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Celebrity Death Watch: Maurice Bluestein modernized the wind-chill index. Edie Windsor was an activist who played a major role in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. J. P. Donleavy was a novelist, whose works included Fairy Tale of New York. Frank Vincent was an actor who sort of specialized in playing gangsters. Grant Hart was one of the founders of Husker Du. Harry Dean Stanton was a character actor who was in too many movies to attempt to single out a few to mention. Paul E. Gray was the president of MIT from 1980 to 1990.

Pete Domenici was a senator who represented New Mexico for many years. In general, I disagreed with his positions on environmental issues. He also got into trouble for reports about having fathered an illegitimate child and supposedly had pretty awful phone manners. However, he was a strong supporter of treating mental illness the same as physical illness.

Book Club: Book Club was on Wednesday. We had a pretty good discussion about Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I like the central question at the heart of the novel, which is who should tell another’s story. But the reason I am mentioning this is that part of the novel involves one of the characters having an affair with a writer she admires. I made a comment to the effect of, "if Neil Gaiman showed up on my doorstep…" and was shocked that two of the people present were entirely unfamiliar with him. (I explained him as a writer of humorous fantasy with floppy hair and a British accent.) It also turned out that there were several people who had never read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Philistines!

Christine Lavin: Friday night I went to see Christine Lavin at Jammin’ Java, one of my favorite local venues, not least for its proximity to home. Doug Mishkin opened for her and was thoroughly delightful, getting everybody singing his song "Woody’s Children." As for Christine, she was as funny as ever, with a mixture of old and new material. Many of her songs tell stories, e.g. one that described a dinner with a famous person with atrocious table manners. (I won’t reveal who it was, so you can have the joy of the surprise at the end.) During intermission, she taught members of the audience how to do some elaborate napkin folds. (I, alas, was in line for the facilities, so missed out on the lesson, though I saw the results.) All in all, it was a thoroughly delightful evening of folk song and laughter.

Loser Brunch: There were several things I could have done this weekend, but it had been a while since I’d been to brunch with the Style Invitational Losers and Devotees, i.e. fans of the Washington Post’s humor contest. This brunch was at Brion’s Grill in Fairfax, so reasonably convenient. The buffet was just okay, losing points from me for not having any fruit beyond a bowl of mixed melon. On the plus side, they did have cooked to order omelets. And they had French toast donuts, something I had never experienced before. This sort of thing is all about people, in my opinion, so I don’t really care much about the food. The conversation was lively and it was a good way to get out of the house for a couple of hours.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Kate Millett wrote the feminist classic Sexual Politcs. Gene "Stick" Michael played baseball and moved into management, primarily with the Source of All Evil in the Universe. Don Williams was a country music singer, as was Troy Gentry. Michael Friedman wrote the score of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Len Wein was a comic book writer and editor, credited as co-creator of Wolverine. Don Ohlmeyer was a sports television executive, responsible for Monday night football. (He was also the mentor of someone I grew up with, who has some very interesting stories about him.) Nancy Dupree was an historian who focused on the history of modern Afghanistan. Jack Kiel created McGruff the Crime Dog.

Jerry Pournelle wrote science fiction and published articles on military strategy. He had actually worked for the company that I am employed by at one time (as well as other companies in the space industry). He was alleged to have been the first author to have written a published book using a word processor on a personal computer. I have absolutely no recollection of having read anything he wrote, but I think I have read anthologies he edited.

Lotfi Zadeh was a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and is best known for his work on fuzzy logic. I am somewhat hesitant to list him because there had been at least two earlier, incorrect reports of his death. But the EECS department is now reporting it, which is a more reliable source than various Azerbaijani sources. Incidentally, it is probably not well known that he was Jewish, at least technically, as his mother was a Russian Jew. (His father was Iranian and, I assume, Muslim, in which case the Muslims would claim him too. Though maybe not, since he apparently went to a Presbyterian mission school when his family returned to Iran from Azerbaijan. None of this actually matters in the least – I just think it’s interesting. And is perhaps an example of fuzzy religious and national identity.)

Birthday: I turned 59 on Labor Day. I really want my life to be in much better order by the time I’m 60.

Speaking of Order: I more or less tore my living room apart looking for what I had done with some theatre tickets. Of course, they turned out to be in the pile that I was positive that they absolutely could not be in. In the process of searching, I did manage to throw out 4 bags full of papers. What is pathetic is how much there is to go.

A Little Night Music: That ticket was for Signature Theatre’s production of A Little Night Music. Signature makes something of a specialty of Sondheim so this was a sure bet. And it was, indeed, a good show. There were lots of familiar performers, e.g. Bobby Smith as Frederik, Sam Ludwig as Henrik, Maria Rizzo as Petra, Will Gartshore as Carl-Magnus, and Holly Twyford as Desiree. I should note that Twyford is known as an actress, not a singer, but was more than up to the role. But the real highlights were Florence Lacey as the acerbic Madame Armfeldt and Tracy Lynn Olvera as Charlotte. Both performers highlighted the humor of some of Sondheim’s wittiest lyrics. Even though this is a show I know well, I still noticed lyrics I hadn’t quite caught before. Overall, this is among the best theatre I’ve seen here.

I do have one complaint, however. The air conditioning was way too aggressive. It wasn’t even hot out. I need to remember to bring a sweater or shawl whenever I go to Signature.

Also re: Shirlington: I had amazingly good parking karma for this trip to Signature, with an available spot right by the stairs / elevator in the closer garage. I believe the reason for this is that it allowed me to do a good deed. There was a miniature Celtic festival going on and a blind woman was trying to find a place to sit to listen to the music. I let her take my elbow and led her to the chairs set up in front of the stage.

Story Swap: Saturday night was our monthly story swap, which is always fun. I have found an Albanian story to tell, which went over reasonably well. Especially the part in which the hero is sent to collect overdue taxes from a church full of snakes.

JGSGW: There was a Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday. The topic was ancestry tips and tricks, but, alas, that was pretty much focused on tips for your tree on ancestry and I don’t keep mine there. I was hoping for tips on more effective searches. And, given that the speaker was time constrained, I didn’t bother asking. I did have some conversations before the meeting which were most useful, so it wasn’t a waste.

I had intended to go to a storytelling show later in the day, but I was too tired. At least I did manage to get grocery shopping done on my way home from darkest Maryland.
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Here is the rest of the catch-up stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Louise Hay was a motivational author. Richard Anderson was an actor, best known for portraying the boss of bionic people. Hedley Jones was a Jamaican musician, who also designed and built the first traffic lights in the country (among other technical accomplishments). Shelly Berman was a stand-up comedian and actor. Walter Becker was one of the founders of Steely Dan. John Ashberry was a poet.

Take Me Out to the Ball Games: I got back on a Thursday and went to Nationals games (vs. the Mets) on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The Friday night game started out with some pathetic pitching on the part of young A. J. Cole. He did settle down, some, but the Nats never got very far against Jacob deGrom. Things did get exciting at the end, but the Mets kept their lead.

Sunday was Jewish Community Day and I went with some friends from my chavurah. There had been a special ticket price, which also included a ballcap with Nationals written in Hebrew! This is now my favorite ballcap, even ahead of the one from the Leones del Escogido. There were also tastings of various foods from a kosher caterer. As for the game, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a 3-run homer for the Mets in the first. The Nats proved to be really good at stranding men on base, though they did make things close. And it all came to down to Edwin Jackson getting thrown out at the plate at the end for them to lose.

Apparently, my wearing Nats gear brings luck to the Mets.


Vacation Stories: In between the two ball games, there was a Saturday night and a Better Said Than Done show, with a vacation theme. I told my story "M.D., Ph.D., G.R.E.A.T." which involves our family trip to Expo ’67 in Montreal, my parents’ failure to stop at any of the intriguing tourist traps along the way, and how I finally found satisfaction on another trip years later. The audience was responsive and I think it went well.
You can judge for yourself. Here’s the video.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: There was a very important work matter, which I had to discuss with Bob Kaplan, even though he was in the hospital. Alexander Craig insisted that he and I talk with Bob, who was wearing blue pajamas and had just had surgery. We were then going to follow up with the Delaware group. Note that none of these are names of people or organizations I have any association with.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: My home was invaded by a group of juggalos. Well, 4 of them stood outside and waited, while the one with the full clown makeup went inside, wielding an inflatable baseball bat.

District Dumplings: This past Thursday night I went out to dinner with a couple of friends who were in town. They chose District Dumplings in the Mosaic District. It was disappointing. The chicken and basil dumplings were good, but the others were bland. And, even though we ordered our dumplings steamed, they gave us fried. If you are over that way, Brine is a much better choice of a place to eat. Oh, well, the company and the conversation were good.

The National Book Festival: I volunteered at the National Book Festival this year, which was held this past Saturday. It’s the sort of volunteer task I can do – with a commitment measured in hours on one day (plus a couple of hours for a training session). I was a Hall Chaperone, which basically meant that I stood on the L Street Bridge at the top of the Grand Staircase with an "Ask Me" sign and directed people to other places in the Convention Center.

You’d think that sign would invite smartass questions, but there were only a few. Mostly people were asking how to get to the main stage (on the 3rd floor) or to the Metro. My favorite conversation was with the guy who said, "you look like you would like someone to ask you a question," to which I replied, "I would be delighted to be asked a question." (Alas, he just asked one of the usual ones.) Anyway, it was reasonably fun and I ran into several people I knew. I would volunteer there again if my schedule works.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Joseph Bologna was an actor, with a long career spanning movies, television, and stage productions. Diane Pearson was a romance novelist. M. T. Liggett was a folk sculptor in Kansas. Sir Bruce Forsythwas a British TV presenter / game show host, who is claimed to have had the longest career in television for a male entertainer. Sonny Burgess was a rockabilly guitarist and singer. Bea Wain was a singer of the big band era. Dick Gregory was a comedian and civil rights activist. Jerry Lewis was also a comedian, though in later years was more famous for the annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. His comedy was particularly popular in France, which I attribute to the silliness of a language with accent marks in two directions. Brian Aldiss was a British science fiction writer. Thomas Meehan was a playwright, whose work included the books for such musicals as Annie, Hairspray, and The Producers, making him the only writer to have written 3 Broadway shows that ran over 2000 performances. John Abercrombie was a jazz guitarist. Jay Thomas was a sitcom actor. Cecil Andrus was the Secretary of the Interior under Jimmy Carter, as well as serving 14 years as governor of Idaho. Tobe Hooper directed horror movies, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

I want to particularly highlight Dianne de Las Casas, since I actually knew her, though not particularly well. She was a storyteller and a writer of children’s books (as well as several books about storytelling). She was also the founder of the annual Picture Book Month in November. She was known for wearing tiaras and elaborate fingernail designs. Overall, she was a sparkly and memorable woman, who died tragically young (47) in a house fire.

What I Did on My Vacation: First, I went to New York for Lollapuzzoola 10. This is my favorite puzzle event of the year, largely because the puzzles in it are particularly wild. And, once again, I had a fabulous time.

Then I flew to Denver, rented a car, and drove to Alliance, Nebraska to watch the total solar eclipse over Carhenge.

After that, I headed to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota to satisfy my obsession with national parks. From there, it was Cheyenne, Wyoming to satisfy my obsession with state capitals. Back in Denver, I had dinner with friends.

What I Did at Home: Aside from starting to catch up on work, I went to two baseball games. And I was part of a storytelling show.


All of the above is to be written about.

Catch-up

Aug. 9th, 2017 01:44 pm
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I've been busy for most of the past week.

Celebrity Death Watch: Ara Parseghian coached football for Notre Dame and appears in crosswords fairly often. Judith Jones edited cookbooks. Ernst Zundel was a Holocaust denier. Darren Daulton played baseball, largely for the Phillies. Don Baylor also played baseball, including a stint with the Red Sox in 1986, during which he set a record for being hit by pitches. Haruo Nakajima was the first actor to portray Godzilla. Glen Campbell was a countryish pop singer, notable for songs such as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Rhinestone Cowboy."

I want to particularly highlight Barbara Cook, who was one of the greatest Broadway stars of all time. Some of her more famous roles included Marian in The Music Man, Cunegonde in Candide (in which she achieved a tour de force with "Glitter and Be Gay"), and Amalia in She Loves Me. She had a fabulous voice and, unlike many great singers, she could also act.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Michael Cotter was a Minnesota farmer turned storyteller, who told stories of his farm life. He was a quiet and skilled teller, who I was privileged to hear a few times.

I am way behind on reading magazines, so I only just caught the news (via the MIT section of Technology Review) that Kathy Porter-Jordan, a friend from my undergraduate days died nearly a year ago. I particularly remember one year on Shavuout when she and I delved into the subject of leprosy in the Tanach.

Trip to Oregon: I made a quick trip last week to Portland, Oregon for the memorial service for my friend, Mary Joan. The travel was a bit stressful, as a thunderstorm struck just after we had been boarded (but before the plane was fully fueled). In the end, we got delayed about two hours. My decision to take a non-stop was vindicated as I figured I was fine as long as I got there some time on Thursday night. The delay was extended a little on arrival as a guy in the row behind mine had a medical emergency (significant enough for the flight attendant to be bringing him oxygen) and we had to wait for paramedics to take him off before we could disembark. But, I got there, so everything was okay.

My friend, Suzanne, was at the same hotel and, fortunately, has a compatible attitude towards timing. (Google maps says it’s a 22 minute drive, so let’s figure 45 minutes and then let’s add an extra half hour just in case we get lost ….) The ceremony was brief, with a few people (each of the two of us included) speaking, with a longer speech by Mary Joan’s husband. Then everybody went out to lunch, at which we learned that the day had been chosen since it would have been their 44th wedding anniversary.

The trip home went smoother, despite it involving a redeye too short for more than a nap. I also had a longish wait for the moon buggy from the D-gates to the main terminal at IAD, so it took longer to get to my car than to drive home. At least I had time to nap for a few hours before my next commitment.

Ben’s Bar Mitzvah: A friend’s son’s bar mitzvah was Saturday. The service was your standard Chabad service, which I won’t comment on. Ben did fine on the Torah reading and his haftorah and his mother did the expected job of bursting into tears during her brief speech afterwards. There was pretty good food at the Kiddush lunch. The big reception was in the evening at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I only had time for a quick look through the museum, but it would be worth going back and spending half a day to see it all. There was reasonably good food and slightly odd entertainment, mostly oriented towards the kids, e.g. a sword swallower. Overall, it was a pretty nice event.

Embassy of Haiti: I went to an MIT Club of Washington event at the Embassy of Haiti last night. Actually, it was a joint event with the Harvard Club and they far outnumbered us. The embassy is beautiful, with a large art collection – practically a gallery. The ambassador was personable and gave a brief and entertaining speech. The food was okay – rice, chicken, fish, pork – and they had tasty rum punch and cake for dessert. The only problem was that it was very crowded and the food line was quite chaotic. Still, it is always worth going to these sorts of things.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Raymond Sackler was a physician whose pharmaceutical company marketed Oxycontin among other drugs. He was also heavily involved in various philanthropic ventures, both in scientific fields and in the arts. Kenneth Jay Lane designed costume jewelry. Chester Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park. Geoff Mack was an Australian singer-songwriter, best known for "I’ve Been Everywhere." John Heard was an actor. Jim Vance was a news anchor in Washington, DC. Artyom Tarasov was the first person in the USSR to become a millionaire. Patti Deutsch was a comedian and voice actress. Cool "Disco" Dan was a graffiti artist. Sam Shepard was an actor and playwright. John G. Morris was a photo editor for Life and The New York Times as well as various other publications. Stan Hart wrote for MAD. Lee May played baseball fpr the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles among other teams. D. L. Menard was a major figure in Cajun music. Jeanne Moreau was a French actress, best known for starring in Jules et Jim. Marina Ratner was a mathematician.

June Foray was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale among others. She is particularly significant because she earned me 31 ghoul pool points (19 for where I had her on my list and another 12 because nobody else had her at all), catapulting me into a tie for fifth place. I would feel bad about that, but she made it to 99, which is pretty respectable.

Not Dead Celebrity: I woke up this morning in a minor panic over whether or not Carol Burnett was still alive. She is, but I have to wonder if that panic meant anything.

Storytelling: I told a new story at Saturday night’s Better Said Than Done Show. It went okay, though the first third of it was definitely much more polished than the rest and the last third could have been much funnier. Of course, later that night I had a moment of inspiration on something that I could have added. The story has to do with my battle against Argentine ants, which invaded an apartment I lived in in Los Angeles many years ago. They reminded me of the horror movie, THEM, which was also set in Los Angeles. They even invaded my freezer, which didn’t have a very effective seal. I opened the freezer door one day to find the freezer overflowing with antsicles, setting me on the path of various ineffective solutions. I documented those, but there was an important one I left out. I should have checked my lease to see whether anteaters were allowed as pets.

On a related note, it appears that Grant’s Kills Ants is still available, but no longer contains arsenic.

Clothes Shopping: I have a bar mitzvah to go to next weekend and thought I would use it as an excuse to get a new dress. Hah! Those ridiculous (and highly inappropriate) cold-shoulder designs are all over the place. I found a couple of almost acceptable dresses, but one was a little too short. And several had necklines that were too wide. That was a particular pity in the case of one that had something rare and wondrous – namely, pockets.

At least it wasn’t as if I don’t have anything acceptable to wear. But it’s still frustrating.

Speaking of Frustrating: The Red Sox seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Sigh.
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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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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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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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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.
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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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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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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.
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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.
fauxklore: (Default)
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: (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)
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.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Stuart McLean was a Canadian broadcaster, whose The Vinyl Café also aired on NPR. Richard Schickel was a film critic. Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "The Blind Sheikh," was convicted of seditious conspiracy in relation to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nancy Willard wrote children’s books. Kaci Kullman Five was chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Kenneth Arrow was a Nobel laureate in economics. Larry Coryell was a jazz guitarist.

Norma McCorvey was the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. She later became active in the anti-choice movement. Note that she never actually had an abortion, as the Supreme Court case took three years.

Leah Adler was Stephen Speilberg’s mother and also owned and ran The Milky Way, a kosher dairy restaurant in Los Angeles. I can’t count how often I’ve eaten there, especially since I used to live more or less across the street from it. I particularly liked their lasagna. Mrs. Adler was a charming hostess, and part of the appeal of the place.

Mildred Dresselhaus was an MIT professor, and one of the most prominent women in science. She did vital work in thermoelectrics and materials, especially nanotechnology. But, more importantly, she inspired almost every woman of my generation at MIT.

Presidential Dining Note: It doesn’t appear that Donald Trump eats out here, except, possibly, at Trump-owned properties. I realized this when I got lunch at Good Stuff Eatery and they still have the Prez Obama burger and the Michelle Melt on the menu. Admittedly, it’s only been a month, but I don’t expect to see him at local restaurants or cultural events very much.

Not Everything Evil is His Fault: I’ve made no secret of my feelings about Trump’s incompetence and bad ideas. But not every bad thing that happens here is his fault. Two specific items are not. First, it is perfectly normal for political appointees to submit their resignations to be effective on inauguration day and, despite what some people have commented in various places, only a small percentage (5% or so) get asked to stay on. That doesn’t, of course, excuse Trump’s slowness in naming appointees. Out of 549 appointments requiring Senate confirmation, 14 have been confirmed and another 20 are awaiting confirmation. This is well behind the pace of past administrations. But that may be a good thing in this case. It means that career civil servants are acting in a number of positions and, in general, people who are career vice political are more likely to push back against bad ideas. Politicals know they only have so many silver bullets, so conserve them and sometimes don’t act when they probably should. On the other hand, politicals are usually easier to deal with for precisely this reason.

The other thing that is not Trump’s fault is Customs and Border Patrol asking people to unlock smartphones and, in general, seizing electronics. This is a bad thing, yes, but the exception to the need for a search warrant when it comes to electronics at borders has been policy for a number of years. There are a couple of court cases which affirmed the CBP right to do so, both of them involving child pornography. My advice is not to travel with electronics with important data. (My company will lend international travelers clean laptops. Not sure what they do about smartphones.) In my opinion, the only thing that would really help here is for a case to get to the Supreme Court. Of course, there is no guarantee of privacy rights prevailing there.

Commonwealth Politics: In general, Virginia has Democratic politicians who align well with my views. But it has occurred to me that I can’t think of any women who are up and coming right now. Of our 11 Congressional districts, the only female congresscritter is Barbara Comstock, a Republican. So what other women could run for Congress? Maybe Delegate Charniele Herring, who seems to have an interesting personal history, including growing up in a military family and spending some time in a homeless shelter? Or the much more privileged Sharon Bulova, who chairs the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, except that she would be in the 11th district and Gerry Connolly doesn’t seem likely to step aside? I’ll admit I don’t know a lot of the politicians from outside Northern Virginia. Is there anyone in the Hampton Roads area or Richmond?

Intentional Walks: The Washington Post reported today that MLB is going to do away with intentional walks, replacing them with a signal from the dugout. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. While it may be rare that they had unintended consequences, such as an overthrow allowing base runners to progress or a pitch too close to the strike zone allowing a hit, that could always happen. And the psychology gets changed when the target has to stand there and reflect on how afraid of him the other team is.

For something this evil, I do indeed blame Trump. (Along with, of course, Robert Mugabe and the New York Yankees.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Richard Hatch was an actor in Battlestar Galactica among other things. Sir Peter Mansfield won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003. Mile Ilitch owned much of Detroit or at least its sports teams (the Red Wings and the Tigers) and a mediocre pizza company. Damian was a British pop singer. Al Jarreau was a seven-time Grammy winner for his jazz and R&B music. Raymond Smullyan was a mathematician and wrote books about logic puzzles, e.g. What is the Name of This Book? and This Book Needs No Title.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Howard Margol was a major force in Lithuanian-Jewish genealogy and responsible for a lot of the resources I use regularly. He was helpful in answering questions and teaching others how to do their research. May his memory be for a blessing.

Storytelling – The Grapevine: I made it to darkest Maryland (actually, come to think of it, Busboys and Poets might be on the DC side of Takoma / Takoma Park) Wednesday night to see Jeff Doyle and Anne Thomas tell. I also told "The Three Sisters" in the open mike. Jeff told two stories involving encounters with bears. Anne did a few personal stories about disability. Overall, an interesting night.

Storytelling – Short Story Slam: Thursday night had me back in darkest Maryland – Bethesda, to be precise – for the story slam that Michael puts on monthly. I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing, since a part of me objects to competitive storytelling. But there was plenty of good material on the theme of matrimony. Michael led off with a particularly funny piece about getting married in Communist China, including what he referred to as "emergency sex education." I told an abbreviated version of "Border Crossings." I actually tied for the third highest number of votes, but since the top two vote-getters went over the time limit, it came down to the tie breaker, and I had the shortest story so won first prize, which was exciting. Overall, it was fun and worth the exhaustion the next day.

JGSGW: I spent most of the weekend between suspended animation (i.e. catching up on sleep) and trying, not very successfully, to get some housework done. But I did make it to the JGSGW meeting on Sunday, which had a presentation on debunking myths about Jewish genealogy. I can’t say I learned much, but it was entertaining. And the time for networking was potentially useful.

Weather Whine: I would rather it were consistently cold than this annoying up and down we’ve been having. It got up to 70ish on Wednesday and then dropped to the 20’s on Friday but was back in the 60’s all weekend. This morning it was 30-something (but 25 with the wind chill factor) when I left for work. Just make up your bloody mind for a few days in a row, please.

Metro: Both storytelling events last week involved the Red Line, which meant changing to the Orange Line for the rest of the way home. That’s fine, but they were single-tracking around McPherson Square at night and things aren’t synchronized, so I had 15+ minute waits at Metro Center both nights.

Friday had a different annoyance as they turned the Orange Line train I was on into a Silver Line train. I was napping, so missed the announcement. Fortunately, I woke up at McLean, so only had to go back one station to switch, but they shouldn’t do this. Especially as they already run twice as many Silver Line trains as Orange, despite ridership on the Orange Line being several times higher.

Today started a new SafeTrack surge, which means no Blue Line service for 18 days. I had an early meeting at the Pentagon, so took a bus which was way more crowded than I’d ever seen it before. That worked, but was still annoying. In short, expect me to be grumpy for the next several weeks. It’s still better than driving.

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