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An addition to the site

In my never-ending quest to make this place easier for the new user, I've added a page I'm calling Greatest Hits. I went through my blogs and chose a bunch that I think are typical of what you'll find here. Many of them are more recent blogs; that's because I've gotten better the more I'm doing this. Also because I've been writing more frequently in the past two months.

And it's paying off. has gotten more hits in the first three weeks of December than it has in the first five months of its existence. And the more people come to my site, the more you encourage me to raise the bar even higher to keep you coming back.

Now, if only you'd tell me how I'm doing once in a while, we'd really be on a roll.--MAY


Bah, humbug

It's that time of year again--the time of year that makes me awfully glad I'm Jewish. With a few exceptions of the Reform kind, Chanukah just isn't that big a deal. We don't exchange gifts. We have nothing like Christmas, which is, in my opinion, an orgy of undeserved handouts and tips, obligatory "gifts", parties you don't have time for and don't really want to be at, and an incredibly annoying overpopulation at any store, making even food shopping more of a chore than usual. The whole idea of the Christmas bonus makes me seethe. Why on earth should I tip someone just because it's Christmas? Why do people suddenly deserve something extra? Have they done anything to earn it? Don't they get paid all year round? It's preposterous.

When I see the vast numbers of gifts under the trees that many children get, I'm in awe. The XBox is going for about $500, once you kick in the extra controller you have to buy in order for them to be able to play a two-person game. There's a disconnect in my brain. I just don't get it. Maybe it was the way I was raised, but I think people give each other far too many things for Christmas. And when it all comes down to brass tacks, I don't see a whole lot of commonality between celebrating the birth of Jesus and putting plastic toy soldiers on your lawn. But hey, it's the American way now. Our entire retail economy, if not our entire economy, is driven by how much we spend at this time of year.

Well, I've done my part. I must've spent, oh, $70-80 on Christmas and Chanukah gifts this year, most of it going to the children in my life. If I were flush at the moment, you could add about another $40 for a good bottle of Scotch I'd get Heidi and G., but they're just going to have to wait 'til next year for it.

And yet, something tells me I'm not going to be any less welcome because of that when I show up on their doorstep on Sunday.--MAY



Return from Middle Earth

I've just returned from seeing the film. I was right about the showing; it was less than half full, what with it being a school day, a work day, and 11 in the morning. I sat behind a row of teenagers and was prepared to move if they started talking through the film. They were pretty much silent. Except for the end, when one of the girls said, "What?" as the credits started to roll. She obviously was expecting the story to end, though after two hours and fifty minutes, you'd think she'd have gotten a clue that it was the first of a trilogy.

I'm still absorbing the film. I liked some of the changes, didn't care for others. I thought Cate Blanchett's Galadriel was a bit heavy-handed, but that was more Jackson than her. And I'm astonished at how much I liked Elijah Wood.

I'm kinda wishing Jackson had done all three films at once, released them all at once, and that I was on my first break, getting ready for the other two films. But they seem to be able to do that only on Broadway. With Dickens.

Go see it. Phenomenal. I just spent three hours in Middle Earth, and I can't seem to stop smiling.--MAY

Confessions of a Tolkien geek

There's something I neglected to tell you. I'm a Tolkien geek. While I don't write fifty-page monographs on the linguistics behind the poetry of the First Age, as found in The Silmarillion, I do admit to having a lot more knowledge of Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, and Middle Earth than the average person. I had an inkling of this about two years ago, when I first heard of Peter Jackson's efforts to film the trilogy. But it didn't truly hit me until the first trailer was released on the internet. A friend of mine downloaded it and burned it onto a CD for me. Within a day, I was showing the trailer to everyone I knew and narrating it. "That's Frodo. That's Boromir. That's Legolas." That was because I'd found and seen the frame-by-frame discussion of who was what on the trailer.

That's when I realized I was a Tolkien geek.

I first read the trilogy when I was twelve. My seventh-grade English teacher, Miss Deborah Gallet (Lord only knows what happened to her) was in her early twenties at the time, I assume, and probably found Tolkien through his revival during the sixties. She recommended it; I immediately went out and bought The Hobbit and the first two books of the trilogy. I don't know why I didn't buy the third. They sat in my room for months, until I had a dreadful cold and was out of school for a week. Boredom set in. I started reading the books and couldn't stop. When I got to The Two Towers, I begged my mother to go out and get me the final book of the trilogy, which she did.

I've been reading the trilogy regularly since then. I bought The Silmarillion when it came out, and Lost Tales, and even the second of that title, before I burned out on Christopher Tolkien's annoying commentary and lack of editing skill. "I found this in the pocket of my father's favorite jacket, the first lines being illegible, but the rest seeming to read like a list, possibly of Durin I leaving instructions for his heirs: 'Pick up milk and bread; don't forget the jam!' The rest is unreadable, except for one word: 'Wife.' Perhaps my father finally revealed the name of Durin's wife."

You see? I didn't even have to check the books to make that one up. I'm a geek.

When I saw "Don't Say a Word" with my friends, and Sean Bean first appeared onscreen, I leaned over to Bob and whispered, "That's the guy who plays Boromir in Lord of the Rings."

He whispered back to me: "Geek."

I've taken the day off work. It's a really light week, I'm heading to Virginia on Sunday, and I scheduled a vet's appointment for Gracie. At least, those are the reasons I'm trying to tell myself I took the day off. But the real reason is because I intend to catch the 11 a.m. showing at the Clifton Commons. I'm hoping for fewer people there, so I can completely lose myself in Middle-Earth. From the trailers I've seen, I'm expecting to love the film. I'll definitely be letting you know what I think.

I may be a Tolkien geek, but it could be worse. I could be a contestant on Fear Factor. God forbid.--MAY



Help you, help myself

I came across this while I was researching a multiple-users issue in the Netscape help center. This one's specifically for Netscape 4.x users who also use Netscape Messenger for email. (I surf with IE and email with Netscape. Much safer that way.)

Are you tired of the page showing up in your Netscape Messenger e-mail pane every time you start Netscape? I sure am. I got rid of it using the following instructions, direct from

If you wish to disable this feature so that Messenger starts up with a blank window, do the following:

1.Exit Communicator by choosing Exit from the File menu. Note: Be sure to do this as any changes you make to your preferences file will be lost if any Communicator process is running while you are editing this file. Check that the mail notifier that runs in the system tray in Windows has stopped as well. If you have been running java applets, it can take as much as 30 seconds for all Java applets to stop and Communicator to exit.

2.Open your preferences file (prefs.js in Windows) in your favorite text editor. (Windows users can click the Start button, choose Find, Files or Folders, type prefs.js, and click Find Now. When you locate your prefs.js file, right-click it and choose Open With, Notepad.) If there are multiple profiles on your computer, be sure you are editing the preferences file for the correct profile. You can safely ignore the "Do not edit this file" warning in the preferences file while you are setting this preference since Communicator is not running.

3.Add the following line to the bottom of your preferences file:

user_pref("mailnews.start_page.enabled", false);

4.Save and close the file.

5.Start Messenger.

Now here's the part that's good for me. If you want to make it so that appears there instead, then add the lines below. Why would anyone want to do this? Well, it's like having a second home page. Then you'd know immediately whether or not I've updated the page without having to go there.

Add the following two lines to the bottom of your preferences file:

user_pref("mailnews.start_page.enabled", true);
user_pref("mailnews.start_page.url", "");

Save and close the file. (I love that they put this line in the instructions.)

Of course, you can replace my page with any page to your liking. Or just blank everything. That's what I'm doing.

Teach your children

I think everyone should have a child to hang out with on a regular basis. Tonight after dinner, James and I decided to ride around the estate section of Montclair and check out the Christmas lights. Naturally, we started judging them. Actually, we discussed and developed a rating system which worked quite well as I got thoroughly lost in West Orange (I got distracted looking at the houses) while we both went in search of houses that could legitimately earn a zero (on a scale of one to ten, ten being best).

It was fun. So here's what we decided: A zero could only be given for two reasons: A truly ugly decoration scheme, or a beautiful, expensive house that had stingy decorations. Surprisingly, we gave out a lot of zeros in West Orange, mostly to stingy rich people with beautiful homes and only, say, a large wreath on their door. We also gave out a lot of eights and nines. Those went to any beautiful, expensive house that had decorations that emphasized the house, such as one with recessed windows that had candles in each of the windows and subtle lighting in the yard and around the house. There were regular houses that managed a few sevens and eights.

Actually, what was the most fun was the two of us arguing over which score to give a house. About the only thing we agreed on were the zeroes. This was typical:

James: "You think that was a four? Get out of here! That was at least a seven!"
Me: "No, it's got those prefab deer, anyone can buy them and put them up."
James: "Oh, yeah. Okay, maybe a five, then."

We had a really long argument over red, white, and blue lights. James scored them pretty high until I explained that anyone can buy red, white, and blue lights and string them up haphazardly. High points had to go for originality, imagination, and good light schemes. Kneejerk patriotism is jingoism. Don't succumb to the dark side.

Oh, speaking of the dark side: James also likes my Darth Vader air conditioners. You see, in the wintertime, I cover the apartment air conditioners with a black plastic trash bag. The wind causes the bag to expand and contract, making it look like a huge Darth Vader object. Well, not really, but you get the connection. James did. He thought it was cool.

Two miles, uphill, both ways--in the snow

The topic of getting to school came up at work today, and I realized that most suburban New Jersey kids have a completely different viewpoint about getting to school in the morning than I and my brothers did.

We walked. From kindergarten to sixth grade, I walked to school every day. My kindergarten and first grade school was Hawthorne Avenue School in Newark, just a few blocks away from us. When we moved to Irvington, I walked to Mt. Vernon Avenue school, again a few blocks away. It was a different world, then. The three of us walked to school together once Dave was old enough to go to school. Then we moved to another part of Irvington, and we walked again--four blocks, if I recall correctly. The only time my mother drove to school was when we forgot our lunches. She'd drop them off on her way to work. When we moved to Menlo Park, I took a bus to get to junior high school and would have also been bused to high school, because they were too far away. But we moved when I was in ninth grade, and discovered that New Jersey state law wouldn't provide school buses unless you lived two and a half miles away. We were on the border of town and just under two and a half miles distant. We carpooled, and as I got older I rode my bike to school, especially during senior year.

My school really was uphill both ways, because we lived at the bottom of one hill and the school was at the bottom of another hill, so I rode up the hill in the morning and zipped downhill past an always-angry crossing guard (I never did slow down at the blinking yellow light--damned if I was going to give up the head of steam I got; that was the best part of the ride, that last hill). And in the afternoon, it was uphill from the school and and downhill to go home. I liked riding to school in the warm days of late spring. When the weather is beautiful, everything is better.

I see kids waiting for the schoolbus on the way to work every morning. It's a different world now, and part of me feels sad for what they're missing.

Then again, walking in the wintertime really bit the big one, so I guess it all works out in the end.--MAY



This one's for you, Rush

Check out this Spinsanity column on the hyperbole about John "Taliban" Walker, the American Taliban. Another reason Spinsanity is such a great site (and on my links page, too).

Sydney Bristow, Girl Detective

Alias--that's the new tv show that I've been watching this season. The pilot was excellent, but the show since then hasn't quite lived up to the promise. If you're read about the show at all, you know they used the premise "What if Felicity joined the CIA?" Having only seen Felicity once, I can't vouch for how much it's like that show, but I must say, it's addictive. It's completely cartoonish, totally unrealistic, basically a comic book show, but I get a kick out of taping it each week and watching it during my downtime.

And the thing that cracks me up the most is the way Jennifer Garner, who plays Sydney Bristow, our hero spy, oozes confidence right up until the time she gets caught by the bad guys--which, of course, is in every show--and then she alternates between fear (Ohmigod! I'm gonna die!) and sadness (Ohmigod! They shot my partner!). Nobody, but nobody on television looks as scared or as sad as Ms. Garner, which leads me to believe that perhaps she, too, thinks the show is Felicity Joins the CIA.

Of course there's romance, and of course it's a triangle, or two triangles (Sydney and Will? Will and his intern? Sydney and her CIA handler?), because without romance, you have, well, any show starring John Stamos. (It amazes me that the man can look as good as he does and have absolutely no sex appeal whatsoever. I'd sooner date his wife, and I'm straight.)

There's apparently going to be a marathon on the new ABC Family network, which I have only just heard of--did ABC buy the Family Channel? If you haven't seen it, and you have access to the marathon, go for it. It's a hoot. And since Xena and Hercules are no longer on the air, we need some good piece of fluff shows. Escapism can be a wonderful thing. Ask Ms. Garner. (Ohmigod!)--MAY



Monday morning blahs

I just can't shake this blue/blah stuff. Perhaps it's the weather. Perhaps I'm just tired. Perhaps it's the fact that I know in less than seven days, I will be in Virginia visiting with my dearest friend and her family, spending each day in utter contentment and sleeping like a baby each night. (Note to self: Pack the Rollerblades.)

I haven't been in Richmond since August, and I'm missing it deeply. We'll have to make a special trip to La Diff so I can look at the George Kovacs lamp that I can't afford, but desperately want. (Note to self: Buy the lamp with your next article paycheck.)

I have to bring the Rollerblades, and we'll have to use them, because I'm also planning on cooking and eating a lot of fattening things over the holidays. I make a killer latkes, thanks to Grandma Shirley. I do an all right kugel, too. And since my mother cancelled the Chanukah latkes party here, I'll just have to make up for it in VA. Trust me, it'll be my pleasure. (Note to self: Eat lotsa latkes.)

Sunday night blues

I don't get Monday morning blues. I tend to get Sunday night blues. I think it goes back a bunch of years, to when I worked for the Post Office while I was in college. I dropped a bunch of courses and went to school part-time while I worked full-time nights at the Post Office in Elizabeth, NJ, which was a pretty crummy place to work in the daytime, let alone at night. And as a part-time flexi, which is what everyone is when initially hired, you get split work weeks. I was off Wednesdays and Saturdays, so every Sunday at 11:30, I went downtown Elizabeth to work until 7:30 the next morning. To say that it sucks to work on a Sunday night is like saying nighttime is dark. It's so obvious, you're embarrassed to have to say it. But having spent about ten years on the night shift in various places, let me tell you that working on a Sunday night when you know nearly everyone else in the entire country is home sleeping is one big, honking, horrible, awful way of living. I hated working Sunday nights with a passion generally only reserved for, oh, anti-Semites. And so I would force myself to arrive each week, and leave the following morning in time to get to class at college.

I haven't worked the night shift in a long time, and never intend to work it again, but the holdover is that Sunday nights can give me the blues just thinking about the work week, I guess. Gee, maybe I should just watch one of those uplifting Family Channel shows, like "Touched by an Angel."

On second thought, I'll just stay blue.--MAY



Random acts of greetness, 3

Okay, now I will use my random act of greetness to say hello to Boca Raton, Florida, and not hare off in the direction of a new and unknown nation. Mostly because all of the other international visitors except for Sao Tome and Principe are nations I had already heard of. Although I'm starting to get a bit worried about the increasing traffic from France. Am I going to have to brush up on my French? Ou est ma plume de mon oncle? Is that right?

Hm. According to the translation engine at, the correct phrase is: Où est-ce que le stylo de mon oncle est?

Can you see why I dropped French? Actually, though, look at that literally translated: "Where is the pen of my uncle is?" I'm thinking someone isn't doing a very good job on that translation engine. What's with the two "is"es, huh?

Again, I ask: Can you see why I dropped French? I just know everything I'm saying is wrong.

Oh. Back to Boca. Folks, I've been to a bunch of places in Florida, but alas, Boca Raton isn't one of them. I haven't even driven past it, as I've always flown to Florida in the past. But I understand it's beautiful, and I know it's warm, and I kinda wish I was there right now. It's cold up here!

Also, for your last-night viewing pleasure, I present:

The eighth and final night

Virtual Menorah

It's been my pleasure to share my Chanukah Menorah with all of you. Happy Chanukah!--MAY



Seventh Light

Menorah - Seventh Light

The light's getting brighter.

I will grow up

One of the songs from the Peter Pan musical (Broadway, not Disney) has lyrics that go something like this: "I won't grow up/I don't want to go to school/Just to learn to be a parent/And recite a silly rule./If growing up means it would be/beneath my dignity to climb a tree/I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!"

I used to sing that as a child and believe in it wholeheartedly, because I thought it was right on the money, especially about tree-climbing. And then I grew up, and realized how wrong those lyrics are. You should celebrate being a grownup. Sure, you have a lot more worries than whether or not you can stay out as late as you want, or who you're going to play with today, but overall, I'll take the freedom. Climbing trees is overrated, especially when you take into account developing a fear of heights as you get older.

You see, this morning, I was trying to decide what to have for breakfast. Should I have the breakfast food in the fridge? Should I cook something? Should I go out and buy it? Nothing really appealed to me. And then I glanced over and saw the box of Mallomars I bought yesterday.

Mallomars for breakfast. This is why you want to be a grownup. Kids aren't allowed to have Mallomars for breakfast. They have to eat food that's good for them.

I just may wash my Mallomars down with Coca-Cola, for the hell of it. Ha! Kids aren't supposed to swear, either.

Maybe I'll go see Harry Potter today and gloat at all the little kids suffering under parental rule.--MAY