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On Rye: I had a moment of inspiration before going to the Shakespeare Theatre Company production of Macbeth last night and got dinner at On Rye, a pseudo-deli that has been getting good buzz. I say pseudo, because of the limited menu, which lacks most of my deli favorites. (No tongue? No chopped liver? No latkes? No knishes? No kishke? Not a real deli by my book!) I got the matzoh ball soup, which was disappointing. The actual matzoh ball was good, but the broth tasted too much of dill and not very much of chicken. I also got a pastrami sandwich. The pastrami was satisfyingly peppery, but the rye bread could not hold up to it, making it annoying to eat. Overall, I was not impressed. I understand that they have a stand at Nats Park and I will take advantage of that to try out their babka ice cream sandwich.

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

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

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

Cough, cough The pollen count is sky high right now. It also didn’t help that the person sitting next to me at the theatre last night had soaked in some particularly allergenic perfume. Sigh.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Linda Hopkins was a blues singer and actress. Dorothy Mengering was David Letterman’s mother and appeared on his show. J. Geils led an eponymous band. To paraphrase their most famous song, Death Stinks. Charlie Murphy was a comedian and actor – and less famous than his brother, Eddie. Bob Taylor was an internet pioneer, including playing major roles at ARPA, Xerox PARC, and DEC. Bruce Langhorne was a folk musician and, allegedly, the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s "Mr. Tambourine Man." Sylvia Moy was a songwriter, who wrote a number of Motown songs. Clifton James was an actor who played a lot of Southern sheriffs, despite being a native New Yorker. Dan Rooney chaired the Pittsburgh Steelers and later became U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Patricia McKissak wrote children’s books, including several biographies of African Americans. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was the first black woman to serve on the New York Court of Appeals. Apparently, she committed suicide, and there is a family history that may have played a role in that.

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

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

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

You May Interpret These Dreams: In one recent dream, I was moving stacks of books around in my living room. In another (this one, during Passover), I was licking the chocolate glaze off a donut.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Change: I accomplished a slight change this morning, simply by putting on perfume. I do so very little and lightly given how much I whine about people wearing too much scent and potential allergenic effects. But I had bought this vanilla-grapefruit sort of stuff at Sephora a while ago and it is really quite different than the woodsy orientals I normally go for. Doing this actually did help my mood.

Odd coincidence: It turns out that a newish guy at work knows the husband of someone I grew up with. Small world.

Knowledge Could Be Power: I learned that my corporate boss has a phobia about giant spiders. I will not use this information. Yet.

Leprosy: Having watched Ben Hur on a plane the other day, I have been obsessing slightly on the subject of leprosy. As it happens, a friend and I once invested some time in studying leprosy in the Bible. The basic conconclusion was that the disease called by that name was probably not what we call leprosy nowadays, but was more likely a filarial disease, possibly elephantiasis. (The real point is that spiritual leprosy has little to do with physical leprosy.) But what I am wondering about is whether leprosy, which is not very contagious, was ever really widespread in the Middle East and Europe and, if so, how it declined before the antibiotics which can easily cure it nowadays.

I have, by the way, in one of those things that may surprise you to know about me, shaken hands with a (cured) leper. I have also broken bread with a gypsy king. But I have never seen an episode of Doctor Who.
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The worst pun I ever heard runs like this. If you cross the Alps with elephants, you get elephant wheelchairs because you get de-feeted by the Romans.

There really is a reason for me to inflict that on you. Bear with me a moment.

As I mentioned a couple of times before, my friend, Suzanne, signed up to do the Susan B. Komen 3 Day Walk in Boston at the end of July and talked me into signing up with her. She didn't have to talk very hard, as I was looking forward to the physical challenge. (Note that I first met Suzanne when she and I both did the 3 Day in southern California, back when Avon ran it in 1999. She works for the same company I do and we worked together later on.)

The first complication came with fund raising, as the Komen / Planned Parenthood kerfuffle broke out just about when I started that. That posed a pretty serious moral dilemma for me, particularly as breast cancer is not really one of my significant charitable causes. (I tend to give my money primarily for educational causes, e.g. scholarship funds and promoting literacy.) It wasn't a huge issue in that I was comfortable enough with the way things got resolved that I could just donate the money myself.

The other complication was that I had seriously overestimated how much free time I had for training. I've been doing lots of 5-7 mile walks, but never managing to find time for much more than that.

So the weekend before last, Suzanne came out here so we could walk together. (She lives in Los Angeles. Her biggest concern was trying to figure out how she could cope with walking in humidity.) I'd planned a roughly 15 mile route for Saturday and 6 to 8 for Sunday, followed by a spa appointment.

We walked from my place to the W&OD trail, which is a rail trail that cuts across a large swath of northern Virginia. It started out well enough, but I was wearing shoes that were getting to their end of life and I got a blister on the ball of my right foot. That was still not a huge issue. But about mile 13, I got a serious cramp in one leg. We rested and Suzanne gave me an electrolyte tablet to put in my water. We made it another mile or so, at which point there is a running shoe store and she made me buy new shoes. (Which was something I needed to do, so was actually useful.) At that point, we had lunch at an Indian restaurant and took the metro back to my place.

There was time for showering, napping, and reading parts of the newspaper before I picked Suzanne up at her hotel and took her out for her first taste of Thai food. Elephant Jumps is always a good choice and now she knows what she was missing. (She also reminded me that I had been the person who introduced her to Ethiopian food.)

That blister was a huge issue on Sunday, however, and I pretty much limped through the barely 6 miles we did. (I should also note that she got to experience my notoriously bad sense of direction. It appears that the parking lot I was looking for does not actually exist, but I should have been able to figure that out sooner. Fortunately, it is harder to get lost doing an out-and-back on the Mount Vernon Trail than it is on the surrounding roads.)

I managed not to get us lost getting brunch at a nearby IHOP. Then it was time for our spa appointment. Yvonne's Day Spa is the only place in the U.S. that does fish pedicures. Yes, we actually had the dead skin on our feet nibbled at by fishies and here is photographic evidence.

fishycure

It was mostly sort of ticklish and not at all unpleasant. It was followed by a normal pedicure. Overall, I would do it again.

There turns out to be a bit of a saga regarding the cramp I'd gotten on Saturday. Without going into a lot of detail, it was most likely related to side effects from blood pressure medication (which has since been adjusted). And, by the way, I was fine, with no significant muscle soreness the next day.

But what with recovering from the blister and the blistering heat wave that has made it inadvisable to do much walking, I don't see any way I can be ready to walk 60 miles in 3 days in a few weeks. I've decided to cry uncle and quit. I feel bad about this, but Suzanne is being understanding. I am still going to go up to Boston that weekend (and take her out for a blow out dinner after the walk is over). I am rethinking some of the details of my travel plans for that weekend (probably doing some other walking, possibly volksmarch events in Maine and/or New Hampshire).

I also want to get back to training to work up to longer walks again, with a goal of doing the one day hike of the C&O canal towpath in April. (The whole hike is 100 km, but there is a 50 km option, which is definitely do-able. Registration is not until February, so I have time to see which option makes sense.)

I hate quitting anything so this is rough on me. But I have a plan ahead, so I'll survive.
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It seems I am busy enough doing things that finding time to write about them is a low priority. This episode gets me only half-way through last weekend and covers primarily much randomness, rather than what I've been up to. I will get caught up real soon now.

Celebrity Death Watch: The obvious celebrity death to note is Whitney Houston. Her music was not really to my taste, but she was a big name.

Health: I had a doctor's appointment last week and can, therefore, testify to the benefits of fish oil. My doctor was pleased with the impact on my triglyceride levels, as was I. I was less pleased with the cold I caught in the waiting room.

Work, part 1: Passing around a bowl of chocolates does not compensate for scheduling a meeting over lunch time. Fortunately, the meeting in question finished in an hour and a half, not the three it was scheduled for.

Work, part 2: The background on this item is that there are 7 people in my group, plus 2 from another group who come to our weekly staff meeting. Two of us are Jewish. We have just inherited an additional responsibility and about all we know about it is that it involves four questions. One of my (non-Jewish) colleagues commented about our need for training and asked, "Does anybody here even know what the four questions are?" David and I immediately turned to each other and said, "mah nishtana ha layla hazeh..."

Missing the Point: The Washington Post had an opinion piece regarding intellectual property a couple of weeks ago. They used the example of an ebook of horror stories which included two pieces by Poe and "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs and decried the copyright violations. A little detail they might have wanted to consider is that all of those stories are in the public domain, so there was not any copyright violation.

Winter in a Day: I was down in Richmond on Saturday for a VASA board meeting. Shortly before leaving, we had a storm come through. There was rain, sleet, hail, wind, snow, thunder, and even thundersnow. Fortunately, it went through pretty quickly and the drive north was just a bit wet for a few counties (and clear once I got up to about Caroline County).

Virginia Rivers: We have two types of river names in Virginia. (I refer only to things identified as a River. Creeks are called "Runs" and don't count for this purpose.) There are polysyllabic ones like the Rappahonack. And there are single syllable ones like the Po and the Ni. The latter was obviously where the knights used to hang out.

Story Swap: The Voices in the Glen story swap was Saturday night. The swap was, as always, a good time. I was particularly pleased that we had a few newcomers, one of whom even told a story.
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I was unimpressed by the doctor's office where I got my yellow fever shot today. (Unfortunately, this requires a clinic that is authorized to give the shot and my normal doctor's office is not.) I chose it due to the combination of price and proximity to work. I did not expect the hour and a half waiting time from when my appointment was scheduled for. An hour and a half spent in a waiting room with the noisiest people on the planet, including a woman swinging loudly in Swedish to her screaming children. The actual shot, of course, took about 35 seconds, 30 seconds of which involved taking off my jacket.

The certificate is good for 10 years. By the way, it isn't technically required (though it is recommended) for Peru. I figure it's good to have so I can be prepared for any opportunities that come up to go to the mosquito infested hell-holes that characterize many of my vacations. (Incidentally, risk of malaria is low enough in the parts of Peru that I will be in that the CDC doesn't recommend prophylaxis. So you will not hear about mefloquine dreams for a while.)

I am also unimpressed by the Homewood Suites in downtown Hartford, which is where I ended up for Stitches East because the Marriott was booked up about the day that registration opened and the Hilton didn't have the conference rate available for my entire stay. The room is quite nice (though it is a fake suite - the subject of another rant another time) but the public areas are relatively bleak. On the plus side, my flight was on time and my luggage arrived quickly.

I'm off now to do the homework for my class tomorrow. (I need to crochet a couple of swatches.)
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Things I Left Out:I forgot to mention two things about my trip to New York last weekend:

1) Sonia Sotomayor threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which was actually pretty cool. (I can forgive her being a Yankees fan on the grounds that she grew up in the Bronx and, hence, cannot be expected to know better.) And it is actually a good thing that there was only one ceremonial first pitch, as I have been to too many ball games which had 3 or more.

2) On the way back to Manhattan from the Heart of Darkness, there was a very entertaining street musician on the subway. He was making up songs for specific people on the train. He was, in general, way off base in his comments, but that is part of what made it so funny. How off base? He claimed I look like Martha Stewart.

New Stuff - Health and Fitness Department: I'm about a month into trying this anti-inflammation diet plan. I've lost nearly 10 pounds (which is not particularly relevant, but I won't complain) but, more significantly, some numbers were better at my doctor's appointment last week. Whether it will help with fall allergy season is still an open question.

I've also now gone to three different dance classes. (The studio has 15 different classes you can use your pass for, which makes for the flexibility somebody with my crazy schedule needs.) I liked the music best for the Afro Latin Belly Dance Fusion class, but the teacher was hard to follow and the class is a bit too late at night. So I think I will stick to the Bollywood and Zumba classes. I tried the latter today and, aside from not having realized it was even physically possible to produce so much sweat, liked it.

None of this, alas, will do anything about the stress fracture in one of my back teeth which needs a crown. I couldn't get an appointment until December which is, I suppose, the price one pays for having a good dentist.

New Stuff - Political Department: We have a gubernatorial election in Virginia in just about a month. I realize that Bob McDonnell is a neanderthal whose values are pretty much antithetical to mine. But I really wich Creigh Deeds would actually say something about what he intends to do.

On another political note, it seems to me that the hoopla over Obama and the Olympics is a can't win situation. I'm under the impression that he went to Copenhagen because everybody was clamoring over how vital it was that he go. (The leaders of all the other competing countries were already committed to going before he was.) That does not, however, seem to make it a personal defeat that Chicago lost out to Rio. Frankly, as soon as I saw the list of potential host cities, I was sure it would be Rio. The IOC has been wanting things to look more international and having a host city in South America fits in well with that. Cape Town in 2020?

New Stuff - Travel Department: I have almost figured out what I want to do with respect to my trip to Peru next month, but am frustrated by not having quite enough time to do everything. Having to make choices is, at least, a good problem to have.
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I have a surprisingly long history of dance classes. I took ballet for 6 years when I was in elementary school, more because it was something everyone did than out of any real desire to. (In the long run, this was good for me. Those of you who have heard me tell my somewhat fictionalized version, "Thank You, Miss Tammy" will already know that it gave me part of the impetus to stop doing things just because I was supposed to.)

In high school, I joined the modern dance club for a while. I remember surprisingly little of that, except something sort of acting-class like in which we had to pretend to be snowflakes falling to the ground. I'm not even sure I remember that or if iI might have dreamed it. I also took dance as part of my p.e. requirement and vaguely remember doing dances like the bus stop and the hustle.

There was also Israeli dancing at summer camp. I got seriously into Israeli dance and other folk dancing in college and often spent 2-3 nights a week at it. I took various other dance classes during those years too - mostly jazz, but one ballroom dance class and even a pantomime class. I kept up Israeli dancing in grad school, even going off to dance retreats now and then. I also took jazz dance off and on then and, for a while, I went to jazzercise fairly regularly.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I kept up with Israeli dancing for a while, going to UCLA Hillel and /or Cafe Danssa. I know I spent at least one birthday in my early 30's at an Israeli dance weekend. And I took a modern dance class for a while.

And then I stopped dancing. I mean, I danced socially from time to time, but less and less often. I suspect part of the problem was the difficulty in committing to classes with all the business travel I was doing. I got involved with other things (storytelling, for one) and, somehow, dancing slipped by the way side. Until tonight.

I'd been thinking about my need to get more exercise and looking at the course catalog from the local parks authority. I noticed that their dance classes are at a studio that is quite near where I live. Unfortunately, my schedule still makes it hard for me to commit to a weekly class. But the existence of this studio (which I have walked past many times without noticing) got me to look a bit harder for what was out there. I found
the dance fitness program at Born 2 Dance Studio, which is also fairly near home. There's no actual commitment, and there's a wide enough range of classes at different times to work with my busy schedule. It seemed at least worth a try.

So tonight I went over and signed up for a 10 class package (which gives you a discount over single classes). The class I went to tonight was their Bollywood Dance Workout. I can't say I'm exactly ready for a starring role in a Bollywood movie, but it was a lot of fun. As for the workout aspect, let's just say that we were all dripping with sweat at the end. I will definitely come back to this class when I can make it. I also want to check out the Afro Latin Belly Dance Fusion class and Zumba.
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In one of my periodic attempts to improve my diet, I've been reading about inflammation factors. Some of the information is surprising, e.g. that farmed salmon is inflammatory, while wild salmon is anti-inflammatory, allegedly because of what the salmon eat under different conditions. (I avoid farmed salmon ever since I was near a salmon farm in Chile - the smell was revolting, at best.)

What with the new year starting (that is, my birthday is just a few weeks away), I'm doing some experimenting with this approach. The only specific thing I've done so far is buy a bottle of cod liver oil caplets. But I suspect that I will be blogging about this fairly regularly. Reading about what people eat is fairly dull (other than the food pornography version, of course - and it is, by the way, excellent news that all sorts of spices are so anti-inflammatory that they can cancel out a lot of the ill effects of what you put them on). So I've created a custom friends group for the subject.

If you are interested in this, leave me a comment and I'll add you to that group. Otherwise, you won't hear much about this experiment (which will officially start 1 September, creating the interesting challenge of trying to make change while doing things like going to my mother's.)
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One of the signs of creeping middle age is that the moving parts don't always move so well. Every few years one of my shoulders decides to remind me it is wearing out. Usually, I don't know what triggered it. (According to my doctor, it can be something as simple as sleeping in an awkward position.) This time, I am reasonably sure I can blame the vacuum cleaner.

I always knew there was a good reason not to do housework.

I suspect it is a good thing that I now know how to keep this to a day or two of agony, instead of a full week. The trick is taking good anti-inflammatory painkillers (Advil is a good choice for over the counter drugs) and using a heating pad right away. I spent the morning at home doing so and it helped, though I expect to need to keep up Advil for a couple of more days.

Hmmm, I could have sworn my rotator cuffs had a warranty longer than 50 years.
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I am pretty much over my cold, except for a coughing fit here and there and some residual laryngitis.

The 5 hour raglan sweater will probably end up taking more like 7 hours, but is rescuing the "knit a sweater a month" project.

I managed to not only finish 3 Friday NY Times crosswords, but I did 2 of them in under 15 minutes. That doesn't quite make up for the ones that I stared blankly at forever, but it helps.

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