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Archive for March, 2012

I like reading the comics. And by comics, I mean the comic strips one finds in newspapers. [1]

Dilbert, Garfield, Doonesbury, Rudy Park, Pooch Cafe, Non Sequitur, Heart of the City [2]… these are the little snippets of fun with which I start my day.

But there is one character in one particular comic strip that tickles me more than any other.

Sedgwick Nuttingham IV (aka Master Sedgwick, aka Sedgie) in the comic strip Monty by Jim Meddick.

(Master Sedgwick and Jarvis encounter snowball-throwing ruffians)

As per the Gospel according to Wikipedia…

Sedgwick Nuttingham IV is a privileged child who inhabits a mansion somewhere in Monty’s neighborhood. His only companion is his faithful manservant Jarvis, who does anything that Sedgwick desires, from carrying ammunition as Sedgwick hunts Fleshy, to serving as a human target for snowballs, darts etc. Sedgwick’s parents are totally absent. The only other characters that Sedgwick interacts with besides Fleshy are various doctors and psychologists. Sedgwick is convinced of his innate superiority to all others.

(Sedgie at Valentines Day)

Part of the appeal of Master Sedgwick is his singularly repellent aspect. He is an utterly repulsive little toad. The googly eyes, the potato nose, the thick lips… and those teeth! Yeuch. He is a self-centred, self-absorbed, snobby little over-privileged worm. He seems completely motivated by greed and self-interest. How could you not love that?

Even when he does display a glimpse of a ‘better self’, it is soon overshadowed by… well… him!

But I think what I love most about Sedgie is the stilted ‘P.G. Wodehouse’ style of dialogue, especially between him and his manservant, Jarvis. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for that kind of speech. I’ve ready about 50 of Mr. Wodehouse’s novels and collections of short stories and that has held me in good stead throughout my life.

(Sedgie is taken to The Trilateral Council… the Ultra-Secret Society that runs the world!)

So here’s to Master Sedgwick. Though even many fans of the Monty comic strip hate the sight of your pug-ugly face, I think you’re the bee’s knees!

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[1] I must confess that, aside from two or three English language Jewish weekly publications, I don’t buy newspapers anymore. When I do want to check out the New York Times, the Jerusalem Post or whatever, I go to their online editions.

[2] All the rest of which can be found at GoComics.com.

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The other day, I received a series of text messages from my son, Exhibit Two, asking some questions about preparing for The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

Me being a ‘Noted Zombie Expert’ (in addition to his dear old Daddio), it was only natural that he come to me.

I put this question to him… a question I ask most people who come to me with ‘Zombie Preparedness 101’ type questions…

Let’s say there is some kind of disaster in your area… a toxic spill or some nasty disease or chemicals get loose in the vicinity… and everyone is confined to their homes for one week, unable to leave their houses for 7 days. Could you survive?

Oh, and by the way… on the third day, the electricity goes out.

(Exhibit Two blending in with the Zombie Apocalypse background)

How would you manage? Take yourself through the process. Imagine the situation and what you would need.

First and foremost…always remember… you need about one gallon (approximately four litres) of fresh water per person per day. A person can go weeks without food… but no drinkable water at all? You’re looking at about three days… four at the most.

Some other simple things leap to mind. Non-perishable food items, preferably food that has a long or even an almost indefinite expiry period. This, by the way, is why Twinkies and Strawberry Pop-Tarts are the Official Snacks of The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse!

Think in terms of food that does not require any cooking (i.e. food that is ‘ready to eat’).

Here’s another food preservation tip… Honey is the only food that never goes bad. It may turn hard over time… but it never spoils.

Other good stuff to have on hand. Candles, batteries. You’re probably going to want to know what the heck is going on, so a hand-crank radio is a good idea.

You’re going to want to stock up the medicine cabinet with a lot of the basics and not-so-basics in case someone gets sick during the week-long shut down. A good first aid kit is another good idea. And not one of those chintzy cheap $15 jobs people stuff into their car trunks and never see again. I mean a proper fully stocked first aid kit with everything you will need for most eventualities from a broken or fractured bone to a seriously deep cut.

Everyone should now how to administer First Aid. Up here in The Great White North, the St. Johns Ambulance organization is a wonderful source of information. Everyone in the home old enough to do so should take basic CPR and other First Aid courses through St. John Ambulance or some other such service.

(THIS is the kind of cut I’m talking about!)

For the young ones, a good way to prepare them for The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse (or any other disaster or emergency situation) is to sign them up for the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts or Girl Guides, or any one of the many military cadet programs. Up here in Canada, we always sea Air Cadets and Sea Cadets… teenagers who are being trained not only in military subjects but also, naturally, basic survival skills.

Also, over the course of one week, people in our fast-paced society are, even in a disaster, going to be really bored really fast. I suggest having some games on hand to while away the time. But I personally would avoid Monopoly. People have been murdered over Monopoly. Avoid it at all costs is my recommendation.

As I suggested to Exhibit Two, a nice place to start when one is preparing for The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse (or any other natural or man-made disaster) is the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, especially their Preparedness 101 page for The Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

One final word of caution. Depending on the nature of the disaster, it may be days or even weeks before authorities can bring things into line again. In a serious ongoing disaster situation, zombie or otherwise, the most dangerous risk to your personal safety, especially in the first few days, will most likely come from other humans. People panicking, looting, rioting or just being desperate and losing control. Just think of your neighbours and their kids, hungry and dying of thirst… and they know you have food and water. Only the thinnest veneer of civilization separates us from chaos and anarchy. Those who remember Hurricane Katrina and the Louisiana Superdome will know what I am talking about.

Be prepared. Be alert. Be aware. Be careful.

Remember…

What you don’t know… can eat you!

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This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending Shabbes with my rebbe and mentor, R’ Michael Skobac [1] and his charming wife, Chashi.

R’ Skobac is Master Po to my Grasshopper.

(R’ Skobac and I SO don’t look like this!)

Shabbes dinner featured a spelt/kamut challah that was out of this world!

He was kind enough to share the recipe with me… and here it is!

R’ Skobac’s Healthy Challah for Dummies (and those short on time):

Ingredients:

  • 3.5 cups of spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup of kamut flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of honey

Method:

Mix ingredients well into a dough. Divide in two and shape into round loaves.

Bake both loaves on a cookie sheet (covered in parchment paper) @ 350F for 40 minutes.

Check to make sure they’re done and ENJOY!

Simple. Fast. And for those intimidated by baking anything more complicated that muffins or banana bread, a really great way to feel like you know what you’re doing.

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[1] Rabbi Michael Skobac – one of the world’s foremost authorities on Missionaries and Cults – is the Director of Education and Counselling of Jews for Judaism (Canada). He was educated at Northwestern University and Yeshiva University and has been involved in Jewish education and outreach work since 1975. (He and I also sit together at our little shtiebl, Congregation Bais Dov Yosef in Toronto [aka The Holy Strudel King]).

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When I first saw a photo of this little treat the other day, I said, “WOW!”

A pizza cone. What a stroke of genius!

Pizza dough, formed into the shape of a cone and filled with pizza toppings!

This is the best thing since the calzone… basically a pizza turnover!

While not nearly in the Out Of Control category of foods like deep-fried Twinkies or those bacon triple cheeseburgers with Krispy Kreme glazed donuts for buns… the pizza cone does speak to the heart of a ‘fast food with a bit of an edge’ fan. Just the idea of it immediately finds a home in most junk food lovers’ hearts.

And the best thing is that, just as regular pizza can be made kosher, so too can a pizza cone!

The whole milk-meat prohibition can be easily side-stepped with meatless pepperoni, chorizo or deli slices. I myself prefer the kosher products made by Yves Veggie Cuisine. They are available at any good grocery store. Kosher mozzarella and parmesan cheeses are easy to get at any kosher food outlet.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before I try to whip up one of these little wonders.

I somehow cannot see myself being disappointed!

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If I ever need to set up a quick, informal yet special rendezvous with someone near and dear to me, I choose Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar in downtown Toronto.

Sadie’s is on the northwest corner of Portland and Adelaide streets. One block east of Bathurst and two blocks south of Queen Street West.

My dearly beloved friend, CC, introduced me to the place when she and I set up a lunch date just before she moved to Toronto from Ottawa. As an extra bonus attraction, CC brought along her daughter, EC (aka CC Jr, aka Volume 2).

My darling CC is the one you can blame for getting me started with this whole blogging thing. She herself is a top-knotch writer and I have often encouraged her (i.e. nagged her) to send her writing to The New Yorker. I feel her writing is as good as most of the Shouts & Murmurs articles I’ve read and enjoyed at the back of the magazine.

The get-together with my dear CC was my first time at Sadie’s Diner and CC was right on the money about choosing that as the perfect spot. She and I had a wonderful get-together and I sincerely hoped that EC wasn’t too bored out of her mind.

A few months later, when my own daughter (Exhibit One) and I planned a bit of a downtown rendezvous, I immediately suggested Sadie’s. Once again, it was the perfect choice. She and I sat at a table near the front window. The service was wonderful, my daughter loved the food and the atmosphere and I had one of my best times with her.

She thought the place was just wonderful. One of the things that simply tickled my daughter to death was a plastic cow milk dispenser.

(Exhibit Two’s favourite milk dispenser. Note my wallet absent-mindedly left on the table)

Together, we carefully plotted my daughter’s emigration to Israel at that tiny little table. I am sure that in due course, I will arrange a clandestine meeting with my son, Exhibit Two, and begin plotting his emigration to Israel. I have no doubt that he and I will meet at Sadie’s Diner, hopefully at that same little table near the front window. That spot has brought me much luck in the past.

The good times I’ve had there have endeared Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar to me. It holds a special place in my heart.

Sadie’s is cozy, informal, yet at the same time very chic and hip in a quirky downtown way. Each time I’ve been there, it has been a wonderful experience shared by those nearest and dearest to me. But take some free advice on this subject… don’t waste Sadie’s on ordinary, average, dull, boring people. Save it for the quirky, exciting people in your life. Share it with that special friend who is the artist, photographer, writer, adventurer, actor or just the one that’s odd and weird but in a good way. Save it for that certain loonie in your life without whom you simple cannot do.

I have promised another dearly beloved friend, AC, a get-together in Toronto. She too is a most talented writer and would, no doubt, get a kick out of Sadie’s. I am long overdue for a face to face tête-à-tête with her.

AC has recently threatened to interview me and I feel I should take her up on her ill-conceived offer. I am in favour of and try actively to encourage reckless behaviour in others and I want to show my support however and whenever I can.

So next time you are in the Bathurst and Queen neighbourhood… or even if you just want to plan a lunch downtown with that special beloved oddball in your life, I recommend Sadie’s Diner.

I’ve never regretted it and I am sure you won’t either.

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Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar
504 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1T5
 
416-777-2343
416-77-SADIE

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Let’s file this under the “Yew jus’ cain’t make this $#!t up!” category, shall we?

Apparently… and I am NOT making this stuff up… sexually deprived male fruit flies exhibit a pattern of behavior that seems ripped from the pages of modern man’s ‘That’s the Story of My Life!’

When female fruit flies reject their sexual advances, the males are driven to excessive alcohol consumption, drinking far more than comparable, sexually satisfied male flies.

(Fruit fly porn! Eeek!!)

It seems that a little molecule is what’s behind this sad and somewhat loserish behaviour.

According to our pals at ScienceDaily.com, a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has discovered that a tiny molecule in the fly’s brain called neuropeptide F governs this behavior – as the levels of the molecule change in their brains, the flies’ behavior changes as well.

So… why do we care?

Well, it turns out that the brain mechanisms that make social interaction rewarding for animals and can shed light on those that underlie human addiction. You see, a similar human molecule, called neuropeptide Y, may likewise connect social triggers to behaviors like excessive drinking and drug abuse. Adjusting the levels of neuropeptide Y in people may alter their addictive behavior — which, by the way, is exactly what the UCSF team observed in the fruit flies.

“If neuropeptide Y turns out to be the transducer between the state of the psyche and the drive to abuse alcohol and drugs, one could develop therapies to inhibit neuropeptide Y receptors,” said Ulrike Heberlein, PhD, a Professor of Anatomy and Neurology at UCSF, who led the research.

Clinical trials are underway, she added, to test whether delivery of neuropeptide Y can alleviate anxiety and other mood disorders as well as obesity.

Now the question that intrigued me was, “How did they get a whole bunch of jilted male fruit flies in the first place?”

Piece of cake, it seems!

It appears that despite being floozy as all get out when virgins, pregnant female fruit flies no longer show any interest in male fruit flies. It was just a matter of putting a whole bunch of horny male fruit flies  together with a whole bunch of “talk to the hand” pregnant female fruit flies. The result… sex starved and somewhat depressed male fruit flies.

But the weird thing is… the rejected males then gave up trying to mate altogether. Even when placed in the same cage as virgin flies, they were not as keen to have sex. Their drinking behavior also changed.

Now I was really interested. How do you get sexually rejected male fruit flies to drown their sorrows in booze?

Again, ludicrously simple!

(Set ’em up, Joe!)

When placed by themselves in a new container and presented with two straws, one containing plain food and the other containing food supplemented with 15 percent alcohol, the sexually rejected flies binged on the alcohol, drinking far more than their sexually satisfied cousins whose advances were never spurned. The difference was not only apparent in their behavior. It was completely predicted by the levels of neuropeptide F in their brains.

“It’s a switch that represents the level of reward in the brain and translates it into reward-seeking behavior,” said Galit Shohat-Ophir, PhD, the first author of the new study.

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It’s pretty much common knowledge that when a guy gets sick, he turns into a big, kvetchy, insufferable sucky-baby.

Why is this?

Well, I have a theory that I developed this past week when I myself was down with a cold.

It started as a cough last Wednesday, then developed into a pretty darn annoying cough by Thursday. By Friday, it was a bad cough with sniffles. By Friday night, I was quite sick. I went to bed early and woke up Saturday morning feeling awful. This continued through the weekend with me spending a good chunk of it either in bed or sitting in my trusty leather wing back chair feeling miserable. Fortunately, I live alone so no one was subjected to my beasty society except me.

Suffice it to say that I had a lot of time to ponder this profound question. Why are guys such sucks when they’re sick?

We’re generally OK with putting up with the big stuff. Death, divorce, loss of employment, etc. We take in stride, to a large extent. But give us the flu or even a common cold and we’re quite pathetic. The whining, the whimpering, the kicked-puppy look. It’s quite sad, really.

I think it goes something like this…

Women are used to physical discomfort. Periods, pregnancy, morning sickness, swelling, child birth, bloating, water weight, cramps… the whole nine yards of being female. Guys, on the other hand, don’t have to go through any of that.

They way I try to explain it to women is as follows: Try to picture in your mind your best day of the month. The one day where you have no aches or cramps or swelling or anything. The one day of the month where you feel absolutely fantastic. Got that firmly in your mind? Good. Now imagine having that day every day for the rest of your life. THAT’S what it’s like being a guy. You feel great all the time! So when guys get sick, it seems like the end of the world because it is such a foreign feeling to us.

I try to keep things in perspective. It’s just a cold or the flu or whatever this thing is that’s making me feel so horrible. At least I can afford medicine and have a warm, dry place to live and a bed where I can lie down while I cough all night. On Friday afternoon, I made a big pot of chicken soup (thank G-d for Jewish penicillin!) and I have an entire library from which to choose what to read.

But the most sobering reality check came just after Sabbath when I turned on the computer and learned that about 150 rockets had been launched so far over the weekend from Gaza into southern Israel. Almost 300 in all over the weekend. My daughter, Exhibit One, lives in the seaside city of Ashdod, well within rocket range of Gaza.

Nothing like a nice dose of the real world to put one’s petty problems into perspective.

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