Friday, April 22, 2005

54 things about me

1. My first solid food was lamb chops that I stole out of my mother's hands. I still love lamb chops.

2. My father was a computer and math teacher after being fired from Sperry as an engineer back in 1962. All of our summers were car trips and camping, which were great until my mother complained enough about doing all the washing up, and mine and my brother's allergies got too pronounced. But I still love hiking and camping, except sleeping in a tent is hard on my muscles, and dew in the morning is bad for my breathing; I now prefer a B&B.

3. My first programming experience was on a PDP-11 at my father's office when I was 8. We got an Apple II shortly thereafter. I also programmed the Commodore 64, VM/CMS systems and other early DECs.

4. I took my father's college computer course at age 12, aced it without trying, and spent most of the time helping the adults taking the course who needed it for their job. I was very bratty about it, and taunted them that if a little kid like me can do it, they should be able to. People threw notebooks at my head. (Ask my mother, she also took the course with me.)

5. I entered kindergarten early, and was always the youngest in my class until grade 8, when there was a girl 10 days younger then me.

6. I ran away from school at age 6, bringing along with me a boy aged 7 to help me cross the roads. The first plan was to go home to my house which was 15 minutes from the school. My mother got suspicious as to why we were sent home, but made the mistake of leaving us at the door. We went to his house instead ... in Baldwin, some two hours from our school, across major highways. Police cars and helicopters were looking for us. In the end, I was suspended for two days ... which was where I wanted to be in the first place.

7. I love to sing, and I will do so at any opportunity, much to the embarrassment of my children.

8. I like almost any kind of music, and I make a strong distinction between music that I think is good and music that I like. Same goes for books, movies, etc...

9. My first album was The Stranger by Billy Joel. My brother Ben's first album was The Greatest Hits of Olivia Newton John. We bought it for each other for Hanukkah. I liked his more than mine for about ten years.

10. I started playing Bridge when I was 4. Earlier games were the usual: War, Casino, many rummy games with my grandmothers, etc... I got decent at Bridge when I was 11 or 12, but never better than decent. Decent = rarely lock myself in the wrong hand, can sometimes end-play, can count most cards based on the bidding, can read my partner's signals.

11. I also played Careers, Billionaire, Risk, Sub-search, Creature Features, Battleship, 99, Scrabble, tons of card games, including special card games like Rook and Pit, etc...

12. My brother David went to Cornell in 1979 (I was 10), and brought home D&D. Thus began my first gaming obsession. I was the record keeper, the rules monger, and the helpless victim to my brother's dungeons. I started DMing on my own for my friends, but mostly looked forward to the monthly rides up to Cornell to play in his dungeon. Before my brother moved to Israel in 86, I was already beginning to chafe at his DMing decisions. When I revived D&D when 3rd edition came out, my brother made a new campaign, after I made mine, but I loathed 3rd edition, and I pretty much loathed David's DMing, and I wrecked the game group sessions. It wasn't pretty, but out of that grew my weekly game group which became the JSGC.

13. The only concert I remember from when I was little was an Oscar Brand concert my parents took me to, and the only thing I remember from it was one line from an anti-nuke song he sang which was "stick you head between your legs and kiss-your ass goodbye." The only major concert I went to was in college: Pink Floyd, Delicate Sound of Thunder. Who needs anything else? Since then, I have been involved in the Israeli folk scene a bit, and hosted performers in my house, both Israeli and from abroad.

14. I was very skinny and underweight for most of my life, although I became taller than the rest of my family, eventually weighing 120 and being 5'11". Now I'm up to about 160 (?).

15. When I was in 5th grade, I was attacked my a portly kid with a pocket-knife who wanted to scare/stab me because I was a "dirty Jew". I managed to kick his knife away and run away. The police told us to stay away from each other but he harassed me several times over the next few years. I have also had lit cigarettes thrown at me, bottles thrown at me, and my kippah knocked off and stolen. I have had many comments at tables near me in places deriding Jews (like the scene in Easy Rider).

16. When I was 6, I marched for Soviet Jews, met several times with Avitalya Sharansky, and got lost in public rallies.

17. I was hopelessly self-centered until I was 12, when I met a girl walking down the hall in 8th grade. I asked who she was, and she just said "Guess." So I guessed many names until I finally got her name "Sharon," and she said "Yes" and disappeared into a classroom. I spent the rest of high school studying people, hung out mostly with girls, and began to realize how empty mass culture and popularity are. I loved Sharon until after high school, but nothing happened because of it. We were friends.

18. Speaking of girls, the night before my graduation from high school, I took four of them and both brothers to an all night D&D game. Girls are strange when they become very tired. They were hanging upside down off the couch and laughing, at one point.

19. I was very sheltered about cultures other than my own. I went to a religious school, but did not realize until the middle of the last year of high school that two thirds were not really religious, but went there because their families were cultural but not religious, and their parents wanted them to have a religious Jewish education. I didn't even think about it until after high school, but apparently people in my high school kissed, were naked together, smoked pot (not too many, really), and many other things I would never have thought of.

20. Then I went to community college, because it was cheaper than four years of Cornell, and a pretty reasonable education. Cornell was a massive shock, however, because at the community college, they taught the material. At Cornell, they assumed you had read the material, and taught other things. I almost flunked out, but then I got almost all A's until my last year, ending with a 3.2 average (3.7 if you count the community college).

21. Speaking of which, I never got less than 100 in any math class my entire life until first year of Cornell when I almost flunked it. I used to get 106 in math classes in junior high and high school, and the teacher would still circle the behavior code that meant "minimal effort shown".

22. My first book report in second grade was Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. In case you didn't guess, I read voraciously, and liked a lot of scifi and fantasy. Now I like anybody in any genre who writes well, but I still favor scifi and fantasy. I can only read good writers, like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Guy Gavriel Kay. I love Jane Austen and her contemporaries, as well as many non-fiction books about games, history of computers and hackers, easier philosophies, and sociology.

23. I never met either of my grandfathers, both of whom died before I was born.

24. My mother's mother left Poland in 1908. My mother grew up knowing she was Jewish, but not at all religious until she had a dream based on the Arthur Miller play, where the rotten tree was in the shape of a cross, and inside the tree was a glowing Jewish star. She began going to Hillel and became religious, meeting my father on the way.

My father left Germany in 1939, two months after they were supposed to leave, but couldn't because my aunt was born on that day. They had to leave almost everything, including many relatives who were slaughtered or died. They went to England, where my father's father was kept in a POW camp for two years. Then they made it to America, because they were sponsored by my great-aunt Grete. Eventually, my aunt and her kids, my brothers, myself, and lastly my father and mother moved to Israel. My aunt moved in 1976. My parents in 1995. We had the grandchildren hostage.

25. I was born on Passover night, Wed night. Outside of Israel, that means two nights and days of holiday followed by a night and day of sabbath, all of which my mother couldn't leave the hospital, and my father couldn't visit because it was too far. And no food to eat for my mother, since it was Passover. I don't know how she survived.

26. My favorite museum experience when I was young was the Ontario Science Center. They had a video game that let you try to put out a forest fire. I always let it burn for a while first, and then tried to contain it. When I took my kids a few years ago, they fought so much that they ruined the entire experience.

27. I love Maine, upstate New York, rocky coats, tall, dark and damp forests, streams, wildlife, cool weather, mountains, cabins. I don't like deserts, bright sun, allergies, mosquitoes and almost any other insect, guided tours, tourist attractions, cheap quality goods, historical sites. I would love to do "Blue Roads".

28. I slipped off a bench when I was in camp at 4, and needed stitches. I couldn't ever learn to swim. I almost drowned several times. I only learned in my last year of Cornell, and I'm still not good at it, and don't really enjoy it. I like wading and floating, however.

I also flew over the handlebars of my bike when I bent the training wheels up. I protected my hands by throwing them behind my back. Instead, my face hit the pavement. My face was separated from my jaw, and I needed 60 more stitches. This was right before shabbat, of course.

29. I am allergic to oranges and the orange family, but not citrus in general, so lemons, limes, grapefruits etc.. are no problem. I am also allergic to kiwis, dust, spores, molds, perfumes, etc... I became intolerant to milk about ten years ago. And for some reason, all forms of fish have always made me want to thrown up, even from the smell, especially tuna.

30. I once was sent to a DEC Unix administration course outside of Boston, and they were kind enough to get kosher food for me, and even to not get any dairy, buy I forgot to mention oranges. The first meal I got had orange juice in the carrots. I tried to eat around it, because I didn't want to seem ungrateful, and ended up going to the hospital for mild analeptic shock.

31. My main occupation on the first day of travel to a new location is spending two hours in the grocery store trying to figure out what is kosher. Drives my wife bonkers. It doesn't bother me, though.

32. I have vague memories of a local Italian girl leading me behind a house when I was three or four years old and having me pull down my pants and underpants. I don't remember much else of that. I think she just looked.

33. I loved Lego. Aside from spaceships, I created two goals, hockey sticks and a puck, and Ben and I would play floor knock-hockey.

34. I was ADHD before they had diagnoses for such things. I would roll around on the floor during class and kiss the teacher when she tried to pick me up in first grade. I couldn't sit still. I couldn't understand anything the teacher was saying, although I aced every subject I was interested in. My daughter is struggling with the same thins, but now we know what it is.

35. I played D&D with one of my best friends, Stuart, who was from a year below me. His brother Daniel was my brother's best friend. Daniel was thin, freckled, kind and sweet. At 17 years old, three weeks before Stuart's bar-mitzvah, Daniel went with him and their father to get him tephillin. On the way back home, a tire that was improperly fastened onto an 18 wheeler flew off from the other side of the highway, bounced, and smashed into the roof of their car, decapitating Daniel. No one else in the car was seriously hurt. I spent a lot of time with Stuart over the next few years.

36. I was always infatuated with girls. I used to sing them songs, annoy them, try to get them to play games with me, try to get them to talk about real things. Still am. Still do.

37. I was using the VM/CMS "talk" as IM back in 1987, long before there was such a term as "IM". I also wrote nifty games and codes to do fancy things on the screen. For some reason, I'm not really a great hacker, although I wish I was. I'm a decent programmer, however.

38. I used to play "dungeo", which was short for dungeon, because the PDP-11 could only store 6 letter file names. I also played Wumpus and lots of other games. I used terminals that were printers. Everything I typed, as I typed it, was printed on the printer. I used to store the printouts and make maps of the dungeon. dungeo became Zork, of course.

39. When I came to Israel, my first job was boring, so I searched the Internet and found and played on OKBridge, when it was free. Eventually it wasn't, but by then we had Yahoo Games and others. I would coordinate games with my brothers, but because they were both better than me, it would sometimes be frustrating. Only sometimes, because the opponents were usually far worse. I don't have much time to play bridge on the Internet right now, but my brothers play together a few times a week.

40. My favorite colors are green, purple, blue and black. I used to like magenta.

41. My favorite cousin is Julie and I was devastated when she moved to Israel with my aunt when I was seven. I tried to write letters, and discovered I am a terrible letter writer. I still am.

42. I was never jealous of Christmas, etc... as I was very proud (self righteous) of being Jewish.

43. I love traveling, although I need to make good plans, or to have access to something that lets me make good plans, or I'll be bored. Hiking all day is a good plan, I just usually forget about it. Still, when I was in America, all out-of-country trips were to Israel, and until my parents moved to Israel, all trips were to America to see my family. My most recent trips were America and Canada, to my wife's family. Easier to be kosher and speak English, too.

Now I'm too poor to go anywhere. But I must go to Europe, someday.

44. I married young, age 20, since I saw no point in dating unless it was for marriage, since I wasn't going to fool around before marriage, anyway. I got divorced at 26, and remarried at 28. I'm now 36. I have two kids from the first marriage, Saarya about to be 14, and Tal about to be 12 (bat mitzvah).

45. I am strongly feminist, and no, that's not necessarily a contradiction with religious beliefs. I am also strongly against discrimination and prejudice against men. I guess that would make me, for the most part, egalitarian, but I don't believe that people are equal, that people should be treated equally, or that people should be made to be equal as possible, so I doubt it.

46. I am also disenchanted with almost every political party and politician. My beliefs range from the far right to the far left, far off in other directions, and nobody really represents what I think. I do believe that all people are brothers and sisters, but I don't expect others to believe that, and I am prepared to defend myself, if necessary. I am tolerant of almost any person, but intolerant of anyone asking me to accept their beliefs or agree that "we may both be right". I probably don't think you're right. I'm tolerant of the fact that you don't think I'm right. That's the most I'll give you. It doesn't stand in the way of us being friends on my part, so you'll just have to deal with it.

47. I love to watch movies twice, the first time for the plot, and the second time to observe the acting and directing styles. I tend not to like Hollywood movies, and go for less traditional movie directors, like Lars Von Trier, Hal Hartley, and Whit Stillman.

48. Some of my favorite singers are Dar Williams, Lynn Miles, Cindy Kallet, Terry Reid, Coldplay, The Sundays, Pink Floyd. I listen to "Into the Mystic" and "WUMB" on .

49. Some of my favorite comics: Bliss and the Hots (both discontinued), Calvin and Hobbes (ditto), Bloom County (ditto), Pogo (ditto), Fox Trot (no longer funny, I'm afraid), Alice (, Queen of Wands (, User Friendly (, Helen: Sweetheart of the Internet, Knights of the Dinner Table, 9 Chickweed Lane (except the ones about cats), and Over the Hedge (in small doses).

Also, anything ever written by Judith Martin, aka, Miss Manners. She is my second religion.

50. Every day I try to read Jerusalem Post (, Nando Times (, Boardgamegeek ( and most of the blogs listed on the side of my blog, and most of the comics I mentioned (

51. I hate shaving and I hate beards, so I shave it all off once in a while and let it grow back. Same with haircuts (I don't shave it off, but I cut it short, and let it grow long).

52. My first steps were into a door - stitches. Two weeks later I tripped over a bottle of wine - more stitches. I used to think this was an amusing anecdote. Once I had children, I wondered if my parents were a tad neglectful. Apparently the doctor who treated me was also suspicious.

53. During and after my divorce, I got depressed. But I wrote some good poetry during an eight month period. I have it around here, somewhere.

54. The only other games of note I remember from before Magic were Cosmic Encounter, which was amazing, and Civilization, which was too much for me. I can't remember when I found out about Magic, but a few packs of cards was the beginning of an obsession. I never had too much money, so it never got too big. I introduced my brothers, friends, etc.. and we would play, face to face, over the phone, anything. Eventually, through many scourings of mailing lists and sites about Magic, I found out about Settlers of Catan. My entire family played non-stop for about a year and a half, then Cities and Knights for another year. Then onto bigger and better things.



Coldfoot said...

Fox Trot is no longer funny?

Yehuda said...

Of the many possible comments I was expecting over the past two days away from my computer, that wasn't one of them. :-)


Coldfoot said...

You can't lob the Foxtrot grenade and not expect a reaction.

Them's fightin' words.

saarya said...

Fox Trot - the jokes are still funny, their just repeats of the last few years. (which i read about a book a day) or mabye I'm just influenced by my father (Yehuda)

Yehuda said...

If I know that life is not constrained