Friday, December 26, 2014

These be my year end ruminations

They are beautiful, but . . . ?

Why are there so many beautiful young women on the NFL Network? It's not that I am complaining. After all, they are nice to look at and they are not annoying in the way Kelly Ripa, my nemesis, seems determined to be at all moments she is on air.  I am only ruminating, not criticizing. The women they employ all seem to know their football, and I haven't seen anyone make a fool of themselves. I wish I could say that of many men and women who do regular news programs, as they are often out of their depth.

Most if not all networks covering football or other sports do the same thing now - include a pretty young woman.  But, the inclusion of them is almost always done in a token way. For example, when I started this post I was watching the morning show on the NFL Network. As usual, there are two former well known football players, one relatively tiny white male host with a broadcasting background (I could ask "why?" about his type too, as the players and coaches seem to handle it all fine without on-air broadcast training, but the male "journalists" are at least allowed to show more football knowledge) and then there's the token woman.  There is never more than one and she is always outnumbered, usually three to one. In fact, they never seem to do a one on one debate with them.  She may be blonde or brunette, but she's always very young and pretty.  Rarely is there any real analysis from her. I'm not sure I've ever heard any.  Maybe a comment like, "Well, their defense has been playing better."  But, they don't have them explain the read option play or anything like that.

Is she there because female fans want to see a woman?  I don't think so. I haven't seen a study but not only have I never heard a woman say we need more women covering football, but the limited commentaries I can find online seem to indicate that, in general, women want to be able to participate in sports, but don't care who covers them. 

Do the men want her them as eye candy on these shows?  I doubt many care all that much, but there's no call for it from them.  People want to see their heroes and great athletes. The NFL Network and other football shows are "manned" by former players, many of them big stars and coaches.  Naturally, as this is football, they are male.  

I googled all women sports shows and apparently CBS has one called We Need To Talk. I've never seen it advertised or heard anyone talk about it. I've read it wasn't rated, meaning, no one is seeing how they are doing, if that is possible.  I hate to conclude this is just more politically correct nonsense, trying to prove there are no differences between men and women other than in physiology.  

Anyway, the tokenism is here to stay. It's not really important, but it's just silly.

Don't shoot.

I've written online quite a bit on this subject, commenting on articles and replying to other commenters, but I haven't written about it (at least much) on this blog.  And, it deserves its own post.  It reminds me of writing about abortion, which I once did here while feeling uncomfortable. 

Suffice for these ruminations, at least based upon what I have read so far, there is a huge difference between Eric Garner, who it appears to me died as a result of unnecessary police action, bad laws and policies, but in which I have no reason to think race played a role, and Michael Brown, who it appears to me  was very likely the primary cause of his own demise.  

I think for many white people, certainly most I have discussed it with, they have tremendous sympathy for Garner and little to none for Brown, except perhaps that it is sad he is dead and did not have a chance to turn his life around.  But, the problem is, when protesters put the two together, heads turn away.  In fact, I just read an article by the former basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was arguing that this is not about the police, but racism (his father and grandfather were officers). His article made sense until he lumped Brown with Garner.

Also, when Al Sharpton appears as a leader, the protests lose all credibility. That is not to say that there is no legitimacy to the protests. There may be a problem in certain, even many places, and we should always look at policing with a thought to reform. The police, like any institution can be improved with rational changes. For one, after reading the federal court opinions, I was in agreement that NYC's stop and frisk program needed to be significantly changed.  But, the police can also be made ineffective and ruined by political and irrational policies brought about by political pressure.  I do not believe that Al Sharpton cares, however much he says that violence is inappropriate, that lives are taken if it advances his political movement (not that death threats made against him, presuming they are true, are tolerable either).  His constant drumbeat over any claimed attack or killing of a black person regardless of truth makes me think he wants to advance people he identifies with at the cost of everything and everyone else.  

The chance for rational leaders to make rational choices are lessened when protesters are complaining if the authorities release a video showing their martyr holding up a store, which some did, by their raising their hands and saying "don't shoot" as a symbol regardless of whether it really happened to Mr. Brown, or grouping Eric Garner with Brown, as if it is the same thing. And of course the looting, arson and carnage in Ferguson and some other places doesn't help the protesters either, even if the large majority wasn't involved. I wasn't there, but when Gandhi, the model for all modern civil disobedience and peaceful reform movements, was advocating independence for India, he would go on hunger fasts in order to stop the violence with his personal sacrifice. 

While I was writing this post two police officers were executed in NY by a black male who, it is reported, claimed in online posts that he was going to kill officers over Brown and Garner. The two officers he shot were of Chinese and Puerto Rican descent.  It doesn't matter that he had a history of gun violence and even shot his girlfriend earlier. He was inspired by the irrational side of these protests. At least one PBA official has laid the blood on De Blasio's doorstep for his statements regarding his own son and the police.  I feel that's fair to a degree, but certainly an overstatement.  However, De Blasio and Pres. Obama and AG Holder should back off their inflammation of racial issues and should even walk back previous inflammatory statements.  It is, of course, almost impossible for a politician to apologize or admit error unless their job is in jeopardy.


There are essentially two positions here. One, it will never end until victory, the Castros are dead and Cuba is capitalistic. The other - enough already - we must continue the cold war and economic  warfare against Cuba despite that it has never been particularly effective and despite the hardship it creates for Cubans on the island and in this country.

It is incredibly hard if not impossible to find anything good to say about the Castros (although I did learn one tactical lesson from Fidel, if what I read is true, stemming from when he was a rebel against the Batista regime - purportedly, when he was in prison, the prisoners were required to get up at  an early hour - he had those under his sway get up an hour earlier than that - in other, words, he took the control from his jailors.)

But, Fidel is enfeebled and Raul is an aged man whose retirement can not be far away (he says, I believe 2017 or 18). Of course there powerful people behind them, and it is not possible for us to determine who will step into the breach.  But, I am one of those who believes that more interaction with us will lead to their people wanting more of what we have.  It's not a zero sum game, and of course, South and Latin America countries show us that we will not be blindly emulated by any country, but, I wonder what they would be like had we not been the example.  In any event, even Cuba is no longer Cuba, a leading exporter of terrorism and sending troops around the world. Time for all of us to move on.  We have with China and Russia, both much worse than Cuba; we even have with Vietnam, for crying out loud. I'm not recommending we trust them or reward their government, but, trade, travel, diplomacy, etc., should be freely permitted.

I already have met many people who have been there and smoke Cuban cigars. Why should there be any peril in it for Americans from their own country?

Gronk and JJ

Is Gronkowski who JJ Watt would be if a Tight End?  Is JJ Watt who Gronk would be if a defensive lineman?  They are practically matches in physical form, passion and talent.  Both seem like near irresistible forces who are as punishing to hit as to be hit by.  Of course, this is just harmless fantasy type speculation., but I like it.


It is still football season so I will indulge myself with another NFL matter. The NFL rates QBs according to a rating system that many people laugh at, but, I don't think it is all that ridiculous as it includes a lot of different factors - completions, touchdowns, yards and interceptions - divided by attempts and filtered through a formula. However, the NFL primarily rates QBs by the single statistic of yards completed, which is much more ridiculous to me. Yardage has too much to do with how often you get to throw in your teams system and how far your guys can run with the ball after they catch it to be a basis for ranking.

So, what should we use? Any system will have some faults. Much more impressive to me is the QBs touchdown to interception ratio. Touchdowns and turnovers are what win games.  Fumbles change games too but they are much more rare for QBs than interceptions. So, that is my basis.

In my chart below I also show completion averages (obviously with some minimum number of TDs and attempts in place for all these stats) because it tracks fairly well with the TD/interception ration and therefore supports my argument.  You may ask, why not start with pass completion percentage?  My reason is that I really don't thinks it is as reflective of what my common sense shows.  Brees did not have a better year than Manning.  Alex Smith did not have a better year than Luck. Tannehill did not have a better year than Brady and Wilson, Smith and Manning. Etc.

I acknowledge that both the TD/interception ration and pass completion percentage stats are influenced by other players, as a tipped ball can still be an interception and completions obviously involves having guys who can catch the ball. Nevertheless I feel that the results best comports with my common sense impressions.  I also show  the passer ratings in my chart because, as I said, it does includes multiple factors.  Not surprisingly, the top three QBs in my system this year also have the best passer ratings. But, none of these stats account for the running ability, which is, for some very few QBs, a weapon.  

In my system, Aaron Rodgers is having by far the best year of any QB, followed by Romo and Roethlisberger.  Brady might have been higher but for the first two games of the season where for some reason, his blockers should have just been called "watchers."  I'm a little surprised some few mention him in the MVP contest but, as much as I favor him, I don't think he deserves it this year. Nor Manning. Manning's passing rating is inflated by the high number of touchdowns, but his touchdown to interception rating is meh, not least because of his last game against the Bengals. But, that's football and your bad games count too.

My ranking system                                                         The NFL's ranking

                                                TD/int   Pct    Rating        

Rodgers                               7.200     65.1  111.0           Brees

Romo                                    4.000     70.3  114.4           Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger                  3.750     67.4  103.8           Luck

Brady                                    3.666     64.5    98.3           P. Manning

Wilson                                  3.333     62.8    95.7           Ryan

Smith                                    3.000     65.3    93.4           Rodgers

Manning, P.                        2.600     66.8  102.9           Stafford

Luck                                       2.375     61.7    95.4           Brady

Brees                                    2.285     69.6    99.2           Rivers

Ryan                                      2.333     66.4    96.7           Eli Manning

Tannehill                              2.166    67.0    93.2             Tannehill

Rivers                                    1.937     67.0    95.8           Flacco                   

My system, whatever its faults, is far superior to the NFL's.  I put the NFL's rankings in next to mine for comparison, to show the difference.  Rodgers, Romo and Roethlisberger (along with Tannehill, the only one the NFL has about right) have been the best QBs this year by far.  Rodgers is only number 6 on the NFL list and Romo is way down at 14. That's ridiculous. Romo is having an MVP type season so far and Eli Manning (who was much better year this than last, but see below) and Flacco are ahead of him.  So is Jay Cutler (who is not as bad as many others, but just the worst per dollar)!  And the NFL has Russell Wilson 17th. How does that make sense?  Stafford, despite Detroit's success, shouldn't even be on the list. His performance, for all the talent on the team, has not been particularly impressive other than in total yardage.  Luck and Brees, the first possibly a future hall of famer and the latter definitely so, are overrated by the NFL this year because of the sheer number of times they throw the ball in their teams' systems.

If I could just make some arbitrary changes I might put Wilson ahead of Brady and Manning at least even with him.  Manning does surpass Brady in most every category by a little bit except TD/int. ratio. Both rarely fumble (Manning has 2 so far and Brady 1).  Wilson runs so well, he is a rushing  weapon no other QB can match except perhaps Kapaernik and to a less degree Newton, both of whom had  terrible years overall and neither of whom would make my list anyway. 

I will leave my analysis off here.  As a matter of feeling based on intangibles, for any one critical game, especially at the end of the game,  I'd rather have Rodgers or Brady than anyone else in the league.  Manning may be the best ever in many regards, but I'd rather have them.

By the way, my MVP is J.J. Watts. No other player has been so important to his team. Next, though he will likely get no votes, is Odell Beckham, Jr.  He is the sole reason in my view that the Giants have recovered and won a number of games in the second half of the season. Without him, Eli Manning would have continued on his downward trajectory. He's that key.


I have long been an agnostic with respect to the climate change debate, somewhat because I don't understand the science well enough (and argue that virtually no one else does either - reading an article is different than reading a scientific study) and it's been too politicized to trust most anyone on it. Nevertheless, I think we can see two phenomena remain steady for at least 15 years, one on each side of the argument.  Manmade global warming does not seem to be happening but the local melting of glaciers and mountain peaks seem to be occurring most everywhere, but with the state of the two major ice sheets containing 3/4s of the world's fresh water - Greenland and Antarctica - still being debatable.

But, leave all this aside. There is a very good reason we should be concentrating hard to develop renewable forms of energy and carbon based alternatives to oil (like shale/natural gas) at home. Dropping oil prices is a formidable weapon against some of the bad actors in the world , Russia being one of them.  Of course, we can't say for sure that the loss of oil revenues will have an effect on the aggressiveness of countries, but, it obviously weakens their economies.

The Bolt

As much because of his infectiously joyful (although not very humble) personality as his legendary prowess, Usain Bolt of Jamaica has become the most popular athlete in the world.  I don't really care so much about his personality though but I marvel at his abilities. Though there are other fast men who are capable of beating him on a given day, he has been far and away the fastest man in the world for a considerable period of time now and many other athletes consider him the most dominant athlete in the world.

I am going to keep this short but . . .

His 9.58 seconds in 2009, running against the other fastest sprinters in the 100 meters is so fast that it is has only athletically been equaled as a sport achievement by NBA player Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game and getting 55 rebounds another time. 

His two hundred meter record barely eclipsed the previous almost unattainable record of someone else who was one of the most remarkable sprinters in history - Michael Johnson (the former 200 and 400 meter record holder).

He won the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and in both also a gold in the 4 x 100 meter relay along with his Jamaican teammates.  No one had ever won the 100 meter and 200 meter races in two Olympics in a row (Carl Lewis just missed) and certainly not also the 4x100 meter relay along with it.

He is also the world record holder in the rarely run 150 meters race.

Nobody cares all that much about indoor records, but he holds the 100 meter record for that too, set just this year.

During the 150 meter world record he ran the fastest time ever for a flying 100 meters - 8.70 seconds, faster than any other human has ever run, over 25 miles an hour.

He is the first athlete two hold the 100 and 200 meter world records in the modern era  (1977, when automated time keeping became mandatory).

He is the all time leader in World Championship medals with 10 (8 gold, 2 silver - Carl Lewis has 8 gold, 1 silver 1 bronze).

He compares himself to Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.  Fair enough.

Books 2014

I have commented on a couple of online articles on the best books of 2014 that there was only one book I found a must read (already read it) and there was nothing else out there that made me just mad to get it. That may say more about me than about the state of publishing, but, so it is. Fortunately, there are, for practical purposes, an endless previously published books in this world and I can never hope to read but a fraction of them.

My number one piece of advice

I admit, despite finding abhorrent the hacking of SONY emails, I also enjoyed it. So did just about everyone else who wasn't affected by them.

Here's why I think we liked them:

-We consider everyone in the movie and tv businesses celebrities and we like to talk about them and get glimpses of their real lives.

-People were caught kidding around and we are now are gleeful that they pay the price for the political correctness we at least imagine they stand for.

-People got caught telling the truth. That's always exciting.

- People got caught being arrogant. That's even more fun.

I tell every client and most of my friends (more than once), even strangers, the same advice - do not write things in emails, texts, chats, etc., that you do not other want people to see.  It is now the principle part of legal discovery and in almost every single case I deal with outside of (but sometimes) personal injury cases, emailing and texting play a major role. Each time,  almost always, someone in a case says  something they are sorry about. I know people who have lost jobs, been severely embarrassed and lost friends over emails. Don't be a dummy.

The Rape Fallacy

Rape has much been on people's lives lately and you have to applaud the desire to reduce it as much as humanly possible. But, no, not at all costs. Recently, the NY Times published several commentators on rape in a linked article. One of them took the position that the default had to be that those claiming rape must be believed regardless of the consequences to men. I was very happy to see that almost every commenter, even on the very liberal NY Times' website, were very negative in response. I wrote:

"I am greatly relieved by the overwhelming rejection of her position by commenters. Ms. Wanjuki's one size fits all approach would hurt men whose lives would be destroyed for no reason, but also women, who more and more people would disbelieve or find reason to find fault with based on gender in retaliation. The idea that only men lie about rape is just nonsense up there with past practices that placed valued testimony based on race or gender or Iran's president's claim that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran. If we are not past that, then we are backsliding terribly. People lie, period. Sometimes for gain, sometimes for attention, and sometimes even unaccountably. A great many people lie when giving oaths or making complaints. We have seen the effects of her approach when those in the media, followed by the public, leap to conclusions. It destroys lives that do not deserve it. Those who do lie and those who don't lie are also subject to mistake, misinterpretation the conscious and unconscious bias that is part of human nature. Personally, I find her beliefs either reprehensible, if she is aware of their fallacy, or unaccountably foolish."

Having said that, many people do like that reprehensible approach and there are already some laws and policies in place which almost presume guilt. We can oppose and legislate against rape without deciding men have less rights than women.

You say tomato, I say I can't believe that worked                                                                        

Last Summer my daughter burned her forehead in the sun.  It wasn't a dangerous burn but it was bright red and it hurt her. Her boyfriend told her to put a tomato on it. I kept my opinion to myself. She sliced a tomato and popped it on her forehead.  A few minutes later there was no sign of any burn. No sign at all. Literally a few minutes.  Zero sign of a burn. Null. None. I couldn't believe it. I can't wait to burn myself on something so I can try it.

Last post of the year

I really fell down on the job this year.  I only posted 24 times including this one.  That's twice a month for those of you who have literally forgotten how to add. Mostly it is because I've just been busier at work. When I write  things like this - how I haven't posted much, I like to quote that Rodney Dangerfield joke about how unsuccessful his early career was - "At the time I quit, I was the only one who knew I quit!"

Anyway, for this year - I quit.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Christmas Spectacular

Hell's bells, no I have not stopped blogging, though work and a little illness have kept me from some of my pastimes recently. Now it's almost time for my holiday spectacular and yet, I have not written one normal post (as if any of them are really normal) in a month, so, the heck with it, I'm going with the holiday edition today.


Holiday memories


I was born and raised in a Jewish family.  Late in his life my father settled an argument between my older brother and myself. I clearly remembered that we had a Christmas tree one year, although now, all I can remember is the fact of it and no picture of it pops into my head. My brother said don't be ridiculous. Dad sided with me - yes, one year we had one.  I also seem to remember that something about them calling it a Chanukah bush, which is what Jews like to say when they decorate a tree, but I'm less sure about that.


Not that my parents had any pretensions about being Christian (it has occurred temporarily to two of my siblings). It was 5 of their 6 kids that left the religion. My parents were Jews to the core, my father to the degree that he affected a Yiddish accent for a few years (yes, really). They were Reform Jews, thank God (said the atheist) but Jews all the same. And they didn't want to us to mix up any Christian beliefs with those we were supposed to have. So, when I was four my mother tried to tell me that there was no Santa Claus. That I have a slight visual image of, though it could be imagined. It took place, if I recall correctly, in my bedroom, and my mother delicately tried to let me know that Santa was just for fun, and hoping I wasn't very disappointed. I wasn't.  I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that she thought there was a possibility that I thought that there a person who could actually slide down your chimney. Of course, at the time, I wasn't yet an atheist.  I'm not sure I gave the concept of God any thought at all at that age, although I may have just repeated the mantra or believed it. You can't remember everything. The firm skepticism I developed I distinctly remember occurring when I was in the 2nd grade, when I concluded religion was a hoax pervading the entire earth (thinking how could I, a child, alone, recognize this fraud and who was perpetrating it?) How far off was I?  Depends what you believe.


My family, naturally, celebrated Chanukah and I do have some nice memories of the lighting of the menorah with its characteristic waxy aroma and bags of candy money, that is, chocolate wrapped in faux-silver or gold aluminum, and even of that pathetic toy - the dreidel, with which I must have played a game on occasion.  For those not familiar with it, it was a top with four sides upon which were marked four Hebrew letters, one of which I think I remember was a gamma - our g. But, don't hold it to me.  Nor do I remember how you played.  And there was that horrendous dreidel song - "Dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay . . . . "


Leaving aside the many famous Xmas songs Jews have written, they somehow couldn't write a decent Chanukah song until Adam Sandler giggled through The Chanukah Song on Saturday Night Live (although to be fair, I once though I heard a relatively decent in Hebrew one year at a tree lighting ceremony, of all places, but, have never been able to learn its name and have never heard it again). Though I am not much of a Sandler fan, his song is fun because it mentions all kinds of celebrities, Jewish and otherwise, and brings into the light that whole Jewish funk some go through during Xmas season, ostensibly because there are far more Christians - many nominal, of course - than Jews, but I really think because the Christian holiday has racked up the better cultural icons. By far - by far.  


Not being a believer or really considering myself a Jew (other than by heritage and how others judge me) it is pretty easy for me to enjoy Xmas all I want. People like to bash the commercial aspects of Xmas, but that's exactly what I like, not the religious aspects. The last Xmas mass I was dragged to I brought a book with me. At least a few times I have tried to encourage a Jewish person suffering through the Xmas doldrums that they can enjoy pretty lights, fun songs and movies as much as any Christian without betraying their family and faith. Christians don't actually own the pretty lights. If an atheist can celebrate Xmas - and possibly a majority do in America - and Christians can enjoy Fiddler on the Roof, why can't Jews like Xmas?


But, some Jews can't get past it. But just as sad to me as Jews being unhappy because it seems to them like the whole country is having a party and they aren't invited. But, also sad to me is that some Christians can't appreciate the commercial Xmas I so adore either because it violates whatever religious restrictions they put on themselves. In some sects of Christianity (at least, they say they are Christians - others differ) Christmas can't be made merry, I think because they believe it trivializes it. I only know this because a few times in my life I've met children who weren't allowed any Joy to the World in the way the other kids could celebrate Xmas and it made me feel bad for them.  Who says they can't be pious and serious and sing O Magnum Mysterium in church and Jingle Bells on your way home? I know what you are thinking -- just because I can't see why anyone would do that to their kids doesn't mean they can't have joyful and meaningful lives too, but, how do you not let your kids watch Elf at Christmas?  People should answer the phone like he does in the movie -  "Buddy the Elf. What's your favorite color?" - at least in the holiday season.


The other aspect of Christmas and Chanukah that is big, of course, is gift giving. I hate to say it, but the joy of gift giving has been a little trampled on for me. I can remember a time when I gave out dozens of gifts every year. Unfortunately, it seemed to upset people more than please them and foist upon them an obligation I did not intend. Because if they didn't get one for you, they felt worse instead of better. I admit I've felt a little uncomfortable at times in those circumstances myself - Oh, they thought of me and must be hurt because I didn't think of them. But, I get over it. The way to handle it is to just try and be gracious and think if you can give a gift without getting one back, why shouldn't they be able to. Of course, you may be kidding yourself, but, what's the harm? There was at one point a time one circle among my friends all exchanged gifts with each other. That was sort of ruined when one of them (who, just wasn't going to like anything you gave her . . . I mean him or her ) insisted that we only give gifts for the kids. The Kids? They got so many gifts, if you piled up all of the presents I got as a kid it wouldn't equal one year's worth of presents for them.


Which brings me back to my youth and getting Chanukah presents. The way we did Chanukah - and I have no idea if this is traditional and Maimonides did this with his kids too or if it's just an American thing - is that you would get one big gift on the first day of Chanukah and then smaller gifts the next 7 days.  By "big gift" I mean that I would get a board game or something, like Mousetrap or Clue. And, we would be excited. The one thing you feared getting, of course, was ---- clothes. Because we could give a ***'s  *** about getting clothes and it meant one of your eight days and gifts was gone. Oh, well. Over all it worked out. I don't remember Chanukah ending and feeling disappointed.


So, nowadays, I exchange with my girlfriend (yes, she who I also like to call my 25 to Life Sentence, my Ball and Chainsaw, the Warden, my GirlFuhrer and my Insignificant Other) my daughter, brother and his family and less than a handful of my closest friends and a few others. On occasion I sneak a gift to someone and just leave it on their door step without a card so that they don't feel terrible and have to rush out and get me something, pretending they forgot to give it to me.  That's what Xmas guilt has reduced me to - being a Xmas sneak.


I do have a gift giving problem this year. It seems, limited as I am, I mostly only know how to give people books.  No idea if they actually read them or not. Personally, I read almost every book people give me as gifts even if I didn't choose them. There are limits. Someone once gave me (and others) a door stop of a novel by someone whose writing he admired for Xmas and I got through about four or so pages before I realized I'd rather be crammed down a chimney or take a terrifying ride on a flying sled without a seatbelt and gave it up.  But the rest I've read, even when given by those who have no idea what my taste is, and often I am surprised and really like them. And, of course, when I hand them out, I'm sure there are some clinkers in there too. You have to be in the right mood for a book and you can't always judge correctly what someone else will like or be in the mood for.  But, that's probably true of all gifts.


In any event, some people I give gifts to don't read paper books anymore; they read on devices. I suppose there is a way to give them a gift, but I'm 55 this year and it is a bit over my head how to go about it (I am up to the level where I can now download a book onto my Kindle, but I pretty much only download stuff either for free or almost free, that I'm pretty sure I would never read otherwise than on the crowded train where a book can be clumsy). As I have probably written on my blog more than once, I know these electronic readers are better in almost every way than books, but I'm not used to it and I like to look at my books sitting on shelves or in piles. It feels better to turn a page than click a button. Call me a luddite. I'm fine with it. Except when I move. Then having everything on a reader would be a godsend.


There's always gift cards, of course, so that they can actually pick out what they like instead of what I hope they like and haven't read yet, and on a few occasions I have given them to people, and don't mind getting them myself. But, still, I can't help but get the feeling that it means, look, I want to get you something but I'm too busy and it's not really that important so that I would put any thought into it and risk giving you something you don't like. So I'm not fair. You should hear how I feel about wedding registries.


Anyway, yes, I love Christmas and don't care who knows it, but so many people I know (okay, women - though in the modern world saying so somehow makes me a misogynist) just get overwhelmed by the expectations, reciprocations and self-inflicted pressure of the holidays and sometimes hate it.  Maybe "dread" is a better word.  Yes, they keep a list of people who send them cards and only send those people cards the next year. Is that really the spirit? No, but it's the reality.


I went to a restaurant today called Rolf's in NYC. We started the tradition last year adding it to our pilgrimage to see the tree and walk down 5th Avenue looking in the store windows. Rolf's is a German restaurant and not that special in itself (the food's okay and too expensive), except they decorate the hell out of it for Christmas starting in October and there is something fun about sitting there in a pub where it looks like Santa exploded.