Friday Links

Happy almost Halloween!

Edited to add, just for fun.

Links: (lots of long reads this time around)

  1. The only distinguishing natural feature was a pond in one corner of the site, surrounded by a birch copse littered with beer bottles, cigarette butts, potato-chip bags, and bonfire ashes left by local picnickers. A herd of cattle grazed nearby.  If all goes according to the Kremlin’s plan, by 2015 those cows will be replaced by 15,000 scientists and entrepreneurs. From these fields will rise a new “Silikonnovaya Dolina,” Russia’s version of Silicon Valley.
  2. “The message seems clear: Milner may have invested in virtually every social media powerhouse, from Facebook to Twitter to Spotify. He might be the vanguard of an entirely new financial philosophy. He might be the most controversial money guy in Silicon Valley—sought after, feared, and derided in more or less equal measure. But at heart he is just a nice Jewish boy.”
  3. Babel and his Odessa
  4. ““So, you want to travel to Zarafshan,” wrote a volunteer named Jon, on the website in 2005. “There is no real reason to ask why you want to come to Zarafshan. There can be no logical reason to do this. Therefore, any attempt to ask ‘why’ will only be futile.””
  5. Why isn’t Ed Hardy’s house as terrible as his clothes?
  6. At Tolstoy’s estate.
  7. How to figure out if you’re linking to something old
  8. Is personal blogging dead?
  9. If you are looking for something to ruin your weekend, this is IT. Ok, I’ll tell you what it is.  It’s Justin Bieber featuring BUSTA RHYMES in Little Drummer Boy.
  10. This is called “Raccoon BBQ leads cops to meth lab.





A guide to trolling Jewish organizations featuring my grandfather

Mr. B and I were visiting my grandpa, last weekend.

After he was done telling us that one Rabinovich joke where Rabinovich is dying and his cheap family in Russia sends his family in America a telegram.  “Rabinovich is dead.”  “Oy,” comes the telegram reply, he turned to us and asked if we wanted any shmendrickeli. Shmendrickeli is not a real word, but one my grandpa made up to refer semi-scornfully to stuff he doesn’t like.  Shmendrikevich is the human counterpart.   My grandpa has so many half-made up portmanteau Yiddish and Russian words that I totally thought he was trolling me when he told me that Aldebaran was a real star up until I took astronomy in college. I believe at one point he also told me that Yasser Arafat was a constellation.

Shmendrikeli in this case mean packed boxes of dry non-perishable food from the Jewish Relief Agency, which delivers food to all of the elderly Russian Jews that live in the same apartment as my grandpa and all around the region.

Now, I don’t know who’s managing what over there,  and I’m sure the organization has honorable intentions, but whoever it is needs to reevaluate their assistance program to elderly Russian Jews in the Philadelphia area.  Because all the food my grandpa receives, he passes along to us because he thinks we need food.  We’ve gotten similar packages of food from Mr. B’s grandparents, and from Mr. B’s other grandpa as well, because they are worried about us. These are people who have survived World War II in Uzbekistan and Siberia, and they are worried we don’t have enough rugelach.

As a result,  every time we go visit the grandparents it’s like a jackpot of semi-edible, non-perishable kosher products.

We try to refuse.  We beg. We plead.  We argue that there are people who need it, rather than us. But in the end, we have four packages of kosher egg noodles in our pantry.

Sometimes, the food comes to us in a roundabout way, from my parents or Mr. B’s mom.  And thus, the packages of egg noodles are passed down, l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. I suspect our children will lovingly also not be eating them but cherishing them like relics of a simpler time.  “This is the package of matzah balls from the Great Grandpa Purge of 2008.”

We keep meaning to investigate into a food pantry around our house that we can donate to, or actual needy people, but the one time I looked, the food pantry was actually not accepting whatever we had, which was, I believe, a bounty of pre-made, pre-packaged gefilte fish.

Needless to say, no takers on that one.  Not even Yasser Arafat.



Things I love and hate about America

Things I love about America:

  • The fact that everyone is optimistic here.  Sometimes in an indignant way.  Like you tell someone, “There’s no way we can get that done,” and they’ll tell you, “Why not?” and it’ll be in an incredulous way.  Usually here, if you have grit and determination, you can do anything you set your mind to. Or, you’ll fail, but at least you’ll try instead of being resigned about it.   Anyone can make it here. 
  • Champagne mimosas for brunch.  Whoever invented brunch is a genius.  Whoever invented champagne is even more of a genius.  Champagne is my beverage of choice, because I am an American and I value freedom.  I don’t even care if Champagne is French and my favorite brand is Italian.  Here, we drink Freedom Fizz.
  • Efficiency.  What is efficient in America?  Everything. Drive-throughs. Parking spots for expecting moms.  Automatic checkout at the grocery stores.  1-hour drycleaning.  Returning stuff without receipts. Christmas in July.
  • Innovation.  High-tech.  San Francisco.  iPads. The fact that Big Ben Tweets.  It makes me so proud that we’ve compressed the invention of hundreds of years of technology into about 10 so that I can read BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG right now.
Things I hate about America:
The fact that American optimism, love of brunch, efficiency, and innovation has led to this:

Another YouTube break


“I don’t want to study/
I only want to get married/
I’d rather ride around in a bangin’ car around the capital at night
Rather than other stuff.

Life is stressful,
Why does she need all these cares?
Studying, thesis, work,
She already has enough problems,
Shopping, manicures, and moisturizer.”

And on and on in this vein.


I played this song for Mr. B  and he got a panicked look on his face because he though he would have to go through a wedding again.

“No, it’s because I don’t want to study or work.  I just want to buy moisturizer on Amazon.”
“So you’re not going to do anything, but we don’t have to have a wedding again?”
“That’s right.”
“Oh, that’s cool then.”

Instant de-stresser:

How did this man live in the Soviet Union and still create such joyful, life-affirming music?

Remember this one?


Some things deserve to be remixed.

The following is not a comment on my mental state right now.


Freedom is not free

Five years of replaying this moment in your head like a dream, like a fantasy.  Both the father and the son. So much so that when it actually happens, you’re numb.  You don’t realize it’s happening.  Five years of psychological hell.    Both the soldier and the nation.

Five years of a national nightmare are over.  But maybe the nightmares are just beginning. We don’t know. Was it worth it in the long run?  Hard to tell, unless you’re the Prime Minister and you’re finally recovering from the slump of negative press.

I have to admit, at some point last year, I stopped following the news story because I just got tired.  Tired of the stalling efforts, tired of the political in-fighting, just tired in general.  But then every time I saw his dad, exhausted and numb on TV, I would think, what would my parents feel like if I were captured? Or you?

Twenty years of hard effort of raising a decent human being, all swept away so quickly.   And all of that effort is what makes you who you are.  And all of it would be gone, scooped out of you with a melon scooper, until all that’s left is a walking hollow shell of a person. Philip Pullman wrote in The Golden Compass about a fantasy world where people’s souls live outside their bodies in animal form and they can’t be more than a certain distance away or else they experience a tremendous pain.  When people are separated from their daemons they become weaker and possibly die, but eventually they are hardened against the pain and don’t feel feelings the same way.  Maybe he was talking not only about our souls, but about parents and children.

I don’t know enough to say whether it was right politically.

All I can say is that for me as a human, I’m happy that the above picture exists, because no one should have a right to break that bond, not Hamas, not the Israeli government, not anyone in this world.