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Stories from Brooklyn and other mythical places

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A post that can be ignored by people who aren’t charmed by odd facts and/or don’t have green eyes.

If you look at the previous post, all four women have green eyes.

Green eyes are considered the most rare eye color in humans, and exist in only 1-2% of the world population.

The country with the largest percentage of green eyes is Hungary, where 20% of the population has green eyes.

My family is from Hungary.

So, it’s no surprise that the posted family pictures are all of green-eyed people, except that at they exist in only about 50% or less of my family members.

Now my question, besides why I look like my favorite relatives, is why there aren’t clubs, organizations and social networks for people with green eyes, like the ones that exist for the comparatively more common left-handers and people with long hair.

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I love family. Really. Not necessarily mine, or even most I’ve met, but it’s a seductive concept. I love the idea of people who will love and accept you, the feeling of belonging, and most of all, the sense of lineage and connection. It’s the reason that, despite a mostly secular life, I observe the Jewish holidays, happy in the knowledge that I’m upholding traditions that people have observed for thousands of years, that I’m a part of a continuing process.

In my rare, annual correspondence with my cousin Jo Ann, I observed that our family is bigger on brains than on beauty, which usually doesn’t bother me. However, when my sweetie, bobhowe posted a candid cell phone picture and encouraged others to do the same, I was terrified. The fact that Bob’s picture makes him look like a serial killer was little consolation.

So I considered the possibility for a few days before heading to a mirror with my iPhone, first thing in the morning and without make-up or any other beautification efforts. This is the result, without any editing:

No make-up, with iPhone

It’s not bad, looks like me, and I don’t look like a psychopathic killer, which is always a plus. The bigger plus is that I’m now quite sure that I do have a family, or relatives at the very least, and here’s the cool thing: I don’t look like my mother or my sister or my father or even my cousin Jo Anne. I do look just like my niece Karen
and my cousin Ellen
Thing 1
and even my Aunt Kate,
Aunt Kate
all of whom I love(d) dearly.

I have no explanation why I look like the people I actually want to be related to, but it’s quite a bonus; not only am I pleased by the resemblance, but the physical similarities increase that all important sense of connection.

Now, let’s see your candid photos.
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I got tired of feeling bad about the stopped start-up.

I got tired of looking for work and finding rejection, not love.

I got tired of the game that goes “if I didn’t have to do anything, what would I like to do?”

I got tired of Civ, Bubble Town and NetHack.

I got tired of home makeover shows.

I got tired of the archeological layers lining the floor of the bedroom.

So I had a temper tantrum.

It’s a start, and Bob will be pleasantly surprised when he comes home this evening.

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The day would not be complete without mention of Isaac Newton's birthday. To celebrate, we each grasped a mandarin orange, although apples are traditional and anything would have worked, held the fruit aloft, and let go. The oranges fell to the ground and went BOOM!, although fortunately, they didn't squish in the manner of a tomato, which would not be a good choice.

It just goes to show that gravity is not just a good idea: it's the law.

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There is some significant advantage to having no family holiday rituals or childhood traumas associated with the season. Sure, there’s no built-in sense of tradition or connection, but you get to set your own rules and have as much fun as you can manage, which is what I did until I had a family of my own. It’s not that the girls’ father came form a religious background; they were non-practicing Unitarians, which is a bit like being a lapsed member of the Ethical Culture Society. It’s just that they put on an annual horror show of seasonally appropriate biblical proportions, and I came to dread the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve.

Gone were the dinner parties for friends who were Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist or just from out of town. Gone were the rounds of holiday parties, although that’s true for most people with young kids. Gone were the informal gift exchanges with close friends. In place of these things came conflict and badly behaved family members, scheduling problems that would have befuddled a professional events planner, and an exhausting amount of work which including wrapping literally dozens of presents; I had to assume that the ability to apply colorful paper to a box is a genetic predisposition that the others, with whom I share no more DNA than that of a chimp, were sorely lacking.

I have the holiday spirit best described as Bah-Humbug, and it’s hard earned. It’s not that I don’t like the concept of the holidays; just the fuss that I mind. As a kid, it was easy and fun. We were Jewish and didn’t do a big gift exchange or complicated family dinners or have a tree. We lit Chanukah candles, whether at home, or depending on when it fell, in St. Louis. I remember the smell of the candles, not quite like the fancy tapers I use as an adult. In addition to multicolored candles, the box contained a piece of paper with the prayers, and each year my mother would read from it; I never quite understood how a woman with such a sharp intellect and memory for detail didn’t remember what to say, even after decades. I loved the holiday lights that appeared everywhere: across streets and on houses, on trees and in windows, and I still do, enough to decorate myself:

The Other Festival of Lights

What I loved best was my annual winter trip to St. Louis. There were two sets of aunts and uncles across the street from each other, cousins, and other neighborhood children to play with. I had no school and lots of amazing things to eat, courtesy of my Aunt Kate. Everyone seemed to like each other well enough, and I felt anything from an agreeable like to an intense love for my Midwestern relatives. I also got presents on Christmas morning, mostly, I think, because the timing was convenient; I was there anyway and the adults didn’t have to go to work. I always got a stocking.

There hasn’t been a holiday season in the past two decades that hasn’t left me homesick and nostalgic for St. Louis, and in the years since I’ve left the girls’ father, I’ve struggled to reestablish personal rituals and traditions. I still love lighting the Chanukah candles and now have a grown-up menorah of my own. Some years are easier or harder than others, and this is one of the hardest; the loss of my beloved Norton would have been difficult on any day, but Christmas Eve seemed particular unfair to both of us. I’m fortunate that my dog and remaining two cats were here to greet me when we returned from the vet’s office, and Morgan of the waggie tail has been a particularly good girl. Earlier in the month, she visited Santa, seen here:

Morgan visits Santa

He must have decided that she was nice and not naughty (Santa doesn’t have to clean up indoor doggie accidents) because she got a box of ten new bandanas to wear throughout the year. My dog is very fashion forward.

We also got a tree, which may not be traditional for My People, but is for Bob’s, so he got to pick it out. It might have been possible to find a bigger evergreen, but it would have to live in the forest or maybe a very large public square. Keep in mind that I’m five feet tall and the ceilings in my apartment are nine feet tall:

Redhead 5', for perspective

It really is pretty and makes me cheerful to look at.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and really, it doesn’t matter if you celebrate Chanukah or the Solstice, Kwanzaa or Saturnalia, or nothing at all. You still have the day off, and in New York City, you don’t even have to move your car. Wishes of joy and good will should always be welcome. And if you live in this hemisphere, the days are getting longer, which is always a cause for rejoicing.

Peace and joy to all. Have as much fun as you can manage. The sun is coming back.

Sun Ornament
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Hydrated Norton

There’s not much to say, except that I’m grief stricken and that he was a good boy.

OK. There is more to say. I adopted Norton and his brother, Hayes, in January of 1994. I had just lost my beloved Leo and the vet asked me if I wouldn’t like to see a pair of littermates a member of her staff had just rescued; they had been put out in the cold during a brutal chill and would have frozen to death if the vet tech had not scooped them up. From the moment I saw Norton, or more accurately, he saw me, he let me know that he had found a new home. He stood on the edge of his cage, door open, and cried and cried until I picked him up. The brothers were never apart for more than a few hours at a time, when one or the other had to go to the vet. Until today.

Norton was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease in May, and his vet felt that he might survive a couple of weeks; she later told me that his kidney levels were “not compatible with life.” Through at-home medical care, he had a good quality of life until the end.

I miss my little boy already.
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This morning I opened the refrigerator and something spoke to me. The voice was deep and primitive, and clearly fit all rules of language. While it sounded like an ancient tongue, unrecognizable to me, the hostile tone was unmistakable. Armed with a 10” Henckel and a spray bottle of heavy-duty bleach-based cleaner, I took a cautious, closer look, only to discover that things were mutating into what appeared to be Elder Gods. Tentacles waved at me, and something spit; fortunately, I moved quickly enough to avoid being hit with the venomous sputum.

I’m so sorry to have thrown anyone’s ancient religion into turmoil and generally, I don’t like to mess with deities, no matter how minor, or with things that have too many appendages and teeth, but when they’re hostile and in my refrigerator, I have little choice; self-preservation trumps everything else, including a healthy amount of fear. Clad in rubber gloves and ready with heavy-duty garbage bags, I undertook the extermination of elder creatures, now living in my building’s garbage room. Having successfully battled the forces of evil, I will now take a long, hot shower to remove all traces of slime from my person. Later this afternoon, I will assemble the vast banks of cat hair into a litter of kittens, which make great gifts. It’s my attempt at holiday crafts.
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My true love has gifted me with an iPhone, and needless to say, the toy-loving geek in me is thrilled to pieces! However, all is not easy or obvious in new gadget land. The very first issue is with my service contract, which is with Sprint, where my mobile service has lived for the past ten years. I have six months to go on my contract, and obviously, Sprint will charge several hundred dollars if I cancel. How have other people dealt with this? Advice? Beyond my initial questions about service contracts, I’d love any and all advice about using my new iPhone.


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If you would like to receive a card from me, delivered by a trained and uniformed government employee, please leave a comment with the following information:

Your postal address
A name your local postal carrier is familiar with

And optional:
The winter holiday/celebration you most associate with
The name of the furry friends you live with

Don't assume I have this information from previous years; even if I do, that doesn't mean I can easily find it.

All comments are screened.

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It’s true that I’m an unapologetic potty-mouth. It’s true that when I bother to supply new content, I tend to write about adult concepts, mostly because I’m, well, an adult. However, it’s also true that despite listing my age as 69 (I’m looking forward to the offers to endorse skin care products) I’ve encountered material that, due to someone else’s sensibilities, is behind a cut tag, and each time, there hasn’t been a swear word, a morally ambiguous concept, sexual contents or material of a political incendiary nature; it just didn’t appeal to someone, or maybe one person just had a gripe with another individual.

I want my teenage kids to learn tolerance and respect for other opinions and attitudes, not that it’s OK to hide thoughts you don’t like under a rug. Or a cut tag.

And yes, this one has REALLY pushed my buttons.

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This journal has been rated as having adult concepts and occasional strong language. If you don't like it, you can fuck off; you don't have to read it. But don't you dare think about censoring me!

OK then, back to your regularly scheduled programming. Have a lovely evening.

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Your Social Dysfunction:

You're a happy person - you have a good amount of self-esteem, and are socially healthy. While this isn't a social dysfunction per se, you're definitely not normal. Consider yourself lucky: you walk that fine line between 'normal' and being outright narcissistic. You're rare - which is something else to be happy about.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

Please note that we aren't, nor do we claim to be, psychologists. This quiz is for fun and entertainment only. Try not to freak out about your results.

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Thanks! I’m soooo ready for the next trip, although I’ll be staying with friends this time.

I’m heading up to Cambridge to attend this conference, which I’ll be covering for this website. If I don’t exactly do a trip report when I get back, I’ll certainly link to the resulting column. I just hope they don’t ban me from the campus when they intuit that I remember nothing about advanced mathematics.

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I have the opportunity to attend a conference in Boston (well, at MIT) and I'm looking for a place to stay on the nights of November 15th and 16th, which is very last minute. Boston is always tough, with fewer hotel rooms in relation to visitors than NYC, and none of the hotel/travel sites have shown any availability under $200, which is way out of my range, and few rooms above that range. If anyone has any suggestions for places to stay, please let me know at at gee-mail dot com, or leave a comment here.


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Apparently, a pair of shoes. Literally.

I was having a pretty rotten day, coming at the end (fortunately) of a pretty terrible week, the kind where you really can’t think of anything good, and if you can’t think of ways for it to get worse, it’s only due to a lack of imagination. As is known to previously undiscovered tribes deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, I don’t do retail therapy. I don’t make impulse buys, don’t shop for recreation, and don’t buy things I don’t actually need. This might be a result of years of frugality or a disdain for consumer culture. Or a lack of imagination.

I have this thing, at odds with the not shopping thing. I always buy objects with my name, which is far from common; it hasn’t been on any top 100 lists since 1942, where it had remained since 1895. There are name-object acquisition rules: it must be spelled correctly. It must be pre-made. Finally, I can’t go out in search of such objects; they have to come to me. I’ve been fanatic about acquiring Eleanor things since 1980, when I passed up a marcasite name pin in a Philadelphia vintage clothing shop. I still regret not buying it.

Normally, I wouldn’t have ventured into a shoe store just for shits and giggles, but the big sign out front said SALE and the little sign said “$19.99.” As my mother used to tell me, it doesn’t cost to look. I really didn’t need flip flops or espadrilles or strappy sandals. In fact, I didn’t need anything. But I walked into this shoe shop on Sixth Avenue, randomly looked at a cute pair of ballet flats (not a style I usually wear) and saw that they had my name on them. Well, in them. For real! Like this. The inner sole actually says “Eleanor,” and it’s spelled correctly. Had I known about this line previously, I would have even bought a pair at full price. I feel no less beaten and depressed than I did this morning, but at least I have shoes with my name.
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