Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day.

I have spent almost all day trying to come up with something worth reading to write about today and so far I have come up with nothing. The only thought that crossed my mind, as Lili and I waited for the slightly delayed snowstorm to start, is that Leap Day reminds me of Brigadoon the way it magically appears and disappears into the mists of Scotland.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


My friend Leather Penguin called me recently to ask me a question. His wife, Mrs. Penguin, it seems works with a bunch of my former fellow countrymen. And they were telling her about a Soviet holiday called "Man's Day." So being hardboiled New Yorkers they thought that this was as likely to be true as an ESPN report that Babe Ruth came back from the dead and signed with Boston. That's why they decided to reach out to their favorite Ignorant Immigrant living in the wilderness of Pennsylvania.

I, of course, told them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There was such a holiday and it was celebrated on February 23rd. It was also called the Red Army Day because the Red Army was founded on February 23rd ninety years ago. And since all things military were generally the domain of men, both men and the military were celebrated on the same day. The funny thing in all this is that I have not thought about this day in years. Until recently, the most significant to me February holidays were the Super Bowl and Valentines Day. I had to rely on my American friends to remind me of my Soviet past.

Lili to go.

Unitarian Universalism.

After watching a program about Pete Seeger on PBS last night I looked him up on Wikipedia which lead me to reading about the Unitarian Universalism movement. Universal Unitarianism, according to Wikipedia, is liberal religious movement that supports a free and responsible search for truth. This is the one religious movement that actually makes sense to me because it does not disregard the individual like the more traditional forms of religion but blends common and individual beliefs into a unique theological experience.

I am very curious to find out more about the UU partly because it reminds me of a religious version of the Federation of Planets on Star Trek. This is a really good thing because in Star Trek Gene Roddenberry presented a view of the future in which there was hope for humanity. And the one major hurdle keeping us from that future is religions, or rather our insistence on fighting over the differences between these religions. If you look at any of the really long term conflicts still raging today, you will find that they can be boiled down to "my version of God versus your version of God." Maybe, if more people embrace the UU, we will eventually be able to achieve peace. Peace? How Sci-Fi of me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Zen stories.

I discovered this site in a post on Twitter by one of the people I follow. In the modern age of text messaging and one minute attention spans, these short stories provide a wealth of information and plenty of food for thought.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Snow cover.

Dragon kite.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro quits.

Fidel Castro announced his resignation as president and commander in chief of Cuba. This is a historic but unfortunately meaningless event. It is historic because dictators, especially Latin American dictators, usually do not step down from power. In fact, I thought that in my lifetime I was more likely to see a man return to the Moon than to see Castro leave office before dying. It is meaningless because his brother Raul will now take over as the president and commander in chief only to maintain the status quo.

By abdicating the throne of Cuba to his brother, Castro proved that Cuba is another example of that rarest form of government, a communist monarchy. The other example is, of course, North Korea whose current monarch inherited the throne from his father. Another similarity between the two kingdoms is the complete and utter disregard for the human rights of their subjects.

This disregard and other forms of mistreatment have always been a common thread among the communist countries, but the rulers of China and Russia had the decency, if you can call it such, to pass the torch to the next highest ranking member of the party instead of a blood relative.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents Day.

Today is Presidents Day, a time marked by having a Monday off and department store sales. If you look at the calendar, on today's date it says that it's George Washington's birthday observed. His actual birthday is in four days on the 22nd. Washington's fellow February president is Abraham Lincoln who was born on the 12th. But because Washington was the first president his birthday is far more important to observe.

This day is celebrated in schools with tales of "Honest" Abe Lincoln and Georgie "I can not tell a lie" Washington. They have become, due to their roles they played in American history, role models for children. These mythological political figures supposed to teach children that "honesty is the best policy," to coin a phrase. This to me is utterly hilarious because growing up in the Soviet Union I was bombarded with stories about Lenin, the founding father of my favorite failed experiment, listening to his parents, telling the truth, and generally being a good boy. As they used to say on Dragnet: "the stories are true, only the names have been changed." Propaganda, it seems, is the same everywhere.

Wrong way!

As I was driving home from an errand, I encountered a gentleman driving his scooter against the traffic on a one way street. When did these things started to be considered vehicles and allowed to disobey road rules?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Epic news.

Tomorrow cell phone providers will shut off their analog networks which have been the backbones of cell services in the vast spaces between the coasts since the '80s. My first cell phone was an analog Nokia flip that I got for Christmas in 1999. It didn't have a lot of features, but it worked and it made me feel technologically advanced. The cell phone I have now is about the same size as my old one, but it provides more features than what I could have dreamed of in the dark days at the end of the 20th Century.

The termination of the analog cell phone networks is the first step in the digitalization process. In the near future radio and television stations will switch their transmitters to digital and an analog broadcast will become a part of the 20th Century history like the Pony Express and stage coaches were a part of the 19th Century history. At this point it is difficult to say if we are heading toward a brighter future filled with useful digital devices and flying cars depicted in Star Trek or if we are building ourselves a dark, dismal demise ala Mad Max. Either way, it should be an interesting ride.

On Mom's foot.

I have been using this blog as a place to document Lili's growth. I considered setting up a separate site for this, but since this is a personal blog I decided against it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Are we Marshall?

Yesterday I watched the movie We Are Marshall about a new coach who rebuilds the Marshall University football team after the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players and all but one of the coaches. As I watched it I wondered if such a thing could happen here in Bloomsburg, a small college town. I am not talking about the tragic loss of life, but about the town's reaction to it. In We Are Marshall you see how the town morned the death of these student-athletes together with the university and how they rallied behind the new football team.

It is is hard for me to imagine such a thing happening here because the relationship between the Town and the Gown have been strained for years. In fact, the Bloomsburg Town Council recently passed an ordinance which requires a distance of a football field between student housing and residential areas. This means that landlords who rent houses to BU students will no longer be able to do so and will therefore be deprived of a valuable source of income. And because BU students are the largest group of people who move to this area a number of houses will be left unoccupied since the landlords simply will not have enough tenants to rent to. This also means that Bloomsburg will become, for the first time in the 21st Century America, a segregated town.

I should also say that the BU students have done some things that caused the town, its Police Department, and the Town Council a lot of grief. I, as an alumnus, am not proud of all the obnoxious drinking and partying that takes place during a Spring tradition called The Block Party. I have never understood or attended it, but locking the students away and throwing away the key, to coin a phrase, is not an answer. I am sure that a long term compromise is better than a drastic measure put in place to make a few residents happy. BU students live and spend their money here and without their money the local economy will suffer.

Couch bound.

In his latest post, Wil Wheaton writes about being forced to be a History channel watching couch potato. I enjoyed this post more than I usually enjoy his posts because I spent most of the morning being a couch bound rest area for my sick daughter.She has had a runny nose for a few days and today added an unpleasant sounding cough to her repertoire. So I sat on the couch watching the History channel, held her, and patted her back as she kept going back and forth between sleeping and crying. She seems to be feeling a little better now so we are returning to our regularly scheduled program of household chores.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the porch.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Boris Pasternak.

Today is the anniversary of Boris Pasternak's birth. Pasternak was one of the giants of 20th Century Russia literature. I have loved his poetry ever since my Father introduced me to him when I was a child. My favorite Pasternak poem has always been Февраль or "February." When my Father first recited this poem to me, I was blown away by how accurately Pasternak captured February. His most famous work was the novel Doctor Zhivago which told the story of a man attempting to maintain a life during the Civil War years following the October Revolution of 1917. This novel was, like all great works of literature, inspired in part by Pasternak's own life. After Doctor Zhivago was smuggled to the West and published, Pasternak won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature which he was forced to refuse. He died two years later of lung cancer in a village outside Moscow.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Job fishing.

I have been looking for a job via the Internet ever since I graduated. This process is usually referred to as "job hunting." However, I have come to believe that this is a misnomer and that the correct term should be "job fishing." This is has nothing to do with the 'Net being involved, but with the fact that after throwing your resume in like a bated hook you proceed to sit and wait for a tug on the line. Hunting, on the other hand, is far more active and involves stalking your prey. So if you go job fishing, be patient and eventually something will bite.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Prescription overdose.

The cause of Heath Ledger's death has been released.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Blue Lili.

Super Fat Tuesday.

Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. But since this is an election year today is being referred to as Super Tuesday because almost half the country is voting in their state primaries to decide which presidential candidate they like. However, Pennsylvania isn't one of the 24 states.

Here we spent the day feasting on potato doughnuts and pondering what we are willing to give up for Lent. Our primary is in April. By that time majority of the candidate either dropped out of the race on their own or having lost in several states decided to take another swing at the presidency in four years.

I have never voted in the Pennsylvania primary because I always considered it mostly ceremonial. Casting our votes in April has as much meaning in the electoral process as demanding a recount of last year's American Idol. Despite being a large state the primary places Pennsylvania on the rear end of presidential politics.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday best.

Super Bowl.

It's Super Bowl Sunday, the second biggest, after Easter, Sunday of the year. The amount of food consumed today will probably be greater than all the Easter dinners combined because Easter, with its church services, does not have a four hour excuse to sit in front of your television before the actual game begins. Otherwise, the two Sunday events have become very similar of late.

It used to be that the Super Bowl was a glorious culmination of the previous year's football season and therefore was held in January as close to the New Year as possible. Now the football season straddles both the Old and the New Year with the Super Bowl becoming a February mainstay. If the NFL wants to expand the season playing more times per week or starting the season in July could be possible alternatives.

After all, the Super Bowl is all about traditions and tradition dictates that it'd be held in January. If something isn't done soon, we might be celebrating the Super Bowl and Easter together.


The news that Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo for $45 billion was a bit of a surprise at first. But after I thought about it for a while I came to a conclusion that this move wreaks of desperation on both sides. For Yahoo, which got passed by Google on its way to search engine supremacy a while back, this would be a bail out and a much needed influx of cash. Yahoo is in such need of cash that it recently announced possible job cuts. This decision is left entirely to the Yahoo co-founder and once again C.E.O. Jerry Yang. Yang became C.E.O. after the previous one stepped down following a somewhat disastrous run in that position. One of his major bonehead moves was not making an offer to buy Google, an idea that he actually pondered.

For Microsoft, which lost a recent Google lawsuit over desktop search dominance, this would be an influx of a much needed Internet presence since their own Internet offerings have been left in the dust by the two web-based megaliths, Google and Yahoo. Microsoft would also, quite possibly, be able to surpass Google with this acquisition because they would be able to bundle their operating systems with on-line services. The smarter move for Microsoft would be to make an offer to buy Google, but either the money isn't available or the current C.E.O. lacks imagination for such a huge move.

I am very curious to see if this deal would pass the appropriate regulators. Also, I am wondering what would the new entity be called: Microhoo or Yasoft. Either way this should be interesting.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Groundhog's Day.

Today, as expected, the most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania was pulled out of his symbolic dwelling and saw his shadow. The outcome of this pointless performance was completely irrlevenat. The bizarre weather patterns we have been expirincing lately make any long term predictions as meaningless as a debate over whether the New York Knicks can beat the New England Patriots.