The one about Friends


The entire series of Friends was released on Netflix on January 1, just in time for my maternity leave to start.  Friends is the perfect show to watch when you’re dealing with the rhythms of a new baby because it’s so lighthearted that you don’t need to concentrate on it for more than a snippet at a time. It’s perfect to have on in the background while breastfeeding, pumping, changing diapers, or while you’re dozing off at 2 in the morning. Plus, I’ve already seen each episode so many times in syndication on TBS that I approximately know each story line very closely, making it easy to dip in and out.

Today, I finished the 230th-some episode, which means I’ve been watching Friends for over 90 hours. When you watch something for that long, you’re bound to have questions. I’ve discussed it with Mr. B, but now I’m putting these questions out into the world, since the show’s re-release hasn’t prompted that many  thinkpieces  (except for this one, this one, which is a whole DISSERTATION, and this one, which is a PODCAST. ):

  1. How the hell did Joey afford anything until he became Dr. Drake Ramoray full time? He lived in what was at least a $2100 apartment and regularly went out on dates, to the coffee shop, etc. For that matter, how did ANYONE afford anything? Rachel didn’t start making good money until 3 years in, Monica was only a second-rate chef until she started working at Alessandro’s, and Chandler had a lowly corporate job until he got promoted.
  2. How did Rachel get any of her jobs? She seems to be completely incompetent and is even fired when she interviews for Louis Vuitton. How did Ross get away with getting her a raise at Ralph Lauren? Additionally, how were any of her outfits work-appropriate? Also, it seems like she was wearing short skirts well into winter.
  3. Why was Monica so selfish and and why did she let Chandler pay all of the money he saved from his job over years for the wedding?
  4. Why don’t they ever emphasize the fact that Monica, Ross, AND Rachel are Jewish? The fact that Rachel is Jewish is mentioned maybe once, even when it’s so obvious that she’s a JAP,  and in later episodes, Ross and Monica have Christmas trees. There is the Holiday Armadillo, but even in that, Hanukkah falls kind of by the wayside.
  5. Where are all the non-white people in the show? And I don’t just mean Charlie. Also, why was her name Charlie? WTF?
  6. Why does Monica name her baby boy Jack after her dad if her mom and dad always favored Ross since he was a “medical miracle”? By the way, as a Jew, you’re not supposed to name babies after living relatives.
  7. Why does Phoebe marry Mike? He totally does not seem like her type, at all. He’s so straight-edged and she’s so zany. He seems very…corporate and bland. Paul Rudd is such a funny guy and he is so underutilized in the show, except in the episode where he plays piano.
  8. David also does not seem like Phoebe’s type, AT ALL.
  9. Rachel and Ross: It’s supposed to be the greatest romance in sitcom history, but I’m not feeling it. They have nothing in common, even when they were going out I didn’t find their relationship believable, and I found them getting back together totally impossible. I mean they couldn’t even live together when their daughter was born!
  10. Speaking of birth: There is no way you would not find out you’re having twins.
  11. How is Joey Ross’s best friend? He is totally not his type (i.e. stupid)  And how do Chandler and Ross not do more stuff together or seem closer? They were college roommates, so it only makes sense that they have more funny escapades than Ross and Joey.
  12. Also, based on the back story of the show: i.e. Ross and Monica are brother/sister, Rachel is Monica’s best friend from high school, and Chandler is Ross’s roommate, the four of them should be much closer than the other friends. They are not. Why?
  13. Why do they all call each other “Honey” so much?
  14. How was Matthew Perry allowed to gain weight so much through seasons 4-7?
  15. Why is Ross always making fashion mistakes (i.e. the girl’s shirt, the spray-tan, the white teeth, etc.) Do paleontologists even care about that?
  16. None of them look 25 when the show starts.
  17. Why did Rachel and Monica never wear bras on the show? (no picture necessary)
  18. Chandler is in the field of big data before it’s known as big data. Why aren’t the Friends more impressed? Or even know what he does?
  19. Where is Ben in season 9 and 10? Free Ben! And poor Emma just basically feels like an afterthought in general.
  20. The duck and the chick: Why?Chick-and-Duck-Friends
  21. How was there not more cultural blowback about the jokes about Monica’s weight and Chandler constantly alluding to the fact that watching Miss Congeniality and enjoying musicals made him seem gay?
  22. Additionally, how did they all constantly make gay jokes but were accepting of Carol and Susan’s wedding?
  23. How were they all in the coffee shop at what was seemingly the middle of a work day for days on end?
  24. Seriously, how did Ross not get fired for sleeping with Elizabeth?
  25. And how did he even manage to get her? How did anyone in the show manage to have as many partners as they did?
  26. Why are all of their cultural references from, like, the 70s, when they were maybe 8 or 9 years old?
  27. How did Rachel have the mental energy to go through her pregnancy basically alone? Not to mention work a full-time high-powered job, and live in her friend’s ghetto apartment?
  28. Who decided that Chandler’s last name would be Bing?
  29. Why does Chandler date Janice  in the very beginning if he hates her?
  30. How does Monica always have enough food to feed the random people that are constantly stopping by her apartment? And did her grandmother really paint the apartment purple?
  31. How do none of the props in the apartment ever change, even though it’s 10 years later?
  32. Why were all the sets for the restaurants and anywhere that wasn’t the apartment/coffee shop so ugly?
  33. Joey and Rachel…seriously, what were they thinking with that story line?
  34. Why overalls?
  35. Are Ross and Rachel still not over each other, six years later?
  36. Who reserves a table for 10 years?
  37. Why was every episode “The one about..”? The show is so mainstream it’s not smart enough to have sarcastic titles.
  38. How are they all so selfish? They basically hang out at the coffeehouse, Monica’s apartment, Joey’s apartment, and just complain about their own lives without any regard for others.

No, I will not enjoy every moment

“Enjoy every moment!” Nope. I refuse.


My favorite books of 2014



I’ve always been kind of a homebody. But I have never wanted less to leave the house (and the couch) less  than when I was (still am……) pregnant.  In addition to buying tons of books, I also started commuting by car, which meant more time for audiobooks.

Because I was reading so much, I decided to make it my first year to do the Goodreads Challenge. Since I also luckily had a couple days off at the end of December, I was able to wrap up 52 books, a year’s worth of reading a week.  Here are my favorites of 2014 (not necessarily published this year,) in no particular order.



Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I listened to this as an audiobook when I started commuting to my new job in June, and the narrator’s voice really helped transport me to Nigeria. I was lucky enough to see Chimamanda live a couple years ago in DC, and she seemed just as gracious and interesting in person as she does in the book through her narrator, Ifemelu, who leaves behind Nigeria, and her first love, Obinze for the United States.

This book is more about what it’s like to be African (not African-American) in America and London than it is about either of the characters, I think. It’s a perspective I as a European white person could never have, so I was really interested in a lot of the observations she made, especially about African women’s hair, American academia, and politics. The other interesting part to me was the history of Nigeria, woven throughout the story.

Although, what was surprising to me was, that no matter how different of a background the author and I have had, we share a lot of the same outside views of America and Americans, leading me to believe that all immigrants to America are basically the same.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t identify at all with Ifemelu, the main character who decides to go to America after endless university strikes in Nigeria, leaving behind her one true love, Obinze She seemed cold to me at times and the life choices she made not predicated on anything but whims. But,  Chimamanda’s warm, playful voice flowed throughout, and Obinze was so real – he reminded me in a lot of ways of men I know in my own life.  A definite must-read if you’re looking to get a different perspective on America or start learning about Africa from what is, essentially, a series of blog posts.


Gulp by Mary Roach

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction because I find it tends to be dry, but this book is most definitely not.  I’d heard about how lively of a writer Mary Roach is before, and this proved to be true. I had no idea what an alimentary canal even was before I started, but Gulp really goes in depth into what happens when you chew, in a way that’s not disgusting at all. I love all the research she did, but mostly the way she packaged it as entertaining and engaging. A true nerd’s book, probably best not to be read before your doctor’s appointments.



The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

If you have not already read The Magicians and The Magician King, this book will not make any sense.  Also, why have you not read these books yet? They are the greatest new fantasy books to come out since The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. I feel very strongly about this.  If you have read them, it will be like returning to an old friend. Grossman has this way of writing certain passages that will imprint them in your memory. I’m still thinking about Mayakovsky and the whales.  By the way, you don’t need to love fantasy to love these books-just be interested in real, flawed people making choices.



Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I used to have an economics professor from Singapore who was one of the hardest professors I’ve ever had, also one of the cheekiest and most fun. Aside from what she told us about the canings, I knew almost next to nothing about Singapore, or the rich people of Singapore, before I read this book. Don’t let the chick lit-y book cover fool you.  There is A LOT to learn within.

The plot involves a rich Singaporean dude who hides how rich he is, lives modestly in New York, and has to go back to his insanely rich, spoiled family for a wedding with his girlfriend, who is Asian-American, and knows nothing about his background or culture. It’s a really fun plot, and a really fun read. I hesitate to call it chick lit because it’s definitely not and delves into some serious issues about wealth, fitting into families, eccentricies and secrets, etc, but it’s that kind of flavor-light, gossipy, fluffy, with lots of brands bandied about, and a huge sense of humor. This one went very quickly.


The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

I bought this book in the Montreal airport coming back from a conference, because I’d heard that it was a huge deal in Canada and it was plastered over every book stall. It is an Enormous book, not in the page-count sense of the word, but what’s within, and it’s written by someone with enormous talent.  Written from the perspective of a Huron warrior, an Iroquois girl, and a French Jesuit priest kidnapped by the Huron tribe, it delves into both personal and enormous national history in the 1700s in Canada. The chapters give no indication of who is narrating at any given time, but that’s the book’s biggest skill – the writer is so good, you can tell who’s speaking within a matter of sentences.

I was hugely drawn into the world of Huron culture – the research done was meticulous. The most amazing part was that I came away with the book not being able to hate either side, in spite of the atrocities done to each other.


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I resisted this book just because it’s been hyped so much in the press, and I’ve already been let down by The Goldfinch and a couple of other blockbusters, but Lahiri delivers. It is so powerful. I wanted to cry in several places. She knows exactly how to write to elicit responses from the reader that make you think, “This is how I feel about my family, too,” especially if you’re an immigrant.

The first half of the book, about the Naxalite movement, which I didn’t even know existed until I read Lowland, was riveting. The second half, about living in America in the aftermath of decisions made decades ago, was a bit more static and seemed to lose steam at the end, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick it up. There is a lot in here to take away, about how we make life choices and compromises, about what’s important to us, about what family means, and about death. All the makings of a Lifetime special, if Lifetime weren’t stupid.



Swamplandia by Karen Russell

I loved Russell’s short story collection, and I loved this book too. It is just so weird and creepy and quirky and shining, like a small jewel. Russell’s word choice is nothing short of amazing, and the way she manages to make the swamps of southern Florida a magical place where reality blends with otherwordly elements is to be savored. The characters are sympathetic and it’s easy to identify with them. It’s not quite magical realism, and it’s not quite not.



The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Another book I held off on because it’s just gotten too much praise. I need to stop doing that. It was good. It’s about a Jewish woman, Edie, who is nearing 60 and just can’t stop eating to save her life. Everyone calls this a Jewish book but I really think it’s more about American suburbia, how it impacts people, and families in general, how they react to certain things, how different family members view disturbances in the family and deal with them. It’s not quite funny in the way reviews say it is, but it is very heartfelt.


The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

This is definitely a Jewish Book. Written about the Hassidic/Orthodox community in London, it takes the reader inside a world they would otherwise not be allowed to enter. I’ve been to this world in other books, such as Shalom Auslander’s, but the author here is not cruel or gawping, just kind and introspective. It’s written from several perspectives -that of a new bride about to get married, the groom, the rabbi’s wife, the rabbi’s son, and others knitting their way in and out. The characters make you feel sorry for them and frustrated with their life choices, but at the same time, you are rooting for all of them to come out ok.


What It is Like to Go To War by Karl Marlantes

A must-read for getting behind the headlines of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the individual psychology of the soldier. Marlantes, who served in Vietnam, is not saying every soldier feels this way, but that the system is designed to make most soldiers act a certain way. He also goes into great detail why we need to take better care of our soldiers once they come home. Reads almost like fiction, but, unfortunately, is the truth.

Previous years: 


Waiting to exhale


I spent a lot of 2014 feeling blocked.  When I started this blog in 2008, the internet was wild and free, and I could write what I wanted without thinking of a specific audience, other than what I was interested in. After we found out last year that it was not as free as we thought, I couldn’t write anything without thinking about how it would impact A) My family B) My career and, most importantly,  C) Whatever profile of me was already out there, knitted together out of hundreds of Facebook posts.  I’m a pretty private person in real life, but when I write, I want to write the truth. Instead, I was completely and utterly self-censored every time I opened a browser window, and it made me want to scream.

Not only was I self-censored in my online writing life, I was also stumbling along in real life. Sometime in 2013, I was startled to find that the world  as I understood it stopped being interesting to me. Reading books became boring. Our trip to Italy was boring.  We booked tickets to Hong Kong for the fall of 2014, and even that seemed bleak and uninviting, even though I have never been to Asia. Sitting in coffee shops for hours with Mr. B became a chore instead of a pleasure. All the colors and joy leached out of my life.

Something was missing. I knew what it was.

I wanted a baby.

Out of all the things professional women don’t talk about in public, wanting a baby is close to the top of the list.  It ruins your career, this desire, this shift in focus.  So I definitely did not talk about it online, or at work, or in the job interviews for my dream position that I was going to.

And I definitely did not talk about it with any of my family. My family (and friends) have been insistently, consistently asking us when we are going to have children since we’ve been married, a question that, to me, is as invasive as it is insulting. Telling them we were thinking about it would have started a fire I could never have stopped.

So I kept this wanting to myself and Mr. B alone. We held desperate conversations late at night about how we thought it would all play out, “what-ifs” echoing in the dark with no one else to bounce the scenarios off of.

And, I sublimated my yearning to write and my need to have a baby into other things to make sure I didn’t explode. I traveled to Montreal for work and  learned just as much about people from Berlin, Colorado, California, and Oregon as I did about Python.

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I taught a SQL class to women who have never programmed.

We went to Miami for Geriatric Spring Break.

I took hours and hours of useless MBA classes.

I tried to get my typewriter to work.



We went to Soviet-themed restaurants in New York.


I went out to eat with friends. I cautiously ordered enormous sushi boats, both loving and hating that I could still eat them.

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I bought hundreds of books and read them.


I was trying to hard to live like I normally live. But during the time I was doing all of this, there was a frantic little hamster running in the cage in the back of my mind. Kids, kids, kids, it whispered. Write the truth about how you want kids. Do something about it. Do it. Do it. Do it. But I couldn’t, and so I was going insane stewing in my own introspection.

And then everything happened at once.

I got a new job. Several weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.   A week after that, I started summer classes, and a week after that I gave a talk at WordCamp Philly on the power of stories.

The irony was that I could not talk about any of this to anyone, to friends, to family, because I was afraid for my career, I was afraid of the enormous change, and most importantly, I was afraid for the health of the baby.  I read the forums. I knew what could happen.

So I waited, listlessly spending the summer in a bout of nausea, intense heat, and permanently stuck to the couch in between the work dayshift and the class nightshift. I waited in silent misery until I was finally, blessedly, halfway done.



Then the real waiting began in earnest.  Each week of pregnancy is longer than the last, by the laws of physics, but I got up and put on my pants one leg at a time, still afraid, still hopeful. My mind trained itself to split in half. Half was always on my work and schoolwork, and half was always on what was going on inside of me, soft, squishy, nebulous, terrifying.

In between all of that, Mr. B’s grandmother was in the hospital, my grandfather had open heart surgery, and my parents moved to Philadelphia, a move they had been preparing for for several years. Remembering how miserable and lost I had been when I first moved, I threw all my remaining energy into helping them.

So now my mind was split five ways, with no outlet, stewing silently. I couldn’t make myself write about any of this, because it was so personal. Because, was it really my story to tell?

And then, suddenly, it was somehow October and my last set of classes was upon me and now November and our baby shower happened.  It’s around this time that I read just as much of The Bump forums as I did my Goodreads list. But still I couldn’t write anything.


And now it’s December and then it was Hanukkah and then we put up the New Year tree and I finished up an important work project, and somehow 95% of the things on my baby to-do list are finished, and now we are, alarmingly, in the home stretch, and once the clock hits 12:00, finally, finally, I can start the long, anxious exhale of breath I’ve been holding since last New Year.


But I’m releasing it very, very slowly and waiting until January 19th (hopefully sooner!) to exhale (and also find a new place to take pictures that doesn’t include my bathroom and 500 rolls of toilet paper.)

I’m looking forward to an exciting 2015 of the sheep, and hope you are, too. Happy and Healthy New Year.


Pushing to production



In the IT world, large software development projects happen in stages. The first stage is a blueprint, sketched out hastily on  a whiteboard. The second stage is in development, where developers actually write the code. The third stage is integration, where the new, fresh code is blended into existing, working code to make sure there are no compatibility issues.  In integration, code can break, compatibility can break, and whole parts of software functions can be rewritten without consequence. It’s not code in the real world. It’s still on the scratch pad. The third stage is QA, quality assurance, where the software is tested even more rigorously to make sure it doesn’t break anything and that it works as it should with all the other systems the company has.

The last stage is when the code is released out into the world. At this point, the code lives in a sacred area called production. The process of releasing this code is called pushing to prod. Live code, such as what you see when you go to or the system your bank uses to allow you to withdraw money, is in prod.  There can’t be any mistakes in prod, and production can’t break, because real people use it to do real things.

For this reason, developers are very superstitious and protective of code going live.  One of the main superstitions, borne out of logic, is that you never push to prod on Friday, no matter what. All kinds of things can break, and no one wants to spend a weekend fixing them. Usually developers will also try not to jinx this code by talking it up or being overly optimistic about it.  They are pushing something that is warm and  live and  fragile out into the world, something that has the potential to soar or fail spectacularly in front of thousands of users.

I have been getting ready for my own push to prod. The development of a baby is much harder and much scarier than developing software, and there are many more moving parts that have to work together in order for a baby to be born, God willing, healthy. Even though it’s a process I have almost no control over, other than not eating sushi and going to the doctor when I need to, I am terrified of doing anything to compromise it.  For this reason, I am scared to post anything, either on the blog, or on Facebook, or anywhere in public where it might catch the dreaded evil eye.  Writing, taking pictures of my belly, baby showers, all have come harder for me than most of the women I see online, baring their bellies with ease, preparing nurseries, making fun gender reveal videos.

But at the same time, not writing about her seems ingenue, like I’m hiding part of my life.  Being pregnant has split me in two. One half of my mind is always on the baby,tucked safely in the back of my consciousness,  no matter what I’m doing.  I can’t do anything without thinking about the baby.  She is always there, with me, even when she is not kicking, and it seems ridiculous to think that I can nonchalantly write about a book I’m reading, a restaurant I visited, a class I’m taking, without also shouting it from the rooftops, “Oh by the way, GUESS WHAT THERE IS SOMETHING GROWING INSIDE OF ME! SHE’S 35 WEEKS OLD TODAY! BABY! BABY! BABY!”

But when I do start to write about it, I think that maybe I shouldn’t, since she will want to control her own life narrative. How much of this experience is mine, and how much is hers?  There is no answer on Google.

So I start, and then stop writing. But when I stop writing, the wolves come. The wolves are invisible, audible only to writers. When writers stop writing, they start slowly going mad because the wolves start howling, why aren’t you writing? Why aren’t you writing

I think, panicked, about all the memories that are already floating away from me, like butterflies I’ve released and have failed to capture in my writer’s net of experiences- the feeling of the roiling, unpredictable first trimester nausea, the days when I could only drink lemon water that Mr. B carefully mixed out every morning in the hot, hazy summer kitchen, the second trimester days where I felt like a tidal wave was pushing me backwards, unable to even stand from exhaustion, the current sensation of Mr. B bending down every day to gently put on the socks I can no longer reach. Every memory I don’t capture  on paper now, now, NOW,  is gone forever  – a writer’s greatest fear.

So I start writing, but then I stop again, because I run into the internet and real life. Every time I bring up pregnancy, people who have been through it have unsolicited advice, which, for some reason, makes me more irrationally angry than when people offer advice on, say, my MBA experiences, or cooking. I don’t want advice. I’m just sharing my life experiences, curating them, pinning them down and putting them on pins under glass.  It’s something I’ve always been doing and can’t stop, because then the wolves come.

So  for now, I work on essays about pregnancy in private, in ink, in development, away from production, because I still want to remember this strange, wonderful, terrible experience before it floats away from my memory, this fragile, when I spend my days exhausted, waddling, frustrated with anticipation,  and my nights tossing and turning to get comfortable on the three pillows that now occupy my side of the bed.

I’m almost nine months pregnant, and it’s the night before the big push to prod.  And then we’ll see what happens.