Thursday, February 19, 2015

Feeder Valve Failure

On February 14, 2015, I experienced a basement flood.  Water was running out of the back of my relatively new furnace.  I had to make an emergency call to my furnace contractor.

The verdict was that the feeder valve to the furnace had failed, putting excessive water into the system, and overstressing the relief valve, which then caused the relief valve to fail.

This is a picture of the culprit, a valve manufactured by

Those of us who live in the USA are familiar with the general decline in product quality here. Whereas, in my parents' time, major appliances were expected to last 50 years -- and I do not remember any major appliance failure in my entire childhood, upgrades being done by choice rather than failure -- now appliances barely survive their warranty period, which tends to be short, generally no more than a year.

This constant appliance failure is an unnecessary drag on the typical family budget -- not to mention a big stressor.  Flooding the basement causes property damage in addition to repair expenses.

Something needs to be done to return appliance quality to its former state.  This widespread sale of hazardous junk needs to be halted.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Father, The Holocaust, Charlie Hebdo, and Unintended Consequences

I'm going to start by  telling you a bit about being the daughter of a refugee from the Holocaust. I've been triggered to do this by a couple of things. First there were these incidents in Paris concerning Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market. Then I was asked to prepare a monologue for an audition in which I was to portray a first generation German immigrant. I found a few weeks ago that I can do a German accent. When it popped out of my mouth, it was accompanied by insistent memories.

My father

My father came to this country as a refugee from the Holocaust in 1937.  He was a refugee from the early Holocaust and, fortunately, did not spend time in the camps. He was raised Lutheran, but at least some of his ancestors were Jewish, probably all of them in recent memory. 

He never knew which of his grandparents had been born Jewish, the grandparents who marked him as non-Aryan, and therefore a target of the Holocaust.  This was not discussed in his family.  His father self-identified as Lutheran.  His mother self-identified as Catholic.

When I was a child, we were not permitted to mention the Holocaust in front of my father. This prohibition was not explicitly spoken, but I learned intuitively that he found the topic upsetting.  The prohibition was so absolute that I gather my younger brother did not even know. When he was an exchange student in Germany, he saw Meryl Streep's movie about the Holocaust. That was when he realized, I think. My father visited my brother there and apparently my brother asked my father whether my father had had to wear a yellow star.

My father reported this question to me as an offense, an insensitivity, that his son would bring back those unpleasant memories.

Later we discovered that my father had a second cousin in Queens, NY named LL Barschall. My father was HH Barschall. I was in law school at the time at Columbia, also in NYC. I went to have dinner with my father and the man I learned to call “Cousin Leo.” My father was surprised to learn of Leo’s existence, because he hadn't known that his grandfather, Max Barschall, had a brother.

Leo couldn't have been more different from my father. He was short and chubby. My dad was tall and thin. Leo was also still Jewish. And practically the first thing out of Leo's mouth was a mention of the Holocaust. My dad didn't flinch. He continued with the conversation.  I remember thinking "Are we allowed to talk about this now? "

My father's family must have spent a lot of energy hiding their Jewish heritage, hoping it might spare them from the Holocaust. My father never even knew which of his ancestors was Jewish.  The family secretiveness didn’t help.

I have a residual fear of external manifestations of Jewishness, like yarmulkes. Somehow my father managed to communicate a lot of fear to me without even saying a word.  Even mentioning these subjects seems dangerous to me.  Sometimes I feel embarrassed at being afraid of innocent people merely because of their clothes.

So I still have a dread of speaking of this, still a fear of getting in trouble for talking.  

At some point, my father made a donation to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. He had a notebook from when he was a university student. At that time, there were not transcripts the way we think of them in the USA. Instead, students carried a notebook in which professors recorded grades at the end of each course. Non-Aryan students, during the early Holocaust, were given notebooks that had a sticky yellow stripe on the page. This stripe made it difficult, or even impossible, for professors to record grades, so that non-Aryan students would not have a proper transcript.

This notebook was an important artifact for the museum. And, for a while at least, was in the third display case of their chronological exhibit. It was also an interesting step for him to acknowledge his involvement with the early Holocaust in a public manner.

Visiting the Holocaust Museum

For many years, I avoided the Holocaust Museum. I suspected it would increase my fear level. After my father died, I got some communication from them in reference to his donation. Finally, I went there with my family.

My older son, who was about 10, found it too disturbing. He went through very fast and waited at the end with my husband. My younger son was fascinated and wanted to see every single thing. I walked through with him and read off every sign and watched every video. He was seven. I don't know what he remembers of it.

I remember --amongst many other things-- my father's notebook and the inscription at the exit of the name of my grandfather's secretary, Helena Jacobs, who was honored by the government of Israel for resisting the Holocaust.

My grandparents escaped to England in 1938 using visas that she forged. She helped many others to escape as well. Eventually she was caught and imprisoned.  But, according to my father, this being war time, Germany had a shortage of skilled administrators.  She had run my grandfather's law office, so she had administrative experience. She was, curiously, made prison administrator. From this position, she was able to continue resisting the Holocaust. Later, when she was asked why she risked her life this way, she said it was because my grandfather was such a wonderful man that she wanted to save him and others like him. This made my father wonder if they had had an affair.

My father was an only child. I have long had a fantasy that it would turn out that he had a younger half brother who was still alive. No such person has ever manifested, though.

The visit did deepen my fear. I keep seeing grainy images of women in little cloche hats being loaded into box cars, never to be seen again, and dying horrible deaths, and imagining that I'm one of them. I visualize myself sleeping in those crowded, filthy bunks-- naked, starving, freezing, filthy, diseased. Sometimes I fancy I will wake up and discover that my father's and grandparents' escape was a mistake and that I'm to be sent back to this camp, as if I had ever been there, which I haven't.

My father wasn’t Jewish.  I’m not Jewish.  Actually half of the people who died in the Holocaust weren’t Jewish.  I learned that at the Holocaust museum. They gave us a passport at the entry with information about a person who died.  The person who I was given information about was a Czech woman who was a member of the Eastern Orthodox church and refused to convert to Catholicism.  6 million Jews died, but also 6 million other people including gays, developmentally disabled people, Gypsies, Armenians, and Eastern orthodox.  Many people don’t focus on these other deaths when they think of the Holocaust.

Germany later

I did have my German citizenship restored recently.  Germany does that for people like me who lost their German citizenship as a result of the Holocaust.  

I went to Germany once, when I was 12. I saw my father's old apartment, from the outside. There were still bullet holes in the walls, but the building was standing,  and there were still stone statues on the balcony railing of the top floor,  which had been my father's apartment. I could tell it must have been a fancy one, the whole top floor, with such an elegant balcony.  My grandfather was a more successful patent attorney than I ever was. I think it was on Linden Street, in a neighborhood where all the streets were named for trees.

I also saw Schwanverde, the amazing mansion where many father's wealthier cousins lived (and where Hitler lived during WWII); a German senator named Stein who was a childhood friend of my father (and whose children my father may have saved by sending them CARE packages after the war); and Helena Jacobs, who was elderly and in a nursing home and whose significance I did not then understand.

I also remember an uncomfortable moment in a taxi when my father turned around and began speaking to us in German, without realizing it, and my mother had to remind him to speak English,  My father normally never spoke to us in German and did not teach us any.   He was upset that he had made this mistake.

That visit coincided with the first moonwalk.  I remember being in a medieval castle on the Rhine and watching the first moonwalk on TV.  We also took a bus through East Berlin and some historical churches.

But mostly I remember a spooky feeling, ghosts of the murdered and of the murderers, that something bad might still happen, that the murderers were still lurking, that they might still come and take me.

I'm going through all this to help you understand the fears that many of Jewish ancestry feel. I know other people in this position.


The nation of Israel prides itself on being a refuge for oppressed Jews, for people who feel the same fears I feel.

But to me it isn't an attractive refuge. I'm not Jewish. My father was raised Lutheran and my mother was an old line WASP. She could trace her ancestry to Elder Brewster on the Mayflower. My cousin, who studies our genealogy, tells me he has memorized something like 4k ancestors and everyone has been Christian on that side for three hundred years. My maternal grandfather and great grandfather were in those same secret societies at Yale that the Bushes have frequented – and were very anti-Semitic. My mother's ancestors were fairly prominent in this country.  One of them was a brigadier general at Valley Forge, for instance.

I'm not Jewish.

Here in the USA, growing up, I had several friends in school who were Jewish or atheist, who complained frequently that Christian celebrations in public school felt stigmatizing to them. 

One of my childhood friends, Annie Laurie Gaylor, runs the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which works assiduously on preserving separation of church and state and also on behalf of people whose beliefs they characterize as "free thought."  This designation, "freethinkers," apparently includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, deists, and some others who do not belong to large religious groups. Annie Laurie suffered harassment in public schools from Christian teachers as a result of her stridently vocalizing her atheist beliefs.  She really sold me on the concept of the secular state.

If I were non Jewish in Israel, my understanding is that I would be considered a Palestinian. I would presumably feel marginalized by a state espousing a faith I do not share, just as my Jewish and atheist friends felt marginalized in predominantly Christian Wisconsin.

I'm not a Zionist.

It's curious to me how my Jewish friends, some of whom are very Zionist, do not understand how their complaints about Christian observances in US public schools make me uncomfortable with a nation that is explicitly Jewish -- just as with nations which are explicitly Christian, Muslim, or atheist. I believe in "separation of church and state."  My beliefs are unintended consequences of theirs.

Many Zionists don't seem to be able to separate not being Zionist from being anti-Semitic.  I don't think I am anti-Semitic.  I've sometimes considered becoming a reform Jew.  I feel that my religious beliefs are probably pretty similar to those of some reform Jews -- but Zionism does not appeal to me.  Sometimes I think of becoming Baha'i'.  Currently, I am a Quaker.

My parents went to Israel once.  My father said that, if he lived there, he would join the Freedom from Religion Foundation (actually he said "Annie Laurie's organization").  He did not like the idea of living in a country where the government sponsored a religion.  As an adult, my father did not participate in any organized religion.  I believe he was probably agnostic, but I don't know.  That was another thing he never discussed.  He did not like any discussion of topics that could not be proven or disproven.  He was a physicist.  

That fear of political, religious, and philosophical discussion probably also stemmed from growing up in the early Holocaust, where such discussions might have brought trouble.

Sometimes I've met observant Jewish women, who seem to be trying to undo the Holocaust with their personal bodies, by having very large families and raising their kids in insular observant communities. Then they send their radicalized children to Israel, where presumably they make these controversial settlements on the West Bank. I don't favor this process.

Incidents in Paris

Now we get to what's been happening in France. There were two incidents. In one incident, conservative cartoonists and other staff at a satirical publication were murdered. In the other incident, Jewish people were murdered at a kosher market.

Massive protests ensued with millions of people on the street. I've been in protests before. It's hard to get people out to such things. I was impressed that they managed to get so many out. Paris has a great history of street protests, some of which have led to revolution. Perhaps it is easier to get French people out than it is Americans

Notably these protesters carried signs that said "Je suis Charlie."  This slogan took off. I saw Americans posting it to social media.

I felt some cynicism about these protests. I wondered if perhaps the press has the power to mobilize protests when the press itself is threatened, but chooses not to exercise that power for other issues.

I also saw rumors on line that the protesters were predominantly reactionary xenophobes rather than true civil libertarians.  This deepened my cynicism.

One of my friends, whose mother came here as a refugee from the Holocaust, complains "Why don't they have signs saying 'Je suis juif?'" I know what she's thinking. She's thinking it's never stopped. Maybe she's seeing those grainy images of women in those funny little hats and the thick heeled shoes and the wool coats – being forced into box cars -- just as I keep seeing them. Her mother actually was in one of those camps as a child.

The Wall Street Journal, which I subscribe to, ran articles about anti-Semitic incidents in France and then,  ominously, ran an article saying that French Jews are packing their bags to go to Israel. Israel invites such people to move there, claiming to be able to offer them safety.  In my mind, given the situation in the Middle East, this claim to safety seems somewhat dubious.

I remember, when the stock market crashed in 2008, that I had an irrational obsession with fleeing, persuaded that political dislocation was going to follow economic disaster, just as it had in Germany when my father was young.  Fear, flight, my father's pattern, that was what was overtaking me.

I know this fear -- this desperate, impossible desire for safety – this desire to flee to somewhere safe.

But I also fear this emigration to Israel: more people to displace Palestinians. Do terrorists think at all? Don't they see that if they attack Jews in the diaspora, they are making the situation in Israel worse, the situation that they deplore and hope to change? That Jews go to Israel if attacked elsewhere – people like those radicalized children raised in insular communities in the USA?

And the protestors, do they know how their signs are being interpreted?  Do they know that their signs are being interpreted as anti-Semitic by Jews in the USA?  Do they know that their signs are also making more people think of going to Israel?

I lived in France as an exchange student. I stayed in two families. One was a secular Catholic family. One was a secular Jewish family. The mother in that first family was horribly bigoted. Though French people pride themselves on being tolerant, not all French people are tolerant.  Indeed, some of the protestors have been identified as very bigoted.

The terrorist attacks and the protests both cause more people to flee to Israel.  This makes for more land grabs on the West Bank, more suffering for Palestinians.  These are unintended consequences.

Can we stop unintended consequences?

I had this thought of contacting a friend in Paris. She's an American. She was, or is, a journalist. I wanted to somehow brainstorm with her about unintended consequences, about impressions created.

I wasn't clear enough.  Somehow she took offense.

She said to tell my friends that the French were equally concerned with the Charlie Hebdo incident and the kosher market incident. She said that the slogan "Je suis Charlie" was a shorthand for both events and that she has no control over the impressions people get who think otherwise.  She told me that the Jewish people she knows in France are not planning to move to Israel.  They think that would be giving in to terrorists. 

She did not want to continue the discussion.

So I am blogging about it. 

In principle, my blog could reach millions of people all over the world.

In fact, I know that very few people read it.  I’m too prolix and I’m not connected.

Still, I am hoping we can stop these unintended consequences and help everyone feel more safe in Europe and elsewhere.

I keep going back to a statement by Yoda in Star Wars "Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hatred.  Hatred leads to suffering."  I find that statement very insightful.

(p.s. I'm baffled as to why some of this blog shows up in smaller typeface. I did not enter it that way.)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Holiday Cards

This blog is to give some examples of my computer calligraphy

New Year 2022

Christmas 2021

Summer Solstice 2021

Valentine's Day 2021

New Year 2021 (12/31/20)

March 2020

 Happy New Year 2020

Christmas 2019

Happy New Year 2018 12/31/17

Season's Greetings 12/5/17

Birthday Card 5/19/17

Recently, I've been getting into blurry graphics.  I just really like the way these mixed colors look on my screen, especially full screen.

New Years 2017

Again I did 2

Christmas 2016:

I did 2 & couldn't choose which I liked better

New Year's 2016

Thanksgiving 2015

I did several drafts of this card see draft cards Valentine's Day 2015

2015 Winter Solstice graphic

2015 New Year's card

The one below is a sort of game I'm playing recently, where I make a smeary image and try to find letters in the borders of the colored regions.

2014 "Season's Greetings" (Christmas) card

2014 "Happy New Year" card

2013 Christmas Card

Get well card 2014

Thanksgiving 2013

Valentine's day 2013

Season's Greetings 2012

Here are a couple of calligraphy examples that I did for a friend who is getting a "yolo" tattoo

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thoughts about reducing medical malpractice costs

I am concerned that medical malpractice costs are a significant contributing factor in the overall cost of healthcare.  I would like to propose some possible approaches to this issue.

First, I favor a Workman’s Comp model for medical malpractice.  

In the 19th century, litigation against employers for workplace injuries was endangering the existence of private enterprise.  It was recognized that on the job accidents were unavoidable, but that private enterprise was also a model that this country wanted to go forward with.  

As a result, the Workman’s Comp system was established. This is a system that allows some recovery for such injuries, but limits that recovery.  In particular, there are not punitive damages — and other amounts may be limited, as well.  Also, there is a universal, single provider system of insurance for employers in states, where employers pay in to protect themselves.

I would like to see us do something similar with respect to medical malpractice.  

We need to recognize that humans make errors.  In the case of doctors, those errors are going to cause medical problems and death.  Obviously, we need to work to reduce those errors, but the current solution is not working.  First, it unjustly penalizes a few doctors to the tunes of millions of dollars, but also unjustly penalizes all doctors every year, many of whom have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in malpractice insurance.

Second, tho, given the low amounts that Medicaid and Medicare are willing to reimburse, it is becoming increasingly difficult for doctors to take those patients.  I would like to propose that doctors be exempt from malpractice litigation for causes arising out of treatment of Medicaid and Medicare patients.  In this way, doctors who only take such patients would be able to forego malpractice insurance and reduce their costs.  This might be particularly attractive to new doctors, right out of medical school.

I don’t think that such doctors are necessarily going to be any worse than any other doctors, just less interested in making huge amounts of money, and more concerned about treating those who are low income.

Third, and most important, truly incompetent or corrupt doctors should have their licenses suspended or revoked, and possibly be subject to criminal prosecution.  Malpractice litigation is too capricious and random to be an effective tool in policing the medical profession.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

ical errors interfacing with Yahoo! and gmail calendars

I am getting various errors interfacing between ical on my mac mini and gmail and Yahoo.

The image above is an example of the kind of error message I get.

Also, tho, notifications do not transfer properly between my Android phone and ical.  The appointments transfer, but the notifications do not.  This makes the calendar substantially less useful, even dysfunctional.

I am very dissatisfied here. I thought Apple was a good company with long lasting products.

Now I'm finding the compatibility issues unmanageable.

Also I feel that google does not do enough to ensure compatibility with different platforms. I am also finding problems interfacing with Yahoo! mail using the chrome browser and the Yahoo! app for Android.  I suspect that this is partly due to google not working hard enough to be compatible.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christmas Stories

I went to a show at UCB the other day where people gathered to tell holiday stories.  Now, actually, not all the stories were holiday stories, but some were.

And I was thinking, well, I can’t consider participating in a show like that, because nothing interesting ever happened at Christmas in my house.

But then I thought, well, even if it wasn’t interesting I could still tell Christmas stories.  I’m sort of doing this with the idea that it might be interesting for my kids some day, if I’m not around to tell them.

The Tree & decorations

The first thing that happened for Christmas, as I recall, was the selection of the Christmas tree.  

Our living room was about 8 feet high.  My father was 6’ 2 1/2”.  He figured out that, if he raised his arm up over his head, the tips of his fingers should reach the top of the tree.  If the tree was just this high it would be the right size for our living room.

We kids would go out with him and select the tree from a lot where there were many trees.  It was cold in Wisconsin — making speed of the essence — and my father wasn’t much of one for discussion, so he pretty much picked the tree himself. He would measure the height with his fingers and then he would spin it around to make sure there were no gaps in the branches that would be unsightly.

Then we would put it in the station wagon and bring it home.

We didn’t put it up immediately after purchasing it.  We put it out on the screen porch in a tub of water that typically froze solid around the base.  Then we would bring it in only a couple of days before Christmas.  I think this process was supposed to minimize the period of time during which the tree would be dropping needles on the carpet.

My mom seemed to disapprove, also, of the idea of having the tree up for all of advent. Somehow I got the feeling that there was something socially inferior in that practice. Yet, we did not either follow the practice of having the tree brought by Santa on Christmas eve.  It went up 2 or 3 days before Christmas.

We had ornaments and lights in the basement that we used over and over every year.  We used tinsel also.  I wonder if it contained lead. I don’t use tinsel any more now.  I have sparkly garlands that seem to be of some kind of plastic.  I wonder if that isn't just as toxic in its own way.

There was a particular star that we put on top of the tree every year, and we used the same stand every year as well.  Crawling under the tree to fill the water in the stand was a child task, made trickier by the presence of lots of presents.

We had to get the tree down by 12th night, according to my mother, because her Irish nanny had told her when she was a child that Christmas decorations (especially berries) could turn to gremlins if left up after 12th night.

There were lights on the bushes out front.  

One time, when I was older, maybe college age, my father sent me out after sunset on an especially cold night to put up lights.  Now my father was one of those “When I say jump, you say ‘How high?’” type of men, so I was not about to say no — totally unlike my kids.  So I went out even though it was very cold out.  My mittens were too bulky to manipulate the lights over the little nails around the door frame, so I took them off. But then my fingers when numb, so I still couldn’t manipulate the lights.  I did get them up, more or less, tho a number of bulbs were broken in the process.

I’ve never liked to put up outdoor decorations since then, even tho it’s often much warmer here in New York than it was in Wisconsin when I was a kid.

It might have been easier to wait until noon of the next day, when it would have been warmer and easier to see, but like I said I always felt compelled to do things immediately when my father asked.

My parents' wedding anniversary
My parents were married two days before Christmas.  Therefore their anniversary became part of Christmas.  Every year, after my brother and I were old enough to be presentable at restaurants, we went out as a family to eat.

There was one year, when we went to a place called the Jamison House outside of Madison, WI.  It was an old Victorian mansion that had been converted into a restaurant.  It felt very elegant.

The waitress came out and started playing with my father’s hair, while we were all sitting there at the table.  it was an odd thing for a waitress to do, especially with my father, who was a very standoffish, severe person who tended not to like to be touched.  He did have nice hair, though, still fairly thick in advanced age, wavy, and white.  

She said “I love curly hair.”

He replied “My whole family has curly hair.”

She looked around the table, and saw that, in fact, we all had curly hair.

“I hate you,” she exclaimed.  And rushed off.

I guess that was the weirdest thing that happened around Christmas time for us.

We did somehow manage to get food, though, so she must have come back.

I remember wandering around and looking at interesting antique furniture there, including a player piano.

Religious services
My mother was raised Protestant.  She had us baptized Presbyterian, but then we moved to the Episcopal Church, when the church we had been going to was converted into a parking lot and moved father away.  The Presbyterian Church that was only two blocks from our house had a preacher who was too conservative for my mother’s taste.

My father’s ancestry was Jewish, but he had been raised as Lutheran in Germany, before being forced to flee.  I don’t know what his beliefs were exactly, because he generally forbade the discussion of religion, philosophy, or politics in his presence.  I think he was probably an agnostic.

My mother sang in the church choir. She took us kids to church every week.  

My father would only come on Christmas and Easter, when the church put on a special show.  The Christmas service was in the evening of Christmas eve.  The church was generally full those evenings.  

The priest always made some comment about that, how he wished so many people would show up every Sunday, but that never happened.  I guess there were a lot of people like my father that way.

Opening presents
We were fortunate.  There were always a lot of Christmas presents.  My mom’s siblings, who lived on the east coast, sent presents to all of us in Wisconsin every year, which added to the pile. And each of use gave each other person at least one present.  My parents generally got my brother and me each several presents.  So there was quite a pile.

We were wrapping and putting presents under the tree for a couple of days before Christmas.  The wrapping paper was kept in the upstairs closet, below the linens.  My mom was careful to save large pieces to use over year after year, just as we saved ornaments.  I don’t think people do that much any more, but we did then.

There were also stockings.  

I know, in some families, the tree and all the presents are brought by Santa.  In my family, only the stockings were brought by Santa, after we children went to bed.  

On Christmas morning we were only allowed to open the stockings before my parents got up.  This was because my mom wanted to keep a record of who gave what to whom, so that we could write thank you notes to the more distant relatives.

But, even tho we only owed notes to the relatives on the east coast, she wrote out a huge spread sheet with all the presents under the tree so she would have a record.  I’m not sure what she did with those spread sheets. I don't recall finding them when I went through her stuff after she died.  Maybe they were in the papers that had to be thrown out after the basement flooded, because they got moldy.

This record keeping meant, tho, that we couldn’t open presents too fast, because she wouldn’t be able to write it all down.  

The stockings generally had several toys to play with, to keep us busy.  When we were smaller, we were up an hour or two before my parents.  They insisted on having breakfast before opening the rest of the presents.

As we got older, it was more likely that they were impatiently waiting for us, because we wanted to sleep in.

When I was in law school, I lived in a dorm with students from all the graduate schools of Columbia.  Across the hall from me was Mika, who was a student from Japan who I was very fond of.  

While her family could afford to send her to graduate school in New York City, apparently flying home over Christmas break was too much, so she was expected to spend the whole month in the dorm, with most of the other students gone. 

I asked my parents if I could bring her home to Wisconsin.  

Disappointingly, my mom said “No.”  Asians were too neat and clean, she opined, and she couldn’t have an Asian scrutinizing her housekeeping before Christmas.  It would be too stressful.  

This was an inaccurate stereotype in Mika’s case, I thought.  Mika kept dirty sanitary napkins under her bed and drank orange juice directly out of half gallon cartons. 

Eventually, my mom relented partially and said that Mika could come the day after Christmas.  The week after Christmas was the week when my father made his annual pilgrimage to a warm climate before the semester started up and he had to teach again.

My father hated the cold.  He generally refused to get proper winter clothing.  He seemed to refuse to believe that it wouldn’t matter what clothing he wore.  He would always be cold. This was not very logical for a physicist, who should have appreciated the benefits of insulation.  

The boots he wore were just the rubber types that you pull over shoes.  One winter I got him Sorel boots for Christmas.  After that he was forced to admit that it did matter what types of winter clothing one wore.

Eventually, my mom convinced him to wear a coat with a hood.  Hoods are much warmer than hats, because they insulate all around the neck and ears, but it was a long time before he was sort of dragged into that kind of warmer clothing, despite his constant complains about the cold.

My mom went along on these pilgrimages, so Mika and I had the house to ourselves. I’m not sure where my brother was.

I remember driving her out to the countryside around Madison.  She was amazed at the open space, which she considered wasteful.  Perhaps it looked so in winter, tho I think it was used by dairy cattle in summer.

My parents did let me bring home my two serious boyfriends, Andy, and Alan (who I eventually married), for Christmas.

My mom was concerned about having premarital sex going on in her house when I brought Andy home.  I wasn't one to challenge this sort of thing.  I thought she had the right to decide what would happen in her house.

I was surprised that my father turned out to be the more liberal one.  He said we would use the English system, which he said consisted in putting unmarried couples to bed in separate rooms, but not checking afterwards to see where they ended up.

Generally, tho, visitors were not in order on Christmas Day.  My mother, in general, and a hard time with visitors.  She had been raised in a house with servants, and entertaining, in general was very stressful for her.  She could never relax about food preparation and cleaning, because she had to learn all that stuff as an adult.  I was told that her mother, my grandmother, only learned to boil an egg at age 45.  That was an issue with her throughout my mother’s life, feeling inadequate to entertain.


My father's mother was from Vienna, Austria. She had many fine recipes, which she would happily have shared with my mother, but my mom wasn't in to cooking, so she only took one, the Linzertorte, which was my father's favorite. It took quite a bit of time to prepare, so my mom made it only on Christmas and on my father's birthday.

My brother and I both loved this recipe.  I've posted it on this blog before.

Oma's linzertorte recipe

I don't eat highly sweetened foods any more and the recipe contains nuts, so I seldom have an opportunity to make this recipe, which I'm sad about. My kids also don't like nuts, which is in the dough.  In that respect, they are like my ex husband, who also does not like nuts.  Therefore I can never make the recipe for them either.

Most Americans have never had this wonderful desert, and eat things that I believe are far inferior.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I am becoming one of those people who is angry about Obamacare.

I am a sole practitioner, so all of my health insurance is paid for by ME.

First, right after Obamacare, my premiums went up by $150/month because the lifetime limits on benefits were removed.  I didn't mind that so much, because I sort of understood it, but it was distressing, nevertheless.

Now, I find out that my insurance is going away entirely.  I was in a group sponsored by the New York State Bar Association.  Apparently, under Obamacare, the New York State Bar Association can't be a group.  The only groups can be partnerships or employers with W-2 employees.  This implies that the firm that I am of counsel with can also not list me as part of their group, even if I wanted to pay premiums.

How is this helping more people get insurance, by limiting what constitutes a group and destroying a group that's been providing insurance to hundreds or even thousands of people for years?