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The NPL Con will get its own write-up, but I did some other things before that.

Celebrity Death Watch: First, a quick note about someone I mentioned last time. My friend, Megan, reminded me that Michael Bond not only wrote about Paddington Bear, but also wrote the Monsieur Pamplemousse series of mysteries. I’m not sure I’d ever connected up the name before.

Since then we’ve lost a number of people. Anthony Young was one of the losingest pitchers in baseball, losing 27 consecutive decisions for the Mets. Ketumile Masire was the second president of Botswana. Gary DeCarlo was responsible for "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Simone Veil survived Auschwitz and went on to a prominent role dealing with women’s issues in France. Heathcote Williams was a poet and actor. Gene Conley pitched for the Braves (including a World Series championship in 1957) and won three NBA titles with the Celtics during the off-season. While Otto Graham also won championships in two major professional sports (football and basketball in his case), unlike Conley he didn’t play both during the same years. Sheila Michaels popularized the title "Ms." Spencer Johnson wrote Who Moved My Cheese, which, of course, became the biggest best-seller ever in Wisconsin. Neil Welch was behind the Abscam sting. Jon Underwood founded the Death Café movement. Interestingly, he apparently died suddenly (related to undiagnosed leukemia) at only 44. Shlomo Helbrans was the founder of the Chasidic cult Lev Tahor. Nelsan Ellis was an actor, best known for True Blood.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: John McLaughlin was a storyteller and baseball enthusiast in Florida.

Terry Duncan had filled several government leadership roles involving satellite communications. I had the privilege of working with him in two of his jobs and was always impressed by his calmness and ability to listen to his staff. He was only 46 and died within a few weeks of his cancer diagnosis.

Karl Hedrick had been a professor at MIT in my undergrad days and later went to Berkeley. I took a couple of classes from him at MIT. I will not remember the exact titles of because it was a long time ago, but one involved Linear Dynamic Systems and Estimation (i.e. Kalman filter type stuff) and the other had to do with Nonlinear Dynamics and Control. He was an excellent teacher and I appreciated his mentorship.

Geostock: This is a big party that friends in Colorado give every year. It’s mostly an event for hanging out, talking, eating, and drinking. In the food category, a definite highlight was the ice cream truck they’d hired for a couple of hours. We also drank a toast to a dear departed friend, which included a skype connection to another absent friend. Beyond that, lots of talk about aging parents and estate issues and how we need to clear out our own crap. And there are conversations you can have with people you’ve known for ages that you can’t have with other people. Also, noting children, there is something wrong with the rotation of the earth.

Hotel Note: I stayed at the Residence Inn in Louisville this time, because it was somewhat cheaper than the Hampton Inn. This was a mistake as they had a basketball court. That appeared to be immediately underneath my room and they let kids play basketball until after 11 at night. Sheesh. (It also hit another of my hotel peeves in that one had to practically climb over the built-in desk to close the drapes for the dining room window.)

Vegas: For complex frequent flyer reasons, it made sense to detour from Denver back to DC via Las Vegas. Vegas remains a great city for people watching, though I did have one somewhat annoying encounter this time.

30ish guy: Come on, say hi to me.

Me: you're drunk.

Him: no, I'm just a total asshole.

I guess there is something to be said for self-awareness, but he was still obnoxious. Beyond that, I spent my entertainment (i.e. gambling) budget for the night, but it took me long enough to do so that I was content.

Brine: I was back for Independence Day, which I spent trying to get caught up at home. I did also go out to lunch with a group of friends. We went to Brine, a seafood place in the Mosaic District. We all went for the simply grilled fish (trout, swordfish, soft-shell crabs among the six of us), which were served over arugula. We also sampled pretty much the entire dessert menu. I think the crème caramel (which had espresso and chocolate, so was not the traditional version) was the definite winner there. At any rate, the bottom line is good food, good service, and going on a quiet day at lunchtime made it quiet enough to be able to hear one another.
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Yes, yes, I know I have actual catching up to do on what I've been doing, but I don't want to fall behind on routine things in the meantime.

Baobab & Raspberry Clusters (reformulated): This is not technically a new snack, but it has been reformulated, so it no longer has coconut chips. The baobab and raspberry clusters still have coconut in them, however. There are also pumpkin seeds and dried apple pieces. Overall, this has 130 calories. It’s a tasty mixture and I especially like that it is only a little bit sweet. I think the reformulation is an improvement, as I prefer coconut to be in smaller quantities than it had been. I’m not necessarily convinced by superfood claims for baobab, but I don’t really care.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack: This is a rolled oat flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) drizzled with a lemon and yogurt topping. It has 240 calories. I love Graze flapjacks and this one is nicely lemony. Very tasty and quite satisfying.

Twist of Black Pepper Popcorn: This is 130 calories worth of microwave popcorn with black pepper. I get this fairly frequently and really like it. The pepper just makes the popcorn that much more interesting.

Peanut Butter Dipper with Pretzel Sticks: This consists of creamy peanut butter and dry plain pretzels and has 130 calories. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but it isn’t particularly interesting. Overall, there are a lot of other Graze snacks I prefer.

Vanilla Almond Granola Topper: This contains oat and barley granola, vanilla pumpkin seeds, soy protein crispies, and almond slivers. It has 150 calories and 6 grams of protein. It’s reasonably tasty and has lots of crunch, making it a tasty topping for a cup of plain yogurt.

Louisiana Wild Rice & Beans (new): This is a mixture of wild rice sticks and broad beans with chili seasoning. It has 140 calories. I thought this was surprisingly good, with just the right touch of heat and lots of crunch. In fact, I upgraded it to "love."

Sweet Rhubarb Jam: This mixture of rhubarb slices, dried apple slices, and dried cranberries has 110 calories. It is one of my favorite Graze fruit snacks, largely due to the mixture of sweetness and tanginess.

Thai Tom Yum: This is a spicy broth with zucchini, red pepper, and rice noodles. It has 45 calories. It’s got a good level of spice for me – not incendiary, but definitely tasty, with sweet and sour undertones. Having something hot is helpful on the days that the air conditioning in my office is excessive and this is a nice option.
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I have much catching up to do, but let's start with the quarterly things.


Quarterly Goals: I have been working on both household organizing and crafting projects, but am nowhere near completing anything. I have not really paid any attention to writing projects, nor have I been reading anything from my life list. (However, I have been making progress on my goal of learning a story from every country in the world.) I’ve contacted a few "lost" family members, with quite interesting results. And I am good at self-indulgence. So maybe a score of just under 50% for the first half of the year?

Movies – Second Quarter 2017:
Film festivals and airplanes affect my movie-watching pace.


  1. Moos: This is a Dutch movie I saw at the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Moos is a young woman who has been spending her time caring for her father. A childhood friend, Sam, returns from Israel and encourages her to follow her dreams, so she auditions for a performing arts school. Her failure to actually get accepted doesn’t stop her. Some of it was pretty predictable romantic comedy fare, but the characters were interesting and Jip Smit was likeable in the title role. There’s also a guest performance by Asaf Hertz. Overall, I thought this was sweet and enjoyable, if not as funny as I’d been led to expect.

  2. OMG, I’m a Robot: This is the other movie I saw at the Washington Jewish Film Festival and I have to admit I chose it largely because of the title. The story involves Danny, whose girlfriend leaves him because he is too sensitive. In attempting to commit suicide, he discovers he is actually a robot. It turns out his girlfriend didn’t actually leave, but was kidnapped and sets out to rescue her, with the help of his boss and an Orthodox Jewish robot named Robo-Joseph. There is plenty of absurdity, so watching this requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. But it is also very funny. If you can deal with a fairly high level of violence and like silly science fiction, I recommend it.

  3. Lion: Based on a true story, this involves a young boy, Saroo, who gets on a train and ends up in Calcutta. He wants to go home, but nobody can figure out where that is. He gets adopted by a family in Australia. As an adult, Saroo tells some friends his story, gets the suggestion of using Google Earth to help find where he came from. This is really an extraordinary film. I was particularly pleased with the way that Saroo interacts with his adoptive family, making it clear that he’s not rejecting them. The story is the sort of thing that could be played up as mawkish inspiration. That it isn’t is a true tribute to the art that can happen on film. I highly recommend watching this – but do have a box of tissues at your side when doing so.

  4. La La Land I like musicals, I like jazz, and I own a book of Ryan Gosling paper dolls. So I was set to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, I found it dull, predictable, and slow-paced. Very disappointing.

  5. Arrival: I liked the concept of this movie, in which a linguist has to figure out how to communicate with aliens. But the execution annoyed me for a number of reasons. It may just be that I was tired (and, in fact, had to go back and rewatch some sections a few times), but the non-linear storytelling was sometimes hard to follow. Mostly, though, it seemed that nothing changed at the end for anybody but the main character. In which case, why bother?

  6. The Lobster: This is one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen in ages. The premise is that people have to be coupled up, so single people (including the main character, who is recently divorced) are sent to a hotel where they have to find a suitable mate or be turned into an animal. The matchmaking is based on superficial things, e.g. both partners limping or both getting nosebleeds. They also go on hunts for loners. The whole thing takes a very dark and twisted turn. While this held my attention, I can’t say it was pleasant to watch. It was provocative enough to be worth seeing, but one would have to be in the right mood.

  7. Loving: Richard and Mildred Loving were quiet people, but their arrest for interracial marriage led to a multi-year battle, culminating in a Supreme Court decision in their favor. The thing that was most powerful in this movie was how understated it was. They were just a couple who loved each other and wanted to live a quiet country life. I was particularly impressed by Ruth Negga’s performance as Mildred. The one thing missing is a bit more of the backstory of how they met and got involved in the first place. This is a well-done and important movie and was well worth seeing.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Vin Garbutt was a British folk singer, best known for protest songs. Sam Panopoulos invented Hawaiian pizza, which should be protested. Adam West was Batman. Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was a cofounder of SWAPO and more or less relegated to minor ministries within the Namibian government after independence. Samuel V. Wilson directed (and reorganized) the Defense Intelligence Agency in the 1970’s. Rosalie Sorrels was a singer-songwriter. A. R. Gurney was a playwright, best known for The Cocktail Hour. Bill Dana was a comedian, best known for his Jose Jiminez character, which seems horribly dated and racist nowadays. Helmut Kohl was the Chancellor of Germany, including 8 years prior to and 8 years after the 1990 reunification. Stephen Furst was an actor, best known for playing Flounder in Animal House. Baldwin Lonsdale was the president of Vanuatu. Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz was the founder of ArtScroll publications, an influential publisher of Jewish texts. Frederick Leboyer popularized a natural childbirth approach. Gabe Pressman was a television reporter in New York. Michael Nyqvist was a Swedish actor. Michael Bond created Paddington Bear.

Business Trip #1: I got back from New York in time to unpack and pack for the first of two back-to-back business trips. That one was to Colorado Springs for an annual meeting. I flew out from DCA via ORD, which wouldn’t be my first choice, but it worked okay. I was even able to have a sit-down dinner at a Chili’s in the airport. I waited forever (about 7 minutes) before being given water. Fortunately, once I called the server out on that, she was efficient. That was not the case a couple of nights later at a diner in Colorado Springs, where I was tempted to leave, citing the need to go to the police station and file a missing persons report for my server. There is something of a stereotype about women eating alone being bad tippers. Self-fulfilling prophecy at work.

Anyway, the work stuff was reasonably productive, though, as is typical of this sort of thing, most of the value was the conversations in the hallway between presentations. Connections are, as always, everything.

The Weekend In-Between – Awesome Con: I had made plans to go with a friend to Awesome Con, which is a comic con type of thing at the D.C. Convention Center. I am not a science fiction / comic book type for the most part and am fairly pop-culture illiterate. My primary interest was people watching and I do find it intriguing how much effort people put into cosplay and such. We spent most of our time on the sales floor, though didn’t manage to cover all of it. I bought a fairly spectacular hat because the friend I was with is an evil person who refused to talk me out of it. I also bought a couple of gifts which I won’t talk about until they are given. We did also go to a panel on women in geekdom, which was less focused than I was hoping for, but still reasonably interesting. I later found out that another friend of mine was there (i.e. at that same panel) but I didn’t see her.

Overall, the event was overwhelmingly huge, which I found something of an energy drain. They also did a terrible job of signage and a pretty egregious set-up for food, with most of the food stands having no nearby seating. If I go again in the future, I might try to do more planning and focus on panels more. And maybe get more sleep in the week beforehand.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch: The next day, I had tickets to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Kennedy Center. I had heard good things about this show, but never seen it (or heard the music) before. The premise is a concert by Hedwig, the victim of a botched (and not really voluntary) sex change operation. There are various references to (and sort-of glimpses into) a much larger concert being given at the same time by Tommy Gnosis, who turns out to have an interesting history with Hedwig. That relationship drives some of the transformation behind the story.

Unfortunately, the story is pretty thin. There is an interesting mix of music and some mildly funny lines. And there is no doubt that Euan Morton (who played the lead) is very talented. But I thought the whole thing was heavy handed and not well pulled together. I also want to note that the lighting was completely irritating. Incidentally, I ran into a couple of friends, who were puzzled by the whole thing. We concluded we are just too old and clearly not the target demographic for this material.

Business Trip #2: Unpack, do laundry, pack. Such is my life at times. I was off to the Bay Area for a one day meeting. It was actually pretty interesting and included a high bay tour, which is always one of my favorite things to do. But quick trips like this are always pretty exhausting. I should note that I had originally been scheduled to fly out on American through DFW, but weather delays let me persuade them to put me on a non-stop on United to SFO. I did come back on American (via CLT), which featured just as much service as is typical of them (i.e. next to none). The highlight of CLT was spotting a plane painted in PSA livery. I used to fly PSA quite a bit between L.A. and the Bay Area, but they were bought by USAir a lot a lot of years ago.

Book Club: I got back in time to make it to book club. This meeting's topic was A Man Called Ove. I believe it was the first time that everybody liked a book. If you haven't read it, do. It's quirky and funny and touching in equal measures.

Jesus Christ Superstar: The only thing on my calendar this past weekend (well, aside from catching up on sleep) was seeing Jesus Christ Superstar at Signature Theatre. I really know this show from its original cast recording of over 45 years ago – and will admit that it is not one I particularly like. I remain unimpressed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, but, then, it was an early experiment with rock opera and the form hadn’t really been figured out. (ALW, of course, never did figure it out, but others have.)

Signature is always a good place to see musicals for several reasons. Among those are a number of performers, including Nastascia Diaz as Mary Magdalene and Bobby Smith as Pontius Pilate. I was also impressed with Karma Camp’s choreography and thought the lighting and projections were used in interesting ways to create the sets. Overall, I’d say this was a good production of a flawed show.
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This was the weekend of June 9th through 11th. Yes, I am behind. Live with it.

Part 1 - 31 Chambers Street: I decided to leverage off a flyertalk-related trip to New York and took a vacation day, enabling me to get up to the city early enough to spend some time at the Municipal Archives. The main thing I was looking for was the death certificate for my great-grandfather, Henry Schwarzbord. I also obtained the death certificate for Rose Lebofsky, my great-uncle Nathan’s first wife, and the marriage certificate for another great-uncle,Willi Lubowsky (aka Wulf Chlebiocky). None of those actually told me much that I didn’t already know, but did confirm some transcription errors on Family Search. And I am somewhat of a completist regarding documentation.

Part 2 - Soup Do: Soup Do is an annual flyertalk dinner event, held the Friday night before the Brooklyn Reality Tour. It’s basically a lot of people in the back room of La Bonne Soup, eating dinner, and talking about travel and frequent flyer miles and such. There’s a prix fixe dinner available (though only 2 of us at the table I was at did it). I thought it was a good deal – salad, soup, dessert, and a glass of wine for about 30 bucks once you add in tax and tip. The wine was so-so, but the salad, onion soup, and crème caramel were all quite nice. And, of course, the point is the conversation, which was lively and entertaining.

Part 3 - the Brooklyn Reality Tour: This is an annual flyertalk event, focused largely on food and conversation. We started with Smorgasburg, which provided an early lunch stop. It was hard to choose among all the options, but I went with a Peking duck bao (a bit messy) at someone’s recommendation and the very trendy (and delicious) halo-halo, which consists of ube ice cream with dragon fruit, jackfruit, tapioca pearls, blackberries, red mung beans, coconut, mango, and a little almond milk. Then we drove over to an overlook of the Verrazano Narrows, before going on to Coney Island. We drove around various neighborhoods, including Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Sheepshead Bay. We attempted to go to Floyd Bennett Field, but the hangar with the display of historic aircraft had closed early, so were foiled in the sightseeing attempt. More driving around included Crown Heights, Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza, and, of course, Dan’s childhood home and elementary school, because you do that sort of thing when you run the tour. We had a bakery stop at Butter and Scotch, which had excellent pecan pie. I bailed at L&B Spumoni Gardens, since I had theatre tickets, but the rest of the tour included a pizza dinner there and the traditional sunset over Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Part 4 - Pacific Overtures: Pacific Overtures is my favorite Sondheim score, so I would have been interested in this revival at Classic Stage Company even if it didn’t have George Takei playing the Reciter. He does have a nicely resonant voice, but the real highlight of the performances for me was Megan Masako Haley, playing Tamate and, later on, a girl mistaken for a geisha. Much of her role was silent, but she was very expressive and elegant, highlighting the simplicity of the production. I thought that the overall aesthetic felt essentially Japanese, which is pretty much the point. I was disappointed in them having cut "Chrysanthemum Tea," which has one of Sondheim’s absolute best internal rhymes ("it’s an herb that’s superb for disturbances at sea") but they did an excellent job with the other songs. "Please Hello" is proof that Sondheim’s talents at pastiche, for example. And "A Bowler Hat," is my single favorite Sondheim song of all time, as it reveals character so effectively by showing Kayama’s transformation as he absorbs Western culture. This was a lovely production, with fine voices and was well worth seeing.

Part 5 - Welsh brunch at Sunken Hundred: Sunday morning had me back in Brooklyn for brunch at Sunken Hundred, a Welsh restaurant. This was part of the "around the world in 5 boroughs" project that one flyertalker started. I had crampog, which are oatmeal and buckwheat pancakes, which came with a blueberry and fenugreek compote and rosemary butter. I also tasted a small piece of a scone. The food was fabulous and I would happily eat there again.

Part 7 - Ernest Shackleton Loves Me: I am not sure where I first saw this show advertised, but the name itself was enough to sell me, given my interest in polar exploration. (Though, for the record, I think Douglas Mawson was even more impressive than Ernest Shackleton.) And it’s a musical – well, just take my money! The premise is interestingly bizarre – a 45 year old woman seeking a relationship finds love with the long-dead explorer via a dating website. It’s probably just a fantasy from her single-parenthood induced sleep deprivation, but they act out various parts of the Endurance expedition and Kat learns about optimism and standing up for herself. Both Val Vigoda as Kat and Wade McCollum as Shackleton (and other male roles) were clearly having fun in this very quirky show. Overall, there was a lot of laugh-out-loud humor and lively music (sea chanteys! Yes!) And they even used Frank Hurley’s actual photos and footage. I could quibble about the script making Shackleton’s journey to South Georgia too much of a solo effort, but, then, this wasn’t titled Frank Worsley Was the Best Navigator Ever. I thought this was a lot of fun and am very glad I had the opportunity to see it.

Part 8 – Ben’s I grew up going to Ben’s Kosher Deli in Baldwin. The one in the city is not as good (and, definitely, not up to the 2nd Avenue Deli) but it is conveniently located close to Penn Station for pre-train dining. I got a tongue sandwich and stuffed derma. The former was good, but the latter was quite disappointing, with overly salted gravy. The service was also decidedly mediocre. It wasn’t a horrible meal, but it didn’t fully satisfy my Jewish deli needs. Fortunately, I have at least one more trip to New York planned this summer.
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Yes, I have lots of catching up to do. Here's something I am only about a week behind on. All repeats, alas.


The Cheese Board: This consists of cheese-flavored cashews, cheddar cheese bruschetta and baked herb bites. It has 120 calories. It’s okay, but I’m not really a big cheese person, so I don’t find it particularly exciting.

Apple and Cinnamon Flapjack: This is a flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) with apple and cinnamon (duh). It has 240 calories. I like cinnamon quite a lot, so I found this enjoyable. But I wish it were lower in sugar and fat and higher in fiber.

Strawberries and Cream Protein Granola Topper: This contains oat and barley granola, yogurt-coated strawberry pieces, soy protein crispies, and freeze-dried strawberry pieces. It has 130 calories. I think it’s a good breakfast option, eaten with the plain yogurt I get at the farmer’s market. My only issue with it is that it just isn’t as good as fresh strawberries, which are plentiful here this time of year.

Sesame Garlic Crunch: This is a mixture of garlic sesame sticks, oat bran sesame sticks, and multigrain soy rice crackers. It has 140 calories. Crunch, sesame, crunch, sesame – what more do I need to be happy?

Snickerdoodle Dip: This consists of a snickerdoodle cookie dip with cinnamon pretzel sticks. It has 150 calories. This is one of my favorite sweet snacks, largely because I like cinnamon a lot. I’m always glad to get this.

Kettlecorn Kern Pops: This consists of half-popped corn kernels with sweet and salty seasoning. It has 130 calories. I prefer my crunchy snacks to be savory rather than sweet. This is okay, but there are other snacks I like better.

Fantastic Forest Fruits: This consists of soft apple pieces, cherry-flavored raisins, blueberries, and lingonberries. It has 80 calories. I find the lingonberries too tart, which is surprising, since I like lingonberries on things like Swedish pancakes. And the cherry-flavored raisins don’t work all that well for me. This isn’t terrible, but there are other Graze fruit snacks I like a lot better.

Booster Seeds: This consists of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and golden flaxseeds. It has 200 calories and 9 grams of protein. I like this, though it isn’t really very exciting. I do, however, find the small size of the flaxseeds to be a bit of an annoyance. But, overall, this is a satisfying source of mid-afternoon protein.
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I have a bunch of travel (some work, some fun) coming up over the next month or so. I am hoping to find time to post here despite that, but I am also hoping (as always) to attain total world domination.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Ian Brady was the perpetrator of the Moors murders in England in the early 1960’s. Beatrice Trum Hunter wrote one of the first cookbooks focused on natural foods. Chris Cornell was the lead singer of Soundgarden. Chana Bloch was a poet, an academic (largely at Mills College), and a translator of Hebrew literature. Jean Sammet was a co-designer of COBOL and became the first woman to become president of the Association for Computing Machinery. Dina Merrill was an actress and the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. Hutton. Denis Johnson was a writer, as was Ann Birstein. Jim Bunning was a pitcher, notably for the Tigers and the Phillies, and later became a politician. John Noakes was a presenter on the British children’s show Blue Peter. Frank Deford was the sports commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. David Lewiston was an ethnomusicologist, whose work focused largely on Asian music (e.g. gamelan recordings), though he also recorded in Morocco and Peru. Elena Verdugo was an actress, best known for playing the nurse on Marcus Welby, M.D., a show which I was sometimes allowed to stay up late to watch. Frances Sliwa was the mother and publicist for Curtis Sliwa and his Guardian Angels. E. L. Woody was a paparazzo, whose antics included helicopters and high speed car chases. Nora Mae Lyng collaborated on and starred in Forbidden Broadway. Jimmy Piersall played for the Red Sox (and, later on, the Mets) but is notable largely for his struggles with bipolar disorder which he wrote about in his memoir. Fear Strikes Out. Peter Sallis voiced Wallace in Wallace and Gromit.

Roger Ailes was the CEO of Fox News until he was forced to resign amid reports of harassing female colleagues. One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I’d make an exception for the case of this racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic jerk. Similar sentiments apply to Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, although his evils were more along the lines of murder and drug trafficking.

Roxcy Bolton was a civil rights activist, focused on crimes against women. In addition to organizing a shelter for homeless women in Florida and founding the first rape treatment center in the U.S., she is credited with having persuaded NOAA to change the names of hurricanes to include the names of men. That, of course, destroyed our childhood joke that hurricanes were named after women because they weren’t himmicanes.

Sir Roger Moore was an actor, best known as playing James Bond in several movies, though I think his work in The Saint is better, probably because my preferred Bond is Sean Connery.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was the National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter. His political positions were difficult enough to assess, but I can never forgive him for having a name that is difficult to use in light verse.

Gregg Allman was a pioneer of Southern rock, best known for the band he formed with his brother Duane, who was killed in a motorcycle crash. You might want to eat a peach in his memory.

Carrot Cake: I was asked for the recipe. I vaguely recall pulling it from the recipe box a few months ago to make it. Apparently, I did not put it back in the recipe box. Or, if I did, I badly misfiled it. So it will take a little longer.

The Indie 500: Saturday was the Indie 500, D.C.’s local crossword tournament. There were quite a lot of out-of-towners and a surprising number of first timers.

I usually say that one can blame jet lag for any mental lapses for at least a full week after getting back from overseas. That is my excuse for having had a few errors on Puzzle #1, which should have been a simple one from Angela Olson Halsted. Apparently, I was looking at down clues only, because I had crossings that made no sense at all. And I was also pretty oblivious to the theme. So much for a day of clean solving.

In the case of Puzzle #2 by Paolo Pasco, I was just slowish, though I did solve cleanly. I grasped the theme quickly – and it is the type of theme I am usually good at. But there was a certain amount of fill I found weird and some fairly unsatisfying clues. I attribute that to Paolo being a high school junior. I should also note that he was not present, or he would almost certainly have been the recipient of the ritual pie in the face. By the way, the miniature pies arrived between puzzles 2 and 3 and the chocolate cream pie I ate was quite tasty.

Puzzle #3 was by Tracy Bennett. I solved it cleanly and in decent time. I can’t really say much more than that because, looking at the scan, I have only a vague recollection of what the theme was and it wasn’t really the sort of thing that made a difference in solving. I do remember there was a bonus companion puzzle that got handed out afterwards.

I think the lunch break was next, with another visit to Beefsteak and a lunch of gazpacho.

Then came Puzzle #4 by Erik Agard featuring Allegra Kuney. This had a complex theme, which took me some time to figure out, largely because there was quite a lot going on. I’m not surprised that Erik won the honor of being pied at the end of the day. My time was okay, but I flaked out on looking at one crossing, which coupled with a bit of pop culture ignorance led me to have one error.

I redeemed myself with Puzzle #5 by Neville Fogarty. The theme involved the sort of wordplay I enjoy, making this my favorite of the tournament.

There was a break with a reasonably entertaining trivia game, before the finals. As for the finals, Puzzle #6 was by Andy Kravis and had an interesting twist in that not all the clues were given to the contestants at the beginning. Eric Cockayne won the outside track final and Katie Hamill won the inside track.

My final standing was 64 out of 128, so dead center (i.e. 50th percentile). Comparing to previous years, this is not quite as pathetic as it sounds. At least I improved, even with jet lag in the way:
2017 – 64 / 128 (50th percentile)
2016 – 60 / 117 (49th percentile)
2015 – 61 / 100 (39th percentile)

Washington Folk Festival: The Washington Folk Festival was this past weekend. I pulled out a small bit of my project to learn a story from every country in the world. The five stories I told were:

  1. The Lion Who Could Not Write – Afghanistan
  2. The Man Who Was Used as a Ball – Fiji
  3. How Bill Greenfield’s Wife Taught Him to Tell a Story – United States
  4. Two Foolish People – Mongolia
  5. Hare’s Medicine Bag – Zimbabwe

This was the first time I’d told the last story in public and it wasn’t quite as polished as it should be, but I think it works for the most part. I stayed for Margaret’s set of mermaid stories after I was done, then listened to a little bit of Armenian music. (I’d gone through the crafts exhibit and watched some Morris dancing earlier.)
As far as the story project itself goes, I am looking for an Albanian story I like. The key words in that are the last two. I have looked at several so far, but nothing has really jumped out at me yet.

Please Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was leaving Sidney Harmon Hall (home of the Shakespeare Theatre Company) after watching a musical and then seeing an advertisement for all the musicals they had next season. I was concerned about it being late and missing the last metro train home, but it turned out to be only 8:30 at night. For some reason, I exited a door that did not lead me to F Street – or any other street I recognized. I went into a hotel, thinking I could walk through it to F Street, but the lobby didn’t go anywhere, so I had to exit again. I walked back in the direction I’d come in and went into an unmarked door, which led to what seemed to be a construction site. Again, things did not seem to lead anywhere. There were various scary looking (possibly homeless) people around, but as I walked back towards where I had come in, I saw more parents with children and it looked like the place was supposed to be some sort of construction-themed playground. I went out a door marked as an exit, which put me on a sort of jetty-like construction, next to a river. There were a polar bear and a wolf and maybe some other animal in the river, but everybody just seemed to be ignoring them and sloshing down into the river to leave. I managed to roll up my pants and get into the river further down from the animals, which quickly took me to dry land. I asked a man I saw if the street I was on would go through to the next block and he said, "yes, but it is always on fire because of the Latvians."
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One new snack this time.

White Chocolate With Wild Blueberry Toasts: This is a white chocolate dip with blueberry toasts to dip into it. It has 130 calories. There is a decently strong blueberry flavor. Frankly, this is the sort of combination which would be hard to go wrong with. There is just about the right amount of dip. A good, sweet snack.

Veggie Caesar: This is a mixture of ranch-flavored half-popped corn kernels, cheddar cheese bruchetta, and edamame beans. It has 110 calories. This is pretty much a typical salty / savory snack, with lots of crunch. The flavor is milder than many other snacks. Overall, a pleasant change of pace.

Peanut Butter & Jelly: This consists of salted peanuts, raspberry strings, and little cubes of vanilla fudge. It has 220 calories (and 7 grams of protein). This is a prime example of the sort of snack that works best if you eat all of the components together. The raspberry strings are the only one of the three that are awesome on their own, but the combination works very well together.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Topper: This has cocoa granola, chopped hazelnuts, freeze-dried cherry pieces, and soy protein crispies. It has 150 calories. I like this as a topping for a bowl of the tangy plain yogurt I can get at the farmer’s market. The flavor is interesting without being overwhelming. And the texture is excellent. Overall, a useful item to have for breakfast.

Vietnamese Pho: This soup comes as a somewhat spicy paste, along with dried shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, and rice noodles, which you reconstitute with hot water. It has only 60 calories, but is surprisingly filling for that. I think the spice level is just right and it’s a nice change of pace for a late afternoon refresher. It is not, however, really very pho-like, as I have noted before.

Original Fruity Flapjack: I do like the soft rolled oat granola bars that the British call flapjacks. This one has dates, sunflower seeds, raisins, dried apricots, currants, and pumpkin seeds, though it’s really golden syrup that dominates the flavor. The major downside is the calorie count, which is 230. Still, it is hearty and filling and perfect for those days of one meeting after another.

Deconstructed Carrot Cake (new): This consists of carrot chews, cinnamon flavored raisins, walnuts, and ginger fudge. It has 180 calories. As it happens, I make the very best carrot cake in the world and it is quite different from this which is, frankly, not very like carrot cake. It is, however, quite tasty, at least for someone like me who likes cinnamon and ginger. As is typical for Graze snacks, it is best to eat all the components together. The walnut pieces are a bit on the large side for that, but it is reasonably workable. Overall, I thought this was a pretty good sweet snack and I’d be happy to get it again.

Sweet Memphis Barbecue: This is a mix of salsa-flavored peanuts, BBQ-flavored peas, and wild rice sticks. It has 190 calories. There is plenty of flavor, though not much heat. And there is lots of crunch. That makes it a satisfying savory snack.
fauxklore: (travel)
I have a long-standing theory that a trip is worth taking if you can spend three times as long at your destination as it takes to get there and back. This rule sometimes gets violated for business travel and, alas, has to get violated for things like retirements and funerals / memorial services. But I apply it when possible and particularly to rationalize things like going to Europe for a long weekend.

In this case, I had never been to Budapest, so why not? I flew United to Brussels on Thursday night, which was a bit stressful because thunderstorms delayed our takeoff quite a bit. But things were efficient at BRU and I had plenty of time to make my connection to Brussels Air. The flight to Budapest got in a bit late for no obvious reason and I had a longer than expected wait for the minibus to the city center. I stayed at the Hotel Casati, which was very well located (about a block from the opera house) and quite stylish.

My tourism endeavors included:


  • free walking tour of Jewish quarter. This included 3 synagogues, various monuments, and lots of historical and cultural commentary. The Grand Synagogue is quite huge and elaborate, and is alleged to be the second largest synagogue in the world. There are lots of contradictory sources on this, with contenders in New York and Israel and, possibly Ukraine. It is, at any rate, very large, particularly as the complex includes a museum (built on the site of the birthplace of Theodor Herzl) and a Shoah memorial. Frankly, it is far too ornate for my tastes.

  • the better part of a day on Castle Hill (which is on the Buda side of the river. There are more attractions on the Pest side.) With more time, I'd have gone into the National Gallery and the Matthias Church. Admiring them (the former is part of the Royal Palace) from the outside would have to do. The latter (and the nearby Fisherman's Bastion) are particularly jaw-dropping. At any rate, the area was quite pleasing architecturally and well worth meandering around. I did stop in at the Medieval Jewish Chapel, which is a small museum with a few intriguing details. There is, apparently, more archaeological work going on, with more of the historic Jewish sites on that side of the river to open eventually.

  • more of central Pest, including Liberty Square, Parliament, the shoes on the Danube (a Shoah memorial, symbolizing the victims of the Arrow Cross militia), Vaci Utca (typical touristy shopping street), and so on.

  • a long walk up Andrassy Street, all the way to Heroes' Square. This provided a good mix of architecture and entertainment, in the form of a large street fair, with rock and jazz music playing and crafts and food for sale.



I could have used a few more days, frankly, to go to museums and maybe one of the thermal baths. Overall, it was a good getaway.
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Washington Jewish Film Festival: I made it to two movies this year. There were others I was interested in, but couldn’t make the schedule work for. The two I saw were both comedies - Moos and OMG, I’m a Robot. More about those when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Laura Bush Killed a Guy: I went to see this one-woman play, produced by The Klunch, at Caos on Friday night with a friend. We had intended to have drinks and happy hour food at Hill Country BBQ, but there was a long wait for a table and the bar was too crowded, so we sought out something else. The Smith doesn’t do a happy hour and was too noisy. We ended up going to Pi Pizzeria, which was okay. As it turns out, I was wrong about what time the play started, so we could probably have managed Hill Country. So we ended up having a wait to get in to the theatre, during which two homeless guys got into a fistfight several yards from where we were waiting. Oy.

Anyway, the show was worth it. Lisa Hodsoll captured Laura Bush’s voice and manners effectively. Ian Allen’s script had three different versions of the traffic accident in which 17-year-old Laura ran a stop sign and hit another car, killing its driver. In one, it’s a deliberate plot. In the second, she’s drunk. Only the third version is a true accident. There are also multiple versions of how she met her husband. And then there is a lot of material about the Bush family in general, how she was treated by other dignitaries (Caroline Kennedy, in particular, snubbed her), and how she is pretty much the forgotten first lady. It was an interesting show and often quite funny.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was Saturday night. We even had a new attendee, who had found us via NSN. There was a good mix of stories, as usual. I told "Sawing Off Manhattan," which I had not done in a long time. I had played with the ending, unsuccessfully, so I decided that I won’t use it at the Folk Festival. If I want an American story, I can always tell a Bill Greenfield tale.

The Man Who: This play, written by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne, was inspired by The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks, but only some of the vignettes are based on patients Sacks wrote about. All four actors in this production at Spooky Action Theater played multiple roles, both as patients and doctors. The stories are really those of the patients, confronting the puzzling realities of neurological disorders. There was a talkback afterwards and it was interesting that the actors said they focused on performing the physical actions because many of the words were like speaking a foreign language.

Anyway, it’s an interesting show and worth seeing if you’re in the area in the next couple of weeks.

16th Street NW: I think 16th Street NW has to be one of the most interesting streets in D.C., at least from an architectural perspective. There are lots of grand old residences (pretty much converted to apartment complexes), assorted embassies, and interesting churches. Best of all is the House of the Temple, which has something to do with the Scottish Rite Freemasons and has a couple of sphinxes in front of it. Apparently, you can tour the building and I really ought to do that one of these days.

Overheard at Dupont Circle: Two men were embracing at the corner of 18th and Q. One said to the other, "Don’t die in Missouri."

Sleep, or Lack Thereof: I hate it when I wake up around 2 a.m. and never really manage to get back to sleep. Nothing was obviously wrong, but I just couldn’t seem to turn my mind to sleep mode. I did get up for a half hour or so and look at facebook, but, mostly, I stayed in bed, trying vainly to get a decent amount of rest. Sigh.
fauxklore: (Default)
This was another box entirely of repeats.


Pumpkin Spice Flapjack: This is a soft granola bar with dates and pumpkin spice (i.e. cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves). It has 230 calories, which makes it more of a meal than a snack per se. In this case, I was eating it for lunch, knowing that I was going out for dinner. It’s tasty, but I have to admit that the pumpkin spice flavor seems rather unseasonal in May. I realize that is a North American bias, but so be it.

Salted Fudge & Peanut Cookie: This has baked salted peanuts, redskin peanuts, miniature cocoa cookies, and vanilla fudge. That adds up to 230 calories. On the plus side, it has 7 grams of protein, which is quite good for a sweet snack. It’s pretty tasty, though not, perhaps, as chocolaty as I’d prefer, since the peanuts dominate the flavor. Overall, it’s a good snack for times when I want something on the sweet side.

Lightly Salted Popping Corn: This is pretty basic – 130 calories worth of popcorn. I like that it isn’t super salty. And it pops up quickly (under 2 minutes) with few widows. No, it isn’t exactly a creative snack, but it is good and reasonably healthy as this sort of thing goes.

Caramel Apple: This consists of dried apple slices with a thick and sticky caramel sauce. It has only 80 calories, which is good for a sweet snack. And, really, the caramel sauce (or toffee sauce to give it its original British name) is absolutely delicious. This is one of those many arguments for the built in portion control of Graze snacks, because I could probably eat at least a cup of that sauce.

Vitamin C Crush: This consists of dried mango, dried pineapple, and coconut flakes. It has 110 calories according to the website, but the package claims 100. Both the mango and pineapple pieces are fairly large and they are also chewy. So it is a bit more awkward to eat than many of the other fruit snacks that Graze makes. It’s not bad, but I prefer things that are less sweet and that come in smaller pieces that are less likely to leave stringy bits between my teeth.

Soy Roasted Seeds: This is a mix of roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds with soy sauce. It has 200 calories and, more importantly, 7 grams of protein. It’s tasty and crunchy, which makes it a nice way to add some mid-day protein to my life. It also has just about the right amount of saltiness to add interest, while still being pretty low in sodium (90 mg).

Sweet Mustard Ranch: This is a mixture of poppyseed pretzels, sour cream and onion cashews, and mustard breadsticks. It has 130 calories. The mustard flavoring of the breadsticks is the least appealing component of this, but, then, I am partial to spicy deli mustard, not the sweeter sort. The pretzels are uninteresting, but the cashews are pretty good. Overall, this isn’t terrible, but it isn’t one of the better savory snacks that Graze makes.


Sweet Rhubarb Jam: This consists of dried rhubarb, dried apple slices, and dried cranberries. It has 100 calories. It’s sweet, but not cloying, and quite tasty. Definitely, an interesting snack, that I continue to like.
fauxklore: (Default)
On Rye: I had a moment of inspiration before going to the Shakespeare Theatre Company production of Macbeth last night and got dinner at On Rye, a pseudo-deli that has been getting good buzz. I say pseudo, because of the limited menu, which lacks most of my deli favorites. (No tongue? No chopped liver? No latkes? No knishes? No kishke? Not a real deli by my book!) I got the matzoh ball soup, which was disappointing. The actual matzoh ball was good, but the broth tasted too much of dill and not very much of chicken. I also got a pastrami sandwich. The pastrami was satisfyingly peppery, but the rye bread could not hold up to it, making it annoying to eat. Overall, I was not impressed. I understand that they have a stand at Nats Park and I will take advantage of that to try out their babka ice cream sandwich.

Macbeth: Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play, but you wouldn’t know that from the current production at Shakespeare Theatre Company, which came close to 3 hours. Overall, the production was weird. Liesl Tommy, the director, emphasized the political aspects of the play, at the expense of both the psychological and supernatural ones. From some of what was written in the program, this was a deliberate choice because this is, after all, Washington. Anyway, it was done in an African setting, though they kept the language to Scotland. As far as I could tell, the only significant change in the script was to turn Duncan into a queen, instead of a king. (A few other characters also got the sex-change treatment.) Most of the characters were dressed in camouflage (with red berets, which kind of defeats the purpose of camo). The witches (and Hecate) were treated as CIA operatives, manipulating the action. I actually liked that aspect for the most part, with one witch shooting cell phone footage of all the dead bodies, and the cauldron scene done as a briefing for "Operation Brinded Cat." The most African moment came in the murder of Lady Macduff, who was "necklaced," a specifically South African form of summary execution in which the victim has a rubber tire placed around their upper body, which is then dowsed in gasoline and set on fire. I suspect that went over the heads of a lot of the audience.

I understand the ambitions of the production and the attempt at relevance, but it didn’t really work for me. It did emphasize Macbeth as a tyrant, but it gave Lady Macbeth very little attention, for example. And I have always thought the right way to handle the witches was to have them be rather ordinary, which would allow the language they use to highlight their strangeness.

I should also note that I believe this was the first time I have ever actually payed to see a Shakespeare play. Admittedly, a heavily discounted ticket via Goldstar, but paid for nonetheless. I saw Measure for Measure in college, but I am fairly sure the guy I went with bought the tickets. The two shows I’ve seen previously at the Shakespeare Theatre Company were Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest, both of which were part of their annual summer Free for All program. This summer’s production will be Othello and I will probably try the on-line lottery to get tickets. Free Macbeth would have been more satisfying.

Cough, cough The pollen count is sky high right now. It also didn’t help that the person sitting next to me at the theatre last night had soaked in some particularly allergenic perfume. Sigh.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Glenna Sue Kidd played for a number of teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. William Baumol was an economist and came up with a theory about why services will always increase in price, unlike goods. William David Brohn arranged and orchestrated music for a number of Broadway musicals, notably Ragtime for which he won a Tony. Powers Boothe was an actor, primarily on television. Stan Weston designed G.I. Joe. Henry Chung was the owner of Henry’s Hunan, a well-known San Francisco restaurant (now a small chain) that is credited with bringing Hunan cuisine to the U.S. Baba Chuck Davis founded the African-American Dance Ensemble.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Ella Raino Edwards, better known to most of us as just Ellaraino, was a storyteller and actress in Los Angeles. She was a powerful presence. She apparently died in mid-March, but I only just heard about it.

I knew Trisha O’Tuama from the early days of the net. She was active in several Usenet groups (e.g. soc.women and talk.bizarre) and also on a couple of mailing lists I was on. She was provocative and didn’t take any crap from anyone. I met her in person only a couple of times and she wasn’t at all abrasive then. Even though we hadn’t interacted much recently, I will miss her.


Errata: People I grew up with have corrected me on teachers. Second grade was Mrs. Redman and fourth was (initially) Mrs. Hundt. The gym teacher was apparently Miss Parkman.

Kaleidoscope: On Friday night, I saw Kaleidoscope at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church. This is a new musical by Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith, the latest in their "bold new works for intimate spaces" series. The story involves a Broadway star on her final solo tour. Except she is suffering from dementia and can no longer remember her lines. So her daughters and her granddaughter keep the tour going at home. Florence Lacey did a fabulous job as Evelyn Throne, who is confused about what is going on and sees her memories as a kaleidoscope of disjointed images, which she can’t put together into a cohesive story. This sounds depressing, but there was plenty of warmth and humor to balance things. The music was lovely, too, though I wish there had been a song list in the program. The most memorable song was "One More Walk Around the Garden," in which Evelyn progresses from walking on her own, to using a cane, to a walker, to a wheelchair as the song goes on. I must have gotten something in my eyes. I have recommended this theatre highly before and this is yet another wonderful show there.

EU Open House: Saturday was the annual European Union Embassies Open House. I went with my friend, Cindy, and we started at the Embassy of Spain. They had an exhibit on architecture, but the real point of these events is food and swag. In this case, they were charging for almost all of the food. (We did get some free bags of Spanish potato chips.) The food was cheap, though – three bucks for a plate of vegetable paella and another 2 for a glass of wine. And it was definitely worth it.

We moved on to the Embassy of Poland. I was interested in a project that is digitizing a book signed by Polish residents in the 1920’s as a gift of friendship to the United States, though I didn’t find any familiar names on the couple of pages I looked at for Tykocin. There was a 1920’s theme overall, with appropriate costumes and music. They also had free food samples, with sauerkraut and mushroom pierogie, plus cake.

Lithuania had a small area on culture, mostly involving choral singing and folk costumes. They had quite a lot of food, including some delicious borscht. There were also potatoes, sausages / dried meat (which I ignored), herring, cheeses, brown bread, and Lithuanian beer. I continue to believe that my ancestors left largely in search of hops. (Sorry, but I am not a fan of the lighter, sweeter beer styles.)

Those three embassies are close together, but our next stop was further, so we wanted to get a shuttle bus. They had neglected to put up a sign for the bus stop, so there was some confusion involved, but we did eventually succeed in getting to the Embassy of Malta. That one was, frankly, not all that worth it. They had a guy lecturing in a too small, too hot room, and a film playing in another room. They did give us little packets of Maltese date and pistachio cookies as we left, however.

We took another shuttle over to the Embassy of Portugal. They had a bit of a line and we waited a while to get in. Fortunately, it was well worth it. They had better (or, at least, larger) tote bags to add to the ones we’d collected. And they had a drawing where you could win a basket of food and wine, though most people (each of us included) just got a t-shirt. As for food, they had bread and cheese, custard tarts, and, best of all, port wine.

We split up at that point because we wanted to go to different embassies. I went to the Embassy of Hungary, where the main exhibit was an outdoor one on Hungarian dog breeds, the most appealing of which is the Kuvasz. As for food, most of what they had was for sale, though they did have good cheese biscuits for free.

I could probably have made it to one or two more embassies (depending on lines) but I was tired and decided to just go home, where I promptly napped for a couple of hours.

Objects of Wonder: Sunday’s venture was to the National Museum of Natural History for a Chavurah event. Objects of Wonder is as much about how the museum handles its collections as about the objects themselves. There were a wide range of things to look at, including stained samples of types of wood, a stuffed lion, a painted house from a native American community in the Pacific Northwest (complete with an associated story on an audio loop), and pretty much samples of everything the museum offers, with the exception of dinosaurs and mummies. (Given my dislike of mummies, this was no loss.) I think the most bizarre bit of information was that they estimate the age of whales by the thickness of their earwax.

After going through that exhibit, we checked out another one nearby, with winners of a competition for nature photography. I particularly liked a photo of a leopard descending a tree. There were also some great polar bear photos. My animal biases may be at work here.

Then we went out to lunch. We ended up at Tadich Grill, which was a bit pricy, but good. I had some excellent arctic char. The weather was lovely and we sat outside enjoying it. All in all, a lovely day out.

What I Didn’t Do This Past Weekend: I didn’t get any housework done, though I did manage grocery shopping. And I didn’t get enough sleep. Sigh.

Miscellany

May. 12th, 2017 02:23 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
Health Care: First, a brief rant on the Republican approach to health care. The fundamental problem is that the free market doesn’t really work for health care. For example, I know at least three people who have had to have emergency appendectomies. In one case, she was far away from home (in D.C., while she lived in Los Angeles). It’s not like she could realistically go around calling various hospitals to find out which would be cheapest. I’ll also note that one of the others had insurance from work that turned out not to cover the anesthesiologist at the hospital she was at, which was otherwise within network.

When I am looking for a doctor, pricing is hardly my primary consideration. In fact, I go to a dentist who doesn’t participate in my insurance. That is, the office takes the insurance and files the paperwork, but does not conform to the rates. Yes, I could find someone in network, but I’ve had bad experiences with dentists in the past and finding someone who can handle my strong gag reflex is more important. (Hint: putting salt on the tongue suppresses the gag reflex, allowing me to handle getting x-rays. Yelling at me while I am choking is not a good approach.)

In addition, there are many places where there isn’t enough realistic choice to make price shopping feasible. The doctor I went to while growing up was the only one with an office in our small town. In that case, there were options in neighboring towns, but that would have involved lots of additional time and inconvenience.

The real reason our health care is so expensive and inefficient is that for-profit insurance adds an unnecessary administrative layer. One of my oldest friends is a cardiologist and she tells me that only 5 minutes out of every hour is spent on actual patient care, with the rest being paperwork, much of it insurance-related. Single payer is the obvious solution.

Teacher’s Appreciation Week: There is a meme going around on facebook to list your elementary school teachers. These were mine at Audubon Boulevard Elementary School in Island Park, New York.

K – Mrs. Caspar.

1 – Miss Jacobellis. I think she got married the summer after that, but I don’t recall her married name. And I am not sure whether or not she continued teaching after marriage.

2 – Mrs. Rebman. It might have been Redman. My memory of 2nd grade is pretty fuzzy.

3 – Mrs. Kramer. The main thing I remember about her is that her husband was our piano tuner.

4 – Mrs. Hunt / Mrs. Barnett. Mrs. Hunt broke her leg in the middle of the school year and Mrs. Barnett took over for her. I vaguely remember her living in a house on the water in East Rockaway that had an artificial palm tree in front of it.

5 – Mr. Bilash. The most notable thing about Mr. Bilash was that he let us bring in records to play on Friday afternoons. Somewhere in there, he sang "Old Man River."

6 – Mr. Ryder. Mr. Ryder was into theatre and had us learn about the middle ages by doing a production of sort-of Camelot. Sort-of because we rewrote the script to include a lot of new characters. The whole class sang the songs, which was a good thing for those of us who are not rich of voice. I also remember making paper mache trees for the set at another girl’s house and her introducing me to Dark Shadows, which became the only soap opera I ever got into.

I have mercifully forgotten our gym teacher(s). I think Miss Evans was the art teacher. But my very favorite teacher was Mrs. Meyers, our music teacher. There was no greater thrill than getting to play the autoharp in music class.

The Grapevine: As for actually doing things this week, Wednesday was a difficult night, with multiple options. I ended up deciding to go to The Grapevine, a storytelling event in darkest Maryland. I took advantage of the open mike part to try out the story I’ve learned from Afghanistan, part of my "story from every country" project. It went over pretty well, I think. As for the featured tellers, I had not heard Dennis Dewey previously, but found him entertaining, particularly with a personal story about buried treasure. Laura Packer was the main reason I had gone and she was wonderful. I’m particularly glad she told a story I’d heard from her before, which starts with what girls are told they can’t do and her approach to that as a child. Overall, it was an excellent evening and well worth the schlep to Takoma Park.

Oy: I discovered this morning that the vanilla tea I had bought last week was decaffeinated. No wonder I was so tired yesterday. I drank lapsang souchong today.

Atlanta

May. 8th, 2017 02:18 pm
fauxklore: (baseball)
I went to Atlanta for the weekend. My primary motivation was checking out the new ballpark, but, of course, that wasn’t all I did.

I had no issues with my United flights either way. In fact, I got upgraded both ways, though they failed to email me the upgrade notification for the return. It is also a big advantage to fly an airline other than Delta to/from ATL because you come in and out of the T-gates and don’t need to take a train to your plane.

I had contemplated staying near the ballpark, but decided that didn’t really make sense because it is the middle of nowhere in deep suburbia. Staying in midtown was actually more convenient, allowing me to take MARTA to and from the airport. More significantly, it also allowed me to do some important sightseeing on Saturday morning.

The High Museum of Art is one of the major art museums of the country. It is normally fairly pricy, but I have a Bank of America credit card, which gives me free access to various museums on the first weekend of the month. I find that if I have to pay to go to a museum, I feel like I need to see everything. But getting in free means I can just pick and choose a few parts to see without feeling like I’ve wasted money.

My main priority was the African art selection. There is an interesting mix of both traditional and contemporary pieces from several countries. My favorite – actually, my favorite piece in the entire museum – was one named Taago by El Anatsui, a Ghanian artist. It consists of pieces of aluminum from the tops and necks of local liquor bottles, joined with wire, to form a sculpture reminiscent of kente cloth. There was also a special exhibit of works by Ashley Bryan, who illustrated a lot of books based on folklore.

I moved on to the contemporary art, which includes a large collection of works by folk artist, Howard Finster. Other notable works include a painting by Richard Estes, whose photorealism I’ve admired for some time, and Insect Icon Tapestry by Jon Eric Riis. All in all, I spent a few pleasant hours at the museum, before heading off to the Cumberland area to meet up with friends for a late lunch / early dinner at Copeland’s. The food was good and the conversation was intelligent and wide ranging. Eventually, we left and they dropped me at the ballpark.

My first impression of SunTrust Park was that it was chaotic. They are still developing The Battery, a shopping and entertainment complex around the stadium. From what I could tell with the crowds, it is pretty much a collection of high end restaurants and watering holes. I fought my way through to the Right Field Gate, where there was a long and chaotic set of lines to get into the ballpark itself. I had bought a ticket package for Star Wars day, which included an R.A. Dickey Stormtrooper bobblehead, so my first stop was to redeem my voucher for that. The instructions they had emailed actually told me the wrong place to go to do that, but it was easily enough resolved. I should probably note that I am not really a big Star Wars fan, but it is always fun to add to my collection of ballpark gimmes.

That accomplished, I went to check off their monument garden, which has various exhibits on the history of the team. Of course, much of that history is pre-Atlanta – both in Boston and in Milwaukee – but that is fair enough. The statue of Hank Aaron is the centerpiece, as it should be. Overall, it is a reasonable exhibit, though the crowds were a bit of a pain.

The actual stands were not crowded. There were a few people at the entrance to the seating area taking photos with costumed Star Wars characters, but not so many actually sitting down to see the game. The Braves were playing the Cardinals, so this fell into the class of games in which I didn’t care who won. It looks like the Braves have a fair number of loyal fans. Unfortunately, those are generally identifiable by the tomahawk chop, a particularly obnoxious method of cheering. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but would prefer a non-racist way of showing it. On the plus side, several people sang along with the national anthem, and, later on, with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." (Singing along to the latter is one of my three primary ballpark rating criteria, along with local character and a general level of fan engagement.)

It was actually hard to gauge fan engagement, because the weather sucked, with a few brief rain showers, which weren’t enough to affect play, but did send many people scurrying for cover. I’ll also note that there appeared to be particularly long lines for the concessions (none of which seemed particularly local or interesting). They don’t have any vendors in the stands, either, which doesn’t help.

As for the game, the Cardinals won, largely because Julio Teheran’s pitching was not up to snuff. I’ll also note that I was impressed by a couple of nice catches that Randal Grichuk made in right field. And Aledmys Diaz hit a three-run homer which pretty much clinched the game for St. Louis. Overall, it was a reasonably exciting game to watch.

I’d rate the ballpark in the group of vast group of middling ones. It’s a pleasant enough place to watch a game, but lacks soul. It also loses significant points for difficulty of access. Their website claims the Circulator bus connects the ballpark to the Cumberland Transit Center, but that bus actually appears to stop running at 9 p.m. and does not run at all on Sundays. The transit center is a long walk from the ballpark. There is a closer stop to a Cobb County Transit bus, though the ballpark staff misdirected me on how to get to that stop. And that bus runs infrequently, so was very crowded, largely with fans complaining that it is supposed to be the Atlanta Braves, not the Cobb County Braves. I should also note that the ballpark website pushes Uber as their transit solution, but the Uber pickup location had a line three blocks long. That is, of course, in addition to the cost and moral issues associated with Uber. When the team played at Turner Field, they ran shuttle buses from the Five Points MARTA station, which was a much better solution.

The really important thing is that I have, again, been to a game at every major league ballpark. One does, after all, have to keep up one’s standards when it comes to obsessions.

As for the rest of the weekend, I got home in time for a much needed nap, followed by dinner at Tachibana for a friend’s 50th birthday. What I didn’t get done was any housework, alas.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Luis Olmo played outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first Puerto Rican position player in the major leagues in 1943. (Hiram Bithorn had pitched for the Cubs a year earlier.) Sam Mele played baseball for a number of teams, notably the Red Sox. Tony Alamo was an evangelist who was best known for his church’s tracts, which often got left on car windshields, at least in Los Angeles. He was convicted as a sex offender, related to his sexual involvement with young girls.

Roar: I went to the Better Said Than Done storytelling show on Sunday night. It was a benefit for the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the nine women who performed told stories about their triumphs over sexism, harassment, and violence. The stories were interesting and heartfelt, with a wide range of content and telling styles. Obviously, I thought some of them were better than others and this is the sort of material that can lend itself to a certain amount of bibliotherapy (i.e. tellers who are focused on their therapeutic needs, rather than the audience). But I am more forgiving than usual since the underlying issues are ones we need to talk about.

Office Move: The powers that be decided that my officemate, who is about 90% retired, should not have his own office space, but should use a hot desk when he comes in. So they moved me to a one person office down the hall. The move was not handled well, with it taking far longer than it should have to get my phone hooked up. And I had to battle to get a white board installed in the new office. Now, I just have to finish unpacking, which is annoying enough.

Artomatic: I went with a couple of friends to Artomatic last night. This is an unjuried art exhibit, held periodically in one or another soon-to-be-renovated office building. This year’s is in Crystal City, so was convenient to my office. We only had time to hit a small percentage of it. My favorite pieces were a series of fused glass dresses (intended for display, not wear) and a quilt done on teabags. I also enjoyed some of the poems that were written about various of the exhibits. I just wish I’d had time to see more of it.

Uighur Food: After Artomatic, we went to dinner at Queen Amannisa, which is a Uighur restaurant. We ordered several dishes to share – orange and beet salad, lamb kabobs, meat nan, and a noodle dish with chicken. I thought all of them were good, though the noodles definitely topped my list. They were, alas, too spicy for my friends. I think that, overall, the meal was a success. And we certainly had good conversation during it. It was a pleasant evening, and worth a bit of sleep deprivation for.
fauxklore: (Default)
I have other things to write about (e.g. an office move, a storytelling show I went to on Sunday night) but I don't really want to fall behind on doing the Graze box reviews.

I was disappointed that this box was all repeats. There was plenty of good stuff, but it is always more fun to get something new.

Raspberry & Coconut Muffin: This consists of almond slivers, raspberry-infused cranberries, amaretti drops, and coconut flakes. It has 140 calories. I like this more each time I get it. It doesn’t taste very muffin-like per se, but the ingredients blend well together and the berries add just the right amount of sweetness.

Pizza Margherita: This consists of cheese-flavored cashews, basil crunchini, and miniature tomato breadsticks. It has 120 calories. The breadsticks don’t have a lot of tomato flavor, in my opinion. On the other hand, neither do most actual tomatoes these days. As is typical of Graze snacks, this works best if you eat all of the components together. It doesn’t taste especially pizza-ish, but it is still a good savory snack.

Summer Berry Flapjack: This is a rolled oat flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) with berry-infused cranberries. It has 240 calories. But Graze flapjacks are worth every bit of those calories. I don’t know how they make them so fabulous, but they are simply delicious.

Tuscan Pesto Kern Pops: This is a mixture of cheddar half-popped corn kernels and miniature basil breadsticks. It has 130 calories. Overall, this has nice crunch and is pretty tasty, but I didn’t find it especially interesting. Not bad – just not exciting.

Chia Coconut Cookie: Actually, you get two cookies, along with a teabag of a decent enough black tea that has a very faint hint of bergamot, but not enough to qualify it as Earl Grey. It’s 120 calories. The claim is that this is healthy because of being high in manganese. I am not that compulsive about micronutrients. What I care about is that it is tasty, and not particularly sweet. Overall, I like this snack a lot and am glad I get it fairly often.

Chocolate Pretzel: This consists of a chocolate hazelnut dip with pretzel sticks for dipping. It has 140 calories. There’s not really much to say about this. If you like Nutella and similar things, you will like this.

Chinese Shiitake: This is an aromatic broth, which comes as a paste (which you add hot water to), along with dried corn, mushrooms, and rice noodles, which get reconstituted by that broth. It has 90 calories. Overall, it is pretty tasty and makes a pleasant enough light lunch.

Eleanor’s Apple Crumble: This consists of dried apple pieces, raisins, and caramelized honey and cinnamon almonds. It has 110 calories. This is a very nice sweet snack. The almonds are particularly delicious, but I am biased towards anything with cinnamon.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Benjamin Barber was a political theorist who wrote the prescient Jihad vs. McWorld in 1995. Vinod Khanna was a Bollywood actor. Jonathan Demme was a film director. Seeing Something Wild and Swimming to Cambodia in the 1980’s is what made me conscious of the director as a way of choosing what movies I might want to see, an approach that has, generally, stood me in good stead.

Idan Raichel: I went to see Ian Raichel at the Barns at Wolf Trap last night. It was an interesting concert, since he is best known for things like The Iden Raichel Project, MiMa’amakim, and his collaborations with Vieux Farka Toure. In other words, for big group fusion collaborative music. This was just him and a piano (and some electronics, particularly with respect to percussion). He gets characterized as "world music" because of those collaborations and he had a few things to say about that characterization. For example, he noted that Edith Piaf is world music to Filipinos. (This is, by the way, why I have trouble with the term. But it was a helpful one back when there were physical record stores to browse in.)

Overall, it was an enjoyable concert. He was clearly having fun singing and playing – and talking, though not, generally, about the songs themselves. And the Barns is a lot less annoying than the Filene Center, as it doesn’t take ages to get out of the parking lot. (And, when I do, I am going in the opposite direction of almost everybody else there, since I cut across the back roads of Vienna to get home.)

Speaking of Concerts – That Facebook Meme: As you probably know, there’s a facebook meme that involves listing 10 concerts you claim to have been to, with one of them being a lie. It’s the sort of thing that I think works well for facebook, assuming other people use it the way I do, as a way of keeping up with friends from scattered parts of their lives. I’m not going to play the game here, but I would like to make some observations.

First off, my lie was Ry Cooder. His 1995 album, Talking Timbuktu with Ali Farka Toure, pretty much defines my adult musical tastes. But he’s never been playing somewhere that I could get to when he was there.

As for the ones who were true, Ari Shapiro is better known as an NPR reporter, but he sings cabaret, notably with Pink Martini. He has a good voice. And he looks like the groom doll on a wedding cake.

I saw Arlo Guthrie as part of the HARP tour – Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger – around 1984 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I think I actually went to that concert with my brother.

Elvis Costello was at the Chicago Theatre this past October.

Eric Bogle was either at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley or McCabe’s in Santa Monica. Possibly both. At any rate, it was somewhere in California and somewhere between 1982 and 2002. The thing I do remember distinctly is that he sang "Do You Sing Any Dylan?" (which, google tells me places the concert after 1992, so it must have been McCabe’s after all) and "Bloody Rotten Audience" (and, yes, I know Tony Miles wrote the latter).

I saw Garnet Rogers at Jammin’ Java. Don’t expect me to remember when, but maybe 2009 or so? I remember being disappointed, though I think Garnet has always disappointed me simply by not being his late, great brother Stan (who, alas, died before it ever occurred to me that there was such a thing as Canadian folk music).

John Denver is the most embarrassing on this list. I went with three friends in high school, and did not find it embarrassing at the time. What can I say? Tastes change as we age. Anyway, it was about 1975 at Madison Square Garden. I know that Robert Redford was at that concert, by the way, because another friend, who was supposed to go but whose parents were not comfortable with the whole thing and vetoed the idea, had a huge crush on him. When we told her we had seen him there at the arena, she dropped the schoolbooks she was holding.

The most interesting on the list is Kongar-ol Ondar. I took a tour of Siberia, Tuva, and Mongolia in 2000. Part of that included going to Na’adam Festival events in Kyzyl. That meant watching Tuvan horse races and Tuvan wrestling (complete with eagle dance) and, of course, listening to Tuvan throat singing. We went to the national concert, where the only Westerners there were the 4 of us (me, a guy from Milwaukee, a guy from Princeton, and our Czech tour leader), a French musicologist, and an American radio producer. We got a lot of attention, but nobody got anywhere near as much attention as Ondar did.

Nobody was foolish enough to guess Pierre Bensusan. In addition to being my favorite living musician, I may have mentioned in the past that I’ve probably seen Pierre perform a couple of dozen times. I think the first of those was at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. I know I saw him a couple of times at McCabe’s and several times at Jammin’ Java, and at various other venues, including the Takoma Park Community Center. Alas, I missed his most recent performance in this area.

Finally, I saw Tom Paxton at the Barns at Wolf Trap a couple of years ago. I think I had seen him previously at McCabe’s, but I’m not sure. I remember thinking the Wolf Trap show was not very energetic and deciding I didn’t need to see him again.

The One That Got Away: I expressed some surprise (on facebook) at how many of my friends could identify exactly when and where they saw certain performers. As you can tell from the above, I am, uh, vague on a lot of the details.

So one friend pointed out that I do more things that most people, leading to more opportunity for confusion. Which, while true, reminded me of something I failed to do. In late 1981, there was a big Royal Shakespeare Company production of Nicholas Nickleby that played in New York. It was absurdly expensive by the standards of the time (100 bucks, I think) and took 8 ½ hours over two days. My parents went to see it and brought my brother, who was living in New York again by then. I was in grad school in Berkeley, but my father was so impressed with the whole thing that he offered to fly me to New York and pay for the ticket. I turned him down.

The thing was that, back then, flying cross-country was a big deal for me. And the idea of doing it just to go to a play was ridiculous. I was also hesitant to go to the theatre alone. No, it was just too too crazy a thing to do.

Adult me is beating my head against the wall, of course. I think a lot of what changed was all the business travel I ended up doing, which sometimes involved things like flying cross-country for a 3 hour meeting. (In one case, that meeting involved getting a briefing from a person whose office was catty-corner from mine.) And then there were all the years of carrying on the world’s longest-running brief meaningless fling. If you and the person you are involved in live on opposite sides of the ocean, you can get a lot more used to doing things alone.

Remembering this makes me appreciate the craziness of my life even more.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Aaron Hernandez played football for the New England Patriots before his arrest in a murder case. Lawrence Hogan served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, where his son is currently the governor. Cuba Gooding, Sr. was a soul singer and the father of actor, Cuba Gooding, Jr. Erin Moran was an actress, best know for Joanie Loves Chachi. Robert Pirsig wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book I have intended to read for many years but never gotten around to.

Fun Home: The touring production of Fun Home, a musical based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel is playing at the National Theatre and I saw it last week. The story is fairly simple – Alison is gay and becomes a lesbian cartoonist. Her father is gay and commits suicide. (That is not a spoiler. She says it in the first few minutes of the show.) The interesting thing is how the story is told, with adult Alison narrating the action and two younger versions of herself acting appropriate parts of it. Almost all of the focus is on Alison’s relationship with her father, which is ironic given the Bechdel-Wallace test. There are two other female characters – her mother and her first lover - and most of what she talks about with them is that relationship.

I will admit to having had some skepticism, because this is the sort of premise that could lead to a preachy or dull show. But it is neither. We all have coming of age discoveries to make and we all have evolving relationships with our families and we all learn things about our parents that may make us reassess those relationships. Small Alison (about 9 years old) is a cute and lively kid, longing for Dad’s attention, yet recoiling when it comes in the form of asking for help at the family funeral home (which is the source of the title). Medium Alison (a college freshman) felt exactly right for that confusing age and got one of the best songs as she enters a relationship and sings about changing her major to Joan. I also through that Abby Corrigan, who played Medium Alison, was a particularly strong performer. Robert Petkoff was also notable as Bruce, Alison’s father, who was somewhat trapped by his times and didn’t know how to deal with that. He’s not particularly likeable, but it’s also obvious he causes himself as much pain as he causes to other people.

I should also note that Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics and Jeanine Tesori’s music were enjoyable. There is a nice blend of serious and silly among the songs. One of the things I have been known to whine about is musicals where the music serves no real purpose. Here, it does illuminate character and emotion. I do wish, however, that the program had included a song list.

Overall, I highly recommend seeing it while it’s here.


March for Science: Saturday was the March for Science. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing, largely because a lot of the discussion on their facebook page was treating the whole thing as cosplay and focused on silly signs and so on. The real issue, in my opinion, is Trump’s failure to appoint people to key science roles, e.g. science advisor to the President, NASA director, NOAA director. But a friend was in town for it. Notably a long-time friend, who is used to my snarkiness and contributes a certain level of his own snark. We skipped the speeches, met for lunch at a Thai restaurant, and then went over to catch the end of the rally part and march from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. The weather was crappy (chilly and rainy) but I had a poncho and he had a jacket and rain hat and, as my Dad used to say, people are more or less waterproof. So March we did, along with snide comments about signs that were off-message, as well as admiration for some clever ones. The chanting got nicely loud around the EPA building. If nothing else, we got a good walk out of it.

Brunch and Batteries: I had a chavurah brunch to go to on Sunday. Unfortunately, when I went out to go to it, my car battery was dead. I took a cab over (and got a ride home), but it was still stressful. The food was pretty good and the conversation was good, so it was worth it. When I got home, I called AAA and they brought a new battery and installed it. It's still annoying, but not horribly painful.

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