Tonight, Jon’s band, Hookslide, is singing on the mall in Washington D.C. as special guests of America Sings! Tomorrow they are singing at Lincoln Center in NYC. I want to wish them the very best and Dad and I wish we could have been there. I see that their groupies are making lots of positive comments so Spin Tour 2005 must be going well.

Also good wishes to our nephew, Andrew, who graduated from the University of Florida School of Engineering today. He’s been accepted at UF as a graduate student in Electrical Engineering and has landed a TA position. Yay, Andy.

Finally, happy birthday and good wishes to John’s dad, Ed, who turned 92 today. Another yay! for excellent genes.

And what are the chances that all these things would happen on April 29? It never rains but it pours. Today I needed the Star Trek transporter so I could be everywhere!



Do you remember when flying somewhere was part of the exciting adventure of going on vacation? Now it’s about the last thing you look forward to. Yesterday we flew crosscountry with a change of planes in Nashville. Although we had to go through the usual shedding of clothing and shoes at security, the lines were not too long and everything was pretty efficient. We flew Southwest and I just have to say, why can’t they give out seat assignments? It would make the whole Southwest experience so much less stressful. We had the new planes with their tipped up wings and new uncomfortable seats which fit 12 year olds perfectly. Since our first flight was four hours they had to feed us something. Has Southwest been reading the news? Americans are fat and we need to do something about it! Apparently, Southwest feels what to do is to squish us into narrow seats and then feed us cookies, cheese crackers and gummy bears. A little counterproductive don’t you think?

Flying Persiflage

Have you ever noticed that as the sound level goes up in a room, people keep talking more and more loudly, driving the noise level even higher? Yesterday, in order to be heard to his seatmates on the plane, the guy behind me kept talking really loudly about everything from social security to sushi. I think he thought he was very entertaining.

Frivolous or bantering talk; a frivolous manner of treating any subject, whether serious or otherwise.

The Olive Garden, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Okay, I know, chain restaurant. But last night by the time we got into Fort Lauderdale and checked into the hotel, it was almost 10 PM, our stomachs were on Pacific time and there wasn’t much open. I think how much you enjoy a restaurant also depends on what your expectations are. In visiting The Olive Garden, I wasn’t expecting gourmet or expensive, just something okay and reasonable. So we had salad and breadsticks, the usual stuff they put on the table. The salad was good and the breadsticks were salty and flabby. John had mussels and I had eggplant parmesan. The mussels were good and the eggplant was okay. At least you could taste that it was eggplant. There was a fresh tomato sauce which was a little on the sweet side and an uninspired lump of spaghetti. It was all fine. We also had a bottle of Montevina pinot grigio. The bill came to $44.

So unlike the experience at the Silver Palate where we spent $100 for bad food, we had reasonable food at a reasonable price. Maybe our expectations were just lower or after flying all day with only a snack, we were really hungry. But our experience at The Olive Garden was good and even though we got there 5 minutes before they were ending dinner service, the waitstaff was friendly and efficient.

John’s grade – B+
Mary’s grade – B



I look forward to writing a blog entry tomorrow when I am sure I’ll have stories to tell about airport experiences. I’ve also been thinking about the new food pyramid and the likeness of the Virgin Mary on various buildings etc. So please check back on Wednesday.



Do you ever feel that the whole energy crisis is kind of like the weather? Everybody complains about it but no one can do anything about it. It does feel sort of hopeless and that we will be beholden to foreign oil interests forever. But I don’t think this is necessarily true. Our government could and should come up with a coherent energy policy. The other day while I was waiting for the smog check on my car to be done, I read an editorial, “Our Energy Conundrum,” by Mortimer Zuckerman, in U.S. News and World Report. Among other things, he points out the fact that by spending $170 billion this year on foreign oil, “that we’re sending all these dollars to countries that use a good chunk of them to promote anti-American ideas, to spread radical Islam, and to finance the jihadists who are waging the war of terrorism against us. Some of these same countries are also using this largess to develop weapons of mass destruction. As if all that weren’t enough, we’re also spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a U.S. military presence to protect this Middle East energy source.”

So, how about it, Mr. President and Congress, could you put your petty partisan politics aside and come up with a plan that not only increases production but also encourages conservation and new technology?

Et tu, Brute

Conundrum would have been a good choice for the word of the day since it was in the title of Zuckerman’s article but I’ve already used it. So here’s something completely different. Anyone who has read Julius Caesar by Shakespeare knows that Caesar was killed on the ides of March. But is that a plural noun? Is there such a word as ide?

Ides – The 15th day of March, May, July, or October or the 13th day of the other months in the ancient Roman calendar.

So the ides of May are coming up a week after Mother’s Day.

The Silver Palate, Pleasanton, California

Last night, with our friends, Karen and George, we went to a new restaurant in downtown Pleasanton, The Silver Palate. This restaurant is owned by the same people who owned Baci’s down the street. Unfortunately, the food is nowhere as good. As starters we had mushroom soup, butternut squash soup and a Caesar salad. The mushroom soup was quite disappointing, thin with a strange vinegary taste. For main courses, George had halibut with a Thai salad, very cabbage-y and an odd combination. Karen had steak and shrimp, good shrimp and spinach, adequate steak. John had a mushroom risotto which he said was merely okay due to the fact that it was not very creamy. I had veal marsala which had no marsala taste but was overwhelming acidic with tough veal that seemed to have been boiled rather than sauteed. On the plus side, the waitstaff was very nice and helpful.

Grade for The Silver Palate – D+ (+ for the waitstaff and the spinach side)



On Wednesday, when the family met for lunch, Ryan gave me a T-shirt with the message, “I’m blogging this.” She said now I could look like a nerd. Thank you so much, Ryan. The nerdy part was never in question but now the world can stand on notice that if it does something stupid, inspired or just quirky, it might appear in my blog. I used to have a job where I got to stand in front of large groups of people and talk about things. I loved it. I guess there’s a bit of the exhibitionist in me. This blog (which Ryan gave me as a present) is a great substitute for my earlier pontificating. (Hmmm, pontificating, I’ll have to blog something about the new pope soon.) So beware! Talk to me, write to me, bump into me on the street and I might be blogging it!

Computer Jargon

I’ve been noticing that more and more computer jargon and abbreviations have been creeping into the New York Times Crossword puzzles. Here are a few –

ISP – Internet Service Provider
LAN – Local Area Network
URL – Uniform Resource Locator
and of course…
blog – We-b log – A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.”

Max’s Opera Cafe, Palo Alto, CA

There are twelve Max’s out here in Northern California. Some of them are Opera Cafes, some Diner’s but they all have a New York deli style menu. Our family met for lunch at the one in Palo Alto this week. Max’s has a giant menu. There are daily specials (meat loaf on Wednesday), giant sandwiches, soups, salads, and dinner-type entrees. There’s also an extensive list of desserts but I’ve never had one of those so I can’t comment on their quality. I think at Max’s your experience depends on what you order. For instance, John always gets the cabbage soup and half a corned beef sandwich on rye. He loves it. I think it carries him back to eating deli in Chicago when he was growing up. Jon and Sarah had the Cobb salad which they both seemed to really enjoy. It is a composed salad with avocado, blue cheese, turkey, bacon, egg, tomato and marinated mushrooms sitting atop a mound of dressed lettuce. Ryan had a half turkey sandwich and matzoh ball soup. I noticed that she didn’t eat much of the sandwich. My problem with the turkey sandwich is that they serve it without condiments on floppy white bread. There are condiments on the table but no mayonnaise – mostly mustard based spreads. But maybe she just got full and the sandwich was perfectly okay. I had grilled vegetables on foccacia. Not a good choice. The vegetables were undercooked and cold. It had a nice small Caesar salad with it. My real choice, if I weren’t always concerned with trying to eat lo-cal, would be a corned beef and chopped liver sandwich. I know, sounds gross, but oh so yummy. Unfortunately, Max’s loads their chopped liver with big hard-cooked egg pieces which totally messes it up. So if you’d like to try this combo, find somewhere else to order it.

P.S. Since the bill came to $80 for the five of us, this is not a cheap eats lunch place.

Family grade (I’m guessing) – B
Marymom’s grade – C-



Today there was an article from AP-Health titled, “CDC Links Extra Pounds, Lower Death Risk.” It seems that perhaps earlier studies were incorrect in telling us that if we carried some extra weight we might as well start picking out our coffins. There is instead a benefit in weighing more than the guidelines say. In fact, skinny old people have an increased risk of dying! Of course, they are not talking about really obese people. Obese people are still at an increased risk due to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. But for all you people who are obsessing about that extra 10-20 pounds? Relax. It’s okay now. And I just want to thank all the people who did the earlier studies who made us feel desperately awful about ourselves.



What is it about ritual we enjoy so much? In our family, we have three big rituals a year – Christmas, Thanksgiving and Passover. We usually try to do them on the actual day of the holiday but sometimes that just doesn’t work with everybody’s schedule. So Christmas might be a day or two late or Thanksgiving , a week early. Last night, five nights early, we celebrated Passover. No one in our family is religious but we still like this holiday (ditto for Christmas.) We eat the same large dinner with the same components, we sing the same songs and make the same stupid jokes every year. Just like the clues at Christmas or the menu of “must have” food at Thanksgiving, the ritual is what binds us together, defines our little family “club” and actually makes us, us.


The word “seder” comes from the Hebrew meaning order. At a seder you have a booklet called a haggadah telling the story of the Jews’ departure from Egypt. There are several ceremonial foods including matzoh, haroses (a mixture of wine, nuts, and apples), horseradish and parsley. The significance of each of these are explained in the book; such as, “this matzoh, why do we eat it?” I’ve often thought it would be great if Thanksgiving had a similar book with lines such as, “these creamed onions, why do we eat them?” or “what does this cranberry sauce mean to you?”

seder – The feast commemorating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, celebrated on the first night or the first two nights of Passover.



Yesterday, we left Barstow, California around 7 AM. It might have been a little later because we filled an extra cup of coffee for the road. We had to make a couple of four-way stops before we got on the highway. Since Route 58 isn’t all freeway, we had to slow down for the light at Lenwood Road but after that averaged between 65 and 70 miles an hour all the way to Kramer’s Junction which is about 33 miles from Barstow. As I slowed down because I wasn’t sure whether the light would stay green, a large truck pulled out causing me to slow further, then someone crossed the street , and one of those double semis took the opportunity to pull in ahead of me. We went quite slowly since it took such a big truck a while to pick up speed. About two miles up the road traffic came to a halt. There had been a head-on collision between a materials tanker truck and a Saturn. The accident, which was a fatality, happened at 7:35 AM. The distance from our starting point was about 35 miles. All the little things that we did, saying an extra word to the hotel receptionist, filling an extra cup of coffee, slowing down for trucks and pedestrians, kept us about 5 minutes behind the time of the accident.

In the classic example of Chaos Theory, “the flapping of a single butterfly’s wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month’s time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn’t happen. Or maybe one that wasn’t going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)”

So all the little things we did seem to have kept us out of harm’s way but perhaps if we hadn’t done them, the results of that morning might have been completely different for everyone involved.