Monday, January 31, 2005

Good Leads of the Day!

Wow, I just realized people are actually stopping by this place. There's some information that I'd like to share. This is really important so please read on.

First of all, as I found out a few minutes ago, Flirt in a Skirt is hosting a charity event today. For every comment left on her site, she'll be giving a dollar to a charity of your choice! Pretty awesome isn't it? Get out there and vote, err, comment!

Another thing - for those of you that are interested, there's a One Year Bible blog and I have signed up two days ago. To read through the Bible in one year has been my New Year's resolution since, well, 1990 - except I never got to actually do it. I don't have the willpower. Hopefully will be able to make it with the help of a support group! Feel free to join!

Thanks for stopping by, and please come again!

The Goldie has spoken at 3:17 PM

Now *that*'s funny!

Get a good laugh over at Espresso Sarcasm

New Workplace Rules

You may have seen the story about the company who has decided its employees can't smoke and will now test them for nicotine. Several people have quit and if there hasn't already been a lawyer filing a lawsuit, wait less time than a Blog Explosion surf, and there will be. I've seen the claim that this is a violation of personal freedom. Well, hogwash. As much as I don't want government telling businesses whether they can allow smoking, a business should have the right to determine what type of health risks they want to insure, especially since in this entitlement society, health insurance seems to be a requirement of a job.

While I could argue with that, I wholeheartedly agree with what follows - ten new company workplace rules (at least when Norman owns the company). Here are a few.

10. No selling of girl scout cookies, school fundraisers, Amway, Avon, Tupperware, or Pampered Chef. Not only is it a big killer on the productivity front, it makes me feel like you either get paid too much on the first two, or not enough on the latter examples. We won't stand for such outright disrespect.

5. No watching of reality tv. You say it's a personal freedom. Well, we're going to test for it, because while I don't have any science (yet!) to back up the claim, I'm pretty sure you're reducing brain matter. Not to mention the lost productivity discussing American Idle the next day.

2. No surfing of unnecessary sites on the Internet (Like this one!). However, any good porn sites should be reported immediately. and,

1. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Er, what I mean is if I make inappropriate sexual comments, gestures, or actions, you are not to consider it harassment. Think of it as a perk.

Aren't these great? I've left the best ones out, though, so follow the above link to check them out.

By the way, I did read the original article and their next target is... are you sitting down?... obese people. I wish the company in question good luck in their future endeavor and hope there will be more to follow. After all, we need to get material for our posts somewhere.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:01 AM

Important Message for My Kids

Okay folks, I don't know about you, but I'm getting kind of tired of posting all the serious stuff. I need a break, so here goes. Just so you know, I spent the second half of my day yesterday alternating between blogging and fighting with K9 over a Wendy's meal. He wanted a Wendy's meal, and I reminded him that he had had pizza the day before, and that being slightly overweight, he wasn't really supposed to eat too much junk food. That's basically how our conversation went, except that it was repeated approximately 150 times. This made me realize that, maybe, a few rules were in order in my family. So I sat down and typed this memo. I polished it off this morning, and I intend to print it and hand it out to both kids. I hope it works, but if it doesn't, I can write more of those and in more colorful language!

Here it is. Enjoy.

THINGS THAT PI... (last word crossed out) IRRITATE ME

1. When K9 asks for something, then doesn’t take no for an answer so he asks 50 more times for the same thing. The answer is no, K9, and you know why it is no, so get over it.

2. When both of you remain on the computer while I’m talking to you.

3. Variation of (2). When both of you remain on the computer while I’m talking to you, say yes to whatever I’m telling you, then later on I find out that you never heard what I was saying in the first place. Don’t say yes to what you haven’t heard, and, if you want to hear, then listen.

4. When both of you act like there are no clocks in the house, and wait for me to tell you when to get up, get dressed, get ready to go, etc. Your school has been starting at the same time every day since 1998. You know when you need to be ready for it, and the clock is right in front of your face. Use it.

5. Variation of (4). When I11 never starts doing his homework until I tell him to. Well what if I get hit by a Mack truck, who’s gonna tell you to do your homework then? Decide on a time, set an alarm, and do your homework when the alarm goes off.

6. When K9 has to go someplace like swimming class or church or basketball practice, or even, on some odd occasion, a birthday party, and he looks forward to going there up until about five minutes before it’s time to leave, when all of a sudden he decides he doesn’t want to go. If this is something you don’t have to go to, then make up your mind in advance K9. If it’s something you do have to go to, then tough luck, you’ve got to go, so get in the car already. If it’s a birthday party and you RSVP’d, then yes you have to go.

7. When it takes me 90 minutes to get K9 into bed at night, and an hour to get him out of bed in the morning. You got it all mixed up K9. Repeat after me. Night, sleep. Morning, not sleep. Not the other way around.

8. When school’s out but I still have to go to work in the morning, and K9 insists on a) going to bed at midnight and b) that I put him to sleep. Pick one, K9, because I cannot go to bed at midnight-1AM and then get up at 7AM all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to go to work. This is because I’m still trying to catch up on all the thousands of hours of sleep that I missed nine years ago (guess why).

9. To be continued as there is probably more...

The Goldie has spoken at 9:18 AM

Sunday, January 30, 2005

“Outing Joel Osteen” – You Know, I Learned Something Today…

There’s a new article about Joel Osteen on IM’s site that he is asking everybody to forward/comment on. Since I have only a few hours ago professed love for the man, I figured I’d post a comment, even though I have never heard of Joel Osteen before.

I have read the article, the two interviews that it is linking to, and all of the comments, and tried to analyze what I saw using my own experience. I think the Joel Osteen phenomenon dovetails nicely with what I posted earlier today. Osteen is apparently a marketing genius that found a chink in the armor of today’s American Evangelism and took advantage of the opportunity. He inherited his father’s business and was probably thinking, consciously or not, about ways to expand it – because, let’s face it, he sounds like a very good business man. He noticed that the churches around him were mostly offering the rules, the regulations, the guilt, and generally the different varieties of the same fire and brimstone message, so he offered the world something new – the Warm and Fuzzy Christianity. And the world bought it, because it was every bit as warm and fuzzy as advertised, and because the people had not been taught to analyze what they heard and think for themselves. This is, of course, my take on what happened, and I could be miles off – after all, I haven’t heard of Mr. Osteen until today.

What bothers me is, what if you’re a parishioner of Mr. Osteen’s and, for whatever reason, you do not see “God’s favor” in your life? Say, your wife is terminally ill, your kids are causing you problems, and you just lost your job? What do you do - assume that this is all happening to you because you lack faith? Make sure no one finds out? What happened to the part where you get closer to God because of the hardships you experience? What happened to the part where Jesus suffered and died on the cross? Shouldn’t we be like Him?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for enjoying life. The little things in life never fail to make me happy. We got fifteen inches of snow last weekend – when the snow ended, I was the happiest person in the world! I like a good laugh and I like a good time with friends. But I would never dream of making the good, happy feeling… sorry, “the positive attitude” the be all and end all in my life. We’re not here to make ourselves happy 100% of the time, no matter what it takes. We have bigger goals in our life. This is what, I guess, bothers me the most about the two interviews that I have read.

Let me close with a prayer that is a part of my daily rule. This is “the positive attitude” as I see it. If and when Mr. Osteen’s message begins to match what it says in this prayer, then I will say to everybody, follow this man. Until then – probably not a good idea.

Prayer of the Optina Elders

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring.

Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will.

For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things.

Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.

Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.

When things unforeseen occur , let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.

Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none.

Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events.

Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.


The Goldie has spoken at 3:21 PM

The Purpose. The Drive. The Indecision.

Our church is starting a class this Wednesday, called “The Purpose Driven Life Revisited”, and I cannot decide whether to join or not.

I have mixed feelings. I love our church to pieces, it really is the best fit for me. I have taken the original PDL class, so I have an idea about who will be in the group, and the group is awesome. We had some very interesting, thought-provoking discussions during the last class. I cannot speak too well about our priest – he’s one of the wisest people I know. It’s the book itself I cannot stand. It just rubs me the wrong way. I admit it has a lot of good ideas, but somehow the way they are presented irritates me to no end. In addition, there is, in my opinion, a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle marketing present in the book. Sometimes when I’m reading it, I feel like I’m talking to a salesman who is trying to sell me something that I already have. Talk about annoying!

Should I sign up? Will I get over my dislike of PDL and learn to see the good in it, or will I be the spiritual party-pooper? I’m thinking about giving it a try, especially since we’re told we will be studying another book at the same time, called “Deification as the Purpose of a Man’s Life”. I haven’t seen it yet, but the title sounds promising. Definitely not the name you would give to your book if you wanted twenty million copies of it sold!

I will keep you updated, my reader, whether you like it or not!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:33 PM

I Love Internet Monk!

Now that I got everybody’s attention… ahem…

Found an awesome article yesterday while lurking on The Internet Monk’s site. Okay, so the awesome article is three years old, but, just like good wine, it gets better with age!

Why Do They Hate Us?

I don't really know why someone thought it was necessary to do a poll to see just who were the most disliked groups in society, but the results are in. While serial killers and IRS agents still come in last, hot on their heels are evangelical Christians. Not Christians in general. Not Roman Catholics. Not all Christians, but evangelical Christians.

As I read on, I could hardly believe my eyes, because what I saw corresponded very closely with something I’d written a month ago, before I knew anything about the blogosphere in general and Internet Monk in particular. I cannot tell you how much like an honor and a privilege it feels to realize you’ve written something similar to an article that good. I posted mine on a closed forum where I could discuss it with about a half a dozen of my closest online friends. The post was not intended for public reading, and, as I am re-reading it now, I realize there is no way I can repost it here in its entirety. I will just share the introduction. What I’ve left out is a list of things that annoy me the most about the mainstream, Evangelical Christianity in America as I know it. IM has pretty much covered them all – the legalism, the assumption that everyone around you is going straight to Hell if you don’t convert them, pronto, the total cluelessness about how to deal with temptations and sin in your own life, other than make a happy face and pretend you’re sinless.

Here’s what I wrote (personal examples omitted!)

I’ve had more exposure to the Evangelical Christian circles of America this year than I have ever had before. I have spent this year on a *** forum. I’ve traded emails with my classmate, the pastor, whose church is being sponsored from the US. And, I’ve taken the Purpose Driven Life class, which means I had to read the whole thing. And… I am unbelievably, extremely disappointed. I find myself wondering if I have anything in common with these people or if I will ever fit in, or should I even try. I just hope I’ve been exposed to all the wrong circles. Right now I’m wondering whether I should in any way adjust myself to be more in line with everyone I’ve met, or forget that these people exist and continue as before. BTW I’ve never had any problems fitting into my own parish which is a Greek Orthodox church. So maybe that’s where I should stay. But, I’ll have to vent at you guys anyway.

I haven’t had much exposure to all this until this year. I mean, I knew that America was a predominantly Christian country, but I thought it was a good thing? What I’m feeling right now, is I guess what you’d feel if you grew up in a happy, loving family and always thought your family was awesome, and then 15 years later, there’s a family reunion and you meet all these distant relatives from Nowheresville, West
Virginia, that you’ve never met before, and they creep you out! And you’re sitting there thinking, How can I be related to these people? Is this even my family? Was I switched at birth? Should I leave and cut all ties with my family? Okay, I’m not gonna cut any ties, but I’m very disappointed.

Disclaimer: I’ve met some fabulous people in this crowd this year. But they are exceptions, or, at least, not as vocal as the rest of the crowd.

This is what I wrote last December. As you can see, I was pretty exhausted and disgusted at that point, as well as resolved to stay from this part of American society for the rest of my life. Then the unexpected happened. God led me into the blogosphere and showed me that there is still hope for the Evangelical America. I’m now willing to give it another try. I cannot tell you how relieved I am. It really went against my nature when I made the decision to cut myself off what is a large number of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but at that time, I didn’t think I had any other option. Turns out, things are not as bad as they looked to me back then.

One other thing I have to bring up before I close. In his list, IM actually dug deeper than I did in my own analysis. He uncovered something that, at least to me, is very important:

We take ourselves far too seriously, and come off as opposed to normal life. Is it such a bid deal that Christians are offended at so many things others consider funny? I'll admit, it is a small thing, but it is one of the reasons ordinary people don't like us.

I read an incident written by a preacher to an internet list I monitor. He told about taking his youth group on an outing, when the students began singing a popular country song about a guy who leaves his wife to pursue his fishing hobby. It's a hilarious song. But this fellow's reaction was predictable. He asked them to not a song about a marriage that breaks up, and to instead sing something that honored God. I
routinely hear students ridiculing a fellow teacher who labels much of what students find funny as "of the devil."

These incidents show something that evangelicals need to admit. We are frequently unable to see humor, absurdity, and the honest reasons for humans to laugh at themselves. What very normal, very healthy people find laughable, we find threatening and often label with the ridiculous label of "the devil."

The message here isn't just that we are humorless or Puritanical. The message is that being human or being real is somehow evil. This is one place I can feel exactly what the unbelievers are talking about. When I see Christians trying to rob young people of the right to be normal, ordinary and human, it angers me. I feel threatened. It's hard to like people who seem to say that God, Jesus and Scripture are the enemies of laughter, sex, growing up and ordinary pleasures. Some Christians sometimes seem to say that everything pleasurable is demonic or to be avoided to show what a good Christian you are. Isn't it odd that unbelievers are so much more aware of the plain teaching of scripture than we are?

This quote is priceless! This is what gets me the most. When my friends and I first converted to Christianity in the late 80’s – early 90’s in Russia, we were all about joking and laughter. We grew up on C.S. Lewis. So, when I came here, I had some expectations about the Evangelical community as a society where intellect and sense of humor were high priority. Instead, to my horror, I saw this… unfunny crowd! Is that the way you’re supposed to be if you’re Evangelical? If you asked me a month ago, I would have said yes. Now, after briefly reading IM, JollyBlogger and a few other Christian blogs, I’ll say – no, not really. Thank you folks for showing me the way! (I would say “thank you brothers”, but that would sound too cookie-cutter Evangelical… you know?)

Thanks, guys. I needed that.

The Goldie has spoken at 1:13 PM

Saturday, January 29, 2005

When Our Kids Drop Out of Church

This article on Confessing Evangelical’s site is almost two weeks old, but I’m posting it here anyway, just on the off chance anyone hasn’t seen it (make sure you read the original article as well - "What to do When Your Child Says he Doesn't Believe Anymore" by InternetMonk). It struck a chord with me, as for the last two years, if not more, I11’s dream has been to stop going to church. I told him that he will be allowed to quit after he turns 14, and after he has completed a certain reading list, compiled by me (no, the reading list doesn’t exist… I still have another year to compile it!)

I have noticed the same thing about other families in our church. During the service, our Sunday School kids sit together, in a special area in front, grouped by class – preschool and kindergarten in the front pew, then the first-graders, and so on. I’ve been observing the kids for several years and noticed that, while the front rows are usually packed, and grades 1 through 5 or 6 still maintain the same number of students, after 7th grade kids begin to magically disappear. There’ll be fifteen kids in 6th grade, and then next year in 7th, there’ll be three. Where do the rest go? I cannot help wondering, since next year I11 will be in 7th.

On the other hand, on the Internet forums that I attended, I very often ran into people that, when in their teenage years, had given up, not only on church attendance, but on Christianity as a whole, because their well-meaning relatives had pushed them too hard. I think I’d rather let my teenager leave, explore, and potentially come back, than have him drop the whole thing like a hot potato and harbor resentment for all Christians for the rest of his life. This is why I am letting I11 drop out at 14, and this is also why I’m giving him the reading list – so he knows exactly what he’s walking out on.

CE says:

And in the same way, it is difficult not to feel a twinge of panic at some of the things one's children can say, even at a very young age (as when our older son, not yet four, opined recently as we said grace that "God can't really hear us when we talk to Him, can He?"); and equally, not to feel a warm glow of proud satisfaction at the occasional flashes of childhood piety (for example, the insistence on having a Bible story every night, "as they're more important than other stories"). So I can't pretend it will be easy to take such a detached, "big picture" approach in practice, as our sons grow older and this becomes more of a live issue.

I find this an interesting quote, in that parts of it apply to my own life, and other parts don’t. While I do, on occasion, feel the “warm glow of proud satisfaction at the occasional flashes of childhood piety” (can you believe K9 and his best friend had a confession recently, K9 being the confessor? and he's keeping the contents of it secret, too!), I’ve never felt the “twinge of panic” CE is talking about. Yes, my boys have their doubts, but then again – so do I! I think our doubts are in fact blessings in disguise. They are God’s way of showing us that we have outgrown our primitive or immature ways of thinking about Him, and are ready to advance in our knowledge. (No, I haven’t really thought of all these things myself – this is something I’ve read in one of Fr. Anthony Bloom’s books, but I cannot for the life of me remember the title of the book or find the exact quote!) The trick, when you start having doubts, is not to give up, but instead to do as much research on the subject as you can. I’ve done it when I had doubts myself, and I encourage K9 to do that when he comes to me with questions like “Mom, how do we know that we’re going to Heaven and not Hell?” or, “What if God doesn’t really exist?” K9 has a genuine interest for all things theological, so I trust him to be able to comprehend the material at an advanced level.

I11 is a different story. He’s a techno geek. He sees life and the world around him strictly in terms of mathematical logic. He’s wired differently than most of us, myself included. Consequently, it is hard for him to wrap his mind around the concept of God and the world as God’s creation. This is probably why he wants to drop out of church – try as he can, he just doesn’t get it. I really want to see what will happen after he gets more information. I believe his is the case where we as parents can do more damage if we push him into things than if we let him take it in at his own pace.

I guess this means that the task of encouraging our kids to stay in the Church requires a lot of patience and ability to process things on a case-by-case basis.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:58 PM

Yay! I Found an Orthodox Blog!

I have spent the last couple of days on the Christian side of the blogosphere. It turned out to be quite an interesting place - highly organized, split into all sorts of groups, and predominantly Evangelical. Not something I would be a good fit for. I was already bracing myself for life in isolation. But, after some research, I came across Messy Christian's blog, where I found a link to Jollyblogger, where in turn I found a link to St. Stephen's Musings. This is an awesome place with like two hundred links to Orthodox blogs all over the world! The blog's subtitle is, "Thoughts and reflections on Eastern Orthodox theology, philosophical issues, the Christian life, a variety of social & political events, and ecumenical dialogue". I liked the "ecumenical dialogue" part - I am a firm believer in the ecumenical dialogue myself. The way I see it, the Church is extremely diverse, and it is important for us to learn to interact with each other without seeing the other person as doomed to eternal damnation, just because he or she believes differently. I am looking forward to thoroughly surfing that site.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:23 AM

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Car is All Grown Up Now

I hit 80K miles on my Altima yesterday. This brought tears to my eyes. It seems like only yesterday I brought it home from the dealer, all shiny and smelling of this new-car smell. I know I must sound pathetic, but you’ve got to remember, I’m an immigrant. This is my second car ever, and the first one that I bought brand-new.

My previous car was a Buick Skylark. It was seven years old when I got it. By then, I’d been three months in the country and a week in my new job. When they hired me, I was told that I had to get myself a car, pronto! So I did. The Russian dealer who sold it to me swore that he had been saving it for his son. Today, I somehow doubt his words. But back then, it all made perfect sense to me. The car was actually decent – I only had to take it to the shop once when the alternator died. Of course, it had none of the fancy stuff. The doors, the windows, everything was manual. There was no CD player or cassette player, just the radio. The A/C never worked. The heater, on the other hand, worked fine for one whole winter before it died of old age. It couldn’t go over 70 mph, either, but – who needs the speeding tickets anyway? One spring, I noticed water on the floor of my car. Turned out, it was so rusted that the floor started to gradually disintegrate, leaving sizable holes.

Don’t ask me why, but I still loved the old rusty thing and didn’t want to part with it. Then one day, as I was pulling out of our apartment parking lot, my front bumper fell off. Just like that, without a warning. My parents came over and helped me duct tape it back on. So, when I brought my Buick to the dealer in the fall of ’99, it was pretty much covered with duct tape. The windshield was cracked as a result of my previous winter’s attempts to scrape the ice off it, which I can tell you is kind of challenging if the heater doesn’t work. The dealer looked at me suspiciously as I was telling him that the car was in great shape and it had been a tough decision for me to trade it in.

So that’s when I got my new car. For at least three years, that’s how we referred to it in the family. “Your new car”. Then all of a sudden we realized that it wasn’t so new anymore.

I took good care of it. I was giving away half of my take-home pay so I could pay it off as quickly as possible. I even broke it in like it said in the manual. Which, again, can be a challenge if you work 25 miles from home and the manual tells you to drive ten miles under the speed limit. I even tried to take the side streets to work. Thank God for flex hours. I was good to this car. And the car, in return, was good to me. It drove me all over town. It fit into the toughest parking spots when I had a job downtown. It ran 65 miles one way when I accidentally got myself into a job all the way across the Greater Cleveland area. It saved my life in the winter of ’00 when it managed to stop on a patch of black ice. It scared me to death in early spring of ’03 when it spinned out of control in the snow and made a perfect circle across all four lanes of an interstate. But after making the circle, it made a likewise perfect landing in a ditch without breaking down or getting me injured. It took us on out-of-town trips with never a problem. My kids grew up in it.

I thanked it with two bumper stickers. One says “Dave Barry For President”, and the other one, “Amend for Arnold”. On its 80K-mile anniversary, I gave it a luxury car wash. I cannot help it. I love that car. It may not be the newest or coolest or the most expensive car in the world, but the two of us go back a long way. There are a lot of memories that we share together. It is the best car for me, and I am the best driver for it, and that’s the truth. I wish it many more years of smooth running.

Because when I11 turns sixteen, I plan on giving it to him.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:15 PM

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Traveling Through Blogland: The Funnies

Just because I haven’t been posting these past few weeks, doesn’t mean I haven’t been lurking around. Here are the officially funny blogs that I’ve found so far. I have no serious search strategy – just poking around, clicking on the links, going through people’s blogrolls – so, if you have a blog you’d like to show me, just drop me a link and I will check it out. Remember, I’m still what my children call “a noob” and I have a lot to see and learn!

I’m in the process of putting a blogroll together – so feel free to help out!

That said, here goes.

“Does this mean I’m a grown-up” – you’ve probably seen it by now, if you haven’t, then you should! It is run by Cattiva, a woman that I envy for her writing style. As it turns out, her kids are 13 and 10, which is a year and a half ahead of I11 and a year ahead of K9, respectively. So, anytime I need a glimpse of my near future, I log on to her site. I’ve learned a lot about what awaits me, but I won’t share it with you, as it is highly depressing, although somehow, at the same time, hilarious. Word of warning – do not, I repeat, do NOT read the “Twelve Days of Christmas - Teenager Style” post, as the song will be stuck in your head forever… aw, here it comes again!

Woulda Coulda Shoulda – everybody seems to be linking to it, so I guess I should too. Here’s a thought-provoking post on working out. I second this one!

I’ve tried to find more funny blogs for this post, but have unfortunately been affected by a severe case of Humorous Blog Overload. This is a serious disease, and you know you've got it when all humorous blogs suddenly begin to look alike to you, all of them vaguely resembling Dave Barry’s column (this includes my own blog, as well). I hope to treat it over the weekend with vast amounts of comfort foods and alcohol, and will continue my review as soon as I feel better. For now, I’m going to have to cut this post short, and I’m going to make up for it by posting a link that I got from, of all people, I11. This is some very sick humor and posting this will probably ruin my reputation forever, rendering me unable to write anything serious here for the rest of my blogging life (and here I’ve been contemplating a series of posts on theology). But since it’s really funny and very likely to make your day, I’ll post it anyway, because I will do anything to please my reader - I'm just this kind of person! Besides, it has an educational value – for those of us that wonder what their teenage kids do on the computer all day, here’s the answer.

Well, that’s it for now folks, please enjoy the carefully selected funnies and be careful to sit away from your keyboard or your monitor if you’re consuming your liquid of choice. And please remember to share those links! I need a blogroll, and I need it badly! Thanks in advance!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:31 PM

Best of Sci-Fi in 2004, according to my online friends

There was an interesting thread last week on my favorite forum where the original poster asked, “What was the best sci-fi book you read last year?” People shared freely and I now have a reading list that will keep me busy for a year or two! Thought I’d share it with you.

For those of you that can read Russian, you can go ahead and read the thread. For the rest of you, here’s the list that I have compiled.

Lois McMaster Bujold (anything by this author, especially the Vorkosegan series)
Neal Stephenson, "Snow Crash"
Douglas R. Hofstadter, "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"
Margaret Atwood, “Oryx and Crake”
China Mievile, “Perdido Street Station”

Terry Pratchett, “Going Postal”
Dan Simmons, “Ilium”

The workload has been brutal this week, which is why I haven’t been able to blog. Hope to catch up during the weekend (or earlier – who knows?)

The Goldie has spoken at 9:17 AM

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Fine Art of Writing a Horoscope

Like so many other programmers, I’ve been thinking about a career change lately. A lot of us want to get out before some dude from India comes over to helps us pack so he can sit at our desk. Plus, when you’ve been doing something for fifteen-plus years, it does get boring. Problem is, I haven’t figured out what I’d like to do instead. Today I got an idea as I’ve been checking the horoscopes on my pager.

I have this awesome pager that I got from work – the one you get all sorts of what it calls “news/info” – world news, sports news, stock market rates. It would be a really neat device if it didn’t go off in the middle of the night. Anyway, among other things, I get the daily horoscopes on this pager. I read them whenever I can. They are priceless. Just look at today’s. Today is Sunday, right? Watch this.

ARIES: Check the ads in the morning paper for bargains.
(Duh, that’s what the Sunday papers are for)
GEMINI: You receive spiritual inspiration.
(No way! Where do you go to get that?)
VIRGO: Harmonious aspects prevail today.
(And here I was expecting another stressful day in the office)
SCORPIO: You can find big bargains in big stores.
(See Aries for newspaper ads)

This is so good, I’ll just have to look at the rest of the week.
SAGITTARIUS: This day gets off to a good start.
(You get to sleep in)
CAPRICORN: A pleasant and rewarding day is indicated.
(11 AM, you get up…)
AQUARIUS: Your personal life is stimulating.
(… and go back to bed, if you know what I mean)
PISCES: Get out, accept invitations, and socialize.
(Saturday night. ‘Nuff said)

FRIDAY – The Happy Hour!
GEMINI: Unify your mind and muscles to work in harmony.
(Do you have to drink that much at a Happy Hour?)
CANCER: You may regret the social entertainment you have planned.
(Gee, what’s with everybody getting hammered today?)
SCORPIO: Youngsters must pay for their own mistakes now.
(What? The kids have been out drinking, too?)

TUESDAY – Work, work, work.
PISCES – Assume the leadership role.

You see what I mean? Now this is the job I want. Writing horoscopes. Hey, I’ll go ahead and write one for tomorrow right now. Watch me.

ARIES: Life sucks.
TAURUS: Everything hurts.
GEMINI: Must… have… coffee.
CANCER: Your job gives you ulcer.
ULCER: Uh, never mind.
LEO: Coworkers annoy you and irritate you.
VIRGO: Stay alert and awake during staff meeting.
LIBRA: Avoid interactions with middle management.
SCORPIO: Just in case you’re a kid, you hate school.
SAGITTARIUS: Your teachers are evil.
CAPRICORN: You are tired.
AQUARIUS: You want to go home.
PISCES: Did I say life sucks?

There you have it. Let me know tomorrow if it was true. Let me also know whether you would like to hire me to do this for you every day. Remember, the Indian dudes just don’t know how to write a really good horoscope! Whereas I do!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:37 PM

Saturday, January 22, 2005

This is the Sea of Blogs, and I’m Drowning!

Fortunately, the weather cooperated today (at least ten inches of snow, more to come down later), so I spent most of the day on the computer navigating through various blogs. The kids didn’t mind, as they were on their respective computers. At some point during the day one of their friends came over, used one of the computers for a few hours, and left. I hardly noticed. I was in Blogland.

The first thing I will say, I truly didn’t know what I was walking into when I decided to start my own blog a week ago! I mean, there are so many of them out there, and everybody’s so good at it, and they all somehow know each other and are linked into an enormous network, and oh by the way, all subjects that I’d been planning to blog on are already taken! Talk about intimidating! This reminds me of the day when I made my first post on my first forum five years ago – back then, I hadn’t known what I walked into, either! On the bright side, it all worked out well – I made new friends, and I even made a sort of a name for myself, and then we all got tired of the forum and left, and I’m not sure what’s been going on with the forum since. But we still stay in touch, which is I guess a good thing. I know I’ll be able to work through this one, too.

The most difficult thing that I’ve noticed so far is, you and your blog both have to fall into a certain category. It can be a right-wing blog. Or it can be a dem blog. Or a Mommy blog. It can be humorous, it can be a discussion-starter, it can have comments on the news, or book reviews, or movie reviews. It can be a parenting blog, or an Evangelical Christian blog. But it cannot be all of these things at once. Which really puzzles me, because I cannot choose just one category and stick to it. First of all, I want to talk about everything, the chatterbox that I am. And next, even though in real life I do indeed, more or less, belong to certain groups, I cannot really speak on behalf of any single one. Take, for example, the rep-dem dichotomy. I’ve looked closely into both, and I am not impressed with either. If anybody knows of a party that has nothing in common with either the reps or the dems, please let me know so I can join. In fact, parenting is the only thing I do feel strongly about. I am very pro attachment parenting and very much opposed to Gary Ezzo and the like. Maybe I should make this an AP blog? Naw, not a good idea. Because I just know that one of these days I will post something like “watched the new South Park with the kids yesterday, great ep”, and the AP moms will freak out and kick me out of their blogring, or whatever the proper terminology is. So my tactics for now is to just randomly ramble and see where it takes me.

I did find some really cool blogs while navigating and I want to share these with you. Let me start with an old online friend of mine, a fellow AP Mom, currently located in Kyiv, Ukraine, TulipGirl. She is, apparently, a VIP of the blogworld, so without any false modesty I will tell you that we’ve known each other for over a year and she once let me translate one of her articles into Russian. She has a very neat blog, too! From her site, I was able to link to a few more that caught my attention. I especially liked Jenn’s blog – very well done, consistent and thought-provoking. I bookmarked it and so should you. Somewhere on Tulip Girl’s page I found a link to ZeroBoss’s site – he’s hysterical! Make sure you check it out! And, of course, her husband has a blog of his own. While I am not 100% on the same page with him politically and theologically, I still consider him a worthy read. He’s witty, he’s funny, and you can always count on him to cover the latest Ukrainian news!

There are other neat blogs that I found, but I’ll tell you about them later as it’s past my bedtime. Good night, all.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:50 PM

Friday, January 21, 2005

This Week’s Reads

While I haven’t read anything earth-shattering this week, there are a few things worth recommending.

Kids’ books – yes, this is very embarrassing! I got into I11’s books that he’s been assigned to read for his Language Arts, and I couldn’t put them down until I read them cover to cover! Both books are by Rodman Philbrick. The first one I read is called “The Last Book in the Universe”. The first two chapters left me genuinely unimpressed. I even told I11 that the book was a rip off “Fahrenheit 451” (except I couldn’t remember the exact temperature and kept saying “911… oops, wrong”). Two hours later, I walked into I11’s room and told him that I was taking my words back. It is a very good quality fantasy/sci-fi. The plot is completely unpredictable and intense. A lot of action in that book. I liked it so much I went and got another book of the same author. The second book is called “Freak the Mighty” and it is the author’s first book for the younger readers. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other one, but it is still good and very sad. I’m going to check what other books this author has. Apparently he mainly writes for adults, not for the kids. Which is perfectly fine with me!

The December issue of the Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine – I got this magazine at I11’s magazine drive a year ago and I absolutely love it! It has short stories, medium-sized novels, and book reviews. Of course, most of what gets published aren’t exactly the genre’s masterpieces, but sometimes you stumble upon some real jewels. For me this week, it has been “Christmas in the Catskills”, a short story by Michael Libling. Good language, a plot worthy of a horror movie, a completely unexpected twist at the end, and a hint of a moral dilemma the main character is facing. The story ends in mid-air, making the reader think about it for days and wonder where the events might go from there. Highly recommended. Right now, I am in the middle of another publication from the same issue – “The Bad Hamburger”, by Matt Jarpe and Jonathan Andrew Sheen. It is a suspense novel with a sci/fi twist. I’m liking it so far.

“Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – just got started on that one. It was recommended by an online friend. Apparently, this is some wise advice for wimps like me that cannot say “no” and are easily manipulated by feelings of guilt. I will let you know how it goes.

This is all so far… more to follow!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:44 PM

Shameless brag? Nope, shameless plug!

I had a great time yesterday. I had dinner with, you know… these guys. They are an awesome group, we talked about everything and had a blast. You can always count on these guys being good company. You know the ones I mean. I had dinner with a bunch of people from my local Mensa group. There, I said it.

I’ve been a member for a year now. Apparently, to mention your membership in public is considered very bad taste. I don’t get it. Probably because I believe that everyone I know, with one or two possible exceptions, would qualify, if only they took the test or pulled up their old high school or college test results. But they won’t. Because evidently, for some reason, Mensa has a bad rap with the general public. Which I think is very sad, because it really is an awesome group of people. To tell you the truth, when I joined, I didn’t expect much either.

I joined because of I11. I11 is what they now call a gifted child, which means he’s really weird and really into computers and electronics. This also means that, when I11 is bored, he’s prone to causing an unbelievable amount of trouble. After several years of struggle with his elementary school teachers, I decided that I had to keep his mind entertained at all times. I started reading books on raising gifted children, and one of them, “The Gifted Kids Survival Guide” , mentioned enrolling your child into Mensa as a good way to keep him or her busy. Except you couldn’t take the test until you were 14, and the enrollment process is very complicated for young kids. So, since I couldn’t enroll I11, I figured I’d see if I could get in myself, which would allow me to bring I11 to their events. That was how I got in. My friends warned me that I’d be bored to death, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

I admit that joining did improve my self-esteem, but not because I now consider myself smarter than most. I don’t. It’s because prior to that, I used to consider myself less intelligent than most. Let’s face it, I’m a blonde. You know how hard it is being a tall blonde with an European accent in a profession that essentially pays people for being smart? Each time I change jobs, takes me about a year just to prove to my end users, my management and my coworkers that my brain is actually functioning, just because they tend to make assumptions based on the looks. My family wasn’t helping either. My parents are perfectionists, and I am their only child who can never do anything right. Needless to say, they were the first people I showed my membership card to. It did bring them down a notch. And I finally got some well-deserved respect from my husband, as well!

But, more importantly, I am now not afraid to try new things. I used to be scared to death of screwing up, so I wouldn’t even try any new activities or learn anything new. Now I am confident that, most likely, I will succeed to some extent. And, even if I do screw up, it isn’t the end of the world. Life has never been so much fun since I left college!

Back to the group I met yesterday. I don’t know these people very well as we’ve only met at the few events my family has been able to attend. But I like them! How can you not like people that can make playing board games feel like the most fun you’ve ever had in your life? I still don’t know how they do it. Generally, board games bore me to sleep, but not when I’m with these guys! And, they sure can carry a conversation!

So if you’re reading this… log on to the Mensa website, sign up for a test, dig out your old test scores and send them in… and join already! You’ll be glad you did!

The Goldie has spoken at 9:45 AM

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ready for the Weekend!

It's been a long week.

Monday - don't remember much of it. Spent most of the day trying to stay awake.

Tuesday - a Dad of K9's classmate called our home number, asking for K9. He wanted to talk about the disciplinary issues his son has been having lately. This is the second call K9 gets from this family. Apparently, the boy likes K9 and keeps trying to talk to him in class, which results in detentions for both of them. The parents, no doubt after a long discussion and hours of research, decided that K9 is being a bad influence on their son and the only way to solve the problem is for them to call K9 directly and give him the what for. Fortunately, this time I was the one that answered the phone. I'm still wondering how they came up with the idea.

Wednesday - got into yet another fight with my parents about (what else) raising K9. They babysit him on weekdays. They used to babysit both kids, but have already given up on I11. They think I'm doing it wrong, I think they're doing it wrong, they think I don't care about him, I think they're spoiling him rotten. So we both yell at each other while K9 is sitting quietly in his room playing computer games. Except this time I added new flavor to the game by telling them, "A. and I have been watching you and K9 and thinking about it, and we've decided we need to have a third child". I can't believe my parents didn't even wait for the punchline on that one - I was going to tell them: "because that's the only way to stop you from treating K9 like a baby"! Except I never got to, because they got all scared and hysterical and all serious-like and started asking me rhetorical questions such as: "Do you want us dead?" It all quickly evolved into a screaming contest from there. And to think that I was trying to give them a good laugh! Sheesh.

Today - good so far, except for the part when a recruiter called me five minutes ago, and we launched into the usual routine. You know, the one where a recruiter calls you at work, and you're sharing the cube with five other people, and he's asking you, "so how much did you say you make?", and you tell him that you cannot talk at your desk and will call him back in a minute from a different number, and he says okay, and you race into a meeting room and close the door, and by the time you've dialed the recruiter's number... he's gone. Happens to me all the time. I don't know how they do it. I guess they just take off running as soon as they hang up. Makes you wonder why they call in the first place. Must be some sort of game they play when they're bored at work.

But none of this really matters, because I am going out tonight and I'm working from home tomorrow! I'm going to disconnect the phone and ask my parents to please not visit us just for this one day, and I'm going to call the recruiter back and put him on speaker and play some nice hip-hop music in the background, and after I'm done, I'll disconnect that phone again. I just know it's going to be a terrific Friday, followed by a fabulous weekend!

The Goldie has spoken at 2:22 PM

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Confession: Me No Speaka English

Okay, it's been three days since I've created my blog and I am still sitting in front of it, too chicken to post something. I've consulted with a friend of mine and he advises me to come clean, so here goes. English is my second language, I've only been in the country eight years, I've never taken any courses in writing. There, I said it. So, while I will probably make few grammatical errors, you should very likely expect a lot of bad style. Heck, I only found out two weeks ago what a "run-on sentence" is!

I'm here to learn and improve, so if you catch anything that's bad writing style, please feel free to correct. On my behalf, I promise I will read I11's Language Arts handouts religiously - hopefully I will learn something from them! Who knows, I may take a writing class at a local community college yet, if I have the time!

With that in mind, let's start already.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:25 PM

Monday, January 17, 2005

Kids Naming Notation

I've been thinking about how I'm going to refer to my two sons on this site. Because it's inevitable - I know I'll be talking about them. After giving it a lot of thought, I have finally decided to use the same notation an online friend of mine uses - the first letter of the first name, followed by age. Please allow me to introduce my children, I11 and K9 (I know... tough luck for K9... but he'll only have to put up with this name until he's ten!)

The Goldie has spoken at 7:25 PM

Well, hi there!

If you are reading this, congratulations! You have now entered my suburban world, so sit back, grab a bag of popcorn, and observe me trying to navigate through life in midwestern suburbia.

No, seriously, thanks for stopping by and please come back! I'll try to keep this site updated and the readers entertained at all times!

Talk at ya later,

The Goldie has spoken at 12:58 PM

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