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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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Weird Incident: I left my office and was walking to the metro Tuesday night when a woman came up to me and started talking about how wonderful my hair is. It was just pretty weird. She went on and on about how I should never dye my hair. Now, I do like the color of my hair for the most part, though, if I worked in a less conservative area, I would do something like one of those dye jobs that reproduce a famous painting. Still, this whole thing was strange.

By the way, I sometimes get fetishists who go on about the texture of my naturally curly hair. When people ask me how I get it this way, I reply, "DNA." I have deeply mixed feelings about the texture thing, given how many days there are when my hair can enter a room hours before I do.

Amazing Shoes: I took a chance on these shoes because they are just so me. I wore them yesterday and they are also amazingly comfortable. They have several other designs I like and, well, just take my money. The only question is which ones to get first. It has been a long time since shoes made me so happy.

Notes to Myself: I figured out that the note which read:
"plot map, linnet egg, palmtop, negligent" had to do with anagrams for a cryptic crossword I was working on. But what on earth could "(merde of) caniches" have possibly meant? I know what each of the individual words means, though I admit I had to google caniches to discover they are poodles. Still, why would I have written that down?
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Celebrity Death Watch: Linda Hopkins was a blues singer and actress. Dorothy Mengering was David Letterman’s mother and appeared on his show. J. Geils led an eponymous band. To paraphrase their most famous song, Death Stinks. Charlie Murphy was a comedian and actor – and less famous than his brother, Eddie. Bob Taylor was an internet pioneer, including playing major roles at ARPA, Xerox PARC, and DEC. Bruce Langhorne was a folk musician and, allegedly, the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s "Mr. Tambourine Man." Sylvia Moy was a songwriter, who wrote a number of Motown songs. Clifton James was an actor who played a lot of Southern sheriffs, despite being a native New Yorker. Dan Rooney chaired the Pittsburgh Steelers and later became U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Patricia McKissak wrote children’s books, including several biographies of African Americans. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was the first black woman to serve on the New York Court of Appeals. Apparently, she committed suicide, and there is a family history that may have played a role in that.

Sniffle, Cough: I thought it was just the absurdly high pollen count of this time of year, but actually succumbed to a cold. That meant that: a) I ended up skipping the second Passover seder, and b) I got nothing done at home. Except using a ridiculous number of tissues. Sigh. (I am mostly over it now. Well, except for my annual wish for the trees to have sex indoors.)

MIT Better World Event: This involved a reception and talks at the Newseum on Thursday night. Due to it being during Passover, I had to stick to drinking sparkling water and eating raw veggies (and some fruit for dessert), which was a bit disappointing. But the talks were interesting, particularly one by John Urshel, a math grad student who is probably better known for being a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. And I saw some people I have not seen in years – literally, as one of those was someone I lived on the same floor as when I was a freshman, over 40 years ago. And I worked on a research project with her husband around 1978.

Taxes: I use Turbo Tax, which is not, in general, too painful. I did a pretty good job of putting all of the relevant paperwork in one place. But I still had to mail in one paper form, due to having sold some stock. Reminder: even mild annoyances are annoying.

You May Interpret These Dreams: In one recent dream, I was moving stacks of books around in my living room. In another (this one, during Passover), I was licking the chocolate glaze off a donut.
fauxklore: (travel)
Celebrity Death Watch: Chelsea Brown was an actress on Laugh-In. Roy Sievers played baseball for several teams, notably the Washington Senators in two of their incarnations. Paul O’Neill founded Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Tim Pigott-Smith was a British actor. Joanne Kyger was pretty much the only female poet of the beat generation. Eugene Lang was controversial as a businessman, since he was arguably a patent troll, but redeemed himself by founding the I Have a Dream Foundation and funding not only scholarships, but additional support, for poor public school children.

The big name of recent deaths is, of course, Don Rickles. I have to say that I never really cared much for insult comedy he specialized in.

Parade: I went to see Parade, Jason Robert Brown’s musical about the Leo Frank case, at Keegan Theatre on Friday night. I saw a different production of this show (at Ford’s Theatre) a few years ago. My conclusion is essentially the same. The score is excellent, but the book suffers from the failure to take a consistent point of view. Except for Tom Watson, the villains are more opportunists than anything else. Britt Craig is trying to revive his journalistic career, while Hugh Dorsey is trying to win the gubernatorial race. Frank, himself, comes across as (not surprisingly) puzzled over what Is happening to him. The change in his relationship with his wife, Lucille, is also an interesting aspect of the show. As for the performances, I thought that Michael Innocenti was quite good as Leo Frank, though he had some trouble with pronouncing the words of the Sh’ma at the end. Eleanor Todd as Lucille and Timothy Hayes Lynch as Governor Slaton were also quite good. But the real scene stealer was Malcolm Lee as Jim Conley. I should note that I had seen Lee perform before – as the Dryer in Caroline or Change at Creative Cauldron. He’s a performer I will have to watch out for more in the future.

United Airlines: So there have been two United Airlines (really Continental – since ALL of the management of the combined company are ex-Cons, but that’s a point of interest only for airline geeks) "scandals" in the news. Both of which are really illustrations of the abuse of social media.

Let’s take "leggings gate" first. The way this was portrayed is that United kicked two girls off a plane for wearing leggings. Except, that isn’t actually what happened. They denied boarding to two teenagers who were traveling on an employee’s pass. That pass has conditions, which include a dress code. You can argue the propriety of that dress code elsewhere, because it is beside the point. The two kids, who knew the rules, left with no comment. An unrelated family behind them in line included a ten-year-old girl wearing leggings, her father (wearing shorts), and her mother. The mother saw the teenagers told to leave and concluded that her daughter needed to put on a dress over the leggings – despite nobody from the airline having claimed that. A professional outrage blogger at another gate witnessed the incident and – again, with no actual knowledge of what had happened – took to twitter. Much unjustified outrage followed.

Let me try a fictional example to explain the absurdity of the story. Suppose the New York Yankees offered to give me a first class plane ticket to anywhere I wanted to, with the condition that, since I would be representing them by accepting this ticket, I would have to wear a pink sleeveless NYY tank top. I show up dressed, instead, in respectable clothes, i.e. a long-sleeved blue Boston Red Sox shirt. They are perfectly within their rights to deny me boarding.

Today’s outrage is a little trickier. The story is that a flight from ORD to SDF (that is, Chicago O’Hare to Louisville) needed four seats for a deadheading crew. The flight was full and had boarded. They asked for volunteers, offering a $400 voucher (plus an overnight hotel stay, as there were no other flights that night) and then upping the offer to an $800 voucher. Nobody volunteered. So they went to the Involuntarily Denied Boarding (IDB) procedure. The deadheading crew are in a "must fly" situation, so four passengers have to be IDB’d. There is a pre-determined order for who gets chosen, based on status, fare basis, time of check-in, etc., with specific exemptions for disabled passengers and unaccompanied minors. Those people are compensated at 400% of the fare they paid, up to a maximum of $1350. That is paid as a check, not a voucher.

The third person they called refused to deplane, saying he was a doctor who had to tend to patients in the morning. (I have no way of knowing whether or not this is true. Nor does it matter.) He continued to refuse to leave, so law enforcement was called. Apparently, the cops handled him roughly and two passengers got that on video. Outrage ensued.

As far as I am concerned, the cops (who are not employees of COdbaUA – or, technically, Republic, as this was an Express flight) are legitimately being targeted for their roughness. Apparently, at least one of those cops has been placed on leave while the incident is being investigated. But the passenger was clearly in the wrong in refusing to deplane. (He also probably made things worse by going limp when grabbed by the cops. Which is rather bizarre under the circumstances, but who knows what his personal history with police is?) And the airline was correct in calling the police to remove him. In this case, the story is focused on the wrong party, almost entirely out of ignorance and (I suspect) prejudice.

Now, UA’s social media team is undeniably inept in responding to these things. That is also an entirely different matter.

I will continue to fly United when its routes and fares make sense for me.
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This box got used up earlier than normal, what with Passover approaching. My next box is snoozed, also because of Passover, so it will be longer than usual until the next snack review.

Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers: This consists of a sweet chili sauce with multigrain soy rice crackers and has 90 calories. Though I have gotten this a few times before, this is the first time I’ve noticed the odd spelling in the name. As I have almost certainly said before, the sauce is sweeter and less hot than I would prefer, but it is still tasty.

Baobab & Raspberry Clusters: This consists of coconut chips with baobab and raspberry, along with pumpkin seeds and dried apple. It has 130 calories. I like this more each time I get it, though I have to admit I’m still not really sure what the baobab contributes to the flavor.

Thai Tom Yum: This is a spicy broth with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, to which one adds zucchini, red pepper, and rice noodles. It’s quite tasty and only 50 calories, but it does have 810 mg of sodium. That is better than many soups, but it still tastes a bit saltier than I prefer. Still, it’s a good quick lunch.

Twist of Black Pepper Popping Corn: 130 calories worth of popcorn, with added black pepper. This is, indeed, a nice twist on plain popcorn and makes for a filling savory snack.

Honeycomb Almond Protein Granola Topper: This consists of oat and barley granola, almond slivers, chocolate coated honeycomb, and soy protein crisps. It has 150 calories, which is actually more than the small cup of plain Greek yogurt I ate it with. I don’t really care about that, per se, but I find it ironic. Anyway, this is both crunchy and tasty. I do, of course, wish there were more of the chocolate coated honeycomb, but that is only because it is so very very good.

Vitamin E Defense (new): This is a mixture of roasted hazelnuts, redskin peanuts, jumbo raisins, and cranberries. It has 190 calories. The hazelnuts are the best part of this, but it’s all good snacking fodder. However, the ingredients don’t seem to go together particularly well. Usually I think Graze snacks work best if you eat a blend of components in each handful, but that didn’t work for me with this one.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack: This is a rolled oat soft granola bar with lemon curd and a yogurt drizzle. It has 250 calories, which is okay if you use it as breakfast, rather than as an actual snack. It’s one of my favorite Graze snacks, with a good strong citrus flavor. I really ought to investigate the various flapjack recipes out there and try making some of these myself, because I bet I could do something with not quite so much sugar. But, in the meantime, these are awfully good.

Cinnamon Apple Pie: This is a deconstructed dessert, with cinnamon-dusted apple pieces, yogurt-coated raisins, and almonds. It’s pretty good, but I think the almonds should be in smaller pieces, maybe halves or slivers. The raisins are surprisingly good. Not bad, but there are other sweet snacks I like better.
fauxklore: (Default)
seeing if I have figured the dreamwidth footer thing out
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Celebrity Death Watch: Chuck Barris was a TV producer, responsible for The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show. Dallas Green played for several baseball teams (mostly the Phillies) and managed a few, including some success with the Phillies and remarkable lack thereof with the Mets. Lola Albright was an actress, best known for her role in the TV show, Peter Gunn. Pete Shotton played the washboard, but is better known for his friendship with John Lennon and for founding the Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of diners in England. Sir Cuthbert Sebastian was the Governor-General of St. Kitts and Nevis, but I wouldn’t have heard of him were it not for a couple of my ghoul pool rivals having him on their lists. (My picks are thriving, alas.) David Storey was, appropriately, a writer, and won the Booker Prize for his 1976 novel, Saville. Bernie Wrightson drew horror comics and is best known as the creator of Swamp Thing. Ahmed Kathrada was an anti-apartheid activist. Darlene Cates played the mother in the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. William Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook, though he later tried to have it removed from circulation. Roland Schmitt was an executive at GE and president of RPI. Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag as a symbol of gay activism. Richard Bolles wrote What Color is Your Parachute?, a frequently recommended book on job-hunting, though I never found it particularly useful. Lonnie Brooks was a blues singer. Gary Austin created the improv theatre troupe, The Groundlings. Yevgeny Yevtushenko was a Russian poet, best known for his work Babi Yar, which was set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Quarterly Goals: I have been working on various projects, but haven’t finished any. I have not been reading things from the goals on my life list, alas. I treated myself to a pedicure, perfume, and a couple of extravagant meals out. And I have gotten in touch with the daughter-in-law of a cousin twice removed (in Israel) and a couple of the descendants of my great-grandfather’s brother.

MIT Reception: Monday night was the reception for MIT student in their policy internship program. It is always good to corrupt young minds, er, try to persuade students to: a) get involved with space policy and b) take advantage of all the non-work things to do in the D.C. area. Overall, it was a pleasant evening of decent food (heavy hors d’oeuvres) and intelligent conversation.

Loren Niemi House Concert: Storyteller Loren Niemi did a house concert in an apartment in Adams Morgan on Tuesday night. It was a nice intimate setting and he is always interesting to listen to. I particularly liked his story about re-encountering a woman he once knew under unexpected circumstances, which evoked a lot of memories for me about how life circumstances change. He also told an excellent ghost story.

Book Club: Wednesday night was book club. It was interesting because the person leading the discussion really disliked the book (Someone Will Be With You Shortly by Lisa Kogan, which is not really a typical book club type of book). I didn’t think it was a brilliant book, but it was typical women’s magazine humor and an entertaining enough read. The other news is that the person in the group who has annoyed me (because of not so hidden racism) is gone. I knew she was moving but it has happened a bit faster than I expected. I’m sure somebody else will grate on me – and that I irritate some people, too, but I’m still pleased.

Rasika: This modern Indian restaurant is generally considered one of the best restaurants in D.C. and, therefore, it is next to impossible to get a reservation there. A friend had managed to get a reservation for Friday night, with the catch being that it was on the decidedly early side. Alas, she got ill and couldn’t make it, but I decided it was worth taking advantage of the opportunity, even alone. The famous dish there is palak chaat, which is crispy spinach with yogurt and date and tamarind chutney. It is amazingly good and lived up to its reputation. That was followed by lamb achari, which was decently spicy and very tender, but felt a bit heavy. It came with rice and a mint paratha, which was good, but the flavor of the mint was kind of drowned out by the spices of the lamb. I also had a champagne cocktail, which was okay, but did not have as much ginger flavor as the menu had led me to believe. For dessert, there was excellent gulab jamun with amazing cardamom ice cream. Overall, it was a good meal, though I would order a different main course if I went again.

Out of This World: I had never actually been to the Ringling Brothers / Barnum & Bailey Circus and, this being their final tour, suggested this to the group of friends for whom I am Chief Entertainment Officer. So Friday night (after Rasika) found me with a couple of friends at the Verizon Center for the circus. The show is space-themed, which was a nice plus. There were impressive aerialists and superb horseback riding, but my favorite act was the guys riding motorbikes in a metal orb, with seven of them at one time. The lowlights were the clowns, who were mostly at the far end of the arena, so I couldn’t see what they were doing, and the big cats, who just looked too unhappy. I found myself wondering what has to go wrong in somebody’s life for them to think that a career yelling at lions and tigers is a good life choice. (Yes, I do know most circus performers are born to the life. Still…) I’m glad I went, but, overall, I’m not really sad that it’s ending.

Midwestern Gothic: This is a new musical at Signature Theatre. The book is by Royce Vavrek, who I was unfamiliar with, and Josh Schmidt, who wrote Adding Machine, a show I didn’t know quite what to make of. And that was more or less my reaction to this show. The plot centers around a sociopathic teenage girl named Stina, ably played by Morgan Keene. She sets up her friend to be St. Sebastian, tying him to a tree and shooting him with an arrow. She flirts with her creepy stepfather, Red, who takes semi-pornographic photos of her. Her mother is mostly absent, running a bar. Red picks up a woman, who Stina kills. So she and Red run off to an old, condemned house, where there is more blood shed. The music is a mixed bag, some of it operatic and some of it livelier. Overall, the show just didn’t work for me – and I like dark humor. I think the problem is that the likeable characters are nothing more than victims. Oh, well, it’s always worth seeing something new.

Knitting Group: And Sunday was knitting group. I am finally past the part of an afghan square that I'd had to tink because I'd forgotten the border on the sides.

Whew! What a hectic week. (And things had been busy at work, too, with a couple of big meetings to deal with.)
fauxklore: (Default)
The new LJ terms of service have a couple of items which concern me. So my plan is to write on dreamwidth, though I will crosspost to LJ.

This is a test of that.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Just a few:


  1. Hidden Figures: This was a must-see, given its subject (technical women, related to space), so I got myself to a an actual movie theatre. It was excellent and well worth that effort. Yes, not every single moment in it was absolute fact, e.g. it was only Mary Jackson who had to seek out a "colored" bathroom to use, while Katherine Johnson just ignored the signs all along. And, while John Glenn did insist on Johnson's calculations, that was actually quite a bit before the launch, not at the last minute. But those are nits. The movie rang true, with plenty of inspiring moments. Highly recommended.

  2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: This was a rather odd movie from New Zealand, involving a child running from child protective services, who are trying to take him from his foster father after the death of his foster mother. It won me over from the beginning with an interesting soundtrack and quirky characters. I thought this was genuinely funny and was mildly embarrassed to laugh out loud on an airplane. It probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you like character-based humor, give it a look-see.

  3. The Maltese Falcon: I'm sure I must have seen this before, but it had been a while and it was about the right length for the plane trip I watched it on. It's a classic of the noir genre and justly famous. But a lot of that has to do with the performances (especially Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade), since a fair amount of the plot is unconvincing.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have a lot of stuff to write about, but first, some catching up on routine things. Like snack reviews.


Booster Seeds: This is a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and golden flaxseeds. It has 220 calories and 9 grams of protein. I wish the flaxseeds were easier to eat. They’re about the size of sesame seeds, so they are hard to pick up. Overall, I don’t find this particularly exciting, but it is tasty enough and useful for times when I feel like I really need something high in protein.

Sesame Garlic Crunch: This consists of garlic sesame sticks, oat bran sesame sticks, and multigrain soy rice crackers. It has 140 calories. Overall, I like the combination of flavors and the crunchiness, making this a satisfying savory snack. It’s also a good argument for portion control.

Snickerdoodle Dip: This is a tasty dip, made from snickerdoodle cookies, with cinnamon pretzel sticks to dip into it. It has 150 calories. Unlike most Graze snacks, it has pretty much no nutritional merits. But it is particularly delicious, which is sometimes reason enough to eat something.

Kettlecorn Kern Pops: These are half-popped corn kernels, with a sweet and salty kernels. They have 130 calories. Overall, I’d say they’re not bad, but I generally prefer more savory crunchy snacks.

Malaysian Laksa: This consists of a slightly spicy coconut broth with a mix of chili and lime cashews and dried coconut to eat on the side. It has 130 calories. Because the broth is made just from a paste and hot water, it is faster to reconstitute than the other Graze soups. I find it quite tasty and having the cashew mix to munch on makes this more filling than most of them. It’s a good light lunch or a nice mid-afternoon break on a long day.

Carrot Crunch (new): This consists of carrot chips, wild rice sticks, and hickory-smoked almonds. It has 140 calories. This is a bit weird and I am on the fence about it. The carrot chips were somewhat on the sweet side. I didn’t think they blended as well as they might with the almonds, though the latter were not as smoky as I’d have preferred. Normally, I think Graze snacks work best if you eat all the components together, but this may be an exception. I’m willing to give it another chance and see how I feel about it then.

Original Protein Flapjack: This is a rolled oat flapjack (i.e. soft granola bar) with flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy protein. It has 260 calories and 8 grams of protein, so is more of a light meal than a snack. Golden syrup gives it a nice flavor - on the sweet side, but not cloying.

Strawberries and Cream Protein Granola Topper: This consists of oat and barley granola, yogurt-coated strawberry pieces, soy protein crispies, and freeze-dried strawberry pieces. It has 130 calories. As much as I love strawberries, this still seems to me like it is mostly crunch, more than berry. It’s good enough to mix with yogurt for that purpose, but it just can’t compare to fresh strawberries.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) was this past weekend and I was there to test myself again. Because I had some odds and ends to do at work (including a meeting), I took a 3 o’clock train up, which meant I arrived at the hotel just before things started. There had been an Amtrak incident (their term, not mine – an Acela train clipped a New Jersey Transit train just outside Penn Station in the morning) which made me nervous about delays, but things were pretty much on time. Checking into the hotel was rather slow, however, largely because they gave me an upgraded room. I guess puzzle people don’t travel enough for there to be all too many with my elevated Marriott status. (Which I actually get out of being a United Million Miler, but, hey, I’ll take it.)

Anyway, part of the weekend involved the Second World Palindrome Championship, which didn’t really interest me. My issue is that I care a lot more about elegance and sense than sheer length of palindromes, so tend to dislike those with proper names and odd interjections and the like. It’s sort of like times I went to see a double feature and hated the first movie, but had to sit through it to get to the second one. Palindromes are the Blue Velvet of the puzzle world for me.

Fortunately, the other part of Friday night was more like Something Wild. (And, in case you wondered, that is a real life double feature example from my misspent youth.) There was a competition with two rounds, each of which had you choosing one of three puzzles to do. The first round options were Diagramless, Puns & Anagrams, and Cryptic. It was a tough choice, but I opted for the Puns & Anagrams, thinking that I’d be more likely to get bogged down in the Cryptic. I wasn’t particularly fast, but I did finish it in time. The second round options were Split Decisions, Spiral, or Marching Bands. I chose Marching Bands and, while there were a few clues that took me a while, I got through it reasonably quickly.

After the interminable voting on palindromes, there was a wine and cheese reception, which gave me a chance to chat with a few people I see all too infrequently. They announced prizes for the evening puzzles (one for each of the six possible combinations). And then I went up to my suite and collapsed.

This is as good a time as any to note that I have never really seen the point of getting a suite upgrade when I’m traveling alone. The "junior suite"at the Stamford Marriott is also somewhat oddly designed, as there is no desk area. Nor are there enough electrical outlets. I’d rather have a table than a huge ottoman, personally. It didn’t really matter much for the weekend, but I’d have been annoyed were I staying there on a business trip.

Anyway, Saturday came. I’d made plans to meet a couple of folks for breakfast. Since the hotel didn’t have their lounge open on weekends, they had given me breakfast coupons (free for continental breakfast, but you could upgrade to the full buffet for 5 bucks), so I could treat one person each day.

But, you really want to know about the ACPT, not hear me gloating about hotel status perks. I will refrain from including spoilers here since there are still people solving at home, but I will write some and rot13 them in the comments.

Puzzle 1 was by Bruce Haight, whose name didn’t immediately conjure up anything for me, though it seems he’s had a lot of puzzles published over the past couple of years. It was fairly straightforward, though there was a bit of a trick with one entry. It had the sort of theme that didn’t really matter much to being able to solve the puzzle. But it could have helped with that one tricky entry. (Not that I actually noticed that at the time, since I knew the answers to the relevant clues.) I solved this cleanly in 7 minutes, which is decent for normal people but the top solvers can finish in 3-4 minutes.

Puzzle 2 was by Patrick Berry, who is one of my favorite constructors. He is consistently clever. This puzzle had a nice little wordplay theme, which I finished cleanly in 13 minutes.

Puzzle 3 was by Brendan Emmett Quigley, who is a very evil man. The actual theme of the puzzle wasn’t especially hard, if you have done enough tricky puzzles. The fill, however – and, specifically, parts of the theme answers - included some very unusual words. I relied a lot on the crossings and did, indeed, manage to solve it cleanly, but it took me 21 minutes.

During the lunch break, I walked over to the mall food court, which isn’t exactly exciting, but is convenient. I also bought some puzzle books. Because, you never know, there might be some horrible disaster that stops puzzles from being published and I only have enough on hand to last me a couple of years.

Puzzle 4 was by Julie Berube, a constructor who I was entirely unfamiliar with. The theme was straightforward enough, though of a kind I don’t find especially interesting. There were only a couple of squares which gave me any hesitation since either of two letters could be legitimate, but, in both cases, the crossings resolved any potential ambiguity. I’m not sure of my time on this, since it didn’t show up on the scan. I think (based on the score) that it took me 8 minutes. At any rate, I was still error free, which was very exciting.

But the dreaded Puzzle 5 was lurking. I had failed at this one, always the hardest one of the tournament, in my previous attempts at the ACPT. I was a bit relieved to see it was by Mike Shenk, whose puzzles I do (and enjoy) frequently. Then I looked at the puzzle and skipped a couple of heartbeats. But, wait, here was a clue I knew. And there was another. And, what? Could it be? A theme answer I knew that led me to what Mike was up to. Well, only partially, and it got me into trouble on the northeast corner. But the fill was falling. And, then, I realized that Mike had more up his sleeve. Yes! I figured out what was going on and, with furious erasing and replacing, I solved puzzle 5! Let me say that again. I solved puzzle 5! Admittedly, it took me 28 minutes. But I solved puzzle 5! It was one of those "now I can die happy" moments, akin to the Red Sox 2004 World Series Championship for me. Was it possible that I would actually have an entirely error-free ACPT? (I should also note that I thought this was an incredibly clever puzzle and it was my favorite of the competition.)

Puzzle 6 was by Lynn Lempel. In some ways, you didn’t really have to figure out the theme to get this one, though the wordplay was fun and did make a few of the answers go faster. I finished it cleanly in 13 minutes. At the end of the day on Saturday, I was in 130th place, which is quite a lot better than I’d done in the past.

Saturday night started with dinner. I ended up with a few other people at a South Indian vegetarian place a few blocks from the hotel. The food was good and reasonably priced. It’s worth remembering for the future.

The evening program started with more palindromes, about which the less said the better. I was happier with the trivia contest, even though there was more pop culture than is optimal for me. (On the other hand, I knew two of the music clues that other people on my team did not. And my encyclopedic knowledge of musicals proved useful.) There was also the Merl Reagle MEmoRiaL Award, which went to Manny Nosowsky and was accompanied by a lovely mini-documentary about him and his puzzles and his support to other constructors and so on.

While I had fun on Saturday night, I was up later than I should have been and then had trouble sleeping. Why, yes, I do relate to "The Princess and the Pea." Anyway, the morning came, as did breakfast. And so to puzzle 7.

Puzzle 7 is the last of the ones everybody does and is a Sunday sized one. This year’s was constructed by Joel Fagliano. As far as themes go, it wasn’t particularly difficult. I was, however, rather slow, partly because I probably should have asked for the large-size clues. It’s just as likely that it was simply lack of stamina, however. I was also being rather deliberate because I wanted to end up with completely clean solves. The bottom line is that it took me 20 minutes, which meant I slipped in the standings and finished in 141st place.

I had arranged an earlier train than I’d have liked to for reasons that aren’t worth getting into here. (In short, for somebody who travels so much, I can be kind of flaky on scheduling.) So I slipped out in the middle of the talent show and completely missed the finals. I heard that there were some interesting things in them – e.g. the B finalists being given the A clues by mistake and a critical error by Tyler Hinman in the A finals. Next time I need to schedule better.

Bottom line is that I was reasonably happy with how I did this year. I was one of only 65 contestants who had an error-free outing. And I continued to climb the ranks. I think a lot of that improvement is that, while I haven’t been trying to solve puzzles particularly quickly, I have made an effort to do more hard puzzles. For the record, here is my performance over all of the times I’ve competed:


2009 – 265 / 654 (55th percentile)
2012 – 241 / 594 (59th percentile)
2014 – 202 / 580 (65th percentile)
2016 – 171 / 576 (70th percentile)
2017 – 141 / 619 (77th percentile)

If I can keep up this pace, I could make it to B division next year!
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Bill Walsh was not only a copy editor for The Washington Post, but wrote three cleverly titled books on the subject of copy editing - Lapsing Into a Comma, The Elephants of Style, and Yes, I Could Care Less. Phil Garland was a New Zealand folk singer. I particularly recommend his song "To the Tall Ships" (with lyrics by Joe Clark). James Cotton played blues harmonica. Derek Walcott was a Caribbean poet and Nobel laureate. Lawrence Montaigne was an actor with numerous television and movie appearances, as well as being in the original cast of Shinbone Alley. Felicia O’Dell was the internet celebrity chef Auntie Fee. Chuck Berry was a rock and roll superstar, but you didn't need me to tell you that. Jimmy Breslin was a columnist for Newsday and Son of Sam’s favorite penpal. David Rockefeller headed Chase Manhattan and chaired the Museum of Modern Art. I have reservations about his foreign policy activities (which may have, for example, helped trigger the Iran hostage crisis) but there is little doubt that he was a significant philanthropist with broad interests. Martin McGuiness was an IRA leader who became a peacemaker. Colin Dexter wrote the Inspector Morse series of mysteries. He also wrote a book about how to solve cryptic crosswords.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Mary Joan Trafton was a colleague and a close friend. We started working for Milo at the same time and, over the course of numerous business trips, discovered compatible ways of thinking. This was especially true on trips to Boulder, where we realized that High Crimes, a mystery bookstore, would be open late when they had a signing. She was always willing to try out new restaurants and we spent lots of evenings exploring the crème brulees of Boulder. We had similar senses of humor, which included things like buying Milo a pointy-haired boss wig, which he wore when he did our performance reviews. She had been ill with cancer for a while, so her death was not a surprise, but it is still always painful to lose a friend. I am still waiting to hear what the arrangements will be and hope I will be able to go to whatever ceremony happens. At the very least, Suzanne (our other partner in crime) and I will do something.

Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing: I saw this new show at Signature Theatre on Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Elva Miller was a real person, who achieved a brief career in the mid-1960’s as a horrible singer. Debra Monk portrayed her and did an excellent job of both the bad singing and the moments when we glimpse her self-perception. Boyd Gaines played her husband, who was convalescing in a nursing home after a stroke. He was also convincing in a role that focused on his frustration over his condition. Then there is her niece, Joelle, played by Rebekah Brockman, who is torn between the fear that she is part of a group exploiting her aunt and the knowledge that Mrs. Miller is having fun with the whole experience. There is some generation gap material and some more serious topical material (e.g. re: Vietnam). But the real point is about following dreams. That makes Mrs. Miller surprisingly sympathetic. I will note, however, that I dearly hope nobody ever decides to produce a cast album of this show!

Story Swap: Our monthly swap was on Saturday night and was, as usual, fun. I took advantage of the late arrival of our teenage tellers to perform X. J. Kennedy’s poem, "In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day." Later on, I told "Tia Miseria." There was the usual wide mix of stories and, later on, snacks and conversation.

World Storytelling Project: Yesterday being World Storytelling Day, I announced a project to learn a story from every country in the world. I am using the U.S. State Department list of independent countries, which has 195 countries on it. Obviously, I already know stories from some of these (and have personal stories from a few.) This is not the sort of thing I intend to put any particular deadline on, but it should be a fun challenge. And, yes, I have picked out a story from Afghanistan to tell.

Note to Coworker Down the Hall: Close your door when you are having a conference call, damn it!
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Yes, the President's Budget Request is problematic in many ways. The thing that people have to understand, however, is that it is just a starting point in negotiations. Actual budgets originate in Congress, not in the Executive Branch. The major thing to understand is the appropriations committees (one for the House, one for the Senate) and their various subcommittees. You also need to know a little bit about authorization, which is another complexity.

The simple way to explain the difference is that appropriations determines how much money can be spent, while authorization tells how to spend it. Except, actually, if any money at all is authorized for a given item (even a single dollar), then you can spend up to the complete appropriation. The analogy I usually use to explain this is to assume you have a child who is in college. You want the kid to study nuclear gymnastics, but your kid is rebellious and chooses to study underwater basketweaving. If you have paid for UB 101 thinking it would be just a minor diversion, well, you are likely to end up with a basketweaver and not a nuclear gymnast. But, as an appropriator, you could cut off all college funds and kiddo is out of luck.

So let's stick to appropriations. Every program has a program element associated with it, which is the line item that money is being requested for. There are detailed descriptions of exactly what those program elements are supposed to fund and where you find those depends on which appropriations bill is involved and what sort of program it is (e.g. research vs. procurement vs. sustainment). That's more detail than we need for this purpose, though it matters if you actually spend time reading these bills and don't want to go blind trying to find the info you are looking for.

The President's Budget Request will have numbers for every program element in it. Some of those could be zeros. But the subcommittees of the appropriations committees will alter those numbers as they create the bills. That is called the mark-up and it takes several weeks. When the marked up bill gets released, it will have reasons for the changes, such as removing money for being early to need or adding money because it will encourage American industry (which is kind of a code word for it having to do with something in some particular subcommittee member's district) or whatever. Much of the heavy lifting is done by their professional staff members, who are middle-aged, sleep-deprived, hard-working, and underappreciated. There are also various organizations and lobbyists who are trying to influence what the numbers should be. The key point is that the members of the subcommittees control what the actual appropriations bills look like. Hence, you can write to and call your congresscritters and other committee members to tell them what you think. And how do you find out who the right people are? It's all on congress.gov which has links to the various committees and lists their members.

The subcommittee bills go to the full House or Senate for approval. After both the House and Senate committees finish with their bills, they have a conference, which comes up with a compromise bill. They often just split the difference on numbers, but that isn't always the case. However, you can be reasonably sure that if either committee appropriated some money for a given program element, it won't get completely killed. Crippled, maybe, but not killed.

I was going to work through an example and even came up with three examples of programs to use (distillation of unicorn tears, synthesis of informaldehyde and businesscasualdehyde, and mining of unobtainium), but I realized it wouldn't add enough without getting tedious. And I certainly don't want anybody to think I'd ever be opposed to distilling unicorn tears.

Bottom line here is to contact your congresscritters, especially if they are on committees dealing with things you care about.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am still annoyed at a large percentage of humankind (mostly having to do with idiots who screw up work things because they are too bloody lazy to talk to someone whose office is 3 inches away from theirs) so here is a set of snack reviews instead of an extended rant.

It’s easiest to note only the new snacks, since it seems like I’m now getting only one new one per box.

Vietnamese Pho: A slightly spicy broth, with shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, and rice noodles, this has only 60 calories. It’s not really very pho-like, since traditional pho has a different sort of noodle and has lots of beef in various forms. The dominant flavor is star anise, which quickly gets overpowering. This isn’t bad if you don’t expect pho, but it isn’t the sort of thing I want particularly often, either.

Sweet Memphis Barbecue: This mix of salsa flavored peanuts, wild rice sticks, and barbecue flavored peas has 190 calories and 7 grams of protein. It’s got lots of both crunch and flavor. Overall, I think this is a very good savory snack.

Protein Peanut Butter Dipper: This is peanut butter, with pretzel sticks to dip in it. It has 130 calories. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s pretty boring as snacks go.

Fantastic Forest Fruits (new): This is a mix of soft apple pieces, cherry-flavored raisins, blueberries, and lingonberries. It has 80 calories. I thought this was okay, but the lingonberries are too tart and didn’t do much for me. The blueberries are wonderful and the cherry-flavored raisins were actually pretty good. (For me to say that about raisins is a big step, by the way.) As is typical, it works best if you eat a combination of the components together. Overall, there are other of Graze’s fruit offerings that I like better.

Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Topper: This is a mix of cocoa granola, chopped hazelnuts, freeze-dried cherry pieces, and soy protein crisps. It has 150 calories. It adds nice crunch and flavor to a cup of plain yogurt, though the hazelnuts are pretty much lost in the mix.

Creamy Ranch Kern Pops: These are half-popped corn kernels with ranch seasoning. The container has 140 calories, which is a fair sized serving. These are nice and crunchy, with a lot of sour cream and onion flavor to them. They’re quite good and I am glad for the built-in portion control.

Peanut Butter & Jelly: This consists of baked salted peanuts, raspberry fruit strings, and vanilla fudge. It has 220 calories and 7 grams of protein. The raspberry fruit strings are definitely the highlight of this – sweet and flavorful. This is an enjoyable sweet combination.

Honeycomb Flapjack: These rolled oat flapjacks (i.e. soft granola bars) have honeycomb and a chocolate drizzle. The downside is that they are 240 calories. But, wow, are they delicious. This is one of my very favorite Graze snacks. Completely satisfying.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Marian Javits was an arts patron and the widow of Jacob Javits, who a few of you may remember from the days when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican. Joseph Wapner was the first judge on The People’s Court. Shrley Palesh played for a few teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Howard Schmidt was a major figure in government cybersecurity strategy. Joe Rogers co-founded Waffle House, thus saving the stomach linings of many a drunken Southerner. Rene Preval served two terms as president of Haiti. Tommy Page was a singer-songwriter. Miriam Colon was a Puerto Rican actress. Edi Fitzroy was a reggae singer. Fred Weintraub owned The Bitter End, an important venue for folk music and comedy. Kurt Moll was an opera singer. Robert Osborne as a film historian and hosted Turner Classic Movies. Joni Sledge sang as part of Sister Sledge. Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a prolific writer of children’s books, among other things. Mother Divine was the leader of a cult founded by her husband. Royal Robbins was a big name in rock climbing but, more significantly to me, founded an eponymous clothing company that makes awesome clothes for traveling, including that green plaid shirt I am wearing in the overwhelming majority of my travel photos.

Errata: I erred. It was Jason Chaffetz, not Paul Ryan who made the stupid statement about iphones and health insurance.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was in Japan and upset over finding I had inadvertently taken my (work) cell phone with me. I was with another woman and we went down an escalator to exit a building with a very tall skylight. We were held up at the bottom of the escalator until there was a group of 4 men and 4 women and we all had to walk through a metal detector and send our things through an x-ray machine. Then we had to sing a song together before we could exit. Afterwards, I found out there was a side exit and people waited in line to sing, with fans of them gathered at the side of the security screening.

Story Slam: This month’s story slam theme was Womanhood, so I pulled out my "Woman of Valor" story, which is starting to get to having a reasonable ending. It went fairly well, though I finished third, so didn’t walk away with any money. I do wish, however, that this would go back to being on a Thursday night, because it conflicted with The Grapevine and I had to make an actual choice.

World Baseball Classic: Oh, well. Israel had a good run, but blew it in the second round.

Culpeper Tells / Virginia Storytelling Alliance Gathering: This past weekend was the Culpeper Tells festival and, once again, the VASA Gathering was held together with it. I preferred when we had a separate retreat, which made for a different sort of event, but I’ll take what I can get. I took off from work on Friday, intending to get some household odds and ends done and drive out earlyish. But I fell prey to the lure of napping and hit the road later than I intended, subjecting me to the inevitable slog through Gainesville. I was not all that enthusiastic to arrive at the hotel and find myself parking next to a vehicle advertising Pest Control and, specifically, "thermo bed bug eradication." Either their method works or the guy with the bedbug truck was just staying overnight at the hotel, as I didn’t get bitten by anything, but it was still disturbing.

Anyway, a bunch of us went out to dinner at Luigi’s which is mediocre red sauce Italian food. At least our server was mostly up to dealing with a big group. We came back to the hotel for a concert by Lynn Ruehlmann and Megan Hicks. Lynn blended the story of Psyche and Eros with the story of her own marriage, while Megan told a folk tale and her personal love story separately. Both were very good. That was followed by a story swap.

Megan did a workshop on Saturday morning, mostly emphasizing that we are all living history. There was a lot of confusion about when we were supposed to get into the room at the library, as well as confusion over who was signed up for what.

The actual festival started after lunchtime. There were four tellers – Geraldine Buckley, Michael Reno Harrell, Adam Booth, and Donald Davis. Each of them had just under an hour in the afternoon and then another half hour in the evening concert. The highlight of the day as far as I was concerned was Adam’s telling of "Ashton," a story from his Appalachian series, involving a coal miner's wife, and the early recordings of country music. It was exquisitely crafted and well-told. I should also note that I thought it was interesting that all of the tellers were telling more or less personal stories and there weren’t any traditional stories at all. By the way, there was also a story slam, but my name didn’t get drawn from the hat, alas.

At the dinner break, I ended up with a few people at a small place called Four C’s. I have this theory that, if you see a few ethnic items on what is otherwise an American restaurant menu, you should order from those, because it means the cook is including some of his family specialties. There were several Peruvian items on the menu, so these were clearly the way to go. I ended up getting some very tasty grilled fish that way. There’s no atmosphere, but the food was good and very reasonably priced and the service was friendly and efficient. It’s a good place to keep in mind for the future.

There was another swap back at the hotel afterwards, but it was too late for me, especially what with changing the clocks.

Sunday morning had the VASA annual meeting (which hadn’t actually been mentioned on the schedule). All I will say is that I am really glad I am no longer on the board. That was followed by "sacred stories" (not my thing) and puns (very much my thing). I told "Why I’m Not a Millionaire" to transition us between the two.

Overall, it was a reasonably good weekend. I was annoyed at various little things, but being among my storytelling tribe made up for them.

Annoying Weather: We had been having lovely spring-like weather, but it changed radically for the weekend. And Monday night was a sort of winter storm. Only sort of, as the snow total can’t have been more than a couple of inches, but there was plenty of sleet. In other words, things were nasty and icy. OPM made a bad call with a three hour delay and my company made a worse call by sending out confusing emails. One said we were on a mandatory delay in the subject line, but the body said all offices were open. Another had a subject line reading "message 1 of 2" but there was no "message 2 of 2." I had brought my laptop home and told my boss I was going to work from home, so none of this affected me per se, but it made me grumpy. I dislike working from home to begin with (too many distractions, including the fact that I really need to replace my desk chair) so I was inclined to be grumpy.

I’m back in the office today. One area of my walk to the metro was treacherous, but most of it was clear. I expect it to be worse tonight, since it isn’t supposed to get above freezing all day.

More Corporate Miscommunication: We are all getting new phones. I got an email telling me mine was ready and that I needed to go to an office 30 some odd miles away to pick it up. Since that office doesn't open until 9 and we are talking about DC metro area traffic, that would kill half my day. In fact, our IT guy came around this afternoon delivering phones for the 50 or so of us in this office. This is much easier, of course, but I would have preferred them sending out the correct info to begin with.

Two Rants

Mar. 8th, 2017 11:24 am
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Rant the First - Republican Health Un-Care: Giving people a maximum $4000 credit when health insurance often costs over $1000 a month doesn't do anything for affordability. Eliminating coverage for things like maternity care and vaccinations will increase the need for more expensive coverage later on. This is sheer cronyism, a break for rich insurance company execs and does nothing to help people.

I firmly believe single-payer would be the right way to go for the simple reason that it would allow a much higher percentage of insurance costs to go to actual health care, instead of paperwork.

As for Paul Ryan's ridiculous iphone comment, an iphone costs well under what a single month of insurance costs. And even the earliest adapters don't change their phones out more than every 12-18 months.

Rant the Second - Ticketmaster: There are really two parts to my annoyance. The first is that I was buying tickets to go to the circus with a couple of friends (because this is it for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and I have never been, though I've been to a number of Cirque du Soleil shows and to the Moscow Circus). The tickets show up as being $65 plus fees. The fees added 17 bucks a ticket. That's about 26%, which is fairly extortionate. But what really bugged me is that there was no apparent way to see what the fees would be up front.

The second annoyance was that a new block of tickets for Hamilton went on sale yesterday. After some searching, I actually found a couple of dates with single tickets that were only mildly exorbitant (in the 200 dollar range). Only to get an error message when actually trying to purchase such a ticket. And, of course, they were gone when I tried again later. There are still tickets available for some dates, but only at prices starting at $549. Yes, I could afford that if I really wanted to. But there are plenty of other things I'd like to see at far more reasonable prices.

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