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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shif-reads: "Slapstick" by Kurt Vonnegut

Image result for slapstick vonnegut

As I am sure I mentioned before on this blog I am an avid reader, or maybe even a rabid reader.
I love books and I love to read.   I always have.
Many of my dreams take place in libraries (real or imagined.)
When it comes to reading I'm an omnivore.  I am not that selective really, I read whatever appeals to me at the moment.  When I am desperate though I'll read almost anything.    As a rule I try to avoid romances, and I'm not huge on mysteries or crime fiction but other than that I'm pretty open.  I do like a good plot but what I like even more is great writing.

Normally I am not big on re-reading books but I'll make a few exceptions and all things Vonnegut fit into that category for me.    This week I re-read "Slapstick."   It's not one of Kurt Vonnegut's most famous works and maybe not his best (I hear he gave himself a "D" on this book) but it is one of the most revealing about his own life.  The entire introduction is about his relationship with his siblings, and his family history in Indianapolis, IN, the story behind the story of "Slapstick."   He was a strange man, no doubt, with a unique view of life - but boy could he write.

The book itself is a tale of old man and former President of the United States living in a mostly destroyed and depopulated NYC.   It's a story about the meaning of family and loneliness, with some pretty far-fetched speculations into the future of science and a grim view of the afterlife.

I don't think I'd give it a D but it does ramble and run off the rails here and there.   Still, if you are a die hard Vonnegut fan you won't be too disappointed.  Mr. Vonnegut really puts himself into this story and as a fan, really, what more could you ask for than your favorite writer parting the curtains to let you peek behind the scenes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Something else?

Hello Internet!

I've been thinking about starting to blog again - or really starting to WRITE again.
I'd like to do something else with this blog - write about books, music, things I like, things I think about... Sort of like my old blog but less bloggy if you know what I mean.  You don't?  OK me neither.

I'm not even sure if this is correct medium but it appears this thing is still on so why not right?

Also I'm not so anonymous anymore which is kind of a change for me... I might thing about connecting this to my real ID... we'll see.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanuka

Hey there!
Happy Chanuka to all of you out there in blog-land.

I moved AND started a new job in October so I've been keeping busy. So busy I almost forgot I was the proud owner of this little blog here.

I don't check in here often (as you may have noticed, or um... stopped noticing) but I still see any comments my blog gets come through in my email in box and there is nothing like a little hate-in-the-face to remind you you own a blog. It was one of those "Hitler was right" kind of comments to fairly inoffensive post (actually I try to make ALL my posts as inoffensive as possible) and when I saw the email I was like... "Hey! I have a blog!" and also "People sure hate Jews!" but mostly the first. I'll be deleting that comment shortly.

Speaking of inoffensive - this "Happy Holidays" thing is going a little too far for me this year. Are we really going to pretend Christmas doesn't exist. My company just put out the list of days off for 2012 with Easter listed as "Spring Holiday" and Christmas as "Winter Holiday." Really??
It's December 25th, it's not any day of the winter you choose... If Christmas is a legal holiday in this country let's not pretend it isn't. I am not offended by reality, is anyone?

If anything I think I'm offended that people feel they have to tap dance around me and other non-Christians. I think we can handle it.

Wishing everyone a Happy Chanuka!

Friday, September 02, 2011


Apparently my blog was redirecting there for a bit, but I'm still here.
Thanks to Eliyahu and someone at Google it's all fix-ed now!


Monday, August 29, 2011

How I Spent My Summer

This summer went by much too quickly for me. I feel like I didn't accomplish enough or have enough fun. Perhaps a recap will give me some perspective....

Kids and Trips -

My kids really did have a good summer: Plenty of time with both sets of grandparents, camp for my younger one, babysitting and SAT prep for my older one with plenty of time to hang with friends, rollerblade and write songs in between. I did take my kids on a one day trip to the Camel Beach Water Park in the Poconos. That was excellent - I love the lazy river, water slides too! I also did a 3 hour kayaking trip around the Sedge Islands. It was an eco-tour where we learned about the animals and plants in the area. Very interesting stuff!

Work and Job Interviews - Work is rough. Ever since my department discovered that they can "do more with less" I've been completely overwhelmed with no end in sight. Things with my manager are still tenuous at best so I spent the early part of the summer looking for another job with a more generous salary. I had a couple of good leads both found through job sites (I am not a networker.) One was a at a French based company. I did well at the US interview but when I had the Skype-style interview with the head office in France the combination of the language barrier and the poor sound quality was just more than I could overcome. Also I didn't really want to be a one person department, that seemed lonely and scary!

I had another interview with a large candy manufacturer. The interview was one of those where they get you in a room with a group of people and ask you canned questions like "How did you resolve a conflict in the workplace" or "What is the most difficult conversation you ever had at work." They asked dozens of these and I foolishly used my manager twice as an example (because I so rarely have conflicts in the workplace.) I also used a metaphor involving a frilled lizard. I didn't get the job.

Television - There is a lot of terrible stuff on Television! Storage Wars, Untold Stories of the ER, Millionaire Matchmaker, Hoarders.... ick!! And yet somehow on those rare occasions when I just plunk down in front of the TV I find myself watching 2 hours of this junk back-to-back-to-back (ok not hoarders... that's too awful even for me.)

Snacks and Drinks - Yeah, I gained weight this summer, stupid I know. Here are some of my favorite new snacks and drinks. Low-calorie gatorade in orange, Pop Corners (this is like popcorn flattened into a chip somehow) I like the sea salt and Jalapeno flavors. The butter flavor tastes like puke according to my daughter (not recommended.) Fiber One has an 80 calorie pre-packaged brownie out that's really good, and if calories don't count for you I recommend Mint Oreo Fudge creams are like the Girl Scout's "Thin Mints" but with less cookie and more of the good stuff. My kids also recommend Sabra's Greek Olive Hummus with Stacy's Pita Chips.

Gardening - I live in an apartment but there is still a little area for a garden. This year I grew red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, mint, basil, chives, dill, parsley, and oregano. The red peppers and chives were the most successful but I did get a little of everything.

Projects - I paid off my Yaris this summer and I'm very happy with that little car. Due to the recall on the floor mats I found I was wearing a large hole in the car's carpet where I rest my left foot while I drive. I took the old (offending) car mat and cut out a large plus sign (or cross if you will) I tucked in under the hole one side at at time and glued it down with marine glue. Looking good! Ok looking like to total patch job but still WAAAY better.

I also was the lucky recipient of a free "easy button" from staples.
While it's very amusing on it's own I'm in the process of rewiring it to say what ever I like by installing a tiny microphone. This is my first wiring project and it's slow going (even with help.)

So I guess I did do a few things this summer... still time goes so fast... sigh...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So, how was it?

If you were fasting yesterday how did it go?
Did it make you feel sad, self-reflective, or just hungry?

My fast went pretty well, I got myself off caffeine a week before and that was a big help.

For me I think it's a good thing to fast once in a while. Even though my financial situation has had it's ups and downs over the years I've never been in a situation where I had nothing to eat. I don't want to get too political here but I think if some folks in Washington went without a meal once in a while they would have a lot more respect for the programs that keep America's children from going hungry on a regular basis.

The nine-days do have an effect on me, particularly because they are so restrictive during a time of year that's usually a lot more relaxed. Whatever I'm in the mood to do (especially on the weekends) such as go to the movies, or the beach, I have to tell myself, no - that's too much fun - and it reminds me of all the tragic events of that time of year. A custom that my Shul has, of remaining completely silent upon leaving the building in complete silence after the reading of Eicha is particularly effective. Shul is such a social place most of the time - not speaking changes the mood entirely.

One thing that kind of gets to me is the pile of events that are always listed as on or near the 9th of Av. I'm not a huge fan of coincidences, they make me feel skeptical - the more coincidences you heap on the less I'm included to buy what you are selling. Kind of like that whole Kennedy/Lincoln thing. Too much! Also why are any of those facts in important? Coincidences are everywhere but they don't necessarily mean anything. I have a hard time considering a certain time of year "unlucky." Sad yes, unlucky no. Still I'd rather lump together a group of sad things and mourn them all at once than separately all year long.

Share your 9 days experiences in the comments. I'm interested!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

If God Had a Blog

I liked this - (yes I know this more like a Facebook post than a blog entry.)


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The World's Most Polite Pyramid Scheme.... or not...

A couple of weeks ago S, an old friend of mine, invited me to party.
A Mary Kay party.

For those of you not so familiar with Mary Kay it is a line of skin care products and make up for women that is sold by local "independent sales reps" as opposed to through standard retail channels. I have trouble saying no, and I've been meaning to be more social lately, so I said yes.

So I went to the party. I can't say I really fit in, although to S's credit there was a wide range of women there (about 12 total) of various ages, backgrounds, religious leanings, and skin types.

Actually it wasn't much of a party although there was quite a bit of laughing and having fun.

It was, in fact, a product demonstration of just about as many Mary Kay products as you could possibly rub into any available skin on your face, arms, and hands in the span of an hour. The woman who did the presenting was a little much for me - over-eager in a way that seemed more sad to me than fake (big saucer eyes, describing everything as "amazing" etc.. ) also the face powder burned my cheeks a little.

After the presentation we each had to retire to S's den individually with Saucer Eyes to place our order. In my head I had already planned the one item I would buy (just eye makeup remover and nothing else!) but somehow I ended up with that plus some kind of eye cream, for wrinkles I don't even have, and no money left in my pocket (fortunately I was smart enough to leave my credit card and checks at home.) Once all that business was complete, the she asked me if I'd consider selling Mary Kay since she though I'd be great at it and gave me a video to watch about all the goodness that selling Mary Kay can bring to your life.

Now, selling Mary Kay would be about the last thing on earth I'd like to do, but I watched the video anyway. (I know, why do I keep doing things I don't want to do, right? In this case think I was curious.) It was all about this woman, who made piles of money selling Mary Kay and quit her sexist big city job and now is the best mom and saleslady ever! Yay!

After the video I consulted the internet for varying views on how great or terrible Mary Kay is and whether or not it's a pyramid scheme and if that matters. There was a lot of information but it all seemed skewed one way or another and honestly in the end I think if you love to meet people and working for yourself and selling cosmetics it could be great (although I think your chances of getting rich are slim) and if not it's not for you.

The video however did inspire me to do more of the things that enrich me as a person - like blogging, and several other interests and projects I've been letting languish.

So Mary Kay,

If you are reading this, and you are an actual person who is still alive, Thanks!


PS. Your eye cream costs $35 and smells like rotting flowers? Why is that?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guess Who?

It's not easy being Ask Shifra.

When I started this blog I thought... I'm easy to talk to and have it pretty much together, maybe I can help people, that sounds like fun.

Of course later it turned into a jumble of things - writing, sharing ideas, a soap opera with no resolution, meeting cool people, and venting (naturally) all under the veil of anonymity. Nice!

As things in my life got more complex I became more of myself and less of my alter-ego. When my brother died I think I pretty much outed myself and even my parents learned about this blog (maybe they have forgotten by now? I'm pretty sure the words "browser history" mean nothing to them.)

Not long after that, when my marriage fell apart, I thought: Who am I to give advice or to tell people what I think is right? I felt so turned around, I didn't feel like myself at all. During all that time the best advice I got (and I didn't get a lot) was "Try to be OK." That seemed like an attainable goal...maybe... And you know what? After a year or so of faking it, I'm a lot better than OK. I'm good. More importantly, I'm BACK.

Do people still read blogs? Let's find out, shall we?


Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Updates

I don't like to leave people hanging so here are the updates from last post:

  • Talked to my boss. Things are better.
  • Still Sick (maybe sicker!)
  • Buyers pulled out of the deal
  • It STILL is what it is
Good Shabbos!