Archive for January, 2009

Life on Mars

My friend wrekehavoc has been doing a whole month of blog posts on great 70s music. It’s been a lot of fun reading her posts and I definitely recommend a look.

Now that one of my favorite shows, Life On Mars, is back I get to hear some great 70s music. One of the great things is that they strive to find music that would have been on the radio. Back in the 70s (unlike today) you also got to hear more obscure songs as well as the big hits.

There were four songs on last night’s episode, starting with the big hit No Time from The Guess Who. The Guess Who is a very interesting band. They are a Canadian group and the first Canadian group to get into the top 5 on the US charts (including their number one hit a few months later, American Woman). The Guess Who was a very typical band of the early 70s and their music is like much of the early 70s rock music that we all know and love. I think the most interesting thing about the band is that the name may have been an attempt to keep the names of the band secret and make people think that it was a group of very well known singers and help sell the records.

The second song was Legs by Darondo (somewhat obscure song)

Third was Whisky in the Jar by Thin Lizzy. This Irish folk song from the 17th Century was given a nice rock spin by this Irish heavy Metal group.

Finally the show ended with My Maria by B.W. Stevenson. This great love ballad became a bit hit for Country singer Stevenson in 1973.

Enjoy!

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15 Minute “Homemade” Pasta Sauce

On the way home from work today I was told that Avi wanted pasta and meatballs for dinner. It was not exactly on my radar for dinner, but why not. Defrosting the ground beef is not too hard, and add a jar of pasta sauce and you are done. The problem is that being on Weight Watchers, pasta sauce is quite a no-no. So here is what I came up with.

15 Minute Homemade Pasta Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 medium onion diced
4 garlic gloves crushed
2 Tbs Italian seasoning

Brown the beef and chop up in a pan with no oil. As the beef cooks down there will be enough fat to cook the meat.
Just before the beef is about done add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 mintues.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium heat for at least 5 minutes (10 minutes optimum)

Makes about 10 servings

Serve over pasta.

For any WW people out there each serving is 4 points. Add one cup of cooked whole wheat pasta, a nice large salad with non-fat dressing and you have a very nice 7 point dinner.

Here Comes the Sun

I don’t hide the fact that I am a Democrat and that I supported Barack Obama from the moment he was the front runner in the Democratic primaries. There are many reasons why I am a Democrat and I am not going to bore anyone with that list here. I do, however, want to make note of a few things (and perhaps some of my reasons for being a Democrat will show through).

First I want to say that although in the end I was very much against everything that Bush said and did, I was not totally in that camp. Clearly when he was running against Al Gore back in 2000 I supported Gore, however, I had more of a wait and see policy. It was very obvious that Bush was and still is a major supporter of Israel and for that I will be forever thankful. I think that due to Bush our Country will, for the foreseeable future, be a very pro Israel country. It was not until the Iraq war that I became totally dissatisfied with the Bush administration. I did give him the benefit of the doubt at first, and I really wish that the Republican right would extend the same courtesy to Obama. Everything I read from the right has been so anti Obama it actually pains me to read it at times.

If you look at Rush Limbaugh’s web site, the top headlines read “Obama Executive Orders put Politics over National Security” and “I want Obama’s Policies to Fail”. And even worse “Greg Craig, Our 44th President.” Obama has spent 2 full working days in office and this is what they have to say. Why can’t they wait and see what things are going to be like before they criticize. Of course I understand that someone like Limbaugh is partly entertainment and that the ultra left may have spouted off similarly when Bush won office. But truth be told, are we better off now than we were 8 years ago when Bush became President? I think the answer is an obvious no, and I would love to hear the reasons why someone would answer yes. Let’s wait and see what happens over the next year. When Bill Clinton became president, things were not in the best of shape, but after eight years in the White House, our country was doing the best it had been in many years.

So to my Republican friends, take a deep breath and wait and see.

Second, I am very excited about Obama’s first executive order, issued on his first full day in office. It spells out an ethics pledge that any new governmental appointee will need to sign. You can read it here.

And third, as to the closing of secret overseas prisons and Guantanamo Bay I am also happy about this. Obama said this afternoon “Our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism. Where I hear this I am reminded about what Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1775 “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

So in honor of the first days of the Obama administration….

1 week of Weight Watchers

So today marks the last day in my first week of Weight Watchers. It has not been too difficult. I have stuck to the plan mostly every day. The hard part of course is on Shabbat when this week we ate at friends houses both for dinner and lunch.

For those not in the know, Weight Watchers works on a point system. You get a certain amount of points a day and each food item has a point value. Doing the online version of WW makes this easy as they have many brand names in their database as well as generic items. You also get an extra 35 points for the week that can be spread out however you want. You don’t have to use them, but for Shabbat it makes things easier. I decided that on Shabbat I would basically not count points. I tried to be reasonable with my eating and food choices, and at the end of the day, I just marked down the extra 35 points. My normal daily allotment is 33 points.

I am pretty sure I have already lost some weight as my pants are now looser. On WW you only weigh yourself once a week and for me that will be tomorrow morning. Hopefully I will have good news to report.

Last night, after a particularly difficult evening with the kids, Marsha and I had not eaten dinner and we were in the mood for soup. I googled 10 minute soup and came up with a few ideas. Here is a recipe that I adapted from one I found (originally from Women’s Day Magazine).

10 Minute Tuscan Tomato Soup

  1. 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  2. 1 7 oz jar of roasted red peppers (about 2 peppers)
  3. 1 15 oz can of cannellini beans
  4. 1 clove garlic
  5. 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  6. 1 Tbs consommé powder prepared with 2 cups of water
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Rinse beans well and place the first five ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.
Pour into saucepan and mix in the prepared consommé.
Heat on medium high heat for about 5 minutes until soup is almost boiling.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with 1 Tbs of cheese on top.

This came out great! Don’t leave out the cheese as it gives a real creaminess that the soup needs.

Enjoy!

Jews on TV

It’s no surprise that I like Television. In fact, I may like it too much. I watch way too much TV, either from our DVR with my wife or I watch a lot on my computer going to and from work on the train. I noticed a long time ago, as did many others, that the depiction of Jews in Television is not exactly what we are like in the real world. There have been a number of books written on this subject and I do not want to get into a scholarly discussion.

I have actually noticed a decline in the number of Jewish characters on TV these days. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is good because it give us a chance to stop seeing the false depiction of the Jew on Television. It is a bad thing, because it is important for our younger coreligionists to see positive role models on tv who are Jewish.

Of all of the shows I watch regularly (and irregularly) I can come up with six shows that depict Jews, and in each case it is different from the rest. One is a situation comedy (which in the past most Jewish characters were to be found) and the rest dramas.

The comedy is called “The Big Bang Theory“. I happen to think this is one of the funniest shows on television right now and highly recommend it to anyone (especially since there are very few good comedies out there today). The story revolves around two roommates who are both Physicists at a university. One is a child prodigy who has not understanding of the world and the other is a guy who had to come by his accomplishments by really working at it. A pretty girl moves in across the hall and that is where the situation comes from. Surprisingly it is neither of the main characters who are Jewish, but one of their friends. The character of Howard Wolowitz (play beautifully by Simon Helberg who is Jewish) is shown as a 20 something engineer who still lives at home with his mother and cannot get a date. How stereotypical! Truth be told, I have yet to meet anyone like this in real life, and I would imagine that there were more non-Jewish men in their 20s living at home with their mothers than there are Jewish men.

First two drama with Characters who look and sound Jewish but we have not been told if they are or not. In “House” we have Doctor Taub, played by Peter Jacobson (Jewish) who is on Dr. House’s team. As viewers we are pretty sure he is Jewish but there is no proof of this. This is a common thing I have found. We have Jewish Characters and they don’t want to deal with this. I am not sure why they make the character Jewish, but sometimes when a character is around for a while they get to dealing with this. The other one, in the show “Life” (which was created by someone in the grade above me when I was at Solomon Schechter) is the character of Ted Early played by Adam Arkin (Jewish). We think he might be Jewish only because Adam Arkin is Jewish, but you never know.

The next show is a show I fell in love with after just one episode. It is called “Being Erica” and unfortunately you cannot see it on American TV. It is a Canadian show (and by the way they are producing some very good television) and you can download or watch it on the net. The main character, Erica Strange, has spent her life making many mistakes and has many regrets. An odd therapist allows her to go back in time to correct these mistakes and there of course is a lesson at the end of the show. Now I had no clue during the first episode that Erica was Jewish until late in the show, her parents show up at her apartment. Her dad has a tee shirt that says I’m with Moses and he is wearing a small suede kippah on his head. WOW. A Jewish character who perhaps is going to be shown as really Jewish. I am waiting to see. BTW, there was a show called “The Trials of Rosie O’Neill” starring Sharon Gless in 1992. Ron Rifkin played her boss and the character was a Shomer Shabbat Jew and on one episode Rosie goes to his home for Shabbat Dinner.

Which brings me to “Brothers and Sisters” starring Sally Field. The show is about the Walker family, a wealthy family where the mom is Jewish and the father (who dies in the first episode) is not. The entire family here is technically Jewish. The only time is ever came into play was one episode where they did the famous Hanukkah Christmas dilemma. I hate that! The worst offending show that ever did this was the otherwise good “Thirtysomething“.

Finally the one shining light on TV today and it took five seasons to get there. Numb3rs is a show about an FBI agent and his Math genius brother who helps him solve crimes, stars not one, not two, but three Jewish actors in the top three roles. Rob Morrow (who also played a great Jewish character in “Northern Exposure“) stars as the FBI agent Don Epps, David Krumholtz as his brother and Judd Hirsh as their father. They did not cover up from the start that they were Jewish, but it was obvious that they had no connection to their religion. In the last few episodes, Don (Rob Morrow) has decided to learn more about his Jewishness by meeting regularly with a Rabbi and going to Synagogue. We’ll see where that goes.

OK, for a guy who promised not to write a dissertation, I sure did a bad job. Sorry for the length, but it has been on my mind.

Enjoy!

Honors

Yesterday, Avi brought home a perfect report again from school which put him at ten days in a row and he goes on honors. I know that I have mentioned here before, but they break up his school day into ten periods. He can get anywhere from zero to two points for each period. If he has 16 or above for the day the following day will be a green day and if he has 15 or less the following day is a red day. Five green days in a row gets him a pick out of a prize barrel (deck of cards, matchbox car, etc.). 10 days in a row gets honors (I think that for honors it has to be 10 perfect days in a row).

I often speak about the troubles we are having with Avi and the difficulties at home. We often lose sight of the accomplishments that he does achieve. While we may have a long way to go with his home behavior, as far as school in concerned he has moved leaps and bounds from where he was when he was at Schechter last year.

I am very proud of Avi for getting on honors.

Now having nothing to do with Avi or ADHD, I came across this great clip from the movie Hellboy 2. If you are unfamiliar with the character, he is a demon from the underworld that was raised by humans and fights for humanity against the paranormal. It is a comic book and 2 major movies. Anyway, as you might guess he is a no holds barred and rough a macho kind of guy.

Enjoy!

New Year, More Blog

It’s hard to believe it is 2009. Some days I wake up and I can remember the mid 80s like it was yesterday. When people tell you that time moves so fast, they are certainly telling the truth. It’s been a while since I have written in my blog and one of my two real New Year’s resolutions is to get back to writing regularly. I’ll come to the other in a moment. I want to partially go back to my original plan for this blog which was to write about my family and I am going to do that. I also want to continue writing about things that I think about and current events. So as much as I loved writing a song of the day for every day, I am going to give that a rest. From time to time I may have a song of the day blog posting, but much less frequent. I have been thinking about starting to write movie reviews, so perhaps you will see some of those in the near future (or course they will mostly be reviews of movies I see on DVD and Blu-Ray as we rarely get to the movie theater).

So starting off this year of blogging I want to update on my family. I’ll start with the kids. Shayna is 3 years old and definitely going through a defiant stage. There is almost nothing that she will not try to defy us on, but unlike Avi, she does respond to the consequences of her actions, and I am confident that we will see the end of this phase soon. The other major obstacle with Shayna is potty training. When the boys were training I always remember people telling us that girls were so much easier. Well, I’m here to tell you that they must have been lying. She has been a nightmare with this. One of the main reasons we moved her to a different pre-school is because at her old school she could not be in the pre-school class without being out of diapers (but we are happy with the new school). Luckily, her class is doing a major push, since most of the kids in the class are not trained. God willing she will be a more regular pottier.

Noam is cursed with being the middle child. Definite Jan Brady syndrome. We try hard to give him the attention he needs, and I think much of the time we succeed. He is a fun kid, but is still hesitant with new things. He is starting to get into the cub scouts like Avi and I think he will slowly come out of his shell as he gets more into the scouts. He is really enjoying Solomon Schechter and soon he might know more Hebrew than me!

Avi’s ADHD (and maybe bipolar disorder) are continuing to be sources of difficulty in our home. He is still going to the special school (New Vue Academy) and is doing well there. They work on a point system and the max the kids can get in a day is 20. If Avi gets 20 points today it will be his tenth in a row and that will put him on honors (I’m not entirely sure what that he will get for that) and this will be the first time he will achieve that. Avi gets home at about 2:30 from school and Noam and Shayna at about 4. It is the time between 4 and when I get home that are the most difficult. Starting next week, we will have a behavioral therapist come to our house for 5 hours each week, so that will happen on two or three days a week during that time, so God willing things will get a bit easier.

Marsha is still doing the Pampered Chef thing and is working hard to build her business this year. If anyone wants to host a Pampered Chef party or do a catalog sale, let me know. You could get a lot of free stuff for hosting and you will certainly have a lot of fun.

Which brings me to me. Many people know that I have Crohn’s Disease. I have not had any major problems from this in years, but last week we got a little scare. I was in the hospital for a number of hours on Friday with abdominal pains. They did a CT scan and it was inconclusive (although now they think it was a kidney stone). I am long overdue for a Colonoscopy and I will get that done the week after next. I went to the doctor to follow up last night and he really scared me about my weight, and that brings me to resolution number 2. I really want to get down to a more healthy weight this year. Marsha is doing weight watchers and I have done that in the past, so I signed up to do the online version. I will update my progress here from time to time

Well that is enough information to last for a while. Happy new year to everyone!

Oh, and I was watching a clip from the amazing movie Fame yesterday. It is a great song from the 80s and one of the best movie songs ever.

Enjoy!