Sunday, February 27, 2005

Happy Birthday, I12!

Warning: This post contains some strong language and may not be suitable for children. Parental guidance is advised.

I have the stomac
flu and it’s

What it’s like to have the damn flu:
Temp is about 100 degrees ferranhight.
Your head, neck, and throught hurt like hell.
You can’t think.
When you wake up, your mouth feels like SHIT.
Eat the wrong thing and you puke.
You’re always weak. You move as fast as a 70 year old.
You can threaten people with it.

My son taped this note to the door of his room yesterday. On his 12th birthday.

Talk about bad luck.

We were going to have a party. I invited six families, three said that they would come. They all have boys my sons’ age and we spend a lot of weekends and vacations together. One said that they wouldn’t be able to come, but would drop their son off. All in all, it was going to be a good party. I spent all week getting ready, cleaning house, buying the food. Friday night, I was supposed to start cooking. As soon as I walked in the door and took one look at I12, I realized that not everything was going according to my plans. He had a 103 fever, and threw up all over our living room carpet just as we were done vacuuming it. I spent an hour cleaning the carpet and another hour on the phone canceling the kids’ visits. (The parents still came and we had a great time. K9 was over at his friend’s for the entire day).

In the meantime, I12 went on the Internet to do some research. He came back with the results twenty minutes later.

- Mom, I’ve got the flu.
- Gee, how’d you find out?
- I read about it on the Internet.

I12 is feeling better now, and happy about all the cash he got for his birthday. Initially, I was going to write a post about what a great guy I12 is, how smart and funny, and about the twelve entertaining years we’ve spent together. But when I saw his note, I decided that posting it would be way funnier. So there you have it.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:58 AM

Honey, I Evangelized the Kids

I have an old friend who sometimes sends me some really thought-provoking stuff. Well, he doesn’t really send it to me, but I am on the mailing list – they are basically broadcast messages, which allows me to quote them freely in my posts. I’m going to start today. My friend is a pastor in our home town in Russia. With the help of an American missionary organization (Campus Crusade I believe), in the early 90’s, he founded a church and is heading that church now. From what I gather, the church is very Americanized. The last broadcast mail I got contained some prayer requests that had me shaking my head in disbelief.

One is about a 23-year-old young man whom I have never met, that has graduated from a John McArthur’s college in Russia and is currently on the Moscow staff for the Campus Crusade. He wants to quit and relocate to join my friend’s church. Which is of course commendable. The line that got me thinking was, “he has got a good salary, a personal chauffeur and all those things that the world admires”. Think about it for a moment. A man working for an American mission, whose job is to convert people to Christianity. Working in a country that has been predominantly Christian since 988 AD. In Moscow, no less, - a city that has more Orthodox churches than the American South has Baptist colleges. Being paid all this cash, plus the company car use, plus the personal chaffeur’s salary, and so on and so forth. And there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, others like him on the staff. And all this money is, I assume, coming in from donations of some middle class families, who are being pushed and prodded to faithfully tithe, because “the work of the Lord is more important than your retirement account” (roughly quoting The Purpose Driven Life).

What a waste. It saddens me greatly just to think about this.

Now, I know that Tulipgirl will be reading this (smile), so let me explain here. I don’t have anything against missions, per se. Our church supports a mission in India that I think is doing a great job. They feed the hungry, they provide support for the local Christians that are persecuted… you can read more about it on my church’s website (the link is on the sidebar). It’s when the mission consists purely of converting people from one Christian confession to another… and when the people doing it are living high… now, that bothers me.

The second request was on a more personal level. Another classmate of ours, I’ll call him X, has relocated back to our home town with his family. X was one of the nicest guys in class. In truth, I’ve always wanted my sons to act like X in school. The best thing about him was that he didn’t belong to any group or clique – he was doing his own thing. It goes without saying that half the girls in class had a crush on X (I didn’t – he was just too far above my league – but we talked a lot). My friend that wrote the letter – and I’ll call him N, or else this post will get super confusing – anyway, N and X were best friends in school and always hung out together. Well, now that X is back in town with his wife and kids, the first thing he did was call his old buddy N. You have probably already guessed what N wants to do. Yep, convert X.

Now, if I believed what N did – that saying and doing certain things will automatically get you into Heaven, whereas not saying and doing these things will, again automatically, get you into Hell – I’d probably be all for converting X myself. Right now, however, I am conflicted on the issue. I am not sure if the salvation process is as automatic as the CCC used to tell us. I mean, this is God we’re talking about. This is not some, I don’t know, subway tourniquet, where you insert your ticket, and it lets you pass, or you don’t insert your ticket and try to get in, and the doors slam on you. Please don’t tell me this world was created by a subway tourniquet. It’s got to be more complicated than that. That’s one thing.

Second thing is, exactly how do you convert a 38-year-old? I don’t mean, “present him with the material and expose him to your way of life and let him think and make his own decisions”. I mean the way I’ve seen people converted – “push him and prod him and don’t let him go until he says the sinner’s prayer”. Granted, it worked on me. But I was 21, and the Iron Curtain had just fallen, and it was our first exposure to any religion other than Atheism. And I wouldn’t be still sticking around if I hadn’t analyzed and reanalyzed my faith and come to my own conclusions (switching denominations in the process). There were a lot of us converted by CCC in the late 80’s – early 90’s. Most of these people are no longer in any way, shape of form confessing Christians. They forgot all about it a long time ago.

Back to our hypothetical 38-year-old. By this time, the person has probably done a lot of thinking, and made his own conclusions, and telling him, “You’ve got to convert to blah” is the same as saying, “I’m smarter than you are, and I know better than you do”. Can you predict the reaction? I am honestly worried. I can just imagine my old buddy N, coming on to his old buddy X with all the subtlety of a Herbalife salesman, and losing his friend in the process. Knowing both men personally, this makes me sad.

If I had the nerve to speak my mind to N, I would say, "Do not come right out trying to convert X. Furthermore, do not think you’re on a mission from God to convert him. It is not up to you to make X believe one thing or the other. It is up to God. Leave it to Him. As far as X goes – just do what you did when you were both teenage kids. Just be a friend. Think of it as “friendship evangelism”, if you want to. This is the best thing you can do". But of course, I’ll never work up the courage to say these things to N, and, even if I do, N will not listen. He is not, after all, asking for advice. He's asking us to pray that God helps him convert X, the sooner the better.

Some day, I’ll tell you about a guy here in our area who spent a year and a half trying to convert me and my family from Orthodoxy into a evangelical denomination. For now, I’ve got to run.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:42 AM

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lots of Teen Angst

Driving the kids to school this morning.

I11: (says something really funny)
I: See, “K”, that's what I like about “I” – it’s so much fun talking with him.
I11: Oh sh!t, then I’m not talking anymore.
K9: Cool, I’ll talk.
(I11 stays quiet for about two minutes, then joins in the conversation)
K9: “I”, how come you’re talking?
I11 (good-naturedly): Oh, shut up.
(Later, we drop K9 off and proceed to I11’s school)
I11: You know, one time, I drank alcohol.
I: When?
I11: When you and Dad weren’t home, I took some beer from the fridge, and I drank it.
I: I don’t think so. You wouldn’t be able to handle the taste.
I11: What’s it taste like?
I: (cracking up)
I11: Oh cr@p! I forgot! I forgot what it tastes like.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:08 PM

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Reading Game

Arethusa is passing this game on.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

So, here's mine. I cheated and turned to page 125 because 123 and 124 were blank.

If you go into too much depth trying to understand how a technology works, you can find yourself with no time left to do anything with it. Not enough depth, and your application of the technology will become nothing more than applying formulas based on the same programs that other people wrote. This is fine if what you are trying to accomplish matches the sample.

Wow, this actually makes sense...

The Goldie has spoken at 11:06 AM

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Updates and Funnies

Update: Nope, I was not banned from the mailing list! The server did crash, right after my email to the list had posted! What are the odds, huh? Well, anyway, as of today, it's back up again!

Funny: This actually belongs in the "awww, how cute" category. Today, my Dad posted on a forum for the first time in his life. He needed it for his college class (yes, my both parents are taking community college classes, are they cool or what?) Anyway, he asked me to help with the post, so I did, we submitted it and then pulled it up. As I walk out of the room, I hear Dad call out to Mom, "come here, take a look at our website!" Awwww.

At the rate they're going, soon they'll have a blog of their own... our family is so going to conquer the blogosphere!..

The Goldie has spoken at 8:25 PM

The Last Parenting Book in The Universe, by… (read on)

Fair warning: This post contains some controversial material that may cost me a few readers. If you choose to continue, please fasten your seat belts and remain calm. Just in case, do not eat or drink while reading this post.

My blog has taken on a life of its own. I feel an uncontrollable urge to post, when I should be, in fact, cleaning house, as I have guests coming over on Saturday. Being a wimp, I’ve given in to the urge.

With all the parenting discussions going on in the blogosphere lately – I have already mentioned Tulipgirl’s posts, and now Cattiva (here and here) and Reid at Orthodox Heresy have posted some great material – I figure it’s time for me to jump on the bandwagon. Here’s what I’ve been thinking. If we were told that we, meaning the humanity, are only allowed to write one more book on parenting and that’s it (because, frankly, there is far too much of that stuff floating around), who would be the best person or group to write it?

Please feel free to share your choices. I, just in case you wanted to know, choose Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Yep, the South Park guys. I’m probably very far off, because I learn from these fine men daily. I’ve read a lot of literature on parenting, but few made as much sense to me as these guys’ show.

My entire parenting philosophy can be summed up in one sentence: one day our children will move out, and that day comes sooner than we think. I know, because I moved out at 17. My parents are hard workers and perfectionists and, when raising me, they leaned on the stricter side of things. And in the first few years after I left home, I’d done some pretty stupid things just because my parents weren’t looking. Now when my boys move out, I want them to know very well how to use that round thing on their shoulders. Because, let’s face it, I grew up in a totalitarian country. I didn’t have much chance to screw up. I could get really drunk, or I could get pregnant, or I could get VD, but that was basically it. Whereas here in the US, the opportunities are endless.

Back to Matt and Trey and their show. I am a huge fan. For the longest time, I didn’t watch, because I didn’t want to go though the motions of hiding from my kids to watch a movie. I only started in 2003, right before the new season came out in the fall. Aside from a few really asinine episodes, the show resonates. It shows the kids, same age as my own boys, that act pretty much like my own boys and their classmates. The show then exposes these kids to all sorts of issues, makes them analyze what they’re seeing, and come to their own conclusions. Plus, it is really, really funny. I like that in a show!

And, as a stern warning for us parents, there is the brainless adult community of South Park. The way these people think and react is nothing short of brilliant, and, unfortunately, very often too close to reality. For parents like me who lean towards being permissive, know it, and try not to do it, there is an all-time permissive Mom, Mrs. Cartman, along with the end result of her parenting, the lovable Eric. For parents that believe in a firm hand, there is a phrase they can use: “Respect my authoritah!” Hey, I use it all the time, and I don’t even believe that much in a firm hand!

I love the show, and I will defend it to the hilt. In fact, I already have. In the past, I’ve been asked questions such as, “Would you reflect on how watching a show like South Park can be consistent with your walk in the Lord?” and I reflected and responded the best I could (in case you need the question translated, it actually means: "real Christians don't watch South Park, so shame on you", which is not technically a question, but I responded anyway). So if you have anything against the show, bring it on.

Here are my fourteen favorite eps (was going to be ten, but it was so hard to choose):

14. Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boatride – I swear, this episode has changed the way I looked at the entire gay issue. Sparky the dog is irresistible.

13. An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig – this one is just funny. Not ejumacational or anything, just very, very funny.

12. Rainforest Shmainforest – K9 was very impressed and wanted to give a lecture about it in school. I managed to talk him out of it.

11. The Succubus – just plain hysterical. “There’s got to be a morning after…” Priceless.

10. Chinpokomon – every American kid needs to see that one. “This doesn't make sense. Are those stupid things supposed to be animals or robots or what?!" - "I don't know, but I suddenly kinda wanna own them all.” So true.

9. Cartman Joins NAMBLA – funny and then there’s this piece at the end:

Lead Agent: [to NAMBLA Leader] We've been after you for a long time, buddy! Do you know your rights?
NAMBLA Leader: Rights? Does anybody know their rights? You see, I've learned something today. [Stan and Kyle look at each other] Our forefathers came to this country because… they believed in an idea. An idea called "freedom." They wanted to live in a place where a group couldn't be prosecuted for their beliefs. Where a person can live the way he chooses to live. [Stan, Kyle, and Cartman look at each other] You see us as being perverted because we're different from you. People are afraid of us, because they don't understand. And sometimes it's easier to persecute than to understand. [Stan and Kyle look at each other, then at the NAMBLA leader]
Kyle: Dude. You have sex with children.
NAMBLA Leader: We are human. Most of us didn't even choose to be attracted to young boys. We were born that way. We can't help the way we are, and if you all can't understand that, well, then, I guess you'll just have to put us away.
Kyle: [slowly, for emphasis] Dude. You have sex with children.
Stan: Yeah. You know, we believe in equality for everybody, and tolerance, and all that gay stuff, but dude, f*** you.
Kyle: Seriously.

8. Fat Camp – funny. Just funny.

7. The Return of the Lord of the Rings to Two Towers – classic. You just have to see it. Sorry, no script available. If you liked LOTR, you're gonna love this.

6. Cancelled – my personal favorite. I love it.

5. Christian Rock Hard – so true, both about the music downloads and about the cheesy Christian rock (there, I said it).

4. All About the Mormons – what I said about using your brain. A must see.

3. It’s Christmas in Canada – very nice, very sweet.

2. Douche and Turd – best coverage of the 2004 election I’ve seen this far. It airs tonight at 10, so hurry, you may still catch it!

1. Woodland Critter Christmas – a lot to learn from this one. Let's just say things are not always what they seem.

The new season is coming out soon. I plan on posting reviews, if I can stay up that late. If I can’t, then I plan on watching the new eps on DVR some days later and posting belated reviews. That way, at least, I won’t spoil it for anyone, because everyone will have already seen them.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:55 PM

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What Goldie says about… Ezzo

Tulipgirl has her last installment out, called “What Ezzo Says About Punishment”. She also says that a “relevant discussion” is going on at this blog (among others), so I thought I couldn’t let her down.

In truth, I don’t have first-hand experience with Ezzo’s parenting material. I’ve never used it. So why do you ask am I against it? I guess because I have heard a lot about it; it seems to be very popular in my home town; and it makes very little sense to me. An old classmate of mine discovered it in the early 90’s, and introduced it in his church. He offered to give me a copy, but, after a brief introduction, I said I’d pass. I didn’t like it that Ezzo, in essence, teaches to punish toddlers for exploring. Ten years later, I read the Babywise/Toddlerwise books, and he indeed does come down pretty hard on the concept of “exploring”, probably thinking that this is some wacko Liberal term for letting your kids get away with murder. Except that my two boys were allowed to explore fairly freely – as freely as they could without hurting themselves or each other - and now both of them are in the gifted program – amazing coincidence?

The other two things that discouraged me from even considering Ezzo were the statements from my friend to the effect of “we don’t know how it works – it just does” and “it only works if you follow it exactly like it says, with no changes or exceptions”. But the biggest scare came when I went to visit my friend’s church, two weeks after his little nephew was born. The church was in a two- or three-story building and the service was on the first floor. Sometime during a break, I wandered off to take a better look around. I ended up on the second floor, in a long hallway, with rooms on one side. No one else was on the floor but me. The rooms had glass doors, and behind one of them, I saw a baby carriage, and a note on the door:

Please do not come in.
There is a baby sleeping in this room.
Thank you.

I only had one son at that time, 16 months old, but I already knew enough about babies to get spooked out of my mind! I didn’t come into the room, though. Feeling completely unreal, I turned around, went back into the fellowship room, and didn’t mention it to anybody. A year later, I got pregnant with my second and discovered Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book”. I tried it on my kids and it worked beautifully. That is not to say I’d never backslidden – I was a very unexperienced mother and we were going through all sorts of hardships during that period – but I tried my best to stick to AP.

For a long time, I didn’t know the name or the author of the “fabulous American book” that my friend had tried to tell me about. Then in late 2003, I did some research, and with Tulipgirl’s help, I found out that it was indeed Gary Ezzo’s GKGW! My friend’s family, as it turns out, are certified Ezzo trainers. I emailed him and he asked me to read the books in order to have an opinion of my own. I did, and I now have a very strong opinion. In return, I asked him to read Dr. Sears. He didn’t, and he didn’t say he ever would. Here’s my opinion (as if somebody asked).

In his "Various Wise's"/GKGW materials, Gary Ezzo has accomplished a seemingly impossible task of going against everything that I believe in, while remaining my fellow Christian. He targets first-time, young, unexperienced parents, and he lays the guilt on thick. He plays on every first-time parent's fear of spoiling their child. Using the name of God, he harasses the new parents into following his methodics to a T, and, if it doesn’t work for them, he says that they either didn’t follow the correct techniques closely enough, or they followed them too closely (“legalists”). He alienates the parents from their own children, preventing them from forming a bond. He makes it impossible for the children to get any intellectual stimulation, teaching them instead to rigidly follow the rules set by the book. To be honest, the materials don’t provide a whole lot of intellectual stimulation for the parents, either. The end goal is a “like-minded” community much like the one in “1984”. I, on the other hand, work hard towards teaching my children to be independent thinkers, able to analyze whatever the world throws at them, and not accept anything blindly on faith. (Yes, we believe in God, but let’s face it – you have to either believe in God, or believe that He doesn’t exist. Either way, you have to take a leap of faith. There’s no other choice). The day will come when they are out on their own, and I am not around, and there will be no “like-minded community” to help them choose between right and wrong. On that day, they need to be able to think for themselves. With that in mind, GKGW is not the right way for me.

I’ve heard people come down very harshly on Mr. Ezzo. I’ve heard people say that Satan uses him to divide Christians. That he is some sort of evil incarnate. I disagree. I suspect the man is in it entirely for the money. Let’s face it, he’s running a very successful business. He probably doesn’t realize, or doesn’t want to realize, the ramifications of what he’s doing. Reminds me of a little kid at a nuclear power plant, going: “Oooh! What’s this button do?” (BTW, I would never, ever, allow my children to explore freely at a nuclear power plant!)

I just hope for our own good that GKGW does not gain enough popularity. It can wreak havoc if it gets out of control. We can end up with either a generation of rebels on our hands, or, worse, with a generation of like-minded zombies. Realistically, I do not think this will ever happen. The product just doesn’t sell well enough.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:09 PM

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Wacky Weekend

It has been an eventful weekend, I guess.

Here’s a brief review of what happened, along with some insightful thoughts.

1) Saturday morning, K9 and I had to get up at 7:30 because he had a basketball game at 9. So, in addition to a bad cough (remains of the flu I had last week) and being on call (got two calls in the middle of the night during the week), I didn’t even get to sleep in on Saturday! Needless to say, I felt pretty fuzzy during the game, whereas the other parents looked very well-rested and were cheering like crazy for their third- and fourth-graders. The Dads in particular were screaming their heads off. I sat next to a little old lady, trying to stay awake. At the end of the game, the lady turns to me and says, “I feel sorry for these poor kids!” And I, in my half-awake state that somehow prompted me to speak my mind, replied, “I’d really like to take all these middle-aged guys that are yelling right now, get them out on the field, and have them play against each other”. I swear I meant to say it in a really quiet voice – I didn’t mean it to carry across the entire gym! Every single Dad in the room turned around and looked at me… very embarrassing. I was half expecting them to team up and beat me up after the game. But they didn’t, no doubt due to my irresistible charm.

2) This morning on the way to church, we drive past this police station, right? In the driveway, there’s a police car trying to get out. Except, since he doesn’t have his turn signal on, and since it’s, well, a police car, everybody thinks it’s a speed trap, so when people drive past the guy, everybody slows down, which means he cannot get out. Took him forever to pull out of there. Made our day.

3) I decided to be proactive today and brought my laptop to church, so in case I get a call, I can dial in from there. I was so proud of myself until I realized I’d left my cell and pager at home, therefore wouldn’t be able to get any calls. Takes a special kind of blonde, huh?

4) Just an observation – have you ever noticed how difficult it is to do housework when it’s winter and it is cold in the house and you are wearing warm clothes? Like, two sweaters and a pair of leggings and a pair of sweatpants on top? I just used that as an excuse to quit cleaning the house and get back on my computer. I will return to my scheduled cleaning sometime in May.

5) Another observation – if you want to spend quality time with your children… get in the car together and take them someplace far. You will have a fascinating conversation together, as long as they cannot get out.

6) Final observation – Sunday evening feels so much better when you know you have Monday off! Hooray!

The Goldie has spoken at 7:08 PM

Reflections on My First Month in the Blogosphere

Well, it’s been a month since I have started this blog. I’ve got to admit, this has been a lot harder than I had imagined, and also a lot more fun! I didn’t know there was so much interaction in the blogosphere – it’s a community much like a forum, only of course with a lot more content and substance to it.

I also didn’t know that it would take up so much of my time, or that it would be so difficult to come up with a post that is of interest to anyone beside myself, or that everything that I had planned to say on this site, has been said by thousands of people already, so I’m going to have to think of something new.

I have a confession to make. While SC&A have repeatedly stated that we should blog for fun, and not for other, lowly motives, when I started this blog, it wasn’t to play or have fun. I started it to see if I could write; if I could say things that would be heard; and to find out what exactly these things would be, i.e., out of all the topics I can post on, what would be of most interest to a reader. The reason why I am trying to determine all these things is because, in a nutshell, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Let me explain.

When I was a kid, I did well in almost all subjects in school, but I liked the humanities more (not counting the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – no one in their right mind would enjoy studying *that*!) By 7th grade, I had decided that I wanted to be a journalist; specifically, that I wanted to cover the events around the world, as opposed to inside the country. Unfortunately, reality interfered. Being a journalist stationed abroad was considered an ultimate cushy job in the USSR, and you had to have serious connections if you wanted to get into a school for a degree in that. My family, needless to say, had no connections at all. On top of it, we were ethnic Jews, and in the 70’s Soviet Union, it was impossible for an ethnic Jew to be accepted at any of the more prestigious schools, the reasoning behind it being that they would get a free education and then leave the country. (As a result, most of the ethnic Jews still managed to get some sort of education, and left the country). My only option was to become an engineer. That’s what everybody in our circles ended up doing. Engineering jobs didn’t pay well, but they still required a college degree, so there was some status attached.

When I was 16, my Dad asked me if I wanted to be a programmer. My response was along the lines of “Wuzzat all about?” It was 1983, we lived in a small town, and none of us had ever seen a computer. According to Dad, however, programming was a convenient mix of what I enjoyed doing (languages) and what it was possible for me to get an education in (math). So I went to school to be a programmer. It was considered a low-status job, I got into a good university with minimum effort, and went on to be a programmer at a manufacturing plant for a meager wage.

I was totally looking forward to a life of semi-interesting work and minimal pay, as was everybody else I had graduated with. How were we to know that we had struck oil? After four years of low-wage work, followed by four years of unemployment, I came to the US right at the beginning of the IT boom. I got an entry-level job right away. I loved what I was doing, and put in crazy hours to learn more. Three years and three jobs later, I ended up at my current place of work – stable company, good pay. I have been here five years. Time to sit back and enjoy life? I wish. All of a sudden, I’ve started making some unpleasant observations about my field of work in general. I shared my thoughts with a few fellow women programmers across the country and they told me they had come to the same conclusions as I did.

For instance, I suddenly realized that picking up an entirely new technology – something that I enjoyed doing in my younger days and something that you have to do every five to seven years if you want to remain in the field – is a lot harder when you are in your late 30’s than when you’re 25-30 years old. I realized that there are very few women over 40, let alone 50, still working in IT. I realized that, while right now I am still technically capable of putting in the extra time that working in my field requires, I’d rather spend that time with my family; and that, some ten-twelve years down the road, I may not be able to put in that extra time at all, due to my age. I realized that practically all coding jobs are going overseas, and that I don’t care because (another realization) I do not enjoy coding as much as I used to. The fun has gone out of it. On the bright side, I began to really enjoy the analytical and the people side of things. But bottom line is, right now I have no idea where I want to be or where I will be five years from now. I cannot even look for another job because I have no clue what position to interview for. And it seems like there are thousands of us out there – intelligent, educated women in their late 30’s – early 40’s, with 15-20 years of IT experience, who have no idea what to do with their lives, aside from the fact that they want to change something. I am saying “women”, because the guys I’ve talked to seem pretty happy where they are. Of course, all women that I have talked to are in agreement that we cannot very well drop everything, quit our jobs, go to school to learn something else, and start over. There are a lot of logistics involved – you know, family, mortgage, college savings… We bring in decent money, and our families are counting on us to continue doing that while we can.

That said, right now I am trying to figure out what to do and which direction to go. In what I can only call a wild flash of female logic, I decided to start my blog to help me find that out. Don’t ask me what my reasoning was behind this; I don’t remember. On some intuitive level, it still makes sense to me in a crazy sort of way. I mean, there are some things I post here that generate an insane (for me, anyway) number of hits – why? Then there are other things I post that nobody seems to care for – again, why? I have a feeling that one day, somehow all my experience with this blog will add up and help me find out what I’m good at.

Then again, maybe it won’t. And in the meantime, this blog has taken over my life. Never before have I spent so much time on my computer at nights and on weekends, unless it was required by my job. My husband is starting to act suspiciously grumpy and I’m worried. I don’t want him to divorce me over a blog, you know? So I guess I’m going to try to keep a low profile, maybe not post as frequently as I have during this first month, and essentially do it for fun rather than as some kind of research of my skills. I think I’ll take it slow and see what happens.

One thing I hadn’t expected to find here when I started this was the blogosphere community (yes, I know I’ve said this before, but it is worth saying again). It is an awesome phenomenon. As opposed to the “general discussion” forums, where there had always been a thought at the back of our minds that we were some kind of losers, chatting on the Internet when everybody else was out partying (maybe because we didn’t have enough bandwidth to really get our thoughts out, and maybe because half of us really were – oops! – losers), this is truly a forum in the ancient Greek sense of the word – a place where intelligent, educated people meet to share their thoughts and experiences. The quality of my reading has improved greatly since I got here. I am awed and humbled. I plan on sticking around, because there’s just too much good reading material to miss!

Well, now you know how I got here and what I found (and the fact that I don’t plan on going away). This time, I would really like to see some comments. Do you know anyone like myself, that wants to get into a different line of work but doesn’t know exactly what it should be? Or, are you such a person? What advice would you give to me and other women like myself? Is this all some kind of a midlife crisis normally cured by therapy, or are we really on to something? Why do you blog? Why you think should anybody blog? Please feel free to share your thoughts, and I thank you in advance.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:25 PM

Saturday, February 19, 2005

K9's question of the day

I'm handing my keyboard over to my son, because he has a question...

why do ppl sell fast cars ??? u need a car that wont get u arrested for speeding 60 miles over the speed limit :D And yet still car sales have been making over 80 million bucks (i think im not really sure) Its VERY confusing 2 me plz e-mail me or.....just post on here i guess.................. buy all see u next time w/ another question

The Goldie has spoken at 2:50 PM

The Man Who Ticks Me Off: Gary Ezzo

Tulipgirl has posted a great series on my least-favorite expert on parenting, Gary Ezzo, and his works. The first three installments can be found here, here, and here. Stay tuned for the fourth and last installment! Make sure you read the comments, there are some very interesting discussions going on!

The Goldie has spoken at 2:44 PM

Friday, February 18, 2005

Time for Friday Laffs!

Check this out

I hope everybody has a great weekend!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:33 PM

Pro-tattle vs. Anti-tattle

I have a bad feeling. I think I got banned from a mailing list that I have just joined two weeks ago. Either that, or their server went down right after I sent out my last email on Wednesday night, because I haven’t gotten anything from them since (used to average 50 emails a day from that list).

The list is dedicated to a certain parenting issue, and I joined it because I needed information on that issue (which, BTW, I have already received from them). For the most part, I’ve been reading the emails and staying quiet, until on Wednesday somebody started a discussion about tattling. I’ll be very brief so as to preserve the privacy of everyone involved, but the main theme of the discussion was that the word “tattling” is outdated and biased; that “tattling” is not necessarily a bad thing, and is similar to whistleblowing, or: taking an active position, or: speaking up against the unjustices of this world.

I happen to have a very strong opinion on the issue, so I kept quiet as long as I could. Then I finally opened my big mouth and sent out a brief email. Like I said, I haven’t received anything from that list since (in fact, I have already asked to unsubscribe me, since I already got the info I needed).

Here’s the email that possibly got me in trouble:

“Thank you! I've been waiting all day for a response like yours!!!! In my 9yo's class, there are 20 kids and everybody tattles on everyone else for everything under the sun! It is so annoying! The teacher BTW, seems OK with the tattling. She called me at work last week to tell me about two things. One, she says, "people tell me that your son and his two best friends have a club". Sheesh. Don't "people" have anything better to do? And the other one was about how a girl overheard my son telling his friend, "In Russia, if you tattle, you get beat up" so guess what? she tattled about that!

This is a serious issue with our family, we do indeed come from Russia. In our home country, millions of people died in the 1930's because they were reported to the KGB by their neighbors, friends, coworkers. We teach our boys that they can only tell on other people if somebody's life or health is in danger. Definitely not for pulling grass. I'm the same way. If my neighbor is running up and down the street waving an ax - yes I will call the police. But if my neighbor didn't mow his lawn - you bet I'm not calling anybody”.

I tried being brief and impersonal, so I left out a lot of things. I didn’t tell them about a sweet old lady that I knew in my college days. Her father died in the 1930's when she was 20. He was a professor and a head of a department, and another man wanted his job. So what the man did was, he sent a report to the KGB, stating that he had seen this woman’s father walking down the street on the day of October Revolution anniversary, singing “God bless the tzar” (the old Russian anthem). Her Dad was immediately arrested, and sent to labor camp at Belomorkanal, where he died of TB a few months later.

Neither did I tell them about a woman that I worked with in the late 80's - early 90's. She had lost her previous job after her coworker found a copy of samizdat in her desk (a book that was banned in the USSR and had been Xeroxed illegally at somebody’s house). When she went to the bathroom, the coworker walked up to her desk, opened the drawer, found the book, and notified the authorities. It took my friend forever to find another job, because, even though she was smart and a hard worker, nobody had the courage to hire a person with a KGB record. I also didn’t tell them about the time my Dad found out that his best friend was an informer for the KGB. I tried to keep it short and sweet, you know.

But bottom line is, I feel very strongly about tattling, reporting, whistleblowing, or whatever it is called today. Don’t get me wrong – I will call the police if somebody’s life is in danger (a lot of Russians I know actually wouldn’t). But I see reporting as a very powerful weapon that can be extremely dangerous when misused. I will not use it unless it’s absolutely necessary. Whereas a lot of people here in America seem to see it as a normal part of our lives.

I know people that would tell on their coworker as easily as they would ask, “Hi, how you’re doing?” – automatically, without giving it any thought. And they are teaching their children to do the same! What I am teaching mine is – if you or somebody else are being physically attacked, or if somebody is in physical danger, then you should tell. Otherwise, please work it out amongst yourselves. If somebody ever has an issue with that, I’m just going to tell them it’s cultural. It’s an old Russian tradition. This usually settles the issue. Nobody wants to object to old ethnic traditions for fear of being called intolerant.

Same goes for whistleblowing, by the way. If your upper management is doing something criminal that’s going to put your company out of business and the employees out of their savings – then, by all means, tell. But going to your boss and telling him that your coworker just had a personal conversation on the phone – sorry, that’s not whistleblowing. That’s tattling; it means that your maturity level is that of a third-grader; and you need to grow up. These are my two cents. Feel free to disagree!

The Goldie has spoken at 9:47 AM

Thursday, February 17, 2005

More on Self-Esteem

The self-esteem issue seems to be all over the news lately. I have already mentioned the article in "Muse", and now Jay from The Zero Boss have posted about it. He makes a great point about learning from your own failures.

I11 and K9, for whatever reason, seem immune to the self-esteem boosters they're getting in school (or, in I11's case, were getting - it doesn't look like his school offers a whole lot of self-esteem boosters - from what I can see, they are strictly merit-based, which I am very happy about).

K9 has, once again, taught us a valuable lesson yesterday. He's been playing basketball for a few weeks now. It is a "fun league" and K9 has never played before, so I confess he hasn't been doing so well this far. It doesn't help that, when he's out on the field, he has this incredibly kind, meek look on his face. He's a nice guy and he can't help it. Anyway, nobody ever said a word to K9 about how he was doing, and the coaches, of course, always were, "guys, you're all doing great". But, for some reason, K9 wasn't all that excited about playing on that league. Each time he had to go to the practice or to the game, I had to remind him that his friends were on the team and he could not let them down by not showing.

All that changed yesterday. K9 reluctantly went to his practice and came back happy as a clam in seaweed, telling me, "I had so much fun at the practice today!" You know what changed? During the practice, he learned how to make hoops, and made quite a few. His work has finally paid off, and that felt better than a hundred "Superb Work!" stickers. When you try and try to do something and then finally do it well - now that is a real self-esteem booster. As for the stickers and the stars? Sorry, but my kids see right through it, and so probably do yours.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:11 AM

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Update on K9

Good news - K9 suddenly got so much better over the weekend that the surgery got cancelled yesterday! We were so happy! He's already going to the gym and to his swimming class, will return to basketball practice tomorrow. Thanks everybody for your prayers!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:44 PM

Dear Family

My favorite grown-up, Cattiva, has posted an open letter to her family that is hysterical... and so true!

I'd like to add a few of my family's favorites, though:

When I'm in the bathroom with the door locked, thank you for slipping notes under the door. Nothing makes my day like a piece of entertaining bathroom reading such as "Mom, I'm starving, go make me some tea!" You know things can get really boring in there, and I'm glad you realize it and try to help out!

Thank you for your philantropy. When you leave your jacket at school, it may be by accident, but, when it's three different jackets in three days, well then I have no doubt you're just pretending to forget about them, and in reality you are donating them to the less fortunate. I also love the humility with which you state, "What do you mean I left my jacket at school? I've never even seen it!" But don't worry, your good deeds do not go unnoticed!

Thank you, my dear children, for the calls you give me at work. I think my coworkers are looking forward to your calls already, because, you know what? Our job is boring, and my conversations with you are a bigger hit than standup comedy here in the office! Remember the one when K9 called me and said: "Mom, since today is Mardi Gras, will you buy me a Wendy's meal?", and I said, "K9, this is not your Mardi Gras", and K9 said, "will you buy me a Wendy's meal if I read my Bible?" That one was a huge success! The audience just about died laughing!


Okay, sarcasm mode off - this is really funny. Mom and Dad, I'm sorry, but this is really, really hysterical. I'm talking about the important phone messages you give me when I get home from work. You know, the ones that go, "Somebody called today and asked for you, I said you weren't home, so the person mumbled something I didn't quite understand". Said in this deeply serious, worried voice, followed by a look saying, "Come on, call them back already!" Sorry, I don't know why they called and I don't have their number, so all I can do is cross my fingers and hope it was a telemarketer and not Bill Gates offering me a job! And no, I'm not upset about it, because I figure that if they need me badly enough, they'll call me back (unless, of course, it really was Bill Gates, in which case, well, it just wasn't meant to be!)

Thanks for everything, and I'm looking forward to a similar letter from you!


The Goldie has spoken at 2:42 PM

Giving People AIDS to Cure Cancer

It's 1AM here and I cannot sleep. This may be the first and last time that I get my hands on an interesting piece of news before the remaining six billion of the population do, so figured I'd post it.

ABC News Online has good news for us. Seems like the scientists have found a cure for cancer.

The bad news is you cure people's cancer by infecting them with HIV.

The scientists behind the new method swear it's safe:

Ms Withers-Ward says the treatment would not lead to HIV infections in patients as the virus is stripped of its AIDS-causing parts.
"We have taken out about 80 per cent of the HIV sequences and in that way, disabled the virus," she said.
"What we've left is the little bits that are necessary to get the DNA into the cell and then get it into the cell DNA."

Still, it creeps me out. I don't know if I'd try it. Giving a person AIDS to cure cancer? It's almost like shooting him to put him out of his misery and calling that a cure. Okay, okay, I know it's 80% safe, but somehow in my book, it still is too risky. I'm not saying that it might not work. I'm just saying that it sounds too creepy and unusual to my sleep-deprived mind.

Interesting, though. The way things work. Can you believe that?

I'll think of it later. I'll go and try to sleep now.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:47 AM

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Story of Indoctrination

Jenn has posted her 3rd installment of “Life Action” aka “Indoctrination 101”.The first two can be found here and here. Very interesting read. Can’t wait for the next and last part!

Oddly, Jenn’s story reminded me of my own experience at the Institute of Bible Studies that I attended in the summer of 1991. Up until a few days ago, though, I thought it had been a fun and enriching experience! It was only after reading Jenn’s posts that I realized a few things about these two weeks – the main of them being that I came out of these classes with hardly any clue about what I’d learned, while being absolutely positive that I had learned a lot. It is exactly what Jenn is referring to:

By Sunday morning people who attended all of the weeknight sessions and Saturday have sacrificed close to 20 hours of their time beyond what they would normally have given (commuting and in the sessions), 5 leisurely family dinners, sleeping in on Saturday, and they are probably watching normal household chores get back-logged. Their heavy “payment” would work to create in them a belief that what they were learning was of great value, so they would esteem it as such. Their lack of free time would hinder their ability to question what they were learning, so they had become accustomed to just accepting what was dished out.

I have to give the IBS some credit, of course. A lot of credit, actually. It was hosted by the Campus Crusade and took place in Moscow. It was absolutely free of charge to us, and included free hotel accommodations and free meals - very important in a 1991 Russia. It was very intense, though. Most of the audience were college students, so it was summer break for them, but I was already working, and had to take two weeks off to attend the full-time classes. For me, it was also the last two weeks of my single life. My husband had graduated that summer, and came to my town just as the classes ended. So I mainly concentrated on having fun and making new friends. We had a very good time. This is not to say that we skipped classes – we were new converts, with a tremendous interest in God, so we paid a lot of attention in class and took notes. I was very satisfied with the material presented to us.

Later on, I brought my notes to work and showed them to my Orthodox coworker. To my amazement, she pointed out logical discrepancies in the material that made perfect sense to me when I was sitting in class. I remember one example. My notes said: “Just like, after you’ve been born physically, you cannot be unborn, your born-again condition is also permanent”.

My coworker looked at me and said: “But you can die, physically, and spiritually”.

I just stared. She was right, you can die. Now why didn’t it occur to anyone in class? Why did two hundred people happily write this sentence down and not notice anything illogical about it?

Just like the classes in Jenn’s church, ours also included a mandatory session on spanking. Of course, none of us had kids, so we didn’t really care one way or another. The lecture was given by a woman, if I remember it right, a preacher’s wife and a mother of three. She spent a whole hour explaining to us the joys of physical punishment, how well it worked, and how displeased God was with parents who didn’t do it. Now don't get me wrong - I am not one hundred percent spanking-free. I've been known to smack a butt of a hyper kid every once in a while. It's when people view spanking as some sort of a scheduled family activity or a God-given duty, on par with praying and reading your Bible, that I disagree.

The lecturer followed up with an example from her own life. Apparently, one morning one of her sons woke up in a bad mood and nobody could figure out why. So she laid him across her knee, pulled his pants down, and gave him some attitude adjustment. She said it made him happy.

I, for one, was puzzled. I had been spanked as a child and couldn’t remember it working as well as our lecturer claimed it to. Neither could I understand why a bad mood was a crime punishable by spanking.

Finally, someone asked a question – something to the effect: “Isn’t this all wrong?”

The lecturer looked at the audience – everyone in their late teens or early twenties. She said:

“I want you to raise your hand if there is anything your parents did wrong that you do not want to repeat when you are a parent.”

Nine-tenth of the audience raised their hands.

“See – this goes to show you that you can learn from negative examples too!”

Looking back, all I can do is shake my head. In essence, she told us that by doing things to your own children that are bad and wrong, you teach your children not to do all these things. So, even if spanking is wrong, it is okay to spank – by doing so, you will teach your children not to do it. Interesting logic, huh? Maybe the parents should drink heavily, do drugs and have wild sex on the side while they’re at it? I mean, won’t it teach their children not to do all that?

But back then, her reply made perfect sense to us. Just like Jenn said, our lack of free time hindered our ability to question what we were learning.

At the end of our second week, we were all split into pairs, given “The Four Spiritual Laws” booklets, and sent out into the streets, to preach something we weren’t quite sure about ourselves. I do not recall catching any lost souls.

A few months later, my husband dragged me kicking and screaming into the Orthodox church, and we started learning new things. Fortunately, our priest went very slow on us and allowed plenty of questioning. But it is interesting that in all these years, I never doubted what I had learned in the IIS, until I read Jenn’s posts.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:31 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Treats for Kids

Have you packed the treats yet for your children’s Valentine Day class parties? I was packing K9’s this morning (yes, he’s going in for minor surgery in the morning, but I hope to bring him in for the party, and if he cannot make it, then I’ll just drop the treats off). I don’t know if it has ever occurred to you, but assembling these treats is not an easy task for someone that’s new to the country. Took me several years to get it right. When I11 was in elementary school, I used to send in some really weird stuff. No wonder the poor boy isn’t popular!

The biggest screwups, however, have been with K9. Here are the top three.

#3 – birthday, kindergarten

For a birthday treat, I gave K9 (who was then K6) a jar of gingerbread cookies from a Russian store. He brought it back with exactly. One. Cookie. Missing from the jar. There was only one girl in K9’s class brave enough to try the strange and creepy Russian food.

#2 – birthday, 1st grade

We had K9’s birthday party on a Sunday the day before his actual birthday, at a bowling alley. He invited all seven boys in his class. However, the bowling alley was a whopping fifteen miles away, so we had a massive no-show. Only one boy’s parents were brave enough to travel that far in the dangerous October weather. Of course, we had also invited his old friends from daycare, as well as our own friends with their kids, so the party went well, but at the end, we had ¾ of the birthday cake left over. I decided it would be a good idea to wrap the cake up and bring it to class the next day. On Monday, K9 came home from school carrying a small piece of the cake. His brother, I11, came home on the same bus. After dinner, I asked the boys if they wanted cake for dessert and I11 surprised me with a “No way!” When asked why, he explained, “I’m not eating the cake that half the people on the bus have stuck their fingers into”. Turned out that on the way home from school, K9, in his everlasting desire to be popular, walked around the bus with what was left of the cake and offered everybody to help themselves. Oddly, there wasn't any plasticware on the bus, so the kids ended up eating with their hands.

#1 – birthday, 3rd grade

Yes, this happened just a few months ago, just when I decided I was so experienced already, I could buy birthday treats for K9’s class with my eyes closed! Well, as luck would have it, right at that moment the school introduced new rules for what could and what could not be sent to class as a treat – no chocolate, no nuts, no unwrapped treats, no cookies… they banned pretty much everything except chewing gum and fruit snacks. That was what I ended up packing – some chewing gum and a couple of fruit snacks for each kid. That looked pretty pathetic, so I decided to throw a small toy into each treat bag. I went to a party store and bought 20 of these really cute, little shiny recorders for 25 cents apiece. You know, these things that are like a cross between a whistle and a flute? I gave each kid one of those.

When K9 came home from school, the first thing out of his mouth was,

“Mom, the kids loved your treats and they loved the recorders!”

“They did? Good!”

“Yes. The teacher didn’t like it, though.”

“She didn’t? Why?”

“Well she got real mad when everybody took their recorders out and started playing!”

Twenty kids. I can only imagine! To this day, the teacher looks at me funny when I come into the class. I also think this explains the twenty quiet room slips K9 got this year. I’m packing Rice Crispies and Fruit Loops this time. No musical instruments, thank you very much.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, and remember to stay away from the recorders!

The Goldie has spoken at 3:40 PM

Friday, February 11, 2005

Haloscan Oops

I have installed Haloscan a few hours ago... looks like all comments previously left on this blog have been wiped out by the install... I'm sorry, you guys. You probably know that your comments made a difference, and I have bookmarked every one of you that I was able to get to, and, even if your comments are gone from my blog, I still keep them close to my heart.

None of my installs would ever do that, I swear!

Oh well - no use crying over spilt milk - I'm going to bed and so should you. G'night.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:59 PM

Talking to Strangers

By the time I was 22, I knew better than to trust people, which was good, because I was about to venture out into the big world. I had just graduated from college and was expected to report to my first job on August 1st. The job was at a manufacturing plant, in a small town in the Moscow region where I knew no one. It was 1989 and the Soviet Union was still alive and kicking.

I could have stayed in my home town a few weeks longer. It didn’t really have to be August 1st. Nobody would have said anything if I showed up at work in September, but my perfectionist parents decided that reporting to work as early as possible was a good way for me to start a career. So on July 31st, they helped me pack and get on a train. Next morning, I arrived at the town that would be my home for the next seven years. I left my bags at the bus station, went to work, filled out the forms and met my coworkers. I didn’t yet have a place to live, but figured it wouldn’t be a problem. That was the beauty of living in the USSR. The government provided everything for you – everything it thought you needed, anyway. It wasn’t much, and there weren’t any alternatives available, but it was better than nothing and it was handed to you on a silver plate. As far as the housing went, you couldn’t rent and you weren’t allowed to own any equity, but you didn’t really need to, as the government gave you and your family a place to live!

My new place of work was supposed to provide me with a bed in a five-story, dorm-like house. I would have to share a room with two more women. At the same time, I would be added to the end of a waiting list at my place of work, and some five or ten years down the road, I would finally get my own apartment. While I wasn’t exactly looking forward to rooming with two other girls for five more years, I was fully prepared to do that. What I didn’t know was that there were no free beds in the dorm-like building on August 1st. None at all. A lot of rooms were expected to free up once the people moved into a new apartment building, but the construction company had fallen behind schedule and the building wasn’t ready yet. I had come too early.

My management arranged for me to stay in a hotel for three days. I stayed there, I came to work every morning, I met my coworkers – very nice people, all of them in their early thirties, almost all of them married with small children. Three days went by fast and the lady at the hotel told me that my time was up and I had to pack and leave. I packed, but I didn’t know where to go, so I left my bags, I don’t remember where, and went to work. My coworkers knew I had nowhere to live, but that didn’t seem to bother them.

I was still naïve enough to think that somebody at my work cared, that my management would take care of everything and find me a place to stay. As it turned out, both my bosses were out of town on vacation. I finally managed to find someone from the upper management, and he came up with what he called “a temporary arrangement”. I was to go back to the dorm and stay in room #522 with one other woman until something else came up. I happily grabbed my bags and went to #522. There was, indeed, a woman in the room, so I gave her my best smile and said: “Hi!”

Right away, the woman started yelling. As I found out later, she was 35 and single and had lived in the dorm for over ten years, always sharing the room with other women, with never a chance to have at least a room to herself, never a chance to find a boyfriend or get married. Finally, she got permission to live alone in the room. Her personal life began to improve as well, she started seeing someone. That’s when I showed up with my bags. No wonder she exploded right in my face!

I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried to tell her that it was temporary, but she wouldn’t believe me. She decided that the management had changed their minds and decided not to let her have the room to herself after all, and that I was the roommate they tried to force on her. I was a part of the evil managerial ploy to rob her of her personal life. She yelled and she ranted. I had no idea how I was to stay in the same room with this woman, so I turned around and went outside. I knew I couldn’t go back to room #522, no matter what. It was a beautiful summer evening, and I had nowhere to go. I sat on a bench, crying my eyes out and trying to get used to the fact that I would be sleeping in the street that night. I didn’t know how I would do it, because I’d never slept in the street before, but I thought I’d figure something out.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, is everything all right? Has something happened?”

A male voice. Who is this guy? Why would he care? Not looking at him or raising my head, I said, matter-of-factly:

“Yeah, I’ve got nowhere to sleep.”

There, I said it. Now get lost. Leave me alone!

But he didn’t leave. Instead, he said:

“Would you like to stay in my room?”

I raised my head and looked. A big guy, probably twice my size. Very strong-looking. Liable to rape me, rob me, kill me. I didn’t know anyone in this town and I had no friends or family in a four-hundred-mile radius and, if something happened to me, it would be days before anyone even noticed. Is there any way I can go with this guy and stay in his room? No way, too risky. What was my other option again? Oh yeah, sleeping in the street.

I got up and said: “Thank you, I sure would.”

And that was how we met. Nope, nothing happened between us. He was ten years older and he only finished eight grades and a trade school and I was college-educated and he had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend and, I know this sounds shallow, but the fact remains, I was pretty far out of his league, looks-wise. Technically, we had nothing in common, and, under different circumstances, we would have never talked to each other. I am not sure if we even became friends. I mean, in the seven years that followed, we met and we talked and we used to visit each other while I lived in the dorm, although he refused to visit after I moved into an apartment and got married and had the kids. But can you call that being friends? I don’t know. And in spite of it all, he let me stay in his room for two weeks.

He gave me the key to his room. He let me eat anything I could find on the shelves or in the fridge. On the weekend, he went to visit his parents in the country and I stayed in his room alone. He came back with more food, all homegrown. On the second night, he asked if I wanted him to lie in my bed, but he asked it in a really polite voice. I guess he thought that he had to ask, in case I really did want it, because then, it would have hurt my feelings if he hadn’t asked. I said no, and he never brought up the subject again. In the morning, we had breakfast and walked to work together – a 30-minute walk. During the walk, suddenly out of nowhere he said, “Look, we’re walking to work together like we’re husband and wife”. I guess he really wanted a family. When I last saw him, a couple days before we left for America, he was going on forty and wasn’t married.

On the fourth day, he had a small party in his room. A couple of his friends came, and his girlfriend showed up too. She was forty-two and had a daughter my age. After a few shots of vodka, she called me a slut for staying in the room with him. He talked to her in private and she never brought that subject up again.

Eventually, the apartment building was ready and people moved out of the dorm and a room freed up, so I finally got my own place to live. My life was very busy – work, friends, attending church in Moscow, visiting my boyfriend and having him visit me. I married my boyfriend, we had a child and then another. I became good buddies with the girl from room #522. Believe it or not, our children were the same age, so we took them for walks together. Once she said she was sorry for how she had acted back then, and I said, sure, I understand.

But I never forgot the man who offered me help when I needed it the most. I still don’t know how he did it. Everyone else just walked by. If I were them, I would have probably done the same. And I know I definitely wouldn’t have had the courage to ask a total stranger to stay in my room. My coworkers told me later that they would have offered me to stay with them, but couldn’t because they didn’t know me well enough. I understand them completely – that’s exactly what my thinking would be in this situation. Except that this man did not know me at all. Yes, I took the risk with him, but he took a much bigger risk with me. He did an amazing thing for me, and I have never really paid him back. Well, I’m going to pay him back now the best I can. Here’s how.

Everything I just told you has really happened in 1989, in the town of Chernogolovka, Moscow region, Russia. The man’s name is Alexander Shibanov, he was born in 1957, and he is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I’ve long lost track of him and I cannot really do anything to repay him, so I thought I’d at least put in a good word for him. It’s a small world. Maybe you will run into him one day.

The Goldie has spoken at 11:51 PM

Blogging For Books

Yeah, more like "blogging for kicks"! Anyway, I heard of the contest and decided to participate. My next post will be an entry for the contest. Just so you're not surprised when you see that essay all of a sudden.

By the way, there are still two days left, if you want to participate...

The Goldie has spoken at 11:47 PM

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:39 PM

Structured Work Environment

I heard this term a few days ago. Evidently, it means a work environment with a lot of rules and restrictions (kind of like the one Norman proposed, I believe, last week). You know, the usual – strict hours, dress code. In fact, the place that I’ve been told about has a few of its own rules thrown in – no eating at your desk, no cell phones. This puzzles me. I mean, I probably wouldn’t want, say, a brain surgeon eating while he works, but this is a programming job we’re talking about! What's wrong with some innocent grazing while you're pounding on your keyboard?

To be honest, I’ve always been intrigued by different workplace rules. The interesting part is watching people find a way around them. I once worked at a place that had the “no eating at your desk” rule. Everybody was sneaking munchies out of their desk drawers and chewing on them frantically while sort of bending their heads low over their desks, as though deep in thought. I ruined my clothes once trying to eat a tomato from under my desk.

My first job in Russia had strict hours and punchcards. You had to punch in at 8:00AM and punch out at 5:12 PM. If you came in at 8:01, you got written up. You could, however, go out for lunch without having to punch in or out. You probably already see where I’m going with this. People used to give themselves an entire day off by walking out of the office at lunch break, going home, and coming back in after lunch on the next day. And they still had perfect attendance on paper. Another thing I remember about this job is that we had a curling iron in the office. Everybody would race into the building at eight, and spend the next hour doing their hair. That job has really undermined my faith in strict work hours.

I interviewed for a job at a large company once. That was in early ’00, when the norm for your typical IT department was a pool table in the lobby and a supply of beer in the fridge. The company that I interviewed for, however, had a “structured work environment”. I talked to the manager first. He assured me that it was no big deal, “try to dress nicely, try to come on time, no pressure”. Then he walked out and sent his senior programmer in to interview me, and apparently the programmer hadn’t been properly instructed, because he started spilling the beans right away. It was hysterical.

“Well, you probably know that we have a dress code. I’m not sure what the women are supposed to wear. For us guys, it’s a suit and a tie and a white shirt.

“Well, you probably know that we have strict hours. This means that you have to walk through the door at 8:00. If you come in at 8:01, you get stares”.

Thank you, dude – and I apologize for not remembering your name. I could have taken that job if it wasn’t for you!

On top of it, as I was leaving, I got into a conversation with the man at the front desk and he told me about the office premises being a non-smoking environment.

“We here have it easy,” he said, “at another company that I worked for, you couldn’t even go outside for a cigarette. If you came back and they smelled smoke on you, you could get fired”.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about the mysterious other company and the person whose job was to smell people as they were coming into the building. Do you need to have a strong sense of smell in order to get that job? What’s the job title? Are you supposed to just sniff in the general direction of a person as he or she walks by, or are you allowed to pull them over and smell them, dog-like? What if you have a cold and your nose is stuffed? Should I apply for this job when I no longer have the brainpower to write code? So many questions, so few answers.

Are there any strange, uncalled-for workplace rules that you’d like to share? Something from your old job or maybe something that your friends told you about? Don’t tell me about your current job, I don’t want to know (hey, I’m looking out for you here). Feel free to leave a comment here for my collection. Maybe one day I’ll start my own company and see what happens if I put all those rules in place! Now wouldn’t that be funny?

The Goldie has spoken at 5:34 PM

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Guardian Unlimited Newsblog – Keeping It Real?

It’s time for me to go home, and I wouldn’t normally touch this subject with a ten-foot pole, but I feel I have to post this.

A fellow blogger whose blog I read regularly and proudly display on my blogroll – Fr. Joseph of “Orthodixie” – has been severely misquoted by The Guardian Unlimited Newsblog. Yesterday, they have posted an article covering the SpongeBob Squarepants issue (better late than never, I guess), where, among other things, the author is saying:

Among the leading critics is Dr James Dobson, of the Focus on the Family campaign group. One blogger, Father Joseph, a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church in Western North Carolina, writes "of course SquareBob is gay" (and so, apparently are Bugs Bunny, Elmore Fudd and Barney the dinsosaur).

Did Fr. Joseph really write that? Let’s see.

Of Course Sponge Bob is Gay!
Folks, be real. Can you imagine ever seeing Sponge Bob get married? To whom? Patrick? Squidward is certainly an "old maid" if I ever saw one.

Hate to break it to you: Bugs Bunny? Gay.

Ever seen Mrs Fudd? Gay, I say!

Barney? Never trust a man who giggles ... much less a dinosaur.

Droopy Dog? Don't get me started ...

and, further on:

The Flintstones invited us to have a "gay ol' time" (Wiiillll-maaa! Yelling for a woman; definitely not gay). <…>

Thus, using the Flintstone's definition, Sponge Bob is Gay.

But he's not a Gay Homosexual ...

Sponge Bob Square Pants is a Gay Hermaphrodite.

Note the not-so-subtle difference between the quote and the original. Is this because Mark Oliver, the author of the Guardian newsblog article, didn’t bother to check the sources? Or is this because Fr. Joseph’s views on the gay issue are not 100% identical to his own? We will never find out.

Unlike me, who (as I said before) wouldn’t touch the topic with a ten-foot pole, Fr. Joseph has written an article on the gay issue – “Gay… But Not Funny”. The article is right there on his blog for everyone to see. Not sure how Mr. Oliver missed it, and if he didn’t miss it, then I am not sure why he placed Fr. Joseph in the same category with Dr. Dobson. Here are a few quotes.
I once had a conversation with a friend who’d converted to Orthodoxy. At the time I was an Episcopalian on my way to seminary. I asked, “How does Orthodoxy handle your homosexuality?” “A lot better than the Episcopal Church,” he replied. He said that when he’d confessed his struggles in the Episcopal church, the priest frowned on his “orientation.” Whereas others, heterosexual college-aged men struggling with continence, had their sins winked at by the priest. [My how times have changed!] He went on to state that within Orthodoxy, sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin. Period. Sin is sin. And he was right. Carnal relations outside the God-pleasing confines of monogamous heterosexual marriage is contrary to God’s will. It separates us from God and others.


We, as Christians, members of the Body of Christ, do not get to vote on morality. The will of God on all matters pertaining to our relationship with our bodies and each other has been revealed. We must struggle, daily, to practice the precepts of our Faith. We fall, we get up. Fall down, back up. Fall again, up again. If we sin, through confession and repentance, we are reconciled through Christ to His Holy Church.

A priest once told about a man who came to see him about becoming Orthodox. The priest said, “Okay, we’ll need to discuss who Christ is, the Church, the Sacraments ....” The man interrupted him saying, “I’m gay.” The priest said, “Okay. But if you want to become Orthodox, we’ll need to discuss who Christ is, the Church, the Sacraments ....” “Dang it! Didn’t you hear me? I said, I’m gay!” “I heard you,” said the priest, “but if you want to become Orthodox, we’ll need to talk about who Christ is, the Church, the Sacraments ....” Crying, the man told the priest that other pastors had either told him it didn’t matter, or to get out! It took the man a couple years to become Orthodox, but another 10 years to become celibate. He claims he could never have made it without the benefit of Christ, the Church, and the Sacraments.

The Church – our Spiritual Hospital – must be open to all. We’re all sick with the disease of sin. We cannot be healed, really healed, without receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. We must never turn our backs on someone just because they’re a sinner or their sin’s not ours. God forbid! This is the mission of the Church, to save sinners! But, by the same token, it is not within our power to state that a sin is no longer a sin.

I am not going to comment on this. I am trying hard to stay away from the gay issue in its entirety. I don’t want any flaming discussions on this blog – at least, not yet. But do you see where Fr. Joseph’s quote was taken out of context and changed to mean the opposite of what it really said? Do you see why he doesn’t belong in the same camp with Dr. Dobson? I highly recommend his site. Please go over and read it. I need to know that my staying in the office alone long after everybody else left has been worth it.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:18 PM

Dear Son, All Your Base Are Belong To Us

I have found an interesting article on ZeroBoss’s site that is actually a comment on Phil’s post. Both deal with the issue of children’s privacy, or lack thereof. Since everybody (including the commenters) seems to be in agreement on the subject, I thought it would make things interesting if I threw a differing opinion into the mix.

When I was a teenager, I was harmless. I was very naïve, very geeky, very unattractive, and one of the least popular kids in school. In spite of all that, I had no privacy whatsoever. Of course, my parents and I had to share our only room, so there wasn’t much privacy to go around in the first place. I guess what got me was that, twenty years later, my Mom confessed that she had been reading my diary on a regular basis. She even complained that it was boring. That little notebook was the only piece of privacy I thought I’d had. I swear I had done nothing as a teenager to provoke such unlimited snooping. Of course, I made up for that after I went to college!

Apparently, I had it easy. One of the commenters on Phil’s site mentions how he replaced the doors to his children’s room with screen doors when they were young. Granted, they were allowed to hang curtains across them, but still. I apologize in advance to the person I’m going to criticize, but the very idea makes my hair stand up on end. Besides, does it really work? I mean, can’t they sneak into a bathroom or into the basement and do the dirty deeds there, whatever those deeds may be? I’d say that, to be consistent, the author had to replace every door in the house with a screen door – including the bathrooms – as well as install a camera in the basement. Of course, that would have made living in the house kind of interesting, but, on the bright side, the kids would definitely move out earlier! (I moved out as soon as I graduated from high school at 17).

I am not saying we need to be completely uninvolved in our kids’ lives. As much I refuse to take advice on parenting from the Columbine shooters, they do have a point when they say the parents should have checked their rooms once in a while. I go into I11’s room every day, I check what’s there, I go through his school papers because I'm helping him with schoolwork, he allows me to read the posts on a forum that he’s a member of. He’s okay with that. I’m all for monitoring our children’s lives, but I believe there has to be a line we shouldn’t cross. I’m just not sure where it needs to be drawn, but it has to be there. Not only is all-out snooping disrespectful, it is also pointless. You can search your teenage kid’s room, you can go through his every drawer, but you cannot get into his head, and that’s where the real information is. Unless, of course, you want to experiment with truth serum, in which case, more power to you!

I’m not a professional and I do not have all the answers. I ‘m just an ordinary mother, who trusts her gut feelings and learns as she goes. My children are only almost-twelve and nine. So I do not have the answers for you. The way I’ve been doing it so far is, know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in my family and stick to that; pick my own battles; show genuine interest in building a relationship and trust with my kids; and not say or do anything to lose that trust. I’ll see if that works and I will let you know.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:01 AM

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Of Kids and PDL Classes

Today I’m going to do what I haven’t done on this site yet. I’m going to brag shamelessly about my children. At least, one of them.

As I have already mentioned, K9 is not feeling well right now. My parents insisted that I take him to see this doctor they recommended. He is really a very nice person and, I am sure, a terrific doctor. It’s just that K9 was probably the first kid to ever walk into his office. I figured that out when I asked the doctor to write a note for K9’s school, and he pulled out a form letter titled “Note of Absence From Work”, looked at me and said: “So what do I write in here?”

Anyway, last weekend, this doctor tried to perform a certain medical procedure on K9’s foot. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was going to hurt. The doctor decided not to give K9 any painkiller meds, shots etc. because he figured K9 would be afraid of the shots. Well the procedure went well for about ten minutes, after which K9 lost it and started crying and screaming and cussing and praying and begging the doctor to please cut his foot off. This went on for an hour and a half and we have to come back next week because the doctor had quit halfway. K9 had been screaming so loud he scared the doctor and all his patients. I am ashamed to say that towards the end, all three adults present – the doctor, my Dad, and myself – got so disconnected from reality, we started actually reprimanding K9 for crying from pain, and telling him to be quiet. I die of shame each time I think of it. After the whole ordeal, K9 was pretty much unable to walk for the rest of the weekend (he can hobble around pretty fast now).

That was Saturday morning, and on Saturday night I had the most amazing conversation with K9:

K9, all of a sudden: Grandpa was so good to me this morning at the doctor's office. He was helping me and talking to me.
Me: Was I helping?
K9: Oh yes, you were! You were right by my side the whole time.
Me: And the doctor? What about him?
K9, enthusiastically: The doctor did the most of us all! He was helping me, and treating me, and trying to make me feel better.

I was speechless. Here we were, the three adults that had let a nine-year-old kid down by putting him through an hour and a half of pain and then telling him not to cry. And here was that kid thanking us for helping him! If I were him, I know I’d be mad at the stupid grown-ups that screwed me up so badly. But he wasn’t mad! He was the exact opposite of mad! This is just so amazing. I wish I could be like K9.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time K9 is just like any ordinary kid, driving his parents up the wall. He takes forever to get up in the morning, and then I get threatening letters from school because he’s been late to class again. He talks in class, and I get more threatening letters. He likes Eminem and Wendy’s meals (both of which, to me, are in pretty much the same category, quality-wise). He acts like a spoiled brat and makes me shake my head and wonder how he’ll ever be able to survive in life. And then, right when I’m in the middle of shaking my head and wondering, he says and does things that make me stare in amazement and, I confess, admiration. Because, on some level, K9 is a much better person than I will ever be. There is a part of him that makes me understand why the Bible tells us to be like children – the innocent, trusting, caring part. The part that never fails to humble me and wonder how a cynical woman like me has managed to raise a little saint like K9. The part that teaches me to have a positive outlook on life and see the best in everybody.

I’m glad that I can learn from my son.

“PDL Classes”?

By now, you’re probably wondering why the “PDL classes” in the title. Here’s why. We have a class in church that started last Wednesday, and I have signed up. Well, last Wednesday was exactly when K9 got worse, and he still needs my attention this week, and will definitely need it next week as he’s scheduled to have minor surgery on Monday. This means I won’t be able to take the class. I had my doubts because I’m not really a PDL fan, but I had signed up for the class anyway, just because I felt I probably had to. I believe this is divine intervention. I think it was God telling me, “You don’t really *have to* go to this class, you know?” Things like that always make me go, "WOW. You really *are* up there".

I’m not sure why I didn’t like the book. Everyone else around me loved it – and that includes people I deeply respect and look up to. When I mentioned it to a woman in our church, she didn’t believe what I was saying, literally – I had to repeat it several times: “I didn’t like the book” – “What, PDL?” – “Yes, PDL” – “You didn’t like it?” – “No, I didn’t”. I sure did feel like an odd person out!

I honestly tried to make myself like the PDL, but I have to break down and confess – no matter how hard I tried, it irritated me to no end! I cannot even put my finger on what irritated me, except of course that the book is written in this dead-serious tone. It takes itself too seriously. And no, jokes like “Christians are like snowflakes, when they get together, they can stop traffic” do not count, because, um, they are not funny. That, and the requirements that we volunteer only in church, donate only to church, be friends only with believers, talk to unbelievers only to convert them… did I miss anything? Oh, and the unexplicable resentment the author seems to have towards secular jobs and retirement funds. What’s that all about? Does he see them as some sort of competition? I don't want to sound disrespectful, but that's exactly how it sounds!

I have never before seen a book that said all the right things - mind you, I agree with 90% of what PDL says, - and said them in such an incredibly annoying, irritating way. At least that’s the way I felt about the book and there’s no way I can get around it. And if I can’t, then I probably shouldn’t be taking the class. Which is what God has been trying to tell me all along. I feel so much better now that I actually, physically, cannot make it to the class.

Pretty weird huh?

The Goldie has spoken at 6:02 PM

Sunday, February 06, 2005

My Kid is Sick

K9 is not feeling well. It all started with a harmless plantar wart, but somehow has been getting worse with each visit to the doctor this week. Poor K9 cannot walk and has to kind of limp around. He's been through a lot of pain this weekend. So, as hard as I've been trying to think of anything to post during this weekend, I couldn't come up with any ideas. I just cannot stop thinking of poor K9. I hope I won't lose all of my readers because of that... it took a lot of effort to bring you guys in here in the first place. If you can, please, pray for my son.

I hope everybody has a great week.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:54 PM

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Self-Esteem Trap

What I Read Yesterday

I must be really immature because I’ve been reading my kids’ magazines again! We got the latest issue of “Muse” yesterday and it has a large article dedicated to the benefits and down sides of developing the self-esteem in kids. It is a very interesting read, and it is built around the research done by Roy Baumeister for the American Psychological Society. The results of the research were published in May 2003, and are called “Does Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles”?

The reason for this work was that, for the last several decades, the schools and especially the elementary schools have made significant changes to their program in order to promote a boost in the students’ self-esteem. The expectation was that higher self-esteem will lead to higher grades, decrease in violence, decrease in self-destructive behavior such as alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse and teen pregnancies, and generally make the children more successful later in life. The research was started because, from a lot of people’s observation, the self-esteem boost programs were not working as expected, and did, indeed, find that most of the initial assumptions were incorrect. I will quote a little from the article. Thankfully, it was written for the kids age ten and up, so the author has kept it short and sweet.

The quotes are taken from the article “The Rise and Fall of Self-Esteem” by Frank Stephenson, published in the February 2005 issue of the “Muse” magazine.

Higher Grades?

“Much of the energy that has driven the self-esteem movement has come from a widely held belief that kids with higher self-esteem make better grades. Some of the best evidence reveals that it works the other way around – that kids with better grades go on to have higher senses of self-esteem. Most of the studies showed little, if any, evidence that high self-esteem played any role in children’s future success in the classroom”.

Less Aggressive?

“Traditionally, bullies and other “toughs” have been profiled by psychologists as people with hidden feelings of inadequacy, a low self-esteem masked by a nasty, even vicious, exterior. Norway’s Dan Olweus was among the first psychologists to show that bullies typically have less anxiety and more confidence in themselves than the average person. <…> Aggressive people typically have favorable – even dramatically inflated – view of themselves”.

Less Prone to Self-Destructive Behavior?

“Can a better sense of self-worth keep us healthier? Keep us from smoking, abusing alcohol, and other drugs, from getting pregnant at 16? If we accept the standard code of self-help industry, the answer to all of the above is an unqualified “yes”. … Baumweister’s analysis of the data offers little support for such beliefs. Do people with high self-esteem have better relationships?... Studies show that people with high self-esteem don’t see the world around them as it really is. They think they’re widely accepted socially, even loved, when in fact they’re self-deluded. And science confirms that conceit is a big turnoff. “People who have elevated or inflated views of themselves tend to alienate others”, the report states.

… a number of other studies found no link at all between self-esteem and smoking. What seems clear is that, in general, low self-esteem – at least by itself – does not cause kids to light up… The same holds for drinking and drug abuse. “Whatever the causes of alcohol abuse and drug addiction,” says Baumeister, “low self-esteem per se does not appear to be one of them”.

Should we continue?

“One of the things the research shows is that high self-esteem can make people more resilient, make them keep on plugging after initially failing at something… A genuine sense of self-esteem can give people a stock of positive attitudes that can help them cope with life’s trials.

Is the pursuit of happiness alone ample justification for keeping the self-esteem enterprise going? Baumeister and his co-authors don’t think so. Ultimately, kids who are brought up in an environment where there’s no clear link between personal accomplishment and self-worth pay a hefty emotional and even physical price down the road, they argue. Sudden doses of reality come as a real shock to students who lack the emotional fortitude for dealing effectively with failure or challenges to their lofty opinions of themselves”.

What I Think

First of all, I have a strong temptation to get all theological on you, but I won’t. You probably already know all I’m going to say in this regard, so I’ll just skip over to my next point. Here it is.

When I first encountered the “self-esteem policy” in action in my children’s schools, I admit I really liked it. I went to school in Russia and our school system was very strict and very academically- and discipline-oriented. No one ever thought about boosting our self-esteem when I was in school. When our teachers wanted us to improve, they’d humiliate us in front of the class, on the assumption that this would motivate us to work harder to prevent it from happening again. Now, to my surprise, I find out that there were a lot of people in Russia who actually liked school. All of my classmates, as well as myself, hated it. So, by the time I had my own kids, I knew fairly well that putting a person down doesn’t work very well in a school setting. But what about building a person up? At first, I was thrilled to see the “Nice job!” and “Superb work!” stickers on my sons’ school papers. That was until I realized that everything every child ever does in school always gets one of those stickers attached to it. And after a certain point, instead of making you feel better about yourself, these stickers start to look like an enormous load of bull, which I guess is what they actually are!

Another thing is that kids are competitive by nature. By insisting that all kids feel equally good about themselves, we essentially demand that everyone be the same. Not “equal”, which would be correct, but “the same”. If a kid tries to get ahead, then he’s in trouble, because they’re hurting everybody’s feelings just by getting ahead. If you have a close friend, then shame on you, because you’re hurting everybody else’s feelings by not being their friend. We took what was probably not a bad idea and blew it out of proportion until it became ridiculous. We took a good word “special” and abused it to the point where our kids are now using it as an insult. The good part, of course, is that nobody over the age of six is buying into the “self-esteem boosters” they are being presented with in school, and nobody really is following the rules that have been created to boost self-esteem in kids. For instance, all of our school handbooks say that, when your child has a birthday party, he or she is required to invite all boys or girls in class. Well, you know what? Nobody does this. And it’s a good thing. So, while I don’t believe that “high self-esteem at all costs” is really a worthy goal, I wouldn’t worry about it too much – because in reality, it isn’t working that way anyway.

So what should we do – go back to humiliating kids into submission? No, I don’t agree with that approach either. What I believe is, everybody is good at something. If you’re an adult, every person around you is an expert at something and is better than you in some area. If you’re a child, then every kid around you has their own set of talents – some are good at sports, some are good at math, some at art, and so on. Why don’t we try respecting the person for what they are actually good at? Not telling them to downplay their talents so everyone around them could feel good. And not humiliating them for being unsuccessful in other areas. Just giving them the respect they deserve for what they are really good at. Maybe then our schools, and our society, would be a better place.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:22 PM

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Purpose, the Drive, the Indecision

Well, the class starts tonight and I just found out that K9 is not feeling well and I cannot go.
Is it a sign from above? Who knows.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:00 PM

The Amulet Test

I read a story the other day in the March ’05 issue of Fantasy & SciFi that got me thinking. The novel is called “The Amulet”, by Albert E. Cowdrey. Although it’s more of a fairy tale by genre than fantasy or science fiction, the novel struck me as a good read that I would recommend. The plot is original, or seemed so to me, and the language is priceless.

Warning – the spoiler starts here. Do not read the next two paragraphs if you intend to read the actual novel.

The main character, Tim, is an aspiring writer working on a book about the eccentrics of New Orleans. He puts an ad in the paper searching for people who have “lived an unusual and exciting life”, and an old lady answers the ad. It takes five interviews for her to tell the complete story of her life, which is no wonder given that she was born in 1294, or “sump’m like dat. Course it’s long ago, and it all gets smoggy, like”. In case you’re wondering, the lady was born in Italy, and has somehow managed to retain a thick Italian accent after all these years. She tells Tim a story about how in her younger days she came across an ancient Chinese amulet that gave its owner infinite luck and longer life for the first five hundred months that the person owned it. But if the owner tried to hold to the amulet any longer, both the luck and the long life were taken away from him. Needless to say, the lady had got rid of her amulet just in time, and has therefore lived for another six or so hundred years to follow its route around the world. And, in an amazing plot twist, she proceeds to tell Tim that the amulet is now right there in New Orleans, more than that – that it is on sale in the antique shop on the first floor of her apartment building, and that Tim has to buy it, otherwise he cannot publish her story – in her own words, “Well, I’ma gonna make you rich whether or no. If you don’t buy da amulet, you canna use my story in you book”.

Tim, who doesn’t believe a word about the amulet’s magic qualities, reluctantly pays eight bucks for it, then gets rid of it on the spot, giving it to a crippled neighborhood bum in place of the spare change. He proceeds to write the book, which sells “exactly fifty-seven copies”, and there his writing career ends. This is not the end of the novel, though. It ends with a small scene wherein the bum shows up in a stretch limo, looking rich and having even magically grown a pair of legs he didn’t have before. So, there you have it in a nutshell, although I suggest you read it anyway, if only to enjoy the language.

By now you’re probably wondering how this story managed to get me thinking. Well, I started by imagining what I would do if I got a hold of the amulet. Of course, my wild dreams always start with “First, I’m gonna pay the house off…” I was right in the middle of dreaming about quitting my job when I realized that, from the Christian standpoint, I have no business having the stupid amulet in the first place! I mean, it’s magic and it’s cheating and overriding the will of God and all other bad things. So no, I could not have it even if I were offered.

Now that really blew the wind out of my sails. In the meantime, my brain kept working. Can I only have it for one day, just to pay the house off? Or, better yet, maybe I can get it on the day when my kids get their report cards, this way, for once in their lives, they may get all A’s. Yeah, that sounds good. Keep it for one day, then get rid of it. Um, no, that’s still cheating. Or how about I keep it as a souvenir? You know, pretend that I don’t believe it actually works. Would that be okay? Nope, afraid not.

But what if the amulet were forced on me, like it was on Tim? Can I have it then? I mean, if I give it away, wouldn’t I be doing that person a disservice, it being magic and a bad thing and all? Wouldn’t it be an act of self-sacrifice for me to keep it? Okay, probably not.

All right, so I need to give it away… who do I give it away to? Cannot be my family, what with the magic and all. What about donating? Will it work that way? If I give it to an AIDS research foundation, will it help them find a cure for AIDS? Or what about giving it to a pet? Say, you tie it around a dog’s neck. What’s going to happen to the dog? What is infinite luck, for a dog? One can only wonder. Growing his family jewels back, maybe? Will the dog's owners thank me for giving their pet an extra thousand years of life? I've never had a dog so I'm really not sure.

Will it work on inanimate objects? If I attach it to a production server at work, will it mean that the server will never crash? All of a sudden I realized there are so many things to try with the amulet. Instead of just holding on to it for forty years, you can do all sorts of experiments with that thing. Now wouldn’t that be fun?

Of course, that’s just me. Other people might react very differently if they got hold of this amulet. I11, for example, just might take it apart to figure out how it works!

The Goldie has spoken at 2:00 PM

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