fauxklore: (Default)
Washington Jewish Film Festival: I made it to two movies this year. There were others I was interested in, but couldn’t make the schedule work for. The two I saw were both comedies - Moos and OMG, I’m a Robot. More about those when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Laura Bush Killed a Guy: I went to see this one-woman play, produced by The Klunch, at Caos on Friday night with a friend. We had intended to have drinks and happy hour food at Hill Country BBQ, but there was a long wait for a table and the bar was too crowded, so we sought out something else. The Smith doesn’t do a happy hour and was too noisy. We ended up going to Pi Pizzeria, which was okay. As it turns out, I was wrong about what time the play started, so we could probably have managed Hill Country. So we ended up having a wait to get in to the theatre, during which two homeless guys got into a fistfight several yards from where we were waiting. Oy.

Anyway, the show was worth it. Lisa Hodsoll captured Laura Bush’s voice and manners effectively. Ian Allen’s script had three different versions of the traffic accident in which 17-year-old Laura ran a stop sign and hit another car, killing its driver. In one, it’s a deliberate plot. In the second, she’s drunk. Only the third version is a true accident. There are also multiple versions of how she met her husband. And then there is a lot of material about the Bush family in general, how she was treated by other dignitaries (Caroline Kennedy, in particular, snubbed her), and how she is pretty much the forgotten first lady. It was an interesting show and often quite funny.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was Saturday night. We even had a new attendee, who had found us via NSN. There was a good mix of stories, as usual. I told "Sawing Off Manhattan," which I had not done in a long time. I had played with the ending, unsuccessfully, so I decided that I won’t use it at the Folk Festival. If I want an American story, I can always tell a Bill Greenfield tale.

The Man Who: This play, written by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne, was inspired by The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks, but only some of the vignettes are based on patients Sacks wrote about. All four actors in this production at Spooky Action Theater played multiple roles, both as patients and doctors. The stories are really those of the patients, confronting the puzzling realities of neurological disorders. There was a talkback afterwards and it was interesting that the actors said they focused on performing the physical actions because many of the words were like speaking a foreign language.

Anyway, it’s an interesting show and worth seeing if you’re in the area in the next couple of weeks.

16th Street NW: I think 16th Street NW has to be one of the most interesting streets in D.C., at least from an architectural perspective. There are lots of grand old residences (pretty much converted to apartment complexes), assorted embassies, and interesting churches. Best of all is the House of the Temple, which has something to do with the Scottish Rite Freemasons and has a couple of sphinxes in front of it. Apparently, you can tour the building and I really ought to do that one of these days.

Overheard at Dupont Circle: Two men were embracing at the corner of 18th and Q. One said to the other, "Don’t die in Missouri."

Sleep, or Lack Thereof: I hate it when I wake up around 2 a.m. and never really manage to get back to sleep. Nothing was obviously wrong, but I just couldn’t seem to turn my mind to sleep mode. I did get up for a half hour or so and look at facebook, but, mostly, I stayed in bed, trying vainly to get a decent amount of rest. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Marian Javits was an arts patron and the widow of Jacob Javits, who a few of you may remember from the days when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican. Joseph Wapner was the first judge on The People’s Court. Shrley Palesh played for a few teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Howard Schmidt was a major figure in government cybersecurity strategy. Joe Rogers co-founded Waffle House, thus saving the stomach linings of many a drunken Southerner. Rene Preval served two terms as president of Haiti. Tommy Page was a singer-songwriter. Miriam Colon was a Puerto Rican actress. Edi Fitzroy was a reggae singer. Fred Weintraub owned The Bitter End, an important venue for folk music and comedy. Kurt Moll was an opera singer. Robert Osborne as a film historian and hosted Turner Classic Movies. Joni Sledge sang as part of Sister Sledge. Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a prolific writer of children’s books, among other things. Mother Divine was the leader of a cult founded by her husband. Royal Robbins was a big name in rock climbing but, more significantly to me, founded an eponymous clothing company that makes awesome clothes for traveling, including that green plaid shirt I am wearing in the overwhelming majority of my travel photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Rants

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

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

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

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

The second annoyance was that a new block of tickets for Hamilton went on sale yesterday. After some searching, I actually found a couple of dates with single tickets that were only mildly exorbitant (in the 200 dollar range). Only to get an error message when actually trying to purchase such a ticket. And, of course, they were gone when I tried again later. There are still tickets available for some dates, but only at prices starting at $549. Yes, I could afford that if I really wanted to. But there are plenty of other things I'd like to see at far more reasonable prices.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Richard Hatch was an actor in Battlestar Galactica among other things. Sir Peter Mansfield won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003. Mile Ilitch owned much of Detroit or at least its sports teams (the Red Wings and the Tigers) and a mediocre pizza company. Damian was a British pop singer. Al Jarreau was a seven-time Grammy winner for his jazz and R&B music. Raymond Smullyan was a mathematician and wrote books about logic puzzles, e.g. What is the Name of This Book? and This Book Needs No Title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today started a new SafeTrack surge, which means no Blue Line service for 18 days. I had an early meeting at the Pentagon, so took a bus which was way more crowded than I’d ever seen it before. That worked, but was still annoying. In short, expect me to be grumpy for the next several weeks. It’s still better than driving.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Betsy Bloomingdale was a socialite and fashion icon. Dave Bald Eagle was a Lakota chief who is probably most famous for having acted in the movie "Dances with Wolves." Miss Cleo was a TV psychic. Jack Davis co-founded Mad Magazine. Richard Thompson was a cartoonist ("Cul de Sac") and illustrator. Doug Griffin played second base for the Red Sox in the 1970’s. Fred Tomlinson wrote "The Lumberjack Song" for Monty Python.

Forrest Mars, Jr. inherited money from the candy company, some of which went to support historical projects, including support of Fort Ticonderoga and funding the construction of a coffeehouse in Colonial Williamsburg.

Marni Nixon dubbed the singing voices of several actresses in movie musicals. James M. Nederlander owned a number of theatres on Broadway and elsewhere. Zelda Fichandler co-founded Arena Stage, one of the major regional theatres here in Washington and, apparently, the first racially integrated theatre in the region.

The death I most want to highlight is that of Mary Ann Madden. She edited the New York Magazine Competition for many years and some of the best entries were compiled in such books as Maybe He’s Dead and Thanks for the Giant Sea Tortoise. I have distinct memories of several of the entries from the 1970’s. She was long retired and had, apparently, been ill for some time, but her spirit lives on in the Washington Post Style Invitational and the community it has fostered among its devotees.

Lesser of Evils: It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential race. I’m not especially enthusiastic about her (she is, after all, a Yankees fan), but this is a clear lesser of evils for me. I challenged myself to see who would be so awful that I would vote for Donald Trump over them and came up with two names. The first was Robert Mugabe, who is not, of course, eligible, not being an American. The other was Cthulhu, who I could argue was born in Rhode Island. I generally prefer my political candidates without tentacles.

On a More Serious Note: The major impact of the veepstakes is that it gives some insight into how a politician makes decisions. I’d argue that the single most important thing a President does is make political appointments. (That is especially true of the Supreme Court, of course, but applies to various Cabinet and other posts.) The choice of a running mate is our first opportunity to see this in action.

This is an area in which I think Hillary Clinton made an excellent choice. I’ve lived in Virginia through Tim Kaine’s term as governor and his tenure in the Senate. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I’ve been impressed with his integrity and with his ability to work across the aisle. I think he can provide some good balance to the race.

One More Political Note: There is nothing wrong with trying to develop third parties to better represent certain advocacies. However, it makes sense to start doing so at the local level. Not enough attention gets paid to city and county races to begin with. Even at the state level, there is plenty of room for expanding the slates. For example, I remain appalled at how many candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates run unopposed.

Damn You, Noodles & Company: They added spicy Korean beef noodles to their menu. I have no particular objection to that, but in doing so, they got rid of the Indonesian peanut saute. That, with tofu, has been my mainstay of their menu.

Storytelling: Saturday night was the Better Said Than Done show in which I told my summer camp story. The show was an interesting mix of stories, which always makes for more fun for me as a listener. The audience was very responsive and I got plenty of laughs in the right places. All in all, a fun evening.

Knitting Group: There was a fifth Sunday in July, so we met at Starbucks, instead of the police station. The disadvantage of that is more cramped space. But the advantage is that we recruit new members who happen to see us there. I also ran into someone I used to work with who lives a few blocks away from there. And, oh, yeah, I got some work in on a charity afghan, though I am still skeptical about some aspects of the pattern. (Well, one aspect, which has to do with how the final triangle making up the hexagon gets joined and whether there is one or two decreases in that row.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Janet Waldo was the voice of Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop, among a large number of acting roles. George Voinovich was the governor of Ohio through pretty much all of the 1980's, after which he became a U.S. Senator.

Metro: Surge #1 is over and was not too annoying, thanks to the temporary bus service from Fairfax Connector. Except that last night I was coming from the city and had the usual lengthy wait for a train at Foggy Bottom, complete with inadequate information. It didn't really affect tme, but they were announcing a train as being a Blue Line one, when it was actually Silver. The exact same thing happened this morning at Rosslyn, which was more irritating as I was already in a bad mood and running late due to multiple Orange Line screw-ups. To wit: 1) despite there allegedly being no track work, there was still single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston, 2) the announcements only were addressing a different (and supposedly resolved) track issue, 3) none of this info was on the rail alerts, and 4) the two trains before mine skipped Ballston, so my train ended up with Tokyo-level crowding.

The next surge includes two weeks of no service between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery. They are suggesting people stay on the Orange (or Silver) Line to L'Enfant Plaza and then take the Yellow Line south. Which only adds about 35-40 minutes to the trip. There are a couple of alternatives I know of, but the most useful one is that I am actually going to have to deal with that mess for two days, due to a mixture of travel and a conference.

Kinky Boots: I went to see Kinky Boots at the Kennedy Center last night (which is why I was waiting for the metro at Foggy Bottom in the first place). Anyway, the show has a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. It tells the story of a young man, Charlie Price, who inherits his family's shoe factory and decides to save the livelihoods of the long-term factory workers by entering a niche market. And what niche market is that? High heeled boots for drag queens. See, he had met Lola, whose footwear needs inspire ideas that will be just the thing for this upcoming show in Milan. Winning over the workers, who aren't necessarily comfortable with Lola, is only part of the problem. See, Charlie has to convince himself, too.

You know that everything is going to work out just fine, including Lola's father issues, Charlie's love life, and, of course, the factory. This is pretty much your average feel-good, everything works if you just accept everyone musical, with some gorgeous shoes thrown in. And I say that as a devotee of flats. The score is also fairly predictable. Lola gets some big, showy numbers, while there's a little more thoughtful material about what being a man is ("Not My Father's Son"). The music was pleasant enough for the most part (though the production numbers weren't really my style), but not really memorable.

Adam Kaplan did well as Charlie, but was (of course) overshadowed by J. Harrison Ghee as Lola. I did find myself wondering if the casting was intended to be color-blind or whether Lola being black was supposed to add even more to the whole lack of acceptance vibe. The performer I need to especially single out is Tiffany Engen as Lauren, the factory worker with a crush on Charlie. She was a phenomenal dancer and really conveyed the emotions behind her apparently hopeless feelings.

The most interesting thing about this show is that it's touring here right now, while La Cage Aux Folles is playing at Signature Theatre. Drag queens, self-acceptance, Harvey Fierstein - do I see a pattern here? And that apparent coincidence is why I found myself wondering whether Kinky Boots is anything more than a rehashing of the same old same old. It's not a bad show, but why bother when Jerry Herman's music gives you something to inflict an ear worm on yourself with? (To be fair, I've never really seen the point of drag shows and I've been accused of being the straightest person on the planet. Stilettos don't make me feel good - they make my feet hurt.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Merle Haggard was a country singer. Rachel Johnson was the last native of St. Kilda.

Car Annoyance #1: Neptune has now had two incidents of running a bit roughly and rattling, followed by the engine coolant temperature light flashing on and off a few times, after which everything sounds fine. The annoying part is that the mechanic couldn’t reproduce this behavior so can’t fix it. Oh, well, I suppose you’re entitled to a few rattles at that age. (22 car years is about 140 human years, right?)

Car Annoyance #2: I made the service appointment on-line and got a confirmation email. But, when I got to the mechanic, they had no record of the appointment and told me, "oh, the on-line system hasn’t sent us an update in over two months." And exactly how was I supposed to know that? On top of which, they didn’t have the right person there to do one of the things I brought Neptune in for, so I need to make another appointment for the wheel alignment.

Another Internet Annoyance: I had a discount code for some theatre tickets and finally found a date that would work with the friend who wanted to come along. It took me way too many attempts to find the little checkbox that would activate the discount code and let me buy tickets at the relevant price. And, of course, the annoying Ticketmaster service fees and "convenience fee" add 25% or so to the ticket price.

Household Annoyance: I believe the papers in my house are multiplying when I am not looking. Can one of my neighbors check out any mysterious rustling sounds when I’m not home?

Credit Card Annoyance: Yet another fraud incident, leading to having to get a card replaced. It seems this happens at least every few years. I have a faint suspicion that this may be linked to having used the card in question at a restaurant. At least it isn’t one that I have recurring payments linked to.

A Minor Work Annoyance: It is actually possible to send out a meeting announcement more than an hour before the meeting. It is even possible to send out a meeting announcement before the day of the meeting.

Baseball Annoyance: Not only have the Nationals added yet another racing president, it’s Hoover.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have other things to write about, but let me drop a quick note re: how miserable this week has been for commuting. Monday was tolerable, but the metro was running on a holiday schedule, which meant long waits at Rosslyn for connecting trains.

Tuesday, the cold weather caused a different problem. But it is best to say it in my preferred poetic form:

Cracked rail outside East
Falls Church this morning. Single
tracking. Late to work.


And, of course, I just missed my connection, so:

It is as cold at
Rosslyn station as it is
outside. Brr, brr, brr.


Was it any better going home? Well, I had an errand to run near Union Station. I got on the Yellow Line at Crystal City and then:

Someone unconscious
on train at Archives. Single
tracking, long delays.


So yesterday I had a meeting for which it made sense to drive in. (I can get to where it was by bus, but that eats up a lot of time and is only worth it if meeting is at beginning or end of the day, not in the middle.) Things were slow coming in, for no particular reason. Going home was the issue. It wasn't even snowing until I was halfway home, but it was still slow. And, once there was a bit of sticking snow, it was just a slippery, nasty crawl.

Note that we got a whopping 1.2 inches of snow and it messed things up badly enough that it took me twice as long as normal to drive home. We are expecting 24-30 inches in the storm that is going to clobber us this weekend.
I am not going more than about 200 feet from my bed.

Please, buy me a condo in Punta del Este, Uruguay?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Burt Shavitz had bees (and a related business). James Tate was a poet. Ernie Maresca was a songwriter, notable for "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer." Omar Sharif and Roger Rees were actors.

Thing I Want to Make: I just discovered these toy animals made from sock yarn. They’re knitted in a tube and tied like balloon animals, which is just such a cool concept.

I also want to make these crocheted toys, which are done with hexagons and pentagons pieced together. The stegosaurus and the giraffe are particularly cute.

Of course, I should probably finish the three sweaters and two afghans I have in progress first. Come to think of it, make that four afghans. Or maybe five. Um, yes, I have a short attention span and a lack of time to spend playing with yarn. (I did get some stuff done at knitting group on Sunday, but I spent much of the weekend napping, reading the newspaper, doing a few chores, and did I mention napping?)

Reasons to Retire, Part 9753: The things that are frustrating are often things other than work itself. Today’s top annoyance has to do with telecommunications infrastructure, otherwise known as our internet being deadly slow. How bad? It just took me an hour and 17 minutes to get into my corporate website for long enough to enter my time in my timesheet, a task that normally takes about 6 minutes (and really should not take more than 2).

And don’t get me started on our VOIP phones. I am an old person who believes one should not ever have to reboot one’s telephone.

Weather Whine: We are in the midst of the annual block of 90/90 days (i.e. 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 90% humidity). I have, of course, set the air conditioning to stun, but it is still annoying.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have too many projects, few of which I am really excited about. There is one work-related one I would be enthusiastic about, except for various things getting in the way of getting information I need for it. I'm trying to get some things informally in order to figure out what to make a formal request for, but all I've managed so far is a few rounds of telephone tag (not helped by our voice over IP phones that need to be rebooted about twice a day) and an increased level of cursing at our knowledge management system.

If I can get caught up on at least part of my to-do list this weekend and maybe make some decluttering progress, my stress level will drop a lot. But, alas, I don't see that happening.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I’m leaving for Recouvery tomorrow, so I wanted to get caught up before then. Here is what I’ve been up to.

Las Vegas: Vegas is a good destination for mileage running as: a) airfares are reasonable, b) the distance is enough to be worth accumulating PQM but not so far as to be punishing, and c) you can entertain yourself there easily between gambling and people watching. So I did a quick trip over the holiday weekend, flying there on Friday and back on Saturday. The down side of the trip was that this is summer and the temperature was roughly like walking on the surface of the sun. My key people-watching observation was that it is apparently a thing now for young women to forgo carrying a purse and, instead, tuck their phone into either a bra strap or their cleavage. I feel old.

Knitting: I was home on Sunday so went to knitting group. I finished another of the large afghan squares, but I am still well off the pace I had intended. There was also lots of entertaining conversation.

Metro Woes: Monday morning was a mess, since Metro does not know how to handle irrops. I don’t blame them for the selfish person who decided that being struck by a train would be a good way to end his miserable life. But if you announce you are single-tracking through a station, you should not then send one shuttle train in 40+ minutes, have that train go one station and then sit another 40 minutes, and then offload everyone to wait for a train that is then too crowded for people to get on.

Thinking suicide?
Please find some other day to
Do it – not by train.

Aside from the impact to my commute (which, let’s face it, is what really matters), it isn’t very nice to inflict that trauma on a train driver.

Also, my experience on the overcrowded train I squeezed onto suggests that the residents of Fairfax County have stopped spending money on deodorant, using it instead to buy garlicky food for breakfast.

Story Slam: Last night I went to the Storyfest Short Story Slam in Silver Spring. I’m not really crazy about the competitive aspect of story slams, but I do like to know what is going on with all storytelling in the area. The theme was "Song and Dance" so I told my ballet story. Or, more precisely, an abbreviated version of it, since the slam has a 5 minute time limit.

The event was better than I had anticipated. The stories that had problems had the usual sort of problems with personal stories, e.g. no real idea of what the story was about, leading to a lack of a real ending. But, overall, there were several satisfying stories. From the standpoint of a teller, I thought the audience was a good, highly responsive one. I should also note a particularly high level of diversity among the attendees, which is (sadly) all too rare. I will definitely go again, schedule permitting.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Things have been pretty routine lately – too busy at work, but time for things like story swaps and knitting group and trying to unshovel all the clutter at my house. If I wait for something important to write about, I will never write, so …

Celebrity Death Watch: Ruth Rendell was a British mystery writer. B. B. King was one of the most famous of all blues musicians. Guy Carawan was a folk singer who popularized "We Shall Overcome" as a protest song. Happy Rockefeller was the widow of New York Governor (and later, Vice President), Nelson Rockefeller and was important largely because their relationship was considered scandalous enough to thwart his Presidential ambitions.

Should-be Celebrity Death Watch: Syd Lieberman was a fabulous teller of a wide range of stories. I think his historical stories were particularly strong. He was a kind, generous man, always encouraging to other tellers. I was privileged to have taken a workshop with him and benefit from his wisdom.

Women in Aerospace Conference: I went to the Women in Aerospace annual conference a couple of weeks ago. It was a somewhat odd mix of technical presentations (e.g. on cybersecurity) and career advice. I was going to write a bit about the career advice, but I realized most of it amounted to: 1) STEM degrees are good and 2) everyone else on the planet has read Lean In. But I did learn a couple of interesting things. To wit, only about 10,700 people have ever served in Congress. Only 313 were women, including 108 now.

I also want to pass along this wonderful explanation of my working environment. "The Pentagon is a building with 5 sides … on every issue."

Achoo!: We’ve had a particularly heavy dose of pollen over the past couple of weeks. It did not help that the lights in my ceiling fan burned out, which led me to discover that I really should have been dusting the tops of the ceiling fan blades. That added a heavy dose of dust to my already irritated lungs. And then there is a virus working its way around my office.

Let’s just say this has not been a very good week.

Used Bookstore Run: I finally made a used bookstore run last weekend. I got rid of 31 books and came home with 19 new ones. Two of those were puzzle books, however, so are transient enough to not really count. About 50 more will be going out this weekend, as I plan to stop at The Book Thing to donate them on my way to New York.
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 am distracting myself because I have some tedious routine odds and ends to get done at work (e.g. reviewing yet another revision of a document and, no, I still don't believe that you don't need to do design reviews for software) and because I am still playing around with the last bit of the story I am telling tonight.


So, here are some quick thoughts on things going on in the world.

Cheers:

  1. The Vote for Scottish Independence - I am undecided on the issue itself, but voting is a nice peaceful way to settle things.

  2. One of John Franklin's Ships Being Found - A Canadian expedition turned up one of the ships in the Arctic. They don't know yet whether it is the Erebus or the Terror, but this is still way cool

  3. Baseball - This was a bad year for my beloved Red Sox, but at least the Nationals won their division title.



Jeers:

  1. Ebola Panic - The reason ebola spreads easily in Africa has to do with living conditions, e.g. lack of sanitation. I have been inside African hospitals (fortunately not as a patient) and they have shortages of things as basic as rubber gloves. There is little reason for Americans to believe we are at risk.

  2. Anti-immigrant Hysteria - I continue to believe that the only restrictions we should have are to keep out actual felons. The restrictive immigration policies of the early 20th century are responsible for the murders of about 90% of my family.

  3. Bad Diet Research - There were lots of reports about a recent study that concluded low carb diets are better than low fat diets. The problems with the study are numerous, however. For one thing, a 2 year study is not long term. For another, a diet that is 30% fat is not low-fat. (The low carb diet was 40 grams a day, while most guidelines for low-carb allow up to 100 grams a day.) I'm not making a statement about what is or isn't better and, in fact, I believe that the answer is different for different people. But this is just bad research.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: First, a few celebrity obituaries to note. Peter O'Toole and Joan Fontaine were actors. Ronnie Biggs was a train robber. Al Goldstein was a pornographer. Janet Dailey was a romance writer.

There are two I want to note in a little more detail. Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK-47, the most widely proliferated firearm of all time. He appears to have died of natural causes.

Charles M. Vest was the president of MIT a bit after my time. He is notable for having actually listened and acted on the data re: discrimination against women faculty members.

A Brief Rant re: Coffee: Coffee is a magical substance, when treated properly. Being treated properly does not include being grown in bulk in unsuitable climates. Or being burned by overroasting. Most of all, treating coffee properly does not include adding flavoring agents to it. Coffee IS a flavor and should, therefore, not come in flavors.

A Brief Rant re: Winter Storms: Winter storms do not have names. I don't care if you think they should, but they don't and you do not have the right to change this.

A Brief Rant re: Midwestern Vowel Deficiency: Actually, this may be sheer ignorance, not the lack of distinguishing vowel sounds amongst people from the vast middle of the country, but it annoys the hell out of me. When you have the bare bones of an idea and you are elaborating on it, you are flEshing it out. FlUshing things out refers to exposing them, as in sendng the dogs after the grouses you are hunting, which is quite a different metaphor. (Interestingly, someone else at work was complaining about the same thing just last week.)

A Brief Rant re: Brief Rants: Frankly, life is pretty good when my grievances are about people abusing coffee, storm names, and vowels in metaphors.
fauxklore: (travel)
I got back late Monday night. I got home later than I'd hoped, largely due to Metro. The Blue Line is barely functional at rush hour nowadays, so I am not sure why I expected it to work at 10:30 at night, but that is what comes of being an optimist.

Anyway, Hong Kong was more interesting than I expected but the weather was beastly hot and humid. The biggest down side of that is that it sapped my appetite, so I ate less dim sum than I might otherwise have done. That may not be much of a down side.

Recovering from jet lag will take several days. I am not even through half the email backlog at work.

I am also having sporadic keyboard issues with my Mac again, so that may slow down some of my catch-up here. And, yes, I know I am not even done with April.
fauxklore: (Default)
Rosh Hashanah made this a quiet week, so I can finish catching up. This is all the odds and ends I have been saving up, including several mini-rants. Well, everything except the longer entries I have been planning on the subjects of politics, dating, and social networking.

5773: If it isn't obvious, I wish a happy, healthy and prosperous year to all. I may even manage to mail out cards this weekend.

Storytelling: I was part of A Sampler of Stories at Friendship Heights Village Center on Wednesday night. I had fun telling a personal story, about what I really learned in 6 years of ballet classes. There were two other personal stories and three folk tales, making for an interesting mix. Where else can you hear about Beowulf and the minor traumas of suburban childhood in the same evening.

Now I have to pull together the story I am telling at Better Said Than Done at the end of the month.

Work rant, part 1: If you send out an email to six people asking what their availability is for a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday, you should not then schedule the meeting for Tuesday.

Work rant, part 2: The correct time to close restrooms for cleaning is not during lunch hours or during peak departure times.

Work rant, part 3: When I rule the world, all documents sent for re-review will have all changes (including deletions) clearly marked. If they are sent as Word documents, one can often find this via "track changes," but that is not the case for PDF files.

Work rant, part 4: Why is it that any acronym I don't already know is the one that is missing from the acronym list?

Work rant, part 5: We've been getting new computers with Windows 7 on them. What child thought having a default font size of 8 points was a good idea? I had to change the font size in Outlook in 3 separate places to make my mail readable. And changing the overall display resolution required rebooting. I have things more or less functional now, but this was a waste of my time. (The thing that is not fixable is specific to our set-up. It now takes two steps to log-in, instead of just one. I reserve the right to gripe.)

One of my co-workers, listening to me kvetching about my disdain for Microsoft, said, "this tells me you don't want to learn new things." Uh, no, I love to learn new things, but I want to choose which things I learn. And spending time learning where they moved 28 separate buttons on an application takes away time I could spend learning to read hieroglyphics, which would be infinitely more amusing.

Work rant, part 6: We had a potluck brunch Thursday to "celebrate" our one year anniversary in our new digs. Aside from that hardly being an event to celebrate (small, noisy space and a bad commute for pretty much everyone), this was announced on Wednesday around lunch time. I managed to run into Whole Foods and buy mini-muffins, but with adequate notice, I would have made my famous mixed berry muffins. When I rule the world, all potluck events will have a minimum of one week notice.

Work non-rant: My promotion finally came through.

One final note on work: We got an announcement about a new program for charitable contributions. It included the information that United Way contributions had ceased in February. Maybe I should look at my pay stubs more closely, since I hadn't noticed that.

Why I want to retire: Aside from all the work ranting, the real reasons I want to retire sooner rather than later are: a) the horribleness of commuting to the Land that Transit Forgot, b) the events that I miss because they conflict with work (e.g. a two day symposium on Yiddish radio at the Library of Congress earlier this month), and c) the annoyingness of administrivia, especially this time of year when I am waiting for my badge and CAC renewal paperwork to get done and I have to deal with semi-annual and annual report inputs, in addition to the usual monthly and (two separate) weekly reports.

Celebrity death watch: Hal David wrote pop songs. Raindrops keep falling on his grave. Reverend Sun Myung Moon married his followers off to one another in exchange for having them sell flowers. Actually, until his recent death, I don't think I'd heard anything about Moonies in over a decade.

Note to myself: If I weren't interested in learning things, would I have scrawled the following in the margins of a planner page?
Language
Class
+ Dance
+ Everything Else

Odd ingredients: I was eating lentil-couscous soup for lunch yesterday and noticed that the ingredients list included "pineapple (dried)". Why?

Don't interpret this dream: I had a dream in which I was about to board a flight to Russia and realized I had forgotten to get a visa.

Trivia for the week: There was an interesting article in the Washington Post the other day about race and American Sign Language. Apparently, there is actually such a thing as Black ASL. I suppose it isn't surprising that there would be ethnic "dialects" to ASL, but I admit it's something I had never thought about before.

Baseball: There's always next year for the Red Sox. But the Nationals are in the post-season. I attempted to get NLDS tickets, but ended up waiting in their electronic virtual ticketing line for several minutes only to get a "this game is sold out" message. Sigh. (I could have tried for tickets to games that might not be played, but that isn't really my sort of thing. I hope to have the opportunity to try again for the NLCS and the World Series.)
fauxklore: (Default)
First, today's celebrity death was Gore Vidal. I have to admit that I would have assumed he had died years ago. I've never read Myra Breckenridge which was probably his most famous novel, but I have several quotes from him copied into my commonplace book. One of those is "All in all, I would not have missed this century for the world." I'm glad to see he didn't.

Another thing Vidal wrote is "There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise." I certainly feel that way frequently, particularly when I work over at one of our hot desks in the Pentagon. In addition to the non-stop telephone talker this morning (who was talking about work-relevant things a bit less than half the time), I got to hear someone (who I don't know) say loudly, "It's just a cold virus. I don't have AIDS." I'd advise people to remember that everyone in the office can hear everything you say.

One organization I'd love to advise is the NBC team responsible for Olympics coverage. Admittedly, my primary issue is the typical American ignorance about other countries and repetition of dumb trivia about them. This was particularly noticeable during the opening ceremonies. Once the U.S. team entered, they barely acknowledged anyone but them and the UK team. More of my annoyance was things like the mention of political troubles for Egypt, Libya and Syria, but not for Mali, which recently had a major coup d'etat. The worst example was Uganda, for which they mentioned Idi Amin (who has been gone for years), but not the Lord's Resistance Army or, much much better, any of the development successes of recent years.

As for the rest of the opening ceremonies, I found the entertainment portion bizarre, but I pretty much always do. What I really want is for them to cut to the chase and the parade of nations, which is what I find the most fun. There seemed to be a particularly high number of mispronounced names this year. How does an announcer manage to get Kiribati correct and screw up the name of its capital, Tarawa? And, really, is Cote d'Ivoire all that difficult?

Mostly I enjoy the parade of nations for my opportunity to be snarky about the costumes. The ones I do like either reflect national character in some way (e.g. Bermuda with their red shorts and, yes, people there really do wear bright colored Bermuda shorts and navy blazers to work) or are especially colorful, e.g. Cameroon, Guyana, and Malaysia. The U.S. uniforms were pretty dreadful, especially the berets. Taiwan had suits that looked like they belonged in a 1920's gangster movie. Namibia was trying for the casual safari look, but came across as sloppy. Liechtenstein also seemed sloppy in blue jeans, but one supposes they can't actually wear just postage stamps unless they have become a major power in beach volleyball. The Germans were just weird with the baby blue for the men and pink for the women. But the rock bottom was achieved this year for the Czech Republic with white shorts and blue rain boots.

Apropos of nothing, I decided I really like the flag of Trinidad and Tobago.

I was, by the way, intrigued by the independent Olympic athletes as I admit to having missed the political drama involving the Netherlands Antilles. I knew their status had changed, but I admit to not entirely understanding the difference.

I also want to comment on the ads. The Mac ads struck me as suggesting that Mac users are rude, selfish jerks. Which may well be true, but do you want to advertise that? (N.B.: I use a Mac myself.) And what was with the Proctor and Gamble ad saying "to their moms, they will always be kids"? Don't most of the athletes have fathers, too? Or was the ad written by the same person who designed the German team's uniforms?

Finally, it is probably just me, but I think it is tacky to pull out a camera and take pictures of a parade you are in.

Still Here

Mar. 13th, 2011 09:06 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
I haven't gone anywhere. I've just had an annoying week, with too much time at work and too little feeling of accomplishment. (Four hour late afternoon telecons take a lot out of me, even if the subject matter is technically interesting.) I've made some progress on my list of things to do, but only because I went to the effort of writing down things like mailing my brother's birthday card.

Yesterday was the Travel Show at the Convention Center. (Well, it was today also, but I had another commitment.) I might have skipped it but I managed to snag a free ticket from one of the exhibitors. It is definitely smaller than it had been, though I think it was a bit better than last year's. There still tend to be too many vacation house rentals in the Outer Banks and too few dhow safaris in the Maldives, but I admit my travel preferences are atypical. I did pick up plenty of travel porn (i.e. brochures), as well as a few more canvas shopping bags and a t-shirt (plus some smaller gimmes). They added a culinary demo area, which featured embassy chefs. I am still puzzling over why the chef from the Norwegian embassy was placed in the "fiery foods" group.

Today's main event was the annual Voices in the Glen business meeting. I'll refrain from saying anything about it because: a) I need to write up the official minutes anyway and b) it's best for people not to see sausage being made, even when it is a dish as tasty as storytelling sausage. You may count that as my bad metaphor of the day.

Sorry to be so boring, but I am cranky and tired. I am hoping that the time change (and the additional daylight exposure that comes with it) will help my mood.
fauxklore: (Default)
... but I am still somewhat exhausted from taking the red-eye home on Sunday night and trying to function on Monday. (Key word is "trying.")

I also had the joy of needing to go pick up my dry cleaning and discovering my car battery was dead. Note to self: walking to the shopping center (a little over a mile) is fine. Walking home with dry cleaning wrapped in plastic on a humid day is yucky. There is such a thing as a taxi.

And I still haven't taken care of the car because I didn't need it yesterday anyway.

I am also pissed off at my company's new electronic time keeping system which is down half the time and has a crappy user interface.

So much for all the mental energy and enthusiasm I had on my way to the airport Sunday night. Yeah, I know this is just stress and being overwhelmed by my "to-do" list, so I will stop kvetching for now and actually do something.

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