fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am not quite ready to review 2014. Maybe tomorrow.

I had hoped to do the annual New Year's Day volksmarch in Columbia, Maryland. But the temperature was in the 20's and climbing back under my quilt made more sense.

I did get some household paperwork done, including finding and tossing some coupons that expired in 2013. But other dimensional creatures borrowed my to-do list.

At least I managed every day of holidailies.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am spending an exciting New Year's Eve doing laundry and reading. So it's a good time to write up the few movies I saw over the past 3 months. Just three this time.

  1. Boyhood: The concept of using the same actors over a long period of time was interesting, but, overall, I thought this was too long, with too little happening. Okay, but not great.

  2. Jersey Boys: I watched this on a plane and liked it more than I expected to, but I admit that was mostly because the music was fun. The ending could have been a bit more fleshed out.

  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's: Thanks to United's streaming entertainment, I finaly watched this classic, which I really enjoyed. Holly Golightly is exasperating, but interesting and, besides, Audrey Hepburn had a great wardrobe in this film. Cool clothes and a cat made it right up my alley.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I made an interesting family discovery.

One of the complications in my family is the large number of schisms, which end up with various branches not speaking to each other over various slights, real or imagined. These range from drunkenness at a wedding leading to a serious injury to how nice a coat someone bought his wife. Since these things happened on both sides of my family, I assume they are not actually uncommon. They’re just annoying, because they make it hard to track down people who might have genealogical information.

The short version is that my father had once said that my great-grandfather, Shachne Feinstein, had a brother who was an artist and who at one time was the director of the Jewish Museum of Minsk. For a variety of reasons, I believe that artist may have been Chaim Feinstein. (I have no evidence yet, but reading about Lithuanian Jewish artists of the right time period turned up Chaim who worked in woodcuts and was from Kovno, both of which would fit what I had been told.) There is a tenuous connection to my father’s cousin, Shlomo, who also had a brother who may have emigrated to South Africa in the 1930’s, around the same time that Shlomo emigrated to Petah Tikva (in what is now Israel). Incidentally, Petah Tikva plays a big role in my family because my mother’s father got his smicha (rabbinical degree) at a Yeshiva there.

Shlomo actually stayed with us briefly in the 1970’s, when he came to the U.S. for medical treatment. And we visited him and his family in Petah Tikva around 1974. I figure there is a fair chance his daughter would know something. But I haven’t been able to track her down. My other relatives in Israel want nothing to do with that branch of the family, so it isn’t so simple.

I knew Shlomo was an architect and that he was responsible for a fair amount of the early development of Petah Tikva. What I didn’t know until today is that there’s a junior high in Petah Tikva named after him.

That doesn’t help me at all with my search for info on Chaim, but it’s still cool.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I left my planner on my kitchen table this morning, so I am spinning my wheels at work even more than usual. If I have to be loopy, this is a good day for it, since a lot of people are out. Notably, both my bosses (both government and corporate).

My mind is largely on: 1) things I need to get done, starting with decluttering at home, and 2) things I might want to do in the next year, starting with travel. Also, cats. I know it isn’t realistic for me to have a cat right now, given how much I travel. But I found out that a cat café is going to open in DC in the next year! That may qualify as something I want to do in the next year.

I have also just added to the list of topics one might think twice about discussing at work. A guy in the next aisle of cubicles is talking about giant mutant rats. I didn’t hear quite how the topic came up, but he’s now ranting about radiation that would kill people but just increases the size of rats. Hmm, maybe I need a giant mutant cat.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Since I have spent most of the weekend napping and reading (and not, alas, much of the house cleaning I should be doing, though I have gotten through a little), I am going to rely on today's prompt from Holidailies.

The prompt asks what I've done this year I had never done before.

Arranging my mother's funeral was certainly right up there on newness. Not that I'd recommend it as an experience, but it had to be done and that was that.

On a more positive note, I went to two countries I hadn't been to before - San Marino (did you know it is the oldest republic in the world?) and Slovenia.

I got a chocolate pedicure, as well as soaking in a chocolate scented bath.

I learned how to do sprung. And I made a tunnel book. I really ought to take photos of the latter, since I promised to do so a couple of months ago.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Aside from the bad hotel experience, I did enjoy the trip to Vegas. I did the North Strip volksmarch event again, and, while there is still a lot of construction leading to bleak emptiness, there is some new stuff of interest.

The most obvious is the High Roller, allegedly the world's tallest observation wheel. I would like to ride it someday, but heard it is best at sunset, which comes too early this time of year. It is associated with The Linq, which seems to have replaced the Imperial Palace and incorporated O'Shea's.

The two new casino hotels I noted are The Cromwell, which is claimed to be a boutique hotel, and the SLS. The latter looked very nice, too, with interesting restaurants. I would try staying there, though the location is kind of out of the way (the north end of the monorail.)

Ah, Vegas. Always changing.
fauxklore: (travel)
As most people who know me know, there are a few things I consider unmitigated evil. That list includes Microsoft, the New York Yankees and the color pink.

Flamingos are not actually pink, by the way. They take on the tint of whatever they eat. If they eat shrimp and krill and the like, they turn pinkish. But they could eat, say, kale, and you would have green flamingos. Unhealthy, protein-deprived flamingos, admittedly, but green nonetheless.

That is a brief explanation of why it didn't occur to me that staying at The Flamingo in Las Vegas - one of the pinkest hotels in the world - would be a bad idea. I got a rate approximately equivalent to what one normally pays at a Motel 6. Well, sort of, since there is the evil resort fee, but those are unavoidable in Vegas nowadays.

What was so bad?

1) It took nearly an hour and a half to check in. The line was absurdly long, there were too few people working, and several customers needed 10-15 minutes for what should be a 2 or 3 minute transaction. At one point, a guy in the line shouted loudly, "This is the worst hotel in Las Vegas."

2) Sound proofing left a lot to be desired. My room overlooked the Linq Promenade, which plays music 24/7. The interior soundproofing was also an issue and let's just quote Paul Simon and say the couple in the next room were going at it all night long.

And then there was the staff member who was vacuuming in the hallway outside guest rooms at 11 at night.

3) They charge 5 bucks to print a boarding pass. Not that I paid it, of course, but it was kind of a final outrage.

4) Checking out took only 40 minutes. I waited in the line because, frankly, I didn't trust them not to screw something up and I wanted to see that paper receipt.

Bugsy Siegel was more of a crook than I realized.
fauxklore: (travel)
To be fair, the thermostat works.

Wifi is sucky, though.

So I will explain when I am home.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Working my way through my mother's books, right now I am reading Stephen King's Christine which is, of course, about a malevolent car. That may not be a good thing to do.

First, the guy who has the cubicle across the aisle from mine totaled his car, then got rear ended a few days later (in his rental) while at a stoplight.

Then I got an email from our condo management office about several cars having been vandalized in the garage, with hubcaps and airbags stolen.

Last night, I went to pick up my dry cleaning. I tend to clean frost off my windows by the "roll them down, then back up" method. The right rear window wouldn't roll down at all. The right front window did roll down - but then refused to roll back up. (These are, by the way, electronic window controls. My car is ancient, but not ancient enough to have a handle you turn.)

Fortunately, it was just misty and not actually raining. So I ran my errands (dry cleaner and supermarket) with the window open. Neither errand took long and the only stuff inside the car was worthless (e.g. a box of tissues and road map book). But it was still annoying. Fortunately, when I got home, I was able to shake the window loose a bit and, eventually, get it roll up again.

This had happened once before some years ago, so I am hoping it is just another isolated incident. And the timing was not as bad as it might have been. To be fair, most of the time Neptune is anything but malevolent as cars go. But I think Christine may be a bad influence on the cars around me.

I think I need to warn parents of teens not to read Carrie.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Somehow, I had missed David Malki's creation of the idea of Chanukah duck in this Wondermark cartoon. The idea is that the duck quacks a puzzle for the entertainment of children each day of Chanukah.

Apparently, not long after, Yakov Hadash perfected the concept with this song, complete with puzzle.

I now have two new ambitions:

1) Create 8 quackable puzzles

2) Have someone write a klezmer song re: one of my more ridiculous ideas

Why, yes, in case you hadn't noticed, I am easily amused.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Norman Bridwell wrote Clifford the Big Red Dog. Sy Berger invented the modern baseball card. Harold M. Shulweis was the rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom, a large and prominent Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles. And Joe Cocker was one of the greatest rock singers of all time.

Chanukah Cluelessness: There should be a market for customized Chanukah candles, so you can specify the colors (monochrome or combinations) you want. There is someone who is selling a so-called personalized Chanukah candle on etsy, but that seller has absolutely no idea what Chanukah candles are. (It is a single candle, with a family name on it. It might be suitable as a yahrzeit candle, but probably not as it isn’t in glass.)

Winning the Battle: The other dimensional creatures have returned not only my scissors, but a theatre program I have been looking for since mid-August. Of course, they are probably just borrowing something I haven’t looked for recently, but I will take what victories I can get.
fauxklore: (travel)
I went to Greenville, South Carolina for part of the weekend, primarily to do two Volksmarch events. I've actually been to Greenville twice before, including once for a Volksmarch. (The other time was because it is a convenient place to stop between Atlanta and North Carolina).

It's an easy flight down on a United puddlehopper, though terminal A at IAD remains annoying. They board several flights at once, which means inevitable chaos from people who don't understand how it works. In this case, a gate agent for another flight came on to our plane at least 4 times, trying to track down someone missing from the Knoxville flight.

I stayed at the Hyatt Place, which was adequate. My biggest complaints are that: 1) the sound proofing was inadequate and 2) the heat worked via one of those underwindow units where you turn a dial, instead of via a thermostat.

As for the Volksmarch events, the historic Greenville event was excellent, including the West End (which has Fluor Field, where the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox affiliate play, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum) before a bit of Falls Park on the Reedy, the Hampton-Pinckney Historic District, Heritage Green (with various museums), and Main Street. The other event - which I opted to do only the 5K version of because it was drizzly - was less interesting, mostly through various parks (including much more of Falls Park on the Reedy), though it did include the statue of Shoeles Joe Jackson to qualify as a baseball event. So both were baseball events and qualified to finish that program.

Getting home was easy and we even got in early. All in all, a nice weekend excursion.


Dec. 20th, 2014 10:37 pm
fauxklore: (travel)
This is brief as I am on my tablet. Full travel story to follow tomorrow.

Hotels in some places can be wonderful. In particular, I have stayed in a couple of hotels I have absolutely loved in Italy (and others there I hated). Hotels in middle America tend to be middling. In this day and age, an actual thermostat - ideally digital, but I can live with a dial - should be a minimum standard.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Two quick and depressing bits of local arts news:

1) It looks like Ari Roth, the artistic director of Theatre J, has been fired by the DCJCC. That's not really surprising given the controversy over some of his choices of shows. He is moving ahead with plans for his own theatre company, but that will be on the infinitely less convenient H Street Northeast. And it is unclear whether Theatre J will continue over on 16th Street. Regardless of the outcome, there will be more questions about freedom of speech and accusations about tolerance of views within the Jewish community.

2) It also looks like Artisphere in Rosslyn will be closing. I've gone to various events there many of them were odd and interesting. My biggest personal connection was the Rosslyn yarn bomb, which we worked on and assembled there. I understand the economic realities, but art is important to me and I hate to see arts organizations close.

At this time of year when so many people are doing their charitable donations, please consider your local arts organizations.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Today was the holiday potluck at work. That meant that I spent part of yesterday evening baking. Specifically, I made chocolate linzer torte, which is easy, but slightly time consuming because the dough has to chill for a half hour before you roll it out and because it bakes for 45 minutes (instead of, say, the 10 minutes cookies would take). Mostly that is time that was not my time, so it wasn’t a big deal. The only annoying part was having to chop almonds because I could only find sliced ones in the store. Anyway, the result was well-received, which is the important part.

Overall, there was a good supply of a wide variety of food, though nothing particularly exciting. The annoying part was the people in the row of cubicles next to mine playing one record (some Sinatra thing and not actually Christmas songs) over and over all day. I behaved well and did not start streaming Tuvan throatsinging or Afropop or the like.


Dec. 17th, 2014 02:58 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Today’s holidailies prompt, appropriately for Chanukah, has to do with miracles. That gives me an excuse to rant on how I think most people entirely misunderstand just what a miracle is.

It’s easy to see the big miracles. Whether it be oil lasting eight nights instead of just one or splitting the Red Sea – or, more prosaically, people surviving a hazardous event - people easily turn around and thank G-d for those. But I actually have a problem with events like that. Namely, it shouldn’t take disrupting the natural order of the world to make people thankful. (There is, by the way, a story in the Talmud that supports my idea. It has to do with a man whose wife has died and who sprouts breasts to feed his child. This is not actually viewed as a good solution.)

Where I think the real miracles lie is twofold. Part is in the sheer complexity of our world and how well it functions. No matter what our progress in prosthetics and artificial intelligence and so on, we are nowhere near duplicating the efficiency of the human body. We don’t entirely understand how everything in the world works, but what we do understand should make us appreciate creation all the more.

The other aspect of miracles is in what, for lack of a better term, I will call the human spirit. People can and do break, of course, but it is amazing how much people can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and thrive even after horrific experiences. If I were an alien studying anthropology, I doubt I would be able to predict that people who survived events like the Shoah, the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide, etc. would be able to rebuild their lives and move on.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Two quick notes for the first night of Chanukah:

1) My father used to come up with elaborate ways of calculating how much Chanukah gelt to send us. I remember one note when I was in college that had to do with a progression of how many latkes one should eat (doubling each night, if I recall correctly), accompanied by a recipe, and a check to cover the cost of the ingredients.

2) The candles I am using this year are beeswax. They appeared to be bigger than the standard boxed ones you get in the supermarket. But, at least based on one night, they burn faster. Since it is customary not to do housework while the candles are burning, I am not sure whether that is good or bad.

Chag sameach!
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am tired and grumpy today, which is, I suppose, suitable for a Monday. I screwed up my sleep schedule yesterday by napping when I got home from walking. And then I couldn’t sleep well because the whole left side of my body was achy. I could have gotten out of bed and taken a Tylenol, I suppose, but that was more effort than I was willing to put in. I did eventually sleep pretty soundly – soundly enough for the alarm to wake me up. (Usually, I get up anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours before the alarm.)

My grumpiness is reflected in being annoyed at all sorts of little things today. Someone was already sitting in my favorite seat on the bus this morning, for example. Someone I work with (not from my organization) has a knack for trying my patience by going into excruciating detail in answering the wrong question. And someone from my organization decided that interrupting my listening to a telecom was very important despite my having told her at least 4 times that I was going to be on an important telecom during that hour. (She also has access to my calendar.) So, of course, once I got off the phone, she was on the phone. And she never puts anything on her calendar. Incidentally, it turned out that mostly what she wanted to talk about was her frustration with Mr. Excruciating Detail.

I’d like to get home early enough to drop off my dry cleaning, but I suspect the bus will be screwed up or something else will get in the way of that. And I really need to clear off the table so I can set up the menorah, given that Chanukah starts tomorrow night.

Oh, did I mention that today‘s prompt had to do with feeling overwhelmed? Some days I don’t need a prompt.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I dragged myself out of the house today to do a Volksmarch in Frederick. I would have preferred doing the walk in Ashland (near Richmond) but I was running late and Frederick, despite being in darkest Maryland, is much closer. In fact, I could have made it there in under 45 minutes had I not followed the directions from google maps which had a series of unnecessary (and, in one case, incorrect) turns.

I've done this walk before, though it has changed a little since the visitor center moved. It's still a jaunt through downtown, over to Hood College, then along a couple of park trails, followed by walking around Mt. Olivet Cemetery. The point was that it qualifies as a baseball walk (since Harry Grove Stadium is visible across the street from the cemetery) and a mural walk (for the trompe l'oeil Community Bridge. It was mostly a good walk, though I am definitely feeling old and achy and, in particular, my left hip was sore at the end of the 10K.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This was kind of a blah day. I did, at least, catch up on sleep and get through some of the paper that is threatening to eat my living room (and starting to migrate into the bedroom). But I had planned to get out and do a volksmarch, instead of lollygagging in bed all morning. Oh, well, there is tomorrow.

The December issue of The Atlantic has an article dissing Dylan Thomas and, in particular, claiming that Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is overrated. Bah! It is, admittedly, a poem with some odd and difficult choices of words. But it also has the sheer brilliance of the line "Curse bless me now with your fierce tears I pray." That is a line worth dancing in a green bay for if ever a line of poetry was.


fauxklore: (Default)

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