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Nina Yablok

Nina Yablok is the owner of The Law Office of Nina Yablok, a business and corporate law firm in Milpitas, California (near San Jose) specializing in representing privately held businesses. She has been the PJ Media attorney since its inception. Nina’s been active with both the State Bar of California and Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Business Law sections. She has written and lectured extensively in the areas of independent contractor disputes and business start-ups.
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What’s a Bialy?

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 - by Nina Yablok

Having grown up in New York City, I don’t know if even all Jews know what a bialy is.  Technically it’s not even a Jewish food, but a Polish one. But to me, it’s a Jewish food.

If you ask Wikipedia, which is usually quite good at this sort of trivia, a bialy is:

“a Yiddish word short for bialystoker kuchen, from Białystok, a city in Poland, … and is a chewy yeast roll similar to a bagel [insert editorial snort, here -- Nina]. Unlike a bagel, which is boiled before baking, a bialy is simply baked, and instead of a hole in the middle it has a depression. Before baking, this depression is filled with diced onions ….”

I adore a good bialy, and it’s harder to find in California than a decent bagel. Ray’s New York Bagels came to the rescue, with their frozen What’s a Bialy.


  • These are available in a lot of stores, including our local safeway. Here’s the link to the stores that carry the bagels, so you should be able to get the Bialys there too.
  • They are GOOD! I mean very good. To say a bialy is nothing more than a bagel that’s not been boiled before baking is like saying your home movie of your visit to Death Valley is just like Lawrence of Arabia without the professional writing, directing, editing and acting. A good bialy is more like a tiny but perfect pizza which is 90% the best “pizza bones” (the crust) ever, and 10% diced grilled onions or maybe poppy seeds or both.


  • They are addicting. Very highly addicting.
  • The instructions on the box are wrong. It says “keep frozen” and then “Pop in toaster or toaster oven…” OK, unless you have one of those toasters with a really wide slot – it would have to be a toaster oven. But more importantly this step will just finish baking them. Bialys then need to be sliced in 1/2 and toasted before you spread them with cream cheese or butter. Since these are slightly esoteric foods, I think the instructions need to be more clear.

But it’s complicated, because you can’t slice them from a frozen state. So this is what I’ve found works best: Nuke them first for about 24 seconds each (depending on your microwave oven) until defrosted sufficiently to slice in 1/2.

Then toast them until lightly browned.

If you moved away from New York City and thought you’d have to go back to get a decent bialy, you were probably right, until now. These are good bialys.

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A Solution to One of Life’s Most Vexing Problems

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 - by Nina Yablok

There you are, watching The Game… or A Game.  It’s cold, as it is when watching The Game, but your throat is dry and scratchy from yelling.  A man heads your way selling beer.  Do you: A) Hold the beer with your mittened hands, and hope you don’t drop it; or B) Take off your mittens and freeze your fingers?  Well now you have a third choice.

Skuzzi Mitten-Cup Holder


The Skuuzi is a warm (looking) mitten with a built in beer-bottle (or cup) holder.  We live in awesome times, don’t we.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Oh hang on… I don’t go to football games (you can see better on TV), I don’t live in Green Bay, and I don’t drink beer. Oh well, it’s still an terrific invention.

The Skuuzi company’s website touts this as a Scandinavian koozi (beer can keeper-cooler thingie). But Skuuzi apparently, or at least on their US Trademark office application is run out of a townhouse in Greenwich Village. It worked for Haagen Dazs.

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How I Learned to Stop Chasing Zucchini and Love my Grill

Monday, January 16th, 2012 - by Nina Yablok

I love to grill things.  First of all food tastes great on the grill.  But more importantly for me, it’s really easy.  I’m not only NOT Martha Stewart, I’m not even Sue Ann Niven.  And living in California, even when we’re in the midst of the brutal San Jose winter, it’s still about 50 degrees out at dinner time so running out to throw something on the grill is not unreasonable.

What is unreasonable is the time it takes to make skewered things. I know it’s supposed to be simple. But it isn’t. If you use single skewers things flop all over when you try to turn them. If you use the cute double skewers but you don’t keep them absolutely parallel you end up with the two prongs 4″ apart by the time you get to your last cherry tomato. So it was with these thoughts that I approached my idea of making skewered shrimp tonight. And then I remembered (my memory isn’t all that great these days) I had asked for a Weber grill basket for Christmas.

Grill Basket - Never Used

Actually it’s called the Weber Professional-Grade Vegetable Basket, but luckily I didn’t remember that, because I wanted to make shrimp in it.

This is a terrific invention.  I tossed my shrimp in a baggie with some olive oil and Tabasco sauce while I cut up some miniature yellow and orange peppers. I sprayed them with some olive oil spray and sprinkled them with a little salt and pepper.  Having cleverly read the amazon reviews, I knew to pre-heat the grill basket when I heated up the grill. I put some slices of sweet Maui onions and on at that time too.

Then, without so much as stabbing myself once with a skewer, or dropping a pepper between the grill grate and burning myself chasing it as if we would be financially destitute if I lost a vegetable, I opened the grill, threw the shrimp and peppers into the grill basket, put two avocado halves* on the grill, closed the lid, waiting about 4 minutes, tossed the stuff in the basket, turned my onions and 4 minutes after that dinner was ready.  Well that and some microwaved rice.

So how did the grill basket work. I’m in love. I’m leaving my husband and running off with the grill basket. Not buying it? OK, it worked great.  First, nothing stuck.  Second, the shrimp and peppers had that yummy grilled taste. I was afraid they would just taste … cooked.  Third, there were cute little blackened areas on the food that made it look like I had actually grilled something. Fourth I didn’t lose a single shrimp or piece of pepper. And according to the Amazon comments, although the bright stainless turns dark, it cleaned up right quick after you let it cool on the grill, as I’m doing now. Note I am not avoiding cleaning up, I’m letting the grill cool down.

Product: Weber Professional-Grade Vegetable Basket (not only for vegetables, honest)

Price: $19.99

Pros: Works exactly as it should, easy to use, cheap, heavy duty, small enough so that it will fit on a small grill or only take up part of a larger one

Cons: They have a Grill pan too, which I should have asked Santa Claus for at the same time as the basket. What can be wrong with something that costs under $20 and makes life yummy and easy?

*If you’ve never had grilled avocado, try this: Sprinkle or brush avocado halves with lime juice. Grill cut side down for 5-10 minutes.  Transfer to a plate, turn cut side up and fill the hole with your favorite salsa, top with a dollop of sour cream if you wish.

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#Twitter Goes #Corporate in the #NFL

Friday, January 13th, 2012 - by Nina Yablok

We all know, because we’re Internet savvy, all about twitter, right?  And of course football players have used twitter to poke at opponents and get themselves in a lot of trouble for a while now.  But I was still surprised to see this on the landing page of the 49ers NFL.com page:

Twitter, it seems, has become the institutionalized way of rallying fans, at least for the recently “blue collar” San Francisco 49ers.

And for those of you thinking, huh? What is she talking about?  The # before “Saints” “49ers” and “beatthesaints” are called “hash tags” and are used to organize tweets (twitter posts). You can search on a hash tag, and if you want a lot of people talking about your subject you tell them to use a specific hash tag. So if you want to hear 49ers fans trash-taking about the Saints you’d search for #beatthesaints. If you want your tweet found, you insert that hash tag into your tweet.

Oh, and yes, please, beat the Saints. It’s been a long dry season for the 49er faithful.

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What’s on Your Christmas Table?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

For a household without kids, or even a lot of nearby family, we sure do make a big fuss over Christmas.  Food is a big part of the fun.   Here are our menus. So what’s going to be on your table?

Christmas Eve Dinner

  • Cracked Crab with cocktail sauce and lemon
  • Asparagus with Dipping Sauce
  • French Bread
  • Surprise Dessert (can’t publish it here or it wont be a surprise)

Beverage: French 75 champagne cocktails (Gin, Champagne, Fresh Lemon Juice and a little Peach Liquor)

Christmas Brunch

  • Latkes with Sour Cream and Apple Sauce
  • Christmas cookies

Beverage: Mimosas

Christmas Pre-Dinner (we’re having appetizers around 4 with a friend who lives down the street)

  • Mushroom Appetizer with cream sauce on toast points – I have no idea its real name but our friend makes it and it’s divine
  • Onion Tarts – also home made

Beverage: Small Batch Bourbon Boston Sour (Bourbon, Fresh lime juice, Elderflower Liquor, egg white)

Christmas Dinner

  • Beef Wellington
  • Broiled Tomatoes
  • Sugar snap peas with mint
  • Smashed Potatoes
  • Old Fashioned Trifle, in my new trifle dish which I’m hoping will arrive on time

Beverage: Red wine with dinner, dessert wine with the Trifle

Boxing Day — All Meals

Alka Seltzer

(Thumbnail on Lifestyle homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)

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The LiveScribe Pen: Merging Paper and the PC

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I love gadgets and it’s difficult for me to know in advance if a gadget will be one in a long list of “bright shiny objects” which I buy, adore for a few days and then relegate to some dust-catching shelf. But the Livescribe pen system is a keeper.

I don’t know about you, but as much as I am hooked on computers, and try to keep all of my notes about things on my computer, I still pick up a pen or pencil when the phone rings and jot notes on any available piece of paper. And when I’m at someone else’s office, I do the same. And then I lose the notes, or keep them but can’t find what I wrote. Or I find that I have 10 different notes listing similar information about 10 different clients and I don’t know which notes refer to which client.

A writing tablet might help, but there’s something that makes my hand gravitate to either a computer or paper and pen–nothing in between. And that’s when the Livescribe shines.

What this doohickey does is allow you to pick up a pen, write on a piece of paper and then when you return the pen to its little cradle, everything you wrote is uploaded to the Livescribe software (or to email, google docs, Evernote etc.) where you can sort it, search on it, and save it forever.

It also allows to make audio recordings your meetings and even book mark important points that correspond to note you’re taking.

The system includes a pen, that looks somewhat like an old fountain pen, special notebooks of various sizes, a docking station and software.

Livescribe pen, docking station, two notebooks and pen case

Livescribe Desktop Interface

The pen comes in 2Gig, 4Gig and 8Gig models. I’ve been using the 2 gig model for a few months without archiving and haven’t run out of memory but I don’t use the audio recording feature. If you plan on recording things, I would get more memory.

If you can’t stop using pen and paper, I think the Livescribe is a great way to go.

(Originally published in July.)

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Occupy the Eurodam, Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

There reaches a point in a cruise when you enter… the Cruise Zone.  This is a stage where you remember you used to be quite intelligent and active, and you’d wonder about where that person went, but you just don’t care enough.  But if you’re not sure whether you’ve reached the Cruise Zone, here are the Ten Top Signs you’re getting into the cruise state of mind.

10. You  think that cruise and mind shouldn’t be used in the same sentence

9. You think your dog has a really tough life

8. You were never good at doing nothing but you’re now an expert

7. You can’t figure out what day it is until you get in the elevator and look at the handy “day carpet”

6. You think that “pool or hot tub” is a complicated decision

5. You haven’t seen a watch or clock and yet you somehow find yourself at the ice cream counter at 2pm every afternoon.

4. You take a nap during the afternoon for the first time since either your last cruise or kindergarten

3. ” You hear “don’t worry, be happy” on this Lido deck’s speakers and think “what a nice song, and such brilliant lyrics”

2. You don’t care if your Top Ten list only has 9 items on it- don’t worry, be happy.


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Occupy the Good Ship Eurodam

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

Greetings from occupy the Eurodam.  No not Europe, damn.  I’m here with over 500 conservatives on the National Review cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam.  So far the natives (the other 1500 or so passengers) seem mostly oblivious to our cause.  Of course our cause is pretty similar to theirs – have a great time and relax while cruising the Eastern Caribbean.

Well maybe the Nation Review group does have a  political cause too, but I’ll leave that to others to discuss. I’m reporting on the cruise part.

Non-cruisers know they won’t like a cruise because:

  • There’s not  a lot to do, I’ll get bored
  • There’s too much to do, I won’t be able to relax.
  • I’ll be claustrophobic.
  • Those ships are so large I’ll feel  lost.
  • If the weather’s bad, well I don’t know what will happen but it wont be good.

Bah, I say! Balderdash!  This morning my husband Ed (you know him, he’s the editor of Lifestyle Blog) slept in because he stayed up till 1am solving the world’s problems with James Lileks, Johan Goldberg, Michael Walsh, and Kathryn-Jean Lopez, while I went to meet some folks from a cruising website.

Today is a sea day – no port stops.  So there were probably 50 things going on, NOT including the National Review sessions.  You could learn Tai Chi, attend an art lecture, take a tour of the ship’s kitchen, play games, work out at the gym. O you could sit around in any of hundreds of nooks and crannies and read a book, or do what we’re doing now, hang out on the Lido Deck around the pool.

Did I mention it’s cloudy and might rain.  No problem. This pool deck has a retractable roof like the new Cowboys stadium.

Ed and I rented a “Lido Deck Cabana” this trip, as we did on the last one.  It gives us a little bit more privacy and luxury. In addition to our own table and chairs, and lounge island thing, we have Renan and Ian to cater to our needs, so unlike the 99% on the cruise, we don’t have to walk 50 steps to the Lido Deck Grill, we have our burgers delivered.

Yesterday we asked for a power cord so could plug in our laptops, kindles, tablet – and this morning, there it was.  We have a never ending basket of fruit, water bottles in ice, iced tea delivered in a pitcher not by the glass, and chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne delivered in the afternoon.

But just sitting by the pool without the cabana isn’t too shabby either. Instead of Renen and Ian they have 20 or so other pool servers, happy to bring them drinks; and of courses they have the entire Lido Buffet to choose from a mere 50 or so steps away.

The point is not merely that there’s luxury to be had, but that cruising is about choices.  Some people pay the base price and not a drop more, and have a terrific vacation with what’s included at a cheap price.  Some people are here for the shore excursions, and wake up each morning (except on sea days) with a new port delivered to them.  They spend their money on zip line adventures through the rain forest, snorkeling, ATV rides, sightseeing tours and the like.

And Ed and I choose to indulge in the Cabana .

Last night was the “Welcome Reception” where the whole NR crowd could meet & greet, mix and mingle. Dinner is always with the NR gang, and each speaker has a table over which they preside each night. Us peasants are assigned tables, and 2,3 or 4 nights we sit at a speaker table.  Our dinner companions last night were intelligent and interesting and we sat and talked until the waiters taking away the flowers and peppermill lead us to the conclusion they were trying to close down. But it was 10:15 so I guess that’s fair.

And then Ed went up to the bar to schmooze and I want to the cabin, finished some work and watched the original Producers, laughing myself to sleep.

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Culture Clash on the Streets of New York

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

Long before Occupy Wall Street, New York has been known for its rather strident culture wars.

I grew up in a very happy household, or so I thought. Apparently my parents were able to make it appear to be so for my sake.

But even at its happiest, there is no doubt that our home was a battle of cultures.  My mother came from an upper-middle class background, interrupted when she was about 16 by  her father’s death and resulting loss of his income, followed almost immediately by the depression.  But she had been brought up with a full time maid, and had always been taught about and been interested in Culture, with a capital C.  As a young adult she studied modern dance, and went to museums and concerts.

My father’s family didn’t suffer during the Great Depression. Their finances were already depressed, thankyouverymuch.  My paternal grandfather was a failed rabbinical student, skeptic, philosopher, poet who operated a series of failed grocery stores when my father was growing up.  My father would tell me that he would occasionally come home from school to an empty apartment, from which he parents had fled right before the sheriff served eviction papers.  By the time the depression hit with full force my father was in college on a football scholarship, earning extra money playing poker with the students who were not on scholarship.

My father excelled in college football, being named an All American and playing in the East-West Shrine Game.  After college he went on to play professional football for two seasons, at a time when playing football did not offer a living wage, never the less the riches it offers today.  And since by all reports he was “ineffective” as a professional player, he hedged his bets by going to law school.  But he never lost his college football star bravado or big man on campus appeal to women. By the time he met my mother he had been married and divorced twice and was living with a third woman in her very luxurious suite in the DelMonico Hotel on Park Avenue.

My mother, at that same time was still taking her dancing lessons, still going to concerns, working hard as a wage and hour investigator for the US Labor Department, and seemingly destined to remain single at the ripe age of 35.

My parents met when my mother was investigating one of my father’s clients.  A scumbag client to hear my mother tell the story, a label about which my father didn’t quite disagree.  My father, in spite of living with another woman, hit on my mother and was persistent enough that after a short courtship he asked my mother to marry him.  I believe his biological clock was ticking and his then current girl friend was not the child-bearing type.  My mother was cultured, attractive and had family that embraced him.

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Shana Tova Y’all, Parts Two and Three

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I’ll see Roger’s video and raise him two more.

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May the next year be the sweetest yet.

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Upstairs Downstairs, US Style

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

J.B. West was an Usher, and eventually Chief Usher at the White House from 1941 until 1969. His book, published in 1974, Upstairs at the White House — My Life with the First Ladies (written with Mary Lynn Kotz) is a delightful, respectful, apolitical description of the his life running the White House under (or next to) Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon.  I first read it years ago, and while it’s not yet available on Kindle, I found a used copy on Amazon and just had the pleasure of rereading it.

Although West does not hide his personal political affiliation, it is only in the context of pointed out that “even” as a Republican, he want out to see our President when FDR’s train stopped in West’s home town, long before West moved to Washington.  Throughout the book he tells secrets and provides personal glimpses of the various First Ladies, the staff, and guests without a hint of political agenda or prejudice.

He spends more time on the Kennedy years, perhaps because Jackie made the White House her personal project.  And while the book documents the trials and tribulations of Mrs. Kennedy’s White House Restoration project it also tells of the surprise birthday party for Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie’s social secretary and class mate from Miss Porter’s School when the First Lady had West dress up as Jackie and Nancy’s housemother from Miss Porter’s;  and he admits to the lie he told avoid having peacocks brought onto White House grounds.

There are also wonderful glimpses of Mamie Eisenhower, who ran the White House with military precision at her morning meetings conducted from her bed, propped up on pink pillows, wearing a pink bed jacket with a pink ribbon in her hair.  And the day Bess Truman blushed as she requested the White House Carpenters come up to fix the slats in the President’s bed, the morning after she returned back to Harry from a trip to Missouri.

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Opening Pandora’s Cigar Box

Monday, September 19th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I’m sure the editor will change my title, so in case he does — the original title of this post was “More Things You Didn’t Know About Ed Driscoll.”  Actually I don’t care if he changes it. I just think it’s funny to picture his face when he reads it and thinks… “Oh dear, what has that woman written this time.”

Anyway, you probably didn’t know that Ed likes a cigar every once in a while and that I usually hate the smell of cigars.  This has caused some interesting evenings.  There was our anniversary weekend a few years ago.  We were staying at the Hotel Valencia at nearby Santana Row for a short weekend “staycation.”   As is our habit, we like to indulge ourselves. We went to the spa, had whatever spa services we wanted, ate out, and Ed bought one of his once or twice a year cigars.

We went up to the large outdoor patio outside the hotel bar to enjoy a second dessert, have a drink or two and for Ed to have his cigar. Outdoors is where he can indulge and I can sit up wind.  And so he lit up.  As the fates would have it, the damn cigar stank to high heaven AND the wind kept shifting so there was no up wind. There was only “smoke gets in my eyes.” Not being shy, I blurted out “My God, I can just smell the cancer.”

What can I say, Ed is the polite one of us.

Needless to say that ruined the experience for Ed, and he didn’t even bother having another cigar for a year or two.  But recently we stopped by the cigar shop near our summer Saturday night date-night dinner-out favorite restaurant and Ed asked for a mild cigar.  Well, what do you know, I could actually walk around next to him without yelling “You can smell the cancer.”  It helps that when we walk around he’s exhaling up where 6’2″ people exhale while I’m breathing the air down here with the 5’2″ people are.

All of which brings us to the fact that we’ve now found that not all cigars stink, which has led Ed to buy more than one cigar at a time, which led to the need for a small humidor, which leads to this review of the XiKar 15 Cigar Travel Humidor.  Please, dear readers, remember this is being written by a non-cigar person.  But I did my research so there’s some value here.

Expensive humidors have built in thingies (I believe that’s the technical term) where you can put little gel thingies to which you add water and then the water evaporates from the little gel thingies thus providing enough humidity to keep cigars from drying out, but not so much that they start to look like lettuce that was left in the crisper a month too long.  Expensive humidors also have hydrometers to measure the humidity so you can spend hours adjusting how many gel thingies you need to keep your cigars at exactly 70% humidity which is apparently the exact level of humidity to balance freshness and lack of green fuzzy mold.

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Video: NYC 9/11/2001 From Space

Sunday, September 11th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I’m really surprised I haven’t seen this before. It’s a view (and audio) from the International Space Station on 9-11-2001, showing the smoke from the World Trade Center.

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A Good Cry

Saturday, August 27th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

A friend and I were talking the other day about the cathartic benefits of watching a good schmaltzy movie.  But while her tastes run to the epic romances (Dr. Zhivago, Casablanca) I found my favorites (or least favorites, this crying bit is a love-hate relationship) are actually kids’ movies.  I think one reason for this is I like crying for happy.

My biggest surprise crying movie was Up.  Obviously the first surprise is it’s a kids cartoon, for heaven’s sake. It’s just a generation or three up from Road Runner and Daffy Duck.  The second surprise is that you need to have your Kleenex out in the early part of the movie. What’s with that? Who’s ready with Kleenex before the first popcorn break?

My other big surprise was Homeward Bound.  Admittedly this is not an all-purpose tearjerker. If you’re not a dog lover (or maybe a cat lover) you wont even be able to sit through the movie.  But not only did I bawl my eyes out on this one, but my dear husband whose name I wouldn’t mention here for fear of embarrassing him, bawled his eyes out too; AND I couldn’t stop crying for a day or two.  I do understand that maybe I just needed a good cry.  But geez, two days of soggy Kleenex from a movie about 2 dogs and a cat? Get a grip, Nina.

Of recent movies we’ve seen in the theater — it’s always interesting to watch grown men crying surreptitiously — The King’s Speech got to both of us, as well as a goodly portion of the audience. This is of the crying for happy movies.  Maybe we’ll watch it again tonight. If you haven’t seen it, do.

I tend not to like romantic movies in general, so I don’t have a good list of romantic tearjerkers, other than Casablanca But Casablanca, as much as I love it as a movie in general, is a wet-eyed sniffle movie, not a loud hiccup-snort, blow your nose, tears running down your face movie like Up and Homeward Bound.

To me, part of the joy of a good cry at a movie is that moment when you give up trying to hide that you’re crying, you look at your partner, and you both laugh with each other because you’re both such saps.  It’s a great moment in any relationship, from an old marriage to a first date.

So on the theory that everyone needs a good cry sometimes, maybe our lovely readers can suggest their favorite movies to cry to.

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Launch of Ovaltine Blogging Delayed—Congressional Investigation in the Works

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

The live blogging of premier episode of Season 3 of Top Shot will not occur due to the lack of the live blogging feature on PJ Livestyle, and the complete dearth of  Ovaltine.

Instead, look for my review tomorrow. But feel free to post your own initial thoughts under this post, if you like.

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Ovaltine-Blogging Top Shot

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I’ve always been an avid TV watcher, but I’m not an educated watcher. I never would write serious TV reviews because I don’t watch TV seriously — I watch TV and fold laundry, or watch TV and cook.

But when I saw that the premier episode of the 3rd season of Top Shot is tonight, I thought, well I could drunk blog that, apologies to Steve Green.  The one problem is that I don’t drink… or at least I don’t drink and stay awake.  However, I could crawl into bed with my laptop and a glass of Ovaltine and Ovaltine-Blog Top Shot.

The only reason for the big “maybe” up in the title (and apologies if this is TMI) is that I’m having some minor oral surgery this morning and I might not be up to the excitement. If I’m not online tonight Ovaltine-blogging the show, feel free to discuss it in the comments of this post.

I tuned in to the first season of Top Shot by accident, just surfing channels looking for something to watch before I went to sleep.  I’ve never been a gun person. In fact the first really REALLY big fight Ed and I had was over gun control.  That one lasted until 3:00 am (we didn’t think to call Hillary afterwards) and resulted in a mutual decision that if we were going to stay married we had to stay away from the mere mention of guns.

Part of my view of guns came from growing up in New York City in the Zabar’s collective.  No one I knew growing up had a gun.  it wasn’t done.  Guns came in three varieties: good guns worn by cops; bad guns carried by criminals; and fictional guns in the Westerns.  Since nice Jewish girls and boys and their parents, most of whom taught school except for the occasional doctor, dentist, CPA or attorney did not own guns. I never saw a gun up close and personal till I was in my 40s.  They were just a very foreign to me.  But I am also a sucker for anyone with a military background and the episode of Top Shot I happened upon had this cute-looking Marine sniper dude guy. So I watched a little and got hooked.

I didn’t know there was a season two until a few episodes in, and season two really got me addicted, so this year I was on the look out and I’m ready for Season Three.  I’ve reviewed the 1-2 minute bios of the competitors on the show’s website, but no one jumped out at me as my favorite.  My criteria are looks, military background and then … well I’m not sure anything much matters after that. I guess some sort of intelligence or sense of humor. But I’m not marrying these people,  just watching them on TV.

They always have two women competing and they sadly usually appear to be token females. This year one of the women only started to shoot four years ago.  There are guys there who’ve been shooting since they were kids. Three started with Red Ryder BB guns.  One guy said his dad would take him shooting before he could even hold the gun.  His dad held the gun and he got to pull the trigger.  But I guess some people just have a knack and she qualified. I just think she looks too much like the “oh we have to find another woman” woman.

The other woman is a ex-Army police officer and SWAT team member.  I could root for her.  She’s cute and ex-military.  But I’m going to have to see how the guys come across on TV before I pick my from among them.  Dental pain permitting, join me tomorrow, 8 pm PDT while I Ovaltine Blog Top Shot, Season 3, Episode 1.

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More Like Taxi Than Taxi Driver

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok
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Taxi (which aired from 1978 until 1983 and is still fun to watch on DVD) purported to bring you into the Sunshine Cab Company’s garage. As a genuine ex-New York City taxicab driver I thought I might share some thoughts on how realistic… or not, the show was.

I’ll wait while you check who is writing this article. Yes, it is I, the PJ Media attorney; the “little woman” to the PJ Lifestyle editor; the lady who wrote about her love affair with a dishwasher. Yes, I was a genuine, complete with a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission hack license, cab driver in NYC while I was in law school. Happy now? Can we get back to the story?

I was going to compare driving a real taxi in NYC with the TV show Taxi, and I bet you’re going to say that it was just totally fake, right?  Well it was not so far from reality.

The garage that I drove out of might well have doubled for an aircraft hangar, but if you took a teeny, tiny corner of it, it looked just like the Sunshine Cab company’s garage where Danny DeVito reigned as Louie De Palma. And yes, the dispatcher sat in a cage, quite like Louie’s. The dispatcher would hand you a car assignment when you came to work and took your cash box at the end of the day. This of course was the draw for a student — you got your tips and your share of what was in the cash box the same day that you worked.

Another advantage for a student is that no one cared if you worked on Monday and then took Tuesday and Wednesday off and wanted to work again on Thursday. The only thing that counted was getting to the garage before the cars were all allocated. More specifically getting to the garage before the cabs with working A/C were all gone in the summer, and before the cabs with working heaters were gone in the winter.

There were more drivers than cars, so the cab company didn’t care when you worked. If you showed up early, you got a cab, if you showed up late, you could wait and see if someone brought back a cab early or could take one that lacked some creature comforts. So for a student it meant you could make some money when you had no homework, and could skip work when you had exams.

We didn’t have anyone who was as wacky as Jim Ignatowski but there were some strange folks out there in the cab line. None were as strange as the “doctor” who gave me my physical for the hack license. I think there are cheap abortion clinics in Tijuana with higher sanitary standards. And if I had to compare him with anyone in a taxi-related TV show or movie, I would say he was closer to Taxi Driver, than Taxi. The good part was that after the physical driving, the streets was not all that scary.

But driving the streets was competitive driving at its best… or worst. The professional drivers, the Alex Riegers, drove the streets of Manhattan. They cruised along, looking for pedestrians who, the pros could tell, were thinking about raising their hand in the New York signal that means “Hey Cabbie.”

Professional cabbies can cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to a fare before the fare’s hand is fully in the air and way before an amateur driver who might be only 2 to 3 feet further back, but on the same side of the street as the pedestrian, got there. This is a skill only gained over years of practice which is often cut short by bad accidents and the loss of your hack license.

So the amateurs often “did the airports.” Doing the airport means you drive out to Kennedy or LaGuardia and go to the cab waiting line. This is not a line, but a huge parking area where cabs wait and are routed in order by a dispatcher. To prevent having drivers sit in their cabs and move 1 foot a minute, the lines are moved up in a staggered manner allowing the drivers to turn off their cabs.

The airport cab lines are where the TV show becomes somewhat more real.  The idea that cabbies would sit around in the garage when they could be out making money is crazy. But on a nice day, in the airport lines, you really did see students with philosophy, economics and in my case law books sitting on their cab’s hood studying. You did see actors rehearsing for auditions. The airport lines are where the socializing took place, and since the cab area was “catered” by an excellent roach coach, it’s where we took our meals.

Because the fare from Kennedy is usually pretty high, even with an hour or two wait for a fare, an amateur might make as much “doing the airport” as driving the streets.   You might ask yourself, why wait in the line for 2 hours for a fare.  Why not just drive by arrivals and pick up some harried traveler who’s not waiting on the passenger taxi line?  The reason is simple.

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Meat and Potatoes and Gravy and Potatoes and Gravy

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

After reading Dr. Helen’s post on McDonald’s going PC, I’m pleased to report that not all restaurants are quite so supine to the ever-growing nanny state.

Denny’s Tour of America, mid-western special is described as:

A Cheddar bun stuffed with grilled prime rib and French fries, smothered in brown gravy and topped with melted Swiss and American cheeses and mayo. A side of creamy mashed potatoes and yet more gravy completes this culinary masterpiece!

It leaves nothing more to be said.

Denny's Midwestern Meat and Potatoes Sandwich



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Court Snips Anti-Circumcision Measure from Frisco Ballot

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

When a citizen of San Francisco, our somewhat whacky neighbor at the other end of the bay here in Northern California, started to collect signatures for an initiative to outlaw circumcision, I thought “typical San Francisco silliness — it will never qualify.”  When the initiative qualified for the ballot, I hoped the citizens even of San Francisco would see that while reasonable people might well differ on the value or even morality of circumcision, it was surely a personal issue.  And my back-up thought was, if it passed, it would be ruled unconstitutional.

However, what I forgot was my old law professor, who, when asking a question, the answer to which was “The Constitution,” would give the clue “it’s bigger than a statute.”  And of course what’s smaller than the Constitution, but bigger than San Francisco’s proposed city ordinance is a state statute.  And there’s one which a SF judge will rely on tomorrow to order that the “no snip initiative” be snipped from the ballot.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi issued a tentative ruling today, which, unless she backtracks tomorrow, will order the Director of the Department of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco to “remove the measure from the ballot in its entirety.”

Judges can issue “tentative rulings” in law and motion matters the day before a hearing is scheduled.   If a judge is pretty darned sure how he or she will rule based on all of the papers submitted to the court, the issue the ruling and if any party wants to be heard at the hearing, they already know what the judge is thinking.  Sometimes a tentative ruling  will state that the judge is uncertain and would like the parties to address a specific issue. But in this case the judge has made it completely clear her mind is made up.  Her ruling states:

The Court finds that the proposed ballot Initiative is expressly preempted by California Business and Professions §460(b). The evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure. California Business and Professions Code §460 (b) applies to medical services provided by a wide range of health care professionals. The statute speaks directly to the issue of local regulation of medical procedures and leaves no room for localities to regulate in this area. In fact, the legislative history of §460(b) confirms that the legislature intended to prevent cities and counties from regulating medical services which is a matter statewide concern. Because the proposed ballot initiative attempts to regulate a medical procedure, the proposed ordinance is expressly preempted. Moreover, it serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made.

As Ret. Judge Peter Stone in Santa Clara used to say at the start of oral arguments after he had issued tentative rulings, “does anyone want to come up here and explain to me why their written briefs weren’t any good?”  In other words, given the language in the tentative ruling, it’s doubtful Judge Giorgi is going to change her mind tomorrow.

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My Love Affair with My Washing Machine

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

One of the things about being an intellectual is that you can underestimate the importance of the mundane. Or so it seemed when I was growing up. My mother was very into Culture, with a capital C, and sought to bring me up as an intellectual, which is what good Jewish mothers on the Upper West Side did, even after they moved to the east side.  As a result of this, I was not taught housekeeping skills. It was assumed that although I would be a struggling Artiste, living in a garret  in Greenwich Village, I would somehow also be able to afford a maid.

My sense of efficiency was offended that my mother didn’t know simple things like “use cold water to get out blood stains but hot water for greasy stains” but she could quote the entire New York Times Book Review section verbatim.  In fact my cousins and I often thought that if we ever really needed to get something through to my mother, it would be best to take out an ad in the NYT Book Review section.  Even an ad there had more credence than an article in Good Housekeeping to The Mother.

As the ultimate act of rebellion, I read most of the women’s magazines that were sold at the check-out counter of Gristedes while I was growing up and in college.  However, I have not been keeping up with modern advances in homemaking.  So I was pretty much adrift when my washing machine started to sound like a Saturn V taking off from Cape Canaveral.

Luckily I have a friend who operates a housekeeper service so I asked her what type of washing machine I should buy.  Apparently people with advanced degrees in something other than culture have been working on the problem of washing clothes, and have come up with some nifty ideas.

My friend immediately, and without a moment’s hesitation, said “get a front loader.”  Apparently, so she told me, top loading washing machines basically wash things by soaking them in water and beating them with a rock, which, while a tried and true technique, is a bit long of tooth.  And in case your washing machine doesn’t have any rocks in it, the “agitator,” as that vertical thing with fins in the middle of my old washing machine is called, is the thing that beats the dirt out of your clothes.

However the newest front loaders wash your clothes without “agitating” or pummeling them at all.

Since this sounded logical, and after reading tons of reviews online, I bought my Sears does everything but sing you to sleep at night front loading washing machine. I opted for the Sears both because it got good reviews and somehow I thought the idea of buying something at such an American institution as Sears would offend my mother’s artistic spirit. I am still the rebel of my youth.

And thus starteth my love affair. One of the first things I did was notice my new toy had a “stain treat” cycle. I immediately tossed in the top I had worn, and gotten a stain on, at dinner the night before.  The stain came out.  Then I took some tops that had  been relegated to being worn at the gym and, carefully following the instructions, found I could get out even old stains. Love was washing over me.

I know this is really inappropriate to say amongst all of the intelligent posts on Pajamas, but damn, my whites are whiter and my brights are brighter.

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Schmaltz Comes from the Most Unlikely Places

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

I don’t watch America’s Got Talent or any of those shows, and I won’t just because of this.  But it’s fantastic — stick though it and I dare you not to tear up.

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New Hot Thing in Wedding Rings

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

Advertised as the most personalized rings (and bracelets) available, silhouette rings, which might be more accurately described as profile rings, are apparently the in-thing for wedding or anniversary rings.

Send a profile photo of your loved one and get a ridged ring duplicating their profile.  You can even get one done of each the bride and groom to wear them stacked.I’m not sure if the “nose” of the ring begins to cut into the adjoining fingers, but it would seem like this might not be the first choice of rings for someone who has a partner with a perky turned up nose.  And what about post-marriage nose jobs?

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Why Do You Hate Cruising?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

If you’re going to hate cruising, hate it for good right reasons.

My husband and I discovered cruising a few years ago and we adore it.  What I love most is that it can be whatever kind of vacation you want it to be — and a couple doesn’t have to want the same thing to go cruising together.  There are tons of other things I love about cruising, but what I hate most is how many people won’t consider going on a cruise because they believe a bunch of myths.

I can think of hundreds of good and valid reasons not to cruise.  But my sense of logic is disturbed by people who make the decision that they would hate cruising on faulty information.  So I’m going to try to sink those cruise myths two at a time.

Myth #1 I’ve heard some things about cruises that I didn’t like so I know I would hate cruising.

This is your generic catch-all myth.  Cruise lines and cruises are so varied that the only thing they really share is they are about being on a boat in the water.

There are informal cruises on rivers where you’re never more than a few yards from shore.  There are high end cruises with hot and cold running maids, butlers, bartenders and masseurs.  There are adventure cruises where you not only don’t have non-stop service, you hoist the jib and swab the decks with the crew.  There are cruises with themes:  foodie cruises, cruises for motorcycle groups, historical cruises and political cruises.

If you’ve heard about a limited number or type of cruises, stop extrapolating from incomplete information.  You’re short-changing yourself.  As I talk about the other myths, you’ll see that because of the variety of cruise experiences, you may not have been comparing apples with apples.

Myth # 2 It’s claustrophobic and boring.

Bottom line is: you don’t stay in your cabin and you don’t stay on the ship.

How often do you hear people say “I would never visit New York City because the hotel rooms are small?”  That’s basically what the “it’s claustrophobic” argument is.  Yes, SOME of the cabins are small… very small… very very small. But they are better laid out than many of the closets that pass for rooms at the W Hotel in New York.  And there are larger cabins and luxurious cabins.

Ok, I admit, this isn't a typical cabin, it was our cabin on the Regent Navigator when we cruised to Alaska and had been upgraded.

But more importantly, no one goes on a vacation to sit in their room, and you don’t go on a cruise to sit in your cabin.  You wake up and go do things. You go back to change for meals, you go to sleep.  And you will sleep. People with chronic insomnia report sleeping 8,9 and 10 hours on cruises.  But that’s another topic entirely.

But wait, Nina, I didn’t only mean the cabin, I will get claustrophobic not being able to get off the ship.

Well then cruise on a large ship.  Some of the big ones are more like the star ship enterprise than the good ship lollypop. Walking from one end to the other is exhausting and 200,000 square feet of public space is pretty common.  If you can stay in a large hotel on a rainy day without going crazy, you will not be claustrophobic on a ship.  And you’ll be less claustrophobic than staying in your house on a rainy day.

What’s more, cruise ships stop at ports.  People who don’t cruise tend to forget that on most 6 night, 7 day cruises you will be at sea only one or two days.  The other days you wake up, and miraculously, the nice cruise line people have brought you a new destination.  And you didn’t have to pack your suitcase the night before, or wake up early to catch a plane to get there.  You just wake up, and there it is – a new port.

Then you have your breakfast if you want and get off the ship, onto land.

You can go zip lining, sightseeing, shopping, museum browsing, SCUBA diving, beach combing. You can take helicopter rides, train rides, water plane rides, sail boat rides, horseback rides, ATV rides.  You can take cooking classes, snorkeling classes, be a dolphin trainer for a day.  The variety of things you can do is mind boggling.

Or you can stay on board the ship, sit by the pool, go to the spa, use the gym, read a book, borrow a DVD from the library, go to a movie, go to the computer lab and learn how to use photo-shop, eat non-stop, take a nap or not even wake up until dinner time. Did I mention cruising is a really good cure for insomnia?

And that’s what you can do on general interest cruises. If you choose a special interest cruise you can go to lectures, learn a language, meet kindred spirits, see almost extinct animals, visit rare birds and see exotic plants.

So where’s the boredom?  I can’t even fathom using that as an excuse. Whatever you like to do, you will be able to do it.

In a day or two, more myths — busted.

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Grandma’s Chicken

Friday, July 15th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

This is a recipe (and I use that term loosely) for my grandmother’s chicken, also known as Potted Hungarian Chicken or Chicken Paprikash.

  • A Chicken
  • Some salt, pepper, garlic, and Hungarian paprika
  • 1 onion chopped up
  • Oil
  • Some Chicken broth
  • Take a cut up chicken and clean it however you normally do that. Pat dry.

    Sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Rub with some crushed garlic (I can’t eat garlic, so I leave this out and it’s fine).  If you have to ask how much, this wont work.  Then sprinkle with LOTS of  sweet Hungarian paprika.  By Hungarian sweet paprika, I don’t mean supermarket paprika that has Hungarian in the name. My Grandmother took the bus across town from Amsterdam Avenue to First Avenue to go to the Paprika Weiss market and bought it fresh from big drums and took it home in a paper bag.  The closest you can get now is probably from it’s successor, Yorkville Meat Emporium/Hungarian Meat Market, and even that’s closed due to a fire.  But I digress.

    Turn the chicken over and season the other side of the chicken pieces.

    Heat oil in a large frying pan that has a cover.  OK — here’s the thing.  To the best of my knowledge, the reason my grandmother’s chicken tastes better than anyone else’s is because she used a terrible thin old frying pan that burned everything.  I don’t have a really cheap pan (although I’m thinking of buying one on eBay or at Goodwill) so I use my oldest one. Do not use the really expensive, 38 layers of assorted metals one that some cook who wasn’t born when my Grandmother used to make this dish recommended.  I use an old warped Farberwear one I keep just to make this chicken.  If you don’t have a cheap frying pan this will be a challenging recipe for you.  But carry on, it is still possible.

    Even with the fairly thin Farberwear I use the highest heat possible, which I normally would not use to brown things.

    Add the onion and brown it a little.  Don’t wait for that to burn — it will have time to burn later.  Then add the chicken pieces. They need to all touch the bottom of the pan so smush the onions to the side, and if you have too much chicken, use two pans, but the chicken must be in one layer.  Put the chicken in skin side down and NOW you forget what you’re doing.

    Talk to your guests; have a glass of sherry; somehow you must manage to burn the chicken and the onions a little. You’re going to think it’s done, but it’s not.  Honest. There’s a point between normal browned, and charcoal where the chick is a deep deep reddish brown, maybe 330000 in HEX, and it’s past what you would normally think of as “browned chicken and onions.”  Don’t be tempted to peek too often because that breaks the bond between the cheap, but hot metal pan and the paprika which is covering the chicken.

    When you’ve achieved appropriate brownness, turn the chicken over, and while you have each piece out of the pan to turn it – scrape the burnt stuff underneath with a wooden or plastic spoon.  Now burn the other side.  Again pick up the pieces, scrap the burned stuff up, put the pieces back skin up, and add about a cup of broth — give or take.  She never measured and I don’t either.  Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 30 minutes. The chicken should be very well done and come off the bone easily.

    If you must, you can skin the chicken, take the gravy that’s magically appeared in the pan and put it in the freezer to get the fat to the top quickly and de-fat the gravy. But my grandmother lived to be 92 and my mother lived to be 93. They ate this chicken once a week all their lives.  Consider that maybe chicken fat isn’t the greatest evil the world has seen.

    This chicken is best served with Kasha and if you ask nicely I’ll give that recipe also.  The chicken is terrific re-heated but eventually it just falls completely off the bone and personally I think it looses something without the bones.

    NOTE ABOUT PICTURE: Please note that this picture of grandma cooking does NOT show her making chicken. She would never cook her chicken in Le Creuset cookware. She didn’t own any Le Creuset.  This picture was taken at my parents’ summer house where my grandmother held forth every summer.  The dish in the Le Creuset is stuffed cabbage which does well without the need for burning.


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