fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Weather: It's March and it is 70+ degrees out right now, which is absurd. Of course, they are talking about possible snow for Friday, sigh. I'd rather we had unseasonably warm weather on the weekend, when I could take advantage of it.

Calendars: Except, really, I can't as my weekends are completely booked up all month, even if I color-coded one of them incorrectly on my calendar. (I have a ridiculously complicated method of coloring squares on a year-long calendar, with multiple highlighters intended to show everything from holidays to vacations to travel that I don't need vacation days for to local commitments like theatre tickets. This is supposed to keep me from double-booking myself. In practice, it creates an attractive product, but I still double-book myself.)

General chaos: I pay most of my bills automatically, but there are a couple I write checks for. In order to pay the bills, alas, I first have to find the bills. I used to be so organized. I think I never really got things back together when I bought my condo. Which was, admittedly, several years ago. I really need to devote some time to getting things together. I did go through a bunch of unopened mail last night, but only made it about halfway through. I will, however, note that for dead people, my parents sure get an awful lot of life insurance solicitations.

Sociable

Feb. 21st, 2017 03:54 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I've had a fairly sociable week or so.

Wednesday night, I went to the California State Society Ahhhscar Night party, as a guest of a friend. He told me he'd be wearing his tuxedo and advised me not to show any restraint, so I wore my most classic black cocktail dress, my feathered hat, and my grandmother's amethyst necklace and earrings. It worked well. Rather amusingly, several people on the metro commented on my hat and there were lots of people at the party itself who complemented me on my outfit. I never really got a handle on the crowd. Not that it was cliquish, per se, but the music was loud and I was mostly waiting for people to approach us. I think the highlight of the evening (aside from spending time with the guy who invited me) was the conga line we got caught up in.

I decided not to go to another party on Saturday night because I had good intentions regarding housework. I did make a little progress but it is emptying the ocean with thimblefuls. There is a reason I refer to my den as the Black Hole of Vienna. On the plus side, I actually finished reading the Sunday newspaper on Sunday for a change, having read most of it on Saturday.

Sunday was a Style Invitational Losers' brunch. I hadn't been over in Rosslyn in ages (well, except inside the metro station, which doesn't count) and was surprised at how much has changed. The building I used to work in has a Target now. (I'm not sure what is on the upper floors. I had an office on the 5th floor and shared a bullpen type space on the 13th floor.) The brunch featured good conversation, including reminiscing about voting machines and old TV shows.

I'd thought I would go to knitting group afterwards, but the brunch ended up late enough that I decided it wasn't worth it. A friend who is getting divorced is storing some things at my place, so she came over with a couple of more boxes. We had a nice chat and ordered in Chinese food for supper.

Monday was a holiday. I did make somewhat more progress on the mountain of papers to deal with. But I also went into the city in the evening for a special tour of Studio Theatre, which was an MIT Club of DC Partners and Patrons event. They showed us all 4 theatres and lots of behind the scenes area (e.g. the set shop, the paint shop, the costume shop). The highlight for me was the set for their upcoming production of The Three Sisters, which has actual birch trees. It sounds like an interesting production, running in parallel with No Sisters in the theatre above, with the same cast using a backstage staircase to move between the two plays. But I'm not really big on Chekhov and my schedule is fairly overcommitted (so what else is new?) so I doubt I will go to the two plays.

In discussing theatre with some of the staff, I realized that as much as D.C. is a great theatre town, we are lacking one thing. There is no company here that specializes in older, obscure musicals, akin to what York Theatre does so well in New York or 42nd Street Moon does in San Francisco.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
So what else is new?

Celebrity Death Watch: Noel Neill played Lois Lane on the 1950’s Adventures of Superman series. Abner Mikva was a representative from Illinois and, later, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Max Ticktin was a leader of both Hillel and Chavurah Judaism (playing a key role in Fabrangen, here in D.C., for example), as well as teaching at George Washington University.

Elie Wiesel deserves his own paragraph. I first encountered him when I was 13 or 14 and read The Town Beyond the Wall. This was the novel that got me started keeping a commonplace book (that is, a collection of quotes), because I felt compelled to copy down his condemnation of indifference. I went on to read several of Wiesel’s other works and, of course, he was a highly visible voice of witness regarding the Shoah. In short, he was one of the reasons I feel the obligation to tell the stories of my family. Memory is important.

The Bridges of Madison County: I have neither read this novel nor seen the movie adaptation, so I can’t say how true to the source material this musical, which I saw last week at The Kennedy Center, is. The great surprise of the evening was that composer Jason Robert Brown was conducting the score himself and I found it interesting to watch his conducting, which was fluid. As for the show, I thought the first act dragged a bit, but the second act really caught me. I did seem to have gotten something in my eyes during parts of it. Overall, I liked much of the score and still have "One Second and a Million Miles" stuck in my head. I do, however, wish there was more actual choreography. As for the performances, they were all at least okay, though Elizabeth Stanley’s Italian accent seemed uneven to me. The highlights were the comic relief provided by the neighbors, played by Mary Callanan and David Hess. Overall, it was worth seeing.

DNA: I sent in my sample to Family Tree DNA several weeks ago and got results back a couple of weeks ago. The first match I had was with a (known) second cousin once removed. Figuring out potential relationships is tricky as so many people don’t really list info in their profiles, and I am probably guilty of not having filled mine out enough either. Anyway, my haplogroup on the maternal side is V7a and my ancestry is claimed to be 98% Ashkenazi Jewish and 2% North African, which is not especially surprising. I need to invest some time in understanding all this and how to sort through the 700+ matches I have.

Long Weekend: I had grand plans for organizing and decluttering. Well, at least I did laundry and went to knitting group. (I did go through some things, but, sheesh, there is an awful lot of crap of stuff in my place.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Patricia Elliott won a Tony award for playing Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music on Broadway. Lemmy Kilmister founded Motorhead. John "Brad" Bradbury was the drummer for the ska group, The Specials. Meadowlark Lemon was the most famous player for the Harlem Globetrotters

Dave Henderson played baseball. While he was only with the Red Sox for one season, he hit a critical home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, which kept the Sox in the running and let them, eventually, get to the World Series that year.

I want to especially highlight Scottish singer / songwriter Andy M. Stewart. Apparently, he had been quite ill for some time and was paralyzed after failed spinal surgery. At least he didn't have the galloping bollickitis. (Before you ask, it's a lyric reference.) Anyway, I saw him perform at least a couple of times with Silly Wizard, as well as during his later tours with Manus Lunny and Gerry O’Beirne. I loved both his voice and the wit of his songs. When I first heard "The Queen of Argyll" (on one of the Silly Wizard albums), I played it about a dozen times in a row. (I still think "the swan was in her movement" is a brilliant line.) I really need to go out to listen to Celtic music more.

Good For the Jews: This is a music / comedy duo who do a show every Christmas eve at Jammin’ Java. It makes a good outing for the NoVa Chavurah. I’d gone a couple of years ago and went again this year. They didn’t have a lot of new material, but there was some. And it was fun hearing some of their older stuff again, e.g. "They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let’s Eat," "Going Down to Boca," "Reuben the Hook-Nosed Reindeer," etc. And there was a Steven Wright style Pesach joke I thought was brilliant. Some of the humor is a bit crude, but we are earthy folks after all.

The cutest thing was after the show when David (one of the guys in the duo) talked with a woman from our group he had sort of flirted with and sort of picked on during the show. It turned out that she thought her family might live near his, but he couldn’t remember the name of the development in Florida they’re in. So he called his mother – and then put our friend on the phone with Mom.

Afterwards, we went over to Amphora (a nearby diner) for desserts. (Or, I suppose, non-desserts, as some people got stuff like appetizers or breakfast items.) I realize they were very busy, but the service was truly atrocious. Slow is one thing, but forgetting to bring items (or bringing the wrong item) is another. And I have a particular dislike of waiters who auction off items.

Jewish Christmas: I did the traditional movie and Chinese food thing. For the movie, I chose Spotlight which was superb. I will say more about it when I do my quarterly movie review.

As for the Chinese food, that was a Chavurah dinner outing to East Chateau. Which is conveniently close to my place and has very good food, though the service is slow (and they also tend to auction off the food, which is a real problem when one person at the table can’t remember what she ordered). Still, there was good food and good conversation and that’s pretty much all one can hope for at this sort of thing.

The Rest of the Weekend: I had grand plans for achieving organizational nirvana. I did get rid of a few odds and ends. I got about halfway through the annual desk drawer clean out. And I actually read the entire Sunday Washington Post by the end of Sunday.

But there is much much more to go. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have lots to catch up on (so what else is new?). The most significant is the National Storytelling Conference, which will get its own entry. Or, more likely, two, because something I want to say will take some analysis and I don’t want to lose that in the clutter. I promise those will be more interesting than this entry is likely to be.

But, first, some other stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was one of the few pro wrestlers I’ve ever heard of. Alan Cheuse reviewed books for NPR (and wrote several of his own). Ainger Lynn Anderson never promised me a rose garden. Ann Rule wrote true crime books, the best known of which was The Stranger Beside Me about Ted Bundy. I’ve read many of her books, which fall into the guilty pleasure category.

Politics: Wit making its way around my circles is that the Washington Nationals are offering a season discount to the first 4000 presidential candidates.

Quick Genealogy Notes: I finally found where I’d put my library card, so was able to use the library edition of Ancestry. I found Max Lubowsky’s naturalization certificate, and it seems he can’t be Icek Chlebiocky, since the immigration dates don’t match.

The new social security application database, though, turned up a few things. Apparently my great-uncle by marriage, Ely Fuchs, was legally Elias. And his parents were Abraham Fuchs and Rebecca Heller. His birthplace is given as Kragow, Poland. That would seem to be Krakow, but there are some other possibilities.

More fun was the discovery that Athalia Lehrman (Mary Lubowsky Lehrman’s daughter) was using the name "Timmy Lee" at some point. A bit of googling turned up an entry in the copyright index of a book she wrote called Poems by Timmy Lee. It doesn’t look like the Library of Congress has that, but they do have a symphony she co-wrote. I see some fun research ahead.

Decluttering: I took advantage of the library excursion to drop Mom’s eyeglasses into the Lion’s Club donation bin there. I also dug out a few old pairs of mine and threw them in. I did keep one pair with frames I could see reusing.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was at Penelope’s, which was nicely convenient for me. I thought about walking over, but was concerned about the lighting (or lack thereof) on one street coming home. There was an excellent turn-out, including a few newcomers. And, of course, lots of great stories.

Sometimes You Only Need to Read the Headline: "Texas man injured as bullet ricochets off armadillo."

And Sometimes You Really Should Read On: I was disappointed that the story headlined "Bat Boy Dies from Swing" had to do with baseball, not that mythical West Virginia tabloid creature.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Anne Meara was a comedian / actor, the wife of Jerry Stiller and mother of Ben Stiller. Tanith Lee was a writer of fantasy and horror.

John Nash was, essentially, the founder of game theory – about which more in a moment. His wife, Alicia, died with him in the same car crash. She was given a lot of credit for mental health advocacy because of her dedication to him, through his struggles with mental illness (as documented in the movie,A Beautiful Mind. But I want to note that she also had a degree in physics from MIT and worked in a computer center there.

About Game Theory: There are two basic approaches to multi-criteria decision making. In one, you agree not to better your position if it would worsen your opponent’s. So, essentially, the two players agree to act as a single decision maker. This is known as Pareto-optimality, after Wilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist. (Pareto was also responsible for the 80-20 law, which states that 80% of the work is done in the first 20% of the time.) While Pareto-optimal solutions are generally better for the participants, they are subject to cheating. John Nash came up with the Nash equilibrium, which is a minimax approach. In short, it works on the assumption that the other guy is out to screw you.

Pareto ended up in exile in Switzerland. Nash spent most of his adult life hospitalized for schizophrenia. The choice is yours.

Food Pornography 1 - America Eats Tavern: I got together on Friday night for dinner with imaginary internet friends (well, I’d met one of them before) at this Jose Andres restaurant in Tyson’s Corner. It was mildly challenging as I had laryngitis, an aftermath of the allergy / dust issues I mentioned previously. I am a big fan of Jose’s restaurants. This one’s concept is historic American dishes. I drank a Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout, which was quite tasty. The others got an assortment of hams, which I don’t eat, so I got roasted beet salad, which was very good. There were hush puppies, two soups (asparagus and cream of mushroom), deviled eggs, Harvard beets, roasted cauliflower, and cranberry glazed brussels sprouts. The latter were so good we got a second order of them. I got the pineapple upside down cake for dessert, but one of the pies (key lime or lemon meringue) would have been a better choice. Overall, it was an excellent meal, accompanied by excellent conversation.

The American Museum of …: I drove up to my mother’s house and did some more clearing out. All of the books are now with me, along with the portrait of my grandmother. And a bunch of school supplies to donate to schools when I travel in the developing world. I gave all the coupons that were still in the house to the exchange at her library. I cleared out a few desk drawers, which included what I refer to as the American Museum of Rubber Bands, the American Museum of Pens that No Longer Write, and the American Museum of Packets of Plastic Cutlery. The rubber bands are in a ziploc bag, the dead pens were thrown out, and the cutlery went with my uncle, who will bring it to his synagogue. I also have to wonder why Mom not only saved every pair of glasses she ever had, but glued on a label indicating what years she wore that pair. (Those are in my house right now, waiting for me to take them to my library, which has a Lions Club drop box.)

Food Pornography 2 – Lido Kosher Deli: My uncle drove out to the house on Tuesday evening and we had dinner at the Lido Kosher Deli. I got chicken noodle soup, a hot open faced tongue sandwich, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas. (There was also cole slaw and pickles for the table). It was very good, but too much food. I made him take all the leftovers, including mine, because I was leaving early in the morning and it seemed too awkward to travel with. Though I suppose I could have taken any of the three or more coolers that are in the house.

Cluter, Clutter, Sigh: Of course, now I have another umpty-ump books added to the clutter at home. I don’t know where I am going to find the time to deal with it all. But at least I know where I get the tendency from.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Jayne Meadows was an actress, most famous for having been married to Steve Allen. Suzanne Crough played the youngest member of The Partridge Family. Jack Ely mumble-sang "Louie Louie" with The Kingsmen. Ben E. King sang "Stand By Me." Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers, inflicting untold damage on American women.

One Day Hike: I spent a few hours on Saturday morning volunteering at the Seneca Creek support station for the One Day Hike of the C&O Canal towpath. I did a few miscellaneous chores, e.g. hanging up signs, but most of my time was spent checking hikers out of the station. That meant I called out their bib numbers, while the other person at check-out wrote down their times. It wasn’t too arduous, though it was bloody cold out. We didn’t lose any hikers, though a couple did drop out at the station. I should also mention that this station was only for people doing the full 100K, which made it easier, since we only had one list of hikers to deal with.

Storytelling: Saturday night was a Better Said Than Done show I was performing in. I told my flying story. I don’t normally wear costumes, but this was a fine (and rare!) opportunity to wear my flight suit. It went well, overall. It is always a pleasure to tell to such a responsive audience.

Sunday:There were 2 things I wanted to do on Sunday. Both of them were in Baltimore. Given the unrest on Saturday (which was repeated on Monday), I thought better of it and caught up on some household odds and ends. Of course, my place still looks like an audition for Hoarders, but I am slowly making progress.

(Sub)Urban Planning Rant:The Virginia Department of Transportation did a presentation at my complex the other night about their plans for widening I-66 outside the Beltway. There were plenty of concerns raised, which mostly amounted to this benefiting the people who live further out at the expense of those of us who live close in. (We are just outside the Beltway. Almost everyone who lives in our area does so because of the short walk to the Metro.)

They claimed they would add transit improvements (e.g. some dedicated bus lines). But everything I have ever read about adding highway lanes indicates that it just increases traffic. They just widened 66 in the Manassas-Gainesville area and now they’re talking about doing that again? Why should I believe it will help? If you’re really going to get people out of their cars, you need to make using their cars more painful than the alternative. Adding a variable toll for 2 lanes (out of 5) in each direction is unlikely to do that.

The other problem is that all of the planning assumes everyone works downtown. That is less and less true. What we really need is an outer Beltway, maybe a partial replacement of Route 28.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: You don’t really need me to tell you that Leonard Nimoy died. But you may not know that I once owned a pair of Spock ears.

You also probably know that fantasy humorist Terry Pratchett died. I enjoyed much of the Discworld series, though I found it wildly uneven. His handling of Death in the books was particularly delightful and many of the obituaries of him I’ve seen picked up on that.

You are much less likely to have heard that Issachar Miron, the composer of the Israeli song "Tzena Tzena" died.

Heckman’s Deli: I went to the first outing of a meetup group for Jewish delis in the greater Washington area. This was at a year-old place in Bethesda called Heckman’s. Short version of my review is that the matzoh ball soup was very good (though, of course, not as good as my mother’s), tongue sandwich was okay but the rye bread was cut too thick and the mustard wasn’t spicy enough, cole slaw was a bland failure. Service was friendly and reasonably efficient. Conversation was excellent and I will definitely go to future meetups, schedule permitting.

Travel Show: The Travel and Adventure Show was the weekend before last. I should not really be allowed to go to this, but I did. I listened to one talk, which didn’t really tell me anything knew, and collected a bunch of brochures. I also stocked up on cloth grocery bags, since those are now the gimmes of choice. (Oddly, only one booth was giving out hand sanitizer this year.) The Sea World people had an adorable black and white ruffed lemur there – along with its trainer explaining why you don’t want one as a pet. In short, they can’t really be housebroken. Most useful info I got was from a guy I talked to about Brazil, who had some specifics on neighborhoods to check out in Rio and places to hear good music.

Afterwards, the friend I went with and I went out to brunch at Acadiana. Good food, interesting drink with basil in it, and good service, but I needed a 2 hour nap when I got home. At least, I didn’t need supper.

What Do Liberals Want? I was reading Harry Golden’s Ess, Ess, Mein Kind recently and he had an essay on what liberals want. This was written in the mid-1960’s and his list was:

  1. A broad program of federal aid to education
  2. Medical and hospital insurance for the entire American population, every man, woman and child
  3. A federal Fair Employment Practices Act (this had to do with what we now call Equal Employment Opportunity, and was focused on preventing racial discrimination)
  4. "Right to Work" laws repealed

Plus ça change …

This Past Weekend: I had intended to go to a storytelling house concert on Saturday night, but between the pollen count and the dust I stirred up in a housecleaning blitz, I was felled by a sinus headache. Sigh. At least the housecleaning turned up a few things I’d been looking for. For example, the yarn for my purple sweater, the needles and the pattern are all now safely cohabiting in one of those cloth bags from the travel show.

I did make it to knitting group on Sunday. We’re finally in the new building. It’s nice enough, but the lighting could be better. And the windows don’t open. I expect they will overdo the air conditioning in the summer.

Storytelling and Genealogy: Something I’ve wanted to write about for a while was an area of frustration I have with respect to genealogy as a pursuit. Tracking down lists of names is interesting as a puzzle, but hardly compelling to anyone else. I want to know the stories behind the people. It’s much more interesting to hear about things like my grandmother mailing her engagement ring back to her fiancé in New York when she met my grandfather or about the cousin we no longer see because his drunkenness at a wedding caused the groom’s mother to break her leg or about my great-grandmother’s sister’s father-in-law dying when a box of goods fell on him on the railroad than to read lists of begats. But finding those stories is challenging for anything beyond the past couple of generations.

There is also a broader issue that comes up with other types of historical stories. Namely, history has to be true. When I tell personal or family stories for an audience, that isn’t necessarily the case, but I have to be up front about when what I am telling is based on a true story and not entirely factual. For example, I tell a story about weddings in my family. Every incident in the story is true, but some of them – like the officiant dressed in a kimono and Spock ears - were things at friend’s weddings, not those of cousins. I like to make a distinction between facts and emotional truths. For genealogy, one needs facts.

Collecting

Dec. 4th, 2014 02:20 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: I missed Mark Strand, former poet laureate of the U.S., in my last round-up. Herman Badillo was a prominent politician in New York in the 1970’s. And, I have to admit that L. Stephen Coles is relatively obscure but I am noting his death because of the irony of the director of the Gerontology Research Group dying at age 73.

Follow-up on Knitting Needle Storage: I stopped by The Container Store after my appointment yesterday. And, alas, pasta is not long enough. I will need to brave the yarn stores, which is, of course, inherently dangerous. (I am fussy enough that on-line shopping is too risky.) Alternatively, if somebody I knew had a 3-D printer ….

I did, however, succeed in buying some stacking drawers to help with the massive number of socks I brought back from Mom’s. I don’t believe I will ever need to buy socks again, unless I go insane and start throwing out perfectly good ones. For example, Robert had an uncle who never wore a pair of socks twice. He went to Woolworth’s every week to buy a fresh supply, wore them once, and threw them out.

(Actually, I will need to buy walking socks at some point, because walking socks make a huge difference if you walk any significant distance. But they count as sports equipment, not clothing.)

Things People Collect: When I was about 9 or 10, Mom made me collect Mercury dimes. Well, she made me collect some sort of coins and I chose dimes. (My brother went for pennies. Mom had quarters. Nickels were neglected because Dad was smart enough not to go for these schemes.) We found my dime collection in her house and my uncle sold them. I got $1.10 for each dime, which is not too bad. (There were only 19 dimes in the collection, so it’s not exactly a windfall, but it was painless.)

I’ve brought Mom’s stamp collection to my place and need to make an appointment to get it appraised. I doubt there’s anything valuable, but you never know.

Apparently, Mom also collected phone cards. I suspect these are even less likely to be of any value. Nor, of course, are plastic grocery bags.

Parts of my doll collection may have some value. As may some of my ballpark gimmes. But I am fairly sure that my collection of advertising bookmarks will become landfill when I’m gone. If not sooner, because I have to admit to not being all that sure why I bothered with them in the first place.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
·For several years, I have been seeking organizational nirvana. I am a complete sucker for organizing tools and, for example, consider hanging file folders to be one of the greatest inventions of my life time. (They are right up there with velcro and Lee press-on nails, but I digress.)

One thing that has defied organization, however, is knitting needles. Circular needles are not a real problem, as there are binders with pockets that work perfectly well for them. (Cheap tip: there are similar binders sold for fly fishing which work just as well and cost a lot less.) I have a couple of good enough zip-up cases for crochet hooks. Double points are also no problem, as I hate them and only keep one set that I use as cable needles, so they fit in my notions bag. (The notions bag is, by the way, a repurposed United Airlines Global First amenity kit.)

But straight needles are a pain. They can be up to 14 inches long. I have a zip-up fabric case that looks like it should work well, but it is built upside down, so unzipping it makes all the needles fall out. I’ve never really liked the roll-up fabric cases. What I really want is something with a hard case.

I had a moment of inspiration today on something else to try. What else is long and straight? Spaghetti, of course! And they sell plastic containers for spaghetti, don’t they? I’ll have to make sure those are actually long enough, but it is worth a try.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
As I am sure I have mentioned before, I tend to think of September as the beginning of the year, what with umpty ump years of school, the High Holidays and, of course, my birthday.

This, plus a particularly high level of chaos at work, has me in reset mode. I am trying not to do too much at one time so I don't get burned out. Top priority is getting paperwork sorted out. So far I have found a check from late April, as well as way too many begging letters. (If a charity sends me 3 letters in one week, I will deduct 30% from any amount I was contemplating giving them.)

This will not be helped by having pretty much every weekend for the foreseeable future committed, along with the risk of a short notice business trip.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've had a productive day of shredding old files and somewhat clearing off my desk. I haven't started on the desk drawer, however. Nor have I found either of the two things I was looking for, both of which I was sure were on the desk. I believe I have to brave the box of shame to locate them. (For the uninitiated, the box of shame is a box in which I toss non-urgent mail. Things all too often marinate in there until they become urgent, alas.)

In the course of this fit of organizational mania, I ran across the collection of items from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue that I clipped for purposes of mockery. To whit:


  1. The Fingerprint Recognizing Espresso Machine. For a mere $3200, you scan your fingerprint and he machine remembers how you like your coffee. It can store up to six fingerprints and drink profiles in its database. I will stick to the aluminum drip pot I bought in Vietnam for well under a buck, thank you.

  2. The Constellation Projecting Turtle Night Light. I admit I sleep well under starry skies, but I always assumed that was because sleeping under the stars meant sleeping outside, ideally in a nice dark desert. And I am not sure why I would want anything in the shape of a turtle somewhere in my bedroom. (Nothing against turtles.) To be fair, there is also a ladybug option. I don't think a foot-long ladybug proecting green stars on the ceiling would help me sleep, however.

  3. The Lady's Washable Cashmere Activewear Set. Okay, it is washable, but cashmere sweats are just wrong. At least it isn't pink. (It comes in a choice of grey or black.)

  4. The Only Scootercase. A suitcase with a built-in scooter. Because oblivious people who roll their roll-aboards over my feet aren't enough of a menace at the airport.

  5. The Personal Soup Chef. This automatically chops vegetables and simmers broth to make homemade soup. In other words, it's a heated blender. It is, apparently, just too much trouble to cook things and put them in a blender.



And, yes, I am well aware that I own things other people would mock.
fauxklore: (Default)
Cleaning out my old office was, not surprisingly, quite a chore. I ended up filling 29 burn bags. (Everything gets burned or shredded there. The hard part is, of course, deciding what goes out and what to leave for whoever backfills me.)

Then I went to Colorado for the weekend to go to a big party friends there have annually. The travel went amazingly smoothly (in both directions) and it was great to spend time having intelligent conversation with people I like. (Which is not really all that unusual, but a few of these folks I do not see often.) I also had time for the shorter (5K) Volksmarch in downtown Boulder, which has changed less than I might have expected given how long it had been since I'd been there. Overall, it was an excellent weekend.

Getting started at the new job is stressing me out, however. The people are fine and I am sure I will be useful sooner or later, but there are lots of administrative things that are taking longer than I'd prefer. I am also trying to deal with a higher than normal level of chaos at home and my usual crazy calendar. I am coping with this via a minor flurry of activity since doing something is pretty much the antidote to depression for me. I may be able to see my desk again soon.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've been absurdly busy but I did want to post at least a partial update before I go off-line for a few days.

Celebrity Death Watch: Major celebrity death of the past several days is Sidney Harman. Aside from having made lots of money in audio equipment and then gone on to buy Newsweek for a dollar, his major claim to fame in the D.C. area is that the theatre used by the Shakespeare Theatre Company is named for him. He and his wife, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, were long term patrons of the arts here.

Random Trivia: 14% of our troops who have been medically evacuated from Afghanistan have had altitude sickness.

Taxes: Virginia ended their free file program after last year. The idea was that people with lower incomes would get to use commercial providers free, while others could pay to file electronically. Being a cheapskate and noting that the feds at least have free fillable forms, I intended to file on paper. But Intuit saw a marketing opportunity and provided a prepaid code for all Virginia taxpayers, making it free to use their turbotax product. This meant that I used turbotax for the first time in my life (for both federal and state taxes). I found it fairly annoying that things are arranged in a different order than they are on the forms and call for more information. For example, I don't have to enter the info from 1099-INT and 1099-OID forms in separate sections on Schedule B, instead of just separate lines. Nor do I have to list each of my charitable contributions with the exact date. Overall, I wasn't super impressed and wouldn't bother to pay for the software. People who are less compulsively organized or more intimidated by tax forms may find the experience more satisfying.

Social Media: I've been getting some odd LJ comments. They aren't obvious spam, but they just say things like "this was an interesting topic." Which, of course, is completely generic and doesn't bear any particular relationship to anything I wrote. In all cases, when I look at the commenter's LJ, they have no entries, no friends list, and just a bunch of comments. Has anybody else experienced this and what could somebody be aiming to gain out of it?

House Envy: I went to a friend's housewarming party this past Sunday afternoon. He bought a condo in Crystal City towards the end of last year and moved in right at the beginning of January. He has already replaced the dining room floor, decorated with his vast collection of antiques (e.g. hung several old maps, arranged a lot of glass objects in curio cabinets he inherited from his greatgrandparents, etc.), arranged an assortment of stuffed animals on the guest bed, and so on. More to the point, he appears to have actually unpacked everything. Now, admittedly I didn't open up closets and maybe he has a messy storage locker somewhere, but I've lived in my condo for over 3 years now and my den remains the Black Hole of Vienna and I haven't hung most of my pictures. (Partly that is because I am looking for some display cabinets and haven't had time to find ones I like.)

He also has an awesome view of the airport, the river and much of the District. There's a part of me that envies the view but I made a concious choice of where to live and I prefer my neighborhood. I realized that much of my envy had to do with the orderliness of his place. And that is something that is within my control. I'm not going to ever achieve a clutter-free life (nor would I really want to) but I can do better.

Travel Planning: I believe I've mentioned before that I am planning a trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The news this week noted that the Phallological Museum in Iceland has finally gotten a human specimen. This sounds like such a bizarre museum that it may be worth adding to my itinerary.

Reviews to Come: I saw Pink Martini (with the NSO Pops) on Wednesday night. Last night, I drove to Herndon for the Elden Street Players production of the musical, Thrill Me: The Story of Leopold and Loeb. Expect reviews some time next week.

Upcoming Calendar Items: I have mailed in my registration fee and made my travel arrangements for Convidence. On a completely different note, I have almost decided to enter the 2nd annual Virginia Tall Tales Championship.
fauxklore: (Default)
First, here is a great description from a not entirely satisfying mystery (The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson). "For the Bronco get-together, she wore a chartreuse knit sweater and skirt trimmed with fur in dots and dashes, as if the minks had been begging for help in Morse code."

I often get brochures in the mail or clip a magazine article that I want to look at, but not with any particular urgency. I put those in a box in the study nook that I refer to as "the box of shame." The shameful part is how long it takes me to actually deal with any of it.

But every now and then I do go through it, usually when it is about to overflow. Much of it is easy enough to deal with. The brochures get read and tossed or filed, the stacks of puzzles either get solved or return to the box, the coupons that expired two or more years ago get thrown out. Inevitably, I also end up finding mysterious, indecipherable notes to myself.

In November 2008, I wrote the word "Holdaway" on a calendar page. It must have been important, since I outlined it with the same sort of box I outlined the word "TEA" with. The latter was a reference to my need to bring a fresh supply of tea to the office. I just googled "holdaway" and it seems to be a name (or, possibly, a device having to do with mooring the boat I don't have). I have no idea why I wrote this down. Nor do I understand why I wrote "No Hawaii" on the back of that page. I do, alas, understand the note that "1 crapton = 6 buttloads."

In some cases, I suspect the problem is my handwriting. (Yes, I got C's in penmanship all through elementary school.) I figured out that one note reads "collective potential of human imagination" but I had to think a lot harder to realize that what looked like "Good for the sheep" is really "Good for the shoes." I would not have figured that out had it not been on the calendar page for Josh Kornbluth's Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews which contained that pun. I cannot explain why I was taking notes at the theatre. Maybe I need to take a class on creating my alter-ego to figure this out. Even having the super powers that would make me need an alter ego won't tell me why I wrote down "black or white or shiny" last March, though I suspect it has something to do with spacecraft or space suits because I was at a NASA workshop that day.

Finally, I would like to believe this item (from October 2008) is the lyrics to a song, but it could very well be a puzzle. In which case, somebody cleverer than I am can solve it.

As I was walking down the lane
From the dead, the living came
6 there were
1 will be
fauxklore: (Default)
My study still looks like a hurricane blew through it, but I did actually make a lot of progress this weekend. Most significantly for folks here, I actually finished writing the travelogue of my May 2009 trip to France and Switzerland. I have a few chores to do related to that (like putting away files and finishing labeling hard copies of photos) before I move on to the next one, but I am hoping to get through the Kiribati and Solomon Islands piece within a month.

I also made some progress on my annual desk drawer clean-out. I need to finish that before I can really declutter my study, as some of the things that are cluttering the study need to be filed in the desk drawer.

Aside from that, I went to see Huun-Huur-Tu (a Tuvan throat singing group) last night at the Rosslyn Spectrum. The first half of the concert seemed a bit monotonous to me, but I really enjoyed the second half.

I also made it to a particularly good zumba class on Saturday and to knitting group today. And now I am going to finish the Sunday Post (Magazine section and comics still to go) and if that goes quickly enough read more of Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions.
fauxklore: (Default)
First, I did reschedule the dentist. Unfortunately, I rescheduled to today so I think I will need to call again since the roads are not exactly wonderful right now. (We are on 2 hour late arrival for work, though the metro is running fine. I am actually surprised about that, since the report is that Vienna got 8 inches. When I retire, I will spend the northern hemisphere winter somewhere in the southern hemisphere so I will have no snow and lots of light.)

I used yesterday's early dismissal to do some actual travelogue writing! I am through the London part of my May 2009 trip. Having found my notebook was helpful, but it also took some effort to find the photos from that trip since I had, apparently, never transferred them from the CD to my hard drive. (I had, for various reasons, taken only the film camera with me on that trip.) Which also means I never labeled them. Fortunately, I can recognize things like Nelson's Column and the Eiffel Tower. Identifying what is what in Dijon and Beaune may be more challenging. Now I am furiously searching for my file folder with maps and brochures and the like.

All of which explains why I am putting more effort into dealing with the box of shame. And I have found some old planner pages with various unexplained notes. I would normally think a random 7-digit number is a telephone number, but it starts with a 1 and is not hyphenated so that is unlikely. Since it is on a planner page from two years ago, I don't think I will worry about it. The same page has a note, by the way, regarding a lawn on a cruise ship.

An address in Ortanna, Pennsylvania probably has to do with a Volksmarch event. The list of hotel names must be places I was considering staying at somewhere in Switzerland. And I think I already wrote about my former boss coining the term "pseudocide" for killing off your avatar. I thought at first the name above that referred to a friend from college, but it is actually the last name of one of 90 people who were going to be leaving during the following months. If you are considering giving your child a first name that is more typically a last name, please consider the potential to confuse people like me.

Finally, I ran across a knitting pattern for a sweater called "Cheesy Puffs." I think I should be glad I did not print the picture in color.

I will spare you the whining about old "to-do" lists that are just as relevant today as they were two years ago.
fauxklore: (Default)
I'm more or less over both jet-lag and the inevitable travel cold, which filled up most of my head last week. So this is one of those random round-up entries.

Celebrity death watch: I don't think I noted the death of Sargent Shriver, who I remember mostly for his having an interesting name and running for vice president. But his founding the Peace Corps was more significant than either of those. I'm not sure that most people realize that the Peace Corps has become very competitive these days. There was a part of me that was interested in it when I graduated from college and that part was completely shut down by my conventional side.

The other celebrity death I want to note is of Jack LaLanne. Since he made it to 96, I guess there is something to be said for that exercise thing.

Newspaper news: The Washington Post has redesigned their Sunday edition. The main change was to split out Arts & Style into two sections, with the new Sunday Style section in a tabloid format. I'm actually pleased with that change since it means that the Style Invitational is back in the Sunday paper where it rightfully belongs, instead of relegated to Saturday. As long as the Post still has two crosswords to do, I'll stay reasonably content.

Now, if they could only do something about the Travel section (which is incredibly bland) and actually write about the news ...

Storytelling: I drove down to Charlottesville Saturday for a VASA board meeting. It's going to be an interesting few years. My major soapbox is that we need to do things further in advance.

Food pornography: I made it back in good time to change clothes and head into the city for a restaurant week dinner with the flyertalk crowd at Ten Penh. I had spring rolls, seared tuna, and green tea cake with lemon for dessert. All was very good. The real highlight, however, was the cocktail I had. Called a Bombay fissure, it had gin, pineapple water, grenadine, and orange bitters and was served over dry ice, making it bubble.

Decluttering:I decided to dump out the box of shame to go through it. That was a mistake, as I am now overwhelmed by its contents. Sigh. I did, however, throw out things like hotel bonus offers from last March.
fauxklore: (Default)
I had an insanely busy week, full of last minute meetings. By Friday I was completely worn out and not particularly productive.

Fortunately, I made a better start on the weekend. I took 52 books over to McKay's Saturday morning. They took 43 of them, which meant that it wasn't worth running around to the other used bookstores I trade at. I used the credit to get 10 books, which is a good ratio from the standpoint of decluttering. When I got home, I discovered that one of those was a duplicate, with another copy sitting in the unread stack, so I already have a start on the next box to go out.

The weather was good and I was already in Manassas, so I went over to the Battlefield and did the year round Volksmarch there. It consists pretty much of two of the trails - the Henry Hill trail and the First Manassas Trail. Since I've done this walk before, I didn't feel the need to reread every information sign. There were a few parts of the latter trail which were icy or muddy, but it really wasn't bad for January. And walking is always destressing for me.

I also managed to drop off dry cleaning, go to the supermarket, and read most of the Sunday Post. My ambitions for today include laundry and finishing cleaning out my desk drawer.
fauxklore: (Default)
I inevitably start the year with good intentions. I've finished shredding the 1999 files from the file drawer and started going through the desk drawer. The shredder is getting a good workout. This should enable me to get my study into some kind of respectable shape, too, since there are things lying around my desk there which can go into the 2009 files.

I bought a new planner (since the old one was falling apart) and I need to get that set up. Calendar management takes up way too much of my time.

I also have things to take to recycling (#5 plastics go to Whole Foods, as our recycling service doesn't take them) and things to list on freecycle and so on.

Unfortunately, these fits of organizational mania tend to run themselves out in days. If I could only get them to last a month or two, I'd achieve anti-entropy nirvana.

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