For example, this made me panic that 200,000 Intifada-supporters on Facebook would kill me before the radon in our house got a chance.

However, if you go to the actual group on Facebook, it’s written completely in Arabic.  How does the email writer know what it stays, beyond the fact that “Intifada” is in the title?  You can’t analyze the Facebook page, because most of the posters are in Arabic. Unless you understand, you can’t possibly know what the group is being organized for.  Why would you report a group you know nothing about solely based on its name? If the group is really threatening, why wouldn’t you put together an email closer to this CNN story, which has indeed reported that the group has turned violent? Maybe you should include the Arabic translation? And some other options? Nope.  You need to rile up as many Jews as possible.

I’m sure it’s not only Jews that do this…in fact, if you receive any similar emails from ethnic or political groups you are a part of, post them in the comments.  But as a Jew, I am on the receiving end of the majority of these alarmist emails, and it kind of feels like a a little guy is standing on my shoulder and yelling threats at me all day, without giving any context.  Anyway, Israeli diplomatim, please do a better job of putting these emails together.  Please.

I’ll be hiding in the corner, eating my dosa and trying to make new friends to invite over to our Cancer House until you do.


How Much Does it Take to Plan a Vacation? Two (Jewish Moms) and Three (Months).

This is my mom, on the left, and Mr. B’s mom, on the right. They are depicted here,  hunting for mushrooms.

This weekend, though, they were hunting for bargains.

Because, you see, my parents, Mr. B’s mom, and my aunt and a couple others are going on a cruise together in May. ( Mercifully, Mr. B and I can sense chaos from a mile away, and we opted out of this Fabulous Vacation Opportunity. )  But if you have never seen two Russian Jewish women try to plan a vacation together without spending any money whatsoever, you are missing out on the finer parts of life.  It’s a little like watching good actors act, good ballerinas ballerine, or fine Belgian chocolate being chocolated.

The process begins as a glimmer in my mom’s eye.  “Let’s go on a vacation,” she tells my dad.  My dad becomes extremely happy at this juncture.  “But we have to stay at the hotel that charges the least possible money and pick the cruise that will save us more than it will cost us, because to spend more would be anti-Semitic.” These parameters have resulted in interesting family vacations, including once when we stayed in a hotel in Paris that had a beautiful view of Paris’s homeless population due to the fact that it was conveniently adjacent to a soup kitchen.  We didn’t need an alarm because the inebriated homeless queueing up in the morning would do it for us every time.

Once my mom picks her parameters, she starts her Quest Online for Cheap Cruises.  To call it a search would be like calling War and Peace a novel.  Once Mr. B’s mom decided that she was also going, they got together, sacrificed a sheep, and looked in its entrails to divine the best, cheapest cruise at the best, cheapest time, and make sure NO OTHER WEBSITE possibly had a steeper discount.   During one weekend, Mr. B and I observed them together at two computers, searching, simultaneously, doubting themselves, double-checking, calling cruise-lines and airlines, huddling together pre-play, double-checking again, almost ordering the cruise then backing up, checking another cruise, and backing out again.  It was like watching Kasparov versus Deep Blue.  Exhilarating but agonizing.  Mr. B and I watched them for only two of the five hours they did this, at which point we decided to kill each other a la Masada to ease the pain.  Booking the actual cruise took three weeks of this.

My mom and Mr. B's mom have special ritual outfits that they wear when they hunt for deals.

However, the hunt is not over because their cruise leaves from Puerto Rico and they need a hotel room the night before the ship leaves, which means that they will be going through another round of bargain-hunting to find the best possible hotel room.  This weekend, they only searched for three hours, so I fully expect next weekend, when my parents come to Philadelphia, to be a Marathon Meeting of the Minds.  Which means you will probably see Mr. B and myself drawing up lots again.  Or begging them to let us pay for the hotel room. Or yelling at them, “Aren’t Jews supposed to be the People of the Book?? As in BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM ALREADY.”

Our moms are the best.


Friday Links

Did you know that I am now part of a Blog Bloc?  It’s part of my effort to better organize the Russian/Jewish content on my site.  You can find a list of bloggers here and a badge if you are such a blogger and want one.  But don’t worry. I’ll still write about Nutella, how much my family is afraid of third world countries, and various girlcrushes, too.

By the way,

I am part of a Russian-American Professional group on LinkedIN. One of the recent discussions has been “Why is it SO difficult (in most cases) to do business with Russian-Americans?”  The answers to the question are hilarious, because it is mostly true that it is difficult to do business with Russian-Americans, especially if they are very recent immigrants.  Here’s part of the thread that I enjoyed:


  1. I want to go to this bookstore.
  2. Why aren’t they different heights?
  3. I found a lot of interesting people through this post, including this post.
  4. Some really lucky guy shows off his drawing skills and draws everywhere he’s travelled.
  5. Obama’s pillow fort, I mean secret tent.
  6. I used to do the exact same thing!
  7. “He prepared special magical attributes which included a vodka shot, an empty bottle, a glass of milk and an Estonian guy photo, which was supplied to him by his daughter.”
  8. Haters gonna hate.
  9. How to like food.
  10. Humus tiiiiiime.
  11. A message for Arab men.

A Story about Sam, Izzy, and the Sandbox


Once, there were two brothers named Sam and Izzy.  Sam was the older brother and Izzy was just a baby, really, six or seven years old. Sometimes he asked Sam for advice, but usually he liked to figure things out for himself.   Izzy was extremely active and always getting into scrapes with other kids in the sandbox at the playground.  Sometimes it was his fault, sometimes it was their fault. Sometimes it was serious, sometimes it was just a cut.  Whenever something happened to Izzy, Sam would worry.

What made it harder for Sam was that he and Izzy were half-brothers and so they lived very far apart from each other. Izzy lived with his mom’s huge family which included a lot of loud, gossiping, scheming women.  Many of them were vindictive and several were in the process of a divorce from their abusive husbands, which made them angry and violent, which made Sam worry about Izzy even more. Sam lived on his own.

One day, Izzy called Sam on Skype, sobbing.  One of the boys he had been playing with in the sandbox had gotten into a serious fight with him and twisted Izzy’s arm to the point of breaking it.  He had to go to the hospital, where they told him that 30 bones had been fractured and one was seriously broken.  But he was better now and the doctor even gave him a neon green cast and a lollipop.

Sam yelled into the computer, “How could they do this to you, those monsters? I’m going to fly over there and kill ALL of those boys!  Why would they hurt you like that?” As he  was yelling, he signed into Facebook and wrote in large, bold letters on his status, “CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO IZZY.   MONSTERS ARE GOING TO BE MONSTERS.  THEY’LL NEVER LEAVE HIM ALONE.” Five of his friends immediately liked the status and one person wrote a comment, “OMG, so sad about Izzy. Thoughts and prayers are with him.”

Back in the Skype chat, Izzy sucked on his lollipop and said, “Don’t worry, Sam, I’m okay now.  I went to the doctor all by myself, he fixed me up, and I just wanted to share with you so you would know why I have a cast. You don’t need to come over here.”

“You need to go over there and break the arms of all those boys that hurt you,” Sam seethed. “Let me send you some money so you can buy yourself a good slingshot so that you don’t have to fight with your bare hands.”

“No, it’s okay, Sam,” Izzy said. “I don’t think I need any slingshots.”

“Those monsters will never understand unless you punish them with brute force,” said Sam.

“But you don’t really know them.  You don’t live over here near the sandbox with me and you don’t really understand the way we play every day,” said Izzy, sucking on his lollipop.

“But how can I not?  I read about it on your Facebook, I read the news about your aunts divorcing, and I talked to someone that just came back from your city.  I know exactly what you’re going through.  And seriously, just take my advice and my money.  I’m really far away so I can’t do anything effective or really understand the situation, but it makes me feel better when I send money and post Facebook statuses about you.”

“I know you love me, Sam, but have you ever had a broken arm?” Izzy smiled.

“Of course I have.  Just ten years ago, I broke my arm really, really bad.  I will never forget that time.” Sam paused.

“I know, but that was so long ago.  I don’t tell you this, but I have a broken arm almost every other month.  Of course, lately, it hasn’t been as bad, and this past time took me by surprise.  But I think I know how to deal better with broken arms than you by this point.” Izzy said.

“No you don’t.  You’re younger, weaker, and have less experience.” Sam said.

Izzy stopped sucking on his lollipop and started getting angry. “Sam, this happens every time I tell you about something in the sandbox.  First, you post a really emotional Facebook status that doesn’t solve anything.  Then you try to send money to me to make it seem like you’re participating. But I can only use the money in a certain way, depending on what you feel I should spend it on.  Then you say that you’re going to come over here so you can know what it’s like to live near the sandbox and protect me, but you never do!  Please, when I Skype you to tell you, just commiserate with me and ask how you can help. And if you can’t, don’t go all crazy!”

“It’s true,” Sam said. “I live far away and can’t really understand the situation the way you can, so I do a lot of stupid stuff to try and relieve myself of the guilt.  But tell me, Izzy, how can I really help you?”

“Just love me.  You’re my brother.  Just love me. Stop posting stupid Facebook statuses.  Stop wasting your time arguing with people in the comment sections of newspapers that write about me. Stop trying to send me money and telling me what to use it for. Stop trying to understand how a broken arm feels. If you really want to help, come live near me. Then you’ll get it. But if you can’t come here, just relax.   You’re a good brother. But you get so crazy! If I need anything, I’ll let you know,” Izzy said.

Izzy signed off Skype, took his lollipop with him, and went back to the sandbox.


The world is going crazy, so hopefully reading about my radon problems will cheer you up.

If you search my blog for hypochondria, you will get a plethora of entries where I think I have a brain tumor, neck problems, heat stroke, or the common cold.  And these are just the ones I blog about.  (Blogging with integrity.)

So, I was delighted to find out that there was an actual explanation for my left arm being sore and twitchy: Radon!

Let me back up.

Remember how we’re buying a house? Well, part of the process of buying a home in the U.S. is a home inspection where they check if there is any part of the house built incorrectly or designed to make you fall to a swift death. Fortunately, our house passed that part with flying colors.  However, there is a second inspection that is optional for newer homes, and this involves testing for radon, which is odorless, colorless, comes from the ground, and has the potential to give you lung cancer.  Asshole.

Because our house is a newer house the radon inspection was more optional. But, you know me, and I know me, and we all know that there is no way I would NOT get my house tested for something that could kill me slowly and quietly.

So, the test came back yesterday, and it turns out our house has house cancer, aka, unacceptable levels of radon. Just as I suspected, at least SOMETHING related to me is really sick.   This is where my left arm comes in.  You see, we had been in the house on several occasions for viewings, inspections, etc, and I had been in the basement for at least FIVE MINUTES at a time, maybe even  six and a half.  So obviously, the radon is ALREADY starting to affect me, even though we don’t even own the house yet. Asshole.

This bummed me out a lot since it’s something we didn’t expect with a newer house. The next step is remediation, aka house chemotherapy. Remediation claims to get the radon down to manageable levels, but obviously I’m convinced it won’t work or will stop working at some point and we won’t be able to tell and Mr. B and I will end up  ends up  in the house the first night.

When I relayed my fears to Mr. B, he told me I was “stupid” and “flying in the face of science.” Which is when I tried to reenact what radon would do to him by waving my fingers in his face and yelling, “I’m radon, and I’m going to mess you up.” Which is when he said, “I wish you were radon, because then at least I could get rid of you.”