Cross Cultural Dog Sitting

Now that Suma is deep into mechanics and Yeela is into forms of government and how they came to be, it is for me to bring us all back to earth and talk about the ‘yom-yom’. I would have written sooner about the yom-yom but I had to wait for Lulu to leave. You cannot use double syllable words around Lulu because it thinks you are talking to it. All the animal knows are combinations of doubled syllables, ‘nay-nay’, ‘treat-treat’, ‘chi-chi’, ‘yum-yum’, ‘go-go’, ‘pu-pu’ and etc, etc. Normally who would have given such an anecdote a second thought, but its not taking things for granted that makes us better people. Why not ponder the reason behind the fact that every word is doubled when Chinese speak English to Irish poodles? Not wanting to take this for granted I thought about it and came up with a plausible explanation – bear with me.

When the Huang family first got custody of the dog they named it ‘Lu’ which is a nice short Chinese name. All Chinese names are short and for a reason. If neither Sabba Amatzia nor Michal nor I have not told you the story behind the reason then I will tell it to you now. If you have heard it skip a page.

Many years ago the Chinese people had no checks and balances regarding the length of the names they used. Consequently it just so happened that in a small fishing village along the banks of the mighty Yang-Ze river lived a boy whose name was: Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad. One day Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad and his friends went down to the river to play. As they were playing Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad walked into the water and was swept by a wave. Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad Called for help . Not everyone noticed that Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad

‘Who is calling?’ asked one of the boys. ‘Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘ answered another. ‘Can’t Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad swim?’, asked a third. None of Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad could swim well enough to help Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad. We should run to the village and tell the Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s parents that Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad is in trouble’.

So they ran back to the village calling out for Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s mother. At first no one could not hear them over the cackling of the chickens and the squealing of the pigs, but as they got closer to the out-skirts of the village where Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad lived, people heard their screams and came out to see what was wrong. ‘What is the matter children?’ asked a passerby. We are looking for Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s house they shouted. ‘Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad lives down the street’, answered the man. So off they ran to Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s house. When they got there they all chanted as one ‘Mrs. Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘, ‘Mrs Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad, please come out’.

When Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s mother came out the boys quickly told her that Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad was in trouble. Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s mother quickly summoned Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s father who together with Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s mother ran back down to the river where the children has said that Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad was struggling in the water. By the time Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad‘s parents got there Uzu-Ruzu-Kuku-Ruzu-Yenta-Bela-La-Ma-Ne-Te-La-Va-Le-Ya-Na-De-Vo-Ne-Do-Za-Mini-Grad drowned.

Sensing that time was of the essence in this case, and seeing how a tragedy could have been avoided has the story fit into a short paragraph, the Chinese reverted to short names like ‘Ho’ ,’Chi’ and ‘Ming’.

Five thousand years later here was the Huang family with a dog they happily named ‘Lu’. To their dismay they found out shortly thereafter that that ‘lu’ means ‘toilet’ in the dog’s mother tongue. Imagine their plight. On one hand they did not have a lot of leeway to stretch the name. On the other hand they could not leave the name as is and have the dog find out what it meant when it grew up. Walking a fine line between the cultures they came up with the idea of doubling the name. Not too long, and nobody in their right mind would think of translating it to ‘toilet-toilet’. Just to be on the safe side and assure that the dog would not one day become suspicious they double everything they say to it.

Which brings me back to the point I was trying to make about discussing the ‘yom-yom’ in front of ‘Lu-lu’. The dog is a nervous wreck as it is. I don’t know if you noticed that the dog has a rag doll that squeaks when bitten. Lulu thinks the doll is bubble gum and chews on it to calm itself because the squeaking is very aggravating. The closest I could come to a double-sounding short sentence that the dog could understand was ‘Lulu’, to which it would look at me with its watery brown eyes that have no eyeballs, ‘GFUCK-ADUCK’ to which it would cower for a moment and resume it chewing all the more nervously. Heaven knows if ‘yom-yom’ means anything in the dog’s doubled language, so I chose to wait.

All this drama to get to the yom-yom, when the yom-yom is mundane otherwise it would not be called yon-yom, but I’ll try to focus on the more exciting events. For example I finished reading Hemingway’s the ‘Sun also Rises’ which should have been called ‘This Book also Ends’. Of course it would not be prudent not to praise Hemingway’s writing and his ability to vividly portray a group of the careless, unattached, spur-of-the-moment life style of a group of Americans in post WWI Paris and small towns in Spain. A portrayal which is achieved through brilliantly simple dramatization that puts the reader in the cafes of Paris, streams in the Pyrenees mountains and bull-runs in the small towns of Western Spain. Indeed a great example in story telling and character building – but its the reader’s character that is being built most of all as you struggle through yet another page of agonized undecided love washed down by another casual glass of bourbon. Encouraged by my achievement, I started reading ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. The opening was familiar. The setting is very similar to Alistair McLean’s ‘Force Ten from Navarone’ (the sequel to ‘The Guns of Navarone’). The task is to blow up a bridge which spans a deep gorge in a mountainous area behind enemy lines. The wars are different but have been raging for quite some time and in both cases its the underdogs that needs to destroy the bridges. The difference is that Hemingway writes about real people and what war does to them. MacLean writes about war with stereotyped heroes and villains playing out their expected roles. We’ll see if I am mature enough to handle the difference in perspective. On a side not the Hebrew translation is called ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’ so as to avoid confusion with the door bell, and have every husband avoid reading the book saying ‘it’s for you dear’.

Osmo had a brief bout with literature which ended on the dark side of the moon. Osmo read ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ and wrote a book report about role models and inspiration – a topic which I assume was dictated by the teacher. Freshman year book reports are graded on mass as well as content. Sufficient mass assures some content so in order to beef up his paragraphs Osmo borrowed quotes from his learned literary critique ‘Reedy’ – who goes by a first name only like ‘Madonna’ and ‘Oprah’. Reedy who is of Asian-Latino origin, was randomly raised in Singapore which is an ideal place to hear about European culture and history. When he moved to the United States with his mother, Reedy literary criticism became known thanks to the fact that he lived right around the corner. The scholar that he is, Reedy reviewed Osmo’s work and generously gave it a final touch by adding a conclusion that Hitler was a good example of an inspirational leader – period. After all, if Mel Brooks could propose ‘Spring Time for Hitler’ why can’t Reedy propose ‘Hitler for Inspiration’?

Personally I would have had more respect for Reedy’s work had he not terminated his closing statement with such a shallow conclusion, and had added that this inspiration, which he held in such regard, was one of History’s most brutal examples of influence towards racial hatred, taking intolerance and prejudice to unprecedented extremes which resulted in cataclysmic destruction and loss of life. It would have been nice if Osmo had connected the dots and shown that it is Atticus Finch (that’s where Gregory Peck comes in) through his courage, stands up to such injustices and through his actions inspires us all to recognize once again the fundamental principles of equality and justice which are the cornerstone of any moral society. Principles which millions died to defend against Hitler’s ‘inspiration’. To make a long book report short – Ima blew a gasket, Osmo removed the jewel-statement from the crown, Reedy moved on to work on Mao, and the dots remained unconnected. Perhaps this writing gives us some closure, given that Osmo has time to read it.

To be fair to Osmo I have to say that he was struggling to draw the right balance between English literature where he was on the cusp of intellectual achievements compared to his friends, and ‘World of War Craft’ where he was lagging far behind them. In fact he was lagging father than I had dared to imagine, but I’ll get to that. WoWC is a computer game. Need I say more? Not really, except for explaining why Osmo was lagging behind the pack. Approximately two weeks ago Osmo approached me: ‘Bushy, Casey just got this top of the line computer’. Knowing that Casey did not need a top of the line computer to calculate the speed of expansion of Super Novas I was inquisitive: ‘What will he do with this top-of-the-line computer of his?’. ‘There is this new cool computer game which you play over the Internet’… The picture was crystal clear. There was a new social habit which mutated from the computer saloons that flourished a few years ago and used to lure the boys likes flies to cow dung with a similar social effect. Thankfully for technology, the saloons have pretty much varnished when Internet bandwidth increased and prices of home computer power dropped below the four digit mark. Nowadays you are able to have your own personal high end play station within the convenience of your home- you meaning all but Osmo. Osmo helped me along with my thinking: ‘Brandon’s dad built Casey’s computer from top-of-the-line parts for a thousand dollars’. I responded with a resounding ‘Hmmm’. Osmo knew that you don’t just hmm things away – I owed him a course of action, and continued to lay the ground for a fruitful discussion: ‘Casey’s computer has one gigabyte of RAM’. To which I proposed that we would add more memory to his computer. Knowing the future tense meant anywhere between here and eternity, Osmo needed something more tangible on the table: ‘Can we go and buy the game so we can try it?’. This was a low risk gamble on his part. Having the game would be a small investment which he might have to pay from with his own money, but it would assure the future of his computer. This is a principle he learned from Ima known by the general term ‘Hahanah Le-Video’ from the days when video cassette players were the luxury high tech gadget of the house. At that time buying a video cassette player was a major investment, which many would payoff over the course of a year or two in monthly installments. It was a big deal, however buying a few cassettes to show your friends you were serious about the device was quite affordable, and provided for some social headroom while postponing the financial burden by a few weeks. Its been years since people with any dignity have done anything with video cassettes but the term stuck. Nowadays its DVDs that are the real thing. Based on the same principle you first buy or rent a movie on a DVD for ten dollars, then in order to make good on your investment you buy the DVD player. Osmo was applying the logic to computer games and computers. I liked the way he optimistically played the numbers regardless of his benevolence towards our spending on his behalf. To put myself on the side of responsibility I calculated that a price tag under four hundred dollars was something to hope for. Not that is was negligible but if all his friends had computers that could play the game, and his not having one put Hitler on the role model list, then it was worth the cost. Needless to say that we got the game without Osmo spending a dime. Needless to say that it did not run on his computer, that I tried to tinker with the computer myself, and that six hours later I had a computer which would not even boot.

I took the comatose machine to ‘Compurun Systems’ on El-Camino which was right around the corner as the car drives. It was the Friday before New Years eve and I wanted to fix the machine in the same year that it was broken. The owner greeted me with an accent that comes from beyond Israel’s eastern boarders – probably Iranian. ‘We charrrge seventy five dollarrrs which arrre un-rrrefundable to assess the prrroblem’ he explained. I was familiar with this logic and decided to bite the bullet – given the understanding that the machine would be ready the next day. Wishful thinking. On Monday, a day into the new year, I came into the shop to inquire about the machine only to hear the owner’s future plans for the machine: ‘I will have to rrreinstall the operrrating system and install 512 MB of RRRAM’. When I mentioned that he was two days late and he still hadn’t done anything with the machine he burst out: ‘YESTERRRDAY WAS A HOLIDAY, EVEN TODAY STORRRES ARRRE CLOSED’. Given our ethnic backgrounds he allowed himself more than he could afford, thinking that I would be swept into his emotional tantrum and we would both be on a level playing field. Little did he know that that Ima had primed we with tools of self control second to none, by sending me to a whole day workshop at Stanford a few months earlier. The workshop was called ‘Assertiveness in Business’, a means to tame the madmen of the orient and train them in the subdued rituals of the west. The workshop focused on techniques for getting what you wanted in varying business scenarios. It was more helpful than Anger Management’s ‘gooozz-fraaava’ chant. Just like Jack Nicholson’s workshop, it was a way of selling a formalized form of the obvious over a period of time which justified the price. The point of the workshop I attended was to waste an entire weekend hearing about having to be nice, focusing on your goals, not being petty, argumentative. The lessons all proved themselves worthy as I stood facing the raging Ayatollah.

I stared at him, not batting an eye, ‘gooozz-fraaavaing’ to myself. It took all but two seconds to crush him. I could tell he knew he lost. He lowered his voice and continued as though nothing had happened. ‘You can take the computer back whenever you want, but these things take time’. I knew I would take the computer back, but not before I drove a nail through his stingy heart. ‘Can you please give me an estimate of what it would cost to fix it’, I said, mustering my wealth of natural sweetness and humility. This put him on the spot – if he refused I could dispute the money I had already paid just to get an estimate. That was not an option I was sure. If he gave me a low quote he would be trapped into working for less money than he was used to, if he gave me a high quote – that would be the amount he would have to be prepared to see fly away. He opted for third trying to sweeten the blow: ‘Two hundred and fifty dollars for the extra labor, including the seventy five you already paid.’. ‘What about the parts?’ I asked just as sweetly, prepping his hopes. His eyes became moist with the prospects of our renewed friendship, which he blew away in an instant: ‘I’ll have to call you back.’. This was one of the oldest tricks in the book, and I was not falling for it. ‘Let’s assume one hundred and fifty dollars for the parts’, I said – ‘Does that seem fair?’. He was reeling with greed and gratitude and all too quickly agreed assuring my hunch that he would have ripped me off for the parts as well. I figured he had me suckered for three hundred dollars, high enough for the fall to be painful. I pretended to think about it for ten more seconds. ‘That’s a lot of money to invest in such a machine, I’ll take it back’. He brought out the computer from the back room, placed it on the counter, showed me where to sign the paperwork – all without saying a word. I thanked him politely forcing a nod out of him and left him a little dusty man in a little dusty room (the closing sentence of ‘The Dark Crusader’ – I just had to stick it in somewhere). We never spoke again.

It took Bill, Branden’s dad, ten more excruciating days to fix the machine. It was Thursday when it was ready. We spoke on the phone, he had the machine in his hands. I paid with a credit card, believing that it worked and he delivered it to our house that evening. Osmo installed the game and yet it would not start. He summoned Casey over, but still the game would not start. Osmo woke at nine the next day and came to me. From his looks I knew the game was not working. ‘Bushy…’, ‘MAAHHHHHHHHH‘I regained control, the passing two weeks had frayed my nerves, but it was not Osmo’s fault. ‘Why don’t you call their technical support?’, I suggested, rationalizing that I was not just passing the buck, the child needed to assume responsibility where he could. Osmo came back five minutes later: ‘Its the graphic card’. I really wanted this game to work for all our sakes. It was Friday morning, a week and a half into the new year, my resolution long over due and the levels of stress rising. It was Stuff-learning-day at Homestead, so Osmo had the day off with nothing to do but fret about the machine. The weekend was in jeopardy I had to act.

‘Call Bill up and ask which card to get.’.

‘AGP with 128 Megabytes of RAM’.

‘Did he say where you can get them?’

‘Best Buy, Office Depot or Frys’…

‘Let’s go to Best Buy’ I said but Best Buy would not open until 10:00 AM.

‘Let’s go to Frys’ I said circling back in the parking lot.

Osmo felt uneasy ‘Don’t you have to be at work?’

‘It can wait’ – I genuinely wanted the game to work, there was a lot hanging in the balance.

On the way home from Frys I glanced at the instructions and confirmed my worst fears that replacing a graphic card would require mucking with the BIOS. ‘Just pull out the card and insert the new one’ I told Osmo. I dropped him off at home and continued to work. He called half and hour later. ‘The computer smelled like something was burning with the new card, so I put everything back the way it was’. ‘Call Bill and ask if he can guide you through the process’, I said with dwindling hopes. If the card was fried because it was not wired properly when installed it would be another long weekend. Thankfully the divine had concluded that we had paid our dues. Bill had a technician in the area whom he diverted to our house. That evening when I came home I went to see how Osmo was doing. He was sitting in front of his screen clicking on the keyboard with the concentration of a concert pianist. On the screen I could see something that looked like it walked off the good old Pokemon cards (remember Blastoise?). The thing was running through a turquoise-colored forest with its back turned to us. The bottom left corner of the screen showed a scroll with a message inscribed on it. All games that respected themselves used images of decaying scrolls to print the message of the day.

‘Bushy, this is awesome, I’m at level six…’

‘Is the Internet connection working OK’

‘Are you kidding me, it hella fast’

‘So everything is working’

‘This computer kicks ass!’

‘So we’re good?’


‘What is he doing?’ I asked hating myself for making a gender judgment without asking.

‘He is on a quest’ Osmo answered authoritatively.

Pokemon was not turning his head as it ran which confused me a bit. If you were on a quest wouldn’t you be looking left and right for whatever it was the quest sent you to search for? But I was too drained to ask questions. Happy that a load had been lifted from my shoulders, content that I had given the child a fighting chance, I sat down on the corner of his bed, closest to his chair, gawking at the screen, catching my breath. Fifteen minutes later we were off to see a basketball game between Stanford and their arch rivals CAL. On the way I learned more about levels and quests. I learned that Osmo was at level six, Osmo was at level six, which sounded very high to me. Perhaps I was swayed by the scale which is grade river rapids. Grade one is dead still water. Grade six is every thing that falls into that water ends up dead.

‘What level are your friends at?’


‘Sixty’ I repeated stupefied by the magnitude of the gap I had allowed between my child and others.

‘Sixty’ he assured me in a voice which was surprisingly devoid of frustration.

‘All of them at level sixty?’ I continued to press the point hoping to find stragglers.

‘All of them’

This meant that Tom and Casey and Mike and Brandon and Yoav let alone intellectuals like Doron had Osmo rolling in the dust. I swallowed hard, thankful that we had the game and it was working. How could we have possibly let the child fall so far behind?

‘What level is Reedy?’ I asked.

‘He doesn’t play’.


‘He thinks its a stupid game.’

I had a negative opinion of a computer game from a scholar who had a positive view of Hitler’s personality. I was all for negative opinions of computer games, but the Hitler part eroded the judgment of its credibility. Between me and myself I agreed that the game’s quality was not an issue at all. What mattered was getting Osmo back on track with his cohorts. As we drove into the campus I got more of my academic bearings together and continued to probe into the the new world that was opening to me. The fact that all his friends, regardless of their skill sets were at level sixty was perplexing.

‘Is sixty the highest level?


‘So what happens after?’

‘You get to go on quests’

‘So that was not a quest we were looking at?’

‘Not exactly’

‘And these quests are what?’

‘Well, I’m not sure really but you get to play against other players’

The good news was that there was an upper limit which bound his friends and he could catch them. The bad news was that this game would most likely exhaust itself before the winter was over. I made a mental note to ask about Chess over the Internet, and found a parking spot somewhere in the middle of a dark wooded grove of the campus East drive which was packed with cars headed for the game. We left the game early so as to avoid the traffic which could have kept Osmo away from the game for another hour. Over the course of the weekend Osmo progressed from level six to level ten. All indicators are green, at least on Osmo’s front.

Tintin’s game still does not work, not even on Osmo’s machine. I won’t let that trouble me for now, we’ll learn over the course of the years whether I made the right decision.

I think Ima told you all the rest of the yom-yom details over the phone.