fauxklore: (Default)
2018 was fairly stressful, largely due to a work situation that appears to be resolving itself. And, of course, the state of the world didn't help.

Books: I read 40 books, which is probably the fewest since I learned how to read. Also, surprisingly, only 6 were non-fiction. This is a little misleading in that I don’t count guidebooks, which end up being most of what I read when I’m traveling. My logic for not counting them is that I rarely read them cover to cover.

Favorites were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, and Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.

The book I hated the most was Murder By Sacrilege by D. R. Meredith.

I really need to do a used bookstore run. I’m not even sure how many books I have ready to go out.

Volksmarch: I did three events – in New Orleans, Atlantic City, and Charleston, West Virginia. The latter was a State Capital walk. I should get back into focusing on special programs, but first I need to resolve some issues with my right foot.

Travel: I started the year out in Singapore. My last trip of the year was to the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John) which is only semi-international, involving a dependency of the U.S., not a separate country. My major trip of the year was my family roots trip to Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus (plus a part of a day in Zurich), which was incredible.

Domestic trips included business trips to Colorado Springs and to Layton, Utah. Personal travel was to New Orleans, Stamford (Connecticut, for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), Atlantic City,New York (4 times, including a Brooklyn Cyclones game), Portland (Oregon), Rhode Island (mostly for a PawSox game), Memphis (Redbirds game), Milwaukee (Wisconsin for the National Puzzlers’ League con), Frederick (Maryland, for Loserfest. It counts because I did stay overnight), Richmond (Virginia – and, again, staying overnight makes it count), and Charleston (West Virginia). It seems unlikely, but it appears that I had an entire year without going to California.

Puzzles: This was pretty much a middle of the pack year. I ended up in the 62nd percentile at the ACPT, the 39th percentile at the Indie 500, and 55.7th percentile at Lollapuzzoola. Annoyingly, I didn’t solve cleanly at any of them.

I also had a good time (as always) at the NPL con. That included bringing along a hand-out puzzle, which I think went over reasonably well. I am planning for a walk-around puzzle for the 2019 con, since it’s in Boulder, Colorado, a city I have spent a lot of time in.

Ghoul Poul: I didn’t do particularly well in my second year. I finished 14th out of 20 participants, with 70 points. The people I scored with were Prince Henrik, Barbara Bush, John McCain, and George HW Bush.

Genealogy: I did the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, which got me writing about a few family stories, but didn’t really drive much research. I did, however, get in touch with a few unknown cousins (two from the FAINSTEIN family, one from the KHAIKEL / MEDINTS family) and made some progress on the GOLDWASSER family (my maternal grandfather’s mother’s side).

Baseball: I only made it to one Major League game this year – Red Sox at Nats on the Fourth of July. But it was a good year since: 1)I got to three minor league games (Memphis, Pawtucket, and Coney Island) and 2)my BoSox won the World Series.

Culture: If I counted correctly, I went to 16 musicals, 2 operas and 14 plays. My favorite musicals were Dave at Arena Stage and Me and My Girl at Encores in New York. My favorite plays were Heisenberg and 4380 Nights at Signature Theatre and Becoming Di. Ruth and Treyf at Theatre J. I also went to one ballet, one Cirque du Soleil shows, and 6 concerts. The most significant of the latter was seeing Jonathan Richman at the 9:30 Club. I had wanted to see him live for ages, so I was really glad to have the opportunity.

I went to One Day University 5 times. And I saw 16 movies, of which my favorites included What We Do in the Shadows, The Shape of Water. and Bathtubs Over Broadway

There was also a bunch of storytelling in there, some with me on stage and more with me in the audience.

Goals: I had six goals for 2018. So how did I score? I got about halfway through 2 afghans, so that gives me 33% on the goal to finish three. I did nothing about organizing photos, though I did find out about scanning resources at the library. I read 40 books, including 1 poetry book, so I I get 77% and 33% for that goal. I think I entered the Style Invitational twice, so will give myself 33% there. I did 3 Volksmarch events, so get 50% there. And I think I got through roughly 65% of catching up on household paperwork. I figure that gives me somewhere around a 40% on the year, which is not terrible, but not wonderful, either.

So what about goals for 2019?


  • Finish shredding and filing household paperwork.

  • Organize my genealogy files, both physical and electronic.

  • Organize my yarn stash. Ideally this would include using up at least 25% of the yarn. While I am at it, I also need to organize knitting needles and crochet hooks and the like.

  • Organize photos. Yes, really.

  • Read at least 52 books.

  • Enter the Style Invitational at least 4 times.

  • Do a 20 minute or longer workout at least 3 times a week.

  • Bring lunch to work at least twice a week.

  • Eat fruit every day.

fauxklore: (baseball)
I went up to New York for the weekend. The primary purpose of the trip was going to a Brooklyn Cyclones game with [personal profile] bugsybanana and her mother. The actual travel was straightforward enough, though Amtrak failed Line Management 101 at Union Station Friday evening by just herding people into a holding area by Gate D and letting a mad rush ensue when they opened the gate. We ended up leaving about 15 minutes late because of some unspecified minor mechanical problem, but it didn’t matter much.

I stayed at the Moxy, which is convenient to Penn Station and very modernistic. For example, the bathroom tiles are meant to look like a swimming pool, complete with a "no diving" sign. The sound proofing wasn’t terrible, though there is street noise – which is a problem at most hotels in NYC. They do provide earplugs, but I hate wearing them.

I had planned to do some shopping Saturday morning, but it was pouring out. So I went back to the hotel after getting breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and napped a bit. I left about noon to head downtown and get a kasha knish at Yonah Shimmel’s for lunch. It had stopped raining, which was good, as I was going on a walking tour.

Big Onion Tour – Satan’s Seat: I’ve done tons of walking tours in many cities, but it had occurred to me that I had never actually done one in New York City. Looking at various options, I found Big Onion, which has a pretty wide selection at a reasonable price ($25). I chose one called Satan’s Seat: New York During Prohibition. The tour started at Houston and the Bowery and finished in Greenwich Village, in front of Chumley’s. The guide, Sarah, is a grad student in history at Columbia, and she talked knowledgeably and entertainingly about the era. She started with McGurk’s Suicide Hall, a notorious saloon and hotel of the late 19th century which catered to prostitutes, several of whom killed themselves there. It was the existence of places like that which was part of the impetus for the temperance movement.

Carrie Nation and her hatchet were talked about, as was Margaret Sanger as a different example of how women were trying to reform society. There were stories about Tammany Hall, political corruption, and the rise of Fiorello LaGuardia. There were also bits about jazz music, including stops at Minetta Tavern and finishing up at Chumley’s, where the address of 86 Bedford Street allegedly led to the term to "86" someone.

All in all, it was an interesting tour and I would definitely consider doing other of their tours in the future.

Brooklyn Cyclones: It’s a long subway ride down to Coney Island, but the ballpark is a short walk from the station. It’s a lovely little park. The play wasn’t really impressive, but one doesn’t expect much at the A-short season level of the minors. Still, the game was close and the Cyclones beat the Aberdeen Ironbirds. My only complaint was that the concessions lines were long and slow-moving. Overall, I had a good time and it was definitely worth getting another ball park checked off. Of course, there’s a couple of hundred minor league ballparks and if I continue at the pace of getting to maybe three per summer, I’ll have to live into my hundreds. Which seems unlikely, at best.

The trip home on Sunday was also uneventful. Or, at least, I assume so since I managed to sleep from about the middle of New Jersey to about Baltimore.

Speaking of Baseball: Oh, what a weekend! The Red Sox sweep of the Source of All Evil in the Universe is just so sweet, especially since it happened despite Chris Sales being on the DL. Yes, I know it ain’t over till it’s over, but just let me gloat for a day or twelve.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Oliver Knussen composed an opera based on the book Where the Wild Things Are. Melanie Kantrowitz was a poet and activist, writing a lot about Jewish women. Marion Woodman was a psychologist who wrote The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, an excessively Jungian analysis of eating disorders. Peter Carington was the Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. John A. Stormer was a propagandist, best known for None Dare Call It Treason. Henry Morgenthau III was a television producer. Carlo Benneton co-founded the clothing company that bears his name. Nathaniel Reed co-wrote the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Puzzle Follow-up: If you are interested in the puzzle I brought to the NPL con, here’s a link to it.
road to bocon puzzle


While I am Linking to Things - a Friendzy: Here is ghost_light’s birthday friendzy. Probably of more interest to the LJ crowd vs. DW but lots of us use both, n’est ce pas? And lots of people could use more friends.

Weather and Baseball: We had one hell of a storm yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, it was fairly brief, but my power must have gone out at home for a few minutes (based on the kitchen clocks) and there was a lot of flooding. It did stop hours before the All-Star Game, at least. I will admit that I don’t really care about the All-Star Game, but my obsession with Jewish baseball players has me happy that Alex Bregman was the MVP.

Speaking of Treason: I am not quite convinced that Trump’s remarks at the press conference with Putin, disturbing as they were, qualify by the constitutional definition. The question is how one defines an actual enemy. Without a war having been formally declared, I could argue that Russia is not officially an enemy, no matter how much I believe they are in practical terms. Lawyers complicate everything.

Further Proof I am Tired: I saw a reference to a DC superhero show and it took me a minute to realize they were talking about comics, not the District of Columbia.

Ch-ch-changes: I’ve decided to write about only new graze snacks, as I was finding it hard to find things to say about the umptyumpth bag of microwave popcorn.

I need to get better control of my time and space. I am not sure how to do that, but I am thinking I should aim for leaving one unscheduled weekend a month. What I really want to change is the rotation of the earth, but I’ve been advised that is not within my bailiwick.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Steve Ditko co-created Spiderman. Claude Lanzmann was a documentarian, best known for Shoah. Shoko Asahara was the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, and was (along with 6 of his followers) executed for the sarin attack they perpetrated in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Vince Martin was a folk singer, best known for his work with Fred Neil, including "Tear Down These Walls." Alan Johnson was the choreographer for several films by Mel Brooks. Tab Hunter was a 50’s heartthrob actor.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: What with the Fourth of July being a Wednesday and my having my vacation time committed, I stayed in town. There are plenty of things I could have done, but the one I couldn’t resist was watching the Red Sox play the Nats. That did mean braving a certain crowd level on the metro, but I can handle that.

I’ve generally gone for the cheap seats at Nats Park, largely because of the views of the Capitol. Unfortunately, there has been so much construction in Southwest that you can just barely see the dome now. So I may switch my strategy in the future, as I can get a fine view of construction cranes in lots of other places. That would also make it faster to get to the better selection of concessions down on the field level concourse.

In the celebrity department, Elizabeth Dole made an appearance on behalf of a charity involving people who care for wounded veterans. And members of the cast of Hamilton sang the national anthem. There was, inevitably, a bit too much of gratuitous patriotic display. I will rant about that some time, but there are other things that are higher priorities for rants right now. (As a teaser, top of that list is my utter disgust at the discharge of dozens of immigrants who enlisted in the military with a promise of citizenship.)

As for the game itself, the Red Sox won, which is, of course, important for the state of the world. (Why, Scott Pruitt resigned the very next day! See!) What mostly made the difference was Eduardo Rodriguez, who pitched well. Erick Fedde, who started for the Nats, lasted just over an inning, claiming an injury, though it isn’t apparent what (if anything) happened.

Other Life Forms: I went to see this play at Keegan Theatre on Friday night. The story involves two couples on dates, arranged via an on-line dating service. One date is going well; the other, decidedly not. Vegetarians, libertarians, geologists, space aliens – there are all sorts of types who could be just wrong for you. Though, personally, I could easily see myself being attracted to a vegetarian, space alien, geologist, which has nothing to do with the play at hand. (I have dated vegetarians, geologists, and libertarians. I have not knowingly dated a space alien, though I have had my suspicions.) But to get back to the play, there’s a major plot twist that comes midway through Act 1.

Overall, this was a very funny play, though the second act got a bit preachy. It was still fun, overall. I should also note that the performances were excellent, particularly John Loughney’s as Jeff.

The Weekend: This was a rare weekend with nothing scheduled. I think that was the first such weekend since January.

I had good intentions involving all sorts of getting things in order, but my ambitions were outweighed by my need for regular naps. I did go out to see a movie in an actual theatre on Saturday (The Catcher Was a Spy about Moe Berg), to do some grocery shopping, and to have lunch with a friend. I was also supposed to help her with some paperwork, but she was having computer issues.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Big Van Vader was a professional wrestler, as was Matt Cappotelli. Constance Adams was an architect who designed space habitats and spaceports. Richard Benjamin Harrison was a Pawn Star. David Goldblatt was a South African photographer. Joe Jackson was the patriarch of the Jackson 5. Harlan Ellison was a science fiction writer. Liliane Montevecchi was a Tony-winning actress. Dame Gillian Lynne was a dancer and choreographer. Alan Longmuir was the bassist for the Bay City Rollers.

Charles Krauthammer was a political commentator. I agreed with some of his positions (primarily on Israel and on Trump) and disagreed with more. Regardless of that, I will always be grateful to him for founding the Jewish classical music series, Pro Musica Hebraica, which put on excellent concerts of music that deserves to be better known.

Donald Hall was a poet, essayist and critic. I heard him read when he was Poet Laureate of the U.S. in 2006. I particularly like that he wrote poems about baseball. I’ve also always loved the title of his memoir String Too Short to Be Saved.


Baseball Americana plus Michael Lewis: Wednesday night was book club, so I normally wouldn’t go out on Thursday night. But a friend had gotten free tickets to hear Michael Lewis (the author of Moneyball) speak at the Library of Congress. The ticket included early admission to the Baseball Americana exhibit, which officially opened on Friday. I got there too late to see much of the exhibit, so I definitely need to go back and spend a few hours there.

As for the talk, he was very entertaining. He apparently had a bit of high school baseball glory and his coach compared him to Catfish Hunter ("he also didn’t have a fastball"). My favorite line was that "children’s sports exist for the moral education of their parents." That was part of an anecdote about his children playing baseball in Berkeley, where the ideal was for a team to finish at .500 and then them being on travel teams where they had to cross the hills and play against Republicans. Overall, it was a very entertaining talk and I’m glad I went, despite my tiredness.

Better Said Than Done: Saturday night was a Better Said Than Done storytelling show at The Auld Shebeen. I told a story about the more normal summer camps I went to. I was having trouble finding an ending, but a spam email I got on Friday morning led me to exactly what I needed. It’s always fun when something works out in an unexpected way. Overall, it was a good show and the audience was responsive.

Hamilton; I saw Hamilton at the Kennedy Center on Sunday. It was very impressive, but I was glad for the open captioning as I could not have kept up with the rap sections otherwise. I’d argue that the rapping serves the role of operatic recitative, making the show closer to opera than to traditional music theatre, though really the whole thing is sui generis.

There are numerous historical accuracies, though I suspect the majority of them are Ron Chernow’s fault, rather than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s. The most egregious has to do with Angelica Schuyler, who was actually already married when she met Alexander Hamilton. I also think John Adams was treated unnecessarily harshly, though he was, after all, obnoxious and disliked. I’m also annoyed at the complete absence of my favorite founding father, Gouverneur Morris.

But whatever the historical flaws, it succeeded in making me more interested in Hamilton’s life and career, which makes it a success overall. I’d also be interested in seeing it again, as I know there are things I missed. (I did catch references ranging from Sondheim to Gilbert and Sullivan.)

I’ll also note that the orchestration is a bit strings-heavy, which is a good thing in my book, but might not be in everyone’s. I wasn’t really crazy about much of the choreography, which I thought was often a bit more frenetic than necessary and has way too much of people jumping on chairs. Still, I would probably benefit from seeing it again and being able to focus more on the staging without the distraction of the captioning.

As for performances, I thought Austin Scott (who played the title role) could have been more energetic, as he was overshadowed by Nicholas Christopher as Aaron Burr and, especially, Carvens Lissaint as George Washington. But this is definitely an ensemble show and the cast did, in general, work well together.

Bottom line is that it is, indeed, a great show. But I still think Guys and Dolls and West Side Story are the best musicals of all time.

I should also note that it is a nice change when the audience demographics look fairly diverse, instead of the more typical experience of a theatre full of older white people. I have been to way too many shows where I am one of a handful of people who can walk unassisted.

Living on the Surface of the Sun: Sheesh, it is hot out. I was outside a bit more than I’d have preferred yesterday, since I went to see the documentary Three Identical Strangers at the DC JCC. And today I discovered that a shuttle bus I needed to take was running only every half hour instead of the normal every 15 minutes, so I roasted while waiting for it. It would have been helpful if they’d put a note to that effect on the schedule board at the stop, instead of the schedule change from March of last year that was posted.

Memphis

Jun. 28th, 2018 10:23 am
fauxklore: (travel)
I went to Memphis this past weekend. I flew out Friday night, enduring a roughly half hour weather delay. That was only mildly annoying. A greater annoyance came on arrival. I walked out of the terminal, saw a hotel shuttle van labeled for the Doubletree Downtown – and got told they don’t take passengers. The driver said he could only take pilots. (Presumably, he meant flight crews? Or do flight attendants have to walk?) Since the airport website also said the hotel had a shuttle, I was pretty pissed off. I took a taxi to the hotel. And then they gave me a room on the first floor (which is just above the ground floor) pretty much next to the elevator, despite my profile indicating I want high floors and away from the elevator. Typical bloody Hilton-branded hotel. That is in addition to the normal hotel annoyances, e.g. thermostat being set at 62 degrees, marginal sound-proofing, etc. I tried to change rooms, but they insisted they were sold out. Grrr.

In the morning, I set out to Graceland. Well, first I had breakfast (delicious chicken and waffles at Automatic Slim’s). There is a free shuttle bus from the Rock and Soul Museum, a short walk from the hotel, to Graceland. There are various options, all of them pricey. I went with the combination of the Mansion Tour and the Elvis Experience, which includes several exhibits – gold records, costumes, cars, motorcycles, etc. As for the mansion, it is fairly grand and reflects about what you’d expect of Elvis’s tastes. There’s a reason everyone has heard of the Jungle Room, for example. As for me, I could live without shag carpeting (or, frankly, any carpeting) on the ceiling. But I was also never much of an Elvis fan. My tastes from that era run more to Gene Vincent. Still, I was glad I went to such an iconic American tourist attraction.

I took the bus back to downtown, where I walked over to the Peabody Hotel to see the famous duck walk. This is silly, but amusing, as a uniformed duckmaster leads a group of ducks from the lobby fountain to the elevator to go to their penthouse suite. (There is a similar ceremony, from penthouse to fountain, in the morning.) I met up with my friend, Charles, there and, after the ceremony, we headed across the street to Autozone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds (AAA affiliate of the Cardinals). Going to the Redbirds game had been the actual excuse for the trip, by the way.

The ballpark was a very nice one – intimate, clean, reasonably enthusiastic fans. As for the game, vs. the New Orleans Baby Cakes, it was pretty much a pitcher’s duel. There’s a reason Dakota Hudson is expected to get a call up to the Cards. I can’t say I had much invested emotionally in the outcome, but it’s always a good thing when the home team wins. (Unless, of course, that home team is the Source of All Evil in the Universe. Or is playing against my Red Sox.) I should also note that Rockey the Redbird is relatively innocuous as mascots go, though he didn’t change my anti-mascot stand. By the way, there were fireworks after the game, which I stayed for largely due to lack of anything better to do.

On Sunday, after breakfast at Miss Polly’s Soul City Café (okay, but not super interesting), I went to the National Civil Rights Museum. This is located in the Lorraine Hotel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. There’s a lot of material about King, but there are also a lot of other exhibits about African-American history and discrimination. I can’t say there were things I didn’t know, but seeing it all in one place really highlighted the pettiness of the Jim Crow laws. For example, what is the possible logic in forbidding a white school to give used textbooks to a black school? My one complaint about the museum is that it is focused too exclusively on the civil rights of Black people. Without minimizing the importance (and, sadly, resurging importance) of that area of civil rights, I’d say that the hardest fought battle right now is related to sexuality and gender. To be fair, I only had time to go through about half the museum, but I’ve been told that the rest retains the same focus.

The trip home started fine and the first leg (MEM to PHL) was actually slightly early. But the plane for the leg home (PHL to DCA) was delayed leaving Tampa, allegedly due to weather in the northeast. When I looked at the FAA website and various weather maps, it looked like there were thunderstorms around the Chesapeake. In the end, we had about a two-and-a-half-hour delay. That meant a taxi home (instead of the metro). And I didn’t get home until 1 something in the morning. At which point, my digestive system was exhibiting signs of displeasure with something I’d eaten (presumably the barbecue I’d had for lunch), but that’s another story and not really interesting.

Overall, it was a good weekend excursion. It looks like there are several other things worth exploring in Memphis and surroundings, so another day or so would have been good. But, if I waited until there was enough time, I’d never go anywhere.
fauxklore: (baseball)
Celebrity Death Watch: Clint Walker was an actor, best known for his role in the TV series Cheyenne. Dovey Johnson Roundtree was a civil rights activist. Allyn Ann McLerie was an actress whose roles included Amy in Where’s Charley? (as in the song "Once in Love with Amy.") Richard Peck wrote children’s books. Ted Dabney cofounded Atari. Gardner Dozois was a science fiction writer and editor.

Philip Roth was a highly overrated writer. Portnoy’s Complaint is one of those books I finished only to see if it improved. It didn’t. His attitudes towards Judaism and towards women were simply obnoxious.

Alan Bean was the fourth person to walk on the moon. He had a later career as a painter, apparently incorporating moon dust from his patches into some of his art. There are now only four moonwalkers still alive – Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt.

New England Trip: I flew up to PVD on Saturday morning. I always get a minor kick out of taking advantage of Star Alliance lounge access (thanks to my United Gold status) at IAD when I’m taking a short flight. Especially when it’s a flight on a CRJ, the most uncomfortable planes around. In this case, I had a nice breakfast at the Turkish Air lounge – yogurt, berries, and simit (the Turkish equivalent of sesame bagels, but better because the ratio of sesame seeds to crusty bread is higher) plus surprisingly drinkable coffee.

I rented a car and drove to Connecticut. I had planned to walk around Mystic, but it was very hot and there were big crowds for the holiday weekend, so I didn’t spend long there. Then I drove up to Mohegan Sun, which provided a quick lunch, people watching, and some gambling. It is remarkably glitzy. I was tired so drove on to my hotel (the Hampton Inn in Norwich) in the late afternoon. I took a nap and read for a while, before ordering in what proved to be mediocre Chinese food for supper. Overall, it was an unexciting day, but the next day was the real reason for the trip.

In the morning, I drove to northern Providence to pick up my friend, Ron, at the bus station. We then headed to Pawtucket, hoping to find somewhere to kill time before the PawSox game we were going to. Fortunately, there turned out to be a diner right by McCoy Stadium, where we had a reasonably cheap brunch. Then we headed to the stadium, which has something truly miraculous – free parking! We hung out for a while until the gates opened. That gave us time to notice cute sculptures of children playing ball, as well as a larger statue of Ben Mondor, who bought the team out of bankruptcy in 1977. There is also a mascot statue who needs new pants.

We stopped at the team store for me to buy a hoodie as the fleece I had brought with me had a broken zipper. This was a wise move as the weather was not very baseball suitable – cold and drizzly. Fortunately, the rain stayed light enough that the game could be played. The PawSox defeated the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 1-0. The most notable aspect of the game was a large number of walks. I should also mention there was a sports bottle give-away, so I got to add to my collection of ballpark gimmes.

McCoy Stadium is old (1942) and is at least somewhat endangered, but I thought there was nothing really wrong with it. It’s not at all glitzy, to be fair, but the seats are okay and the concessions, while unexciting, are pretty much in line with other minor league ballparks. The most unique thing there is the tradition of "fishing" for autographs. The field level seats aren’t really at field level, so people lower buckets to the dugouts on ropes with something to sign, a sharpie to sign it with, and some sort of "bait" (typically candy or gum). There are also lots of banners about team history and famous players, as well as a big display about the longest game ever played – the famous 33 inning game between the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings.

I should also note that the PawSox follow a lot of Red Sox traditions – including singing "Sweet Caroline" in the moddle of the 8th inning and playing "Dirty Water" at the end of the game when they win. The latter doesn’t really make sense that far away from the Charles. Overall it was a fun afternoon, despite the weather.

I drove Ron to the Providence train station, then headed back to Pawtucket to the Hampton Inn there for the night. I read for a while, before walking over to an Irish pub right next to the hotel for supper. The food wasn’t great, but the Narragansett IPA was good.

I flew back Monday morning. I didn’t get nearly as much done Monday afternoon as I’d hoped to, though I did accomplish fairly major grocery shopping and fairly major napping.

Minor League Ballparks: I haven’t officially decided that I should go to a game at every minor league ballpark (as I did with the majors) but I am obsessive enough to sort of have it in mind. So, for the record, here are the ones I have been to (in chronological order):

Salt Lake Bees – Pacific Coast League (AAA) affiliate of the Anaheim (not L.A. damnit) Angels. Apparently, the stadium in Salt Lake City is called Smith’s Ballpark. It’s easy to get to, since there is a light rail stop one block away. I was in SLC for a conference in May 2006 and the game gave me something to do one evening.

Reno Aces – Pacific Coast League (AAA) affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greater Nevada Field is conveniently located downtown, a short walk from the hotel area. I was in Reno mostly to do a volksmarch or three in April 2011, so this was another target of opportunity.

Portland Sea Dogs – Eastern League (AA) affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. I was in Portland, Maine for Sharing the Fire in April 2013 and thought it would be fun to spend Sunday afternoon going to a game at Hadlock Field. What I neglected in this thinking was the fact that Maine is still uninhabitable in April. Even though I wore multiple layers of clothes plus my winter parka, I don’t think I thawed out completely for a solid week.

Potomac Nationals – Carolina League (A-Advanced) affiliate of the Washington Nationals. G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium is in Woodbridge, Virginia. This is maybe 30 miles from my house, but one has to figure an hour, given traffic on I-95. It’s a shorter drive from Lorton, where I had spent the day at a storytelling event in July 2013. The main reason to go there is that it is a lot cheaper than going to a real Nats game.

Lexington Legends – South Atlantic League (A) affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. I was in Lexington for a Flyertalk Do in April 2014 and skipped out on Friday night partying to go to a game at Whitaker Bank Field because I am more obsessive about baseball than about either horses or bourbon.

Vancouver Canadians – Northwest League (A – Short Season) affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Another target of opportunity, as I was in Vancouver for the July 2015 NPL con. I figured I might as well go to a game at Scotiabank Field (aka Nat Bailey Stadium)

Toledo Mud Hens – International League (AAA) affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Fifth Third Field is downtown, as much as Toledo has a downtown. This was the first time I went somewhere specifically to go to a minor league game, as part of a FlyerTalk Do in September 2015.

Pawtucket Red Sox – International League (AAA) affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. McCoy Field is the oldest of the AAA ballparks and they are talking about either building a new stadium in Pawtucket or moving to Worcester. This was a trip specifically to go to a game there while the ballpark still exists.


Shameless Self-Promotion: I have a few storytelling performances coming up. This coming Sunday (June 3rd), I’ll be telling folktales having to do with Tricksters and Treatsters at the Washington Folk Festival. The festival is at Glen Echo Park in Cabin John, Maryland and is free. My set is at 5 p.m. but there is storytelling and music and dance all day (and all day Saturday, but I have another commitment then.)

On Wednesday June 20th at 7 p.m. I’ll be telling at a Better Said Than Done show at the Lake Anne Coffeehouse in Reston, Virginia. The theme is Top Chef: stories of dining, wining, and winning (or trying to. And on Saturday June 30th at 7 p.m. I’ll be at the Auld Shebeen, again with Better Said Than Done, as part of a show about S’More: stories about camping, food, and wanting more.
fauxklore: (Default)
Here is the rest of the catch-up stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Louise Hay was a motivational author. Richard Anderson was an actor, best known for portraying the boss of bionic people. Hedley Jones was a Jamaican musician, who also designed and built the first traffic lights in the country (among other technical accomplishments). Shelly Berman was a stand-up comedian and actor. Walter Becker was one of the founders of Steely Dan. John Ashberry was a poet.

Take Me Out to the Ball Games: I got back on a Thursday and went to Nationals games (vs. the Mets) on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The Friday night game started out with some pathetic pitching on the part of young A. J. Cole. He did settle down, some, but the Nats never got very far against Jacob deGrom. Things did get exciting at the end, but the Mets kept their lead.

Sunday was Jewish Community Day and I went with some friends from my chavurah. There had been a special ticket price, which also included a ballcap with Nationals written in Hebrew! This is now my favorite ballcap, even ahead of the one from the Leones del Escogido. There were also tastings of various foods from a kosher caterer. As for the game, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a 3-run homer for the Mets in the first. The Nats proved to be really good at stranding men on base, though they did make things close. And it all came to down to Edwin Jackson getting thrown out at the plate at the end for them to lose.

Apparently, my wearing Nats gear brings luck to the Mets.


Vacation Stories: In between the two ball games, there was a Saturday night and a Better Said Than Done show, with a vacation theme. I told my story "M.D., Ph.D., G.R.E.A.T." which involves our family trip to Expo ’67 in Montreal, my parents’ failure to stop at any of the intriguing tourist traps along the way, and how I finally found satisfaction on another trip years later. The audience was responsive and I think it went well.
You can judge for yourself. Here’s the video.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: There was a very important work matter, which I had to discuss with Bob Kaplan, even though he was in the hospital. Alexander Craig insisted that he and I talk with Bob, who was wearing blue pajamas and had just had surgery. We were then going to follow up with the Delaware group. Note that none of these are names of people or organizations I have any association with.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: My home was invaded by a group of juggalos. Well, 4 of them stood outside and waited, while the one with the full clown makeup went inside, wielding an inflatable baseball bat.

District Dumplings: This past Thursday night I went out to dinner with a couple of friends who were in town. They chose District Dumplings in the Mosaic District. It was disappointing. The chicken and basil dumplings were good, but the others were bland. And, even though we ordered our dumplings steamed, they gave us fried. If you are over that way, Brine is a much better choice of a place to eat. Oh, well, the company and the conversation were good.

The National Book Festival: I volunteered at the National Book Festival this year, which was held this past Saturday. It’s the sort of volunteer task I can do – with a commitment measured in hours on one day (plus a couple of hours for a training session). I was a Hall Chaperone, which basically meant that I stood on the L Street Bridge at the top of the Grand Staircase with an "Ask Me" sign and directed people to other places in the Convention Center.

You’d think that sign would invite smartass questions, but there were only a few. Mostly people were asking how to get to the main stage (on the 3rd floor) or to the Metro. My favorite conversation was with the guy who said, "you look like you would like someone to ask you a question," to which I replied, "I would be delighted to be asked a question." (Alas, he just asked one of the usual ones.) Anyway, it was reasonably fun and I ran into several people I knew. I would volunteer there again if my schedule works.
fauxklore: (Default)
Celebrity Death Watch: Raymond Sackler was a physician whose pharmaceutical company marketed Oxycontin among other drugs. He was also heavily involved in various philanthropic ventures, both in scientific fields and in the arts. Kenneth Jay Lane designed costume jewelry. Chester Bennington was the lead singer of Linkin Park. Geoff Mack was an Australian singer-songwriter, best known for "I’ve Been Everywhere." John Heard was an actor. Jim Vance was a news anchor in Washington, DC. Artyom Tarasov was the first person in the USSR to become a millionaire. Patti Deutsch was a comedian and voice actress. Cool "Disco" Dan was a graffiti artist. Sam Shepard was an actor and playwright. John G. Morris was a photo editor for Life and The New York Times as well as various other publications. Stan Hart wrote for MAD. Lee May played baseball fpr the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles among other teams. D. L. Menard was a major figure in Cajun music. Jeanne Moreau was a French actress, best known for starring in Jules et Jim. Marina Ratner was a mathematician.

June Foray was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale among others. She is particularly significant because she earned me 31 ghoul pool points (19 for where I had her on my list and another 12 because nobody else had her at all), catapulting me into a tie for fifth place. I would feel bad about that, but she made it to 99, which is pretty respectable.

Not Dead Celebrity: I woke up this morning in a minor panic over whether or not Carol Burnett was still alive. She is, but I have to wonder if that panic meant anything.

Storytelling: I told a new story at Saturday night’s Better Said Than Done Show. It went okay, though the first third of it was definitely much more polished than the rest and the last third could have been much funnier. Of course, later that night I had a moment of inspiration on something that I could have added. The story has to do with my battle against Argentine ants, which invaded an apartment I lived in in Los Angeles many years ago. They reminded me of the horror movie, THEM, which was also set in Los Angeles. They even invaded my freezer, which didn’t have a very effective seal. I opened the freezer door one day to find the freezer overflowing with antsicles, setting me on the path of various ineffective solutions. I documented those, but there was an important one I left out. I should have checked my lease to see whether anteaters were allowed as pets.

On a related note, it appears that Grant’s Kills Ants is still available, but no longer contains arsenic.

Clothes Shopping: I have a bar mitzvah to go to next weekend and thought I would use it as an excuse to get a new dress. Hah! Those ridiculous (and highly inappropriate) cold-shoulder designs are all over the place. I found a couple of almost acceptable dresses, but one was a little too short. And several had necklines that were too wide. That was a particular pity in the case of one that had something rare and wondrous – namely, pockets.

At least it wasn’t as if I don’t have anything acceptable to wear. But it’s still frustrating.

Speaking of Frustrating: The Red Sox seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Sigh.
fauxklore: (Default)
The King and I: I went with a friend to see The King and I at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday night. This is (like most Rodgers and Hammerstein) a musical I have mixed feelings about. There is some glorious music, e.g. "We Kiss in a Shadow." And, of course, "Shall We Dance?" is a nice showy number. But is "The March of Siamese Children" anything more than a way to show off kids so parents will go to the theatre? Louis (Anna’s son) could use a lot more development as a character. And "I Whistle a Happy Tune" simply annoys me, aside from its earworm potential.

Despite those inherent flaws, the production was quite good, with special kudos to Jose Llana as the King of Siam. I also thought Manna Nichols was very good as Tuptim. The choreography made good use of a relatively small space (this was in the Opera House, not the Eisenhower, which also has the disadvantage of less than wonderful acoustics). Could one write a musical nowadays with an internal ballet like "The Small House of Uncle Thomas?"

My only real complaint (aside from my overall lukewarmness towards the score) is that the show was awfully long. I was nervous about the metro schedule, since trains stop running at 11:30 on weeknights now. I may have to limit weeknight excursions to things that are driveable or that I know will end by 10ish.

Chinotto: We had dinner before the show at Campono, which has okay food and is right across the street from the Kennedy Center. The café in the Kennedy Center is dreadful, with mediocre food and high prices. And the friend I went with was driving, so didn’t want to do dinner in Foggy Bottom beforehand. My salad was fine, but the real reason I am mentioning this is that they have chinotto! I know I am the only North American who actually likes those bitter Italian drinks, but the point is that I do like them and they are hard to find here. So it was a rare treat.

Now, if I could only find somewhere that has Schweppes bitter lemon…

Fielding Dreams: I shouldn’t really go out two nights in a row, but the DC JCC had a program on Washington’s Jewish Ballplayers and, given my minor obsession with Jews in baseball, how could I resist? Fred Frommer (who authored a book on Washington baseball, not limited to Jewish players) moderated the event. The other speakers were Phil Hochberg who, in addition to a career in sports law, was an announcer at RFK Stadium, and Aviva Kempner, who is well known for her documentaries, including The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. The big news is that she is now working on a documentary about Moe Greenberg and she talked extensively about him.

Anyway, there were 18 Jews who played major league baseball in Washington, though some played only 1 or 2 games. The number should really be 17 because Buddy Myer, despite being in nearly every Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, was not actually Jewish. Most of the players talked about were active in the 1930’s or so, but there were a few I remembered. For example, Greg Goossen played for the Mets for a while, though, of course, their real Jewish star was Art Shamsky. (As far as I know, Ed Kranepool is not Jewish, though he did give a talk at our shul when I was a kid.) It was Goossen about whom Casey Stengel allegedly said "I have a 19 year old player. In 10 years, he has a chance to be 29."

Another familiar player was Jason Marquis, who I saw pitch here several times. The only Jewish pitcher who had a winning career in Washington, however, was Al Schacht, who went 14-10 in the early 1920’s. The other really significant pitcher who was discussed was Syd Cohen, who gave up Babe Ruth’s final home run. But the better story about him is that he played winter ball in Mexico under the name Pablo Garcia. The minor league ballpark in El Paso (where he grew up) is named after him – and his brother, Andy, who was the more successful ballplayer.

The big story, however, was Moe Berg. His baseball career wasn’t exactly impressive, but his career in the OSS made up for it. Apparently, he spoke at least 7 languages – and couldn’t hit in any of them. But his linguistic skills got him sent to Japan with much bigger names and to Switzerland to meet Heisenberg and so on. He was a genuine character and I’m looking forward to Aviva’s movie.

Speaking of Baseball: Jackie Bradley made an awesome catch Sunday night, robbing Aaron Judge of a home run. That is exactly how I like to see my Red Sox deal with the Source of All Evil in the Universe.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I had, for some reason, been given an opportunity to do another Zero-G flight, for free this time. But there was a lot of paperwork to fill out – enough for a 100+ page book. I got hung up on a question asking me to check off which conditions I had, which including being blind, blonde, or blinde.

Atlanta

May. 8th, 2017 02:18 pm
fauxklore: (baseball)
I went to Atlanta for the weekend. My primary motivation was checking out the new ballpark, but, of course, that wasn’t all I did.

I had no issues with my United flights either way. In fact, I got upgraded both ways, though they failed to email me the upgrade notification for the return. It is also a big advantage to fly an airline other than Delta to/from ATL because you come in and out of the T-gates and don’t need to take a train to your plane.

I had contemplated staying near the ballpark, but decided that didn’t really make sense because it is the middle of nowhere in deep suburbia. Staying in midtown was actually more convenient, allowing me to take MARTA to and from the airport. More significantly, it also allowed me to do some important sightseeing on Saturday morning.

The High Museum of Art is one of the major art museums of the country. It is normally fairly pricy, but I have a Bank of America credit card, which gives me free access to various museums on the first weekend of the month. I find that if I have to pay to go to a museum, I feel like I need to see everything. But getting in free means I can just pick and choose a few parts to see without feeling like I’ve wasted money.

My main priority was the African art selection. There is an interesting mix of both traditional and contemporary pieces from several countries. My favorite – actually, my favorite piece in the entire museum – was one named Taago by El Anatsui, a Ghanian artist. It consists of pieces of aluminum from the tops and necks of local liquor bottles, joined with wire, to form a sculpture reminiscent of kente cloth. There was also a special exhibit of works by Ashley Bryan, who illustrated a lot of books based on folklore.

I moved on to the contemporary art, which includes a large collection of works by folk artist, Howard Finster. Other notable works include a painting by Richard Estes, whose photorealism I’ve admired for some time, and Insect Icon Tapestry by Jon Eric Riis. All in all, I spent a few pleasant hours at the museum, before heading off to the Cumberland area to meet up with friends for a late lunch / early dinner at Copeland’s. The food was good and the conversation was intelligent and wide ranging. Eventually, we left and they dropped me at the ballpark.

My first impression of SunTrust Park was that it was chaotic. They are still developing The Battery, a shopping and entertainment complex around the stadium. From what I could tell with the crowds, it is pretty much a collection of high end restaurants and watering holes. I fought my way through to the Right Field Gate, where there was a long and chaotic set of lines to get into the ballpark itself. I had bought a ticket package for Star Wars day, which included an R.A. Dickey Stormtrooper bobblehead, so my first stop was to redeem my voucher for that. The instructions they had emailed actually told me the wrong place to go to do that, but it was easily enough resolved. I should probably note that I am not really a big Star Wars fan, but it is always fun to add to my collection of ballpark gimmes.

That accomplished, I went to check off their monument garden, which has various exhibits on the history of the team. Of course, much of that history is pre-Atlanta – both in Boston and in Milwaukee – but that is fair enough. The statue of Hank Aaron is the centerpiece, as it should be. Overall, it is a reasonable exhibit, though the crowds were a bit of a pain.

The actual stands were not crowded. There were a few people at the entrance to the seating area taking photos with costumed Star Wars characters, but not so many actually sitting down to see the game. The Braves were playing the Cardinals, so this fell into the class of games in which I didn’t care who won. It looks like the Braves have a fair number of loyal fans. Unfortunately, those are generally identifiable by the tomahawk chop, a particularly obnoxious method of cheering. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but would prefer a non-racist way of showing it. On the plus side, several people sang along with the national anthem, and, later on, with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." (Singing along to the latter is one of my three primary ballpark rating criteria, along with local character and a general level of fan engagement.)

It was actually hard to gauge fan engagement, because the weather sucked, with a few brief rain showers, which weren’t enough to affect play, but did send many people scurrying for cover. I’ll also note that there appeared to be particularly long lines for the concessions (none of which seemed particularly local or interesting). They don’t have any vendors in the stands, either, which doesn’t help.

As for the game, the Cardinals won, largely because Julio Teheran’s pitching was not up to snuff. I’ll also note that I was impressed by a couple of nice catches that Randal Grichuk made in right field. And Aledmys Diaz hit a three-run homer which pretty much clinched the game for St. Louis. Overall, it was a reasonably exciting game to watch.

I’d rate the ballpark in the group of vast group of middling ones. It’s a pleasant enough place to watch a game, but lacks soul. It also loses significant points for difficulty of access. Their website claims the Circulator bus connects the ballpark to the Cumberland Transit Center, but that bus actually appears to stop running at 9 p.m. and does not run at all on Sundays. The transit center is a long walk from the ballpark. There is a closer stop to a Cobb County Transit bus, though the ballpark staff misdirected me on how to get to that stop. And that bus runs infrequently, so was very crowded, largely with fans complaining that it is supposed to be the Atlanta Braves, not the Cobb County Braves. I should also note that the ballpark website pushes Uber as their transit solution, but the Uber pickup location had a line three blocks long. That is, of course, in addition to the cost and moral issues associated with Uber. When the team played at Turner Field, they ran shuttle buses from the Five Points MARTA station, which was a much better solution.

The really important thing is that I have, again, been to a game at every major league ballpark. One does, after all, have to keep up one’s standards when it comes to obsessions.

As for the rest of the weekend, I got home in time for a much needed nap, followed by dinner at Tachibana for a friend’s 50th birthday. What I didn’t get done was any housework, alas.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Marian Javits was an arts patron and the widow of Jacob Javits, who a few of you may remember from the days when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican. Joseph Wapner was the first judge on The People’s Court. Shrley Palesh played for a few teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Howard Schmidt was a major figure in government cybersecurity strategy. Joe Rogers co-founded Waffle House, thus saving the stomach linings of many a drunken Southerner. Rene Preval served two terms as president of Haiti. Tommy Page was a singer-songwriter. Miriam Colon was a Puerto Rican actress. Edi Fitzroy was a reggae singer. Fred Weintraub owned The Bitter End, an important venue for folk music and comedy. Kurt Moll was an opera singer. Robert Osborne as a film historian and hosted Turner Classic Movies. Joni Sledge sang as part of Sister Sledge. Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a prolific writer of children’s books, among other things. Mother Divine was the leader of a cult founded by her husband. Royal Robbins was a big name in rock climbing but, more significantly to me, founded an eponymous clothing company that makes awesome clothes for traveling, including that green plaid shirt I am wearing in the overwhelming majority of my travel photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Corporate Miscommunication: We are all getting new phones. I got an email telling me mine was ready and that I needed to go to an office 30 some odd miles away to pick it up. Since that office doesn't open until 9 and we are talking about DC metro area traffic, that would kill half my day. In fact, our IT guy came around this afternoon delivering phones for the 50 or so of us in this office. This is much easier, of course, but I would have preferred them sending out the correct info to begin with.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Stuart McLean was a Canadian broadcaster, whose The Vinyl Café also aired on NPR. Richard Schickel was a film critic. Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "The Blind Sheikh," was convicted of seditious conspiracy in relation to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nancy Willard wrote children’s books. Kaci Kullman Five was chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Kenneth Arrow was a Nobel laureate in economics. Larry Coryell was a jazz guitarist.

Norma McCorvey was the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade. She later became active in the anti-choice movement. Note that she never actually had an abortion, as the Supreme Court case took three years.

Leah Adler was Stephen Speilberg’s mother and also owned and ran The Milky Way, a kosher dairy restaurant in Los Angeles. I can’t count how often I’ve eaten there, especially since I used to live more or less across the street from it. I particularly liked their lasagna. Mrs. Adler was a charming hostess, and part of the appeal of the place.

Mildred Dresselhaus was an MIT professor, and one of the most prominent women in science. She did vital work in thermoelectrics and materials, especially nanotechnology. But, more importantly, she inspired almost every woman of my generation at MIT.

Presidential Dining Note: It doesn’t appear that Donald Trump eats out here, except, possibly, at Trump-owned properties. I realized this when I got lunch at Good Stuff Eatery and they still have the Prez Obama burger and the Michelle Melt on the menu. Admittedly, it’s only been a month, but I don’t expect to see him at local restaurants or cultural events very much.

Not Everything Evil is His Fault: I’ve made no secret of my feelings about Trump’s incompetence and bad ideas. But not every bad thing that happens here is his fault. Two specific items are not. First, it is perfectly normal for political appointees to submit their resignations to be effective on inauguration day and, despite what some people have commented in various places, only a small percentage (5% or so) get asked to stay on. That doesn’t, of course, excuse Trump’s slowness in naming appointees. Out of 549 appointments requiring Senate confirmation, 14 have been confirmed and another 20 are awaiting confirmation. This is well behind the pace of past administrations. But that may be a good thing in this case. It means that career civil servants are acting in a number of positions and, in general, people who are career vice political are more likely to push back against bad ideas. Politicals know they only have so many silver bullets, so conserve them and sometimes don’t act when they probably should. On the other hand, politicals are usually easier to deal with for precisely this reason.

The other thing that is not Trump’s fault is Customs and Border Patrol asking people to unlock smartphones and, in general, seizing electronics. This is a bad thing, yes, but the exception to the need for a search warrant when it comes to electronics at borders has been policy for a number of years. There are a couple of court cases which affirmed the CBP right to do so, both of them involving child pornography. My advice is not to travel with electronics with important data. (My company will lend international travelers clean laptops. Not sure what they do about smartphones.) In my opinion, the only thing that would really help here is for a case to get to the Supreme Court. Of course, there is no guarantee of privacy rights prevailing there.

Commonwealth Politics: In general, Virginia has Democratic politicians who align well with my views. But it has occurred to me that I can’t think of any women who are up and coming right now. Of our 11 Congressional districts, the only female congresscritter is Barbara Comstock, a Republican. So what other women could run for Congress? Maybe Delegate Charniele Herring, who seems to have an interesting personal history, including growing up in a military family and spending some time in a homeless shelter? Or the much more privileged Sharon Bulova, who chairs the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, except that she would be in the 11th district and Gerry Connolly doesn’t seem likely to step aside? I’ll admit I don’t know a lot of the politicians from outside Northern Virginia. Is there anyone in the Hampton Roads area or Richmond?

Intentional Walks: The Washington Post reported today that MLB is going to do away with intentional walks, replacing them with a signal from the dugout. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. While it may be rare that they had unintended consequences, such as an overthrow allowing base runners to progress or a pitch too close to the strike zone allowing a hit, that could always happen. And the psychology gets changed when the target has to stand there and reflect on how afraid of him the other team is.

For something this evil, I do indeed blame Trump. (Along with, of course, Robert Mugabe and the New York Yankees.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Tammy Grimes was a Broadway actress, most notable for playing the title role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She was also the mother of actress Amanda Plummer. Natalie Babbitt wrote the children’s book Tuck Everlasting.


Genealogy Update: I finally tracked down confirmation of a family story. My uncle had told me a relative had been killed in a train crash in Washington, but he was inconsistent about whether it was Celia Lubofsky (my cousin once removed) or Mary Lehrman (my great-aunt). Since Mary’s headstone says she "died in accident," I figured I would start by googling train wrecks for that day. And, indeed, there was a major one. The Congressional Limited from Washington to New York crashed just outside Philadelphia on 6 September 1943, killing approximately 80 people. And I did, indeed, find Mary’s name on the lists of the dead. In fact, the Chicago Tribune even printed her address (2272 Barker Avenue in the Bronx). Since the wreck was on Labor Day, my guess is that she had gone to Washington to visit her daughter, Sima Slansky (the one whose husband later committed bigamy according to the laws of Maryland, which didn’t recognize his residency for a Reno divorce as valid).

Mary had a difficult life, what with being held for inquiry when she immigrated to the U.S., though it looks like she only had to wait a day or so for Nathan to show up and claim her. She was widowed in her 30’s, with her daughters only 9 and 12 years old. And then her beauty salon got used as a test case when the state of New York decided to pursue an electrolysis school. (Mary got a 6 month suspended sentence for practicing medicine without a license, but was later vindicated.) So it seems her life was a bit of a train wreck before she died in a literal one.

Note, by the way, that the May 2015 Amtrak crash was in just about the same place.

Baseball: Okay, Cubs fans. You can shut up now. And thank us Red Sox fans for letting you have Theo Epstein.


Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory character) was in a bathtub with a large, grey wolfy sort of dog. He got scared of the dog, which then started growling at him. So he stood up and dangled a badge holder to distract the dog, while he got out of the bathtub.


Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: I was searching for Dily Niwab Street, which turned out to be a block from Audubon Boulevard, where my elementary school was.


Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 3: I was trying to find my copy of Alice in Wonderland to lend to someone, but kept pulling out other books, notably Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott. Finally, I found a boxed set of 8 Alice stories and lent the other person the first two volumes. (Which are, of course, the only ones that actually exist.) But I kept on about how wonderful it would be to ride a unicycle like Alice did in the rest of the series.
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)
Celebrity Death Watch: Bobby Breen was a child star of the late 1930’s and was one of the people depicted on the album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Erwin Hahn was a physicist who was best known for his work on nuclear magnetic resonance. Jose Fernandez played baseball for the Miami Marlins, as well as having an inspirational personal story of his defection from Cuba. Arnold Palmer played golf and bears some responsibility for the particularly sickening non-alcoholic drink combining sweet iced tea and lemondade. Buckwheat Zydeco was a major figure in the Louisiana music scene. If you can listen to his music without dancing, you may be a zombie.

Non-celebrity Death Watch:Dunn Miller was a puzzle person. Her NPL nom was Loquacious. There’s an interesting obituary of her by Jon Carroll. I particularly recommend the last few paragraphs.

Naomi Feingold was one of my mother’s best friends. I thought they had been in school together, but her obituary says she was 4 years younger than Mom. She and her husband were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary by going on a safari in South Africa. Since she apparently died in Johannesburg, I hope they were on their way home and she got to see at least some of the grandeur of that beautiful country before her death.

Baseball: First, the Washington Nationals have clinched the National League East.

The Red Sox are 5 and a half games up on Toronto and their magic number is 2. They have been way hot lately, winning 11 straight games. I went to Thursday night’s game in Baltimore, which was very exciting. Orioles starter Chris Tillmnan only lasted 1 2/3 innings, giving up three runs. The O’s did tie it in the third, with a three-run homer by Trey Mancini, who just came up from the minors. But the Sox got a run in the fifth and Hanley Ramirez hit a homer in the 7th, so all was well.

By the way, I took the Marc train and stayed over. Because I was planning things last minute and there was some convention going on, the only nearby hotel I could get was the Holiday Inn Express at the Stadiums, which is marginally within walking distance. They do have a local shuttle, but it runs only hourly.

On the plus side, it is next to the Horseshoe Casino. I was hyper after the game, so not ready to go to sleep and that provided a way to kill an hour or so. I played a slot machine with a Big Bang Theory theme and won a little over a hundred bucks.

Used Bookstore Run: I did a used bookstore run this weekend. McKay’s took 27 of the 33 books I had brought in. I did use trade credit to come home with 14 new ones, including a Patrick Berry variety puzzle book. I was going to try bringing the rest to Reston Used Books, but there was some international festival going on by there and the normal parking was closed off. It was hardly worth it with so few, anyway. So I will hold on to those until a future run.
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)
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.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Kyle Jean-Baptiste was a theatre actor. Wayne Dyer wrote self-help books. Marvin Mandel was a former governor of Maryland, whose tenure in office was marred by his conviction (later overturned) for mail fraud and racketeering. Personally, I think the more interesting scandal is the one in which his wife refused to move out of the governor’s mansion when he took up with another woman and filed for divorce.

Wes Craven was a film director, best known for horror films (e.g. Nightmare on Elm Street). Oddly, he died of natural causes, though brain cancer is a pretty horrible death as I understand it.

The death I most want to highlight is that of Oliver Sacks. To say he was a neurologist and a writer is inadequate. His writing spanned a range of topics, but I think the key is that he always focused on the humanity,, whether writing about neurology, travel, or his family. I was privileged to hear him give a talk at Sixth and I, as well as to read several of his books, which were always informative and highly readable. His death was no surprise but was still a major loss.

Kin Davis: For anybody who has been living in a cave for the past couple of weeks, Ms. Davis is the court clerk in Kentucky who is refusing to issue marriage licenses because she has religious objections to same sex marriage. My take on this is that if one has religious objections to doing one’s job, the only proper response is to resign from that job.


I do want to note, however, that I am disturbed by the people who are citing her hypocrisy because she has been married 4 times. Her statement is that she converted after the divorces and I find no reason to doubt that, especially since this was apparently due to a deathbed wish. Her past is not relevant to the current situation and I believe it is not appropriate to harp on it.

And, of course, the people who are criticizing her based on her appearance (and, specifically, her hair – apparently her church does not permit women to cut their hair) are also way out of bounds. The point is that she does not meet one of the basic job requirements (that is, willingness to comply with the law on issuing marriage licenses) and should, therefore, not be in the job.


Plymouth (Michigan) Volksmarch: I have to admit that I had not actually heard of Plymouth, Michigan until a couple of weeks ago. I was flying into Detroit for a trip to Toledo and had time to kill during the day, so looked for nearby Volksmarch events that would satisfy some of the special programs I am trying to complete. It was an easy drive to Plymouth and the walk proved quite pleasant. The downtown area has a number of attractive historic houses (as well as some interesting specialty shops, though there is the creeping chainification that one finds everywhere nowadays), while the second half of the walk followed a path along the Rouge River and around what they called a lake, but I would consider a pond. I wouldn’t say there was anything essential from a tourist perspective, but it was a good way to spend my time.


Toledo – the Corporal Klinger Tour: For those who remember M*A*S*H, Corporal Klinger (played by Jamie Farr) was from Toledo (as was Farr). That led to some ad libs that immortalized a couple of Toledo institutions to those of us of a certain generation – namely, Tony Packo’s Café and the Toledo Mud Hens, the AAA minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. I love baseball, so when I saw plans for a Flyertalk Do that would involve both of those, I figured it was worth the trip. I flew to Detroit late Friday night, spent Saturday morning doing the volksmarch mentioned above, then drove to Toledo. It’s an easy drive, but there was a lot of road work. Anyway, I went to my hotel, rested a bit, then headed downtown.

We were actually not at the original Tony Packo’s, but at the branch by the ballpark. The food is Hungarian and runs to things like chili dogs and dumplings and such. Not exactly light fare, nor are what they call dumplings what I think of by that name (i.e. not like either knaidlach or Czech bread dumplings, but more pasta-ish), but the food was tasty enough (especially some sort of potato side dish) and the atmosphere was great. The Great Lakes IPA was more bitter than I prefer, so was just okay. There was, of course, plenty of flyertalkish talk, i.e. frequent flyer miles and tricks associated therewith.

We walked across the street to the ballpark and found our seats. And rain. Fortunately, the delay was not very long and the game was on. It was an exciting one, with some decidedly questionable calls (in my opinion). After being behind for most of the game, the Mud Hens did win in the end. By the way, we had very good seats (in the club section) and I thought it was a nice little ballpark. I liked that they had everyone sing the national anthem, instead of treating it as a performance piece. (People were, alas, considerably more pathetic for the 7th inning stretch. My treatise on the relationship between the decline of Western civilization and the failure of people to sing along is available on request.) Anyway, the fans seemed reasonably into the game and I thought it was worth the trip.

I had vague plans to do another volksmarch on Sunday morning, but the weather was dreary and I was tired, so I just had a late and lazy morning. For complicated reasons (less money, more miles), my flight home was via EWR so I got to spend some time rereading the index to Dante’s Inferno to figure out which circle of hell Newark Terminal A is.

Speaking of Transportation: If you change the route of a shuttle bus and, in the process, eliminate a stop that has been in use for at least 10 years, it might be helpful to put up a sign at that stop to let people know.

Recouvery

Jul. 15th, 2015 01:52 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This year’s National Puzzlers’ League convention was held in Vancouver, British Columbia last week and, since it was the second con there, called Recouvery. For those unfamiliar with NPL, people identify themselves there by a nom, which I will use for consistency in lieu of people's actual names.

Getting to Vancouver was slightly more challenging than it needed to be, due to the meltdown at Continental dba United. I was able to make it work by calling to get on an earlier flight to LAX than the one I was booked on and rushing off to the metro to get a cab to IAD. That flight was delayed two hours itself, but still left me with plenty of time to get over to terminal 2, get my Air Canada boarding pass (not doable on-line or via United, for reasons that were never clear), eat dinner, and relax in the lounge. The AC flight was also delayed, allegedly due to weather in the Bay Area, which does not actually make sense for a flight coming in from Vancouver to LAX, but not much I could do about it. We got to Vancouver shortly before midnight, so I opted for a cab to the hotel and pretty much collapsed when I got there.

I did not get up on Thursday morning in time to do the inaugural NPL 5K walk/run, so I had to satisfy my need for movement by walking a lot through Vancouver, primarily following Davie Street. I had one minor mission to fulfill – checking out Omnitsky’s Kosher Deli, which is somewhat south of downtown but not too difficult to get to. Or, at least, it wouldn’t be if I had a sense of direction and hadn’t started out walking 5 blocks in the wrong direction from the skytrain station. I am, frankly, not sure it was worth the effort. The tongue sandwich and kasha knish were both good, but the pickles tasted like bottled Vlasic. And the mustard on the table was Heinz yellow. (They did have deli mustard for the sandwich, but a less than generous amount of it.) In addition, the service was mediocre. Had it been conveniently downtown, I might have had a more positive reaction, but I didn’t think it was worth going out of the way for.

I went back to downtown and decided to try doing the Robson Square walk-around puzzle. There was an outside part that was, essentially, a logic puzzle. In the interest of time, I skipped that momentarily to team up with a few other people to attempt the puzzles inside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Key word is attempt, as we were not successful in completing those. In one case, we can blame a part of an exhibit being covered up, but the other two just left us feeling dumb. I should also note that it was a bad idea to start this at 3:30 in the afternoon, as the museum closed at 5 and we didn’t really have enough time to linger and enjoy the exhibits. When we left, I did go back out and do the outside puzzle, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of the frustration.

The official program started Thursday evening. There was a mixer puzzle called Fitting Words, which required matching pairs of pictures to form words. The tricky part was, of course, that many of the pictures could represent more than one word. Is that a pier or a dock? You really don’t know until you try fitting things together. That was followed by Hot Plates, a quick version of the license plate game, i.e. making words which contain a given set of three letters in order (but not necessarily consecutively). Since the letters were chosen at random, it was always possible that some of the letter combinations didn’t have any solutions. There was a second part with a longer time to fill in those you missed the first time around. This was pretty entertaining, even though I didn’t do especially well at it. For the record, the best word you can make with the letters from my license plate is "jeroboam." The last game for the evening, Bringo, involved filling up a bingo card with words that met a number of different rules, then playing a bingo game (in which the numbers of the rules were called out) with them. My team tried too hard to come up with good words and, hence, ran out of time to optimize our card. But, of course, it’s really all luck because the rules were called out randomly.

There was an over-the-weekend creative competition handed out, as well as 2 cryptics for pairs solving. I won’t say anything too specific about the cryptics, since there may be people still trying to work them, but Trick’s (which I solved with Spiel) was jawdroppingly brilliant. It wasn’t super-difficult per se, but more of a "how did he ever think of that?" moment when we realized what we had to do to finish it.

After the official program, I joined a team to play Spiel’s mini-extravaganza, which was reasonably entertaining. Then I played Qaqaq’s Jeopardy game, which had, interesting categories, a nice mix of questions and a particularly satisfying Final Jeopardy. I may be biased because I won that game. I don’t remember exactly when I did which unofficial games, but I think the other one I did that night was Dart’s game, Faster, which had a very clever mechanism, which I think works best if nobody playing knows just what is going to happen. (Or, I suppose, if everybody does.)

There had been discussion on Facebook about doing an escape room, so I was signed up to play a room called Dreamscape at Smartypantz in Gastown on Friday morning. I didn’t think the puzzles to solve were particularly interesting, though it may be just the ones I worked on. In one case, we badly overthought what we had to do. But we did finish (just barely) on time, so I guess it was a success.

After that, I was off to a minor league baseball game. I believe the ballpark is officially Scotia Bank Field, but everyone calls it by its historic name of Nat Bailey Field. The Vancouver Canadians are a short-season A-league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. They were playing the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a San Francisco Giants affiliate. The ballpark was pretty average, while the quality of play was notably below average. For example, the starting pitcher lasted only 1 and a 1/3 innings. I was not paying attention to his ERA, but it reminded me of the time I saw a Red Sox relief pitcher’s ERA climb to something over 100 before he was taken out. And there were a couple of players with batting averages around 0.015. The Volcanoes ended up winning 8-2. On the plus side, the ballpark sells local beer.

But I was in Vancouver for puzzles and games. It was either just before or just after Friday night dinner that I played Capital R’s Jeopardy game, which started out with the categories "who," "what", "where," "when," "why" and "how" and moved on to things like "whence," "whither," "wherefore," "aintcha," and 2 others that have slipped my mind. It was a bit too pop culture heavy for me to do well at, but was still fun to play. What I am sure was after dinner was a sing along. One of my pet theories is that much of what is wrong with our culture is the refusal of large numbers of people to sing along on such occasions, so I feel obliged to sing, despite my vocal deficiencies. There were just a few songs, with some NPL specific lyrics thrown in, so the whole thing wasn’t too painful. I also thought it would be a good place for the hidden puzzle to be hidden. But, alas, no.

The official games for that evening started with Green Energy by Shrdlu. This involved listing words in various categories, with the goal of reusing letters. The game was fun, but the complexity of the scoring made it take longer than I’d have preferred. My favorite official game of the weekend was Dart’s I Don’t Wanna Be Right. The premise was, essentially, to choose the most popular wrong answer for a set of trivia questions. The catch was that you lost points if you chose the correct answer. The other catch was the usual one of group dynamics but, realistically, we would have only gotten a few more points if the rest of the team had just listened to me. The official program for the evening ended with Lieutenant Nodumbo and the Case of the Mangled Manuscript by Rubrick, Slik, et alia. This involved each person at the table writing in a sentence (or fragment) into a story (which had parts already supplied). It’s the sort of thing I rarely enjoy because: a) I am a control freak, b) I have a very particular sense of humor, c) I get impatient with people who want to do this sort of thing well, instead of quickly, and d) did I happen to mention that I’m a control freak? The results were acted out by a group of people, with the catch that there was an overlay to mangle the stories even further. The whole thing did turn out to be fun, largely because of the (deliberately) exaggerated acting.

The unofficial events that evening started with a tribute to Maso, involving charades and seeing the pictures people made for his memorial. It was a fine way to honor his memory and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. After that, Spiel and I worked on Trick’s cryptic, which I already mentioned completely wowed me. Finally, I played Puzzling in the Dark, a game run by WXYZ. This involved a group of blindfolded players, who handled objects on a table (plus some additional ones in a box) to figure something out. It was fun to do something collaborative, but the layout of the space had some impact on the group dynamics. For example, there was really only one person who could handle the objects in the box easily. Overall, I didn’t feel like I was particularly useful. So I thought the game was a good idea and reasonably entertaining to play, but the execution could use some tweaking.

Saturday morning’s chief feature is always the business meeting. The presentation for Salt Lake City next year was excellent, with a word mine game passed around the table while a video with the official state song was played. As for the 2017 con, Boston had a strong bid and no real competition. There was, however, an excessively long conversation about costs creeping up and what less expensive cities there should be bids for, and a handful of places talked about for the future.

The Saturday afternoon competitions started with Time Test by Willz. This involved a series of wordplay puzzles, some of them far easier than others. As usual with this sort of thing, I could have used more time, like, say, a month for the back burners of my brain to churn over a few of them. Voweled Expressions by Bluff called for filling in consonants into grids to complete familiar sayings. I got most, but not all of these. Finally, there was the flat solving contest, with this year’s theme based on concrete poetry. I opted for a nap instead of attempting this.

I did make it back down for the con photo. I think I played Noam’s Jeopardy! game between that and dinner. His version is reasonably straightforward, unlike some of the more twisted ones out there. That didn’t stop me from a couple of stupid errors, for which I can blame mental exhaustion. Fun, anyway.


The big deal is always the Saturday night extravaganza, with this year’s version by Dozen and QED. The initial packet had 15 puzzles and the solutions to those netted you a meta to solve. We did, as a group, look through all of the puzzles, before people sorted out what they wanted to work on. That worked reasonably well, in general, with 2-4 people working on each. Instead of going strictly by time this year, every team that finished within 3 hours got entered into a random drawing for prizes, so my team actually ended up winning. The time constraint was driven by when gelato was showing up, by the way.

One of the essentials of any NPL con for me is what I think of Jeffpardy, i.e. the Jeopardy! game by [livejournal.com profile] jeffurrynpl. This year was no exception, with mock-Canadian touches like a category called "Befoure and Aftre." Not that I am necessarily good at that sort of thing, but it amuses me. I seem to think we had a very competitive match, overall, which is always a nice touch.

The other game that was an essential for me was Makeshift Jeopardy 2 by Arcs. I was really tired, I knew I’d be taking a redeye Sunday night, and I still stayed up to play. It isn’t quite Jeopardy, though it starts out looking like it. All you really need to know is that there was lots of laughter coming from that corner of the room. His twist on Name That Tune was particularly amusing. It was worth the sleep deprivation.

Sunday just meant breakfast, prizes, and socializing, including going out to lunch at the suitably named Legendary Noodles. Canadian airport security is inevitably slow and inefficient, but I had plenty of time. The hop down to Seattle was quick, but I had a longish layover there. Fortunately, there are decent food options. And, as I was on an international ticket, I had lounge access. Redeyes remain just about my least favorite thing about flying, particularly when (as in this case) there are poorly controlled children. I know parents who think redeyes are great because the children will sleep, but my experience is that the parents sleep and just don’t hear the children screaming.

Anyway, I got back to IAD on time, took the bus and metro home, showered and changed clothes, and headed straight into the office. So I was pretty much a zombie all day Monday and I probably owe an apology to somebody for something I said about a sensor. It was worth the sleep deprivation.

By the way, I have been thinking about something since I got back. Both the official program and the unofficial program are completely dominated by games and puzzles written by men. I realize this is a subject for broader discussion and there has been lots of traffic on various mailing lists on topics like whether or not crossword editors discriminate against women. I don’t think that the NPL con activities are a matter of discrimination, but of self-selection. I mention this because I have an idea for a trivia game. In fact, I have two ideas – one for a game mechanism, one for a name. I’m not convinced those two things go together, however. But the bottom line is I am, at least tentatively, planning to bring something to Salt Lake City next year.

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