fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Benjamin Barber was a political theorist who wrote the prescient Jihad vs. McWorld in 1995. Vinod Khanna was a Bollywood actor. Jonathan Demme was a film director. Seeing Something Wild and Swimming to Cambodia in the 1980’s is what made me conscious of the director as a way of choosing what movies I might want to see, an approach that has, generally, stood me in good stead.

Idan Raichel: I went to see Ian Raichel at the Barns at Wolf Trap last night. It was an interesting concert, since he is best known for things like The Iden Raichel Project, MiMa’amakim, and his collaborations with Vieux Farka Toure. In other words, for big group fusion collaborative music. This was just him and a piano (and some electronics, particularly with respect to percussion). He gets characterized as "world music" because of those collaborations and he had a few things to say about that characterization. For example, he noted that Edith Piaf is world music to Filipinos. (This is, by the way, why I have trouble with the term. But it was a helpful one back when there were physical record stores to browse in.)

Overall, it was an enjoyable concert. He was clearly having fun singing and playing – and talking, though not, generally, about the songs themselves. And the Barns is a lot less annoying than the Filene Center, as it doesn’t take ages to get out of the parking lot. (And, when I do, I am going in the opposite direction of almost everybody else there, since I cut across the back roads of Vienna to get home.)

Speaking of Concerts – That Facebook Meme: As you probably know, there’s a facebook meme that involves listing 10 concerts you claim to have been to, with one of them being a lie. It’s the sort of thing that I think works well for facebook, assuming other people use it the way I do, as a way of keeping up with friends from scattered parts of their lives. I’m not going to play the game here, but I would like to make some observations.

First off, my lie was Ry Cooder. His 1995 album, Talking Timbuktu with Ali Farka Toure, pretty much defines my adult musical tastes. But he’s never been playing somewhere that I could get to when he was there.

As for the ones who were true, Ari Shapiro is better known as an NPR reporter, but he sings cabaret, notably with Pink Martini. He has a good voice. And he looks like the groom doll on a wedding cake.

I saw Arlo Guthrie as part of the HARP tour – Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger – around 1984 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I think I actually went to that concert with my brother.

Elvis Costello was at the Chicago Theatre this past October.

Eric Bogle was either at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley or McCabe’s in Santa Monica. Possibly both. At any rate, it was somewhere in California and somewhere between 1982 and 2002. The thing I do remember distinctly is that he sang "Do You Sing Any Dylan?" (which, google tells me places the concert after 1992, so it must have been McCabe’s after all) and "Bloody Rotten Audience" (and, yes, I know Tony Miles wrote the latter).

I saw Garnet Rogers at Jammin’ Java. Don’t expect me to remember when, but maybe 2009 or so? I remember being disappointed, though I think Garnet has always disappointed me simply by not being his late, great brother Stan (who, alas, died before it ever occurred to me that there was such a thing as Canadian folk music).

John Denver is the most embarrassing on this list. I went with three friends in high school, and did not find it embarrassing at the time. What can I say? Tastes change as we age. Anyway, it was about 1975 at Madison Square Garden. I know that Robert Redford was at that concert, by the way, because another friend, who was supposed to go but whose parents were not comfortable with the whole thing and vetoed the idea, had a huge crush on him. When we told her we had seen him there at the arena, she dropped the schoolbooks she was holding.

The most interesting on the list is Kongar-ol Ondar. I took a tour of Siberia, Tuva, and Mongolia in 2000. Part of that included going to Na’adam Festival events in Kyzyl. That meant watching Tuvan horse races and Tuvan wrestling (complete with eagle dance) and, of course, listening to Tuvan throat singing. We went to the national concert, where the only Westerners there were the 4 of us (me, a guy from Milwaukee, a guy from Princeton, and our Czech tour leader), a French musicologist, and an American radio producer. We got a lot of attention, but nobody got anywhere near as much attention as Ondar did.

Nobody was foolish enough to guess Pierre Bensusan. In addition to being my favorite living musician, I may have mentioned in the past that I’ve probably seen Pierre perform a couple of dozen times. I think the first of those was at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. I know I saw him a couple of times at McCabe’s and several times at Jammin’ Java, and at various other venues, including the Takoma Park Community Center. Alas, I missed his most recent performance in this area.

Finally, I saw Tom Paxton at the Barns at Wolf Trap a couple of years ago. I think I had seen him previously at McCabe’s, but I’m not sure. I remember thinking the Wolf Trap show was not very energetic and deciding I didn’t need to see him again.

The One That Got Away: I expressed some surprise (on facebook) at how many of my friends could identify exactly when and where they saw certain performers. As you can tell from the above, I am, uh, vague on a lot of the details.

So one friend pointed out that I do more things that most people, leading to more opportunity for confusion. Which, while true, reminded me of something I failed to do. In late 1981, there was a big Royal Shakespeare Company production of Nicholas Nickleby that played in New York. It was absurdly expensive by the standards of the time (100 bucks, I think) and took 8 ½ hours over two days. My parents went to see it and brought my brother, who was living in New York again by then. I was in grad school in Berkeley, but my father was so impressed with the whole thing that he offered to fly me to New York and pay for the ticket. I turned him down.

The thing was that, back then, flying cross-country was a big deal for me. And the idea of doing it just to go to a play was ridiculous. I was also hesitant to go to the theatre alone. No, it was just too too crazy a thing to do.

Adult me is beating my head against the wall, of course. I think a lot of what changed was all the business travel I ended up doing, which sometimes involved things like flying cross-country for a 3 hour meeting. (In one case, that meeting involved getting a briefing from a person whose office was catty-corner from mine.) And then there were all the years of carrying on the world’s longest-running brief meaningless fling. If you and the person you are involved in live on opposite sides of the ocean, you can get a lot more used to doing things alone.

Remembering this makes me appreciate the craziness of my life even more.
fauxklore: (Default)
Weird Incident: I left my office and was walking to the metro Tuesday night when a woman came up to me and started talking about how wonderful my hair is. It was just pretty weird. She went on and on about how I should never dye my hair. Now, I do like the color of my hair for the most part, though, if I worked in a less conservative area, I would do something like one of those dye jobs that reproduce a famous painting. Still, this whole thing was strange.

By the way, I sometimes get fetishists who go on about the texture of my naturally curly hair. When people ask me how I get it this way, I reply, "DNA." I have deeply mixed feelings about the texture thing, given how many days there are when my hair can enter a room hours before I do.

Amazing Shoes: I took a chance on these shoes because they are just so me. I wore them yesterday and they are also amazingly comfortable. They have several other designs I like and, well, just take my money. The only question is which ones to get first. It has been a long time since shoes made me so happy.

Notes to Myself: I figured out that the note which read:
"plot map, linnet egg, palmtop, negligent" had to do with anagrams for a cryptic crossword I was working on. But what on earth could "(merde of) caniches" have possibly meant? I know what each of the individual words means, though I admit I had to google caniches to discover they are poodles. Still, why would I have written that down?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I did get a fair amount done at home over the weekend, including paying bills and sorting through about 2/3 of the accumulated mail. I even read most of the Sunday Washington Post, though I do still have a couple of sections to go. During the week, I read the paper on-line, so tend to read only articles I am really interested in. I read the Sunday paper in the dead tree edition, and tend to read almost all of it. Though nothing could get me to read articles about, say, high school lacrosse.

Saturday involved driving to Baltimore for lunch with a couple of folks from Flyertalk. If that sounds like a crazy long trip, one of them lives in the Bay Area (though, to be fair, he was visiting his mother in Maryland) while the other lives in Milwaukee and just flew in for the day. Traffic was light enough that the drive was reasonably pleasant.

I'd have liked to go to a talk on the architecture of Lithuanian synagogues on Sunday morning, but didn't feel quite up to going back to darkest Maryland for it. I planned to do more household organizing, but it turned out that what I really needed to review was the inside of my eyelids. It is always remarkable when a 15 minute nap can take two hours.

Sunday afternoon was the annual board meeting for my storytelling guild. There was a good turnout and it was reasonably productive, though I seem to have ended up with action items for myself.

In other non-news, I still need the ability to control the rotation of the earth.

Sociable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) For some reason, I wanted an alliterative description of the President. I came up with "vulgar, venal, and vile." I am not really sure what I am going to use that for, but it satisfies me to have thought of it.

3) I have worked in this complex of buildings for over a year. And I've been around here for years longer than that, going to meetings at various facilities. It was only on Monday that I discovered that there is a convenience store in the next building (connected to mine by an indoor walkway.)

4) My boss just sent our group an article about hagfish slime. I am not the only person around who is easily amused.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Hiroshi Arakawa was a Japanese baseball player and later managed the Yakult Swallows. Edwin Benson was the last native speaker of the Mandan language and made an effort to teach the language to children in North Dakota. Bob Krasnow co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Javier Echevarria Rodriguez headed Opus Dei, a controversial part of the Catholic Church and a favorite target of conspiracy theorists. E. R. Braithwaite wrote To Sir, With Love. Alan Thicke was an actor and talk show host, probably best known as the father on Growing Pains. Thomas Schelling was a Nobel prize winning economist, specializing in game theory and complex systems. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver. (Note: he did not die of choking.) Zsa Zsa Gabor was an actress and socialite, who was at least as famous for having had nine husbands.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Another former colleague passed away earlier this month. Bernie Klem had an office catty-corner from mine, despite which we had an occasion on which we both flew from L.A. to Washington for me to give him a briefing. My favorite story about Bernie is the time he was checking into a hotel that asked him for a government ID to get the rate within per diem. He just said, "I'm traveling undercover" and they gave him the rate!

Three Holiday Parties: I have survived the party season, with minimal stress. My condo complex party has been less interesting since the Scottish guy realized that it wasn’t formal and, hence, gave up wearing his kilt to it. On the other hand, the food is good (as long as you get there early enough to get some of it) and the conversation can be interesting. It’s never a bad thing to get to know your neighbors at least a little bit.

The second party was at work and the stress level is lower now that they cater it, instead of doing pot luck. They were doing partial pot luck for a while, with folks doing appetizers and desserts, but they went full catered this year. They had okay Italian food with the definite highlight being the tiramisu for dessert. As for the white elephant gift exchange, my contribution was a hot cocoa gift box from Penzeys, which consists of cocoa, two hot chocolate mixes, a jar of cinnamon sticks (well, actually, cassia, but normal people are not as snobbish about this as I am), and bay leaves. Don’t ask me to explain the latter, because I can’t. Unfortunately, it got chosen towards the end, so it’s hard to say if it would have gotten stolen. I ended up with a set of teas and an infuser, along with hot chocolate sticks and a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.

The final party was at my former great-grandboss’s house. That one was pot luck and I find it intriguing that the offerings included Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s chili. I brought a Mediterranean pasta salad, for which I will offer a recipe below. There was good conversation and entertainment, in the form of our hosts (and their daughter) singing and me telling a couple of stories. The downside was that the party was in Manassas and, oy, that is a long drive. At least the morning ice storm was long since over and the roads were in good shape.

Flyertalk Dinner: I posted that it had been a while since we’d had a get-together, expecting people to suggest something after Christmas. But it turned out that a lot of people were free on Thursday night. We went to Sine Irish Pub in Pentagon City, which is always reliable. It was cold enough out to justify eating things like shepherd’s pie or fish and chips. And, of course, there was the usual travel conversation.

Silver Belles: This was a cute little holiday musical at Signature Theatre. The premise is that the Silver Belles of Silver Ridge, Tennessee put on an annual pageant for the local orphans. But now their leader, Oralene, had been struck dead by a bolt of lightning (which also, not coincidentally, destroyed her still) and they are struggling to put the pageant together. Oralene gets to influence things from beyond the grave.

There’s a lot of Southern-inflected humor and quirky characters and reasonably lively music. Donna Migliacci was excellent as Oralene. I want to particularly point out her expressive reactions to the crazy things the rest of the Belles do. There was also great chemistry between her and Dan Manning, who played her husband, Earl. The other outstanding performance is by the always wonderful Nova Payton. However, it bothered me that she as the one African-American performer was playing the sexy, vamp role.

I’m not big on either Christmas fare or country(ish) music, but I still thought this was worth seeing. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than the umpty-umpth version of A Christmas Carol.

Carousel: Finally, I went to see Carousel at Arena Stage. I’ve always been lukewarm towards this musical. There is some lovely music, e.g. "The Carousel Waltz," but I have trouble with the whole "he’s your man, so you put up with him even when he hurts you" stuff. In short, I think Billy is a jerk and Julie is an idiot. And, yes, I understand the psychological damage abuse does and why Julie behaves the way she does, but it still annoys me.

The performances are excellent, with Nicholas Rodriguez as Billy Bigelow, Betsy Morgan as Julie Jordan, and Kate Rockwell as Carrie Pipperidge. It is also a pleasure to see actual dancing on stage. But, overall, I find the story too off-putting. If I have to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, give me South Pacific.

Le Catch-up

Dec. 1st, 2016 05:05 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Oy, am I behind. But I won’t get caught up by kvetching alone, so here is an attempt at catching up.

Celebrity Death Watch: Yaffa Eliach was a Holocaust historian. Robert Vaughan was an actor, best known for playing Napoleon Solo on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Little known fact is that I had a Napoleon Solo doll when I was a kid and he had a wonderful relationship with Barbie, often helping her escape from Russian spies and wild animals and so on. Leon Russell was a musician and songwriter. Gwen Ifill was a journalist, primarily on PBS. Mose Allison was a jazz pianist. Whitney Smith designed the flag of Guyana, which I mention only because he is claimed to have coined the word "vexillology," thus enabling Sheldon Cooper’s "Fun With Flags" shtick on The Big Bang Theory. Ruth Gruber was a journalist and humanitarian. Sharon Jones was a soul singer. Ben Zion Shenker was a rabbi and composer of over 500 Hasidic niggunim. Florence Henderson was an actress, best known for portraying Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch. Ron Glass was also an actor and associated in my mind with his role on Barney Miller. Grant Tinker was a television executive, including heading NBC in the 1980’s. And, of course, he was the husband of Mary Tyler Moore before that. Michael "Jim" Deiligatti invented the Big Mac. Brigid O’Brien followed in the tradition of her father, Pat, and acted.

Leonard Cohen was a singer-songwriter, who I’ve always thought of as the Poet Laureate of Depression. That isn’t intended as a negative statement. It just means that there are times when you need to wallow in despair and his music suited that mood perfectly.

Melvin Laird was the Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973 (under Richard Nixon). While serving in Congress, he supposedly convinced Spiro Agnew to resign the Vice Presidency. He had a lot of influence on how Pentagon budgeting is done. Most importantly, he ended the Vietnam era conscription and initiated the All Volunteer Force.

Jay Forrester was, essentially, the founder of system dynamics. I will admit to qualms about the application of systems models for economic analysis, but his work did enable the growth of systems thinking in the world at large. Hence, he made a difference in the opportunities I’ve had in my career.

And then there was Fidel Castro. He was a dictator and it’s clear that he oppressed the Cuban people. On the other hand, his commitment to education and health care was real. That doesn’t balance out the evils of his government, of course. I will note, however, that the U.S. has had a lot less animosity against lots of dictators who are at least equally bad. How much do you hear about Teodoro Obiang Nguerna Mbasogo, for example? Admittedly, Equatorial Guinea )see, I saved you from having to look him up) isn’t 90 miles from Florida, but the point remains that the treatment of Cuba has not been entirely rational. I am hoping that Fidel’s death may work towards normalizing things. I do still hope to go to Cuba at some point, since my grandfather lived there in the 1920’s and my grandparents met and married there.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Milt Eisner was a member of my chavurah. He was a retired statistician and a puzzle person, who competed at least a few times in the ACPT.

Condo Association Meeting: Our annual meeting was right after election day. It wasn’t too painful. And they had good brownies.

WBRS Reception: Then came the William Barton Rogers Society reception. This is an MIT related thing and a reward for a certain level of donation. It was at the Mayflower, which is less impressive than one might think. They served heavy hors d’oeuvres. The speaker was John Lienhard, who is the director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab. He was reasonably entertaining. But, really, the value of these events is the opportunity to have intelligent conversations before the main speaker.

Housecleaning and Swap Hosting: Hosting a story swap forced me to do a certain amount of house cleaning. It is fairly appalling to turn up coupons that expired two years ago and such.

Anyway, there was a small group at the swap but it was still enjoyable. I was particularly pleased that Margaret told a First Nations story that is, apparently, in the novel Mrs. Mike, a book I remember entirely for some gruesome medical details involving: 1) diphtheria and 2) amputation.

JGS 36th Anniversary Luncheon: The meal was just okay, but the talk, by Arthur Kurzweil, was excellent. He was entertaining and inspiring. I have commented in the past about genealogy in terms of connectedness to my family’s history and I’ve also thought about that connectivity when I go to shul, admittedly all too rarely. (That is, by the way, why I prefer a more traditional service.) Anyway, as always, it is all about stories and he told good ones.

Book Club: We had a good discussion of How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, which involves a Japanese war bride. But I am getting increasingly annoyed at the racism (and other general narrowmindedness) of one person in the group. Sigh.

Work: Work has been particularly hectic lately. I was at a full day class one day and have been in endless meetings other days. The telephone is also both my chief tool and the bane of my existence. I’ve also been suffering a lot of IT hell, with issues on three of the four systems I use. However, I suppose it is worth it as I did get a very positive performance review.

The Secret Garden: I went with a friend to see The Secret Garden at Shakespeare Theatre Company. This is one of my favorite Broadway scores of all time. Really, almost the whole score is earworm worthy. I do still think that the book, even as somewhat rewritten here, is probably incomprehensible to anyone who have never read the original novel. But who cares when there is such luscious music with songs like "Lily’s Eyes" and "Where in the World" and
"How Could I Ever Know?" (They did, alas, cut out "Race You to the Top of the Morning.") I should also mention the excellent performances, including Anya Rothman’s as Mary Lennox,, Josh Young as Neville, and, especially, Michael Xavier as Archibald and Lizzie Klepmperar as Lily. (Note, too, that Daisy Egan, who played Mary Lennox on Broadway in 1991 and won a Tony at it, plays Martha, but that’s not an especially showy role.) Anyway, if you live here, go to see this show. If you don’t, you could do worse than to listen to the original cast recording a few thousand times.

Martinique: Finally, I went to Martinique this past weekend. It sounds unlikely, but Norwegian flies from BWI to Martinique and Guadeloupe at very low fares, so why not? I stayed at the Hotel Bambou in the Trois Islet area, which was decent enough for the price. They were very friendly, but the wifi in the room didn’t work well and, while the price included both breakfast and dinner, the dinner buffet was not very good. One expects better of a French colony.

Anyway, it was an easy ferry ride to Fort de France, the capital, where I was eager to see the Bibliotheque Schoelcher, which is very impressive indeed. It was built in France in 1889, then disassembled and shipped piece by piece to Martinique. Schoelcher, by the way, was the major abolitionist writer of the French West Indies. I spent a couple of more hours meandering around the city, which has some interesting architecture (somewhat akin in New Orleans). The Grand Marche was another highlight, especially as there was a lively band playing in front. Overall, it was worth a few hours meandering around.

My rule of thumb for travel is that I need to do something every day, so my Sunday venture was to Musee de la Pagerie, which was the birthplace of Empress Josephine. There was a special exhibit about the history of jazz, but it was dense words, entirely in French, so I didn’t read much of it. The actual museum has pictures of Josephine, along with a few of Napoleon, as well as a few artifacts, many of which I gathered are reproductions. There is also a sugar house (the family was in the sugar cane business) and attractive grounds.

Other than that, I spent time swimming, both in the pool and in the sea. And lazing on the beach. I walked up to the casino, which is remarkably unimpressive, and to the Creole Village shops, which are likewise.

All in all, it was a pleasant enough but not especially exciting trip.

Transitions

Oct. 6th, 2016 03:30 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This is the time of year for transitions - between Rosh Hashanah and the government fiscal year. My company has a new president and CEO, as well, and I am reserving judgment on him. We had a strategic planning brainstorming session last week, at which I found myself wondering if I live on a different planet than everybody else.

As the election nears, I expect lots of senior people to resign, so nothing will get done for months. We have something we are trying to get done before then, which will be interesting because we are basically trying to do 6 months worth of work in a month. Except, of course, it isn't work per se. It's getting a bunch of people to sign off on an agreement and it should be doable if you find a way to keep the agreement from sitting on each person's desk for two weeks. The technical part - or, at least, the Geek to English translation - is easier than nagging people to review documents.

Bottom line is that my energy is focused in a couple of narrow channels. I will try to be more interesting soon.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: The only death that crossed my radar this time out was that of Shimon Peres. He served a couple of terms as Prime Minister of Israel, as well as holding several other prominent political jobs there, notably Foreign Minister. I’d say his most significant accomplishment was the peace treaty with Jordan. But he also deserves a lot of credit for Israel being as much of a technologically advanced nation as it is. He also wrote poetry, but I am loathe to list that as an accomplishment for any politician after having heard praise for Stalin’s poetry at his house museum in Georgia.

Baseball: The Red Sox clinched the American League East. Yay! I am also reasonably pleased that the Nationals won the National League East. As for the wild card slots, I’d kind of like to see Detroit pull things out and beat out Toronto, just because the Tigers have some appealing history.

Quarterly Movies: Well, make that "movie," singular. The only movie I saw over the past few months was Seven Psychopaths. I chose it because it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Like pretty much all of McDonagh’s work, it is weird and violent, but funny. At any rate, it held my attention.

The Quarterly Goal Update: I didn’t make much of an attempt over the past few months, largely because I’ve been so swamped at work. My email inbox at work is ridiculous – back up over 6000 items. The only other thing I’ve made any actual progress on is dealing with papers, having handled about 2/3 of what had migrated to the bedroom floor.

Speaking of Paperwork: I went to pay my county property tax bill for my car on-line. And I discovered that they had changed my address to some address in a town I’d never heard of that isn’t even in the same county. I called and got it changed back, but the point is that they should notify people when there is an address change so they can verify that they did it. (Apparently, someone did it by phone and the clerk typed in the wrong property number.) The whole thing was bizarre and the security implications are scary.

New Years Rosh Hashanah is Monday and Tuesday, so let me pass along my wishes for a happy, healthy 5777. I will also pass along wishes for a happy fiscal year 2017 for all of my friends who have some sort of U.S. government affiliations.

Two, two, two new years in one.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Yeah, nothing for days, then two posts in the same day. So it goes.

Celebrity Death Watch: Richard Whittington-Egan wrote true crime stories, including a couple of books about Jack the Ripper. Don Buchla was a major designer of electronic musical instruments. Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro was the president of Cape Verde for about a decade. W. P. Kinsella was a Canadian writer, whose most significant work was the novel Shoeless Joe, which was adopted into the movie, Field of Dreams. Charmian Carr was best known for playing Leisl in the movie version of The Sound of Music, but you may also remember that she played Ella in the Sondheim TV musical Evening Primrose. Edward Albee was a playwright. It was seeing a production of The Zoo Story in high school that made me realize I could enjoy seeing plays which I had found unreadable. He was, apparently, not afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Baseball: The Red Sox swept the Source of All Evil in the Universe! Yay! Now they’ve got 4 games against the Orioles, which will be a big deal since they are currently 3 games up on the O’s in the AL East. I am thinking I might go to either Wednesday or Thursday night’s game, especially if I can stay over in Baltimore to make the commute issue less annoying.

Starbucks Protest: When I was walking from the metro to go to The Grapevine, I noticed a woman picketing the Starbucks across the street. She was carrying a large sign, with the word "Obey" on it. And the "O" was filled in with the Starbucks logo. Anybody have any idea what that was about?

The Grapevine: This storytelling series at Busboys & Poets in Takoma started up again on Wednesday night. This month’s featured tellers were Heather Forest from New York and Chelise Fox, who is, apparently, local, despite my not having heard her before. There were also the usual open mike tellers, one of whom (Dominique) was a first timer and quite good. Chelise had a fine and complex tale about a contest between wit and luck for the success of a man. Heather’s stories were mostly ones I had heard her tell before, e.g. "The Squire’s Bride." Her most powerful piece was a personal one at the end of the program, about the deaths of her mother and father-in-law. Her telling, enhanced with music, is good, but I do bristle whenever I hear someone use the word "shero." I understand why one might not want to use "heroine," but, surely, there is some better word that doesn’t rely on a completely mistaken etymology?

Better Said Than Done: Finally, regarding my own storytelling, I was part of Saturday night’s Better Said Than Done benefit at the Walker Nature Center in Reston. My story was pretty marginally related to the theme, which was Wild Life, though I did have Barbie attacked by a (stuffed) tiger. Overall, my story went reasonably well, though the ending could have been tighter. Given how all over the map the material was on Monday, I think I did a reasonable job pulling it together. I should also mention that, for me, the highlight of the evening was Catherine’s story about the woes of being on a condo board that was trying to solve a problem with goose poop in their lake.

Travel Re-Planning: I was going to go to Laos in January, but decided that I want to take a longer trip than I could get away with then. Fortunately, Alaska Air makes it reasonably easy to cancel award tickets. You get your miles back pretty much right away, though it can take a bit longer to get your credit card company to refund your taxes.

I do, however, still want to avoid being here doing inauguration week. And I know that, what with Martin Luther King’s birthday being that Monday (which we don’t get as a holiday, but our government counterparts do), it will be a slow week at the office, making it an uncontroversial time to get away. I’ve got plenty of ideas for places to go, some of them odder than others. It will probably come down to where I can get a good fare to, as that can actually be a decent time for paid tickets.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: This was a bad time for transgender performers, with the deaths of both The Lady Chablis and Alexis Arquette. Other notable deaths are of children’s book author Anna Dewdney, electronics retailer and embezzler "Crazy Eddue" Antar, and ska musician, Prince Buster, who has now gone "One Step Beyond."

Embassy of Costa Rica: My alumni association had a dinner and talk at the embassy of Costa Rica on Thursday night. I was tired and grumpy, so not very enthusiastic about it. It did, however, turn out to be a nice evening. The ambassador, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, talked about how he went from science to politics, as well as discussing the direction Costa Rica is taking, both in terms of economics and environment. I had no idea, for example, that their biggest export is medical devices. While the drink selection was unimpressive (and not specific to Costa Rica), the food was very good, especially a tasty cold salmon dish. I left feeling livelier than I had on the way there.

On Republican Turf: I went to a (work-related) breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club on Friday morning. This is, essentially, the national Republican frat house. What I found interesting is a sign of how times have changed. I am beyond the age of need for such things, but the ladies’ room offered free tampons and pads. I cannot imagine that would have been the case just a few years ago.

High School Reunion: My 40th high school reunion was Saturday night. It turned out to be cheaper (and, of course, infinitely lower in stress) to fly up to JFK. I’ve just started flying Jet Blue this year and, so far, I’ve been really impressed with their service. Their boarding process is mildly annoying, but their seats are reasonably sized and they serve okay snacks on short flights. I rented a car from Payless, which shares space with Avis. They were fairly inefficient, but it wasn’t too long a wait before I was able to drive off in a Kia Soul, which would not have been my first choice of a vehicle. On the plus side, I’ve now ruled out yet another potential replacement for my beloved Saturn.

I briefly checked out the Resorts World Casino in Queens, but they didn’t have anything much that I wanted to play. Then I drove out to Long Island. I was staying at the Homewood Suites in Carle Place and, when I arrived, I went to hang up my dress for the evening. Except, oops, I had, um, forgotten to pack it! I distinctly remember taking it out of the closet and draping it over the back of the sofa, ready to pack. Apparently, I must have gotten distracted along the way. (This is why I make checklists to pack for actual vacations.) I had planned on an afternoon nap, but had to make an emergency shopping trip instead. Fortunately, there is a Dress Barn just a couple of blocks from the hotel. I picked out 4 dresses to try on. The first one would have been acceptable. The second one just didn’t work at all. When I tried on the third one – bingo! It was exactly what I wanted, with an interesting neckline and a lovely lace inset in the back. I didn’t even bother to try on the fourth dress. The price was reasonable and nobody would have known about the fiasco had I not told the story. I just think it’s funny that I can remember part of the lyrics to our class song, but can’t manage to remember something like this.

As for the reunion itself, it was lovely. There were, alas, several people I’d have loved to see who weren’t there, but it was great to see those who were. I do admit to sometimes finding myself wondering if I ever knew certain people, but our class was over 400 people and one tended to know only those who shared the same classes and activities. I’d say that, for the most part, people seem happy and successful, though we are at an age where a lot of people are coping with aging or dying parents. Kids grown up, going to college, getting married. A lot of people have found themselves with the resources to do things they always wanted to do but didn’t think they’d be able to – myself included.

Later in the evening, they put on music for dancing. The only problem with that is that the music was very loud – too loud for carrying on a conversation without shouting. We are, after all, middle-aged. Though surprisingly few people look it. I think all the balding men and the wrinkled women just decided to stay home.

Baseball: Because I don’t have enough stress in my life, the Red Sox are being exciting. They’re in first, but there are various birds (Blue Jays and Orioles) within swooping distance.

Last Week

Jul. 18th, 2016 01:18 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I still have entries to write about my trivia game and my genealogy updates. But I don't want to fall too far behind on things I am doing, so let's do that one first.

Celebrity Death Watch: John McMartin was a musical theatre actor, notable for performances in Little Mary Sunshine, Sweet Charity, and, especially, Follies, where he was the originator of the role of Benjamin Stone. Larry Bock founded the USA Science and Engineering Festival (which I have volunteered at a couple of times). Interestingly, even though I met him several times, I never realized he was legally blind until reading his obituary. Carolyn See was a writer, whose works included several novels, though her daughter, Lisa See, is arguably more famous. Alan Vega was part of a band named Suicide, though he died of natural causes.

Tapas: An old friend was in town for a NASA-related program she is involved in for the next year. We were able to get together early Monday evening for drinks and tapas at Jaleo, where happy hour is always a good deal. Afterwards, we strolled through TechSHop, the local Crystal City makerspace. I discovered that they have bookbinding classes. That could be handy, since it is certainly closer to my usual haunts than most other places that teach, say, Coptic stitch. Overall, a pleasant evening.

Going-Away Shindig: Wednesday night, I had a going-away happy hour to go to for an old friend who is changing jobs after 20+ years. It was a good opportunity to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in ages. Unfortunately, I had only a couple of days’ notice, so was unable to acquire a suitable present. I also had to rush off since book club was that evening. That was slightly difficult, as I still had another 80 or so pages of the book to read (out of nearly 600) but there was still plenty of controversy and the spoilers didn’t really matter much. (I did finish the book the next day.)

Sunday Madness: I spent much of rest of the week trying to catch up on household odds and ends (not super successfully) and napping. Well, and working. Saturday was mostly filled with suspended animation, i.e. frequent naps in between bouts of reading and housework. But then came Sunday.

First event was the Style Invitational Loser Brunch. The service at Grevey’s was inefficient, as they were understaffed, but the food was okay. The conversation was wide-ranging, including topics ranging politics (of course) to bell-ringing. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had my next commitment.

That second event was rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show. (Saturday, July 30th at The Auld Shebeen. More shameless self-promotion to follow.) My story went well, but it is a bit on the short side. That is better than it being too long, of course, but I do wonder if there is anything worth adding.

Finally, my chavurah had an evening outing to see The Capital Steps do a free performance at Mason District Park. They are, of course, well known for their political humor, and the show was very funny. My favorite piece was probably the one in which a woman complained about transgender bathroom use on the grounds of making lines for women’s rooms even longer. I did wish there had been more Brexit humor, but it does take time to write appropriate songs. There was also one piece about Metro, but nothing about how bloody long it would take to get out of the park after the show.

A General Comment on Life: Oy.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have, as usual, been too busy doing things to write much about them. I'll have things to say about storytelling and about theatre (well, after tonight, when I am seeing a play at Signature) and dinner / propaganda at the Saudi Embassy. I also have some long genealogy updates to write, including a very exciting find on my father's side of the family. (The short version is that I've verified a very speculative connection from some years ago. And identified a few more people from a list of names that my father had written for some unknown purpose.)

But, first, a few things that have amused me recently.


  1. I got an email asking for volunteers for the USA STEM Festival. Among the volunteer jobs, they requested "sign language interrupters."

  2. We are now back to the time of year when the Crystal City Business Improvement District tries to convince those of us who work here that it isn't an entirely soulless office environment, surrounded by soulless condos. (I have a few friends who live in those condos, but they do so largely because they like plane spotting from their beds. Don't ask.)

    Anyway, that includes Food Truck Thursdays. It's not like there is a shortage of places to eat around here, but it is a nice change of pace and, as long as it isn't pouring rain out, I'll go walk over and see what's on hand. There's a very popular Vietnamese one - rice plates, noodles, and banh mi, all of which come with a choice of chicken or pork. The catch is that the truck has a sign painted on it claiming it is halal.

    My father always said the person who invented kosher shrimp would make a fortune. He did not live long enough to see the invention of Mendel's It's Not Shrimp. I do not, alas, think Mendel made a fortune.

  3. Another production of the Crystal City BID is a Farmer's Market, held on Tuesday afternoons. Just now I was out running a lunchtime errand and I overheard two women who had just noticed the sign for it. One of them turned to the other and said, "Oh, I should go and get grapes there on Tuesday." Uh, the only fruit selection at a farmer's market in Northern Virginia in April is limited to apples (admittedly, several varieties of them) and maybe a few Asian pears. Grapes are not in season until maybe late July.


By the way, the farmer's market had a lot of ramps this past week. I would have bought some, but I realized I have absolutely no idea what one does with them. Maybe I will research that by this coming Tuesday.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Yes, it’s catch-up time!

Celebrity Death Watch: P. F. Sloan wrote "Secret Agent Man," "Eve of Destruction," and numerous other songs. Amir Aczel wrote readable books about mathematics. (I recommend The Mystery of the Aleph.) Holly Woodlawn was a transgender actress who was in a few Andy Warhol movies, but is more significant for being the subject of the opening verse of Lou Reed’s "Walk on the Wild Side." Dolph Schayes was a Jewish basketball hall-of-famer. He also had a degree in aeronautical engineering from NYU. Peter Dickinson was a mystery writer. Lillian Vernon ran a mail order catalogue emporium. Kurt Masur conducted the New York Philharmonic. Dickie Moore was a hockey star.

The Amazing Race: I realize I have not commented on this past season. Let me just say that I am happy with who won. I was, however, annoyed by the last leg telling them to fly to Long Island. I am pretty sure they flew to JFK, not Islip. Yes, Queens is physically on the island, but it is not considered part of Long Island by real Guylanders.

One Day University: This was actually before I went on vacation, but I hadn’t managed to find time to write about it until now. There were 4 lecturers.

First up, Tina Rivers Ryan of Columbia University spoke on The Genius of Michelangelo. She emphasized his sculpture, pointing out the particular challenge of working with marble (vs. bronze), though she did also discuss the Sistine Chapel (including the Last Judgement). Having been privileged enough to see the major works she discussed in person, I found her talk both informative and entertaining.

Next up was Austin Sarat of Amherst College on 4 Trials That Changed the World. This was my favorite talk of the day, largely because of his breezy lecture style. The four trials he discussed were the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Nuremberg trials, the prosecution for murder of O.J. Simpson, and the impeachment trial against Bill Clinton. I’d quibble some on his discussion of O.J. While it certainly raised issues about the treatment of celebrity (both among the defendant and various of the legal players), I think that the racial atmosphere in Los Angeles after the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots played a significant role that he neglected. (Remember, I lived in L.A. at the time. And I was called for jury duty downtown at the time the O.J. trial was going on, though I got sent over to traffic court to be bored waiting around for two weeks.)

The third speaker was Jennifer Lawless of American University, with a talk on Men, Women, and Politics (A World of Difference). Her primary thesis was that women are underrepresented in political office largely out of a lack of ambition. In other words, women don’t think they’re qualified, so there is a self-fulfilling prophecy. She had some interesting data (notably, about the negative effect of term limits on underrepresented groups), but I was not convinced overall. Or more precisely, I don’t think she got at the reasons why women might be hesitant to run for office. It would be interesting to see if there is similar research for things like high school and college student council elections and local things like school boards and such.

The final speaker was Mark Brackett of Yale on What is Emotional Intelligence? I found his presentation disappointing, largely because his attempts at being interactive didn’t work for me with as large an audience as there was. I also felt that it was a bit of a pop-psych advertisement, but I was expecting that, so it was less of an issue. His personal anecdotes were, however, interesting and, often, amusing.

Virgin Galactic: This month’s MIT Seminar Series talk was by Steve Isakowitz, the president of Virgin Galactic. He was a very entertaining speaker and actually made me wish I had a spare $250K to sign up for a suborbital flight. He also talked about Launcher 1, their small satellite launch vehicle, which will be dropped from a 747. When he told his mother he’d bought a 747, she said, "Good. Now you can come visit me."

I should note that I find Virgin Galactic fairly credible in the commercial launch world for the simple reason that Burt Rutan is the designer of their spacecraft. He’s always made a strong impression on me for his engineering and design skills. One question someone asked is what goes into making somebody such a good designer and nobody had a really great answer.

Three Holiday Parties: First party was at home of my former great-grandboss. Food was potluck and I went with lukshen kugel (noodle pudding). I discovered that none of the recipes I had for a dairy kugel had what I consider the key sweet ingredient, namely crushed pineapple. But it’s not like it’s the sort of thing for which one follows a recipe anyway. (I was mostly looking to see what people use as the noodle to egg ratio. 6 eggs for a 12 oz bag of noodles seems typical.) Anyway, it went over reasonably well. I also told a story. And we played a couple of rounds of Telestrations, a reasonably amusing party game. Overall, it was pretty nice as these things go.

Second party was the annual condo complex party. I remembered that I had to get there early to have any hope of getting food. They do heavy hors d’oeuvres and they’re gone in less than an hour. I chatted with a few folks, mostly about travel. Mostly, this is a "might as well get a meal out of my condo fees" event.

Third (and final) party was the holiday lunch at work. They cater mains and sides and do potluck appetizers and desserts. I did spring rolls because I am still trying to finish up the rice paper from a misunderstanding a while ago. (I assumed that saying the package made 12 servings meant it would make 12 spring rolls. But they defined a serving as an ounce. The package really makes about 100 spring rolls. I make spring rolls a lot.) At any rate, the ones I brought all got eaten, though I had leftover peanut sauce which I can toss with pasta for supper one night. That party also has a white elephant gift exchange. I contributed a Star Wars coloring book and colored pencil set. I got a bottle of wine. Consumables are actually a good thing to get, since it isn’t like I need more stuff. (Well, except books and yarn. One can never have too much of those.) One of the vice presidents got an Obama chia pet. This is something like the 4th year in a row he got a chia pet. He’s now announced his pending retirement.

Texas Jack’s BBQ: I went to this new barbecue place in Arlington with friends from flyertalk. I’m not all that big on Texas barbecue, so I thought the food was just okay. It’s an order by the pound type of place and we got a pound of lean brisket, a pound of moist brisket, and a pound of pulled pork, plus fried potatoes and brussels sprouts. That was plenty of food for 6 people. I sure eat brussels sprouts a lot for somebody who refused to touch them until a couple of years ago.

At any rate, it was good to see some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and meet a couple of new people. And, of course, to talk travel (and miles and points and such.)

Bright Star: This is a new musical, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and it’s at the Kennedy Center for a pre-Broadway run. The story revolves around two people – a young man aspiring to be a writer and the steely editor of the journal he is trying to sell his work to. The editor has a deep dark secret, involving an illegitimate child. The first act ends on a truly shocking note, but anybody with any sense of drama knows how the story will end, if not quite how it will get there. The music is pleasant, a bit more twangy than I might like, given that I tend to need subtitles once I get south of Richmond. (It’s set in North Carolina. There is a western North Carolina / eastern Tennessee accent that this northerner finds particularly incomprehensible.) There’s little actual dancing, with the exception of a drinking song (“Pour Me Another”) which is somewhat of a throwaway. It’s intended to contrast the big city girl going after our innocent young writer, but we all know he’s going to end up with the girl back in his home town, so that side plot doesn’t provide much real drama.
All in all, the show was enjoyable. But, other than being written by big names, I’m not sure I really see it as a Broadway production. It seems more suitable for a more intimate, smaller theatre. Roundabout might do well with it, for example.

This Past Weekend: I was hoping to get completely caught up on things at home. I didn’t get anywhere near done, but I did make a fair amount of progress. I also got out of the house for a bit to go to knitting group, which is always enjoyable.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I’ll write up my weekend trip to New York separately, but here is the rest of the catch-up.

Celebrity Death Watch: Al Molinaro was a character actor who, among other things, played Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple. Fred Thompson was an actor and senator. Helmut Schmidt was the Chancellor of West Germany in the late 1970’s. Allen Toussaint was a major New Orleans musician.

New Job: For anyone who hasn’t heard yet, I am going to be moving to a new job (within the same company) in a few weeks. I will be working on early development activities for the next generation Navy communications satellites. It should be a good challenge.

I should note that this wasn’t a matter of any particular dissatisfaction with what I’ve been doing. While I hate the building I work in, the people are fine and the work is fine. It’s just that I’ve been here over four years, so was ready when an appealing opportunity came up.

Girlstar:This new musical at Signature Theatre had a talented and energetic cast and an interesting concept. There’s a fairy tale sort of opening which gives the back story of a pair of twins (boy and girl). The girl is immensely talented, but a jealous older sister uses a magic liquid she’s found to steal that talent and store it in the belly of her pet snake. And, of course, without talent, one dies. But not before having a daughter, who is then raised by the brother and protected from music by him. Now that daughter is all grown up and ready to seek her aunt, who is the music producer, responsible for the careers of every major star.

What doesn’t get explained is why the aunt can’t use the talent herself, but needs to put it into her girlstar. There are two other stars who mysteriously die to give the girl her voice and her dancing moves, making her ready for a big concert. Everything goes bizarrely wrong, but maybe there is a happyish ending after all.

The problem is that the story doesn’t quite follow the way fairy tales are supposed to work. Overall, a lot of stuff happens out of sheer convenience, instead of making even a limited amount of sense. That’s a pity because there’s some enjoyable music. It’s really a waste of a particularly talented cast, with Donna Migliaccio giving an excellent performance as the evil aunt and Desi Oakley as the sweet niece not sure of what is happening to her.

Halloween: We had a house concert / swap for Halloween. It was a lot of fun. I told "Ida Black," which went over okay though I don’t think I told it especially well.

Knitting Group: I am officially a quarter of the way through this afghan I intended to finish by about March.

Book Club: This session’s book was Euphoria by Lily King, which is a fictionalized story about a thinly disguised Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson. I think having been to Papua New Guinea (and, specifically, the Sepik region – in real life, Bateson worked with the Iatmul people) did help with it. The ending of the novel, however, annoyed me.

Lost Keys: Somehow, my house keys disappeared. My best guess is that they fell out of my bag when I was pulling out my badge for the bus. And, of course, I got home from book club after our complex office was closed. The weather was dreadful, so it took a while for the locksmith to get there. Not the end of the world, but it’s annoying.

Placeholder

Nov. 6th, 2015 03:20 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I hate to write this sort of non-entry, but I am just completely swamped right now.

I'm transitioning to a new job (within the same company) and that entails both a lot to do and a lot of mental energy.

Last week included seeing Girl Star at Signature Theatre, going to a Halloween storytelling event, and knitting group.

This week included book club, a lot of household stuff, election day, and losing keys.

And I am off to NY for the weekend.

Bottom line is that I am busy and stressed.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Too busy to write, hence this list of what I need to write about.


  • Too much discussion of space is focused on human spaceflight.

  • The rules I used to follow about what is too short a trip to be worth taking were actually good for me, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

  • There are movies so bad they can't even become cult films. Some of those involve music. And vampires.

  • My to-do list includes: a) some travel arranging, b) getting a couple of visas, c) reducing the resemblance between my living room and a used bookstore, d) assorted shameless self-promotion, and e) something else I can't remember at the moment. Oh, also, total world domination, because that is always on the list.



Er, yes, I may be a bit stressed right now.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Candida Royalle was a porn star. Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen in the 1950’s Superman television series and later became a playwright. Moses Malone was a basketball player. Max Beauvoir was a biochemist who became a high-ranking Voudou priest in Haiti. Herschel Silverman was a beat poet. Jackie Collins wrote trashy novels, the most successful of which was Hollywood Wives. Daniel Thompson invented the bagel machine, leading to the proliferation of the bland, soft, bagel-shaped rolls which destroy the name of that noble treat. Robert Simon founded Reston, Virginia, a planned community where I have been known to spend time (some of which is mentioned below.)

Two pitchers the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League died on the same date, September 13th. Jane Jacobs played almost all of her career for Racine, while and Emma Bergmann moved around teams a bit more, but most notably pitched no-hitter for Muskegon in 1947.

Unetaneh Tokef 1: I should have mentioned an insight I had on Rosh Hashanah. I usually think of Unetaneh Tokef (the most dramatic prayer in the High Holiday services) in terms of the physical fate of people, i.e. "who will die by fire and who by water" and so on. But it does also refer to psychological states. "Who will be serene and who will be tormented" is another aspect of the possibilities for the year. I’m not sure why I never noticed that before, but I find it oddly reassuring at a time when so many people I know are dealing with various types of mental struggles (their own and other people's).

Unetaneh Tokef 2: I keep playing with science fiction and fantasy ideas for people’s fates. Stuff like "who by aliens and who by dragon’s fire." I am sure somebody must have written this poem already.

New Story: In retrospect, signing up for a show without actually having a story on the theme may not have been a great idea. The show in question was a Better Said Than Done benefit for the Nature House in Reston. I figured I could come up with something on "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire," in the course of several weeks. Well, I did, but it was somewhat pointless and not as funny as most of my stories. More significantly, I was stressing out over it and tweaking things until the last minute. Overall, it went okay, but it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. On the other hand, it was a good challenge.

Pricy Beer: I had dinner with flyertalk friends at Fireworks Pizza last night. I continue to find their beer list intimidating. They have something called Tart of Darkness which goes for $44 for a 25 ounce bottle. I went for the Evil Twin Imperial Doughnut Break at $10.75 for a 10 ounce draft. Which is still more than my pizza (the tartufo, which is mushroomy goodness) cost. The beer was interesting, with almond and coffee flavors and a very slight sweetness. I would drink it again.

Presidential Candidates: Oy.

Who Buys This Shit?: There is someone on Etsy selling glitter pills that are supposed to turn your poop all sparkly. This cannot be healthy for either you or your plumbing.

Other Stuff: Knitting group was Sunday, also in Reston, and was (as always) fun. My calendar is a complete mess, but I need to find time to schedule a couple of other things. My house is also a mess and I need time to work on that, too. Plus ca change …
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Susan Sheridan played Trillian in the radio version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Frank Gifford was a football player turned broadcaster. Julian Bond was a civil rights activist.

Superfoods: I keep seeing these articles that list superfoods you should be eating for optimal health. Just once, I wish one of those lists would have, say, gelato and cheetos on it, instead of kale and broccoli. Just saying.

Last Weekend: I was actually in town, but things were pretty routine. There was a story swap on Saturday night (at which I screwed up on telling "Shrewd Simon Short" because it seems that one can’t just resume telling a 450+ word tongue twister after a few years), knitting group on Sunday, less progress on household stuff than I intended (or need to get done).

If I Ruled the World – Political Edition: Aside from my usual proclamations (mandatory pockets in women’s clothing, nap rooms available in all workplaces), I would disallow anybody from the presidency who campaigned more than one year prior to election day. I admit that would get rid of some people I like (not that Martin O’Malley was getting any traction anyway), but it would spare me from having to listen to a lot of anti-science, anti-woman, and anti-immigration rhetoric for a few more months.

Addictions: I was pleased to read that coffee seems to prevent recurrences of colon cancer and will, of course, interpret this as coffee preventing all cancers all the time. (Actually, I have always figured that my most likely cause of death is third-world taxi driver.)

Dear Other Dimensional Beings: Thank you for returning two single black socks (not related to each other, but partnered to socks already in the missing mates bin.) But did you really have to take the superglue in exchange?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Mervin Field founded a polling company. Elizabeth Peet McIntosh was a spy, both with OSS and its successor, the CIA, and wrote a couple of books about women spies. Ornette Coleman was a major jazz composer and saxophonist. Christopher Lee was an actor, noted particularly for horror movies. It wasn’t his fault that the film adaptation of Dracula so completely mangles the book. Ron Moody was also an actor, best known for playing Faigin in the movie version of Oliver!. Jack King was the voice of the Apollo space missions.

Puzzle People Deaths: I met Leslie Billig only in passing at a couple of crossword tournaments, but it is clear from what other people have said that she was well-liked and a significant loss to the tribe of puzzlers. The loss that has hit me harder is that of Thomas Gazzola, known within the NPL as Maso. He was a brilliant man, the creator of numerous puzzles, including a late-night game that I still think of as Doubles Jeopardy, even though he later changed that to It Takes Two. I was always astonished (and excessively proud of myself) when I could beat him at any sort of trivia. His death is particularly tragic, as he was the victim of a drunk driver, who struck him while he was jogging near his home. This year’s con will not be the same without him.

Leading Jewish Minds: Tuesday night was the first Washington area edition of the Leading Jewish Minds at MIT series, sponsored by MIT Hillel. Traffic going to McLean was a mess, but I made it in plenty of the time to the home of our gracious hosts. I hadn’t expected to know anybody (other than the Hillel staff) but, in fact, the attendees included someone I met a while back via a mutual friend and another person whose cousin was a good friend some 30+ years ago. The event was advertised as having "light kosher dairy refreshments." Ignoring the kashrut question, at a non-Jewish event, that would mean wine and cheese and maybe crudites. At a Jewish event, light refreshments means a groaning board, including noodle kugel, spanakopita, lox, salads, etc.

The speaker was Dr. Gerald D. Cohen '88, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Macroeconomic Analysis at the US Department of the Treasury, who spoke about the outlook for the US economy. I thought the most interesting part of his talk had to do with metrics, i.e. how we actually measure how the economy is doing.

Food Pornography – Pizza Edition: There was a flyertalk dinner at Fireworks Pizza in the Courthouse area on Wednesday night. The place was quite noisy, which is an issue, but the food was well worth it. The beer list offered too many choices, so I went with a cocktail, instead – The Calm Before the Storm, which was their version of a Dark and Stormy. It was quite good, with strong ginger flavor. (One of the reasons I rarely order these is that most American ginger beer is unimpressive.) As for food, the tartufo pizza had lots of tasty mushrooms (shitake, cremini, maitake) and an excellent thin crust. It is probably the best pizza I’ve had in the area and I would certainly try some of their other offerings.

The evening also solved a bit of a mystery. A couple of weeks ago I ran into somebody at a bookstore, who clearly knew me as he called me by name. He looked vaguely familiar, and I was pretty sure there was a work connection, but I could not place him at all. Well, he was at that dinner and it turns out that he works with our software team. But he is based in Seattle, so it’s not like he’s around all the time. We had never actually worked together but had had a conversation re: flyertalk once on the way into the building (since I had a backpack with a flyertalk tag on it).

Everybody Knows: I thought that everybody knows that there are stalactites underneath the Lincoln Memorial, formed by the limestone of the carving dripping down into the cavernous understructure. I have, in fact, been there and seen them, though it is some years ago. Nobody in my office knew about this. Alas, it appears that they’ve closed off public access, so they will remain unconvinced.

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