The Limits of Canine Intelligence

  Rin Tin Tin Years ago, when Johnny Carson was the face of late-night TV, he once drew hundreds of outraged letters after he dared to say, in conversation with a guest, that pigs are smarter than dogs. Lassie lovers were not amused. I spent my childhood largely unaware of the limits of canine intelligence. […]

Finding the Easter Basket

It’s only a week after Easter, and in fact the Orthodox churches are celebrating the holiday today, so this post is not yet untimely. This is the tale of an Easter past, when all three kids, in their early teens, were still living with Sandra and me in Honolulu. So … what does a part-Jewish, […]

Recollections Called Forth by the Closing of America’s St. Petersburg Consulate

U.S. consulate-general, St. Petersburg, Russia The U.S. consulate-general in St. Petersburg became a casualty this week of the current escalation of tensions between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, following the attempted assassination in England of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko and his daughter by Russia’s FSB (successor to the USSR’s notorious KGB). Putin ordered […]

The Hung Fat Brassiere Company Let Me Down

Years ago, when I was living in the Washington, D.C., area, I spotted an article in the Washington Post about amusing – to native-English speakers – signs and menu items in Asia. The article included a number of funny names, but the only one that occasionally pops back into my head was that of a […]

How to Be the World’s Coolest Dad

Romanesque Grotesque It’s probably a little harder to achieve Coolest Dad status today than it was in 1983, but I found a quick and easy way to do it back then. At the time, I was a single dad, living just outside Washington, D.C., and sharing custody of my two (at that time) kids with […]

Creating a Coffee Table With My Dad

For most of my childhood, we lived in a small house in Wanamassa, an unincorporated neighborhood just across the lake from Asbury Park, N.J. To my mom, at least, the smallest room in that house was the one in which she spent the most time – the kitchen. How she wished it were a little […]

A Sobering Experience

The river at Jaroli Have you ever come with a hair’s breadth of killing someone? It happened to me, and it was a sobering experience, to say the least. No, it was not a close call when driving a car. Nor the result of a flash of blinding anger. It was, rather, something that happened […]

A Different Way to Achieve Immortality

One of the farmers I worked with in Rajnagar This week’s post is a reminiscence of an amusing incident from my Peace Corps service in India. It can also be found on my Portfolio page and – under the title “Earstaches and a Message From Chiang Kai-Shek” – in the book Even the Smallest Crab […]

How Much Energy Does It Take to Explode a Ketchup Packet?

Have you ever wondered how much force it would take to burst open a little packet of ketchup – the kind you get with a takeout order at a fast food joint – by stomping on it? I’d be willing to wager that this question has never so much as entered the minds of most […]

Car Shopping à la Russe

Zhiguli, the Soviet version of the Fiat 124, which, when exported, was called the Lada Shopping for a car in the Soviet Union was a surreal experience that few Americans or Westerners have had the pleasure of undergoing. I am one of those so privileged, though, and it’s provided me with still another offbeat story to […]