Catch-up

Aug. 9th, 2017 01:44 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
I've been busy for most of the past week.

Celebrity Death Watch: Ara Parseghian coached football for Notre Dame and appears in crosswords fairly often. Judith Jones edited cookbooks. Ernst Zundel was a Holocaust denier. Darren Daulton played baseball, largely for the Phillies. Don Baylor also played baseball, including a stint with the Red Sox in 1986, during which he set a record for being hit by pitches. Haruo Nakajima was the first actor to portray Godzilla. Glen Campbell was a countryish pop singer, notable for songs such as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Rhinestone Cowboy."

I want to particularly highlight Barbara Cook, who was one of the greatest Broadway stars of all time. Some of her more famous roles included Marian in The Music Man, Cunegonde in Candide (in which she achieved a tour de force with "Glitter and Be Gay"), and Amalia in She Loves Me. She had a fabulous voice and, unlike many great singers, she could also act.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Michael Cotter was a Minnesota farmer turned storyteller, who told stories of his farm life. He was a quiet and skilled teller, who I was privileged to hear a few times.

I am way behind on reading magazines, so I only just caught the news (via the MIT section of Technology Review) that Kathy Porter-Jordan, a friend from my undergraduate days died nearly a year ago. I particularly remember one year on Shavuout when she and I delved into the subject of leprosy in the Tanach.

Trip to Oregon: I made a quick trip last week to Portland, Oregon for the memorial service for my friend, Mary Joan. The travel was a bit stressful, as a thunderstorm struck just after we had been boarded (but before the plane was fully fueled). In the end, we got delayed about two hours. My decision to take a non-stop was vindicated as I figured I was fine as long as I got there some time on Thursday night. The delay was extended a little on arrival as a guy in the row behind mine had a medical emergency (significant enough for the flight attendant to be bringing him oxygen) and we had to wait for paramedics to take him off before we could disembark. But, I got there, so everything was okay.

My friend, Suzanne, was at the same hotel and, fortunately, has a compatible attitude towards timing. (Google maps says it’s a 22 minute drive, so let’s figure 45 minutes and then let’s add an extra half hour just in case we get lost ….) The ceremony was brief, with a few people (each of the two of us included) speaking, with a longer speech by Mary Joan’s husband. Then everybody went out to lunch, at which we learned that the day had been chosen since it would have been their 44th wedding anniversary.

The trip home went smoother, despite it involving a redeye too short for more than a nap. I also had a longish wait for the moon buggy from the D-gates to the main terminal at IAD, so it took longer to get to my car than to drive home. At least I had time to nap for a few hours before my next commitment.

Ben’s Bar Mitzvah: A friend’s son’s bar mitzvah was Saturday. The service was your standard Chabad service, which I won’t comment on. Ben did fine on the Torah reading and his haftorah and his mother did the expected job of bursting into tears during her brief speech afterwards. There was pretty good food at the Kiddush lunch. The big reception was in the evening at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I only had time for a quick look through the museum, but it would be worth going back and spending half a day to see it all. There was reasonably good food and slightly odd entertainment, mostly oriented towards the kids, e.g. a sword swallower. Overall, it was a pretty nice event.

Embassy of Haiti: I went to an MIT Club of Washington event at the Embassy of Haiti last night. Actually, it was a joint event with the Harvard Club and they far outnumbered us. The embassy is beautiful, with a large art collection – practically a gallery. The ambassador was personable and gave a brief and entertaining speech. The food was okay – rice, chicken, fish, pork – and they had tasty rum punch and cake for dessert. The only problem was that it was very crowded and the food line was quite chaotic. Still, it is always worth going to these sorts of things.
fauxklore: (Default)
The NPL Con will get its own write-up, but I did some other things before that.

Celebrity Death Watch: First, a quick note about someone I mentioned last time. My friend, Megan, reminded me that Michael Bond not only wrote about Paddington Bear, but also wrote the Monsieur Pamplemousse series of mysteries. I’m not sure I’d ever connected up the name before.

Since then we’ve lost a number of people. Anthony Young was one of the losingest pitchers in baseball, losing 27 consecutive decisions for the Mets. Ketumile Masire was the second president of Botswana. Gary DeCarlo was responsible for "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Simone Veil survived Auschwitz and went on to a prominent role dealing with women’s issues in France. Heathcote Williams was a poet and actor. Gene Conley pitched for the Braves (including a World Series championship in 1957) and won three NBA titles with the Celtics during the off-season. While Otto Graham also won championships in two major professional sports (football and basketball in his case), unlike Conley he didn’t play both during the same years. Sheila Michaels popularized the title "Ms." Spencer Johnson wrote Who Moved My Cheese, which, of course, became the biggest best-seller ever in Wisconsin. Neil Welch was behind the Abscam sting. Jon Underwood founded the Death Café movement. Interestingly, he apparently died suddenly (related to undiagnosed leukemia) at only 44. Shlomo Helbrans was the founder of the Chasidic cult Lev Tahor. Nelsan Ellis was an actor, best known for True Blood.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: John McLaughlin was a storyteller and baseball enthusiast in Florida.

Terry Duncan had filled several government leadership roles involving satellite communications. I had the privilege of working with him in two of his jobs and was always impressed by his calmness and ability to listen to his staff. He was only 46 and died within a few weeks of his cancer diagnosis.

Karl Hedrick had been a professor at MIT in my undergrad days and later went to Berkeley. I took a couple of classes from him at MIT. I will not remember the exact titles of because it was a long time ago, but one involved Linear Dynamic Systems and Estimation (i.e. Kalman filter type stuff) and the other had to do with Nonlinear Dynamics and Control. He was an excellent teacher and I appreciated his mentorship.

Geostock: This is a big party that friends in Colorado give every year. It’s mostly an event for hanging out, talking, eating, and drinking. In the food category, a definite highlight was the ice cream truck they’d hired for a couple of hours. We also drank a toast to a dear departed friend, which included a skype connection to another absent friend. Beyond that, lots of talk about aging parents and estate issues and how we need to clear out our own crap. And there are conversations you can have with people you’ve known for ages that you can’t have with other people. Also, noting children, there is something wrong with the rotation of the earth.

Hotel Note: I stayed at the Residence Inn in Louisville this time, because it was somewhat cheaper than the Hampton Inn. This was a mistake as they had a basketball court. That appeared to be immediately underneath my room and they let kids play basketball until after 11 at night. Sheesh. (It also hit another of my hotel peeves in that one had to practically climb over the built-in desk to close the drapes for the dining room window.)

Vegas: For complex frequent flyer reasons, it made sense to detour from Denver back to DC via Las Vegas. Vegas remains a great city for people watching, though I did have one somewhat annoying encounter this time.

30ish guy: Come on, say hi to me.

Me: you're drunk.

Him: no, I'm just a total asshole.

I guess there is something to be said for self-awareness, but he was still obnoxious. Beyond that, I spent my entertainment (i.e. gambling) budget for the night, but it took me long enough to do so that I was content.

Brine: I was back for Independence Day, which I spent trying to get caught up at home. I did also go out to lunch with a group of friends. We went to Brine, a seafood place in the Mosaic District. We all went for the simply grilled fish (trout, swordfish, soft-shell crabs among the six of us), which were served over arugula. We also sampled pretty much the entire dessert menu. I think the crème caramel (which had espresso and chocolate, so was not the traditional version) was the definite winner there. At any rate, the bottom line is good food, good service, and going on a quiet day at lunchtime made it quiet enough to be able to hear one another.

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: (travel)
Celebrity Death Watch: Rose Evansky was a British hair stylist who popularized blow drying as a styling technique. Louis Harris was a pollster. Gordie Tapp performed on Hee Haw. Paul Peter Porges and Duck Edwing were both cartoonists for Mad Magazine. Robert Leo Hulseman invented the red solo cup. Piers Seller was an astronaut and meteorologist. Richard Adams wrote Watership Down among other novels. Vera Rubin was an astronomer, largely responsible for the theory of dark matter. George Michael was a singer before he went-went. George Irving was an actor, particularly well known for his work on Broadway.

Carrie Fisher was an actress and writer, best known for her work in the Star Wars series. She wrote interestingly about drug addiction and mental health issues in Postcards from the Edge and Wishful Drinking. Her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died the next day. Interestingly, Reynolds had co-starred with George Irving in Irene.


About 2016: Just for the record, I don’t for one minute believe that 2016 was a particularly horrible year with respect to celebrity deaths. There may have been more than in some other years (though that isn’t really clear, since there isn’t a set standard for who to count). But you should expect some statistical fluctuations and they really aren’t meaningful.

Dreamwidth: I see a lot of people moving to Dreamwidth because of the LJ servers moving to Moscow. I do have an account there and I should probably look at doing likewise. My recollection is that there were just enough annoyances about the site that kept me from switching there a long time ago, but I’ve kept the account in case there was some reason to. (Which was mostly a concern about DDOS attacks on LJ.) At any rate, I don’t expect to do anything before the weekend / new year if at all.

Chappy Chanukah: I went to the chavurah Chanukah party Saturday night. The drive was a bit scary as it was very foggy out. The party was fun, overall. My contribution to the white elephant gift exchange was a box of notecards, while I ended up with a few CDs. I’d made Moroccan orange salad (basically, orange segments, marinated in rosewater and cinnamon), which is kind of a pain since segmented oranges goes slowly. I really should make my mother’s potato latkes because, eating some at the party, reminded me that nobody else’s are anywhere near as good. I won't explain why, since I am sworn to secrecy.

Minor Vacation – Key West: I took a short trip down to Key West to thaw out a bit. I flew down on Sunday. I thought the flight would be emptier on Christmas Day, but I thought wrong. The advantage of going to touristy places on holidays is that lots of things are open. I’d arrived in the mid-afternoon and had enough time to do the Conch Train tour, which is informative, though a bit pricy.

I started Monday with breakfast at Blue Heaven, which a friend had recommended. Eating in the garden, amongst the roosters, was atmospheric, and the food was pretty good. Then I walked over to Hemingway’s House. I was glad I took the guided tour (included in the price of admission) as the guide was quite entertaining, particularly about Hemingway’s wives. After the tour, one could walk around and count the toes on the cats. Then I walked over to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S., where I waited in line an hour for a photo with the buoy, which marks 90 miles from Cuba. I got some key lime gelato in lieu of lunch, then browsed some shops for a while, buying a pair of Keene sandals to replace the last ones I destroyed.

After an afternoon nap, I had a light supper at Conch Republic. Then it was time for the ghost tour I’d signed up for. The tour was, alas, disappointing, with more emphasis on taking photos that might show orbs and ectoplasm than on the stories behind various allegedly haunted places. There were a couple of good stories, notably the famous one of Robert the Doll, but, overall, the guide just wasn’t much of a storyteller. There are several other companies doing ghost tours in Key West, so maybe one of the others is better.

On Tuesday, I had an exquisite breakfast at Sarabeth’s – lemon ricotta pancakes that actually tasted lemony. I walked up to the Butterfly Conservancy which was enjoyable, though overpriced for its size. I followed part of a walking tour I had downloaded, which took me over to the cemetery. Unfortunately, their office was closed, so I couldn’t get their tour map. I was still able to find a few interesting things, e.g. the graves of the victims of the explosion of the Maine and the monument commemorating that event. Oh, yes, I also stopped in at the Tennessee Williams exhibit. And had lunch at Margaritaville, where they were not, alas, playing Jimmy Buffett music.

Tuesday night, I had dinner with two high school friends (one of whom lives there; the other was visiting her) and their children (one has a son, the other a daughter). We had an excellent meal at Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island. And even more excellent reminiscing, going back to junior high. (They lived at the other end of town, so we didn’t go to the same elementary school.)

I had enough time on Wednesday for a stroll through Harry Truman’s Little White House and a walk along the harbor front before going to the airport. My flight home was fairly uncrowded and would have been on time had we not had to wait for the gate at DCA. Overall, it was a good few days away.
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.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Kevin Meaney was a comic actor. Sheri S. Tepper wrote science fiction under her own name and mysteries as B, J. Oliphant and as A. J. Orde. I am intrigued by the titles of a few of the pamphlets she wrote for Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, which include "The Great Orgasm Robbery" and "So Your Happily Ever After Isn’t." Colin Snedeker invented the washable crayon. Jack Chick published fundamentalist Christian tracts, which you have almost certainly seen as his followers seemed fond of leaving them on parked cars. Tom Hayden was a member of the SDS who grew up to marry Jane (and divorce) Jane Fonda and to serve in the California Assembly and, later, state Senate. I lived in his district for a while and was always happy to vote against him. Bobby Vee was a pop singer, best known for "Take Good Care of My Baby." Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb Everest.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was at a story swap at the home of someone I worked with about 8 years ago. Only one other storyteller showed up, but then left, leaving me alone in the living room with a television on. Three dogs came into the room and one settled in next to me and began telling me how it wanted me to pet it. Sooner or later, I fell asleep on the floor, with this dog next to me. When I woke up, it had turned into a rather attractive man. It was morning and more people began arriving. The man began explaining how he had become a werewolf.

Party weekend: Last weekend was just filled with socializing. Well, okay, two events. One was a friend’s book launch party on Saturday afternoon. Then, on Sunday afternoon, there was a get-together with some flyertalk friends. Both were lots of fun, with good conversation and good food. Which is pretty much what parties should be about.

Speaking of That Book Launch: Jessica Piscitelli Robinson has written a novel titled Caged. I admit that urban fantasy isn't a genre I normally read, but since I know her and all, I bought it and pretty much devoured it. There are lots of things I could quibble about, largely because I am somewhat of a purist on the subject of vampires, but she has a knack for chapter endings that leave just enough hanging to make one want to keep reading. And I do like novels with strong female characters. If you like a real pageturner and can handle a certain amount of gore, I recommend it.

Ruthless: I saw Ruthless at Creative Cauldron on Saturday night. This small theatre in Falls Church has become one of my favorites over the past year or so and this production hit the mark again. It’s a rather silly show, with lots of insider references to musicals (and movies). The story involves a talented young girl, Tina Denmark (ably played by Sophia Manicone), her mother, Judy (played by Katie McManus, a local favorite), and Sylvia St. Croix (played by Alan Naylor), who shows up to mentor Tina. There are other characters, too, notably Lita Encore, Judy’s adoptive mother (played by Kathy Halenda), who sings the showy and hysterical "I Hate Musicals." But the focus is on Tina, who will do anything for the lead in the school play. And then there are the secrets lurking in Judy’s past and Sylvia’s… The book is a bit predictable, but this was an excellent cast and the company made great use of the small space.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Apparently some people spend three-day weekends relaxing and doing nothing. I wish.

Saturday night was Best in Show, the Better Said Than Done 5th anniversary storytelling contest. I did run a few errands during the day, but I also did a few more run-throughs of my story to make sure I would be within the time limits. Despite which, I still forgot a line - not that anybody else noticed, but it still annoys me when I do that. Anyway, this being a new story, it was hard to guess in advance how well it would work, so I was relieved when the audience laughed good and hard at the right places. While I didn't win the contest, I had a lot of fun and got a lot of nice compliments on the story. I was particularly intrigued by people (including people I didn't know) commenting on how good my pacing was, since that's really not something I'm conscious of. All of the tellers did a great job and even the weakest of the stories were still deserving of being heard. Thanks to everyone and, especially, to Jessica for making it all happen.

Sunday's venture was a chavurah cook-out. I had signed up to bring dessert and made s'mores bars on the grounds that: 1) they are incredibly quick and easy and 2) they seemed like a suitable sort of thing for a cook-out. There was a good turn-out, despite the rain which had us end up eating inside. I have house envy. I should also note that I am surprised when people bring obviously boughten food to a pot luck. Aren't you at least supposed to transfer stuff from the store container to your own Tupperware and pretend you made it? Or is that just one of those obsolete rules I learned back in my youth when the giant redwoods were saplings?

Fortunately, the rain disappeared by Monday, when I drove to Baltimore to watch the Red Sox beat up on the Orioles. The bottom line is that Steven Wright's knuckleball is hard to hit and he pitched a complete game (unusual nowadays), ending in a 7-2 BoSox win. I'm also impressed with how fast Mookie Betts is. By the way, there were two plays that were overturned on review, which is kind of weird. I can't get used to the idea of umpires using instant replay. I continue to believe that there is no better way to spend a hot summer afternoon than at a baseball game and it's always better when my team wins.

It would actually be nice to have a weekend when I have time to finish reading the Sunday paper (which includes doing the puzzles) some time before, say, Thursday.

Whew!

Jan. 15th, 2016 03:13 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have been busy. I say that as if it will surprise anyone. But it always seems to surprise me. In addition to work, here's what I've been up to over the past week or so.

Celebrity Death Watch: Florence King wrote about Southern womanhood. William Del Monte was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Dan Hagerty played Grizzly Adams.

You don’t need me to tell you about either Alan Rickman or David Bowie. I would characterize both of them as having earned their celebrity – Rickman as an actor of impressive range and Bowie as having gone beyond just singing and writing songs to producing complex works of great originality. I am, however, a bit concerned about how much attention their deaths got. In particular, I think Bowie’s was reported almost as if he had been a head of state.

Going Away Luncheon: My former management finally got around to taking me out to lunch last week. We went to Jaleo, since it is my favorite place close to the office. The lunch special is an excellent deal – sandwich and soup, chips, or salad for 11 bucks. The mushroom garlic soup was amazing. The roasted lamb sandwich was also excellent. Given that it is just about a block from the office, I am amazed at how many of the group had never been there before.

Losers’ Party: As many of you know, I was very proud when I get ink in the Washington Post Style Invitational contest in 2014. I’ve got just one ink so far, but that was enough to make me feel justified in going to the annual post-holiday party this past Saturday night. It is always a bit weird going to a social event where I don’t know anybody, though a few people might recognize my name. (Name recognition would be because of the associated facebook group, not my single ink.) But it was fine. People were friendly and there was plenty of intelligent and amusing conversation. It made me more likely to go to some of the Losers’ brunches, if my schedule ever works out.

JGSGW: I finally got around to joining the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and went to their monthly meeting on Sunday, which had a talk on DNA testing. That let me also do another thing on my genealogy to-do list. Namely, I bought a test kit, though I have yet to do the cheek swab and send it in.

Chinese Space: The MIT Club of Washington seminar series was Tuesday night. This month’s topic was The Chinese Space Program. The speaker (Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation) was entertaining and informative. Mostly, he emphasized that China sees space as essential to their role in the world. He was skeptical about prospects for international collaboration, which led to what I think was the quote of the night - "Hotlines work best when they are cold." His claim was that the Chinese just don’t answer the phone when things are going badly. Unfortunately, a lot of the questions were more general about the Chinese economy and not specifically space-focused. Still, the seminar series continues to be worth going to.

Elizabeth Ellis: Elizabeth Ellis was the featured storyteller at The Grapevine on Wednesday night. There was an excellent turnout. In fact, I think they even had to turn a few people away. She is known for her advice to structure a program as: 1) ha ha, 2) aha, 3) ah, 4) amen. Her mix of stories, ranging from being dressed for a video shoot by a professional with no idea of how to deal with a large woman to an historical piece about George Washington Carver to a lovely family story, exemplified the effectiveness of that technique. There is a good reason she is one of the premier tellers in the country.

I’ll also mention that the open mike preceded the featured teller this month. I took advantage of the Powerball drawing (which I did not win, alas) to tell "Why I’m Not a Millionaire." Ah, I do love inflicting truly atrocious puns on a willing audience.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: I had really liked this musical on Broadway when it first opened, so I was happy to see the touring company at the Kennedy Center. I enjoyed it immensely, both for the staging and the performances. It’s not anything revolutionary, but it’s a lively and clever piece, with echoes of Edward Gorey and Gilbert and Sullivan. I want to particularly note Adrienne Eller’s performance as Phoebe, a role that could be annoying in the wrong hands (or voice, I suppose).

By the way, composer Steven Lutvak is going to be performing on the Millennium Stage in a week and a half and I’ll be very interested in seeing what else he might be working on.
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)
Celebrity Death Watch: Ian Paisley was a Northern Irish Protestant politician. Tony Auth was an editorial cartoonist. Overall, not too interesting a list, but I will not sink to memorializing Scottish cats or claimants to the Russian throne.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Ab Logan was a storyteller in Baltimore. I didn’t know him very well, but he was always kind to me in our interactions. I have a particularly fond memory of taking an early morning walk with him at the National Storytelling Conference in Pittsburgh some years ago.

Smart Elevators: I forgot to mention this when I wrote about my recent business trip. The hotel had so-called "smart elevators," which had no buttons inside them. Instead, you pressed the floor you wanted on a central keypad. Allegedly, this saves energy, though I am not actually convinced it does. It does stop the problem of idiot teenagers who press every button. Anyway, the whole thing was slightly creepy and reminded me of the elevators in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that got depressed about knowing where you wanted to go before you did and ended up lurking in the basement.

Pink Martini: I went to see Pink Martini perform with the NSO Pops on Thursday night last week. They were also joined by the Von Trapps (the great-grandchildren of the Captain and Maria) and NPR reporter Ari Shapiro (who continues to resemble the groom doll from the top of a wedding cake). It was an excellent show and, as always, it was fun to count how many languages they sang in. (At least 7 by my reckoning.) Overall, it was well worth the inevitable earworms.

Neptune’s Health: I took my Neptune (my car) in for service this weekend. It proved to be fairly expensive, with a bunch of odds and ends to take care of, e.g. replacing the serpentine belt, replacing a cracked hose, and so on. Still, I can afford it. And a few hundred bucks is a lot less than the cost of a new car.

Division Party: My division head had a pool party at his house on Saturday. It was, literally, a wash out as it was chilly and pouring rain so we mostly stayed inside, partly in the living room and partly around the piano. Overall, it was relatively painless for a work-related social event. We also have good ammunition to use against him in the future, since he had given his address incorrectly in the party invitation.

Other stuff: I’ve been working on the story I am telling Thursday. That eats up a lot of mental energy. And I had a few things to do related to my MIT reunion gift committee, which will take up time soon enough. And then there are little things like work. No wonder my house is a mess.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I was too exhausted to get around to posting yesterday. It seems like age is catching up with me and I can no longer focus enough to review 8437 pages of documents in 3 days, while also doing a half dozen other work tasks. On the other hands, my instincts on some things remain sharp and I anticipated almost word for word some of the things my great-grandboss was going to say today when we prepped him for a meeting he has tomorrow.

Anyway, last night was the holiday shindig for the Artisphere yarn bomb. It was just a cheese and crackers and cookies type of thing, but the point was the people. It was good to see folks I had knitted and crocheted with for months. Rumor has it that there may be some other public yarn art project in our future.

Today was the holiday potluck at work. I'd baked rolls for it the other night. I discovered that almond milk does not have the same bread-softening effect that real milk does. That isn't actually a problem, as there is nothing wrong with crusty rolls, but is useful to know.

My grandboss gave everybody multi-tools. Apparently that is his way of saying we are useful.

Two Parties

Dec. 9th, 2013 03:47 am
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Saturday's party was with my Chavurah (Jewish group, in this case, essentially social), which did a post-Chanukah latke and kugel cook-off and tchotchke exchange. I made noodle kugel, because it's faster than grating potatoes for latkes. And my mother's latke recipe is so good it would be unfair to the competition anyway. Not that there was real competition, as everyone who brought latkes or kugel got a small prize (a magnetic memo pad). A lot of people brought other things, either salads or desserts. As for the tchotchke exchange, I got rid of a fragrance diffuser thingie that I'd gotten in some white elephant gift exchange at work and ended up with a cup kooshie filled with dark chocolate.

Sunday night was the annual condo association party. It felt less crowded than usual. I did my token appearance to grab a glass of wine and some food and say hello to a few people. Most significant trivia is that Scottish neighbor was not there at all, never mind wearing his kilt.

And I came back upstairs and my internet was out, so I am posting this late.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Now that June is over, maybe I should write something about it. It was a relatively unbusy month, but unbusy for me just means that I didn’t go out on weeknight, other than one happy hour for a former colleague whose contract was not renewed. That should probably have been called an unhappy hour. But, anyway, much of the month was spent recovering from jetlag.

Celebrity Death Watch: Frank Lautenberg was a senator from New Jersey. Iain Banks wrote science fiction. Richard Ramirez, better known as The Night Stalker, was a serial killer. Gary David Goldberg created Family Ties and, more significantly to me, the short-lived Brooklyn Bridge. Alan Myers was the drummer for Devo. Marc Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton for various financial crimes. The most bizarre story of June (well, in this category) was that of Bollywood actress Jiah Khan who committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan.

Crafty stuff: June 8th was International Knit in Public Day. For attending the event in a local park, I got a gift card from the sponsoring yarn store. I also made it to knitting group once and resurrected a UFO. (That’s knitter talk for an unfinished object.)

Not Quite the Beatles: I went out to dinner with a group of friends and then to see a Beatles tribute band at a free concert. I mostly enjoyed the music, but I really wish Americans would not attempt to speak in accents they haven’t mastered. I also have deeply mixed feelings about the whole concept of tribute bands.

Company: The final show in the Signature 2012-2013 season was Company . This was an excellent production of one of Sondheim’s greatest works. There is a lot that is dated in the book, of course, and I’ve never figured out how Bobby actually knows all these people. But who cares when there are so many delights in the score and such sparkling wit in the lyrics? The gimmick in this production is that the married couples were all played by actual married couples. Matthew Scott was very good as Bobby, but the real highlight was Erin Weaver as Amy, whose rendition of “Getting Married Today” stole the show. My one (very minor) disappointment was that Carolyn Cole as Marta could have enunciated better in her performance of “Another Hundred People,” which is, by the way, one of my all time favorite Sondheim songs.

Baltimore: The Red Sox were playing the Orioles, so I couldn’t resist a trip to Baltimore. I drove up a few hours before the game and walked over to the Lexington Market to have lunch at Faidley’s, a classic Baltimore experience. Lexington Market is allegedly the oldest continually operating market in the U.S. and the neighborhood is a bit sketchy (though not nearly as bad as some people make it sound). Standing up at a market table to eat well-prepared seafood is what it’s about.

Then I walked down to Camden Yards and visited Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, a pop culture museum next to the ballpark. There’s an interesting collection, largely organized by decade, but not many of the individual items are labeled. The 60’s and 70’s rooms were of the most interest to me for obvious reasons. But the real delight was the comic book collection for a different reason. See, for years, I have told people about this brief period in the early 1970’s when D.C. Comics tried to be relevant. That included things like Wonder Woman giving up her powers and studying martial arts and Lois Lane having herself changed into a black woman (via some machine). The ultimate attempt at relevance came when Green Arrow (who shared a comic book with Green Lantern) arrived home to discover his ward, Speedy, shooting up heroin. Nobody ever believes me about that. But there it was right in that display case – that classic cover with Green Arrow lamenting that his ward was an addict. I am vindicated.

As for the baseball game, the Red Sox won but it was weird. There was a highly dubious call in favor of Dustin Pedroia, for example. And, while John Lackey recovered from a slow start, Andrew Bailey nearly blew it in relief in the 9th. Still, they did win, so I was happy.

Storytelling and Minor League Game: The Workhouse Arts Center had a summer arts day event and I was part of a storytelling program at it. I thought it went well and enjoyed the other stories / tellers on the bill. A couple of friends had come along (independently of each other) and one of them stayed around afterwards to join me on a crawl through the galleries and a quick look at the museum which discusses the facility's former use as a prison. I’d like to do some research on the suffragettes who were held there when I get some time.

I took advantage of being only a few miles away to go to the Potomac Nationals game that evening. One nice thing about minor league baseball is that you can walk up at the last minute and get a seat behind home plate for 11 bucks. Of course, you still have the opportunity to pay way too much for mediocre junk food to eat during the game, but so it goes.

Colorado: The final weekend of the month featured my periodic pilgrimage to a big party given by friends in Colorado. It also ended up featuring the worst domestic travel experience of my life, which I will write about separately. But all worked out in the end – I got there and had a good time, with lots of good food and lots of good conversation. My contribution to the former was a box of chocolates from a newish place near where I live. My contribution to the latter included travel recommendations and literary recommendations. But when the talk turns to computer programming, I have nothing to say.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
As usual, I have been too busy to find time to write. I need to get caught up soon, though, as I am going on vacation in a week and will only get further behind.

Oyamel: Oyamel is on a few lists of best Mexican restaurants in the U.S. and is owned by Jose Andres (who also owns Jaleo, one of my local favorites). So it was an obvious choice when I was given a list of options for meeting someone for dinner in Penn Quarter. This is a small plates / sharing type of place, so we split 4 dishes. Te ceviche tradicional was, indeed, traditional enough, but a bit salty for my tastes. The test of adventurousness came in the form of the chapulines tacos. Chapulines means grasshoppers. These were okay, but crunchy and salty and I have no desire to eat them again. The tamal verde (with chicken) was quite good, but the real highlight was the ensalada de chayote (squash salad). Overall, I still prefer going to Los Angeles for my Mexican food fixes, but I would definitely eat here again (and try other dishes).

Detroit Unleaded: We were time constrained for dinner because we were going to see a movie called Detroit Unleaded, which was part of Filmfest DC. The film was advertised as the first Arab-American romantic comedy and was in a mixture of English and Arabic (with English subtitles, of course). The story involved a young man who inherits half a gas station after his father is murdered and the young woman he meets when she delivers phone cards for her protective older brother. It was sweet and I thought it did a good job of capturing the conflicts that often face children in immigrant communities.

Salad Supper: My chavurah had a potluck spring salad supper. I made insalata caprese, which is easy but relies on shopping well. You need very good tomatoes, in particular. All you have to do is slice the tomatoes, top each slice with a slice of good mozzarella cheese, and top that with a basil leaf. Then, just before serving, drizzle on a nice fruity olive oil. I think it was successful, since I didn’t have any leftovers to take home. By the way, we also had a little mixer game that involved everyone getting a slip of paper with a salad ingredient. You had to guess other people’s ingredients by asking yes/no questions. I won this and got a container of silly putty as my prize.

Limmud Baltimore: Limmud is a Jewish learning event, which apparently originated in London. It’s an interesting concept, offering a wide range of learning discussions. I heard about the Baltimore event from a friend and thought it would make for an interesting day. It did and it deserves its own entry, which will follow in a few minutes.

Embassy of Netherlands: The MIT Club of Washington had a Partners and Patrons event at the Embassy of the Netherlands. The talk, which had to do with the Netherlands Forensics Institute, was very interesting. The food was not as good as some of the other embassies, but the socializing was just fine.

One Day Hike: I did the 50K version of the Sierra Club’s annual one-day hike of the C&O canal towpath. That deserves its own entry and will get one soon, including a few photos. For now, I will just say that I finished.

More Socializing: I managed to recover enough from the walk to go to a happy hour at a friend’s condo the next day. We talked travel and tea, ate from his groaning board, and watched planes from his balcony. It was good to see some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and I stayed longer than I’d expected to.

VASA Board Meeting: Finally, closing out April, I had a VASA board meeting, fortunately by telecon. It looks like we have some busy times ahead.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am done with holiday parties for this year. While I have an invitation to one tomorrow night, I have too much to catch up on to spend the time driving an hour and a half each way.

The first was my condo complex party, which was mostly a drop in and chat with a neighbors and eat type of deal. It's livelier when my Scottish neighbor wears his kilt, but, alas, not this year.

Then came a potluck at work last week, for which I made chocolate rum cheesecake. There was, of course, way too much food and a surprising amount of alcohol. The only problem is that our office layout is not easily conducive to socializing. We don't all fit in the large conference room, so we end up scattered in small groups in a few rooms. At least people didn't go and hide back in their cubicles, which has happened at some of my previous jobs. (There was actually a second potluck this week for my organization, since we are scattered at two sites, but I had a meeting which conflicted with it.)

My previous organization does a lunch out. We went to La Tasca and ate massive quantities of tapas. There are other tapas places I like better (notably Jaleo for local ones, though my favorite is still El Molino in London) but this is good value. And it was a chance to see several people I had not seen in some time, including my former boss.

Last night, there was a party for the Arlington Yarn Bomb project. The essence of that was knit, crochet, eat. The food was not super exciting, but the company was good. There were prize drawings, but I didn't win anything.

Finally, my corporate potluck was today. Again, there was way too much food, though (oddly) only one chocolate dessert. This one involved a white elephant gift exchange. My contribution was a Sheldon Cooper bobblehead doll. I ended up with a scent diffuser, which is perfect for regifting next year. Regifting is a time-honored tradition there and our vice president ended up with the traditional pink footie pajamas.

At home, I finished writing cards. Since Chanukah ended this past Saturday, I can consider myself officially done with the holiday season. Excapt, of course, for Holidailies.

Dreamgirls

Dec. 9th, 2012 07:02 pm
fauxklore: (theatre)
Before getting to the topic du jour, I realized I forgot to mention one thing in yesterday's write-up of the Star Mega Do. Namely, United offered an interesting challenge to participants, with 10,000 bonus miles for any of us who fly to or connect through 20 unique destinations in the first three months of 2013. At a practical level, that isn't really a huge bonus, but it is exactly the sort of obsessive counting type of challenge that appeals to me. So expect some early year mileage running.

Anyway, I spent much of yesterday running errands (e.g. getting my car serviced and picking up books from a friend's house), as well as trying to get caught up on housework. This morning was occupied with laundry and the newspaper. But, in the afternoon, I went to Signature Theatre to see Dreamgirls.

The show, which is very loosely based on the story of The Supremes, is one that is highly dependent on the performances. Nova Payton was stunning as Effie White, the belter who is forced out of the group, the Dreams, as the singers (and their songwriter, who happens to be Effie's brother) are manipulated by their manager, Curtis Taylor. Curtis was ably played by Sydney James Harcourt, who came across as suave and cool and somehow likeable despite being such a snake. The other notable performance was by Cedric Neal as Jimmy "Thunder" Early, another singer whose career has its ups and down's at the hands of Taylor's ambition. Throw in a lively Motown influenced score (albeit, with somewhat weak lyrics) and an amazing number of costume changes and it made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

I should also note that I think Payton is destined for bigger stages. This is the fourth production at Signature I have seen her in and I continue to be more and more impressed.

After the show, I drove home in time for the annual holiday party at my condo complex. They always do a good job with the refreshments and this year was no exception. To answer the burning question I am sure you are all dying to know, my Scottish neighbor opted for jeans this year, instead of his kilt. Oh, well, at least I had Sydney James Harcourt as eye candy in the afternoon.
fauxklore: (baseball)
I'm afraid this is going to sound a bit arrogant, but there are times when I find myself thinking how incredible my life is. This week was one of those.

I did have one huge annoyance - having to clear out my corporate office as they decided that those of us who spend less than 20% of our time at the mothership shouldn't have more than a file cabinet there. I decided it was not a good idea to point out that our CEO has an office there which she spends maybe a week or two a year in. Mostly I would have liked more notice so I could have gone through things, instead of just throwing stuff into file drawers.

But I did have a good week otherwise. The biggest event was the reception I went to at the Swiss embassy residence on Wednesday night. This was MIT related - kind of a payback for significant donations to the Alumni Association. The residence is very modernistic and, while it isn't exactly my taste, I can appreciate the architecture. The main thing is that it's nice to have an evening of conversation with intelligent people. I was also impressed with how well people mingled across the years. All in all, it was a lovely event.

The other big event of the week was my trip to Milwaukee this weekend. I got upgraded between IAD and ORD both ways - and ended up in rear-facing business class seats on both 767s. It's a bit weird sitting backwards during take-off and landing, but the upgrades are nice. Unfortunately, it was regional jets between ORD and MKE and the CRJ200 is the most uncomfortable plane around in my opinion. Still, that's a 15-20 minute flight, so it's not a big deal.

The reason for the trip was, of course, checking off another ball park. Miller Park is pretty nice, but has one major deficiency. Namely, there are no vendors coming around with hot cocoa! I can only remember one previous time I was that cold at a baseball game. A reasonable number of people sang along with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (which the Brewers follow with "Roll Out the Barrel," which is a song I dislike but it does at least have a local connection. Not enough people sang along with that.) As for the game, the Phillies beat up pretty badly on the Brewers. I admit that by the bottom of the 9th I just wanted them to get it over with so I could sit in the car and blast the heat.

I also took advantage of the trip to drive to Madison and do another state capital Volksmarch event. The route wound around downtown, the lake front and the University of Wisconsin campus. It was a pleasant and interesting walk, though the area right around the Capitol was too crowded to be enjoyable. (There is a Sunday farmer's market, which was completely packed.) I also finished off the Historic Churches special program since the walk passed the Gates of Heaven synagogue!

This morning, I drove up to Cedarburg and did a Volksmarch there. The historic downtown stretch on Washington Avenue was interesting, with distinctive limestone buildings. Most of the route was through residential neighborhoods and various park paths. Those were pleasant enough, but not anything particularly distinctive.

I had about an hour to kill when I got back to Milwaukee, so I went over to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino. I hate to admit it, but I like the sort of modern slot machines that have bonus rounds. I played one that had something to do with zombies - and ended up 50 bucks ahead by the time I had to leave.

Life is good.
fauxklore: (Default)
A while back, someone on the American Airlines forum of Flyertalk posted an announcement of a get-together in New York, what people on FT call a "Do." I figured that was a good excuse for a trip up to New York. Just after I'd made all my arrangements, I got a facebook event invitation for a Camp Ein Harod gathering in New York the same weekend. Fortunately, Amtrak makes it easy to change one's travel arrangements and this just meant going up a couple of hours earlier. Two parties plus theatre tickets make for a busy weekend, but I even found time for a few other things.

I had no problems with the train up on Friday afternoon. I dropped off my bag at the hotel (Hampton Inn - Times Square South on W. 39th, which I would describe as just adequate and probably won't stay at again). Then I walked down to the apartment where the Ein Harod gathering was being held. I was relieved that there were a few people there who I remembered (after 35+ years). But, more to the point, conversation flowed reasonably easily, with all of us reminiscing about the crazy things we did at camp and how they'd never be permitted nowadays. Funniest conversation I had came when I introduced myself to someone, who did not actually remember me right off. Then I told him that I'd had a huge crush on him in 1973 and he said, "oh, now I remember you!" All in all, I'm glad I went.

New York may be the city that doesn't sleep, but it also doesn't really get going until relatively late by Washington standards. I'd have liked to go to one of the major museums (either the Met or MOMA), but wouldn't have enough time to get my money's worth at either. So I went to see an exhibit at the International Center of Photography instead. I had never been to the ICP before, but it is conveniently located (6th Ave and 43rd) and I like photography, so I figured it would be worth it. The current exhibit is called "Dress Codes" and is sort of about fashion, but only sort of. For example, there is a series titled "The Belt" by Yto Barrada, which shows a Moroccan woman demonstrating how she smuggles fabrics underneath her traditional clothing. A video by Zhou Tao shows Chinese workers in various jobs going through morning motivational rituals, including chanting, clapping, marching, and jogging. (The connection to the theme is, of course, the varied uniforms they wear.) One of the most intriguing works is a series by Milagros de la Torre. It is titled "Bulletproof" and, at first glance, the photos appear to be of ordinary garments on hangers. But each of the items (shirts, jackets) is actually armored internally. I found that very provocative.

I had a little time to stop by the New York Public Library (which also allowed me to notice an intriguing building on West 43rd , which has a series of plaster panels representing the months of the year around its doorway). Aside from greeting Patience and Fortitude (the library lions), I looked briefly at the two current exhibits in the galleries on the first floor. "Mapping New York's Shoreline" was fairly interesting, though I admit I probably devoted a bit too much of my map viewing to assessing the accuracy (or lack thereof) of maps of the islands off the South Shore of Long Island. "Candide at 250: Scandal and Success" was less interesting, though there was a nice section on Bernstein's operetta and some interesting graphic novel interpretations.

After that, I got my New York deli fix (real pickles being non-existent in these parts) and then walked over to the St. James Theatre to see Finian's Rainbow. This is a show I have somewhat mixed feelings about. I like a lot of the music (especially "Old Devil Moon" and "If This Isn't Love"). And the book is reasonably witty. (I especially like the sequence in which Og talks about mortal love by quoting Cole Porter lyrics.) But I dislike Susan's story. The whole bit of her dancing instead of speaking is dumb enough, but her falling for Og, despite his professed love for Sharon, annoys me to no end. As for performances, I thought Jim Norton struck just the right tone as Finian. Terri White, as Dottie, was a real scene stealer in her performance of "Necessity." It's easy for the role of Og to be hammed up and I thought Christopher Fitzgerald went somewhat too far, alas. (I recognize this is as likely to be the fault of the director as it is of him as an actor.) Overall, though, I enjoyed the show.

I had time for a bit of walking around and shopping before heading downtown. I succumbed to the lure of Sephora. I was theoretically looking for nail polish (sort of triggered by a conversation I'd had with my friend, Marcia, a few days ago) but ended up buying Twilight Venom lip gloss, which is supposed to be as close as you can come to being bitten by a vampire. Not that I actually want to be bitten by a vampire, but I was amused. (And it's a somewhat cinnamony red. Red is good.)

The Flyertalk Aadvantage Do was my excuse for the whole trip and that also turned out to be fun. It was down at the Palm in Tribeca. The food was good and the conversation (mostly about travel) was lively. It seemed to be mostly relatively local people, but there was one guy at the table I was at who'd flown in from Edinburgh, Scotland for the party. There was a trivia contest and I won a 6-month subscription to Expert Flyer (which I have heard is useful but am too cheap to pay for) by knowing what QANTAS stands for.

About all I managed to do today was take the train home. Oddly, my condo has not cleaned itself while I was gone, so I should really go and do some decluttering. Or, possibly, napping.
fauxklore: (Default)
Everything did stay shut down yesterday. Signature Theatre actually sent me an email and left me a message on my answering machine. I'll just need to call them to exchange my ticket for another day. I used the time to get some house hold stuff done (but still have plenty to go), as well as reading and napping.

My condo association's annual holiday party was, however, a go, since walking downstairs (and/or a few feet outside) is not a huge hardship. They put out a pretty nice spread of heavy appetizers and desserts, plus wine and beer. One of the people on the social committee told me she'd gone out to buy the wine in the morning. My Scottish neighbor did not, alas, wear his kilt this year.

I get another day off today since the federal government is shut down and my company follows their lead. We have an emergency shutdown code we charge to for situations like this, so it doesn't make me use up any vacation either. I'm not sure if that means that we'll reschedule the (corporate) office party, but I am guessing it will be tomorrow.

The metro is supposedly completely open so I would have been okay, but there is still some bus service that isn't operating. Major streets should be alright, but I'm sure side streets are still a mess. I actually need to drive tomorrow, since I have a dentist appointment, but I'm pretty close to streets which get plowed and get traffic, so I don't think it will be too bad.
fauxklore: (Default)
In addition to the annual lunch at Maggiano's, we have a second party. That's a potluck plus a gift exchange. This year's event highlighted to me the problem with potlucks. I made spring rolls, which are easy but take some work, especially in shopping. Our operations director got a three foot sub from Subway. Another person brought a home made, elaborately decorated cake, since his wife is a pro. I have no qualms about people who sign up to bring paper plates or beverages or the like. (We actually went through the process of getting permission to have beer and wine.) But the guy who shows up with a bag of potato chips and a small jar of packaged onion dip doesn't seem to have put in much effort.

As for the gift exchange, a $10 limit is pretty constrained. I contributed a copy of It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies, purchased on Sunday at the San Francisco airport and ended up with a tin of cookies. I held onto an itunes gift card for surprisingly long, but it was stolen last minute.

The party was also the going away for our acting director and our operations director asked for "antidotes" instead of "anecdotes." Which prompted another colleague to say, "my friend would still be alive if I'd known the difference between those words. He got bitten by a copperhead and I was telling funny stories as fast as I could."

I have a party at my condo complex on Sunday and the party at my corporate office on Monday. Then I can go back to being unsociable.

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